Apr 23

ID: “Two-legged wolves” take heavy toll

By ERIC BARKER/Lewiston Tribune

Nobody knows just how many animals are killed by poachers, but game wardens say the number is likely shocking.

That’s because they know they only learn about a small percentage of illegal kills.

“Game wardens forever have often wondered how many animals are being taken unlawfully. It’s a question we want to answer,” said Mark Hill, a senior conservation officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston. “We know the amount we detect, the raw amount, but we don’t know what our violation detection rate is.”

For illustrative purposes, he and his colleagues Barry Cummings, who patrols the Moscow area, and George Fischer, who works in the Grangeville area, placed their detection rate at 10 percent, a number they say would be fantastic.

“Ten percent is impossible,” Hill said while Cummings and Fischer guffawed. “There is no way it’s 10 percent.”

Last year, they know of 30 elk, four moose, 13 mule deer and 57 whitetail deer that were poached in one fashion or another in the Clearwater Region. If those cases represent 10 percent of all big game violations, it would mean about 300 elk, 40 moose, 130 mule deer and 570 whitetail deer were taken unlawfully.

The officers want people to think about those numbers and to be as outraged as many hunters are about the effect wolves and other predators have on big game populations.

“It’s real easy for people to blow a gasket about wolf predation. They are very passionate about it, they are very irate about it and they are livid about it,” Fischer said. “Yet there is a two-legged wolf out there that is probably killing as many or more than wolves. Wolves are causing an impact, there is no doubt about it; I don’t want to downplay that at all, but two-legged wolves are probably killing more or stealing more game than wolves. That is the shock-and-awe message.”

If their detection rate is 5 percent, something they say is much more realistic, then the numbers rise to 600 elk, 80 moose, 260 mule deer and more than 1,000 whitetail. If those numbers were attributed to predators, Cummings said, people would take action.

“Holy buckets, we would be setting budgets aside. We would develop a group to figure out what it was and we would develop a plan to deal with it, but we won’t even talk about what impact this has on wildlife,” Cummings said. “Why not?”

The reason, they say, is too many people don’t look at wildlife crimes as a crime against them. For example, Cummings said there is a $10,000 civil penalty in Idaho for poaching a moose, and a $750 fine for illegally killing an elk. He often makes that point to hunter education classes he speaks to. He asks the students if they would call the police if someone stole $750 from them or from a friend or neighbor. The answer is an overwhelming yes.

“So why wouldn’t you be that upset if somebody took an elk unlawfully, because essentially they stole $750 from the sportsmen of Idaho, including the opportunity to harvest that animal.”

Poaching means different things to different people. Some see it as the criminals who shoot game and leave it to waste, or greedily take any animal they see. Hill said his definition is simple: anyone who violates hunting rules to take an animal. It includes things like trespassing, shooting from a road, hunting over salt and party hunting, — where hunters combine efforts and allow hunting partners to shoot animals for them or to use their tags.

Too often, Hill said, people are not willing to report those sorts of crimes.

“I don’t know if it’s because they almost look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘If I turn in so and so, I’m going to be reflecting on some of the things I do and they will turn me in.’ ”

There have been a limited number of studies trying to determine the poaching detection rate. More than 40 years ago, a University of Idaho graduate student replicated poaching by placing road kill deer in highly visible fields near roads and then shot a gun to see how many people would report it. He got responses less than 2 percent of the time.

A study by Anthony Novack of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used anonymous surveys to ask hunters if they had broken hunting laws. The study isn’t finished and is expected to be published later this year, but intial findings indicate about 12 percent of people admitted to driving on closed roads while deer or elk hunting. About 9 percent admitted they trespassed while hunting, and 7 percent said they had allowed someone else to use their tag, tagged a deer or elk killed by somebody else or failed to tag a deer or elk.

Novack said figuring out how many people cheat is a difficult task.

“It’s that moral question, the true test is what you do when nobody is looking and when you are out hunting there is hardly anybody looking,” he said.

Hill pointed to an Oregon study on mule deer mortality. Officials at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife placed radio collars on 500 mule deer and followed them between 2005 and 2010. When one died, they tried to get to it as quickly as possible to determine the cause of death.

They found of those shot, 19 were killed illegally and 21 were killed legally.

Hill said the study only measured illegal kills as those that were out of season or the wrong gender for an open season. It didn’t cover things like party hunting, trespassing or hunting over bait.

The officers hope that more people will speak up when they see or learn of a hunting violation.

“What we need to do is get more people to make the call and report

violators that they know of and more people need to say enough is

enough,” he said. “Those activities that have been going on for decades

— road hunting, party hunting, trespassing — they should not be tolerated.”


Apr 22

SC: SC wolf pups named after Colbert, Jewell


COLUMBIA, SC — Two rare wolf pups born this month at a South Carolina wildlife refuge are so popular with biologists that they’ve been named after comedian Stephen Colbert and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“Colbert” and “Jewell’’ are growing healthier each day and are expected to be on public display in several weeks, according to managers at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in Charleston County.

“Secretary Jewell came here last year and we were so impressed with her, and she was such a supportive secretary, we felt it was a great honor to name one of the pups after her,’’ refuge project leader Raye Nilius said. “We also really enjoy Stephen Colbert.’’

Staff members planned to show the baby wolves to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, who was in the Lowcountry on Tuesday to view the impacts of climate change.

Colbert, host of the “Colbert Report,’’ is from Charleston, where family members still live. Jewell toured Cape Romain last November to study the impacts of climate change on barrier islands and the coast.

The pups at Cape Romain were among six born at the refuge’s Sewee Visitors Center April 8. One pup was stillborn and another died soon after its birth.

Two of the surviving four were healthy enough that they were shipped last week to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, where they will grow up with an adult mother in the wild, Nilius said.

“I’m glad we were able to help the wild population at Alligator River, that is first and foremost our goal to help the genetic diversity in the red wolf population,’’ said refuge manager Sarah Dawsey.

The two pups at Cape Romain could remain there for up to a year, officials said. They have not yet opened their eyes, but are expected to in the next few weeks.

Red wolves born through the years at Cape Romain have been sent to Alligator River as part of a program to re-establish the endangered canines in the wild. Since the late 1980s, 26 wolves have been born at Cape Romain.

The ones born April 8 were the first at the Sewee Visitors Center to survive. Other red wolves were born at Bulls Island as part of the breeding program. Red wolves are among the rarest animals in the country, with only several hundred surviving. Their populations dropped as a result of hunting, habitat loss, and more recently, interbreeding with coyotes.


Apr 19

ID: Poachers kill more than wolves do, Idaho officials say

LEWISTON(AP) – Poachers are likely killing far more game animals than wolves are, state wildlife officials in North Idaho say.

Officials told the Lewiston Tribune that last year in North Idaho they confirmed poaching of 30 elk, four moose, 13 mule deer and 57 whitetail deer, the newspaper reported Friday.

Officials say a realistic detection rate is 5 percent, meaning poachers are likely killing about 600 elk, 80 moose, 260 mule deer and 1,000 whitetail annually.

“It’s real easy for people to blow a gasket about wolf predation,” said Idaho Fish and Game District Conservation Officer George Fischer. “They are very passionate about it, they are very irate about it and they are livid about it. Yet there is a two-legged wolf out there that is probably killing as many or more than wolves. Wolves are causing an impact, there is no doubt about it; I don’t want to downplay that at all, but two-legged wolves are probably killing more or stealing more game than wolves. That is the shock-and-awe message.”

Barry Cummings, an Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer, said many people don’t report wildlife crimes because they don’t consider it a crime against them. The fine in Idaho for illegally killing an elk is $750, while the fine for illegally killing a moose is $10,000.

But he said if predators were killing as many game animals as poachers do, people would take action.

Mark Hill, a senior conservation officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said it’s not completely clear why people who are aware of poaching don’t turn lawbreakers in.

“I don’t know if it’s because they almost look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘If I turn in so and so, I’m going to be reflecting on some of the things I do and they will turn me in,’ ” Hill said.


Apr 19

KY: Three wolves escape from wildlife refuge in Jessamine Co.

JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) – An unusual escape put people living near a Jessamine County wildlife refuge on edge.

Workers at Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge near Nicholasville say three wolves managed to get loose.

Right off of busy Highway 27 in Jessamine County sits the Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge — a rescue center for animals ranging from coyotes to cougars but on Wednesday morning, three of those animals got loose.

“I got a phone call 6:30 in the morning from a neighbor reporting that there were two wolves in their driveway. I went up the hill to check on them and we were missing three,” said David Fuller, Co-Owner of the Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge.

Three full-grown wolves, around 80 pounds each, were soon seen wandering around the area.

“There was a school bus driving by and three kids poked their heads out the window and told me that there was a wolf chasing them. Sure enough, there were two trotting up there behind them,” Fuller continued.

He says this is the first time that animals at the refuge have gotten loose, but these wolves did so by digging underneath a broken gate.

But on Thursday, after missing for about 20 hours, two out of the three wolves were rescued.

“We managed to get one in this pen. It was about four hours to get her so that we could transport her across the property.”

A few hours later, a second wolf was recovered near a home a half mile down the road.

On Friday, employees at the wildlife rescue and animal control employees were primarily focused on finding the final wolf and getting it safely back to the refuge.

The wolves that escaped have now been moved to kennels with concrete floors, making it impossible to get out.

Employees at the Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge say if you happen to encounter a wolf, you should not approach it.

Instead, they say it’s best to immediately notify animal control.

If you’d like to learn more about the Wolf Run Wildlife Refuge or donate to their cause, visit their website at: WolfRun.org


Apr 18

IN: The dhole remains an enigma, even as it struggles for survival

Dholes are one of the most remarkable, but least studied carnivores, with very few long-term scientific studies conducted on it

Ananda Banerjee

Bangalore: It was last seen in north India a full 10 years ago, at Ranthambore in Rajasthan.

Last month, it was sighted at Jaldapara National Park in north Bengal.


“It” is the Red Whistling Dog of the Deccan, popularized by Rudyard Kipling in one of his Jungle Book stories, as the ferocious red dog, packs of which cut through (and down) anything in their way.


At Nagarhole in Karnataka, this writer once ran into a pack of them, with their kill. Even tigers steer clear of the dogs—Kipling was right about their fierceness—which are shy of men.


Their reputation, though, had meant that the red, rust-coloured dhole (Cuon alpinus), which has a bushy black tail and stands around 50cm tall, has always been persecuted by men. Dholes don’t bark, but make a whistling sound.


“The term wild dog is a misnomer as dholes are genetically distinct from dogs; also they do not fit into any of the subfamilies like foxes or wolves and are classified in a genus of its own—Cuon,” says Bhaskar Acharya, conservation biologist with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), and an expert on the species.


Dholes are one of the most remarkable, but least studied carnivores in the world with very few specific long-term scientific studies conducted on this species. The long history of its persecution—being trapped, shot and poisoned by humans—is well documented in India. “Systematic killings of dholes were promoted citing them as a nuisance to human sport (as they preyed on popular game such as deer). Prior to the 1970s, dholes were eliminated as vermin in India and bounties were paid for carcasses until 1972 when the Wildlife Protection Act was introduced,” adds Acharya.


In a paper presented in November 2013 at Yale University, titled Preserved Tiger, Protected Pangolin, and Disposable Dhole: The Animal Aspects of Wilderness in Princely India, historian Julie Huges discloses more such prejudices.


According to her research, a record dated 1893 in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society mentioned dhole as “red demons” and described them as producing “a kind of fiendish hysterical yapping”.


“In Dungarpur State (now in Rajasthan), during Maharawal Lakshman Singh’s reign (1918-1989), even though the dhole was not common, Lakshman Singh considered it unwelcome and offered a reward for its destruction. There was no doubt that wild dogs are excessively destructive to game and cannot even claim utility as scavengers unlike hyenas,” she wrote.


In peninsular India, sportsman and naturalist E.G. Phythian Adams(popularly known as Python Adams), representing the Nilgiri Game Association (NGA), called the dhole a “perfect swine” in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society of 1949. “Except for his handsome appearance, the wild dog has not a single redeeming feature, and no effort, fair or foul, should be spared to destroy these pests of the jungle,” wrote Adams.


“A virtual war was declared on this animal,” wrote naturalist E.R.C. Davidarin his book, Whispers from the Wild.


An entry in one of NGA’s annual reports read: “If wild dogs are to be kept under control, it is very necessary that members should make greater efforts to destroy them and their pups.” To encourage this thought, the bounty was raised to Rs.25 from Rs.10, an attractive sum in those days, according to Davidar.


Much of the fear of dholes comes from the way they kill their prey. They do not possess the strength of big cats, but dholes kill prey larger than themselves by biting off chunks of meat and tearing the animal apart. They hunt during the day, which means that several of their hunts have been witnessed by people who tagged the beasts as bloody and savage killers.


For long, the scientific community had to depend on anecdotal tales on dholes mainly from British officers in colonial India and many myths surrounded the species until A.J.T. Johnsingh’s path-breaking study of the species in Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka between 1976 and 1978.


The study disclosed that dholes are not bloodthirsty as portrayed; instead they are extremely social
and cooperative, living in organized packs. When a pack is not hunting, the dholes are sleeping or at play, bonding socially, sharpening their hunting skills and establishing rank.


Among the many myths that were woven around the dhole was one that said it attacked people running away from it. In contrast, Johnsingh observed a pack of nine dholes emerging from the thicket in his direction in Bandipur. When the pack was 50m away, he decided to see their reaction and ran in full view towards a climbable tree. The dholes, instead of attacking him, turned back and ran into the bushes.


Another myth that he busted was that dholes hunt in relays; clearly, Kipling was exaggerating when he wrote that the red dogs run their prey to the ends of the earth. “During my study, I observed 48 chases and 44 of them ended within 500 metres; team work and speed enabled dholes to kill their prey within short distances,” says Johnsingh.


“Dholes are extremely shy of people and when I approached them, even when they were on a fresh kill, they growled and ran away. At the den site, even with the den-bound pups around, the mother dhole ran away with a growl,” adds Johnsingh.


The dholes inhabit the widest range of climates of the canid family, from freezing cold to tropical heat, from Siberia in the north to India in the west; Java in the south to China in the east. However, they do not exist in the islands of Japan, Sri Lanka and Borneo. They have either become extinct or are extremely rare in China and Siberia.


According to Acharya of ATREE, dholes resemble wolves, African wild dogs and the South American bush dog in their life history traits. Their numbers have declined sharply—due to fewer prey base, habitat destruction and the human threat. “Throughout the world, the major cause of mortality of wide-ranging large carnivores is conflict with humans on the edges of protected areas. Carnivores are killed through hunting, poisoning, collisions with vehicles and diseases from domestic animals,” adds Acharya.


Of the nine subspecies of the dhole, three exist in India—Cuon alpinus laniger in Kashmir and Ladakh; Cuon alpinus primaevus in Garhwal, Kumaon, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan; and Cuon alpinus dukhunensis south of the Ganges. “Only Cuon alpinus dukhunensis, distributed south of Ganges, is doing well and this can be attributed to the presence of large protected area landscapes in central, eastern and southern India,” says Johnsingh.


According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), fewer than 2,500 mature wild dogs remain in the wild across its entire range and there is no known dhole population above 250 anywhere and no known population fully secured within a conservation area.


In India, conservationists remain sceptical about these figures.


Johnsingh laments that in its association with man, the dhole has been the loser. “After 35 years of my study, there are still lingering questions—what prevents the dhole from staging a comeback in prey-rich areas like Corbett Tiger Reserve? What diseases periodically wipe out dhole from Kanha National Park and how are these diseases transmitted? What is the genetic status of different dhole populations?” he asks.


Today, the dhole remains an enigma.


Then, it has always been that.


As Davidar wrote in his book: “The wild dog is a bundle of contradictions; tribal hunter gatherers welcome them as providers; to the ignorant they are drones living off the fat of the land; to scientists they are predators, not parasites, and play an important role in the ecosystem and to dog lovers they remain a puzzle.”


This is the first part in a series in which Mint looks at species that are less talked about, and struggling for survival.


Mint’s wildlife writer Ananda Banerjee is the recipient of the fellowship from the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, to study these species.



Apr 18

NH: Has New Hampshire Become A ‘Dumping Ground’ For Wolf Dogs?


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.


Apr 18

CA BC: B.C. releases wolf-population control plan

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.”


Apr 17

CA BC: Wolf populations and kill levels poorly understood in B.C., says provincial management plan


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.


Apr 17

CZ: First wolf in a century spotted in the Czech Republic

Michael Graham Richard
Science / Natural Sciences

Wolf in Czech Republic


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.



Apr 17

CA BC: Maternity ward for caribou in Northern B.C. keeps wolves at bay


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.