Jul 31

ID: Trappers kill wolf, target grizzly bears

Trappers kill wolf, target grizzly bears

Grizzly bears have been frequenting the Mack’s Inn area again this summer, and they are confirmed to have killed livestock in the Squirrel Meadows cattle allotment in the Caribou-Targhee Forest.

And wolves also have been busy taking cattle in Forest Service allotments.

Ashton-Island Park District Ranger Adrienne Keller said there have been two recent reports of wolves taking livestock.

When such reports are received, Wildlife Services are called in to investigate and take care of the culprits.

Wildlife Services trappers killed a wolf that had taken livestock in the Davis Lakes allotment northeast of Ashton. The action occurred before a Montana judge put Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wolves back on the endangered species list.

And Wildlife Services is tracking a wolf that killed livestock in the Gerrit Meadows area near the Warm River Springs Road north of Ashton.

While government trappers investigate and track the wolves and bears believed to be causing wildlife predation, the Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game bear education folks continue to try to teach people who live in or visit bear county how to stay safe and avoid attracting unwanted animals.

Sarah Grigg, who writes a weekly column about bear issues and concerns, said she would continue to work with people in the neighborhood where the grizzly was marauding in Mack’s Inn to urge them to clean up the area of bear attractants.

In her column this week, which addressed the Mack’s Inn bears, she said, “Many residents in the area have learned about attractants and have cleaned up their property, but others continue to leave greasy grills, pet food, beverages and coolers within easy reach of this sow and cub, progressively making them more and more habituated and bold.”

Keller said the educational focus works for some, but not everyone.

“There are still those who aren’t paying attention,” Keller said.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 30

WA: Wolf monitoring indicates pack is doing well

Wolf monitoring indicates pack is doing well

Presence of wolves ‘polarizing’ but most locals excited, says biologist

By K.C. Mehaffey
World staff writer

TWISP — Wildlife biologists and volunteers monitoring Washington state’s first wolf pack in years say the parents and pups appear to be doing well after the mother and father were captured, radio-collared and released back to the wild near Twisp on July 18.

“There’s not a lot to tell. We’re in the early phases of monitoring to see how they responded after the capture,” said Scott Fitkin, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fitkin said the adult wolves have stayed at the rendezvous site where a conservation group set up a remote camera that took pictures of the six pups.

Jasmine Minbashian, special projects director for Conservation Northwest, said new photos were taken last week showing that the pack is staying in the same place. “They’re still around, and they look really good. They look healthy,” she said.

The remote camera, located in an area between Twisp and Carlton, continues to capture photos of the adults and pups.

She said one photo appears to be of a small adult wolf, possibly a yearling, indicating that the pack may be larger than previously known. That adult was not captured or fitted with a radio collar, she said.

DNA test results indicate the animals are purebred wolves and likely came to Okanogan County from Canada.

Fitkin said he’s heard mostly positive comments from local residents about the appearance of the wolves.

“Wolves tend to polarize. People are either really excited or don’t want them around at all,” he said, adding, “Clearly, the majority of people I’ve talked to locally are really excited, and that includes people in the area where wolves have taken up residence.”

Biologists will continue to track the wolves’ movements using the information coming from the radio collars, and may soon begin work to look for a second pack, Fitkin said.

“I still suspect this is not the only wolf pack in the county,” he said.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 29

WA: Wolves and humans: What the experts say

Wolves and humans: What the experts say

By K.C. Mehaffey
World staff writer

TWISP — Everyone agrees, gray wolves are generally wary of humans.

But with the state’s first pair of breeding wolves and six of their pups roaming the foothills near Twisp, people are asking:

“Just how wary should we be of them?”

The answer is mixed, depending on whom you ask.

“You’re more likely to get attacked by someone’s dog while you’re hiking on a trail than you are to have a threatening contact with a wolf,” said Derrick Knowles, outreach coordinator for the environmental group Conservation Northwest. “When you look at the real threats that are out there, wolves are way, way down on the totem pole,” he said.

Jack Field doesn’t see it that way.

“There’s a reason wolves were extirpated in the ’30s,” said Field, executive vice president for the Washington State Cattlemen’s Association.

Both Field and Knowles sit on Washington’s Wolf Working Group, which has spent the last year and a half looking into the habits of wolves and coming up with a draft plan for how to manage and recover the endangered animal.

“That was something that was so frustrating in developing the draft plan,” Field said. “We kept hearing that wolves don’t attack people. But it sounds like there’s a confirmed (fatality attack) in Canada, and a number of quote, unquote, close calls in Alaska,” he said.

So, who’s right?

Both are, according to Howard Golden, a wildlife biologist with a specialty in research of fur-bearing animals who works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Wolves were never hunted to the point of extinction in Alaska, and between 7,700 and 11,200 of the 100-pound canines thrive there today.

“Certainly, over the years, there have been interactions that weren’t positive for people,” Golden said. “That said, it’s pretty remarkable how few encounters there are, considering how abundant they are. We haven’t had many issues with them compared with bears.”

Golden said Mark McNay, a recently retired research biologist for his agency, studied the issue after a wolf attacked a 6-year-old boy near Icy Bay, Alaska, in 2000. Golden said McNay’s conclusions are accepted and well-respected by other biologists in Alaska.

McNay’s paper, “A Case History of Wolf-Human Encounters in Alaska and Canada,” challenges the assumption that healthy wolves in North America pose little threat to humans.

He compiled the cases of 80 wolf-human encounters in Alaska and Canada. The stories range from a wolf that bit a 12-year-old boy in the face to packs of wolves approaching campers in their tents and chewing on their belongings after the animals had been fed leftovers.

He also points out that there were no human deaths attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900.

The report was published in 2002.

Three years later, authorities say, Canada had its first documented wolf death in more than a century.

Kenton Carnegie, a 22-year-old Ontario man who went for a walk in remote Saskatchewan in November 2005, was followed and killed by a pack of wolves, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. Tracks in the snow provided evidence of a struggle and unsuccessful attempts by the man to flee, according to the news reports. A coroner’s jury decided that wolves killed the man after hearing witnesses and experts and reviewing evidence.

Dr. Valerius Geist, an emeritus professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, helped investigate Carnegie’s death for his family.

He said it’s dangerous to believe that wolves are harmless, although they are quite shy in most cases.

Geist agreed that wolf attacks are rare and fatalities even rarer. But the scene quickly changes if wolves don’t have plentiful game or livestock to feed on, and if people don’t have firearms to protect themselves, he said.

Geist said North American wildlife biologists have ignored centuries of evidence from Europe and Asia that indicate wolves sometimes prey on people.

“As long as there is big game, and as long as there are livestock, wolves are not a threat,” he said. “They’re extremely efficient as a predator. They literally vacuum out an area, and when they have no more wildlife, they turn to livestock, and then the pets and children and people that are with the livestock.”

But wildlife biologists in Alaska say wolves are much more likely to go after your dog than your child.

“It’s possible for wolves to take small kids, but I don’t think it’s ever happened in Alaska,” Golden said.

“Wolves can be a threat. They have sharp, pointy teeth and can be a potentially dangerous animal, just like a dog can,” said Jessy Coltrane, wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Anchorage.

But they’re much more likely to go after a pet dog or cat than they are to threaten a person — even a child, she said.

Last winter, Anchorage had some trouble with two wolf packs that frequent the outskirts of the city. Biologists believe a lack of snow made for difficult moose-hunting conditions, because the moose were able to get about much more easily. They have a much harder time getting through the snow than wolves. So the wolves improvised, and started stalking people who were out walking their dogs.

Three women walking three dogs on leashes felt threatened by the wolves, which would not retreat until the women used pepper spray on them, Coltrane said. “Normally, the problem we have is wolves eating dogs that are chained up,” she added.

She advised anyone who fears coming across a wolf to carry pepper spray.

In Washington, where wolves are only beginning to repopulate after they were virtually hunted and trapped out, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife offers much information about the animals, including phone numbers to call with sightings, how ranchers should treat a scene if they suspect their livestock was killed by a wolf, and what people should do if they come across a dead or injured wolf.

There’s no mention of what to do if encountering an aggressive wolf.

“We don’t feel the need at this point to have an explanation on human safety,” said Rocky Beach, manager of wildlife diversity for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He said as with encounters with all wildlife, people should use common sense and be cautious.

But in the overall scheme of wolf recovery, he said, “One of the more minor challenges is that in terms of human safety.”


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 28

MT: Gray wolf killed on road, Sasquatch allegedly seen near Alberton

Gray wolf killed on road, Sasquatch allegedly seen near Alberton

By JOHN CRAMER of the Missoulian

One is endangered, the other may not even exist.

But the sasquatch and the gray wolf – two creatures with a long history in human mythology – were reported to have turned up on the side of the road in western Montana last week.

The Montana Department of Transportation found a dead wolf July 21 along Interstate 90 near Lookout Pass on the Idaho border.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said the wolf had injuries consistent with a vehicle collision.

The wolf, a gray adult female, may have belonged to the Silver Lake pack, which is thought to inhabit the Montana-Idaho border around Lookout Pass.

Wolves have rebounded from the brink of extinction in the Northern Rockies, where they are under federal protection.

Bigfoot, on the other hand, may never have existed.

Nonetheless, a motorist reported seeing one of the purported giant primates along I-90 near Alberton about a week ago.

The motorist said he saw the Bigfoot approaching a middle-age couple who were fly-fishing, said Matt Moneymaker, who heads the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization in California.

The motorist, who called 9-1-1, described the sasquatch as more than 7 1/2 feet tall with long arms, a skinny frame and brown hair.

Montana has had many reported sightings of sasquatches over the years, but Moneymaker said he was skeptical of the latest report because it supposedly happened in front of dozens of motorists in broad daylight, but only one person called 9-1-1.

“I know when you’re driving in a wooded area that things can create an illusion of something big,” he said. “We get tons of reports, but this one just doesn’t add up. We need some corroboration.”

Moneymaker said the motorist made a secondhand verbal report to his organization but has yet to make a written report, which is required before the group will conduct a formal investigation.

“The only way we’ll take it seriously is if it’s written down, so we can follow up,” he said.

Moneymaker said one of his group’s members reports the Montana-Idaho border to be a hotbed of Bigfoot sightings.

He said the two states have good sasquatch habitat – remote forests and plenty of elk, deer and other food sources for omnivores – but may have a limited number of sightings because of the small human population.

“They’re out there, but there just aren’t that many people to see them,” he said.

Three sasquatch sightings in Montana have been reported to the Bigfoot group since 2005, including one in Missoula County and one in Ravalli County.

Sasquatch, an American Indian term meaning “wild man,” is a species of giant primate reported for centuries in North America. Their current estimated population is 2,000 to 6,000, according to the Bigfoot group.

Bigfoot advocates say there is plenty of evidence of their existence, including sightings, footprints, photos, film, hair, scat and tree damage, although no body of a sasquatch has ever been found for scientific examination.

Moneymaker said remains of a Bigfoot – whether killed by a motor vehicle, a hunter or natural causes – aren’t needed to verify their existence. Like other wild creatures, their remains are picked over by scavengers and their bones disintegrate, he said.

“Why would there be a body for something so rare and nocturnal?” he said. “You can walk in the woods in Montana your whole life and never come across the remains of a mountain lion and they outnumber the Bigfoot 1,000 to one.”

More information is available at www.bfro.net.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 26

WY: Groups debate appeal of wolf ruling

Groups debate appeal of wolf ruling

By MATT JOYCE – Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Supporters of the federal government’s removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list said Friday that they haven’t decided whether to appeal a judge’s preliminary decision to relist the wolves.

Lawyers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and representatives of several sportsmen and agriculture groups met in a teleconference to discuss their options in response to last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy.

Molloy, of Missoula, Mont., issued a preliminary injunction restoring endangered species protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. Environmentalists sought the injunction as part of a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s decision to remove the wolves from the endangered species list in March.

Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg said Friday’s closed meeting included discussion of appealing the preliminary injunction to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or proceeding to a final hearing in the case before Molloy. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not reached a decision about recommending an appeal of the preliminary injunction, he said.

‘‘Therefore, while each of the participants expressed its views regarding the pros and cons of either path, no final decision was made,’’ Salzburg said.

Bob Lane, chief legal counsel for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said about 15 to 20 people participated in the conference call.

‘‘Really it could be characterized as preliminary discussion among the parties about their initial views on strategies of where to go from here since the decision of Judge Molloy was adverse to us,’’ he said.

Salzburg said earlier this week that the 9th Circuit Court is currently taking between 15 months and 32 months to issue decisions after an appeal is filed.

‘‘So unless the court were to advance this issue in the calendar, an appeal now would put it in limbo for at least 15 months,’’ Salzburg said Wednesday. ‘‘In the meantime, we could get this case to hearing on the merits in a much quicker time frame.’’

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has said that appealing the injunction may not be the best strategy in this case.

‘‘The best strategy, both in terms of time and outcome may be for us to go through these deliberations and decide, let’s just get to the merits (of the case),’’ Freudenthal said Wednesday.

Lane said Friday that the various interveners in the case, including the three states and 10 other special interest groups, would like to reach a consensus on their next course of action, but there’s no requirement that they act in unison.

Don Peay, who participated in Friday’s meeting as a representative of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, said his group hasn’t decided whether to support an appeal of the preliminary injunction, but that the ‘‘time bomb’s ticking.’’

‘‘I know this much, that everyday that wolves aren’t managed there’s a greater destruction of elk herds and deer herds,’’ he said. ‘‘It just has an increasing devastating impact on game populations and license sales for game and fish agencies and the whole hunting industry.’’


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 26

WY: Prediction wolves will become inbred sways judge’s decision to halt delisting

Prediction wolves will become inbred sways judge’s decision to halt delisting

Star-Tribune environment reporter

LANDER — A dire prediction is at the heart of a federal judge’s recent decision to halt wolf delisting: If states in the Northern Rockies proceed as planned, wolves in the Greater Yellowstone area will become inbred in fewer than 60 years.

This prediction serves as the foundation for U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s 40-page ruling to reinstate Endangered Species Act protection for the canines at least until he has fully considered the larger lawsuit against delisting.

The conservation groups who sued for an immediate injunction against the delisting decision argued that if the three wolf populations fail to interbreed with one another, which they say the state wolf management plans all but ensure, the wolves in and around Yellowstone will suffer genetic degradation over time.

They also claimed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to follow its own criteria for establishing a recovered wolf population, which calls for genetic exchange between the three groups, creating what’s called a “metapopulation.”

In the injunction ruling the judge sided with the conservation groups on both points.

“Genetic exchange that has not taken place between larger subpopulations under ESA protections is not likely to occur with fewer wolves under state management,” Molloy wrote,

“Absent genetic exchange, the wolf will not likely be able to withstand future environmental variability and stochastic — or random — events. Plaintiffs therefore have demonstrated a possibility of irreparable harm.”

The majority of Molloy’s decision outlines a debate stemming from a 2007 genetics study commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which litigants call the “VonHoldt Study.” The study “confirmed wolves in Yellowstone National Park have remained genetically isolated from wolves in the northwestern Montana and central Idaho core recovery areas since their reintroduction in 1995.”

The conservation organizations say the VonHoldt study proves that without genetic exchange between core recovery areas, wolves face “serious threats to survival.”

Molloy noted the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges there is no proof of exchange between the three main subpopulations, nevertheless, “the Service now takes the position that documented proof of DNA exchange is not required to achieve a metapopulation. The rationale for rejecting the VonHoldt Study’s predictions is not convincing nor well explained,” the judge wrote.

But Ed Bangs, the federal gray wolf recovery coordinator, said there are fundamental flaws with these arguments, and the way the VonHoldt study is being used by the plaintiffs in this case.

Furthermore, if one were to look more closely at the VonHoldt study, one would see that its computer-modeled predictions of inbreeding are impossible, once well-established wolf behavior is entered into the equation.

The conservation organizations have asserted — and the judge has at least temporarily sided with the claim — that genetic exchange between the three subpopulations must be “natural” or else it doesn’t count, Bangs said.

“We never promised the connectivity had to be natural,” he said. “I don’t know where this whole thing about ‘natural’ connectivity came from. Wolves were artificially reintroduced in the first place, and we artificially moved wolves around until 2001.”

Yes, Bangs said, genetic exchange is an important thing to keep an eye on, and the Service believes there’s an extremely slim possibility the wolves in Yellowstone could face genetic degradation after several decades.

But the delisting decision takes that possibility, no matter how remote, into account, Bangs said.

“The bottom line is genetic exchange is important,” he said. “That’s why Wyoming’s plan has a contingent that if genetics became a problem, they would remedy that by relocation.”

The point is, he said, it’s the same action the feds would take if, some day, evidence of genetic degradation popped up.

“We took ten wolf puppies from northwestern Montana and put them in Yellowstone back in 1996,” Bangs said.

The reason, he said, is given the modern landscape, it likely would have taken 30 years or more for wolves to “naturally” disperse there from the burgeoning Montana group.

“The whole idea of the “natural” thing — nobody ever promised that,” Bangs said. “If the population ever got in trouble, you’d just put a few more wolves in there. It’s not that tricky.”

In his ruling, Molloy cited the VonHoldt Study, and the Service’s perceived failure to adequately address its claims, as one of the reasons for granting the injunction.

The VonHoldt Study concluded “if the Yellowstone wolf population remains relatively constant at 170 individuals (estimated to be Yellowstone’s carrying capacity), the population will demonstrate substantial inbreeding effects within 60 years,” resulting in an “increase in juvenile mortality from an average of 23 to 40 percent, an effect equivalent to losing an additional pup in each litter,” the judge noted.

Those numbers cited by the judge, however, are misleading because they were derived through computer modeling which assumed that some things would happen, which would actually never take place, Bangs said.

And the computer modeling was a component of the study, not the point of the study, he said.

“The study itself was really well done,” Bangs said.

But the computer model was a worst-case-scenario item, which the rest of the study, itself, shows couldn’t ever actually happen, he argued. The most basic assumption built in to the calculations was that wolves in Yellowstone would breed at random — which goes against the very nature of the canines, Bangs said.

“The major assumption that wolves breed randomly, that they might pick mates randomly, is an impossibility,” he said. “The study itself shows that wolves are highly selective when they pick mates, and they reliably outbreed.”

In fact, wolves are so good at recognizing close relatives and avoiding mating with them, Bangs said, that the animals naturally create genetic variety on par with human-run “species survival plans,” where the gene pool is handpicked.

Bangs agrees if all the assumptions in the computer model were true, in 60 years the model’s prediction might come true. But one of its central assumptions is patently impossible, he said.

In addition, it is highly likely that a few wolves from Montana will disperse to Yellowstone in the coming years naturally and reproduce, if it hasn’t happened already, he said.

Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming who are intervening in the case, are going to have to prove to Molloy that the original recovery plan for wolves does not specifically require that genetic exchange between the three groups happen without human help.

They’ll also have to prove that the original goals don’t call for scientific proof of naturally occurring genetic exchange.

“Although the Service now says genetic exchange is unnecessary, it provides no persuasive reasons for this change of course that were not known in 1994, when the new criteria were established, or in 2001 and 2002, when the criteria were reaffirmed,” Molloy wrote.

Later he added: “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s speculation about genetic exchange is not convincing.”

Attorneys General from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are supposed to decide on their strategy for proceeding in the wolf delisting case during a teleconference today.

Uncertainty how ruling affects Barrasso bill

It is unclear how the recent federal court injunction against the delisting of wolves might affect a rancher compensation bill in Congress, a spokesman for Sen. John Barrasso said.

Sen. Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced the Gray Wolf Livestock Mitigation Act in April, which is still awaiting clearance from a Senate subcommittee.

The bill would authorize federal matching grants for state-run compensation programs, as well as programs that prevent livestock depredation, by covering the cost of fencing, guard dogs or other methods of protection.

If the bill were to become law, the federal grant dollars would flow from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state wildlife management agencies, which would determine how to spend the money.

Barrasso’s press secretary, Gregory Keeley, said he’s not sure yet what the implications of the ruling will be on the proposed federal legislation.

“The Tester-Barrasso bill is designed to help states manage the wolves by augmenting wolf compensation programs with federal funds,” Keeley said. “Unfortunately, it is unclear just what impact the Tester-Barrasso bill will have if the wolf remains on the list.”

Because the act doesn’t specifically require that wolves not be protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in order to trigger the federal grant dollars — and because the Cowboy State is likely to enter into a cooperative wolf management relationship with the feds — the court injunction against delisting might not affect the bill at all, another member of Barrasso’s staff said Tuesday.

Have the original recovery goals for wolves been met?

The original 1994 plan for wolf recovery asserted that “thirty or more breeding pairs comprising some 300-plus wolves in a metapopulation (a population that exists as partially isolated sets of subpopulations) with genetic exchange between subpopulations should have a high probability of long-term persistence.”

Over the next two years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves captured in southwestern Canada into central Idaho and into the Greater Yellowstone Area, and wolves dispersed on their own into Montana from Canada.

The northern Rocky Mountain wolf population met the Fish and Wildlife Services’ numeric recovery baseline of 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves for the first time in 2000.

Even though there are currently more than 1,500 wolves and 106 breeding pairs in the Northern Rockies, there has yet to be any scientifically verified “genetic exchange” between the three groups.

DNA tests confirm wild gray wolves in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state wildlife officials said genetic tests have confirmed that two animals captured last Friday in western Okanogan County are wild, gray wolves. Before releasing the wolves — a male and a lactating female — biologists fitted them with radio collars to track their movements.

The state Fish and Wildlife Department also noted Wednesday that a remote camera operated by a private group has photographed the radio-collared male wolf at a location where six pups were also photographed.

Wildlife officials said this is the first documented resident wolf pack in Washington since the 1930s.


Last we knew: A federal judge restored endangered species protection for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies last week.

The latest: The federal gray wolf recovery coordinator responded Thursday to the issue of “genetic exchange,” which is at the heart of the judge’s ruling.

What’s next: Attorneys general from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho will decide on their strategy on the wolf decision during a teleconference today.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 25

AZ: Lagging wolf numbers get a closer look

Lagging wolf numbers get a closer look

By Bill Coates

Mexican Gray wolves have had a rough go of it lately, leading wildlife agencies to rethink part of the game plan.

“The last few years have not been good, and our numbers are not growing,” said Terry Johnson, endangered species specialist for Arizona Game and Fish Department. “It’s time to change the game.”

The rules of game — guidelines to be precise — are made by a six-agency group, known as the Adaptive Management Oversight Committee. Johnson chairs the committee, which meets quarterly. At its next meeting, AMOC will see what can be done to get wolf recovery back on track.

Mexican gray wolves had been wiped out in Arizona. In 1998, they were reintroduced to the Blue Range area in eastern Arizona — and allowed to range into western New Mexico. The wolves’ return triggered a political range war between conservation groups and ranchers. Meetings over the wolves have turned rancorous at times. The dispute has spilled over into the courts.

The wolves meanwhile continue to hold their own, but barely. Right now, the population stands about 50 and has stalled there for a number of reasons, Johnson said.

One includes a recent spate of killings, some possibly unlawful, he said.

The incidents are still under investigation, he said, adding he had little in the way of details.

But the killings, if intentional, seemed to have targeted breeding pairs.

Because of the losses, he said, “it’s very clear to us that we’re not likely to come close to achieving the population growth in this year that we had hoped.”

Other losses include removing wolves legally for killing cattle — or suspected of having done so. A wolf can be trapped or shot if it’s involved in three more incidents of livestock depredation in a year. Ranchers fear AMOC will require proof of a wolf attack if a cow’s found dead.

For now, wolf attacks as a possible cause can be enough to trigger removal, Marks said.

“We’d really like to see that remain in place,” said Barbara Marks, wildlife committee chairman for the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association. Marks also runs a ranch with her husband in the Blue Range area.

She gave an example. One of her calves fell from a bluff and was found dead. It looked like she was trying to escape predators, and some other tracks were found nearby. Heavy rain, however, had made the tracks impossible to identify.

Under the proposed change, she said, it would be harder to prove wolf depredation in that case.

But guidelines have always called for confirmation of a wolf kill, Johnson said. That won’t change. Instead, the proposed guidelines would require a more thorough investigation to try and narrow the kill down to a particular wolf or wolves.

But Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said removing any wolf — when there are so few in number — cuts into a big part of a small gene pool. Ranchers, he said, can do a better job from preventing attacks on livestock to begin with.

“Rather than scapegoating the wolves, try to prevent the conflict from developing,” Robinson said.

Wolves scavenge on livestock left dead on the range, then see cattle as prey, he said. The answer is remove dead cows, he said. He cites the example of a separate wolf-recovery program centered around Yellowstone National Park. Outside the park, ranchers are required to remove or treat carcasses to make them inedible.

Marks, however, disputed Robinson’s “prey image” theory. So did Johnson. He said it hasn’t been scientifically proven.

In addition, Marks said, there’s the logistics of treating a cow carcass, usually with lime, to render it inedible.

“It you happen to find it — that’s a big if — you’d have to go home and get the lime, pack it out,” she said. “It’s not just a five-minute trip. You’re talking many hours.”

Johnson said there are no plans to require ranchers in Arizona to treat or remove carcasses. But AMOC proposes a change to hold the wolf harmless if its kills a calf put out by a rancher as a “bait” cow. The fear is a rancher would use the killed calf as a reason for the wolf’s removal.

In an ideal rancher’s world, wolves would not have been reintroduced at all.

But Marks adds, “I guess you have to say, at least for now, we have to find out how to … live with it.”

For Robinson, the wolves are too few and far between. He said the program has been mismanaged, and he faults AMOC. In addition to Arizona Game and Fish, the group includes New Mexico Game and Fish, White Mountain Apache Tribe and three U.S. agencies, including Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Services and the Forest Service.

In his criticism, Robison singles out Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has a predator-control program.

Wildlife Services officers, he said, have shot 11 wolves since 1998.

“There’s been a very trigger-happy management philosophy that has imbued this whole reintroduction effort,” Robinson said.

In addition, Wildlife Services has trapped dozens more wolves, 18 of which were killed accidentally, he said.

Overall, he added, reintroduction has fallen far short of the goal of 100 wolves set in 1996.

But Johnson said that the reintroduction team had little to go on when coming up with that figure. He was part of that team.

The numbers, he added, “were based on total conjecture.”

Ten years into the program, he said, more solid numbers are at hand.

“This is part of that discussion,” he said. He wouldn’t divulge specific figures in advance of the meeting.

“I can’t go down that path right now,” he said.

The Adaptive Management Oversight Committee meets 6 p.m. July 30 at the Morenci Club next to Basha’s in Morenci Plaza. Comments have already been taken on the proposed changes, but the public can ask questions.

Robinson won’t be attending, and Marks is a possible no-show. Marks has an earlier meeting in Springerville, 113 tortuous mountain miles from Morenci.

Robinson said he gave up on attending AMOC meetings. The agency representatives, he said, show too much deference to ranchers, and not enough to residents who support the wolves.

“There has been a real lack of responsiveness to conservation concerns at these meetings,” he said.

The center, he said, has taken its concerns to court. It has joined other conservation groups in suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, claiming the agency has dropped the ball on the wolf reintroduction. That case is pending in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Marks disagreed the meetings have favored the ranchers. She pointed to the fact that the wolves are there and apparently won’t be going away any time soon.

Johnson agreed. The wolves are in the Blue Range to stay.

“There is no consideration to giving up or backsliding,” Johnson said.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 25

NM: Possible gray wolf seen in New Mexico

Possible gray wolf seen in New Mexico

Associated Press

SANTA FE – A possible gray wolf has been sighted on a ranch in northern New Mexico, raising the prospect that wolves may have migrated into the state from the Northern Rockies where they were reintroduced more than a decade ago.

There’s been no confirmed gray wolf in the wild in New Mexico since a subspecies of the animal was exterminated from the state in the early and mid-1900s.

The animal was seen several times and photographed on Vermejo Park Ranch, which is owned by media mogul Ted Turner. It was first spotted about a month ago, but government biologists have not been able to capture the animal to obtain genetic material to confirm whether it’s a wolf.

“We don’t know what it is. It looks like a gray wolf. It looks like a big black gray wolf. Where did it come from? We don’t know,” Mike Phillips, executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund in Bozeman, Mont., said Monday, July 21, in a telephone interview. “It’s not a coyote. It doesn’t mean it’s not a socialized gray wolf that somebody let go, and it just wandered around and ended up in Vermejo. And it doesn’t mean it’s not a gray wolf that came out of the northern Rockies.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been reintroducing the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the larger gray wolf, in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

But the markings on the animal seen on Turner’s ranch were not that of a Mexican gray wolf, according to Elizabeth Slown, a spokesman for the agency in Albuquerque.

Slown said the agency took the sighting seriously enough to send one of its wolf biologists from Arizona to the ranch last week. Traps were put out but nothing was caught. The New Mexico Game and Fish Department also participated.

“Our biologists have seen photos, but they haven’t seen the animal,” said Slown.

Game and Fish spokesman Marty Frentzel said the government agencies hoped to capture the animal on the ranch, attach a radio collar and then track it. A gray wolf in New Mexico would be protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Turner’s ranch covers more than 900 square miles near the New Mexico-Colorado border and offers prime habitat for a wolf – large populations of elk and deer along with diverse ecosystems ranging from forests and nearly 13,000-foot peaks along the ranch’s western flank to prairie along its southern and eastern borders.

Phillips said he’s confident the animal isn’t a coyote because it’s not gray and tawny, but biologists and ranch workers have not found any scat that’s confirmed from the animal.

“The mystery may never be solved,” said Phillips.

Phillips knows wolves. He worked on reintroducing the gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s before joining Turner’s organization.

Because the animal is black, he said, “that just significantly reduces the odds that it’s anything but a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid or a socialized wolf.”

Wolves have thrived in the northern Rockies – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – since their reintroduction. The federal government earlier this year removed wolves in that region from the endangered species list. That allows Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to manage wolves and the states are planning public hunts.

Phillips said wolves can travel great distances. Although they typically move in packs, it’s not uncommon for lone animals to explore new territory, he said.

In 2004, a dead wolf was found in Colorado along Interstate 70 west of Denver and its radio collar showed that it was from Yellowstone National Park.

“Northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado is a motherlode for gray wolves,” said Phillips, because of its terrain, big tracts of public and private lands and plentiful elk and deer.


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 25

MT: Wolves kill 2 llamas near Florence

Wolves kill 2 llamas near Florence

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – Wolves have killed two llamas and injured a third in the Bitterroot Valley south of Florence.

USDA Wildlife Services confirmed the depredations on Thursday.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says wolves from the Brooks Creek pack were believed to be involved. Wolves from the same pack killed two calves and chased others, in two separate incidents earlier this month on a neighboring property.

FWP officials say the history of depredations and the continued presence of wolves in the area have prompted them to authorize Wildlife Services to kill up to four wolves in the area where the depredations occurred.

The agency says it will continue to monitor the area and pursue non-lethal methods to prevent further depredations by hazing wolves to higher elevations, away from livestock.

On the Net:

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, http://fwp.mt.gov/default.html


Posted in Uncategorized
Jul 25

MT: Wolf hit by vehicle, killed on I-90 near Lookout Pass

Wolf hit by vehicle, killed on I-90 near Lookout Pass

by Vivaca Crowser, Montana FWP Information Officer

The Montana Department of Transportation found a dead wolf along Interstate 90 near Lookout Pass on July 21. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks confirmed that the wolf had injuries consistent with a vehicle collision.

The wolf, a gray adult female, may have been a member of the Silver Lake pack, a group of wolves which is believed to inhabit the Montana/Idaho border near Lookout Pass.

To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov. Click Montana Wolves, 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 wolf population.


Posted in Uncategorized