Friends of Animals would like to thank Jay S. Mallonee of Wolf and Wildlife Studies and Jay Tutchton of WildEarth Guardians for their research and collaboration. We encourage the public to submit comments before the deadline [PLEASE NOTE: THEY MUST BE SENT BY THE DATE OF 13 JANUARY], which can be done electronically through the government’s Web portal here. (We recommend that you do not wait until the last minute, and do save a copy of the text of your comment, because you might experience technical difficulties with the government’s Web portal as you attempt to submit type-written text or an attachment.)

“Wolves are well known for controlling their own population,” stated Jay Mallonee when interviewed for this document (on 6 Jan. 2012), adding: “Perhaps at some point we’ll just have to accept what the data from ecology and environmental science ultimately indicate: learn to live with wildlife rather than control it.”

Intolerance and the quest for convenience on our part, Mallonee observes, “only dull the truth about these animals” and both are present in the current rush to de-list the wolves from federal protection and hand them over to control by the State of Wyoming.

Wyoming’s current wolf management plan ensures that no wolves will inhabit the vast majority of Wyoming. The U.S. government would err severely if the Proposed Rule to remove federal protections for Wyoming wolves is accepted as law. We submit the following specific concerns and objections.


Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive
MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

Re: FWS-R6-ES-2011-0039
Comments on Proposed Rule Removing Wolves in Wyoming from the Protection of the Endangered Species Act

On behalf of Friends of Animals, please consider the following comment on your proposal to de-list Canis lupus in Wyoming via 76 Fed. Reg. 61782-61823.

Wyoming’s current wolf management plan ensures that no wolves will inhabit the vast majority of Wyoming. The U.S. government would err severely if the Proposed Rule to remove federal protections for Wyoming wolves is accepted as law. We submit the following specific concerns and objections.

1. The Government’s Description and Analysis of the Biology, Population, and Distribution Is Incomplete and Inaccurate

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter “FWS”) describes the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population at issue without considering continuing losses suffered by the wolves’ communities on account of the hunting seasons currently being waged against these animals by Idaho and Montana.

Moreover, the FWS description of the wolf population must acknowledge the inexact nature of estimating wolf populations generally-and the lack of any protocol in the subject of this Proposed Rule.

Note that Montana’s 2011 hunt, established with a quota of 220 wolves, is overseen by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (hereinafter “FWP”), the state agency responsible for collecting data about wolves. Montana-based biologist Jay S. Mallonee points out the salient errors and drawbacks in the data collection as follows:

• Living organisms’ populations change over time, due to (a) births and deaths, and (b) migration: immigration and emigration.

• During 2009, 804 wolves apparently lived in Montana, but not all at once. The wolves remaining in December are viewed as a working number by FWP to represent the minimum number of wolves that year.

• To ascertain a current working number, FWP relied heavily on opportunistic and anecdotal information (e.g., reporting from hunters; aerial tracking of a few radio-collared wolves), producing questionable information for the annual reports.

• The year 2009 began with 497 wolves. Management and recreational killing subtracted 280 wolves, for a new total of 217. FWP claimed that 307 wolves augmented this population, for a December total of 524. FWP officials reported 166 births-implying, then, that 141 wolves migrated into Montana. But emigration is a guess and immigration is unknown. Together, they are half of the equation to determine the total number of wolves in the state. There was no justification for factoring in 141 extra wolves.

• The numbers for 2010 provided by FWP also do not add up. Consequently, other management decisions based on this number are also flawed.

• Because no scientific protocols were used to procure the data used as their basis, the hunting quotas are arbitrary, and to claim that wolf hunts are based in science is a falsehood.

• As correspondence from Montana officials shows, states may claim science but do not use the scientific method. This is crucial to any decisions on Rocky Mountain wolves. In Jay Mallonee’s e-mail exchanges with FWP and the Montana governor’s office (posted here:, we see Kent Laudon, Wolf Management Specialist with Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) in September 2010 stating: “Jay there are no protocols. No protocol would be necessary or even help really…We do, occasionally, find wolves incidentally by air craft. So, aircraft is used to monitor radio collared wolves/packs”¦” As Mallonee states to Jim Williams, FWP Wildlife Program Manager: “Kent said no protocols were followed, which by default means no science”¦”

There is a further serious infirmity with the basis of the State’s wolf-killing decisions that involves numbers that were factored in without any basis. Jay S. Mallonee points out the salient errors and drawbacks in the FWP justifications for killing wolves as follows:

• In 2009, 97 cattle were lost to wolves. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture count 2.6 million cattle, including calves, in Montana. Ninety-seven out of 2.6 million is only 0.004 percent. (Western Montana, where the wolves live, has 494,100 cattle-fewer than on the east side of the state. Even here, only 97, i.e. 0.02 percent of the western cattle population, were killed by wolves.)

• Similar low percentages apply to sheep. Wolves were documented as killing 0.6 percent of them. In 2009, therefore, wolves were responsible for about 0.06 percent of total farm animal loss. (Even if 1,000 cattle were reported for 2009, this would only be 0.2 percent of the cattle in western Montana killed by wolves.)

• Potential threat to prey has been used as a reason to kill additional wolves. In Montana, where prey population numbers are not measured annually, it remains unknown how many deer, elk, and moose exist. Where elk populations have been studied-in southwest Montana and Yellowstone National Park-research found mixed impacts: some herds declined, some increased (in southwestern Montana), and others showed little or no effect from wolves.
Friends of Animals published a summary of the above-listed problems in Jay S. Mallonee, Hunting Montana’s Wolves,Friends of Animals ActionLine (Winter 2011-12). For the full analysis, a PDF (portable document file) of the original scientific paper on which our summary is based can be obtained from

There is no scientific consensus on how wolf predation influences prey population dynamics-whether in Montana or Wyoming. Environmental conditions affect this in ways science does not yet fully understand. Without research in specific areas (such as the elk studies), the influence of wolves remains unknown.

2. The Proposed Rule Does Not Provide Accurate and Adequate Review and Analysis of the Factors Relating to Threats

Several factors of high importance have been neglected here:

• Migration between the Distinct Population Segments is critical; Montana’s wolves are connected with those of Wyoming. On migrations and interactions among groups of wolves across regions, see A. Miklosi, Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition (Oxford University Press, 2007).

• The Proposed Rule is incorrectly premised upon the existence of a recovered wolf population when this is not the case. See, e.g., Bradley J. Bergstrom et al., The Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Is Not Yet Recovered, BioScience, December 2009, Vol. 59, No. 11, 59:991-999; available here.

• The FWS disregards current research and its own precedents in the rush to de-list Montana wolves, even while admitting that wolves in the Wyoming portion of the Distinct Population Segment are not recovered.

• This flaw is significantly exacerbated with the de-listing in other areas of the Northern Rockies. Significantly, future migration of wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Area from central Idaho or northwest Montana will be impeded as wolf populations in those areas have been reduced by recreational kills.

• Moreover, the advent of de-listing in other areas, and the subsequent state-run killing efforts, will have unexpected impacts because raw numbers do not show the responses within or between wolf packs, which can create unpredictable vulnerabilities.

• Hunts remove a number of individuals in a short time and disrupt regional population networks, which already help to control wolf numbers. See A. Miklosi, Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition (Oxford University Press, 2007). Also see L.Y. Rutledge et al., Protection From Harvesting Restores the Natural Social Structure of Eastern Wolf Packs, Biological Conservation, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2009.10.017 (2009); cited in J.S. Mallonee, Hunting Wolves in Montana”“Where Are the Data? Nature and Science 9(9)(2011); available

• Predator loss and manipulation in turn contributes to the trophic downgrading of ecosystems globally. See A. Estes et al., Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth, Science 333:301-306 (2011). In this recent study, published in the prestigious scientific journal Science, the current top ecologists in the world reviewed 20 years of science and found that the elimination of predators has had detrimental effects on all global ecosystems. As State wolf management has yet to acknowledge or take into consideration this current science, the FWS would err if the Proposed Rule to remove federal protections for Wyoming wolves is accepted as law.

• In addition, climate change is expected to affect the North American continent severely between the present time and 2100. The FWS does not know how this will impact the migration of sensitive predator and prey populations in coming decades; scientists do know, however, that (a) rising levels of human-produced greenhouse gases and subsequent climate change are expected to modify plant communities so drastically that nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems will change from one major ecological community type-such as forest, grassland or tundra-into another; and (b) North American species will need to find ways to adapt and migrate. See NASA release 2011-387: “Climate Change May Bring Big Ecosystem Changes” (issued Dec. 14, 2011) (referring to simulations carried out by according to researchers from NASA researchers and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and published in the journal Climatic Change); available here.

Wolf groupings are greater than the sum of their parts. Members interact with each other and with their surrounding environment. The net result is a force that changes over time as the wolves react, individually and collectively, to unfolding environmental variations such as increasing or decreasing prey populations, prey migration, loss of members within the group, and climatic changes-the latter of which are about to experience, if UN simulations are correct, “about the same warming that occurred following the Last Glacial Maximum almost 20,000 years ago, except about 100 times faster.” (See NASA release).

Wilmers and Getz (2005) analyzed 55 years of weather data from Yellowstone, and found that winters are getting shorter, with fewer days with snow on the ground and increased number of days with temperatures above freezing. In the absence of wolves, early snow thaw leads to a substantial reduction in late-winter carrion, causing potential food bottlenecks for scavengers. Wolves, however, mitigate late-winter reduction in carrion due to earlier snow thaws by regularly killing large prey. By buffering the effects of climate change on carrion availability, wolves allow scavengers to adapt to a changing environment over a longer time scale commensurate with natural processes. This illustrates the importance of restoring and maintaining intact food chains in the face of large-scale environmental perturbations such as climate change. See C.C. Wilmers and W.M Getz, Gray Wolves as Climate Change Buffers, PLoS Biology 3(4):e92 (2005).

As State wolf management has yet to adapt itself to this current science and its urgent ramifications, the FWS would err if the Proposed Rule to remove federal protections for Wyoming wolves is accepted as law.

3. The FWS Conclusions, Including a Projection of Maintenance of a Viable Population, Are Neither Logical nor Supported by the Evidence Provided

The FWS analysis should be independent of the Recovery Plan, which, for reasons outlined above, fails to represent the best available science. Moreover, the Recovery Plan’s 10-pack-per-state standard-only 20 breeding individuals in each State at issue-is draconian, and fails to provide for viability.

A scientific review of the FWS’s Final Wyoming Gray Wolf Peer Review Summary Report has experts split on whether the species would continue to recover if removed from Endangered Species Act protection in the state; the point of contention involves whether the projection of a viable population is valid. See Cory Hatch, Researchers Split Over Wyoming’s Wolf Plan, Jackson Hole Daily (6 Jan. 2012); available here.After representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, the University of Montana, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Technological University reviewed the Wyoming wolf management plan, the authors stated: “[T]he Plan, as written, does not do an adequate job of explaining how wolf populations will be maintained, and how recovery will be maintained.”

4. FWS Did Not Base the Proposed Rule on All the Necessary and Pertinent Literature

Please refer to the discussion we provide at 1-3 above. Also important is the precedent-setting study of the Fishtrap wolves, found to spend the lesser portion of their time together as a complete group, because of the many demands to survive; the implication from this study (as we have confirmed with its author) is that disruptions imposed by State management will prevent individuals from attending to their survival needs efficiently, thus is likely to increase mortality risk. See J.S. Mallonee, Movements of Radio Collared Wolves and Their Significance on Pack Assembly, The Journal of American Science 4(1):53-58 (2008); available here.

Radio monitoring of the Fishtrap pack began in June 2003, under the guidance of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mallonee’s published paper on the Fishtrap pack was the first sustained observations showing the individuals spent the minority of time fully assembled. (The working assumption made by past researchers was that wolves do everything together as a group.) GPS tracking showed wolves in the Fishtrap group separating to find prey and other resources seasonally and daily, train the pups, etc. The wolves were fully assembled in no more than thirty-one percent of the surveys during the two-year period; their constant movements precluded a complete pack most of the time. Monitoring, hunting, and marking their territory were full-time jobs and the work load was apparently shared by all members. To accomplish this, it appeared the Fishtrap wolves were indeed a tight-knit group, but socially rather than physically. Mallonee asks, “What kind of environmental imbalances do we produce by managing the numbers of wolves and other wildlife?”

The above-described dynamic underscores the difficulty agencies would have in making valid assurances that the State is likely to maintain a recovery baseline ““ even if one could be considered valid. “Wolves are well known for controlling their own population,” stated Jay Mallonee when interviewed for this document (on 6 Jan. 2012), adding: “Perhaps at some point we’ll just have to accept what the data from ecology and environmental science ultimately indicate: learn to live with wildlife rather than control it.”

Intolerance and the quest for convenience on our part, Mallonee observes, “only dull the truth about these animals” and both are present in the current rush to de-list in Wyoming.

Of additional relevance is the research (Rutledge et al., 2009; cited at 2. above) which demonstrated that hunting wolves in unprotected areas changes the conduct of distant wolf packs in protected areas.

Taken as a whole, the research cited herein suggests that FWS neglects relevant science showing that wolves comprise and act as networks, inhabiting entire regions.

5. It Is Unreasonable to Conclude that Wyoming’s Approach to Wolf Management Will Likely Maintain Wyoming’s Wolf Population Above Recovery Levels

Wyoming’s current approach to wolf management virtually repeats that previously proposed by Wyoming and rejected by FWS. Wyoming now proposes to add a “seasonal wolf trophy game management area” south of Jackson and north of Afton. Seasonal openings and closures will not stop wolves from migrating throughout the year and thus cannot ensure recovery is maintained.

6. It Is Unreasonable to Conclude that Wyoming’s Approach to Wolf Management Would Ensure Sufficient Levels of Gene Flow (Either Natural or Human-Assisted) to Prevent Genetic Problems from Negatively Impacting the Greater Yellowstone Area’s Population or the Larger Northern Rocky Mountain Metapopulation in a Manner that Would Meaningfully Impact Viability

The idea of “human assisted” gene flow conflicts with the Endangered Species Act’s concept of recovery, i.e., reaching a point at which the Act’s protections are no longer necessary to the persistence of the species. The partial reliance on the part of FWS on human assistance means, and acknowledges, that the wolf communities have not recovered.

Moreover, the Proposed Rule does not explain: (1) the nature of such assistance; (2) the trigger that would activate it; (3) how it will be financed; (4) or the federal government’s authority to require it. Currently, wolves are not treated by the U.S. or Wyoming governments in a way that would make any of this possible. Wolves are managed, not for conservation in a whole ecosystem approach, but through techniques that are environmentally destructive, as the current science is ignored.

Relying on unenforceable intentions of Wyoming to “take adaptive measures, as appropriate to achieve a long-term goal of at least one effective migrant per generation” to ensure genetic connectivity is unlawful.

7. The Distinct Population Segment Boundaries Are Inappropriate

Science does not justify a distinction between wolves who historically inhabited Wyoming from those who historically inhabited northern Colorado. Wolves were originally protected by ESA listing in both areas.

The original Distinct Population Segment for Northern Rocky Mountain wolves, proposed by the FWS as the Western DPS, included northern Colorado. 76 Fed. Reg. 61782-84 now states, incomprehensibly, that current DPS boundary “more closely approximates the historic range of the originally listed NRM gray wolf in the United States.” It is unacceptable that the FWS abandons the potential for wolves to naturally recover in Colorado.

8. Reliance on Future Changes to Wyoming Law is Inappropriate

The Proposed Rule relies on future changes to Wyoming law and Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulations to create an adequate Wolf Management Plan. 76 Fed. Reg. 61782, at 61788. We have yet to see such expected future changes. We have had no opportunity to comment on them.

The Proposed Rule indicates that a new public comment period will be held only if future Wyoming laws and regulations “deviate significantly” from law the federal government expects Wyoming to make. 76 Fed. Reg. 61782, at 61810. We request the opportunity to comment on changes to Wyoming law and regulations, and to discuss whether any deviations from the expected laws and regulations are significant.

9. Human-Caused Mortality Is Super-Additive

The Proposed Rule relies on the assertion that wolves “can maintain population levels despite very high sustained human-caused mortality rates of 22 to greater than 50 percent” (76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 61801, 806-08). Wyoming-specific data indicate that wolves outside Yellowstone can endure 36% mortality; only 13% of this mortality would be left to hunters, and yet studies indicate recreational killing has super-additive effects on total wolf mortality. See, e.g., Scott Creel and Jay J. Rotella, Meta-Analysis of Relationships Between Human Offtake, Total Mortality and Population Dynamics of Gray Wolves (Canis lupus), PLoS ONE, Sep. 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 9, e12918. Their analysis does not support an allowance of recreational killing; and the FWS citing of Creel and Rotella is inapposite.

The Proposed Rule states “while human-caused mortality may alter pack structure, we have no evidence that indicates this issue is a significant concern for wolf conservation.” 76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 61819. In contrast, studies show that human killing of wolves is associated with a strongly additive or super-additive increase in total wolf mortality and that wolf populations thus decline beyond agency predictions. See, e.g., Creel and Rotella (2010).

Important here again is the study of the Fishtrap wolves, indicating that disruption of the group will prevent individuals from attending to their survival needs efficiently, thus indirectly increasing mortality risk. See J.S. Mallonee, Movements of Radio Collared Wolves and Their Significance on Pack Assembly, cited at 4. above.

FWS fails to correctly consider the unpredictability by which human-caused mortality unbalances groups of wolves, causing indirect deaths and psychological trauma. See J. S. Mallonee and P. Joslin, P., Traumatic Stress Disorder Observed in an Adult Wild Captive Wolf (Canis lupus), Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 7:107-126 (2004).

10. The Proposed Rule Inappropriately Discounts Increased Hunting in the
Island Park Hunting Unit

The Proposed Rule acknowledges that some Wyoming wolves may be killed in Idaho’s recreational kill season in an area known as the Island Park or Upper Snake Management Zone (76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 617802), yet inappropriately neglects Idaho’s six-fold increase in hunting permits for this area ““ from five in 2009 to 30 in 2011. While the Proposed Rule acknowledges that wolf populations in this area are targeted, it does not analyze the impacts of this killing on genetic connectivity to Yellowstone ““ or how it will make Wyoming’s seasonal closure area even less effective in maintaining natural genetic connectivity between Greater Yellowstone Area and other Rocky Mountain wolves.

11. The Proposed Rule Should Analyze Its Impacts to Wolf Population Genetic Connectivity at Minimum Population Levels

Given the certainty that genetic connectivity will decrease under the Proposed Rule, FWS declares an “ongoing” process “to identify, maintain, and improve linkage of wildlife movement areas between the large blocks of public land in the region.” 76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 61816. This is dangerously vague, lacking standards of procedure or measurement, and thus illegal.

Moreover, human intolerance for wolves in the linkage areas will not be addressed by this process.

12. The Per-State Recovery Baseline Must Be Explained

The Proposed Rule states that “if the [wolf] population is maintained near the minimum recovery target of 150 wolves per State, a scenario we view as extremely unlikely, we would expect dispersal to noticeably decrease.” 76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 61815.

First, please explain the 150-per-state baseline. This appears to be another arbitrary number that has no basis in fact. Is there any documentation or data supporting this baseline?

Second, please explain why the government considers this scenario “extremely unlikely.” On the contrary, it is extremely likely, given the clear messages projected by the State of Wyoming that it would kill wolves to (and quite possibly below) the minimum required level ““ though again the FWS must clarify how it arrived at this proposed minimum number.

As noted at 3. above, after experts reviewed the Wyoming wolf management plan, the authors stated: “It may indeed be that it is not in the State’s interest to manage down to the absolute minimum population; however, that is what is stated in the plan, and it is not reasonable to simply assume that there will be consistent and long-term commitment to managing for levels above that target.”

13. The Projected Shift in Public Attitudes Has No Basis

Success in retaining political office often depends on wolf-killing promises. Wyoming’s political personalities are pressed to respond to calls to protect local economies and are expected to value wolves only insofar as they equate to tourist dollars. For public discussion and commentary representative of this pressure, see Kevin Huelsmann, Gov Rebuffs Wolf Pleas, Jackson Hole Daily (30 Jul. 2011); available here.

Wyoming wishes to classify wolves as unprotected predators subject to shooting on sight in most areas. There is no sign that dominant economic arguments or social attitudes have changed, and no basis for FWS to “expect” that State management will “improve” attitudes about wolves in Wyoming as it states in the Proposed Rule (76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 61813).

14. The FWS Should Disaggregate Biologically Unsuitable Habitat From Land Humans Begrudge Wolves From Inhabiting.

The steppe habitat of Wyoming once supported viable wolf populations. The FWS does not present facts showing this area is biologically incapable of supporting wolves, but rather that human intolerance and Wyoming’s predator management system will result in wolves being unable to persist in this area (76 Fed. Reg. 61782 at 61812).

Were the FWS instead to acknowledge that wolves could continue to be endangered, or remain extirpated, from the vast majority of Wyoming, then it would be illogical to de-list wolves in the predator management portion of the State.

Logic, not panic, should guide our federal government’s decision-making here. Jay Mallonee states that wolves are targeted for a unique reason. Not because we wish to consume them. Rather: “Wolves are killed mostly out of fear, hatred, and a perceived competition for the other animals that we do eat.” The FWS would be irresponsible for acquiescing to it, but if this Proposed Rule is accepted, this is the social panic which will be at play.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Proposed Rule. For all the reasons stated in this comment, it is our position that the Proposed Rule is biologically and legally unsound and unacceptable.

Respectfully submitted on this date of 7 Jan. 2012,

Lee Hall, JD, Legal Director for Friends of Animals
On behalf of Friends of Animals, Inc.
Headquarters: 777 Post Road, Suite 205, Darien CT 06820 U.S.