Nov 30

MN: Potential rules changes worrying some environmentalists

Potential rules changes worrying some environmentalists

By TOM MEERSMAN, Star Tribune

With less than two months left in power, Bush administration officials are hustling to loosen federal rules on feedlots, power plants and endangered species — and raising alarms among environmentalists in Minnesota and elsewhere.

One proposal, supported by the National Rifle Association, would end the 25-year ban on carrying loaded weapons into Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota and 13 wildlife refuges.

“We’re very worried about all of this,” said Paul Aasen, policy director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Two weeks ago, the administration opened 2 million acres of public land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to oil shale development. The new rules take effect on Jan. 17, three days before President Bush leaves office. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management expanded its oil and gas leasing program by tens of thousands of acres, including tracts near three national parks in Utah. The administration is expected to ease air quality rules that make it difficult for power plants and other industries to operate near national parks and wilderness areas.

Opposition to “midnight regulations” has brought together two groups normally at odds — environmental advocates and free-market think tanks. Leaders of eight organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife, Republicans for Environmental Protection and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wrote a joint letter to the president on Oct. 31 calling for a moratorium on new rules because they shortcut the normal public comment process.

That suggestion was ignored, and White House officials have denied that the administration is rushing any changes.

The job of an outgoing administration should not be to handcuff the new president, said Aasen, but to “set the table” and provide a smooth transition. However, the Clinton administration also approved numerous rules in late 2000 before ceding power to Bush.

Dozens of changes

Dozens of rule changes in the works would also affect immigration, family leave, mountaintop mining, worker safety and counterterrorism measures.

One late-season rule that has already been enacted benefits owners of large feedlots. Published Oct. 31, it exempts thousands of large dairy and hog operations from needing water quality permits if they do not discharge into lakes and streams.

Another rule under final review would exempt feedlot owners from reporting how much ammonia and hydrogen sulfide escapes into the air from animal wastes.

Environmental and public health groups wanted farmers to report that, but the Environmental Protection Agency considers it unnecessary bureaucracy that doesn’t benefit the environment.

Dave Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, said that the new measures will have little effect here because Minnesota’s feedlot rules for air and water quality are stricter than federal regulations.

The ban on loaded firearms in national parks was approved in the 1980s to prevent wildlife poaching and protect visitors, but a new rule to overturn that policy is expected within the next week or two.

“There was no hue and cry from the American public saying that there need to be guns in national parks,” said Kristen Brengel, campaign director for the Wilderness Society, which opposed the measure.

The change would also relax restrictions on carrying loaded firearms in national wildlife refuges, including 13 in Minnesota. Many refuges allow seasonal hunting but restrict firearms at other times.

Gray wolf issue revived

Protection of the gray wolf in the northern Rockies is also back in play. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped the wolf from the federal endangered species list early in the year, but a federal judge put it back on the list in July after hunters in Wyoming shot several wolves. In October, the Fish and Wildlife Service again proposed removing the wolf from federal protection, and is expected to finish the process quickly after the Nov. 28 deadline for public comments.

The new rule, expected this month, would not directly affect wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, which were returned to federal protection seven weeks ago as the outcome of an environmental lawsuit.

Most changes require 30 days to become law, so Dec. 20 is the final deadline. Some rules must be published 60 days before they become legally effective, so that deadline passed on Thursday.

In late 2000 and early 2001, the Clinton administration issued dozens of last-minute regulations affecting roadless areas in national forests, indoor air pollutants, airline safety, immigration and other issues. Hours after George W. Bush was inaugurated, his chief of staff took steps to undo or postpone President Bill Clinton’s changes that had not taken legal effect.

President-elect Barack Obama is likely to do the same for late changes proposed by Bush appointees. But reversing rules that have been enacted can take months or even years.

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Nov 30

Colorado remains wolfless, but they prosper elsewhere

Colorado remains wolfless, but they prosper elsewhere

By DAVE BUCHANAN

As the economy continues to stagger despite lower fuel prices, the adage about the wolf at the door might be truer than you think.

And we’re talking real wolves.

Recently, confirmed sightings of grey wolves have been reported in Oregon and Washington, and wolves are expected to make an appearance in northern California within a decade, acccording to a report on the High Country News Web site, www.hcn.org.

There apparently aren’t any wolves in Colorado, at least not officially. Some longtime residents claim Colorado’s last resident wolf was killed in 1945 near Parlin, east of Gunnison while others disagree, saying the last wolf (or wolf-dog hybrid) was killed in 1943 along the upper Conejos River.

While the Division of Wildlife receives a few unconfirmed wolf sightings each year, seldom are they as reliable as the video taken in February 2006, by a North Park rancher that shows a black wolf-like animal cruising through snowy fields just south of the Wyoming border.

A wolf specialist with the Division of Wildlife affirmed the animal shows “distinctly wolf-like behavior” but the animal wasn’t wearing a radio collar or any identifying tags, which makes it impossible to trace it to established wolf packs in Wyoming or Montana.

And as the biologist said, in contrast to the hope-filled claims by wolf-restoration advocates, there’s no way to tell if it really was a wolf or simply a wolf-dog hybrid without doing some DNA testing.

The last confirmed wolf in Colorado was found dead along Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs in 2004. The female wolf, named 293F for the radio collar she was wearing, was from Yellowstone National Park.

Some folks had the temerity to suggest the wolf might have been killed elsewhere and dumped along the highway to flummox local ranchers and wildlife officials.

A similar theory was espoused about the female lynx also found dead along I-70 near Idaho Springs in 2005.

In both cases, however, necropsies confirmed the animals had been hit by vehicles, thereby reaffirming I-70’s well-deserved reputation as the “Berlin wall for wildlife,” as it was dubbed by a DOW biologist.

Who knows how many “could-be wolves” have been sighted in Colorado but instead of being reported were dispatched through the “shoot, shovel and shut up” philosophy of wildife management.

Wolves again are protected in the lower 48 under the Endangered Species Act, after a lawsuit brought by several carnivore-protection groups overturned some state wolf-management policies that were little more than an openseason on the four-legged critters.

Colorado’s policy says should wolves show up through natural migration, they will be carefully monitored but allowed to live in areas with suitable habitat.

Former DOW director dies

Harry R. Woodward, whose 13-year tenure (1961-1974) as the director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife was the longest in agency history, died recently at his home in Germantown, Tenn. He was 89.

Among his many achievements during his time with the DOW, Woodward promoted a year-round fishing season, which was adopted in 1962. That same year, Butts Lake in Delta County became one of the first two lakes in Colorado where fishing was restricted to artificial flies and lures.

Woodward also was a key pro-hunting spokesman during the late 1960s when several anti-hunting groups, including the U.S. Humane Society and the Friends of Animals, pushed to abolish all hunting and trapping on public lands.

According to the book “Colorado Wildlife’s Story,” Woodward’s testimony before Congress in 1965 was praised as the definitive statement of opposition to gun control.

Woodward also made sure Colorado was at the forefront in hunter safety education and it was during his time as director that laws were passed requiring mandatory hunter safety training and the wearing of blaze orange.

Prior to coming to Colorado, Woodward had been the director of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. After leaving Colorado, he worked as a regional supervisor for Ducks Unlimited.

Long considered a professional conservationist as well as an avid hunter and angler, Woodward once remarked about wildlife management, “There is probably no other area of resource management where the public appears to be more interested and yet lacks more real understanding of the whole problem, than in fish and game management.”

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Nov 30

ID: Comment phase ends for new wolf delisting proposal

Comment phase ends for new wolf delisting proposal

By the Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho – Friday marked the final day that federal officials took comments on a new wolf management proposal for the predators in the northern Rocky Mountains.

It’s part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s push to lift Endangered Species Act protections from more than 1,000 wolves in Idaho and Montana before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Protections were lifted in March, only to be restored in July when a federal judge said that delisting plan was flawed.

Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, continue to criticize the Fish and Wildlife Service.

They contend the agency should wait so the Obama administration can take a renewed look at wolf management nationwide, including in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan where a separate judge restored protections for the predators in October.

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Nov 30

SE: Old Dogs Taught Humans New Tricks

Old Dogs Taught Humans New Tricks

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

Eleven wolf pups were born this year in Hedmark’s county in Norway on the other side of the federal border from Sweden.

Last year, 2007, no wolves were born at all.

But, of the eleven which were born this year it is unclear how many pups have survived, according to the Norwegian Directorate for Natural Resources.

Vargvalps-boom i grannfylket

I år har det fötts elva vargar i Hedmarks fylke på andra sidan riksgränsen.

Förra året, 2007, föddes det inga vargar alls.

Men av de elva som fötts i år är det oklart hur många vargvalpar som överlevt, enligt Norska Direktoratet for Naturforvaltning.

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Nov 29

MT: Flathead wolves to be killed

Flathead wolves to be killed

Officials say that the remaining members of the Hog Heaven wolf pack will be killed for preying on livestock in the Kalispell area.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has authorized the U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services to kill the wolves after a 2-year-old bull was killed last week near Kila.

Hog Heaven wolves are also believed responsible for killing three llamas on August 6th, a calf on September 16th, two heifers on September 23rd, a calf on September 25th and another calf on October 8th.

Wolf Management Specialist Kent Laudon said the pack has become habituated to killing livestock rather than wild game.

So far, at least seven Hog Heaven wolves have been killed in response to livestock depredation in the areas west and south of Kalispell.

Laudon believes at least five wolves remain in the pack.

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Nov 29

ID: Feds moving ahead with wolf plans

Feds moving ahead with wolf plans

By McClatchy Newspapers

BOISE, Idaho – Federal wildlife managers hope to remove wolves from the endangered-species list in Idaho and Montana before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

But environmentalists say a decision before President Bush leaves office will simply delay final resolution by throwing the dispute back into the courts. They say the best course is to take modest interim steps now and then let the Obama administration take a fresh look at wolf management nationwide next year.

Either way, a new administration more favorable to environmentalists will inherit the job of sorting out a controversy that has raged since the 1980s.

The Bush administration is moving forward with plans nonetheless.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this week that his agency will analyze comments on the administration’s proposed wolf management plan, which are due Friday.

“I’m hoping we can get to a final rule by the end of the year,” Bangs said.

State responsibility

In March, wolves were removed from the protections of the endangered-species list in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah. That action gave primary responsibility for managing the animals to the states, which proposed to loosen conditions under which wolves could be killed and to allow hunting. Environmentalists challenged that action, and in July a federal judge in Montana stopped the delisting, placing the predators back on the endangered species list.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula said the delisting plan was flawed because wolves were allowed to be killed on sight year-round in 90 percent of Wyoming.

In October, the federal government offered a new proposal to remove the animals from Endangered Species Act protection; it is the comment period on that plan that is now ending. Federal officials did not reveal how the new plan would differ from the one that Molloy rejected. Instead, they asked the public to comment on a set of questions aimed at Molloy’s objections.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s office said this week that Wyoming believes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to end federal wolf protections in Idaho and Montana, while leaving them in place in Wyoming. But if the agency takes that route, environmentalists say they are confident the proposal won’t stand up in court.

Interpretation of law

“The problem with that is the Endangered Species Act doesn’t let it delist a portion of its species if it is still is endangered across a significant part of its range,” said Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Bozeman.

She and other wolf advocates want instead for the agency to back off its delisting plan, work with Wyoming to bring its protections up to the levels of the other states, and increase efforts to get ranchers to use nonlethal methods to keep wolves from eating livestock.

She and other environmentalists will urge Obama’s administration to write a national wolf recovery plan that resolves some of the legal hurdles the agency has had nationwide protecting wolves.

Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Bush administration in October to resume protection for gray wolves in the Great Lakes area under the Endangered Species Act.

With more than 4,000 wolves in the Midwest, wolves had been delisted there since 2007. In his ruling, Friedman posed this question: Why would the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delist a “distinct population segment” of a species that is thriving even though the broader species remains endangered elsewhere? That court decision and Friedman’s question opened up a new debate about why the federal government is handling wolf recovery differently in one region than in another.

“With a new administration about to be put in place, the whole question of wolf recovery needs to be thought through,” Willcox said.

But federal and state wildlife officials, pushed by impatient ranchers and hunters, hope to return control over wolves to the states, which traditionally manage wildlife. The new delisting effort is aimed specifically at Molloy’s objections to the first plan.

Molloy said he agreed with the claims of the 11 environmental groups that filed a lawsuit.

They argued that wolves in Yellowstone National Park were not genetically mixing with other wolf populations, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said was necessary.

If the wolves don’t interbreed throughout the region, that could leave isolated and genetically threatened enclaves, not a sustainable population. Bangs has said his agency’s research and scientific documentation shows that the populations are mixing genetically.

The judge also said in his ruling that the wolf plans proposed by state wildlife managers in Montana and Idaho were as good as or better than the previous federal rules. Still, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials have sought to demonstrate to Molloy that their plan for managing the 800 wolves in the state is conservative, said Fish and Game Wildlife Bureau Chief Jim Unsworth.

“We’ve put in a little more explanation about how our hunting season will function in the first years and subsequent years,” Unsworth said.

Opponents have sought to depict Idaho’s wolf hunting goals as excessive, he said.

But the Idaho Fish and Game Commission said its rules would not let wolf numbers drop below 520 wolves, five times the minimum number set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The idea is to have a sustainable wolf population we can hunt,” Unsworth said.

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Nov 29

ID: Feds moving ahead with wolf plans

Feds moving ahead with wolf plans

By McClatchy Newspapers

BOISE, Idaho – Federal wildlife managers hope to remove wolves from the endangered-species list in Idaho and Montana before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

But environmentalists say a decision before President Bush leaves office will simply delay final resolution by throwing the dispute back into the courts. They say the best course is to take modest interim steps now and then let the Obama administration take a fresh look at wolf management nationwide next year.

Either way, a new administration more favorable to environmentalists will inherit the job of sorting out a controversy that has raged since the 1980s.

The Bush administration is moving forward with plans nonetheless.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this week that his agency will analyze comments on the administration’s proposed wolf management plan, which are due Friday.

“I’m hoping we can get to a final rule by the end of the year,” Bangs said.

State responsibility

In March, wolves were removed from the protections of the endangered-species list in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah. That action gave primary responsibility for managing the animals to the states, which proposed to loosen conditions under which wolves could be killed and to allow hunting. Environmentalists challenged that action, and in July a federal judge in Montana stopped the delisting, placing the predators back on the endangered species list.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula said the delisting plan was flawed because wolves were allowed to be killed on sight year-round in 90 percent of Wyoming.

In October, the federal government offered a new proposal to remove the animals from Endangered Species Act protection; it is the comment period on that plan that is now ending. Federal officials did not reveal how the new plan would differ from the one that Molloy rejected. Instead, they asked the public to comment on a set of questions aimed at Molloy’s objections.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s office said this week that Wyoming believes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to end federal wolf protections in Idaho and Montana, while leaving them in place in Wyoming. But if the agency takes that route, environmentalists say they are confident the proposal won’t stand up in court.

Interpretation of law

“The problem with that is the Endangered Species Act doesn’t let it delist a portion of its species if it is still is endangered across a significant part of its range,” said Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Bozeman.

She and other wolf advocates want instead for the agency to back off its delisting plan, work with Wyoming to bring its protections up to the levels of the other states, and increase efforts to get ranchers to use nonlethal methods to keep wolves from eating livestock.

She and other environmentalists will urge Obama’s administration to write a national wolf recovery plan that resolves some of the legal hurdles the agency has had nationwide protecting wolves.

Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Bush administration in October to resume protection for gray wolves in the Great Lakes area under the Endangered Species Act.

With more than 4,000 wolves in the Midwest, wolves had been delisted there since 2007. In his ruling, Friedman posed this question: Why would the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delist a “distinct population segment” of a species that is thriving even though the broader species remains endangered elsewhere? That court decision and Friedman’s question opened up a new debate about why the federal government is handling wolf recovery differently in one region than in another.

“With a new administration about to be put in place, the whole question of wolf recovery needs to be thought through,” Willcox said.

But federal and state wildlife officials, pushed by impatient ranchers and hunters, hope to return control over wolves to the states, which traditionally manage wildlife. The new delisting effort is aimed specifically at Molloy’s objections to the first plan.

Molloy said he agreed with the claims of the 11 environmental groups that filed a lawsuit.

They argued that wolves in Yellowstone National Park were not genetically mixing with other wolf populations, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said was necessary.

If the wolves don’t interbreed throughout the region, that could leave isolated and genetically threatened enclaves, not a sustainable population. Bangs has said his agency’s research and scientific documentation shows that the populations are mixing genetically.

The judge also said in his ruling that the wolf plans proposed by state wildlife managers in Montana and Idaho were as good as or better than the previous federal rules. Still, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials have sought to demonstrate to Molloy that their plan for managing the 800 wolves in the state is conservative, said Fish and Game Wildlife Bureau Chief Jim Unsworth.

“We’ve put in a little more explanation about how our hunting season will function in the first years and subsequent years,” Unsworth said.

Opponents have sought to depict Idaho’s wolf hunting goals as excessive, he said.

But the Idaho Fish and Game Commission said its rules would not let wolf numbers drop below 520 wolves, five times the minimum number set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The idea is to have a sustainable wolf population we can hunt,” Unsworth said.

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Nov 29

MT: Wolf pack to be eliminated

Wolf pack to be eliminated

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) – The remaining members of the Hog Heaven wolf pack will be killed for preying on livestock in the Kalispell area.

The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks authorized the USDA Wildlife Services to kill the wolves after a 2-year-old bull was killed last week near Kila.

Hog Heaven wolves are also believed responsible for killing three llamas on Aug. 6, a calf on Sept. 16, two heifers on Sept. 23, a calf of Sept. 25 and another calf on Oct. 8.

Wolf management specialist Kent Laudon says the pack has become habituated to killing livestock rather than wild game.

At least seven Hog Heaven wolves have already been killed in response to livestock depredation in the areas west and south of Kalispell. Laudon believes at least five wolves remain in the pack.

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Nov 29

MT: Rest of Hog Heaven pack targeted

Rest of Hog Heaven pack targeted

By NICHOLAS LEDDEN / Daily Inter Lake

What’s left of the Hog Heaven wolf pack — deemed responsible for multiple attacks on livestock this year — has been scheduled for extermination, wildlife officials said Friday.

Most recently, Hog Heaven wolves killed a 2-year-old bull last week in the Browns Meadow area near Kila.

Confirmation of the killing prompted the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division to eliminate the pack.

“I know we’ve had a lot of problems with that pack,” said John Steuber, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division in Montana.

Trappers have yet to begin removing the targeted wolves, Steuber said.

Hog Heaven wolves also are believed to be responsible for killing three llamas on Aug. 6, a calf on Sept. 16, two breeding-stock heifers on Sept. 23, a calf on Sept. 25 and another calf on Oct. 8.

“They’ve shown us that this is chronic behavior,” said Kent Laudon, a wolf management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “They’re habituated to killing livestock.”

At least seven Hog Heaven wolves already have been killed in response to depredation incidents in their territory west and south of Kalispell. Wildlife officials had hoped to eliminate the offending wolves and reduce the pack’s nutritional demands.

“But our incremental approach wasn’t really working,” said Laudon, noting that the decision to take out the rest of the pack was based both the wolves’ documented attacks on livestock and their potential for future depredation.

Laudon, who estimated in early October that the pack had at least 10 wolves, said be believes there are at least five wolves remaining.

“In hindsight, likely there are more,” he said.

During the past few months, radio-collar data allowed Laudon to monitor the pack’s movements as far south as the Little Thompson River drainage — making it likely Hog Heaven wolves were responsible for two attacks on llamas in that area.

A wolf killed in connection with the deaths of three llamas — a wolf previously believed to be from the Salish pack — may actually have been from the Hog Heaven pack, whose range has been found to extend to Niarada and Lonepine.

Wolf sightings can be reported by calling (406) 752-5501 or going to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Web site at: www.fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/wolf.

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Nov 29

NY: Fund-raiser for wolf center is Dec. 4

Fund-raiser for wolf center is Dec. 4

On Thursday, Dec. 4, the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) will be hosting a holiday fund-raiser, Wine & Winter Wolves, at the Carriage House of the Waccabuc Country Club.

“In these difficult economic times we were really apprehensive about holding a fund-raiser,” said Deborah Heineman, the center’s executive director, “but obviously it is more important now than ever to make sure that the WCC — which has been a unique community resource for over a decade — has the means to continue our crucial mission of ecosystem education and species survival. What we’ve done is to revamp last year’s very popular event so that every cent of the $75 ticket price will go directly to support our programs — and be fully tax-deductible for our guests.”

To that end, the WCC reached out to local restaurants and merchants to ask them to sponsor “tasting tables.” “The response has been inspiring,” said Ms. Heineman. Cross River Wine Merchants, Bacio Trattoria in Cross River, Le Château in South Salem, The Horse and Hound in South Salem, Passage to India in Mt. Kisco, The Fish Cellar in Mt. Kisco, Peter Pratt’s in Yorktown, 121 in North Salem, Myong in Bedford Hills, and the Flying Pig in Mt. Kisco will all be there, Café Svago in Ridgefield, Conn., will be providing organic coffee, Susan Lawrence in Chappaqua, The Lil’ Chocolate Shoppe in Pleasantville and Chappaqua Toffee will be offering delicious desserts, and other restaurants from Sleepy Hollow to Pound Ridge that couldn’t participate have offered gift certificates, which will be part of a raffle to raise additional funds. Cartwright and Daughters in Carmel is providing the plates and glasses, Vista Beer and Beverage will provide soda, and Executive Printing in Elmsford produced invitations completely free of charge. “This event is literally taking place completely through the generosity of the community,” said Martha Handler, center board member. “It really makes me proud to live in this area.” Background music will be provided by The Riddles — the ’60s band of Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua.

In addition to the wine and food tasting and the raffle, fine prints, photographs, paintings and drawings, all celebrating the wolf, have been donated from collectors and artists — including renowned wildlife printmaker Howard Bateman and acclaimed watercolorist Bob Callahan. Valued from $50 to $2,000, these will be offered as part of a silent auction during the celebration. Each work of art comes with a framing certificate worth $50, courtesy of Chappaqua Framers. Wolf center merchandise also will be available for purchase.

And of course, the highlight of the evening will be when Atka — one of the center’s ambassador wolves — makes an appearance for a brief educational program and update on the center’s past year of achievement, including the birth of the center’s first litter of endangered Mexican gray wolf pups.

Attendance must be limited to the first 130 people who respond.

Information: nywolf.org.

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