Sep 30

Larger Wolf Population is Causing More Problems

Larger Wolf Population is Causing More Problems

During recent years, many farmers and other rural citizens have been complaining about wolves preying on their livestock and domestic pets. And according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the problem is only getting worse.

Wildlife experts say the state’s wolf population has grown to nearly 400 wolves, which has resulted in over 21 confirmed cases livestock killings on farms so far this year.

The DNR’s Adrian Wydeven says that there were 14 such reports in all of 2003 and eight in 2002. He was among those attending Tuesday’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing in Wausau on its proposal to remove the timber wolf from the endangered and threatened species lists in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

Removing the wolf from the protected species lists would allow some hunting and trapping of the animals to control the population, Wydeven said.

The timber wolf, also known as the gray 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.

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Sep 30

Man uses pictures of dead dogs in testimony against wolves

Man uses pictures of dead dogs in testimony against wolves

Associated Press

ASHLAND, Wis. – Rob Stafsholt held up two pictures of dogs he lost to timber wolves while bear hunting to dramatize his support for removing the timber wolf from federal protection lists.

“My problem is not that this happened. It’s that we can’t do anything about it until the wolves are delisted,” Stafsholt said Wednesday in testimony at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing.

The meeting in Ashland was the third this week on a federal proposal to remove the timber wolf from the endangered and threatened species lists in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

That change would allow some hunting and trapping of wolves to control the population.

State wildlife officials said late winter estimates earlier this year set Wisconsin’s wolf population at about 390 animals – about 50 more than recommended.

The 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.

Nearly everyone who testified Wednesday supported removing wolves from the protection lists.

Stafsholt, who has homes in New Richmond and Clam Lake, wanted to be even more dramatic in his testimony than he was with his pictures.

He brought a mutilated carcass of his dog inside a suitcase to show the effects of wolf depredation, but was not allowed to display the remains inside the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, where the hearing was held.

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Sep 30

CO: Panel debates the wolf and the dollar

Panel debates the wolf and the dollar

By Marilyn Gleason
Special to The Aspen Times

Most Coloradans like the idea of the idea of wolves roaming the state’s forests, but the animals come at a price.

A diverse group working together to plan wolf management in Colorado tackled the finances of livestock losses at a meeting Wednesday near Glenwood Springs.

Wolves have been missing from Colorado since the mid-1930s, according to the state division of wildlife, but successful programs to reintroduce them in neighboring states point to their eventual return. Two polls in the past decade have shown that most residents would welcome them back.

In Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where the animals were successfully reintroduced in the last decade, state wildlife agencies requested $2.5 million this year to cover the costs of managing the 800 wolves. That amount includes paying specialized staff, monitoring the wolves with devices such as radio collars, research and reimbursements for livestock killed by wolves.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the panel representing livestock producers, sportsmen, wildlife biologists, local governments and environmental advocates discussed various schemes for compensating livestock loss. Members debated how to pay and how much to pay, whether through the division of wildlife or a separate system.

Livestock producers and hunters worry about the economic impact wolves will have on their business.

Bonnie Kline, executive director of the Colorado Wool Growers Association, didn’t hesitate when asked what concerns her most about wolves: “Depredation. Wolves do eat livestock, so it’s an issue.”

In 2003, wolves killed 150 commercially grown animals in the northern Rockies. To compensate for those losses, producers were paid $30,000.

Conservationists are willing to pay double the value of the animal in Colorado to create goodwill among the wolf’s fiercest opponents, said Rob Edward of Sinapu, which advocates wolf reintroduction and conservation.

The panel considered compensating ranchers at rates from double all the way up to eight times livestock value.

In Colorado, the wildlife division now pays livestock producers for animals killed through its big game damage fund. With fees collected from state hunting licenses, it pays for everything from livestock preyed upon by lions and bears to hay eaten by elk.

In other states where wolves have been reintroduced, Defenders of Wildlife uses money raised through private donations to compensate ranchers for depredation.

Colorado could use a combination of both sources to pay higher than market value for livestock lost to wolves.

“By paying extra for the one that’s killed, you end up paying for the ones not found. It adds a sense of fairness,” said Gary Wockner, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Colorado.

It’s a possible solution to what Gary Skiba of the wildlife division called “the undocumented losses debate that’s been raging within the group.”

Producers claim other “ancillary” losses. Jean Stetson raises cattle in Craig with her husband, a third-generation cattle rancher. She cites livestock harassment, lower pregnancy rates and underused pastureland as additional costs. She said cows weigh less because “they’re nervous.”

Wockner said double or higher compensation is “a shorthand way of addressing those concerns.”

“It’s certainly beyond what other states are doing. It’s very progressive,” he said. “It’s probably something we could do in Colorado, and we could [likely] afford it.”

One scheme would raise funds to offset livestock killed by wolves statewide through the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which would turn the money over to the state to administer through the big game damage program.

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Sep 30

ID: THRIVING WOLF POPULATION

THRIVING WOLF POPULATION

Most of the management of Idaho’s thriving wolf population will be transferred from the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service to the state even before they’re removed from the endangered species list. The new system could begin by next spring.

ED Bangs of Fish and Wildlife says both Montana and Idaho have approved management plans and wolf reintroduction has been a success.

But Wyoming does not have an approved plan, so the wolves will remain listed for now in the northern Rockies. Under the new approach, land owners can kill wolves they see attacking their livestock.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game also can dispatch wolves if they are causing unacceptable impacts to deer and elk.

No hunting of wolves will be allowed until they are off the list.

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Sep 30

Idaho will oversee wolves before packs are delisted

Idaho will oversee wolves before packs are delisted

By DAN GALLAGHER
Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Most of the management of Idaho’s thriving wolf
population will be transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to
the state within months, and even before the animal is pulled from the
Endangered Species List, a federal wolf expert said Wednesday.

“The state will do everything we do now. Essentially, Fish and Wildlife
disappears,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery team leader. “It’s good news for
wolves and for wolf recovery.”

Oversight could be shifted by next spring.

The state of Montana will take the same approach.

Idaho and Montana have approved plans to manage the packs. Wyoming’s plan
was rejected by federal officials and is mired in lawsuits. Until that is
resolved, the wolf remains on the federal list in the Northern Rockies.

Fifteen wolves were released in Idaho in 1995. There now are more than 400
animals in more than 40 packs, said Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game
large-carnivore coordinator. By last winter, there were 761 across the
three states and that has likely grown to about 850, Bangs said.

“Idaho is the only place where they’re still growing because of that huge
core of wilderness in the center of the state,” Bangs said. “There are
about as many wolves as we’ll ever have. We did our job under the
Endangered Species Act.

“Delisting is still our goal. This is the second best thing,” he said.

The new rule would let ranchers shoot wolves they see chasing livestock on
private land. People with grazing permits on federal land would also get
more leeway.

The state Department of Fish and Game gains more flexibility to step in if
it is shown wolves are preventing a population of elk or deer from
reaching objectives, Nadeau said.

Currently, under federal standards, “the burden of proof is very high,” he
said.

The Nez Perce Tribe will continue the role it has had since 1995 in
monitoring the wolf numbers.

Recreational hunting and trapping of wolves would not be allowed until
they are delisted.

Nadeau said one high point about the state gaining oversight is that
instead of just Nadeau and two wolf biologists to run the program in the
West, there are about 300 or so Idaho Fish and Game officers available.

Once the wolves are delisted, the state is required to maintain a minimum
of 15 packs in perpetuity. They may ultimately be managed through
controlled hunts or open hunts like bears and cougars.

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Sep 30

WY: Another wolf suit filed

Another wolf suit filed

Last Tuesday, the Wolf Coalition, comprised of 27 different associations,
entities and counties, filed a civil suit in the United States District
Court for the District of Wyoming against the United States Department of
Interior, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior Secretary
Gale Norton, FWS Director Steven Williams and FWS Regional Director Ralph
Morgenweck. The complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief
relates to the defendants’ actions in rejecting the Wyoming Gray Wolf
Management Plan and from the defendants’ failure and refusal to properly
manage and control the gray wolf population in Wyoming.

Wolf Coalition members represent a diverse group of associations, entities
and counties, all of whom have been substantially impacted by the gray
wolf population killing, injuring, threatening and harassing the wildlife
and livestock, according to a release from the group.

The Wolf Coalition’s lawsuit emphasizes that the federal government is not
following the recovery plan or the final rule for the wolf reintroduction
program, and is violating the National Environmental Policy Act by acting
contrary to the environmental impact statement analysis for the
reintroduction program.

The final rule emphasized that one of the primary purposes for the
“non-essential experimental” designation was to provide the FWS with the
necessary management techniques and methods to assure that historical uses
of public and private lands would not be disrupted by wolf recovery
activities. The final rule also emphasized that the “non-essential
experimental” designation would assure that wolves that kill livestock
could be controlled and that wildlife species would be protected.

The lawsuit states that the defendants’ have neglected to fulfill their
commitment to prevent and control wolf impacts on livestock and wildlife.
Wolves have killed a large number of livestock in many parts of the state
and have killed off Wyoming’s wildlife populations at an alarming rate.
The gray wolf population has severely damaged Wyoming’s agricultural,
outfitting and tourism industries, thereby also impacting the counties’
tax base.

“The rejection of the Wyoming plan is contrary to the recovery plan, which
specifically excluded the majority of Wyoming as being ‘unsuitable’ as
wolf habitat,” said Lincoln County Commissioner Kathy Davison. “The
Wyoming plan provides for substantially more than 6,000 contiguous square
miles for wolf protection, which is more than double the amount that the
recovery plan said was necessary for wolf recovery.”

In January 2004, the FWS rejected the Wyoming plan based on “litigation
risk management principles.” The Wolf Coalition asserts that this
rejection violates the ESA that requires that decisions be based “solely
upon the best scientific and commercial data available …”

“The federal government has not lived up to their end of the deal and have
violated the recovery plan, the final rule, and are acting outside of the
EIS,” Davison stated. “The fact that they are now basing their decisions
on political considerations, litigation risk-management principles and
speculation is a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act and the
commitments they made to the citizens of Wyoming, and to the U.S., prior
to reintroduction.”

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Sep 30

MN: Federal wildlife authorities mull gray wolves’ future

Federal wildlife authorities mull gray wolves’ future

By Harvey T. Rockwood
Sun Newspapers

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has scheduled a public hearing in
Bloomington on the status of Minnesota’s gray wolf population in advance
of the animals’ possible removal from federal endangered and threatened
species lists.

U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has indicated that the wolves’
population in northeastern quadrant of the country has rebounded from near
extinction in many areas to large numbers of packs capable of sustaining
the species’ health without federal protection.

Under the plan, responsibility for management of wolves would gradually be
turned over to the states.

Animals on federal endangered or threatened lists can be killed only under
rare circumstances, such as for killing livestock. Efforts are made to
maintain the habitat of animals on the list.

If taken off the lists, wolves could be killed if they posed a threat to
livestock, even if no attacks had occurred, according to FWS. The agency
would continue to monitor wolf populations for five years.

Several environmental organizations and American Indian groups contend,
however, that “de-listing” gray wolves will send their populations
plummeting once again.

Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife has filed a federal lawsuit
to block the action, contending it would end the wolves’ recovery in areas
where it is not complete.

The hearing, which is open to the public, is set for Wednesday, Oct. 6, in
the Visitor Center at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 3815
E. American Blvd. (formerly East 80th Street).

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a presentation on the wolves’
population trends by FWS wildlife experts, said Georgia Parham,
spokeswoman for the agency.

The agency’s experts will then field questions from the audience and a
formal public hearing will begin around 7:30 p.m., she said.

“A court reporter will be there to transcribe the testimony,” Parham said.
Written comments will also be accepted.

The hearing in Bloomington will be the last of nine scheduled across
Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin over the past several weeks. Testimony
was taken in earlier hearings at Bemidji and Virginia, Minn.

Published reports following those meetings indicated conflicting testimony
from environmentalists who want to preserve the wolves’ endangered status
and landowners worried about loss of livestock and pets to the predators.

Gray wolves once roamed in large numbers across much of North America,
including almost all of Minnesota and much of the surrounding region.
Hunting, trapping and poisoning brought the wolves’ numbers to record lows
- perhaps as few as 350 – by the early 1970s, according to the Minnesota
Department of Natural Resources.

From 1849 through 1965, Minnesota paid a bounty on gray wolves to hunters.

Gray wolves have been protected in Minnesota since 1978. The DNR estimates
there are now around 2,450 wolves in the state.

Although wolf populations in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin now top
federal recovery goals, Defenders of Wildlife and 18 other groups, along
with the National Wildlife Federation in Vermont, have sued the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service in an effort to stop the de-listing process.

The FWS hearings follow the agency’s announcement in July, proposing the
de-listing of gray wolves in the “Eastern Distinct Population Segment.”

The Eastern DPS extends from the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas to the East
Coast. The southern boundary includes Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Its northern boundary is the Canadian border.

The Fish and Wildlife Service noted that wolves in the Eastern DPS have
climbed beyond population criteria set out in the species’ recovery plan.
Further, the eastern states with gray wolf populations – Minnesota,
Michigan and Wisconsin – have management plans in place to ensure the
species’ long-term survival, the FWS observed.

Environmental groups disagree with the FWS assessment.

“The Bush administration’s latest initiative to remove federal protections
for the gray wolf throughout the entire eastern U.S. is another example of
their blatant disregard for public comment and scientific scrutiny,” said
Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife.

“These actions demonstrate both an irresponsible and arrogant approach to
protecting a threatened species,” Clark said in a prepared statement. “The
administration appears to be more concerned with political expediency than
appropriate execution of conservation law.”

The lawsuit filed by Defenders of Wildlife contends that the FWS
designation of “distinct population segments” were not based on science or
to promote wolf recovery. Rather, the environmental group contends, they
were developed so that the FWS could move as quickly as possible to
eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves.

“[Federal officials] are leaving little room, and even less time, for
open, public, transparent discussions,” Clark said. “There’s no need to
rush the process, particularly since it is in the federal court system.

“The Interior Department should wait for a solid court decision before
issuing an arbitrary rule that ultimately removes protections for a
threatened species.”

According to the Minnesota DNR, the state has developed a wolf plan that
meets federal guidelines for protecting the species. Under the plan, no
hunting or trapping of wolves would be allowed for the first five years
after the species was removed from the endangered list. Exceptions would
be allowed for wolves killing livestock or threatening domestic pets.

The FWS will take comments on the federal de-listing proposal through Nov.
18. The agency will decide whether to adopt the plan sometime in next
year.

More information on the gray wolf proposal is available online at

http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf.

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Sep 30

NM: State releasing pair of wolves in Gila Wilderness

State releasing pair of wolves in Gila Wilderness

Associated Press

SILVER CITY, N.M. – A pair of endangered Mexican gray wolves is being
released in the Gila Wilderness this week, the state announced Thursday.

The Mexican gray wolf was hunted to the brink of extinction in the early
1900s. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a release program in
March 1998 to re-establish wild populations of the rare wolf in Arizona
and New Mexico.

The pair being released were captured last month in the San Mateo
Mountains, which is outside the official area for the species recovery.
The two wolves have been held at a wolf management facility at the Ladder
Ranch since their capture.

The male was born in the wild to a pack released in Arizona, and had been
radio-collared as a pup in 2002. The female, also born in the wild, had
never been captured before, but now also has been fitted with a radio
collar.

Wolves released in New Mexico usually are taken into the Gila Wilderness
on mules and set free inside mesh enclosures. The animals usually chew
their way free after a few hours, then the enclosure is removed.

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Sep 29

MT: Montana may manage its wolves next year

Montana may manage its wolves next year

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Responsibility for managing gray wolves in Montana could be transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the state early next year, even before the predator loses its protections under the Endangered Species Act, officials say.

Wolves won’t be delisted anytime soon but the “second best thing” to delisting could be in place by early next year, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery team leader for the agency.

“We’re done,” Bangs told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “We’re enthusiastic about getting the state (of Montana) more involved.”

He said the federal agency is revising rules to pass along much of its authority to decide when and where to kill problem-causing wolves to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The new rule would let ranchers shoot wolves they see chasing livestock on private land, something that is illegal now.

People with grazing permits on federal land would also get more leeway, and FWP would be able, under certain circumstances, to kill wolves causing unacceptable impacts to wildlife populations, such as deer and elk, Bangs said. Recreational hunting and trapping of wolves would not be allowed.

In 1995, the agency reintroduced the gray wolf into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho under the Endangered Species Act, and the wolves have thrived in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, surpassing recovery goals.

The federal agency has proposed removing wolves from federal protection, but cannot do so until all three states have adopted management plans ensuring the predator’s long-term survival. Montana and Idaho have done so. Wyoming’s plan was rejected as inadequate, and it is suing. Until that dispute is resolved, the wolf remains under federal protection.

Representatives of Montana and federal agencies met recently in Denver to work on rule changes that would allow the state to begin managing its wolves, said Chris Smith, FWP chief of staff.

“We hope to have that agreement in place early in 2005,” Smith said. “It would put the state in the driver’s seat.”

The proposal was first announced in March, and federal officials said then they hoped to have it installed in three months. Bangs said the delay arose because lawsuits take so much of his time.

“Court orders and court-ordered deadlines take precedence over everything else I do,” he said.

The state wildlife agency has hired a new wolf recovery coordinator and is interviewing to fill three wolf specialist positions.

Bangs said he has full confidence in state authorities to protect wolves that don’t cause problems and deal appropriately with the ones that do.

However, both Smith and Bangs said they expect someone will sue to halt the transfer of any wolf-control power to Montana.

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Sep 29

MT: Next best delisting

Next best delisting

By SCOTT McMILLION, Chronicle Staff Writer

LIVINGSTON — If you want to see wolves delisted in Montana, don’t hold
your breath.

However, the “second best thing” to delisting could be in place by early
next year, according to Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s
wolf recovery team leader.

Wolves have have been thriving in and around Yellowstone National Park
since they were reintroduced in 1995. The biological recovery goals have
been met.

Political and legal hurdles stand tall and wide, however.

Still, it’s time to transfer most wolf management responsibility in
Montana over to the state, even before the wolf loses its Endangered
Species Act protections, Bangs said.

“We’re done,” Bangs said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “We’re
enthusiastic about getting the state more involved.”

FWS is now revising what’s known as the 10J rule, in order to pass along
much of its authority to decide when and where to kill problem-causing
wolves to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The new rule would let ranchers shoot wolves they see chasing livestock on
private land. Doing so is illegal now.

People with grazing permits on federal land would also get more leeway,
and FWP would be able, under certain circumstances, to kill wolves causing
unacc eptable impacts to wildlife populations such as deer and elk.

Recreational hunting and trapping of wolves would not be allowed.

FWP and FWS leaders met Friday in Denver to work on the 10J proposal, said
Chris Smith, FWP chief of staff.

“We hope to have that agreement in place early in 2005,” Smith said. “It
would put the state in the driver’s seat.”

The proposal was first announced last March, and federal officials said
then they hoped to have it installed in three months. Bangs said the delay
arose because lawsuits take so much of his time.

“Court orders and court-ordered deadlines take precedence over everything
else I do,” he said.

Bangs, who has been a central figure in Montana’s bitter wolf debates for
more than a decade, said he is certain enough about the authority being
passed that he plans to begin looking for a new job.

He joked that after so many years in the eye of the storm, a job in a
coffee shop might be attractive.

“People come to you for something they want, you give it to them and they
thank you,” he said.

Endangered Species Act programs are a lot more complicated.

Bangs has been criticized by wolf advocates and detractors alike,
sometimes for the same action. If he decides to kill a cow-killing wolf
pack, for instance, wolf advocates often get angry while the ranchers are
mad that he didn’t kill the wolves sooner.

Under the new proposal, state officials at FWP would make most of those
decisions.

FWP has hired a new wolf recovery coordinator and is interviewing to fill
three wolf specialist positions.

Bangs said he has full confidence in state authorities to protect wolves
that don’t cause problems and deal appropriately with the ones that do.

Although FWS will retain final authority, he said his agency will back off
and let the state do the job.

The federal government, FWP, ranchers, state government and even a growing
number of environmental groups say it’s time to delist wolves.

However, not everybody feels that way. Smith and Bangs both predicted that
somebody will sue to halt the transfer of any power to Montana.

Full delisting is still a possibility, but a distant one, Smith said, and
is likely to be mired in lawsuits for a long time.

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