Apr 30

CA: Cougars are getting caught by wolf snares in Canada

Cougars are getting caught by wolf snares in Canada

Cougars scavenging for the carrion bait in wolf traps are sometimes getting accidentally snared, according to research published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

Trapping cougars (Puma concolor) is illegal in Alberta, Canada, but wolves are allowed to be harvested with snares. To find out how vulnerable cougars might be to wolf traps, a team tracked 44 cougars in western Alberta from 2005-2008. Sixty-four percent of the animals scavenged trap bait or other carcasses, the authors say.

Sixteen of the monitored cougars died during the tracking period, and four of the deaths were caused by snaring. Historical records from west-central Alberta, dating from 1991-2008, suggested that the percentage of human-killed cougars that died of snaring was increasing by 1.2 percent per year and was linked to a rise in wolf trapping.

The snares are still capturing more wolves than cougars, the authors say. But trappers could reduce the amount of cougar “bycatch” by placing bait in wolf-specific habitat. – Roberta Kwok

Source: Knopff, K.H., Knopff, A.A. & M.S. Boyce. 2010. Scavenging makes cougars susceptible to snaring at wolf bait stations. Journal of Wildlife Management 74(4), 644-653. DOI: 10.2193/2009-252.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 30

ID: Fish and Game investigating animal poisoning in Bonner County

Fish and Game investigating animal poisoning in Bonner County

Tania Dall | KXLY4 Reporter

COEUR D’ALENE — Hiking along the east fork of Lightning Creek in Bonner County is a place where people can commune with nature. Unfortunately one North Idaho woman believes a poison-laced sausage left along the popular hiking trail killed her dog.

The Idaho Fish & Game department confirms it’s received reports from two different pet owners who say their dogs got sick from something while walking along the same trail. The culprit is possible poisoned meat left on the ground.

Never in her wildest dreams did Mary Franzel think a hike with her four dogs along the east fork of Lightning Creek would end like this.

“It’s really a pretty area and its really sad that something like this happened,” Mary Franzel said.

Franzel’s German Shepard Chumani got violently sick last Friday and 10 minutes later died. Then her other dog started acting strangely. Franzel, a registered nurse, immediately took her dogs to the vet.

It turned out all three of her other dogs had traces of sausage in their systems. Franzel recalled seeing some sausage while she was on her hike.

“It appeared to be some kind of sausage. I just thought it was kind of odd and carried on,” she ssaid.

It’s an oversight she regrets. Concerned she contacted Idaho Fish and Game and the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.

“Samples have been sent to the toxicology lab at WSU and they’ll have to determine what it is,” Phil Cooper with Idaho Fish and Game said.

Fish and Game officials say it’s unclear if someone is targeting wildlife but are awaiting results back from WSU to determine if and what kind of poison was used.

“Haven’t ever heard of anything like this going on in Idaho,” Cooper said. “I know years ago in Canada at one point people were putting meat out to try to kill wolves.”

After losing part of her family Franzel has one goal to warn others about the potential danger.

“Whatever the agenda is, this isn’t the way to accomplish it. You’re hurting other people and animals,” she said.

Source

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Apr 30

NC: Wild NC red wolf has family double by surprise

Wild NC red wolf has family double by surprise

The Associated Press

MANTEO, N.C. — A female red wolf in North Carolina is going to find her family has suddenly doubled.

Two red wolf pups born two weeks ago at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago were flown Friday to the wilds of the Alligator River Wildlife Refugee in eastern North Carolina and added to a wild wolf’s den containing two pups of about the same age.

Red wolf recovery coordinator David Rabon says wild mothers quickly accept the sudden appearance of pups when they are so young.

Red wolves were declared extinct in the Southeast by 1980, but they have been reintroduced in the backcountry of five North Carolina counties for over a decade.

Rabon says there were about 80 wolves in the region before about 30 to 50 pups were born in the past several weeks.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 30

SE: Wolf Hunt: Officials threatened with murder

Wolf Hunt: Officials threatened with murder

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

Stockholm / TT

Death threats or other threats and harassment have met every official who works with predators in the five counties where licensed hunting of wolves is permitted.

So inflamed is the issue with wolves according to a study of 52 officials done by the radio program Kaliber, reported Swedish Radio.

45 of them officials have worked more than a year with predators and it is half of those who have been victims in some way. One of them is Per Johansson who is the natural resources official of the County Administrative Board of Dalarna, one of the wolf counties.

Johansson has at least twice been threatened indirectly to life – but someone else would put the threat into action.

Among harassment Per Johansson has been that he has had slashed tires on his cars at home on his farm.

“Eight meters from my kitchen window,” he says. “One wonders what happening in this world.”

Mats Hallin is another natural resources official of the County Administrative Board of Dalarna. He talks about worry and unease about the way people showed their dissatisfaction with the predator policy.

“One usually works alone so it becomes an unsafe workplace or work situation,” explains Halllin.

SVT says in a documentary broadcast this weekend that a group of hunters is working for the systematic eradication of the Swedish wolf. They use, among other things, poisoned meat pieces, traps and sawed-off hunting rifles, reported Aftonbladet.

“The politicians need to understand that the wolf is to be extirpated,” said one of the anonymous men in the documentary.

The favorite in the hunt for the wolf is poisoned meat.

“Incredibly, it hunts around the clock,” says one of the men.

The group says that it has supporters in all the big wolf counties.


Vargjakten: Tjänstemän mordhotade

Stockholm/TT

Mordhot eller andra hot och trakasserier har mött varannan tjänsteman som arbetar med rovdjur i de fem län, där licensjakt på varg är tillåten.

Så infekterad är vargfrågan visar en undersökning som radioprogrammet Kaliber gjort med 52 berörda tjänstemän, uppger Sveriges Radios Ekoredaktion.

45 av dessa tjänstemännen har arbetat mer än ett år med rovdjur och det är hälften av dessa som varit utsatta på något sätt. En av dem är Per Johansson som är naturbevakare vid länsstyrelsen i Dalarna, ett av varglänen.

Johansson har minst två gånger blivit indirekt hotad till livet – fast någon annan skulle sätta hotet i verket.

Bland trakasserierna mot Per Johansson har varit att han fått däcken sönderskurna på sin bil hemma på sin gård.

- Åtta meter från mitt köksfönster, berättar han. – Man undrar var som händer här i världen.

Mats Hallin är en annan naturbevakare vid länsstyrelsen i Dalarna. Han berättar om oro och olust över det sätt människor visat sitt missnöje med rovdjurspolitiken.

- Man jobbar oftast ensam så det blir en otrygg arbetsplats eller arbetssituation, förklarar Halllin.

SVT påstår samtidigt i en dokumentär som sänds i helgen att en grupp jägare arbetar systematiskt för att försöka utrota den svenska vargen. De använder bland annat förgiftade köttbitar, fällor och avsågade älgstudsare, skriver Aftonbladet.

- Politikerna måste förstå att vargen ska bort, säger en av de anonyma männen i dokumentären.

Favoriten i jakten på varg är det förgiftade köttet.

- Oslagbart, det jagar dygnet runt, säger en av männen.

Gruppen uppger att den har anhängare i alla de stora varglänen.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 30

SE: Death threats against officials after the hunting decision

Death threats against officials after the hunting decision

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

Taunts, veiled threats and slashed tires. This has become everyday life for County staff involved in predator issues. At the County Board of Värmland, three out of four are victims of threats or harassment because of their work.

Nature officials, predator specialists and other managers who work with wolves on the county administrative boards in Sweden’s five wolf counties are often subjected to threats and harassment. Mats Rapp of the County Administrative Board of Dalarna is one of the victims of harassment because of his work.

“I’ve been through a couple of tire deflations. When I was tracked down and out and then come back to the car I have had flat tires,” says Mats Rapp.

The country’s five wolf counties – Värmland, Dalarna, Örebro, Västra Götaland and Gävleborg, nearly half of all respondents answered yes to the question of being the victim of threats or harassment. The results of a survey were done by the radio program Kaliber.

“Sometime, I have been in conflict with a person. There was one who hit me in the head because I worked with this,” says Mats Rapp

The wolf issue is so inflamed and the staff of the County Board must often respond to dissatisfaction with the government’s wolf policies. In the questionnaire survey done by Kaliber, three of the four people who work with predators in Värmland said that they suffered some form of threat. Here are answers of two employees at the County Administrative Board of Värmland:

“After a TV appearance about a wolf attack, I received a death threat. The man in question did not like what I said and would kill me.”

“Have received several “covert” threats and avoid working in the field. I never go to the local pub and avoid celebrations locally.”

“It’s an incredibly heated debate about this. This is like a frightening picture, it seems that, they are not accepting the situation and their positions are based on ignorance,” concludes Mats Rapp.

-Ola Sandstig


Mordhot mot tjänstemän efter jaktbeslut

Glåpord, förtäckta hot och sönderskurna däck. Det har blivit vardag för Länsstyrelsens personal som arbetar med rovdjursfrågor. På länsstyrelsen i Värmland har tre av fyra utsatts för hot eller trakasserier på grund av sitt arbete.

Naturbevakare, rovdjursansvariga och andra som arbetar med varg på Länsstyrelserna i Sveriges fem varglän utsätts ofta för både hot och trakasserier. Mats Rapp på Länssstyrelsen i Dalarna tillhör dem som utsatts för trakasserier på grund av sitt arbete.

“Jag har varit med om ett par däckskärningar. När jag varit ute och spårat och sen kommit tillbaka till bilen har jag haft tomma däck, säger Mats Rapp.

I landets fem varglän – Värmland, Dalarna, Örebro, Västra Götaland och Gävleborg har närmare hälften av alla tillfrågade svarat ja på frågan om de utsatts för hot eller trakasserier. Det visar en undersökning som radioprogrammet Kaliber gjort.

“Nån gång har jag varit i konflikt med en person. Det var en som skulle slå in skallen på mig för att jag jobbade med det här, säger Mats Rapp

Vargfrågan är infekterad och personalen på länsstyrelsen måste ofta möta missnöjet med regeringens vargpolitik. I den enkätundersökning som Kaliber gjort uppger tre av de fyra personer som arbetar med rodjursfrågor i Värmland att de utsatts för någon form av hot. Så här svarar två anställda på länsstyrelsen i Värmland:

“Efter ett TV-framträdande om ett vargangrepp fick jag ett mordhot. Mannen ifråga gillade inte vad jag sa och skulle döda mig”.

“Har fått flera “förtäckta” hot och undviker att jobba i det aktuella området. Jag går heller aldrig på den lokala krogen och undviker fester lokalt”.

“Det är en otroligt het debatt om det här. Det här är som ett spöke verkar det som, de är inte vana och det bygger på okunskap, avslutar Mats Rapp.

-Ola Sandstig

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 30

SE: Officials threatened over wolf hunt

Officials threatened over wolf hunt

Almost half of the public officials working with wild animal control in the five counties that permit wolf hunting have received death threats or other forms of harassment, according to a report by the Sveriges Radio Kaliber programme.

The programme interviewed 45 public officials who had worked with wild animal issues in their respective county for more than a year. Half of this number reported having been on the receiving end of death threats and other harassment.

Per Johansson, who works within Dalarna county in central Sweden, claimed that his life had been threatened on at least two occasions.

Johansson also reported that on one occasion the tyres on his car had been slashed while the vehicle was parked at his home.

“Eight metres from the kitchen window,” he told Kaliber.

Mats Hallin,a nature preservation official at the County Administrative Board of Dalarna, told of his concern over the way people show their dissatisfaction with how the issue is managed.

“One usually works alone so it makes for an unsafe workplace or working situation,” said Hallin.

Sveriges Television (SVT) is also set to claim in a documentary scheduled for broadcast on Sunday that a group of hunters works systematically to try to exterminate the Swedish wolf population. SVT claims that the group deploys poisoned meat, traps and high-calibre rifles.

“The vermin should be got rid of, plain and simple,” said one of the hunters, according to SVT.

Torbjörn Lövbom at the Swedish Hunters’ Association (Svenska Jägareförbundet), has condemned both the threats and illegal hunting. He argues that the reports are a sign of the “increased polarisation of the wild animal issue which has become more prominent after the wolf hunt,” referring to a recent decision to permit the limited culling of wolves.

“It has resulted in some people in the periphery (of the hunting community) who wish to appear decisive and have taken matters into their own hands quite simply, but I think it is a very, very small group.”

Lövbom and the others at the association say that they do not know of any group engaged in the illegal hunting of wolves.

He notes that both public officials and hunters have received threats.

“I myself have received threatening letters in connection with the wolf hunt, which were even handwritten,” he said.

Torbjörn Lövbom argues that the debate has at times become exaggerated, with talk of the mass slaughter of wolves, or that the culling had been conducted improperly. He called on all those engaged in the debate to act responsibly and moderate their tone.

TT/The Local

Source

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Apr 29

CA AB: Wolf, or crossbreed, spotted and shot near Wild Rose Hutterite Colony

Wolf, or crossbreed, spotted and shot near Wild Rose Hutterite Colony

Fish and Wildlife waiting to get analysis on DNA sample gathered from specimen

Posted By Simon Ducatel/Reporter

When Dave Brown noticed his horses getting jittery on April 13, he thought coyotes were the likely culprit — until he saw what looked like a wolf stalking the area.

“I was at home, near the Wild Rose Hutterite Colony,” he told the Advocate, recounting the encounter.

“My horses, they were going snaky,” Brown said. It was about 1 p.m., and his suspicions that coyotes were behind his horses’ unease vanished when he spotted the other predator.

Without hesitation, Brown fetched his rifle and shot the animal, killing it.

“I got a hold of fish and wildlife, because you got to report that kind of thing,” Brown said.

A Fish and Wildlife game officer made it out to inspect the female specimen and took a hair and tooth sample from the carcass to determine whether it was indeed a wolf.

It’s not unheard of for a wolf to pass through a prairie region like Vulcan County, said Tyler Young, acting district officer for Vulcan while district officer Don English is away from the district.

Having been working in the Vulcan district for almost a year, Young said this was the first case involving a wolf he’d heard of in the area.

“Animals now seem to be dispersing further and further from their natural range,” he told the Advocate, identifying human activity as one of the main causes.

Although the animal looked like a wolf, its identity wasn’t 100 per cent certain.

“It could be a wolf-cross,” Young said. “There are a lot of free ranging dogs that a wolf could mate with.”

However, the animal did resemble a wolf, Young said, adding that the confirmation will come with the results of the DNA analysis.

While marauding wolves pose a threat to livestock, Young said he’s never dealt with any incidents where wolves caused any harm to people.

But he has dealt with cases wherein sheep and cattle were confirmed to have been killed by wolves.

If anyone sees a predatory animal like a wolf stalking around, it’s important to report, Young said.

“If they do spot one, notify the Vulcan Fish and Wildlife office,” he recommends. “We keep track of that. It’s good to know if there are more and more coming around — we’d like to know about that in case there are problems with livestock degradation down the road.”

If anyone took the sighting a step further and shot the animal, the proper procedure is to inform fish and wildlife so an officer can be dispatched to check out the situation, Young said.

“Especially if there is a livestock kill — we got to know about it,” he said.

“There is compensation for that if it’s a confirmed wolf kill,” Young added.

“Any producer who’s livestock — cattle, sheep, goats, bison and hogs — are killed or injured by wolves, bears, cougars or eagles, may file a claim with the local fish and wildlife division office within three days of learning of the death or injury,” he said.

“Claims for confirmed predator kills are paid at a rate of 100 per cent of the average commercial market value for an animal of the same type and class,” Young said.

Claims for probable predator kills — cases wherein the livestock’s cause of death isn’t 100 per cent certain, but evidence points towards a predatory kill — are paid at a rate of 50 per cent, he added.

But the sooner the report comes in, the better. The more time goes by, the harder it becomes to identify precisely what killed the livestock, he said.

“Any producer who believes that their livestock has been attacked or killed must call their wildlife office,” Young said.

When looking into the shooting of a suspected wolf, Fish and Wildlife only takes DNA samples — it’s up to the landowner to dispose of the remains, said Young.

And landowners who might hesitate to shoot a wolf for fears of repercussions are covered.

“Any person who is the owner or occupant of privately owned land may without a license and at all times of the year hunt — but not trap — timber wolf on such lands,” Young said, adding that the land must be out of any town or village boundaries and that it must be safe to discharge the firearm.

The main thing for people to keep in mind is that there’s no need to panic, he said.

There have been no recent complaints of domestic animals being killed by a predator, Young said.

But there could be another wolf in the area, as Brown found and photographed 10 centimetre paw prints indicative of a larger male that could have been travelling with the female.

Anyone with concerns, questions or a sighting to report is encouraged to contact the Vulcan Fish and Wildlife office at 403-485-6971.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 29

SE: War of extermination against the wolf

War of extermination against the wolf

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

There has been a war of extermination against the wolves in the country. On Sunday, a documentary broadcast on SVT on a network of poachers and Peter Andersson, who made the film tells of how he met a very well organized group of hunters in a well-functioning network.


Utrotningskrig mot vargen

Det pågår ett utrotningskrig mot vargar i landet. På söndag sänds en dokumentär på SVT om ett nätverk av tjuvjägare och Peter Andersson, som gjort filmen berättar om hur han mötte en mycket välorganiserad grupp jägare i ett väl fungerande nätverk.

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Apr 28

WY: Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills, study says

Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills, study says

Wapiti tend to stay on Gros Ventre feedgrounds during attacks.

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

A multiyear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study of wolves in the winter in the Gros Ventre drainage shows they rarely kill more than they need to eat and do not prey on moose in excess, researchers say.

The as-yet-unpublished study also shows that most elk tend to stay on feedgrounds in the Gros Ventre drainage during wolf attacks. The research comes as Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers and local outfitters express concerns about the impact of wolves on elk populations, especially in the Gros Ventre drainage, where calf/cow ratios have dropped below levels some experts consider necessary to sustain herds of the ungulates.

To get the data, researchers followed wolf tracks to ungulate carcasses and examined the remains, determining the type of prey and its age, gender and physical condition. Researchers also used radio collars to study movements of elk when wolves killed on feedgrounds.

During the study period – from 2000, when reintroduced wolves from Yellowstone National Park first found their way to the Gros Ventre drainage, to 2007 – researchers examined the remains of 320 carcasses. Of those, researchers say, wolves killed 15 elk in so-called “surplus killings,” instances when wolves killed multiple elk and did not feed extensively on the carcasses. Five instances of such killing occurred in 2002 and two instances occurred in 2007.

Mike Jimenez, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wyoming wolf management project leader, called the low incidence of such killing “surprising.” He released highlights of the study to the News&Guide on Monday.

“We thought if there is ever a place you would document surplus killing, these feedgrounds would be the spot,” he said. “To us, what was surprising was we just did not document it that often.”

Jimenez said instances of wolves killing more than they needed to eat were difficult to measure accurately, because some wolves tended to abandon carcasses that were disturbed by humans.

“Some wolf packs, if we messed with the carcass at all, they’d never come back,” he said. “Some wolf packs [couldn’t] care less.”

One trend researchers did notice about surplus killings is that they tended to occur in late winter, when wolf pups are getting big enough to make kills on their own, and when elk health, even on feedgrounds, tends to decline a bit.

“All the cases were in March or late February,” he said. “That coincides [with] pups right when they become yearlings. They’re coming into their own.”

In the study, elk calves comprised 49 percent of kills, while cows comprised 46 percent and bulls 5 percent. Wolves killed 66 percent of prey on native winter range and 34 percent on feedgrounds.

Jimenez said wolves are good at sorting out inexperienced or unfit elk.

“They clearly go after calves because they’re inexperienced,” he said, explaining that cow predation is also high because cows are more abundant. “When you look at the numbers, they go after older cows and young calves. And they do go after bulls, but bulls are not [as] available on feedgrounds.”

On native winter range, Jimenez said, the percentage of bull elk killed might go up to 20 percent, in part because bulls are more abundant and also because they are weakened by the rut and don’t have supplemental feed to hold them over until spring.

The researchers say the species breakdown of ungulates killed was 89 percent elk, 9 percent moose, 1.5 percent mule deer and 0.5 percent bison. Jimenez said the low percentage of moose killed in the Gros Ventre drainage comes as no surprise, because wolves tend to key in on elk feedgrounds.

“They kill what’s available and what’s vulnerable,” he said. “What’s available in this neck of the woods is elk.”

The researchers also looked at how radio-collared wolves affected 292 locations of radio-collared elk on the three feedgrounds in the Gros Ventre drainage. During wolf attacks on elk, the elk stayed on the feedground 79 percent of the time, left the area but returned within three days 14 percent of the time and gathered in larger herds on adjacent feedgrounds 7 percent of the time.

“When wolves made a kill on the feedground, surprisingly … elk stayed on those feedgrounds almost 80 percent of the time,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll scatter them and they’ll stay away for a few days. [Sometimes] they’d all en masse go to one feedground. Is that really a problem? Who am I to say? If you’re trying to feed elk, that becomes a problem.”

Researchers tried to determine the condition of the elk killed by looking at the bone marrow, where mammals store their last fat reserves. The bone marrow data wasn’t conclusive, because elk tended to stay in good condition on feedgrounds, he said.

While the Gros Ventre study occurred during a long-enough period and the sample size was big enough to give a good picture of some aspects of wolf predation on elk, Jimenez said it has limitations.

The study does not, for instance, tell researchers much about the impact of wolves on the overall number of elk. Wolf predation could be compensatory, meaning that the predators are killing animals that would die during the winter anyway, or additive, meaning wolves are taking additional animals out of the population. Factors such as snowpack, precipitation, forage and other predators confound such calculations.

“The answer is we don’t know,” Jimenez said, explaining that the results are also site specific, especially because of the presence of feedgrounds. “These predator-prey systems are very complicated. They don’t have a simple cause and effect answer.”

Chris Colligan, Wyoming wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, called the study fascinating. “This is the kind of research and data that wildlife advocates, hunters, biologists and wildlife watchers should be really excited about,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of misperceptions out there that this may dispel, hopefully with good solid data rather than anecdotal evidence.”

“I feel that surplus killing gets undo hype, and this data suggests that,” Colligan said.

Colligan said there are a “whole host of ecological benefits that could be taking place” the study doesn’t address, such as the impacts of overgrazing by ungulates on willow and aspen communities.

“The question it brought up to me is what the role of human disturbance and unnatural conditions at elk feedgrounds is playing in limiting the role of wolves from carrying out their ecological role as a keystone predator,” he said.

B.J. Hill, a Kelly-based outfitter who has advocated for hunting wolves, said he agrees with some of the findings but has problems with some of the conclusions on moose predation and surplus killing.

“That’s all fine and dandy, but we’re down to five moose licenses in the Gros Ventre and we used to get 75,” he said. “We’ve literally lost that moose segment up there.”

Hill pointed to several instances when wolves have killed large numbers of domestic sheep and said the same thing could happen to elk under the right conditions, such as deep snow with a thick crust.

“Those wolves can run on top,” he said. “[If] they happen to catch a little group of elk that are falling through, they could literally kill them all.”

“If you get them weak, I think [wolves are] going to whack them,” Hill said. “I think the winter range elk are taking a thrashing.”

Hill questioned the motives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers, saying he’d rather trust data from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“I personally feel … that it could be distorted a little bit,” he said. “I think they’re trying to make this wolf sound as good as they can. They do not portray what this killing machine is really about. We outfitters feel that with the feds and the environmental groups it’s half truths and half lies.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife researchers and Grand Teton National Park are conducting a similar study on two wolf packs that winter around the north end of the park. The first year’s data is available at www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/wyomingstatus2010/04092010.html. Researchers caution that the data in the Grand Teton study is preliminary and based on only one year’s observations.

Jimenez did not know when the study on Gros Ventre predation would be released. Those interested may contact him at mike_jimenez@fws.gov.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 27

State again seeks to strip protection for gray wolves

State again seeks to strip protection for gray wolves

By Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin again asked federal authorities on Tuesday to remove the gray wolf, whose population is soaring, from the endangered species list.

The state Department of Natural Resources petitioned the U.S. Department of Interior to reclassify wolves so authorities could use lethal means to control the burgeoning population.

The winter population estimate jumped 12% to 700 to 750 wolves in Wisconsin, according to state figures, the highest population for wolves since pre-settlement times.

But as their numbers have grown, wolves have increasingly become a flash point of controversy among farmers, hunters, landowners and animal rights groups.

Since 1985 the state has paid out $894,119 to those who have lost dogs and livestock from depredating wolves.

Owners of hunting hounds alone have been paid $341,000 for the deaths of 153 dogs – mostly bear hunting dogs.

Wolf numbers now total more than 4,000 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. In Wisconsin, numbers are far above federal goals set in the early 1990s.

“The gray wolf in Wisconsin is clearly not in danger of extinction now, nor is it likely to be in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future,” wrote DNR Secretary Matthew J. Frank.

Wisconsin’s decision follows a petition filed by Minnesota in March asking the Interior Department to remove gray wolves from the list of endangered or threatened species. Michigan authorities also have sided with the actions but haven’t filed a formal petition.

This is the third time that steps have been taken to allow Wisconsin to reduce protections for the wolf. Since 2007, the wolf has been declassified from its endangered status for a total of 21 months.

But animal rights groups have protested the actions and twice have persuaded federal courts to return protections.

On Tuesday, Howard Goldman, Minnesota state director of the Humane Society of the United States, who tracks wolf issues in Wisconsin, said his organization would likely again challenge the action.

Though the wolf population has risen sharply in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the gray wolf can be found on only 5% of its native habitat, Goldman said.

“We believe the wolf should be protected across the country,” Goldman said.

He noted that of the thousands of farms in Wisconsin, fewer than 100 have ever had problems with wolves.

An Interior Department decision could take months or more, prompting the DNR, in a separate action on Monday, to ask for interim authority to use lethal controls on wolves that have killed livestock and other animals.

Wisconsin has had such authority in the past but lost it after losses in court. Thirty-two wolves were killed in 2005 and 18 were killed in 2006.

Adrian Wydeven, a DNR wolf ecologist, said his agency hopes the Interior Department, and potentially the courts, will see the issue differently this time.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are arguing that wolves in the two states and Michigan are a distinct population group.

Wolves from Minnesota recolonized in northwestern Wisconsin in 1974 and 1975. Prior to that, there had been no record of wolves in Wisconsin since 1960.

George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said the lack of controls had allowed the population to explode and had exacerbated tensions over wolves.

A 2009 study by Adrian Treves, of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that as many as 17% of hunters in wolf range were willing to illegally shoot wolves.

Source

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