Monday, May 30, 2016

#Wolf of the Day

Arctic wolf 
Arctic wolf by Soren Wolf

Aging in the wild: lessons from animals about the value of growing old (video)

Grey wolf pups are born at Summerfield Zoo

Posted: May 29, 2016 
 Some furry new arrivals have made their way into Belvidere.
Grey wolves there gave birth to a litter of wolf pups. The baby wolves, just 2 weeks old, can be viewed during their animal encounter presentations.
Summerfield offers up-close experiences with many other animals like goats, lemurs, porcupines and hyenas.
"Next weekend we start doing pictures with the babies," said Rick Anderson, owner of Summerfield Zoo. "So a person can hold a wolf and get their picture taken... and we educate them all about wolves and their role in the wild."
Summerfield Zoo is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entry for adults is $9, $7 for seniors and children are just $5.


Hunting American Wolves: Conservation or Extinction?

By  | 
Wolves are one of North America’s most fascinating indigenous species but they also pose a major threat to cattle populations. While poaching wolves is illegal, culling of wolves by government officials and trophy hunting have historically been used to keep wolf populations in check. However, Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently conducted a study on wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan and found that state laws that opened up legal culling actually slowed population growth–a notable problem for America’s wolf population.

The logic for legal culling is simple: it was assumed that these outlets for hunting would limit illegal poaching and would encourage Americans to coexist with the wolf population. The wolf population would continue to grow without hovering to the point of extinction, as locals will not feel the need to illegally hunt the animals. Including legal culling is a cornerstone of “carnivore management,” which deals with carnivorous populations in the wild that can pose a threat to human life but can also coexist with humans when handled correctly.

Wolves are not the only predators that conservationists have difficulty handling–African lions, grizzly bears and other large carnivores present a massive challenge. Consider that a set of brown bears released into the wild in Italy last year had to be hunted down after they attacked several humans. Whereas conservationists can hope to release animals like pandas and elephants back into the wild, large carnivores that are held for some time may never be able to return to the wild because they are so dependent on a stable ecosystem that consistently supplies them with their daily meat intake.

 Wolves historically could have eaten bison but now the bison is a protected animal, a population which the United States has a vested interest in preserving. When one species in the food chain becomes off limit, it is difficult to deal with its predators. Farmers across the nation are eager to receive the “right to kill” wolves who threaten their cattle but a survey conducted by Washington State University found that killing wolves who attack livestock can actually backfire. Researchers hypothesized that:
Killing an adult wolf can disrupt the entire (complicated) social system of the grey wolf pack…killing adult wolves may end up locking their offspring to the place where they were killed: without parents to keep them sexually distinct and roaming, the way they normally would, pups may settle down prematurely, having their own pups earlier than normal, and sticking to the place where they became independent — the place where their parents were killed.
These pups then go on to eat local livestock, just as their parents did, rather than roaming to different areas where they might be able to feast on rabbits and other small mammals that have no financial value for ranchers. Wolves are imperfect creatures, that simultaneously threaten human livelihood (ranching) while also desperately dependent on humans for their survival (conservation), but they are part of the American landscape and we are responsible for their future. Containing a large carnivorous species is not an easy task, but with new evidence suggesting that legal culling and “right to kill” laws are not having the desired effect, conservationists and government officials may need to rethink how best to preserve the wolf population.

Jillian Sequeira
Jillian Sequeira is a member of the College of William and Mary Class of 2016, with a double major in Government and Italian. When she’s not blogging, she’s photographing graffiti around the world and worshiping at the altar of Elon Musk and all things Tesla. Contact Jillian at

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Where land meets sea, Alaska's wolves sometimes eat otters

By Sarah Keartes 
May 29 2016 
Katmai National Park is one of the most pristine wildlife preserves in North America. Located along Alaska's Pacific coast, it's home to over 1,000 different species – and amidst all that biodiversity, you'll sometimes find unusual relationships between predator and prey.

Image: National Park Service/used with permission
For ranger Kaitlyn Kunce, one such discovery came during a recent marine debris survey in the park, when she and her co-workers stumbled across a grey wolf carrying its catch – and the meal choice was one they'd never encountered before. Clutched between the wolf's jaws was a young sea otter pup.

"The wolf travelled along the beach carrying the otter far from the water line. It passed by us, took one glance back, then continued on," recalls Kunce. "A predator of the land with a predator of the sea. Little is known about the relationship between wolves and otters, but we saw a small glimpse of it."

We've long recognised that the wolf population of the Pacific Northwest region has a unique relationship with the ocean. Each summer, Katmai’s waters fill with salmon returning from the ocean to spawn, and for the local canids, it's a seafood snack that's just a dive away. Herring eggs are also a common rotation at mealtime.

But for Kunce, seeing an otter-eating wolf was something new.

Image: National Park Service/used with permission
Over the past several years, anecdotal reports and scat evidence of wolf-otter predations have left scientists with more questions than answers. Were they actively hunting, or simply scavenging the occasional washed-up carcass? In the case of Kunce's sighting, the wolf's underfur was wet to the shoulders, indicating that the animal had at least ventured into the shallows to retrieve its unusual meal.

Sea otters typically inhabit coastal waters where their favourite foods – invertebrates like abalone and urchins – are most plentiful, but they do occasionally come ashore to rest. Pups stay with their mothers for nearly a full year, and female otters will often aggressively defend their young in the face of danger.

It's possible that this young pup was sick or injured, or perhaps it had become separated from its mother before the wolf found it.

When it comes to salmon, however, we know that the wolves are not simply scavenging fish carcasses. Alaska Fish and Game biologist Dave Person has been monitoring packs catching, killing and eating salmon in the area over the past five years. "They’re not as skilful as bears at fishing,” he says. "Most of the fishing takes place when the tide is low, on the flats where streams are crossing through the intertidal zone."

The otter-eating encounter might be unusual, but it's also an encouraging sign. Until ten years ago, spotting an Alaskan wolf in the wild was an extraordinarily difficult feat, so the presence of active wolves here is a great testament to the overall health of the Katmai ecosystem.

Early in the last century, Alaska's wolves were hunted with virtually no controls, and bounties were commonplace. Well into the 1970s, misguided control policies aimed at increasing game populations took a heavy toll. Trapping, poisoning and aerial gunning hobbled the region's largest packs, and it took some thirty years for these predators to bounce back.

Today, wolf and other top-predator control measures continue to be a heavily debated topic in the state, but thanks to a strong focus on reducing conflicts with farmers and hunters, Alaska is now one of the largest wolf strongholds in the US. Estimates put the population at 7,000 to 12,000, and park officials are determined to keep it that way.

The National Park Service has set up a system of remote cameras throughout Katmai in the hope of learning more about predator-prey interactions like this one. "This isn’t the only relationship between terrestrial and marine wildlife we don’t know enough about," explains Kunce, adding that evidence suggests local bears could also be preying on marine mammals.

"Maybe we will see a bear catch an otter or seal," she says. "Maybe we will see more, maybe a wolf catching an otter, or maybe another first."

You can follow along with the project and its discoveries on the NPS Changing Tides website.


Dedicated to wolf pups and their moms (video)


Saturday, May 28, 2016

#Wolf of the Day

Black Timber Wolf by Conrad Tan on
via Conrad Tan

Balancing the issue of predator and the prey

Wolf attack an elk on an overpass in Banff National Park.
Wolf attack an elk on an overpass in Banff National Park.
Christopher James Martin/For The Globe and Mail 

Predator-culling programs, aimed to slow the decline of big game animals, are drawing international condemnation , writes Mark Hume
From his ranch near Ta Ta Creek in southeast British Columbia, Bob Jamieson looks out at a wild and dramatic landscape that is gradually emptying of big game animals. 

The caribou are nearly extinct, and the great herds of elk that once ranged across the Rocky Mountains, from B.C.’s Kootenay River valley to the Alberta foothills, are dwindling. Moose are in decline too, as they are across most of western North America. 

Mr. Jamieson, a systems ecologist and environmental consultant, says the loss of those species is “a very complex and difficult problem” that involves habitat loss, landscape fragmentation by development – and the role of “a suite of predators.” 

It is that last factor, he says, that presents wildlife managers with one of their greatest challenges, because controlling predators usually means killing animals such as wolves. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, wolf control is done through liberal hunting limits or by paying bounties to trappers; those are low-profile programs that draw little public criticism, but they also have limited success. In British Columbia and Alberta, however, controversial culls are under way in which government hunters track radio-collared wolves and shoot whole packs from aircraft. 

British Columbia and Alberta launched their current programs to save herds of endangered caribou, but the culls have generated international condemnation, with pop star Miley Cyrus and global wildlife crusader Paul Watson among those joining in the attacks. 

Mr. Jamieson said the systematic killing of wolves will always be controversial, but there is no getting away from the fact that they – and other predators – play a key role in the decline of species such as caribou, elk and moose. 

“I’m here in a dry valley south of Banff. I’m looking out at the west slope of the Rockies … we have a lot of elk here, but we have lost two entire elk herds … and they are gone from valleys where there is no human habitation,” he said. “There’s nowhere for these animals to go to get away from the wolves.”
Killing wolves will not aid caribou recovery nor prevent their continued decline.
Dr. Paul Paquet, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
If you drive through the Kootenay River valley along the west slope of the Rockies, and go up through Banff National Park, you will see elk browsing along the roadsides and standing like regal tourism monuments. 

But Mr. Jamieson, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years, says the elk are along the roads for a reason – hoping to escape predators – and their high visibility gives a false impression that there are lots of game animals around. 

In fact, he says, game species have largely vanished from the back country where they used to be in great numbers. “It’s primarily elk [that have gone], but there are relatively few moose and very few mule deer left in those valleys,” Mr. Jamieson said. 

Valleys he used to hike during the fall rut to listen to male elk bugling are now largely silent – except for the howl of wolves. And where elk are found, they are in decline. One herd he’s monitoring has gone from 1,000 animals down to 200 in a few years. 

British Columbia’s South Selkirk caribou population has suffered worse and is down to just 14 caribou, a number so alarmingly low it triggered British Columbia’s wolf cull last year.
Critics of the cull, such as Dr. Paul Paquet of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, say the real problem facing caribou is habitat loss, not predation. 

“Wolves prey on caribou today as they always have, but the role of wolves in the ongoing decline of mountain and boreal caribou is a symptom of eroded and lost caribou habitat, not an underlying cause,” he has written. “Killing wolves will not aid caribou recovery nor prevent their continued decline. Other predators (for example cougars and grizzlies), roaded and fragmented habitat, food limitations and human intrusion into key habitat will perpetuate caribou decline.” 

The cull is seen by some as misguided wildlife management at best, or evil at worst. Ian McAllister, whose organization, Pacific Wild, has been leading a campaign to stop the cull characterizes it as “the persecution of wolves,” not wildlife management. 

Mr. McAllister says wolves are being used as a “scapegoat” for other problems. But Mr. Jamieson says the real problem with the wolf cull is that it might not be going far enough. “The issue is not wolves, it’s the combination of wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and cougars … the prey species can’t handle the combined impact of those four animals,” he said. “A lot of people [blame] habitat problems because they don’t want wrap their head around the predator issue.”
Wolf attack an elk on an overpass in Banff National Park.
Wolf attack an elk on an overpass in Banff National Park.
Christopher James Martin/For The Globe and Mail 

Mr. Jamieson said a wildlife conference on predator-prey systems, which drew leading experts to Revelstoke, B.C., in April, made it clear that grizzly and black bears, wolves and cougars are all preying heavily on elk calves, and it is reasonable to assume young caribou, moose and deer are also being impacted. “There are three different studies on elk now that show between the four predators, that 60 to 70 per cent of the elk calves are dying before they even get through their first winter,” said Mr. Jamieson. 

Studies in Yellowstone National Park have found that after wolves were reintroduced in 1995, the elk population fell from over 19,000 to about 6,000 by 2007.

Research by wildlife biologist Shannon Barber-Meyer of the U.S. Geological Survey found grizzly bears, black bears and wolves, in that order, were the main predators.

Mr. Jamieson said while wolf predation has long been recognized as a problem, recent research by David Vales of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe Wildlife Program has shown cougars can also drive down game populations. 

In an interview, Mr. Vales explained how the Muckleshoot, in Washington State, restored elk populations by culling cougars. “We began radio-marking adult cow elk and calves in 1998,” he said. “By going in on the mortalities, we [identified] the cause.” His study found that 70 per cent of the elk were killed by cougars. “I’ve always done a lot of modelling of elk-wolf systems in Yellowstone and around Glacier [National Park] in Montana, so I had some idea of the impact individual predators might have. But I was really surprised how much cougars can impact an elk herd,” he said. “It’s amazing, when we are out marking calves, how many cats have come to check us out while we’ve got a calf in hand and it’s screaming. We look behind us and there’s a cougar there.”

The study found cougars were killing about 50 ungulates (primarily elk, but also some deer) a year. One cat killed 73.

With that data in hand, the Muckleshoot began hunting cougars. It took five years to normalize the ratio of cougars to elk, because as cougars were shot, new cougars kept migrating into the valleys to prey on the elk. (Research shows that a similar thing happens when wolves are culled; new packs move in.) 

But Mr. Vales said once the number of cougars dropped, the elk population rebounded dramatically.
“I don’t think [predator control] is a panacea in all cases, but in some cases it works really well,” Mr. Vales said. 

Critics of predator control argue that if nature is allowed to follow its course, a state of balance will be found, with predators increasing or decreasing in sync with their prey. “That’s not really what happens,” Mr. Vales said. “With the natural balance, cougars are going to wipe out the elk … That’s sort of like what’s happening with the wolves [in B.C. and Alberta].” 

Feds, state debate need for permit to release wolves

By Scott Sandlin / Journal Staff Writer Mexican gray wolf in a pen on the Ladder Ranch in New Mexico in 2002. A federal judge says he will rule within two weeks on the planned release of captive wolves in New Mexico. (Richard Pipes/Albuquerque Journal)

A federal judge said Thursday that he’ll issue a written ruling within two weeks on whether to grant state Game and Fish officials’ request to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s planned release of up to 10 endangered Mexican wolves in New Mexico.

State officials also want the removal of two captive pups placed last month into a wild-wolf den.
One issue before U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson at a hearing Thursday was whether federal consultation with the state, required under the Endangered Species Act, means a state permit is required.

The feds didn’t have one when they “cross-fostered” two newborn pups bred in captivity into a wild pack with pups of similar age on federal lands in April, a move they deem essential to boosting the wolf population’s genetic diversity and ultimately to its recovery. That’s because state Game and Fish Director Alexandra Sandoval – later backed by the full commission – denied permits requested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lawsuits filed by a California law firm on behalf of New Mexico in state and federal courts contend such a permit is required.

The state, which is requesting a preliminary injunction, says management of wildlife and fish is a function of the state, and that New Mexico law bans importation of a nondomestic animal without an appropriate permit. The department claims immediate and irreparable harm without a court-ordered halt to more wolf releases, because as top-of-the-food-chain predators, wolves must be managed along with their prey – elk, deer and antelope.

Federal wildlife officials, meanwhile, say the planned releases are too minimal to cause any harm to state interests, while there is a very real threat to the Mexican wolf population, already at risk because of the lack of genetic diversity.

As a Justice Department attorney for U.S. Fish and Wildlife argued Thursday, a state permit – which the service was granted for previous wolf releases – is not required if that would prevent it from carrying out its statutory duties, in this case Mexican wolf recovery.

Since the end of 2014, the wolf population in New Mexico decreased from 110 to 97, according to Fish and Wildlife.

Paul Weiland, representing Game and Fish, told the court that the primary reason for the denial of the state permit was the lack of a comprehensive management scheme because the federal plan adopted in 1982 is no longer in place.

DOJ attorney Clifford Stevens responded, “There is a larger story to what’s happening. … The (wolf) population is just not viable with the current genetic makeup. There’s too much inbreeding. So the (Fish and Wildlife) service has to go to the captive population.”

“Mexican wolves will dwindle and go extinct without releases of captive-bred wolves to diversify the genetics,” Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement to the Journal. “The recently released pups should be allowed to stay, and family packs should be released as well to establish a more robust population.”

Another environmental group, Defenders of Wildlife, will seek to intervene in the federal lawsuit in the next week, the organization’s state outreach coordinator, Michael Dax, said after Thursday’s hearing.