Dec 31

Wyo targets wolf packs

Wyo targets wolf packs

By WHITNEY ROYSTER
Star-Tribune environmental reporter

JACKSON — As they move toward delisting, many of the wolf packs in northwest Wyoming may be in the crosshairs.

There are estimated to be 23 wolf packs outside Yellowstone National Park, with three packs in the park. Under federal guidelines, Wyoming needs to maintain a minimum of seven packs outside the park, in addition to three inside, to ensure that wolves will not become endangered again.

Wyoming representatives have said they would like the federal government to eliminate the extra packs — about 16 — before removing wolves from federal protection and turning over management to the state.

The prospect of eliminating wolf packs has been mentioned in recent discussions between state and federal officials about a possible new approach to wolf management in Wyoming. The state’s wolf management plan has been rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because it would subject the animals to unregulated killing in areas except Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and surrounding wilderness.

A new proposal aimed at resolving the dispute would increase the area where wolves would be treated as “trophy game,” meaning they could only be killed with permission from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Regardless of which management plan prevails, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said reducing packs has always been on the table.

“In terms of reducing the packs, that’s always been a state objective from the outset,” Freudenthal said. “Frankly, it’s essential for both wildlife and domestic livestock that we do that.”

Meredith Taylor of the Wyoming Outdoor Council called the idea “a recipe for relisting.”

“Why would we waste all the wildlife conservation success that we’ve invested by killing up to 16 wolf packs now?” she asked. “Wyoming took a big step forward with wolf recovery 10 years ago, but this shift in management by the (Fish and Wildlife Service) is a giant step back into the dark ages of wolf slaughter that got the wolves listed in the first place.”

She also said managing for the minimum number of wolves would be more costly for the state — through extensive monitoring and killing — than letting wolves live as long as they don’t get into trouble.

State Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, who has been working with federal officials on possible negotiations, said nothing is definite and any plan will have public input.

Mitch King, regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said there has been “some discussion about moving more aggressively with wolf control.” He said attorneys are looking at that possibility.

“I’m not overly optimistic, but I want to hear what the lawyers say,” King said. He said his optimism was “measured” because there would likely be outcry over the wolf killings.

“Although it sounds like a lot of bloodshed, that’s more of an emotional argument,” King said. “Experts said for wolves to be fully recovered, all we needed to do was have 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves, and wolves would survive that way. It does not mean wolves will be heading again toward extinction.”

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the lower 48 states for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in the last 10 years, about 550 wolves have been killed because of predation on livestock. He said how many wolves a state chooses to maintain, as long as it meets the federal standard, is at that state’s discretion.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 29

MT: Livestock Predator Still a Mystery, Two Months After Its Death

Livestock Predator Still a Mystery, Two Months After Its Death

By JIM ROBBINS

HELENA, Mont., Dec. 29  Even after wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of Montana, lone predators continued to haunt sheepherders. There was the White Wolf of the Judith Basin, hunted for 15 years, and the Ghost Wolf of the Little Rockies.

These things became mythological, said Ed Bangs, the Fish and Wildlife Service recovery coordinator for the Rocky Mountains. Some people said they had supernatural powers.

They were, however, wolves. Wildlife officials are not sure what the latest phantom livestock killer was.

For 10 months, ending in November, an elusive animal that federal officials assumed was a feral dog went on a killing spree in remote north-central Montana, slaughtering dozens, perhaps hundreds, of sheep and injuring many more. It was shot and killed from an airplane Nov. 2 by federal wildlife officials. Nearly two months later, the biological evidence is inconclusive.

A large canid that resembled a wolf is all I can say, said John Steuber, director of Wildlife Services in Billings, Mont., the federal agency that killed the animal. Beyond that, it would be hard for me to make a call.

Ranchers in Dawson, Garfield and McCone Counties who saw the animal say they have no doubt it was a wolf, and they suspect it migrated hundreds of miles from large wolf populations in the Yellowstone region or in Canada.

It is not just a question of taxonomy. If the animal is a wolf, the ranchers could be paid tens of thousands of dollars by conservationists for their losses. If it is a dog or a hybrid, they are probably not eligible for reimbursement.

Federal trappers first assumed the animal was a feral dog because a wolf has not been seen in this area since the early 1920s. The animal also attacked and wounded the sheep in many places, which is characteristic of dogs, not wolves.

Wolves are like trained martial arts experts  they kill big animals for a living and know how to do it very quickly, Mr. Bangs said. A dog doesnt have a clue but wants to try, and they attack all over.

At 105 pounds, however, the animal was much larger than a dog, closer to the size of the gray wolves that inhabit the Northern Rockies. Yet the feet were small, and the face pointed, uncharacteristic of wolves. The gray-and-cream-colored fur, with flecks of orange, was also unusual. Western wolves are usually gray or white, but never brown.

Tests have shown some similarity to coyote DNA but have been inconclusive. State officials say they are waiting for more DNA testing before making a determination. It could be a number of things: a wolf-dog cross; a very unusual hybrid of a gray wolf and a coyote; a coydog, a coyote-dog cross; or a wolf from Minnesota or Wisconsin.

A state biologist who picked up the carcass of the animal said he believed it was a pet because of its teeth.

The teeth were perfect, said the biologist, Jon Trapp, a wolf management specialist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Not even a chip. And there was tartar buildup. Wolves often have broken teeth and no tartar because they chew up bones.

Ranchers who experienced losses are skeptical of the talk of hybrids. Theres no doubt it was a wolf, said Jim Whiteside, a rancher near Jordan, Mont. Its a matter of trying to evade the burden of damage.

Mr. Whiteside said the animal attacked 60 or so of his sheep and killed 21 ewes. I doctored the 40 that survived, he said. The pattern was similar. They were all bitten in the right side of the rear end.

Ranchers believe as many as 200 sheep were killed. Mr. Steuber, of the Wildlife Services, said his agency had verified 58 killed. But its possible a lot more sheep were killed or injured, he said.

There is a chance that all tests may be inconclusive.

There might not be closure there, said Carolyn Sime, the statewide wolf coordinator for Montana. Thats unfortunate.

Source

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Dec 28

WY: Bangs: Wolf mixed messages are understandable

Bangs: Wolf mixed messages are understandable

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — The federal wolf recovery coordinator for the lower 48 states says he understands the need to have one person speaking when it comes to federal wolf policy.

Ed Bangs, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont., said too many people talking at once can be confusing when government officials are trying to work out policies.

Bangs was responding to comments made by Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, who said in a meeting of state and federal officials last week that “some duct tape on Mr. Bangs’ mouth” would be helpful while Wyoming negotiates with the federal government on wolf management.

Childers said in an interview that Bangs has made “off-the-cuff” remarks that have hindered discussions in the Legislature. Childers didn’t specify what those comments were.

But he said Bangs told members of the Wyoming Stock Growers and Wyoming Wool Growers associations that he didn’t expect many problems with wolves.

“I’m not saying Ed’s a bad man,” Childers said. “I’m saying what he said, it didn’t turn out that way.”

Mitch King, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said Bangs sometimes says things that “get people upset.” But King said Bangs is an “exceptional biologist, and he’s on top of what’s going on in the wolf world.”

“Silencing Ed is not what I’m about,” King said.

“Sometimes you can say the right thing and say it the wrong way,” King said. “What I routinely do with any of my employees is make sure they understand how what they say will be read. Sometimes I can get a little crazy, too.”

Bangs said he would continue trying to accurately portray the Fish and Wildlife Service message in a way that doesn’t offend people.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently floated an informal proposal to establish a permanent area for the trophy management of wolves northwestern Wyoming in a compromise intended to end the standoff with the state over wolf management.

The dispute between Wyoming and federal officials has prevented removing wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal met last week with federal officials. While he said after the meeting that the federal proposal marked “great progress from where we were,” he said the state would continue pressing its lawsuit over wolf management.

Wyoming this fall sued the federal government for rejecting its wolf management plan. Rather than setting aside a permanent area in which wolves would be managed as trophy animals, the state’s plan calls for allowing the state game department to allow hunting as the state deems necessary to control the wolf population.

Jim Magagna, spokesman for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said recently that the proposal to set aside a permanent area for trophy management of wolves would hurt ranchers who run sheep and cattle in northwestern Wyoming. He called the proposal a “deal breaker.”

Source

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Dec 28

MT: Wolf delisting gains ground

Wolf delisting gains ground

by Jessie McQuillan

The bid to lift endangered species list protections from wolves in Montana and Idaho will begin in January 2007, regardless of Wyoming wolves uncertain status, officials said Dec. 19.

The move, announced by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dale Hall, comes after pressure from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. Jim Risch, whove argued that management disputes between FWS and Wyoming shouldnt prevent complete assumption of state control in Montana and Idaho, where long-term management plans have been already been sanctioned.

Carolyn Sime, Montanas statewide wolf coordinator, says Montana has been ready for this change since 2003, when populations met recovery goals and the states management plan secured federal approval. Montanas plan calls for maintenance of 15 wolf packs as a benchmark; as of November 2006 there were an estimated 59 packs and 300 wolves statewide, Sime says.

Once wolves are delisted in Montana, theyll be classified as a species in need of management, which means that citizens will be able to shoot wolves found attacking, killing or threatening to kill people, livestock or domestic dogs, Sime says.

The move also triggers the possibility of a statewide hunting and trapping season for wolves, and Sime says public meetings about the prospect will be held in coming months. Delisting itself isnt a done deal until FWS accepts and reacts to public comment beginning in January 2007, but Sime says Montana will begin working on a potential hunting season under the assumption that delisting will move ahead.

Suzanne Asha Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, says her group will fight FWS delisting proposal because in their view it threatens to set very bad precedent. She says the regions wolves are interdependent populations that cant be managed in isolation, and that all three states must have working management plans in place before delisting proceeds.

We all know the ultimate goal is delisting and we support that, Stone says. But whats also important is to make sure that the factors that caused wolves to become endangered in the first place are addressed.

Source

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Dec 28

WY: Muzzle wolf official?

Muzzle wolf official?

By WHITNEY ROYSTER
Star-Tribune environmental reporter

JACKSON — A federal wolf official said he understands the need to have one person speaking with one voice when it comes to setting wolf policy.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the lower 48 states for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said too many people talking about policy issues can be confusing when trying to work with other government officials regarding wolf management.

Bangs made his comments this week when asked about comments made last week by Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody. During a meeting of state and federal officials, Childers said “some duct tape on Mr. Bangs’ mouth” would be helpful as Wyoming negotiates with the federal government on wolf management.

In an interview, Childers said Bangs has made “off-the-cuff remarks” that have hindered discussions in the state Legislature. He did not specify what those comments were, but said as a biologist Bangs told members of the Wyoming Stock Growers and Wyoming Wool Growers associations that there were not going to be many conflicts with wolves.

“I’m not saying Ed’s a bad man,” Childers said. “I’m saying what he said, it didn’t turn out that way.”

Mitch King, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said sometimes Bangs says things that “get people upset,” but that he is an “exceptional biologist, and he’s on top of what’s going on in the wolf world.”

“Silencing Ed is not what I’m about,” King said.

“Sometimes you can say the right thing and say it the wrong way,” King said. “What I routinely do with any of my employees is make sure they understand how what they say will be read. Sometimes I can get a little crazy, too.”

Bangs said he will continue to try to accurately portray the Fish and Wildlife Service’s message in a way that “doesn’t offend people.” He said he’s always willing to listen to criticism and will try to learn from this experience.

The federal government is floating a proposal to expand the area where wolves would be considered trophy game in Wyoming once they’re removed from federal protection, while allowing them to be shot on sight elsewhere. Nothing formal has been drafted, and state officials are analyzing the idea as the legislative session approaches. Any changes in the Wyoming wolf management plan must by made by the Legislature.

NewsTracker

* Last we knew: A state representative suggested that silencing Ed Bangs, a federal wolf biologist, would be helpful to reach a negotiation over wolf management in Wyoming.

* The latest: Bangs said he understands it can be confusing if it appears more than one person is talking about wolf policy, but he hasn’t been muzzled.

* What’s next: State and federal officials plan to continue working toward a compromise on wolf management.

Source

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Dec 27

Idaho plans for delisted wolf management

Idaho plans for delisted wolf management

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are crafting their strategy for wolf management in the state following the announcement last week that the federal government will begin removing protections from the state’s gray wolves.

The department plans to survey elk and deer hunters to determine how many of them saw wolves while hunting, and where they saw them.

The results, and other research by the department will be used to determine where wolves can be hunted, and what kind of options hunters will have, from special draws for a limited number of hunting tags in some areas, to general hunts in others.

“We’ll be looking at where we want stable wolf populations and where we want to moderate wolf populations and where we might want to have no wolves or few wolves,” said Steve Nadeau, large carnivore coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise.

Wolves were reintroduced to the northern Rocky Mountains a decade ago after being hunted to near-extinction. They now number more than 1,200 in the region. Idaho’s federally approved wolf-management plan requires maintaining a minimum of 15 packs; the state is currently estimated to have about 60 packs.

With the rising population, state officials including Idaho Gov. Jim Risch and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer have been pushing the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections that officials say hamper control efforts aimed at stopping the predators that have spread into populated areas and are eating livestock, as well as elk that are prized by hunters.

“Those are areas we don’t expect long-term survival,” Nadeau said. “Those are areas we might want to hunt them hard.”

Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall said last week that wolves would no longer have federal protections in all of Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington and Oregon, and a small sliver of northeastern Utah. Wolves outside of those areas would still have federal protections.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will make the final decision on how wolves will be managed in Idaho.

Establishing rules for wolf-hunting is expected to take about a year. Officials say the process of delisting the wolves will probably take about a year as well, because of public comment requirements and likely court challenges from environmental groups.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 27

ID: Wolf Delisting a Maybe

Wolf Delisting a Maybe

BY SHEA ANDERSEN

Don’t hold your breath, but federal wildlife managers have told Gov. Jim Risch they’re ready to begin the long march toward removing gray wolves in Idaho from the Endangered Species Act. Risch met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall last week about the matter. Hall told a skeptical Risch that his agency would give notice in January about its entry into the delisting process to remove federal protection for wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

The federal agency had been waiting for Wyoming to develop its wildlife management plan as Idaho and Montana have, but that process appears stalled.

“As a sovereign state we should be allowed to move forward to manage a fully recovered species within our borders,” said Risch in a prepared statement. “We should not be held hostage by another sovereign state who wants to do something different. While I am encouraged by what I heard today, promises have been made in the past that have not been kept.”

If the federal government moves forward with plans to delist the species in Idaho, the state could manage wolves within its borders in a year. In the past, those plans have included aerial shooting of wolves and potentially the eradicating wolf packs in areas where state wildlife officials said wolves were preying on elk herds.

Source

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Dec 24

ID: State arranging wolf hunts

State arranging wolf hunts

New plans follow lifting of protections

Associated Press

BOISE  Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are crafting their strategy for wolf management in the state after the announcement last week that the federal government will begin removing protections from the state’s gray wolves.

The department plans to survey elk and deer hunters to determine how many of them saw wolves while hunting, and where they saw them.

The results, and other research by the department, will be used to determine where wolves can be hunted, and what kind of options hunters will have, from special draws for a limited number of hunting tags in some areas, to general hunts in others.

“We’ll be looking at where we want stable wolf populations and where we want to moderate wolf populations and where we might want to have no wolves or few wolves,” said Steve Nadeau, large carnivore coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise.

Wolves were reintroduced to the northern Rocky Mountains a decade ago after being hunted to near-extinction. They now number more than 1,200 in the region. Idaho’s federally approved wolf-management plan requires maintaining a minimum of 15 packs; the state is currently estimated to have about 60 packs.

With the rising population, state officials including Idaho Gov. Jim Risch and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer have been pushing the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections that officials say hamper control efforts aimed at stopping the predators that have spread into populated areas and are eating livestock, as well as elk that are prized by hunters. “Those are areas we might want to hunt them hard,” Nadeau said.

Establishing rules for wolf-hunting is expected to take about a year. Officials say the process of delisting the wolves will probably take about a year as well, because of public comment requirements and likely court challenges from environmental groups.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 24

Idaho starts in on its wolf plan

Idaho starts in on its wolf plan

By The Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho – Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are crafting their strategy for wolf management in the state after the announcement last week that the federal government will begin removing protections from the state’s gray wolves.

The department plans to survey elk and deer hunters to determine how many saw wolves while hunting, and where the animals were spotted.

The results, and other research by the department, will help determine where wolves can be hunted and what kind of options hunters will have, including special draws for a limited number of hunting tags in some areas and general hunts in others.

“We’ll be looking at where we want stable wolf populations and where we want to moderate wolf populations and where we might want to have no wolves or few wolves,” said Steve Nadeau, large carnivore coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise.

Wolves were reintroduced to the northern Rocky Mountains a decade ago after being hunted to near-extinction. They now number more than 1,200 in the region. Idaho’s federally approved wolf-management plan requires maintaining a minimum of 15 packs; the state is currently estimated to have about 60 packs.

With the rising population, state officials including Idaho Gov. Jim Risch and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer have been pushing the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections that officials say hamper efforts aimed at stopping predators that have spread into populated areas and are eating livestock, as well as elk that are prized by hunters.

“Those are areas we don’t expect long-term survival,” Nadeau said. “Those are areas we might want to hunt them hard.”

Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall said last week that wolves would no longer have federal protections in all of Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington and Oregon, and a small sliver of northeastern Utah. Wolves outside of those areas would still have federal protections.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will make the final decision on how wolves will be managed in Idaho.

Establishing rules for wolf-hunting is expected to take about a year. Officials say the process of delisting the wolves will probably take about a year as well, because of public comment requirements and likely court challenges from environmental groups.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Dec 24

Mont., Idaho keep ‘eye on the prize’

Mont., Idaho keep ‘eye on the prize’

By WHITNEY ROYSTER
Star-Tribune environmental reporter

JACKSON — As Wyoming negotiates with the federal government for a possible framework for wolf delisting, neighboring states continue to focus on their own roads to delisting.

Idaho and Montana representatives both said Wyoming needs to do what it needs to do, but they are ready for wolf delisting.

“We’ve been very clear and very vocal about our interest in getting wolves delisted,” said Carolyn Sime, wolf program coordinator for Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “Each state needs to have a framework that works for them.”

Jeff Allen, policy adviser for Idaho’s Office of Species Conservation, echoed Sime, saying Idaho is focused on its delisting desires.

“We’re keeping our eye on the main prize, which is delisting,” he said. “If the feds and Wyoming need to engage in talks to bring that about, we are comfortable with that.”

Neither representative said Wyoming was being rewarded for being stubborn, instead focusing on what their states face with wolves. Wyoming will still be required to maintain its fair share of wolves, both said.

In Montana, Sime said, the topography is different, in that Idaho and Wyoming have centralized areas where wolves live — in the form of central wilderness or Yellowstone National Park. Montana has more acreage that is shared use, she said.

“The idea that we would draw a line on a map is impractical,” Sime said.

As a result, Montana has a state plan allowing more aggressive management in shared-use areas, and more conservative management in more backcountry areas. Management will also depend on the number of packs, which must be a minimum of 10.

Montana has had wolves since the 1970s, after some migrated down from Canada. Those wolves are managed as endangered, and the reintroduced wolves are managed as experimental. So the state would like to manage them together, Sime said.

Montana’s plan was developed through a citizens advisory group and with public input.

In Montana, wolves will be classified as “species in need of management” once delisted. The animals can’t be killed unless they are chasing or killing livestock. In Idaho, wolves will be classified as trophy game.

Allen said Idaho will generate revenue from classifying wolves as trophy game and not as predators.

In Idaho, wolves have continued to expand their range and affect more sportsmen and ranchers, he said, while in Wyoming, wolves have stayed basically in the same northwestern area.

“I think you could say there’s been more pressure on Idaho to create a plan the feds would accept, whereas Wyoming didn’t feel that same pressure,” he said.

Allen and Sime both said their states would be seeking federal dollars to manage wolves, as Wyoming has said. All three states estimated wolf management would cost each about $1 million per year.

“From an Idaho perspective, we’re very glad Wyoming and the feds are going to try to work this out,” Allen said.

Even without Wyoming, the federal government is planning to propose wolves for delisting in Idaho and Montana. Allen said it would be “cleaner” if all three states were involved.

Both Idaho’s and Montana’s plans will manage for 15 wolf packs. Estimates now peg the number of wolves in Idaho at 650 in 60 packs, with 270 animals in Montana and 309 in Wyoming.

Mitch King, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Denver office, said the funding issue is “extremely important,” and he hopes federal funding can be secured to manage wolves, as they are a national resource.

Last week, representatives of the federal government and Wyoming met to work out a possible solution to the stalemate regarding wolf management. The federal government suggested expanding the area where wolves will be managed as trophy game, with predator status elsewhere.

There are about 1,200 wolves in the three states, more than four times the recovery goals set forth upon reintroduction.

Source

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