Washington, D.C. – A just-concluded oversight hearing on federal management of wolves turned into an afternoon storytelling forum as Republican lawmakers and their invited witnesses repeated the same debunked claims they often share about wolves, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“They keep telling the same stories, reality and the scientific community keep proving those stories false, and then we hold another hearing where it happens again,” said Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “Today’s hearing, just like the last hearing and the one before that, was about getting rid of as many wolves as possible, not about better management. Every day brings us closer to the end of this Congress, and every day the majority repeats the same old debunked claims that no one outside the Republican bubble takes seriously.”
Hearing “highlights” include:
Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.) (to a witness): “I unfortunately have to contradict my colleague from Michigan, Ms. Dingell, in that in your opening statement you mentioned that hunting in Michigan had not suffered under the wolf. That’s not really the case in my district; there has been a dramatic drop in the deer population.”
FACT: Michigan Tech Professor Dr. John Vucetich promptly dismissed this claim: “It hasn’t been demonstrated that wolves are impacting deer on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.” In fact, cold winter temperatures are the main reason for deer declines on the Upper Peninsula. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the large deer herd has begun to have a significant impact on its own habitat and the habitats of other animals.
Gordon Meyers, Director, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: “The hypothesis that red wolves can become self-sustaining, particularly within landscapes that include coyotes, has been disproven.”
FACT: FWS documents show that as recently as 2010, the red wolf population in North Carolina had grown to as many as 130 individuals. Wolf expert Dr. John Vucetich testified that the FWS adaptive management program for red wolves that includes efforts to reduce hybridization between red wolves and coyotes “appears to have been effective in maintaining and growing the red wolf population.”
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.): “There are significant findings that indicate maybe there’s not a pure strain [of Mexican gray wolf] at all.”
FACT: By definition, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Mexican gray wolf is the “most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America”.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.): “I represent the very Northern part of California where wolves are being introduced or pushed into the state now…[people] have to put their kids in a cage at the bus stop in order for them to be protected [from wolves] when the bus comes”
FACT: As stated on the front page of California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife website: “The State of California is not reintroducing wolves.” Additionally, wolves pose little direct risk to humans. According to Dr. Daniel MacNulty, a wildlife-ecology professor at Utah State University, “[c]ages are unnecessary because wolves aren’t going to be attacking children at the bus stop… I think the ‘kid cages’ are a publicity stunt designed to stoke opposition to Mexican wolf recovery in general and to the federal government in particular.”
Alexandra Sandoval, Director, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish: “The 2015 Rule [governing Mexican wolf recovery] was not a product of cooperation but rather an example of federal imposition.”
FACT: The 2015 Rule, which extended the boundary of the experimental population area, was based on recommendations from the Mexican Wolf Adaptive Management Oversight Committee and Interagency Field Team 2005 report – with participants from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. This Department, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, and multiple New Mexico counties have been cooperating agencies in more recent work, such as the Environmental Impact Statement that led to the 2015 Rule.
Thomas Paterson, Owner of Spur Ranch Cattle Co.: “I’ve asked about wolf tourism. The response I’ve received is that the notion is a farce.”
FACT: A 2006 study estimated the economic impacts of wolf-related tourism around Yellowstone National Park alone (a place with a stable gray wolf population) at $35.5 million annually.