Thursday, March 31, 2011

Newcomer wolf migrated to take over island pack

Mar 30, 2011

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

There's a new kid in town -- or at least there was -- among the long-studied wolves of Lake Superior's Isle Royal, where biologist called him "The Old, Gray Guy."

John Vucetich
Wolves forded the ice to occupy Isle Royal around 1950, turning the former moose paradise into a laboratory for predator-prey dynamics for the last four decades. In the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, a team led by Jennifer Adams of the Michigan Technological University in Houghton, reports one male wolf seems to have migrated more recently to the island in 1997, taking over its main pack and adding fresh genes to its gene pool, likely founded by one female and two males decades ago.
"Here, we document the genetic and demographic impact of a male wolf (Canis lupus) that immigrated across Lake Superior ice from mainland Ontario in 1997 to the small, inbred wolf population in Isle Royale National Park. This migration event was discovered in 2009 from detailed molecular genetic analysis of samples (mainly scat) from speciļ¬c individuals and the subsequent construction of a pedigree," says the study.
In other words, they analyzed wolf poop, 12 year's worth, to detect the new genes from the immigrant. "Before this discovery, the Isle Royale wolf population had been considered completely isolated since it was founded in the late 1940s," said MTU study team leader John Vucetich, in a statement.

The Old, Gray, Guy died in 2006, and the wolf population on the island has dived to only 16, following years of low moose populations. Only two adult female wolves remain on the island. However, the moose population looks likely to rebound, which may save the wolves, say the researchers.
John Vucetich

Wolves exterminated on Anchorage military bases

The wolves of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in north Anchorage have paid the ultimate price for their fascination with people and their pets.

Officials of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says state wildlife biologists, with help from a state-sanctioned trapper and military personnel, have over the course of the winter managed to kill nine of the animals. They are thought to be members or former members of a pack that had developed a taste for dogs.
Dogs, unfortunately for the wolves, are often accompanied by dog owners. Some of them became frightened when wolves threatened their pets, and state wildlife officials began to get increasingly nervous about the lack of respect wolves were showing the pet owners.

Two women runners treed by wolves told wildlife officials they got the impression the animals seemed almost as interested in making a meal of them as in trying to catch their dogs. That was a red flag for wildlife biologists in the wake of what happened in Western Alaska a year ago. On March 8, 2010, 32-year-old teacher Candice Berner went for a run on the roads near Chignik, a village on the Alaska Peninsula 450 miles southwest of Anchorage. A petite woman originally from Slippery Rock, Penn., she was met by a pack of wolves that killed her. Some began to wonder if a similar attack could take place on the northern edge of Alaska's largest city, given the boldness the wolves were displaying there.

"The wolves were considered a significant threat to public safety on the military installation and in surrounding residential areas,'' noted a Friday press release from Fish and Game announcing the wolf kill.
The announcement heralded the official belief that all those wolves were exterminated.
"The effort was successful. We feel confident we have minimized public safety risks by removing specific wolves and significantly reducing wolf numbers in the area," said Mark Burch, a Division of Wildlife regional supervisor. But he did ask people on the bases, especially those engaged in recreation in the remote and still quite wild back corners of the bases, to be alert for wildlife.

Had dogs become a dietary staple for Anchorage wolves?

The wolves now appear gone, but it won't be long before the bears are emerging in Alaska, and northern bears -- both grizzlies and black -- have killed far more people than wolves.
"People should enjoy outdoor pursuits, but recognize risks and take precautions when recreating in wolf and bear country,'' the state cautioned. "Children should always be accompanied by an adult and dogs should be on a leash."

Tissue, bone and hair samples from the wolves killed over the winter are now being analyzed. That should help state biologists determine the dietary habits of the animals.

Wolves living on the outskirts of Anchorage predominately feed on moose, Dall sheep and -- in the summer -- salmon. There is some curiosity as to how large a part of the diet dogs had become for some of these wolves. Loose dogs are a pretty easy target, and untold numbers of them disappear in the Anchorage area every year. There are also some questions as to what else the wolves might have been eating.

Some have wondered whether they might have become habituated to humans on the bases as much because of easy access to garbage as the access to dogs. Fish and Game did warn base residents that "to prevent future problems, area residents must take precautions not to leave out garbage, pet food, or other attractants that might draw wolves near homes and into neighborhoods."

It is against the law to feed wolves, bears or most other large wildlife in Alaska, a press released noted. Prosecutions, however, are rare. Still, they have been known to happen. The most notable involved bear man Charlie Vandergaw, a retired Anchorage teacher, who had used dog food to entice dozens of bears onto his homestead west of Anchorage.


Hundreds of Scientists Denounce Congress' Attempt to Undermine Endangered Species Act

March 30, 2011                
WASHINGTON (March 30, 2011) – Nearly 1,300 scientists today urged senators to oppose efforts to undermine the scientific authority of the Endangered Species Act, which they fear would threaten the long-term survival of all species protected by the law.

The letter, signed by 1,293 scientists with expertise in biology, ecology and other relevant disciplines, urges senators to block any legislation that would compromise the scientific foundation of the law. The Senate is now considering its version of the House’s Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 1), which includes language that would take the gray wolf off the endangered species list. The lone rider on the Senate version contains similar language.

If Congress passed the continuing resolution with the gray wolf provision, it would be the first time a species was delisted without the benefit of scientific analysis, establishing a precedent for Congress to delist other species without scientific review.

“The consequences of this action would extend far beyond the survival of one particular species,” said Franz Camenzind, a Wyoming-based wildlife ecologist who signed the letter. “If any one species is taken off the endangered species list by Congress, then all of the species on the list become vulnerable to future political attacks. This would send the implementation of the Endangered Species Act into chaos, creating uncertainty both for species and for the communities and businesses around them.”

At the same time Congress is poised to delist the gray wolf, a federal judge in Montana is considering an agreement between the Department of Interior and several environmental groups to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana. The agreement would grant those two states management authority over the wolf but retain federal protection for the animal in four other states.

The scientists’ letter points out that Congress is flouting an Endangered Species Act stipulation that any determination to add or remove a species from the endangered species list be made solely on the best available science. After a species is added to the list, authorities can consider other factors when making decisions about how to best ensure a species’ recovery. The law also includes a provision that allows the government to override species protections in special cases.

“Allowing Congress to remove or add protections for particular species would set a dangerous precedent, as the fate of every species on the endangered species list (or any candidate for that list) would then be subject to political interference,” the letter states. “To undermine the careful and thoughtful scientific process that determines whether a species is endangered or recovered would jeopardize not only the species in question and the continued success of the Endangered Species Act, but the very foundation of the ecosystems that sustain us all.”

The scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act has come under attack in recent years. In 2006, for example, Congress unsuccessfully tried to limit the methods that scientists use to determine that a species warranted protection. And over the last decade, political appointees rewrote numerous scientific documents and misrepresented scientific facts to hinder federal protection for several species, including the Florida panther, southwestern bald eagle, trumpeter swan, bull trout and sage grouse.

Just this month, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would take endangered species off the protected list after an arbitrary deadline of 15 years if no substantial population increase could be demonstrated, suggesting that listing the species did not help it recover. Such a law would essentially delist species like the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly.

"The Endangered Species Act works because of its reliance on science,” said Scott Creel, an ecology professor at Montana State University who has studied the gray wolf. "If we allow  political forces to pressure Congress to circumvent this process for one species, then the entire system is compromised. The fundamental issue here is not policy for the management of wolves, it is the integrity of the process by which the US government commits to preventing extinctions within our borders.  Congress simply does not have the scientific background to evaluate the ecology, population dynamics and extinction risk for individual species. Congress does not fine tune the launch specifics of NASA's rockets, and there is a parallel here."

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sad News for Wolves in the NW

Mead says Wyoming, feds continue wolf talks

AP - March 29, 2011 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead says he believes the state is making some progress toward getting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept that wolves should be classified as unprotected predators in most of the state.

Mead met last week with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Cheyenne to discuss wolf management. The state and federal government have been wrangling for years over how to end federal protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

Mead said Tuesday that his office continues to negotiate with the federal government on the wolf issue, including the number of wolves Wyoming should allow.

If the state and federal government come to terms, Mead says he hopes Congress would approve the deal to prevent any further litigation over the wolf-management issue from environmental groups.


Baucus push for wolf hunt one step closer to reality
The Clark Fork Chronicle
Wednesday, March 30 2011 @ 08:17 AM MDT

by Kathy Weber

Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus issued the following statement in response to news the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one step closer to allowing a conservation wolf hunt in western Montana:

“This is a step in the right direction because Montanans know best how to manage wolves in our state. There’s no doubt wolves are hurting the elk population in this area of Montana and moving forward with a conservation wolf hunt makes good sense. However, the debate over wolves needs to end with a permanent solution that puts Montana in control of how we manage wolves in our state. I’m going to keep fighting for legislation that provides the certainty Montana ranchers and hunters deserve.”

Baucus has been working toward a solution to put Montana back in control of wolves since a 2010 court ruling that resulted in the return of the gray wolf to Federal management under the Endangered Species Act.

In September 2010, Baucus introduced legislation to return management of wolves in Montana and Idaho to state control. Also that month, he pressed the Fish & Wildlife Service to honor Montanans’ right to protect livestock from wolves. Last month, Baucus urged the Department of Interior to expedite the process for allowing a wolf hunt in Montana.

On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its draft Environmental Assessment of the Montana FWP request to control gray wolves in the West Fork Elk Management Unit in western Montana. They will allow for a 14-day public comment period on the Montana proposal to kill 18 out of an estimated 30 wolves along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.

Female shortage endangers wolf population on island

In these Feb. 10, 2006, file photos provided by Michigan Technological University,gray wolves are shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan. An advance copy of a wolf-tracking report obtained by AP shows the number of gray wolves at Isle Royale National Park is down to 16, the lowest number since the late 1990s, and there may be only one or two females left. (AP Photo/Michigan Technological University, John Vucetich) 


Female shortage endangers wolves

The Associated Press 

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Scientists tell The Associated Press the wolves of Isle Royale National Park may go extinct because they are dangerously short of females.

Wildlife biologists John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson of Michigan Tech University say they counted 16 gray wolves on the Lake Superior island this year — and just two at most are adult females.
The overall wolf population is the lowest since 1998, when it was 14.
Unless the females successfully raise pups before dying, the entire population could disappear. Their plight raises the question of whether the park should bring in more wolves.
The population has averaged about 23 since wolves migrated to Isle Royale from the Canadian mainland in the late 1940s.
Scientists have studied their predator-prey relationship with the island's moose for more than a half-century.
March 29, 2011