Gray wolves in the western United States remain a highly contentious issue. Populations of the reintroduced animals have reportedly exceeded expectations, so much so that the predators were removed from Endangered Species Act protection (at least temporarily, until U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s Aug. 5 ruling which placed gray wolves back on protected status).
States are looking to overturn this decision and are seeking the authority to manage packs within their boundaries -- including the possibility of allowing wolf-hunting seasons, as were held in Idaho and Montana last year.
Among those stakeholder groups attempting to be heard on the matter -- state and federal legislators, animal-rights activists, ranchers and sportsmen -- are America’s hunters. But when surveyed on the subject as to how best to proceed, they seem to have some gray areas.
Asked if they believe western gray wolf populations have recovered and should be removed from the Endangered Species List, well over half of the respondents to the September HunterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com polls said yes, with 57.1% responding in the affirmative. But about 36% stated that they "did not know" if populations are recovered, with only 6.7% saying they are not.
One thing respondents seem united on is their distrust of the motivations behind animal welfare groups’ opposition to delisting the gray wolf or turning over management authority to the states. An overwhelming 65% believe these groups are acting out of an interest to limit hunting opportunities, with almost 40% saying the organizations are doing so as a means to boost membership and donations. Only 16.1% believe these groups are acting out of genuine concern for conserving and restoring wolf populations. Comments submitted by survey respondents supported these beliefs, with many suggesting animal rights groups will say or do anything they can to put a stop to hunting in any form.