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A Wolf isn’t Just a Wolf

Written by Dennis Sun

Lately there has been some movement, slow at best, with the Wyoming wolf issues. On Sept. 23, there was a hearing before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

As you remember, it was around two years ago that U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, whose court is in Washington, D.C., ruled against and rejected Wyoming’s wolf management plan. Judge Berman Jackson did agree with Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that wolves in the northern Rockies had recovered and that they were not threatened or endangered in a large part of their habitat. However, she sided with a group of environmental organizations and said Wyoming didn’t have enough binding language in the plan. Wyoming has since corrected that and appealed. That appeal most likely will not be settled or ruled on for some months to come. So we sit and wait while wolves destroy livestock on many ranches that are out of the trophy management area without compensation, as you read in the Roundup last week about a Thermopolis area rancher.

The plight of this rancher and others in Wyoming is most likely not on the judge’s concern list as we sit and wait for the decision. But, it is on the concern list of some in Congress – especially Wyoming’s Congressional Delegation – as legislation has been developed to recognize Wyoming’s plan and take the wolf off the list.

Also lately, there was a hearing in the U.S. House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Man, that takes a long time to even say the committee’s name, but this committee held a hearing on the federal government’s management of wolves. As you can imagine, there were differing opinions on managing wolves from those in favor of the wolves who were not being affected everyday by them and those like the rancher northwest of Thermopolis who is. The sad part is, most of those who are in the wolf camp could care less about those whose livelihood is being destroyed by the wolf.

A study in late July came out from researchers at Princeton University that studied the genomes from various grey and red wolves and coyotes. They found out that there may not be a “pure” red or grey wolf in the country. They said the red wolf is really 25 percent grey wolf and 75 percent coyote, and the eastern grey wolf is 25 to 50 percent coyote. For years, many wolf experts have claimed that wolves have coyote and dog genes in their makeup. So instead of real wolves, we may just have a bunch of bad, killing coyotes out there.

What makes this study so important is that in 1973, the grey wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but this Act does not authorize that status for hybrids. You can imagine the discussions going on from Congress to the northern Rockies.

Most likely there will be more legal action and hopefully more research using genomes studies as this research has really gained ground in the last few years.

Maybe biologically, we just have a coyote or mongrel instead of a wolf. I would like to be DNA tested, but I’m not sure I could live with it, just like the wolf.