Sep 30

Not just a predator

Not just a predator

Wolves bring a suprising ecological recovery to Yellowstone

By Nicholas Thompson, Globe Correspondent, 9/30/2003

LAMAR VALLEY, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — It’s a morning of freezing rain in the valley and a pack of wolves is roaming around Black Tail Creek. A few pups gnaw on an old elk carcass while some adults scout the nearby valleys for prey. Not far away, a few elk have sensed the impending danger and are dashing about. To the tourists in the park, the prospect of a wolf attacking an elk is riveting. To the biologists staring into their binoculars, the real action is taking place in Black Tail Creek itself.

There, a cluster of willow plants is flourishing along the creek bed — a small but crucial sign that wolves are boosting biological diversity and restoring balance to America’s oldest national park.

According to numerous biologists and wolf-watchers, the willows have grown because the elk, worried about staying too long in open streambeds, no longer gorge on the nutritious plants. Since the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, the elk have been increasingly itinerant and drawn up out of the wetlands to high rocky areas where they eat more grass. As hunters, soldiers, and elk all know, streambeds and valleys are dangerous. Attackers can scout from up high and pounce.

This is just one of the biologically salutary effects that wolves may have brought to the park, restoring a centuries-old balance that was upset when humans exterminated Yellowstone’s wolves in 1926. Though no peer-reviewed proof exists of their impact on the willows, wolves may well be demonstrating their role as a “keystone species,” an animal whose presence in the area increases diversity and overall ecological health — even as they spend much of their time lunging at other animals’ throats.

“Wolves are to Yellowstone what water is to the everglades,” said Doug Smith, the National Park Service’s director of the Wolf Restoration Project.

Willows help the park’s northern Lamar Valley, which was beggared of the plant before the wolves returned, in several ways. For one, they provide a decent nesting and migratory stopover site for many birds. According to Roger Pasquier, an ornithologist with Environmental Defense, several bird species that nest in the park could particularly benefit, including the yellow warbler, warbling vireo, and the tellingly named willow flycatcher.

Perhaps more important, beavers thrive on willows and those waddling creatures have recently returned to the Lamar Valley after a long absence.

Wolves do eat beavers, but the beavers seem to be quite willing to exchange a small chance at ending up in a wolf’s belly for a good chance at their own tasty willow lunches. There are now four beaver colonies in and around the valley. There were none before wolves returned. One colony even lives right near a wolf den.

Almost wherever they exist, beavers create biological diversity when they build pools of slow-moving water around their dams. These pools create habitat for otters, muskrats, insects, moose, and many bird species.

Wolves also appear to be helping other larger species. Rick McIntyre, another wolf biologist in the park who has tracked the animals by radio nearly every day for more than three years, notes that many scavenging species, such as ravens, magpies, and even grizzly bears, eat the leftovers from wolf kills. A pack of wolves generally eats only about half of each of its kills, leaving plenty for other species to dine on.

A number of scientists caution that much is still unknown. “You can expect changes as a result of wolves being [introduced] in an ecosystem,” said David Mech, a biologist with the US Geological Survey who has done wolf research in Yellowstone. “But I have been cautioning people not to jump to conclusions. It’s early.” Mech adds that wolves could also bring about potential unhelpful biological change, for example through the cascading effects of the reduction in the coyote population.

Smith acknowledges the large uncertainty over future effects and concedes that there isn’t absolute scientific certainty either that the willows have regrown or that the wolves deserve credit. But, he said, “when I walk over to Black Tail Creek, I see willows that are over my head. Five years ago, they were barely at dirt level.” Smith also has studied aspen trees, another key species for many animals that appears to be doing slightly better than before wolves were reintroduced.

When it comes to aspen and willows, changes in elk behavior seem to have much more effect than changes in the elk population. The National Park Service has tried several times to help plant species by killing elk, with little impact. In the mid-1960s, the Park Service tried killing elk hoping that would restore aspen growth. But it “didn’t have any effect on the aspen,” according to John Good, a now-retired Park Service employee who participated in the elk hunts.

Instead of simply killing them, the wolves — who hunt year-round and at night — keep the elk on their hooves all the time. According to Carl Swoboda, director of Safari Yellowstone, “The elk used to be relaxed. They’d go up to everyone and shake their hands and say `welcome to Yellowstone.’ They even said that to the first wolves.”

In 1995 and 1996, wolves from Canada were brought to Yellowstone and to central Idaho. Similar efforts by activist groups to restore wolves to the Adirondacks and northern Maine have not gone far. Currently, about 250 wolves live in Yellowstone and the surrounding area, a number unlikely to increase since wolves tend to kill each other off at higher population densities.

Local ranchers have long opposed wolf reintroduction, fearing livestock predation. Wolves, however, have killed far fewer livestock than even the biologists predicted, and coyotes killed 28 times more sheep and lambs in 2002 than wolves did, according to the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service.

Proponents of restoration noted the potential biological benefits, increased tourism, and a sense that there is something special about restoring a dangerous mammal that roamed across the continent before humans killed most of them off.

“It’s almost like we are making up for what we did to them,” said Tony Martinez, a visitor to the park who drove from Colorado to scout the wolves. “Sometimes just thinking about them back here brings me to tears.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 29

Scientists debate wolf-control strategies

Scientists debate wolf-control strategies

Banff –
Whether wolves should be killed to protect their prey was up for debate over the weekend, at a conference for wolf researchers.

Some argue that there is a need to control the wolf population, to protect the animals they feed on. Others believe that it’s wrong to interfere with the natural selection.

“A small population of wolves impact their prey,” Carolyn Callaghan, of the Central Rockies Wolf Project, said. “That’s what wolves do. That’s their job.” In the Yukon, wolves are blamed for killing off some caribou herds. On Vancouver Island, the animals are seen as a threat to the endangered marmot. About 500 wolf researchers are meeting to discuss what to do about it at a conference in Banff.

“It’s a very contentious debate,” wolf biologist Layne Adams, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska, said. Adams is among those who see the need to control the population by killing some wolves, to conserve their prey. “I certainly see the biological rationale behind conducting control programs,” he said.

In the early 1980s, the B.C. government started a wolf kill after receiving heavy pressure from hunters and ranchers. The cull was quickly stopped over objections. This spring, a draft plan called for a new wolf kill in an area of northeastern B.C.

“Ethically, I’m opposed to it,” Paul Paquet, a wolf biologist at the University of Calgary, said. “I don’t think we should be killing wolves just to benefit a few humans.”

Callaghan says scientists need to investigate all factors that may lead to animals becoming endangered, including humans.


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 28

Utah prepares for possible future in wolf management

Utah prepares for possible future in wolf management

N.S. Nokkentved

The man state officials have hired to help direct an effort to
write a state wolf management plan has raised eyebrows — if not concerns
– among conservationists and wolf advocates because of his connection to
a controversial Wyoming state wolf management plan.

Spencer Amend of the Dynamic Solutions Group deals in tough

“We were called in because it’s controversial,” he said. His
group specializes in helping groups work out natural resource and wildlife
management issues. He enjoys the challenge of bringing people together.

With the possibility that federal officials will hand off wolf
management to states in the northern Rockies as early as next year, Utah
hopes to write its own management plan.

Sheep and cattle ranchers want to see a plan that protects and
compensates them for livestock losses to wolves. Hunters want a plan that
will control wolf numbers to protect game herds. Conservationists want to
ensure that wolves are managed, not just controlled.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources hired Amend to help
state’s wolf work group write a state wolf management plan as directed by
the Legislature earlier this year. That group is set to convene next

“We’re really excited about the project,” said Amend, who
in Wyoming and holds a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Utah State
University, with some graduate work in public administration. In 1999 he
helped found Dynamic Solutions as a consultant group on wildlife and
natural resource issues.

Amend helped facilitate work on Wyoming’s wolf management plan
– which must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with
plans from Idaho and Montana before gray wolves can be removed from the
endangered species list, and management turned over to state wildlife

Conservation groups contend the Wyoming plan focuses on
rather than management and doesn’t provide adequate protection for wolves.

“There has to be a regulatory aspect in place that would keep
wolves from being persecuted again,” said Suzanne Stone, the Rocky
Mountain field representative of Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit group
that compensates ranchers who lose livestock to confirmed wolf kills.

“We don’t believe the Wyoming plan protects wolves in any
meaningful way,” she said.

Stone and some others wonder what Amend’s connection with the
Wyoming plan will mean for the Utah’s effort.

It’s hard to pin faults with the plan on the facilitator, said
Allison Jones of the Utah Wolf Forum. But she remains cautious and

“We have to do better than Wyoming,” she said.

But the makeup of the work group in Utah makes her optimistic.
It includes wolf advocates, livestock interests, hunters, wildlife,
political scientists and the Ute Indian Tribe.

Stone contends that the facilitator in any contentious process
is important. A good facilitator would ensure that all the interested
parties are included. Her group has asked but was not invited, she said.

Amend agrees that as a facilitator he wants to see everyone
an interest on the work group.

“I don’t want to see the plan shot down at the last minute by
someone who should have been on the group,” he said.

But there will be opportunities for public involvement as part
of the process, he said.

Wolves are a contentious issue, but it is not so much about
biology as it is about economics, sociology and politics, Amend said. He
will bring a team of three to facilitate the group meetings, keep the
group on track and run public meetings.

Kevin Conway, director of the Division of Wildlife Resources,
proposed the makeup of the work group to the Wildlife Board. But he did
not pick individual people; he picked interest groups and let them pick
their own representatives, he said.

“We’ll see the ability of Utahns to sit down to work through
this issue,” Conway said.

Ranchers are concerned over potential problems with livestock
and would like to see a plan that includes compensation and mitigation for
losses, said Brent Tanner, executive vice president of the Utah
Cattlemen’s Association.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation encourages federal officials
to delist the wolf and let the state manage the wolf like they do any
other species, said Ken Young, the foundation’s volunteer chairman for

“The sportsmen don’t want wolves,” said Don Peay of Sportsmen
for Fish and Wildlife. They are concerned about the effects of an
uncontrolled wolf population on the wildlife herds that hunters have spent
million on to rebuild after they were all but wiped out in the early 20th
century, he said.

His group supports the effort to create a state management
plan — a plan that may in the end call for no wolves, he said. But he
remains skeptical of federal assurances that wolves will be removed from
the endangered species list.

That process could begin as early as December, said Ed Bangs,
head of wolf recovery in the northern Rockies for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

Wolves have been declining since the first government bounty
gray wolves was set in 1622 in New England. By 1930, settlers and
government hunters had effectively exterminated wolves in most of the

“We deliberately killed them,” Bangs said. The gray wolf was
listed as an endangered species in 1973.

In 1995 and 1996, Fish and Wildlife’s recovery efforts
successfully reintroduced 35 wolves to central Idaho and 31 to Yellowstone
National Park in Wyoming. They already had begun to re-colonize northern

In those three states, wolves now number an estimated 700 to
animals, meeting the recovery goal.

But before the delisting process starts, Fish and Wildlife
approve wolf management plans from the three states. The Wyoming plan
still is under peer review, Bangs said.

If the plan is approved, the next step is to start the
process, which takes about a year. That means the wolves could be delisted
by late 2004.

No one doubts that wolves will make their way into the wild
country of northern Utah.

“There will be occasional wolves in Utah,” Bangs said. But it
will probably be decades before a breeding pair and a pack is established
in northern Utah, he said. The time to decide how to deal with them is
before they show up.

Utah, however, is under no federal mandate to accommodate the
wolf, Conway said.

“The fate of the wolf in northern Utah is up to people in
Bangs said.


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 27

New wolf pack found near Daniel

New wolf pack found near Daniel

DANIEL — Federal biologists are monitoring a new wolf pack discovered in
the Wyoming Range west of Daniel.

As many as 16 wolves, primarily pups, were discovered Sept. 12.

“We had heard reports last fall and all through the winter that there were
three wolves there,” said Mike Jimenez, project leader for wolf recovery
in Wyoming. The larger number was a surprise to biologists.

In August, federal trappers confirmed two sheep kills in the area due to
wolves and suspected as many as a dozen more. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service set traps to try to capture the offenders.

Two wolves were caught and both died from heat.


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 26

‘My, what big teeth you have …’

‘My, what big teeth you have …’

By Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

No more crying wolf in Colorado. Not since the Division of Wildlife
announced Sept. 10, “It is likely gray wolves, particularly single, young
adults, may wander from gray wolf populations either north or south of
Colorado into our state.”

Wolfless since World War II by way of government-sponsored extermination,
Colorado might as well have offered this instead – “Posted: Pandora has
reopened her box, and the consummate Old West versus New West debate is
likely to wander into our state.”

The focus of infernal controversy in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to the
north, and New Mexico and Arizona to the south, the wolf is preceded in
Colorado by his mythic, marauding reputation. And wolf or no wolf in the
state – there have been no confirmed sightings to date though anecdotal
reports exist – the wolf issue is upon us.

During the Division of Wildlife’s (DOW) presentation of the “Guidelines
for Response to Gray Wolf Reports in Colorado” at the Sept. 10 Colorado
Wildlife Commission meeting in Lamar, Director Russell George said the
agency will soon pursue a long-term wolf management plan.

“You can continue to wait and watch, which is what’s been happening, but I
think while we wait and watch, we should be talking about it,” said
George, a former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives from

And while the tenor of the plan remains unclear – “We’ll embark on this
with no presumption of any kind about a conclusion afterward,” George said
- it will serve as Colorado’s first step toward addressing a species it
banished some 50 years ago.

Meanwhile, next door in Utah, the Legislature passed a resolution in
January calling for a bipartisan group to write a state wolf management
plan. Unlike in Colorado, Utah’s Division of Wildlife will not be directly
involved in drafting the plan.

The challenge for both Colorado and Utah is that there is no federal
mandate to reintroduce wolves in either state, nor is there likely to be
one. In contrast, wolf populations in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are
federally supervised under the Endangered Species Act.

By virtue of geography and biology, however, the wolf issue is being
forced on Colorado and Utah by the wide-ranging wolves themselves.

Ed Bangs, the northwestern wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, described the Colorado situation this way: “My bottom
line – that’s not my problem. … The issue of wolves in Colorado is going
to have to be solved by Colorado people.”

The DOW will gather public comment and research legal policy, and,
spearheaded by DOW species-conservation staffers, publish a plan in the
next “year or so,” according to George.

“Your plan will look differently if you already have wolves in your state
than if you don’t, right? We’re not talking about introduction and what to
do when we introduce – we’re not there yet,” George said.

“Our [plan] will be what to do when they come, if they do, and what to do
in the meantime. We have more time.”

The biological clock, though, is ticking.

Colorado caught in the middle

The 66 wolves reintroduced to the wilds of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana from
southwestern Canada in 1995-96, coupled with the 19 or so that recolonized
in northwest Montana on their own, have mushroomed into an estimated 700
to 800 wolves in an area centered around the greater Yellowstone National
Park ecosystem.

Meanwhile, 34 Mexican gray wolves were released on the New Mexico-Arizona
border in 1998, and at least 22 remain.

Colorado and Utah are uniquely positioned in between these two
populations, but their days as de facto buffer zones appear numbered.

Last November, a male canis lupus of Yellowstone origin was ensnared in a
coyote trap near Ogden, Utah, winning distinction as Utah’s first wild
wolf in a half-century (though not the last one since then) before being
whisked back to Yellowstone and released. And confirmed wolf attacks on
livestock near Rock Springs, Wyo., puts wolves less than 50 miles north of
the Colorado border.

To the south, a southern Colorado rancher told the Associated Press this
month that Mexican gray wolves have crossed over. “We already have wolves
near Chama in New Mexico and in Antonito on our side of the line. People
have seen them, but nothing has been done about it,” said Olive Valdez.

Curiously, Colorado still has a $2 wolf bounty on its books, and the DOW
and State Legislature formally oppose reintroduction of the wolf or
grizzly bear. But the wolf and grizzly are listed on the state’s
endangered species list. And for the time being, wolves remain protected
under the federal Endangered Species Act and are closely monitored by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

That said, in April 2003, the USFWS downgraded the gray wolf in the
northern Rockies from “endangered” to “threatened.” But in the southern
Rockies, a so-called “distinct population segment,” the wolf remains
“endangered” and fully protected by Congress. The dividing line between
the populations, running through Colorado and Utah, is Interstate 70.

Adding further complexity to the issue, the USFWS has initiated a full
delisting of wolves from the endangered list – but only in the northern
Rockies. In order for the agency to delist, it must approve recently
submitted wolf management plans from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and then
transfer wolf stewardship to the states.

Montana completed its plan Sept. 12, and all three state plans are now in
the hands of a 12-member scientific review panel. The Endangered Species
Act requires that state management plans ensure the long-term survival of
the species. The USFWS has suggested that a minimum of 30 packs in the
three-state area would constitute a viable population.

But, like any law, the Endangered Species Act is subject to challenge and
interpretation. At the earliest, according to the USFWS’s Bangs, the
northern Rockies’ wolf population could be delisted in late 2004.

“There’s no way it’ll go forward smoothly,” said Bangs, who has been based
in Helena, Mont., for 15 years, after more than a decade of wolf research
and management in Alaska. “And that’s about the only thing I can guarantee
- we’ve been in litigation since the reintroduction from groups on both
sides of the issue, and it’s just the nature of wolves. They seem to make
people nutty. It’s going to be really tough, really expensive, but we’re
going through the steps and if we move forward, we may get to proposing

“Wolves are a piece of cake to manage biologically,” Bangs continued, “but
from a people standpoint, man, wolves make people crazy.”

A host of wolf advocacy groups will be watching the process closely,
reading and rereading Section 4-F of the Endangered Species Act on
recovery plans.

“What is recovery?” asked Mike Phillips, one of the two biologists who
reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone in 1995. “You’re hard-pressed to find
an answer, but it’s of central importance.

“Is there recovery up in the northern Rockies? Yes. I fully support
delisting wolves there. … Everything I know about the Endangered Species
Act, everything I know scientifically, tells me it is appropriate. After
that, I grow confused,” sighed Phillips, who is now the executive director
of the Turner Endangered Species Fund of Bozeman, Mont.

The rub, Phillips said, is whether a “recovered” population in three
states of the northern Rockies constitutes a full recovery in the entire
northwest, as the USFWS is suggesting.

“I find it surprising that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded
that their success applies not only to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, but
that it also applies to northern California, all of Oregon and Washington,
and Utah and Colorado – all states in the wolf’s former range,” Phillips

“Is this what recovery is under the Endangered Species Act? I can’t tell
you. But I’m very surprised the Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t asked the
question … outside of a largely internal discussion. And I’m not the
only one starting to connect the dots and find the image lacking.”

Predatory politics

In Colorado, the tide of public opinion has apparently reversed: Whereas
the wolf was once the villain, now the livestock industry carries that

Surveys indicate Coloradans favor reintroducing the wolf, and two
different studies suggest the national forests of the Western Slope could
support more than 1,000 wolves, according to Rob Edward of Sinapu, a
Colorado-based wolf advocacy group.

“We believe recovery cannot be achieved without enough wolves in enough
places actually having an impact on their ecosystems,” said Edward. “There
can’t just be a token number of wolves out there. So we continue to
advocate for reintroduction [in Colorado], and we feel the job as mandated
in the Endangered Species Act has not been done until wolves are thriving
in the southern Rockies – the last, best place for wolves in the lower

The livestock industry not only adamantly opposes wolf reintroduction, but
many Colorado ranchers are displeased that the Endangered Species Act
actually protects wolves in Colorado.

“We see the brutality of predators – we don’t have this golden vision of
wolves, but we don’t want to destroy them either,” said Bonnie Kline,
executive director of the Colorado Sheep and Wool Authority. “We want to
be able to protect our livestock, and we’re made the villain because of

In 2002, wolves in the northern Rockies recovery area killed 52 cattle, 99
sheep, nine dogs and five llamas (numbers that could be confirmed). In
response, USFWS agents destroyed 46 wolves thought to be connected with
the depredations.

In all, federal agents have killed more than 150 wolves in “lethal
control” actions since 1987. In that same period, through 2002, wolves
dropped at least 200 cattle, 600 sheep, nine llamas, 50 dogs and one
horse. Ranchers are remunerated for losses that can be confirmed by
federal agents, and a private compensation fund, the Defenders of
Wildlife, has paid out more than $200,000 in claims.

Wolves’ prey of choice remains elk, which make up about 80 percent of
kills, followed by deer. But Phillips said prey availability is only one
component to suitable wolf habitat.

“They’re one of the greatest ecological generalists there’s ever been,” he
said. “They were everywhere. East Coast, West Coast, north, south – these
things historically constituted the most widely distributed large mammals
in North America.

“This tendency to prey on animals bigger than them isn’t required even,”
he continued. “Ultimately, what they need is to be left alone; so in this
country, ultimately, the defining characteristic of wolf habitat is

Under the current rules, as outlined in the DOW “guidelines,” Colorado
ranchers have few options to protect their herds. South of I-70, where
wolves enjoy full “endangered species” protection, they may not be shot
for any reason, barring a threat to human life. North of I-70, where the
wolf is “threatened,” ranchers may harass wolves on their property but may
not shoot to kill. But DOW officers, in conjunction with the USFWS, may
issue kill permits to ranchers who have suffered losses.

Since no wolves have entered the state yet (that the DOW can confirm, at
least), and scientists don’t believe natural recolonization will occur for
decades, the issue hasn’t come to a head.

“We’re on board to say, ‘Let’s have a management plan,’” said Kline of the
Colorado Sheep and Wool Authority, “because right now we can’t do a thing.
If you shoot an animal, you’re a criminal.

“I’ve always encouraged my producers to see where we can compromise, but
on the wolf issue, we’re pretty clear and it’s, ‘Hell, no,’” continued
Kline, who represents about 300 sheep ranchers and a state flock of
approximately 420,000.

Bangs and Phillips counter that, based on research from the northern
Rockies wolf population and elsewhere, coexistence between wolves and
livestock is possible and that wolf depredations are insignificant from an
industry standpoint.

“Wolves are not that big a problem, not that big of a deal for livestock,
but in people’s minds they are,” said Bangs. “For the industry, they’ll
make no dent whatsoever, but if you’re the person who’s losing sheep or
cattle, then it’s a different story, and everyone can sympathize with

Regarding Wyoming, home to the most controversial proposed state
management plan (with wolves listed as “predators” outside of protected
areas like Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park), Bangs conceded
wolves will not be restored everywhere.

“There’s a lot of places that people aren’t going to let wolves live,
period,” he said. “Not gonna happen.”

When asked if a compromise could be struck, a management stipulation that
might put Colorado ranchers at ease, Kline replied: “If there was an
unequivocal shoot-on-sight policy when wolves are near your livestock, not
actually killing something, but anywhere on your ranch, then we wouldn’t
be as upset about this as we are.

“And if wolves were truly endangered,” Kline added, “you’d see a different
reaction from us.”

A Colorado vacuum?

While scientists examine the three state management plans submitted as
part of the possible delisting in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, the Colorado
DOW’s George said he hopes to create a meaningful dialogue on the wolf

“Part of the public process of a wolf management plan invites public
discussion,” he said. “We expect groups to come out and say we’d like to
advocate for reintroduction, and I’m quite confident other folks will say
they don’t think it’s appropriate.

“It’s appropriate for us as the state’s wildlife managers to engage in a
public discussion about all the aspects of wolves and all the
possibilities,” George continued.

But with the DOW policy of 1989 opposing the reintroduction of wolves, and
a 2000 legislative declaration stating that the Colorado General Assembly
must introduce a bill in order to undertake any new reintroductions,
George said the DOW’s present position is clear: “State law says there
will be no reintroduction until further action. I don’t think it’s a value
judgment, it ‘s just legal authority.”

But Sinapu’s Edward said Colorado should have a wolf-friendly plan in
place as part of the northern Rockies delisting process. “If delisting
occurs, there’s a big vacuum in Colorado north of I-70,” said Edward,
“with contradictions between state policies and laws and statutes, as well
as the continued likelihood of federal authority south of I-70.

“And that’s why there’s an argument out there suggesting that delisting
should not occur until Colorado has an adequate plan in place. And because
wolves are listed on the state endangered species list, to say nothing of
the DOW and Legislature’s stated opposition to reintroduction, we believe
it ‘s incumbent on the DOW and state wildlife commission to develop a plan
that meets their obligations under the law.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 26

Making a case for wolves

Making a case for wolves

Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The National Wildlife Federation and three other environmental groups plan to sue the federal government for ending a program to restore wolves to the Northeast. The groups argue that by changing the classification of wolves from endangered to threatened, and ending restoration efforts, the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act.

“Today, the wolf can be found on just 3 percent of its historic range in the lower 48 states, and millions of acres of former habitat remain potentially available for wolf restoration,” the groups said in a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, giving her 60 days notice that a lawsuit would be filed.

The groups want the federal government to change its rules again, reviewing the proper classification under the Endangered Species Act for wolves in the Northeast, and reviving restoration efforts.

“They should go back and draw up a plan for figuring out how to restore the wolf to the Northeast,” said federation attorney John Kostyack from Washington. “We know it’s possible. We had great success in the West.”

On April 1, the Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified most wolf populations in the United States from endangered, the most imperiled, to threatened. The move came after what officials felt was a successful reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park. Wolves naturally repopulated parts of the upper Great Lakes from previously existing populations in Minnesota.

It was the success of those programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where wolf populations are now thriving, that led to the rule change in April.

Paul Nickerson, an endangered species specialist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Haley, Mass., said the goals of the Endangered Species Act had been met: the creation of a self-sustaining wolf population in the wild.

“I personally would love to see wolves reinhabit the (Northeast) region,” said Nickerson, who had not seen the National Wildlife Federation’s document, but was familiar with the arguments. “It’s not a requirement of the Endangered Species Act that every inch of habitat be reinhabited.”

The Wildlife Federation, The Maine Wolf Coalition, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Environmental Advocates of New York on Thursday sent the 60-day notice to Norton. Kostyak said the lawsuit would probably be filed in a New England state, although he hadn’t decided yet which one.

Wolves used to roam across much of North America, but they were pushed out of the Northeast in the late 1800s.

Now there are no known wolf populations living in the Northeast, although there are wolves living in eastern Canada near the U.S. border, and individual wolves have been found in Maine.

There are tens of thousands of acres of suitable wolf habitat in parts of northern New England and in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, experts say.

Even before the rule change, wolf restoration plans for the Northeast weren’t far advanced. The goal to reintroduce wolves was met with fierce opposition by some people who feared the effect on wildlife and farm animals.

The new rules put the Northeast into the same region as the Great Lakes states, Nickerson said.

This is despite a Fish and Wildlife Service study during the Clinton administration that emphasized the importance of wolves in the Northeast, believed to be genetically distinct from the Great Lakes animals, said Kostyack.

“In the Bush administration’s final rule, they didn’t retract any of that. Instead, instead they harped on the success in the western Great Lakes,” Kostyack said. “Never did they say the overall gray wolf population is OK. It’s not OK. You still have a very small range of occupied habitat.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 26

Wolf found dead near Silver City

Wolf found dead near Silver City

By Thomas J. Baird

An endangered Mexican Gray Wolf, reintroduced into New Mexico as part of the federal and state interagency Wolf Reintroduction Project, was found dead near Silver City Wednesday, officials from the project and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confirmed Thursday.

“The dead wolf was the alpha male from the Francisco pack,” said Victoria Fox, an information officer with the federal Fish & Wildlife Service in Albuquerque.

Fox said the New Mexico Game & Fish Department’s law enforcement agents are in charge of the investigation into the death of the wolf and added that the animal’s carcass had been sent to Ashland, Ore., where officials at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory will perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

Fox declined to comment on whether the animal may have died of natural causes or by human intervention, such as trapping, shooting or being struck by a vehicle. She said agency protocol prohibited comment on such deaths until a necropsy has been performed, which she noted could take a month or more, depending on the case load at the agency’s forensics lab.

Michael Robinson, a local staffer for the Center for Biological Diversity, also confirmed the death of the lobo Thursday and said it was wolf No. 509, an adult male of the Francisco Pack. The national nonprofit organization, which was founded in rural southwestern New Mexico and claims a membership of 7,500, describes itself as an advocacy group for animals and plants hovering on the brink of extinction.

“The wolf had been released in 2000 and he and his mate lived partly on the Apache National Forest in Arizona and partly on lands to the west,” Robinson said Thursday.

He said the dead wolf’s mate, which was last known to have been in Arizona, has five pups which are now yearlings.

“Because the federal government’s regulations require capturing any wolf whose home is largely outside of the recovery area, the Mexican Wolf is the only endangered species in the U.S. where the government is required to capture them if they leave their recovery area,” Robinson said.

The wildlife activist said the wolf pair had once been captured and the female had 5 pups while in captivity, all of which died. He added that the fate of wolves that are trapped, may mirror that of other wolves repeatedly taken into captivity and re-released elsewhere, which has resulted in a scattering of the pack – leading ultimately to either recapture or the death of the animals.

“Later, they were re-released in the Gila Wilderness,” Robinson said, referring to the now deceased alpha male and his mate. “And they split apart, which has happened before with wolves after they have been in captivity. The Francisco Pack has never been confirmed as having attacked livestock, were not involved in depredations, and records from Fish & Wildlife bear that out. It is that rule about capturing them outside the recovery area, and incidents such as this, that are an obstacle to recovery of this endangered animal.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 26

3 Endangered Wolves Killed

3 Endangered Wolves Killed

By Tania Soussan
Journal Staff Writer

Three endangered Mexican gray wolves have been found dead in New
Mexico and Arizona in the past two weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service said Thursday.

The federal agency responsible for reintroducing the lobos into the
wild would not say how the wolves died, but the bodies have been sent out
for necropsies, said acting program coordinator Colleen Buchanan.

“All of them are under investigation,” she said. “It’s definitely a
blow to be losing all these animals.”

Two of the wolves were particularly valuable to the reintroduction
effort, she said.

The alpha female from the Saddle Pack, found dead in Arizona on Sept.
15, was part of the most genetically valuable breeding pack in the wild
because of its lineage, Buchanan said.

She had as many as four living pups when she died and “the survival
those pups will now be uncertain,” Buchanan said.

The second dead wolf was an uncollared male found Sept. 19 near
Creek on the northern edge of the Gila Wilderness. He was born in the
wild, probably last year, and was valuable to the program because he had
never been in captivity, Buchanan said.

A third wolf, the alpha male from the Francisco Pack, was found dead
off U.S. 180 near Silver City on Wednesday, Buchanan said.

The number of collared wolves in the wild now is probably in the 20s
and the total wild population is an estimated 50 or 60 animals, she said.

Michael Robinson, a wolf program advocate with the Center for
Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos, said there is a good chance the
wolves were shot.

“It appears all three will eventually be confirmed as illegal
mortality,” he said.

Robinson said the Francisco Pack male was found dead just about an
hour after its presence there was broadcast on a local radio program.

The wolf reintroduction program is unpopular among many residents of
rural southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona where the animals
have been released.

Members of the Francisco Pack were captured this spring because they
had strayed onto the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona and the
tribe asked that they be removed. The pack split up after being


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 26

Pack of wolves appears in front of motorist near Russian border

Pack of wolves appears in front of motorist near Russian border

Ministy of Agriculture and Forestry grants licence to kill one wolf

A large pack of wolves was seen on Tuesday night on a road near Tohmajärvi in Northern Karelia, not far from the Russian border and the border crossing point at Niirala. Local farmer Antero Nenonen met the pack shortly before seven while driving on the Huikkola road between Kitee and Tohmajärvi.

“I saw at least nine or ten well-nourished wolves. They scattered into the forest”, says Nenonen. He notified the local Game Management Association as well as police, and local hunters went to identify the tracks. Nenonen met the wolves in a forested area some 2.5 km from the nearest village.

In and around Tohmajärvi a number of solitary wolves as well as groups of several animals have been seen recently. Last week wolves killed two calves and savaged a third. A number of dogs have been taken by wolves, too.

“There are now too many wolves in this area. The packs have to be dispersed, because there are also bears in the forest. People don’t dare to go picking lingonberries.”

One of the local farms applied for licences to kill three wolves. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry granted one.

“Three would have been better, but this is better than nothing”, says Olavi Ehrukainen, Executive Manager of the Tohmajärvi Game Management Association. “Even though some people fear wolves, there is no hysteria in the air.”

The elk hunting season will start on Saturday. The wolves moving in the area pose a threat to hunting dogs.

“They have been seen to attack a dog even when the hunter is standing nearby. I won’t set my own dog loose in an elk hunt until the situation has cooled down. Several of my friends agree,” argues Ehrukainen.


Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 25

More confirmed wolf kills

More confirmed wolf kills

by Cat Urbigkit

Federal wildlife officials have confirmed that the pack of 16 wolves
roaming the Wyoming Range west of Daniel includes 10 grays and six
black-colored wolves.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials became aware of the existence of
the pack only after a yearling heifer was confirmed as having been killed
by wolves and trapping efforts were initiated. USDA Wildlife Services
personnel captured four 60-pound wolf pups and released them with radio
collars, but managed to count 16 wolves together in the pack.

Wildlife Services also confirmed that the wolves killed several domestic
sheep in the area early last week, and probably were responsible for the
death of another beef calf, but since the sheep and cattle are soon slated
to begin moving off grazing allotments in the Bridger-Teton National
Forest, FWS reports that no control actions will be initiated on this pack
at this time.

Although wolves have hit domestic sheep in the Wyoming Range several times
this summer, those depredations were minor compared to recent incidents in
Idaho. Over the weekend of Sept. 12-14, a previously unknown pack of four
to five wolves hit domestic sheep located about 30 miles north of McCall,
Idaho. Federal officials confirmed that more than 50 head of sheep were
confirmed wolf kills from the incident, in which the pack went from herd
to herd.

FWS reported: “The total number of dead sheep is in the 70s and four to
five bands that are protected by dogs and herders have been hit. This
group of wolves is likely the same bunch that has been killing sheep about
seven to eight miles away. Wildlife Services was authorized to kill this
pack of four to five wolves.”

Wolves have been busy killing livestock in other areas of Wyoming recently
as well. Among other incidents, a beef calf was reportedly killed in the
Big Horn Mountains, east of Ten Sleep on Sept. 9.

According to FWS, multiple wolves may be in the area where a USDA Wildlife
Services specialist shot a depredating wolf off a sheep carcass on Sept.
5. FWS plans to trap, collar and release any wolves in the area.

In other wolf news, FWS estimates the likely number of wolves and wolf
breeding pairs in 2003 will be slightly higher than last year, but the
rate of growth in the population is slowing.

The federal agency reported: “While these estimates are admittedly very
rough and could change significantly once fall/winter aerial tracking with
snow cover has been conducted, we have currently documented an estimated
wolf population of: By recovery area – northwestern Montana – 90 wolves
and three breeding pairs; central Idaho – 362 wolves and 21 breeding
pairs; Greater Yellowstone Area – 295 wolves and 22 breeding pairs.

“By state these estimates are: Montana – 161 wolves and eight breeding
pairs; Idaho – 346 wolves and 21 breeding pairs; Wyoming – 240 wolves and
17 breeding pairs. The total wolf population estimate for 2003 is 747
wolves and 46 breeding pairs compared to 663 wolves and 43 breeding pairs
in 2002.”

FWS sent out the completed Idaho, Wyoming and Montana wolf management
plans for independent scientific peer review on Sept. 12. The peer
reviewers are all recognized professional wolf management and scientific
experts from North America. The peer review should be completed by Oct.
31. Peer review is the next step in the process for FWS to determine if a
delisting proposal is appropriate at this time, the agency reports.


Posted in Uncategorized