Jul 31

Dog paybacks don’t sit well

Dog paybacks don’t sit well

State defends policy of paying for hunting animals killed by wolves


Alice Droske of Elk Mound was not amused when she learned where her money from the state’s endangered resources license plate program was going.

The license program and a check-off on the state income tax form are used to pay for protection of endangered species in Wisconsin.

But when Droske found out that the program also pays bear hunters up to $2,500 when their hunting dogs are killed by wolves, she wasn’t pleased.

“I switched the minute I found out,” she said. “I am not someone who supports reimbursement of bear hunters for something that happens while they are hunting on public land.”

Officials estimated that the state’s gray wolf population was at 425 to 455 during the 2004-’05 winter. That’s up from an estimated 373 to 410 wolves during the previous winter, and it represents a sharp contrast to the mid-1970s when wolves began trickling back into the state on their own from Minnesota.

But as the wolf population grows, there are sharp divisions about how the large carnivores should be managed.

One recent example involved a vote last month by the Natural Resources Board, which approved regulations that would continue a practice that began 20 years ago that pays people whose livestock, pets or hunting dogs are killed by wolves.

Wisconsin is the only state that makes payments to people who lose pets and hunting dogs to wolves.

The dollars are not large. Since 1987, the Endangered Species Program has paid out $144,200 to bear hunters.

The Endangered Resources Fund’s annual budget from donations is about $1.2 million.

And most of those funds have been used to protect endangered species. Funds have helped to pay for the reintroduction of the peregrine falcon, to protect the Karner blue butterfly and to identify habitats that support endangered plants and animals.

But most donors had no idea that their check-off, or the $25 extra fee for the special license plate, was going to pay hunters. “As we started paying out more and more to hunters, we started hearing more about it,” said Signe Holtz, director of the Bureau of Endangered Resources.

Officials said the payment system was begun in 1984 as a way to ease tensions among landowners and hunters as wolves reasserted themselves into the Wisconsin landscape.

“The reason the program has been so effective is that hunters have been very tolerant and have agreed to have this species returned,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former secretary of the DNR. “And that was because there were very strong assurances that they wouldn’t be harmed by this – there would be compensation for animals killed.”

Payments to farmers whose livestock has been killed by wolves have met with broad acceptance, according to public officials and surveys conducted about the public’s attitude toward wolves.

But using funds from the Endangered Resources Fund to reimburse hunters whose dogs chase bears through the woods appears to be less popular.

A 2003 survey of 650 Wisconsin residents by a Northland College sociologist found that 52% of people sampled said that the DNR should stop compensating bear hunters.

Another survey of 1,499 state residents during 2004-’05 by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers found that 43% opposed the payment of public funds to reimburse for lost hunting dogs.

Those who gave money to the fund showed less support – 54% opposed such payments, said researchers Lisa Naughton and Adrian Treves, who study the relationship between wolves and humans.

Naughton said Wisconsin’s payment system – while generous – reflects a common practice worldwide: If government limits citizens’ rights to kill threatening wolves, then they are generally compensated for their losses.

As the wolf population grows, Naughton said, policy makers face a tougher task of balancing competing interests: those who want the wolf population to grow, and those who think there are too many wolves.

“This is new, trying to live with a large carnivore like this,” she said.

The Humane Society of the United States supports killing wolves that kill livestock. But Karlyn Atkinson Berg said her organization is opposed to payments to hunters.

Berg lives in northern Minnesota and represents the Humane Society on wolf issues in Wisconsin.

“Bear hunters are making a choice when they send their dogs into the woods where there are wolves,” Berg said. “They have to have some responsibility.

“People forget that the dogs are intruding into the wolves’ territory, especially in the summer when they are raising their pups.”

But Scott Meyer, a bear hunter from Rhinelander, said bear hunters have been pushed into riskier situations with their dogs as the number of wolves has grown.

“I can accept inherent risk, but when the DNR works to increase the population of wolves, I don’t think that we should have 100 percent of the risk,” he said. “For any kind of program to work, you need acceptance from the hunters.”

Bear hunters traditionally use hounds to chase bears in Wisconsin. The dogs sometimes can get miles ahead of the hunters. The bear will either outrun the dogs, or the dogs will corner or tree the animal and hold it there until the hunter, often following in a truck, arrives.

Last year, hunters killed 3,063 bears in Wisconsin – up 5% from 2003, DNR figures show.

Fifteen bear dogs were killed by wolves in 2004, said Adrian Wydeven, the DNR’s wolf ecologist. Most of the dogs were killed by a single pack of nine to 10 wolves that ranges near Glidden in Ashland County.

Meyer, the bear hunter, had a 12-year-old hound killed by a wolf in 2001.

“I was basically live and let live before this,” Meyer said.

Then his dog was killed. “They are very efficient killers,” he said. “They don’t just kill the weak and sick. My dog was in their rendezvous area.”

This year, DNR officials sought a middle ground, believing bear hunters had to take more responsibility when their dogs were killed. The agency proposed rules that would prohibit payments to hunters if a hunting dog was killed within five miles of a site where another hunting dog had been killed by a wolf.

But the agency backed off after opposition from the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and members of the Legislature.

“I think the Legislature was listening to bear hunters and to their constituents,” said Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford), chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. The committee on June 30 sent the five-mile restriction back to the DNR, and the agency agreed to the change.

Dogs And Wolves

Bear hunters killed 3,063 bears in Wisconsin in 2004.

Fifteen bear dogs were killed in 2004 by wolves.


Web site: Living with wolves



Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

IL: Rare wolf dies at Lincoln Park Zoos

Rare wolf dies at Lincoln Park Zoos

By Charles Sheehan
Tribune staff reporter

An endangered red wolf at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of less than 300 in existence, died Friday morning, zoo officials said.

The 1 1/2-year-old male wolf likely contracted a virus common to domestic dogs, possibly parvovirus, zoo officials said.

A female red wolf of the same age immediately was quarantined Friday and will remain under close observation until a cause of death is determined, which could take weeks.

The male wolf was brought to Lincoln Park Zoo in May from a wildlife refuge in North Carolina, said zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath.

The animal underwent a battery of vaccinations, and other precautions were taken to ensure its safety, zoo officials said.

“There is a wide variety of viruses that are very common to domestic animals and native wildlife,” vice president of collections Robyn Barbiers said in a printed statement. “Though we apply all available vaccinations, the possibility of contracting an infection remains, whether in the wild or in a zoo.”

The zoo has come under scrutiny recently for a rash of animal deaths, prompting zoo director Kevin Bell to offer his resignation.

Three elephants died in less than two years and in recent months, three gorillas, a marmoset, three langur monkeys and a camel also have died.

A two-month outside investigation found the zoo largely had provided proper care for its animals.

About 7 a.m., animal keepers found the wolf lying down and noticed it was suffering from bloody diarrhea.

After emergency care, the wolf’s condition stabilized for about two hours, but it went into cardiac arrest and died about 11:15 a.m., according to the zoo.

Domestic animals are not allowed in the zoo, McGrath said.

The virus may have been carried into the exhibit by native wildlife, according to the zoo.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for the release of the necropsy results and said the zoo may have failed to protect the wolves adequately.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 28

China: Is it time to start culling big bad wolf?

Is it time to start culling big bad wolf?

BEIJING, July 28 — To lose their livelihoods or to break the law? That is the question facing herdsmen in China’s wild wild west.

The current situation on the grasslands of western China offers farmers a real dilemma – wolves are taking their livestock, but under China’s environmental laws they are a protected species and must not be killed.

But recent reports of “big bad carnivores” devouring livestock have meant the wolves’ days as untouchables may be coming to an end.

Last April, a pack of wolves attacked a pasture close to Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, killing 10 sheep belonging to herdsman Bieke.

On a wintry January night in Inner Mongolia, 180 sheep fell victim to wild wolves.

Since January, more than 1,000 domesticated animals are believed to have been killed by the voracious predators in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

One shocking incident happened on December 21, 2004, when a lone wolf chased a teenager down the street in a county town in Baicheng, Jilin Province in Northeast China. Police came to the rescue and, with approval from their boss, shot it down.

A local official in charge of wild animal protection explained that, under normal circumstances, one should not harm a wolf, but self-defence is justified.

People in the 1950s-1960s might have laughed at the notion. Back in those days, Chinese were expected to exterminate all wolves almost as a matter of duty, and the public did not need much encouragement as the wolf had always been a symbol of vicious aggression.

The wolf-busting programme was so successful that, by the 1980s, there were hardly any wild wolves left. Then, environmental awareness emerged in China and laws and regulations were phased in to protect the animals from random hunting.

“The wolf is high up in the food chain,” said Teng Enjiang, an expert with China National Environmental Monitoring Centre. “We need them to keep the balance of things.”

Wolves are necessary in the Darwinian animal world, contended Pan Zhaodong, a researcher at Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences, because they prey on the weak and sick, ensuring survival of the fittest.

However, now it seems the protection measures have been too successful, wolves are once again coming into conflict with people, and herdsmen are calling for hunting to be reintroduced.

According to Yuan Guoying, chairman of the Xinjiang Ecology Institute, wolves usually do not invade human territory. But the thriving livestock industry has taken away much of the room for wild wolves, resulting in “an overlapping of these animals’ living spaces”.

Teng told China Daily that there should be studies to determine the number of wolves appropriate for an area of a certain size. “If there are too many, there should be a controlled cull of the wolf population. Before a cohesive policy is adopted, the herdsmen who lost animals should be compensated by the government.”

Some local governments are heeding these suggestions. Damao Banner in Inner Mongolia has introduced three measures. First, herdsmen must take all reasonable measures to protect their animals. Second, a fund will be set up to pay damages to those who have suffered big losses. And third, a patrol team will cruise the prairie to keep wolves at bay.

It may not be ideal to have wolves and sheep on the same grassland, but, with proper management, you don’t have to kill one in order for the other to survive.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 28

WY: Wolves & grizzlies killing cattle

Wolves & grizzlies killing cattle

by Cat Urbigkit

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported Monday that there have been numerous incidents of wolves killing cattle in Sublette County in the last week.

FWS reported that USDA Wildlife Services personnel confirmed that an unmarked group of wolves killed an 800-pound steer on July 18 on private land near Daniel.

“This is the same area where the Daniel pack was removed for depredations last year,” FWS reported. “The ranch manager reported seeing a female and eight pups in the area.” Although FWS’s Mike Jimenez flew the area for missing radio-collared wolves, none were found.

“We requested access to radio-collar and release wolves onsite so we can locate the pack, but the landowner didn’t want to be involved with any release of wolves on his property,” FWS reported. “No further control will be conducted unless there are other depredations. We will continue to monitor the situation and look for other opportunities to trap and collar wolves in this area.”

On the same day, Wildlife Services investigated and confirmed a report of dead calves in the Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, reportedly near an active wolf den/rendezvous site. On July 19, Wildlife Services personnel returned to investigate and confirmed a second dead calf at that same location. This new wolf pack consists of four adult and four pups, FWS reported. On July 22, Wildlife Services used a fixed-wing aircraft to shoot a two-year-old non-breeding female wolf. FWS reports that control has ended unless there are other depredations.

In addition, the dispersing Druid pack wolf, re-collared by Jimenez in Grand Teton National Park a few weeks ago, has moved south and was within a mile or so of the wolf shot last Friday, FWS reported.

“He has not been involved in any of these depredations,” FWS reported.

On public land near The Place, Wildlife Services confirmed a calf depredation by a wolf on the allotment on July 19.

“It was likely killed by a lone un-collared wolf that has been reported in the area,” FWS reported. A day later, Wildlife Services investigated another dead calf in the same vicinity that had been scavenged by a wolf but was not killed by predators. Again, “The situation is being closely monitored.”

In other federally protected predator news, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is closely monitoring grizzly bear activity in the Upper Green River region. WG&F’s Mark Bruscino noted that last week, two cattle kills were discovered. One was little more than a hide, while the second confirmed kill was a walking wounded animal that had to be destroyed.

With no fresh carcasses from which to concentrate control efforts, no trapping or capture was attempted, Bruscino said.

“We’re up there monitoring the situation in cooperation with the cattle producers,” Bruscino said. “A lot of attention is being paid to it right now.”

Bruscino noted that cattle-killing behavior in grizzlies is generally limited to a few bears, usually adult males.

“So oftentimes, removing the offending bear, or a few offending bears, solves the depredation problem,” Bruscino said. “The bears that don’t kill cattle are allowed to remain on the national forest.”

Four grizzlies have been removed from the Upper Green this grazing season.

There does seem to be a lot of bear sign in the Upper Green River cattle allotments this year, Bruscino said, but natural food sources appear to be good. It appears to be an excellent year for whitebark pine cones, which become a major bear food source after mid-August.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 27

ID: Wolf Pack Killed; Surviving Pups and Young Female Left Destitute

Wolf Pack Killed; Surviving Pups and Young Female Left Destitute


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday, July 20, shot and killed six wolves from the Copper Basin wolf pack near Hailey, after two calves were found killed by the pack. Carter Niemeyer, the FWS wolf recovery coordinator in Idaho, gave the order for the lethal control of the pack, who were confirmed to have killed four cows last year, injured two, and were implicated as a “probable” cause in six casualties and approximately 70 missing cows.

“When I heard about the second calf being killed, I just told them, ‘Kill all of the uncollared adults and the alpha male,’” Niemeyer told BW. “All indications were we were in for another siege up there in the valley. It’s a rough place to try to keep wolves alive when there’s that much livestock to tempt them, and there’s nowhere to chase those wolves. There’s no real non-lethal application in a case like that.”

Niemeyer said that last year, the FWS caught and collared two of the pack members, the alpha male and a yearling sub-adult female. After the control, that sub-adult is the sole survivor of the pack, except for the two pups she is believed to have with her. “It is my belief,” Niemeyer said, “that there’s a good chance that female can feed two pups. If she had nine pups, we probably would have done the pup removal.”

Linda DeEulisa, director of the Snowden Wildlife Sanctuary in McCall, says that the FWS might as well have killed the rest of the wolves, given the future now facing the yearling and pups. “The pups can’t hunt, and the sub-adult is probably just learning to hunt,” she told BW. “She is left in a totally untenable situation of either having to depredate (livestock) to feed them, or abandon them.”

DeEulisa said she asked the FWS for permission to temporarily hold the remaining wolves at Snowden, a service the sanctuary has provided to the government several times in the past decade. But Niemeyer responded that despite the Service’s history of working with sanctuaries, they no longer bring wolves into captivity in cases like the Copper Basin pack.

“We have so many wolves in places now, it’s just not necessary anymore,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s more inhumane to put these animals in a pen than just to euthanize them.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 27

ID: Federal Agents Target Two Wolves in Idaho

Federal Agents Target Two Wolves in Idaho

The Associated Press

LEWISTON, Idaho — Federal wildlife agents plan to shoot two wolves in northcentral Idaho in hopes of stopping a cattle-and-dog killing spree that has unnerved ranchers and hunters near Elk River and Dworshak since last winter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized agents to kill two members of the so-called Chesimia wolf pack that are believed to have killed two cows this month.

The predators, reintroduced to Idaho a decade ago, are also blamed for killing six dogs since the start of the year, including three bear hounds in early May in what federal officials believed was a case of the wolves protecting a litter of newborn pups.

Fish and Wildlife Service agents say they usually start with killing just one or two wolves in a pack. If that doesn’t work, an entire pack can be removed. Last week in the Copper Basin between Sun Valley and Mackay, federal wildlife agents killed six wolves that had preyed on cattle.

“We are hopeful that this control action will deter any future livestock depredations in this area,” said agency official Carter Niemeyer of the killings last week. “If the depredations continue, the rest of the pack will be removed.”

Even with the decision to remove two wolves from the Chesimia pack in northcentral Idaho, ranchers who have lost cattle say they’re skeptical that anything short of wiping out the entire pack will stop the attacks on their herds, which graze on a patchwork of forest land either owned by Potlatch Corp., the Spokane, Wash.-based paper-products company, or managed by the state.

“What concerns me is they will leave the next male that travels with the alpha male. I don’t think it’s going to stop it,” said rancher Suzanne Beale of Pomeroy, who has lost two cows, including one last Friday. “The poor old thing _ you could see where she came off the hill and fought and fought. They (the wolves) took her out by the hind leg.”

Wolf numbers in Idaho have advanced to 450 since 35 were introduced in 1995 and 1996 as part of a federal bid to restore the animals to native habitat where they’d been hunted to extinction decades earlier.

The federal government has sought to allow Idaho, Montana and Wyoming more leeway in managing the wolves in hopes of eventually removing the wolf from Endangered Species Act protection now that many biologists believed they’ve recovered to sustainable levels.

It approved wolf-management plans offered by Montana and Idaho but has rejected Wyoming’s plan, which would all wolves to be shot with few restrictions outside the Yellowstone National Park area. All three plans must be approved before control is handed over to the states.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 26

MI UP: Shepherd finds wolf remedy in European guard dogs

Shepherd finds wolf remedy in European guard dogs

By JACK STOREY/The Evening News

RUDYARD – At least one local shepherd found his answer to heavy wolf losses in a big, white and friendly dog breed that likes sheep and people but not the gray wolf.

Following up on a suggestion from a Central Michigan University biologist, shepherd Eric Wallis says his lamb losses plummeted since he started using Pyrenees guard dogs with his three flocks. A European breed specially developed for its adaptability with livestock and intolerance of other canines, Wallis’ Pyrenees have done what nothing else could in protecting his 700 animals.

Now in his fifth year of what started as an experiment, Wallis swears by the big white dogs as guards for his three flocks. “I’m sold on them,” he said simply.

Prior to his first attempt to introduce the dogs, Wallis said he lost about 100 lambs in two years to a small group of wolves whose territory includes his M-48 farm.

With five Pyrenees now living full-time with his flocks, Wallis reported no wolf losses in the past two years. He is certain the difference is the dogs.

Wallis said wolves typically go after young lambs a month or so old. So crafty are the predators, he said, that several attempts to discover their entry point in his four-foot electrified fencing came to nothing.

During his years of heavy losses, he said lambs just disappeared from his flocks. He found no remains in the 450 acres of fields where his flocks spend much of the year.

“I keep good records,” he said, “… No 35-pound coyote is going to carry off a 30-pound lamb over a four-foot fence,” he said.

At 150 pounds or so, wolves are big enough to make off with lambs, though he is not all that sure how they make it back over or through his charged fences. The Pyrenees’ effectiveness at warding off wolf attacks gives him all the evidence he needs. The breed was especially developed in Europe to protect sheep from wolf attacks.

“Electric fences don’t keep them out,” he said with some finality.

About five years ago, Wallis said he did find some dead and dying lambs in his field and traced the source to the single male Pyrenees that started his experiment with the dogs. That first young male taught a valuable lesson in numbers, he said.

With only one Pyrenees in his fields, he said the male eventually took after the lambs himself when he reached adolescence. He said he concluded that the adolescent male had no other dogs to play with and chose lambs instead, eventually mauling the young animals.

He ended up getting rid of that one male, theorizing that once the dog learned a taste for lamb, he would not return to guard-dog status in later years.

Undeterred by the experience, he concluded that the only way to use the European breed effectively is in pairs, kept with each flock.

The two Pyrenees he showed with one of his flocks last week seemed to be right at home in their full-time jobs. Resting in the small hut he provides for shelter from a hot July sun, the two dogs immediately approached Wallis’ four-wheeler like any friendly dogs.

After a time for making a re-acquaintance, the dogs settled in with the curious sheep, moving easily among them as the somewhat skittish flock shifted here and there in the fenced field. Experts say the Pyrenees develops a near-unique affinity for a flock, in essence becoming part of the flock, except when a wolf is prowling nearby.

Wallis said his five dogs, each 100 pounds or more, are not inexpensive to maintain. He estimates his dogs cost about $1,000 per year to feed but that cost must be weighed against the cost of wolf losses.

The economics are easy, he said. “Five dogs cost $1,000 to feed. Fifty lambs are worth about $5,000.”

The dogs are watered from the same troughs used by the sheep. Each pair of guard dogs is fed from a self feeder set up in each of his fields.

In winter, the dogs stay around his barn with the sheep or out in the nearby “barn lot,” where sheep spend some of their time in the cold months.

A man who depends on his working dogs for more than one chore, Wallis also depends on his three-year-old Australian shepherd Jake to help round up the flocks. He said he has found that the Pyrenees do not mix well with Jake, so he keeps the two types of dogs apart.

Wallis flocks number about 700 sheep at any given time, divided into three groups, each guarded by a pair of Pyrenees. In his five years with the huge white Pyrenees, he said his wife has sold a few puppies here and there, none for guard dogs, however. “They’ve all been as pets,” he said.

He said the five guard dogs he keeps in the field may be “a touch” more than he needs but he isn’t about to argue with success.

As for the wolves, he said he still sees a few around the farm every year and does not mind them being in the neighborhood. He does mind the special endangered status of the gray wolf, not necessarily because wolves do not belong here.

Blaming federal rules primarily, he noted that the endangered status of the gray wolf does not allow farmers to shoot animals pursuing their livestock. A recent ruling allows Department of Natural Resources officers to shoot 20 problem wolves a year, but Wallis does not feel that dispensation will be effective at discouraging livestock losses.

The losses, he said, temper his view of the return of the gray wolf to their traditional Eastern Upper Peninsula territory. Unlike many farmers and some sportsmen, Wallis said he does not favor a return to an extermination policy.

“I don’t mind wolves so long as they don’t cut into my livelihood,” he said. But with the wolf’s continued protection, he said, “… It’s like someone slipped his hand in my back pocket and took out one-tenth of my income.”

For now, Wallis has found his remedy in his treasured gang of Pyrenees guard dogs for a reason as straightforeward as the Rudyard shepherd’s talk: they work.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 21

NM: Symbol of wolf reintroduction program dies

Symbol of wolf reintroduction program dies

ALBUQUERQUE A routine capture and checkup for one of the best known wolves in the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program ended in death today after the animal overheated.

The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service says the female wolf died despite receiving immediate veterinary care.

Officials say she was an integral part of the program to reintroduce the wolf back into its native land. Her photo was used repeatedly for posters and she became recognized as the symbol for Mexican wolf recovery.

The wolf was at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro with her mate, four pups and her yearling male.

Officials say the other wolves appear to be in good health.

The pack was brought into captivity this summer because of multiple cattle depredations in southwestern New Mexico.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 21

Wolf pack killed in central Idaho

Wolf pack killed in central Idaho

A wolf pack that has been preying on livestock in central Idaho has been killed by government agents.

Officials confirmed that six wolves of the Copper Basin pack were killed Wednesday after repeated depredations on cattle.

We are hopeful that this control action will deter any future livestock depredations in this area, said Carter Niemeyer, wolf recovery coordinator. If the depredations continue, the rest of the pack will be removed.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game personnel were present observing the control action.

The wolves killed two calves this past week on grazing allotments in the Challis National Forest between Mackay and Sun Valley. Last year the pack was responsible for killing four cattle, and livestock producers reported a large number of missing cattle in this area.

So far in 2005, the government agency has ordered the lethal control of two wolves preying on livestock in Idaho. There are about 450 wolves living in the state.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 20

MT: College instructor tracks wolves

College instructor tracks wolves

Western News Reporter

The cabin sits just off U.S. Highway 2 amid a few trees. Pickup trucks rumble by on a Forest Service dirt road, and while that doesn’t faze the contented cows grazing in an adjoining pasture it occasionally plays havoc with Jay Mallonee’s powerful computer.

The machine sits between snowshoes and a pair of cross-country skis in the spare one-room cabin with loft. Two hummingbird nests and several feathers from large birds add to the incongruity. There are casts of wolf prints on a table.

The computer is as important to the wolf biologist as his four-wheel-drive truck or the muscle-powered means of travel he uses during winter to make his daily rounds through the Kootenai National Forest.

Mallonee studies wolves.

Specifically, he researches the nine-member Fishtrap pack that lives in a 250-square-mile area between Libby and Kalispell.

“They go everywhere,” Mallonee said. “Wolves are close to people and close to cattle. And nobody knows.”

He’s been studying the pack for five years, and has collected detailed data of three collared pack members via radio telemetry equipment for the past two years. The information is all fed into the computer. Now, by calling up a map of the pack’s home territory, Mallonee can show movement corridors where scat or footprints were seen, where he pinpointed locations by radio collar, or where he found wolves by howling back and forth with them.

“I have a code for everywhere I go,” he said.

His conclusions are startling.Instead of showing that wolves perform activities as a pack a high percentage of the time, which most researchers contend, Mallonee’s study shows the Fishtrap pack does that much less than half the time.

“No one ever perceived wolves this way,” he said. “It blatantly goes against what people believe. Science assumes they always do everything together.”

The conclusions form the basis of a paper he is writing for a professional journal. He is wary of how other wolf biologists will receive it, since his data knocks the supports from conclusions others have made — conclusions that, over time, have formed the accepted wisdom about wolves.

A maverick who once jokingly called himself a “little forest gnome,” Mallonee believes researchers from federal and state agencies simply don’t gather enough data. He also criticizes counting techniques that, he says, involve flying over the forest to spot collared wolves and extrapolating the number of wolves in a given area through a mathematical formula.

“You have to bust your ass to know these animals,” he said. “If you want to know about wolves you have to be on the ground. You can’t do it from an airplane.”

Mallonee, 48, has an impressive academic background which prevents him from being dismissed as just another person with romantic ideals about wolves. He has a master’s degree in neurobiology and animal behavior. He has taught for the University of California-Santa Barbara, and conducted wolf research classes in Lincoln County for San Francisco State for eight years before moving here in 1999 to be near his research topic year-round.

He drives through the wolves’ territory at least 300 days a year, averaging about 70 miles a day. Mallonee, who formerly studied summering gray whales and was published on that topic in the Canadian Journal of Zoology, currently teaches science classes at the Lincoln County Campus of Flathead Valley Community College.

LCC director Pat Pezzelle said Mallonee encourages students to look at things in unfamiliar, often uncomfortable ways.

“He challenges students,” Pezzelle said. “One of the things I admire about him is his passion for field work. As an instructor he has one foot planted in real world research and the other in academia.”

Mallonee grew up in a large city where wild animals were found only in books or on cable television nature programs. He knew he wanted to be a biologist when he was 7 years old, and never wavered from that dream.

Why was he fascinated with animals as an urban boy?

“Because they were missing,” he said.

Now his bookcases — wood planks with cement blocks — are crammed with books about whales, dolphins, porpoises and wolves, including “The Ninemile Wolves” by Yaak resident Rick Bass.

Mallonee spent several years researching gray whales, bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoise, Dall’s porpoise and orcas from California to the Bering Sea.

After working at Wolf Haven in Washington state, he narrowed his focus to wolves.

“If you want to do it right, you have to do it 100 percent,” Mallonee said. “I had to choose between wolves and whales.”

He takes his 15-year-old Australian shepherd and greyhound mix named “Timber” with him on wolf research jaunts. The dog is deaf and is blind in one eye, and her owner tends to her with obvious love.

“One of the reasons I moved to Montana was to give her a better life,” he said.

A driving force behind Mallonee’s work is his desire to educate people about wolves. That, he hopes, will reduce what he considers bigotry and hatred against the animals.

Mallonee perseveres with his lonely calling at more than small economic sacrifice. His income teaching courses at LCC must be supplemented with part-time work at a Libby movie rental shop. He’s also tapping into an inheritance fund from his mother, who is still alive.

“I always knew what I wanted to do,” Mallonee said. “My problem is figuring out how to do it. This is worse than when I was in college. I have no (economic) future.”

But he has extensive wolf data, and lots of it shows up on his Web site www.wolfandwildlifestudies.com. Project HOWL — Helping our Wolves Live — includes updates about the Fishtrap pack.

He wrote on the Web site, “Project HOWL is dedicated to finding out how wolves really behave and to promote wolf conservation through the integration of research and public education.”

Among his past research projects is a documentation of traumatic stress displayed by a wild wolf placed into captivity. Mallonee believes wolves are traumatized in the wild, too, as evidenced by film and tape of airplanes running the animals to near exhaustion.

One of the videos in his home shows a wolf harassed by an airplane and becoming so weary that it finally turns to face the plane, as though willing to take a last desperate stand against its tormentor.

He wonders what has provoked such aggression against wolves throughout history.

“There’s something about these wild dogs running through the woods that upsets people,” Mallonee said. “It’s been that way for 500 years.”


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