It is the position of the MDF that the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains is delisted as soon as possible and their management is transferred to the State Fish and Wildlife agencies.
We believe that the current population levels which greatly exceed the original recovery objectives and the widespread distribution of wolves are factors necessitating such an immediate action. Further, we believe that such an action would provide managers with the flexibility necessary for managing wolves. We believe that the states can more effectively balance the management of wolves with the management of other resident wildlife such as mule deer.
State wildlife agencies should classify the wolf as a “game species.” States would be able to set season and bag limits on wolves which would be part of an overall strategy of balancing big game populations and wolf populations.
MDF supports the current approved Gray Wolf Management Plans in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. We believe that these plans have adequate safeguards to ensure the long term sustainability of the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf population in balance with the big game populations. We believe that this strategy will also maintain the genetic diversity of the wolf population which has been an issue raised in the delisting process.
The introduction and subsequent management of wolves is a hotly debated issue across the western United States. Habitat for the northern gray wolf includes Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, the eastern third of Oregon and Washington, and north-central Utah. The northern gray wolf was formally listed as a federal endangered species in 1974 in accordance with provisions contained within the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park 1995 and in central Idaho in 1996. These areas were selected due to their relatively high elk populations and remote public lands that include classified Wilderness and backcountry thus minimizing potential impacts with existing management activities. Wolves dispersed naturally from Canada and became established in Montana sometime in the 1980’s thus precluding the need for a wolf transplant in that area. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) determined that recovery of the northern gray wolf was dependent on the establishment of 30 or more well distributed breeding pairs and 300 individual wolves in western Montana, central Idaho and in Wyoming for three successive years.
Wolf population estimates in 2008 indicate a population of 1500 animals and approximately 100 breeding pairs. This marks the ninth consecutive year that the northern gray wolf population has exceeded the original recovery goal. In addition, the FWS believes that the genetic diversity of this metapopulation is very high.
The population growth and expansion of wolves following the 1995-96 transplants have been highly successful. The reintroduction has been so successful that the elk populations in and around Yellowstone and parts of central Idaho has shown a sharp decline in total numbers. In 2007, the FWS delisted the northern gray wolf population after the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho had in place approved wolf management plans. In February of 2008, the management responsibility was transferred to those respective states. Several parties filed a lawsuit challenging that final rule delisting the wolf. As a result, on July 18, 2008, the US District Court in Missoula, Montana, issued an order immediately reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for wolves. In September 2008, the FWS requested the court vacate and remand the final delisting rule back to the FWS. The court granted the FWS’s request on October 13, 2008. Since that ruling the FWS has reopened the public comment period on its proposal to delist the gray wolf.
The overall mission of the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) is to ensure the conservation of mule deer and black-tailed deer and their habitat. Presently, mule deer populations across the western states are well below their objectives; in fact they are the only western big game species with a declining population trend. Several years ago the Directors of the western state fish and wildlife agencies organized a committee of professional wildlife biologists to study the reasons for this decline. They determined that there were many contributing factors including predation. While the MDF recognizes the positive role of predators in naturally functioning ecosystems, we are concerned about the impact that an additional predator could have on the ability of mule deer populations to recover. Several studies on wolf-big game relationships have been where the principal prey is elk, except in western Montana where whitetail deer are important to wolves. In places like southern and central Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, parts of Montana and Utah, mule deer are more prevalent and could be quite vulnerable to wolves.
Further, MDF is disappointed and concerned that many of the organizations that filed the lawsuit challenging the February 2008 delisting of the gray wolf in the north Rockies agreed with the recovery objectives when they were established. Their decision to take legal action to prevent delisting, even though the wolf has greatly exceeded everyone’s expectations regarding their population levels and their distribution, will further polarize interest groups, eliminate trust and make it almost impossible to build consensus on future wildlife issues.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Mule Deer Foundation has joined with other conservation groups in opposing Montana’s Trap-Free Public Lands Initiative 160. The Mule Deer Foundation believes that scientifically sound and sustainable management of wildlife populations is critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems in Montana. Properly regulated trapping provides an effective method for managing furbearers at healthy population levels and in balance with their available prey base. Regulated trapping helps control damage to agricultural interests and reduces the spread of disease among wildlife populations and humans.
Miles Moretti, MDF president and CEO, said “MDF is opposed to ballot initiatives to manage wildlife. Montana already has a system in place, established by the Legislature and the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission, to regulate trapping. I-160 would remove a very important tool from the wildlife management tool box, and in the long run it would result in a decrease in the number and health of several wildlife species which live in Montana.”
MDF believes if I-160 passes it would have far reaching effects and negative impacts on the ability of Montana FWP to manage furbearers and other wildlife populations.
The Mule Deer Foundation has local chapters throughout Montana and is deeply concerned how I-160 could impact mule deer populations in Montana if passed.
The Mule Deer Foundation supports the efforts of Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management to defeat I-160.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Mule Deer Foundation which has eight local Chapters in Montana has been asked for a position on Initiative I-161 which seeks to abolish outfitter-sponsored non-resident big game and deer combination licenses. MDF believes that this issue pits hunters against hunters and a ballot initiative should not be used to address this issue when other avenues exist to resolve any problems perceived or real with the existing program. MDF believes that game management, hunter access, guide and outfitter licenses should be regulated by the agencies given authority to do so by the Montana Legislature not by popular vote.
Both sides have valid concerns with I-161 and these concerns should not be aired through the Initiative process. MDF believes that the existing Private Land/Public Wildlife Council was created to specifically address the issues raised in I-161.
As with many ballot initiatives, the facts about the original issue become lost in 30 second TV/Radio sound bites or in paid political ads in newspapers.
MDF recommends that both sides of I-161 work together to resolve the issues that have lead to this ballot initiative. Hunters and Anglers need to work together to maintain access, quality wildlife populations and the opportunity to enjoy our sport today, tomorrow and for future generations.
The Mule Deer Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit wildlife Conservation organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The mission of the Mule Deer Foundation is to ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitat.
The Mule Deer Foundation defines game farming as “the intensive husbandry of privately owned game animals held captive under non-free ranging conditions.”
Game farms raising native and exotic big game animals have dramatically grown in both size and numbers across North America in recent years. Coinciding with this growth has been the growth of concern for wild, free-ranging big game populations, that are through the powers granted in the U.S. Constitution, the management responsibility of the individual states of our great country.
There have been serious disease outbreaks on big game farms in recent years. Currently there are no live animal tests that can assure that individual animals are free of chronic wasting disease (CWD) and certain other diseases. In fact, it is not even currently known just exactly how CWD is transmitted from one animal to another. The transmission of CWD from game farms animals to wild free-ranging mule deer and black-tailed deer populations could be devastating.
With these facts in mind, the Mule Deer Foundation:
North Dakota Hunters for Fair Chase Committee
Dear Fair Chase Committee:
In addition to the Game Farming Position Statement that has been passed by the Mule Deer Foundation’s (MDF’s) Board of Directors, this is a letter of support for your endeavors to help solidify the health of North Dakota’s big game populations, the hunting heritage that we in this country hold dear to our hearts, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAMWC), and the principles of fair chase that make the NAMWC a success.
With the statements in the MDF’s Game Farming Position Statement in mind and held to be true, the Mule Deer Foundation supports the initiated measure being brought forward by North Dakota Hunters For Fair Chase, which would prohibit the shooting of captive big game and exotic species in high-fenced shooting operations.
The MDF is supportive of healthy, free-ranging wildlife populations. The MDF is supportive of fair chase methods of hunting these populations. The disease concerns (CWD, TB, etc.) that exist with fenced enclosures for big game and exotic game animals, along with the concern for fair chase standards that we have in the United States, are two of the biggest reasons why the MDF is supportive of this measure.
Mule Deer Foundation
404 E. 4500 S., Suite B-10
Salt Lake City, UT, 84107