Dholes are one of the most remarkable, but least studied carnivores, with very few long-term scientific studies conducted on it
Bangalore: It was last seen in north India a full 10 years ago, at Ranthambore in Rajasthan.
Dholes are one of the most remarkable, but least studied carnivores, with very few long-term scientific studies conducted on it
Bangalore: It was last seen in north India a full 10 years ago, at Ranthambore in Rajasthan.
By SAM EVANS-BROWN
New Hampshire wildlife officials are wrestling with a proposal that would put them in charge of wolf-hybrids; those are wolves that have been bred with domesticated dogs. These sometimes dangerous animals are often abandoned because they can be unmanageable as pets.
And a population of abandoned wolf-dogs prompted New Hampshire officials to take another look at an animal that falls squarely in the grey area between wild and tame.
Most dogs have many generations of domestication in between them and their wild roots. Wolf-dogs have just a few.
“They have that wildness to them, that’s just hard to get out of them,” says Tanner Brewer, who manages the state’s biggest wolf-dog sanctuary in Chatham, up on the Maine-New Hampshire border, near Conway.
He’ll tell you that many wolf-dogs act just like dogs, whimpering and begging for attention, but they can be huge – some weighing more than 200 pounds – and that wildness sometimes is right on the surface.
“We have one wolf-dog over here named Rosie who has really taken a liking to me and Matthew,” he says during a tour of the paddocks, “but yet one of the other guys can’t even go in the cage. He had been in there three of four times and she got his boot one day… just bit his boot.”
Brewer, a big guy and an army vet, works for the New England Wolf Advocacy and Rescue Center, or NEWARC. He says the 69 animals here have all been spayed or neutered and vaccinated, which the law requires, and are all kept in large pens, with 8 foot chain-link fences.
It was a quiet sunny day when I visited the NEWARC, but in reality there are storm clouds surrounding this refuge.
Who’s Got the Resources?
Last fall, a different wolf sanctuary in Alexandria collapsed, prompting a lot of headlines and scrutiny from lawmakers over how these animals are regulated.
Basically, right now, they are treated like domestic dogs: they have to be licensed with local authorities. The Department of Agriculture has rules that require wolf-hybrid owners to neuter, vaccinate, and keep them in pens with tall fences.
But Ag says it has never enforced these rules, because it doesn’t have the resources to do so. The Ag department says it should be up to Fish and Game, which at a recent hearing over a proposed bill to switch the authority to Fish and Game said it too has money problems.
“We don’t have the manpower or the money to be going around confirming that somebody’s wolf hybrid is neutered or to look to see what kind of pens people have for these animals,” Fish and Game Director Glenn Normandeau told lawmakers, “I mean that’s not what our department does.”
Wait, Fish and Game is saying, these are domestic animals… that’s not our deal.
Agriculture says, no, no really they’re wild animals… they should be managed by Fish and Game.
And meanwhile the animals continue to trickle into the state.
A “Dumping Ground”?
You can still import wolf-hybrids from out of state, and it’s illegal to sell them in New Hampshire, but a quick google search will show that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Refuges like NEWARC and the one in Alexandria exist because when someone’s adorable hybrid puppy grows into a 200-pound, sofa-shredding wolf-dog, it needs a place to go. Many of the animals in these sanctuaries have come from out of state, which has lead proponents of reform to say that New Hampshire has become a “dumping ground” for Wolf-dogs from other states.
That worries officials because these sanctuaries often operate hand-to-mouth on the fringes of towns. In Alexandria – which hosted the refuge that fell apart so publicly last fall – the sanctuary could only be reached by ATV.
“The owners of that property wound up getting evicted from the land,” testified Donald Sullivan, chief of police of Alexandria, “which left me in a very tough spot of having a massive amount of these wolf-hybrids on the side of the mountain that I knew the owner wasn’t going to be able properly remove.”
It took 16 days to deal with those 40 abandoned dogs. Some had to be euthanized, a few went to the humane society, and the rest went to Chatham.
Cobbling it Together
Brewer is part of a crew of three from California who recently took over NEWARC. They cobble things together to make it work financially with grants, volunteers and donations. It’s a pretty rustic site, way up on the side of a ridge.
“So when we came here it was just a melee of tools and stuff that had been left behind,” says Brewer, “People living in trailers everywhere, and we want to get rid of all that and be able to make some suitable housing.”
The Chatham sanctuary used to be called the Loki Clan Wolf Refuge. Its founder, Fred Keating, had run-ins with the USDA, who cracked down on him for charging for tours of the site, which technically made it an illegal zoo. Keating fed the animals road kill and whatever other meat he could rustle up. The refuge’s board of directors eventually kicked him out saying the animals weren’t getting proper veterinary care.
When Brewer and the others arrived last fall they found a pile of animal carcasses on the property, years-old and including some of the wolf-dogs.
“This was a bone-yard down here that we cleared out and made pens but every animal had two bullet-holes in the head, so that leads you to believe that the animals were still alive when they were brought here,” says Brewer, who doesn’t speculate as to what that the situation was like before they came.
Now, they’re building new enclosures, getting animals on site vaccinated and neutered, and trying to attract new resources, which they hope to do that by employing veterans. According to Matt Simmons, the co-founder of the California refuge that took over in Chatham, it’s a model that has worked out West.
Simmons is writing grants, trying to start a program called Wolves and Warriors. It works through the VA to hire traumatized veterans to care for rescued wolf-dogs.
“They’ll be able to live at the facility free of charge, they will also get paid while they are there, we will bus them back and forth for medical appointments and,” explained Simmons in a phone interview, “We will give them a chance to heal clean and sober and outside the brick and mortar of the VA hospital.”
No Easy Solution In Sight
Meanwhile, a fix for the oversight of wolf-dogs in New Hampshire appears to be hung up in the politics of how to enforce the law. Though Simmons thinks simply levying fines might not be enough.
“Some of these animals fetch a price of $10,000 per puppy,” he says, “So when you have eight pups in a litter, why would you care? That’s just the cost of doing business.”
And while wolf-dogs can be difficult pets to own, some people continue to want to take on that challenge.
“The family of a friend of our son’s when he was about five had a wolf-hybrid named Rosie,” said Ellen Phinizy from Acworth – whose husband worked on wolf-dog legislation passed over a decade ago – during the last hearing on the bill. “She was the sweetest thing in the world, she wagged her tail. She was just like a dog.”
The latest attempt to tweak New Hampshire’s rules is already through the Senate, and will be up for a vote in the House in the coming weeks.
Whatever lawmakers decide, there are 69 wolf-dogs on the Maine-New Hampshire border, where they will live out their lives.
“It’s our responsibility, we made them this way. We made them this way so they have a right to live just like anything else,” opined Tanner, listening to the wolfdogs howl behind him, “And as long as there’s places that are available, than it makes no sense to even think about putting them down.”
So for now, NEWARC will be there for wolf-dog owners who find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
By Staff The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – The B.C. government says it’s taking a balanced approach with its long-awaited wolf management plan, but the strategy is already drawing attacks from conservation groups.
The plan, aimed at controlling the province’s grey wolf population, was released Thursday after a careful review of more than 2,500 submissions of public input since a first draft was produced a year and a half ago.
It won’t dramatically change how the species is managed, instead continuing to use a two-zone approach that treats agricultural areas differently than everywhere else. It also calls for measures designed to ensure the population is tracked more accurately.
The plan takes a “conservative approach” aimed at ensuring the provincial wolf population is kept healthy while also meeting the needs of disparate groups, said Tom Ethier, an assistant deputy minister with the ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations.
“We want to ensure the right mix of tools is in place to help livestock owners … while at same time, not reducing our overall goal here of sustaining wolves,” he said in an interview.
“We manage based on conservation first.”
The plan uses two indirect methods to estimate the overall population, suggesting it is about 8,500 wolves while noting the figure may actually range between 5,300 and 11,600.
The species is believed to be stable or increasing in size and is not considered to be at-risk. The last count, in 1991, put the number at 8,100.
The new plan, the first formal document created since 1979, attempts to satisfy groups concerned the predator population is out of control as well as those concerned it paves the way for a slaughter.
The government makes no bones about the fact its massive consultation turned up “strongly differing beliefs and values,” according to a news release.
Ian McAllister, with the advocacy group Pacific Wild, said the plan doesn’t recognize the profound ecological role the animals play in B.C.
“It makes things worse, because this is actually now a formal plan and this is what is going to direct wildlife management officials in British Columbia for years to come,” he said.
“It’s a plan to kill as many wolves as possible.”
Paul Paquet, a biology professor who also works with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said the plan is an improvement over the 2012 draft. But he agreed that regulations making it easier to kill wolves that threaten agriculture are ineffective and could also make matters worse.
“It’s clear that the kind of management that they would invoke for protection of livestock hasn’t worked in the past and it won’t work now,” he said, while also disputing the methods used to estimate the population size.
“They’re making the invalid assumption that if there are more wolves available that more will be killed. That’s not necessarily the case.”
Ethier disagreed the wolf population might be endangered. He said the plan, which “stays the course,” carries forward strategies in use now for many years, all the while the wolf population has been stable and increasing.
“We knew our harvest is well within sustainable limits,” he said. “We don’t see this wolf plan in any way taking us to a place like that.”
At least one group is encouraged by the new policies. The B.C. Cattlemen’s Association is pleased the government is taking an active role in assisting ranchers and First Nations, said its director Mark Grafton.
“When you ride out and see a cow bawling for a calf and her udder is swollen, or you see calves maimed by the wolves, you have a real problem,” he said from Bar K ranch in Prince George. “Sometimes we need help. And the province owns the wolves, so I think they have a responsibility.”
BY LARRY PYNN, VANCOUVER SUN
The B.C. government has a poor handle on the population of grey wolves and whether they are being killed at a sustainable rate, according to a wolf-management plan released Thursday by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.
The province’s “best estimate” is there are 8,500 wolves in B.C., but concedes the true number could range as low as 5,300 or as high as 11,600. Densities are lowest in the Lower Mainland, Thompson, and Vancouver Island regions and highest in the Peace, Omineca, and Skeena regions.
The plan further states there is “considerable uncertainty in the current take of wolves by resident hunters and trappers as B.C. does not have a mandatory reporting system” and that actual kills could be “substantially higher” than estimated. Aboriginals also are not required to report wolf kills.
“Without more reliable estimates of the harvest, it is difficult to assess the sustainability of B.C.’s wolf harvest,” the plan says. “Improved monitoring on the take of wolves, combined with an assessment of the impact of this take on wolf populations, will likely be required….”
The report estimates close to 1,400 wolves were killed in 2010 by hunters, trappers, and through predator control.
Despite that admission, the plan says that wolves overall are not threatened in B.C., noting the species’ natural resilience, adaptability, and expanding population. “There is currently no evidence that there are significant conservation concerns for wolves in B.C.”
The management plan states four goals:
• to ensure a self-sustaining population throughout the species’ range that fulfills the wolf’s role as a top predator.
• to provide opportunities for economic, cultural, and recreational uses of wolves.
• to minimize impacts on livestock caused by wolves in a manner that does not jeopardize conservation objectives.
• to manage specific packs or individuals where predation is likely preventing the recovery of wildlife populations threatened by wolf predation.
As we recently wrote about, wolves are not just important because they keep the populations of their preys in equilibrium. No, the apex predators play a much bigger role than that, indirectly affecting almost everything in an ecosystem, including where trees grow and how rivers flow (if you don’t believe me, check this out, or look at the video below).
That’s why it’s so great that after over a century of absence, a wolf was spotted by a wildlife camera in the Czech Republic (photo above). It’s not clear if there’s just on individual or more, but it’s likely that it has strayed from the border regions of Germany and Poland, where the wolves have been thriving.
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Scott McNay has seen wolves devour newly born caribou calves in minutes, but that grisly scene is not one he expects to witness this spring in northern B.C., where an unusual maternity ward has been set up in the forest.
“It takes no time for a wolf to devour a calf. It’s pretty discouraging,” said Dr. McNay, a wildlife biologist who is part of a team trying to save the endangered Klinse-Za caribou herd, near Mackenzie. The goal is to protect calves during the first weeks of life, when they are most vulnerable to predators.
Under a new program funded by government and industry, pregnant caribou are being captured and held in maternity pens until about a month after they have calved. The cows and their calves, which at five weeks of age should be able to outrun most predators, will then be released back into the wild.
The approach has been used before in Yukon and Alberta, but is being tried for the first time this year in B.C. both near Mackenzie, north of Prince George, and in southeast B.C., near Revelstoke.
Dr. McNay, project manager with Wildlife Infometrics Inc., said the northern project he’s working on was called for by the Moberly and Saulteau First Nations because of fears caribou were headed for extinction in the area.
Native hunters stopped shooting caribou in the region about 20 years ago because several herds were declining. But Dr. McNay said that did not slow the trend, with caribou populations dropping by about 80 per cent in recent years. “This one [the Klinse-Za herd] was in need of imminent action because it was down to just 16 animals,” he said. The nearby Burnt Pine herd was in even worse shape – down to one male.
Dr. McNay said the big problem facing caribou in the Mackenzie region, and throughout B.C., is that industrial development has opened up the forests, with resource roads crossing what were once remote caribou calving grounds. He said caribou historically calved in isolated areas with heavy snow packs. The deep, soft snow in spring limited the mobility of predators. But wolves, bears and wolverines soon learned they could travel easily along roads and cut-lines, penetrating areas that before had effectively been caribou calving sanctuaries.
The result: heavy predation on freshly born calves.
“Our world today is not the same as it used to be,” Dr. McNay said. “In the past caribou would not have had to defend themselves against wolves as they do now.”
In an attempt to reduce predation, First Nation hunters have been shooting wolves, but many packs still remain. And wolverines and bears have also been preying heavily on caribou calves.
This spring Dr. McNay’s team set out to get to the pregnant cows before the predators did. They captured 10 females, trapping them by using net guns fired from a helicopter. The caribou were mildly sedated, wrapped in a “body bag” to stop them from thrashing about, and airlifted to a pen enclosing several hectares of forest.
“It’s been really calm and interesting the way they accept the pen,” Dr. McNay said of the caribou. “They are happy there.”
Part of the reason the animals are content is that last fall work crews collected hundreds of bags of lichens, the caribou’s natural diet, which is being fed to them now along with pellets loaded with nutrients. Dr. McNay said the caribou are treated for worms and any other problems they might have, and he expects when they are released they will be healthier than they would have been had they stayed in the wild. The first calves are expected to be born in May.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations has released information on the Province’s wolf management plan. The goal of the plan is to maintain self sustaining populations throughout the species by utilizing a two zone management strategy.
The plan states: “In most areas, wolf management will be concerned with ensuring that wolves continue to serve their ecological role as a top predator. Sustainable hunting and trapping opportunities will use controls on harvest through specified season lengths and bag limits.”
The second portion of the plan stipulates: “In areas of livestock depredation or wildlife populations threatened by wolf predation (e.g., mountain caribou) are a concern, the plan commits government to responsibly helping stakeholders, ranchers and First Nations manage the impacts of expanding wolf populations. In these areas, detailed implementation plans would be developed before any actions are undertaken.”
The public was consulted and the province received over 2,500 comments on the issue. The comments were used as an aid in putting together a final plan.
Roughly translated by TWIN Observer
STOCKHOLM / TT
Anyone who can come up with information about what happened to the Junsele wolf and her partner may be SEK 100 000 richer. The Swedish Predators Organization announced a reward for anyone who has information which leads to either of the wolves being found – dead or alive – or that the cause of their disappearance can be determined.
“The wolves can not just gone up in smoke., It is extremely important to know what has happened with the two wolves and a reward can help to shed light on their fate, it’s worth the money,” said general secretary Ann Dahlerus in a press release.
The wolves have disappeared from their territory and no trace them has been seen since mid-February, despite the county administration’s efforts to find them.
Public Comment Period Will Reopen; New Hearing Set for June
VENTURA, Calif.— After hearing several hours of public testimony from an overflow crowd of more than 200 people and receiving more than 2,600 pages of comments, California Fish and Game commissioners voted on Wednesday to postpone until July their decision on extending state Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves. In the surprise decision, the commission said the law allowed it the option of deferring the decision for up to 90 days, during which the public-comment period will be reopened and an additional public hearing held June 4 at Fortuna, in Northern California.
“This is a huge victory for gray wolves who are clearly trying to return to California where they lived for generations,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It gives me great hope that rather than simply rubber-stamping the state’s recommendation not to protect wolves, the commissioners wisely decided to take a broader look at making sure wolves get a chance to recover here. I think the Commission realizes that’s what’s right, that’s what Californians want and that’s what the law says.”
The postponement came after a discussion that included consideration of the controversial recommendation by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that, rather than protecting the wolf under the Act, the Department could consider designating it as a species of special concern and then, as needed, the Commission could enact rules and regulations that would prevent wolves from being killed in California. That option did not sit well with some conservation groups.
“The legislature didn’t grant the Commission the power to do a workaround of the law,” said Weiss. “If they determine that protection is warranted — and the facts on the ground and some of the Commission’s own concerns suggest that’s the case — the Commission must grant state protection. The state’s wildlife agency can’t just make up new rules that give limited protection to wolves. If wolves need protecting in California, and it’s clear from today’s testimony they do, the Commission’s job is to protect them, not side-step the issue.”
The Commission suggested that holding a hearing in Fortuna would allow more ranchers to attend and let their voices be heard on the issue, as well as giving the commissioners more time to consider the testimony presented at today’s hearing.
“It’s important to understand that regulatory actions like those discussed today are not a substitute for state protections for wolves,” said Weiss. “There’s no doubt the wolf meets the listing criteria. The commissioners don’t have the discretion to acknowledge that then to create a special fix just because this is a controversial species. They must follow the law.”
The listing decision comes in response to a 2012 petition from the Center and allies asking the Commission to protect gray wolves under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The Commission’s considerations come as the wolf known as OR-7 continues to make the state part of his range, a development many scientists believe is only the first chapter of wolves returning to California.
Wolves were once widely distributed throughout California but were eradicated from the state by a government-sponsored effort on behalf of livestock operators more than 80 years ago. In late 2011 a young male wolf from Oregon known as OR-7 crossed the border into California, becoming the first confirmed wild wolf in the state since the 1920s. OR-7 stayed in California for 15 months before returning to Oregon, but has crossed back into California several times, making the state part of his range for four years in a row.
Oregon’s growing wolf population has tripled in the past three years, and it is widely anticipated that more wolves from Oregon will make their way into California. OR-7’s journey to California involved his first dispersing westward across Oregon into the Cascade Mountains, then dropping south into California. Recently the tracks of another wolf were documented in the Oregon Cascades, the first since OR-7.
“Wolves are at a critical moment now,” said Weiss. “The federal government is proposing to strip federal legal protections from these animals across the country, including states like California where wolves are just starting to return. This makes state protections even more essential, and it’s all the more reason state officials must follow state law and protect wolves in California.”
By SCOTT SMITH Associated Press
FRESNO, CA (AP) — While much of the country has relaxed rules on killing gray wolves, California will consider protecting the species after a lone wolf from Oregon raised hopes the animals would repopulate their historic habitat in the Golden State.
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday postponed for three months a decision on whether to list the gray wolf as endangered. Commissioners heard impassioned arguments from environmentalists who want the wolves to again to roam the state and from cattle ranchers who fear for their herds.
“I think we made them blink,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, which leads the push for protection. “I think they heard our arguments.”
State wildlife officials say they don’t support the listing because wolf packs haven’t roamed in California for nearly a century and there’s no scientific basis to consider them endangered.
Recent interest in protecting the species started in 2011, when one wolf from Oregon — called OR-7 — was tracked crossing into California. The endangered listing has been under review for the last year.
Nationwide, bounty hunting and poisoning drove wolves to widespread extermination in the early 1900s. They have rebounded in recent decades, and federal protections have been lifted in the last several years in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.
But with the resurgence have come more livestock killings and declines in some big-game herds that wolves prey on. States have responded by adopting increasingly aggressive hunting programs designed to bring down the predator’s numbers, but so far that has not resulted in significant declines.
The Northern Rockies population has been pushing west into Oregon and Washington and now numbers almost 1,700 animals, down slightly from its peak in 2011 when protections were lifted in parts of five states.
A pending proposal from federal wildlife officials would remove protections for gray wolves across most of the remaining Lower 48 states, including California. A peer review panel recently faulted the government plan for relying on unproven research about wolf genetics.
The desert Southwest has a small group of Mexican gray wolves that would keep federal protections under the proposal. Those wolves in parts of Arizona and New Mexico have struggled to survive despite an intensive reintroduction program.
In California, the Fish and Game Commission members decided to delay a decision on wolf protections so they can hear more public comment.
Wildlife officials oppose the listing because wolves have been absent from California, so researchers have no way of measuring threats or the viability of the animal in the state, said Eric Loft, chief of wildlife programs for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Yet, the animal is iconic of the western landscape and California could easily become the home to functioning wolf packs within a decade, said Chuck Bonham, director of the wildlife agency.
He said he supports wolf conservation efforts but not listing it as endangered.
“You may hear we actually hate wolves,” he said, maintaining that wasn’t true. “We’re committed to the long-term prospect of the wolf.”
The commission on Wednesday heard from more than 60 people, most of them in support of wolves but others in opposition.
Kirk Wilbur of the California Cattlemen’s Association, which is fighting wolf protections, said the state’s endangered species act is designed to help species at risk of going extinct.
“The species is not at risk of disappearing in the state of California,” he said. “It is, rather, reappearing.”
Mike Williams, a cattle rancher in Ventura County, said wolves cause high stress on cattle, increase illness and weight loss, and kill valuable livestock.
“Wolves are beautiful animals,” he said. “But they’re also vicious, brutal and efficient killing machines and a threat to people, livestock and pets.”