Thursday, September 3, 2015

#Wolves of the Day

Red Wolf 
Red Wolves at the Akron Zoo by John Greg Jr

Feds threatened with lawsuit over endangered wolf deaths

Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 
RALEIGH (AP) — Wildlife advocacy groups say federal officials violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing landowners to kill red wolves on their property.
A letter to the government Tuesday by the Southern Environmental Law Center says two killings of endangered wolves have been allowed since 2014 after only cursory non-lethal efforts.
The letter says the government has also failed to conduct a required review of the world's only wild population of the wolf in North Carolina. It threatens to sue.

In a news release and separate letter to a landowner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the kills were authorized after trapping efforts failed to keep the animals off private land.

The federal government has been studying the feasibility of the effort to restore the red wolf to the wild.


WDFW hires wolf consultant, who closes another meeting

Don Jenkins
Capital Press
Matthew Weaver/Capital Press
Consultant Francine Madden talks with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Unsworth and department wildlife program director Nate Pamplin prior to the wolf advisory group meeting May 21 in Airway Heights, Wash.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has hired a consultant to bring peace between parties at odds over how the state should manage wolves.

Conflict-resolution consultant Francine Madden will start her new two-year, $850,010 contract with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by leading a closed-door session Thursday of the state’s wolf advisory group.

The group, following WDFW policy, had met in public for years until Madden convinced the department to close the May meeting. Since then, WDFW has re-upped Madden to lead meetings, conduct workshops and, according to her contract, coax warring parties into “mutually acceptable coexistence.”

The 18-member panel will convene 7:45 a.m. at a Comfort Inn in Tumwater to hear from two speakers before opening the meeting to the public at 10 a.m. Madden said Wednesday she doubts anyone would be interested in the morning session, but if they are, they can’t attend.

“This group needs to have some time to hear from each other about what their concerns are,” Madden said Wednesday.

Madden’s hiring represents a six-figure investment in addressing human conflict, which is the biggest challenge with wolf management, said WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello.

Madden, based in Houston, Texas, will be paid up to $8,000 a day to lead meetings and $400 an hour for “remote engagement and strategic guidance.” While traveling to Washington, she will receive $200 an hour.

Wolf advisory group members represent ranchers, environmentalists, hunters and hikers. WDFW hopes the disparate panelists can reach consensus on the state’s growing wolf population. Martorello said WDFW needed outside help to address deep-rooted conflicts.

“We started having the meetings without a facilitator and found it be extremely challenging,” Martorello said. “We tried an in-house facilitator from the department and still found we weren’t making progress on these issues.”

Martorello defended closing the morning session, where the group will hear from Woodland Park Zoo vice president for conservation Fred Koontz and a teenager from Kids for Wolves.

He compared the meeting with a tour of ranches the group took in May. The group is scheduled to hear from hunters at its next meeting.

Wolf advisory group meetings are not subject to the state’s public meetings law, though the WDFW has a general policy of opening up meetings of publicly funded panels that advise the department and presumably shape decisions.

The wolf advisory group was scheduled to gather Wednesday evening at Wolf Haven International, an animal refuge in Tenino, with WDFW providing dinner.

“To me, there are transparency issues,” said state Sen. Brian Dansel, whose northeast Washington district has the heaviest concentration of wolves.

Dansel opposed legislation authorizing WDFW to hire a consultant to lead wolf meetings. The legislation failed, but WDFW funded the position out of its capital budget.

Dansel called the advisory group a “bad vehicle” for setting wolf policy, which he said should be left to legislators or the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“I’ve never really had faith in the wolf advisory group,” he said. “It’s like, mass special interest.”
Madden interviewed dozens of legislators, ranchers, environmentalists and WDFW officials this year for an $82,000 report on the wolf management conflict.

“After meeting her, I have to say she may have the ability to bridge the groups that are somewhat dug in,” said House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee chairman Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen.


Should Colorado reintroduce wolves?

Top conservation biologist advocates for return of top predator 

Michael Soulé, a renowned conservation biologist, says the return of wolves to Colorado would benefit the region’s overall ecosystem. Soule spoke to about 100 people Wednesday at the San Juan Citizen Alliance’s Green Business Roundtable. 
Associated Press file photo

Michael Soulé, a renowned conservation biologist, says the return of wolves to Colorado would benefit the region’s overall ecosystem. Soule spoke to about 100 people Wednesday at the San Juan Citizen Alliance’s Green Business Roundtable.

By the mid-1930s, wolves had been all but eradicated from Colorado. Feared by ranchers trying to protect their livestock, the species fell victim to America’s expansion and the taming of the West.
Michael Soulé, considered the “Father of Conservation Biology,” spoke at San Juan Citizen Alliance’s Green Business Roundtable on Wednesday. “Top predators maintain diversity of the ecosystem, and that’s why we need to protect them,” he said. “But it’s hard to protect them because they eat animals people invest livelihoods in.”
Jonathan Romeo/Durango Herald

Michael Soulé, considered the “Father of Conservation Biology,” spoke at San Juan Citizen Alliance’s Green Business Roundtable on Wednesday. “Top predators maintain diversity of the ecosystem, and that’s why we need to protect them,” he said. “But it’s hard to protect them because they eat animals people invest livelihoods in.”

But during the last 10 years, wolves have been reintroduced to areas of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona. For the most part, packs have remained stable, with wildlife officials estimating about 1,650 wolves living across the West.

Even in California, two adult wolves and five 4-month-old pups were spotted in early August in a northern part of the state, marking the first sighting of the species in the state in almost 100 years.
Still, no wolf is believed to have set foot in Colorado for almost a century.

Michael Soulé, a renowned conservation biologist, believes the return of wolves to Colorado is inevitable, and the ramifications will have an incredibly positive impact on the region’s overall ecosystem.

Soulé spoke Wednesday at the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s first Green Business Roundtable of the fall. Considered the “Father of Conservation Biology,” he also will be speaking at the Durango Arts Center’s members’ exhibit at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. 

Soulé told about 100 people at the Henry Strater Theater that large predatory animals are the most crucial component of a balanced habitat. 

As a professor in San Diego, a few students stopped by his office to ask about potential class projects. He took the students to two nearby canyons: one with songbirds and another without. He asked, “Why is that?”

“The answer is one had coyotes and the other didn’t, and the one with coyotes had a lot more kinds of birds. It was the opposite of what the students expected,” he said.

That’s because Soulé believes the presence of coyotes even out the amount of cats in the area, which can devastate bird populations. It’s a small example that can be applied on a grander scale when thinking about biodiversity.

“Top predators maintain diversity of the ecosystem, and that’s why we need to protect them,” he said. “But it’s hard to protect them because they eat animals people invest livelihoods in.”

Soulé pointed out that when pioneers migrated west, they traveled with a mindset to control and dominate the land, as evidenced by the prevalent Manifest Destiny attitude.

Frontiersmen scoured the wilds, butchering large animals along the way, sometimes just for sheer sport. The result is that, today, cattle are among the most abundant animals in the world.

“It’s really shocking how few wild animals are left in the world,” Soulé said. “Domesticated animals totally dominated the world. There’s not much space left for anything else.”

But Soulé said there is hope as thousands of organizations work to protect the wildlands that are left on the planet – specifically Rocky Mountains, which contain more wildlife than any other part of the country, excluding southern parts of Florida and Texas.

“This spine of the continent is really important because it’s a major road for species to adapt to climate change,” he said. 

“Ecosystems are moving about three miles a year because of climate change. As it gets hotter and hotter, things have to go further north to survive. There’s no other factor that effects nature as much as warming will.”

When Soulé opened the floor for questions, attendees focused on the reintroduction of wolves. He acknowledged the difficulties of such an action, especially when ranchers who depend on livestock are taken into account.

“But the wolf is really important for protecting nature. They control populations of deer, which destroy vegetation and then ecosystems collapse,” he said. “Ideally, ranchers would be interested in protecting wildlife.”

Soulé drew the difference between American and European mentalities when it comes to raising livestock. In Europe, he said you never see a herd not looked after by a human or dog for protection. Whereas in America, livestock is commonly left unattended, making easy prey for wolves.

Soulé believes it is “politically possible” for a ballot initiative to pass that would require state wildlife officials to reintroduce wolves to Colorado, citing a recent poll that said 70 percent of Coloradans are in favor of repatriation.

But, he said the issue would be a big fight that would fragment the state. The Front Range, with its more “universal view,” would easily pass the measure. The Western Slope, however, takes a more local approach and knows how it would affect the economy.

“It’s not black and white,” Soulé said. “In the long run, it would be better for wildlife and biodiversity to have the top predator back in the system. Will it happen overnight? No, I don’t think so. But it’s possible.”

Soulé referred to issues such as these as “wicked problems,” meaning there’s no outcome desirable to all parties in the community. He told The Durango Herald after the lecture there are a lot of wicked problems in his profession.

Soulé is co-founder of The Society for Conservation Biology, and was listed as one of the 20th century’s 100 Champions of Conservation by Audubon Magazine. He said protecting non-domesticated species has long been his mission in life.

But he did admit it’s hard to hold hope when fact after fact shows the planet is headed on an irreversible downturn, evidenced by the growing impact of global warming and alarming rate of animal extinction.

“A lot of people in this profession know what they love, and what they work all their life to protect, is going to be lost,” he said. 

“For me, there’s always a possibility of slowing things down, and protecting pockets where native species can survive. We can’t give up. If we can just save a few things, it’s better than nothing.”


Isle Royale’s wolves have all but vanished

By Cheyenne Lentz
Wisconsin Public Radio

For more than 50 years, the world's longest continuous study of a predator-prey system has taken place on Isle Royale, Michigan. The island's remote location in Lake Superior has given researchers the opportunity to track and compare fluctuating wolf and moose populations.

Lately, though, the wolves of Isle Royale have hit a low point: According to wildlife biologist Scott Craven, there are only maybe two or three left.

Craven said the cause of the wolves' decline likely has to do with a lack of genetic diversity. He said studies suggest that "there’s been so little infusion of new blood, so to speak, over the last few decades that inbreeding has caught up with them."

This past winter, when researchers found three wolves on the aerial surveys, one was very small and it had spinal deformities. That wolf is likely no longer alive, Craven said.

The deceased wolves that scientists have been able to study have also had all sorts of anomalies that they have traced to inbreeding, which is why, according to Craven, it is so important that new wolves come over to the island.

There was a close call last winter when an ice bridge allowed two wolves to cross over from the coast of Minnesota or Canada.

"One wolf had a radio collar on from a study on the mainland and those wolves kind of wandered around on the west end of the island for a couple of days and hot-footed it back to the mainland. That could have been, you know, an infusion of a couple new animals, but it didn’t work out. So we’ll see," Craven said.

Meanwhile, Craven said that with the wolves all but gone, the moose are multiplying like moose do.
"I think for the last four years, the moose population growth rate’s been like 22 percent. So there may be in two or three years twice as many moose if something doesn’t give," he said.

Because hunting is not permitted on the island, addressing the problem becomes a lot more challenging. Craven said that there is a debate, "whether one of the solutions should involve some type of culling or direct management of the moose population, but that is all very contentious."

More WPR news is available on KUWS-FM 91.3 or online at


Airlifting Pregnant Caribou Away From Wolves

Caribou herds in British Columbia are threatened by a new predator. Indigenous people are taking extreme steps to save them.

Picture of a female caribou being airliftedAfter capturing a pregnant female caribou in British Columbia, wildlife biologists prepare to airlift her by helicopter to a pen where she can give birth in safety.

Story and images by Isabelle Groc, National Geographic
On a clear sunny day in March, in a snow-covered area of the South Peace River region of British Columbia, a female caribou is on the ground, struggling to get back on its feet.

Surrounded by a team of biologists, veterinarians, and First Nations community members, the sedated animal is slowly opening its eyes. Cec Heron, lands and resource manager for the West Moberly First Nations, gently strokes its back and speaks to it in a soft voice.
“I am just letting her know that she is now in a good place and will be very well looked after,” Heron says.
Along with ten other pregnant females, this one has just been captured in the Rocky Mountains, by a net fired from a low-flying helicopter, and airlifted to a valley about 35 miles east of Mackenzie. In a pen guarded day and night by First Nations shepherds, protected from wolves and bears, the caribou will give birth and raise their calves, then be returned to the wild when they are less vulnerable.
Caribou were here for us when we needed help. We have to be there for them now.

Caribou are a vital part of aboriginal culture, traditionally used for food, clothing, and tools. They’ve been on the Canadian quarter since 1936. Known as reindeer in Europe and Asia, the species, Rangifer tarandus, is not endangered worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of so-called barren-ground caribou still roam across Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
But the distinct and more southerly subspecies known as woodland caribou is another story. Some of its populations are in deep trouble.
Picture of a group of caribou roaming

A group of woodland caribou roam a mountaintop in the South Peace region of British Columbia last March. The herds there have declined sharply.

The woodland caribou that live in and around the Rockies in southern British Columbia and Alberta are listed as threatened by the Canadian government; the committee of scientific experts that advises the government considers them endangered. In the South Peace region, the Klinse-Za herd has declined from 191 animals in 1997 to only 16 in 2013, with no calves surviving predation that year.
“Caribou were here for us when we needed help. We have to be there for them now,” says Roland Willson, chief of the West Moberly First Nations, one of two aboriginal groups behind the penning project. “We have to do everything we can to try and fix the wrong that has been done here.”

A Vanished Sea of Caribou

In the South Peace, First Nations elders say, the land was once a “sea of caribou.” Numbers started to decline after the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was built on the Peace River in the 1960s; the reservoir created by the dam disrupted a caribou migration route. Over time, logging, oil and gas exploration, and coal mining further altered the landscape, opening up the forest and pushing the caribou away from their traditional range.
Ecologist Chris Johnson of the University of Northern British Columbia studied five caribou herds in the South Peace over 22 years. In a paper published earlier this year, he reported that caribou avoid roads, seismic lines, and other disturbances created by resource operations. The five herds had experienced habitat loss as high as 66 percent, Johnson found. 

Picture of mining impacts on a caribou habitat

Coal mines like this one have diminished caribou habitat in the South Peace, while roads and pipelines have allowed wolves to spread.

Clearcuts in the region have produced an environment more favorable to other ungulates, such as moose and deer. They in turn have attracted wolves to the region. Caribou in the South Peace didn’t use to encounter wolves much. Now the wolves travel along roads, pipelines, and seismic lines into previously inaccessible caribou country.

The remaining caribou survive in small, isolated herds on windswept mountaintops, where they feed on terrestrial lichen. In the low-elevation forests where they also used to roam, they’re routinely killed by wolves and other predators. “It is not a very good time to be a caribou here,” says Willson.
The maternal penning project, now in its second year, costs about 500,000 Canadian dollars a year (about US $380,000). Last year, only four calves survived, and the project increased the overall population by two animals.
It was nevertheless worth it, says Scott McNay, an ecologist with Wildlife Infometrics, which is advising the First Nations:  “We predicted extirpation of that herd in 2015. They are still here because of the actions that have been taken.”

Picture of a woman talking to a caribou
Cec Heron (right), land manager for the West Moberly First Nations, reassures a pregnant caribou, just arrived in the pen that will protect it from wolves.

Is Killing Wolves the Answer?

The British Columbian government is also taking more drastic measures to save the caribou. Earlier this year it shot 73 wolves by helicopter, and it plans to kill as many as 800 more over the next five years.
British Columbia is following in the footstep of its neighbor. In the Rockies of west-central Alberta, about 1,000 wolves have been killed since 2005 to save the Little Smoky herd— roughly 70 animals living on land so disturbed by development, mostly for oil and gas, that only five percent of the forest is intact.
It is irresponsible and unethical to continue to kill wolves while continuing to degrade habitat.

The project has been highly controversial.  A study published last year demonstrated that the wolf cull stabilized but did not increase the Little Smoky herd. “All it did is buy us time,” says Mark Hebblewhite, ungulate ecologist at the University of Montana and co-author of the study. “The question is what do we do with this extra time?”
Alberta, he says, has used the time to drill for more oil and gas. Since 2012, 170 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the Little Smoky range. “It is irresponsible and unethical to continue to kill wolves while continuing to degrade habitat,” Hebblewhite says. 

Picture of three caribou
Woodland caribou gallop up a mountainside in the South Peace.

McNay agrees that wolf control alone can’t save the caribou. “The only way to keep the animals around is to eliminate mortality, stop the bleeding,” he says. “But if you don’t look after habitat there is no argument for doing wolf control.”

Caribou or Coal Mines?

The B.C. government’s plan for caribou management in the Peace region allows industrial development to occur in up to 20 percent of the animals’ winter habitat. Economic imperatives explain why “British Columbia is not committed to 100 percent protection,” says Chris Ritchie, who manages the caribou plan at the province’s forest ministry.
A few years ago, the West Moberly First Nations won a court case against the provincial government for granting a coal mining exploration permit in the habitat of another herd—which has since been wiped out.
Some wildlife managers think the only way to save woodland caribou, given how hard it is to stop development, is to build a large fenced area in which they could spend their entire lives.
Despite the legal victory, more open-pit coal mining projects are planned in the region as well as wind farms, which are also not caribou-friendly. “We are going to have to make very hard social decisions on whether we want caribou or more coal mines,” says Johnson.

Alberta is considering such a project. Others believe it’s not realistic to try and save all caribou herds, and that wildlife managers, like battlefield doctors, should practice triage—allocating financial resources only to those caribou herds that have the greatest chance of survival.

Around the caribou pen in the South Peace region, that argument is strongly rejected. “It is not a question of economics, but a question of ethics,” says McNay. Because humans have created the threat to the caribou, “we are morally obligated to do something to help the species,” he says.
Ryan Desjarlais is one of the  shepherds tending to the caribou. In March, after the first animal was captured, Desjarlais was anxiously waiting on his snowmobile, close to the pen, for the helicopter to bring in more caribou. Desjarlais spent the next few months watching and feeding the caribou in the pen. Seven calves were born between May and June, and two died shortly after birth.
At the end of July, the fence was pulled down to release the females and the five remaining calves. The animals slowly moved west and stayed within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the pen. All are still alive, an improvement over last year when several caribou had been killed by wolves within the first few days of the release.
“It means a lot to try and protect a species, especially one that is as hurting as this one,” Desjarlais says. “It would be nice to take my kid up to the territory where caribou used to roam, and say there are caribou back where they always were.”


Import wolves to Michigan's Isle Royale 'as soon as possible,' says biologist

These three wolves are the last three native wolves living on Isle Royale, researchers say. Courtesy of Michigan Technological University.

HOUGHTON, MI — As the National Park Service mulls what, if anything, should be done to save the meager wolf population on Isle Royale, a leading environmental science researcher says the best way to tame the exploding moose population and protect island vegetation is to begin importing wolves. Only three wolves remain on the Lake Superior island park and experts say those animals are inbred and weak. Without intervention, the island's native population wolf may go extinct. The moose population, on the other hand, is estimated to be about 1,250 and climbing.

"It's important that action be taken sooner rather than later," said John Vucetich, a Michigan Tech University biologist who studies the wildlife of Isle Royale, an island covering 206 square miles in the northwest portion of Lake Superior.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow are trying to speed things up by urging the park service to complete a management plan to save the wolves by next July, a deadline that's unlikely to be met.

The senator is "concerned because researchers have said it's possible the wolves won't survive the next couple of winters," said Allison Green, Peters' press secretary.

In August, Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green told Michigan Radio that an environmental impact study on the problem could be finished by 2017, a timeframe she characterized as swifter than usual. The Park Service has indicated it doesn't plan to import new wolves in the immediate future.
Vucetich thinks the impact study process should have begun years ago.

"The park took about four years to decide if they would embark on the decision-making process that would take another two years, at least," he said.

During that time, three wolves on the island fell into an old 19th century Pittsburgh and Isle Royale Co. mine pit and drowned in 2012. Three wolves might not seem like many, but they represented about a 25 percent population loss for the island, said Vucetich.

MOOSEIn this summer of 2004 photo released by Michigan Tech University, a moose and its baby are shown on Isle Royale.
With the moose and wolf populations headed in opposite directions, the concern is how much of the island vegetation the ascendant moose herd will eat. The potential forest damage from over-browsing "can't easily be undone."

For most of the past half-century, Vucetich said wolves typically killed about 9 to 10 percent of the island moose each year. Over the past four years, that number has dropped to about 2 to 3 percent — the island's lowest recorded predation rates.

The population decline has been exacerbated by disease and the lack of new wolves reaching the island via the frozen lake during winter. Through the 1960s, the wolf population kept itself healthy by occasional immigrants from the mainland.

The frequency of ice bridge formation has dropped over the decades. On average, they form only once every eight to 10 years, Vucetich said.

There's no guarantee that any year an ice bridge forms — such as the past two harsh "Polar Vortex" winters that saw massive ice cover on the lakes — a wolf will cross to the island. Sometimes it only happens once per decade, he said.

The "frequency of ice bridges is expected to continue to decline because of climate warming," Vucetich said. "That's why this issue is really much bigger than just being about Isle Royale. It's an issue that will set precedent on how the National Park Service will make decisions about climate change."

Although some have suggested culling the moose herd on Isle Royale, Vucetich dismissed that as "not a reasonable option" because of the likely negative social response to government moose-killing and the logistical hurdles associated with killing about 150 animals a year each fall, when he said it would have to be done.

The time window for embarking on a kind of "genetic rescue" through bringing breeder wolves to the island has passed, he said. The three wolves, a middle-aged mating pair and a cub, are likely too few to make that option viable.

While opposition to importing wolves stems from a "hands-off" philosophy to human intervention in wilderness areas, he said that "when humans have mucked things up, it's absolutely in line with wilderness policy to mitigate those effects."

The best way to restore the island's wolf population is "bring wolves to Isle Royale as soon as possible."


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#Wolf of the Day (precious!)

Le grand méchant loup 
Le grand méchant loup by Arnaud camel

US Fish and Wildlife faulted in red #wolf shootings

Agency permitted private landowners to shoot endangered red wolves
Southern Environmental Law Center says the shooting permits violated federal law
Red Wolf Recovery Program numbers have fallen to between 50 and 75

Read more here: