Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

May - June 2003
6.29.03 NEWPORT STATE PARK, Wis. (AP) -- Wolves are continuing their remarkable comeback by returning to one of the most unlikely spots in northern Wisconsin - tourist-rich Door County. There may now be as many as a half dozen animals in the county coming in from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, said Adrian Wydeven, head of the state Department of Natural Resources wolf recovery program. Door County is an unlikely spot for wolves because it is cut off from northern Wisconsin wolf packs by the Sturgeon Bay canal and by the City of Green Bay and its suburbs. "Door County has never had a confirmed wolf," DNR warden Mike Neal said. "They're not supposed to be here." But last month, an 82-pound timber wolf was shot by a hunter at the northern end of the county. The shooter claimed he mistook the wolf for a coyote.
6.20.03 UTAH (Daily Herald) -- A new task force will decide the future of wolves in Utah and Utah County in coming months. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, acting on a joint resolution of the Utah Legislature, has named 12 people to a group that will develop a wolf policy for the state. There is little doubt the wolves will soon be coming to Utah and Utah County, said Kevin Conway, director of Utah DWR. Last year, a male from Yellowstone National Park became the first confirmed wolf in Utah in nearly 70 years when it was caught in a coyote trap about 25 miles north of Salt Lake City. The Utah Wolf Forum would like to prepare residents for as many as 700 more of the creatures -- and they are advocating the Book Cliffs in Utah County's southeast corner as prime wolf habitat. "Wolves could be in Utah County next week or in 10 years," said Allison Jones, biologist with the Utah Wolf Forum. For more information about the Utah Wolf Forum, visit www.brwcouncil.org/ html/wolves.html.
6.18.03 ALASKA (Anchorage Daily News) -- Gov. Frank Murkowski has apparently dropped his opposition to a bill that could let private hunters shoot wolves from airplanes, and he is expected to sign it into law today in Fairbanks. Senate Bill 155 allows private citizens to participate in aerial and so-called land-and-shoot hunting in approved state predator-control programs. It also makes it easier for the Alaska Board of Game to implement such efforts. In response to complaints by wolf-control advocates that the Department of Fish and Game under former Gov. Tony Knowles had blocked their efforts, a later amendment said the Fish and Game commissioner's approval was no longer necessary. That drew Murkowski's opposition. With the new law, the board, not Fish and Game, would establish the objectives, methods and means of predator control programs and determine who could participate and how to control them. Aerial wolf hunting was a common practice before statehood and is seen as the most effective way to kill the wide-ranging, clever animals. It has proven publicly unpopular, however. As state and federal laws have gradually ended airborne and land-and-shoot hunting, many hunters believe wolves have proliferated and prey has declined. They want aerial hunting back. The last time the Legislature eased restrictions in the state's land-and-shoot laws, voters overturned the action through a ballot referendum. Bennett said opponents of the new law "haven't decided what to do yet." But a national outcry and tourism boycott could result, he said.
5.30.03 JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) – Researchers are trying to gauge how the reintroduction of wolves to northwestern Wyoming and central Idaho has affected mountain lions. Some researchers have documented wolves usurping lion kills and, in some cases, killing cougars and their kittens. Researchers in Idaho cited competition with wolves as contributing to a drop in the mountain lion population. Howard Quigley, a senior scientist with Beringia South, a science and education organization based in Kelly, said reintroducing wolves has meant a radical change for lions. Many researchers believe that lions changed their behavior in the absence of wolves and must now readjust. In Yellowstone, cougar researcher Toni Ruth has been seeing more wolf tracks in core cougar habitat. But she said it is too soon to say whether wolves are affecting the distribution and density of lion populations. Despite a rapidly increasing wolf population, researchers have yet to demonstrate a statistically significant increase in lion-wolf encounters.Ruth has been seeing more wolf tracks in core cougar habitat... [and] has documented cougars moving to rocky cliff outcrops when wolves are in the area. In addition, cougars have tended to bed down close to kills and be vigilant in keeping scavengers away.  A hard winter could lead to more wolf-lion encounters. Researchers reported that wolves and lions favor the same prey, primarily elk and deer, but researchers like Ruth are investigating whether lions will shift to other prey such as bighorn sheep and antelope if they have to compete with wolves.
5.29.03 WISCONSIN (AP) --For the first time in decades, timber wolves are being shot in Wisconsin to prevent them from killing more livestock and other domestic animals. Four wolves have been trapped and killed within the past two weeks in Northwestern Wisconsin, Adrian Wydeven, wolf expert for the state Department of Natural Resources, said Wednesday. The killing is permitted because the wolf has been downgraded from an endangered species to a threatened species. It was downgraded federally April 1, and the state changed it in October 1999. "With a healthy wolf population, we feel it is just best to eliminate wolves that have become habitual killers of livestock populations," Wydeven said. Until this spring, problem wolves were trapped and relocated within the state, he said. Last year, 17 were relocated.The four wolves killed so far were captured on two farms in Burnett and Barron counties, Wydeven said. They were then shot in the head, he said.Wolves have killed at least five calves and four sheep this spring.
5.28.03 (IDAHO Mountain Express) -- Despite their blood relation, wolves and dogs do not belong together, a pair of wolf experts said earlier this month. Carter Niemeyer, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that although wolves are typically timid around humans, people should be very careful in deciding whether to take their dogs into wolf country. "They will kill your dog," he said. "For the good of your dog, I would not take your dog out in wolf country." Niemeyer, who has worked around wolves and other wild animals since 1975, said wolves usually shy away from humans and resort to barking and yipping like dogs when approached from a distance. However, they will not tolerate the presence of other canines and will act quickly to eliminate any perceived competitors. Curt Mack, gray wolf project leader for the Nez Perce Tribe, said wolves are so intolerant of dogs because they are highly territorial. "Dogs are viewed as competition," he said. The wolf experts said the best advice for dog owners who venture into wolf territory is to leave their pets at home. Dogs, even larger breeds that are typically self sufficient, should never be allowed to stray ahead on hikes into areas where wolves are known to frequent, they noted.
5.17.03 (CHINA Daily) -- Effective eco-protection measures in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has resulted not only in retrieved lush woodland and pasture but, to the dismay of herdsmen, increasing packs of wolves. In early April over 500 sheep were killed or injured by wolves, an Urumqi local forestry official reported. It is said wolf numbers have recovered in the region due to nationwide efforts to improve the eco-environment.In the past, armed local farmers patrolled grazing lands to protect livestock from predatory wolf packs that used to roam the area in great numbers. Firearms were, however, banned by the local government in the 1990s.
5.14.03 PARIS (AFP) -- France's green groups sent up a collective howl on Wednesday after a parliamentary panel recommended that Alpine sheep farmers be allowed to shoot wolves that attack their flocks. The "wolf question" has been sparked by an estimated 30 animals that live in isolated parts of the French Alps, apparently after sneaking across the border from Italy a decade ago. Farmers in the high mountains claim they have lost around 5,500 sheep to the predators in the past three years alone, and some say they face ruin. Its 25 proposals notably suggest that Alpine areas be placed in three kinds of legal category: areas where the wolf would be given "complete protection"; those where it could be "culled under certain conditions"; and finally areas where "its presence would not be tolerated." If wolves and humans cannot live alongside one another, "priority must be given to humans," the chairman of the panel, Christian Estrosi, of the rightwing UMP party, whose constituency lies in the Alpes-Maritimes district and who has championed the sheep farmers. The report has no legal or binding value, but many ecologists assailed it as a predictable sellout to the country's powerful farming lobby. The wolf is protected by the 1979 Bern Convention on wild species, which however allows protected animals to be killed if they are deemed dangerous to the public or inflict great damage to property. Over the last 10 years, French sheep farmers have received compensation for 11,146 sheep that, they claim, have been killed by wolves. "Each wolf costs the taxpayer EUR 100,000 (USD 88,000) a year" in compensation and protection costs, claimed Estrosi.Environmentalists say the underlying cause for the hostility towards wolves is the disastrous state of French hillside sheep farming, which largely survives thanks to handouts from Paris and Brussels. Critics of the "shoot-to-kill" campaign also point to the success of some 500 wolves in neighbouring Italy, where the animals act as a money-spinning tourist attraction.
5.14.03 (IDAHO Mountain Express) -- Now entering its third year, Defenders of Wildlife’s wolf guardian program is looking for volunteers interested in spending a few weeks in Idaho’s backcountry to help deter wolves from preying on sheep and cattle, an action that often effects their own death sentences. "Hopefully we’ll have nothing to do," said wolf guardian program director Laura Jones. "If we have nothing to do, that means the wolves are out of trouble. So, hopefully, we’ll be twiddling our thumbs." However, as Idaho’s wolf population climbs upward each year, conflicts with livestock and ranchers are also on the rise. In 2001, from June through late September, volunteers used human hazing and radio-activated guard boxes, called RAG boxes, to deter wolves from preying on sheep. RAG boxes are designed to frighten radio-collared wolves using strobes and ear-piercing sounds. Three miles of fladry lines—ribbon-tied strings derived from Europe that are designed to frighten wolves—were strung, and transportable electric fencing was maintained. "After the Wolf Guardian project started, no more wolves were killed due to depredation, and the sheep were safe," said Cheri Beno, one of the first-year volunteers. Though wolves eventually crossed the fladry, researchers are calling the experiment a success and said fladry could become a widespread temporary measure ranchers could use during calving season, as an example.
5.12.03 TORONTO (Earthroots) -- (Toronto) Earthroots is asking the Ontario Government to move forward in protecting species at risk of extinction, such as the Eastern Canadian wolf (Canis lycaon). In May 2001, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared the Eastern Canadian wolf a "Species of Special Concern", adding the mammal to Canada's List of Species at Risk. Since there is still no Federal Endangered Species Act, the listing has no legal merit. The species has yet to be added to the provincial list where it could be protected under the Ontario Endangered Species Act. "Allowing species to decline towards extinction when protective legislation exists, violates Ontario's many commitments to protecting biodiversity," said Earthroots Campaigner, Melissa Tkachyk. The long delay in listing species under the Ontario Endangered Species Act was recognized by the Provincial Auditor in his last Annual Report. The Report criticized government efforts to manage species at risk, noting that some species have been waiting for protection as far back as 1984. Ranging across Central Ontario, the Eastern Canadian wolf is known for its presence in Algonquin Provincial Park where it has been threatened by high levels of hunting and trapping. Research has indicated that these wolves are close relatives of the highly endangered red wolves of the southeastern U.S. In response to scientific research and public pressure, the government instituted a 30-month moratorium on hunting and trapping wolves in townships bordering Algonquin Park. "Here in Ontario we have one of the most endangered wolf populations in the world and the government will only protect it for 30 months," added Tkachyk. "Throughout the rest of Ontario wolves can be killed year round without any limits."
5.11.03 MISSOULA (The Missoulian) – Environmentalists and animal-rights activists on Friday lambasted Montana’s proposed wolf-management plan, saying it would renew “the very threats that nearly wiped out wolves in the lower 48 states.” In formal comments on the state’s draft plan, Animal Protection Institute program coordinator Brian Vincent insisted that “the wolf remains in critical condition” and needs continued protection under the federal Endangered Species Act – not delisting and a transfer of management authority to the state. “The Endangered Species Act has helped resuscitate wolves,” Vincent said. “The Montana plan would essentially cut off life support and throw wolves out of the emergency room before they’re recovered.” Comments from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies echoed that. At the Alliance, wolf recovery coordinator Renee Van Camp said the state’s proposed management plan is based on politics, not sound science. Wolf survival demands a population of 415 to 875 animals in Montana, she said, not the 183 wolves counted at the end of 2002. It’s not even appropriate to consider removing wolves from the endangered species list, Van Camp said. Wolves exist in just 2 percent of their native territory, not the “significant” amount required under the Endangered Species Act, she said. “Unfortunately, legal and illegal killing of wolves will continue until extensive education and outreach actually begins to make a difference,” Van Camp said. “We must compensate with a scientifically proven, viable population of genetically healthy wolves that can successfully sustain legal, illegal and natural mortality and still increase to viable levels."
5.10.03 WISCONSIN (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) -- More than 200 miles from its northern home, a gray wolf found dead in Waukesha County in late April adds to the evidence that these wild predators are venturing to the Milwaukee metropolitan area, and reports of their sightings can no longer be dismissed. The young, 85-pound male wandered into southern Waukesha County before being struck and killed by a vehicle the last week of April on Highway 67 north of I-94, state wildlife officials confirmed this week. The wolf likely was searching for a mate, with the intent of establishing its own pack territory, said Randy Jurewicz, an endangered resources biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources in Madison. This is perhaps the closest to the Milwaukee metropolitan area that a wild wolf has roamed, and one of only three confirmed sightings this far south in Wisconsin since gray wolves became re-established in the state in the late 1970s, DNR wildlife officials said Friday. In March 2001, a female wolf was found dead along I-94 near the Rock River in southern Jefferson County after it was killed by a vehicle. A tag placed on her as a pup indicated that she had roamed from the Upper Peninsula. Last year, a male wolf was killed by a vehicle near Middleton in Dane County. The three carcasses prove that at least one wolf has traveled to southern Wisconsin in each of the last three years. Each of the three was young -- 1 or 2 years old -- and asserting its independence by searching for a forested area where it could begin a family, said Adrian Wydeven, a DNR mammalian ecologist and wolf specialist in Park Falls. "The population is filling up much of the North Woods, so more young wolves are dispersing," Wydeven said. "They keep moving until they can find a mate or good habitat. But when they get out of the forested areas, they seem to get somewhat disoriented and they just keep moving." The three lone wolves do not account for the dozens of reported wolf sightings that have come from residents throughout the southeastern region in the same time period, said Tami Ryan, a DNR wildlife area supervisor in Waukesha. Most sightings, when they are investigated, turn out to be coyotes, Ryan said. Some are dogs or hybrids of wolves and dogs that might have been bred as pets. here were no wolf sightings or reported livestock deaths in the two or three weeks before the wolf was found dead on the side of the road at Oconomowoc, according to DNR wardens and the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department.
5.5.03 ISRAEL -- One of the most difficult missions faced by nature preservation organizations in small, crowded countries is to ensure the existence of wild animals in nature without human intervention. In Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority has succeeded in maintaining the survival of many wild animals, but for many others, such as the wolves on the Golan Heights, the organization is no longer capable of protecting them without incessant intervention in their way of life. In the first four months of this year, 11 wolves were shot on the Golan Heights by cattle breeders, with the permission of the Nature and Parks Authority. If this rate of killing continues, nearly a third of all the adult wolves on the Golan Heights will be killed by the end of the year. The sanctioned shooting is not the result of a sudden decision by the nature authorities. It is part of a new strategy, intended to make the existence of a stable population of wolves on the Golan Heights possible, alongside the agricultural development of settlements there. One of the tactics here is thinning out the wolf population. The Nature and Parks Authority conducted a study from 1998 to 2001, one of the most comprehensive of its kind ever done in Israel. Its central conclusion is that there is a highly stable population of wolves on the Golan Heights (nearly 100 adults), which can be thinned out. This policy is intended not only to protect cattle breeders but also to enable the wolf population in the southern Golan to recover. The number of deer in that region has declined in the past nine years from 3,000 to fewer than 400. Wolves prey heavily on deer and thus jeopardize their existence. The Nature and Parks Authority should take into account that its new policy of thinning the wolf population is liable to place the wolves in danger of extinction. If that happens, it will be very difficult to reverse the process. The authority's calculations about the wolves' staying power are based in part on forecasts of the growth of the wolf population, which could be wrong or inaccurate.