Aug 31

Court asked to stop wolf hunts in ID, MT

Court asked to stop wolf hunts in ID, MT

By MATTHEW BROWN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

MISSOULA, Mont. — Opponents of the first gray wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies in decades are due in court on Monday, making a last minute bid to stop the hunting before it begins this week.

Idaho and Montana have set seasons that would allow a combined 295 wolves to be killed this fall. That’s about one-fifth of the predator’s population in the states.

Wolves were taken off the endangered species list in the two states in May. Wildlife officials say they need to keep their numbers in check to prevent livestock killings.

The case is before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, who last year sided with environmentalists in a similar case.

As a result of that ruling, the federal government kept about 300 wolves in Wyoming on the endangered list.

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Aug 31

CH: Wolves receive death sentence from Swiss for exceeding sheep quota

Wolves receive death sentence from Swiss for exceeding sheep quota

The animals are on the wrong side of a law that tolerates a certain amount of killing.

By Emma Hartley

Grey wolf populations in east and central Europe populations have begun to recover and spread Photo: GETTY

Three wolves known to have killed 42 sheep in the Swiss cantons of Lucerne and Valais over the last month or so have had a death sentence passed on them by the Swiss authorities.

The wild animals, which are believed to have originated from France and Italy, fell under the shadow of the gun when, in a peculiarly Swiss twist, they exceeded their quota for sheep-taking over the summer.

Dozens of sheep have been reported to have fallen prey in Valais, which is in western Switzerland, with 15 sheep killed on the night of August 1 alone. Twenty-seven sheep were killed in July in the central Swiss canton of Lucerne.

Swiss law allows the predators to kill only 35 animals in four months, while the monthly quota is 25. However, the limit falls to 15 a month for protected herds, which is what the wolves’ prey have been.

One of the three was shot dead by a wildlife warden on August 20. Jacques Blanc, deputy chief of Valais’ hunting service, said: “When the wolf was on its way back in the early morning, it was less suspicious. It was at this moment that the warden surprised it. He was alone, 150 metres from the wolf, when he shot it.”

Twenty wardens will be lying in wait for the remaining two throughout September.

According to Walter Vetterli of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the figure of three wolves was arrived at because the killing occurred in three different areas. “There is a problem of fact here. There is no way to be sure that the three wolves that die are the three that did the killing.

“It could be only two that are responsible. Or one.”

The WWF has appealed against the death sentences, saying that many of the animals that were killed were insufficiently well-protected and may have escaped their pens on the night of August 1 because of fright at fireworks on Switzerland’s national day.

There are estimated to be 12 wolves in Switzerland, which was free of them for many years until 1995. The dozen or so Canis lupus, or grey wolves, have not yet formed into a pack, although the presence of two females means that they are believed to be likely to do so soon.

“Wolves share the looking after of their young,” explained Tony Mitchell-Jones, the mammal specialist at Natural England. “Female wolves and their cubs form the centre of a pack.”

There are periodic calls by wildlife enthusiasts to reintroduce wolves to Britain, where they were exterminated in the 17th century, making Britain probably the first country to do so.

According to the website of the Wolf Trust, a group that lobbies on behalf of the creatures, they are re-establishing themselves in France, Germany, Portugal and Switzerland from a small number that remained in Italy and Spain. There have also been occasional sightings in Austria and Hungary.

“The recurrence of wolves after a long time would be part of a process of ‘re-wilding’ which has advocates, mainly on the grounds that wolves help to control the deer population. But in reality wolves would also take sheep, as they are doing in Europe,” said Mr Mitchell-Jones.

The head of the association of herders in the French-speaking part of Valais, Florian Volluz, said that wolves “have no place here”.

He said he was “exasperated by a situation that has lasted 15 years,” adding that protection measures proposed by the authorities, such as the installation of enclosures, guards and watch dogs, were inefficient.

“These measures are like bandaging a wooden leg,” said Mr Volluz, who advocates an absolute cull.

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Aug 31

Fate of MT, ID wolf hunts in federal judge’s hands

Fate of MT, ID wolf hunts in federal judge’s hands

By JOHN MILLER (AP)

BOISE, Idaho — Greg Wooten says shooting a Rocky Mountain wolf won’t be easy, even if a federal judge doesn’t blow apart the hunting season before it starts.

Wooten, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s assistant chief of law enforcement, has seen wolves within shooting range only in two years since 1995, when they were reintroduced to the state’s central mountains. These elusive creatures have a knack for appearing out of nowhere, then vanishing into the brush or forest just as quickly.

“In my opinion, it’s going to be a challenge,” Wooten said last week after buying two wolf tags — $11.50 each — for him and his wife. “There will be a few easy harvests. But wolves tend to learn quickly.”

Still, natural obstacles to legally bagging one of these big predators in Idaho, where hunting is due to start Tuesday, or in Montana, where the hunt starts Sept. 15, may not be the biggest hurdle would-be wolf hunters face.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy will consider environmental groups’ demand that the hunts be halted for a second year, on grounds that lifting of federal Endangered Species Act protections earlier this year was illegal.

In 2008, Molloy, a 63-year-old Butte, Mont., native and U.S. Navy fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, derailed planned hunts with a 40-page ruling that found the federal government had fallen short of wolf recovery standards, including interbreeding of wolves between Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to ensure healthy genetics.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May tried again, this time leaving Wyoming wolves protected amid contention over the merits of its state wolf management plan.

Still, thirteen environmental groups a week ago asked Molloy to stop the shooting of up to 220 wolves in Idaho and another 75 in Montana, arguing their original concerns linger: Hunting would irreparably harm recovery efforts.

“We’re very concerned about intentional and unnecessary wolf killing that will reduce the population level,” said Doug Honnold, with Earthjustice in Bozeman, Mont., the environmentalists’ law firm.

It’s unclear if Molloy will rule Monday or take time to ponder both side’s arguments.

Wolves were reintroduced to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in the mid-1990s after being nearly exterminated six decades earlier. They now number more than 1,650 across the region.

Idaho and Montana officials contend the animals have been recovered well beyond federal mandates of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs in each state. For years, they’ve managed hunts for black bear and mountain lions; wolf management will be conducted in similar, responsible fashion, said Jim Unsworth, Idaho Fish and Game’s deputy director.

If Molloy rules against hunting, Unsworth could be forced to refund nearly $70,000 from more than 9,000 wolf tags sold since they went on sale last week. Montana starts selling wolf tags Monday for its hunt.

“We’re ready,” Unsworth said. “It’s been an incredible amount of work, getting tags ready, training people. Just that part would be disappointing, if that was all in vain.”

Though some state officials estimated up to 70,000 wolf tags could be sold by hunt’s end March 31, Unsworth forecasts hunters to snap up a modest 20,000 tags. The lion’s share of hunters will shoot wolves opportunistically as part of their annual hunting expeditions for mule deer or prized elk.

A smaller percentage will wait for colder weather and snow, when wolves’ fur grows thicker and more valuable, selling for hundreds of dollars.

Many ranchers opposed wolf reintroduction and blame them for killing too many livestock, including 120 buck sheep south of Dillon, Mont., earlier this month. But in Montana, some are skeptical hunts will make much difference in reducing conflicts. What’s more, they contend the state has been less aggressive about killing problem wolves that prey on livestock than the federal government was when the predators were still listed.

“Most people don’t think it’s going to be effective,” said Aeric Reilly, director of the Montana Wool Growers Association. “People who have been hit by wolves more than once know they come in at night. If these people haven’t seen them, I have a hard time believing they’re going to fill a wolf quota in Montana.”

In Idaho, by contrast, sheep ranchers are anxious for the hunt.

“I say give it a shot,” said Stan Boyd, Idaho Wool Growers Association director. “It’s better than doing nothing and watching them multiply and the damage continue. The folks I hang around with are going to be extremely disappointed if he (Molloy) cancels that wolf hunt.”

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Aug 31

MT: Wolves in the cross-hairs

Wolves in the cross-hairs

By MICHAEL PLATT

CALGARY — It was the bloodiest massacre of livestock in memory: 120 adult male sheep killed in an attack by a pack of wolves on a ranch near Butte, Mont.

Two weeks later, the slaughter of the prize rams by wolves originating from Alberta and British Columbia is proving a catalyst for another history-making moment — the return of the wolf hunt to the northwestern United States.

“When wolves get into sheep, there tends to be a bit of commotion where wolves are reacting to sheep and sheep are reacting to wolves, and that behavioural mix is just a bad combination,” said Carolyn Sime, wolf co-ordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“Sheep will pin each other against the fence, try to run, wolves bite part of it, miss one, grab the next one. I’m not sure frenzy is quite the right word, but it’s not too far off the mark.”

LARGE-SCALE BLOODSHED

It was two Sundays ago when the son of rancher Jon Konen found 120 purebred Rambouillet bucks dead along a creek, in a private pasture used by the family for the past 50 years.

Konen had already lost 26 sheep to the same pack of grey wolves back in July — but this was record-setting bloodshed on a scale no rancher had experienced for nearly a century.

“I had tears in my eyes, not only for myself but for what my stock had to go through,” Konen told a Montana newspaper.

“They were running, getting chewed on, bit and piled into a corner. They were bit on the neck, on the back, on the back of the hind leg. They’d cripple them, then rip their sides open.”

Emotionally charged words in a state filled with sympathetic ears: the slaughter might well impact the outcome of a history-making court decision, which will determine if wolves will return to the cross-hairs.

Today, at a court hearing in Montana, animal rights groups will try to block the Lower 48′s first state-regulated wolf hunt in history, saying a federal decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list is wrong.

“Wolf hunting is premature,” said Doug Honnold of Earthjustice, which argues there are too few breeding pairs to support a hunt.

“The states haven’t demonstrated that they are ready to achieve and maintain legitimate wolf recovery.”

If the hunt goes ahead, it’ll be the first sanctioned hunt of the wolves famously flown into the U.S. from Alberta and B.C. more than a decade ago.

BACK FROM EXTINCTION

Considered a pest by ranchers and settlers, wolves were all but extinct in the U.S. by the mid-1930s.

Sixty years later, in 1996, the success of a single breeding pair moved from Alberta to Montana convinced biologists to try reintroduction. Sixty-six wolves from Alberta and B.C. were released in Montana and Idaho.

It worked. Way too well, if you ask the ranchers, who routinely lose livestock like sheep and calves to the estimated 500 wolves now living in Montana and the 850 roaming Idaho.

Unless the federal judge grants an injunction, Idaho’s first sanctioned wolf hunt will open tomorrow, with licences granted for 265 kills. Montana’s hunt, due to start Sept. 15, allows for 75 wolf kills.

As the state’s official wolf expert, Sime said the court battle over the right to kill wolves is an amazing achievement in itself, almost unimaginable just 15 years ago.

“It is remarkable, and it points to how robust wolves are as a species — they’re great reproducers and great travellers,” said Sime.

“In that sense, it’s an amazing success.”

Maybe too successful, if you’re a rancher with 120 dead rams and a pack of wolves howling in your pasture.

TOLERANCE ON TRIAL

Sime said that’s the main reason Montana is fighting the animal rights coalition for the ability to manage the wolf population.

“If this injunction is granted and Montana is not able to proactively manage wolves in balance with habitat and conflicts with livestock, the tolerance for the species is going to erode,” she said.

“It’s possible we’ll see increased levels of illegal killing.”

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Aug 31

MT: Wolf hunts are on as judge eyes request to stop

Wolf hunts are on as judge eyes request to stop

By MATTHEW BROWN (AP)

MISSOULA, Mont. — Gray wolf hunting will begin in the Northern Rockies as a federal judge considers an injunction request by environmental and animal welfare groups to stop the predators from being killed.

Hunters in Idaho, where up to 220 wolves could be killed, are poised to head into the field Tuesday. Montana’s season is set to begin Sept. 15, with a quota of 75 wolves.

After a three-hour hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy gave no indication how he might rule on the request. Molloy said he would decide “as quickly as I can.”

State wildlife officials said the hunts would proceed pending the ruling.

Wolves once roamed North America but by the 1930s had been largely exterminated outside Alaska and Canada. An estimated 1,650 of the animals now live in the Northern Rockies — the result of a contentious $30 million reintroduction program that began in 1995.

Today, the debate centers on whether that population will remain viable if hunting is allowed. That population is now five times the original recovery goal set in the 1990s.

Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana in May, and management of the animals was transferred to the state wildlife agencies. About 300 wolves remain on the list in Wyoming due largely to a state law allowing them to be shot-on-sight across 90 percent of the state.

About 4,000 hunters in Idaho already have bought tags allowing them to kill a wolf. Tags went on sale Monday in Montana.

Missoula hunter Mac McLaughlin, who attended Monday’s hearing, said he was going directly to a sporting goods shop to purchase his tag because he’s tired of the predators attacking elk. McLaughlin said he would use an elk call to lure in wolves, but he rated his chances of success as poor.

“If the opportunity comes up, you bet I’ll shoot one,” he said. “There’s got to be a balance and our game populations have taken a terrible beating.

In arguing to stop the Idaho and Montana hunts, Doug Honnold with the environmental law firm Earthjustice said wolves remained at risk. The government had twisted the Endangered Species Act to suit its own purposes, and there were insufficient safeguards to ensure the gray wolf’s survival under state jurisdiction, he said.

“It’s the endangered species that need to be protected, not the states’ rights to kill wolves,” Honnold said.

Michael Eitel, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency would continue to monitor the population and step in to return the animal to the endangered list if warranted.

“The Northern Rocky Mountain wolves are doing very well,” he said. “Yes there might be wolves that are killed, but that will not affect the population in Idaho and Montana.”

By carving out Wyoming when it decided to remove wolves from the endangered list, the government had “flip-flopped” on a prior policy against making endangered species decisions based on political boundaries, Honnold said.

Eitel acknowledged his agency changed its position on the issue, but urged Judge Molloy to accept its latest interpretation of the law.

Molloy appeared doubtful. “How am I supposed to make judgment as to which of their positions to give deference to?” he asked.

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Aug 31

UT: Utah awaits word on Idaho wolf hunt

Utah awaits word on Idaho wolf hunt

Animal advocates say population control to the north could stall migration into state.

By Brandon Loomis
The Salt Lake Tribune

Idaho hunters planned to take aim at formerly protected wolves Tuesday for the first time in decades, though a federal judge was considering an injunction that could make the hunt short-lived.

Reintroduced into the Yellowstone and central Idaho wildernesses in the mid-1990s, the predators have grown to number more than 1,600 in the region. Some are known to have ventured into Utah, though no breeding pack is yet confirmed here.

“There’s no question that if Idaho starts harvesting wolves it will slow down the expansion into Utah,” said Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

His group plans to ask Utah to approve a hunt for wayward wolves in the portion of the state where they’re not federally protected: from Interstate 84 at the Idaho border southeast to I-15 and up Weber Canyon to I-80 and the Wyoming border.

“It’s absolutely critical and vital to protect the interests of the West’s ungulates [wildlife herds] and livestock,” Peay said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has signed off on the hunt in Idaho and one set to begin in Montana on Sept. 15. Wyoming’s management plan remains in dispute, and no hunt is authorized there.

A federal judge on Monday heard arguments from the environmental law firm Earthjustice but did not immediately decide whether to halt the hunts. Environmental groups argue that hunting will jeopardize long-term recovery in the region.

Idaho’s hunt allows for killing 220 wolves this season. Montana’s would take 75.

More than 9,000 hunters in Idaho have purchased wolf tags, according to The Associated Press .

Utah Division of Wildlife Services mammal specialist Kevin Bunnel said it’s unclear how an Idaho hunt will affect wolf colonization of Utah, though he does not expect it to blunt recovery to the north.

“They’re hunting them in a way that’s responsible and I don’t think they’re going to put the existence of the wolf population in Idaho or Montana in jeopardy,” he said.

Bunnel continues to investigate Utah wolf sightings, which peak from fall through spring.

Salt Lake City-based Western Wildlife Conservancy Director Kirk Robinson said wolves may yet breed in Utah despite Idaho’s hunt. Wyoming’s mountains are a better pathway into the state than Idaho’s Snake River Plain, he said.

Still, he called the hunts “expressions of hostility” that aren’t based on science. Elk and other wildlife continue to thrive in Idaho, he said. He expects that wolves in Utah — for instance on the north slope of the Uintas — would improve watersheds by moving around grazing elk and deer.

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Aug 31

MT: Wolf Permits in the North

Wolf Permits in the North

Julie Rogers

More than half of the Wolf Hunt Permits issued are for Northern Montana.

In Wolf Management Unite One, Hunters can kill 41 wolves of the 75 wolf quota. We’re told that’s because unit one is a larger area and has more wolves. Anyone wth a conservation hunting license can purchase a wolf hunting permit. Once the wolf quota is reached in each unit, the hunt will be called off within 24 hours. As of three Monday, Fish and Game officials say more than 100 people purchased wolf hunting licenses at the Kalispell Office.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Spokesman John Fraley says, “If you harvest a wolf you have to report that within 12 hours and then there’s a 24 hour closure period. That’s to make sure the quota isn’t exceeded in each wolf hunting management units.”

Many people also called the Kalispell Fish, Wildlife, and Parks office today, hoping to hear Judge Molloy’s decision. We’re told a refund will be given if the hunt is called off.

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Aug 31

CA: Wildlife Waystation being evacuated in LA fires

Wildlife Waystation being evacuated in LA fires

LOS ANGELES(AP) — The Wildlife Waystation, home to numerous exotic animals, is being evacuated as the gigantic Station Fire advances toward it in the wilderness north of Los Angeles.

Founder Martine Collette said the evacuation of animals began Sunday and as many as 275 were being removed Monday.

The waystation is home to lions, tigers, leopards, mountain lions, wolves, bears and other exotic animals.

Dozens of horse trailers and other heavy vehicles were arriving at the remote reserve on a two-lane road, even as aircraft bombed the advancing flames a few valleys to the east.

Collete says the animals are being taken to the Los Angeles Zoo and other facilities.

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Aug 30

ID: Monday is Idaho’s wolf-hunting moment of truth

Monday is Idaho’s wolf-hunting moment of truth

Idahoans may get a chance to harvest wolves starting this week, but the fate of the hunt is in the hands of a federal judge in Montana.

BY ROCKY BARKER

Idaho Statesman

What happens this week?

Hunting is scheduled to begin in some areas of Idaho on Tuesday. Most hunting will end by Dec. 31, when area limits are reached or when hunters have killed 220 wolves statewide.

Whether the hunt happens hinges on a Monday hearing before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Mont. Attorneys for 13 environmental groups have filed a request for an injunction to halt the hunts in Idaho and Montana, which starts its hunt Sept. 15.

What do environmentalists have to prove for Molloy to stop the hunts?

First they have to prove the hunts will cause irrevocable harm to the wolf population. Then they have to show they are likely to win the overall case they have brought to reverse a decision to remove wolves from the federal endangered species list in Montana and Idaho.

What are environmentalists’ arguments?

They say killing 255 wolves, the combined harvest limit of Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe, will set back the population. Idaho has about 846 wolves.

They also say the hunting seasons would cripple the regional wolf population by isolating wolves into disconnected subgroups incapable of genetic or ecological sustainability. The wolf hunts also would allow the killing of the breeding alpha male and female wolves, which would disrupt the social group and leave pups more vulnerable.

What will the feds argue?

They will say hunters likely will not shoot enough wolves to reach the harvest limits, and even if they do, the wolf population in Idaho would drop only slightly. They will point to studies from Alaska that show wolf populations compensate for hunting by producing more pups and by increasing breeding among other members of a pack.

What happens if Molloy grants the injunction?

Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game has a plan for giving refunds to people who have bought wolf tags.

Did Gov. Butch Otter buy the first tag as he vowed in 2007?

No, he was in North Idaho attending the funeral of a longtime legislator. The first tag was bought by Adrienne Peterson at Jim’s Pawn Shop in Middleton.

Are protests planned?

The Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance protested Friday in Coeur d’Alene and plans to again in Sandpoint on Monday. The Fund for Animals has called on consumers to boycott Idaho potatoes.

Can protesters chase off wolves to protect them from hunters?

Some wolf supporters already have been trying to scare packs deeper into the forests. But Idaho, like many other states, has a law that outlaws harassment of hunters and game animals.

How will hunters kill wolves?

Most hunters aren’t planning special hunts for wolves. They will shoot them if they see them while hunting elk, deer and other big game. Serious wolf hunters probably will call in wolves and hunt them late in the two zones open through March, the Lolo and Sawtooth zones.

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Aug 30

Wolf hunting just one facet of management, experts say

Wolf hunting just one facet of management, experts say

Rich Landers

Some tough love – including regulated hunting – is needed to carve a permanent niche for wolves reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains, say leading wolf authorities in this region and beyond.

Social and political factors of wolf management are as important as biology in wolf survival, they say.

On the eve of the first gray wolf hunting seasons in six decades in Idaho and Montana, passions are flaring at both extremes.

Environmental groups on Monday will argue for a court injunction that could block the hunts.

More than 9,200 hunters so far have purchased Idaho tags for a shot at a predator that’s gnawing a big chunk from some of their prized elk herds.

Adding to the drama on Friday, coinciding with wolf-hunt protests in Coeur d’Alene, officials in Montana confirmed that wolves had killed 120 sheep in a private pasture near Dillon about Aug. 15. The mass killing surpassed the number of sheep taken by wolves statewide in 2008.

None of the experts contacted by The Spokesman-Review said hunting will be a panacea. Limited seasons are just one of several options they’ll need to help keep wolves from depleting their prey, acquiring a taste for livestock and being aggressive toward humans.

The ultimate challenge, they say, is keeping wolves from once again becoming socially unacceptable outside of national parks.

“Wolves are fully recovered in the Northern Rocky Mountain states,” said Ed Bangs, the Helena-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional wolf recovery coordinator. “It’s important to let the states manage them.”

Joe Maurier, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks director, said his agency finally has the “full range of tools” to manage wolves.

“Our goal is to manage all Montana wildlife in balance with their habitats, other species and in balance with the people who live here,” he said.

Bangs emphasized that wolves already are being culled, especially since the once-endangered species multiplied from the mid-’90s reintroductions.

“We have followed more than 1,100 radio-collared wolves since 1982,” he said. “On average, about 10 percent a year are killed by agency control, about 10 percent from illegal killing and about 3 percent are accidentally killed, by vehicles and such.

“So about 23 percent of the Northern Rockies wolf population already is being harvested each year, and it’s still growing at an annual rate of up to 20 percent.”

Season quotas have been set, allowing hunters to take no more than 15 percent of the wolves in Montana and 22 percent in Idaho.

Carter Niemeyer, who traps wolves for Idaho Fish and Game, said hunters probably will not reach Idaho’s statewide limit of 220 wolves.

Young, unsavvy wolves are likely to be the first to be killed, he told the Idaho Statesman this week. But wolves will learn quickly to be more elusive and wary of humans, he added.

That is a desired outcome, wolf experts say.

“I think the wilder we keep the animals the better it is,” said David Mech, wildlife biologist and founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center. “One way that’s done is through hunting them.”

Wild wolves that become unwary of humans are headed for trouble, he said.

“When we teach wolves to lose their fear of humans or associate humans with food, the chances of conflict greatly increase,” Mech said. “The results can include dead pets, dead wolves, and, very rarely, attacks on people.”

Luigi Boitani, a leading wolf authority in Europe, said a wolf that survives a shooting passes a learned fear of humans to the rest of the pack.

“The irony is that since shooting wolves was banned in Italy, people are poisoning them instead,” Boitani said. “Poisoning does not allow for learning because there don’t tend to be any survivors.”

Wolves are likely to attack dogs when they have a chance and become aggressive to people accompanying the dogs, said Lu Carbyn, a leading Canadian government wolf authority, now retired in Edmonton.

“Hunting wolves is already allowed in Canada. It’s a negative reinforcement that keeps wolves wild and more respectful of keeping a distance from people,” he said.

“History has shown the most likely places for negative wolf encounters to occur are in protected areas or around industrial sites where for safety reasons people are prohibited from hunting or trapping wolves,” said Mark McNay, Alaska Fish and Game biologist for 27 years and author of research on wolf encounters in Alaska and Canada.

Yellowstone National Park is a different story, said Doug Smith, the park’s wolf project leader.

“Yellowstone wolves are not wild; they’re tolerant,” he said. “It’s hard for wolves to stay wild in Yellowstone, where every year about 325,000 of the park’s 3 million visitors actually see wolves.”

Yellowstone officials have the authority to manage not just the wolves, but also the visitors. Wolves that show interest in developed areas are pounded with beanbags, cracker shells and rubber bullets. People who approach wolves or make food available to them are fined.

In May 2009, for the first time, Yellowstone officials shot and killed a troublesome young wolf near Old Faithful.

“It crossed the line and became a threat to human safety,” Smith said. The incident was regrettable, he said, because a human was likely the first to cross the line by making food available to the wolf, either purposely or through carelessness.

“Wildlife managers outside the park have a much tougher time managing people,” Smith said. “That may be their biggest problem.”

Biologists say they are eager to learn if hunting will help reduce attacks on domestic livestock and the government’s cost for tracking down and killing the offending wolves.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture spent more than $1 million on wolf control in the Northern Rockies in 2008, Bangs said.

Hunting should lead to at least some reduction in attacks on livestock.

“The wolves most likely to be harvested by hunters are the boldest, in the most open and accessible areas – the same type most likely to get into livestock problems,” he said.

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