Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Worker’s close encounter with wolves prompts warning for B.C.’s Interior

British Columbia’s forest safety council has issued an unusual safety alert after a forestry worker narrowly escaped a pack of wolves while working in the province’s southern Interior.
The bulletin says a woman working for a forest management firm was approached by at least five aggressive wolves while she was working near Merritt two weeks ago.

The warning says the wolves came within three metres of her, and as the woman reached for a can of bear spray, one of her two dogs tried to take on the wolves.
The B.C. Forest Safety Council says the woman managed to make it back to her truck uninjured and called for help.

The dog that fought with the wolves was badly injured and had to be put down.
The bulletin says anyone who encounters wolves should raise their arms to make themselves appear larger, make loud noises, and use bear mace if the animals get close enough.


*Poster's note: I'll bet the fact that dogs were "invading" the wolves' territory had more to do with wolves approaching a human than anything else. Wolves generally shy away from humans. This is how all those old wives' tales about wolves get started...*

Wolf Advocates Speak Out

Wolf hunting foes will be at T-Wolves home opener

The Associated Press
— A group leading the opposition to wolf hunting and trapping in Minnesota will have a special presence at Target Center when the Minnesota Timberwolves host the Orlando Magic in their home opener.

Howling for Wolves has been designated the Timberwolves' "nonprofit of the game" for Wednesday night's matchup. The group's supporters will sit in special sections, and a 30-second public service announcement will encourage fans to visit the group's booth and sign a petition to stop the upcoming wolf season, which begins Nov. 9.

It costs $2,000 to get designated a Timberwolves nonprofit of the game. Benefits include 100 tickets. Timberwolves spokesman Brad Ruiter (RY'-ter) says a wide variety of groups have signed up to do it over the years, and it does not constitute a team endorsement of their views.
Howling for Wolves

Wolves and bears and turbines: is nature the way forward for Highlands?

30 October 2013
A millionaire landowner is pressing ahead with plans to reintroduce wolves and bears on his Highland estate. Jack McKeown asked Paul Lister about the call of the wild.

For the first time in more than two centuries Scotland’s remote places could once again be home to packs of wolves running wild and free. Or free-ish, anyway: the animals would be contained by an electric fence encircling a 50,000-acre estate.

The idea is the brainchild of Paul Lister. The 54-year-old Englishman inherited a fortune from his father Noel, who co-founded MFI before selling the DIY chain for more than £50 million in the mid-eighties.

He bought the 23,000-acre Alladale Estate in Sutherland 10 years ago and has spent the last decade planting 800,000 trees and setting up projects to protect native species including the Scottish wildcat and red squirrel.

Over the next six months a team led by Oxford University will carry out a feasibility study into reintroducing wolves and brown bears into a 50,000 acre wilderness reserve, probably comprising Alladale and some of its surrounding lands.

Paul said: “I want to see wolves and bears back in a natural setting in Scotland. They are in most countries in Europe again but they can’t swim across the North Sea so if they’re going to come back we have to put them there.

“As well as the environmental impact, we’ll be looking at the business impact. I’d rather generate income from people wanting to see wolves and bears in a wilderness reserve than from windfarms.”
The last bear was eliminated in Scotland at least 1,000 years ago and wolves lingered on until the 17th or 18th century, when they too were hunted to extermination.

One of the most powerful arguments in favour of reintroducing wolves is that they will restore balance to the ecosystem.

In 1995 Yellowstone National Park in the USA reintroduced wolves. The animals have boosted tourist numbers and a recent study also credited them with the recovery of berry shrubs, which were being devastated by the booming elk population and are a valuable source of food for bears.
“As part of the feasibility study we’ll be taking a field trip to Yellowstone,” Paul continued.
“We’ll look at how wolves control the population of deer and prevent them from overgrazing by keeping them moving around.

“We have such a monoculture in Scotland. It’s all red deer. Humans cull them but shooting only goes on about 10% of the time. These animals are doing it 100% of the year.

“Large carnivores in Europe and in Yellowstone create the environment and control nature.”
The plan to encircle 50,000 acres to keep the animals in looks set to come into conflict with Scotland’s cherished right to roam rules.

Helen Todd is campaigns and policy manager for Ramblers Scotland. She says the walkers’ organisation is not against the reintroduction of wolves but access laws must come first:
“I’ve been walking in Romania and other countries that have wolves. We are not against their reintroduction if it’s done in a scientific way.

“We supported the reintroduction of beaver at Knapdale, for instance.

“But I fail to see how this scheme can avoid falling foul of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
“I understand the plan is to put an electric fence around 50,000 acres. Presumably, that fence will have a track alongside it to allow vehicle access for maintenance.

“We would expect to be able to go into the area but I can’t see how you could do that if it was fenced off.
“We have real concerns about the landscape and the impact.”

However, Paul says he hopes to address ramblers’ fears: “As part of the consultation I’ll be meeting with all the stakeholders next summer, including the John Muir Trust and Ramblers Scotland.
“Right to roam is, quite rightly, about giving the public access. It came about because the public felt that they were being antagonised by landowners.

“I don’t see myself as a landowner — I don’t own mountains, no one does — I see myself as a caretaker or custodian, looking after part of the land as best I can.

“Of course, we can’t have people roaming around a relatively small, fenced area with large carnivores but we’re keen to work with walkers as closely as we can, perhaps by providing guided tours.”
Paul intends that the scheme will provide an alternative economic model for Highland Scotland, and that attempts to derail it will harm the region’s finances as well as its biodiversity.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about a scheme that will bring thousands of visitors rather than a few hundred.

If people insist they want to walk all over the land, that’s fine but then this vision will never be realised. It will employ around 100 people and hundreds more indirectly.

“I’m not looking to make money out of this — although I hope not to lose any — but I want to generate employment for the Highlands.

“It is also the only way Scotland will have large carnivores in a natural setting. They are never going to be fully reintroduced, that’s a dream. The only chance of that ever happening is if a scheme like this is a huge success.

“I’m not surprised there has been some opposition to the scheme. Human nature doesn’t like change, we like to stick to what’s tried and tested.

“But there is no proven, working model for the Highlands.

“I don’t think hunting, shooting ’n’ fishing is the way forward. I don’t think sheep farming is the way forward and I certainly don’t think wind turbines are.

“I think nature is the way forward.”


Wolf protection plan raises hackles in Southwest

The U.S. wants to ban most killing of wild Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona, and expand the area where the animals can roam. But many see federal overreach.

Mexican wolf
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to extend Endangered Species Act protections for an estimated 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / January 25, 1998)

ALBUQUERQUE — In the small, rural community of Reserve, children waiting for the school bus gather inside wooden and mesh cages provided as protection from wolves. Parents consider the "kid cages" a reasonable precaution.

Defenders of the wolves note there have been no documented wolf attacks in New Mexico or Arizona. Fears of wolves attacking humans, they say, are overblown, and the cages nothing more than a stunt.

In 1995, the reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves into the northern Rockies ignited a furor.
Now that acrimony has cascaded into the Southwest, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to extend Endangered Species Act protections for an estimated 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

Such protections would make it illegal to kill wolves in most instances. The new federal plan would also significantly expand the area where the wolves could roam unmolested.

To many conservatives in the West, such protections are examples of government overreach — idealistic efforts by officials who don't know what it's like to live with wolves.

"People have to stand up and defend our rights," said Wink Crigler, a fifth-generation rancher from Arizona who says guests at her tourist cabins fear they might be attacked by wolves.

Anti-wolf campaigns here — paid for by conservative political organizations antagonistic toward the federal government — often portray the animal as a savage devil preying on children.

The antipathy has encouraged scores of illegal killings of Mexican wolves, whose population dwindled to seven before federal efforts to reintroduce them began in 1998. A young male wolf was fatally shot with an arrow a few weeks ago in the same rural Catron County that uses the kid cages.
Into this atmosphere have come federal officials who by the end of the year are expected to finalize their plan for managing Mexican wolves, a smaller and tawnier subspecies of the Canadian grays.
"With the political debate we see raging, we can't just listen to the loudest voice in the room," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "There are many loud voices in the room. No animal engenders more polarizing emotion among Americans than does the wolf."]]

It is a public policy debate driven not just by biology and science, but by emotional appeals and unalloyed partisanship.

When a previously scheduled Oct. 4 public comment hearing about wolf management was postponed by the government shutdown, advocates came out anyway, staking out nearby meeting rooms at an Albuquerque hotel.

The Save the Lobo rally, paid for by Defenders of Wildlife, featured a man in a wolf costume, children scrawling placards with crayons and people offering videotaped testimony to be forwarded to Washington.

Down the hall, an anti-wolf event was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, an organization funded by the conservative Koch brothers. The group offered literature by Ayn Rand and screened the documentary "Wolves in Government Clothing," which equated rampaging wolves with an out-of-control federal government. Said one Arizona rancher at the event: "Is this politically driven? Absolutely."

An armed guard patrolled — made necessary, Americans for Prosperity said, by death threats from environmental groups.

The issue of public safety loomed large, with much discussion of the kid cages, boxy structures that resemble chicken coops. Photos and video of the cages have been circulated by Americans for Prosperity, although it was unclear how many exist or who requested or paid for them. Local media reports suggest at least some of them were built by students in a high school shop class.
Calls to the superintendent of schools in Reserve were not returned.

To Carolyn Nelson, a teacher in Catron County, the cages don't go far enough to protect children. She said that seven years ago her son, then 14, was out walking and came across three wolves. Frightened, he backed against a tree. One wolf stared him down while the other two circled.
Only when the boy cocked the gun he was carrying did the wolves run off.

"I think it was a miracle he wasn't killed," she said.

Crigler, who attended the event, said she understood the fears of the guests in her tourist cabins. "I can't tell them that they are perfectly safe. There is some degree of risk," she said. "My concern is that I see wolves habituated to people. They are meat eaters — savages."

According to wolf researcher Carlos Carroll, who was among the scientists studying Mexican wolves for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the probability of wolves targeting humans is low.

"All we can go on is what has happened in the past," said Carroll, a conservation biologist with the Klamath Center for Conservation Research in Northern California. "There have been maybe two to three attacks in the last decade — in Canada and Alaska, where there are thousands of wolves."

Wolf advocate Michael Robinson with the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity said he respected people's fears but added, "The risk has been greatly exaggerated for cynical reasons."

Likewise, the incidence of wolves killing cattle and sheep is actually much less common than widely believed. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, about a third of sheep deaths nationwide are attributable to predators, with wolves accountable for only 0.4% of those attacks. The data indicate that domestic dogs are responsible for nearly 20 times more sheep kills than wolves.
Similar numbers hold true for cattle, where wolf kills rank behind deaths by coyotes, domestic dogs, cougars and vultures, which have attacked calves.

Ranchers are compensated when they can prove livestock have been killed by wolves. Crigler lost three calves last year and was reimbursed by a government program, but she said the payment was below fair market value.

"It's already hard enough to make a living," she said, adding that a neighboring cattleman was getting ready to walk away from the business because of wolves.

It's undeniable that small ranchers and farmers face economic troubles — and it's common for some people to feel powerless living in states where the federal government is the landlord of more than half the landscape.

But some anti-wolf advocates in Albuquerque hold wolves responsible for such diverging issues as the depopulation of small towns and the closing of country schools.

"They attach a lot of rancor to wolf recovery that isn't about wolves," said John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians, based in Santa Fe, N.M. "It's a symbol. It's about the loss of political capital, the economic decline of rural life. Wolves are a surrogate for all the changes that are happening that are very frightening."

David Spady, the California director of Americans for Prosperity and producer of the anti-wolf documentary, readily agreed that wolves are a launching pad to air an array of grievances, from taxes to state's rights.

"The whole debate over the wolf is part of other battles over the Endangered Species Act and failed government programs," said Spady, who wore silver wolf-head cuff links.

"The wolf is symbolic of a larger fact: The federal government is running roughshod over private property rights," he said. "We at the local level believe that we understand the needs of our place, rather than somebody in Washington, D.C."


Oregon Trapper Catches Two Wolves At Once; Released With Collars

ODFW reports that a trapper incidentally captured two wolves in Northeast Oregon near Weston over the weekend.

Both were subsequently radio-collared and released.

The agency describes the wolves as young-of-the-year members of the Umatilla River Pack, a 55-pound male and a 50-pound female.

The licensed trapper was actually attempting to control coyotes in the area when the two wolves stepped into separate foot-hold traps in close proximity to each other. “ODFW biologists were able to quickly respond and safely collar and release the wolves,” a statement from the state said.

It’s the third and fourth times that wolves have been incidentally caught in Oregon; all have been reported to ODFW and the animals released.

Before the Umatilla duo were let go, they were outfitted with “lighter-weight GPS collars ideal for younger wolves,” according to ODFW.

The devices will yield fewer locations than the collars the agency slips on adult wolves, but could really come in handy should the two disperse long distances, like OR7 and its lesser known sister, OR5.

The Umatillas have also been involved in a couple depredations in the past two years.  At least one other wolf in this pack is collared, a seven-year-old male.


Image of the Day

7I9I1739 by Till Bitterli
7I9I1739, a photo by Till Bitterli on Flickr.
One of favorite images of a wolf ever!

Do "Kid Cages" Really Protect Children From Wolves?

Photo of a Mexican gray wolf.
An endangered Mexican gray wolf at the Living Desert Zoo.
Photograph by Roy Toft, National Geographic

Jeremy Berlin
National Geographic
Published October 29, 2013

In rural Reserve, New Mexico, children wait for school buses inside boxy, wood-and-mesh structures that look like chicken coops. The "kid cages" are meant as protection from wolves. But are they even necessary?

The issue is part of a long-simmering political debate, which recently came to a boil in the Southwest when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it wants the Endangered Species Act to cover about 75 Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. That would make it illegal to kill these wolves—a smaller subspecies of gray wolf—and expand the area where they can roam safely.

Conservative groups, which call wolves a threat to humans and livestock alike, say that would be government overreach. Wolf defenders, who cite the fact that no wolf attacks have been documented in New Mexico or Arizona, call the new kid cages a stunt.

To understand the issue on scientific terms, we spoke with Daniel MacNulty, a wildlife-ecology professor at Utah State University who's been studying wolves in Yellowstone National Park for the past 18 years.

Are wolves in the Southwest really a threat to schoolchildren and other humans? 

Are they a meaningful threat? No. Is the probability of wolves hurting someone zero? No. Is it close to zero? Yes, very close.

A child in a rural area is more likely to [be hurt or killed in] an incident with an off-road all-terrain vehicle, or in an encounter with a feral dog, or in a hunting accident. There are very, very few instances in North America of wolves hurting anybody, let alone children.

Another thing to keep in mind: Mexican wolves are not very large—they weigh just 60 to 80 pounds. Compare that to wolves up in Yellowstone, which can be upward of 130 pounds. As a result, [Mexican wolves are] more easily intimidated by people, livestock, and wild prey.

So I think people are overreacting here, as is often the case with wolves.

Practically speaking, would those "kid cages" even protect children from wolves?

I've not seen the cages. But wolves are not sharks. Cages are unnecessary because wolves aren't going to be attacking children at the bus stop. The suggestion that they would is fear-mongering and unhinged from the facts.

I think the "kid cages" are a publicity stunt designed to stoke opposition to Mexican wolf recovery in general and to the federal government in particular. Why else would the anti-federalist group Americans for Prosperity be circulating photos and videos of the cages? I would be skeptical of any wolf-related information coming from this organization or its agents.

Why do you think wolves are so often vilified in the popular imagination?

They take things that we value: They kill livestock and pets. They infringe on our sense of safety. The fact that they take things from us creates alarm and exaggerated notions of their power.

Wolves do have the power to kill—there's no question about it. That's how they make a living. But that power is checked by very real biological limits: their skeletal morphology, their behavior, their size, their age—factors that limit their capacity to kill.

For that reason, they're selective about what they kill. They primarily target juvenile livestock, because they're small and they're easy to kill—there's very little risk of being injured in the process. Same with wild prey. They primarily kill fawns and elk calves. And among the adults, they mainly kill the older animals.

When I see wolves in the field, they often run away. The reason is they're intimidated. And that's in Yellowstone. My guess is that Mexican wolves are generally even more intimidated [by people].

Does that change when it's a pack situation, rather than an individual wolf?

There's no data to show it, but I'd say a pack is probably more likely to be bold than an individual. Solitary wolves are fairly easily intimidated.

In terms of hunting, we know from our analyses of packs up in Yellowstone that success at hunting elk peaks at about four [wolves]. In other words, beyond four wolves, each additional wolf doesn't increase the success rate of the pack.

We think the reason for that is that when a pack of ten shows up, they don't all contribute equally to the outcome of the hunt. Only about four of them actually do anything. The rest are there simply to be on hand when a kill is made.

Pack size probably matters most from a social perspective—in terms of wolves' relationship with each other. A bigger pack will overcome a smaller pack in a competition for turf.

What should people do when they encounter wolves?

Encountering wolves in the wild is a thrilling, safe experience. If you're lucky enough to see them without them detecting you, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the opportunity to observe wild wolf behavior. If they detect you first, it's likely they'll run off before you even know it. Wild wolves are generally intimidated by humans.

So how should we think about wolves?

What people have to understand is that wolves do not have supernatural powers. They can't jump over mountain ranges. They can't bring down a moose with a single bite to the neck. They have intrinsic biological limits, which means they have a constrained role on the landscape and in the environment.

People can avoid overreacting to wolves by understanding that the power of wolves is limited. It's as simple as that.

Bloody wolf-hating cowards!

This is one of the most disturbing and revealing images I've ever seen. Bloodthirsty, paranoid cowards posted it on Facebook this week.

Cowardly wolf killers
The Ku Klux Klan imagery is no accident. It was celebrated by other cowardly commenters on the anti-wolf website:

S.W.: "Idaho too! Them boys have room for another masked man? I'll ride."

J.G.: "Next time they go full REGALIA."

A.T.: "Redneck KKK."

This is what we're up against. These are the people who will be set free to slaughter even more wolves if the government succeeds in its plan to strip away all federal protection.

Please help the Center for Biological Diversity save wolves from this deadly paranoia, fear and hatred. Please make a donation today to their Wolf Defense Fund today.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Images of the Day

Dingo by eman333
Dingo,  (Canis lupus dingo) a photo by eman333 on Flickr.


The War Against Wolves and Wildlife: Time to Stop the Killing

Camilla Fox

Executive Director, Project Coyote 
By the time this blog goes live this photo will probably have been pulled from Facebook. The photo, titled "Wyoming is FED up," is posted on the FB page, Sportsmen Against Wolves.
As of October 26th the photo had 563 likes and 307 shares, after being posted for less than three days. The posted public comments are disturbing:

"Love this!!!!! I fully understand the masks, yer not idiots like those daring you to show yer faces!!!! Keep on killing guys"
"Smoke a pack a day"
"Kill everyone you see boys!"

What is perhaps most disquieting about the photograph is the vigilante feel that echoes a lynch mob -- dehumanize, vilify, and murder. Wolves are now reviled and persecuted in a land where they once roamed wild and free prior to European colonization.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove federal protections for gray wolves through most of their historic range in the lower 48 States, blatant hostility toward wolves, coyotes, bears and other native carnivores has intensified. Like the photo above, the vilification of predators has taken on a new hue: one associated with righteous patriotism. But all true Americans should be concerned about this tenor of violence and hatred toward other living beings. What lessons are we teaching young people when we show such blatant disrespect and denigration of wildlife?...when "we" proudly post photos of men with their bloodied victims on Facebook and Twitter? (see this video posted on Facebook of a reported wolf being shot in Idaho -- warning: graphic) and when our own federal government condones this violence and wanton animal abuse in its lethal predator control programs?

Anti-wolf hatred fueled a 2011 Congressional rider that removed federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes thereby turning management over to the states in these regions. The result: In just seven days of this year's wolf hunt in Wisconsin, 97 wolves were killed -- about twice the pace at which wolves were killed last year, the state's inaugural and very controversial wolf-hunt season. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates the total state wolf population to be around 800 -- and would like trappers and hunters to reduce the population to 350 -- a number scientists say is not sustainable.

At least 1,321 wolves have been killed by trophy hunters and commercial and recreational trappers in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho alone. Montana sold over 6,000 wolf-hunting licenses this season; each license -- $19 for state residents -- allows a person to kill up to five wolves. The current wolf population in Montana is estimated at 625. Wolf watching generates approximately $30 million annually to the towns around Yellowstone; the cost to reintroduce and recover wolves into the Northern Rockies was estimated to be more than $150 million. What is the value of a wolf alive -- over the course of his or her lifetime -- compared to one-shot dead for a $19 wolf-hunting license?

Ethics of recreational killing of wolves aside, economics does not justify this insanity. Moreover, trophy hunting of large carnivores can have many negative ecological repercussions as discussed in a new study in Biological Conservation.

Members of Congress, predator friendly ranchers, respected scientists have spoken out publicly against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to remove federal protections for wolves arguing that delisting is premature and is not scientifically sound. The Service has extended the public comment period regarding their proposal to delist wolves from the ESA and has rescheduled public hearings.

If you want to see wolves in the wild please click here, take action, and make your voice heard. Then share this blog post with others. The Service will accept comments through December 17th.

Check out Project Coyote's homepage and Facebook page for more updates.


Some thoughts on the plans to bring wolves back to the Highlands of Scotland

On page 3 of today’s Sunday Herald, there was a full page article headed “Call of the wild: millionaire has plans to bring wolves back to the Highlands” which is also available at the reporter Rob Edwards’ blog. The story is about the potential re-wilding of the Alladale estate, as proposed by the landowner Paul Lister. The main focus of the reintroduction is the wolf (which was hunted to extinction in Scotland centuries ago), but bears are also mentioned.

This is not an entirely new story. In 2008, I referred to Lister’s rewilding plans in an Edinburgh Law Review article about access rights under Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Some five years on, we are hearing more about his plans and an apparent feasibility study, due next year, to be followed by appropriate consultations with stakeholders.

Leaving the ecological considerations of re-wilding completely to one side (as interesting as the ecology is), there are many legal considerations for this scheme. I have touched on one, as did Rob Edwards, namely the right of responsible access to Scotland’s land that everyone enjoys. Access takers and landowners have mutual obligations under the Land Reform Act, with the key point for landowners being that they should not mendaciously curtail access taking. Sticking wolves or bears on 20,000 acres of the GĂ idhealtachd then fencing that area off might just be classified by some as such a curtailment.

Two other legal considerations were not mentioned in Edwards’ piece. One relates to the regulation of zoos. If the scheme at Alladale were to involve fencing off an area then putting a re-introduced predator and prey in the same enclosure (as seems to be the plan), the relevant licensing authority may have some reservations about the wildlife reservation on animal welfare grounds.

What of the act of re-introduction itself? This is an area where Europe has been active, particularly where the re-introduced species is protected by European legislation (such as Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (aka the Habitats Directive)). Management then becomes an issue, especially when human involvement is needed to control populations, as can be seen with the Eurasian beaver. An SNH commissioned report (which involved colleagues from the Rural Law Research Group at the University of Aberdeen) considered this rather tricky point, noting that deviation from the special protection enshrined in EU law requires a formal derogation in compliance with Article 16 of the Habitats Directive. Why is this relevant to Alladale? Because Canis lupus (Grey Wolf) is so protected under Annex IV of the directive. My expertise in matters wolf is limited, but fortunately the second paragraph of Edwards’ piece clarifies that it is indeed Canis lupus that would be brought back to the Highlands “within three next years.”

So, there is much the landowner in question and various other stakeholders to consider, and the three points I raise here by no means form an exhaustive list. My own tuppence worth? I first mentioned the Alladale scheme in an article five years ago, and nothing much has changed. I would be surprised if the “spine-tingling, moon-lit howl of wolves” that Edwards refers to will echo in Scotland within those three years. Then again, I am just being an obtuse lawyer about this, bringing problems rather than solutions. Perhaps the feasibility study mentioned and the future consultations will address all the points I have raised.

(One last aside. Edwards’ blog notes that “Research for this article included a two-day trip to Alladale in Sutherland funded by Paul Lister.” It seems the Sunday Herald makes no mention of this.)


Idaho Wolf Management Receives Boost from RMEF Grant

Published on
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

MISSOULA, Mont.--( Fish and Game (IDFG) accepted a $50,000 grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to assist with its wolf management plan.

The funds will increase IDFG’s knowledge of interactions between wolves and elk, and expand the radio collar program to help managers gain a better understanding of pack and territory size, home range, and other biological traits and actions of the wolf in order to better implement effective management techniques.
“To properly and effectively carry out science-based management practices, it is critical that state agencies recognize and understand predator-prey relationships and wolf populations,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.
“This grant will help IDFG gain a more thorough knowledge of wolves and wolf behavior so it can better implement its approved predator management plan.” “This grant is another example of the outstanding support we’ve received from RMEF and elk hunters for nearly 30 years”, said Brad Compton, IDFG assistant chief of wildlife.
“This grant is particularly important because it comes at a time when federal funding is being incrementally eliminated, thus allowing us to continue to maintain our active wolf monitoring and management program. Idaho’s program is designed to reduce conflict, including addressing unacceptable levels of predation on elk populations.”
In keeping with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, RMEF supports state-regulated hunting and trapping as the preferred tools of wolf management. RMEF staunchly supports management to balance and control wolf populations.
“We maintain our longstanding commitment to and support of the goal of state management which is to sustain all wildlife species in balance with the available habitat and the local communities where so many of us live,” added Allen.
RMEF also remains committed to learning more about wolves through research efforts. Since 1989, RMEF invested nearly $664,000 in research grants to advance scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species, and overall wolf management. The total includes more than $200,000 in science grants in just the past five years. Most of the contributions paid for independent research by leading universities, state and federal wildlife conservation agencies and tribes.
“A key part of RMEF’s mission is to ensure the future of elk and other wildlife,” said Allen. “This grant helps Idaho managers do that by helping them determine how many wolves are out there, where they travel and what effect they have on elk, deer and other ungulates.”
RMEF previously awarded 2013 grants to Montana and Wyoming to assist with wolf management in those states.

RMEF will allocate nearly $2.9 million for elk and wildlife-related conservation projects in 27 states with wild, free-ranging elk populations in 2013. Additionally $570,000 will also be allocated to hunting heritage programs in 49 states.

Wolves eat pumpkin treat

BATTLE GROUND, Ind. (WLFI) - It's Halloween time over at Wolf Park and Saturday the wolves and foxes were given pumpkin treats. More than 100 people filled the stands to see the animals wolf down some treats.

Wolf Park volunteers stuffed the pumpkins with cheeses, meats and other goodies for the wolves to munch on. A few 'oohh's' and 'aahh's' could also be heard as the wolves showed off a few tricks to get to their treats.

Visitors say it was fun to see and learn about the wolves. "It was pretty neat they were playing with it. It just reminds you of a big dog. When the people went in, saw everything inside and were playing with them like a big dog," said Shawn Borga.

"I'm surprised they eat some pumpkin and that it's a little bit of their treat," said Levi Borga.
After the feast, visitors took in a tour around the park to learn more about the animals and the work put in by workers and volunteers.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Image of the Day

Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs)

Van Develder: Wolves and grizzles — a grand symbiotic relationship

A study by Oregon State University ecologist Bill Ripple has, for the first time, linked the welfare of wolves to the welfare of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem. This was big news when the story broke in August, which means that either the story hit during the doldrums of the 24/7 news cycle, or that grizzly bears and wolves have been promoted to front-page fodder by the mainstream press.
My guess: It was probably a bit of both. My reaction to the stories about this new study was a resounding, “Duh.” I’ve been reading and writing about wildlife recovery for a very long time, so this kind of biological symbiosis seemed a given.
I reached Bill Ripple about a week after the study was published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, just as the newspapers began reacting to his findings. Most treated the story as if Bigfoot had been caught on a security camera stealing candy bars from a 7-11 store, i.e., as a huge and unexpected surprise.
Wolves and grizzlies: How could this be news? I asked Ripple. Weren’t these creatures top predators that coexisted on the American High Plains for thousands of years? Yes, he said, adding that his study’s findings have as much to do with politics and the courts as they do with critters in the wild. How so? I asked.
The impetus for Ripple’s study came in 2011, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the wolf from the endangered species list. Wolf killing resumed immediately after an 85-year hiatus; 1,500 wolves have already been killed in Idaho alone. At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to delist Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, though the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t buying it. The court ruled that the federal agency had not adequately explained how the demise of the whitebark pine, a principal high-country food source for the bears, would not threaten their already precarious existence. These concurrent events prompted a “green fire” moment for Ripple — a reference to Aldo Leopold, the father of the modern conservationism, who described the light he saw in the eyes of a dying mother wolf. That green fire led Leopold to the realization that predators were intrinsic to the natural world.
Though Ripple said he had studied Yellowstone wolves since their reintroduction in the mid-1990s, he decided he needed to make a closer and more detailed investigation of the relationship between wolves and grizzlies. What he discovered turned out to be very old news. The symbiotic relationship between the wolf and the grizzly was documented in petroglyphs on cave walls. These two beasts of the Northern wild have been engaged in a fascinating survival dance that began at the end of the last Ice Age.
Ripple’s findings stand on the shoulders of his earlier work on the ecological effects of wolves and elk, which found that the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone reduced the size of the elk herd, and, in turn, relieved foraging pressure on berry-bearing shrubs that comprise a critical food source for other species, including grizzlies. Surprise #3,474: All of these relationships come back to food and how one species impacts the food sources of another.
“We developed four different data sets to show that the re-introduction of the wolf to Yellowstone has had much deeper and more far-reaching effect on the flora and fauna of that ecosystem than we realized,” said Ripple.
As wolves reduced the size of the elk herd in the Yellowstone ecosystem, chokecherry, serviceberry and huckleberry flora began to rebound and flourish in a long-term phase of “passive restoration,” Ripple said. In time, and as other food sources declined, berry production might become more and more important as a source of nutrition in the grizzly bears’ diet.
It’s humbling, Ripple added, to realize that the cascading effects of wildlife management, or mismanagement, roll in both directions. If too many wolves are killed, the consequences could affect many other species.
“But if we let passive restoration run its course, we might just see some remarkable things happen,” said Ripple. The riparian environment could once again become vibrant nurseries for birds, beaver, and a number of smaller critters. If you kill too many wolves in Yellowstone, however, their population could drop below the threshold essential to maintaining a vigorous and resilient ecosystem.
If that happens, we might as well paint over the petroglyphs, cage the animals, pave the parks, dam the last free-flowing rivers, turn the last old-growth forests into toothpicks and stop pretending that we cherish the wild.
Paul VanDevelder is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( The author of Savages and Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America’s Road to Empire thru Indian Territory, he lives in Oregon.


Wolf season over already for the Northwoods

Submitted: 10/24/2013

(But let's not call it successful!) 
NORTHWOODS - This year's wolf hunt finished in one week for most of the Northwoods. About a quarter of the wolves harvested so far in the state came out of the Northwoods. So far hunters have killed about one hundred wolves statewide.

Zone 2 consists of Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties in the Northwoods and had a limit of twenty-eight wolves. Twenty-six of them were killed in the first week. That's why the DNR closed the zone at 3 P.M. on Wednesday.

This season has been off to a fast pace. The number of wolves taken in ONE week this year almost outnumbers last year's entire season. But Tom Hauge, DNR Director of Wildlife Management, says it's still unclear why hunters have been so successful.

"This year the harvest pace seems to be advanced compared to last year and we're not sure what all the reasons [for that] are. Last year, Zone 2, the Northeast part of the state was the first zone to close and so from that perspective it's not out of the ordinary that Zone 2 is the first to close this year."

But Hauge does have some ideas as to why the zone was able to close so quickly. "People who were successful in 2012 [may have] shared some of the methodology that they used in either hunting or trapping with others and so that we have a more informed base of hunters and trappers out there maybe being a little more effective."

He also said hunters and trappers may be out earlier this year, and that conditions for trappers are ideal. A lack of snow on the unfrozen ground can make it easier for someone who traps game.

There's also plenty of information about the state's wolf population online. That helps hunters locate them. But the DNR doesn't think that information is contributing to a faster harvest pace.

"We just show the general boundary of where we think the pack is located," says Hauge. "That might include an entire half county or a quarter of a county. That's not maybe like fishing where we would say go over to this rock pile because that's a really good place to catch blue gills. It doesn't work like that with wolves."

The DNR will send out surveys to the hunters. They won't have a solid understanding of this year's quick success until they can study the survey's results, which should happen sometime in April according to Hauge.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up

Posted: 25 Oct 2013 

Coyote hunting means trouble for red wolves – A North Carolina hunting rule that allows coyote hunting in red wolf habitat is a serious threat to this endangered species. That’s because coyotes and red wolves look very similar-and that means the chances a red wolf could be mistaken for a coyote and shot by a hunter, especially at night, are dangerously high.  In fact, nearly 30 percent of the red wolf population was killed by gunshot from 2000 to 2013, and only about 100 red wolves roam free in the wild today. Being able to hunt where a similar species is trying to recover is completely unacceptable and will do nothing more than harm the population. Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups are taking action: we filed a complaint in federal court, stating that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is violating the federal Endangered Species Act. Stay tuned for updates on the case as we fight for the recovery of this precious and unique wolf species – and click here to help support our work.

© Ron Paul
© Ron Paul
Wolf hearings rescheduled – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the rescheduled dates for the remainder of the public hearings on Thursday. The comment period has been officially extended until December 17, which will allow the hearings to occur within the public comment periods on the proposed rules.

This means you have time to submit comments to tell the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) not to delist gray wolves, and to implement a real recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves. Removing wolves from the Endangered Species list across most of the country would be premature. There is still work to be done, so tell the Service to finish the job! Likewise, with a population of only 75 individuals in the wild, Mexican gray wolves are on the verge of a second extinction in the wild. The service is proposing changes to the rules that manage these iconic wolves of the southwest but those changes, while doing some good, ignore the best science and will make it almost impossible for the Mexican gray wolf to recover. It’s important that wolf advocates speak up on both of these critical issues. So don’t miss your chance to howl for the wolves!
The hearings will take place as listed below:
  •  November 19 in Denver, Colorado
  •  November 20 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  •  November 22 in Sacramento, California
  •  December 3 in Pinetop, Arizona
Visit for more details.

Defenders delivers in Duluth – From October 10-13, conservationists, scientists, and wolf enthusiasts attended the 2013 International Wolf Symposium held in Duluth, Minnesota.  People gathered for presentations on Wolf Human Interactions, Wolf Management, Wolves and Environmental Education and Wolf Recovery.  Read Defenders’ wolf expert Suzanne Stone’s firsthand account about the event here: 2013 Wolf Symposium in Duluth.

Little wolf advocates – Defenders’ Colorado Outreach Representative, Caitlin Balch-Burnett, has been working to boost awareness about the importance of wolf recovery to Colorado’s future generation through school presentations. Caitlin spoke to students about the current status of wolves in Colorado, the Service’s proposal to remove federal protections from nearly all gray wolves in the lower 48 states, and asked students to write letters to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with their opinions on the delisting.

She also spoke to 9th and 10th graders at Bennett High School in Bennett, Colorado. The students were impressed with the success of non-lethal methods and many of them mentioned in their letters that these methods should be required of livestock owners. Caitlin collected more than 80 letters from the Bennett students, with almost 90% of the students expressing their opposition to the delisting proposal.

Caitlin gave a similar presentation to an after-school wildlife club at Aspen Creek K-8 School in Broomfield, Colorado this week. The club was created for middle school students to learn more about wild animals around the globe, but two 2nd-graders were so interested in wolves that they asked to attend. The students wrote passionate letters to Secretary Jewell asking her to help protect wolves so that they might one day be able to see them in Colorado. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters:
“I believe that wolves should remain under federal protection. They are important – to us, our economy, and to other species of wildlife. Wolves keep local caribou, moose, deer, and elk populations in check and healthy. Wolves are a huge symbol to our society; they symbolize courage, loyalty, friendship, and fierceness.” ~Carpi, 7th grade
John Yeingst is Defenders’ Communications Coordinator

The post Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up appeared first on Defenders of Wildlife Blog.

Image of the Day

Male Mexican Wolf. by palmerb16
Male Mexican Wolf., a photo by palmerb16 on Flickr.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Images of the Day

Red Wolf by bk bob
Red Wolf, a photo by bk bob on Flickr.
Red Wolf - Canis lupus rufus


Sacrificial Wolves

Obama's War on Wolves and the Endangered Species Act
I was prone on my stomach on a small knoll above the Lamar River, peering through my field glasses toward a stand of tall cottonwoods, their leaves a shimmering bronze in the autumn light. The morning air was crisp, hinting at an early snow in the dark, distant peaks of the Absaroka Range. The summer tourists had evaporated; I felt alone in the Big Empty.

I had ventured to this remote Northeast quadrant of Yellowstone National Park looking for wolves.  One particular wolf, in fact, a female called 832F, the grand-daughter of one of the original pairs of wolves reintroduced into the park in 1996. She was the unrivaled leader of her pack, a gregarious and inquisitive creature, graceful and athletic, capable of taking down a mature elk by herself. She was also, by all accounts, a dutiful mother, caring, doting, fiercely protective.

I had seen her once before, a fleeting glimpse, two years earlier, a few miles from the Lamar Valley in the green meanders of Slough Creek, with two pups, a few months old, nipping playfully at her heels. Instead of merely watching them, I stumbled clumsily for my camera. Her ears pricked, she turned to me, gave a stern growl, as if to say “you blew it, buddy,” and vanished with her brood into a thicket of willows.


This was to be my shot at redemption and I left my Canon, with its intrusive lens, locked in the car. I had chosen a spot about 200 yards downwind from the fresh corpse of a bison, which was being picked at by a grouchy group of ravens. I had been settled in for two hours or so, crouched low in the tall grasses, when they came, silent as shadows, down through the cottonwoods, to the decaying body by the river. Even the ravens, those caustic critics of authority, quelled in the presence of the pack.

The two pups had grown. They raced each other to gnaw at the flank of the bison. Six other wolves, followed casually, waded into the river, lapped water and then began to feed on the carcass.  After twenty minutes or so, the satiated wolves curled up near each other and napped in the sunshine. But Wolf 832F didn’t join the feast. She sat on a ledge above the river, her head held high, surveying the valley as the fall winds bristled across her shining coat.

Two months later, two of these wolves would be killed, shot by hunters in Wyoming, who were gunning for “radio-collared wolves,” which identified them as originating in Yellowstone. One of the wolves was 832F, the other was her mate.

Arguably the most famous wolf in the world, 832F had the misfortune of slipping across the invisible boundary of Yellowstone Park into the state of Wyoming, a free-fire zone. There she encountered an anonymous hunter, who had been camped out in the forest for 20 consecutive days, just waiting for one of the Yellowstone wolves to cross the sights of his rifle. There is compelling evidence that anti-wolf hunters in Wyoming had been honing in on the telemetry frequencies from the radio collars to track and kill the wolves as they crossed the boundary of the park.

In May of this year on the northern border of Yellowstone, a wolf-hating rancher lured another pack of Yellowstone wolves out of the park to his ranch. He baited the wolves by setting out sheep carcasses on his property. The rancher waited until park wolves showed up and opened fire, killing a black two-year old female, who had been born and reared in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley.

In the past two years, since the Obama administration shamefully gave the green light to legal wolf hunting in the Yellowstone region, fourteen of the Park’s wolves (about 12 percent of the total population) have been shot or trapped outside the park’s boundaries.

The decision was shameful because we now know the decision to delist the wolf was motivated solely by politics not science. The review panel met in secret with Democrats from the state of Montana who vigorously pushed for the delisting, which they argued would be a crucial factor in tight senate and gubernatorial races. Meanwhile, ecologists who objected to the plan were ignored and three scientists on the review panel who were viewed as “pro wolf” were summarily removed.

The consequences for wolves and the integrity of the Endangered Species Act itself have been grim. In Yellowstone itself, the wolf population is in free-fall. Ironically, wolf populations in the park hit their high point during the Bush administration, with a count of 174 wolves in 2003. When Obama took office in the winter of 2009, there were an estimated 146 wolves in Yellowstone. That number has declined sharply each year. This year the park’s population has fallen to 70 wolves, marking a more than 50 percent reduction in Obama’s four years in office.


Even wolves in Oregon, where wolf hunting is outlawed, are not safe. OR-16 was a young black male, a little over a year old, born along the upper Walla Walla River. He had been radio-collared and photographed to great fanfare by Oregon wolf biologists in November 2012. Three months later, a wolf hunter shot the black pup near Lowman, Idaho. There is speculation that Oregon ranchers may have deliberately chased the wolf across the Snake River into Idaho during the height of the state’s wolf hunt. A posting by a Bill K. on an anti-wolf email group bragged:  “If us pushing that wolf back over to be shot in Idaho works.. we will continue to push many more back for the shooters. hell we will even pay for the ammo. ha ha ha ha.”

OR-16 was just one of more than 500 wolves legally killed in Idaho in the last two years. And the slaughter is just getting started.

All this blood sacrificed for what?

All photos by Jeffrey St. Clair.


WI Wolf Hunt, Fact And Fiction

Friday, October 25, 2013

Readers know there have been frequent postings on this blog about the Wisconsin wolf hunt, now in its second year. Here is additional sunlight on the matter:

*  Wisconsin increased its permitted wolf kill this year to 251 from the 117 reported in 2012. Neighboring Minnesota probably did the same, right? 


Listening to experts, Minnesota drastically reduced its 2013 quota:

The [MN} DNR has cut the number of wolves that hunters can kill from 400 last year to 220 this year.  
*  So why is Wisconsin going in the other direction, with baiting and trapping allowed along with firearm killing to hit increased quotas? 
Gray Wolf in Steel Jaw Trap 
One reason: Fewer wolves mean more elk, and that could mean Wisconsin's elk hunt might finally get under way in 2014

*  Some hunters support the wolf hunt because they believe wolves are depressing the number of deer available to be killed in the annual deer hunt. 

The DNR says that's misleading:
It is important to place in perspective the impact of wolves preying on deer. Each wolf kills about 20 deer per year. Multiply this by the number of wolves found in Wisconsin in recent years (800), and approximately 16,000 deer may be consumed by wolves annually. This compares to about 27,000 deer hit by cars each year, and about 340,000 deer shot annually by hunters statewide. 
*  Additionally, the same WI DNR website notes the deer favored by wolves are not prime targets for hunters:
Ironically, studies have shown that wolves have minimal negative impact on deer populations, since they feed primarily on weak, sick, or disabled individuals. 
*  Finally:   Do those 117 wolves 'harvested' last year by hunters with Wisconsin permits represent the sum total of wolves killed in the state last year?

No: Along with illegal kills, depredation control, and collisions with vehicles, the state recorded 243 wolf kills in 2012, DNR records show - - more than double the 'harvest.'

The DNR  supplied some data under Open Records about the illegal kills:
Sex - - 10 males, 10 females.
Counties - - Bayfield, 3. Chippewa, Price, Taylor and Douglas - -  2 each. Sawyer, Burnett, Wood, Eau Claire, Walworth, Oconto, Adams, Jackson, Dane - - 1 each. 
Cause of death - - Illegally shot, 15. One each as: Illegally shot; Illegally killed; Illegally shot as coyote; Illegally killed shot /arrow?; illegally killed-trapped, shot.


Bob Ferris Talks about Wolves on the Radio

Gibbon wolf pack standing on snow;Doug Smith;March 2007
Bob Ferris talks about wolves on radio station KSVR in Mount Vernon, Washington.  As the clock ticks down on the gray wolf delisting comment period, it is important to get get the facts and get active on wolves.  The interview starts at the 7:10 minute mark.
Click Here to LIsten

Wolves Should Remain on Endangered Species List

Richard Steiner, Professor and conservation biologist  

Posted: 10/23/2013

The current federal plan to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for gray wolves across the lower 48 states is one of the most ill conceived proposals yet from the Obama administration. If enacted, the plan would reverse three decades of wolf recovery across the American west.

More than any other animal, wolves are an iconic symbol of wilderness, and their mere presence indicates a somewhat intact, healthy ecosystem. Wolves occupy a special place in the heart of the American psyche. Yet, there is no other animal that has suffered from such fear, viciousness, and hatred by some ignorant elements of our society.

For over a century, wolves were demonized, tortured, poisoned, shot, trapped, and snared, all attempting to exterminate them from the landscape. And indeed, wolves disappeared from most of their former range.

After three decades of federal protection, and painstaking efforts by federal biologists, gray wolves are just beginning to reestablish stable populations in some of their former range. This is a testament to the effectiveness of the ESA, and much to the delight of most Americans.

But this success is about to be undone by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove ESA protection for gray wolves, unleashing the same ruthless wolf-killing policies that originally drove lower 48 populations to near extinction. The proposal to delist gray wolves is flawed for many reasons -- ethics, ecosystems, science, and economics, to name a few. But more fundamentally, the proposal is based on a lack of basic understanding of these extraordinary, iconic animals.

As people tend to fear and hate that which they don't understand, it isn't too surprising (although disappointing) that this irrational hatred and mismanagement of wolves (and their habitat) continues today in much of the American west. Many people, including some wildlife managers, still do not understand wolves.

But legendary wolf biologist Dr. Gordon Haber, who studied wolves for 43 years in Alaska, knew wolves. Prior to his death in a 2009 plane crash in Denali National Park while tracking wolves, Haber spent more time with wolves in the wild than any other biologist in history. His remarkable story is chronicled in a new book written by Alaska author Marybeth Holleman and (posthumously) Haber himself.

After Haber's death, Holleman sifted through truckloads of his research papers, reports, field notes, stories from friends, and photographs, and compiled the lot into Among Wolves - Gordon Haber's insights into Alaska's most misunderstood animal. The book peels back the layers of misunderstanding of the wolf, revealing a fascinating, complex, socially evolved animal that deserves our admiration and protection, not our fear and hatred.

Haber was the old-school type of field biologist that is now virtually a thing of the past. He was tough, determined, methodical, and relentless in his quest to understand the real lives of wolves in the wild. He spent four decades studying Alaska's wolves, with boots-on-the-ground even at 50 below zero in the bitter Alaska winter. Few modern biologists have such authentic experiential authority regarding their research subjects. And this hard-won, close-up and personal understanding of wolves led him to dedicate his life to their protection.

Haber's conclusions in Among Wolves expose the current flawed thinking behind the current proposal to delist wolves across the lower 48. Most notably, he concluded that we can't just count the number of wolves in an area and conclude that it's a "healthy" or "sustainable" population, because the functional unit of wolves is the family. That x number of wolves inhabit y square miles of territory is irrelevant. Haber writes:
"Wolves are perhaps the most social of all nonhuman vertebrates. A 'pack' of wolves is not a snarling aggregation of fighting beasts, each bent on fending only for itself, but a highly organized, well-disciplined group of related individuals or family units, all working together in a remarkably amiable, efficient manner."
Haber devoted his career to studying these family groups, including the Toklat wolves in Denali. First made famous by Adolph Murie's 1944 The Wolves of Mount McKinley, the Toklat wolves rank with Jane Goodall's chimpanzees in Tanzania as the longest-studied mammal lineages in the world.

As described in Among Wolves, wolves go to great lengths to stay with family; and when important members are lost, families can disintegrate and remaining individuals often disperse and die. Haber witnessed this countless times. He also found that wolves are mostly monogamous; cooperatively raise pups; express emotions; play often; and develop elaborate den sites, honeycombed with connecting tunnels, sometimes covering 50 acres. Some ancient wolf den sites in Denali were also used by early humans, raising interesting speculations about the co-evolution of wolves and humans.
And Among Wolves dispels some of the age-old myths about indiscriminate killing and waste by wolves. They actually consume virtually all that they kill, and waste little. Much of their winter diet is obtained not by killing live ungulates, but from scavenging winter-killed carcasses.

Left unexploited -- that is, not killed -- by humans, wolves develop societies that are intricate, complex and beautifully adapted to their environment. Unexploited family groups develop unique and cooperative pup rearing and hunting techniques, amounting in essence to cultural traditions. These take generations to develop, and can be lost forever if the family disintegrates.

But unfortunately today there are few, if any, unexploited wolf family groups left anywhere in the U.S. Even those in our national parks are hunted and trapped when they cross invisible boundaries, leading to the disintegration of family groups. And ignorant wildlife policies of western state governments continue to sanction the indiscriminate wolf killing that symbolized the wild west of the 19th century.

Haber found that hunting and trapping tend to take older, experienced wolves which sustain the family group through their knowledge of territory, prey movements, hunting techniques, den sites, and raising pups. These are the reproductive members of the group, and their loss from hunting or trapping can be catastrophic to the family group. If the federal delisting proposal is enacted, many more family groups will be torn apart by such indiscriminate killing.

He also witnessed the continued horror of wolves he knew being caught in traps and snares, trying to chew off their own legs in futile attempt to escape, and family members trying to help only to be caught in nearby traps themselves. And near death, them looking passively, directly into the eyes of the trapper who would then shoot and kill them, for a $200 pelt, and another story to tell. Such cruelty brings shame to us all, and deserves our collective condemnation.

If we leave wolves and their wild habitats alone, their populations will continue to recover, ecosystems will rebuild, and we will all benefit. As Haber writes: "Wolves enliven the northern mountains, forests and tundra like no other creature, helping to enrich our own stay on the planet simply by their presence as other highly advanced societies in our midst."

In the end, Holleman and Haber express the conviction that by careful observation and protection of intact wolf family groups across wild landscapes, we can learn a lot about ourselves, and our evolutionary history.

Toward that end, it is critical that federal ESA protection be continued for these remarkable animals. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is accepting comments on its delisting proposal until this coming Monday, October 28.


Did wolves attack horses in French ski station?

Wolves have killed one horse and badly injured another in an attack on the outskirts of a ski village close to the French Riviera, officials said Thursday. The attack, at Auron in the Alpes-Maritimes region inland from Nice, was the latest incident to trigger anger among farmers in southeastern France over the protected status of wolves and their growing numbers.

The owner of the horses, Jacques Riguccini, said a pack of wolves had chased around 30 of his animals one night last week and one of them had been ripped apart after getting tangled up in safety netting by the side of a ski slope. "I'm not breeding horses to provide meat for wolves," the exasperated farmer told AFP. Riguccini says he has lost four horses to wolves in recent years.

Although attacks on horses are relatively rare, local official Sylvie Cendre said attacks on sheep in the area were almost daily with at least 1,750 animals killed since the start of the year. "Officially there are 250 wolves in France, but in reality we know they are many more," she said.

France's environment and agriculture ministers responded to mounting complaints from farmers in May by approving a decree authorizing the killing of up to 24 wolves per year, more than doubling the previous maximum cull of 11 animals per year.

In practice however the culling process has been repeatedly frustrated by animal rights groups who systematically challenge the specific local authorisations required for one or more wolves to be shot. Officially, only seven wolves were killed between 2008 and 2012.

Wolves were hunted and poisoned to the point of extinction in France but they have made a comeback since the 1990s, when a number of them moved over from neighboring Italy.

The largest numbers are in the Alpes-Maritimes but they are also present in other parts of southeastern France, the Pyrenees and on the fringes of the Ardennes in northeastern France.

Animal rights groups say farmers' accounts of attacks on their herds cannot be trusted because of the potential for fraud related to provisions for compensation to be paid in the event of wolf attacks.