May 31

Info sought on dead wolf

Info sought on dead wolf

05/31/02
By SCOTT McMILLION Chronicle Staff Writer

A female wolf was found dead in Paradise Valley and federal lawmen are
offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to the arrest
of whoever killed the animal.

“If anybody has any information on this critter, give us a call,” Doug
Goessman, a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said
Thursday.

A private citizen found the adult wolf Tuesday and notified authorities on
Wednesday, Goessman said.

It had been dead for several days, he said, leading him to believe it had
been killed sometime over the Memorial Day weekend.

“We’re looking for anybody who might have seen something over the
weekend,” Goessman said. “We’re considering this a crime.”

The carcass was found not far from a two-track road about four miles past
the Sixmile trailhead sign.

“They knew what they were doing,” he said of whoever dispatched the
animal. He declined to release many details, but encouraged anybody who
might know something to call.

He said he wants to know if anybody saw people or vehicles in the area or
if they saw anybody “with blood on their hands.”

The Sixmile drainage is occupied by a resident wolf pack, which is in the
midst of an intense controversy over the effects that wolves are having on
elk numbers in and near Yellowstone National Park.

Some in the area maintain that wolves are devastating local and migratory
elk herds. Biologists say elk numbers are down over the past couple years
but it’s too early to tell the long term impacts.

Anybody who volunteers information can remain anonymous, and a conviction
does not have to result for an informant to be eligible for a reward.

If someone is convicted, however, he or she could be fined as much as
$10,000 and jailed for up to six months.

Wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

People with information can call 582 0336 or 1 800 TIP MONT.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 29

Wolves rate special status inside Oregon

Wolves rate special status inside Oregon

by MICHAEL MILSTEIN in the Oregonian
05/29/02

UKIAH — If gray wolves are roaming the hills and forests of Eastern
Oregon, as many biologists suspect, they may have found a remarkable
refuge: Not only are wolves federally protected as an endangered species,
it turns out they are also strongly protected in Oregon by a little-known,
little-understood state Endangered Species Act.

The state law passed in 1987 has dwelled in the shadow of the well-known
federal Endangered Species Act. But it’s becoming clear that even if
federal agencies remove wolves from their endangered list, as they propose
to do this year, state law would still safeguard the predators throughout
much of Oregon.

And much to the chagrin of Eastern Oregon ranchers who fear wolves will
threaten their livestock, it now appears the state must encourage the
recovery of resident wolf populations within Oregon.

“There is a recovery obligation, and we’re trying to understand what that
means exactly,” said Bill Cook, a state Department of Justice attorney who
works with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. “We’re trying to
understand how that might dovetail with other wildlife laws.”

Wolf advocates argue Oregon officials now have no choice but to accept and
protect wolves as one of the state’s original wildlife species. But
ranchers view the unfolding law as an unfair burden on agriculture and are
mounting a campaign to have the Legislature revise or repeal it.

At least three wolves have entered Oregon since biologists reintroduced
the species to Central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park under a federal
recovery effort starting in 1995.

One of the animals was shot illegally near Ukiah, and another was struck
and killed by a car. The third was taken to Idaho by federal agencies at
the urging of state wildlife officials.

Oregon does not figure into federal wolf recovery goals, but wolf
advocates say the state holds promising habitat for the carnivores in the
Blue Mountains, Cascades and Siskiyous. And biologists suspect a few
wolves are roaming Oregon.

Continuing wolf sightings cluster around Ukiah, in the lofty heart of the
Blue Mountains between Pendleton and John Day.

Oregon wildlife officials had long given little weight to the state
Endangered Species Act, last amended in 1995. A current handout from the Department
of Fish and Wildlife says the state act is “much more limited in scope”
than the federal law and “affects only the actions of state agencies on
state-owned or leased lands.”

A closer reading

But Cook’s new, closer reading of the law for the Fish
and Wildlife Commission has revealed that the state law does more than
that. It may be just as tough — and tougher on some points — than the
federal act. For instance: The state law prohibits the killing or capture
of wolves on all public land, including the 60 percent of Oregon in
federal ownership. It does not apply to private land, as does the federal
law. There is little or no way under the state law for ranchers to shoot
wolves that attack livestock. The federal law, in contrast, permits
control of problem animals under certain circumstances. A species can be
removed from the state endangered species list only after it has recovered
within Oregon. The law does not specify how many animals are necessary for
recovery, however. The state must develop guidelines — and possibly a
full management plan — to ensure the survival of animals protected by the
state act. It has not done so for most species, including wolves.

Species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act were automatically
included under the state act when the Legislature passed it 1987. That
included wolves, certain whales and others. Species added since then must
go through a listing process that includes public notice, hearings and
scientific analysis.

Oregon ranchers and hunters are circulating a petition demanding the Fish
and Wildlife Commission remove wolves from the state list on the grounds
they we re exterminated decades ago and do not warrant protection. They
plan to submit the petition before a commission meeting on wolves June 6.

“They cannot be endangered if they don’t exist,” said Glen Stonebrink,
executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, which will be
joined in the petition by the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Grange and Oregon
Hunter’s Association. “It would be an huge added burden for something no
one wants.”

But Cook advised the Fish and Wildlife Commission last month that wolves
could be removed from the state endangered list only with scientific
findings showing the population is secure within Oregon.

Looking for flexibility “We’re looking at it and turning it upside down to
make sure we didn’t miss something that might provide some flexibility or
management tools,” Cook said.

Wolves have multiplied rapidly in Idaho, Yellowstone and Montana under the
federal recovery program. They number about 30 packs and close to 600
animals. Federal officials will begin the process of dropping them from
the federal endangered list this year, although wolf defenders likely will
contest the move.

A few packs reside in Idaho about 50 miles from the Oregon line.

Only about 20 percent of the wolves in Idaho wear radio tracking collars,
however, so biologists cannot tell how many may have wandered across state
boundaries. There is no sign of breeding packs in Oregon.

Federal agencies have warned Oregon wildlife managers during the past two
years they will not chase down wolves that venture into the state unless
they cause problems. Once wolves lose federal protection, management will
be up to the states.

“Before it gets as hot as I know it will, we need to find out what our
options are,” said John Esler, chairman of the Fish and Wildlife
Commission. “I don’t want to pretend the problem’s not going to exist in
Oregon, because the problem is going to introduce itself.”

—– You can reach Michael Milstein at 503-294-7689 or by e-mail at
michaelmilstein@news.oregonian.com.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 28

Changes on horizon for wolf-kill repayment program

Changes on horizon for wolf-kill repayment program

KAREN MOCKLER

When wolves were returned to Montana in 1987, Defenders of Wildlife
launched a program to compensate ranchers for livestock lost to wolf
depredation. The Washington, D.C.-based organization hoped to smooth the
way for the recovery of the endangered species.

Since then, the group has paid out $213,489 for 259 cows, 550 sheep and 28
other animals in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Now, with wolves on the brink of being removed from the Endangered Species
list, the question is whether Defenders of Wildlife will continue to
compensate ranchers for livestock lost to wolves.

Nina Fascione, director of carnivore conservation for the group, is not
sure what will happen, though the fund used to make the payments is “very
secure.”

“We haven’t made a determination yet,” she said. “We’ve always said we’ll
assess that when the time comes.”

Fascione said states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan reimburse
livestock owners, and that her group hopes Idaho and other Western states
do the same thing.

But there’s opposition to that idea.

Ted Hoffman, president-elect of the Idaho Cattle Association, said Idaho
never wanted the wolves in the first place, and it “should not be expected
to be singled out to bear the cost of feeding and managing the wolves.
Since recovery was supposedly in the national interest, the nation’s
taxpayers should share equally in paying for it.”

For now, the group will continue to pay compensation.

The group pays ranchers the animals’ fall-market value, whether they’re
killed in the fall or not. If it’s a possible wolf kill, Defenders pays
half-claims, Fascione said.

“We try to accommodate that concern as well without paying for every sheep
that disappears in the western United States.”

The program has been “very well-received,” Fascione said. “Most of the
ranchers who receive money are very thankful to have it. Others will
grumble that we didn’t pay enough or pay in all cases.”

The number of livestock that are actually killed by wolves is tough to
gauge. Initial results of a cooperative study by Wildlife Services, the
Nez Perce tribe and the University of Idaho suggest that for every calf
killed by wolves and found by the cattle producer, as many as 5.7
additional wolf kills may have occurred without ever being detected.

Hoffman said the loss of calves is “the tip of the iceberg.” Harassment to
surviving stock translates into weight loss and fewer pregnancies,
increased supervision and searches for wolves or lost calves. So while
most ranchers accept the payments – the number of ranchers reimbursed in
the three states now totals 186 – they don’t accept them as total
compensation for the trouble they’re caused, he said.

Ranchers have gotten more adept at identifying wolf kills, said Carter
Niemeyer, who did forensic work for Wildlife Services from 1974-2000 in
all three states.

“There’s an evolution to this thing,” he said. “When wolves were first
naturally recolonizing northwest Montana, I would say five out of 100
(calls) had to do with wolves. As the ranchers got more educated, they
would contact us less often on speculating about a wolf kill.”

More often, calls came in on actual wolf kills and the number of paid
claims rose.

During the past six years in Idaho, the number of requests for assistance
to deal with wolf predation problems has increased an average of more than
82 percent a year, while the number of wolves has increased an average of
71 percent a year.

Yet the number of livestock killed by wolves remains “miniscule,” Niemeyer
said.

“The wolf isn’t ever going to impact the livestock industry (as a whole).
The impact will be so small; it’s almost immeasurable. It’s the individual
rancher that sustains losses, the one guy who gets singled out … it
quickly wrecks his profit line.”

And, on occasion, causes him to lose the family ranch, Hoffman is quick to
add. “For the few that have major problems (with wolves), or lower grade
but chronic problems … it may be likened to living with a chronic
drought.”

Margaret Soulen Hinson hasn’t lost any cattle to wolves, but from 1996 to
2001 she lost 100 sheep. Defenders of Wildlife has been “very fair” in
compensating her for market value, she said. If and when Defenders does
stop paying, Hinson still has hope.

“I really think the chances of some innovative ways to do compensation
might come forth. Idaho currently has a compensation for cougar and black
bear. So whether the wolf will evolve into that in some way, I don’t
know.”

Hinson would just as soon the wolf had never been introduced.

“But it was,” she said. “I don’t think the wolf is going away. Now that
it’s here, I think it behooves ranchers … to work with people to find
creative solutions.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 27

Wolf at the door

Feature Article: Wolf at the door

by Ray Ring

Now that the West’s top predator has reached civilization’s back porch,
managers face some agonizing decisions

Capping off a long, discouraging week, Carter Niemeyer set out around dawn
on Saturday, April 6, resigned to killing the most popular pack of wolves
in Idaho.

Armed with a semiautomatic 12-gauge shotgun, wearing a flight suit, helmet
and safety glasses, he and another federal wolf controller, Rick
Williamson, boarded aircraft in Challis, a small town in the beautiful
mountain country near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho’s
equivalent of a major national park.

Niemeyer took off in a helicopter whose doors had been removed to clear
his field of fire. With so much air roaring through, he hooked himself to
a harness to avoid being swept out. The pilot flew him low over the East
Fork of the Salmon River, where ranchers own the bottomland for cattle
pasture and the hillsides are national forest leased for grazing.

With Williamson in a spotter plane at higher altitude, they flew in an
attack formation, scouting the folds of the terrain. Locating their
targets was not the difficult part of the job. In the way of modern wolf
management, 20 to 30 percent of the adult wolves in the wilds of Idaho,
Montana and Wyoming have been fitted with radio collars. Every pack wears
at least a couple of collars now.

Using radio telemetry mounted on the plane’s wings, Niemeyer and
Williamson zeroed in on the Whitehawk Pack. The pack had already been
reduced to five wolves but still was led by the alpha male and the
stunningly white alpha female that hundreds of wolf lovers around the
world knew by the name they’d given her, Alabaster.

As the helicopter swooped down, the pack scattered and Niemeyer began to
fire. Number four buckshot spreads out and has tremendous stopping power,
effective for hitting animals on the run. Even so, it took several hours,
with Niemeyer shooting one wolf after another as they bolted from this
piece of cover to that. It is a skill, keeping your balance in the doorway
of the helicopter, leaning in the harness and aiming, accepting the
recoil, the gunsmoke and thunder against your face, shooting only when you
manage to get within close range, 30 or 40 yards, making sure whenever you
hit a wolf, enough pellets tear into the flesh and bone that death is
instantaneous.

“Fairness, sporting – the words don’t enter into it,” Niemeyer says,
recalling how the job went that day.

At last the men had the Whitehawk Pack reduced to five carcasses. The
helicopter made the final rounds, landing by each carcass so Niemeyer
could verify it and use a screwdriver to remove any radio collar. Three of
the wolves died in such hard-to-get-to places that he left them where they
fell. Two he gathered and carried into the helicopter. Then they flew back
to the nearby ranch, where livestock had been threatened by the wolves,
and informed the rancher the job was done.

No one celebrated. The rancher asked, “You want me to scratch a hole?” He
fired up his backhoe and dug a grave. Solemnly, Niemeyer skinned the pelts
off the two and cut off the heads for research and educational purposes.
They buried the remains eight feet deep, out of reach of other predators.

That night, holed up in a quiet motel down the road, “It weighed heavily
on my mind,” says Niemeyer, who as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf
recovery coordinator for Idaho, both ordered the killings and carried them
out.

The eradication of the pack enraged and sickened wolf advocates around the
United States and Europe. Almost the moment the attack formation appeared
over the wolves, an alert zinged on the Internet from an Idaho activist,
“There is bad news; the entire Whitehawk Pack is being killed today …
why is the government using your tax dollars to do their dirty work from a
helicopter?”

Niemeyer was deluged with hundreds of e-mails demanding that no more
wolves be killed and asking how he could ever look in the mirror again. A
poetic ode to the pack posted on a pro-wolf web site lamented, “I cry for
the Whitehawk pack … I cry for my brothers and sisters now dead … The
beautiful Alabaster now lies still … My soul is wolf.” Another wolf
activist cursed the head of the federal wolf program for all the Northern
Rockies by e-mail: “May your putrid corpse rot in hell.”

Yet with support in principle from mainstream conservation groups,
including the National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife,
other federal wolf managers in the region performed similar lethal jobs
around the same time. In the span of a few weeks from late February to
early April, a busy season when wolves are breeding and having pups, the
total authorized kill in Idaho and Montana climbed to at least 21 wolves.

Amid the emotions, Niemeyer and many others involved with wolves see the
irony: The death toll is the result of a hugely successful restoration of
wolves to the Northern Rockies – so successful that wolves now seem ready
to spread naturally around the West to places such as Oregon, Washington
and Colorado.

As the federal government moves toward taking wolves off the Endangered
Species List and turning management over to states, it’s likely that
killing wolves with official sanction will become easier and more routine.

The main problem now, many insiders believe, is getting the general public
to accept it.

Terrific dispersion

The surprises come fairly late in the story of the gray wolf in the lower
48 states. The story began as a familiar refrain: White settlers perceived
an enemy and eradicated almost all the wolves. Then, as the Fish and
Wildlife Service observes, “public attitudes toward predators changed.”
Just a year after the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, gray wolves
were listed as endangered and in need of federal protection. There weren’t
many left to protect * the only verified wolves in the U.S. then were in
Alaska and in the canoe country of northern Minnesota.

Sheltered by the law, wolves dispersing naturally from Canada began to
occupy territory in northwest Montana; by 1995, they formed six packs
totaling 66 wolves. It’s possible some roamed into Idaho. To push things
along, that year the Fish and Wildlife Service, backed by the Clinton
administration and nationwide public opinion, planted a few more wolves
with great fanfare: Fourteen wolves from Canada were hauled into
Yellowstone National Park and released, and 15 were released in the
wilderness of central Idaho (HCN, 2/6/95: The wolves are back, big time).
In 1996 a few more Canadian wolves – 37 – were hauled into Yellowstone and
Idaho and released.

The millions of acres of wilderness in the Greater Yellowstone Region and
in central Idaho proved to be ideal habitat. The 66 reintroduced wolves
took hold, multiplied and spread so rapidly that plans to import more were
canceled.

Today the reintroduced wolves, natural dispersers and their descendants
have spread into Wyoming as far as the southern fringe of the Wind River
Range; in Montana to the outskirts of Bozeman, Missoula and Helena; in
Idaho to the outskirts of Sun Valley and within 40 miles of Boise. The
number of wolves in the U.S. Northern Rockies has exploded to more than
540 – plus a couple hundred new pups in the dens right now, not yet
included in the official count.

With at least 34 packs breeding, and local populations increasing as much
as 30 percent per year, the spread of wolves appears likely to continue at
a dramatic pace.

“They are terrific dispersers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a thousand
wolves in the Northern Rockies within five years,” says Tom France, who
heads the National Wildlife Federation regional office in Missoula, Mont.

To the east, the gray wolf population in Minnesota has spread over roughly
40 percent of that state and into Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Minnesota
now has about 2,500 wolves in 300 packs, including some passing through
the suburbs of Minneapolis and reaching nearly to North Dakota; Wisconsin
and Michigan are up to about 500 wolves total. One disperser was reported
recently as far south as Missouri.

In the West, three gray wolves dispersing from Idaho have shown up in
Oregon’s Blue Mountains in the past two years, and there have been at
least 40 unconfirmed sightings of wolves as far west as Bend, Ore. In
Washington last February, a biologist in a scouting plane saw a gray wolf
eating a dead moose, a few miles west of the Idaho border.

Vast gray-wolf habitat or pockets of habitat are in line to be reoccupied
in Washington, Oregon, northern California, Colorado, Utah, Nevada,
northern Arizona, New Mexico, and the Dakotas, wolf conservationists and
wolf scientists believe.

There are still some doubts about the future of the wolf, but the
optimistic predictions make it sound like a new golden age is dawning.
Wolf-support centers, doing field work and educating the public, have
sprung up from Minnesota to California, pushing for wider wolf recovery, a
goal shared by the full spectrum of conservation groups, hardliners to
mainstreamers, and some landowners with large holdings, such as
billionaire Ted Turner.

Indians have stepped up, too. The Nez Perce tribe in Idaho, which long
advocated for the return of the wolf, is monitoring the packs in that
state, tracking them from the air and ground and helping separate them
from livestock (HCN, 2/26/01: Return of the natives). In Arizona, the
White Mountain Apache tribe is taking the lead in restoring the Mexican
gray wolf to the Southwest (see story page 14).

The momentum has wildlife advocates almost euphoric: “Our goal is to have
wolves the length of the Rockies, from New Mexico to the Arctic. And
conceivably, in New England. Then we would really have restored wolves to
North America,” says France of the Wildlife Federation.

Unwanted: Wolves

Not that everyone is smiling. Randy Richard was in the woods near Fortine,
Mont., in March, hunting mountain lions with his pair of bluetick hounds,
when wolves interrupted the hunt. According to Richard, his hounds had a
lion treed when a pack of five wolves swept in, killing one dog and
severely tearing up the other.

Describing how the wolves did in his 90-pound blue-tick named Crow,
Richard told the Daily Inter Lake newspaper, “they … dragged him,
castrated him, disemboweled him and consumed him. The only thing that was
left was the forward part of his shoulders, his front legs, his neck and
his head.”

Around the same time, different wolves, repeatedly raiding ranches or
ranchettes in the Ninemile Valley in northwest Montana, killed four pet
llamas. In May, another wolf attacked two cocker spaniels inside their
yard on a ranchette in southcentral Montana, near Livingston. The wolf
tried to break one spaniel’s neck, leaving gashes on its shoulders that
required surgery. The angry owner told the Associated Press, “We don’t
need wolves in civilization.”

In the political realm, ranchers continue to wield considerable power in
Western states, and generally they still don’t like wolves running around.
Complaints also come from some hunters and hunting outfitters, who believe
the wolves leave fewer elk and other game for them to go after. Most
biologists insist wolves are no danger to overall game populations, but
some hunters find fewer elk where they like to hunt.

Wolves “are bloodthirsty killers, and they’re decimating our elk herds,”
says Ron Gillette, an outfitter and motel owner in Stanley, Idaho, who’s
running quarter-page ads in newspapers around the state, demanding that
all wolves be removed. He tells the Associated Press that wolves are
“cruel, vicious, land piranhas, wildlife terrorists.”

But by most measures, there have been fewer problems than expected, so
far. The wolf recovery effort in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming has cost about
$17 million in total spending by federal agencies, including the National
Park Service, and even that looks like a good deal: More than 100,000
people have gotten to see wild wolves in Yellowstone Park alone, by
federal estimate, and wolf-related tourism pumps $20 million a year into
the economies of the three states.

“There’s a huge boost in outfitter-guided trips” that feature
wolf-watching, says Meredith Taylor, a Wyoming Outdoor Council field
director who has run an outfitting business for 21 years. Her customers
come from around the U.S. and Europe, Australia and South Africa. They
want to see wolves in the wild any time of the year, and “if it involves
wolves killing elk, they want to see that.”

The wolves have also tuned up the wilderness ecosystems, applying natural
pressure to elk and other prey, leaving prey carcasses for scavengers
ranging from eagles to beetles. With the elk herds more on the move, those
grazing impacts have been reduced, making way for re-emergence of willows
and aspen.

Even for ranchers, total livestock loss to wolves in the three states has
turned out to be a tiny fraction of what’s lost to any one of the
following: coyotes, bad weather, disease, or even packs of wild dogs.

Wolf predation “can be a big deal” for individual ranches with private
pasture or leased public land in wolf territory, though, concedes Ed
Bangs, the top federal wolf manager in the region. Yet now there are
voices of moderation such as Margaret Soulen Hinson, a third-generation
Idaho rancher whose family’s ranch near Weiser has been hit the hardest of
any in the state. Since wolves were formally brought back in 1995, the
ranch has lost 105 sheep to wolf predation.

“I wasn’t a proponent of bringing the wolves in, in any way, shape or
form,” Soulen Hinson says. “But the wolves are here now and we have to
learn to live with them. We need to look for common ground.”

She’s found some with a Defenders of Wildlife program that reimburses
ranchers for losses. Administering the Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf
Compensation Trust, Defenders has paid her ranch more than $8,000 for the
lost sheep.

Recognizing that losses can be hard to prove, especially in rugged forest
where people are not tending the stock daily, Defenders has adopted a
liberal stance, paying for more damages than the federal wolf managers
identify – about $215,000 to 188 ranches in all. In the three Northern
Rockies states, from 1995 to the end of 2001, Defenders paid ranchers for
a total of 188 head of cattle (mostly calves) and 558 sheep (mostly
lambs).

“We don’t (find and pay for) every one. We do get most,” says Suzanne
Laverty, who runs the Defenders wolf program in the Northern Rockies.

Defenders continues to develop other peacemaking strategies, such as
training Great Pyrenees as livestock guard dogs and supplying them to
ranchers. The group also trains ranchers in how to use bean-bag or rubber
bullets to scare wolves away; supplies electric fencing and other
nonlethal anti-wolf devices; and supplies hay so some cattle are not
released to pastures near wolf dens.

“A lot of the ideas we get come from ranchers,” and there is an increased
feeling of trust, says Laverty.

The National Wildlife Federation, as well as Defenders, is working on
creating new strategies, such as wolf easements, which would allow those
willing to pay for wolf habitat to connect with ranchers willing to sell
some rights. Defenders also organized a group called Wolf Guardians *
several dozen volunteers who gathered in Idaho last summer and this spring
to camp out and hike with sheep and cattle herds, trying to keep them
separated from wolves.

Along with flashing brilliant strobe lights and shouting to scare wolves
away from a herd of 2,000 sheep, says Julie Palmquist, a Wolf Guardian who
came from Washington in April, “I was singing some show tunes – ‘Annie Get
Your Gun’ and some ‘Grease’ tunes.”

She was trying to save the sheep, but even more, she was trying to save
the Whitehawk Pack.

“Nobody wanted to go there”

From the time wolves started showing up again naturally, the feds have been
targeting those that prey on livestock, either knocking them down with
tranquilizer darts and relocating them, or killing them. Ranchers who spot
wolves killing livestock are also allowed to use lethal control. In this
way, wolves are managed differently than most other endangered species.
It’s a political gesture to the locals, and even ranchers on middle ground
like Soulen Hinson expect it.

Nonlethal methods are typically tried first, including asking ranchers to
allow room for wolves. But the more wolves show up on people’s doorsteps,
the more control actions are taken, so that by now, more than 120 wolves
have been killed legally and more than 117 relocated. Eight packs have
been wiped out. Wolf-haters doing illegal kills are still estimated to
take a higher number than the official program does, although this year is
shaping up to be a record year for official killing.

“We’ve found we can do it surgically” – killing only the specific wolves
that cause problems, Niemeyer says. “We’ve gotten very good at it.”

Wolf populations prove capable of absorbing such losses. Even if people
killed 30 percent of a local wolf population, the population would
continue to increase, Bangs says. To wipe out almost all wolves 70 years
ago took a systematic regionwide war using poisons and baited traps, and
that isn’t happening now.

The feds say they are bending over backwards to give wolves the benefit of
the doubt in the face of their growing popularity. The Whitehawk pack had
been in the public eye ever since it settled on the East Fork in spring of
2001 and began roving over the hill into the Sawtooth National Recreation
Area. The Sawtooth NRA is 750,000 acres of sagebrush valley and three
snowcapped ranges which include the Salmon River headwaters and more than
400 lakes – Idaho’s most popular outdoor destination.

But since coming into contact with ranch operations in the East Fork and
the Sawtooth NRA, the wolves killed at least seven calves, 17 sheep and a
guard dog, according to Niemeyer’s records. One sheep was the 4-H project
of a rancher’s daughter, and had become a family pet. To discourage the
pack from livestock, the feds killed only in increments: one wolf, then
another two, another two, then another three, not including the final day.

Toward the end, the pack was hanging out on the Challis National Forest
hillside, scouting cattle that were in fenced pastures near ranch houses
on the East Fork bottomland, day after day, night after night. Niemeyer
and Williamson, working with the Wolf Guardian volunteers, ranchers, and
the Nez Perce tribal program, rigged anti-wolf devices all over the
pastures, including a perimeter of Radio-Activated Guard boxes. When a
radio-collared wolf approaches, the RAG boxes react to the collar and emit
sounds of gunfire, glass breaking, interstate traffic, helicopter blades,
galloping horses, men yelling. Almost every wolf in the pack was collared
by then, so it was hard for them to sneak in without setting off the sound
blasts.

The men also fired many dozens of warning shots – explosive “cracker
shells” from their shotguns, right into the rock formations where the
wolves were hanging out. The volunteers camped out around the herds,
making noise too.

Still the wolves kept coming off the hill into the pastures. The 4-H sheep
was “shredded” only a hundred yards from the family’s house, Niemeyer
says.

Niemeyer saw no way out. The pack had a taste for livestock which was
being passed from generation to generation, and there was nowhere to
relocate the wolves where they wouldn’t be on someone else’s doorstep, he
says. The ranch families in the area are tired of answering reporters’
questions. But when Niemeyer told them he’d decided to eliminate the rest
of the pack, he recalls, they reacted by saying, “Oh, no.”

“Nobody wanted to go there,” Niemeyer says.

States taking over?

All along, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s goal was to have 30 breeding
wolf packs re-established for three consecutive years, spread equally
between the three “recovery areas” – central Idaho, northwest Montana and
Yellowstone (mostly within Wyoming). That goal will be accomplished by the
end of this year, regional wolf manager Bangs says. Then the feds will
move to take the gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the Endangered
Species List and turn management over to the three states, just as if
wolves are no longer any more special than coyotes or elk.

As a form of security, all three states have to put together wolf
management plans, approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service, or wolves
won’t be taken off the federal list.

There are plenty of uncertainties. Some conservation groups and the Nez
Perce tribe support the idea of having the states take over wolf
management, but are also watching the process closely. State wildlife
managers have expertise, says France of the National Wildlife Federation,
and this is how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work.

The states are going along, to varying degrees. Idaho’s Legislature took a
stand with old-fashioned rhetoric just last year, demanding that all
wolves be removed. But the lawmakers managed to choke off their rhetoric
enough to pass a wolf management plan in March. It was largely an in-house
political process dominated by ranching interests, and it took 18 drafts,
with the Idaho Conservation League negotiating specific terms in the final
version.

Montana is going through a more open process with relatively little
disagreement. Conservationists and ranchers served on an advisory council
laying out general principles, including that wolves are a native species
that belongs in the state. A draft plan was prepared with scientific
input, then public hearings were held and more than 4,000 comments were
collected from all over the country.

Montana’s draft “looks quite promising,” says David Gaillard, of the
Bozeman-based Predator Conservation Alliance. Still, as Montana develops a
final plan later this year with another round of public comment, Predator
Conservation wants the state to set a goal of having more wolves than in
the draft plan.

Both Idaho’s plan and Montana’s draft indicate that when each state has 15
verified wolf packs, killing of problem wolves by official action or by
ranchers will become even easier. Hunters will probably be allowed to take
some. If the population in either state falls below 15 packs, regulations
would make it harder to kill wolves and the emphasis would shift toward
protection.

The feds would linger in the background for at least five years evaluating
progress, with the possibility that Northern Rockies wolves would be put
back on the Endangered Species list if necessary.

Dragging its heels and hating any federal idea, even if the idea is for
the feds to back off, Wyoming’s Game and Fish Commission gave the OK just
last month to begin drafting a state plan there, too.

Money is an issue, as usual. The states want everybody else (the federal
government) to pay the costs of wolf management, which they estimate at
$800,000 per year per state. They also would like the government to set up
a well-funded trust to pay for management of wolves and grizzly bears in
perpetuity. Yet polls conducted in all three states have shown that a
majority of locals supported the wolf recovery effort.

That hasn’t stopped local politicians from railing against wolves. In
Wyoming’s Fremont County, home to several wolf packs, the county
commission has passed recent ordinances declaring war on the wolves,
raising concerns in the environmental community. “These guys are sending a
message to the public that it’s OK to eradicate the wolves. I don’t have
any confidence that without the Endangered Species Act (in effect), wolves
will be allowed to survive,” says Steve Thomas, a Sierra Club
representative based in Sheridan, Wyo. “The state doesn’t have the
political will to protect wolves.”

“Handing the conservation program back to the states would put it right
back in the hands of the interests that caused the problems to begin
with,” warns Bill Snape, chief lawyer for Defenders of Wildlife, based in
Washington, D.C. “Attitudes can change, but we need to be aware of the
risks. We could be taking a giant step backward.”

The geography is also questionable. The federal recovery effort for gray
wolves set minimum goals for territory in the West, in two distinct
pieces: the Northern Rockies and Arizona/New Mexico (where the effort is
backing reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves). Even if wolves in the
Northern Rockies are taken off the Endangered Species list, the wolves in
the Southwest would continue to be protected.

But as wolves spread into other states such as Colorado and Oregon, the
feds say they won’t be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Defenders
of Wildlife believes that wolves in any state should be federally
protected until they get established. Otherwise, “we have not allowed wolf
recovery to play itself out,” says Snape.

“There is no way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can say its job is
done in the West,” says Brad Bartlett, a board member of Sinapu, a
Colorado group that wants wolves established there. The feds “are required
to conserve the species throughout its historic range. Those words are
written right into the (Endangered Species) Act.”

Hardline wolf advocates are likely to challenge the feds and/or the states
with lawsuits over this next phase of wolf management, which makes the
future all the more murky.

The wolf recovery program is changing into “a killing program,” warns Jon
Marvel, head of the Western Watersheds Project based in Hailey, Idaho. The
Project already has a lawsuit going against the U.S. Forest Service,
charging that wolves should take precedence over livestock grazing in the
Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The Watersheds Project has proposed using the federal budget to buy out
all public lands ranchers in the West. Wolves are one tool in the group’s
toolbox against ranching. “The issue is much broader,” says Marvel. “Why
should ranchers be the determinant of public policy on public lands?
Livestock are the problem. Wolves are not the problem.”

Ninemile wolves may be next
Niemeyer’s own career demonstrates the turnabout on wolves. He put in 25
years with a different federal agency, the USDA’s Animal Damage Control
Agency (now called Wildlife Services, where Williamson works), which is
dedicated to controlling predators for ranchers. He helped develop
nonlethal methods of controlling wolves, then last year signed on with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help run the wolf recovery. He says the
job of finishing off the Whitehawk Pack gave him no pleasure, but that as
a society, we’re no longer in “the warm and fuzzy stage” of wolf recovery.

Before the Whitehawk Pack occupied the territory around and in the
Sawtooth National Recreation Area, two other packs had tried to live
there, and those wolves also were either relocated or killed due to
conflicts with livestock. More wolves are bound to move into that piece of
habitat, and the same scenario may play out again and again.

Or, another famous wolf pack may be killed off in Montana’s Ninemile
Valley, northwest of Missoula. The wolves there were featured in a
nonfiction book by well-known writer Rick Bass in 1993. They’re also the
wolves that are killing pet llamas now, and already this year the feds
have killed four in the pack.

“Wolves can live anywhere we allow them to live,” Niemeyer says. “The
whole wolf-management business is a social issue, not a biological issue.”

Niemeyer hopes for the day when anything that happens to a wild wolf won’t
automatically turn into a news headline. The government assigns a number
to each wolf, and “we strongly discourage people from naming these wolves.
Then it’s like killing Fifi or Fluffy,” Niemeyer says. “That complicates
it.” The alpha female that led the Whitehawk Pack was “an extremely pretty
animal, uniquely white,” he says, but he thinks it’s too bad that some
wolf lovers named her Alabaster.

Jon Marvel is among those who believe wolf management has gone way too
far. Any wolf that has a number or a radio collar or a name, “it’s not
even a wolf anymore,” he says. “It’s a recipe for destroying wildness.
It’s a semi-domesticated animal. We might as well call it livestock.”

But Niemeyer keeps coming back to the basic goal, saying everyone should
focus on “all the wolves we’ve saved.” He hopes the level of rhetoric will
continue to drop. “We’ve got to get away from the name-calling and get the
humanity back in this business.”

Ray Ring is Northern Rockies editor for High Country News.
Rocky Barker, who covers the environment for the Idaho Statesman in Boise,
contributed to this story.

YOU CAN CONTACT …

  • a.. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a central archive on wolf recovery,
    www.r6.fws.gov/wolf, or contact Ed Bangs, in Helena, Mont., 406/449-5225, ext. 204, or ed_bangs@fws.gov;

  • b.. Defenders of Wildlife, Suzanne Laverty, Boise, Idaho, 208/424-9385;

  • c.. National Wildlife Federation, Tom France, Missoula, Mont.,
    406/721-6705;

  • d.. Western Watersheds Project, Jon Marvel, Hailey, Idaho, 208/788-2290,
    www.westernwatersheds.org;

  • e.. Wolf Recovery Foundation, Ralph Maughan, www.forwolves.org, exec@forwolves.org.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 25

Wolf attack of pack horse leaves questions unanswered

Wolf attack of pack horse leaves questions unanswered

By BUZZY HASSRICK

Three weeks after being attacked by four wolves above Pahaska Tepee, a
pack horse returned to the trail last weekend.

Randy Blackburn said the wolves scraped and punctured the horse’s hide but
left vital organs untouched.

Wildlife Services agents who investigated the incident for U.S. Fish and
Wildlife found “no injuries to the horse”and saw no scraping of the hide,
said Mike Jimenez of Lander, wolf project leader in Wyoming.

Blackburn said he aided the horse’s recovery by pumping it full of
penicillin. He said the animal was “pretty stove up” from the encounter.

The incident occurred May 6 near the confluence of Red Creek with the
North Fork. Blackburn was on horseback leading a pack horse up the trail
when a herd of elk came galloping down the trail past him.

From his experience he expected to see a grizzly, not wolves, chasing the
elk. The wolves ran by his horse and, instead of pursuing the elk,
targeted his pack horse.

The wolves began biting the horse “while I still held the rope,” Blackburn
recalled.

The pack horse jerked the lead rope out of Blackburn’s hand. Reaching for
his rifle, he realized he’d tied it into the scabbard.

“I don’t usually do that,” he said, vowing never to do it again.

Blackburn had his hands full trying to quiet his mount. That accomplished,
he went to find the pack horse and discovered an animal wounded but not
fatally.

Blackburn figured the wolves saw the pack horse as an elk.

“We were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

But there’s no right place or time for wolves in his opinion. Blackburn
said he wishes no wolves were around.

“I’m on record as opposing re-introduction,” he said.

But the wolves are there and are protected on public land unless they’re
threatening human safety, Jimenez said.

People can shoot wolves on private land only if they’re attacking domestic
animals, which doesn’t include pets, he noted.

Jimenez said he finds Blackburn’s theory about the wolves seeing his pack
horse as an elk “possible.” The incident marks the first time he’s heard
of wolves attacking a pack horse.

“It’s unusual for wolves to mess with horses,” Jimenez said.

He’s heard of wolves spooking or chasing horses, and his records show
three colts and one horse killed in the last 3-4 years.

“I don’t dispute” Blackburn’s story, Jimenez said.

In incidents between wolves and domestic animals, Jimenez explained,
Wildlife Services handles the investigations. Agents in the Casper office
did not return phone calls from the Enterprise.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 25

Pack kills prolific wolf No. 7

Pack kills prolific wolf No. 7

By MIKE STARK
Gazette Wyoming Bureau

Wolf No. 7 had a rough start.

As a pup in 1994 near Hinton, Alberta, Canada, she got snagged in a
trapper’s snare that looped around her neck. Game managers found her that
way and fitted her with a radio collar. The tracking device turned No. 7
into a “Judas” – a term researchers use for wolves that lead them to the
rest of their pack.

Members of the pack, including No. 7 and her mother, were transported to
Yellowstone National Park in the winter of 1995 as part of the effort to
reintroduce gray wolves to the Northern Rockies.

No. 7′s mother went on to become the park’s most famous wolf, No. 9, the
queen of the Rose Creek Pack and the most influential contributor to the
park wolves’ gene pool.

No. 7 didn’t do too badly, either. She started the park’s first naturally
forming pack and produced seven litters as the alpha female of the Leopold
Pack.

“She came from a rude beginning in Canada and ended up in wolf paradise in
Yellowstone,” said Doug Smith, the park’s lead wolf biologist. “Her
imprint in the park was huge.”

On May 13, No. 7 was found dead on the Blacktail Deer Plateau. She was 8.

A preliminary necropsy indicated that other wolves probably killed No. 7,
Smith said.

“She was historic in that she was one of the first wolves brought in, so
it’s kind of the end of an era,” Smith said.

No. 7, No. 9 and No. 10, the alpha male, started the Rose Creek Pack
shortly after coming to Yellowstone. The male was illegally killed a few
months later and No. 7 set out on her own.

She spent eight months wandering as a yearling until she took up with a
male known as No. 2, who was also one of the wolves brought to the park in
1995.

“That was the start of the first natural pack here,” Smith said.

Wolf packs usually are named after their geographic territory. But No. 7′s
pack was named for conservationist Aldo Leopold, who in 1944 called for
the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. It seemed appropriate to name
the park’s first natural pack after him, Smith said.

“Yellowstone National Park is a place of great history,” he said. “We
decided to commemorate that pack.”

No. 7 played a significant role in naturally boosting the wolf population
in the region. Smith estimates that she gave birth to 35-40 pups in seven
litters.

Wolf managers initially thought it would take three or four years of
importing wolves from Canada to establish the Northern Rockies population.
They cut it down to two years, in part, because of the breeding success of
No. 7, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

“They did their thing just like they were supposed to,” Bangs said. “After
that, we thought, you know these wolves are gonna do just fine.”

By all accounts, No. 7 was a successful wolf. Aside from being one of the
longtime breeders, she never strayed outside the park and never attacked
private livestock.

“She never stepped foot outside of the park. Her territory was 100 percent
in the park. Not 99 percent but 100 percent,” Smith said.

With No. 7 at the helm, the Leopold Pack eventually became one of the most
stable in Yellowstone. Fourteen members of the pack were documented in
January.

Smith thinks she was probably killed by a subgroup of the burgeoning Druid
Peak Pack, which had moved to territory next to the Leopold Pack. It’s
unclear whether No. 7 was alone when she was killed. Smith suspects the
attack was part of a pack rivalry, in which leaders are the first targets.

“When wolves go to war, they typically go after the most important members
of the pack, and she was the anchor,” Smith said.

No. 7 had recently given birth to pups, which were probably still in
transition from mother’s milk to solid food, Smith said.

“At this point, we think the pups survived,” he said.

No. 7′s death edges the park nearer to closing a key chapter in the
history of reintroduced wolves there. With No. 9 missing and presumed
dead, only one wolf now survives of the 14 that were brought to the park
in 1995. And only one wolf from the 1996 shipment is still alive.

No. 9 and No. 7 “had a significant role in wolf recovery,” Smith said.
“They were centerpieces to the population.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 24

Ranchers sue over wolves

Ranchers sue over wolves

By Tom Jackson King, Managing Editor

A coalition of rural Southwestern groups has filed a 60-day notice of
intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “violations of the
Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act” during
the wolf reintroduction program.

The first official word of the groups’ intent to sue USFWS came in a
Friday news release from the agency.

The May 17 news release says, “The Coalition of Arizona and New Mexico
Counties for Stable Economic Growth, the New Mexico Cattle Growers
Association and the Gila Forest Permittees have filed a 60-day notice for
violations of the Endangered Species Act and the national Environmental
Policy Act relating to the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf into the
Southwestern United States.”

The notice claims the agency is allowing wolves to interbreed with other
canines such as dogs, creating wolf-hybrids that are allegedly a danger to
rural residents and a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Greenlee
County is a member of the coalition.

The five-year, $9 million federal and state program to reintroduce up to
100 Mexican gray wolves into the national forests of eastern Arizona and
western New Mexico is in its fourth year with living wolf numbers — as
counted by radio collars — standing at 19, out of scores of captive-bread
and forest-born wolves known to have been reintroduced.

The program has drawn intense criticism from rural ranchers, farmers and
elected officials for its alleged failure, the cost of the program, the
intrusion of federal rules into legally permitted grazing activities and
an alleged lack of communication with rural people most directly affected
by the introduction of a canine predator into forests used for multiple
purposes. Environmental groups such as the Center for Biological
Diversity, Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife been just as critical.
They have urged the USFWS to “just let the wolves be wolves” with a
minimal amount of human interference, to stop relocating wolves that
attack cattle and to require that ranchers remove dead cattle from
national forest public land so as to stop wolf scavenging of cattle
carcasses.

Laura Schneberger, a Winston, N.M. rancher who heads the Gila Forest
Permittees, says recent genetic testing of Mexican gray wolves is in
response to the group’s lawsuit filing.

“FWS is hardly checking the gene pool of the Pipestem litter because they
want to find out the truth. The fact is, they were served with a 60-day
notice of intent last month because of the hybrid problem,” she said.

“It was filed by the Coalition of Counties, livestock organizations and
hunting interests. After the Pipestem puppies turned up looking like
hybrids, they (USFWS) decided they had finally better deal with it,”
Schneberger said.

“If these pups turn out to be hybrids . . . it is a take of an endangered
species, according to the ESA. Worse than the shootings that have taken
place. Destroying an individual is not as serious as allowing a species to
deteriorate,” she said. “By the way, the pup in question has spots and is
lightly colored. Nothing like it should be (existing). Animals like wolf
hybrids don’t just show up.”

Some wolves may even be a hazard to other wolves. If some recently born
Pipestem wolf pups show a mixed wolf-dog pedigree, the hybrid pups will
have to be destroyed.

Elizabeth Slown, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque USFWS office, said ,
“We would euthanize them. We use the term euthanize the hybrids. We
consider hybrids a problem.”

Problems with the genetic purity of Mexican gray wolves, with putting
captive-bred wolves into forests and the low survival rate of wolves in
the wild were predicted by the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association four years
ago in a Dec. 3, 1998, position paper. The paper came out eight months
after the first release of wolves.

“The preferred wild prey base has been declining in the area for several
years . . . Many questions about the genetic purity and health of the
captive Mexican gray wolves still exist . . . The wolves have been raised
in captivity and are ill-prepared to survive in the wild,” the paper said.

“While the organization has never opposed a valid, scientific
reintroduction program that had a chance of success, we have felt all
along that this specific program was ill-advised. The program, as
circumstances have proven, is not in the best interest of the local
residents, ranching families, the general public or the wolves themselves.
The wolves have been trapped, drugged, caged, relocated and starved,” the
ACA statement said.

With live radio-collared wolf numbers declining from a high of 30 or more
a year ago to 19 in April, calls for Arizona to pull out of the federal
program have increased.

Democratic Rep. Bobby Lugo (District 8) represents part of Greenlee County
and Cochise County in the state House of Representatives. When asked at a
Duncan town hall meeting Feb. 15 if he favored Arizona pulling out from
the program, Lugo said, “Yes, that’s what the constituents want. In cases
like this, I go talk to the people that are affected by that issue. I
think they (rural voters) want Arizona to pull out.”

Hector Ruedas, a Greenlee County supervisor who attended a town hall
meeting April 26 in Reserve, N.M., that was hosted by USFWS, said rural
residents are unhappy with the program and its impact on their lives.

“We don’t want the wolf in our area. People are suffering already. It’s
had a big economic impact on our area. I can tell you for sure the people
in New Mexico in Catron County don’t want the wolf,” he said.

Caren Cowan, spokesperson for the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association,
has previously said moving wolves into the Gila Wilderness didn’t prevent
conflicts between wolves and livestock.

“It’s not solving the problem. We are opposed to these releases and we
continue to be opposed to any future releases,” she said.

Wolf supporters have been equally vocal in their support for the
reintroduction of a “keystone predator” back into the natural ecosystems
of the Apache National Forest and Gila Wilderness.

Bob Ferris, vice president of species conservation for Defenders of
Wildlife, has argued for a great expansion of the wolf release area beyond
the two federal forest areas.

“We already think the experimental area is too small. We think the amount
of land allowed wolves to roam challenges the survival of the wolves. We
do believe every effort should be made to allow wolves to recolonize
federal public lands. I would like to see more reintroductions, both in
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and in Gila National Forest,” he said in
July 2000.

“There are more opportunities for reintroduction out there, away from
major cattle herds, on public lands. We do think wolves should be
represented throughout the ecosystem. Our concern in the Southwest is we
would like to see more habitats opening up in Mexico and Texas, in
addition to Arizona and New Mexico. We’re asking for seven to eight
percent of the historic range. We’re not looking to return North America
to precolonial times,” Ferris said.

The Center for Biological Diversity isn’t happy with the efforts of BLM
and the Forest Service to safeguard wolves. The May 17 USFWS release says:

“The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a 60-day notice of intent
to sue the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for
violation of the Endangered Species Act for failing to take measures
(i.e., removal of livestock carcasses and /or render them unpalatable)
that would prevent Mexican wolves from feeding on livestock carcasses,
thus leading to the wolves’ removal from the wild,” it said.

USFWS wolf program manager Brian Kelly has previously addressed the issue
of wolf deaths and dead livestock left where wolves can find the
carcasses.

“One thing we do is to remove carcasses from the road in an area where we
know wolves are present. Wolves do better in areas with less roads. That’s
one of the beauties of our reintroduction area in both Arizona and New
Mexico,” Kelly said.

As for the apparently high wolf and pup death rates in the wild, Kelly
said, “I suspect we’ll see more mortalities because the short
two-year-olds are more likely to be moving around. It’s like leaving home
– your defenses are down. It’s complicated by our using captive-born
wolves. There is a naivetZ on their part. I think it’s doing well, when
you look at the number of wolves out there.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 23

Constant meddling not doing nature any good

Constant meddling not doing nature any good

By Curt Andersen
News-Chronicle

With all the fur flying about chronic wasting disease, a neurological
disease that weakens our whitetail deer herd, I wondered why this problem
arose in the first place. By chance, I again watched the movie “Never Cry
Wolf” and, a few weeks later, read the Farley Mowat book for the first
time. Both the book and the video are excellent for all age levels, though
the video may be hard to find.

In this true story, a Canadian researcher was sent to Northern Manitoba to
study why the caribou herd was disappearing. Canadian trappers reported
that wolves were viciously killing large numbers of caribou, then leaving
the carcasses to rot, with no feeding whatsoever.

Mowat, a biologist, flew into the frozen wilderness, where he set up camp
and began his study. He was fortunate to meet two Innuit natives, who
helped him with his research. One of them, Ootek, tells him the timeless
Innuit story about how the Creator gave the caribou to feed the people.
The herd grew and grew, making life easy for the Innuit. Then, however,
the herd began to die out. That was when the Creator gave the wolf to
maintain the health of the caribou herd by culling the weak.

Mowat’s study found that the wolves did not kill wantonly, as reported.
(That remains the hobby of mankind.) The wolves killed just enough to feed
themselves. Actually, trappers and hunters were killing enormous numbers
of caribou to feed their dog teams. Even more important, trappers and
hunters were killing wolves in large numbers, to get their valuable pelts.
Fewer wolves meant the sick and inbred could multiply, making the entire
herd more susceptible to disease.

Mankind has continually meddled with natural systems that have taken eons
to evolve. I am not saying that by killing the wolves, we brought this
whitetail crisis to a peak. I am saying that we have given the sick
animals an easy go at reproducing and infecting others of their kind, and
maybe even mankind.

We began the elimination of Wisconsin’s wolves more than 80 years ago. At
that time, farmers and ranchers were worried about depredation of their
farm animals. Biologists of the time, with no real research, took the easy
out and killed the wolves instead of developing better fences.

We let whitetail numbers rise to current levels, much higher than before
the white man began to despoil this land. The larger numbers of deer are
putting enormous pressure on available food supplies, such that they are
eating everything, even tomato plants, which used to be thought of as
toxic, especially in suburban areas.

People are feeding the deer, whether it is to bring them near a window
where they can be watched or in feeding stations by hunters, who hope to
make a kill more likely. Because deer leave saliva and phlegm on the
apples, grain, or corn, these stations are spreading the disease.

There is an old saw that states, “When you’re not happy with how something
is working, you fool with it until you break it or fix it.”

We broke it. Now we’ve gotta fix it. The large numbers of deer that made
it almost easy to get one during hunting season may prove to be the
undoing of the entire herd.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 17

State, feds: Wolf-elk data not suppressed

State, feds: Wolf-elk data not suppressed

05/17/02
By SCOTT McMILLION Chronicle Staff Writer

Rep. Joe Balyeat, R-Belgrade, maintains federal
officials “aggressively barred” state wildlife
managers from releasing information about how many elk
calves the wolves of Yellowstone National Park have
been killing.

However, both state and federal officials say Balyeat
has it wrong.

The dispute centers around biological field work done
in the park between late 1997 and early 1999 by Carrie
Schaefer, a graduate student from Michigan
Technological University.

Part of Fisher’s work included calculating the ratio
of calves per 100 elk cows in occupied wolf territory
in the park’s Lamar Valley.

That ratio, normally an esoteric figure discussed
mostly by biologists, has attracted increasing
attention recently as people debate the impact of
wolves on elk herds in and around the park.

A rule of thumb is that a calf/cow ratio of about 30
is necessary to sustain an elk herd.

Schaefer’s study, in relatively small areas with lots
of wolves, found that the ratio ranged from zero to 13
during her study.

Biologists from the National Park Service and the
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks began
discussing Schaefer’s findings late in 1998, and
exchanged a series of memos and letters.

Balyeat maintains wolves will decimate the elk herds
and points to Schaefer’s findings, and the discussion
over how to use them, as evidence for immediate
removal of wolves from the list of endangered species.

He has sent a guest editorial to newspapers accusing
the Park Service of trying to bury the information.

“When FWP personnel attempted to release this evidence
to the public, the feds aggressively barred FWP from
doing so,” he wrote in the editorial.

That’s not what happened, according to Pat Flowers,
FWP regional director in Bozeman.

“The answer is no,” he said Wednesday.

Rather, the dispute boils down to who owned the data,
he said.

Glenn Plumb, a supervisory biologist in Yellowstone,
wrote to FWP in February 1999 saying the data “do not
warrant full distribution to the public,” which is
what FWP had asked for, without further analysis and
interpretation.

On March 18, 1999, he wrote to FWP biologist Tom Lemke
and said if he wanted Schaefer’s data he should ask
her professor for it.

FWP did so, and Professor Rolf Peterson, a well-known
wolf expert, promptly sent it to FWP.

“They sent it to us right away,” Flowers said.

Tom Oliff, chief of natural resources in Yellowstone,
said the Park Service didn’t release the data because
it belonged to somebody else.

“If I ask you if I can borrow your neighbor’s car,
you’re not going to go find the keys,” Oliff said.
“You’re going to tell me to go ask your neighbor.”

Schaefer’s numbers were included in one Park Service
report, but Plumb said that was a mistake.

Still, Schaefer’s numbers raised questions at FWP,
which caused an exchange of letters questioning why
Schaefer’s data showed numbers so much lower than the
ratios for the overall Northern Yellowstone elk herd.

The March 1998 calf/cow ratio for the overall herd was
22, while Schaefer’s numbers, gathered in areas with
lots of wolves, ranged from five to 10.

The March 1999 overall ratio was 33, while Schaefer’s
numbers ranged from zero to 13.

Balyeat maintains this was deliberate obfuscation.

“And they were able to hide this striking wolf
predation in the annual reports because they only gave
averages for the entire northern herd when the zero
calf ratios in high wolf areas were averaged with the
46 calf ratios from elsewhere,” he wrote. “The average
was still up near the 30 calf ratio needed to sustain
herd viability.”

Lemke said in an April 5 , 2002, letter to Rep. Dan
Fuchs, R-Billings, that Schaefer’s numbers differed
from the numbers for the overall herd because the two
counts employed different counting methods.

Schaefer counted elk from the ground and a fixed-wing
airplane. The overall survey was done from a
helicopter, which provides a “more realistic” figure,
Lemke wrote.

Plus, Schaefer looked at relatively small areas. The
overall survey counted elk from the Lamar Valley
almost all the way to Emigrant, in Paradise Valley.

Rather than a cover up, Lemke’s letter said the
questions evoked by Schaefer’s count, and ensuing
discussions, resulted in “good discussions and better
communications.”

Balyeat said the difference in ratios is too large –
less than 10 in areas with wolves and up to 46 in
areas with no wolves — to be accounted for by
different counting methods. And though the information
was given to FWP, it was never widely disseminated.

Federal officials “were at least attempting to keep
this evidence of extremely low calf ratios from
widespread public consumption,” he said in an
interview.

Balyeat maintains that Schaefer’s findings bode ill
for elk herds and human hunters because wolves are
claiming more territory outside the park every year.

“That’s a valid question,” Flowers said. “But I think
we don’t know the answer to it yet.”

Ongoing research projects in the upper Madison and
Gallatin valleys are trying to provide hard data,
Flowers said.

But as far as cooperation with the Park Service goes,
he said, in this issue “ultimately we were satisfied.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 17

Healthy wolf pups born

Healthy wolf pups born

By Tom Jackson King, Managing Editor

After a long drought, there is finally some good news
to report about the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction
program — seven wolf pups were born to the Pipestem
Pack in southwestern New Mexico, they were captured
May 5 and all are healthy.

The bad news side of the coin is that the pups’
parents, alpha male 190 and alpha female 628, have a
three-time losing streak of killing local cattle.

The history of cattle attacks by the parents of the
wolf pups puts into question where the seven-member
family can be relocated to once the family is reunited
are by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel.

The intent of the five-year, $9 million program is to
put 100 endangered Mexican gray wolves into federal
forests in Arizona and New Mexico, and the birth of
pups in the wild is a milestone toward that objective.
Since the death rate for wolf pups born in the wild
during the first three years of the program has ranged
from 50 to 80 percent, the capture of seven new-born
pups means all seven might survive to yearling status.

Elizabeth Slown, public affairs specialist for USFWS,
said the pups “are healthy and are under the care of
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in
Albuquerque. The pups are responding well to a formula
diet.”

Slown said agency field biologists have tried to
capture the parents, including a helicopter-assisted
capture effort Friday, May 10, which was successful.

“They got the female at 10:30 and the male at 11:30.
They did it with a net gun. The pack will be reunited
at the wolf facility at Sevilleta National Wildlife
Refuge near San Acacia, N.M.,” she said. “The pups are
on their way there too.”

Brian Kelly, Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for
USFWS, said the agency is doing a blood analysis on
all seven pups to determine their pedigree — whether
they all have the same father.

“The coloring on one pup is not consistent with what
we expect of Mexican gray wolves,” he said.

Slown said the pedigree evaluation of the pups is
vital to the program’s success. “We’re looking at
their pedigree, their bloodline. We consider hybrids a
problem. We hope we’ll have the blood analysis done by
the end of this week,” she said.

USFWS has itself raised the issue of wolf-dog hybrids
being present in the Gila Wilderness and Apache
National Forest. It has blamed hybrids for some
attacks on livestock and some of the threatening
behavior towards humans. However, the agency admits
some wolf packs develop into problem packs that have a
habit of preying on calves and other livestock. In
those cases, the federal wolf management plan requires
the offending wolves be captured and relocated to an
area where they will be out of conflict with
livestock.

“The parents were killing cows so we had to get them
moved,” Slown said.

Kelly has said it is vitally important to train
new-born wolf pups to rely on natural prey food, such
as deer and elk, rather than on livestock. The capture
and removal of the seven wolf pups not only greatly
increases the likelihood of their survival to
maturity, but it also removes them from exposure to
parents that attack and feed on cattle.

Whether parents and pups can “go straight” in the
future and rely on wild prey remains to be seen.

There could be several more births of wolf pups in the
wild within the next few weeks. Kelly said wolf
females normally birth their litters of 4-6 pups in
mid-April to mid-May.

A report issued by USFWS says alpha females are
thought to be denning — presumably with pups — in
the Saddle Pack, Cienega Pack, Gapiwi Pack and Luna
Pack groups. Two packs are based mainly in Arizona
while two are based primarily in New Mexico.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized