Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2001
Survey Shows Support for Reintroduction of Wolves to the West
Tom Ragan, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 16 May 2001
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. _ Fired up over a recent survey that showed the public in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado strongly favor reintroducing wolves to the West, a dozen conservationists are planning to educate the public about wolves _ mostly doing away with the myth that the animals somehow pose a danger to people.
The target area of reintroduction is primarily the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico to Wyoming, where more than 60 percent of the land is owned publicly, either by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service.
"The Rocky Mountains are the last best place," said Rob Edward, program director for carnivore restoration for Sinapu, a Boulder, Colo.-based organization whose name means "Wolves" in Ute language.
But first, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must sign off on the program and produce an environmental impact statement. Ideally, reintroduction advocates said, as many as 15 wolves a year would be released onto Western Slope lands during the next five years.
Colorado, they said, is a perfect place because its Western Slope is filled with more than enough elk and deer to sustain a wolf population.
There are tens of thousands of deer and elk on the Western Slope, officials said, and the idea that the white-tailed deer population would suffer dramatically as a result is a misconception.
"Let's face it: For the last 50 years, they've been living without their primary predator, which is the wolf," said Mike Philips, chairman of the steering committee for the Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Program.
"We believe the area is ripe for reintroduction," he added. "It's time to bring balance and restoration."
Wolf reintroduction, however, is not new.
For the past two decades, Mexican gray wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf, have been reintroduced to southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Gray wolves now populate Yellowstone National Park, Montana and central Idaho.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the site where the conservationists met Tuesday to discuss strategy, and dozens of other zoos across the Southwest are key to that reintroduction program.
The zoo has a pair of Mexican gray wolves that are successful at breeding, said Della Garell, the zoo's director of conservation and health.
Still, the reintroduction effort has been an uphill battle because many wolves have a hard time surviving in the wild.
In fact, as it is, the only areas where the wolf population is growing strong is in the Great Lakes region, in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to Walter Medwid, executive director of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center.
In all, there are believed to be 3,700 wolves in the lower 48 states. It's a far cry from the thousands of wolves that once roamed the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s before they were virtually killed off by the late 1950s _ either by farmers protecting their livestock or by overzealous hunters, Philips said.
The result is that the wolves wound up on the federal endangered species list in the early 1970s and haven't been taken off it since, Philips said.
A recent survey, conducted by an independent research firm in Washington D.C., showed that 66 percent of the population in the states of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado were in favor of reintroducing wolves to the West.
In all, 1,300 people were polled. Of those, 66 percent were in favor of a reintroduction program
"It's time to bust the myth that wolves are a threat to humans," said Sean Anglum, a spokesman for the zoo. "And this summit was a start."
Wolf Release Program Would Suffer If State Pulls Back, Supporters Say
Mitch Tobin, Arizona Daily Star, 11 May 2001
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission will discuss Mexican wolf reintroduction at its meeting in Safford on Saturday. The meeting will take place after the commissioners tour Mount Graham, probably about 1:30 p.m. It will be held at Manor House Conference Center, 415 E. Highway 70.
Environmentalists are howling that Arizona officials may weaken the state's support for the controversial Mexican wolf reintroduction program on Saturday.
But several Game and Fish commissioners say the activists are crying wolf.
Although release of the captive-bred wolves in eastern Arizona is primarily a federal project, Arizona's Game and Fish Department has played a pivotal role. The state contributes three full-time employees and conducts aerial monitoring of the wolves.
The state's future with the program will be reviewed at Saturday's Game and Fish Commission meeting in Safford. It's the first time the commission has considered altering Arizona's involvement.
The 3-year-old reintroduction effort in the rugged, pine-clad Blue Range, 250 miles northeast of Tucson, has been unpopular enough to prompt people to shoot and kill six wolves. In two of those cases, shooters said wolves came too close for comfort.
Many area ranchers have fought the program since its inception, arguing that wolves eat their livestock and threaten their livelihoods. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says 12 livestock animals have been killed or injured by wolves.
Backers of wolf reintroduction say that if Arizona withdraws, the reintroduction will suffer, and opponents will have an easier time attacking its federal funding.
"The immediate danger," said Michael Robinson of the Southwest Center for Biodiversity in Silver City, N.M., "is that there could be a gap in the number of biologists out in the field monitoring the wolves and they could be vulnerable to shootings."
Game and Fish commissioner Hays Gilstrap said he does not expect Saturday's meeting to lead to any major changes in the program.
"That's not the plan. Never has been. Never was," said Gilstrap of Phoenix.
Commissioner Michael Golightly of Flagstaff, the panel's longest-serving member and a supporter of the wolf program, said the commission has previously discussed the issue, but never had the ability to change the state's involvement.
"If you have an opinion on what should happen with wolves, you should be there," said Golightly, adding that he had "no idea" how his colleagues would vote.
Commissioners Joe Carter of Safford and Sue Chilton of Arivaca both said they will wait to hear the briefing Saturday before making any decisions.
Chairman Dennis Manning of Alpine, who listed the wolf program for potential action, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Bryan Kelly, recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said Arizona has been a "valuable partner" that the federal government wants to keep.
"It would be a significant loss, but the program would continue," he said.
But for Alpine-area rancher Billy Marks, Arizona's withdrawal from the wolf program would be welcome news.
"They're spending a lot of money on it and it doesn't seem to be real successful," said Marks, whose family settled along the Blue River in the late 1800s. Marks said his neighbors have lost livestock to wolves and that an environmental group has not made good on their promise to compensate ranchers for wolf-kills.
"There are plenty of wolves in Alaska and areas that are really wild country," Marks said. "It seems kind of pointless to me."
Ecologists, however, contend that wolves, as top predators in the Southwest's food chain, help regulate the population of elk and other prey species.
"In a balanced, healthy ecosystem, wolves play an incredibly important part," said Roseann Hanson, executive director of the Tucson-based Sky Island Alliance.
Skeptics had wondered if the captive-bred wolves could reproduce or fend for themselves in the wild. But while about 40 percent of the wolves released have died naturally or at the hand of man, the wolves have also produced litters and successfully preyed on elk, deer and javelina.
Arizona spends about $200,000 per year on the wolf program, but 75 percent of that funding comes from the federal government, said Rich Remington, regional supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Scientists Recommend More Room for Wolves to Run
Lowry McAllen, Albuquerque Tribune, 8 May 2001
The Mexican gray wolf is in need of more room to roam.
That's one of the preliminary findings by a trio of scientists outside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who have prepared a draft document recommending how to change the wolf reintroduction program for the better and avoid the risk of failure.
The study looks at the first three years of the wolf recovery plan in New Mexico and Arizona and offers a warning to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Several factors currently work against successful recovery," a draft of the study states.
And this warning is one the current manager of the wolf program is taking in stride as feedback useful to managing his program.
"This yellow light is not surprising," said Brian Kelly, the Fish and Wildlife Service director of the endangered Mexican wolf program.
He said changes are natural to a program that's taking scientific research and applying it to real-life situations in the field.
The biologists who have been called on to look at the wolf program are Paul C. Paquet of the University of Calgary in Canada, John A. Vucetich of Michigan Technological University and Mike Phillips of the Turner Endangered Species Fund.
Among the changes they recommend:
n Expanding the reintroduction area.
n Recapturing fewer of the recently released wolves from the wild.
n Cutting down on the number of human-wolf encounters, some of which end in the death of a wolf.
Those meetings between man and beast are prime causes for concern by the researchers, and with good reason.
Since 1998, when the first wolves were released into the wild, six animals have been shot to death by people and three have been hit by cars. Those human-caused deaths account for more wolf losses than disease or other natural events.
"The rate of human-caused mortality must be reduced," the three researchers found. They suggested using shock collars and bean-bag shot on wolves to train them to be fearful of humans.
The group also suggested looking into how law enforcement could be more effectively involved.
The researchers said it may be necessary to start taking wolves to areas outside the current recovery area, which is in southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona, mostly in the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
"Wolves should not be released from sites that are in the territories and home ranges of other wolf packs," they wrote. About 25 wolves roam the wild now.
The idea of changing where wolves are released gets at the core of the reintroduction program as it now stands. The plan only authorized releasing wolves in the designated national forests.
Another central change the scientists recommend is revising the rules for recapturing wolves. Currently, the Fish and Wildlife Service must recapture a wolf if it wanders onto private land and the owner complains.
But that interrupts the healthy life of those animals.
"Frequent recapture probably disrupts social relationships," the scientists found. "Disrupted social relationships in wolves are a potentially serious threat to recovery."
The group suggested wolves only be recaptured if they are directly threatening a human life.
A policy change like that could anger local ranchers, which is also a point those same researchers looked at. They recommended routinely including ranchers in making decisions.
That's one point where Kelly and others in the agency plan to work at getting more input.
They intend to hold 10 open houses in the two states soon after the final version of their study is released to get community feedback. That study, contracted by the Fish and Wildlife Service, could be released in early June.
$10,000 reward offered in wolf death
Law enforcement authorities are looking for information that will lead them to a suspect in the December shooting of an endangered Mexican gray wolf. The body of the yearling male wolf was found near Aragon, N.M. A reward of up to $10,000 has been posted. Anyone with information can call (800) 432-4263. Authorities in Arizona are still trying to unravel the 1998 shooting of three Mexican gray wolves in that state.
Transylvania is Reluctant to Cry Wolf
Nick Foster, The Financial Times, 7 April 2001
Ovidiu Ionescu is trying to persuade Romanians living in the Carpathians that sharing the region's pristine mountains and forests with Europe's largest concentration of wolves west of Russia is a good idea.
Ionescu divides his time between the University of Transylvania in Brasov and the headquarters of the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project, 25km away near the small town of Zarnesti, where he works as the project's co-ordinator.
"Conservation of large carnivores - and wolves, in particular - has lately become a highly controversial issue in several European countries," says Ionescu.
"But what makes Romania special are the numbers involved. Whereas Norway, Sweden and France have no more than 100 wolves each, there are at least 2,500 in Romania; and that's a conservative estimate. The official figure has been put at 3,200 but that probably includes animals counted more than once."
The project also works to conserve the 5,000 bears that roam Romania's forests, and the 2,000 lynx to which its mountains are also home. It began in 1993 and is funded by the Romanian authorities, with support from organisations including the German Wildlife Society and the World Wildlife Fund.
Speaking in his lecture room at the university, Ionescu's enthusiasm for wolves is infectious. "In terms of intelligence, wolves are in nature's top five. They are highly adaptable, and have survived despite persecution for centuries.
"Wolves are also social animals, hunting and living in packs. This makes them particularly special."
But not all Romanians agree. The thriving Top Gun arms and ammunition store in Brasov is evidence of an increase in the number of hunters, often livestock breeders concerned about protecting their herds.
Poachers of red deer and wild boar, meanwhile, see wolves as unwelcome competition.
The problem is exacerbated by the evident poverty of this beautiful region, and, according to the CLCP's literature, by the threat posed by the privatisation of Romania's forests, which could, in time, destroy part of the wolves' natural habitat.
"What we need to do is to show local people that wolves are worth conserving in their present numbers," says Ionescu. "Here, ecotourism is beginning to play a key role.
"Although visitors to the centre are unlikely to see any wolves in the wild (the project's Romanian and German staff are lucky if they get a handful of sightings each year), they are often delighted just to examine their tracks. The same goes for lynx. Bears are easier to spot and more numerous, so visitors do have a realistic chance of seeing them."
Particularly valuable to locals are home stays, a kind of Romanian bed-and-breakfast, which introduces money into a local economy so starved of cash that it has become partly barter-based. Local producers of cheese and honey also appreciate the opportunity to sell their wares.
"Co-operation with local people is vital," says Ionescu. "Without it, we're never going to get anywhere."
It also helps that the CLCP is based a stone's throw from the stunning Bran Castle, perched dramatically on a rocky bluff and long billed as "Dracula's Castle", despite its tenuous associations with Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula.
The project is planning to build an observation tower to attract more visitors. Last year, 80 groups made the journey up the narrow valley from Brasov to the study centre. This year, twice that number are expected if the upward trend continues.
And even though glimpsing wolves in the wild is only a remote possibility, visitors are almost guaranteed a distant view of Poiana and Crai, two captive wolves rescued by the project from a provincial Romanian zoo and now kept in a large enclosure.
Research on the territorial instincts of wolves in the region, meanwhile, is carried out by capturing the animals and attaching radio collars. At any one time, about six wolves are monitored in this way.
Convincing locals that conservation is the way forward is complicated by the legacy of Romania's hostile official position on wolves during the Ceausescu era. "There was total persecution of wolves under Ceausescu," Ionescu explains.
"A forest ranger would be given a bounty equivalent to half a month's salary if he managed to kill a wolf. Any method was permitted, including poisoning. Even eliminating wolf cubs was rewarded by a quarter of a month's salary." A 1996 law now protects wolves in Romania up to a fixed quota.
Back in Brasov, Carmen Popescu lives close to a large ball-bearing factory. Although she rarely ventures into the countryside, she is one of a number of Brasov's residents convinced they have seen wolves on their doorsteps.
"One night I saw what I thought were a group of large stray dogs rummaging around a rubbish tip across the road from my block of flats. It was only later that I found out that they were wolves. It sent a shiver down my spine," she says.
Local fear of wolves - such as it exists - is not properly supported by factual evidence. No one has been killed by a wolf in Romania for 50 years. Brasov's citizens show both anxiety and indifference towards the wolves.
Two millenniums ago, before the arrival of the Romans, the inhabitants of this rugged land saw things differently. "The Daci," says Ionescu, "admired and respected wolves for their hunting skills and social organisation. A wolf even featured on their flag."
It seems Ionescu and his colleagues need to turn back the clock a little.
Leader of Condemned Pack Survives Hunt
Roger Boyes, The (London) Times, 7 April 2001
A lone wolf named Martin warmed the hearts of conservationists yesterday after dodging a team of ski-borne snipers and escaping the deadline for his execution.
Martin was not exactly an underdog - he was leader of the pack - but his predicament stirred and split soft-hearted, nature-loving Scandinavians. If he has succeeded in slipping across the Norwegian border he will be given asylum in Sweden where there has been an energetic campaign on his behalf.
The pack of grey wolves led by Martin - conservationists gave him the name to help to focus public sympathy - has been attacking livestock in the wild Norwegian valley of Osterdalen, 100 miles north of Oslo. The wolves were gobbling up not only sheep but also domestic pets including cats and hamsters.
The Norwegian Government ordered a hunt from February until nightfall yesterday. While farming communities throughout the country broadly agreed with the decision, many Norwegians and, above all, Swedes were outraged.
In temperatures of -37C (-35F) hunt saboteurs trudged through the snow shouting, singing and lighting campfires to scare off the pack. Conservationist groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature argue that the grey wolf population has fallen to dangerously low levels in Scandinavia. Only about 100 wolves still inhabit the region but at least 200 are needed to maintain a healthy population.
More sheep are killed by badgers, lynx and eagles than by wolves, say conservationists, but wolves have to fight against their bad name. "Wolves incite people more than other predators because of the old myths," said Rasmuss Hansson, secretary-general of the WWF in Norway.
After almost two months of intensive hunting, trackers have killed nine of the ten wolves in the Osterdalen pack. They flew low from helicopters, shooting into the dispersed pack, and trekked miles through forests.
The Norwegian Government regards their mission as a success: a lead wolf without a pack poses little danger even if he reaches the safety of Sweden, which believes that wolves are discriminated against and should be treated equally with other predators.
Martin appears to be particularly shrewd, doubling back and covering his tracks. Perhaps someone should tell him to come out of hiding. Vemund Jaren of the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management said that the hunt was officially over. "The deadline will not be extended," he said.
Are Wolves a Pack of Trouble?
The predator that is key to Algonquin Park's ecology is hunted like vermin everywhere else
Kate Harries, Toronto Star, 31 March 2001
Mike Runtz breaks a trail across a frozen lake, his snowshoes skimming the surface of the deep drifts.
Two days in search of wolves has turned up little sign of the denizens of the deep forest. But they may be there, silently watching from behind a nearby tree.
"We tend to fear what we can't see," says Runtz, a freelance naturalist and author whose association with Algonquin Park's wolves goes back 25 years.
It's a fear that can be reinforced for those who come across the result of a wolf hunt before the pack has finished consuming its prey. "A wolf-killed deer - it's not a pretty sight," he says.
Many people dislike wolves. Hunters and trappers consider them competition; farmers want them far from their livestock. And so Ontario treats wolves like vermin.
The wolf is the only large mammal that can be killed 365 days a year, with no limits and only a generic small-game licence required.
However, some scientists believe the park's wolves are unique in Canada and will die out if not protected. Soon, there may be no wolves to watch quietly as Runtz passes by. And there may be no wolves to howl at night for the tourists.
To kill, or to protect? Ontario's natural resources minister, John Snobelen, announced three years ago that a committee would study the issue. It has now stepped outside its mandate to urge province-wide limits on the hunting and trapping of wolves.
The two opposing camps are far apart: researchers who say the park wolves are a remnant population of the endangered red wolf and should not be hunted or trapped at all; and hunters and trappers who say any restriction on their activities is unacceptable.
In North America, wolf numbers have dwindled under two centuries of concentrated extermination and destruction of the deep forests that are the habitat of this elusive creature.
Within Algonquin Park, the wolf is protected. But wolf packs don't appreciate boundaries. There are about 30 packs in the park, and each has a range of up to 20 kilometres in diameter. For many packs, that means ranging beyond the park limits.
Biologists John and Mary Theberge - who conducted an 11-year, $1 million study of packs on the east side of the park - discovered in the early '90s that park wolves were being killed each winter when they followed deer to feeding yards near Round Lake, north of Killaloe.
The couple's 1987-1999 Algonquin Park study is one of the longest continual observations of a wolf population in the wild. But the Theberges, former University of Waterloo researchers, raised the alarm early on. The problem, they said, was not just the loss of individual wolves but the destruction of the pack hierarchy on the one hand and the overall ecological balance of the park on the other.
The ministry responded in 1993, imposing a ban for three winter months on hunting and trapping in three Round Lake-area townships.
That wasn't sufficient to stem a decline, the Theberges found. The killings continued around the park, with an estimated 100 wolves - not all of them park wolves - taken by hunters and trappers each year.
More than five years after the winter ban, the minister formed the 12-member wolf working group, including local residents, hunters and trappers, conservationists, ministry staff and John Theberge.
A year ago, it held a workshop to study wolf population and habitat viability with 60 participants, including some of North America's leading wolf experts.
The workshop concluded that killing by humans outside the park is a significant factor in the population's decline and the only reason it survives is because of wolves coming in from outside.
That's the opposite of what's wanted for a conservation environment like Algonquin Park.
A statistical assessment conducted for the advisory group supports the Theberges' predictions of extinction for the park's 150 wolves within decades, with a mortality rate of 33 per cent (two-thirds of it human-caused) falling behind a 21 per cent reproduction rate.
An even graver threat, the Theberges argue, results from the vacant territories and shattered social structures left by the killing. They recorded decreased body weights during the period of their study, an indication the wolves have mated with the smaller coyotes that have invaded all of southern Ontario.
The danger is "genetic swamping" - a loss for all time of the wolves' distinctness.
In its 24 recommendations, the advisory group urges a closed season for hunting and trapping of wolves from April to September across the province, except in agricultural areas where coyotes predominate.
"It was felt there should be some sort of protection during the breeding period as is afforded to other species," explains ministry staffer and group member Maria de Almeida.
The other 23 recommendations cover a complex range of park-related issues, from a patchwork of controls on hunting and trapping in adjoining townships to new approaches to logging and forestry within the park.
A year-round closed season is proposed in four townships, covering the east and west ends of Highway 60, where four or five packs play a starring role in the August wolf howls that have attracted more than 100,000 visitors since they started in 1963.
The complete ban is not based on "sustainability reasons, it's because of the value of those wolves to the interpretive program in the park," Almeida says.
In the Round Lake area, where passions became so inflamed in 1994 that the decapitated head of one of the Theberges' radio-collared wolves was nailed to a telephone pole as a gesture of anonymous defiance, the Dec. 15-to-March 31 closed season imposed in 1993 would continue.
The remaining 33 townships surrounding the park would constitute a buffer zone in which hunting would be banned from Dec. 16 to Sept. 14, and trapping from Feb. 16 to Oct. 24.
The advisory group calculates the measures would cut human-caused mortality to park wolves by half, to about 15 to 25 wolves a year.
That's not enough, says Theberge, now retired in British Columbia.
The population is so threatened that "there's no margin, no room for error," he insists, adding that the advisory group was fearful of doing anything more than absolutely necessary because hunters and trappers insisted that their right to kill the wolves be safeguarded.
"If we, as a society, want this species, we will close the killing of wolves in all the townships surrounding Algonquin Park all year."
That's where Alfred Beck, who represented the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, cries foul.
The report's most contentious recommendation was the one dealing with closed seasons in the buffer zone around the park.
"We spent two meetings on that, and Dr. Theberge voted in favour of it," Beck says, but within a week of the report becoming final, Theberge was calling for a total ban. Beck calls that a repudiation of the group's efforts.
The retired machinist from Pembroke readily admits that wolf pelts have little value and that the elusive predator makes a most unsatisfactory prey.
When they are shot, it's most often incidentally, by hunters who are out for moose or deer and come across a wolf. "To hunt wolves in the bush is a bloody futile thing - they are very, very quiet," Beck says.
Nevertheless, he insists that the right to take a wolf must be maintained for those who want to do so.
"Maybe they want to have a pelt, or they feel for all the right or wrong reasons that wolves are competitors for deer."
Caught in the middle is Snobelen. He acted in 1998 by calling for the formation of the advisory group but critics say he did not hurry a solution.
He received the group's report on Dec. 5, and a public comment period ended March 15. When will he act?
"We need to look at (the recommendations) from a scientific point of view and a public point of view and decide what is best for the wolf," Snobelen's spokesperson Brett Kelly says.
Complicating the debate is the question of how distinct the Algonquin Park wolves really are.
In recent groundbreaking research, geneticists Paul Wilson of Trent University and Brad White of McMaster University conclude, based on DNA evidence, that the Algonquin wolf is not a subspecies of the gray wolf, as previously thought, but is the red wolf that once ranged over the southeastern United States. They propose that the eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) and the red wolf (Canis rufus) be reclassified as Canis lycaon.
Furthermore, they say, the Algonquin Park wolf is part of a population that may number 10,000 ranging across Ontario north of Algonquin Park, into Manitoba, Minnesota and southern Quebec.
Their paper, published in the December issue of the Canadian Journal Of Zoology, has sparked debate south of the border, where the red wolf has been threatened with extinction since the late 1960s.
That's when 14 animals were taken from the wild and bred in captivity. In the late 1980s, the first red wolves were released back, most in the Alligator River National Wildlife Reserve in North Carolina.
Many millions of dollars later, some 270 survive, 170 in captivity, and the rest in the wild.
There are problems, chief among them coyote hybridization.
This month, White attacked the working group's recommendations. In an interview later, he explained that he thinks Ontario risks repeating mistakes made in North Carolina.
His view: Historically, the red wolf does not belong in Algonquin Park but moved there when the habitat was changed after logging began 150 years ago and made it more attractive to deer and beaver.
Under current management practices, which include logging, the park is said to be reverting to pre-settlement conditions, dominated by moose, an animal that's too large for red wolves to bring down easily but is the natural prey of the larger gray wolf.
White says the smaller, eastern wolf has done well in a human-affected landscape and its success has masked the dwindling of the larger gray wolf, which ranges north of the park and may number less than 1,000 in the province.
"My concern right now is, where are the gray wolves in Ontario? To turn Algonquin Park into a zoo to preserve a smaller animal is not in my view what we should be doing."
"That's why geneticists should stay talking about genetics and not get into ecology," retorts John Theberge.
He interprets White's research differently. The data show the Algonquin Park wolves are the most genetically pure population of the red wolf on the continent, Theberge says.
That analysis is in turn contested by leading wolf taxonomist Ron Nowak, now retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose 1995 reclassification of wolf species is current orthodoxy.
Nowak also views the Algonquin Park wolf as part of a larger population in southeastern Ontario and in adjacent southern Quebec. But it's not the red wolf, he says.
"They're definitely not the same," he says, citing 30 years of study based on skull measurements.
"I've looked at just about all the specimens that are available and one can distinguish the two every time.
"Together, these various groups of wolves form the subspecies Canis lupus lycaon," he says in an interview from his home in Virginia.
Enter Bob Wayne, a University of California biologist.
In 1991, his research suggesting the red wolf is nothing more than a hybrid of the coyote and the gray wolf was seized on by powerful American lobby groups representing the cattle and sheep industries to bolster attempts to get the red wolf delisted as endangered.
Interviewed by the New York Times in December on the new Canadian research, Wayne was reserving his decision. "I'm not satisfied with any of the explanations yet, including my own," he said.
"There's no Supreme Court," McMaster's White says. "The only thing is one of gradual acceptance."
Does it matter?
No, says Nowak. The red wolf in the Alligator River reserve and the eastern wolf in Algonquin Park both survive in a form much like the original populations, he says, and both are endangered by human persecution and hybridization with the coyote.
"And they both badly need this rather silly taxonomic dispute to be over and done with so people can get on to the much more critical effort of saving the two animals."
Sue Wheat on the cull of a protected species that is leaving bad blood on the snow of Norway and turning traditional hunters into hunt saboteurs
Sue Wheat, The Guardian (London), 14 March 2001
High in the wooded mountains between the frozen Glama and Atne rivers in south east Norway, Christian Ebbesden skis rhythmically over the deep snow.
Every autumn the young warehouse worker from Oslo goes hunting for deer. But Christian is not hunting today. Like his parents Tor and Inger, he has turned hunt-saboteur. The family are among some 100 people who take it in turns to go into the snow-covered mountains in the day and camp at night in temperatures as low as minus 35C.
Armed only with skis and mobile phones, their mission is to stop government rangers culling nine particular wolves. "My family love hunting, yes, but this killing of the wolves is disgusting. It's not hunting, it's butchery", Christian says.
The nine targets - a group of seven known as the Atndal pack and another two, the "Imsdal pair" - are some of the 80-100 wolves living in Norway and Sweden. This mountain area in the Osterdalen region close to the Swedish border is perfect wolf habitat, and the only place in Europe where the "big four" carnivores - wolf, bear, lynx and wolverine, a large and ferocious weasel - co-exist with their natural prey of moose, red deer, roe deer and reindeer.
But it is also prime sheep farming land and, because they graze on uncultivated grassland in the summer, the sheep are easy pickings for wolves. Some 827 were killed by wolves last year in Norway, and half of these were in this one area.
With Norway's rural policy crucial to its social and economic systems, the area's hundred farmers argue that the wolves must be killed because they threaten their highly-prized low-impact, sustainable agriculture techniques. "If we fenced our sheep in the valleys as the Swedes do, we wouldn't have enough grass for winter. And, anyway, it doesn't necessarily stop wolf attacks," says Lise Baarstard, who runs a sheep farm in Koppang with her husband Bjorn. "Our way is a better use of natural resources."
Last year the Baarstards lost 35 of their animals to wolves. Another farmer lost 42 in one night. "We're not against the wolf," Lise says, "but if we want people to live in these districts, we have to control the predators."
Government ecologists say that the cull will not affect the health of Scandinavia's wider wolf population. They say there is no danger of the genetic diversity being lost and argue that wolf numbers could rise in Sweden, where there is less danger to farmers.
But environmental groups such as WWF, as well as the Swedish government, oppose the cull, saying that a critical minimum of 200 wolves is needed for the population to be genetically viable.
Anyone killing a wolf in Norway is liable to six years' imprisonment. After hunting the animal almost to extinction, Norway signed a co-operation agreement with Sweden in 1998 to protect Scandinavia's endangered wolf. In 1997, its parliament set a first goal of eight to 10 family groups in southern Scandinavia (around 100 wolves), which it says has now been reached.
Norway's environment minister, Siri Bjerke, says the growth to 200 must happen in the Swedish mountains, where sheep farming is enclosed and sheep are at less risk. "I cannot win," she says. "I have made a commitment to maintain a population of wolves, not the opposite, as environmentalists accuse me of. But because of the conflict with farming, it won't be possible for much more growth."
She insists that there is scientific evidence that the cull would not jeopardise the wolf population.
Three wolves have been shot so far - two from a helicopter, one from a snowmobile - since the cull started on February 10. Protesters criticise the farmers' inflexibility and say the government is running scared, protecting its rural Labour stronghold. "The farmers are greedy and lazy," Christian says. "They want to leave their sheep unsupervised in summer and just collect the compensation. Every other profession has to be flexible to the market and to working conditions. Why not them?"
Lise and Bjorn Baarstard insist that money is not the issue. Their medium-sized farm earns them only about pounds 8,000 a year (in one of the world's most expensive countries) and they get compensation at market rate, but this does not cover their costs. And it's not the point, anyway, says Lise. "Our family have been here for 100 years. We want to farm, not get paid for dead sheep."
And although critics say that many more sheep - 133,000 nationwide - die in the mountains every year from accidents or sickness, or are killed by wolverines, Lise insists that, in this area, the wolf is the biggest killer.
Three protest camps have been established in the valleys. In one - a large camouflaged Swedish army tent - sleeping bags are put on reindeer skins on the ice floor and clothes hang above a stove. Keeping things dry in these temperatures is a matter of life and death. The tent is surrounded by haystacks, but not for shelter. They were put there by a farmer to stop any more tents being erected. Another hostile action involved a 5am attack by Koppang youths who poured anti-freeze on the protesters' sleeping bags and dragged them outside. Locals insist the boys were not connected to the farmers and were just drunk.
Every day, the protesters - who go out in teams of 10 - and the hunters play cat and mouse. Just before sunrise, the hunters search for wolf tracks in the snow and the protesters erase them. When wolves are found, the hunters try to drive them out of the woods and the protesters talk loudly, sing and set their mobile phones ringing to frighten off the wolves.
The atmosphere between the two camps is civilised and very unlike the British hunting scene, where saboteurs are regarded as a dangerous enemy and hunters as cruel and anachronistic backwoodsmen: "I shared a fire with one of the hunters and talked about deer hunting," says Tor Ebbesden. "We agreed to meet, have a brandy and plan a hunt together after this."
What hits a nerve with the protesters is an abuse of Norway's hunting code. Hunting here is not elitist or even a sport. It is a cultural tradition. The unwritten rules are: hunt only for food, not pleasure; only shoot if you are sure to kill and not maim; don't put yourself at an unfair advantage (hunting from snowmobiles or helicopters is actually illegal). The gov ernment hunters, say the protesters, are breaking every rule.
"Do they really think that, if they get rid of these nine wolves, more won't come over from Sweden?," says Christian. "Of course, they'll come."
After a 10-hour day out in minus 15C, the hunters are on the other side of the valley enjoying dinner in a warm rented house. The protesters, they admit, have been extremely effective. They don't expect to kill all nine wolves by their April 6 deadline, but they don't seem angry. The protesters are merely part of their job. "It is their right to go wherever they please and to demonstrate. We could bring the police in, but we won't," says hunt leader Leonard Mikalsen.
He defends his men's techniques, however. "You cannot regard this as hunting. We are professionals. The government decided on this cull based on scientific evidence. The heli copters and snowmobiles are our tools. If you build a house, you don't use a hand-saw, you use an electric one - it is the same with us."
The myths of evil associated with the wolf means many people support the cull, although there have been no attacks on humans. "A wolf killed a dog a few yards from where our children play," says Laila Molvig, a local. "The wolves should be killed." But others say they, like lynx, bear and wolverine (which take 13,000 sheep a year in Norway), have a right to live here.
Kai Eric Tordal, head of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate running the cull, calls it "a sorrowful act". His is a countryside "protection" agency after all. His hunters have had death threats, he says, but will continue to implement the law. "We are caught between Scylla and Charybdis. If we are not eaten by one monster, we'll be eaten by the other."
Wolves Not a Wildlife Priority
Effort to reintroduce the animal to Colorado faces many obstacles
Gary Gerhardt, Rocky Mountain News, 18 February 2001
Wolves won't be returning to Colorado anytime soon if it's up the state Division of Wildlife, said Russell George, the agency's director.
"There are two legal obstacles at present that restrict us from taking part in any wolf reintroduction in Colorado," George said last week at a wolf symposium in Denver that was sponsored by the Colorado Wildlife Federation.
"One is the state Wildlife Commission passed a resolution that they wouldn't reintroduce wolves or grizzlies in the state.
"The other is a bill passed last year that the General Assembly would have the final say before any such reintroduction could take place."
In addition, there are about 80 species in Colorado listed as "threatened," "endangered" or "special concern." And those species are in need of attention, George said.
"We don't have the resources ... to put into a wolf-reintroduction effort," he said.
Mike Phillips, chairman of the Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project, said there are 25 million acres of public land in southern Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and northern New Mexico that studies say could support up to 2,000 wolves.
Phillips called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, saying it is inevitable that wolves will be reintroduced there.
Tom Compton, chairman of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, said cattlemen, farmers and woolgrowers oppose reintroduction, fearing the wolves will prey on livestock.
Wolves aren't in danger of extinction anywhere in the world, Compton said, and that they aren't a necessary component for an ecosystem to function.
He also said he was concerned about potential human-wolf conflicts in a state where so much development is taking place.
"I do believe they would fulfill everyone's aesthetic and spiritual desires," he said.
"But before we'd agree to it, we'd want a clear and unmistakable understanding that the public knows the implications, and I would call for the use of public funds to pay for livestock killed by wolves to make that point."
He said if public demand forced ranchers to accept reintroduction of wolves, ranchers would want five concessions:
* A written, mutually agreeable policy.
* Compensation for livestock loses.
* A policy saying wolves that kill livestock would be destroyed.
* A "two-strikes" policy for wolves that stalk livestock in which they would be moved for a first offense and destroyed for a second.
* Radio collars on wolves for three years so the ranching community could be informed of their movements.
Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery team leader, said wolves and wolf management have more to do with people and symbols than reality.
"They represent human values," he said. "Wolves are aesthetically viable."
He said the keys to wolf reintroduction are: the impact on livestock; the effect on big game animals; the cost of reintroducing the animals; and land- use restrictions.
"While in Montana we only had 10 cattle and 20 sheep a year taken by wolves, for which the Defenders of Wildlife pay compensation, it is extremely difficult to confirm the animals were killed by wolves, and it comes down to about one out of five as provable."
Bangs acknowledged that predators affect big game animals. Not significantly though, he said, otherwise prey species such as deer and elk would be extinct.
However, the federal government likely will have no role in bringing wolves back to Colorado because soon the Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer consider the predators as endangered here, Bangs said.
"We have been successful in returning the wolves to Yellowstone, Idaho and Montana. Colorado is part of the Northern Rockies effort, which means when we delist wolves in that area, they will be delisted in Colorado as well, although there isn't a single wolf here," Bangs said.
"If Colorado wants them, it will have to be up to the state to bring them back."
The Case for Wolves
Should wolves be re-introduced? Andrew Eames looks at the evidence from across Europe
Andrew Eames, The Scotsman, 17 February 2001
The debate over whether wolves should be re-introduced into Scotland rears its head regularly. It seems barely a year goes by without someone publishing a thesis on the beneficial effects of the large carnivore on our wildly over -abundant red deer population.
The official line of the big conservation bodies is that wolf re-introduction is not under consideration. "If you re-introduced a pack of wolves into the UK right now," says Martin Mathers of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, "you'd have to have a policeman walking alongside every one." Livestock farmers and hunters anxious to prove their machismo wouldn't be satisfied until they had them in their gunsights. But that doesn't stop various fringe groups such as the Carnivore Trust pushing for re-introduction.
The overseas case histories have been relatively encouraging. In Yellowstone National Park in the US the whole concept met with huge resistance and was only overcome by promises of careful monitoring of the pack, largely via radio -collars. Today the wolves of Yellowstone are an added tourist attraction.
In central Europe the wolf is a more habitual feature of the landscape, although that doesn't stop it getting a very bad press. A Sunday newspaper recently stated that some 30,000 wolves were running wild across one corner of Poland and overflowing into Germany. In fact, local researchers have counted just 120 animals in that district of Poland, and reckon that perhaps a dozen sub-adult males have dispersed in search of new territory. So where did the story come from? A Polish hunter in a bar.
It is true, though, that European wolf populations are stronger than they have been for some decades, and the result has been limited migration into parts of Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Most of this migration begins in the Carpathian mountain range, which curls for 700 miles through Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania and Hungary.
In the small nation of Slovakia, with 60 per cent of its land area Carpathian forest, the local wolf population is variously set at 1,200 (official estimate based on hunters' reports) or 300 (unofficial estimate based on zoologists' observations). Around 150 are shot by hunters every year.
That population is vastly outnumbered by bears, which do far more damage both to people and property, but the wolf is hated and hunted while the bear is protected. In the last decade there has only been one incident of a Slovakian wolf actually attacking man; the animal was rabid and quickly shot; the man it bit had an injection and survived.
Dr Slavo Findo, a Slovakian zoologist campaigning to win the wolf a better image, points to the economic benefits for a nation whose major export is timber; a healthy wolf population keeps the deer numbers within reasonable limits, and that in turn allows forests to flourish and new trees to push through.
By capturing and radio-collaring a couple of the Slovakian wolves Findo has been able to draw up their "home range", which he has ascertained to be habitually an area of 100 square kilometres. He has also been breeding livestock-guarding dogs, bringing them up in pens with lambs and with the intention of turning them out to live with the sheep on the hills. The idea is that these dogs will defend their flock from wolf attack, even just by barking.
Findo has documented the usefulness of the wolf in stopping the spread of disease. A few years ago Slovakia suffered a major outbreak of swine fever. In a nation where every household has a pig, this outbreak was serious - and it was communicated by the native wild boar, which is everywhere in the Slovakian hills. The fever meant the boar stuck close to water sources and made easy prey for the wolf, which thus killed off the carriers of the disease. Findo tried to publicise his findings, but few people took any notice.
There is a lot of blind prejudice out there about the wolf, and a nation that has lost the wolf habit will take a great deal of persuading to accept it back.
Still Wild at Heart
Leila Farrah, The Scotsman, 17 February 2001
Rising north of Kingussie is an ancient burial mound known as Witch's Hill. Here, the medieval Witch of Laggan would conduct nefarious business, it was said, in the form of a wolf. Communities were terrified; desperate mothers sought early baptism for babies - particularly girls - lest facial hair brought accusations of lycanthropy. Hapless wolves and witches haunted minds and country alike until their nemesis through systematic pogroms. Oral tradition tells us of spindle spikes and griddles extinguishing the species but it is popularly believed that the last (black) wolf was killed near Findhorn in 1743 by a local hunter who received land for his pains.
Today, Wicca's followers can explain their faith to our inclusive society, and whacky witch stories top children's TV ratings. But the wolf remains hated, misunderstood, and banished from its native Scottish habitats.
Extermination came after 600 generous years of open season, abetted by poison, stoning, traps, wolfhounds, and cunning disinformation when the early Christian Church announced that wolves incarnated the souls of dead criminals. From monarch to crofter, the Scots united against the foe. Wolf hunters prospered. James I decreed formal hunts four times a year, with cubs culled and two shillings paid for every wolf head. A mere five beasts were killed alongside 360 deer in the hunt honouring Mary Queen of Scots at Blair Castle. Recession of the Great Caledonian Forest rang the final knell.
"In my 25 years in Scottish ethnology, I have come across at least 35 different accounts of the very last wolf killed in Scotland - from Argyll to the Borders," says Ross Noble, curator of the Highland Folklore Museum. He believes the "last", defined by local memory, was recorded by Victorian historians.
Michael Bright of the BBC Natural History Unit has catalogued wolf attacks in his book Man-Eaters. Rabies, interbreeding with dogs, inadequate prey and territorial threat by man are the principle causes of wolf attacks on humans. But mud sticks. The wolf is still seen as promiscuously cruel, embodying a wildness threatening to our sanitised lives. Perrault and Prokofiev's tales are fed to children worldwide. The Motif Index of Folk Literature records more than 150 cautionary tales. And art traditionally depicts wolves disfigured by the savage rictus of bloodlust. As a child, I absorbed these images religiously, scratching out the eyes of all picture-book wolves. Until a day at a zoo where persecution had followed one wolf into the very design of its "conservation" pen. In a cage barely larger than itself, an emaciated timber wolf trembled with the effort of standing. Deprived of its kind, its solitary confinement was a living death.
Five miles north of Witch's Hill, the Highlands now boast the best wolf enclosure in Europe and main attraction at Kingcraig's Highland Wildlife Park. During a week spent as a park volunteer, I was able to watch these remarkable animals in the ecosystem that was once their natural home.
The setting alone frees the mind. Two hundred and sixty acres of moorland, wetland and forest encircled by the Monadhliath and Cairngorms are home to many species otherwise extinct in Scotland. All but two are captive-bred and none suffer the natural culls of disease, predation or starvation.
Under a jagged daybreak over flooded plains, I arrive at HQ as an ambient layering of high notes echoes through the Scots pines. Eighteen wolves are howling in concert. "After five minutes of a single wolf howling, you'll be convinced there's five or six packs around you," explains Jeremy Usher Smith, the park's director. "They have an ability to build up sound from their solar plexus."
A schizophrenic thread runs through man's relationship with this animal. Shamans and native Americans revere it. Ancient Athenians passed a law stipulating the dignified burial of any wolf killed; Romans celebrated the fertility Rite of Lupercalia. In western Europe, breezes through harvest crops were welcomed with the phrase, "The wolf is going through the corn." Its power as divine law enforcer is described in fables of wolves entering churches and killing blaspheming priests, eating thievish abbots, and being "the devil's craftiest enemy".
Nut husks, moss and rock-encrusted birch roots pave the walk to the Forest Habitat where I join warden Keith Grant to clean and replenish food supplies. Red squirrels, spared an invasion of greys by the natural barrier of a treeless Drumochter Pass, streak up the pine trees. We seek no contact with watchful wildcats and darting pine martens other than to look for clear, healthy eyes and noses.
On past the golden eagle (who at 33 still surrogates SSPCA-retrieved chicks) and the snowy owl, we reach the Wolf Tower for 1pm feeding time. Here is no cramped prison, but seven acres of lichenous rocks and hollowed-out rabbit dens where the matriarch nurses her cubs. It is a jaw-dropping sight.
Arriving in anticipatory waves are pure white alpha, Torand Dhub, Teine, the vigilant beta footsoldier, lower ranking animals and six-month-old cubs, all listening for the Land Rover's arrival. Evolved in the wild, wolves' sense of smell is ten times that of humans, their hearing intense.
Their rapt human audience listens to the "food chain talk" while 40kg of rabbit and minced beef is tossed over the fence, to be grabbed by powerful jaws and spirited away to secret places.
Regular feeds remove the need to hunt, but the pack has space enough to store and revisit food caches as it would in the wild. Roadkill or rut casualty deer "treats" are reduced to carcass in 30 minutes.
Wolves are gregarious among themselves, but value privacy. Feeding - and bone-crunching - intensifies once visitors have left the Tower to view the lynx, flatulent wild boar, Arctic foxes, otters and fluffy-footed red grouse beyond. Two reindeer potter in a top field, I hose down a drinking rock and watch the pack, post prandial and placid in the afternoon. Wolves need advocates. Scots conservationist Derek Gow's WildWood Centre near Canterbury has already provided quarantine for a beaver reintroduction programme. WildWood is home to three breeding wolves, one wild male cub and famous females Nadja and Mishka, human imprint cubs who toured UK schools with Gow in a myth-dispelling campaign.
"With the beavers, people in opposition have been sneaking around behind the scenes to make sure it doesn't happen. Wolves in Scotland died out in lonely obscurity, possibly as hybrids. By the time they were finished, most people wouldn't have known one if it came and slapped them in the face."
The option of canis lupus ranging anew through old habitats remains an "over my dead body" issue for most country dwellers. The Highland Wildlife Park plays its part in straightening the record.
"Children come to me before seeing the wolves, with jokes about falling in and providing extra lunch," comments Will Carey, education officer. "Visitors used to think bears were cuddly and wolves went about with blood dripping from their jaws. I'd tell them bears, although wonderful, are far more dangerous. Enter the enclosure and wolves just move away behind bushes, even from keepers they're used to. The difficulty here is lots of children have dads who are shepherds. If you compensated them for sheep lost, that would help. It did in Spain."
French government figures estimate there are around 300 wolves roaming the Alps, a presence lamented by farmers who attribute the loss of 5,000 sheep to reintroduction in 1992. They propose a compromise of penning or killing. Plus ca change ... Derek Gow believes the "damage to environment" card is overplayed. "The huntin' and shootin' press goes on about 'awful damage' done by brown hares. Would that be hares ram-raiding shops, or kicking in bus shelters? 'Awful damage' is an elephant in a rice field for 20 minutes. Bizarre Victorian landowning organisations or individuals in Scotland can only see sheep or what they inherited from their father. They are convinced their inheritance is the countryside, when it's only a snapshot in time."
Feed duty in the kitchen throws up dust from drums of oats, flaked maize, wheatgerm, bran, and barley. Best fruit, veg and meat are prepared, with 160 additional tons of root crops munched every winter. Ears and back legs come off 220 rabbits to free up freezer space. Except for the pack with growing cubs, carnivores fast on Saturdays to rest metabolisms as in the wild. Natural hunger can ease intake of any medication secreted into Sunday feeds.
Lunch. I hurl the wolves massive ox livers, lungs, hearts, bones, mince, rabbits and apples, but something's amiss. Staring at food landed two feet from them, they seem hesitant, timorous - words not associated with wolves and fresh meat. Two humans coming close usually means a visit from the vet, and I'm a new face and scent. They will eat after we're away.
Back at base, volunteer Emma Dimmer and I clean, lay rabbit and hay, and stroke the warm, coarse fur of a male polecat. A sleeping pine-marten smacks its delicate lips. Emma is no misty-eyed New Ager but a farmer's daughter preparing a wolf ecology thesis for Sparsholt Agricultural College in Hampshire. "People say they're fierce but they're not. They mystify me, they howled in a circle with one in the middle while I cleaned out the reindeer. They used to be here before lots of people came, so why not now?"
Familiarity with humans (and the temptation of easy food) proved fatal for two free-ranging wolves in British Columbia last year. The pair tugged playfully at a sleeping bag whose somnolent occupant thought he was being attacked and responded frantically. They turned on him, taking a chunk of his scalp. He survived. The wolves were shot by a conservation officer.
It's 8am. The otiose pack is yawning. Binoculars penetrate their world while intelligent, amber eyes gleam at me from cover. They trail back and forth, eerie in half-light, monitoring each other's responses, observing their observer. My past experiences of animal care have been hands-on but here, I can't get closer. So, prolonged eye contact with inquisitive juveniles sniffing at me is exhilarating. In dense winter coats, with faces strong and fine, all are alert, purposeful, an utterly natural presence.
Anarchy has no place in wolf survival. Hierarchy protocol is self-imposed, with a strict recognition of status from alpha to omega. Born between April and June, cubs become the focus of every pack. Babysitters vie for duty while the nursing matriarch receives many regurgitated food offerings from helpful pack members. Tender and devoted parenting is a wolf trait enshrined in the legends of Romulus, Remus and the wolf-children of folk history.
Two cubs face-rub in the bonding education of play, with flattened forelegs, and spirited tailwagging. We forget, however, that as the first domesticated animal, canis lupus is the genetic source of all dogs. A huge ox-bone is clamped in the jaws of one, prompting a lively tug of war which the alphas watch with proprietorial hauteur. Their coats are snowy white, caused by access to best pickings, or subtle physiological change conferred by exalted status.
Close by, the Omega male is baited by a growling five, reinforcing its low status. Tail between legs, ears flattened, it avoids eye contact with aggressors, minimising danger by eventually falling supine. It pants, gives itself a good shake and slopes off. This "scapegoat" is not weak, necessarily, but lacks assertiveness until the order can be challenged. "It's like a game of chess," says Andrew, a keeper who watches these dramas unfolding all year.
Warden intervention is minimal, with cleaning every three to five months. Veterinary care is always on site; removal to alien surgery scents may cause rejection on return to the pack. Unless massive nerve damage or severe infection follows attack, a wolf will be left in situ to heal its wounds with salivary antibodies. If it makes a complete recovery, it may gain increased status.
Ten in the morning, opening-time in the main reserve. Head warden Simon Munro serves breakfast, scattering rabbit for free-ranging buzzard and cereal for wild deer outside perimeters. Ravens amass unfazed by the eight European bison galloping towards cereal piles which their tongues uplift with relish.
Tipping the scales at nearly a ton, Isgon comes to the vehicle window, presenting a natural portrait but low light sets off the camera flash. I feel like a paparazzi as he gives me a reproachful look and leaves.
Final wolfwatch. An apple doubles as a toy for three juveniles who bite and chase it down the hill. Others chew grass or scour tree roots for leftovers - a strategy learned by low rankers fed after the cubs who are now six months old and floppy-footed as any young Alsatians. The pack of 18 are proud, mutually affectionate, and wish to be left alone. Should the double fence vanish, they would dissolve into the landscape. A major carnivore, canis lupus may enjoy the odd snatched berry but cannot survive off mange-tout alone, preferring to snack on wild deer than on young Archie walking the dog. When wild prey is low, livestock are on the menu.
Most of the Highlands is still privately owned. Dr Jamie Williamson has a sizeable estate near Aviemore with more than 800 sheep. Last year he proposed, as a sensible compromise, the establishment of wolf packs on Glasgow Green where a ready supply of human corpses due for cremation would gratify their hunger, and spare the city noxious fumes.
The SSPCA has declared support for reintroduction to the Highlands. Zoologist Dr Martyn Gorman of Aberdeen University and Dr Derek Yalden, president of the Mammal Society, believe predation by wolves is a natural control for red deer endemic in the Highlands.
But without formal protection and compensation, reintroduced wolves will be preyed on by angry farmers, middle management junkets and ned posses alike. In America, where the full force of the US Fish and Wildlife Service descends on those suspected of killing wolves, beanbags fired from 12-gauge shotguns are the authorised deterrent where livestock is threatened.
Forestry consultant Norman Dunlop hears wolves discussed locally in "bar room talk." "I have no particular hangups about wolves although there would have to be certain controls set in place," he concedes. "And a very big campaign to try to educate people into the true habits of wolves, That's my private opinion. As vice chairman of the Highlands Council Planning Committee and a councillor, I'd have to bear in mind public perception. Small-scale in a restricted area, well-managed with no encroachment where people don't want them, it would be helpful as an exercise in showing exactly what would happen. There are advantages regarding deer control which might not suit some landowners."
As the government body licensing reintroductions, Scottish Natural Heritage has "no plans to put wolves on the agenda." Feasibility and desirability studies are the two considerable hurdles facing any species seeking a home in Scotland. Beaver have passed the test and will take up residence at Knappdale, Argyllshire.
Jeremy Usher Smith takes a long-term view that the wolf's chances are best served by conservation with ecotourism. "In Scotland, the capercaillie is sending us a great alarm bell, telling us, 'The forest is dying a we are not surviving.' We are in the sub-Tundra boreal zone but will never recreate boreal Caledonian forests. Let's plant native species for our grandchildren rather than for instant growth. By then you will have a very big, vibrant forest with wildlife."
"Most of what was there in 1600 is still here, give or take a few boundary changes, and does tend to regenerate extremely well," counters Norman Dunlop. "I'm a great believer in letting old Caledonian pinewoods regenerate and expand. I wouldn't like to see massive replanting in the Highlands even though I'm a forester. Much is bog and hilltop which wouldn't be suitable for planting or wolves."
Impatient for the cause, Derek Gow believes forest cover is healthier now than 300 years ago when areas were burnt down for sheep grazing, denying the wolf his refuge. "They are incredibly adaptable animals. And we are a very wealthy country that bangs on to the rest of the world about how to look after lions, tigers and a lot of very dangerous animals. What example have we set? Exterminated everything we didn't like."
In this "brave new world" mere mention of countless species implies endangerment or extinction. Will we ever see wolves living free on Scottish soil?
Fury Over Norway's Plan to Cull Wolves
Martin Fletcher, The London Times, 6 February 2001
Norway enraged environmental groups and its Swedish neighbour yesterday by approving the culling of nine rare wild wolves in one of western Europe's last protected enclaves.
Farmers say that the animals have killed hundreds of sheep, but conservationists say that there are fewer than 100 grey wolves in southern Norway and Sweden and that is too few to sustain a viable population.
The Norwegian Natural Resources Directorate said that it was allowing a hunt for nine wolves in one family in the valley of Osterdalen, which begins about 95 miles north of Oslo and runs close to the Swedish border. The hunt is expected to involve marksmen using helicopters and snowmobiles and could last until April 6. Snow should make the wolves' tracks easy to follow.
The Osterladen region straddles the Rondane National Park and is one of the few areas in Europe where wolves, bear and lynx survive alongside their natural prey of moose, reindeer and other members of the deer family.
Originally, the Norwegians had wanted to kill two packs with as many as 20 wolves - almost a quarter of the entire population in southern Scandinavia - because they had left their protected zone. Yesterday's announcement was an attempt to placate the Swedes, who had objected, but it did not go far enough.
"It is good that the Norwegian authorities partially listened to the views I have presented," Kjell Larsson, the Swedish Environment Minister, said. "Today's decision can seriously worsen the chances to attain a sustainable level for our joint wolf stock."
Sweden wants a stock of about 200 animals. Mr Larsson protested to Siri Bjerke, the Norwegian Environment Minister, last month, saying that his country felt "deep unease" at the Norwegian plans. Goran Persson, the Swedish Prime Minister, raised the issue with Jens Stoltenberg, his Norwegian counterpart. Mr Stoltenberg insisted that Norway was committed to sustaining a viable population.
The World Wide Fund for Nature vowed to challenge the decision, even though the Norwegian authorities made clear that the hunt would not be postponed for legal challenges. "We are sounding the alarm bells," Rasmus Hansson, the fund's chief executive in Norway, said.
Grey wolves, the largest of the species, were hunted to near-extinction in southern Scandinavia until they were given protection 20 years ago.
The population has since recovered to between 80 and 100, divided into about ten families: three in Sweden, three in Norway and four that straddle the heavily forested border between the two countries. They hunt in packs and can range across an area as large as 13,000 square miles.
Norwegian farmers in the affected region complain that the wolves are killing their livestock and pets. Last year they sought compensation for nearly 827 sheep allegedly killed by wolves.
The Mystery of the Wolves
Study shows Quebec's wolves occasionally eat each other, can get used to having people around and may be a unique species
Dwayne Wilkin, The Gazette (Montreal), 3 February 2001
Finding Isabel's head in the woods must have been a shocker, even though biologist Mario Villemure has got rather used to reckoning the dead. What made the young wolf's end last week so inexplicable was that she was apparently killed and eaten by fellow pack members.
Given their already high mortality rate in La Mauricie National Park, it seems strange the wolves should resort to cannibalism.
"More than half of young wolves in the area are killed each year by trappers," said Villemure, who is conducting a three-year study of wolf ecology in the rolling Laurentian forest north of Shawinigan as part of his master's thesis at the Universite de Sherbrooke.
It's hoped the $100,000 study, financed by Parks Canada, will answer several puzzling questions, not the least of which is how a small group of eastern Canadian wolves, deprived of adequate habitat and freely exploited by humans outside park boundaries, manage to cling to life at all.
"That's what's really interesting," Villemure said. "The harvest seems to surpass the (population) replacement threshold, but even so, there are still animals there. They must be coming from elsewhere."
Of the 12 wolves Villemure and park conservation officials radio-collared for their study in the last year, only four survived the most recent trapping season. Those killed were mostly cubs and juveniles.
Two of the animals killed belonged to a small pack whose territory spans the parkland itself, and this pack has dwindled to just three members, led by the alpha male called Guy.
Only two wolves, the alpha male and the alpha female, will breed in any pack.
Cannibalism among wolves is rare, but not unknown, according to John Theberge, a renowned wolf biologist and a retired professor with the University of Waterloo, who now lives in British Columbia.
"It's been recorded quite often where the other pack will essentially sort of raid the other's territory and move into it. That's the most likely scenario," Theberge said.
Less common are cases in which wolves kill and eat their own siblings. Villemure speculates Isabel may have been taken out because she was injured, or maybe because the animals had hit a patch of hard luck killing other food.
Whatever the answer, the study's initial findings underscore the challenges of maintaining a wildlife refuge in the middle of a region that is heavily exploited by humans. Villemure has so far identified four separate packs and two dens, but the lack of complete harvest data complicates the business of taking stock.
Nobody knows, for instance, exactly how many wolves are killed by humans in the larger ecosystem.
Killing the animals is prohibited in the 536-square-kilometre national park, but the territory abuts large tracts of private land as well two large provincial game reserves, Saint-Maurice and Mastigouche.
"In the wildlife reserves, the trappers have to report how much they've taken, and they're quite well monitored," Villemure said.
"But on all the other public and private lands, that's left more unregulated."
What's more, anyone with a hunting permit in Quebec can shoot a wolf on sight.
Lisette, a juvenile female who was radio-collared last summer for Villemure's study, survived a shotgun blast to the face before being killed by a trapper early last November.
One surprising observation: despite the influx of tens of thousands of visitors to the park during the busy summer months, Villemure discovered the wolves tend to stay put.
"Maybe wolves can get used to a lot of people," he said.
No extensive study of the La Mauricie wolves has ever been conducted before, so one of the first tasks will be to clearly establish the animals' species and population size.
To help accomplish this, Villemure has collected blood samples and sent them to Trent University's Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory for analysis.
The information will be key in determining whether or not the animals stand to benefit from stronger conservation measures in the future.
Just where the eastern Canadian wolves fit into the canine evolutionary tree has been a subject of considerable debate, with many experts suggesting the animals are simply the result of recent cross-breeding between gray wolves, classified scientifically as Canus lupus, and coyotes, whose Latin name is Canis latrans.
The La Maurice wolves differ in appearance from standard gray wolves; they tend to be smaller, for one thing. Their colouring is different, too. They sport beige-white belly fur, black fur on their backs and patches of red behind their ears.
In 1999, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) determined that too little information existed to support a separate species designation for the eastern wolf, and it remains listed officially as a gray wolf subspecies.
Since gray wolves - also known as timber wolves or loups de bois in Quebec - are not considered at risk in Canada, trapping continues.
Of course, "if it can be proved that this is a separate species, then this will change," said Villemure, who personally believes the wolves are best classified as members of the Canis lycaon group.
Members of a COSEWIC subcommittee, which has as its chairman Villemure's supervisor at the Universite de Sherbrooke, Marco Festa-Bianchet, are currently reviewing the eastern wolf's status, and are expected to render their decision in May.
Evidence based on DNA tests already has shown eastern Canadian wolves are closely related to the red wolf, Canis rufus, currently listed as an endangered species in the United States.
Scientists who compared genetic material from wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario with that of red wolves, gray wolves and coyotes argue that the eastern Canadian wolf is not a wolf-coyote hybrid at all, but a unique species with a pedigree stretching back to the Pleistocene period, which began about 2 million years ago and ended 11,500 years ago.
In an article in the December 2000 issue of the Canadian Journal of Zoology, the study's authors, led by Paul Wilson of Trent University, contend that red wolves, eastern Canadian wolves and coyotes evolved independently from a common North American ancestor between 150,000 and 300,000 years ago.
They propose the eastern Canadian wolf retain its classification, Canis lycaon.
"The data are not consistent with the hypothesis that the eastern Canadian wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf as it is presently designated," the authors write.
If the findings are accepted, it could force a rethinking of prevailing theories about the evolutionary origins of North American wolves.
Any future ban on killing the La Mauricie wolves as a protection measure would probably not be popular, let alone easy to enforce.
Wolves feed on moose and deer, which are popular with game hunters, and are a major predator of beaver colonies.
"I can tell you in the Mauricie, in my opinion, there's no question of a subspecies," Rejean Fafard, president of the Mauricie and Bois-Franc regional trappers association said. "There's one species of wolf."
Fafard added most of the group's 150 members are not even aware of the proposal to designate the eastern Canadian wolf as a separate species.
"I'm in regular contact with a couple of biologists with the provincial government and that question's never been brought up," he said.
Theberge, who spent a decade and a half studying wolves in Algonquin Park, also cautioned against any rush to judgment when it comes to classifying the La Mauricie wolves.
"You have to suspend conclusion until that genetic testing is concluded," he said.
Rescued Wolves Face Death by Helicopter Hunt
Robin McKie & Hamish Mcdouall, The Observer, 21 January 2001
It has already provoked thousands of protests and raised the ire of its own press. But now Norway's bid to kill 20 of its grey wolves - an endangered species only recently restored to the Scandinavian wilderness - has triggered a major diplomatic spat.
Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson last week protested to his Norwegian counterpart, Siri Bjerke, about a plan by the Norwegian ministry to use helicopters and marksmen to hunt down two of Scandinavia's 10 wolf packs in Hedmark province.
Larsson said his country felt 'deep unease', a considerable understatement given that Sweden actually wants to raise Scandinavia's wolf population from around 80 to 500 over the coming years. Even the Swedish Hunters' Association has condemned the cull.
By contrast, Norwegian Environment Department officials are under strong pressure from farmers to kill 20 of the present 100 wolves. The farmers say that last year they lost 827 animals - mostly sheep - to wolves. The 50 wolf cubs expected to be born this year represent a serious threat to their livelihoods.
But environmentalists point out that a total of 33,000 farm animals were killed last year by other predators, mainly wolverines - in fact, a species related to the weasel - - lynx and bears. 'Wiping out wolves will solve nothing,' said Rasmus Hansson of the World Wildlife Fund.
He was supported by the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet , which warned that if the country - already criticised for hunting whales and seals - now kills wolves, 'the world will see Norway as a land of half-crazed Vikings and barbarians'.
The grey wolf is the largest of the species and in fact ranges in colour from pure white or black through to all shades of grey, to tan and brown. They roam in packs of between two and more than 30 over territories of up to 13,000 square miles.
The females give birth to litters of between three and 10 cubs, though the mortality rate of the young in the wild is up to 60 per cent.
The Norwegian Environment Department has already received more than 6,000 emails protesting about the cull. These were dismissed as 'predictable' by Stein Lier-Hansen, a senior official. The protesters 'take for granted that Norway wants to wipe out the wolf. We don't'. Despite the cull, the wolf population would remain at a sustainable level, he said.
The dispute between the two countries goes beyond attitudes to wildlife. In Sweden, farmers tend to fence in their animals. In Norway, they graze freely.
'Norway supports country-folk. The price is that they compete with the wildlife,' said Marie von Zeipel of the WWF in Sweden.
There is a long history of environmental rifts between the countries. The controversy over the wolves came in the same week that Norway agreed to allow exports of whale meat.
Its Environment Department said it planned to carry out the cull before the spring thaw, so that the wolves could be tracked easily in snow. 'We honestly don't know when the decision (to go ahead) will be made,' said one official.
Gray Wolves' Return Presents Challenges in the West
Patrick O'Driscoll, USA Today, 15 January 2001
Six years after they were returned to the world's first national park, the gray wolves of Yellowstone are pushing beyond its bordersinto an edgy, life-and-death coexistence with the populated West.
Multiplying faster than wildlife biologists expected, the wild predators are a marquee success story for wilderness ecology, park tourism and the federal Endangered Species Act. In Yellowstone and central Idaho, about 350 wolves now hunt their traditional prey: weaker elk, deer and moose.
But increased run-ins with domestic livestock outside the park and near human settlements have forced managers of the restoration program to kill or remove scores of wolves. Farm and ranch groups, which lost a court fight to keep wolves from being brought back, want the government to lift restrictions on stockbreeders' shooting the animals to protect their cattle, sheep and dogs. With the presidential inauguration nearing, some wolf defenders worry that the new administration will weaken a program that has allowed the species to regain a foothold in the wild.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who helped bring the first 14 transplanted Canadian wolves into Yellowstone in 1995, returned to the park Saturday for a final briefing before leaving his post next weekend. It was the first anniversary of a court ruling that upheld the species' controversial return. The 31 wolves released in Yellowstone in 1995-96 have grown to 164 animals in 16 packs. An additional 34 let loose in the central Idaho wilderness have expanded to 185 wolves.
Babbitt won't speculate about whether his Republican successors will try to undo the wolves' gains. But he said Saturday that livestock "will not have priority" over wolves on public lands in the West.
Bob Ferris, vice president at Defenders of Wildlife, which has paid more than $ 155,000 to ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, expresses "tremendous fears" about changes under President-elect Bush.
"We're gearing up to do whatever it takes to preserve this effort," Ferris says.
Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, dismisses the worries. "This program has received about zero political intervention," says Bangs, who joined the project during the Reagan administration.
Richard Krause, assistant counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation, says stockbreeders will press anew for authority to shoot wolves that threaten herds, rather than have to wait for government agents to investigate, verify and then track down the culprits. Krause says that Gale Norton, whom Bush has nominated as Babbitt's successor, "is not as politicized as people on the other side think."
In a society reared on Old World tales of wolves as bloodthirsty killers, the gray wolf was hunted to extinction across the West by the 1930s. Since 1974, when the species was listed as "endangered," it has rebounded in the Great Lakes. Canadian wolves also have begun to re-colonize parts of northwest Montana.
Eight of Yellowstone's wolf packs now spend most or all of their time beyond the park boundaries. The Sheep Mountain pack was reduced from 13 wolves to one by legal shootings and live removals after it repeatedly attacked livestock last year in Paradise Valley, Mont., north of the park.
Since the 1980s, authorities have had to shoot 82 wolves and relocate 91 others in the northern Rockies for killing livestock. Last year, Yellowstone wolves killed seven cattle, 31 sheep and five dogs, while central Idaho packs killed 15 cattle, 55 sheep and three dogs.
Three young Sheep Mountain males, trained in captivity to avoid livestock, are now back in the wild. The acid test might come this summer, when ranchers move cattle back to Paradise Valley pastures.
Some people already have killed some wolves illegally, hewing to an anti-wolf philosophy known as "shoot, shovel and shut up." Reliable counts are elusive. A tally as of 1998 found 21 illegal shootings of radio-collared wolves. Fish and Wildlife just posted a $ 10,000 bounty last month for the killers of two more in Idaho.
Despite the turmoil, the northern Rockies packs have reached Fish and Wildlife's goal for down-listing the species to "threatened": 20 pairs of mates producing successful litters for at least two of three consecutive years. Last July, the agency proposed reclassification.
Wolf advocates say they worry that such moves are hasty.
Defenders of Wildlife and the Turner Endangered Species Fund are pushing for wolf reintroductions in Colorado's southern Rockies.
Last month, Defenders of Wildlife established a "proactive" fund for attack prevention: herd-guarding dogs, electric sheep fences, noisemaking devices to scare wolves and perhaps even adding extra cowboys.
Report Puts Park Wolves in Dire Peril
Cameron Smith, The Toronto Star, 13 January 2001
The wolves of Algonquin Park, beloved by Ontarians, may be perilously close to disappearing, says a report outlining a plan to protect them commissioned by John Snobelen, minister of natural resources.
Yet, in a stunning contradiction, the same report recommends that hunting and trapping of the wolves be allowed to continue on the borders of the park.
There are only about 150 wolves in the park. A general rule of thumb says that's the minimum number that a local population needs in order to maintain its genetic diversity and to withstand natural calamities. However, as John and Mary Theberge point out in Wolf Country (McClelland & Stewart, 1998, $24.99 in paperback), the rule of thumb doesn't apply to Algonquin wolves. The rule presumes that there are at least 50 randomly mating breeders, but that's not possible within the park because of the way the wolf packs are structured, they say.
Maintaining Algonquin's wolves might not pose such a problem if they were no different from the eastern Canadian wolf that inhabits a broad swath extending from Timmins to Lake Ontario, and from Quebec to Manitoba.
But as the report says: "The wolves of Algonquin Park may be genetically unique and restricted to the park. Thus, small numbers of Algonquin wolves (as few as 150) would be at significant risk of inbreeding, loss of genetic variability, or even extinction through local catastrophes."
Given that statement, you'd think the report would urge a supremely cautious approach, recommending no hunting or trapping at all in a buffer zone surrounding the park - at least until it was proved whether Algonquin wolves are unique.
The report recommends establishing a buffer zone in 40 townships around the park. However, it suggests that in all but four of them hunting be allowed for part of the year, particularly when wolf pelts are at their prime.
The townships where hunting and trapping would be totally banned are near the highway crossing the park where park officials take visitors on public wolf howls. The wolves there "are very important to the park's internationally renowned interpretive program and ecotour- ism in the area," the report says.
The contradiction of recommending hunting and trapping of what well may turn out to be an endangered species dovetails with the outlook of Snobelen's ministry. It is dedicated to "harvesting" wildlife while, at the same time, claiming to be its protector. It is a deeply conflicted approach. In concentrating on economic worth of the wolves, it fails to value the diversity they represent, and ultimately ignores their importance in maintaining ecological balances within the park.
Elsewhere in Ontario, there is an open season on wolves. So the fur industry would not likely run short of pelts, and sport hunters would not go disappointed, if a total ban on killing were placed throughout the buffer zone.
Within the park, the territories of the wolf packs range from 15 to 20 kilometres in diameter. But, say the Theberges, half the land in the park lies within 10 kilometres of a boundary. So only slightly more than half of the 30 packs in the park - those in the centre - have territories totally within the park. The territories of the remaining packs lie partly outside the park. So nearly half of the parks' 150 wolves have territories that extend into hunting and trapping areas.
The report expresses the hope that hunters could be persuaded to "voluntarily refrain from harvesting wolves" in the buffer zone. It adds that trappers would co-operate "in reporting their harvests of wolves, (which) will be very helpful in assessing the effects of management."
What nonsense. If Snobelen is sincerely interested in saving the park's wolves, he should simply ban all hunting and trapping in the buffer zone. What the wolves need is protection, not pious hopes. And instead of looking to trappers for help in assessing progress, he should arrange to have the wolves monitored, as the Theberges and their students have been doing for a dozen years.
Why We Should Let Wolves Be
Cameron Smith, The Toronto Star, 6 January 2001
Two townships near where I live, north of Gananoque, have asked the provincial government to restore a bounty on wolves.
It already is legal to shoot wolves at any time of the year in southern Ontario. So it's not the right to kill wolves that the townships want. It's a bigger incentive. What has sparked the calls for a bounty is the occasional loss of a lamb to a predator. Local evaluators inevitably say they were killed by wolves or coyotes.
Undoubtedly they were killed by something canine: wolves, coyotes, wolf/coyote hybrids, dogs, or dog/coyote hybrids. However, farmers are compensated only if an evaluator declares that a wolf or a coyote did the killing, and almost always they're the ones found guilty.
Local councils pay the compensation, with money provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. In the latest case, concerning a large lamb, the compensation was $200.
My guess is that there are no wolves anywhere near the two townships. If there were, they'd be eastern timber wolves, a type of red wolf native to Algonquin Park. However, wolves maintain their distinctiveness only by living in highly disciplined packs.
When their social structure is disrupted, when the links that bind them together are broken, young males will wander off in search of romance and mate with coyotes. Their offspring may be more wolf than coyote, but behaviourally and psychologically, they sure won't be wolves.
Differences between the two species are well-defined. Coyotes will breed in their first year; wolves only in their second or third. So killing coyotes is a hapless venture. They can breed as fast as you can kill them. Despite all attempts to kill them over the past 200 years, there are now more coyotes in North America than ever before. Wolves used to keep them under control, killing any that ventured into their territories. But as humans slaughtered wolves, coyotes moved in.
The main sources of food for wolves is moose, deer and beavers. For coyotes it is mainly mice, rabbits, and other small game.
A wolf pack will have a territory of 200 to 300 square kilometres. The territory of a group of coyotes can be as small as four square kilometres.
Killing wolves disrupts their social structure, especially if it is the older wolves that are killed, the ones that teach the younger wolves and enforce discipline.
Wolves are at the top of the chain of predators and so have a tremendous ability to influence an ecosystem. It's called a top-down influence. I saw it at work on Lake Gananoque last winter. A deer had been killed on the lake, and what probably were two wolf/coyote hybrids were feeding on it.
Also feeding were two bald eagles. It reminded me that when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States, ravens and bald eagles returned to the park.
In addition to supplying food in winter to winged scavengers, foxes, fishers, and a host of other species, wolves keep prey populations, such as beavers, under control. In our area, beavers are so far out of control that they are considered a major nuisance, damming culverts and every trickle of water they can find, exasperating township road crews and landowners. Since coyotes rarely tackle a beaver, it's a sure sign there aren't many wolves around.
The two townships are on the most southern part of the Canadian Shield. As farmers have been leaving marginal farmland, the forest has been returning. So the edge of the wild has been moving southward. With it have come species such as fishers, otters, red shouldered hawks, bald eagles, bobcats, bears and wolves - or, at least, wolf-coyote hybrids.
New ecosystems are establishing themselves, and wolves will be an essential part of creating a balance. Surely it's time to recognize their role instead of slaughtering them and, in the process, deforming and destabilizing nature.
French Farmers Cry Wolf Over Sheep Killings
Paul Brown, The Guardian (London), 4 January 2001
Wolves which have invaded the French Alps are killing a staggering number of sheep, say farmers who are able to claim compensation for missing animals as an exchange for not shooting the intruders.
Henry Buller, from the countryside research unit at Gloucestershire college, Cheltenham, said the wolves - there are thought to be 30 - seemed to have developed big appetites after crossing the Italian border, from where they lived undisturbed in sparsely populated areas
He is studying the clash between farming communities and species that are reintroduced naturally or by humans, such as brown bears in France and beavers in Scotland.
"The farmers are accusing the government of clandestinely reintroducing the wolves, but there is no evidence for that," said Professor Buller. "They seem to have come back naturally in the early 1990s as the population expanded. The farmers are in a minority because most of the French public find it terribly attractive to have real wild creatures back on their territory. The farmers want permits to shoot the wolves."
The French environment ministry has bought off the farmers by introducing a compensation scheme in the Alpes-Maritimes. From 36 sheep killed in 1993, farmers claimed for 194 killed in 1994, 441 in 1995 and 796 in 1996, costing the government pounds 600,000 for 5,250 animals killed or injured - an average of 175 sheep a year for each wolf.
"The problem for the French is that the farmers are grumbling, saying they may abandon their farms because of the wolves. But it is the farmers and their sheep that keep the character of the alpine meadows the way people like it. Without sheep the alpine flowers would not flourish and the scrub would take over. Compensation is the only way that has been found so far to keep the farmers happy, but it is proving expensive."
A similar problem arose when brown bears were reintroduced into a national park in the Pyrenees. The public were delighted and the bears bred successfully, but local hunters wanted to kill the bears when they left the park.
Prof Buller said: "The lesson from France is that it only works if the local community is consulted and is on side."