Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wolves susceptible to yawn contagion: Social bonds may increase yawning contagion between wolves

August 27, 2014
Wolves may be susceptible to yawn contagion, according to a new study. Researchers suggest that contagious yawning may be linked to human capacity for empathy, but little evidence apart from studies on primates, exists that links contagious yawning to empathy in other animals. Recently, researchers have documented domestic dogs demonstrating contagious yawning when exposed to human yawns in a scientific setting, but it is unclear whether this phenomenon is rooted in the evolutionary history of mammals, or has evolved in dogs as a result of domestication.

a. An individual (on the right) yawned during a resting period. b. A few seconds later, the subject (on the left) yawned contagiously.
Credit: Teresa Romero; CC-BY

Wolves may be susceptible to yawn contagion, according to a study published August 27, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Teresa Romero from The University of Tokyo, Japan, and colleagues.
Researchers suggest that contagious yawning may be linked to human capacity for empathy, but little evidence apart from studies on primates, exists that links contagious yawning to empathy in other animals. Recently, researchers have documented domestic dogs demonstrating contagious yawning when exposed to human yawns in a scientific setting, but it is unclear whether this phenomenon is rooted in the evolutionary history of mammals, or has evolved in dogs as a result of domestication.
In this study, the authors investigated contagious yawning and its potential link to empathy in wolves. They observed and recording yawning in a single pack of 12 wolves at Tama Zoological Park, in Tokyo, Japan over five months, in relaxed situations (without visible signs of stress), and recorded the exact time of the yawn, the identity of the initial yawner, and the identity and position of subjects close to the initial yawner.

The results suggest that wolves may experience yawn contagion. The strength of the pack member's social bond with the yawning wolf positively affected the frequency of contagious yawning. Additionally, female wolves showed a faster reaction time than males when observing yawns of close associates, suggesting that females are more responsive to surrounding social stimuli. According to the authors, despite the small sample size these results may provide initial evidence that contagious yawning may relate to the wolves capacity for empathy, and suggests that basic building blocks of empathy might be present in a wider range of species than previously thought.

Teresa Romero added, "In wolves, as well as in primates and dogs, yawning is contagious between individuals, especially those that are close associates. These results suggest that contagious yawning is a common ancestral trait shared by other mammals and that such ability reveals an emotional connection between individuals."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Teresa Romero, Marie Ito, Atsuko Saito, Toshikazu Hasegawa. Social Modulation of Contagious Yawning in Wolves. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (8): e105963 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105963

PLOS. "Wolves susceptible to yawn contagion: Social bonds may increase yawning contagion between wolves." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2014. <>.

Current Events in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area

Photo Courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team

Dark Canyon Pack - Cross Foster Wolf Pup Update

Late August 2014
Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team trail cameras continue documenting five pups with the Dark Canyon pack in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. On May 15, two pups from the Coronado pack were placed into the three-pup litter of the Dark Canyon pack with the hope that the Dark Canyon pack would raise them as their own. This is the IFT's first attempt at cross fostering and was done to introduce genetically desirable pups into the litter of an experienced female and wild-proven pack. The continued documentation of five pups remaining with the Dark Canyon pack is evidence the cross fostering attempt was successful. Updates on this pack are provided in the BRWRA Monthly Project Updates.

Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Coronado Pack Update

August 2014
The Coronado Pack self-released out of the McKenna Park soft mesh pen several days after being placed in the pen by Wolf Project personnel. In the photo the alpha female 1126 remains in the pen while the alpha male 1051 and several pups are outside the pen. All the members of the pack have since left the pen site and have been consistently located together in the Gila Wilderness. Wolf Project personnel have remained in the wilderness monitoring the pack closely, following the translocation. The Coronado pack is being provided a supplemental food cache to assist with their transition to the wild. For additional information regarding the status of the Coronado pack please visit Recent Wolf Locations and BRWRA Monthly Updates (located on the Wolves in the Wild webpage).


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NMCOG seeking DNA from historic Mexican Wolves

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Dear members,

We are looking for individuals who might still possess historic Mexican Wolf hides/skulls from any wolf killed in New Mexico prior to the current re-introduction period.  These wolves might have been killed or found by your grandparents/great grandparents and are perhaps still displayed in your trophy room or gathering dust in a barn somewhere.

NMCOG is attempting to gather DNA from historic Mexican Wolves in order to further scientific research to prove that Mexican Wolves and Gray Wolves are of the same lineage and therefore, should not be classified as two different species within the Endangered Species Act.

As most of you are well aware, the USFWS is currently attempting to expand the range and protections of the Mexican Wolf.  NMCOG is fighting this expansion.  An expansion of this nature will undoubtedly put NM and AZ on the path to becoming the wolf predation mess that is currently being experienced in WY, ID, and MT.  With the USFWS proposing an increase to between 300 and 1000 wolves the ungulate populations of NM simply can not sustain an additional predator pressure of that size.

Please contact the Council if you know of anywhere that we might be able to find the DNA that we are looking for.  Feel free to forward this email to anyone that you know might have historic Mexican Wolf DNA. 

Thanks for your help!

Kerrie C. Romero
Executive Director (
51 Bogan Rd Stanley, NM 87056

Wolf hunt bid sparks debate on voting procedures in Lansing

August 25, 2014
Gary Kramer / AP) 
Lansing— The state increasingly is embroiled in a debate about whether controversial issues such as wolf hunting and mandatory union dues payments should be decided by elected officials reflecting their constituents’ wishes or directly by the people at the voting booth.

Democratic politicians and some advocacy groups argue citizen voices are being silenced by Republican legislative maneuvering, approval of laws that pre-empt statewide votes and, in one case, re-enactment — with some changes — of a law voters rejected.

The controversy has swirled for more than two years around issues ranging from state-appointed emergency managers to the minimum wage. It’s likely to surface again this week when the House meets for a rare summer session. The chamber may vote to uphold Michigan’s wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula by passing a petition-initiated proposal from pro-hunting groups.

While House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, hasn’t said a vote will occur when the House assembles Wednesday, Democrats are bracing for what they describe as another GOP assault on the rights of voters to decide such issues. “The constitution guarantees the people the right to create or modify laws on their own through ballot initiatives,” said Robert McCann, press secretary to Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing. “And while, yes, the Constitution also may technically allow the Republicans to undermine them as they are, it’s hard to justify that it was the intent of the drafters of our Constitution to allow that,” McCann said.

But Lansing attorney Richard McLellan, who often is involved in such issues, said state constitutional provisions allowing citizens to petition for new laws don’t mean every proposal has to go to the ballot.

The framers, McLellan said, just “wanted people to have the right to start the (law-making) process. I get a little irritated with these Democrats who’d do exactly the same things for the same reasons” if they had the legislative majority.

Wolf hunting in focus

Wolf hunting is the latest focal point of the running dispute between the Republican legislative majority and the Democratic minority over the ethics of state constitutional initiative and referendum provisions.

Michigan’s Constitution gives registered voters the right to petition for a new law through an initiative or seek, through a referendum, a statewide vote that could affirm or reject a law passed by the Legislature.

Democrats are joined by labor unions and groups such as Planned Parenthood and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected in blasting the GOP for using those provisions to its advantage.

In one case, the Republican majority included a $1 million appropriation in a right-to-work law it hastily passed in December 2012, presumably making it immune to a referendum. The right-to-work law prohibits mandatory union dues.

Under the state constitution, laws that appropriate funds usually cannot be overturned by voters.
McCann charged that Republicans “didn’t want the people of Michigan to be able to weigh in” by voting on the right-to-work issue. “That, in and of itself, is offensive,” he said.

But McLellan argued that the GOP majority and groups circulating petitions are using constitutional tools just as they’re intended to be used. Some just aren’t happy with the outcomes, he said.
And should the House pre-empt two Nov. 4 anti-wolf-hunting ballot propositions by passing the initiative on Wednesday, McLellan predicted, hunting opponents “will be back next year with a (proposed) constitutional amendment, banning wolf hunting, that’s not subject to a referendum.”

The initiative would affirm that the Natural Resources Commission will continue deciding which animals will be hunted as game. House passage of the measure — which the Senate approved earlier this month — would make it law.

The commission already approved one wolf hunt, in which hunters killed just over half a 43-wolf quota last fall.

More important for the pro-wolf-hunt GOP legislative majority, House action also presumably would thwart two anti-wolf-hunting November ballot proposals backed by a group called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

Lobbying encouraged

That’s why leader Jill Fritz on the wolf protection group’s website urged people to lobby legislators before they act: “Michiganders who care about wildlife and their right to vote should tell their legislators to vote ‘no’ on the opposition’s initiative. “Michigan’s recent wolf hunt was based on a pack of lies. Politicians and bureaucrats cannot be trusted, but voters can.”
Lawmakers twice have approved laws to allow wolf hunts.

And Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, with financial backing from the Humane Society of the United States, twice responded by collecting enough petition signatures for referendums on those laws.

Then a group called Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management — Michigan United Conservation Clubs and other groups that favor hunting — collected enough signatures to petition for the proposed law now up for a House vote.

The constitution says lawmakers can pass such a citizen-initiated proposal into law within 40 days after the petition signatures are authenticated or let it go to a statewide vote, which would put it on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Most experts agree that Keep Wolves Protected’s two proposals, calling for referendums on the first two Legislature-passed wolf hunting laws, will become moot if the House finalizes the pro-hunting measure.

Vote uncertain

Bolger’s spokesman Ari Adler said the House speaker still is deciding whether to have the House vote on the wolf hunt proposal or let it go to the ballot.

Either way, Adler said, Bolger believes the Legislature “has followed all constitutional and legal guidelines related to citizen initiatives placed before it, as did those who have spearheaded the initiatives through their constitutional right to do so.”

The Coywolf

Call of the wild
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
This article originally appeared in Business Insider.
Humans are not newcomers when it comes to messing around with nature. While we haven't created Frankenstein's monster yet, what we do messes with the natural world. One recent example is the creation of the coywolf—a hybrid of the coyote and the wolf that is also known as the Eastern coyote.
These animals have a completely new genetic make up: Their genes are about 1/4 wolf DNA and 2/3 coyote DNA, the rest is from domesticated dogs. They were created when previously separate wolf and coyote populations merged in the land north of the Great Lakes.
Here's the coyote, which traditionally maxes out at 75 pounds and has pointier features, and readily populates cities:

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

And this is what a wolf looks like. Wolves are usually bigger, weighing in at about 100 pounds, and prefer more wild habitats.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images
While the grey wolf and the coyote are each other's closest living relatives, the two animals separated evolutionarily 1 to 2 million years ago. These hybrids have only really emerged en force during the last few decades, as wolves were hunted and forced north and coyotes moved east from the Great Plains.
According to the New York Times' Moises Velazquez-Manoff: "[The coywolf] can be as much as 40 percent larger than the Western coyote, with powerful wolflike jaws; it has also inherited the wolf's more social nature, which allows for pack hunting."

Specifically, this genetic combination of the two animals seems especially well suited to its northern habitat—better suited than either parent species. The wolf genes allow the coyote to take down bigger prey, while the coyote genes let them adapt to cityscapes and other metropolitan areas.
To study the hybrids better, scientists went ahead and made some 50/50 hybrids in the lab, mating female coyotes with male grey wolves. That's not exactly like the wild coywolves, but it's similar. And gives scientists a better idea of how successful a mating between the two species would be. While two pregnancies didn't result in live offspring, one litter created six puppies.
Here's the result:

Mech, et. al. PLOS
Generally the hybridization of species gives evolution something to work with to deal with tough times. When food is low because of climate change or your habitat is being destroyed by humans, these animals can turn out to be tougher or more adaptable than their parent species (though many aren't and many turn out to be sterile).
So, how did these hybrids come to be? Well, as Velazquez-Manoff writes in the New York Times Magazine:
The emergence of the Eastern coyote, however, shows how human activity can break down the barriers that separate species. Perhaps the most obvious way in which humanity is altering the natural world is through climate change. The Arctic, where its effects are especially evident, is warming between two and four times as fast as the rest of the planet. Spring thaws now arrive weeks earlier; winter freezes come weeks later. Shrubs are invading once-barren tundra. Animals at high latitudes—where related species tend to have diverged more recently and can therefore interbreed more easily—are shifting their ranges in response to rising temperatures and melting sea ice. As they do, they may encounter cousins and hybridize.
This is what a wild coywolf looks like. This one was spotted in West Virginia.


Michigan wolf hunt opponents plan Capitol rally with House expected to vote on initiated law

Jeff Powell checks his wolf into the DNR station at Wakefield Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. The wolf was the second recorded kill in the Michigan's first wolf hunt. Powell is from Elkton. (Cory Morse |

By Jonathan Oosting
on August 26, 2014
Michigan Wolf Hunt
LANSING, MI — Michigan’s long-simmering debate over wolf hunting may come to a boil Wednesday, when the Republican-led state House is expected to enact a citizen-initiated law paving the way for future seasons. Senate approval earlier this month was punctuated by accusations of special-interest influence on both sides of the issue and anti-democratic maneuvering.

A tentative House agenda for Wednesday includes the “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act,” which would reaffirm the authority of the Natural Resources Commission to name new game species and establish hunts. House Republican spokesperson Ari Adler said the agenda item does not necessarily mean there will be a vote, but opponents and proponents are both expecting action.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, which has mounted two statewide petition drives in an attempt to prevent wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula, is scheduled to host a rally outside the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers return from summer recess. But their efforts may be trumped by the citizen-initiated bill, sent to the Legislature via a third statewide petition drive. Approval would render moot the two wolf hunt proposals already approved for the November ballot.

The Michigan Constitution gives lawmakers the ability to enact citizen-initiated legislation without the governor’s signature. They also have the option to do nothing, which would send the measure to the statewide ballot for voter consideration. “We call on House members to end this abuse of power, restore respect for the democratic process, and allow the people to determine whether wolves should be hunted and other critical wildlife management issues,” Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement announcing the rally.

Supporters, who have been calling lawmakers to urge a vote, say that science — not public opinion — should determine whether wolf hunting should continue in Michigan following last year’s inaugural season, limited to three regions of the UP. "You’re just going to keep getting out-of-state organizations coming in with big money and pushing the issue up and up until they outspend you on emotional ads to get people to vote on something," Merle Shepard, chair of the Citizens For Professional Wildlife Management, said last month. "That’s just the wrong way to manage wildlife.”

But critics say the Natural Resource Commission, whose seven members are appointed by the governor, can be influenced by political pressure and question the science used to validate the first-ever wolf hunt.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, speaking in support of the citizen-initiated bill on the floor, suggested that organized opposition to wolf hunting actually “is about taking away our hunting and fishing privileges” and noted the involvement of the Humane Society of the United States.

HSUS President Wayne Pacelle accused Casperson of using a "phony" quote attributed to him on several pro-hunt websites and sourced to an out-of-print "tree hound" magazine article from 1990. He refuted the suggestion that the organization is seeking a blanket ban on hunting. “We’ve repeatedly said we don’t object to Michigan’s tradition of deer hunting and we would never try to stop that,” Pacelle told MLive. "We’ve specifically said that wolves are rare, and that there’s no good reason to kill them, since nobody eats wolves.”

An estimated 214,000 registered voters signed a petition that suspended a 2012 wolf hunting law, but the Legislature turned around and passed a second version. Another 183,000 registered voters signed a petition for a referendum on the second law. Both proposals are set to appear on the November ballot, but they may not hold any weight. Some 297,000 registered voters signed a petition for the pro-hunt bill, and approval by the state House on Wednesday would make it law. Because it contains an appropriation, it would not be subject to voter referendum.

There are now an estimated 636 wolves in the UP. Twenty-two wolves were legally killed in a hunt that ran from mid-November through December in three zones of the Upper Peninsula, about half the number that the state had hoped for.

An investigation found government half-truths, falsehoods and livestock numbers skewed by a single farmer distorted some arguments for the inaugural hunt. Proponents say that wolf hunts are an effective population-control tool for limiting attacks on livestock and pets, arguments bolstered by recent news that wolves had killed five hunting dogs in the span of three days, along with a cow.

Update: Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management announced Tuesday afternoon that supporters will also be gathering at the state Capitol on Wednesday morning to urge a “yes” vote on the citizen-initiated legislation.


Collar for wolf OR-7 is no easy job, biologist says

The upcoming operation to trap the wandering wolf is expected to take time 


GRANTS PASS — Biologists trying to put a new GPS tracking collar on Oregon’s famous wandering wolf, OR-7, could be camping out in the Southern Oregon Cascades for weeks before they are successful.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist John Stephenson said the upcoming operation involves setting out leg-hold traps with padded jaws in probable locations, then checking every morning to see if a wolf has stepped into one — a process that could take weeks. “The capture is not all that glamorous a thing,” he said. “It usually involves a lot of days of getting up at the crack of dawn and going out and finding nothing in the trap.” 

The morning they do, biologists will use a syringe mounted on a pole to inject a tranquilizer to immobilize the wolf, weigh it and take a blood sample, all the while monitoring its vital signs to be sure it is OK.

If it is OR-7’s mate that steps in the trap, the blood sample could reveal what pack she is from through DNA analysis. If it is one of the pups, biologists will keep trying to catch an adult. OR-7 set off in search of a mate in September 2011, covering thousands of meandering miles from his birthplace in northeastern Oregon to Northern California before settling in Southwest Oregon. Against the odds, he found a mate last winter, and by September their pups should be big enough that they won’t be hurt in case they step into one of the traps. 

If OR-7 hadn’t found a mate, no one would be trying to put a new collar on him, Stephenson said.
Though the public has been fascinated by OR-7’s movements, wildlife managers are more interested in the movements of his pack. Oregon’s wolf management plan calls for collaring at least one individual from each pack.

And if they make it into winter with a pair of surviving pups, they will be the first pack in Western Oregon in more than half a century. Besides offering data on their habits, locations are vital in determining whether they have attacked livestock — something OR-7 has yet to do.

Rob Klavins of the conservation group Oregon Wild said people have mixed feelings about collaring wolves. Wolves have died in collaring operations, and while collars help scientists understand wolves better, collars make it easier to track wolves down if they prey on livestock.

Any wolves may be somehow less wild wearing a collar. But the fact remains that without his collar, OR-7 would never have become the celebrity he is.

A few weeks ago it looked like biologists wouldn’t have the advantage of a working collar to show them where to set the traps, said Stephenson.

For a few days, there were no transmissions to the satellite tracking the wolf. But it now appears that was just a matter of too much smoke from nearby wildfires. The transmissions are operating again.

Wisconsin residents support current wolf numbers

The DNR plans to use the survey results to help update the state’s wolf management plan.

Associated Press

The DNR plans to use the survey results to help update the state’s wolf management plan.

DNR survey shows many do not want to see population reduced

Most Wisconsin residents support a wolf population at least as large as the state has now, according to a draft survey released Tuesday by the Department of Natural Resources. Majority support for at least maintaining the wolf population was present even among county residents in "wolf range," the area of Wisconsin where wolf depredations are most prevalent. The survey results conflict with a DNR plan to reduce the state's wolves to 350, a population goal identified in a 1999 wolf management plan.

Following two seasons of regulated wolf hunting and trapping designed to put "downward pressure" on the wolf population, Wisconsin had at least 660 wolves in late winter 2013-'14, down from an estimated high of 834 in 2012.

The mail survey was conducted earlier this year by DNR researchers Bob Holsman, Natalie Kaner and Jordan Petchenik. It sought to measure public opinion about wolves and wolf management among state residents. The information will be used as the agency works to update its wolf management plan.

Dave MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist, said the survey will be very helpful to the agency but noted it is "one piece of the puzzle." "I think it's the best assessment of public attitudes on wolves we've had in the state," MacFarland said. "It was a rigorous look at a very complex topic. Our challenge will be to combine it with many other sources of information as we develop the updated plan."

The DNR sent 7,150 surveys to residents in wolf range and 1,600 to households outside wolf range. Fifty-nine percent were returned. For purposes of the survey, wolf range was described as the 35 counties where wolves are most common in the state. The DNR wanted to get a larger sampling from these more rural areas where residents are more likely to be "impacted by wolves."

Most respondents (38%) lived in the country but not on a farm, followed by 17% in large town or village, 15% in small towns, 12% in small city or suburb, 10% on a farm and 7% in a large city.
The surveys were sent out in March and April.

The researchers found state residents held attitudes toward wolves that were more favorable than unfavorable — by a small margin in wolf range and a larger margin outside wolf range. For example, 84% of respondents outside wolf range agreed that wolves are "important members of the ecological community"; 67% of range residents agreed.

Among survey respondents in wolf range, 53% wanted wolf numbers maintained at current levels or increased in their county of residence, while 18% wanted wolves decreased and 15% wanted them eliminated.

Outside of wolf range, 56% wanted wolf numbers maintained or increased statewide. "It's consistent with the tradition of wildlife conservation in Wisconsin," MacFarland said. "People here tend to feel pretty positive toward wildlife and this survey matches up with that."

The gray or timber wolf is native to Wisconsin but largely had vanished by the middle-20th century due to bounties and unlimited hunting. Under protections of the Endangered Species Act, wolves staged a comeback in the state from the 1970s through the 2000s. In 2012 the species was delisted in the region and the state assumed management control.

The Wisconsin Legislature in 2012 put in place a wolf hunting and trapping law that allowed a five-month harvest season and the use of dogs. Hunters and trappers killed 117 wolves in 2012 and 257 in 2013. Last year's kill, combined with natural and other non-hunting sources of mortality, reduced the state's wolf population by 19%, according to the DNR. The agency has set a more modest kill goal of about 150 animals for 2014.

The survey found majority support for a regulated public harvest of wolves in Wisconsin. Forty percent supported a hunting and trapping season as a tool for reducing the wolf population, 26% supported the season as long as it can be sustainable, 21% opposed the season and 17% were undecided.

When asked about priorities for wolf management, 69% placed the highest priority on killing wolves that show aggression or threatening behavior toward people, 53% on eliminating wolves from areas they attacked domestic livestock and 33% opted to create refuge areas to protect wolves.

Most biologists believe the state's biological carrying capacity — what the habitat can support — is more than 1,000 wolves. State residents and officials are now struggling with the social carrying capacity, or what humans will tolerate. "I hope the DNR attends to the fact that the most frequent response to a question about a statewide population goal was maintaining the same numbers of wolves as we have now, not decimating it to critically low numbers as is advocated by some outspoken parties who would like to drive all wolves out of Wisconsin," said Patricia McConnell, a zoologist and animal behaviorist from Madison.

Two groups in the survey — deer hunters and farmers — were most prone to want lower numbers of wolves. Deer hunters living in wolf range wanted fewer wolves in the state (71%) and in their home county (64%) and were less likely to say they were willing to have wolves living near them than were non-hunters in wolf range.

A majority of survey respondents expressed worry about the risk wolves pose to the safety of children (63% in range, 64% outside range) and pets (72% in range, 70% outside range). Those who have been pushing the DNR to reduce wolves to 350 aren't likely to change their position. "There are many social indicators that already exist to show that people in wolf range, and certain groups such as hunters and farmers, are not in favor of maintaining the high level of wolves we have today," said Laurie Groskopf, a hunter and hound owner from Tomahawk. "This is certainly reinforced by data from the wolf opinion survey."

The DNR plans to discuss the survey with members of its Wolf Advisory Committee on Wednesday in Wausau. The agency is scheduled to release a draft of its updated wolf management plan later this year.


Wolf of the Day

Howl at the Sun

A Red Wolf Howls at the Sun

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future: A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22)

Why farmers who want to shoot lions and wolves can’t be bribed

Bribery won’t stop Sweden’s wolf hunters. EPA
26 August 2014
Conservationists have recently become very excited about financial incentives. The idea is to pay people to do things that will help biodiversity, for example, where farmers are paid not to till crops…
Author: Niki Rust, PhD candidate in Carnivore Conservation at University of Kent
Conservationists have recently become very excited about financial incentives. The idea is to pay people to do things that will help biodiversity, for example, where farmers are paid not to till crops that reduce soil erosion or where landowners are given money to plant trees to capture carbon in the atmosphere.

This technique, considered by some as bribery to do what you want, has actually changed environmental behaviour for the better in some significant instances.

“Great”, I hear conservationists say, “let’s pay everyone to do exactly what we want!” The possibilities are endless: we could give farmers money to set aside land for nature, we could make fishing more sustainable, or we could reward people to not kill threatened predators. There are, however, problems with the system behind paying people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do, not least because sometimes money cannot solve everything.

Human vs predator vs livestock

Take carnivores, for instance: menacing, bloodthirsty killers of infamous myth and legend that have plagued farmers' nightmares for millennia. These species provoke such raw emotions in some people that intolerance has become a cultural identity, learned through generations of ingrained hatred.

So when conservationists came up with the idea to pay reindeer herders to tolerate wolves in Sweden, it is no surprise that the herders declined the payment in favour of managing wolves themselves (that is: killing them).
A lion eating a cow: the last thing a farmer wants to see. Niki Rust, Author provided
Such a long-standing conflict between livestock farmers and carnivores is too embedded in the psyche to overcome purely by throwing money at people. If anything, it could be seen as an insult to their integrity, just as financial incentives paid to families of organ donors have been criticised for turning human life into a commodity.

To many farmers, a cow is worth more than its market value, just like their farm is worth more to them predator-free (at the expense of compensation) than with predators (and a financial reward). This may be one of the reasons why schemes have often failed to increase tolerance even when reimbursements have been paid for livestock killed by predators.

To pay a farmer to accept a predator onto a farm is almost as absurd as paying Israelis to tolerate Palestinians: both are long-standing, deep-rooted conflicts that cannot be bought out unless underlying issues are resolved. Both situations can therefore be regarded as “wicked problems” with no clear way. As such, is it even useful to use financial incentives for carnivore conservation?

As with other challenges in wildlife management, the answer is not clear cut. Yes, sometimes it does appear to work with species that may not have caused much controversy in the past, such as the aforementioned Swedish scheme which increased tolerance towards wolverine and lynx. But for highly emotive species such as wolves or lions, bribery appears impotent. Consequently, we must try other tactics to improve opinions towards the predator species that produce these immensely charged responses.

Educating children on how important predators are to the ecosystem may improve attitudes before they have been shaped by their parents’ perceptions, but this tactic takes time and effort (and may tread on dodgy ethical ground if it is seen to be brainwashing children ).

Or it may be that farmers find their own way to benefit from carnivore presence on their land, such as by offering tourists or trophy hunters the chance to “shoot” wildlife (with a camera or a gun).
But this will not sway the extremists who cannot fathom accepting such a beast onto their land. For these old-school farmers, the only way they can envisage a predator is hanging as a skin on their wall or in the security of a fenced protected area far from their land.


Wolf Killing 'Derby' Organizers Want to Return ... For Another Five Years

Posted By George Prentice on Sat, Aug 16, 2014

In the wake of last December's controversial wolf killing "derby," which didn't kill any wolves but saw 21 coyotes killed near Salmon, organizers say they now want a five-year permit to keep holding the predator-killing contest.

You may remember that the derby attracted quite a bit of international attention:

"Wolf and Coyote Derby Turns Small Idaho Town Into a Battleground," wrote Guardian Liberty Voice.

"Two-Day Holiday Killing 'Derby' in Idaho Targets Wolves and Coyotes," wrote the Huffington Post.

The derby was unsuccessfully challenged in federal court, and one of the organizers of the hunting contest claimed that a hunter's tire had been slashed. But in the end, no wolves were killed in the two-day event.

Now, the Idaho Mountain Express reports that organizers want the next event to occur Jan. 2-4, 2015, and they want to keep on holding the contest. The application for the five-year permit is undergoing a review process at the Salmon Field Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The BLM is taking public comment before it considers the application.

Comments can be sent to Liz Townley, outdoor recreation planner at: