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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Canine Craziness in Idaho

Good ideas, and bad ideas, often originate in state legislatures. Last year I singled out a Utah bill to allow the killing of any animal thought to be feral—with bludgeoning, shooting, and decapitation—as raising the bar for legislative lunacy. Fortunately that misguided proposal was sent to the legislative litter box, and Utah lawmakers instead passed a forward-thinking bill to sanction trap-neuter-return (TNR) policies for feral cats.

DogThis year’s prize for the pooper scooper of all state bills goes to Idaho state Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jeff Siddoway, a Republican sheep rancher from Terreton, who has taken anti-wolf hysteria in the West to a whole new level: Siddoway introduced a bill last week to allow the use of domestic dogs as live bait to lure and kill wolves. His legislation would allow hunters to tether man’s best friend out in the woods, using the dogs’ cries for help to draw in wolves to be shot and killed when they attack the hapless pets.

Historically, the wolf is no stranger to this type of ruthless and relentless persecution. They were eradicated from much of their range in the lower 48 by the use of bounties, poisons, and traps. They were shot from the air by marksmen in planes and helicopters. Cubs were smoked out of their dens and clubbed with shovels when they emerged. This cruel, gruesome war did not end until nearly every last wolf was killed.

Now that the species has begun to recover, the Obama administration has stripped them of federal protections, and turned over wolf management to the states with retrograde policies determined by anti-wolf politicians. Under pressure from the sport hunting and livestock industries, Idaho’s wildlife agency has already allowed the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and aerial gunning, in addition guns and bows, to increase the number of wolves killed.  Some in Idaho have even called for a resumption of wolf bounties, as though the frontier mentality of “the only good wolf is a dead wolf” has returned in full force.

WolfBut to make domestic dogs the victims of Idaho’s war on wolves is beyond reprehensible. While ranchers in Idaho surely support the right of livestock owners to protect their herds and flocks, we hope they would join us in finding the prospect of household pets—or for that matter, any domestic animal—being staked out in the woods to serve as live bait an unacceptably cruel practice.

Rather than searching for ever-more grisly means of killing wolves, Idaho’s principal goal should be the resolution of conflicts between livestock producers and predators. Such efforts should focus primarily on providing ranchers with technical guidance and assistance on ways to protect livestock from predation through the implementation of a wide range of site-specific non-lethal techniques including the use of guard animals, fencing, shed-lambing, and closely-monitored calf and lambing seasons. When these methods fail to provide adequate relief, lethal control should be used as a last resort, and in a way that targets individual problem animals rather than entire populations.

And no matter what, don’t add to the body count by using domestic dogs—the descendants of wolves—as unwitting tools for the killing.


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