Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

APRIL 2004
4.26.04 NEW MEXICO (KOAT) -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials plan to release two new packs of Mexican gray wolves into southwest New Mexico's Gila Wilderness. The release is part of an overall wolf reintroduction plan, but its raising eyebrows and some New Mexico ranchers are saying -- hold on. Wolves born in captivity usually start their lives released into the wild in Arizona. They are then captured and, by law, only then are allowed to be brought to New Mexico. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife wants to release pups born in captivity. The wildlife service says such a release is allowed because these wolves were picked up in Arizona -- in their mothers wombs. But Ty Bays, of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, said, "It not only impacts New Mexico ranchers and our livelihoods, but it's going to have an impact ultimately on the hunting community." If allowed, this would be the first direct release of wolves that have never been free into the wild in New Mexico. A department spokesman calls the decision a new interpretation of the rules, not a new rule. The final decision about whether to release the pups will be made next month. And wildlife officials say that another captive wolf is pregnant and expecting her litter in the next few weeks.
4.22.04 CHEYENNE, WYO. (AP) -- Wyoming sued the government Thursday over its rejection of the state's wolf management plan. In a complaint filed in federal court, the state accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of exceeding its authority, ignoring science and violating the Federal Procedures Act in rejecting the Wyoming plan. "The (agency) disregarded the best scientific and commercial data available ... and rejected the Wyoming plan based on political considerations, fear of litigation by environmental groups, and speculation regarding Montana and Idaho adopting plans similar to the Wyoming plan," the state argued. The government is requiring Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to each submit acceptable plans for managing wolves before removing the animals from Endangered Species Act protection. Management plans from Idaho and Montana have been accepted. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's plan in January, citing concerns with the state's dual classification of wolves — as trophy game animals with strict protections in northwest Wyoming and as predators in the rest of the state that can be shot more or less on sight. Nearly eradicated in the early 20th century, wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and have since thrived. Twelve packs now inhabit the park and six roam outside the park in Wyoming. Many ranchers feel wolves are killing too many cattle and state wildlife, putting their livelihoods in jeopardy. Gov. Dave Freudenthal said the time had come to defend the interests of Wyoming ranchers and hunting guides. "I'm past being reluctant. I'm irritated," he said. "I mean, let's get this going. This will determine how wolves will be managed in Wyoming forever." Ed Bangs, wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, expected the agency's decision to hold up in federal court. "We have no problem with defending our position," he said.
4.18.04 CODY, WYO. (AP) -- Criminal trespassing charges have been filed against a federal wolf recovery official and another man who were found with four wolves on a private ranch. The men may have inadvertently landed their helicopter on private land Feb. 14 to place radio tracking collars on four wolves that had been tranquilized, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have said. Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric said biologist Michael Jimenez of the Fish and Wildlife Service and Wesley Livingston of Hawkins and Powers Aviation, each faced two counts: trespassing and placing or depositing objects upon the property of another, "more commonly known as littering," according to a statement released through his office. Both are misdemeanor counts that carry maximum penalties of up to $750 in fines and up to six months in jail, he said. Skoric said a formal complaint was made through his office by Randy Kruger, a shareholder in the Larsen Ranch Co., who said he had found the two men on his property "tending to four tranquilized wolves." Skoric then requested an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Investigation. Wolves are a touchy subject because ranchers fear for their livestock, and news of the Larsen Ranch complaint led some to charge Fish and Wildlife with secretly trying to transplant the wolves into the area. Kruger's wife, Sharen, said Friday that the ranchers "just wanted to know we still had some private property rights. That's the main reason we were doing anything." Last month, in a letter addressed to Ralph Larsen of Meeteetse, Regional Director Ralph Morgenweck said that the wolf monitoring team believed it was on public land and that it is never the agency's intent to go on private property without the landowner's permission. Morgenweck said four of the wolves that had been captured were taken by helicopter "a couple of miles to a location safe to land on a county road so they could be examined and have radio collars fitted and biological samples taken.
4.16.04 LIVINGSTON, MT (Bozeman Daily Chronicle) -- LIVINGSTON -- Proposed rules giving ranchers far more flexibility to kill problem wolves still don't go far enough, angry ranchers and landowners told federal officials here Thursday night. Although new rules under consideration would let ranchers kill any wolf spotted near livestock, several people said that wasn't enough. And several ranchers said the federal government should start killing wolves because the predators are overpopulated and constantly attacking livestock. "The landowners need to be able to kill a wolf whenever they see it," Paradise Valley rancher and outfitter Randy Petrich said. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 people packed the meeting at the city-county building, which was put on by Montana Sen. Conrad Burns. Ed Bangs, wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was joined by Clint Riley, special assistant to the director of the service. Bangs put on a presentation about the proposed rule changes which would give Montana and Idaho officials a hand in managing wolves. Those two states could kill wolves in areas in which they determine the predators are killing too many game animals. In addition to more authority for state officials, ranchers would have far greater latitude to kill wolves for just being around their livestock, even when their stock is grazing on public land. Under current rules, a rancher must catch a wolf actually attacking livestock. And shoot-on-sight permits aren't issued until a wolf or pack attacks livestock more than once. The rules would not apply in Wyoming because that state's plan, which allows wolves outside the national parks to be shot on sight, was rejected by FWS. Montana's and Idaho's plans have been accepted, but federal officials won't pull the wolf off the endangered species list until all three states have satisfactory plans. Bangs said the FWS is eager to delist wolves, but realizes it might take time until Wyoming drafts a satisfactory plan. But Carbon County Attorney Kemp Wilson blasted the proposal, saying federal officials were playing politics by pitting states against each other. Public comment on the rules will be accepted through May 10.
4.15.04 ALASKA (Anchorage Daily News) -- Alaska State Troopers are investigating the deaths of several wolves in a remote area northwest of Anchorage that appear to have been killed illegally by a private pilot who shot the animals from the air or shortly after landing. While the wolf hunting season is open in that area until April 30, carcasses found on the ground suggest the wolves were killed in violation of the state's same-day-airborne hunting prohibition. State law forbids hunting most species, including wolves, on the same day the hunter has been airborne. Federal law makes it illegal to hunt any animal from an airplane. Troopers have identified a subject but they would not provide any additional information, saying the investigation is incomplete. While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is conducting a predator-control program around McGrath, the kill sites are well south of it, Wilkinson said. The state program, approved by the Alaska Board of Game last fall, seeks to eliminate all the wolves in a 3,300-square-mile area surrounding McGrath to help the moose population rebound. Fish and Game issued permits to several pilot-gunner teams to participate. The permits are valid only within the program area. To date, 20 of the estimated 40 wolves in the control area have been killed by the pilot-gunner teams, said Toby Boudreau, Fish and Game's biologist in McGrath. Another 11 wolves have been killed by trappers, he said. The trapping season and the wolf-control permits both end April 30.
4.9.04 SILVER CITY, NM (AP) -- New Mexico's Game Commission on Thursday unanimously endorsed the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program. In its decision, the commission urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider recommendations scientists made in 2001 that the wolves be allowed to roam beyond the government's recovery-area boundaries. They also recommended that wolves be allowed in the Gila Wilderness, and that ranchers be responsible for removing livestock carcasses so wolves can't feed on them. Under current Fish and Wildlife Service rules, wolves that travel beyond recover-area boundaries can be trapped even if they are causing no trouble. Only wolves that were previously released in Arizona and re-trapped for various reasons are released into New Mexico. While considering an agreement formally boosting New Mexico's involvement in the Fish and Wildlife program Wednesday, the commission went a step further and expressed its full support for the program. "The commission is pro-wolf," Commissioner Jennifer Montoya of Las Cruces said during the commission's meeting here. Commission Chairman Guy Riordan said Gov. Bill Richardson supports the program. The 6-0 vote is a 180-degree switch from the mid-1990s, when a prior Game Commission and then-Republican Gov. Gary Johnson opposed the reintroduction program. The commission also approved the power-sharing agreement with the federal agency to help with the program that has brought an estimated 50 to 60 wolves into parts of New Mexico and Arizona. Commissioner David Henderson of Santa Fe said the state has been a "less-than-enthusiastic partner in wolf reintroduction. I hope by signing this (agreement), we change that perception." People who traveled to Silver City to speak against the reintroduction program were surprised with the commission's vote. "They took a big, big, huge leap, above and beyond what we were expecting," said Joel A. Alderete, a regional director with the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau. Signing the memorandum of understanding with the Fish and Wildlife Service will open up the state game agency to wolf-related lawsuits, he said. "We're already dealing with mountain lions and bears and coyotes," Alderete said, adding that bringing another predator to the table "does not benefit (stockmen) financially." Michael Robinson, a representative of the Center for Biological Diversity, said he was delighted and surprised with the commission's broad statement. "We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service hears the message loud and clear," he said.
4.9.04 ANCHORAGE, AL (AP) -- Interior Department has rejected a national wildlife group’s challenge of an Alaska wolf control program that allows hunting from airplanes. Defenders of Wildlife said Thursday it received a letter from Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s office saying the aerial wolf control program is allowed under exceptions in a 1971 wildlife law. The group is considering further legal action. The federal law says states cannot issue permits for airborne hunting for the purpose of sport hunting but that exceptions are allowed for the protection of “land, water, wildlife, livestock, domestic animals, human life or crops.” The Washington, D.C.-based group, in a petition filed in February, contends the intent of Alaska’s aerial wolf control program is to boost game populations for hunters. The state says the program is designed to protect moose calves in the winter when they are most vulnerable to bears and wolves. It is under way near McGrath in the interior and near Glennallen in south-central Alaska. As of Thursday, 20 wolves had been killed near McGrath and 120 near Glennallen — both below game board limits. Another environmental group, Friends of Animals, has tried unsuccessfully to challenge the aerial wolf control program in state court. It filed an amended complaint last month contending the game board lacked “sound biological data” to approve the program.
4.8.04 (BBC News) -- Wolves with an extra toe on their hind legs are the products of cross-mating between wolves and dogs, scientists in Italy have confirmed. Recovery of threatened canine groups can be hampered by cross-mating, so the data has important conservation implications. The finding could help efforts to monitor the recovery of threatened wild dogs and wolves around the world. These "dewclaws" are the underdeveloped first toes common in domestic dogs but thought absent from wolves. They are a good "rule of thumb" for spotting hybrids in the wild, the researchers say, and therefore a tool for assessing the scale of cross-breeding. Recovery programmes for dwindling populations of wolves and wild dogs can be hampered if small populations get swamped by an influx of domestic dog genes. Researchers from the Universita di Roma and the Instituto Nazionale per la Fauna Selvatica looked at 18 so-called microsatellite markers in the DNA of three dewclawed wolves from Tuscany, central Italy. They found grey wolves (Canis lupus) with dewclaws had unique dog alleles - variant forms of a gene - suggesting the extra toes did not arise through spontaneous mutations but through hybridisation with dogs. Prof Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University, Houghton, US, told BBC News Online: "Anything like this is potentially useful because it can be real hard to diagnose hybrids. I'm not aware of another field indicator that clear." Recently, attempts to reintroduce wolves to eastern Germany were complicated when dog hybrids were discovered amongst offspring. However, it is unlikely that all hybrids have dewclaws. There may be other signs of hybridisation not currently known. The team has identified possibilities amongst other rare features seen in some of the wolves they studied. The three Italian dewclawed wolves came from the south-central Tuscan province of Siena. Dr Ciucci said conditions for hybridisation might be more likely in this region, which is on the margins of the wolf's range in Italy. "There is a high density of guard dogs there, a highly fragmented landscape and the wolf density is lower. There is persecution because of high human density," Dr Ciucci explained. "In these conditions we hypothesise that the social structure of the pack would be disrupted quite often and create more likely conditions for hybridisation. To be sure we should monitor all situations like this across the range." There are an estimated 500-600 wolves in the whole of Italy but these numbers can fluctuate significantly, said Dr Ciucci. The animals have full legal protection.
4.7.04 SILVER CITY, NM (AP) -- Mexican gray wolves were called everything from treasures to killers during a hearing before the state Game Commission here. Six years after wolves were first brought back to the Southwest, it was clear Tuesday that opinions about them are still extreme. "I feel very fortunate — I have heard the howls of wolves," Grant County resident Sharon Morgan told the three state game commissioners heading the meeting at Western New Mexico University. But Gila Wilderness outfitter Jack Diamond disagreed. "Everyone thinks this wolf is such a great animal. He's a killer," Diamond said. "Does anybody care about our deer or elk? They're the ones that are going to suffer." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began releasing the endangered wolves into southeastern Arizona in 1998. Others have since been released into southwestern New Mexico. An estimated 50 to 60 are now free in both states. New Mexico and Arizona began last year to take more active roles in the program by leading day-to-day management activities, including trapping problem wolves and monitoring. A memorandum of understanding that would formalize the new state-federal cooperation arrangement is being circulated. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona and a few other key players have already signed on. The New Mexico Game Commission, which oversees the Game and Fish Department, is to vote on whether to lend its signature to the memo at its monthly meeting Wednesday. Many wolf supporters criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Tuesday's hearing for not implementing several changes to the program recommended by a team of scientists in 2001. Those scientists said the program should allow the wolves to roam outside specified recovery-area boundaries, and ranchers should be made responsible for clearing livestock carcasses that wolves can scavenge on. Michael Robinson, a representative of the Center for Biological Diversity, said he's not a fan of the proposed memo of understanding because it takes control of the program away from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said state wildlife agencies aren't responsible for looking at the "big picture" of wolf recovery like the Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency. Jason Dobrinski, president of the Grant County Area Cattle Growers Association, said he opposed the Game Commission's involvement in the memo. "The Fish and Wildlife Service has a history of deception," he said, adding he believes the states could wind up footing the bill for the wolf program while the federal agency relinquishes none of the control.
4.6.04 (Casper, Wyoming Star Tribune) -- Renee Askins, a leader in the effort to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone, is scheduled to be a guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" tonight. Askins founded The Wolf Fund and just released her 2002 book "Shadow Mountain" in paperback. In addition to her work advocating for wolves, Askins works for the restoration and protection of wild spaces. She is expected to be joined by a wolf during her Letterman stint. Actor Bruce Willis will also be on the show. Letterman is on at 9:30 p.m. mountain time on CBS.
4.6.04 BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- The gray wolf is now officially a big game animal in Idaho, but no one is going to be taking shots at the endangered species anytime soon. The designation was made unanimously last month by the state Fish and Game Commission in anticipation of a similar movement by the federal government, which still lists the wolf as endangered. About 30 wolves from the Canadian Rockies were reintroduced in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming starting in 1995. Today, there are an estimated 760 wolves in the three states, including 360 in Idaho. The wolves will be removed from federal protection, according to U.S. wildlife officials, when the three states have all adopted management plans for the predator. The plans of Idaho and Montana have been accepted; Wyoming's has been rejected, stalling the process. Any wolf hunting season in Idaho would be tightly regulated and might even be a once-in-a lifetime experience, said game commissioner Cameron Wheeler. It would likely attract trophy hunters, he said. Ranchers opposed the reintroduction because wolves prey on livestock; many big game hunters dislike them because they also live off elk and deer. The Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery annual report said 52 cattle, 99 sheep, nine dogs and five llamas were killed by wolves in the three states during 2002. In response, 46 wolves were killed.
4.2.04 WYOMING (AP) -- The state will give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service one more chance to reconsider its rejection of Wyoming's wolf management plan before going to court, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Friday. The governor plans to send the federal agency a letter Monday asking officials "one more time is there any chance you want to modify your position," he said. Fish and Wildlife has a week to 10 days to respond. If nothing changes, the state is prepared to file its suit, said Freudenthal, adding that the complaint was sitting on his desk. The state wants to sue over Fish and Wildlife's rejection of its wolf management plan in January. Plans for Idaho and Montana were approved, and the animals can't be removed from Endangered Species Act protection until the plans of all three states are deemed acceptable. In rejecting Wyoming's plan, Fish and Wildlife cited concerns with the state's "dual classification" of wolves - as trophy game animals with strict protections in northwest Wyoming and as predators in the rest of the state that can be shot more or less on sight. A compromise to avoid litigation was rejected by the Legislature earlier this year.