28 Jul 2008, 8:58pm
by admin

Report the Truth About Wolves for a Change

The Admin at Wolf Crossing [here] is a dedicated environmentalist and animal lover. A recent journalistic cow flop [here] captured her attention and raised her hackles. In the following letter my friend and fellow blogger Laura Schneberger scolds the sorry journalist for his many deficiencies and lack of integrity, and sets the record straight about the Mexican Gray Wolf program in New Mexico:

Dear Mr. Coates,

I am not sure whether you listened to Barbara Marks very well in your interview with her for your ‘wolf numbers lagging’ article. At no time do suspected wolf attacks lead to removal of a livestock depredating wolf. There must be 3 confirmed wolf kills; then and only then will one wolf in a pack possibly be removed. Mere suspicions have never been and will never be the cause of removal of a wolf, regardless of what Michael Robinson may say.

In fact, the majority of the time, even with numerous bite sizes on a bovine victim, only one wolf at a time in a pack may be given a depredation incident strike that may eventually lead to removal. Only one wolf, even if the entire pack is confirmed to have been involved in the attack on the dead animal. Is that fair?

More to the point, is it truthful to report otherwise? Does the public know about this manipulation of stated policy designed to raise the bar on wolf removals?

NO, they don’t know, because they aren’t told. Certainly not by journalists who misrepresent the truth.

The policy is not written that way; it is only implemented that way because agency personnel know that bending the policy in favor of depredating wolves won’t be reported by biased journalists.

Does this unreported manipulation of the policy cause more wolves to kill more livestock? Probably, because depredating wolves are left in the area to kill more livestock. Does it require more removals in the long run? Probably, because the entire pack becomes habituated to killing livestock.

Does it cause more financial and emotional damage to the human victims? Absolutely. Has it caused ranches to fail. Yes.

Were these policies put in place to placate ranchers as wolf advocates claim? My response when I read that in your article was “What?!” Nearly unlimited destruction of cattle and calves before one wolf at a time is removed does not placate ranchers; it destroys them.

Proof must be indisputable or removal does not occur. Most ranchers agree that they lose anywhere from 5 to 8 head of livestock before they can get one confirmed wolf kill firmly in the indisputable category.

I urge you to research your articles a little bit better, or perhaps direct your questions to knowledgeable individuals who can give you honest answers.

In another place in your article, the calf you indicate Mrs. Marks was referring to was a full grown cow that was actively chased off a bluff, died from the fall, and was eaten by a wolf pack. At no time were any wolves removed for this attack as insinuated in your article. Why not? Because it had rained and the proof was disputable. Because even though tracks showed the cow fell because she was being chased by wolves, the fall was what actually killed her.

I would recommend that you speak to Mrs. Marks again, because apparently you misunderstood her story. The cow was not a confirmed kill, just as so many maimed and mauled baby calves with wolf bites all over them do not lead to any livestock depredation strikes toward removal, unless of course the calf eventually dies from the attack. This was another policy change that supposedly placates ranchers.

I also find it odd that the wolf program has the gall to blame lagging numbers on illegal killings when the known dead wolf tally since January adds up to at least 10 animals. Why are the three and possibly four wolves that were illegally but most likely mistakenly shot the only dead wolves USFWS and their public relations reporters are willing to discuss at length?

What about the other animals that were hit by cars from scavenging on the highway, or the animals that were involved in a horse attack a month prior to their death, that were probably starving and hanging around a town when killed? What about wolves that die of diseases?

What about all the years of wolf pup litters born in the wild but never confirmed or documented or captured by the agencies responsible, which is a direct violation of the rule and law. Why is it that when neglectful non-management and starvation kills wolves, no one wants to talk about it?

If some poor sap mistakes a wolf for a coyote, or worse has a pair of wolves coming into his hunting or camping area, getting into his game, or stalking his children, or even chasing his horses (all of which has occurred) without the wolves having been shot, nobody reports on those incidents. But suddenly the program is in financial trouble, and then the news is all about wolves are being shot in order to develop sympathy for the agency personnel and the animals. Usually the wolf advocacy groups, with open support from agency PR types, make every attempt to blame ranchers for the deaths of those animals, even though evidence of rancher involvement in any of the wolf deaths from 1998 until now DOES NOT EXIST.

Why is it that livestock kills require indisputable proof, but allegations of ranchers killing (or baiting) wolves are made with NO PROOF AT ALL? By you, among others, Mr. Coates. Have you no sense of honesty or decency? Integrity is essential to good journalism.

It is readily apparent that the journalists reporting on the Mexican Gray Wolf program have been repeatedly bamboozled by both the USFWS spokespersons and wolf advocacy groups. Both “sources” rely on near constant manipulation of both management and information to suit their thinly veiled anti-ranching agenda.

Did you know for instance, that no evidence exists whatsoever that carcass removal stops depredation? That in fact, the actual science that has been done on the issue shows evidence that removal of the items wolves scavenge, including livestock carcasses, may increase depredation of live animals. Evidently you were not informed, because the wolf advocacy people you spoke to do not allow real science get in the way of their agenda.

If the agencies involved are wondering why they are failing in the application of their adaptive management scheme, they should probably look in the mirror. The bait and switch that passes for analysis of the problems in the MGW program are transparent and manipulative.

Ultimately, the US Fish and Wildlife Service are responsible for management. Proper wolf management is not occurring, not as it is legally mandated, and the policies followed are no longer based on the legal requirements of the program. Despite failing policies, and instead of going back to the law, they are steadily ratcheting up harm to ranchers.

This has gone on so long that the agency has become accustomed to placating vocal wolf advocates by scapegoating ranchers and other residents directly impacted by the program. The double talk has gotten so bad that at this point all the stops have been pulled out to blame ranching for the failures of the Mexican Wolf program, including the trumped up false charge of baiting issued by wolf advocate media pals.

Appallingly, the agencies are all too willing to implement a full blown investigation based not on evidence but on an unsubstantiated claim made in an article by a pro-wolf reporter! The fact that the investigation has thus far turned up nothing has not deterred policy changes based upon the false charges. More importantly, it has allowed the agency to cover their backsides by implementing policy changes to placate wolf advocates again.

Wolf advocates will never admit that the number of wolves required, in their eyes, are those sufficient to remove ranching families from the land permanently. The habitat does not exist in the BRWRA for 100 wolves, even if the residents are driven out.

Biologically, economically and socially, perhaps 50 wolves is the most that the land can support. Removal of human residents must not be considered in implementing this program.

The agency is already planning on an expansion of the program to areas outside the BRWRA, in a rectangular area from the AZ/CA border to the NM/TX border between I-10 and I-40. What then is the problem with lowering the wolf numbers in the BRWRA, especially in consideration that this country is also habitat to several hundred ranching families and several thousand more rural residents? None of us need or want to see wolf damage to our stock or pets or wolf encounters with our children on a near daily basis.

The fact that harm is occurring daily indicates that wolves are not staying in the designated habitat. Wolves are moving into areas where they are causing problems because there are likely too many overly human-habituated wolves in too limited a habitat.

Consider also that the majority of those wolf supporters, polled a month ago by wolf advocacy groups, also expressed strong support for ranching as well as support to help ranchers deal with wolf imposed problems, including strong support for removal of problem and killer wolves. Those polled did not favor removal of human residents for wolves. That result of the poll was not mention by journalists who reported on the poll. Only the widespread support for wolves numbers were played up, apparently to bias the news in favor of advocacy groups who wish to manipulate public to their agenda.

The Mexican Gray Wolf program cannot succeed if it is based on half truths, manipulation of policy, outright lies. The program requires the support of those in local communities affected by it. As a journalist, you should be concerned that fairness and truth are reflected in your reports. But when instead you rely on agenda-driven drivel rather than sound facts and objective statements regarding those facts, you contribute to undermining the program.


Laura Schneberger, New Mexico NMCGA Wildlife Co-Chair



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