Now is the winter of our (predator) discontent

Ah, the Northern Rockies. Soaring mountains. Rushing streams. Beargrass and aspens. Mountain bluebirds. Deep forests, wide open prairies, abundant native wildlife. What’s not to love?

Well, it depends on whom you ask.

“I want them to open their (expletive) eyes,” said Toby Bridges, founder of Lobo Watch(Sportsmen against wolves–united we stand!). Bridges wants Missoula County to follow Ravalli County’s lead in drafting a wolf “management” policy.

Bridges believes that the state management agency, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is incapable of “putting together effective wolf control.” While I certainly have my own gripes with FWP (continued wolverine and fisher trapping, wild bison mismanagement), anyone with half a brain can see what would go wrong with issuing fiats on a county-by-county basis.

Down in Ravalli County, which borders Missoula County to the south,

It’s not at all unusual to spot trucks from Ravalli County sporting bumper stickers that advise, Wolves: Smoke a pack a day or No grizzly reintro in the Bitterroots or Save 200 elk, kill a wolf. I once saw a hand-lettered job that advocated spaying and neutering “enviros.”And now, having dug up a state law from circa 1930 that allowed for predator bounties, the Ravalli County Livestock Protection Group is calling for a “wide-open season on predators.”

At least one rancher is unhappy that livestock producers “will have to foot the bill for the bounty. There should be a tax on the Defenders of Wildlife or the federal Fish and Game. They are the ones who put them (wolves) here.” This comes from someone who grazes his animals on public land at ridiculously low, taxpayer-subsidized grazing fees.

But Montana’s county vs. state predator management struggles pale in comparison to Idaho’s most recent actions. The state’s Senate Resource Committee just passed a bill (S 1305) along to the full Senate with a “do pass” recommendation:

The bill’s sponsor, a sheep rancher, called for the live bait provision because “the darn things keep coming at us in the night … You just literally can’t find ’em.” (Spokesman-Review) The bill passed out of committee on a party line 7-2 vote. Imagine being the two dissenters in that goon squad!

So extreme is Idaho’s Senate proposal that U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)–the author of the federal legislation (along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT) that removed wolves from Endangered Species Act listing–is concerned that it goes too far (see update at end). And no wonder. Get a load of this:

One of the two dissenting Democrats is concerned that the bill “…sets no parameters for the use of live bait, and she worries that could lead to the possibility of torture of these animals used as bait.” Wonder what Sophie thinks of this nimrod plan?

Back at the Missoulian, the Mule Deer Foundation’s regional director is also belly-achin’ about too many predators. “I would suggest the commission (FWP) look at predator quotas for mountain lions, bears and wolves. I will be an advocate for deer hunters to take some time to coyote hunt to give our deer a chance.” Did you catch that? Our deer. Hunters’ deer. The deer who grew to be fleet of foot because they evolved with pressure from predators. The predators now reviled as competitors for “our” deer.

Now is certainly the winter of our predator discontent, and every time you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Update: “Fighting back tears,” the sponsor withdrew his bill. Full details at the Idaho Statesman.

This post first appeared at animal law blog Animal Blawg, where comments are accepted.

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