Monday, May 2, 2016

Let’s Ditch the ‘Big, Bad Wolf’ Cliché


Wayne Pacelle


Wolves and their canine descendants are among our oldest animal partners, and yet we continue to hunt and kill them out of irrational fears that blind us to their many benefits.

Taking an even longer view of the human—wolf relationship, let’s remember that this species came to us in friendship perhaps more than 30,000 years ago, according to an emerging consensus among paleontologists. Pre-agricultural people and wolves may have viewed each other warily at first, but eventually an instinctive fear turned into acceptance and then later into companionship.
Of the 20 or so wild animals that humans have successfully domesticated through the ages, wolves were first, by 30,000 years or more—and the wolf is the only large predator ever successfully domesticated. Though the other large predators, whether mountain lions or black bears, generally don’t pose much of a threat to us either, the wolf is the only one who became a companion. And while the wolf has survived through the millennia, in a dramatically reduced range as a result of human persecution, it has also offered an extraordinary array of benefits to human society by submitting to domestication. At the top of every dog’s genealogy chart is the wolf, and dogs have provided us with companionship, security, labor, and enhanced success in agriculture (guarding) and hunting (tracking and retrieving) over the millennia. More than any other species, the wolf and the dog enabled us to make the leap from tribal societies and prehistory to agriculture and the rise of human civilization.
“Dogs absolutely turned the tables,” Dr. Greger Larson, director of the Palaeogenomics and Bio-Archaeology Research Network at the University of Oxford told the BBC. “Without dogs, humans would still be hunter-gatherers. Without that initial starting phase of dog domestication, civilization just would not have been possible.”
The story of a wolf suckling the abandoned brothers Romulus and Remus at the creation of Rome may be allegorical, but wolves did forever change the human story. Their domestication stands alongside language, fire, and plant cultivation as one of the major innovations that most altered the fortunes of humanity. “It’s hard to see how early herders would have moved and protected and guarded their folks without domestic dogs being in place, and one has to wonder whether agriculture would ever have really made it as a viable alternative to hunting and gathering,” said Peter Rowley-Conwy, a professor of archaeology at Durham University. It’s no exaggeration to say that nearly all human exchange, from early bartering to the on-line transactions in the information age, have necessarily been built on the foundation stones of these developments. The wolf and its descendants have been part of the humane economy longer than any other species.
While many Native American tribes revere wolves, and place them at the center of their creation stories, many other Americans have succumbed to the cartoonish “big bad wolf” narrative and done the opposite. Throughout much of U.S. history, wolves have been ruthlessly persecuted. In his 1880 annual report, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Philetus Norris wrote that “the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.” Around the turn of the century, the federal government hired professional hunters and trappers to amass a body count of wolves, and state governments provided bounties on them. By the early ’70s, just after the U.S. Congress enacted a comprehensive Endangered Species Act to protect them and so many other imperiled species, wolves were hanging on only in the northern reaches of Minnesota—and at Isle Royale in Lake Superior.
Increasingly wildlife science is revealing the critical part that wolves play in maintaining robust ecosystems. Aldo Leopold, the father of modern-day wildlife management, renounced his killing of wolves in his classic book, A Sand County Almanac. He came to recognize, even in his days as a young forester, that wolves were anything but pests. They were critical actors in maintaining balance in ecosystems, and he saw the harmful effects of their removal, by predator control programs, in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest.
In their decades of work at Isle Royale, wildlife biologists John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson have affirmed Leopold’s conclusion beyond all argument by showing how wolves limit the growth of prey populations—strengthening them by culling the weak, sick, or young, and preventing their numbers from expanding to the point where they denude the forest of saplings or strip bare the leaves of trees. Indeed, upon their reintroduction to Yellowstone, wolves immediately went to work reducing the high densities of elk and bison, forcing them to stop overgrazing meadows and riparian areas. These effects are documented in a popular video called “How Wolves Change Rivers,” based on a lecture by journalist and environmental advocate George Monbiot. The video has attracted more than 15 million views on YouTube.

Native American Indian dancer in full costume at a pow-wow or gathering of Native people in Fairbanks Alaska USA. Image shot 2010.

Art Directors, Trip/Alamy

Native American dancer at a gathering in Fairbanks, Alaska, displaying traditional respect for the wolf by incorporating it into his sacred costume.

The effects of wolves on livestock are also overblown. Data from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and other parts of the country where wolves live show that they are responsible for a very small amount of killing—between 0.1 and 0.6 percent of all livestock deaths in these areas. A 2014 Washington State University study, conducted over a 25-year period, found that indiscriminate killing of wolves actually increases the tendency of wolves to prey on livestock. The reason may be that sport hunting and commercial trapping of wolves break up stable wolf packs, creating a younger, less experienced population, inexperienced in killing traditional prey and more likely to show opportunism and pick off a sheep or calf. And of course, farmers who deploy guard dogs as a highly successful strategy of protecting their flocks and herds from predators can thank the wolf itself for that service.

In exaggerating the adverse impacts of wolves, the proponents of wolf killing underreport these good effects. Wolf predation helps maintain healthy deer populations, to the benefit of forestry, agriculture, and wildlife management. By killing sick deer, wolves can contain the spread of diseases that can be catastrophic for deer populations. And what automobile drivers haven’t been concerned, to one degree or another, by the possibility of colliding with a deer on the road? The insurer State Farm reports that there are roughly 1.2 million deer—vehicle collisions in the United States every year, causing some 200 human fatalities and about $4 billion in vehicle damage. Michigan typically accounts for about 50,000 of those collisions a year, with thousands of them in the Upper Peninsula. If the wolves maintained viable, healthy herds by taking mainly the young, weak, and sick deer, they might save tens of millions of dollars in repair and insurance costs, to say nothing of the incalculable benefits of preventing the loss of human life.

“Wolves provide a firewall against new diseases in deer,” Rolf Peterson told a Michigan Senate committee when the issue of wolf hunting was being debated. “A very obvious example may be chronic wasting disease.” Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a brain disease, like Mad Cow Disease, and it’s one of the major threats to deer populations, after it spread from deer farms and captive hunting facilities to free-ranging deer populations—another case of reckless trophy hunters visiting more affliction upon wildlife. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which says there are more than 400 deer farms in the state, notes that the disease has been spreading in large portions of the southern part of the state, since a major outbreak of the brain disorder in 2002.
“So far CWD has not spread into areas inhabited by wolves, anywhere in the United States,” Peterson said, “and the logical hypothesis is that wolves simply cull out diseased animals.” The disease is an ugly and nonselective way of reducing deer populations, and it creates a health risk to people who eat deer meat since the disease can be transmitted to people through its human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease.
And while the indirect economic benefits that wolves bring may provide their greatest value, there are direct benefits, too. As with Isle Royale, people also just love to see wolves; to hear wolves; and to place themselves, even for a short while, in a wild place that harbors wolves. Each year, thousands of wildlife watchers gaze at the world’s most-viewed wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, bringing in $35 million to the Yellowstone region annually. In the Great Lakes region, the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, receives $3 million each year from wolf watchers. With wolves now claiming a more permanent place in the Great Lakes Region, we can expect tourism-related revenues to increase in all of the states with wolves.
John Vucetich is leery of invoking the practical, economic arguments about wolves, though he readily acknowledges their validity. It’s just that he believes the moral argument for protecting wolves is the most important and compelling. He understands, however, that political decisions and public policy more often turn on economics.

United States, Minnesota, Wolf or Gray Wolf or Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), adult and youngs

Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo

Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) adult and offspring in Minnesota.

Ethics and economics are bound together in our decision making, and it’s clear that many politicians have it upside down when it comes to the economic analysis associated with predators. It’s not a zero-sum game, where more wolves mean fewer hunting licenses and increased cattle and sheep losses. A more comprehensive, fact-based assessment of wolves shows their multiplier effect—whether in a pure wilderness like Isle Royale or in a landscape where forests, farms, and human settlements are commingled.

“I think there are several areas where wolves are already playing a role in remaking the Upper Michigan ecosystem,” Peterson told lawmakers in his testimony. “The total positive economic impact would be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.”
For more than a century, we as a nation had our way with wolves, killing them off throughout more than 95 percent of their historic range—leaving a trail of broken bodies and shattered wolf families and a gaping hole in our ecosystems. Like so many other forms of animal abuse, much of the killing was driven by ignorance and misguided government action. That decades-long scorched-earth policy of slaughtering wolves stands alongside the massacre of bison as one of the most inhumane and counterproductive chapters in the annals of American wildlife management and agriculture.
For too long, government policies toward wolves were driven by fairy tales and irrational fears. When we see people reverting back to such arguments, dusting them off for use on the floors of state legislatures or in meetings of local cattlemen’s associations, it’s time for us to call them as they are—false, groundless, and shameful. We know too much now to let claims like these carry the day any longer.
We cannot be Pollyannish when it comes to the occasional conflicts that arise with wolves, but we need not be foolish or cruel in our responses either. We must close the door on the era of indiscriminate killing and deal with occasional conflicts primarily by nonlethal means, as part of a multidimensional framework for management that takes reason and predator ecology into account.
In recent decades, we’ve tried to undo some of the damage: first, in the ’70s by protecting the small population of surviving wolves in Minnesota and Michigan through the Endangered Species Act, then two decades ago by reintroducing wolves to the Northern Rockies and the Southwest. These toeholds have allowed wolves to reclaim lands lost to them generations ago. The wolves have demonstrated enormous resiliency, but there’s no need to continue to test that capacity. They’ve reclaimed forests in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, established packs in southern Arizona and New Mexico, and now in northern California and throughout much of Oregon and Washington. They’ve even wandered into northern Arizona and Utah. Yet for all this progress, only 5,000 or so wolves survive in the lower 48 states.
In the last few years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for wolves in a number of states and turned over management to wildlife authorities there. Without hesitating, these states authorized trophy hunters and trappers to kill thousands of wolves, often with steel-jaw traps, wire snares, hounding, and baiting. In Wisconsin, where the worst of the methods were permitted, trappers and trophy hunters killed off 17 family units in just three seasons, or a fifth of the state’s total wolf population.
The courts have provided a check on recent abuses, repeatedly stepping in to restore federal protections for wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes. Congress overruled the courts in the Northern Rockies, and Montana and Idaho treated that act as license to kill wolves in appalling numbers. Thus far, the Humane Society of the United States and others have blocked similar efforts in Congress to remove federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming. It’s the wrong move not just as a matter of law, but also as a matter of ecology and economics.
In 2015, more than dozens of world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists wrote to Congress, noting that “the gray wolf occupies a mere fraction of its historic range.” “In recognition of the ecological benefits wolves bring, millions of tourism dollars to local economies, and abundant knowledge from scientific study,” they wrote, “we ask Congress to act to conserve the species for future generations.”

Having played a central role in protecting our parks and generating billions of dollars in tourism, all while preserving the cultural and ecological assets of our nation, government should now become an agent of the humane economy, and the protection of wolves, grizzly bears, wolverines, lynx, and other long-persecuted creatures presents the perfect opportunity. We now know too much about wildlife science to continue our old ways, and we have too much evidence of economic benefits to be in denial any longer. If ecology and economics are not enough, we need only look to the occupants of the dog beds in our homes, or the ones who sleep in our beds. They’re not so fierce, but they’re dependent on us. We can be good caretakers of them and their wild brethren and other wild animals, who need little more from us than to stop killing them for sport, bragging rights, or some irrational hatred.

Excerpted from The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals, by Wayne Pacelle and The Humane Society of the United States, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2016 by Wayne Pacelle. All rights reserved.
As president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle leads one of the world’s most effective animal-protection organizations and one of the highest-impact nonprofit groups of any kind. Placing emphasis on transforming public policies and corporate behavior, he has been a primary strategist in securing the enactment of hundreds of state and federal animal-protection laws and helped drive reforms adopted by many of America’s biggest companies. 

Pacelle is the author of The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals and 2011’s New York Times bestseller The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them. His blog, A Humane Nation, is published each weekday.


New Denali wolf study omits full truth

FAIRBANKS — The new National Park Service study concluding that killing park wolves reduces the success of wolf viewing by park visitors is an intuitively obvious conclusion and confirms what has been known for decades. In fact, this simple fact was the primary basis for over a dozen citizen proposals to the Alaska Board of Game and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner asking to close the boundary of Denali to wolf hunting and trapping. Unfortunately, the state has ignored the facts of the situation for many years and continues to do so.  

The number of wolves in Denali has declined from 147 in Fall 2007 to only 49 now, and the number of wolf family groups (“packs”) has declined from 20 in 2008 to only nine now. Visitor wolf-viewing success has declined from 45 percent in 2010, when the (inadequate) buffer was eliminated by the state, to only 5 percent last year.  More than 530,000 visitors come to Denali each year — about 50,000 of these are Alaskans.  Many cite the opportunity to see wolves as one of their primary objectives for visiting the park. The park is responsible for more than $500 million in economic activity each year in Alaska.

The drop in wolf viewing success just since the state eliminated the buffer has cost as many as 200,000 visitors each year the opportunity to view a wolf in the park. In fact, some Alaskans now travel to Yellowstone to see wolves in the wild. Throughout this period of wolf decline, scores of park wolves have been killed along the park boundary and inside the park by hunters and trappers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots.

Yet, as with the state, the park service remains reluctant to admit the full impact of killing wolves, both along the boundary and inside Denali, on this unprecedented decline. Last year, the park service claimed the decline may be due to low snowfall, and the News-Miner ran a story asserting such. When we pointed out to both that there was indeed no correlation between snow level and wolf numbers, neither corrected their erroneous assertion. Fortunately, the new park study finally corrects this error and admits the truth on this point.

But most disappointing in the new park study is its continued assertion that killing wolves along the boundary has “minimal impacts on the size of protected wolf populations.”  On this, they are simply wrong.   

The National Park Service and the state consistently neglect to mention the disintegration of two of the park’s largest wolf family groups due to the kill of just one breeding female wolf. This happened in 2012 with the Grant Creek family group, when the trapping of the last pregnant female led to the group not denning, not pupping, dispersing and declining in number that summer from 17 to only three. Research has proven that it is the pups and pup-rearing that provides the cohesion in wolf family groups.  Again in 2015, the same tragic result occurred with the East Fork (Toklat) group, when the last pregnant female of East Fork was killed at a bear baiting station outside the park, and the group declined from 15 to only two. These two events clearly resulted in more than “minimal impacts on the size of protected wolf populations.”

Although the park service has now admitted the fact that wolf killing diminishes visitor viewing success, it continues to be unwilling to concede the full truth — that killing park wolves along the boundary has contributed to this spectacular decline in the Denali wolf population. And, of course, wolf take is about the only cause of decline that we can do anything about.  

The only realistic solution to this ongoing decline is for the state to trade a wildlife conservation easement along the park boundary in exchange for a like-valued federal asset elsewhere. This has been proposed for several years, yet little action has been taken so far. Let’s hope this new park study rekindles the sense of public obligation in both the park service and the state and motivates real action to secure a conservation easement on the boundary of Denali. This is the only way to secure the park mandate of protecting natural processes within the park and to restore and sustain the wolf-viewing resource of the park for all visitors. 

Rick Steiner was a marine conservation professor with the University of Alaska from 1980-2010, stationed in Kotzebue, Cordova and Anchorage.  He now consults on conservation issues through Oasis Earth.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Woolly Wolf Spotted in Nepal Is Likely a New Species

Female Himalayan wolves seem to smile for the camera at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling, India.

Pausing at a clearing, a sudden streak of black against the carpet of white snow moved in the corner of Madhu Chetri's eye.
It was 2004, and Chetri, now a Ph.D. student at Norway's Hedmark University College, was trekking through the roof of the world: Nepal's Annapurna Conservation Area
Looking up, he caught the gaze of a wolf, who regarded him with curiosity. “I was struck by these golden yellow eyes. They were so bright. I was so excited,” says Chetri, who was exploring the Upper Mustang region as part of his conservation work.

The area had plenty of feral dogs, but Chetri knew right away that this big, woolly creature was no dog.

 It was the Himalayan wolf, which had never before been seen in Nepal.

Himalayan wolves (seen in their natural habitat) are smaller than their gray wolf cousins.

Searching for Scat
Scientists first identified the Himalayan wolf (Canis lupus chanco), thought to be a subspecies of the gray wolf, about 200 years ago.
It was known to live in India and Tibet, but never Nepal.
Not long after Chetri saw his wolf, two studies came out that challenged the idea that the Himalayan wolf was a subspecies. At the DNA level, the studies claimed, the wolf was so different that it deserved its own species name.
Chetri already had a feeling this was the case: The animal he saw was smaller and much leaner than gray wolves, which live in Europe and North America. It also had white patches on its chest and throat, which are not seen in gray wolves.
And he'd always wanted to know more about the beautiful canine that had so captivated him 10 years earlier.

So Chetri began to search for its most accessible DNA source: poop. He returned to Nepal and looked for wolf scat between May and September, when weather was the driest and the feces would be best preserved.
Lone Wolf
He managed to collect a total of six samples and could extract DNA from five of them. One of his samples was from a feral dog, leaving him with four specimens.
To be consistent with the two previous studies published in 2004 and 2006, Chetri sequenced the specimens' mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from an animal's mother.
Working with a group of scientists from India and Nepal, Chetri extracted and sequenced the DNA in the lab. His work confirmed the two earlier studies: The Himalayan wolf was significantly different from any other wolves and is likely a distinct species.

In fact, the genetic data revealed that Himalayan wolves have been distinct from other wolves for at least 800,000 years, according to the results, which were published April 21 in the journal ZooKeys.
Chetri and colleagues propose that the animal be named the Himalayan wolf, although they haven't yet proposed a formal species name.
He also hopes it brings attention to the plight of the critically endangered species, which is thought to number fewer than 350 individuals. "I hope that this work will create more attention for this wolf, since there are lots of conflicts with local farmers and livestock," Chetri says. "If farmers can help see the value of this wolf, they might be less inclined to kill it."

Surprisingly Diverse
Klaus-Peter Koepfli, a conservation biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, says the study is important for two major reasons.
The first is the growing evidence of the Himalayan wolf as a unique species, says Koepfli, who was not involved with the research.

The other is establishing that these wolves live in the Upper Mustang region. "It provides solid evidence of living wolves in the area. Even if it’s just one individual, it’s important because they’re there," he says. "There’s a lot more biodiversity than we thought there was."

Survey suggests slight drop in Michigan wolf population

Published Thursday, April 28, 2016

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The gray wolf population in Michigan's Upper Peninsula appears to have declined slightly in recent years, but state biologists say it's stable and healthy.

The Department of Natural Resources estimates the minimum number of wolves at 618, based on survey results announced Thursday. That's down from previous estimates of 636 wolves two years ago and 687 in 2011.

But wildlife management specialist Kevin Swanson says when statistical error margins are factored in, the population likely has changed little if at all.
The survey is based on track counts and aerial observation of wolves wearing radio tracing collars.
Wolves had all but disappeared from Michigan by the 1970s but rebounded after getting federal protection.

Courts have rejected attempts to remove wolves in the Great Lakes region from the endangered species list.


Fish and Wildlife releases 2 wolf pups in NM

By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer - Las Cruces Bureau 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has successfully fostered two wolf pups born in captivity in Missouri into a wild wolf den in New Mexico.

The “cross-fostering” of wolf pups in Catron County last Saturday means Fish and Wildlife has made good on its promise to carry on with wolf releases despite the state’s opposition.

Last year, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department denied the federal government permits to release the endangered wolves in the state, but Fish and Wildlife vowed it would pursue its recovery program under federal mandate.

Game and Fish issued the following statement to the Journal: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blatantly disregarded state’s rights when they released Mexican wolves into New Mexico without obtaining the necessary state permits. Failure to adhere to state law goes above and beyond the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf and negatively impacts all wildlife management actions in New Mexico. It is imperative that the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish remain the primary authority in all matters involving wildlife management in New Mexico for the benefit and best interest of our citizens.”

“Two 9-day old Mexican wolf pups were moved from the more genetically diverse captive population and placed into a den with a similarly aged litter in the wild,” Fish and Wildlife said. “The intent is for these newly released pups to be raised in the wild by experienced wolves and ultimately contribute to the gene diversity of the wild population by becoming successful, breeding adults.”
Game and Fish spokesman Lance Cherry could not immediately comment.

The St. Louis-based Endangered Wolf Center flew the just-born wolf pups — a male named Lindbergh and a female named Vida — to New Mexico to be placed with a new litter here. The cross-fostered pups represent “a vital new component to the recovery effort,” the center said in a statement.
When cross-fostering is successful, the mother will adopt the pups as her own. Fish and Wildlife has said that the technique is one way to improve the genetic diversity of the wild wolf population.

There were 97 wolves in the wild at last count in early 2016, down from 110 wolves the prior year, according to Fish and Wildlife.

This is a developing story.

DNR's Emery testifies in second day of coyote trial

April 28, 2016 | vol. 97, No. 101

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

GOGEBIC COUNTY Prosecutor Nick Jacobs, right, questions DNR Sgt. Grant Emery, second from right, Wednesday during the trial of Jason Charles Roberts. Also in the courtroom were, from left, Gogebic County Clerk Gerry Pelissero and Circuit Court Judge Michael Pope.


Bessemer - The second day of Jason Charles Roberts' trial on animal cruelty charges in Gogebic Circuit Court consisted of testimony by Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Grant Emery Wednesday.

Roberts faces a felony charge of torturing an animal and misdemeanors for cruelty to an animal and failure to kill a wounded animal. The first charge carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, while the others have maximum sentences of 93 days and 90 days, respectively.

The charges stem from a YouTube video of hunting dogs attacking and killing a wounded coyote.
Gogebic County Prosecutor Nick Jacobs began his direct examination of Emery by establishing Emery's basic resume, including his 17-year career as a conservation officer and his love of the outdoors.

"Conservation officers - it's more than a job, it's a way of life for us," Emery said.

Emery testified the nature of his job gives him the discretion to determine when to issue citations and when to simply give a warning.

Jacobs followed this line of questioning by establishing the timeline of Emery's investigation into the YouTube video.

Once Emery established what the prosecution viewed as the basic facts of the case, Jacobs began a series of hypothetical scenarios questioning what laws required of hunters related to the dispatching of game animals.

Emery told jurors hunters are obligated to immediately dispatch wounded game animals and make a reasonable effort to retrieve game.

"Immediate to me means without delay. The hunters code of ethics that we follow - we want clean, quick kills," Emery said. "Killing an animal is violent, and we all understand that. Killing is violent - but quick and clean, that's what we want."

He acknowledged different styles of hunting allowed different standards for what constituted immediately killing the animal, using the example of waiting hours before pursuing a deer shot with a bow as an example.

Emery testified the standards largely depended on what the common practices of the hunting style were, later testifying some delays dispatching game was allowed if it enhanced the ability to retrieve the dead animal. Such as allowing a deer to "lie and die" when shot rather than pursuing it immediately.

Jacobs also asked Emery about testimony he gave during previous court appearances in the case.
Emery testified that while he previously testified dogs were allowed to kill game in Michigan and the owner of a hunting dog wasn't obligated to dispatch an animal wounded by someone else, a recent review of the game regulations showed him both of those assertions were incorrect.

While dogs were allowed to be used in the tracking and pursuit of game, Emery told the jury his interpretation of the law after reviewing additional sections was that dogs killing game animals was prohibited.

He said while accidental kills were technically a violation, he likely wouldn't cite hunters in those cases as there wasn't an intent to have the dogs kill game.

Jacobs also entered several pieces of evidence into the record, including a copy of the video Emery obtained from Google - YouTube's parent company - and accompanying documentation.

Roberts' attorney, Roy Polich, objected to the inclusion of the evidence Emery obtained from Google. Polich made several arguments explaining his objection, including his belief that while Emery was able to establish the video sent by Google was indeed the video on YouTube that prompted the case, he couldn't testify that it was an accurate depiction of the hunt.

Polich said while Emery believed the video was shot in February 2014 and showed illegal activity, there is no way to know the date of the hunt or what actually happened in the woods because Emery's sole source of information is the video - which didn't come to his attention until approximately a month after it was uploaded.

He compared the admission of the video to a photograph, arguing Michigan's rules of evidence usually required the photographer or someone present when the photo was taken who can testify the photo is accurate.

"In this case, the first time this witness looked at (the video), by even the download date, was a month later. So, when was it taken? We don't know. Where was it taken? We don't know," Polich said.

Gogebic County Circuit Court Judge Michael Pope ruled the video could be used as evidence in the case - saying among the date, location and events surrounding the hunt are things the prosecution has to establish during the trial - but ruled other information obtained from Google regarding unrelated material wasn't going to be entered as evidence.

Jacob's questioning also included showing the YouTube video, followed by Emery testifying on the video's content.

Following Jacobs' direct examination, Polich cross-examined Emery.

Among the areas Polich focused on during his cross was the change in Emery's understanding of the law between previous hearings and Wednesday and if Wednesday's interpretation of the law was an objective reading of the relevant text. 

"Where does it say dogs are not allowed to kill game," Polich asked after Emery read what he said was the applicable law. 

Emery responded that it wasn't listed as an allowed activity in the law.
"Why would you tell this jury and this court that (the section of law) says they can't kill game," Polich asked.

Emery responded that the prohibition on dogs killing game was his interpretation of the text.
"So not only you didn't know about it ... the last two times you testified, now you have a new interpretation of it."

Emery disputed the idea it was a new interpretation, arguing he didn't have a previous interpretation.
Polich also raised the change in understanding of the law regarding the responsibility of the dog owner.

He also pressed on the requirement that game be immediately dispatched, arguing the coyote in the video was alive for a much shorter time than game is allowed to be in other types of hunting.

"You already agree that it took (the dog that killed the coyote) less than a minute," Polich asked. "So if we presume that there is no law that says a dog can't kill a coyote - you know we're just talking about (the immediate kill requirement) - was perhaps (the dog) the best method to quickly kill this coyote?"

Polich asked if given the circumstances of the hunt - which he said occurred in deep snow and where all the ammunition was used - the use of a dog to kill the coyote was more humane than any of the available alternatives. Emery disagreed with the idea that using the dogs was humane, citing possible alternatives including clubbing or stabbing the animal depending on what was available.

Polich's line of questioning continued in an effort to show jurors that the use of dogs to kill game was as standard in coyote hunting as not immediately pursuing wounded deer while bow hunting.

The trial continues at 9 a.m. today.

Hunting wolves near Denali, Yellowstone cuts wolf sightings in half

April 28, 2016
University of Washington
Visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve and Yellowstone National Park were twice as likely to see a wolf when hunting wasn't permitted adjacent to the parks, a new study finds.

A wolf is seen just off the road in Denali National Park and Preserve.
Credit: National Park Service
Visitors to national parks are half as likely to see wolves in their natural habitat when wolf hunting is permitted just outside park boundaries.

That's the main finding of a paper co-authored by the University of Washington appearing April 28, 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE. Its authors examined wolf harvest and sightings data from two national parks -- Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park that straddles Wyoming, Montana and Idaho -- and found visitors were twice as likely to see a wolf when hunting wasn't permitted adjacent to the parks.

"This is the first study that demonstrates a potential link between the harvest of wildlife on the borders of a park and the experience that visitors have within the park," said lead author Bridget Borg, a Denali wildlife biologist who completed this research while earning her doctorate from the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The researchers looked at the dynamics between hunting and viewing wolves at these two national parks because they are the only ones where visitors have a good chance of seeing a wolf. Both parks have long-term monitoring programs that have collected years of data on resident wolf populations, including years when wolf harvest was permitted and years when it was prohibited near the borders of both Denali and Yellowstone.

Adjacent to Denali, wolves are primarily trapped during legal harvests, while states adjacent to Yellowstone permit shooting wolves during hunting season. Wolves have always existed in Alaska and are generally regarded as an important part of the state's ecosystem -- by trappers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

The sentiment is quite different around Yellowstone, where wolves were reintroduced by wildlife biologists in 1995. Cattle ranchers, in particular, must contend with predators that hadn't previously roamed those areas during their lifetime as ranchers.

Wildlife viewing is an important economic driver for the states surrounding the two national parks. Wolf-watching activities in Yellowstone after the 1995 reintroduction have brought in an estimated $35 million each year to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. In Alaska, wildlife viewing activities supported more than $2.7 billion in economic activity in 2011.

At the same time, these states are required to provide for consumptive uses of wildlife; in 2011, hunting in Alaska supported more than $1.3 billion in economic activity, and revenue in Montana from buying wolf tags alone brought in over $400,000.

"We have shown there is a tradeoff between harvesting and viewing wolves, but these findings could extend to other large carnivores that also move in and out of parks," said senior author Laura Prugh, a University of Washington assistant professor of quantitative wildlife sciences in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

"In an ideal world, there wouldn't be a tradeoff. You could have wolf harvests outside of the parks, which also bring in a lot of economic activity, and it wouldn't have an effect on the populations or probability that tourists are going to see wildlife in the parks."

The researchers analyzed data on wolf sightings, pack sizes, den locations and harvests adjacent to the parks in Denali from 1997 to 2013 and in Yellowstone from 2008 to 2013. In both parks, they found that in years when the wolf populations were up and their dens were close to park roads, visitors were more likely to see wolves.

But their models also suggest more subtle effects of harvests on the ability of visitors to see wolves. Sightings are perhaps driven by key individuals in a pack, such as wolves that den by the road. If those wolves are killed, that loss may not result in an overall decrease in the total wolf population, but it could significantly reduce the sightings for that year.

Hunting and trapping may also have behavioral effects on wolves, making them more wary of humans and less likely to traverse roads where park visitors travel.

This research has prompted the National Park Service to begin a thorough socioeconomic study of the impact of wolf sightings on visitors' experiences in Denali. The researchers are also looking more closely at how other factors such as vegetation cover and topography affect wolf sightings in the park.

Other co-authors are Stephen Arthur and Nicholas Bromen of the National Park Service (Denali); and Kira Cassidy, Rick McIntyre and Douglas Smith of the National Park Service (Yellowstone).
This research was funded by the National Park Service.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Bridget L. Borg, Stephen M. Arthur, Nicholas A. Bromen, Kira A. Cassidy, Rick McIntyre, Douglas W. Smith, Laura R. Prugh. Implications of Harvest on the Boundaries of Protected Areas for Large Carnivore Viewing Opportunities. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (4): e0153808 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153808

University of Washington. "Hunting wolves near Denali, Yellowstone cuts wolf sightings in half." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2016. <>.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Locals air concerns, questions at wolf workshop in Siskiyou County

Wolves and livestock workshops are taking place in Siskiyou County, and Tuesday at Bob's Ranch House in Etna, a group of concerned citizens listened to speakers who discussed the spectrum of conditions affecting wolf populations in Siskiyou County.

  • Participants listen to ideas pertaining to wolf management in Siskiyou County at the Wolves and livestock workshop at Bob's Ranch House Restaurant in Etna.Participants listen to ideas pertaining to wolf management in Siskiyou County at the Wolves and livestock workshop at Bob's Ranch House Restaurant in Etna.

  • By Sarah Kirby

    Posted Apr. 27, 2016

    Wolves and livestock workshops are taking place in Siskiyou County, and Tuesday at Bob’s Ranch House in Etna, a group of concerned citizens listened to speakers who discussed the spectrum of conditions affecting wolf populations in Siskiyou County. The event was sponsored by the California Wolf Center.
    Karin Vardaman, director of California Wolf Recovery, explained that the workshops were a chance for education, communication and working together to overcome challenges.
    “I am not a rancher. I’m not going to pretend to be able to understand all of that. Our organization would like to offer support. We don’t want to see livestock die because of the wolf, and I don’t want to see the wolf die because of livestock,” Vardaman said.
    The workshop began with Vardaman introducing the agenda for the day’s workshop and introducing the speakers: Carter Niemeyer, a former United States Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist, trapper, hunter and author; Joe Engelhart, an Alberta Ranch Manager and cow boss; and Timmothy Kaminski, a Mountain Livestock Cooperative worker. Niemeyer began the presentation by discussing the behaviors, movement and distinctions that make up the wolves that have recently entered Siskiyou County.
    “The average pack structure of a wolf is six to eight wolves. They breed once a year around Valentine’s Day in mid February. They have a 63 day gestation period like dogs, so births of wolf pups would be around this time of the year starting about a week ago, with an average of four to six pups. These wolves set up a pack territory of 250 square miles, and they maintain themselves within that range if they have enough deer and elk to eat,” Niemeyer stated.
    Niemeyer gave a slideshow presentation that mapped how the wolf OR-7 came to Oregon by straying from traditional wolf corridors; however, he explained that the wolf entering the state was rare. Yet, because the wolf was being documented by a GPS radio collar, biologists believe that the wolf was able to stray from his pack and move so quickly south because he had food readily available. Niemeyer who came from Idaho to speak, explained that the wolf most likely did not live on livestock but instead on boneyards in the area.
    Niemeyer explained that female wolves often give birth to their pups in dens that may have been old badger holes or hollow tree stumps. The pups spend the first 8-10 weeks of their lives in the den until the mother and father move the pups to a wet meadow area for the summer. He said that the average wolf weighs 100 pounds, with the largest ever recorded at 147 pounds. An average wolf’s height is around 3 feet.
    Niemeyer was part of the team that helped reintroduce the gray wolf into Yellowstone almost 20 years ago. A slide in the presentation showed that there have only been two confirmed human deaths from wolves in the 21st century; one took place in Alaska and the other in Canada. Niemeyer insisted that wolves are not dangerous; however, he did explain that a domesticated dog has no chance against a hungry wolf.

After Niemeyer’s presentation there was a period for question and answer. The floor was quickly flooded by a slew of questions from those in attendance. The questions soon rolled into a discussion that took over the agenda for the rest of the morning session of the workshop. Those in attendance had great concerns involving the return of the wolf, Fish and Wildlife’s neglect regarding the matter, and how it would affect the welfare and safety of the community. There was also allusion to there being a much larger issue lying under the midst of wolf talk that touched on encroaching upon personal freedom, ownership rights in relation to land, and a surge of fees that are causing grave economic disturbances to ranchers in Siskiyou County, and, in particular, Scott Valley.
“Fish and Wildlife has betrayed us. We have been personally targeted, and we have spent 50,000 dollars, and yet we can’t sit down at the table with them or NOAA. This is our lives and we are invested and so many people don’t have to invest anything. They get their jobs and paychecks and their entitlement. Everything we put into this is more and more and more money to defend our livestock and who we are. There is so much misinformation about who we are and how we have been perceived, and I am a school teacher. I see both sides. The focus is so narrow and pointed that we are definitely under threat. While people from the outside can regulate our lives, we are fighting to stay alive,” one speaker said.
Compensation regarding cattle loss was a major topic of conversation, with the majority in attendance agreeing that ranchers were compensated too little for cattle lost to predators like wolves. Plus, that monetary compensation, according to those in attendance, could never compensate for the time and emotional struggles imbued by animals that are taken down by wolves. One gentleman, who works as the treasurer for the Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s Association, shared a tale about his love for his animals. He explained how he worked for almost seven days babysitting a new calf, that, at the end of it all, was taken down by two coyotes.
“I spent seven days saving that critter. I’m not gonna give up. These calves are my kids. I got a wife, but those cattle are all my girlfriends. That calf would come up to me, and let me pet him for about three days, but the next day I didn’t see him. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit back and let these wolves take my kids. Only about 5percent of the people that actually have a problem with the wolf have actually seen the wolf and that’s the scary part,” he said.

Vardaman thanked the speaker for sharing his story, and she admitted that she now sees how much the folks in the area love their animals. She stated that part of California Wolf Center’s mission is to help people understand these new perspectives to find common ground. The treasurer for the Cattlemen’s Association said that he left a life of big money to come back and live a peaceful life on a ranch that he could take care of and defend. He said that since the reintroduction of the wolf, and many other issues pertaining to water use he has looked at moving to ranches in Idaho, eastern Oregon and other areas, but he has ultimately found a home in Scott Valley.
“I’ll tell you something, when I go into those areas and see all the environmental problems, all of the roads lead right back to Scott Valley. One of the things that keeps me here is that I can’t take the Jenners with me. I can’t take the Johnsons, the Mike Byrens and Jim Morrisons and other neighbors with me. I don’t want to start over. I have lifelong friends right here. I’m done moving. This is home. Government regulation or not, I’m staying,” he said.
Future workshops include McCloud on April 27 at the Mercantile Hotel, Bieber on April 28 at the Bieber Memorial Hall, Dorris on April 29 at the Butte Valley Community Center, and Montague on April 30 from at the Community Hall. Each workshop is from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.


Scientists Prove Rare Wolves Still Exist, But They’re In Real Trouble

Researchers say these ancient wolves diverged from other wolves and dogs hundreds of thousands of years ago.
  • Hilary Hanson Viral News Editor, The Huffington Post
Scientists believe humans seriously threaten the existence of a rare type of wolf in Nepal. 
An international research team led by graduate student Madhu Chetri from Norway’s Hedmark University College confirmed that four fecal samples found in Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region belonged to Himalayan wolves. Anecdotal evidence indicated that these wolves still roamed the mountains of Nepal, India and Tibet. The team, whose work was published last week in the journal ZooKeys, has proven the animals are still around. 
Madhu Chetri
A pair of Himalayan wolves in the wild
Himalayan wolves are smaller than the gray wolves native to North America and Eurasia, with stumpier legs and longer snouts. They also have white fur around their throats, chests and bellies, according to a news release about the study.

Scientists debate whether Himalayan wolves are simply a type of Tibetan wolf — which is a subspecies of the gray wolf — or part of a totally separate species. Research team member Bibek Yumnam from the Wildlife Institute of India told The Huffington Post that the new analysis suggests Himalayan wolves should be classed as a subspecies.

But what really makes the wolves so special is that DNA evidence suggests they come from a genetic line that split from the “wolf-dog clade” — the ancestral group predating the gray wolf and domestic dog — between 800,000 to 1.5 million years ago.

“Due to the fact that they evolved in isolation without mixing from other wolf and domestic dog lineages and their critically endangered status, it is prudent to focus conservation efforts as an evolutionary distinct entity,” Yumnan said in an email.

It’s unclear how many Himalayan wolves exist. A 1995 report estimated that there were only around 350 left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classed the wolves as “critically endangered” on Nepal’s National Red List, noting that it’s possible there are only 30 to 50 individuals left within the country’s borders.

The Red List notes that the major threats to the animals include habitat loss and conflict with humans, some of which Chetri’s team observed. They interviewed about 400 locals, many of whom were livestock owners or herders, and learned that the wolves are widely considered a serious threat to livestock. As a result, some communities hunt the wolves in order to protect livestock.

Comprehensively mapping the animals’ range could help promote peaceful wolf-human relationships, since that information could help herders avoid wolf-heavy areas, Chetri told HuffPost. He also floated the idea of “livestock insurance policies” that could make farmers less fearful of the wolves attacking their animals.

But what’s most important to the wolves’ survival is studying them while there’s still time. 
“Long-term research on the ecology of the species is urgent,” he said. 

 This article has been updated with information from Bibek Yumnam and Madhu Chetri.