Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wolves of the Day

Wolves by S1ghtly

Bears and wolves find a voice in the wilderness

Opinion writer  
October 21, 2014
If politicians preying upon your attentions this season fail to inspire, you might seek common cause with the beasts — the four-legged variety rather than those running for office. Ballot initiatives aimed at protecting bears and wolves from hounding, trapping and other inhumane hunting practices are up for a vote in two states — Maine and Michigan.

Oh, be still thy twitching trigger finger. This isn’t an anti-hunting column; it’s a pro-humanity column. Ours. And the referendums, driven by the Humane Society of the United States, are aimed only at minimizing animal suffering and restoring a measure of decency and fair play in our dealings with creatures. 

First, the bears. Maine is the only state that still allows bear baiting, hounding and trapping. More than half of the 32 states with legal bear hunting allow hounding, a dozen allow baiting, and only Maine allows trapping for sport. 

For clarification, hounding refers to the use of dogs that have been trained to chase bears relentlessly and then to corner or fight the poor beast. The bears have no choice but to turn to face a murderous pack or, exhausted, escape up a tree. 

That’s when the hunter, who, thanks to electronic tracking equipment, has been able to follow at a leisurely pace and safe distance, points his rifle and shoots the bear from a tree limb. Frances Macomber, the cowardly hunter of Hemingway’s short, unhappy story, looks like a Masai warrior by comparison. 

Baiting means that a hunting guide strews rotting food in the woods and places a 55-gallon drum filled with jelly doughnuts, pizza, grease, fish guts and rotting beaver carcasses in a target spot. The “hunter,” who likely has paid a fee to the “guide” for a “guaranteed kill,” is provided a comfy seat to wait for the bear. Bam!
It’s ironic — or something — that the same state fish and wildlife agency folks who post signs warning tourists not to feed the bears will allow other tourists to feed them for about $2,000 to $4,000 a pop. New signage might read: Kill what you feed.

The problem with baiting, beyond the obvious, is that it perpetuates an unhealthy cycle that only creates more problems — growing the bear population and making the bruins too comfortable around human areas — that hunters then use to justify more baiting and shooting. Avid hunter and writer Ted Williams, who wrote about bear baiting for Audubon magazine in 2005, calls it “garbaging for bears.” 

Other states, such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington, meanwhile, have managed to maintain mostly stable bear populations without these inhumane practices. Plus, bear-hunting licenses in these states for fair-chase hunts have doubled or tripled.

A fair hunt may be more dangerous and require greater courage than shooting Winnie in a tree, but isn’t that at least part of the point? It should be noted that the Masai warrior, who carries a shield and a spear to hunt a lion, does sometimes lose. 

In Michigan, wolves are the designated prey. 

The Humane Society is campaigning there to stop the reopening of a wolf hunt, which has been deemed necessary largely because of human-wolf stories that were found to be false. In one true case, a farmer who lost several cattle to wolves had left several rotting cattle carcasses lying around. Talk about a baited field. Was he expecting squirrels? 

Otherwise, the stories are mostly myths — wolves staring at humans through windows, stalking little girls in red capes, that sort of thing. 

Although wolves have been removed from the endangered species list in Michigan, they number fewer than 650. Humane Society President and chief executive Wayne Pacelle fears that wolves will suffer the inhumane hunting practices — hounds and traps — seen in other states that are part of what he describes as “anti-wolf hysteria sweeping the Midwest.” 

Rather than leaving power in the hands of legislators and commissioners, Pacelle is urging voters to speak up through ballot initiatives: “We need to make a statement that the public — and not just trophy hunters — has a right to have a say in the protection of wildlife.”

The referendum, by circumventing heavily lobbied legislators, sought to resonate with people who are disgusted with politics or who abhor cruelty to animals as sport. And, yes, often for food, but that’s a subject for another day. In the meantime, we can safely say that nobody eats wolf. And nobody eats bear — twice. 

Eastern Wolves Deemed Separate Species


Eastern wolves, which used to live in the northeastern United States, but now remain only in southeastern Canada, qualify as a distinct species from their western cousins, according to a review by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists.

The finding may be important for the future of North American wolves and could help scientists understand how the animals evolved, as noted by USA Today.

In the study, published in October in the journal North American Fauna, the scientists reviewed decades of research on North American wolves, much of it complicated and contradictory. Some studies found 8 subspecies of gray wolves; others suggested as many as 27.

Previously, scientists considered eastern wolves a subspecies of gray wolf, Canis lupus lycaon (pronounced LY-can). However, the new review of reams of genetic data suggests that the animal should be classified as a separate species of wolf entirely.

A tale of three wolves

Eastern wolves would join two universally recognized species of wolves in North America: gray wolves (Canis lupus) and red wolves (Canis rufus). Gray wolves once ranged throughout most of modern-day America, but were hunted and poisoned to the brink of extinction, maintaining only a single population in northern Minnesota, the study noted. The animals have since recovered slightly and been reintroduced to Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park (although hunting has since resumed in Minnesota, Wyoming and elsewhere).

Red wolves were also wiped out from their native range, but have been reintroduced into North Carolina and are thought to be breeding in the wild, according to news reports.
The study found that eastern wolves are most closely related to red wolves, and that both species evolved from a common ancestor shared with coyotes. This helps explain why eastern wolves can still mate with and form hybrid offspring with coyotes, so-called "coywolves." Gray wolves, on the other hand, are known to kill any coyotes they come across.

Smaller than their western cousins, eastern wolves weigh from 62 to 77 pounds (28 to 35 kilograms), according to the study. They preferentially prey on white-tailed deer, unlike gray wolves, which have a more wide-ranging diet, USA Today reported.

Darwin's observations

According to USA Today, the recent study lends support to an account made by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book "On the Origin of Species," in which he wrote: "There are two varieties of the wolf inhabiting the Catskill Mountains in the United States, one with a light greyhound-like form, which pursues deer, and the other more bulky, with shorter legs, which more frequently attacks the shepherd's flocks."

This had looked like another one of Darwin's mistakes, but the recent study suggests his words may have been prescient.

The study could impact the reintroduction of wolves in North America, as it may not be appropriate to move eastern wolves into areas where they weren't previously found, for example. However, study's potential uses remain far from clear.

The authors are careful to state that their findings don't have any bearing on the actions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which delisted gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in the Great Lakes in 2011, according to USA Today.


Wolf of the Day

Snorre the Wolf 
Snorre the Wolf

Caught in the middle--the Great Lakes Wolf Patrol

Caught in the middle
Activists here to dialog, not destroy
Wolves of Douglas County blogger Rachel Tilseth and Rod Coronado walk down a dirt road on public land looking for wolf signs and traps.
Ryan Matthews photograph
Wolves of Douglas County blogger Rachel Tilseth and Rod Coronado walk down a dirt road on public land looking for wolf signs and traps.
Ryan Matthews photograph
Rod Coronado surveys an old logging road on public land for wolf signs and traps.Ryan Matthews photograph
Rod Coronado surveys an old logging road on public land for wolf signs and traps.
Ryan Matthews photograph
People and Predators

Ryan Matthews
Outdoors Reporter

Great Lakes Wolf Patrol made national news last week when it released a statement saying activists would be shadowing wolf hunters and trappers in Wisconsin – an activity which the group had previously pursued in Montana. The response by some was incendiary. 

People on both sides of the wolf debate took to social media to launch vicious verbal attacks. Four letter words were used. Death threats were made. Ted Nugent called hunters to disregard Department of Natural Resources (DNR) quotas and “Kill as many as you can.”

The Great Lakes Wolf Patrol has been portrayed by some in the media as extremist and dangerous, out to sabotage traps and interfere with hunters. Despite their disagreement with the wolf season, however, the group remains committed to operate legally. 

“I had to argue to some of my crew that if we see in a wolf in a trap, we’re not going to let it go,” Great Lakes Wolf Patrol leader and activist Rod Coronado said. “Some people weren’t comfortable being a part of this if we weren’t going to release a wolf if we found it in a trap. And I had to say, ‘Sorry, that’s not open for negotiation.’”

“We want to be friendly with the DNR and friendly with hunters and open to dialog from all sides,” patroller Matthew Almonte said. That friendliness is something the group has already encountered in talking with trappers and hunters met during its patrols.

Coronado described one instance during which two members of the group talked amiably with a trapper they met on public land. “The two people who ran into this trapper were vegans and they said, ‘He was actually really nice,’ and I said ‘Yeah, he probably was nice, and we’ll treat him with respect.’”

Mutual respect is an integral part of healthy discourse, Coronado argues, “That’s when the magic happens and things change. When you walk away and say, ‘Wow, that guy was actually pretty cool.’”
Indeed, despite the often inflamed rhetoric being used by some online, Coronado maintains that cooler heads will prevail. “If we run into wolf hunters and our cover is blown, we tell them, ‘Yes, we are the wolf people but we aren’t here to mess with your traps or damage your equipment,’” Coronado said.

Almonte said the group’s greatest weapon is not a war of words waged on social media platforms or in the field, “Our greatest asset is imagery, is documentation. What’s going to sway the public is an image of a wolf in a trap.”

One of the things which concerns the group is a perceived bias in the Wisconsin DNR Wolf Advisory Committee’s recommendations on how to manage the wolf population.

“A lot of the noise that’s being heard right now is from the wolf-hating lobby,” Great Lakes Wolf Patrol Organizer Julie Henry said. “They all benefit from the same practices that saw all the wolves eradicated in the first place. These groups are often in direct conflict with the scientists and the researchers who have been studying wolves for decades,” Henry said.

“When you have hunters and trappers who stand to benefit from culling wild animals who have such a say in whether or not there’s going to be a recreational wolf hunt, that’s a problem for me,” Almonte said.

Both Matthew Almonte and Julie Henry agreed that there have been unhelpful statements made by both sides.

“Wolf hunters and trappers and the people who are largely behind this hunt, they’re not all rabid, foaming at the mouth wanting to ‘smoke a pack a day’ kinds of people. There are ordinary people at play here,” Almonte said.

What makes wolves different?

It should come as no surprise that in the age of instant news, sometimes messages become distorted and sensationalized. National coverage of the controversial wolf hunting and trapping season in Wisconsin has been no different and has largely inhibited any open dialog between groups with differing opinions.

That’s something Coronado is trying to directly combat. “I’m not calling this an animal rights movement. It’s not about stopping all hunting. It’s not even about stopping all trapping. I might personally be opposed to trapping, but I hunt, and we need allies in the sportsman’s community,” Coronado said. 

“We don’t want to stop you from filling your freezer full of venison and feeding your families,” Coronado added.

Reflecting on his past actions as an animal rights activist, Coronado said, “I don’t want to be a vegan anymore. I don’t want to be in just this 1 percent of people arguing for what I believe is an unreasonable world. I want to be with other people who are passionate about wildlife, and a lot of those people are hunters.”

Hardly the words of an extremist. But if the group is not against all hunting and trapping, what are they in Wisconsin to protest? 

“We are against hunting this particular animal for this particular reason in this particular way,” Almonte said.

Almonte said that it is the role that wolves play in healthy ecosystems that makes this issue so important. 

“Their absence has a detrimental effect on our entire ecosystem,” Almonte said. “Hunting apex predators is dangerous to the health of rivers, the heath of the animals they prey upon, it’s dangerous to everybody. 

Ongoing strategy

As of Sunday, Oct. 19, Great Lakes Wolf Patrol was operating on public land in Douglas County. 
The Wolf Management Zone Douglas County resides in was closed at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19. The group did not anticipate the zone quota being filled so quickly. 

Currently, the Patrol plans to stay in Douglas County and continue to monitor a trap they say has gone unchecked for multiple days, one which a trapper said was set for wolves. 

If a wolf is caught in the trap, Great Lakes Wolf Patrol maintains that it would be considered illegal poaching since it is the responsibility of the trapper to monitor zone closures and remove traps accordingly. 

The Patrol has plans to return to Montana to monitor the wolf trapping season beginning Dec. 15 and has vowed to return to Wisconsin if the season remains open until December, when the DNR allows the use of hounds to hunt wolves. 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wolf of the Day

Cute arctic wolf pup in the grass

Cute arctic wolf pup in the grass by Tambako The Jaguar

Protesters gather to fight dog usage in wolf hunt

Posted Oct 16, 2014
Standing outside of the Capitol steps, protestors gathered Wednesday to oppose wolf hunting practices in Wisconsin.

The activists tried to raise awareness about the recreational and trophy hunting of wolves, focusing on the consequences that come along with the sport.

Melissa Smith, an activist against the hunt, warned of the misguided intentions behind Legislature that focuses on capitalist progression rather than scientific backing during the enacting of this law.Business interests were put in place of scientists and people who are experts,” Smith said. “The [Wolf Advisory] committee is stacked with interest groups that are not wolf-friendly.”
Raising awareness and informing the public on these matters was deemed most important to the protesters, who have fought within every boundary of activism. Smith said the approach is a “three-way” method: legal, Legislative and public outcry. They are not going to back down and are trying to make that a message to the state legislator, she said.
Some politicians have joined the battle to end wolf hunting as well. 

Democratic Rep. Brett Hulsey, District 78, was among the protesters outside the Capitol. Hulsey was accompanied by his dog, Penny, in an effort to promote awareness and understanding of the number of participating dogs that are killed during wolf hunts.I’m a hunter but I just think it’s immoral to hunt wolves with dogs. What we’ve seen is 47 dogs killed wolf hunting in the last three years,” Hulsey said. “The state has spent over $100,000 to compensate these wolf hunters for their dead dogs.”
Weighing in on who is to blame for the treatment of wolves and dogs, Hulsey pointed to his opposition. He said he believes right-wing Republican lobbyists and contributors have been paid to get the bill passed.

Though he is not running for re-election, Hulsey said he is going to continue to work to outlaw the “inhumane practice” that has become an integral part of the hunting in Wisconsin. We shouldn’t be hunting wolves period because [they] make the deer herd healthier and protect the ecosystem,” he said. “We shouldn’t be hunting wolves and dogs because that’s just leading the dogs to slaughter … This is state-sponsored dog fighting where the dogs always lose.”


An Epidemic of Unprovoked Human Attacks on Wolves

October 21, 2014
From Wayne Pacelle's Blog

If you want to understand why The HSUS and HSLF are working so hard to prevent the trophy hunting, commercial trapping, and hounding of wolves in Michigan, look no farther than the other states in the Great Lakes region and in the Northern Rockies that recently instituted seasons on wolves. Trophy hunters and trappers and hound hunters are taking a big toll, killing a third of the wolves in a single year in some of these states. If this is what “recovery” means, then I am sure the wolves don’t want any of it. Here are the numbers for the 2012 and 2013 alone:

  • Idaho: Of the 606 wolves killed in Idaho, 37 percent were trapped, 63 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 659
  • Minnesota: Of the 650 wolves killed in Minnesota, 54 percent were trapped, 46 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 2400
  • Montana: Of the 453 wolves killed in Montana, 40 percent were trapped, 60 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 627
  • Wisconsin: Of the 374 wolves killed in Wisconsin, 64 percent were trapped, 26 percent hunted and 9 percent hounded– leaving an estimated current  population of 658
  • Wyoming: Of the 133 wolves killed in Wyoming, 19 percent were trapped, 81 percent hunted – leaving an estimated current  population of 306
This is an extraordinary and ugly body count. The total number of wolves killed by sport hunters and trappers for these states is 2217 – for a species just taken off the endangered list!

Right now, Wisconsin trophy hunters are in the woods for the third year in a row to harass and kill wolves with traps, bait, hounds, and electronic calls. Less than one week into the hunt, four of the six zones are already closed, with half of those zones over their quota (in one zone, hunters killed nearly twice the number of wolves allowed). Gray Wolf Snow Alamy

Hunters and trappers would be pounding away at wolves in Wyoming right now, but for a lawsuit that The HSUS and a number of environmental organizations brought to stop the killing. That suit, decided just weeks ago, resulted in a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to put wolves back on the endangered list, forbidding sport hunting and trapping of the wolves.

With these states consistently overreaching, and demonizing wolves, should we expect Michigan decision-makers to act any differently? Remember, leaders in the state legislature have passed three measures to kill wolves, and in the process, they are trying to trample the rights of voters to conduct the referendum process. Farmers, hunters, and the state Department of Natural Resources trumped up charges against wolves, with one farmer baiting wolves onto his land with cattle carcasses and then complaining that the wolves were there.

This is why it’s so critical to defeat Proposals 1 and 2 in Michigan two weeks from today. Voters there will have the first-ever opportunity to make their views known in a statewide election on the wolf hunting and trapping issue. If we can win, it will send a signal to politicians in all of these states that the people don’t like this needless and premature killing of wolves. Nobody eats wolves, and there are already allowances to control problem wolves. This is trophy hunting and commercial trapping in its purest form.

Please spread the word to friends in Michigan and underscore that it’s critical to get out and vote and to vote “no” on Proposal 1 and “no” on Proposal 2. And support all of our critical work to aid and protect wolves throughout the United States.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, 5859 W. Saginaw Hwy. #273, Lansing, MI 48917


NC officials investigate red wolf gunshot death

RALEIGH, N.C. Wildlife officials are investigating what appears to be the illegal shooting death of an endangered red wolf in eastern North Carolina.

A news release Friday by state and federal officials says the radio-collared red wolf was found dead of an apparent gunshot on Sept. 30 in Tyrrell County. Wildlife officials maintain the only wild red wolf population in the eastern part of the state

It's the third red wolf to die in 2014 from a suspected gunshot. Seven others have died of various causes, including two by auto accident.

Authorities are investigating the case as an illegal killing of a red wolf. U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Tom MacKenzie says that no one came forward to say they shot the wolf, which is among the reasons the death is suspicious.


Song of the wolf echoes across Wisconsin

Patches of silvery clouds swirled over the near-full moon in a black sky on the night I first howled with the wild wolves.

It was a mild evening last week in the deep forests of central Wisconsin, and the voices of trumpeter swans echoed across the open water as they called in a flock of Canada geese returning after sunset to roost.

The wolves were already on the move, traveling down from the granite bluffs into the lowland forests below. We confirmed that earlier in the evening after finding fresh tracks and scat along multiple dirt roads.

Now it was time, accompanied by a volunteer wolf tracker with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, for me to speak to the wolves in the deepening darkness of a still October evening.

Beautiful song

As darkness deepened, we approached an area in Wood County perfect for howling into the night to try to elicit a response from wolves in the area.

The silence of the deep tamarack forest and bogs was broken only by the low-pitched mumblings of trumpeter swans out on the open water.

In the darkness, we howled.

It didn't take long for the mighty wolves to respond.

At first, the low-pitched, soulful moan of a single wolf drifted through the lowlands. Through the moonlight, the silhouette of two large granite bluffs stood against the starry skies and the calls of additional wolves began to echo from the bottom of the easternmost bluff.

Two adults and two pups, from the sound of it, possibly more, chorused in the darkness about half a mile away.

The wolves and I paused in the darkness to listen to each others' voices, echoing endlessly back and forth between the steep bluffs.

The moment was ethereal. My heart pounded in my chest. In the pitch black, the haunting song of the wolf drifting across the clearing caused the hair on my arms to stand on end. There was no fear, only awe.

Out there in the darkness, a pack of wolves responded to my human howling. Out there in the deep conifer forest, they moved with the night, with stealth and purpose, on an unseen journey across the wilderness.

What were they thinking as they moved under the light of the moon? Was I another wolf intruding on their territory? Were they excited by my presence? Frightened? Enraged?

A few more howling attempts went unanswered in the night. Perhaps they were silently approaching, and much closer than I thought, checking me out from the shadows. Or maybe they had simply moved on in the darkness, quietly stalking the boundaries of their territory, knowing I was not a threat.

Wolves in Wisconsin

Wolves belong in the forests of Wisconsin. They have always been here and, with proper management and protection, always will be. Regardless of public sentiment that seems to rollercoaster in favor of, then against, the wolf is one of the most enigmatic and strikingly beautiful wildlife species found here.

This is Wolf Awareness Week nationwide. The Wisconsin 2014-15 wolf hunt also is scheduled to begin Wednesday. The season will run through Feb. 28 or until hunters reach the quota limit of 150 wolves taken.

The latest Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources report puts Wisconsin's wolf population at between 660 and 690. This is down from nearly 840 wolves last year. There are groups that believe this number is high and others that feel it is low. There is much controversy on the accuracy of reporting.

Regardless, the number of wolves present in the forests of our state is well above what wolf recovery experts first envisioned and worked for back in the 1980s and '90s.

Whatever your opinion on wolves in the wild, there is no denying their majesty, mystery and allure.

Wolf Awareness Week

The ways of the wolf go far beyond what the average resident knows or understands, much like the ways of many of the other wild species of our state. An increasing population of children and adults who are out of touch with the natural world certainly doesn't help.

Wolf Awareness Week aims to educate the public on the daily life of the timber wolf and other wolf subspecies across the country.

Fall is an important time in the life of the young wolves, as it is now that they are learning how to hunt for prey, defend themselves and, ultimately, to strike out on their own.

The timber wolf is not a creature to be feared or despised. The timber wolf is not "vermin," despite many who are prone to classify this incredible animal as such. To consider a regal, majestic, colorful and mythical creature such as the wolf vermin shows a disrespect for the natural world and the ways of the wild.

For more information on wolves in Wisconsin, visit the Timber Wolf Information Network at (,Timber Wolf Alliance ( or the Wisconsin DNR wolf information page (