In December, Utah Wildlife Board Chairman John Bair said that the wolf was being used “as the silver bullet to kill the culture of the West,” and that claim appears to have been confirmed in recently uncovered emails from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The silver bullet will likely cause a slow economic death.
Throughout the discussions of the reintroduction of the wolf to the west, federal government officials have promised stakeholders – including ranchers – that the predator’s victims will be compensated for their losses. However, in an email dated March 5, 2014, Sherry Barrett, FWS Mexican Wolf recovery coordinator, advises fellow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) employees that she is “concerned about using the compensation fund in a manner to offset effects, as we do not have any guarantees of future funding for it to continue.”
In that same email, Barrett acknowledges that the wolf will put pressure on the cattle that will result in weight loss, but: “The Coexistence Council only compensates for confirmed (100% of current value) and probable depredations (50% of current value), which addresses some of the cost differential.”
So not only are the ranchers on the hook for the reduced value of their herd, but may not be compensated at all should funding disappear.
The empty promises and lies didn’t stop with the federal officials, Jim DeVos of Arizona Game and Fish has repeatedly told Arizona stakeholders that he didn’t know how many wolves would be introduced. However, DeVos was copied on emails that included the draft plan for wolf reintroduction.
Officials had said that they would introduce 3 wolves per 1000 elk. At that rate, the big game herd, which is an important economic driver, would not be negatively impacted. Any more than that would be devastating. DeVos has said himself that 5 wolves per 1000 elk would have catastrophic consequences. The wolves would be forced to consume domesticated animals.
Related article: Wolf attacks on humans in North America
However, according to the Supplemental Information for the Development of the Draft EIS sent to Vos and others, with the subject line “wolf number calculations based on density and potential habitat,” officials may introduce up to 700 wolves.
The draft report reads in part:
- Wolf density in the BRWRA and on the FAIR ranges from a low estimate of 3.5 wolves per 1000 km2 to a high estimate of 11.3 wolves per 1000 km2 (Table 1).
- “We estimate that approximately 220 to 719 wolves could occupy potential wolf habitat in the core area in Arizona and New Mexico at some time in the future depending primarily on the density assumptions and assumptions of the consistency of the habitat between the BRWRA and the other areas.
- We estimate that between 85 and 403 wolves could persist between 1-40 and I-10 in Arizona alone, based on assumptions related to areas that wolves are allowed to occupy and densities that wolves obtained (See Table 2 and Table 3).
- Based on the considerations associated with our low and high density estimates, it is likely that Mexican wolves would occur between the medium to high density calculations in the core area, ranging from 4.3 wolves per 1000 km2 (medium density) to the high density of 11.3 wolves per 1000 km2, assuming conditions (e.g., ungulate densities) are relatively similar to the BRWRA and FAIR. The low density estimate would be the second lowest density (out of 32 other studies) for gray wolf populations in North America (Fuller et al. 2003). In between our medium and high density estimates lies a population habitat viability analysis demonstrating a wolf density of 8 wolves per 1,000 km2 (Carroll et al. 2006)3.
- We estimate that it will take at least a decade for wolves to reach the low/medium/high densities in the core area as they disperse out of the BRWRA (assuming a 10% growth rate for the population beginning with the 2012 annual population count of 80 wolves).
- In Arizona specifically, two possibilities exist to achieve a theoretical population of 150 wolves, either manage for a medium-high density of Mexican wolves (i.e., densities of approximately 6.5 to 7.0 wolves per 1000 km2: see Table 2 and Table 3) in a smaller area (i.e., east of highway 87) or manage for a medium density of Mexican wolves (4.3 wolves per 1000 km2) across a larger area (i.e. the core area).
- Densities higher than 4.3 per 1000 km2 may be especially difficult to achieve in areas where ungulate populations are lower than in the BRWRA.
In Arizona, the core area affected “is the area north of I-10, south of I-40, west of I-25, and east of highways 60 (at Junction with I-10), 89, and 93 (at Junction with I-40)(Figure 2); specifically, the potential wolf habitat identified within this area, excluding potential wolf habitat on tribal lands for which we do not currently have an agreement that would allow wolf occupancy (i.e., potential wolf habitat on all tribal land was excluded from our calculation except for that on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation).”
It is important to note that the tribes refuse the reintroduction of the wolf on their lands. Unlike the non-tribal ranchers, they have the clout, through sovereignty to stop the devastating plan. Still, westerners are a tough people and their leaders are doing all they can to dodge the silver bullet. Earlier this month, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission passed a resolution that opposes the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves statewide. Others are considering the same.
In the meantime, the Arizona Game and Fish is working on a plan to reimburse ranchers. Some lawmakers question why Arizona taxpayers should have to bear the burden for yet one more expensive federal program.