Dec 31

Oregon Brings Public Into Wolf Debate

Oregon Brings Public Into Wolf Debate


PORTLAND, Ore. — A wolf known as “B45″ crossed from Idaho into Oregon
in early 1999 and roamed the state’s Blue Mountains for about three weeks.

The wolf killed no livestock, but it created a high degree of anxiety
among ranchers and state leaders, who finally persuaded the federal
government to take the animal back to the official wolf recovery zone in
central Idaho.

Sound familiar?

Late last month, a wolf known as “253″ sauntered into Utah from
Yellowstone National Park, also an official wolf-recovery area. State
wildlife officials called the feds, who promptly deported the wolf to

“When I heard about the wolf in Utah, all I could think of was B45 and
the month I spent on the phone,” says Mark Henjum of Oregon’s Department
of Fish and Wildlife.

In 2000, at least two more central Idaho wolves forded the Snake River
into Oregon. One was shot illegally; the other was hit by a car.

Like Oregon, Utah now finds itself having to deal with a predator once
exterminated for the benefit of ranchers and hunters. The wolf could be
removed from the endangered species list as early as next year. After
that, states outside the federal recovery zone of Montana, Idaho and
Wyoming can determine on their own how to manage the wolf.

In Oregon, state wildlife officials have just wrapped up 14 “wolf town
hall meetings” around the state to solicit public comments on how the
state should proceed in managing wolves. Earlier this year, the state Fish
and Wildlife Commission held fact-finding hearings at which wolf experts
were invited to testify.

Utah has no immediate plans to reach out to the public on the wolf
issue. Utah wildlife officials say they are awaiting direction from the
Legislature, which generally backs livestock and hunting interests on
issues involving predators.

Having attracted 1,600 people, Oregon’s town hall meetings have been
prime opportunity to bring diverse viewpoints to the table and get people
talking to each other,” says Nancy Weiss, Oregon representative of
Defenders of Wildlife, the principal nongovernmental organization backing
wolf recovery in the United States.

On a rain-soaked night in mid-December, more than 200 people showed up
to participate in a town hall meeting in Portland.

Oregon wildlife officials presented an overview of the state’s wolf
history and issues, then took questions, which ranged from wolves’ impact
on livestock and game, to the cost of wolf management.

The crowd then divided into seven groups to give participants a chance
to voice comments and concerns — input that eventually will be used by
Oregon’s wildlife commission in developing a wolf management plan.

While too early to speculate on the specifics of the plan, Commission
Chairman John Esler says it will accommodate wolves.

“We don’t want wolves to come here, but if one has gone to the trouble
to get here, we’ll let it stay. . . . It’s a little like how [the United
States] treats Cubans.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 31

Will Utah Find Room for Wolves?

Will Utah Find Room for Wolves?


Just after sunrise on a crisp October day, elk hunter Shane Turner
scanned the forest on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains. About 80
yards out, he eyed what he thought was a coyote pouncing, probably in
pursuit of a rodent.

Turner raised his rifle and trained the scope onto the coyote,
considered a varmint in Utah.

But he did not shoot.

“It stood up broadside and looked at me. I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s
wolf.’ I stood there in disbelief. I wished I’d had a camera.”

Encountering the endangered wolf in Utah was one of the most
exhilarating experiences in his 30-plus years of traipsing the wilds, but
Turner, of Lehi, is not sure he wants wolves around. After all, they kill
livestock, and “I respect ranchers very much.”

Turner’s personal conflict about America’s most controversial predator
illustrates a larger debate emerging in Utah.

Simmering since wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National
and central Idaho — both within a wolf’s stroll of the Beehive State –
the debate heated up Nov. 30.

On that day, a coyote trapper accidentally captured a wolf that had
wandered from northeastern Yellowstone to within 25 miles of Salt Lake

It was the first confirmed wolf in Utah in more than 70 years. Experts
agree it will not be the last.

The thought of wolves from Wyoming and Idaho seeking out new territory
in Utah has energized many environmentalists and biologists, who this week
formed a coalition called the Utah Wolf Forum to encourage the state to
make room for the wolf.

The wolf, they argue, is an important part of America’s wildlife
heritage, plays a vital role in a healthy ecosystem and adds immensely to
the increasingly valuable “wilderness experience” sought by so many urban

The wolf advocates are armed with a new report from Utah State
University, which concludes that about 200 wolves could live in Utah
without causing significant problems.

Wolves also would enjoy popular support. A new Salt Lake Tribune
shows that 61 percent of Utah residents favor wolf recolonization.

“What an opportunity we have to welcome back a native Utahn and not
whine about it,” says Dick Carter, director of the High Uintas
Preservation Council, a member of the new coalition.

Not Welcomed by All: Although the Yellowstone wolf captured in Utah
month caused no mischief, livestock and hunting groups already are
rallying their forces to oppose wolf recovery in Utah.

“We’re not too thrilled about getting wolves back in here, for obvious
reasons,” says Tim Munns, president of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association,
which has passed a no-tolerance resolution toward wolves.

Don Peay, director of the Utah-based Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife,
also is unenthused.

“Utah’s wildlife are doing very well today without wolves. . . . We
don’t need them.”

Caught in the middle of this emotional conflict is the Utah Division
Wildlife Resources, which has yet to develop a long-term plan to manage

Division director Kevin Conway says his agency is in a holding pattern
pending decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Utah
Legislature, which may consider wolf measures when it convenes next month.

In early 2003, the Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to upgrade
wolf from “endangered” to “threatened.” Later in the year, it may remove
the species from the endangered species list altogether. Until that time,
the wolf will be afforded full federal protection in Utah.

There are basically four options for the state once the wolf is
from federal endangered status:

* Actively reintroduce wolves into Utah.

* Allow the wolf to recolonize in Utah naturally and unregulated. *

Allow recolonization but with active management, such as killing
wolves that cause problems.

* Ban wolves, declaring the species a varmint that can be killed at

“It would be premature on our part to start on a path where we don’t
know the end,” Conway says. “We need to know what our latitude is going to

Other states experiencing the spread of wolves from the federal
government’s official recovery zone have been more engaged in developing a
wolf management plan. Oregon, for example, just completed a series of
meetings statewide to gather facts and public comment.

In Search of Wolf Facts: As they await their marching orders, Division
Wildlife Resources officials are educating themselves about wolf issues.
For the first time, a state biologist this month traveled to the annual
meeting of the Northern Rockies wolf recovery team.

State officials also are taking a closer look at the new report by a
group of graduate students and faculty at Utah State University.

Led by Robert Schmidt, a professor in the College of Natural
the group examined wolf-related data from states where the federal
government has reintroduced wolves. Using scientific modeling, they then
applied the information to Utah’s natural and socio-economic environments.

The report estimates that Utah’s mountains, which cover about 8.8
million acres, or 16 percent of the state, could sustain at least 700
wolves. The most favorable habitats, which are in six different areas
around Utah, would support about 200 wolves.

Assuming the lower figure, the USU researchers predict annual losses
livestock would be minimal: two cattle, 116 calves and 200 sheep and
lambs, for a dollar loss of $74,040. That represents a tiny fraction of
Utah’s cattle industry, which last year grossed $376 million in sales, and
sheep industry, which last year counted 320,000 breeding animals.

Livestock losses could be offset by an environmentalist fund that
reimburses ranchers for their wolf-related losses. The fund, administered
by Defenders of Wildlife, has paid out more than $250,000 since 1987.

In central Idaho, northwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming –
the Northern Rockies federal wolf recovery effort has been focused –
wolves have killed about one-third the number of livestock that
environmental studies predicted would be lost. Ranchers counter that the
official number of livestock losses is low because many are impossible to

Wolves vs. Hunters: In addition to having little impact on Utah’s
livestock industry, the Utah State University report predicts that 200
wolves “would not significantly decrease overall [elk, deer and moose]
populations in Utah.”

Peay is not convinced.

Wolves, he says, are a direct threat to hunting in Utah.

Utah has rebuilt deer, elk and sheep herds since severe depletions of
the 1930s, Peay says, and bringing in wolves would be a big step backward.

Hunters spent $3 million buying elk habitat in the Book Cliffs. Twenty
wolves in the Book Cliffs could kill up to 400 elk and deer each year.

“Throw in a few wolf litters,” Peay says, “and in four years you’re
of elk.”

Schmidt says such claims are not based in fact.

“There is absolutely no evidence, from a big-game perspective, that
sky is falling. There is no evidence that elk will disappear.”

According to the USU report, a population of 200 wolves would kill no
more than 3,600 deer and elk a year — less than 1 percent of the current
deer and elk populations and about the same number of big game killed each
year on Utah’s highways.

The biggest threat to hunting, the report says, is that hunters might
have to work harder to bag their game. Wolves keep deer and elk herds on
the move.

In Idaho, hunting guides with permits for specific regions are
because they cannot follow herds moved by wolves. Clients paying guides
thousands of dollars expect to see elk and they do not return if they
don’t, the guides say.

The town of Gardiner, Mont., is largely dependent on elk hunting
tourism, which counts on a vast northern Yellowstone herd that biologists
say was artificially high because of an absence of wolves.

Nate Creek, 23, who helps guide elk hunters in the Gardiner area, sees
wolves constantly.

“We’ve watched wolves play for hours,” he says. “It’s really neat to
hear them howl. I love seeing them. It’s just that we depend on the elk.”

Yellowstone wolves have reduced elk herds, taking mostly older and
diseased animals, but there is no shortage of elk, says park wolf expert,
Doug Smith. Besides, many biologists say, the park’s elk herds were
unnaturally large.

At the same time, wolf packs appear to be regulating themselves. About
three dozen wolves have been killed by fellow wolves recently. Smith has
seen entire packs lying bloodied in the snow, licking their wounds from
turf wars.

Wolves also kill other predators, particularly coyotes, although they
seem to be helping grizzly bears by increasing the availability of

Who Decides: As Utah debates how to deal with the return of the wolf,
USU report urges the state to establish a “philosophically and politically
balanced wolf advisory committee,” rather than rely on Utah’s Wildlife
Board and its regional advisory councils, which guide state wildlife

Those institutions “remain largely invisible to the general public and
are weighted heavily in favor of hunting and agricultural interests.”

High Uintas Preservation Council’s Carter calls that an
understatement. “If I were a wolf, I’d run as fast as I could from a
[Division of
Wildlife Resources] truck or badge,” he says. “The [division and its
boards] will not approach wolves with much integrity.”

Hunting and livestock interests already have lobbied to keep the
within the realm of the wildlife board and the advisory councils. Conway
says he will make the same recommendation.

So, when the human whining and howling about wolves subsides, will
wolves be welcome here?

Barring an anti-wolf law from the Legislature, Conway says yes.

“I’m confident we can come up with a product that will work for all
communities. . . . You will see the wolf remain a protected species in the
state of Utah.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 30

Genes of one new wolf can rescue inbred pack

Genes of one new wolf can rescue inbred pack

Introducing one new wolf into an isolated pack can serve as a
rescue,” improving the animals’ biological fitness and helping their
population explode, scientists have found.

A research team led by Hans Ellegren of Uppsala University in Sweden
studied the DNA of an inbred wolf pack founded by a single male/female
pair. During the 1980s, the pack consisted of fewer than 10 wolves, but
their numbers exploded in 1991.

That’s when a single immigrant wolf arrived and mated successfully
into the group, the scientists reported recently in Proceedings of the
Royal Society: Biological Sciences.

Even rare intermixtures like this could be key for conserving
endangered species, the researchers say.

Alexandra Witze


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 30

State questions how to manage wolves

State questions how to manage wolves

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Wolves have begun to thrive across the West
and, just recently, they arrived inside Utah’s border, raising concerns
about how the animals should be dealt with.

Wolf recovery efforts in the United States have achieved
remarkable success. The federal government is about to upgrade the wolf’s
status from “endangered” to “threatened,” possibly removing the species
from the endangered species list altogether.

The controversy surrounding the wolf, however, continues as
environmentalists, ranchers and hunters argue over how the states should
manage the creatures, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Late last month, a 2 1/2-year-old gray wolf from Yellowstone
National Park was accidentally captured in a coyote trap less than 25
miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

The incident confirmed a decade-old prediction by biologists
that wolves from packs reintroduced in Yellowstone and the central Idaho
wilderness in the mid-1990s would eventually wander south to the deer- and
elk-rich mountains of Utah.

Now the state must decide if wolves, exterminated more than 70
years ago in Utah, should be allowed to re-establish themselves here.

In 1995, federal biologists released 31 wolves into
and 35 in central Idaho’s vast wilderness. Meanwhile, a parallel wolf
restoration program was under way in Minnesota, spreading wolf packs to
Michigan and Wisconsin.

Since then, the wolf recovery efforts have surpassed
expectations, with about 4,000 wolves now roaming the lower 48 states.
There are nearly 700 wolves in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana
and Wyoming.

By next month, the Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to upgrade
the gray wolf’s status to “threatened” from “endangered.” In the spring,
the agency plans to propose the wolf be removed from the endangered
species list.

Some environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife,
vowed to resist such an action unless more protections for the animal are
in place.

Defenders Vice President Nina Fascione said Idaho and Wyoming
continue to resist wolf recovery, and surrounding states like Washington,
Oregon and Utah — into which wolves are spreading — have no plans in
place to assure wolf survival.

Those who have lived closest to the wolf recovery effort say
there is good reason to fear wolf restoration. “The reason our ancestors
went to the length they did to exterminate it was because of how difficult
it was to deal with,” says Jerry Peterson, a Cache County sheep rancher.
“The wolf was a very aggressive predator. There is a real concern about
what happens if it is reintroduced across the country.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 30

Utah faced with wolf management

Utah faced with wolf management

Associated Press

Wolves have begun to thrive across the West and they’ve just recently
arrived inside Utah’s border – raising concerns about how the animals
should be dealt with.

The federal government is about to upgrade the wolf’s status from
“endangered’ to “threatened’ and might remove the species from the
list altogether.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that now Utah is entering the debate between
environmentalists, ranchers and hunters on how to manage the animals.

The state must decide if wolves should be allowed to re-establish
themselves there.

In 1995, federal biologists released 31 wolves into Yellowstone and 35 in
central Idaho’s vast wilderness. There are nearly 700 wolves in the
northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 30

Wolves At The Door: Ranchers Uneasy

Wolves At The Door: Ranchers Uneasy


SALMON, Idaho — In Yellowstone National Park, biologists can tell
wolves are near. The elk bunch together.

The same can be said of people living in wolf country.

Polls show most Americans are hungry to see the wolf return and to
its howl at twilight in their national forests — a powerful signal that
some past wrongs in the American West have been righted. But the sounds of
the big carnivores bring chills to the Baker family for different, more
primal reasons.

Wolves are literally at their door, and they sleep with the window
through the bitter winter nights, listening with dread.

Their 2,000 acres on the East Fork of the Salmon River became a
battleground after wolves were released into the wilderness north of here
in 1995. The Bakers’ plight became a flash point in a cultural war of Old
West versus New, galvanizing ranchers and elk hunters from central Idaho
against wolf proponents.

The Bakers’ land covers high mountain valleys that form a natural wolf
funnel of prime game habitat. Twice, wildlife officials have come in and
completely wiped out entire wolf packs, shooting them from helicopters.

The Bakers earned tremendous public enmity. The wolves, among them a
white female named Alabaster, were beloved by wildlife watchers.

Six generations of Bakers have ranched here. Photographs of bighorn
sheep and other wildlife decorate the modest living room of Dick and Betty
Baker. A 1934 black-and-white photo shows Dick at a nearby lake holding
long, thick trout.

In Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the official numbers on livestock
depredation are low — less than one-third what was predicted when the
federal government studied wolf recovery in the three states.

But ranchers say wolf kills of livestock are difficult to trace,
evidenced mostly by an absence of calves coming home after herds graze
national forests. This keeps the highly praised program of compensation by
the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife — which has paid out more
than $250,000 since 1987 — from meaning much to some ranchers, who can
rarely confirm kills in the forest.

For the Bakers, wolf attacks sometimes occur in the back yard.

Their grief started on public land, like most, as mother cows came
alone and walked around bawling for days with swollen udders and no calf.
Then, wolves started taking livestock in the valley. Wolves killed a
niece’s prize-winning sheep as it tried to hide in a herd of cattle, and a
day-old calf was killed behind the house beside a barn in a corral. One
Baker spread lost eight calves on private ground.

The White Cloud pack came first, and was exterminated after relocation
failed. The White Hawk pack moved in the next year, killing cattle as
deterrents failed.

“They really got after them with rubber bullets and helicopters and
spent a lot of money,” Dick Baker says. “Then we see wolves lay right up
there on the bench watching the cattle and waiting for dark.”

The Bakers — wildlife lovers who do not like seeing wolves shot –
praise wildlife officials for trying everything before pulling the

Fortunately, the Bakers’ troubles are an exception in an otherwise
successful story of wolf reintroduction.

In the three states targeted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for
wolf recovery, the biological goals have been met. The agency will soon
upgrade the animal’s status from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Later next year, the wolf may come off the endangered species list
altogether, depending on whether the agency decides the states can
maintain wolf numbers without federal protection.

So far, Montana and Idaho, after 17 tries, have wolf management plans
acceptable to Fish and Wildlife. Wyoming, however, is balking. Its
proposed open hunting season on the wolf outside Yellowstone and federal
wilderness areas is unacceptable, says Ed Bangs, Helena, Mont.-based
director of the federal wolf recovery effort.

Old West vs. New: The problem is animosity between the Western states
the federal government.

“Wolves biologically aren’t a big deal,” says Bob Loucks, a former
(Idaho) County commissioner and a 33-year veteran agricultural extension
agent for the University of Idaho. “Politically, they’re a huge deal, a
symbol. To the city dweller, they’re a big beautiful animal. To the
country people, it’s the goddamned federal government telling us how to
live our lives.”

Loucks knows ranching economies, and he wishes Idaho had no wolves,
he is a voice of reason in a vitriolic debate.

Salmon is a cow town, and local business is supported by ranching, not
the fleeting tourist season. The black shapes of scattered cattle fill the
valley in herds that stretch for miles. Flocks of magpies, hawks and the
occasional deer are seen in December, while elk stay high until the snow

It is the Rocky Mountain West people dream of — golden foothills
falling away from timbered mountains and a broad grassy valley with
wandering streams full of ocean-run fish. The hopes of the New West,
populated and urban, are coming back, represented by packs of wolves.

The predator has returned beyond expectations in a place where
gubernatorial candidate Cecil Andrus campaigned with a “no wolves”
platform and tried to block Fish and Wildlife planes from landing when the
agency first attempted to bring the first of 35 wolves into the state in

“The problem is [the wolves] did too damned good,” says Jay Wiley, a
rancher with 290 acres on the Salmon River. He loses calves in the forest
each year to wolves on his national forest grazing allotment north and
east of town.

“The population just exploded, and they’ve lost control,” Wiley says.
“They don’t have time, money or personnel to capture or keep collars on

Living With Wolves: Idaho wolves number about 300 now, but ranchers
hardly trust that number because only packs with radio collars can be

Mistrust of wolf advocates’ motives is as fixed as the mountains
Wiley’s ranch.

“They blew so much smoke about how they’d release them and they’d stay
in the wilderness,” he says. “It took them two days to leave Frank Church
[River of No Return Wilderness] and kill a calf on private ground in Iron
Creek. They did exactly what we said they would do and the opposite of
what the wolf people said they would do.”

Loucks predicts wolves will have “tremendous impact on a few ranchers
and a few elk herds. A few elk hunting guides will go out of business. But
overall there will be very little impact. Individual ranchers will have to
be bought out of [grazing] allotments, and a few wolves will have to be
killed. Wolves will simply never be able to exist in areas with
concentrations of livestock.”

But few ranchers are losing livestock to wolves, and depredation is
actually lower than wolf advocates expected.

And although elk numbers are down in some areas around Salmon, hunters
still harvest more elk annually than made up the total elk population
before the 1970s.

Wolves and ranchers can co-exist in the West, Loucks says.

“You don’t have to kill them all, just make them scared of people.”

‘Getting out’: Wiley counts himself lucky. His neighbor John Aldous
two dozen calves grazing public land last year — about $12,000 worth –
in a business that has not seen a real price increase in decades. Aldous
says that with sage grouse and bull trout headed for endangered listing
and weak beef prices, his wolf loss is pushing his operation over the

“I’m looking at getting out. They should never have brought [wolves]
here,” Aldous says. “I’ll have to sell my place and help make this look
like Sun Valley.”

Nationally, public lands grazing receives little sympathy, and Aldous
knows it. But outsiders should care because subdivisions will replace
ranches, Wiley says.

The New West is breathing down their neck, with trophy homes sprouting
like mushrooms on the benches. A development near his house is home to a
California cellular phone businessman, a banker, a government worker and
someone who works in Antarctica.

“They’re good people,” Wiley says, “but they’re all cow haters, and
we have [domestic] dogs running the hell out of our cows.” Aldous’ land
was homesteaded by his family 110 years ago. His son, John Junior is
making a go of ranching but without high hopes.

“It’s a business of such tight margins you throw in wolves and that
kill your operation,” he says.

The Jureano wolf pack eats his calves in the mountains and is
after almost being killed off. Ranchers will not do the same, he says. His
brother, Jacob, fixes cars and sees ranching as a losing bet.

“I don’t think anybody will make it, to tell you the truth,” Jacob
says. Calves that are not killed on the Aldous allotments sometimes
come out
of the woods with their rear ends torn out, hideous wounds filled with
maggots. Rarely are they saved. Ranchers say they are victims of wolf pups
training to hunt.

Pawn in a Larger War: Still, most ranchers do not hate wolves. Almost
say the wolf would have returned on its own terms. They say these
“natural” wolves would have been better accepted and possess a stronger
fear of people. Instead, a bigger, badder animal from Alberta with no fear
of people was introduced, not for the wolves’ sake, the ranchers say, but
to get cattle off public land.

Biologists say natural recolonization would not have occurred for
decades, if ever.

An anti-wolf sign outside the River of No Return taxidermy shop on
Street in Salmon shows a ghoulish wolf with a red cross-out across its
face above words telling sandal-wearing, Subaru-driving, ponytailed people
to get lost.

The shop’s owner, Dan Hooper, a burly elk hunter, sells a lot of the
signs. Elk hunting is big business in the West, and those invested in
hunting do not like competing with an old predator.

The days of huge elk herds may be ebbing, but the bottom line is that
elk and wolves coexisted for eons, says biologist Isaac Babcock, who
worked for the Nez Perce tribe, which stepped in to help administer wolf
recovery in Idaho after the state refused. “Wolves just generate animosity
or love from people.”

Counting Sheep: Lava Lake Land and Livestock company is trying to live
with predators while grazing sheep on 24,000 acres in central Idaho.
Biologist Mike Stevens is chief manager of the company, formed in 1999
from five historic Hailey-Ketchum area ranches.

Lava has suffered two wolf attacks. A pack killed 14 animals over
nights in June. Then, shortly after, a wolf killed two lambs near a

“We’re new at this,” Stevens says, “but we want to stay away from

Sheep flock tightly but are easy to kill.

Can a sheep rancher live with wolves?

“There is a good incentive to do so, with predator-friendly
Stevens says. “Organic, predator-friendly lamb” has a nice ring, and
Stevens hopes to accomplish that by knowing where the wolves are, keeping
a herder with the sheep at all times, and using herding dogs and Great
Pyrenees, 130-pound guard dogs.

People living in wolf country face another issue: fear, though
documented wolf attacks on people in North America are almost nonexistent.

Idaho state Sen. Brad Little argues that people are in more danger
wolf-chased elk crossing the road than from actual attacks by the
reclusive carnivores.

A rancher heavily engaged in the wolf debate, he found a drowned,
problem wolf tangled in a leg-trap chain in a creek on his land.

“It was this big, beautiful silver wolf, just a gorgeous animal,” he
says. “A big son of a gun, big paws.”

But the romance of the wolf soon wanes.

“My in-laws have lost well over a hundred head of sheep,” Little says.
“My wife and kids slept out with my in-laws’ sheep one night to try and
keep the wolves out. Two wolves came in and killed sheep while they were

Living With Wolves: Gathering shed antlers is a huge esteem-booster and
moneymaker for Salmon kids, but Melanie Baker, Dick and Betty Baker’s
daughter, will not let her children do it anymore based on reports of
wolves showing aggression around their kills. Another friend packs a gun
while cross-country skiing, at the insistence of her husband, who had a
run-in with snarling wolves on a kill.

“A lot of people in our area are very fearful,” Melanie Baker says.
“Last Monday a gal who lives near here said the wolves killed an elk calf
where she walks and she was scared to go up there now.”

At the Bakers’ spread, ranch hands are dreading spring. The wolves do
the most damage in April, and they are certain a new pack is forming in
the ridges above their home because hunters have seen them. Wolves killed
a deer 40 yards from their porch last January.

“It’s a lot of no sleep, and it ain’t too fun to see how them little
calves is chewed up,” Dick Baker says. “The cows start bellowing in the
middle of the night, and the sons-a-bitches are barking and growling and
the cows are all herded up.”

The bedroom window will stay open well into spring.


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 29

Timber wolves may be on move

Timber wolves may be on move

By Jim Lee
Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers

JUNCTION CITY – As Wisconsin’s timber wolf population expands, it appears
packs are ready to establish a growing presence in central Wisconsin where
conditions permit.

One of the latest reports of wolves taking up residency outside documented
regions of pack activity comes from Mead Wildlife Area, a 28,000-acre
state-owned property along the Marathon-Portage-Wood county lines between
Wausau, Stevens Point and Marshfield.

Terry Lane, a rural Mosinee resident, said he first spotted wolf tracks at
Mead in early December while hunting with his dog a day after his brother
reported hearing wolves howling in the vicinity.

Lane said he returned more than a week later and found wolf runways,
tracks and scat.

“I followed tracks for about 1½ hours,” he said. “I jumped both of the
wolves out of their beds. I didn’t see them. They winded me before I could
get close.”

Lane relayed his findings to officials at Mead. If verified, it could be
the first wolf pack to establish a territory in Marathon and Portage

“We’ve been aware that wolves might be present at Mead since last winter,”
said Bill Hirt, a DNR wildlife technician at Mead. “We’ve had reports from
a couple different people – credible sources – that they have seen a wolf
or signs of a wolf.

“We haven’t confirmed that wolves are present. We plan to do some howling
surveys this winter to see if we can get an answer.”

He added that department personnel also will search for tracks and other
evidence of wolf activity.

Mead is a popular public hunting area adjacent to farmland and rural
sprawl from nearby urban communities. It draws its largest crowds during
the waterfowl and gun deer seasons.

Lane said he found wolf sign concentrated around a large spruce swamp
“where the trees are so thick in some places you can’t fall down. It’s a
wild swamp full of all kinds of endangered plants. It’s a special place.
When you go in there, it’s like going into a different world.”

The bog-like swamp, which is more than a mile long and a half-mile wide,
is nearly impassible.

Hunters usually keep to the fringes, thus leaving the center as a natural

A recent DNR report estimates the state contained a minimum of 339 wolves
during the winter period a year ago, a population that was expanding at a
rate of 25 percent.


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 29

Return of the Wolf — Part 1

Return of the Wolf


They began life abandoned and adrift on the Tiber River until a
plucked them from the water and suckled them to health.

Remus and Romulus later went on to found Rome.

Italians still honor the legend with the expression in bocca al lupo,
“in the mouth of the wolf,” which means “good luck.”

While being in a wolf’s mouth may have been fortunate for the future
Romans, being a wolf these past couple of millennia has been far from
lucky. Despised by a Euro-American culture that equated the creature to
Satan, the wolf has been hunted, trapped, poisoned, even dynamited.

“We not only killed them, we tortured them,” says Yellowstone wolf
expert Doug Smith. “We hated this animal.”

Today, however, the wolf is making a comeback. Wolf recovery efforts
the United States have achieved remarkable success. The federal government
is about to upgrade the wolf’s status from “endangered” to “threatened,”
possibly removing the species from the endangered species list altogether.
The controversy surrounding the wolf, however, will endure as
environmentalists, ranchers and hunters argue over how the states — who
will become “owners” of the wolves — should manage the creatures.

Utah just became part of the fray.

Late last month, a 2 1/2-year-old gray wolf from Yellowstone National
Park was accidentally captured in a coyote trap less than 25 miles
northeast of Salt Lake City. A companion’s prints were found nearby.

The incident confirmed a decade-old prediction by biologists that
from packs reintroduced in Yellowstone and the central Idaho wilderness in
the mid-1990s would eventually wander south to the deer- and elk-rich
mountains of Utah.

Adam Kozlowski, sensitive species coordinator for the Utah Division of
Wildlife Resources, was one of the first wildlife officers to see the
captured wolf, which roamed more than 200 miles before reaching Utah. He
was impressed by the animal, not just for its size and moxie but for what
it meant.

“All around, it was a real validation of a lot of things that are

The state is gearing up to answer the following questions: Should
wolves, exterminated more than 70 years ago in Utah, be allowed to
re-establish themselves here? If so, how should they be managed? If not,
should wolves be shot on sight?

Recent history as a guide, the debate will be a lively one, pitting
ancient fears of the big bad wolf against modern-day respect for an animal
that has become the most charismatic of America’s fauna.

Wolves in America: In pre-Columbian times, several species of wolf
ranged throughout most of North America. A powerful, highly evolved
predator that lived and hunted in socially ordered packs, wolves occupied
the top spot in the food chain.

In the West, the two most common species were the gray wolf, also
the timber wolf, which dominated most of the northern Rocky Mountain and
Pacific Northwest regions, and the Mexican wolf, which ruled the southern
Rockies and southern Colorado Plateau.

Early explorers basically ignored the wolf, but by the mid-19th
wolf pelts became an increasingly valuable commodity, selling for a
relatively bounteous $3 a piece in the fur trade. Hunters also began
slaughtering bison in huge numbers, primarily for the hides. The abandoned
carcasses provided easy pickings for wolves, whose population boomed in
the late 19th century.

Within 20 years, the numbers of bison, along with elk and deer, then
hunted commercially, began to drop dramatically.

The wolf, however, would survive the loss of prey, thanks to a new
source of food: domestic livestock. The adaptable wolf learned quickly how
to score a meal among the sheep and cattle herds that filled the grassy
valleys of the Rocky Mountains.

“There was [a] rapid shift from an abundance of big-game animals and
livestock to virtually no big-game animals and an abundance of livestock.
Wolves switched their attention to livestock and probably killed an
enormous number of them,” writes Hank Fischer in his book Wolf Wars.

Wanted Dead: Already feared by white settlers from a European culture
that had mythicized the creature as inherently evil, the wolf was now
regarded as an economic scourge, not only by livestock growers but by
sportsmen, who blamed wolves for the decline in big game.

After failing to control wolves themselves, Western livestock growers
and sportsmen turned to the state and federal governments for help. The
governments responded willingly. In Utah, the territorial Legislature
established bounties for predators in 1888, paying $1 for a wolf hide.

The goal was not just to kill wolves that preyed on livestock but
exterminate them. Ridding the landscape of wolves became a part of
“taming” the West.

Hunters used bullets, poison, snares, leghold traps and explosives.

poured kerosene on captured wolves and set them ablaze. Others wired their
mouths shut or placed nails in bait so the animals would die a painful
death by starvation.

The anti-wolf pogrom extended even to Yellowstone National Park, which
was created, in part, to be a refuge for wildlife. “The most effective
technique was . . . finding the wolves in their dens during the spring
breeding season and destroying the whole family,” according to Fischer.

Yellowstone’s last wolves were killed by park rangers in 1926.

Around the West, the campaign against wolves reached an apex after the
federal government’s anti-predator program that began in 1914. By the
1930s, wolves, which once numbered about 500,000, were virtually
exterminated from the United States, the exception being a pocket of about
1,000 in northeastern Minnesota.

In Utah, the last officially confirmed killing of a wolf occurred in
1929 in San Juan County, according to the Division of Wildlife Resources.

A search of The Salt Lake Tribune archives showed that private
occasionally killed wolves as late as 1947. In one account, James W.
Jensen trapped and killed a pair of “timber wolves” in March 1946 near
Salina. The largest one measured 7 feet in length and weighed 129 pounds.

“The timber wolf,” noted a Tribune story, “is destructive to game,
and cattle.”

About the same time, however, scientists quietly began to question the
wisdom of exterminating the wolf. Based on new research, they concluded
the wolf, like other predators, played a key role in the evolution of
ecosystems and that its disappearance had profoundly impacted ecological

Wolf Restoration: Led by the renowned biologist Aldo Leopold, who
advocated the return of the wolf to places like Yellowstone, a movement to
restore wolves was born.

Increased knowledge of the wolf led to a dramatic turnaround in public
opinion. By the early 1970s, the Nixon administration banned the use of
poison for predator control, and Congress passed the Endangered Species
Act, which called for the wolf’s recovery.

Charged with enforcing the act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at
the prodding of environmentalists and wolf experts, began studying ways to
bring the wolf back to the wilds of the continental United States.

But for the next 25 years, the agency’s efforts were repeatedly
by Western congressional delegations, ranchers and sportsmen’s groups,
which perpetuated old myths and views that wolf and man are incompatible.

Meanwhile, in the mid-1980s, wolves from Canada began to naturally
recolonize northern Idaho and northwestern Montana, giving hope and
urgency to the wolf recovery effort.

Congress soon tired of the impasse on wolf restoration. In 1987, a
junior congressman from Utah named Wayne Owens shocked his Western
colleagues by introducing legislation requiring the reintroduction of
wolves into Yellowstone National Park.

Although Owens’ legislation stalled, it was the impetus for other
that provided funding for wolf recovery in the northern Rockies.

“Until Wayne, it had been left up to the Wyoming politicians like
[former Congressman] Dick Cheney, raising all kinds of ridiculous claims
about what wolves would do,” says Scott Groene, a former Owens aide.

Wolf recovery plans were formulated in the Reagan-Bush years, but the
doors to wolf recovery swung wide open after Clinton-Gore came to power.
With wilderness advocate Bruce Babbitt at the helm of the Interior
Department, an environmental impact statement was prepared in 1993.

Two years later, federal biologists began capturing gray wolves in
Canada. Thirty-one wolves were released into Yellowstone and 35 in central
Idaho’s vast wilderness.

Meanwhile, a parallel wolf restoration program was under way in
Minnesota, spreading wolf packs to Michigan and Wisconsin.

Where Next, Wolf? Considered the most ambitious species-restoration
program in U.S. history, the wolf recovery efforts have surpassed
expectations, with about 4,000 wolves now roaming the lower 48 states.

There are nearly 700 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain states of
Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The government’s original goal of having 30 breeding pairs in those
states for three successive years by Dec. 31 of this year will be met.

“We actually have about 40 breeding pairs,” says Ed Bangs, who leads
Helena, Mont., based Northern Rockies wolf recovery team. “The biological
recovery of wolves is done.”

By next month, the Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to upgrade the gray
wolf’s status to “threatened” from “endangered.” In the spring, the agency
plans to propose the wolf be removed from the endangered species list.

Some environmental groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife, have vowed
resist such an action unless more protections for the animal are in place.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has done a very good job restoring
wolves,” says Defenders Vice President Nina Fascione. “However, we don’t
think wolves can be considered fully recovered in the lower 48 states at
this time.”

The problem, Fascione says, is that Idaho and Wyoming continue to
wolf recovery, and surrounding states like Washington, Oregon and Utah –
into which wolves are spreading — have no plans in place to assure wolf

Those who have lived closest to the wolf recovery effort say there is
good reason to fear wolf restoration.

“The reason our ancestors went to the length they did to exterminate
was because of how difficult it was to deal with,” says Jerry Peterson, a
Cache County sheep rancher. “The wolf was a very aggressive predator.
There is a real concern about what happens if it is reintroduced across
the country.”

For Peterson, the concern already has hit home. Last summer, he lost
lambs to a rapacious predator that wildlife experts believe was a wolf.


Tribune researcher Rebecca Hodges contributed to this story.


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 29

Captor of Wolf Near Morgan Says His Experience Is ‘Cooler Than Stink’

Captor of Wolf Near Morgan Says His Experience Is ‘Cooler Than Stink’


After seeing wolves in the zoo and on television, the Utah trapper who
accidently caught a wolf near Morgan last month was sure he would
recognize a wolf if he ever saw one in the wild.

On the morning of Nov. 30, as he approached a canine snared in a leg
trap scented with beaver musk, he knew it was “no coyote.”

“I got to within about 50 yards and gave it a good eyeball,” he says.
“My adrenaline, and his, was really going by then. I started thinking
nobody would believe me, and they didn’t.”

The trapper, who asked that his name not be revealed, and his nephew
made sure the wolf was securely captured and not injured then retreated to
get more gear and help.

“I went to see the man who owns the land, and I told him I thought it
was a wolf. He looked at me and said, ‘A wolf? Oh, really. That’s good,’ ”
the trapper says. “He was too polite to call me an idiot to my face.”

The trapper phoned a conservation officer with the Utah Division of
Wildlife Resources who lives in nearby Morgan but got only voice mail.

After collecting a noose pole, the trapper headed back to the site,
about 4 1/2 miles from a paved road. He ran into a neighbor and, wanting
someone to film the event, asked him to come along.

Once the group rounded a corner and pulled within sight of the
animal, nobody doubted what it was.

The wolf became more anxious as the trapper neared.

“Being in the trap isn’t so bad,” the trapper says, “but when a person
starts to approach, that is when they get really hyper.”

The trapper used an extension pole to place a plastic-coated cable
on the wolf’s neck, while others in his party moved in and held it down
and tied its legs together.

The animal was never sedated.

The trapper and his friends placed the wolf on the back of an off-road
vehicle, hauled it to a truck and drove to the DWR officer’s kennel, where
the wolf spent the next 1 1/2 days before federal authorities arrived.

Before the feds took the animal away, the trapper says he studied the
wolf’s huge paws and teeth. Although he says the wolf’s coat was a little
haggard, “he was in darn fine shape” for traveling more than 200 miles
from northeastern Yellowstone National Park.

Reflecting on the event, the trapper realizes he made history by
catching the first confirmed wolf in Utah in more than 70 years.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s cooler than stink. I caught a wolf. I
wanted to trap a wolf,” the trapper says. “I’m glad everything worked out
for the best, but it sure brought about a lot of disruptions in my life. I
wasn’t trying to catch a wolf. In some ways, it seems like he caught me.”

As word traveled fast in the trapping community, colleagues asked what
it was like and what they should do if it happens to them.

“I tell them it would be really cool if they did catch one, but that I
wouldn’t wish it on any of them.”

Handling a federally protected animal is a delicate proposition, with
possible fines and jail time for harming or harassing it. Although federal
officials say the trapper acted within the law, he fears public exposure
and retribution from animal-rights activists.


Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 29

Wolves Run Wild in Human Imagination

Wolves Run Wild in Human Imagination


In the real world, wolves are famous for eluding humans.

In the human imagination, though, Canis lupus looms large. Everywhere.
Over centuries.

Gluttons wolf down their food. Those who cry wolf are soon ignored.

damned are thrown to the wolves. The indebted have a wolf at their door.
Wolf whistles transform women into prey.

We have wolves in sheep’s clothing to suggest sinister deceit. We have
men who danced with wolves and women who run with them getting in touch
with their wilder selves. We have wolves who have suckled the sons of the
war god, Ares, and ordinary people who morphed into cannibalistic

Onto wolves, humans have heaped our deepest fears and wishes in myth,
folk tale and legend.

That puts wolves in good company with all other subjects of human
preoccupations expressed in story, song and art, according to David
Stanley, an English professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

“When we tell stories or tell jokes or sing songs,” says Stanley, “we
are looking for a way to understand the issues of the world — why people
hate and kill each other, why they betray their spouses and their

Author Barry Lopez of Oregon says what people see in wolves is mostly
about themselves, not wolves. Nearly 25 years after writing the
groundbreaking volume, Of Wolves and Men, he still sees projections of the
human heart — rather than science — driving the wolf debate.

“There is a lot to be learned from [wolves],” says Lopez. “But you
throw all that [understanding] out the window when you rely on your

Wolves rarely come out looking good in Western civilization. Though
sometimes cast as dupes, they more often play the villain, the embodiment
of brutality and rapacious greed.

Generations of children have learned about wolves from fairy tales and
fables. They have heard about the boy who cried wolf once too often and
lost his credibility. They recall the wolf that huffed and puffed at the
cottages of three little pigs, and the wolf that lured little Red Riding
Hood astray and gobbled up grandma.

The fascination with wolves has an adults-only section, too.

Bruno Bettelheim described Little Red Riding Hood as a tale of girl’s
sexual awakening, with the lip-smacking wolf fulfilling libidinous wishes.
And lust peppers the gruesome tales about men and women werewolves.

Even the Bible is tough on wolves. Christ, in the New Testament, warns
his disciples in Matthew: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of
wolves.” More than a century later, the church of medieval Europe warned
Christ’s flock against falling prey to the wolf, which symbolized Satan

An 18th century French legend has two wolves devouring 64 people in

And in pioneer Montana, the Ghost Wolf and four-toed Snowdrift were
blamed for killing more than 3,500 animals on separate livestock rampages
before each was hunted down.

History has only echoed the wolf’s despicable reputation. Adolf Hitler
called his Prussian military headquarters the Wolf’s Lair and his
submarines “wolf packs.”

The wolf is not evil in every tale. Sometimes it is dim-witted.

The ballet, Peter and the Wolf, is based on a Russian folk tale and
tune about a napping wolf captured by a boy and his friends (a bird and a
cat) after the wolf has eaten another friend, a duck. The wolf spits up
the live duck, explaining he was hungry. And the boy protects the wolf
from hunters, who are persuaded to help escort the repentant predator to a
zoo, where it will be safe but harmless.

And in an Aesop fable, a goat saves its own skin by playing flute to a
hungry wolf. Lulled by the tune, the wolf lets its quarry escape.

Another Aesop fable helps illustrate why wolves inspire — and
awe — people. It is the story of how a well-fed dog invites a starving
wolf to enjoy the comforts of domestication. The wolf notices a bare spot
on the dog’s neck where its collar has rubbed away the hair. The disgusted
wolf chooses freedom instead and walks away.

Centuries later, the wolf’s sharp intelligence and independent streak
maintain a strong pull on humans.

Wolf lore is its own industry.

There are silk scarves, coffee mugs and original art for wolf-lovers.
There are wolf-watching vacations. And, for youngsters, there is Polar
Mission Action Man, whose dogsled is pulled by Blizzard, a cyberwolf that

Oddly, it seems that the many ways people use the wolf to express
human concerns lead not to understanding but new myth.

“In the end,” Lopez says of the wolf, “they are still a mystery.” And
so, too, is our fascination with Canis lupus.


Posted in Uncategorized