Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 28 Jun 2013

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of
A telling comment – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was reminded this week of how unpopular the Fish and Wildlife Service’s  proposal to delist nearly all gray wolves is among the kids of this country. Jewell was at an event to talk about kids and the outdoors, when the subject turned to the pending wolf delisting. She recounted a story about a 12-year-old who asked her not to strip protections for wolves. Jewell said she didn’t have a choice. “It’s about science, and you do what the science says; otherwise, you get sued.”

The problem is government scientists have been highly selective in choosing the science that they will rely upon and have discounted the opinion of outside experts, many of whom  strongly believe that wolves are still not recovered in key parts of their historic range and thus should remain protected in those areas.

Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark says Jewell needs to evaluate the best available science carefully before finalizing the delisting.
“I hope she does listen to the scientists and that she gets personally involved in what happens during the public comment period and that science does indeed inform the decision she needs to make a year from now… It is absolutely about the science, and when it comes to science and whether or not wolves have recovered in the lower 48, we believe the science suggests it has not.”
Read the full story from Greenwire. Learn more about what you can do to help us stop this premature delisting.

wood river workshop 2013 wm
Participants attend a field demonstration at this year’s Wood River Wolf Project workshop in central Idaho.
Wood River Workshop—a Success! Last week, Defenders hosted the Wood River Wolf Project training workshop and field demonstration in Blaine County, Idaho.  The workshop covered a wide range of non-lethal tools (e.g., fladry, lighting, noise) and techniques (e.g., carcass removal, increased human presence, grazing route rotations, livestock guarding dogs) that have been successfully used to deter wolves and other predators from killing livestock during the first five years of this model project.    More than 50 people attended the workshop including representatives from state and federal wildlife agencies, university researchers, conservationists, ranchers and members of the local community.

Participants gave us very positive feedback, including the following comments:
“The workshop provides a forum to talk about a different approach to resolve conflicts between domestic livestock and predators. The preferred method of managing conflict involves expensive lethal responses at taxpayer expense and the workshop facilitates discussions among stakeholders to look at prevention and non-lethal alternative ways to mediate predation issues. Most participants want to see a new paradigm evolve and support that change.”

”Defenders put as much into a two-day workshop as possible! Good balance between presentations and field time. Defenders once again is on the leading edge of promoting coexistence between carnivores, humans and their livestock. We need more workshops like this in more places!”
Obviously, our project can’t force ranchers in wolf country to do the right thing. Those who use poor animal husbandry practices continue to lose livestock, and our wildlife pays the price as a result. For example, last Friday the Idaho Mountain Express reported that four wolves have been killed in recent weeks in response to sheep and calf losses in central Idaho. All of these animals – livestock and wolves – probably could have been saved if those ranchers had adopted appropriate proactive strategies to deter wolf predation.

Guard dogs and people work together to protect sheep.
Still, overall livestock losses remain exceptionally low all across the region, even though stories like this one in the Magic Valley Times-News try to paint a very different picture. Only 90 head of cattle and 251 sheep were lost last year compared to more than 400 wolves that were killed by hunters, trappers and government agents. That’s a tiny fraction of the total number of livestock in the state but more than half of the entire wolf population! Yet the story insinuates that somehow ranchers are being left high and dry, despite the fact that we helped Congress develop a depredation compensation program that just authorized another $850,000 for wolf compensation and coexistence.

Politics trumps science with wolf delisting — A sobering piece from Salon asks, “Is the far right driving gray wolves to extinction?” It chronicles the story of how anti-wolf extremists have succeeded in making wolves the bogeyman in the West based out outdated mythology and misinformation. It also describes how scientific information was selectively chosen to make it easier to strip protections for wolves.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Image of the Day


States Pressed for Limits on Gray Wolf Protections

Wildlife officials from western states lobbied for strict limits on federal protections for gray wolves before the Obama administration proposed to take the animals off the endangered list across most of the Lower 48 states, documents show.

During private meetings with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state officials threatened lawsuits and legislation as they pressed to exclude Colorado and Utah from a small area in the West where protections would remain in place.

The documents suggest the animal's fate was decided through political bargaining between state and federal officials, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The nonprofit group obtained the records through a freedom of information lawsuit and provided them to The Associated Press.

"In simplest terms, these documents detail how the gray wolf lost a popularity contest among wildlife managers," Ruch said.

Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director Gary Frazer rejected the assertion. He said science drove the administration's proposal, and the released documents reflect only a small portion of a years-long review of the legal status of gray wolves.

"It was not going in with some predetermined outcome," he said of the meetings with state officials. "It was to step back and engage experts from the state and federal agencies that are responsible for managing wolves."

The administration's plan unveiled earlier this month would declare gray wolves are only endangered in a relatively small part of the Southwest inhabited by a few dozen Mexican wolves — a subspecies of the gray wolf.

Endangered Wolf Politics.JPEG

Meanwhile, gray wolves would lose protections on millions of acres in Colorado and Utah — an area the wildlife service earlier had said was suitable for wolves but currently has none of the predators.

The documents from 2010 and 2011 include detailed notes from closed-door meetings between state and federal officials, presentations by federal wildlife experts, and maps of potential wolf habitat.

The meetings laid the groundwork for the administration's proposal, which is expected to be finalized next year. It reflects the federal government's desire to largely exit the wolf restoration business following protracted and hotly contested programs in the northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes.

More than 6,000 wolves now roam those two regions after government-sponsored poisoning and trapping nearly exterminated wolves in the past century.

But with vast areas of wild habitat still devoid of gray wolves, some wildlife researchers and advocacy groups say it's too soon to say the species has recovered.

The documents show the government weighed a variety of factors beyond gray wolf survival, including economic impact on the livestock industry, public tolerance and other issues outside the scope of the Endangered Species Act.

Frazer said the government didn't take anything off the table during its discussions with the states but stressed that its final decision would be based solely on the authority provided by the act.
Under the pending proposal, Mexican wolves that spread into Colorado, Utah or other states still would be protected. That would not be true for wolves that dispersed south from the much larger northern Rockies population.

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the state supports the administration's plan. He declined to comment on how the federal government reached its conclusions.

Michigan Technological University biologist John Vucetich, a member of a scientific panel that advised the Fish and Wildlife Service on Mexican wolves, said the agency gave states too much deference. The panel's experts agreed that the Mexican wolf population would need to reach around 700 animals and cover significant parts of Colorado and Utah to survive in the long term, he said.

"It's almost as if the real limiting factor to wolves right now is not the intolerance of citizens who are shooting them," he said. "It's the intolerance of federal government to keep working on the problem."
Flesher reported from Traverse City, Mich.

Conflicts Rise Between Idaho Ranchers, Gray Wolves

Southern Idaho Local News
June 26, 2013 11:55 am  • 
TWIN FALLS, Idaho • As the federal government seeks to pull the gray wolf off the endangered species list, conflicts between ranchers and gray wolves in south-central Idaho are on the rise, with record livestock losses last year.

Gray wolves killed 34 cattle and 79 sheep last year in the Southern Mountain region of the Sawtooth Range, which includes Camas and Blaine counties.

Statewide, they destroyed 90 cattle and 251 sheep, said Todd Grimm, state wildlife services director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In turn, hunters killed 330 wolves in Idaho in 2012, up from 200 the year before.

While other states could be affected if the wolf loses its endangered species status, Idaho has been managing its own wolf population since 2009, said Craig White, staff biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game.

Idaho had 683 wolves and at least 117 packs last year, far more than the 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs required to avoid a federal relisting of the species in the state.

Still, the wolf population was down from its 2009 peak of 856.

“Our goal, as mandated, is to keep wolves on the landscape,” White said. “We’ve just got to balance it with other interests. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to be happy with that balance.”

The record number of livestock losses, with the highest death toll in south-central Idaho, “may just be an anomaly,” Grimm said. “Sometimes things happen. We just don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see what this year’s numbers point out.”

Packs that attack livestock are removed on a case-by-case basis, he said. Last year, 73 wolves were killed as a state control measure, up from 63 in 2011. Nine of those 73 wolves were in the Southern Mountain region.

The ranchers who sustained livestock losses last year have yet to be compensated, however.

Getting By

It’s been a rough two years, said Carey-area sheep rancher John Peavey.

Wolves come at least every other night during lambing season, kill six or eight lambs but “don’t eat a thing,” destroying 50 lambs so far this year, he said.

It’s a tragic situation for ranchers, said Peavey, who owns Flat Top Sheep Co.

“We’re going to get by,” said fellow sheep rancher John Faulkner, “but we are going to kill some of them. That’s all there is to it.”

He said wolves have preyed on his sheep every year since they were reintroduced in the mid-1990s.
Grimm said officials are working to reduce wolf-livestock encounters by promoting non-lethal options, but some of those can cost more than the loss of sheep.

Peavey said he and others patrol the flock nightly using flashing lights. They do their best, but it often is not enough, he said.

Preventive measures are effective, though, said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for the Defenders of Wildlife. In western Blaine County, in a preventive project area with 27,000 sheep, only four were lost to wolves in 2012.

Ranchers can use several methods, she said, including guard dogs, human herders, lighting, electric fencing and corrals bedecked with flags that flap in the wind.

Ranchers also can keep their livestock away from areas where wolves have established dens. They also can remove attractants such as carcass pits or use higher-tech devices such as “rag boxes” that make loud noises when wolves with a tracking collar come near.

Adjusting ranching methods also would help, Stone said. Shed lambing offers more protection than range lambing, where pregnant ewes are allowed to roam and raise their lambs in clusters vulnerable to prey.

Peavey said shed lambing is too expensive and range lambing is a “beautiful process” that lets sheep “do what they’re supposed to.”

Easing the Pain

Although he’s lost many sheep to wolves, Peavey hasn’t been paid through the state’s compensation program for two years, he said.

A lamb is worth $150 to $200, but he said death costs go beyond what he can count. Any reimbursement is a “small part of easing the pain.”

“The carcasses are just part of the problem,” he said. “You’ve got moms killed, and their babies are out there waiting to be fed and they’re going to die. But that’s not part of the depredation (reimbursement).“

The Defenders of Wildlife had compensated ranchers for wolf attacks on livestock, but that program ended in the fall of 2010, said Dustin Miller, administrator of the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation.

A five-year federal program was developed to pay compensation nationwide, but that funding recently fizzled because of federal sequestration efforts, Miller said. In 2011, the program paid Idaho ranchers about $100,000 for livestock losses.

Miller said his office is applying for federal funds to cover livestock losses in 2012. But money will be tight, with $850,000 up for grabs between several states and Indian tribes. The money must be split between compensation and proactive deterrent efforts, he said.

“Unfortunately, we usually have the highest level of depredations in the country, and if it’s competitive, we may receive more funding than other states. But we can’t be sure,” Miller said. “We have no idea what we are going to receive, and I can’t guarantee producers who lost livestock … will be compensated at market rates.”

Helping or Hurting?

Stone is concerned by the declining Idaho wolf population since the state started managing the predator. She said the state’s treatment of wolves is more severe and aggressive than that used for other predators.

The wolf population will continue to decline as other states look to Idaho for examples of prudent management, Stone said.

Early this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf from the threatened and endangered species list, citing a successful recovery. Some environmental groups have claimed the proposal is premature, as the species hasn’t been returned to its historic range. A 90-day comment period on the proposal is open through Sept. 11.

At least 6,100 gray wolves are in the U.S., with about 625 in Montana, 277 in Wyoming, and 4,432 in the Western Great Lakes region, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife says.
“This traditional way of managing wildlife, where you just kill animals that (pose) a threat to livestock, it just doesn’t work,” she said. “It’s expensive, it requires a lot of helicopter time, airplane time, trapping, you lose livestock to begin with … and then you end up losing the wildlife and predators as well.”

State officials said wolf hunting would take pressure off livestock, but the opposite is true, Stone said. Hunting disrupts wolf packs, and juvenile wolves without a family are more likely to get into livestock as the pack can’t teach them how to hunt other prey, such as elk or deer.

“You’ve then got basically a bunch of teenagers running around, and they are the ones who tend to get in trouble more with people because they are not very savvy at hunting,” she said.
White disputed that claim. Wolves always will look for the “biggest bang for their buck” with the least risk, he said.

“I think that’s a little simplistic to say that a sub-adult wolf who didn’t have an adult model mentor became a thug … because there was no mentor to teach them the right way to hunt naturally,” he said.
Evidence indicates 80 to 90 percent of packs stay intact if one member is killed, White said. Moreover, where wolves have been removed after livestock depredation, new packs move in and cause the same problems, he said.

Without hunting, wolf populations would grow, and so would livestock depredation, Peavey said. When it’s a rancher’s livelihood being eaten, “you worry about today’s wolves, not next year’s wolves.”

Faulkner agreed, saying he has had less trouble as a result of hunting and packs being fractured.
“You’re only dealing with three or four wolves, whereas before you were dealing with up to 22,” he said. “Those big packs are way more vicious than the small ones.”

Open Spaces

Hunting and trapping efforts influence wolf pack movement, said Regan Berkley, a Jerome-based wildlife biologist for Fish and Game. But predators migrate largely to follow prey and to claim territory in open space.

On a state map of wolf pack locations, southern Idaho is noticeably void of the predator. While sightings occur, a resident wolf pack south of the Snake River has never been documented, Berkley said.

Opinions vary on whether wolves could establish a presence there.

Berkley said it’s a slim chance. The area has space, elk and deer, but wolf encounters likely would be met with swift control.

Also, she said, the environment isn’t quite suitable. Wolves can live in a variety of habitats, but southern Idaho and the Magic Valley don’t provide areas where they can hide or establish dens.
“It’s not a place that has some of the classic habitat characteristics that are typically associated with wolves,” she said.

White wasn’t as quick to dismiss the notion. Wolves have been known to travel long distances across state lines to establish packs, the biologist said.

“Certainly a wolf could take a little walkabout and end up in the mountains on the Idaho -Nevada border south of you,” he said. “… Anything’s possible, but there’s not a lot down there to hold ’em and a lot of potential for conflicts that would get them in trouble.”

Peavey said the foothills south of the Twin Falls area look like wolf habitat to him.
“I suspect when we have a large winter with lots of cold and snow, the elk will migrate into the desert area south of Carey and the Snake River plain,” he said. “They’ll be down there killing elk and livestock.”

Faulkner agreed, saying he once saw four wolves south of Glenns Ferry.

“Don’t worry — they’ll be down into Utah,” the rancher said. “You don’t need to worry about those wolves surviving.”


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Image of the Day

Polar wolf profile by Tambako the Jaguar
Polar wolf profile, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Rare white wolf recorded swimming across northern lake

shadd lake, saskA chance encounter on a lake in Northern Saskatchewan has a fisherman talking about the white wolf that swam his way.
Bob Thacker, from Vancouver, was on an annual summer fishing trip with his brother when they spotted something unusual on Shadd Lake.

"I saw what I thought was a bit fat duck," Thacker told CBC News. "And as we approached it I thought that's not a duck, it's like a polar bear or an albino bear."
As their boat motored closer, Thacker said their local guide quickly identified the animal as a rare white wolf.

"It was a white wolf that you don't see very often," Thacker said, adding it was even more unusual to see one swimming across a relatively large lake.
Thacker learned from his guide that the wolf may have been part of a pack and been kicked out for some reason. The wolf may also have been tracking prey.

"I had never seen a wolf before and was just amazed by it," he added. "We got very close to it, but we didn't want to disturb it or frighten it because it still had a ways to swim. So we just got up close, took the video and took off to let it be."


Wolf population on Isle Royale dwindles to 8

Isle Royale near Thunder Bay renowned as place to study predators and prey in a single ecosystem.

Isle Royale hosts a delicate natural relationship between wolves and moose. Isle Royale hosts a delicate natural relationship between wolves and moose. (istock)
Researchers on Isle Royale in Lake Superior say new wolves must be introduced to save the island’s famous population of the predator.
Isle Royale, which is just south of Thunder Bay on the American side of the international boundary, has had its wolf population decimated by what a researcher calls “genetic inbreeding.” Only eight wolves remain, the lowest level in recent history.
isle royale, ONThe fact it is hovering near extinction has scientists proposing possible solutions to save the animal population.
One of those proposals comes from Rolf Peterson, a wildlife biologist at Michigan Tech University, who recommends introducing new wolves to the gene pool.
"I think we stand to learn the most by attempting genetic rescue," Peterson said. “The notion that there might be genetic value in the current population is a compelling one, I think.”

The predator-prey relationship

Isle Royale is well known in the scientific community, and the ecosystem has been used by researchers for more than 50 years to study the complex predator-prey relationship between wolves and moose.
Due to the close interlink between the species, the moose population could boom if its natural predator is no longer present.
“[The wolves] keep a lid on that moose population,” Peterson said. “Otherwise [the moose] are capable of really doing some damage, some of it irreversible, on the forest.”
The moose herd on Isle Royale has already almost doubled over the past three years, Peterson said.

Rescuing a population

The decision to save the wolf population will have to be made by the US National Park Service over the coming months.
There are a handful of options the organization can choose, including Peterson’s recommendation to introduce new wolf genes into the pool, or allowing the animal to go extinct, then restoring the population from zero.
The third option is to do nothing — something Peterson and the other researchers say is simply not good enough.
"If these trends aren't reversed one way or the other, they'll go extinct in a matter of a few years," he said.
The US Park Service will decide in the fall whether to intervene.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Image of the Day

Wolves Help to Fight Climate Change

By James Burgess | Sun, 23 June 2013 

A new study has discovered that predators help to fight climate change. Plant matter stores a huge amount of carbon, yet herbivores eat plants. When predators hunt and kill the herbivores they are allowing a few more plants to survive and grow.

ENN gave examples of the elk and grasshopper that can be found in abundance on wild grasslands in the US. Both consume large amounts of carbon absorbing vegetation, but are in turn killed and eaten by wolves and ambush spiders.
The study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that the presence of the predators made the herbivores more nervous and agitated, forcing them to look up more in search of the predators, and therefore affording them less time to graze on plants.

Whilst this may seem like a small matter, it actually has a large impact on the environment. When not being constantly eaten by animals the grass actually takes advantage and begins to grow much faster, absorbing a larger amount of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.

A study of grasslands in Connecticut showed that with the availability of predators to scare the herbivores, the plants were able to store 40% more carbon.

Professor Oswald Schmitz, from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, said that “the results provide some new food for thought about how we might use animals to manage carbon release to the atmosphere.”

Grasslands make up about 40% of the planet’s landmass, so increasing the number of predators into these habitats could help to significantly reduce the amount of carbon in the air. The only problem is that at the moment top predator populations are declining at a rapid rate.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Image of the Day

wolf stare by Fruitbat111
wolf stare, a photo by Fruitbat111 on Flickr.

Surviving with wolves

JEMEZ MOUNTAINS – Two years ago, Laney Smith watched a smoke plume from his house on Cochiti Mesa in the Jemez Mountains on a Sunday afternoon, saw it quickly grow bigger and called his wife, Susie, who was in town in Los Alamos to ask her to stock up on some provisions.
It looked like it might be a big forest fire and they might be holed up in their remote home for a few days.
Smith, who owns a machine shop in Los Alamos with his brother, had cleared a defensible space around his house – the house he had just finished building and furnished three months earlier – and wasn’t too worried about fire coming close. Until he saw the Las Conchas Fire advancing at what he would later learn was an acre a second.
“It took off so fast,” Smith said. “We could hear it. We could see it moving toward us. It was just a roar.”
Laney and Susie Smith had only two concerns, and their names are Juneau and Kiska.
The purebred wolves came to live with Smith 12 years ago, when they were 3 months old, after his father, Donald, was killed in a car accident. Donald loved wolves, had plenty of land for large pens at his rural home in Utah and knew a wolf breeder who often had animals that needed a home.
After he died, the timberwolf pups became Laney’s responsibility. He built a large pen for them, arranged to get donated freezer meat, and roadkill elk and deer to feed them, and gave them love and attention. “It was quite an inheritance,” he says.
Laney Smith pets Kiska, left, and Juneau, his two timberwolves, in a pen in the Jemez Mountains. After surviving the Las Conchas Fire two years ago, the wolves had another close call with the Thompson Ridge Fire this month. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
Laney Smith pets Kiska, left, and Juneau, his two timberwolves, in a pen in the Jemez Mountains. After surviving the Las Conchas Fire two years ago, the wolves had another close call with the Thompson Ridge Fire this month. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
As the fire roared toward the mesa that night, Laney and Susie knew they had only minutes to get out alive and they had no vehicle that could safely transport two 130-pound wild animals. Laney stood at the wolves’ pen, opening and closing the gate latch, wondering whether he should keep Juneau and Kiska penned up to possibly burn to death or let them run free.
“Say goodbye,” Susie told him. “We gotta go.”
After he and Susie kissed them on their noses, Laney latched the gate and they ran for their car, thinking they’d never see the wolves alive again. On the road out, he saw his brother, Tom, racing in with a truck with a camper shell and waved him on to the house. Seven minutes later, Tom had the wolves in his truck and drove out. The fire leaped the road just behind his truck and within minutes had engulfed the Smiths’ house.
The Smiths were among a few dozen victims of the Las Conchas Fire, which at the time was the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, the fastest-moving and the most intense. Like others, they got out with the clothes on their backs and lost everything.
But they had the wolves.
Settled in White Rock, they found temporary space at a wolf sanctuary for Juneau and Kiska, and began building a permanent home for the wolves on some isolated private land bordering the forest. They moved the wolves there later in 2011.
On May 31 this year, a power line sparked a fire about two miles northeast of La Cueva, on the other side of Redondo Peak from the wolves. For the next two weeks, Smith spent all the time he could with the wolves, who were unconcerned and entertaining themselves with a fresh deer carcass, as he watched the fire march up the flank of Redondo and around its base, closer and closer to their pen.
What are the chances two wolves would be threatened by wildfire twice in two years? In the Jemez, unfortunately, the odds aren’t that bad.
Some of the biggest and most destructive forest fires in New Mexico have burned in the Jemez – the Dome Fire, Cerro Grande, Las Conchas. Smith has watched them all with a front-row seat.
“I hate to say it,” he told me, “but it’s really exciting.”
These past two weeks have certainly been exciting, especially June 8, when the blaze jumped a fire line and began making a beeline for the wolves. Firefighters bulldozed a break line all around the wolves’ pen, and Laney and Susie set up their sleeping bags on a hill nearby. For hours, they watched the fire march toward them and listened to its dull roar.
Laney told me they had a truck with a camper shell waiting nearby in case they had to re-create the Cochiti Mesa escape. At 3 in the morning, with smoke and fire advancing, he said, “We were sitting there thinking, ‘Do we need to go?’ ”
I was standing on that hillside with Laney and Susie the other evening, looking at wisps of smoke from lingering hot spots, all that’s left now of the Thompson Ridge Fire.
Firefighters were all over the fire as it moved toward the wolves that night, and they stopped it about a half-mile from Juneau and Kiska’s pen.
“I’ve never seen a crew hit a fire so hard,” Laney said. “They were definitely awesome, the fire folks.”
The fire is well-contained at about 24,000 acres now. Juneau and Kiska, no worse for the experience, were romping in their pen with Laney and Susie the other evening, munching on bloody oxtails and howling as the sun set.
Because they were bottle-fed and raised around humans, Juneau and Kiska are affectionate and gentle with their keepers, but they remain wild animals with strong jaws and flashing teeth. They’re 12 now, with an expected lifespan of about 14 years, so the Smiths are preparing for a future without wolves.
“I’m going to be sad when they’re gone, but I’ll also be relieved,” Laney said. “This isn’t something I ever would have chosen. But I inherited them from my dad, and I’m going to take good care of them.”
And what about staying in the fire-prone Jemez Mountains?
“I moved here 23 years ago and got to see it at its best,” Laney said. “We love it here. Fires are a fact of life. As long as we don’t get burned up in them, we’ll stay here.”


Rare white wolves arrive in Combe Martin

Having a good look around in her new home.  
Having a good look around in her new home.
Tony Gussin Saturday, June 22, 2013 

Hudson Bay wolves settle into their new home at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park after arriving on Thursday.

The two white wolves in their new home. 
The two white wolves in their new home.
TWO white wolves are settling into their new home at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park after arriving on Thursday.
The rare two-year-old female Hudson Bay wolves were transferred from Heathrow by Specialist Wildlife Re-homing Services after being flown over from Eastern Europe.

The park stepped in to offer them a home after they had been ousted from their pack and so far the newest additions to the attraction seem happy with their new surroundings.
Park director Dawn Gilbert said they were very calm when they arrived and were enjoying exploring their new enclosure.

Dinnertime with an unlucky rabbit... 
Dinnertime with an unlucky rabbit...
“They have even been swimming in the pool, as this is the first time they have had water in an enclosure apart from a water bowl, so they are loving it,” she said.
“We are really excited to have these white wolves living here on the park along with our European wolves because it gives us the opportunity to educate our visitors on the different habitats and environments that wolves live in and how they adapt to their different surroundings.”

Now an endangered species, after being heavily hunted in previous centuries for their pelts, it is hoped the white wolves at Combe Martin can in time become part of a breeding programme when a male can be found.
The park is thought to be only the second collection in the UK to have white wolves on display, with the other being in Lincolnshire.

Hudson Bay wolves originate from Alaska, central and north eastern Canada, and the western United States, sometimes migrating south with the caribou.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wisconsin Voters Support Protecting Wolves by 8 to 1 Margin

June 19, 2013

New poll shows Wisconsin voters statewide oppose a reckless trophy hunt of wolves.

A statewide survey reveals Wisconsin voters, by more than an eight-to-one margin, strongly oppose the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves, with strong majorities in every demographic group and political affiliation supporting wolf protection. The survey was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research and commissioned by The Humane Society of the United States.

The survey also found that by more than a 9-to-1 margin, Wisconsin voters oppose the use of traps, bait and packs of dogs to kill wolves for sport. In addition, 85 percent of voters statewide support a ban on using packs of dogs to chase down and hunt wolves.

In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves from the Endangered Species list even though the wolf population is only around 800 in the entire state. The removal placed authority for managing the species in the hands of individual states where livestock and other special interests wield considerable influence on decision makers. After more than 40 years of protection and despite the population’s fragile status, the Wisconsin legislature approved a bill in 2012 to allow the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

Alyson Bodai, Wisconsin state director at The HSUS said: “Wolves are an important part of our ecosystem and are just starting to recover in our state after being on the brink of extinction. These survey results confirm that Wisconsin residents want wolves protected and will not tolerate the trophy hunting and trapping of these remarkable animals.”

On June 26, the Natural Resources Board will vote on a proposed recommendation to increase the quota of wolves to be hunted during the 2013 trophy hunting season from 201 in 2012 to 275. When combined with other forms of human-caused wolf mortality, this could result in 50 percent of the entire wolf population being killed. In Wisconsin, wolves may be killed in the cruelest and most unsporting methods, including trapping wolves in painful steel-jawed leg hold traps where animals may suffer for hours or even days, shooting wolves over piles of bait and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves.

The survey also asked voters about lax laws that allow private ownership of dangerous wild animals. Wisconsin is one of only six states without some provision for protecting animals as well as residents and communities from the risks inherent in allowing anyone to own a tiger, lion, bear or other dangerous wild animal. The survey found that a large majority of Wisconsin voters, 79 percent, said they would support legislation to prohibit private citizens from owning wild animals, such as chimpanzees, tigers and bears as pets.

The poll of 625 statewide Wisconsin voters was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. from June 13 – June 15, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent. For the full survey results visit,
  • April 2012 - July 2012 – Wisconsin enacts legislation mandating a wolf hunting and trapping season, requiring that the state wildlife agency authorize the use of dogs, night hunting and snare and leg-hold traps. The state wildlife agency adopts regulations for the hunting and trapping of wolves in 2012-2013 via emergency rules.
  • September 2012 – The USFWS issues a final ruling delisting gray wolves in Wyoming from federal Endangered Species Act protections.
  • Oct. 15, 2012 – Wisconsin’s wolf hunting and trapping season begins, marking the first public hunting and trapping season in the Great Lakes region in nearly 40 years. The HSUS and others send notice of their intent to sue the USFWS over its unlawful decision to delist wolves in the Great Lakes region.
  • October 2012 - January 2013 – Trophy hunting and trapping as well as depredation programs and illegal killings resulted in 243 wolves being killed in Wisconsin.
  • February 2013– The HSUS and other wildlife protection groups file a lawsuit to restore federal protections for Great Lakes wolves.

Banff motorcyclist pursued by ‘massive’ grey wolf along stretch of B.C. highway, takes pictures

Tristin Hopper, National Pos
Last Saturday, Banff mechanic Tim Bartlett was christening a new motorcycle through the Rocky Mountains when he had a rare wildlife encounter that was equal parts terrifying and enchanting. On a stretch of British Columbia’s Highway 93, a massive grey wolf emerged from the trees, lunged at his speeding ride and chased after him at full speed as he pulled away.
The story would have become little more than another legend clanging around the roadhouses of Western Canada if Mr. Bartlett had not whipped a camera out of his top pocket to record the event for posterity; capturing a series of rare snapshots that have since been beamed around the world. The Post’s Tristin Hopper reached him by phone on Friday morning.
How did this happen?
I was about 320 [kilometers] into a 400 k trip … and was doing about 90km/h in the right hand lane going north and [the wolf] came from the left hand side of the road. It darted out, crossed the other lane and I had to swerve and accelerate to get around it. I went forward about 100 meters and when I turned around it was just standing in the middle of the lane watching me.
How close did it get to you?
It was coming at me. It probably got to within a couple meters, easy, maybe a meter. If I’d have slowed down I would have definitely hit it, so I just opened it up, got a bit of power and got around it. I’ve had dogs run out at me on bikes before and you sort of get a feel for the distance the speed you’re going, but it was pretty tight.
But after you’d gotten some distance between you, that’s when you pulled around for a closer look?
I stopped the bike, pulled my gloves off, took my camera out, did a u-turn and came back, and that’s when I managed to get the pictures. When [the wolf] heard me coming, it jumped back over a [roadside] barrier and it started running. I sped up a little bit, it got in nice and close and I was driving with my right hand and clicking pictures with my left. When I first came back around, it came in really close; probably a bit too close. It would have been a real bad time to run out of gas. Even over the motor, I could hear it. I could hear its feet on the road.
Do you think this wolf was playing with you, or were you being hunted?
To me, it was more exciting than scary, I’ll ut it to you that way. In my gut, I didn’t feel threatened at all. I would have felt threatened if I was walking or on a bicycle, but I knew I could outrun it. It also didn’t have a real aggressive feel. I don’t think it was after me, it was probably after the bike. That’s just the way I felt; I could have been wrong, I’m no wolf expert.
How fast was it going?
I didn’t look at the speedo, but I’d say somewhere between 30 to 40 km/h.
And the wolf’s size?
It was bigger than the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. Long legs and a big head, a massive head; it was almost out of proportion. It was big enough.
The chase kept up for about a kilometer. How did it end?
As you can see in one of the last photos, a few cars had started coming and going so I thought, I better not be here, so I accelerated away. I didn’t want it jumping out into the path of an oncoming car. The last I saw it was running into the trees.
This is highly-unusual behaviour, of course. The vast majority of wolves would never show themselves to a human much less chase after them at full speed. Have you been approached by any wolf experts?
That was actually one of the first calls I made. One of my very good friends works for Parks Canada … and he put me on to the guy I should talk to and he was under the same impression as me: This is not really normal behaviour.
Banff, of course, swells with thousands of European and Asian tourists each summer who would kill for this type of mystical “close encounter” with Canadian wildlife. Were you hit with any kind of “nature high” after the experience?
I’ve still got it. I’m having a hard time getting down to the ground, actually, and it was almost a week ago. You just feel so privileged. I mean, this is why I live in Banff. This happens and you just think “this is something totally off the charts.” It’s way more than I’d even hope to imagine. Just seeing a wolf is one thing, to have it run beside you and chase you is another thing altogether.

More images from this article

Courtesy of Tim Bartlett
Courtesy of Tim Bartlett
Courtesy of Tim Bartlett
Courtesy of Tim Bartlett
Courtesy of Tim Bartlett

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Posted: 21 Jun 2013 

Can states be trusted to manage wolves? – Strongly worded opposition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s gray wolf delisting proposal continues to pour in, including this column
from veteran writer and activist George Wuerthner. He says that states have proven that they cannot be trusted with wolf management. He points to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where wolves have already been delisted and are now being aggressively hunted.
“…there is reason to believe that the state wildlife agencies are not capable of managing wolves as a valued member of the national heritage. For instance, in the Rockies, once wolf management was turned over to the states, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho have all embarked on a rampage of persecution. Wolves are indiscriminately killed and trapped. State wildlife officials bemoan the fact that more wolves have not been killed.
I am not worried that hunting and trapping will cause wolves to be extirpated again in these states. I do not think that is the issue for most wolf proponents. Rather, I feel, as many do, that persecution is not a valid justification for managing any wildlife species.”
Further, he argues that states have a responsibility to debunk myths perpetuated by anti-wolf extremists.
“Nevertheless, the perception among hunters as well as ranchers in Montana and adjacent states is that wolves are destroying hunting opportunity and severely impacting the livestock industry. Because of this perception, the state wildlife agencies in all three states, instead of actively countering these flawed opinions with solid numbers and records, have instead chosen to ignore reality and adopted aggressive wolf reduction hunting and trapping policies.”
In the coming weeks and months, Defenders will be working hard to push back against this premature delisting proposal, using many of the same arguments that George outlines. We’ll be urging our supporters to attend public hearings and voice their support for continued wolf recovery. And we will be prepared to challenge the proposal in court if necessary. You can take action now by officially submitting comments to USFWS. See detailed instructions here
Last year’s workshop attendees in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho.
Workshop at Wood River – Much of Defenders western staff, as well as many of our colleagues from the conservation community, are in central Idaho this week to learn more about how livestock and wildlife can coexist. We’re hosting our annual workshop for the Wood River Wolf Project, gathering our partners to discuss the successes and challenges of using nonlethal deterrents and other proactive strategies to limit conflict between predators and their potential prey. Our project is entering its sixth season and has an incredibly successful track record, yet we continue to look for ways to expand the use of these tools and techniques to other areas.

This year, representatives from California, Washington and Oregon are joining us to see how they can apply these methods in places where wolves have only begun to recover. Such exchanges are vital to the future of wolf conservation and will hopefully foster more collaboration between wolf advocates, wildlife managers and the ranching community.

On the prowl in Montana — Tracking wolf packs is no small task, but the data from collared wolves provides wolf biologists and managers with vital information about the health and distribution of populations. A recent story from the Daily Inter Lake follows Ken Laudon, biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, who is responsible for trapping and collaring wolves in the northwest part of the state. He likens tracking Montana’s wolf packs each year to putting together a puzzle, and his job is to find the missing pieces. Read on to learn more about what Ken is discovering.

Wolf runs after motorcyclist – Wild wolves are curious creatures, but they typically have a healthy fear of humans. However, around national parks and other places that receive a lot of tourists, wolves and other wild animals can quickly become habituated. Case in point: a wolf was recently photographed chasing after a man on a motorcycle! (You have to see the pictures to believe it.)

The incident took place near Banff, Canada, in Kootenay National Park, and apparently the man was more thrilled than threatened by the close encounter. But clearly having wild animals running up to people is not a good thing over the long run and usually ends with the animal being removed. Since the incident was reported, others have come forward with similar stories of wolf encounters in the same area. While no one has been harmed by the wolf, its days are surely numbered. This is a good reminder that we all must do our part to make sure that wild animals stay that way. Never approach or feed wild animals. Always observe from a safe distance. And report any strange animal behavior to the proper authorities. It’s our responsibility to protect ourselves and the wildlife we care about!


Image of the Day

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

4 wolves killed after livestock deaths

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kill order remains in place for wolves near Silver Creek

Express Staff Writer

An Idaho wolf moves through a clearing. Photo courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game
Four wolves—one near Carey and three in the Sawtooth Valley—have been killed in recent weeks due to depredation on cattle and sheep. All were killed by Idaho Wildlife Services on private land.
 According to the agency’s director, Todd Grimm, a female wolf was trapped and killed May 29 on the Flat Top Ranch following a complaint by ranch owner John Peavey that he had lost more than two dozen lambs and ewes. Peavey said he protects the bands with people, spotlights and guard dogs, but he was criticized by wolf advocates for allowing his ewes to give birth on the range rather than in sheds.
Grimm said the wolf had had pups this spring, but was not lactating at the time she was trapped and killed.
 “Either the pups were no longer nursing or they had already died,” he said.
Grimm said three male wolves were trapped and killed on Decker Flat, on the west side of the Sawtooth Valley near Obsidian, on May 30 and 31 and June 10. He said the wolves were killed upon direction from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as is the case in all the lethal actions taken by Wildlife Services, an agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said the order came following the death of a calf on May 28.
Grimm said two of the wolves were yearlings and were wearing radio collars placed on them by the Department of Fish and Game. He said Wildlife Services sometimes refrains from killing wolves with collars, depending on their value to scientists studying them.
“In this case, we didn’t realize the wolves were radio-collared until after the fact,” he said.
Grimm said he did not know of any nonlethal deterrent actions taken before the kill order was issued, a situation criticized by pro-wolf activists. When requested, the Idaho Wolf Project, organized by nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, provides ranchers with volunteer night guards, portable fencing, air horns and other deterrent methods.
“Here we have people willing to help with proven nonlethal methods and we’re spending taxpayer dollars to kill wolves,” said Lynne Stone, director of the Boulder-White Clouds Council.
But Grimm said nonlethal deterrents don’t work well with cattle, which stay much more spread out at night than do sheep.
He said the three wolf kills ended the control order in the Sawtooth Valley.
Grimm said a kill order has also been issued for two wolves in the Silver Creek area south of Bellevue after a calf was confirmed to have been killed there on June 8. However, he said, “the wolves haven’t shown back up, so I don’t know if we’ll be able to do anything there.”

Wolves in Montana improperly managed

June 20, 2013  • 

Soon the commissioners at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will be voting on the 2013-2014 wolf hunting and trapping proposal. Under the current senior leadership at Montana FWP it’s abundantly clear that they are determined to plot a course that is a clear, radical departure from the Montana Grey Wolf Recovery Plan.

Under Director Jeff Hagener’s guidance we are seeing a variety of different methods that would increase the slaughter of Montana’s wolves for no legitimate reason. Montana FWP’s plan is premature, failing to allow the recently signed House Bill 73 to take effect. Sadly, during the past legislative session Wolves of the Rockies worked side by side with Montana FWP to derail Senate Bill 397, only to have Montana FWP offer its version of SB397 in the 2013-14 wolf hunting and trapping proposal.

In the 2013-14 proposal we have increased “bag” limits to a total of five, extended hunting seasons, hunting over baited traps and an unreasonable quota on Yellowstone’s research and sustainable, revenue-producing wolves.

The current wolf proposal awaiting commissioner action and approval clearly flies in the face of the best available science and the public trust doctrine. While elk populations continue to increase and depredation continues to decrease throughout Montana, one has to ask the logical question: Why is Montana FWP in a three-state race to the bottom in science-based wolf management?

The answer is crystal clear. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks resents that wolves are on the landscape. Especially the wolves of Yellowstone National Park. It continually denies research such as the recent spring release of the Bitterroot Elk Study which reconfirms that elk are continuing to recover. This groundbreaking research also paints an accurate picture that wolves are not the vicious killing tyrants that many, including the leadership at Montana FWP, would have you believe.

Sadly, wolf enthusiasts and advocacy organizations, both in Montana and nationwide, are coming to the realization that Montana FWP, with Hagener at the helm, is plotting a course to return to what hunters refer to as the elk glory days, when Montana was an elk farm and hunting success was assured. The elk farm days came at a grave cost: a dysfunctional ecosystem, forage suppression and catastrophic, retarded riparian areas, with cottonwoods and aspens consistently kept to shrub levels.

Under the Public Trust Doctrine, Montana wildlife belongs to all Montanans. The governor delegates this responsibility to the director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The director is responsible for ensuring and implementing policies and proposals that represent best available science, taking into account the desires and concerns of all Montanans for the protection of all wildlife, not just ungulates, and not just the concerns of the consumptive hunter, trophy hunters and livestock producers’ interest. Clearly, the voice of all Montanans is not being fairly represented by Montana FWP.

Considering that hunting and trapping revenue is continually declining in Montana and throughout the U.S. in general, one has to ask the question: When will the leadership at Montana FWP purge its current mindset and tap into the sustainable revenue stream of the wildlife-watching enthusiast?
Marc Cooke of Stevensville is president and Kim Bean of Helena is vice president of Wolves of the Rockies.


Image of the Day

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

They Shoot Wolves, Don't They? How the Wild West Is Lost

Posted: 06/17/2013
By Brenda Peterson
The federal government's proposed delisting of the wild wolf is an environmental regression, not only for the wolves, but also for next generations--who in the future may only see a CGI wolf in films, not loping wild through our forests. News of the federal abandonment of wolf protection is a haunting reminder of the devastating war against the wolves waged in earlier centuries. Before federal protection, wolves were hunted to extinction: by airplanes in Alaska, poisoned, trapped, and shot on sight throughout the West. As a New York Times op-ed asks, "Have we brought back wolves for the sole purpose of hunting them down?" Here's a reminder of the unsustainable, anti-wolf culture that we'll revert to, if we allow this proposed delisting to stand.

In 1993, I was in the Far North, reporting on the Alaska Wolf Summit and the aerial shooting of radio-collared wolves. One of the wildlife managers advised me, "Take off your press badge." Another advised, "Come see how we really manage endangered species up here--in the what's left of the Wild West."

In a Last Frontier hotel bar adorned with deer and elk trophies, I silently observed a small but very powerful group of Alaska's Board of Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials swaping hunting stories and ridiculing the Summit protesters for their signs: "Don't Kill Wolves on our Public Lands!" and "Respect the Wolf!"

Without my press badge in that Fairbanks bar, I was, invisible--after all, only a woman. The real world of federal and stage wildlife management is dominated by men with deep ties to hunting, ranching, and agribusiness. In many Western States, hunting licenses fund most of the wildlife programs--a conflict of interest so obvious, but rarely reported. Some federal and state wildlife managers only grudgingly admit scientists to their inner circles because of the Endangered Species Act. Their fervor that night was reserved for talk of "wolf harvests" and "caribou calf crops," of "lethal management," and "sustainable yield" to assure higher populations of big game for hunters.

I was dismayed at the wildlife managers' sense of entitlement, authority, and control over the natural world and all other animals. In the smoky haze of that Fairbanks bar, it was like watching wildlife managers play poker with the fates of other species. I forced myself to remain quiet, staring up at a gigantic moose head trophy.

It didn't seem to matter to these wildlife cronies at the Wolf Summit that statistics didn't support their politics and 80 percent of Alaskans identified as "non-consumptive wildlife supporters." The wildlife managers were the "alpha" males driving all wolf management policy. After the Wolf Summit, the state of Alaska declared a "land-and-shoot aerial hunting" of wolves that led to widespread slaughter of wolves from planes.

In 1993, only 10 percent of the U.S. population were hunters. In 2013, the USFW reports that only 6 percent of Americans are hunters. "Hunters are 89 percent male and 94 percent white," the report notes. Fishing and bird-watching are more popular than hunting. So why are our wildlife policies still so skewed in their support of hunting agendas?

Much--and little--has changed for the wild wolf since that 1993 Wolf Summit. In 1995, wolves were granted federal protection and wolf packs successfully reintroduced in Yellowstone and throughout the West. Wildly popular, the wolf-reintroduction programs in Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies still provide huge tourism income. Wolf biologist, Cristina Eisenberg, author of The Wolf's Tooth, notes that since wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, scientists have documented "rapid recovery of over-browsed aspen, willows and cottonwoods, stream bank stabilization in eroded streams, and a dramatic increase in biodiversity of songbirds."

Welcoming wolves back to their rightful habitats has restored our public lands. It has also restored something in our national psyche: a sense of balance and humanity. We can generously share with these other "keystone predators" who nourish the entire ecosystem.

The delisting of wild wolves is premature and scientifically unsound. For years, Republicans have tried to gut the Endangered Species Act; but why is the Obama administration supporting such unenlightened wildlife policies of the past? Do Democrats need Western State senators so desperately, that they'll sacrifice environmental ethics--and the majority of Americans who support wolf protection?

"This is politics versus professional wildlife management," former Director of the USFW, Jamie Rappaport Clark says. "The service is saying, 'We're done. Game over. Whatever happens to wolves in the U.S. is a state thing. They are declaring victory long before science would tell them to do so."
One of the wildlife managers at the Alaska Wolf Summit told a story that still haunts me these ten years later. "My Grandaddy was a trapper," the man said proudly. Once his Grandaddy found a fierce wolf with his paw clamped shut in the metal teeth of a trap. "'That wolf just stood there looking at me,' my granddaddy said. 'He just kept staring at me and wagging his doggone tail. That wolf wagged his tail like that--until I shot him.'"

The return of wolf management to Western states still trapped in 19th-century frontier mentality is irresponsible and short-sighted. We are in the 21st century. The forests are not our farms. Wildlife is not a "crop" to be "harvested." Wolves are top predators who restore, balance, and protect our wild lands. They are our future allies, not our foes.

It's time for the majority of Americans to tell hunters and ranchers that it is not the Last Frontier for the wolves. It's time the feds and states listen to the majority of this country who support wolf protection--because wolves are what is most Wild about our West.

Over one thousand wolves have been killed in the wolf-hunting seasons in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. As one of the more visionary wildlife managers told me when wolves, "Forget wolf control. How about a little self-control? The wolf is the real hunter. We can learn from wolves, if we can just keep from shooting them."

Public comment on this delisting:
Natural Resources Defense Council

Wolf Watcher: Take Action

Brenda Peterson is a National Geographic author who has covered wolf reintroduction for The Seattle Times and in her memoir, Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals. Her new book is Seal Pup Rescue and her new novel is The Drowning World.

For more: Brenda Peterson Books


IFAW: Wolves, elephants, and the best (or worst) of intentions

The two groups filing the lawsuit have worked to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to their native habitat in the Southwestern U.S.The two groups filing the lawsuit have worked to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to their native habitat in the Southwestern U.S.
Two U.S.-based environmental groups have declared their intent to sue the federal government over just that – intent. 

At question is what’s called mens rea in legal circles – the level of intent or awareness that a person has about the crime they are committing.  Some laws require proof that a person knew they were breaking the law when they broke it, while others require only that the law was, in fact, broken, whether the person meant to break it or not. 

The ESA requires the latter, but the DOJ, oddly, has decided on its own that the former should apply when it comes to prosecuting ESA offenders, making it difficult at best for law enforcement to catch those who harm, harass, kill, buy, sell, import, export, eat or otherwise molest endangered species.

The ESA itself requires prosecution of those who “knowingly” violate the law, meaning that they acted purposefully and not, say, by accident, when they killed an endangered wolf, for example, or traded in a tiger pelt.  The DOJ, however, has been applying a different standard for over 13 years now.

The DOJ has decided that it will only prosecute offenders when it can prove that they “willfully” violated the law, meaning, for example, the person not only meant to kill the wolf, but meant to kill the endangered wolf and break the law, and knew as much the whole time. 

Not easy to do, especially since criminals, being criminals, don’t always want to admit that they are criminals.

The two groups filing the lawsuit have worked to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to their native habitat in the Southwestern U.S. To date, 48 of those wolves, over half the reintroduced population, have been illegally killed, with few prosecutions. The species remains on the brink of extinction, though recent captive births have helped keep hope alive.

But the DOJ policy has implications for other species besides wolves, grizzly bears, or others who are the favorite foes of American ranchers and hunters out west. An ivory trafficker could easily argue that they didn’t know the ivory-colored, tusk shaped carvings they brought home from Africa were made of ivory, or that ivory came from elephant tusks, or that elephants were endangered, in order to get off. 

Nobody really knows why, in 1999, the DOJ decided to ignore Congress and forge its own path when it comes to prosecuting wildlife offenses (or, in this case, not prosecuting offenses). 

Whatever the reason, the DOJ needs to reverse course and do what Congress intended for it to do when it comes to prosecuting wildlife criminals, and maybe save itself and the taxpayers some time and money in the process.