In Search of Illinois Wolves
Jeff Lampe, Peoria Journal Star, 7 November 2004
Finding a wolf in Prairie State isn't as crazy as once thought
Jim Lamkin thinks a wolf lives near his home north of Peoria.
He's heard strange howling by a solitary animal that doesn't sound like the typical yip-yapping of coyote packs. He's also seen a large, canine creature loping through a bean field north of Cedar Hills Drive.
A few years ago my first inclination would have been to politely listen to Lamkin's claims, then to chuckle after hanging up the phone. Chances are still good what he's heard and seen was not a wolf. Maybe he's being serenaded by a neighbor's dog. Maybe he saw a big coyote or dog-coyote hybrid.
But maybe, just maybe, Lamkin is onto something. Laugh if you want, but Randy Worker's fateful hunt in December of 2002 changed everything in Illinois regarding canis lupus.
The animal Worker shot in Marshall County near Henry eventually became the first confirmed gray wolf in Illinois in more than 100 years. Analysis of DNA proved the animal came from packs in the Great Lakes. Similar sightings in other neighboring states over the past few years indicate the toothy predators are on the move, spreading south from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan into territory they were shot out of generations ago.
Worker's wolf was likely the third that passed through the Prairie State in the past three years. In 2001 a wolf was shot in Missouri that migrated from Michigan. Another wolf found dead last year in Indiana originated in Wisconsin. All are believed to have dispersed from established packs in search of their own territory.
That increased frequency of wolf sightings prompted a response from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Last year, in an effort to educate hunters, the DNR published an article detailing differences between wolves and coyotes. Those are important distinctions, since hunters could still be fined for shooting a wolf. But those distinctions are only worth noting if officials believe there's a decent chance of another wolf encounter in Illinois, where the last documented wolves were from McDonough County in the 1890s or from the Chicago area around 1900.
Protected by the endangered species act since 1974, wolves have become more common in nearby Great Lakes states. In fact, Department of Interior secretary Gale Norton said last summer she believes the Midwestern gray wolf population - estimated at 3,207 animals in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin - can survive without federal protection.
So another 100-year wait for a wolf in Illinois is unlikely.
Of course some locals will tell you wolves have been around more recently than the turn of the century. Lamkin is only the latest in a long line of readers who claim to have spotted canis lupus or to have relatives who spotted, shot or hunted the toothy predators.
"I'm tired of you saying there haven't been wolves in hundreds of years," Jerry Dodds of Frederick commented after earlier articles on the subject. "Heck, I saw one hanging here in a tree in Frederick when I was a kid. And I'm only 65."
Dodds even sent a picture of his grandfather, Grover Dodds, and his father, Homer Dodds, holding eight apparent wolf cubs they dug out of a den in Schuyler County. A picture of the Dodds and their cubs appeared in the Rushville Times in the early 1940s. That's about the same time the Pekin Times ran an article on a "timber wolf" Alvin Ripper of Pekin shot while fox hunting. Years before those stories, a picture of another supposed "timber wolf" killed by Darrel McMeen of Eden appeared in a 1930 edition of the Peoria Star.
Other claims of wolves killed in the 1920s and 1930s have been phoned in from Hennepin, Hanna City, Trivoli and Lacon. Most callers relay stories about relatives who collected bounties paid for killing a wolf - bounties that were still on the books until 1967.
Yet at the risk of offending people kind enough to share their stories, most of the animals in question were probably coyotes - which though not common back in 1920-50 were present. In those days, any wild, shaggy canine was termed a "wolf" according to Donald Hoffmeister of Champaign, whose book "Mammals of Illinois" suggests wolves disappeared from Illinois as early as 1860.
"When I first came to Illinois in the 1940s, if you caught a coyote you got your picture in the paper and that was big news," Hoffmeister said.
That's no longer the case, of course. Coyotes are now plentiful. Wolves are the big news.
At least they are for Lamkin, 48, who works at Methodist Hospital in Peoria. He first heard howling last summer shortly after sighting "a big, reddish-brown animal" running through a bean field near his rural Edelstein house. He still hears howling some evenings.
"It could be just a big coyote, but I've never heard a coyote howl that long. The howl is totally different," Lamkin said. "It kind of gives you a chill down your back."
Lamkin's wife Brenda isn't completely sold.
"I think he saw a coyote. But he's not one who generally exaggerates," she said. "If he did see one, it would really be something to talk about."
In S. Africa, Animals in Exile
Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, 7 November 2004
STORMSRIVER, South Africa - It is tough being an alpha wolf - the pack leader - as Michael McDonald knows too well. It means deciding when they eat, where they live and, sometimes, which ones have to die.
When he is near, the packs at Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary, near the southern coast, jump up and start circling. They know he's the top wolf, but, he says, "I irritate them. I have to take all the harsh decisions. I am always the enemy."
In the apartheid era, scientists at Roodeplaat Breeding Enterprises imported the animals from North America in an attempt to create an attack dog that would have a wolf's stamina and sense of smell to track down insurgents in the harsh border regions. The secretive experiment failed because the wolf hybrids were stubborn and hard to train.
Today, these orphans of apartheid face a troubled future in a land where they will never be at home.
In crime-ridden South Africa, many people believe that no dog is a better deterrent than a hybrid or pure wolf. There's a cachet in owning one, and a brisk trade in wolf dogs advertised in newspapers and on the Internet.
"A lot of people are trying to get rich on these animals," said Colleen O'Carroll, the founder and director of the wolf sanctuary, who disputes breeders' claims that wolves and hybrids make good family pets. She said people were using an endangered species "to create something even more misunderstood than the original."
Owners who buy pure wolves seeking savage guard dogs are often surprised to find that they make terrible watchdogs.
"You have a supposedly ferocious wolf. But when a burglar comes, do you think it will attack? It will hide behind you, because you are the alpha in the pack. If someone rings the doorbell, they go and hide," O'Carroll said.
Breeders of wolf dogs, as the hybrids are known, publish glowing testimonials from happy clients.
But the wolf sanctuary gets hundreds of calls from wolf or wolf hybrid owners complaining about the odd behaviors of their pets: reducing the yard to a moonscape of holes, digging cavernous dens under the garage, chewing things to pieces, climbing fences, and howling to the moon.
One man shot his wolf dog after it ate his chickens. A woman telephoned in tears after her wolf hybrid ate her most valuable thoroughbred foal.
"You can't impose your will on it, because it's half wild animal. You can't expect it to act like a dog," O'Carroll said. "People buy them as a status symbol. It's like saying, 'I've got a Bengal tiger.' It's like a man buying a Porsche as opposed to a VW."
Not family pets
O'Carroll and wolf experts in the United States, such as the Wolf Park in Battlefield, Ind., warn that wolf dogs should not be seen as family pets, and even those socialized to humans can attack children, especially if a child falls and cries. O'Carroll's motive, apart from rescuing the wolves, is to educate the public about wolves and hybrids.
It's not clear how many wolves remain in South Africa, or how the original wolves survived after the projects were abandoned. But the Tsitsikamma sanctuary cares for 35 wolves, has 23 on its waiting list - and is expecting soon to take in a new litter of pure wolf pups from someone connected with one of the original breeding programs. The sanctuary estimates that there are 200 pure wolves in South Africa and tens of thousands of hybrids.
O'Carroll opened the sanctuary in 2000 after tracing wolves left over from various state breeding projects. It accepts only pure wolves.
"I get asked every day, 'Why don't you just put the things down? They don't belong here,' " said O'Carroll, a sentimentalist with a core of steel.
She is the patron of a lost cause. Ask her or McDonald about the future of the wolves at Tsitsikamma, and both look sadly into the distance.
"No future," they murmur.
"It's a very sad story," O'Carroll said. "There's nothing we can do with them. We can't send them back to North America. They're animals in exile."
Rescuing the wolves is an undertaking ruinous to one's bank balance: Conservation organizations and sponsors are not interested in helping to save animals in places where they don't belong, so the sanctuary survives on private donations.
O'Carroll emptied her bank account and sold off four apartments to keep the sanctuary going. It was built by hand: They couldn't afford power tools.
"I have to have a screw loose somewhere," she said. "But I have a passion for them."
But she forgets the financial stress when she sits near her favorite enclosures in the evenings, watching her beloved wolves playing, swimming and racing around. And at night, when the wolves howl, raising their eerie, beautiful music to the stars, nothing else matters.
State Group Tackles Thorny Issue of Wolf Management
Marilyn Gleason, The Aspen Times, 27 September 2004
A panel of Colorado residents is trying to reconcile 19th century fears with a 21st century fascination with wild predators.
In the fourth meeting of the Gray Wolf Working Group, members said they were unlikely to meet an October deadline for a draft plan to manage wolves in the state....
Barely a month after the group was assembled last spring, the discovery of a dead gray wolf on the side of Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs lent a new urgency to its mission. The wolf, which wore a collar and had migrated from Yellowstone, was the first to roam the state since at least 1945. Love them or hate them, wolves are an emotional issue.
"It's a very tough process, a very volatile issue," said Bonnie Kline, executive director of the Colorado Wool Growers Association and a member of the group. "We have an excellent group of people, but it's a tough deal."
The panel is comprised of four wildlife advocates and four livestock producers, as well as two representatives each for the viewpoints of sportsmen, local government and wildlife biologists.
Representatives from eight federal and state agencies involved in public land and wildlife management, as well as the Colorado Office of Economic Development, advise the panel.
The 14 members of the Gray Wolf Working Group must overcome their differences to fashion a management plan to be implemented by the Colorado Department of Wildlife after a 60-day public comment period.
Kline is fighting for Western Slope sheep, which are most vulnerable to wolves. Wolf advocate Rob Edward of the Boulder-based organization Sinapu acknowledged that "sheep don't seem to have that innate ability to defend themselves. It's been bred out of them."
But what sheep lack in instinct, they make up for in political clout. The Colorado Wool Growers Association, founded in 1926, about a decade before wolves disappeared from the state, exists as a legal issues management organization for the state, lobbying at the state and federal level.
What wolves lack in political clout, they make up for in popularity. Two polls in the past decade have shown that high percentages of Coloradans want wolves restored.
Coloradans and residents of Arizona and New Mexico supported wolf reintroduction and restoration by margins upward of 2-to-1 in surveys conducted in 1994 and 2001. Enthusiasm for wolves was slightly lower on the Western Slope than east of the divide in 1994, but still high at between 58 percent and 65 percent; enthusiasm was lowest among livestock producers.
The division of wildlife created the Gray Wolf Working Group in May with the stated goal of having a draft management plan, after five or six meetings, by the end of October. Gary Skiba of the DOW is the wildlife biologist adviser to the panel.
"Right now we don't have any legal authority to manage wolves in Colorado," he said - even if the state had any wolves.
....[A]lthough reintroduction is unlikely in Colorado, few doubt that the wolves will get here on their own soon enough, as lone individuals migrate from Wyoming to the north and New Mexico and Arizona to the south.
Endangered wolves were reintroduced in five western states beginning about a decade ago. Although Colorado is part of the gray wolf's historic range, it was not required to have wolves under the Endangered Species Act.
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service revisited the animal's legal status. Observing that populations to the north are establishing well, the agency drew a boundary between wolf populations in order to speed the gray wolf's removal from the list of endangered species, a boundary which splits the state of Colorado.
Reintroduced wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are now considered threatened, while the southern, or Mexican, wolves in Arizona and New Mexico remain under the more highly protected endangered designation.
In Colorado, the most endangered wolf of all was the lone female who wandered 500 miles and died on Interstate 70, which is the artificial boundary between southern and northern wolf populations.
The boundary is controversial on both sides. Kline would like to see all the wolves delisted, and chafes at the idea that a wolf who made it safely across the interstate would attain additional protection.
"We're not sure there's any evidence that we ever had Mexican wolves," she said.
Sinapu's Edward calls the action "unprecedented" and faults the Fish and Wildlife Service for falling short of its duty to effect species recovery throughout its former range. The wolf now occupies only 5 percent its historic range, according to Edward. He sees the wolf delisting as part of a "pattern developing after 15 years of cantankerous opposition to the Endangered Species Act by industry - mining, logging, grazing and private property rights groups.
"Because wolves are such a political hot potato, and because the livestock industry is very powerful in the West, wolves are being treated differently," he said.
At the group's July meeting, Edward exhibited some of the restless intensity of a predator while Kline showed none of the meek vulnerability of a feedlot lamb. Both organizations hold a hard line on their issues.
....So far, tangible achievements are negligible. The panel agreed to recommend relaxing a stringent Colorado law protecting wolves to come into line with the federal standard. Now a rancher north of I-70 can kill a wolf caught in the act of preying on livestock.
And, although Colorado is not required to manage for wolf survival, Skiba said the group has said it will allow some wolves to live here.
....Meanwhile, a lawsuit has taken pressure off the group to stick to the timeline.
Because wolves in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have met recovery goals, they were expected to be off the list of endangered and threatened species by the end of the year. But Wyoming's plan to sustain the wolves was deemed unacceptable.
Edward explained that under Wyoming's definitions, "It was open season on wolves anywhere outside of Yellowstone."
Now Wyoming is suing the federal agency for rejecting the plan, delaying the wolf's delisting in nine Western states and easing pressure on the state DOW to have a plan in place.
....Skiba said the group must determine how to prevent and compensate livestock depredation; how to compensate ranchers; and how many wolves should reside in the state, possibly by setting maximum or minimum figures.
Skiba said the question of whether the plan can be drafted by the end of October will be a "major point of discussion" at the meeting this week in Glenwood Springs.
Draft Management Plan Would Allow Ranchers to Kill Wolves
Jeff Barnard, Associated Press, 8 September 2004
GRANTS PASS, Ore. - A task force creating a plan to manage gray wolves that stray into Oregon is recommending that the predators be allowed to establish in the state, but that ranchers be allowed to shoot them on sight if they attack livestock on private land.
After more than a year of sometimes contentious meetings, the panel is to present its first draft to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at a special meeting Thursday in Salem. The commission is to consider preliminary approval Oct. 15 in Bend, and final approval in January after a series of public hearings.
"It was tough at times," finding agreement among the 14 members of the task force, representing everyone from conservation groups to ranchers, said Mark Henjum, state wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Sharon Beck, an Eastern Oregon rancher and former president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, had gone into the task force vowing not to allow wolves to return to Oregon, where they were extirpated more than 50 years ago, but settled for filing a minority report that calls for establishing no-wolf zones and paying ranchers full compensation for wolf damages, not just what can be confirmed by carcasses. "The wolf is going to be the winner," Beck said.
Amaroq Weiss, western director of species conservation for Defenders of Wildlife, who represents wolf conservation groups, said overall the plan was a good one, offering a range of means for protecting livestock from non-lethal to lethal means, compensation to ranchers for confirmed kills and recognition that the wolf can be re-established in both Eastern and Western Oregon.
"Once wolves are on the ground, people living with them will find there is not the level of conflict they were anticipating," Weiss said. "The wolves are going to find suitable habitat and for the most part stay out of trouble."
The plan emphasizes escalating harassment of wolves to protect livestock without resorting to killing, Henjum said.
It also recommends Oregon adopt the federal standard that allows ranchers to shoot wolves they see attacking livestock on private land and to obtain a permit to do the same on public lands where they hold grazing permits.
That would require the Legislature to change existing law. Permits to allow ranchers to harass wolves short of killing them would also require legislative action.
"Theoretically, if the first wolf that came into Oregon got into trouble and killed livestock, we could at that point remove that animal," by killing it, said Henjum. "We will not be moving wolves that kill livestock to other areas."
Weiss said the prospects of a rancher witnessing a wolf attack are so slim, that she was able to agree to that provision.
The draft calls for dividing Oregon into two independent wolf zones: Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon.
The dividing line is U.S. Highway 97 from the Columbia River south to La Pine, then Oregon Highway 31 from La Pine to Lakeview on the California border.
Each zone has an initial goal of establishing four breeding pairs of wolves, said Henjum.
Once four pairs produce two young each annually for three years in the eastern zone, the commission can consider taking wolves off the state endangered species list.
Then the plan moves into a second phase with the management goal of establishing seven breeding pairs in each zone.
Once that level is met, the plan moves into a third phase, where populations could be controlled through public hunting and trapping as well as by wildlife managers.
While Oregon has enough habitat by some estimates to support as many as 2,200 wolves, the plan names no specific population ceiling, Weiss said.
If no wolves are moving into the western zone, the commission can decide through a public process to move wolves into suitable habitat, such as the Modoc Plateau outside Klamath Falls or the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains in southwestern Oregon, Weiss said.
Though there are regular sightings, there are no confirmed wolves in Oregon right now, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Three wolves from a population introduced in Idaho have strayed into the state, and more are expected in the future. Two were killed and the third was returned to Idaho.
Since the wolf was downgraded to a federally threatened species last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to states to manage their local populations. The wolf remains an endangered species under Oregon law.
Wolf Comeback Triggers Call for Control
Peter Rebhahn, Green Bay Press-Gazette, 8 September 2004
Bear hunter and dog lover Dick Baudhuin doesn’t mind if wolves share the Marinette County woods where he trains his hounds.
But count Baudhuin among the number who believe it’s time to begin managing wolf numbers by means once unthinkable.
“The only management tool we have for wolves is hunting and trapping,” Baudhuin said. “The responsibility should be in the hands of the individual states.”
Today, shooting or trapping a wolf is a crime, because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists wolves in the Midwest as a threatened species.
Fish and Wildlife lowered the wolf’s status in Wisconsin from endangered to threatened in 2003 and last July announced the start of a process to remove wolves from the threatened list.
That change would allow states to manage wolf populations.
“Whether we have a public harvest or use government trappers, I think at this point the state probably would be the best place for wolves to be managed,” said Adrian Wydeven, mammalian ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources and the state’s top expert on wolves.
Baudhuin, who sits on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, has never had a run-in with a wolf while training his hunting dogs.
But friends of his have, including one who lost two dogs in wolf attacks in the Chequamegon National Forest in Ashland County in August that killed a total of seven dogs.
The state reimburses owners up to $2,500 for hunting dogs killed by wolves — not enough to replace a quality dog, said Baudhuin, who currently has 16 hounds and a litter of seven puppies.
“My opinion is he’ll have to start at $5,000 and go up to find what he’s looking for,” Baudhuin said of his Ashland County friend.
Wisconsin’s draft management plan calls for government trappers to control the wolf population once the species’ threatened status is removed and numbers reach 350 animals outside Native American reservations.
Early this year, the DNR counted 373 to 410 wolves living in 108 distinct packs in Wisconsin, and Wydeven said at least 361 animals are known to be living outside reservations.
Baudhuin thinks the state’s estimate of wolf numbers is low. But everyone agrees that wolves are showing up in some unlikely places.
“It does appear they’re expanding their range,” said Tom Hansen, Green Bay-based warden supervisor for the DNR’s Northeast Region.
Hansen said last May a wolf — an immature male — was run over near the village of Denmark in Brown County.
The Denmark wolf was only the latest to stray from the northern forests that are the wolf’s habitat.
Two wolves have shown up in populated areas in Outagamie County in recent months, and a couple of wolves have been shot in Door County in recent years, Hansen said.
Unverified sightings of wolves near Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon and near Manitowoc in recent years may well be true, too, he said.
“It’s animals dispersing out of northern Wisconsin and the U.P., and they’re trying to find a new home and running into some awkward areas,” Wydeven said.
The state’s draft management plan doesn’t specifically call for a hunting and trapping season but leaves the door open to those activities providing they receive the blessing of the State Legislature.
Wydeven called a public harvest — hunting and trapping — a “suitable tool” for managing the state’s growing wolf population.
“But we want to have a thorough public process to get to that point,” he said.
The state’s draft management plan would let landowners apply for a permit to shoot “nuisance” wolves.
Landowners wouldn’t need a permit to shoot wolves caught attacking pets or livestock.
The lethal-force provision in the state’s draft management plan may someday become useful to Baudhuin, whose hounds run in the Athelstane area of Marinette County.
“It’s just a matter of time before they squeeze into that area because they’re expanding,” Baudhuin said.
Aerial Predator Control May Take Up To 500 Wolves
Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, 7 September 2004
Private pilots could kill more than 400 wolves this winter -- twice to three times as many as last winter -- as the state undertakes its second year of aerial predator control in a wide swath of the Interior.
While it's still illegal for sport hunters or commercial trappers to shoot wolves from the air or after landing nearby, dozens of pilots will be authorized to kill the animals through a state-sanctioned predator-control program. State game managers say removing most of the wolves for five years in six popular hunting areas will allow moose and caribou herds to rebuild.
Biologists won't know the exact number of animals to be targeted until surveys are conducted this fall. But between the four areas where aerial or land-and-shoot wolf control resumed last year and two new areas approved in March, the total should reach 350 wolves and could top 500, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Alaska has an estimated 8,000 to 11,000 wolves, the state says. Unlike those in the Lower 48, Alaska wolves have never been classified as threatened or endangered. Trappers and sport hunters using traditional, land-based methods kill 1,500 to 2,000 a year.
Though this will be the second year of the controversial predator-control program, it isn't any easier for opponents to accept, said Karen Deatherage, Anchorage spokeswoman for the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. It's poor public policy based on bad science, she said, to use aerial wolf control "as a routine management tool to artificially inflate moose populations for hunters."
Government wolf extermination in Alaska dates back to 1915, when the territorial government started a bounty program. By 1948, federal agents were killing wolves across the state with poison and traps and by shooting from airplanes.
The widespread federal programs were pared after Alaska became a state in 1959, but private trappers and hunters using airplanes helped dampen wolf numbers for many years. Fish and Game also killed wolves in specific areas to enhance moose or caribou stocks.
But changing laws and growing public opposition to predator control gradually reduced that pressure, and now wolf populations are thought to be the highest in decades, Fish and Game spokesman Bruce Bartley said. Biologists believe wolves are at least partly responsible for depressing moose and caribou stocks in many areas.
Research shows that habitat degradation, hunting and predation by black and brown bears can also contribute to the lower numbers. But public support for wolf control has remained strong in many areas of Alaska, and last year Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Alaska Legislature paved the way for airborne wolf control to resume.
Revised policies and laws have made it easier for the Alaska Board of Game to approve predator control projects and to allow private pilots to do the shooting. The pilots' only compensation is the pelts, which they must recover.
Last winter, the first new program in years began in a portion of hunting unit 19D East, around McGrath, and in units 13A, B and E in the Nelchina basin northeast of Anchorage. A total of 144 wolves were killed, Bartley said.
Both programs will continue. In the Nelchina basin, where pilots are required to land before shooting, the goal is to reduce the wolf population by about 80 percent for five years. Last year's goal was 140 wolves, of which pilots took 127.
Because the animals reproduce quickly, this year's goal could be the same as last year's, Bartley said.
Biologists believe the reduction will help moose and caribou rebuild throughout unit 13. Opponents have said the decline has been overstated and that the state's rebuilding goals are unnaturally high.
Around the Kuskokwim River community of McGrath, the state aims to eliminate as many as possible of the 35 to 45 wolves in a 3,600-square-mile area, which biologists hope will boost the moose population enough to increase the subsistence harvest for area residents.
Three pilot-gunner teams shooting from the air killed 17 wolves last winter, while trappers in the area took another 11. Surveys should determine how many wolves have remained in the area or have moved in to replace those killed, Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said.
The Game Board approved two more programs last March. The state hopes to eliminate at least 100 wolves in unit 16B, west of Anchorage, where the moose population has fallen by 50 percent in the past 10 years, biologist Gino Del Frate said.
Farther west, in the middle Kuskokwim River area around Aniak, the board approved a plan to kill as many as 190 wolves to improve moose numbers in unit 19A.
Pilots and gunners interested in participating can pick up applications at any Fish and Game office. Permits will be issued based on pilots' familiarity with the area, their flying experience and their history of wildlife violations in the past five years.
Control programs will begin when snow cover is adequate and in some cases after moose surveys have been completed, but no later than Dec. 1.
The Game Board will consider two additional areas for predator control when it meets in November in Juneau. Wolf and bear control has been proposed for units 12 and 20E, which stretch along the Canada border from Tok to Eagle.
Opponents of wolf control say they're not giving up their efforts to derail the programs. The Darien, Conn.-based group Friends of Animals, whose attempt to boycott Alaska tourism didn't significantly reduce visitor numbers this summer, is pressing a legal challenge, president Priscilla Feral said. The group believes the state has failed to justify its programs.
"We think it's illegal, and we'll continue to oppose it at every level, in every forum and at every opportunity," she said.
In the Anchorage office of Defenders of Wildlife, Deatherage agreed that the state hasn't made an adequate case for wolf control. By extension, she said, the federal government was wrong in giving the state a permit for aerial predator control.
"Defenders is always open to predator control in cases of biological emergencies or to protect endangered species," she said, "but not to artificially inflate ungulate populations, especially when lots of scientists say it doesn't work.
"If it were happening in a fish tank, that might work," Deatherage continued. "But we're talking about many other factors (that affect moose survival), including weather, hunter success and other predators. To think we're going to have these five-year programs and have some semblance of success is pretty far-fetched."
The Department of Fish and Game isn't tracking public sentiment on the issue, it's just doing its job, deputy director of wildlife conservation Kim Titus said.
"We're responding to our legislative and Board of Game mandates to conduct these programs and try to enhance moose populations," he said.
State Widens Wolf Control Program
Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 29 August 2004
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will expand its aerial war on wolves in moose-depressed areas this winter.
Not only will hunters in airplanes be zeroing in on wolves in the Nelchina Basin and McGrath, as they did last year, but they will also be targeting wolves west of Cook Inlet near Anchorage and in the central Kuskokwim River region near Aniak.
Aerial control programs in the latter two areas were approved by the Alaska Board of Game in March after residents who live in the areas pleaded with the game board for help dealing with predators.
The state is aiming to kill upwards of 500 wolves this winter in the four regions, all of which are reported to have declining moose populations due to predation by wolves, according to both the state wildlife biologists who manage the areas and hunters who use them.
The state began accepting applications from prospective pilot/gunner teams this week and will continue doing so until Oct. 15, when a list of permit winners in each area will be released.
Last year, the state issued 33 permits for Unit 13 and five for the McGrath area.
Hunters killed a total of 144 wolves last year--127 in the Nelchina Basin and 17 in the McGrath area--the first time since 1994 that state has employed a lethal wolf-control program. Then-Gov. Tony Knowles, who is running for the U.S. Senate, called a halt to the state's predator control program shortly after taking office for the first of two gubernatorial terms. Knowles refused to approve any lethal wolf control programs during his eight-year tenure.
His replacement, Gov. Frank Murkowski, has taken a more aggressive stance against the 8,000 to 11,000 wolves that biologists estimate are in Alaska, of which about 1,500 a year are killed by hunters and trappers. Murkowski overhauled the Alaska Board of Game shortly after his election two years ago and the new board almost immediately approved wolf-control programs for the McGrath area and Nelchina Basin by allowing private pilots to hunt wolves.
"The governor is committed to this course of action," said spokeswoman Becky Hultberg. "He thinks it's in the best interests to the people of area and he thinks the people should have some role in the game management where they live."
Last year's wolf control program produced protests from animal-rights groups in Alaska and the Lower 48. Connecticut-based Friends of Animals organized a nationwide tourism boycott of Alaska while Defenders of Wildlife placed advertisements in newspapers in Alaska and the Lower 48 lambasting Alaska's wolf control efforts.
"I'm not sure what the public reaction will be to this further expansion of (wolf control)," said Kim Titus, deputy commissioner for the state wildlife division.
The threat of tourism boycotts and backlash from animals-rights groups opposed to the killing of wolves in Alaska doesn't concern the governor, said Hultberg.
"He's concerned about what Alaskans think," she said.
The Department of Fish and Game is doing everything it can to comply with governor's campaign against predators, said Titus.
"Certainly the department is interested in not only those areas but in other areas of the state where there are depressed moose populations," he said. "The issue for the department is that as these additional places in the state come up for consideration, we are less able to bring the extensive survey and research data to the table that we have in places like Unit 13 and McGrath, where we have been studying the moose and wolves for 10 and 20 years."
The game board is set to consider another predator control program for the Tok area this fall, Titus noted.
The state is aiming to kill about 150 wolves in both Unit 13 and Unit 19A while the harvest objective in Unit 16B will be around 100 and the goal in McGrath is 40, the same as last year.
Hunters will be allowed to land and shoot or shoot from airplanes in Unit 19D East near McGrath and Unit 19A near Aniak while hunters in Unit 13 in the Nelchina Basin and Unit 16B will be allowed only to land and shoot.
The moose population in Unit 16B, which runs from the southern edge of Denali National Park and Preserve to the northern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, has declined by at least 50 percent in the last decade, said state wildlife biologist Gino Del Frate in Palmer. The area is easily accessible by plane or riverboat from the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley,
"There's quite a bit of public concern in seeing something happen over there," said Del Frate.
Based on anecdotal information from pilots and trappers, as well as harvest by trappers and hunters, state biologists believe there are upwards of 200 wolves in Unit 16B, said Del Frate. According to research from other areas in the state, a wolf population can sustain a 35 percent harvest rate and still remain stable, he said.
"We'd probably need at least a 50 percent reduction," he said.
In Unit 19A on the central Kuskokwim River, biologists estimate there are between 180-240 wolves roaming the 10,000-square-mile area. While biologists don't have a good idea what the moose population is in the area, they know the harvest has dropped significantly, said Roy Nowlin, management coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Conservation in Fairbanks.
The first permits will be issued after Oct. 15 and the state is hoping to have hunters in the air by Dec. 1 after biologists complete their fall moose surveys. That's assuming there is adequate snow cover, something that didn't happen last year until late January and early February.
Permits are issued based on a pilot's familiarity and flying time in an area, as well as previous experience hunting wolves. Hunters who received permits last year must apply for a new permit this year.
While it's too early to tell if last year's control programs had an effect on the wolf or moose populations, there are signs that things are beginning to rebound in Unit 13, said biologist Bob Tobey at Fish and Game in Glennallen.
This year's calf crop was "outstanding," he said. The percentage of cows having twins over a large portion of Unit 13 was more than 30 percent, "which is really good," said Tobey.
"We're waiting to see what occurs in the fall moose counts," he said.
The four wolf control programs approved by the game board will run for at least five years.
"The history of these things is that it takes typically five years before you see any kind of result," said Bruce Bartley with the ADF&G in Anchorage. "It doesn't do any good to do it one year and walk away from it. You might as well not have even started it."
Incident Leaves Couple Worried
Ralph Ansami, Ironwood (MI) Daily Globe, 25 August 2004
MATCHWOOD -- After their dog was killed and eaten by a wolf in a brazen attack under their front porch, John and Sandra Smith are worried about family members.
The Matchwood couple Tuesday discussed the Aug. 14 attack on the family pet that occurred at their trailer home and added fuel to the anti-wolf fire that has been growing in the Ontonagon area.
"I don't trust wolves," Smith said. "We have a grandson, 11, who lives down the road and walks to the school bus in the dark in the morning."
"We're afraid for him," his wife said.
They said they've seen many other wolves in the Matchwood-Topaz area, although there have been no reports of wolves attacking people anywhere in the Upper Peninsula.
After an autopsy in Crystal Falls, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Douglas Wagner confirmed the wolf not only ate the family's dog, Chewy, a German Shepherd-beagle mix, but also had the contents of a calf in its stomach.
The Smiths' daughter, Lorie Fooce, peeked under the porch to look for Chewy that fateful Sunday and was greeted by a snarling wolf. "She saw the wolf lying on the dog," Sandra Smith said.
Smith said a neighbor who farms, John Koski, who was profiled a few years ago in a Daily Globe story, continues to have problems with wolves. It may have been one of Koski's calves that had been eaten.
Smith said the gray wolf, which was wearing a radio collar, appeared to be suffering from mange.
The whole experience has angered Smith to the extent that he'd like to set up a meeting with the DNR and victims of the wolf situation. He cites an incident in the Lake Gogebic area where a young girl found what remained of a pet dog -- just the animal's head.
The Smiths are not pleased at law enforcement's response time.
"We called the (Ontonagon County) sheriff's department at 9 a.m., but nobody showed up. At about 11, they told us the area game warden was at the Gogebic County Fair. The DNR biologist showed up at about 12:30 p.m. with a stick," Smith said. "He told us, 'Maybe it will run away and leave its kill.'"
The wolf, which was wearing a tracking collar, was finally tranquilized around 3:30 p.m. and was later euthanized.
A state police officer eventually showed up, but no deputy arrived, Smith said.
Although it's tough to put a price on a family pet, the Smiths are upset they won't be reimbursed for Chewy and the fact that the skirting around the trailer was torn off and hasn't been replaced.
"You can't put a price on the loss of a pet," Sandra Smith said, although she believes there should be some sort of compensation.
"The state won't reimburse us, but they're there to defend the wolves," said Smith, who believes the gray wolf population in the U.P. is vastly underestimated at around 350. "They want tourists to come see our beautiful wolves but don't think about the rest of us," he said. He added he's contacted State Rep. Rich Brown, D-Bessemer, about the incident.
Sandra Smith said the incident could have been much worse because Chewy knew how to open the door to the house with his paws and the wolf could have chased the dog into the home.
Smith said he has the tragedy recorded on a video camera. He had his grandson operate the camera, although the boy started crying when his grandfather told him to focus it on the partially-eaten family pet. "He couldn't do it," he said.
The couple still has Chihuahuas. "I won't let them out of the house much now," Sandra Smith said.
A Marquette television station requested the video, but Smith declined to send it there.
Wagner was off from work Tuesday. Co-workers said he won't return to the office until Friday. A fellow DNR wildlife biologist at Crystal Falls, Monica Joseph, said the MDNR doesn't reimburse pet owners for losses, but it does compensate people who lose livestock.
Wisconsin pays up to $2,500 for dogs killed by wolves. It also pays for losses of other animals.
Joseph, who saw the wolf, said although it was an adult, it wasn't unusually large. Regarding the damaged skirting, she said the DNR doesn't usually pay property damage claims regarding wildlife damage. She said she wasn't at the scene and doesn't know exactly what happened.
The attack so close to an inhabited house was unusual, Joseph acknowledged.
Smith believes other similar wolf incidents may occur. "They're all around us," he said.
Wolves Might Be Classified As Game Mammals
Beth Casper, Salem (OR) Statesman Journal, 21 August 2004
“Predator” or “endangered species” won’t do.
Wolves are called “special-status mammals” in a draft plan proposed by a wolf advisory committee.
It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the new classification was an attempt to address the wide variety of concerns among committee members, who represent everyone from livestock owners and hunters to wolf advocates and wildlife biologists.
It worked for the majority of the group — 10 of the 14 members said they “could live with the plan.”
But four of the 14 members balked Friday at signing off on the report.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will receive a plan by the end of the month detailing a proposal for wolf management in Oregon. However, the minority opinions of the four dissenters could be included in that plan.
That opposition meant that some of the other 10 members felt cheated.
“I did make some movement to accommodate the concerns of other people, and I did that with the expectation that this is a public process … and it would be reciprocated on the key issues that I faced,” said Brett Brownscombe, a forest and grassland conservation representative on the committee.
The “special-status mammal” was particularly controversial.
It allows the wolf to be considered a “game mammal,” just like deer, black bear and elk, with exceptions about hunting.
Trapping and hunting of wolves would be allowed only if the unusually high populations of canines were regularly killing livestock in a particular region or deer and elk populations were declining significantly because of wolves.
John Thiebes, who represented the Oregon Hunters Association at Thursday and Friday’s meeting, said he needed to go back to his association’s board members to see if they could support the plan at all.
“I was unaware that there was enough objection to (vote down the plan)” said Clint Krebs, who represents rural Oregon citizens, to Thiebes. “I hope (your board members) are told that you are making a lot of people pretty mad.”
Sharon Beck, who represents livestock owners, said the report’s compensation plan for livestock killed by wolves is not acceptable.
“It’s nowhere near the compensation we want,” she said. “It’s not going to pay the bills.”
But state officials recognize that a plan needs to be made.
There are no known wolves in Oregon right now, but wildlife biologists predict their arrival and eventual establishment because of the number of wolves in southern Idaho.
Craig Ely of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said he had hoped for consensus on the report but knew that it was possible not everyone would agree.
“Nobody at the table got everything that they wanted,” he said. “Everyone had to compromise.”
The process took 11 months.
The draft plan will be presented for approval to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in September. Public comments will be taken until the end of November. If it is approved, some changes, such as the special status, will need to be made by the Legislature.
“We think the components of this plan will serve the conservation interests of wolves as well as the social and economic interests of people in the state,” said Amaroq Weiss, who represented wolf advocates on the committee. “It is a tough job to balance the perspective that the wolf has a unique and controversial relationship with human beings — and a special one at that — against the concept that all wildlife species are important and a critical part of ecosystem dynamics.”
The wolf plan includes:
A goal of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years before the wolf can come off the endangered species list.
Different management plans depending on the numbers of wolves in the state.
Splitting the state into East and West regions with different management based on the numbers of wolves in those regions — after the wolf population meets the minimum four breeding pairs.
A compensation program that pays market value for livestock and a maximum of $2,500 for working or sporting dogs killed by wolves.
A translocation program that helps spread wolves into Western Oregon from the eastern half of the state.
The use of trapping and hunting in specific situations as a management tool to protect livestock and elk and deer populations.
Are Canine Poisonings Acts of Terror?
Todd Wilkinson, The Billings Outpost, 17 August 2004
After motoring 2,000 miles across the interior West, posting leaflets at popular backcountry trailheads along the way to warn pet owners to keep their dogs on leashes, Brooks Fahy has been thinking a lot about unthinkable subjects.
“We live in a new era of the unthinkable,” the conservationist founder of Predator Defense Institute says. “The truth of the matter is that if WE’RE talking and thinking about it ourselves, then the thought has already crossed the minds of the people responsible for putting this poison out there.”
To date, dozens of poisoning incidents involving dogs and wolves have been documented in Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Wyoming counties south of Teton, and over in Idaho.
A lot of heartbreak has beset victimized pet owners; low-level outrage and fear has grown among the public; notable silence is emanating from the once-vocal wolf haters; and there is nothing to report, so far as investigative progress, from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies reportedly involved in identifying possible suspects.
Fahy isn’t convinced that enough is being done, not only in trying to nab the perpetrators but in sending the message that this kind of behavior is unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated.
If left emboldened, Fahy wonders: What if the individual, or more likely, the persons responsible for poisonings in the northern Rockies decide to take their vigilantism one step further? What if the perpetrators decide to turn their apparent loathing for wolves and their probable anti-government behavior into a larger political statement that would really get the nation’s attention?
What if ... and Fahy raises the possibility with repulsion in his voice ... a few outlaws, who see themselves as folk heroes, decide to pay a visit to Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, secretly disperse poison baits laced with Temik or Compound 1080, and then sit back and wait for the killing to unfold?
One of America’s greatest wildlife conservation success stories – a story that took decades to write and now is touted around the world – could be erased at the very place where it all began in the 1990s.
The point of this disturbing exercise, Fahy says, is to illustrate what he believes is a double standard within the Bush administration and, more generally across the country, for what constitutes domestic terrorism and what does not.
In the civilized world, threats of ricin and anthrax are acted upon aggressively by the Department of Homeland Security and its related spooks in the intelligence community.
Yet to Fahy and others it seems that legitimate concerns over a host of other ultra-lethal poisons – agents, it should be noted, that are easily attainable and prolific – are approached with almost casual indifference. Fahy is fighting to get 1080 permanently banned in the United States.
He doesn’t see it as that big of a leap to think that the kind of people today putting Temik into hotdogs and leaving them in Jackson for dogs to eat might not turn their warped logic towards humans they don’t like next in the future.
He believes that the poisoning incidents in Wyoming and Idaho are all part of the same bailiwick that could, and should, be described as domestic terrorism.
The truth is that parts of the rural West still cling to a cultural acceptance of killing wildlife using poison to eradicate animals that are not deemed acceptable to agriculture.
It’s an attitude that has not kept pace with the modern world, and condemnation must begin with our political leaders.
Why aren’t the governors of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana standing together on a soapbox decrying the outlaws who are indiscriminately putting out poison to kill wolves?
Government investigators, at least publicly, have demonstrated no direct connection between the Idaho resident who posted a playbook on how to deploy Temik to kill wolves on a website, and recent cases of dead or sickened canines.
But the action, in this post 9/11 age, should cause society to at least question that expression of free speech.
Over $20,000 has been offered as a reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible, a demonstration that citizens are ahead of politicians in refusing to condone such vigilantism.