Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2001
Wolves on Wane: Group Wants Full Halt to Hunting
Antonella Artuso, The Toronto Sun, 26 December 2001
Ontario's dwindling wolf population is being treated as vermin and needs a province-wide management strategy to ensure their survival, says Earthroots.
Earthroots Wilderness campaigner Melissa Tkachyk said there are no limits on the number of wolves that can be killed by those holding a basic hunting or trapping licence.
Natural Resources Minister John Snobelen recently imposed a ban on wolf hunting and trapping in Algonquin Park, plus a 30-month moratorium in communities that surround the park, in response to a declining population.
Ministry spokesman Paul Demers said the moratorium will give researchers two years to study the Algonquin Park wolves.
Demers said the government is also considering a provincial management plan for the wolf.
However, Tkachyk said while the hunting and trapping ban in communities around Algonquin Park is welcome, it should be made permanent. "The majority of wolves are being killed when they follow deer outside the park," she said.
Earthroots says a provincial management strategy is needed to assess the numbers and general health of wolves, and to take steps to preserve the population, including limits on kills.
There may be as few as 150 wolves left in Algonquin Park -- one of the purest strains of the Eastern Canadian Wolf, Tkachyk said.
Although the Eastern Canadian Wolf pelt is worth only $20 or so, it is often caught by trappers after the Gray Wolf, whose pelt can be turned into a $350 U.S. rug, she said.
Researchers in Algonquin Park frequently found wolf carcasses discarded, fueling speculation the animals were being killed to help preserve one of their chief food sources -- the beaver, whose belt fetches more money in the fur market.
Demers said there is no scientific consensus on which species of wolf resides in Algonquin Park, and the ministry hopes the two-year study will provide answers.
Demers said wolves are usually caught only for commercial purposes and in nowhwere near the numbers of other game, such as bears or moose.
"The value of wolf pelts have gone down tremendously in the last 10 years," he said. "It's just not an animal that is hunted in the same manner as other game species."
Four Wolves Illegally Shot and Killed in Deer Season
Anyssa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 23 December 2001
Four gray wolves were illegally shot and killed during Wisconsin's 2001 deer hunting season, double the number for a typical year and disrupting a planned study of wolf habitat in central Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources said.
The wolves -- listed as federal endangered and state threatened species -- were killed in Douglas, Price, Clark and Juneau counties. Two were "alpha" males wearing radio transmitter collars that allow them to be tracked by state and federal authorities.
A Marathon County hunter has pleaded no contest to accidentally shooting one of the wolves, and rewards totaling $4,000 have been posted for information leading to a conviction in the other cases.
The killings bring to six the number of gray wolves believed to have been fatally shot in Wisconsin this year.
"It raises some concern about the rest of the population. Whenever we get wolves shot, we suspect there are others that have not been detected," said Adrian Wydeven, a mammal ecologist who oversees the DNR's wolf program.
"In the central forest, two out of the eight collared wolves we had on (transmitter) were killed in the opening weekend. If similar rates occurred in other parts of the state, that could have a drastic impact on the population," he said.
Even in small numbers, shootings can disrupt pack structure, particularly if an alpha animal is killed, Wydeven said. The alpha male leads the pack and mates with the alpha female.
The DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were to begin studying the movements and habitat of gray wolves in the southern part of the Necedah National Wildlife Reserve this winter. But that project has been stalled, Wydeven said, because the killings cut off radio contact with two of the three packs to be studied.
Thomas Frane, 49, of Ringle pleaded no contest to accidentally shooting the female wolf in Price County on Oct. 27.
Frane told authorities he shot the animal while deer hunting about eight miles northwest of Phillips and didn't realize it was a wolf. He was fined $1,084 on Dec. 18.
A second wolf was found shot east of Solon Springs in Douglas County; an adult male was shot in southern Clark County; and the fourth, an adult male, was found south of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County.
The DNR counted 251 wolves in Wisconsin last year; this year's count has been delayed by the lack of snow on the ground.
Common throughout the state in pre-settlement days, wolves were essentially exterminated from central Wisconsin by 1914 and statewide by the mid-1950s.
Now concentrated in the north and a small central portion of the state, the population has grown from zero in 1970 as the wolves have migrated into Wisconsin from Minnesota, the DNR said.
Once considered endangered in Wisconsin, gray wolves had their status changed to "threatened" in in 1999.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering doing the same later this year or next.
A national wildlife group called the latest wolf killings irresponsible, particularly in light of the federal government's possible action.
"Politically, it's just dumb," said Nina Fascione, director of carnivore conservation for the Defenders of Wildlife.
"At a time when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to lessen federal protection for wolves in the Great Lakes states, citizens should be demonstrating good stewardship of this endangered species, not carelessness and lawbreaking."
Ontario Announces Strategy to Protect Algonquin Park Wolves
Canada NewsWire, 6 November 2001
The Ontario government is proposing a ban on hunting and trapping of wolves throughout Algonquin Park and a 30-month moratorium in 39 townships surrounding the park to ensure the sustainability of the wolf population.
Minister of Natural Resources John Snobelen announced the proposed strategy today at the annual meeting of World Wildlife Fund Canada in Toronto.
"Algonquin Provincial Park is the largest protected area for the Eastern Wolf in North America," said Snobelen. "These steps will help ensure wolves continue to play an important role in the Algonquin ecosystem."
In May 2001, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada designated the Eastern Wolf as a species of Special Concern - a risk category that indicates the status of the population should be carefully monitored. The government regularly monitors wildlife sustainability and takes appropriate action to protect species at risk, including hunting closures or reductions in hunting opportunities.
"World Wildlife Fund Canada strongly supports this announcement which caps more than two decades of dedicated research in Algonquin Park," said Monte Hummel, President of World Wildlife Fund Canada. "It will help ensure that the howl of the wolves will always be an important part of the park experience."
World Wildlife Fund has been involved in wolf conservation research for more than 20 years. It has supported over $750,000 of wolf research and applied conservation work across Canada, especially in projects in and around Algonquin Park, the Rockies and in the Northwest Territories. Founded in 1967, World Wildlife Fund Canada is one of the country's major conservation organizations. Its recently concluded Endangered Spaces campaign has protected more than 1,000 new areas across the country.
The proposed management strategy builds on recommendations made by the Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group appointed by Snobelen in 1998. The advisory group included representatives of local communities, government, hunters, trappers, environmental and conservation organizations, along with the scientific community.
"The popularity of the park wolves contributes to local tourism and the economy of the area," said Snobelen. "These measures will ensure the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park will continue to play an important role in Ontario's heritage for years to come."
WOLVES OF ALGONQUIN PARK FACT SHEET
The wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park are part of a larger population of thousands of wolves that occupies central and much of Northern Ontario. The northern limit of their range is similar to that of their prime prey, the White-tailed Deer.
These wolves are typically a gray-brown and reddish colour and noticeably smaller than wolves living further north. For many years they have been called the Eastern Wolf, Eastern Canadian Wolf or Eastern Timber Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) and considered a subspecies of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus).
In May 2001, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) reassessed the Eastern Wolf and designated it as a species of Special Concern - a risk category that indicates the status of the population should be carefully monitored. The government regularly monitors sustainability of wildlife resources and takes appropriate actions to ensure their sustainability, including hunting closures or reductions in hunting opportunities.
The Role of Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin is Ontario's oldest and most recognized provincial park, as well as the largest protected area for the Eastern Wolf. Wolves are the top predators in Algonquin and, therefore, an important part of the ecosystem of this unique natural environment park.
The wolf is also one of the park's most enduring images. The park's summertime wolf howls are the centrepiece of a world-renowned interpretive program. In addition to the significant contribution that this program has made to changing public attitudes toward wolves, it also contributes to the local economy.
The Status of the Wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park
In recent years, concern has been raised about the long-term sustainability of the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park. In 1998, Natural Resources Minister John Snobelen established an advisory group to evaluate the status of the park's wolves and make recommendations for the long-term conservation of these animals.
The Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group was assisted in its investigation by scientists and a diverse group of people that included local citizens, biologists and geneticists, conservation organizations, hunters, trappers and government.
The advisory group concluded the park's wolf population has decreased since the highest level of the recorded wolf population identified in the 1960s. It also indicated there is a high probability the wolf population has
decreased during the last decade and that it will continue to gradually decrease because the annual mortality of wolves, at least in the east side of the park, exceeds recruitment of young wolves into the population. Humans caused two-thirds of all mortality of wolves studied from the east side of the park. Most deaths occur when wolves leave the protection of the park on their regular travels or in pursuit of deer in the winter.
In December 2000, the Advisory Group presented the Minister of Natural Resources with the results of its 16-month investigation. The report contained 24 recommendations for a conservation plan for the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park.
The public was invited to comment on the report from January to March 2001. More than 1,700 individual responses, four petitions with 1,880 signatures, and comments from 34 organizations were received. Seventy-six per cent of respondents support protection for park wolves in the area near the park.
ALGONQUIN WOLF ADVISORY GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS FACT SHEET
Natural Resources Minister John Snobelen has accepted all of the recommendations in the Algonquin Wolf Advisory Report and has proposed an expansion of recommendation 18. Recommendation 20 is superseded by the expansion of recommendation 18.
The following were the recommendations:
A regulatory confirmation of the closure of hunting and trapping of wolves in the Townships of Bruton and Clyde, and the portion of the Township of Eyre within Algonquin Provincial Park.
Interim Hunting Agreements and any final agreement or settlement with the Algonquin First Nation of Ontario continue to exclude the hunting of wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park.
Any agreement or settlement with the Algonquins of Ontario continue to exclude the trapping of wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park consistent with the current longstanding practice of having a zero quota on the 19
Aboriginal registered traplines in the eastern and central parts of the park.
Algonquin Provincial Park (Ministry of Natural Resources), in consultation with the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, should develop a carefully defined policy and a protocol for the trapping and killing of wolves for research purposes that is consistent with and supports the conservation direction espoused in this report.
The Superintendent of Algonquin Provincial Park be delegated regulatory power to control activities by humans near wolf dens and rendezvous sites pursuant to Section 19 of the Provincial Parks Act, R.S.O. 1990.
Algonquin Provincial Park (Ministry of Natural Resources) should develop a policy on procedures to deal with fearless wolves with priority placed on human safety.
A Wildlife Management Plan be developed for Algonquin Provincial Park that addresses the long-term, natural sustainability of the Park's wildlife species including wolves, their prey and habitat.
The Algonquin Forestry Authority together with the Ministry of Natural Resources place a priority on the retention of conifer forest units that serve or have historically served as winter cover for moose and deer using the prescriptions of the Timber Management Guidelines for the Provision of Moose and Deer Habitat.
The Algonquin Forestry Authority will identify areas in and adjacent to this conifer cover where browse may be created. Reducing forest crown cover to 50-70% by selective removal of trees can do this. These sites must be approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources biologist, and must be consistent with the proposed wildlife management plan.
The Algonquin Forestry Authority together with the Ministry of Natural Resources explore tree harvest opportunities within warm-water riparian Areas of Concern and at suitable upland sites near watercourses, consistent with the Timber Management Guidelines for the Protection of Fish Habitat, where it is perceived that this will benefit low or declining beaver populations.
The individual prescriptions for creating openings in conifer-dominated strips around waterbodies should not detract from their important function as wildlife travel corridors and cover.
No interference with natural disturbances such as wildfire of natural origin and indigenous insect and disease outbreaks in wilderness zones and, where appropriate, in natural zones and development zones that produce early succession forests (wolf, prey, habitat) unless those disturbances directly affect human safety, facilities or Algonquin Provincial Park values.
Evaluation of the management in the Adaptive Management Plan be done through continuous and long-term effective monitoring of wolf population trends to ensure their sustainability.
A long-term continuous monitoring plan be developed and supported for the reliable and systematic assessment of deer, moose, and beaver population trends in Algonquin Provincial Park.
A periodic assessment of the status of the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park with respect to (genetic) introgression of other Canis species, including Canis latrans (Coyote) and Canis lupus (Gray Wolf).
Continued full support of the current education and interpretive programs that address the status, role and conservation of wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park, including the Public Wolf Howls and wolf education talks.
A news release and a public consultation process describing the results and recommendations from the Minister's Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group report.
The Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group should meet annually to review the effects of all the recommended actions that are implemented to conserve the wolves of Algonquin Provincial Park and report their findings to the Minister and the public.
The establishment and support of an Algonquin Science Co-operative to foster studies that address the natural sustainability of Algonquin Provincial Park ecosystems including wolves and their prey.
Establishment of closed seasons for hunting and trapping of wolves in designated townships surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park. The Minister has strengthened the advisory group's recommendation and is
proposing a 30-month moratorium on regulated hunting and trapping of wolves in 39 townships surrounding the park. Park wolves will be monitored during the 30-month period to assess the effectiveness of the closure and other management actions.
Long-term continuous monitoring programs be developed and supported for reliable and systematic assessment of wolves and their prey (deer, beaver, and moose) in Wildlife Management Units adjacent to the Park.
Enlisting the assistance of hunters to report the harvest of wolves in designated townships adjacent to the Park. Hunters could also be requested to voluntarily refrain from harvesting wolves in these townships. The continued co-operation of trappers in reporting their harvest of wolves will be very helpful in assessing the effects of management.
The development of outreach education programs closely co-ordinated with Algonquin Provincial Park programs to communicate the status, role, and conservation of wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park, including their management. These programs should be targeted at both local and regional audiences and at educational institutions.
MNR continue to review broad-scale resource planning in the areas surrounding Algonquin Provincial Park. The Living Legacy initiative is an example of broad-scale resource planning that could help to ensure the future of wolves in Ontario. Such initiatives need to consider: - habitat linkages among populations of wolves; - fragmentation of habitat, including road density and connectivity
which affects wolves and other Canis species; and - resource management which will ensure the continued presence of populations of Canis lycaon across a large portion of central Ontario.
The Minister of Natural Resources consider the establishment of closed seasons for hunting and trapping of wolves that extend from approximately April to September throughout the geographical range of wolves in Ontario and excluding agricultural areas where coyotes predominate.
That adequate resources are put in place to act on all accepted recommendations from the report including compliance monitoring of regulatory change and effects monitoring of the conservation strategy recommended in this report.
The Algonquin Wolf Advisory Group
The advisory group was made up of local citizens from Huntsville, Barry's
Bay, Mattawa and Eagle Lake along with representatives from:
- Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON),
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF),
- Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH),
- Ontario Fur Managers Federation (OFMF),
- University of Waterloo,
- the Ministry of Natural Resources, including Ontario Parks.
Reintroduction of Wolves Is Debated
Clare Kittredge, The Boston Globe, 4 November 2001
It has been more than a century since New Hampshire's last wild wolf howled across a moonlit valley, and was gone.
Wolf lovers want to hear that mournful sound rip across the North Country again.
"To hear a wolf in the wild would be the ultimate thrill," said Deborah McDonough, president of the New Hampshire Wolf Alliance in Rumney. "It would be an honor."
But others, like Brian Levasseur of Plaistow, treasurer of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation, said it would be a mistake to consider bringing wolves back.
"There are too many unanswered questions," said Levasseur, speaking as a life member of the group. "I'm concerned not only with the rights of hunters but the wolves themselves."
Levasseur is reacting to a simmering debate on the future of wolves in the region's far north. It's a debate that provokes powerful passions across the state.
"If man forces their reintroduction into the northern wilderness, will they be able to survive?" said Levasseur, who teaches business at Southern New Hampshire University in Salem, and works at a high-tech company in North Andover, Mass. "What wild game will they prey on? Deer? Moose?"
Wolves were systematically exterminated from New Hampshire in the late 19th century along with other predators, said Michael Amaral, senior endangered species specialist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Concord.
In the United States, wolves had vanished from all but northern Minnesota when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s, he said.
Wolves have since spread to Michigan and Wisconsin. Returned to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the '90s, they "dispersed" into Wyoming and Montana. Arizona and New Mexico now have wolf recovery programs.
And last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service suggested creating a wolf recovery area in the Northeast.
But formidable hurdles loom. The New Hampshire Legislature two years ago voted to bar any move to reintroduce wolves in this state, and Maine passed a law requiring legislative approval of any wolf recovery efforts. None of that has squelched debate on the issue.
The National Wildlife Federation, which recently sponsored a conference on wolf recovery at Dixville Notch, says restoring wolves to the northern forest "will bring stability to an ecosystem that has been out of balance for well over a century."
But some say wolves need help for that to happen.
"If natural recovery were promising, we wouldn't need an active effort," said Amaral.
"We don't feel they are going to be able to recolonize on their own," echoed Lisa Osborn, Northeast representative for Defenders of Wildlife, a 400,000-member national group.
Others say wolves will likely bounce back naturally in the region.
"I think it's possible," said Steve Weber, chief of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Wildlife Division. "We're seeing a massive land conversion. A hundred years ago, 50 percent of New Hampshire was farmland. Those lands are reverting. We've seen the trees come back, the beaver come back, the moose come back; now there's coyotes. It's way too early for us to presume wolves won't come back."
Are wolves a danger to people? Weber was asked. "No."
If wolves do come back on their own, Levasseur said, "I don't have an issue with that."
But Amaral said "there was nothing natural" about wolves' extermination from the region. And for him, the laissez-faire attitude is "basically an excuse to do nothing."
One ardent wolf lover worries that helping wolves return to the Northeast could backfire and turn them into targets.
"I'd like to see them come back," said McDonough. "But I don't know if I'd like to see them forcibly brought back."
That's because "their worst enemy is people," she explained. "The key to survival for wolves is for people to accept them and leave them alone, and not shoot them."
If Granite Staters ever agree they want wolves back, McDonough said their powerful mystique will be a draw to the state.
"They're intriguing and mysterious," she said.
In her own backyard lives a large critter with electric-yellow eyes, pointy black ears, a fat plume of a tail, and a heart-rending, low-rolling howl.
Cherokee is a boisterous, 5-year-old British Columbian timber wolf.
Raised in capitivity and bottle-fed as a pup, Cherokee looks like the villain in "Little Red Riding Hood." But unlike the wolf of fairytale, he is affectionate with McDonough, and helps her educate people about wolves. She calls him her "wolf ambassador."
McDonough said wolves have gotten a bad rap. "Wolves are born scared of people," she said.
Others feel wolves continue to be maligned.
"Look at contemporary TV: The wolf is still used as the symbol of something evil and predacious," objected Amaral. "It's completely made up."
While so-called "problem wolves" occasionally attack livestock, it's not their preferred fare, McDonough said. "If you had a choice between fillet and a cheeseburger, what would you pick?"
And experts say problem wolves can be moved.
"The wolf is an animal we can control," said Amaral. "We're good at controlling animals. It's the smaller bugs, the microbes, we have trouble with."
The Wolf Question
Should wolves be reintroduced in the Northeast, and if so, which type would do best here in Maine?
Portland (Maine) Press Herald, 28 October 2001
Ecologically, a wolf from the Laurentide region of Quebec may be the best fit for Maine should the state ever decide to reintroduce wolves to the northern forest, a University of Maine professor said at a conference last week in New Hampshire.
Weighing in at 60 to 80 pounds, the Laurentide wolf is big enough to take down a moose and would not be genetically swamped by eastern coyotes through interbreeding. And it's possible that the animal may have already been here, traveling back and forth between northern Maine and Quebec before the intrusion of the modern world.
"If the mandate was there and the public wanted wolves, and someone came to me and said, 'Where would you get them?' my suggestion would be that the most logical choice from an ecological standpoint is wolves in the Laurentide," said Daniel Harrison, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Maine in Orono.
Harrison made his remarks at a National Wildlife Federation conference in Dixville Notch that focused on the controversial question of whether or not wolves should be brought back to the Northeast, repairing a food chain that was broken more than a century ago.
The Eastern timber wolf once ranged from the northeastern United States, west to the Great Lakes states and north into southern Quebec and Ontario. The animal disappeared from Maine in the19th century, after years of being shot, trapped, poisoned and otherwise exterminated by settlers.
After all these years, is there still an ecological niche for the wolf in the Northeast, and if so, which wolf would have the best chance of surviving here?
Historically, northern Maine was abundant with moose and caribou, an ecosystem that also typically includes populations of wolves that are strong enough to hunt them. There were few if any deer in northern Maine before 1880, but that changed with the demise of the wolf. Deer began moving northward, and populations of bobcats and Eastern coyotes began to increase.
Scientists have always believed that the wolf that once roamed Maine's woods was a kind of gray wolf capable of killing moose and caribou. But recent genetics studies have hinted that it may actually have been an animal that was closely related to the red wolf - a smaller wolf that preys on deer and interbreeds with coyotes.
Researchers are being cautious about that conclusion because it is based on the genetic sampling of a single Maine wolf specimen from the late 1800s. But the possible historical presence of a red wolf in Maine has raised even more questions about how, or even if, to proceed. Were both wolves here at one time in the state, the smaller red wolf following deer northward as the range of the large gray wolf retreated into Canada? If wolves are brought back to the Northeast, which would would best fit historically and genetically into the landscape, red or gray? Or should biologists set aside genetics and introduce the wolf that is the better fit ecologically?
Debating wolf genetics is "interesting intellectually," said Leanne Klyza Linck, executive director of The Wildlands Project, "but it shouldn't distract us from the main point: We need a large Canid in the Northeast that can take down moose."
Some people argue that the Eastern coyote, larger than its Western cousin because of its red wolf genes, now fills that role.
Harrison disputes that notion, pointing out that coyotes are "a totally ineffective predator on moose" and don't hunt in packs the way that wolves do.
"Coyotes don't have that capability socially," he said.
While coyotes occasionally might be seen around a deer kill with pups who have not yet gone out on their own, he explained, adult coyotes do not work together to surround large prey and cooperatively take it down.
Althought its genetics have not been worked out yet, the Laurentide wolf appears to have gray wolf genes and preys mostly on moose because there are few deer north of the St. Lawrence River.
"The Laurentide wolf, although it may not be pure and it may not be what was there 5,000 years ago genetically, is a bigger animal that does forage cooperatively, and, that up until very recently, could have walked back and forth between Maine and Quebec," Harrison said.
Bringing back wolves to the Northeast would continue a modern tradition of restoring ecosystems to the way they were before modern humans interfered with them. Scientists like to point out, for example, that with the reintroduction of the wolf in 1995, Yellowstone became home to the same complex of predators that was there in the days of Christopher Columbus.
Restoring a top predator like the wolf has a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem. It improves the health of herds of elk, moose or other prey by weeding out the old and infirm. On Isle Royale in Lake Superior, wildlife biologists have found that while wolves prefer to target moose calves, it's old moose with tooth infections, osteoporosis and other problems of old age that are their bread and butter.
By killing moose, which can browse on two to three tons of woody plant material every year, wolves also help change the vegetative structure of the forest.
"In a sense, the wolves really are managing the forest," said Michael Nelson, a wildlife biologist who studies wolf packs on Isle Royale.
Wolves also help to restore nature's balance by reducing overabundant coyote populations. Coyotes aren't as effective as wolves in preying on moose and deer, preferring to eat rodents and other small mammals, deer, fruit and even insects. Reducing their numbers makes rodents and other food more available to eagles, foxes, owls and other small predators.
In Yellowstone, the overabundant population of coyotes dropped by 50 percent after wolves were reintroduced.
"It's even more dramatic in core wolf pack territory, where coyotes declined by 90 percent," said Douglas Smith, wolf project leader at Yellowstone National Park.
Wolves also enrich the biodiversity of an area by making more food available to other wildlife. In Yellowstone, every time a wolf kills an elk, within seconds there's a raven, golden eagle or other scavenger on the scene.
"Once a cougar kills an elk, they cover it up, and very few scavengers are able to eat a lot of that meat source," Smith said. "Wolves, on the other hand, kill their carcasses in very available situations, and they're doing it year round."
Scientists are only beginning to track the changes wolves will bring to Yellowstone. This winter is expected to be a devastating one for elk, and researchers are eager to learn if their population will be able to recover as quickly with wolves in the park.
No matter what happens, it's clear that the landscape of the park is shifting.
"Our overriding working hypothesis for wolves is that Yellowstone will be a different place 30 years from now," Smith said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made it clear that it will not begin any recovery plan for wolves in the Northeast without the support of state wildlife agencies. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has taken the position that there is no clear public mandate for the reintroduction of wolves into the state, and so for now the agency would prefer to spend its limited resources on protecting rare species that are already here.
Legislators in both Maine and New Hampshire have passed laws forbidding a Yellowstone-like reintroduction of wolves without the approval of the Legislature.
Surveys in both Maine and New Hampshire show that while people would support the protection of wolves that migrate naturally back to the Northeast, there is little there is public support for a formal wolf reintroduction program.
In a 1998 survey of 5,000 Mainers, 66 percent of respondents agreed that wolves have a right to exist in Maine, and 61 percent expressed support for the idea of wolves migrating naturally into Maine from Canada. Fifty-four percent, however, either strongly or moderately opposed actively bringing the animals back to the state. Many feared what having wolves in Maine would mean for the deer and moose populations here.
Despite the public support for a natural return of wolves, scientists at the wolf conference said that clearly is not likely to happen because of the many barriers to wolf migration in southern Quebec. Years ago wolves may have easily traversed the St. Lawrence River during winter, but today ice-breakers that clear the way for ships make such crossings improbable at best.
There have been no confirmed wolf sightings south of the St. Lawrence River in Canada in decades, said Mario Villemure, a wolf researcher at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec.
"Believe me, they've seen cougars, grizzly bears, wolverines, but they've never seen wolves," he said.
Even if the animals could make it across the river, he said, they would then have to cross heavily populated southern Quebec. They'd be more likely to end their journey at the barrel of a gun than at the Maine woods.
Canadians also worry about the effect wolves would have on a small, endangered population of caribou on the Gaspe Peninsula.
When someone asked Villemure what would be needed to create a natural migration corridor through southern Quebec for wolves, he replied - to much laughter - "We'd need armed guards."
Not everyone thinks it's virtually impossible that wolves could find their way here from Canada. Jim Hammill of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources monitors wolf recovery on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where wolves have migrated in and blossomed from 10 animals in 1990 to 249 today.
"Personally, I wonder about that," he said. "These animals are just more capable than I ever would have imagined many years ago."
If natural migration is not likely, the other option is a formal reintroduction program, which all of the scientists agreed would never be successful without a change in public attitudes.
Over and over again, researchers presenting at the conference recited the two things wolves would need to survive in Maine. Wolves need plenty of suitable habitat, they said. And they need people not to kill them.
"Dropping wolves into a hostile environment," said Eric Palola, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Northeast Natural Resources Center, "is a recipe for failure."
Wolves Go On the Attack
Jo Sandin, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 30 September 2001
A record 15 hounds have been killed by wolves in Wisconsin this year, all while hunting bear or being trained for the bear hunt, said Adrian Wydeven, who heads the state's wolf management program.
In a report presented Wednesday to the Natural Resources Board, Wydeven said the record high number of kills represented fatal clashes between the state's growing wolf population and the increased amount of bear hunting activity.
Wisconsin's 251 gray wolves are concentrated in 20 counties, with nine packs in six central counties and 57 packs in 14 northern counties, the same where bear populations tend to be highest.
He said all the dog kills were made in late summer and early September, when wolf pups were moved from dens to rendezvous sites in heavily wooded territory, into which the hounds stumbled by accident while pursuing bears or while being trained.
"The dogs tended to be right in the middle of a pack's territory when the attacks occurred," Wydeven said.
Fighting for their lives
One dog was killed in Taylor County, two in Washburn and the rest in Bayfield and Douglas counties, he said.
Wydeven said that only in 1998 -- when 11 dogs died -- had the number of dogs killed by wolves come anywhere near the total recorded so far in 2001. In 1998, four beagles were killed, the only time such dogs have fallen victim to wolf attack.
"We had a mild winter and a lot of people were out hunting hare," he said. "Because it was so mild, the deer were probably harder for wolves to hunt."
Although there have been a few dogs killed while hunting bobcats, most of the dogs were engaged in bear hunting or training, he said. One bird dog was injured, but not in a hunting situation. Instead, the dog and the wolf tangled when they both visited the same dump of deer entrails.
The DNR reimburses owners for veterinary bills, if their dogs are injured, Wydeven said.
Although gray wolves are listed as threatened animals by the state, they are still on the federal list of endangered species. A move to reclassify them from endangered to threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was to be completed by July. However, the process was held up by the change in administrations, Wydeven said.
Until the species is reclassified, the DNR can only trap and remove wolves that kill dogs, livestock or poultry, he said.
However, owners whose animals are killed by wolves can apply for state compensation. Since 1984, when the wolf management program began to follow wolves that strayed into Wisconsin from Minnesota, the state has paid out $158,000 in depredation pay -- $68,000 alone for two instances in which wolves jumped fences surrounding deer parks.
Wydeven described some of the common factors which surfaced in a study of the 49 cases of dog kills recorded so far.
Dogs tend to be killed when they stumble into an area where pups are present, where the territory belongs to one of the larger packs, where the pack is young, when there are large groups of dogs in an area and where the wolves have established a territory in an area where there are lots of roads. Hounds are more at risk than other breeds, he said, and most deaths occur July through September.
Of 66 packs located in the state, only six have killed dogs, cattle, deer-park stock or poultry. One pack has been responsible for chronic depredation on a single farm over the last three years. Only two dogs have been killed in attacks within 100 yards of a residence, Wydeven said, so this is not a situation in which wolves are coming into inhabited areas to prey on pets.
However, he said that wolves which had taken down cattle or poultry were likely to consider those animals as future prey.
"That's why it is important that we get authority to trap and euthanize," Wydeven said.
He said animals which had been trapped and moved across the state had not returned to depredation.
Wolves Near Success Status: Packs Grow but Hurdles Linger
Theo Stein, The Denver Post, 20 September 2001
Gray wolves in the northern Rockies have hit a population target that would allow them to be removed from the endangered species list as early as 2003, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
But Wyoming's unwillingness to pay for wolf management and control programs may stall the delisting process, said Ed Bangs, the federal wildlife agency's top wolf biologist. Montana and Idaho already are working on their state plans.
Once the scourge of the West, the gray wolf is poised to join the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and alligator as one of the few successes of the much-maligned Endangered Species Act.
Five years after their reintroduction in Yellowstone and central Idaho, wolf numbers have surged to more than 500, including Canadian packs that have become established in northwestern Montana. Young wolves striking out on their own are pioneering new territories across the Rockies, while Yellowstone wolves have become a major tourist draw.
Still, pockets of the old hatreds endure. Last year, the service said wolves lost to illegal poisoning and shooting may have prevented them from reaching the target of 30 breeding pairs, which must be sustained for three years before the agency can begin the delisting process. The discovery of yearling pups in two Idaho and Montana packs means the 30-pair target was achieved, Bangs said.
Before delisting, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho all have to adopt wolf management plans designed to ensure new wolf populations won't be wiped out again. Minnesota's failure to adopt a management plan delayed delisting there.
By law, wolves are designated 'predators' in Wyoming, meaning that if federal protection were removed today, there would be no state restrictions on killing them.
Nevertheless, Bangs said the Fish and Wildlife Service is determined to 'do less with wolves,' perhaps by scaling back the intense effort to monitor pack movements, an idea that has set wolf critics howling before. About one-third of the region's wolves wear radio transmitters.
'You'd never see anyone spending this kind of money to monitor 500 mountain lions in three states,' he said.
It's Bangs' $ 1.2 million annual budget, a big part of which is devoted to spying on wolf movements, that worries Wyoming's Game and Fish Commission. They're concerned wolf programs would siphon funds away from their hunting programs.
Under the current plan, the agency would not reintroduce wolves on public lands in southern Colorado and New Mexico, which federal biologists believe could sustain at least 1,000 wolves, or anywhere else in the West. The national group Defenders of Wildlife petitioned the agency to rethink its decision in July 2000, but the service missed its one-year deadline to respond.
Environmental groups are preparing to challenge any decision to end the wolf recovery program without including other regions of the West.
Montana Gray Wolves Moved to Idaho to Prevent Clashes with Livestock Keepers
Environmental News Network, 11 September 2001
Two gray wolves from Montana received an expenses-paid permanent vacation this month courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several wolf recovery specialists. In an attempt to prevent future clashes between gray wolves and livestock keepers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Nez Perce Tribe and the USDA Wildlife Services relocated the pair from Big Hole Valley, Montana to north central Idaho.
Although none of the wolves have killed livestock in the area, FWS specialists were concerned that a growing population could drive the animals to attack cattle in the future. The wolves were taken to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho where they were released into the wild on Aug. 18.
"This move was a preemptive measure to keep livestock losses low in the Big Hole Valley. This is the fourth group of wolves to move into the area, and all the winter prey base, such as elk or moose, is gone. If the traditional prey base is not available for these animals, the chances of the livestock becoming prey increases dramatically," said Joe Fontaine, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gray wolf recovery specialist.
Both wolf pairs are collared and their movement will be monitored by FWS staff. The inter-agency team of wolf managers chose the Selway-Bitterroot because it contains few livestock and provides excellent habitat and prey base for wolves.
"The successful relocation of these pairs of wolves before they had the chance to set up a permanent territory and produce pups is a win-win situation. It should prove to be beneficial in keeping wolf-livestock conflicts low and alleviate concerns over losses for land owners in the Big Hole area of Montana. It will also reduce the probability of the pairs establishing a territorial range near livestock, and will give both pairs of wolves a chance to contribute to recovery and delisting," said Curt Mack, wolf recovery lead for the Nez Perce Tribe.
Wolf relocation has been a successful wolf management tool for more than a decade. Most recently FWS mangers moved a wolf from Idaho's Wildhorse Pack from the Copper Basin to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness after it attacked a calf in the Copper Basin.
Wolf managers are continuing with ground trapping efforts to attempt to relocate one additional subadult and to collar other members of the pack so that they can monitor them with more accuracy.
The Wildhorse Pack has lived in the Copper Basin area for the past two years, and is growing. The pack produced its second litter of five pups this year. Currently, the pack consists of the two alpha adults, two subadults, and five pups.
Wolf Program Needs Critical Examination
Editorial, Albuquerque Journal, 8 September 2001
With the news that another Mexican gray wolf has been found dead near a highway in Catron County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other stakeholders should intensify discussions over how to modify and improve the 3-year-old reintroduction program.
The Mexican gray wolf, or lobo, once roamed a wide swath of the American Southwest and Mexico but teetered on the edge of extinction until captive propagation efforts began to show success a couple of decades ago. With the laudable goal of re-establishing a sustainable population of 100 wolves in Arizona and New Mexico within 10 years, the federal program currently counts 32 lobos in the wild. Six wolves have been shot dead. Three have been hit and killed on the road. Another six have disappeared. Still others have been captured usually prompted by a run-in with livestock or private property and then taken back to captivity or re-released.
One of the program's handicaps is that initial releases are restricted to a number of Arizona sites. Many of the best release sites are now within the territory of established packs. Consequently, newer wolves compete for space and often wander into areas populated by people or livestock.
Some experts suggest the release area should be expanded to include the Gila National Forest, where there are fewer roads and less livestock. This idea merits consideration.
Current survival rates may be too low to keep the population growing. Indications are that if the program is to succeed, wolves need more space and less contact with people. Local ranchers and other neighbors should be full partners in crafting changes. And every accommodation should be made to minimize the impact on communities, and compensate them for any losses.
Lobos were once targeted for extermination by the same federal government that now seeks to turn back time and recover one of North America's most endangered animals. It's time to consider whether modifications are needed to keep the program on track.
Wolf Killing Probed
Theo Stein, The Denver Post, 1 August 2001
Federal law enforcement agents are investigating an apparent illegal poisoning campaign that has killed four wolves and possibly dozens more in central Idaho over the last two years.
While the return of the wolf has transformed Yellowstone National Park and encouraged conservationists across the country, the Idaho poisonings show that pockets of the traditional hatreds toward predators persist in the new Old West.
The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that the banned poison being used, Compound 1080, can also kill family dogs or hikers. Odorless and tasteless, the poison causes convulsions and organ failure. There is no antidote.
The agency and the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife are offering a $ 20,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the poisoners. Defenders is also running an ad campaign alerting hikers and campers to the danger.
So far, four poisoned wolves have been found in the Salmon Challis National Forest and the Sawtooth National Forest.
'On the whole, I think most people are pretty disgusted at the idea that someone is putting this dangerous substance out in their backyards,' said Paul Weyland, special agent with the Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Law Enforcement. 'I mean, this stuff can easily kill your dog.'
Weyland said that only radio-collared wolves have been found dead. He said it's reasonable to assume others have died without being located.
Killing a wolf or another endangered species is punishable by a $ 100,000 fine and a year in jail.
Simple possession of Compound 1080, which was used indiscriminately until the 1980s, is not illegal, said Weyland.
But it is illegal to distribute the poison for the purpose of killing wolves or other wildlife, he said. Penalties include a $ 50,000 fine and a year in jail.
Federal biologists believe gray wolf populations in the Northern Rockies are healthy enough to warrant removing them from the endangered species list in two or three years.
The delisting plan does not include returning the wolf to Colorado, which has become a priority for regional and national conservation groups.
The wolf's comeback has been particularly strong in Idaho, where federal biologists partnered with the Nez Perce tribe to reintroduce wolves in 1996 after state officials refused to cooperate.
Biologists believe 24 packs now call the state home, seven more than in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
But this year, Idaho politicians have delivered a message about the chilly political climate facing wolves and other predators.
In March, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution demanding the wolf's removal from the state 'by whatever means necessary.'
Legislators also demanded the termination of the wolf recovery program and federal compensation for livestock, pets and wildlife killed by the predators.
In July, Interior Secretary Gale Norton killed a citizen-supported plan to return grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness after Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said Idaho was no place for 'massive, flesh-eating carnivores.'
Love 'Em or Hate 'Em, Wolves Best Left Alone
Chris Niskanen, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 25 July 2001
We've come full circle with gray wolves in Minnesota. We once offered bounties on them, shot them on sight and drove them to the Endangered Species list. Now we wear images of gentle-looking wolves on our clothing, paraded wolves around classrooms on leashes and have groups that don't want fur ruffled on a single Minnesota wolf.
We're getting too cozy with wolves and, as evidence, I offer Exhibit A.
The Wildlife Science Center is a private research facility in Forest Lake, Minn., where scientists from around the world come to study the 42 captive wolves held inside large, fenced enclosures. Most of the wolves are from captive-breeding programs. The most recent arrival is a 9-week-old puppy taken from the wild near Grand Rapids.
The puppy's story isn't a happy one, said Peggy Callahan, the center's director.
"The puppy was found along a road by a woman who thought it was orphaned," Callahan said. "She tried to take care of him, but it wasn't working out. Unlike the "White Fang' stories, this animal doesn't like humans at all. The woman became worried about her health and the health of her kids."
Callahan offered to show me the puppy. When she arrived at the gate to let me into the fenced compound, Callahan's feet and shoes were splattered with red splotches. She apologized for her appearance. "It's deer blood," she explained. "I was dealing with a road kill that we will use to feed the wolves."
When we approached the wolf puppy's pen, he growled and went into a defensive position. At one point, he lunged at us. Despite being only as tall as my knee, the young wolf had ferocity beyond his size and fuzzy face. There was no doubt he meant me harm. He obviously belonged in the wild.
It is a violation of state and federal law to take in wild wolf puppies. It is unknown whether the woman who picked up the puppy will get a ticket. Beside the legal issue, wild animals should not be adopted from the wild, according to Department of Natural Resources officials, who every year issue the same warning against adopting fawn deer, baby bears and other animals.
"A well-meaning, but ill-informed citizen," Callahan said of the wolf puppy's adopter.
Callahan said the wolf puppy wouldn't be returned to the wild. Though he arrived with a host of parasites, which are being treated, the wolf is destined to live the rest of his life in captivity once he cured of his illnesses, she said. The reason is that a wolf that is even slightly habituated to humans isn't safe. Callahan doesn't like a scenario where the wolf, once released, could develop a tolerance for humans and possibly injure someone.
"And that's a risk no one wants to take," she said. "If a wolf ever bit someone in this state, the backlash against wolves would be tremendous."
Wolves, though, already live close to humans. Packs live just a two-hour's drive north of the St. Paul. Farmers in the central Minnesota see them regularly in their pastures. Wolves live and raise their young among the bombing ranges at Camp Ripley in Brainerd. Recently, there have been several cases of wolves attacking humans in Canada. In recent years, northern Minnesotans have testified at the Legislature that they fear leaving their children alone at bus stops because of the wolves living nearby.
And now there are people who think wolf puppies are like dogs and should be rescued.
"This isn't a great story about this puppy," Callahan said. "Maybe he was a puppy that should have died. What is there, 40 percent mortality for most wild wolf puppies? We're probably messing with natural selection here. We don't know if the mother wolf was around or not. (The woman) probably should have made the proper calls (to authorities) and left him."
As it turned out, the woman eventually called the U.S. Department of Agriculture wolf-control office in Grand Rapids and authorities there made the rare decision to turn him over to the Wildlife Science Center, where scientists conduct research in wolf social behavior and learn how to handle captive wolves for zoos and other institutions.
"The benefit to us is pretty clear. He'll be a teaching tool," Callahan said. "But he's a wolf who doesn't like us and doesn't want to be here. And when he grows up, he'll probably be the most dangerous animal we have."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the state's plan for managing wolves once the animals are removed from Endangered Species Act protection. The plan gives people discretion to act against wolves in defense of humans, pets, livestock and guard animals. The plan didn't satisfy everyone, but it does move the state closer to removing it from the Endangers Species list.
"I wish people were more neutral about wolves," Callahan said, "that they didn't hate them and didn't love them. We've gone too far in both directions."
Wild Dog Bait Blitz
Mark Ludlow, Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), 22 July 2001
Controversial aerial baiting will begin this week to try to control a new super dog that is killing thousands of sheep and native animals in the Snowy Mountains.
The wolf-like canines, a cross between dingoes and hunting dogs, have made the Kosciuszko National Park their base.
Graziers desperate to reduce the booming dog population will begin dropping poisoned meat baits from a helicopter this week.
Animal liberationists and conservationists are outraged by the indiscriminate baiting.
They say the baits could kill endangered native animals instead of the dogs.
In the Snowy region, the two native animals most at risk from baiting are the meat-eating quoll (eastern marsupial cat) and the bettong (short-nosed rat-kangaroo).
During aerial baiting, 250g chunks of meat containing 1080 poison are dropped on to well-known dog routes.
ACT Animal Liberation president Simone Gray said 1080 caused ``an awful death''.
But Cooma Rural Lands Protection Board senior ranger Winston Phillips said the baiting was vital to tackle dog numbers.
``It's getting to the stage where in a few years we wouldn't be able to run cattle or sheep,'' he said.
Farmers say the wild dog population has increased greatly since aerial baiting in Kosciuszko National Park ceased in 1986.
Dog packs have moved out of the park and are attacking livestock on nearby properties.
Brian Mitchell, whose property is close to the park at Numbla Vale, south of Cooma, has lost about 300 sheep and lambs since May, including 70 lambs in one night.
``These dogs will be top of the food chain unless there is action inside and outside of Crown land,'' he said.
Mr Mitchell estimates it has cost his family $30,000 this year in lost wool and $90,000 over five years in potential earnings.
The NSW Farmers Association says about 3300 sheep have been killed in the past year in the Cooma, Bombala and Brindabella regions.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Snowy Mountains regional manager David Darlington said the population of dogs and foxes was higher than was ``beneficial for sustained natural animal populations''.
The dogs are a cross-breed of the indigenous dingo and hunting dogs such as the bull-mastiff and rottweiler.
Mr Phillips said they have developed during the past 20 years to become a new breed of wolf-dog -- more aggressive, with larger shoulders, longer legs and less shy than a pure-bred dingo.
``It's only a matter of time before people are killed or injured by these dogs,'' Mr Phillips said.
Yellowstone Packs Key to Diversity
Theo Stein, Denver Post, 9 July 2001
For Bob Crabtree, the return of the gray wolf to Yellowstone has been bittersweet.
Crabtree, an ecologist at Montana State University and an independent researcher, has had a front-row seat as gray wolves recast the web of relationships among animals and plants on Yellowstone's Northern Range.
But the coyotes Crabtree studied for six years before wolves returned have taken a beating.
"It was like we had these quiescent coyote condominiums," said Crabtree. "And then the Dallas Cowboy linebackers moved in."
Crabtree and other biologists are finding the Yellowstone park's packs are more important natural regulators than they suspected.
"When we were planning to bring the wolf back, some scientists weren't sure they would become a main driver of the ecosystem," said John Varley, Yellowstone's chief scientist. "I don't think anyone who looks at the data has that question any more."
Proponents of returning wolves to Colorado's southern mountains say what's happening in Yellowstone is their strongest argument.
"Army Corps of Biodiversity'
The state is awash in elk - 260,000 of them, 70,000 more than biologists think is appropriate. Studies suggest those elk are displacing mule deer off their winter range and reducing their numbers.
Sportsmen and ranchers have complained there are too many coyotes and have asked the state to allow hunters to kill more of them. Another concern is the wolverine, a reclusive, pugnacious weasel that depends on carcasses and is on the verge of extinction here.
All four species would likely be affected by the return of the wolf, Yellowstone studies suggest.
"I call wolves the Army Corps of Biodiversity," said Crabtree.
The focus of Yellowstone studies is the Lamar Valley, where herds of bison and elk share the meadows and sage with pronghorn, mule deer, grizzly and now wolves.
"Having the wolves out in the open like that has allowed us to see things on a regular basis that longtime wolf researchers have never seen," said Varley. "And the revelations keep rolling out."
One park research effort, dubbed "Food for the Masses," is showing that wolf kills represent a smorgasbord for eagles, ravens, magpies and grizzly bears, which have been the enduring symbol of Yellowstone's wilderness.
"That's hugely important for the whole future of grizzly in the park," said Varley.
Leftovers feed many
Researchers have also documented how waves of specialized beetles colonize carcasses, recycling elk nutrients and yielding a feast for insect-eating birds. And they're ready to don night-vision equipment to count scavengers feeding on carcasses at night.
In another study, biologists are watching elk adapt to wolves by summering in high meadows, away from the rivers where they used to damage willow stands. Willows have rebounded, and Crabtree speculates that change is what tempted beaver to return after an absence of six decades. The new beaver ponds will in turn become home for dozens of species.
"If that's true, I can't think of a better ripple effect," he said. Another surprising link may involve willows and cranes. Protected by the willow thickets, more frogs have survived to become adults. Perhaps drawn by the bounty, a pair of sandhill cranes has recently moved into the valley.
The most dramatic effect has been on coyotes, which wolves kill with enthusiasm. Crabtree has seen the populations of the smaller predator plummet by almost half in five years. The result is fewer coyotes, he said, but smarter ones. Surviving pairs establish territories by roads, where human presence discourages the wolves from lingering. Coyotes are now denning in rocky areas, which offer their pups better protection. Some adapt by heading to parts of the park where the wolves aren't found.
Wolves' Return Faces a Rocky Landscape
Theo Stein, Denver Post, 9 July 2001
More than half a century after Colorado's last wolf was shot by a government bounty hunter in the San Juan Mountains, state and national conservation groups are asking the federal government to return the predator to its old territory.
As a reluctant U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the request, a poll by wolf supporters of 600 Coloradans this year showed two of three respondents supported wolf reintroduction.
Biologists agree there's room for more than 1,000 wolves on the 24 million acres of federal land in the southern Rockies, where elk herds have swollen to historic levels since wolves were killed off in 1945. And they say adding wolves to Colorado will be good for the species as well as the ecosystem.
But the political landscape is tilted in the other direction.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has said there are enough wolves in the northern Rockies and elsewhere to ensure their survival. Therefore the government believes it is not required by the Endangered Species act to reintroduce wolves to the southern Rockies.
In Colorado, the governor, the legislature and the state wildlife commission oppose the wolf's return.
The poll, which was paid for by environmental groups, showed that a majority in every region and every demographic category wanted wolves back on Colorado's public lands - except for farming and ranching households. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Former Division of Wildlife director John Mumma is in a good position to judge the debate. As the Forest Service's regional forester in Missoula in the 1980s, Mumma tried to broker a compromise between ranchers and conservationists who clashed over a federal program to restore wolves to the Northern Rockies. A decade of shouting and lawsuits later, the first gray wolves returned to Yellowstone and Central Idaho.
Mumma, who also oversaw Colorado's controversial lynx reintroduction program during his five years as director of the wildlife agency, says there's room for wolves in Colorado, too - if people are willing to pay the price.
"They will be bumping into people," he said. "But those are problems that can absolutely be overcome."
The question is, are Coloradans willing?
"The cost will be business as usual," said Rob Roy Ramey II, research director at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. "It's not going to be easy or politically correct. If you have reintroduction, some people are going to lose livestock and some people are going to lose pets. Dead wolves are also part of the bargain.
"But the last thing we want to do is break the back of small ranchers. If we do, we'll end up with trophy homes in gated communities."
The keys, say supporters and opponents, are a fast and efficient program to compensate ranchers for lost livestock, a permanently funded management program and, perhaps more rare than the wolf itself, cooperation between agriculture and environmental interests over an issue laden with symbolism and emotion.
"There was almost a religious fervor on both sides," Mumma said of the Northern Rockies wolf wars. "It was so emotional, even though there was tons of science-based information that supported it."
Stepping up for the wolf
The conservation group Defenders of Wildlife has proposed restoring the gray wolf to Colorado, either as part of the ongoing Mexican wolf reintroduction program in Arizona and New Mexico or as a new federal effort.
If that happens, Defenders of Wildlife has pledged to expand to Colorado a program through which it compensates ranchers whose livestock is killed by wolves.
The Turner Endangered Species Fund has offered wolf biologists to track and control Colorado wolves that cause problems, as the group now does in Montana. Both groups are members of the Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project, a coalition of state and national conservation groups.
Hank Fischer, who developed the compensation program as Defenders' representative in the Yellowstone wolf debate, says Colorado wolf advocates should pay less attention to polls that support reintroduction and focus on opponents. "The important thing is there is a significant block of people who oppose wolf reintroduction," he said. "I think conservation groups have to work a lot harder at understanding the needs of livestock owners. To the extent they resolve those concerns, wolves will be accepted."
That acceptance won't come easily, according to Tom Compton, president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association.
Colorado is a poor place for wolves because of the state's relative high population and the heavy summer use of the backcountry wilderness areas, said Compton. In winter, he said, wolves will follow the elk down into the mountain valleys to ranches. And he said existing predators, including humans, can manage elk herds well enough.
Compton said that if wolves are brought back, he favors a public compensation program that reimburses ranchers not only for lost stock but changes they'll need to make to protect their animals.
"If the public makes a decision to bring back wolves, then they need to step up and pay for it," he said.
Colorado legislators forbade the state wildlife agency last year from spending money to reintroduce any species, including wolves, without their permission.
Russell George, the former House speaker from Rifle who last year replaced Mumma as head of the wildlife agency, has pleaded with wolf advocates not to take their fight to a ballot initiative.
"A tyranny of the majority is just as bad as a tyranny of the minority," he said. "Any time you use power like that, it sinks in hatred in a much deeper way. If they really want to do this, they should be down at the legislature. I think so far they've been unwilling to tackle the hard political questions, and I'm not going to do that for them."
He backs a measured approach. "Let's back off a bit," he said. "Let's talk about where we want to be 20 or 30 years from now. What would be possible? What would be the parameters on this?"
Tom France, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Northern Rockies office, said the politics will eventually support bringing back wolves.
"With the lynx reintroduction program, Colorado has shown Western states are fully capable of moving forward on issues like these," he said. "There's a strong base of public support for the issue, and where a strong base exists, politicians tend to find it.
"I think ranchers fear the unknown. I think they fear the politics of wolves and they fear the erosion of the political power of stock growers. But ranchers and environmentalists share an appreciation for big country. It's always useful to hold that common ground in mind."
Key role for people
Biologists say that if wolf packs are to return to Colorado's Rockies, people are going to have to put them there.
Lone wolves, setting out from Yellowstone, might make it through livestock country in southern Wyoming but would be unlikely to find a mate in Colorado, the scientists say.
Before the first wolf arrives, Mumma said, the wildlife agency should have a management plan in place. It should include compensation for ranchers, along the lines of what rancher Compton proposed.
Ed Bangs, head of the Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf recovery program, shares that feeling.
"The people of Colorado need to figure out what they're going to do when the first wolf shows up," said Bangs. "If not, then you're going to have a big, knock-down, drag-out public debate at the worst possible moment."
George said the state wildlife agency already has too much on its plate, including the recovery of other endangered species in Colorado. "This is like the pot simmering on the stove," he said. "We'll be watching, but we're not likely to turn the heat up." Wolves are already protected under state and federal endangered species laws, said Todd Malmsbury, spokesman for the state wildlife agency. Penalties for killing a wolf in Colorado can include hefty fines and jail time, he said.
It's also unlikely the issue will simply go away. Returning the wolf to Colorado has become an important symbolic goal for conservationists across the country.
"The public lands in the southwest part of the state can be more than they are," said Mike Phillips, a biologist who led the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction program and now is executive director of the Turner fund.
"It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition."
Rockies Ranchers Adapt to Reality of Wolves
Theo Stein, Denver Post, 8 July 2001
PARADISE VALLEY, Mont. Five years after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, rancher Bruce Malcom's fears have been realized. A pack has raided his private ranch, costing him several cattle and many sleepless nights.
But instead of asking federal biologists to shoot them, Malcom has accepted wolves as a fact of life, along with drought, blizzards and market prices.
"It's a learning process for all involved," Malcom said. "But it's workable."
Across the northern Rockies, people are once again learning to live with wolves and the problems they cause. Some, like Malcom, have lost livestock or pets but still say that sharing the landscape with North America's dominant predator is a challenge they have to accept.
It's also a challenge that could be coming soon to Colorado, where environmental groups are asking the federal government to put this keystone species back in southern Colorado's mountains.
Top state wildlife officials agree there's a biologic rationale for the wolf's return, but hefty political obstacles. The governor, legislature, wildlife commission and the agricultural community are opposed. However, a recent poll of 600 Coloradans across the state showed that two of every three approved returning Canis lupus to federal land, with support among all groups except ranching and farming households.
The debate in Colorado is beginning to sound like what Ed Bangs, the Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in charge of the northern Rockies wolf-recovery effort, heard in Montana five years ago.
"Wolves are symbolic of your philosophy of life and how you think the West should be," he said. "People don't hate wolves; they hate what wolves symbolize. People don't love wolves; they love what they symbolize. The reality is always somewhere in between."
Still, some people remain upset that the government forced them to accept a predator their fathers and grandfathers thought had been permanently eradicated. Some wolf supporters are bitter that even after their reintroduction, federal wildlife agents are still the No. 1 cause of wolf deaths.
Nancy Condit knows firsthand about living with wolves.
Four hundred miles west of Malcom's ranch in the scenic but developed Nine Mile Valley, a tracking device hangs on the wall of her office at the Fire Creek Ranch. The ranch lost a riding horse last year when wolves chased it one night, causing the frightened horse to impale itself on an irrigation pipe. Pack members then ate the horse.
Biologists subsequently trapped two wolves and outfitted them with radio collars before setting them free. The radio telemetry unit on the wall lets Condit know when they're nearby.
Condit, the ranch manager, worries most about her cutting and reining mares, worth up to $80,000 apiece. This spring, Condit has had the mares and colts brought in at night, which costs her labor and feed. On a cool June morning, with fresh snow shining on the mountains, she contemplates $500,000 worth of horses and frolicsome colts in a protected pasture on the 400-acre ranch and wonders where the pack is.
"It is a bit unsettling," said Condit's neighbor, Bob Brugh, who has lost three dogs and a llama to the Nine Mile pack, which was made famous in a 1992 book by author Rick Bass. "We have to work at living with them. But quite frankly, there's a place for them here."
Despite dire predictions, wolves have not wrecked the livestock industry.
Hundreds of thousands of stock animals are raised every year in the northern Rockies. From 1987 through the end of 2000, wolves killed only 148 cattle and 356 sheep, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. In response, biologists trapped and moved 99 wolves, and killed 84 others.
Cattle ranchers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming lost almost 100,000 animals to weather, disease and calving in 1995 alone, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Before wolves were returned that year, ranchers in the greater Yellowstone area lost about 8,000 head a year.
"Guys are losing stock to bad weather, disease, poison weeds. ... It's the cost of doing business," Bangs said.
In the Paradise Valley, at the northern edge of Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres, Malcom is as concerned about the dry spring as the Mill Creek pack. The less grass his land grows, the more it will cost to feed his herd this winter. Malcom's son Chad remarked that they'd had a bit of rain at the end of May, but it was only a "two-kicker."
"Two kicks and you're down to dust," he said.
Federal wolf reports show that most livestock killings are the work of a single animal or a problem pack. Most wolves are happy to eat elk and never develop a taste for stock, Bangs said.
Those that do kill livestock are pursued aggressively by biologists and Wildlife Services, a federal agency. Wolves that eat livestock are trapped and relocated, or shot.
Bangs said young wolves learn from each other, so killing them is necessary to head off a livestock-killing "culture."
The flip side is that while most livestock owners never have any problems, a few are hit hard. To help offset those losses, the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife has paid ranchers $164,000 over 14 years and, this year, bought hay to keep livestock out of wolf territory near Riverton, Wyo., during the calving season.
But anger still smolders in parts of the region. In the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, the fate of the Whitehawk pack, which had denned this year in the middle of a grazing area, has brought conservation groups and politicians back to familiar battle lines.
In late June, the pack killed 13 sheep, a calf and a guard dog after the livestock owner neglected to erect an electric fence given to him by the Forest Service. Once the fence went up, no more attacks were reported. Federal control agents killed two members of the pack on June 29.
One Idaho politician is calling for the pack's eradication. "Wolves should have never come back," Clark County Commissioner Ted Edwards told the Idaho Falls Post Register. "We were making out quite well without them."
"If we can keep them out of the sheep, maybe we can keep this pack alive for another month or two," said Suzanne Laverty, a regional representative of Defenders of Wildlife. "And then they should be OK."
In Wyoming, too, Park County Deputy Sheriff Dan Estes remains defiant.
"I wouldn't hesitate to shoot one," said Estes, who claims that sooner or later wolves will attack the horses he keeps in the Sunlight Basin east of Yellowstone. "And when the government tells me I can't protect my personal property, it just makes me more determined to shoot one if I have to."
Others complain that wolves are depleting elk herds, leaving less game for hunters.
"Wolves are eating my livelihood," said Jim Haerr, a Montana taxidermist living north of the park.
Biologists reject such complaints. They say the key is winter, not wolves. A hard winter in 1997 left elk carcasses scattered across the region. Since then, elk herds in Yellowstone's northern range have increased, despite heavy predation by wolves.
"Everybody's got a theory, and most of them aren't based on fact," said Doug Smith, who heads up Yellowstone's wolf project. "Most are based on what they think wolves are like, or what their grandfathers thought they were like."
Another complaint is that wolves kill prime cow elk and reduce the vitality of the herd, but Smith's carcass studies show the average wolf-killed cow elk is 14 years old, past the prime breeding ages of 2 to 9 years. On the other hand, the average cow killed by a hunter is 6 years old.
"When those elk make it to age 2, they have a darn good chance of living to 10," he said. "So who's killing prime elk?"
There are almost enough wolves in the northern Rockies to begin the process of removing them from the endangered species list, the Fish and Wildlife Service says. But first, states must adopt management plans, acceptable to the federal government, to ensure the wolves' survival.
Only Montana is working on a management plan. Idaho and Wyoming are not.
Meanwhile, Bangs said, the experience of sharing the land with wolves has informed the debate.
"The really nutty stuff on both ends has dropped out," he said. "People are talking about reality more."
Sinking Wolf Gets A Hand
Neal Rubin, Detroit News, 27 June 2001
Ron Kagan's left hand looks like it was attacked by an animal, which it wasn't.
For that, the director of the Detroit Zoo can blame a Mexican wolf -- but he doesn't.
A 5-inch-long pink scar zig-zags from the base of the hand to the middle of the pinky. Seven months and two operations after Kagan impaled it on a metal object in a Belle Isle pond, the hand still won't fully open or close.
Strength-wise, it's about half the hand it used to be. And he's short one good shirt and a pair of suit pants.
Kagan didn't really want to talk about the injury; he prefers to keep the focus on the zoo and the animals, not the director. But I was curious about the after-effects of the injury -- and the rescue that led to it -- so I used my powers of persuasion.
You might even say I badgered him.
The story begins on a cold, nasty morning in mid-November, when keepers at the Belle Isle Zoo were trying to move a female Mexican wolf indoors to meet a new fella.
The female decided she preferred it outdoors, and the more outdoors the better. Bolting, she leaped over three fences, each 10 to 12 feet tall, "which is sort of not possible for a wolf to do," Kagan says. "Obviously, she had not read those books."
Kagan, who oversees Belle Isle's aquarium and zoo in addition to the main facility, was downtown for a department heads' meeting with the mayor. Alerted to the small problem of a 70-pound carnivore running loose in a popular park, he rang up police chief Benny Napoleon and made tracks for the island.
The police, Kagan emphasizes, "were phenomenal." They sealed off Belle Isle and sent three or four squad cars and a helicopter.
Of all the places to lose a wolf, a forested island with a large population of edible deer was just about the worst. But the pilot spotted her and, following Kagan's hand signals, herded her into a small lake at the golf course.
The director was waiting when she climbed out on the other side. "I talked to her for awhile to get her to calm down," says Kagan, who dealt closely with wolves when he was a zookeeper. Then the zoo's veterinarian, armed with a blowgun, plunked her with a tranquilizer dart.
Unfortunately, a bad situation can always find a way to get worse, and a few would-be rescuers jumped forward before the tranquilizer kicked in. The wolf flinched and fell back into the freezing water.
-There are only about 200 Mexican wolves left in the world, and one of them was drugged, wet, cold and about to drown. Kagan yanked off his tie, shoes and suit coat and dived in after it.
He still doesn't know what jabbed into his hand, but it severed an artery, a tendon and a nerve. While he was trying to figure out why his hand had ceased functioning, deputy zoo director Darrl McFadden and a police officer grabbed the wolf, and the three of them dragged it to land.
"I was like a hose," Kagan says, which is all the detail you want, trust me.
Ultimately, the nerve and tendon were reattached and the artery couldn't be. The hand gets cold and numb for no apparent reason, and Kagan's surgeon told him yesterday that it'll be another month before they know whether to operate for a third time.
So: In retrospect, was the rescue worthwhile?
Silly question. "Of course," he says.
As for the wandering wolf, she gave birth to five pups last month. Apparently, the male wolf likes women who play hard to get.
4 Wolves Back in Captivity
Tania Soussan, Albuquerque Journal, 14 June 2001
A pair of adult Mexican gray wolves and a single mother and her pup were recaptured in the Gila country this week, leaving as few as two of the endangered lobos roaming free in southwestern New Mexico.
The latest captures were yet another sign that reintroduced wolves in New Mexico have not fared as well as their counterparts across the border in Arizona.
"We've removed several wolves in New Mexico," said program coordinator Brian Kelly of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It illustrates one of the constraints of our current rule: We've had good luck in Arizona because we've been able to pick really good pairs that are reproducing."
The rule that guides the federal wolf reintroduction program allows direct releases of wolves into southeastern Arizona. But the only wolves that can be released in the Gila country of New Mexico are ones that have run into trouble in Arizona by attacking livestock or straying from the recovery area, for example and have then been recaptured.
Biologists say relocating wolves is stressful for the animals and can disrupt social relationships, causing their packs to split up.
This was not the first time the wolves recaptured last week had been rounded up. All three of the adults had been in the wild at least once before and were returned to captivity after straying outside the boundary of the designated recovery area.
Kelly, environmental groups and a panel of independent scientists reviewing the federal wolf reintroduction program in the Southwest say the rules should be changed to allow direct releases of wolves in New Mexico.
On Sunday, the Campbell Blue Pack pair of wolves were netted from a helicopter about 15 miles north of Beaverhead and were taken to the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge north of Socorro.
They had been released together in the Gila Wilderness in December but split up. When they reunited earlier this year, they were hanging around outside the designated wolf program recovery area on private land and a rancher wanted them removed, Kelly said.
In addition, the female wolf had injured two calves and she and her mate were implicated in the death of another calf. A fourth calf disappeared and might have been killed by the female, Kelly said.
Also Sunday, the mother wolf one of the so-called Wildcat wolves released in March was captured because biologists were worried about her and her pups.
The pups were conceived in captivity this winter, but the female and her mate split up after being released.
She had dug a den on a private ranch near O Bar O canyon but moved her pups to state-owned land when they were only weeks old.
"She was a single female and this was her first litter," Kelly said. "You can make the comparison to a human situation. It's your first child. You're learning a lot and you make mistakes."
Mother wolves normally have help from a mate or others in their pack during the difficult lactation and weaning period.
By the time biologists were able to capture the wolf, one of her two pups had died. She is at Sevilleta, and the surviving pup is being treated by veterinarians for dehydration and undernourishment.
Ranchers in the Gila area are pleased the wolves have been recaptured, said Laura Schneberger, president of the Gila Permittees Association.
"Everybody over here is just relieved as they can be," she said.
The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity opposed the capture of the Campbell Blue pair, particularly the male. The environmental group plans to file a lawsuit over his capture.
The male of the pair was the only wolf from the original releases in 1998 still in the wild.
He has had bad luck with mates. His first mate was shot, the second was killed by a mountain lion, and the next two were recaptured after appearing aggressive to dogs and horses. Now, his fifth mate appears to have gotten them both in trouble.
But Kelly said the male might get another chance at freedom. He might be released later with the Wildcat mother and her pup.
Vallejo Ponders Fate of Wolves
Michael Pena, San Francisco Chronicle, 26 May 2001
Vallejo officials are deciding what to do with four animals they believe may be wolves that have a history of escaping from their owner's yard and attacking people.
Animal control officers say the animals are either wolves or first- generation wolf-dog hybrids and are trying to find a sanctuary that will take them.
Gregory Chapman, who owns the animals, said at a vicious-dog hearing in Vallejo on Thursday that he should be allowed to keep them as pets because they are husky mixes, according to officials in attendance.
The hearing was ordered after the animals jumped over Chapman's 10-foot- high backyard fence in the 1300 block of Hale Street on May 11 and ripped a neighbor's dress as she retreated into her home.
They escaped once before, in early April, not long after Chapman moved to Vallejo, said city spokesman Mark Mazzaferro. Later, one of them bit the thigh of the 3-year-old son of Chapman's girlfriend, Mazzaferro said.
Chapman could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Assistant City Manager Mary Hill has 10 days to rule on the fate of the animals, but she may decide sooner than that because the animals seem to be suffering in isolated kennels, Mazzaferro said.
"There is a substantial amount of proof that these animals are something other than dogs," said Ron Mayfield, manager of the Benicia-Vallejo Humane Society, "and that they do not belong in this type of environment."
Officials said they would have to kill one of the animals and measure its skull and leg and toe bones to verify the species. But before that, they are trying to give them to a wolf sanctuary.
Sanctuary operators are barraged with requests to take in wolves or hybrids that people have tried to keep as pets, said Rick Castellano, executive director of Wolf Haven International in Tenino, Wash.
Cunning and vicious hunters in the wild, wolves normally avoid humans. But those that are pets still have the instinct to dominate a pack, even if it includes people, Castellano said.
He added that hybrids are even more aggressive because the animals acquire a dog's uninhibited nature around people.
"It's like trying to keep a bald eagle in a canary cage," Castellano said. He said his agency accepts hybrids but is currently filled to capacity and can not take any more.
Mayfield said Chapman bought the animals 2 1/2 years ago from Wolf Country U.S.A. in Palmer, Ala., which raises and sells wolf hybrids.
California allows residents to keep wolves and hybrids, but only if they have 10 years of handling experience and go through a costly application process, Mayfield said.
Chapman licensed his pets as huskies and gave them rabies shots when he lived in San Mateo, but he has been cited twice for not having done the same in Vallejo, Mayfield said.
Chapman faces about $1,700 in fines from Vallejo for the violations and the trapping of the animals in his neighbor's backyard May 11.
The animals -- two males topping 100 pounds and two females about 90 pounds -- are being kept in isolated county kennels in Fairfield. But they are showing signs of stress.
Animal control workers had to recapture a suspected alpha male Wednesday after it climbed through a hole it chewed through a chain-link fence cover seven feet from the ground, Mayfield said.
"Their health is deteriorating quickly," Mazzaferro said. "Through no fault of their own, these animals are in a real unstable environment."