U.S. Fish & Wildlife Touts Bad Science To Push Gray Wolf Toward Extinction
Posted by Richard Conniff on February 14, 2014
About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.
That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency’s own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first place.
Instead of the gray wolf, the service said, an entirely different species of wolf—the so-called “eastern wolf,” a species whose remnants perhaps survive in Algonquin Park—once inhabited the forests of eastern North America. Canid biologists have argued over the existence of this “lost species” for years. Yet researchers on all sides say that even if the Algonquin wolves are a separate species, that shouldn’t preclude continuing protections for the gray wolf.
On Friday, an independent panel of five leading geneticists and taxonomists came down hard on the agency’s proposal to delist gray wolves, unanimously concluding that the service had not relied on the “best available science.” Individual panel members described “glaring insufficiencies” in the supporting research and said the agency’s conclusions had fundamental flaws.
“What’s most significant,” says Andrew Wetzler, director of land and wildlife programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth), “is that this is coming from a group of eminent biologists who disagree with each other about the eastern wolf—and even so, they agree that the agency hasn’t properly understood the scientific issues at hand.”
Read the full article here.