Monday, August 31, 2015

A Conversation about #Wolves

DNR has mismanaged wolf population

In his letter to the editor, Earl Stahl trots out Little Red Riding Hood fables about wolves. His arguments hold little credibility.

Livestock farmers frequently blame wolves for their losses even when the mortalities come from birthing problems, disease or weather events. A new study from Washington State University, using 25 years of data, found when wolves are persecuted, they change breeding strategies. Ironically, this leads to an even higher loss of livestock the next year.

Even while Wisconsin wolves face tremendous persecution, they kill few cattle data show. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the cattle inventory in Wisconsin numbered 3.5 million. Of that number, wolves killed 38 cattle, or 0.001 percent. While difficult for a handful of farmers, that tiny loss is remarkable. Wolves generally avoid livestock because wolves prefer to avoid people and subsist on their native prey.


Letter had wrong spin on moose and wolves

Earl Stahl’s conclusions about wolves on Isle Royale are incorrect. I stayed on Isle Royale in July, read reports and talked with park staff and with researchers who have been studying Isle Royale for 50 years.

It’s true there are only two or three wolves left on the island and they are not healthy. But this does not equate to a healthy moose population. Without predators, the moose population is surging.
Therefore the next phase in this cycle could be that moose will decimate the vegetation on the small island and starve. Isle Royale needs a new wolf pack — not celebration that they are gone. That is common sense.

I support the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition for federal protection of moose but culling wolves as they do in British Columbia may not be appropriate predator management in the Midwest.

Nancy Brown-Koeller,


#Wolf of the Day

Portrait of a white beauty 
Portrait of a white beauty by Tambako The Jaguar

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Feds push Game Commission to allow Mexican gray #wolf releases

Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2015 
Federal biologists count 110 Mexican gray wolves now on the New Mexico and Arizona landscape — just above an initial target set three decades ago under a recovery plan for the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is “imperative” to continue releasing captive wolves to increase genetic diversity among the wild population, but it is an effort state officials have stalled.
As demonstrators rallied outside in favor of wolves and other predators last week at the Santa Fe Community College, a Fish and Wildlife official addressed the State Game Commission about the issue during a public meeting. Joy Nicholopoulos, the deputy regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Office, told commissioners that boosting the wolf population is necessary to protect the endangered species’ long-term health. She also said the agency is “exploring alternatives to the state’s current resistance to wolf releases.”
Nicholopoulos was referring to a decision in June by New Mexico Game and Fish Department Director Alexa Sandoval to deny two applications from the federal agency for permits to release up to 10 captive Mexican wolves in the Gila National Forest.

The agency had requested a reversal of Sandoval’s decision, saying it was arbitrary and capricious. But on Thursday, the State Game Commission, appointed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, delayed a vote on the appeal. The panel will take the issue up again Sept. 29.

An attorney for the department said Sandoval was following state regulations in denying the permits.
Wolf advocates and environmentalists say the permit denials are one more example of a State Game Commission and game department that have predators in the cross-hairs.

Commissioners in May also denied a captive wolf facility permit sought by the Ladder Ranch Wolf Management Facility, owned by media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner near Truth or Consequences. Ladder Ranch has worked with the Mexican wolf recovery program since 1998, helping to acclimate captive wolves before they are released to the wild.

In January, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a final rule for Mexican wolf management in New Mexico and Arizona. The rule expands the captive wolf release area and further defines the circumstances under which an endangered wolf can be removed or killed for bothering livestock, domestic dogs, and wild elk and deer herds.

The federal agency is working to revise its 33-year-old wolf recovery plan by the end of 2017.
“Our desire is to work with the state toward the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf,” Nicholopoulos told the state game commissioners. “… We aim to increase the wolf population and aim to improve genetic diversity. We plan to continue our path forward.”

But commissioners want Fish and Wildlife to provide more information about how increased wolf populations will affect deer and elk populations in the area.

“I think if we exceed these numbers or even double the population, we’re going to see severe impacts on the ungulate [elk and deer] population,” said Commissioner Ralph Ramos, a member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and a hunting guide.

Mexican gray wolves once ranged widely in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. By the late 1970s, biologists considered them extinct in New Mexico and Arizona.

The two states’ game departments worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a recovery plan in 1982, which sought to put up to 100 wolves back in the wild.

The process was slow and has suffered setbacks — federal officials said one wolf released into the wild was shot and killed in May because it had habituated to humans. Between 2010 and 2014, however, the wild Mexican wolf population doubled to 100 animals within the federally established Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of southwestern New Mexico and eastern Arizona.

“The 100 number was not a goal,” Nicholopoulos told commissioners last week. “It was a stopgap measure to keep them from going extinct.” 
When federal and state game officials first suggested getting the population of wolves to 100, the blowback from ranchers in New Mexico’s Catron County, the heart of the wolf recovery program, was instant and hard, said David Parsons, a former Fish and Wildlife biologist who served as one of the early wolf program coordinators. Parsons now is a die-hard advocate for the wolves and coyotes.

He said if the agency suggested more than 100 wolves, he believes ranchers would have rioted.

Now, he said, public opinion has swayed heavily in favor of increasing the number of wolves in the wild, despite the continued opposition from ranchers and some hunters.


#Wolf of the Day

Trust by Frankverro

Saturday, August 29, 2015

#Wolf News Weekly Wrap-up by @Defenders of Wildlife

Help protect the imperiled Archipelago wolf! The population of Archipelago wolves found on Prince of Wales Island, a remote island in southeast Alaska, has plummeted in recent years due to unsustainable old-growth logging and hunting. Recent studies have documented a 60 percent decline in Archipelago wolf numbers between 2013 and 2014. Despite this population crash, the federal government plans to allow subsistence hunting – a decision that may push the population to the edge of extinction. The subsistence hunting season for Archipelago wolves on Prince of Wales Island will open on September 1st unless the Federal Subsistence Board cancels the hunt. Take action – Demand that hunting of these unique and imperiled wolves be halted.

California Wolves Are Getting The Warm Welcome They Deserve: We updated you last week on the wonderful news that California is now home to a new resident wolf pack. And, what’s even better? Their return is receiving a warm welcome by residents and by media outlets alike. We were thrilled to read the LA Times excellent editorial, which ran earlier this week and touted wolves’ return as a huge conservation milestone. We know from our latest polling that 69% of residents support restoring wolves in the state and we’re building on this opportunity to forge new partnerships to help people and wolves co-exist in their new California home!

Say “No” to Congress’ War on Wildlife: Help Protect the Endangered Species Act
! As one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of almost 99 percent of all species under its protection. Yet, more than 80 bills, riders and amendments weakening the Act have already been proposed by this Congress. And, no less than 16 of these anti-ESA measures were adopted as riders or amendments to the FY16 House and Senate bills funding the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies. These measures attempt to block or remove protections for individual species and undermine key sections of the ESA – like making it significantly more difficult for citizens to bring government agencies to court for failing to follow the law. Help us by contacting your Representative and telling them to oppose the record number of anti-ESA proposals in Congress!

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

#Wolf of the Day

Autumn Wolf Spirit closeup 
Autumn Wolf Spirit closeup by Kay Brocks

OUTRAGEOUS! Park service won’t meet Peters’ deadline for #wolf plan

John Barnes, Special to The Detroit News

The National Park Service has told U.S. Sen. Gary Peters it will not meet the one-year deadline he sought for a plan to save wolves and moose on Isle Royale.

The island’s wolves are nearly extinct, too inbred and weak. Without predators, the moose population is exploding; they are overbrowsing. Checks and balances are no longer working, experts say.
The latest research showed just three wolves remain on the island, and one was not expected to survive. There are an estimated 1,250 moose, up from about 500 in 2009.

In a public letter to the park service’s chief, Peters, D-Mich., asked to speed up the process, completing it by July 1, 2016. The park service told Peters it would take two years to come up with a plan.

Cam Sholly, the park service’s Midwest director, met with Peters in Washington, D.C., and Peters visited the island two weeks ago, a parks official said. Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, was also present.

“Senator Peters is glad that NPS is developing a plan, but he remains concerned that NPS will not have a plan in place before next spring, when researchers predict it is possible there will no longer be any wolves on the island,” said Allison Green, Peters’ press secretary.

Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green said the park service is already “moving along in a streamlined fashion.”

“It is a pretty fast timeline for an issue that has some complexity,” Green added.
In a May 29 letter, Peters said, “Replenishing the current Isle Royale wolf pack should be strongly considered, especially as an emergency measure if the process takes longer than 12 months.” The letter was also signed by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

A public comment period on how to handle the problem ends Saturday.

One proposal from the the park service calls for the “genetic rescue” of existing wolves by bringing new wolves on the island to create a stronger species by breeding.

A leading island researcher said it is already too late. He also called one park service option of culling moose to keep their numbers in check logistically “silly.”

“Those wolves have been doing so poorly that genetic rescue is not even a possibility,” said John Vucetich, of Michigan Technological University. “Culling? I really — how do I say it politely — it is really the most silly, ridiculous idea you can even consider.”

For comparison, the western Upper Peninsula has 323 moose on 3,864 square miles, the state Department of Natural Resources says. The island is about 210 square miles.

Jack Parker guides hikers on the island. “In 15 years, I have only not seen a moose once,” said Carter, 62, of Kalkaska.

Activists are already gearing up. They say hundreds of comments submitted before the public-input window opened in late July are being ignored.

“The people who wrote care deeply and support the wilderness qualities of Isle Royale, yet their comments will be totally disregarded,” said Nancy Warren, a leading wolf preservationist from Ewen in Ontonagon County.

Warren said she obtained nearly 1,100 such comments through the Freedom of Information Act. Seventy-five percent called for “genetic rescue,” she said.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

#Wolf of the Day

Yellowstone Wolf 
Yellowstone Wolf by Kristin_Joy

The Big Bad Wolf Gets A Rebranding: a new way to look at the wolf in arts and literature.

The wolf has been given a bad rap through-out western culture. The visual arts and literature has played an active role in perpetuating this fear and hate of wolves. We are all familiar with  ‘The big Bad Wolf’ and ‘The three Little Pigs’ as examples of children’s books written about wild wolves for the purpose of instilling fear. I am a retired art teacher that believes art has an influence on culture. Therefore, was delighted to come across this article on that very subject, and decided to immediately post this on my blog.

Story Source: The Big Bad Wolf Gets A Rebranding By Adele Peters is a staff writer at Co.Exist who focuses on sustainable design. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley. You can reach her at apeters at fastcompany dot com.

The Big Bad Wolf Gets A Rebranding

An endangered species is worthy of our care, not fear.
[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]
[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]

Ever since the publication of Little Red Riding Hood—and even long before—wolves have gotten a bad rap in pop culture (with the possible exception of wolf-themed indie band names). A new art campaign seeks to rebrand the Big Bad Wolf as a misunderstood hero, in an attempt to help build support for an endangered species that doesn’t get a lot of love.

“Art plays a role in how we as a society understand certain issues and ideas, and wolves are one case where art and culture have kind of done a misservice,” says Max Slavkin, CEO of the Creative Action Network, which partnered with the nonprofit Earthjustice on the new campaign. The #JoinThePack campaign will crowdsource new gray wolf art from a community of artists and designers, which will be turned into T-shirts and posters.

“The stories that we all kind of know, where wolves are the bad guy, seem innocuous enough, but have a real impact on how we view wolves in real life, where we want them to be, and how we treat them when we encounter them,” Slavkin says. “So much of that seems to have stemmed from stories and art over the last however-many hundred years. It feel like it’s our responsibility as a community of artists to try to set it right, especially now that wolves are maybe more threatened than they’ve ever been before.”

[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]
[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]

Twenty years ago, wolves were reintroduced to places like Yellowstone and parts of Idaho—both to help reset local ecosystems that had been thrown out of balance when wolves first disappeared and as actions taken to restore wolf populations under the Endangered Species Act. But though the population has grown, wolves have faced opposition ever since. When wolves accidentally crossed the border from Yellowstone into other parts of Wyoming, until last fall, they could be shot.

There’s also the ongoing possibility that the wolf could be taken off the endangered species list for politically motivated reasons. It’s been delisted in some areas, put back in others, and could easily be delisted elsewhere. This year, Congress slipped a rider into a government spending bill that would eliminate protections for wolves in several states, opening them up to hunters.

“When we started on this campaign, I was surprised to learn just how much is going on today in Congress and state legislatures that’s really bad for wolves,” Slavkin says.
[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]
[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]

He’s hoping the campaign can help start a bigger conversation, and do it in a fun way—one of the requirements of the designs is that they display some degree of kitsch. “We didn’t want it to be ‘wolves are awesome, end of story,'” Slavkin says. “We thought something fun and kitschy would make people smile, and make people interested in a way that other images couldn’t.”

[All Images: courtesy Creative Action Network]


Did glaciers lure #wolves back to California?

August 27, 2015

More than 90 years after California’s last wolf was killed, a pack has been observed near Mt. Shasta. Are the mountain’s glaciers a reason the wolves chose this location?
Gray wolves in snow. Image credit: University of Buffalo
Gray wolves in snow. Image credit: University of Buffalo

This article is republished with permission from GlacierHub. This post was written by Ben Orlove.

After more than 90 years since the last wolf in California was killed, a pack was recently observed near Mt. Shasta. Its presence was established by photographs taken earlier this month by trail cameras managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). These images show five gray wolf pups and two adults in southeastern Siskiyou County in the northern part of the state.

CDFW had recently increased its trail camera program in this area, when a camera captured images in May and July of this year of a large black dog-like animal, almost certainly a wolf; tracks of this animal, found on a road close to the camera, also looked wolf-like in size and shape.

The most recent photographs unambiguously show wolves. The close association of the adults and pups has led the CDFW to identify them as related; they have designated them as the Shasta Pack, using the name of the large glacier-covered peak nearby. CDFW personnel are eager to obtain scat samples to perform DNA analysis, which would allow them to establish the relations of the new wolves to other packs in the western US.

The 5 wolf pups of the Shasta Pack. Image credit: CDFG
The 5 wolf pups of the Shasta Pack. Image credit: CDFG

The discovery of the pack is a major step forward for wildlife conservation, since it shows that a major predator is advancing on a pathway to reestablish itself across the vast sections of its historic range in North America. The animals, once common in the state, were eliminated by 1924 through a government-funded program.

Charlton H. Bonham is CDFW Director. He said:
This news is exciting for California. We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.
Route taken by Wolf OR-7 on his first trip from Oregon into California, showing his path close to  Mt. Shasta. Image credit: NYTimes
Route taken by Wolf OR-7 on his first trip from Oregon into California, showing his path close to Mt. Shasta. Image credit: NYTimes

CDFW had been on the alert for wolves since 2011, when a single male individual, known as OR-7, entered the state from Oregon. His code indicates that he was the seventh wolf to be collared in Oregon. This device allowed the recording of nearly all of his travels—a distance of over 1000 miles.

He moved from his birth area in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon into the southwestern part of the state, where he crossed into California, returned to Oregon, came back to California one more time, and then settled in southwestern Oregon. Cameras in Oregon identified him once again in 2014 and recorded three other members of his pack, a female and two pups. DNA analysis of their scat showed that he and the female were the parents of the pups. This pattern is typical of the behavior of subordinate males, who frequently travel widely to search for a female, and then remain in an established territory once they begin to raise young. The Shasta Pack may well be an example of this behavior as well, since the male in the pack looks like the solitary animal photographed earlier this year.

The precise location of the pack is being kept secret to protect the animals both from wildlife enthusiasts who might harass them in the effort to take photographs and from ranchers who fear that they will prey on their herds and could harm them. Along with generally positive comments about the news, some hostile messages have been posted on Reddit.

Recognizing these threats to the new pack, CDFW has held discussions with a stakeholder advisory group, and is drawing on these discussions for the Draft Wolf Management Plan currently under development. And the Natural Resource Defense Council, which has worked to promote techniques for ranchers to protect their livestock in other areas with wolf populations in the West, is offering concrete suggestions to reduce these tensions.

Location of Shasta Pack in Siskiyou County, California. Image credit: Google Earth
Location of Shasta Pack in Siskiyou County, California. Image credit: Google Earth

However, some information about its general location is available. The CDFW press releases place the animals within 10 or 15 miles of the summit of Mt. Shasta. Since the average size of wolf pack territories in the western U.S. average 200-500 square miles in area, they are likely to travel to the extensive slopes of Mt. Shasta.

Are the glaciers on Mt. Shasta one of the reasons that the adults, ranging south from Oregon, chose this specific location? Until there is a full database of sightings and tracks, and perhaps radio collar recordings, the precise movement of these animals will not be known. But two lines of evidence suggest an association of the Shasta Pack and Mt. Shasta’s glaciers, the most extensive in the state.

Recent conditions might make a glacier peak attractive. In the spring and summer of 2015, Oregon has been in drought conditions characterized as severe or extreme. Drought is commonly associated with reduced populations of key prey species for wolves. And mule deer and elk populations in Oregon are currently low. In this context, predators might be attracted to the relatively green vegetation on Mt. Shasta, supported by the peak’s abundant snowmelt in spring and early summer, and glacier meltwater in late summer. In a telephone interview, the ranger at McCloud Ranger Station in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the station closest to Mt. Shasta, said that local wildlife densities are “more favorable than other parts” of the national forest. He added that he was “speaking as a hunter” who is familiar with the region and in contact with other hunters. He added that additional scientific information will be available when CDFW completes the studies of deer populations that it is currently conducting.

Adult wolf in Shasta Pack. Image credit: CDFG
Adult wolf in Shasta Pack. Image credit: CDFG

Historical patterns in other western states also show that the arrival of wolves has been associated with glaciers. Wolf packs were eliminated in Montana by the 1930s, though individual animals occasionally strayed across the state’s long border with Canada in the following decades. The first new pack in the state was established in 1979 near Glacier National Park. In Oregon, where the last wolf bounty was paid out in 1947, the first wolf pack in recent times was seen in 2006 in a range with glaciers– the Wallowa Mountains, OR-7’s home area. After the extermination of Washington State’s last wolf pack in the 1930s, the first pack in recent years in the state was recorded—also with a trail camera—in 2008 at Lookout Peak, in the glacier-rich North Cascades. Though patterns are less clear in Idaho and Wyoming (wolf recovery in those states is associated, not with spontaneous movements of wild individuals, but with the contentious federal reintroduction programs in Yellowstone National Park), the fact that wolves who entered four different western states all chose sites near glaciers suggests that these high moist areas with few human residents were attractive to them.

Future research may provide additional details of this association of glaciers and wolf introductions in the case of California. In the meantime, we may hope that the Shasta Pack remains healthy and unharmed, and that their offspring will spread to other areas of the state.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#Wolf of the Day

Howling wolf 
Howling wolf by Tambako The Jaguar

New Mexico Activists to Rally in Support of Releasing More Mexican Gray #Wolves

Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, August 25, 2015
Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Mary Katherine Ray, (575) 772-5655

New Mexico Activists to Rally in Support of Releasing More Mexican Gray Wolves
Activists Also Call on Commission to Reject Cougar Trapping, Increased Bear Hunting

SANTA FE, N.M.— Wildlife supporters will rally Thursday morning to call on the New Mexico Game Commission to support the federal government's release of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico. Activists are also urging the commission to vote down two separate proposals: one that would allow cougar trapping and another allowing a 25 percent increase in hunting permits for black bears. In May the commission declined to renew a 17-year permit to Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch to pen Mexican gray wolves for release into New Mexico.

“I'm deeply concerned that the New Mexico Game Commission is becoming increasingly hostile to predators, even though there’s such broad public support for recovering beautiful Mexican gray wolves and protecting cougars and bears,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Complaints from the livestock industry in large part drive the commission’s antipathy toward animals at the top of the food chain — but wolves, bears and cougars each play important roles in sustaining the web of life.”

There were only 53 Mexican wolves in New Mexico at last count, and biologists have long urged the release of wolves from captive facilities to diversify the gene pool of wild wolves, which are inbred and experiencing low reproductive success as a result.

Conservationists oppose killing more cougars and bears because they are vital to natural ecosystems and their numbers in New Mexico are not known.

“New Mexico Game and Fish’s reckless proposal to kill even more bears goes against sound wildlife management and conservation,” said Mary Katherine Ray of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The black bear is New Mexico’s state mammal and deserves better. Moreover, the setting of cruel traps for cougars for sport would be a giant step backward for our state.”

The rally for Mexican gray wolves, cougars and bears will start at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 27 outside the Santa Fe Community College, 6401 Richards Ave. The game commission meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the college’s Jemez Room.

Speakers at the rally will include Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Chair and former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss; former federal Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons; and Michael Robinson, author and wolf activist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, Robinson will present a slide show, free and open to the public, about Mexican gray wolves at the Santa Fe Public Library, 145 Washington Ave., in Santa Fe. Ray will discuss cougars and bears, and Roxanne George of will speak about the workings of wildlife protection.

Thursday’s rally is organized by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project,, Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Southwest Environmental Center and WildEarth Guardians.

What: Pro-wildlife rally before Game Commission meeting.
When: 8 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 27.
Where: Outside Santa Fe Community College, 6401 Richards Ave., Santa Fe.
Who: Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Chair and former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss; former federal Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David Parsons; and Michael Robinson, author and wolf activist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City.
The New Mexico Game Commission will vote on whether to initiate a trapping and snaring season for cougars on private and state lands, even though cougars are already heavily hunted and play an important role as part of their ecosystems. The commission will also vote on whether to boost the number of annual black bear hunting permits by 25 percent, from 640 to 804, despite declining hunter success that may indicate fewer bears. And it will rule on whether to allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Gila National Forest. Conservationists maintain that the federal government need not ask permission.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Cute Baby #Wolves! Plus More on the Making of '#Wolf Totem

How do you get a pack of wolves to act? You spend a whole lot of time with them.

Wolf Totem, in theaters Sept. 11, is based on a best-selling Chinese novel about a Beijing student sent to live among the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia in the late 1960s. During his stay, he develops a unique connection to a group of wolves, studying them and even attempting to domesticate one.

Director Jean-Jacqes Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet) has significant experience in building convincing narratives around wild animals — in films like Two Brothers, and the 1988 Oscar-nominated film The Bear. In Wolf Totem he and his animal trainers went to great lengths to prepare their four-legged leads for filming, as seen in the extensive behind-the-scenes featurette above. 

Be sure not to miss the best part (at the 2:29 mark): baby wolves!

Cute Baby Wolves! Plus More on the Making of 'Wolf Totem'

What made humans into global super predators? (And what it means for animals)

Jason G. Goldman

In the 1970s, Thomas Reimchen sat near a remote Canadian lake. The biologist soon realized that a wide variety of animals – loons, trout, grebes, and otters – all fed on the same prey species, stickleback fish. And the predators overwhelmingly targeted the juvenile and sub-adult fish, or what Reimchen calls the “reproductive interest.” Only about 5% of kills came from the sticklebacks’ “reproductive capital,” the adults. But nearby on the ocean, Reimchen witnessed something different. There, salmon and herring fisheries were largely built upon sexually mature, adult fish. The thought was that the juveniles should be spared for conservation purposes, left to grow up, reproduce, and then be harvested later.

You can probably tell where this is going. Despite the heavy pressure on the sticklebacks from the threat of predation, the fish managed to sustain a strong, stable population year after year. Meanwhile, global fisheries are in many places collapsing.

Humans love their burgers and steaks and sushi, but we don’t usually think of ourselves as predators. Perhaps that’s because most of us are so far removed from the actual act of predation that by the time a slice of tuna or rack of ribs winds up on our plates it’s easier to forget that those hunks of flesh were once a part of actual animals. It turns out that even if you discount the massive quantities of domesticated animals we consume – cows, pigs, chickens, and the rest – humans still kill a lot of animals.

We’re among the most widely distributed species on the planet, so there’s hardly an ecosystem unaffected by our predatory behavior. We have sophisticated killing technology (including, yes, thermal imaging systems), we cooperate with other species (dogs) to hunt, and we easily exploit naïve prey that have not yet evolved anti-human defenses. Despite some efforts at moving toward sustainability, our species can drive prey declines and degrade ecosystems almost without even thinking about it.

But it turns out that humanity’s massive effects on wildlife and ecosystems don’t come about just because there are so many of us or because we’re so skilled at killing. It’s because we kill differently. There’s a lot that wolves and sharks and bears and lions have in common. Humans, meanwhile, remain in a category all their own, thanks in part to our big brains and to our complex culture. That’s the conclusion reached by Reimchen and a team of University of Victoria researchers led by Chris T. Darimont.

The researchers combed the scientific literature for information on how predators predate, combining information on humans and 117 other terrestrial predatory mammals from every continent but Antarctica, along with information on 282 marine predator species from every ocean. The human data included information about hunting (including for trophies), poaching, bushmeat, and fisheries.
At first glance, it seemed as if humans and other carnivores exploited their prey at similar rates when geography and trophic levels were combined. But when the researchers took a closer look at the data, differences began to emerge. Within individual communities, for example, hunters tended to kill more animals than other terrestrial predators did.

In some cases, that’s because human activity has already driven off predators. In parts of the US, for example, hunting is an important tool for managing deer populations, because they are no longer adequately suppressed. Their natural predators, like wolves, bears, and mountain lions, have a tough time surviving thanks to us. But humans are also exploiting mesopredators and apex predators far more than non-human predators do. In fact, hunters kill large carnivores 3.7 times more often on average than herbivores, ostensibly for trophies. And unlike most natural predators, we go after the biggest, most impressive animals, not the easiest ones to kill.

There are similar patterns in the seas as well. Human fisheries target adult prey, for example, at higher rates than any other marine or terrestrial predator. Most predators tend to go after juveniles, while humans, it seems, tend to go after adults.

How can one species exert such an impact on the natural world? “Whereas sociopolitical factors can explain why humans repeatedly overexploit, cultural and technological dimensions can explain how,” writes Darimont. He and his colleagues say that global trade and division of labor, along with specialized killing technologies, have combined to allow humans the unprecedented ability to exploit wildlife. In addition, fossil fuel subsidies allow people to move around the planet with such ease that it’s now quite cheap to search for, pursue, and capture animals. Since our species relies so heavily on agriculture and domestic livestock, our ability to eat well is increasingly “decoupled from dwindling prey.” That, in part, is why dwindling wildlife can drive exploitation even higher. Rare resources are simply worth more.

Combined, all of this makes humans into global “super predators” for four main reasons.
First, our over-reliance on adult prey is unique among predators. Our preference for large body size and large trophies “has fundamentally altered the selective landscape for many vertebrates.” That doesn’t just modify the reproductive dynamics of those species, but also the food webs in which they are situated. The focus on sexually mature adults makes it quite difficult for prey populations to sustain the intense pressures of human exploitation.

Second, despite the use of hunting in some ecosystems as a means of suppressing herbivore populations, human hunters are not perfect analogues for the mammalian predators we’ve extirpated because we don’t provide the same ecosystem services. We don’t regulate disease or wildlife, and we don’t provide control over mesopredators in many cases.

Third, we remove a considerable amount of biomass – and therefore, nutrients – from some ecosystems, re-depositing it in others via landfills and sewage systems. When a wolf or lion takes down an animal, that carcass becomes a brief, temporary ecosystem unto itself. The same dynamics do not typically play out when humans take down those prey species.

Finally, we gobble up a wider taxonomic range of species than any other predator on the planet.
Is there anything that can be done to be more sustainable in our predation of wildlife? The researchers argue that sustainable exploitation means imposing limits that are as sweeping as those that allow humans leave such a deep footprint on the planet in the first place. Central to that, they say, is a focus not just on limiting the scope of hunting, but in mimicking other predators’ behavior. It would be tough to alter our hunting and fishing strategies to target juveniles in many cases, but it is at least feasible to target adults at rates similar to other predators.

– Jason G. Goldman | 21 August 2015

C.T. Darimont, C.H. Fox, H.M. Bryan, & T.E. Reimchen (2015). The unique ecology of human predators. Science 349(6250), 858-859. DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4249.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wildlife officers shoot wolf lurking near Whitehorse landfill

Wolf attacked dog, showed no fear of people, Environment Yukon says

CBC News Posted: Aug 20, 2015 

Whitehorse resident Richard Edelman photographed this wolf near the dump earlier this week. Conservation officers say it's hard to be sure but it could be the wolf that was shot last night. (Richard Edelman)

Yukon Conservation officers have killed a wolf near the Whitehorse landfill.
Yukon Conservation Officer David Bakica says it's believed the wolf injured a dog during a very unusual chase and attack.

Wolf chased cyclists and attacked dog

On August 14, two cyclists had a frightening encounter near Whitehorse's landfill.
Bakica says a couple were riding on mountain bikes while their female Labrador retriever was running off-leash.

"They saw a wolf on the trail, turned around and went in the opposite direction," Bakica says. "They were riding quite quickly away and the wolf ran past and went after the dog."

Conservation officer David Bakica says the wolf's carcass will be studied to see if there are clues to explain its unusually aggressive behaviour. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Bakica says the wolf caught the dog and put its jaws around its neck. The dog was injured, though a leather collar caught most of the wolf's teeth.

"The wolf got mostly collar —very luckily for the dog. The dog did have a couple of puncture wounds in the neck but nothing overly serious. The dog went down, they spun around and the dog managed to get free," Bakica says.

The wolf then approached the humans to within five metres and ran away.

Bakica says it's not unusual to have wolves outside Whitehorse and near the landfill. He says the department received many photographs and calls during the week of a grey wolf people described as unafraid.

A wolf matching this description was shot near the landfill's back fence on August 19.

"We're pretty certain it's the same wolf. Everything matches, all the photographs. There's nothing extremely distinct about this wolf but it's close enough we're pretty confident it's the same wolf," Bakica says.

"The behavior this wolf was displaying, it's not acceptable to have wildlife that shows that little fear of people. It's not safe for people or pets," he says.
It's not acceptable to have wildlife that shows that little fear of people. It's not safe for people or pets. - David Bakica, conservation officer
Other wolves have been spotted near the landfill. Bakica says their presence is not unusual especially in winter. However the animals usually keep to themselves.

The department urges people walking in the city's greenbelt areas to keep pets close and stick together if confronted by wolves. It also recommends carrying bear spray.


Animal activists: Don’t link cougar hunts to wolf recovery

Don Jenkins
Capital Press
Courtesy of Rich Beausoleil/WDFW Animal-rights and conservation groups are petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Commission to reverse plans to allow more cougars to be hunted in regions occupied by wolves.
Animal-rights and conservation groups are petitioning Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to ditch a plan to hunt allow more cougar hunting to relieve tensions over wolves.

The Humane Society of the United States and other animal activist groups are petitioning the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to backtrack on its decision to let hunters shoot more cougars in regions inhabited by wolves.

The commission authorized the increase as a sympathetic nod toward northeast Washington, where the state’s wolves are concentrated. The Humane Society-led coalition argues the move is scientifically unsound and nonsensical.

“It is unreasonable to expect that social tolerance of wolves will improve when the same number of wolves will be managed in the same way,” the coalition states in its petition to the commission.

Cougars were drawn into the debate over wolf recovery in April when the commission set quotas for the 2015-16 cougar season. In line with past practice, Fish and Wildlife managers recommended harvesting 12 to 16 percent of the cougars in 49 game units.

The commission, however, raised the limit to 17 to 21 percent in the 14 units where wolves are known to roam. The harvest could be increased by about 25 cougars, according to WDFW staff. Some 177 cougars were harvested statewide during the 2014 hunting season.

WDFW biologists say the increased hunting probably will not lower the overall cougar population, but it could open up territory for juvenile males to venture.

Commissioner Miranda Wecker said Wednesday she proposed the higher cougar quotas in wolf pack country mindful that support for wolf recovery has deteriorated in northeast Washington. She said he wanted residents there to have more control over predators.

“It was a signal, a message to Eastern Washington communities who feel overwhelmed, who feel their interests are being neglected,” said Wecker, who lives in Pacific County in Western Washington. “If you ignore communities and the desires of communities that live among predators, I think that makes things worse.”

Wecker said she viewed her amendment as minor and that she was surprised by the outcry. “I did not expect that, I have to admit,” she said.

So far, the commission has stuck with its decision, though it will discuss the Humane Society’s petition during a conference call Friday.

State Rep. Joel Kretz, who represents northeast Washington, said the region has lots of cougars and some may view the higher quota as a sympathetic gesture. “I’m disappointed frankly in the folks against it. It’s a modest tweak,” he said.

Kretz, nevertheless, said he’s looking for stronger action on wolves from wildlife officials, particularly against the Huckleberry pack in Stevens County. The pack preyed on sheep last year and recently seriously injured a dog protecting a flock.

“My preference is they would show a little more resolve,” Kretz said. “I think the pack ought to be eliminated, at least cut down.”

The other petitioners are Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Mountain Lion Foundation, Wolf Haven International, The Cougar Fund, The Lands Council, Predator Defense, Kettle Range Conservation Group and Gary Koehler, a retired WDFW research scientist.

They complain that they were blindsided by the commission’s jettison of the staff’s recommendation to maintain current quotas.

More hunting won’t reduce the overall population, but it will threaten “social dynamics and population structure” and lead to more clashes between juvenile males and humans and livestock, they state.


#Wolf of the Day

Creatures of Wonder 
Creature of Wonder by Andy Kehoe

Yellowstone Wolf Update: August 2015 
Yellowstone Wolf Update-
By Kathie Lynch

Late summer wolf watching in Yellowstone’s Northern Range was all about the Lamar Canyon pack. Except for some distant sightings of the Prospect Peak pack at the end of July and a very brief (but exciting!) appearance by the Junction Butte pack, watchers stayed glued to the Lamar Canyon’s traditional den forest area in Soda Butte Valley.

The five new Lamar Canyon pups were first sighted in mid-July. These much-hoped-for pups are the last offspring of the late Lamar Canyon alpha, 925M, who was killed by the Prospect Peak pack in March.

In a strange turn of events, four adult males from that pack then joined Lamar Canyon alpha 926F and are now helping to raise the pups. It is indeed a lucky thing that all wolves love puppies, and even adult males will willingly adopt pups sired by others.

The 12-member Lamar Canyon pack now includes alpha 926F (black), her two black yearling daughters, the four former Prospect Peak pack big males (new alpha “Twin,” gray 965M, black “Mottled,” and “Dark Black”), 3 gray pups and 2 black pups.

We were very lucky to have many (or at least some) of them in view almost every day. It was like having a window into their world as we watched the pups (who had been born about April 27) grow from 2.5 to 4 months old. It was a great privilege to be able to share some of the amazing experiences in a wolf pup’s life.

Very early on they started attempting to follow when the adults left to go out on a hunt. It was quite nerve-wracking to watch as the pups at times came down toward the road, which was filled with speeding cars and motorcycles.

One time we found small puppy paw prints etched in the frost on the footbridge, so we knew that they were likely out on exploratory missions (and had even crossed the road!) when we weren’t watching.

The biggest surprise was when a black female pup apparently crossed the road without being noticed and went on a solo 3-hour walkabout! She suddenly materialized near the hill behind all of the watchers who had been looking in the opposite direction for wolves at the den forest!

We thought that the pup was perhaps scent-trailing an adult who had left on a hunt earlier, but she seemed to be having a good time just being out on her own. She made a big circle around us, poked around in the marsh along Soda Butte Creek, nonchalantly walked across the creek, and finally safely crossed the road to head back home to the den forest. It seemed pretty obvious that she knew the area well and had probably done the same thing before.

The adults have had to work hard to find food to bring home to the pups. The longer the hunters are gone, the more quiet the pups become, sort of like the Energizer Bunny winding down. When the adults do return, all of the pups rush to mob them, soliciting a regurgitation by licking the muzzle of the incoming adult. It’s amusing to watch as the adult plows forward through a wriggling sea of begging pups.

Sometimes, the adults don’t return for 3-5 days, though they usually leave at least one baby-sitter with the pups. Yearlings are almost always ready to babysit. But, surprisingly, most of the new adult males also seem happy to do the job.

The big (120 pound!) gray 965M is especially tolerant and playful with the pups. He lets them climb all over him and will play with them by grabbing onto a stick to trying to wrestle it away from them. I have seen gentle giant 965M proudly lead a pup parade and then settle down to keep an eye on them while they play in the marsh or visit the pond.

The “Dark Black” male also plays the role of good shepherd. He may lead the pups to a nearby carcass area where they can find some tasty bones to gnaw on while waiting for the hunters to return. “Dark Black” keeps an eye out for danger (bears) and may relax in the shade of a tree, much like a parent watching over kids at the playground.

The best fun occurs when the pups just stir things up on their own. Left to their own devices, they play just about every game imaginable—it is infinitely entertaining to watch! Favorite games include tug-o’-war with two on a stick, prance around with three abreast on a long branch, toss and catch a pinecone, pounce on something/anything, run rings around a tree, mouth-wrestle, take down and stand over, chase, watch a squirrel in a tree, stand on hind legs with front paws up on the tree to try to reach that darn squirrel, dig a hole, and pull another pup’s tail!

The oddest behavior we’ve noticed with these pups, though, is what can only be described as an Army crawl. All five pups seem to be doing it, and it’s funny to watch. They will just belly crawl forward from one place to another as if that’s the only way to get from Point A to Point B. One thought is that perhaps fleas are driving them crazy, and they’ve found a novel way to scratch the itch. (We haven’t seen any sign that the pups have mange.)

The four new males (from the Prospect Peak pack) take every opportunity to get to know the three Lamar Canyon females (alpha 926F and her two yearling daughters). None of these males is related to any of these females, so it should be interesting in February when they will all be eligible for breeding.

Alpha 926F seems content with her new alpha male, “Twin,” but the other males (965M, “Mottled,” and “Dark Black”) take turns cozying up to the two female yearlings. Almost any occasion seems right for a big greeting, playful romp, and even some fanny dancing as they all get acquainted.
One morning, 926F treated us to the most amazing howling serenade in the pre-dawn darkness. It was probably the loudest howling I have ever heard—and for good reason—she was standing right next to the road near the turnout!

She quickly slipped across the road and headed south out to the middle flats, presumably to take her usual path out toward Cache Creek. What happened next was a crack up! She stopped at the Cache Creek trail sign and marked it with a flex-leg urination (a variation of a raised leg urination)—just like it was the neighborhood fire hydrant!

With nose to the ground, she went this way and that all around the trail sign, looking for a message she could read. When she found it, she changed her course and headed out toward the Lamar River instead of Cache Creek. Soon we saw another black (possibly the “Dark Black” male) follow her exact path, “read” the message she left on the signpost, make his own mark, and then follow her lead!

The whole mystery of how they communicate with each other is really fascinating. One evening, one of the black female yearlings sat under a tree with one black pup, high on a hill to the east of the pack’s usual rendezvous area. The yearling howled and howled. I thought at first that she was calling the other pups to come to her. Instead, the one pup with her went back home, and the yearling was then free to follow the other adults out hunting.

On the morning of August 7, I bet the Lamar Canyon pack simply couldn’t believe their good fortune when they discovered a dead bison bull right in their own front yard! It was likely the victim of the rut (perhaps gored by another bull) and had died in their rendezvous site.

For the next three days (until the bison carcass was totally flattened and dragged away into a gully), we were treated to a real wild nature show. At various times, we had seven grizzlies (including a sow with two cubs of the year) and seven adult wolves feeding on the carcass or badgering each other for control of it.

The pups mostly stayed away from the carcass due to the danger from the bears. When the pups did approach the carcass, they seemed interested, but wary. I never did see the pups actually feeding on the carcass. Activity around the carcass kept the wolves and wolf watchers entertained for the next 10 days to 2 weeks.

The big event for the Lamar Canyons happened in their own territory on the morning of August 17 when they ran smack dab into five members of the Junction Butte Pack! Some Lamar Canyon adults had crossed the road to the south, presumably to go out hunting, and some pups had evidently followed them.

The Lamar Canyons were up on the middle flats (south of Hitching Post) when they encountered Junction Butte alpha 911M, big black beta 890M, 2-year-old females 907F and 969F, and an uncollared gray yearling female. (Luckily, Junction Butte alpha 970F, who has been to the Lamar Canyon den forest before, was not with them.)

The Lamar Canyons desperately tried to gather their pups as they saw the Junction Buttes approaching. What ensued can only be described as helter skelter, but the scary thing was that the Lamar Canyon pups ran down into Soda Butte Creek and were pursued by all five Junction Buttes!

From our vantage point out on the trail south of Footbridge, we couldn’t see what happened between the Junction Buttes and the Lamar Canyon pups in the creek. But, somehow the pups made it out and safely back across the road! We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when one watcher spotted three gray pups streaking across the hillside on the way home to their den forest.

Meanwhile, Lamar Canyon alpha 926F, one black female yearling, and 965M zigzagged through the rolling hills south of Hitching Post, crossed the road, and ran right past their rendezvous site. They kept on running to the east past Soda Butte Cone, crossed the road again, and fled up to the safety of a high meadow (way above last year’s rendezvous site).

Next, we discovered that alpha male “Twin” had somehow circled around to a low bench behind us! He howled and howled before heading east to join 926F, the yearling and 965M in the high meadow.
Then “Dark Black” appeared near the seedling forest on the flank of Mt. Norris, west of where “Twin” had been. “Dark Black,” too, headed east, presumably to join the other adults in the high meadow.

All this time, adult male “Mottled” had most likely stayed on the north side of the road and was seen returning to the den forest area. The other black female yearling was most likely there too, so that was good for the returning pups.

At some point (probably soon after the pups had escaped with their lives), the five Junction Buttes had retreated to the west. As far as we know, no contact had been made between the two packs and no harm had been done.

The next morning, I was somewhat worried because I only heard one faint adult howl from the den forest. But, later in the day, other watchers saw all 12 Lamar Canyon wolves safe in their home site, so all ended well.

Other than that encounter, the Junction Butte wolves have remained elusive in the late summer. As far as I know, no one has actually seen any of their pups this year, although they did localize and are presumed to have denned. Some of them have been up high on the Buffalo Plateau and the Mirror Plateau, both great places to find elk in the hot summer months. But, these are not good places for watchers to see them.

The Prospect Peak pack has also been elusive most of this summer. At the end of July, we had a few days of sightings around their den forest on the vast Blacktail Plateau, but then they moved really far away to the south and west and were not seen much.

However, one day we did get to see the Prospect Peak adult black female and three gray yearlings lead all five pups on a rollicking romp to the west. They all ran along jumping on each other and just generally enjoying the pups’ big adventure.

Alphas 763M and 821F are now in their second year of leading the Prospect Peak pack. The other pack members include the black adult female, four gray yearlings (964M and 966M—both of 8 Mile pack heritage—and two females who were born to Prospect Peak), 2 black yearlings (1 female Prospect Peak, 1 male 8 Mile), and 5 pups (3 black, 2 gray). (The Prospect Peak pack picked up some 8 Mile pack members last November after the 8 Mile alpha, 871M, was killed by the Cougar Creek pack.)

Meanwhile, down in Yellowstone’s Interior, life has been good for 7-year-old former Lamar Canyon alpha 755M and his new Wapiti Lake pack. He and his mate, the 5-year-old very light gray (almost white) Canyon female, produced four pups (2 black, 2 gray). The pack continues to live in the old Canyon pack’s Sour Creek rendezvous site in Hayden Valley.

Although they are not seen every day, many watchers have been able to enjoy some really great viewing opportunities. One hot summer afternoon (when you really wouldn’t expect any activity), I happened to see the alpha female chase a mule deer doe into the forest. The hunt must have been unsuccessful because the wolf reappeared several minutes later and continued her trek across the open flats as though nothing had happened.

Alpha 755M was the star of the show on at least two other occasions when he brought down an elk all by himself. (He certainly must have learned some valuable lessons from his late, great mate, the Lamar Canyon “’06 Female.”) He handled himself with authority as he chased a grizzly away from the carcass, providing great viewing for watchers lining the roadside just west of Canyon Junction.
On another day, 755M and his alpha female chased an elk calf into the Yellowstone River near Alum Creek. The calf swam and waded back and forth from bank to bank to avoid the wolves whenever they entered the water.

The alpha female spent most of the time bedded behind sage on the high bank so she could keep an eye on the calf in the river. It was amazing to see her consider just how to get that calf. I felt like I could almost see the wheels turning in her head!

A few times, while lying down, she would go into stalking mode and then silently slide down the bank to make a rush at the calf. In the end, though, both wolves bedded out of sight in the tree line and the calf simply walked away!

The Wapiti Lake alpha female’s parents, 712M and the white female, have remained away from Hayden Valley all summer. They have evidently found a new home to the west, between Norris and Old Faithful, and they may even have pups there. Both alphas are now 10-years-old. If they do have pups this year, this would be their eighth litter together!

We did have some unusual wildlife sightings recently. One day a man asked me what the “white things” were near the Lamar Canyon’s den forest. My answer (“probably pronghorn butts”) turned out to be way off the mark—a look through the spotting scope clearly showed two mountain goats!
Another morning, after a torrential rainstorm the night before, we found that it was a fine time for blotched tiger salamanders to be on the move. They’re the only kind of salamander in Yellowstone, and I actually saw five different ones that morning!

Not all of the unusual sightings had to do with wildlife. One gray, foggy morning as we waited for the fog to clear so we could look for the Lamar Canyon wolves, an amazing sight appeared—a fogbow (also called a white rainbow, seadog, or fogdog)! It is produced by sunlight shining on fog and does look exactly like a white rainbow!

As August draws to a close, it is already beginning to feel like early fall in Yellowstone. Several mornings have been below freezing, the wildflowers are long gone, and some leaves are turning red.
The bison rut will be winding down (good news for drivers trying to negotiate bison jams!), and the elk rut will start soon. When the first snows in mid-September bring the elk down from the high meadows, things should improve for the adult wolves who have worked so hard all summer to ferry food to the pups.

The Lamar Canyon pack has found a way to survive despite the devastating loss of alpha male 925M last March. No one could have predicted that those four big Prospect Peak males would come to the rescue and fit in so well.

The whole unlikely story speaks volumes about the tenacity and resilience of wolves. They have evolved a system to ensure that the pack will survive and that the legacies of the great ones who have gone before will live on.