Sep 28

Wolf population thriving since reintroduction

Wolf population thriving since reintroduction

Number of livestock deaths isn’t going up, officials say

By MIKE STARK

Of The Gazette Staff

Like them or not, gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains are thriving.

Since last winter, their numbers have grown by more than 20 percent, according to estimates released this week.

Federal and state officials now figure that at least 1,229 wolves in 158 packs are scattered across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the highest estimate in the 11 years since Canis lupus was reintroduced to the region.

Much of the recent growth has been in central Idaho and Wyoming, including in Yellowstone National Park.

The Yellowstone population dipped by about 30 percent in 2005 after a canine disease swept through, killing most of that year’s pups. More pups have survived this year, and the population has bounced back from 118 last year to 143, which is still fewer than the 171 in 2004.

In Montana, the wolf population has grown by 6 to 7 percent this year, primarily in the northwest portion of the state.

Carolyn Sime, the lead wolf coordinator for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the growth of wolf packs elsewhere in Montana – including those just outside Yellowstone – probably remained flat this year because of a ripple effect from the decline inside the park last year.

The wolf population around places such as the Beartooth Plateau tends to expand as wolves leave Yellowstone in search of new territory. As the Yellowstone population rebounds, wolf packs outside the park should grow, too.

“In the next year and a half or two years we could see a pulse in Montana,” Sime said.

The midyear estimate is merely a snapshot of the official wolf count, which happens each winter when it’s easier to spot wolves from the air as they’re contrasted against the snow.

“It is important to note this estimate is very rough and a lot can change because of wolf mortality during the fall,” Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery coordinator, wrote about the latest numbers.

Still, the numbers are more evidence that the wolves’ presence in the three states, while controversial, is robust and growing.

In Idaho, the number of wolves grew from 512 at the end of 2005 to 650 this summer. In Montana, the number grew from 256 to 270, and in Wyoming the increase was from 252 to 309.

The numbers have steadily risen since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996.

Sime said it doesn’t appear that the increase in the number of wolves has led to a significant increase in the number of livestock killed or injured.

The glaring exception is the 100-plus sheep that were killed in Garfield and McCone counties earlier this year by an animal, still uncaught, that was either a wolf or a wolf hybrid.

In 2005, 97 cows, 244 sheep, 11 dogs and two horses were confirmed killed by wolves. In response, wildlife officials killed 103 wolves.

The push continues to get wolves off the list of endangered species.

For more than six years, there have been more than 30 breeding pairs across the three states, a key level for determining whether the population has recovered.

Though the population is large enough and widespread enough, delisting has become snagged in long-running political and legal battles.

The states of Montana and Idaho have taken over much of the handling of wolves in those states because each has a management plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wyoming’s plan, which would allow some wolves to be subject to unregulated killing, has not been approved and has been the subject of lawsuits and disagreement for years.

As that fight continues, state officials in Idaho and Montana have asked the federal government to consider delisting wolves in those two states. So far, there’s been no formal movement on that request.

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Sep 28

Estimate: Rockies’ wolf pack growing 20 percent this year

Estimate: Rockies’ wolf pack growing 20 percent this year

By The Associated Press

LEWISTON  About 1,200 wolves now roam the northern Rockies  more than half of them in Idahos mountains  according to a preliminary report by state, federal and tribal wildlife managers.

The midyear count, considered a conservative number, found the number of gray wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming has grown 20 percent so far this year. The count could change after another survey this winter, managers said.

The report says there are 1,229 wolves representing 158 packs with 87 potential breeding pairs. Thats up from the end of 2005 when there were an estimated 1,000 wolves, with just more than 500 in Idaho, The Lewiston Tribune reported.

Now, Idaho is estimated to have 650 wolves, while Montana has 270 and Wyoming 309.

The wolves, reintroduced into the region in the

mid-1990s, exceed the recovery goals set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but remain listed as a protected species.

The wolf population is recovered. It should be delisted, said Ed Bangs, the wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, last week in Helena, Mont.

Before delisting can happen, the three states must have federally approved plans for wolf management.

Plans by Idaho and Montana have been approved, but Wyomings has been rejected over concerns wolves in that state could again become extinct.

Currently, federal official are considering delisting wolves in Idaho and Montana, but not Wyoming.

In Idaho, state officials are allowed to kill wolves preying on livestock, but cannot kill wolves thought to be causing declines in big game herds, such as elk, unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives approval.

Idaho officials want to kill up to 43 wolves in northcentral Idaho to boost elk numbers. Getting that permission appears unlikely because federal officials say the scientific data gathered by the state isnt adequate.

Because of that, Idaho officials say they are working instead on getting wolves delisted. Delisting would allow for hunting seasons on wolves, Bangs has said.

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Sep 27

WY: Park County plans to join lawsuit for wolf delisting

Park County plans to join lawsuit for wolf delisting

By Mark Heinz

Though possibly closer than ever to an agreement about wolves, the Wyoming Attorney General and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are still likely to again end up in court.

If another lawsuit is filed in federal court, Park County will back it, county commissioner Marie Fontaine said.

Attorney General Pat Crank says his office recently sent a 60-day letter to USFWS, stating Wyoming will again file suit about the federal agency’s refusal to accept the state’s plans to remove wolves from the Endangered Species list.

The 60 days runs out the first week of October, Crank added.

We have a severe overpopulation of wolves and grizzly bears, and they’re having a dramatic impact on our wildlife herds, Crank said.

Our county attorney has been given the green light to join the state if that lawsuit moves forward, Fontaine said.

There have been cattle killed in Park County, and the wolves have become bold enough to come down next to homes and kill pets in some cases, she added.

South Fork rancher Alan Siggins said he’s had recent trouble with wolves.

I am strongly in favor of them being delisted, Siggins said.

Jim Pehringer, who handles predator control for the USDA around Park County, said his agency is starting to get a good handle on the problem here.

When the wolves first came, we were stretched pretty thin, he said. Now, we’re able to address wolf problems as they arise, and still maintain a healthy population of wolves.

As to the brewing lawsuit, Pehringer said he’s not interested in picking sides.

It’s just a legal tug-of-war that has nothing to do with my job, he said.

Game and Fish officials at both the local and state level declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Meanwhile, anecdotes of wolf trouble don’t give an accurate or complete picture, said Ed Bangs, the Helena, Mont.-based wolf recovery coordinator for USFWS.

In industry-wide terms, wolf kills on cattle make no difference whatsoever, Bangs said. Of course, if you’re the guy whose cows are being killed, they make a huge difference, and that’s why we favor sensible wolf control.

Bangs also questioned Crank’s assertion that wolves are taking too big a bite from Wyoming’s elk and other game herds.

(Wyoming) is doing everything they can to kill more elk, he said. They just opened more elk hunting in the Teton area because they can’t kill elk fast enough. There’s constant complaints from landowners about elk damage.

Crank said there is evidence that wolves have cut back specific elk herds, including some in Park County.

The USFWS will try to say it’s because of drought, Crank said. But if you look at other herds facing drought where there are no wolves, the losses don’t match.

Bangs again said the state is trying to base assertions on isolated cases.

A couple of hundred wolves in Wyoming are going to seriously affect thousands and thousands of elk? I don’t think so, he said.

Still, Bangs said from the standpoint of biology and pure numbers, his agency agrees wolves are ready for delisting in Wyoming.

The sticking point, he and Crank said, is about designated areas of varying protection for wolves. Some of the contested area is in Park County.

The state and USFWS agree on a three-zone approach.

Within Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, wolves would remain a protected species.

Within a second circle that could include some or all of Park County, they would be a trophy game animal. That means they could be hunted under special draw permits, much like those currently issued for mountain lions.

Further out, wolves would be treated as predatory animals. That would put them in the same category with such animals as jackrabbits, which can be killed any time of year without a license or bag limit.

Crank said the state wants to limit the extent of the trophy game circle, to include only parts of Park County closest to Yellowstone.

Bangs said the USFWS favors a plan that would probably put most, if not all, of the county in the trophy game zone.

The trophy game designation would be effective, because wolves should be easy to hunt, Bangs added.

They can be as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to that, he said.

People might try to compare it to hunting coyotes. But coyotes are an animal that has always had to run and hide from something bigger, Bangs said. Wolves don’t have any natural threats. Hunting might make them a little more fearful, but it’s hard to go against 50,0000 years of evolution telling them they have nothing to fear.

Fontaine said the county can’t accept the federal plan as it is.

We feel the wolf numbers are still too high, and it has a major effect on our ranchers and recreation, she said.

Source

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Sep 27

OR: Oregon Should Welcome Wolves and All the Ecological and Economic Benefits They Bring

Oregon Should Welcome Wolves and All the Ecological and Economic Benefits They Bring

ASHLAND, Ore., Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ — Recent reports of one or more wolves potentially sighted in eastern Oregon are promising signs both for the wolf’s continued recovery and for Oregon’s future as a home for wolves. It’s been six years since the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed a wolf sighting in our state. The first was in 1999 and there were two others in 2000. None of those wolves lasted long enough here to provide a hint of the ecological and economic benefits wolves provide to the states in which they live. But with the recent new sighting of a live wolf at Zumwalt Prairie, near the town of Enterprise, our state may yet have the chance to play a role in the continued recovery of this beautiful creature and sample all that wolves have to offer.

Wolves provide tremendous ecological benefits. They are the top predator in most environments in which they live and the trickle down effect of their presence is astounding. In Yellowstone, prior to the wolves’ reintroduction in 1995, elk basically roamed wherever they chose and tended to spend most of their time in the river valleys. This excessive streamside grazing prevented willow and cottonwood tree growth along the river banks. But when the wolf returned, the elk quickly learned they couldn’t set up permanent housekeeping in the valleys and they moved on to make a living in other areas. This, in turn, allowed young trees to grow along the riverbeds. The new trees shaded the river water, creating improved habitat for trout, which thrive in cooler, darker waters. The new willows and cottonwoods attract additional migratory birds and provided new food sources and building materials for beavers. The beavers then built dams which created new marshes and wetlands that in turn attracted otters, ducks and other species. Wolf kills also provided an abundant and reliable source of food for scavengers. And to be sure, wolf predations on old and sick elk have had a positive effect on the viability of the elk population itself. Multi-year research conducted by two Oregon State University department of forestry professors in Yellowstone National Park and by local park biologists has sparked widespread agreement that returning the top dog to its native habitat yields far-ranging positive consequences.

Wolves provide tremendous economic benefits. Ecotourism is quickly moving to the forefront of family recreational activities. The longing to see animals in their natural habitat has created an economic boom throughout the United States. In Yellowstone, fishing has always been a big industry and the improved environment along the river caused by the wolf’s presence has improved fishing opportunities. The wolves themselves are also a huge tourist draw, with many people making Yellowstone their vacation destination expressly for the purpose of seeing wolves. Indeed, most sunrises in Yellowstone are accompanied by rows and rows of nature lovers with spotting scopes, all straining for a glimpse of the elusive wolf. A two-year study conducted by a Montana economist and presented at a conference in April 2006 reports that each year tourists visiting Yellowstone hoping to see a wolf spend around $35 million in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and that these dollars then turn over in local communities, boosting the regional economic impact to about $70 million a year. On the other side of the country, a recent study, commissioned by Defenders of Wildlife and funded by the Alex C. Walker Educational and Charitable Foundation, investigated the potential contribution of red wolf-based ecotourism to local economic development in North Carolina and found that 89 percent of tourists showed an interest in visiting a proposed Red Wolf Center, an educational facility housing live red wolves. If only 10 percent of those Outer Banks tourists who say they will visit the Center and pay a $5 admission fee actually made the journey, then it would be possible to generate more than $1 million in gate receipts and food/gift purchases over a single summer season. A similar interest in eastern Oregon wolves could also attract tourism to this region.

Wolves pose little threat to livestock and humans. In fact, their prey of choice has been wild game like deer and elk for centuries. Although wolf predation on livestock is often highly touted in the media, it accounts for less than point two percent (0.2%) of cattle and calf losses, and less than two and a half percent (2.5%) of sheep and lamb losses in areas where wolves live. According to figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and from the individual state agricultural statistics services in states with wolves, respiratory and digestive problems, weather, and other natural events account for the vast majority of livestock losses. In fact, in all areas where wolves live in the United States, far more livestock are lost to domestic dogs than to wolves. The notion that ranchers are suddenly going to start losing massive amounts of livestock because of the arrival of wolves is simply not backed up by the statistics.

The same is true for human/wolf interactions. Despite claims by wolf opponents, the fact remains that aggression by wolves against humans is a very rare event. A study published in 2002 found that in 80 cases of reported wolf-human encounters occurring from 1900-2000 in Alaska and Canada (and also including two in Minnesota), sixty-nine percent of the incidents involved wolves that either had or were suspected of having rabies, were acting in self-defense, or showed interest but no aggression. Many of the instances involved wolves that had become habituated to humans by being fed or having access to human food sources, such as garbage dumps, which is a recipe for disaster with any wildlife. And several of the cases involved altercations between wolves and dogs (which wolves view as territorial competitors) in which humans intervened or got in the way and were bitten in the process. By way of comparison, each year in the United States an average of 17-20 people are killed by domestic dogs, and more than 1.2 million dog bites are reported. In British Columbia, which has a wolf population numbering in the tens of thousands, the most dangerous animal humans encounter is the horse, followed by the moose, each of which is responsible for multiple fatalities each year.

Overall, the return of wolves to Oregon offers a unique opportunity to welcome back a returning native species. Folks in Oregon need accurate information about wolves, long saddled with the baggage of myth, speculation and fear-mongering. I urge you to inform your readers about the true nature of wolves and the benefits they provide to the regions they inhabit.

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Sep 27

DNR Compensates Hunters for Dogs Killed by Wolves

DNR Compensates Hunters for Dogs Killed by Wolves

Lindsay Veremis

The Wisconsin DNR says it will foot the bill for dogs killed or injured by wolves.

The DNR says if a wolf does attack, hunters should contact Wildlife Services immediately and mark the site with clothing.

They say those records help control and manage wolf populations.

The DNR also says it wants to remind hunters wolves are protected by the state and federal government, and killing them is against the law.

To receive compensation, hunters must have the attack verified by USDA Wildlife Services at (715) 369-5221

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Sep 24

ID: Wild wolf encounter can be an unforgettable experience

Wild wolf encounter can be an unforgettable experience

Keith Ridler
Associated Press

Boise, Idaho- Thousands of vacationers in the West likely will see a wolf in the wild for the first time, often from the road but sometimes while camping or hiking.

The federal government and state agencies that manage wolves have rules on what is legal in these encounters, and experts who study wolf behavior offer advice on how to handle what is likely to be an unforgettable experience.

“Wolves don’t turn and run away immediately like we’re used to with other animals,” said Carolyn Sime, gray wolf program coordinator with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. “The other thing that kind of makes it unnerving is the intensity of their eyes. It’s partly the color and partly the intensity of the way they’re looking at you.”

Wolves nearly always blink first, experts say, but yelling will drive off a wolf, as will pepper spray.

About 1,000 wolves in 140 packs live in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, steadily increasing since being reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996.

“Even though they’re fairly rare in nature, wolves are relatively visible compared to a lot of animals,” said Ed Bangs, wolf-recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There are never many because these are big carnivores. But they seem abundant because they travel the same areas people do.”

Bangs said one study found that more than 100,000 people see a wolf in Yellowstone National Park each year. For comparison, few people ever see one of the 31,000 cougars that inhabit the western United States.

Gray wolves also were reintroduced along the Arizona-New Mexico border, beginning in 1998, but that population had fewer than 50 individuals at the end of 2005.

About 3,000 gray wolves inhabit northern Minnesota; another 500 are in Michigan and 500 in Wisconsin.

Male wolves average about 100 pounds and females slightly less. They often travel on roads, trails, creek bottoms and ridge tops. When resting, wolves like the same types of areas that draw humans.

“Because meadows are attractive to campers, you’re likely to run into wolf activity,” said Steve Nadeau, statewide large carnivore coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Particularly if the meadow has game nearby – elk and deer.”

Wolf experts say that centuries of mythology – think “Little Red Riding Hood” – taints present-day wolf-human meetings, and that wolves tend to avoid humans.

“If you’re walking on a dark trail at midnight and you turn a corner and come across a pack of 20 wolves, enjoy them,” Bangs said. “Because they’ll be gone in a few seconds.”

In fact, wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare. But wolves might not run off so quickly if a hiker has a dog along. Northern Rockies gray wolves have killed at least 83 dogs since 1987; and last year, they killed 30 of their own number in territorial disputes.

“Wolves consider dogs as strange wolves,” Bangs said. “A dog may think that a wolf barking or howling is a dog that wants to play. Trust me, that is not the case.”

Other instances where wolves might act aggressively is near a den or a kill site.

“If you come into an area where you see a kill, particularly if it’s kind of fresh, back out of there and go someplace else,” Sime said.

Meeting wolves can have legal ramifications. Under the Endangered Species Act, wolves in Minnesota are listed as threatened, while wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Idaho and northwest Montana are considered endangered.

“Our regulations allow anyone at anytime to scare a wolf away,” Bangs said. “Just run at it and yell at it and it will run off. . . . Just don’t hurt it.”

Pepper spray – often carried by hikers in grizzly bear country – can be used on wolves.

The penalty for illegally killing a wolf on the Endangered Species List can range up to $100,000 and a year in jail. Bangs said that about 10 percent of Northern Rockies wolf deaths are the result of illegal kills.

If a type of wolf is taken off the list, it would be treated as a big-game animal, possibly with hunting seasons, something Bangs said he and other federal and state wolf managers favor.

Hunting would not be allowed in Yellowstone National Park, where most wolf sightings occur. But sightings are becoming more common elsewhere.

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Sep 23

MT: Madison wolves targeted for death

Madison wolves targeted for death

By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard – 09/23/2006

ENNIS  The hunt is on for two wolves that have attacked and maimed three heifers so badly near Ennis that they had to be euthanized.

Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have issued two shoot-on-sight permits to a Madison Valley rancher whose cattle were attacked by the wolves. Officials did not name the rancher.

Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agricultures Wildlife Services are also looking for the wolves. The predators are suspected of being members of the Wedge pack, but officials havent confirmed that, said Carolyn Sime, FWP wolf program coordinator.

That pack got into trouble earlier this year for attacking cattle on the same ranch. Two wolves from the pack were killed to deal with the problem.

Sime said the fact that the cattle in this latest incident were yearling heifers means the attacks are serious and warrant lethal control.

Theyre pretty good-sized cattle, as opposed to calves, she said.

Federal trappers and ranch hands will keep hunting for the wolves until two are killed. Sime said FWP uses an incremental approach to dealing with wolves that are causing problems.

That means while more wolves may have been involved in the attack, officials havent confirmed that and dont want to over-react, which could result in killing more wolves than necessary that may not have been involved with the attacks.

More often than not you dont know how many were involved in the predation event, versus feeding on the carcass, she said. The level of response is commensurate with the level of damage. The Wedge pack is known to roam around the property where the cattle were attacked.

But Sime said in the See WOLVES, Back Page fall wolves wander more and often branch out in smaller groups, or on their own, so the wolves could be from another pack.

The permits issued are valid until Oct. 15, when the cattle on the property are removed for the winter.

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Sep 22

Isle Royale: Wolves get a little too close in Michigan national park

Wolves get a little too close in Michigan national park

Associated Press

HOUGHTON, Mich. (AP) – For campers at Isle Royale National Park, sighting a gray wolf is a rare and thrilling experience.

At least, until now.

Some wolves got a bit too familiar this summer, wandering into camping areas and showing little of their customary fear of people.

No attacks or threatening behavior have been reported. But the close encounters prompted warnings to visitors not to feed the wolves.

“Wolves are wild animals and potentially dangerous like any wild animals,’ said Michigan Tech University biologist Rolf Peterson, who has studied wolves and moose on the Lake Superior island chain for more than 30 years.

Wolves seldom target humans, although it’s not unheard of, Peterson said. In fact, a wolf attacked several people at Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario recently before the superintendent killed it.

Such incidents could happen more often if wolves begin to identify people as a food source, Peterson said.

“The best thing is that they never associate us with a speck of food,’ said Phyllis Green, the Isle Royale superintendent.

Beavers, which were once the wolves’ prey, have mostly disappeared in the area due to habitat loss. So the wolves now have little to feed on except moose, whose numbers also have nose-dived recently.

A census earlier this year counted about 450 moose – fewest in the 48 years biologists have monitored the relationship between the two species in Isle Royale’s closed environment.

Meanwhile, the wolf population was a healthy 30. Peterson predicts it will decline because of the food shortage, which likely is what’s making them less fearful of humans.

In bygone days, “maybe one visitor in a thousand’ would spot a wolf, Peterson said. “Now, when I give a talk to 50 people, there will be two or three in the audience that saw wolves.’

Other words of wisdom: If you see a wolf, get away as quickly as possible but don’t run. Don’t follow or howl at them. If you come upon a moose carcass, don’t hang around; wolves may be nearby even if you don’t see them.

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Sep 22

OR: Suspected wolf on Zumwalt may be vanguard

Suspected wolf on Zumwalt may be vanguard

By Elane Dickenson
General editor

Biologists have not yet been able to positively confirm the presence
of a young black wolf on the Zumwalt Prairie of Wallowa County,
despite a videotape taken in about mid-July by an archery hunter from
Eugene, who was scouting the area.

The U.S. Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife have since received a couple of other possible sightings in
the area, one from a fence builder about three weeks who initially
suspected that the animal might have been a dog, according to Craig
Ely, Northeast Oregon Regional Director based in La Grande.

Ely said that biologist spent 10 or 12 days in the evenings looking
for the animal with no success, and sent a plane over the prairie in
the search after that most recent report.

“If it’s a wolf, they move around a lot,” Ely said, adding that while the
animal could be a wolf hybrid, or even a dog gone wild, but it could also
be a wolf.

“My assessment is that, as an agency, we believe there are wolves in
Oregon, we just haven’t confirmed it yet�Sooner or later, Oregon
will be recolonized with wolves from Idaho.”

While Oregon passed it’s own wolf management plan this year, the wolf is
still listed as an endangered species and Ely said that federal law “is
the law of the land” as far as wolves are concerned and the federal fish
and wildlife service is the lead agency.

He said, if biologists are able to capture a wolf, a radio collar
would be placed on it and it would be released. Ely said that would
allow the animal to be tracked and that ranchers – who are not allowed to
shoot the federally protected wolf – be kept apprised of its whereabouts.

The suspected wolf appears to be a young “sub adult” animal, the
equivalent of a human teenager, Ely said.

Wallowa County ranchers have taken the lead on opposing the presence
of wolves in Oregon and county commissioner Ben Boswell was on the
committee that formulated the wolf plan for the state, though he feels the
plan is not completed until there is a provision for financial
compensation for ranchers, a provision for ranchers to “take” a wolf under
limited circumstances and the wolf is reclassified at the federal level as
a “game animal with a special status” (by permit only). He said there is
an attempt in the works for an amendment to the federal plan to exempt
Oregon

“I’m not surprised,” Boswell said about the recent unconfirmed
sightings of wolves in Wallowa County. “The thing started with their
introduction in Idaho. That’s been remarkably successful; they’ve been
breeding like rabbits.”

Oregon has had three confirmed sightings of wolves, the most recent
six years ago. One was a female with a radio collar who was tracked in
1999 from the Brownlee reservoir area in Baker County to near John Day,
where it was captured and sent back to Idaho. In 2000, two wolves were
killed in Oregon: one in was hit by a vehicle south of Baker City and one
illegally shot near Ukiah.

“We’ve had over 90 sightings in Oregon since then, some with merit and
some with no merit, but none of them have been confirmed,” Ely said.

Another recent report of a wolf sighting close to home was in the
Eagle Cap Wilderness in Union County, according to Ely. In early
August, someone reported seeing two adults and two pups.

“A considerable amount of time” was spent following up on the report, and
finally “one animal was seen at a great distance,” Ely said.

Source

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Sep 22

Feds reject Idaho plan to kill wolves

Feds reject Idaho plan to kill wolves

By JOHN MILLER
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

BOISE, Idaho — Federal officials have rejected Idaho’s plan to kill up to 43 wolves in north-central Idaho to boost elk numbers, saying scientific data gathered by the state do not justify the action.

At a recent meeting, federal officials told Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game Department’s large carnivore manager, that state studies of elk declines in the Lolo region didn’t adequately demonstrate wolves are the primary cause.

“We agreed the wolves are playing an important role in limiting recovery. The question comes down to whether or not there’s an unacceptable impact,” said Jeff Foss, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor in Boise. “Based on the information that was provided at the meeting, the service didn’t feel it had enough at that time to draw (that) conclusion.”

The Idaho agency said the federal decision means the plan will not be put into effect this winter, but research to gather supporting data will continue.

“The department would have liked to move forward by this winter,” Jim Unsworth, the department’s wildlife bureau chief, told The Associated Press. “That’s not likely.”

Last January when the state’s proposal was unveiled, conservation groups came to the same conclusion as the federal scientists. They argue that poor habitat, not wolves, is the main reason Lolo elk now number less than a quarter of the 16,500 counted in the region north of the Lochsa River in 1989.

Fires in the early 20th century cleared heavy timber there, creating good elk habitat. In recent years, however, once-grassy hillsides that supported thousands of elk have filled in with lodgepole pine, red fir and western cedar, they said.

While the Idaho Conservation League backs removing federal protections from wolves in the state because their numbers have met recovery goals in Idaho’s wolf management plan, spokesman Jonathan Oppenheimer said plans to remove specific wolves such as those in the Lolo still should be scientifically sound.

“Regardless of whether they have to get the OK from Fish and Wildlife or whether they get it (through) delisting, if you want to have more elk, you’ve got to have the habitat to support them,” Oppenheimer said.

State officials, including Gov. Jim Risch, say Idaho is collecting new information to support its aim of reducing wolves in the Lolo elk management zone on the Idaho-Montana border by 75 percent.

But they said their main focus now has shifted to getting the Interior Department to lift federal Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the region.

Since January, Idaho has had day-to-day management over central Idaho wolves – including the Lolo pack – that are considered “experimental, nonessential” and thus not fully protected under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still manages wolves north of U.S. Interstate 90 in the Panhandle, where the animals are listed as endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing federal protections in most of Idaho and Montana, where wolves number 800. If that happens, Idaho would no longer need permission from the federal agency to start killing wolves in the Lolo or anywhere else in the state.

That’s the state’s main desire, Idaho Office of Species Conservation Director Jim Caswell said. But he added the state is still committed to its proposal to reduce the Lolo pack – a stance he acknowledges has political risk.

“It could cause people to fight against a potential delisting proposal,” Caswell said. “Sure, it’s a concern. It’s always been a concern.”

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