Apr 30

CA: Silver Maple Leaf, $5 Lone Wolf Coin Highlight Endangered Wolf Species

Silver Maple Leaf, $5 Lone Wolf Coin Highlight Endangered Wolf Species

By N.Solomon

The introduction of pure Silver Maple Leaf, $5 Lone Wolf Coin by the Canadian Mint has demonstrated the soft spot of the Royal mint for the preservation of wildlife. In focus is the Wolf, which is one of the endangered species.

The $5 Lone Wolf Coin is produced in support of the Wolf. But how did wolves really become the can of species they are today? It all started gradually when wolves received an attack from two main sources.

First, native Americans tried to eradicate the wolves throughout North America through hunters who wanted animals for trophies and should ranchers who hunted down the animals as pests.

The result is that wolves were almost completely eradicated from North America. It was not until recently that wolves are they getting re-introduced into the forest and national parks. One of benefits of the introduction of the $5 Lone Wolf Coin is that it helps to highlight a major misconception about wolves.

Wolves are misconceived as being dangerous to humans. But contrary to this popular belief, even though wolves hunt in parks, they do not view humans as prey. This is likely to be surprising to many folks because wolves have often been painted in very bad light .

This is what the launching of the $5 Lone Wolf Coin is likely to correct.Being introduced as first in a new series, the $5 Lone Wolf Coin comes at an amazingly affordable price and is likely to be very highly welcomed by individuals and groups that have been working tirelessly to see that endangered species are saved.

Little wonder that the $5 Lone Wolf Coin has already sold out at the mint with just 25 pure Silver Wolf coins being available from accredited distributors only. Obviously then only very fast collectors will be able to lead your hands on this beautiful green gem.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 30

ID: Judge blocks deal on protections for wolves

Judge blocks deal on protections for wolves

KEITH RIDLER

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — A federal judge has denied a proposed settlement agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 conservation groups that would have lifted endangered species protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula on Saturday rejected the agreement that could have led to public hunting of some 1,300 wolves in the two states.

In the 24-page decision, Molloy cited the court’s lack of authority to put part of an endangered species population under state management and expose that population to hunting, noting “Congress has clearly determined that animals on the ESA must be protected as such,“ and the court couldn’t “exercise its discretion to allow what Congress forbids.“

He also said he couldn’t approve the settlement proposed in March because not all the parties involved in the case agreed with it. Part of the argument for the settlement was that it could end litigation, but Molloy noted that was unlikely given the opposition by some to the proposed settlement.

Saturday amounted to a one-two punch for the 10 conservation groups as Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson on the same day announced wolves in Montana and Idaho would be taken off the endangered list under the budget bill pending before Congress.

One of the reasons the 10 conservation groups entered into the settlement was because of growing political pressure and potential Congressional action to reduce wolf numbers in Montana and other states due a gradual increase of wolf attacks on livestock and some big-game herds suffering declines. The groups hoped a favorable court decision would provide greater protection for wolves than lawmakers might provide.

So the groups not only lost in court on Saturday, their fears concerning lawmakers removing federal protections for wolves also became more real.

“The congressional threat was very much on people’s minds when we negotiated the settlement,“ said Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “In light of the court ruling, it’s going to make it more difficult to derail the rider that may well be attached to the budget deal that will provide much fewer protections for wolves than the settlement would have.“

The proposed settlement effectively asked Molloy to reverse his previous rulings on the matter. Last August he faulted the Fish and Wildlife Service for a 2009 decision that took wolves off the endangered list in Montana and Idaho but not neighboring Wyoming. He said decisions on the Endangered Species Act should be based on science and not on political boundaries, such as state lines.

The federal government appealed that decision, leading to the proposed settlement agreement that has now been rejected.

“I can’t blame Molloy for the ruling,“ said Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the 10 conservation groups favoring the settlement. “It’s a very tortuous situation. We entered into a settlement agreement we didn’t love but thought it was the lesser of two evils.“

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit that did not agree to the settlement, said Molloy’s rulings have consistently followed federal law, and his rejection of the settlement followed those same principles. Just because some of the plaintiffs agreed to the settlement doesn’t make the deal any more legal, said Michael Garrity, the group’s executive director.

“We think the fastest way to remove (wolves) is for everybody to work together so they can be legally removed from the endangered species list,“ Garrity said.

Suckling said the center wouldn’t appeal Molloy’s decision, but planned to work to stop the wolf rider on the in the budget bill pending before Congress. Wetzler said his group would do the same, but was reserved about the possibility of success.

“Idaho and Montana have long maintained that they can responsibly manage wolf populations,“ he said. “They may get the chance to prove that. And we’ll be watching.“

Garrity called the rider “bad news for wolves.“

“We don’t think congress should gerrymander the Endangered Species Act,“ he said.

An official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately return a call from the Associated Press on Saturday.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 29

OR: House bills alter coexistence of ranchers, wolves

House bills alter coexistence of ranchers, wolves

Cascadia Wildlife and the Oregon Cattleman’s Association discussed four new Oregon House bills

Sanne Godfrey | News reporter

Last summer the Canadian gray wolves were temporarily removed from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s endangered species list as an experiment for the introduction of four separate house bills that will determine the future of the coexistence of wolves and ranchers.

The bills, HB 3560, HB 3561, HB 3562 and HB 3563, were introduced to protect ranchers from the growing population of wolves. The bill that has passed, HB 3562, allows people to kill gray wolves to defend one’s life or the life of another person.

HB 3560 would establish and implement compensation to ranchers for livestock lost because of wolves. HB 3561 would establish four breeding pairs of gray wolves in the state, whereas HB 3563 allows a person to kill a gray wolf in certain situations without cause and without a permit. These three bills have not yet passed through the house.

Cascadia Wildlife campaign director Josh Laughlin called this an “unrealistic threat,” as there have only been two confirmed deaths by wolves in the past 100 years.

The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund has not taken a collective standpoint on the issue, according to president Elisabeth Waner.

“SALDF encourages representation of animal rights in the law and in society, but we also allow for our members to maintain their own diverse opinion about how these right should play out in the legal context,” Waner said.

Although SALDF has not taken a standpoint on the issue, Cascadia Wildlife and the Oregon Cattleman’s Association have each made opinions.

“It is my belief that we can coexist and hear the howl of the wolf in the back country,” Laughlin said.

In the late 1990s, the wolves started to migrate into Oregon, and currently, the verifiable wolf population in Oregon is at 23, which is split between two different packs.

“Oregon ranchers do not want to kill every wolf that walks,” Bill Hoyt , president of the Oregon Cattleman’s Association, said. “We don’t get to where we’re at by not loving animals.”

Hoyt is a fifth generation rancher who taught at the University for 10 years before becoming a full-time rancher.

“We have a basic mistrust, and as long as that exists, we’re not going to reach an agreement,” Hoyt said.

Thursday he faced University alumnus Laughlin, who is working to defend the Oregon wolf population.

“Wolves were systematically exterminated from the landscape,” Laughlin said about the time period before the 1940s when people settled in the west.

The Endangered Species Act was introduced in 1973, and the gray wolves were one of the first species to be on this list.

“It’s a tremendous success story and an ongoing success story,” Laughlin said.

The wolf population was reintroduced in the Rocky mountains and went from 66 wolves in 1973 to approximately 1600 wolves now.

There are about 60,000 gray wolves in North America, Hoyt said.

“If I believed in my heart that the Canadian gray wolf was going extinct, I would be the first guy on board. I have no desire to see any species go extinct,” Hoyt said. “I live with the notion of balance in nature. That balance is only a small amount in time.”

The elk population in the area of the Rockies where wolves were reintroduced went from 8000 to less than 1000. Hoyt said there is a need for a reasonable plan to manage the wolf population.

One of the ways ranchers protect themselves now is by using tracking devices on the wolves and red tape by the fences to scare off the predators.

“Wolves are not dumb,” Hoyt said. “These are only temporary methods.”

There is a program in place that compensates ranchers for cattle lost to wolves.

“The loss is way greater on the animals that are not taken by the wolf,” Hoyt said. “They’re meaner, they’re on edge, and they don’t get pregnant as much.”

Although he thinks the compensation is not enough and won’t replace the calf, Hoyt is happy with the fact that such a compensation is in place.

Laughlin pointed out that in 2009 there were 23 wolves and 1.26 billion calves. Of these 1.26 billion calves, 66,000 died, which amounts to 5,500 a month. Five of these deaths were confirmed deaths by wolves.

“There are a ton of other things that add to the degradation of cattle, but why should we bring more into the mix,” Hoyt said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 27

MT: FWP: Previously unknown wolf pack kills calf in Tom Miner Basin area of Park County

FWP: Previously unknown wolf pack kills calf in Tom Miner Basin area of Park County

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LIVINGSTON, Mont. — Wildlife officials say a previously unknown pack of wolves is responsible for killing a calf in the Tom Miner Basin area of Park County.

Yellowstone Cattle Company’s Mike Hubbard tells The Livingston Enterprise he found the carcass April 18, and officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks determined two to three wolves were responsible for the death.

FWP wolf management specialist Abby Nelson says the wolves returned to the carcass on two subsequent nights, but traps were removed after a couple of days because of signs that a grizzly bear was in the area.

Nelson says a pack spent some time in the area last year but has since moved south into Yellowstone National Park.

The depredation is the first reported in the area this year, and Hubbard has been issued a shoot-on-site permit for one wolf.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 25

NO: Illegal hunting of wolves: at least 100 shot

Illegal hunting of wolves: at least 100 shot

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

Oslo / TT-NTB

Since 2000 at least 100 wolves were killed illegally, argues Peter Wabakken, researcher in the Skandulv project, in the Norwegian newspaper VG.

Illegal hunting is half the mortality in the Norwegian-Swedish wolf population, he estimates.

Rasmus Hansson, WWF director in Norway, believes the hunt “outrageous”. He places the responsibility on the Norwegian politicians.

“It is shocking that the Conservative Party and the Labor Party accepts that some of their elected officials openly legitimize this form of crime.


Olaglig vargjakt: minst 100 skjutna

Oslo/TT-NTB

Sedan år 2000 har minst 100 vargar fällts olagligt, hävdar Petter Wabakken, forskare inom Skandulv-projektet, i norska tidningen VG.

Illegal jakt utgör hälften av dödligheten i den norsksvenska vargstammen, beräknar han.

Rasmus Hansson, WWF-chef i Norge, anser jakten “skandalös”. Han lägger ansvaret på norska politiker.

- Det är skakande att Höyre och Arbeiderpartiet godtar att en del av deras förtroendevalda öppet legitimerar denna form av brott.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 25

MI UP: Are wolves becoming a more serious problem?

Are wolves becoming a more serious problem?

by Natalie Jovonovich

Animal control officers recently killed three wolves in the Ironwood area, and now residents are concerned: is this becoming a more serious problem?

UPPER PENINSULA — It happened in two separate instances.

Last month, the first two wolves were discovered, and eliminated, in a rural residential area.

A few weeks later, a third wolf was found near a child care center.

Turns out, the three wolves all came from the same pack.

D.N.R. officials have been investigating these cases since November..

Shelley Voakes asked us on Facebook to further investigate why wolves continue to appear in people’s yards in Ironwood.

It’s a problem the D.N.R.’s been dealing with for several months.

“We don’t really have the ability to take wolves just because you see one, but if you have repeated offences where these animals are coming in close contact with people, seem to be losing their fear, that’s when we always urge people to call,” says wildlife biologist Brian Roell.

The D.N.R. wants to prevent any sort of conflict between a wolf and a human, even though there’s never been an attack by a wild wolf in the lower 48 states.

Many of you voiced your concerns on Facebook that the wolf problem is growing, or becoming more serious.

According to D.N.R. officials, these instances are repeatedly happening in the same places.

Wolf activity is more prevalent in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties since that’s where the U.P.’s wolf population is concentrated.

But the reason you’re seeing them, is because of deer.

Deer are the primary prey for wolves.

When people feed deer, they become less fearful, and start venturing further into communities.

The wolves will then follow, and thus the increase in wolf sightings in populated areas.

“Wolves are really given a bad monicker as being aggressive toward humans and they really simply don’t deserve that,” Roell adds. “If these wolves did do anything that was deemed negative, it portrays a bad light on all wolves, so really what we’re trying to do is decrease the chance of anything negative happening before it does occur.”

Some municipalities already have laws in place against feeding wild animals.

Now, if you think there is a wolf problem in your area, you should contact your local D.N.R. office.

Also, as far as de-listing the wolf as an endangered species, the federal government is moving ahead with the process.

There will be a public hearing in Ashland, Wisconsin next month.

Public comments will be accepted until June 15th.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 24

How Stable Is The Future Of Isle Royale National Park’s Wolf Population?

How Stable Is The Future Of Isle Royale National Park’s Wolf Population?

Submitted by Kurt Repanshek

When Dave Mech came to Isle Royale National Park to study wolves, they practically greeted him personally.

The closest I have ever been to a free-ranging wild wolf is fifteen feet, Dr. Mech, one of the country’s foremost wolf researchers, wrote in opening his 1970 book, The Wolf, The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species. That moment was one of the triumphs of my life, for I had arranged the meeting, and the scheme had worked even better than I had hoped. Bush pilot Don Murray and I had been following a pack of fifteen wolves by air in Isle Royale National Park, and they were heading along one of their regular winter routes. If they were to continue, they would file across the ice of a little cove, fifty feet from an old fishhouse along the shore a couple of miles ahead.

They did. And we were in the shed awaiting them. With the door cracked open just enough for a camera lens, we watched as each of the fifteen animals strolled onto the ice in front of us. It was a marvelous spectacle — a rare glimpse into wolf society.

Today that island society seems on the verge of total collapse, as inbreeding, gender disparities, and even climate change seem to be conspiring to doom the wolves. Whereas multiple packs totaling 50 individuals roamed the island in 1980, today researchers say there are just 16 animals, and only two are known to be females. Newcomers to Isle Royale are hard to come by, as ice bridges that allow them to cross Lake Superior from Ontario to the island are few and fragile due to warming waters and somewhat mild winters.

And yet, it would be premature to eulogize the predators. Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green is quick to point out that “the number that we have right now, we have 16, they’ve been down below that number 11 times. So I think we just need to wait and see what’s going on with them.”

What researchers have seen most recently is a wolf population that was split among four packs in 2008 drop to two packs in 2009. Today there might be just one. And while there where 10 females in the packs early in 2009, by the end of that year there were just four, according to Dr. Rolf Peterson, who long has studied the island’s wolf dynamics.

“We know two of those four died. So there’s no more than two adults, and there might be just one,” Dr. Peterson said recently during a conversation from Houghton, Michigan, where he teaches at Michigan Tech and from where he can regularly visit Isle Royale. “Now, there are two pups in the population, but their status is unknown and their gender is unknown, also.”

Complicating the numbers game is genetics. Isle Royale’s wolves haven’t had a refreshing infusion of off-island wolf genes since a Canadian male made that 15-mile ice bridge crossing in 1997. His arrival did provide a welcome burst of genes. He sired 34 offspring, which in turn have produced at least 22 of their own so far. But the passage of time without additional mainland interlopers is again narrowing the gene pool. Not only has that lack of stirring of the gene pool renewed inbreeding concerns, but the wolves’ relative isolation on the island has left their immune systems susceptible to disease.

They could be nearing the end of their chapter on Isle Royale, one that has enabled the world’s longest-running predator-prey study — wolves vs. moose — to run for 53 consecutive years.

“They could go extinct as soon as — completely gone now, even the males all gone — they could go extinct in four or five years,” says Dr. John Vucetich, who along with Dr. Peterson is co-director of the The Wolves and Moose Of Isle Royale project. “Completely gone.”

Wolf Pack Resilience

They also could bounce back.

Since wolves were first seen on the 45-mile-long island in 1950, having arrived via ice bridge, their numbers rose to as many as 50, back in 1980. Their current population ebb could simply be related to a corresponding ebb in the numbers of moose, which are now rebounding after numbering as few as 530 in 2009 from a high of about 1,000, also counted in 1980.

“They’ve (moose) been limited by heavy wolf predation for many years, and so I think they should be poised, with the wolf population dropping,” to rebound, said Dr. Peterson. “The moose look better, they’re a little bigger, the calves are bigger, the vegetation looks really nice. The trees have had several years off from heavy moose browsing, so as long as the climate cooperates, moose should be able to recover.”

When the moose population collapsed, he added, it was only a matter of time before the wolf numbers mirrored the decline.

“What’s happened is that the wolf has been living pretty well on old moose that were born in the early ’90s, when the population was expanding,” the biologist said. “There was a big baby boom of moose produced in the early ’90s, and then those animals got old, in the early 2000s, and the wolves kind of rode that wave out up until about two years ago, and then they kind of hit the wall.”

While there were two packs on the island coming into 2011, that didn’t last long.

“We started this year in January with two packs, one nine members, the other four,” said Dr. Peterson. “And then the nine decided to go to the other end of the island, and on their way back they killed the alpha male of the smaller group, and so the rest of them kind of scattered. So, we have one for sure. I’m not sure we have two.”

Should Nature Be Left To Take Its Course?

Though the answer to Isle Royale’s wolf woes might seem obvious — drop a few new wolves onto the island to both lessen the gender disparity and boost the genetic diversity — it’s not that simple. Debates — both philosophical and in terms of Park Service policy — quickly surface in discussing whether to leave the park’s wolves to their own fate or to intervene.

“We are bound by national park policies,” points out Paul Brown, chief of natural resources for the park. “We basically monitor the island and manage the island as a natural ecosystem, pursuant to the Wilderness Act. So we’re basically very hands off in our approach to the island.

“Many animals have come and gone from the island, it is an island ecosystem, and there’s no indication at this point that that’s (human intervention) something that we would be looking into in the near future,” he added. “But we haven’t made any decisions, and all management options are available to us should the need arise.”

From Dr. Vucetich’s perspective, there are three cases in which intervention might seem appropriate: The current scenario, in which there seem to be just two adult females on the island; a situation in which there are no females, only males, or; a situation in which the island’s wolf population blinks out completely.

Complicating the idea of intervention, though, is both the Park Service’s policy to, generally, let natural processes play out, and the Wilderness Act.

“Intervention kind of conflicts, at least prima facie, with basic wilderness policy,” notes Dr. Vucetich. “But I think that when you look at wilderness policies it’s clear that wilderness policy indicates that non-intervention is a value that sometimes conflicts with other values like ecosystem health, scientific values, things like this…I think that wilderness policy suggests that when it’s complicated, complicated in the sense of competing values, then you have to look at it carefully and think about it.”

Superintendent Green fully agrees.

“The question is, ‘When do we intervene in the natural processes of wolves maintaining themselves on the island?’ That is a question that we take very seriously, because as soon as you start tinkering you start entering more human factors into an equation,” she said.

Those human factors can range from how we view ecosystems, our concerns over the health of those ecosystems, even the value placed on the long-running wolf-moose study.

“Let’s imagine that they were extinct right now. Let’s imagine that. Then I think the competing values that you’re dealing with are things like ecosystem health,” says Dr. Vucetich. “I think you could make an argument that ecosystem health of Isle Royale would decline without wolves, and so now you have a wilderness value competing against an ecosystem health value, and that’s not something that you expect to happen too often. You expect those two values to line up together most of the time.”

While dropping some wolves onto the island might run contrary to Park Service policy and the Wilderness Act, the long-term good that might come out of helping the wolves maintain their presence on Isle Royale might be worth such intervention, he adds.

“If we learn what happens on Isle Royale under different scenarios, it will help for other conserved populations where they’re trying to go through genetic management of those populations,” Dr. Vucetich says.

Genetic Rescue Is Not Alien To the National Park Service

While supplying new genetic material through mainland wolves would be a first at Isle Royale, similar infusions have been done elsewhere in the National Park System. Most notably arguably most successfully it’s been accomplished in South Florida at Big Cypress National Preserve, where cougars were brought in from Texas in 1995 to bolster the Florida panther gene pool. In Yellowstone National Park, of course, wolves were returned there in the mid-1990s, not to refresh genetics but to re-establish a viable population of the predators, which had been exterminated in the first half of the 20th century.

Much thought, however, would preface any similar action at Isle Royale.

“If there was to be any intervention at all it would have to be something that the National Park Service wanted to do. They would have to make the next step, and I think a pretty thorough review of policy and specifics of the situation would be something they would want to consider doing,” Dr. Peterson says. “It would include the notion that, if they indeed went to zero females, yeah, you could pretty easily fix that and also put new genetic material in at the same time. That would be a manipulation that’s never been done at Isle Royale. It’d have to be some pretty thorough evaluation of that.”

And then there’s the existing proof that Isle Royale’s wolves can bounce back on their own.

“In the late ’80s, early ’90s, when the populaton was sinking really fast and got down to 12, actually, and hung onto 12, and we deliberated at that point whether to vaccinate them, what we should do,” recalls Dr. Peterson. “We had never even handled wolves before, trapped them, or blood sampled them, so there was a decision to live-trap some, get some blood for genetic and disease work, not vaccinate them, and then just study them.

“And as it turned out –the wolves had maybe no more than three reproducing females, and none of them were doing really well — as it turned out, in their last year of life all three reproduced,” he goes on. “So they got through that little squeeze chute, and then this new Canadian immigrant came in ’97, and so that kind of set the stage for the next 10 years.”

Climate Change Could Bottle Up The Wolf Genes

If anyone is counting on a naturally migrating wolf to rescue the island’s gene pool, those odds might be longer than ever due to the vagaries of the weather under ongoing climate change. Not only are ice bridges fewer and farther between, according to researchers, but those that do form can be too fragile and short-lived to support even an 80-pound wolf.

“One thing that’s important is not whether they form but how long do they form for,” points out Dr. Vucetich. “Some winters — this is before my time now, before I was working on the project — you might have an ice bridge that lasts for a month or five weeks or something like that. And so today, when they form they form for a few days or a week or something like that, because the ice isn’t very thick and the wind blows it away.

“… Nobody can say how many ice bridges will there be in the next 10 years,” he continues. “I mean, we could have a cold snap and there could be an ice bridge in every year the next 10 years. But you’re not going to be betting on that. You’re going to be betting on fewer than we’ve seen in the last 10 years, which is basically one in the last 13 years that lasted for any significant time.”

Superintendent Green said the erratic nature of ice bridges is something the park will take into consideration as it discusses how best to handle the island’s wolves. While the superintendent said her staff is currently consulting with outside experts in light of the decline in female wolves on the island, her chief of natural resources points out that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if wolves vanished from Isle Royale.

“You have to remember that Isle Royale has only had wolves for the last 50 years,” Mr. Brown points out. “And for the last couple thousand before that it was a lynx-caribou dominated ecosystem, and so wolves are a very new animal to the island.

“There’s a kind of public perception that wolves are out on Isle Royale and have always been out on Isle Royale, but that’s actually not the case,” he says. “They’re a very new animal.”

Still, offers Dr. Vucetich, an opportunity exists at Isle Royale to learn a great deal more about wildlife management, lessons that could be applied elsewhere in the world.

“I think on one hand a person could say, ‘Oh, in the big picture, in the big scheme of things, this is a tiny little island, and wolves aren’t globally endangered, and this is kind of small peanuts kind of thing,’” he says. “I think what’s important is that two things, the issues at stake, are big issues because National Park Service management, wilderness management, climate change, competing values in conservation, these are all big issues.

“As you know, a lot of people pay attention to Isle Royale wolves, and so I think this is a great case example of why don’t we take it slow and careful and do a really good job and set a good precedent and example for lots of other cases,” the biologist said.

Source

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 24

ID: Idaho and Montana prepare for wolf hunts

Idaho and Montana prepare for wolf hunts

A congressional budget bill rider takes wolves off the endangered species list in the two states. Hunters are happy, but wildlife advocates are outraged.

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Stanley, Idaho

It used to be you could look across the ridge from Ron Gillett’s house and a couple of dozen elk would be foraging for grass. Then you’d hear a scary kind of howling, and the elk would take off, a pack of wolves close on their heels.

It got so that Gillett couldn’t stand to see the spindly elk calves fall into the wolves’ hungry embrace — not when hunting elk has been part of his livelihood for much of his life. He’d get screaming mad at wolf advocates who came to watch in wonder as the packs executed their skillful and deadly dances around their prey.

“When I see a cow elk with her guts hanging out, and a little calf that’s been hamstrung — I know I’m on the right side. No question about it,” Gillett said. “These Canadian wolves are the most cruel, vicious predators in North America.”

Now the days of talking compromise are over, he said. “We’re killing ‘em.”

A week after Congress quietly passed a budget rider requiring wolves to be removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana, state officials are preparing to draw up plans for new wolf hunts.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, just signed an emergency law authorizing him to declare a wolf “disaster.” Gillett and others hope that is a prelude to county sheriffs setting up posses to take out wolf packs that have fed on dwindling elk herds.

There has perhaps been no more contentious issue in the modern West than the federal government’s reintroduction of wolves 16 years ago into the northern Rockies. Their number has grown to at least 1,700 and sparked fiercely competing narratives of the relationship between ranchers, hunters, wildlife and wilderness.

This month, years of litigation and tense political standoffs concluded in a flash, with a little-discussed rider attached to the must-pass federal budget bill by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).

The law requires the Interior Department within 60 days to remove northern Rockies wolves from the endangered species list everywhere but Wyoming, where negotiations continue, and specifically prevents the courts from intervening.

Though conservation groups launched a desperate battle to defeat the measure, “it took everybody a while to realize just how little support wolves had in Congress,” said Louisa Willcox, a Natural Resources Defense Council wildlife advocate in Montana.

Idaho officials said they had no immediate plans to exercise the emergency declaration. They said they would probably wait for an organized hunting season similar to one in 2010, when the federal Endangered Species Act designation was briefly lifted and 188 wolves in Idaho were shot by hunters.

But wolf advocates fear that the congressional green light will result in a virtual open season on wolves in Idaho that could kill so many that the animals — whose population in the state declined 19% last year to 700 even under federal protection — may ultimately be thrown back into danger of extinction.

“It’s going to be ugly. They’re talking about trapping, baiting, snaring, electronic calls,” said Lynne Stone, a representative of the Boulder-White Clouds Council, a wilderness advocacy group in Ketchum. “I’m trying to steel myself for it, figure out how I’m going to handle it. But I’m sitting here feeling like I’m living in a nightmare.”

Stone has spent years documenting the movements of wolves in the nearby Sawtooth Wilderness and the mountains around Sun Valley. But these days, there isn’t much to see. The Idaho hunt in 2010, combined with road kill and a shooting by federal Wildlife Services agents, wiped out most of the Phantom Hill pack near Ketchum.

Conflicts with ranchers near Stanley had prompted federal agents to take out many of the 13 wolves in the Soda Butte pack there the previous fall, and after hunters shot three more, only one Soda Butte wolf remained. “He’s still up there,” Stone said.

She has become much more wary about driving out to Stanley, where she once lived. Gillett, who leads a group popularly known as the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, was charged with assault in 2008 when he was accused of shoving Stone and grabbing her camera. The case ended in a hung jury.

“We’re hoping people can see what kind of circus is going on here,” said Garrick Dutcher, spokesman for Living With Wolves, a documentary film project that captured the rituals and habits of a pack of wolves in the Sawtooth Wilderness. “I’m not aware of any time when an animal was a cause for a state emergency disaster declaration. I mean, that’s when the National Guard gets called in, right? It’s really just a call to arms, a rallying cry, for wolf haters.”

Yet many Idaho residents say elk in Idaho — a mainstay of the hunting economy — are down 20%. Hunters booking at Gillett’s cabins are a fraction of what they once were. Many say it’s easier to admire wolves when they aren’t stealing through your pastures and driveways at night.

Karen Calisterio told a state Senate committee considering the wolf emergency law this month that she was approached in November in her driveway in the northern town of Tensed by four large wolves. “For 18 long, horrifying minutes, I was trapped,” she said. “They had plenty of open space to run into in all directions, and yet they kept advancing on me as I was screaming into my cellphone.”

That Idaho and Montana will kill wolves later this year appears beyond doubt. The question is how many. That will be determined by state wildlife managers in the coming months.

Conservationists have said there are barely enough wolves now to ensure their survival.

Gillett makes no bones about how many he wants here. “Zero,” he said.

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Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 23

OR: What the federal delisting for wolves means for Oregon’s packs, ranchers

What the federal delisting for wolves means for Oregon’s packs, ranchers

By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian

JOSEPH — Authority over eastern Oregon’s gray wolves will shift sometime within the next two months to state wildlife managers, the result of unprecedented congressional action that stripped federal protections from gray wolves in five Western states.

The move — the first time Congress has taken a species off the endangered list by legislative fiat — could lead to regulated hunts for the predators this fall in Idaho and Montana.

But the wolf populations are too small in Oregon, eastern Washington and northcentral Utah for a wolf hunting season, wildlife officials and environmentalists say.

Wolves in Oregon will remain under the protective umbrella of the state’s Endangered Species Act and the Oregon Wolf Plan, which prohibit hunting and carry stiff penalties for shooting a wolf.

Federal officials say 1,651 wolves in 244 packs with 111 breeding pairs are scattered across the five states.

Oregon’s wolf population is up to 23 and two wolf packs: the Imnaha Pack near Joseph that numbered 15 this winter and the Wenaha Pack of six wolves in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, both in the rugged northeastern Oregon mountains.

But people also have reported tracking three wolves along the Walla Walla River near Pendleton, said Russ Morgan, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf specialist. Others have reported spotting wolves in the Cascade Range, northern Grant County, near La Grande and Elgin in Union County, and close to Jordan Valley in Malheur County.

Wolf numbers in Oregon aren’t expected to grow as swiftly as in Idaho, where the population ballooned in 10 years from 35 wolves to 750 by 2006, said John Stephenson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman in La Grande.

Montana’s wolf population, in contrast, grew from two wolves in 1981 to a mere 74 in 1999. That slow growth happened, in part, because federal predator control programs killed many Montana wolves that preyed on livestock, Stephenson said.

“Generally, we think of eastern Oregon as more like Montana than Idaho” in habitat and wolf growth, Stephenson said.

Last year, federal hunters removed 141 Montana wolves and 78 Idaho wolves, and Idaho sport hunters killed 48. Federal hunters removed only a single wolf in Utah for killing livestock, and none in either Oregon or Washington.

Environmentalists have decried what Congress did: tacking on the wolf provision to a federal budget bill that had to pass to avert a government shutdown earlier this month.

It opens the door for hunting seasons on wolves in states with big populations of the animals, said Josh Laughlin, spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands in Eugene. “Hundreds of wolves will be killed, I can all but guarantee it,” he said.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, for example, just signed a bill into law that will allow him to declare a wolf disaster emergency and recruit law enforcement to reduce his state’s wolf population.

“Really, this is Pandora’s box,” said Suzanne Stone, spokeswoman for the 530,000-member Defenders of Wildlife in Boise. She said the congressional action bodes ill for other species.

“Regardless of how people feel about wolves, Americans at large are losing,” she said.

And while many cattle producers fear the wolf’s taste for their livestock, not all are hailing the switch to state regulation.

Scott Shear runs an 800-cow spread near Joseph in the middle of what local ranchers call Oregon’s “wolf highway.” Wolves and ranching aren’t compatible, he said, but he has more confidence that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will react decisively when livestock-killing wolves need removal than in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“I thought the feds were going to be a little more aggressive,” Shear said.

Ranchers are bracing for a springtime upswing in wolf attacks as the calving season ends and they release their herds onto remote pastures. Attacks escalated sharply last May, costing ranchers near Joseph at least nine calves.

“Everybody is pretty nervous about it,” said cattleman Rod Childers of Enterprise. “Wolves are hunting in one group right here east of the valley.”

In the Legislature

The Oregon Legislature is entering the fray with a series of wolf bills:

– State representatives approved a measure Thursday, House Bill 3562, to allow people to kill wolves if they threaten the lives of humans. It now goes to the Senate.

– The Legislature also is pondering four other bills proposing a variety of new wolf management options: a process to pay ranchers for cattle killed by wolves; ratcheting back the Oregon Wolf Plan’s restoration goal of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years; and, perhaps most controversial, authority for people to shoot wolves that stray within 500 feet of a home or attack dogs and livestock.

– The bills were proposed before the federal delisting, and whether they would supercede Oregon’s wolf plan and state Endangered Species Act might end up in court.

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Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 22

OR: Wolf sighting reported near Cold Springs

Wolf sighting reported near Cold Springs

By Luke Hegdal

Hermiston Herald

With the presence of wolves already documented in eastern Umatilla County, it was likely only a matter of time before wolf sightings near Hermiston began to be reported.

Larry Weems, a self-described avid outdoorsman, reported seeing a large wolf near Cold Springs Reservoir, roughly eight miles east of Hermiston, on Wednesday, April 20.

Weems told the Hermiston Herald he had been driving on Kosmos Road early Wednesday morning when he spotted a large deer herd running as if spooked by something.

“I’ve seen other wolves,” Weems said. “But this was by far the biggest wolf I’ve ever seen. It was huge.”

According to Russ Morgan, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf coordinator, it’s not impossible that a wolf might show up in Hermiston. Morgan said a motivated wolf can travel as much as 100 miles in a single day, and he has documented lone wolf trips up to 30 miles.

With confirmed wolf sightings in Umatilla County earlier this year, it could easily be possible for a wolf to trek as far west as Hermiston.

“Wolves are a well-traveled animal,” Morgan said. “We’ve had periodic reports all over eastern Oregon.”

Morgan added that most reports turn out to be something other than wolves.

“Most commonly it’s coyotes,” Morgan said, adding that he occasionally receives wolf sighting reports from downtown Portland that are usually coyotes.

“There’s a lot of wolf-like dogs,” Morgan said. “That also makes it difficult.”

While not discounting the possibility of a wolf so near Hermiston, Morgan said it was unlikely.

Weems, however, was adamant that what he saw was, in fact, a wolf.

“I got a real good look at him,” Weems said, describing the animal as roughly 40 inches tall at the shoulder. “I spend a lot of time outdoors. I know the difference between a wolf and a coyote. I’ve shot a lot of coyotes – but this was no coyote.”

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Posted in Uncategorized