Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

MAY 2004
5.30.04 TORONTO (Canadian Press) -- Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay will make his proposed ban on the hunting, chasing and trappi
ng of wolves and coyotes in and around Algonquin Provincial Park official on Monday, The Canadian Press has learned. The ban, which was first announced in March, received "overwhelming public support" during the 30 days it was posted on the province's Environmental Bill of Rights registry, a ministry source said last week. It's scheduled to take effect July 1, the source said. "Wolves are an integral part of Algonquin's biodiversity, and the focus of the park's popular education and interpretive programs," Ramsay says in a statement to be issued Monday, a copy of which was obtained by CP. "By protecting wolves today, we're making sure future generations of Ontarians will be able to hear wolves howl in Algonquin." A moratorium on wolf hunting, imposed in 2001 because of a dramatic fall in the wolf population in Algonquin and nearby townships, was scheduled to expire in June. The ministry estimated two years ago that the park's wolf population had dipped below 200. The permanent ban is part of an effort to protect the Eastern wolf, which the province wants to classify as a species at risk. Algonquin is the largest protected area for the Eastern wolf in North America. In its written response to the proposal, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said the ban "smacks of political expediency" and blames the management of the park habitat itself for the wolf's demise. The ministry is also working on a provincial management program for wolves, which wildlife advocates have long complained is no more cared for in Ontario than the lowly raccoon.
5.26.04 LIVINGSTON, MT (AP) -- A rancher who shot a wolf as it chased her sheep has settled a federal civil suit by agreeing to pay for a local newspaper ad educating others about legal protections for wolves. Laura Mitchell avoided a fine by placing the ad, the text of which filled her requirement to "educate the local populace about the regulations surrounding the experimental population of wolves in our area," according to the terms of the settlement. The ad in the Livingston Enterprise cost about $120, the newspaper said. It consisted mostly of information provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding protections for wolves and outlining under what circumstances people may kill them. Mitchell, however, was also allowed in a brief introduction to explain what led to the wolf's death and to note that she does not support federal wolf reintroduction that began in 1994. The case began in June 1999, when Mitchell said she saw an animal that she thought was a coyote chasing her sheep. She fatally shot the animal, but then realized it was not a coyote, Mitchell said in the advertisement. She called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to report the kill. In the days that followed, Mitchell found a dead sheep, but said she never found three lambs that had gone missing sometime during the two weeks prior to the wolf sighting. Mitchell said investigators told her they would recommend that no legal action be taken, and she then heard nothing for about two years. In March 2002, she learned the case had been sent to a federal solicitor general in Colorado, who would determine if the case was worth pursuing. In January 2004, she received notification the government intended to seek civil penalties for the wolf death. "Since I had no way to prove depredation, by our laws, a crime had been committed," she wrote.
5.26.04 NORTH CAROLINA (Chattanoogan.com) -- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is pleased to announce two major successes in the Red Wolf Recovery Program: the best spring ever recorded for endangered red wolf pups in North Carolina and a second red wolf pup fostering event. Red Wolf Recovery Program biologists found a record 55 red wolf pups in 11 litters and added two more puppies to the count through the fostering program. A pair of female red wolf pups was recently transferred from a captive facility on Bulls Island at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge near Charleston, South Carolina, to join the wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina. Just two weeks old, the sister pups were selected for their rare genes and placed in separate dens with wild red wolf pups of identical age. The captive-born sisters were adopted by wild foster mothers and will likely be raised within their respective packs....Fostering is a relatively new method which allows genetically valuable captive-born red wolf pups to become integrated into the wild red wolf population. The pups develop in the wild, so they gain survival skills required to mature and reproduce.....This spring, in addition to the two new 2004 arrivals, the Service's Red Wolf Recovery Program was able to measure the success of a previous 2002 fostering attempt. It was this time two years ago when a bold experiment placed two pups from the North Carolina Zoological Park into a wild den containing two pups of identical age. The male and female pups were successfully adopted by their wild foster mother and raised within the pack. During the following spring of 2003, the two captive-born yearlings remained with their adopted pack and helped raise a new litter of pups.This spring, biologists were hopeful that each of the zoo-born red wolves would produce litters of their own. The male zoo-born wolf, displaced from his adopted pack and forced to establish a range of his own, was successful in securing the alpha position of another established pack, just in time for breeding season. Biologists are celebrating the discovery of a litter of eight puppies that was fathered by the zoo-born male. This rather large litter denotes success for the 2002 fostering attempt....In mid-April, a telemetry intern detected a mortality signal from the zoo-born female's radio tracking collar. A mortality signal is produced when a red wolf does not move for six hours. When the female's body was recovered, all symptoms pointed to complications with pregnancy. "We are saddened at the loss of this zoo-born female and her unborn pups, but are encouraged by her ability to adapt successfully to the wild before dying of natural causes," comments Buddy Fazio, Team Leader of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. The red wolf is one of the most highly endangered canid species in the world. The only wild population of red wolves occurs in northeastern North Carolina, where over 100 red wolves span 1.5 million acres.
5.24.04 EDINBURG, NY (Chicago Sun-Times) -- The night Russ Lawrence shot dead the first confirmed Adirondack wolf in a century, the big canine wasn't alone. It came for the hunter's bait on a winter night with another animal.  ''It wasn't as big, but it was a pretty good size,'' Lawrence said. ''That's why I figured it was a female.''  At first, Lawrence figured he'd killed a record-sized coyote that January night in 2002, and he contacted state conservation officials.  It was a healthy 85-pound male, more than twice the average coyote size, but with the same features and color as its common relative. Two years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took tissue for genetic analysis and found it was pure gray wolf. That conclusion quickly raised more questions: Had a loner wandered down from the upper Midwest or Canada? Was the other animal Lawrence saw a gray wolf, too? And the big one: Had wolves, once at risk of extinction, made their way back to the Adirondacks? Wildlife experts agree they haven't, because populations would be noticed, as they have in the West and upper Midwest. The animals, also known as timber wolves, tend to live in small packs, move around, vocalize frequently and hunt. But the kill touched off a new round of debate over whether to bring the wolf back to New York. Farmers say coyotes are enough of a problem already, preying on young calves and other livestock. But some advocates of reintroducing the wolves say the animals would help the environment. ''If they're filling essentially the same niche, does it make a difference whether we call it a coyote or a wolf?'' said Al Hicks, wildlife biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. ''I guess it's whatever makes you feel better.''
5.23.04 WISCONSIN (Wausau Daily Herald) -- As Wisconsin's wolf population keeps growing, the animals continue to pop up in new and unexpected places."It was about the last thing I expected to see," said Bryon Buhse as he strolled through a wooded area on the outskirts of Wausau. Buhse believes that he and his dog, Buster, encountered timber wolves on at least two occasions earlier this month in the same patch of woods within a mile of Wausau's city limits, just a few hundred yards from a rural subdivision. "On Tuesday (May 4), the dog went into that thicket and came running out as fast as he could," Buhse said, pointing out a dark pocket of brush-filled evergreens. "A gray wolf was right behind it. At first, I didn't recognize what it was. It saw me, turned and ran. My dog took off after it. When they ran off, I heard howling and kind of a wailing, yapping noise. It was pretty intense. I wondered if I would ever see my dog again. After a while, I heard crashing, and Buster chased the wolf within 50 feet of me." Most dog-wolf contests are over quickly, ending in the wolf's favor and frequently, the dog's demise. Buhse was fortunate. Buster is not a typical hunting dog or house pet. "Buster is a mixture of Rottweiler, old English mastiff and pit bull," Buhse said. "He's 17 months old, weighs 120 pounds and is about 2 feet high at the shoulder, maybe higher. The wolf was about 6 inches higher at the shoulder." There might have been a confrontation between dog and wolf. Buhse said that when Buster returned, he had a small cut on his leg that could have come from a bite. Three days later, Buhse went back "and a darker wolf ran out. The dog started chasing it, but I called him back," he said. The first-time sighting might have been written off as a fluke occurrence, a chance meeting between hiker and a lone, wandering wolf. But when the scenario played out again, along with the appearance of a second wolf, Buhse considered the possibility that a den might have been established and pups born. He faced the prospect that a pack of wolves might be spending the summer in his neighborhood. Buhse, who has access to only 40 acres of the much larger forested block, contacted the Department of Natural Resources to report his experience. Rick Weide, DNR wildlife biologist for Marathon County, walked through a portion of the area with Buhse recently. "There was not much evidence of wolves," Weide said. "I looked around for tracks, but we didn't see any sign. But this happens a lot. The animal is not there when I get there. "I'm chalking it up as inconclusive. We'll have to wait and see if anyone else spots a wolf in that area." It's possible, he said, that if the animals were timber wolves and had produced a litter of pups, the adults might have moved the den to another, less accessible location outside Buhse's 40 acres. Weide said the state's wolf population, currently estimated at more than 400 animals, steadily is expanding southward.
5.23.04 WISCONSIN (Milwaukee Journal Sun) -- Wisconsin's wolves are thriving today at the top of the food chain in the North Woods, but the species may be headed for extinction - on state license plates. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will consider a proposal today to remove the wolf from the state threatened species list. While officials with the Department of Natural Resources say there is no corresponding plan to also take the wolf off Wisconsin's endangered resources license plate, that day likely is coming. "We are looking at some other options, but the wolf has been very popular - whether it's endangered or not," said Randy Jurewicz, a biologist in the DNR's Bureau of Endangered Resources. "There are a lot of people who buy that plate." The plates cost an initial $15 and also require a $25 annual fee. Jurewicz said they brought in just over $600,000 for species recovery programs in 2003. Bureau director Signe Holtz said the king of the carnivores won't be removed for at least a year, but talk about possible replacements has started. April 1 marks the one-year anniversary of the animal's down-listing in Wisconsin from endangered to threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The move marked a milestone in the recovery of a species that had been hunted and trapped into oblivion in Wisconsin by the mid-20th century. The down-listing was hailed by livestock operators and others opposed to wolf recovery. But some wolf advocates contend wolves have never been much of a problem for the livestock industry overall, and the relaxed protections have not had much of an effect on livestock operations. The state's move to take the wolf off its threatened list is considered largely symbolic because it will remain a federal threatened species. But the federal government is also considering taking the wolf off its threatened list. It can't happen soon enough for people like Lawrence Krak, an outspoken critic of the efforts to restore the wolf to Wisconsin. "Landowners should be able to dispatch them at will whenever they cross their land," said Krak, president of the group, People Against Wolves. "They are not an endangered species. As far as I'm concerned, we don't need a damn one in this state."
5.21.04 WASHINGTON, DC (AP) -- Your dog may not look like its ancestor, the wolf -- but they may have more in common than you'd think. Researchers have compared dog genes to wolves. They've found that the breeds that are closest to their wild wolf ancestors are the Siberian husky, the Chinese Shar-Pei, and the African basenji. They also find that there are just a few distinct genetic differences that separate dogs into the 400 or so breeds that are known worldwide. Like humans, dogs have about 99 percent of their genes in common with one another. The co-author of a study in the journal Science says it would be interesting to understand why the wolf genome held onto "everything that was necessary to make a Pekingese to a Great Dane."
5.21.04 ENNIS, MT (Billings Gazette) -- The first line of defense between wolves and cattle grazing in the Madison Valley this summer could be a team of horseback riders hired to encourage the wolves to search elsewhere for a meal. Bob and Ebby Kunesh are scheduled to work from June 1 through Oct. 31. The Predator Conservation Alliance came up with $38,000 in grants to hire them, after the idea was suggested by Lane Adamson, project coordinator for the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group. The wolves wander into the valley from Yellowstone National Park, where federal agencies are trying to reintroduce the predator. "We decided early on that it wasn't appropriate for ranchers to have to spend a dime on wolves," said Adamson. "We also knew that if we were going to hire some riders, they had to be people who knew cattle. We weren't looking for graduate students in wolf biology. This really isn't a research project." The riders will work closely with federal and state biologists in order to track the locations where wolves are mostly likely to show up. They'll be supplied with telemetry units and regular updates. This winter two wolf packs were destroyed in the Madison Valley after getting killing livestock. Right now, Holden said it appears that there are only two wolves remaining from those original packs. "We know there will be more coming in," she said. "We'll have to continue to monitor the situation. We're not sure where they will set up shop." But hopefully when they do settle in, the wolf riders will be there to encourage them to look elsewhere for a bite to eat. "When they encounter wolves, they'll do what they can to encourage them to leave. That might mean using cracker shells or making some kind of noise," he said. "They'll be discouraged from killing the wolves."
5.21.04 HELENA, MT (Casper Star Tribune) -- Montana's wildlife agency is preparing to join the federal government in management of federally protected wolves, the ultimate aim being to speed delisting of the predators. "We're going to take it slow, but with the federal funds recently made available we can expand the state's role while we continue to work toward the rapid federal delisting of the gray wolf in our region," said Jeff Hagener, director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Among other things, he said, the $425,000 now available for summer work and additional funding expected later will allow the agency to participate in day-to-day management activities. That would include wolf counting and marking and helping livestock producers with wolf problems, Hagener said. Montana's plan to manage the state's recovered wolf population was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year. To take wolves off the threatened species list and transfer full management authority to the states, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming must each have federally approved plans. The plans by Montana and Idaho were approved, but Wyoming has yet to reach agreement with the federal agency. Hagener said that by taking advantage of federal funding, Montana is in a better position to cope with living with wolves instead of watching from the sidelines until delisting.
5.19.04 TRAVERSE CITY, MI (Detroit News) -- The Upper Peninsula’s surging gray wolf population has exceeded 200 for the fifth consecutive year, a milestone that likely will bump the animal from the endangered species list. Once virtually extinct in Michigan, the wolf is continuing a remarkable comeback that began in 1989 when three of them established a territory in the western Upper Peninsula, the Department of Natural Resources said. The estimated population rose during the last year from 321 to more than 360, the agency said. DNR biologists produce a yearly census using techniques such as tracking, aerial observations and monitoring of wolves fitted with radio collars. Keeping the population above 200 for five years in a row means “the population has reached the state recovery goal,” said Pet Lederle, supervisor of the DNR’s research and technology section. The U.S. Forest Service is expected next month to propose removing the wolf from the list, a process that would require hearings. Once it is completed, the DNR would do likewise on the state level, Lederle said. Once “delisted,” the wolf population would be overseen by DNR managers. Killing or otherwise harming wolves would remain illegal, although the DNR might destroy those that repeatedly attack cattle or cause other serious problems. The agency last year killed four members of a pack in the eastern Upper Peninsula that continually went after livestock, Lederle said. Wolves feed primarily on whitetail deer. Some hunters fears wolves will make a significant dent in the Upper Peninsula’s deer numbers, which scientists doubt. If the wolf population rose to 400 and each wolf took 20 deer per year, that would total 8,000. That’s only 2 percent of the peninsula’s estimated deer population of 400,000 — and fewer than the number struck annually by vehicles on U.P. roads, Lederle said. Yet he acknowledged that while the peninsula might have enough habitat and prey to support 400 to 800 wolves, people might not tolerate that many. The peninsula’s “social carrying capacity” for wolves hasn’t been determined, Lederle said. While wolves live primarily in the southern Upper Peninsula, they were detected in every U.P. county over the last year except Keweenaw, in the far northwest. No wolves are known to have made their way to the Lower Peninsula, despite occasional reports of them crossing ice bridges in the Straits of Mackinac area, Lederle said.
5.17.04 MEETEETSE, WY (The Montana Standard) -- In an area where emotions run high on the subject of wolves, vandals have defaced a billboard that featured a museum's wolf exhibit. The billboard, erected south of Meeteetse, was paid for by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. Next to a picture of a wolf read the message, ‘‘Why do they howl? Find out. Buffalo Bill Historical Center. We are the West.'' Vandals recently covered the wolf's face and the museum's name with gray-brown paint. The damage was discovered last Monday. ‘‘I regret that someone thought this was appropriate action to vandalize private property rather than talk to us about it,'' said Thom Huge, communications director for the historical center. ‘‘We never meant to incite anything but to bring visitors through the door. We have no stand on wolves.'' Ranchers and outfitters in northwest Wyoming have become increasingly concerned about the growing population of the predators — and their attacks on big game and livestock — since they were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. Adding to the ill will are charges that a federal wolf biologist and private contractor trespassed on a Meeteetse ranch in February with four tranquilized wolves. The center's board of directors has decided to replace the billboard with a different design, at a cost of $300 to $600.
5.14.04 OREGON (AP) -- Hunted into extinction by 1946, wolves are about to be reintroduced in Oregon. But faced with a population of zero, officials are struggling with how many breeding pairs should determine whether the wolf gets lifted off the state's endangered species rolls. In the Rocky Mountains, a count of 10 breeding pairs or less secures the wolf's status as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Once the gray wolves migrate into Oregon, just how many breeding pairs is enough remains a hotly debated question. Oregon's Wolf Advisory Committee hasn't come up with a number yet, though six pairs were bandied about Thursday at the group's meeting in Medford. Whatever the committee decides, it will come with a bull's-eye as groups like ranchers, land managers and wolf advocates across Oregon continue public debate over how to treat the returning predators. Reaching criteria for dropping wolves off the state endangered species list is one of several issues the committee is looking at as part of the creation of a state management plan for wolves once they do return to Oregon. Craig Ely, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist overseeing the project, said the plan's goal is to get the wolf off the state's endangered species list, which opens more doors for how the wolf can be managed. Whatever the committee eventually decides, the number as well as the justifications for it will be run through a wolf technical committee for comments.
5.14.04 NORTH DEVON, ENGLAND (This Is Devon) -- Four Timber Wolf clubs have been earmarked for an important role in the survival of their species - despite being just two weeks old. The new arrivals at the Combe Martin Wildlife Park, in North Devon, have only just opened their eyes for the first time. However, wolf behavioural experts at the park are already working to make the cubs, three male and one female, ambassadors for their species. Shaun Ellis, one of the experts at the park, said: "Fortunately, the image of the 'big, bad wolf' is not so common and wolves are becoming a more popular attraction here, especially among the younger generation. "That's pleasing, because wolves have been living with a bad reputation for a long time now. The cubs are coming along very well. We have named the female Cheyenne, after the native American tribe, but over the summer we will be inviting visitors to name the males. We are also hoping to take the cubs to local schools, so they will, in effect, be ambassadors for the species." The park employs techniques to ensure the wolves can survive in what would be their natural surroundings, instead of becoming domesticated. Ultimately, its aim is to release a number of the wolves bred at the park back into the wilds of North America and Europe - including the British Isles.
5.12.04 WASHINGTON (Nature's Voice) -- The Bush Administration is aggressively promoting a plan that will clear the way for state officials and livestock owners to kill wolves that range outside Yellowstone National Park. The plan will strip wolves of federal endangered species protections and hand over responsibility to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming for wolves that cross the park's borders. All three states have long sought to exterminate wolves. "Local politicians and livestock interests opposed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, and now they have found a friend in the Bush Administration," said NRDC endangered species attorney Andrew Wetzler. "If adopted, this plan will set back one of the most remarkable success stories of the Endangered Species Act and cut short wolf recovery in the United States." State officials will have the authority to move or shoot wolves in areas where elk, deer, moose or bighorn sheep populations are suffering, regardless of whether wolves are responsible for the herds' low numbers. Hunted to near extinction during the early twentieth century, wolves are now thriving in Greater Yellowstone. But this progress will be reversed if the Bush Administration relinquishes federal responsibility for the wolves. State officials have been negotiating the details of this plan with the Bush Administration for over a year, and the new law could go into effect as early as this summer.
5.9.04 GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO. (Glenwood Springs Post Independent) -- Wolf-hybrid dogs soon could be canines non grata in Glenwood Springs. On Thursday, City Councilman Dan Richardson asked city attorney Karl Hanlon to look at whether wolf hybrids could be banned from the city. His request came in response to the wolf-hybrid dog attack on 7-year-old Gracie McSwain, which happened Monday evening in the dog's yard. McSwain is Richardson's niece. Richardson said he's been doing some research on the hybrids since McSwain was bitten. Richardson said he discovered there is no approved rabies vaccination for wolf dogs. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, he's right. A standard post-bite rabies observation period has never been established, the policy states, so there's no assurance the vaccine works. As a result, companies that produce the vaccine won't guarantee it works in wolves and wolf hybrids, although the state health agency considers it likely to work. "While there is no evidence of efficacy, given the biologic similarities between wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs, it is very probable that vaccination will result in antibody response," the department's policy states. Despite this probability, even if a wolf or wolf-hybrid dog is given a rabies vaccination shot, it is still officially considered nonvaccinated. State health department epidemiologist John Pape said his department recommends that any wolf hybrid that bites a person should either be euthanized and tested for rabies, or given "an extended bite-observation period" of 30 days.