May 31

MT: The ‘other’ wolves

The ‘other’ wolves

By JIM MANN
The (Kalispell) Daily Inter Lake Tuesday, May 31, 2005

POLSON, Mont. (AP) — The Cessna banks hard, turning tightly with a wing pointed down toward the signal emanating from a radio collar on one of the wolves in Northwest Montana’s Hog Heaven Pack.

The wolf is hidden in a timber thicket far west of Polson, and no more than 200 yards away is a mother bison with a calf. These bison are not wild. They are livestock. Within a radius of no more than two miles is another collared wolf, two large clusters of bison and a single elk.

The collared wolves of the Hog Heaven Pack, and all other wolves located on a recent morning flight, have obvious choices in front of them: livestock or wild game.

And for several years now, the packs of western Montana have shown a strong preference for fleet white-tailed deer over plodding cattle or bison.

Compared to the far more numerous and often-reported livestock depredations carried out by wolves around Yellowstone National Park and Idaho, western Montana wolves have been keeping a low profile.

“It’s kind of surprising to people that most wolves are around livestock every day of their lives and they kind of choose not to attack them,” said Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s gray wolf recovery coordinator. “Given the unlimited opportunities for wolves to chase livestock, it’s kind of surprising, even to us … that there’s as few conflicts as there are.”

That observation holds true particularly in western Montana, where only six cows and one sheep were confirmed as being killed by wolves in 2004. The Cook Pack of Idaho, by contrast, killed 85 sheep last year. In response, all nine wolves in the pack were destroyed by federal trappers in a helicopter hunt. And just two weeks ago, 11 sheep were confirmed as being killed by wolves in the Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park.

Tracking wolves

Kent Laudon, the new wolf management specialist for northwest Montana, recalls working with the Cook Pack when he worked for the Nez Perce Tribe. His job for a while involved keeping tabs on the pack and hazing the wolves whenever it appeared they were getting close to livestock.

But there’s nothing easy about keeping up with a wolf pack, even when one or more of the animals are wearing radio collars. They eventually got into the sheep.

Since being hired by Montana last fall, Laudon has been trying to keep up with more than a dozen wolf packs with home ranges spread across the western part of the state.

A big part of the job is conducting regular monitoring flights with Dave Hoerner, who makes the majority of wildlife monitoring flights in western Montana.

After tracking down the Hog Heaven Pack, Hoerner and Laudon travel northwest to look for the Fishtrap Pack. It doesn’t take long to dial in on collar signals and see a gray wolf and two black wolves in plain view.

Last year, there were no confirmed livestock kills attributed to the Fishtrap Pack, but one of their own was found dead, with suspicions pointing toward people as the cause.

The Wolf Prairie Pack is next on the list, with signals emerging north of Pleasant Valley. The first wolf can’t be spotted. So Hoerner tries to locate the second.

As Hoerner approaches the signal, flying low over patchy ponderosa pine, three white-tailed deer pop out of the trees in full flight.

“He probably jumped those deer and missed. He’s out hunting,” Hoerner said of the wolf. Two passes later and the wolf comes into view, loping down a logging road.

Once again, there are cattle less than a couple miles away. The Wolf Prairie Pack is believed to be responsible for the loss of two calves last year, and possibly one so far this year.

‘Probable’ kills

The “probable” calf kill raises a simmering issue regarding wolves and livestock depredation statistics. Many ranchers contend the statistics don’t match reality.

For Elmer “Mick” Sieler, the official stats on the Wolf Prairie pack in “no way, no shape, no form” represent the pack’s impacts on his herd in the Wolf Creek area north of Pleasant Valley.

“You’ve got to have solid evidence that they did the killing,” he said. “But when everything gets eaten, like wolves usually do, there’s no evidence left.”

A federal agent investigated the probable calf kill earlier this year on Sieler’s ranch, but said there was no way to confirm what had killed the calf.

The flight proceeds to extreme northwest Montana, where one wolf has been collared in the Candy Mountain Pack, which had three animals as of last December. On this flight, however, the signal can’t be picked up, demonstrating the often sketchy nature of keeping up with wolves.

With special clearance, Hoerner crosses 20 miles north of the Canadian border, looking for the Kootenai Pack, which denned in Montana last year. Hoerner homes in on a signal coming from a treeline next to a meadow where there are frolicking deer and, not too far away, more cattle.

Last on the flight are the Lazy Creek and Murphy Lake packs north of Whitefish. It’s after noon and the collared wolves are bedded down in the shade, out of sight from the circling airplane.

But Laudon studies their locations. In less than a week, he goes on to trap two wolves in the Murphy Lake Pack, fitting them with radio collars.

Wildlife impacts

Laudon and other wolf watchers say the abundance of whitetails has played a huge role in the relatively low incidences of livestock kills. But that comes as no comfort to many hunters who contend that wolves have put a big dent in game populations.

Jim Williams, wildlife manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department in the northwestern part of the state, said he hears plenty of complaints from hunters. But all of his game check station and aerial survey numbers point to strong whitetail populations.

Wolves do affect whitetail populations, usually in specific areas, but they do not drive whitetail population trends, he said.

Williams said biologists are concerned about potential impacts on moose, which have smaller populations in more concentrated areas.

But even after several years of relatively light depredation problems, Laudon said packs in close proximity to livestock are always cause for questions and concerns.

That’s especially true when summer comes and cattle are turned out onto large grazing leases, raising the potential for unconfirmed wolf kills.

Wolves in Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone inhabit much larger swaths of remote areas, but there is also a good mix of open prairie that is suitable for large livestock operations, Bangs said. Western Montana, by contrast, has rugged country with thick vegetation and considerably less livestock.

And there are far fewer sheep grazing in northwest Montana.

Sheep, Bangs said, are extremely easy prey not only for wolves, but also for coyotes, mountain lions, even eagles.

Despite the abundant populations of white-tailed deer in northwest Montana, the region’s wolf populations have remained relatively low for years,

“This year, our estimate of wolves was 835 wolves (throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) and only 59 of those are in western Montana,” Bangs said. Local ranchers insist there are more.

Western Montana wolf populations have remained relatively small and highly dynamic, fluctuating from year to year. Some years packs don’t den and there aren’t pups, and when there are pups some leave the pack.

Source

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May 31

Utah officials struggle to finish wolf plan

Utah officials struggle to finish wolf plan

By DOUG ALDEN

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah — Tracy Hatch was excited when he first spotted wolf tracks at his Rich County ranch.

The idea of seeing the endangered species in person was thrilling, despite the possible threat to his livestock.

“I guess I’m pro wildlife as much as any hunter or any environmentalists out there. I wanted to see one,” said Hatch, whose ranch is just west of the Wyoming state line in northeast Utah.

But if Hatch saw a wolf attacking one of his cows or calves, under the law about all he could do would be stand and watch. Hatch is hoping a new state plan for wolf management will allow ranchers to take immediate action to protect livestock.

It’s one of many sticking points the Wolf Working Group ran into as it drafted the plan. It’s also one of many suggested revisions to the draft released in April.

Ranchers want the right to shoot first — on private and public land — and explain it later if livestock is attacked.

Big game hunters and guides don’t want the wolves to reduce the population of trophy elk and deer and threaten the economy of a big industry in the state.

And environmentalists want to make sure the wolves remain adequately protected.

It’s a contentious issue, but one the state wants to settle before wolves make their way further into Utah than border areas.

“I’ve worked on a lot of wildlife issues. This is by far the hardest I’ve ever worked on,” said Debbie Goodman, a member of the state Wolf Working Group.

Goodman, a wildlife lobbyist from Bountiful, is also a member of the Northern Region Advisory Council — one of five regional groups that held meetings in the last month to discuss the plan and possible ways to improve it.

The Wolf Working Group is made up of 13 members representing ranchers, hunters, environmentalists and the Ute Indian tribe. Group members, who had polar opposite views on some matters, spent 18 months working up the plan, which was introduced in April.

The five regional councils held meetings where the public could ask questions and express opinions and there was no shortage of either. The revisions will go back before the Wolf Working Group next week, then the state Division of Wildlife Resources board will vote on the plan June 9.

Among the unresolved issues is what circumstances lethal actions would be justified. The current plan calls for ranchers getting a permit after a confirmed kill on private land, or two kills on public land before going after a wolf.

The Utah Farm Bureau proposed allowing livestock owners and their families to take immediate action if they see a threat and all five Regional Advisory Councils approved.

“We need to be able to take care of it when it’s happening. That should only be a basic property right,” Hatch said during a public hearing this week.

The councils, however, were not quite unanimous on the Farm Bureau’s proposal to allow full market compensation for livestock kills that were not conclusively by wolves. Four of the five councils agreed to the suggestion, but the Central Region did not. The Wolf Working Group and wildlife board can still adopt the provision.

Currently, the plan allows for 100 percent fair market value compensation only on undeniable wolf kills. Probable kills, where tracks and droppings indicate wolves were likely responsible, would be compensated 75 percent. Possible kills, where there’s barely a carcass, would be compensated 50 percent.

“When a pack of wolves feeds on a cow, usually there’s not a lot left,” Mike Bodenchuk of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services said this week when noting it might be difficult to determine a cow’s killer from the few remains.

Environmentalists were hopeful there would be restrictions on killing wolves on public land, like Bureau of Land Management reserves where cattle and sheep graze. If the Farm Bureau revisions are adopted, ranchers will be allowed to protect their herds there as well.

Like the rest of the plan, it’s a concession one side has to make to please the other.

“There should be compensation for livestock. that’s a man’s livelihood. And he’s entitled to his livelihood but let’s give the wolf a fair shake,” said Margaret Pettis of the High Uintas Preservation Council.

And outdoors enthusiasts say they don’t want to be left out when it comes to compensation.

Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, maintains the people on the business side of hunting deserve compensation if wolves decimate elk and deer herds that millions of dollars in private money has helped replenish.

“We think the Legislature is going to have a totally different attitude than the RACs have had,” said Peay, who quit the Wolf Working Group out of frustration in April.

The Utah Legislature still needs to tackle the issue of funding wolf management, which could be just as difficult as drafting the plan itself.

If the Wolf Working Group and state wildlife board uphold the Farm Bureau recommendations, the plan will basically be in effect. However, the federal endangered species protection will override any state plan until that status is lifted.

Source

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May 31

Delafield man sights wolf on his 100-acre property

Delafield man sights wolf on his 100-acre property

John Potratz, Staff Writer May 31, 2005

Town of Delafield – Recent timber wolf sightings have been a source of concern for area residents; yet local wildlife experts claim there is no cause for alarm.

Delafield resident Kent Hanson is a bit perturbed over sighting what he describes as a “tall canine with gangly legs and big feet,” on his 100-acre Delafield property last week. Hanson also sighted a similar, larger canid on his property less than a month earlier.

Hanson owns two large golden retrievers and said he feared for their safety after the most recent animal he sighted taunted them for more than 10 minutes.

“My concern, of course, was that if (the dogs) went out, they would become dinner,” said Hanson. “We are familiar with the size of dogs, and this was considerably larger – and very healthy-looking.”

After attempting to send the animal off by yelling through an open window, Hanson went outside, believing his presence would send the animal running away.

“I went outside, and he just sat there,” said Hanson. “He just looked at me.”

Hanson said that after he got closer to the animal, it nonchalantly “sauntered off.”

Contrary to Hanson’s sightings, Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Supervisor Jim McNally said there have not been any verified wolf sightings within Southeastern Wisconsin for at least a couple of years.

“As far as I know, we’ve not had any reports of wolves in the area,” said McNally. “Wolf sightings are very rare in this part of the state.”

According to Hanson, wolf sightings may not be as rare as those that are verified and reported by the DNR. Hanson said one of his colleagues had recently spotted a small family of wolves while hunting near Sawyer Road and Highway DR.

According to McNally, the DNR frequently receives reports of sightings. However, many reported sightings turn out to be coyotes upon further investigation, he said.

“The creature that we saw was much taller than a coyote,” said Hanson.

Jim Horneck, a friend of Hanson’s and owner of a Delafield taxidermy shop, said a client had brought a road-killed coyote in for mounting within recent years. Upon evaluation of the animal, Horneck promptly identified it as a wolf.

“I had no doubt it was a wolf,” said Horneck. “When I saw it, I said, ‘That’s no coyote.’ ”

Horneck added the DNR was notified and verified the animal to be a wolf. The wolf was found dead along the berm of Sawyer Road near I-94.

Wolves and coyotes are often mistaken for one another, but are proportionally different. Coyotes are significantly more petite and stand 16 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder, while wolves stand at around 26 to 32 inches. Wolves also weigh more. A wolf typically can weigh 60 to 115 pounds while coyotes usually only weigh 20 to 50 pounds.

Although wolves are relatively large creatures, they pose no threat to humans, according to various wildlife experts.

“There is no reported hazard to humans,” said McNally. “We have not had a wolf attack in many, many years. (However) we have had attacks on domestic animals and dogs.”

Nancy Dowler of the Timber Wolf Preservation Society in Greenfield said Hanson’s account is rare and the canine he witnessed should have run upon first sight of him.

“Wolves are really terrified of people,” said Dowler. “Even in captivity here, we are really careful not to spook them.”

“It’s uncommon for them to even come close to the smell of man,” she said.

Ottawa’s Wildlife in Need Center employees Lisa Beck and Rebecca Jurena said the reason for encounters such as Hanson’s is most likely the loss of their natural habitat.

“We are continuously destroying habitat in Wisconsin,” said Beck. “Pabst Farms is a great example.”

Jurena said that as wolves become more accustomed to human presence, their apprehension toward human interaction might dissipate.

“A wolf’s normal behavior would be to run away,” said Jurena. “They are probably getting used to people talking and people smells.”

According to the DNR Wisconsin Web site, wolf populations are increasing as habitable territories are in decline. The estimated wolf population in Wisconsin is up 14 percent in 2005 – growing to 455 wolves from 425 reported in 2004. That estimate was taken over the winter months and does not include pups born this spring.

Wolves are usually pack animals, but during spring months some may leave or be expelled from the pack during the birth of new litters. Individual wolves often search for new territories or another single wolf to start a new pack.

“It’s not uncommon for them to disperse from the pack around breeding time or around this time when litters are born,” said Dowler. “They go off to find their own territory and find their own pack.”

Anyone who has sighted what he thinks may be a wolf in his area should contact the DNR immediately or call DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven at (715) 762-4684.

Source

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May 30

Alaska Overrules Voters, Reinstates Aerial Wolf Hunt

Alaska Overrules Voters, Reinstates Aerial Wolf Hunt

By Matt Heikkila

America’s unpopular and unnecessary predator war continues

Its late May in Alaska. A pack of wolves rises from its afternoon nap and heads out behind the alpha male on a hunt. The pups follow for a few hundred feet but soon realize their short legs cannot keep up. A half-hour into the hunt they notice a pair of porcupine caribou: stragglers. Just then, a prop airplane swoops overhead. The passenger points his assault rifle out the window and easily drops two wolves. He fires again, wounding the alpha male. The plane turns around and lands near the injured leader. The shooter gets out and kills him with a final bullet.

Just over a year ago this sort of thing would be against the law in Alaska as voters had thought their votes had assured, but last summer Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski signed legislation that brought back same-day airborne and aerial wolf killing1. Over 100 wolves have been killed in the last year because of this legislation which is clearly against the Federal Airborne Hunting Act.

Alaskan voters banned aerial hunting of wolves in 1996, and then again in 2000 after the state legislature reinstated it. The Alaska Wildlife Alliance notes, “a recent poll commissioned by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance but conducted by Dittman Research Corporation shows that 72% of Alaskans, including hunters, oppose aerial predator- control as a means to increase moose and caribou populations,” and continues, “In November 2000, 147,043 voters or 53.5% of Alaska’s population voted to reject the practice of same-day aerial wolf hunting2.”

The return to aerial wolf hunts in Alaska is shocking if you consider the opposition by the clear majority of Alaska voters (and an even larger percentage of Americans, overall), the lack of legality those votes brought, the complete void of a legitimate reason for the aggression, and the unmitigated cowardliness of it all. Then again this is entirely unsurprising if you consider this nation’s history of extremists getting elected to political office only to ignore public opinion and the law in the service of their own irrational views and/or campaign contributors’ wishes.

Persecution of our wild carnivores is hardly a new concept

The predator “war” began as soon as the Europeans arrived on the North American continent 500 years ago. While wars are by definition two sided, this conflict has really been a rout by humans.

In Europe, plagues and wars had long devastated the continent. The carnage often left corpse-ridden fields and mass graves where wolves, being opportunistic hunters, developed a taste for human flesh. While the instances of wolves killing humans were greatly exaggerated and often the real man-killers were actually wolf/dog hybrids, wolves did kill humans  on occasion. This caused highly superstitious people to overreact. While most wolves were wiped out in Europe years before Columbus sailed, the hatred and fear still remained in the Europeans hearts and culture, and with their fear they brought the same devastation they had wrought on Europes natural predators. Over time old rationales were replaced by new justifications (livestock became the primary concern, hunting, and the old stalwart, fear), and the hunt rolled on.

The extermination effort that took centuries in the old world took only a fraction of that time here  fueled by technological advances: strychnine, assault rifles, helicopters and planes.

Teddy Roosevelt is often considered the pioneering conservation president. Barry Lopez writes in Of Wolves and Men about the time Teddy, hand on the Bible, spoke gravely of the dangers wolves posed to his North Dakotan ranch. He called the wolf the beast of waste and desolation3. For the Rough Rider, wolves represented the antithesis of progress, or civilization itself.

Since then, the war on predators has brought several American carnivores to the brink of extinction (and successfully wiped out jaguars; lobos (Mexican grey wolves), which have been reintroduced; and red wolves, which also have been returned to the wild) and reduced others ranges and populations to fractions of their former existence. Each of the large North American predators has been a victim in this one-sided war: the wolf, the bear, the cougar, as well as several other smaller carnivores. They have been killed for safety, for the livestock industry, for sports hunters, even ecology and aesthetics, but when each reason is thoroughly investigated each appears false or grossly overstated.

Hypocrisy clouds this whole subject. Ranchers talk about how evil it is of these carnivorous animals to kill helpless animals, yet what carnivores do for survival, cattlemen do for profit.

How has the US dealt with the other meateaters on this continent?

The U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) Animal Damage Control program (ADC) was created in 1886 to advise people on how to control damaging birds&there were no survivors4. OK, I am being facetious, but it is truer than most know. The last passenger pigeon, a bird that numbered nearly 5 billion individuals when Europeans arrived, died in captivity in 19145. At first the ADC simply researched the poisoning of house sparrows, but they would soon expand to include rodents and predators; by the end of the 20th century they had killed nearly 10 million coyotes6. After the government had exterminated the American bison from the plains it was almost unavoidable that the wild predators would supplement their natural diets with livestock which took their former preys place. After this happened, the ADC, ranchers, and bounty hunters went after the nations native carnivores with what could only be described as religious zeal.

It was understandable that the government would want to discourage predation on livestock, but they went a bit overboard. Rick Bass writes in The Ninemile Wolves7, The wolves preyed on these new intruders, without question, but ranchers and the government overreacted just a tad. Until very recently, the score stood at Cows: 99,200,000; Wolves: 0. Wolves used to be the most ubiquitous large mammal in North America next to man, but by the time the livestock industry and US government were done with them, perhaps two million wolves had been eradicated, and there were maybe a few hundred left in the lower forty eight (all in Minnesota). At this time, wolves received protection from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Odd it happened like that, youd almost think they meant to let wolves go extinct before protecting them.

Barry Lopez writes in Of Wolves and Men that during anti-wolf campaigns taking place in the U.S., wolves were killed and thrown on the steps of the state legislature well into the 1970s to garner headlines and pressure lawmakers into instituting bounties8.

The publics perception of wolves has turned around from being considered earthly manifestations of evil (promoted by the Catholic Church), to being thought of as mascots for conservation, and more than that: an example of what careful conservation can do. Our attitudes toward coyotes have been more set in concrete. The public attitude towards coyotes has always been generally negative or apathetic. Luckily though, they are wily, and have an incredible ability to replenish their numbers: we have killed ten million in less than 80 years, and yet seven million still remain.

In Coyote, Catherine Reid relates a Maine representatives argument for a coyote bounty, explaining I know for a fact that [bounties] worked pretty well here in York County, when the British were paying $50 a pair for Indian ears9.

Hanging on by a thread

About 1,000 grizzlies remain in the lower 48 states (reduced from an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 before our manifest destiny swept across the country like a plague10.

There are only about 40 (give or take) panthers left in Florida. The only western state that doesnt allow the hunting of panthers is California (thanks to Proposition 117, passed in 1990). If you read California newspapers you are likely to hear about the rampant fear of cougars, but on the whole North American continent there have only been 14 fatal cougar attacks in the last 20 years, in contrast with the 85 fatal dog attacks in California alone in that time span11.

The red wolf reached the point of extinction in the wild before being protected (there were only a handful left in zoos). The attempt to breed enough in captivity and re-release them into the wild was the first of its kind with a carnivore. There were only 17 red wolves left in existence at the time: all in captivity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980. The Endangered Species Act goes further than simply protecting animals: if listed animals are forced into extinction in the wild, the 12.

Both the lobo and the red wolf are struggling to survive in a dwindling wilderness.

Fear has always dictated our actions in relation to the large carnivores: theyll eat my baby; theyll eat my dog; theyll kill my livestock; theyll eat my deer: my prey.

Are my children in danger, how about Toto?

Bears are just big chickens&theyve survived by running without question. The littlest hound can chase the biggest bear up a tree, says Lynn Rogers, director of both the Wildlife Research Institute and “North American Bear Center:http://www.bear.org/ in Ely, Minnesota13.

Black bears killed 25 people between 1900 and 1989. One in 35,000 grizzly bears has killed a human14, compared to 1 in 16,000 people who has done the same15. Between 1978 and 1992 in Yellowstone, 12 people were injured by bears, but 56 were injured by bison. Cougars have killed 17 Americans between 1890 and 2001. There is not a single case of a human getting killed by a healthy wild wolf or coyote on this continent16 (there have been a few kills by captive animals and rabid animals).

In the last century less than a hundred people have been killed by our large and fearsome North American carnivores (92, give or take). In the U.S. alone, 93 people are killed by lightning in any given year17. An estimated 200 people are killed each year in car wrecks with deer.

Wolf attacks on dogs arent entirely unheard of, though most are from when dogs stray away from their owners to investigate wolf dens or otherwise intrude on a wolfs space. Usually, if the owner is able to keep an eye on his dog and stay on the trail in wolf country THEIR dog will be fine. It comes down more to how attentive the owner can be than anything else. A lot of the arguments against allowing predators to remain where they belong are dependent on overprotective fears. The person who lets his dog free at night, or the mother who lets her eight-year-old go play out in the middle of the woods alone. Most dangers would evaporate if simply common sense were used and people were educated about the possible dangers. The most telling statistic is of the 36 fatal wolf attacks on dogs in Wisconsin from 1976 to 1998, 28 were killed while the dogs were being used to hunt predators18.

Fear of these wild carnivores is surely misplaced.

Hypocrisy at the muzzle of a gun

Human hunters will often oppose allowing the existence of the wild carnivores to continue unmolested because the wild animals eat the same animals the human sportsmen wish to kill for food or sport. Wild predators only kill a negligible amount of animals in a respective ecosystem (and enough for the prey to recover, for as biologists have known for nearly half a century, it is the prey animal which limit predator populations and not the other way around). They also tend to kill the old and weak, which keep herds strong and epidemics rare and short. The most ironic part of hunters having a problem with competing with a wolf (wolves will usually kill just enough to survive and only succeed on one in ten hunts) is that they call themselves sportsmen. You would think they would appreciate a little competition. If they truly want the hunt to be as easy as possible why dont they put on a camo hat, a bright orange vest, combat boots, a green beret and hump down to their local butcher and take home their easily gotten trophy/supper?

Mary has a little lamb? No, she had a little lamb

Unquestionably, the largest and most effective argument for indiscriminate predator control is the effect of their teeth on necks of the ranchers chattel. In the Lower 48, it is what drives the predator war (in Alaska there is very little livestock and hunters drive the debate). Unsurprisingly, it all comes down to money.

When judging the impact of predators on livestock the measuring stick most often used is the wolves in Minnesota. There are 1,500 wolves and 7,200 farms. Conflicts are inevitable. In Kill the Cowboy, Sharman Apt Russell explains that out of 7,200 farms only nine to fifty-five farms annually reported verified wolf depredations. She continues, The highest cattle loss claimed by ranchers was in 1990, about 4.7 cows per 10,000 available victims. The highest sheep loss claimed was in 1981, 26.6 sheep lost per 10,000 sheep.

Often those depredations blamed on wolves and other predators are not legitimate, either because the animal dropped dead of natural causes and the part-time scavenger took advantage or it was actually dogs that killed the ranchers livestock.

How does the US government retaliate against predators inevitable rare trespasses and how should they react?

The Fish and Wildlife Service outlines their plan: Predator damage control will be directed toward individual predators causing the damage rather than the general population and will be limited to the specific area where losses due to predators have been verified19.

While this may sound all fine and good, it in no way works in practice as cleanly as it is stated in the mission. Sharman Apt Russell writes in Kill the Cowboy, In fiscal year 1990, in seventeen western states, ADC employees killed more than 809,000 animals. A partial list would include 91,158 coyotes, 8,144 skunks, 9363 beavers, 7,064 foxes (four species); 5,933 raccoons, 3,463 opossums, 1,083 porcupines, 1,028 bobcats, 265 muskrats, 250 mountain lions, 236 black bears, 25 river otters, various rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, cats, and dogs; and more than one-half million birds, ranging from starlings to meadowlarks. Unintentionally, ADC killed 5,759 non target animals20.

The U.S. governments kill is peanuts compared to the other humans that kill predators. Sharman Apt Russell notes, in Colorado in 1988, ADC killed 13 black bears. Legal hunters killed 600 black bears, poachers may have killed yet another 500, and property owners and livestock growers another 300-600 again. Similarly, the average annual kill of mountain lions by the ADC between 1979 and 1988 was 126; trappers and hunters alone killed over 1,180. ADCs average kill of coyotes between these years was 67,852; in an extremely conservative estimate, other people killed five times that amount.

Luckily there are several techniques and systems already in place to protect the livestock industry which make this war outdated and completely unnecessary.

The USDA already has a livestock guarding dog program. These animals have been extremely successful over the centuries in protecting their charges. This old dog profession is as effective as ever against depredation.

Ranchers who move their livestock around a lot using many fences and gates so the predators never get used to them in one area are extremely successful. It is usually the most removed ranchers that experience the most loss (which both makes sense and is usually the large scale ranchers who can afford to lose many).

There are also high frequency speakers which can be set up outside near the cattle or sheep herds which often work as a passive deterrent.

The U.S. government could just use the money it throws away on the predator war on something like the Defenders of Wildlife program in Minnesota where they reimburse ranchers for losses sustained from wolf attacks.

Keep nature wild

The opposition to predators is strong, well funded, and determined. The Anchorage Daily News reports that one Alaska resident gunned down 60 wolves from his private plane over a three-year period21. Even so, the pro-predator lobby and those who simply understand the necessity of all parts of the ecosystem to function healthily have them greatly outnumbered.

Rick Bass writes that in Montana, where wolves had been fervently eradicated years before, a 1990 poll showed that two thirds of Montanans believed that wolves should be reintroduced where they had previously been extirpated. This is just a microcosm of the majority of Americans attitudes towards predators. It seems if we let go of our dogmatic preconceptions about these keystone species and look simply at the reality of the situation, our fears all appear irrational and perhaps even respect for our carnivorous ex- competitors can be cultivated.

Footnotes:

1 Defenders of Wildlife press realease, ” DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE PETITIONS INTERIOR DEPARTMENT TO HALT ALASKA AERIAL WOLF KILLS”

2 The Alaska Wildlife Alliance

3 Lopez, Barry H., Of Wolves and Men, New Yirk:Touchstone, 1978. 142

4 Animal Disease Control

5 “The Story of the Passenger Pigeon,” Clive Ponting, Eco Action

6 “Living in the House That Jack Built” Animal People Editorial, November 1997

7 Bass, Rick, The Ninemile Wolves, New York: Random House, 1992. 5.

8 Lopez, Barry H., Of Wolves and Men, New York: Touchstone, 1978. 150.

9 Reid, Catherine, Coyote, New York: Houghtin Mifflin, 2004. 16.

10 The American Grizzly Bear

11 The Mountain Lion Foundation

12 Bass, Rick, The New Wolves, New York: The Lyons Press, 1998. 3.

13 What Prompted Deadly Bear Attack? AP(Associated Press) August 20, 2002

14 Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Society

15 US Department of Justice

16 Our kids face a lot of dangers besides wolves Letter to the Bozeman Chronicle, Norman A. Bishop, May 23rd, 2002.

17 National Weather Service Forecast Office National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

18 Wolf Depredation, Wolf Trust

19 Fish and Wilflife Service Manual

20 Russell, Sharman Apt, Kill the Cowboy, page 79-80

21 Aerial wolf hunting flies again in Alaska, CNN, May 3, 2000.

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May 29

MT: Keeping a low profile

Keeping a low profile

West Montana wolves leaving livestock alone

By Jim Mann Associated Press

POLSON, Mont. — The Cessna banks hard, turning tightly with a wing pointed down toward the signal emanating from a radio collar on one of the wolves in Northwest Montana’s Hog Heaven Pack.

The wolf is hidden in a timber thicket far west of Polson, and no more than 200 yards away is a mother bison with a calf. These bison are not wild. They are livestock. Within a radius of no more than two miles is another collared wolf, two large clusters of bison and a single elk.

The collared wolves of the Hog Heaven Pack, and all other wolves located on a recent morning flight, have obvious choices in front of them: livestock or wild game.

And for several years now, the packs of western Montana have shown a strong preference for fleet white-tailed deer over plodding cattle or bison.

Compared with the far more numerous and often-reported livestock depredations carried out by wolves around Yellowstone National Park and Idaho, western Montana wolves have been keeping a low profile.

“It’s kind of surprising to people that most wolves are around livestock every day of their lives and they kind of choose not to attack them,” said Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s gray wolf recovery coordinator. “Given the unlimited opportunities for wolves to chase livestock, it’s kind of surprising, even to us … that there’s as few conflicts as there are.”

That observation holds true particularly in western Montana, where only six cows and one sheep were confirmed as being killed by wolves in 2004. The Cook Pack of Idaho, by contrast, killed 85 sheep last year. In response, all nine wolves in the pack were destroyed by federal trappers in a helicopter hunt. And just two weeks ago, 11 sheep were confirmed as being killed by wolves in the Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone National Park.

Kent Laudon, the new wolf management specialist for northwest Montana, recalls working with the Cook Pack when he worked for the Nez Perce Tribe. His job for a while involved keeping tabs on the pack and hazing the wolves whenever it appeared they were getting close to livestock.

But there’s nothing easy about keeping up with a wolf pack, even when one or more of the animals are wearing radio collars. They eventually got into the sheep.

Since being hired by Montana last fall, Laudon has been trying to keep up with more than a dozen wolf packs with home ranges spread across the western part of the state.

A big part of the job is conducting regular monitoring flights with Dave Hoerner, who makes the majority of wildlife monitoring flights in western Montana.

After tracking down the Hog Heaven Pack, Hoerner and Laudon travel northwest to look for the Fishtrap Pack. It doesn’t take long to dial in on collar signals and see a gray wolf and two black wolves in plain view.

Last year, there were no confirmed livestock kills attributed to the Fishtrap Pack, but one of their own was found dead, with suspicions pointing toward people as the cause.

The Wolf Prairie Pack is next on the list, with signals emerging north of Pleasant Valley. The first wolf can’t be spotted, so Hoerner tries to locate the second.

As Hoerner approaches the signal, flying low over patchy ponderosa pine, three white-tailed deer pop out of the trees in full flight.

“He probably jumped those deer and missed. He’s out hunting,” Hoerner said of the wolf. Two passes later and the wolf comes into view, loping down a logging road.

Once again, there are cattle less than a couple miles away. The Wolf Prairie Pack is believed to be responsible for the loss of two calves last year, and possibly one so far this year.

The “probable” calf kill raises a simmering issue regarding wolves and livestock depredation statistics. Many ranchers contend the statistics don’t match reality.

For Elmer “Mick” Sieler, the official stats on the Wolf Prairie pack in “no way, no shape, no form” represent the pack’s impacts on his herd in the Wolf Creek area north of Pleasant Valley.

“You’ve got to have solid evidence that they did the killing,” he said. “But when everything gets eaten, like wolves usually do, there’s no evidence left.”

A federal agent investigated the probable calf kill earlier this year on Sieler’s ranch, but said there was no way to confirm what had killed the calf.

The flight proceeds to extreme northwest Montana, where one wolf has been collared in the Candy Mountain Pack, which had three animals as of last December. On this flight, however, the signal can’t be picked up, demonstrating the often sketchy nature of keeping up with wolves.

With special clearance, Hoerner crosses 20 miles north of the Canadian border, looking for the Kootenai Pack, which denned in Montana last year. Hoerner homes in on a signal coming from a treeline next to a meadow where there are frolicking deer and, not too far away, more cattle.

Last on the flight are the Lazy Creek and Murphy Lake packs north of Whitefish. It’s after noon and the collared wolves are bedded down in the shade, out of sight from the circling airplane.

But Laudon studies their locations. In less than a week, he goes on to trap two wolves in the Murphy Lake Pack, fitting them with radio collars.

Laudon and other wolf watchers say the abundance of whitetails has played a huge role in the relatively low incidences of livestock kills. But that comes as no comfort to many hunters who contend that wolves have put a big dent in game populations.

Jim Williams, wildlife manager for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department in the northwestern part of the state, said he hears plenty of complaints from hunters. But all of his game check station and aerial survey numbers point to strong whitetail populations.

Wolves do affect whitetail populations, usually in specific areas, but they do not drive whitetail population trends, he said.

Williams said biologists are concerned about potential impacts on moose, which have smaller populations in more concentrated areas.

But even after several years of relatively light depredation problems, Laudon said packs in close proximity to livestock are always cause for questions and concerns.

That’s especially true when summer comes and cattle are turned out onto large grazing leases, raising the potential for unconfirmed wolf kills.

Wolves in Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone inhabit much larger swaths of remote areas, but there is also a good mix of open prairie that is suitable for large livestock operations, Bangs said. Western Montana, by contrast, has rugged country with thick vegetation and considerably less livestock.

And there are far fewer sheep grazing in northwest Montana.

Sheep, Bangs said, are extremely easy prey not only for wolves, but also for coyotes, mountain lions, even eagles.

Despite the abundant populations of white-tailed deer in northwest Montana, the region’s wolf populations have remained relatively low for years,

“This year, our estimate of wolves was 835 wolves (throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) and only 59 of those are in western Montana,” Bangs said. Local ranchers insist there are more.

Western Montana wolf populations have remained relatively small and highly dynamic, fluctuating from year to year. Some years packs don’t den and there aren’t pups, and when there are pups some leave the pack.

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May 29

AK: Wolf control tally at 276

Wolf control tally at 276

By TIM MOWRY, Staff Writer

Aerial gunners killed less than half the number the Department of Fish and Game had hoped in the second year of its controversial predator reduction program, but the state’s wildlife boss termed the effort a success.

The state issued more than 100 aerial permits to hunters this winter to shoot wolves from airplanes or to land and shoot wolves in five different parts of the state. As of Friday, the reported harvest stood at 276. The total harvest objective was 570 wolves.

“Given the fact it’s a volunteer program, I think it’s working pretty well,” Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, said by phone from Juneau.

The fact that hunters took less than half the number of wolves the state was shooting for provided ammunition for critics opposed to the state’s predator reduction efforts, who feel the state is overestimating the wolf populations in the control areas.

“This may be a clear indication the state is inflating the number of wolves in these areas, which we have suspected, based on fact there have been few, if any, surveys,” said Karen Deatherage, Alaska representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, one of a handful of groups that has voiced opposition to the state’s predator control plan.

Priscilla Feral, executive director for the animal-rights group Friends of Animals, which has organized a tourism boycott of Alaska the past two years, put it more bluntly.

“There are far fewer wolves than they thought,” said Feral by phone from her Darien, Conn., office.

This season’s harvest brings to 420 the number of wolves killed as part of the state’s predator control program over the past two years, which is aimed at bolstering moose and caribou herds in certain parts of the state over a five-year period.

Last year, hunters killed 144 wolves in two regions–the Nelchina Basin and McGrath. This year, the state Board of Game adopted programs for three additional areas–Unit 19A in the central Kuskokwim River region near Aniak, Unit 12 and 20E in the Fortymile country near Tok and Unit 16B west of Cook Inlet.

As of Friday, hunters had reported taking 91 wolves in Unit 16B west of Anchorage; 67 wolves in Unit 13 (Nelchina Basin); 61 wolves in Unit 12 and 20E (Tok); 43 wolves in Unit 19A (central Kuskokwim); and 14 wolves in Unit 19D east (McGrath).

Aerial hunters in the Nelchina Basin killed about half–67–the number of wolves they did last year when a harvest of 127 wolves was reported.

State wildlife biologist Bob Tobey in Glennallen said he didn’t expect hunters to take as many wolves this year. Not only did last year’s control efforts reduce the wolf population, it eliminated several litters that would have replenished the population in areas wolves were killed last year.

“Some of those wolves were breeding wolves so we didn’t have the production that we normally have,” said Tobey.

Considering that permits weren’t issued for Unit 12 and 20E until late January, state wildlife biologist Jeff Gross said the harvest of 61 wolves in the Fortymile was “excellent.”

“They were able to reduce wolf populations to the levels outlined everywhere in the area except the portions overrun with caribou,” said Gross, referring to the Nelchina Caribou Herd, which moved into Unit 20E earlier than expected and erased any sign of wolf tracks.

The highest number of wolves–91–were killed in Unit 16B west of Cook Inlet, in large part because of its proximity to Anchorage, said Robus. It’s only a short flight from Alaska’s largest city to Unit 16B.

That’s also probably the reason fewer wolves than expected were taken in Units 19A near Aniak and 19D east around McGrath.

“Those areas are further away and it takes more time and fuel for people to get to them,” he said, noting the high price of gas.

Biologists are still studying what kind of effect the wolf killings will have on moose and caribou populations, but in Unit 13 it appears moose numbers are improving.

“Our moose calf (percentage) was up to 22 (calves per 100 cows) last year,” said Tobey. “That’s the highest we’ve seen in quite a few years.”

It appears twinning rates are up this year, too, which is another indication of a healthy and growing moose population. Preliminary estimates peg this year’s twinning percentage at 38 percent.

“Now the question is how will survival do, because we’re getting the productivity,” said Tobey, adding that he talked to a pilot earlier in the week who watched a grizzly bear stalking a newborn set of moose calves.

Though the wolf control program has ended for the season, critics say they will persist with their opposition in a number of ways.

“We’ll continue to lobby (Gov. Frank Murkowski) in hopes he will hear the voice of democracy, who are the people who voted twice against this,” said Deatherage, referring to the fact Alaskans have twice voted down land-and-shoot wolf hunting. “We will continue to pressure the Interior Defenders of Wildlife will also continue to pressure Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to enforce the federal airborne hunting act, which the group claims is being violated.

Friends of Animals, meanwhile, will continue the tourism boycott of Alaska it began two years ago, Feral said. The group has held more than 200 “howl-ins” in 40 states and five foreign countries in the past two years to protest predator control in Alaska.

The group will be in Superior Court in Anchorage on June 7 to argue that the wolf control program should be stopped because the state doesn’t have sufficient data to warrant the killing of wolves.

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May 27

UK: Wolf warnings

Wolf warnings

TWO boys were seen tampering with the wolves enclosure at a wildlife park.

Now concerned police have put out a warning to parents to remind children about the dangers of approaching wild animals.

The boys were spotted at Kirkcudbright Wildlife Park early on Saturday evening.

They were aged about 12 to 14.

Police said they were clearly seen tampering with a number of animal enclosures.

Constable Grant Wilson said: It is essential that children in the area are aware of the dangers of entering this park after it is closed.

The boys who were in the park at the weekend were clearly seen tampering with animal enclosures, including the one for the wolves.

The boys could have been very badly injured or the animals could have escaped.

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May 27

Utah panel calls for shooting wolves on sight

Utah panel calls for shooting wolves on sight

SPRINGVILLE, Utah (AP) — By a 7-4 vote, the Central Utah Regional Advisory Council has endorsed a proposed wolf management plan that would allow ranchers to shoot wolves on public and private land.

If adopted by the state Wildlife Board, the plan would take effect if the federal government removes wolves from the endangered list and relinquishes its control of the animals to the states.

The regional advisory council’s endorsement came early Wednesday following a hearing that had started at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and drew 700 people.

While backing amendments allowing ranchers to shoot wolves on both public and private land, the council did reject an amendment that would have paid ranchers 100 percent of the price of a missing animal even when there is no direct evidence it was killed by a wolf. The proposed plan specifies ranchers will be paid 50 percent of the cost of such missing animals.

Council members also rejected a set of amendments submitted by a group of sport hunters.

More than a dozen of those who spoke said they were opposed to reintroducing wolves to Utah, apparently misunderstanding that wolves may migrate to the state from other areas but are not being reintroduced in the state.

The amendments backed by the regional council would “bring wolves closer to the legal status of bears and cougars,” said Mike Bodenchuk of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bears and cougars are considered predators, and ranchers and farmers are allowed to shoot them if they feel the animals are threatening their livestock.

Wolf supporters said allowing them to be shot on public land would mean there is no safe place for the animals.

“This is not fair to the other groups who worked so hard and in good faith to draft the plan, or to taxpayers who funded the work,” said Allison Jones of the Utah Wolf Forum. Jones was a member of the Wolf Working Group that drafted the plan.

With the new amendments, the proposed plan has “no semblance of conservation,” she said.

Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy said the amendments could lead to a lawsuit which would delay the wolf management plan for years, giving the wolves more to time to establish themselves in Utah while state government has no say in their management.

Passing a state plan is necessary in order to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give management authority of wolves to the state, said Kevin Bunnell of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“The ultimate goal is to get management authority to the state as soon as possible,” Bunnell said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that if wolves disperse to Utah, they are not going to come and get them.”

Council members Calvin Crandall and Allan Stevens said farmers and ranchers will shoot wolves no matter what the law is.

“If I see a cougar or wolf harassing my livestock, I’m going to kill it,” Stevens said. “Why make an outlaw of the livestock owner?”

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May 26

UT: Council OKs plan to let ranchers kill wolves

Council OKs plan to let ranchers kill wolves

Caleb Warnock DAILY HERALD

At 10 minutes after midnight on Wednesday morning, local wildlife representatives voted 7-4 in favor of allowing wolves to be shot on public and private land.

Friends and foes of wolves had gathered in Springville for a meeting of the Central Utah Regional Advisory Council that began at 6:30 p.

The 700 people in attendance had been whittled down to a dozen by the time the group voted.

The proposed plan, drafted over two years, had recommended using rubber bullets and other nonlethal control methods before allowing farmers and ranchers to shoot the animals.

The Springville meeting — the fourth of five public hearings on the wolf plan — was the fourth in a row to add amendments allowing ranchers, their families and employees to shoot wolves on public and private land. The state Wildlife Board is expected to make a binding vote on the plan next month.

A representative of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation lobbied council members to attach the amendments to the plan.

Council members did reject an amendment that would have paid ranchers 100 percent of the price of a missing animal even when there is no direct evidence it was killed by a wolf. The proposed plan specifies ranchers will be paid 50 percent of the cost of such missing animals.

Council members also rejected a set of amendments submitted by a group of sport hunters.

Misinformation seemed to abound at the meeting. More than a dozen of those who spoke during the public comment period said they were opposed to reintroducing wolves to Utah, apparently misunderstanding that wolves are naturally migrating to the state from the area of Yellowstone National Park.

Council chairman Ed Kent warned those gathered that “we are not here to take a poll of who wants or does not want wolves in Utah.”

If adopted by the state Wildlife Board, the amendments would “bring wolves closer to the legal status of bears and cougars,” said Mike Bodenchuk of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bears and cougars are considered predators, and ranchers and farmers are allowed to shoot them if they feel the animals are threatening their livestock.

But the amendments were a blow to wolf supporters who said allowing them to be shot on public land would mean there is no safe place for the animals.

“This is not fair to the other groups who worked so hard and in good faith to draft the plan, or to taxpayers who funded the work,” said Allison Jones of the Utah Wolf Forum. Jones was a member of the Wolf Working Group that drafted the plan.

With the new amendments, the proposed plan has “no semblance of conservation,” she said.

Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy said the amendments could lead to a lawsuit which would delay the wolf management plan for years, giving the wolves more to time to establish themselves in Utah while state government has no say in their management.

Passing a state plan is necessary in order to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give management authority of wolves to the state, said Keven Bunnell, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“The ultimate goal is to get management authority to the state as soon as possible,” Bunnell said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that if wolves disperse to Utah, they are not going to come and get them.”

One man speaking at the meeting said Utah’s elk and deer populations already are below the goal levels set by the state, and wolves could make it harder to increase herds. Others said 30 wolves — a number which could take decades to reach – would kill less than 400 total elk and deer a year.

Ray Wheeler of the Western Watershed Project drew derision from the crowd when he suggested farmers must “breed more intelligent cows” that could outwit wolves when attacked.

Two council members, Calvin Crandall and Allan Stevens, said farmers and ranchers will shoot wolves no matter what the law is.

“If I see a cougar or wolf harassing my livestock, I’m going to kill it,” Stevens said. “Why make an outlaw of the livestock owner?”

Others variously praised and reviled the proposed plan.

“It is a rather exceptional plan, in that this group did not kill each other,” said Councilman Fred Oswald.

“Welcoming wolves to Utah will be a biological victory,” said one woman. “We know that $1 billion a year comes from hunting in Utah, and adding wolves could only add to that, and it would be an economic victory.”

Clark Monson of Provo said education and bravery are the key to understand how wolves will benefit the state.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a lot of human courage here tonight,” he said. “I’ve only seen fear and trepidation. We have a moral obligation to preserve all species.”

One woman who identified herself as a “working sheep rancher providing food and fiber for people,” questioned a survey that showed statewide support for wolves.

“It is easy to say it’s OK if it doesn’t affect you,” she said. “We should have changed the questions to ask if people would be in favor if their pet animals were sacrificed to the wolves.”

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May 26

MT: Landowner kills wolf that was chasing livestock

Landowner kills wolf that was chasing livestock

By DARYL GADBOW
Lee News Service

MISSOULA, Mont. — A landowner legally shot and killed a wolf chasing livestock on private property near Hall, 50 miles southeast of Missoula, on Monday morning, according to state wildlife officials.

Federal rules now in effect in a portion of western Montana allow ranchers to kill wolves that are actively attacking, chasing or harassing livestock, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Under the rule, which offers Montana more wolf management authority and flexibility, anyone who shoots or kills a wolf must report the incident within 24 hours. In addition, evidence of the actual wolf attack, or evidence that an attack was imminent, must be available for state and federal inspectors.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still takes the lead in investigating wolves killed in Montana, assisted by wolf specialists from FWP, according to Vivaca Crowser, FWP information and education program manager in Missoula.

The federal rule applies to areas south of U.S. Highway 12, west of Missoula, to Interstate 90; from I-90 to Interstate 15; from I-15 to the Missouri River at Great Falls, and the Missouri River to the North Dakota border.

This was the first wolf killed under the new rule in western Montana, according to Crowser.

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