Nov 30

ID: Wolf management control

Wolf management control

Twin Falls

It’s hard to discuss wildlife in the state of Idaho without talking wolves. The Idaho Fish and Game plans on it next Monday at its open house in Jerome.

Regan Berkley, IDFG Regional Wildlife Biologist said, “We’re going to be talking about the new wolf plan, the new mule deer management plan, potential changes to upland game regulations and some trapping regulations.”

One of the biggest changes in policy is with the wolves, with delisting off the endangered species list possible early next year. Berkley said, “Well, with wolves, the big change is the fact that they may be de-listed. So the state may take over full management of wolves, so, that’s a huge change.”

Part of the new process is the handing over of control for the management of wolves from the federal government to the state. now, it’s Idaho’s job to manage the delicate balance between conservationists and the anti-wolf crowd.

Monday’s meeting gives all sides the chance to give input as to which direction the state should go. The meeting will be held at the Fish and Game Magic Valley Regional office on Highway 93 from 6p to 9p.


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Nov 29

UK: Wolf and lynx could be re-introduced to UK

Wolf and lynx could be re-introduced to UK

By Paul Eccleston

Bringing back animals which were hunted to extinction in Britain – including the wolf, lynx, beaver and wild boar – would not be difficult, according to a new report.

The animals could be brought back to live free in the wild without posing any great threat to people, crops or the environment, it is claimed.

A report from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University (WCRU) said while further work needed to be done on their impact, there was no obvious reason to block their return.

The animals roaming free in remote areas would enhance the natural environment and as a bonus they could form the basis of a multi-million pound tourist industry.

Wildlife tourism in the UK is thriving particularly in Scotland where the reintroduction of the osprey attracted on average 33,600 visitors between 1998 and 2001 while the Red Kite Centre, Wales attracted 33,350 visitors in 2004.

The possibility of the animals’ return is raised in the State of Britain’s Mammals report for 2007 Mammals Trust UK, which looks at the challenges wildlife will face in the 21st century.

Professor David Macdonald and Dr Dawn Burnham, from the WCRU identified a range of factors including climate change, the spread of infectious diseases, agricultural and forestry practices, and human activity which will all combine to put increasing pressure on the UK’s fragile wildlife populations.

Earlier this year the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), added 16 new habitats, 8 terrestrial mammals and the common seal to the UK’s Priority List of Species and Habitats.

The report says that wild boar are already living free and breeding rapidly across several south-eastern countries after escaping from farms.

They were a potential threat to people and dogs and caused damage to crops and through rooting to wild flowers, particularly bluebells, and trees.

But they also played an important role as ecosystem engineers increasing habitat diversity and in places they were regarded as an asset because they provided sport and meat to the hunting sector.

Similarly beaver had also escaped into the wild and one was living quite happily near Oxford. Even in the worst case scenario, where beavers caused damage to trees, the cost would only be tens of thousands of pounds while at best the costs would be negligible.

But their presence would contribute to wetland creation helping with consequent water purification and they were useful in flood retention.

“The end result appears to be a very healthy balance sheet in favour of reintroducing the beaver,” the report says.

Studies surrounding the reintroduction of the wolf to Scotland, where it was hunted to extinction in the 18th century, found that highland farmers were the most likely to be affected because they would lose livestock.

But they were not absolutely opposed to the wolf’s return as it was ‘restoring the balance of nature and preserving Scotland’s heritage’.

They recognised the value of wildlife tourism and knew they would be compensated if they lost sheep to predation.

The studies had found that 1,000 square kilometres could support 25 wolves and that they would keep down deer populations and save the expensive cost of regular culls in Caledonian pine forests.

The lynx had disappeared during medieval times because of deforestation, declining deer populations and persecution but all these had now been reversed. The EU Habitats Directive had also stated that the European lynx should be considered for reintroduction.

Studies by Aberdeen University had identified two areas in Scotland which would provide suitable habitat for lynx. It had been estimated that current deer populations could support 400 lynx in the Highlands and 50 in the southern Uplands.

The report identifies the brown hare, mountain hare, red squirrel, hedgehog, harvest mouse, scottish wildcat and grey seal as all being threatened British mammals whose populations were in decline.

One high point has been the recovery of the otter which had suffered severe decline in the latter half of the 20th century because of pollution. But the clean up of rivers had resulted in the otter’s recovery and continued expansion.


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Nov 29

NM: Two Wolves Missing

Two Wolves Missing

By John Larson
for Mountain Mail

SOCORRO, New Mexico (STPNS) — Two collared Mexican gray wolves in the Gila National Forest have been unaccounted for since November 1.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Elizabeth Slown said the whereabouts of three member Durango pack is still unknown.

“We have weekly flyovers and still haven’t picked up their radio collar signals,” Slown said.

The wolves in question are the Durango male, AM973, and a female, F1047. A third un-collared male pup, known to be traveling with the male and female, is also missing.

In a press release dated Nov. 27 Governor Bill Richardson said every effort should be made to locate the trio.

“The disappearance of the Durango Pack of endangered Mexican Gray Wolves is a disturbing development,” he said.

According to Slown, the last signal from the collared wolves was received on Nov. 1 at 8 a.m.

“A search was begun on November 14, which yielded no sign of the wolves,” she said. “Since we didn’t get any signals from the fly-overs, intensive work was started on the ground.”

Gila Livestock Growers Association president Laura Schneberger said managers of the wolf reintroduction program are hiding pups from the count.

“Ranchers get blamed for everything wrong with this program. … if the agencies would do an adequate job this program would be in better shape,” she said.


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Nov 29

AZ: Endangered Wolves Removed

Endangered Wolves Removed

Stephanie Johnson, KOLD News Producer

More endangered Mexican gray wolves have been targeted for removal from the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service two adult females and their pups will be removed because the pack has killed a horse and five cows since the beginning of the year.

The wolf reintroduction program requires the permanent removal of any wolf linked to three livestock killings within a year; either by trapping and keeping it in captivity or by shooting it.

Federal biologists began releasing wolves on the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998 to re-establish the species in part of its historic range after it had been hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.


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Nov 28

Dubois hunters split on losses to wolves

Dubois hunters split on losses to wolves

By The Associated Press

DUBOIS – The growing number of gray wolves and the increasing territory they roam have raised concern from many local hunters and outfitter guides that wolves are eating into their hunting experience and their business profits.

Wolf advocates argue there’s no evidence wolves are chewing through big game populations, calling them a victim of an underlying hostility in the West. Where one side holds the literary legend of the big, bad wolf, the other sees the Hollywood icon from the film “Dances with Wolves.”

“It seems to be a more emotional issue, and people seem to be really polarized on it,” said Jay Lawson, chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s wildlife division. “The emotions run high on both ends, both pro- and anti-wolf.”

The debate comes at a time when the federal government seeks to remove special protections that have allowed the gray wolf to recover from near extinction and to turn management of wolves over to Montana, Wyoming and Idaho – where an estimated 1,545 wolves now live.

It’s a debate hindered by a lack of definitive data and knowledge about the interactions between wolves and their chief prey: elk, deer and moose.

In Dubois, a town of about 1,000, where many residents hunt as a way of putting meat on the table, both sides provide mostly anecdotal information to bolster their arguments on whether wolves have affected the local elk herds.

Budd Betts Jr. runs a guest ranch and hunting guide operation that depends heavily on income from the fall elk hunting season. The ranch is located in a scenic mountain valley outside of Dubois where elk roam and wolves are heard howling. He said the area was known for plentiful elk that were easy to hunt.

“That tradition has basically gone away,” Betts said. “And for that I blame the wolf. I blame the wolf on the fact that we hardly have any late-season elk hunting anymore.”

He acknowledged that other predators and weather affect elk populations but said those conditions existed before the wolf came on the local scene in 1997, and huntable elk populations in the area weren’t greatly affected.

Tory and Meredith Taylor run a pack horse operation outside Dubois in the summer and guide tourists during the winter to see wolves in Yellowstone National Park. They don’t see wolves on their property along the Wind River with Whiskey Mountain looming in the distance.

“I’m a hunter, and I believe what my eyes tell me, and I haven’t seen any decrease in the number of game animals,” Tory Taylor said.

The Taylors noted elk numbers in Wyoming are well above what state wildlife managers consider ideal.

In 2005, Wyoming’s elk population was estimated at about 93,500 – about 12 percent higher than the goal of 83,185, according to a report issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department last year.

“The hunting opportunities for big game operators in Wyoming have not decreased. If anything, they’ve increased,” Meredith Taylor said.

They acknowledged instances when wolves were blamed for reducing the size of an elk herd, but said such cases are isolated and a part of nature. They said there’s no proof to support the argument that wolves are devastating big game herds on a large scale.

There is a lack of definitive data on how wolves affect elk numbers. Biologists and game managers say it can be hard to determine whether a wolf killed an elk or fed on the animal after it was already dead.

Charles Kay, a Utah researcher who specializes in wildlife ecology, said there have been no comprehensive studies of how wolves impact big game because such a study would be complex, time-consuming and costly.

Ed Bangs, who heads the federal wolf recovery effort in the Northern Rockies, said wolves are “never the primary factor” affecting populations of elk, but can both accelerate a decline in an elk herd and slow its growth.

Separate from the move to delist wolves from the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a rule change that would make it easier for wildlife managers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to kill wolves in order to help struggling elk herds.

Wildlife managers in Wyoming, which prodded the federal agency for the change, said it was necessary to preserve healthy big game herds. However, conservationists have opposed the rule change, saying it would lead to too many wolves being killed for eating their natural food source.

“I’m frustrated our own wildlife management agency is so prejudiced against predators,” said Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

All sides agree that wolves are here to stay and the debate over wolves and big game will be going on for a long time to come.

“The bottom line is, wolves are here,” Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman Eric Keszler said. “I think most reasonable people will say we need to have tools available to manage them in the way that’s best for a recovered population of wolves but also best for the people of Wyoming.”


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Nov 28

Coyotes give way to wolves

Coyotes give way to wolves

By The Associated Press

The resurgent wolf population in the greater Yellowstone area is causing a sharp decline in another predator – coyotes – which are being killed off and scared away by their larger, more aggressive canine cousins, according to a new study.

Coyote numbers in Yellowstone National Park dropped by almost 40 percent since wolves were reintroduced there in the mid-1990s, according to the study. In neighboring Grand Teton National Park, coyote numbers are down 33 percent where wolves have moved in.

Both species prey on wildlife and livestock. But because wolves are so much larger – averaging more than 85 pounds, almost three times the size of the coyotes in the study – their resurgence means more attacks on larger animals such as elk or cattle.

It also means less pressure on smaller prey, such as sheep, lambs and fawns of deer and pronghorn antelope, said Kim Murray Berger of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Berger co-authored the federally funded study with Eric Gese of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Berger said another study, still in the works, suggests pronghorn numbers have risen by 6 percent a year in areas where wolves are replacing coyotes.

Berger compared the realignment of predator and prey in the Yellowstone area to the balance in place a century ago, before wolves were exterminated from much of the West.

“You saw all the attention shift to coyotes,” she said, noting the creation of a federal program that now kills 70,000 to 80,000 coyotes a year for livestock protection.

“As some of the larger predators have been expanding, the attention is shifting back,” she said.


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Nov 28

ID: From reintroduction to statewide hunt?

From reintroduction to statewide hunt?

Fish and Game releases draft plan to hunt wolves throughout Idaho


From just several dozen gray wolves released into the remote Central Idaho backcountry between 1995 and 1996, the state’s population of the secretive wild canines has surged to the point where they now number more than 700.

In those early years just after the reintroduction, the wolves primarily kept to the rugged and largely roadless central core of the state near their release sites in and around the 2.4-million acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. But as their ranks began to swell, dispersing wolves started showing up in more populated areas where they inevitably ran into conflict with the state’s politically powerful ranching industry and hunting interests.

The rural Idaho communities of Salmon, Challis, Stanley, McCall and Mackay are just a few of the places where the wolves have run into trouble. Earlier this summer, the Wood River Valley became the latest region in the state to welcome its first confirmed resident wolf pack when biologists discovered that a pair of wolves had given birth to a litter of pups.

Because their den site was located near the upper end of the Big Wood River drainage near a place called Phantom Hill, the small pack became known as the Phantom Hill pack. Throughout the summer of 2007, wildlife officials linked the pack to a series of sheep killings in the eastern Smoky Mountains, and this led state and federal officials to consider using lethal control methods to reduce or eliminate the small group of wolves.

But as of late November, the Phantom Hill pack remained in existence, with sightings and radio telemetry observations continually reported in the mountains around and to the south of Galena Summit. And although the pack’s survival seems assured at least for now, how long that remains so will come down to how they interact with the valley’s sheep bands next summershould they choose to remain in the same area.

Today, with the support of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, the state of Idaho is preparing to enter into what may end up being the most controversial period since the wolf reintroduction process began more than a decade ago.

On Monday, Nov. 19, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game released its draft plan for controlling Idaho wolves once federal protections are lifted, which is anticipated sometime in early 2008. The plan lays the groundwork for hunting wolves in areas where the predators clash frequently with livestock and have made significant dents in big game populations.

The draft plan was developed with the help of a working group that included representatives from hunting, livestock and conservation groups. Fish and Game also sent out a survey to 1,000 hunters, 1,000 members of the general public and 1,000 members of the state’s livestock industry.

Perhaps most significantly, the proposed management plan requires Idaho to maintain a minimum of 15 breeding pairs and recommends allowing wolves to persist where they do not cause excessive conflict with human activities. But it also recommends using a regulated seasonal hunt as the tool of choice for managing, and in some cases, thinning the number of wolves roaming the state.

“Our intention is to manage above the minimum of 15 breeding pairs … and wolves will persist where they are not causing conflicts,” said Steve Nadeau, large carnivore manager for Fish and Game. “They will be managed in some areas similar to the way we do big game now. And we will be reducing populations in some of these areas of high conflict.”

In recent years, Idaho’s wolf population has been growing at an annual rate of 20 percent, according to Fish and Game figures. In 2006, biologists estimated the state’s wolf population at 673, with 41 breeding pairs and 72 packs, although Nadeau said he expects the 2007 census to exceed 800 animals.

Barring a successful appeal by local and national conservation groups bent on derailing the federal delisting process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is on track to remove wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in Idaho and Montana early next year and hand management duties over to the two states. The federal agency approved separate conservation and management plans submitted by Idaho and Montana in 2002. The state of Wyoming has yet to submit a similar plan that meets with the approval of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is why the state is not yet included in the federal agency’s planned 2008 delisting.

The draft population management plan released this week by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game provides greater detail on how the agency proposes to manage, conserve and regulate wolves and wolf hunting across the state.

Goals include maintaining a healthy population capable of sustaining itself over the long term and protecting the natural corridors that allow Idaho wolves to intermingle with populations in neighboring states.

In a letter attached to the document, Gov. Otter emphasizes that wolves are in Idaho to stay and it’s up to the state to ensure their long-term presence.

“The wolf population in our state is part of Idaho’s landscape, and it is time they are managed like other resident wildlife,” writes Otter, who drew national attention last year by saying he intended to be first in line to bid for an Idaho wolf hunting permit.

The plan also makes clear that the state has a role in controlling wolf numbers in the same fashion it does black bears and mountain lions, and recommends criteria for controlling and, in some areas, reducing populations, predominantly through hunting.

Specific wolf hunting rules, including dates, bag limits and methods, will be established by the state at a later date.

Borrowing from agency approaches to managing elk and deer, the draft suggests dividing the state into 14 separate wolf management zones. The zone system gives local Fish and Game managers the flexibility to treat wolves in each zone separately, Nadeau said, depending on livestock conflicts and effects on big game herds.

It also recommends suspending all wolf hunting activity when there are 20 or fewer breeding pairs left in the state.

“We’re focusing on managing conflicts with this plan,” Nadeau said. “And clearly, that means population reductions in some areas. Other areas, we’ll be looking to stabilize.”

But to wolf supporters, the plan gives the state too much muscle to roll back wolf numbers, risking the species’ long-term viability.

Suzanne Stone, of Defenders of Wildlife in Boise, said Idaho should re-examine the initial wolf conservation and management plan approved by the 2002 Idaho Legislature, then later approved by the federal government.

Stone argues that Idaho is opting to manage wolves too close to the bare minimum required by the federal government, a threshold that threatens wolf progress over the last decade.

She cited other stateslike Montana and Great Lakes states that have seen their wolf numbers increasethat agreed to higher population thresholds than those established by Idaho policy makers.

“This is a case of the state saying we’re going to manage wolves at the very edge, and from a biological standpoint that doesn’t make any sense,” Stone said. “Idaho’s plan is all about controlling wolves, maintaining a strict control. Allowing them to thrive is the proper way to manage the species.”

Public comment

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking public comment on its recently released draft Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan, which establishes guidelines for a state wolf hunt.

- Written comments should be submitted by Dec. 31 online at or by regular mail to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Wolf Plan Comments, P.O. Box 25, Boise ID 83707, attention Wolf Plan Comments.

- Through the end of December, Fish and Game will also be hosting a series of hearings on the plan in each of the agency’s seven administrative regions, including one this week held at the agency’s headquarters at 600 S. Walnut Street in Boise. The meeting will be held in the building’s trophy room from 5-8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 29.

- So far, no meeting date or location has been announced for the Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Region.


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Nov 28

AK: Wolf drops dog when owner gives chase

Wolf drops dog when owner gives chase

By Tim Mowry

Scooter may have a hole in his head and a wounded ego, but at least he lived to bark about it.

The plump 13-year-old schipperke/dachshund mix survived a wolf attack early Tuesday morning when his owner chased down the wolf in his pickup truck.

I thought he was going to be dead, said Travis Capps, holding 20-pound Scooter in his arms Tuesday afternoon outside his home off Nelson Road in North Pole.

Instead, the wolf dropped the dog when Capps pulled up behind it as it trotted down the road with Scooter in its mouth. Scooter, except for a small puncture in his head and acting a little dazed, doesnt appear any worse for wear.

Hes just sort of in shock, Capps said a few hours after Scooters scare. He got whupped up pretty good.

I think his pride is hurt more than anything else, he said, scratching the roly-poly black dogs ears.

Chances are good the wolf is part of a pack that killed and ate a dog in the same neighborhood a month ago and that state wildlife biologists suspect also killed a dog at 19.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road last week.

The latest attack was nearly a repeat of the first dog killing in North Pole on Oct. 31, when a homeowner in the same neighborhood let his two dogs out early in the morning and one of them was killed. The difference this time is there was one wolf instead of five.

I let my dogs out to pee at four in the morning and then I heard all this barking, said Capps, who lives just a street over from the first incident. I thought they were fighting with each other, so I ran out there and yelled at them.

His golden retriever, Shasta, came running up the driveway, but Scooter didnt. Instead, he saw a black streak dart across the end of his driveway and then heard Scooter yelping as the wolf carried him down the road.

I was in my underwear, so I came back into the house, threw some clothes on, jumped in my pickup and drove down the road thinking I could intercept him, Capps said. I thought he was dead.

He didnt go far down the road before he saw the wolf trotting along, carrying Scooter in its mouth.

As soon as I got up on him with the pickup he dropped (Scooter), said Capps, a 37-year-old equipment operator.

Capps picked up the dog, whose neck was covered with saliva, and drove home. Then he grabbed a gun and drove back down the road. The wolf was trotting back toward the house.

He was coming back up the road, Capps said. As soon as he saw my pickup he ran back into the woods the way he came.

The incident surprised Capps, even though he knew his neighbors dog was killed by wolves a month ago.

Ive lived here 35 years and never had anything like this happen before, Capps said.

After last weeks attack at 19.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road, state wildlife biologist Tom Seaton with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks said the wolves could potentially target more dogs now that theyve identified them as food.

I doubt theyll go on a dog killing spree, but theres no doubt theyre looking at them as a food source, he said on Monday talking about the Chena Hot Springs Road attack.

Capps, meanwhile, plans to keep his eye out for wolves in the neighborhood.

This wolf pack has got familiar with this subdivision and has got a taste for dogs, he said, standing outside his home off Nelson Road. For them to come in this far is pretty ballsy.

Im not into slaughtering wolves, but Im a hunter and as far as Im concerned wolf season opened on Nov. 1, Capps said. Maybe I can make Scooter a little fur coat.


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Nov 28

ID: Domestic Wolf Brings Headaches in Idaho

Domestic Wolf Brings Headaches in Idaho


BOISE, Idaho (AP)  Law enforcement officers in southwestern Idaho have been told by federal wildlife managers not to shoot a domesticated wolf that’s been killing and maiming livestock for a month, for fear they might mistakenly kill one of the roughly 800 federally protected wild wolves that roam the state.

The adult wolf, which weighs as much as 180 pounds, escaped Oct. 29 from its pen in Owyhee County on the southern bank of the Snake River.

Virtually all federally protected wolves are in the Idaho mountains north of the river.

Still, Sheriff Gary Aman said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials advised him to hold his fire, for now  in the rare event that one of the protected animals swam the waterway and has taken up residence in his remote region of sagebrush, rattlesnakes and just 11,000 people.

“There could be a one-in-a-million possibility that this could be one of their other animals,” Aman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “It’s maddening. This is a very, very aggressive, vicious animal. It’s used to being around humans, it depends on humans for food and it’s been out for almost a month.”

Thirty-five wild wolves were reintroduced more than a decade ago to Idaho, where they have flourished. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service has said it could lift federal protections by next year, handing over management to the state.

He only learned of this wolf’s escape Tuesday after getting a report that it had killed one sheep and injured two others. So far, he says, he hasn’t had a good look at the animal.

The woman who owns the wolf, and 19 others kept in fenced pens, didn’t report that it was roaming free but confirmed this week that it had escaped, the sheriff said. The woman, whose phone number isn’t listed, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Aman said it’s legal in Idaho to have wolves if a $10 annual state Department of Fish and Game permit is obtained for each adult animal.

Aman’s 12-officer agency has issued alerts to 231 residents in the area along the Snake River where the wolf has been seen roaming in the vicinity of China Ditch, dug a century ago by early Asian immigrants attracted to Owyhee County’s rich mines in nearby Silver City.

Aman said he’s optimistic federal agents will soon issue a shoot-to-kill order after investigating the livestock deaths.

“My concern is, I’ve got all these kids standing out on the school bus, walking home at night, kids out playing with their dogs and cats at night,” Aman said. “I will protect the people of my county.”

Phone calls for comment late Wednesday to the Fish and Wildlife Service in Boise weren’t immediately returned.


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Nov 28

MI: Wolves, moose are under threat on Isle Royale

Wolves, moose are under threat on Isle Royale

Global warming’s impact on species concerns scientists

Eric Freedman

Capital News Service

Perhaps nothing captures the sense and mystique of the Michigan wilderness better than wolves.

Consider remote Isle Royale, 48 miles northwest of the Keweenaw Peninsula. People have used it over the past 4,000 years for hunting, fishing, logging, mining copper and recreation, and it’s now a national park.

In a newly released edition of his classic “Wolves of Isle Royale: a Broken Balance” (University of Michigan Press, $29.95), retired Michigan Technological University wildlife biologist Rolf Peterson explores the complex interactions, habitats, behavior, lives – and deaths – of the island’s best-known animals: wolves and moose.

Disappointed visitors

Now both species are under threat, with the moose population – fewer than 400 – at its lowest level since the ecological study of the island’s mammal predators and their prey began 49 years ago, said John Vucetich, another Michigan Tech wildlife biologist. There were an estimated 1,000 moose in 2002.

Future visitors who expect to see moose are likely to be disappointed, predicted Clarkston writer Jim DuFresne, author of “Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails and Water Routes” (Mountaineers Books, $15.95).

“Most visitors are backcountry users. One of the reasons they go up there is to see moose,” DuFresne said.

He recalled a fall trip about 15 years ago when the moose were rutting and he was camped in a tent by Feldtmann Lake. “A bull chasing a cow was going right past the tent. I was praying it wouldn’t run over my tent.”

But now, DuFresne said, “you could hike the island for a week and not see a moose.” And scientists counted only 21 wolves last winter, a decline from the year before, but they note that numbers have fluctuated and peaked a few years ago at about 30.

Liz Valencia, chief of interpretation at Isle Royale National Park, said scientists “are concerned about global warming affecting the moose population, and that does directly affect the wolves because they’re the primary food source.”

Stress on the animals

The declining numbers of both species coincide with rising temperatures, with five of the last six summers the hottest on record.

“Moose are very much a cold-weather species, and they’re warm when it’s in the 50s,” Valencia said. “The island has been warm the last few years, even the falls and winters,” putting stress on the animals.

Vucetich said, “Hot summers are bad for moose,” which are herbivores- – or plant-eaters. “They stop feeding as much and then are not well prepared for winter.” Hot summers also encourage ticks that weaken them and make them more vulnerable to wolves.

As Peterson wrote, “In nature, death is merely an act in life’s drama, and wolves of Isle Royale perform their appointed role as agents of death for moose, beaver, fox (sometimes) and other wolves (rarely). The wolf itself, as top predator, most often dances alone with death.”

A single wolf matriarch

Researchers have found that all the island’s wolves descended from a single female that arrived in the late 1940s, probably crossing from the Minnesota mainland over an ice bridge.

As for moose, the first proof of their presence was found 1904, according to Peterson.

The National Park Service cites genetic information suggesting that the island’s moose are most closely related to animals in Minnesota. According to one unverified theory, some moose were trapped in northwestern Minnesota, shipped by train and then boat to the island, and released for hunting.

“It’s implausible that moose swam over here” from Minnesota,” but “it’s also implausible that someone brought them over here,” Vucetich said.

And he noted that moose weren’t the first large mammals on the island. Bones in refuse pits indicate that Native Americans hunted caribou, and the National Park Service says they survived there until at least 1927.

The cause of their disappearance remains unknown.


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