Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wolf Tracks Offer Clues

Posted: 30 May 2012
(Update on yesterday’s post
about a wolf pup found in central Idaho)

Suzanne points to wolf tracks by the side of the road believed to be those of the mother and siblings of the lost pup.
Good news! Defenders wolf expert Suzanne Stone and lead field technician Patrick Graham from our Wood River Wolf Project went out last night searching for the lost wolf pup’s family in the central Idaho wilderness. They were able to find tracks of what appear to be the mother and several other pups. The tracks indicate that the mother wolf was using the road to move her litter through Sawtooth National Forest where they were disturbed by human activity and the one pup got separated from his family.

In cooperation with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, our field crew is heading back out to search for the den site and hopefully find the rest of the pup’s family. Wolves travel fast though, so if they can’t be found on foot, it may be necessary to conduct survey flights to locate them by plane if possible.

In the meantime, the pup is still being fed and cared for by professionals and is expected to be transferred to a zoo later today.  Let’s keep good thoughts going for his reunion with his family.

Here’s a video Patrick took over the weekend of the pup at an animal care facility:


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Image of the Day

Rescued Alaska 'wolfdogs' work with veterans in California

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska part of the Wolf Country USA case came to an end last week when Werner Schuster, owner of the facility that displayed wolf-dog hybrids, or "wolfdogs," was sentenced for violating an Alaska regulation that makes it unlawful to possess such animals without a permit. Schuster pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine; he also was sentenced to 90 days in jail, all of which were suspended.

But the story continues at an animal rescue facility in California.
The fate of Schuster's canines was uncertain at the time authorities executed a search warrant last summer. There was a possibility they would be killed. Word reached animal advocates, including former game show host Bob Barker, and 29 adult wolfdogs were taken to Lockwood Animal Rescue Center in Frazier Park, Calif.

They currently share Lockwood's fenced acreage with other wolfdogs, wolves, coyotes, horses and six peacocks.

"They're enjoying their homes, despite not having as much snow as they would like," said Lorin Lindner, co-founder of the non-profit center. The animals have formed into small packs or formed male-female pairs, despite all having been spayed or neutered.

"They're running around. There are ponds in the habitats. They each have houses or igloos, which they never go into. They sleep on the roofs, like Snoopy."

Lindner said she was surprised by how "sweet and super-friendly" the animals were. "The Schusters really did socialize them well. They love their belly rubs."
She doesn't think it was right that the wolfdogs were chained while in Alaska, but "I wouldn't say they were abused."

The wolfdogs are part of Lockwood's "Warriors and Wolves" therapeutic program in which returning combat veterans team up with the animals, spending time and working with them. Such programs have been found to help heal trauma both in humans and animals. Lindner, a psychologist by profession, said the canines and vets sort of select each other.

Located at 6,000 feet, Frazier Park is relatively cool for Southern California. Nighttime temperatures are often in the 20s, Lindner said. But the thick winter coat presents a challenge. Lockwood staff and volunteers use special Furminator brand combs to remove the underfur. And there's a lot of it.
"They're enjoying their homes, despite not having as much snow as they would like," said Lorin Lindner, co-founder of the non-profit center.
"We took two to the Patagonia store in Reno," Lindner said. The trip was to thank the company for its help in getting the wolfdogs from Alaska to California. "They had an inch-thick carpet of fur before we left. I felt so bad. If you know anyone who wants wolfdog fur, please let us know."
The animals are eating well, Lindner added. "We're part of a land-fill diversion program. We get meat from markets that's past its sell-by date. Filet mignons. T-bones. Roast beef. One store had its freezers go out and we got 10,000 turkeys. They gorged themselves and didn't want to eat for a few days after that."

In addition to the 29 adult wolfdogs, nine pups were sent to Wolfwood Refuge in Ignacio, Colo.
Paula Woerner of Wolfwood said the pups "are a year old now and doing great. We were able to keep them all together as a pack so far."

Construction of a large new habitat for the animals is due to begin in June.
Lockwood Animal Rescue Center:
Wolfwood Refuge:


Wolf killed on Flat Top Ranch

Officials say animal preyed on sheep

Express Staff Writer

In this file photo, sheep graze on the Flat Top Ranch near Carey. Express file photo
One female wolf was killed near Carey last week in response to nearly a dozen sheep deaths earlier this month, state officials reported. 

Todd Grimm, state director for U.S. Wildlife Services, said that the wolf was tracked and killed Thursday morning. A Wildlife Services fixed-wing plane flew over John Peavey's Flat Top Ranch property on Thursday and found a recently killed sheep, Grimm said.
"The herder pointed in a direction [that he had seen a wolf run]," Grimm said. "They followed it, and found the wolf."

Grimm said that because of the swiftness of the response, the wolf killed was certainly one that had killed at least one ewe.
"They got a guilty party," he said.

The wolf was a subadult, meaning it was less than 2 years old and could have been a pup from last year, Grimm said. The gray female was estimated at between 70 and 80 pounds.
He said the wolf was not killed on a 1,100-acre conservation easement held on Peavey's ranch. The terms of the easement, held by The Nature Conservancy, include a restriction on lethal control methods within the easement's borders.

"[The Flat Top Sheep Co.] shall comply with all applicable laws and use selective and humane control practices, including, where practicable, non-lethal deterrents and management practices," the agreement states.

Blaine County contributed $200,000 toward the purchase of that conservation easement in December. The funds came from the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy, a two-year $3.4 million assessment on county property taxes meant to preserve open land and farm space from development.
A kill order for one more wolf remains in effect, as an order for two wolves was issued May 18 following the death of three ewes on the Flat Top Ranch property. The order was actually reissued on that date, as a kill order had been issued earlier this month following the death of seven ewes.

* * * *
Peavey has stated that he is trying nonlethal deterrents such as fladry—red flags flying to keep wolves away—guard dogs and herders around his bands of ewes, which are currently lambing. The efforts were launched in conjunction with the Wood River Wolf Project and wildlife advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife.

However, Wood River Wolf Project and Defenders of Wildlife spokeswoman Suzanne Stone said she has not seen enough nonlethal deterrents to make a difference on Peavey's property—or to his roughly 1,200 pregnant ewes.

"He's sprinkling sheep that are lambing over a very long band of federal, state and private grounds," she said last week. "There are only a few of these bands who have guard dogs. There are no deterrents with [some] of those bands, which means they're extremely vulnerable."

Stone said the organization continues to work with Peavey, but the organization's effectiveness is limited until he agrees to increase the number of deterrents with his sheep—and clean up a number of sheep carcasses left when sheep have died of natural causes, which Stone and other wolf advocates have said they've seen on the property.

"They pose a very irresistible attractant to predators in the area—wolves and coyotes," she said. "We've done pretty much what we can unless there's any willingness to increase deterrents out there."
Stone said the amount of fladry and the number of guard dogs that Peavey has with his lambing ewes aren't enough to be effective.

"It's like putting a Band-Aid on an amputation," she said. "It's not gong to be sufficient to address what the problems are, and we've made that clear [to Peavey]."

One kill order remains for the wolves of the Little Wood Pack near Carey, and will remain in effect until mid-July or until a wolf is killed. Stone said she believes two adults and several pups remain in the Little Wood Pack.


Wolf Pup Found in Central Idaho!

Posted: 29 May 2012 

Over the holiday weekend, some out-of-state campers visiting central Idaho found what appears to be a young wolf pup wandering alone on a road in the national forest. They took him to the Sheriff’s office, and he is now being cared for by professionals.  We’re not sure what if anything happened to the pup’s family, but our field crew is trying to locate the other wolves at this time.  I caught up with our wolf expert Suzanne Stone to learn more about this unfortunate situation.

How did you hear about this incident?
The pup was found within one of our wolf coexistence project areas, so our local partners contacted us immediately for help. We recommended that he be taken to a professional animal care facility until a longer term solution can be found. It’s still unclear at this point what happened to the pup or why he was by himself, but we’re helping Idaho Fish and Game figure out if there’s a way to return him to his family.

We did get some basic location information about where the pup was found, so I’m heading out with our head field technician to try to find the rest of the pack in the hope that he can be returned to them. Unfortunately, it has become much more difficult to track wolf activity in the last year or so since many of the collared wolves have been killed during the wolf hunting and trapping seasons. We now have very limited information about wolves in the area.

How is the pup doing?

He’s very frightened of people, and it looks like he hasn’t eaten in days. We’re trying to find some goat’s milk and bison meat to feed to him, but he really needs to be returned to his pack as soon as possible. Wolf pups are extremely vulnerable at this stage, and their chances of survival on their own are very low.

What’s next for the pup?

It’s hard to say without knowing the status of the rest of the pack. If the adults are still alive and we can find them, there’s a good chance the pup can be returned to the pack and survive. But if the adults are dead or can’t be found, then there’s no sense leaving a pup out there by himself. We might be able to find another pack to act as surrogate in another location, but there’s always a risk they will not accept the pup as one of their own.

Are there any other options?

The last resort is for him to be raised in captivity. We’d much rather see the pup survive in the wild than being fed by hand behind a fence. But captivity could be the only option if we can’t find the rest of his pack or another pack willing to adopt him.  If that’s the only option, one of the country’s top wolf rescue facilities has already offered to take and care for him.

Is there anything we can do to help?

Our top priority right now is to find the rest of the pack and see if the adults are still alive and if there are other pups. Ultimately, the decision will rest in the hands of Idaho Fish and Game, so there may be opportunities to support their efforts to save this pup. Please stay tuned as we learn about the situation…


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coyote hunter wishes he hadn't killed wolf

Newfoundlander Joe Fleming would have held his fire if he had known it was a wolf

Posted: May 28, 2012

Joe Fleming from Spillars Cove, near Bonavista, with the wolf he killed in March.  
Joe Fleming from Spillars Cove, near Bonavista, with the wolf he killed in March. (Submitted)

Image of the Day

Monday, May 28, 2012

Two Minnesota wolf hunts planned

May 26, 2012

In its first hunt since assuming wolf management from the federal government, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has proposed an early wolf hunting season that would coincide with the state’s firearms deer season, opening Nov. 3.

By: Forum Communications, Lake County News-Chronicle

Minnesota will see two wolf seasons this fall, not just one.
In its first hunt since assuming wolf management from the federal government, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has proposed an early wolf hunting season that would coincide with the state’s firearms deer season, opening Nov. 3. A late wolf hunting and trapping season would open Nov. 24. It would close Jan. 6, 2013, or whenever a total harvest of 400 wolves in both seasons combined is reached, if that comes sooner.

The first season would be open only in the areas of the state open to rifle deer hunting, which are the northern and central zones. The late season will be open statewide.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a law in its 2012 session requiring that a wolf season begin concurrently with the firearms deer season, but legislators gave the DNR authority to structure the season.

“The first season was at the direction of the Legislature and the governor,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations program manager for the DNR. “That one is a given for us. We said all along that we’d like to provide a hunting and trapping season for people who want to take wolves in that dedicated season (after deer hunting).”

Preparations for the state’s first formal wolf season have proceeded with little public opposition, although some residents testified against such a season before the Legislature. In contrast, removing the wolf from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act was fraught with controversy. So-called delisting was first proposed for wolves in the western Great Lakes region in 1998 but has been in and out of court ever since.

So far, no groups have offered a legal challenge to Minnesota’s proposed wolf season.
“In the past we have challenged delisting of wolves, but we have no plans to do that this time. In the same vein, we have no plans to challenge the hunting season,” said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The DNR is seeking public comments on details of this fall’s proposed seasons. The complete proposal is available on the DNR website, where comments are being taken through an online survey.
A total of 6,000 licenses would be offered, with 3,600 available in the early season and 2,400 in the late season. Late-season licenses will be further split between hunting and trapping, with a minimum of 600 reserved for trappers. The target harvest quota will be 400 wolves for both seasons combined, and will initially be allocated equally between the early and the late seasons.

Wolf hunting licenses will be $30 for residents and $250 for nonresidents. Nonresidents will be limited to 5 percent of total hunting licenses. Wolf trapping licenses will be $30 (limited to residents only). A lottery will be held to select license recipients. Proof of a current or previous hunting license will be required to apply for a wolf license. The lottery application fee will be $4.

The early hunting-only season will be open only in the northern portions of Minnesota. It will start on Nov. 3, the opening day of firearms deer hunting. It will close either at the end of the respective firearms seasons in the two northern deer zones (Nov. 18 in Zone 1 or Nov. 11 in Zone 2), or when a registered target harvest quota of 200 is reached, whichever comes sooner.

If fewer than 200 wolves are taken during the early season, the remaining portion of the quota will be added to the quota for the later season, said the DNR’s Merchant.
“The DNR is taking a very conservative approach to this first season,” Merchant said. “It’s designed to help us learn about hunter and trapper interest and what kind of hunter and trapper success we’ll have.”

The proposed season is consistent with the goal of the state’s wolf management plan to assure the long term survival of the wolf and address conflicts between wolves and humans, he said.
Merchant said wildlife experts took into account the number of wolves killed in damage-control efforts when setting the harvest number. Typically, about 80 farms have verified wolf depredation complaints each year, according to the DNR. Over the past several years, an average of 170 wolves have been captured or killed each year by federal trappers in response to verified livestock depredation. About 70 wolves have been trapped and killed so far this spring following verified livestock damage complaints, primarily on calves.

No American Indian bands or tribes in Minnesota have announced wolf hunting seasons. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will not hold a season, said Mike Schrage, wildlife biologist at the Fond du Lac band.
“A lot of band members feel a strong spiritual and/or cultural connection to wolves,” Schrage said. “Part of that spiritual and cultural connection is that wolves are part of the Ojibwe creation story.”
The 1854 Treaty Authority, representing the Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands, also will not hold a wolf season this fall, said Sonny Myers, executive director of the authority.

Nancy Gibson, co-founder of the International Wolf Center, expressed concern that the DNR’s public comment period is being offered only online. But she is pleased with details of the season.
“I think it’s a good, cautious approach. I hope it coincides with some good research and social science,” Gibson said. “This is new for Minnesotans. … I hope we get some questions answered in this first season.”

Wolves were returned to state management in January when they were removed from the federal Endangered Species list. Before their protection under federal law in 1974, wolves were unprotected under state law and the DNR had no wolf management authority. This proposal marks the first regulated harvest season for wolves in state history.

The state has an estimated 3,000 wolves, according to the DNR. Wolf numbers and their distribution have remained relatively stable for the past 10 years and have been well above the federal wolf recovery population goal since the 1990s.


Mountain lions kill collared wolves in Bitterroot

May 27, 2012 • 
Mountain lions are taking a toll on Liz Bradley’s collared wolves in the Bitterroot this year.
Since January, two wolves radio-collared by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologist have been killed by mountain lions.

Last week, she found the latest dead wolf in the Warm Springs area, west of Sula.
Like all the others she’s investigated since 2009, the wolf’s skull showed a severe puncture wound – a trademark of a lion kill.
In the Sula case, the lion ate a good portion of the wolf and then covered the carcass with debris.
“It’s hard to say what happened,” Bradley said. “There was no elk or deer carcass nearby that they may have been competing over.”

There was, however, a deer carcass near the dead wolf she found in the Carlton Creek area west of Lolo in January. In that case, the wolf wasn’t consumed, but it did have the same canine tooth puncture through the skull.
“That one was probably a conflict,” she said.
Last year, Bradley found two dead wolves that were probably killed by mountain lions. One was in Davis Creek, east of Lolo, and the other was south of Conner.

In both cases, the carcasses were too far decomposed for positive identification on the cause of death. Both had clear puncture wounds through the top of their skulls.
In 2009, the first apparent lion-killed wolf was discovered in the West Fork area.
The number of wolf and lion encounters is unusual.
“I haven’t heard of it happening anywhere else,” Bradley said. “It’s pretty interesting that the Bitterroot has had so many.”

Large predators sometimes do kill each other. There have been documented cases of that happening in many places around the West.
“They compete for the same resource,” she said. “When there is overlap in areas where you have lots of prey, conflicts occur.”
Four of the five wolves that Bradley knows were probably killed by mountain lions were fitted with a radio collar.
“It’s too bad because we don’t have those now,” she said.

At the end of last year, Bradley had collars in seven packs in the Bitterroot. She’s now down to four.
“Ideally, we would have at least half of the packs collared in the Bitterroot,” she said.
Bradley estimates there are 14 packs in the Bitterroot, which includes the area around Lolo all the way down the east and west forks of the Bitterroot River.
On average, pack sizes are smaller in the Bitterroot following last year’s hunting season. The largest pack now has nine wolves. Most have four to seven adults, with several including just a male and female.

Going into the pup season, Bradley estimated that there were between 60 and 70 adult wolves in the entire Bitterroot area.
“That’s a little bit lower than what we had in 2011,” she said. “We had about 80 last year. We had some mortality.”

Bradley won’t know this year’s numbers of pups until sometime later this summer.
She is asking the public for help in locating packs for collaring this spring, especially in the Darby and Sula areas, as well as the north Bitterroot Valley.
Sightings can be reported by going to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website under the wolf section. For recent wolf sightings of multiple animals, Bradley asks that people call her cell phone at  (406) 865-0017.

“I’m especially interesting in hearing about sightings in the Sula area right now,” she said.
If anyone stumbles across a dead wolf or mountain lion, she would be interested in hearing about that too.


Image of the Day

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wolf in N.L. probably made it to island on ice

May 25, 2011.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Genetic tests confirm that a large canine shot on Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula in March was a wolf that probably made it to the island on ice, provincial officials said Friday.

The province's Environment Department said DNA testing carried out by Memorial University and the University of Idaho has verified that the 37-kilogram animal was a Labrador wolf.

Wolves became extinct on the island around 1930. They have been known to occasionally arrive from Labrador, though there is no evidence of a breeding population.

"We can only speculate on how this wolf arrived on the island of Newfoundland, but most likely it travelled from Labrador on sea ice to the island," Environment Minister Terry French said in a statement.

"Wolves are known to travel long distances and with the number of polar bears coming ashore in Newfoundland this spring, sea ice was plentiful enough to provide a travel route for a Labrador wolf."
Earlier this month, genetic testing confirmed that an animal shot in April in northern New Brunswick was a wolf, marking the first confirmed wolf sighting in that province in 150 years.

Officials said that animal could have arrived on an ice floe or was someone's illegal pet.


Politics and wolves and a hunt in search of reason

Seely on Science

May 25, 2012
It was a foregone conclusion that the Natural Resources Board last week was going to approve beginning the process that will end, sometime in mid-October, with a rifle shot and a recreational hunter legally killing a wolf in Wisconsin for the first time in many years.
The board, which sets policy for the state Department of Natural Resources, was bound by action in the state Legislature that mandated such a hunt.

What was perhaps less apparent to those not at the board meeting was the discomfort of some board members with the hand they had been dealt by the Legislature and the politicians who cooked up most of the details of the hunt -- details the Natural Resourcs Board has to live with.

Under questioning by board member Christine Thomas, a professor and dean of resource management at UW-Stevens Point, an uncomfortable Kurt Thiede, agency administrator of land, admitted that the agency has a fairly limited role in setting up the hunt.

Set in stone by legislative action and not subject to change by the DNR are some of the most controversial -- even among noted wolf biologists -- details of how wolves will be killed. These include the five-month season (extending into breeding season), the use of bait, night hunting, the use of dogs, and trapping.

"The board has a limited role here," said Chairman Dave Clausen. "This is pretty much the Legislature's bill. The Legislature is driving this thing completely. They are in the driver's seat on this."

Thiede said the agency does retain control over some of the most crucial aspects  of the hunt, especially how many wolves will be killed and in what areas. Just as important, he said, the agency has the ability to halt the hunt if it appears too many wolves are being killed in certain zones.
But, as UW-Madison predator expert Adrian Treves pointed out in testimony to the board, the mechanics of the hunt mandated by the state Legislature (largely at the behest and lobbying pressure of bear and other hunting groups), are the very things that could lead to a hunt that threatens the wolf population and possibly sends the animal back to the endangered species list.

Despite the claim of wolf hunting proponents that politicians heeded the advice of scientists in putting together the wolf hunting plan, there seems scant evidence that that is truly the case. Most suspicious is the complete absence of the DNR's leading wolf authority, Adrian Wydeven, from any of the legislative hearings. Nor was he at the Wednesday board meeting.

So, as was clear from the comments of some board members Wednesday, the result is this: The state's leading natural resource science agency will rush to patch together a hunting season on an animal it has worked so hard to restore and protect, forced to allow the use of hunting techniqes, such as baiting and night hunting, that even experts say are questionable and not befitting the fair pursuit of such a noble creature.


Image of the Day

Buy a wolf license to save a wolf

Ripple in Stillwater
Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Evidently, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and a majority of the Minnesota Legislature—the parties responsible for ramming a wolf hunting season through the Capitol five years ahead of schedule.

When the federal government removed gray wolves from the endangered and threatened species lists in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in January, the wolf haters ramped up their bloodthirsty lobbying efforts for a 2012 season to start shooting them legally for the first time in Minnesota since the 1970s.

The DNR states that “Minnesotans clearly value wolves. Public opinion surveys and attitudes demonstrated during development of the state's wolf management plan show people view the animal as ecologically important, scientifically fascinating, aesthetically attractive, recreationally appealing and significant for future generations. Only a small minority fear and dislike wolves or believe Minnesota would be a more desirable place without this apex predator.”

Yet it was that “small minority” that drove the legislature to start killing wolves this year rather than wait five years to see how the population stabilized after federal delisting, as the original plan called for. That same "small minority" has been shooting wolves illegally for decades and is now just looking for cover for their cowardly deeds. It's one of the few federal crimes that I hear people--including one state lawmaker--openly admit to committing.

'Pent-up enthusiasm'

DNR Fish & Wildlife Director Ed Boggess told a legislative panel earlier this year: “There’s been a pent-up enthusiasm, a pent-up demand to hunt wolves.” It’s not likely that “enthusiasm” is driven by a sudden popularity of wolf fur among hunters.  And it’s certainly not for their meat.

The wolf season has little to do with protecting farmers from wolf depredation of livestock, either; they already are compensated for those losses. It has equally little to do with population management of wolves. According to the DNR, Minnesota’s wolf population—the largest in the lower 48 states—has remained “relatively stable” at around 3,000 for the past decade without a hunting season.

A total of 6,000 wolf licenses will be made available via lottery (5,400 hunting and 600 trapping/snaring); 95 percent will be sold to residents and 5 percent to nonresidents. A quota of 400 wolves will be allowed to be killed during the season.

So the legal killing of wolves has been signed, sealed and delivered by the State of Minnesota, and the season is set. Nothing more that can be done about it, right?
Well, perhaps.

$34 to save a wolf?

If you’re willing to invest $34, you can buy a chance on saving one wolf’s life. Simply enter the lottery for one of the 6,000 licenses—a $30 wolf license must be purchased to enter the lottery, which costs another $4—and if you win the right to kill a wolf, don’t exercise it.

There’s nothing that requires you to use a wolf license just because you buy one. Since there’s a cap on the number of licenses sold, every license that is won in the lottery but not used reduces the chances that the wolf kill quota set by the DNR will be reached.

Ordinarily, this might be seen as unwise meddling in a scientifically-based hunting season. But there is nothing scientific about this wolf hunting season. It’s a purely political response to satisfy the bloodlust of a vocal minority of wolf haters. A season on wolves is not necessary to maintain a desirable wolf population. In fact, the DNR hasn’t even determined what Minnesota’s maximum wolf population should be, only that it shouldn’t fall below a winter population of 1,600.

So if you think a season on wolves is one of the most idiotic things to come down the pike since a mourning dove season, step right up and invest $34 on a chance to buy a wolf a reprieve from the executioner. It may not stop the jackpine savages from shooting wolves altogether, but at least you’ll get the satisfaction of making them work a little harder to "get their wolf."

As a deer hunter who knows the value that wolves provide in culling deer herds of their unhealthy numbers, among other benefits for the soul, I plan to do just that.

This post was written by Karl Bremer and originally posted on Ripple in Stillwater.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 25 May 2012
Great predators, great video– Just in time for the start of our proactive season, our friends at Green Fire Productions have posted a favorite chapter from their groundbreaking documentary Lords of Nature. This particular segment highlights Defenders’ efforts to help ranchers coexist with wolves in central Idaho. Watch below to learn more about the genesis of the Wood River Wolf Project, now entering its fifth season!

Montana meeting madness—Fish, Wildlife and Parks met with resistance from both sides during a series of meetings this week to discuss proposed wolf hunt regulations for the coming fall season. Wolf supporters continue to raise concerns about eliminating quotas, extending the season, and allowing trapping for the first time. Meanwhile, wolf opponents urged the state to kill even more wolves by allowing snaring and hiring federal agents to do more aerial gunning. Read the full story in the Billings Gazette
. The state Livestock Loss Board also met last week in Hamilton to hear from area ranchers. Even though losses to wolves are at a low point (fewer than 100 were lost last year), many continue to complain about the impact wolves are having on their livestock. Others representing the hunting industry asked the board to help kill more wolves in order to artificially boost elk numbers. Read the full story in the Missoulian
. Evenly Matched
Plenty of elk for shooting – You know those claims you keep hearing from anti-wolf extremists about wolves decimating elk herds? Outdoor writer Todd Wilkinson says it’s all a bunch of hooey. He scoured 50-some websites of outfitters in the region and found nearly all of them boasting about the incredible elk hunting opportunities, with almost no mention of wolves. If wolves really are taking a toll on elk populations, someone oughta let these outfitters know so they can update their websites.
Wolves in Utah?—The search continues for a pack of wolves that is believed to have set up shop in eastern Utah. Mounting evidence includes what appear to be wolf tracks, several alleged sightings in recent months, and a photo from 2010 of what is believed to be a wolf. Yet the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been unable to definitely confirm the presence of wolves. According to Deseret News, state biologists are now using electronic calls to track the animals they believe to be wolves. If they do discover a pack, it will be the first in Utah since they were eradicated in the 1930s.

Wolves in Boulder! – Ok, so they’re only on the cover of the weekly newspaper, but still… A feature story explains why Wyoming’s shoot-on-sight wolf plan will make it very hard for wolves to ever make it to Colorado. So far, the state has been unwilling to consider reintroductions, which makes wolf recovery in the Centennial State a real long-shot.

On the silver screen — Seattle supporters, don’t miss the world premiere of “True Wolf” next week! This feature documentary tells the story of a wolf named Koani, who helped teach people across the country about wild wolves…and changed the lives of her caretakers forever. See the trailer below, and click here to order tickets to see the premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 31 and June 1. The movie will be released at theaters nationwide this summer, starting on June 22 at the Landmark Varsity Theater in Seattle.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Wyoming's open hunting season on wolves could kill Colorado's chances of getting a pack of its own

Thursday, May 24,2012

Who's afraid?

By Elizabeth Miller
Almost 40 years passed before anyone thought to miss the gray wolf. Wolves, along with grizzlies, had been deliberately eradicated in western states in the name of protecting people and their livestock. The last wolf in Colorado was killed in the 1930s. By the time they were added to the list of endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1974, they existed only in a small corner of northeastern Minnesota.

 In the decades that followed, humans would undertake concentrated efforts to undo the damage of their ancestors, reintroducing gray wolves in Idaho and at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 1995 and 1996. But the move has been met with polarized responses: for every conservation group that would have howled in celebration, there was a hunter or a rancher loading a round into the chamber.

Although Colorado residents have long expressed positive feelings toward having wolves returned to the state, Colorado’s Wildlife Commission has come down on the opposite side, leaving Colorado out of deliberate reintroduction efforts. Were wolves to return to Colorado, they’d have to arrive on their own, migrating from the reestablished packs in neighboring states. And as Wyoming once again puts forward a wolf management plan which, if approved, would deprive wolves in that state of the protections of the Endangered Species Act, that path becomes more harrowing, and the likelihood of wolves gaining a foothold in the southern Rocky Mountains decreases.

Wolves now occupy more than 110,000 square miles in the northern Rocky Mountains, most of it public land. By December 2009, there were at least 1,706 wolves and more than 100 breeding pairs in 242 packs, and in April 2010, an estimated 600 new pups were born. That number is five and a half times the target recovery goal from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs over the three states.

The return was so robust that the states of Idaho and Montana were able to successfully argue in 2009 that the gray wolf was established in the northern Rocky Mountains — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Washington and Oregon and a small part of south central Utah. Federal protections for the species under the Endangered Species Act were removed — except in Wyoming, because the state did not have an adequate management plan for maintaining wolves. Wolf hunting was allowed for the first time since the 1930s in the fall of 2009 in Montana and Idaho — 206 wolves were killed, in addition to the 270 killed for attacking livestock that year.

But a year later, in August 2010, a Montana district court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had unlawfully delisted wolves from the Endangered Species Act and those protections were restored and hunting stopped. But last year, while Congress was repeatedly stumbling over passing an appropriations bill that would keep the United States from defaulting on its loans, Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson tacked Sec. 1713 onto the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011. Without ever mentioning the words “wolf ” or “endangered species,” the bill reinstated the 2009 decision on the part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist gray wolves in Idaho and Montana.
So now Wyoming wants in on the action.

They’ve crafted a plan that calls for wolf protection — in a “Wolf Trophy Big Game Management Area,” a corner of the state encircling Yellowstone National Park, in which wolves can only be hunted down to 100 individuals and 10 breeding pairs. That area may have as many as 200 wolves now and the state some 350. In the rest of the state, wolves will be classified as predatory animals — along with coyotes, jackrabbits, porcupine, raccoons, red foxes, skunks and stray cats, according to Wyoming statutes. Any gray wolf caught doing damage to private property can be immediately killed by the property owner, and if a wolf is caught harassing, injuring, maiming or killing livestock or domesticated animals, or just “occupying a chronic wolf predation area,” the owner may notify the Wyoming Fish and Game Commission, which can issue a Lethal Take Permit.

Public comment has just closed on the latest draft of the plan. The first draft was rejected because it presented a “substantial risk to the population” of wolves in Wyoming. The new addendum argues that of course wolves will be managed to prevent a population drop below a certain level. If only to keep the federal government from reassessing the decision to delist wolves.

“In large part, it’s a plan to contain wolves and greatly contract their range and greatly reduce their numbers,” says Michael Robinson, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has come out strongly opposed to the idea of delisting wolves. “It will, in effect, end the possibility of recovery in Colorado.”

Douglas Smith, team leader for the wolf project at Yellowstone National Park, has spent more than three decades studying wolves. About 100 wolves live in Yellowstone National Park. If a wolf leaves the park, it falls to the state officials to monitor the wolf, and its chances of survival decline.

“In the past it was conflicts — illegal killing and livestock control, and now it’s illegal killing and livestock control and legal hunting,” Smith says. “So wolves survive less well outside of Yellowstone National Park, and I don’t think that’s a secret.”
Given their propensity to move to areas without wolves, the wolf-free Colorado landscape looks like pretty ripe wolf habitat.
“But it’s a long way,” Smith says.

“Wolves have gotten there from the Yellowstone area, so they can make it. It’s just that they don’t survive very well.”
It’s possible, but unlikely, that wolves could relocate here without gradually moving into areas south of Yellowstone and dispersing as younger generations set out to look for mates and territories to call their own.
“Wolves typically disperse and travel as loners, so to have a breeding pair in Colorado would take an individual male and an individual female both leaving where they came from and making it to Colorado and then meeting there,” Smith says. “If that happened, they’d probably pair and have pups. The likelihood of that happening is low.”
But, it’s even less likely that an already established breeding pair would relocate. Wolves tend to settle near where they meet.

“It’s the loners that travel a long way, and part of the reason they’re traveling a long way is they’re looking for an opposite-sex wolf to settle down with,” Smith says. “Part of the reason they go so far is they don’t find them, so they keep going, and they usually end up dead.”

When the plan for reintroducing wolves to the United States was crafted in the mid-’90s, Colorado wasn’t invited to the party. Whether Colorado wanted to be depends on who you ask — a 1994 mail survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Colorado showed strong support for reintroducing wolves with some 70 percent in favor.

But a 1989 resolution from the Colorado Wildlife Commission states that, because humans had moved into the habitat needed for grizzly bears and wolves, and the reintroduction of either could present conflicts with the livestock industry and humans as well as presenting a “management problem,” reintroduction of wolves and grizzly bears was opposed.
“There won’t be any reintroductions,” says Eric Odell, species conservation program manager for carnivores with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Our Wildlife Commission has given two resolutions that said that they’re opposed to a wolf reintroduction to the state for a variety of reasons — social and agricultural and all that kind of reasons.”

Wolves in Colorado are still managed by the federal government via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as long as they are considered endangered in this state. Colorado drafted a plan in 2004 for managing wolves in the event they were ever delisted, but meeting that criteria, according to the Endangered Species Act, means having a substantial and self-sustaining population.

Though reports of wolves have come out of a ranch in the northwestern part of Colorado, the High Lonesome Ranch, DNA testing has either indicated that the scat collected was coyote or been inconclusive.
“In the whole state, there are no known wolves or wolf pack established,” Odell says. He receives reports, sometimes several a week, from people who say they’ve seen wolves. “Everything that we’ve received and followed up on has shown that there are no known wolves at the moment.”

Two wolves have been killed here, one on I-70 and one in northwest Colorado, and another was videotaped near North Park, but those were several years ago.
“That was the last time we knew of any wolf for sure in the state, and those were individuals,” Odell says. “There’s no established population or anything like that in the state.”

Most of North America was once home to wolves, which are considered a keystone predator. Their presence shapes an entire ecosystem: Studies have shown wolves keep elk and deer on the move, which allows for healthier tree and shrub growth, providing habitat for other species, and wolves cull sick, weak adult deer and elk, possibly preventing the spread of communicable diseases, including the mad cow variant that ungulates carry. Rocky Mountain National Park has been allowing hunting to manage the overpopulation of elk there. But a hunter’s aim, while precise, doesn’t have an eye for the sick and weak — the kills are more arbitrary than those chosen by wolves.
In Colorado, people play the part of that keystone predator. 
“We’ve been doing that for the last 100 years or so and we do manage our game populations, our deer and elk populations, through our hunting regulations pretty specifically,” Odell says. “We take that role of managing the game populations to benefit the ecosystem.”
The densely populated Front Range makes it tough to contemplate other options in this part of the state.
“When you’ve got that many people, where are you going to put the wolves?” Smith says. “They can’t live year round in the mountains, because the winter hits and the elk come down and the deer come down and the wolves follow them. And where they do, the deer and elk go in the backyards of people — that’s a problem, and people don’t like it, but it’s a much different problem when you’ve got a wolf in your backyard.”

Despite an elk population so abundant the park has needed to issue permits to hunt some of them down and has fenced in aspen groves to protect them from lingering elk, Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t provide a good location because it’s so high in elevation. The elk may be able to winter over near the ice cream and t-shirt shops and mini golf courses in Estes Park, but the wolves can’t.
“You would have people, elk and wolves all thrown together and we know that doesn’t work,” Smith says. “It’s not that the wolves don’t tolerate the people, it’s that the people don’t really tolerate them.”
Southern Colorado’s stretches of public land near the San Juans might provide a better habitat for wolves, but the act of getting there is still tough.

“Assuming wolves could make it through a lot of Wyoming — I mean those are a lot of ifs,” Smith says. “Right now all the wolves are in northwest Wyoming, and they won’t be allowed in a huge area just south of Jackson, so connectivity between that area and Colorado is going to be your first problem.”
But the connectivity is precisely what the Endangered Species Act was meant to provide. Its purpose, as defined by the Act itself, is “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved.”
And preserving the ecosystem, according to conservation organizations like the Center for Biodiversity and the American Society of Mammologists, which have both come out opposed to Wyoming delisting wolves, requires allowing species to successfully maintain themselves.

“Connectivity between the wolf subpopulations … not only is that vital for long-term genetic maintenance, but allowing that connectivity to exist is one way of measuring whether that ecosystem exists,” Robinson says. To do otherwise thwarts the purpose of the Act and the definition of an endangered species. A recovered animal is one that can maintain itself, according to the Endangered Species Act. An animal that needs to be carted around in order to find a mate — as Wyoming’s plan proposes doing if necessary to maintain genetic diversity in its wolf population — is not maintaining itself.
“One would hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service would say, ‘We’re moving way too fast, this doesn’t make sense. It’s not consistent with the law and it’s not consistent with the public sentiment,’” Robinson says. Robinson’s book, Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West, charts the history of the eradication of wolves from North America, a move that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s predecessor organization was pressured to make.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still carefully monitors the impact wolves have on livestock and compensates ranchers who lose animals to wolves. The organization reported that between 1987, when Canadian wolves first denned in upper Montana, and 2009, more than 1,301 cattle, 2,584 sheep, 142 dogs, 31 goats, 25 llamas and 10 horses had been killed by wolves and nearly $2 million had been paid in damages by private and state wolf damage compensation funds. Wolves were relocated 117 times and killed more than 1,259 times to reduce conflicts.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service has a history as an agricultural service. In large part what we’re seeing is a reversion to form,” Robinson says. “They’re allowing the proposal of the destruction of most of the wolves in Wyoming and they are likely to close the door on reintroduction in Colorado altogether.”

From ranchers to conservationists to casual observers, the response to wolves is rarely a moderate one.
“Some people think it’s the coolest thing in the world, and other people think it’s the end of their life, my life just got ruined,” Smith says. “There’s very little in the middle. … And that’s part of the problem. You go from one private holding to the next and the welcome mat changes from ‘Welcome’ to ‘Don’t step on this place.’”

The hackles raise to the point of either side sending death threats. A photo of a trapped wolf from Idaho that shows the wolf still limping through a circle of pink snow behind the smiling Nez Perce Forest Service employee who trapped, and would later shoot, the wolf, earned the hunter death threats. The anti-wolf trapping nonprofit that reposted his photo and complained of his cruel practices also received death threats in response.

“I think wolves are a symptom of bigger things in our society,” Smith says. “In the last 10-15 years, we’ve become more polarized about the environment, what’s the purpose of the environment. Is it here for us, or is it here for us to coexist in, or is it here for us to use, and the wolf symbolizes that conflict. It’s really a lightning rod for the disagreement surrounding how we coexist with nature. They’re very symbolic with wildness, and some people think we don’t need wildness, we don’t want it because it’s inconvenient and it gets in our way, whereas other people think how dare we remove every shred of the earth that has nothing to do with us. So they’re very symbolic about a larger debate about just economics, do we use the land, do we conserve it, how do we live on it, versus how do we deal with life separate from human life.”

Image of the Day

Yin Yang by Arctic Wolf Pictures
Yin Yang, a photo by Arctic Wolf Pictures on Flickr.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Simple, Yet Powerful Letter to the Editor

May 23, 2012 in Opinion, Letters

Man is meaner than wolves

My letter is in defense of Meg McCoy’s April 24 letter from the vigorous attacks by Idahoans Beverly Klein (May 10) and Patrick Larson (May 6).

My gut reaction to the photo of the trapper posing in front of the dying wolf is he has no soul; oblivious to the suffering. Gluttony and arrogance not only eradicates species, it can now kill the planet. I’ve heard questioning wolves’ existence because they have no economic value. What a sad world when the purpose for existence is profit! Wolves have a nobility that is blind to some – qualities like strong family bond, resilience, teamwork and intelligence. Beautiful animals!

My letter is also for those like me who enjoy wilderness camping, even in Idaho, who would be thrilled to hear a wolf howl, but not the sound of gunfire.

The forests are not feedlots for game animals. Wolves belong here as much as elk. If Klein is not Native American she is no more indigenous than wolves are. It’s easy to see people such as these thinking Indians didn’t need the buffalo. A balanced ecosystem existed long before humans mucked things up.

Man is the ugliest animal roaming the forests.

Donald W. Daw


FWP biologists answer local questions on wolf hunt

Wolf photo
A back and gray female wolf named "Half Black" from the Druid pack stands in the road near Lamar River bridge in December 2003.
Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Commenters were concerned but calm at a Bozeman meeting Tuesday night on proposed changes to the state wolf hunt. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 3 director Pat Flowers welcomed around 50 people to the brief presentation intended to highlight lessons learned from two wolf seasons and to explain changes to the 2012 hunting season.
The main change proposed, and the one that has received the most criticism, is the addition of a trapping season. The season would run from Dec. 15 to Feb. 28 to avoid the time when bears are active, said biologist Howard Burt.

If approved, regulations would require trappers to attend an orientation. Trappers would also have to check their traps every 48 hours, although Burt did not address how FWP would enforce that.
The state wolf population continues to increase, so the proposal eliminates kill quotas in all but two hunting areas, replacing them with a general season intended to reduce the population to 425.
That was also the target population for 2011. But hunters’ interest may be dwindling. Only 121 filled their tags in 2011, out of more than 18,000 tags sold. As a result, the season was extended through the end of January. This year, FWP proposes to extend the general hunting season until Feb. 28.
So far in 2012, 70 wolves have died, according to the May 11 FWP weekly report. Wildlife services or landowners killed 14, sportsmen killed 45 and at least 11 died in other ways such as auto accidents. Idaho officials killed two Montana wolves, which aren’t included in the count.
Most wolf deaths are human-caused, Burt said.

FWP wants to increase the number of wolves killed during hunting season because fewer are being destroyed for killing livestock.
Burt displayed a chart showing that livestock mortality due to wolves has declined over the past three years after having increased for a number of years. During the first five months of this year, FWP confirmed that wolves killed 17 cows and eight sheep.

The FWP Commission gave initial approval to the hunting season changes after hearing comments from more than 60 people. Commissioners won’t make a final decision until July 12. Public comment closes June 25.
Linda Oyama, a former taxidermist who lives in the Churchill area, said she plans on buying a trapping license. She asked Flowers if landowners could hire someone else to sit on their land at night to kill wolves.

“A rancher can’t stay up all night,” Oyama said. “(Flowers) said you could hire someone as long as they call FWP after they killed it.”
Anne Barnhill said she was neither pro- nor anti-wolf but had questions.
“As long as livestock depredation is going down, I don’t know why more need to be hunted,” Barnhill said.

Ted Rechlin, who has spent months observing wolves in Yellowstone National Park, said he’s relatively pleased with the plan.
“It’s a lot better than Wyoming or Idaho,” Rechlin said. “If wolves were as big and bad as people make them out to be, I’d be dead now.”

People wishing to comment can visit


UW expert: Wolf could go back on endangered species list

wolf hunt editorial

WA: wolves likely caused fatal calf injuries

May 23, 2012

Federal and Washington state wildlife managers say wolves likely caused fatal injuries to a Methow Valley calf and the landowner would qualify for compensation.
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — 

Federal and Washington state wildlife managers say wolves likely caused fatal injuries to a Methow Valley calf and the landowner would qualify for compensation.
State Fish and Wildlife regional director Steve Pozzanghera said Wednesday it's not possible to say for sure what killed the calf last Friday because it was mostly consumed when wildlife agents reached it. However, he says early photos taken by the rancher and tracks in the area were consistent with wolves. Also, the ranch near Carlton in north-central Washington is in an area traditionally used by the Lookout wolf pack.

He says the landowner would be the first to qualify for compensation under the state's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, adopted last year. The Lookout pack is one of five wolf packs confirmed in the state.
Wolves were removed from the Endangered Species list in the eastern one-third of Washington state last year, but they remain a federally protected species in the rest of the state.


Season to hunt, trap wolves a step closer

Associated Press

Wisconsin has an estimated 800 wolves outside of American Indian reservations.

Madison - Wisconsin is one step closer to a hunting and trapping season for gray wolves.
The Natural Resources Board on Wednesday approved a scope statement of rules for a public wolf harvest scheduled to begin in October.

The procedural step was accompanied by a renewed round of support and criticism for legislation that prescribes the first regulated Wisconsin wolf season.
"It's time to let the public begin managing wolves," said Ralph Fritsch of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. "I'm confident we will come up with a season that allows management and keeps the wolf numbers above the recovery goal."

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress and Wisconsin Hunters Rights Coalition also supported the wolf hunting rules.
But others appealed to the board to oppose what they view as an overly aggressive, poorly considered plan drafted by extremists.

"The cautionary principle of 'haste makes waste,' applies here," said Jodi Habush Sinykin, senior counsel at Midwest Environmental Advocates. "The rushed rule-making process comes off as financially and ethically irresponsible and could very well cause the species to be re-listed again."
Sinykin said lawmakers had failed to work with wolf experts, including current and former DNR employees and researchers at the University of Wisconsin, when the legislation was passed.
Opposition has also come from American Indian officials and the Wisconsin Humane Society.
The state assumed management responsibility for wolves in January when the species was removed from protections of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Wisconsin has an estimated 800 wolves outside of American Indian reservations; the recovery goal was 350.
Legislation signed last month charged the Department of Natural Resources with implementing a wolf hunting and trapping season.
Lawmakers established many aspects of the season, including a season to run from Oct. 15 to the end of February.

They also legalized the use of dogs, electronic calls, bait and night hunting to pursue wolves.
Hunters and trappers will pay a $10 application fee. Licenses will cost $100 for residents and $500 for non-residents.
The DNR is working on establishing harvest zones as well as permit levels and wolf harvest quotas.
"Our goal is to make sure what we are putting forward is publicly acceptable and the wolf population remains viable," said Kurt Thiede, administrator of the DNR's Land Division.
Thiede declined to give a potential range for permit levels; he said numbers should be released in early June.

Minnesota officials last week announced a wolf harvest quota of 400 wolves out of its population of more than 3,000.
If Wisconsin were to use a similar goal, it would set a wolf harvest quota of about 100.
The scoping statement approved Wednesday allows the department to close hunting and trapping in a zone if the quota is reached or if it is "necessary to effectively manage the state's wolf population."
Half of the permits must be issued randomly, half through a preference point system.

In addition, depredation claims will now be paid from revenue from wolf hunting and trapping licenses, not from the Endangered Resources fund.
The state paid about $300,000 in livestock and pet depredation claims due to wolf attacks in 2011, Thiede said.

Final wolf hunting and trapping rules should be back to the board for consideration in July.
If the final rules are approved by the board and the governor, wolf hunting and trapping permit applications would be available in early August. The application deadline would be Sept. 1.
Successful applicants would be notified by mid-September, Thiede said.
The agency is entering uncharted territory. Wolves had been hunted, trapped and poisoned under a bounty system in Wisconsin for much of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Now, as a protected game species, the wolf is subject to season and harvest restrictions.
"We'll learn a lot this year about hunter success rates and the level of interest," Thiede said. "Our primary objective is to retain state management of the species."

Coyote hunting expansion?

The law that establishes a Wisconsin wolf hunting and trapping season also includes a provision to expand coyote hunting.
Ralph Fritsch of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation encouraged the DNR to seize the opportunity and approve a rule to allow coyote hunting in northern Wisconsin during the nine-day gun deer season.
Such hunting had been prohibited to guard against hunters mistakenly shooting wolves.
Now that the wolf population has surpassed recovery goals, Thiede said the department was evaluating a rule to allow coyote hunting in northern Wisconsin during the gun deer season. Such a rule could be in place by November.

Trail cameras:

At the DNR's request, the board approved a new policy that will allow the public to leave trail cameras overnight on state properties.
The agency has a general prohibition against leaving personal property overnight on state land. Trail cameras join geocaches and traps as exceptions to the policy.
The DNR accepts no responsibility for theft or damage to trail cameras left on state property.
The new trail cam policy will become official in June when it is published, said the DNR's Scott Loomens.

Record land deal approved:

The board approved an $11.3 million purchase of conservation easements on nearly 45,000 acres in northern Wisconsin.
The easements will allow public access to the land in perpetuity. The money will come from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
The land is owned by Lyme Timber Co. of Hanover, N.H.

Called the Brule-St.Croix Forest Legacy Project, the land lies in the headwaters of the Bois Brule and St. Croix rivers in Douglas, Washburn, Bayfield and Burnett counties.
The deal was supported by a wide array of organizations, including the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.
The conservation acquisition includes 80 small lakes and ponds and 14 miles of streams. It abuts 950,000 acres of existing public land, including the Brule River State Forest, and includes a segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

The land provides access to 47 miles of snowmobile trails and walk-in access to 12 lakes. It also offers habitat for three endangered or threatened species — the Karner Blue butterfly, Kirtland's warbler and Canada lynx — according to the DNR.
The board's vote covers the first phase of the project. The second will cover 22,668 acres for $6 million; it is expected to be reviewed by the board in 2014.
When both phases are complete, the deal will cover 67,347 acres and be the largest such purchase in state history.