Jul 31

Governor: It’s time to delist wolves

Governor: It’s time to delist wolves

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should take
“speedy action” toward removing wolves from the endangered species
list now that Wyoming has become the second of three states to
approve a plan
for managing the species, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Wednesday.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring Wyoming, Idaho and
Montana to develop
plans to ensure a viable wolf population. The plans must earn
approval from
Fish and Wildlife Service scientists.

Idaho has also approved a wolf management plan and Montana’s plan is
expected to
be ready by September. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
approved Wyoming’s
plan at a meeting in Sheridan on Tuesday.

Freudenthal said at his regular news conference that the Wyoming
plan ought to
be able to pass muster with the federal government.

“I don’t think anybody likes this plan,” he conceded. “I mean,
it’s one of these things we didn’t want to have to do to begin
with. And it is
just a continuing reminder of, frankly, the heavy-handed federal
government in
Wyoming.”

He said it is important for wolves to be delisted. “The population
numbers
are going up exponentially and there’s a point at which, you know,
the federal
beast has to be dealt with,” he said.

Whether there will be “speedy action,” he said: “I’m not
necessarily expecting it. But I would hope.”

That concern may be moot if the plan winds up in court. While
ranchers and
outfitters say the plan does not go far enough to allow them to
control wolves,
conservationists think the plan goes too far by legally classifying
wolves as a
predatory species in many areas.

Tim Stevens, issues and outreach coordinator for the Greater
Yellowstone
Coalition, said the plan is vulnerable to a legal challenge,
although his group
might not be the one to do it.

“It doesn’t meet the legal standard for delisting wolves in terms of the
adequate regulatory mechanisms. Basically, they have to show that
they are able
to sustain a wolf population over time,” he said.

Wyoming’s plan would establish a dual classification for wolves.
Wolves would be
protected in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the
contiguous
wilderness areas but everywhere else in the state would be
considered a
predator that could be shot on sight.

Stevens said that of the 11 wolf packs in the Yellowstone area,
eight spend time
outside the park and wilderness areas. He said the plan would leave those
wolves vulnerable.

“What we were hoping for are three state plans that are biologically
sustainable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Freudenthal said he has heard little from the Fish and
Wildlife
Service on his proposal to appoint a single federal contact person
on the wolf
issue.

“I think we’re getting about as much federal dance on that as I’ve
seen on
anything,” he said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

Freudenthal: Fish and Wildlife must follow through on wolf plan

Freudenthal: Fish and Wildlife must follow through on wolf plan

Associated Press

CHEYENNE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must engage in “speedy
action” toward removing wolves from the endangered species list now that
Wyoming has become the second of three states to approve a plan for
managing the species, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Wednesday.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring Wyoming, Idaho and
Montana to develop plans to ensure a viable wolf population. The
plans must earn approval from Fish and Wildlife Service scientists.

Idaho has also approved a wolf management plan and Montana’s plan is
expected to be ready next month. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
approved Wyoming’s plan during a meeting in Sheridan on Tuesday.

Freudenthal said at his regular news conference that the Wyoming
plan ought to be able to pass muster with the federal government.

“I don’t think anybody likes this plan,” he conceded. “I mean, it’s
one of these things we didn’t want to have to do to begin with. And
it is just a continuing reminder of, frankly, the heavy-handed
federal government in Wyoming.”

He said it is important for wolves to be delisted. “The population
numbers are going up exponentially and there’s a point at which, you know,
the federal beast has to be dealt with,” he said.

Whether there will be “speedy action,” he said: “I’m not necessarily
expecting it. But I would hope.”

That concern may be moot if the plan winds up in court. While
ranchers and outfitters say the plan does not go far enough to allow them
to control wolves, conservationists think the plan goes too far by legally
classifying wolves as a predatory species in many areas.

Tim Stevens, issues and outreach coordinator for the Greater
Yellowstone Coalition, said the plan is vulnerable to a legal
challenge, although his group might not be the one to do it.

“It doesn’t meet the legal standard for delisting wolves in terms of the
adequate regulatory mechanisms. Basically they have to show that they are
able to sustain a wolf population over time,” he said.

Wyoming’s plan would establish a “dual classification” for wolves.
Wolves would be protected in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national
parks and the contiguous wilderness areas but everywhere else in the state
would be considered a predator that could be shot on sight.

Stevens pointed out that, of the 11 wolf packs currently in the
Yellowstone area, eight spend time outside the parks and wilderness
areas. He said the plan would leave those wolves vulnerable.

“What we were hoping for are three state plans that are biologically
sustainable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Freudenthal said he has heard little from the Fish and
Wildlife Service on his proposal to appoint a single federal contact
person on the wolf issue.

“I think we’re getting about as much federal dance on that as I’ve
seen on anything,” he said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

People howl about wolf plan

People howl about wolf plan

By JEFF GEARINO
Southwest Wyoming bureau
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission listened to more
than 20 residents and interested parties giving testimony on the
state’s wolf management plan. The majority of the comments were
critical of the plan. Here’s a sampling of some of the comments.

- “This strategy will not work. It protects wolves in less than 20
percent of the occupied range in Wyoming and classifies it as a
predator on 80 percent of its occupied range. We’re not dealing with
noxious weeds … they are wilderness icons and a conservation success
story of the century. Simply put, it’s time to start treating wolves like
wildlife in Wyoming.”

David Gaillard, Predator Conservation Alliance

- “Your primary responsibility is to ensure the plan adopted is in
full compliance with House Bill 229 . I urge you, with the depth of
public comment received today, to take this plan under advisement
and schedule a special commission meeting … a working session to
put forward your best recommendations in the plan. You need time to
digest and carefully discuss all the comments received … this
internal dialogue is necessary to craft the best possible plan for
Wyoming.”

Jim Magagna, executive director Wyoming Stock Growers Association

- “Wolves cull elk and deer herds and kill the sick, the old, the
lame and the stupid and leave the cream of the crop. Nature needs
these animals to balance hunting, which takes only the cream of the
crop.”

Dick Ferguson, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Sheridan

- “What happens with this plan is very, very important to our
members. It’s not fair, especially to the new commission members, to try
and adopt this plan today. The idea of a working session is indeed the
best approach at this time. I’d hate to see something this important to
the state be rushed through.”

Scott Zimmerman, Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union

“I have concerns with this plan. Political boundaries and dual
classification is not appropriate for our plan. Give wolves trophy
game status only.”

Lisa Vogelheim, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Jackson

- “The plan does not make an honest effort to resolve (wolf)
issues … it is politics in its worst form. The plan ignores the
scientific expertise of the department … your artificial
boundaries have no scientific basis. Nor does it address the
economic values of the wolf to our region.”

Chuck Schneebeck, Jackson

- “I support the predator status outside of the parks. The steady
flow of wolves outside the recovery areas needs to be controlled.”

Howard Ewart, Casper

“The plan includes inadequate provisions to reduce livestock
conflicts non-lethally. It does not require unrestricted, non-lethal
control methods at all. I’m strongly opposed to lethal control methods as
a first response, I’d like to see other methods tried first. The plan also
does not designate linkage or migration corridors (with other wolf
habitat).”

Dave Pauley, Humane Society for USA

- “We support statewide trophy game status as originally proposed by the
department. The dual classification will adversely impact wolf recovery
and it will fail to provide enough habitat to maintain seven packs outside
the parks … because most packs live entirely outside the protection
areas. It’s likely illegal and unacceptable in terms of the Endangered
Species Act (ESA).”

Steve Thomas, Wyoming Outdoor Council

- “Dual status is bad wildlife management … and may spoil
successful delisting. The artificial boundaries around Yellowstone
are unacceptable … they restrict wolf populations to arbitrary
political boundaries. It also fails to address the funding issue …
there’s no adequate funding mechanism to cover the cost of managing
wolves.”

Patricia Dowd, Wyoming Chapter of the Sierra Club

- “Wolf viewing is the Number One draw in Jackson right now.
(People) have had an outstanding experience while viewing (a pack)
raising pups year after year in Grand Teton. But under the plan, the
entire pack would be blasted away because the den lies within a short
distance of the park. Their chances of survival (under the plan) are slim.
The plan and process is disrespective to the public and I ask you to
listen and care.”

- Krissi Robertson, Jackson

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

Wyoming’s new wolf plan concerns feds

Wyoming’s new wolf plan concerns feds

The Associated Press

SHERIDAN, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved
a plan for managing gray wolves, knowing that federal wildlife
officials have concerns about whether it adequately protects wolves
in the state.

The commission on Tuesday also requested an immediate petition
for removing wolves from the Endangered Species List once Wyoming
and Montana join Idaho with approved wolf-management plans.

Wolves are now managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wyoming’s plan has raised concern because it would classify the
wolf as a predator in most of the state. Predators can be killed
with few limitations.

Ed Bangs, federal wolf recovery coordinator, said he could not
comment on Wyoming’s final plan because he had not studied it yet.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

Commission approves wolf plan, sends to feds

Commission approves wolf plan, sends to feds

Plan doesn’t please ranchers, outfitters or conservationists.

By Rebecca Huntington

Members of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
made critics howl Tuesday when they approved a controversial plan
to manage gray wolves in the state.

Conservationists blasted the plan, arguing
that it does not guarantee survival of the species as required
by the Endangered Species Act.

Ranchers and outfitters weren’t pleased
either and plead for more time for fine-tuning.

But Game and Fish Director Brent Manning
urged the commission to act now and not delay a decision on the
plan. The seven-member commission followed his recommendation,
approving the plan with only one commissioner, Kerry Powers, dissenting.

“My comfort level isn’t quite there,”
Powers said, according to the Associated Press.

The plan won’t go into effect until the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes wolves from the Endangered
Species List, which agency officials say they won’t even propose
until Idaho, Montana and Wyoming produce acceptable state management
plans. All three plans are expected to be completed by September.

Unlike the other two states, Wyoming’s plan
attempts to limit wolves to one corner of the state. The plan
does that by giving wolves varying levels of protection depending
on where they roam.

Inside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national
parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway, wolves
would be fully protected. In wilderness areas adjacent to parks,
wolves would be protected as trophy game animals and could be
legally killed according to state hunting and trapping regulations.

Across the rest of the state, wolves would
receive no protection and be classified as predators, which can
be killed by any means at any time.

Although killing would be unregulated in
predator zones, the plan does require people to submit a skull
and pelt within 10 days of killing a wolf to Game and Fish for
inspection.

The inspections are necessary to keep tabs
on the wolf population, according to the plan.

The plan commits to maintaining a minimum
of seven wolf packs outside the parks where the state would have
authority to manage the species once wolves are delisted. Population
monitoring would be critical to meeting that goal, the plan states.

If wolf packs fall below seven, Game and
Fish would expand trophy game classification beyond wilderness
areas to encompass much of northwestern Wyoming (see map this
page). Game and Fish will compensate for livestock losses and
manage conflicts with wolves only within trophy game zones.

If trophy game zones are expanded, Game
and Fish will review the situation every 90 days, and the commission
may reduce the zones if it is determined seven packs can survive
in a smaller protected area, the plan states.

Game and Fish estimates the annual cost
of implementing the plan at more than $600,000, which includes
some federal funds.

The plan concludes that its guidelines will
provide for a sustainable wolf population, as required by the
Endangered Species Act.

But conservationists dispute that finding.

Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Executive
Director Franz Camenzind said the plan provides too little protection
and keeps wolves “right on this knife edge” of survival.

“We’re managing right at the brink,
and I think that’s unconscionable,” Camenzind said after
Tuesday’s commission meeting in Sheridan.

Moreover, the dual classification system
manages wolves along political not biological boundaries
and is bound to fail, Camenzind said.

According to the plan, 90 percent of wolf
pack home ranges outside parks fall beyond trophy game zones.

Thus, most wolves outside the parks would be roaming in predator
zones and subjected to unlimited killing, including the Teton Pack, which dens in Grand Teton National Park.

‘Wolves should be viewed as a resource,’
Camenzind told commissioners, adding that they are a tourist draw
to the state, the AP reported.

Ranchers and outfitters didn’t like the
plan either, but not because it offered too little protection
for wolves.

Maury Jones, an outfitter from Grover in
western Wyoming, said wolves are little more than killers of the
elk that he and others rely on to do business, the AP reported.

“The wolf,” he said, “is
going to be the biggest wildlife disaster Wyoming has ever seen.”

Also, Jones said the plan deviates too much
from state law, which calls for seven packs outside parks “or”
15 packs statewide.

‘If there are 12 in the parks, we only
need to have three outside,’ Jones said.

But Rep. Mike Baker, a Thermopolis Republican,
who helped craft the state law, believes the plan conforms with
what the Legislature passed.

Baker and others acknowledged the plan is
controversial. ‘But that doesn’t mean we can’t start here,’
he said, according to AP.

Some ranchers asked the commission to defer
a decision until they could consider public comments more carefully.

The commission rejected that request.

Wolves have made a remarkable recovery since
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced 31 wolves in Yellowstone
and 35 wolves in Idaho in 1995 and 1996. Today, roughly 660 wolves
roam Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

Wyomingites were split over reintroduction
with 49 percent favoring the return of wolves and 39 percent opposed,
according to a 1991 survey cited in the plan approved Tuesday.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has declared
the wolf population recovered but cannot remove wolves from federal
protection and turn over management to states until the states
provide assurances wolves will not become endangered in the future.

Those assurances come in the form of state
wolf management plans, which must be completed before the service
will propose delisting, according to Ed Bangs, the service’s gray
wolf recovery coordinator.

Bangs said Tuesday that his agency will
need to consider all three plans as a package before deciding
whether to proceed with delisting. Idaho’s plan is finished. Montana
officials expect to complete a plan by September.

The three plans will be submitted as a package
to independent scientists for peer review to determine whether
they will sustain a viable population of wolves as required by
the Endangered Species Act.

Bangs has stressed that he wants to put
together a solid plan that will withstand legal challenges, which
he anticipates. If the state plans do not pass peer review, the
service will retain management and not propose delisting, he said.

“While this is the end of the process for Wyoming,”
he said. “We aren’t even starting the delisting process for
the Fish and Wildlife Service [yet].”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

G&F formally OKs wolf recovery plan that may be rejected

G&F formally OKs wolf recovery plan that may be rejected

By MIKE STARK
Gazette Wyoming Bureau

SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Mike Baker got his wish.

In a windowless conference room at a downtown hotel here, the
Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Tuesday approved a wolf
management plan based on legislation backed by Baker, a Thermopolis
Republican in the state House.

“It’s a real sense of accomplishment,” a grinning Baker said after
the vote.

The decision approving Wyoming’s wolf plan sets the stage for the
next step in removing gray wolves from the endangered species list
in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

But a bumpy road lies ahead.

The federal government, which must approve wolf management plans in
the three states before wolves are delisted, already has voiced
serious concern about Wyoming’s approach — particularly the state’s
insistence on classifying some wolves as predators that can be killed any
time.

The wolf question also is expected to be the subject of lawsuits.

Still, Baker is happy that Wyoming has at least offered a plan for
consideration.

“Now it’s out of the state’s arena and we go from here,” Baker said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission spent much of Tuesday morning
listening to dozens of speakers urging the panel to scrap the plan
or, at least, to take more time to think about it.

But Brent Manning, director of the Game and Fish Department, told
commissioners that further delays could bog down the process.

“I’m afraid of getting into partisan politics and delaying
delisting,” Manning said.

In the end, six commissioners voted in favor of the plan while the
seventh, Kerry Powers, voted against.

“My comfort level isn’t quite there,” Powers said.

Jerry Sanders, chair of the commission, said he hoped Tuesday’s vote would
lead as soon as possible to talks on removing federal protections from
wolves.

“We need to get this critter delisted,” Sanders said.

The wolf plan approved Tuesday was based on a blueprint drawn up by
lawmakers last winter.

The plan essentially says that Wyoming will meet its obligation to
maintain 15 packs by relying on at least eight packs in Yellowstone
and Grand Teton parks and seven elsewhere in the state.

Wolf packs outside the parks but living within adjacent wilderness
areas would be classified as trophy animals subject to regulated
hunting.

All other wolves in the state would be considered predators and
could be killed any time and by any means. State officials estimate
that 90 percent of the home range for wolves outside the parks is in areas
where wolves would be classified as predators.

If the number of wolf packs outside the parks drops below seven,
state officials could expand the area in which wolves would be
considered trophy game in an effort to more tightly regulate the
population.

The dual classification of wolves has been particularly
controversial, drawing fire from conservation groups and federal
officials who worry that it doesn’t provide adequate assurance that
Wyoming will maintain a sustainable population.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, told Manning in a letter earlier this month that the dual
classification could significantly delay, and even doom, efforts to
delist the wolves.

But Wyoming officials, including representatives of Gov. Dave
Freudenthal, said Tuesday they were confident that the state plan
would pass muster with federal officials.

“Ed Bangs is entitled to his opinion just like I am,” said
Commissioner Doyle Dorner, who first made the motion to approve the
wolf plan.

Baker acknowledged that the wolf issue is destined for court but
said he believes the Fish and Wildlife Service will approve
Wyoming’s plan.

“I’m comfortable this can work and that (federal officials) will
endorse the plan as viable,” Baker said.

Aside from Baker and Game and Fish officials, hardly anyone in the
packed conference room Tuesday wanted the commissioners to approve
the plan.

Several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club, Wyoming
Wilderness Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Predator
Conservation Alliance and the Wyoming Outdoor Council, voiced strong
opposition to the dual classification and other parts of the plan.

They said the plan was based on politics and emotions rather than
biological strategies to protect wolves and their habitat.

“Wyoming needs a wolf plan based on 20th-century science, not 19th-
century fairy tales,” said Sheridan resident Kirk Koepel.

Others, including ranchers and members of the agricultural
community, faulted the plan for veering too far from the letter and
intent of the earlier legislation, especially in terms of how many
packs the state of Wyoming should be responsible for.

They urged the commission to delay a decision and instead hold a
work session to review the plan and see that it complies with state
law.

Howard Ewart of Casper encouraged the commission to retain the
predator classification as an important tool for curbing the wolf
population.

“I feel that a steady flow of wolves (will come) out of the recovery area
and they need to be controlled,” Ewart said.

With Tuesday’s action, state officials will start looking at how to
pay for implementing the plan. It will cost about $615,000 a year,
officials have said.

Meanwhile, with Idaho’s plan completed and Montana’s set to be
completed in September, the debate over delisting the wolves heads
to the national level. And the last word on Wyoming’s plan — either from
the federal government or from a judge — is a step closer.

“Is this plan the immaculate conception?” Baker said. “No, but it’s
a place to start.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

Way of the Wolf, part II

Way of the Wolf, part II

Funding for wolf management increases; survey examines public
perception

By CLAUDIA CURRAN

Staff Writer

Wisconsin’s wolf population is growing, delisting efforts are in the
works, and current federal funding of wolf-related state and federal
agencies may continue in the upcoming fiscal year.

According to a recent survey, these natural resources agencies face
challenges even after investigations and public compensations are
complete.

Funding

Currently, $1 million in federal funding for wolf management is
funneled through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the wildlife
services agency, formerly wildlife damage control, where the money
is used to investigate and alleviate wildlife damage problems in
Wisconsin, said Randle Jurewicz, Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources staff biologist, who has worked with the state’s wolf
program since 1978.

“This most recent money was for investigating wolf depredation and
for helping to track and remove wolves causing depredations,”
Jurewicz said.

In the past, congressional delegates were lobbied to obtain federal
money to help with the wolf program, and especially with damage
investigations, Jurewicz said.

Before the federal funding was approved, Wisconsin paid the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to investigate whether wildlife damage
claims in the state were due to gray wolves. Now, federal funds are
used for the investigations.

A June bill-writing session of the House Appropriations Agriculture
Subcommittee included an insertion of $1 million in the new federal
farm budget bill for funding wolf management funding in Wisconsin,
Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The full House of Representatives approved the bill earlier this
year.

Prior to proposed funding for next year and the current year’s
already approved funding, federal assistance to complement state
funds for wolf management in Wisconsin was only $5,000.

“It sure beats what we had before,” said Dave Nelson, state director of
the USDA’s wildlife services division. “We were running way short of the
complaint load.”

Of the proposed $1 million in wolf management funds for next year,
$400,000 would be used in Wisconsin, if given final approval,
according to Jurewicz.

“It was like manna from heaven,” Jurewicz said, referring to the
first time funds were awarded for managing wolves.

While the federal budget is technically scheduled for completion by
Sept. 30, it won’t likely be until late this calendar year whether
the wolf management funding is final, said Tom Powell-Bullock, press
secretary for U.S. Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wausau).

But current and future wolf management funding still has major
implications for the state.

Money used in the past by the state for wolf investigations can be
used for other endangered species programs, said Adrian Wydeven, DNR
mammalian ecologist and wolf specialist, who anticipates increasing wolf
program costs as species numbers grow, also raising the potential for more
depredation.

“The more money we have to spend on control actions, the less money
we would have to monitor them [the wolves],” Wyedeven said.

Control, compensation and perception

The April 2003 federal listing change of wolves from being
endangered to threatened gave state biologists more options for
dealing with problem wolves, including allowing government agents to
destroy wolves that kill domestic animals.

Before the federal government reclassified wolves from endangered to
threatened status, most captured wolves were relocated to other areas of
the state.

“With the change in federal status, we will no longer be relocating
problem wolves under most circumstances for several reasons,”
Wydeven said. “Most suitable wolf range is currently occupied, and
few areas exist for releasing problem wolves.”

Wydeven said if problem wolves are released into areas occupied by
other wolves, the released wolves run the risk of being killed by
the local pack, and, as most suitable areas of habitat are occupied,
problem wolves are more likely to move into other areas where they will
cause additional depredation.

“We will continue to explore non-lethal methods for controlling
problem wolves,” Wydeven said. “Scare devices, cleaning up of farm
animals carcasses, changing calving areas, using guard animals, and
other non-lethal methods are all considered where feasible.”

Wydeven said trapping and euthanizing wolves only occurs after at
least two incidents of verified wolf depredation, or on farms that
have had chronic wolf depredation in previous years.

Recently wolves killed two hounds being trained to hunt bear in an
area northeast of Ladysmith, where a local pack also killed a dog
last February, Wydeven said.

The DNR pays for partial reimbursement of losses to dogs caused by
wolves, but control trapping by wildlife services will only occur if
wolves cause depredation to domestic animals on private lands.

Since the federal change in wolf status, wolves have also killed
five calves on three farms in northern Wisconsin, and four sheep on
a fourth farm.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services staff set live
traps for wolves on three of the farms and trapped three wolves on a farm
in Burnett County and one on a farm in Barron County. DNR wardens
euthanized all four wolves.

All the farms received payments in the past for verified depredation and
for some missing calves.

People who lose animals to wolves or other predators and receive
compensation are no more tolerant of wolves than people who aren’t
compensated for claimed losses, according to a study conducted by
the University of Wisconsin-Madison, slated for publication in the
December issue of Conservation Biology.

“Survey results indicate people who had lost a domestic animal to
any predator were less tolerant of wolves than their rural neighbors who
had not,” the study reads.

Those who lost a domestic animal to a predator showed more favor for
lethal wolf control measures than those people who had not lost a domestic
animal.

The highest level of wolf recovery support in the study came from
Northwoods residents who didn’t raise livestock or hunt bear, and
most of these people, or about 71 percent, showed support for
maintaining or expanding the wolf population, while only 55 percent
of livestock producers and 27 percent of bear hunters showed support for
wolf recovery efforts.

“Government agencies charged with restoring and protecting wolves
and other large carnivores face a daunting challenge,” as public
agencies must consider wolf conservation and protection and public
compensation, the study reads.

Data compiled by the UW-Madison researchers also “suggests that if
the Department of Natural Resources can maintain the population at
acceptable levels, most residents will support wolf conservation.”

“The future survival of wolves in Wisconsin depends on effective
political negotiation and publicly palatable methods of controlling
wolf depredations and compensating individuals for wolf-related
losses,” the study concludes.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 29

Wyoming game commission approves state wolf plan

Wyoming game commission approves state wolf plan

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press Writer

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) – The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a plan
for
managing gray wolves, knowing that federal wildlife officials have
concerns
about whether it adequately protects wolves in the state.

The commission Tuesday also requested an immediate petition for
removing
wolves
from the Endangered Species List once Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
complete
wolf-management plans. Wolves are now managed by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife
Service.

Since first being reintroduced to the region in 1995, gray wolves
have
made a
remarkable comeback and federal wildlife officials say they are
ready
to take
steps to remove the wolves from the Endangered Species List.

Wyoming joins Idaho in fashioning a wolf management plan; Montana is
still
working on its plan.

Wyoming’s plan has raised the most concern because it would classify the
wolf as
a predator in most of the state. Predators can be killed with few
limitations.

Ed Bangs, federal wolf recovery coordinator, said he could not
comment
on
Wyoming’s final plan because he had not studied it. He noted it was
still early
in the delisting process, which includes reviews of each state plan by
the Fish
and Wildlife Service and scientists.

The bottom line is whether Wyoming and the other states will ensure
sufficient
numbers of wolves, Bangs said.

Earlier this month, Bangs wrote a letter to the state expressing
concerns that
the state law on which the wolf plan was based was consistent with
the
final
plan.

‘Wyoming’s intent needs to be consistent and crystal clear at both
the
law and
plan level,’ he wrote.

But on Tuesday, Bangs said his agency will ‘rely on Wyoming to tell us
what the
state law does or doesn’t say.’

Michael O’Donnell, legal counsel for Gov. Dave Freudenthal, testified
Tuesday
that the law ‘is satisfactory and the apparent requirements of the
Fish and
Wildlife Service are also satisfied.’

Bill Wichers, deputy director of the state Game and Fish Department,
said
Wyoming lawmakers he has spoken to were willing to look at any
proposed
changes
in state law if needed.

Only one of the seven members of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
voted
against the plan.

‘My comfort level isn’t quite there,’ commissioner Kerry Powers
said.

Commissioners took comments throughout the morning Tuesday and most
comments
were critical of the plan. No one from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service
spoke.

State Game and Fish Department Director Brent Manning described the
plan
as a
‘middle-of-the-road’ compromise.

But ranchers and outfitters said it deviates from the state law that
outlines
wolf management.

Conservationists, meanwhile, worried about the potential
implications of
a dual
classification of gray wolves – as trophy game or predators,
depending
on the
animals’ location and numbers.

Jennifer Williams, of Big Horn, blamed the ‘huge political
influence’
of
Wyoming’s farm and ranch community for a system allowing wolves to
be
shot ‘by
anyone, anytime’ in places where they are considered predators -
outside Grand
Teton and Yellowstone national parks and the contiguous wilderness
areas.

‘Wolves are an important link in a healthy … ecosystem,’ she
said.

Maury Jones, an outfitter from Grover in western Wyoming, said wolves are
little
more than killers of the elk that he and others rely on to do
business.
‘The
wolf,’ he said, ‘is going to be the biggest wildlife disaster
Wyoming
has
ever seen.’

The Wyoming plan would maintain a minimum 15 wolf packs in the state, with
at
least seven packs outside of the parks and John D. Rockefeller Jr.
Memorial
Parkway. In wilderness contiguous with these areas, gray wolves
would
be
classified as trophy game and subject to regulated hunting.
Elsewhere,
the
wolves would be considered predators.

If seven or fewer packs are found outside the parks and parkway,
officials could
extend trophy game status beyond the wilderness areas to help wolf
numbers
recover.

Manning said officials devised the plan under an attorney general’s
interpretation of the law, which he said ‘gives us the flexibility to
make the
plan work.’

But Jones and others say the law calls for at least 15 packs
statewide.
‘If
there are 12 in the parks,’ Jones said, ‘we only need to have
three
outside.’

Rep. Mike Baker, R-Thermopolis, who helped craft the state law,
believes
the
plan conforms with it.

Baker and others acknowledged the plan is controversial. ‘But that
doesn’t mean
we can’t start here,’ he said.

Tim Stevens, issues and outreach coordinator with the Greater
Yellowstone
Coalition, said Wyoming’s plan would likely be challenged in court.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 29

Wisconsin: Way of the Wolf Migration shows health; delisting likely

Wisconsin: Way of the Wolf
Migration shows health; delisting likely

Claudia Curran
The Daily Press

This is part one of a two part series on Wisconsin wolves. Today’s
installment describes the wolf population and responsibility for
wolf management. Part two will review program funding, wolf control
and public perception.

By CLAUDIA CURRAN

Staff Writer

Gray wolf migration out of Wisconsin indicates the state’s wolf
population is healthy, a state expert says, and Wisconsin officials
will likely soon take on the debate of delisting the species from
its present threatened status.

Wolf status and numbers

A gray wolf born to a Wisconsin wolf pack in 2002 was found dead
earlier this year in east central Indiana and its migration,
according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, shows a
strong state wolf population.

The wolf’s movement from Wisconsin to Indiana indicates that “we
have a healthy population and that most of our suitable habitat is
being used,” said Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist and wolf
specialist.

The gray wolf is listed as a federal and state threatened species,
having been reclassified from endangered to threatened by the state
in October 1999, and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April
2003.

Wisconsin’s population of gray wolves only increased by a few in
2003, but the species is closing in on a state goal of 350 animals
outside of tribal boundaries.

According to a recent DNR progress report, current wolf population
estimates hover between 328 and 347 wolves, slightly higher than the
estimated 2002 adjusted wolf count of 327 animals.

DNR wolf population estimates are based on aerial surveys of packs
with radio-collared wolves, ground surveys of 3,000 miles of snow-
covered trails and roads for wolf sign, trained volunteer surveys of 3,600
miles of trails and roads, and wolf observation reports.

Wolf packs, or family groups, are mostly restricted to heavily
forested areas of northern and west central Wisconsin. The most
southern Wisconsin packs are a group of five in the Necedah National
Wildlife Refuge, Juneau County, and a pair in the Colburn Swamp area of
Adams County.

Packs usually have between two and 10 animals, with a dominant
breeding pair, pups from the previous year and the current year’s
pups. A pack’s territory may cover 20-120 square miles, or about one-
tenth the size of an average Wisconsin county.

According to the DNR, a goal of 350 animals was thought to be the
number of wolves that Wisconsin’s available habitat could support
and public tolerance would accept.

Under Wisconsin’s wolf management plan, having 250 wolves outside of
tribal boundaries for at least one year is the population goal for
removing wolves from the state’s list of threatened species.

At least 314 wolves were outside of reservations in 2002 and 327
were outside in 2003.

With these numbers, Wydeven said, the state process to delist wolves from
being threatened will occur soon, and could be completed as soon as Spring
2004.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to start the federal
delisting process in late 2003 or early 2004, and complete the
process in late 2004 or early 2005, Wydeven said.

Once delisted, wolves would continue to be protected as nongame
species, with a goal of maintaining a wolf population of about 350
wolves outside of Wisconsin’s tribal boundaries.

Responsibility

While wolves have not attacked humans, wolves have been increasingly
costly for livestock producers. Sheep and calves are the most likely
victims of wolves, although dogs, deer, chickens, turkeys and horses have
also been attacked, according to a press release from the office of U.S.
Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wausau).

Wisconsin’s DNR documents wolf attacks and provides assistance to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture with wolf investigations.

The USDA’s animal and plant health inspection service says it
helps “the public find ways to resolve nuisance wildlife problems”
by capturing and relocating problem black bear, deer, wolves, beaver and
Canada geese.

Wolf damage investigations involve field trapping, travel, training
and “even some supervision and administrative support,” paid for
with federal funding, said Dave Nelson, state director of the USDA
wildlife services division.

During fiscal year 2002 the agency investigated 88 complaints about
wolves in Wisconsin, and of those, 25 were verified, with 33 pets,
hunting dogs and livestock lost to wolves, totaling $40,000 in
losses.

In fiscal year 2001 the agency investigated 42 wolf complaints in
Wisconsin, and verified 15, with 35 animals lost to wolves, totaling
$23,000 in losses.

Wolf control is one of the agency’s top priorities, according to an
information packet provided by the service. Protecting wolf recovery
efforts and livestock from wolf damage are listed among the agency’s top
five major assistance activities.

One of the service’s projects involves researching methods of
stopping conflicts between livestock producers, pet owners and
wolves.

“Wildlife services’ ability to alleviate wolf depredation of
livestock is essential to wolf recovery because it ensures public
support and public tolerance for the continued recovery of the gray
wolf in Wisconsin,” reads the packet.

The 2002 publication also explains that the agency isn’t able
to “adequately assist the public in resolving all wolf conflicts,”
due to a lack of resources.

Congressional efforts to increase wolf management funding over the
last year has given the agency more resources for investigation and
control.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 27

To Kill and Be Killed

To Kill and Be Killed

The Recovery of the West’s Wild Wolves Is the Feel-Good
Environmental Story of the Past Decade. To Some, There’s Just One
Problem: The Program Worked a Little Too Well.

By Jim Robbins, Jim Robbins is a Montana-based freelance writer. His last
story for the magazine was about coal-bed methane drilling in Wyoming.

One night last January, wolves stole into a pasture at a ranch near
Helena, Mont., and dropped a rust-and-white-colored bull. It’s no
small task to kill a 1,500-pound steer with teeth alone, and for
that reason wolves usually take much smaller prey-calves or sheep.
It was the only bull killed since the wolves began returning to
Montana in 1979.

No one knows exactly how the drama played out, but biologists say
two or three hunters from a wolf pack usually kill large prey while
the rest look on. The wolves patiently parry with big animals until
the animal tires. When they spot an opening, one or two will seize
the hind legs with their massive jaws and a third will clamp on the
throat. As the animal staggers, snorts and shakes its head, the
wolves simply hang on with their crushing bite until the animal
bleeds to death or goes into shock.

Payback was no less brutal. The next night the rancher, using a
night-vision scope, shot a wolf feeding on his $1,500 bull,
mistaking it for a coyote. When he realized he had killed what at
the time was an endangered species, he notified Ed Bangs, who is in
charge of the federal government’s wolf recovery program in the
Northern Rockies. The following night, just after dark, Bangs and an agent
from the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services-which, among other
things, maintains a SWAT team for predators-drove to the ranch. They
climbed a ridge, a vantage from where they could look down through their
own night-vision scope and see the bull carcass, to which they correctly
assumed the wolves would return. Kraig Glazier, the Wildlife Services
agent, trained the crosshairs on an animal and squeezed the trigger. The
sharp crack of a rifle shot reverberated through the valley. One wolf
fell; the rest scattered.

Within a week, all seven wolves in the Castle Rock pack were
destroyed, their whereabouts betrayed by a radio collar that had
been affixed to one of their own. About the same time, federal
agents wiped out four more wolves, part of the Halfway Pack just a
few miles to the north, for the same sin. “Once they start actively
hunting livestock, there is no choice-we need to use lethal
control,” Bangs says. But he adds that shooting wolves is important
for other reasons as well.

“A little blood satisfies a lot of anger.”

The West is getting wild again, and the speedy recovery of wolves, a
once-endangered species, has become one of the most controversial wildlife
issues in the country. A half century after the gray wolf was dynamited in
its den, hunted, trapped and poisoned out of the West with vengeance, it
has reclaimed the northern Rockies in spades. Experts say it could, within
the next decade, re-colonize parts of Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado
and perhaps even California. It’s one of the fastest comebacks of an
endangered species on record, a testimony to wolf reproduction. Bangs’ and
Glazier’s “wolf removal” at the ranch was only temporary-just one day
after the last of the offending predators were finally hunted out, four
new wolves showed up to start the game all over again.

Canis lupus arguably is the most charismatic of what biologists
refer to as “charismatic megafauna”-wildlife with sex appeal and the
fierce public support that seldom materializes when the endangered animal
is the Wyoming toad or the short-nosed sucker fish. Wolves touch something
unfathomably deep in the reservoir of human emotion. That’s partly because
the wolf is a social animal that many people feel has human-like
qualities, such as the way it mates and rears its young. The wolf’s
homecoming offers tourists and naturalists the breath-stealing sight of a
pack of the long-legged hunters loping across a grassy meadow, or sunning
themselves, drunk on meat, on a Yellowstone Park hillside.

“When people start talking about wolves, within seconds they are
talking about something else-their children’s heritage, the balance
of nature, someone else telling you what to do,” says Bangs, who has spent
the past 15 years traveling around the West, meeting with people
passionate about wolves. “A lot of people on both sides get tears in their
eyes and start sobbing. Managing the wolf is managing a symbol.”

But while a wolf’s ululating delights some, it chills others to the
bone. The brutality of a wolf kill can test the mettle of even some
of the most ardent wolf supporters. For example, a saddle horse in
the Ninemile, a valley near Missoula, Mont., was apparently set upon by
wolves. It galloped away, so frantic and blinded by fear that it impaled
itself on the end of a 4-inch-diameter irrigation pipe. It managed to get
loose and run a short way before it collapsed and was eaten. Such killings
have meant the return of a raw frontier-style brutality to the Rocky
Mountain West-not just on the part of the wolves, but also by the people
charged with managing them.

The killing by and of wolves has ratcheted up in recent years as the
number of wild wolves has grown from several dozen in the 1990s to nearly
700 today, increasing about 30% each year. The wolf recovery program is at
a turning point: Federal biologists now consider the wolf a viable
species. After 29 years on the endangered species list, it was down-listed
in April to “threatened,” a final level of protection that the U.S Fish
and Wildlife Service has taken steps to remove in Montana, Idaho and
Wyoming by 2004. Management would be turned over to the states and wolves
could be hunted as trophy animals or shot by ranchers and homeowners if
they attack.

The wolf’s aggression is not its fault-the animal does what it’s
hard-wired to do. But the species has returned to a Western
landscape far different than the one from which it was nearly
exterminated. While the northern Rocky Mountain region has millions
of acres of federally protected wilderness and parks, much of it is
snow and ice for many months. Wolves, like people, want to live in
more hospitable valley bottoms. The unchecked spread of rural
subdivisions, where people raise everything from llamas to horses to
potbellied pigs, and where ranchers graze cattle and sheep, are too
tempting a target for some wild wolves.

So the species has been allowed to come back on conditional terms.
Wolves can run, for example, but they can’t hide. There are 43 packs in
the three states, with an average of 10 wolves in each pack, as well as
numerous loners and pairs. Lone wolves who take livestock are hunted down
and killed almost immediately, and trespassing packs are trapped, drugged
and harassed. If they continue to range too close to people and their
livestock, the wolves are dispatched with extreme prejudice. More than 150
wolves have been killed by federal agents since 1987, something known as
“lethal control.”

The government’s goal is to have at least one member of every pack
wearing a radio collar so that the pack’s whereabouts can be
monitored and recorded. Federal agents can then, if necessary, track and
shoot packs, wolf by wolf. The one wearing the collar becomes known, in
the words of its hunters, as the “Judas wolf,” even if, in this case, the
creature isn’t aware of its betrayal. “We’re not proud of it,” Bangs says.
“It’s a necessary evil.”

With such intensive management, some say the Wild West is less than
truly wild. But that may be what it takes to maintain the precarious
balance between man and nature, for there are many who did not miss the
wolf one bit and consider the renewed possibility of the species’
extinction a reasonable idea.

In a cold, cavernous metal barn at the Park County fairgrounds in
Livingston, Mont., under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights, a
panel of ranchers and wildlife experts sits before an audience that
consists of mostly men wearing cowboy hats. These two dozen or so
ranchers are from the nearby Shields River Valley. Wolves have not
yet colonized their neighborhood so these cattlemen have come to the
Paradise Valley, north of Yellowstone National Park-a hotbed of wolf
activity with four packs-to drink bad coffee and hear what ranching is
like with a new predator roaming the hills.

Bangs is first to speak. A smart, affable guy, he managed wolves for the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska and learned long ago that his
biggest challenge isn’t the wolves. It’s the people. He offers reason and
fact to those on all sides of the issue who are irrational or fearful or
deeply concerned, or sometimes hysterical, or accuse him of being a
butcher, even the few who have wandered out of the backwoods wearing guns,
stinking of bourbon and screaming about black helicopters and government
conspiracies. Bangs’ rational demeanor calms most of them down, but there
still are hotheads. Threats have come his way-including death threats,
especially in some isolated places. “We had a saying in Alaska,” he says.
“People live at the end of the road for a reason.”

Tonight’s meeting is tense but relatively tranquil. After Bangs
speaks, the meeting becomes the equivalent of “Tales From the Crypt” for
the agricultural set. Three ranchers whose livestock have suffered wolf
attacks quietly relate stories about howling at night, or coming home to
find frightened, bawling, huddled cows at the center of a circle of wolf
tracks in the snow, of a desperate feeling when they see buzzards circling
over their pasture, and of cows who have trampled calves as they fled
approaching wolves. Randy Petrich, a lean, young rancher, has shot four
wolves under several shoot-on-sight permits issued because of numerous
depredations on his ranch.

It’s a return to times past. In the late 1800s, ranchers-some of
them the ancestors of those on the land now-hired professional
exterminators to kill wolves for a bounty of $2.50 apiece. In a good
season those “wolfers” earned $3,000. Between 1883 and 1918, 80,000 wolves
were dispatched in Montana alone. By the 1930s all but the occasional lone
wolf was gone.

But the species found its way back to the West in two ways. In 1979
the first female wandered from Canada down the untamed northern
Rockies into Montana near Glacier National Park. Then, in 1995, the
Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service reintroduced
gray wolves from Canada into Yellowstone and Idaho. When the process
began, biologists predicted 450 wolves would be in Idaho, Montana and
Wyoming by the end of 2002. Right now there are 660, not counting this
year’s pups.

That may not sound like many wolves spread over that large a region, but
they kill often, because each one needs an average of nine pounds of meat
a day. They also travel far; each pack has a home range of 250 to 500
square miles. Wolves that kill livestock, however, are a minority. Most
stay with a wild diet. But from 1987, when the first attacks occurred,
until the end of 2002, wolves have dropped at least 200 head of cattle,
600 sheep, nine llamas, 50 pet dogs and the one terrified horse.

The challenge for biologists now is not to make the wolf population
more robust, but to make the species palatable to those who suddenly find
themselves in competition with the deadly efficient predator.

A wall of mountains called the Absarokas shoots heavenward and
shadows Jim Melin’s cattle and sheep ranch in the heart of south-
central Montana’s Paradise Valley. These mountains are the source of three
problems for the Melins: grizzly bears, mountain lions and now wolves.
When Melin comes out to conduct a tour of his ranch, his wife and several
of their 11 beautiful, smiling, towheaded children swarm out of the
trailer as well. The 53-year-old Melin introduces them warmly. “The last
three or four I ain’t even had a midwife,” he says with pride. “Jus’ done
it myself.”

His eldest daughter, 15-year-old Laura Dale, and a sister, 13-year-
old Sarah, come roaring up on a four-wheel ATV with a .22 rifle and
announce that they’ve been out “plinking” ground squirrels. “I shot
20,” says a beaming Laura, her long blond hair spilling out from
beneath a baseball cap.

Melin and his clan have grown up working hard on this beautiful but
hardscrabble place. He drives a snowplow and does custom haying to
supplement the income from the ranch. He is far more troubled by
wolves than he ever was by the grizzly bears and cougars that made
their way out of the mountains and occasionally carved up a cow. One night
last year, a pack came down and made a mess. When predators start killing,
they sometimes lose themselves in the frenzied bloodlust and keep
attacking far beyond what they can eat-something biologists call “surplus
killing.” On the way to move cattle in the morning, the Melin family saw a
flock of magpies feeding on 15 dead or dying sheep, their white wool
stained with blood.

“A lot of them, the wolves just grabbed and took a chunk out of, and
[those] had to be killed,” says Melin’s wife, Betsy. One of the dead was
Percy, a bum, or motherless lamb, raised by the girls’ grandmother. “It
makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck to hear 75 or 80 cows
screaming at the top of their lungs,” Melin says. “I never heard a cow
scream until the wolves came back.”

After the kids leave, Melin says he is worried that they will be
attacked by wolves on their way to the bus stop or while sleeping
outside at night. “It’s like the Wild West around here,” he
says. “When the girls go to baby-sit, they are handed a rifle and
told, ‘The wolves were up on the porch last night. Be careful.’ ” He says
he can’t send his dogs out with the kids-as he does to protect against
bears and mountain lions-because dogs attract wolves. Unlike bears and
mountain lions, however, wolves are not known for attacking humans. There
is no conclusive evidence of a wolf ever killing a person in North
America, but there have been attacks.

Melin is heartsick over the return of the wolf and can’t understand
why anyone with the sense God gave gophers would bring back so
vicious a predator. Yet he seems calm as he complains. Faith in God
has gotten Melin through some tough times, and it will, he is fairly
certain, get him through the test of the wolves. “I got the Lord,” he
says, pushing the front brim of his cowboy hat up to reveal narrowed blue
eyes. “Otherwise I’d like to kill someone.”

Ranchers aren’t the only ones hopping mad over wolves in the
Paradise Valley. Some hunters and hunting guides are furious. Elk,
massive and elegant, are a prized big game species outside the
northern border of Yellowstone, home to the world’s largest elk
herd, and hunters from all over the world come to drop one. In
recent years the size of the elk herd has fallen by more than half.
In 1991 park officials estimated the herd at more than 20,000,
perhaps as much as 24,000. This year the count was between 9,000 and
10,000. How much of that decline can be blamed on wolves?

Robert T. Fanning Jr., Bill Hoppe and Don Laubach, all hunters from
the Paradise Valley and founders of Friends of the Northern
Yellowstone Elk Herd, gather for coffee one afternoon to explain
that they think this resource is being wiped out as a result of the
reintroduction of wolves. “If this isn’t eco-terrorism, I don’t know what
is,” Fanning says. While elk numbers are affected by a variety of factors,
from drought to grizzly bears, he believes it is the voracious and growing
wolf population, with its surplus killing, that is the primary cause.

Theirs may be an extreme view, but Fanning and the others want the
federal government to reduce the number of wolves. “No one foresaw
that wolves would reproduce like gerbils,” says Fanning, spitting
the words out like coffee grounds. If officials don’t remove wolves, he
warns, “people will only take so much” before they rise up. “They will
take strychnine and cyanide to the mountains. Ten men can put 1,000
getters [a deadly device that shoots poison into the mouth of a wolf when
it eats bait on top of it] in one day and take care of our problem. But we
would rather the government take care of it.”

The relationship between elk and wolves in the Yellowstone region is
complex and, to date, not fully understood, says Doug Smith, the park’s
wolf biologist, who bristles at unsubstantiated claims about the reason
for the decline of elk. First, he says, the count in the early 1990s was
probably a record high. Those numbers were thinned by a severe drought,
normal population swings and five other predators that prey on elk calves
and/or adults. “Disentangling those things is not straightforward,” says
Smith. “Wolves are not guiltless. But they are not the sole factor.”

The unfolding wolf story isn’t just playing out on isolated ranches
and in rustic Yellowstone. Residents of rural homes, which have
blossomed throughout Montana in the past several decades, have
discovered, literally, the wolf at their door, with wildlife
savagery sometimes playing out in the front yard. The Ninemile
Valley, located 300 miles from Yellowstone, is a small slice of
heaven and home to another wolf hot zone. A helicopter pilot flying
over it once watched as two wolves chased three deer in circles
around a house.

Actress Andie MacDowell lived there for several years in the 1990s
when the wolves were first colonizing the valley. She spoke out in
support, Bangs says, but her enthusiasm waned after wolves
slaughtered the two Great Pyrenees guard dogs she had gotten to
protect her children. One was found half eaten under the swing
set. “She wasn’t against wolves after that,” says Joe Fontaine, a
wildlife biologist who works for Bangs. “She just didn’t speak out
in favor of them.”

Fontaine tools his white government-issue pickup truck down the
Ninemile one day and stops at a tiny maroon house. A license plate
on one vehicle reads “lma mgc,” and Jeri Ball believes the unusual
and imperial-looking llamas in her front yard are, indeed, magical.
She dresses them in costumes and takes them into schools and nursing homes
for educational and therapeutic purposes.

One night earlier this year, some visitors showed up. “Wolves
whacked three llamas there,” says Fontaine, pointing through the
truck’s windshield to a pasture in front of the house. “So we
got ‘em an electric fence.”

He gets out of the truck and begins joshing with Gene, Jeri’s
husband, who works at the local sawmill. When Gene walked out of his house
one night, he came face to face with a wolf feeding on his llama. It
stared at him. And then continued eating. And there was nothing Gene could
do. An element of trying to ease the effects of the wolf’s return has been
to make the rancher or homeowner feel as if they are not powerless.

Except in extraordinary cases, when someone is issued a shoot-on-
sight permit, citizens until recently could not shoot or otherwise
harass a wolf-only federal agents could. But since wolves were down-
listed from endangered to threatened, civilians have been allowed to shoot
them if they are attacking, and can harass them if they come around. Gene
has the full complement of equipment, including a radio transmitter in his
living room that picks up wolf radio collars, so he knows when the animals
are nearby. The electric fence is hot. And now Fontaine is here to show
him and a neighbor how to use rubber bullets, which can go through
half-inch plywood at 40 yards, to harass wolves.

The government is trying to make sure wolf management doesn’t become a
free-for-all. If the number of wolf packs in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming
drops below 30, wildlife officials intend to reassert authority. They will
not allow the wolf to be driven to the brink of extinction again. But
removing the animal from the threatened- species list will not be easy.
The Republican-dominated legislature in Wyoming wants to classify the wolf
as a predator outside of Yellowstone, not a trophy animal, meaning it can
be shot by anyone at any time rather than carefully managed. That outrages
the large number of Americans who consider killing wolves a sacrilege.

Bangs steers a middle course. As human development sprawls into
every desirable ecological niche in America, he says, wolves need to be
carefully managed, but not treated as vermin again. If Westerners are ever
to accept wolves as their neighbors, he says, those wolves that offend
need to be controlled, with lethal means, by hunters and ranchers-by far
the cheapest method. Such aggressive control measures may seem harsh, but
they may help dampen the growing outcry against the wolves.

Bangs says it’s wrongheaded to focus on the fate of individual
animals when whole populations are in trouble. Many wildlife
biologists constantly fight the sentimental-but biologically
unworkable-portrayals in such Hollywood films as “Free Willy”
and “Bambi.” Killing individual wolves that attack livestock means
the population as a whole will be allowed to stay. Nonetheless,
Bangs knows the bloodshed has only just begun.

“If you think shooting wolves is bad, wait until we start shooting
pups,” he says with a grimace.

Environmentalists do not accept the need to kill wolves as a given.
Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group, has
lobbied for years to return the wolf to the Western wilds. To try to make
the wolf politically acceptable, the organization has raised more than
$250,000 to reimburse ranchers for dead livestock. But that hasn’t
satisfied ranchers, who aren’t fully reimbursed unless they can prove the
calf or sheep was killed by wolves. If the carcass gets gobbled up, so
does the evidence about the perpetrator. It can be difficult to tell a
wolf kill from a mountain lion kill, and a necropsy, a physical
examination of the carcass, is critical.

Wolf protection advocates have found some ranchers willing to test
their belief that you don’t have to kill wolves to keep them away
from cattle and sheep. The lower sheep pasture at the Melin ranch
recently looked like the opening of a used-car lot, with hundreds of red
flags fluttering in the breeze. This is a European innovation called
“fladry” that usually scares wolves away for a month or two, until the
wolves realize they have nothing to fear. But it’s better than nothing and
can be used at critical times, such as lambing season.

The Defenders’ Wolf Guardian Program in Boise, Idaho, also takes
advantage of wolves’ reluctance to approach humans. Volunteers,
including students and housewives, pay their own way to camp out in
remote mountain pastures when flocks and herds are most vulnerable.
They track signals from wolf radio collars and when the animals
approach, the volunteers whoop it up-yelling, banging pots and pans,
firing off cracker shells, says Laura Jones, coordinator of the program.

There are, however, only so many guardians to go around, so the wolf
killing continues. It’s usually done by Wildlife Services under the
direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The activity creates such
a public-relations problem that the media, which rode with troops in the
Iraq war, aren’t allowed to see what Wildlife Services is doing to wolves.
Teresa Howes, a public affairs officer with the Department of Agriculture
in Fort Collins, Colo., refused a request to accompany an agent on a
lethal control action. “It’s just too emotional,” she says.

Bangs says that after 15 years of helping wolves reclaim a place in
the West, he has no doubt it was a good idea, despite the number of
angry people and the losses of livestock and wolves. For one thing,
the wolf has helped restore a natural balance.

“We make decisions and trade-offs all the time,” he says. “With any
program there are winners and losers. It’s important to have some
areas as wild as they can be. This is just a tiny slice of the
country, but it will always remind us of what we’ve lost elsewhere.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized