Saturday, October 31, 2015

Next Speak for #Wolves Date Announced

 in your browser.

An opportunity for the American people to unite and demand wildlife management reform and take steps to restore our national heritage

Speak for Wolves: Yellowstone 2014
We are proud to announce that the next Speak for Wolves will take place July 15 - 17, 2016 in the Union Pacific Dining Lodge of beautiful West Yellowstone, Montana. In the coming months, we will assemble the 3-day program and launch a fundraising campaign. In the meantime, start making plans so that you can join us!
Brett Haverstick

Speak for Wolves is an opportunity for the American people to unite and demand wildlife management reform and restore our national heritage.


#Wolves of the Day

Eurasian Wolf - Wildpark Tripsdrill October 2015 08 
Eurasian Wolf - Wildpark Tripsdrill by Ralf Reinecke

The Future for Red Wolves Still Uncertain by @Defenders of Wildlife

Posted: 30 Oct 2015 
By Melanie Gade
Red Wolf, ©USFWS/John and Karen Hollingsworth-Red Wolf-North Carolina
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will postpone its decision on continuing its red wolf recovery effort until next summer. This is the second time a decision on the future of the recovery program has been postponed since the Wildlife Management Institute studied it back in November and raised serious concerns about the program’s science and management. Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups have gone to court to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on their irresponsible management of this critically endangered wolf, of which only 50-75 individuals remain in the wild. But some good news: Ben Prater, Defenders of Wildlife Southeast Director has been nominated as a member of the Red Wolf Recovery Team. And as such, Defenders will have a seat at the table in future red wolf management decisions.



Melanie Gade, Communications Specialist

Melanie handles press coverage for wildlife in the Pacific Northwest and Rockies and Plains,

Coywolf: New dog-coyote-wolf hybrid already numbers in the millions

© Wikipedia
Scientists are marveling at a keenly evolved canine, not only because of its physical qualities, but for the rapid expansion of the population as well. One key question remains unsettled by biologists with regards to the coywolf: Is it actually a different species?
In the northeastern region of North America, a century or two ago, wolves were in trouble. Humans were fundamentally altering their habitat, chopping down trees and creating new farmlands for themselves. Wolves saw fewer of their own kind, but more coyotes coming across the plains as well as the farmers’ dogs.

Apparently the wolves liked what they saw, or as biologists describe it, they had no other choice. What resulted from their crossbreeding is being called “amazing.”

Instead of a weaker offspring, what emerged was more advanced in seemingly every sense. Dr. Roland Kays of North Carolina State University described it as an “amazing contemporary evolution story that’s happening right underneath our nose” to the Economist.

Dr. Kays estimates that there are millions of coywolves populating eastern North America, spreading southward from their original home in southern Ontario.

Ecologist and evolutionary biologist Javier Monzon, previously at Stony Brook University in New York, now at Pepperdine University in California, analyzed 437 coywolves’ DNA and found the genes to be about 65 percent wolf, 25 percent coyote and 10 percent dog.

The physical traits are impressive. Coywolves weigh twice that of a coyote, around 55lbs (25kg) or more. They’re able to, on their own, hunt deer, or among fellow travelers capture a moose, thanks to their enlarged jaws, increased muscle, and quickening legs. What’s spookier is their howl, or yip, since the sound is reminiscent of both wolves and coyotes. A YouTube video captures the nighttime call at 45 seconds in:

Beyond the physical, their ability to adapt environmentally is also expanded. Coyotes favor open spaces, but wolves do better with forestry. Coywolves? They love both. And in the last decade, they’ve even sprung up in cities like Boston, Washington, DC, and New York City. The Gotham Coyote Project counts 20 of the hybrids in New York.

City-dwelling isn’t so much of a challenge for the coywolves. They’ve been observed looking both ways before crossing the street. They eat garden produce and scraps as well as rodents or pets. Evolution has shown them a world of flavors, and they aren’t picky. Lawns and parks make for great hunting grounds, especially at night, which is when most choose to come out. If a coywolf spots an appetizing cat, no part of it will go undigested.

Controversy over how to classify the coywolf is bound to grow. Jonathan Way, founder of Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research and author of Suburban Howls, will claim the hybrids are so unique that they are their own species.

The definition of “species” isn’t exactly clear. Some scientists say a species is defined by its inability to reproduce with other species, and since coywolves still mate with coyotes and wolves, that would seem to disqualify them. However, that brings up the question of whether coyotes and wolves are their own species themselves, since they certainly are the genetic parents of coywolves.


Trapping of Wisconsin Wolves Ends-Wolves have moved on and are not considered a threat.

by Rachel Tilseth, the founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

This is good news for a pack of wolves that were rearing their pups at the Colburn Wildlife Area in Adams county Wisconsin.

In news released on Friday October 30, 2015 in an article from WKOW Channel 27
“DNR carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland says no wolves were captured in traps.”
“MacFarland says signs of wolf activity in the wildlife area included tracks, scat and disturbed tree bark.”
“MacFarland says the wolves used the area as a rendezvous point as part of pup rearing. He says it’s an activity that takes place in the summer, and the wolves have moved on to other habitat.”
“Officials say the wolves’ aggression was likely a product of their proximity to activity in the state preserve.”  WKOW channel 27

The trapping of a pack of wolves in Adams County started back in September 23, 2015 when a hunter
had an encounter with wolves. The hunter according to the DNR may have stumbled into a rendezvous site.
A rendezvous site is where wolves place their pups while they are out hunting.
The hunter shot one of the wolves in self-defense and the wolf carcus was never found. United States Fish & Wildlife Service did a full investigation with no charges filed against the hunter from Friendship Wisconsin.
Wisconsin wolves are on the Endangered Species List and are illegal to hunt.

You can read the hunters story of his encounter with wolves in The NRA American Hunter article click here.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and USFW determined that the Friendship Wisconsin hunter’s encounter with a pack of wolves in Adams county was not a wolf attack.
 Areas of the Colburn Wildlife area were closed after a second encounter occurred between a hunter and his son and the same wolf pack.
 In a news article by Ryan Mathews of the Northwoods River News on October 30, 2015…
DNR Large Carnivore Specialist David MacFarland said a second encounter, which supports Nellessen’s claim, occurred Oct. 10 at the same location as the Sept. 23 encounter.
“An individual and his son were hunting during the Youth Deer Hunt, and they actually were in the same exact location, down to the tree, as the first incident,” MacFarland said. “It was the same situation where wolves came uncomfortably close. Not the same interaction that the first individual had, but wolves getting a little too close and acting in a bold manner.”  The Northwoods River News

The Department of Natural Resources followed protocal on these two wolf encounters considering them to be a threat to human safety.
“MacFarland said the USDA Wildlife Services, in consultation with the USFWS and the property manager, has begun trapping in the area with the intent to lethally remove wolves from the area. Despite being protected federally, the state retains the authority to implement lethal control methods if animals are deemed a threat to human health and safety.”  The Northwoods River News

David MacFarland DNR carnivore specialist.

No wolves captured in traps…

In news released on Friday October 30, 2015 in an article from WKOW Channel 27
“ADAMS (WKOW) — Trapping for wolves in a state wildlife area in Adams County ends Friday, as wildlife specialists say the threat from the animals appears over, after hunters had two frightening encounters.”  WKOW Channel 27
Wildlife officials believe the wolves have moved out of the Colburn Wildlife Area and are not a threat to human safety.


Friday, October 30, 2015

#Wolves of the Day

"I smell a it a wolf?" 
"I smell a it a wolf?" by  Jim Cumming

Letter: End coyote killing contests in Nevada

Reno Gazette-Journal

End coyote killing contests in Nevada. Indiscriminate killing contests enforce a mentality of violence, and that the unnecessary, gratuitous slaughter of large numbers of animals is acceptable. Killing contests have nothing to do with coyote management. 

These high-impact killing events rip family units completely asunder, leaving pups without parents to raise them, meaning their chances of a normal life are over and of survival are slim, at best. We like to think of ourselves as civilized and yet nothing about killing contests is fair or civil. Killing contests are simply murderous mayhem, using deceit in the form of coyote calls to lure unsuspecting coyotes who would otherwise never bother humans. 

These contests leave unknown numbers of animals - including other species shot as collateral damage - wounded and left to die lingering, painful deaths. Why would anyone be in favor of this horrific activity? Coyote killing contests may be a vestige of frontier living, but we are no longer the uninformed settlers who swarmed the West. 

We have an opportunity and an obligation to protect, conserve and coexist with the native wildlife we have left, including coyotes. Give coyotes game listing and bag limits and end killing contests.

Erin Hauge, Sacramento

Many thanks to @CalDisasters for the heads up~


State biologists recommend removing wolves from Oregon endangered species list

A male yearling from the Imnaha Pack was one of eight Oregon gray wolves collared in 2013 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency uses signals from wolves' collars to track their dispersal throughout the state. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife photo)
By Kelly House | The Oregonian/OregonLive  
on October 29, 2015
Staff scientists within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife say the gray wolf is no longer an endangered species in Oregon.

On Thursday, they issued a report advising the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove Oregon Endangered Species Act protections for the animal statewide.

The commission is twelve days away from a scheduled vote on the fate of protections for Oregon's 81 known wolves. Typically, commissioners vote in step with staff recommendations.

Thursday's recommendation marks the first time state wildlife officials have given any public indication of their plans for Oregon's wolves since the animals met a population target this year that triggered a review of their endangered status.

Oregon's wolf plan directs the state to consider removing wolves from the list once their population reaches four breeding pairs for three straight years.

Wolf advocates, angry that staff made their conclusions before reading through public comments that continue to amass in advance of a Nov. 6 deadline, said they plan to submit a packet Thursday identifying gaps in the state's science.

State biologists concluded wolves will continue to thrive in Oregon, finding new range and growing more numerous regardless of whether they remain on the list.

Failing to delist wolves, they argued, could erode public support for the animals and the state's management plan, leading more people to poach wolves and kill them legally.

But wolf advocates and several prominent Oregon wolf researchers questioned the mechanism state biologists used to arrive at those findings.

In testimony urging commissioners to keep wolves listed, a group of scientists outlined the benefits wolves pose to the ecosystem and questioned the parameters state researchers used to justify their recommendation.

"Prematurely weakening gray wolf protections is likely to reverse years of progress, put recovery in jeopardy, and exacerbate conflict," the 14 scientists wrote in the jointly-penned letter.

Amaroq Weiss, with the Center for Biological Diversity, contended the department's own science refutes the idea that wolves aren't endangered.

Oregon's wolves occupy about 12 percent of their available habitat in the state, and about 6 percent of their historic Oregon range. Their population is less than one-sixteenth the size Oregon State University scientists have determined the state can sustain.

"There is no other species in the world for which you would say it's only occurring in a tiny portion of its range, and yet it's not in danger of extinction," Weiss said. "It's completely illogical."

The state wildlife commission is expected to vote on the future of wolf protections during a meeting Nov. 9 in Salem.

Previously, they've considered keeping wolves on the list, removing them only in the eastern portion of the state where most wolves roam, or removing them throughout the state.

If removed from the list, wolves would remain protected under the Oregon Wolf Plan, which tightly controls who can and cannot kill a wolf, and under what circumstances. Wolves in the western part of Oregon are also protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In a statement, state wolf coordinator Russ Morgan said removing wolves statewide stays true to the wolf plan, a 10-year-old document that "envisions wolves being delisted as Oregon moves into the future phases of management."

"Delisting allows the Plan to continue to work into the future," Morgan said.

Once the wildlife commission decides whether wolves should stay or go from the list, they'll take a hard look at the plan, considering possible changes to how the state manages its 81 known wolves.
Wolf advocates and enemies are already gearing up for a fight over the plan review.

Todd Nash, wolf spokesman for the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, said Eastern Oregon ranchers are pushing for a delisting, but the real battle will be over the plan review. Ranchers plan to lobby for greater license to shoot wolves caught chasing their cattle.

Wolf advocates say they want more limitations on killing.

At present, Eastern Oregon ranchers can only shoot wolves under certain circumstances, while ranchers in the Western part of the state must first obtain a permit. The state can also shoot wolves after two attacks on livestock.

"There's a frustration level that most of Western Oregon doesn't see here in Eastern Oregon," Nash said. "We've had a few ranchers pay a really high cost and would like to see more control for those people who are being affected."

Last week, conservationists urged the commission hold off on a vote until outside scientists can vet the research state wildlife managers used to back up their recommendation to take wolves off the list. Failing to do so, they warned, would violate state law.

The state has maintained its research meets state standards because state scientists relied upon other peer-reviewed studies to arrive at their findings. Rob Klavins, Northeast Oregon field coordinator for Oregon Wild, argued that's not enough.

"This has been a politically-driven process from the beginning," he said. "Maybe they're concerned that if they get an independent review, it's not going to turn out the way they want it to."

In the near term, removing endangered species protections for Oregon's wolves would change little about the way they're managed in the state. However, if wolves continue to recover in Oregon, it could open the door for controlled hunting and trapping to minimize wolves' impact on livestock, deer and elk.


GPS collar stops tracking Oregon’s wandering wolf OR-7

The wolf OR-7 is seen on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Southwest Oregon's Cascade Mountains. (AP Photo/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, May 3, 2014)


The wolf OR-7 became globally famous when he took off from his Northeast Oregon pack four years ago and wandered thousands of miles in search of a mate, his movement tracked by a GPS satellite.
His actions now be much harder to track.

Wildlife officials say the collar that transmitted his location through satellites and radio signals has stopped working. “It all finally wore out,” said John Stephenson, Oregon wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bend. “The battery died, basically.”

Without the regular information, biologists rely on trail cameras and in-person sightings to monitor him, Stephenson told the Bend Bulletin.
Knowing the electronics were close to blinking out, state and federal wildlife managers made three attempts — last summer, last fall and early this spring — to trap OR-7 or another member of his Rogue Pack, said Mark Vargas, district wildlife biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Medford.

The hope was to replace the batteries and keep the GPS data coming in and the radio signal going from OR-7 or track the pack by collaring another one of the wolves. “We’d love to get a collar back on OR-7,” Vargas said, “but that didn’t happen.”

People around the world tracked OR-7 when he set off from the Imnaha Pack four years ago, wandering thousands of miles through Oregon, into Northern California and back. He found a mate, settled in the Cascade Range in Southern Oregon and has had five pups. None of the wolves in the pack has a working tracking collar.

Although not able to track and locate OR-7 like before, Stephenson and Vargas know where he and his pack roam. For the past three years, the wolf and his mate have hunted and raised pups around the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area between Prospect and Fort Klamath.

Now 6 years old, OR-7 left his pack when he was 2. His three older pups, born last year, are full-size yearlings and may set out on their own soon. “(It) wouldn’t be surprising if one of them took off this fall,” Stephenson said.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

#Wolves of the Day

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) 
Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) by Derek Bakken

Gray wolf 
Gray wolf by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

#Wolf pack continues to hunt around Banff townsite

Colette Derworiz, Calgary Herald
A remote camera image of young wolves on a carcass in Banff National Park in 2011. Parks Canada / For the Calgary Herald

Nearly three months after a pack of wolves first started hunting around the Banff townsite, they continue to be spotted along popular trails — even making treks into town.

In August, two of the five wolves chased and killed a deer on Cougar Street in the middle of the townsite. The new pack has since been spotted eating an elk calf along Vermilion Lakes and eating another elk along 40 Mile Creek near the popular Fenland Loop trail in late September.
In early October, they were also seen on a carcass along Sundance Trail. “There’s still been ongoing activity with the wolves in the last few weeks, primarily around the periphery of the Banff townsite,” Steve Michel, a human/wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, said Wednesday. “They have made small forays into the townsite at times.”

However, he said they are primarily in the areas around the golf course, Tunnel Mountain, the Cave and Basin, Vermilion Lakes and through the Whiskey Creek area. “We’ve seen pretty consistent movement in all areas surrounding the townsite,” he said.
A grey wolf along 40 Mile Creek in Banff National Park.
A grey wolf along 40 Mile Creek in Banff National Park. Parks Canada
There have been no incidents involving people, but the wolves have been regularly spotted by residents and visitors as they feed on prey such as deer and elk in some of those areas. “That’s totally normally behaviour for wolves,” he said, “but the unusual part is that it’s been in quite high-use areas.”

He said there’s a level of indifference by the wolves to high human-use areas, but they aren’t approaching people or exhibiting any aggression toward humans or pets in the townsite. “They’ve got a reasonable level of habituation,” he said, noting the proximity to people does raise some concern — particularly when they are feeding on an elk or deer close to a popular trail.

Michel noted the carcass could also attract grizzly bears as they feed before going into their dens for the winter. “With any predator, you could have a degree of a defensive response,” he explained. “The other concern is that the more time they spend in areas of high human-use, the more likely they are to have encounters with people and the more likely they are to have a negative encounter because people do something wrong.”

As examples, he said an off-leash dog could set off an encounter or food attractants could change their behaviour. “Typically, the rare instances where the wolves do get aggressive toward people or make contact with people are often as a result of them being food conditioned to human food or garbage,” he said. “Wolf attacks on people are extremely rare.”

There’s no indication, however, that the wolf pack around the Banff townsite is being food conditioned. “Not at all,” said Michel.

Should anyone encounter the wolves, he said it’s important to keep your distance, your children close and your pets on a leash. Officials also ask any sightings also be reported to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.


Efforts underway to trap, kill wolves in Adams County

Oct. 28, 2015

Paul A. Smith | Outdoors Editor

A September incident in Adams County in which a man said he was approached by three wolves was not an "attack," according to an investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials.
However, efforts are underway to trap and kill wolves at the public property where the incident took place.

The trapping was initiated after Department of Natural Resources managers determined that wolves at Colburn Wildlife Area presented a risk to visitors, said Dave MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist.

A provision of the Endangered Species Act allows lethal removal of "specimens which pose a demonstrable but non-immediate threat to human safety."

The decision was made after consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MacFarland said.

"We've used (trapping and lethal removal) before in compliance with our public safety response protocol," MacFarland said. "This one is getting more attention."

The trapping began Oct. 16; it is being conducted by agents with the Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As of Tuesday, no wolf had been caught, according to the DNR.

The trapping initiative falls in the wake of a Sept. 23 incident at Colburn, a 4,965-acre public property.

Matthew Nellessen, 34, of Friendship was traveling alone on foot and scouting for a deer-hunting spot when he said he was attacked by three wolves.

According to Nellessen's account, he shot and wounded one of the wolves with his .38-caliber pistol.
He reported the incident to the DNR. State and federal law enforcement officers accompanied Nellessen to the spot of the incident the following day.

A short blood trail was found, but no wolf, said Todd Schaller, DNR chief warden.

Nellessen was not charged for his actions. "Through a joint investigation of the USFWS and DNR, and information we were able to obtain through the USFWS interview, there will be no law enforcement action taken (against Nellessen)," said Schaller.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is involved because a federal court decision in December placed the western Great Lakes population of wolves under protection of the Endangered Species Act.

Illegally taking a specimen protected by the act is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.

Wisconsin had 746 to 771 wolves in 208 packs in late winter 2014-'15, according to the DNR.
The wolf population typically doubles in spring after pups are born, then begins to decline because of various sources of mortality.

The last three years, wolf mortality in Wisconsin included kills by licensed hunters and trappers.
The public wolf harvest was canceled for the foreseeable future by the December 2014 judgment that restored Endangered Species Act protections to the species.

With no wolf hunting or trapping this year, some see the decision to remove wolves at Colburn Wildlife Area as an offering by DNR executives to "wolf haters."

"While we would not oppose lethal measures where problems wolves have been verified, in this case evidence is insufficient," said Jodi Habush Sinykin, an attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates. "If law enforcement authorities say no attack occurred, it leads us to wonder about the motivation of the effort to kill wolves."
While the wolf trapping is being conducted, the DNR has closed two parking lots at Colburn.
Rachelle Blair of Lodi said she and her husband were turned away from the property in mid-October. They had grouse hunted at Colburn at least once a week this season until the parking lots were closed.
"We have seen wolf signs at Colburn, but haven't had any problems with wolves," said Blair, who hunts with her 1-year-old wire-haired pointing Griffon. "But we heard about the wolf trapping and packed up and have gone somewhere else since."

Wolves have generally been expanding their range and numbers in Wisconsin over the last couple decades.

Adams County, toward the southern end of Wisconsin's wolf range, has had two wolf packs since at least 2010, according to DNR reports.

MacFarland said the Adams County wolves have not caused problems in the past.

As a result of Nellessen's encounter, however, the DNR added a notation to its 2015 list of wolf depredations and other incidents. The Oct. 1 update includes a check mark in Adams County for a "non-livestock threat."

Two confirmed cases of wolf depredations on livestock have occurred this year in the southern half of Wisconsin, one each in Columbia and Crawford counties.

Nellessen's incident and the agencies' handling of it have drawn added attention because, if confirmed, it would have been the first verified wolf attack on a human in Wisconsin.
Since their investigation and interviews found no physical contact with the wolves and no injury to

Nellessen, law enforcement officials did not classify it as an attack. "It can become a semantic argument," MacFarland said. "No matter how it's described, it's a case where the department is following its protocol following a threat to human safety."

MacFarland said the trapping effort is being evaluated daily and results will dictate how long it continues.


Decision on NC red #wolf restoration postponed until summer 2016

October 27, 2015 

Fish and Wildlife Service will consult some of its sharpest skeptics
Critics of NC program include hunters, landowners, conservationists
The world’s only wild red wolves have dwindled to an estimated 50 to 75
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service postponed for a second time Tuesday a decision on the fate of its struggling effort to restore the endangered red wolf in northeastern North Carolina.

Cindy Dohner, Fish and Wildlife’s southeast regional director, said an advisory team including critics and scientists will help the agency decide by summer 2016 whether to improve or abandon the 28-year-old red wolf recovery program in five counties centered around wildlife refuge lands on the Albemarle Peninsula. The effort has long been unpopular with farmers and deer hunters in the region.

After a study by the nonprofit Wildlife Management Institute last November criticized the agency for failures in science, management and public relations, Fish and Wildlife said it would figure out what to do by June 2015. The decision date was pushed off to December and postponed again Tuesday.
“We do expect to complete this recovery strategy ... by summer 2016,” Dohner told reporters in a telephone conference call from her Atlanta office. “We know this is a very, very ambitious timetable.”

A ‘downward trend’

The Fish and Wildlife program supports the world’s only wild population of red wolves, whose numbers have plunged from a peak of about 130 in 2006 to an estimated 50 to 75 this year.
“The population has been on a kind of downward trend for the last couple of years,” said Pete Benjamin, a Raleigh-based Fish and Wildlife field supervisor. “We don’t know all the reasons for that. We’re continuing some population modeling to look at those factors.”

Officials logged 11 wolf deaths in the past 12 months, blaming at least four on gunshot and trapping. Fish and Wildlife said in June it had stopped releasing red wolf pups, born in captivity, into the wild.
Benjamin will serve on the advisory panel along with landowners, scientists, conservationists and a representative from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which has called on the federal agency to abandon the recovery program. The state agency says problems with the effort include wolves crossbreeding with coyotes and straying onto private lands.
“Any program that is successful requires buy-in, particularly in a program that is operating largely on private lands,” said Gordon Myers, the wildlife commission’s executive director, who joined Dohner for the telephone conference.

Conservationists have said Fish and Wildlife is failing to meet its responsibility to protect the animals. Three conservation groups filed notice in September that they plan to sue the federal agency for permitting landowners to shoot wolves. Dohner said one of the three groups, Defenders of Wildlife, also is represented on Fish and Wildlife’s advisory panel.

She said the Fish and Wildlife review will address a contention by the Wildlife Resources Commission that the red wolf is not a distinct species. “There are a lot of different factors we are looking at,” Dohner said. “People question the genetics of the red wolf. … The service truly believes it is a species.”


High Country News ruminates on God, spirituality, wolves, bison and wild morality

Octiber 28, 2015

For starters I was delighted to find a publication that covered the Rocky Mountain West, in any way, shape or form. It’s based in western Colorado (Paonia, to be exact) and covers environmental, land use and public lands issues.

So I was interested in a recent piece on HCN’s site that is an author interview: “Can studying morality help Yellowstone’s wolves and bison?” There’s a photo of a wolf with the caption: "Majestic spiritual icon, or religious abomination? Depends whom you ask."
Here are some excerpts from a discussion with sociologist Justin Farrell:
HCN: It seems like wolves epitomize the “what is wildlife good for” debate. Some outsiders assume that the people who hate wolves hate them for economic reasons – they’re ranchers and hunters who are worried about livestock and game. But you say people seem morally opposed to wolves. What’s the source of that opposition?
JF: One of the primary feelings I heard is that individual rights are being infringed upon by the federal government. The reintroduced wolves came from Canada, so there’s also the fact that people see the wolf as an “immigrant” – a word that brings up a lot of connotations right now. The wolf links to all sorts of other issues in American politics that go well beyond the Yellowstone area.
HCN: People often oppose wolves in religious terms, too – it’s an animal that symbolizes man losing dominion over the earth.
JF: People have this sense of a natural hierarchy with god at the top, then humans, then other animals. Still, that wasn’t the strongest cultural dimension I found. In fact, the pro-wolf movement had a much stronger religious dimension. You hear this notion that by reintroducing the wolf, you create a wholeness that goes beyond ecology. The language isn’t overtly Christian, but it kind of follows the Christian narrative about the fall and then redemption. The fall would be what humans did to the wolves earlier, by exterminating them from the area, but now redemption is possible, and we’ve got to seize this opportunity.
I also noticed that people were much more spiritual when they lived further away from the park. Those people tend to idealize the wolf more, maybe because they’re not as connected to the on-the-ground difficulties of dealing with the animal.
Am not sure what’s up with the use of “god” instead of “God” in the Q&A and I don’t think it was a typo, so if HCN wants to reach out to the religious folks and normal news consumers, they might want to bone up on Associated Press style.

Still, it’s nice to see a secular publication try to bring spirituality into their mix. The article goes on to discuss buffalo and how animal rights activists are hesitant to bring up morality.

JF: I call it religious muting. Out in the field, when they’re near the buffalo, they talk in overtly religious terms. But when you get back to camp, they’re much more “rational” – they sterilize any sort of religious motivation. This is part of a larger trend in the U.S. of moving toward identifying as spiritual rather than religious, or being uncomfortable with religion because it’s come to be associated with the Christian right or extremism.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rewilding the future: the loss of large animals has strong effect on ecosystems

October 27, 2015
Aarhus University
New research shows that the loss of large animals has had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and that reintroducing large animal faunas may restore biodiverse ecosystems.

New research shows that the loss of large animals has had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and that reintroducing large animal faunas may restore biodiverse ecosystems.

Rewilding is gaining a lot of interest as an alternative conservation and land management approach in recent years, but remains controversial. It is increasingly clear that Earth harbored rich faunas of large animals -- such as elephants, wild horses and big cats -- pretty much everywhere, but that these have starkly declined with the spread of humans across the world -- a decline that continues in many areas.
A range of studies now show that these losses have had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and a prominent strain of rewilding, trophic rewilding, focuses on restoring large animal faunas and their top-down food-web effects to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems.

A new study led by researchers from Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, published in PNAS today, synthesizes the current scientific research on trophic rewilding and outlines key research priorities for rewilding science.

"Reviewing the evidence from major rewilding projects such as the wolf reintroduction to the Yellowstone National Park and the Oostvaardersplassen experiment in the Netherlands, the study concludes that species reintroductions and ecological replacements can successfully restore lost food-web cascades with strong ecological effects," says lead author Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University.

"Unfortunately, empirical rewilding research is rare and geographically biased, with the scientific literature on rewilding dominated by opinion pieces," supplements co-lead PhD Student Pil B.M. Pedersen, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University.

As a key point the study highlights the need for the increasing number of rewilding projects to include hypothesis testing and science-based monitoring to help building a robust scientific basis for rewilding as an important component of conservation and land management.

The study also concludes that rewilding may be affected by trophic complexity (for example, functional variation among large herbivores) and interactions with landscape settings and human activities, but that these important complexities are poorly understood and should be prioritized for future research.

"One major science gap is experimental rewilding studies on elephants and other very large herbivores, as these used to be present in pretty much all regions and ecosystems and have particularly large ecological effects," says Professor Svenning.

Additional research prioritized listed by the study include developing rewilding's global scope -- as large animals have been lost everywhere -- and tools to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, to allow realizing rewilding in a world densely populated with people.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Aarhus University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Jens-Christian Svenning, Pil B. M. Pedersen, C. Josh Donlan, Rasmus Ejrnæs, Søren Faurby, Mauro Galetti, Dennis M. Hansen, Brody Sandel, Christopher J. Sandom, John W. Terborgh, Frans W. M. Vera. Science for a wilder Anthropocene: Synthesis and future directions for trophic rewilding research. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201502556 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502556112

Aarhus University. "Rewilding the future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2015. <>.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thompson, Manitoba: #Wolf Capital of the World

Written by Whitney Light
Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after their elimination in the early twentieth century. Image: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

With breathless enthusiasm, Marion Morberg recalled a summer encounter with wild wolves.
In her truck, as she crested a hill near Thompson, Manitoba, she saw a lone wolf walking next to the road. She pulled to a stop. The sleek predator looked at her, walked toward the truck and crossed the road. Then another appeared in her rearview mirror.

“I grew up in the north, but I'm still in awe [of the wildlife],” Morberg said. Thompsonites “had no idea that people are really scared of wolves, because we're not.”

Morberg is the president of a local volunteer organization called Spirit Way. As British Columbia culls wolves in hopes of saving declining caribou herds, Idaho hosts an annual wolf-killing contest, and Europe struggles to reverse centuries-long persecution of wolves, Morberg wants the world to know that Thompson not only likes its wolves, but is aiming to become the Wolf Capital of the World—a world-class centre for wolf-positive research, education and eco-tourism.

With a population estimated up to 6,000, Manitoba is likely home to more wolves than all the contiguous United States, which has roughly 5,600, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Locals speculate the acceptance of wolves may be because northern Manitoba is not farm country, so wolves are not in conflict with livestock owners, an issue that reinforces negative feelings toward wolves in other places. Moreover, local indigenous traditions promote respect for the wolf, which is regarded as an equal or brother.

Thompson's 10-storey high wolf mural is the largest lighted mural in the world. Image: Travel Manitoba/Flickr

Morberg’s team was in Winnipeg in late October to present their Wolf Capital of the World project to some of the 1,500 wildlife students and professionals attending The Wildlife Society’s annual conference. Spirit Way is seeking partners and sponsors for a $4.5 million Boreal Discovery Centre and a wolf centre of excellence that would promote wolves as an economic and ecologic asset, and demonstrate best practices in everything from wolf science to policy. It also hopes that Thompson, roughly 700km north of Winnipeg and deep in the Boreal forest, can shed its image as a 1960s mining town and stimulate a robust tourist economy.

The idea to become the wolf capital hatched unexpectedly in 2005. Spirit Way had been founded as a finite three-year project to simply “give the community some bragging rights,” said project coordinator Volker Beckmann. The group commissioned a 10-storey high mural based on “Wolf Sketch,” a painting by Canada's premier wildlife artist Robert Bateman. The largest lighted mural in the world, it evoked an outpouring of positive public response.

“You can see it a mile away across the river at night, this glowing wolf,” said Beckmann, who is a graphic design consultant by day.

Spirit Way then produced another public-art project, a series of 53 sponsored, artist-painted wolf sculptures. One thing led to another, and the group found itself invited to a 2009 carnivore conference in Denver, Colorado, where the group started to receive invitations for education and research partnerships. In 2011, Spirit Way started the Wolves Without Borders education program that teaches conservation and unpacks myths about wolves for school kids in Canada, the US and Mexico. It hopes to take the program global.

“We began to see the potential for what we could do with wolves,” said Beckmann.

Wolves draw an estimated 94,000 people annually to Yellowstone National Park, contributing $35.5 million to local economies

In 2012, Spirit Way presented Manitoba Conservation with a discussion paper on its plans for a “wolf economy” and hosted its own international wolf and carnivore conference in Thompson, attracting 100 attendees, including top wolf biologists. It is also working on a four-year study with Memorial University’s Dr. Alistair Bath, a human dimensions expert who has worked on human-wolf controversies around the world, to determine what a “wolf centre of excellence” should be from the perspective of all community stakeholders.

So far the group has raised nearly $1 million for its projects, and work on the Boreal Discovery Centre—an overhaul of the Thompson zoo that will focus on flora and fauna of the Boreal forest—is underway.

Because of the thick forest cover, viewing wolves for research or tourism could be challenging, but technology is helping overcome that. Research methods are changing “at a rapid pace,” said Rob Schultz, executive director of the International Wolf Center in Minnesota.

“Researchers can be sitting in an office and be watching what's happening on Ellesmere [Island] with GPS collars. There is talk of using drones,” Schultz said. “Technology changes the way researchers can look at a species, and it means that you don't necessarily need a barren landscape.”

Speaking at the conference, Keith MacDonald, president of the Thompson Chamber of Commerce said he also hoped wolves “could be an untapped economic engine” for the city. Wolves draw an estimated 94,000 people annually to Yellowstone National Park, contributing $35.5 million to the economies of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, according to a 2008 study. Other studies have found that wolves have a positive economic impact in North Carolina and parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

Boreal forest in Thompson, Manitoba. Image: Travel Manitoba/Flickr

But creating a product around an animal that really doesn't want contact with people is an inherent challenge.

For starters, Thompson will need mom-and-pop tour operators, such as those that operate in Churchill, Thompson's northern neighbour, Beckmann said. They take visitors on northern safaris to see polar bears and beluga whales. Already Manitoba’s northern region attracts upwards of 400,000 visitors annually, according to Travel Manitoba. “We're looking for someone to tell you the stories, take you into the forest, show you some wolf tracks,” he said.

Morberg is already organizing tours for August 2016. A wolf-behaviour expert will guide participants in the Paint Lake-Ospwagon Lake area to hear, if not see, wolves by performing wolf calls.

“I think images from that community, when they're seen by people in other parts of the world, they truly do inspire people,” said Rob Schultz, noting that the International Wolf Center has been sharing Thompson's wolf-project updates to its worldwide membership. He’s impressed by the city’s “real, true acceptance of wolves, of their being part of the environment, that we're not seeing in other parts of the world.”

If Spirit Way can keep its momentum, Thompson may not only become synonymous with wolves—it may also do a loved and loathed creature a lot of good.


Park Service bans controversial methods to hunt wolf, bear

By Liz Ruskin, APRN | October 26, 2015
A wolf carrying a caribou leg. (File photo: NPS)A wolf carrying a caribou leg. (File photo: NPS)

The National Park Service has published its final rule on hunting in Alaska’s national preserves, turning a corner in a long-running tussle with the state. While most state hunting rules continue to apply, the Park Service is now enacting a permanent ban on several controversial hunting practices allowed under state law. The new Park Service ban includes using artificial lights to shoot black bears in the den, and using bait to hunt bears.

Bruce Dale, the state’s director of Wildlife Conservation, says the banned methods are not common hunting practices, and the state doesn’t allow them everywhere. But he says the new federal rules will still hurt certain hunters.  And, Dale says, it’s a federal incursion on the legal right of the state to manage its own fish and game.

“It’s a problem for us,” Dale said. “We’ve been given the authority to be the primary managers and we take that very seriously, and we think we’re good at it.”

Dale says the state is considering its next move.

The new rules apply to sport hunting on 20 million acres of preserve land, managed by the National Park Service. They don’t change federal subsistence rules, and don’t apply in National Parks themselves, where sport hunting is illegal. The feds say they are really re-imposing bans on methods the state used to consider illegal, including harvesting wolves and coyotes in denning season, when their pelts aren’t valuable.

When the rule was pending, it drew more than 70,000 public comments.

Jim Stratton, the newly retired Alaska director for the National Parks Conservation Association, is delighted to see the final rule.

“Literally, … I was doing backflips,” he said. “I’ve been working on this issue for over 10 years.”
Stratton says the state Board of Game has allowed hunting methods that are incompatible with the mission of the Parks Service, the agency in charge of managing the national preserves.

“Bear snaring and bear baiting and spot lighting bears – you know, shooting Boo-Boo when he’s taking his winter nap in his den — that just doesn’t have any place in lands managed by the National Park Service.”

At the heart of the issue is a conflict over the point of wildlife management. By law, the state’s goal is “sustained yield” –basically, keeping moose and caribou numbers high enough for hunting, sometimes by shrinking bear and wolf populations.  But the National Park Service tries to preserve natural ecosystems, and spokesman John Quinley says its policies prohibit manipulating natural predator numbers to favor prey.

“Our mandate from Congress is different than the state of Alaska’s.”

Rod Arno, a hunting advocate and director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, says he suspects this is just the beginning of a federal power play. Arno says the feds are starting by banning rare practices, like using lights to kill bears in the den, because they’re not popular.

“That is such a small group that would ever participate in that, that there would be very little draw,” Arno said. “And the other thing is that people, when they hear those things, most people who aren’t subsistence users, they look at hunting and they’re always concerned about fair chase.”

Arno says killing bears in the den is a traditional practice in parts of the state, and using a flashlight is a safety measure. Now that the rule is finally published, Arno says he hopes the state will challenge it to the U.S. Supreme Court.


BBC dragged into another fakery row as it admits 'wild wolf' featured on documentary was semi-domesticated

Scene was broadcast as part of Human Planet series but viewers were not told that the scene was faked

The BBC has admitted that the semi-domesticated wolf had been let off a lead just off camera Photo: Alamy

The BBC has again been forced to admit that a scene from a documentary series was faked after producers failed to find any wolves to film on location.

The footage, broadcast as part of the acclaimed Human Planets series, saw two Mongolian camel herders firing shots in the direction of the so-called wild animal as it tore across the plains of the Gobi desert before discussing their frustration when they failed to kill it.

But the BBC has admitted that in fact, the semi-domesticated wolf had been let off a lead just off camera and was simply running to its handler, who was out of shot.

The documentary, Deserts: Life in the Furnace, was created by the same BBC producer behind the faked footage of a volcano eruption in its new natural history series Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise.
A still from the 'dirty volcano' episode of Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise 
A still from the 'dirty volcano' episode of Patagonia: Earth?s Secret Paradise  Photo: BBC

That programme, broadcast in late September, purported to show a “dirty thunderstorm” above the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile, with flashes of lighting within clouds of ash. But earlier this month, the BBC was forced to admit that the scene was actually created by using footage from two different eruptions four years apart.

The latest fakery embarrassment, reported by The Times, was initially denied by the producers but the BBC Natural History Unit investigated the allegations and confirmed that the wolf footage was staged.

"We have been made aware of concerns relating to scenes of camel herders using a semi-domesticated wolf in a sequence filmed six years ago for Human Planet," the BBC said. "We take any breach of editorial standards extremely seriously and have looked into the matter. We now believe the sequence did not meet the BBC's high editorial standards. Since this programme was broadcast in 2011, we have strengthened our guidelines further and introduced mandatory safeguarding trust training for all production staff."

The documentary was produced by Tuppence Stone, producer on the Human Planet and Patagonia series.

Dale Templar, who is now managing director of One Tribe TV, was the series producer and Brian Leith, who now has his own film company, was the executive producer but both were said to have claimed that they knew nothing of the incident when first approached.

The revelation will come as an embarrassment as it is by no means the first fakery row to hit the BBC.

In 2011, the broadcaster admitted that footage of a polar bear cub being born was filmed in a man-made den in a German animal park. The truth about the sequence, shown as part of the Frozen Planet series, was not disclosed in the programme.


#Wolf of the Day

White wolf by Lorraine Culloch