Oct 31

Rabies Threatening Rare Ethiopian Wolves

Rabies Threatening Rare Ethiopian Wolves

Associated Press Writer

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – A rabies outbreak is threatening the few hundred remaining Ethiopian wolves – one of the world’s rarest animals, a wildlife expert said Friday.

At least 20 of the endangered wolves died in the last month in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains- a critical breeding ground for the reddish-brown animal, said Dr. Stuart Williams, a British conservationist.

The wolves are believed to have caught rabies from infected domestic dogs, said Williams, who heads the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program in Addis Ababa.

Only about 500 Ethiopian wolves remain in the wild, with the majority in the Bale Mountains where the population was nearly wiped out by a 1991 rabies outbreak. It only has recovered within the last two years, Williams said.

“There are grave concerns that the current outbreak may become an epidemic that will spread and cause a similar significant crash in numbers,’ he said.

The solution is vaccinating those wolves that have not yet been infected, said Williams, who is awaiting permission from the Ethiopian government to go ahead with the inoculations.

Ethiopian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The wolves live in packs of up to 12 adults but hunt and forage alone, unlike gray wolves, their North American and European cousins.

Ethiopian wolves weigh about 50 pounds, about half as much as North American and European wolves, from which they are believed to have evolved during the last Ice Age, about 100,000 years ago.

Thousands of Ethiopian wolves once roamed much of the country’s mountainous north, but their numbers have fallen dramatically in recent decades as farmers encroached on their habitat and introduced domestic dogs that carried rabies.

The wolves also mate with the dogs, diluting a shrinking gene pool.


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 31

Park researchers plan study of wolves’ effect on elk behavior

Park researchers plan study of wolves’ effect on elk behavior

Associated Press

BILLINGS ý Researchers at Yellowstone National Park plan to analyze wildlife data to determine if gray wolves are having an effect on elk behavior, as two recent studies suggest they may.

Doug Smith, the Yellowstone Wolf Project leader, said Thursday the intent is to ýprove or disproveý the findings of the researchers from Oregon State University using data gathered on wolf-elk encounters in the northeastern part of the park.

ýWeýre going to look at the exact location where wolves find elk,ý Smith said. ýWeýre going to test the idea that elk are avoiding high-risk areas because we know where they have these encounters.ý

The Oregon State researchers found that streamside trees and shrubs, long a popular food source for elk, seem to have made a notable recovery since gray wolves were reintroduced to the region. With the threat of wolves ever-present, elk seemed to be avoiding ýhigh-riský areas where escape would be difficult, they said.

For about 70 years, elk could feed on young, streamside cottonwoods and willows without fear of wolves, which were nearly eradicated in the West before reintroduction of the predators to the Yellowstone ecosystem began in 1995.

The researchers compared heights of trees and shrubs, mainly cottonwoods and willows, in photographs taken before 1998 with those in photos from 2001 and 2002, and they said they found growth at six of eight sites in the study area.

Taller plants were noted in ýhigh-riský areas, they found, using both photo information and field observation.

The hypothesis, said Bill Ripple, a professor of forestry at Oregon State, is ýthat wolves affect the plants. Wolves affect elk and elk affect plants.ý

Findings also suggested wolves were having a positive effect on the overall ecosystem, he said this week, adding itýs too early to draw long-term conclusions.

Smith said he believed the researchers are ýon to somethingý but wants to add analysis of the animal data to the overall discussion. Better understanding the predator-prey relationship is important, he said.

Gray wolves in the park are closely monitored; Smith said there are collared wolves in the packs. ýSo we know where they are and watch them, and we see where they encounter elk and can determine if itýs a high-risk or low-risk area,ý he said.

Smith said he and another researcher, a graduate student, plan to begin analyzing the data this winter; the process could take months, he said.


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Oct 31

Alaska Set to Resume Aerial Wolf Killing, Group Says

Alaska Set to Resume Aerial Wolf Killing, Group Says; Aircraft
‘Land and Shoot’ to Begin Again Despite Voter Bans

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ — The Alaska Board of Game is poised to resume the barbaric practice of aerial killing of wolves, despite the fact that Alaskans twice banned the practice in statewide votes. Last summer, Governor Frank Murkowski overturned the most recent voter-enacted ban, allowing the Board of Game to issue permits to hunters for aerial killing, where the animals are chased by airplanes until exhausted and then gunned down, either from the air or on the ground.

“This is a cruel and unethical practice that has no place in modern society,” said Karen Deatherage, Alaska Program Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. “Imagine a wolf running through the deep snow, chased by an airplane, terrified, exhausted and unable to stand as the plane lands and the animal is gunned down.”

The number of wolves killed legally in Alaska through trapping and hunting has increased dramatically with more than 3,600 wolves killed in the past two years. Through extended hunting seasons and liberalized bag limits, the Alaska Board of Game has been allowing wolf killers to take more and more wolves in an effort to provide more moose and caribou for hunting.

“Do we really want to turn the only place left in America where wild animals exist as they did thousands of years ago into one big moose and caribou feedlot for sport hunters?” said Deatherage.

The citizens of Alaska have twice voted in statewide measures (1996 and 2000) to ban the aerial killing of wolves. Nonetheless, Governor Murkowski signed a bill overturning the most recent ban. The Alaska Board of Game is meeting this weekend to discuss proposals for implementing increasing aerial killing, including the use of multiple planes to corral whole packs of wolves. The Board of Game will also be refining the permitting process at this weekend’s meeting, which will allow hunters to kill hundreds of wolves.

“This action will once again plunge the state into controversial airborne wolf killing that could lead to tourist boycotts that are sure to damage Alaska’s fragile economy. No matter how the state tries to minimize it, Alaska will be an aerial shooting gallery in the eyes of the nation,” said Deatherage.

For more information on Alaska’s plan to resume aerial killing of wolves, please go to http://www.defenders.org/wildlife/wolf/alaska.html.

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for wildlife and wildlife habitat. With more than 450,000 members and supporters nationwide, Defenders is an effective leader on environmental issues. For timely information on environmental issues, visit http://www.defenders.org and subscribe to DENLines, a free e-mail alert newsletter.


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 30

Agencies call off wolf investigation

Agencies call off wolf investigation

By Melody Martinsen-Acantha editor

Federal officials have halted an investigation into the possible death of a wolf on the national forest west of Augusta after a forensic lab determined the wolf’s collar mostly likely was pulled off by another wolf.

On Aug. 9, federal researchers discovered that the wolf’s collar was emitting a mortality signal – a radio signal that is broadcast if the animal wearing the collar does not move for a certain period of time.

Wilderness rangers later recovered the collar but found no wolf body in the area near the Prairie Reef Lookout Station on the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Forest Service wildlife biologist Wendy Maples of Choteau said the collar appeared to have been tampered with as several slashes looked like they could have been made with a knife.

The collar had been placed on a black female wolf when it was just five months old. The wolf is now a yearling and was last known to be alive on July 17 when a flight of the area picked up both her signal and the signal of another young female in the Redshale pack.

Maples said the collar was padded with collapsible foam to fit a 5-month-old snugly, but to compress and stay on the wolf’s neck as its body grew.

It’s likely, she said, that some of the padding fell out and the collar was loosened. Then, young wolves, playing probably worried or pulled the collar off the female.

The federal forensics lab at Ashland, Ore., ruled that there was a 90-percent or higher probability that wolf teeth, not a knife, caused the serrations on the collar.

A year ago during the winter, as many as 14 wolves were reported in the Redshale pack, which ranges in the Sun River Game Preserve in the Bob Marshal Wilderness.

In early spring, the pack began ranging more widely, traveling east and west of the Continental Divide, hunting on both the Flathead and Lewis and Clark national forests. Maples said researchers do not think the pack denned or produced any pups last year.

Since last spring, sightings of the wolves have been few. The last observation was based on a radio signal picked up Sept. 22 in the area east of the Gates Park airstrip and east of the North Fork of the Sun River.

The now-defunct investigation had offered a $5,000 reward for information on the collar. Wolves are managed by federal officials as threatened species. Killing a wolf is a federal criminal offense.


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 29

Studies: Wolves may be linked to tree recovery in Yellowstone

Studies: Wolves may be linked to tree recovery in Yellowstone

Associated Press Writer

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – Streamside trees and shrubs that elk in Yellowstone National Park feed on appear to have made a marked recovery since gray wolves were reintroduced to the region, two new studies by Oregon State University researchers conclude.

The findings suggest a ‘strong link’ that wolves, reintroduced in the region beginning just eight years ago, are having a positive effect on the overall ecosystem, said Bill Ripple, a professor of forestry at Oregon State.

‘This is our hypothesis: that wolves affect the plants. Wolves affect elk and elk affect plants,’ he said.

If the hypothesis holds true – and Ripple cautioned it’s too early to draw long-term conclusions – ‘the lesson here would be, when we remove the top predator from the ecosystem, other parts of the food web may decline,’ he said.

Young willows and cottonwoods have been a popular food source of elk in the Lamar Valley in the park’s northeast corner. For some 70 years, elk have been able to feed on them without fear of attack from wolves, which were nearly wiped out in the West before efforts began in 1995 to reintroduce the predators to the Yellowstone ecosystem.

In one part of the elk’s winter range, researcher Robert Beschta said where there should have been hundreds of young trees, there were none.

‘Long-term elk browsing bad been preventing any seedlings from getting taller,’ said Beschta, professor emeritus in the College of Forestry at the university.

But the researchers say streamside trees – in what’s considered a ‘high risk’ area for elk living among wolves – seem to have grown in the years since wolves were reintroduced.

Researchers compared the heights of shrubs and trees, mainly willows and cottonwoods, in photographs taken prior to 1998 with those in photos from 2001 and 2002. They said they found growth at six of eight sites in the study area.

Taller plants were noted at sites considered more dangerous for elk to browse – geographic areas where attacks by wolves are more likely, researchers said.

‘In areas where it may be riskier to browse, (elk) may spend less time,’ Ripple said in an interview.

The studies’ findings were recently published in the journals Forest Ecology and Management and Ecological Applications.

Beschta said he looked at a range of possible reasons to help explain ‘the historical decline’ of cottonwoods that began in the 1920s and continued up to the past couple of years.

‘I looked at climate change, lack of floods, fire suppression, natural stand dynamics and numbers of elk,’ he said. ‘But none of those factors really explained the problem. Ultimately, it became clear wolves were the answer.’

The researchers said other stream-area species were affected along with cottonwoods. And improvements could have far-reaching effects – possibly for birds, insects, fish and other wildlife and even for helping curb erosion as shrubs like willows take firmer root, Ripple said.

‘One point that should not be missed is this is actually great news for the potential recovery of cottonwood trees and mature willows in Yellowstone National Park,’ he said. ‘We now have a pretty good idea why they were in decline and the return of wolves should help pave the way for their recovery.’

But Monte Horst, an outfitter near Cody, Wyo., said it isn’t good news if it means fewer elk.

Some outfitters and opponents of wolf reintroduction claim the predators are responsible for a perceived decline in elk populations in the area.

‘There’s a big difference in the number of elk we’ve seen in the past and what we have now,’ Horst said Wednesday.

‘If we don’t get a handle on the wolf and don’t control their numbers in some way, it will mean people are going to be out of business, no question about it,’ he said.

Yellowstone officials did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday seeking comment on the studies’ findings.


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 28

Authorities kill 3rd male wolf

Authorities kill 3rd male wolf

CODY — For the third time, a male wolf joining the Green River pack in Wyoming has had to be killed because of depredations on livestock in the area.

The pack, which roams southwest of Grand Teton National Park, has had a consistent alpha female but a revolving door when it comes to male leadership.

Federal Wildlife Services, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has had to shoot three males that have joined the pack successively — each entering the picture when another is removed.

“As soon as they see a vacancy, another one moves right in,” said Ed Bangs, FWS wolf recovery coordinator.

The latest interloper was a dispersing male from the Teton pack that joined the Green River female and her pups. The pack then began hunting livestock in the area, prompting the call to federal authorities.

Elsewhere in Wyoming, a calf was killed by wolves earlier this month on private property between Cody and Powell. Traps were set up to catch the wolves but were unsuccessful.

A horse was chased by wolves in the area but was unharmed, officials said.


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 28

Wolves are rebalancing yellowstone ecosystem

Wolves are rebalancing yellowstone ecosystem

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park may be the key to maintaining groves of cottonwood trees that were well on their way to localized extinction, and is working to rebalance a stream ecosystem in the park for the first time in seven decades, Oregon State University scientists say in two new studies.

The data show a clear and remarkable linkage between the presence of wolves and the health of an entire streamside ecosystem, including two species of cottonwoods and the myriad of roles they play in erosion control, stream health, and nurturing diverse plant and animal life.

The findings of these studies were recently published in Ecological Applications, a journal of the Ecological Society of America, and the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

“In one portion of the elk’s winter range along the Lamar River of Yellowstone National Park, we found that there were thousands of small cottonwood seedlings,” said Robert Beschta, professor emeritus in the College of Forestry at OSU and an expert on streams and riparian systems. “There should also have been hundreds of young trees, but there were none. Long-term elk browsing had been preventing any seedlings from getting taller.”

That pattern was common throughout the study area – lots of seedlings in combination with large cottonwood trees generally more than 70 years old, but little or nothing in between.

Young cottonwoods, willows, and other streamside woody species are a preferred food for browsing elk during the harsh winters in northern Yellowstone, when much of the other forage is buried under snow. But when packs of wolves historically roamed the area, food was not the only consideration for elk, which had to be very careful and apparently avoided browsing in high-risk areas with low visibility or escape barriers.

Wolves were systematically killed in the Yellowstone region and many other areas of the West beginning in the late 1800s. A concentrated effort between 1914 and 1926 finished the job – the last known wolf pack disappeared in 1926.

“I considered a variety of potential reasons that might explain the historical decline of cottonwoods that began in the 1920s and have continued up to the last couple of years,” said Beschta. “I looked at climate change, lack of floods, fire suppression, natural stand dynamics, and numbers of elk. But none of those factors really explained the problem.

“Ultimately, it became clear that wolves were the answer.”

While elk populations fluctuated over the decades when wolves were absent, browsing behavior appears to represent an important factor related to streamside impacts. With no fear of wolves, the elk could graze anywhere they liked and for decades have been able to kill, by browsing, nearly all the young cottonwoods. Other streamside species such as willows and berry-producing shrubs also suffered.

That in turn began to play havoc with an entire streamside ecosystem and associated wildlife, including birds, insects, fish and others. Trees and shrubs were lost that could have helped control stream erosion. Food webs broke down.

“Before the wolves came back, it was pretty clear that in some areas we were heading towards an outright extinction of cottonwoods,” Beschta said.

Now, with the recent reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone in 1995, streamside shrubs and cottonwoods within the Lamar Valley are beginning to become more prevalent and taller, and were the focus of a second study in the same area. That study outlines how the fear of attack by wolves apparently prevents browsing elk from eating young cottonwood and willows in some streamside zones.

With the renewed presence of wolves, young cottonwoods and willows have been growing taller each year over the last four years on “high-risk” sites, where elk apparently feel vulnerable due to terrain or other conditions that might prevent escape. In contrast, on “low-risk” sites, they are still being browsed by elk and show little increase in height.

“In one case where a gully formed an escape barrier for elk, the tree height went up proportionally as the gully deepened and formed an increasing barrier to escape,” said William Ripple, a professor with the College of Forestry at OSU. “Where the fear factor of wolves is high, the young trees and willows are doing much better and growing taller.”

Traditionally, “keystone” predators such as wolves were known to influence the population of other animals that they preyed on directly, such as elk or antelope. What researchers are now coming to better understand is the “trophic effect,” or cascade of changes that can take place in an ecosystem when an important part is removed, Ripple said.

The comparatively pristine conditions of a national park allowed this type of research to make “cause and effect” studies more feasible, the scientists point out.

“The removal of wolves for 70 years – and then their return – actually set the stage for a scientific experiment with fairly compelling results,” Beschta said.

In a larger context, the studies also raise valid questions about other complex and poorly understood interactions between plants, animals, and wildlife in disturbed ecosystems across much of the American West, and perhaps elsewhere in the world, the scientists say. In some areas of the West, the disappearance of up to 90 percent of the aspen trees has been documented – another species of plant that is also highly vulnerable to animal browsing when it is young.

“The last period when aspen trees in Yellowstone escaped the effects of elk browsing to generate trees into the forest overstory was the 1920s,” Ripple said, “which is also when wolves were removed from the park.”

But in at least one place – America’s first national park – there is now cause for hope. While it is too early to confirm the widespread recovery of cottonwoods and willows, the reintroduction of wolves appears to have put a stop to major declines in the survival of these plants, the researchers found.

“One point that should not be missed is this is actually great news for the potential recovery of cottonwood trees and mature willows in Yellowstone National Park,” Ripple said. “We now have a pretty good idea why they were in decline and the return of wolves should help pave the way for their recovery.

“Even though it may take a very long time, for a change it looks like we’re headed in the right direction.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 27

Information sought in wolf’s killing

Information sought in wolf’s killing

Statesman Journal
October 27, 2003

If you were hunting in Idaho earlier this month, you might be able to help federal wildlife officials and pocket some cash in the process.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who killed a gray wolf near Mores Creek Summit north of Idaho City.

The wolf, a collared female known as ýB-158,ý was killed sometime between Oct. 5 and 11 off of Forest Road 323.

The body of the wolf has been shipped to the serviceýs forensics laboratory in Ashland for an autopsy and further analysis.

ýWe are very interested in finding whoever is responsible for this crime,ý said Craig Tabor, the resident agent in charge in the serviceýs field office in Boise, Idaho.

ýThe loss of any wolf is significant in terms of wolf recovery and ultimate delisting in Idaho, but particularly so with radio-collared wolves.

ýEach animal fitted with a radio-collar represents many hours of effort spent to find, capture, collar and release wolves so that biologists not only can monitor them, but can take steps to prevent livestock depredations.ý

Killing an animal which is protected under the Endangered Species Act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and one year in jail.

People with any information about the wolf are urged to call (208) 378-5333.


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Oct 25

Public invited to howl like wolves at Distillery District event

Public invited to howl like wolves at Distillery District event


Pamela Schuller plans to turn the Distillery District into a wolf den next Saturday for the day, and hopes that everyone will have a howling good time.

Schuller, a Toronto artist and mask maker, has spent the past several weeks teaching people to make wolf masks. Students in York University’s master’s program in environmental studies have declared Oct. 28 to 30 Wolf Week, and are hosting films, panel discussions and mask-making sessions.

The Wolf Howl Event, the culmination of all this activity, invites members of the public to Trinity St. to make simple wolf masks, go on a mask hunt around the Distillery District, and howl in packs from 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 1 to native drumming by the Tall Pines group. Paul Brown of the Haliburton Wolf Centre will lead the howling.

Mask-making workshops in three schools, the Native Canadian Centre and the Bain Ave. Community Centre have produced 70 handmade masks, and the York workshops will add more. The masks will be displayed at several Toronto locations after the Wolf Howl Event, and those donated by their creators will be auctioned Nov. 29 to raise money for wolf conservation through the Earthroots Wolves Ontario! Project.

Earthroots, a non-profit advocacy organization for wilderness, wildlife and watersheds, calls Ontario the worst jurisdiction in North America for wolf protection. It’s year-round open season here on wolves, and there’s no limit on the number of wolves any one licensed person can kill. Raccoons get more protection than wolves, according to Earthroots literature.

“Fear of wolves often comes from fairy tales we heard growing up,” says Schuller.

“Children raised on Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs learn that wolves are bad.

The fact is that there is no documented case of a healthy wild wolf killing a human in North America.

“And 6,500 wolves were trapped for their pelts in Ontario between 1988 and 2001, for $66 per pelt.”

Wolves are important figures in the creation myths of several aboriginal groups, she adds. Schuller listens to a tape of wolf howls to stay inspired. She enjoys thinking of the mass howl on Nov. 1.

“You can howl for yourself, for the wolves, for the times,” she says. “In the (mask-making) workshops when people relax, one starts howling, then others join in, and it’s such fun. Everyone ends up laughing.”

The Wolf Howl Project is funded by the Ontario Arts Council.

Information about the Wolf Howl Project is available at http://thewolfhowlproject.nyx stium.ca/home.html, about wolves at http://www.wolvesontario.org, and about Earthroots at http://www.earthroots.org.


Posted in Uncategorized
Oct 23

Wolf preservation, livestock interests focus of discussion

Wolf preservation, livestock interests focus of discussion

By Brett Prettyman

The Salt Lake Tribune

The more than 200 people at the “Wolves and People: Seeking Common Ground” lecture at Red Butte Garden on Wednesday may have expected fireworks. Instead, they got the usual debate about wildlife and grazing conflicts.

ýýý The six-part lecture series, sponsored by the University of Utah’s Wallace Stegner Center, Utah Museum of Natural History and Red Butte Garden, concluded with a panel discussion with a biologist, two conservationists, the state wildlife management director, a hunter and a cattle industry representative.

ýýý The discussion remained relatively calm but it was clear the arrival of wolves in Utah weighs heavy on many minds.

ýýý An audience member’s statement served as a good ending point for the evening.

ýýý “I’ve learned two things. Wolf is a four-letter word and that the wolf is coming whether we like it or not,” he said.

ýýý Dick Carter of the High Uintas Preservation Council hinted that there may already be an established pack of wolves in the state, “but I won’t tell you where they are.”

ýýýDon Peay, founder of Utah’s most powerful pro-hunting organization, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, said habitat projects funded by hunters are the only reason wolves have anything to eat in the state.

ýýý “We don’t want to see serious negative impacts on game populations, which frankly exist because of sportsmen and their dollars,” Peay said. “We don’t want to see wolves destroy what has taken 30 or 40 years to restore.”

ýýý Carter called it a myth that “wolves would eliminate the things they need to survive on.”

ýýý Wes Quinton of the Utah Farm Bureau asked how livestock lost to wolves would be compensated.

ýýý “For every one calf [now confirmed as a wolf kill] there are 5.7 more that are not discovered,” Quinton said. “Wolves could displace the livestock industry, which is what made the West what it is.”

ýýý Kirk Robinson of the Utah Wolf Forum responded that “hunting and ranching are already in trouble in Utah and it is not because of the wolves.”

ýýýRobert Schmidt, a professor at Utah State University, said one-third of Utah has the biological potential to support wolves, but that political and social issues would decide the areas, if any, in which wolves end up.


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