Mar 31

NY: Wolf hybrids caught on reserve

Wolf hybrids caught on reserve

Posted By MICHAEL PEELING

Answers behind the mysterious appearance of wolf-like animals first spotted in Akwesasne, N. Y. almost a year ago are coming to light.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s animal control officer caught a fourth beast alive Monday morning near a local residence.

The wolf-like animal, or one just like it, was first spotted in early March.

Based on early observation of the animal by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), it bears a strong resemblance to three animals proven through genetic testing to be hybrids of the Alaskan wolf and an undetermined species of dog.

“It’s huge,” said David Staddon, spokesperson for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. “It weighs about 85 pounds, but it looks bigger because it’s so fluffy. It was eating out of Derek’s (Comins) hand.”

Comins, hired last June as the tribe’s first animal control officer, said the animals haven’t been acting in a threatening manner towards humans.

The first two animals were shot and killed shortly after the Tribal Police responded to reports from community members of several large wolf-like animals traipsing through their yards in April 2008 on Frogtown, North and White roads.

D. J. Monette of the USFWS said one of them was mistakenly believed to be rabid, while another was mistaken for a coyote.

In-depth genetic testing of the animals by the USFWS and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) found they were hybrids and members of the same family.

Tissue and fur samples from the captured wolf-like animal were taken Thursday by the USFWS, but the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe will have to wait for the results before deciding its fate.

More than an hour’s drive away in Parishville, N. Y. – around the same time the first two hybrids were shot – an animal which turned out to be related to the first two was shot and killed in the Adirondack foothills.

Monette said the USFWS, which enforces the Endangered Species Act, took a strong interest in the animals because they appeared to be very wolf-like.

“They have very little of a dog’s genes in them,” Monette said. “They have more of a wolf’s genes. It’s hard to see the dog in them. They have that wild instinct in them.”

And yet, some of the hybrids were said to get within 20 feet of humans, something a wolf would almost never do, according to Monette.

“Wolves don’t like to be around people,” Monette said. “A person would be extremely lucky to see a wolf in the wild.”

The big question on everyone’s lips now is the origin of the hybrids.

The USFWS says it’s unlikely Alaskan wolves would migrate to New York.

If the captured animal turns out to be a hybrid as well, the USFWS’s investigation into the animals will end. The hybrids are not protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Monette said there is a lot of speculation the hybrids were brought to the area and bred in captivity.

The wolf is considered of great cultural significance to the Mohawk people, so it’s a possibility the hybrids were bred for that reason, but proved to be poor pets.

“The Mohawks have the Wolf Clan. It’s a highly recognized animal in native culture,” Monette said. “However, it’s hard to say if someone has been raising these animals.”

The tribe is hoping someone will claim responsibility for the hybrids.

Comins said the tribe is in the process of proposing the implementation of an animal control ordinance.

The ordinance would make provisions for the tribe to control domestic animals and control the possession of wild animals, which includes wolves and hybrid wolves.

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Mar 31

MT: Wolves sighted in South Hills

Wolves sighted in South Hills

By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian

Liz Bradley was hardly surprised Monday when her phone lit up with possible wolf sightings around Missoula.

That’s what happens when you’re a wolf management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the local newspaper runs a story about wolves in the suburbs.

“Yep, I just got off the phone with another guy who thought he’d found a wolf kill in the Rattlesnake,” Bradley said when a Missoulian reporter called about yet another sighting.

And yes, she’d heard about that one, too.

“I’ve got that e-mail, too, but it’s going to be hard to follow up on because of the weather,” Bradley said.

The first report, Bradley said, seemed likely to be coyotes. But the second, by veteran Missoula outdoorsman Rod Dietz, sounded plausible.

Dietz, who sent e-mails outlining the sighting to both the Missoulian and FWP, reported seeing wolves in the Rimel Road area southwest of Mansion Heights.

Dietz said he first saw three deer running toward him. They paid little attention to him, however, keeping their eyes over their shoulders.

“They should have been worried about me, being that close, they were definitely more worried about what had been chasing them,” Dietz wrote. “So I checked the hillside above them and spotted three wolves.”

Dietz said he tried to photograph the wolves, but Sunday’s snow and distance made that difficult. He did look at them through binoculars, though.

Ordinarily, Bradley would follow up a report like Dietz’s on the ground, but the snowy weather made that impossible.

“We just had so much snow and wet there really wouldn’t be much to see in the way of tracks,” Bradley said.

And that’s too bad. For one thing, Bradley hasn’t had a sighting in that area. Wolves were seen in upper Pattee Canyon the previous winter, but she’s had no reports this year. The nearest documented pack lives along the Sapphire Mountains to the south, but they haven’t been seen this far north.

“It’s certainly possible they could come that far, as the range of wolves is huge,” she said. “I can’t say that it’s not them.”

Since their reintroduction, wolves have dispersed across the Montana landscape. It’s not unusual for a single wolf to be seen in areas where packs have not yet been seen, Bradley said.

But if the animals Dietz saw really were wolves, three wolves is more important than one.

“You wouldn’t ordinarily see three wolves dispersed like that,” she said. “Those could be wolves moving out of the Welcome Creek pack. But if they are hanging around up there, we should get a cluster of reports.”

Bradley said she still hopes to talk to Dietz by phone, and she’ll use that information to better map the intricate pattern of wolf travel.

“We want to hear people’s reports,” she said. “This is part of the way we keep up with the movement of wolves and the development of new packs.”

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Mar 31

Wolf off endangered list again

Wolf off endangered list again

By Chuck Quirmbach/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram

The Interior Department has decided to again take the grey wolf in the western Great Lakes off the list of endangered and threatened species.

The Obama Administration had ordered another look at a Bush Administration ruling to delist the grey wolf in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan and part of the northern rocky mountain region. Interior secretary Ken Salazar said taking the grey wolf off the endangered species list is scientifically supportable in both the upper Midwest and most of the northern Rockies. He says the grey wolf will not be delisted in Wyoming, because he says that state does not have a good recovery management plan for the wolves.

The decision for Wisconsin could soon mean wolves that kill livestock and cause other major problems can be euthanized. That’s good news to DNR secretary Matt Frank. He says it will take at least 30 days before landowners will be able to get DNR approval to kill problem wolves.

Meanwhile, wildlife groups could file another lawsuit to block the delisting. The groups have succeeded in court before.

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Mar 30

NC: Funds would boost red wolf recovery

Funds would boost red wolf recovery

Federal money secured for center’s captive breeding program

By Clarke Morrison

The WNC Nature Center might get only a portion of $870,000 set aside for efforts to save endangered red wolves.

Details on how the money secured by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, will be spent have been unclear, officials said. Shuler cited constituent respect for the outdoors and conservation as reasons for securing the federal funding for the red wolf captive breeding program.

The Nature Center operates one of about 40 captive breeding facilities in the country participating in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s red wolf recovery program.

Eighteen rare red wolf pups have been born at the Nature Center since the Asheville facility joined the effort. Red wolves have been at the brink of extinction, numbering only about 300 worldwide.

New money for the effort was included in a $410 billion omnibus spending measure signed by President Barack Obama last week.

“When you lose a species, you never get it back,” Shuler said.

Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen said the $870,000 would be split between the Nature Center and a captive breeding facility at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash.

The Washington zoo’s breeding program would be moved to another location, while the program in Asheville would be expanded, he said.

“The goal is to have the Nature Center be the focal point of distribution of these wolves back into the wild,” Whalen said, declining to provide further details.

Waiting for details

The center is waiting to learn the specifics of the plan from Shuler’s office, said Dee Black, interim operations manager at the Nature Center.

Debbie Ivester, assistant director of the city Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department, said it’s unclear how much money the city will receive.

Smaller than they gray wolf but larger than a coyote, red wolves once thrived across the Southeast. But like other predators, they were aggressively hunted and by 1980 were declared extinct in the wild.

By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. More than 100 roam their native habitats in five counties, and about 200 remain in captive breeding.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park began an experimental release of red wolves in the park in 1991. The program was canceled in 1998 because of high pup mortality and a lack of food at higher elevations.

The Nature Center has two red wolves, a male and a female, said Henry Bullock, curator of animals. The center’s last litter of five pups was born in 2005.

The pups eventually were transferred to a new home at an environmental education center just north of Charleston, S.C.

Important work

Bullock said the Nature Center provides shelter, feeding and veterinary care for its red wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service controls transfers of wolves in and out of the center and other breeding facilities.

“It’s all based on the genetics of the population,” he said. “The program is important because you are dealing with a species that is highly endangered.”

After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were made to locate and capture as many as possible. Of the 17 red wolves caught by biologists, 14 became the foundation of a captive breeding program.

Wasteful spending?

Budget watchdogs and some in Congress say earmarks like the one secured for the wolf program are wasteful pork-barrel spending.

Asheville resident Richard Greensaid he was appalled when he heard about Shuler’s earmark for red wolves.

“It’s just pork barrel spending,” Green said. “I’m just fed up with this … when we’ve got these huge deficits and the economy is in the toilet.”

Additional Facts

Red Wolf facts

• The WNC Nature Center is one of about 40 captive breeding facilities attempting to increase the red wolf population. • Larger than a coyote but smaller than a gray wolf, adult red wolves can weigh 45-80 pounds. • The predators once roamed the Southeast. Aggressive hunting and a loss of habitat led to their decline. • The red wolf was declared endangered in 1973, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate a captive breeding program. • In 1980, the agency declared red wolves extinct in the wild. Red wolves remain extremely rare. Only about 250 exist in the wild and captive populations.

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Mar 29

MT: Wolf signs increase near Missoula

Wolf signs increase near Missoula

MISSOULA — Wolves seem to be making themselves at home near Missoula.

Wolf-killed wildlife were found in nearby Marshall Canyon earlier this month. Hunters have seen wolf tracks and scat in the Rattlesnake Wilderness just north of Missoula.

Meanwhile, bighorn sheep have been hanging out close to the town of Bonner east of Missoula. Some residents speculate that wolves have been spooking the sheep out of their usual habitat.

Marge Harper found evidence of a wolf kill on her property near Marshall Mountain ski area last month.

“I’m not super-concerned,” Harper said. “As long as there’s enough wildlife, the wolves will probably take that route. But I don’t think there should be 15 packs around Missoula, and I think they’re coming to that. They’re wonderful in Yellowstone, in the Bob Marshall and in Glacier, but I think they need to be controlled. When they get around a populated area, they just cause trouble.”

Recent survey data indicate Harper might be right about wolves getting closer to Missoula.

“The wolf population has been growing each year, and with that comes an increase in sightings,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Liz Bradley. “We’ve got lots of single animals crisscrossing the landscape. One can be on Blue Mountain one day and way at the end of the Bitterroot the next.”

Bradley flew an aerial survey Thursday around St. Regis and spotted a radio-collared gray wolf she didn’t recognize. The wolf turned out to be from the Boise, Idaho, area.

She also recently got a report of a wolf in midtown Missoula.

“I know that was not true,” Bradley said.

Wolf numbers continue to grow in the Rocky Mountain West. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are 320 wolves in Wyoming, 846 in Idaho and about 500 in Montana.

Montana’s wolf population grew evenly in both its northern and southern groups last year. The northern group numbered 256 wolves in 45 packs, with 17 breeding pairs. It grew by 43 members over 2007.

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Mar 29

OR: State law that bans wildlife as pets finds support

State law that bans wildlife as pets finds support

By By BUFFY POLLOCK
for the Mail Tribune

Wildlife Images director Dave Siddon could tell countless horror stories of wild animals, from lions to bears, adopted as cute babies then cast away after gaining several hundred pounds.

“We probably are approached by a half-dozen people a month that have wild animals as a pet and they need a home for it,” said Siddon, whose father founded the animal rehabilitation center near Merlin.

“Everything from bears to chinchillas and everything in between.”

Siddon applauded an Oregon Senate bill passed Tuesday that, if approved by the House, would essentially ban exotic, nonindigenous animals from being kept as pets in the state.

First introduced five years ago by Democratic Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton when a pet alligator escaped its enclosure and wound up sick and dying in a culvert, the law could take affect as early as May.

Siddon said the proposed law is “something that’s been a long time coming” and could lead to stronger laws for other types of wild animals.

The proposed law, which would not affect wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, circuses or research and educational facilities, would not force people to give up existing pets but would prevent people from obtaining new ones. In addition, animals indigenous to Oregon, such as bobcats and black bears, would continue to be managed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and not be subject to the new law.

Dr. Alan Kadish, an advocate of exotic pet ownership and a former owner of various types of wild cats, voiced frustration that responsible pet owners would no longer able to obtain certain types of animals.

“The nebulous nature of this law is ludicrous,” said Kadish. “No, the majority of people should not, without proper training, own exotic pets that potentially have the connotation of being dangerous, but we have a fiscal crisis and this is your big honkin’ deal?”

Kadish warned that, like a surge in gun buying “before Obama took office,” irresponsible pet owners would “rush out and get animals” before the new law took effect.

Medford resident Robin Hall, who owns a pet bobcat, said she supports the law for non-indigenous animals, as well as tighter restrictions, through the Fish and Wildlife Department, for cats like hers.

“Whether they’re from Oregon or not, I definitely think most pet owners are not qualified to take care of wild animals,” said Hall, who adopted “Freckles” three years ago after a family had left her in a dog kennel for the first nine months of her life, unsure how to manage her care, resulting in damage to the cat’s legs.

Hall says the cat “pees everywhere” and requires special care, including an expensive enclosure built in her backyard.

“She works out good with us but I wouldn’t go trying to find one if anything happened to her,” Hall said.

“I pay my $2.50 a year for her permit and they never check on her, but I think if somebody were to take one on, they should have classes or be the right type of person. Wild animals are meant to be wild for a reason.”

A handful of exotics would be treated differently under the proposed law. Pet wolves, for example, would no longer be managed by the United States Department of Agriculture, while existing pet alligators, sold in local stores, would require visual inspection and a permit under the new law until the animal passes away.

Alan Schmaltz, owner of Nui Kai pet shop in Medford, said while demand is increasing for pet alligators, he supported a law that would encourage human safety and animal welfare.

“We do sell baby alligators from time to time, during certain seasons when they’re available. We just have so much demand for them as pets, but I could see where they might be dangerous and kids could get bitten,” Schmaltz said.

“It seems like a lot of irresponsible people buy them as pets — the crocodiles and alligators. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they put a law into place. My wife doesn’t want me to carry them at all.”

Phoenix resident Jennifer Donnelson, who has a pair of baby alligators, said she was undecided about whether she would “bother getting a permit” if the new law is passed.

Other exotic pet owners in the Rogue Valley, including a man with several foxes, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Don Hansen, state veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said the new law would bring changes in paperwork and manpower.

“For us this is a big deal. These permits would require us to physically inspect the property and the facility and to make sure the person is capable of raising and taking care of the exotic animal they are asking for, which could have some pretty serious consequences,” Hansen said.

“It’s unknown how it will be managed, but we’ll all find out together.”

Siddon said he and his staff have spent years caring for animals, mostly indigenous to Oregon but exotic nonetheless, that could not survive in the wild and will live their lives in captivity.

“I can’t keep up with how many times we’ve been called where somebody has a neighbor with a tiger behind a chicken-wire enclosure,” he said.

“And you know it’s just a matter of time before something spins out of control and somebody is badly injured.

“Typically, laws are designed for the lowest common denominator,” Siddon added. “They make laws for bad people that affect good people, too.”

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Mar 29

MT: Wolves moving into the burbs?

Wolves moving into the burbs?

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian

The howl of the wolf soon may be heard in Missoula.

Neighbors at the end of Marshall Canyon found wolf-killed wildlife in the drainage just northeast of the Missoula Valley in mid-March. Hunters last fall reported wolf tracks and scat in the Rattlesnake Wilderness and Gold Creek drainage. Residents in Bonner noticed the bighorn sheep hanging closer to town last winter, and wondered if wolves might be spooking them.

“I’m not super-concerned,” said Marge Harper, who found evidence of a wolf-kill on her property near Marshall Mountain ski area last month. “As long as there’s enough wildlife, the wolves will probably take that route. But I don’t think there should be 15 packs around Missoula, and I think they’re coming to that. They’re wonderful in Yellowstone, in the Bob Marshall and in Glacier, but I think they need to be controlled. When they get around a populated area, they just cause trouble.”

Recent survey data indicate Harper is right about wolves getting closer to Missoula. But control also remains high, and could get higher if the wolf is removed from endangered species protection next month.

“The wolf population has been growing each year, and with that comes an increase in sightings,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Liz Bradley. “We’ve got lots of single animals criss-crossing the landscape. One can be on Blue Mountain one day and way at the end of the Bitterroot the next.”

Bradley flew an aerial survey Thursday around St. Regis and spotted a radio-collared gray wolf she didn’t recognize. It turned out to be from the Boise, Idaho, area.

On the other hand, she also recently got a report of a wolf in the vicinity of the Good Food Store at Russell and Third streets in midtown Missoula: “I know that was not true,” Bradley said.

Just as wolf sightings jump around, so do their numbers. Two new packs have been identified in the Seeley Lake area: one with about 10 members near Placid Lake and the other with five members between Lincoln and Ovando. On Tuesday, federal investigators confirmed a wolf-killed calf on a ranch near Philipsburg. Three wolves involved in that incident will be killed when found.

Wolf numbers continue to grow in the Rocky Mountain West. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tallies claim 320 wolves in Wyoming and 846 in Idaho. Montana had about 500.

Montana’s wolf population grew evenly in both its northern and southern groups last year. The northern group numbered 256 wolves in 45 packs, with 17 breeding pairs. It grew by 43 members over 2007.

The southern group in the Greater Yellowstone area had 241 wolves in 44 packs, with 17 breeding pairs. It also grew by 43 members.

The Montana-Idaho border is territory for 23 wolf packs. Montana claims 14 of those.

“A lot of the best-of-the-best habitat is full,” said Carolyn Sime, who coordinates wolf management for Montana FWP. “It’s got wolf packs already.”

Wolves killed 77 cattle last year, up from 75 in 2007. They also took 111 sheep, eight llamas, two horses, seven goats and two dogs statewide.

In response, federal, state and private hunters killed 110 wolves suspected of livestock depredation in 2008. Another nine were killed illegally, and 16 died in collisions with vehicles or trains.

Almost two-thirds of the killings involved just eight wolf packs. In particular, the Hog Heaven pack’s 27 members were killed after a series of livestock attacks on the Flathead Indian Reservation. That was a rare case where a pack had two litters of cubs instead of one, Sime said.

Wolves will follow deer and elk herds to winter range, which in Missoula can mean places like the Mount Jumbo and upper Grant Creek areas. But Bradley said they are typically reluctant to approach subdivisions or other active people-places. Wolves that break that tendency are in big trouble.

“If we ever felt wolves were habituated to people,” she said, “it’s like bears, we would just remove that animal – no questions.”

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Mar 28

WA: Wolf pelt’s trail leads to Twisp rancher, son

Wolf pelt’s trail leads to Twisp rancher, son

By K.C. Mehaffey
World staff writer

TWISP — A man who last summer voiced concerns about gray wolves living near his Twisp home is now suspected of illegally killing at least one of them.

Authorities discovered a wolf pelt inside a package leaking blood that was mailed overnight from Omak to Alberta, Canada, in December. Preliminary DNA tests indicate the animal was directly related to the Lookout Pack, discovered last summer living in the hills southwest of Twisp, according to an affidavit that Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Jim Brown filed March 13 with an Okanogan County District Court warrant.

State and federal wildlife officials obtained warrants to search the Twisp homes of Bill and Suellen White, and Tom and Erin White. Bill White is a Twisp cattleman and wildlife biologist. His wife, Suellen, is a former Methow Valley School District superintendent. Tom White owns White Logging and Methow Valley Septic in Twisp.

At the homes, officials seized computers that included photos of a Twisp man with a large dead wolf, apparently different from the wolf pelt mailed in December.

There have been no arrests, and no charges filed.

In July 2008, Bill White talked to The Wenatchee World about the state’s first gray wolf pack in 70 years. His ranch is near the wolf pack’s range.

“I’m not all that excited about it. I’d rather they were in somebody else’s backyard,” he said. “The government paid people to kill them off years ago, but they’ve lost sight of that.” He added there were reasons people didn’t want them around.

Conservation Northwest, a nonprofit group which photographed six pups from the pack last summer, is calling for the immediate arrest and full prosecution by federal authorities of Bill and Tom White. The penalty for killing an endangered animal is up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The group claims evidence contained in the warrant shows the men trapped and shot at least one and maybe two wolves from the pack, including one of the pups whose pelt was found in the package, and a larger adult wolf that may have been killed last year, shown in photos filed with the warrant. Information in the warrant also shows the men may have been illegally hunting bobcats and cougar with hounds.

“I’m just saddened and shocked that someone would have such disrespect for wildlife, and to think that they’re above the law,” said Jasmine Minbashian, the group’s special projects director who has visited Twisp to talk to school children about the wolf pack.

“It outrages me that they don’t think of the fact that these animals are a treasure to a majority of people in the state,” she said.

Minbashian said latest information about the pack indicates there were at least four wolves traveling together, but the pack may have split in two.

She said the death of two pack members wouldn’t necessarily impact the wolf family’s ability to survive, but “they have a very strong sense of family, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the loss of two individuals has affected the mood of the pack.”

Officials with U.S. District Court in Spokane, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife either could not be reached or would not talk about the case.

Other information in Brown’s affidavit and filed with the court warrant included the following:

On Dec. 23, a Wildlife enforcement officer was called to Anchor Printing, a private business at the Walmart store in Omak. The owner called police after a FedEx driver refused to pick up a package because it appeared to be leaking blood. The contents included the pelt from what appeared to be a freshly killed wolf, untanned and unprocessed, which was being shipped overnight to Hardisty, Alberta.

Wildlife officers reviewed surveillance tapes showing video of a woman who brought a similar-sized package to the store, and a video of her leaving in a red sport utility vehicle. The store owner later identified her from among a group of photos as Erin White, Tom’s wife and Bill’s daughter-in-law.

While their homes were being searched, Tom White told authorities he shot the wolf after it got caught in a barbed wire fence. His father denied any knowledge of the incident. The warrant included two photos of the son standing with a slain wolf. U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent found the person in Canada to whom the package was being mailed had obtained a host license in 2007 naming Bill White as the hunter. It is legal to hunt for wolves in Alberta, Canada, where the man lives.

There were also photos of treed cougars, and of hounds and an e-mail referencing a “bob” and “lion.”

Authorities were searching computers for evidence related to unlawful hunting of endangered wildlife, illegal use of body gripping traps, and unlawful hunting of bobcat or cougar with the use of dogs, the affidavit states.

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Mar 28

MT: Wolves kill Augusta-area calf as delisting looms again

Wolves kill Augusta-area calf as delisting looms again

By MICHAEL BABCOCK
Tribune Outdoor Editor

Wolves killed a calf Thursday on private property west of Augusta near Smith Creek, state wildlife managers said Friday.

The wolf or wolves involved in the incident are unknown, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks information officer Bruce Auchly of Great Falls declined to identify the property owner.

Smith Creek flows into Elk Creek just west of Haystack Butte.

There are known wolf packs in the area, but the Monitor Mountain pack’s radio collar was not heard and the new Benchmark pack that has a territory near the site does not have a collar yet.

FWP has authorized federal Wildlife Services to capture and radio collar one wolf. The federal agency has placed traps and will continue trapping as weather permits.

There have been several wolf-livestock kills over the past two or three weeks in Montana but no more than in other years, said Carolyn Sime, the FWP Wolf Program Coordinator. She said wolf-livestock conflicts spike in spring and fall.

Wolves killed a calf on private property near Philipsburg early this week. Because of a history of livestock depredations there, FWP authorized killing three wolves believed to be responsible for the depredations.

Wolves killed two domestic calves and probably killed a third on private land near Grant southwest of Dillon. USDA Wildlife Services confirmed the depredations on March 17 and March 22.

This is the second incident in the area since February. One domestic calf was confirmed injured by wolves in Feb. 13.

Wolves killed a calf on private property north of Avon last week. USDA Wildlife Services confirmed the incident on March 19.

Tracks of four wolves were present at the depredation site, and FWP believes the wolves are not part of a named pack.

Sime said the livestock kills right now come just after calving so there are a lot of vulnerable young livestock out.

“The other spike in the fall is when ungulates (deer and elk) are spread out the most, the wolves are traveling as a group and you still have livestock somewhat dispersed in remote areas away from home pastures,” she said.

The Rocky Mountain Front is classic ungulate winter range while at the same time prime cattle country, so there is an overlap.

“Wolves are running around lot more checking out neighbors and establishing space and territory,” she said.

Wolves disperse during November through January. It is a period of time when they are looking for vacant space — where no wolves exist or there are existing wolves that they can settle in with.

“By the time we are into spring, the wolves are anchored in and the ungulates — deer and elk — are heading toward higher elevations,” Sime said.

Wolves breed in January to February, and they den by April. They are digging dens right now and will birth their pups in mid-April.

“This time of year, wolves are localizing around den sites. Denning areas are in close proximity to wintering ungulates. That is where the food is,” she said.

By June, wolves will have moved their pups higher into the mountains to a rendezvous site that Sime characterized as a sort of above-ground den. The area will have water, a meadow with a wet, seeping area and a lot of shade. The adults will come and go but the pups will stay.

Federal officials just recently released their annual wolf population report, which said there are a record 1,645 gray wolves counted in the Northern Rockies this winter. They said that shows the population is strong, but that wolf populations are no longer expanding as rapidly as in past years.

Since their reintroduction to the region in the mid-1990s, wolf numbers had previously grown on average by 24 percent annually in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

This year’s figure is up only 8 percent, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ed Bangs.

Bangs says the slowdown — combined with increasing numbers of livestock killed by the animals — signals wolves have filled most prime habitat in the three states.

The government’s annual winter wolf count found 497 of the predators in Montana. The Montana wolves are equally distributed between the state’s northern and southern areas.

In January, federal officials said wolves were ready to come off the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana. That decision was upheld by the Obama administration earlier this month — to the dismay of environmental and animal rights groups which contend that wolves need further protection.

Those groups have vowed to challenge that decision in court once it is published in the Federal Register. That could happen next week.

Sime said Montana is going ahead with plans to hunt wolves this fall, although she says any number of legal scenarios could sidetrack that plan.

“Hunting is one of the tools that has not been on table,” she said. “As a management tool, we think that could help provide some relief. There still would be a need for lethal control by Wildlife Services.”

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Mar 27

NY: Animals on reservation were dog-wolf hybrids

Animals on reservation were dog-wolf hybrids

HOGANSBURG — Several wolf-like animals found roaming around the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation last year were recently determined to be dog-wolf hybrids by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Last year, two of the animals were killed on the reservation and a third near Parishville.

All three of the animals were related to each other and were part Alaskan wolves, which likely would not migrate here. Such connections make it likely that they were domesticated and got loose, according to tribal officials. Last month, the tribe saw another possible hybrid breed and is trying to catch it.

The owners or breeders of these animals have not been found.

The tribe has proposed an animal control ordinance that will control possession of wild animals or wolf hybrids.

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