Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! from Canis lupus 101

Image of the Day

IMG_3638 by Berendje Photography1
IMG_3638, a photo by Berendje Photography1 on Flickr.

What Good are Wolves?

With the arrival of the first wolf in California since the 1920s, no doubt the California Department of Game and Fish is receiving many comments from the public. The quality of this support, opposition and advice probably varies all over the map (the maps in our heads).

Norman Bishop, who played a key role as a Yellowstone Park naturalist educating the public about the wolves that were coming to Yellowstone and then after their arrival until 1997, has compiled a fact-filled piece “What Good are Wolves.”  This morning he announced he had sent it to the Director of the California Department of Fish and Game.

In the current politically charged and cognitively challenged atmosphere of wolf mythology, the contents of this letter should be shared with the public because summarizes what had been learned in recent years so compactly and lucidly.

What good are wolves? Compiled by Norman A. Bishop

In 1869, General Phil Sheridan said, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”  Others said, “The only good wolf is a dead wolf.”

Barry Lopez wrote of an American Pogrom, not only of Native Americans and wolves, but of the bison on which both depended.  Between 1850 and 1890, 75 million bison were killed, mostly for their hides; perhaps one or two million wolves.

“Before about 1878, cattlemen were more worried about Indians killing their cattle than they were about wolves.  As the land filled up with other ranchers, as water rights became an issue, and as the Indians were removed to reservations, however, the wolf became, as related in Barry Lopez’s book, Of Wolves and Men, ‘an object of pathological hatred.’” Lopez continues:  “(T)he motive for wiping out wolves (as opposed to controlling them) proceeded from misunderstanding, from illusions of what constituted sport, from strident attachment to private property, from ignorance and irrational hatred.”

In 1884, Montana set a bounty on wolves; in the next three years, 10,261 wolves were bountied.  “In 1887, the bounty was repealed by a legislature dominated by mining interests.” ***  “By 1893,… desperate stockmen were reporting losses that were mathematical impossibilities.  The effect of this exaggeration was contagious.  The Montana sheep industry, which up to this time had lost more animals to bears and mountain lions than to wolves, began to blame its every downward economic trend on the wolf. *** Men in a speculative business like cattle ranching singled out one scapegoat for their financial losses.”

Not until wolves were functionally extinct from much of the West did anyone begin to ask, “What good are wolves?” to study wolves, and to report their beneficial effects on their prey species and on the ecosystems where they lived.

Adolph Murie realized that wolves selected weaker Dall sheep, “which may be of great importance to the sheep as a species.”   His brother, Olaus J.Murie, thought predators may have an important influence during severe winters in reducing elk herds too large for their winter range.   Douglas H. Pimlott  pointed out that wolves control their own densities.

Yellowstone National Park wolf project leader Douglas W. Smith says that restoration of wolves there has added exponentially to our knowledge of how natural ecosystems work.  It has also reminded us that predation is one of the dominant forces in all of nature, present in ecosystems worldwide over millions of years.

Bob Crabtree and Jennifer Sheldon note that predation by wolves is important to the integrity of the Yellowstone ecosystem, but we should realize that, before their return to Yellowstone’s northern range, 17 mountain lions there killed 611 elk per year, 60 grizzly bears killed 750 elk calves annually, and 400 coyotes killed between 1100 and 1400 elk per year.

P.J. White et al wrote that climate and human harvest account for most of the recent decline of the northern Yellowstone elk herd, coupled with the effects of five predators: wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, and coyotes. These are parts of a system unique in North America by its completeness.

Joel Berger et al demonstrated “a cascade of ecological events that were triggered by the local extinction of grizzly bears…and wolves from the southern greater Yellowstone ecosystem.”  In about 75 years, moose in Grand Teton National Park erupted to five  times the population outside, changed willow structure and density, and eliminated neotropical birds; Gray Catbirds and MacGillivray’s Warblers.

Dan Tyers informs us that wolves haven’t eliminated moose from Yellowstone.  Instead,  burning of tens of thousands of acres of moose habitat in 1988 (mature forests with their subalpine fir) hit the moose population hard, and it won’t recover until the forests mature again.

Mark Hebblewhite and Doug Smith documented that wolves change species abundance, community composition, and physical structure of the vegetation, preventing overuse of woody plants like willow, reducing severity of browsing on willows that provide nesting for songbirds.  In Banff, songbird diversity and abundance were double in areas of high wolf densities, compared to that of areas with fewer wolves .  Fewer browsers lead to more willows, providing habitat for beaver, a keystone species, which in turn create aquatic habitat for other plants and animals.

By reducing coyotes,which were consuming 85% of the production of mice in Lamar Valley, restored wolves divert more food to raptors, foxes, and weasels. By concentrating on killing vulnerable calf elk and very old female elk, wolves reduce competition for forage by post-breeding females, and enhance the nutrition of breeding-age females.  Wolves promote biological diversity, affecting 20 vertebrate species, and feeding many scavengers (ravens, magpies, pine martens, wolverines, bald eagles, gray jays, golden eagles, three weasel species, mink, lynx, cougar, grizzly bear, chickadees, Clark’s nutcracker, masked shrew and great grey owl). In Yellowstone, grizzly bears prevailed at 85% of encounters over carcasses, and they usurp nearly every kill made by wolves in Pelican Valley from March to October.  Some 445 species of beetle scavengers benefit from the largess of wolf-killed prey.  In Banff and Yellowstone, no other predator feeds as many other species as do wolves.  Wolf-killed elk carcasses enhance local levels of soil nutrients; 20-500% greater nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Dan Stahler and his colleagues saw an average of four ravens on carcasses in Lamar Valley pre-wolf. Post-wolf, that increased to 28 average, with as many as 135 seen on one carcass. Eagles seen on carcasses increased from an average of one per four carcasses to four per carcass.

P.J. White and Bob Garrott observed that, by lowering elk numbers, wolves may contribute to higher bison numbers; by decreasing coyote populations, result in higher pronghorn numbers.  They also said wolves may ameliorate ungulate-caused landscape simplification.

Daniel Fortin and others saw that wolves  may cause elk to shift habitat, using less aspen, and favoring songbirds that nest in the aspen.

Christopher Wilmers and all tell us that hunting by humans does not benefit scavengers the way wolf kills do. Carrion from wolf kills is more dispersed spatially and temporally than that from hunter kills, resulting in three times the species diversity on wolf kills versus hunter kills. Wolves subsidize many scavengers by only partly consuming their prey; they increase the time over which carrion is available, and change the variability in scavenge from a late winter pulse (winterkill) to all winter.  They decrease the variability in year-to-year and month to-month carrion availability.

Chris Wilmers and Wayne Getz write that wolves buffer the effects of climate change. In mild winters, fewer ungulates die of winterkill, causing loss of carrion for scavengers.  Wolves mitigate late-winter reduction in carrion by killing ungulates all year.

Mid-sized predators can be destructive in the absence of large keystone predators.  In the absence of wolves, pronghorn have been threatened with elimination by coyotes.  Wolves have reduced coyotes, and promoted survival of pronghorn fawns.  Pronghorn does actually choose the vicinity of wolf dens to give birth, because coyotes avoid those areas, according to Douglas W. Smith.

Mark Hebblewhite reviewed the effects of wolves on population dynamics of large-ungulate prey, other effects on mountain ecosystems, sensitivity of wolf-prey systems to top-down and bottom-up management, and how this may be constrained in national park settings.  Then he discussed the implications of his research on ecosystem management and long term ranges of variation in ungulate abundance.  He cites literature that suggests that the long-term stable state under wolf recovery will be low migrant elk density in western montane ecosystems.  Noting that wolves may be a keystone species, without which ungulate densities increase, vegetation communities become overbrowsed, moose and beaver decline, and biodiversity is reduced.  But as elk decline, aspen and willow regeneration are enhanced.  In this context, wolf predation should be viewed as a critical component of an ecosystem management approach across jurisdictions.
Chronic wasting disease could wipe out our elk and deer.  Tom Hobbs writes that increasing mortality rates in diseased populations can retard disease transmission and reduce disease prevalence.  Reduced lifespan, in turn, can compress the time interval when animals are infectious, thereby reducing the number of infections produced per infected individual. Results from simulations suggest that predation by wolves has the potential to eliminate CWD from an infected elk population.

Wildlife veterinarian Mark R. Johnson writes that wolves scavenge carrion, such as aborted bison or elk calves.  By eating them, they may reduce the spread of Brucellosis to other bison or elk.
Scott Creel and John Winnie, Jr. report that wolves also cause elk to congregate in smaller groups, potentially slowing the spread of diseases that thrive among dense populations of ungulates.

John Duffield and others report that restoration of wolves has cost about $30 million, but has produced a $35.5 million annual net benefit to greater Yellowstone area counties, based on increased visitation by wolf watchers.  Some 325,000 park visitors saw wolves in 2005. In Lamar Valley alone, 174,252 visitors observed  wolves from 2000 to 2009; wolves were seen daily in summers for nine of those ten years.
Wolves cause us to examine our values and attitudes.  Paul Errington wrote, “Of all the native biological constituents of a northern wilderness scene, I should say that the wolves present the greatest test of human wisdom and good intentions.”

Aldo Leopold, father of game management in America, said, “Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; … The land is one organism.”

Leopold also pointed out that the first rule of intelligent tinkering with natural ecosystems was to keep all the pieces.  Eliminating predators is counter to that advice.

Wolves remind us to consider what is ethically and esthetically right in dealing with natural systems.  As Leopold wrote in his essay “The Land Ethic,”  “A land ethic …does affirm (animals’) right to continued existence…in a natural state.”  He concluded, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

What good are wolves?  References cited

Berger, Joel , Peter B. Stacey, Lori Bellis, and Matthew P. Johnson.  2001.  A mammalian predator-prey imbalance: grizzly bear and wolf extinction affect avian neotropical migrants.  Ecol. Applications 11(4):947-960.

Crabtree, Robert L., and Jennifer W. Sheldon.  Coyotes and Canid Coexistence in Yellowstone.  Pages 127-163 in Clark, Tim W., A. Payton Curlee, Steven C. Minta, and Peter M. Kareiva.  1999.

Carnivores in Ecosystems: The Yellowstone Experience.  Yale U. Press.  429 pp.

Creel, Scott, and J.A. Winnie, Jr.  2005.  Responses of elk herd size to fine-scale spatial and temporal variation in the risk of predation by wolves.  Animal Behaviour  69:1181-1189.

Duffield, J., C. Neher, and D. Patterson.  2006.  Wolves and People in Yellowstone: Impacts on the Regional Economy.  Department of Mathematical Sciences, The University of Montana.

Errington, Paul L. 1967. Of Predation and Life.  Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames. 277 p.

Fortin, D., H. Beyer, M.S. Boyce, D.W. Smith, T. Duchesne, and J.S. Mao.  Wolves influence elk movements: behavior shapes a trophic cascade in Yellowstone National Park.  Ecology 86(5):1320-30.

Hebblewhite, Mark.   2010.  Predator-Prey Management in the National Park
Context: Lessons from a Transboundary Wolf, Elk, Moose and Caribou System (Pp. 348-365 in Transactions of the 72nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources conference.

Hebblewhite, Mark, and Douglas W. Smith 2007.  Wolf Community Ecology: Ecosystem Effects of Recovering Wolves in Banff and Yellowstone National Parks in  Musiani, M., and P.C. Paquet.  The World of Wolves: new perspectives on ecology, behaviour, and policy. U. of Calgary Press.

Hobbs, N. Thompson.  2006.  A Model Analysis of Effects of Wolf Predation on Prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk Populations of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Johnson, Mark R.   1992.  The Disease Ecology of Brucellosis and Tuberculosis in Potential Relationship to Yellowstone Wolf Populations.  Pp. 5-69 to 5-92 in Varley, J.D., and W.G. Brewster, Ed’s. Wolves for Yellowstone? A report to the United States Congress.  Volume IV, Research and Analysis.

Leopold, Aldo. 1938.  Unpublished essay, “Conservation,” on Pp. 145-6 of Round River, 1953.)

Leopold, Aldo.  1949.  A Sand County Almanac.  Oxford University Press.  P. 204 and Pp. 224-225.

Lopez, Barry H.  1978.  Of Wolves and Men.  Charles Scribner’s Sons.  New York.  308 p.

Murie, Adolph.  1944.  The Wolves of Mount McKinley.  Fauna of the National Parks of the United States.  Fauna Series No. 5.  USGPO, Washington, D.C.

Murie, Olaus J. The Elk of North America.  1951.   Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa., and Wildl. Mgmt. Inst., Wash., D.C.  376 pp.

Pimlott, Douglas H.  1967.  Wolf Predation and Ungulate Populations.  Amer. Zool. 7: 267-78.

Smith, Douglas W.  Personal communication.

Stahler, Daniel, Bernd Heinrich, and Douglas Smith. 2002.  Common ravens, Corvus corax, preferentially associate with grey wolves, Canis lupus, as a foraging strategy in winter.  Animal Behaviour 64:283-290.  El Sevier.

Tyers, Daniel B.  2003.  Winter Ecology of Moose on the Northern Yellowstone Winter Range.  Ph.D. Dissertation, MSU, Bozeman.

White, P.J., and R.A. Garrott.  2005.  Yellowstone’s ungulates after wolves – expectations, realizations, and predictions.  Biological Conservation 125:141-52.

White, P.J., Robert Garrott, and Lee Eberhardt.  2003.  Evaluating the consequences of wolf recovery on northern Yellowstone elk. YCR-NR-2004-02.

Wilmers, C.C., and W.M. Getz.  2005.  Gray wolves as climate change buffers. PLoS Biology 3 (4):e92.

Wilmers, C.C., R.L. Crabtree, D.W. Smith, K.M Murphy, W.M. Getz.  2003.  Trophic facilitation by introduced top predators: grey wolf subsidies to scavengers in Yellowstone National Park.  Journal of Animal Ecology 72(6):909-16.

About the compiler

After university work in Botany, Zoology, Forest Recreation, and Wildlife Management, and 4 years as a naval aviator, Norman A. Bishop was a national park ranger for 36 years.  He was the principal interpreter of wolves and their restoration at Yellowstone National Park from 1985 to 1997, when he retired to Bozeman.
For his educational work on wolves, he received a USDI citation for meritorious service. He also received the National Parks and Conservation Association’s 1988 Stephen T. Mather Award, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s 1991 Stewardship Award, and the Wolf Education and Research Center’s 1997 Alpha Award.
He led many field courses on wolves for the Yellowstone Association Institute until 2005.  He is the greater Yellowstone region field representative for the International Wolf Center.  He serves on the boards of the Wolf Recovery Foundation, and Wild Things Unlimited.  He is also on the advisory board of Living with Wolves.

Norman A. Bishop
Bozeman, MT 59715


Calif. Officials Say Lone Predator No Threat To Livestock

December 30, 2011

California ranchers reacted warily Friday to reports that a wolf has entered the state for the first time in decades."That's a long ways from here, and it's just one, but it's going to change everything," said Dan Gallardo, a third-generation cattle rancher in Yolo County's Capay Valley.
Gallardo said he has closely been following reports that a lone gray wolf has crossed the border from Oregon."People will think it's great, and they'll go out and try to listen to them. Then, they'll get back in their Volvos and drive back to their condominiums and leave us to deal with it," said Gallardo.Mark Stopher of the California Department of Fish and Game said Friday that the wolf, a 2-and-a-half-year-old male known as "OR7," was last confirmed in eastern Siskiyou County. 
Stopher said a GPS tracking-device showed the wolf had moved about 10 to 20 miles southeast from its previous position on Thursday."The news of a wolf entering California from Oregon is one that has caught the attention of cattle producers statewide," wrote Stevie Ipsen of the California Cattlemen's Association in a statement to KCRA 3.Ipsen said that since the wolf's reintroduction in the mid-1990s, ranchers across the west have been "plagued" by them.California is the nation's third-largest largest producer of livestock, with with more than 5.1 million head of cattle. 
According to a document by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the industry generated about $9.8 billion in 2010.For years, a private, nonprofit group known as Defenders of Wildlife compensated ranchers who lost livestock because of wolf attacks. In 2010, the federal government assumed responsibility for the compensation program and awarded $1 million to 10 states who administer it. California is not one of them.Stopher said a compensation program was not immediately necessary, because, he said, wolves usually hunt in packs and an individual is not a threat to a livestock. 
However, Stopher said such a program might become necessary if the wolf population becomes established in California.Sam Blake, a rescuer of wolf-dog hybrids, said he agreed that OR7 is not a threat to livestock. He said the wolf is probably surviving on roadkill."There's a way to deal with wolves around livestock. It's been proven. They just don't want to take the time or the money to implement those procedures," said Blake.Blake said his greatest concern is for the animal itself, which he feared would likely be shot and killed, despite its federally protected status.

Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up

A California Dream Comes True
Posted: 30 Dec 2011

Lone wolf entering California marks historic conservation success

WASHINGTON (Dec. 30, 2011) – A lone dispersing wolf from Oregon, known as OR7, has crossed the border into northern California.
The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than celebrating this incredible conservation success. The return of the gray wolf to California represents more than two decades of hard work by wildlife advocates and state and federal wildlife managers to bring this magnificent animal back from the brink of extinction. We also owe our thanks to the millions of Americans who gave their support along the way. However, there is much more work to be done to ensure that breeding packs can become established and accepted as part of California’s natural heritage. Defenders of Wildlife has been honored to help turn the dream of wolf recovery into a reality. Now, we stand ready to help the people of California learn how to safely coexist with wolves in this important part of their historic range.” Learn more about OR7 from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Read a press release from California Department of Fish and Game
Posted: 30 Dec 2011

OR7 enters California – The Oregon wolf known as OR7 must have heard about all those “California girls.” After wandering hundreds of miles from his home in northeast Oregon, the lone male wolf has now crossed the border into northern California in search of a mate. Unfortunately, chances are he’ll be ringing in the New Year all by himself. But his remarkable journey into the Golden State marks a historic moment in the recovery of wolves across the West. Read a statement from Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark here

Year in review – It’s hard to sum it up quicker than the Missoulian: “The year in wolves started and ended in Congress.” At least 2011 ended much better than it started. Just before leaving for holiday recess, Congress yanked a controversial wolf rider from the FY2012 budget bill. The provision would have prevented American citizens from challenging Wyoming’s ill-conceived plan to declare “open season” on wolves across most of the state, including in our national forests. Still, the budget rider approved in April removing federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies was a bitter pill to swallow.

Defenders on Aljazeera – Our field conservation director Nancy Gloman appeared on Aljazeera English last week to share our concerns about plans to kill up to 75 wolves in Idaho in order to boost elk numbers. As Nancy points out, not only is the aerial gunning of wolves an inappropriate step for Wildlife Services to be taking, it’s unlikely to have the desired effect without addressing other causes of elk decline in  the area.

What makes a wolf? – An interesting story from Scientific American takes a look at a difficult question: what is the difference between wolves and coyotes? As it turns out, the picture gets very complicated since there are several subspecies of wolf and a number of wolf-coyote hybrids, all of which share many of the same genes. The difference isn’t a trivial matter, since genetic distinctions are used to direct conservation efforts. Only distinct species or subspecies that are at risk of extinction can be protected under the Endangered Species Act. So if a particular wolf-coyote hybrid is considered to be the same as another, it is less likely to warrant federal protections. Further work by scientists will help determine which species have distinct genes that need to be preserved.

Speaking truth to power – Wolf mythology still reigns in much of the West where anti-wolf extremists try to blame wolves for every cow that goes missing and every failed elk outing. So it’s a good thing that there are people like Garrick Dutcher to set the record straight. Garrick and his wife started Living with Wolves, a nonprofit dedicated to educating those who live in wolf country about their new neighbors. This week he wrote a column for the Idaho Mountain Express to correct misinformation from Frank Priestley, president of the Idaho Farm Bureau. Dutcher points out, contrary to Priestley’s misstatements, that:
  • Many more wolf tags were sold this year than in 2009 (31,645 in 2011 vs. 26,428 in 2009)
  • More wolves have been harvested so far this year than in 2009 (196 in 2011 vs. 135 in 2009)
  • The overall estimated wolf population in Idaho has actually decreased in recent years (from 846 in 2008 to 705 in 2010)
  • Typically, only one female in a pack breeds in a year (only twice in 7 years has Fish and Game recorded more than one female breeding in a single pack)
These numbers show that Idaho’s aggressive wolf management is indeed taking a toll on the wolf population.


Friday, December 30, 2011

How returning wolves are changing Yellowstone

By Cassandra Profita
Scientists studying the effect of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park have published a new report with updated findings.

In the 15 years since wolves returned to the park, they found, elk and coyote populations have declined, new aspen, willow and cottonwood trees are growing, and beaver colonies are on the rise.

Elk had been over-browsing young trees and preventing new recruits, according to William Ripple, a professor for Oregon State University and lead author of the study. But the presence of wolves keeps their numbers in check and prevents elk from eating too many young trees.

“Yellowstone increasingly looks like a different place,” Ripple said in an OSU news release (see the accompanying video above). “These are still the early stages of recovery, and some of this may still take decades. But trees and shrubs are starting to come back and beaver numbers are increasing. The signs are very encouraging.”

William Ripple, courtesy of Oregon State University

Young aspen trees are now recovering in Yellowstone National Park, after wolves that were re-introduced in 1995 helped to limit elk browsing that had been killing young trees. The older trees seen here date to the last time there were wolves in the park 70 years ago. 

Gray wolves were extirpated from Yellowstone in the 1920s, and by the mid-to-late 1900s their absence allowed elk to over-browse new aspen trees. Hardly any new aspen trees grew up in the wolves absence. But now, new trees are growing again.

Since wolves were reitroduced to Yellowstone in 1995-96, researchers have found:
  • Wolf population increased until 2003 and elk behavior changed
  • Northern range elk dropped from 15,000 in the early 90s to 6,000 last year
  • Beaver colonies increased from one in 1996 to 12 in 2009, promising better fish and waterfowl habitat
  • Coyote numbers decreased, promising more small mammals such as red foxes, ravens and bald eagles for other predators to eat
Of course, a lot of other changes have taken place since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. The reintroduced wolves spread out into Montana and Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and have reignited fights over how to handle their attacks on livestock. Montana and Idaho reinstated wolf hunts, and Oregon and Washington hashed out new wolf management plans. Reimbursement programs have been arranged to pay ranchers for livestock lost to wolves, and wolf advocate groups have sprung up to fight for wolves in court.
The list of ways wolves are changing the landscape in the West could go on and on. What would you put on the list?


Wandering young wolf killed by vehicle on highway near Canmor

Wolf No. 1101 seen at the beginning of December along the Bow Valley Parkway west of Banff. The female wolf was hit and killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lac des Arcs this week. Alberta park ecologist Melanie Percy said the smoky grey wolf was found Wednesday morning along the highway.

Wolf No. 1101 seen at the beginning of December along the Bow Valley Parkway west of Banff. The female wolf was hit and killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lac des Arcs this week. Alberta park ecologist Melanie Percy said the smoky grey wolf was found Wednesday morning along the highway. Photograph by: Craig Douce, Rocky Mountain Outlook

CANMORE — A female wolf has been hit and killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lac des Arcs.

Alberta park ecologist Melanie Percy said the smoky grey wolf was found Wednesday morning along the highway.

She said there was evidence the wolf had previously been wearing a GPS collar and for that reason it is believed she was part of the Bow Valley pack in Banff National Park.

The wolf had apparently been making its way east, but Percy noted that once past the park gates, the valley is a very difficult place for wolves to exist because of high levels of human use, particularly in the area where she was struck.

“That is a real pinch point for wildlife movement there,” she said. “Due to the natural and human-caused fragmentation, there is limited opportunity for movement.”

The section of highway at Lac des Arcs features the steep slopes of the geography, the body of water and four lanes of traffic squeezed in between.

Steve Michel, human wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park, said there is a high probability the wolf was an identifiable member of the pack, which ranges in the park between Lake Louise and Banff.
That wolf was born in the spring of 2010 and had a collar on it programmed to drop off in mid-December.
Michel said before she lost her collar, the wolf had been taking off on her own and spending more and more time away from the pack establishing her own territory, a process known as dispersal.

“We did not know where she had ended up until we heard about the mortality,” he said. “It was likely her first time in that area.”

He added the wolf, known as No. 1101, was already notorious for frequently getting onto the Trans-Canada Highway in the national park despite the wildlife exclusion fencing in place.

While another wolf that dispersed from the pack last year has established his own territory in Kananaskis Country, Michel said it is difficult to say what the female wolf’s future may have been and it is a loss for the ecosystem.

“Any time we have a large carnivore killed, particularly on the transportation corridor, it is a loss for the ecosystem of the Bow Valley,” he said.

“Unfortunately a great deal of wildlife in the Bow Valley don’t get to live a life where they die a natural death because of the frequency of human-caused mortality.”

However, Michel added that Parks Canada is working hard to reduce wildlife mortality and mitigate the causes.

Tanya Foubert is a reporter for the Rocky Mountain Outlook.


Image of the Day


Head Count for New Wolves in Oregon:25

Wolf population grows slowly in Oregon

Despite a moderate amount of what is euphemistically called “wolf control” in Oregon this year, the wolf population grew a bit with a count of 25 wolves at year’s end. It was 24 until a few days ago when a new pup (now about 7 months old) was discovered by a trail camera.  The young wolf is part of the Wenaha Pack, which biologists thought had not reproduced this year. Earlier  in 2011, many believed we would see a population would drop this year because at one time in 2010 in Imnaha Pack numbered 16 wolves (briefly).
The other three packs in Oregon are  the Imnaha (best known), Walla Walla (biggest, 6 wolves) and Snake River packs. The latter two packs were discovered this year.  All of the packs are in Oregon’s NE corner. The Imnaha Pack has tittered on the edge of extinction due to “controls” (the alpha male has indeed killed quite a few livestock) and dispersion of its members.  Two of the disperers have traveled a long way from NE Oregon, with wolf OR7 all the way to the Cascades south of Crater Lake, spurring hopes of wolf regeneration in that world famous mountain range and hope that California could have wolves migrate in, although a lone wolf will never repopulate anything.

Because Idaho bounds Oregon for many miles and much of the boundary has had wolves on the Idaho side, some are surprised it took so long for wolves to begin to form packs in Oregon (not until 2007), although there were lone dispersers much earlier.  I wrote a number of years ago that the Imnaha River seemed like a natural route for wolves to enter Oregon due to topography and an abundance of elk and deer to eat. This has proven true.

Wolves have not proven popular with the semi-feudal elite that dominates much of lightly populated NE Oregon.  Fortunately the Oregon wolf plan was adopted by the state legislature in 2010, and gives state protection to wolves, filling up a huge hole left when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted wolves in Idaho and Montana and with it an inexplicably large part of eastern Oregon and Washington state.

It is likely the 2012 Oregon legislature will be a session where livestock and hunting interests try to weaken wolf protection. Oregon, however, has a more favorable political climate and a progressive tradition in much of the state, something foreign to states like Idaho.

A recent study showed over 40,000 square miles of Oregon would be good wolf habitat with a surprise — much of it is in central Oregon and the east slope of the Cascades, so recovery will not have to rely particularly on NE Oregon’s  hostile Wallowa county.  Research suggests Oregon prime habitat for wolves. By Joseph Ditzler. East Oregonian.


Wolf debate started, ended in Congress this year

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian  

Editor's note: As 2011 draws to a close, the Missoulian is updating a few stories from the past 12 months.

The year in wolves started and ended in Congress.

After spending most of 2010 in the courtroom, the wolf issue moved to Washington, D.C., in February when all three members of Montana's congressional delegation introduced bills to take the predator off federal Endangered Species Act protection.

At the same time, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists captured 44 cow elk in the Bitterroot Valley to study why elk populations there were falling so drastically. Wolves had been blamed for the crash.
Back in the courtroom, a bunch of the wolf advocates who successfully kept wolves under federal management proposed a deal where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could hand over control to state agencies. But four members of the original lawsuit coalition refused to go along, dooming the settlement.
In April, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, got companion riders into the federal budget bill delisting the wolf and prohibiting any further court challenges to the rule change. That measure passed, and Idaho and Montana hunting officials got to work setting up fall hunting seasons, as well as a legal challenge over whether Congress could tell the courts to ignore an issue.

Idaho imposed no limit on how many of its estimated 700 to 1,000 wolves could be shot, although its state wildlife officials pledged not to get close to the federal minimum of 150 animals. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks set a 220-wolf quota out of a population believed between 500 and 700 animals.

The Bitterroot elk study tagged an additional 66 elk calves in May and June to see what was preying on juveniles. Preliminary results found eight calves were killed by mountain lions, four by bears, four by natural causes and one by a wolf over the summer. However, wolf predation is assumed to climb during winter months.

In August, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy wrote a convoluted opinion that the congressional court prohibition was legal, although he thought it violated the Separation of Powers doctrine in the U.S. Constitution. That question is now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Human hunters bagged 120 wolves in Montana by late December. In Idaho, hunters killed 173 wolves while trappers accounted for another 22. Both states extended their seasons, with Montana's now lasting through Feb. 15 and Idaho going until March 31.

The finale of wolf news came from Washington, D.C., where congressional negotiators removed a rider from the omnibus budget bill that would have given Wyoming's wolf management plan immunity from court challenges.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The value of truth about wolves

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The value of truth about wolves

Garrick Dutcher is program director for Idaho-based nonprofit Living with Wolves.
Last week Frank Priestley, president of the Idaho Farm Bureau, submitted an opinion to the Mountain Express titled "Wolf Advocates are wrong again." The Idaho Farm Bureau is not a state or federal entity, but an independent, non-governmental 501 (c)(5) nonprofit corporation. It is unfortunate that this group has resorted to distributing misleading, incorrect information to the public.

Amid the controversial atmosphere of wolf recovery in the West, there is a steady bombardment of unsourced misinformation. Our organization, Living with Wolves, recognizes the absolute importance of factual integrity of the information we distribute. All of our information is carefully sourced, just as it is below.
It is only when equipped with facts that an informed public can clearly discuss and understand this issue. Often, much of our efforts go toward being purveyors of the truth, providing the public with information to discern between fact and fiction.

Priestley's message is that wolf advocacy groups lose credibility by not being truthful. Ironically, much of his letter is made up of statements that are entirely false.
Priestley supports his first point by saying that "Idaho harvest numbers, as well as hunter interest based on tag sales, are well below 2009 levels. ..."

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is the state agency controlling hunting and wildlife management, including wolf management. According to its records, the total sale of wolf tags as of Nov. 30 had already reached 31,645 tags, exceeding the total tag sale of 26,428 tags through Dec. 31, 2009. Clearly, tag sales are not "well below 2009 levels."

Also, "harvest" numbers rather than being "well below 2009 levels" are in fact well above 2009 levels. By year's end 2009, again according to Fish and Game records, 135 wolves had been killed in Idaho in the hunt. By Dec. 22, 2011, hunters and trappers had killed 179 wolves in Idaho.
Priestley also makes false claims about Idaho's wolf population and breeding habits.

He states that "Idaho's wolf population has grown well beyond expectations of the foremost federal biologists—from 24 in 1996 to a level we believe surpasses 2,000 animals today."
Fish and Game in collaboration with the Nez Perce Tribe conducts year-end wolf counts and releases an annual estimate. According to their findings, the wolf population in Idaho peaked in 2008 at 846 wolves. It has been in decline since. According to year-end reports, the figure was 705 in 2010. The arbitrary figure of more than 2,000 wolves in Idaho, as presented by Mr. Priestley, comfortably surpasses the total number of wolves living in all Western states combined.

He continues, "Much of what was observed about wolf biology in other places has not proven out in Idaho. For instance, during reintroduction public hearings, we were told only one bitch per pack would breed each year. Yet if that were the case there is no biological way our wolf population would have exploded the way it has."
In North America, without exception, wild wolf packs only reproduce once a year, in the spring, if at all. It is well documented that it is very unusual for more than one female to breed in a pack. This simple fact of wolf biology is the case in Idaho, as it is everywhere.

Fish and Game and the Nez Perce Tribe have carefully documented breeding since reintroduction 17 years ago. In the past seven years, Fish and Game has recorded an average of 55 packs breeding each year. Only twice in these seven years did two females breed within a pack.

For Idaho's wolf population to have grown from 35 (not 24) reintroduced wolves in 1995 and 1996 to a peak of 846 in 2008 is entirely within the normal biological processes of typical wolf reproduction.
I have run out of my allotted space to further refute the other elements of Mr. Priestley's opinion. All the information above is available to the public for those who wish to independently verify it.

Informing the public about wolves is what we do daily at Living with Wolves. Truth is essential in this debate if wolves are ever going to be fairly represented and fairly treated in Idaho or anywhere else.


Future of Isle Royale's wolves and moose in jeopardy

| Dec. 27, 2011  |  

A wolf stands over a moose carcass on Isle Royale. Congressional budgets cuts could threaten funding of a 53-year-old study that examines the relationship between the two.
A wolf stands over a moose carcass on Isle Royale. Congressional budgets cuts could threaten funding of a 53-year-old study that examines the relationship between the two. / Photos by ROLF O. PETERSON
By Tina Lam

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
A wolf pack roams Isle Royale. The number of wolf packs dropped from four in 2008 to just one now.
A wolf pack roams Isle Royale. The number of wolf packs dropped from four in 2008 to just one now.
Moose on the island have suffered as temperatures warmed, causing them to become weak and threatening their population.
Moose on the island have suffered as temperatures warmed, causing them to become weak and threatening their population.
The lives of wolves and moose on Michigan's remote Isle Royale are always precarious, but they are more at risk now than they have been in decades, thanks to climate change and too few females.
And for the people who study them, funding is in peril.
Rolf Peterson, co-director of a study that has lasted for 53 years, said it is impossible to predict the future of the animals or the study. While wolves in Michigan are scheduled to come off the federal endangered species list in January, the study at Isle Royale is designed to examine the interactions between predators, the wolves, and their prey, moose, over long periods of time in a confined environment.
The study's annual reports read like a soap opera: There are dynasties, powerful men, surprising mate choices, mysterious interlopers and murders.

The wolves' numbers have dwindled to 16; the long-term average is around 24. The number of wolf packs dropped from four in 2008 to just one, now, along with some lone stragglers. The last time there was just one pack on the island was 40 years ago.
During the past decade, for unknown reasons, more male wolves have been born than females. As females dwindle, the population could be doomed. Scientists said they believe there are no more than two females among the wolves, down from 10 in 2009; two females died last year.

But there was a ray of hope in late August: Researchers spotted two wolf pups, a sign that one female reproduced. If one or more of the pups is female, that could help boost the population.
The wolves are showing signs of spinal deformities, which have increased during the past 15 years and may be linked to inbreeding.
Moose have suffered as temperatures have warmed, bringing more ticks, which weaken the moose by forcing them to scratch off their own fur on trees to try to get rid of the ticks. With less fur, they become weaker. Hot summers make it harder for female moose to ovulate.
"Climate change is very evident," said Peterson, who has measured temperatures on the island in different seasons, and said winter minimums now rarely hit zero.

Even though there is plenty of food for moose, there are about half as many moose as the long-term average, and their numbers are not rebounding as Peterson expected.
"It's unprecedented to have so few moose for so long," he said.
Old moose are the primary food for wolves, so as they die out, wolves face a food shortage.
Moose swam to the island more than 100 years ago, but the first wolves arrived in the late 1940s by walking across ice from the mainland. The delicate balance between the two species is the focus of the study, the longest prey-predator study on the planet.

The study began in 1958 at Michigan Technological University. Peterson, 62, has been part of it since 1970. Its funding comes mostly from the National Science Foundation, and looming congressional budget cuts could threaten or eliminate the study.
In addition to offering important research on wolves and moose, the study shows how climate change is affecting animals, provides information on population genetics that applies to other animals and even delves into arthritis that afflicts both moose and people.
Old moose get arthritis, like people do, Peterson said. While it might seem that there's no link between humans and moose, he said scientists are finding new information about arthritis from moose that could be useful in fighting it in humans.

The fact that Isle Royale is isolated gives scientists a way to study moose and wolves free of other influences. For example, moose in Minnesota are dying. The cause is suspected to be a worm they get from deer. But Isle Royale moose are dying, too, and there are no deer on the island, so researchers are studying whether the reason for the deaths could be climate change, not worms.
Peterson can't say whether the study will continue another year, much less another five decades, because of possible funding cuts. "It has nothing to do with our competence as scientists," he said.

If wolves die out, there will be a big policy question the National Park Service will have to decide -- should new wolves be brought in? Peterson's view is yes, because they keep moose in check, and otherwise the moose could overrun the island.
For now, Peterson and co-director John Vucetich are looking forward to next year's winter study to see what mysteries unfold. They've been surprised in the past and could be again by what happens.
"It's inherently unpredictable," Peterson said.


Considerations on the Endangered List

Wolves off the endangered list - good news, or bad?

Since being placed under federal protection nearly four decades ago, the resurgence of the American wolf population has been a howling success. Just over 6,000 of the animals now roam portions of 10 U.S. states outside Alaska, and they are stars of a growing wildlife tourism industry from Yellowstone National Park to Minnesota's Boundary Waters.

By MacNeill Lyons, AP
Last week, the Obama administration declared that wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and portions of adjoining states have recovered from widespread extermination and will be removed from the endangered species list. Coupled with an earlier move that lifted protections in five western states, the administration's decision " puts the gray wolf at a historical crossroads — one that could test both its reputation for resilience and the tolerance of ranchers and hunters who bemoan its attacks on livestock and big game," particularly elk and deer, notes the Associated Press.

After the Department of Interior took wolves off the Endangered Species List in May, Idaho wildlife officials announced a plan, taking effect this month, that would rely on snare and leg-hold trapping and helicopter-borne sharpshooters to kill as many as 75 wolves in mountainous terrain near the Montana border.
Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, meanwhile, has extended its wolf hunting season past a Dec. 31 deadline. Just 105 wolves have been taken so far, the New York Times reported earlier this month, and officials wanted hunters to harvest 220.
And starting Jan. 27, barring another court reversal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will let farmers, hunters and pet owners in Michigan's Upper Peninsula kill wolves that threaten livestock and dogs, the Detroit Free-Press reports.

Since the late 1980s, more than 5,000 wolves have been killed legally, according to an AP review of state and federal records. Hundreds more have been killed illegally over the past two decades in the Northern Rockies alone.
Biologists are confident that neither legal hunts nor poaching will push wolves back to the brink of extinction, the AP reports. And what hunters and ranchers see as a threat, increasing numbers of tourists are appreciating as a mythic symbol of the wild.

EARLIER:  Budget deal may allow wolf hunts in Montana, Idaho
Despite their elusiveness, wolves have become "a powerful economic generator for tourism" in communities near Yellowstone National Park, says Kurt Repanshek of National Parks Traveler. A 2006 study projected that Yellowstone tourists who come to watch wolves spend $35 million a year on those trips.
The animals are stars elsewhere, as well: In Ely, Minn., the International Wolf Center offers everything from fuzzy wolf slippers (now on sale) to a "Track the Pack" winter study trip through northern Minnesota, while Oregon Wild launched a recent contest to to suggest names for "OR-7," a two-year-old male wolf roaming the Cascade Mountains near Crater Lake National Park. The group hosted two of its own wolf-themed excursions last summer.

And just east of San Diego in the historic mountain town of Julian, the California Wolf Center invites visitors to view highly-endangered Mexican gray wolves, as well as a pack of Alaskan gray wolves.


Take Action: Save the Lolo 75

27 Dec 2011
Wolf Den, (c) USFWS
As many as 75 wolves in Northern Idaho could be targeted for death by federal aerial gunners.
It’s outrageous: federal sharpshooters are preparing to take to the skies of Northern Idaho in an ill-conceived attempt to kill as many as 75 wolves to artificially boost game populations.
Idaho’s wolf-killing plan is unscientific and misplaced, but the Obama Administration appears to be going along with it. To stop the killing, Defenders of Wildlife has launched a flash mobilization campaign.

Please join the fight. Urge United States Department of Agriculture head Tom Vilsack to stop the killing before it begins.
The proposed plan – requested by state officials in Idaho – is for Wildlife Services, a program under Secretary Vilsack’s supervision, to use federal staff, helicopters and other aircraft to gun down wolves in the Lolo region and the Clearwater National Forest – public lands also under Secretary Vilsack’s supervision that belong to you and me.
Already, more than 56,000 Defenders activists have called on Secretary Vilsack to prevent the wolf cull. Will you add your voice to the call to save these wolves from unnecessary slaughter?
Help save the Lolo wolves. Take action now.
The stated reason for the wolf-killing plan is that some believe that wolves are reducing elk numbers. But elk numbers began decreasing in the area long before wolves returned, as suitable elk habitat in the area declined due to natural changes.
A lack of sound science isn’t stopping anti-wolf extremists from declaring war on the Lolo wolves.
On December 14th, Ron Gillett of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition told The Los Angeles Times bluntly that: “We want these wolves dead.

Help save as many as 75 wolves in Idaho and support sound, science-based decision-making in wolf management. Please take action now.

Image of the Day

DSC_7934 by cards14ever
DSC_7934, a photo by cards14ever on Flickr.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Los Padres sanctuary goes to the rescue of wolf dogs

29 animals are seized from an Anchorage attraction accused of possessing them illegally. 'It was heartbreaking to see,' one of the rescuers said.

A new home for 29 wolf dogs
Matthew Simmons is greeted by one of the 29 wolf dogs rescued from a roadside attraction near Anchorage and brought to the Lockwood Valley Animal Rescue Center in the Los Padres National Forest. "Overall, they honestly seem to understand that this is a better environment than where they came from," said Simmons. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / December 22, 2011)

Chained to posts on a half-acre lot, the 29 wolf dogs languished for years behind stockade fencing at a roadside attraction near Anchorage.

The wolf hybrids were unable to touch one another except when they were bred through chain-link fences. Several had sore backs and legs because they had never been able to move more than a few yards at a time.

The animals were seized by Alaskan authorities as evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation and scheduled for destruction before the Lockwood Valley Animal Rescue Center intervened. The center had the wolf dogs spayed and neutered, then transported by plane and truck to its sanctuary in the Los Padres National Forest, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

They arrived at the 20-acre sanctuary Dec. 12 and will live the rest of their lives unchained, in sprawling enclosures and networks of wire holding pens.

Striding toward a pen shaded by scrub oaks and pine trees, Lori Lindner, co-founder and president of the nonprofit sanctuary, introduced visitors on Thursday to members of her new "packs": a black female with dark honey-colored eyes featured in Sean Penn's 2007 film, "Into the Wild," and a large male that fathered seven of the rescued wolf dogs.

Lindner, 46, recalled with a sigh arriving at the Wolf Country USA attraction in Anchorage earlier in the month to begin preparing the animals for the long trip to California.

"It was heartbreaking to see so many of these animals on chains," she said. "Wolf dogs are products of human vanity and machismo."

The trouble is that crossing wolves, which have been bred by nature for millions of years to be wild, with dogs, which have been genetically manipulated for thousands of years to serve humans, creates a conflict of innate behaviors. As a result, they are often chained up or given away, turned loose or killed, or they escape and are shot or poisoned.

In a 2½-acre enclosure dubbed "wolf mansion," Lindner's husband, Matthew Simmons, called out to six juvenile wolf dogs that were adjusting to a measure of freedom.

"No more pain," said Simmons, 38. "They're getting along amazing well, although there have been a few tussles in which one girl pushed another girl around. But overall, they honestly seem to understand that this is a better environment than where they came from."

The Humane Society of the United States has taken a hard stand against wolf dogs as unpredictable, destructive and rarely trainable. At least 16 states ban them, and California and 20 other states have restrictions on ownership. Alaska prohibits ownership of wolves or wolf dogs unless they are spayed or neutered, fitted with microchips and registered with state authorities.

Lindner and Simmons were alerted by sanctuary accreditation officials that Wolf Country USA was under investigation, accused of illegal possession of wolf dogs. The zoo-like attraction boasted "the largest wolf pack in Alaska" and charged $5 to walk along a path close enough to the animals to take snapshots and, in certain cases, pet one.

"We flew to Alaska and met with the assistant attorney general," Simmons said. "He told us that the state had no place to keep them, and if we didn't take them he was going to dispatch state troopers to shoot them and toss them into a freezer until the court battle with Wolf Country USA was resolved."

In a telephone interview, Werner Shuster, owner of Wolf Country USA, denied that the wolf dogs had been mistreated or that he had broken the law.

"We raised them since they were pups, each one had 12 to 15 feet of space and they were the healthiest animals on the planet," said Shuster, 82. "They do better on chains. That way they don't fight, and people can pet them."

Money to take the wolf dogs to the sanctuary came from a $5,000 donation from the Humane Society and a "very, very large donation" from Bob Barker, who hosted the TV game show "The Price is Right" for 35 years, Simmons said.

Because of their histories, size, strength and often unstable temperaments, the wolf dogs need lots of care. The nonprofit International Fund for Animal Welfare donated $43,000 to construct nine new enclosures with 10-foot-high fencing.

The sanctuary needs $3,000 a month for maintenance and about $350 a day for raw meat, day-old products bought from local grocery stores at a discount. It is also negotiating the purchase of a nearby 180-acre property that would be devoted to dozens more rescued wolf dogs and wolves. "We need $250,000 for a down payment on the property," Simmons said.

To help reduce the costs of the operation, which already housed 20 rescued wolf dogs, the sanctuary launched Warriors and Wolves, a program designed to pair wolf dogs with combat veterans volunteering there to try to overcome physical injuries and lingering anxieties.

Stanley McDonald, 48, who was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder after he returned from the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm, is among veterans who have become full-time volunteer ranch hands at the sanctuary.

Stepping through the gate of an enclosure where three wolf dogs paced warily, McDonald said, "I see a lot of myself in these animals. Like them, I was lost and troubled until I came here. Now, there's a lot of healing going on."


Image of the Day

Arktischer Wolf by CROW1973
Arktischer Wolf, a photo by CROW1973 on Flickr.

Green light to kill wolves creating a stir

Dec. 25, 2011  |    

A pack of gray wolves is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan.
A pack of gray wolves is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan. / JOHN VUCETICH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Starting Jan. 27, barring another reversal by a court, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow farmers, hunters and pet owners in the Upper Peninsula to kill wolves that threaten livestock and dogs.
This will bring cheers from thousands of hunters who are convinced that wolves are responsible for everything from decimating the deer population to global warming. It will bring howls of outrage from some environmental groups and animal rights types, who see the wolf as the noble icon of the north woods.
This is the third try since 2007 to take Great Lakes wolves off the endangered species list. So what is it about wolves that gets people so excited?

The truth is that while wolves do kill about 20,000-25,000 deer in the Upper Peninsula each year, that's a fraction of the number killed by the cold winters, or hunters for that matter.
Reduced logging in the U.P., a result of our economic downturn and higher imports of foreign timber and pulpwood, has increased the acreage of mature forest, which almost certainly had a greater effect on deer numbers than wolves.

In a story Thursday, I wrote about wolves being "re-introduced" to the U.P., but I should have said wolves have "repopulated" the region. While the state did import a handful of wolves several decades ago, and many residents believe the Department of Natural Resources has been dropping them off by the truckload ever since, those first wolves were killed by poachers within months.
The wolves we see now are descendants of packs from Minnesota that spread across northern Wisconsin and came into Michigan on their own four feet.

The population of wolves in the U.P. is no longer a biological issue. That was settled years ago, because there are now about seven times as many wolves as the USFWS recovery plan requires.
It's a social issue that revolves around how many wolves the people who live there will tolerate and how many wolves the people in other parts of the state and country will tolerate being killed.
Wolves aren't a real threat to people. The literature searches I've done make it clear that attacks on humans are so rare that the odds you'll be killed in a car crash while driving to hunt are higher than being attacked by wolves.

But there are a lot of ancient myths about wolves attacking people (remember "Little Red Riding Hood"), and we see things like that television commercial in which a guy uses a flaming torch to fend off a wolf pack.
Wolves do kill cattle, deer and domestic dogs. But I think Russ Mason, wildlife chief for the DNR, hit the nail square on the head when he said the underlying reason for Yoopers' resentment of wolves isn't that, but is the same reason Montana ranchers don't want them in their state:

"They don't like the federal government coming in and telling them it knows how to manage their wildlife better than they do. It's a taxation without representation kind of thing," said Mason, a westerner who has worked in Montana, Arizona and Utah. "People tend to see the places they hunt as their land, even if it belongs to the government."

Mason said that the real question about wolf predation on deer isn't how many deer they eat but how that impacts deer numbers. If deer live in a place with good habitat where they can reproduce well, then the population can bounce back quickly from wolf predation. But if the deer habitat is poor, then deer numbers might not rebound, even though the wolves don't kill as many as they do in a place where the habitat is good.
I suspect that next year will see some wolves killed legally by people protecting or claiming to protect domestic animals, and we might even see some legislators try to make the wolf a game animal for a limited hunt in an effort to curry favor with the hunters in their districts.

Mason also confirmed something that I have long believed is a major drawback to baiting deer in wolf country.
"If I live in a (deep) snow area and I set out a lot of bait, wolves are going to figure out that deer come to that bait, and they're going to wait near the bait pile for them," he said.
Mason added that hunters who blame wolves for deer declines fail to understand the wolves are only one cause of deer mortality among many.

"We have a bazillion coyotes in the U.P. They also are killers and they eat deer," he said. And a severe U.P. winter can easily kill 200,000 whitetails, which happened twice in the past decade.
While some people would like to see a bounty on coyotes, Mason said previous experience has taught him that "bounties only encourage guys to pick up flattened coyotes on the road. They don't do much to control the coyote population."


Outrageous! $100 Bribe to entice wolf slaughter!

Field reports: Montana group offers $100 for wolf kills

The Spokesman-Review
PREDATORS – While Idaho is using trappers and helicopter gunners to reduce wolf numbers, a Montana sportsmen’s group is essentially offering a bounty.

The Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife is offering $100 and an annual membership for photographs of wolves killed in any open wolf hunting district between Dec. 19 and the Feb. 15 end of the season, or until a quota is filled.

“This contest is one way to encourage folks to get out and harvest wolves,” said the organization’s president, Keith Kubista of Stevensville.

So far, hunters have killed 113 wolves of the 220 quota set for the state’s second wolf hunting season.
Kubista said the group is worried that the quota won’t be met this year because hunters aren’t focusing their efforts on wolves. Wolves do not have the cultural and resource values that elk, deer and moose have for hunters, he said, noting that people don’t eat wolves.

Ravalli Republic


Lone wolf a symbol of hope for species

The wandering animal crossed much of Oregon and could reach California

Published: (Sunday, Dec 25, 2011) 

A young gray wolf has become a local media darling after meandering hundreds of miles into historic new territory in southwest Oregon, but his presence now within a two-day jaunt of the California border has even more significance in the Golden State.

If the juvenile’s wanderlust continues southward, experts say he could start the repopulation of a vanished species in California, where threatened and endangered species historically have relied on the help of man.
“I can’t think of another species that was completely extirpated in California that has returned,” said Michael Stopher, who has been monitoring the wolf for the California Department of Fish and Game. “As a scientist, seeing the possible restoration of our historic mega fauna thrills me.”

Gray wolves are much bigger than coyotes and are the ancestors of domestic dogs. They stand three-feet at the shoulder with massive heads, a bite powerful enough to snap a bone, and paws up to six-inches wide.
The last gray wolf in California was killed in 1924 about 50 miles from the Oregon border by a trapper intent on making the West safe for cattle. Livestock ranchers are watching warily this lone wolf’s progress too.
“There’s going to be a lot of pressure elsewhere before it gets here,” said Billy Flournoy, 70, whose family has been ranching in Modoc County on the state’s northern border since 1871. “We’ll have more problems with coyotes and mountain lions. Wolves like bigger prey.”

The story of the wolf known as OR-7 — the seventh affixed with a GPS collar in Oregon — is linked to a decision in 1995 to reintroduce a pack of gray wolves from Canada into Idaho and areas around Yellowstone National Park.

The wolves were protected from hunters by the Endangered Species Act and multiplied beyond anyone’s dreams. In 1999 wolves migrated into Oregon, which state officials say now has 24 in the northeastern corner that abuts Idaho and Washington State.

Typically only the alpha male and alpha females breed, though the others share pup-rearing duties. In September, OR-7 set out on his big adventure, and a satellite has recorded every move.
“He went out looking for girls, that’s how I like to put it,” Stopher said.

In three months, he has zigzagged for 730 miles across the Blue Mountains and high desert plains, killing at least one elk along the way. He ended up outside of Medford on Mt. McLaughlin in the Cascades, 300 crow-fly miles away from home.

“If he climbed high enough, he would have been able to see Mt. Shasta” in California, said Stopher.
That’s as close as he has come so far, though Stopher, the department’s environmental program manager, has been preparing for years for the possible migration of wolves into California.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

There's a little wolf in all of us

A lone wolf heralds the return of a mythic predator

A GPS collar tracks the journey of the male gray wolf known as OR7 as he meanders through Oregon and approaches the California border. The prospect of the species' reappearance in the Golden State is thrilling to conservationists and chilling to ranchers.

A gray wolf nears the California border
John Stephenson, Oregon wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, uses a tape to calculate the stride of the gray wolf known as OR7 in the snow south of Crater Lake National Park. Stephenson has spent several days in the field tracking OR7 and looking for traces of a companion. So far, he’s come across just one set of saucer-size paw prints. “My hunch is it’s by itself,” he said. (Richard Cockle, AP / December 16, 2011)
A GPS collar plots the journey of the lone gray wolf — loping over mountains, through forests and across highways.

The young male left his pack in northeastern Oregon in early September, setting out to find a mate and territory of his own. By the end of November, he had meandered 761 miles. Lately he has been lingering a day or two's trot from California.

If OR7, as he is known, crosses the border, he will be the first wild wolf recorded in the Golden State since 1924.

Even if he doesn't, the trek has made it evident that the return of the mythic native predator is imminent.

"We're not planning to reintroduce wolves," said Mark Stopher, an ecologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. "They're going to show up on their own."

That prospect is thrilling to conservationists but chilling to ranchers, who have lost livestock in other parts of the West.

"It's going to be very high-profile, controversial," Stopher said.

Gray wolves were all but eradicated in the lower 48 states by the 1930s. Protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, they started to move back into northern Montana from Canada half a century later. Then in the mid-1990s, 66 Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.

As of last year, the Northern Rocky Mountain population had grown to an estimated 1,651 wolves. But that number is dropping in the wake of hunts OKd in Montana and Idaho after Congress delisted much of the population earlier this year.

The Oregon wolves remain protected under the state's endangered species law, and any grays that venture into California would have federal protections.

OR7's wanderings are not that unusual for a young wolf. But his GPS collar has allowed wildlife biologists and the public to follow his route — and made him a bit of a celebrity.

Under the headline "Revealed: Amazing journey of the amorous wolf," Britain's Daily Mail tabloid ran an embellished account of his travels.

And the conservation group Oregon Wild, deciding that OR7 needed a more endearing name, launched a contest that drew several hundred suggestions from children as far away as Nigeria and Taiwan. The winner will be announced after New Year's Day from the five finalists: Arthur, Max, Journey, Lupin and Takota.

About 21/2 years old, OR7 is a member of the Imnaha pack, one of four gray wolf groups that have established themselves in northeastern Oregon since a lone female crossed the Idaho border in 1999. She was the first wolf spotted in the state since the 1940s.

The Imnaha are the best known of Oregon's gray wolves because a number of them have tracking collars — and because they have developed a taste for livestock.

The pack, whose numbers fluctuate, has killed 20 cows and calves since the spring of 2010, earning death sentences for four of them. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two in May, but a lawsuit filed by conservation groups has put a hold on killing the other two — including the fierce-looking alpha male, OR7's father.

Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the department, in February took to the air in a helicopter and managed to shoot OR7 with a tranquilizing dart before attaching the GPS collar.

For more than a month, readings have placed him in roughly the same 100-mile range in the Cascades, about 40 miles from the California border.

"What's been most impressive about this animal is how much — even though it's staying in that same general area of late — it still makes large movements: 10,15, 20 miles in a night over the mountains," said John Stephenson, Oregon wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Stephenson has spent several days in the field tracking OR7 and looking for traces of a companion. So far, he's come across just one set of saucer-size paw prints.

"My hunch is it's by itself," said Stephenson, while also speculating that OR7 had found good game pickings. The stripped carcass of an elk calf was discovered in a spot that matched the wolf's earlier GPS coordinates.

On the other side of the state line, Siskiyou County ranchers are looking north with loathing.

Letting wolves back in the Golden State would be a "catastrophic mistake," said Jeff Fowle, whose family has lost sheep, a mare and calves to the region's mountain lions, coyotes and bears. "This is just one more predator that we're going to be unable to control.

"It's one thing that we're incurring an economic loss," he said. "But to watch a mountain lion or a coyote or a wolf make a kill.... It's a tortuous, cruel kill."

County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong said her constituents have had enough of the endangered species protections that have slashed logging levels and cut irrigation deliveries in the region.

"People are pretty much at their wits' end trying to make a living with all the environmental protections that are being foisted upon them," she said. As for wolves, "we would like to see them shot on sight."

Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild's conservation director, sees the wolf divide as a culture clash.

"Folks are really fighting wolf recovery … because they perceive it as the big bad federal government or the terrible people in the Willamette Valley in Oregon bringing back an animal that their grandparents wiped out for good cause. It's really more of a debate over values than it is about wolves and what they actually do."

It is inevitable that the big predator will return to California, said Patrick Valentino of the California Wolf Center. "There is no way it is not going to happen," he said.

"Wolves stoke the emotional fires. But we should look at it as a very good thing," he said. "It's part of the ecosystem."