Dec 30

MT: Wolf sightings rise

Wolf sightings rise

By SONJA LEE

Tribune Staff Writer

Wildlife officials suspect two or three new wolf packs may be spending time in the Helena area, while in areas of northwest Montana the wolf population is relatively stable.

In September, federal officials estimated that at least 166 wolves in about 36 packs inhabit Montana. Of those, about 93 wolves in 18 packs make their home in the northwest Montana federal wolf recovery area.

The number of wolves in Flathead, Lincoln, Lake and Sanders counties has remained fairly constant. A couple new packs may be spending time in Powell, Lewis and Clark and northern Jefferson counties.

For the last two years, steps have been taken to remove federal protections for wolves. In June, federal wildlife officials turned over most wolf management responsibilities to the state.

With the state’s increased role in managing wolves, there is more intense focus on Montana’s wolf population. The state is monitoring populations and doing research and public outreach, said Carolyn Sime, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wolf coordinator. The state also is working with landowners involved in wolf conflicts.

Hunters see more

There also has been an increase in reported wolf sightings, Sime said. The state’s online reporting system was unveiled shortly before hunting season opened, and hunters have provided a wealth of information, she said.

“We’ve gotten reports of wolves in several new areas, and now we can spend more time looking in those areas,” she said.

Many reports came from hunters in the Helena area. Wildlife officials believe a new pack may be spending time between Flesher Pass and Highway 12. In November a vehicle hit and killed a gray wolf on Highway 200 east of Lincoln.

Ron Ingersoll, who ranches on land along Highway 200, said relatives spotted a wolf on Rogers Pass. During the last weekend of hunting season, hunters using some of Ingersoll’s land along the Continental Divide also reported wolf tracks.

Reports of wolves north of Highway 200 along the Scapegoat and Dearborn and in the Blackfoot Valley also were made, Sime said.

Wolves from the Red Shale wolf pack, which frequents the North Fork of the Sun River drainage, were reported at the Augusta Ranger Station, she said.

Rocky Mountain Front District Ranger Mike Muñoz said hunters reported hearing wolves, but there have been no sightings.

And wolves in the Bob Marshall Wilderness are known for keeping a low profile.

“South of there along the Rocky Mountain Front, it’s possible we could have wolves, but we haven’t received any hot reports,” Sime said.

There are no known packs on the east Front. The Sawtooth pack was killed in 1996 because of repeated livestock kills.

None on the Front

The northwest Montana wolf recovery area was naturally recolonized by wolves crossing from Canada, Sime said. In 1995 and 1996 wildlife officials reintroduced wolves into central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone area.

Northwest Montana’s wolf population is somewhat unique, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“In northwest Montana we had wolves coming back in the early ’80s from Canada,” he said.

It’s also one of the toughest habitats for wolves.

Wolves from northwest Montana disperse into Canada, where there is a liberal hunting season, Bangs said.

Yellowstone and central Idaho include large, remote pieces of public lands inhabited with deer and elk. But the Bob Marshall, for example, isn’t home to a year-round ungulate population.

Just because wolves are spotted in an area does not mean a new pack is establishing itself there, Bangs said. A lone wolf uses about 1,500 square miles. Tracks are easily spotted because wolves typically travel along trails, just like hunters.

“The wolf population in Montana is going to be west of the Divide,” he said.

Two wolf dens, one in Glacier National Park and another on the Blackfeet Reservation, were found in the mid-80s. The wolf population in Montana grew by about 22 percent annually until 1997.

“Then it just flattened out,” Bangs said. “We had a bad winter kill and the deer population tanked.”

There are limits

The deer population bounced back, but Bangs doesn’t expect northwest Montana to ever support more than about 100 wolves.

“The wolf population increases by wolves being in other places,” he said.

That makes some ranchers on the fringes of wolf country nervous.

Ingersoll said he isn’t too excited about wolves traipsing across his property. He said grizzly bears mind their own business more than wolves.

“Wolves were a problem years ago, that’s why they got rid of them,” he said.

Don Converse, whose home base is four miles west of Augusta, said he suspects wolves soon will cross into the Dearborn. He regularly sees lone wolves pass through his property north of Nilan Reservoir. His concern is female wolves and packs.

“I’m absolutely terrified,” he said.

He doesn’t think a compensation program will be effective. Livestock owners argue that in many cases they are unable to prove a wolf kill.

“When my cows are up in the mountains, I don’t see them,” he said. “And a wolf will just skin a calf.”

In most cases livestock owners are reimbursed for their losses. Defenders of Wildlife, a private, nonprofit group, currently offers compensation for wolf-caused livestock damages and losses.

Defenders of Wildlife has compensated 431 ranchers a total of $543,905 since 1987 for livestock losses caused by wolves.

In an equally large number of cases the troublesome wolf is found and killed. Entire packs have been killed on a handful of occasions because of run-ins with livestock.

Wolves in northwest Montana also have recently stayed out of trouble. In the last 18 years, wolves in northwest Montana killed an estimated 140 cattle and 89 sheep. In the Greater Yellowstone area, by comparison, wolves killed 211 cattle and 719 sheep.

Biologists believe the large whitetail deer population in western Montana has kept livestock kills low.

Still endangered

The wolf remains an endangered species, one that is protected by federal regulations.

The wolf population has been “biologically” recovered for two years. However, delisting, or removing federal protections, is delayed because Wyoming hasn’t come up with a federally accepted wolf management plan. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming all must have accepted plans before wolves are delisted.

There are about 835 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

When the wolf is taken off the endangered species list, livestock owners will have more options in dealing with the carnivores. The state will manage wolves, much like it manages black bears or mountain lions. Eventually, there could, for example, be a regulated wolf hunt.

The state also has developed its own reimbursement plan. Prevention programs would be funded with federal, private and state sources.

Montana the alpha state

For the last six months, the state government has managed Montana’s wolf population.

Both Montana and Idaho are requesting the federal government separate them from Wyoming, to speed up potential delisting.

In the interim, however, the state is doing a good job on wolf management, Bangs said.

There are six, full-time people now dedicated to wolf management in Montana. That compares with three federal employees in the past. State employees are based in Bozeman, Dillon, Red Lodge, Kalispell and Helena to work on wolf issues.

Earlier this year, the state took steps to better document the number of wolves in Montana.

There has been a distribution shift in the wolf population, Sime said. Wolf numbers in Yellowstone are declining for a variety of reasons. Entire packs have been killed in some areas because of livestock conflicts.

Funding for wolf management is covered primarily with federal dollars.

The state also is using some of the federal money for services at a Bozeman wildlife laboratory. Wildlife managers also are monitoring big game populations to note the effects of a growing wolf population.

“By and large there have been a few bumps on the road, but we have had a very successful year,” Sime said.

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Dec 30

Idaho, Montana to allow hunting gray wolves

Idaho, Montana to allow hunting gray wolves

Bush administration to sign accord giving those states more control

SALMON, Idaho – The image of a wolf howling at the moon has long embodied the American West, but that romantic symbol is about to get a taste of harsh reality in Idaho and Montana.

Next week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton is expected to sign an agreement that would place management of an estimated 900 gray wolves in the greater Yellowstone area into state, rather than federal, hands.

Different groups, including hunters and livestock producers, pressured state officials to give them greater control. State officials then asked Washington to make the change.

The agreement would give ranchers permission to eliminate wolves that harass livestock. It also would empower state wildlife managers to pick off wolf packs that make a dent in the states deer and elk populations.

Though both Idaho and Montana have approved plans, neighboring Wyoming does not. Wyoming is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency over the rejection of its plan, which would allow unregulated hunting of wolves outside of national parks and designated wilderness areas.

Up from 35 decade ago

The wolfs revival in Idaho started a decade ago when officials released 35 wolves into central Idaho. Their numbers have grown steadily since then.

Federal rules have carefully prescribed when ranchers could act against wolves, requiring ranchers to catch wolves attacking or eating livestock before they could kill them.

The new rules will give locals more latitude, but some residents would like see an even greater offensive against the animal.

Ron Gillett, head of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, wants to immediately remove them by whatever means are necessary.

They kill everything, all of the game first, then the predators, then each other, he said, adding that they are outsiders.

These are Canadian wolves, Gillett said, referring to the fact that they were reintroduced from Canada. The only place they belong in Idaho is in a zoo, neutered.

Expert counters critics

Wildlife biologists say wolves roamed Idaho long before the regions settlement and the threatened species was hunted to near-extinction before strong nationwide support prompted its reintroduction to the American West.

Carter Niemeyer, self-described educator, peacemaker, moderator and referee on wolves for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Boise, said studies show that the numbers of livestock and game killed by wolves are low.

But I know they dont want to let facts get in their way, he said of anti-wolf activists.

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Dec 29

Latvia calls for Wolf Man

Latvia calls for Wolf Man

THE “Wolf Man of Combe Martin” has come in from the cold as living with wolves gives way to more challenges in the wilds of Latvia.

Wolf behaviour expert Shaun Ellis has spent the best part of a year as “surrogate wolf,” living alongside timber wolves Tamaska, Yana and Matsi at Combe Martin Wildlife Park.

While he educated them in the ways of the pack, they taught him, too – but now the knowledge is to be taken into the wilds once more.

Shaun and business partner Angela Curtis are taking the skill and expertise of their company, Wolf Pack Management, to Latvia in the New Year, to work in an advisory role on a wolf research and release project. They were recruited by biologist Dr Nigel Miles, who contacted Shaun and Angela after becoming interested in their work. Together with Latvian and international biologists, in conjunction with the local branch of the World Wildlife Fund, they will be creating a new release and education programme.

“It is all about eco-tourism,” explained Shaun. “People out there are still poor and wolves are often hunted, but the notion of tourism is now being introduced. It’s about trying to introduce what we do here in North Devon to Latvia.”

Shaun and Angela will assist the project in many ways, including using their knowledge to influence the behaviour of the Latvian packs and minimise conflict with humans.

Angela continued: “We will be helping to establish an information centre, similar to what we have here. We’ll also be conducting seminars, guided walks and training people in wolf behaviour.”

The project is another example of how interest has grown since wolves arrived in Combe Martin. Shaun’s second book, Spirit of the Wolf, is being released in the new year and is an illustrated tome covering behaviour, pack structure, breeding, hunting and more.

Work with the three youngest members of the nine wolves at the park continues, but he has “demoted” himself to the rank of omega, traditionally thought of as the whipping boy of the pack, but an animal Shaun believes plays a specialist role.

“An omega can help to diffuse situations in a pack. We have seen how much calmer the wolves are when they have something to vent their tension on, but they don’t do it in a way which would cause injury and the omega is often left the choicer pieces of food. This role is opening up more avenues of research,” he said.

Following international recognition, more than one film documentary is in the pipeline, too. Angela and Shaun are set to join forces with Bristol-based Aquavita Films for a chronicle of both his work in Combe Martin and covering a trip to Poland where they hope to help a farmer experiencing problems with wolves. Although winter has closed the park, people can still see the wolves by signing up for a Wolf Encounter or even joining a canine behavioural course. The opportunity to “Shadow a Keeper” for a day could be an ideal gift, working alongside Shaun, Angela and the wolves! To find out more, contact Wolf Pack Management on 07958 525014.

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Dec 29

Finland: Several wolf sightings confirmed 50km from Finnish capital

Several wolf sightings confirmed 50km from Finnish capital

Finnish wildlife authorities told the Finnish News Agency (STT) on Thursday that several wolves had been active in Uusimaa, the country’s most densely populated province.

In Nummi-Pusula alone, a municipality about 50km from the Helsinki metropolitan area, five wolf reports have been confirmed by the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (RKTL) in November and December, including that of a deer carcass half eaten by two large wolves.

The Finnish government is in the process of reviewing its wolf population management policy after the European Commission in September initiated legal action against Finland, claiming wolf hunting licences had been issued too easily.

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Dec 29

WY: Couple still relives wolf encounter

Couple still relives wolf encounter

By WHITNEY ROYSTER
Star-Tribune environmental reporter

JACKSON — Half a year later, Allen Hicks is still a celebrity.

Since July 4, when Hicks, companion Pegg Olson and their dog, Moby, inadvertently walked into a wolf rendezvous site, Hicks has been telling — and retelling — his story.

The last time he told it? The day before this interview.

“It’s been crazy,” he said.

While hiking on the Bridger-Teton National Forest last summer, Olson saw wolf pups on a hillside.

Trouble began when the alpha male arrived.

“He was a very, very, very aggressive animal,” Hicks said just days after the incident. “He would not back off of us. He chased us for probably two miles. At one point he was probably 10 or 12 foot away from us.”

Hicks and Olson were followed out of the area by the male wolf, while Hicks brandished an old utility pole he found and Olson gripped the dog’s collar.

Officials say it was “typical wolf behavior,” where the alpha “escorted” the group out of the area of the pups. They also said the dog likely provoked such an extreme reaction because wolves see dogs as a threat.

Since the story appeared in the Casper Star-Tribune, Hicks has received a steady stream of e-mails and phone calls from around the country. A media outlet in Scotland has been in touch with him to tell his story.

Hicks is happy to talk about the encounter, and said most people are “sympathetic” with his experience. Some, though, challenge him, asking why he was in the forest and why he was hiking in wolf country.

Sometimes, he said, he checks the caller ID on the phone and answers with caution if it’s a number he doesn’t recognize — a sign he might have to recount the story.

Has the incident changed his opinion on wolf reintroduction? No.

“I wasn’t for it, they’re here, I’ve accepted it,” Hicks said. “I don’t want them around me anymore. That one time was just about enough.”

YearTracker

* What happened in 2005: Two Jacksonites walked into a wolf rendezvous site, provoking an extreme reaction.

* Where things stand: Allen Hicks still receives calls and e-mails from people interested in hearing his story.

* Coming in 2006: More possible public and media attention for the couple.

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Dec 29

Idaho ranchers can kill wolves harassing livestock

Idaho ranchers can kill wolves harassing livestock

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) – The image of a wolf howling at the moon has long embodied the American West, but that romantic symbol is about to get a taste of harsh reality in Idaho.

Next week, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton are expected to sign an agreement that would place management of an estimated 500 gray wolves into state, rather than federal, hands.

Different Idaho groups, including hunters and livestock producers, pressured state officials to give them greater control. Officials in Boise then asked Washington to make the change.

The agreement would give ranchers permission to eliminate wolves that harass livestock. It also would empower state wildlife managers to pick off wolf packs that make a dent in the state’s deer and elk populations.

The wolf’s revival in Idaho started a decade ago when officials released 35 wolves into central Idaho. Their numbers have grown steadily since then.

Federal rules have carefully prescribed when ranchers could act against wolves, requiring ranchers to catch wolves attacking or eating livestock before they could kill them.

The new Idaho rules will give locals more latitude, but some residents would like see an even greater offensive against the animal.

Ron Gillett, head of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, wants to “immediately remove them by whatever means are necessary.”

“They kill everything, all of the game first, then the predators, then each other,” he said, adding that they are outsiders.

“These are Canadian wolves,” Gillett said. “The only place they belong in Idaho is in a zoo, neutered.”

Wildlife biologists say wolves roamed Idaho long before the region’s settlement and the threatened species was hunted to near-extinction before strong nationwide support prompted its reintroduction to the American West.

Carter Niemeyer, self-described “educator, peacemaker, moderator and referee on wolves” for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Boise, said studies show that the numbers of livestock and game killed by wolves are low. “But I know they don’t want to let facts get in their way,” he said of anti-wolf activists.

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Dec 29

ID: Wolves still face antagonism in West

Wolves still face antagonism in West

By JULIE CART
Los Angeles Times

BOISE, Idaho — Since the first captured Canadian gray wolves bounded out of their cages 10 years ago and disappeared into the trees, the animals that once were hunted to near extinction throughout the West have become a rare success story for the Endangered Species Act. Thanks, in part, to strict federal protection, today nearly 900 wolves roam in scores of packs across their historic range.

The wolf’s comeback is all the more remarkable given the hatred that heralded their reintroduction, followed by a campaign of shooting and poisoning that continues today. There is still so much local antagonism that federal wildlife managers are hesitant to remove wolves from the endangered species list, even though the population is many times greater than required to delist.

Of all the recent reintroductions of native animals, none has provoked as much opposition as the wolf. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 66 radio-collared wolves into central Idaho and Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. Some wolves immediately were killed by hunters opposed to reintroduction, but most flourished, coming together in the wild to form new and surprisingly resilient packs.

The animals now are scattered across parts of Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, a region where earlier this century the much-reviled predator was hunted for bounty and ranchers tacked wolf skins and skulls to their fences.

But now, as the Fish and Wildlife Service ponders a delisting plan that would turn over management of the wolves to the states, federal officials are balking at plans they fear would allow hunters to exterminate whole packs.

Idaho, home to the largest population of wolves in the West, has been the least welcoming. Officials say hundreds of wolves have been shot, in violation of federal law. A recent spate of poisonings has not only killed wolves, but dozens of ranch dogs and family pets that ingested pesticide-laced meatballs left along wildlife trails, state wildlife managers say.

Idaho’s anti-wolf crusade is expected to reach a crescendo in coming weeks with the federal trial of Tim Sundles, an ammunition maker from Carmen, a rural town of 600 in northeast Idaho. He is charged with attempting to poison wolves in the Salmon National Forest last winter, and placing a pesticide on federal land without permission, both misdemeanors.

Sundles, 47, operates an anti-wolf Web site that provides detailed instructions on how to “successfully poison a wolf.” In a recent interview, however, Sundles said he is innocent of the attempted poisoning charge and decried the law-enforcement search of his home as a “Gestapo-style raid” by “an out-of-control federal agency.”

Sundles dismisses the poisoning of pets as “collateral damage” and blasts federal wildlife managers for “dumping” wolves in the state.

“I’m shocked that human blood hasn’t been spilled on this issue,” Sundles said in an interview. “I’m surprised there hasn’t been a gunfight. I’m surprised that the feds who’ve done this haven’t been hunted down and killed,” he said of the reintroduction of the wolves.

Sundles is the latest face of Idaho’s campaign to eradicate wolves from the state. Ron Gillett is another.

“Let me tell you something. We will get rid of these wolves, one way or another,” Gillette said, his index finger stabbing the air, during a recent interview in Lakefield, a hamlet east of Boise.

“We are law-abiding citizens. We will try it legally. But I’m not going to live with no elk, no deer, no big horn sheep and no goats, just because some environmentalist some place wants to hear a wolf howl. No. You either give up or move over, because we are going to run over you. No compromise. No negotiation. No Canadian wolves in Idaho.”

But Steve Nadeau, wolf coordinator for Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game, said the state’s elk population has been stable for years. This year “has been a banner year for elk and deer. Really good hunting,” he said.

Nadeau estimated that wolves are responsible for about 1 percent of elk deaths in Idaho. According to many wolf biologists, hunters aren’t seeing as many elk because wolves are driving them into higher country, which is less accessible to humans.In Idaho, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that only 35 percent of sheep deaths are attributable to predators, with wolves accountable for only 0.4 percent of sheep kills by predators. The data indicates that domestic dogs are responsible for nearly 20 times more sheep kills than wolves.

The same numbers hold true for cattle, where wolves are responsible for 0.6 percent of predator kills.

As far as the threat to humans, a 2002 study by Alaska wildlife officials found that there have been only a handful of documented wolf attacks on humans in North America since the 1800s. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police suspect wolves in a fatal attack on a man in Saskatchewan last month. If true, it would be the first such recorded death in 100 years, according to the Alaska study.

Fears about wolves aren’t borne out by the facts, insists Suzanne Stone, of the group Defenders of Wildlife.

“It’s almost impossible to discuss it rationally,” Stone said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with logic or reason, it’s so steeped in myth. And this mythical wolf really doesn’t exist.”

Stone runs the Defenders’ compensation program, which has paid more than a half-million dollars in the region since 1987, she said. In many cases, the compensation has not softened the attitudes of ranchers who have lost livestock.

Sheep and cattle rancher Mick Carlson said he has lost some 300 animals on his ranch along the Salmon River to wolves in the last two years and has been compensated for most of them by Defenders. Yet he said he would not hesitate to use lethal methods to stop one.

“I live in a small town of about 400 people,” said Carlson, 70. “I guess you could talk to any man in town, and he’d shoot a wolf on sight.”

Wolf biologists say that 90 percent of documented wolf kills are at the hands of humans.

Some are done legally, when, for example, a wolf pack habitually attacks livestock. But most wolf killing is not legal, and federal agents who investigate rarely find enough evidence to bring charges.

“These are, without a doubt, the most difficult cases I’ve ever worked on. It’s been extremely frustrating at times,” said Craig Tabor, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s lead law enforcement agent in Idaho. He and his agents put together the Sundles case — the rare instance, the agents said, where evidence was available.

A statewide tip line offering a $5,000 reward for assistance in wildlife cases has received one wolf tip call in four years. That came in an incident where a hunter killed a wolf, cut off its tail and bragged about the conquest to so many people that authorities required little help to make a case.

Officials hope that once wolves are removed from the endangered species list and even legally hunted, some of the anger here will dissipate. But there is also a fear that delisting could lead to the sort of unregulated hunting that all-but-erased wolves from the West.

“I have spent a career presenting facts on deaf ears,” said Carter Niemeyer, Fish and Wildlife’s wolf coordinator based in Boise, who spends much of his time trying to debunk myths about wolves.

“It’s like Groundhog Day: You get up in the morning and start all over again. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to retiring. I’m spinning my wheels.”

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Dec 28

Finland: Finnish government plans shift to prevention in wolf policy

Finnish government plans shift to prevention in wolf policy

Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said in a statement Wednesday that the government should prevent rather than remunerate for livestock losses caused by wolves.

The ministry’s wolf population management plan, undergoing preparation, suggests measures such as wolf fences, sealing-off lines and electrified pens.

The plan also outlines the government’s wolf population monitoring and hunting supervision policy.

The document is to be sent to the European Commission, which in September brought an action against the Finnish government, accusing it of issuing wolf hunting permits too easily.

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Dec 28

WY: Bogus Freudenthal quotes end up in L.A. Times

Bogus Freudenthal quotes end up in L.A. Times

By JEFF GEARINO
Star-Tribune staff writer

No, Gov. Dave Freudenthal really didn’t tell the federal government to go to hell or say that wolves are “federal dogs” in Wyoming, despite what a major national newspaper told its readers Tuesday.

“Oh, boy, that never happened,” the governor’s press secretary, Lara Azar, said Tuesday afternoon.

What started out as a bogus news release written as an April Fool’s joke by Afton outfitter Maury Jones has turned up as fact in the media — unfortunately, for the second time, according to Azar.

“How long is that April Fool’s joke going to keep going?” Jones laughingly said in a phone interview. “I never thought I’d get this kind of reaction. But it’s got some legs.”

On its front page Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times wrote about continuing resistance to wolves in the greater Yellowstone area. Staff writer Julie Cart quoted from Jones’ tongue-in-cheek release titled “Wyoming Governor tells feds to go to Hell.”

“In Wyoming, for example, Gov. Dave Freudenthal last April decreed that the (Endangered Species Act) is no longer in force and that the state ‘now considers the wolf as a federal dog’ unworthy of protection,” Cart wrote.

Jones’ e-mail included other made-up quotes from Freudenthal in reaction to the federal courts dismissing Wyoming’s lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the state’s wolf management plan. Jones said he sent the e-mail to friends as a joke and has no idea how it ended up becoming “fact.”

“Apparently, (the news release) made the e-mail rounds … but it was (certainly) not generated by this office,” Azar stressed.

“We had another paper that ran the whole thing almost (verbatim) … and we finally got that paper to retract it,” Azar said. “We’ve contacted this reporter and asked them to correct the mistake.”

Los Angeles Times deputy metro editor David Lauter called the error unfortunate. “We hate when this kind of thing happens, and we correct it as quickly as we can,” he said.

“The reporter saw it on the Internet and had talked to the governor in the past, so she was familiar enough with the way he talks and writes that she thought it sounded authentic and she didn’t check, which she should have,” Lauter said.

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Dec 28

NV: Despite extinction rumors, gray wolf remains protected

Despite extinction rumors, gray wolf remains protected

Scott Sonner
Associated Press

RENO – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is refusing to take the gray wolf off the list of endangered species in Nevada, even though agency biologists acknowledge the animals have been extinct in the state for decades.

In fact, while the University of Nevada’s athletic teams are nicknamed the Wolf Pack, there’s general agreement that the mountains and high desert valleys that boast mountain lions, black bears and bighorn sheep haven’t been home to more than a handful of wolves for centuries.

The Nevada Division of Wildlife petitioned the federal agency to delist the wolf in Nevada, primarily to give the state more options to manage the wolf population in case the carnivores wander here after being reintroduced elsewhere.

In rejecting the petition earlier this month, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the Endangered Species Act makes it clear a species cannot be removed from the protected list unless it’s documented the animal was listed in error and that either the species never existed or could not exist in an area because of unsuitable habitat.

“We agree with NDOW, that wolves never were abundant in the state, that there is limited habitat available for wolves in the state and that there probably never was a self-sustaining wolf population here,” said Jody Brown, the federal agency’s deputy field director for Nevada.

“So we don’t dispute that there weren’t high numbers historically. But that’s not enough to say they never did exist or never could exist,” she told The Associated Press.

Defenders of the wolf point to several American Indian tribes in Nevada who feature wolves in many of their stories and celebrations as evidence they must have once been a significant presence.

And despite the arid nature of most of the state, conservationists say there are significant parts of Nevada that someday could again support the creatures that once stretched across most of North America.

Neither federal nor state officials are sure the last time a gray wolf was confirmed in Nevada. In recent years, some ranchers in northeast Nevada claimed to have seen wolves, but they may have been coyotes.

State officials point to “Mammals of Nevada” – a book by E. Raymond Hall first published in 1946 – as the most authoritative source on the topic.

It confirms a sighting in extreme northwest Nevada in 1941 by Fred Vogel.

Vogel had worked for the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey killing wolves in the Great Plains and later killing coyotes in Nevada and therefore was presumed to be “competent to distinguish the northern wolf from the coyote,” Hall wrote.

Vogel knew of only one wolf killed in all his time in Nevada. In 1916 or 1917 he saw the skin of one trapped near Little High Rock Canyon in the Black Rock Desert, the book said.

Wolf sightings were more frequent in northeast Nevada, although still rare. One was killed in 1922 at Gold Creek in Elko County and a state trapper caught one near Mountain City in 1923.

In 1941, animal control officers reported that only six wolves had been taken in Nevada in the previous two years – three in Elko County, one near Eureka, one in White Pine County and one north of Reno near the California border.

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