Jan 31

Experts find kin of Indian wolf in Africa

Experts find kin of Indian wolf in Africa

Prasun Sonwalkar

London, Jan 31 (PTI) Scientists from the University of Oxford and others studying genetic evidence have discovered a new species of wolf living in Africa.

The researchers have proved that the mysterious animal, known as the ‘Egyptian jackal’ and often confused with the golden jackal, is not a sub-species of jackal but a grey wolf, a university release said.

The discovery, by a team from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), the University of Oslo, and Addis Ababa University, shows that grey wolves reached Africa around 3 million years ago before spreading throughout the northern hemisphere.

The new wolf is a relative of the Holarctic grey wolf, the Indian wolf and the Himalayan wolf. A report of the research appears this week in the journal PLoS One.

Professor David Macdonald, an author of the paper and Director of Oxford Universitys WildCRU, said: “A wolf in Africa is not only important conservation news, but raises fascinating biological questions about how the new African wolf evolved and lived alongside not only the real golden jackals but also the vanishingly rare Ethiopian wolf, which is a very different species with which the new discovery should not be confused.”

Professor Claudio Sillero, also of the WildCRU and Chair of the IUCN’s Canid Specialist Group, who has worked in Ethiopia for more than two decades, said: “This discovery contributes to our understanding of the bio geography of Afro alpine fauna, an assemblage of species with African and Eurasian ancestry which evolved in the relative isolation of the highlands of the Horn of Africa.

Rare Ethiopian wolves are themselves a recent immigrant to Africa, and split off from the grey wolf complex even earlier than the newly discovered African wolf.

Dr Eli Rueness of the University of Oslo, the first author of the paper, said: “We could hardly believe our own eyes when we found wolf DNA that did not match anything in GenBank.”

The team also found genetically very similar specimens to this new wolf in the highlands of Ethiopia, 2,500 km from Egypt, suggesting that the new species is not just found in Egypt.

Golden jackals are regarded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as not threatened a “species of least concern” but the newly discovered African wolf may be much rarer.

The team believe it is a priority for both conservation and science to discover its whereabouts and numbers.

Professor Sillero said: “It seems as if the Egyptian jackal is urgently set for a name-change, and its unique status as the only member of the grey wolf complex in Africa suggests that it should be re-named ‘the African wolf’.” PTI PS

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Jan 31

AK: Healy man charged with possessing wolf hybrids

Healy man charged with possessing wolf hybrids

by Tim Mowry

FAIRBANKS — A Healy man was charged last week for possessing two hybrid wolves.

Terry Delbene, 59, was issued a summons to appear in court on Feb. 28 in Nenana on a charge of possessing hybrid wolves, a class B misdemeanor.

Hybrids are illegal to own in Alaska unless grandfathered before Jan. 23, 2002. They also must be neutered, licensed, vaccinated against rabies, registered and microchipped.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers went to Delbene’s home to check on an anonymous tip that he was keeping wolf hybrids. Troopers found three dogs being kept as pets, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

“There were three animals, but only two appear to have close ancestry to actual wolves,” Peters wrote in an e-mail.

Delbene told troopers the dogs were “Inuits,” a type of wolf hybrid. It is a breed known to be “wolf-like,” Peters said.

A DNA test confirmed the two dogs were wolf hybrids, she said.

Troopers did not say where Delbene’s home was located, only that it was within the Healy city limits.

Delbene retained possession of the dogs because they were properly secured and did not pose a threat, Peters said.

If the court determines the dogs are true wolf hybrids, they could be killed, Peters said.

“That is a question for the lawyers and the judicial process to work out,” she said. “We felt we had enough to go off of to charge him.”

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Jan 31

OR: Wolf pack confirmed in Umatilla County

Wolf pack confirmed in Umatilla County

By PHIL WRIGHT
East Oregonian

Wolves are now living in northern Umatilla County, a state wildlife official confirmed today.

Mark Kirsch is the Umatilla District wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said more than one Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf has settled in the Walla Walla River/Mill Creek system.

“When we say more than one wolf, I think we’re pretty confident we have no less than three,” Kirsch said.

But it’s too early to say just what kind of “social formation” these wolves are in, he said,

“We know so little at this point,” Kirsch said. “The source of our current efforts is to try and understand that.”

Andrew Picken of Pendleton reported seeing a trio of wolves south of Milton-Freewater on Jan. 2. He even shot some video and took photos, but the animals were too far away to positively identify them as wolves.

Kirsch said tracks in the snow revealed the wolves are here. He explained wolves will travel behind one another, stepping into each other’s paw prints. It took a while following the tracks before seeing divergent paths.

Roblyn Brown, ODFW’s assistant wolf coordinator, said the agency is keen to receive information about wolf sightings. She encouraged anyone who spots a wolf or wolf sign to call the ODFW office in La Grande at 541-963-2138, or go to the agency’s wolf web page (www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves/) and click on the link to report wolf sightings. Visitors also can sign up for ODFW updates about wolves.

Single wolves have come into Umatilla County in the past, but Kirsch said single wolves tend to move a lot and don’t stay in one place for long.

And while wolves now are living in the northern part of Umatilla County, Kirsch said, when summer arrives, their range could increase into Washington state. If they stay put, that is.

Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves have federal and state endangered species protection. There have been no efforts to reintroduce wolves in Oregon after people killed the animal off about 80 years ago. The wolves has been moving into Oregon from Idaho naturally. As they do, Kirsch said, they will spread to new places.

“This could have happened anywhere in northern Oregon,” Kirsch said. “It just happened to happen here.”

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Jan 31

ID: Wolves Edge Closer to Boise

Wolves Edge Closer to Boise

Boise, Idaho — Wolf experts say Idaho’s wildest predator is moving closer to the Treasure Valley.

While fewer than 1,000 wolves are estimated to range statewide, the 413 livestock animals they killed and ate in 2009 are a constant concern to ranchers who fear wolves are expanding their range. Ranchers like Jerry Thompson from just outside of Eagle.

On Tuesday, Thompson found one of his full-grown, healthy beef cows ripped in half, eaten from the front and rear — apparently by wolves.

“The wolves actually — literally — opened her up at the throat. She bled out right there, and then they ate around her backend,” Thompson said, describing what he says was a perfectly- healthy, pregnant Hereford cow.

The veteran rancher, who manages thousands of cattle on a place called Spring Creek Ranch, called federal wildlife officials right away. That’s when investigators from Idaho Wildlife Services — an offshoot of the USDA — traveled to the site and confirmed the kill.

“Well obviously wolves were encroaching on the area. We don’t know if it was a pack, yet,” said Todd Grimm, IWS state director.

Grimm said investigators were able to determine at least two wolves brought the animal down.

A total of 94 wolf packs are estimated to exist within Idaho state borders. Experts say whether the animals are part of a new pack, or an existing pack which has moved its range is unknown.

On Wednesday, federal wolf trappers received permits to kill the animals, carrying out extensive air searches to spot them from above, with no luck.

They say after the wolves made the Tuesday kill, its seems they disappeared.

Gone or not, the presence of wolves has left nearby residents markedly concerned.

“There’s been a couple people that have come in and said ‘should we be concerned for our kids?,’” said Dan Richter, manager of the nearby village of Avimor, a planned community.

But forGrimm, human safety isn’t what’s directly at stake in this situation.

“I don’t know if any individual has to worry for their personal safety,” Grimm said. “We certainly are concerned about the safety of their livestock.”

And that’s exactly what Thompson is concerned about, too.

“Well you know how it is — the three S’s — shoot, shovel, and shut-up,” Thompson said. “I’ve never done it. I don’t know anybody who has done it.”

Thompson wouldn’t kill a wolf, but he does hope federal officials will soon.

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Jan 31

ID: Blaine County Wants to Expand Idaho Wolf Project

Blaine County Wants to Expand Idaho Wolf Project

by Deb Courson

HAILEY, Idaho – While Idaho’s Congressional delegation is taking up wolf de-listing at the federal level, an on-the-ground project demonstrating effective, non-lethal methods of managing wolves to protect sheep in the Wood River Valley is receiving a new round of support.

Blaine County commissioners have issued a letter requesting that the Wood River Wolf Project continue, and they want to see it expand. Commissioner Larry Schoen says it’s just the kind of research that is needed to add to the toolbox in managing wolves.

“It has shown that non-lethal control can work. We still need to promote acceptance of that fact. What the project hasn’t done yet is demonstrate the economics of it.”

The drawback is the cost because it’s labor-intensive. Most of the bill has been footed by Defenders of Wildlife, and the group is working on raising more money. Lava Lake Lamb also supports the project, and has grazed sheep in the protection zone, Lava Lake biologist Mike Stevens says.

“Wolves are part of this landscape. They’re going to be here, and we feel strongly that we need to develop these approaches that help us share the landscape with them.”

The project uses a combination of methods including portable fencing with red flags, noise boxes, guard dogs and human presence to keep sheep and wolves apart when sheep are grazing on public lands. The USDA Forest Service and Idaho Department of Fish and Game have been partners in the research.

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Jan 31

WY: Report: Wyoming wolf numbers up, depredations down

Officials say year-end report shows lethal control practices are effective

Report: Wyoming wolf numbers up, depredations down

By WHITNEY ROYSTER – Star-Tribune correspondent

JACKSON — While Wyoming’s wolf population outside Yellowstone National Park increased in 2010, depredation losses were the lowest on record since 2003, according to an unofficial year-end report published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Although the official report won’t be available until March, it is estimated that Wyoming’s wolf population outside Yellowstone National Park increased by about 9 percent to about 247 wolves, while depredations decreased to a total of 64 animals. In 2009, an estimated 222 animals were killed by wolves.

Despite a slight increase in the number of packs, the number of packs guilty of livestock kills decreased slightly in 2010 as well.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the decreased depredation despite slightly higher populations is a result of “more aggressive control.”

“We’re doing lethal control much earlier, removing entire packs much earlier,” he said. “If you’ve got a problem where you’ve had a bunch of problems in the past, you’re better off getting in there right away rather than dragging it out and killing one here and one there.”

Bangs said the total population of Wyoming’s wolves has stayed relatively the same for the past five years. Numbers outside the park have crept up, but as agency officials are killing wolves that migrate to areas where conflicts occur, wolf populations are stabilizing.

“We’re not into restoring wolves anymore, we’re into minimizing damage,” he said.

In total, preliminary estimates indicate there are 348 wolves in Wyoming including Yellowstone, in 45 packs. In Yellowstone, there are an estimated 101 wolves in 11 packs.

At the end of 2009, there were an estimated 320 wolves in 44 packs in Wyoming, including Yellowstone. Outside Yellowstone there were 224 wolves in 30 packs at the end of 2009. Wolves killed about 222 animals last year, and 31 wolves were removed from the population in federal actions.

In 2010, 40 wolves were killed in agency actions, with a total of 58 documented wolf mortalities. Nine were illegal killings or are under investigation.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said some credit belongs to the Fish and Wildlife Service for taking quicker action in dealing with problem wolves.

“They’ve generally been responsive,” he said. Magagna also speculated that there is growing competition between grizzly bears and wolves for prey including livestock, particularly in areas of Sublette County, and it could be that more livestock losses because of grizzlies this summer led wolves elsewhere.

Magagna said he doesn’t have proof, but in looking at numbers and talking to ranchers in the area, there could be a relation between the two species and depredations.

In 2010, Sublette County experienced the most cattle losses attributed to wolves with 12 confirmed kills, according to the report. Big Horn County saw the most sheep losses with 24. Total cattle depredations in 2010 were 26, and there were 33 confirmed sheep losses. That number is a dramatic drop from 2009, which saw 195 sheep losses.

Bangs said he cannot predict how much more the wolf population will grow, but at some point the population will stop increasing.

“I don’t think that number is terribly much higher than it is right now,” he said. “If we had hunting it wouldn’t. I’m not sure there’s a lot more room for wolves in Wyoming.”

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Jan 31

CO: Wolf sighting is ruled unsubstantiated

Wolf sighting is ruled unsubstantiated

By Miles Blumhardt

Was it a wolf that Ron Greenwald saw just east of Fort Collins last week, or just a big coyote?

Or could it have been a wandering wolf hybrid?

Greenwald, who lives near Colorado Highway 14 and Larimer County Road 3, is sure he saw through binoculars on Tuesday a wolf on a ridge about 100 yards away from his house catching mice in a pasture with some cut corn.

Mark Leslie, Division of Wildlife area manager for the Fort Collins-Greeley area, isn’t so sure.

“I saw a wolf, but I guess I’m just a farm boy, and some people will say I saw a coyote or dog,’’ said the retired Greenwald, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 35 years and said he’s seen wolves in the wild in Wyoming. “I guess it could have been a wolf hybrid, but it wasn’t a coyote or dog.’’

Greenwald described the animal as the size of a good-sized dog mostly brown with some black and gray. Coyotes are mostly gray with some buff color and do not possess black coloring. Wolves are much larger than coyotes and usually are gray or black with some buff coloring.

Leslie talked to Greenwald after being informed by the Coloradoan of the sighting. After interviewing Greenwald, who did not have photos of the animal, and not finding any tracks or hair, Leslie said he has a lack of solid information that it actually was a wolf.

“The place where he saw the animal was an area with houses nearby, and that’s not typical wolf habitat,’’ said Leslie, who visited the site where Greenwald said he saw the animal. “I didn’t find anything. With nothing else to go on, the sighting is ruled unsubstantiated.’’

Wolves are classified as endangered in Colorado. The state’s wolf population was largely extirpated in the 1940s.

However, wandering wolves have made appearances from time to time in the state. Most recently, two wolves were spotted in Colorado in 2009. One died of poisoning in Eagle County.

Leslie said that’s the last confirmed sighting of wolves in Colorado of which he is aware. In February 2007, DOW wildlife managers captured brief video of what appeared to be a wolf north of Walden.

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Jan 29

AZ: Game and Fish asks Congress to delist the Mexican Wolf

Game and Fish asks Congress to delist the Mexican Wolf

ARIZONA — In a letter sent to Senators John McCain and Jon Kyle and Congressman Trent Franks, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission stated, “…it is beyond time to try a different approach to Mexican wolf conservation.”

At a lengthy public session on Dec. 4, the Commission voted four to one to support Congressional actions to de-list the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Commission wants the burden of the program to fall to the States, Tribes and willing supporters such as wildlife organizations, hunters, and ranchers.

“The vote reflects the fact that we do not want to get out of the wolf conservation business; rather, we want to get in deeper but more affordably, efficiently and effectively,” stated the letter.

Citing several examples of the failure of the current program run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Commission is concerned that, “Arizona cannot afford to continue investing significant time and money in wolf conservation only to arrive at a day when, as has occurred in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes, special interest groups with public lands agendas much broader than wolf conservation refuse to accept as recovered even a population of wolves that is several times larger than required by an approved Recovery Plan they helped develop.”

One of the major problems with the current program is the costly litigation that has kept the program in the courts. A statement on the Game and Fish Web site about the letter and the wolf problems says, “Continuous litigation has usurped the role of the Secretary of Interior and leaves wildlife management decisions to the judiciary. It fosters a litigation-driven bureaucratic process that has driven up the cost of conservation and made Mexican wolf conservation unaffordable for the state, jeopardizing the entire future of the species in Arizona.”

Others problems with the current process include the lack of an update to the 1982 Wolf Recovery Plan, a lapsed Memorandum of Understanding between the USFWS and other government stakeholders, including the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, the dismissal of the 2003-05 Recovery Team which Arizona was a primary partner in, and the failure to release plans for a new team, among others.

“Congressional de-listing is not a step that we advocate lightly but the Mexican wolf was included in the 1976 Federal listing of the gray wolf as endangered and there is still no indication the ESA-driven approach to recovery will ever be successful,” states the letter. “In fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary. USFWS has not been able to revise the Recovery Plan in 28 years; how can anyone possibly hope it can achieve Mexican wolf recovery in our lifetimes under the current procedural morass that constrains it?”

Springerville resident Jack Husted is a member of the Commission. He believes that Arizona can run the program more effectively and cheaply. “We would still get federal money for the program but not be bound by federal guidelines.”

Husted also said that the best available science has not produced a determination of how many wolves in the wild would mean recovery. “We need to have the freedom and flexibility to assess the wolves born in the wild, not the ones bred in captivity.”

The Commission is strongly committed to wolf conservation and will invite all stakeholders and the public to the process to participate in seeking solutions.

Navajo County Supervisor Jerry Brownlow is a member of the now unofficial Adaptive Management Oversight Committee (AMOC) and has been involved in the wolf recovery program for years. “It’s typical of the federal government bureaucracy to initiate a program and expect the states to pay for it.”

Arizona has contributed over $5 million dollars to the federal program since 2003.

“…the Department (Game and Fish) has been the primary glue holding the interagency Arizona-New Mexico wolf reintroduction project together at the agency oversight and field levels,” says the letter to legislators. “We have tried everything possible, short of legal action or Congressional intervention, to remedy the gridlock resulting, in large part, from litigation. The USFWS has been unable to respond as necessary to resolve the most obvious significant problems, perhaps largely because of legal and policy issues…”

The Commission is hoping that action by Arizona legislators will move this effort through Congress.

“The Game and Fish Commission recognizes that is both unfortunate and ironic that successful Mexican wolf conservation may hinge on removing it from the Congressional act intended to help restore it. While the ESA has proven beneficial to a number of species, most notably the bald eagle, in the case of the wolf, it has created an impasse that could lead to the demise of a species in the wild through an ineffective conservation program.”

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Jan 29

MT: Judge Molloy wants to resolve question over wolves experimental status

Judge Molloy wants to resolve question over wolves experimental status

by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)

MISSOULA – U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy is telling attorneys for environmental groups and wildlife management agencies to gather their data and help resolve whether gray wolves should still be an “experimental species” in the Northern Rockies.

When wolves were re-introduced in Central Idaho and Yellowstone Park in the mid-90s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had them designated as an “experimental, non-essential” species.

That allowed scientists to work on re-building wolf populations and gauging their survival, but also answered ranchers’ concerns by allowing wolves that preyed on livestock to be killed.

The question over whether the wolves are still “experimental” has never been completely resolved. The federal government has said it has no plans to change the designation until the wolves are taken off the Endangered Species List.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, along with Idaho and Montana, attempted to take Idaho and Montana wolves off the list 2-years ago. Last summer Molloy ordered protection to be re-instated.

Environmental groups are still fighting over the question. Friday, Molloy issued an order telling both sides to present arguments answering whether today’s wolves are still experimental populations, or whether they have cross-bred in the three recovery areas in Wyoming, Idaho, and in Northwestern Montana with wolves from Canada.

Molloy ordered legal briefs to be filed by February 22nd.

Click here to read a copy of Judge Molloy’s latest order on wolves

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Jan 28

SE: Wolf planting in spring “brainless”

Wolf planting in spring “brainless”

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

Stockholm / TT

There will be no release of wolf pups from a zoo this year.

The assessment is made by the zoo’s own experts. They believe that the government acted “brainless” when it said that the wolf pups may be released as early as spring.

It was on Thursday that Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said the zoo puppies would be placed with wild wolves in April.

The intention is to strengthen the inbred wolf population genetically. But according to Mats Amundin, population monitor for wolves in the Swedish zoos, this is premature.

“He forgot to ask us. We want to have this much better prepared. To bring out the wolf pups is not a simple, straightforward thing to do in a hurry,” he says.

In the current situation there are less than 200 wolves in zoos in the country. They have mixed origin, from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and the Baltics.

“Genetically speaking, it is certainly most appropriate. But we would need to investigate this some more,” says Amundin. “In addition, we do not know if the method of release would work. It has been tested on wild red wolves and coyotes, but never on normal wolves. We would like to experiment in the zoo first before we do that in the wild.


Vargutsättning i vår “huvudlöst”

Stockholm/TT

Det blir ingen utsättning av vargvalpar från djurparker i år.

Den bedömningen gör djurparkernas egna experter. De anser att regeringen agerat “huvudlöst” när den sagt att valpar kan sättas ut redan i vår.

Det var på torsdagen som miljöminister Andreas Carlgren sade att djurparksvalpar skulle placeras ut bland vilda vargar i april.

Avsikten är att stärka den inavlade vargstammen genetiskt. Men enligt Mats Amundin, stamboksförare för vargarna i de svenska djurparkerna, är detta ett förhastat påstående.

- Han har glömt att fråga oss. Vi vill har det här mycket bättre förberett. Att sätta ut vargvalpar är ingen enkel, okomplicerad sak som man gör i en handvändning, säger han.

I dagsläget finns knappt 200 vargar i djurparkerna i landet. De har blandat ursprung, från Sverige, Norge, Finland, Ryssland och Baltikum.

- Genetiskt sett är säkert de flesta lämpliga. Men vi skulle behöva utreda detta lite till, säger Amundin. – Dessutom vet vi inte om metoden med utsättning fungerar. Den har testats på vilda rödvargar och prärievargar, men aldrig på vanliga vargar. Vi skulle vilja experimentera i djurparkerna först innan vi gör det i naturen.

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