Mar 31

Oregon: State reinstates white wolf sanctuary road kill use permit

State reinstates white wolf sanctuary road kill use permit

By Joel Gallob Of the News-Times

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Monday that it is reinstating the permit held by Lois Tulleners, owner and manager of the White Wolf Sanctuary at Tidewater, had, since 1998. The permit allows her to take road killed animals as food for her wolves.

“The agency has decided that we did not give the public a real opportunity for participating in any sort of rule-making regarding the disposition of road kill and inedible wildlife,” district wildlife biologist Doug Cottam told the News-Times Monday afternoon.

He said ODFW will conduct a review during the next year. “The public will be welcomed to participate in that process; we’ll have a much bigger, much better, public process,” he said. “And in the meantime, we will restore Lois’ permit for the road kill – we’ll write up a new permit for her. It will take a couple days to write it up.”

In addition to the White Wolf Sanctuary, a second wolf sanctuary on the Siuslaw River will have its permit reinstated as well, Cottam said.

He added that ODFW “will not issue any more such permits till we complete the public review and the whole process.”

Tulleners received a permit for the retrieval of dead deer and elk from public roads, and purchased a winch system with which to haul onto her pickup the carcasses. After she was told that her permit was being pulled, several state and local government agencies contacted ODFW to protest the decision.

Chris Wheaton, regional manager for ODFW, said the decision to remove the permit was not based on the sanctuary’s profit or non-profit status, according to a March 12, 2004 letter to Tulleners. “The decision was made because it was decided that allowing the use of a public resource (deer and elk) to benefit a non-public entity is not an appropriate use of the state’s wildlife resources,” Wheaton said.

About 180 Arctic white wolves are left in the world, free or in captivity. Six of them are kept alive at the sanctuary, 1,000 feet up in the Coast Range above Tidewater.

The Arctic wolf (canis lupus arctos), as well as the eastern gray wolf (canis lupus lycaon), Great Plains Wolf (canis lupus nubilius), Mexican Wolf (canis lupus baileyi) and Rocky Mountain Wolf (canis lupus occidentalis) are all subspecies of the gray wolf, Tulleners said.

The gray wolf subspecies were once widely dispersed and highly successful predators throughout nearly all of the North American continent. After two centuries of being hunted as threats to livestock, the wolves were placed on the endangered species list. In 1995 and 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a reintroduction program for them in central Idaho and in Yellowstone National Park. Three of the Idaho wolves, all with identifying collars, made it to Oregon, where one was hit by a truck and died, one was shot, and the third was returned twice to Idaho, and after that, disappeared, presumably losing its collar.

The reintroduced populations, called “nonessential experimental populations,” are not subject to the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Last year, the federal government reclassified the gray wolves throughout the lower 48 states, and dropped them from “endangered” to “threatened,” with the resulting amount of protection dropping as well. Nine western states, including Oregon, Washington and Idaho, reduced protections for the wolves as a result.

The White Wolf Sanctuary has 60 acres, 45 of them enclosed with high fences. It opened in 1998, and received first an Oregon Department of Agriculture license and then a U.S. Department of Agriculture license. State field veterinarian Michael Daly signed the state “Exotic Animal Facility Inspection Report,” dated 6-17-98, and wrote that White Wolf Sanctuary was the “best facility” he knew about.

The Oregon Department of Transportation opposed the permit removal by ODFW, Tulleners said. So, too, did the Oregon State Police, and the Lincoln County Road Department had also been unhappy with the earlier decision.

Tulleners, shortly after hearing from Cottam, said “I’m just amazed; I’m blown away by all the help that I’ve gotten. I can’t possibly thank everyone – the people who called, who wrote the agency to protest. And (State Representative) Alan Brown (R-Newport). He was wonderful.

“I’m so happy,” she added. “I’ve got to go out and tell the wolves they’re getting their nutrition back.”

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Mar 30

Group seeking changes to Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program

Group seeking changes to Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program

Compiled By The Daily Press

The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the federal government to change its Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The environmental group officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday, the sixth anniversary of the first release of endangered wolves into the wild of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

The petition asks the agency to begin releasing wolves directly into the Gila National Forest. The programs current rules require the release of each wolf in Arizona and recapture before release in New Mexico.

The center also asks that the wolves be allowed to establish territories outside boundaries of the designated recovery area within the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests.

The final request in the petition is to require ranchers to remove or render unpalatable cattle and horse carcasses to prevent wolves from scavenging on them and getting used to eating livestock.

The center said it will file a lawsuit if the agency fails to make the changes within a year.

This petition starts the clock ticking to when Fish and Wildlife will have to act, said Michael Robinson of Silver City, a spokesman for the environmental group. With the population of radio-collared Mexican wolves in decline, and the entire wild population in trouble, were letting the feds know that if they dont protect these animals, well see them in court.

The three changes requested by the center were recommended in June 2001 by a panel of independent scientists who reviewed the program.

The New Mexico Game Commission has scheduled a public hearing regarding the wolf-recovery program from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 6, at Light Hall at 1000 W. College Ave. in Silver City.

The commission has been opposed to wolf reintroduction. Environmentalists hope that will change, with the help of panel members appointed by Gov. Bill Richardson.

On the other side of the issue, members of groups like the New Mexico and Grant County Cattle Growers associations, and the Gila Forest Permittees Association, remain opposed to wolf releases in the state because of the effect on ranching interests.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began releasing the animals in March 1998 in an effort to re-establish a wild population of about 100 wolves in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona after the species was hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.

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Mar 30

Changes to gray wolf program are sought

Changes to gray wolf program are sought

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

PINOS ALTOS, N.M. — The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the federal government to change its Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program.

The environmental group officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday, the sixth anniversary of the first release of endangered wolves into the wild of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

The petition asks the agency to begin releasing wolves directly into the Gila National Forest. The program’s current rules require the release of each wolf in Arizona and recapture before release in New Mexico.

It also asks that the wolves be allowed to establish territories outside boundaries of the designated recovery area within the Gila and Apache-SitGreaves national forests.

The final request in the petition is to require ranchers to remove or render unpalatable cattle and horse carcasses to prevent wolves from scavenging on them and getting used to eating livestock.

The Center for Biological Diversity said it will file a lawsuit if the agency fails to make the changes within a year.

“This petition starts the clock ticking to when Fish and Wildlife will have to act,” said Michael Robinson, a spokesman for the environmental group. “With the population of radio-collared Mexican wolves in decline, and the entire wild population in trouble, we’re letting the feds know that if they don’t protect these animals, we’ll see them in court.”

The three changes requested by the Center for Biological Diversity were recommended in June 2001 by a panel of independent scientists who reviewed the program.

The agency began releasing wolves in March 1998 in an effort to re-establish a wild population of about 100 wolves in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona after the species was hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.

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Mar 30

Alaska: Shooting wolves from the sky – fair game or foul play?

Shooting wolves from the sky – fair game or foul play?

J. Michael Kennedy
Los Angeles Times

Despite two popular votes to prohibit the practice, Alaskan hunters using airplanes have tracked and killed more than 100 wolves to increase moose and caribou herds.

The controversial policy has led to the killing of dozens of wolves in an area north of Anchorage, with the goal of eliminating up to 190 animals by April 30. Alaska has as many as 11,000 wolves and supporters want to expand the hunting areas.

The outraged environmental community contends that professional guides and outfitters, who stand to benefit financially from larger moose and caribou herds, are spearheading the campaign. State officials dispute that.

“It’s getting uglier by the minute,” said Karen Deatherage, who is leading the Alaska campaign against the wolf kills for the Defenders of Wildlife. Meanwhile, the Friends of Animals has organized dozens of “howl-ins” throughout the lower 48 states, where protesters are urging vacationers to boycott Alaska as a way to force the state government to reverse its policy.

The aerial tracking and killing of wolves has incited controversy in Alaska for at least three decades. In 1996, and again in 2000, voters championed a state ballot measure to outlaw the practice. But last year, the state legislature, acting upon a bill by Sen. Ralph Seekins, a Republican from Fairbanks, Alaska, reinstated the practice to allow hunting wolves from the air to reduce the predators.

“It gives a black eye to hunting traditions and values and creates an image of Alaska that is anything but welcoming to non-hunters,” Rodger Schlickeisen, the president of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.

Matt Robus, wildlife division director for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said aerial wolf shooting is allowed only in a popular moose hunting area north of Anchorage known as Nelchina and around McGrath in central Alaska. He said the state Board of Game is the governing body that made the decision to allow the hunting to go on.

“The Board of Game is tasked to make these decisions,” Robus said. “It’s their job, not ours.”

The purpose of the wolf-control program is to reduce predators so depleted moose populations can recover, according to the Fish and Game Department. Moose herds have declined by more than half in those areas and many communities in rural Alaska depend on moose for subsistence food.

But the board has been criticized for being top-heavy with hunters and trappers and sparse on those who might oppose the measure. Hunting is a multimillion-dollar industry in Alaska.

So far, all but a few of the wolves killed — 119 as of last week — have been in Nelchina, where vast, open space makes it easier to spot the animals and to land aircraft. Some wolves have been killed around McGrath, too, which is heavily wooded.

Robus also said the wolves in the much smaller McGrath area had learned to be wary of airplanes since the program began Jan. 22.

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance, among others, condemned the issuing of permits to civilian hunters to kill the wolves, contending that complicated oversight.

Deatherage said the Game Board will consider hunting bears in similar fashion to increase the size of the moose and caribou herds.

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Mar 30

Wolf politics make NWC skittish; Intern program at college suspended over safety issues

Wolf politics make NWC skittish; Intern program at college suspended over safety issues

By ALLISON BATDORFF
Gazette Wyoming Bureau

POWELL, Wyo. – Students at Northwest College have tracked wolves, mapping their territories and studying wolf behavior in the field as interns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the college suspended the program after spring break, deciding that hot-button wolf politics were potentially a threat to the students’ safety.

Removing the burden

“It’s so hot and people are so mad that we decided to remove them after the midterm,” said NWC associate professor of biology Ron Hitchcock. “We don’t want to put that burden on the students.”

Controversy surrounding allegations of federal wildlife agents’ trespass on a ranch near Meeteetse has led to a “marked upswing in negative reactions to the wolf issue” and compelled administrators to reconsider the interns’ safety.

The students were assisting Fish and Wildlife Service wolf biologist Mike Jimenez in tracking wolves and plotting their courses using geographic information systems technology. This often put the students in contact with local ranchers, many of whom are emotional about wolf reintroduction, Hitchcock said.

Though no threats had been made, NWC administrators decided to suspend the program before anything happened, he said.

Positive encounters

“When they drive around looking for radio signals, our students deal with ranchers a lot. In general, it has been very positive, but lately there has been some bantering about wolves.”

Along with safety concerns, administrators feared that students’ work with the federal wildlife agency may be subjected to “protracted legal proceedings and hearings” in light of the two trespassing complaints against the agency recently filed with the Park County Attorney’s Office. The county attorney has not filed charges and is waiting for a report from the state Department of Criminal Investigation.

The college regrets the need for suspending the program because it has allowed freshmen and sophomore students the kind of field experience normally reserved for graduate students, Hitchcock said. Twenty students have participated since the program began five years ago. The work has been used to save cattle and has also given the students a chance to earn college credit in the field, he said.

Of the three students most recently in the internship program, two have chosen to take half credit for the unfinished field study. The third student completed her field work last year.

Though NWC students have worked with many kinds of wildlife in their studies, including wild horses, beaver and bighorn sheep, no animal has prompted such controversy as the wolf, Hitchcock said.

“It is the first time we’ve ever had to do anything like this,” he said. “Wolves just create a lot of emotion.”

Hitchcock hopes to restart the program once the current controversy is resolved.

“I want our students back in the field and I want to continue a productive relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Hitchcock said.

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Mar 29

Alaska: Officials decline to attend wolf-control forum

Officials decline to attend wolf-control forum

PREDATORS: No government advocates of the programs accepted offers to defend them.

By JOEL GAY
Anchorage Daily News

Well-known opponents of predator control will offer their perspective at a forum tonight, but unless audience members are willing to take the microphone, wolf-control advocates won’t be represented.

Moderator Rick Steiner rounded up Priscilla Feral, president of the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals and organizer of a nationwide boycott of Alaska tourism, and Gordon Haber, a longtime wildlife scientist and critic of past state predator control efforts, for the Alaska Resource Issues Forum at the Anchorage Museum.

But Steiner couldn’t find anyone to stand up for the state’s wolf-control programs. His offer to take the stage alongside Feral and Haber was turned down by officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, members of the Alaska Board of Game, representatives of the Alaska Outdoor Council, and Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, he said.

“I’m very disappointed,” especially in the state and Game Board officials, said Steiner, a University of Alaska professor who highlights natural resources issues through the forum.

“I understand why they’re hesitant to come in front of citizens and explain their position. But that’s the whole purpose,” he said. “Government should be able to stand up in front of its citizens and be able to explain and defend its policy, even if it’s a controversial one.”

Steiner had better luck in December, when he brought together three people on each side of the predator-control debate into an Anchorage television station and made an hourlong videotape.

Since then, private pilots participating in state-sponsored programs have killed more than 100 wolves in the Nelchina area and another dozen near McGrath, and the Game Board has approved additional wolf-kill programs in other areas of the state. It also approved a new management plan that would allow brown bears to be killed to help boost stocks of moose and caribou.

At tonight’s forum, which runs from 7 to 9 p.m. in the museum auditorium, Haber will give a 30-minute slide show on his work studying the social structure of wolves in Denali National Park.

Steiner will play the devil’s advocate with Haber and Feral, asking pointed questions about their opposition to predator control. But Steiner hopes audience members will stand up for predator control, providing a thorough discussion about the merits of the programs and what they mean for Alaska.

“We’re encouraging people who have something to say to come and say it,” he said. “We’re expecting people to be civil. But this is a forum for people to say what they want to say, whatever it is.”

The forum is free, and free parking is available in the museum’s garage.

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Mar 28

Bus tours bring Denali’s wildlife within reach

Bus tours bring Denali’s wildlife within reach

Terry Richard, Newhouse News Service

Denali National Park, Alaska –

It was the epitome of wildness, the sight of a great bear running across the red and gold tundra.

The Toklat grizzly, named for the river valley where it lives, was a half-mile away from a tour bus on the road to Wonder Lake. The tips of the bear’s brown fur glistened silvery in the September sun.

The bear ran for two miles, easily keeping pace with the bus as it chugged along at 25 mph on the gravel road. The grizzly alternated its gait from a flat-out sprint to a loping trot.

It was obvious that a human could never outrun a grizzly.

When the bear reached the base of a small hill, it sprinted to the top, then veered left into a drainage area. We lost sight of the bear, leaving us to wonder if we had really seen it — or whether it had been a dream.

Denali National Park, centered on the highest mountain in North America, was established in 1917 to protect its wildlife and fragile ecosystem. Back in those days, the park was so remote that few envisioned it would become one of the great tourist attractions of Alaska and one of the world’s best places to see wildlife.

By the time Congress expanded the park to 6.2 million acres in 1980, a passenger railroad and a paved highway already connected the park to Anchorage and Fairbanks. About 300,000 tourists from around the world visit Denali each summer. They ride the buses to see caribou, Dall sheep, moose, wolves, fox, porcupines, ptarmigans and, especially, bears.

If they are lucky, the clouds will part and they will catch a glimpse of Mount McKinley. At 20,230 feet high, the continent’s tallest peak has one of the world’s most spectacular mountain walls when its north side is visible from the park road.

To preserve the park’s landscape, visitors must park their vehicles and board a shuttle bus to tour the park. The 85-mile road between park headquarters and Wonder Lake is the only way that most people set foot in the park.

I signed up for three bus tours on consecutive days — the first and third to Eielson Visitor Center at milepost 66, where a hillside perch offers a sweeping view of Mount McKinley. The second tour went all the way to Wonder Lake, near road’s end. Each day provided a clear view of the mountain and more memorable wildlife sightings.

I thought I would find abundant wildlife on the Denali Highway, outside the national park boundary. One of the most scenic highways in North America, the 135-mile, mostly gravel road passes the south side of the Alaska Range before it joins the George Parks Highway 27 miles south of the park.

The Denali Highway is a bumpy relic from Alaska’s early days of highway construction. Filled with chuckholes and sharp rocks, it offers a slow-motion ride past similar scenery to the national park — towering glaciated mountains, miles of tundra glistening with fall color and the many gravel-choked braids of the Susitna River — with none of the park’s restrictions. The eastern extension of the Alaska Range, capped by 12,339-foot Mount Deborah and 13,832-foot Mount Hayes, is a spectacular mountain site.

I planned three days to drive about 45 miles a day, thinking the slow pace would allow time to see vast herds of wildlife. But my visit coincided with Labor Day Weekend, the opening of hunting season in Alaska.

While hunting is not allowed in Denali National Park, hunting is most certainly allowed on lands administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management along the Denali Highway. It seemed as though every Alaskan who owned a rifle was there that weekend.

With my rental car and tent, I looked out of place but never felt threatened. Everyone appeared to be following hunting regulations. This was their place and their weekend, so I accepted the fact that I would see only a few caribou during the three days.

I knew my chance to see big game would come in Denali National Park.

Most visitors approach Denali from Anchorage, 240 miles to the south, or Fairbanks, 120 miles to the north. I decided to fly to Fairbanks to experience the northernmost large city in North America.

Almost everyone who visits Fairbanks winds up at Alaskaland, a quirky theme park on the Chena River with some type of display for nearly every significant development in Fairbanks’ first century.

One of the actors in a fast-paced burlesque show at the Palace Theater summed up the city’s eternal quandary when he said, “Fairbanks makes up for having the highest cost of living by being the least desirable place to live.”

Geographic challenges aside, 82,000 people find Fairbanks desirable enough to make their home in the surrounding North Star Borough. During summer, Fairbanks is a very desirable place indeed — daylight goes on forever, the temperature is mild and interior Alaska is at your fingertips.

In addition to Alaskaland, the town’s other major attraction is the paddle-wheelers that ply the Chena River. One of the ships helped give birth to Fairbanks in 1902, when E.T. Barnette was looking for a place to establish a trading post. He asked the captain to veer from the wide Tanana River to explore the narrow Chena, but the ship promptly ran aground.

The angry captain dumped Barnette and his belongings on shore and disappeared downstream. Three months later, gold was discovered nearby and Fairbanks was born. Within five years, Fairbanks was Alaska’s largest town and stayed that way until World War II spurred the growth of Anchorage.

Mining continues to be important, but Fairbanks also benefits from its position at the end of the Alaska Highway, its midway point on the Alyeska pipeline and its military bases.

Tourism also gooses the economy — even during winter, when Japanese arrive by the thousands to see the aurora borealis. (However, the widely held notion that they believe it auspicious to conceive a child beneath the Northern Lights is an urban myth dating back to an episode of the old “Northern Exposure” television show.)

With the late August daylight lasting until 11 p.m., there wasn’t much chance of seeing the northern lights. Instead, I visited the historic Pump House Saloon on the Chena River; the downtown riverfront’s Golden Heart Plaza; the University of Alaska Museum, with its informative displays on life in the north; and Creamer’s Field, where huge flocks of geese and sandhill cranes gorge themselves as they migrate between the Arctic and the lower 48 states.

I saw the wild cousins of Fairbanks’ huskies during my second tour into Denali National Park. The narrow road dangled precariously over the Toklat River, but the sharp-eyed bus driver spotted some movement far below. He pulled the bus over, turned off the engine and picked up his binoculars.

“There, in those bushes next to the river, I see two wolves — one black and one white,” he said.

Denali park tour bus drivers are often the first to spot wildlife. They have a clear view out the front window, know the best places to look and have been doing it for years. They also share a form of sign language with other drivers, alerting one another to sightings as their buses pass each other.

The wolves were too far away for photography, but we watched them clearly through binoculars for 15 minutes. We heard them howl, an eerie sound that would curdle the blood if we had been out walking instead of sitting in a bus. A third wolf, also white, approached. It was from the same pack but didn’t have the same stature. It crawled on its belly toward the first two, then rolled over on its back. The others stood over it, licking its face and wagging their tails.

“It’s not every day we spot wolves and witness such behavior,” the driver said.

It’s not every day that you ride a bus through the wilds of Denali National Park.

If you go

DENALI NATIONAL PARK

Most visitors arrive by tour bus, the Alaska Railroad or private auto. Just outside the park are a cluster of lodges, including the new Grande Denali, at McKinley Village, a nondescript outpost on the George Parks Highway that packs business for its shops, restaurants, lodges and adventure companies into a three-month season.

Fairbanks

Alaska Airlines flies nonstop from Seattle and Anchorage to Fairbanks. Some visitors arrive after driving the Alaska Highway, 1,520 miles from Dawson Creek, B.C. Fairbanks is a modern city with many hotels and restaurants.

Information

Denali National Park, (907) 683-2294, www.nps.gov/dena.

Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 327-5774; www.explorefairbanks.com.

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Mar 28

Sterilized wolves living large

Sterilized wolves living large

By TIM MOWRY, Staff Writer

Judging from what state wildlife biologists have seen, sterilized wolves appear to live longer and larger than other wolves.

Seven years after biologists sterilized 15 pairs of wolves as part of an effort to rebuild the Fortymile Caribou Herd, eight of those pairs have at least one sterilized wolf remaining and three pairs remain intact. All eight packs are still maintaining their traditional territories.

The sterilization program has far exceeded biologists’ expectations, said Rodney Boertje with the Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.

“We didn’t know they’d live this long,” Boertje said. “We thought the best we’d get is one or two years out of it.”

Wolves in the wild typically don’t live to be much over 5, he said. The surviving sterilized Fortymile wolves, however, are all likely pushing 10 years or older.

“Very seldom do you see an 8-year-old wolf,” Boertje said. “They get replaced before that because they can’t keep up with all the competition they’ve got out there.”

Beginning in 1997, biologists sterilized the alpha pairs in 15 packs and relocated 140 other wolves that made up those packs over the course of three years. The idea was that the sterilized pairs would defend their territories against other packs, which they have done quite successfully.

“Four years later we’ve still got sterilized wolves functioning as packs,” Boertje said.

The project was aimed at reducing predation on the Fortymile herd, specifically on the herd’s calving grounds, and the recovery effort has been a huge success. The herd has more than doubled in size since 1995, with the latest population estimate at 45,000 caribou. How much of a factor the sterilization program has had on the herd’s recovery is a question that biologists are still trying to answer.

“The fact that these pairs have stood up to the test of time is pretty impressive,” state wildlife biologist Jeff Gross said. “”Some of them are 10, 11 and 12 years old and they’re still holding their territories.

“(The sterilization program) kind of proved itself a real viable management option. It’s shown it’s got some longevity. It really is a cost-effective means to reduce numbers in the long run.”

Biologist Craig Gardner, who helped Boertje pilot the sterilization project, refers to the sterilized pairs as “dinks.”

“Double income, no kids,” Gardner said, explaining where the acronym comes from.

Indeed, the fact that the sterilized wolves didn’t have pups to raise or feed has likely played a significant role in their prolonged survival, biologists said.

“It’s the beauty of having no kids and no stress in their life,” Boertje said with a chuckle. “If they’re raising pups every year, there’s no way they’re going to get to 10.

“They’re not fighting as much, they’re not playing with offspring … they’re just living high on the hog.”

Two pairs of sterilized wolves were killed by other wolf packs last year and Boertje examined the carcasses of those wolves, which he estimated to be 7 or 8 years old.

“They were some of the fastest wolves I’ve seen,” Boertje said. “Even at a very old age they still are able to take care of themselves.”

During a tracking flight earlier this winter, Gross spotted one pair of sterilized wolves on a moose kill.

“These pairs are still healthy enough to take down a moose,” he said.

The sterilized wolves also don’t have to hunt as much because there isn’t a whole pack to feed, said biologist Mark McNay, a wolf expert at Fish and Game in Fairbanks. That cuts down on the chances of being killed while trying to take down a moose or caribou. About half the wolves that McNay examines have some evidence of previous injuries from killing moose or caribou, such as broken ribs, cracked skulls and broken leg or foot bones.

“Smaller packs kill fewer prey animals so they’re not exposed to the risk of having to kill moose,” McNay said. “Those risks can be substantial.”

The fact that the sterilized pairs have managed to maintain their traditional territories, even on a slightly smaller scale, doesn’t surprise McNay.

“That’s what wolves do, defend territories,” he said. “They will defend that territory even if they don’t have any current pups. They’re just continuing to behave as they would if they hadn’t been sterilized.”

It remains to be seen what will happen when all the sterilized wolves die off, which they will probably do in the next year or two, biologists said. The sterilized pairs will most likely be replaced by other packs that move into the territories and kill the older wolves, Boertje said. There are already signs that other packs are moving in to take over.

“The number of wolves will increase once the sterilized packs die off,” he said. “One hypothesis is that there are enough caribou now to support those wolves.

“The other hypothesis is that wolves will get dense enough to bring the (caribou) population down to a lower level.”

One of the reasons the biggest caribou herds in the state, such as the 130,000 Porcupine herd and the Western Arctic herd, which is approaching 500,000, are located on the North Slope is because there aren’t as many wolves as there are in the Interior, Boertje said.

“The Fortymile caribou don’t have any good place to hide during calving, especially once the sterilized wolves are gone,” Boertje said. “It’s not coincidental that the Arctic herds go to places to calf where there are no predators.”

Regardless of what happens with the herd in the future, Gardner said the sterilized wolves have more than served their purpose, both biologically and scientifically.

“It proved you can take a pack, reduce it down to two wolves and they have the ability to maintain that territory and keep it at two wolves,” Gardner said.

What that means remains to be seen.

“Until those (sterilized) pairs are gone and we monitor the new packs that move in, we won’t have a complete picture of how in the long term those reductions affected the wildlife populations,” Gross said. “We’re just now starting to put things together.”

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Mar 26

Wyo to appeal wolf FOIA denial

Wyo to appeal wolf FOIA denial

CHEYENNE — Wyoming plans to appeal a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refusing the release of some documents considered in the federal agency’s rejection of the state’s proposed wolf management plan.

Wyoming requested the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The state is preparing to sue the federal agency over the rejection.

“What we wanted to know was — from both the regional and national offices — give us the comments, the research and documents generated in denying Wyoming’s wolf plan,” Mike O’Donnell, chief deputy attorney general, said Thursday.

In a letter sent Monday to state Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Golden, the federal agency said some documents would be delayed because they are needed in a different wolf lawsuit in Oregon.

But others will not be turned over because they reflect personal opinions and recommendations, the agency said. The letter said a permissible reason for rejecting an FOIA request is that personal views could confuse the public understanding of an official agency policy or position.

The letter was signed by FWS Deputy Regional Director John Blankenship.

The federal government is requiring Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to submit acceptable plans for managing wolves before it will propose removing the animals from Endangered Species Act protection.

While accepting Idaho and Montana’s plans, the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming’s plan in January.

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Mar 26

300 jam Denver meeting on wolves

300 jam Denver meeting on wolves

Public weighs in on animals’ fate in Colo.

By Kieran Nicholson
Denver Post Staff Writer

About 300 people crammed into a meeting room at a Denver hotel Thursday night, most eager to share their views on wolves and Colorado.

The state Division of Wildlife held the meeting to encourage and collect nominations for a “working group” that will draft a wolf-management plan to be submitted to the division’s director.

The plan is expected to be completed in August and will be followed by a public comment period. It could then be fine-tuned or changed before the division’s director decides how much of it to use in Colorado.

“He won’t do it in a vacuum,” said Pam Wagner, a policy analyst at the Division of Wildlife.

The working group will recommend policy points that could include defining the numbers of wolves and packs that will be allowed in the state; defining the degree of protection the wolves will receive; and defining what, if anything, needs to be done regarding wolf habitat.

The division has no current plans to reintroduce the gray wolf to Colorado, but wolves have been sighted along the Wyoming border, and it won’t be long before they come south, wildlife experts say.

“We are trying to prepare for this,” said Gary Skiba, a wildlife biologist with the division’s species conservation unit.

Once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes northern Rockies wolf populations from the endangered species list in 2005 or 2006, the state Division of Wildlife will be authorized to manage wolves north of Interstate 70. The issue of wolves south of I-70 falls under a separate wildlife boundary, though officials said there is no immediate need to deal with the possibility of wolves in southern Colorado.

Most of those attending the meeting, held at the Best Western Central hotel, came from Denver and surrounding cities, but some ranchers and farmers traveled from beyond the metro area to attend.

It was the sixth such meeting called by the division; others have been in Fort Collins, Durango, Grand Junction, Craig and Pueblo. About 1,000 people total have attended the meetings, said Kim Burgess, a policy and regulatory manager at the division.

If Thursday’s meeting is any indication, the working group will have its work cut out for it in trying to find a balance between protecting the wolf and protecting livestock.

Cindi Bush, 22, of Lakewood said she attended the meeting because she’s had a lifelong love of wolves.

But she admitted the wolf’s return to Colorado will be a “complicated” issue.

“No one should have an anti-rancher view,” Bush said. “They have to protect their livestock and make a living.”

“I would like to see both (wolves and ranchers) co-exist,” she said.

Karen Percy, 27, of Erie hails from a Wyoming ranching family.

“I’ve seen the wolves come in and the lack of government assistance” when they attack livestock, Percy said.

During the meeting, a Western Slope resident told the audience he drove to Denver because he missed the earlier meeting in Craig.

“Our land will be occupied by the wolves, and we would welcome it,” he said to applause.

A short time later, another man identified himself as a third-generation Colorado rancher and farmer. “Wolves are not welcome on our land,” he said.

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