May 31

WA: Will wolves be coming soon to a location near you?

Will wolves be coming soon to a location near you?

By Ken Robertson, Herald Executive Editor

Folks who live along the edges of the Tri-Cities are used to seeing coyotes trotting along in the rosy light of early morning or when the evening shadows stretch out to their limits.

And every now and then their howls echo through the dark, which can make the night seem just a little more chilly.

In a few years, the wild critters you catch a glimpse of might be substantially larger. And they might send a real chill up your spine if you hear them howl.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is reviewing a plan that would kick off the reintroduction of wolves to Eastern Washington. It would be the next step west in a national effort to re-establish wolf populations. So far, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho all have growing wolf populations following their reintroduction there.

“They are exploding (in numbers) far beyond the ability to manage them” in those three states, Jack Fields, executive vice president of the Washington Cattleman’s Association, told Herald reporter John Trumbo.

Most of us have probably never seen a wolf in the wild and might have a hard time believing what we had seen if we did see one. I know that the first time I saw a mountain lion — in Montana not far from Glacier Park some 20 years ago — my brain had a hard time recognizing just what it was.

Now, sightings are common in Washington and Oregon, and some folks who live in rural areas have lost pets and livestock to the big cats.

Would wolves come back as readily?

They would not be imported, according to the current plan outline, but would have to migrate in gradually from North Idaho and British Columbia.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 30

MT: Bear hunter kills wolf in defense

Bear hunter kills wolf in defense

By MICHAEL JAMISON of the Missoulian

KALISPELL – A black bear hunter who shot a wolf Tuesday west of Whitefish says he killed it in self-defense, and wildlife officials agree that appears to be the case.

“Based on the evidence, this was a justifiable self-defense shooting,” concluded Lee Anderson, regional warden captain for the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

According to Anderson, Kalispell resident Zachary Harms was driving his truck up a forest route near Olney when he saw movement on the side of the road.

Harms climbed out of his rig, and thinking he might have glimpsed a black bear, began walking along the road, rifle in hand.

Two wolves then bolted from the forest.

The larger of the pair crossed the road and ran up the hillside opposite, Harms reported. The smaller wolf turned and ran down the road directly toward Harms, Anderson said.

The hunter waited until the animal was within 10 feet before he fired, killing the female with a single bullet to the head.

The wolf, Anderson said, appeared to be in good condition, and showed no outward signs of sickness or injury. Harms said it was not growling as it approached, but still he felt the wolf posed a threat to his life.

Harms contacted the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday afternoon and reported the kill.

Anderson and other investigators traveled to the scene and determined evidence there supported Harms’ story of a self-defense shooting.

Earlier in the week, FWP officials announced they were working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate a suspicious wolf death in the lower Thompson River drainage.

The animal was found, near the Priscilla Peak trail, by a hiker out looking for shed antlers. The hiker reported his find to local game wardens, who collected the wolf carcass for analysis.

A necropsy concluded that wolf was killed by a human, and authorities are looking for information concerning what they have termed a “poaching incident.”

State wildlife officials have offered a reward of up to $1,000 for information in the case, and anonymous tipsters can call 1-800-TIP-MONT.

Although wolves recently were removed from endangered species protection, Montana has not yet established a licensed hunting season for the animals.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 30

MT: U.S. District Court: Groups ask to shield wolves

U.S. District Court: Groups ask to shield wolves

By TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian

Conservationists who oppose the removal of wolves from under federal protection – and who call the delisting unlawful – sought an emergency injunction Thursday to stop the animals’ killing.

Last month, a coalition of 11 environmental groups sued the U.S. Department of the Interior in an effort to keep gray wolves in the Northern Rockies region on the endangered species list.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director H. Dale Hall announced the delisting decision in February, and it took effect March 28, divesting the gray wolf of its Endangered Species Act protections.

Without those protections, environmentalists say, the gray wolf population will never reach sustainable levels and is likely to enter a long-term decline.

At a hearing in Missoula on Thursday, the coalition’s attorney, Doug L. Honnold of Earthjustice, tried to convince U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy to extend federal protections until the lawsuit is resolved.

About 17 lawyers representing as many state agencies and nonprofit policy groups defended the management plan, which requires states to maintain a minimum of 300 wolves. Agency officials say they are committed to maintaining at least 450 wolves and that the actual population likely will be about 1,000.

The region’s wolf population is increasing by about 24 percent annually, according to wildlife officials.

But environmentalists say state officials and ranchers have already killed 77 wolves since the delisting, at a rate of more than one wolf per day, and that the states’ wolf management scheme represents a return to many of the policies that resulted in wolves’ eradication from the Western landscape.

“We hope Judge Molloy’s decision will give the wolves a necessary reprieve while this issue gets sorted out,” said Louisa Wilcox, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Livingston office.

Although an estimated 1,500 gray wolves live in the northern Rockies, where they were nearly exterminated by the 1930s, environmentalists argue that Montana, Idaho and Wyoming – states that have taken over wolf management from the Fish and Wildlife Service – have not achieved the wolf recovery objectives outlined in the Endangered Species Act.

Wolf numbers will be further decimated by legalized hunting and loosened restrictions on when wolves can be killed to protect game herds, Wilcox said.

The three states have each committed to maintain between 100 and 150 wolves, and plan to open wolf-hunting seasons in the fall. Montana has regulated wolves as a big-game species, but some wolves in Wyoming and Idaho are classified as predatory and can be killed year-round.

“There are aspects of these state management plans that say anyone, anywhere can kill a wolf, even if they are not threatening livestock,” Wilcox said. “We could then witness a slaughter of over a thousand wolves, executed as we have seen in recent weeks, on the backs of snowmobiles, as well as by trappers and aerial gunners.”

Wilcox also said the notion that 300 wolves comprises an adequate population is “the science of the past,” and maintains that between 2,000 and 5,000 wolves are needed to avoid inbreeding and maintain a healthy, genetically diverse population.

“There is no scientific evidence that there has been any kind of genetic exchange between Yellowstone wolves and wolves in western Montana and the Glacier area,” Wilcox said. “Those wolves are breeding with siblings.”

Although wolves have been known to disperse from the Yellowstone area into Idaho, they typically do not migrate to Yellowstone from other areas, like Glacier National Park and Idaho, Wilcox said.

“It’s not just about numbers, it’s about conductivity,” she said.

Attorneys for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said a population of 300 would contain enough successfully reproducing packs to fully achieve the recovery objectives for the gray wolf. No wolf population of that size and distribution has gone extinct in recent history, unless it was deliberately eradicated, attorneys said.

James Knight, an ecologist at Montana State University and expert for the defense, said in a court declaration that wolf killings will not cause a serious population decline. Instead, he argues that the wolf population’s natural growth will surpass kill rates and that state management plans will not threaten population levels during the litigation process.

“I have come to the conclusion that current wolf populations have very little chance of being significantly reduced by humans if wolves remain under the control of current state management plans during current legal disputes over their classification as an endangered species,” Knight said.

Molloy must now decide whether to issue the injunction, or order that the states’ plans and laws to manage wolves are adequate.

Defendants in the case include numerous cattlemen associations in Montana and Wyoming and big-game hunting proponents, including Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the National Rifle Association, Friends of the Yellowstone Elk Herd and Safari Club International.

Among the plaintiffs in the case are the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater and Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

Gray wolves were among the first species to be listed by the secretary of the Interior as endangered when, alarmed by the pace of species’ decline, Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

“The wolf has been restored here. Why reverse that success?” Wilcox said. “Why put into place the same killing mechanisms that got the wolf placed under the Endangered Species Act in the first place?”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 30

MT: Wolf shot near West Yellowstone

Wolf shot near West Yellowstone

Agency personnel shot a lone wolf near West Yellowstone on Tuesday, May 27. The wolf had been frequenting several campgrounds and residential areas north of West Yellowstone in the Horse Butte area over the last two weeks.

The animal was exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people and domestic dogs and showed no fear of people.

Montana is home to roughly 420 wolves, which mostly inhabit the western portion of the state. Wolves use a variety of habitats and pass through areas that may bring them in and around places where people live, work, and recreate.

“Most wolves pose no threat to people or domestic animals, although occasionally an incident occurs and a wolf or wolves must be removed from the population,” said Kurt Alt, FWP Regional Wildlife Manager. “We evaluate these incidents and decide what to do on a case-by-case basis.”

The Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population was removed from the federal Endangered Species list in late March. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is now the lead agency for wolf conservation and management in Montana on non-tribal lands.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks came to the same determination to authorize lethal control in this incident as it would have prior to the delisting of wolves.

Under Montana statutes and the depredation guidelines adopted by the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, wolves depredating on livestock can only be killed if authorized by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks following the guidelines, or if the wolf is killing or threatening to kill pets or livestock, or to protect human life.

To learn more about Montana’s recovered wolf population, visit FWP online at www.fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf, where visitors can also tell FWP when they see wolves or wolf sign. The information helps to verify the activity, distribution, and pack size of Montana’s recovered wolf population.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 30

WY: Wolf zones in question

Wolf zones in question

By Cory Hatch and The AP, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

A federal judge Thursday said he had “significant concerns” with Wyoming’s wolf-management plan, especially the state’s predator zone, where wolves can be killed at any time by any means.

Environmental lawyers in a hearing in Missoula, Mont., argued that Wyoming’s boundary separating the predator area from the zone where wolves are considered trophy game and can be shot only with a permit during a hunting season, isn’t permanent. And they said even wolves inside the trophy-game area could be treated as predators under state law. Environmental groups are seeking an injunction to block planned hunts in Idaho, Montana and northwest Wyoming and the killing of wolves in the remainder of Wyoming while a judge hears arguments about whether the wolf’s recovery is threatened by its recent removal from Endangered Species Act protection.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy did not issue a ruling on the injunction, but he is expected to do so in the next week.

After the hearing, Doug Honnold, Earthjustice managing attorney for the Northern Rockies office, said Wyoming’s wolf-management plan allows the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission the ability to set up predator hunts within the trophy-game area as well as to “diminish” the size trophy-game area if it chooses. The trophy-game area is located in the northwest corner of the state.

Further, the law requires the Wyoming state Legislature to reassess the trophy-game area boundary every year.

“Under Wyoming law, the predator zone has to be changed every year and wolves within the trophy-game zone can be treated as predators,” Honnold said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service had said that there was a fixed trophy-game area.”

Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, said wolves were delisted before scientists had a chance to know the consequences of the increased wolf killing that results from the states’ management plans.

“We don’t know all the things that can influence reproduction,” he said. “This is still a new experiment.”

“The Wyoming plan doesn’t have all the dots connected,” he said. “And in some cases, where they are, it’s by pretty thin threads.”

In court, attorneys for the federal government, the states and hunting and sporting groups countered that the region’s surging wolf population makes some killings inevitable.

“These are bad wolves that we don’t need as part of the recovered population,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Attorney Lisa Russell. “While the plaintiffs may be against wolf hunting or find that they don’t like it, at the end of the day, we’re talking about how many wolves will be left — not how many will be taken.”

It’s been six years since the number of wolves in the region hit the original benchmark set for recovery — 300 wolves and at least 30 breeding pairs for three consecutive years.

Molloy raised questions about statutes in all three states that permit wolves to be killed for harming or even being near livestock.

“It seems to me all of these statutes allow unfettered taking of wolves,” Molloy said.

But Molloy did not appear fully to buy the environmentalists’ argument for an immediate injunction. He pointed out that 1,500 wolves is five times the recovery goal and said a trial on the merits of the case would resolve many of the issues the advocacy groups raised.

Since wolves were taken off the endangered species list in March, humans have killed at least 63 animals, including 24 in Montana, 22 in Idaho and 17 in Wyoming, according to tallies by the states and Earthjustice.

By this fall, the Northern Rockies population is expected to approach 2,000 animals, said Ed Bangs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency has projected public hunting would reduce that number to between 885 and 1,240 wolves.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 30

MT: Federal Judge to Decide Soon on Lawsuit Over State Wolf Management

Oral Arguments Heard Thursday

Federal Judge to Decide Soon on Lawsuit Over State Wolf Management

By Peter Metcalf

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula heard oral arguments Thursday in a case brought by environmental groups to return gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Molloy did not rule, but his decision is expected in the next several days on whether to grant a preliminary injunction and return wolf management to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while a lawsuit challenging the federal decision to delist the wolf proceeds.

The plaintiffs, a coalition of 12 environmental and animal rights groups represented by the environmental legal firm Earthjustice, asked for the injunction to immediately stop the killing of wolves under state management and prevent wolf hunts proposed for the fall.

Since Idaho, Montana and Wyoming assumed full management responsibilities on March 28, approximately 40 wolves have been killed by people in the region. This includes 16 wolves killed legally by the public in Wyoming’s predator zone, where wolves can be shot on site year round.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit contends that state management plans fail to provide adequate protection for the wolf and will reduce wolf populations to levels that threaten the health and genetic diversity of the species. They argue the wolf population in the Greater Yellowstone region remains genetically isolated from wolves in central Idaho and northwest Montana and any reductions in population, such as through public hunting, minimizes future opportunity for genetic exchange between these populations.

The federal government was joined by the three states, as well as representatives from state stockgrowers associations and several hunting organizations in arguments against the injunction. They argue the region’s wolf population far exceeds recovery goals laid out in the reintroduction plans under the Endangered Species Act.

Recent estimates place the Northern Rockies’ wolf population around 1500 individuals and 100 breeding pairs. Federal recovery goals call for a minimum of 100 individuals, including 10 breeding pairs, in each of the three states, a level reached every year since 2002. State management plans will maintain a minimum of between 900 and 1250 wolves according to federal officials.

Arguments on behalf of the defense stress that state management plans and the ESA both provide adequate safeguards to ensure a viable future for the wolf on the region’s landscape. Furthermore, they argue, public hunting harvest quotas have been designed to ensure wolf populations will remain far above established minimum population levels and will not threaten the species’ genetic viability. Harvest limits can be adjusted downward if overall wolf mortality from all causes—human and natural—exceed annual allowable limits.

Wyoming recently announced its proposal to allow hunters to kill 25 wolves in the trophy game area of the state this fall. Montana tentatively proposes a hunter quota of 120 wolves this fall, on a wolf population that was estimated this past winter at just over 400 wolves.

Last week the Idaho Fish and Game Commission established a wolf population goal of 518 individuals for the entire state at the end of the year. An estimated 732 wolves roamed Idaho at the end of 2007, a population that is expected to grow to about 1000 before the start of the fall hunting season.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 30

WY: Groups face off at wolf hearing

Groups face off at wolf hearing

By BEN NEARY
Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A federal judge this week will hear a request from environmental groups to restore federal management over wolves in the Northern Rockies.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has scheduled a hearing for May 29 in Missoula, Mont. Environmental groups have asked him to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resume management of the estimated 1,500 wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

If the judge grants the request, the federal wildlife agency could take over wolf management until the judge ultimately decides the groups’ lawsuit.

The federal government transferred responsibility for wolf management to the states this spring. In their lawsuit, the environmental groups charge that the states’ management plans will not ensure wolves are not again eradicated from the region.

The federal government reintroduced wolves in the region in the 1990s. Scores of wolves have been killed since the states took over management this spring.

“Obviously, what we’re trying to do is get some breathing room between the proposed state management plans, or hunting plans, and a chance for the judge to hear our case on the question of delisting,” said Franz Camenzind, a biologist and head of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance – one of the organizations challenging the delisting decision.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week adopted a wolf hunting season that calls for killing 518 of the animals this year. The state estimates its wolf population will reach roughly 1,000 animals by this summer.

In Wyoming, wolves are classified as predators in most of the state and may be shot on sight. The state also proposes to allow licensed hunters to kill 25 wolves in the northwest corner of the state this fall and is accepting comments on that proposal.

Montana also plans hunts for the animals.

All three states are fighting the environmental groups’ request for the injunction. The states maintain that wolf hunting is necessary because wolves are killing increasing numbers of game animals and also frequently preying on livestock.

Camenzind said the states can’t be trusted. He said Idaho’s planned wolf hunting season is exactly the type of situation his and the other groups are trying to avoid.

Camenzind said the Idaho game commission “essentially signed a death warrant for one third of all the wolves in the Northern Rockies population.”

“We feel that just goes against good conservation, good biology, good management,” Camenzind said of the Idaho hunt.

Doug Honnold, a lawyer in Bozeman, Mont., represents the environmental groups.

“We’re trying to get an injunction, obviously, to stop the level of wolf killing that would be authorized under state management,” Honnold said. “There are not sufficient safeguards under state laws to avoid a substantial reduction in the numbers and distribution of wolves in the Northern Rockies.”

Eric Keszler, spokesman for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said May 23 that 16 wolves have been killed in the state’s designated predator area since the state took over management of wolves this spring. The state is investigating the illegal poaching of another wolf in Wyoming’s trophy management area.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 29

MT: Judge asked to rein in wolf killing in Northern Rockies

Judge asked to rein in wolf killing in Northern Rockies

By Matthew Brown
The Associated Press

MISSOULA, Mont. – The fate of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies is now in the hands of a federal judge in Montana, after advocacy groups argued in court Thursday that the animal’s recovery is threatened by their recent removal from federal protection.

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho plan public hunts for the region’s 1,500 wolves this fall – the first in more than three decades. Environmental and animals rights groups filed a lawsuit in April seeking to restore federal authority over the animals.

On Thursday, the groups asked U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy for an injunction to block the planned hunts while the case is pending. With wolves already routinely killed by wildlife agents after they attack sheep or cattle, the outcome will determine not whether wolves are shot, but how many and by whom.

An injunction also would effectively suspend state laws that give property owners more latitude to kill wolves when they attack or approach livestock.

“There is virtually a blank check to livestock owners to kill wolves just for being in the neighborhood,” said Doug Honnold with Earthjustice, which is representing the advocacy groups.

Honnold cited a recent case in Ashton, Idaho in which a ranch owner shot a wolf near his livestock then chased a second wolf on a snowmobile for more than a mile before shooting it, too. Idaho wildlife officials said the rancher’s actions went too far, but a local prosecutor declined to press charges.

Attorneys for the federal government, the three states and several hunting and sporting groups countered that the region’s surging wolf population makes some killings inevitable. As wolves fill remote wilderness and move into more populated areas, livestock conflicts have grown sharply in recent years.

“These are bad wolves that we don’t need as part of the recovered population,” said U.S. Fish and Wildilfe Attorney Lisa Russell.

It’s been six years since the number of wolves in the region hit the original benchmark set for recovery – 300 wolves and at least 30 breeding pairs. Molloy said he would issue a ruling on the injunction soon, but did not give a date.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 29

MT: Judge asked to rein in wolf killing in Northern Rockies

Judge asked to rein in wolf killing in Northern Rockies

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – The fate of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies is now in the hands of a federal judge in Montana, after advocacy groups argued in court that the animal’s recovery is threatened by their recent removal from the endangered list.

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho plan public hunts for the region’s 1,500 wolves this fall.

Attorneys for a dozen environmental and animals rights groups on Thursday urged U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to block the states’ plans. They asked for an injunction to restore endangered species protections for wolves, pending resolution of a lawsuit over the issue.

An attorney for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argued the Northern Rockies’ surging wolf population needs to be culled because of increasing numbers of livestock killed by the predators.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
May 29

State DNR Board May Not Favor Wolf Hunting Yet

State DNR Board May Not Favor Wolf Hunting Yet

Wisconsin Ag Connection – 05/29/2008

Even though hunters, anglers and others who attended the Conservation Congress hearings earlier this year voted overwhelmingly to develop a hunting season on wolves to keep population levels under control, the state’s natural resources board many not be willing to give the idea a shot. On Wednesday, Wisconsin Conservation Congress Chairman Ed Harvey presented a proposal to the DNR Board to re-establish a wolf hunting season. But the panel failed to take any action.

According to the Associated Press, the federal government removed wolves from the endangered species list a year ago, deciding the population had rebounded to stable levels in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. But numbers released just last week indicated that the current wolf count may be around 537 and 564 animals in Wisconsin, about the same number as a year ago.

In 2007 wolves caused depredation to livestock on 30 farms, which is an all-time record. In 2006 wolves killed livestock on 25 farms.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Services staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted trapping on most Wisconsin farms hit by wolf depredation last year–capturing and killing 37 wolves and one wolf dog hybrid. The also DNR issued shooting permits to 25 landowners with recent wolf problems in 2007, but no wolves were shot on these permits.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized