Mar 31

MN: Rare Mexican wolf transported to North Dakota after sisters nearly killed her

Rare Mexican wolf transported to North Dakota after sisters nearly killed her

By Chris Niskanen

TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

To borrow a line from writer Thomas Wolfe, you really can’t go home again — especially if home is a wolf pack.

A rare Mexican wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake was transported to a new home today in North Dakota after her pack of two sisters rejected her and nearly killed her.

On Feb. 14, the four-year-old female wolf went on the lam after vandals broke into the research and education facility and released her and her two sisters. Her sisters were caught immediately, but the alpha female of the pack wasn’t caught until four days later, just 100 yards from Interstate 694 in New Brighton.

Wolf packs observe a strict hierarchy, and the alpha member holds the position by his or her strength and health. When the wayward wolf was returned to the Wildlife Science Center, dehydrated and tired, her lower ranked sisters detected her weakness and turned on her, said center executive director Peggy Callahan.

They severely bit her haunches and legs, leaving her bloodied and injured, before staff interceded and moved her to a new pen.

Her wounds have healed, but “you have to be at your best to be the alpha, and she wasn’t,” Callahan said. “We never returned her to that enclosure with her sisters.”

Endangered Mexican wolves are the rarest subspecies of gray wolves and smaller than their cousins living in Minnesota.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns most of the 300 captive Mexican wolves living in the U.S. The agency has developed a breeding and reintroduction program based on the captive wolves, which once flourished in the desert Southwest and in Mexico.

A small wild population of less than 50 lives in Arizona and New Mexico as part of a reintroduction program started in 1998.

When the pack trouble arose, the Fish and Wildlife Serviced decided to move the female to the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, N.D. Assistant zoo director Rod Fried arrived this morning with a trailer, and Wildlife Science Center workers captured the Mexican wolf, sedated her and administered her annual vaccines. She was then loaded into a steel and wooden crate and given fresh cattails for bedding.

“It’s bittersweet,” Callahan said. “It’s sweet because this is the best possible outcome for her. It’s bitter because none of this had to happen.”

She eventually will be paired with a male Mexican wolf at the North Dakota zoo. In many cases, male wolves will show deference to females, Callahan said, but it is difficult to predict how the two will get along.

“Hopefully, they’ll work something out,” Callahan said.

Authorities have made no arrests in the break in. Callahan said the center has beefed up security, keeps several German shepherds as guard dogs and has staff on the grounds 24 hours a day.

Fried brought an extra long trailer for the journey back to North Dakota. In addition to a Mexican wolf, he was picking up in Minnesota a trumpeter swan and two American cream draft horses for his zoo.

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Mar 31

Idaho and Montana Wolf Hunts End

Idaho and Montana Wolf Hunts End

States Plan to Kill Even More Wolves Next Season

BOZEMAN, Mont.— As Idaho’s wolf hunt season came to an end today, wildlife advocates mourned the loss of more than 500 members of the Northern Rockies’ population of the endangered predator due to human killing. The Idaho hunt, along with a similar season in Montana, followed on the heels of the Department of the Interior’s April 2009 delisting of gray wolf populations in those states under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Since the delisting, at least 257 wolves have been shot by hunters in Idaho and Montana – including an alpha female and a five-month-old pup in Yellowstone National Park’s renowned Cottonwood Pack, which had been intensively studied by biologists. Roughly 250 more wolves were killed in Idaho and Montana since delisting, primarily by state and federal agents in the name of livestock protection.

“The Montana hunt was wildly successful in killing wolves,” said Doug Honnold of Earthjustice. “Even in Idaho, with lots of inaccessible backcountry, almost the entire wolf quota set by the state was killed by hunters. We know we can kill wolves. Unless ESA protection is reinstated to wolves, both Idaho and Montana will increase wolf hunting in 2010, setting back recovery even more.”

“Idaho and Montana are busy heralding the success of their first wolf hunts as justification for removing protections from the species,” said Suzanne Asha Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Yet the biggest threat facing wolves is not these hunts but the federal wolf delisting plan, which allows Idaho and Montana to kill off most of their wolves. That plan is the most serious threat to wolves in the region and nothing has been done to fix it yet.”

“Beyond the animals needlessly shot, hunting wolves disrupts family bonds, can leave pups to starve, and contributes to the dangerous genetic isolation of wolves in Yellowstone,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are eager to see northern Rockies wolves restored to the endangered species list, and the results of these hunts bolster our legal claims.”

“These hunts were premature and should never have occurred in the first place. And though it’s nice to see them finally end, the damage is already done,” said Matt Skoglund, NRDC Wildlife Advocate. “The hunts unnecessarily killed over 250 wolves and have further delayed full recovery of the northern Rockies wolf population.”

Earthjustice is representing 13 conservation groups in a challenge to the delisting in U.S. District Court in the District of Montana. The suit seeks to restore Endangered Species Act protections to the wolf until wolf numbers are stronger, migration corridors are protected, and the states develop adequate laws and regulations to protect wolf populations from extinction. The groups asked the court to issue an injunction halting the 2009 hunts in Idaho and Montana. While the court declined to stop the hunts, it ruled that the groups are likely to win their legal challenge to the delisting.

Groups represented by Earthjustice in the wolf delisting suit are Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

Background

Under the challenged U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf delisting rule, Idaho and Montana were given the green light to reduce each state’s wolf population to 100-150 individual wolves. Hunters killed breeding “alpha” male and female wolves, not only disrupting wolf social groups but leaving pups vulnerable to predation and starvation.

The hunts went forward even though the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park declined by 27 percent in 2008 – one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The number of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming declined even further in 2009, dropping from 124 documented wolves in 2008 to only 96 wolves in 2009. The Yellowstone wolf population’s long-term future depends on its connection to populations in central Idaho and northwest Montana. Those states’ wolf hunts may have injured the connectivity among those populations, increasing the threats to the Yellowstone wolves’ gene pool.

Wolves are still under federal protection in Wyoming because a federal court previously ruled that Wyoming’s inadequate wolf management scheme would leave wolves in “serious jeopardy” if ESA protections were removed. Until recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service repeatedly concluded that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the Endangered Species Act. The Interior Department reversed that earlier position when it delisted wolves in Idaho and Montana but not Wyoming. The states of Idaho and Montana have refused to make enforceable commitments to maintain viable wolf populations within their borders.

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Mar 31

ID: Idaho’s Wolf Season Ends; Officials Pleased With Results

Idaho’s Wolf Season Ends; Officials Pleased With Results

BY DOUG NADVORNICK

Coeur d’Alene, ID

Idaho’s first wolf hunting season ends Wednesday with 185 animals killed. Idaho wildlife officials had set a goal of 220, but they deem it a success anyway.

Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife manager Jon Rachael says the state wants to show that it can manage wolves just as it manages other big game. He thinks it worked.

“What we have achieved, for the first time, is we have stopped the growth of the wolf population. We did not drive wolves extinct in a single year,” Rachael said.

Rachael and his staff estimate there are now about 840 wolves in Idaho. They’d like to push the population down to about 500 by taking a more aggressive approach in the coming years.

Of course, it’s possible there will be no second wolf season.

Conservation groups have asked a federal judge in Montana to put the animal back on the Endangered Species List. They believe its population is not yet large enough to sustain hunting.

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Mar 31

ID: Agents say wolf may have killed Weippe horse

Agents say wolf may have killed Weippe horse

– The Associated Press

Wildlife agents investigating the death of a corralled horse west of Weippe are leaning toward calling it a wolf attack.

Gene and Mollie Eastman said they were told by agents from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services that the horse was probably killed by wolves, but not in a typical way.

Sometime Sunday night or early Monday, the 20-year-old Morgan horse was taken down by the neck, had its throat ripped out and part of its face torn away or eaten.

Fish and Game conservation officer John McLain said cougars often attack at the neck, while wolves go for an animal’s rear legs or hindquarters, a process called “hamstringing.”

“I didn’t see the claw marks like a cat but also did not see the hamstringing like a wolf,” he said. “All I can say is something killed it.”

McLain didn’t find any discernible tracks at the attack site, a corral with hard-packed ground. He said the attack was mysterious enough that he wanted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to investigate before classifying the kill.

The Eastmans, who live four miles west of Weippe, said they think the attacker was a wolf. They said they’re surprised the animal went after one of the nine horses corralled near their home, rather than cows and calves in a pasture nearby.

“I really didn’t know the horses would be threatened in the corrals at our house,” Mollie Eastman said.

The dead horse was irreplaceable, because it comes from a line bred for backcountry use that isn’t raised anymore, she said.

“If I had $10,000 and looked at 100 Morgan (horse) farms, I couldn’t replace it,” Mollie Eastman said.

Idaho’s first legal wolf hunt ends Wednesday, with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game saying hunters so far have helped successfully manage the number of wolves in the state. Hunters have bagged at least 185 wolves, and another 138 were killed in livestock depredation control.

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Mar 31

AK: State, federal officials work out snafu on wolf killings

State, federal officials work out snafu on wolf killings

by Tim Mowry

Two wolves wearing National Park Service radio collars that were killed during the state’s predator control program in the upper Yukon-Tanana region earlier this month were shot by state wildlife biologists “due to a series of misunderstandings” and neither agency acted inappropriately.

That was the amicable conclusion officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and National Park Service reached after a meeting to review the incident on Tuesday in Anchorage.

“Our department had a protocol in place to avoid this situation, but unfortunately, in this case, it didn’t work,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd said in the release.

The two collared wolves were part of the Webber Creek pack of four wolves that were shot and killed from a helicopter on March 17 as part of the state’s aggressive predator management plan in the upper Yukon-Tanana region. The wolves were shot on state land about 2.5 miles outside the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve northeast of Fairbanks.

Though it is not under any legal obligation to do so, the state had agreed not to shoot any collared wolves that were part of a research study in the preserve. The Webber Creek Pack was one of seven packs in the study.

The park service provided the state with a list of frequencies of all wolves the agency had collared as part of the study and telemetry equipment to identify wolves wearing active radio collars.

“Due to a series of misunderstandings, the Webber Creek pack frequencies were not in the hands of the Fish and Game team conducting the control program,” the press release issued Tuesday read.

After noticing the collars, the biologists attempted several times to hear signals from the collared wolves and, hearing none, concluded that the collars were inactive before shooting the wolves.

Lloyd dismissed any notion that the state was misled by the park service in any way.

“Rumors of the Park Service providing incomplete frequency lists or non-functioning equipment are not true,” Lloyd, the ADF&G commissioner, said.

Likewise, Sue Marsica, regional director for the National Park Service in Alaska, absolved the state of all blame in the incident.

“There was no indication of improper actions or intent on the part of the staff of either agency,” she said in the release.

On at least two other occasions, state wildlife biologists avoided wolves wearing NPS collars that were located outside the preserve using information provided by the park service, the release noted.

Both agencies will review a list of recommendations made today by Fish and Game officials “that will allow a more complete understanding of each other’s operations and the development of improved field protocols relating to predator control,” the release stated. Specifics of those recommendations were not included in the release.

The two collared wolves were among 15 wolves killed over a three-day period from a helicopter by state wildlife biologists as part of the state’s predator control program in the region to reduce predation on the Fortymile Caribou Herd and moose.

The program was suspended March 19 because of a lack of fresh snow but state officials say they will shoot more wolves if more snow falls.

The state could take up to 70 more more wolves, according to the release. The program will be suspended for the year on April 30.

The park service, meanwhile, was considering a possible closure to the general hunting and trapping seasons in the preserve because the elimination of the Webber Creek Pack has reduced the number of wolves in the preserve to lower numbers than normal at this time of year.

The release issued Tuesday did not say if the park service was still contemplating a closure to the trapping and hunting seasons.

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Mar 30

MT: Rest of Fishtrap wolf pack to be removed

Rest of Fishtrap wolf pack to be removed

By Canda Harbaugh, The Western News

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks ordered the entire Fishtrap wolf pack of the McGinnis Meadows area to be removed since it recently carried out its fourth confirmed livestock depredation since the beginning of January.

Three of the pack’s seven wolves were removed in February in response to three previous incidents that resulted in a cow’s death in January and an injured calf in February. The remaining wolves are attributed to injuring another animal two weeks ago from the same ranch as the January incident.

The pack’s behavior “demonstrates a significantly different behavioral pattern in that pack since they were first documented in 2000,” FWP’s weekly wolf report read. “In the past, livestock conflicts have been very infrequent.”

Kent Laudon, FWP wolf management specialist for northwest Montana, said that as of Monday morning the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services hadn’t carried out the order. Wildlife Services had performed three flyovers, but were unable to spot the collared female with the other members of her pack.

“With our best count from that pack in 2009 at the end of the year, there were seven animals, and three animals had been removed in the middle of these depredations, so that leaves the potential of four,” Laudon said. “But things are dynamic in nature. There’s always the possibility that we’ve missed some, but there’s a possibility that some have dispersed or have died.”

He added, “We know there’s at least two in the pack right now.”

With the birth of new pups and the death or dispersal of older wolves, a pack’s attitude toward livestock can change, Laudon said, especially if the alpha male and female are replaced.

“In 2008 the previously believed breeding female died,” he said. “We also had an older male – we don’t know if he was the breeder or not – and he dispersed.”

Laudon said there could be many reasons the pack began to prey on livestock.

“Also, whitetail deer population is down right now for whatever reasons,” Laudon said. “That could be a driver too. It could be as simple as a nutritional change.”

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Mar 30

Idaho’s Wolf Season Ends; Officials Pleased With It

Idaho’s Wolf Season Ends; Officials Pleased With It

Doug Nadvornick

IDAHO (N3) – Idaho’s first wolf hunting season ends on Wednesday [today] with 185 animals killed. Idaho wildlife officials had set a goal of 220, but they deem it a success anyway.

Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife manager Jon Rachael says the state wants to show that it can manage wolves just as it manages other big game. He thinks it worked.

Jon Rachael: “What we have achieved, for the first time, is we have stopped the growth of the wolf population. We did not drive wolves extinct in a single year.”

Rachael and his staff estimate there are now about 840 wolves in Idaho. They’d like to push the population down to about 500 by taking a more aggressive approach in the coming years. Of course, it’s possible there will be no second wolf season. Conservation groups have asked a federal judge in Montana to put the animal back on the Endangered Species List. They believe its population is not yet large enough to sustain hunting.

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Mar 30

AK: State, fed pledge to work together after wolf kill

State, fed pledge to work together after wolf kill

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – State and federal wildlife officials say neither agency tried to mislead the other or violated protocol after state biologist shot and killed a pack of research wolves being monitored by the feds.

Representatives from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service met in Anchorage on Tuesday about the killing of 4 wolves by a state helicopter crew just outside the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve on March 17. 2 of the wolves wore radio collars used for research.

State and federal officials say they have pledged to work together to avoid similar incidents.

The wolves in eastern Alaska were shot as part of the state’s predator control in which more than 1,000 wolves and nearly as many bears have been killed to boost moose and caribou numbers.

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Mar 30

OR: Rancher encounters wolves

Rancher encounters wolves

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer

JOSEPH — Wolves were sighted on Karl Patton’s Wallowa Valley ranch Friday. Ferguson Ridge Ski area can be seen from the Patton ranch a few miles away.

Patton awoke at 3 a.m. to his dogs barking and running around his house.

“I don’t lock up my dogs,” Patton said. “They were barking like they were trying to get away.”

He pulled on his coveralls, loaded his handgun and went up the hill from the ranch house with his dog, Pete, closely in front of him.

“I never heard the wolves,” Patton said. “I heard the cows ‘talking,’ looking for calves.

“I had a good feeling I knew what was up there and I was afraid to see dead calves.”

Sixty pairs of cows are enclosed in a 10-acre area just yards from the house. Patton yelled and shot five rounds in the air to frighten the wolves.

“The moon was intermittently out so I didn’t take a flashlight. There was a skiff of snow. Only one dog wanted to go with me. He stayed right ahead of me.”

On the ridge 100 yards to the west of his house, he saw dark figures against the snow that he was sure were wolves.

“They were coming hard, black shapes, circling, but coming to me. When I started to squeeze the trigger they were 50 feet away from me.”

The wolves came from north-northwest and left north-northeast as he hazed them away from his cows and home. “I was irritated. I was ticked,” Patton said.

“All the cows were in a corner tighter than tight,” Patton said.

The cows stayed in a tight bunch close together near a northwest gate until they were fed later that day around 10 a.m.

“I got on a four-wheeler circling around the ranch after I reloaded my gun. We made big circles, couldn’t find wolves but found tracks heading northeast,” said Patton, who has nearly 600 contiguous acres near his ranch house. “I covered a bunch of that.”

Even with the headlights of the ATV illuminating his way, Patton’s ranch is rocky and he deemed chasing the wolves too dangerous.

At 3:47 a.m. Patton called 9-1-1 to report the sighting.

“I wanted someone to get here to document,” Patton said. “It was the perfect set up. There were tracks everywhere in the snow.”

After daylight Patton could clearly see tracks in the snow inside the 10-acre enclosure where his cows and calves are. Sheriff Fred Steen and Marlin Riggs of Wildlife Services arrived in the morning to investigate the scene. Russ Morgan of the La Grande ODFW office arrived around 11 a.m.

Not long ago Patton buried a cow about a half-mile east of his house. When he investigated the area later in the day he found “the wolves had dug up the cow and ate on her.” That spot had not been disturbed as of the previous evening.

Patton recalled a similar incident that happened two weeks ago.

“The dogs were screaming around the house in the middle of the night. Cows were talking, but were farther to the west.” He assumed it was coyotes, but now believes it may have been wolves.

The week before Friday’s incident Patton had a couple of indications to be on his guard. The first warning came from ODFW. They had flown over the area March 18 and sighted the wolves close to the Patton Ranch. ODFW hazed the wolves across Little Sheep Creek with an airplane.

“Rod Childress called to tell me there were wolves behind the ranch,” Patton said.

Childress has been working as the go-between with the agencies and ranchers on the wolf issue.

The next day on March 19 wolves had been sighted in the middle of the day by squirrel hunters east and a little north of Patton’s ranch house. The wolves were seen on land he rents.

“I am getting ready to turn cows out there when the grass comes up,” he said. “Rod told me I could haze them if they were going southeast. But I never saw them that day.”

Patton covered 10 to 15 miles on the four-wheeler after the hunters’ sighting.

After wolves were confirmed to have been on his ranch, Patton was outfitted with a RAGs system and a radio receiver that scans the radios on the four wolves known to be wearing collars in Wallowa County. Last month ODFW collared three wolves and replaced a collar on the wolf known as B300. B300 was caught on the ground in a leg trap last year by ODFW.

Patton decided not to talk to reporters until Monday. Childress contacted the press Saturday morning to set up a meeting with reporters, Patton and his neighbor Scott Shear who lives on Tucker Down Road near Ferguson Ridge.

“I didn’t want to start popping off on emotion,” Patton said. “I was pretty hot. I wanted to sit on it and think about it even though it is an emotional issue.”

Shear also has a radio receiver that he can use to pick up signals from the collared wolves if they come close enough to his ranch. In late February Shear saw a plane circling over his ranch.

“ODFW was trying to chase the wolves back into the timber,” Shear said.

“I am disappointed that people in Wallowa County want wolves in Wallowa County,” Shear said. “At some point we are going to lose small farms and ranches. They will be run out of business.”

Patton added, “There’s not enough money in ranching anyway. I don’t want any livestock killed and I want the right to defend myself and my property.

“We have to work with the agencies and get as much done as we can,” Patton said. “We all have to work together.”

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Mar 29

WY: Mead says Wyoming, feds continue wolf talks

Mead says Wyoming, feds continue wolf talks

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead says he believes the state is making some progress toward getting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept that wolves should be classified as unprotected predators in most of the state.

Mead met last week with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Cheyenne to discuss wolf management. The state and federal government have been wrangling for years over how to end federal protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

Mead said Tuesday that his office continues to negotiate with the federal government on the wolf issue, including the number of wolves Wyoming should allow.

If the state and federal government come to terms, Mead says he hopes Congress would approve the deal to prevent any further litigation over the wolf-management issue from environmental groups.

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