Feb 27

SE: Two possible routes for the wolf

News P4 Varmland

This weekend was a predator symposium in Karlstad, organized by the Nature Conservation Society of Värmland. The wolf was the focus, and among a number of lecturers were wolf researcher Olof Liberg from Grimsö Research Station.

He sees two future paths for the wolf population to go:

“The EU calls it ‘favorable conservation status’. Then we take care of ourselves and I’m guessing that the strain harbors around 400 animals. But it requires that we fix genetics,” says Olof Liberg.

The second way is significantly more irregular according Olof Liberg.

“Where there is the free development and the only hunting allowed is controlled hunting of problem animals. Then the wolf population may grow to nearly 2,000 animals in this wolf area of ??Sweden and Norway,” explains Olof Liberg.

In this latter case, he sees a lot of problems such as the availability of elk hunting will be much less than today. Another problem is that many more sheep and dogs will be the prey of the wolf while the reindeer will have far more wolves in their area.

“I think that hunting rights holders will allow the placement of wolf pups. I also think that nature conservation should compromise with the wolf-skepticism that is at the countryside and accept that you can hold a limited stock, but with beneficial conservation, that is, a wolf population with good genes without inbreeding,” says Olof Liberg.

Roy Malmborg

Source

Feb 27

CA: Petition Filed to Protect Gray Wolves Under California Endangered Species Act

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and three other conservation groups petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission today to protect gray wolves as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. Wolves, which are not currently protected under the state law, were absent from the state from 1924 until late in 2011, when a wolf from Oregon made a thousand-mile journey to Northern California. It has lived there since.

“The return of the gray wolf to California is exciting — it’s a cause for celebration,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “The West Coast is crucial to wolf recovery in the United States, and California has hundreds of square miles of excellent wolf habitat. But if that one wolf is to become many, wolves need help so they don’t get killed. They need the protection of the state’s Endangered Species Act, and they need a science-based recovery plan.”

Gray wolves are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in portions of their range, including California; but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with implementing the Act, has never developed a recovery plan for wolves in California. Such a plan would specify management actions needed to protect and recover the species and establish population targets. Both Oregon and Washington initiated state wolf-management plans prior to wolves establishing in those states.

“California needs a road map for recovering wolves,” said Greenwald. “Wolf populations in neighboring states will continue to expand, and more wolves will almost certainly show up in California, which has plenty of habitat and available prey.”

Today’s petition documents that wolves once roamed most of California. Even though California is now the most populated state in the West, scientists estimate there is still extensive habitat for wolves in both Northern California and the Sierra Nevada.

Between crossing the border from Canada and efforts to reintroduce them into Yellowstone National Park, wolf populations have continued to grow in the northern Rocky Mountains and Oregon and Washington. The wolf known as Journey, or OR-7, who arrived in California in December came from a pack that was formed in 2008 when wolves moved from Idaho to the Wallowa Mountains in northeast Oregon. As wolf populations continue to grow, it is likely that more wolves will travel to California.

“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes, including California, for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future,” said Greenwald. “The return of wolves to California will help restore the natural balance and reverse the historic wrong done by people who shot, poisoned and persecuted wolves into oblivion.”

Wolves are a keystone species that benefit their prey populations by culling sick animals and preventing overpopulation of species such as deer. Studies of reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park show that they benefit numerous other species as well, including pronghorn and foxes, by controlling coyote populations; they help songbirds and beavers by dispersing browsing elk and allowing recovery of the streamside vegetation that songbirds and beavers need.

The Center was joined in the petition by Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

For more information, see:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/wolves_on_the_west_coast/index.html.

 
Source

Feb 27

CA: Our dogs’ ancestors victimized by tar sands

BY JOAN KLUCHA, SPECIAL TO NORTH SHORE NEWS

THERE are few people who are not emotionally moved when they hear the sound of a wolf howling.

The beauty and grace of these majestic creatures stirs those dormant instinctual parts of our souls that are still connected to the wildness within a wolf and to nature itself.

They are gentle, peaceful creatures – nothing like the fearsome savages Hollywood makes them out to be. They are devoted to the raising of their family; loyal, lifetime companions to their mate and they live by the laws of pure nature, void of the ego and all the fear-based emotions and behaviours that accompany it.

As dog owners we owe a big debt of gratitude to the wolf. If it were not for the wolf we would not have our faithful and loyal companion, the dog. More than 20,000 years ago a wolf decided humans were kinda cool and chose to peacefully cohabitate with them. In return for the wolves’ faithful protection and for alerting them to potential danger, humans fed and gave wolves shelter and a bond would develop that would result in thousands of years of domestication through selective breeding to create the dog as we know it today.

Yet oddly enough these canine cousins have been scorned for centuries by people who fear them, misunderstand them or don’t respect them for the creatures that they are. In many parts of the USA wolves had been killed off completely by cattlemen afraid of losing the profit from a side of beef due to a wolf kill. And it was only through the generosity of Canada that wolves were re-introduced to areas of the USA once it was realized how important wolves are to the ecological integrity of an environment. And now, ironically the wolf’s fate is being determined and in jeopardy in Canada, specifically in Northern Alberta in a political battle for oil.

Not long ago I ventured into the area of the Alberta oil sands. The destruction of our environment is unfathomable, and unless you witness it yourself you can never understand or appreciate the desecration of the earth. I was so taken back that I actually wept at the sight of it.

Not only is the destruction of the earth unbelievable but animal habitats are being destroyed, for good. One of those habitats belongs to the wilderness caribou. This animal that has been on earth for over a million years, is on its way to extinction, thanks to habitat destruction from tar sands development.

This may not seem like a big issue to many and you probably don’t understand why I am writing about it. But maybe this might shed some significance on the subject. In an effort to prevent the caribou from becoming extinct the government has decided to cull the wolves in the area.

You all remember the dogs in Whistler being culled? Ironically the story is in the news again after tougher animal welfare regulations have been brought forward by the SPCA. We all remember hearing about how the dogs were killed yet none of us could understand why.

Well in essence, the same thing is happening to the wolves in Northern Alberta. In typical backwards government logic, they find it more cost effective to kill the wolves which prey on caribou, than to preserve the natural habitat of the caribou.

For more information, visit the National Wildlife Federation’s www.nwf.org/ NewsandMagazines/MediaCenter/News-by-Topic/ Wildlife/2012/020612TarSandsDevelopmenttoLead-to-Poisoning-of-Wolves. aspx.

So wolves will be hunted, chased down and shot from a helicopter as well as poisoned with strychnine. I’m not usually one to share my views on government practices, but killing wolves in an attempt to save another species that is dying due to humans’ destruction of their natural habitat is just asininebackwards.

As I said before, every dog owner owes a debt of gratitude to wolves for giving us the dog. The least we can do is to help them by finding a way to prevent their unnecessary and barbaric destruction.

Source

Feb 27

DNR working to fix wolf issues

Written by Shawn Clark
For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written about wolves several times. I have my views on it, and people who read this column have their views on it.

The federal government has now delisted the wolf from the endangered species list, thus opening the door for states to take over the management of them. Landowners in the north who have suffered loss due to wolf predation on livetock or pets can now legally kill a wolf that is trying to kill cattle, dogs, cats or threatening bodily harm to themselves or family.

If someone kills one, the DNR simply wants to be informed, and the shooter should not fear prosecution.

And according to Wisconsin Outdoor News, a wolf season for the general public is being proposed, but nothing is set in stone yet. The following is from Wisconsin Outdoor News.

Gallery: We’re collecting your wolf photos.

***

A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature on Jan. 27 would create a 4½-month wolf hunting and trapping season that would allow the use of all firearms and bows, foot-hold traps and cable restraints, and trailing hounds.

Resident wolf tags would cost $99.25, and nonresident tags would cost $499.25. The proposed season would open Oct. 15 and continue through the end of February.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board would have to pass an emergency rule in order for the season to take place. The NRB would have to act on DNR suggestions for wolf harvest goals and tag numbers, according to Kurt Thiede, DNR Division of Lands administrator.

The Wisconsin DNR does not attempt to develop a wolf population estimate. Instead, the agency comes up with a “minimum count” each winter based on track surveys conducted by DNR personnel and volunteers. The most recent “minimum count” was about 850 wolves in April 2011. DNR officials now generally acknowledge the state has more than 1,000 wolves.

The state’s wolf plan calls for a management goal of 350 wolves. Federal delisting requirements called for 100 wolves between the two states of Wisconsin and Michigan. Wisconsin DNR personnel have not yet decided how they will set a wolf quota and then determine carcass tag numbers.

Quotas would be set in each of the state’s four wolf zones, and the season would run until the quota for a zone is reached. Tags would be issued by zone. Registration is required.

On Jan. 27, the bill would have allowed landowners and family members to hunt or trap wolves for free during February in any of the four wolf zones that still had an open quota. That provision apparently was removed before the Feb. 1 hearing, based on comments from legislators that day.

Use of trailing hounds and the hunting of wolves at night would be allowed starting the Monday after the nine-day deer season.

Money collected from license fees would be used to pay citizens for livestock and pet losses. Farmers are keeping a close eye on that provision, because they are concerned that if license fees are the only revenue source for the damage fund, the state won’t have enough money to fully reimburse farmers for livestock losses.

Even if AB 502 makes it through public hearings, is approved by the Assembly and Senate, and is signed by Walker, the season could be waylaid if wolf protectionist groups successfully file a lawsuit blocking delisting of the Great Lakes wolf population.

According to Georgia Parham, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a lawsuit challenging the USFWS’s Jan. 27 wolf delisting can be filed at any time. The petitioner would simply have to give the USFWS and federal court notice of intent to sue, and then file a challenge within two months of that notice.

Sportsmen can view the entire bill at legis.wisconsin.gov. Type “502″ in the box listed as “Proposal Number,” then click on “bill text.” Sportsmen will have to read between the lines a little, but the bill language does a good job of outlining what would be allowed at this point, short of public input that might change the bill’s wording.

Fritsch said the WWF will be supporting the bill throughout the legislative process.

***

So like it or not, there are some things in the works to get the wolf situation under control. A wolf hunt is another opportunity for hunters in Wisconsin, it will be a good thing to help the deer herd, make money for the state and help property owners who have lost livestock to wolf predation.

You can also likely expect animal rights groups to file challenges in court to stop the wolf hunt, and believe it or not, even some hunters would support that.

Wolves are predators, and have had a serious impact in our state already as far as the deer herd is concerned. They need to be controlled. So if you are any kind of animal lover, support a wolf hunt. Bring down their numbers to a manageable level, to help not only the deer herd, but the farmers and people in the north. The state of Wisconsin will clearly benefit from this.

Source

Feb 27

MT: Wolf visits town

By JESSE DAVIS/The Daily Inter Lake

Three generations of the Grande family shared a bonding experience Saturday morning when they followed a wolf through northwest Kalispell.

Clarence Grande said he was the first to see the animal — which was later positively identified as a wolf by biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks — as he was leaving his Glenwood Drive home at about 11 a.m.

“I had dropped my wife off and just happened to be backing out of my driveway when I looked up and here come a wolf around the corner,” Clarence said. “It went right past my pickup about five feet away.”

He quickly backed out and followed the wolf until it cut between two houses heading north. As soon as he lost sight of it, he immediately called his son Brian.

“I said ‘you’re never gonna believe what I saw,’” Clarence said.

At first, Brian didn’t believe his dad, but that changed quickly. He had just turned west on Three Mile Drive from North Meridian Road, on his way home with his 12-year-old son A.J., who had just finished a basketball game at The Summit.

“I thought he was crazy,” Brian said. “Then right there from Northern Lights Boulevard it ran right across the road in front of me.”

Brian followed the wolf up the road toward Kalispell Middle School and handed his phone to his son to film it while he drove. It then got into the school’s football field where it was temporarily delayed while it tried to find a way back through the fence.

Both Brian and Clarence said they saw what appeared to be a GPS or telemetry collar around the wolf’s neck.
It was at that point that Brian called 911 and was met by Sgt. Mark Mulcahy with the Kalispell Police Department. Brian said Mulcahy followed the tracks to a nearby backyard, but did not see the wolf.

“We spend quite a bit of time in the woods,” Brian said of himself and his son. “We’ve seen wolves around even when they weren’t supposed to be here, but I’ve never seen a wolf in town. I’ve seen a black bear on the golf course though.”

The Grandes weren’t the only people to report seeing the wolf, according to the Kalispell Police Department dispatch log.

The Kalispell wolf saga started at 10:30 a.m., when a woman reported seeing the wolf running along Windward Way, near the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Just before 11 a.m., another woman said she saw it running along the back of the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the Grandes made their reports. The wolf was then spotted in a field between Northridge Drive and Four Mile Drive. As it exited town, deputies with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department took up the chase and managed to film it on their dashboard cameras.

It was at that point that officers contacted Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which sent out three people with equipment to try and read the collar’s signal.

“We saw the tracks and then the dash cam video from the deputy and it was a wolf,” biologist Erik Wenum said. “It was wearing a radio collar. We’re still trying to sort out who it might have been.”
Kent Laudon, a wolf specialist with Fish, Wildlife and Parks said he checked as many frequencies as he could.

“He’s from somewhere else,” Laudon said. “I had frequencies from Yellowstone, Idaho, Wyoming and other parts of Montana, but I didn’t get any beeps. It could be that this guy is missing, and wherever he’s from I don’t have the latest list.”

Another possibility is that the collar is no longer functioning.

“A lot of times, especially with juveniles, they’re radio collared at a younger age, then they leave the pack,” Wenum said. “Radio collars fail, batteries die.”

Wenum and Laudon guessed that the wolf likely came into town during the night through the creek bed.

“It’s not uncommon,” Laudon said. “We have bears and mountain lions and moose that roll in through town.
They do it during the night then pop up out of that riparian zone and panic, then try to find a way out of town.”

Wenum said the dash cam footage he saw showed the wolf “running ragged, running scared.” He said it was probably also spooked by the people following it and just wanted to escape.

“Ultimately that’s what he was able to do once he got west of Farm to Market Road,” Laudon said. “He got to the tree line and continued to move west.”

Source

Feb 27

Oregon watches Idaho experience as wolves reduce elk population

By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian

JOSEPH — Gray wolves have played a dramatic role in a 20 percent reduction of Idaho’s elk herds over the past 15 years — and that could be an omen for eastern Oregon’s 60,000 Rocky Mountain elk in the Blue Mountains.

Idaho elk numbers have fallen from 125,000 to 103,000 since about 1997 to the dismay of hunters, professional big game outfitters and small businesses that depend on seasonal revenues from hunters.

Habitat changes and heavy feeding by bears and cougars spurred the elk decline before wolves came on the scene, but state and federal wildlife research now links the continued drop in some areas to the increased activity of wolves, said Craig White, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist in Boise.

“What we found in the backcountry zones, we found wolves were the primary cause of mortality,” he said.

Within a decade, Oregonians may be faced with some of the same questions Idaho has grappled with: How many elk, deer or wolves does the state want to support?

Much depends on how fast Oregon’s wolf population increases. In Idaho, wolves exploded from 35 in 1996 to roughly 800 a decade later.

Hilary Cooley, regional wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Boise, said Oregon’s wolves probably won’t multiply that rapidly. On the other hand, few expected Idaho’s wolves to increase at the rate they did, she said.

Adding to the complexity, eastern Oregon’s elk numbers already are trending downward and have been for more than a decade, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Bruce Eddy of La Grande. That’s happening for the same reasons as Idaho’s decline: habitat changes and killing by bears and cougars.

Wildlife managers here are keeping a close eye on Idaho, but it’s too early to know if Oregon will see a replay of what’s happened in Idaho, Eddy said. As wolf numbers grow, he expects a change in the distribution of elk from open meadows and prairies into rougher mountainous, wooded terrain, he said.

“It’s tougher for wolves to hunt in those areas,” he said.

Lessons learned

In Idaho, wolves number at least 705 (in contrast to a mere 28 roaming Oregon). They were taken off the federal endangered species list last May and are classified as a big game animal. Since August, sport hunters and trappers have killed 321 wolves in Idaho, including Oregon-born OR-9, the brother of Oregon’s celebrity wolf OR-7.

Biologists have drawn some conclusions from Idaho’s 15 years of balancing wolves and elk, White said, including:

– Among Idaho’s 29 elk management zones, wolves are the primary cause of mortality in the hardest-hit herds, he said. And those zones are the state’s most remote. Winter calf survival in two of those zones, for example, is now 30 percent and 52 percent respectively, compared to 71 percent and 89 percent before 2004, when wolf densities were lower, state statistics show.

– Elk numbers are holding their own in Idaho’s “front country,” where wolves and elk roam together near ranches and farms. It’s in such areas that conflicts involving wolves and domestic livestock occur, and wolves often are trapped, hunted and shot.

Idaho had to come up with its own wolf management blueprint because while Canada, Alaska and Michigan all have wolves, they have differing habitat and their prey base consists mostly of moose, caribou or white-tail deer, not elk, White said. Idaho’s management includes helicopter gunning to reduce wolf numbers in elk recovery zones.

Sean Stevens, a spokesman for the Portland-based conservation group Oregon Wild, suspects Oregon’s approach will differ considerably from Idaho’s when all is said and done.

“I think the level of support for wolf recovery in Oregon is much different than what you have in Idaho,” where many people are more hostile to wolves, he said. He may be right: 17 percent of Idaho residents hunt compared to about 8 percent in Oregon, according to federal wildlife figures.

White said the people of Idaho appear happier now that the state, not the federal government, is in charge of wolf management. “Idahoans feel like they have some control back in their lives, that they can guide their own destiny,” he said.

Suzanne Stone of Boise, spokeswoman for the 530,000-member Defenders of Wildlife, worries about the rate at which Idaho wolves are falling to bullets, leg-hold traps and government aerial gunners.

“Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any bottom line,” she said. She blames Idaho’s 20,000 black bears, 3,000 cougars and numberless coyotes for most of the state’s deer and elk predation. Stone also said it’s wrong to ask taxpayers to subsidize killing wolves to bolster big game populations.

Still, from the perspective of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho’s wolf recovery program is a success, Cooley said. The reason is that wolf numbers haven’t fallen below the federal recovery goal of 150 individual wolves and 15 breeding pairs in any three-year period.

“The state has given us their promise they are not going to let that happen,” she said.

In Oregon

Oregon wildlife managers are waiting to see what happens, but one researcher — Charles Kay, a senior research scientist at Utah State University — predicts Oregon elk herds ultimately will shrink to 10 percent of what the environment could otherwise support because of wolves.

Kay has made detailed evaluations of Yellowstone National Park and the southern Canadian Rockies wildlife and bases his forecast on what happened in Canada in the 1980s when wolves returned and big game populations fell.

But not everyone agrees with Kay’s work. Eddy is dubious about his predictions for Oregon. “Nature is way too complicated to make that sort of prognostication,” he said.

Eddy points out that despite the presence of wolves, elk are overrunning the 150,000-acre Zumwalt Prairie in northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa County. An estimated 3,400 elk threaten to overgraze the unique grassland.

“We’re trying to figure out ways to get rid of them,” Eddy said of the Zumwalt elk. “And that’s where the wolves are.”

Source

Feb 27

SE: The transplanting of wolf pups is not an acute necessity

Roughly translated by TWIN Observer

News P4 Varmland

Transplanting of wolf pups is not necessary for the short term to enhance genetic wolf population. Wolf researcher Olof Lidberg believes that we can wait a couple of years to transplant the wolf pups.

“There are plenty of wolves elsewhere. If it is found in 10 years that we have a problem with genetics, we can bring them in then. We must not do it today, next year or two or three years. We have plenty of time left to plan for such measures,” said wolf researcher Olof Liberg.

This year’s wolf census shows that nearly a third of genetically valuable wolves have flourished. This suggests that it is going well for the Swedish wolf population.

“The geneticists say that the population is slowly being degraded genetically right now, but I mean that in such cases is an extremely slow process. Currently, it’s actually better and better for the wolf population, it is already recovered,” says Olof Liberg.

With the problems encountered, particularly when it comes to landowners and the gamekeepers have to say no to a transplanting, says Olof Liberg, meaning there is no panic if transplanting is delayed.

“I do not mind planting the wolves, but if it should prove that there is a huge problem to get them out does not mean that it is a disaster.”

Olof Liberg is one of the participants in the predator symposium which the SSNC arranged in Karlstad on Saturday.

Source

Feb 27

ID: Conservation groups blast Idahos decision to kill wolves from helicopter

by Dennis Bragg (KPAX/KAJ Media Center)

Conservation groups are blasting Idaho’s decision to kill wolves along the Idaho-Montana border from the air, saying the move is “misguided” and not backed up with scientific evidence.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game caused a flurry of response from wolf advocated Thursday when it announced it helped fund USDA Wildlife Service’s successful efforts to kill 14 wolves from a helicopter in the Lolo Zone of the Clearwater National Forest.

The state says in the Lolo zone, hunters had killed 11 wolves this year, with another 11 caught by trappers and half-a-dozen killed through “control efforts” last spring. Along with the 14 wolves shot from the air earlier this month that brings the total wolves removed to 42.

In September 2010 Idaho Fish and Game set a target of 40 to 50 wolves to be removed to help maintain healthy elk populations on the Idaho side of the border. Biologists say the wolves are the “primary cause of death” for cow elk and calves under six months old.

Deputy Director Jim Unsworth says the state would “like to see one of Idaho’s premier elk populations recover as much as possible.” But Defenders of Wildlife is blasting the move, and previous occasions where it says the state has killed wolves through aerial gunning.

“It’s wrong to ask American taxpayers to subsidize the pointless killing of wolves in order to boost game populations. The removal of wolves in the Clearwater National Forest runs counter to science-based wildlife management and is an inappropriate use of limited resources that should be aimed at conserving wildlife,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for the Defenders.

“Hunters and trappers have already killed more than 20 wolves in the area in the last six months, and the season continues until the end of March. There’s no scientific evidence that the ecosystem is out of balance due to the return of wolves and thus no justification for having Wildlife Services kill more wolves to boost elk numbers.”

Defenders of Wildlife worries the state will try a similar approach elsewhere in Idaho.

Source

Feb 27

CA AB: ‘Senseless slaughter’ doesn’t stop at wolves

Eagles, bears, other species eating poisoned bait

BY ED STRUZIK, EDMONTON JOURNAL

Ken Cowles was in his cabin near Grande Cache last February when one of his dogs showed up looking very ill.

Seeing that two of his other dogs were missing, he tracked them down to some poison bait that had been buried in the snow.

Both dogs were dead, and in a short time, Cowles saw an eagle fall out of the sky and the frozen carcass of a wolf that had eaten strychnine-laced meat placed at the site.

Cowles didn’t have any doubt about who was responsible. For the past five years, the Alberta government has been poisoning wolves or shooting them from the air in an effort to save the Little Smoky caribou herd, which is in danger of disappearing.

“Less than a mile from my cabin, you have to wonder what they were thinking. This is a dangerous waste of time and energy killing wolves to save caribou that are more threatened by oil and gas and forestry developments than they are by predators,” Cowles said.

Cowles and a small group of trappers and outfitters who work in the Little Smoky region are fed up. In a letter to Sustainable Resource Development Minister Frank Oberle, they demand an end to the wolf kill. “It’s another case of humans trying to control nature and in the process nature loses,” they wrote.

“There are documented cases of eagles and dogs, which became victims of this senseless slaughter. Wolverine and grizzly bears also frequent these areas and, as scavengers, are sure to be eating these poison baits, also. Some of the poisoned animals are left there and when other animals eat them they also die.”

Until now, opposition to wolf control has been largely confined to environmentalists and scientists who consider the practice to be unethical and a waste of time and money.

But now that trappers and outfitters are questioning the practice, both levels of government may have a difficult time expanding the wolf control program, which federal Environment Minister Peter Kent acknowledged was a possibility when his department released a draft plan for caribou recovery last August.

All but one of the 13 caribou herds in Alberta are in decline. According to a recent study, nine of those will end up with fewer than 10 animals in the next 35 years if conservation measures aren’t taken soon.

“Very few people are aware that a portion of their tax dollars are going to kill off wolves and many other species of wildlife,” outfitter Randy Tellier said. “Their excuse for this slaughter is to protect the woodland caribou. Why are the caribou numbers so low in the first place? It is because of humans destroying the habitat. The real enemy of caribou are not wolves, it’s industrial development.”

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development spokesman Dave Ealey said it is “extremely unfortunate” that Cowles lost his dogs that way and said efforts are underway to make sure something like that won’t happen again. Though the poisoning of wolves will be kept to a minimum, the cull will continue, he said.

“Since the department started managing wolves in this area five years ago, the Little Smoky caribou herd has stabilized,” he says. “It is working in the way biologists hoped it would.”

Tellier said he and his colleagues are not trying to stop industrial development. What they want is the government to live up to a commitment they say was made several years ago to limit development in the Little Smoky area.

“In the last three years, that has fallen apart. There are now several new roads, many new clear cuts and logged-out areas and at least four gas rigs working in the winter feeding grounds of the caribou.”

Source

Feb 24

RI: Wildlife Society brings Arctic wolf to campus

By Gus Cantwell

Many University of Rhode Island students could not contain their excitement at the sight of an Arctic Gray wolf on stage in the Memorial Union Ballroom during the URI Wildlife Society’s live wolf program last night.

Maggie Howell, who works at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in South Salem, N.Y., overviewed the plight of the wolves in North America in front of roughly 100 community members and University of Rhode Island students. She explained that although more than 250,000 wolves once roamed the United States, “people began to kill wolves and they’re good at killing wolves.”

By the early 1970s, less than 1,000 wolves remained, almost all of which were located in Minnesota. However, the 1973 Endangered Species Act gave protection to the creatures, allowing their numbers to swell back into the thousands over time, she explained.

“We’ve taken some born in captivity and released them in the wild,” Howell said. The population of one species, the Mexican Gray wolf, had dwindled down to just five before being saved and brought back to more than 400.

Howell attributed much of the fear and disdain that led to the killing of wolves to fables such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,” which, she explained, are not accurate portrayals of the “shy and elusive” animals.

“I think we can realize they are not going to eat our grandparents,” she quipped. “They are no danger to humans.”

Though the audience was attentive and obviously interested in Howell’s speech, it was apparent that they really came to see Atka, an Arctic Gray wolf from the WCC. The nine-year old, 85-pound male displayed no fear of the audience, proudly walking through the aisles on a leash and rolling in a puddle of tea that Howell poured on the stage.

“Atka really loves Starbucks,” she joked.

Atka, who was born in Minnesota, was nicknamed “Bratka” as a pup by WCC workers because of his refusal to accept any other wolves as his superior, Howell said. As an arctic wolf, he develops a thick, coarse coat each winter to protect him from the customary subzero degree weather in the Arctic.

Additionally, Howell explained that his paws, shoulders and tail all hold scent glands that allow him to mark his territory. This is why wolves often roll in substances that can mask their scent.

“Because he no longer smells as much like a wolf, he has an advantage [while hunting],” Howell explained.
The WCC is home to 25 wolves and is open to the public. Inside, people can meet many different types of wolves, some of which serve as teachers for people looking to learn more about the animals.

Atka served as a prominent example for students of how wolves behave and how there is a pressing need for the species’ conservation.

“Wolves [form] really good families,” Howell said, adding that the hierarchy of a wolf pack is similar to those of human families. The alpha pair of a pack is usually the parents of the other wolves in the pack. The group travels collectively and marks their territory by urinating on objects within their living area, which can be as large as 1000 square miles.

“It’s like wolf Facebook,” Howell explained.

The most recognized characteristic of wolves is their howl, which other wolves can hear from as far as 10 miles away. Each voice is unique and she said communication is key for their success in hunting and surviving.

“They need to be a team,” she said. This is particularly important when the pack is hunting for prey, because they usually target large animals such as moose, elk, or even bison that can feed all the wolves at once.

“Wolves hunt every day and most times they are not successful,” Howell said. When they do succeed, they generally pick the sickest or weakest animals, which she said is a “great service” to the ecosystem because it allows the strongest animals to survive and evolve.

Though they do not have an effect on the local ecosystem because wolves do not live in the northeast, Howell explained that some of their closest relatives can be found in our own homes.

“Dogs are the closest living relative to the wolf,” she said. She added that coyotes and foxes, which are both common in the area, are relatives to the wolf, as well.

Unlike their relatives, wolves are still experiencing a lot of issues nationwide despite their resurgence in the last 40 years.

“They’re fighting for their lives,” WCC Co-President David Hornoff said. U.S. Congress’s recent decision to remove the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list has once again left them vulnerable to “wolf-hunting seasons,” he said. Howell said she hopes to see this reversed and hopes scientists can make decisions on matters regarding ecosystems rather than politicians.

To help raise money for volunteer efforts in the WCC and Wildlife Society, a raffle was also held at the end of the event. Hornoff said those in attendance could use donations and the organizations’ websites to help advocate for the wolves and stressed that they “be the voice for wolves.”

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