Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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.”

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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

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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.

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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 (www.timberwolfinformation.org),Timber Wolf Alliance (www.discoverycenter.net/timberwolf3) or the Wisconsin DNR wolf information page (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/wolf/)


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Wolves of the Day

Red Wolfby hoboinaschoolbus

Red Wolf Puppyby DeeOtter

 

As wolves return, so do tensions with ranchers

Craig WelchSeattle Times

SEATTLE -- When the cougar trackers finally figured out it wasn't a big cat that was wiping out Dave Dashiell's livestock, the wolves already were on their way to killing or wounding 33 sheep.
By then even dogs, traps and specialists armed with lights, paintball guns and rubber bullets couldn't keep the wolves and livestock apart. "There were days when I walked down a drainage and when I came back two hours later there was a dead lamb where I walked," Dashiell's tearful wife, Julie, told a state wildlife panel.

And by the time a government aerial hunter aboard a helicopter unintentionally shot and killed a breeding female wolf amid the cedar, grand fir and thick underbrush of Dashiell's Stevens County grazing land, the outrage had reached almost everyone.

Less than a decade after the state's first wolf pack in 70 years returned to Eastern Washington's timbered mountains and dry-grass lowlands, tempers have returned to a boil. But with the state's wolf packs now numbering 15 and wolf populations growing 38 percent in six years, these conflicts, in some ways, are the price of success.

For the last several weeks, it seems, no side has been happy. Ranchers are furious that the state backed off in September without killing more of northeast Washington's Huckleberry wolf pack. Conservationists are furious that the lone wolf killed after conflicts with livestock was the one government officials implied they would not target.

Tens of thousand of emails flooded the state, most opposed to killing wolves at all. One county adopted a resolution proclaiming its citizens free to kill the predators themselves. Another county declared a state of emergency. A legislator told wildlife officials that ranchers were getting death threats. One reported his cows being shot.

The tensions highlight a reality that wolf experts have known Washington would face eventually: The chief barrier to the return of healthy populations of Canis lupus is rarely habitat or disease, but maintaining a healthy degree of social tolerance. "Yes, wolves are recovering, and their population is increasing and naturally dispersing," said Nate Pamplin, who oversees the wolf program for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "We'll do everything we can to minimize conflicts. But it will be necessary at times for the department to lethally remove wolves."

Yet with a wildlife issue that touches hearts and pocketbooks, and festering wounds left by decades of land-use battles, details matter. While wolf recovery enjoys overwhelming support in Washington, how well recovery will proceed in coming years depends in part on how all sides navigate these budding skirmishes. Because nobody thinks they are going away.

Aside from the Methow Valley cattle rancher who killed a wolf and tried to mail its pelt to Canada in a bloody FedEx box in 2008, Washington wolf recovery had, for the most part, been relatively smooth. Until two years ago.

In 2012, wildlife officials killed seven wolves in northeast Washington after several were caught killing cattle owned by a rancher very public about his disdain for wolves. After a quiet grazing season in 2013, the conflicts blew in like a tornado again this summer.

When some of the sheep Dave and Julie Dashiell turned out on their private allotment on Hancock Timber land in June went missing, they attributed it at first to the cost of doing business. When more died, they thought they had a hungry cougar, but experts determined the culprit was canine.

Then the Dashiells' losses mounted through August, and state teams sent to haze the wolves weren't effective. The state contracted with a federal government hunter to shoot up to four younger wolves. But the terrain is so thick, dense and steep, and the helicopter had only a brief window to work, so the hunter killed a single wolf, which turned out to be the pack's breeding female. "It was less than ideal for us to learn that," Pamplin said. But the state pointed to studies suggesting packs in Alaska often stay together even when a different female assumes mating duties.

With Labor Day coming and grouse season starting up, state officials decided hunting or trapping had to end.

The Dashiells moved their sheep to new rangeland, which proved difficult to find, and discovered several hundred sheep were missing. The losses may have nothing to do with wolves, but for many the link was clear. "My husband and I came from nothing," a clearly shaken Julie Dashiell said. "We came from nothing to watch it all go down the drain in a matter of minutes. Our losses probably total over $100,000."

While the move and the lone wolf-kill appeared to halt livestock deaths for the moment, Eastern Washington ranchers were livid the state didn't keep reducing the pack. "If we're going to have livestock and wolves on the environment, something is going to die," Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart told the commission that oversees WDFW. "And right now it seems like that's a one-way street."

Len McIrvin, who lost two cows on different rangeland and was the cattleman who lost the livestock in 2012, was more blunt: "Our ancestors knew what had to happen _ you get poison and you kill the wolves," he said. McIrvin said he's been harassed by wolf lovers.

A Ferry County sheriff's deputy confirmed that a cow was shot on McIrvin's land. But he pointed out that the cow was butchered, which made it more likely an act of someone stealing meat rather than a political protest.

As the tensions deepened during the last two months, environmentalists held a conference call with the governor, and the Dashiells' summer conflict quickly become the center of a major dispute that has simmered since 2012:

When, precisely, should the state start killing wolves? How much did this rancher _ and should others _ do proactively to avoid potential conflict? And who decides, before the wolf-killing starts, whether or not ranchers' efforts have been enough?

Wildlife officials maintain these issues are largely settled, with some steps outlined in the state's wolf recovery plan. And the Dashiells certainly had taken steps to avoid wolf-livestock conflicts. They helpfully put off grazing until late June, after deer and moose have given birth, which offers wolves an alternate source of food. Dashiell and his wife ran sheep using guard dogs, which can deter predators. And he moved quickly when necessary to remove carcasses of dead livestock so they wouldn't attract more wolves.
 
Dashiell, however, didn't enter into a cooperative agreement with the state to take proactive measures, such as using range riders, which the department would help pay for. Before wolves are killed, "we need a referee in real time that people trust who could judge whether a rancher has shown due diligence," said Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest.

Calls to Dashiell's cellphone were returned by Jamie Henneman, a spokeswoman for Stevens County's local ranching group. Henneman said ranchers already are doing everything they could possibly do. "The rancher is running a private business," she said. "He needs to have the latitude to run his business any way he thinks is best."

While the state's wolf population still hovers in the low 50s, a dozen of the 15 packs are located in northeast Washington, with conflicts mostly stemming from just two _ the Huckleberry and Profanity packs.

So some ranchers there are trying to be pragmatic.

For the last several years, John and Melva Dawson and their son Jeff, outside Colville, have used money from outside groups to hire their daughter to work as a professional range rider. "The wolves are here to stay _ haven't got a choice about that," said John Dawson. "We can't just go out like a wild man and start shooting them all. So I'm trying to do whatever I can to just stay in business."

His daughter puts in up to 12 hours a day for five months, circling the cattle, preventing contact by wolves. And when a wolf with a radio collar is near, she tracks the animal on her laptop and goes out with her four-wheeler to drive it away. "Sometimes they just circle around and get out of sight," Dawson said. "But we're putting the message to them that they don't want to eat here."

The Dawsons haven't lost a cow to a wolf in years, and if they did, some environmentalists say they would react without suspicion. "If a pack started eating Dawson's cattle, I'd say, kill those buggers," Friedman, the environmentalist, said. "We know sometimes wolves have to go. The debate occurs when ranchers are being less than diligent or when pro-wolf people suspect anti-wolf people are manipulating them."

No one believes range riders are the solution to every wolf conflict. The terrain in Eastern Washington is often too rough and brushy. And managing sheep can be more complex than running cattle.

But state officials said they know this corner of the state hasn't seen its last conflict. "I remain very concerned about this pack coming into the next grazing season," Pamplin, with WDFW, said of Huckleberry. "We're going to work very hard with this rancher and others to figure out what preventive measures can be deployed. Are there other things that can be considered?"

But if conflicts resurface, some wolves again may have to go, he said, "but not at a level that hinders recovery in Washington."

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Breaking News! #Wolf Patrol Monitors WI Wolf Hunt: Eyewitness report

by Rachel Tilseth

on October 20, 2014 
 
IMG_2152.JPG

This blogger joined Rod Coronado’s Wolf Patrol shown here with team members Sunday October 19, 2014 taken in the WI north woods.

Rod Coronado contacted me back in July 2014 looking to support Wolves Of Douglas County Wisconsin’s work by monitoring the wolf hunt. I was skeptical at first, but then after following wolf Patrol’s monitoring effort out in Yellowstone gained more confidence in their ability to monitor WI wolf hunt.

So confident in their ability, that I agreed to support their efforts here in WI. In fact, directed them to Douglas county WI where residents are in favor of wolves and have coexisted with wild wolves since the 1970s. Here is my blog on WDNR’s wolf social survey http://wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com/2014/08/28/8281wdnr-wolf-survey-results-the-good-bad-and-the-ugly-by-rachel-tilseth/

I spent the weekend observing the work of Rod Coronado’s Wolf Patrol as they monitored the WI wolf hunt. Here’s the link to their page https://www.facebook.com/teamwolfpatrol
 
Coronado is not new to activism and has served time for violating the law while protecting animals from abusive situations. Coronado made it clear that Wolf Patrol intends to monitor not interfere with the WI wolf hunt. “We know the law, and although we are working to end the wolf hunt, we are not trying to interfere with legal wolf hunting. We simply are monitoring WDNR-endorsed wolf control activities on public lands with the intent of sharing that information with the public.” Quoted from Wolf Patrol press release http://wolfpatrol.org/
 
Coronado wants Wolf Patrol to legally monitor this hunt and expressed to this blogger that he wants wolf patrol to support the efforts of all wolf advocacy in WI. Wolf Patrol arrived in Douglas county WI on October 14, 2014 and began scouting the area for wolf packs http://youtu.be/MRTdJXdIMPU
 
IMG_2172.JPG
Photograph from Wolf Patrol location somewhere in Douglas co WI

Coronado and his team of dedicated volunteers arrived the evening before WI’s third controversial wolf hunt. WI third wolf hunt has become a Dysfunction Junction because Cathy Stepp, head of the DNR booted pro wolf groups off of WI Wolf Advisory Committee that recommends wolf policy to the Natural Resources board. http://www.wpr.org/dnr-secretary-confirms-wolf-hunt-opponents-were-removed-advisory-committee

Anti wolf members are the majority rule in Cathy Stepp’s new WAC. Here is more on this topic http://wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com/2014/10/02/third-wolf-hunt-set-to-begin-with-no-permanent-rule-in-place-to-monitor-use-of-dogs/

Coronado’s Wolf Patrol is a welcome relief here in WI where there is little or no enforcement of this wolf hunt. As a matter of fact, not a single WDNR warden was seen out monitoring the wolf hunt. “Wolf Patrol never saw any signs of WDNR while out on patrol.” said Coronado.

Even more disturbing news is that WDNR’s monitoring of this wolf hunt has proven negligent as wolf kill quotas rise far above maximum in several wolf management zones. I was out on patrol with Coronado and his team when the news came in that zone 1 would be closing the next day.

This wolf hunt update is from the WDNR web page. 2014 wolf harvest
Zones will close when quotas are reached. Harvest as of 10/20/2014
Zone Quota Harvest Zone Status

1 32 35 Closed
2 15 29 Closed
3 40 2 Open
4 8 4 Closed
5 20 14 Closing 10/20
6 35 1 Open
Total 150 85

These numbers show WDNR’s lack of restraint regarding wolf hunters. This means that as of today wolf hunters have gone over quotas in two wolf management zones.

I met Coronado’s team members on Saturday. Coranado’s team had to move camp twice due to death threats from wolf hunters. Coronado’s team is made up of all young people willing to monitor this wolf hunt through thick and thin.

I’m relieved to see young people willing to take a stand for their beliefs. In this case these young citizens activists value wild wolves and are willing to monitor this wolf hunt. This blogger hopes Wolf Patrol will become a popular trend.

IMG_2151.JPG

Rod Coronado, this blogger and a few members of Wolf Patrol (names withheld for their protection)

Wolf patrol traveled the roads and trails in Douglas co finding evidence of active wolf packs in the area. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zDk94qvXckc

Coronado’s team found trapping sites as they drove the the rural Douglas co roads. For more details on wolf patrol’s monitoring activities http://wolfpatrol.org/

Coronado told me that his team has gone through training on how to de-escalate not escalate any encounters with wolf hunters. This blogger witnessed wolf patrol team members wave and smile at hunters as they passed by them.

This blogger spent Saturday evening with Wolf Patrol around a warm camp fire. One wolf patrol member recounted how he saw his very first wild wolf while out on patrol. Other wolf patrol members talked about how sad they felt about how so many wolves were killed over the last four days.

This blogger is confident that Wolf Patrol will make a positive difference on this wolf hunt. Because after spending the weekend observing wolf patrol’s work, I witnessed first hand that: Coronado is focussed and dedicated to wolf patrol’s mission and is a strong caring leader. Along with a dedicated and caring team of young people, that have values in the right place.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Never forget it...


A federal program to bring back red wolves to North Carolina faces a challenge from landowners

A federal program to bring back red wolves to North Carolina faces a challenge from landowners

These red wolf pups were born at the Western North Carolina Nature Center on May 1, 2005. It is one of more than 35 captive breeding centers for red wolves, which once roamed the Southeast but dwindled to only about 250 survivors in the wild.


Posted: Sunday, October 19, 2014 
The red wolf disappeared from North Carolina before the first shots of the Civil War. By mid-November, depending on a decision by the federal government, the wolves may be sent packing again. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide this fall whether a 27-year program aimed at returning the red wolf to the wild in the isolated swampland of eastern North Carolina will go forward.

Though the decision will be made within a month, no action will be taken before early 2015.
The Red Wolf Recovery Program has been praised as an innovative attempt to do something man has never done before - return a species that is extinct in the wild to its original habitat. The program also has been denounced as a money pit and an example of government trampling the rights of private landowners.

Opinions have split the Albemarle Peninsula, a marshy thumb of land home to fewer than 5,000 people and 100 monitored wolves. "There is a lot of support for the program there, and a lot of support against it," said Leopoldo Miranda, assistant director for ecological services in the Fish and Wildlife Service's southeast region. His department is overseeing a systemic review of the program.
"At the end of the evaluation project, we will have three options: maintain the program as it is, modify it or terminate it," Miranda said. "Whichever decision is made, it will be difficult, and there will be ramifications.

"There is no easy solution, and the way things are, no one solution will make everyone happy."
Even vocal landowners such as John "Jett" Ferebee admit they still get a chill hearing the twilight howl of wolves across the lowland forests. Ferebee, who owns about 1,000 acres in Washington County, has been an uneasy neighbor to the recovery program since it began in 1987. And, he insists, his beef is not with the wolves - it never has been. "No one wants to go out and kill all the wolves," he said. "But it's so frustrating to see something that had such a noble beginning become twisted into what we have today.

"The passion of those who began this program to restore a species to the wild was admirable," Ferebee said. "But it has become an effort to destroy the rights of private landowners. I'm sorry to sound so frustrated, but I'm a black-and-white sort of guy. Either something is legal, or it's not. And for years, what they have been doing in relation to private property rights here is illegal. "Now they have letters from more than 500 landowners asking them to remove wolves from their property. It is what they promised they would do when all this began. We intend to hold them to it, even if they don't want to do it."

Miranda acknowledged the complaints from hundreds of property owners, though he says support for the program remains strong in the Albemarle region. "One thing that has always been important from the beginning is that private landowner support is essential," Miranda said. "We're trying to do our best to meet the concerns while giving the wolves the best chance of survival. "The wolves wander. It's what wolves do."

Or what they used to do, anyway. When the first European settlers sailed up the Cape Fear River, red wolves had been here for thousands of years. Canis rufus once considered everything from southern New York to central Texas home. Experts believe up to 25 states were once part of the animal's range.
By 1970, that range was a small pocket of remote brush along the Texas-Louisiana state line. A combination of hunting, deforestation and competition from other predators dwindled the population to 14 genetically solid adults.

Wildlife officials rounded them up and placed them in refuges. This essentially made the wild wolf extinct. In 1976, a program of captive breeding began to slowly rebuild the wolf population. Once the captive population was considered secure, officials began a more ambitious project - reintroducing the wolves to the wild.

A possible location in the same area the wolves came from was rejected because of crowding. Not by humans, but coyotes. A cousin of the red wolf, the coyote had become the biggest threat to keeping the red wolf species alive. In addition to competing for food sources, coyotes and red wolves can, and often do, interbreed. Without keeping the species separate, the small wolf population would be absorbed by coyotes.

So, officials began searching for a spot in the traditional red wolf range that was not home to their canine cousins. In 1987, they settled on the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge in remote northeastern North Carolina. With an area of nearly 260,000 acres - about the size of Hoke County - and scant human population, officials argued that the wolves should be able to thrive.

They were, and still are, deemed "experimental, nonessential" populations. This allowed officials more leeway in controlling the wolves should they threaten livestock or property. Five years later, results were encouraging enough to try a second "seed population." A second release site, deep in the Smoky Mountains, failed miserably. Young pups died from disease, and some of the parents wandered away. The program was shut down in 1998.

On the Albemarle Peninsula, some landowners were reluctant from the start. What if the wolves got too close to homes or livestock? What if they became a nuisance or danger? Wildlife officials assured landowners the wolves would not be likely to stray onto their land. If they did, a call to the recovery center would bring a trained officer, who would trap the animal and take it back to the reserve.
If the animal was troublesome, a remote-control "capture collar" equipped with a tranquilizer would be detonated, knocking the canine out.

Officials quickly discovered two things: The wolves wandered far more than originally anticipated, and the collars were not designed to endure the harsh salty conditions along the Carolina coast.
Landowners such a Ferebee claim the promises to recapture wolves quickly on private property have been forgotten. They wonder if it had not been the plan all along to let the wolves reclaim the peninsula.

More than 25 years later, the wolf population has grown more than tenfold. Miranda says the estimated population is now "right about 100 wolves" with a range of more than 1.7 million acres - larger than Cumberland, Hoke and Moore counties combined.

In addition, large parts of the protected land were flooded for waterfowl habitation. That forced the wolves to seek different hunting land. Human interaction, while rare, was inevitable. There are no reports of wolf attacks on humans and few on livestock, mainly poultry. But they do attack and eat white-tail deer. Wildlife studies indicated nearly half of their diet is deer. Hopes that they would develop an appetite for nutria, the "super-rats" of the region, seem to have been overly optimistic. Still, 100 wolves should scarcely have an effect on deer population.

Each year, Miranda notes, the wolf population suffers an average death rate of 14 to 18 percent. About half of those deaths are human related, and a fourth are from gunshots. "None of those wolves would have died if they had kept them on public land," Ferebee said. He added that surveys released under a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that many of the wolf captured on private land were then released on neighboring private land rather than returned to the preserve.

Wildlife officials contend that the wolf population has a minimal impact on private land and that they rely on the cooperation of private landowners for the repopulation effort to succeed. Still, the biggest threat to the wolf's long-term survival is not man or bullets. It's his canine cousin.

When the restoration colony was set up in the 1980s, coyotes were nowhere to be seen. By the late '90s, there were far more coyotes than wolves on the Albemarle Peninsula, threatening to overwhelm the population. They rolled through the Carolinas like a canine Sherman's army, and recovery program officials now consider hybridization with coyotes as the biggest threat to the wolf's future.
"They just moved in," Miranda said.

Compounding landowner frustrations is a ban on hunting coyotes in the red wolf range, for fear of accidentally shooting a wolf. Several wildlife groups joined to file suit to ban the hunts, which was approved by a judge this spring. "That means they know the wolves and coyotes are running together," Ferebee said. "Now they're out there breeding super-coyotes, and I can't hunt them to protect what's left of the wildlife on my property. "I promise you, this will go down as one of the - no, as the single greatest disaster of the wildlife service."

To counter the coyote influx, wildlife officials are attempting a "placeholder" policy. Established coyotes are captured and sterilized, then released. In theory, these canines will hold territory, while unable to breed. When suitable red wolf pairs are ready, the coyote is removed and the wolves take over. "No one has come across these challenges before," Miranda said. "This is a first. Everything is a first. We're learning every time we do something."

What has been learned, both good and bad, will go into future red wolf repopulation efforts. After a series of internal decisions, Miranda said he expects the evaluation results to be made public in early 2015.

He pointed to the 20-year gray wolf recovery program at Yellowstone National Park. Wolf populations there have topped 1,000 adults, proving reintroduction can be successful. Miranda also said two future sites will be determined, no matter what the outcome of the North Carolina program review. "The goal of the red wolf recovery program was 220 animals in three separate populations," he said. "We still have to find at least two other viable locations. If this program is ended, we'll have to find a third, as well."

Are there any possible spots in mind? "If I knew of any, I would tell you," Miranda said.
Public response has been overwhelming on both sides of the issue, he said. His staff continues to comb through more than 47,000 responses collected during a public comment appeal in August and September, as well as remarks from public hearings in eastern North Carolina, seeking helpful suggestions. "This will not be a beauty contest," he said. "The side with the most votes isn't promised a win. Many options are on the table."

If the plug is pulled at Albemarle Peninsula, after 27 years and about $30million, the wolves would be rounded up and placed in preserves, awaiting a new home. The same action was taken when the Smoky Mountain program ended. "We would not leave them behind," Miranda said. "Whatever the case, we still have our captive population to populate a new area."

Ferebee admits there would be a sadness in seeing the wolves go. But, he quickly adds, he feels the program cannot be salvaged. "At some point, (the Fish and Wildlife Service) has become unwelcome," he said. "The program needs to be dismantled. It is a failed experiment."

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Wolves of the Day

European wolf portrait by Kiba67

 

European wolfby Kiba67