Aug 31

Judge bars dogs from Wisconsin’s wolf hunt

Dane County Judge issues temporary injunction

MADISON, Wis.(AP) – A Dane County judge has temporarily halted the use of dogs during Wisconsin’s wolf hunt, putting the outcome of the hunt in jeopardy.

Judge Peter C. Anderson issued a temporary injunction Friday as part of a lawsuit a group of humane societies have filed against the Department of Natural Resources.

The group contends the DNR failed to impose restrictions on hunting dogs during this fall’s wolf hunt, setting deadly dog-wolf clashes in the woods.

It’s unclear what the ruling means for the hunt. Anderson says hunters can still go after wolves. DNR officials have warned the injunction could scuttle the hunt.

They have said don’t have enough time to change their regulations to reflect the dog ban before the hunt begins in mid-October.

DNR attorney Tim Andryk says the agency will have to review the judge’s order.

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Aug 31

Wyoming Wolves Lose Federal Protection, Will Be Shot on Sight Across Most of State

Lawsuit Launched Challenging Wyoming’s Kill-at-will Policy

WASHINGTON— Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that gray wolves in Wyoming will be taken off the endangered species list — a death sentence for a majority of the animals, which will now be managed under a state plan that delineates more than 80 percent of Wyoming as a “predator zone” where wolves can be shot on sight. In the remainder of the state, excluding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, wolves will be designated a “trophy game animal” and hunted in large numbers, with the goal of reducing the population from about 270 wolves to 100.

In response to today’s decision, the Center for Biological Diversity joined a coalition of environmental groups in filing a notice of intent to sue the federal government for stripping away Endangered Species Act protections from Wyoming’s wolves.

“Taking federal protection away from Wyoming’s wolves will bring the same kind of senseless slaughter that first drove them to the brink of extinction in the lower 48,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has worked to protect western wolves for nearly a quarter-century. “Blatantly ignoring science and sanctioning the extermination of these beautiful and intelligent animals is a travesty. We’re going to sue to protect these wolves.”

The “Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan” is nearly identical to one that was rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009 for not being protective enough of wolves. Wyoming’s latest plan does shrink the size of the predator zone for a small area south of Grand Teton National Park, but not by much and only for part of the year.

“Wyoming’s wolf-management plan is a body blow to wolf recovery in the West,” said Greenwald. “It’ll drastically reduce wolf numbers in the northern Rocky Mountains and cut off further spread of these animals to excellent habitat in Colorado and Utah.”

Protections for wolves in the rest of the northern Rockies, including Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington and northern Utah, were removed by Congress via a rider on a budget bill and have been a disaster for wolf recovery. Idaho and Montana now allow hunting and trapping designed to drastically cut wolf populations, with a total of 545 wolves killed last year and more targeted for killing in the coming year.

“As with the rest of the northern Rockies, today’s decision to remove protections for Wyoming’s wolves flies in the face of all the best research that’s been done in recent years,” said Greenwald. “Just in the short time we’ve allowed wolves to return — in limited numbers — and reclaim their natural ecological role, they’ve quickly demonstrated they’re an irreplaceable keystone species. By limiting the amount of time elk spend along rivers, their presence has led to major improvements in streamside vegetation and water quality, benefiting fish, insects, birds, beavers and a broad range of other species. They’re fascinating to people and a significant tourist draw for states, including Wyoming.”

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Aug 31

ID: Deer, bear, wolf seasons open

By BOBBY ATKINSON

The summer is winding down and fall’s just around the corner, so many hunters from across the Silver Valley are getting ready for hunting some of the region’s abundant wildlife.

Thursday marked the opening day for bow hunting for antlered and antlerless whitetail deer and antlered mule deer. Those outdoorsmen who aren’t as inclined to using a bow can get a little more adventurous and try their luck at hunting black bears and wolfs, as both seasons opened on Thursday as well.

Those going after deer in the Silver Valley could be in for a successful hunting season this year. Idaho Fish and Game official Josh Stanley said deer populations across the area have shot up in the past year.

“We are very much relying on hunters to control the populations,” Stanley said. “There has been a large increase in deer numbers recently, so [Fish and Game] has a more liberal take on whitetails.”

Hunters going out to find bear and wolves could also be in for some success this year. Stanley said Fish and Game have seen an increase in wolves and after lawsuits were threatening to block wolf hunts earlier this year, the game warden said the Fish and Game was extremely happy that hunters are out in the woods “with wolf tags in their pockets.”

Moreover, the black bear populations across Shoshone County are, Stanley said, at a very healthy level. The healthy population of bears has given way to some changes in bear hunting. Namely, hunters now have the opportunity to bag more bear than in the past.

“Our bear numbers are very, very healthy,” Stanley said. “They are high numbers so the rules are more liberal regarding bear hunts this year. A second reduced bear tag is now available.”

The high population numbers this year could be a result of the milder than usual winter. Stanley said weather is the number one factor that drives changes in population — ahead of hunters and natural predators alike.

Not all of wildlife population numbers were high enough to allow more loose rules. For elk, there have been major changes in buying over the counter tags.

In the past, an elk tag allowed a hunter the chance at either a bull or cow elk. However, with a drop in elk numbers, Stanley said Fish and Game had to limit the number of cow elks killed. Now, only hunters with restricted tags are allowed to kill cow elk.

New restriction in elk hunting, however, shouldn’t keep hunters away from going after the big prize elk. Stanley said despite the new restrictions, there have been plenty of elk spotted across the Silver Valley lately.

“Hunters just need to get out there in forest and off the roads and they’ll shoot some elk. There are lots of them out there,” Stanley said

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Aug 31

WY: Wolves may be delisted in Wyoming today

By CHRISTINE PETERSON Star-Tribune staff writer

Wyoming wildlife officials expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make an announcement about delisting wolves in the state today.

But what the contents of that announcement might be is unclear.

If a delisting plan is filed, the action would typically take 30 days to become official — in time for Wyoming’s proposed Oct. 1 wolf hunt — said Renny MacKay, Gov. Matt Mead’s communications director.

But filing documents are normally placed in what is called the reading room of the public inspection desk of the Federal Register the day before they are filed in the register. The wolf delisting was not in the reading room Thursday.

Conservation groups may go to court to fight the delisting if it happens, said Jenny Harbine, an attorney for EarthJustice, a nonprofit law firm representing conservation groups.

A court ruling stopped the first delistment filing in Wyoming in 2008.

Under the current plan, Wyoming would define wolves as predators that can be shot on sight in most of the state and as trophy game animals in the northwest corner. It also includes a flex zone, or seasonal trophy game area, where wolves would be considered trophy game a portion of the year and predators for the rest.

Wyoming would agree to keep at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in the state outside of federal lands. The first hunting season would give 52 permits.

Biologists estimate Wyoming has about 240 wolves living outside of Yellowstone National Park.

“We appreciate that the Department of Interior remains committed to the goal of turning management over to the state of Wyoming,” MacKay wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune. “A lot has gone into Wyoming’s wolf delisting efforts. Secretary (Ken) Salazar and Governor Mead worked hard to reach an agreement.”

“We continue to work towards finalizing the rule to delist wolves in Wyoming and turn management over to the state under the approved management plan,” said Kate Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior.

“The rule is under review within the Department of the Interior.”

The “approved management plan” is the wolf management plan accepted by the Wyoming Legislature in March.

Wolves have already been removed from the endangered species list in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

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Aug 31

OR: New wolf pack confirmed in northeastern Oregon wilderness

By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian

JOSEPH — Oregon has a brand new wolf pack, complete with a litter of five pups, discovered last weekend deep in the 560-square-mile Eagle Cap Wilderness of northeastern Oregon.

State biologists spotted two gray-colored adult wolves and their pups on Aug. 25 in the Upper Minam River drainage, said Michelle Dennehy, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

The litter is the fifth documented this year in northeastern Oregon, bringing the number of new wolf pups for the year to 23 in the state, Dennehy said.

That adds to the 29 known wolves in Oregon counted by the end of 2011.

“Now, we will be monitoring them through the end of the year to see how many pups survive,” Dennehy said.

The state could be on the cusp of achieving a major goal of its Oregon Wolf Management Plan: four breeding pairs of gray wolves for three consecutive years east of the Cascades. Achieving that objective could start the process to delist the gray wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species Act, Dennehy said.

Irregular reports of wolves roaming along the Minam River have come to ODFW biologists for several years, she said. A vacationing Idaho biologist reported finding wolf scat there while archery hunting six years ago.

State biologists have closely monitored the Minam River since a photo of a black lactating female wolf was taken there June 4. But the newly discovered adult wolves and pups are all gray and appear unrelated to the lactating female, Dennehy said.

Oregon’s wolf numbers have steadily grown in recent years, with adult wolves in the Imnaha, Wenaha, Walla Walla, Snake River, Sled Springs and now Minam River packs, plus at least two adult wolves in the Mount Emily Game Management Unit between Pendleton and La Grande.

Additionally, biologists have confirmed two separate wolf packs in the Sled Springs game management unit. They also captured and radio-collared a 49-pound male pup Aug. 2 in the Snake River Pack.

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Aug 31

WA: Wash. gives targeted wolves a reprieve

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington wildlife managers have given a reprieve to four wolves targeted for killing in the state’s northeastern corner.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday that it’s giving the temporary reprieve to give its team in the field a break, to avoid running into people outdoors on Labor Day and to evaluate what it’s learned so far about the pack’s activities. Officials say they’ll reconsider next week.

The move also came after protests from conservation groups who argued that there’s little evidence the Stevens County pack, known as the Wedge pack, were to blame for recent depredations on the Diamond M ranch. Eight livestock have been injured or killed since last month, most recently in mid-August.

Officials killed one wolf Aug. 7 and planned to kill up to four more.

The conservation groups include Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity. The department maintains that the wolves are responsible.

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Aug 30

MT: Surveys: Montanans intolerant of wolves, support wolf hunting

BRETT FRENCH

Four surveys sent out last spring by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks found that there is generally a low tolerance for wolves on the landscape and general acceptance of wolf hunting.

The results of the surveys were presented to members of the FWP Commission at its meeting in Helena on Thursday. Montana’s wolf hunting season for archers opens on Saturday across the state.

The surveys were broken down among four different groups. Montana households was the most diverse group; deer and elk hunters; resident landowners who own 160 acres or more, and wolf hunters.

Even among the 1,500 random households surveyed, only one-third of the respondents were tolerant of wolves on the landscape, the survey found. The mailed surveys had about a 40 percent response rate among households contacted.

Commissioner Ron Moody said he would not use the information to make a decision because there is so much cultural diversity between rural and urban Montanans that the survey of households didn’t tease out.

“A Montana household as a metric for a nonhunting public is important, but I don’t think we’ll ever have one number that reflects that diversity,” he said.

Landowners, as a group, were the least tolerant of wolves on the landscape.

The surveys also found a high tolerance for wolf hunting in Montana, even among households who were tolerant of wolves being on the landscape. Among the random households, almost 60 percent were very tolerant of wolf hunting.

“Our conclusion is that Montana’s wolf hunt significantly increased satisfaction with wolf management in the state,” said Mike Lewis, who helped compile the survey and gave the report to the commission.

Before the hunt, there was general dissatisfaction among all groups with the state’s wolf management.

Moody pointed out that the survey was likely swayed by the fact that the state had not had a hunt before last year because lawsuits stalled the state’s proposed hunt.

“It is fascinating to see how attitudes shifted so much after we had our wolf season,” said Shane Colton, FWP commissioner from Billings.

The numbers validate the commission’s decisions on wolf management, he added.

Among the respondents, the survey also found that 26 percent of the randomly selected household residents may purchase a wolf hunting license in the future, compared with 25 percent of landowners, 50 percent of deer and elk hunters and 87 percent of the wolf hunters.

The surveys also found more than 70 percent of respondents across all of the groups supported using the money from wolf license sales to kill wolves outside of the hunting season where elk or deer numbers are below management objectives or to kill wolves involved in cattle depredations. Forty to 60 percent supported using tax dollars for the same measures, an unusually high amount in a state where residents traditionally are against spending tax dollars for anything, Lewis said.

It was noted by FWP commissioners though, that wolf license sales don’t even cover the cost of wolf management in the state – a $600,000 annual drain on the agency’s budget.

Commission chairman Bob Ream said it will be important to send out a similar survey following the 2012 season, the first season that will include trapping.

Wildlife bureau chief Ken McDonald told the commission that 1,600 people have indicated an interest in taking a wolf-trapping education class. McDonald said the agency will set up classes of no more than 50 people each this fall and include a field day to demonstrate trap setting.

“So it’s going to be a huge effort by the department to accommodate trapper education,” he said.

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Aug 29

Group to judge: Dogs shouldn’t hunt Wis. wolves

TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Allowing hunters to use dogs to track down wolves without any restrictions will result in bloody encounters between the animals, lawyers for animal rights groups argued Wednesday.

A coalition of humane societies filed a lawsuit arguing that state wildlife officials didn’t impose restrictions on hunting dogs for this year’s wolf hunt, which creates the potential for brutal wolf-dog clashes that violate Wisconsin’s animal cruelty laws.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the groups asked Dane County Circuit Judge Peter C. Anderson to temporarily block the Department of Natural Resources from issuing wolf permits unless the agency notifies hunters that they cannot train dogs to go after wolves. Coalition attorney Robert Habush said the lack of hound restrictions amounted to “agency malpractice.”

But the DNR says an injunction would effectively halt the hunt. Agency officials said they don’t have enough time to add dog restrictions to permits before the hunt begins in October.

Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Hirsch told the judge DNR rule-makers believed the legislation that created the wolf hunt didn’t grant them the authority to restrict dogs.

“Basically, DNR had no choice in this matter,” she argued.

After listening to both sides for about three hours, Anderson said he would issue a decision Friday. He said he needs more time to consider the injunction request.

“We need to slow it down,” Anderson said. “These are tough issues to get a handle on.”

President Barack Obama’s administration removed Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan wolves from the endangered species list in January, relegating their management to the states. Wisconsin Republicans pushed through a law this spring that allows hunters to use traps and dogs to chase wolves during daylight hours. No other state allows wolf hunters to use dogs, according to the DNR.

The first hunt is scheduled to begin Oct. 15 and run through the end of February.

The DNR crafted emergency regulations this summer to ensure the hunt could begin by October. The rules set the kill quota at 201 animals statewide, about a quarter of the state’s wolves, and the maximum number of permits at 2,010. As of Wednesday, about 16,500 people had applied for a permit.

But the rules didn’t include any restrictions on using hunting dogs, such as leash or lead requirements.

The humane societies and a wolf watcher group allege the DNR ignored expert findings that wolves will attack hunting dogs.

“Instead, it has adopted regulations whose sparsity and inexplicable lack of reasonable restrictions cross the line by allowing hunting to become a blood sport abhorred by modern society,” the group said in court filings.

Hirsch argued the wolf hunt law states hunters can use dogs and DNR rule-makers believed adding restrictions would exceed their authority. The law didn’t require the DNR to impose protections for dogs, she added. DNR attorney Tim Andryk said hunters felt leashes and leads were impractical in the woods and they can tell their dogs to stop through radio collars.

Hirsch also argued the humane societies have no grounds to sue since the hunting dogs don’t belong to them, she added.

“While the plaintiffs are certainly upset … their issue is with the Legislature, or the federal government in the first place for taking wolves off the endangered species list,” Hirsch said.

Coalition attorney Carl Sinderbrand noted humane societies care for injured dogs and wolves and dog-wolf fights run counter to the societies’ mission to protect animals. He also argued hunting dogs could injure wolf watchers and radio collar signals don’t make hunting dogs stop.

He also said the DNR disregarded expert testimony during the rule-making process warning wolves will turn on dogs. The lack of regulation, he said, will turn the north woods into a “free-for-all.”

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Aug 29

NM: State has spent more than $200K defending wolf lawsuit

By Milan Simonich/Santa Fe Bureau Chief

SANTA FE — The lobo lawsuit escalated to six figures in five months.
State wildlife managers spent more than $216,000 on outside attorneys in less than half a year to defend against a claim that they violated the federal Endangered Species Act relating to Mexican gray wolves.

This confrontation began when the New Mexico Game and Fish Department last year lifted a ban on trapping in southwestern New Mexico, where the federal government reintroduced the endangered wolves. It meant state lands again were open to potential adversaries of the rare wolves.

WildEarth Guardians sued the Game and Fish Department, alleging a state agency had created a system that could harm or kill wolves guaranteed protection by federal law.

The suit, filed in February in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, named state Game and Fish Director James Lane and Game Commission Chairman Jim McClintic as defendants.

“No permit is necessary to trap skunks or coyotes. Wolves that should enjoy protection are in danger of being harmed or killed,” said Wendy Keefover of WildEarth Guardians.

Every death of a Mexican gray wolf is statistically significant, she said, because its population in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona numbers no more than 42.

Lane, through a spokesman, said money the state is using to defend against the lawsuit came from fishing, hunting and trapping licenses. He declined to say anything else.

State records show that most of the money spent so far by the Game and Fish Department has gone to the law firm of Kelley Drye in Washington, D.C. It had received $199,801 through June, the end of the state government’s budget year.

Another $16,238 for the wolf case went to the Albuquerque law firm of Keleher & McLeod.

The suit is still being litigated, and seven agencies opposed to wolf reintroduction have intervened as defendants.

They include the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.

Caren Cowan, executive director of the cattle growers, said her group opposes the wolf as an unwanted and dangerous predator. She said she also resented WildEarth Guardians trying to create policies for the state.

“We need the ability to use our own lands,” Cowan said in an interview.

Keefover of WildEarth Guardians said federal protection for the wolf trumps the state trapping program. Her group maintains the wolf’s future is being threatened because of political maneuverings in New Mexico.

When Democrat Bill Richardson was governor, he issued an executive order prohibiting leg-hold and body-crushing traps within the Mexican gray wolf’s New Mexico recovery area. He said he wanted to protect the wolves as much as possible until their population grew. Richardson’s order came in July 2010, six months before he left office.

Republican Susana Martinez succeeded Richardson. The Game and Fish Department, as part of her administration, rescinded Richardson’s trapping ban in July 2011.

It meant that trapping could occur year-round on lands where it had been prohibited. They included portions of the Wild Rivers Recreation Area of the Rio Grande, the Valle Vidal, Vermejo Ranch and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

WildEarth Guardians is no happier with President Obama’s administration than it is with Martinez’s.

In 2010 the conservation group filed petitions with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in hopes of receiving an emergency exclusion of trapping in the Mexican gray wolf’s range.

The Forest Service rejected the request and the Fish and Wildlife Service ignored it, Keefover said.

The wolf’s territory also extends into Arizona, where it is safer.

Trapping is outlawed on Arizona’s public lands. Voters, not politicians, made that decision in a public vote in 1994.

Cowan of the cattle growers association said the lawsuit amounted to little. Even the U.S. government describes Mexican gray wolves in the wild as a “nonessential experimental population,” she said.

Cowan also said the chances of wolves dying or being hurt in traps were small and had occurred infrequently since their reintroduction in New Mexico and Arizona in 1998.

A study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of the Interior found that 14 Mexican gray wolves were captured in foothold traps set by people other than Fish and Wildlife employees. Thirteen of the trappings occurred in New Mexico.

Two of the wolves died and two others were hurt severely enough that leg amputations were necessary.

The same study found that 37 wolves were illegally shot, 12 were hit by vehicles, 11 were “lethally removed” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one was shot legally by a member of the public, and one died from a trap injury that was part of government research operations. Given the Mexican gray wolf’s minuscule population outside captivity, Keefover said, the species could vanish, especially with programs such as state trapping that allows for year-round, unlicensed operations.

New Mexico residents pay $20 for a license to trap furbearers. But, as Keefover pointed out, no license for state residents is needed to trap coyotes or skunks.

Nonresident trappers can buy a license for $345. They must be licenses for coyote and skunk trapping.

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Aug 29

Wolf hunt could be nixed if injunction OK’d; decision delayed to Friday

RON SEELY | Wisconsin State Journal

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday they will be forced to scrap the 2012-13 wolf hunt in Wisconsin if a Dane County judge issues an injunction temporarily halting the issuance of licenses.

The request for an injunction is sought by a coalition of Wisconsin humane societies in a lawsuit that claims the DNR did not include provisions in the wolf hunt rules that would prevent violent and inhumane fights between dogs and wolves.

Dane County Circuit Judge Peter Anderson on Wednesday delayed a decision on the injunction until Friday at 1:30 p.m. He also set a date of Sept. 14 to rule on a motion from the DNR and the state of Wisconsin to dismiss the case.

The wolf hunt, the only one in the nation allowing the use of dogs, is scheduled to begin Oct. 15. As of Wednesday, the agency had received more than 16,000 applications for wolf hunting permits. The application period closes Saturday, and a drawing to pick 2,000 permits would be held next week.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have asked that Anderson halt the issuance of licenses until the agency amends the wolf hunting rule to regulate the training and use of dogs during the hunt. Kurt Thiede, the DNR administrator overseeing the hunt, said Wednesday there would not be enough time prior to the scheduled Oct. 15 start of the hunt to make such changes.

During a four-hour court session Wednesday, Anderson grilled lawyers on both sides of the issue. He focused on two main issues raised by the case — whether the group of humane societies has legal standing to challenge the use of dogs in the hunt and whether the DNR had the authority to include stricter regulations on training and hunting wolves with dogs.

Cynthia Hirsch, a lawyer with the state Department of Justice, argued that the DNR did not have the authority to regulate the training and use of dogs for wolf hunting because of provisions in the wolf hunting law passed by the state Legislature.

“Basically, the DNR had no choice in the matter,” Hirsch said.

Lawyers for the humane societies said the groups have a legitimate stake in the issue — or legal standing that allows them to challenge the unregulated use of dogs. “Their mission, their business, is the protection of all animals, wild and domestic,” argued Carl Sinderbrand, with the Axley Brynelson law firm.

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