The gray wolf in greater danger than ever before
Even though it is a protected species in the United States, the gray wolf is having a tough year. A higher than normal mortality rate and proposed legislation to cancel protection measures could wipe out decades of work. Elected officials want to remove the animal from the endangered species list and allow hunting.
Since Donald Trump's arrival at the White House, environmental and biodiversity advocates have continued to deplore the Republican administration's backsliding on all issues, including permits to operate fossil fuel reserves in national parks and the protection of endangered species. It is precisely in the latter area that a political battle is currently being waged in the US Congress.
A bill that threatens the gray wolf
Several Republican members (with the support of some Democrats) of the House of Representatives have introduced a bill to repeal federal protections for the gray wolf. These elected officials want the animal to be removed from the list of endangered species in 48 of the 50 American states, they also want to allow hunting or trapping.
Removing the federal laws would leave the responsibility and freedom to the states to decide what policy to adopt with respect to the gray wolf. It would also take away the power of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (the federal environmental protection agency) to prohibit the construction of houses or hotels, pastures or farms in areas usually reserved for wolves.
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Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming representatives have been campaigning for several weeks for the repeal of the law to be implemented before the end of 2018. With the Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, their chance of seeing their bill passed in 2019 is virtually nil.
This is confirmed by Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat elected to become chairman of the committee in charge of natural resources: "No gray wolf will be endangered. I will be inflexible on this point. Our fauna has already suffered enough."
"An unbearable situation for ranchers."
But Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso doesn't hear it that way. In charge of environmental issues for the Senate, he has been sympathetic to the arguments of the beef lobby, which claims that farmers and their herds are constantly terrorized by wolves.
A claim that is refuted by wildlife organizations. According to them, the wolf population is just beginning to recover but is only two-thirds of the target level.
In an attempt to calm the debate and see the proposed law disappear, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has shown itself to be in favour of "taking" a few wolves in case of attacks on the herds. But the federal agency says it will not issue these permits until after the next species census (which is expected to be completed before the end of the year).
Massacre in New Mexico
Just as this issue is pitting Democrats against Republicans, the New Mexico state rangers have just released alarming numbers. During the month of November, five wolves were found dead (four males and one female), bringing the year's total to 17 (out of a population of 114 at the beginning of 2018). This is a record number since wolf protection and reintroduction operations began in 1998.
This tracked female gray wolf died after being strucked by a shovel in New Mexico.
The causes of death of the 17 wolves have not been made public. The most recent one dates back to the first week of December, when a young female, wearing a tracker collar indicating its protected status, was killed with shovels. The responsibility of the breeders is therefore being pointed at.
Sixty-six sheep and cows have been killed this year in New Mexico in attacks by wolves, making farmers angry. A fit of anger that could be appeased by the passage of the Republican bill in Congress... The defenders of wolves and the environment are holding their breath.