Nov 28

Rabies threatens to wipe out rare Ethiopian wolf

Rabies threatens to wipe out rare Ethiopian wolf

NAIROBI (AFP) – The environmental group, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF),
warned Thursday that a rabies epidemic is threatening to wipe out a rare
Ethiopian wolf, a statement released in Nairobi said. “A rabies epidemic
in parts of southeastern Ethiopia is threatening the survival of the most
endangered member of the dog family – the Ethiopian wolf,” the statement
said.

“At least 30 Ethiopian wolves have died from rabies since the disease
broke out in Bale Mountains National Park at the end of September,” the
statement added.

The park is home to some 300 wolves, more than half of the total
population of 500 still left in the Horn of Africa nation.

WWF said that since the first death was reported in September,
conservationists have been isolating affected wolves and started a
vaccination programme to try to contain the epidemic.

“Conservationists fear that unless more funds are forthcoming to vaccinate
the wolves, their population will further dwindle,” it said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 27

Alaska – Aerial wolf hunt put on hold

Aerial wolf hunt put on hold

By TIM MOWRY, Staff Writer

Hunters who want to participate in an aerial wolf-control program near McGrath
will have to keep the safety on for a few more days at least.

On the same day the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that it had
approved three teams of pilots and gunners to begin shooting wolves from
airplanes near McGrath, a Superior Court judge in Anchorage issued a court
order to temporarily halt the state’s predator control program at the request
of a national animal-rights group.

Connecticut-based Friends of Animals, along with seven Alaska plaintiffs,
sought the temporary restraining order after the state issued permits to allow
hunters to shoot 40 wolves in the McGrath area.

“It’s not a big surprise,” said Matt Robus, director of the state’s Division of
Wildlife Conservation. “It’s a very controversial program and people feel
strongly about it on both sides.”

Superior Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason issued the order late Wednesday after
hearing arguments in the morning. She is also scheduled to hear arguments
Tuesday on whether to issue a preliminary injunction sought by Friends of
Animals to stop the program.

“We’re on hold now until Tuesday,” said Robus.

The state Board of Game last month approved a program that allows private
pilots to apply for permits to shoot up to 40 wolves in a 2,200-square-mile
area near McGrath, a Bush village of about 500 people located about 200 miles
west of Fairbanks.

Prior to Gleason’s decision on Wednesday, Fish and Game announced it had
selected three pilot-gunner teams from a pool of 16 applicants to begin
shooting wolves. The state began sending out applications last week to
interested parties.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of moose for local
subsistence hunters by reducing the number of wolves near McGrath. In May,
state wildlife biologists captured and moved more than 80 bears from the
McGrath area during the moose-calving season in an attempt to boost the
survival of moose calves, many of which are being killed by bears shortly after
being born. Wolves, meanwhile, do the majority of their moose killing during
the winter.

Fish and Game estimates that McGrath area residents need between 130 and 150
moose a year, but harvests have been averaging between 60 and 90 moose for the
past decade.

In Wednesday’s hearing, state lawyer Kevin Saxby argued that even a temporary
restraining order could mean scrapping the program.

“If at all possible this must proceed now,” Saxby said. “If we lose those
calves we will have to start all over again … Both fiscal and scientific harm
will happen to the state if we have to start all over again.”

Saxby also pointed out that wolves are killed legally in McGrath now, both
through hunting and trapping. He said snowmachines are allowed as long as the
hunters don’t shoot the wolves from the machines.

If plaintiffs are arguing that the wolf control program would do irreparable
harm to the wolves, what about those already being killed? he asked.

“They haven’t demonstrated irreparable harm,” Saxby said.

Plaintiffs lawyer James Reeves said Alaska Natives feel the same way about
wolves as the Great Plains Indians felt about bison. He encouraged the judge to
issue the restraining order so that the court could look seriously at questions
raised by the case.

“What’s the harm if we wait a few days?” he asked.

With fresh snow blanketing the Interior, the delay could mean that hunters will
miss out on an opportunity to take wolves, said Robus. Pilots need fresh snow
to track wolves.

Fish and Game did not identify the names of the pilots and gunners approved to
take part in the program, but officials did say one team was from McGrath.

The teams were picked based on their familiarity with the area, flying
experience and ability to track wolves from the air. All three teams have
participated in previous wolf-control or land-and-shoot programs, said Robus.

“We’re confident these applicants are capable of participating in a safe and
efficient manner,” he said.

Pilots must pick up their permits in McGrath and the permits are valid for 30
days.

Permits can be renewed and additional permits may be issued if necessary. The
state is keeping a prioritized list of qualified applicants and will be
tracking the harvest and effort to see if more permits are needed to reach the
goal of killing 40 wolves.

State Fish and Game officials are quick to point out that the area targeted for
killing wolves comprises less than 1 percent of Alaska and 40 wolves is only a
small fraction of the estimated 7,700 to 11,200 wolves that inhabit the state.

But Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, said if the judge fails
to issue an injunction, the animal-rights group will call for a tourism boycott
of Alaska similar to the one they did a decade ago that put a halt to Alaska’s
wolf-control program.

The first tourism boycott and strong national opposition resulted in former
Gov. Walter J. Hickel imposing a moratorium on wolf control in 1992. Former
Gov. Tony Knowles then suspended state-sanctioned wolf killing shortly after
gaining office in 1994. Current Gov. Frank Murkowski, who took office in
December, favors lethal wolf control.

“Basically, it is putting the economic screws to the Murkowski administration,”
Feral said of the threatened tourism boycott.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

Wolf spotted at Inner Mongolia airport

Wolf spotted at Inner Mongolia airport

HOHHOT Nov. 26 (Xinhuanet) — Passengers at an airport in northern
China’s
Inner Mongolia Tuesday had the good luck to see a wolf run quickly along
the runway and then disappear into the grassland nearby.

The scene happened at Dongshan Airport of Hailar in Hulun Buir City,
which
is located on the fringe of grassland.

In the past, groups of wolves roamed the area and the local government
encouraged residents to kill them because they attacked livestock,
according to an old man who had worked in the city for many years and once
killed four wolves in 40 minutes.

As a result, the number of wolves decreased sharply and the ecological
chain was destroyed.

In recent years, the local government abolished the policy and took a
series of measures to protect the wild animals, resulting in an increase
in numbers.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

Second of eight wolves found dead was killed by automobile

Second of eight wolves found dead was killed by automobile

Necropsy results have been announced regarding the second of eight Mexican
gray wolves found dead this year.

The body of a wolf classified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as
Male 857 was found Sept. 19 in the middle of a road near Willow Creek, in
the northern part of the Gila National Forest.

“He was confirmed to have been hit by a car,” said Colleen Buchanan of the
service’s wolf-recovery program. “There were rumors he was shot, but it
turns out that wasn’t true.”

The wolf was born in the wild, possibly in 2002.

“We suspect he was an offspring of the Luna pair in New Mexico, but we
don’t have confirmation of that yet from the lab,” Buchanan said.

“We saw pups with (the pair) last year, and they probably had pups again
this year,” the service’s Maggie Dwire told the Daily Press.

The pack is believed to be in the Loco Mountain area, east of Snow Lake.

The service last week reported that a 6-year-old wolf, alpha female of the
Saddle Pack in eastern Arizona, died from a gunshot wound. She was found
dead Sept. 15 in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Officials are awaiting laboratory reports on six other wolves whose deaths
are considered suspicious.

One of the bodies was found Sept. 23 on the western edge of Silver City -
near the water tanks on top of the hill, close to U.S. 180 – shortly after
residents reported seeing a wolf feeding on a javelina carcass.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

SCSO to develop wolf protocol

SCSO to develop wolf protocol

by Cat Urbigkit

Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland told participants in Saturday’s
Sublette Wolf Forum in Pinedale that the sheriff is normally seen as the
highest law enforcement officer in the county, but when it comes to
wolves, the federal government does have some jurisdiction.

Even though the feds have jurisdiction, Ruland said citizens should call
his department to be involved in situations involving things like dead
wolves, if nothing else than to serve as a “buffer between the citizens
and the federal government.”

“I would be glad to play that role,” Ruland said. Ruland posed a
hypothetical in which a landowner calls in the feds over a dead wolf on
their property, and “you got into it with them and I’m not there.

“If we were there, we could intervene, and step in and become a watchdog
over that, and be the ones to go court and testify,” Ruland said.

Ruland said since FWS does have some jurisdiction, “Ideally it’s best if
we can work them (cases) together. That’s what our goal would be.”

Ruland cautioned that he doesn’t want people to call his department every
time a wolf runs through their meadow, noting his personnel now respond to
about 3,000 calls per year.

“If you get one (wolf) murdered, or if a wolf bites you, we would at least
want to get the wolf, see if it had rabies, and protect our citizens,”
Ruland said.

Sublette County Farm Bureau President Jim Urbigkit noted that a few years
ago, FWS killed a wolf near Cody because the agency determined it posed a
human safety risk because it was habituated to humans. Urbigkit said that
in the past, there have been wolves that came from Yellowstone National
Park, entered Sublette County and were seen hanging around residences and
school bus stops.

“Have you discussed taking any action against a habituated wolf that is
not showing the appropriate fear of people in this county, to protect
health and safety of the people who live here?” Urbigkit asked.

Ruland responded, “We’ve really never discussed that, with my staff
however with more and more wolves that come in, I can see that could be a
problem.”

“If a bad guy comes after you with a gun, you have the right to protect
yourself,” Ruland said. “Why would a wolf be any different than a bad guy?
You have the right to protect yourself … ”

But whether that wolf poses a threat to human safety poses the issue of
whether a person has the right to take action against the animal. Ruland
said that if called on a wolf threatening a human case, “We would go out
and assess it and take the appropriate action.”

Ruland said that it’s really no different than if a bad guy were sneaking
up on someone to shoot them: “I am obligated to shoot the bad guy.”

Joe Sampson said the wolf is a federally protected animal that is not
going to wait around for the deputies to arrive.

“I’ve already been in my corral with a wolf,” Sampson said. “They’ve been
around my house, constantly, around my house.”

Ruland said it is his job “to serve and to protect.” The fact that a wolf
is standing on your porch may not be enough to justify shooting the
animal, but if it was threatening a person, that’s another matter.

“If he was threatening me, I’d certainly shoot him,” Ruland said.

Urbigkit said: “You would never allow a grizzly bear to hang out around a
school bus stop and you wouldn’t allow a habituated mountain lion to hang
out where kids are playing. And we don’t in this state, but these wolves
are allowed to hang out anywhere. They are a threat to human safety, and
that is wrong.”

Ruland responded that the threat to human safety has to be assessed. He
posed another hypothetical in which on a Monday he is called out because a
wolf is seen hanging out near the school bus stop, watching the kids get
on the bus. The wolf is there again on Wednesday, again watching, but not
moving towards the child. But on the third day, the wolf is there again,
the wolf begins moving in closer, getting braver and braver, Ruland said,
“somewhere along the line, I have to make a decision whether there is
imminent danger.

Urbigkit said, “Well, you’re waiting too long.”

It was reported at the wolf forum that several areas of Idaho have closed
remote bus stops because of the presence of wolves, and Urbigkit predicted
Wyoming will face the same thing.

“I don’t think we need to wait for a wolf to chase a kid,” Urbigkit said.

Ruland questioned how often such situations occur, noting, “No one has
ever called me on a wolf call.”

Lander’s Dorothy Bartholomew asked if Ruland’s department has a policy for
dealing with federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Ruland said he does, one that requests notification of their operations in
Sublette County.

She asked if Ruland will request FWS provide that notification to his
department, to which Ruland said, “Yes I am.”

Fremont County Commissioner Cros Allen posed another hypothetical for
Ruland, in which dogs were caught in a pasture harassing livestock. In
that case, the landowner could shoot the dog or a county deputy could
shoot the dog.

But what if the dog were a wolf? Then added legal considerations are
involved: only the landowner could shoot the animal and only if it were
caught in the act, not running away from the scene.

Allen said this hypothetical “illustrates the frustration and the
ridiculousness … of the authority of the fed government. It’s just not
right, sheriff.”

Ruland said: “You bring up a very valid point.”

He noted that the county is experiencing increasing problems with grizzly
bears killing cattle. “I’m wondering when are we going to have the first
human,” Ruland said. “It’s the same thing with the wolf, I’m worried about
that.

“I believe that as an elected official … I have some obligation to the
people, again to protect and to serve them. If the wolf is out there
endangering the cattle, why couldn’t you label that with at least the same
status as a dog? … I understand why …. because you can go to a federal
penitentiary.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

Game herds, livestock feel wolf impacts

Game herds, livestock feel wolf impacts

by Cat Urbigkit

At Saturday’s Sublette Wolf Forum, local people impacted by wolves shared
some of their experiences with the crowd in attendance.

Mary Thoman said her family grazes sheep herds on four allotments in the
Upper Green River region, including one allotment in the Gros Ventre
Wilderness. Wyoming’s wolf management plan would classify wolves on three
of her allotments as a predator, but as a trophy game animal on the fourth
allotment.

“The lines aren’t marked, they’re not fenced,” Thoman explained. Her
family’s flocks began having wolf depredations about five years ago. The
kills have continued, and once, 29 lambs and ewes were killed in one
night. Only about one in five, or even one in 10, of the kills are ever
found, she said.

Moran cattleman Alan Rosenbaum manages the Pinto Ranch in the heart of
wolf country. Since it’s also in the heart of a large elk population, the
impact on the ranch hasn’t been so severe, he said. Two years ago, the
Pinto Ranch had one 1,100-pound heifer killed and completely devoured
rather quickly.

“Since the wolves moved in, I’ve slept every night from fall to spring
with the window open, so I can hear what’s going on,” Rosenbaum said.
“This spring, in nine days, I had three stampedes of 200 head of cattle
and their calves. If any of you have ever heard a cow herd frightened to
death, you’ll be awake, I don’t care how sound a sleeper you are. … I’ve
developed a lot of gray hair in the last few years from having to deal
with these circumstances.”

The stampedes stopped when federal officials trapped a 123-pound lone
female wolf that had been coming into the pasture and chasing the cattle
herd.

“Wolves are here to stay, in my opinion,” Rosenbaum said, but the citizens
“need to be able to protect our livestock, ourselves and our families.”

Joe Sampson of Cora, who runs sheep on private land in the Upper Green
River region, and also serves as president of the Sublette County Wool
Growers Association, said he’s been dealing with wolves for four years.

“The problem I have is, I have wolves constantly coming on my property for
four years,” Sampson. Three years ago, a habituated wolf came into his
place. It became habituated to people, sheep and dogs and then killed some
of his sheep.

“That wasn’t the worst part: He came in at a certain time of the year and
we lost one-third of our lamb crop due to this wolf,” Sampson said,
because the stressed ewes reabsorbed their fetuses.

Sampson said when a wolf comes in, a property owner has few rights: “The
wolf comes in, he’s been in my corral and wouldn’t leave. He has tracked
me. I’ve walked down the road and backtracked him and looked behind me and
the wolf was walking behind me. And there is nothing you can do.

“My sheep are my property and I should be able to protect them,” Sampson
said, but his options for dealing with the wolves are severely restricted.

“They are not giving me any alternatives,” he said.

It was his frustration that led him to tell FWS, “I am going to kill that
wolf, so get my jail cell ready,” so they gave him a permit to kill the
wolf.

“The wolf is no longer with us,” he said.

Sampson’s advice drew laughter from the crowd. He said: “You can’t take
the law into your own hands, but you’ve got to stand up to them. They have
all the authority. If you show them you’re just as crazy as they are ….”

Charles Price of Upper Green River Cattle Association said the association
experienced its first confirmed wolf kills in 2000, but cautioned that
many other kills were not confirmed or found. In 2002, there were three
confirmed cattle killed by wolves, which grew to seven confirmed kills
this year.

Since the number of kills being found has doubled, Price said, this means
the number of cattle being killed has doubled as well.

Ross Copeland, a North Cottonwood cattle rancher and outfitter, said his
local wolf pack grew from three animals last year to an estimated 17 now.

The impact on the local big game populations has been devastating,
Copeland said.

“We’re not going to be in business next year,” he said of his outfitting
business.

GRVCA vice president Jim Greenwood said, “I can guarantee ya’ they’re
killing machines.” He described the number of dead big game animals in his
area due to wolf predation and said, “We’re in the middle of them right
now, and they’re coming your way.”

Greenwood said the first time you see a pack of wolves, it seems like a
good experience.

“The second time you see them, you wonder what they’re tearing up,” he
said. Wolves have been documented to have conducted surplus killing in
several areas of western Wyoming, it was noted, including on the Bench
Corral elk feedground.

When asked what needs to be done to provide relief for livestock producers
in the near future, Rosenbaum said help in the form of management tools
isn’t what is going to keep the cattleman in business, but financial
compensation for losses would help. He noted that the Wyoming Game and
Fish Department isn’t going to have enough money to pay for the losses
incurred.

Rosenbaum said he doubted if having the ability to shoot wolves will
matter much in the end. He pointed out that he’s lived within one and a
half miles of the Teton wolf pack for several years and he’s only seen
them twice. That’s surprising considering that the pack grew to include 23
wolves.

“The money is the only thing that is going to keep us in business,”
Rosenbaum said.

Sampson cast doubt on having the true cost of predation ever being
compensated. He said that when the wolves hit his herd, the biggest loss
for him was the reduced size of his lamb crop, an impact that isn’t
compensated.

Sheepman Bill Taliaferro of Sweetwater County said that while he did have
some confirmed losses to wolves this year, the major loss for him will
remain uncompensated; that of the reduced weights on the herd subject to
wolf predation this year. That balances out to about $10,000 in lost
income.

Sampson questioned, “If you can’t quantify or prove your loss … how is
anybody going to come in and pay for those?”

Ross Copeland said, “It would have been great to have been able to tip
them over this year … human presence does not intimidate them.”

Cora rancher Stan Murdock said he is troubled by the need to argue with
government officials about “confirming” kills due to protected predators.
He suggested that WG&F isn’t being as good s a neighbor to agriculture as
agriculture is to the state wildlife agency.

“This is just not a fair fight,” Murdock said, “because right now we’re
losing and we’re losing big time.”

Sportsman Dan McCarron of Rock Springs said it appears “ranching is done
in this state. I don’t know how you guys are going to survive.” He
suggested that the people of Wyoming need to rally in support of ranching
and to get involved in solving this problem.

While some spoke of their frustration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, WG&F came under discussion as well. Taliaferro said WG&F often
opposes predator control efforts and had almost become enemies of
livestock producers now.

“I’m not sure we have a state agency on our side either,” Taliaferro said.

Big Piney rancher Dan Budd reminded the group as it slammed government in
general that: “We are the government, the government is us. As long as we
allow it, they are going to be here.”

Big Piney rancher Eddie Wardell encouraged the sportsmen in the audience
to help agriculture by documenting the problems that they see to wildlife
that are caused by wolves. That information should be taken to the WG&F
Commission, Wardell said.

Sweetwater County/Cora sportsman Joe DeCora said he doesn’t feel that the
wolf is going to get delisted anytime soon, adding, “You guys are in the
worst damn position you’ve ever been in.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

Alaska – Animal rights group tries to prevent wolf shootings

Animal rights group tries to prevent wolf shootings

By MARY PEMBERTON , Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska

An animal welfare group on Wednesday sought a court order to prevent
wolves from being shot from airplanes as part of a state-sponsored
predator control program.

The Connecticut-based group Friends of Animals, along with seven Alaska
plaintiffs, sought the temporary restraining order after the state issued
three permits allowing pilot-and-hunter teams to shoot wolves in the
McGrath area of Alaska’s Interior.

Superior Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason was expected to decide by the end
of the day whether to issue the temporary restraining order. The judge
also was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on whether to issue a
preliminary injunction sought by Friends of Animals to stop the program.

If that effort fails, the group will call for a tourism boycott of Alaska
as they did a decade ago when 53 demonstrations called “howl-ins” were
held at 51 cities nationwide, said Friends of Animals president Priscilla
Feral.

“Basically, it is putting the economic screws to the Murkowski
administration,” Feral said of the threatened tourism boycott.

The first tourism boycott and strong national opposition resulted in
former Gov. Walter J. Hickel imposing a moratorium on wolf control in
1992. Former Gov. Tony Knowles then suspended state-sanctioned wolf
killing shortly after gaining office in 1994. Current Gov. Frank
Murkowski, who took office in December, favors lethal wolf control.

The predator control program for the McGrath area is intended to reduce
the number of wolves near the town and increase the number of moose calves
so that there will be more moose for McGrath area residents to eat.

McGrath, which has about 470 residents, has a couple of local stores but
is off the road system. Residents who want to shop at large grocery stores
or department stores must fly to either Anchorage or Fairbanks, both about
300 air miles away, said Ken Parker, the village public safety officer.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that McGrath area
residents need between 130 and 150 moose, but harvests have been averaging
between 60 and 90 moose for the past decade. The program calls for killing
about 40 wolves this winter.

State lawyer Kevin Saxby argued Wednesday that even a temporary
restraining order could mean scrapping the program. The program began in
the spring with the relocation of brown and black bears from the McGrath
area. Plans called for killing wolves in October and November to protect
moose calves vulnerable to predation by wolves in the winter. More wolves
would be removed in March, he said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued three permits, one to a
McGrath resident who will be ready to fly as soon as he picks up his
permit at the agency’s office in McGrath, Saxby said. Those who received
permits were notified Tuesday.

“If at all possible this must proceed now,” Saxby said. “If we lose those
calves we will have to start all over again … Both fiscal and scientific
harm will happen to the state if we have to start all over again.”

Saxby also pointed out that wolves are killed legally in McGrath now, both
through hunting and trapping. He said snowmachines are allowed as long as
the hunters don’t shoot the wolves from the machines.

If plaintiffs are arguing that the wolf control program would do
irreparable harm to the wolves, what about those already being killed? he
asked.

“They haven’t demonstrated irreparable harm,” Saxby said.

Plaintiffs lawyer James Reeves said Alaska Natives feel the same way about
wolves as the Great Plains Indians felt about bison. He encouraged the
judge to issue the restraining order so that the court could look
seriously at questions raised by the case.

“What’s the harm if we wait a few days?” he asked.

Plaintiff Paul Joslin, wildlife director for the Alaska Wildlife Alliance,
said there’s no need to shoot wolves near McGrath. Studies conducted in
1996 and 2001 show the moose population is stable or increasing, he said.

“It is a disgrace,” Joslin said. “Think of it as an air posse to take pot
shots at wolves with buckshots … It’s appalling.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

Gray wolf’s success ignites new debate

Gray wolf’s success ignites new debate

Government begins to reduce protections


By Candus Thomson
Sun National Staff
Originally published November 26, 2003

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – The sound of success pierces the cold,
still air like a stiletto. Howls of gray wolves announce their dominance
over the food chain from the park’s Lamar Valley to the ranches of
Montana, less than a decade after wildlife biologists returned them to
their traditional habitat.

Bringing wolves back from the brink of extinction is being hailed as an
ecological triumph, so much so that the federal government reclassified
the animal this year from “endangered” to “threatened.” The next step
toward removal from the protected species list is for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to transfer responsibility for wolf management to game
officials in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, possibly late next year.

“We have achieved biological success. Now we are trying to achieve
bureaucratic success,” said Ed Bangs, federal wolf recovery coordinator.

Each state submitted a management plan, which was reviewed by a panel of
12 independent scientists. Those critiques were sent back to the states
this week and are to be posted on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Web
site. Another round of public comment will follow before the agency
decides.

“Nobody has officially proposed delisting the wolf yet, but even talk gets
people’s blood pressure up,” Bangs said.

The livestock industry and sportsmen’s groups, which have simmered as the
wolf population soared from 31 in the mid-1990s to 750, can’t wait for
return of local control.

On the other side, environmental groups fear that a lack of federal
oversight will mean a return to the “shoot, shovel and shut up” mindset
that nearly caused the wolf’s demise.

“Wolves are an emotionally charged issue, and they have been for
centuries,” said Douglas Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project for
the National Park Service. “Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood,
Romulus and Remus – the attitudes have been there for years.”

Bangs and Smith have heard all of the arguments. Bangs came from Alaska in
1988 to lay the groundwork for the restoration program. Smith moved to
Yellowstone in 1994 to be part of the restoration program and helped trap
the original 31 animals in Canada and release them at the park.

Scientists also released 35 wolves in central Idaho and were prepared to
transplant a like number each year for five years. But the wolves’
adaptability made that unnecessary.

Last December, biologists announced that for the third consecutive year
the Greater Yellowstone area had 30 breeding pairs, a goal that triggered
the delisting process.

“We had two times as many wolves as we thought we would and half as many
problems as we thought. So it’s a good news, better news story,” Bangs
said.

Not to ranchers in the three states, who have lost 581 sheep and 214
cattle since the reintroduction began.

In newspapers across the region, letters to the editor warn that humans
will be targeted by hungry wolves after they devour all the livestock and
elk. Wildlife experts say that is preposterous and demagogic. During a
legislative hearing this year in Helena, Mont., three dozen speakers
demanded immediate relief from a wolf population they said was out of
control.

Warren Johnson, a sports outfitter from just outside Yellowstone, said he
had waited patiently for a balance between the wolves and the region’s elk
herd, “but there is no balance. Wolves are decimating our wildlife.”

Bangs does not buy the argument: “There are 31,000 mountain lions out West
that eat two times as much livestock as wolves. But no one says we need to
kill all the mountain lions the way we still have people saying we have to
kill all the wolves.”

Former Yellowstone naturalist Gary Ferguson, author of the 1996 book
Yellowstone Wolves, said the hostility toward the recovery program is all
about the perceived meddling of the federal government in local affairs.

“I wonder if there would have been quite the outrage there if the
restoration had happened naturally. I think probably not,” he said.

Biologists consider the wolves “a keystone species” that affects the
health of every other animal in Yellowstone.

When the National Park Service had a strict shoot-on-sight policy for
wolves that eliminated all packs by 1926, “we took the food pyramid and
just lopped off the top,” Smith said. “Wolves are the kings and queens of
providing meat to the scavenger population: grizzly bears, ravens,
magpies, coyotes and eagles. Every wolf kill benefits at least five other
animals, the most we’ve gotten is 10.”

In addition to helping the ecosystem, the wolves also have been a
multimillion-dollar boon to the tourism industry. Outfitters that lead
snowmobile tours and eagle watches have added wolf itineraries. Visitors
with huge spotting scopes take up positions in the Lamar Valley, hoping to
watch wolves stalk elk herds in the winter and raise their pups in the
spring.

“Wolves are so much like us,” Bangs said. “We can see ourselves in them -
good and bad – and we project ourselves into them.”

Federal officials say the wolf population is leveling off in the northern
Rockies, where growth rates have slowed from 15 percent last year to 11
percent this year. Yet there are signs that the recovery is breaking new
ground.

In September, federal biologists confirmed the existence of a new
16-animal pack, mostly pups, south of Grand Teton National Park in
Wyoming. The sighting is the eighth wolf pack in Wyoming outside
Yellowstone.

On Nov. 5, a Yellowstone visitor saw a pack in the northeast section of
the park, which marked the 1,000th straight day with a wolf sighting.

But 17 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, do not believe
that success in the park is enough to justify delisting. The groups filed
suit last month against Interior Secretary Gale Norton to stop delisting,
saying that recovery had occurred in just three of nine states in the
Western region. Further, they contended, removing the wolf from federal
protection would curtail recovery elsewhere in the country.

Norton “is backing away from wolf protection before the job is finished
and is jeopardizing all the progress her agency has made so far,” said
Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the 430,000-member Defenders of
Wildlife.

Defenders officials point out that since 1987 the group has paid market
value to ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves, more than $210,000.

Bangs believes the federal plan will prevail. “So far we’ve used good
science,” he said. “We’ve followed the law and we’ve won every lawsuit.”

Although the spotlight has been on the wolves in the three northern Rocky
Mountain states, interest – like the packs – has spread.

In the early 1990s, captive red wolves were successfully released in the
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, which has a
population of about 100 animals.

Officials in Wisconsin, which has more than 300 wolves, held a series of
hearings last week on a management plan that would take effect if the wolf
is removed from federal protection.

The Utah Legislature this year urged game officials to develop a plan
after a migrating wolf from Yellowstone was captured in the northern part
of the state last fall. Although they have not had a sighting yet,
Colorado wildlife managers are working on a similar plan.

And in Maine, New Hampshire and New York, state lawmakers passed bills to
prevent transplanting Quebec wolves to remote areas of their states.

“The polarization is already there,” said Craig McLaughlin of Utah’s
Division of Wildlife Resources, who has been traveling the state taking
comments from residents. “You see the dichotomy between people who make a
living off the land in the southern part of the state who let us know that
they really weren’t interested in having wolves, and the people who live
in the metropolitan area who are much more supportive.”

The Defenders of Wildlife recovery plan calls for restoring gray wolves
throughout their former range where there is suitable prey and habitat to
support several hundred wolves.

But Smith doesn’t think that is realistic. “Wolves don’t belong everywhere
they’ve ever been. They need wild country and we have precious little wild
country left. I’m pro-wolf, but not pro-everywhere.”

Ferguson said if the three state management plans pass muster, it is time
for environmental groups to stop putting up legal roadblocks and allow
delisting to proceed.

“America needs and deserves a success in the restoration story,” he said.
“This is it.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 25

Captive breeding of Mexican gray wolf succeeding

Captive breeding of Mexican gray wolf succeeding

EUREKA, Mo. (AP) — Francisco and Sheila were ideal parents. They raised
25 babies, taught them good survival skills, and sent many of them off to
live on their own.

Francisco and Sheila were Mexican gray wolves, or lobos, part of a
breeding program in Eureka, 20 miles southwest of St. Louis. Though
captive themselves, Francisco and Sheila taught their pups such good wolf
traits that many are thriving in the wild.

Francisco and Sheila were pioneers in a federal program to restore the
endangered Mexican gray wolf, the rarest and most genetically distinct
subspecies of gray wolf in North America. After more than a century of
assault by humans, by the 1970s its population had dwindled to a handful
in its natural range in Mexico and the American Southwest.

Nine of Francisco and Sheila’s offspring were among the first 11
captive-born Mexican gray wolves released in 1998. Both parent wolves have
since died — Francisco at age 14 in December, Sheila at age 16 in June
2000 — but they lived, as captive wolves often do, roughly twice as long
as wolves in the wild. Today the Wild Canid Survival & Research Center in
Eureka estimates that 98 percent of Mexican wolves released in the federal
program are descendants of the prolific lobo pair.

“They’re true heroes,” said Kim Bishop-Scott, assistant director of the
center. “So many of (their) offspring actually made it into the wild. They
sacrificed their freedom for future generations.”

The research center, popularly known as the Wolf Sanctuary, was founded in
1971 by Marlin Perkins, a world-renowned naturalist and former director of
the St. Louis Zoo, and his wife Carol. Besides the Mexican wolf, the
sanctuary works with the endangered red wolf, maned wolf, swift fox and
African wild dogs.

In his travels as host of the Emmy Award-winning “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild
Kingdom,” which debuted in 1963, Perkins observed how poorly predators
like the wolf were faring in the wild. He appreciated the wolf’s role in
the ecosystem years before it became a poster critter for
environmentalists, its howling image featured on calendars and greeting
cards.

Wolves had long been hunted, poisoned and painted as sinister figures in
“Little Red Riding Hood” and other popular lore. “Nobody wanted to work
with wolves,” said Susan Lyndaker Lindsey, the center’s executive
director. “They were the pariah.”

As the Perkinses traveled the wild, the wolf became a “child of their
heart,” she said.

The Perkinses convened a 1971 symposium of biologists doing predator
research. The result was a call for captive breeding. In 1976, the Mexican
wolf was listed as endangered. It remains the world’s most endangered
wolf.

In the late ’70s, the last seven known wolves were captured in the wild or
taken from zoos to begin the breeding program. In 1981, the first
captive-bred litter of Mexican gray wolves produced in the federal program
was born at the Wild Canid Center, and the first release into the wild
took place in 1998. The program is now about halfway to meeting its goal
of a “wild” population of at least 100 wolves over 5,000 square miles of
historic range.

About 250 lobos now live in captivity at 45 U.S. and Mexican facilities.
The Wild Canid Center has produced more puppies and housed more Mexican
grays than any other facility. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls
us the cornerstone of the program,” said Lyndaker Lindsey.

This spring, 19 pups in three litters, which is a world record, were born
there. Six died, and the other 13 will stay with their parents through the
next breeding season, helping to rear the next litter. Some will then be
chosen for release in New Mexico and Arizona.

The Wild Canid Center is located on 63 isolated wooded acres within
Washington University’s Tyson Research Center. The wolves live in large
outdoor enclosures with minimal human contact. They learn to hunt, raise
young, live in natural family packs, and be suspicious of people, which
are all useful skills for the wild.

“We’d much rather have them free, but for a captive life, they have a very
good life,” said Bishop-Scott, the assistant director. “There’s enough
space to explore. They’re in the middle of the woods with natural prey.”

Alpha pairs mate for life, and “all members typically raise pups,” said
Maggie Dwire, a biologist with the recovery program in New Mexico. “It’s
almost comical. They love pups. They bring a lot of playtime to a pack,
climbing on them, pulling on their ears.”

Decisions about mating, movement among the 45 captive-breeding facilities
and releases into the wild are made by a U.S.-Mexican committee of
scientists, land owners and others. They also maintain a genetic database.
A wolf with rare genes — until it had successfully reproduced — would
never be released because of the high risk of mortality in the wild. It’s
not uncommon for freed wolves to be struck by cars or shot by hunters; in
recent weeks, five have died.

Despite the losses, released wolves are reproducing. The recovery program
is gradually moving away from freeing captive-born wolves, as the
population of pups born free takes off.

“We don’t want to build a better wolf,” said species coordinator Peter
Siminski of California. “We want to let nature decide what’s a good wolf
and what’s not through natural selection.”

On the Net:

Wild Canid Survival & Research Center: www.wolfsanctuary.org/

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Mexican wolf recovery program: mexicanwolf.fws.gov/

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 23

Move to larger site is in works

Move to larger site is in works

By JOAN LITTLE
Post-Dispatch

After 32 years in St. Louis County, the Wild Canid Survival and Research
Center has decided to move to a larger, pristine spot of wooded land just
south of Eureka in Jefferson County.

The move still needs approval from the Jefferson County Commission, which
is expected to vote Dec. 3 on a zoning change that would allow it. The
rezoning has been recommended for approval by the county’s planning and
zoning commission.

The move means the center’s size will expand nearly tenfold, to 610 acres,
at the G.A. Buder III property at 3601 Highway FF, in northwestern
Jefferson County, from 65 acres at Washington University’s Tyson Research
Center.

It also means the center will be able to stay open to the public
year-round, said its director, Susan Lindsey. Currently, the center closes
from about mid-April through the end of May, when the female wolves give
birth.

The larger property will allow the center to separate its educational
exhibits from its breeding program, Lindsey said. It also will allow the
center to expand its educational programs and triple its holding capacity
for wolves, wild dogs and foxes, which now number 42.

Pristine and heavily wooded, the property has three lakes and has views
overlooking the Meramec River. It also has a 7,000-square-foot house that
the Wild Canid Center plans to use for a visitors’ center and offices.

Lindsey said the center probably will use about 400 of the 610 acres, with
the remainder being a buffer. The entire area will be encircled by 12
miles of fencing. The site will have pockets of animal enclosures, each
with a 15-foot fence.

Meanwhile, Washington University plans to use the space vacated by the
Wild Canid Center for biology and ecology programs. The university had
offered to relocate the center to another part of the 2,000 acres it owns
at the Tyson Research Center. But the center would have outgrown that in
about 20 years, Lindsey says.

With the new property, “We’re set for the next 100 years,” she says.

The center will continue to work with Washington University at its new
location. Lindsey said it will probably be about two years before the
center moves.

When it opened in 1971, the Wild Canid Center was the first conservation
center of its kind, said Lindsey. It was founded by Marlin Perkins, a
leading naturalist and former director of the St. Louis Zoo. The research
center is an internationally recognized leader in saving wolves. It has
more Mexican gray wolves than any other program. There were only four
Mexican pup litters born in the United States last year, and the center
here had three of the four.

Besides the Mexican wolf, it works with the endangered red wolf, the maned
wolf from South America and the Swift fox.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized