Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ice Age Coyotes Were Supersized Compared to Coyotes Today, Fossil Study Reveals

This is a modern coyote and a Pleistocene coyote skull. (Credit: Original artwork by Doyle V. Trankina)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2012) — Coyotes today are pint-sized compared to their Ice Age counterparts, finds a new fossil study. Between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago -- a mere blink of an eye in geologic terms -- coyotes shrunk to their present size. The sudden shrinkage was most likely a response to dwindling food supply and changing interactions with competitors, rather than warming climate, researchers say.

In a paper appearing this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers studied museum collections of coyote skeletons dating from 38,000 years ago to the present day. It turns out that between 11,500 and 10,000 years ago, at the end of a period called the Pleistocene, coyotes in North America suddenly got smaller.

"Pleistocene coyotes probably weighed between 15-25 kilograms, and overlapped in size with wolves. But today the upper limit of a coyote is only around 10-18 kilograms," said co-author Julie Meachen of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

"Within just over a thousand years, they evolved into the smaller coyotes that we have today," she added.
What caused coyotes to shrink? Several factors could explain the shift. One possibility is warming climate, the researchers say. Between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago, global average annual temperatures quickly rose by an average of six degrees. "Things got a long warmer, real fast," Meachen said.

Large animals are predicted to fare worse than small animals when temperatures warm up. To find out if climate played a role in coyotes' sudden shrinkage, Meachen and co-author Joshua Samuels of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon measured the relationship between body size and temperature for dozens of Ice Age coyotes, and for coyotes living today, using thigh bone circumference to estimate body size for each individual.

But when they plotted body size against coldest average annual temperature for each animal's location, they found no relationship, suggesting that climate change was unlikely to be the main factor.
If the climate hypothesis is true, then we should see similar changes in other Ice Age carnivores too, Meachen added. The researchers also studied body size over time in the coyote's larger relative, the wolf, but they found that wolf body sizes didn't budge. "We're skeptical that climate change at the end of the Pleistocene was the direct cause of the size shift in coyotes," Meachen said.

Another possibility is that humans played a role. In this view, coyotes may have shrunk over time because early human hunters -- believed to have arrived in North America around 13,000 years ago -- selectively wiped out the bigger coyotes, or the animals coyotes depended on for food, leaving only the small to survive. Stone tool butchery marks on Ice Age animal bones would provide a clue that human hunters had something to do with it, but the fossil record has turned up too few examples to test the idea. "Human hunting as the culprit is really hard to dispute or confirm because there's so little data," Meachen said.

A third, far more likely explanation, is dwindling food supply and changing interactions with competitors, the researchers say. Just 1000 years before the sudden shrinkage in coyotes, dozens of other species were wiped out in a wave of extinctions that killed off many large mammals in North America. Until then, coyotes lived alongside a great diversity of large prey, including horses, sloths, camels, llamas and bison. "There were not only a greater diversity of prey species, but the species were also more abundant. It was a great food source," Meachen said.

While coyotes survived the extinctions, there were fewer large prey left for them to eat. Smaller individuals that required less food to survive, or could switch to smaller prey, would have had an advantage.
Before the die-off, coyotes also faced stiff competition for food from other large carnivores, including a bigger version of wolves living today called the dire wolf. After bigger carnivores such as dire wolves went extinct, coyotes would have no longer needed their large size to compete with these animals for food.
The findings are important because they show that extinction doesn't just affect the animals that disappear, the researchers say -- it has long-term effects on the species that remain as well.

"In a time of increasing loss of biodiversity, understanding the degree to which species interactions drive evolutionary change is important," says Saran Twombly, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Environmental Biology, which supported the research.
"Species interactions are delicate balancing acts. When species go extinct, we see the signature of the effects on the species that remain," Meachen said.

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is a nonprofit science center dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution. Funded by the National Science Foundation, NESCent is jointly operated by Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. For more information about research and training opportunities at NESCent, visit

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. J. A. Meachen, J. X. Samuels. Evolution in coyotes (Canis latrans) in response to the megafaunal extinctions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113788109

National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) (2012, February 27). Ice Age coyotes were supersized compared to coyotes today, fossil study reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/02/120227152721.htm

WY Residents struggle with fate of wolves

While some advocate for hazing, biologist says technique usually doesn’t work.

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
February 29, 2012

A Jackson wolf advocate would support a federal plan to kill wolves that have roamed a Jackson neighborhood, provided the animals seem too comfortable around humans.
The decision should hinge on whether the wolves are habituated to people, said Chris Colligan, Wyoming wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Monday they would use a helicopter and tranquilizer darts to track and capture three or four wolves that have approached homes in Indian Trails and nearby subdivisions. Once the animals are captured, they’ll likely be given a lethal injection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf manager Mike Jimenez said.
Colligan likened the situation to that of habituated wolves Yellowstone National Park wildlife managers have killed for approaching people.

“We’re lucky to live in an area with robust elk populations,” Colligan said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that we have wolves, bears and mountain lions that follow these animals.
“At the same time, it’s not good for wolves to be in a subdivision,” he said.
Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said she’s disappointed that Fish and Wildlife Service managers haven’t tried hazing the wolves away.
“These wolves haven’t actually done something yet,” she said. “Why hasn’t anything been attempted?”

Wolves too close for comfort

Tools such as rubber buckshot could help instill fear of humans in the wolves, she said. Hazing has been successful in chasing wolves from residential areas near Ketchum, Idaho, she said.
“You just can’t let them lose that fear of people, because that’s what’s protecting them the most,” Stone said.
Hazing in these types of situations is rarely successful, Jimenez said Monday. The wolves learn to stay out of range.

Residents of subdivisions where the wolves were seen say they’re sad the predators will be killed, but most said they understand why Jimenez made the decision to err on the side of human safety. Wolf attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. Most of the attacks that do occur involve wolves that are habituated to humans.

James Peck posted video footage on YouTube of the wolves traveling within roughly 30 feet of his home in the Indian Trails subdivision.
Peck said the wolves seemed to be using his property to travel from one open space to another.
“They appeared to avoid humans,” he said. “They’re weren’t sniffing around the deck.”

The only reason the wolves got as close as they did was to cross a bridge near Peck’s home, he said.
“They could have easily scooted right down the driveway near my house,” he said. “Instead they veered away into the deep snow,” to avoid getting close.
Still, Peck said he trusts Jimenez to make the right decision.

Managers know best
“If the goal is the long-term recovery of wolves, then I think they need to avoid these kinds of public relations nightmares [such as] if a wolf jumps onto somebody’s porch and rips somebody’s dog to pieces,” Peck said.
“There are some people who say at least give them a chance [to be relocated and] to die like wolves,” he said. “I don’t know whether that’s realistic or not.”

Most suitable wolf habitat in the region is already occupied, Jimenez said.
Still, attempting to capture and relocate the animals resonated with some of Peck’s neighbors.
“I can see that there’s some danger in having them in the neighborhoods, but I can’t see why they can’t relocate them,” said Fran Measom, who also lives in Indian Trails.

Jackson resident Tenley Thompson has watched one of the wolves, a white, radio-collared male, for about five years. The wolf, dubbed “Old White” is “a cool guy,” Thompson said. “It’s unfortunate the way it’s worked out.”
Old White is probably 6 or 7 years old, weighs about 110 pounds, and comes from the Pinnacle Peak Pack, a group that spends a lot of time on the National Elk Refuge, Thompson said.

“He’s really a wallflower and he’s never had much success with the lady wolves,” she said. “He usually sits to one side and watches the others frolic around.”
The other wolves likely followed Old White in search of females, Thompson said. Their forays into neighborhoods may end once breeding season is over, she said.

Colligan said residents in areas with lots of wildlife have a responsibility to learn how to avoid conflicts.
“People in the area need to be proactive in keeping their dogs on leash, keeping pet food stored properly and not feeding large ungulates,” he said. “They can all draw wolves in.”
“We don’t think it’s appropriate for healthy wolf management to have wolves expanding into housing developments,” Jimenez said. “We’ve been watching it for a month and what we see is that it’s progressing in the wrong direction.”

“They travel north and they come back through that development,” Jimenez said. “I’ve had people call me and saying that they’re walking within... 10 feet of their mud room window. They’re seen at 10:30 in the morning.
“They’re around kids, they’re around dogs,” he said. We think these wolves are becoming habituated to people and houses and that is not a good sign.”

Weather will likely delay using a helicopter to capture and kill the animals, Jimenez said Tuesday.
Colligan said residents in areas with lots of wildlife have a responsibility to learn how to avoid conflicts with predators.
“People in the area need to be proactive in keeping their dogs on leash, keeping pet food stored properly and not feeding large ungulates,” he said. “They can all draw wolves in.”

The situation may repeat itself.
“When a pack is removed, new wolves will move in,” Stone said. “I’m sorry that we weren’t able to get out and help sooner.”


California wolf trek shows importance of wilderness

Heart Lake
Heart Lake Inventoried Roadless Area in northern California's Shasta County has been recommended by the U.S. Forest Service as a potential wilderness area. California's lone wolf, OR7, passed through this area last week, proving its suitability as a wildlife habitat and demonstrating the need for connected wilderness corridors all across the continent. (Gordon Johnson)

The incredible ramble of California’s only wolf shows more than determination, as OR7 has trotted more than 1,000 miles to look for a mate and a new home. It also demonstrates the necessity of wilderness areas that serve as safe corridors for migrating wildlife.

As OR7 -- also known as Journey -- wandered southward from his original home with the Imnaha pack in Northeast Oregon, he has used his own wolf smarts to find the wildest territory to allow him passage far from humans. That has taken him on a trek through many areas long identified by scientists and citizens alike as wilderness worth preserving as parks and and so-called “green corridors” for wildlife. The wolf, being tracked via a radio collar, has proved those corridors actually work, and has given them his stamp of approval.

“If you look at the map of where Journey has gone, he’s really hit some of the best wild places,” says Laurel Williams, deputy conservation director for Southern California at the California Wilderness Coalition. “And many of them are not yet protected, formally, as wilderness. It just really speaks to how important these places are for such an amazing creature and that we should be working to protect them.”

In a release distributed by the Coalition on Tuesday, a map of OR7’s trek through Oregon and California shows the wolf spending days in the incredible Eagle Cap Wilderness, then winding south through areas that have been identified as proposed wilderness areas but do not yet have official designation, including the proposed Hidden Springs and Crater Lake wilderness areas in Oregon and the proposed Captain Jack, Ahjumawi, and McDonald Peak wilderness areas in California.

Some national groups, most notably the Rewilding Institute, have mapped and proposed continent-wide corridor planning for years. However, corridors often remain somewhat abstract until a creature like OR7 comes along to show how they’re all strung together.

Williams points out that many wilderness areas in California were identified in 2001 during her group's Citizens Wilderness Inventory. During that process, local wilderness advocates and people who care about the big wild joined with the coalition to help identify and map large chunks of national forest, lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and other habitat that would be best preserved as wilderness.
“We haven’t had wolves in California for such a long time. This is a unique opportunity to see on the ground what’s important. We don’t have active legislation for these places right now. We’re just hoping someone will step up and bring these places into protection,” Williams added.


Image of the Day

wolf portrait by jbtello2
wolf portrait, a photo by jbtello2 on Flickr.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Image of the Day

Would you, COULD you hunt this creature?

Over 450 wolves shot dead in Idaho, Montana to date

Jeremy Hance
February 27, 2012

Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.

Less than a year after being pulled off the Endangered Species Act (ESA), gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the western U.S. are facing an onslaught of hunting. The hunting season for wolves has just closed in Montana with 160 individuals killed, around 75 percent of 220-wolf kill quota for the state. In neighboring Idaho, where 318 wolves have been killed so far by hunters and trappers, the season extends until June. In other states—Oregon, Washington, California, and Utah—wolf hunting is not currently allowed, and the species is still under federal protection in Wyoming.

In Idaho fourteen wolves were also killed by the government using helicopters in a bid to prop up elk herds. Legislators in the state are also mulling a recent proposal to allow aerial hunting and the use of live bait to kill wolves that have harassed livestock or pets. Republican and sheep rancher Jeff Siddoway, who introduced the legislation, said he would have no problem using his dog as live bait.

Wolves are hugely controversial in the region: ranchers point to them as a cause for livestock mortalities, while hunters blame them for a decline in elk. Biologists, however, say the elk decline may be due to a combination of drought, hunting by people, and the return of wolves. By nature wolves prey on young, old, and weak animals, and likely have little overall impact on a healthy herd.

In fact, a recent study study in Montana's Bitterroot Mountains found that wolves were not a primary driver behind elk mortalities. Examining 36 elk calf kills, the study determined that mountain lions were responsible for thirteen (36 percent), black bears killed four (11 percent), wolves also killed four (11 percent), five died of natural causes (13 percent), and ten mortalities were due to unknown causes (27 percent).

However, as top predators, wolves have a big impact on elk and other prey's behavior, which results in massive implications for the health of an ecosystem. Long-term studies in Yellowstone National Park have recorded notable changes since the return of wolves after a 70-year absence. The findings have shown that wolves are key to a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

Research has found that by keeping elk on the run and in hiding, wolves protect plants and trees that had long been over-browsed, saving some species from local extinction. The presence of wolves allowed trees to grow up along rivers for the first time in decades in Yellostone, protecting against erosion and cooling rivers through shade. In turn, the riverside trees allowed for the return of beavers, which had nearly vanished from Yellowstone. Through dam-building beavers created new habitat for fish. With more trees and shrub cover, songbird populations rose. Scavengers from bear to ravens were aided by wolf-kills. In all, biodiversity and wildlife abundance blossomed.

Less than 2,000 wolves are currently found in seven states of the western U.S., the bulk of them in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. California has only one. By contrast 3,000 wolves are found in northern Minnesota alone.


Lone wolf in California inspires conservationist push

(image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A lone gray wolf known as OR-7 has made California home for only two months, but environmental groups on Monday sought to make it easier for the predator's species to reestablish a foothold in the state after an absence of more than 80 years.

The Center for Biological Diversity and three other conservation groups sent a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to protect gray wolves as an endangered species under state law and to develop a plan to protect them.

Wolf populations for several decades have grown in parts of the United States under government protection, and environmentalists believe a similar rebound could occur in California. But, as in other states, ranchers and hunters have complained about livestock and big game animals coming under attack from wolves.

The federal government in recent years has found wolf populations in some areas had recovered enough to no longer require protections under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Wolves were delisted in states such as Idaho and Montana, where officials last year opened regulated hunting of them.

Before OR-7 arrived in California from Oregon in late December, no gray wolf had been known to roam in the state since the last, an old and emaciated animal, was killed in 1924, said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

But conservationists were optimistic that more wolves could quickly join OR-7 in California.

"With growing wolf populations in Oregon and Washington, it's inevitable wolves will be moving back into California in the near future," Greenwald said.

Under the petition from the environmental groups, if state officials determine that the species merits endangered species listing they will have two years to develop a protection plan, Greenwald said.

A spokeswoman for the California Fish and Game Commission said the agency had not officially received the petition and could not comment on it.

Greenwald said the petition was mailed on Monday, which marks the start of the application process.


The gray wolf is already protected in California under the federal government's Endangered Species Act, which prohibits hunting of the animal.

But the federal government has not developed a plan specifically for gray wolves in California, which is what the environmental groups are seeking from state officials.

Among other things, a plan would set recovery targets and create guidelines to protect gray wolves even when they pose a threat to livestock, Greenwald said.

The state has over 500,000 heads of cattle in open range, said Stevie Ipsen, spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen's Association. The organization is aware of environmental groups' efforts to gain greater protections for wolves in California.

"It's something we would be watching very closely, and potentially something we would be opposed to," Ipsen said.

California Department of Fish and Game officials have been keeping a close watch over OR-7 since the roughly 3-year-old animal arrived in the northern part of the state.

The animal left a wolf pack in Oregon last fall, crossed several highways and set foot in California on December 28, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

The animal has a radio collar that has allowed biologists to track its movements, which so far have been in the northern part of the state. In recent days, it has headed closer to the border with Oregon. Members of the public have also kept tabs on OR-7 through Internet updates, and it has developed a following of sorts.

There are about 6,000 to 7,000 wolves in the United States, compared to a population of less than 1,300 when the federal Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, Greenwald said.

Before that, wolves were hunted to the edge of extinction.

The environmental groups that joined the petition sent to California officials were Big Wildlife, Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

(Additional reporting By Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Peter Bohan)


New Red Wolf Cam!

The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) is home to 25 wolves! Our best known residents are the WCC Ambassador gray wolves Atka, Alawa, and Zephyr. Although the six additional wolves on exhibit are far more elusive than the Ambassador pack, everyone can enjoy observing the natural behavior of our red wolf family of four with the help of our red wolf WOLFCAM!

Between January and May, only two of the wolves will be visible, five-year-old M1483 and his mate, six-year-old F1397. Their two one-year-old sons, M1803 and m1804, will be out of view during breeding season as they have been moved from the main enclosure to ensure that their parents can get every opportunity to breed without distraction.

WOLFCAM watchers were treated to some VERY encouraging romantic behavior from M1483 and F1397 last year, if you see anything interesting, please let us know on the WCC Facebook Page or by emailing Maggie at Enjoy!

To learn more about this red wolf pack, please click here.

To see the Red Wolf Cam, please scroll to the bottom of this page.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Snowmobile tracks offer wolves access to threatened caribou


The Valhalla Wilderness Society says that snowmobilers may be creating "sidewalks" in the snow that give wolves easier access to the threatened species

Snowmobilers buzzing through mountain caribou habitat in southeastern B.C. are giving wolves easier access to the threatened species, a director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society says.
“Predators have a sidewalk up to that habitat,” said Craig Pettitt, whose concerns arise from a recent B.C. Ministry of Environment report which says there is rampant snowmobile use in the critical winter habitat of the south Purcells herd, near Cranbrook.

Mountain caribou, an ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is a threatened species in southeastern British Columbia, and it is believed that the south Purcell’s herd’s numbers have dropped to 15.
According to the Ministry of Environment website, government has closed some areas to snowmobile use where mountain caribou are found since 1999 to support population recovery, but Pettitt says most of the closures are only partial, and allow snowmobiles to use roads and cutblocks in surrounding areas.

“This allows the machines to pack down the snow over extensive areas, and the packed snow gives wolves easy access to caribou areas,” Pettitt said, adding that many of the closures are also voluntary.
In January and February — prime snowmobiling months — pregnant caribou cows could be driven from their territory by snowmobilers during a crucial time for the herd, says Pettitt.

Planned increases to the legally restricted areas are expected to help protect the incoming herd, but a lot of the best feeding territory for caribou hasn’t been protected, Pettitt says, with snowmobilers favouring the same high slopes where tree lichen grows — a nearly-exclusive staple in the mountain caribou’s diet.
In 15 research flights over the south Purcells from 2008 through 2010, ministry researchers recorded snowmobile activity in 71 restricted basins, according to the report titled Winter Recreational Activities in Mountain Caribou Habitat.

The report comes as the Ministry of Environment is planning to bring 40 Mountain caribou from Dease Lake in northwestern B.C. to the south Purcell Mountains to boost the south Purcell herd. The hope is that the new animals brought from the north will give the Purcell herd a chance at long-term survival.
Twenty caribou are scheduled to arrive by truck in mid-March, followed by another 20 in 2013, said Steve Gordon, strategic resource manager, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, which is leading the $200,000 transfer.

Local and provincial snowmobile associations have been cooperative, he said. “The clubs have stepped up in terms of their stewardship.”
However, the ministry report said that in spite of cooperation by the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club, which posted closure signage and promoted awareness among its members, the problem of snowmobilers using restricted areas remains.

Conservation officers will issue a ticket to offenders who don’t comply, and planned aerial surveillance by the ministry should help convince snowmobilers to stick to the permitted areas, Gordon said.
As well, some of the south Purcells herd will be outfitted with GPS collars which will notify researchers if they start shifting into habitat that isn’t protected, or if they get killed by predators such as wolves — which could face culls if they start killing the new caribou. Some wolves will also be fitted with GPS collars to monitor the situation.

“We’ll know where [the caribou] are going,” Gordon said in reference to the GPS collars, noting that changes can be made to the boundaries of any restricted areas if “overlap” with snowmobilers becomes a problem.
The province’s population of mountain caribou has dropped from around 2,500 before 1995, to around 1,850 today, due to a loss of habitat, food supply, and booming wolf and cougar populations.


Images of the Day (Everybody go "AWWWW")

February 21, 2012

Three Little Wolf Pups 


Maned Wolves at Sweden's Nordens Ark Zoo had two pups in late January; one male and two females. The zoo's breeding pair is a key pair in the Maned Wolf breeding program worldwide, making this birth especially important for conservation. Maned Wolf pups are born all black, and gradually change color as they grow older. By around six months of age, they'll be nearly completely reddish brown. The pups will remain close to their mother in their den for now, but by spring visitors should have a chance to see them in person.
Photo credit: Tom Svensson/Nordens Ark


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Image of the Day

20110803_0052 by Joshua Garay
20110803_0052, a photo by Joshua Garay on Flickr.

Federal wildlife agents shoot 14 wolves

Posted Feb. 24, 2012
LEWISTON, Idaho — Federal wildlife agents report they have shot and killed 14 wolves from helicopters in northern Idaho as part of an effort to help restore the elk population in the Lolo zone, an area long considered home to the best elk herds and habitat in the state.

The three-day operation was carried out earlier this month at a cost of $22,500 by agents with the USDA Wildlife Services and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Wildlife managers believe that a sustained reduction in wolf numbers will allow the Lolo elk herd, which has been severely depressed since the mid-1990s, to rebound. State wildlife officials have long had a goal of reducing wolf numbers in the area along the upper Lochsa and North Fork of the Clearwater rivers, once renowned for its elk hunting.

“We’d like to see one of Idaho’s premier elk populations recover as much as possible,” said Jim Unsworth, deputy director of Fish and Game.

The wolf population in the area has also been diminished by hunters and trappers in recent months. Through Wednesday, the state reported sportsmen had taken 22 wolves from the Lolo, while another six wolves were shot from helicopters last spring, bringing the total of known wolf kills to 42.

Before the start of the hunting season, the Lolo zone wolf population was estimated at 75-100, with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana.

Biologists said the biggest problem for Lolo elk herds was a long-term change in the habitat. But state officials also blame growing numbers of bears and mountain lions. Hunting seasons on those predators were liberalized and managers expected elk numbers to slowly climb. But as the herds continued to shrink, blame was placed on the increasing number of wolves moving into the area.

Recent studies by Fish and Game researchers now show wolves are the primary cause of death in female elk in the Lolo and of calves more than 6 months old. Researchers have said the habitat is capable of supporting far more than the 2,000 elk estimated to be in the area.

Statewide, Fish and Game officials report that hunters and trappers had killed 318 wolves since the public hunting season opened last fall. Most hunting and trapping seasons end March 31, but wolf hunting will be allowed in the Lolo and Selway zones through June.

The department has a goal of reducing the number of wolves in the state, but has not set a target population or limit.


Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 24 Feb 2012

A massive bull elk stands it ground in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.
Feds shoot down 14 wolves in the Lolo — Late Wednesday, the Idaho Fish and Game Department announced that 14 wolves in the Lolo zone of the Clearwater National Forest had been killed by federal agents. USDA Wildlife Services carried out the lethal removal in order to boost elk numbers in the region which have been declining since the mid-‘90s for a multitude of reasons.

Many Defenders’ members, supporters, and colleagues asked the Obama Administration to stay out of Idaho’s wolf reduction program, but instead Wildlife Services went in and killed these wolves without any public notice. It wasn’t until we saw Idaho Fish and Game’s press release that we learned of the action.

As our wolf expert Suzanne Stone pointed out in the Spokesman Review, the news was yet another indication that Idaho is acting too aggressively to reduce wolf numbers.
“That is our concern and it has been all along, that Idaho is focused entirely on killing wolves rather than preserving the species,” Stone said.
For more details, read our full press release
.Is OR7 heading home? — Journey’s journey in California may finally be coming to a close, at least for his first visit. Over the past week, OR7, the dispersing male wolf also known as “Journey,” has made his way north into Siskiyou County, near where he entered the state at the end of 2011. Yesterday, he came within five miles of the Oregon border. Will he stay in the Golden State or cross back into Oregon? Follow the latest updates from California Fish and Game to find out where he will go next.

Suzanne Stone was also in California this week serving as an adviser to state and federal wildlife managers on issues ranging from wolf dispersal and behavior to coexistence strategies and public outreach.  Soon, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to include northern California and the Pacific Northwest as a new wolf recovery zone.  We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Nonlethal works – Wally Sykes of Joseph, Oregon speaks the truth. In his letter to the editors of the Wallowa County Chieftain, Sykes counters the paper’s bald assertions with some verifiable results from the field:
Since wolves arrived in Wallowa County, no stock losses have occurred within turbo (electrified) fladry…Last year 11 miles of fladry were deployed, mostly to protect calving areas.
Fladry is the best protection, aside from human presence, for stock in pastures of around 160 acres or less, ideal for calving and temporary holding areas. In Idaho and Montana, some shepherds set up fladry every night, and have nearly stopped wolf predation. For a couple of months at a time, this stuff works. So do RAG boxes, activated by nearby collared wolves and programmable with a slew of sound effects.

The Chieftain is wrong about compensation too. Ten minutes’ research shows that all confirmed and probable losses in Oregon have been compensated at market value (half market for probables), not just “occasionally” as the Chieftain has it. Through last August, Defenders of Wildlife paid compensation and also funded much of the nonlethal methods. Now the Oregon taxpayer foots the bill.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Red Wolves Get a New Home (Video)

Image of the Day

Wildlife Service Kills 14 Wolves in the Lolo

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 

Stop the Idaho Aerial Wolf Slaughter Plan

BOISE, Idaho (Feb. 23, 2012) – Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced yesterday that it helped fund USDA Wildlife Services’ removal of 14 wolves in the Lolo zone of the Clearwater National Forest in northern Idaho. The federal action is part of an Idaho program to remove most wolves from a remote section of federal land in an attempt to boost elk numbers. An additional 28 wolves have been removed from this area through trapping, hunting, and previous aerial gunning.

Statewide, more than 400 wolves have been eliminated from Idaho’s population since the beginning of 2011. This represents a significant impact on the state’s wolf population, which was last estimated at 705 animals at the end of 2010. The participation of USDA Wildlife Services in state wildlife management is an inappropriate expansion of the federal role in non-endangered wildlife management under the Obama administration.

The following is a statement from Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife:

“It’s wrong to ask American taxpayers to subsidize the pointless killing of wolves in order to boost game populations. The removal of wolves in the Clearwater National Forest runs counter to science-based wildlife management and is an inappropriate use of limited resources that should be aimed at conserving wildlife. Hunters and trappers have already killed more than 20 wolves in the area in the last six months, and the season continues until the end of March. There’s no scientific evidence that the ecosystem is out of balance due to the return of wolves and thus no justification for having Wildlife Services kill more wolves to boost elk numbers.

“The decline of the Lolo elk herd was the result of multiple factors, including historic habitat changes, road-building, and over-hunting by humans. Killing wolves without addressing these other factors is misguided. Further, biologists do not have an accurate count of how many wolves are in the Lolo region, and Idaho has no formal plan in place to measure the impacts of killing wolves on the elk population. Targeting dozens of wolves could wipe most of them out of the area, defeating the purpose of restoring the species to its proper ecological role. Wolves are vital to maintaining nature’s balance and should not be eliminated so carelessly.

“Now that removal of wolves to boost elk herds has been allowed on the Clearwater National Forest, there’s nothing to stop wildlife managers from pursuing it elsewhere in the state. These actions validate our long-held concern that wolves were prematurely delisted based on inadequate state management plans that allow wolf numbers to be drastically reduced.

“It’s time to put a stop to these aggressive, unwarranted actions by the state. It’s also time for the Obama administration to stop allowing Wildlife Services to help states eliminate native wildlife.”

Read IDFG’s press release
Read more about Idaho’s aerial gunning plan
See Idaho Fish and Game’s wolf harvest information
Learn more about what Defenders is doing to protect wolves in the Northern Rockies

Predator-Prey Relationships Make Possible the Rich Biodiversity of Complex Ecosystems

Black bear with salmon. Scientists have improved their ability to model ecosystems by incorporating more information about predator/prey relationships into their computations. (Credit: © Clarence Alford / Fotolia)
ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2012) — As scientists warn that Earth is on the brink of a period of mass extinctions, they are struggling to identify ecosystem responses to environmental change. But to truly understand these responses, more information is needed about how Earth's staggering diversity of species originated.

Curiously, a vexing modeling mystery has stymied research on this topic: mathematical models have told us that complex ecosystems, such as jungles, deserts and coral reefs, in which species coexist and interact with another, cannot persist--even though they obviously do.

But now, Stefano Allesina and Si Tang, both of the University of Chicago, have solved that vexing modeling mystery, and have thereby laid the groundwork for improvements in the modeling of complex ecosystems to environmental change.

The researchers' work, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is published in this week's issue of Nature.

The tension between mathematical models of ecosystems and the existence of Earth's rich biodiversity was first exposed about 40 years ago by the development of a ground-breaking mathematical model that represented the relationship between ecosystem stability and diversity; the model was developed by Robert M. May of Oxford University.

According to May's model, ecosystems that harbor large numbers of interacting species would necessarily be extremely unstable--so unstable that even slight perturbations, such as variable weather and environmental conditions, would be enough to trigger massive extinctions within them. Therein lies a paradox: According to May's modeling, the persistence in nature of the complex ecosystems we observe should be exceedingly improbable.

Ever since May released his modeling results, scientists have been attempting to identify factors that enable species to persist despite the general tendency towards instability and extinctions highlighted by May's results. Now, in their Nature paper, Allesina and Tang explain why May's results do not accurately describe ecosystems in which "Eat or be eaten," relationships (predator/prey relationships) are prevalent. Allesina explains: "May's model assumes that any two species in a large ecological network interact with one another at random, and without any consideration of the specific type of interaction between them, whether it is a predator-prey relationship, a mutualistic relationship or a competitive relationship."

But in their recent research, Allesina and Tang modeled ecosystems in which species consume each other in addition to interacting with one another as competitors or mutualists. Their results explain why large numbers of species do, in fact, thrive instead of necessarily going extinct as predicted by May's model. This advance provides the foundation for the development of increasingly sophisticated analyses of ecosystem responses to environmental change.

Allesina believes that it is predator/prey relationships (not competitor or mutualistic relationships) that provide the necessary stability for almost infinite numbers of species to exist in ecosystems. They do so by keeping the size of species populations in check at supportable levels. Allesina explains, "When prey are high, predators increase and reduce the number of prey by predation. When predators are high, prey decrease and thus reduce the number of predators by starvation."

By contrast, mutualistic relationships may reinforce the growth of large populations and competitive relationships may depress population numbers to the point of ecological instability. Allesina says that May's model mixed various types of species interactions but could not represent these relationships accurately because of technical modeling constraints that he and Tang overcame.

"The results of Allesina and Tang's network analyses are important," says David Spiller, an NSF program director, "because they show that the stability properties of complex ecological systems are determined by the type of interaction among species (predation, competition, mutualism) and the strength of those interactions."

Allesina says that he and Tang intend to further improve their ecosystem model by embedding into it well-known interactions that exist between particular species. He also says that the insights gleaned through this study may be used to improve models of other types of networks that are unrelated to ecology, such as various types of gene regulatory networks and chemical reactions.

Remarkably, Allesina says that he and Tang cracked the biodiversity mystery without supercomputers or other high-tech instruments that are so frequently at the core of current biological discoveries: "We did the necessary calculations with just a pen and paper after finding a 1988 article on quantum physics that gave us the key to crack the problem."

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by National Science Foundation.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Stefano Allesina, Si Tang. Stability criteria for complex ecosystems. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature10832

National Science Foundation (2012, February 22). Predator-prey relationships make possible the rich biodiversity of complex ecosystems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 24, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/02/120222154633.htm

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Images of the Day (Yesterday & Today)

Europäischer Wolf 

Europäischer Wolf 

Why the rush to kill endangered wolves?

Why the rush to kill endangered wolves?
By Robert Klavins of Portland, Oregon. Robert is a Wildlife Advocate for Oregon Wild. Last June, Robert contributed "Pay up (and) the wolf gets it!"

There is a lot of bad news coming out of Salem and the state legislature on the environment these days. One deeply cynical ploy—taking health care in Oregon hostage to try and force more clear-cutting on state lands—has generated headlines and public outrage, but it isn’t the only attack on the environment this session. The worst may be HB 4158, a measure that would declare a “state of emergency” in Oregon in order to immediately exempt our state’s 29 wild gray wolves from state Endangered Species Act protections so they can be shot.

After exterminating wolves from Oregon in 1947 to pave the way for a more lucrative livestock industry, the Beaver State is now home to only 4 known packs.

In a state that prides ourselves on our conservation ethic and connection to the outdoors, the elimination of wolves in the last century is an environmental tragedy. Their recovery has the potential to be one of our greatest conservation success stories. But that won’t happen if the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) and their allies in Salem have their way.

In what’s become an annual affair, the OCA and the legislators who promote their agenda have introduced a wolf-kill bill and more tax breaks for their already heavily subsidized industry. In previous years, we’ve seen bills that would make poaching laws unenforceable or allow them to be killed if they get too near a structure. This year, rather than the Three Little Pigs bill, they’ve introduced the Chicken Little Bill.

HB 4158 is a hysterical piece of legislation, but not in a funny way. Not only does the bill threaten Oregon’s fragile wolf recovery, it sets a dangerous precedent for all wildlife. HB 4158 declares that the 29 wolves now residing in Oregon constitutes a “state of emergency”, and as a result immediately strips them of state Endangered Species Act protection. This would pave the way for members of the Imnaha Pack (or any other wolf pack in the state) to be shot despite their endangered status. In a bit of Orwellian double-speak, the original text of the bill declared that shooting wolves is the same as conserving them.

If passed, HB 4158 would set an awful precedent and open a Pandora’s box of copy-cat measures exempting other inconvenient species. Endangered salmon getting in the way of a plan to clear-cut forests? Declare a state of emergency! Protection for humpback whales restricting energy development on the coast? Emergency! Want to pave over an old-growth forest that contains spotted owls? Go to the legislature and declare an emergency!

Oregon’s state Endangered Species Act has long been known as a relatively weak law, especially when compared to national standards. But it does include the most fundamental protection – the state can’t purposely kill an endangered species. HB 4158 would change that.

It is important to put the wolf issue in perspective. Oregon is currently home to just 29 known wolves. On the other hand, we have approximately 1.3 million cows. In 2010, over 50,000 died before they made it to the slaughterhouse - lost to poisoning, bad weather, disease, domestic dogs, and even human thieves. Less than 3 dozen cows have been killed by wolves in the last 3 years. Yet during that time, the OCA has relentlessly pressured the state to kill wolves at every opportunity while rejecting offers to work on collaborative solutions with conservation groups.

They are badly out of step with the majority of Oregonians. Time and time again, the public has spoken out strongly in favor conserving and restoring our native wildlife, including gray wolves. With the state facing a major budget crisis and more than enough serious problems to address in the short session, is it really appropriate to interrupt the important business of the legislature to rush through such a controversial measure?

But more troubling than OCA’s relentless push to shoot more wildlife is the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources’ willingness to entertain such measures. Over the last several years, this committee – now co-chaired by Brian Clem and Sal Esquivel - has become known as the rubber stamp for anti-wildlife bills, earning it the dubious reputation as the committee where Oregon’s wildlife goes to die.

Thankfully, the Oregon Senate has been a more responsible body, and most of the recent anti-wildlife legislation has stopped there. But that hasn’t stopped the OCA from trying, and in the case of HB 4158, they appear to be going for broke. It is unclear if the Senate will stop this reckless legislation, and there is a very real chance that anti-environmental legislators will take some important legislation on healthcare, the environment, or assistance for low income children, hostage in order to advance the wolf-kill bill.

If that happens, it will be up to Governor Kitzhaber to decide whether or not to defend Oregon’s Endangered Species Act and the wildlife it protects. When it comes to Governor Kitzhaber’s legacy amongst those who value native fish and wildlife, this may be his most consequential decision yet.

When Congress passed legislation stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from wolves on the national stage, Governor Kitzhaber took a strong stand for Oregon’s values writing clearly to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that “this action erodes the integrity of the ESA”. Though HB 4158 functionally accomplishes the same thing on the state level, the Governor was more reticent when the livestock industry demanded state employees kill off the Imnaha Pack last year.

When Journey, the Imnaha Pack’s most famous son, became the first wolf in California in nearly a century, the news went global. His epic 1,000-mile journey was celebrated as a conservation triumph possible only because of landmark environmental laws like the ESA. It was not lost on conservationists that his travels took him to within miles of where Oregon’s last wolf was killed.

Earlier this week, Journey’s brother – OR-9 – swam the Snake River and became the 285th wolf killed in that state since congress stripped them of their federal protections in the budget rider derided by Governor Kitzhaber. The poacher walked away with no more than a warning for illegally killing the wolf, and Butch Otter seized the moment to mock Oregonians outraged by the slaughter.

So what will be the future for the Imnaha Pack and Oregon’s wolves? Will we celebrate the story of Journey by standing up to those responsible for eliminating wolves in the first place? Or will we look to Idaho and repeat the mistakes of the past?

Mollie Beattie – the first woman to head the US Fish & Wildlife Service once said “What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself”. The same could be said for a state. And the choice is at hand.


Proposed Idaho legislation could let ranchers use dogs as live bait to kill wolves

Feb 20, 2012 
KUSA - Dogs could soon be used to lure wolves in Idaho as an effort to kill off the wolves that attack livestock. Idaho Senate Bill 1305, introduced by State Sen. Jeff Siddoway (R-Terreton), faced the Senate Resources and Environmental Committee for a hearing Monday.

Wolves were protected by the Endangered Species Act until December 2011. Wolves are now off that list because their population in North America has improved. However, their removal from the endangered species list makes it no longer illegal to kill a wolf.

"We killed wolves, we reintroduced wolves, and now they've been removed from the Endangered Species Act," Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Colorado-Boulder, said. "So there's a real ethical dilemma here. You kill animals and you bring them back and then you kill them again and so it's a waste of time, a lot of person power and money."

Siddoway, who proposed the Wolf Depredation Control bill, is a sheep rancher. The bill would amend existing Idaho laws relating to the control of wolves and would give more freedom to ranchers.

Under the measure, if a wolf killed livestock, the rancher could hunt down the wolf and kill it without a permit within 30 days of the livestock attack. Bekoff has studied coyotes for years and says it takes a long time for a person to be able to reliably identify a wolf or coyote that they've seen.

"It's going to result in mass killing of wolves because people will say, 'Well, the wolf came in and I just killed the wolf who came in,' but they'll have no evidence of that at all," Bekoff said.

The proposed legislation would allow ranchers to use a number of different ways to kill the wolves, like using live bait to bring the wolf to a particular area to be killed. Domestic dogs, sheep and goats are some of the examples cited of what could be used as live bait.

"From a dog's perspective, being used as bait would be a terrifying experience," Bekoff said. "They would know that there's danger out there. It would be terrifying and, physiologically, it could kill them. It's known that animals under these conditions lose weight, they stop eating, just imagine yourself being used as bait."
Members of Idaho's livestock industry believe the bill is needed to control the predators.

Many ranchers at the hearing Monday supported the bill, saying they've lost thousands of dollars worth of cattle from wolves.

"I applaud this bill, the Idaho Wool Growers Association certainly is in support of this," Harry Soulen, Idaho sheep and cattle rancher, said. "We need all the tools out there that are available to us to hopefully curtail some of our losses."

The legislation would also allow ranchers to use a number of different ways to kill the wolves, including the use of night-vision scopes to shoot the wolves and even the use of an airplane to shoot the animals from the air.

As it stands now in Idaho, an animal that is killed by a wolf has to be verified by state officials before any action can take place.

Because the legislation faced only a hearing Monday, there was no vote on it. The committee will take this bill up again on Wednesday.

"I think this bill could pass in the state of Idaho which is notorious for killing wolves," Bekoff said. "I'm holding my breath that it won't but in some ways after reading some of the comments in the newspaper articles about it, and just seeing the zeal with which these legislators are going after it, I think it's got a good chance of passing."


Mexico Wolf Reintroduction Off To Rocky Start

Posted: 02/21/2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves to a mountain range just south of the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an effort to re-establish the endangered species is off to a rocky start.

Correspondence between Mexican wildlife officials and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Tuesday that four out of the five wolves released by Mexico's Environment Department last October are dead from poisoning.

Despite the deaths, supporters of wolf reintroduction in the American Southwest are still hoping releases in Mexico can provide a genetic boost to a small population of wolves in New Mexico and Arizona.

"They've been working for decades for this reintroduction so obviously this is setback, but my assumption and hope is that they will continue and make it successful," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an American group that has supported returning the wolves to their historic range.
The Mexican agency that oversees that country's natural resources and the environment released three female wolves — ages 11, 4 and 3 — and two 3-year-old male wolves in Sonora's San Luis Mountains in early October. The wolves went through rehabilitation in northern Mexico and were fitted with GPS collars so they could be tracked.

Mexico's reintroduction effort has been 20 years in the making. A release of captive wolves into the wild was first proposed in 2009 but faced delays.

As for the poisoned wolves, Mexican officials said one was found in November and the other three in December. Necropsies were done on all four animals and results in each case were positive for warfarin, a blood thinner that's commonly used in rat poison and pesticide.

It was unclear whether the warfarin was set out intentionally for the wolves. Mexican officials did not provide any details about how the poison was consumed, and law enforcement agents were investigating.
The surviving female wolf is continuing to feed on rabbits and rodents in the area, officials said.

Similar reintroduction work in the U.S. started in 1998, but that program has been hampered by court battles, disputes between ranchers and environmentalists, livestock depredations and illegal shootings.
In the first year, five of the 13 wolves released in the U.S. were shot. Now, there are at least 58 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico — more wolves than in each of the past five years.

Mexican officials have a recovery plan for the species and intend to carry on with the program, said Sherry Barrett, director of the Mexican gray wolf program in the U.S.

"Any time we have this type of problem, we're disappointed," she said Tuesday of the wolf deaths in Mexico. "But it's not insurmountable."

Neither Mexico nor the U.S. has announced any specific plans for future releases to bolster their wild wolf populations.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Image of the Day

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 17 Feb 2012

Montana hunt ends for season – In a unanimous vote, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided not to extend the 2011-2012 wolf hunt in the Bitterroot Valley. Chairman Bob Ream told the Associated Press on Wednesday: “The quota is a ceiling; it’s not a basement. If we haven’t reached the ceiling we haven’t failed. It’s been a good season and people should treat wolves like other game animals.” In comments submitted to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission Defenders agreed that the quota should not be treated as a target. Defenders also called into question assertions that wolves were to blame for declining elk numbers in the area as research into the causes of the decline is ongoing and as yet incomplete.

Thanks to all our supporters who voiced their concerns with the proposal, urging Montana to take a more measured approach to managing wolves. Your calls and letters helped convince the Montana wildlife commission that wolf management should be based on sound science, not unsubstantiated claims about the impacts of wolves.

Now that the extension has been denied, the wolf hunting season in Montana is officially over. A total of 166 wolves were killed this season during the hunt, filling or exceeding quotas in four hunting zones and coming close in several others. This summer, wildlife officials will revisit the overall quota of 220 wolves and consider modifying hunting restrictions for the next hunting season.

Wyoming wolf bill passes Senate committee – Wyoming’s revised wolf management plan, which would allow wolves to be shot on sight across a majority of the state, sailed through the state Senate wildlife committee with unanimous approval on Thursday (see full story in Casper Tribune). That shouldn’t be surprising, especially after Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead made the plan a focal point of his State of the State address on Tuesday. Mead told state legislators to approve the plan before concerned citizens have a chance to challenge it in the courts (see full story in Jackson Hole News & Guide). The controversial wolf plan has gained national attention as it would allow wolves to be killed along the John D Rockefeller Parkway that connects Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Listen to the story on NPR’s All Things Considered:

Idaho’s latest, craziest wolf kill bill – A bill circulating in the Idaho state legislature would take unchecked wolf-killing to all-new heights. A provision introduced by state Sen. Jeff Siddoway would allow ranchers to kill wolves using motorized vehicles, night vision scopes, electronic calls, traps with live bait, and ultra-light aircraft like powered parachutes.

The state has already foregone hunting quotas across most of the state and authorized the use of aerial gunning to kill up to 75 wolves in the Lolo zone of Clearwater National Forest. Now, state Sen. Jeff Siddoway wants to give ranchers carte blanche to kill wolves by practically any means. When will Idaho’s elected officials stand up and say enough is enough?

The bill comes before the state Senate Environment and Resources Committee on Monday afternoon. Please help us speak out in opposition to this awful legislation.

Read more in The Republic or click here to see the text of the proposed bill.


Friday, February 17, 2012

UC Davis Library Leader in New Concept: Educate the Public about Wolves


Learn all about wolves at Woodland Library program

A wolf education program for all ages is planned from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in the Leake Room at the Woodland Public Library, 250 First St. in Woodland. All ages are welcome.
Never Cry Wolf Rescue & Adoption, a local nonprofit organization, will bring two to four live wolves to the presentation. Attendees will learn:

* How our ecosystem has been impacted by wolves;
* The meaning of nature’s balance;
* Where wolves live today and how many are left in the world;
* Common misconceptions concerning wolves;
* The differing views of Western cultures versus Native American cultures regarding the wolf; and
* How Never Cry Wolf Rescue & Adoption began as well as its mission as an organization.
For more information about this and other library programs, visit and click on “Kids,” or call (530) 661-5980.

This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Woodland Public Library.


FWP rejects Bitterroot wolf hunt extension

By EVE BYRON Independent Record and PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic

Dustin Nielson of Darby's Big Bear Taxidermy examines a wolf pelt from Alaska. Nielson hopes that this year's wolf hunting season will mean more work for the Darby shop where local business has dropped with the recent decline in elk numbers.

Citing a precipitous and somewhat mysterious drop in mule deer numbers in portions of Montana, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission made numerous changes Thursday that will allow fewer does to be taken by hunters.

The move came on a day when the commission also decided not to extend the wolf hunting season in the southern Bitterroot Valley, where elk populations have plummeted.

The proposal was voted down 5-0. It would have allowed the hunt to continue in the area near the Idaho border until April 1.

FWP commissioners said they were reluctant to approve a piecemeal extension of the hunt instead of taking a statewide approach. They also said they did not want to disturb an ongoing elk study.
Hunters had pushed for the extension, citing the decline in elk numbers. Just six wolves were killed out of the Bitterroot's quota of 18.

The decision left some Bitterroot Valley residents unhappy.

"We are big-time disappointed with the commission's decision," said Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association president Tony Jones. "It was something that we thought was needed and had to happen. ... It doesn't appear that we are going to get any help on our predator problems from the commission or the department."

Said Ravalli County Commissioner Suzy Foss: "There are not a lot of happy campers in the Bitterroot today, especially those ranchers and hunters who have worked so hard to try to have a voice in this. They feel like they are being totally ignored."

Montana's wolf hunt ended on Wednesday. The 166 wolves reported killed equal 75 percent of the state's 220-animal quota.


Image of the Day

MEXICAN WOLVES by nsxbirder
MEXICAN WOLVES, a photo by nsxbirder on Flickr.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Image of the Day

Pretty framed wolf by Tambako the Jaguar
Pretty framed wolf, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Idaho gives Oregon ‘apology,’ gets no snarling over wolf

By Valerie Richardson

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter reacts to the crowd as he and his wife Lori, right, take the stage for a rally with Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Elko, Nev. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter reacts to the crowd as he and his wife Lori, right, take the stage for a rally with Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Elko, Nev. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter feels so bad about an Oregon gray wolf killed in Idaho that he has offered to repay his neighbors 150-fold.

In a tongue-in-cheek letter this week to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Mr. Otter “apologized” for the loss of the wolf and said he would happily replace it with 150 wolves from Idaho, just to make things right.
“In an effort to be a good neighbor and help Oregon maintain and increase its wolf population for the preservation of the species in your state, I am offering to send you 150 wolves from Idaho,” said Mr. Otter, a Republican. “Idaho has more than a sufficient number, in fact many more than the federal government originally required we have, and can spare a few.”

Mr. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, hasn’t taken him up on his offer. Asked whether the Oregon governor had a response, spokesman Tim Raphael said, “No, we don’t.”

Mr. Otter’s offer was facetious, but the episode does highlight the lingering tension and resentment 17 years after the reintroduction the Canadian gray wolf in a program that has the support of the Obama administration but remains a challenge at best and a headache at worst for Western lawmakers and officials.

The Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves into Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in 1995, but the animals have since spread to Oregon, Washington and, in the case of at least one wolf, California. Where wolves go, livestock killings are sure to follow, as well as thinning elk herds, environmental lawsuits and fights over land-use management plans.

The Oregon male wolf in question, known as OR-9, was shot Feb. 2 after he wandered into the state from Oregon by an Idaho hunter near the town of Emmett. His death drew media attention in part because he was the brother of OR-7, the famous “looking-for-love” lone male wolf who entered California last year after a 730-mile trek.

The man who fired the shot had an expired hunter’s tag, but Idaho officials let him off with a warning after finding that he had been incorrectly told that he could keep his 2011 tag until the end of the 2012 hunting season, said Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler.

States began taking over management of their wolf populations after the animal was removed from federal endangered species protection in 2009 - becoming the first creature ever taken off the U.S. endangered species list by act of Congress, rather than scientific review. The wolf is still under federal control in Wyoming, where lawmakers are revising their proposed management plans to meet federal approval.
The number of wolves per state varies widely, with more than 1,000 in Idaho and about 25 in Oregon. As a result, state policies also vary. Idaho, for example, recently launched its second wolf-hunting season, while Oregon does not allow hunting.

As soon as a wolf crosses state lines, however, the animal becomes subject to that state’s management plan, no matter where it was born, said Michelle Dennehy, spokeswoman for Oregon Fish and Wildlife.
Still, some Oregonians didn’t take kindly to the death of OR-9. “We got some calls from Oregon citizens who thought the hunter should be cited,” Mr. Keckler said.
He wasn’t cited because “our officers have some discretion here, and the officer in this case believed that he just made a mistake,” Mr. Keckler said.

The spokesman also noted that it would have been easy enough for the hunter to cover his tracks simply by purchasing a 2012 tag after shooting the wolf. Because the hunter followed procedure by reporting the kill promptly, “The officer felt there was no intent to break the law,” Mr. Keckler said.
Idaho expanded its rules to allow trapping as well as hunting this season, but worries that hunting will wipe out the species appear to be unfounded. In 2009, the state sold more than 26,000 wolf tags, yet hunters bagged only 188 animals. This year, the state has sold more than 40,000 tags, yielding a harvest of 294 wolves, Mr. Keckler said.

“As you can see, the success rate is pretty low,” he said. “Hunting wolves is a challenge. Wolves are very intelligent, and they get wise in a hurry.”
Environmental groups have decried state-sponsored wolf hunting, but supporters say the benefits are already apparent. After the 2009 season, livestock kills fell by about 50 percent, Mr. Keckler said.
“What that says to wolves is, ‘Livestock means people, and it seems people are shooting at us. So we’re going to stay away,’ ” he said.

Jon Hanian, a spokesman for Mr. Otter, said the Idaho governor doesn’t expect a response to his letter, though he hopes it will remind others of the difficulties that come with serving as a home to the gray wolf.
“I think he was having some fun, but he was also trying to make a serious point,” Mr. Hanian said. “We’ve been dealing with the wolf situation since 1995, and it’s a recurring theme. I think the governor was making the point that if other states start getting wolves in the numbers we have, they might look at the situation a little differently.”