Nov 30

Wyoming firm on wolf plan

Wyoming firm on wolf plan

BY: Joy Ufford

No one is arguing Wyoming’s gray wolf population hasn’t recovered – yet the state is embroiled in court actions and its wolves are protected.

Conservationists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) say the state’s current management plan isn’t good enough to protect its wolves – and Wyoming is defending that challenge in Cheyenne’s U.S. District Court.

At the heart is Wyoming officials’ belief that the state’s plan is indeed good enough, that Wyoming Game & Fish should oversee a “trophy-game area” with the “predator area” where wolves are treated like coyotes.

One delisting lawsuit, filed against FWS by Earthjustice on behalf of a conservation coalition, is based in part over what it calls FWS’ “piecemeal” delisting approach when it delisted wolves in April in Montana and Idaho but left out Wyoming. This brought forth the state’s suit against FWS.

With ongoing court battles over delisting, current management of Wyoming’s again-protected gray wolves falls to FWS, whose officials had accepted the state’s plan but after being sued, backed away.

In the meantime, wolves in effect have almost no one controlling what they do and where they do it, some say.

Last week, FWS Wyoming wolf program director Mike Jimenez stated Wyoming residents could shoot wolves physically attacking their livestock – but not if their dogs are attacked on public land.

This is part of the FWS’ 10J rule, in effect while Wyoming’s wolves are listed.

Thus, Bondurant lion-guide Scott Leeper on Nov. 13 lost three hounds to two groups of more than 20 wolves in the Upper Gros Ventre and could not protect them.

So where does this tug-of-war stand?

Brief filed

Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg said the state has filed its opening brief in its suit against FWS and the Department of the Interior. Fellow petitioners are the Wyoming Wolf Coalition and the Park County Board of County Commissioners.

FWS’ response brief is due to the court on Dec. 14 and replies from Wyoming, Park County and the Wyoming Wolf Coalition are due Jan. 15. The court will hear oral arguments on Jan. 29 with three hours set aside, according to Jay Jerde, deputy attorney general.

“This case rises from the refusal of the (FWS) to admit that it violated the Endangered Species Act in 2004 and again in 2006, when it demanded the State of Wyoming adopt a statewide trophy-game classification for wolves in the state’s wolf management scheme,” the state’s brief says.

“In both instances (FWS) allowed political and public relations considerations and speculative concerns about post-delisting lawsuits to influence its decision, even though the (FWS’) own biologists and an independent panel of peer review biologists believed that classifying wolves as predators throughout most of Wyoming would not threaten the viability of the gray wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountain region, as long as the State classified wolves as trophy game in northwestern Wyoming.”

In 2008, Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula’s U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction over delisting and “chastised (FWS) for not explaining why it accepted Wyoming’s dual-classification management plan it had rejected in 2004 and 2006.

“This rebuke from the court left (FWS) with only one option if it wanted to save the delisting rule – (FWS) had to admit that it was wrong to demand the statewide trophy game classification in 2004 and 2006,” the brief says. “The ESA requires (FWS) to base its delisting decisions solely on biological information.”

It says FWS has no biological reason to demand Wyoming adopt a statewide trophy-game classification for its management plan and by doing so “has chosen pride over its legal obligation to follow the unambiguous requirements in the ESA …”

Thus, the state seeks this judicial review of FWS’ rejection of Wyoming’s plan, according to the brief.

Change of heart

The state’s brief includes early communications from FWS officials, biologists and others stating Wyoming’s dual-classification proposal would not affect wolf recovery.

FWS wolf recovery program director Ed Bangs is quoted as saying in 2004: “… While we do not believe that dual status in and of itself will preclude Wyoming from maintaining its share of a recovered wolf population, the area where wolves are managed as ‘trophy game’ has to be large enough to completely encompass a recovered wolf population.”

As a result, the state expanded its trophy-game area, which was “acceptable” to FWS as long as it was permanent in northwestern Wyoming, the brief says.

In 2008, FWS concluded “the trophy-game area ‘is clearly large enough to support 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves ‘ and that any wolves killed in the predatory animal area ‘are not necessary to sustain a recovered wolf population … because they would be so few, scattered and temporary,’” the brief states.

Wyoming – outside Yellowstone – now has at least 180 to 200 wolves and 29 to 30 packs, according to Jimenez. A more accurate count is expected after the annual FWS winter count, he said.

Change of plan?

The state of Wyoming has no intention of backing down on what it considers a good management plan, and that was shown in the 2008 Legislative Session where lawmakers voted to abandon all pending bills and support the existing plan.

“We believe that the existing management plan provides adequate protection to the reintroduced wolf population, so there is no current plan to ‘redo’ it,” Salzburg said last week.

Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman Eric Keszler said he didn’t know of “any pending legislation.”

Upper Gros Ventre outfitter and rancher Brian Taylor said last week generations of his family’s livelihood are seriously threatened there by the lack of control or management in what he called a “wolf stronghold.”

“Everybody has conceded the fact wolves are here to stay,” he said. “Most people that are reasonable will agree with that.”

When wildlife lovers and outdoor enthusiasts stop seeing moose and elk in the wild is when the realization will hit that wolves have run too rampant, he added.

Taylor hopes to organize a field trip to the Taylors’ hunting camp near the head of the Gros Ventre – not so far for wolves from the Upper Green and Hoback river basins – so officials, politicians and outdoors writers can take stock of just how many wolves are there and how they affect wildlife and livestock.

Jimenez said the “Buffalo Pack” had an estimated six wolves last year and now estimates there are 17 to 20 in the pack.

“It’ll open some eyes,” Taylor said. “It’s amazing what wolves can do in a 24-hour period with those elk. Some of them they run to death. I know what goes on up the Gros Ventre.”

The Gros Ventre drainage is “virtually unchanged in my lifetime,” Taylor added, making it a wilder, more natural habitat for wolves and other wildlife.

He spent 80 days in “the field” last summer and fall moving cows and running pack trips and did not see a moose, he said. This hunting season around their camp, bought from the Falers in 1952, Taylor said, not a single spike elk was spotted by himself, his father or the guide.

“Everybody has got to be willing to accept what the truth is and manage wolves from there,” Taylor said. “If we don’t do something, we’re going to have nothing.”

Solid science

The attorney general’s brief calls for scientific evidence and reasoning for FWS leaving Wyoming out of the recent Northern Rockies’ wolf delisting.

“(FWS) has no legitimate biological reason for requiring the state to adopt a statewide trophy game classification for wolves,” it reads, adding the “best scientific data available” shows the trophy-game area is adequate for Wyoming to maintain its share of wolves after delisting and that FWS’ reasons for wanting the statewide trophy-game plan “have no basis in fact or law.”

Salzburg was firm last week in reiterating Wyoming officials want this suit settled based on law and scientific data – not public opinion or politics.

“As we stated, the Endangered Species Act requires that listing and delisting decisions be based solely on science – no politics, no public relations,” Salzburg said.

Bangs, however, said it isn’t just science affecting wolf recovery and management.

“Wolf recovery and management is a blend of science, politics and public relations,” he stated. “Science is a constantly evolving thing. If it was just about pure science, the question of whether you should even have wolves is not a purely scientific question.”

“That’s interesting,” commented Salzburg, “but I won’t engage in a debate about pending litigation.”

FWS is preparing its response brief and the agency is trying to manage wolves with recovery in mind while watching for impacts, Bangs said.

“A big part of recovery is trying to reduce damage, for sure,” Bangs said.

If wolves endanger an isolated wildlife group, the wolves would be removed, he said. Bangs said he’s heard a lot of hunters and guides are not seeing the game they did before wolves flourished.

“Whether that’s wolves or not, I don’t know. … Certainly some areas are impacted. … Sometimes wolves can impact game populations a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes not at all.”

Standing by

Why didn’t FWS stand behind its previous support of Wyoming’s management plan?

“We sort of did that and the judge pointed out a lot of things,” Bangs said. “… We came to the conclusion, you know, it probably wasn’t good enough.”

“Wyoming is in a class by itself,” he added. “There’s nothing wrong with going to court on that stuff.”

Source

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Nov 29

MN: Wolves are an easy scapegoat for hunters, but facts say otherwise

Wolves are an easy scapegoat for hunters, but facts say otherwise

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

Wolves eat deer. We know this.

But that doesn’t mean that wolves are the primary reason, or even a significant reason, that the firearms deer harvest has dropped 20 percent in each of the past two seasons in Northeastern Minnesota.

I began hearing the complaints last year, and they’ve only increased this year.

“Wolves have been the No. 1 topic,” said Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association at Grand Rapids, following Minnesota’s firearms deer season.

Blaming wolves for a decrease in the deer harvest is almost as traditional as deer hunting itself. Hunters see wolf tracks. Some hunters hear wolves howling. Some hunters see wolves. And if hunting was slow where you sat this year, wolves are a handy and popular scapegoat.

But it doesn’t seem logical that wolves are the problem — if, indeed, there is a “problem.” Wolves, estimated to number about 3,000 in Minnesota, were plentiful all the years earlier this decade when hunters were enjoying record and near-record deer harvests. Why weren’t they a problem then?

“It’s hard to make an honest argument that wolves have wiped out the deer. There is no evidence,” said John Erb, wolf and furbearer biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “To the contrary, all of our record deer harvests have occurred in the past 10 to 15 years or so, at a time when we’ve also had some of the highest wolf densities ever recorded in North America.”

Erb cited a 15-year study of radio-collared deer by the DNR near Grand Rapids.

“Wolves took about 10 percent of the deer per year,” Erb said. “Hunters took 10 to 15 percent of the deer per year. And during most of that time, the deer population was increasing. Barring severe winters, deer can easily stand that kind of mortality.”

Last winter was harsher than many recent winters. It was moderate to severe across most of northern Minnesota. Deer died.

On top of that, the public has asked the DNR to reduce deer numbers in many areas across northern Minnesota, and until this year, the agency had issued liberal numbers of antlerless permits to do just that. The buck harvest in Northeastern Minnesota was down just 6 percent this fall. The antlerless harvest was down 33 percent, primarily because fewer permits were issued for antlerless deer.

But for some reason, hunters prefer to blame wolves.

Not all hunters do, of course. I spoke to one hunter who saw only one small buck this fall during nine days of hunting. He had heard wolves howling nearby on several occasions. He knows wolves may be affecting his hunting to some degree, but he does not resent them. Quite the opposite. He considers it a privilege to hunt in a place still wild enough, and with enough prey base, to support a healthy wolf population.

“In some localized situations in Minnesota, almost certainly small-scale or short-lived, it’s possible that the presence of wolves affects success (negatively or positively) of individual deer hunters,” the DNR’s Erb said. “But time, as measured in years, not a few days’ deer-hunting experience in one year, as well as scientific data from Minnesota, has clearly shown that a healthy wolf population in Minnesota is essentially synonymous with a healthy deer population.”

Many hunters probably will continue to blame wolves in years of decreased deer harvest. But the argument just doesn’t hold up.

Source

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Nov 28

Yellowstone ‘Research’ Wolf Killed – Wolf Project Data Jeopardized

Yellowstone “Research” Wolf Killed – Wolf Project Data Jeopardized

Written by Michael Ricciardi

Several predator species living within the borders of Yellowstone National Park–most notably the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf (Canus lupus)–are protected from hunting. But outside the borders of the park, “big game” predator hunting is sometimes allowed. This is the case for the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana, lying just outside and to the north of Yellowstone (which is principally in Wyoming, but extends into Montana and Idaho). In early October of this year, the State of Montana opened its first wolf hunting season, with a maximum quota of 12 wolves. The legal hunt came in the wake of a May 2009 decision to remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list, following the wolf’s successful reintroduction to the park.

Wolf 527F was shot and killed in early October–one of nine wolves killed so far. In order for researchers like wildlife biologist Douglas Smith (’Wolf Project’ lead scientist) to monitor the wolves’ movements and behavior, and gain reliable data, certain key animals (such as the “alpha” males and females, who dominate the wolf pack’s social hierarchy) must be “collared” with specially outfitted, radio transmitter collars. The collars are numbered and marked with an ‘F’ or ‘M’ to designate their sex. In the case of wolf 527F, a seven year old “alpha” female, her life history has been studied for the past five years. Five other members of her pack (known as the ‘Cottonwood Pack’) were also shot and killed. One of these other five was also a radio-collared female.

The deaths of these two, collared wolves in particular–by unnatural causes (termed “harvested” wolves)–pose a problem for the park’s five year old Wolf Project, which was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, and meant to be a unique, long-term study of these secretive animals. “Death by hunting” is not yet an official data category for the study. Much of the data collected so far on these wolves may not be usable any more since their unnatural deaths did not fit the life-cycle parameters of the project. Smith believes that the Cottonwood Pack has been effectively destroyed, and will need to collar at least two more females–a costly and time consuming endeavor.

Other studies (including those studying Elk management) will also be affected by these kills; as an “apex” predator, wolves play a vital role in impacting the mating and migratory behavior of certain prey animals, such as elk (note: this works both ways-prey populations that experience decline also limit predator numbers).

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) department, however, does not believe that their hunt has seriously jeopardized wolf research (citing the high “turnover” rate of wolf packs) and emphasizes that the hunt was designed to kill wolves that were preying on livestock, not park or wilderness wolves that restricted their hunting to the park or its outlying border areas. However, the State has designated the gray wolf as a “species in need of management”. The incident highlights the problem of managing and protecting an animal that does not recognize park boundaries. Montana also allows quota hunts for other “big game” such as mountain lions and bears. As of this writing, the State of Montana will allow three more wolf “harvests” to meet this season’s quota of twelve wolves

Wolf 527F is known to have given birth to a litter of five pups this past May, and the fate of her off-spring remains unknown.

Scientists and conservationists are recommending establishment of a buffer zone around the park. This will most likely take a federal law or mandate since the park’s borders fall within three states.

A typical wolf pack numbers around eight members, but in the wild, these can range from as little as two to upwards of twenty or more. Members of the pack are usually the top male and female and their offspring. Maturing male wolves, and sometimes elder wolves, are often ejected from the group, but much of this depends upon the temperament of the wolf in question, and the availability of food.

Source

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Nov 28

Oregon ranchers wary after wolf pack spotted in Wallowa County

Oregon ranchers wary after wolf pack spotted in Wallowa County

By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian

IMNAHA — The discovery of a pack of 10 gray wolves in the heavily timbered mountain canyons of Wallowa County is gratifying to some, a bad dream for others — especially ranchers who fear attacks on their cattle, sheep and horses.

The pack, filmed Nov. 12 by a biologist in a helicopter, were spotted trotting through a snow-covered forest about 15 miles east of Joseph. It’s believed to be composed of six half-grown pups born in spring, their parents and two other adults.

“Emotionally, this is very hard on the ranchers,” said John Williams, an Oregon State University agricultural extension agent in Enterprise. “No, the ranchers don’t want them. It’s going to have a significant impact on their bottom line.”

Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in La Grande, said the pack is probably only a start.

“This is not a surprise,” he said. “It is certainly likely more wolves will come, and it is very likely there are more wolves than we know about now.”

The wolves, the largest pack confirmed since the animals began returning to the state in the late 1990s, were seen in the Imnaha Game Management Unit at 5,000 to 6,000 feet elevation and are living on the area’s deer and elk.

Wolves — once shot, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction — are protected statewide under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act and have federal protection in parts of the state. The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan calls for restoring the gray wolf, defined as the presence of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, Morgan said.

The pack sighting is the latest development to heat up debates on handling wolves.

On Sept. 5, federal hunters killed two young gray wolves in Baker County in the first hunt authorized in Oregon in decades. The pair had killed 27 sheep, a goat and calf at two Oregon ranches, and other measures had failed to ward them off.

Idaho and Montana, where wolf populations have rebounded, held their first wolf hunting seasons in decades this fall to manage the animals.

Idaho now has about 1,000 wolves, said Suzanne Stone, a spokeswoman in Boise for the Defenders of Wildlife environmental group. Some of those are migrating into eastern Oregon. The mother wolf in the Wallowa County pack, for example, is a 3-year-old born near Idaho City, northeast of Boise, that wandered into Oregon.

“I’m not sure I’m real thrilled about having a wolf pack in the timber out here,” said Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts, who worries about conflicts between wolves and visitors to her picturesque county. Only one North American death — in Saskatchewan in 2005 — has been confirmed as caused by wolves, however.

Rancher Rod Childers, who chairs wolf committees for the county and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, fears wolves might put some ranchers out of business.

Wolves account for fewer than 1 percent of livestock losses in the northern Rockies and Canada, according to Defenders of Wildlife, but individual ranchers have sustained herd losses of 6 to 7 percent, Childers said.

“It’s going to depend on your size of operation and how hard you get hit,” he said of the potential impact.

Williams, the extension agent, said that while wolf advocates downplay the impact of wolves on ranchers, “the data shows they do eat cattle and lambs and sheep and horses.”

Wallowa County ranchers may already have sustained losses, he said. Cattlemen have seen “dry cows” come in off the range in recent weeks, he said, which could indicate that their calves were killed by wolves. On the other hand, the calves could have been felled by illness or cougars, he said.

Childers said Wallowa County ranchers are willing to co-exist with wolves but want authority from the Legislature to shoot any that threaten their cattle or sheep. Oregon’s wolf policy prohibits shooting wolves without a permit, even when wolves attack livestock.

“A fence isn’t going to stop them,” he said. “You can’t build a fence that is going to keep a wolf out.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 28

Oregon ranchers wary after wolf pack spotted in Wallowa County

Oregon ranchers wary after wolf pack spotted in Wallowa County

By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian

IMNAHA — The discovery of a pack of 10 gray wolves in the heavily timbered mountain canyons of Wallowa County is gratifying to some, a bad dream for others — especially ranchers who fear attacks on their cattle, sheep and horses.

The pack, filmed Nov. 12 by a biologist in a helicopter, were spotted trotting through a snow-covered forest about 15 miles east of Joseph. It’s believed to be composed of six half-grown pups born in spring, their parents and two other adults.

“Emotionally, this is very hard on the ranchers,” said John Williams, an Oregon State University agricultural extension agent in Enterprise. “No, the ranchers don’t want them. It’s going to have a significant impact on their bottom line.”

Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in La Grande, said the pack is probably only a start.

“This is not a surprise,” he said. “It is certainly likely more wolves will come, and it is very likely there are more wolves than we know about now.”

The wolves, the largest pack confirmed since the animals began returning to the state in the late 1990s, were seen in the Imnaha Game Management Unit at 5,000 to 6,000 feet elevation and are living on the area’s deer and elk.

Wolves — once shot, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction — are protected statewide under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act and have federal protection in parts of the state. The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan calls for restoring the gray wolf, defined as the presence of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years, Morgan said.

The pack sighting is the latest development to heat up debates on handling wolves.

On Sept. 5, federal hunters killed two young gray wolves in Baker County in the first hunt authorized in Oregon in decades. The pair had killed 27 sheep, a goat and calf at two Oregon ranches, and other measures had failed to ward them off.

Idaho and Montana, where wolf populations have rebounded, held their first wolf hunting seasons in decades this fall to manage the animals.

Idaho now has about 1,000 wolves, said Suzanne Stone, a spokeswoman in Boise for the Defenders of Wildlife environmental group. Some of those are migrating into eastern Oregon. The mother wolf in the Wallowa County pack, for example, is a 3-year-old born near Idaho City, northeast of Boise, that wandered into Oregon.

“I’m not sure I’m real thrilled about having a wolf pack in the timber out here,” said Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts, who worries about conflicts between wolves and visitors to her picturesque county. Only one North American death — in Saskatchewan in 2005 — has been confirmed as caused by wolves, however.

Rancher Rod Childers, who chairs wolf committees for the county and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, fears wolves might put some ranchers out of business.

Wolves account for fewer than 1 percent of livestock losses in the northern Rockies and Canada, according to Defenders of Wildlife, but individual ranchers have sustained herd losses of 6 to 7 percent, Childers said.

“It’s going to depend on your size of operation and how hard you get hit,” he said of the potential impact.

Williams, the extension agent, said that while wolf advocates downplay the impact of wolves on ranchers, “the data shows they do eat cattle and lambs and sheep and horses.”

Wallowa County ranchers may already have sustained losses, he said. Cattlemen have seen “dry cows” come in off the range in recent weeks, he said, which could indicate that their calves were killed by wolves. On the other hand, the calves could have been felled by illness or cougars, he said.

Childers said Wallowa County ranchers are willing to co-exist with wolves but want authority from the Legislature to shoot any that threaten their cattle or sheep. Oregon’s wolf policy prohibits shooting wolves without a permit, even when wolves attack livestock.

“A fence isn’t going to stop them,” he said. “You can’t build a fence that is going to keep a wolf out.”

Source

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Nov 27

ID: Aerial-gunning foes ask Obama to ban practice

Aerial-gunning foes ask Obama to ban practice

By JOHN MILLER (AP)

BOISE, Idaho — A wildlife advocacy group Friday asked President Barack Obama to end aerial gunning of coyotes and other predators, citing an Idaho incident where a shotgun-wielding parachutist illegally fired on a wolf.

New Mexico-based WildEarth Guardians’ 39-page petition also urges Obama to banish spring-loaded cyanide devices and other predator poisoning methods from public lands, calling them dangerous and indiscriminate.

In June, an eastern Idaho sheep rancher fired on a wolf while piloting a powered parachute above a 160-acre sheep pen. It’s unclear if the animal was hit. Wolves in Idaho are considered big game, not predators, so shooting them from the sky is illegal even with a state-issued airborne predator control permit that covers animals such as coyotes.

No charges were filed, but WildEarth Guardians said the Idaho case shows federal agencies have lost control of aerial shooting. The group also contends airborne predator control programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division cost taxpayers unnecessary millions and lead to accidents that have killed 38 people since 1973.

“We call upon the Obama administration to protect our native carnivores,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, a spokeswoman for WildEarth Guardians in Boulder, Colo.

In January, the federal Environmental Protection Agency refused a similar demand from WildEarth Guardians and others to ban cyanide for predator control, calling its arguments “unpersuasive.”

Ranching interests including the American Sheep Industry Association say using aircraft and poison to kill coyotes are important tools to combat $125 million in annual losses from predators to the sheep, goat and cattle industry. Peter Orwick, the group’s director in Englewood, Colo., said WildEarth Guardians has a radical animal-rights agenda that threatens the livelihood of ranching families like his own.

“If they weren’t able to use airplanes, they would not be in the livestock business,” Orwick said. WildEarth Guardians “wants absolutely no control tools made available, from the federal perspective.”

And efforts to end aerial hunting aren’t new, either: The Humane Society of the United States has tried for decades to stop the practice. In 2005, however, Idaho officials convinced the Federal Aviation Administration to expand policies to allow licensed ultralight aircraft pilots to shoot predators from aloft.

Aerial gunning even rose to the level of presidential politics in 2008, when then-Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin unapologetically backed her state’s airborne wolf hunts.

USDA Wildlife Services officials didn’t immediately respond to e-mail and telephone requests for comment. The division, with a budget of about $120 million, reported killing some 4.9 million animals in 2008 in efforts to control predators and invasive species.

Source

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Nov 26

WA: Wolf plans at different stages

Wolf plans at different stages

Rich Landers
The Spokesman-Review

As Washington continues to formulate a wolf management plan and Idaho has extended the first wolf hunting season in decades, Montana wildlife managers are regrouping.

Montana’s first fair-chase wolf hunt was closed Nov. 16 after sportsmen killed 72 wolves out of a statewide quota of 75.

“As much as it was a hunt to manage wolves, it was also an experiment to see how a wolf season would work and how a hunt should be run,” wrote Mark Henckel of the Billings Gazette.

“The early-season hit on the Cottonwood Pack in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness near Yellowstone National Park, including the taking of the alpha female that had been tracked by radio for five years by researchers, caused a stir in the scientific community,” Henckel reported.

The pack is still viable and wolves certainly are strong across Montana, said Shane Colton, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission chairman from Billings, but the next hunting season likely will be more limited in that area.

“We do need to work to focus our harvest in areas where we’re getting depredation problems,” he said.

Indeed, despite the hunting season, Montana wildlife officials this week have ordered nine wolves to be killed by a federal trapper after repeated attacks on cattle in the Big Hole Valley.

“This is a species that will need continuous management and observation,” Colton said.

Washington, of course, is a long way from its first wolf hunt.

Only two breeding packs have been documented in the state as the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department accepts public comment on management alternatives. The comments deadline is Jan. 8.

The 12 public meetings recently held across the state were attended by 1,160 people.

No attempt has yet been made to sort out the comments from the meetings, mail or online. However, it was clear that the Seattle, Sequim and Vancouver meetings were overwhelmingly in favor of managing for large numbers of wolves while most of the Eastern Washington meetings were decidedly for low wolf numbers, said Madonna Luers, WDFW spokeswoman in Spokane.

The Spokane meeting, which attracted about 100 people, was the most balanced in the state in terms of official comments, she said.

Public comments, of course, aren’t all based in serious science.

One man recommended cross-breeding a wolf with a Chihuahua to create little “chiwawolves” that can be turned loose in Seattle to open people’s eyes as they hamstring rats and mice.

The more realistic discussion centers on issues such as:

•How many wolf packs should be allowed to form before the state begins managing wolf numbers?

•How will wolf-caused livestock losses be compensated?

The 19-member citizen panel recommended a generous compensation package in Washington’s wolf management proposals. However, no funding source is identified.

The proposed plan estimates that $326,000 would be needed in 2010 to cover the costs of hiring wolf specialists to monitor wolves and implement the program. No more than $4,000 is expected to be needed for livestock compensation in the first year.

But none of the money is allocated.

And the state’s budget crisis isn’t over.

Hunters boosted Montana’s wolf management in numbers that Washington cannot expect to match.

More than 16,500 wolf tags were sold for Montana’s first hunt despite the harsh odds. With a quota of 75 wolves, just one of every 208 hunters could fill a tag.

Those hefty sales generated $325,859. That’s not chump change, but it’s far short of more than $900,000 that’s being spent annually to manage the state’s wolves.

The breakdown: $456,000 for wildlife biologists, operations and monitoring, $157,000 for enforcement, $54,000 for education, $50,000 for legal and administration costs, $50,000 for preventative efforts and $100,000 for depredation and predator control.

Another $40,000 to $81,000 is needed for livestock compensation.

Montana and other Western states are going to be scraping for even more cash next year if a lawsuit to end wolf hunting and put wolves back on the endangered species list moves forward as filed in federal court by 13 environmental groups.

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Nov 25

Idaho wolf hunt will last longer

Idaho wolf hunt will last longer

Inaugural hunt extended to March 31 or until wolf quota is reached

by JASON KAUFFMAN

In a move that’s sure to generate controversy, hunters will have another three months to fill their wolf tags after the Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week voted to extend the state’s first wolf hunt well into 2010.

In those Idaho hunting zones where hunters haven’t filled hunting quotas, including the local Southern Mountains zone, the hunt will now run through March 31 or until wolf harvest limits are reached, whichever comes first. The Southern Mountains zone covers the Smoky Mountains, the Wood River Valley and the Pioneer and Boulder mountains and runs east across several more mountain ranges to the Idaho-Montana line.

The extension means hunters will have more time to hunt wolves on snow, which may make spotting and pursuing the elusive predator easier. Among conservationists, the extension is controversial because pregnant wolves may be killed.

Wolves in the northern Rockies generally give birth to pups in mid-April.

According to a news release from Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, the commission’s decision has serious implications for the health of the region’s wolves.

“Hunter knowledge of the whereabouts of denning sites is widespread,” Stone said. “Wolves only breed once a year so the take of one pregnant wolf kills any chance of reproductive success for its pack for the year, along with the five to eight pups she was carrying.”

So far, hunters have killed eight wolves in the large Southern Mountains zone, with several of those taken from the valley’s Phantom Hill wolf pack. The commission set the quota for the zone at 10 wolves.

The commission extended the wolf hunting season during a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19. Wolf harvest limits were not changed.

Montana has already closed its inaugural wolf hunt. The overall quota in that state was 75 wolves.

Statewide, Idaho hunters will be allowed to kill 220 wolves. The hunt was already scheduled to run through March 31 in two areas: the Sawtooth and Lolo wolf zones, the latter located in north central Idaho.

Other areas where the season was extended are the Panhandle, Palouse-Hells Canyon, Selway, Middle Fork, Salmon and South Idaho wolf zones. Those areas were scheduled to close Dec. 31. Hunters will need a 2010 wolf tag, in addition to a 2010 Idaho hunting license, for hunts extending into the new year.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials set wolf harvest limits by 12 zones. The season will close in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, or once the statewide limit is reached.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 24, the statewide harvest was at 113 wolves. Wolf seasons have already closed in the Dworshak-Elk City zone in north central Idaho, the McCall-Weiser zone in west central Idaho and the Upper Snake zone in eastern Idaho.

In addition to the Southern Mountains zone, two other zones are near their harvest limits. The Palouse-Hells Canyon zone is two kills away from the limit of five wolves. In central Idaho’s remote Middle Fork zone, hunters are just four wolves shy of the 17-wolf limit.

Wolf hunters are reminded to check the harvest limit in the wolf hunting zones they intend to hunt. To find out whether a wolf zone remains open, hunters should call (877) 872-3190.

Hunters are required by state law to report that they’ve killed a wolf within 24 hours. Hunters must present the hide and skull to a Fish and Game conservation officer or regional office within five days.

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Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 25

OR: Ten-wolf pack spotted at Imnaha worries ranchers

Ten-wolf pack spotted at Imnaha worries ranchers

By Kathleen Ellyn
Wallowa County Chieftain

A pack of 10 wolves has been confirmed in Wallowa County. The pack, sighted and videoed by biologist Pat Matthews of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wldlife during a periodic monitoring exercise, ranges from Little Sheep Creek, across Big Sheep to Duck Lake and Fish Lake, south of the Imnaha.

ODF&W Wolf Management Plan director Russ Morgan estimates the pack has a range of 100 square miles.

The pack was first reported July 17 when the Alpha female, originally from Idaho and known as B300, was recollared. ODF&W also confirmed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife report of at least three pups.

ODF&W biologists suspected at least six wolves in the group, said Morgan, “But we did not know there were 10 wolves there.”

The size of the pack astonished ranchers.

“There have been rumors of more wolves sighted out there than the four first reported, so it’s not surprising there are more,” said Rod Childers, Wolf Committee Chairman for the Oregon Cattleman’s Association. “It’s surprising there are 10 – but that just shows you how fast they can move into a territory.”

Morgan confirmed that reports of wolves had “increased greatly” this fall.

“We got quite a number of reports. We’ve been getting reports from all over Northeast Oregon.”

All ranchers with grazing permits in the area were notified by Childers. Most have their cattle down from permitted areas and into winter quarters already, Childers said.

Some ranchers with permits in the area had complained of a higher than average number of dry cows in their herds, but whether or not this has anything to do with wolf depredation cannot be confirmed, Childers said.

Wolf B300 has never been linked to a domestic animal killing.

The only confirmed killings by wolves in Oregon were the 27 sheep, one calf and one goat killed in Keating Valley near Baker this spring. Those animals were killed by two young wolves roaming the Keating Valley area. Both wolves were destroyed in September.

Ranchers will be watching their livestock closely in the spring, Childers said. “Livestock depredation seems to happen in spring and fall,” Childers said. “When deer and elk are calving it seems to die down.”

In the meantime, ODF&W is implementing aspects of the Oregon Wolf Plan. “We will be conducting a search to establish a firm pup count by the end of December,” said Russ Morgan. Also on the list is a plan to put a GPS collar on one adult by spring so as to be able to verify the pack’s location at any time.

Despite B300′s good record, ranchers are gearing up for a worst-case scenario. They are continuing to lobby for changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan, Childers said. “We’re still looking at changes to the Oregon Wolf Plan when it comes up for a five year review in 2010,” he said. “We want the right to be able to kill a wolf that is stalking, harassing or attacking our livestock.”

Anyone sighting wolves is reminded that they are a protected species in Oregon. ODFW asks that anyone who spots the pups call (541) 963-2138.

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Posted in Uncategorized
Nov 25

Idaho F&G criticized for lengthening wolf season

Idaho F&G criticized for lengthening wolf season

A wildlife-conservation group was quick last week to criticize the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for extending the wolf hunting season into spring.

The commission voted Nov. 19 to extend wolf-hunting seasons in all Idaho wolf zones not already closed to March 31.

The headline on a news release distributed the next day by Defenders of Wildlife said, “Idaho extends hunt into denning season, pregnant wolves and newborn pups will be sitting ducks come the end of March.”

The organization said the decision puts Idaho’s wolf population at even further risk than it is already from the premature wolf hunt that Idaho and Montana implemented before wolves are fully recovered in the Northern Rockies because the take of one pregnant wolf could mean a total reproductive loss for its pack for the year, the group says.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game set wolf harvest limits by 12 zones. The season closes in each zone when the limit for that zone is reached, or when the statewide limit of 220 wolves is reached.

The commission’s decision doesn’t change harvest limits and other restrictions.

The seasons would be extended to March 31 in the Panhandle, Palouse-Hells Canyon, Selway, Middle Fork, Salmon, Southern, and South Idaho zones, which had been set to close Dec. 31. The seasons already were set to close March 31 in the Lolo and Sawtooth zones.

Wolf seasons already have closed in the Dworshak-Elk City wolf zone in north Idaho, the McCall-Weiser zone in west-central Idaho, and the Upper Snake zone in eastern Idaho.

Three zones are nearing the harvest limit. The Palouse-Hells Canyon zone is two short of the limit of five; the Southern Mountains, where the limit is 10, is two short. The Middle Fork zone, with a limit of 17, is four short.

Hunters will need a 2010 wolf tag, in addition to a 2010 hunting license for hunts after Dec. 31.

Three wolves were killed between the time the commission announced the extension of the season and Tuesday, when the number of wolves killed statewide totaled 113.

Defenders of Wildlife statement:


“Today’s decision has much deeper implications for the health of the region’s wolf population than many realize. By extending the season through the end of March, Idaho is extending it into breeding and denning season, when wolves are at their den sites and therefore particularly vulnerable. Hunter knowledge of the whereabouts of denning sites is widespread. Wolves only breed once a year, so the take of one pregnant wolf kills any chance of reproductive success for its pack for the year, along with the five to eight pups she was carrying.

“This is precisely the kind of mismanagement that exemplifies why Idaho’s wolf plan is inadequate and politically motivated. Hunters would never allow elk or deer to be hunted when pregnant or just after giving birth and the hunting community should not stand for this unethical treatment of wolves either. We need forward-looking decisions, based on the best available science, that ensure the sustainability of the regional wolf population in the long term instead of sacrificing professional wildlife management standards to appease anti-wolf groups.”

– Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife

Here’s the procedure for legally hunting wolves:


Wolf hunters are reminded to check the harvest limit in the wolf hunting zones they intend to hunt. To find out whether a zone is open call 877-872-3190. The Fish and Game wolf harvest Web page is updated less frequently, but provides a zone map and other useful information: fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/wolf/quota.cfm.

Hunters are required by state law to report within 24 hours of harvesting a wolf, and they must present the hide and skull to a Fish and Game conservation officer or regional office within five days.

JOYCE EDLEFSEN

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