Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 21 Sep 2012
WaPo’s omissions – A feature story in the Washington Post on Monday took a broad look at the status of wolves nationwide, but it missed a few key points. First, there’s no mention anywhere of the fact that wolves in Montana and Idaho were delisted last year by Congressional fiat. This was the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act that protections have been stripped by politicians rather than scientists, setting a dangerous precedent for dealing with other controversial species in the future. Second, the article glosses over how wolves are being treated very differently than other wildlife. No other species, especially one that was recently protected under the ESA, is managed at such low population levels. We rarely hear any complaints about the thousands of bears and mountain lions in the Northern Rockies, but for some reason there is almost no tolerance for even a few hundred wolves. Why single out this species for persecution? States ought to be managing for healthy wolf populations, just like they manage for all other native species. Wolves are important predators that help maintain balanced ecosystems. They can’t perform this essential function though if their numbers are kept at a biological minimum on the landscape.

Dogs in wolf country – Wolves are rarely ever a threat to humans, unless they’ve become habituated through regular feeding. But a story this week from the Spokesman-Review reminds us that in wolf country we need to watch out for our pets as well. Jim Groth was out in northeastern Washington doing mushroom surveys for the Forest Service when his dog got into a rare scuffle with a wolf. Groth was able to rescue his dog and eventually scare two wolves away, but the encounter left a lasting impression on him.

Though very few of us will ever encounter a wolf in the wild, here are a few helpful hints, just in case. If you’re headed out into wolf country, keep your dog on a leash. Wolves see dogs as strange rival wolves and may try to attack if given the opportunity. If a wolf gets too close for comfort, do your best to act tough and scare them away by making loud noises or throwing rocks in their direction. Consider carrying bear spray (most places with wolves also have bears, and spray will work just fine on wolves too). But also remember that not a single person has been killed or even injured in Northern Rockies since wolves were reintroduced more than 15 years ago. So keep your pets close and you should be fine.

Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to make sure that wolves keep a healthy fear of humans, which prevents conflict and keeps wolves alive over the long run.

Mange kills wolves in Yellowstone– For years, Defenders has been saying that maintaining just a few hundred wolves in the Northern Rockies isn’t good enough. Here’s a good reason why. A report from Live Science says that mange is becoming a bigger problem in Yellowstone National Park and is at least part of the reason why the wolf population has dropped significantly in recent years. A robust wolf population spread over a large landscape can sustain disease epidemics without a problem. But disease spreads quickly and can have disastrous consequences when a species is confined to smaller areas. The goal should be to sustain a sufficiently large and well-distributed population across the Northern Rockies rather than concentrating populations in select areas of each state where they are more vulnerable to disease.

Suzanne tells all – Our top wolf expert Suzanne Stone isn’t one to pull punches, and in a recent interview on the Green Global Travel blog, she gave straightforward answers to some tough questions. Why do people demonize wolves? Why are wolves important? How can we resolve the ongoing conflicts between people and wildlife? Read the blog to find out.
“If you look into the eyes of a wild wolf, there is something there more powerful than many humans can accept.” – Suzanne Stone