Aug 30

FL: St. Vincent Island’s red wolf program has first pups since 1998

St. Vincent Island’s red wolf program has first pups since 1998

A litter of red wolf pups is the first in a captive breeding program for the
endangered species in St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge since 1998,
officials said.

The number of tracks observed on the 12,000-acre barrier island indicates
there are three or four pups, but officials won’t know exactly how many
until the wolves are trapped for health checks in the fall, said Thom Lewis,
a biologist at the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.

Only about 265 red wolves remain in the wild and captivity.

Once the top predator in the southeastern United States, by 1970 there were
fewer than 100 red wolves in the wild, mainly in coastal Texas and
Louisiana.

The federal government captured most of the remaining red wolves in 1974 to
establish a captive breeding program.

St. Vincent Island and Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa joined the program in 1990.

Two pups were born at the Tampa zoo’s facility in Polk County earlier this
year, a spokeswoman said.

Four pups were born in April to a breeding pair at the Tallahassee Museum of
History & Natural Science. It was the third litter since the 52-acre
facility entered the program in 1988, said animal curator Mike Jones.

“We’re very pleased because there are so few of them left,” he said.

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Aug 30

AK: Moose hunt poses a threat to wolves

Moose hunt poses a threat to wolves

DENALI: Researcher says nearby pack would be too easy to pick off.

By DOUG O’HARRA
Anchorage Daily News

A federal subsistence moose hunt set to begin Thursday in the heart of the Denali National Park and Preserve might bring hunters extra close to a wolf pack southeast of Kantishna — raising old issues about how much protection should be given to the park’s most closely studied animal.

The pack, with two adult female wolves and one large male, is often seen by visitors to the Kantishna-Wonder Lake area. This summer, the group is raising three pups in an open valley near an old mining trail and would be unusually easy to shoot by subsistence hunters searching for moose along the North Fork of Moose Creek, long-time wolf researcher Gordon Haber said.

Though not ordinarily targeted by subsistence hunters in late summer, wolves can be killed throughout the area’s game management unit, which overlaps portions of the park, between Aug. 10 and April 30 under federal rules.

“This particular group has denned 18 to 20 miles to the northwest, but they’re denning right smack in the middle” of the moose-hunting area, Haber said. “They’re just sitting ducks. There’s no way (hunters) won’t see them or hear them howling.”

As a result, Haber last week asked park superintendent Paul Anderson to cancel the hunt in the Kantishna area or take other steps to protect that wolf pack.

“If he allows those wolves to be shot, it would be frivolous and it would be just plain wrong,” Haber said.

Anderson was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment. But other park officials said Anderson denied Haber’s request because there was no biological reason to protect those wolves.

“It’s not part of our policy to manage for specific individual animals,” spokeswoman Kris Fister said. “It is to manage for the population as a whole.”

The park has a healthy number of wolves, she said. Federal subsistence rules allow Anderson to restrict the hunt only if it would have an impact on the overall population or raise safety concerns for people.

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Aug 28

Germany: Wolves, Bears Make Comeback in Europe

Wolves, Bears Make Comeback in Europe

Bears in Switzerland, wolves in Germany. Wildlife that humans had once driven to extinction in Central Europe is making a return in the 21st century. The conditions for their survival in modern times look good.

The three hikers were absolutely certain. In the Swiss Alps, along the border with Italy, they sighted a brown bear through their binoculars — the first one in the mountainous country since the last one had been killed in 1904.

As a result, of the sighting, hotel reservations in the Mustair valley region where the bear sighting took place have shot up: European tourists, many who would have to travel a long way to see the ursine creature outside a zoo, found another good reason to visit Switzerland.

Wildlife such as bears, wolves and lynxes that had been unwelcome, mostly by farmers in agriculturally heavier times, is welcome by environmentalists and even government officials. The Swiss government, anxious to attract the animal that gave the name to its capital, Bern, set aside land in the southeast of the country so that bears from a sleuth of some 20 in Italy would feel secure enough to wander across the border.

Conditions must be right

In preparation for a potential return of the bear to Switzerland, the wildlife group WWF, based in Gland, Switzerland, published a report that explained which two factors would make territory attractive for bears. Firstly, there must be enough distance from the bears habitat to human communities and roads. Secondly, the forest must offer enough food.

For wolves it isn’t much different. They have returned to eastern regions in Germany because there they have sufficient space to raise their whelps and can find adequate amounts of food.

European farmers worry, though, that if numbers expand too quickly, the reintroduction of predatory animals such as bears, wolves and lynxes to Central Europe provides a large threat. For if there isn’t enough natural prey, such as rodents or deer, then the supposed traditional food of choice — sheep — frequently are found on farms. Hunters, on the other hand, are concerned about the increased competition for deer.

At the moment, according to the Wild Biological Society of Munich, there is enough room in the southeast of Germany for 100 to 200 wolves.

Improved means of protection

The shepherd and cowboy were not always able to protect their sheep from wolves in the past. A wolf expert from Germany’s natural preservation society NABU, Gesa Kluth, has supplied farmers in the Lausitz region with tall electrical fences to protect their flocks.

Even farm-owner associations now have a more inclusive attitude towards wolves. Dieter Tanneberger, president of the association for private farmers, views them as a cultural treasure. And unlike a century ago, should a sheep be killed by a wolf, a farmer is insured.

But the Lausitz-based association has yet to receive a wolf complaint.

Fairy tales gave bad name

The thought of encountering a wolf or bear in the forest may send chills down hikers’ spines but the chances are rather thin. In Romania, brown bears have recently attacked and killed three humans in a few days’ time. Nevertheless, over half of all Germans feel that both humans and wildlife that originally lived in Germany can cohabitate peacefully according to a recent opinion poll.

Experts say the word must be spread that wild animals only rarely kill humans, usually if a person strays too close to a wolf’s or bear’s cubs, and that they for the most part avoid contact with human civilization.

“The wolf isn’t a mean animal like the one we are familiar with from fairy tales,” said Bettina Langer from NABU. “They don’t eat grandmothers.”

Judith Weber (jdk)

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Aug 26

MT: Counties try for consensus on wolves

Counties try for consensus on wolves

By SCOTT McMILLION Chronicle Staff Writer

LIVINGSTON — Wolves are a problem in Montana, commissioners from several Montana counties agreed in a meeting here Thursday, and the federal government needs to come up with more money to compensate ranchers and control wolf numbers.

The goal of the five-hour meeting, organized by Park County Extension Agent Marty Malone, was to come up with a joint resolution calling for tighter management of wolves, a quicker removal from the federal Endangered Species Act list and keeping closer tabs on the big carnivores.

Commissioners from Gallatin, Park, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Carbon and Madison counties attended. Beaverhead County commissioners sent Joe Helle, a prominent sheep rancher, to represent them.

Commissioners from all the counties spoke in favor of the resolution, although Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner said such a resolution could be difficult to pass in that county.

The other two Gallatin County commissioners — Bill Murdock and John Vincent — don’t seem interested in taking action, Skinner said. Unlike in other counties around Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin County ranchers have had few problems with wolves, Skinner said.

Gallatin County also is the most urbanized of the seven counties represented here, and is home to a number of pro-wolf organizations.

Plus, if the resolution is passed by all the counties, the document is only an expression of desire and has no force of law.

Sweet Grass County Commissioner Elaine Allestad, whose family runs a sheep ranch, said joining the voices of several counties grants all of them more authority.

“I do know a joint resolution has some power,” she said.

A handful of counties around Yellowstone already have passed resolutions calling for rapid delisting and more intensive wolf management.

Janelle Holden, of the Predator Conservation Alliance, cautioned the commissioners that not everybody in their counties sees wolves as a problem.

Some people see them as “a valued predator that plays a key ecological role,” she said.

Wolves also benefit a number of people through tourism, she added.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says wolves have met the biological requirements for delisting, but refuses to take that step until Wyoming changes its state wolf management plan.

The existing document would allow wolves to be shot on sight in much of Wyoming. The federal government says that is unacceptable and the wolves will remain on the ESA list until Wyoming changes its attitude.

Montana has a plan that calls for maintaining roughly the same number of wolves the state has now — 10 to 15 packs. FWS officials have praised that plan.

Allestad, who has been involved in wolf issues for years, said a joint resolution gives members of Congress “more leverage” by showing them what local government wants.

She said the resolution would send a message both to the federal government and to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which this year took over management of wolves in the state, with federal oversight.

The resolution declares that wolves are “a predator species in need of management” and states these goals:

¬ FWP should radio collar more wolves.

¬ FWP should work with the federal government to better notify county government and citizens when wolves are in a specific area.

¬ Congress and the FWS should “expedite the process to delist” wolves and give management authority and full funding to FWP and the Montana Department of Livestock.

¬ The governor of Montana should appoint a board that will find ways to reduce livestock losses, implement a restitution program and fund it fully with federal money.

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Aug 25

ID: State hoping to take over more wolf management soon

State hoping to take over more wolf management soon

Associated Press

BOISE — State wildlife managers say a memorandum establishing Idaho’s control over the wolf population is expected to be approved in the next several days.

Under new rules approved in January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed wildlife agencies in Idaho and Montana to take a more active role in day-to-day wolf management decisions.

Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker says Idaho should be in the wolf management business next month.

Even after Idaho takes a more active role, wolves will remain protected by the Endangered Species Act.

But Idaho will be able to issue kill permits to ranchers having problems with wolves, and might be able to kill wolves found to be hindering growth in depressed big-game herds.

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Aug 25

WY: Feds confirm wolf killed one sheep, others probable

Feds confirm wolf killed one sheep, others probable

By The Associated Press

FARSON, Wyo. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials have concluded that a wolf killed a sheep belonging to a Wyoming Stock Growers Association official and is probably to blame for the deaths of 13 others near here.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said officials could not say for sure what happened to 19 lambs, because “there was nothing left of them but little tufts of wool.”

Wound marks on the neck and throat of one ewe, whose carcass was found in a creek, caused wildlife officials to confirm her death to a wolf, he said. Since the “best guess” was that one was killed by wolves, it seemed probable that another 13 sheep, whose bodies were badly decomposed, were as well, Bangs said.

The culprit is likely a stray wolf, he said, adding that wildlife officials planned to fly over the area to look for one.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the stockmen’s group, said Thursday that he was frustrated and unsatisfied by the government’s response. Magagna, who in June had other sheep killed by wolves in the same area, said he has no doubt that a wolf was also to blame for this month’s losses. Magagna said he had 33 missing but found 28 dead.

“They were all there together, and whatever happened to one, happened to all of them,” he said.

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Aug 25

WY: Agency confirms wolf killed at least one sheep

Agency confirms wolf killed at least one sheep

By CAT URBIGKIT
Star-Tribune correspondent

FARSON — After investigating the death of nearly 30 head of domestic sheep near the Prospect Mountains east of here, federal wildlife officials confirmed a wolf had killed one, while 14 other dead ewes were determined to be “probable” wolf kills.

According to Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the remaining 19 dead lambs were too decomposed for a determination to be made.

Jimenez said USDA Wildlife Services specialists investigating the matter made the determinations based on the evidence at the scene. Estimating that the sheep had been dead at least 10 days, the determination was “very difficult,” Jimenez said, but because one sheep was found dead in a creek, it was somewhat preserved, allowing the confirmation as a wolf kill.

The sheep, belonging to Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive Jim Magagna, were found dead in their fenced pasture late last week. Magagna said a ranch worker had counted 49 head of ewes and lambs in the pasture on Aug. 2, including 30 ewes and 19 lambs. Last week, the worker found only 16 sheep remaining alive and the carnage on the ground, including whole quarters of carcasses separated from the rest of the bodies.

When he arrived on the scene last Friday, Magagna saw and photographed 28 individual dead animals. The 16 sheep that remained unharmed were immediately removed from the pasture and trucked to the ranch headquarters six miles away.

This is the same area where a female wolf and her mate denned on a domestic sheep lambing ground this spring. The female wolf gave birth to six pups and began preying on sheep. Wildlife officials responded by killing the female and four of the six pups, in accordance with federal guidelines, but the male wolf was never seen again. The remaining two pups, too young to survive on their own, were later found dead by a federal biologist, Jimenez said.

Magagna said he’s not exactly satisfied with the outcome of the recent investigation. Understanding that Wildlife Services make the determinations based on the criteria for compensation offered by Defenders of Wildlife, Magagna said this case demonstrates that the compensation program is aimed less at compensating ranchers for their losses and more at providing good public relations for Defenders.

Magagna said the sheep were all in one area and either died at the same time or within a short amount of time, so logically, what killed one killed the others.

“It’s not logical to say that because one was preserved in the water, it’s a wolf kill,” while the others are only “probable,” and no determinations made on the others, Magagna said.

“The lambs were lying next to the ewes,” he said, so as a “practical and logical matter,” the cause of death is the same.

Jimenez said Wildlife Services has been authorized to fly the area and kill one wolf, should the opportunity arise. There are no radio-collared wolves in the area, and Jimenez said the assumption is that one wolf is responsible for the problem.

Meanwhile, Magagna doesn’t have any sheep in the area, but that will soon change.

“I’m hesitant to leave anything in there until Wildlife Services comes in and does some control work,” Magagna said. The sheep have been moved to the ranch, as has his ram band, where they will all be subject to supplemental feeding while the wolf situation is worked out.

While he can hold the rams on supplemental feed for a few days, Magagna said they would need to be moved soon. In addition, when his ewe flock, tallying more than 2,500 head, completes its mountain grazing in late September, it will also be moved back to the lower country where the depredation occurred.

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Aug 25

WY: Upper Green sees big share of predator-livestock conflict

Upper Green sees big share of predator-livestock conflict

By CAT URBIGKIT

Star-Tribune correspondent

PINEDALE — The Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest north of here is host to the largest grazing allotment complex in the national forest system, proving forage for about 7,500 head of cattle.

It’s a place where about 20 local ranches send their cattle up a 100-year-old trail each summer, “drifting” the animals to the mountain, where they graze together in common allotments. They drift back to lower ground when cold weather turns the leaves on the mountains into their October splendor of colors.

Recovery of gray wolves and grizzly bears has meant an expansion of the range of these two federally protected species into the cattle country of the Upper Green. The result has been an intensive cooperative effort between state and federal wildlife officials and the ranching community to quickly respond to and resolve livestock depredation conflicts.

Last Saturday, a young adult male grizzly bear was captured at the scene of a cow kill in the Upper Green. Because this young bear, weighing in at 420 pounds, hadn’t had a history of getting in trouble, it was moved to Park County and released near the Montana border, according to Mark Bruscino of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

On Monday, wildlife officials caught and killed a grizzly bear on a calf carcass. This bear had a history of involvement in livestock depredations in the Upper Green and had been moved from the area, only to return and kill again, Bruscino said.

Bruscino said with Monday’s killing of a bear, control efforts on grizzlies have ended unless other problems arise.

The number of confirmed cattle kills due to grizzlies in the Upper Green is at least 14 so far this year, according to Upper Green River Cattle Association. That number includes only kills that were confirmed. Predator kills are difficult to find and have confirmed by agency specialists.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has developed a ratio of estimated predation loss to confirmed kills for cattle suffering grizzly bear depredations. That ratio estimates that 3.5 calves are lost to grizzly depredation for every confirmed calf kill. That means the 14 head of cattle confirmed as kills due to grizzlies in the Upper Green this year must be multiplied by 3.5 for a more accurate tally of actual losses, putting the number closer to 50.

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 few offending bears, solves the depredation problem,” Bruscino said, while non-offending bears are left in place.

In response to the problems this year, wildlife officials have captured nine grizzlies in the Upper Green — euthanizing two bears, moving five more and releasing two on site — in livestock depredation control efforts.

In addition, there have been nine confirmed cattle kills to wolves in the Upper Green River region this grazing season. There have been 18 wolves killed in Sublette County so far this year in response to livestock depredation, with eight of these wolf kills occurring in the Upper Green. In addition, five wolves were killed in March near Merna after going from ranch to ranch killing cattle, and five wolves were killed in the Prospect Mountains area northeast of Farson after preying on domestic sheep.

Controlling problem wolves is a cornerstone of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery program in the Northern Rockies. The experimental rules under which the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone region was authorized, call for the removal of wolves that chronically kill livestock. Livestock losses are confirmed by professional examination by USDA Wildlife Services of livestock carcasses before any control action is authorized.

The wolf recovery plan recognized that where the ranges of wolves and livestock overlap, some livestock would be killed by some wolves.

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Aug 24

WY: Bears, wolves take toll on Upper Green

Bears, wolves take toll on Upper Green

By CAT URBIGKIT
Star-Tribune correspondent

PINEDALE — The Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest north of here is host to the largest grazing allotment complex in the national forest system, proving forage for about 7,500 head of cattle.

It’s a place where about 20 local ranches send their cattle up a 100-year-old trail each summer, “drifting” the animals to the mountain, where they graze together in common allotments. They drift back to lower ground when cold weather turns the leaves on the mountains into their October splendor of colors.

Recovery of gray wolves and grizzly bears has meant an expansion of the range of these two federally protected species into the cattle country of the Upper Green. The result has been an intensive cooperative effort between state and federal wildlife officials and the ranching community to quickly respond to and resolve livestock depredation conflicts.

Last Saturday, a young adult male grizzly bear was captured at the scene of a cow kill in the Upper Green. Because this young bear, weighing in at 420 pounds, hadn’t had a history of getting in trouble, it was moved to Park County and released near the Montana border, according to Mark Bruscino of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

On Monday, wildlife officials caught and killed a grizzly bear on a calf carcass. This bear had a history of involvement in livestock depredations in the Upper Green and had been moved from the area, only to return and kill again, Bruscino said.

Bruscino said with Monday’s killing of a bear, control efforts on grizzlies have ended unless other problems arise.

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Aug 24

Kennan-area wolf pack decimated

Kennan-area wolf pack decimated

DNR says a record number were killed; farmer says pack will still be a problem

Ryan Stutzman
THE-BEE

Wildlife officials killed an unprecedented number of wolves on a Kennan-area farm earlier this month.

Eight animals were trapped and shot, and two were shot from long range in an area where wolf depredations were becoming common, DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven said. Those numbers exceed kill totals from any single location in the recent history of wolf management in Wisconsin.

During the past several months, at least two dogs and one heifer have been attacked by the so-called Skinner Creek pack, named for the area it inhabits. All of the dead wolves are from that pack, Wydeven said. Seven of the dead wolves are pups, he added.

One more wolf pup was found near the trapping area dead from a gunshot wound. Officials suspect the animal was shot by a poacher or errant coyote hunter. Wydeven said an investigation is unlikely because the animal does not appear to be a full-blooded wolf.

Several of the Skinner Creek animals might be cross-bred with domestic dogs, he said.

Wolves are protected under state and federal law, but wildlife officials have had the authority to kill some wolves in depredation cases since 2003.

Dog-wolf hybrids are considered to be a stain in the population’s genetic pool and are typically more aggressive than their full-blooded counterparts. If it is certain that an animal is a hybrid, the DNR has more liberty to act.

“Some of them have very obvious dog characteristics,” Wydeven said of the specimens from the Skinner Creek pack. “We would want to eliminate a pack like that from the wild.”

But the pack has not been eliminated. The trapper in the case reported seeing at least one more adult wolf at large in the area, and three pups that were captured before Aug. 1 were released with ear tags (Aug. 1 is a benchmark date under federal wildlife rules).

Wydeven said the pups, each of which weighs approximately 30 pounds, have a good chance of survival if they reconnect with one of the pack’s adult survivors.

Wildlife authorities ended their activities in the area Aug. 12 and will not return unless there is another depredation. Trapping began on July 29.

The pack has been a problem in the area because it was using farm fields as rendezvous points. It learned to kill livestock and was very aggressive to barnyard dogs.

“They were starting to consider it their territory,” and considered other canines to be trespassers, Wydeven said.

The pack’s boldness is part of the reason so many were caught and killed, he said.

The total number of wolves trapped at the Kennan site (11) also exceeds the previous record for any one location in the state (nine wolves were trapped at a site in Burnett County and released elsewhere several years ago, before officials had the authority to kill problem wolves).

Terry Wanish farms the land on County Highway J, approximately three miles north of the village of Kennan, where the wolves were killed. He said they have been gathering in his fields once or twice a month for several years. He lost a 1,100-pound heifer to the pack before the trapping started.

Even after 11 wolves were removed from the area, Wanish said he’s not confident his wolf troubles are over.

“(I) watched seven of them in a field after the trappers were done,” he said Monday. “There are lots of big ones left.”

The dead wolves will be sent to two Madison-area labs for genetic analysis and other tests. Among other things, the tests will show whether and to what extent the animals are crossed with domestic dogs. The results will be available in approximately five to six weeks.

The precise lineage of dog-wolf hybrids is difficult to trace. Wydeven said verified wolf-dog breeding encounters – not initiated by humans – are extremely rare. He said in most cases, dog-wolf hybrids are products of human design.

It is illegal to intentionally breed a full-blooded wolf with a hybrid wolf or a dog in Wisconsin, but hybrids can be imported.

When hybrids escape or are released, they sometimes join a wolf pack, Wydeven said.

Wolf activities elsewhere in Price County

In related news, two full-blooded wolves from a different pack were trapped and killed earlier this summer on Ed Jasurda’s home farm in the town of Worcester.

Jasurda’s 14-year-old dog survived a wolf attack in May, and wildlife authorities started trapping there shortly thereafter. Wydeven said the two wolves – a male and a female – are believed to have been the only animals in the Musser Creek pack.

Trapping was attempted in an area south of Catawba recently for animals in the Green Creek pack, which are thought to be responsible for livestock depredation there. That attempt did not yield any wolves, Wydeven said.

The DNR attempted live-trapping in the Kimberly Clark Wildlife Area northwest of Phillips in late July but was unsuccessful. Those wolves would have been released with radio-tracking collars.

Statewide

In the state of Wisconsin, wildlife authorities have killed 16 full-blooded wolves this year, not including nine Skinner Creek animals that are thought to be hybrids. The 16 wolves include the two in the Musser Creek pack and one from the Kennan site.

There have been 39 wolf-depredation incidents statewide this year, including eight in Price County. That comprises verified occasions when a pet or livestock were killed or injured by wolves. Some of those incidents comprise multiple livestock depredations on single sites.

Twenty-two Wisconsin farms have had verified depredation incidents this year. There are also many farmers who have reported wolves stalking herds without actually attacking.

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