Jan 31

Scotland: Wild wolves ‘good for ecosystems’

Wild wolves ‘good for ecosystems’

Reintroducing wild wolves to the Scottish Highlands would help the local ecosystem, a study suggests.

Wolves, which were hunted to extinction in Scotland in the late 1700s, would help control the numbers of red deer, the team from the UK and Norway said.

This would aid the re-establishment of plants and birds – currently hampered by the deer population, they write in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

But farmers say more livestock would be killed if wolves are reintroduced.

The researchers’ findings used a predator/prey model to assess the probable consequences on the Highland’s red deer population.

“There has been an ongoing debate about the possibility of reintroducing wolves to Scotland for some time,” said co-author Tim Coulson, from Imperial College London.

“So we thought that we would start the ball rolling by looking to see, using mathematical modelling approaches, what the possible impact of reintroducing wolves into Scotland would have on the red deer population.”

The researchers found that the red deer population was close to reaching the maximum capacity that the ecosystem could support, and that costly culls were not proving to be economically effective.

Since Scotland’s wild wolf population died out, the UK’s largest wild land animal has not had any natural predators to help control its numbers.

“For example, many sheep farmers argue for fewer deer because they are concerned the deer compete with sheep for grazing,” Dr Coulson told BBC News.

“Many of the conservation organisations, especially those trying to reforest areas, also believe their numbers should be reduced.

“Attempts to get forests to come back are going to be hindered by the fact that there are too many deer, which will munch away merrily on any young trees.”

Other groups, Dr Coulson added, were concerned that excessive deer numbers were having an impact on bird species, such as the capercaillie.

The study found that the wolves would prey on the deer and would help rebalance the ecology, giving other tree and bird species a chance to establish themselves.

Livestock worries

But farming groups voiced concern and said that the introduction of wolves would hit their members.

Anna Davies, a spokeswoman for the National Farmers’ Union in Scotland, said: “The reintroduction of wolves into the wild would present significant problems in terms of sheep predation, and that is the reason why it is not widely popular among farmers.”

Dr Coulson agreed that farmers would be affected but he added: “Typically, wolves do not go through and take out an entire flock; they will take individuals when they are hungry.”

The study also assessed people’s attitudes towards the idea of releasing wolves into the wild. While the public were generally positive, people living in rural areas were more sensitive.

“Although the farmers were slightly negative, they were not completely adverse to the idea provided they were adequately reimbursed for any lost stock,” he said.

But Miss Davies disagreed: “Any implication that farmers are simply concerned with support payments and not with the welfare and predation of their animals is unjustified.

“Farmers suffer emotional as well as financial losses when they lose stock, as was demonstrated during the foot-and-mouth outbreak.”

Dr Coulson said he believed that any reintroduction plan was still a long way from becoming a reality.

“Our research is just one of the first steps towards understanding the consequences of a wolf reintroduction in Scotland,” he added.


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Jan 31

Wolves lose federal protection status

Wolves lose federal protection status

Landowners will be allowed to kill animals if they threaten livestock, pets beginning in March

Patti Wenzel


Im happy Ill be able to defend myself and my cattle if they are in danger, Karen Kerner said after learning that gray wolves were losing their federally protected status.

They just should not be here, she added.

Kerner found a partially eaten calf on her property north of Phillips last June. She added four other calves have gone missing, valued at a minimum of $600 a head.

On Jan. 29 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the delisting of the gray wolf, or timber wolf, in Wisconsin. This action starts a review period of 30 days, after which management of the gray wolf will be turned over to Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan, approved by the Natural Resources Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999.

That management plan would allow land owners to shoot problem wolves for the first time since 1957.

It will also allow land owners to obtain permits to kill a specific number of wolves on their land over a set period of time if a history of predatory actions has been verified.

But, the state plan does not allow for land owners to shoot a wolf if it is simply crossing the property.

Adrian Wydeven, a wolf biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the new designation for wolves would go into effect sometime in March. He wanted the public to know that until that time, the wolf is still considered endangered and the restrictions on shooting them still apply.

Wydeven said that wolves have done well repopulating the northwoods so the federal protections are no longer needed.

We need a more flexible management system to deal with wolves, he said. And the public may be more accepting of wolves if they know they can remove the problem wolves.

Unregulated shooting and trapping, encouraged by a legislative state bounty, resulted in the disappearance of the wolf in Wisconsin by 1960. Wolves reentered the state on their own from Minnesota in the mid-1970s. After enjoying protected status for the past three decades, the wolf population in Wisconsin has grown to an estimated 500 today. The DNRs target wolf population for the state is 350.

Price County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Mark Kopecky wasnt familiar with the details of the delisting, but he said removing the federal protection from gray wolves is a good thing.

Weve had many cases of wolves attacking livestock throughout the county, Kopecky said. This will be a good tool to protect valuable animals.

In addition to Kerners losses, wolves have killed up to 50 chickens at a Spirit-area farm; bear hounds in Hawkins, Ladysmith and Merrill; and most recently a hunting dog in Boulder Junction.

Not in the wilderness anymore

The Wisconsin Cattlemens Association (W CA) is pleased with the decision to delist the gray wolf.

Wolves are not only killing and injuring livestock and other domestic animals at an alarming rate, the very presence of wolves on livestock farms results in a variety of negative impacts to livestock production and to the farm family, both economically and socially, said Eric Koens of the WCA.

The WCA and Wisconsins six Safari Club International Chapters and houndsmen from the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association are releasing a new 30-second television ad noting the sharp rise in wolf attacks in recent years.

Little Red Riding Hood warned us about wolf, the ad states, and Little Red Riding Hood was right. The ad goes on to cite DNR statistics showing that wolf attacks on livestock have tripled over the last three years. The ad concludes with a view of kids at a playground being closely watched by a wolf.

People used to believe that wolves lived in remote forests, said Bob Welch representing the states Safari Club chapters, but the reality is that the wolf population has exploded to the point where they are now wrecking havoc on cows, sheep, dogs and property.

Kerner agrees with the sentiments in the ad.

(Wolves) should not be here, she said. It is very disturbing that they are on my land, which is not far from town. There are children on my road and its wide open. I fear for my safety.

I dont want to see them exterminated, but they just dont belong here where people are. This isnt the wilderness anymore.

Federal suit?

Karlyn Atkinson Berg, a wolf consultant with the Humane Society of the United State, thinks there are flaws in the federal plan to turn over management of the animals to individual states. She predicted her organization would file a lawsuit to block the move.

Berg said she is not opposed to killing wolves that habitually kill livestock or pets, but she believes property owners have a duty to do more to protect their animals.

Kerner said keeping wolves off open grazing land is next to impossible.

It is very difficult to keep them out, unless you want to build an 8-foot tall chain link fence, she said. But that is expensive and dangerous for the cattle and other animals.

If the delisting stands, the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar Kotelly last August blocking state DNR sharpshooters from killing wolves would be mute.

Ilma Nelson, the Spirit woman whose family lost 50 chickens last year, was happy to hear it.

I still cant understand how a judge in another part of the country could pass a judgement that can cover the whole country, she said. She doesnt have to live with these wolves everyday.


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Jan 31

State’s wolves no longer considered ‘endangered’ -
Numbers climb above 500; population may be ma

State’s wolves no longer considered ‘endangered’ -
Numbers climb above 500; population may be managed

By Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal

The gray wolf, a powerful symbol of the northern wilderness that once nearly vanished from Wisconsin forests, will no longer be considered endangered, according to an announcement Monday from Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett.

Wisconsin wildlife officials praised the decision and said the move will allow them to manage the states wolves on their own and better control problem animals in the states growing population, now pegged at more than 500 after a 30-year recovery effort.

Up to now, its been frustrating, said Adrian Wydeven, who oversees the recovery program, of efforts to get rid of wolves that kill livestock. Weve been anxious for this to occur.

Wydeven said the change will also lead to more discussions about the possibility of a public hunt for an animal that had nearly disappeared from the state by 1960 due to unregulated shooting and trapping.

But it is the wolfs surprising comeback that most people focused on Monday.

Scott Hassett, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, called the wolfs return a true success story, helped by the preservation of wild landscapes in Wisconsin.

The new federal status applies primarily to wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which have healthy wolf populations. The removal from the endangered species list will not become final until the end of a 30-day review period.

But at the end of that period, Wisconsin wildlife managers will be freed from a cumbersome process under which they had to seek federal permits to kill problem wolves. The need to get rid of depredatory wolves has become pressing.

In 2005, the state killed 32 problem wolves and last year another 18, though Wydeven said that number would probably have been doubled if not for the long permitting process.

Now, wildlife managers will be able to quickly respond when a wolf pack is preying on livestock. In fact, even landowners will now be allowed to shoot wolves if they are in the act of attacking livestock. Farmers can also apply for permits to shoot wolves if there is a pack causing problems in the area.

The biggest criticism people have had, Wydeven said, is that they couldnt protect their own animals. This is going to take a lot of heat off.

The wolf will not be without protection in Wisconsin. It will be considered a protected wild animal, which means it is still shielded from an open hunting or trapping season.

A management plan adopted by the state in 2004 includes provisions for a strictly controlled public hunt of the wolf if populations top 350 animals.

That mark was reached long ago but Wydeven said more biological studies of wolf populations are necessary before a hunting season, which would require legislative approval and a public hearing process, is considered.


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Jan 31

ID: Feds move forward on delisting Idaho wolves

Feds move forward on delisting Idaho wolves

Hunting season specifics will not be nailed down for several months

Express Staff Writer

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that it will begin the process of removing the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list.

If eventually delisted wolf management authority would be transferred to the state level, although the process could take up to a year.

In Idaho, that will likely mean a hunting season on wolves.

Earlier this month, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said he’s eager to land a wolf hunting tag and that he’d like to see about 550 of the state’s 650 wolves killed.

Several hunting groups in the region can’t wait to take their shot at wolves, either, claiming the animals have decimated elk populations.

Sixty-six wolves were reintroduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park 11 years ago. There are now more than 1,200 wolves in the region, which includes Wyoming and Montana. The Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been managing wolves since their reintroduction, has mandated that each state retain a permanent population of at least 100 animals, including 10 breeding pairs. If populations dip below those figures, the federal agency will step in and relist them.

The state of Wyoming has yet to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it has a sound management plan, mainly because it wants to shoot the animals on-sight outside wilderness areas and national parks. If Wyoming does not develop a plan that gels with federal goals a delisting will not be granted to the state.

Last week the Idaho Fish and Game Commission set wolf tag prices at $26.50, a price that still must be approved by the Idaho Legislature and is entirely dependent on a delisting.

“All of this is contingent on whether wolves are delisted,” Niels Nokkentved, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said. “This is moot until they are.”

Sharon Rose, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Widlife Service, said the delisting process will be extensive and will not officially begin until notice is published in the Federal Register, which will likely occur next week.

Once posted, a 60-day public comment period will begin.

Rose said the Fish and Wildlife Service will look for any fresh scientific information and not opinions on whether the animal should be delisted.

“This will not be a voting type thing,” she said.

Rose said the public comments will undergo significant review, as will the state’s plans, and the entire process will “take quite a bit of time.”

She said she expects people to comment on the prospect of a hunting season, but that issue will be up to the individual states.

That fact has concerned wolf advocates in Idaho, where lawmakers have not made it a secret that they’re anti-wolf.

Last week’s comments from Cameron Wheeler, chairman of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, certainly didn’t help matters. In a discussion regarding the price of a wolf tag in Bosie, Wheeler said that wolves may never generate much money, “kinda like women’s sports.”

Nokkentved said he wasn’t in a position to respond to Wheeler’s comment.

“I don’t think anybody is going to feel comfortable responding to it,” he added.

Wheeler could not be reached for comment.

As for a wolf-hunting season in Idaho, Nokkentved said it’s too early to get into specifics.

“We actually have just kind of started on that process,” he said. “We’re barely getting started.”

He said the public will “absolutely” be given a chance to comment on a wolf hunting season and will help dictate when and where seasons occur.

“Sometime during the summer there will be an opportunity for folks to comment,” he said.

To get involved:

Public comments on the proposed delisting of the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf can be electronically mailed to NRMGrayWolf@fws.gov. They can be hand-delivered to USFWS, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT, 59601. They can be mailed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wolf Delisting, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT, 59601. All comments must be received within 60 days of the proposed rule’s publication date in the Federal Register. For more information on Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves, visit www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf.


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Jan 31

WY: House panel reverses on wolf bill

House panel reverses on wolf bill

Associated Press writer

CHEYENNE — A House committee reversed itself Monday and approved a bill that would enable the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to use aerial hunting methods and grant permits for private landowners to kill wolves threatening their property.

The House Travel Committee voted 5-4 during a morning meeting to reject the measure, but legislative leaders asked the committee to reconsider during a lunch recess.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland presented the bill to the committee that outlined the aggressive wolf management tactics and called for the use of GPS monitoring devices on gray wolves. Travel Committee Chairman Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, sponsored the bill, which would cost the state an estimated $2.4 million.

“It’s gonna take a significant amount of time and resources to monitor, to track, and in some cases to do conflict resolution with these wolves,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland added that he thought the use of aerial hunting was absolutely necessary to guarantee effective wolf management. “The only tool that we have today to control wolf populations that they didn’t have 100 years ago is aircraft,” Cleveland said.

Two committee members switched their vote during the noon recess to move the bill to the House floor for discussion.

Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, said he opposed the bill during the morning vote because he thought it was “poorly formulated,” but that he switched his vote because “there is an overarching need to have a bill in place so that we can deal with the wolf settlement if one comes.”

“If this committee kills the bill, then we extinguish any mechanism to approve a wolf settlement in the House of Representatives, and I don’t want to do that,” Brown said.

The bill passed within minutes of an announcement that federal officials were removing gray wolves in the Great Lakes region from the endangered species list and seeking to do the same for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. In Wyoming, the removal is contingent on a state wolf management plan being approved.

“I felt after further consideration that (the bill) probably deserved debate on the floor,” Rep. Jim Slater, R-Laramie, said. “This is just a placeholder bill, and if it doesn’t come up right, there’ll be plenty of debate to kill it.”

A dispute between Wyoming and federal officials over wolf management has been stewing for the past few years and has prevented removing wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

The federal government in 2004 rejected the state’s original wolf plan, and the state has filed a lawsuit, now pending in federal court, over the issue.

In its original plan, Wyoming had proposed allowing state Game and Fish officials to adjust the size of a trophy wolf management area around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Outside that area, the state proposed wolves be classified as predators that could be shot on sight.

Late last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informally proposed designating a permanent wolf area that would extend from Cody south to Meeteetse, around the western boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation down to Pinedale, west to the Alpine area and then back north to Yellowstone National Park. The state would manage wolves in that area as trophy game; animals outside would be classified as predators.

At the morning committee meeting, representatives of sportsmen groups said they supported the House bill, but reserved the right to withdraw support if it changes during the legislative process.

“The one thing that the bill is lacking is the ability to protect the wildlife that the sportsmen of this state place a high value on,” said Bob Wharf, representative of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

Some told the House Committee they opposed the bill and wished the measure went even further.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said he was glad the measure included language that would allow private landowners to kill wolves who were harming their private property.

“But we wish it also allowed language that would permit property owners to kill wolves to protect their livestock wherever its allowed to graze, even if the livestock’s owner does not own that property,” Magagna said.


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Jan 31

ID: The Big Bang

The Big Bang

Boise’s first hearing on wolf delisting is March 6


Idaho’s rugged mountains may be the only thing that keeps hunters and state wildlife operatives from shooting hundreds of wolves in the Gem State.

“There’s not going to be mass slaughter,” said Cal Groen, the newly-minted director of Idaho Fish and Game. “They’re a cunning animal. I’m sure it’s going to be very difficult.”

Nonetheless, Groen said he and his agency, working with hunters across the state, seem ready to try.

The announcement Monday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was going to begin the year-long process of removing grey wolves from the federal Threatened and Endangered Species list in Idaho, Montana and parts of Wyoming, started plenty of speculation about what an authorized hunt might look like.

First, the price: For a mere $26.50, an Idaho hunter with a hunting license can peg a wolf. That’s the number proposed by the state Fish and Game Commission. The price, and the season, would first have to be authorized by the Legislature.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has already said he’ ready to shoot a wolf (BW, News, “Fire When Ready,” January 24, 2007). He also said he’d like to get the Idaho wolf population down from 650 to about 100, a number below which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would likely re-list the wolf.

“From a manager’s viewpoint, that’s too thin,” Groen said. “We want a margin of safety.”

Second, the timeline. Because the de-listing process is a long and arduous one, involving a lengthy public comment period with potential for lawsuits, would-be wolf hunters will have to wait. Groen said he expected the process to take a year as planned.

As to where hunters might be sent to find targets, the Fish and Game’s large carnivore manager Steve Nadeau said he expects to concentrate hunting in seven so-called “high conflict” areas, such as the Copper Basin near Mackay, where he said wolves caused problems with livestock.

“We had wolf problems there even when we only had 100 wolves,” Nadeau said. “We will be aggressive in some areas.”

The news dismayed conservationists.

“Today should be a day of celebration and recognition of the commitment our nation has made to the recovery of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said Rodger Schlickeisen from Defenders of Wildlife. “But instead, we must sound the alarm bells because, with one stroke of a pen, the Bush administration has announced they plan to hand over management of gray wolves to states whose main goal is to exterminate wolves.”

Boise’s first public hearing on the matter is March 6, at the Centre on the Grove at 850 W. Front St. Officials will present the plan from 3 to 5 p.m., then take public comments from 6 to 8 p.m.


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Jan 31

ID: Nez Perce Tribe welcomes delisting of Idaho wolves

Nez Perce Tribe welcomes delisting of Idaho wolves

LEWISTON, Idaho – Officials with the Nez Perce Tribe in northern Idaho say they support the federal government’s plans to remove wolves from the list of protected animals, and attribute much of the success of wolves in the state to the tribe’s wolf management efforts.

“Wolves are such a highly regarded species historically to our people,” Rebecca Miles, chairwoman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, told The Lewiston Tribune. “It’s a huge accomplishment by all the parties. We know it is time for delisting. In spite of any debate elsewhere, the tribe is very supportive of that effort.”

The Interior Department on Monday said it would like to remove about 1,200 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from the endangered and threatened list within a year, making state and tribal governments responsible for keeping their numbers at healthy levels.

“The Nez Perce Tribe has been leading wolf management efforts from about the first time we put wolves back into north central Idaho, and they have been doing an outstanding job,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Billings, Mont.

Before wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in the mid-1990s, Idaho lawmakers passed a law forbidding the state Department of Fish and Game from taking part in management of wolves, in an effort to prevent wolves from entering the state.

But the Nez Perce Tribe volunteered to help with on-the-ground management and took a leading role in dealing with conflicts between wolves and humans.

“It is the only place we know of in the nation where a tribe has led the effort for recovery of a listed species on a statewide basis,” said Keith Lawrence, director of the tribe’s wildlife program.

Wildlife biologist Curt Mack began as a one-man field crew, but was joined by both tribal and nontribal members to help deal with and reduce conflicts between humans and wolves.

“We kind of knew the social end of it was going to be the largest primary challenge,” Mack said. “That is why we really started this thing from a grass roots kind of deal and really prioritized one-on-one working relationships with those individuals being affected by wolves.”

After Idaho signed an agreement with the federal government in 2005 to manage wolves, the tribe’s role was reduced. However, the tribe still monitors and helps manage wolves in the McCall area and Clearwater region of northern Idaho, which accounts for about half of the wolves in the state.

“The whole goal of the Endangered Species Act was to get to this point,” said Miles. “We are really focused on that, and the long-term management _ that will need to be carefully discussed in the future.”


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Jan 31

AK: Judge refuses to stop wolf-killing program

Judge refuses to stop wolf-killing program

By MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A judge denied a request Wednesday to put an immediate stop to an Alaska program that allows wolves to be shot from the air.

The request was made as part of a lawsuit filed by Defenders of Wildlife, The Alaska Wildlife Alliance and the Alaska chapter of the Sierra Club to stop the program operating in five areas of the state.

“We are disappointed that Alaska’s ill-advised aerial gunning program will continue before a complete examination of all the facts can take place,” Karla Dutton, director of the Alaska office of Defenders of Wildlife, a national group with more than 800,000 members, said in a statement.

The program, which has been the target of lawsuits since it began in 2003, is intended to boost moose and caribou numbers where residents have complained that predators are killing too many, leaving them too few to hunt for food.

Under the program, now in its fourth year, 580 wolves have been killed. The goal is to reduce wolf populations in each of the specified areas by as much as 80 percent annually. The program runs through April 30 with the best conditions for tracking wolves in February and March.

Superior Court Judge William Morse prefaced his ruling by explaining his job was not to give his opinion about the wolf control program. His role was to decide if there was cause to immediately stop the program.

“I am not here to rule on the wisdom of aerial wolf killing,” he said. “I have a limited role.”

Morse said his job was to weigh the potential for harm to each side. If the program was allowed to go forward, the real harm, would be to the individual wolves that will be killed, Morse said. While the program may hurt wolf packs, they can regenerate, he said.

“With time, the packs – gain strength,” Morse said.

But if Morse granted the preliminary injunction, the program would be set back, causing greater harm to the state, he said.

The judge also found that the way in which the wolf control regulations were adopted did not violate state procedure laws. Problems with the regulations were fixed as a result of previous court proceedings, he said.

Morse found that the state had devised the program as part of a game management plan that contained sufficient findings and criteria.

“You may disagree with them, but it is a thought-out program and there is an overriding management plan spelled out there,” the judge said.

Morse predicted the fight over wolves would eventually end up in the Alaska Supreme Court.

“I think this is a difficult issue in a very contentious area,” he said. “I realize this issue is not going away.”


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Jan 31

WY: Elk herd study may reveal wolf impact

Elk herd study may reveal wolf impact

By Mark Heinz

Some 60 cow elk in the Big Horn Basin are wearing GPS tracking collars which researchers hope will provide knowledge about the animals’ movements and other habits.

The collars are beeping away, collecting three locations per day on each elk, Game and Fish Cody Region Wildlife Management Coordinator Kevin Hurley said.

The collars are the first step in a three-year study aimed at determining, among other things, how predation by wolves has impacted elk herds.

As part of the study, six wolves – two each from three packs – were captured and collared.

The animals were captured by an MD 500 helicopter-borne net gun crew with Leading Edge Aviation of Clarkston, Wash.

The company specializes in capturing wildlife with net guns, said Jess Dingman, chairman of the Cody chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

RMEF is a major contributor to the study, donating $25,000.

Dingman said he’d never seen elk captured with a helicopter net gun prior to going out with a crew last week.

He was impressed by what he saw.

It was amazing. It’s a humane way to do it, because you’re in and out of there in five minutes, he said.

No drugs are used on the animals during the process, he added.

It puts minimum stress on the animals, and that’s important, Dingman said. It’s the middle of winter, and many of these cows are probably pregnant. The less stress we put on them, the better.

There hasn’t been a comprehensive study of elk in this area for decades, Hurley said. Sample animals have never been captured here via helicopter.

Previous studies were based on animals rounded up into pens, he said. That was time-consuming, and limited the samples to only one area.

Using the chopper, crews were able to collar elk from several groups and locations, which should give researchers a more comprehensive picture, he said.

Only cows were used, because they will provide the best picture of herds’ migration patterns, Hurley said.

This is not a bull survival study. We wanted to look at herd movement. And cows give the best indication of that, he said.

Adult cow elk tend to show the most fidelity to their seasonal ranges, he added. They tend to use the same migration routes and same areas for summer range, winter range and calving areas.

There’s speculation the renewed presence of wolves has changed migration patterns, possibly causing herds to move less.

The study should help determine whether that’s true.

The study is overdue, Dingman said. So much has happened since the last studies was done. We have wolves and more grizzly bears than before.

The Yellowstone fires of 1988, more development and other changes have probably affected elk herds since previous studies, Dingman added.


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Jan 31

MI UP: Will wolf shootings cease?

Will wolf shootings cease?

By JOHN PEPIN, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE  With U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials announcing Monday the removal of gray wolves from federal threatened and endangered species lists in several Great Lakes states, some advocates hope the action will ease frustrations and translate into fewer illegal wolf killings.

Were hoping that the illegal mortalities will decrease in the Midwest, said Ron Refsnider, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis.

The wolf will become a state-managed species in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota 30 days after the delisting rule is published in the Federal Register. That publication should occur within the next several days.

Delisting is occurring because wolves have met and maintained population recovery goals previously outlined in the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan.

The new federal status for the wolf in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota will allow state department of natural resources officials greater latitude in dealing with problem wolves, including the use of lethal control.

Over the past several months, Michigan and Wisconsin DNR officials had been prohibited from using certain hazing techniques or killing wolves that had killed livestock.

After August of last year, if there was a depredation we werent able to use lethal control, said Brian Roell, Michigan wolf coordinator with the DNR in Marquette.

Refsnider said hes hoping with more wolf management flexibility for the departments of natural resources in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, tensions among livestock owners and hunters frustrated with wolves will ease.

Each year, the DNR investigates several illegal wolf killings in the Upper Peninsula. A handful were reported over the firearm deer season last fall.

The DNR aggressively investigates such cases and will continue to do so, even after the wolf is delisted. Wolves will still be protected under state law and they cannot be hunted.

Convictions can result in a $1,500 restitution fee, up to 90 days in jail, a fee of $100 to $1,000 and a loss of hunting privileges at the discretion of the court.

There are rules that need to be followed and those regulations will be enforced, said Capt. Curt Bacon, northern field operations supervisor with the DNRs Law Enforcement Division in Marquette.

In hopes of urging federal officials to delist the wolf and allow state management, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin DNR officials sent a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2005.

The letter said public support for wolves is eroding as wolf problems in Michigan are increasing. Negative media reports are becoming more common and the frequency of complaints to the DNR is increasing, officials said.

To assure continuing local public tolerance and support of wolf conservation in all three states, the reasonable tools to effectively resolve wolf problems prescribed in each states management plan are desperately and immediately needed, the letter stated.

In 2005, officials said wolf depredations on domestic animals were increasing in Michigan and Wisconsin and continued to remain high in Minnesota. More than 70 percent of the wolf attacks on pet dogs confirmed in Michigan since 1996 occurred between 2002-05.

As wolves expand farther into agricultural and residential areas in Michigan, the incidence of these conflicts is expected to increase exponentially with population size, the letter stated. Its time to return wolf management authorities to these states so that spread of wolves into agricultural areas can be controlled and reasonable restraints can be applied to wolf population growth.

In addition to the three Great Lakes states where wolves are currently living, the federal wolf delisting will also affect areas surrounding the states into which wolves may disperse but are not likely to establish packs.

This includes portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Currently, researchers estimate there are more than 430 wolves in the Upper Peninsula and another 30 located at Isle Royale National Park. With at least 460 wolves in Wisconsin and more than 3,000 in Minnesota, the western Great Lakes region has a total of about 4,000 wolves.

Roell said he thinks the increase in wolf numbers has put more people in contact with the species, resulting in more interaction, some of which is negative.

Wolf numbers are up, he said.

Roell said it appears the regions illegal wolf killings occur randomly and those incidents will likely continue, even with federal delisting. He said it would be speculative to think delisting will decrease illegal wolf kills.

I dont think its really going to save wolves, Roell said.

State officials have long thought the key to greater wolf tolerance is education and public awareness.


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