Apr 29

Child killed by wolf-dog hybrid

Child killed by wolf-dog hybrid

Animal tears boy’s jugular vein, bites him 100s of times

Jonathan Brunt
The Idaho Statesman

A 13-month-old boy died early Sunday after a wolf-dog hybrid bit him and tore the baby´s jugular vein at a Boise home.

Andre Angel Thomas was bitten by the animal “hundreds” of times at the Frederic Street home, Boise Police Detective Dale Rogers said. The baby´s mother, Starla Thomas, had been invited there by Brandon Jenkins, 28, who moved into the residence Saturday.

Police were called to the scene about 3:20 a.m. Sunday after Jenkins awoke to go to the bathroom and found the baby on the floor. He said he tried to give the baby CPR as he was instructed by a 911 operator, but it was no use.

Andre was unconscious when police arrived. He later was declared dead at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.

Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said the incident is the first death that he can remember from a mauling by a dog since he became coroner in 1985.

No charges have been filed in the incident, but the investigation is continuing. If charges are filed, they likely would be related to child neglect, Rogers said.

Idaho Humane Society spokeswoman Dee Fugit said wolf-dog hybrids can be friendly, but they are much more unpredictable than other dogs. The society kills wolf-dog hybrids rather than adopting them to other families.

“It is basically a wild animal in a dog´s body,” she said.

Jenkins lives at the home with the wolf-dog hybrid´s owner, Thomas Cleverly, 25.

Detective Rogers said Cleverly had owned the 1 1/2 -year-old hybrid, named Koa, since she was 3 months old. Monday, Cleverly gave ownership of Koa to the Idaho Humane Society, which plans to kill her today.

Jenkins said he recently met Thomas and invited her to the house to watch the NBA playoffs and for a barbecue. She came there with two friends and her baby. After the game was over, the friends left, but Thomas and the baby stayed.

Police said Thomas told them that she put her baby to sleep on a couch at about 11 p.m.

Jenkins said he thought he put Koa in the back yard and chained her before he went to bed but said he couldn´t be certain.

Given the nature of the attack, it is unusual that no one in the house awoke earlier, Rogers said. Police said the bites occurred between 12:15 and 3:20 a.m.

Jenkins admitted Monday that marijuana was used during the evening. He called using the drug a “lack of judgment” but said there wasn´t much smoked and that it did not prevent him and Thomas from waking earlier.

“There was not even enough to get any benefits from it,” he said.

Jenkins said he had six or seven beers and Thomas had less than one. He added that he was uncertain whether Thomas smoked any marijuana.

Earlier this month, Jenkins was issued a misdemeanor citation for smoking marijuana inside a parked car.

Sunday was not the first time Koa had been accused of biting a person.

Fugit said that in November, Koa was ordered into home confinement for 10 days after she bit a 7-year-old boy.

In December, the society issued Cleverly a warning after Koa was reported to have escaped from her yard.

Jenkins said Sunday´s incident came as a shock because Koa was good-natured.

Roman Greaves, who lives a few doors down from Cleverly, said Koa and another dog at the residence seemed calm.

“I just never thought they were aggressive dogs,” he said.

Fugit said it´s impossible to know why Koa bit the baby.

“It´s hard to comment on what might have been going on in the dog´s mind,” Fugit said.

Members of the baby´s family declined to comment Monday, a funeral home official said.

A service for Andre Angel Thomas will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Summers Funeral Home in Mountain Home. He is survived by his mother and his father, Raul Lopez.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 28

Nominations open for wolf plan group

Nominations open for wolf plan group

Statesman Journal
April 28, 2003

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is accepting nominations for a group that will recommend a Wolf Management Plan to the commission.

In June, 14 members will be appointed to the committee, which will include a livestock producer, a hunter, a trapper, an eastern Oregon county commissioner, a wolf advocate, a range/forest land conservationist, an educator, a wildlife biologist/researcher, an economist, a resident of rural Oregon, two at-large representatives, a public-land manager and a Native American tribal representative.

An Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist will work with the committee.

The decision to write a plan in advance of wolves establishing themselves in Oregon came after 15 public meetings, a legal analysis of the Oregon Endangered Species Act and several commission meetings.

Nominations should include the person’s background and qualifications, a statement on the perspective the person brings to the discussion, Oregon residency status and their willingness to commit time to the planning process.

A nomination form and cover letter, a description of the planning process and background information are on the Fish and Wildlife Web site:

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/

The deadline is May 15, 2003. Send to: ODFW, Information and Education Division, P.O. Box 59, Portland, OR 97207. They also may be faxed to (503) 872-5700.

Source

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Apr 28

Willows and wolves: Idea that wolves increase Yellowstone’s biodiversity gaining strength

Willows and wolves: Idea that wolves increase Yellowstone’s biodiversity gaining strength

By SCOTT McMILLION Chronicle Staff Writer

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — Doug Smith is a tall man, well over 6 feet, but he still has to stretch if he wants to reach the top of the willows along Blacktail Deer Creek.

Nine years ago, when he first moved to this park, they barely reached his knees.

Up the road a ways, beavers have built four colonies, including a beaver lodge on Soda Butte Creek, the first such structure in decades on the park’s famous northern range.

Until the last couple years, there weren’t enough willows around for them to eat and use in dam building.

Smith, the park’s top wolf biologist, said he believes wolves have helped bring back the beaver. That’s because they’ve made the elk more wary, forced them to spend less time in the flat creek bottoms where the willows grow and they are easier prey for wolves.

The condition of willow, aspen and cottonwood stands in the park’s northern range has been a hot issue for a century.

They have been used as an indicator of range conditions and are seen as a valuable entity in their own right. Birds and amphibians rely on them. They’re important for erosion control. Elk, moose and deer browse them. They’re important to bugs and fish and everything that eats them.

Photographs from the 1890s show streambeds choked with willows and the reason for their decline has provoked intense debate, much of which centered around elk numbers. Until 1968, the National Park Service killed a whole bunch of elk, shooting them from helicopters, chasing them into traps and even operating a slaughterhouse for a time at the Lamar Ranger Station.

Willow thickets “are a critical community for maintaining biodiversity,” said Duncan Patten, an ecologist who has studied the Northern Range for years, including a stint with a prestigious National Academy of Sciences panel of experts.

And lots of people, especially scientists, have noticed the tentative return of willows in some places.

“It’s the hottest research topic in the park right now,” Smith said.

But not everybody is certain how big a role wolves are playing.

As with most things in Yellowstone’s complicated ecosystem, there’s an awful lot going on and it’s difficult to sort out cause and effect.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996, a time when the northern range elk herd was at its highest ever, nearly 20,000 animals.

Willows started bouncing back the next year.

But there were also record floods in 1996 and 1997, followed by a series of mild winters and dry summers, and a variety of snow conditions that left different foods available to elk at different times.

Plus, the number of moose, which eat a lot of willow, is down dramatically since the big fires of 1988.

Add in things like changing water tables and variations in spring rains and you see how complicated the situation can become.

“It’s never just one thing,” said Bob Crabtree, head of Yellowstone Ecological Research Center, an independent entity in Bozeman. “It’s multiple factors.”

Smith agrees that the research jury is still out, still pondering the full connection between wolves and willow, between beaver and weather. It will take years of work to come up with a final answer.

But wolves, he says, “are certainly a leading cause” of the willow resurgence.

And Patten maintains that a hard winter or two could force hungry elk back into the willow stands, where they would graze heavily.

Until this point, most political and media attention on the impacts of wolves has focused on elk numbers and how many will be available for human hunters outside the park.

“That’s a very valid question to ask,” Smith said.

But it’s not the only question.

“The frame of reference is important as well, if your definition of wildlife is deer and elk,” he said. “But there’s a very good argument out there that wolves are increasing biodiversity.”

He and two other veteran biologists, Rolf Peterson of Michigan and Doug Houston of Colorado, published a peer-reviewed article in the April edition of the scholarly journal BioScience that examines the impacts of wolves.

The scientists wrote the article partly in response to the widespread public speculation about wolves.

“In time, the fear that wolves will kill all the elk will … be put to rest,” the article predicts.

In 2002, the elk-to-wolf ratio in the park was 166, close to the 1993 prediction of 154.

Small and mid-size carnivores like red foxes, fishers, wolverines, lynx and bobcats might benefit from wolves and the carcasses they make available, the article speculates, while coyotes, which have seen their numbers reduced by 90 percent in some areas, will continue to take a drubbing from their larger competitors.

Scavengers like ravens and eagles gorge on wolf kills and grizzly bears have learned to steal carcasses. One bear was seen fending off a pack of 24 wolves.

The small cougar population grew slightly during the 1990s.

Nobody yet knows what the future size of the elk herd will be. Earlier scientific reports put the northern range’s carrying capacity at 5,000 to 6,000 animals, but not everybody agrees with that. The latest count tallied about 10,000 elk.

The future herd size will depend partly on midwinter hunting seasons outside the park, where elk migrate. The late-hunt quota has been reduced by one third in recent years and may be reduced further.

Until a few years ago, critics assailed the Park Service for perceived overgrazing of the northern range by too many elk. Now the concern has switched.

“Media attention has abruptly switched from concern about too many elk for the northern range to concern about too few elk for human hunters outside the park,” the paper says.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 27

Wolf problems loom

Wolf problems loom

By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press

CODY, Wyo. – Though Dick Geving rarely sees gray wolves on his northern Wyoming ranch, he believes they are to blame for 14 dead calves last year and a suspected drop in the number of elk in the area.

If he saw a wolf, Geving said, he’d hope to have a gun and the right to use it to protect his livelihood – no questions asked.

“If we would be able to use reasonable force to control them, at least we’d have a fighting chance,” said Geving, a rancher and outfitter near Yellowstone National Park.

About 660 wolves now roam Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, enough for federal wildlife officials to declare their recovery a success and to move toward removing the wolves from the endangered species list in those states and perhaps much of the West.

But worries over how well the three states can manage wolves when the federal government turns that responsibility over to them, coupled with the certainty of lawsuits and much passion about whether wolves even ought to be here, already threaten to stall delisting, possibly for years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to propose delisting this year, with the goal of having the wolves taken off the endangered species list in 2004 – 30 years after they were added.

When and whether that process begins, though, is largely up to the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the only states with established wolf populations in the Northern Rockies.

Wildlife managers in the three states must prove to a panel of scientists and federal wildlife officials that gray wolves will continue thriving under their control before delisting can be proposed.

The Fish and Wildlife Service met its recovery goal for the gray wolves last year. That goal – 30 breeding pairs in the three states for three straight years – is far exceeded by the current 43 breeding pairs. The states are basing their management plan on a target of 15 pairs within each state.

The federal wildlife agency has given tentative approval to Idaho’s plan, which provides for, among other things, managing wolves like black bears and mountain lions by allowing regulated hunting at certain times.

Officials in Montana recently released their proposed plan, which also would allow some regulated hunting and would permit ranchers to shoot wolves that threaten their livestock.

Ed Bangs, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery coordinator in Helena, calls Montana’s proposal “state of the art, a class act.”

It’s Wyoming’s approach that has some wildlife officials and environmentalists worried. Some suggest that if changes are not made to that state plan, wolves won’t be delisted any time soon.

“Wyoming,” said Nina Fascione, vice president of species conservation with Defenders of Wildlife, “has definitely thrown a wrench into the plans for delisting.”

Though state wildlife officials are still working on a management plan, the Wyoming Legislature recently and overwhelming backed a proposal that would designate gray wolves as trophy animals in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and adjacent wilderness areas. It is illegal to hunt trophy game without a state-issued license, and federal law prohibits hunting wildlife in national parks. But in the rest of the state, wolves would be considered predators and could be killed with few restrictions.

If the number of breeding pairs fell below 15 in Wyoming, the predator status would be suspended until their numbers recovered, officials said.

The Legislature left it to state Game and Fish officials to fill in the details.

And, officials said, there are plenty: How will the state control how many wolves are taken? What sort of monitoring will it do? Where will the wolves have no protection and in how big an area will shooting be regulated?

“Until we know the answers, we can’t make a decision on whether it’s acceptable or not,” Bangs said. “The service is a strong supporter of hunting; we think that’s an important part of this. But it can’t be the 1880 Wild West again, with people running around with poison and guns. Those days are gone forever.”

The bill is complex and at times confusing. The Game and Fish Department has asked the attorney general to interpret its language, more clearly spelling out for state wildlife managers what options they have in crafting the plan, said John Emmerich, assistant chief in the department’s wildlife division.

Officials expect to have a plan ready this summer and “feel the framework is sufficient to meet recovery goals,” he said.

The dual classification of trophy game and predator is meant to keep wolves within a particular area – in and around the parks. It is also meant to give ranchers like Geving, who bitterly fought the wolf reintroduction eight years ago, another option to protect their property, officials said.

Lack of federal money to help to the states manage wolves could delay the process, said Tom France, director of the Northern Rockies office of the National Wildlife Federation. “If, at the end of the day, people don’t see the dollars, expect a court challenge,” he said.

Monitoring wolves to ensure their numbers are being maintained will be a key – and expensive – part of the plans. But there have been no promises of federal money so far, and officials in the three states make clear that the success of their plans hinges on adequate funding.

Gary Lundvall, a cattle rancher near Cody and former member of the state’s Game and Fish Commission, worries that more delays will only lead to more wolves – and more problems.

He, like Geving and many ranchers in the area, believe wolves are responsible for a smaller-than-normal number of elk calves in their northern Yellowstone winter range. If elk or deer numbers dwindle much more, he said, it will affect the number of licenses game officials can dole out and hurt the economy.

“The wolf is a killer,” he said. “I’m not putting him down. It’s just what he does for food, for fun and play.”

But Bangs said there have been relatively few problems with gray wolves. Because wolves have limited prey and range, “that fear of a huge wave of wolves spreading across Eastern Montana and Wyoming and the Plains like wildfire is not going to happen.”

Though wildlife officials are eager to have the gray wolves taken off the endangered species list, they say they won’t push toward that goal if the state plans don’t past muster.

“We’ll give it everything we can to make it happen but the service is going to do the right thing, period,” Bangs said. “We’ll be a very transparent program. And, if it looks like we can’t meet the requirements for delisting, we won’t go there.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 26

Board denies wolf trapping extension

Board denies wolf trapping extension

By CHRIS TALBOTT, Staff Writer

The Alaska Board of Game unanimously overturned a request to issue an emergency order that would have extended the wolf trapping season in the McGrath area another month.

In the Thursday teleconference meeting, board members reaffirmed their support for wolf control to boost moose population numbers around the Interior town, but turned down the request because it likely would have had no practical value.

By definition, an “emergency” involves “an unforeseen, unexpected event,” said Cathie Harms, Fish and Game information officer. The board did not feel that definition matched the situation.

“They do want people to know this is a dire circumstance out there,” Harms said of the board’s opinion, “but there was no unforeseen, unexpected event like an emergency calls for.”

In fact, the issue of predator control in the McGrath area has been debated for more than a decade. Previous Gov. Tony Knowles chose not to pursue wolf control efforts during his administration. And while Gov. Frank Murkowski supports the idea, he has said no state employees or aircraft will be used to directly cull the wolf population.

He opted instead to assist locals in thinning packs. The request to extend the trapping season was seen as an attempt to help those trappers catch more wolves this year. Despite aerial reconnaissance and renewed efforts, McGrath-area trappers were only able to take 13 wolves this season, one more than the annual average.

The source of the request to extend the season was not clear during the board’s meeting. The request came from Fish and Game Commissioner Kevin Duffy, according to Matt Robus, acting director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

When asked if the request originated in the governor’s office, Robus said he “assumed” that it did. Murkowski spokesman John Manly said he was unaware of the request and the board meeting and could not confirm that the extension idea started with the governor.

Board Chairman Mike Fleagle made it clear that the vote did not reflect a division between the governor and his board. When word of the proposal first surfaced earlier this week, observers on all sides expressed skepticism. Wolf control advocates saw it as impractical given the difficulties tracking and killing wolves without snow upon which to travel, not to mention the low quality of pelts this time of year.

Opponents noted the presence of pups and nursing mothers this year. Fish and Game estimated that the extension might net one to three additional wolves. Toby Boudreau, the department’s McGrath biologist, surveyed the area’s seven trappers and found only one interested in pursuing wolves at this point in the year.

“Under the circumstances, it’s too little, too late,” said Dick Bishop, a former regional supervisor with the Division of Wildlife Conservation and a past president of the Alaska Outdoor Council. “There’s not really a lot of incentive or practical methods to do this.”

While the board turned down the extension, a wolf control opponent noted a subtle but significant action it did take. The board voted to put the issue on the fall meeting agenda and will take up the McGrath area’s “intensive management moose population objective” at that time.

Fish and Game sets a target for optimal game numbers in a certain area. In 2001, that number was reduced in the McGrath area, given low population numbers of roughly 1,300 moose. Shortly thereafter, however, the state raised the target to approximately 2,800.

Board members will re-examine that optimal number this fall and Paul Joslin of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance fears they will push it up into a range he sees as impossible to reach. The board could decide to leave the number alone or push it lower, but a higher number likely would increase the need for predator control.

“The implication is to push it back to where it was,” said Joslin, a conservation biologist. “Our concern is they’re setting a population objective that’s way out of line.”

Source

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Apr 26

Freudenthal: Moody incident mishandled

Freudenthal: Moody incident mishandled

Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Friday that both his administration and the media could have better handled the fallout from a state biologist’s comments on wolf management.

“It’s just the serendipity of life,” Freudenthal told reporters during his weekly news conference. “Everything came together right for none of us to look like we were exactly Rhodes scholars.”

Freudenthal said he probably should not have publicly disagreed with Dave Moody, the Game and Fish Department’s trophy game coordinator, over Moody’s assessment of legislation that will guide the state’s final wolf management plan.

The governor said matters were made worse by media reports that inaccurately labeled Moody as being suspended for his comments.

Administrative leave Instead, Moody was placed on administrative leave while Game and Fish Department personnel looked into whether his comments accurately reflected the department’s position. He was later reinstated with no change in duties, officials said.

The flap began April 9 when Moody said the law may not do enough to ensure a viable wolf population in the state, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires before removing the species from the Endangered Species List.

“It’s extremely problematic,” he said during the North American Interagency Wolf Conference in Montana. “We’re going to try to right this ship if we can.”

In the days following Moody’s comments, Freudenthal said, “The part that bothers me is if he is really in charge of drafting the plan and he feels that way, we’ll have to look at that. … We need someone who is committed to getting this thing done.”

Shortly after the governor made his comments, reports circulated that Moody had been suspended, and an outcry ensued in editorials and from environmentalists.

Freudenthal takes the heat Freudenthal and his administration took heat for allegedly attempting to squelch opposing views after he had rejected former Gov. Jim Geringer’s long-standing policy that state employees should “speak with one voice” and without dissent.

Freudenthal told reporters Friday that just because he disagreed with Moody’s assessment of the law did not mean he was trying to stifle debate on the wolf issue.

“Just as he’s entitled to express his opinion, I’m entitled to express my opinion on whether he’s right or not,” the governor said.

There is no clear rule on what state employees can and cannot say, Freudenthal said.

“People aren’t entitled to just sort of willy nilly say what the agency’s position is. They’re entitled to argue about it, but at some point you have to have some degree of order about the basis for the opinions.

“There probably isn’t a black-and-white rule. There’s sort of more of a reasonableness. It’s like free speech. You can’t shout ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater. Both of those make sense, but everything in the middle gets gray.”

The matter was complicated because of inaccurate reports that Moody had been suspended for two weeks, which was attributed to a watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The media probably should have asked, “What’s your source? Either corroborate it or make them document it somehow,” Freudenthal said.

“The tricky part is that because of the nature of the personnel rules … when you guys were running around reporting that he’d been suspended for two weeks, I couldn’t stand up and say, ‘No he hasn’t been,’ because that’s a personnel matter. We’re not supposed to comment on them.”

“It was mishandled by us in that we should have found a way to somehow … get a clear statement out as to what the status of the personnel stuff was except, we didn’t know. That’s really Game and Fish’s problem. And they’re being told, ‘Don’t comment on it’ and we’re being told, ‘Don’t comment on personnel things.’ ”

“I’m just not sure it was a shining moment for the administration, frankly, or for the press. But I don’t think any of us set out to do evil. Stuff happens.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 25

Stockgrowers discuss coexisting with wolves

Stockgrowers discuss coexisting with wolves

By Jason Lehmann, Enterprise Staff Writer

The
wolves are here — you might as well learn to live
with them.

That
is essentially what ranchers and other landowners were told
during a meeting Monday night, April 21, at the Park County
Fairgrounds main exhibit building.

The
meeting, “How to Live with Wolves in Your Backyard,”
brought together Park County ranchers who have lost cattle
and wolf experts from several government agencies for a panel discussion with the public.

The
ranchers agreed that wolves have caused more than their
fair share of headaches. Most of them lost cattle to wolves.
Others had wolves roaming their property, threatening cattle.

Ironically,
the more wolves there are in Park County, the more options
ranchers and other landowners will have to deal with them,
said Kurt Alt, a wildlife manager with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

If wolves
are removed from the endangered species list and put under
state management, that means population numbers are high
enough to “give ranchers the flexibility” to
hunt or trap wolves suspected of killing livestock, Alt
said.

But
that won’t happen until wolves are delisted.

“If
we’re too close to relisting, we won’t have
the flexibility we want (to manage the wolves),” Alt
said.

Ed Bangs,
wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, said traditional means of deterring wolves from
killing livestock — relocation and monitoring by radio
collar — are becoming less successful than just killing
the wolves.

“Pretty
much now we’re using lethal control. Eventually the
problem stops because you run out of wolves,” Bangs
said.

Paradise
Valley rancher Martin Davis, also on the board of the Park
County Conservation District, agreed with Bangs’ assessment.

Several
years ago, Davis found a “rendezvous point,”
a spot where wolf pups are raised, near his cattle.

Noisemakers
and strobe lights placed near the rendezvous point by FWP
were ineffective, so Davis “spent the summer with
wolves and cows” living near each other.

None
of Davis’ cattle were killed by the wolves, but later,
he found six wolves surrounding several cattle.

“Had
we not been there that night, we’d of lost them —
I’m confident of that,” Davis said.

Randy
Petrich, another Paradise Valley rancher, has had a number
of calves run over by cows spooked by wolves.

“They
cause a lot of stress on the livestock. You can tell when
they (wolves) have been in and around the cattle,”
Petrich said to the audience.

“Thankfully,
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) issued kill permits. We’ve
been able to harvest a few wolves, and it seems like the
rest are getting kind of skittish,” he said.

Bangs
told ranchers to call FWP or USFWS if they see wolves killing
or harassing livestock.

“They
don’t kill cattle more often (than wild game) —
it’s surprising how little cattle they eat because
it’s pretty risky business for them. But once they
start, they get better at it,” Bangs said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 25

Alaska — McGrath wolf kills fall short

McGrath wolf kills fall short

EXPERIMENT: Murkowski left control up to trappers; state will still relocate bears.

By JOEL GAY
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: April 25, 2003)

Trappers killed 15 wolves around McGrath this winter, slightly more than average but too few to accomplish the goal of an experimental predator control plan.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game had proposed to eliminate all predators from a 520-square-mile experimental micromanagement area for three years. The plan called for killing 45 to 48 wolves and temporarily relocating brown and black bears during the spring calving season. Biologists say such efforts should let the moose population rebound and provide a higher harvest for local hunters.

But the experiment appears to have been undercut by Gov. Frank Murkowski’s decision last month to leave the wolf control in the hands of McGrath trappers. The department and the Board of Game had hoped to use state employees and helicopters to ensure all the wolves were killed. Trappers took about a third of them.

“Taking 30 percent (of the wolves) won’t do anything” to reduce wolf predation this winter, said Toby Boudreau, Fish and Game’s McGrath-area game manager. “They’ll replace that many pups this spring.”

The predator-removal experiment isn’t a total loss, Boudreau said. Fish and Game still plans to relocate bears from the area this spring, which should reduce the calf mortality significantly.

“But the idea behind the experiment was to get the maximum boost in calf survival that we could. To do that, we have to remove the sources of mortality,” he said.

“I don’t doubt there will be an increase in calf survival to fall. However, I would estimate that wolves would still be able to take quite a few of those calves that were maybe saved during the summer from bears.”

Wolf control is arguably the most sensitive game management issue in Alaska. Once thought to be the prime source of moose and caribou mortality, wolves were killed with abandon by federal agents and bounty hunters during territorial days.

Over time, however, changing public sentiment caused managers to pare back wolf hunting and trapping. The last lethal wolf control in Alaska occurred more than a decade ago.

But predator control programs still remain on the books in three areas of the state, and when Murkowski was elected, the McGrath plan looked prime for action.

It is based on a Fish and Game finding that the five villages in the upper Kuskokwim River drainage need 130 to 150 moose a year for subsistence purposes. The current harvest is 80-90. State biologists believe they can raise the moose harvest if predation could be limited for a few years.

The Game Board approved the plan in 1995, though it was never implemented because of a moratorium on lethal wolf control by then Gov.Tony Knowles.

In the meantime, research showed that wolves are responsible for only part of the moose losses in the McGrath area.

Black and brown bears kill about 40 percent of newborn calves every spring, while wolves take 25 percent. Fewer than one-third of the calves born in May live a full year.

Once they become adults, moose face different dangers. Of the 98 McGrath-area moose that died in the study years, hunters shot 47 (including 12 taken illegally), wolves killed 38 and brown bears took 10 more.

The predator control experiment was approved by a task force that included biologists, hunters and wolf-protection advocates.

Bear removal begins next month, and many people believed the wolves would be killed once Murkowski was elected governor. But he balked at having state employees shoot wolves from helicopters and left the task instead to McGrath hunters and trappers.

“We’ve maintained predator control in other areas of Alaska without gunning ‘em down by helicopter,” Murkowski said earlier this month. “I’m not convinced it can’t be done with the involvement of local people.”

But trappers, who take about a dozen wolves in a typical season, caught only 15 of the 45 in the experimental area around McGrath, Boudreau said. Wolves reproduce so fast that the animals killed this year could be replaced over the winter, he added.

An attempt by the Murkowski administration to extend the hunting and trapping season around McGrath an additional month, to May 31, failed Thursday. The Board of Game turned it down on the grounds that it wasn’t a biological emergency.

Several board members sounded irate at having the issue brought before them. “Who brought this to us, and why aren’t they here to support it,” asked Cliff Judkins of Wasilla.

Matt Robus, acting director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said he had been asked by his boss, Fish and Game Commissioner Kevin Duffy, to present the idea to the board.

“I believe it came from the governor’s office,” he said.

Biologists told the board the additional month of trapping would yield only one to three wolves because travel is getting nearly impossible on melting snow and ice. In addition, they warned that the incidental catch of other species could provoke a public outcry.

Board chairman Mike Fleagle, a McGrath hunter and trapper who has long hoped to see the McGrath wolf control plan begin, said he understands the administration’s interest in giving trappers additional time to catch wolves in the experiment area, but he added: “There’s no way I’d try to catch a wolf in May. It would be foolish.”

After voting down the season extension, however, the board agreed tell the Murkowski administration that “we certainly don’t intend this to be a grumble and grudge match between the board and the administration.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 24

Scented snowballs used in park predator test

Scented snowballs used in park predator test

By MIKE STARK
Gazette Wyoming Bureau

Lobbing urine-soaked snowballs toward moose may seem more like a juvenile stunt than scientific research.

But after doing it for five years in the wilds of Alaska and Wyoming, researchers say the experiment may provide important new information about the status of grizzlies and wolves in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, researchers Joel Berger and Sanjay Pyare exposed female moose to the smells of typical predators, including wolves and grizzlies, to see how they would react.

Little reaction

They found that moose in the area around Yellowstone barely reacted at all — which could be a sign that wolf and grizzly populations may not be fully recovered, Berger said.

“They (moose) are not responding the same way as animals under more intense predation,” he said.

Similar experiments in Alaska showed that moose ran away quickly when exposed to the smell of predators, Berger said.

The work was reviewed by scientific peers and was recently published in the journal “Biological Conservation.”

Berger said he hopes the study will help elevate the debate over removing federal protections for wolves and grizzlies beyond raw population numbers. Instead, a wider perspective needs to be taken that examines the entire ecosystem, including behavioral responses between predator and prey, he said.

“Recovery should be defined by a suite of recovery processes rather than a simple head count,” Berger said.

On its face, the work by Berger and Pyare could look a little, well, nutty.

Delivering the scent

They knew they wanted to test the response of moose to the smell of typical predators but didn’t exactly know how to get the smell to the moose.

They considered putting a sample on the ground and hoping a moose would walk by. They also considered launching some kind of smell sample by slingshot to a spot near a moose.

Finally they settled on an all-natural, time-tested projectile: the snowball.

On windless winter days with temperatures in the 30s, the researchers trekked into prime moose habitat armed with the urine and feces of various predators such as wolves, grizzlies, coyotes and even tigers.

They then doused a snowball with urine or packed it with feces and then let it fly. Ideally, the snowball landed in the vegetation near where a female moose was foraging. “Control” snowballs without any predator scent were also tossed.


About predator tests

What are they? Researchers in Yellowstone National Park are throwing urine-soaked snowballs at female moose, which may provide important new information about the status of grizzlies and wolves in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Test results?

Researchers found that moose in the area around Yellowstone barely reacted at all — which could be a sign that wolf and grizzly populations may not be fully recovered.

Other experiments?

Similar experiments in Alaska showed that moose ran away quickly when exposed to the smell of predators.


The experiment was conducted between 1995 and 2000 at Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest and in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula and farther inland.

Similar experiments were also conducted using recorded sounds of predators.

“It’s definitely unorthodox,” Berger said. “But it’s been reviewed by our (scientific) peers, published in high quality journals and been through the test mill.”

The methods may seem funny, but the results offer a clue about predator-prey relationships.

“Typically, the moose in Alaska got highly upset. They would split, leave the area,” Berger said.

Most of the moose in Wyoming just ignored the smell, except for moose that had lost calves to wolves.

“They became highly agitated, but the mothers who had not lost calves just stayed put,” Berger said. “They were not showing the full range of response where they’re part of an active predator system.”

The failure by most moose in Wyoming to respond could be a function of the number of elk in the area and that moose simply haven’t become a large part of the diet of wolves and grizzlies, Berger said.

But it could also hint at the overall health of the ecosystem, he said.

For the past 75 years, ungulates such as moose, elk and bison in the Yellowstone region have lived in a system free of wolves, which were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996. The grizzly bear population has been growing since federal protections were put in place in the 1970s.

Proposals are expected in the coming years that would remove both species from the Endangered Species List.

According to Berger, the scents of predators are one of several indicators that help biologists understand when carnivores are more fully integrated into the system. Other markers of recovery include restored vegetation communities, birds that rely on certain vegetation and the behavior of other prey species.

“Grizzly bears and wolves in Wyoming are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act, which specifies that recovery includes both the species and the ecological functions it once performed,” Berger said. “If these species are delisted, as may be the case in the near future, it will lead the public to the possibly wrong conclusion that grizzly bears and wolves in Wyoming have recovered.”

The research, though, isn’t meant to advocate for a specific position, he said, but to add information to the debate.

“We just want a full range of material available for people to think about,” he said.

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Apr 24

What about the wolves?

What about the wolves?

Michael Babcock
Tribune Outdoor Editor

If you haven’t given much thought to the subject of wolves, a meeting Monday night here in Great Falls should have brought the issue home to you.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks was in town explaining alternatives in the department’s wolf management plan that Montana must adopt before the wolf can be removed from the endangered species list. Wyoming and Idaho also must adopt plans.

Wolves, like grizzly bears, get so much attention from “outsiders” that we tend to go numb until we actually run into one in the woods — wolves and bears, not outsiders — and then it’s kind of a slap in the face.

Wolves, while they are a “federal” issue because they are an endangered species, are also a Montana issue because, “by gawd, Earl, we got wolves.” Montana has about 180 of them last count and there will be pups any day now.

For some people, one wolf is too many. For others there can never be too many.

But wolves put some of us in an awkward position. We love the wild like nothing else and wolves, like grizzlies, lions and wolverines, are part of the picture just as are clear, cold streams and eagles taking fish from them.

When the Euro-settlers swept across our nation, however, we changed the picture forever.

Wild can be intimidating. Wild can kill you. Wild can take away the things you love dearly and wild can go out side the box.

I love elk. Wolves eat elk. If you think that is just redneck sputtering and you don’t believe that the Yellowstone wolves are having an impact on the park’s elk population, find a copy of the National Geographic television special, “The Return of the Wolf,” that aired a couple of Novembers ago. There were numerous scenes of wolves taking down elk throughout the program, which was not produced by wolf haters.

Watching a wolf pack taking down an elk — fully grown or newborn — is about as gut-wrenching as nature can be.

You cannot take sides in nature. The first century of our country’s outdoor heritage was all about that, and as our values changed, we realized it doesn’t work, unless we wanted the whole damned thing to be a farm.

If we remove enough threats to our game animals, if we make them something less than wild, then we have cows. Can you say game farm?

FWP points out that the more wolves there are, the more aggressively the state can manage them. Management tools include hunting and trapping.

How do you hunt a wolf? A lot of us would have to learn. Shooting a wolf would seem to be an act of opportunity and I wonder how effective hunters would be.

Wrestling with these and a lot of other questions about wolves hasn’t resulted in any easy answers. The fact is, the wolves have been restored to our Northern Rocky Mountains. If you still want to argue about that, you missed the boat. Get over it.

Now, the questions are how many wolves and how will they be handled.

The state’s plan is making the rounds. Get a copy at FWP regional headquarters or go on line to fwp.state.mt.us and read it and think about it and then punch in your comment.

Babcock welcomes calls at 791-1487 or (800) 438-6600. His address is P.O. Box 5468, Great Falls, MT 59403; e-mail is triboutdoors@sofast.net.

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