Feb 29

Map used to predict where wolves prey

Map used to predict where wolves prey


WAUSAU, Wis. – Scientists from a New York-based wildlife group and researchers from Wisconsin say they have developed a high-tech way to predict where wolves might prey on livestock, perhaps allowing farmers to prevent the attacks.

Timber wolves killed 20 cattle and 24 sheep on more than a dozen farms across northern Wisconsin last year.

The Wildlife Conservation Society said using geographic information system mapping, it developed maps of Wisconsin and Minnesota suggesting problem spots for wolves.

Adrian Treves, a scientist for the group, said he was optimistic the maps can be used to reduce conflict between wolves and people, so that wolves won’t be needlessly killed to solve the problem.

But John Erb, a wolf biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota, was more cautious about the practical value of the mapping. Minnesota has a population of about 2,450 timber wolves.

He said the maps will be useful in looking at the growth of wolf populations and trying to predict the factors associated with where they will cause problems.

The timber wolf is a native species that was wiped out in Wisconsin by the late 1950s after decades of bounty hunting.

Since the animal was granted protection as an endangered species in the mid-1970s, wolves migrated into the state from Minnesota and their numbers have been growing ever since.

The most recent count indicated 335 wolves roamed in Wisconsin, mainly in the north. That probably is the most since the 1800s.

Minnesota’s wolf population, concentrated in the northern half of the state, has remained steady for years, Minnesota DNR wildlife research manager Mike DonCarlos said.

Each year, 100 to 200 wolves in Minnesota are destroyed because they killed domestic animals, such as cattle, sheep, horses, turkeys, ducks and dogs, he said.

In Wisconsin, 17 wolves were euthanized last year after being trapped near five farms where they were killing domestic animals.


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 29

Alaska: Denali pack’s alpha wolf dies outside buffer

Denali pack’s alpha wolf dies outside buffer

TRAPPED: Game Board debates need for the zone.

The Associated Press

FAIRBANKS — A trapper told the Alaska Board of Game on Friday that he trapped and killed the leader of one of two wolf packs regularly seen by tourists in Denali National Park.

A biologist whose work is supported by an animal rights group said Saturday nine other wolves in the 12-member pack also were unaccounted for.

The wolf had strayed outside a no-trapping, no-hunting buffer zone established by a previous board four years ago to protect a pair of wolf packs that roam in and out of the eastern corner of Alaska’s most famous park.

Sitting before the seven-member board wearing a camouflage ball cap, Brent Keith said he trapped the alpha male of the Mount Margaret pack Wednesday after watching the pack consume a cow moose they had killed less than a half mile from his house.

“I watched them for five days,” Keith said. “They were four-tenths of a mile from my house. I listened to them (howling) every night, and finally I went out and put some snares out there.

“I figured I’d tell you about it before you read it in the paper,” Keith said.

Biologist Gordon Haber, whose work has been supported by Friends of Animals, observes the pack frequently and said that as of Feb. 17, the wolves seemed fine. But in flights last week, he could locate only two of the 12 wolves, and he fears others may have been killed — if not by Keith, perhaps by another trapper.

“It’s basically that group has been decimated,” Haber said in a telephone interview Saturday. He has argued that the buffer zone to protect the wolves was inadequate.

Friday was the first of at least two days of public testimony at a meeting to review and revise hunting and trapping regulations throughout the Interior, including possible elimination of the Denali Buffer Zone.

The 55-square-mile zone has been a hot-button issue since it was created four years ago by a game board appointed by then-Gov. Tony Knowles.

The more hunter- and trapper-friendly board put in place by current Gov. Frank Murkowski a year ago is now looking at several proposals to dissolve the buffer.

Trappers and hunters like Keith argue there is no biological justification for the buffer and that it is an unnecessary restriction to placate animal-rights activists.

“There are plenty of wolves running around in that area,” Keith said, adding that at least five packs roam the area he traps. “These wolves will replace themselves.

“I think people should be concerned about the caribou herd in that area,” he said, referring to the struggling Denali Caribou Herd. “Nothing is going to replace that caribou herd when it’s gone.”

Wildlife viewers and animal-rights groups, meanwhile, contend that the buffer zone helps protect a valuable aspect of Alaska’s tourism industry.

Vic Van Ballenberghe of Anchorage, a wildlife biologist who was on the Game Board when the buffer zone was created, urged the board to keep it in place even if it is too small to fully protect the wolves.

“It’s the one spot in the state where you stand a decent chance of seeing wolves or hearing them howl,” he said. “It represents a high value of viewing that needs to be preserved.

“If you rank the animals we have in Alaska and the demand to see those animals, wolves rank near the top of the list.”

Board member Pete Buist said each time a wolf pack gets displaced by hunting, trapping or natural mortality, another pack moves in. Five wolf packs have lived in the area in the last 20 years, he said.

“Do you think tourists can tell the difference between those packs?” Buist asked.

But Van Ballenberghe said it takes a pack of wolves time to become tolerant of humans so they can be viewed on a reliable basis, and constant turnover of packs hinders viewing opportunities.

“So what you’re saying is the buffer zone will allow tourists a better chance of seeing a habituated wolf?” Buist asked. “Is that what you mean by ‘tolerant’?”

Defenders of Wildlife representative Karen Deatherage said her group is working with the National Park Service to educate park visitors about viewing wolves to decrease habituation issues.


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 29

Final wolf-management bill dies

Final wolf-management bill dies

Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming’s case against the federal government over the rejection of its wolf-management plan may now be a little murky after the final bill dealing with the issue died in the Senate.

House Bill 111 failed to get out of the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on Friday, committee chair Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna, said.

Bills must be forwarded out of committee by Monday, and Roberts’ committee is not scheduled to meet that day.

“It would have created a whole big hearing to rehash what we’ve hashed over already,” Roberts said of the measure. “I didn’t want the committee and the Senate to be subjected to another big debate on the wolves.”

The bill would have aligned state law with Wyoming’s wolf-management plan, which was rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January over its classification of wolves as trophy game and predators.

Conforming state statutes to the plan is seen as a way to strengthen the state’s hand in a possible lawsuit.

HB111 would have retained the dual classification system. Another measure aimed at changing the state’s plan to match demands of the federal government died after not being scheduled for debate in the House.

Rep. Mike Baker, R-Thermopolis, said HB111 would have strengthened the state’s hand in court by making its laws consistent with the plan.

“The state is in the position that it is not as legally defensible as it could have been,” he said.

Such inconsistencies could weaken the state’s case, Baker said.

“Small things can destroy big intentions, sink large ships,” he said. “Did we write this as clearly as we could have? And the answer is ‘no.’ ”

Roberts felt otherwise.

“I don’t think it has any bearing on what we do in the future at all,” he said.

Wolves, eradicated in Wyoming in the early 20th century for killing livestock, were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995 and have since thrived. Twelve packs of wolves now inhabit the park and six packs roam outside it.

The Interior Department is prepared to remove wolves from federal protection but only when it deems Wyoming’s plan acceptable for maintaining viable populations in the Northern Rockies.

Management plans adopted by Idaho and Montana already have been approved.


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 28

Researchers target areas where wolves are most likely to attack livestock

Researchers target areas where wolves are most likely to attack livestock


If you knew you were more than twice as likely to get roughed up in front of doorways that were painted blue rather than red or green, you’d probably avoid those stoops altogether, or at least get your police to patrol them.

In a way, identifying such danger zones is what a team of Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York scientists have tried to do – except, instead of targeting high-crime doorsteps, the scientists have mapped areas where wolves are most likely to attack livestock in the upper Great Lakes region.

And they hope this research will enable state and federal wildlife agencies to focus their energy on potential hot spots – allowing them to prevent and respond more quickly to livestock killings, said Adrian Treves, lead author and researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Society in the Bronx, N.Y.

Their work appears in the most recent edition of the journal Conservation Biology.

The loss of livestock to wolves in Wisconsin and Minnesota has caused a lot of grief, anger and frustration among livestock farmers who live in established wolf ranges.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, wolves killed 20 cattle and 24 sheep on more than a dozen farms in the state last year. They also killed one game farm deer and six hunting dogs in the same period.

In Minnesota, where the wolf population is about seven times larger than in Wisconsin, wolf numbers, trappings and depredations were down last year – the result of the nasty skin disease mange that has swept through the population. Minnesota has nearly 2,500 wolves, and Wisconsin has about 350.

But the livestock situation is likely to get worse, particularly in Wisconsin, where the wolf population is increasing and its range is spreading.

It is this fear, with a splash of anger over lost farm animals, that has livestock farmers calling for wolf numbers to be decreased.

And it is the acknowledgment that things will likely get worse that has wildlife experts and conservationists looking for ways to prevent, or at least soften, the inevitable increase in domestic animals killed.

In search of a solution

According to Treves’ and his colleagues’ work, wolf management is difficult. Outright killing of wolves is something they hesitate to recommend, believing it can undermine endangered-species protections and incite criticism from groups other than livestock farmers.

But, they know doing nothing is not a solution, either.

Indeed, a recent study by Treves and his wife, Lisa Naughton-Treves, a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, showed that 36.5% of northern Wisconsin residents wanted the state’s wolf population maintained and 13% wanted it expanded, while a similar percentage wanted the population reduced (33.1%) or eliminated (17.4%).

These numbers leave management agencies in a predicament: Anything they do is going to make somebody unhappy.

So Treves, Naughton-Treves, Adrian Wydeven, a wolf biologist with the DNR, and others searched for a more efficient method of management, one that would help state and federal agencies anticipate and pinpoint future wolf attacks on livestock.

Currently, most of the wolf management zone in Wisconsin is in the northern third of the state. Minnesota has two zones – one with wolves and one without.

These vast expanses of land make it difficult for state and federal agencies to monitor wolves, which can make management ineffective, expensive and diluted.

By narrowing the zones to towns, Treves and his colleagues believe they will enable agencies to manage the wolf problem better.

So, to create a new, focused system, the researchers scrounged up data on wolf attacks on livestock and reviewed the locations. Looking at 975 verified sites of livestock killings by wolves in Wisconsin and Minnesota between 1976 and 2000, they analyzed each site.

They asked a series of questions: Was it in a prairie? If so, how big? Was it in a crop field? Near conifer woodlands? Open water? Wetlands? In a town?

Based on the localities of each of these incidents – and the commonalities, if any – they tried to predict where farmers would find future fatalities.

They discovered that wolf attacks tend to take place in towns composed of lots of pasture with dense deer populations but also have low proportions of cropland, coniferous forest, herbaceous wetlands and open water.

The number of roads also seemed to be a factor: Fewer wolf problems were reported in areas with lots of roads.

Entering this data into statewide maps, they were able to pinpoint areas that are at high risk. Some of these areas don’t have settled populations of wolves anywhere near them, but, if wolf populations continue to spread, those areas could see some trouble.

Farm country prime target

One such place includes the livestock farms of southwestern Wisconsin. The geography in this region could make them prime targets for killings by wolves, if they were to get there.

But this area may be a bit insulated because most of the cattle are dairy, Treves said.

That’s because dairy cows are generally kept close to human-inhabited areas such as farmhouses.

The cattle most at risk, said Wydeven, are those that stray from frequent human supervision.

“The best method for preventing wolf depredations” is to have a person watching the herd 24 hours a day, Treves said.

Other methods to keep wolves at bay – such as fences and guard dogs – are not as effective, Wydeven said.

Fences can work, said Eric Koens, a livestock farmer in Bruce and a director with the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, though they have to be at least 8 feet highand buried at least 2 feet in the ground to keep the wolves from digging through.

And the maintenance would be formidable, he said.

David Mech, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a renowned wolf biologist, agrees.

“We just don’t know of anything that would work as a panacea” to prevent wolf depredations, said Mech, who was not involved with the research.

“Where there are wolf and livestock, living side by side, there’s a good chance that at some point, they’ll prey on livestock,” he said.

Treves and Wydeven disagree. They say there are good packs and bad packs. Most wolf packs can live by cattle or sheep farms for years and never attack. But there are a few that do.

Although Wisconsin DNR officials have shown interest in the map, they’d like to know if its powers of prediction hold true before they start using it, Treves said.

The researchers will collect data on killings since 2000 and see how it fits with the map’s predictions.

If the map predicted accurately, Koens and his fellow farmers will, at the very least, be able to take preventive measures if they are unfortunate enough to be in one of the hot spots.


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

Meetings are planned for wolf management

Meetings are planned for wolf management

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has planned six forums in March to collect public input on developing a wolf management plan. Wildlife officials are working on the plan because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to delist Rocky Mountain gray wolves in the area and turn management control over to states.

Wildlife officials say it is only a matter of time before wolves migrate back into Colorado. Gray wolves were eradicated from the state in the 1930s.

Meetings will be conducted Tuesday in Fort Collins, Thursday in Durango, March 18 in Grand Junction, March 19 in Craig, March 22 in Pueblo and March 25 in Denver. For information, see the Gray Wolf Guidelines at (wildlife.state.co.us/species_cons/GrayWolf/).


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 27

A glance at the wolf-management issues

A glance at the wolf-management issues

By The Associated Press Friday, February 27, 2004

A look at the key issues in the Legislature’s debate over wolf management.

THE ISSUE: Last month, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming’s wolf-management plan, which has likely delayed removal of the animal from the federal Endangered Species List. Montana and Idaho’s plans have been approved.

BACKGROUND: Wolves were exterminated from Wyoming in the early 1900s because of their attacks on livestock. The federal government, in 1995 and 1996, reintroduced the species to Yellowstone National Park. There are now at 754 wolves in the three surrounding states, including 235 in Wyoming. Ranchers, hunters and outfitters are concerned that wolf attacks on livestock and wildlife will continue to grow without a state plan allowing flexibility to kill problem wolves.

FEDS’ POSITION: The Fish and Wildlife Service objects to Wyoming’s “dual classification” system in which wolves would be treated as trophy game and subject to regulated hunting in areas near Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks but classified as predators — subject to little regulation — outside northwest Wyoming. The agency does not believe the plan is defensible should there be a court challenge.

STATE’S POSITION: Wyoming officials, including many lawmakers, believe the dual system would allow wolves to be more easily killed in areas away from northwest Wyoming. Gov. Dave Freudenthal and others leaning toward litigation also say federal rejection was more the result of politics than science, since a review panel consisting of a dozen wildlife experts largely agreed the state’s plan would sustain a viable wolf population.

LEGISLATION: Under HB111, passed 44-14 by the House on Wednesday, Wyoming would maintain at least seven wolf packs outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks under the dual classification system. The measure conforms a law passed last year with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s plan and bolsters the state’s position if a legal challenge is mounted by the state against the federal government.

NEXT: The bill will be introduced in the Senate and referred to a committee.


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 26

Cry of the wolf

Cry of the wolf

by Jeff Woods

New census shows fragile wolf population

The new census of northwest Montanaýs wolves shows declining numbers, and that casts doubt on the governmentýs contention that the population is robust enough to remove from federal protection as an endangered species.

In the annual count by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the regionýs gray wolves numbered only 92 in 2003, down from 108 the year before. More importantly, only four pairs of wolves produced at least two pups that survived the year. The year before, 11 breeding pairs were counted.

Federal and state officials, who want wolves yanked off the endangered species listýor delisted, in the bureaucratic parlanceýare playing down the latest census, insisting it isnýt indicative of a weak population. But independent wildlife experts say the numbers show that the recovery of wolves in the northern Rockies, while impressive, is still fragile. For that reason, many argue against stripping wolves of federal protectionsýthe main one being a law against killing the animals just for fun.

Even conservationists who believe wolves can survive in the wild under less-protective state management say the latest numbers are a cause for concern.

ýFour breeding pairs? Thatýs scary,ý says Dan Pletscher, director of the wildlife biology program at the University of Montana.

Despite the new census, the Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing ahead with its attempt to delist wolves in the northern Rockies and put them under the control of the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Under pressure from ranchers, all these states are aiming to make wolves easier to kill. Wolves, in fact, would have already lost federal protections if not for Wyomingýs insistence on allowing the beleaguered animals to be shot on sight like skunks or jackrabbits when they roam outside Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks.

Wyomingýs so-called management plan, the intent of which is apparently to ýmanageý wolves out of existence, was too outrageous for even Fish and Wildlife to accept, and the federal agency has been trying without success to persuade the state to adopt a more reasonable approach.

After a two-hour session with agency Director Steve Williams and aides on the issue this month in Cheyenne, Wyo., Gov. Dave Freudenthal issued this wry statement: ýThey seemed like nice enough fellows to meet with, but we didnýt get a lot done.ý

Legislation was introduced in the current 20-day budget session of the Wyoming Legislature to try to satisfy Fish and Wildlife. But at last report, the bill had stalled, and odds are thought to be slight that it will pass.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association opposed the bill because it wouldnýt permit gunning down wolves from airplanes, killing wolf pups in their dens or blowing them up with M-44 explosives. (Weýre not making this up.)

ýWeýre kind of at an impasse,ý says state Sen. Keith Goodenough of Caspar. A self-described ýhippie in a sea of rednecks,ý Goodenough wants to accommodate Fish and Wildlife, but admits he doesnýt have many allies in Wyoming.

ýThese guys want to be able to shoot wolves anywhere, anytime,ý he explains. ýItýs a genetic holdover from their parents and grandparents. If theyýre driving down the road to their ranch and they see a wolf, they think they should be able to hop out of their truck and blast it without facing any sanctions.ý

What they donýt know is that if their legislators would merely adopt a management plan like Montanaýs, which has been embraced by Fish and Wildlife, they could start blasting away.

Under Montanaýs plan, which would govern wolves in our state if the animals are delisted, landowners could shoot wolves when they are ýattacking, killing or threatening to kill livestocký or cattle dogs. Thatýs a pretty vague standard (how exactly does one determine with any certainty when a wolf is ýthreateningý oneýs livestock?), and itýs likely that ranchers could just shoot wolves willy-nilly without legal consequences.

ýWeýre not out to prosecute anyone,ý admits Carolyn Sime, the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks official who developed the management plan. ýI guess what it boils down to is that people will be expected to be honest.ý Right.

Under the original federal recovery plan, wolves in northwest Montana, central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone ecosystem were to maintain their protections as endangered species until there were 10 breeding pairs in each recovery area for three consecutive years.

Wildlife biologists considered it essential, especially, for northwest Montanaýs wolves to do well because they provide a connection between the Yellowstone and Idaho populations and the more numerous wolves in Canada. That link is needed to promote genetic interchange among the various wolf populations, a key element for their long-term survival.

Wolves in Idaho and Yellowstone have thrived (640 were counted in the latest census). But with fewer open valleys in which to hunt prey and fewer elk to eat in the first place, northwest Montanaýs wolves have never met their recovery goal. So the feds fixed that problemýthey dropped the goal. And last March, they listed wolves not as endangered but merely as threatened, the first step in delisting the animals altogether.

A coalition of environmental groups has sued to return wolves to their endangered status. So even if Wyoming eventually changes its management plan, clearing the way for the delisting of wolves, the courts will probably decide the issue in the end.

ýI have great concerns about wolves in northwest Montana,ý says Renee Van Camp of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. ýUnless we maintain their protections, we cannot ensure the future of wolves in any respectable numbers.ý


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 25

Scandinavia: Rekord i ungvargar Record number of wolf pups

Scandinavia: Rekord i ungvargar/ Record number of wolf pups

Vargarna i Skandinavien satte nytt rekord i valpkullar i fjol somras. Enligt preliminýra siffror fick elva par valpar, vilket ýr det hýgsta antalet sedan býrjan av 1900-talet.

Trots detta anser experterna att stammen har stagnerat de senaste fyra ýren – orsaken ýr sannolikt illegal jakt, mýnga vargar har fýrsvunnit och flera par har splittrats de senaste ýren. Av fýrra ýrets fýryngringar ýterfinns tre i Výrmland, tre i Nýrke, och ett vardera i Dalarna, Hýlsingland och Dalsland – tvý familjegrupper finns helt inne pý norskt territorium.

The wolves of Scandinavia have set a new record of wolf pup litters last summer. According to the preliminary statistics eleven pairs had pups, which is the highest number since the beginning of the 20th century.

Despite this the experts consider that the group(population) has stagnated the last four years – the cause is likely illegal hunting, many wolves have disappeared and several pairs have split the past year. Of last year’s pups, three remain in Výrmland, three in Nýrke, and one each in Dalarna, Hýlsingland and Dalsland – two packs are entirely within Norwegian territories.


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 25

Arizona: San Carlos considers signing memorandum

San Carlos considers signing memorandum

By John Kamin, assistant editor

The San Carlos Apache Reservation is considering joining the new management program for the Blue Range Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Nongame Chief Terry Johnson said during a Thursday interview that the reservation is considering joining the Adaptive Management Work Group. The work group is comprised of members of many different agencies and counties, all of whom are involved with the reintroduction program. It includes Graham County Supervisor Mark Herrington and Greenlee County Supervisor Hector Ruedas.

The addition of the San Carlos Apache Reservation to the group “would enable us to be able to have the full field team available to work on the reservation at their invitation, as under their direction,” Johnson said. While monitoring of wolves on the reservation already goes on, he said, the reservation could benefit from the presence of the field team.

There are several ways the San Carlos Apache could increase the presence of wolf experts who could supervise the wolves.

“They could write a letter for us to assist in monitoring wolves on the reservation,” Johnson said. “We could reach an agreement on the existing Memorandum of Under-standing.”

The Memorandum of Understanding is the agreement that was reached by members of the work group.

“We just don’t have that relationship yet because they’ve said from the outset that they don’t want wolves,” he said. “It’s very encouraging the San Carlos representatives came to the interagency meeting.”

The meeting Johnson refers to is the meeting that happened on Jan. 28. It was preceded by a meeting of the work group, which Johnson said is slowly making progress.

The group was formed after Johnson and members of the public felt the project was straying from including public opinion in the project. He said the group is intended to include anyone with an interest in the reintroduction project.

The group includes the Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Game and Fish Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services/Wildlife Services, U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Graham County, Greenlee County, Navajo County, Catron County, Sierra County and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

Wolves in the field

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Coordinator John Oakleaf attended the Jan. 28 meeting and gave a confirmed depredation count of 63 since the reintroduction project began.

The 2003 wolf report showed a total of 15 possible depredations with five confirmed attacks by wolves, seven probable attacks and three possible attacks by wolves.

This number was challenged by Laura Schneberger of the New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association who listed 240 depredations. Her count is much larger than Oakleaf’s because the numbers are unconfirmed by the field team. The field team must be notified immediately after a potential wolf attack to confirm the death. Ranchers such as Schneberger and Greenlee County’s Daisy Mae Cannon said that more time needs to be given to contact the team after a potential depredation.

Oakleaf said the statistic of 240 depredations are the number of cattle missing at the end of the year.

“They were not found by ranchers or reported to us,” he said.

There are now 21 wolves with radio collars, Oakleaf said.

This number is lower than the 27 collared wolves in the summer of 2001.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said, “The fact that only 21 radio-collared and monitored wolves are in the wild is testament to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to reform the program as advised by independent scientists.”

He said when the agency captures and re-releases the wolves, the families tend to split apart and wander into areas with higher concentrations of humans.

“The seven-member Francisco Pack trapped last year for having crossed outside the politically-derived boundary of the recovery area has lost its third member; and that is in addition to the five pups conceived in the wild that died in captivity,” Robinson said. “When the scientists recommended allowing wolves to roam like other wildlife are allowed. Back in June 2001, we had 27 radio-collared and monitored wolves in the wild. The failure to reform this program as the number of monitored wolf declines reflects an administration willing to write off the lobo and much more of America’s natural heritage.”

Oakleaf said the lower number of radio-collared wolves is not a threat to the project. He gave an example of the Yellowstone National Park Reintroduction Project that has been deemed a success, yet the number of collared wolves has not changed since the program started despite a massive increase in wolf population.

“In terms of that, radio collars are not what you estimate in a population,” Oakleaf said. “That’s just not an accurate way.”

Another factor to be considered is how many wolves have been recently released in comparison to wolves born in the wild, he said. Oakleaf noted higher amounts of wild-born wolves in this and previous interviews. In 2003, at least 20 wild-born pups were born.

Counting the pups is a timely process, he said.

“It takes time to visually see them or hear them howling,” Oakleaf said. “It’s something that we’re focused on throughout the year, even when we’re flying over now.”

He said some of the uncollared animals are captured and collared.

Oakleaf said, “Do we try to collar every animal? No. We try to represent every pack by getting multiple collars in each pack.”

By collaring several members of a wolf pack, the field teams can track the movement of the packs while still accounting for dispersals of packs, he said. There are about 11 to 15 uncollared wolves in the wild, Oakleaf said. This number does not include pups that were born this year.

“The ultimate success of the project rests in the offspring of these animals,” he said. “Those are the animals you expect to do the best. Not all of those animals are going to be collared. Certainly the proportion of wild-born to released animals is far, far higher now than ever before, and our radio-collared animals reflect that trend.”

Plane surveillance, ground crews with radio equipment, sightings by employees in the field for other purposes and reports of the general public are all resources that are used to keep track of the wolves, Johnson said.

“The primary monitoring we’ve got is certainly the flights,” he said. After learning that the Fish and Wildlife Service would not be able to contribute any funding to the flights for the rest of the state fiscal year, Johnson said the New Mexico and Arizona game and fish departments will share the bill for the flights.

“As a group, we are becoming better at putting issues up on the table,” he said. Johnson noted the program’s design in the past would have been limited by the lack of funding, whereas now the government agencies are working together.

Breeding pairs

One topic of discussion among ranchers and conservationists is the fact that there are less than six breeding pairs of wolves in the wild. When asked about the significance of the number, Oakleaf explained the breeding pair number about whether permits may be issued allowing ranchers to shoot a wolf that is seen attacking a cow on public land.

“Currently, any rancher can shoot a wolf attacking a cow on private land,” Oakleaf said. He said the deaths of alpha animals have not had a severe impact on the project because of their natural replacements. Oakleaf noted the Francisco, Gapiwi and Cienega alpha wolves have been seen with new, uncollared mates.

“I recently saw the Francisco animal over in New Mexico chasing an elk with another wolf from the plane,” Oakleaf said.

Two more wolf deaths occurred in January, according to the 2003 report. The deaths of Alpha Female 587 of the Bonito Creek Pack (Jan. 16) and Female 800 of the Francisco Pack (Jan. 22) are being investigated. Standard procedure dictates that the wolves must be sent for necropsy analysis at a Fish and Wildlife Center lab in Oregon.

Necropsy reports confirmed that female wolf 644 from the Cerro Pack (found May 25, 2003) and female wolf 856 of the Bluestem Pack (found Aug. 26, 2003) died as a result of gunshot wounds.

The necropsy report for male 801 (Oct. 7, 2003) of the Francisco Pack was confirmed to be caused by a collision with a vehicle.

Robinson announced the Center for Biological Diversity, the Fish and Wildlife Service and many other non-profit groups are teaming up to offer a $45,000 award for apprehension and conviction of anyone who illegally kills a Mexican wolf.

At the meeting, Oakleaf reassured conservationists that the deaths are not caused by one person.

“The thing is that it’s a pretty well widespread distribution of where these animals are dying in New Mexico and Arizona,” he said. “It’s all over the board. I don’t think it’s just one person running around doing it all.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 25

Connecticut: Reader’s Sister Wolf Expert

Reader’s Sister Wolf Expert

By: Jean Dunn

OXFORD – Recent reports from residents who believe they have seen a wolf in Voices-area towns have sparked much local debate.

Is it really a wolf?

Is it a wolf-dog hybrid?

Is the animal sighted this winter in Oxford the same one trapped in Southbury last spring? Is it the same one photographed elsewhere in Southbury and Oxford, and in Waterbury, late summer through mid-fall?

Terry Boyd, owner of Mountain View Plaza Wines and Liquors in Naugatuck, hasn’t spotted the animal in question, but when there’s a question about a wolf, he knows where to turn.

Mr. Boyd’s sister, Dr. Diane K. Boyd of Helena, Mont., is acknowledged as the nation’s number-two wolf biologist, having studied under David Mech, the reigning expert.

“My sister has trapped wolves all over North America and eastern Europe,” Mr. Boyd told Voices. “She’s lived in the wild, she gives lectures, she’s written theses. She’s very knowledgeable.”

Attempting to shed some light on the local mystery, Mr. Boyd sent one of Voices’ recent wolf-sighting articles to his sister. The story included a photo of the animal in question, taken in a back yard in Southbury.

“She emailed me right away,” he said. “She said it’s definitely not a full-blown wolf. She could tell that very clearly from the picture. She thinks it’s probably a hybrid of wolf and dog.”

Mr. Boyd said his sister thinks the local animal “definitely has some wolf in it.”

“It could be a situation where a wolf impregnates a dog,” he said. “That’s very common. Wolves are known to range for wide distances – the ones my sister tracked came from hundreds of miles away.”

It’s not common to see a single wolf for a long period of time, he added.

Mr. Boyd’s sister is currently executive director of a wildlife refuge in Montana. She lectures widely on wolves and has been published numerous times on the subject.

Now in her mid-40s, she did most of her field work in her late 20s and early 30s.

“She’s a fascinating gal,” Mr. Boyd said. “For years, she lived just outside of Glacier National Park in a cabin 50 miles from electricity. She was responsible for tracking the wolves that came back into West Glacier in the 1980s.”

In the course of her work, Dr. Boyd set traps for wolves, fitted them with radio collars, took blood samples.

“She was the one to find the first wolf in West Glacier,” her brother said. “She’s very well known in Montana. She has stories to tell…”

Mr. Boyd said he’s learned much from his sister over the years, including the fact that wolves are very much afraid of humans.

“I’ve seen her drive up to a wolf trap, get out and climb over to it on the hood of her truck,” he recalled. “She’d tend the trap that way, rather than walk up to it and leave her scent there.

“Unless they’re ill, wolves will rarely go near humans,” he explained. “Even where she lives, where there are three known packs of about 25 wolves, it’s extremely rare to see one.

“If something is walking around a neighborhood, it’s highly unlikely that it’s a wolf.”


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