Aug 31

AK: Lone wolf goes the distance

Lone wolf goes the distance

By NED ROZELL

Somewhere in the rolling tundra east of Deadhorse, a lone wolf hunts. The 100-pound male will take anything it can catch, or find – a ptarmigan, a darting tundra rodent, a fish, the scraps of a carcass, or, if lucky, a moose calf or caribou. Hunger is a common companion, but the wolf somehow survived when his mate probably died of it last winter.

That event may have triggered the lone wolf’s incredible summer journey from south of the Yukon River to the crumbling shores of the Beaufort Sea. The wolf has traveled about 1,500 miles in four months, according to biologist John Burch, who works for the National Park Service.

Burch has studied wolves and the things wolves eat since the mid-1990s at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Last November, he was part of a team that helicoptered to Copper Creek, a remote tributary of the clear-running Charley River. There, he tranquilized a healthy male wolf and fitted it with a satellite radio collar. The collar transmits GPS coordinates from the wolf every few days, which has allowed Burch to follow the wolf’s trans-Alaska trek this summer.

Burch would have preferred that the wolf remain near Yukon-Charley, 2.5 million acres where the Yukon flows into Alaska. The wolf’s collar is expensive and would give useful information about one of a dozen wolf packs that use the preserve as part of their home range. But the lone male is telling the biologists a different story about wolf behavior — what happens when a pack breaks up.

The solo male’s pack was a small one. In 2006, the biologists had collared a dominant breeding female in what scientists called the Edwards Creek pack, which – due to the rigors of living in hungry country – shrunk to its smallest possible size.

“She ended up being the only member of that pack,” Burch said. “She didn’t pair up for a while, which was unusual. We joked that she must have been kind of ugly.”

But then, last August, there he was. A large male bonded with the Edwards Creek female. In November, they caught him and installed his collar.

The wolves’ short time together ended in February 2011, when the female died, possibly of starvation. A wolverine had eaten her carcass when Burch and others investigated. They didn’t see the male around; he traveled around the preserve for a while but didn’t catch Burch’s attention until later in the spring. That’s when, for some reason, he took off.

From May until now, the wolf has been on the move. The animal dodged ice chunks as it swam the Yukon. Then it shook itself off and headed for the upper Kandik River. From there, it drifted into Canada for a few days, juked back into Alaska and plunged into the Porcupine River. Another water obstacle forded, it headed north into quiet country. It crossed back into Canada and crested the Brooks Range near the upper Firth River, trotted eastward towards the Mackenzie River and then veered for the northern coast, close enough to smell the ocean.

From there, the wolf made a straight line back into Alaska, where it got close enough to see the Dalton Highway, a boundary it hasn’t yet crossed. The wolf is still up there, about 20 miles east of Deadhorse. It lingers at its peril if another wolf pack patrols that area, Burch said.

Because other wolves are territorial, the lone male has all summer snuck “through the gauntlet of these resident wolves,” Burch said. “It’s a dangerous game. If they find a strange wolf going through their range, they’ll kill it.”

Burch has also studied wolves at Denali National Park, finding them most at risk from their own species.

“The primary cause of death in Denali was being killed by your neighbor,” he said.

Why would the male in the prime of his life take such a risk? Burch said because usually only the dominant pair of a wolf pack breed, others might wander to find their own opportunities. And because it’s such a tough life out there (a wolf that lives to 10 is doing well), the chance to join a new pack often exists.

“If one of the dominant pair dies, the other might accept a dispersing wolf as its new mate, or he might find a dispersing female,” Burch said.

The lone wolf now roaming the tundra east of Deadhorse is now probably sniffing at scent posts – spots where other wolves have urinated, and using its other senses to weigh its chances.

“He could possibly determine that there’s no breeding males (in the territory),” Burch said.

Wolves on the move have another species to avoid, Burch said.

“When a wolf encounters humans, it’s usually not good for the wolf,” Burch said. “He’s a fairly young wolf – he might not be too savvy around a fish camp or a dog yard.”

The wolf’s long-distance journey – a drama being played out all over Alaska all year long – may end with it becoming the dominant male of a pack roaming treeless country up north. Or it may conclude in a few months, with Burch recovering the collar on a pile of hair, or a hunter or trapper turning in a collar to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game office.

“The other possibility is he could come back (to the eastern Yukon River),” Burch said. “He could realize where he came from wasn’t that bad.”

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Aug 31

MT: Wolf hunt opens this Saturday

Wolf hunt opens this Saturday

JIM MANN/Daily Inter Lake

Wolves will be legal game when archery season opens Saturday, but successful hunts are expected to be very rare.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” said Jim Williams, regional wildlife manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“It’s a new game animal for archers to pursue. Archers are very intimate with their quarry. However, it’s going to be an extremely difficult hunt … All of the wild canids are extremely difficult to approach. But the opportunity is there.”

Montana has set a statewide quota for 220 wolves to be harvested this year during the archery season, the early rifle season in wilderness areas and the general big game season that opens in late October.

“There are multiple [wolf] districts with varying quotas,” said Williams, noting that districts in Northwest Montana’s Region One have a combined quota of 71.

Northwest Montana is divided into several wolf districts with quotas ranging from three to 19. The smallest quota is in a district that covers parts of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, where rifle hunting opens Sept. 15.

In 2009, during the state’s first-ever regulated wolf hunt, the first wolf harvested came from a wilderness district. A total of 15,414 wolf licenses were sold to Montana residents that year, along with 88 nonresident licenses.

So far this year, 5,989 resident wolf licenses have been sold for $19 apiece plus 42 nonresident licenses for $350 each, according to Hank Worsech, license bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Worsech fully expects license sales to accelerate in the weeks before the general big game season, probably approaching numbers similar to those of 2009, a year when sales were brisk from the start.

“It was new and people bought them right away,” Worsech said. “There was a big rush on them.”

A good share of license sales are carried out online, he said, so there is no way to track what parts of the state are busiest for license sales. A license purchased anywhere can be used in any wolf hunting district with an open quota.

Worsech advises hunters to be aware that once a season starts, purchased licenses are not valid until five days after the date of sale. That measure is intended to discourage people from shooting a wolf and then seeking out a license to tag it with afterwards.

“We do the same thing with bears,” he said.

Williams reminds hunters that if a wolf is harvested, hunters must report the kill within 12 hours so the state can keep tabs on quotas. Once quotas are met, districts are immediately closed.

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Aug 31

ID: Livestock Kills Rise as Wolf Season Opens

Livestock Kills Rise as Wolf Season Opens

By Kimberlee Kruesi

Idaho ranchers and wildlife officials are looking to this year’s wolf hunt, which opened Tuesday, to halt a rise in livestock depredation cases across the state.

Depredation cases by wolves are up by more than 17 percent compared to last year, with 87 wolf kills confirmed since July. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wolves have attacked and killed 50 cattle, 34 sheep and 3 dogs.

“We’re hoping that this hunt deters future livestock kills,” said Mike Keckler, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “That way, the wolves and people stay out of trouble.”

Wolf advocates often argue the debate about depredations has become overblown, considering the number of livestock in the state and the other factors affecting them. But for ranchers, living with wolves can be financially taxing if one attacks their herd. One lost cow can cost a rancher up to $2,000.

The state compensates ranchers for their losses, but officials believe the public hunt will help prevent the problem in the first place. As evidence, they cite Idaho’s first wolf hunt in 2009.

“In the fall of 2009, we saw quite a notable drop in depredations,” Keckler said. “It dropped by 50 percent during the beginning of the hunting season. We believe the wolves got wise. They were being hunted and knew it was best to stay clear of humans and livestock.”

Environmental group Defenders of Wildlife started the compensation program in 1987. In 2010, Defenders stopped distributing payments, passing the program on to government agencies.

The Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation now fully compensates all verified wolf kills and partially reimburses unverified livestock kills with state and federal funds.

The Idaho Wolf Depredation Compensation Board, comprised of eight county commissioners, will meet later this fall to approve the next payments.

“We tend to see depredations on livestock peak in August and early September,” said Dustin Miller, environmental liaison for the Office of Species Conservation. “This is largely to do with the pups learning to eat more and take down prey. If you overlay that with livestock across the range and you tend to see more problems this time of year.”

The tension of living with wolves and trying to manage them has been anything but simple. The federal government has said that Idaho’s wolf population must remain above 150 animals, but the state has not agreed on an ideal range beyond that minimum.

This year’s wolf hunt is largely devoid of quotas, but Fish and Game officials said earlier this year they will stop the hunt if numbers get too low.

By the Numbers: Wolf Depredation

As of the end of July, wolves had killed 87 domestic animals and livestock this year in Idaho. Those included:

50 cattle

34 sheep

3 dogs

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Aug 31

MT: Second wolf hunting season opens in Montana this September

Second wolf hunting season opens in Montana this September

By Hannah J. Ryan

It’s been a summer of contention for the Endangered Species Act, and gray wolves are about to find out how their status changed.

This Saturday, Sept. 3, the second wolf hunt of the 21st century opens in Montana. Wolves were previously delisted in 2009, before being reinstated in 2010.

This April, Congress lifted federal protections of wolves in Montana and Idaho as well as parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington. The removal of wolves in these states from the endangered species list takes away their federal protections and hands management of the animals over to state wildlife agencies. Wolves in Wyoming will remain listed as an endangered species.

This year’s congressional involvement came after Judge Molloy ruled in August 2010 that endangered species in different states could not be managed separately.

“Including hunters in wolf management is still a pretty new practice and a learning experience,” said Vivaca Crowser, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson. “It’s exciting, because hunters are so much a part of wildlife management. Now wolves are part of this management as well.”

Numerous groups, including the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians, sought to overturn this congressional action, arguing Congress overstepped its authority in doing so. Yet, last Thursday District Court Judge Donald Molloy rejected arguments to stop this fall’s wolf hunt ,while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decides if the act of Congress was constitutional.

“Licenses sold quickly in 2009 [for the wolf hunt],” Crowser said. “This was due in part to the novelty of it being the first hunt. This year, people haven’t been too sure if the hunt was going to continue, but with the ruling earlier this month, people are more confident in spending money for tags.”

Other conservation organizations continue to question whether the current wolf populations are sufficiently recovered.

“Looking particularly at Idaho, and somewhat for Montana, wolves are being irresponsibly managed,” said Gary MacFarlane, director of Friends of the Clearwater, a conservation organization based in Idaho.

“In Idaho, they have no specific limits on how many wolves can be killed, they can be trapped in some wilderness areas and the season can last up to 10 months,” Macfarlane said. “It’s an all out assault on wolves.”

Though his organization did not succeed in halting this year’s hunt, Macfarlane thinks there is a strong legal case to declare the Congressional move unconstitutional.

He said wolf management in states like Minnesota is an example of responsible management, because they won’t even consider a wolf hunt for another five years.

There they are looking at wolf behavior and how a pack structure is changed when dominant males are killed.

“You have younger males vying for territory and fragmented packs may turn to livestock for food,” he said.

Yet, state wildlife agencies have determined that populations are healthy enough to support a wolf hunt to benefit wildlife and people alike. Hunters in Montana may take 220 wolves in this year’s hunt. As of Aug. 28, there were 5,331 resident wolf tags and 34 non-resident tags sold in Montana alone.

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Aug 31

WY: State wolf plan draws critics of predator law

State wolf plan draws critics of predator law

Wolf hunting advocates say give Gov. Mead’s plan a chance to work.

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would likely accept changes to a deal with Wyoming that would prohibit indiscriminate killing of wolves throughout Teton County, a county commissioner said last week.

Teton County Commissioner Hank Phibbs made the comments Aug. 24 at a meeting on the draft Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan in Jackson.

Phibbs’ comments came after Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Fish and Wildlife struck a deal that would allow the indiscriminate killing of wolves south of Highway 22 most of the year. The deal draws the line between a trophy game zone and a predator zone along the highway and down U.S. 191.

Wolves outside the boundary — in places such as South Park and Red Top Meadows — would be considered predators that could be killed by any means, without a license. In winter, the boundary would move south so wolves could disperse into Idaho.

“If that line were moved to the south boundary of Teton County, it would increase the legal and biological standing of the wolf management plan,” Phibbs told an audience of about 100 people gathered to give their input on the state’s wolf management plan.

Phibbs said the Wyoming Legislature must approve the revision to the plan, or there might not be another chance to change it.

“The understanding we have is that this is the one-time opportunity that we have to move [the boundary],” he said. “It is easy to amend the agreement. Since the Legislature has to act, it can draw that line anywhere they choose.”

Teton County commissioners would “strongly support” the wolf management plan “with the adjustment we are requesting,” Phibbs said. The change would have “no adverse effect to any other county in Wyoming,” he said.

Other attendees took a stronger position, saying the entire state should be a trophy game zone.

“I think the Wyoming Game and Fish has done a great job with this plan,” Jackson resident Shane Moore said. “I don’t have concerns that wolves will survive with this plan.”

However, the predator zone would allow atrocities such as burning wolves alive or wiring their mouths shut so they starve to death, Moore said.

“Predator status will legalize the torture of wolves,” he said. “The blowback nationwide is going to be tremendous. I don’t think the public is willing to legalize torture.”

Predator status doesn’t help Wyoming residents, said Trevor Stevenson, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

“I’ve been waiting to hear what the upside is of the predator status,” he said. “It’s going to be a disaster for our tourism industry.”

Livestock producers would get to shoot wolves regardless, but under trophy status they get compensation for livestock losses, Stevenson said.

“In my view, the people who are getting the short end of the stick are the hunters,” he continued. With predator status, hunting guides wouldn’t be hired to guide wolf hunts.

Stevenson said the debate has been about “do we like wolves or do we not like wolves” for too long.

Advocates of the plan, including many outfitters, pleaded for residents to let Gov. Mead’s plan go through the Wyoming Legislature unaltered.

“I’ve been waiting a decade to get to this point,” Kelly outfitter B.J. Hill said. “Let’s give this thing a chance to work and modify it down the line as the public learns to deal with the wolf itself.”

Environmental groups have polarized the issue so much that Wyoming residents haven’t been able to decide for themselves whether wolves are a benefit or a nuisance, Hill said.

“The suing has got to stop,” he said. “I’d like to have my guides here at least have a chance to like this wolf. We should have been managing it before it got out of hand.

“The reason you can’t go trophy game statewide is because you burned the stockgrowers and you burned the sportsmen,” Hill said.

Several outfitters said wolves have hurt their businesses.

“It’s too late,” Jackson outfitter Paul Gilroy said. “I am taking no hunters this year. I can’t take a man’s money … if he hasn’t seen an elk track in 10 days.”

When officials began the first discussions about bringing wolves back to Greater Yellowstone, Harold Turner, operator of the Triangle X Ranch, said, “It would be really kind of neat to hear a wolf howl.

“It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life, not because of the wolf, but because of our inability to manage the wolf,” Turner said.

“We’re used to seeing elk all around us. The wolves have them all pushed up into the timber. We have closed one of our camps because we have no elk.”

Environmental groups should show “some common courtesy and faith” to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said Bob Wharff, executive director of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. “They are not going to allow this wolf to become extinct,” he said. “We have nothing to fear. We’re not going to wipe them out with hunters.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will meet to discuss the wolf plan Sept. 14. If the commission accepts the plan, Fish and Wildlife will publish a draft delisting rule in early October.

People who wish to comment on the draft plan can write to Wolf Plan Comments, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006. People can also submit comments by fax to 307-777-4650. Comments are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 9.

Cattle deaths lead to killing of 6 wolves

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

While residents debate Wyoming’s proposed wolf plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues its program of killing wolves that chronically prey on livestock, eliminating six wolves in as many weeks.

An agent for the federal agency responsible for wolf recovery reported three wolves were killed after a cow was found dead July 17 on a public grazing allotment near Togwotee Pass.

About a month later, wolves killed three calves and yearling cow on another allotment in the Upper Green River drainage.

Three wolves were killed in the Upper Green and more may be targeted, according to a report by Mike Jimenez posted on a Fish and Wildlife website. The agency also has issued a shoot-on-sight permit to a La Barge resident after confirming six horses were injured by wolves there.

The Fish and Wildlife response is “very typical,” Jimenez said in an interview Tuesday.

“If they cause chronic problems, or even if they cause problems, we don’t allow that to happen,” he said. “We get rid of wolves.”

The killing of wolves is undertaken on a case-by case basis, he said, and involves factors including pack size, location and the number of wolves in Wyoming.

The population in the state remains robust, he said — more than 200 wolves roam Wyoming — and is growing.

About a third of wolf packs kill at least one domestic animal a year, he said. This year, 19 wolves have been killed, while they are responsible for the deaths of 20 cattle, 28 sheep and a dog. A horse also had to be put down after it broke its leg when wolves were chasing it.

By comparison, in 2008, 63 wolves were killed, and in 2003, only 19.

Wolves tend to cause more problems the further south and east they are from Yellowstone, Jimenez said. As they disperse in those directions, they find themselves in country with less dense wildlife populations and more livestock.

Reducing the size of a pack can cut down on depredations, Jimenez said. In some cases, Fish and Wildlife will keep a depredating pack intact, although at a smaller size, to prevent new packs from moving into new territory.

That strategy has been used on the east side of Yellowstone, he said.

Since 2006, the number of depredations in Wyoming has gone down steadily even as the wolf population has grown, Jimenez said.

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Aug 30

MT: Gray wolves: Bitterroot hunt could almost halve population, state biologists say

Gray wolves: Bitterroot hunt could almost halve population, state biologists say

By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic

HAMILTON – The Bitterroot River drainage – including Lolo Creek – is home to somewhere between 80 and 100 wolves.

By year’s end, that number could be cut nearly in half if hunters are successful in Montana’s second wolf hunt and focus their efforts on Ravalli County.

That was one bit of information passed on by a trio of state biologists to the Ravalli County Commission in a 2 1/2-hour meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The commission is in the midst of collecting information about wolves. After giving the general public a chance to vent on both sides of the issue earlier this month, the commission opened its doors to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

They and a roomful of mostly local residents heard about wolf and ungulate management efforts in the Bitterroot and the upcoming wolf hunt.

FWP wildlife manager Mike Thompson told the commission the state is looking for balance during the upcoming wolf hunt, with a goal of reducing the overall numbers of the predator.

While some don’t see any compatibility between having wolves in the state and hunting them, Thompson said it can’t happen any other way.

“We recognize that we have to hunt them to have wolves here,” he said. “People won’t tolerate it any other way.”

This year’s statewide quota of 220 is expected to drop overall wolf numbers, including this year’s pups, by about 7 percent.

The state doesn’t intend the quota to be a number for a sustainable harvest. Instead, the hope is to stop the trend of a steady increase in numbers of wolves across the state and bring that population into control, Thompson said.

No one knows for sure how this year’s hunt will fare.

Thompson said he and other biologists aren’t “extremely confident” that hunters will be able to fill the quota by Dec. 31, when the wolf season is scheduled to end.

Several residents expressed the same concern, including some who told the biologists the hunt doesn’t go far enough.

Bud Martin took it one step further, saying FWP had completely failed in controlling predators.

“They’ve mismanaged bears. They’ve mismanaged mountain lions and now they’re going to mismanage wolves,” Martin said before asking the commission to consider statutes that allowed the county to take over control of predator management.

Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association president Tony Jones said the state is facing an uphill battle in getting wolf numbers under control due to years of court battles over delisting the species.

Wolf numbers in Montana hit the population criteria for delisting in 2002, but litigation kept that from happening.

It would have been easier to manage for lower numbers if the state had been allowed to start managing wolves when their numbers were smaller, Jones said.

***

FWP wolf biologist Liz Bradley said the state took over management of wolves under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004.

“The goal had always been to hand management fully over to the state,” she said. “It took longer that we all expected.”

The state monitors wolves more closely than any other wildlife species in the state, Bradley said, in an interview before the commission meeting.

About one-third of all the known wolf packs in the state include animals with a radio-collar. In the Bitterroot, half of the packs have a collared wolf.

“It makes a difference,” she said. “We are able to follow them and keep an eye on them.”

State wolf biologists depend on local residents to locate new wolf packs. They look for clusters of reported sightings to key in on new locations.

This year, the public helped Bradley find a new wolf pack in the Sweeney Creek area in the west Bitterroot. She has since been able to capture and collar a wolf in that pack.

“I wouldn’t have known about that pack without the reports that we received over the late winter and spring,” she said.

All the information that Bradley gathers about individual packs is available to the public on FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov/wolf.

***

FWP Bitterroot-based biologist Craig Jourdonnais filled the commission in on ungulate management efforts in Ravalli County.

The Bitterroot Valley has one of the longest-running elk surveys in the state, Jourdonnais said.

The information gathered from those surveys needs to be carefully interpreted, he said.

For instance, last spring’s heavy snowpack pushed elk down on wintering grounds where they were easier to count than most years.

Some groups have taken the fact that Jourdonnais spotted 400 more elk than the year before to claim that elk herds in the Bitterroot are growing.

That’s not so, he said.

“You have to be very careful in the way you interpret those numbers,” he said. “You have to look at the long-term trends.”

Jourdonnais also talked about the current large-scale study on elk in southern reaches of the Bitterroot.

Elk numbers in the West Fork of the Bitterroot were in freefall about the time Jourdonnais arrived in the valley in 2005. The decline followed a legislative mandate that bumped up elk harvest in the area in an effort to keep the herd size from growing too large.

Normally, the state would just back off the antlerless harvest to stabilize a declining elk herd.

“In this case it didn’t work,” Jourdonnais said. “It led us to believe that public hunting was not causing the freefall.”

Elk calf numbers were much lower than what’s needed to sustain an annual hunting season.

“We have lost three age classes in the West Fork since then,” he said.

The state has since cut out all antlerless elk harvest and for the first time ever has limited bull harvest to 25 permit holders.

“We are trying to keep ahead of this thing and save the baby makers,” Jourdonnais said.

With a “groundswell of local support,” Jourdonnais said FWP started a three-year study last winter in partnership with the University of Montana to study the elk herd.

Last winter, crews captured 44 cow elk and radio-collared them. They also used a portable ultrasound device to measure body fat and pregnancy rates.

The researchers found that 98 percent of all the cow elk in the East Fork and the portion of the West Fork that had been heavily burned in the 2000 fires were pregnant, but only 57 percent of the cows in the upper reaches of the West Fork were pregnant.

“That’s one of the lower pregnancy rates that I’ve seen,” Jourdonnais said. “It makes us wonder if maybe there aren’t some habitat issues too. This thing may not be as simple as who is eating what.”

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Aug 30

WA: County seeks wolf delisting

County seeks wolf delisting

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Okanogan County has asked the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to delist the gray wolf there and let the county manage it.

The wolf should not be listed as threatened or endangered by the state because it’s the arctic gray wolf that’s not indigenous to the state, Jim Detro, an Okanogan County commissioner, told state Fish and Wildlife commissioners at their Aug. 29 meeting in Ellensburg.

Furthermore, delisting is in order because the federal government has said there’s no critical habitat for wolves in Washington and the wolves carry a worm that’s a human health hazard, Detro said.

The county recently sent the state commission a resolution seeking delisting. At the meeting, Detro raised the specter of county action.

“I don’t want to get into a high-stakes card game with you guys but we hold the trump card,” Detro told Fish and Wildlife commissioners.

County commissioners are concerned wolves will multiply rapidly and can declare an emergency and kill wolves if necessary to protect the health of people, he said.

Detro was one of about 50 people who spoke to the Fish and Wildlife Commission about the wolf recovery and management plan it may adopt in December.

The plan is “fatally flawed” because it ignores the human health hazard, Detro said. He noted the wolf is a tool to get livestock off public lands in the West, just as the spotted owl was a tool to destroy the timber industry.

Most of the people who spoke were sports hunters and cattle ranchers who said the plan is too concerned with wolf recovery and not enough with management.

John Dawson, a Colville rancher, said the most recent wolf pack was discovered on his range and that state Fish and Wildlife has not trapped or collared an adult wolf.

“This concerns me. If we lose livestock how will we control that problem?” he asked.

His cattle are out in the sun instead of resting in shade because of harassment from the wolf pack, he said. Lost weight from harassment can be more costly than cattle killed, he said.

One of the few who testified in support of wolves was Susan Wheatley, a retired U.S. Forest Service forest manager from Ellensburg.

Environmentalists view wolves as “telegenic and mega wildlife,” and commissioners need to remember Washington votes Democratic, she said. If the wolf plan is too hostile to wolves, a majority of the electorate could replace it through the initiative process, she said.

Earlier in the meeting, commissioners and staff discussed forest cover and elk, human and sheep density as predictive tools of where wolves will proliferate.

Wolves prefer elk and deer in heavily forested areas over livestock because wolves want to avoid humans, said John Pierce, the Fish and Wildlife department’s chief wildlife scientist.

Commissioner Conrad Mahnken, a retired fisheries biologist, noted there’s a lot of guesswork and suggested staff rerun its habitat prediction models including cattle density. Pierce said there’s no data in the state on wolf response to cattle. Mahnken suggested using data from other wolf states.

Commissioner David Jennings, an environmental public health employee, said the Olympic Peninsula would make better wolf habitat than the Cascades because of denser forests and fewer people. Mahnken agreed.

Interstates 5 and 90 are not complete barriers to wolf movement, Pierce said.

Wolves could cross I-5 at the Chehalis River and could swim across the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington, said Rocky Beach, the department’s wildlife diversity division manager.

The commission will discuss the wolf plan again Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 in Olympia. It is scheduled to act on the plan Dec. 2 or 3.

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Aug 30

ID: Wolf Hunt Resumes in Idaho

Wolf Hunt Resumes in Idaho

by ZAK FAILLA

After a year of delay and decisions in court, wolf season is officially open in Idaho for any hunters looking for a challenge.

For just the second time in history, Idaho will be having a wolf season for hunters to prey on the crafty animal. However, after the initial season two years ago, it was questioned whether Idaho could legally have a season hunting an animal with such a small population.

Jim Teare, a regional habitat manager and wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said it has taken the better part of a year to get the wolf season re-instated.

“This is only the second wolf season we’ve ever had. The first one was two years ago, and it turned out really well. It was smooth, no busier than other seasons. There were a few people targeting them, but mostly it was an incidental target that got them,” Teare said.

“The state had management authority on wolves after they were delisted after our first season. It was tied up in courts for a year, and we’re real happy to have it back. The judge reviewed the case and the decision was made that they could be taken off the endangered species list,” he added.

Once the court said it was justifiable to have a wolf season, Idaho made quick work to reinstate wolf hunting, with strict guidelines. Those hunting wolves must have specific tags designated for wolves, and in order to manage and control the amount of wolves that are killed, hunters may only buy two tags per calendar year. Any wolves that are harvested must be documented by the Department of Fish and Game, and the hunter will have to bring the wolf’s hide and skull for documentation. Finally, each section within Idaho has been designated limits for the amount of wolves that can be harvested in that area. Once that quota is reached, wolf season is officially closed in that area.

Teare believes some people are ecstatic to get back to hunting wolves, and doesn’t believe that too many will be harvested to endanger the population.

“I think some people are pretty excited about having this back. There are probably a few people targeting them specifically that are excited to harvest them,” he said. “We had 240 harvested the first time, and we’ve sold somewhere around 30 tags that have been sold thus far. We’re not expecting people to harvest too many wolves, ultimately it will probably be about the same as last time.”

Hunters going out in search of a wolf to hang on his wall may be in for a long adventure. Wolves are traditionally brighter than most animals, are quicker, sparser, and can be spread in a much larger area. Teare knows that most of the wolves that are harvested this season are going to be accidental.

“Wolves are elusive and very smart, and there’s really not that many of them. With deer, and black bear and moose, there’s a lot more of them around to go after,” he said. “Wolves can feel the pressure and when they’re getting shot at and things, they’re going to be really hard to see and to get at. They cover a lot of country — their home range could be several hundred miles, so it’s harder to find them. Most likely someone will be hunting for an elk or something and will stumble on a wolf incidentally.”

Wolves have caused a lot of problems for residents in the recent past. They have a proclivity of getting into people’s yards and property and decimating pets, livestock and other animals. With wolf hunting season now open, people will finally be able to get revenge on the wolves that decimated their property.

“There are many issues with wolves. They are a large canidae, and they tend to go after other canidae, which could be an issue. There have been hounds killed, other wolves killed and even some domestic dogs have disappeared,” Teare said. “This is a chance for protection and things like that. With wolves there are always issues with livestock. Everyone has a right to protect his or her livestock and livelihood.”

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Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 30

WY: Wolf hunting coming?

Wolf hunting coming?

Written by Gib Mathers

Game and Fish explains Wyoming wolf plan

Wolves could be delisted and hunted in Wyoming by fall 2012 under a plan hashed out this summer by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

Fish and Wildlife will publish a preliminary rule delisting Wyoming wolves in October.

“If everything goes smoothly, wolves will be delisted in Wyoming by next fall,” said Mark Bruscino, Game and Fish bear management program supervisor, who has been working on the plan.

“The agencies want to move this forward as soon as possible,” Bruscino said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will meet in Casper Sept. 14 to review and approve the plan, which would make most of the state a predator zone. Those wishing to comment must do so by Sept. 9.

Under the plan, Wyoming will maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park, Bruscino told a group of 65 Thursday evening in Cody.

Under the plan, the trophy game area in northwest Wyoming would remain, and a “flex” zone would be set aside as a trophy zone from Oct. 15 to the end of February to allow genetic exchange between Wyoming and Idaho wolves. The zone runs roughly south of Jackson to just north of Afton and east from the Idaho border to Daniel.

“It (the plan) is fundamentally and irredeemably flawed,” said Chuck Neal of Cody, who attended the meeting. “They’re treating it (wolves) as some exotic virus and they must keep this virus near the park.”

In the rest of the state, and the flex zone, from March 1 through Oct. 14, wolves could be shot on sight.

“Packs just don’t persist outside that (trophy game) area,” Bruscino said.

In 1999, two cattle were verifiably killed by wolves in Wyoming. By 2004, 75 cattle and 17 sheep were killed by wolves in Wyoming. In 2010, 26 cattle and 33 sheep were killed in Wyoming, according to Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan statistics.

Livestock depredations did increase over time, but livestock-attacking wolves were killed, which has reduced livestock depredations in recent years, Bruscino said.

“The state is controlled by the livestock industry,” Neal said.

Cattle should not have carte blanche on public lands. Grazing rights on public lands are a privilege, not a right. Wolf depredations can’t be used as justification to remove wolves on public land, Neal said.

Elk have been decimated by wolves, said Rick Adair, who lives on Green Creek above the Red Barn on the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

He used to see plenty of elk near his home. Now he is more likely to spot a grizzly bear than a bull elk. Hunting wolves will still limit elk population recovery, Adair said.

“It’s overdue,” said Kevin Hurley, recently retired Game and Fish bighorn sheep coordinator, who favors wolf delisting. “it’s time.”

Migrating elk, like those in the Sunlight area moving to Yellowstone for the summer are producing 13 calves per 100 cows. However, wolves are not the only culprits. Bears are taking plenty of calves too, especially in the spring, according to Game and Fish statistics.

High expectations of big elk population numbers may not be met with wolf delisting. And wily wolves may not be easy targets. In the Canadian province of Alberta there are 4,000 wolves, but only around 180 are harvested annually by hunters, said Mike Healy, Game and Fish commissioner for District 5, from Worland.

Still, Healy voiced what many believed Thursday evening, that delisting the canines and halting further lawsuits was long overdue.

“Wolves do kill elk,” Neal said, “but they aren’t going to eliminate elk.”

Neal said 100 wolves is a token number to demonstrate to the world that Wyoming is tolerating wolves.

Because of wolves, elk are in the higher country, thus allowing willows and berry-bearing plants to recover below in mountain drainages, he said.

Wolves are needed to maintain the ecological balance, Neal said.

“They should be treated as valid members of our ecological community,” Neal said.

Healy said he believes Mead can get a wolf bill passed by the Wyoming Legislature.

“It was very close to what they passed before (in 2006),” Healy said.

If the commission approves the plan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife can publish a proposed delisting rule Oct. 1. The Legislature does not have to act before Oct. 1, said Renny MacKay, communications director for Mead in an email Friday.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., wants a rider attached to the budget bill to prevent future wolf lawsuits, because the plan won’t hold up to judicial review, Neal said.

“Whether she can get that done or not remains to be seen,” Bruscino said.

In the future, if wolves dropped below 100 in Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife could conduct a status review and wolves could be relisted, but not if the population can rebound quickly, Bruscino said.

Send comments to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn. Mark Nelson, Wolf Plan Comments, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006, or fax them to 307-777-4650.

The draft plan can be downloaded from the department’s website at

http://gf.state.wy.us.

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Aug 30

MT: Wolf pup struck by vehicle and killed near Darby

Wolf pup struck by vehicle and killed near Darby

By Perry Backus Ravalli Republic

HAMILTON – Another wolf pup was killed in the Bitterroot Valley either late Sunday night or Monday morning.

The female was struck by a car about two miles south of Darby off U.S. Highway 93, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Lou Royce.

“It was small, probably this year’s pup,” Royce said.

The wolf’s mouth was filled with deer hide and hair.

“It might have been eating a roadkill,” Royce said. “The hide it had in its mouth was pretty dried out. It probably just took off running across the highway and got hit.”

Royce said he hasn’t received any reports of wolves near that location since this spring when a wolf pack killed a horse on the Two Feathers Ranch.

“I’m thinking it probably belongs to that same pack that has been hanging out south of Darby,” Royce said.

The death is the third wolf pup that has been killed in the Bitterroot over the past week.

Two other wolf pups were shot on a ranch northwest of Hamilton after they threatened a group of goats and sheep.

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