Jan 31

MT: Reintroduction of wolves in the west

Reintroduction of wolves in the west

Reporting from KTVQ in Billings

The history of wolves in Montana opens a new chapter in just a few weeks, when the gray wolf will be removed from the nation’s endangered species list.

The story of wolf recovery will soon become the story of wolf management and Montana finds itself writing the script.

“The wolf is the most adaptable animal,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wolf Coordinator Ed Bangs.

Bangs moved to Montana 20 years ago from Alaska to head the wolf recovery program.

No one wants wolves de-listed more than he does. “I can hardly wait until wolves are no big deal.”

With delisting expected before March 1st, Montana’s Fish Wildlife & Parks department is poised to take over managing the wolf population from the feds.

Going into it, the wolf numbers look good. In fact, too good in some circles. Right now, it’s estimated Montana has more than 400 wolves, including 40 breeding pairs. Add Wyoming and Idaho into the mix, and we’re talking over 1500 wolves and 200 packs.

Montana’s management plan includes a wolf hunting season and eventually a wolf trapping season. Plus, wolves causing trouble with livestock will be eliminated.

Delisting also means Montana wolves will all be treated equal. Right now, the state’s northern wolves are considered endangered while the southern wolves have experimental status.

Two designations of wolves mean two sets of rules.

Montana’s wolf hunting regulations won tentative approval last month. A final decision is expected February 20th.

You can monitor the progress on the department’s website. You can read about the proposed wolf hunt, the dates, harvest limits and quotas. Even good information on how to identify a wolf like, did you know a wolf’s paw print is about the same size as your hand?

You can even report wolf sightings online. I know what you’re saying, Like I’m really going to see a wolf.” Well in 2006, there were more than 400 wolf sighting reports in Montana. Those sighting helped identify 14 new Montana wolf packs.

So as delisting becomes a reality, it’s no longer a question of “if” you’ll see a wolf in Montana, but rather a question of “when.”

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Jan 30

WA: Fish & Feathers: The wolf: An ongoing saga

Fish & Feathers: The wolf: An ongoing saga

By Capt. RON MALAST

While canvassing the Western Washington Sportsmen’s show in Puyallup this past weekend, I came across some interesting sources, on an always-controversial subject – wolves.

Last spring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would begin the process of taking wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming off the Endangered Species List, that of course is old news. But as soon as that happen, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said that they were working on a plan that would reduce wolf numbers in areas of conflict and try to stabilize wolf numbers in the remainder of the state. Almost immediately, the state of Montana also announced that they were in the planning stages of a wolf season starting as early as 2008. Wyoming has also been working on their regulations for hunting wolves to be approved by the USFWS.

Outfitters have been crying for years that wolves are decimating elk herds, only to have fallen on deaf ears, so why the sudden change? Wolves have actually met the ESA’s criteria for recovery since 2002. The USFW’s 2005 Annual Wolf Report states that in late 2006 there were 134 packs and 1,020 wolves in the northern Rockies. Idaho had an estimated 512 wolves; Montana had 256 wolves and Wyoming 252 wolves. Biologists thought it would take decades for wolves to grow to those numbers, but apparently, not so. Some wolves have been reported as far south as Colorado where they are not “officially located.”

As wolf numbers have increased officials in the northern Rockies killed 103 wolves, mainly due to livestock predation. Plummeting elk herds are also influencing game managers to institute hunting seasons.

In 2005, officials in Yellowstone National Park radio tracked wolves during two 30-day periods to assess kill sites. Of the 316 kills examined, 77 percent elk killed by wolves. South of the park, where winter wolf kills have been monitored, of the ungulate (hoofed animals, horses, cattle, deer and elk) kills examined, 97 percent were elk. By 2006 the northern yellow elk herd had shrunk by 50 percent, mostly because of wolf depredation. Many other elk herds in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have seen similar declines. Officials say that when wolves over-populate they just don’t starve to death, which is the normal predator – prey life cycle; they move to other areas and destroy other herds. A little known fact is that wolves will kill domestic dogs on sight.

Sometimes wolves do attack people. According to The Vancouver Sun in British Columbia, animal-rights claim “No person has ever been attacked by a wolf in North America.” You should know that attacks by wild, healthy wolves on humans are unusual but not unprecedented. In fact, according to Mark McNay, an Alaskan Fish and Game biologist, there have been 13 attacks on humans in the last 30 years in North America. In fact, the wolves that killed and ate Kent Carnegie in Saskatchewan in November 2005 had been feeding in a nearby dump and were not hunted. Radio-collared Gray Wolf found in Oregon

A female gray wolf from Idaho’s Timberline Pack has been located in Oregon, using radio signals from her tracking collar. She’s now traveling in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and is known as B-300. Biologists have observed evidence of wolves in this area over the past six months, and have long predicted that wolves from the expanding Idaho population would continue to cross the Snake River and enter Oregon.

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Jan 30

MT: With seven known packs, Mineral County could be wolf hunter’s paradise

With seven known packs, Mineral County could be wolf hunter’s paradise

by John Q. Murray

Mineral County guides and outfitters may soon have a brand-new economic opportunity: Guiding hunters to wolves during the general hunting season.

If the gray wolf is removed from the endangered species list as expected this spring, and the state of Montana moves ahead with its proposal to manage wolf populations through hunting–just as hunts are used to manage other big-game populations–Mineral County could immediately become a wolf hunter’s paradise. The county is home to at least seven packs, with at least 36 wolves.

The state of Montana solicited comments at the Superior ranger district last week on its proposal for a wolf hunting season.

Wolf management specialist Liz Bradley will speak during an informational meeting on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., in the commissioners’ meeting room in Superior.

In a preview of her upcoming meeting, Liz told the Chronicle that Mineral County is home to at least seven packs:

* the Saltese pack, south of Saltese; at least two wolves;

* the De Borgia pack, at least four wolves;
* the Mineral Mountain pack, northwest of St. Regis; at least four wolves;
* the Superior pack, south of town, eight wolves;
* the Bitterroot Range pack, North Fork Fish Creek, at least five wolves;
* the Fish Creek pack, in Idaho and down the main fork of Fish Creek; nine to 10 wolves;
* the Blue Mountain pack, which travels into Albert Creek; at least four wolves.

That list doesn’t include Missoula County’s Ninemile pack. The western ridge of the Ninemile Valley marks the Mineral County line, and wildlife follow well-established corridors west from the Nine Mile valley.

The total of 36 wolves in seven packs is a conservative estimate, Liz noted. Biologists count wolves during flyovers in fixed-wing aircraft. Not all the wolves in the pack may be in the area at the time of the flyover, or they may hide until the plane has passed. The counts represent only those wolves that are confirmed sightings, so the actual count is probably higher.

Four wolves in Mineral County are collared with radio collars to help track their movements: one wolf from the De Borgia pack, one from the Superior pack, and two from the Mineral Mountain pack.

Under the proposed wolf hunting regulations, Mineral County would be part of Management Unit 1, which covers northern Montana. Its southern border goes from Lolo Pass along Highway 12 to I-90, east along I-90 to I-15, north to Montana Highway 200, and then east to the North Dakota border.

Montana’s Management Unit 2 is south of Highway 12 and west of I-15. The third unit covers the rest of the state.

The proposed season would stretch from Sept. 15 to Nov. 30, from the beginning of the archery season to the end of the general rifle season.

Superior game warden Mike Fegely said comments on the “Tentatives”–the proposed wolf hunting regulations–run the entire gamut, from those persons who think all wolves should be preserved to those who want to kill them all.

The majority of comments made to him personally on the street and around town indicate that most people favor a hunting season, he said. “A lot of people say, ‘We don’t want the damn things here to begin with, but if we’re stuck with them, at least give us the tools to manage them.’”

Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has the skills and expertise to manage large predators and is ready to take on that responsibility, he said. “Just hand over the reins and let us do what we know how to do, which is manage wildlife,” he said.

He said giving the state more tools and more flexibility in managing problem wolves and packs that are potential depredations on lifestock will lead to more public acceptance.

“I think people will be a lot more comfortable once we have some management control over it, and when it’s not looked at as coming out of Washington, D.C. You have a lot more input at the state level,” he said.

The new management tools could also change the wolves’ habits, he said. Once we have a hunting season, “I think they’ll be a little less apt to be amongst people and calving grounds,” he said.

Wolf hunting will be handled much as mountain lions, he pointed out: You buy a wolf tag, and if you had a tag with you and saw a wolf, as long as the quota for that management unit wasn’t full, you could shoot that wolf.

The first year will not include a trapping season, but the second year, 25 percent of the quota will go to trapping.

The FWP is also seeking public comment on a proposal to start the hunting season on the same date every year rather than always starting on a weekend. With a fixed date, the opener would fall on a different day of the week every year, and might take some hunting pressure off opening day.

People have strong feelings on that proposal, he said. “They like the fact that it starts on a weekend so that you can get out and take your kids with you. They like it opening on Sunday–it gives folks a little more equal opportunity on the opening day.”

There is also a proposal to offer an over-the-counter archery-only antlerless elk tag. “The main opposition was that we would have to offer the same to non-residents. People weren’t that fond of giving non-residents the ability to come in here and buy an elk tag over the counter,” he said.

Region 2 is also considering a permit-based system for mountain lions similar to Region 1. You wouldn’t just buy a license–you would also have to apply for a permit to hunt in that area. Hunters would be allowed to chase but not kill a mountain lion unless they had the permit.

Reaction on that proposal has been mixed, he said. There is a lot of opposition from the houndsmen. Some folks in Region 1 really like it and are in favor of it, and others don’t like it one bit. “It just depends on how they like to hunt,” he said.

FWP will continue to accept comments on the proposals by email or in writing through Feb. 13. For more information, see the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov.

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Jan 30

AK: Palin wants to shoot down wolf lawsuits

Palin wants to shoot down wolf lawsuits

AERIAL HUNTS: Environmentalists say predator program is unjustified.

By SEAN COCKERHAM

Gov. Sarah Palin is pushing a bill to make it tougher for conservation groups to sue the state for gunning down wolves from planes.

Palin officials say there’s confusion in interpreting the state’s predator control laws, aimed at boosting moose and caribou populations for hunters.

House Bill 256 aims to straighten it out with simpler language, according to Doug Larsen, director of the state’s Division of Wildlife Conservation.

“When our attorneys go into court they typically win,” Larsen said. “But it takes a lot of time and effort and money to do that.”

The Defenders of Wildlife, which has sued over the state’s wolf-killing program, charged that Palin’s bill eliminates the “few remaining standards” governing the program and would allow predator-control expansion across the state. The group says the bill takes science and public input out of the process.

“It gives carte blanche for the Board of Game to move ahead based on a hunch,” said Tom Banks, Alaska representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Based on a belief, really, that killing wolves in a particular area would be helpful.”

Defenders of Wildlife said the bill removes scientific standards by saying the state game board can authorize predator control by simply finding it would be “conducive” to growing more big game. Banks said it also eliminates the need for the state to have a “comprehensive wildlife management plan” to start predator control in a given area. Such plans give the public a chance to weigh in on wildlife values other than harvesting meat, he said.

State wildlife conservation director Larsen said he doesn’t see the bill having such a dramatic effect. Larsen said the bill would not change how predator control is actually practiced — just make the law more clear.

The state Fish and Game Department would have to scientifically justify that predators are a problem and that the control program would likely succeed, he said.

He said there would also still be lots of opportunity for the public to comment.

“The programs are always adopted through a public process, the Board of Game process,” he said. “People are always able to come to the table and provide testimony.”

BEARS TOO

The state’s aerial predator control program is in its fifth year. Pilot/gunner teams with state permits have since killed more than 700 wolves in five designated rural areas of the state. It is mostly aimed at wolves but has also included bears, including the land-and-shoot hunting of black bears across Cook Inlet from Anchorage.

The program is under attack in Alaska and in Washington, D.C. Defenders of Wildlife has put up ads, including posters of wolves, in the D.C. subway system urging support for federal legislation by California Democratic Rep. George Miller to ban aerial killing.

There’s also an initiative headed to the statewide ballot in Alaska this fall. It would ask voters to limit aerial wolf control to hunts done by state biologists in emergency situations.

Alaska voters have passed similar initiatives twice in recent years. But the Legislature subsequently passed measures allowing private pilots to do the hunting if they are participating in a state-sponsored program.

Defenders of Wildlife and other groups have also fought in the court system. They’ve failed so far to stop the aerial hunting but have won some victories along the way, including forcing the state to stop paying pilots and gunners $150 per animal.

GAME MEAT

Banks said Defenders of Wildlife expects a decision soon on a lawsuit charging the state didn’t follow its own rules in setting up recent predator control areas. He said the group isn’t against hunting but wants fair chase. Banks also said the predator control programs are expensive and not as effective as the state is claiming.

Meanwhile, Palin’s House Bill 256 has its first hearing today in the House Resources Committee. The Legislature has historically been favorable toward such measures.

Fairbanks Republican Rep. Jay Ramras said high energy costs have made it even more important to try to make game meat available for the people in the Interior and rural Alaska.

How to testify outside Juneau

Palin’s predator control bill, House Bill 256, will have a hearing today at 1 p.m. in the House Resources Committee.

People from outside Juneau interested in testifying can do so at their local Legislative Information Office. A list of the LIO locations can be found online at w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php. The Anchorage office is at 716 W. Fourth Ave., Suite 200.

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Jan 29

AK: Alaska balks at killing wolf pups

Alaska balks at killing wolf pups

Population-control measure is defended as ‘traditional.’

From the Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — The Alaska Board of Game deferred a decision on whether to allow residents along the Kuskokwim River to kill wolf pups in their dens.

The game board decided to make no decision on the proposal put forth by the Orutsaramuit Native Council in Bethel and the local advisory committee, but to take it up again at its meeting in Juneau in November.

John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, describing the practice as “barbaric,” said the board’s decision to further consider it is troubling.

“It signals to me that there is sentiment to seriously consider this proposal,” he said.

Proponents says the killing of wolf pups is needed because the area around Aniak and McGrath in interior Alaska used to be some of the best moose hunting around, but has fallen off in recent years because wolves and bears are killing too many moose.

Proponents argue that the practice of killing wolf pups in their dens is traditional. The proposal says that societal standards imported from outside Alaska concerning what is “sportsmanship” or “fair chase” resulted in the practice being banned. When it was in use, it helped maintain healthier moose and caribou populations, the proposal says.

Defenders of Wildlife, as well as other opponents, spoke out against the proposal.

“I told the board that the practice of denning completely exceeds the bounds of acceptable policy and modern-day wildlife management in this state. Killing the young of any species when they are most vulnerable will never gain any degree of broad public acceptance,” said Tom Banks, Defenders’ Alaska representative.

The state already is conducting wolf control near Aniak and McGrath. The five-year program was initiated in July 2004. In the first two seasons of the program, between 71 and 76 wolves were killed by trapping and aerial shooting.

State biologists say moose density estimates in the area increased between 2004 and 2006, but no density estimates were obtained last winter because of poor survey conditions.

A calf survey done last May also showed a robust 64 percent moose twinning rate, suggesting that the moose population in the area is beginning to grow, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Toppenberg said the state needs to do is realize the program is not working.

“Point of fact, fewer moose have been taken in the area rather than more. It indicates to me the program is not working,” he said.

Source

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Jan 29

OR: Lecture tonight to focus on carnivores

Lecture tonight to focus on carnivores

Biologist to discuss impact of changes to environment

ROY GAULT
Statesman Journal

The lynx may someday return to Oregon. The grizzly bear, probably not.

How large carnivores react in changing environments and with human encroachment will be part of the discussion tonight when biologist Lance Craighead kicks off the Wildlife Conservation Lecture Series in the Banquet Center at the Oregon Zoo.

Craighead’s is the first in a series of educational presentations that will be held monthly at the zoo through April.

His lecture, “Planning the Persistence of Carnivores,” will be at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and will be sold at the door.

Subsequent lectures will deal with population fluctuations of the Oregon spotted frog, peregrine falcons and bugs.

The motivation for the series, said Oregon Zoo director Tony Vecchio, is to increase public concern for wildlife conservation and to provide knowledge that could lead to the improvement of Oregon’s environmental and ecological systems.

Craighead, an adjunct assistant professor of biology at Montana State University, is also executive director of the Craighead Environmental Research Institute in Bozeman, Mont.

Most of his research has been on birds and large mammals, particularly grizzly bears and other carnivores.

He wrote “Bears of the World” and wrote chapters of “Carnivores in Ecosystems.”

“Developing conservation plans for large carnivores is incredibly important in sustaining ecosystems,” Vecchio said. “Providing these animals with larger habitats is an important first step and can provide some relief to the pressures these carnivores are facing.”

Craighead’s lecture comes just a week after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the discovery of a radio-collared female gray wolf in northeastern Oregon — a stray from the packs that are established in Idaho.

“In the future we need to start connecting some of our protected areas, and we need to establish carnivores, which are keystone species in ecosystems,” Vecchio said.

Craighead said that other endangered carnivores that could be reestablished in Oregon include wolverines and fishers. The fisher is a member of the weasel family and is not to be confused with pine martens, which are much more common in Oregon’s wilderness areas.

Vic Coggins, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Enterprise, said there have been reports of wolverines in Oregon — though none recently — and that fishers, while established in Idaho, are even more rare in Oregon.

“I’m hoping, in the future, we’ll be talking about wolverines being seen on occasion,” Vecchio said. “They’re a pretty rare sighting right now, but there are rumors of them. The lynx are coming back and the wolves are coming back from Idaho, so there’s all kinds of possibilities.”

Coggins said there have been no reported sightings of lynx in Oregon.

“Vecchio added: “There are no lynx here now. There’s no good evidence of that, but they were here at one time, for sure.”

Craighead demonstrates, in his lecture, that grizzlies, wolves, wolverines and lynx all need large landscapes to maintain stable populations, and he discusses how technology, combined with grass-roots community involvement, has helped protect some of the last remaining habitats of these predators.

“We used to have grizzly bears, though I don’t see them coming back any time soon,” Vecchio said. “I’m just hoping that the timing is right, that we’re getting Dr. Craighead here before we’re trying to solve these various problems.”

Grizzlies have been extinct in Oregon since 1931.

The radio-collared wolf that’s now patrolling the edges of the Eagle Cap Wilderness between Medical Springs and Wallowa is the fifth Idaho wolf to be confirmed in northeast Oregon in eight years. There have been no confirmed breeding pairs, however.

A radio-collared female was captured near John Day in 1999 and was returned to Idaho. A collared wolf was found dead along Interstate 84 near Baker City in 2000.

Two others were found shot, one between Ukiah and Pendleton in 2000, and one last July in Union County. All were confirmed to be migrants from Idaho. Biologists suspect that others have been shot.

Coggins said other sightings are reported on occasion, but without a piece of DNA from the animal it is impossible for wildlife biologists to know if it’s a wild wolf from Idaho or a hybrid wolf, usually one raised from a pup as a dog, often to then escape into the wild.

Craighead’s presentation won’t be specific to Oregon, although much of what he says could be applicable.

As for the report of the radio-collared wolf now in the vicinity of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Vecchio said: “I was just camping out there this summer. I’d love to think there are wolves out there.”

For many a rancher in eastern Oregon, Vecchio’s dream is their own worst nightmare.

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Jan 29

AK: Game board delays decision on den killings of wolf pups

Game board delays decision on den killings of wolf pups

KUSKOKWIM RIVER: Natives say method is the old way to build up moose.

By MARY PEMBERTON
The Associated Press

The Alaska Board of Game deferred a decision on whether to allow residents along the Kuskokwim River to kill wolf pups in their dens.

The game board decided to make no decision on the proposal put forth by the Orutsaramuit Native Council in Bethel and the local advisory committee, but to take it up again at its meeting in Juneau in November.

The seven-person board, responsible for developing state regulations on animal management, finished up several days of meetings in Anchorage on Monday.

Greg Roczicka, Orutsaramuit’s natural resources director, did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, describing the practice as “barbaric,” said the board’s decision to further consider it is troubling.

“It signals to me that there is sentiment to seriously consider this proposal,” he said.

Proponents says the killing of wolf pups is needed because the area around Aniak and McGrath in interior Alaska used to offer some of the best moose hunting around but has fallen off in recent years because wolves and bears are killing too many moose.

Proponents argue that the practice of killing wolf pups in their dens is traditional. The proposal says that societal standards imported from outside Alaska concerning what is “sportsmanship” or “fair chase” resulted in the practice being banned. When it was in use, it helped maintain healthier moose and caribou populations, the proposal says.

Defenders of Wildlife, as well as other opponents, spoke out against the proposal.

“I told the board that the practice of denning completely exceeds the bounds of acceptable policy and modern-day wildlife management in this state. Killing the young of any species when they are most vulnerable will never gain any degree of broad public acceptance,” said Tom Banks, Defenders’ Alaska representative.

The state already is conducting wolf control in game management unit 19A near Aniak and McGrath. The five-year program was initiated in July 2004. In the first two seasons of the program, between 71 and 76 wolves were killed by trapping and aerial shooting.

However, numbers last season fell to just 10 because there was little fresh show to track the animals.

State biologists say moose density estimates in the area increased between 2004 and 2006, but no density estimates were obtained last winter because of poor survey conditions.

A calf survey done last May also showed a robust 64 percent moose twinning rate, suggesting that the moose population in the area is beginning to grow, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Toppenberg said what the state needs to do is realize the program is not working.

“Point of fact, fewer moose have been taken in the area rather than more. It indicates to me the program is not working,” he said.

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Jan 29

WY: Conservation groups challenge wolf rule

Conservation groups challenge wolf rule

By Cory Hatch
Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Conservation groups, including one from Jackson, will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a rule they say could kill hundreds of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

The litigation challenges the modified “10(j) rule,” which Fish and Wildlife officials announced last week. Previously, the 10(j) rule gave wildlife managers the authority to kill wolves for harassing livestock. The revised rule gives them new authority to kill wolves for impacting ungulate populations such as elk herds.

The rule would take effect at the end of February. The rule stays in effect only until wolves are removed from endangered species protection, which could happen as soon as next month if no lawsuits hold up the delisting.

Suzanne Asha Stone, wolf conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife, called the new rule a “de facto delisting” that would circumvent any challenges to the real delisting when it occurs.

“It is giving states far greater ability to kill wolves in the region, even while they are protected under the Endangered Species Act,” she said.

Stone said the conservation groups are asking for an injunction. Earthjustice is representing Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and Friends of the Clearwater.

Stone pointed out that the new rule would require 20 breeding pairs or 200 wolves in each state, for a total of roughly 600 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area, when the current population is about 1,500. The states could kill more than half of the wolves in the region under the new rule, she said.

“They’ve lowered the bar so low, all the states have to prove is that wolves are a factor in the reduction of the elk population,” Stone said.

The rule would require states to demonstrate a number of criteria, including the basis for their population objectives of ungulate herds and data that supports their claims that wolves are impacting those populations. The wolf reduction plan would then go out for public comment and would be reviewed by five independent experts.

But Stone said those criteria are too loosely defined for reviewers to stop an unjustified wolf reduction program.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the groups’ claims are not true.

“The rhetoric is a little sad,” he said. “The 10(j) is not going to affect the number of wolves in the Rocky Mountains. It’s not going to result in the deaths of hundreds of wolves. It’s spin to get the troops lined up to oppose delisting.”

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Jan 28

Rocky Mountain Wolf Killing Rule Goes to Court

Rocky Mountain Wolf Killing Rule Goes to Court

MISSOULA, Montana, January 28, 2008 (ENS) – In a bid to bar states from aerial gunning and other state-sponsored killing of wolves, seven conservation groups today filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Missoula to stop the implementation of a new Bush administration rule that lowers the bar for wolf killing when a state determines that wolves are impacting elk or deer.

The rule would allow the states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana to kill wolves while they are still protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The rule applies to wolves in central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone area – descendents of the roughly 60 wolves that were reintroduced to those regions in 1995 and 1996.

The Bush administration says the rule change is necessary because the previous standard required states to show that wolves are the primary cause of a decline in wild ungulate numbers. That threshold has proven impossible to meet because nearly all elk herds in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana are above population objectives, and wolves have never been determined to have been the primary cause of a population decline.

“The federal government is overlooking the benefits wolves are bringing to the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who is representing the plaintiff groups.

“The University of Montana found that visitors coming to Yellowstone National Park to see wolves brought $35 million annually to the region’s economy, which yields more than $70 million in added benefit to communities in the Northern Rockies,” Honnold argued. “Elk populations are now healthier, streams run cold and clear again, and other wildlife populations are back in balance.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued two rules concerning gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. One would remove the wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act, a process called delisting. The second rule would allow states in the Northern Rockies to kill wolves whenever wolves had impacts on wild ungulate populations.

The second rule remains in effect only until the administration removes wolves from the list of endangered species, an action that is expected to come next month.

Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted the rule in response to the state of Wyoming, which insisted that states have the right to kill wolves affecting elk herds in any way even if a federal court overturns wolf delisting in the Northern Rockies.

“Deer and elk populations are thriving in this region. There’s absolutely no reason to begin slaughtering wolves, other than to please a handful of special interests,” said Sierra Club representative Melanie Stein.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said “the rule harkens back to a period in which wolves’ natural role of maintaining the balance of nature is seen as a problem.”

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has said that Idaho has a population of over 1,200 wolves, when the federal government has said repeatedly over the past decade that 300 wolves in the region would be a recovered, viable population.

“There is no reason to delay delisting,” the governor said in March 2007. “The government should declare victory and move on.”

“Idahoans are proud stewards of the land and species of our state. Idaho is going to manage wolves as we do black bears and mountain lions,” said the governor. “With estimated black bear and cougar populations of 20,000 and 3,000 respectively, Idaho has a proven record of responsible large carnivore management. We will continue this great record with wolves.”

“The key is flexibility to control problem wolves,” he said. “In areas where wolves are not destroying livestock or having a dramatic impact on our ungulate herds, wolves will be managed in concert with all species.”

“In areas where we’ve documented consistent patterns of chronic livestock depredation, like the Copper Basin, and where wolves are having an unacceptable impact on elk herds, the state will use sportsmen and other tools to manage wolves and protect private property,” said Governor Otter.

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal has said, “The ultimate question, though, is whether or not Wyoming will be given the flexibility to manage wolves that are causing an unacceptable impact on our elk and moose populations.”

Conservationists are not reassured by these statements.

“In this rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is either downplaying the threats to wolves, or it has forgotten all the trigger-happy statements made by Wyoming and Idaho officials who want to kill as many wolves as possible, as soon as possible,” says Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“This rule is nothing less than a declaration of war on wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana,” said John Grandy, Ph.D., senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. “After decades of progress, the service is abandoning all that we have achieved for wolf conservation and returning to the short-sighted persecution and extermination policies of the past.”

Grey wolves were virtually eliminated from the Western United States by the 1930s. Fear of wolves by early American settlers combined with livestock losses began a national campaign for mass extermination.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Predatory Animal and Rodent Control Service spent millions of dollars hiring and supplying trappers. Subsidized bounty programs that started in the late 1800s and to 1965, offered $20 to $50 per wolf.

Public attitudes changed and conservationists altered the view of the federal government, and wolves received legal protection with the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Canadian wolves moved south to Montana in the early 1980s, and in 1995 and 1996, 66 wolves from Canada were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. The Fish and Wildlife Service began recovery efforts in Idaho with the release of 15 wolves in 1995, and 20 more in 1996.

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Posted in Uncategorized
Jan 28

AK: BOG defers decision on wolf pup killing

BOG defers decision on wolf pup killing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The Alaska Board of Game has deferred a decision on whether to allow residents along the Kuskokwim River to kill wolf pups in their dens.

The game board decided to take up the issue again at its meeting in Juneau in November.

The seven-person board finished up several days of meetings today in Anchorage.

The idea was proposed by Orutsaramuit Native Council of Bethel and the local advisory committee.

Proponents says the killing of wolf pups is needed because the central Kuskokwim area used to be the best moose hunting around, but has fallen off in recent years because wolves and bears are killing too many moose.

Defenders of Wildlife was 1 of the groups that spoke out against the proposal.

Tom Banks, Defenders’ Alaska representative, said he told the board that the practice of denning completely exceeds the bounds of acceptable policy.

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