Monday, December 31, 2012

Image of the Day

Mexican wolf (Canis lupus) by Jim Scarff
Mexican wolf (Canis lupus), a photo by Jim Scarff on Flickr.

~~from The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA... I've been there and it's worth the trip to see so many beautiful creatures in a natural habitat.

DNR analyzing impact of wolf hunt

With Wisconsin’s first modern-day wolf hunt now history, biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources are already looking at the numbers, analyzing the impact of not only the 117 wolves killed during the season but also the 123 animals that died so far in 2012 in other ways.
Adrian Wydeven, a DNR ecologist who has overseen wolf recovery and studies the animals, said biologists have begun winter howling and tracking surveys that will allow them to determine the impact on the overall population of wolves as well as on individual packs. He said the data will also allow the agency to set population numbers and calculate whether the hunting season met the agency’s goal of reducing the statewide spring population — which is expected to be well over 1,000 wolves in the wake of breeding season — by about 10 percent.

Wydeven said he believes that goal was reached and that, even with the hunting season, the state’s wolf population remains at a healthy, sustainable level — a long way from the statewide population goal in the management plan of 350 wolves.

“The zones all achieved their quotas,” Wydeven said. “What the actual impact will be on the population, we won’t know until we finish our surveys in March . . . We know we still have lots of healthy packs out there.”

The final numbers show hunters and trappers killed 117 wolves statewide, one more than the DNR’s quota of 116.

Wydeven said that besides the 117 wolves killed legally during the hunting season, 123 additional wolves were also killed — hit by vehicles, killed by government agents as part of depredation control, killed illegally by hunters and trappers, or found dead from unknown causes.

By far the largest number of these additional dead wolves were killed under the depredation control program, which became legal after the wolf was removed this year from the endangered species list. Numbers from the DNR show that, under the new depredation policy, 19 wolves have been killed by landowners and 57 by agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, the DNR reports that 19 wolves were killed illegally this year, compared to 25 last year. And 21 wolves were killed by vehicles.

Wydeven said the model used by the DNR to set quotas and arrive at the 10 percent statewide reduction in population took into account the mortality outside the hunting season.

The real story of the hunt, however, will be told when the DNR scientists begin drilling down to see what impact the hunt had on populations in each of the six hunting zones and on the individual packs within those zones.

Hunt quota too high?

Peter David, a biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, a group that represents the state’s Chippewa bands on hunting, fishing and conservation issues, said he fears that the DNR did not adequately consider the impact of all human-caused wolf mortality as it set quotas and managed the season in the individual zones. The commission and the state’s tribes opposed the wolf hunt on cultural grounds and refused to kill any of the 85 wolves allotted them under the quota system.

But David said that, while the agency may have considered the additional dead wolves statewide, it was less precise in taking the added mortality into account in individual zones.

For example, David said, the estimated spring population in Zone 3, one of the areas in North Central Wisconsin designated as “secondary” range or moderately suitable for wolf habitat, was 93 animals. The state, after taking into consideration the tribal quota, set a quota in the zone of 18 wolves. Before the season, David said, 29 animals had been removed through depredation control. Hunters and trappers ended up killing 19 wolves, one more than the quota.

That means, David said, that 48 wolves out of the estimated population of 93 were killed this year, more than half of the total. In a report to the Natural Resources Board prior to the hunt, Wydeven said research has shown that wolves can tolerate up to about 29 percent to 35 percent human-caused mortality rates before populations decline.

“The wolf population in this zone, which is considered to be suitable wolf habitat in the state is getting hit very hard,” David said. “But the state seems OK with that since the statewide population is still likely to be over 350.”

Zone system worked

Wydeven, however, said the zone system did what was intended and spread the number of wolves killed more broadly across the state, protecting populations in core habitat and reducing numbers in areas not suitable for wolves.

Certainly, especially in southern and most of the central Wisconsin — part of a large Zone 6 that is considered unsuitable for wolves because of the proximity to farms and urban areas — wolves will likely be seen less frequently. Total population in these areas was pegged at 35 to 40 wolves prior to the season. Hunters and trappers killed 19 wolves during the season and eight wolves were killed through depredation control. The agency had no breakdown on wolves killed illegally or by vehicles in the zone. Even so, it would appear that the population in the area has been nearly eliminated.

Coming months will see more study and debate, Wydeven said, not only about how to set future quotas but also whether the current population goal of 350 wolves needs adjusting. Because hunters will be required to show wardens where they killed a wolf, the agency will be able to determine the impact of the hunt on specific packs, Wydeven added, an important consideration when quotas are set next year.

“How we’re going to set quotas next year is still a whole open area,” Wydeven said.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Image of the Day

Could you shoot me? Really, could you?

Wolf declared a game species

Hunting season may be established

December 30, 2012
John Pepin - Journal Staff Writer , The Mining Journal
MARQUETTE - Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill late Friday reclassifying gray wolves as a game species and authorizing the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to establish a hunting season for the once endangered species in Michigan.

"Wolves have made a dramatic recovery in Michigan with a current population around 700 animals, with almost all of that population residing in the central and western Upper Peninsula," said state Sen. Tom Casperson, who introduced the Senate bill Snyder signed. "Wolves need to be managed along with other species, and management strategies should include the option of a game season."

The NRC, the seven-member appointed rulemaking body for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is now able to issue orders establishing wolf hunting seasons in the state. The NRC would also dictate methods of take, bag limits and other provisions of wolf hunting or trapping seasons.

A wolf stands in the snow near Ishpeming in this file photo from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill late Friday making the gray wolf a game species in Michigan, paving the way for a hunting season. (AP photo)

 "The Department of Natural Resources now agrees that a game season is needed as part of the approach to manage wolves," Casperson said. "As season parameters are developed with the potential for a hunt in the fall of 2013, I will help ensure that U.P. residents who actually live where the wolves are at are included and heard."

The Humane Society of the United States was disappointed with Snyder's signing of the legislation.

"Wolves have been on the protected list in Michigan for nearly 50 years. With fewer than 700 wolves in Michigan, it's not right to spend decades bringing the wolf back from the brink of extinction only to turn around and allow them to be killed for sport," said Jill Fritz, Michigan state director for the HSUS.

Great Lakes region gray wolves were removed from the federal Endangered and Threatened Species list in January, with management returned to the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Hunting seasons have already been established in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Fritz said it is already legal in Michigan to kill wolves that threaten livestock or dogs, making a trophy hunting season unnecessary.

"People don't eat wolves, and they would be killed just for fun and trophies," Fritz said. "Sport hunting of these rare creatures is unnecessary, especially when the wolf population is just starting to recover."

In 2008, the Michigan Legislature approved laws that took effect earlier this year with delisting. Those laws allow livestock or dog owners, or their designated agents, to remove, capture or, if deemed necessary, use lethal means to destroy a wolf that is "in the act of preying upon" (attempting to kill or injure) the owner's livestock or dogs.

Illegally killing a wolf is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, along with reimbursing the state for the cost of prosecution.

"With wolf numbers far-exceeding population goals, I hear growing concerns of the impacts they are having on people's lives and businesses," Casperson said. "Residents across the Upper Peninsula have repeatedly asked for a game season to help control the wolf population, reduce livestock and pet depredation and enhance public safety."

In addition to the hunting bill, Casperson also sponsored Senate Bill 996 (PA 487 of 2012), which builds upon those provisions in current law to ensure livestock owners receive fair and timely compensation for animals killed by wolves, coyotes or cougars.

Casperson said that in recent years, farmers have expressed frustration with the growing number of livestock they lose to wolves and the delay in compensation received from the state.

Under the new law, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will reimburse claimants 100 percent of the fair market value of livestock, not to exceed $4,000 per animal or $100,000 per incident. If the department does not make payment to the livestock owner within 45 days of the claim, the recipient is entitled to twice the amount of the original claim.

The HSUS and The Fund for Animals have said they will file suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal protections for Great Lakes wolves under the Endangered Species Act.


Hunters, trappers kill 117 wolves during Wisconsin season

As reported last week, Wisconsin closed its inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season last Sunday after hunters reached the quota for the last remaining open zone.

By: Compiled by News Tribune staff , Duluth News Tribune
As reported last week, Wisconsin closed its inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season last Sunday after hunters reached the quota for the last remaining open zone.

Hunters and trappers killed 117 wolves across six wolf management zones statewide during the season, which opened Oct. 15. That’s one more than the target harvest.

Sixty-two of the wolves, or about 53 percent, were taken by trappers using foothold traps. The remainder were taken by hunters using firearms. Fifty-nine percent of the wolves taken were male, and four of the animals had worn radio collars.

Hunters and trappers in Wisconsin were required to submit the carcass from each wolf kill to the DNR for analysis, including age, health and reproductive status. Test results will be coming back to the DNR over the next seven months, said DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven.

“We’re looking forward to all the information that will be coming in,” Wydeven told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s going to add substantial data to our wolf management program.”


Wolf hunting and trapping continues in the Northwest Zone in Minnesota; it was closed in the state’s Northeast and East-Central zones earlier this month after hunters and trappers reached the late-season quotas for those areas.

The late-season target harvest for the Northwest Zone, which includes parts of western St. Louis County, Itasca County, Koochiching County and much of Aitkin County, and points west, is 187 wolves; 137 had been harvested as of Friday afternoon.

Through Friday afternoon, hunters and trappers had registered 204 wolves so far during the late season, which opened Nov. 24. The season target for all Minnesota zones is 253 wolves.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.


Wolf center offers a howling good time

  Dec 29, 2012   |  

Alex Spitzer, Educator/Volunteer Coordinator at the Wolf Conservation Center, feeds Alawa pieces of raw chicken. Visitors came to see the wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY on Dec. 29, 2012. (Tabitha Pearson Marshall for The Journal News)
Alex Spitzer, Educator/Volunteer Coordinator at the Wolf Conservation Center, feeds Alawa pieces of raw chicken. Visitors came to see the wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY on Dec. 29, 2012. (Tabitha Pearson Marshall for The Journal News)

Tabitha Pearson Marshall for The Journal News
Alex Spitzer, educator/volunteer coordinator at the Wolf Conservation Center, feeds Alawa pieces of raw chicken. Visitors came to see the wolves at the center in South Salem on Saturday. The center has housed several packs of gray, red and Mexican wolves.
Alex Spitzer, educator/volunteer coordinator at the Wolf Conservation Center, feeds Alawa pieces of raw chicken. Visitors came to see the wolves at the center in South Salem on Saturday. The center has housed several packs of gray, red and Mexican wolves. / Photos by Tabitha Pearson Marshall for The Journal
Arctic wolf Atka, the center's off-site ambassador.
Arctic wolf Atka, the center's off-site ambassador.

If you go

Appointments required. Go to or call 914-763-2373, Ext. 1.

SOUTH SALEM — The nearly 30 adults and children stood balanced on ice, snow and dirt in the frigid air Saturday morning, howling toward the hilltop where the wolves waited.

At a signal from wolf educator Alex Spitzer, the crowd quieted, and from the air came the unmistakeable sound of real wolves howling in response. The 15 or so children broke into grins as the group headed up the steep hillside pathway to visit Zephyr and Alawa, the ambassador wolves of the Wolf Conservation Center.

“I liked when the wolves howled back,” said 7-year-old Greta Radcliff of Manhattan, who was at the site with her parents and two younger sisters on Saturday for one of the center’s Pack Chat children’s programs, adding, “I didn’t know all the kinds of wolves” there were.

The Wolf Conservation Center has housed several packs of gray, red and Mexican wolves on what now is 27 acres of undeveloped land since it was created as a nonprofit organization in 1999. Nearly 8,000 people visit the preserve during the year, participating in several on-site programs including the Pack Chats, Evening Howl programs, Wolf Day Camp and environment lecture series. Another 30,000 to 33,000 people get visits from arctic wolf Atka, the center’s off-site ambassador, or spend time with center staff learning about wolves.

Programs like Pack Chat help fund the center, which has a budget of about $500,000 a year. Feeding the wolves is not as difficult as it could be, since local police and hunters drop off deer carcasses either killed on the highway or already butchered for venison steaks. The wolves mostly eat hooved animals in the wild, although on Saturday they also had a bit of chicken and bananas.

“A lot of the stories that kids are told about wolves, like Little Red Riding Hood, aren’t necessarily true,” Spitzer said with a smile. “This is just to make it a little bit of a fun program and give kids a chance to see wolves. It’s the biggest thing we can do.”

Saturday’s Pack Chat drew a family of cousins of center volunteer Samantha Smith, including several from Frisco, Texas.

“I love it,” said Kristi Smith, 25, of Darien, Conn., who was keeping her mother, Karen Smith, also of Darien, company as other family members stood by the wire fence, staring at a male red wolf in the distance that had not been socialized to humans.

“You get more of an understanding and appreciation for wildlife,” said Letty Williams, Karen Smith’s sister-in-law and grandmother of 5-year-old Bobby and 3-year-old Brendan Williams of Frisco. The boys said they really liked to hear the wolves howl. After the program was over, they and the adults stood exchanging howls with Atka through the fence.

Winter is wolf time. The animals that were on view for visitors were in full coat and active, a difference from their summer behavior when they would rather sleep. Siblings Zephyr and Alawa, who at 18 months old weighed 80 and 70 pounds, respectively, had been raised to be comfortable with people. That didn’t stop Alawa from growling and nipping at her brother as the visitors walked up to their enclosure, a reminder that even wolves socialized to humans were still wild animals.
Andrew Radcliff, 41, Greta’s father, said he brought the family to South Salem on the recommendation of a friend who had visited the center in the summer.

“He said if you come in the winter, it’s a lot more fun. The wolves have their (winter) coats,’ Radcliff said. He and his family said the trip up from the city was definitely worth it.


Wyoming’s first wolf hunt soon to close

Hunt will probably end below quota; but many more wolves killed in state’s wolves-are-just-vermin-zone-

Wyoming first wolf hunt ends Dec. 31. 2012.  Wyoming opted for a much less ambitious/less-destructive-to-wolves hunt compared to neighboring Idaho and Montana. Unlike its neighbors, Wyoming has a wolf maximum kill quota and a relatively short hunt. However, Wyoming also has (probably) far fewer wolves than Montana or Idaho.

As of Dec. 28, 41 wolves had been killed in the hunt. That is eleven short of the quota of 52.  The state also has sub-quotas by means of quotas for wolf hunt areas. Most of the hunt areas are already closed.  At the end of last year (2011), it was estimated there were 328 wolves in Wyoming.

However, hunting in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks is not allowed. Neither is hunting allowed on the large Wind River Indian Reservation unless the tribes set a hunt, and they didn’t.  In principle that left about 200 wolves subject to the hunt in NW Wyoming where most of the wolves live.  As a result the loss of 41 or so wolves would not seem to reduce the wolf population after pups are born next April. However, there is an important caveat.  An unknown number, but at least 44 additional wolves had already been killed by Wildlife Services for real or imaginary livestock depredations and from poaching and accidents, plus natural deaths of wolves.

There is much more to the story, however.  Yellowstone Park’s wolf population has recently dropped precipitously by natural means and then two Park wolves were shot in the Wyoming wolf hunt when they moved outside the Park.  A number of wolf packs use parts of Grand Teton National Park, but none use it entirely because it is so small when one considers wolf movements.  Some argue ten or more  wolves that used Grand Teton were killed.  See previous story on Grand Teton.

The death of national park wolves has aroused a lot of controversy, especially considering that at least 7 more Yellowstone Park wolves were killed in Montana’s wolf hunt, prompting Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to close hunting along the most relevant parts of the northern boundary of the Park for the rest of season. The Montana wolf hunt continues in most of the rest of the state.

Most troubling to wolf conservationists is the deal Wyoming swung with the federal government’s not-so-wolf-friendly Department of Interior. The federal government allowed Wyoming to make about 85% of the state a continual free fire zone on wolves, with no protections whatsoever.  The feds allowed the state to turn what was an threatened species in Wyoming into mere vermin, just like that.
The official line was that  the rest of Wyoming was not good wolf habitat and inappropriate for wolves. Few wolves lived there anyway, officials argued.  The facts contradict much of the official line because 23 wolves have been killed since October in rest of the state.  That is almost half of the quota, although the quota does not apply to this “wolves-are-vermin-area.”  Easy, but crude, extrapolation then suggests the wolf population in this unregulated zone might be about 100 wolves, not the state’s estimate of 32 wolves.  Anyone with passing knowledge of the Salt River and Wyoming Ranges just south of Jackson Hole knows these mountains are packed with deer and elk. They are where most of 23 “vermin”  wolves were killed.

When Wyoming finalized their wolf hunt plans, conservation groups immediately filed “intent to sue notices.” They would have sued immediately, but federal law prevented this.  When the mandatory 60 day wait was up, two groups sued. One group was led by Defenders of Wildlife and second composed of the following: Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Conservation Congress, Friends of Animals, Friends of the Clearwater, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.  Later the National Humane Society sued.  On Dec. 21, a federal judge joined the first two lawsuits.  Much of the conservation argument concerns the 85% of the state where all the wolves can be wiped out.

Wyoming seems to have held a cautious wolf hunt, yet most of the sparsely populated state, which officially claims to have an excess of elk, is wiping out the wolf.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Image of the Day

Thor by Aviva C
Thor, a photo by Aviva C on Flickr.

First wolf hunting season nearly over; lawsuits pending

5 hours ago  •
JACKSON — Hunters have killed 41 wolves so far during Wyoming's trophy wolf-hunting season.
He spends most of his fall outside in the mountains, so finding a wolf was not a matter of if, but when.

Like most hunters, Joe Hargrave bought wolf tag to put in his pocket just in case; he wasn’t wolf hunting, specifically. Hargrave had been elk hunting in early October when he saw wolves lying in a meadow several miles away. It took three hours to sneak up on the pack of seven. Waiting in the trees, he chose one and shot.

On Oct. 5, just four days after the season opened, Hargrave, a Dubois taxidermist and outfitter, became one of Wyoming’s first hunters to legally kill a wolf since 1974.

“It was pretty neat to be able to hunt them because they’re a magnificent animal,” Hargrave said. “I like to see them in the wild just like elk, moose and everything else. It is nice to be able to have the opportunity to hunt them.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves from the endangered species list in Wyoming on Sept. 30, kicking off the first hunting season since wolves were placed on the list in 1974. Since then, 41 wolves have been killed in 12 hunting areas, 23 killed in the predator zone and 39 killed by wildlife officials for livestock damage. Conservation groups have filed three lawsuits seeking to re-list the wolves; they are expected to be decided sometime in 2013.

The season

Wyoming was the last Rocky Mountain state to see wolves delisted. The Bush administration removed Wyoming’s wolves in March 2008, but a judge placed them back on four months later, citing the state’s failure to ensure genetic interchange between Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
The Obama administration removed wolves from the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho in 2011, but Wyoming’s wolves remained listed.

On Sept. 30, the Fish and Wildlife Service once again removed wolves from the list in Wyoming, saying the species was recovered in the Cowboy State and the state’s management plan was sufficient.

The plan divides Wyoming into three areas:
A trophy game area in northwest Wyoming in which wolves will be regulated by a hunting season from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

A small, seasonal-game area in northern Lincoln and Sublette counties in which hunters need licenses for part of the year and can shoot them on sight as predators the other part. Called the “flex zone,” it gives more protection to wolves for a portion of the year as they move between Wyoming and Idaho.
In the rest of the state, wolves will be considered predators, meaning they can be shot on sight.
Wyoming is required to keep a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

A minimum of five breeding pairs and 50 wolves are required inside Yellowstone.
The plan allowed 52 wolves of the estimated 220 to 230 to be killed this fall in northwest Wyoming outside of Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, the National Elk Refuge and the Wind River Reservation.

By Wednesday, the last time reported, 41 wolves had been killed in the trophy area. The season closes Monday.
“I am extremely happy with how the harvest has been spread around the wolf trophy game and management area,” said Brian Nesvik, chief of the wildlife division for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Even if we come in under quota, it’s been a very successful season.”

Conservation groups raised concern this fall when five wolves collared for research purposes by wildlife officials in Yellowstone National Park were killed by hunters in Montana. Wolf hunting is not allowed in Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks. In response, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission closed areas north of Yellowstone to hunting this year.

Hunters have killed three wolves in Wyoming collared by either Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks this fall, Nesvik said.

Wyoming should consider following Montana’s lead and establish subunits around the parks to help protect those wolves that may wander outside of the parks during the hunting season, said Chris Colligan, Wyoming wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.
Losing collared wolves from the park is a loss of data, and shooting wolves from national park packs can disrupt the stability of a pack, Colligan said.

“I think where you draw the line is when there are harms to park resources and if we get to the point where we can say there are these harms to park resources, then hunting wolves may need to be closed in those units,” Colligan said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission would have to decide if Wyoming needs a buffer around the parks.
“Biologically, there is no difference to the population between taking a collared wolf versus a noncollared wolf,” Nesvik said.

The lawsuits

Days after the Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wyoming’s wolf decision, Earthjustice filed a notice of intent to sue. About two months later the nonprofit environmental law firm filed a lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The groups say Wyoming’s wolf management plan is too aggressive, especially by allowing wolves to be shot on sight in 85 percent of the state, said Mike Leahy, Rockies and Plains director for Defenders of Wildlife.

Wyoming estimated about 32 wolves lived in the predator zone before hunting began. As of Wednesday, 23 wolves had been killed in the predator zone.

Nevik said that was about the number wildlife officials anticipated would be killed.
It’s not about the number killed this year but about the overall plan, Leahy said.
“The state’s goal is clearly to eliminate all wolves from the predator zone and prevent them from ever recovering there,” he said. “The state is simply ignoring its obligation, or refusing its obligation, to manage wolves through the state that includes really important wolf habitat in national forest and on federal lands.”

Since Earthjustice filed its lawsuit, two other similar suits have been filed.
The second lawsuit was filed in the end of November by Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Conservation Congress, Friends of Animals, Friends of the Clearwater, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.
The final lawsuit was filed in mid-December in Washington, D.C., by the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals.

The first time groups sued — and won — over Wyoming’s wolves, 12 groups joined the same lawsuit, including several of the groups suing separately this time.
On Dec. 21, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., merged two of the lawsuits filed by separate coalitions of groups. The lead group in one lawsuit is Defenders of Wildlife, while the lead in the other is the Humane Society of the United States.

The third lawsuit is still pending in federal court in Denver.
There is no advantage to suing separately, said Ralph Henry, the Humane Society’s deputy director of litigation.

The future

Shooting his wolf this year was easier than Hargrave expected. He wonders if it’s because they haven’t been shot at in decades in Wyoming.
Even over the course of the season he noticed a change in their behavior. They’re already smarter and more skittish than they were in the beginning.

“They’re going to get harder to find and stay in the timber during the day,” Hargrave said. “The more we hunt them the more they will wise up to what’s going on.”
In the meantime, lawsuits will move through the court system. The Fish and Wildlife Service filed a motion to have the Earthjustice lawsuit moved from Washington, D.C., to Wyoming. A decision on the motion is still pending.

Henry hopes a decision comes before the beginning of the 2013 wolf hunting season.
Wyoming will continue to manage wolves in the state, learning the ropes from Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. Wyoming wildlife officials plan to collar about 25 to 30 wolves each year. The numbers will help officials keep track of wolf numbers and plan quotas for hunting seasons, Nesvik said. Officials will also monitor genetics to show if wolves are successfully moving between populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

The state budgeted about $600,000 for wolf management for the first two years. During the 2012 hunting season it sold 4,469 licenses and made $112,518 from the sales that will contribute to management, Nesvik said.

The trophy season ends Monday. Whether it opens again Oct. 1 will be up to the courts to decide.


Compass: Buffer will keep Denali's wolves alive and in sight

Published: December 28, 2012 
It didn't take long for Montana's wildlife commissioners to establish a buffer just outside Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary to prevent hunting and trapping of the park's wolves that sometimes move out of the park. They acted within days of the shooting of a wolf labeled "the most famous wolf in the world" which followed the loss of seven others including five wearing radio-collars costing up to $4,000 each. These animals were part of a large research study of wolves and their impact on Yellowstone's ecosystem, and were also used to monitor wolf numbers and their occasional depredations on livestock. Montana's wildlife authorities recognized that additional losses would seriously impact research and monitoring of this high profile wolf population.

But they also knew that loss of the park's wolves offended thousands of people, many of them visitors to Yellowstone who treasure the rare opportunity to see and hear wild wolves.

Sadly, Alaska's Department of Fish and Game and its Board of Game failed to act similarly when recently faced with a strikingly similar situation involving Denali National Park's wolves. Last winter the pregnant alpha female of the Grant Creek Pack was snared just outside the park's north boundary. This pack was the most commonly viewed wolf pack in Denali in recent years. They were tolerant of people, denned close to the park's road, and kept their pups near the road after they left the den--all necessary in order for park visitors to see them. And see them they did. There were recent years when these wolves were seen nearly every day, playing, howling, hunting and travelling.

But in the summer of 2012 everything changed. Loss of the pregnant alpha female resulted in no pups being born. As a result, the surviving adults traveled widely and there were few sightings of them near the road. The loss of a single wolf cost thousands of park visitors the chance to view this pack. And it may cost the state thousands of dollars in lost tourism revenue as Denali is labeled as no longer a good place to experience wolves.

Our wildlife authorities, unlike their Montana colleagues, failed to act last spring when petitioned to protect Denali's wolves. Like Yellowstone's wolves, Denali's are radio-collared and are part of research and monitoring programs. But our Game Board deemed it more important to preserve the opportunity of a few trappers to catch and kill these wolves rather than to preserve their scientific integrity.

Our authorities have long argued that the loss of a few wolves outside park boundaries does not affect the park's wolf population. True enough, but this totally misses the main point--that these few wolves are critical to maintaining the opportunity of thousands of park visitors to experience wolves. The events of this past summer prove this point beyond question.

Tragically, what happened with the Grant Creek Pack was predicted by those of us who witnessed the Game Board's actions in 2010. Despite great public support, the board repealed two existing wolf hunting and trapping buffers that had been enacted years earlier, this despite a Park Service proposal to expand one buffer based on several years of data demonstrating the need. And the board enacted an eight-year moratorium banning proposals to re-establish the buffers.

Denali's wolves do not have the large constituency that Yellowstone's wolves enjoy. But many Alaskans recognize their importance and support measures to protect them. The Game Board made a serious mistake when it rescinded the buffers in 2010, and compounded its mistake when it failed to respond to the loss of the Grant Creek female this year. Will we watch as more Denali wolves are lost in future years and viewing opportunities are further reduced, or will we follow Montana's lead and recognize that we must provide protection for a few key wolves that profoundly affect the experiences of thousands of park visitors?

Vic Van Ballenberghe is a wildlife biologist and former state Board of Game member. He lives in Anchorage.


If the Japanese Diet Included Deer, It Might Keep Wolves From the Door

As the Ruminants Run Rampant, Nation Considers Introducing Predators, Venison Lunches

Rural Japan is being over-run by deer that are damaging crops and timber groves. But there's another problem, too: a shortage of deer hunters. WSJ's Chester Dawson reports from Bungo-Ono. (Photo: Corbis)
BUNGO-ONO, Japan—For Yusuke Hashimoto, mayor of this small hamlet in southwestern Japan, desperate times call for desperate measures. The town is one of the country's top producers of shiitake mushrooms, but they are also popular with local deer. And that's the rub.

"Deer are encroaching on farmers' ability to make a living," said Mr. Hashimoto, who has become part of a growing movement to reinstate four-legged carnivores to control the herd.
Japan's last native canine—the extinct Canis lupus hodophilax—was killed off in 1905 as national policy.

Bringing out a stack of books about wolf folklore, Mr. Hashimoto explained reintroducing wolves began to appeal to him when he read material published by the Japan Wolf Association, a grass-roots lobbying group.
Chester Dawson/The Wall Street Journal
Iichiro Kodama, a local deer hunter, slings a 12-gauge shotgun over his shoulder in the woods of Oita prefecture in southwestern Japan.
"As wild as it sounds, the more I read about them the less ludicrous it seemed," he said.
Japan isn't the only country with deer issues. Suburbs across the U.S. battle deer foraging in gardens, spreading Lyme disease and causing traffic accidents. But the roots of Japan's deer problem—and some of the proposed solutions—are unusual.

Japan's deer crisis is aggravated by extreme demographic trends: intense urbanization and depopulation of rural areas, record low birthrates and the world's most rapidly aging society. Plus, there's a cultural legacy: Venison isn't a staple of Japanese cuisine, and gun ownership is subject to strict regulation.

Now, too few hunters prowl through rural Japan's thick bamboo and cedar groves, and deer account for an estimated $33 million in annual crop loss, triple the total a decade ago, according to Japan's environment ministry.

So Japanese national and local authorities are laying more traps, and ring-fencing vulnerable rice paddies and timber groves. They're also trying to make hunting fashionable for young urbanites and introducing venison to school lunches.

Wolf advocates submitted a petition with 94,468 signatures to the Environment Ministry in April. It urged the ministry to import and release Tibetan wolves, which are regarded as genetically close to the wolves once roaming Japan.

At the head of the pack is the Japan Wolf Association, set up in 1993 to re-establish wolf habitats here. "Without any mistake, we'll be successful in this," said JWA chairman Naoki Maruyama, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and the author of several books.

In Parliament, the pro-wolf movement has brought together more than a dozen national lawmakers of different parties, including a former environment minister, who set up a Wolf Reintroduction Study Group.
Getty Images)
Japanese deer
"We need to consider reinserting wolves to local ecosystems," says caucus founder Tsurunen Marutei, a member of Japan's upper house of Parliament. The naturalized Japanese citizen was born and raised in Finland, where wolves are a protected species.

Environmental authorities in Japan see a wolf in sheep's clothing: a solution with fangs worse than the problem it attempts to solve. "Setting wolves loose is a nonstarter," said Toru Nagano, an official in the environment ministry's wild animal protection department. "They'd be more of a threat to livestock, dogs or humans than wild deer are," he said.

Instead, Japan's government is trying to lure more city slickers into the woods armed with shotguns and rifles. This year, the environment ministry began sponsoring "Joy of Hunting" forums across the country, where hunters discuss the hobby and show off their hardware.

Publicity for the forums—promoted via FB -0.53% and printed posters—feature a hunter wearing a ponytail and brandishing a pump-action shotgun. "We want to make hunting seem more approachable to youth and women," said Mr. Nagano.

Traditionally, Japan's deer herd has been kept at bay by local hunting associations comprising farmers mostly, but their average age is now 65 years. The total number of licensed Japanese hunters and trappers has fallen to an all-time low of 186,000—down sharply from a peak of 531,000 in 1970.
No one knows how many deer are roaming the Japanese underbrush since the government doesn't formally keep tabs, but experts say they likely number in the millions—up from the 500,000 or so thought to exist just two decades ago.

The spike in Japanese, or sika, deer looms large in rural areas that retain significant political power, even as their human populations shrink. Many local governments like Bungo-Ono offer hunters bounties of up to ¥10,000 (about $128) per head for any deer bagged and tagged. Most prefectures in Japan have effectively waived the notion of a hunting season, granting special permits to allow kills year-round.

                                                                                                     Sika Deer

That can dull the thrill of the hunt. "We can bag up to 18 deer in a single day. They're just everywhere," laments Yoichi Kodama, the 60-year-old head of a local hunting group, who says that after shooting thousands he finds traps more sporting.

Some policy makers think hunters might get more excited if there were more appetite for their kill. Hence, stepped-up efforts to promote venison consumption. Groups like the Japan Gibier (Wild Game) Promotion Association have gone nationwide to broaden Japanese palates everywhere from school cafeterias to trendy cafes. Last month, it held an event designed to drum up publicity in Tokyo's Akihabara district. Waitresses served traditional bento box lunches with a twist: The main entrees featured deep-fried nuggets of wild boar, venison meatloaf and black crow meatballs.

And yet, at a recent street fair in central Tokyo, few young Japanese seemed ready to wolf down curried rice with chunks of venison served by one food stall sponsored by the agriculture ministry. "Deer are too cute to eat. Besides, it probably tastes gamy," said Tetsuomi Takeuchi, a 33-year-old financial planner.

Wolves are less fussy about their diets.
Wolf advocate Mr. Murayama plays down fears wolves would attack human beings, noting that historically Japanese farmers worshiped wolf deities in appreciation of their worldly embodiment's appetite for crop-destroying deer.

The cult of the wolf deity remains popular at dozens of shrines throughout Japan. Wolves have even become stars in the country's thriving anime cartoon subculture.

This past summer, one of the highest-grossing Japanese movies was an animated feature film called "The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki." It tells the story of two bushy-tailed offspring of a human character and her werewolf lover—described as the only living descendant of the Japanese wolf.

—Karin Ito contributed to this article.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Image of the Day

Timber Wolf by Michael Cummings
Timber Wolf, a photo by Michael Cummings on Flickr.

Enviros sue to prevent capture of wolves

December 27, 2012
Environmentalists are filing another lawsuit over the federal government's handling of endangered Mexican gray wolves, this one seeking to stop a policy that calls for the capture of any wolves that cross the border into Arizona and New Mexico.

The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity Wednesday filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a recent decision that the group says gives the agency authority to catch any wayward wolves and put them into a captive-breeding program, return them to where they came from or relocate them into a designated Mexican wolf recovery area.

The group said Mexico recently released nine Mexican gray wolves near the U.S. border in the Sierra Madre, and wolves from the northern Rocky Mountains could make their way south at any time.


Alone or in packs, wolves make news

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lost pup, confirmed packs and sheep deaths topped wildlife news

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Boise, a wolf pup originally found alone on Warm Springs Road north of Ketchum, enjoys his new digs at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., in August. But Boise wasn’t the only wolf this year to make the news; two breeding pairs were confirmed in Blaine County and local ranchers lost more than 40 sheep to wolves this summer, resulting in the deaths of two female wolves at the hands of Idaho Wildlife Services.
Three wolf packs were confirmed living in the Wood River Valley this year, one of which may  contain the remnants of the famed Phantom Hill wolf pack.

Remote cameras set by field crew members of the Wood River Wolf Project captured images of three separate and well-established packs throughout the county.

Project manager Suzanne Stone said in August that the remote cameras allowed the project to not only confirm that there were packs in the county, but that two of those packs were breeding.

The first pack found was the Warm Springs Pack, confirmed in June when crews began hunting for a pack that lost a pup on Warm Springs Road northwest of Ketchum. Campers had picked up the pup on Memorial Day weekend, and crews began to hunt for the pup’s family.

The pack has at least two adults and several pups.

The second pack is the Little Wood Pack, which has been living in the southern Pioneer Mountains near Carey. Idaho Wildlife Services killed two members of the pack after recorded sheep depredations, but the pack still contained two to three adults in August.

The third pack, known as the Pioneer Pack, was the last pack located. This pack encountered Gooding rancher John Faulkner’s sheep in the Lake Creek drainage north of Ketchum on July 3 and killed four sheep. 

The pack has at least two adults, to subadults and up to five pups—two of which were black, Stone said, raising the question of whether the pack might contain the remnants of the black-coated Phantom Hill Pack that dissipated from its territory north of Ketchum roughly two years ago.
Stone said the pack might be more likely to have a connection with the now-defunct Hyndman Pack that dominated the area around Trail Creek in 2008.


Though wolf advocates were excited to confirm the existence of three packs, two of which were breeding, ranchers were less than thrilled when those packs began killing their sheep.
Faulkner lost four sheep to the Pioneer Pack in July, but no control order was issued.

However, two wolves were killed in response when Carey rancher John Peavey lost 37 sheep to the Little Wood Pack in May and June, when ewes were lambing. That order was a controversial one, as wolf advocates said a conservation easement within Peavey’s ranch prevented lethal control of wolves on the entire property.

The easement was of special concern because Blaine County had contributed more than $200,000 in matching funds toward the purchase of the easement in December 2011.

The easement agreement contained a provision to prevent lethal control methods from occurring within the easement’s borders. However, officials said there was nothing preventing Idaho Wildlife Services from trapping and killing wolves outside of the easement’s boundaries or flying over the easement.

Two female wolves were killed on the ranch following the depredations, one in May and one in July. Neither wolf was shot within the bounds of the conservation easement.

Wolf pup found near Ketchum

One member of the Warm Springs wolf pack found a new home in a theme park in Virginia this year after out-of-town campers picked up what they thought was a domestic dog on Memorial Day weekend.

The couple picked up the 5-week-old, 20-pound wolf pup on the afternoon of Friday, May 25, in the Sawtooth National Forest near Ketchum.

Thinking it was a domestic puppy, the couple called the Ketchum Police Department and took the pup to a local vet’s office, where staff quickly realized the “lost puppy” was likely a wolf.

The pup, stressed and hungry, was moved to Zoo Boise and later to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. “Boise,” as the pup was christened, was introduced to his new pack in August. He joined two wolf pups from Montana named Beo and Kaya as well as a domestic dog named Mia who served as the pups’ surrogate mother.

Boise and his pack-mates were introduced to the adult pack without incident this fall. Recently, a park animal trainer posted on the Busch Gardens Williamsburg blog about the puppies’ first Christmas. The blog post states that Boise enjoyed rolling in and playing tug with pine branches as part of the park’s Christmas Town attraction.

Parvo discovered

A wolf was shot in the Deer Creek neighborhood north of Hailey in January 2012 after threatening a homeowner and his dog.

Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer Lee Garwood said at the time that the young female wolf growled at the homeowner and the dog before laying down and going into what the man described as “convulsions.” It was suspected that the wolf was suffering from a disease called parvo.
The wolf later dragged herself into the homeowner’s driveway, where the man shot it.

“The homeowner didn’t want to see the thing suffer any further, so he euthanized it with a shot to the head,” Garwood said.

It was not determined if the wolf was traveling alone or with a pack, but no packs have since been confirmed in the area.


Are Alaskan trappers to blame for declining Denali Park wolf population?

There’s one thing in the world of Denali National Park wolves about which everyone seems to agree: The much-loved, sometimes-loathed carnivores that roam the 7,370 square miles of park wilderness have seen better days. A fall census found only 57 of the animals in nine packs, the lowest count since 1986, although the number of packs had increased since last year.

The data was almost immediately used to attack trappers in the Healy area of the Alaska Interior. The survey results, wolf activist Rick Steiner told the Associated Press, "confirm fears expressed earlier this year by wildlife conservation advocates and biologists regarding the continued take of park wolves when they cross the park's northeastern boundary onto state lands."

Denali is the most visible, if not the most popular, park in the 49th state. Consequently, the story quickly attracted national and international attention and Steiner, a former marine biologist for the University of Alaska, followed up by again petitioning Alaska Commissioner of Fish and Game Cora Campbell to close trapping along the northeast boundary of the park. He was joined by the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the state's main animal protection group.

The state Board of Game, a hunter-dominated group that sets seasons and bag limits for hunting and trapping, promptly vetoed that idea, as it had several times before. The board argued there was no evidence of a serious decline in the wolf population in the Denali area and contended its job was to find balance in the value of dead wolves, which provide lucrative fur, and live ones, which attract wildlife watchers to the park.

'More valuable alive than dead' 

The latter were dismayed when the human-habituated -- and thus more visible -- Grant Creek pack broke up this spring. They blamed trapping. “To me, and I know probably 400,000 other people who visit Denali, these wolves are way more valuable alive than dead. I don’t know what they get for a wolf pelt, but it’s not much,” Valerie Connor, conservation director for the Alaska Center for the Environment, told the Los Angeles Times.

She and others are convinced the Grant Creek pack split up because a pair of its females were trapped, but it is hard to make a definitive case for this belief. Scientists who've worked with wolves in Denali for decades say packs are in a constant state of flux. As world-renowned wolf researcher L. David Mech noted in the book "The Wolves of Denali,'' the most powerful, wild carnivores live tumultuous lives. Wolves are constantly leaving packs to look for better hunting or breeding opportunities, and wolves are constantly killing each other.

Wolves killing wolves 

"The primary mortality cause of 57 wolves aged 9 months or older in Denali Park and Preserve during our (nearly decade long) study was death from other wolves, and that cause claimed about five times the rate of wolf deaths as any other known natural cause such as accidents or disease,'' wrote Mech. He also observed that "our estimated rate of human-caused wolf mortality in Denali is the lowest of any large wolf population that has been studied anywhere except Isle Royale, the national park land in Lake Superior, which is closed and uninhabited for eight months of the year.

"Conversely, our rate of wolf mortality inflicted by fellow wolves was one of the highest reported, at least partly because human-caused mortality was so low. The natural state of a wolf population seems to include high natural-caused turnover.'' The "natural state'' of Denali wolves has become an issue these days because of that small, fall count. The number itself doesn't seem to trouble scientists much.

"As you know from Layne (Adams') work and others, wolves and packs are incredibly dynamic,'' Grant Hilderbrand, the regional wildlife biologist for the National Park Service said in an email in which he suggested that the low wolf count is itself suspect.

"One factor that may influence the spring and fall numbers you are looking at is that we have had some less-than-ideal tracking conditions this fall,'' he said. "We have a couple of territories where we haven't been able to locate wolves.  They may be there, and we are missing them. Or they may not be...."

Rare summer die-off? 

The spring and fall census numbers for Denali are interesting in that they reflect something never before witnessed in the park: a major, over-summer die off, if the numbers can be believed. This sort of thing is almost unheard of, but census numbers dropped from 70 in March of the year to 57 in October. The decrease of 13 wolves amounts to nearly a 20 percent decline in the Denali wolf population.

Only twice since 1979 has the population declined over the summer. And in the two cases on record, once in 1986 and again in 1997, the change amounted to but three or four wolves. The norm is for the population to grow significantly. It jumped, by way of illustration, from 93 in March 2007 to 147 that fall. That is an extreme example, but the population seldom goes the other direction.
"It is odd,'' said biologist Vic Van Ballenberghe. “But considering that some of them didn't raise pups apparently, probably there (were) some summer losses.''

Van Ballenberghe studies moose in Denali. He is a long-time advocate for wolf protection in Alaska and a former member of the Board of Game. He said he got the report on reproductive failures earlier this year from Denali biologist Tom Meier. Meier, a co-author with Adams and others on the "Wolves of Denali,'' had been in charge of monitoring wolves in the park.

He died suddenly and unexpectedly in August. Adams, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey currently studying musk oxen in Alaska, said Meier's death could have complicated efforts to get an accurate survey.

Counting wolves challenging 

Finding and counting wolves in packs that contain radio-collared animals is pretty straightforward, but finding packs lacking collared animals -- let alone wolves that have taken off on their own -- sounds a lot easier than it is in practice. It turns out to be a lot like hunting in that it helps to know not only what you're looking for but the best places to look. And, Van Ballenberghe said, counting packs with radio-collared animals can present some problems, too.

"You need to be sure you observe that pack more than one or two times because they do split up,'' he said. Packs tend to be more cohesive in that fall than in the spring, but there is no guarantee of catching the animals together at any time.

"If it was a standard wolf census over a big area,'' he added. "Then it's easier to miss animals in some cases.''

But even if the count missed a pack or two, as Hilderbrand suggests, putting the actual number of wolves closer to 70 than to 60, there remain questions about what is going on with the most charismatic carnivore in what is undeniably the state's most popular national park for wildlife viewing.

Even at 70 wolves, Van Ballenberghe noted, "That's half of what was there not too many years ago. That's a pretty a pretty significant decline, and there hasn't been a significant decline in any of the three species in recent years.''

Wolf numbers peaked at 147 in October 2007. They have generally been falling ever since. Hilderbrand admits no one knows why, but points to some possible contributing factors.

Wolf numbers related to hares? 

"(Snowshoe) hares are definitely down dramatically,'' Hilderbrand said, "and our lamb-ewe ratio (among Dall sheep) is also quite low at 11 to 100, the lowest since 1993."

Wolves can't live on hares in Denali. They aren't a primary prey. But in times of abundance, they can become a significant alternate food source and help support population numbers.

The same can be said of salmon. In a pioneering study, Adams found salmon a key component of the diet of wolves in the northwest corner of the park. The salmon, chums and silvers, come up the Kuskokwim River. Kusko salmon runs have been struggling in recent years. Could that have contributed to wolf declines? Possibly, Adams said, but nobody is studying that at the moment.
Sheep ewes, meanwhile, are the easiest targets for the wolves that hunt sheep.

Today, the Park Service is dead-set against any kind of wolf control in Alaska parks. But from 1930 to 1934, it conducted wolf control in Denali to protect sheep. The practice was stopped in 1935 but resumed in 1936 under the guise of gathering wolf carcasses for "food habit studies.'' That continued until 1938.

By then, the Park Service was caught in much the same place as the Alaska Board of Game is these days. The Camp Fire Club of America, a powerful group at the time and one that helped create the park, wanted wolves exterminated. Some of the country's top scientists, meanwhile, wanted all parks left alone as sanctuaries for predators in a nation where predators were under attack on all fronts.
The Park Service decided to try to extract itself from the middle of the controversy by commissioning a scientific study. It called in scientist Adolph Murie, whose studies in the park eventually conceded that wolves killed a lot of sheep but argued that the wolves and sheep existed in a state of "balance.'' It was the first shot at the "balance of nature'' theory that would eventually gain many adherents, but the theory didn't stick at the time.

"Murie was sent back to the park in August 1945 for a month and found that the sheep population had declined from about 2,700 in 1941 to about 500,” according to the book "The Wolves of Denali." “He recommended killing 10 to 15 wolves in sheep range and continuing wolf control until sheep increased.''

Wolf control in the park resumed and continued until 1952. The balance-of-nature theory, meanwhile, continued to gain ground and hit its zenith in 1970 when Mech in published an article in Reader's Digest, then the most popular publication in the country, titled "In Defense of the Wolf.'' It argued that wolves and their prey existed in a state of equilibrium beneficial to both. Years later, having watching big swings in predatory and prey in natural ecosystem, Mech would reject that theory, recognizing that in nature the balance is more like a teeter-totter.

There has, however, been some interesting research done since the 1970s, including some by the late Gordon Haber, a controversial fan of wolves and Denali biologist who died in a plane crash while observing the animals. Haber posited the idea of a multiple-equilibrium theory, wherein predators and their prey could exist in fairly static numbers for long periods of time. Imagine a fat guy on one end of the teeter-totter and small child on the other. There are some scientists who ponder whether the Denali ecoystem might fixed in what Haber would have called a "lower equilibrium'' -- even if few are willing to talk about it publically.

'Vigorous and viable' 

As Mech and the others observed in the book, "Wolves are not unusually abundant in Denali, but the population is both vigorous and viable.''

The same could be said of the main wolf prey in the park -- moose, Dall sheep and caribou. Adams spent a long time studying the Denali caribou herd, which once numbered over 20,000 animals. It dropped to 10,000 a couple decades before Alaska statehood, but stayed stable at that level for almost 20 years.

Then it began another decline, and the herd was down to about 1,000 animals in the 1970s. A slow rebound began late in that decade, and the herd eventually grew to more than 3,100. Adams, who was studying the caribou for part of that period, hung around Denali thinking he might get to witness a rebound. It never happened.

The herd peaked at 3,700 in 1990 and then began a decline. It now numbers 1,760, according to the park service. It appears to have plateaued in a range of 1,500 to 3,000 and become stuck there. Adams now wonders what it will take for the population to again blossom.

Moose are in a similar situation. Populations are generally low -- less than half a moose per square mile -- and stable with one key exception. Moose numbers spike up in the northeast corner of the park near the boundary with state lands where wolf trapping takes place.

The bigger moose population there may be luring wolves within range of trappers. It could also be that the bigger population of moose there is allowing moose to spread out into the rest of the park and provide food for more wolves.

Undoubtedly, interest groups in and out of the 49th state will go on fighting over whether to save the wolves or kill the wolves in a struggle that seems as unresolvable as reaching peace in the Mideast. One side thinks it unfair that an area the size of Denali is closed to the hunting and trapping of wolves. The other thinks it outrageous that viewable wolves -- the animals that don't naturally shy away from people -- might run the risk of getting caught in a trap if they leave the park.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lawsuit Launched to Challenge Feds' Capture of Endangered Wolves That Enter Arizona or New Mexico

For Immediate Release, December 26, 2012
Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Lawsuit Launched to Challenge Feds' Capture of Endangered Wolves That Enter Arizona or New Mexico
SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s decision to grant itself a “recovery permit” to live-capture endangered wolves that may enter New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico or the Rocky Mountains. Mexico recently released nine Mexican gray wolves near the U.S. border in the Sierra Madre, and wolves from the northern Rocky Mountains could make their way south at any time.

“It’s fantastic that Mexico’s working to restore wolves to its northern wilds,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s wolf specialist. “And of course, these wolves in northern Mexico don’t recognize political boundaries. If they’re able to set up a home range that crosses the border, it would be tragic and wrong for Fish and Wildlife officials to then capture them and snatch them out of that home.”

Captured wolves will be placed into the captive-breeding program, returned to where they came from, or relocated into the Mexican wolf recovery area. Right now the only Mexican wolves in the two states are in the “Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,” an area between Interstate 40 and Interstate 10 where wolves are considered an experimental, non-essential population and therefore enjoy fewer safeguards. But any wolves entering from Mexico or the north will be fully endangered. The Center’s notice argues that Fish and Wildlife failed to give the public an opportunity to comment, conduct an environmental review, or show that capturing wolves would enhance the recovery of wolves.  
“Without any review or public notice, the Fish and Wildlife Service has given itself autocratic authority to capture fully endangered wolves,” said Robinson. “Taking wolves out of perfectly good habitat makes no sense. We need to recover wolves to the Sierra Madre and Sky Islands, as well as the mountains of northern New Mexico.”
Over the past month, the Center has filed two other lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Mexican wolf — one to compel reform of the stalled reintroduction program in the United States and another to give protection to the Mexican wolf as a subspecies, or distinct population, of the more widespread gray wolf, deserving of its own, modern recovery plan.

The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest, most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America, and the most imperiled. Trapping and poisoning by the Fish and Wildlife Service, in both the United States and Mexico, prior to the 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act reduced Mexican wolves to just seven remaining animals. These were caught alive and bred in captivity, enabling future reintroduction efforts in the two countries.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Image of the Day

Happiness is a happy wolf!

Judge merges lawsuits challenging Wyo. wolf plan

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
  • File-In this August 2012 file photo provided by Wolves of the Rockies a wolf pack stands on a hillside of the Lamar Canyon  in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. A federal judge in Washington D.C. has merged two lawsuits filed by coalitions of environmental groups challenging the federal government’s recent transfer of wolf management authority to the state of Wyoming. Photo: Wolves Of The Rockies,File / AP
    File-In this August 2012 file photo provided by Wolves of the Rockies a wolf pack stands on a hillside of the Lamar Canyon in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. A federal judge in Washington D.C. has merged two lawsuits filed by coalitions of environmental groups challenging the federal government’s recent transfer of wolf management authority to the state of Wyoming. Photo: Wolves Of The Rockies,File / AP

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has merged two lawsuits filed by separate coalitions of groups challenging the federal government's recent transfer of wolf management authority to the state of Wyoming.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson consolidated the lawsuits Friday. The lead group in one lawsuit is the Defenders of Wildlife, while the lead in the other is the Humane Society of the United States.
A third similar lawsuit filed by another coalition is pending in federal court in Denver.
All the groups generally argue Wyoming's management plan, which allows wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state, is insufficient to protect the animals.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, however, said last week in an interview with The Associated Press that he regards the state's takeover of wolf management from the federal government in October as one of the state's major accomplishments of the year. He credited U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar with working with the state to turn over wolf management.

"I understand that there's a certain segment of the population that doesn't like the plan, and there are those who do like the plan," Mead said. "But just being able to work on a difficult issue and, in my mind, move forward is a very positive thing, because that's not always easily done with the federal government."

Wyoming's wolf-management plan allows sport hunting for wolves outside Yellowstone and gives wolves no protection in the rest of the state.

As of Friday, trophy hunters had killed roughly 39 wolves out of a maximum set limit of 52 in a zone around Yellowstone. The state says roughly another 20 wolves have been killed elsewhere where wolves are unprotected.

Wyoming's plan pledges to maintain at least 10 breeding pairs of wolves and at least 100 animals outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation, in the central part of the state.
Mead said he believes Wyoming's wolf hunt went well this fall.

"It was a conservative number in terms of the wolves in the trophy game area," Mead said. "It looks like at the end of the season here in a few days, we probably won't even meet that quota. So there hasn't been this sort of doomsday, 'we're going to kill all the wolves,' in fact it appears to me we probably won't even meet the quota we set, which was very conservative."

The federal government reintroduced wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. Wildlife managers say the state had about 300 wolves outside of Yellowstone, where no hunting is allowed, when state management began.

WildEarth Guardians, one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit pending in Denver, last week filed a petition with federal officials calling for creating a no-shooting zone around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks to reduce the killing of wolves.

Lawyers for both the federal government and the state have asked the judge to transfer the lawsuits from Washington, D.C., to the federal courts in Wyoming, a move the groups who filed lawsuits are resisting. Attempts to reach lawyers for the groups were unsuccessful Monday.