Jun 30

MT: Wolf kills calf near Elk Park

Wolf kills calf near Elk Park

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) A federal trapper has confirmed that a wolf or wolves killed one calf and likely killed a second on pastureland near Elk Park.

Joe Sologub, owner of the calves, said he knew wolves had been living in the area and he had occasionally seen them, but this was his first trouble with the predators.

A trapper with U.S. Wildlife Services put out traps in an effort to catch a wolf and collar it to learn more about the pack.

The state Fish, Wildlife and Park’s Web site says the state had not confirmed a wolf pack in the area.

Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com

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Jun 30

Exploring Alaska’s wolf-control controversy: Part One

Exploring Alaska’s wolf-control controversy: Part One

Cathy Taibbi – Wildlife Conservation Examiner

Government favors trophy hunting dollars over ecology.

First of a multi-part series exploring this highly complex, volatile and often secretive issue.

There has been an outright war against wolves in Alaska by every government since the state’s inception.

Lethal control measures include but are not limited to: Aerial gunning, legal hunting, permitted shooting, snowmobiling, trapping, and ‘denning’ (removing pups too young to leave the den and bashing in their heads).

Dependent pups also die when their parents are legally killed by shooting or trapping during breeding season, leaving infants to starve. Pups are also gassed in their dens.

Wolves are treated as a disease rather than a crucial part of a healthy, fully functioning ecosystem.

Worse, even biologists and those opposing the current predator control policies may be operating under misinformation.

But why has there been such a concerted effort to eradicate or control this intelligent and social species?

Let’s start with the controversy over aerial gunning.

If $20,000 per chartered hunt isn’t enough to cause politicians to turn a blind eye to sound science or ethics, then pressure from the massive and well-funded hunting lobby in Alaska is.

According to a May 2009 release from Indian County Today, “Our country’s last great wilderness, the pristine stretches of tundra and fragile ecosystems in Alaska, has come under attack. A loophole in the federal Airborne Hunting Act of 1972 is being exploited by allowing private citizens to participate in the aerial hunting of wolves under the guise of performing “wildlife management.”

The 1972 act prohibits the aerial gunning of wolves except in cases where humans or livestock are at risk. But the aerial hunting now going on is not about protecting lives. It’s about sport.

According to author Brenda Austin, “Each winter since 2003, the state has issued hundreds of permits to aerial gunning teams who are authorized to kill wolves in five areas of the state. The areas total more than 63,000 square miles – larger than the state of Wisconsin. Since 2003, these teams have killed more than 1,000 wolves, almost twice the population of wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Many wounded wolves remain unaccounted for as they wander off to die in the bush, raising the initial count of 1,000 killed to an undetermined number.” (Emphasis: reporter)

Wolves are highly intelligent, social and sophisticated animals. They are doting parents, with the whole pack taking responsibility for raising the pups. They form deep and lasting friendships. The alpha pair is monogamous and mates for life, showing devotion and a family structure that many humans can only envy.

In effect, a pack is an extended family; Aunts, uncles, cousins, all working together and living as a community. When a pack member is thoughtlessly gunned down by so-called sportsmen, especially if one of the alpha animals is taken, the entire pack is thrown into disarray and mourning.

If you cried as a child when Bambi’s mother was killed, imagine the real-life damage done by hunters to a close-knit wolf family.

Sport hunters don’t always abide by ethical guidelines, even under government-permitted hunts. Important members of radio-collared study-groups have been shot by aerial hunters despite pleas from scientists to spare these families.

Even life-long hunters and trappers abhor the Palin administration’s tactics as being unnecessary and unsporting.

Read some of their comments here.

Twice before, according to Caroline Kennedy of Defenders of Wildlife during a recent phone interview, aerial hunting of wolves has been voted down by the people of Alaska. The 1972 Federal Airborne Hunting Act was instituted to prevent such abuses.

In fact the majority of state residents are adamantly against the so-called predator control measures being used to artificially inflate herd numbers for the benefit of human hunters. Even the ‘need’ for humans in outlying areas to hunt for subsistence is questionable: More and more humans are pouring into these once-pristine areas, then demanding ever greater numbers of game hunt. So to get it, to force numbers of herd animals to grow beyond the natural and healthy carrying capacity of the ecosystem, wolves are treated as inconvenient pests and trophies for rich hunters.

Proponents claim only a certain percentage of the total wolf population is being reduced so as to sustain harvestable numbers of game.

In fact, there are no accurate population numbers for wolves in Alaska. Reports are based on the eye-witness testimonies of hunters, of all things, and other unscientific hearsay. “The management of game in Alaska is based, not on ecological principles but by a board of hunters and consumptive users, depending on the government make-up at any particular time,” Caroline told me. So herd and predator populations are intensively managed for the benefit and convenience of sport, trophy and subsistence hunters, not the good of the wilderness. In her words, “Even though it is supposedly about preserving balance, it is a de facto aerial sport-hunting program.”

Despite the objections of hundreds of wildlife biologists, the powerful sportsman/hunting lobby has the money and clout to turn Alaska into a huge, carefully managed game-park for the benefit of those who wish to use wildlife for sport killing. All predators are being targeted for intensive control methods, including black and brown bears, as well as wolves.

Governor Sarah Palin herself is a life-long hunter who enjoys shooting game with her family. Obviously she has a vested interest in continuing to ‘harvest’ wildlife for her own ends.

But to place a bounty of $150 for the severed foreleg of each wolf killed, while disregarding sound science, and for the Governor of Alaska to indulge in such blatant self-gratification is disturbing, if not downright alarming.

Since Alaska has one of the last, vast, relatively unspoiled wilderness areas left in the United States, to turn this ecological treasure into a giant game farm for sportsman seems short-sighted, at best, and from a scientific standpoint, downright sacrilegious.

Part Two will explore these issues in greater depth.

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Jun 29

Gray wolf back on endangered list, for now

Gray wolf back on endangered list, for now

By Baldur Hedinsson

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed Monday to reinstate federal protection of wolves in the upper Great Lakes region.

In early May, wolves were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. A coalition of wolf advocate groups led by the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit June 15, challenging the federal government’s decision. A court-ordered settlement restores federal Endangered Species Act protections for more than 4,000 gray wolves around the Great Lakes.

The settlement faults the government for dropping the wolves off the endangered species list without issuing a public notice or allowing for comments. If the wildlife service tries to remove the wolves from the list again, the agency must have a comment period of no less than 60 days, according to the settlement.

“The wolf population has not recovered sufficiently in the Great Lakes region,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiff organizations. “The comment period will allow serious assessment of scientific information.”

Delisting the gray wolf allowed state and tribal wildlife managers to trap and euthanize wolves that prey on livestock. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued 39 shooting permits to landowners, resulting in two wolf kills.

The Natural Resources Board and the Wolf Science Committee, a group of researchers from a number of governmental agencies and universities, also have proposed a hunting and trapping season that would start in 2014 at the earliest.

“It’s clear the wolf population has recovered in Wisconsin, and we need the flexibility to properly manage wolves and address them preying on livestock and pets,” said Adam Collins, spokesman for the department.

The DNR estimates Wisconsin’s wolf population to range from 626 to 662 in the winter of 2008-’09, a 17% increase from a year before. Biologists at the department wouldn’t want the population to fall below 500 and envision no more than 30 hunting permits issued per year.

According to the DNR, last year wolves killed 43 farm animals and 21 dogs.

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Jun 29

Great Lakes wolves returning to endangered list

Great Lakes wolves returning to endangered list

By JOHN FLESHER

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The federal government on Monday agreed to put gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region back on the endangered species list — at least temporarily.

The decision came less than two months after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discontinued federal protection for about 4,000 wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The agency acknowledged Monday that it erred by not holding a legally required public comment period before taking action.

Under a settlement with five environmental and animal protection groups that had sued the agency earlier this month, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it would return Great Lakes wolves to the list while considering its next move. They had been classified as endangered from 1974 until their removal May 4.

About 1,300 wolves in Montana and Idaho also were dropped from the list then. Because a public comment period was held in their case, they are not covered by the deal announced Monday and their status will not change. A separate lawsuit on that case will move forward.

About 300 wolves in Wyoming remain listed.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington, D.C., must approve the settlement for it to take effect. If the Fish and Wildlife Service tries again to remove the wolves from the endangered list, it will hold a 60-day comment period, the settlement says.

The agency still believes “wolves in the western Great Lakes have met the recovery criteria and don’t need to be listed,” Georgia Parham, spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said.

Parham said federal officials had thought a comment period was not required because one had been held for a previous effort to reclassify the wolves. But they now agree another was needed, she said.

The activist groups that sued, including the Humane Society of the United States, say state plans for dealing with the wolves open the door to future hunting and trapping of the animals.

“This agreement will give the administration a much-needed opportunity to reconsider the failed wolf-management policies of the past, and hopefully put to rest the states’ reckless plans to start sport hunting and trapping imperiled wolves,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, a vice president of the Humane Society.

Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin contend their management plans will allow the species to continue flourishing.

The states recently have allowed people to kill wolves attacking livestock or pets. Those provisions would be nullified once wolves again are classified as endangered.

Gray wolves were listed as endangered in 1974, after they had been wiped out across most of the lower 48 states in the early 20th century by hunting and government-sponsored poisoning.

Thanks to federal protection and changing attitudes, they’ve come back strongly in the western Great Lakes over the past two decades. Minnesota’s estimated population is 2,922; Michigan’s is 580; and Wisconsin’s, 626.

The federal government has tried six times in the past five years to drop them from the endangered list but has been thwarted by lawsuits.

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Jun 29

Gray wolves to return to endangered species list

Gray wolves to return to endangered species list

The Obama administration had ordered a review of the decision to remove the wolf from the endangered species list.

Minnesota’s gray wolves will return to the endangered species list under a settlement today between the U.S. government and several groups that fought to return the wolves to the list.

In March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar upheld a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the species from the endangered species list in the state. The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that gray wolves number about 4,000 in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and no longer needed federal help.

The Obama administration had ordered a review of the decision. Salazar previously said he had concluded that dropping the wolf from the list was justified by its strong comeback in two parts of the nation, including the Upper Midwest.

Today’s settlement involved groups including the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Jun 29

Wolves return to federal protection

Wolves return to federal protection

By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune

Wolves in the Great Lakes region once again are back under federal protection under a court-ordered settlement announced today between the federal government and wolf protection groups.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Humane Society of the U.S. agreed to the settlement after the groups filed suit to stop the federal government from handing wolf protection back to individual states.

There are about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota and more than 500 in each of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While indiscriminate wolf killing remained illegal under state wolf laws, all three states allowed for more liberal wolf killing by farmers and landowners.

The settlement comes in response to a federal court motion filed two weeks ago by the Humane Society of the U.S., the Center for Biological Diversity, Help Our Wolves Live, Friends of Animals and Their Environment and Born Free USA.

Today’s agreement marks the sixth time in the past five years that a federal government decision to strip wolves of Endangered Species Act protections has been stopped through legal action.

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Jun 29

Great Lakes wolves returning to endangered list

Great Lakes wolves returning to endangered list

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — More than 4,000 gray wolves in the upper Great Lakes region are going back on the federal endangered species list — at least temporarily.

A coalition of activist groups said Monday it reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal protections for wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The wolves had been dropped from the endangered list in May.

Several environmental and animal-protection groups sued in federal court this month to reverse the decision.

The settlement says the government erred by publishing the final rule to drop wolves from the list without providing for public notice and comment.

If the agency tries again to remove the wolves, the settlement calls for a comment period of at least 60 days.

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Jun 29

Balancing the wolf population

Balancing the wolf population

By Jackie Johnson

Gray wolves are thriving in our state, but it’s both good and bad news.

As the wolf population thrives and grows in our state, DNR Secretary Matt Frank says there needs to be a balance in controlling that population. “If that population continues to grow at some point it does present other concerns and we need to be responsible about how we manage that. So it is a fine balance and it’s something we’re committed to.”

The DNR last week updated the Natural Resources Board on their long-term wolf management plan, with the state’s gray wolf population estimated at between 626 and 662 animals – up from just 25 wolves in 1979.

Frank says the population growth of the endangered species is indicative of the state’s wilderness areas, but he realizes that farmers aren’t happy with wolves killing their livestock and family dogs.

“This really is an incredible success story in that at one point wolves were endangered, the population was quite low, it was not clear that the population would survive.”

Frank says the DNR’s wolf-management plan, due next year, includes reviewing population goals for the animal, controlling wolves that prey on livestock, and the potential for a public harvest – among other things.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently reinstated a decision by the U-S Fish-and-Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list, after having been on and off again several times.

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Jun 25

DNR Considering Wolf Hunt as Population Climbs

DNR Considering Wolf Hunt as Population Climbs

Reporter: Liz Hayes

Wisconsin’s wolf population is almost twice what the Dept. of Natural Resources had originally planned for, estimated at about 650.

To control the increasing population, the DNR is revising its wolf management plan and considering a trapping and rifle hunting season.

A Wausau wildlife biologist says the population is expanding for a number of reasons, including unlimited access to food.

Though some farmers and outdoor enthusiasts welcome the possibility of a hunt, others say no.

“Wolves are a species that a lot of people feel really passionate about. We have a lot of people that love wolves and would like to see that none of them are harmed or harvested in any way,” said Cortney Schaefer, of the DNR.

On the other hand, Schaefer says she often gets complaints about nuisance wolves that harm livestock and pets.

Last year in Wisconsin there were 167 complaints of wolves attacking livestock and pets. 39 problem wolves were captured.

But Schaefer says there’s never been a documented fatal wolf attack on a human in the U.S. There was one fatal attack in Canada.

If you do come across one in the wild, stare the animal down and look big. Usually the wolf will run away.

It’s also important to call the DNR right away and report what you saw.

Ultimately it will be up to the Natural Resources Board and Legislature to make a decision on making wolf trapping and hunting legal.

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Jun 24

DNR considers wolf-hunting season to control population

DNR considers wolf-hunting season to control population

By Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel

New Richmond — The Department of Natural Resources is considering a hunting and trapping season to control the burgeoning gray wolf population, but officials said Tuesday a season wouldn’t start for at least five years.

A wolf season has been under review for years, but the urgency has intensified among some hunters and livestock operators who want new controls as wolf numbers grow.

The final over-winter estimate of Wisconsin’s wolf population rose to a range of 626 to 662. That’s 17% above the same period last year. An earlier estimate released last month suggested the winter population might have jumped as much as 26%.

A wolf season would require new laws from the Legislature and administrative rules by the DNR. In both cases the public would be asked to comment. The DNR says the entire process would take five years.

Minnesota authorities agreed to wait five years after wolves are definitively removed from the federal endangered species list before starting their own season.

If a hunting and trapping season proceeds in Wisconsin, DNR biologists wouldn’t want the wolf population to fall below 500, in part because wolves play a role in controlling deer numbers. The agency’s goal for recovery has been 350, but the DNR now believes that far more wolves can flourish on the landscape.

Adrian Wydeven, a wolf ecologist for the DNR, said that hunting and trapping would require a permit and the use of a lottery system. He envisioned no more than 30 permits issued in a year. Most permits would be issued for forests in the north and central parts of the state.

The DNR is also mulling the possible use of trappers to kill wolves in areas with high populations before a formal season becomes a reality.

Animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States are opposed to a season for hunting and trapping wolves.

The group filed a lawsuit on June 15 challenging the federal government’s most recent decision to remove protections for the wolf in the western Great Lakes region. The legal battle began when the wolf was delisted on March 12, 2007, re-listed as a federal endangered species on Sept. 29, 2008, and then removed again by federal authorities this spring.

The legal battle has frustrated many conservation groups, and livestock operators in northern Wisconsin that have been harmed by depredating wolves. Last year, 43 farm animals, mostly calves, were killed by wolves. Also, 21 dogs were killed, according to the DNR.

On Tuesday, a representative of hunting and fishing groups called on the DNR to expedite things. Ed Harvey, chairman of the Conservation Congress, predicted that as wolf numbers grow, so will illegal killing of wolves.

Of the 94 wolves found dead last year, 14 were killed illegally, according to the DNR. For those convicted of killing a wolf, the cost of fines and penalties total more than $2,000.

“We are going to be testing the level of human tolerance,” said Harvey, whose group advises the DNR on hunting and fishing matters.

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