Nov 30

The Greatest Hunting Controversy of Them All

The Greatest Hunting Controversy of Them All

By Bill Schneider, NewWest.net

Ive been writing about wildlife and conservation for 34 years, and one thing Ive learned is that if you want controversy, write about wolves or hunting. Now, Im wondering what would happen if I wrote about both at the same time.

Hunting is engrained in the culture of the New West, but demographics are gradually changing with new folks moving in every day from urban America where hunting may not be so engrained into their lifestyle. Still, I feel safe in saying that the majority of NewWesties accept hunting as a legitimate form of outdoor recreation instead of viewing it as legalized murdering of innocent animals.

But will the majority accept wolf hunting? It wont be too long before we have to answer this question.

As you read this, at dusk in our general big game hunting seasons, the option of making the wolf a trophy big game animal is buried in the management plans, formal and informal, written by the Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wildlife agencies.

Wolf hunting is not a frontline issue, yet, because we have a few hurdles to jump first, not the least of which waiting for Wyoming to cave in on its extreme position on managing wolves. The Cowboy State wants the authority to kill wolves anyhow, anywhere outside of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This extreme position is out of touch with biology and political reality and has prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from approving Wyomings management plan as the federal agency has in Idaho and Montana.

Wyoming is also holding up progress in delisting the wolf from the Endangered Species Act, which is the last big official hurdle to jump before we get to have a big fight over wolf hunting. Idaho and Montana want the wolf delisted on a state by state basis instead of waiting for Wyoming to recognize reality, but the FWS prefers to address the entire tri-state population at the same time.

All this haggling among agencies means any formal proposal to make the wolf a big game animal is probably at least a year away, if not several years. But theres no doubt that its coming, probably minutes after all three states finally get complete control of wolf management from the federal government. If I worked for a state travel agency, Id have plans on the shelf for dealing with a national tourism boycott.

To me, the wolf seems like an agent of change. I lost a big bet on the wolf when I underestimated the green power behind the proposal to bring wolves back to central Idaho and Yellowstone. I bet against it because I thought the wolf represented such a powerful cultural change in the West that it couldnt come back. I was sure wrong about who had the power, the aggies or greens.

The wolf restoration project proved we could go back and correct past mistakes, even when faced with intense political resistance. Bringing the wolf back was like bringing the wild back into the West.

Now, the symbol of change, Canis lupis, is back in full force. Back in January 1995, 14 gray wolves rode in boxes on trailers down from Canada through the Theodore Roosevelt Arch and into fenced pens up in Crystal Creek in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone Park. Two months later, wildlife officers left the gates open one day and three packs of wolves burst out into the virgin territory of Yellowstone to launch a sea change in western culture.

Over in central Idaho, the same thing happened. Although lost in the fanfare of the Yellowstone wolves, even more Canadian wolves, 35 in total, were released in central Idaho.

Now, a decade later, we have at least 1,000 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. That means were close to the total number of wolves that will ever be allowed to exist in the New West.

If we arent quite at the total, we soon will be because wolves arent like grizzly bears, which have close to the lowest reproductive rate of any mammal. Wolves, on the other hand, when in good habitat with an adequate prey base, reproduce like rabbits.

With so many wolves, two things are certain. First, wolves will persist in eating a lot of elk and deer and a few cows, sheep and domestic dogs, much to the disdain of ranchers and some big game hunters and outfitters, keeping an age-old conflict alive.

And second, we will have to decide how to control wolf numbers. If we dont have active control, those 1,000 wolves will become 10,000 wolves in a few years, and well have the Big Dog everywhere — Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, eastern Colorado, Black Hills, anywhere with adequate prey, wild or domestic.

Allowing the wolf to reclaim its entire native habitat wont fly with the majority, so we will need control. We will have to kill wolves to save wolves. But how?

Right now, we have limited control through management actions i.e. professional biologists trapping or shooting wolves that have lost their way and acquired a taste for lamb chops. But this option, although perhaps most palatable to wolf lovers, is expensive and only targets the bad actors while ignoring the most of the population out there eating natural prey and making lots of baby wolves.

I suspect all other options will be less palatable. We could hire professionals to shoot, trap or poison wolves, a quasi-resurgence of the old ways, maybe even bring back the crusty wolfers of western lore. They could bring back the wire loop used to drag wolf puppies out of dens so their heads could be bashed in and piled up for bounty payments.

Or we could see the wolf in the same light as bighorn sheep or mountain goat, a trophy animal, and sell a limited number of permits each year to control the population. Think about it.

There you go. You heard it here first, and it will be interested to see what we decide.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 27

CH: Wolf culling shot down by Strasbourg

Wolf culling shot down by Strasbourg

Switzerland has failed in a bid to downgrade the protection status of the wolf, which would have allowed the animal to be culled in Europe.

The standing committee of the Bern Convention on wildlife protection rejected a Swiss request to have the wolf reduced from “strictly protected” to “protected” at a meeting in Strasbourg.

Conservation groups, which had criticised the move as “pointless and unjustified”, welcomed the decision and called on the Swiss government to rethink its protection strategy for threatened species.

Monday’s decision comes less than a week after a wolf, reported to have killed around 30 sheep, was shot dead in canton Valais. It was one of only around half a dozen wolves in Switzerland.

“We are very, very happy that Europe has not yielded to pressure from Switzerland,” Nicolas Wüthrich, spokesman for conservation group Pro Natura, told swissinfo.

“If the Swiss had succeeded it would have given the false impression that the wolf is widespread and that there is less need for protection.”

In rejecting the Swiss application, the committee argued that there was already sufficient provision under the treaty for dealing with any problems that wolves might cause.

Hunting ban

The Federal Environment Office, which submitted the request on behalf of parliament, defended the move, saying there was never any question of allowing the wolf to be hunted.

Christoph Jäggi from the hunting and wildlife department told swissinfo that it was simply a question of allowing controlled culling in order to maintain a manageable population level.

“It’s not like we do not want the wolf in Switzerland. We just want to have the possibility to manage the animal in a way that protects the wolf population in the Alps,” he said. “There is no question of making this species huntable again ? not at all.”

Jäggi pointed out that when the convention was signed more than 25 years ago, it was never foreseen that the wolf would return so quickly to western Europe, where it was driven to extinction a century ago.

And while there are only four known wolves in Switzerland, which are part of the alpine population ? two in canton Valais and the others in cantons Graubünden and Ticino ? he said it made sense to change the status now.

“We want to be prepared for when the population really spreads into our country,” said Jäggi. “We have very strong indications that the population from Italy and the French Alps is reproducing very close to Switzerland ? and we assume that there are 200:300 wolves already living in the Alps. Therefore, it is only a question of time before there will be reproduction in Switzerland, too.”

Review national strategy

But Pro Natura said that rather than looking to change the wolf’s strict protection status, the government should rather be re:examining its “Swiss Wolf Project”, drawn up in 2001.

Regulations revised two years ago permit the shooting of any wolf believed to have killed at least 35 sheep over a four:month period, or 25 in a single month.

But Wüthrich said the strategy was never conceived to take account of an expanding wolf population. He added that all interested parties now needed to sit down and address this issue.

He said Switzerland was out of step with the policies of some of its neighbours, claiming that the recent wolf shooting had not gone down well with the Italian authorities.

The environment office said on Monday that it planned to review its wolf management strategy over the winter and to work more closely with France and Italy to manage the wolf population in the Alps.

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 26

MI: Gray wolf to be in the crosshairs?

Gray wolf to be in the crosshairs?

Federal protection of canine may end

BY SHERI McWHIRTER

GAYLORD  Michigan’s federally protected gray wolf population may migrate to state oversight by spring, a bureaucratic shift that ultimately could pit pro-hunting groups against those who want to safeguard the reclusive canine.

Already, discussion over a state firearms season for wolves exposed a deep divide in the Michigan Wolf Management Roundtable, a group charged with offering advice for a state wolf management plan.

The advisory group included farmers, hunters, scientists, conservationists, environmentalists and tribal representatives. Their opinions will guide the state’s new wolf policies, said Brian Roell, wolf coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Gray wolves will become the responsibility of the DNR if the federal government delists wolves as a threatened, endangered species in four months, as proposed this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

An updated state wolf plan will assume that wolves eventually will be delisted, Roell said.

The impending switch from federal to state management is because of increasing wolf numbers in the state’s Upper Peninsula, where more than 400 wolves are believed to exist.

Recreational or sport hunting was the only issue the roundtable could not agree on for Michigan’s wolf population; some supported hunting, while others vehemently opposed the notion.

“There are a lot of value questions to consider, said R. Ben Peyton, group facilitator and professor at Michigan State University. “The group grappled with using hunting even as a management tool.

Cull of the wild?

Merle Shepard, a spokesman for the Michigan Chapters of Safari Club International, was involved in the state’s wolf group. He said thousands of hunters likely would love a shot at hunting Michigan wolves.

“Our perspective is that the wolf is a game animal and it should be managed the same way as other animals, just like deer, bear or elk, Shepard said. “If you just manage an animal when it becomes a problem, the public views it as a nuisance, not a game animal. The wolf deserves better than that.

Michigan was home to only a dozen wolves just over a decade ago, so any talk of a recreational hunting season is premature, said Marvin Roberson of the Sierra Club.

“The Sierra Club is not an anti-hunting group. However, we certainly oppose the hunting of wolves in Michigan, Roberson said.

The DNR’s Roell said any potential recreational hunting season for gray wolves is years away, with many bureaucratic and legal obstacles in between. Both federal and state governments would have to delist wolves as a threatened species, followed by a five-year waiting period. State officials would have to reclassify wolves as a game species, likely followed by a statewide referendum at the polls and many legal challenges along the way, Roell said.

“I think it would get voted down even bigger than the doves, Roell said, referring to state voters’ recent trouncing of a proposal to create a hunting season for mourning doves. “There probably won’t be a wolf hunting season anytime soon.

Livestock conflicts

But potential new state rules could allow wolves to be shot and killed by licensed hunters and trappers on a case-by-case basis when there are wolf conflicts with livestock, a growing problem in the Upper Peninsula. Additionally, private landowners may be allowed to shoot and kill wolves caught killing and eating livestock, but not be reimbursed for losses unless they follow suggested practices to reduce such conflicts.

“Farmers, particularly in the U.P., have experienced what you might expect with an increase in wolf population. There’s been an increase in the losses of livestock to those wolves, said Robert Anderson of the Michigan Farm Bureau, which also participated in the wolf group.

However, non-lethal methods to address those conflicts should be exhausted before any wolf is killed, said Cynthia Radcliffe of the National Wildlife Federation and member of the wolf roundtable.

The roundtable group’s report states that wolf-dog hybrids can negatively affect the wild wolf population and lead to wolves being illegally kept in captivity for breeding purposes. Potential legal punishment for people who intentionally habituate wolves, or make them accustomed to humans, also was suggested by the wolf group.

“People need to take responsibility for their own behavior in wolf country, Radcliffe said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 25

WA: Educating public about wolves woman’s goal

Educating public about wolves woman’s goal

M.D. Kincaid
Correspondent

I’ve always have had a fascination with wolves. Flying for wildlife research in Alaska, I have tracked wolves, attached radio collars to them, watched wolves take down moose and even let two live wolves go from traps. So it was only a matter time before I stopped in at Wolf People in Cocolalla after passing it for years.

Wolves are elusive, and although they occasionally wander through, they are not often seen in the wilds of North Idaho. The next best thing to a wilderness spotting might be visiting Nancy Taylor, who educates people about the species through her store and with her pack of 19 wolves. The Taylors’ home compound provides a naturally landscaped facility with large enclosures. Visitors to the Wolf People store on U.S. Highway 95 across from Lake Cocolalla can visit part of the pack kept in smaller enclosures during business hours. Call (800) 404-WOLF (9653) or (208) 263-1100 for more information.

Taylor has operated Wolf People for 13 years and usually see pups born into the pack and holds elders when they die. Although 5 to 7 years is considered a long life for wolves in the wild, in captivity they can live to be as old as 18, explains Taylor.

Wolves at Wolf People are fed beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and deer meat scraps from processors (they are not allowed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to use roadkill).

Taylor graduated from the University of Minnesota and operated a large insurance agency in Phoenix for 20 years. She has lived with wolves for 20 years.

What is your job title? “Owner, Wolf People”.

How long have you been doing this? “Thirteen years.”

How did you choose this line of work? “I have lived with wolves for 20 years and came to understand that most people know little about them. I wanted people to learn more and understand this beautiful creature from God.”

Are you paid: (a) well; (b) more than you are worth; (c) slave wages, (d) could be better? “(C).”

What is the best thing about your job? “Educating people about wolves and knowing this business is making a difference in how people perceive the wolf.”

What is the worst thing about your job? “When people refuse to learn the truth abut the wolf and leave here still thinking the wolf is a savage killer.”

Do you plan on doing this job (a) until retirement; (b) until something better comes along? “Forever.”

Do you have any on-the-job funny stories? “We give our wolves hot dog treats. One day a blonde lady was in and asked, ‘Why do you pay your wolves with foreign money?’ when we told her they work for franks!”

Any bad experiences? “Before we added the back chain-link fence, some people snuck around back and scared the pair of wolves that were here. Now they will not come up and greet our visitors the way they once did. They are still loving to me and some women and children, but not to men.”

If there was a movie made about you and your job, what actor should play you? “Kristine Wagner, because I have read she is very interested in protecting endangered species and loves animals as I do.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 24

MI: U.P. wolf killings probed

U.P. wolf killings probed

By SCOTT SWANSON, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE  At least six wolves have been killed in the western Upper Peninsula since the beginning of firearm deer season.

Prosecution is pending against hunters in three of the incidents, while investigations are ongoing in two others, according to an official with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A sixth animal was killed by other wolves, the official said.

In addition to a $1,500 restitution fee, a person found guilty of killing a wolf  a federally endangered species  faces up to 90 days in prison, a fee of $100 to $1,000 and a loss of hunting privileges at the discretion of the court, said Lt. Tom Courchaine of the Crystal Falls DNR office.

You think youre out in the middle of nowhere, but there are a lot of clues out there, he said. Especially during deer season, when there are a lot of eyes and ears out in the woods.

Prosecution is pending against individuals who allegedly killed wolves near Trout Creek in Ontonagon County, southern Iron County and Dickinson County, Courchaine said.

The DNR is still investigating a wolf killed in northern Iron County, although a preliminary investigation indicated that it was shot, Courchaine said. The investigation of a wolf killed on tribal land in Baraga County is being handled by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

And a wolf found dead near Ewen in Ontonagon County was determined to have been killed by other wolves, Courchaine said.

Courchaine said that an increase in the killing of wolves during deer season is not unusual.

Six wolves in the month of November is an increase for us from the past couple of years, but weve had one or two years with fairly similar numbers, he said.

The DNR handles a potential wolf kill like any criminal investigation, Courchaine said. Wildlife biologists and conservation officers are sent to the scene to gather physical evidence and conduct interviews with hunters and other witnesses. As many as six officers at a time have been placed on wolf-kill cases.

Courchaine added that it is illegal to shoot coyotes during deer season in Michigan.

All the people that kill a wolf and claim they thought they were shooting a coyote, that doesnt hold much water, he said.

Because wolves in Michigan and several other Great Lakes states have exceeded recovery goals for several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing it from the federal endangered species list. A decision is expected in March.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 24

MI: Crying wolf? Committee looking to control population

Crying wolf? Committee looking to control population

By Howard Meyerson

Press Outdoors Editor

A citizens advisory committee looking at whether Michigan’s gray wolf population might be controlled using lethal means has given the nod to holding a managed hunt, should it ever become necessary — when and if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes the wolf off the federal endangered species list.

“That’s the model we would use,” said Todd Hogrefe, the state’s endangered species coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “But the group emphasized using non-lethal means wherever it is feasible and effective.”

That group is the state’s Wolf Management Roundtable, a citizens committee representing 20 different organizations across a wide political spectrum.

The groups drew from animal welfare organizations such as the Michigan Humane Society to big-game hunting groups like Safari Club International. It also included the Sierra Club, farm bureau, tribal interests and those who hunt with dogs.

The roundtable was convened last summer to develop a set of “guiding principles” for the state to use in revising its gray wolf management plan. Those principles were released this week in a report titled: Recommended Guiding Principles for Wolf Management in Michigan.

Federal officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed last March that the gray wolf be taken off the federal endangered species list for Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan along with nearby states where they may move. Final action on that proposal is expected in March.

Michigan wildlife officials say they want to be ready for that change. There are approximately 434 wolves living in the Upper Peninsula. The state’s goal for the endangered wolf was to have 200 for five consecutive years. Hogrefe says that has more than been exceeded and there are 4,000 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Those wolves also are expected to spread out over time. That, in turn, will mean more good and bad encounters with humans.

State officials say the new guidelines will help them with their wolf plan revisions. They are a clear indication of what stockholders will tolerate and support.

Wolves are protected by federal law. It is currently illegal to kill one in Michigan except when being attacked. The state also has that authority when a wolf proves a human safety concern or the wolf is sick or injured.

In 2005, Michigan lost its authority to kill them in the case of livestock predation after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lost a lawsuit challenging its previous decision to de-list the wolf.

Hogrefe said 10 wolves were “euthanized” between April 2003 and January 2005 for that purpose and nearly $20,000 was paid to farmers to compensate them for livestock losses in 76 cases.

“We have no authority to use lethal control in these situations now, but we can use non-lethal harassment,” Hogrefe said.

The new guidelines give the DNR the flexibility to use a managed hunt if it’s needed in the future, but roundtable members could not agree about hunting of wolves for recreation and issued no recommendation.

“They agreed to disagree,” said Hogrefe, who explained that opposing groups included the various tribes who value the wolf for cultural and religious reasons, the animal-welfare groups that were concerned about their suffering and the Sierra Club, which is not anti-hunting, but whose members did not want to see it hunted.

Other guidelines included in the report call for:

  • educating Michigan citizens about wolves
  • using non-lethal means wherever possible
  • not setting numerical population goals, but rather maintaining a sustainable population while minimizing risks to humans, dogs and livestock
  • giving the DNR authority to use lethal control for livestock predation problems as well as the livestock producer.
  • not giving dog owners authority to kill wolves unless wolf attacks on dogs become a chronic occurrence and nothing else works.

    Hogrefe said the guidelines have been sent to DNR director Becky Humphries for review. A revised draft wolf management plan is expected from the DNR in March. It will get a 90-day public review before being adopted.

    Source

  • Posted in Uncategorized
    Nov 24

    ID: Cattlemen push wolf delisting

    Cattlemen push wolf delisting

    ICA calls for federal action on issue

    Dave Wilkins
    Capital Press Staff Writer

    SUN VALLEY, Idaho – Idaho cattlemen may ask the state to sue the
    federal government over the growing number of wolves in the state.

    A decade after they were re-introduced in Idaho, wolves now number in the
    hundreds. The animals, which prey on wildlife and livestock, should be
    removed from the endangered species list as soon as possible, cattlemen
    contend.

    If something isn’t done soon, the Idaho Cattle Association will call
    on the state to sue the U.S. Department of Interior, seeking immediate
    delisting.

    “Idaho has done much more than was asked of us,” ICA President Mike
    Webster said last week. “Now it’s time for the federal government to
    live up to its end of the agreement.”

    Gray wolves were listed as endangered in 1985. They were reintroduced to
    the Greater Yellowstone area and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s.

    Their numbers have grown steadily since, and the species was recently
    reclassified as threatened

    Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are attempting to fully delist the wolves
    and take over management from the federal government in each state.

    Full delisting is long overdue, said Webster, a rancher from Roberts,
    Idaho.

    The initial agreement with the federal government set a goal of 10
    breeding pairs in Idaho.

    There are now an estimated 70 breeding pairs in the state, Webster said.

    “It’s time for us to push the issue,” he said. “Wolves are decimating our
    cattle.”

    The ICA has advocated delisting since 2000, about five years after the
    species was reintroduced into parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

    Idaho and Montana have developed federally approved plans to manage
    the wolf population.

    Wolves now exceed targeted recovery levels in all three states, but
    the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it can’t delist the species
    until Wyoming has an approved management plan.

    Webster said he doesn’t care what the situation is in Wyoming; Idaho
    has an approved management plan, so the species should be delisted here.

    At its annual meeting last week, the ICA passed a resolution calling
    on the Department of Interior to “act expeditiously” to delist wolves in
    Idaho.

    If the department fails to act, “the ICA will encourage the state of
    Idaho to file a lawsuit against the federal government seeking
    immediate delisting,” the group said.

    Predators caused Idaho cattle producers to lose an estimated 500 head of
    mature cattle and 2,000 calves in 2005, according to the National
    Agricultural Statistics Service.

    Coyotes are the primary cause for cattle depredation losses in Idaho,
    although mountain lions, bobcats, wolves and dogs are suspected of getting
    their share too.

    Heavy ground cover, large pastures and wolves’ ability to consume
    entire carcasses make it difficult to get an exact count on
    wolf-caused losses.

    For every confirmed wolf kill, there could be six or seven additional
    kills that go undetected, according to some studies.

    Livestock producers figure wolves are costing them money even when
    they aren’t killing their cattle or sheep.

    The presence of wolves alone is enough to spook livestock, causing
    them to move around more, perhaps to areas where the forage quality
    isn’t as good, Webster said.

    Webster estimates that his 300-cow herd dropped about 20 pounds apiece
    because of wolf harassment one year.

    It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to quantify, but ranchers know it’s
    happening, he said.

    “There was no depredation, but it damn sure cost me a lot of money,”
    Webster said.

    Source

    Posted in Uncategorized
    Nov 23

    The Greatest Hunting Controversy of Them All

    The Greatest Hunting Controversy of Them All

    By Bill Schneider, 11-23-06

    Ive been writing about wildlife and conservation for 34 years, and one thing Ive learned is that if you want controversy, write about wolves or hunting. Now, Im wondering what would happen I wrote about both at the same time.

    Hunting is engrained in the culture of the New West, but demographics are gradually changing with new folks moving in every day from urban America where hunting may not be so engrained into their lifestyle. Still, I feel safe in saying that the majority of NewWesties accept hunting as a legitimate form of outdoor recreation instead of viewing it as legalized murdering of innocent animals.

    But will the majority accept wolf hunting? It wont be too long before we have to answer this question.

    As you read this, at dusk in our general big game hunting seasons, the option of making the wolf a trophy big game animal is buried in the management plans, formal and informal, written by the Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wildlife agencies.

    Wolf hunting is not a frontline issue, yet, because we have a few hurdles to jump first, not the least of which waiting for Wyoming to cave in on its extreme position on managing wolves. The Cowboy State wants the authority to kill wolves anyhow, anywhere outside of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This extreme position is out of touch with biology and political reality and has prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from approving Wyomings management plan as the federal agency has in Idaho and Montana.

    Wyoming is also holding up progress in delisting the wolf from the Endangered Species Act, which is the last big official hurdle to jump before we get to have a big fight over wolf hunting. Idaho and Montana want the wolf delisted on a state by state basis instead of waiting for Wyoming to recognize reality, but the FWS prefers to address the entire tri-state population at the same time.

    All this haggling among agencies means any formal proposal to make the wolf a big game animal is probably at least a year away, if not several years. But theres no doubt that its coming, probably minutes after all three states finally get complete control of wolf management from the federal government. If I worked for a state travel agency, Id have plans on the shelf for dealing with a national tourism boycott.

    To me, the wolf seems like an agent of change. I lost a big bet on the wolf when I underestimated the green power behind the proposal to bring wolves back to central Idaho and Yellowstone. I bet against it because I thought the wolf represented such a powerful cultural change in the West that it couldnt come back. I was sure wrong about who had the power, the aggies or greens.

    The wolf restoration project proved we could go back and correct past mistakes, even when faced with intense political resistance. Bringing the wolf back was like bringing the wild back into the West.

    Now, the symbol of change, Canis lupis, is back in full force. Back in January 1995, 14 gray wolves rode in boxes on trailers down from Canada through the Theodore Roosevelt Arch and into fenced pens up in Crystal Creek in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone Park. Two months later, wildlife officers left the gates open one day and three packs of wolves burst out into the virgin territory of Yellowstone to launch a sea change in western culture.

    Over in central Idaho, the same thing happened. Although lost in the fanfare of the Yellowstone wolves, even more Canadian wolves, 35 in total, were released in central Idaho.

    Now, a decade later, we have at least 1,000 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. That means were close to the total number of wolves that will ever be allowed to exist in the New West.

    If we arent quite at the total, we soon will be because wolves arent like grizzly bears, which have close to the lowest reproductive rate of any mammal. Wolves, on the other hand, when in good habitat with an adequate prey base, reproduce like rabbits.

    With so many wolves, two things are certain. First, wolves will persist in eating a lot of elk and deer and a few cows, sheep and domestic dogs, much to the disdain of ranchers and some big game hunters and outfitters, keeping an age-old conflict alive.

    And second, we will have to decide how to control wolf numbers. If we dont have active control, those 1,000 wolves will become 10,000 wolves in a few years, and well have the Big Dog everywhere — Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, eastern Colorado, Black Hills, anywhere with adequate prey, wild or domestic.

    Allowing the wolf to reclaim its entire native habitat wont fly with the majority, so we will need control. We will have to kill wolves to save wolves. But how?

    Right now, we have limited control through management actions i.e. professional biologists trapping or shooting wolves that have lost their way and acquired a taste for lamb chops. But this option, although perhaps most palatable to wolf lovers, is expensive and only targets the bad actors while ignoring the most of the population out there eating natural prey and making lots of baby wolves.

    I suspect all other options will be less palatable. We could hire professionals to shoot, trap or poison wolves, a quasi-resurgence of the old ways, maybe even bring back the crusty wolfers of western lore. They could bring back the wire loop used to drag wolf puppies out of dens so their heads could be bashed in and piled up for bounty payments.

    Or we could see the wolf in the same light as bighorn sheep or mountain goat, a trophy animal, and sell a limited number of permits each year to control the population. Think about it.

    There you go. You heard it here first, and it will be interested to see what we decide.

    Source

    Posted in Uncategorized
    Nov 23

    Idaho researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

    Idaho researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

    The Associated Press

    MCCALL, Idaho — A pair of University of Idaho researchers living in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness say that while wolves around their three-room cabin are making elk more skittish, they’re not decimating populations of the big game animals as some hunters fear.

    Wolf researcher Jim Akenson, 48, and his wife, biologist Holly Akenson, 48, live and work at the Taylor Ranch Field Station as part of what is so far a nine-year study of wolf behavior.

    The Akensons concede elk have become harder to find, but they say that’s not because wolves are killing them. They say the wolves’ presence has made elk more leery of exposed ground. That makes hunters mad because tracking the big ungulates during fall hunting season has become more difficult.

    A spooked elk in wolf country typically plunges into a river or mountain lake, because wolves are at a disadvantage in water, the Akensons said.

    Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are trying to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections for wolves, whose population in the region including Yellowstone National Park now tops 1,200.

    Eventually, the states want to hold legal wolf hunts. Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say such hunts are needed to restore balance in areas where wolves have gotten the upper hand.

    The Akensons are surrounded by three wolf packs at Taylor Ranch, but say they’ve never been threatened.

    Wolves generally hunt in packs of eight to 12 and have killed several hunting dogs in Idaho in recent years.

    Source

    Posted in Uncategorized
    Nov 22

    NM: Wolf to Be Shot Developed Taste for Beef
    After Scavenging on Cow He Did Not Kill:
    Con

    Wolf to Be Shot Developed Taste for Beef
    After Scavenging on Cow He Did Not Kill:
    Conservationists Request Thanksgiving Pardon

    PINOS ALTOS, N. M. Endangered Mexican gray wolf number 859, a male born in the wild in 2002, scavenged on an untended cow carcass prior to beginning to kill cattle, government records show. Wolf 859, a classic lone wolf made wary by his many encounters with leghold traps, most likely will not be trapped and will be shot from the air by the governments predator control agency, USDA Wildlife Services.

    The Feb. 3, 2005 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican wolf reintroduction program report from the field (http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/BRWRP_notes.cfm) includes the following entry: On January 14, WS investigated a dead cow that m859 was observed feeding on, along side a coyote. The cow was determined to have died calving about two weeks prior to m859 feeding on it, when m859 was not in the area.

    Prior to that incident, lone wolf 859 had been documented preying on elk. After the incident, he repeatedly returned to the area where he found the carcass, even after being trapped and released dozens of miles away.

    It appears lone wolf 859 learned to prey on livestock from at least one carcass he scavenged on, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. . Because of his multiple experiences with leghold traps, which are often baited with other wolves scents, he has eschewed the company of other wolves, has not settled into a home range, and will be very hard to trap.

    We respectfully request the Fish and Wildlife Service grant a Thanksgiving pardon to this wolf that stayed away from cattle until he was tempted by a cow he did not kill, said Robinson.

    The sole wild Mexican wolf population in the wild, stemming from the 1998 reintroduction to the Apache National Forest in Arizona and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, has declined by 20% per year during 2004 and 2005, according to government figures based on the annual end-of-year census. The population was projected to reach 102 animals by Dec. 31 of this year, but most likely will be likely less than half that number (see attached graph).

    The reason for the decline is the same as the for the original loss of the Mexican wolf from the wild: federal predator control.

    The Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review, released in June 2001, stated that for the reintroduction program to succeed regulations would be needed to require ranchers using the public lands to take responsibility for removing or rendering inedible (as by lime, for example) the carcasses of cattle and horses that die of non-wolf causes and that habituate wolves to regarding livestock as a food source. The review was conducted by independent, non-governmental biologists led by the renowned Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D. of the University of Calgary.

    This spring, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service pledged in its Five-Year Review (conducted by government officials) not to promulgate such regulations.

    The northern gray wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho includes regulations providing wolves some protection from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses of animals they did not kill. That program, begun just three years prior to the Mexican wolf program, has resulted in the wolf population growing to more than a thousand animals in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

    If the Mexican wolf was provided the same protection from livestock carcasses as wolves in the northern Rockies receive, conflicts with ranchers could be prevented, said Robinson.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service is mismanaging the Mexican wolf toward extinction.

    The Mexican wolf, called the desert wolf by pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold, once roamed the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico through the Sky Islands border region of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. It was exterminated in the United States, along with other gray wolf subspecies, by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Surveys poisons and traps by the early 1930s.

    On Dec. 28, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law to recover imperiled animals and plants and the ecosystems on which they depend. This led to live trapping of the last Mexican wolves in Mexico for an emergency captive breeding program to stave off extinction. Between 1977 and 1980, five wolves were captured alive, four of them male and only one female. No wolves have been confirmed alive in Mexico since 1980.

    In 1986, the Fish and Wildlife Service identified the Mexican wolf as the most critically endangered mammal in North America. Nevertheless, the agency opposed reintroduction and only began doing so as a result of a lawsuit filed by conservation groups.

    Not only does the reintroduction program fail to provide the Mexican wolf with any protection from livestock carcasses, it also, unlike any other endangered species program run by the Fish and Wildlife Service, burdened the Mexican wolf with the requirement to stay within arbitrary political boundaries. The Gila and Apache National Forests are slightly north of the desert wolfs original range (within the range of an exterminated gray wolf subspecies). Thus, the Mexican wolf is forbidden by federal regulation from occupying any portion of its historic range.

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