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Washington State Hunters Fire Back at Commission

Past readers of this blog recall that in 2022 the WDFW commission cancelled the annual spring bear hunt in Washington, claiming lack of scientific evidence for the hunt, despite 48 years of data and the elk population being significantly below target.  The main reason for the cancellation of this hunt has to do with the commissioners that our governor has appointed, the majority of which are anti-hunting.  With these individuals controlling the commission, the outlook for hunting in Washington is not good. With spring bear off the table, many hunters are asking what species are next?

During 2022, a Washington hunting and conservation group took the steps to sue Governor Jay Inslee for failing to follow the Washington code which clearly states that governors “shall seek to maintain a balance reflecting all aspects of fish and wildlife, including representation recommended by organized groups representing sportfishers, commercial fishers, hunters, private landowners, and environmentalists.”

The governor’s appointments to the commission have not been balanced, nor included representation among all those groups.  He has appointed 5 commissioners over the course of 2021 and 2022 who are all voting along anti-hunting lines.  This is why we are seeing this seismic shift in how wildlife is being managed in Washington recently.  What is even more scary is that there are two commissioners whose positions are up soon, one of which belongs to the most pro-hunting commissioner left.  

These new commissioners are not all that interested in solving or addressing the significant decline in the elk population in the Blue Mountains, even though the department’s own data clearly shows that predation is a significant factor.  They are content to watch our big game herds shrink as long as the hunting of predator animals does not occur.  

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10 Most Common Big Game Violations Part 4 (Tagging)

 

Failure to properly validate and attach the tag. Misdemeanor: Up to $1,000 fine, 0-6 months in jail, 0-3 years license revocation. Idaho Code 36-409(d)Idaho Administrative Code 13.01.08.320 https://adminrules.idaho.gov/rules/current/13/130108.pdf 

In Idaho, it is a misdemeanor to not properly validate and attach your tag immediately upon kill.  I’ll be breaking this down, so you have a better understanding of what exactly is required.  

In Idaho Statute 36-409(d) “Game Tag to Be Validated and Attached to Carcass” it states, as soon as a person kills any wildlife for which a tag is required, that tag must be validated and attached in a manner provided by commission rule.  That law can be vague, so we must look to the Idaho Administrative Code 13.01.08.320.  Here we can find a more descriptive answer.  

Immediately after any deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, mountain lion, black bear, grizzly bear, or gray wolf is killed, the appropriate big game animal tag must be validated and securely attached to the animal.

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Jury Convicts Muzzleloader Who Shot & Killed an Archery Hunter

Yesterday, Ronald J. Morosko was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Gregory Gabrisch during a fatal hunting incident.  Mr. Morosko, while muzzleloader hunting on Sept. 17, 2021, fatally shot Gabrisch (an archery hunter). The incident occurred in the Lizard Head Wilderness Area of Dolores County, Colorado. The shooting occurred as both men hunted elk during overlapping muzzleloading and archery seasons. The men were hunting separately, and Morosko believed he was shooting at an elk when he hit and killed Gabrisch. 

Morosko is currently free on bond until a sentencing hearing set for March 31. The sentence for criminally negligent homicide, a Class 5 felony, is one to three years in prison, or probation which can include up to 90 days in jail. Additionally, a fine of up to $100,000 may be imposed.

Chief Judge Todd Plewe presided over the case. During the trial, the prosecution argued “Morosko failed to perceive the substantial danger in the woods, that other hunters are in it, doing the same thing, trying to call in elk.” Morosko violated hunting rules because “he did not identify his target.”

Defense attorneys argued the incident was a “horrible tragedy” but did not meet the legal standard of negligence. They added the overlap of archery and muzzleloader seasons and the fact that blaze orange clothing was not required for bowhunters was “senseless” and probably contributed to the accident.

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Giant Mouse Knife Giveaway

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Broncos Finally Score

Image from Derek’s Instagram Account

After a tough season when it seemed like the Broncos new multi-million-dollar quarterback had difficulty scoring, retired Denver Broncos defensive lineman and Super Bowl champion Derek Wolfe did score by killing a huge 200-pound, 8.5-foot mountain lion… and he did it with a bow. The giant cat had been “wreaking havoc” and killing pets in a residential area. 

Derek received a call from a friend, and he offered to help.

When they got to the area frequented by the cat, they found a full-grown, mule deer that had been killed and dragged across the road, right across the street from somebody’s house. Then they followed those tracks up to a house and discovered the lion had been living beneath a woman’s porch.

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10 Most Common Big Game Violations Part 3 (Permits)

Hunting without an appropriate permit (i.e., Archery/Muzzleloader Permit) 

(Idaho Code 36-409 (e)/(f) (Infraction $136)

Idaho requires you to purchase and carry an Archery or Muzzleloader permit while hunting with those methods of take, in certain seasons.  Below is a breakdown of situations when you would need those permits and how to obtain them in Idaho.  Review your own state’s requirements because they all handle them differently.  For instance, Montana requires an Archery License, but Utah, California, Colorado and many others do not.  Alaska takes it a step further and requires the online class, Field Day class, and shooting proficiency test to be able to hunt with Archery equipment.   

In Idaho, Archers wanting to hunt in “Archery Only” designated seasons you will need to have an Archery Permit in your possession.  You are required to have an Archery permit for any “Archery Only” Controlled Tag.  Also, if you are hunting with a General Tag but during the “Archery Only” season, you will need an “Archery Permit”.  For instance, if you were archery deer hunting in Unit 59A in September during the “Archery Only” season, you will need an Archery Permit.  However, if you are archery deer hunting (with the same tag as before) in Unit 59A in October during the “Any Weapon” season, you would not need the Archery Permit.  

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife releases Draft Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan

 

Last month the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) staff presented the Draft Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan to the CPW Commission. The Draft Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan is now available for public review. The CPW Commission will discuss and take feedback from the public at five upcoming meetings around Colorado. The public can comment on the draft plan online and in the upcoming public meetings through February 22, by visiting engagecpw.org.

As you may know, State statute 33-2-105.8 directs the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to:

Develop a plan to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado;Take necessary steps to begin reintroduction no later than Dec. 31, 2023, on designated lands west of the Continental Divide; andPay fair compensation for livestock losses caused by gray wolves

Beginning in April 2021, CPW contracted with Keystone Policy Center to conduct the public involvement effort. CPW worked with Keystone Policy Center to hold 47 public meetings in 2021, collecting feedback from more than 3,400 Coloradans.

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Overcrowding by Non-resident Hunters Cancels Colorado OTC Elk Hunts

Mr. Siegfried contacted Eastmans’ Hunting Journals via email regarding his opinion on what the state of Colorado is doing with OTC Archery Elk Tags. This blog is an op-ed article from a Colorado resident hunter’s perspective. We welcome responses and other opinions as well. 

Hunting is not a right in Colorado, our legislators do not promote equity in resident tag allocation like other western states.  Most western states cap non-residents at 10% of limited big game tags, Colorado gives 20-35% of limited elk and deer tags to non-residents and this does not take into effect the soft cap loopholes or landowner vouchers that are sold back to non-residents. If you read the bios of the CPW Commissioners, you won’t see many folks passionate about hunting and fishing and you will see that no one is defending resident hunters when it comes to tag allocation and OTC hunting opportunities. One of the few CPW Commissioners that is a “Sportsperson” is an outfitter named Marie Haskett, and last I checked outfitters largely represent non-residents, since that is who pays their bills.  

During the January 17, 2023 CPW Commission meeting a couple members of the Colorado Resident Hunter Association (Facebook Group) testified to try and save OTC archery hunting in the five E14 / Grand Mesa units (41, 52, 411, 421 and 521).  CPW was responding to overcrowding complaints over the past few years.  The attached Grand Mesa Archery CPW graph that was shared with the commission this fall shows that non-resident archery hunters are up 250% (1200 to 3000) since 2014 and that resident hunters are actually down 20% (2400 to 2000) since 2014. The surge in hunting pressure is the result of non-residents, in fact, 3 out 5 archery elk hunters on the Grand Mesa are non-residents. No state in the country has numbers like this, where residents of the state are run out of the woods by non-residents, yet that is the trend in archery OTC units and rifle OTC units across Colorado. I have submitted a couple CORA requests over the years to get the following stats. Statewide since 2014 archery OTC resident hunters are down 20% and rifle OTC resident hunters are down 10%. Meanwhile, all statewide OTC hunts (rifle + archery) in Colorado have seen an increase of over 24% by non-residents, from 35,818 in 2014 to 44,409 in 2021.  

Most western states like Wyoming, Utah and Idaho would respond to this non-resident surge by capping non-resident OTC tags and keeping OTC elk hunts open to residents to promote the sport to future generations of resident hunters. Not Colorado, on January 17th the CPW Commission with no objection to the facts, ruled to limit all archery elk tags on the Grand Mesa next year and then Commissioner Marie Haskett doubled down and proclaimed that they needed to change all archery to statewide draw in 2024 to meet biological and social management objectives. That’s right, social management objectives, I guess that does not include resident hunter equity compared to other states.

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Colorado Kills OTC Elk Tags!

At a hybrid, in-person/virtual meeting January 17 and 18 in Colorado Springs, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission kicked off discussion for the next 5-year Big Game Season Structure (we’re entering the 4th year of the current plan). They will consider shifting to a 7-year structure in the future to allow more time for changes to be studied.  Significant items discussed were:

CPW commission approved a change to remove both resident and non-resident Over-the-Counter (OTC) unlimited archery elk tags from the Grand Mesa Unit DAU E-14 (GMUs 41, 411, 42, 421, 52, 521) to assist with overcrowding (even though the vast majority of the OTC archery hunters in this area are non-residents). A few public comments were heard, and those focused on overcrowding primarily being caused by out-of-state hunters. The commission stated that at a future meeting they will consider removing ALL archery OTC licenses statewide for 2024 and converting them to draw. Dates & Lengths of Rifle Seasons;Length of breaks between seasons,4th season over Thanksgiving is not popular, may move it,Option to add Deer Tags to 1st Season,Adding a 2nd season for Antelope (especially for NE corner).Trophy Species Weighted-Point Draw Process Modification. The commission will consider methods of improving the likelihood of high-point holders to draw a sheep, goat, or moose tag. They will discuss moving to a Bonus Point system which is similar to weighted points, but simpler and already used/tested in other states.

Some significant items NOT discussed during this meeting were:

Preference pointsPreference point bankingGroup preference point averagingLicense allocation, High-Demand Hunts shifting from an 80%/20% split to 90%/10%.

 As a side-note, the Commission discussed making Hunter Reporting mandatory.

Additionally, items discussed included; modifying several Game Management Unit boundaries; annual changes to season dates; limited license areas and manner of take provisions for elk, pronghorn, moose, bear, bighorn sheep and mountain goat; annual changes to quotas for bighorn sheep and mountain goats; creating, modifying, and removing hunting seasons in multiple units for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat; and annual changes to season dates and harvest limits for mountain lions.

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Grizzly Bears Test Positive for Avian Flu

Three juvenile grizzly bears have tested positive for avian flu this fall according to Montana FWP. The bears displayed a high amount of disorientation, partial blindness and appeared to be in poor bodily condition. Two were in the Augusta area and the other was near Kalispell. The bears were euthanized due to their condition.

These are the first grizzlies documented with avian flu but many other scavenging animals have also tested positive for the flu including black bears, skunks, raccoons, foxes, and a coyote. This pathogen is relatively hard to contract from normal passerby contact, but these animals are sure to be consuming birds that have died from the flu which has been a real issue all across the country in the past year. 

It is possible for this strain of avian flu to spread to humans as well but the risk is considered very low by the CDC. It is recommended to stay away from dead waterfowl or other birds that appear to be sick and that goes for your pets too. 

Source Link:

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California MRS: Things to Watch For

Tis the Legislative Season and with that comes new laws and regulations.  California has been in the spotlight over the last few years for the Anti-Bear Hunting movement that has been happening there.  Anti-hunting NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) have attempted to get bear hunting removed from California.  The removal of bear hunting has been shot down, as of now, but it’s expected to be returning to the docket again this year.  Keep an eye out for that one.  

Going on right now are the WRC (Wildlife Resource Committee) meetings.  At these meetings, new proposals are heard on regulatory actions and public comments, for or against.  The WRC then decides on whether that proposal should be heard by the Fish and Game Commission, for possible regulatory changes.  

One of these proposals that will be moving forward in the process, is the proposal to close the “Grandma Loophole” for party application draw tags.  Historically, your “Grandma” would buy a license every year and apply for a draw tag.  With that, she would gather a preference point each year she doesn’t draw a tag.  If she draws a tag and returns that tag, she will also receive a preference point.  Now say she has 10 points, and you decide to start putting in for draw hunts as a party.  In California, they average the preference points out among the party members.  Grandma having 10 points and you having no points, puts your average at 5 points.  

This year you both apply as a party for an X6A deer tag.  X6A usually takes 5 points (or 5 years of applying and being unsuccessful) minimum to draw.  With the 5 Point average, you draw the tag your first year applying.  Once you draw that tag, Grandma turns back in HER tag and gets another preference point so she will have 11 next year.  You hunt X6A this year and next year you have an even better shot because now Grandma has 11 points, bringing your party average to 5.5 points.  You can see how this snowball can start rolling down the hill and makes it easy for someone to game the system.  You could hunt X6A, or even better units, every year when others must wait years to hunt those units if you apply this way.

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Good News for Wyoming Non-resident Hunters

Senate file 60, which would increase non-resident fees, fails in the Wyoming senate.

In a decisive 20-10 vote, the Wyoming Senate voted to kill the Senate File 60 bill that would have increased non-resident fees for deer, elk and antelope in the “special draw” by nearly double. The bill also had a last-minute amendment which would have also increased the costs of sheep, moose, goat and grizzly tags for non-resident hunters. 

After reading between the lines it looks like there was much debate on the floor regarding this bill, which surprisingly revolved around the origin of the bill not necessarily the merits of the bill itself. Some senators were skeptical that this bill could hold up to Wyoming constitutionality because it was a revenue generating and taxation bill which would need to originate from the state House instead of the Senate according to the Wyoming State Constitution. 

Although done for right now, there is still a slim possibility that this bill becomes a phoenix and rises from the ashes, this time in the state House instead of the Senate. 

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10 Most Common Big Game Violations: Part 2

No Evidence of Sex/Species Naturally Attached (Idaho Code 36-1401(a)(2)(M) (Infraction $136)

In Idaho you are required to leave the evidence of sex and/or species naturally attached to all big game animals.  This means all deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and moose must have evidence of sex naturally attached.    

If you keep the carcass whole, you’ll have the head and genitals still attached.  If you skin it out on a meat pole but keep the head on there’s no need for the other evidence of sex.  With the head still attached to the carcass, you don’t need any other form of evidence of sex.  The issue comes into play when you take the head off and are quartering out and especially boning out the meat.  If you removed the head or antlers, the evidence of sex in the form of the testicles, penis, scrotum, udder or vulva must remain naturally attached to a quarter, or a portion of edible meat if boned.  That evidence of sex must stay attached until it reaches the final place of storage or consumption, or a meat processing facility.  In any case, the horns/antlers must accompany the meat while in transit.  

For bear, mountain lion and wolf, things are a bit different.  In Idaho, you are not required to bring out any meat from a bear, lion or wolf.  For these three, the external evidence of sex must be left naturally attached to the hide until it’s checked in at a Fish and Game Office or with a Game Warden.  It’s a requirement for all bears, lions and wolves to be checked in with Fish and Game within 10 days of the date of kill.  You must present the skull and hide with evidence of sex attached to Fish and Game so they can pull a premolar for aging.  They will also place an export tag in the hide.  If you don’t want to bring out the entire pelt, skin a strip of hide about 6 inches wide all the way down the back until you reach the evidence of sex.  Go around the evidence of sex and bring all that out with the head still attached to that strip of hide.  

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Shiras’ Moose- Colorado or Wyoming?

Colorado’s moose herd has taken over Wyoming’s, but what does that mean?

The state of Colorado has taken over Wyoming as the number one Shiras’ moose state in the West. Colorado now offers more moose tags than Wyoming does. When I was a kid Wyoming offered over 1,000 Shiras’ moose tags to lucky hunters in a totally random draw, today that number has dwindled to a pathetic 360 total moose tags. The Mile High state will offer up more than 500 total moose tags for the 2023 fall draw.

There is plenty of blame to go around and a multitude of reasons. Most blame wolves and grizzly bears for the drastic decline, however that is not the entire story. Wyoming Game and Fish Deputy Wildlife Chief, Dough Brimeyer says, “predators have played a role in Wyoming’s changing moose population, but other factors – such as drought and malnutrition – also are in play.” Doug is one of the best wildlife managers in the West in my opinion, a true advocate for big game hunters in the Cowboy State.

There are certainly more factors at play for this decline but predation is at the top. The good news, Wyoming is seeing some very solid cow/calf ratios over the past few years hitting the ground. In many areas, cow calf ratios of nearly 50/100 are being recorded which could be a big step in the right direction for the future of Wyoming’s moose herd. As the drought conditions subside, and habitat improve our moose could further drift down the road to recovery.

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Price Hikes Coming to Wyoming- Maybe

A bill pending in the Wyoming legislature would seriously hike the price of nonresident tags.

Wyoming Senate Bill 60 would reaffirm the two tiered pricing structure that Wyoming currently operates under for nonresident deer, elk and antelope tags with a 60/40 split, 60% for the “regular draw” priced draw while the remaining 40% is set aside for the “special draw” pricing, the big bucks and I don’t mean buck deer. The bill would significantly change the pricing structure for the “special” draw tags.

The new pricing would keep the “regular draw” tags the same as they have been ($692-elk, $374-deer, & $326-antelope) for the better part of a decade, a clear win for nonresident budget hunters. However, the “special” draw tags would be priced at a beyond special rate, with one increase clocking the Richter scale at almost 100% the current rate.

If passed and adopted the new pricing structure would jump the special elk 54% from $1,268 to $1,950, the special deer would increase 81% from $662 to $1,200 and antelope would soar by an alarming 95% from $614 to $1,200.

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AZ Draw: Last Minute Suggestions

I know many of us just got done celebrating a series of significant holidays, but for western hunters, this is truly the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” January is the beginning of application season, and Arizona’s elk and antelope hunts are one of the first out of the gate. 

Late last week Arizona published their 2023 Pronghorn and Elk draw information. Below are a few key dates and reminders for interested applicants:

The deadline for the draw is 11:59 PM on Tuesday, February 14.Applications are only accepted online at azgfd.govTo apply you must have a current hunting license and your customer ID. Draw results will be posted on the portal only.

Trying to decide what to apply for? Here are a few things to consider as you make your decision.


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10 Most Common Big Game Violations

In this blog post, I’m going to give an overview of the Top 10 Big Game Hunting Violations.  In the subsequent articles, I will dive deeper into how those violations occur and how to better operate to not violate those laws.  The laws listed below are specific to Idaho, but most states have similar laws that have similar consequences and verbiage.  Refer to your own state’s criminal codes for the specifics.  This is not meant to be “legal advice”, just some guidance.  

In 2011 I graduated from the California Department of Fish and Game Academy (now California Department of Fish and Wildlife).  There, I was trained by some of the best Game Wardens in the nation.  My career took me down the path of Police Officer rather than Fish and Game Warden.  Throughout my 10 plus years in Law Enforcement, I have been able to work with some great Game Wardens and done some Fish and Game Enforcement myself.  Contrary to popular belief, cops do not have ticket quotas to fill and neither do Game Wardens. 

I think most people that violate the Fish and Game code do so not out of malice, but out of ignorance of the laws.  However, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.  Most of these laws don’t require specific “intent” to be proven for the violation to occur.  The mere commission or omission is enough for the violation.  For example, when you get pulled over for speeding, the Police Officer doesn’t have to prove that you “intended” to speed.  The mere act of exceeding the posted speed limit is enough to be charged.  The same thing could be said about shooting an animal before or after shooting hours.  You don’t have to have the “intent” to do it, the fact that you did it is enough to be cited.  

What most people don’t realize, is that most Fish and Game laws are misdemeanors with a few felonies and infractions sprinkled in.  These charges have varying degrees of punishments attached to those to include; jail/prison time, punitive damages (monetary fines) and revocation of hunting licenses.  Then there is the issue of the Lacey Act (Federal Code 16 USC Ch. 53 Sec 3372) when it comes to some of these situations. Are you hunting as a non-resident?  If you are, you can easily qualify for being charged Federally under the Lacey Act. In short, it pays to be educated on these violations so you can avoid violating them.  

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Public Comment On MT Grizzly Plan

The anti-hunters are more organized and vocal than we are! 

It’s time to voice your opinion on Montana’s Grizzly Bear Management Plan and a limited quota grizzly bear hunt.  

Leave your comments HERE.

Groups like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition have put together pages with this same link but with the purpose of adding and amending the language of the draft plan that would increase the bear’s range, move recovery goal posts and make a profitable and controlled hunt for this recovered and thriving species all but impossible. 

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Colorado: Lions Kill 15 Dogs

“[It] was like a dragon took him out of the sky and then leapt 20 ft off the deck. I know we’ve all heard it before but this is obviously NOT normal coexistence behavior and I’m now scared for our children (and the grownups after seeing the size & strength of the lion.)”

I’ve reported on mountain lions in suburban areas before but this is getting downright ridiculous. The area around Nederland, CO, not far from Boulder, has recently been devastated with mountain lion predation on resident’s pets, namely dogs, and folks are fed up, scared and feeling powerless to stop it. 

As I read through the article in the link below I couldn’t believe what I was reading… people not able to see the simple reason for the ridiculous increase in lion predation and the simple solution to the problem, and it ain’t keeping your pet on a leash! Disclaimer, if opinion bothers you then stop reading now! 

Colorado severely limits the hunting of mountain lions and in the area where these attacks are happening, GMU 29, hasn’t seen a filled lion tag since 2005! That’s right, not a single mountain lion has been successfully hunted in the area in 18 years, even with the “generous” quota of 2 lion tags. No wonder the local lion population is out of control with what amounts to zero fear of humans. 

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Activists After Coyote Hunting

There was a time when the Endangered Species Act was regarded as a solid, non-partisan tool applauded by all. Well thought out considerations and care were put into the application of a species with clear intentions and goals. There was real tangibility, reason, and consensus as we maneuvered endangered species through the process of recovery. It worked, and all differing value-sets would rally to see it through.

Gone are the days, I suppose. The misuse of a powerful tool is always dangerous, and in the case of the ESA, the danger is amplified. Especially in a sense that species with real struggles will no longer have the bipartisan support or unconditional love the ESA once garnered. This is due to the hijacking of this tool by activist groups who use it to achieve politically motivated outcomes or worse, as a revenue generating avenue for their organization. This diminishes the credibility and effectiveness of the once mighty ESA. 

In the latest ploy, a group of environmental activists has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list coyotes in regions where the Mexican Wolf is currently recovering. Their reasoning is that coyotes and Mexican gray wolves look similar, and wolves are being mistaken for coyotes by hunters. These regions, located in Arizona and New Mexico, have no limit or licensing requirements for coyote hunting. Said groups are using an old clause in the ESA called “similarity of appearances” to stop coyote hunting, citing this will reduce mistaken identity as the group claims an epidemic of hunter mortality on the lobo. 

Cold, hard facts:

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