Aug 31

ID: Conservation group ends wolf predation payments

Conservation group ends wolf predation payments

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOISE, Idaho — A conservation group is ending its program to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.

The program by The Defenders of Wildlife has paid out more than $1.4 million for losses from wolves and grizzly bears since it began in 1987. In a letter this month to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, group president Roger Schlickeisen said the group originally planned to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves until state, federal or tribal programs took its place.

Now that the federal government has created a wolf predation compensation program, Defenders of Wildlife is phasing out its predation payments in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico.

The Idaho Statesman reports that the group now hopes to spend the money on its programs aimed at helping ranchers better prevent wolf predation in the first place.

Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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Aug 31

WA: Red wolf exhibit opening at Tacoma zoo

Red wolf exhibit opening at Tacoma zoo

By MIKE ARCHBOLD
THE NEWS TRIBUNE

TACOMA, Wash. — Red wolves – and their haunting, high-pitched howls – are back at Point Defiance.

A breeding pair named Graham and Ocean Blue were released Monday into new, elegant digs at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, to be followed the next day by three more wolves – 3-year-old sisters Nami, Tala and Mika.

The red wolves left their zoo exhibit in July 2009 to make way for construction of their new exhibit. They have been staying at the zoo’s 7-acre red wolf breeding compound at Northwest Trek in Eatonville.

The animals’ new $1.1 million exhibit, called Red Wolf Woods, will open to the public Saturday, and the zoo plans a weekend Wolf Fest through Monday. Festivities will include educational activities for kids, mask-making, enrichment treats for the wolves, and special talks by the people who care for the wolves on a daily basis.

Before Saturday, visitors can see the wolves in the exhibit from the walkway to the Kids’ Zone.

The exhibit befits Graham and Ocean’s status as being among the red wolf Adams and Eves needed for survival of their endangered species. Monday’s release was a special moment for zoo staff members who have worked for years on the program.

“It’s a dream come true,” zoo deputy director John Houck said of the new exhibit. “It’s something very special to the staff.”

Shortly before 3 p.m., staff members carried in the large animal crates and opened the doors. Graham, 8, and Ocean, 5, slipped out, bellies and noses close to the ground, eye darting. They quickly toured the treed area of their enclosure.

Graham soon lay down beneath a tree. Ocean kept a steady reconnoiter.

“I’m biased,” said Will Waddell, the red wolf program coordinator who has been at the zoo since 1986. “They are gorgeous.”

The pair of wolves had been there before but in the old, much smaller enclosures. Instead of Spartan cages of heavy rectangular chain-link fencing with no good viewing areas, “invisible fencing” gave a sense of no enclosure.

“We have overlooks for unobstructed views and a special glass viewing area that will allow visitors (and wolves) to get up close and personal,” Houck said.

With a small stand of hardwood trees, low grasses and shrubs, a stream and natal dens, the hillside exhibit is designed to mimic the red wolves’ native territory in the eastern United States.

“One den is an old root cellar with heaters,” Houck said. Another is a rock ledge.

The pair will occupy one of two 8,600-square-foot enclosures in the exhibit. If they breed successfully next spring, Houck said, the family probably will stay together there.

The exhibit includes a conservation center that offers information on the conservation program to save the red wolf and how people can get involved. The center is not finished.

In the 1970s, only 14 red wolves roamed the planet. Today, there are about 300, with many reintroduced into the wild. The exhibit honors the 40-year recovery program and the zoo’s role in it.

“Reproduction specialists, genetic-management experts, world-class veterinarians and top-notch animal care staff have joined together in Pierce County to keep this critically endangered species from going extinct,” Houck said.

Joining with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the zoo began its red wolf breeding program in 1973, and 14 years later released four adult pairs into their natural habitat. In 2007, the zoo won the nation’s top conservation award for its red wolf work.

More than 240 companies, foundations and individuals have contributed to paying for the new exhibit through the Zoo Society’s $7.15 million Vision for the Future capital campaign. The effort – which funded Kids’ Zone Phase 2 and Red Wolf Woods – is raising money for the clouded leopard exhibit and a zoo endowment.

All design and construction costs for the wolf exhibit were paid for with private grants and donations, said Caryl Zenker, executive director of The Zoo Society, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the zoo.

Campaign co-chairwoman Tina De Falco noted that the Zoo Society is at 83 percent of its goal, the largest private campaign in the zoo’s history.

“With support from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation, The Boeing Co. and hundreds of others – including 100 percent of zoo and Zoo Society staff, we have been able to give this species the honor it deserves,” she said.

The tribe came through with the largest donation: $550,000.

Jenn Donovan and Natalie Bogues were all smiles Monday. The wolves were and are again their charges. Both keepers recently traveled to South Carolina to work with a red wolf field team that was introducing the animals back into the wild. Some 39 other zoos participate in the restoration program.

“This is extraordinary,” Donovan said. “The thing I like best is the wolves have so many different choices: the water, the grassy knolls, the trees.”

The new exhibit gives the public a chance to understand how important the animals are, Bogues said.

“They are our flagship species,” she said.

Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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Aug 31

MT: Idaho, Montana Seek OK to Hunt ‘Endangered’ Wolves

Idaho, Montana Seek OK to Hunt ‘Endangered’ Wolves

By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

BILLINGS – State officials sought Tuesday to revive gray wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies, even as they entered talks with environmentalists whose lawsuit restored the endangered status of the animals.

Hunters in Idaho and Montana killed 260 wolves in the first managed hunts last year after the species rebounded from near-extermination.

But this year’s hunts were doubtful after a U.S. District Court ruling.

On Tuesday, Montana asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to hold “conservation hunts” this fall, said Dave Risley with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Idaho plans a similar request. Jim Unsworth of Idaho Fish and Game said the state will point to the legal harvest of other protected species such as salmon and bull trout as a precedent.

State officials said the hunts were justified as a means to curb increasingly frequent wolf attacks on livestock. It was uncertain how many animals might be harvested.

There are an estimated 1,700 wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana — more than five times the federal government’s benchmark of 300 wolves for the species to be considered recovered.

Federal officials have declined to say if they would allow any public hunting while wolves remained on the endangered list. Even without hunts, wolves are killed regularly in the region by wildlife agents and ranchers responding to attacks on sheep and cattle.

Environmental groups have vowed to stop attempts to circumvent the federal court ruling. Their attorneys were meeting Tuesday with officials from Idaho and Montana and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana in 2009 before that decision was reversed in court earlier this month.

Wyoming’s 320 wolves were not taken off the endangered list last year. Federal officials said the state’s wolf law was too hostile to the animals, allowing them to be shot on sight in a predator zone covering about 90 percent of the state.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled the government ended up violating federal law by stripping wolves of their endangered status in Idaho and Montana while portions of the population remained at risk.

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Aug 31

MT: Sportsmen’s groups want wolves killed to protect Bitterroot elk

Sportsmen’s groups want wolves killed to protect Bitterroot elk

By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic

HAMILTON – Tony Jones doesn’t believe the elk herd in the West Fork of the Bitterroot will survive years of haggling over how wolves should be managed.

Last week, 12 Montana sportsmen groups agreed with him.

The Montana Bowhunters Association, Montana Wildlife Association and 10 rod and gun clubs said they’ll support Jones and the Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association’s effort to acquire permission to kill wolves to protect elk herds in the Bitterroot Valley.

The Ravalli County group wants the state to seek permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement the Endangered Species Act’s 10(j) rule in portions of the valley where elk populations have dramatically declined.

The rule allows states with approved wolf management plans the ability to manage wolves to ensure the health of ungulate herds, including reducing wolf numbers.

The Bitterroot group made its formal request after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy put wolves back on the federal endangered species list and canceled this year’s wolf hunting season.

“The legal and political battles over the wolf delisting will take time, and while we support FWP in these battles, elk populations in many hunting districts in Montana just don’t have the kind of time it takes for the system to work,” said Tony Jones, Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association president.

Calf and bull numbers are “extremely low” in portions of the Bitterroot, Jones said.

Four of the five Bitterroot hunting districts are under state elk plan population objectives. In the hardest hit West Fork area, elk numbers are a “whopping 60 percent under objective,” he said.

“These numbers will not sustain an elk herd and are unacceptable,” Jones said.

FWP statewide wolf coordinator Carolyn Sime said the department is looking at a wide range of options to return wolf management back to Montana.

All will take time.

“Removing wolves in 2010 is unlikely,” she said. “There is a lot of road ahead on any proposal … 2011 may be in the game, but it’s hard to say. We have some work ahead of us.”

All of the options take a toll on the state’s limited resources and so decision makers are going to be very careful in deciding which ones to follow, Sime said.

For the state to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a 10(j) provision, it would first have to draft a proposal. That proposal has to go through a peer review process, followed by a public comment period. Once that is completed, it would be submitted to the Service for approval.

“We have to be realistic,” she said. “The process has steps that can’t be skipped … and in the end, it’s a postage stamp approach that kills some wolves to protect big game in a relatively small area. It really comes up short with the goal of statewide management for wolves.”

***

The groups also plan to ask FWP to consider revising its elk plan to reflect the realities of a rapidly changing landscape in Montana.

“When we look at the many threats that wildlife populations and specifically elk are facing, it is clear that reassessing the 2005 Elk Management Plan is critical in order to help ensure a sustainable big game heritage,” said Joelle Selk, vice president of the Montana Bowhunters Association. “Modifying that plan to consider the loss of winter range, conifer encroachment and a dramatic increase in predators on the landscape is the best method of allowing FWP to continue to manage for elk populations throughout Montana, rather than allowing politicians or emotional appeals to manage our wildlife.”

The current elk management plan is geared toward managing hunters and doesn’t allow the state to react quickly enough when elk numbers start to decline, Jones said.

Under the present plan, it can take up to four years to ratchet the season down to a limited permit season once biologists begin documenting a decline in elk calf numbers.

“The West Fork could be a real model on why that approach doesn’t work,” Jones said. “In 2005, we were pushing 2,000 elk and now we’re down to about 750. Look what’s happened in five years. What’s going to happen in another four?”

The Montana Wildlife Federation’s Ben Lamb said the coalition recognizes that elk populations in some parts of the state are doing quite well. And in places where elk are struggling, there are other factors that could be playing a role in their decline, he said.

“We’re not saying that wolves are killing every elk out there,” Lamb said, “but in some places where elk aren’t doing well – like northwest Montana, the Bitterroot and some places in southwest Montana – there are high concentrations of critters with big teeth.”

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Aug 31

Wyo. not inclined to act on wolves

Wyo. not inclined to act on wolves

By BEN NEARY, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming remains committed to classifying gray wolves as predators that can be shot on sight across most of the state despite complaints that its position will stop hunting seasons in neighboring Idaho and Montana.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, early this month rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s move to turn over wolf management to Idaho and Montana while leaving them listed as an endangered species in Wyoming.

Molloy’s decision blocks wolf hunts that Idaho and Montana had planned for this fall.

And ironically, Molloy’s decision also effectively leaves Wyoming — whose wolf management plan the judge excoriated two years ago — in the position of controlling wolf management in the entire Northern Rockies, at least for now.

Wyoming has stubbornly opposed the federal wolf reintroduction effort since it began at Yellowstone National Park in mid-1990s.

But now, unless Wyoming backs off on its plan to declare an open season for wolves in most of the state, the other states won’t get to hold the controlled wolf hunts they want to protect livestock and keep their wolf populations steady.

And Wyoming is not about to agree to change its plan.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a popular Democrat now in the final months of his second and final term, said this week that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter haven’t bothered to ask him whether Wyoming intends to reconsider.

“It may be that they’ve known me long enough that I’m not going to change my position,” Freudenthal said of the other governors.

Freudenthal also brushed off as “overly critical” a newspaper column that Assistant U.S. Secretary of Interior Tom Strickland wrote this month knocking Wyoming’s position.

“The court’s decision clearly shows that, for the gray wolf, recovery requires Wyoming to change its policy,” Strickland wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “If Wyoming were to join its neighbor states and develop a wolf management strategy with adequate regulatory mechanisms on human-caused wolf mortality, including hunting, all three states would benefit.”

Frustration over Wyoming’s position is also widespread in Idaho and Montana.

Montana wolf program biologist Carolyn Sime said residents in her state believe they did everything right, and are frustrated that Wyoming can hold them back.

“It does not make sense for us that the actions and wishes of another state prevent something in our state,” Sime said. “Wyoming’s past prevents Montana from moving forward. That doesn’t seem fair to us.”

Yet Freudenthal and others in the state emphasize that the Fish and Wildlife Service itself helped the state write its wolf management plan in early 2008 and approved it at the time. Only after Molloy criticized Wyoming’s plan in late 2008 did the Fish and Wildlife Service repudiate it, delisting wolves only in the other two states while leaving Wyoming behind.

Wyoming has its own federal lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to delist wolves in the state.

Wyoming officials say their plan would assure enough wolves survive to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs and 150 total wolves in the state — the minimum number the Fish and Wildlife Service has said each of the three states needs to maintain. There are now more than 1,700 wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Oregon and Washington state.

There’s little desire among Wyoming lawmakers to change the state’s wolf management plan. Many openly say they don’t trust the federal wildlife agency.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, is chairman of the committee that hears wildlife issues. He said the state should wait and see what happens with its own lawsuit and said he doesn’t see any reason the state should feel pressured to change its position.

It’s unclear whether Wyoming’s lawsuit will be judged moot in light of Molloy’s ruling. Bruce Salzburg, Wyoming attorney general, said the state would object if the federal government tries to dismiss the state’s case.

Doug Honnold, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Montana, represents a coalition of environmental groups that successfully argued against delisting wolves in the other states while leaving protections in place in Wyoming. He said he believes there’s a strong argument that Wyoming’s lawsuit should be dismissed as moot.

“Clearly Wyoming’s intransigence has created all kinds of different problems for the Fish and Wildlife Service and for Montana and Idaho, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Honnold said. “But I think there are lots of different courses to get to recovery, and I’m hopeful that Wyoming will see the light about the importance of being involved in this recovery and delisting of wolves, rather than try to obstruct it.”

Whatever happens, Honnold said it’s clear that Wyoming can’t be left out of the process this time.

“The law says that if a species is endangered in any significant portion, then the species, or the population in this case, needs to be listed,” Honnold said. “So somehow, Wyoming has to be part of the picture.”

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Aug 30

ID: Verbal Brawling Continues Over Canis Lupis

Verbal Brawling Continues Over Canis Lupis

Posted by Andrew Crisp

On Monday, Boise’s City Club hosted Cal Groen and John Rachael of the Fish and Game Department, offering insight into a debate that’s simmered for over two decades. Beginning with reintroduction in the 80s, the cycle of the “are they or aren’t they?” endangered species listing for wolves reaches a boil. In this episode, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula struck down the reversal of wolves as endangered, reclassifying them as protected animals, and effectively banning all hunting of the creatures.

“This was a federal rule that failed, and it failed Idaho,” said Robin Thorson, the regional director of the National Fish and Wildlife Service, before the decision was made. “We regret that. We believed that this path was merited, and the court disagreed.”

Conservation groups cite the move as a win for what some believe to be a misunderstood species. “This decision is a significant victory for wolves, for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, and for all Americans who care deeply about conservation,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area, allowing for protection until a viable population was attained. Once a defined thirty breeding pairs was reached, Idaho and Montana moved forward with management plans. Idaho began its first wolf hunt in September of 2009, Wyoming declined to create management plans, instead opting to adhere to their view of wolves as predators only—with a shoot on sight listing outside of the national park.

“The path to recovery is through Wyoming. That’s going to be a difficult, impossible path,” said Cal Groen, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Their legislature is very satisfied with their position,” said Groen. “Without Wyoming having a management plan, wolves in Idaho will continue to remain on the endangered species list.”

Judge Molloy ruled that this selective definition of wolves was a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Idaho is pushing the federal government to turn the management over to the state level, while simultaneously courting Wyoming lawmakers, in an attempt to get the three states on the same playing field.

“We have sovereignty,” said Groen. “Our governor will be writing a letter to the secretary of the interior. Our governor has talked to their governor. We’ve offered to talk to their legislature, but they’re very comfortable with where they’re at.”

Expect wolves to be a big topic this coming legislative session.

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Aug 30

WY: Gov. keeps wolves in his cross hairs

Gov. keeps wolves in his cross hairs

Gov. Freudenthal says he’s not inclined to change Wyoming’s plan to declare an open season for wolves.

By Ben Neary
Associated Press

CHEYENNE — Wyoming remains committed to classifying gray wolves as predators that can be shot on sight across most of the state despite complaints that its position will stop hunting seasons in neighboring Idaho and Montana.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont., early this month rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s move to turn over wolf management to Idaho and Montana while leaving them listed as an endangered species in Wyoming.

Molloy’s decision blocks wolf hunts that Idaho and Montana had planned for this fall.

And ironically, Molloy’s decision also effectively leaves Wyoming — whose wolf management plan the judge excoriated two years ago — in the position of controlling wolf management in the entire Northern Rockies, at least for now.

Wyoming has stubbornly opposed the federal wolf reintroduction effort since it began at Yellowstone National Park in mid-1990s.

But now, unless Wyoming backs off on its plan to declare an open season for wolves in most of the state, the other states won’t get to hold the controlled wolf hunts they want to protect livestock and keep their wolf populations steady.

And Wyoming is not about to agree to change its plan.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a popular Democrat now in the final months of his second and final term, said this week that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter haven’t bothered to ask him whether Wyoming intends to reconsider.

“It may be that they’ve known me long enough that I’m not going to change my position,” Freudenthal said of the other governors.

Freudenthal also brushed off as “overly critical” a newspaper column that Assistant U.S. Secretary of Interior Tom Strickland wrote this month knocking Wyoming’s position.

“The court’s decision clearly shows that, for the gray wolf, recovery requires Wyoming to change its policy,” Strickland wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “If Wyoming were to join its neighbor states and develop a wolf management strategy with adequate regulatory mechanisms on human-caused wolf mortality, including hunting, all three states would benefit.”

Frustration over Wyoming’s position is also widespread in Idaho and Montana.

Montana wolf program biologist Carolyn Sime said residents in her state believe they did everything right, and are frustrated that Wyoming can hold them back.

“It does not make sense for us that the actions and wishes of another state prevent something in our state,” Sime said. “Wyoming’s past prevents Montana from moving forward. That doesn’t seem fair to us.”

Yet Freudenthal and others in the state emphasize that the Fish and Wildlife Service itself helped the state write its wolf management plan in early 2008 and approved it at the time. Only after Molloy criticized Wyoming’s plan in late 2008 did the Fish and Wildlife Service repudiate it, delisting wolves only in the other two states while leaving Wyoming behind.

Wyoming has its own federal lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to delist wolves in the state.

Wyoming officials say their plan would assure enough wolves survive to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs and 150 total wolves in the state — the minimum number the Fish and Wildlife Service has said each of the three states needs to maintain. There are now more than 1,700 wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and parts of Oregon and Washington state.

There’s little desire among Wyoming lawmakers to change the state’s wolf management plan. Many openly say they don’t trust the federal wildlife agency.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, is chairman of the committee that hears wildlife issues. He said the state should wait and see what happens with its own lawsuit and said he doesn’t see any reason the state should feel pressured to change its position.

It’s unclear whether Wyoming’s lawsuit will be judged moot in light of Molloy’s ruling. Bruce Salzburg, Wyoming attorney general, said the state would object if the federal government tries to dismiss the state’s case.

Doug Honnold, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Montana, represents a coalition of environmental groups that successfully argued against delisting wolves in the other states while leaving protections in place in Wyoming. He said he believes there’s a strong argument that Wyoming’s lawsuit should be dismissed as moot.

“Clearly Wyoming’s intransigence has created all kinds of different problems for the Fish and Wildlife Service and for Montana and Idaho, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Honnold said. “But I think there are lots of different courses to get to recovery, and I’m hopeful that Wyoming will see the light about the importance of being involved in this recovery and delisting of wolves, rather than try to obstruct it.”

Whatever happens, Honnold said it’s clear that Wyoming can’t be left out of the process this time.

“The law says that if a species is endangered in any significant portion, then the species, or the population in this case, needs to be listed,” Honnold said. “So somehow, Wyoming has to be part of the picture.”

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Aug 29

MI: College senior spends summer with wolves

College senior spends summer with wolves

By Ken Abramczyk
OBSERVER STAFF WRITER

Sometime this fall, Jerry Heath will run into his fellow students majoring in environmental studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Heath will be asked what he did over the summer and his friends’ eyes will open wide and their jaws will drop in disbelief.

Heath spent his summer living with and caring for a pack of wolves in Idaho. He arrived home Thursday.

Heath, 22, a senior, interned at the Wolf Education and Research Center in Winchester. For three months, Heath conducted tours of the facility for the public and, after a month of training and learning about wolf behavior, he got a close and personal view of the wolves. Some of his chores included helping dress road kill for the wolves to eat.

HEADED WEST

Heath knew after three years of studying biology and environmental studies that he had to get outdoors for a first-hand look at wildlife. Heath learned about the internship from a magazine, and applied for it because he thought that giving tours of the facility would lay a foundation for his teaching aspirations.

“It was an opportunity to teach in a different atmosphere,” Heath said. Groups on tours ranged in size from two to 15, and were of all ages. Tour groups were allowed to view the wolves, located inside an enclosure in which they lived.

The Wolf Education and Research Center is dedicated to providing public education and scientific research concerning the gray wolf and its habitat. The center’s education initiative is part of a plan to engage supporters and reach out to future naturalists and wildlife supporters. The captive wolf pack resides on a 300-acre site, leased from the Nez Perce tribe.

Heath had to form social bonds with the wolves. Wolves are very social animals, as they form packs, but are fearful of humans, Heath said.

When Heath started, he wasn’t permitted to move closer than a few hundred yards. The wolves had to get used to him and his scent and seeing him in the same area to build up a familiarity. Jeremy Heft, a biologist and pack manager who has worked with the wolves for 12 years, slowly acclimated the interns and the wolves, bringing the interns closer and eventually into the enclosure.

“They were trusting us about a month later after they saw us seven days a week,” Heath said. Heath was a little bit concerned about his safety, but he knew the center was reputable.

Jerry’s mother, Kathy Heath, said she was worried about his safety and that the project might put him in danger. Heath told his mother that it took at least a month to prepare him for the work inside the enclosure. “He had a lot of reading to do before he went into the enclosure,” Kathy said. “He had to learn how to react to them and there was training involved. He had to walk four miles every day so that the wolves would know him by scent.”

Heath learned about the wolf language: the ear position and the tail position, when they are aggressive and when are they submissive. Heath walked to check the enclosure each day to make sure that behaviorally and physically, the wolves were OK.

“If a wolf is holding its tail high in the air, that is typical of an alpha wolf in a dominant state,” Heath said. “If the wolf is holding its tail curled under its body, that is a sign that the wolf is an omega wolf in a submissive state.” Most of the time the wolves hold their tails in a relaxed position. “You tend to see these different postures in times of dispute and stress,” Heath said.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

In the interns’ first entrance with the Owyhee pack nearby, one of the wolves, Himtuuqin’, approached them with his nose high in the air and his ears to the side. “Jeremy told us that this was a great sign, it meant that he was being curious, and was at ease with our presence,” Heath said. “If he would have approached with his nose to the ground and ears straight in front, this would have been a more defensive posture.

“Their language is extremely important in maintaining the social hierarchy that is so crucial to the functioning of one of nature’s greatest forces, the wolf pack. That is why it was so important for me to go through a long initiation process to make sure I didn’t accidentally challenge an alpha wolf with something as simple as squinting, staring or moving my hand toward them with the palm down instead of up.”

Heath said the first time inside the enclosure was surreal. “One of the wolves was following us closely about 10 feet behind,” Heath said. The wolves were fed once a week, usually with an animal that was killed on the road to get as close as the camp could to a normal diet for the wolves.

The interns did not want to be anywhere near the wolves when setting up their food once a week because they didn’t want the wolves to associate humans with food. The wolves’ meals were set up in a double-fenced area out of sight of the wolves. When the wolves eat, “they are most territorial, most defensive and most aggressive,” Heath said.

Heath said education is the goal of the camp. Some supporters of wolves don’t like that the wolves are raised in captivity, but once they are born and raised there, they cannot be released. “They serve as ambassadors when there is such a negative perception of wolves,” Heath said.

SYMPATHY FOR RANCHERS

Heath has spoken to ranchers and elk hunters on the tours who were not afraid to express their opinions about the wolves. One said he didn’t want to pay for something that “deserved to have a bullet in its head.”

Heath understands the complaints when a wolf downs a deer, elk, moose or a calf, but he adds that Idaho ranchers can be reimbursed for those losses by Defenders of Wildlife. “We are completely sympathetic,” he said, but he is quick to add that ranchers in Idaho lose less than 1 percent of their sheep to wolves, Heath said.

The living conditions were quite a change from Livonia. “You go from there to living in a tent,” Heath said. “We heard coyotes every night. Black bears and owls were around.

“The wildlife was incredible. The first few nights was a little unnerving. Once you get in the rhythm of life there, and as long as you don’t do anything foolish, it’s great. You’re getting away from all the technology, no electricity, no running water.” Someone from camp would travel to town to get 200 gallons of water. The water was heated by propane gas.

Once he was finished with his work as an intern, he would talk, read or just go explore the forest.

On the way back to Michigan, Heath camped four days in Glacier National Park and spent a night in Bismarck, N.D.

Heath learned that the wolves are extremely social in the camp, but in the wild, wolf sightings are rare. “You would be extremely lucky to see one because they are so elusive,” Heath said.

Heath summarized his internship in a journal entry as he reflected on his experience with the wolves, which he mentions by their names:

“Piyip, Himtuuqin’, KucKuc, Leq’eyleq’ey, XayXayx, and Miyooxat all taught me numerous things, but the most important lesson was taught by all of them. This lesson was learning how to listen. The forest is full of voices and the wolves have a very intricate language that, if we can learn how to listen to them, we can come to understand them on a deeper level.”

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Aug 29

MT: Wolf, grizzly bear cases set back progress, biologists, managers say

Wolf, grizzly bear cases set back progress, biologists, managers say

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian

Wolves and bears don’t behave well in courtrooms.

But the two big predators are likely to spend the next 18 months there as their advocates and enemies try to untangle them from the federal Endangered Species Act.

Last week, Montana wildlife managers decided to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s Aug. 5 decision placing the gray wolf back under federal protection. Meanwhile, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials in Missoula appealed another Molloy ruling that prevented state management of Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bears.

No one knows how the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will settle the two lawsuits. But wildlife managers for both wolves and bears fear that years of cooperation and compromise in the woods may wither while the animals’ fate is debated – and ultimately decided – on paper.

“If people look in and realize how difficult it is for agencies to work together on anything, they would realize incredible steps were made,” said Gregg Losinski, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game official who is part of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Committee. “All the mechanisms were there for bear recovery – that was the frustrating thing. This relisting put things back 20 years.”

Molloy’s 2009 decision blocked a FWS plan to let states manage about 600 grizzlies living around Yellowstone National Park.

His wolf ruling earlier this summer canceled public wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho for the 2010 season. Montana officials hoped hunters would kill 186 wolves and bring the state’s population down to about 450 animals. Wolves are blamed for both falling elk and deer numbers and growing domestic livestock attacks.

***

If a wolf threatened Bob Rowland’s cows last month, he could reach for his rifle. Now he has to reach for a telephone.

The Ovando area rancher sees some black irony in the Aug. 5 court decision placing gray wolves back under federal Endangered Species Act protection.

Molloy ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improperly gave Montana and Idaho wildlife managers control of their wolves, but excluded Wyoming because its plan didn’t meet federal standards. He wrote that threatened species should be managed by their habitat area, not by state lines.

“It makes you wonder when Mr. Molloy says we have to treat all three states the same, but we split Montana in half,” Rowland said.

That’s because wolves in the northern half of the state (including Rowland’s ranch) moved in naturally from Canada and are considered threatened and federally protected. Wolves roughly south of Interstate 90 are assumed to descend from a population transplanted to Yellowstone Park and the Idaho wilderness in 1995. Those wolves are “experimental” and have considerably less stringent protections.

It’s a practical matter for Rowland. A fellow rancher 30 miles away in Avon can shoot a wolf that’s harassing cattle. Rowland must call a federal Wildlife Services hunter if he has the same problem. And that’s after he and other members of the Blackfoot Challenge landowners network spent years on innovative ways to co-exist with wolves.

“I don’t think our tree-hugging friends want to piss us off,” Rowland said. “We’re to the point where we realize the carrot’s just going to keep getting moved. Maybe it’s time to buck a little bit.”

Chris Servheen sounds equally frustrated. The head of the federal government’s grizzly bear recovery program fears the bears he’s spent decades trying to save may have turned a bad corner.

“It really breeds mistrust in the public and amongst all the agencies that do the work when we go to court,” Servheen said. “We’ve seen it with the wolves, where people become angry and less likely to support these species. The law as it’s written provides the guidance we need to recover (a threatened species). That’s what we did with grizzly bears and that’s what we did with wolves.

“When courts add their own requirements to these laws, it makes it almost impossible to achieve success in these recovery areas. Legal blockage makes it difficult for the public to invest in it. They become suspicious and cynical about the whole thing. It poisons the well when courts intervene in these things.”

***

The legal work is taking place while both wolves and grizzlies are getting tabloid-style scrutiny. After a grizzly killed a camper near Yellowstone Park this summer, an Associated Press story reminded readers that grizzlies “have been known to peel off a man’s face with a single swipe of their massive, clawed paws.”

A widely distributed essay by a former Fish and Wildlife Service biologist warned of “increasingly stressful rural life where wolf attacks and sightings have placed parents and grandparents in fear when kids ask to go fishing or to go to or come from rural school bus stops or to take out garbage.”

“Those stories kill bears,” Servheen said of the AP article. “They’re the National Inquirer-type crap that poisons people’s minds. We could have all the cooperative efforts, 30 years in the Yellowstone, dissolve and disappear because people think it’s futile.”

There are other ways out of the courtroom, at least for wolves. And one leads through Congress.

Sen. Max Baucus pledged shortly after Molloy’s wolf ruling he would “introduce legislation that puts wolves under Montana’s management.” Rep. Denny Rehberg said he would co-sponsor Texas Rep. Chet Edwards’ H.R. 6028, which would amend the Endangered Species Act and remove wolves from its jurisdiction.

Another goes back into the rulebook. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf program coordinator Carolyn Sime said the state is considering a 10-J exemption, which would give Montanans increased federal leeway to manage wolves.

Lots of unknowns dot that path. The 10-J rule probably wouldn’t affect Montana’s northern threatened population, but it might let ranchers protect livestock in southern counties. How that might affect some packs that appear to roam across the line is uncertain.

It’s also unknown if the rule can be stretched to include population control – not just immediate threats. Hunter groups throughout the state want wolf numbers reduced.

“To change the rules for delisting based upon a vision of more wolves on the landscape ignores the evidence that wolves are recovered, and ready to be delisted and managed permanently in Montana and Idaho,” Montana Wildlife Federation director Craig Sharpe wrote in a letter backing the FWP legal challenge. He was joined by the Montana Bowhunters Association and nine rod and gun clubs in the state.

Sharpe said the 1994 federal wolf reintroduction plans anticipated wolves could hurt big-game populations and could be controlled if elk and deer were suffering.

But Sime pointed out another potential snag. Even if Montana gets permission for greater local control, that could wind up in court too.

“We have to ask if pursuit (of a 10-J exemption) is a wise use of agency resources,” Sime said. “Will it get litigated?”

The Blackfoot Challenge linked together ranchers like Rowland, state managers like Sime and federal biologists like Servheen to help humans and wildlife coexist. Its own wildlife manager, Seth Wilson, said the challenge now is to keep that linkage alive while the courts grind on.

“The networks and the trust we’ve worked very hard to build will survive this,” Wilson said. “And whether they’re listed or not listed, it doesn’t really matter to a bear or wolf. They’re going to continue to do what they do.”

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 29

Wyoming officials not inclined to act on wolves

Wyoming officials not inclined to act on wolves

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Gov. Dave Freudenthal says Wyoming remains committed to classifying wolves as predators that could be shot on sight in most of the state.

A federal judge in Montana early this month rejected the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s move to turn over wolf management to Idaho and Montana while leaving them listed as an endangered species in Wyoming.

That decision blocked wolf hunts this fall in Idaho and Montana. It also means those states won’t regain management of their wolves until Wyoming adopts a plan that can pass muster with the courts.

Freudenthal and several Wyoming lawmakers say they’re not inclined to change their state’s plan. They say Wyoming is committed to pursuing its own lawsuit against the federal wildlife agency.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized