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Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 1996
Page 5
Wolf Relocation Plan Unjust, Animal-Rights Activist Says
Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News, 30 January 1996
A Canadian animal-rights activist says he's ready to tell a judge why he offered a reward to anyone who releases wolves awaiting shipment to the United States.
"In my mind, it's unjust for them to be taking wolves out of British Columbia in this manner while there's no protection for them, and I'd be willing to debate that in front of a judge any day of the week," Dennis Alvey said Friday from Vancouver, B.C.
Alvey heads Friends of the Wolf. The group last week offered a reward to anyone who releases the 18 wolves awaiting shipment to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho.
Alvey said Friday the reward has been raised from $5,000 to $7,000 after a contribution from an Idaho wolf-protection group.
The wolves are in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's locked compound near Fort St. John, B.C., about 500 miles north of Idaho.
Alvey said he offered the reward because British Columbia officials said the province has enough wolves to share some with the United States.
"That's a blatant lie, and that was enough for us to put out the reward to release them," Alvey said.
He said wolves are being hunted and poisoned.
"I wouldn't say we're close to extinction yet, but we have to maintain the ones we have to maintain a healthy population," he said.
Alvey said his group has 3,000 members.
Releasing the wolves is punishable by up to two years in prison, Canadian authorities said. Offering a reward to release the wolves carries the same penalty.
Money Runs Out for Explore's Red Wolves
Jeff Sturgeon, The Roanoke (VA) Times, 29 January 1996
Explore Park and Mill Mountain Zoo once hoped breeding endangered red wolves would be the start of a nationally recognized program. Now, faced with budget realities, they've ended it.
Budget cuts have ended a red wolf breeding program at Explore Park, which in its three-year life added four specimens to the threatened population.
Mill Mountain Zoo, a partner in the project, paid the program's annual cost of $20,000 the past two years. The zoo board, the Blue Ridge Zoological Society of Virginia Inc., cut off funds Oct. 31, at the end of the last budget cycle.
There was no announcement by either Explore Park or the zoo that the program was ending, despite enthusiastic efforts by both organizations to publicize its launch several years ago.
Red wolves were to be a test run for the breeding program, after which Explore and zoo leaders had a long wish list of possible additional creatures, from the black-footed ferret and Florida panther to the Mexican gray wolf and Virginia big-eared bat.
They even christened their endeabor the "American Center for Rare and Endangered Species," and envisioned it as a magnet for contributions from across the country.
Indeed, when the red wolf program started in 1991, it attracted donations of $5,000 each from Ford Motor Co. and Chevron Corp. and $10,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
A breeding facility -- closed to the general public -- was set up on a farm Explore owns on Rutrough Road in eastern Roanoke County, and the first wolves arrived in 1992. Scott and Laurie Spangler divided their time working as the wolves' caretakers, for which they were paid by the zoo, and serving on the interpretive staff at Explore Park, for which they received free housing at the farm.
But efforts to raise money for the wolves' care -- by holding fund raisers and applying for grants -- failed. When the seed money ran out, the zoo began paying for their food and related costs such as veterinary care, security and insurance.
Now, program leaders have found new homes for all but two of the six wolves, said Beth Poff, executive director of Mill Mountain Zoo, on Friday....
"It was a program we were excited about. We were really glad to see it going. We were disappointed we had to cut back," Poff said. "Even though it is an animal (program) and conservation work, sometimes you have to make a business decision at the same time. We just felt with the resources available to us, we had to concentrate on zoo operations."
....Mill Mountain Zoo is home to three longer-running endangered animal breeding programs involving the golden lion tamarin, red panda and white-naped crane.
The wolf breeding was the focus of a 1991 agreement to tap the zoo's expertise and Explore Park's land. Zoo leaders agreed to run Explore's animal exhibits if Explore provided land for breeding. The red wolf program was their first joint effort.
A breeding pair arrived in 1992, and five pups were born in May 1994. One pup and one male adult died, leaving six, of which four have been relocated to North Carolina State Zoo in Asheboro. The death of the pup, in December, was previously undisclosed. Both deaths were the result of a condition known as gastric torsion, a twisting of the intestines.
Explore Park Executive Director Rupert Cutler, in an earlier role as park environmental director, had said the red wolf breeding would validate Explore Park's environmental credentials and enhance the legitimacy of the park concept even before it opened its doors in 1994....
Idaho Prepares for Release of More Wolves
Dan Gallagher, The Buffalo (NY) News, 28 January 1996
On Jan. 29 last year, shortly after 15 Canadian wolves were released along the frozen banks of the Salmon River, a female wolf was shot to death out at Gene Hussey's Lemhi County ranch.
It appeared that she was killed as she ate a newborn calf -- a nightmare come to life for ranchers who had opposed the wolves from the beginning. But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials later determined the calf was dead before the wolf reached it, and tensions eased.
Now, as the first anniversary of the wolves' release in the central Idaho wilderness approaches, authorities are declaring their experiment a success. Most of the animals are still alive, in their recovery zone and pairing up.
And authorities are planning to release a second batch.
"All of these little plusses add up to one big success," said Ted Koch, head of Fish and Wildlife's wolf recovery program in Idaho.
"We don't have a schedule yet, but we're coordinating with British Columbia to obtain their assistance to gather more wolves sometime this winter," he said. "We can speculate it might occur the same time it did this year, in January."
That means the wolves are likely to be a focus of courtrooms and legislative chambers once again.
"Politically is where it becomes cumbersome. There's so much emotional baggage attached to wolves on both sides of the debate," Koch said. "Wolves are either a deity or a devil. That's what drives up the expense and the time and the effort."
The Farm Bureau Federation unsuccessfully went to court to prevent the first wolf releases, a challenge that still is pending. And the Idaho Legislature refused to allow the state Fish and Game Department to oversee the recovery, abdicating that job to the Nez Perce Indians.
Scotland's Company of Wolves
Jim Crumley, The [London] Times, 27 January 1996
In the depths of what remains of the Caledonian pine forest it is not hard to conjure up might-have-beens and once-upon-a-times. If it is wilderness you crave, the sense of it is there at least.
If you yearn for the cry of the wolf on the wind, or the slap of a beaver tail on the still surface of a hidden lochan, there are trees there that know what you are talking about. They are mighty survivors. The spread of your arms won't go halfway round their girth, and they can reach back to the Ice Age in 30 generations. They are nature's historic monuments.
One such tree is screened by a small stockade of birches, junipers and lesser pines, which conspire to shield its immensity. But step into the arena that the tree has cleared for itself within the stockade and marvel at its showpiece qualities: the classical flat-crowned Scots pine, the Goliath spread of limbs.
It is, perhaps, 70ft high, 20ft round the base. One root is 2ft thick, its bark is 4in in places. If the golden eagle is the king of birds, here is a golden eagle among pines. Such a tree remembers the pad of wolves.
Sadly there are few such trees, but there are no wolves at all. The great forests, the wolf's domain, were felled. For centuries, for as long as man had ceased to be a hunter-gatherer and settled for the life of herdsman, he first feared, then became obsessed by the wolf. Not only did he account for its extinction in the mid-18th century, he obliterated many other species and countless square miles of pristine forest.
The pine forest remnants we know are empty places and amount to 1 per cent of the forest that was. But the tide is turning. Conservation has begun to think big, to contemplate restoration on a scale which almost matches people's old capacity for destruction.
The case for restoring and recreating big forests of native trees has moved from the fringes of the conservation movement to the centre. The old order of deer forest and sheep farm are being questioned, and, emboldened by the reintroduction of sea eagle, goshawk and red kite, a new cri de coeur is on conservationists' lips: "Bring back the big mammals." The campaign has been assisted greatly by the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which has responded to a European Union directive on species reintroduction by announcing that we could have beavers back in two years. If this comes off, it will establish a formidable precedent, because in the Highlands beaver has been extinct for 400 years.
Nobody denies that as mammal reintroductions go, beaver is the softest option. It is a harmless rodent with nothing more ominous in its nature than a talent for civil engineering and a prediliction for willow bark. But if you scan the roll call of extinct species and contemplate the head of steam building behind mammal reintroductions, the concern in the National Farmers' Union and the Scottish Landowners' Federation is understandable.
Neolithic man killed off the lynx. The brown bear was hunted out by the 10th century, reindeer by the 11th, elk by the 13th. The beaver's fur was the price on its head, and it was extinct by the 16th century. The wild boar was the best contest for the hunter, and by the 17th century there were no survivors. That left only the wolf to worry about, and the centuries-long campaign of vilification and lies could only ever have one consequence.
There is no reliable evidence of a healthy wolf having killed a human being, let alone swallowing grandmothers whole. When wolves have killed, they are known to have been rabid or under extreme provocation, such as their cubs being threatened.
In fact, the earliest people of these Caledonian pine forests, especially the Picts, revered the wolf as the supreme hunter, and carved it as a sacred symbol on their stones.
How many species we manage to reintroduce and how soon we might achieve this depends on the scale of forest we recreate or, as Ron Greer, director of Environmental Resources Scotland, puts it: "Not before we have the physical and psychological environment sorted out."
Mr. Greer, one of the most persuasive voices at the cutting edge of Scottish conservation, says: "We have to build the whole biological basis for the animals to live in, and more importantly, work out how the animals and people are going to live together." He argues that we must learn again what we have forgotten, the skills of co-existence, and cites North America and Norway as examples.
There the attitude is different, Mr. Greer says.
"People accept big, dramatic animals, such as moose, elk, bears and wolves. In a place such as Maine, which is the size of Scotland, people are quite happy to have thirty or forty thousand moose walking about, and 20,000 black bears.
So the first step is what?
"Changing the land use so that we get the primary forest back," Mr. Greer says.
What sort of primary forest?
Even if we had between a third and a half of Scotland covered, that would probably be enough."
Will it happen?
"I'm optimistic because we've run out of alternatives. It's only a matter of time before the sheep subsidy system goes down the tubes and then we'll be faced with major social breakdown. It has to happen, so it will."
So how long?
"Fifty years, maybe more. Once we have the environment changed and people's minds up to speed, they might accept wolves. They're not as dangerous as...oh, a high-cholestorol breakfast is more dangerous than the wolf."
You can see captive wolves, lynx and wild boar in Scotland, and in the course of making two radio programmes recently, I eyeballed them all; I saw a lynx (a cat big enough to fell a roe deer) leap 8ft to take a swipe at a passing magpie; I saw a 400lb waist-high boar devour a newly killed pigeon whole; and I looked longingly into the yellow eyes of a dominant old alpha male wolf patrolling a plantation of Scots pines. In my mind as I looked at him was the account by an American writer, Barry Lopez, of an incident in wolf education at a US school.
"That day the children were very excited. A wolf was coming to visit the school. Before it arrived, their teacher asked them to paint a picture of a wolf. They all drew fierce animals with very big fangs. Later the wolf came. Afterwards their teacher asked them to draw another picture. This time there were no fangs. All the pictures showed wolves with very big feet."
Group Offers Reward to Free Wolves
Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News, 26 January 1996
A Canadian animal-rights group is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who frees wolves captured for shipment to the United States.
The 18 wolves are in locked pens at a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service compound near remote Fort St. John, about 500 miles north of the Canada-Idaho border.
But with temperatures there dipping to 40 below zero, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police aren't worried about anyone taking up the offer.
Still, they're being vigilant.
"We know where they (the wolves) are, and a number of our officers have been out there. We've made patrols," said Sgt. Randy Munro.
The reward offer is in a press release from a group -- Friends of the Wolf -- in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The press release was sent to several Canadian newspapers recently and to the Rocky Mountain News this week.
"Our wolves are not for sale or export," group coordinator Dennis Alvey is quoted as saying. He couldn't be reached for comment.
Joe Fontaine, who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife compound in Fort St. John, said the wolves are in a fenced area and their cages are locked.
"Anytime someone puts out a reward, you need to be on guard," Fontaine said....
Freeing the wolves would carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison, Munro said. Offering a reward to someone to free the wolves carries the same penalty, he said.
Six of the 18 wolves are headed for Yellowstone National Park and the rest to Idaho as part of a federal effort to reintroduce the species to the northern U.S. Rockies.
Second Set of Wolves Moved to U.S. Rockies
Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, 24 January 1996
The federal budget crisis may have straitjacketed most federal agencies, but it hasn't stopped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from flying in another batch of Canadian gray wolves to the Rocky Mountains.
A second set of wolves arrived by plane and truck yesterday at Yellowstone National Park and Idaho despite questions over the program's funding and legislation aimed at ending the Interior Department's wolf-relocation program.
Captured in British Columbia, the 20 wolves are scheduled to be moved into pens today for an acclimatization period of about 10 weeks, then released into the wild. Eleven of the animals were transported to Yellowstone; the other nine were moved to Idaho. Another 18 wolves are expected to join these 20 within the week.
Ed Bangs, the federal wolf biologist in charge of wolf reintroduction, said this will probably be the program's last year, thanks to the wolves' higher-than-expected survival and reproduction rates. The original plan called for five years of importing wolves.
While the wolves have thrived in the wild, the relocation program was once given little chance of surviving a second year. After the first round of 19 wolves was released last January, Western lawmakers vowed to hunt down the program and kill its funding, citing the hardship on cattle and sheep ranchers whose livestock could be vulnerable to the carnivorous packs.
Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, tried to halt the wolf influx by diverting $200,000 of the program's roughly $600,000 budget to fighting a cattle disease. That cut has been held up in the dispute over the Interior Department's appropriations bill.
Lawmakers hoped the reduced funding would halt the program. But environmental groups raised an estimated $80,000 to help make up the difference, Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Mike Smith said.
Officials at the agency said the private donations were enough to keep the program on its feet for another year. Opponents argued that the Interior Department should not commit money to a nonessential program until the budget dispute is resolved.
"I find it remarkable that this particular agency is going blithely along without regard for the budget process," said Jake Cummins, executive vice president of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in Bozeman. "Why are they different from the rest of the federal government?"
In a letter to Fish and Wildlife Director Molly Beattie, Mr. Burns said the transfer of funds was designed to stop additional wolves from arriving while leaving enough money to manage the populations already in Yellowstone and Idaho.
"You and the secretary have found it necessary to reduce the services that were promised in the Environmental Impact Statement," Mr. Burns said in the Jan. 16 letter. "Several groups have pledged funding for the reintroduction effort. Yet instead of maintaining the management of the present population, the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the best course of action will be to continue to dump wolves into Yellowstone and Idaho."
Mr. Smith said the agency covered the funding shortfall by cutting staff at the wolf coordination office in Helena, Mont., and by reducing the number of scouting trips....
This was viewed as normal operations. We've had a mandate to do this for a number of years," Mr. Smith said.
Lawsuits to remove the wolves, filed by the Farm Bureau Federation and two environmental groups, are slated for hearings Feb. 8 and 9 in U.S. District Court in Casper, Wyo.
Wolves Enroute to Yellowstone
Gary Gerhardt, Scripps Howard News Service, 24 January 1996
The year's first shipment of Canadian wolves was headed for holding pens in Yellowstone's National Park late Monday.
Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf-recovery coordinator, said a plane loaded with 19 wolves in Fort St. John, British Columbia, was to fly to Great Falls, Mont.
There, the animals were to go through customs and 11 would be flown to Bozeman, Mont. From there, they would be trucked to the park.
The other eight wolves will be airlifted into central Idaho Tuesday or Wednesday,.
"As I understand it, there are three packs of five, four and two animals, respectively, heading for Yellowstone," Bangs said.
So far, 24 wolves have been captured to augment 15 wolves released in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness of central Idaho last January and the 14 wolves released in Yellowstone last March.
The reintroduction program is designed to re-establish wolf populations in both areas for the first time since the 1930s.
Police in Fort St. John increased their vigilance after authorities learned an animal-rights group is offering $5,000 to anyone who sneaks in and frees captured wolves.
Dennis Alvey of Friends of the Wolf told the Associated Press that Canadian wolves already are being poisoned, trapped and shot and should not be sold or exported to the United States.
He said protected habitat corridors would allow the wolves to travel to the United States naturally.
Male Wolf Accused of Killing 2 Sheep in Montana
Gary Gerhardt, Rocky Mountain News, 16 January 1996
Bad dog!
One of the young male wolves that wandered out of Yellowstone National Park in December is accused of killing at least two sheep near Emigrant, Mont.
The flock of 30, the first sheep a wolf would encounter traveling north out of Yellowstone, was grazing in Paradise Valley northwest of Gardiner.
There is speculation the wolf may have broken off from its pack to strike out on its own hoping to find a mate and establish a territory.
Male wolves roam from 500 to 1,000 square miles searching out a territory, so it's probable he was wandering around, found mutton easy pickin's, and gave in to temptation.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that another young wolf missing since Dec. 19 has been located 60 air miles southwest of Cody, Wyo., almost 100 miles from the northeast corner of the park where it was last seen.
The alleged sheep killer may have come from the Soda Butte Pack that is suspected of killing a hunting dog that strayed from its owner during a walk near Fishtail last month.
Animal damage control officers found "wolf-size" tracks in the area where Smoker, a spayed Walker hound bred to track mountain lions and weighing less than 15 pounds, was found dead.
Last weekend, federal predator control agents flew over the sheep area, spotted the wolf, dropped a net over it, tranquilized it, and ferried the offender to a chain-link enclosure area in the Lamar Valley of the park.
All three wolves are believed to be from the 14 brought into the park last year as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduction program to re-establish wolves in the Yellowstone area and central Idaho.
At the time, biologists put a happy face on the reintroduction saying the huge herds of elk, deer, moose, bison and other furry creature[s] in Yellowstone would present a virtual smorgasbord for wolves, giving them little reason to leave the park and get in trouble.
Yeah, right. Ever heard of Murphy's Law?
The dead sheep are owned by Susan and Horus Brailsford who, despite continuing to oppose the wolf reintroduction program, had the grace to thank federal agents for looking into the killing and confirming it was a wolf that did the job.
The Brailsfords were assured that Defenders of Wildlife will pay for their loss.
When the reintroduction effort started, Defenders said they would pick up the tab for any wolf damage from those brought in to the U.S. from Canada as well.
All things considered, a couple of sheep and a dog in one year isn't bad, especially for packs of carnivores that haven't yet scoped out their new surroundings and are still establishing territories in which to hunt.
Hunters to Capture 38 Canadian Wolves for Transfer to U.S.
Kit Miniclier, The Denver Post, 16 January 1996
Weather permitting, a team of veteran wolf hunters was to take to the air today from Fort St. John, British Columbia, to find, dart, track and capture gray wolves for export to the United States.
If all goes well, it should be a much faster catch than last year's, and there will be room for 38 wolves this time, said program chief Ed Bangs of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Cold is the biggest concern; it was 30 degrees below zero yesterday.
Rather than catching 30 wolves each winter for three to five years, as originally planned, wildlife biologists may end the catch phase of the program after this month's harvest, because last year's imported wolves are migrating and breeding naturally in Montana.
Virtually the same crew did the job last year in the neighboring Canadian province of Alberta, capturing 14 wolves that were released into pens at Yellowstone National Park and 15 more that were released into the wilds of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area in central Idaho.
Experienced team
This winter's hunt and catch is expected to be completed within a few days, instead of last year's two weeks. That's because the capture team is experienced; the terrain is more open, making it easier to dart and capture the animals; and deep snow enables easier tracking of wolves from the air, Bangs said.
"All our troops poured in last weekend," Bangs said yesterday. The work area has been plowed, the holding pens are up, food supplies are in and "last night, the guys from Alaska arrived."
Two expert helicopter gunners, who will shoot prospective wolves with tranquilizer darts from helicopters, are on loan again this year from Alaska, "and we are just paying their travel costs," he said.
Rick Swisher, a private bush pilot from Alaska who has "an impressive, remarkable ability" to track wolves, will fly one of two single-engine spotter aircraft, Bangs said.
The same two helicopter pilots have returned, and the movement of fuel, supplies and wolves will be expedited by using a bigger plane, rather than choppers, for the ferry service between base camp and the search area.
Last year, lawyers for opposing ranchers and stock men won a temporary injunction, which turned back an airborne flight of wolves before they crossed the U.S. border. Opponents, who object to tax money being spent to bring predators back, still are challenging the program in federal court in Wyoming.
Supporters say the return of wolves, which were eradicated under a different federal policy 60 years ago, will restore a vital ecological niche by helping to revive nature's balance of elk and deer and bring back the fabled howl for thousands of curious tourists.
Budget cut to $400,000
About half the catch crew of 20 is working without salary this year, since Congress cut the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service budget by a third, to $400,000. Some of that money is being put aside for wolf management by the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho and eventually by the state of Montana, which will take over that task from Uncle Sam.
And some of the federal workers who are on salary will lose their wolf jobs with Uncle Sam the moment this year's wolves are delivered to their U.S. destinations.
Among them are Steve Fritts, chief wolf scientist for Fish & Wildlife, who is being transferred to Denver and out of the wolf program; and wildlife biologists Alice Whitelaw and Val Asher, who will lose their jobs with the Boise, Idaho, office of Fish & Wildlife.
Wolf Pack from Yellowstone Seen Near Spot Dog Was Killed
Rocky Mountain News, 11 January 1996
[Billings, Mont.] -- Federal biologists said Tuesday that a pack of wolves from Yellowstone National Park had been spotted along the Beartooth Front south of Absarokee.
The area is near where the same pack killed a hunting dog last month. But Yellowstone biologist Mike Phillips told The Billings Gazette that the wolves apparently have not disturbed local livestock or pets or caused any other known problems.
Wildlife managers contacted some area residents to let them know the wolves were nearby. Ranchers were angered in December when biologists did not tell them of the wolves' presence until after the hunting dog had been killed.
"We will continue to try to do a credible job of keeping folks apprised of what we know," Phillips said Tuesday.
Three packs of wolves were moved to Yellowstone last year under a federal program to restore the endangered species. Just the pack now skirting the north flank of the Beartooths has taken to roaming outside Yellowstone.
The wolves, known as the Soda Butte Pack, may have been the same group of animals spotted near the community of Roberts, north of Red Lodge, at the beginning of last week. Ranchers who sighted the animals also reported finding very large tracks left by about five animals.
An adult wolf, with the pack when the animals were transplanted to Yellowstone, now appears to have left the pack to strike out on its own, Phillips said.
Biologists have not picked up signals from the wolf's radio collar for more than two weeks.