7 Mar 2010, 12:29pm
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Sen. Hinkle letter: Wolves as disease carriers

Clark Fork Chronicle, March 05 2010 [here]

Sen. Greg Hinkle submitted the following letter to be read at the March 2, 2010 meeting of the Environmental Quality Council.

Environmental Quality Council
Representative Chas Vincent, Chair
P.O. Box 201704
Helena, Mt. 59620-1704

Re: Wolf as disease carriers

Dear Representative Vincent and members of the Council,

I have reviewed the documents before this Council on the spread of Hydatid Disease via the wolf. In addition to this, I have reviewed information from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and studies by renowned wildlife biologist Dr. Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Calgary. You have seen his comments in an email dated February 28, 2010 titled, “EQC and wolves/wolf diseases”.

You have information indicating that almost two-thirds of the wolves in Montana are carriers of the Hydatid Tapeworm and are contaminating our landscape with the eggs of this worm. We have a much milder climate in Montana than in the Far North and it appears this will contribute to a more prevalent spread of the disease. You have read Dr. Geist’s comments on how easily humans can come in contact with the eggs through pets and wildlife where deer or elk are intermediate hosts contributing to the spread of the disease. The seriousness of this contamination of the landscape can not be understated or denied.

In a fact sheet published by the CDC on Echinococossis it is stated, in part, that a person can become infected “by directly ingesting food items contaminated with stool (or eggs) from foxes, coyotes (wolves). This might include grass, herbs, greens, or berries gathered in fields.” Considering the number of wolves in western Montana, to what extent is the probability of wild berries being contaminated?

I have a copy of a letter written to Ed Bangs, Wolf Specialist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) dated October 3, 1993 from Will N. Graves (Gray Wolf EIS). In that letter, Mr. Graves pointed out the fact that wolves of the north were Hydatid carriers and should not be introduced into the United States by the USFWS. This dated letter was prior to the introduction program; therefore, was the warning ignored or disregarded by Mr. Bangs?

The Montana Constitution in Article IX, Section 1 guarantees every Montanan the unalienable right to a clean and healthy environment; that the legislature will administer and enforce this duty; and that “the legislature shall provide adequate remedies for the protection of the environmental life support system from degradation and provide adequate remedies to prevent unreasonable depletion and degradation of natural resources.”

The expansion of the wolf population enhanced by foreign wolves is virtually wiping out western Montana’s big game herds. I know that from personal observations and those of other outdoorsmen.

I would point out that in a US Supreme Court case; Printz v. United States, 95-1503; the Court referred to a previous case; New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992); and they stated in Printz, “The Federal government”, we held, “may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program”, Id., at188. This begs the question, in my mind; did the USFWS have the authority to contaminate our environment with diseased wolves?

Where do we go from here? I believe there are some options. First would be to request that the Attorney General of Montana fully investigate whether Mr. Bangs and the USFWS knew of the potential of bringing diseased wolves from a foreign country into the State. If this is found to be true, the State should sue USFWS for violating our Constitutional guarantee to a clean and healthful environment. Second, we should immediately begin to eradicate the source of the problem. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) should make available an unlimited number of wolf tags and open the season year round. They should educate all hunters on the potential hazard of handling a wolf (or coyote). The funds from the wolf tags should be divided up and all those who harvest a wolf at the end of each calendar year will receive a payment for each wolf harvested. Yes, it is called a bounty. Thirdly, due to deer and elk being intermediate hosts of the disease, FWP should immediately enforce the prohibition on the feeding of ungulates. Illegal feeding concentrates deer and elk creating a hazard for everyone. Other than that, what other sound options are there to hold the spread of this disease in check?


Senator Greg Hinkle

Greg Hinkle represents Senate District 7, which includes western Missoula County and all of Mineral County.



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