For Immediate Release, October 9, 2009
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
Aerial Gunning of Wolf Pack in Montana Isolates Yellowstone Wolves, Undermines Recovery
SILVER CITY, N.M.— This week’s aerial gunning of the last four members of the Sage Creek wolf pack in southwestern Montana contributes to the genetic isolation of wolves in Yellowstone National Park – even as, on Thursday, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission suspended the public wolf-hunting season near Yellowstone in order not to isolate the national park’s wolves.
Said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity: “We are saddened by the loss of the Sage Creek Pack. Suspending the permitted wolf-hunting season near Yellowstone will not be enough to save these animals as long as the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to gun down entire packs from the air.”
The initial cause for the destruction of the eight-member Sage Creek Pack was its predation on a single sheep on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Experiment Station, which grazes thousands of sheep on more than 100,000 acres in Montana and Idaho.
In 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project sued the sheep station for its failure to disclose the impacts of, and analyze alternatives to, its operations, which has occurred in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The sheep station settled the lawsuit with an agreement to disclose and analyze and to decide its future via a public process.
“The USDA Sheep Experiment Station is undermining gray-wolf recovery and should be shut down,” said Robinson.
Genetic isolation of the Yellowstone wolves, which may be exacerbated through the federal killing of the Sage Creek Pack, is at issue in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies seeking to place wolves back on the endangered species list after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed them from the list this spring. Such genetic isolation was part of what led a federal court, in July 2008, to order the relisting of wolves after a previous delisting action.
The Sage Creek Pack roamed the Centennial Mountains between Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho – precisely in the area that could alleviate genetic isolation through the influx of wolves from Idaho and the possibility (for now, lost with the pack’s demise) of yearlings making their way into Yellowstone.
A 1994 environmental impact statement on wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone and central Idaho identified genetic exchange between subpopulations as key to wolf recovery.