Monday, November 28, 2016

Rolling back the red wolf recovery program at Alligator River

By Coastal Review Online on November 27, 2016

The program was started in 1987. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

By Catherine Kozak
Coastal Review Online
As the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s red wolf recovery program here marked its 25th anniversary in 2012, it was basking in nationwide accolades as a groundbreaking conservation success. Just four years later, it is teetering on the edge of failure, a turn of fate fanned by politics, mistaken identity and public ill will.
First of two parts
“There’s something going on, and I can’t figure out why the agency has been so willing to backtrack,” said Ron Sutherland, a Durham-based scientist with the Wildlands Network. “The red wolf program in the Fish and Wildlife Service has basically been drawn and quartered.”

Sutherland said the agency has not responded to a petition submitted in July that was signed by 500,000 people in support of wild red wolves, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Critics say the program has been a failure from the outset and that the Fish and Wildlife Service had released wolves on private property without the written permission of landowners.

Red wolves had been declared extinct in the wild when four captive pairs were transferred from Texas to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. Through intensive management tactics that included sneaking captive-bred pups into dens with wild-born pups, the population grew steadily.
At its height in 2005-07, 130 red wolves roamed the forested recovery area spanning 1.7 million acres of public and private land in Hyde, Dare, Tyrrell, Washington and Beaufort counties.

Today, just 45 wolves remain in the wilds of northeastern North Carolina, as well as 200 or so in captivity, and Fish and Wildlife has sharply scaled back the recovery program.

At the height of the program, about 130 red wolves roamed their native habitats in Hyde, Dare, Tyrrell, Washington and Beaufort counties. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

In September, the agency announced, after a two-year review of the program, that by 2017 it planned to reduce wolf territory to an area in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the military bombing range in Dare County. Wolves outside that range would be removed to captive populations that reside in numerous zoos.

“It was disheartening to see how they want to pull the animals back to almost where they started the program,” said Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Tyrrell County-based Red Wolf Coalition, a nonprofit education and advocacy group that started in 1997. “You can only have so many wolves in so much space. Everybody needs their own room and their own territory.”

Red wolf recovery would require changes to “secure” the wild and captive populations, the agency said. In addition, it acknowledged questions about whether the wolves’ genetics qualify for them to be classified under the Endangered Species Act.

Shortly after the agency’s announcement, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle issued a preliminary injunction that forbade removal of wolves from private property, unless it can be shown there is a threat to humans, pets or livestock. Boyle accused the wildlife service of failing to adequately protect the wolves.

“What had been happening lately is that individual landowners have required wolves to be removed from their property because they don’t like them,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, one of the plaintiffs. “They can’t be removed just because they’re present on the property.”

An earlier lawsuit ruled on by the same judge led to a ban in 2014 of nighttime coyote hunting in the recovery area, a practice that conservation groups blamed for a spike in wolf gunshot deaths.

The result of the recent injunction is that the wildlife service’s plan to remove wolves in all but the Dare County and the Alligator River area will not be allowed, essentially forestalling it.

The program’s path from bold experiment, to successful innovation, to despair for its future is perhaps more dramatic, and compressed, than most accounts of wildlife-conservation efforts.
Twenty years after the first red wolves were released onto Alligator River lands, more than 100 wolves were inhabitants, and the program was credited as a model for other successful efforts.

“That was the prototype wolf-recovery program that gave legs to the wolf-recovery programs in Yellowstone and the northern Rockies, as well as for the Mexican wolf, Walter Medvid, executive director of the Minneapolis-based International Wolf Center, said in a 2007 article in The Virginian-Pilot.

Medvid said that top predators such as wolves are good for ecological stability and help keep prey populations healthy and vigorous.

Smaller than gray wolves but bigger than coyotes, red wolves weigh about 55 to 85 pounds and are brown with patches of red behind their ears. Long ago, they ranged from southern New England to Florida and as far west as central Missouri and Texas before being gradually hunted to near-extinction. By the 1970s, fewer than 100 red wolves were believed to exist on the Gulf Coast.

An analysis of species characteristics was done by the wildlife service before 14 wolves were selected to begin a captive-breeding program. Four pairs were chosen for release in 1987 in Alligator River, an area with natural boundaries and plenty of prey.

Sparsely developed, heavily wooded northeastern North Carolina seemed as if it would be perfect habitat for red wolves, shy creatures not known for aggression toward humans. But the red wolf preys on deer and roams private as well as public land. Conservationists may regard the wolf as an important part of the ecosystem, but to a significant number of landowners and hunters, the wolf is little more than an interloper and a competitor. And to the wolf’s misfortune, it looks very similar to a coyote, which arrived in the region not long after the wolf’s re-introduction. Shooting wolves is illegal; hunting coyotes is permitted.

Wolves will mate with coyotes if a mate is killed, exacerbating a threat to the species: hybridization. But the wildlife service’s recovery team developed an effective tactic that used a sterilized coyote to serve as a “placeholder” in keeping other coyotes out of its territory. Before it was discontinued, the measure seemed to curtail the problem of diluting the red wolf genes with those of coyotes. The controversial issue of whether the red wolf is a separate species is still being debated by the wildlife service.

Another method the recovery team devised is putting similarly aged captive-bred pups in with other pups in a wild den, after sprinkling them with a little urine from the wild pups. To the team’s joy, the mothers accepted the pups as their own, helping to ensure the genetic viability of the species.

But from the beginning, gunshot mortalities had been a growing issue with red wolf management. By 2003, 28 wolves had been shot. Between 2004 and 2011, another 52 wolves had been shot, despite possible penalties of up to a year in prison and a fine of $100,000. When coyote hunting was expanded in 2012 to nighttime hours, shooting deaths of wolves increased again.

But when the judge later restricted coyote hunting, the political winds seem to turn in a fury toward the wolves. Pages filled with nasty comments about the wolves started cropping up on Internet hunting forums. Legislators started hearing demands from constituents to do something about the wolves.

In January 2015, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission adopted a resolution asking the wildlife service to end the red wolf project, and another resolution asking the wildlife service to remove all “unauthorized releases” of wolves and their offspring from private land.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is among those who have called for eliminating the red wolf recovery program.

Tillis, speaking in September at a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing, said the program had failed to meet population recovery goals while negatively affecting North Carolina landowners and the populations of several other native species. He said 514 private landowners and farmers had sent individual requests to the Fish and Wildlife Service to not allow red wolves on their land.

“Before we do anything more in North Carolina, I think it makes the most sense to shut the program down to figure out how to do it right and build some credibility with the landowners,” Tillis said during the hearing. “There is a less than respectful history of dialogue between folks in North Carolina and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is going to be an issue my office will be focused on for as long as I’m a U.S. senator.”

Wheeler, of the Red Wolf Coalition, said the issue was more political than she ever thought it would be. “Certainly, our red wolves are getting caught in that political mess,” she said.


Madrid to double farmers' compensation fund for wolf attacks

Wolf attacks on animals in region around Spanish capital up from 91 to 209 in a year, prompting rise in reimbursement budget

An Iberian wolf in Chapineria, south-west of Madrid. There are thought to be 20 or so wolves roaming the community of Madrid. Photograph: Paul Hanna/Reuters
Madrid’s regional government is to double its compensation fund for farmers who lose animals to wolves after a steep increase in fatal attacks in the last year.

Wolves, hunted to the brink of extinction over the past seven decades, have begun to reappear in the region in recent years. 

Their return has been most keenly noticed by farmers, whose sheep, goats, cows and horses are increasingly falling prey to the 20 or so wolves thought to roam the autonomous community of Madrid. The region, which covers 3,000 sq miles at the centre of Spain, contains mountains, valleys, hills, forests, pastures and farmland, as well as the capital city.

Wolf attacks have risen from under 20 in 2012 and 2013 to 91 in 2015 and 209 in 2016. There were also four attacks in 2016 attributed to vultures.

The regional government has announced it will raise its compensation budget from €60,000 (£51,000) this year to €120,000 in 2017. Claims for the past 12 months already total almost €90,000. Compensation payments are up to €500 per sheep or goat and €1,000 per cow or horse.

According to the government’s environment department, there are estimated to be three wolf packs in the region, whose numbers are growing year by year.

“The community of Madrid has to reconcile two things: it needs to protect wolves – which cannot be hunted or captured in the region – but it also needs to protect farmers’ interests,” said a government spokesman. 

“We’re paying farmers for the loss or injury of their animals but we’re also talking to farmers and ecologists about things like electric fences, using mastiffs to protect livestock and restoring pens to make animals less vulnerable to attack.”

Another problem, the spokesman said, was that wolves in surrounding areas did not respect manmade boundaries and frequently staged sorties into the Madrid region.

“The number of attacks has risen considerably because there are wolves in neighbouring communities such as Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha and they don’t understand borders – they come in, hunt and leave,” he said.

Also among the options is using GPS technology to track the animals and get a better idea of their habits and movements.

There are thought to be more than 2,000 wolves in Spain, the largest population in western Europe.

Friday, November 25, 2016

AK’s gray wolves stand out from the pack

WASILLA — The gray wolf (Canis lupus) of Alaska runs with a bigger pack than its brethren in the lower 48. That’s because it’s got a tougher prey to tangle with, namely, the Alaska moose, an animal that can grow up to nearly 7 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh up to nearly one and a half tons.
Shannon Barber-Meyer, a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist who specializes in research on American gray wolves and white-tailed deer, led a recent study published in the journal Behavior, an animal behavior peer-reviewed publication.
Barber-Meyer’s team studied pack size and hunting behaviors of gray wolves in Denali National Park and compared them to those in Yellowstone National Park and areas around the Yukon in Canada.
The researchers found that Alaska gray wolves go for their big-game targets in hunting packs of around 10, compared to gray wolves hunting in the Yellowstone, which typically number around three. The gray wolves of Yellowstone primarily hunt white-tailed deer.
Anthropologists from the Universities of Arizona and Washington have found evidence for a Paleolithic workshop at Swan Point in Alaska, shedding some light on how ancient Alaskans living on Beringia worked and lived. Beringia, the land bridge now submerged underwater by which ancient peoples populated Alaska and the Americas, is of great interest to anthropologists trying to understand more about the Paleolithic history of the northern and southern American continents.
Materials from the workshop date to around 14,000 years ago, and belongs to what anthropologists call the Dyuktai culture.
Researchers think the “specialized workshop” was used for making and fixing tools made from various organic materials in the vicinity, including naturally-occurring sites with high numbers of mammoth bones. Most mammoth species went extinct by around 10,000 years ago, but a smaller species of mammoth, called dwarf mammoths, persisted longer in Alaska, with the last of them disappearing from Wrangel Island on the Russian side of the Chukchi sea, fewer than 4,000 years ago.
The results of research into the Dyuktai workshop site in Alaska were published in the journal American Antiquity.
Meanwhile, Scientific American reports a warming climate is posing challenges to those who want to peek into Alaska’s past. In an interview with Anne Jensen, senior scientist at Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation, Jensen detailed troubling times for Alaska researchers, who have typically enjoyed the enviable advantage of operating in frozen, well-preserved digs.
“Everything has been so well preserved,” Jensen told Scientific American. “Many organic remains – such as baleen strips, leather goods, ivory carvigns, wood bows, bone fragments and even mummies – can be 1,000 years old or more, but they look like they were buried 10 years ago. That’s because they froze quickly, and never unfroze.”
Now, that’s less the case as permafrost layers melt, exposing artifacts to the ordinary ravages of time. This month the journal Weatherwise also reported on a warming trend that’s been affecting Alaska beginning in 2013.
As Alaska’s frozen digs thaw, artifacts get destroyed, Jensen said. That’s put archaeologists and anthropologists around the state in a hurry to recover formerly-frozen digs. But there’s only so much they can do.
“We may never be able to answer the question of how and why proto-Inuit people migrated here to the eastern Arctic,” Jensen said.


A response to WI Senator Baldwin's wolf comment

Wisconsin State Farmer  
November 23, 2016
The American people have seen their fair share of climate deniers, including politicians who refuse to acknowledge the role of carbon emissions and years of scientific scrutiny and research, which overwhelmingly points to our warming planet causing more frequent and oft-times disastrous weather phenomena.

Senator Tammy Baldwin has decided as well to “gut punch” science with her recent Op-Ed in a publication catering to Wisconsin farmers. In it, she begins by representing “facts” in her argument that wolves in Wisconsin should be removed from the Endangered Species List and returned to state management:
  • “Farmers have found livestock injured and killed by wolves…”.
  • “Families have lost pets.”
  • “Parents have decided it’s no longer safe to let their kids play where they normally do.”
Let me address each of her opening arguments.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s report “Cattle and Calves Predator Death Loss in the United States 2010 (prior to wolves being removed from the ESL in 2012), “The percentage of cattle losses due to predators ranged from 0.3 percent on dairy operations to 4.2 percent on beef operations”. Specifically, in the Northeast (of which Wisconsin is included), 94.8% of cattle losses (98.6 calf losses) are due to “animal rearing environment and associated management practices”.
You cannot argue statistics.

“Families have lost pets”.

Wisconsin DNR: 1 pet dog lost to wolves in 2016.Wisconsin is one of the few states that allows the practice of bear hounding; hounds are allowed to run on public lands to hunt for small game and for bear training and hunting from July 1 through August 31.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, this year has witnessed an astonishing 40 hound dogs killed by wolves who stumble onto wolf rendezvous sites where wolves are raising their pups.

The “Class B” license required for non-residents to bait and kill bears was eliminated for 2016; thus, more hounds running on public lands near “wolf caution areas”.

Wolf populations were nearly identical in 2012, yet only 7 hound dogs were taken by wolves that year. A correlation perhaps between more hounds running everywhere and more hound losses?
Hound dogs: not pets, but “tools” for hunters just like the GPS collars hounds wear. A Bear hunters’ hound killed by a wolf during bear hunting can receive upwards of $2500 reimbursement from the State of Wisconsin.

Safety of children

“Parents have decided it’s no longer safe to let their kids play where they normally do.” According to the International Wolf Center’s article “Are wolves Dangerous to Humans?”, “the vast majority of wolves do not pose any threat to human safety. A person in wolf country has a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting or a car collision with a deer than being injured by a wolf (

Baldwin goes on to falsely claim that “sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts report declines in the population of deer, elk, and other wildlife.”

\Wisconsin DNR says otherwise: “The statewide posthunt white-tailed deer population estimate for 2015 was approximately 1,181,400, 8% higher than in 2014.”  Where did deer numbers increase most? In areas where wolves are present (Northern and Central forest zones).

And the reintroduced elk herds? The DNR states: “The population has grown at an average rate of 7 percent per year with some years showing nearly a 30 percent increase while a few years have resulted in negative population growth due to severe winter conditions resulting in high mortality and low recruitment.”

When wolves were removed from the ESL in 2012, the state proceeded to allow an unprecedented slaughter of wolves by any-and-all legal means, including baited trapping, hounding (“legalized dog fighting”), shooting, bow and cross-bow. In a matter of 3 years, 17 wolf packs destroyed; 500 killed in trophy hunts. 170 wolves killed at the request of livestock operators, and anywhere from 180-360 poached wolves (see Stenglein, UW-Madison).

Documented decreases in pack size to 3.2, making it more difficult for packs to hunt larger game.
Act 169 will ensure that loosely regulated wolf killing will ensue if wolves are once again delisted; the Feds made that clear by protecting them. Senator Baldwin is catering to special interests using fairytales instead of facts to buttress her arguments for delisting.

Elizabeth Huntley Roberts 


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Removes Another Mexican Gray Wolf From Wild

Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 23, 2016
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Removes Another Mexican Gray Wolf From Wild

Continued Persecution Contributes to Population Decline

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Shrouded in secrecy in mid-November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured alive and removed another Mexican gray wolf from the wild in response to the killing of cattle on national forest and state lands in east-central Arizona. The removal of the male wolf accelerates the extinction threat of the unique southwestern subspecies that has already seen at least 11 deaths and one other removal this year and declined 13 percent last year, leaving only 97 animals in Arizona and New Mexico. The captured wolf had a mate who is still in the wild.

“The Mexican gray wolf simply can’t afford more animals being removed from the wild or even killed because of the occasional cattle loss,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The research shows that non-lethal efforts to protect livestock are far more effective than removing or killing wolves. Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has steadfastly refused to require ranchers to do anything to protect their livestock prior to removing or killing wolves.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has long flouted the recommendations of scientists in the management of the Mexican gray wolf. For example in 2008 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums requested a moratorium on permanent removals of Mexican wolves “until an expert taskforce on genetic issues can be convened to provide guidance to these actions.” The Service has yet to convene such a taskforce and had no knowledge of the latest captured wolf’s genetic composition before removing him because he was born in the wild and had never previously been captured. The Service rarely re-releases wolves once they’ve been taken into captivity.

Similarly in 2007 the American Society of Mammalogists, the leading association of scientists who study mammals, opposed removing Mexican wolves “at least until the interim 100-wolf goal of the current reintroduction program has been achieved,” and urged the Service to “protect wolves from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses” — a frequent precursor to depredations.

The latest removal of a wolf follows removals of other wolves in past years on behalf of the same livestock owner. It is not known whether carcasses of non-wolf-killed stock contributed to the recent depredations. But documents received by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act show that the last Mexican wolf removed by the government — a male from the Luna Pack trapped in May in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico — was drawn to vulnerable cattle through scavenging on carcasses of cows that had died due to birthing complications.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that it can recover wolves through traps and bullets — some of the same tools that the same agency used decades ago in exterminating them,” said Robinson. “But appeasing the public-lands livestock industry in this manner has led to repeated population downturns and consistent failure to meet the Service’s own metrics for progress.”

“Every trapped wolf is not just an individual animal suffering, along with a mate wandering the wild forlorn, but represents another step toward extinction.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


You can't hunt wolves in Killarney Provincial Park

Province protecting Algonquin wolf population

A wolf is seen in Algonquin Park in 2011. The province has closed the hunting and trapping of all wolves and coyotes in select areas to support recovery of the Algonquin wolf species. Supplied photo.
Wolves can no longer be hunted in Killarney Provincial Park, as well as certain other area in the province.

Ontario is taking measures to protect the threatened Algonquin wolf population by introducing new rules for hunting and trapping in certain areas.

Due to the similarity in appearance of Algonquin wolf and coyotes and other wolves, the province has closed the hunting and trapping of all wolves and coyotes in select areas to support recovery of the Algonquin wolf species. It is now illegal to hunt and trap wolves and coyotes in the following provincial parks that the Algonquin wolf is known to inhabit, as well as their surrounding areas:
  • Algonquin Provincial Park 
  • Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park 
  • Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park 
  • Killarney Provincial Park 
Landowners in these areas still have the right to kill or harm wolves and coyotes if there is imminent risk to their health and safety, or to their domestic animals and livestock. Additionally, hunting and trapping coyotes and wolves in other areas of the province, outside of the protected areas, is permitted.

The Algonquin wolf is classified as "threatened" by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario. Threatened species and their habitats are automatically and immediately protected by the Endangered Species Act.

These regulatory changes balance the economic safety needs of local landowners and farmers with the need to protect this threatened species.
For more information on the Algonquin wolf as well as hunting and trapping rules, visit


Hunting limit reached near Yellowstone after 2 wolves killed

HELENA — Montana wildlife officials say the wolf hunting limit has been reached in areas north of Yellowstone National Park after hunters killed two of the predators.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say Wolf Management Unit 313 in southern Park County will close to further hunting after sunset Wednesday.
The announcement follows the closure of an adjacent wolf management unit in September, when hunters killed three wolves. The quota for that area is two.
Those two areas near Yellowstone and a third near Glacier National Park are the only places in Montana with limits to the number of wolves that can be killed during hunting season.

MI wolf hunting law ruled unconstitutional by appeals court

Wolves Great Lakes
April 18, 2008 file photo of a gray wolf. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

By Garret Ellison
on November 23, 2016 
LANSING, MI — The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled a 2014 law that enables state wildlife officials to allow wolf hunting if the animals are ever dropped from the U.S. Endangered Species List in Michigan is unconstitutional.

In an opinion released Wednesday, Nov. 23, the three-judge panel overturned a 2015 Michigan Court of Claims ruling that upheld the state Natural Resources Commission's authority to classify gray wolves as a game species.

The appellate ruling in favor of the citizen group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), which challenged the state's authority to hunt wolves, said the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, also known as Public Act 281 of 2014, violates the "title-object clause" of the Michigan constitution.

The group issued a statement praising the decision.

"This was a blatant power grab by politicians to take away voting rights from Michigan citizens," said KMWP director Jill Fritz.

"We are delighted the court has rejected the legislature's outrageous attempt to subvert the will of the people of Michigan, and declared unconstitutional the legislature's attempt to force a wolf hunt. This ruling restores the people's decision, in two statewide votes, overwhelmingly rejecting the trophy hunting and commercial trapping of the state's small population of wolves."

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected argued the circulated petition resulting in the 2014 law, "routinely told electors targeted for signature" the law would provide free hunting licenses for veterans and prevent invasive species without mentioning that it would permit wolf hunting, nullify pending referendums to the contrary, and make the act referendum-proof.

Since the title of the propose law didn't inform the public or legislature of the law's actual effects, the group argued it was unconstitutional.

In 2015, KMWP lost in the Court of Claims, which said the 2014 law's general purpose was to "manage fish, wildlife, and their habitats" and the failure to mention wolves was "germane, auxiliary, or incidental" to managing wildlife.

The appellate judges, however, agreed with KMWP's argument that that the "provision of free licenses to active members of the military is not germane to the scientific management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats, nor does it directly relate to, carry out, or implement this principal object of PA 281."

The panel wrote that "we cannot presume that the Legislature would have passed PA 281 without the provision allowing free hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses for active members of the military" and because it's impossible to know what weight that provision would have exerted in the legislature, legal precedent precludes severing the law into pieces and the entire act is unconstitutional.

"Plaintiff's description regarding how PA 281 came into being conjures up images of a Trojan Horse, within which the ability to hunt wolves was cleverly hidden. Plaintiff claims that the initiating petition was strategically drafted in such a way as to appeal to potential signers by touting that it would ensure that only sound scientific principles would govern the taking of fish and game, rather than allowing the selection of game to become the subject of legislative footballs, that it would support our active-military members by letting them hunt and fish for free, and that it would provide money to combat the spread of Asian carp — all of which have excellent "curb appeal" — while surreptitiously slipping inside the body of the act a reenacting provision to ensure that regardless of the referenda votes on PA 520 and PA 21, wolves would be on the game species list, as would associated wolf hunting provisions, and that the appropriations provisions made the whole package referenda-proof. However accurate the plaintiff may be in its assessment of why PA 281 came into being, our analysis is not about policy. Rather, our decision must be based on an analysis of the dictates of Michigan's constitution."
"Because PA 281, as drafted, violates the Title-Object Clause of the Michigan Constitution, the act is constitutionally infirm. Consequently, we reverse the order granting summary judgment for defendants and remand the matter for entry of an order granting summary judgment for plaintiff, in accord with this opinion."
The opinion was authored by judges Donald Owens, Joel Hoekstra and Jane Beckering.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has tried four times in the last 15 years to delist Great Lakes gray wolves. The courts have reversed each attempt.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected wants to see wolves "downlisted," as opposed to delisted from U.S. Endangered Species List, which allows for lethal control of problem wolves, but not game season hunting.

Michigan held its first and only wolf hunt in late 2013, a year after federal protections were dropped in the region. Twenty-three wolves were killed. There was no hunt in 2014, when statewide voters overturned enabling laws.

In Dec. 2014, a federal judge overturned the last delisting of Great Lakes wolves. In a controversial opinion, the judge ruled the Endangered Species Act does not allow the government to declare a "distinct population segment" of a species recovered and then drop protection within that zone on a map.

Endangered or not? Scientists, lawmakers renew gray wolf debate
Endangered or not? Scientists, lawmakers renew gray wolf debate

"A lot of eyes are watching what happens."
At last count, there were 3,700 wolves in the Western Great Lakes population. About 630 are in Michigan, 800 are in Wisconsin and the bulk, 2,220 or so, are in Minnesota — the one U.S. state in the whole Lower 48 where the population never dipped enough to be listed as "endangered," only threatened.

While delisting supporters point to those numbers as evidence of population recovery, opponents say wolves have yet to repopulate their historic range after being nearly exterminated in the U.S. decades ago.

The delisting debate has split conservation and environmental groups over the issue of hunting, which states could allow if protections are dropped. Even biologists who study wolves don't speak with a unified voice on the issue.

Wolves are presently listed as endangered in Michigan and cannot be killed except in the defense of human life. There have been numerous bills in Congress since the federal order to strip wolf protection in several states.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wolf-killing plans stir in lame-duck session of Congress

November 22, 2016  
By Wayne Pacelle
Nobody eats wolves.

If you’re a meat eater, it’s one thing to hunt deer or some other wild animals and consume them. It’s another matter to go on a head-hunting exercise, or just kill for the thrill of it.

In the lame-duck session of Congress, there is a big move afoot to eliminate federal protections for wolves in four states that, for the most part, have a terrible record of caring for their small populations of that species. If Congress subverts the federal courts, and selectively removes wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, it will only serve to enable people to kill wolves for no good reason.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., recently came out with a statement urging Congress to strip federal protections for wolves, even though a series of federal judges have said that there’s no legitimate legal or scientific basis for delisting. Advocates of wolf killing have appealed the latest ruling affirming the need for federal protection, so an end-around the courts amounts to a subversion of judicial review.

If federal lawmakers go down this road, where does it end? To score political points with a favored constituency, or to try to neutralize or win over a problematic constituency, lawmakers will start removing species from the ark willy-nilly. It sets an awful precedent, and Sen. Baldwin should know better.

She would do well to recall the words – in fact, all of us would do well to recall them — of another Wisconsinite about our relationship with wolves. In his essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” part of A Sand County Almanac, naturalist and hunter Aldo Leopold recalled a hunting experience in which his party killed a she-wolf at a time when almost all conservationists believed that the killing of predators was necessary. “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” Leopold wrote. “I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain.”

Hateful attitudes toward wolves should be overcome by clear-headed thinking about the role they play in ecology and also their value in rural communities. People trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because these animals are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation, and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Wolves kill weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, making the herds healthier, which has a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems. Wolves are a bulwark against the spread of chronic wasting disease, because they kill deer and other hooved animals that show the symptoms of the brain-wasting prion.

A maneuver to delist wolves is a bit of a cover-up and a bait-and-switch for poor oversight over domesticated dogs and farm animals. I’ve run across countless examples, from Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states, where wolves take the blame when a farmer doesn’t provide proper use of non-lethal controls or shows off poor animal husbandry that puts cattle or sheep at risk. Wolves often get the blame for animals they didn’t kill too, because no agency bothers to verify livestock losses that farmers and ranchers claim.

An overwhelming majority of Americans – 90 percent according to a June 2015 poll – support the Endangered Species Act, and it is the most important law our nation has ever passed to protect species at risk of extinction. Michigan voters took up two wolf hunting referendums in 2014 – the only state to have popular votes on the issue – and voters rejected wolf hunting and trapping in landslide votes.

Last year, more than 50 world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists, many of whom have devoted their entire professional careers toward understanding the social and biological issues surrounding wolves in North America, sent a letter to Congress urging members to oppose any efforts to strip federal protections for wolves in the contiguous 48 states. If Congress were to take this adverse action, according to these scientists, it would upend two recent federal court rulings, which criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for distorting the “plain meaning” of the standards of the ESA and admonished several state wildlife agencies for conducting overreaching and dangerous trophy-hunting and trapping programs upon federal delisting.

Sen. Baldwin, please reconsider your ill-advised recommendation to Congress to delist wolves and subject them not only to trophy hunting, but to being ensnared by steel-jawed leghold traps and being chased and savaged by packs of dogs. This is trophy hunting and trapping masquerading as wildlife management. It’s most definitely not proper stewardship of God’s creatures. And it’s not decent or humane.

Let Sen. Baldwin know you’re unhappy with her stance by calling her at 202-224-5653, and please contact your members of Congress at 202-224-3121 and ask them to oppose this plan.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project Monthly Update - October 1-31, 2016

October 1-31, 2016
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project
Monthly Update - October 1-31, 2016

The following is a summary of Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project (Project)
activities in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in Arizona, including the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR), San Carlos Apache Reservation (SCAR), and New Mexico.  Additional Project information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653, or by visiting the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at
or by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at
Past updates may be viewed on either website, or interested parties may sign up
to receive this update electronically.
This update is a public document and information in it can be used for any purpose.  The Project is a multi-agency cooperative effort among the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), USDA Forest Service (USFS), USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS WS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS) and the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT).

To view semi-monthly wolf telemetry flight location information please visit

Please report any wolf sightings or suspected livestock depredations to: the Alpine wolf office (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653. To report incidents of take or harassment of wolves, please call the AGFD 24-hour dispatch (Operation Game Thief) at (800) 352-0700.

Overall Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update
The USFWS assisted the Rio Grande Zoo with public education during Wolf Awareness Week on October 20, 2016.

Numbering System:  Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history.  Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older. Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) indicate wolves younger than 24 months or pups. The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate breeding wolves.

Definitions: A “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an
established territory.  In the event that one of the two alpha (dominant) wolves dies, the remaining alpha wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack status. The packs referenced in this update contain at least one wolf with a radio telemetry collar attached to it. The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that wolves without radio telemetry collars may also form packs. If the IFT confirms that wolves are associating with each other and are resident within the same home range, they will be referenced as a pack.

Population monitoring requires year round effort documenting births, deaths, survival, total numbers, and distribution.  Mortality occurs throughout the year and is particularly high on young pups, so while the IFT has documented reproduction this year, the IFT will not have a complete idea of how many of these young pups and adults have died until the annual population survey which is conducted in the winter.  Annual surveys are conducted in the winter because it is when the population is experiencing the least amount of natural fluctuation (i.e. in the spring the population increases dramatically with the birth of new pups and declines throughout the summer and fall as mortality is particularly high on young pups).  Thus, the IFT summarizes the total number of wolves in the winter at a fairly static or consistent time of year.  This allows for comparable year-to-year trends at a time of year that accounts for most mortality and survival of young pups.  At this time, the IFT’s best estimate is that there was a minimum of 97 wolves in the wild as of December 31, 2015.  At the current time there are 53 wolves with functioning radio collars that the IFT is actively monitoring. 

Bear Wallow Pack (collared AM1338 and AF1335)
In October, the Bear Wallow Pack was located within their traditional territory in the east central portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF).
Bluestem Pack (collared M1382, F1443, and f1488)
In October, the Bluestem Pack continued to use their traditional territory in the east central portion of the ASNF.  The pack continued to display rendezvousing behavior through the month and periodically used a diversionary food cache to prevent potential depredation issues in the area.
Buckalou Pack (collared F1405)
In October, F1405 dispersed from Arizona and localized in the east central portion of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. 
Elk Horn Pack (collared AF1294, AM1342, mp1474, and mp1471)
In October, the Elk Horn Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north eastern portion of the ASNF. The IFT documented rendezvous behavior by this pack during the month of October. The Elk Horn Pack has periodically used a food cache set up by the IFT to supplement the pack due to the cross-foster of two pups this spring. A minimum of two uncollared pups were documented traveling with the Elk Horn pack this month.
Hawks Nest Pack (collared AM1038)
In October, the Hawks Nest Pack was typically located within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the ASNF. The IFT documented a dispersal movement by AM1038 west onto the FAIR.  
Hoodoo Pack (collared AM1290, AF1333, m1441, fp1549, and fp1550)
In October, the Hoodoo Pack remained in the north central portion of the ASNF.  The IFT documented rendezvous behavior by the Hoodoo Pack this month.  The Hoodoo Pack has continued to utilize the food cache put in place for them to prevent potential depredation issues in the area. A minimum of three uncollared pups were documented traveling with the Hoodoo Pack this month.
Marble Pack (collared AM1330)
AM1330 was not heard or located during the month of October and is now considered fate unknown.
Maverick Pack (collared AF1291)
In October, the Maverick Pack was located within their traditional territory both on the FAIR and ASNF. 
Panther Creek Pack (collared AF1339, AM1394, mp1483, fp1484, fp1485, and mp1486)
In October, the Panther Creek Pack was located in the east central portion of the ASNF.  The Panther Creek Pack continued to show rendezvousing behavior and utilize the food cache that the IFT has maintained for them to supplement the pack due to the two pups cross-fostered into the Panther Creek Pack in April. One male pup (mp1483) and two female pups (fp1484 and fp1485) were captured, collared, and released in October. These pups were wild-born and were not one of two pups cross-fostered into the Panther Creek Pack. A minimum of six pups were documented traveling with the pack this month, confirming that at least one cross-fostered pup survived to October.
Diamond Pack (collared m1447, f1557, mp1558, mp1559, and fp1560)
In October, the Diamond Pack was located within their traditional territory in the eastern portion of the FAIR and the northern portion of the ASNF.  One female (f1557), one female pup (fp1560), and two male pups (mp1558 and mp1559) were captured, collared, and released in October. The IFT confirmed AM1249 was traveling with the pack in October.
Tsay-O-Ah Pack (collared AM1343 and AF1283)
In October, the Tsay-o-Ah Pack was located within their traditional territory in the eastern portion of the FAIR.
Baldy Pack (collared M1347 and f1445)
In October, the Baldy Pack was located in the eastern portion of the FAIR and northern portion of the ASNF.

Dark Canyon Pack (collared AM992 and f1444)
During October, the IFT located this pack within its traditional territory in the west central portion of the Gila National Forest (GNF). 
Iron Creek Pack (collared AM1240, AF1278 and mp1556)
During October, the Iron Creek Pack continued to utilize their territory in the northern portion of the Gila Wilderness and the southern portion of the GNF.  A diversionary food cache is being maintained for the Iron Creek Pack to mitigate potential wolf-livestock conflicts.  During October, mp1555, a male pup that had been captured at the end of September, slipped its collar.
Luna Pack (collared AF1487 and mp1554)
During October, the Luna Pack remained in their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF.  The IFT is maintaining a diversionary and supplemental food cache in efforts to reduce potential for further livestock depredations. 
Mangas Pack (collared M1296 and F1439)
During October, the Mangas Pack was located within their territory in north western portions of the GNF in New Mexico.  On October 24, a private trapper captured F1439 and contacted the IFT.  Members from the IFT responded immediately, processed, recollared and released the female wolf onsite.
Prieto Pack (collared M1386, m1455, f1456, M1552 and f1553)
During October, the Prieto Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF.  f1553 was documented traveling apart from the Prieto Pack with single male wolf M1398 in the west central portion of the GNF.
San Mateo Pack (collared AF1399)
During October, the IFT documented AM1345 and AF1399 traveling together within their territory in the north central portion of the GNF.   The diversionary food cache that had been established and maintained since April was removed.  No known wolf/livestock conflicts were documented for the San Mateo pack during the 2016 denning season.
Sheepherders Baseball Park (SBP) Pack
During October, the SBP Pack continued to use their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF.  AM1284 was documented on trail camera traveling with pups.  The IFT began trapping efforts in October to recollar AM1284 and collar any pups.
Willow Springs Pack (collared F1397)
During October, the IFT documented the Willow Springs Pack within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF. 
Single collared M1293
During October, M1293 was located within the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.  Trapping efforts were initiated in October to recollar M1293, along with any wolves traveling with him.
Single collared AM1155
During October, AM1155 was documented traveling within New Mexico.
Single collared M1398
During October, M1398 was documented traveling with f1553 of the Prieto Pack in the west central portion of the GNF.

There were no mortalities documented in the month of October.

During October, there were seven livestock depredation reports and no nuisance reports.  Six of the seven depredation reports were confirmed or probable wolf kills. 
On October 5, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Apache County, Arizona.  The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill. 
On October 8, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Catron County, New Mexico.  The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill.
On October 13, Wildlife Services investigated a dead cow in Catron County, New Mexico.  The investigation determined the cow was a probable wolf kill.
On October 13, Wildlife Services investigated a dead cow in Catron County, New Mexico.  The investigation determined the cow was a confirmed wolf kill.
On October 13, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Apache County, Arizona.  The investigation determined the calf had been killed by coyotes.

On October 15, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Apache County, Arizona.  The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill.
On October 22, Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in Catron County, New Mexico.  The investigation determined the calf was a confirmed wolf kill.

In the end of September, USFWS personnel presented two informational talks on Mexican wolf recovery to around 250 Phoenix Zoo staff and patrons.

In October, USFWS gave two presentations on Mexican wolf recovery at The Wildlife Society National Conference in Raleigh, NC.

In October, USFWS volunteer Elizabeth Karslake completed her six month position to pursue other professional endeavors.  Thank you Elizabeth for your hard work and dedication, and best wishes in your pursuits!

 The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $10,000; the AGFD Operation Game Thief is offering a reward of up to $1,000; and the NMDGF is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the shooting deaths of Mexican wolves. A variety of non-governmental organizations and private individuals have pledged an additional $46,000 for a total reward amount of up to $58,000, depending on the information provided.

Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call one of the following agencies: USFWS special agents in Mesa, Arizona, at (480) 967-7900, in Alpine, Arizona, at (928) 339-4232, or in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at (505) 346-7828; the WMAT at (928) 338-1023 or (928) 338-4385; AGFD Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700; or NMDGF Operation Game Thief at (800) 432-4263. Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.