Sunday, July 5, 2015

Medicine of the Wolf Showing at Maine International Film Festival July 16 & 18

By Rachel Tilseth, the founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin
on July 5, 2015

The following is what Maine International Film Festival is saying about this made in Minnesota film: “In this beautiful and important documentary, filmmaker Julia Huffman travels to Minnesota and into wolf country to pursue the deep intrinsic value of perhaps the most unjustly maligned animal on the face of the planet.”
“Medicine of the Wolf centers on the remarkable, world-renowned environmentalist and National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg, who has photographed, studied and been on the ground with wolves for 45 years—longer than anyone in history. As our guide, Brandenburg enables us to see the world of the wolf as we have never seen it before. The film also has a crucial message for us: The gray wolf must be preserved on the endangered species list.”

Medicine of the Wolf showing at Maine International Film Festival, information on show times, theater & buy tickets.
Thursday, Jul 16, 3:00 pm / Railroad Square Cinema 3 | Buy Tickets
Saturday, Jul 18, 12:00 pm / Railroad Square Cinema 3 | Buy Tickets

In March of this year I did an interview with Julia Huffman. The following is an excerpt from that interview.
“Then there is the director, producer and screen writer of this remarkable film about wolves. I’ve come to know Julia Huffman through her work, finding her to be a compassioniate wolf advocate. Her creative attributes drive her to look for answers as to why some humans love wolves while others hate them.”  Read the full interview here 

Julia Huffman is an independent filmmaker and acting coach living in Los Angeles, CA. Photograph of Julia Huffman taken at Wolf Connection
Medicine of the Wolf is a very personable and emotionally charged film about the lives of wild wolves and those who care about them. I recommend you bring tissues. ~Rachel


21 was “the perfect wolf”: He was a legend - he never lost a fight, and he never killed a vanquished rival

Twenty-one was like history’s highest-status human leaders: Not a ruthless strongman but a peaceful warrior

Twenty-one was "the perfect wolf": He was a legend -- he never lost a fight, and he never killed a vanquished rival (Credit: andamanec via Shutterstock)
“Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?” Without looking at me, Rick McIntyre quizzes me like a Zen master during one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had. He’s trying to lead me into a realization about the roots of mercy by talking about superheroes as we’re looking through telescopes in subfreezing weather while watching wolves eating an elk a mile away on a frozen, snowy slope.

Rick, a ranger here in Yellowstone National Park, conducts the whole conversation without taking his eyes from his scope. Rick follows free-living wolves every day. I’ve never seen real wolves before, so my eyes are glued to my scope too.

“If ever there was a perfect wolf, it was Twenty-One,” says Rick, using the wolf’s research-collar number as his name. “He was like a fictional character.

“Twice, I saw Twenty-One take on six attacking wolves from a rival pack — and rout them all,” Rick recalls. “I’d think, ‘A wolf can’t do what I am watching this wolf do.’ Watching him felt like seeing Bruce Lee fighting.”

Wolf territorial fights resemble human tribal warfare. Wolves often target the rival pack’s alphas, seemingly understanding that if they can rout or kill the experienced leaders, victory will be theirs.

Twenty-One distinguished himself in two ways: He never lost a fight, and he never killed a vanquished rival. But why? A wolf letting vanquished enemies go free seems inexplicable. Rick’s question about Batman and the Joker is his koan-like way of trying to lead me to a big-picture explanation as to why. But I’m not getting it.

Rick is saying that history’s highest-status human leaders are not ruthless strongmen like Hitler, Stalin and Mao. They are Gandhi, King and Mandela. Peaceful warriors earn higher status. 

Muhammad Ali — who has been called the most famous man in the world — was a practitioner of ritualized combat who spoke of peace and refused to go to war. His refusal cost him millions of dollars and his heavyweight title, yet with his refusal to kill, his status rose to unprecedented height.
For humans and many other animals, status is a huge deal. For it, we risk much treasure and blood. 

Wolves do not understand why status and dominance are so important to them, and for the most part, we don’t either. In wolf and human alike, our brains produce hormones that compel us to strive for status and assert dominance. Dominance feels like an end in itself. We don’t need to understand why.

Here’s why: Status is a daily proxy for competition. Whenever mates or food are in short supply, the high-status individual has preferred access. What’s at stake is survival, and ultimately, reproduction — the chance to breed, to count. Our genes don’t need to let us understand why; they just need us to want it. One could hardly expect that wolves would understand, any better than we do, what drives us all. But I still don’t get what this has to do with Batman.

“So, Rick,” I ask, my eye still in the scope watching several ruddy-faced wolves bedding down in snow to sleep off a big meal they’ve just finished, “why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?”

“In admiring the hero who restrains himself” — Rick has clearly thought about this — “we are impressed with the hero’s power.” Rick elaborates that in what’s been called the greatest movie of all time, Humphrey Bogart has won the love he has sought. But he arranges things so that the other man does not lose his wife and is not hurt. We admire him for strength combined with restraint.”

But could wolves have such an ethic? If a human releases a vanquished opponent, the loser’s status suffers anyway and the victor seems more impressive. You’ve already won and you show tremendous added confidence. If you show mercy, you gain even more status. But could a wolf be merciful? A wolf might be a super-animal, but he ain’t no superhero.

In wolf Twenty-One’s life there was a particular male, a sort of roving Casanova, a continual annoyance. He was strikingly good-looking, had a big personality, always doing something interesting. “The best single word is ‘charisma,’” says Rick. “Female wolves were happy to mate with him. People absolutely loved him. Women would take one look at him — they didn’t want you to say anything bad about him. His irresponsibility and infidelity; it didn’t matter.”

One day, Twenty-One discovered Casanova among his daughters. Twenty-One caught him and was biting him. Various pack members piled in, beating him up. “Casanova was big,” Rick says, “but he was a bad fighter.” Now he was totally overwhelmed and the pack was finally killing him.

“Suddenly Twenty-One steps back. Everything stops. The others are looking at Twenty-One as if saying, ‘Why has Dad stopped?’” Casanova jumps up and — runs away.

Casanova kept causing problems for Twenty-One. So, why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker so he simply doesn’t have to keep dealing with him? It doesn’t make sense — until years later.

After Twenty-One’s death from age, Casanova became the model of a responsible alpha male. Though he’d been averse to fighting, Casanova died in a fight with a rival pack. But everyone in his own pack escaped — including grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Twenty-One.

Wolves can’t foresee such plot twists any more than can people. But evolution can. Anything that’s helped descendants survive will remain in the genetic heirloom, a driver in the behavioral toolkit.

So, say you’re a wolf; should you let a beaten rival go free? I think the answer in both wolves and in our own tribal human minds is: Yes — if you can afford to. Sometimes, your rival today becomes, tomorrow, a vehicle for your legacy. Perhaps that is the basis for magnanimity in wolves, and at the deep heart of mercy in men.

Excerpted from “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel” by Carl Safina, published by Henry Holt and Company LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Carl Safina.  All rights reserved. 
Carl Safina's work has been recognized with MacArthur, Pew and Guggenheim fellowships, and his writing has won Orion, Lannan and National Academies literary awards and the John Burroughs, James Beard and George Raab medals. Safina is founding president of the not-for-profit Safina Center at Stony Brook University. He hosted the 10-part PBS series "Saving the Ocean With Carl Safina." "Beyond Words" is his seventh book. He lives on Long Island, New York.


What if there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona?

The Republic |

What If: Paul Gosar, Defender of Wildlife debate the impact of the Mexican grey wolf in Arizona.

What would happen if there were no Mexican grey wolves in Arizona? We asked two experts to weigh in on federal programs to reintroduce the species.

Arizona would be identical to Texas in that respect and the Mexican wolf population would more closely resemble its historic range (90 percent of the Mexican wolf's original habitat is in Mexico).

However, I am not advocating for Mexican gray wolf eradication. I simply want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to leave species conservation efforts to the states, to comply with federal law, and to stop implementing a flawed experimental program that poses a serious threat to Arizona ranchers, citizens and economies.

Mexican wolves have repeatedly stalked citizens, devastated big game herds and killed livestock. In Catron County, N.M., the wolf's presence has resulted in a $5 million economic hit and "1,172 calves lost annually," according to the Southwest Center for Resource Analysis.

In January, Fish and Wildlife implemented new regulations that dramatically expanded the area Mexican wolves can roam and designated the wolf as an endangered subspecies. The agency acknowledged its failure to secure appropriations prior to implementing the new regs, in violation of federal law.

The Mexican wolf has lingered on the Endangered Species list for nearly 40 years. During that time, Fish and Wildlife has failed to work with local stakeholders and has been using an illegal recovery program, as it is not based on the best available science and fails to establish a recovery goal. Arizona recently sued as a result.

The agency has acknowledged the recovery plan violates federal law and that the new regulations will not result in a de-listing. In the U.S., the Mexican wolf population now exceeds the primary goal of 100 wolves, and there are another 250 in captivity. The wolf is no longer in danger of extinction.

The bipartisan Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act rejects the new January mandates as Arizonans deserve a viable solution that adequately protects local communities.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar is a Republican representing Arizona.

If there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona, this rarest gray wolf would be on a direct path to extinction. Essentially eradicated from the southwestern United States by the 1930s, the Mexican gray wolf It is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. There are fewer than 120 wild Mexican gray wolves in the entire world: 109 in Arizona and New Mexico and a handful in Mexico.

Why does that matter? Lobos hold profound cultural significance in our region, and are important apex predators that contribute to the environmental health of the areas they inhabit. Sadly, despite the work that has been done to recover them, the Mexican gray wolf is still noticeably rare on our beautiful landscape in Arizona. The truth is, Without lobos, Arizona would not be safer or more productive, but it would be lacking an iconic part of our heritage.

No one has ever been killed by a Mexican gray wolf, and in Arizona, wolves account for less than 1 percent of total cattle and calf losses. On the other hand, 87 percent of voters polled in Arizona agree that wolves are a "vital part of America's wilderness and natural heritage," and 83 percent of Arizonans agree that "the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction."

To lose the lobo would be a tragedy of our lifetime.

Eva Sargent is Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife.


Gray Wolf Stays 'Endangered' Despite Conservationists' Request

By Brian Stallard
Jul 04, 2015 
gray wolf
(Photo : USFWSmidwest / NPS)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently ruled that the North American gray wolf will remain classified as an endangered species despite its speedy recovery across the continent. Strangely enough, many conservationists looking to compromise with angry farmers and state officials are saying that this is not the good news they were hoping to hear.
To be quite honest, when this reporter first came across a petition submitted last January by The Humane Society of the United States (THS) and 22 other animal conservation groups, he was a little confused. The petition calls for Congress and the FWS to strip the grey wolf (Canis lupis) of its status as an endangered species - a status that grants its special protections under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Instead, the groups are asking that the recovering species is given the status of "threatened," which would grant it fewer protections, but one's that would be enforced on a national scale. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : Steve Jurvetson)
Reclaiming Restrictions

Their reasoning? According to the groups, the wolves' current status has actually been ignored and even overturned in various states like Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, leading to little control over how hunters and farmers react to a wolf's presence. In Alaska, where the wolves are at healthy numbers and not listed under the ESA entirely, unchecked hunting has even led to a notable decline in wolf populations that frequent the lands around the protected Denali National Park.

"Several states have badly failed in their management of wolves, and their brand of reckless trapping, trophy hunting, and even hound hunting just has not been supported by the courts or by the American people," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the THS, said in a past statement.

He added that the Society and its partners do, however, "understand the fears that some ranchers have about wolves."

After all, as things stand, these recovering predators, while having reclaimed a mere five percent of their historic range, are already responsible for nearly one percent of all unexpected livestock deaths across the US (the large majority is still due to disease or coyote raids).

So what's to be done? KierĂ¡n Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) argues that the fate of farmers and wolves alike is currently too dependent on the whims of state legislature and ignores the 'big picture' of environmental conservation.

"A Congressional end run around science and the Endangered Species Act will create more controversy and put wolves and the law itself in jeopardy," he explained. "The better path is to downlist wolves to threatened, replace the failed piecemeal efforts of the past with a new science-based national recovery strategy, and bring communities together to determine how wolves will be returned to and managed in places where they once lived, like the Adirondacks, southern Rocky Mountains, Cascades and Sierra Nevada."

grey wolves
(Photo : Flickr: Ronnie Macdonald)
Essentially, the hope was that downlisting the gray wolf would adequately reset protections in some regions, while granting worried farmers and hunters a few more freedoms in others - namely permissions to trap 'problem wolves' and forgiveness for accidental kills.

A Disappointing Denial

Unfortunately, the USFWS recently denied this request, maintaining the endangered status of the gray wolf and all the legislative baggage that comes with it.

According to the Service, there is not enough "substantial information indicating that reclassification may be warranted."

"The Service's review concluded that the petition did not provide information to indicate that the population petitioned for listing, which does not correspond to any currently listed gray wolf population, may qualify as a listable entity under the ESA," they explained. " As a result, the Service will take no further action on the petition."

A USFWS representative was not immediately available for comment. However, Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the CBD, claimed in a statement that the FWS' reasoning is contradictory to previous actions.

"The Service's claim that wolves don't constitute a distinct population is ludicrous and totally belied by the fact they've been considered distinct in the lower 48 for more than three decades," he argued. "Sadly the US Fish and Wildlife Service seems content to let politicians in Congress, rather than scientists, decide the future of wolf recovery in the United States - yet another sign this agency is hoping to wash its hands of wolf recovery and leave the job unfinished forever."

(Photo : Pixabay)
"We are disappointed in the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision not to consider this middle-ground approach to wolf management," Michael Markarian, the chief program and policy officer at THS, added in a formal response. "We need practical solutions, not to turn back the clock to the days of widespread hound hunting, baiting and trapping of hundreds of wolves in states with hostile and reckless wolf management policies."

The Mistake of Moderacy

Still, it's important to note that there is another side to this complex debate. Last December, researchers from Washington State - in a region that has seen a dramatic spike wolf populations - published convincing evidence that taking a "middle-ground" approach might be the worst fate for farmer and wolf alike.

According to 25 years of lethal control data from US Fish and Wildlife Service's Interagency Annual Wolf Reports, wolf control should be an 'all or none' approach. Apparently, the single death of a wolf can lead to a 4 to 6 percent jump in the number of livestock deaths in a region. If 20 wolves or more are killed, livestock deaths double.

The reason for this, wildlife biologist Rob Wielgus explained, is that these deaths destabilize packs, potentially removing wizened pack leaders who would otherwise steer their charges away from human development. Young and reckless wolves then, are more likely to raid farms in regions with moderate lethal control - the kind of control that is permitted under a "threatened" status.

(Photo : Steve Jurvetson)
Similarly, regions with intense control are also better off, as the researchers found that livestock deaths can finally be halted after 25 percent of wolves in an area or more are killed.

"The only way you're going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves," Wielgus said, "and society has told us that that's not going to happen."

Instead, the strong disparity that we see today, with some states standing by strict protections and others permitting mass hunts, may actually be the preferable choice. Conservationists may not agree with that assertion, but it's certainly food for thought as they struggle to ensure that grey wolves has a home in the US.

"Complex conservation problems require sophisticated solutions," Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and a backer of the failed petition, added in a statement. "The history of wolf protection in America is riddled with vitriolic conflict and shortsightedness and it is time for a coordinated, forward-thinking approach that focuses on the long-term viability of wolf populations throughout the country."

What that approach could be, however, remains up for debate.


#Wolf of the Day

Iberischer Wolf im Gaia Park Kerkrade im Februar 2010  
Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) by Ulli J.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

More killed by cows than wolves

July 03, 2015
To the editor:

 I am dismayed by the recent anti-wolf legislation (HR 2910) introduced into Congress by Representatives Paul Gosar and Steve Pearce --  it is a recipe for wolf extinction. There are only 109 Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico where thousands once roamed, not because of any failure of the wolves, but because a government extermination campaign almost wiped them out.

Now Gosar and Pearce have made it their mission to drive our native wolves back to extinction.
The science is clear that the Mexican gray wolf is essential to balanced ecosystems and has shown that in places like Yellowstone they have created a healthy ecosystem with their return. It is vital they remain protected by the Endangered Species Act --  losing ESA protections would lead to extinction of the wild lobo.

In a 2008 poll of registered voters, 77 percent of Arizonans and 69 percent of New Mexicans supported “the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into these public lands in Arizona and New Mexico.” The fact remains that chances of a dangerous encounter with a wild wolf are remarkably slim compared to the risks associated with everyday dangers. Not a single person has been killed by a Mexican gray wolf – in comparison, each year on average in the U.S., 241 people are killed by tractors, 53 by bees, 39 by lightning, 31 by dog bites and even 22 by cows!

Removing wolf protection will be lethal

July 03, 2015
To the editor:

On June 25, Reps. Gosar and Pearce co-sponsored the ”Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act” --H.R. 2910. It will ensure the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Mexican wolf nonessential experimental population 10(j) rule has no force or effect, and for other purposes. This will undermine the wolf recovery project and the Endangered Species Act. There are only 109 Mexican gray wolves in the entire United States, making them highly endangered. I want my representative to work for the greater protection of these wolves and to oppose efforts to push them closer to extinction.
Since 2008 there have been a number of polls where registered Arizona voters overwhelmingly support the wolf recovery project, introducing more wolves into a larger area and allowing the wolves north of I-40
In Arizona wolves account for less than 1 percent of the total cattle and calf losses.
The US Fish and Wildlife service, the Department of Agriculture and nonprofit organizations all have programs to assist ranchers financially or with tools and management techniques to reduce conflicts with wolves
The Arizona Game and Fish does not seem to care about the majority of the voters in our state. The wolf gene pool is in an extremely dangerous situation. There needs to be many more wolves introduced so they are not genetically unable to be saved due to inbreeding in the packs.


Bays Mountain to microchip wolves to keep up with new state law

July 3rd, 2015
by Tony Casey
Bays Mountain to microchip wolves to keep up with new state law
A new Tennessee State Law requires the wolves at Bays Mountain to be microchipped. (Johnson City Press/file photo)

Year after year, one of Bays Mountain Park’s top draws is its collection of wolves. Prompted by a new Tennessee state law, each of these natural wonders will soon have an electronic addition — deemed Class I carnivores, each of the wolves will have to be microchipped.

Senate Bill 1273, sponsored by State Sen. Ken Yager, from the Kingston area, requires “any person who possesses or obtains a Class I carnivore to have a microchip permanently implanted in the animal.”

This includes wolves, bears and big cats, like lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars and jaguars. The purpose, according to The Tennessean, is to have each of those animals equipped with proper identifying information and tracking capacity.

Park naturalist Rhonda Goins said none of the park’s wolfpack is currently microchipped.
She said that, while the law technically took effect on July 1, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency didn’t bring it up in their last meeting. At that time Bays Mountain Park was inspected and she was told she’d fulfilled all the necessary requirements. “I just had a meeting with the TWRA and nothing like this was mentioned,” Goins said.

Matthew Cameron, East Tennessee’s Region Four public information specialist, said during that meeting, the law hadn’t been put into play and the inspecting officer was unaware of the new law when the inspection was conducted. He said as long as compliance is achieved by July 1, 2018, then there would be no concerns.

The law is mostly aimed at zoos and circuses, which must hold true to that microchipping date three years down the road. The Bays Mountain Park wolves are the only area animals classified as Class I carnivores.

Brights’s Zoo in Limestone has dozens of different animals, but none are considered large carnivores. One of the many primates at Bright’s Zoo is the Lar gibbon. Though gibbons are listed as a Class I animal, by Tennessee’s standards, they’re not a carnivore.

David Bright, the zoo’s manager, said it’s not on his bucket list to bring in animals of that level, though some of the inhabitants of his facility are microchipped, which is common for zoos. If he did need to, Bright isn’t concerned that it would be expensive or too tasking. “Zoos typically microchip everything, so we have an identification,” he said. “Getting microchip would be like getting a shot.”

For example, Bright’s Zoo has 40 flamingos which all, inconveniently, look very much alike. Having microchips in each of them allows for identification that can combat against crossbreeding and help managers organize those animals. “Whenever we have flamingo on a nest, we identify the parent and the offspring,” Bright said.

As someone who stays on top of the latest news in regards to his passion, Bright had heard about the law taking effect and brushed up on the particulars a few weeks, even having discussed it in online forums. “We knew about it, but it won't affect us,” he said.


Happy ID from @canislupus101