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Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2004
Page 4
Colorado: Wolf Management Plan In Works
Judith Kohler, Associated Press, 9 June 2004

The discovery of a dead wolf from Yellowstone National Park west of Denver lends fresh urgency to the question of how to manage the animals should they ever be established in Colorado.
The possibility that the 2-year-old female gray wolf traveled nearly 500 miles from northwestern Wyoming to the fringes of Colorado's populous foothills drives home the need to devise a plan, members of the state's new wolf management task force said Tuesday.
"It's the very reason why we worked with other ag groups and the Division of Wildlife to start this upcoming process," said Terry Frankhauser, a task force member and vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association.
The group, in the works for months, will meet for the first time Thursday. It is made up of environmentalists, ranchers, biologists and hunters.
The Colorado Wildlife Commission last year approved interim guidelines for dealing with wolves that may migrate from Yellowstone National Park and Idaho, where they were released in the 1990s.
The state Division of Wildlife received unconfirmed reports of a wolflike animal with a radio collar near Gore Mountain and the town of Toponas south of Steamboat Springs in late May. Division spokesman Todd Malmsbury said there's no telling if those reports were connected to the radio-collared wolf found dead along Interstate 70 in the mountains last weekend.
A necropsy, or autopsy, will be done at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service laboratory in Ashland, Ore., to determine how the animal died. They also will try to figure out if the wolf roamed to Colorado on its own or was killed elsewhere and dumped along I-70.
The wolf had broken legs, and likely was hit by a car, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife in Helena, Mont.
"We've known for some time they were right on our border and that they're going to show up any day," said Bonnie Kline, executive director of the Colorado Wool Growers Association.
The prospect of wild wolves in Colorado for the first time since the mid-1930s horrifies some Coloradans and excites others.
Ranchers fear the loss of livestock and grazing rights on public land if the federally protected animals once again wander the state.
Ranchers report that for every six likely killings of livestock by wolves, only one can be confirmed, said Kline, a member of the wolf management task force.
Only confirmed wolf kills are eligible for compensation from private and public programs designed to help stem the losses, Kline said.
Rob Edward sees the prospect of wolves in Colorado as the restoration of an important part of the West. Wolves were eradicated from most of the West by hunting, trapping and poisoning until the federal government started recovery efforts in the Yellowstone area and Arizona and New Mexico just a few years ago.
"We owe it to our grandchildren to have a long-range vision of the wild Colorado we all want to pass on to our grandchildren," said Edward, a task force member and staffer with Boulder-based Sinapu, advocates for the recovery of native carnivores in the southern Rockies.
One point of agreement is that a lone wolf is a long way from a self-sustaining population. Bangs of Fish and Wildlife said it took about five decades for wolves migrating from Canada to establish a pack in Montana.
Wolves didn't return to Wyoming until Fish and Wildlife released Canadian wolves in Yellowstone, Bangs said.
"A lone wolf just doesn't mean anything, other than it just makes people nutty," he said.
Federal officials will try to determine if the wolf found in Colorado made it there on her own or was killed and dumped. The wolf's last radio signal was detected near Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern Yellowstone on Jan. 15, about 490 miles from where she was found.
Bangs said while it's not unheard of for a wolf to migrate 500 miles, it's unusual.
"We'll do a law enforcement investigation," Bangs said.
The penalty for killing a wolf, covered by the Endangered Species Act, is a $100,000 fine, six months in jail and loss of fishing and hunting privileges.
The federal government has approved wolf management plans by Montana and Idaho, which want to see the wolf taken off the Endangered Species List. Fish and Wildlife has rejected Wyoming's plan to list wolves as predators in most of the state, which would have allowed them to be killed at will.
Is Wolf Comeback Waning?
Josephine Marcotty, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9 June 2004

After flourishing for a quarter-century in the forests of northeast Minnesota, the timber wolf population in the state has peaked and may be shrinking.
That change in direction has surprised wildlife experts and defied earlier predictions that protection offered by the Endangered Species Act would allow the wolf to spread across the state.
State wildlife officials, who have tracked the growth of the wolf population for decades, intend to complete a new survey this summer that they expect will show little change since 1998. The results will raise questions about how much effort will be needed to handle the wolf in the future and whether it will ever find its way south.
Ever since it was placed on the endangered species list in 1974, the timber wolf has steadily expanded its range west and south of the Arrowhead region. Space is vitally important to the territorial animal. Each one occupies about 10 square miles of land, which means that, on average, a pack of six wolves lives in 60 square miles.
And the wolves don't share territory. When a wolf encounters another that's not from its pack, they fight, often to the death.
There are now packs as far south as Lake Mille Lacs and as far west as the edge of the Red River Valley. But that's where they've stopped. Wildlife biologists are now recognizing that, since the late 1990s, their growth has been thwarted by disease, parasites and a series of mild winters that has favored the white-tailed deer in the contest between predator and prey.
Some experts say all of that is nature's way of controlling a population that has saturated all the suitable territory in the state. If they're right, Minnesota may never have more than its current 2,000 to 2,500 wolves. Meanwhile, much smaller wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan continue to grow.
Not everyone agrees with that theory. If nature's balancing act shifts in favor of the wolves, their population growth could force them south. Unlike Minnesota's north woods, these new lands contain more farms with livestock, more people with pets and more potential conflicts.
David Mech, a wolf expert and founder of the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn., believes the wolves' move south is only a matter of time.
"The biggest food supply is just south and west of where they are now," he said. "The wolves will get there sooner or later."
There is agreement among wolf experts on at least one thing. "Wolves have continually surprised us," said John Erb, a wildlife biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Balancing act
Logging roads wind endlessly through the forests that surround Grand Rapids. In springtime, when the trees are an iridescent green, the muddy roads are pockmarked with the pointed hooves of deer. Mixed among them is an occasional paw print or scat pile left by a wolf.
This is in the Minnesota wolf range, a place where for 10 years DNR researchers have traveled the roads to study the relationships among deer, wolves and weather.
Seven to eight wolf packs occupy the wooded study sites. Each year, researchers trap does and wolves and hang radio collars on them so they can track the fates of predators and prey through the seasons.
What they have found is that the connections are surprisingly intricate.
Harsh winters with deep snow shift the balance of survival in favor of the wolf. Deer, weakened by a winter diet made even more sparse by heavy snow cover, are easier for wolves to catch as they flounder through deep drifts.
They are especially vulnerable after midwinter thaws. The temporary warmth softens the snow on the surface, and then it freezes to a smooth, hard surface. Wolves, with their wide, splayed feet, can run on top of the crust. Deer, with their pointed hooves, break through, said Glenn DelGiudice, the DNR wildlife biologist who is running the study.
"The deer's nutritional condition is worsening; their endurance is diminishing. And wolves have the advantage," he said.
But in milder winters with less snow, the reverse is true. Deer have better food supplies -- and they can run away. Wolves, which have few other food choices in winter, starve.
For example, during the bitter winter of 1995 and 1996, wolves killed a third of the 66 does DNR researchers were tracking.
"Deer were easy to catch, and wolves were eating high on the hog," said Bill Berg, a retired DNR biologist who tracked wolf populations in the state for 30 years.
This past winter, one of the mildest on record, wolves killed only one-tenth of the radio-collared does in the study.
And six out of the last seven winters have been mild, leading DelGiudice and other researchers to believe that winter weather has significantly affected the wolf population.
But scientists can't predict the future. One concern is that climate change will bring increasingly warmer winters to wolf territory, raising questions about how well the animal will thrive in the decades ahead.
On the other hand, wolves are among the most adaptable of animals. Centuries ago in Minnesota, for example, they hunted mostly caribou, which no longer exist in the state, and moose, whose numbers have shrunk dramatically.
Deer moved into the northern parts of the state after old-growth forests were logged and were replaced by the denser woodland, which deer prefer. As wolves returned in greater numbers to the state, deer became their primary prey.
Nature's cleanser
Wolves also have a deadly enemy - sarcoptic mange.
"I always thought of it as nature's cleanser," said Berg, the retired DNR biologist.
Mange is a disease caused by a tiny parasite that afflicts many fur-bearing animals, and its incidence has exploded among wolves in recent years in Minnesota because of their high density, experts said. The parasite is spread by the infected wolves.
In the last three to four years, as many as 500 wolves may have died from the disease, said Bill Paul, of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a federal agency that tracks wolf predation on livestock.
"Everyone figured we were headed to 3,000 wolves" in the state, Paul said. "Then mange came."
It can cause a long, slow death. The parasitic mite burrows under the skin to lay eggs. The mites spread throughout the animal, which loses its fur and scratches uncontrollably, experts said. In winter, wolves can freeze to death from the thinning of their coats or starve because they are too weak to capture prey.
Paul said mange seems to afflict adult females more severely, which limits reproduction. The females either die or become so weak they don't have litters. If they do give birth, the vulnerable pups are infected.
Milder winters have prolonged and expanded the mange epidemic, Berg said.
"The winter weather has not been severe enough to kill off the wolves affected by mange," Berg said. "They survived to spread it around more."
Some packs may also have been hit hard by a disease called parvovirus. Originally, it was created in the laboratory as a cat vaccine, but it spread to dogs in the 1970s and from there to wild animals, Mech said.
He's watched its effects on the dozen packs he follows in the Arrowhead. "The population we are looking at hasn't dropped, but the number of pups has dropped consistently," he said. That means that those packs reproduce enough to occupy the same territory, but not enough to colonize other areas, he said.
The diseases will burn themselves out sooner or later, the biologists said, and then with a few hard winters, litter sizes could grow again. Then packs would send out dispersers, individual wolves that, like teenagers, venture out to make their way in the world. Some may head off to vacant territories in Wisconsin and Michigan, and a few may wander toward St. Cloud and other Minnesota cities.
County Fights Wolf Case Change
Allison Batdorff, Billings Gazette, 18 May 2004

CODY, WYO. - Although Wesley Livingston was not wearing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife uniform at the time he was accused of trespassing and littering wolves on a Meeteetse ranch, the Cody resident will make his case in front of the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne.
A removal order was signed May 10, calling for "no further action" by the Fifth Judicial District Park County Circuit Court. The paperwork arrived just after Livingston's May 11 arraignment in the Park County courtroom.
Michael Jimenez, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist named as a defendant to the same charges, had his case moved to federal court earlier on May 4.
Both cases evoke the privilege for federal workers to bring their state charges to a federal forum once certain criteria are met.
"Basically, the individuals alleged to have violated state law must be a federal officer or someone acting under that officer who have been charged in the performance of their official duties or under color of the office they are acting under," said Livingston's attorney Michael Messenger of Thermopolis. "It's not designed for everybody."
Livingston, a Hawkins & Powers Aviation, Inc. employee, falls under federal protection because he was "under contract as a wolf handler" during the collaring operation that led to the Feb. 14 incident, according to his petition for removal.
However, neither case will get to Cheyenne without a fight.
Park County attorney Bryan Skoric announced last week his intention to challenge the removals on technical and procedural grounds.
"There is no federal defense to allege the removal," said Skoric. Also, an evidentiary hearing should have been held for both cases to state why the removal is necessary, and to his knowledge, no such hearings took place, he said.
The Park County attorney's office filed charges against both Jimenez and Livingston after a complaint was lodged by the Larsen Ranch alleging that the men were releasing wolves near private calving grounds without permission. Stockowner Randy Kruger found the men on the property with four tranquilized wolves on Feb. 14.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Ralph Morgenwreck, the wolf-monitoring crew believed they were on public land. In a letter addressed to Larsen Ranch owner Ralph Larsen, Morgenwreck wrote, "If our team was on your land while processing these wolves, it was an honest mistake which prompted Mr. Jimenez to call you to apologize personally when he realized the team may have been on your property."
The wolves have since moved back to their usual territory near Dubois as indicated by signals from their new radio collars, adds the letter.
Both the criminal trespassing charge and the "placing or depositing objects on to the property of another" charge are punishable by a fine of not more than $750, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. Even though the charges were brought in state court, they will remain the same in a federal forum.
No date has been set for either case, and though U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson signed both removal orders, it is unknown if he will be the judge hearing the case.
The next step in the process will likely be the Park County attorney's contest of the removals, Messenger said.
Livestock Losses Leave Ranchers Worn Down By Wolves
Mike Stark, Billings Gazette, 16 May 2004

Robert Weber saw them out his kitchen window, hopping in inch-deep snow in the pasture where his sheep were supposed to be.
Out of the house to investigate in the early morning light, Weber saw what had drawn the black-and-white scavengers to his Paradise Valley ranch. The birds were picking away at his dead sheep.
"I counted eight dead sheep and a couple more torn up pretty bad," Weber said, recalling the morning last December. "I could see wolf tracks all over, about five inches long. That's one hell of a track."
The sheep that survived were huddled together and terrified - some are still stricken with fear today, Weber said. The wolves returned the next night to his brother's place next door, scattering 17 dead sheep over a half-mile, according to Weber.
"This was like Pearl Harbor for my brother and me," said Weber, 79. "I've fought coyotes out here for 50 years but they don't hold a candle to these wolves."
Statistically, Weber's sheep would be far more likely to be killed by coyotes, dogs, eagles, diseases, weather, poison or lambing complications, according to 2002-2003 figures from the Montana Department of Agriculture.
But Weber, a lean rancher with thick hands and a wry sense of humor, shares the belief of his neighbors and others that the wolf is capable of significantly damaging livestock operations and, on a larger scale, transforming the way of life for rural people who now share the landscape with wolves.
"Do you know where I can get some poison?" Weber says, only half joking.
- - -
Although wolves are overwhelmingly popular among Yellowstone National Park visitors and others, there is a renewed sense of anger and disenfranchisement among many people who live in wolf country.
In recent months, that animosity has been fueled in part by several livestock killings in Madison Valley; an incident near Meeteetse, Wyo., in which two wolf biologists are accused of trespassing on private property; a stalemate between Wyoming and the federal government over the future of wolves, and delays in removing endangered species protections.
"The frustration level has reached a point where people will try to take things into their own hands. I don't think that's a good thing but some feel like it's the only option left," said Justin O'Hair, a rancher who lives down the road from Weber.
That frustration has spilled out of ranching communities and coffee shops and into county courthouses around the region. Several county commissions, supported by crowds of worried landowners, have passed resolutions stating that wolves aren't welcome and urging the government to give locals more latitude in dealing with wolves.
"We realize wolves are here but we have to control them," said David Davidson, a commissioner in Carbon County, where wolves were recently designated "problem predators."
A few wolf opponents have also taken that anger outside the law. An increasing number of wolves were illegally killed in Wyoming last year and a rash of poisonings apparently aimed at wolves has killed or injured more than 20 dogs in Wyoming and Idaho.
"Everything is kind of hitting a grand crescendo all at once with the refusal of Wyoming's plan and the state lawsuit," said Dominic Domenici, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent in charge for Wyoming. "It just kind of whipped everyone into a frenzy."
That heightened animosity has also taken root in Idaho, where interest is growing in an anti-wolf group's proposal to sue the federal government to rid the area of wolves and one Web site with a "wolf-killing ammo" ad and a detailed paper titled "How to Poison Wolves."
In recent weeks, several dogs have died or become severely ill in Wyoming after ingesting poison and three more in Idaho became ill after eating pesticide-laced meatballs in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
When investigators went to the scene of the Idaho poisoning, they found 80 more poisoned meatballs on the forest floor. No one has been charged in the incidents but investigators feel "very strongly" that the poison was intended for wolves, Domenici said. Agents in March executed a search warrant on an Idaho man who is thought to maintain the Web site with the wolf-poisoning information.
Ron Gillet, a member of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, said in a recent letter to the Challis (Idaho) Messenger newspaper that the poison was aimed at the wolves reintroduced to the area by government "criminals."
"It would seem unfortunate that these pets were the victims," he wrote. "However it would seem obvious that the poison was not put out for pets but for Canadian wolves which are devastating our wildlife and also mutilating our pets."
Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said there seems to be an upswing in frustration over wolves lately, both from wolf supporters and opponents. The handful of federal agents who routinely track wolves know the animosity has been inflamed recently, but they don't feel personally threatened, Bangs said.
"These things go in cycles," said Bangs, who has received several death threats because of his involvement in the wolf program. "It's wolves. They drive people nuts."
- - -
Wolves were in the northern Rocky Mountains long before European settlers arrived. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, they were shot, trapped and poisoned to make way for farms, ranches and settlements. By the 1930s, the wolves were largely gone.
The controversial engineered return of Canis lupus in 1995 and 1996 marked a renewed fight over whether wolves could, and should, co-exist with people.
Those questions have become more thorny as the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population - estimated at 761 at the end of 2003 makes new forays from the core recovery area in Yellowstone to neighboring valleys where people live.
For some people, anecdotes and personal experience among neighbors can be a more powerful force for shaping opinions than scientific data, Bangs said. That's especially true when wolves move into a new area and local residents are faced with a new predator in their midst, he said.
"That gets the rumor mill started and things can get wild on both sides," Bangs said.
Wolves have been spotted several times at Justin O'Hair's place along the Yellowstone River south of Livingston. Although his ranch has only had one confirmed wolf kill a calf about two years ago the presence of the predator casts a pall, especially because it's "only a matter of time" before the wolves start making a larger impact on his cattle operation, O'Hair said.
Worse than the individual kills, he said, is that wolves appear to slow the breeding cycle for cattle and cause other problems that are harder to quantify than carcasses.
All of his neighbors have been affected by wolves in one way or another, he said.
"We're in a real bad wreck here. I don't think people know that," O'Hair said. He said he worried that wolves would eventually contribute to a decline on his fifth-generation family ranch and he would be unable to pass it on to his children.
- - -
On the other side of the Absaroka Mountains, Vern and Averill Keller's ranch was one of the first visited by wolves after they were reintroduced.
They lost several sheep that first year before the female wolf was caught and relocated. Things stayed quiet until about a year ago, when two wolves came to their Fishtail ranch and killed 23 lambs. Wolves returned in March and killed another ewe.
"Most of the time we never did see them," Averill Keller said.
Like other ranchers in the region, the Kellers submitted a claim to Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group, to be compensated for their losses. Last year, the Washington, D.C.-based group paid out more than $68,000 to ranchers who lost cattle and sheep to wolves.
"At first my husband didn't want to open the envelope but I finally deposited it," Averill Keller said. "I thought if they're going to do this to us, somebody's got to pay us."
But the payment, which is aimed at providing market value for losses due to wolves, doesn't take the sting out of losing livestock, Keller said.
The wolves are exacerbating the troubles that ranchers are already facing from other predators, drought and poor grass conditions, Keller said.
"Ranchers are having a hard enough time hanging on," Keller said. "This is just another problem for us."
The result, she said, is that many ranchers may choose to sell or subdivide their land.
"Do you want everything subdivided?" Keller said. "There's no way we can make a living here except by raising livestock."
Lately the wolves have shown up in Roscoe, Luther and others areas near Red Lodge as well as others areas of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
- - -
As wolves move to new territory, sometimes roaming hundreds of miles, wildlife managers have seen an increase in the number of calls they get to deal with them.
"They're increasing," said Larry Handegard, director of Montana operations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, the agency in charge of dealing with problem animals.
The primary increase in wolf business has been in western and southwest Montana, he said. Coyotes still take up a majority of their time, but Handegard's 20 agents are fielding slightly more calls than in the past for wolves.
"It's usually for dead or injured livestock or harassment of cattle by wolves," he said. "One of the problems we see quite often is that too much of the carcass has been consumed so you're unable to tell whether it was a wolf."
Noisemakers, flags and other devices are sometimes put in place to keep wolves at bay but without much success, he said. Most times, the wolves have to be killed or relocated by the government or landowners are issued a permit to kill the problem wolves themselves.
Some people, though, don't want to wait for government managers to remove the wolves or issue a permit.
An estimated 200 wolves have been killed illegally since 1987. Yearly figures have increased as the wolf population has grown and moved into more populated areas.
"This last year has been the worst by far in Wyoming," Domenici said.
Along with lethal control by the government, illegal wolf kills are the leading cause of death for wolves in the Northern Rockies.
An investigation is continuing into the illegal killings of several wolves in northwest Wyoming last summer and fall.
Punishment for illegally and purposefully killing a protected wolf can be as high as a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. So far, about a dozen people have been prosecuted and three or four have been incarcerated.
The first was Chad McKittrick, who was convicted of killing a wolf near Red Lodge in 1995, and was sentenced to six months in jail. McKittrick testified that he thought the animal he shot was a wild dog. A federal judge who heard his appeal said McKittrick's story was not credible; he noted that McKittrick had worn a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Northern Rockies Wolf Reduction Project."
Recent wolf killings, and attempts to poison them, are probably part of a larger frustration that has been simmering for years and only recently targeted at wolves, Domenici said.
"I think a lot of the rhetoric we're seeing is anti-government rather than anti-wolf," Domenici said. "I really feel they're using the wolf to recruit disciples."
- - -
Somewhere in the middle of such a polarized issue where lawsuits are likely from every side - government officials are left to set policy for wolves.
The federal government has said it's ready to pass management of wolves to the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming but has refused to do that because Wyoming approved a plan that would allow some wolves to be treated as predators and killed without regulation.
In the meantime, federal officials are considering passing some duties over to Montana and Idaho, including giving more latitude for states and livestock owners to be more aggressive with problem wolves.
Predictably, those proposed rules have stirred up controversy.
But there is a middle ground to be explored, said Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife, which works to find on-the-ground solutions to environmental conflicts.
"In the last few years there has been more and more collaboration between the ranching and environmental communities," she said. "The most effective way is usually one rancher at a time."
Admittedly, the anti-wolf group appears to be gaining steam in some circles, she said. But people in the "mainstream ranching community" are made nervous by some statements by anti-wolf groups, Stone said.
"I think it's really driving a wedge between them and the middle," Stone said.
But that middle can be tough to find. For many, wolves are a symbol either of all that should be protected and preserved in the wild or of unwarranted government intrusion that threatens rural life.
In some cases, it's never the twain shall meet.
"It's almost impossible to change minds," Bangs said. "People use wolves for all these other values. The wolves themselves are pretty boring, but the people are fascinating."
Livestock losses to wolves difficult to figure exactly
It can be difficult to estimate the impact of wolves on livestock. Attacks often happen at night and conclusive evidence that a wolf killed a cow or sheep can be difficult to find. Ranchers and others say losses are usually underestimated.
Each year the Montana Department of Agriculture provides a list of causes of death for sheep and lambs.
According to the state's figures from last year, 500 sheep were killed by wolves in Montana. Coyotes were the leading cause of death with 11,800 kills. Other factors more deadly than wolves were weather, 6,300 deaths; disease, 8,200; foxes, 1,000; eagles, 1,200, and bears, 800.
Compilation of those losses is partially funded by the Montana Woolgrowers Association. Similar statistics are not available for cattle because funding is not available.
Since 1995, 301 cows have been confirmed kills by wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, including a high of 64 last year, according to federal figures.
In response to problems with livestock, 207 wolves have been killed by federal officials, including a high of 59 last year and 46 in 2002.
Sterilizing, Relocating Wolves Boosted Caribou Herds
Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 10 May 2004

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA -- Judging from what state biologists have seen, sterilized wolves appear to live longer in the wild than other wolves.
Seven years after biologists sterilized 15 pairs of wolves as part of an effort to rebuild the Fortymile caribou herd, eight of those pairs have at least one wolf remaining and three pairs have both.
Each pair composed its own pack after fertile wolves were relocated, and the eight "packs" remaining are maintaining their traditional territories.
The sterilization program has exceeded biologists' expectations, said Rodney Boertje with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.
"We didn't know they'd live this long," Boertje said. "We thought the best we'd get is one or two years out of it."
Wolves in the wild typically don't live to be much over 5 years old, he said. The surviving sterilized Fortymile wolves, however, are all likely pushing 10 years or older.
"Very seldom do you see an 8-year-old wolf," Boertje said. "They get replaced before that because they can't keep up with all the competition they've got out there."
From 1997 to 2000, biologists sterilized the alpha pairs in 15 packs and relocated 140 other wolves that made up those packs. The idea was that the sterilized pairs would defend their territories against other packs, which they have done successfully.
"Four years later, we've still got sterilized wolves functioning as packs," Boertje said.
The project was aimed at reducing predation on the Fortymile herd, specifically at the herd's calving grounds, and the recovery effort has been a success. The herd has more than doubled in size since 1995, with the latest population estimate at 45,000 caribou.
How much of a factor the sterilization program has been in the herd's recovery is a question that biologists are still trying to answer.
"The fact that these pairs have stood up to the test of time is pretty impressive," state wildlife biologist Jeff Gross said. "Some of them are 10, 11 and 12 years old, and they're still holding their territories. The sterilization program "kind of proved itself a real viable management option. It's shown it's got some longevity. It really is a cost-effective means to reduce numbers in the long run."
Biologist Craig Gardner, who helped Boertje start the project, refers to the sterilized pairs as "dinks" -- double income, no kids.
The fact that the sterilized wolves didn't have pups to raise or feed has likely played a significant role in their prolonged survival, biologists said.
"It's the beauty of having no kids and no stress in their life," Boertje said, with a chuckle. "If they're raising pups every year, there's no way they're going to get to 10.
"They're not fighting as much, they're not playing with offspring ... they're just living high on the hog."
Two pairs of sterilized wolves were killed by other wolf packs last year, and Boertje examined the carcasses of those wolves, which he estimated to be 7 or 8 years old.
"They were some of the fastest wolves I've seen," Boertje said. "Even at a very old age they still are able to take care of themselves."
During a tracking flight earlier this winter, Gross spotted one pair of sterilized wolves on a moose kill.
"These pairs are still healthy enough to take down a moose," he said.
The sterilized wolves also don't have to hunt as much because there isn't a whole pack to feed, said biologist Mark McNay, a wolf expert at Fish and Game in Fairbanks. And that cuts down on the chances of being killed while trying to take down a moose or caribou.
About half the wolves that McNay examines have some evidence of previous injuries from killing moose or caribou, such as broken ribs, cracked skulls and broken leg or foot bones.
"Smaller packs kill fewer prey animals, so they're not exposed to the risk of having to kill moose," McNay said. "Those risks can be substantial."
The fact that the sterilized pairs have managed to maintain their traditional territories, even on a slightly smaller scale, doesn't surprise McNay.
"That's what wolves do, defend territories," he said. "They will defend that territory even if they don't have any current pups. They're just continuing to behave as they would if they hadn't been sterilized."
It remains to be seen what will happen when all the sterilized wolves die off, which they probably will do in the next year or two, biologists said. The sterilized pairs likely will be replaced by other packs that move into the territories and kill the older wolves, Boertje said.
There are already signs that other packs are moving in to take over.
"The number of wolves will increase once the sterilized packs die off," he said. "One hypothesis is that there are enough caribou now to support those wolves.
"The other hypothesis is that wolves will get dense enough to bring the (caribou) population down to a lower level."
One of the reasons the biggest caribou herds in the state, such as the 130,000-member Porcupine herd and the Western Arctic herd, which is approaching 500,000, are located on the North Slope is because there aren't as many wolves as there are in the Interior, Boertje said.
"The Fortymile caribou don't have any good place to hide during calving, especially once the sterilized wolves are gone," Boertje said. "It's not coincidental that the Arctic herds go to places to calf where there are no predators."
Regardless of what happens with the herd in the future, Gardner said, the sterilized wolves have more than served their purpose, both biologically and scientifically.
"It proved you can take a pack, reduce it down to two wolves and they have the ability to maintain that territory and keep it at two wolves," Gardner said.
The long-term effect on wildlife populations is still to be determined.
"We're just now starting to put things together," he said.
Proposed New Rules Expand Wolf Killing Powers
Mike Stark, Billings Gazette, 4 May 2004

Ranchers, pet owners and state officials would have broader authority to kill troublesome wolves in Montana and Idaho under new rules proposed Wednesday by the federal government.
"This is good for states, good for their citizens and good for wolves and wildlife," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in a telephone conference with reporters.
With efforts to remove wolves from the endangered species list on hold because of Wyoming's rejected state plan, the Interior Department is taking a key step toward handing management of wolves to Montana and Idaho.
The new rules, expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days, would allow increased killing of wolves on private and public lands if the animals are known to be harassing livestock or pets or pushing game herds below minimum levels.
In some cases, wolves could be killed without a permit if they are seen attacking on private land.
If approved, the rules could be in place by this summer.
"My only regret is that it doesn't come quicker," Gov. Judy Martz said during the conference.
In the last several days, wolves have preyed on livestock in southwest Montana, causing "unacceptable losses," Martz said. The new rules will be important for dealing with such situations, she said.
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said the rules will be well-received by farmers, ranchers and sportsmen who have experienced livestock losses or game herd losses from wolves.
He tried to head off possible criticism that the rule could drive down wolf populations too far.
"The fact is that we're going to have to maintain a particular level of wolves or risk a new listing (under) the Endangered Species Act," Kempthorne said. "We don't want to see that happen."
When wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains in 1995 and 1996, federal biologists predicted there would be about 400 wolves in the region at the end of 2003, Norton said. Today, there are an estimated 770 wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
Now that wolves have exceeded "recovery" levels, the Interior Department wants to remove wolves from the endangered species list and pass management to the three states.
Wolf management plans for Montana and Idaho have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but Wyoming's plan, which includes a provision to allow some wolves to be killed without regulation, has been rejected.
"It was the lack of a Wyoming plan that has caused us not to go forward with a proposal for delisting," Norton said.
Under the rules discussed Wednesday, the Interior Department would retain responsibility for the wolves, but Montana and Idaho could have an increased say in how they are managed.
Interior officials did not release the text of the rules Wednesday but outlined some of the broad themes.
If a rancher saw wolves attacking livestock or pets on private property, the rancher would be allowed to use deadly force without getting a permit. If wolves are suspected of causing problems or posing a potential threat, a citizen could apply for a permit to kill the wolves.
Firearms, sirens, loud noises and other methods could be used to control wolves, according to Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was unclear whether trapping would be allowed.
"That would be something we would discuss and work with the state agency on, looking for the most effective and efficient means of controlling damage to private property," Williams said.
Wolves that are determined to be causing "unacceptable impacts" to wildlife populations also could be killed.
In Idaho, that measure will be important for preserving big game populations, Kempthorne said.
"They are being decimated by the wolf population and now we need to manage that," he said.
The rules will affect only the "experimental" populations in Idaho and portions of Montana. It will not affect wolf populations in Wyoming or northwest Montana.
Farm and ranch groups praised the rule as an important step in trimming losses caused by wolves.
"We are particularly pleased to see that landowners have the authority, without a permit, to eliminate a wolf attacking livestock, livestock herding or guard animals on private land," Jake Cummins, executive vice president of the Montana Farm Bureau Association, said in a statement.
He said he has concerns, though, about potential confusion among ranchers between "experimental" wolf populations and others.
"We're pretty pleased our producers are finally going to have some increased flexibility to protect their private property," said Lloyd Knight, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association. "It's been a long time coming."
Nina Fascione, vice president for species conservation at Defenders of Wildlife, said her group is anxious to see the details of the new rule. Some of the elements she has heard about make her nervous, she said, but Defenders is waiting to see the entire set of rules before offering a critique.
"The devil is in the details. Conceptually, we'd probably be OK with it but not if it doesn't ensure the long-term survival of wolves," she said.
One of the unresolved issues is how the state's management of wolves will be paid for. Williams said grant money will be available that the two states may apply for. Interior officials did not offer a specific amount that might be available to Montana and Idaho.
"This is a rule that does not at this point contemplate specific program costs," Norton said.
Once the new rules are published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment before they are finalized.
Ad Campaign Aims to Finish Aerial Wolf Kills
Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, 23 April 2004

Defenders of Wildlife is running advertisements in the nation's biggest newspapers decrying a program in which wolves in Alaska are being shot from airplanes.
In large letters, the full-page ads in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times say: "Stop the Aerial Killing of Wolves in Alaska!"
"There is a lot of anger among our members and general citizens all over the country. We are going to educate them about the program and bring as much pressure as possible on the governor to reverse the policy," William Lutz, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based group, said Thursday.
The ad ran Tuesday in the Post and Wednesday in the Times.
The Times' daily circulation is between 959,000 and more than 1 million. The Post's daily circulation is more than 732,000. According to Editor and Publisher, the newspapers have the fourth- and fifth-largest daily circulation in the nation.
In smaller bold print, the Defenders of Wildlife ad says: "Please help today. Over 100 wolves have been killed ... and more are slated to die." The ad has checkoff boxes for contributions.
It also has a checkoff box for calling or sending a petition to Gov. Frank Murkowski to demand an end to the program.
Lutz said the group has collected about 100,000 petition signatures.
Alaska this winter resumed the aerial shooting of wolves after a decade-long ban. Under the program, 180 wolves in two areas of the state were to be killed by April 30. At least 140 have been killed so far.
The program is in response to complaints from residents that wolves eat too many moose calves, leaving them with too few to kill for food. The program will resume this fall.
Wolves in Alaska are not a threatened or endangered species. Population estimates range from 8,000 to 11,000. About 1,500 wolves are killed in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers.
The first Defenders of Wildlife ad ran four weeks ago in The Christian Science Monitor, Lutz said. It also has run in regional editions of The New York Times and USA Today.
Los Angeles Times spokesman David Garcia said the paper can't disclose what Defenders of Wildlife paid for the ad. But he said full-page ads cost between $20,000 and $100,000.
Defenders of Wildlife, with an annual budget of $21 million, so far has raised about $88,000 for the campaign -- money that goes right back into the effort, Lutz said.
"When we raise money, we spend it to get more petition signatures," he said.
The wildlife group's efforts also have included an unsuccessful appeal to the Interior Department to find the program illegal under federal law.
Defenders of Wildlife is using the Internet to spread the word and raise money. Its Web site features a drawing by political cartoonist Bruce Plante showing two frightened wolves running from a small airplane.
One wolf says, "I thought there was an airborne hunting act to prevent this?" And the other wolf replies, "That was before Bush and Norton got here."
Another Defenders page capitalizes on an Earth Day theme. It says, "Mark Earth Day Through a Wildlife Adoption," next to a picture of a wolf pup accompanied by a message encouraging Web users to "Adopt a wolf today to help Defenders end the savage aerial killing of wolves.
"Already over 100 wolves have been killed under this barbaric program and hundreds more are slated to die."
The Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, a 200,000-member group with a smaller budget, also is continuing its campaign to end aerial wolf killing in Alaska.
Last December, Friends of Animals launched a grass-roots campaign calling for a tourism boycott of Alaska. The group helped organize protests called "howl-ins" across the country where sympathizers were encouraged to send the governor a postcard promising to boycott the state's $2 billion a year tourism industry.
Nine howl-ins will be held around the country to coincide with Earth Day celebrations through Sunday, said president Priscilla Feral. By the time the campaign ends April 30, 157 howl-ins will have been held nationwide.
Feral said that won't be the end of it. The howl-ins will begin again this fall, targeting the summer 2005 Alaska tourism season.
Friends of Animals also is directing its entire advertising budget for the year to the issue -- money that would have gone to discourage people from buying fur, Feral said. She aims to raise between $100,000 and $200,000 for newspapers and magazine ads.
"That is how I think we dramatically spread the word and build on what we've started," Feral said.
Tourists Still Booking Alaska Trips Despite Animal-Rights Boycott Call
USA Today, 19 April 2004
ANCHORAGE (AP) Facing a new Alaska program to hunt wolves from airplanes, the animal-rights group Friends of Animals is trying to revive its successful pressure tactic of a decade ago and persuade vacationers to boycott the state this summer. But tourism officials say this time the plea seems to be falling mostly on deaf ears.
"It seems for once Outsiders don't care how we do it in Alaska," said Eric Downey, vice president of marketing for Denali Lodges.
While tourism officials with the state's largest trade groups say they've received hundreds of e-mails and letters from people who say they're canceling plans for Alaska vacations, they say there is little evidence of the protest in summer bookings.
The boycott has had no effect on his mid-size company, Downey said. Denali Lodges expects more than 10,000 visitors this summer at its lodge inside Denali National Park and Preserve and cabins just outside the boundary.
"We have not had one cancellation or call of concern or complaint," he said.
The Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals called for the boycott in December to protest Alaska's aerial wolf control program. Under the program, 180 wolves were to be killed this winter in two areas where residents complain wolves and bears are eating too many moose, leaving them with too few for food.
About 140 wolves have been killed under the program that ends April 30. The program will resume next winter.
Wolves in Alaska are not a threatened or endangered species. Population estimates range from 8,000 to 11,000. About 1,500 wolves are killed in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers.
Alaska resumed aerial wolf hunts last year after a decade-long ban. Gov. Frank Murkowski has said he will not bend to the threatened boycott because the state has an obligation to manage its resources to benefit Alaskans. Murkowski did not respond to repeated requests for additional comment.
The 950-member Alaska Travel Industry Association in the past several months has received about 100 phone calls and 200 e-mails, mostly from individuals saying they won't be visiting Alaska, said spokesman Mark Morones. But he said it's unknown how many of those people actually canceled reservations.
Last year, Alaska had 1.3 million summer visitors, with more than half arriving by cruise ship. The Northwest Cruise Ship Association expects even more cruise ship visitors this summer, with the first ship arriving in Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska on May 4.
Smaller adventure-travel companies do see some impact, though their reports are mixed.
Anne Gore, executive director of the 275-member Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, said her group receives two or three strongly worded e-mails or calls a day from travelers saying they're boycotting Alaska.
The association of small and mid-size businesses responds with a letter that says AWRTA and the people of Alaska "share your concern for the wolves. ... Unfortunately, our state leaders have ignored our wishes and gone ahead with their personal agenda."
It asks that visitors consider showing support for the wolves and Alaska's wild places by patronizing AWRTA businesses.
During the 1993 tourism boycott, "the only companies negatively affected ... were the small to mid-size businesses represented by AWRTA. For some of the smaller, family owned companies, the financial losses resulting from the boycott were devastating, nearly putting them out of business," the letter says.
John French, general manager of Alaska Discovery, a small adventure travel company in Juneau, said bookings for March were perhaps the worst the company has seen in its 33 years. There also were a lot of cancellations, he said.
While nobody said they were canceling because of the wolves, French suspects that could be the case. Alaska Discovery clients tend to be educated and well-read on conservation issues, he said, and it's likely some of them heard about the wolf control program and decided to skip Alaska this summer.
"The only people this seems to be affecting are little companies like ours that support conservation," he said. "It is so frustrating to have an imperial decree ... and kick sand in the face of small, conservation-minded adventure travel companies."
Cherie and Kenneth Mason were prepared to spend several thousand dollars on a two-week cruise to Southeast Alaska this summer. The retired couple from Sunset, Maine, also wanted to buy Eskimo art to add to their collection. But after hearing that wolves were being shot, the Masons told Lindblad Expeditions in New York to refund their deposit.
"Wolves are magnificent animals and they are really at the mercy of politics in Alaska, depending on who is governor and who is on the Board of Game," said Cherie Mason. "We will just stay home and hope we can go next year if things change."
But Gerry Sanger said his Sound Eco Adventures in Whittier has been untouched by the boycott. He has more than 40 bookings this summer from clients wanting to take whale-watching cruises and glacier hikes, and sea kayakers and deer hunters needing transportation to remote destinations.
"My impression is it hasn't made a ripple," Sanger said of the boycott. "My business is up 20% over last year."
Friends of Animals kicked off its tourism boycott campaign on Dec. 27 with a "howl-in" at Rockefeller Center in New York. The campaign is scheduled to end April 30, at the same time the wolf control program ends for the season. By that time, 140 howl-ins will have been held in cities across the United States, and in Japan, Germany, Great Britain and Canada, said Priscilla Feral, president of the 200,000-member group.
Feral said she's disappointed that Murkowski has not responded the way then-Gov. Wally Hickel did a decade ago. It took 53 howl-ins in 51 cities before Hickel ordered a moratorium on the wolf program.
This time, the campaign may have to last as long as Murkowski is in office, Feral said.
"I just find that this current regime is really destructive beyond what anybody remembers in prior administrations," she said. "All of this, more than shaming Alaska, shames the country as a whole and that is why we aren't going to go away."
Wildlife Group Uses Ads to Attack Aerial Wolf Killing
Associated Press, 13 April 2004
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The public opinion battle over killing Alaska wolves from the air continues, even as the programs wind down with the end of winter.
"It's frustrating," said Matt Robus, head of the state's Division of Wildlife Conservation. "We don't dispute at all the controversial nature of this. All we ask is the real facts be the things we debate."
But Karen Deatherage, a spokeswoman for the national animal welfare group Defenders of Wildlife, contends that if anyone is spinning the facts, it's the state.
"They have misinformed the public by just providing snippets of information," she said. "That's what Defenders wanted to do, was provide the public with what's really going on out here."
The Defenders of Wildlife has run a series of newspaper ads in Alaska and the lower 49 states critical of game management in the state, drawing a rebuke from state officials that the ads are inaccurate and misleading.
Wolf populations in Alaska have never been threatened or endangered. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates a statewide population that is growing slightly and now numbers 8,000 to 11,000 animals.
About 1,500 wolves are killed in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers. Sport hunting is allowed but makes up only a small percentage of wolves killed.
Aerial hunting ended in 1972, when Congress passed the federal Airborne Hunting Act. And Alaskans voted, in 1996 and again in 2000, to prohibit another popular practice for killing wolves known as land-and-shoot hunting. Pilots could spot wolves from the air, then land and quickly shoot them.
But the state always has had authority to kill wolves from the air, provided it was to help moose and caribou stocks grow. The current controversy developed when state game managers enacted new aerial wolf-kill programs that leave the shooting to private pilots.
The state calls it predator control, with limits and controls. Opponents view it as sport hunting in disguise.
In late March, Defenders of Wildlife ran half-page ads in Anchorage and other Alaska cities blasting the Board of Game for decisions made earlier in the month.
One new regulation allows bears to be killed as part of predator control. Another permits hunting of moose calves in areas where state biologists feel moose stocks are too high.
"What's the real story?" the ads ask. "First they say we need to kill wolves and bears because there aren't enough moose. Now they say there are too many moose and we need to kill moose calves."
Because the ads ran in Alaska, Robus told the Anchorage Daily News, "we felt that we couldn't allow things that were absolutely not true to be put out in front of the public."
In a letter to Defenders President Rodger Schlickeisen, Robus called several statements in the ads and on the group's Web site "simply untrue." Defenders had suggested that helicopters were being used to kill wolves and that the wolf kill was statewide.
But Deatherage stood by the ad campaign.
"We feel absolutely comfortable and confident in our ads," she said.
Wolf Kill Debate Won't Go Away
Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, 12 April 2004
Alaska's controversial aerial wolf-kill programs are winding down for the winter, but the public opinion battle over predator control shows no signs of abating.
In recent weeks:
The national animal-protection group Defenders of Wildlife ran a series of newspaper ads in Alaska and Outside slamming game management in the state.
The ad campaign drew a rare rebuke from state officials for being inaccurate and misleading.
The state's new wolf-kill programs prompted a scathing editorial from The New York Times.
A group that unsuccessfully sued to stop lethal predator-control efforts last year has taken a new legal tack that could force state officials to justify their wolf-control methods in front of a jury.
"It's frustrating," said Matt Robus, head of the state's Division of Wildlife Conservation. "We don't dispute at all the controversial nature of this. All we ask is the real facts be the things we debate."
Defenders spokeswoman Karen Deatherage countered that if anyone is guilty of spinning the facts, it's the state.
"They have misinformed the public by just providing snippets of information," she said. "That's what Defenders wanted to do, was provide the public with what's really going on out here."
Unlike in the Lower 48, wolf populations in Alaska have never been threatened or endangered. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates a statewide population that is growing slightly and now numbers 8,000 to 11,000 animals.
About 1,500 wolves are killed in Alaska every year, mostly by trappers. Sport hunting is allowed but makes up only a small percentage of the harvest, Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley said. It's almost impossible for hunters on the ground to find and track wolves, he said.
Aerial hunting ended in 1972, when Congress passed the federal Airborne Hunting Act. And Alaskans voted, in 1996 and again in 2000, to prohibit another popular practice for killing wolves known as land-and-shoot hunting. Pilots could spot wolves from the air, then land and quickly shoot them.
But the state always has had authority to kill wolves from the air, provided it was to help moose and caribou stocks grow. The current controversy erupted when state game managers enacted new aerial wolf-kill programs that leave the shooting to private pilots.
The state calls it predator control, with limits and controls. Opponents view it as sport hunting in disguise.
In an editorial March 14, The New York Times weighed in, saying, "It is now legal for private citizens to shoot wolves from airplanes and helicopters."
That's not true, Robus said. While helicopters are available for the department to use in the new programs, they're not allowed. The editorial suggests that any private citizen can participate, but Fish and Game has limited participation. In McGrath, three pilots received permits. For the Nelchina program, about 35 were permitted.
In late March, Defenders of Wildlife ran half-page ads in Anchorage and other Alaska cities blasting the Board of Game for decisions made earlier in the month. One new regulation allows bears to be killed as part of predator control. Another permits hunting of moose calves in areas where state biologists feel moose stocks are too high.
"What's the real story?" the ads ask. "First they say we need to kill wolves and bears because there aren't enough moose. ... Now they say there are too many moose and we need to kill moose calves."
Because the ads ran in Alaska, Robus said, "we felt that we couldn't allow things that were absolutely not true to be put out in front of the public."
In a letter to Defenders president Rodger Schlickeisen, Robus called several statements in the ads and on the group's Web site "simply untrue." Defenders had suggested that helicopters were being used to kill wolves and that the wolf kill was statewide.
But Deatherage stood by the ad campaign.
"We feel absolutely comfortable and confident in our ads," she said.
It's true that helicopters are not currently being used, she said, but the law allows their use. And while wolves are only targeted for control in certain areas, the number of areas approved for predator control more than doubled during the Game Board's March meeting.
Similarly, she said, it's true that sow bears and cubs are not being targeted for predator control, but the Game Board made it possible.
"There's a lot of hairsplitting in that letter," Deatherage said. "The department and Board of Game have put out desperate pieces of spin for the last six months, and they have misinformed the public by just providing snippets of information. When you look at the big picture of predator control in Alaska, it's getting uglier by the minute."
The group isn't letting up. A full-page ad that ran Tuesday in The New York Times reads in part, "Trophy hunters are using airplanes to slaughter helpless wolves in Alaska. They can gun the wolves down from the air, or chase them to exhaustion in the deep snow -- then land and shoot them point-blank."
The ad urges people to complain to Gov. Frank Murkowski and to make a tax-deductible contribution to Defenders. "Your donation will help us run ads like this across the nation and mobilize other wildlife supporters," it says.
"It's not totally a surprise," Robus said, but the ad is wrong. The state program is not trophy hunting but short-term management with specific goals.
"I understand perfectly that we're involved in something that a lot of people dislike intensely," he said. "I don't care if people don't like it. What I do care about is what people use to sway the undecided public. We should try to stick to the facts."
The whole predator-control program could come under review by a jury if a lawsuit filed by the Connecticut-based animal-rights group Friends of Animals and seven Alaskans goes to trial.
Last December, a Superior Court judge refused to block the McGrath wolf-control program. In late March the group filed an amended complaint, saying the state has not justified its predator-control efforts with biological data "but instead rests upon mere guesswork."
No trial date has been set.