Jan 31

ID: Wolves spreading across Bitterroot Valley

Wolves spreading across Bitterroot Valley

By PERRY BACKUS of the Missoulian

If you live or recreate in the Bitterroot, Liz Bradley could use your eyes and ears.

The state wolf management specialist is charged with keeping track of 15 known wolf packs that roam in an area that runs from Ninemile down through the Bitterroot to Dillon and over to Deer Lodge. And that’s not to mention all the new wolves that seem to be cropping up these days.

The public is definitely going to play a big part in helping us in tracking wolves, said Bradley. The information that they can provide is very helpful for us.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks began managing wolves in earnest in 2004 after reaching an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to carry out most of the state’s federally approved management plan. Federal funding pays for the state’s wolf management coordinator based in Helena and four wolf specialists, like Bradley, working around the state.

Nearly half of the packs that Bradley tracks are found in or around the Bitterroot Valley. With its close proximity to the Idaho border, Bradley says the area will likely see other wolves dispersing through the area.

There are a lot of wolves in Idaho right now, she said. The density is something like 500 to 600 ` we’re probably going to see new wolves showing up from Horse Prairie all the way to Superior and De Borgia. It’s the same thing that we saw out of Yellowstone.

The public can help by reporting sightings either by filing a wolf sighting card available at U.S. Forest Service and Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices or by filling out a report on the state’s wolf Web site at http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf/default.html. The state is looking for all kinds of information which can run the gamut from the description of wolves spotted by people to track sightings to reports of wolves howling.

We can really glean quite a bit of information from these sightings, Bradley said.

The seven wolf packs that range through the Bitterroot Valley include the:

Big Hole Pack – The Big Hole Pack splits its time between Montana and Idaho in the Lolo Pass area in the vicinity of the cross-country ski area. As of last summer, the pack included one of the few remaining wolves included in the original reintroductions into Idaho.

B-7 is one of the few original wolves still alive, said Bradley. It may be as old as 12 ` that makes it an ancient wolf. Bradley said B-7 was spotted last summer.

The pack initially dispersed into the Big Hole Valley and its original name stuck. At the end of 2005, the pack size was estimated to be nine wolves, which included at least four adults and two pups. The pack was counted as a breeding pair for Montana since it denned in the state last year. Bradley said it sometimes dens in Idaho.

South Brooks Creek Pack – This pack uses the territory once claimed by the Bass Creek Pack, which was removed in 1998. It ranges between Bass Creek south to Fred Burr Creek. The pack size is estimated at four wolves. So far, Bradley said there’s not been any evidence of reproduction. One wolf in the pack was radio collared in April.

This is the first year that they’ve shown up on the radar screen, said Bradley.

Lake Como Pack – This pack is still a bit of mystery.

The pack was first spotted in 2002, but then it dropped out of sight until last year when a Forest Service biologist documented three wolves. Bradley believes the pack ranges between Lake Como and Tin Cup Creek. So far, attempts to get a radio collar in the pack have been unsuccessful.

We really don’t know too much about them, said Bradley. The public could really help by filling out sightings cards or providing us with information through our Web site.

Sula Pack – The Sula Pack runs a relatively small territory in the Lost Trail Pass area.

They don’t seem to go into the West Fork drainage or much farther than Pickett Creek or as far as Ditch Creek, said Bradley.

The pack had a litter of five pups this past summer, at least two of which have survived. At one point, researchers counted 10 wolves in the pack, but it’s since dropped to seven.

Some may have dispersed or died, she said.

Painted Rock Pack – This pack once contained a radio-collared female from Idaho. That wolf has since died and researchers haven’t been able to get another collar out.

Bradley estimates that there are at least four wolves in the pack, including two adults and two pups.

The wolves travel between the Nez Perce drainage between Blue Joint and Hughes creeks.

Skalkaho Pass Pack – There actually could be two packs working this area, said Bradley.

We’ve only been able to confirm one so far, she said. The area they travel is large enough to support two packs. It’s just that everyone sees a lot of grays.

Wolf activity has been reported in the foothills east of Hamilton clear to the East Fork.

A local biologist recently counted six wolves. Right now, none are collared.

Sapphire Pack – This pack mainly ranges over the eastern side of the Sapphire Mountains, although they do make occasional forays into the head of Skalkaho Pass. They travel as far south as Copper Creek and as far north as the main stem of Rock Creek.

The pack is a large one with 13 wolves, one of which is radio collared. There are 12 black wolves and one gray and at least four pups.

Under new rules set last year, people can now harass any wolves they might encounter. Bradley encourages them to do just that.

We encourage people to scare them off any time they see them, she said. It’s good for the wolves and it’s good for people, too. We want to create boundaries that wolves will respect over time.

There’s a lot of development going on in the Bitterroot right now. We don’t want wolves in people’s backyards, said Bradley. Any kind of loud noises or yelling will do it.

This time of the year wolves can be particularly hard on dogs.

Wolves are beginning to breed right now and are very territorial, Bradley said.

If people are seeing wolves, we encourage them to be very careful with their dogs, she said. It’s a good idea to keep them in at night.

Howl ‘em up

If you’ve seen or heard a wolf, you can report sightings either by filing a wolf sighting card available at U.S. Forest Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices or on the state’s wolf Web site at http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf/default.html.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 30

NC: Elusive wolf caught; trap in field off Price Road pays off

Elusive wolf caught; trap in field off Price Road pays off

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A nine-day run of freedom for a young red wolf came to an end Saturday morning.

The elusive wolf is back at Dan Nicholas Park in a locked kennel, inside a locked building.

And he’s likely to be on his way back to Asheville early next week to rejoin his family at the Western Carolina Nature Center. On the endangered and protected list, the wolf is one of fewer than 300 red wolves in the world.

“He hasn’t lost an ounce. He may have gained weight,” said Bob Pendergrass, supervisor of the Nature Center where the wolf escaped on Jan 19 only minutes after being placed in a new habitat.

Saturday afternoon the wolf was curled up in the corner, recovering from a week on the loose.

Pendergrass joked that the wolf was recovering from “the big shock of waking and and seeing my face.”

As it turned out, the wolf retraced his steps, going back to the spot where he was first seen after his escape  a field off Price Road with a large pecan tree in the middle of it.

“We caught him in the very last trap we set last night (Friday),” Pendergrass said.

John Weller, a red wolf expert with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife division, and Pendergrass set the trap around 12:30 a.m. after realizing the wolf was retracing his path.

Around 8:30 p.m. Friday, a man called Pendergrass to report he saw the wolf on Poole Road. As Weller and Pendergrass drove along Poole Road, they spotted the man waiting with his emergency lights flashing.

The wolf walked out in the road, less than 6 feet away and stood around for several seconds, and then moved on.

Anticipating he would return to the Price Road spot where he had apparently found food before, they set a trap under the large pecan tree. The bait consisted of road kill deer meat and a special scent elixir that has a pungent aroma similar to a skunk.

Around 8 a.m. Saturday, Pendergrass checked the trap and found it was gone.

The leg traps are tied to a drag, rather than secured to a stake or tree.

“I knew we had caught something.” said Pendergrass. He began trailing the drag, which went through bushes along Agner Road.

Pendergrass could hear dogs barking, and he briefly feared that he had caught a dog in the trap.

Pendergrass had to claw his way into a thicket to find the trap.

“I looked in the thicket and the wolf was looking back at me,” Pendergrass said.

The plan all along was once the wolf was trapped to catch it in a net to avoid using a tranqilizer dart.

There was no way to use a net in the thicket.

Pendergrass was by himself and facing a not-too-happy wolf.

He used the tranquilizer dart, then crawled in on hands and kneees to get close. As a precaution, he took his jacket off and placed it under the wolf to prevent loss of body heat and to prevent injury. Using a noose pole, Pendergrass carefully extracted the wolf from the thicket, loaded him in a kennel.

He made more than a few calls to let folks know the good news.

Although a red wolf can easily cover 40 miles in a day, this young wolf opted to stay near the park and High Rock Lake, crisscrossing the park area over the nine days.

“He never went more than three miles in any direction. His scent was there and he kept covering the same territory.

Back at Dan Nicholas Park, the wolf is on a menu of Science Diet Pro formula dog food.

Pendergrass expressed his appreciation to the park staffers who essentially worked a second job as volunteers. They included Mike Lambert, Dave Jones, Megan Miller, Gordon Sears and Weller.

Although the wildlife group had inspected the new habitat weeks before the two red wolves arrived from the Western Carolina Nature Center, Pendergrass said the escape is on him. “It’s my respnsibility. No one else,” he said.

It was his first experience with a wolf and it turned out be be a learning exprience. “They can bounce off the walls. This wolf wanted to be out. The caging was bad, but we got him back, thanks to the volunteers and the help of the public.”

Throughout the nine days, Pendergrass said his biggest fear was the wolf would become a hood ornament on somebody’s car. They had repeated reports of people coming to a complete stop to keep from hitting the wolf.

He commended the attitude, including property owners in the area who allowed access to their property and allowed traps to be set. “We were never turned down,” said Pendergrass.

During their day job, the park staff has been working on the wolf habitat, making improvements, including adding three strands of electric fencing.

But the wolf Pendergrass dubbed “Red Rover” won’t get to check it out.

Park officials and officials at the Western Carolina Nature Center have decided the wolf should go back to the Asheville Center with this parents and siblings.

“Talking to groups working with red wolves, the fact he was away from his parents and he’s so young may have been why he freaked out,” said Pendergrass. “Since he’s escaped, he’ll try again.”

And the wolf may be a candidate for the release program, which is reintroducing red wolves in various parts of the country, including eastern North Carolina.

Park officials hope to get a pair of older, more sedate, red wolves for the exhibit, which is sponsored by Alcoa.

Pendergrass said the habitat will undergo more modifications and be checked out to the “nth degree” before other wolves arrive.

During a tree planting event at the park early Saturday morning, an announcement of the wolf’s capture drew a hearty round of applause.

Jim Sides, vice chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, attended the tree planting and also visited the Nature Center to check out the headline-grabbing wolf, who was still under the effects of the tranquilizers.

Don Bringle, manager of Dan Nicholas Park, acknowledged that when the wolf first escaped, they were a little concerned about public reaction. They opted to go ahead and make an announcement immediately.

“It’s been an educational experience, and extreme learning process. We owe the public a huge thanks for their help,” Bringle said.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 28

MI: Public comment sought; Wolf plan eyed

Public comment sought; Wolf plan eyed

By JOHN PEPIN, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE – Government officials are soliciting public comment on a new proposal that would grant wildlife officials permits to use lethal means to control wolves damaging livestock and pets in Michigan.

The proposed measures are detailed in a draft environmental assessment developed by Wildlife Services, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“In a nutshell, it would allow the state or Michigan, or U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services to euthanize wolves that are creating wildlife depredation in Michigan,” said Brian Roell, statewide wolf coordinator with the DNR in Marquette.

The agencies are seeking public comment on the draft assessment through Feb. 21. A final document, with a selected action for wolf management, is expected to be available in early March.

Included in the draft plan are a range of options explored for addressing the problem of wolf damage in Michigan, including the preferred alternative which would allow control of wolves found to be responsible for killing or attacking livestock and pets.

Under this alternative, an integrated management program would provide for permits allowing removal of depredating wolves.

If the preferred alternative is ultimately adopted, it would use an integrated approach to the problem including both lethal and non-lethal measures for problem wolves on private and public lands.

“A full range of legal and effective methods would be used to adequately address the damage problem, while minimizing harm to other wildlife, humans, the general wolf population and the environment,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release.

Certain criteria would be established for the permits, outlining when using lethal means would be appropriate, Roell said.

Gray wolves are currently federal endangered species and threatened species under Michigan law. Permits for managing endangered species are provided for under the Endangered Species Act.

Under the wolf damage control program, permits would be issued to the state, with control actions carried out by the DNR or USDA Wildlife Services, acting as an agent of the state.

Other alternatives examined in the draft environmental assessment include a program using only non-lethal control methods; technical assistance from federal agencies and no federal involvement in wolf damage management in Michigan.

Currently, the DNR is only able to use non-lethal means to deal with problem wolves. Some of those means include shellcrackers, sirens and strobe lights.

“Right now, our hands are tied,” Roell said.

Last April, the DNR was granted a federal permit to use lethal control, under certain conditions. That permit would have allowed the DNR to take up to 20 wolves through the end of 2005.

At that time, the DNR pledged to continue to pursue and promote non-lethal techniques for preventing livestock depredation by wolves and retain use the option of killing problem wolves as a last resort.

Some environmental groups oppose the state’s efforts to use lethal control or to take the species from the federal endangered species list.

A federal court ruling in September took back the DNR’s permit privilege to use lethal means. After a month seeking clarification on the ruling, it was determined the state could still use its non-lethal tactics.

The main problem with the DNR permit was that it was included under a permit for Wisconsin wolves. After the judge ruled the Michigan permit should be separate, the DNR applied for its own permit.

Now, the environmental assessment describes the methods to be used, if the DNR is to be re-issued a lethal means permit.

Roell said sometimes euthanizing one wolf causing repeated problems for a given farmer may ultimately lead that farmer to not condemn the entire species, but rather the actions of the individual animal wreaking havoc on his property.

“It’s better for the wolf population as a whole to take care of some of the bad wolves in a given population,” Roell said.

The draft assessment can be viewed at www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf Comments may be E-mailed to PermitsR3ES@fws.gov


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 28

MT: Fontaine leaving wolf post

Fontaine leaving wolf post

By EVE BYRON – IR Staff Writer – 01/28/06

Seventeen years ago, Joe Fontaine was fresh out of the University of Montana, a wildlife biologist managing waterfowl in North Dakota.

He didnt know much about gray wolves, but applied anyway for a job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help with the reintroduction of the endangered species in the Northern Rockies.

I didnt think I had a chance, Fontaine recalled recently. I was about as naïve as you can possibly get. It was like I woke up one day in the thick of everything, dealing with a lot of controversial issues.

But his temperament more than made up for any lack of knowledge about wolves, or the disputes surrounding them, according to his longtime buddy and co-worker Ed Bangs. Bangs is the wolf recovery coordinator the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, and Fontaine was the assistant coordinator.

Joe was the one who had the most apparent skills in dealing with local people and being the guy that knows how to talk to people on the land, Bangs said. Hes just a heck of a nice guy with plenty of common sense. Hes plain spoken and straight-up honest and thats what we needed.

He also is a strong man, inside and out. Fontaine unknowingly characterizes himself as he describes the wolf.

Gray wolves are very hardy, very tough and can withstand a lot, Fontaine said.

Both Bangs and Fontaine laugh about being the public punching bags for the wolf recovery effort, which often was reviled by ranchers and embraced by environmentalists, but quietly acknowledge that it was painful at times.

Through my whole career Ive walked the fence and been beaten up by both sides, Fontaine said.

Gray wolves once were abundant in the Northern Rockies, but were killed off by the early 1920s and were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1973. Plans began in 1980 to recover wolf populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

By the time Fontaine started working with the Wolf Recovery Team, the species already was starting to colonize from Canada into the Glacier National Park area. It was in that area that he saw his first wolf on the ground.

I was on the ground near Murphy Lake, northwest of Whitefish – it was around 1990 – when I came around a corner on the old highway thats no longer used and there was this wolf starting to walk away, Fontaine said. Since then, Ive probably seen hundreds and hundreds from the air and on the ground. Its been extraordinary.

Hes got dozens of wolf stories to tell, from those they darted from helicopters to move for one reason or another to those theyve had to kill because they preyed on cattle. But no matter how many hes seen, they still fascinate Fontaine.

As a wildlife biologist, what more could you ask for? Its what you train for all your life, he said. To manage a population to this extent is the culmination of a career.

But hes also worked himself right out of a job. Wolf populations have recovered to the extent that theyre being taken off of the Endangered Species list and the states of Montana and Idaho have taken over their management.

So next week, hes moving to Missouri to work as assistant manager of the 100,000-acre Theodore Roosevelt Wildlife Refuge, where hell tend to waterfowl instead of wolves.

Leaving is bittersweet, Fontaine said, but he was born in Kansas and the move allows him to be closer to his elderly mother. It also allows him to grow and face new challenges.

Its a different ecosystem with different critters and Im sure therell be a steep learning curve, but thats OK, Fontaine said. I didnt know anything about wolves when I started; some might say I still dont.

Quite honestly, I got to do a lot of things that a lot of people could only wish to do. I feel honored. I will miss it, but this will be a slower pace with different issues.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 27

ID: Federal agents kill 2 wolves near East Fork of Salmon

Federal agents kill 2 wolves near East Fork of Salmon

First lethal action under state control

Express Staff Writer

Two wolves were killed Jan. 19 by federal Wildlife Services agents near the confluence of the Salmon River and the East Fork of the Salmon in Custer County.

The wolves, a male and female from the Buffalo Ridge pack, had killed one calf on private property.

The lethal control actionauthorized by the Idaho Department of Fish and Gamewas the first since management was passed from federal to state level on Jan. 5. Wildlife Services and Fish and Game will continue to work jointly on wolf depredation cases in Idaho.

According to a press release, Wildlife Services and Fish and Game officials had unsuccessfully attempted to trap the wolves for four days, which is when Fish and Game authorized the lethal action.

On Jan. 19, the wolves were shot from a fixed-wing aircraft near the calf carcass.

Initially, it was thought that wolves from the East Fork pack were responsible for the depredation. But on Jan. 16, the signal of B-196, of the Buffalo Ridge pack, was picked up near the site. The Buffalo Ridge pack had killed cattle near the same location last January.

Teresa Howes, a spokeswoman with Wildlife Services, said the investigation of depredation cases is critical, since wolves aren’t always responsible for the killing.

“Sometimes it’s dogs,” or other wildlife, she said. “We’re the experts to help mitigate issues between wildlife and livestockthat’s what we do.”

Wildlife Services investigated 93 wolf complaint cases in 2005. Twenty wolves were killed.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 27

AK: Wolf control restored

Wolf control restored

By TIM MOWRY, Staff Writer

A little more than a week after being grounded by an Anchorage judge’s court decision, the state’s aerial wolf control program is ready for takeoff again.

New regulations written by the Alaska Board of Game in an emergency meeting Wednesday were filed with the lieutenant governor’s office Thursday, clearing the way for aerial gunners to once again take aim at wolves in five areas where moose and caribou numbers are declining, according to state game officials.

But it will still be a few days before gunners and their pilots can take to the air, assuming they don’t mind flying at 40 degrees below zero.

New permits will have to be issued to those pilots and gunners who already received permits because the regulations are new, said Matt Robus, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

“It’s not just a matter of calling everybody up and saying go ahead and start again, it’s a re-issuing process,” said Robus by phone from Anchorage where the Game Board is set to begin a four-day meeting today to deal with other topics not related to predator control.

“That won’t take long. We’ll get new signatures on these new permits and we’ll be back in operation.”

Almost 450 wolves have been killed by aerial gunners in the past three winters as part of the state’s effort to boost moose and caribou populations in areas where they are declining.

This winter, the state has issued 157 permits to pilot-gunner teams to kill upwards of 500 wolves in five different areas around the state. Only 24 wolves had been killed when the state suspended the program on Jan. 17 following a 32-page ruling issued by Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason in response to a suit filed by Friends of Animals, the Connecticut-based animal-rights group that has led the attack on the state’s predator control programs.

While siding with the state on most of the claims in the lawsuit, Gleason ruled the Game Board did not provide the required justification for an aerial-killing program and did not explain why alternative methods of reducing wolves, such as trapping, hunting, sterilization, relocating and supplemental feeding, would not work before approving aerial control. The judge also noted discrepancies in the percentages of wolves slated to be removed from each area.

In response, the Game Board met Wednesday by teleconference to adopt new plans that would address those issues.

“The board essentially adopted the same five programs without the deficiencies the judge had criticized,” Robus said.

The fact that the Game Board declared the situation an emergency and circumvented Gleason’s ruling by holding a teleconference with no public input was appalling to Friends of Animals executive director Priscilla Feral.

“It’s not an emergency because the court told them no,” she said from Connecticut. “The state can’t gerrymander to justify wolf control.”

Feral said the animal-rights group will again appeal to the court to get the program stopped, though she wasn’t sure when a suit would be filed or on what grounds.

“We are moving as quickly as we can,” she said. “We’re going to court.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 27

Alaska takes to shooting wolves from the air, again

Alaska takes to shooting wolves from the air, again

By JEANNETTE J. LEE Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Alaska’s wolf control program, which allows shooting of the predators from the air, has been reinstated, more than a week after a judge ruled program illegal.

The state Board of Game filed redrafted regulations with the lieutenant governor’s office Thursday in response to the Superior Court ruling, which said the state failed to follow its own rules when authorizing the program.

“They have filed the regulations. They are effective immediately,” said Annette Kreitzer, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, whose office has jurisdiction over the issue.

The board changed its regulations Wednesday at what it called an emergency meeting. Such meetings allow relatively rapid changes to existing rules without input from the public.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled the program illegal, saying the game board failed to provide required justification for the program. She also said the board did not explain why alternative means for reducing the number of wolves would not work, or how it set the wolf reduction levels.

The new regulations include wolf and moose population estimates that, the board said, justify the aerial hunting program. The board also added a list of alternatives that it deemed unfeasible. They include destroying wolf habitat by burning or bulldozing, sterilization, relocation, stocking areas with more moose and feeding roadkill to wolves as another food source.

Jim Reeves, the lawyer representing Friends of Animals and seven Alaska plaintiffs, said terming the meeting an emergency could render it illegal. Friends of Animals, a Darien, Conn.-based animal rights group, has led the fight against the program.

“We do not regard it as an emergency when an agency needs to adopt regulations to fix a problem of its own making,” Reeves said. He said the group may sue again.

The aerial wolf control program is intended to boost moose and caribou populations in five areas of the state. The program got its start in 2003 in the McGrath area of Alaska’s Interior where residents had long complained predators were killing too many moose, leaving them with too few for food.

About 400 wolves have been killed so far under the program, which permits pilot and gunner teams to shoot the wolves from the air. The state intends to kill another 400 wolves this year.

Emergency regulations are valid for 120 days; the board aims to make the new rules permanent in March at a public meeting.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 27

NC: Park employees set traps for wayward wolf

Park employees set traps for wayward wolf

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A young red wolf continues to bedevil those trying to capture it.

Born in captivity, the juvenile wolf, one of fewer than 300 red wolves in the world, has spent nearly a week roaming eastern Rowan County near Dan Nicholas Park.

An expert in red wolves predicts it could take months to capture him if he doesn’t fall victim to a car, pack of dogs, or other threats.

“It’s not the first time a red wolf has escaped from captivity,” said Bob Weller, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division, “It won’t be the last time. We just don’t want him to get hit (by a car).”

Weller has 13 years experience working with red wolves including nearly 10 years working for the Red Wolf Program, which is also providing assistance with the capture effort. More than 80 red wolves have been reintroduced to the wilds in five eastern North Carolina counties. Red wolves are a federally endangered and protected species.

The search for the wolf which escaped last Thursday from its new habitat at Dan Nicholas Park is believed to be in an area around Goodman Lake Road.

All reported sightings in a 48-hour period starting late Tuesday puts the wolf in that area, according to Bob Pendergrass, supervisor of the Nature Center at Dan Nicholas Park.

Pendergrass and another parks employee, Jim Byrd, maintenance supervisor, got a brief glimpse of the wolf Tuesday night.

Byrd, driving on Goodman Lake Road, spotted the wolf and called Pendergrass, who got to the area quickly. Using a spotlight, they located the wolf in the middle of a field, and then it was gone again.

Pendergrass and Weller worked fields along Goodman Lake Road Wednesday morning tracking his path and finding some wolf droppings that were full of rabbit hair, apparently from his road kill food.

They believe the wolf is likely to stay in the area for a while because of the food source  there are lots of rabbits.

Although the wolf was born in captivity at the Western N.C. Wildlife Center, Weller said it still has all the instincts of a wolf born in the wild. He recalled an incident with a wolf born and kept in captivity for six years. It ate nothing but dry dog food for six years. On its first day of freedom, it killed a rabbit and raccoon and quickly developed a taste for red meat.

“Their instinct is still there,” Weller said. “The biggest thing is they are not dangerous. They are not stupid, but (wolves born in captivity) are tolerant to humans. That may be the biggest danger for them.”

The wolf has been spotted repeatedly on or near several roads, including Bringle Ferry, Scout and now Goodman Lake.

Pendergrass and Weller placed lots of traps in the field along Goodman Lake Road  both box or cage traps and leg hold traps. Weller said the leg hold traps are an updated and improved version of the steel jaw traps. “It will close quickly, It will not break the leg,” he said.

They are also carrying tranquilizer darts, hoping to get close enough for a shot.

Weller admits it would have to be a very quick shot. “All the sightings, he’s there for about 20 seconds and then he’s gone.”

While searchers may be getting a a bit tired of their late nights, Weller said the wolf isn’t tired. He’s likely getting plenty of sleep.

Speaking from his office in Greensboro Wednesday afternoon, Weller said the wolf was most likely curled up sound asleep, waiting for the night to go hunting and exploring.

Once tracking a wolf with a radio collar, he never saw it until he stepped on its paw and took off running. “They blend in well,” Weller said.

He examined the new habitat at the park where the wolf escaped minutes after being placed. Weller described the great escape as a fluke.

While wolves don’t typically climb, he said they will jump and bounce off walls or fences, particulary in corners.

In this case, the wolf worked up the corner of the 8-foot-high fence and found the one gap between the fence and an inverted top fence designed as a preventive measure. “It was an itty-bitty weak point. He got his head through, and he was gone,” Weller said.

“We want him back,” he continued. “It may take a week, or a month. It will take as long as it takes. We won’t stop trying.”

Anyone sighting the wolf is asked to call 704-216-7819 or page Pendergrass at 704-639-8833 and punch in your number. He will immediately return the call.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 25

NM: U.S. Fish and Wildlife will not have wolf moratorium

U.S. Fish and Wildlife will not have wolf moratorium

Evelyn Cronce El Defensor Chieftain Reporter

There will be no moratorium on the release of wolves in 2006. This means the part of the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program conducted at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro County will continue as usual.

In 2005, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crafted a proposed moratorium for the Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project’s Adaptive Management Oversight Committee consideration. The committee determined that if the number of breeding pairs of wild Mexican wolves were six or more on Dec. 31, 2005, it would enact a moratorium prohibiting the release of packs composed of captive-reared wolves that have not previously been in the wild in Arizona or New Mexico.

After extensive searches both by land and by air, only five breeding pairs of wolves were found; therefore, releases are being planned. Including the breeding pairs, the wolf population is estimated to be between 35 and 49.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ press release, “The number of breeding pair is fewer than earlier projections and was caused, in part, by management actions that removed two breeding pairs because of livestock depredations.

The loss of a third breeding pair is currently under investigation by law enforcement. A breeding pair is defined as an adult male and an adult female that have produced at least two pups during the previous breeding season that have survived until Dec. 31 of the year of their birth.

With so few breeding pairs, it becomes necessary to augment the wild population, as reproduction is too low to offset losses during the year.

Releasing wolves maintains management flexibility and increases genetic diversity in the wild.”

Sevilleta has been part of the wolf recovery program since 1995. Wolves are received from zoos all over the county at the refuge. During the breeding season, males and females are put together and observed for later release as a breeding pair.

“If there had been a moratorium, the wolves would have been kept separate,” said Education Specialist Kim King-Wrenn. “Now we will be moving the pairs together.”

With or without the moratorium, Sevilleta will continue to receive problematic wolves that have been captured or recaptured. These wolves are housed in a remote area of the refuge while they are acclimated to captivity and to contact with humans so that they are suitable for new homes in zoos.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 25

NM: Government Reduces Endangered Mexican Wolf Numbers for Third Year in Row

Government Reduces Endangered Mexican Wolf Numbers for Third Year in Row

Luna Pack of wolves in Gila National Forest likely next victims of government mismanagement

For Immediate Release  January 25, 2006

Contact: Michael Robinson, 505-534-0360

Pinos Altos, NM. The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves that could be confirmed in the wild declined for the third successive year in 2005 as a result of trapping and shooting of wolves by the U.S. government, conservationists charged today.

And the number could drop further, with the Luna Pack of Mexican wolves repeatedly encountering and feeding on livestock carcasses of animals they did not kill, which is likely to induce them to predate on livestock.

At the end of 2003, the interagency Mexican wolf reintroduction field team could document 55 wolves in the wild; at the end of 2004, 44 wolves in the wild; and at the end of 2005, 35 wolves in the wild — representing a 20 percent decline each year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with statutory authority to recover Mexican wolves, had projected 55 wolves at the end of 2003; 68 at the end of 2004; and 83 by the end of 2005.

Further alarming news is the decline in number of breeding pairs, defined as a male and female wolf with at least two pups surviving until December 31. Breeding pairs are an important index of movement toward a self-sustaining population. The number dropped from six to five between 2004 and 2005; it had been projected to reach 12 in 2004 and 15 in 2005.

The government removed eight wolves, including two breeding pairs, from the wild population in New Mexico during 2005 through either trapping or shooting due to conflicts with the livestock industry.

The Mexican Wolf Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC) pledged in its recently-released Five-Year Review of the reintroduction project to take no regulatory action to address the problem of wolves becoming habituated to livestock as a result of scavenging, thus likely dooming the Luna Pack and making further population declines predictable.

The bureaucracy has spent millions of dollars producing hundreds of pages worth of reports, holding countless meetings, and controlling dozens of wolves to placate the livestock industry, and yet it is incapable of following the simple directions of scientists who in 2001 recommended urgent regulatory changes to recover this critically endangered animal, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The 2001 Three-Year Review, conducted by independent scientists, had recommended allowing wolves to roam outside the arbitrary boundaries of the recovery area, as all other endangered species (including wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains) are allowed, releasing wolves directly from captivity into the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, and requiring ranchers to assume some responsibility for disposal or destruction of livestock carcasses on public lands before wolves scavenge on them. None of these recommendations have been implemented.

The Five-Year Review reiterates the first two recommendations, but states it will take additional years to carry out, and opposes the management of livestock carcasses  even though in the northern Rocky Mountains federal regulations withhold government wolf control services in areas where livestock carcasses draw wolves in to begin depredating.

The AMOC wolf bureaucracy had intended to institute a moratorium on Mexican wolf releases this year, at the behest of ranchers who met with the Fish and Wildlife Service in two private meetings on February 12, 2005, but the low number of breeding pairs precludes doing so. Nevertheless, its track record indicates releasing wolves to the wild often takes a back seat to removing them from the wild. The Five-Year Review states that a significant reason for the lack of releases of new packs to the wild in 2005 occurred due to the field team devoting so many resources to wolf control in the last quarter of 2004 that a proposal for new releases in 2005 was not submitted to AMOC. (pp. ARPCC-219)

Despite the lack of releases from captivity, wolf numbers were expected to increase due to reproduction. Wolves are fecund animals with a high natural growth rate and considerable flexibility in utilizing habitats. As a result, every other gray wolf reintroduction program has resulted in robust and often exponential population growth. For example, the wolf reintroduction that began in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho just three years prior to the Mexican wolf reintroduction has led to almost a thousand wolves in the wild in the northern Rocky Mountains today. However, in the Southwest wolf control instituted through steel leghold traps, shooting from the ground, and aerial pursuit and shooting, more than offset the birth of pups. The Mexican wolf program, which operates on different principles than other endangered species recovery programs, is experiencing an unprecedented decline.

The Five-Year Review documents that Congress funds $150,000 annually directly for Mexican wolf control. But that amount only counts U.S. Department of Agriculture expenditures, and does not include discretionary USDA expenditures in trapping and killing wolves, nor the resources (including personnel) spent on Mexican wolf control by other federal and state agencies. For example, Fish and Wildlife Service employees often run trap lines, and on May 27, 2003 a Fish and Wildlife Service employee shot the first Mexican wolf deliberately killed by the federal government since reintroduction began in 1998.

The wolves know instinctively how to survive, said Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos, at the edge of the Gila National Forest. But government wolf control continues to hammer them. The Fish and Wildlife Service hides behind the rest of the interagency anti-wolf bureaucracy and refuses to institute reforms that would bring the Mexican wolf reintroduction program up to the standards of other endangered species recovery programs.

The lobo needs less political management and more scientific management if it is to recover, Robinson added.

The Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Mexican wolf in 1986 as the most imperiled mammal in North America. Reduced by a U.S. government extermination program to just five wild survivors captured alive in Mexico between 1977 and 1980, the progeny of those wolves were first reintroduced into the Southwest in 1998.

The Center for Biological Diversity, founded in rural southwestern New Mexico in 1998, has 18,000 members, and advocates for hundreds of imperiled animals and plants and the special places they call home across the United States and overseas.


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