Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

2.29.04 CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- Wyoming's case against the federal government over the rejection of its wolf management plan may now be a little murky after the final bill dealing with the issue died in the state Senate. House Bill 111 failed to get out of the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on Friday, committee chair Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna, said. ‘‘It would have created a whole big hearing to rehash what we've hashed over already,'' Roberts said of the measure. ‘‘I didn't want the committee and the Senate to be subjected to another big debate on the wolves.'' The bill would have aligned state law with Wyoming's wolf management plan, which was rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January over its dual classification of wolves as trophy game and predators. HB111 would have retained the dual classification system. Another measure aimed at changing the state's plan to match demands of the federal government died after not being scheduled for debate in the House. The Interior Department is prepared to remove wolves from federal protection, but only when it deems Wyoming's plan acceptable for maintaining viable populations in the Northern Rockies. Management plans adopted by Idaho and Montana have already been approved.
2.26.04 MONTANA (Missoula Independent) -- The new census of northwest Montana’s wolves shows declining numbers, and that casts doubt on the government’s contention that the population is robust enough to remove from federal protection as an endangered species. In the annual count by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the region’s gray wolves numbered only 92 in 2003, down from 108 the year before. More importantly, only four pairs of wolves produced at least two pups that survived the year. The year before, 11 breeding pairs were counted. Federal and state officials, who want wolves yanked off the endangered species list—or delisted, in the bureaucratic parlance—are playing down the latest census, insisting it isn’t indicative of a weak population. But independent wildlife experts say the numbers show that the recovery of wolves in the northern Rockies, while impressive, is still fragile. For that reason, many argue against stripping wolves of federal protections—the main one being a law against killing the animals just for fun. Even conservationists who believe wolves can survive in the wild under less-protective state management say the latest numbers are a cause for concern. “Four breeding pairs? That’s scary,” says Dan Pletscher, director of the wildlife biology program at the University of Montana. Despite the new census, the Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing ahead with its attempt to delist wolves in the northern Rockies and put them under the control of the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Under pressure from ranchers, all these states are aiming to make wolves easier to kill. Wolves, in fact, would have already lost federal protections if not for Wyoming’s insistence on allowing the beleaguered animals to be shot on sight like skunks or jackrabbits when they roam outside Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks.
2.25.04 CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- After backtracking a day earlier from a possible lawsuit against the federal government for its rejection of the state's wolf-management plan, the Wyoming House reversed itself again Wednesday and voted to bolster the case for a court battle. With little debate, representatives voted 44-14 for a bill that aligns state law with the now-rejected Game and Fish Commission's management plan for gray wolves. Conforming statutes to the plan is seen as a way to strengthen the state's hand in a possible suit. Before final passage, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Mick Powers, R-Lyman, removing a provision adopted on Tuesday requiring the state manage for at least 15 wolf packs statewide. The Powers amendment declares that Wyoming will manage for no more than seven wolf packs outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, same as the commission's plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service turned down the state's proposal last month because it would allow wolves to be managed under "dual classification," in which they would be treated as trophy game and subject to regulated hunting in areas in and near the national parks, and classified as predators - subject to little hunting regulation - outside of northwest Wyoming. The bill the House approved Wednesday retains that dual system. "I think this is very important to us," Powers said, adding that it would allow more flexible use of predator-control methods. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams told the House Travel Committee earlier in the session that Interior Department officials don't believe the state's plan - with its dual classification - is defensible in court. Many House members and state officials, including Gov. Dave Freudenthal, believe that a review by a panel of scientists who supported the state's plan as capable of sustaining a viable wolf population buttresses the case for going to court.
2.17.04 JUNEAU, AK (AP) -- A wolf that began enchanting Mendenhall Lake visitors last June now is drawing too much attention, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. "It's very exciting. People don't often get a chance to see wolves," said Dennis Chester, a wildlife biologist for the Juneau Ranger District of the Forest Service. "But my preference is for people to leave it alone and not encourage it so it can go back to being a wild wolf." Recently, the wolf has been approaching dogs and following humans. "The wolf has become habituated," said Michelle Warrenchuk, an information assistant at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. She sees the animal several times a week. "People have let their pets interact with the wolf," she said. "There have been reports that people have been feeding the wolf." No incidents between the wolf and dogs or humans have been reported to the Juneau Ranger District, said David Zuniga, district law enforcement officer. "The majority of people understand that he's out there, and they do take all the precautions necessary," he said. Those precautions include keeping dogs on leashes, hiking in groups and backing away slowly if the wolf approaches, Zuniga said.
2.17.04 YELLOWSTONE NP (Billings Gazette) -- Less than two weeks after her more famous sister died in Yellowstone National Park, the last surviving wolf from the 1995-96 reintroduction was killed Thursday in northwest Wyoming. Limping and riddled with mange, wolf No. 41 was shot by government agents after she had repeatedly killed young cattle in Sunlight Basin, north of Cody. The death of No. 41, which came from a storied family of wolves, closes the first installment of perhaps the federal government’s most closely watched wildlife reintroduction program. All of the 31 wolves brought to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996 have died. Their offspring and the wolf program are thriving, with about 170 wolves in the park. No. 41 was born in British Columbia, Canada, in 1995. She was captured, along with two sisters, Nos. 40 and 42, and her mother, and released in Yellowstone in 1996. No. 41 is the latest of several wolves in the Sunlight Basin pack to die in recent months. This summer, two were killed by the government after they were caught killing cattle on private land and four others, including the longtime alpha male, died this fall. One of the deaths appears to be natural. The others are being investigated. The pack still has about six members.
2.12.04 MINNESOTA (Duluth News Tribune) -- Federal trappers in Minnesota killed only 125 wolves in 2003, down substantially from the average of about 175 in recent years, apparently because a skin malady has cut into the wolf population. Complaints of wolves attacking livestock and pets have been dropping and have been nearly nonexistent in recent months, and it appears the state's wolf herd may be declining a bit after years of growth. The decline in complaints has been dramatic, said Bill Paul, who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture's wildlife service's program in northern Minnesota. Paul believes mange, a skin problem that causes animals to die from exposure, may be reducing overall wolf numbers in the Minnesota. A 1998 survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources counted about 2,450 wolves, up from fewer than 1,000 30 years earlier. Their numbers likely continued to grow until the last few years, when they have stabilized or even declined some, Paul said. The DNR currently is conducting another comprehensive wolf study, with results expected later this year. "We were doing our surveying this winter, and we weren't seeing wolves," said Tom Rusch, area wildlife supervisor in Tower. "My gut feeling is that the mange got a lot of wolves over the past few years." Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, federal trappers killed 17 problem wolves in 2003, the first year that lethal wolf control was allowed. The Wisconsin DNR reported Wednesday that 20 cattle and 24 sheep were reported killed by wolves, along with one deer on a deer farm and six hunting dogs, mostly hounds turned loose to hunt bear. The killing of wolves near areas where livestock attacks have occurred in Wisconsin has been allowed only since last April, when the federal government upgraded the wolf's status in Wisconsin, Michigan, the Dakotas and other states from endangered to threatened. The change in wolf status in Wisconsin recently has been challenged in federal courts, and it's not clear whether wolf trapping will be allowed to continue in Wisconsin and other states. Surveys estimate more than 335 wolves in 94 packs in Wisconsin. Wolf population growth has slowed significantly, officials say, in part because of mange. Livestock were killed on 13 farms in Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Forest, Price, Rusk and Taylor counties, the DNR said.
2.10.04 WYOMING (Billings Gazette) -- A Wyoming farm group is threatening to sue the federal government over how it has been managing wolves. Jim Urbigkit, president of the Sublette County Farm Bureau, said Monday that his group and “other interested parties” intend to file a lawsuit within 60 days because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t done enough in Wyoming to protect livestock operations. Urbigkit said the agency isn’t following its longstanding plan for wolves, including a provision that allows removal of wolves that kill livestock when there are six or more pairs of wolves in the recovery zone. “They promised to control wolves preying on livestock and they’re not,” Urbigkit said. “There’s been constant depredation.” The notice of intent to sue was filed just as the Wyoming Legislature begins its budget session, in which lawmakers are expected to respond to the Interior Department’s rejection of the state’s wolf management plan. Urbigkit said he was concerned that lawmakers would change the wolf plan to eliminate the predator status for some wolves – which would allow the animals to be killed any time and in any way – and instead list all wolves as trophy animals and subject to tighter regulations. “What we’d like to do is remind the Wyoming Legislature and all of the agriculture groups and everyone else involved that the federal government has obligations and that they made promises,” he said. “Agriculture can live with the reintroduction if they comply with the preferred alternative.”
2.9.04 WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wyoming's congressional delegation wants federal officials to work with the state on its plan to manage wolves. Sens. Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi met Thursday with Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is expected to discuss the issue with state lawmakers next week in Cheyenne. Enzi said it could be possible to adjust the plan's wording without changing the spirit of it. "Wyoming took an honest and forthright approach by calling the wolf a predator in its plan," he said. "Montana, however, chose to avoid this classification in its plan, but I believe in practice it allows wolves to be managed as predators." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must approve Wyoming's wolf-management plan before wolves can be taken off the Endangered Species List. Gov. Dave Freudenthal has said the state may sue the federal government over the issue. Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., said she is angry over the service's apparent flip-flop on the state's plan. "I don't want to see Wyoming engaged in a lawsuit that could cost us millions of dollars to litigate and take years to settle, and I'm not sure our wildlife and livestock can outlast the wolves at the rate they're spreading," Cubin said.
2.6.04 ATHELSTANE, Wis. (Duluth News Tribune) - A $4,000 award has been established for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever shot a grey wolf near this Marinette County community last fall. The Department of Natural Resources said Friday that a hunter found the wolf during the gun deer season on public land south of County Highway C. The National Wildlife Health Laboratory in Madison determined the wolf had been killed by a gunshot. "Someone knows who shot this wolf, and hopefully a responsible hunter can help us in solving this case," said DNR Warden Eric Grudzinski of Wausaukee. Wolves are considered a threatened species in Wisconsin under state and federal law, making the killing of a wolf illegal.
2.4.04 YELLOWSTONE N.P. (The Billings Gazette) -- In a clearing high atop Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park, a bloody battle over territory - and perhaps even revenge in a long-standing rivalry - ended this weekend in the death of an important matriarch, a wolf who helped write the opening chapter in the park's wolf recovery program. Wolf No. 42, as she was known, was the only wolf still surviving in Yellowstone who was part of the 28 wolves brought to the park during the reintroduction effort in 1995 and 1996. Her sister, No. 41, is now the only member left from that original group. She lives outside of the park in the Sunlight Basin north of Cody, Wyo. Ultimately, No. 42, the alpha female of the Druid Peak pack, appears to have been killed by Mollie's pack, a neighboring group of wolves that were once displaced by the Druids and have been poking around the old territory ever since. Mollie's pack, which was known then as the Crystal Creek pack, lost its alpha male in a battle that year when the Druids pushed them out of the Lamar Valley. Sometime late Saturday or early Sunday, the two packs probably clashed again. Likely, No. 42 and the Druid pack's alpha male, No. 21, were targets in the attack. On Sunday, No. 42's carcass was spotted on Specimen Ridge by aerial crews. Her radio collar was putting out a "mortality signal," which is activated when a wolf stops moving. Smith said he's hoping No. 42's skull can eventually be displayed for visitors. No. 42 was born in April 1995 in British Columbia, Canada. Earlier that year, 14 wolves from Alberta had been brought to Yellowstone as part of an ambitious and controversial plan to reintroduce gray wolves to the northern Rocky Mountains. In 1996, 17 wolves were brought to the park from British Columbia, including No. 42, her mother, No. 39, and sisters Nos. 40 and 41. While they were in a holding pen, the group hooked up with an alpha male, who completed the nucleus for the Druid Peak pack. Later that year, No. 39 and her daughter, No. 41, left the pack for good. No. 40 was assertive and had a penchant for reinforcing her dominance through violence. She was seen attacking No. 42 and not relenting until her sister completely submitted. Although the two females bred with the same male, they kept separate dens. Biologists believe that No. 40 may have once raided her sister's den and killed the pups. The relationship remained tense and finally came to a head in May 2000. Sometime during the night, No. 40 was attacked. The speculation is that No. 42, and perhaps others in the pack, had had enough of the alpha female's domineering. The next day, No. 40 was found hurt and bloody in a roadside culvert. She died later that day. No. 42 soon assumed the role of alpha female, taking up with the head male, No. 21. No. 42 took a slightly less violent approach in reigning over the pack. No. 42's death sent a buzz through the cadre of wolf watchers who regularly train their spotting scopes on Lamar Valley. It also appears to be affecting No. 42's longtime mate, No. 21, who were rarely apart. Ever since the weekend fight between packs, there have been reports that No. 21 has been periodically keeping his distance from the rest of the Druids. More noticeable, Smith said, is that he's howling. But, there are also reports that he's already courting new females. Survival for a wolf pack means overcoming challenges every day - including the death of a leader. "This is not going to affect their future as a pack or their ability to defend their territory," Smith said.
2.4.04 ALASKA (Whitehorse Star) -- Two more wolves were killed in neck snares around the Mary Lake subdivision last Thursday, raising to 10 the number snared in Whitehorse this winter. The first eight wolves were snared in the first week of January in the area of the Whitehorse dump. A group of seven were caught all at once, followed by a lone wolf a day later at the same snare sight. The department has received reports this winter of 13 pet dogs being killed and eaten by wolves. Twelve of the incidents were in the Mary Lake, Wolf Creek, Cowley Creek, Golden Horn and Annie Lake Road areas. [Conservation officer Ken] Frankish said he believes there is a lone black wolf still wandering in the area from Wolf Creek to Golden Horn, and one or two more belonging to the same group from which the two wolves were taken last week near Mary Lake. He also expects there is at least one wolf remaining in the Whitehorse dump area, likely one of the last if not the last of the pack that was killed in early January. Some incidents involved a wolf or wolves taking pet dogs from inside their yard, and in some cases right off the leash. The situation has sparked a debate among community members, with some believing the Yukon is wolf country, and that pet owners, especially those who let their pets wander freely, do not have a right to expect wolves should be killed to protect their pets.
2.3.04 YUKON (CBC News) -- A part of Yukon folklore could soon be legislated out of existence as the government is proposing to ban the cross-breeding of wolves and dogs, known as wolf-hybrids. A change in the territory's new Captive Wildlife Act, set to become law in April, will make it illegal to own, trade, or sell wolf-dogs. It will also make it illegal for veterinarians to treat the animals. While many people claim their dogs to be part wolf, Yukon Environment Minister Jim Kenyon says he's only ever seen a couple of genuine wolf dogs in his lifetime. "Genetically it is possible to cross a wolf and a dog, but I found out after 30 years as a vet that anyone who claims they have one is inevitably wrong," said Kenyon. "Wolves look at dogs as lunch, not lovers." Kenyon says most people who deal in wolf dogs are defrauding their customers. He says most people who believe they have wolf-hybrids have Malamute or Siberian crosses. Existing wolf dog owners may be allowed to keep their pets, but each decision will be made on a case-by-case basis.
2.3.04 (CHEYENNE, Wyo.) (AP) -- Wyoming has asked the federal government to turn over all documents related to the rejection of the state's proposed wolf management plan, and said a lawsuit likely will follow. The attorney general's office filed the Freedom of Information Act request last week. A lawsuit will follow if the attorneys think Wyoming has a case and if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't reach some sort of agreement with the state, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Tuesday. The Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring acceptable wolf management plans from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming before the animals are removed from Endangered Species Act protection. After approving the Montana and Idaho plans, however, the agency last month rejected Wyoming's plan, citing a provision that would have allowed wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state. Wyoming proposed a "dual classification" that would have protected wolves in the national parks and adjacent wilderness areas of northwest Wyoming, while elsewhere in the state they would have been classified as ordinary predators and killed virtually at will. The timing of the federal government's rejection of the plan -- a few weeks before this month's legislative session, yet long after the plan was written during last year's session -- angered Freudenthal and the lawmakers who worked on it. Particularly troubling for the state has been how federal officials seemed to accept the plan last year and how most of a dozen biologists who reviewed the plan found it scientifically acceptable. The state's FOIA request asks for all "documents, notes, correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes of conversations or meetings or other information in any agency file" related to the agency's review of Wyoming's wolf management plan.
2.1.04 ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Juneau Empire) -- Fourteen wolves have been killed in a state-sponsored predator control program that has prompted demonstrations nationwide and a call for a tourism boycott of Alaska. The wolves were killed late last week in the Nelchina basin area about 100 miles northeast of Anchorage, where state wildlife officials say the moose population has plummeted because wolves and bears are killing too many moose calves, leaving locals with too few moose to eat. The state earlier this month issued permits to 28 teams to remove 140 wolves from an approximately 8,000-square-mile area. The Nelchina plan requires pilots to land the planes before the animals are shot. Another wolf control program near the Interior town of McGrath, where three teams were issued one-month permits, allows the animals to be shot from planes in the air. So far, no wolves in the McGrath area have been killed. "It makes me cringe," said Priscilla Feral, president of the 200,000-member Friends of Animals, of the killings. The Darien, Conn.-based group is organizing what it calls "howl-ins" in cities nationwide to try to stop the lethal wolf control program.