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Know the West

It's the science, not the numbers


Hal Herring's recent article on wolf hunts mischaracterizes Defenders of Wildlife's position as supporting a population goal of 450 wolves per state, when we do not in fact seek such a target (HCN, 5/10/10).

It's tempting to try to come up with a number of wolves that all stakeholders can agree on, in hopes of putting an end to the current controversy. Unfortunately, such a number is likely to be either arbitrary or scientifically questionable, and therefore unlikely to hold up to any future legal scrutiny.

The Endangered Species Act calls for the "best available science" in determining a species' viability and overall status. That's a reasonable standard for any wildlife management plan, particularly for a recovering species. But the science behind wolf recovery hasn't been updated in decades, and it does not account for all of the experiences of wildlife biologists and land managers since the reintroduction of wolves.

As a result, we are not currently seeking a specific number of wolves. Rather, we first need an update of the science. Then we need federal and state plans that reflect the best available information, while addressing the legitimate interests of stakeholders.

Mike Leahy
Rocky Mountain Region Director
Defenders of Wildlife
Bozeman, Montana