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Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2004
Page 6
Gray Wolf Makes Stunning Comeback in Wisconsin
Betsy Bloom, La Crosse Tribune, 7 March 2004
Biologist Rich King has monitored wolves at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge since the first paw print was found in January 1996, but he has seen the shadowy predator only about a half-dozen times.  
"I definitely still get a thrill," King said of the rare sightings. "It's still unique."
Most times, though, he has to rely on tracks to tell where the wolves are wandering on the 43,700-acre refuge.
Jim Johnson Jr. has seen wolf tracks as well, on his rural Hixton property in northern Jackson County. Unlike King, he is not thrilled.
"I can't think of one person in the county," Johnson said, "who was in favor of the wolf coming back in the first place."
To Johnson, the gray wolf is a threat to livestock and pets, a competitor whose presence means there'll be fewer deer in Jackson County when hunting season rolls around.
If the wolf would stick to public lands, Johnson would be more tolerant. But the tracks on his property show the wolf isn't staying where it should be.
While Jackson County has no recorded wolf attacks on livestock, and only one injured dog, Johnson says it's only a matter of time before the complaints rise with the number of wolves.
"On private property, they're not wanted," said Johnson. "They're not going to kill the weak and the sick, they're going to kill what's easiest ... and we have no legal means to defend our property."
At its March 23 meeting, the state Natural Resources Board will consider removing the gray, or timber, wolf from the state's list of threatened species.
The state's wolf population has reached more than 335, well above the level set for de-listing when the wolf management plan was adopted in 1999, said Randle Jurewicz, a Department of Natural Resources biologist who oversees the plan. That population appears to have been sustained into this year, he said.
The move to delist the wolf has solid support. In a series of public forums the DNR held across the state late last year, 93 percent of the comments favored lifting the threatened status, said Jurewicz.
He and other wildlife officials see it as a positive step, a sign their efforts over the years have been rewarded by a quicker-than-expected return of a species declared extinct in the state only a half-century ago.
"It shows we've been successful in recovering the wolf population," said Adrian Wydeven, a mammal ecologist with the DNR's Bureau of Endangered Resources. "I see it as sort of a covenant with the state of Wisconsin .... This is what we said in the plan, and now we're going to follow through with it."
Wolf opponents find themselves in rare agreement with the DNR, saying the state's population has moved into numbers that warrant talking about limits rather than protection.
"We need to have a measure of control, something in place for when they reach that goal number," Johnson said.
But Jurewicz stressed the change in status won't mean a hunting season on wolves anytime soon. "We believe wolves would be very sensitive to hunting pressure," he said.
While the federal government did remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list last spring, it still has threatened status in the United States. Even if the state wanted to, it could not allow hunting or trapping while under federal protection.
What de-listing in Wisconsin would do is allow the DNR to more easily remove problem wolves, those known to be killing domestic animals, Jurewicz said.
Last year, the state paid damages for wolf predation on 20 cattle, 24 sheep, six dogs and one deer on a deer farm. When wolves were classified as endangered, a problem wolf could only be trapped and relocated, and often managed to return to its former territory.
Under the threatened status, problem wolves can be destroyed — the state euthanized 17 in 2003 — but only after two documented attacks. De-listing would mean a wolf could be killed after one incident.
"Sometimes they make mistakes, too, and they don't always eat what nature provides them to eat," Jurewicz said. "They think, ‘Gee, it's right there and it's slow and it's good to eat.'"
But Jurewicz noted that northern Wisconsin has hundreds of wolves and thousands of head of livestock, yet less than 50 confirmed acts of predation in 2003.
"Compared to what's out there, it's very little," Jurewicz said. "But I understand how people feel. They don't raise calves to feed wolves."
He is less sympathetic to claims the return of the wolf reduces the state's deer herd.
If every wolf in Wisconsin consumed 25 deer in a year — a very generous figure, Jurewicz said — the annual kill would be less than 8,500 deer. In contrast, more than 480,000 deer were taken by human hunters in 2003, and about 45,000 were fatally struck by vehicles.
Clearly, more Wisconsin deer meet their end on the bumper of a car than in the jaws of a wolf.
"There are some pretty significant issues when you talk about wolves in Wisconsin," Jurewicz said. "But when it comes to white-tailed deer, no, I can't go there. Timber wolves are not having an impact on whitetails."
About 40 to 50 wolves make their home in Wisconsin's central forest, which extends into Jackson, Monroe and Juneau counties. In 1999, one began roaming Fort McCoy in Monroe County, and by last year five adults were known to be living on fort land.
Last summer, a howling survey done by Tim Wilder, endangered species biologist at Fort McCoy, got a response from adults and pups — perhaps the first wolves born in the region in almost a century.
Despite the resident pack, hunters at Fort McCoy still managed to bag 962 deer in 2003, the third-largest harvest in 26 years on record.
The movement of wolves southward into Fort McCoy and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge has raised the question of just how much of Wisconsin might become wolf territory.
Southern Wisconsin is not thought to have suitable habitat for wolves, which prefer large tracts of conifer forest. It is unlikely even the Fort McCoy wolves would spread into, say, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in Vernon County, even though much of that land is undeveloped and wooded, Wydeven said.
Then again, in January a wolf was struck by a car near Appleton, within sight of the Fox River Mall, and another was hit by a truck on Interstate 94 in Jefferson County just east of Madison. A Jackson County wolf also turned up dead in east central Indiana in June 2003.
All three were most likely young wolves driven out of their home territory and forced to go wandering for a new place to live. These "dispersing" wolves can range long distances, Wydeven said.
"We are seeing more of a mixture of forests and farmland (habitat) in some of these new packs," Wydeven said. "I think wolves are more adaptable than we've seen in the past ... but I don't think they'll be quite as adaptable as coyotes."
The state has room for perhaps 500 resident wolves, mostly in the north. If new generations of wolves do attempt to make their home near more populated areas, control measures might have to come into play to discourage them, Jurewicz said.
"I think it's tolerable (in northern Wisconsin) ... but not in southern Wisconsin," Jurewicz said.
Wydeven, who has 14 years in wolf research, agreed. He heralded the return of the wolf to Wisconsin's north woods. His favorite wolf story is of Whistler, a worn-tooth male perhaps a decade old, who after years of living outside a pack managed to find a mate and sire two litters of pups before he died. They became the foundation for the Rainbow Lake pack in Bayfield County.
"It was kind of neat, that old wolf died but his legacy lived on," he said.
Wydeven thinks the majority of the public also favors having the species back in the state. But the good feelings for the animal now pictured on the state's Endangered Species license plate might fade if the wolf begins to clash more with humans.
"We want to have the tools available so we don't get to the situation where there's a backlash," Wydeven said. "We don't want the population to grow so quickly it becomes a nuisance animal."

1865 — Bounty established on wolves in Wisconsin.

Late 1800s — Wolf considered extirpated in southern Wisconsin.

1956-57 — Last wolf packs vanish from northern Wisconsin; state lifts bounty on wolves.

1959 — Last recorded wolf kill in northern Wisconsin before state lists species as extirpated.

1973 — Gray wolf placed on federal Endangered Species List.

1974-75 — Wolf pack reported in northwestern Wisconsin south of Superior, thought to have entered from Minnesota.

1979 — Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources begins monitoring of wolf population.

1986 — DNR forms Wolf Recovery Team.

1989 — Wolf recovery plan approved, sets minimum goal of 80 wolves.

1995 — Wolf population reaches 83-86.

1999 — Wolf downlisted to threatened status in Wisconsin; state population reaches 197 wolves and 54 packs. Long-range management plan sets 250 as threshhold for delisting in state.

2003 — Wolf numbers top 335, process begins to lift threatened status in Wisconsin.

April 2003 — Gray wolf removed from federal Endangered Species List, remains under threatened status nationally.

March 23-24, 2004 — Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to meet in Madison, expected to consider whether to remove gray wolf's status as threatened species in state.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wolves Strike Madison Valley Ranch
Nick Gevock, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 6 March 2004
A federal official said Friday that whoever illegally killed a collared wolf in the Madison Valley scuttled trackers' efforts to find the wolves that had attacked a dog hours earlier.
Ed Bangs, wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said a wolf that had been collared on Thursday was spotted from an airplane Friday afternoon bloodied and lying in a snowbank.
Officials had been using that wolf to track down and kill members of the Sentinel pack, which is suspected of four attacks on livestock in the Madison Valley over the past week.
"If somebody did illegally kill this one radio-collared wolf, they have just totally messed up their neighbors," Bangs said.
The latest ranch-wolf conflict began Friday at 5:30 a.m. when rancher Todd Durham was checking his cattle on his ranch along Bear Creek east of Cameron.
He spotted four wolves running pregnant heifers, his wife Barbie Durham said. The Durham's red Australian shepherd, Squirt, ran into the mix to protect the cattle.
"They killed him instead of the cows," Barbie Durham said of Squirt. "If he hadn't have went out there, they would have taken a calf."
The attack had Madison County commissioners furious Friday. They said federal officials were dragging their feet while wolves wreaked havoc on ranchers during calving season.
"We lose four animals, and then we lose a dog, which I consider a member of that family," County Commissioner Dave Schulz said. "All of a sudden the Fish and Wildlife Service is saying, 'maybe we should do something?'"
Commissioner Ted Coffman added that, even if federal officials kill the pack, the stress on pregnant cows could be disastrous.
"Any rancher knows you don't go out there and run your pregnant cows, because half of your calves will abort," he said.
The Sentinel pack has grown increasingly brazen. Barbie Durham said the wolves have roamed through their yard at night and last month urinated in a snow bank in which her children play.
The recent attacks also prompted U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., to send a representative from his office to meet with the Durhams and commissioners. And the Montana Stockgrowers Association issued a press release calling for immediate removal of wolves from the endangered species list.
Wolves cannot be removed from the endangered species list until Montana, Idaho and Wyoming submit management plans acceptable to FWS. Montana's and Idaho's plans have been accepted, but Wyoming's plan treats wolves like vermin and allows them to be shot on sight outside of national parks.
Bangs defended his agency's response to the attack on the Durham's ranch, saying he had a helicopter en route within half an hour to kill all seven wolves in the pack.
He also called the loss of the radio-collared wolf a major setback.
"If wolves cause problems, we have no problem instituting lethal control," he said. "We'll keep working on it until we resolve the situation. But it's going to drag on for awhile, I'm afraid."
Bangs added that Madison Valley ranchers have the right to shoot wolves caught attacking livestock.
But Barbie Durham disputed Bangs' assertion that ranchers can kill wolves caught attacking livestock. She said they asked for shoot-to-kill permits and were denied. As a result, she and her husband are afraid a lawsuit would follow if they killed problem wolves.
"We're not wealthy people," she said. "We can't afford to lose a stock dog, let alone face federal prosecution for killing a protected animal."
Wyoming To Sue Over Wolf Impasse
Mike Stark, Billings Gazette, 3 March 2004
Unable to resolve differences at the negotiating table, Wyoming soon will take its fight over wolf management to federal court, a state official said Tuesday.
Michael O'Donnell, Wyoming's chief deputy attorney general, said the state would challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's rejection in January of the state management plan for wolves.
The lawsuit, which will be filed in a federal court in Wyoming, will claim that the federal agency wrongly opposed Wyoming's wolf plan despite a review by a scientific panel in which a majority agreed that the plan would be adequate.
"We think we've got a pretty good argument," O'Donnell said. "They acted arbitrarily in rejecting the Wyoming plan."
The suit will ask a federal judge to order the Fish and Wildlife Service to accept Wyoming's plan and begin the process of removing the wolves from the endangered species list.
The news comes as the U.S. Department of Interior plans to announce, possibly today, that it will allow state officials in Montana and Idaho to take an expanded role in managing wolves, even though the species has not yet been delisted.
The move toward delisting has been a long and contentious process in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. It now is in a holding pattern, especially after Wyoming lawmakers last week failed to find agreement on a bill that would change the state law that acted as a blueprint for a wolf plan.
Federal officials say the wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountains, which was reintroduced in 1995 and 1996, has reached population thresholds that warrant lifting federal restrictions and passing management to the three states.
In recent years, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have developed plans to manage wolves. The federal government has approved plans for Montana and Idaho but rejected Wyoming's. Delisting cannot occur until all three state plans are approved.
In rejecting Wyoming's plan, Steve Williams, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said his agency could not accept Wyoming's classification of some wolves as predators, meaning that they could be shot on sight.
Williams also voiced concerns about how the state law defined wolf pack sizes.
Meeting in a budget session, Wyoming lawmakers last month grappled with several bills, including two that would have changed the state wolf law to comply with suggestions from Williams.
When those bills didn't pass muster with lawmakers, Gov. Dave Freudenthal's office decided that a lawsuit was the next best step.
O'Donnell said the suit should be completed in the next week or so.
"It's safe to say we're not going to go outside of Wyoming for this suit," O'Donnell said. "We're going to file this suit where the wolves are."
A key part of the lawsuit will hinge on what O'Donnell said is a disparity between Williams' rejection of the plan and a review of the plan by other wolf scientists.
Last fall, 11 wolf experts reviewed all three state plans. Ten of them said the plans appeared to be adequate for sustaining wolf populations if federal protections were lifted. It doesn't make sense that the peer review would approve the plans, but the federal agency would reject the one from Wyoming, O'Donnell said.
"The law says the decision is supposed to be made on the best available science," he said.
O'Donnell and Freudenthal also voiced frustration that Wyoming seemed to get mixed messages from the Interior Department while the plan was being developed.
"It was a painful political process," he said. "All this blood gets shed, we thought we had their endorsement up front and then they changed their minds."
In a recent interview, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said that her agency has been consistent with Wyoming.
"All I can say is that we've worked with them and will continue to work with them to try to help them get a management plan that could be approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service," Hugh Vickery, an Interior spokesman, said Tuesday.
Alaska Says Moose Numbers May Be Up
Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, 24 February 2004
ANCHORAGE — Moose numbers near McGrath, where a state-sponsored aerial wolf-killing program is under way, have increased slightly in the past two years, a state agency said yesterday.
The increase, however, is so small as to be statistically meaningless, a Department of Fish and Game biologist said.
State biologists last November counted 580 moose in the experimental study area near McGrath, up from 531 in 2001.
"The difference is small, and not statistically significant," biologist Mark Keech said.
McGrath, a village 200 miles west of Fairbanks, is one of two areas in Alaska where the state has approved aerial wolf-killing programs to boost the moose population. The other program is in the Nelchina basin area 100 miles northeast of Anchorage.
In both areas, residents have long complained that bears and wolves are eating too many moose, leaving them with too few to eat.
Fish and Game surveyed about half of the 87 sample units in the study area. It was not able to survey enough of the units in the larger 19D East game-management unit to know what is happening with moose there, Keech said. The data that were collected, however, showed fewer moose in the larger area than in 2001.
"As a result, making inferences about that population is difficult, and we are not alarmed by the apparent decline," Keech said.
Keech said the ratio of calves to cows is significantly higher in the study area, and that supports previous data showing an increase in calf survival.
Wolf biologist Gordon Haber said the information is suspect, with "gaping holes." He said the agency reached its population objective for the game unit and went forward with bear and wolf control anyway near McGrath.
Fish and Game previously credited the relocation of dozens of black and brown bears from the McGrath area last spring with increasing the summer survival rate of moose calves.
The next phase of the program called for removing 40 wolves from the McGrath area this winter. Three hunter and pilot teams have permits to kill the wolves, but, so far, weather has prevented any wolves from being killed near McGrath. Two more teams have been authorized, and the state still is taking applications, according to Fish and Game.
As of yesterday, more than 60 wolves had been killed in the Nelchina basin area near Glennallen. The state's goal is 140 wolves.
Board of Game Chairman Mike Fleagle said the slight increase in moose in the McGrath study area probably can be attributed to bear relocation because aerial wolf control has yet to have an effect.
"We don't have the results we want yet," he said. "The moose numbers are still way down."
The board is considering doubling the moose-population objective for unit 19D East to between 6,000 and 8,000, Fleagle said.
Biologist Vic Van Ballenberghe, who served for 3-1/2 years on the game board under two governors, said increasing the moose-population objective would be a serious mistake.
"I think it is disingenuous for a board member to say we are not going to increase the area over which wolves are shot. Of course it would (be increased)," he said. "It locks you into wolf control forever."
The Alaska Wildlife Alliance, meanwhile, launched its own protest yesterday in response to the aerial wolf-killing programs. The group has bought 20 hours of flying time from a charter plane company to fly a banner that says, "Alaskans said no to aerial wolf killing," referring to voter initiatives in 1996 and 2000.
"This is our aerial protest," said wildlife director Paul Joslin.
Commissioners Considering Giving County Authority to Shoot Wolves
Associated Press, 18 February 2004
LIVINGSTON (MT) – Park County commissioners are considering a resolution stating that the county would have authority to kill gray wolves if the federal government’s plan to remove protections is delayed further.
One commissioner, however, said the main purpose of the proposed resolution is to express disapproval and frustration with delays in the federal delisting process, and it is unlikely county officials would begin killing the federally protected predators.
Commissioner Jim Durgan called the proposal a “statement of our philosophy,” adding, “We can’t go out and start shooting wolves at will.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in January that it was delaying plans to drop federal protections for gray wolves in parts of the West. The agency’s delisting plan called for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to develop management plans that would ensure the wolves continued survival once federal protections were removed. But the agency concluded that Wyoming’s plan was inadequate, and the delisting process is stalled while federal wildlife officials and the Wyoming Legislature try to hammer out a new plan.
Durgan said the resolution was suggested by the Park County Stockgrowers and is still being drafted. The draft language, however, states that if the delisting plan is delayed, commissioners “reserve their right to protect our county and citizens by ordering lethal wolf control.”
Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery coordinator, said Wednesday that anyone killing a wolf illegally would face federal charges.
“We always have a few wolves illegally killed and we treat that as a serious law enforcement issue,” he said. “Taking the law into your own hands is just not the way most Americans do things.”
He noted that he understands the frustration that leads to such resolutions, but said he hopes the county would never actually follow through.
“I don’t think this will cause anyone to go out and kill wolves,” he said. “I hope not, because we’re sworn to uphold the law.”
The proposed resolution states that wolves prey on livestock and wildlife in the county and that the federal government is “inadequately managing” the animals.
The proposal states that the county also would reserve the right to kill wolves after federal protections are removed, if officials believe that delisting has not brought “meaningful and immediate relief” to county residents and livestock owners.
“It’s clearly illegal,” said David Gaillard, of Predator Conservation Alliance, a Bozeman-based environmental group. “Why pass a resolution trying to encourage illegal activity? That doesn’t get us anywhere.”
Jim Barrett, director of the Park County Environmental Council, said the resolution “is harmless, other than it makes us look bad.”
“When the American public generally supports wolves, this doesn’t generate any fondness for ranchers,” he said.
Estonian Wolves: From Outlaws to Protected Animals
AFP, 15 February 2004
TALLINN (AFP) - Outlawed and hunted in Estonia for centuries, wolves have become a protected species as the Baltic country prepares to join the European Union (news - web sites) on May 1 amid concern over their declining numbers.
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With its multitude of habitats, abundance of food and proximity of the big wolf population in eastern neighbour Russia, Estonia harbours more wolves than most EU members.
But their number appears to be dwindling below the minimum set when the EU gave Estonia special permission in its membership negotiations to continue its age-old tradition of wolf-hunting, forbidden in other member states.
In 1990 Estonia counted 600-700 wolves, and the wolf was an outlaw. The government gave a prize for hunting it. There were special wolf-hunting brigades for many years.
Some 300 were hunted every year at special hunting sessions or shooting ranges.
By late last year hunters said there were only around 100 left, with specialists saying there were even less, as low as 70-80, less than the 100-150 Estonia promised the EU it would maintain.
The EU has given Estonia permission to hunt 16 wolves every year.
John Kjaer, the EU's ambassador to Estonia, said that the bloc was carefully watching the situation.
"We look forward with interest to seeing the new fresh figures about the wolf situation in Estonia," he told AFP.
Enn Vilbaste, the director of the Nigula nature protection area near the Latvian border, and wolf researcher Marko Kubarsepp both said they were confident Estonia would soon have more than 100 wolves again, as wolves give birth to their puppies in late winter and spring.
They said several factors contributed to the decline in the wolf population.
"The biggest problem is a mistake made some years ago -- the structure of wolfpacks was demolished. Hunters killed mostly pack leaders, Vilbaste told AFP.
"Without leaders the packs scattered."
So while the Nigula nature protection area once had a big and strong wolfpack, now it has two small packs and some lone wolves roaming alone.
"Loners are the worst -- they don't have pack support to hunt down wild prey. So they come near the human settlements to kill dogs and other domestic animals," Vilbaste said.
"The young wolves will not take part in hunting a prey, they watch how adults do it and learn," researcher Kubarsepp, who has been watching and researching wolves for years, told AFP.
"When you shoot down the elders, the young wolves won't get any teaching at all."
"Actually it's possible to shoot wolves selectively, not killing the leaders. But hunters prefer to shoot the first and biggest wolf of the pack, leaving the pack without a leader," he added.
Lone wolves also have difficulties finding a reproductive partner, meaning some do it with vagrant dogs. There have been many reports of wolf-dog mixes around the country.
"I also believe the vagrant dogs do more damage to domestic animals than wolves. Nobody knows how many of them we have in forests. More than wolves for sure," Vilbaste said.
Fewer wolves are also crossing the border from Russia due to the new practice of poisoning wolves there, the environment ministry offical responsible for wolves Peep Mannil said.
In theory no further wolves should be shot this year as the 12-month quota for wolf hunting was met in December.
But no one can control poaching in Estonia. Because for the Estonian hunter the wolf has been the eternal enemy for centuries.
And they don't consider it a sin to ambush a wolf and bury it in the bushes.
"Changing people's attitude takes time, the fear for wolves is still inside everyone," Kubarsepp said. "But this is crucial in saving our wolf population."
Committee Bristles at Wolf Plan
Greg Stahl, Idaho Mountain Express, 6 February 2004
Idaho lawmakers sparred this week over a proposal from Gov. Dirk Kempthorne that would delineate management responsibilities over Idaho’s reintroduced gray wolves and give some management authority to the Nez Perce Tribe.
A Tuesday afternoon meeting of the House Resources Committee quickly ended when committee Chairman Bert Stevenson banged his gavel down to end the heated discussion.
Conservative members of the committee grilled Jim Caswell, the administrator of the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, accusing him of negotiating with the Nez Perce Tribe behind closed doors.
The tribe is contracted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to oversee gray wolf recovery in Idaho. Wolves, listed as an endangered species, were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995 and 1996. There are estimated to be 370 wolves in the state.
Earlier this month, Caswell’s office released a memorandum of agreement, to be presented to the Nez Perce Tribe, outlining a collaborative process of future wolf management. The agreement would allow the state to begin sharing wolf management activities more quickly than if it waited for the animals to be removed from the Endangered Species Act. It would also allow the tribe to remain involved after the wolves are removed from the list.
Committee members smarted at the idea, partly because they said they were unaware of the agreement and partly because they said they believed it compromises the state’s post-listing position with the tribe.
During the Tuesday hearing, Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, who lives in one of the state’s hotbeds of wolf controversy, threw her pencil and argued with Stevenson at the end of the committee table.
During previous sessions, Barrett suggested the only kind of wolf management Idaho should entertain is extermination. Barrett was angry with Caswell’s work, pointing to a legislative statement passed in 2001 that called for the unequivocal removal of wolves from the state.
Barrett said Caswell’s office was given authority to "talk or consult" with the tribes and federal government.
"That’s not the same as making an agreement with them," she said.
Republican Rep. Lawerence Denney of Midvale, the House majority leader, tried to ease the tension.
"You’re hearing the frustration of the committee," he said. "Nobody anticipated an expanded role for the tribes. And this was a secret until about a week ago."
Barrett, frustrated after 90 minutes of questioning, intended to ask the committee for a vote against the agreement.
Stevenson said he suspected something was amiss when he noticed Barrett having pages find fellow conservative members to bring them back to the hearing room for a vote. Before she was able to ask for the vote, Stevenson gaveled the meeting closed. Barrett threw her pencil.
"You didn’t allow me to have a say," protested loudly.
"I don’t allow you to make that kind of motion," Stevenson said. "I expected the courtesy of you telling me what the game plan was."
Caswell said members of the committee have a misconception that the tribe would be out of the wolf management business after the species is removed for the ESA. Rather, the tribe would undoubtedly be a part of the management plan for years to come whether or not the state ultimately signs the agreement, he said.
Boycott Stings Tour Outfits
The Juneau Empire, 4 February 2004
ANCHORAGE - Some people in Alaska's tourism industry are beginning to feel the hurt from a tourism boycott launched by an animal rights group upset over the state's lethal wolf control program.
Mark Reiser, owner of the Wasilla-based company Outdoors Alaska, said a major client canceled its reservations last week and is instead going to Costa Rica. Another large group also changed plans, citing the state predator control program.
"This program and this national boycott are devastating my business," Reiser said. "I'm a very small business, so the $30,000 in gross revenue is fairly significant to me."
Under the state-sponsored program to reduce predators and increase the moose population, 30 wolves had been killed in the Glennallen area as of last weekend.
The Alaska Board of Game first approved a plan to eliminate about 40 wolves near McGrath, using shotguns from airplanes. To date, poor weather has prevented any kills.
A second program would remove roughly 140 wolves from the Nelchina basin, using a method known as land-and-shoot in which pilots are required to land before killing the wolves.
The Nelchina basin is an area of 25,000 square miles northeast of Anchorage. It is historically where residents of the Anchorage Bowl and Fairbanks hunted, and wolf-control efforts from before statehood allowed the moose and caribou populations to balloon.
The moose population has fallen by about half since the 1980s, in part because of rising wolf numbers, said Bob Tobey, who manages the region for the Department of Fish and Game in Glennallen.
"If we get some wolf control, we can stop this decline," he said, although it won't show immediate results. "We declined so long and so far, it's not going to come back anytime soon."
The Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals is promoting the tourism boycott, which is modeled after a similar successful boycott a decade ago.
Businesses like Reiser's have felt the pinch, but other operators believe the boycott may not have the teeth of the one a decade ago. Denali Lodges, which has three facilities near Denali National Park, hasn't received a single cancellation, said Eric Downey, vice president of marketing.
"We were very concerned, but those concerns did not materialize," he said.
The businesses that form the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association haven't reported a flood of cancellations, said executive director Anne Gore.
"We're beginning to feel a little bit more pressure" since the first wolves were killed, said Gore, estimating cancellations at fewer than 10. But the next few weeks will be telling for her association members, many of whom cater to the kinds of visitors most likely to oppose killing wolves, she said.
Members of the state's largest tourism industry group, the Alaska Travel Industry Association, also report fewer cancellations than they feared, but they too are watching closely, said Executive Director Ron Peck. Reservations will continue to roll in all spring and summer, he noted.
"We're not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot," he said.
Wolf Kill Boycott Nibbles Tourism
Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, 3 February 2004
Despite finger-numbing cold as low as 55 below in Glennallen, private pilots shot and killed another 16 wolves in the state-sponsored Nelchina basin predator control program last weekend, bringing their total to 30.
Though the wolf kill cheers hunters who hope to see more moose and caribou in the area as a result of fewer predators, it is painful news to at least some people in the tourism industry.
Mark Reiser, owner of a Wasilla-based company called Outdoors Alaska, said a major client canceled its reservations last week and is instead going to Costa Rica. Another large group also changed plans, citing the state predator control.
"This program and this national boycott are devastating my business," Reiser said. "I'm a very small business, so the $30,000 in gross revenue is fairly significant to me."
Animal rights groups began threatening a tourism boycott late last year as state game managers turned up the heat on predator control. The Alaska Board of Game eventually approved a plan for private pilots to shoot about 40 wolves near McGrath, using shotguns from airplanes. To date, poor weather has prevented any kills.
A second program would remove roughly 140 wolves from Game Management Unit 13, the Nelchina basin, using a method known as land-and-shoot. Pilots spot the animals from the air, then land their airplanes, hop out and fire using rifles.
The Nelchina basin, known as the breadbasket of Alaska, is an area of 25,000 square miles northeast of Anchorage surrounded by the Parks, Richardson and Glenn highways. It is historically where residents of the Anchorage Bowl and Fairbanks hunted, and wolf control efforts from before statehood allowed the moose and caribou populations to balloon.
The moose population has fallen by about half since the 1980s, in part because of rising wolf numbers, said Bob Tobey, who manages the region for the Department of Fish and Game in Glennallen.
"If we get some wolf control, we can stop this decline," he said, although it won't show immediate results. "We declined so long and so far, it's not going to come back anytime soon."
His goal is to reduce the area's wolf population to between 135 and 165, and to use private pilots to keep it there.
"I'm not looking for a huge kill this year," Tobey said. "I think we're better off taking some wolves every year and keeping the population down."
As the days grow longer and managers get a better idea of the Nelchina wolf population, he could cut off the land-and-shoot program at 100 wolves, Tobey said.
"We just have to see what the total overall harvest is and where distribution is," he said.
The state has enlisted 34 private pilots to do the shooting. They were selected based on their experience in the area, including in land-and-shoot hunting when it was legal or in previous wolf control efforts.
Among the permittees is Micheal Meekin, a longtime Palmer air taxi operator and former land-and-shoot hunter. He went out last week hoping to find a pack of wolves sitting on a lake that would make an easy target. He didn't, he said.
"Land-and-shoot isn't a for-sure thing," he said. A pilot needs the skill to spot the tracks and locate the wolves, then the luck to find them in a spot suitable for landing a small airplane. Then it's a matter of hitting a running target. Some of the pilots are their own gunners, while others are taking a second person along to shoot.
But Meekin doubts Fish and Game will reach its target of 140 animals, he said.
"The wolves aren't stupid." It won't take long before they realize that airplanes mean danger, he said. "Once they hear an airplane, they're going to hook it up and head for the timber. And once they're in the timber, they're safe."
Though he applauds the intention of reducing wolf numbers to produce more moose, he may not fly much more, Meekin said. "It costs too much." He estimated that pilots are spending $55 to $75 an hour, and their only compensation is the wolf pelts, which might be worth $300 in good condition. "It isn't a moneymaking thing," he said.
While a few of the permittees are serious trappers, Meekin said, others probably see it as a resumption of sport hunting.
"I don't think anybody's out there just to increase the moose population," he said.
Some opponents of the new wolf control programs have charged that it is sport hunting in disguise and therefore circumventing two statewide votes in which land-and-shoot and aerial hunting were banned.
Others, including the national organization Friends of Animals, oppose killing wolves for any reason, including state-sponsored predator control. The Darien, Conn.-based group is promoting a tourism boycott, modeled after the lines of successful efforts in the early 1990s.
The boycott appears to be having mixed success. Businesses like Reiser's have already felt the pinch, but other operators believe the boycott may not have the teeth its predecessors had a decade ago. Denali Lodges, which has three facilities near Denali National Park, hasn't received a single cancellation, said Eric Downey, vice president of marketing.
"We were very concerned, but those concerns did not materialize," he said, perhaps because many of the protests scheduled Outside were held in the weeks before and around Christmas. People were too busy to notice, Downey said.
The businesses that form the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association haven't reported a flood of cancellations, said executive director Anne Gore.
"We're beginning to feel a little bit more pressure" since the first wolves were killed, said Gore, estimating cancellations at fewer than 10. But the next few weeks will be telling for her association members, many of whom cater to the kinds of visitors most likely to oppose killing wolves, she added.
"If (the cancellation rate) continues at the same rate it's going now or it escalates at all, we will certainly need to address this" at the group's annual meeting in March, she said. "I've heard businesses say this is not going to go away, (that) it's just going to get worse and could result in some of the same economic impacts that some of these businesses experienced 10 years ago."
Members of the state's largest tourism industry group, the Alaska Travel Industry Association, also report fewer cancellations than they feared, but they also are watching closely, said executive director Ron Peck. Reservations will continue to roll in all spring and summer, he noted.
"We're not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot," he said.
Counties Get Wolf Predator Request
Buddy Smith, Ravalli Republic, 28 January 2004
A Pray man’s request that Montana’s 56 counties adopt resolutions calling for a tougher stance on gray wolves managed by the federal government has reached Ravalli County.
Commissioners Tuesday morning briefly discussed an e-mail sent by the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, Inc.’s chairman Robert T. Fanning Jr. to Montana counties, in anticipation of a Feb. 20 meeting of county commissioners in Helena. In the letter, Fanning called on officials to adopt resolutions under the Endangered Species Act that, among other things, would ask the “Secretary of Agriculture for immediate and meaningful predator control.”
He also cited a recent resolution adopted by Carbon County commissioners, declaring wolves under federal management as “problem predators” to establish controls to protect livestock there.
Fanning asked that Montana counties adopt resolutions in anticipation of protracted legal battles over removing wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act. He also wants them to intervene on behalf of the federal government in an environmental group’s lawsuit, which Fanning contended is “blocking wolf delisting,” and to have all Montana county commissions write to Gov. Martz asking her to request in writing to Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton that wolves be immediately taken off the endangered species list.
Ravalli County commissioners agreed to discuss it with members of the county’s Right to Farm Committee “to digest” the issue.
“I don’t want to put together a resolution at the moment until we understand this more fully, what the consequences are,” Commissioner Alan Thompson said.
Thompson said Ravalli County seems to have “dodged a bullet” when it comes to livestock depredations, but he noted troubles with wolves and livestock in the Ninemile and Polaris areas.
Commissioner Greg Chilcott said he “certainly wants to protect our ag producers, our livestock,” and would be willing to consider some sort of resolution, but he wanted to hear from the local agriculture committee.
Chilcott and Lund said during and after a morning discussion that their understanding of the resolution request by Fanning is “to delist wolves,” though they both said they hadn’t had time yet to fully consider the e-mail and multiple pages of accompanying text and become well-versed with it.
Asked about the “predator control” part of Fanning’s letter, Chilcott said he wasn’t interested in “making a national statement,” but he was interested in addressing local issues and the county could decide to adopt its own resolution to address wolf concerns, if it so desired, though not necessarily what was urged by Fanning.
He said any conclusions are premature, though.
“I haven’t made a predetermination,” Chilcott said. “I’m going to get input from people who are impacted.”
The predator tag for gray wolves is controversial, and that designation in Wyoming’s plan for managing the species has kept the federal government from moving forward with lifting federal protections for the animals in the northern Rockies.
The plans – which say how Wyoming, Montana and Idaho would manage wolves once they’re removed from the endangered species list and placed under state control – were approved for Montana and Idaho, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this month that delisting can’t begin until Wyoming changes its wolf predator status, which officials said would allow unregulated shooting of wolves in some places of that state, much like coyotes.
Fanning, in an e-mail forwarded to the county, said he believes the Secretary of Agriculture has absolute authority superseding the ESA when states or counties “petition directly for predator control in defense” of wild game herds or livestock. He accuses the Fish and Wildlife Service of wanting control by rejecting the notion of predator status for wolves in Wyoming.
Fanning said he believes wolves could remain federally protected for several more years because of legal battles, but in the meantime their numbers and range will expand.