Wolf Center Celebrating 10 Years...
Ely Echo, 7 September 2003
Starting 10 years ago, whenever the fire siren sounded in Ely, MN, a unique call answered - the ambassador pack at the International Wolf Center howled back.
With five wolves in residence and three puppies expected in 2004, the non-profit Center is raising its voice this year in celebration of serving 500,000 visitors and making a difference for populations of wolves since the center opened in 1993.
Ely area residents are invited to visit the Center free on Saturday and Sunday, September 13 and 14, to a thank-you to the community for contributing to the center's success.'
"We owe our gratitude to Ely's leaders, business people, the Chamber of Commerce and all those interested in wolves for supporting the center over the years," said Board Chair Nancy jo Tubbs.
The $3 million Center opened as a 17,000-square-foot facility featuring the Wolves and Humans exhibit, four gray wolves, the blessings of Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, Senator Doug Johnson, Representative Dave Battaglia and more than 2,000 visitors in its first three days.
In 1996 a $750,000 grant from the Minnesota Legislature, funded the addition of a 3,000-square-foot, 125-seat wolf-viewing auditorium, a classroom and wolf enclosure improvements. A children's exhibit featuring a crawl-in wolf den opened in 2001.
The center was the brain child of renowned wolf biologist Dr. L. David Mech, whose research on wolves in the Ely area brought him in touch with hundreds of people who wanted to learn more about an animal that provokes both fear and fascination. After nine years of planning, site selection, fundraising and committee work, the center opened in Ely at the heart of the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states.
"Wolf populations have grown, always with the possibility of human-wolf conflicts," said Executive Director Walter Medwid. "Now we are aiming educational outreach toward the Twin Cities and to the Southern Rockies. We offer factual information to educators, students, media, legislators, policy makers and the public in hopes of promoting healthy dialogue and decision-making about wolves and the environment."
The center also reaches out to about 1.9 million visitors each year through its Web site at www.wolf. org.
Biologist Keeps Close Tabs on Wyoming's Wolves
Rebecca Huntington, Jackson Hole News & Guide, 7 September 2003
On a trail in the Upper Green River Valley, wolf biologist Mike Jimenez sees the first clue that the alpha female of the Green River Pack has passed this way.
Lying on the trial are dark coils that look more like locks of hair than scat. Kneeling down, Jimenez smells the droppings to confirm their source.
"That's wolf," he says, explaining that wolves have anal scent glands, which give off a distinct odor.
Jimenez knows wolf scat. He analyzed some 3,000 samples as part of his graduate studies. Jimenez collects the scat to use later as a lure for trapping wolves. Others will come in and sniff the scat and leave their own scent mark on top of it, he says.
So begins a day for the Fish and Wildlife Service's project leader for wolf recovery in Wyoming. One day last week, Jimenez is hiking across the expansive mountain basin on the spine of the continent about two hours south of Jackson to check on the Green River Pack.
Biologists have been monitoring it closely since the service ordered the alpha male shot in July for attacking livestock.
The Green River alpha male is one of 13 wolves killed so far this year for killing livestock in Wyoming. Late summer into early fall are the peak season for such conflicts because cattle are congregated on federal land in the high country while wild game is dispersed and harder to find.
The Green River Pack had killed two calves and possibly more. The pair was suspected of killing cattle on the same allotment the previous year, but it was difficult to sort out which wolf pack was responsible. The Green River, Teton and Washakie packs all frequent the Upper Green and Union Pass.
This year, however, the Green River wolves were spotted on two calf kills. Jimenez said he hoped killing the alpha male would disrupt pack dynamics and break that pattern of behavior.
"The thought was, as these cattle got bigger, this female would not be able to kill cattle by herself," Jimenez says. He hoped she would go back to wild game, he says.
A little further up the trail, Jimenez finds another sign that she has been by -- a perfect wolf print in the powdery dust. Of the scat and print, he says, "This is pretty fresh."
Nonetheless, she could be far gone by now. "She's all over the place looking for food," he says.
Killing wolves, such as the Green River alpha male, is a last resort when nonlethal tactics are unlikely to work, Jimenez says. Nonlethal tactics include increasing the number of riders watching livestock and chasing off wolves. But those strategies are impractical and don't work on large grazing allotments such as the Upper Green, he says.
"We try to do some things to stop it, but if we can't stop it, we resort to taking wolves out," he says.
Trapping wolves can have unintended consequences. This summer, a grizzly bear suffocated after being caught in a neck snare set for wolves near a cattle pasture in Sunlight Basin outside Cody.
"It was a screw-up," Jimenez says.
Initially, the snare had been set near a hole in the pasture fence, which was too small for a grizzly to get through. But a trapper moved the snare to another location where a small grizzly was able to get through the fence and [be] caught.
"This was one that wasn't a good decision on our part," says [Jimenez]. The trap was moved.
Also in August, Jimenez made the decision to trap wolves near Daniel. The service had confirmed two sheep kills and suspected as many as 15, he says. Two wolves were trapped but died of heat before trappers returned, he says.
"We don't like trapping in the heat," he says. But he decided to risk it since the wolves were slated for removal anyway.
However, he had hoped to radio collar and release one wolf to get a better idea of its movements. A handful of wolves have been spotted around Daniel, and their origin is unknown.
Despite such mishaps, the once-extirpated species has thrived since 66 wolves were transported from Canada and released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996.
At last count, there were 664 wolves in 44 packs in northwestern Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Of those, an estimated 217 wolves were in Wyoming, which includes Yellowstone Park.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has declared wolves in the Rockies recovered and is moving ahead with plans to remove the species from federal protection and turn over management to states. But before that can happen, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming must all have approved wolf management plans in place. Montana and Wyoming just finished their wolf plans, which the service is now reviewing.
The Wyoming plan has been controversial because it classifies wolves as predators across the state except in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway, the National Elk Refuge and adjacent wilderness areas.
The predator classification means wolves may be killed at any time, by any means. Thus, eight wolf packs in Wyoming that roam outside those protected areas would be subject to unregulated killing across portions of their home ranges. Many of those packs' den and rendezvous sites, where the packs raise their pups, fall outside the protected zone. However, that protected zone would be expanded if Wyoming wolf packs outside the national parks fall below seven.
As the process of delisting wolves and turning over management to states grinds forward, management of the species in the meantime falls to Jimenez and his assistant, John Stephenson.
Later, Jimenez breaks out of thick timber into a broad valley of grass and marsh. This is the rendezvous site where the Green River mom leaves her pups while she goes off to hunt.
He hasn't checked on the pups for two weeks and isn't sure they're still here. Typically, the 5- to 6-month-old pups would still be at a rendezvous site. But Jimenez suspects the single mom might move them early, bringing them to kills since she is working alone.
After surveying the open meadow for a while and seeing no signs of wolves, he tries howling. He sounds like a siren, starting in a low tone, then increasing pitch and volume. Wolves have been known to respond to fire engines, he says.
On this day, he gets no answer. He then combs the meadow, looking for leg bones, wolf scat and matted grass, where the pups may have been rolling and playing.
"It doesn't look like anybody's been here," he says.
The pups' disappearance is a disappointment because the rendezvous site is remote with few human visitors, so it's secure, and cattle are no longer nearby.
"It's like having wayward teenagers," Jimenez says of the pups. The question is where have they gone.
Jimenez suspects they might be on Union Pass where days earlier he spotted their mom running with 2-year-old wolves dispersed from the Teton Pack.
The Green River Pack symbolizes just how well wolves are doing. In previous years, when alpha females lost their mates in spring or summer and were left to raise pups alone, biologists gave them a helping hand.
In 1999, for example, the Teton Pack's alpha male was struck and killed by an automobile, leaving a single mother to raise five pups. Jimenez and others hauled road kill to the rendezvous site where she was rearing her pups to ensure all would not starve.
In contrast, when the Green River mom lost her mate this July, she had to fend for herself. Biologists did keep an eye on her though.
"The recovery part of it is really done now," Jimenez says. "It's gone into management."
As part of the bargain to bring back wolves, the federal government promised to deal with livestock conflicts, Jimenez says.
"That was the trust that was made with the public," he says, "when wolves kill livestock that we would do something to stop it."
President of the Upper Green River Cattlemen's Association Albert Sommers says that it was not only a promise, but a legally binding agreement.
The association represents 13 different ranches, which are permitted to collectively run up to 7,598 cattle in the Upper Green River drainage and on Union Pass. Drought has kept those numbers down. The association has held the permit since 1916. Sommers' family was running cattle on the land even before it became the Bridger-Teton National Forest, he says.
The allotment has been hit not only by wolves but also by grizzly bears. Wyoming Game and Fish manages the grizzly conflicts and has trapped and relocated several bears this summer.
Relocating or removing grizzlies and wolves has helped, [Sommers] says.
"When they removed the male wolf of the Green River Pack we were having several kills there and that seemed to end," Sommers says.
This is the first year the service has removed wolves from the allotment although ranchers have sustained confirmed losses due to wolves in previous years. "This hasn't been an automatic process," [Sommers] says. "It's a chronic problem."
Citing personal losses, Sommers said he averaged 1.8 percent calf losses prior to 1995 when grizzlies started to become a problem.
Since then with increasing bear activity and the arrival of wolves, calf losses have increased steadily, reaching 7 percent last year, he says.
Ranchers won't know how bad this summer's losses are until they bring the cattle off the mountain, he says. And even then, tracking losses and the cause is tricky since scavengers often consume the evidence.
After failing to find the wolf pups at their rendezvous site, Jimenez heads to Union Pass the following day to check for the mother's radio signal.
Sure enough, she is on the pass and appears to have picked up a mate, wolf No. 267, a radio-collared 2-year-old from the Teton Pack. The alpha female is 3 to 4 years old.
Although finding a new mate might bode well for the Green River Pack's survival, Union Pass is brimming with temptation -- the Upper Green River Cattlemen's stock.
But for the moment, "They seem to be doing OK," Jimenez says.
Mexican Gray Wolf Back on Home Range Thanks to Advocate
Mary Jo Pitzi, The Arizona Republic, 2 September 2003
The first howls came at dusk
Later, they drifted over the campground in the predawn, making Bobbie Holaday's heart jump. From joy.
Mexican gray wolves -- she doesn't know how many -- were howling as they roamed their historical turf in the Blue Range of northeastern Arizona.
Holaday drank in the haunting, primal sound, the highlight of her recent vacation near Luna Lake.
"It just makes me feel so happy that they're there and I can say, 'Thank God we helped get them back in their habitat'," she said.
Holaday played a big role in returning the wolf to the Blue, as the mountainous territory is called. For 11 years, she worked from Phoenix to push, prod, cajole and convince wildlife officials that the wolf needed to be reintroduced to its historical range in Arizona and New Mexico.
There was no eureka moment, no single event she can point to that made all the difference.
"It was incremental," said Holaday, 81. "Things didn't happen fast."
That's because wolf recovery was a politically, emotionally and economically touchy subject.
One that would consume the first decade of Holaday's retirement, plunging her into environmental-impact studies, a range-management class to better understand rancher concerns, even lessons in how to howl.
"There was so much politics in this whole thing," Holaday said. "Biologically, it could have happened in a few months."
In 1988, she formed Preserve Arizona's Wolves, an advocacy group that helped move along state and federal efforts to reintroduce the endangered species.
"It had to have people support," Holaday said of the recovery effort. "That was probably the biggest thing I did, was get the support."
Her work showed her that people were of two minds about the wolf. They wanted to see this "magnificent animal" reintroduced in the wild, she said. "But it was also clear they didn't know a fig about the wolf."
People's romantic visions of the wolf blurred their recognition of the damage it causes and the wolf's natural role in the food chain. Holaday said it was important to make the case for the wolves on their own merit, not as a means to another end.
"I'm not using the wolf as a vehicle of getting the rancher off the land," she said.
Because of her middle-of-the-road stance, Holaday drew fire from both ends of the spectrum: ranchers who saw the wolves as a threat to their livelihood, as well as some environmentalists who felt she was settling for half gains.
Holaday pushed on.
"It isn't a pure world," she said. "You can go to heaven with your purity, but I want to see wolves on the ground."
Her efforts were rewarded on a crisp, snow-covered day in January 1998, when the first three Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced to the Blue. Holaday had the honor of opening the door on the male's crate, releasing him into an acclimation pen that would be home for two months. In late March, the wolves were set loose.
The wolves' recovery, of course, didn't end there. Their first year in the wild was marked by killings, with most of the deaths due to human intervention, Holaday said.
"It's still questionable, it's still iffy," she said of the wolves' progress. "But it's looking good."
She's hopeful the wolf population will number 70 by the end of this year, counting pups.
She disbanded the advocacy group in 1998 and has spent the time since working on a book about her adventure, The Return of the Mexican Gray Wolf is being released this week.
Holaday said the book shows that seemingly impossible dreams can happen, but not without hard work.
"It can be done, if you're willing to give up 11 years of your life and work at it seven days a week," she said.
School's Wolf Not Just Mascot
Ronnie Blair, Tampa Bay Tribune, 1 September 2003
When a wolf named Rosie delivered pups in the wild of the western United States, students at Marlowe Elementary School received a birth announcement of sorts.
The tale of Rosie's litter arrived from the National Wildlife Federation's adopt-a-wolf program.
At the time, Rosie was an adoptee of the school, where students, teachers and administrators take the school's wolf mascot seriously.
``Wolves were always a favorite of mine,'' said Principal Terri Mutell, who keeps stuffed wolves, a wolf stein, a wolf cookie jar that howls and a small library of wolf books in her office.
By adopting wolves wandering the American West, students receive quarterly updates that track the pack's movement and record births, deaths, leadership structure and general health.
They also help preserve an endangered species.
Since the days of Rosie - one of Marlowe's first adoptees - the school's interest in wolves has grown.
The teachers and students have adopted 16 wolves in the past four years - two through the National Wildlife Federation and 14 through Defenders of Wildlife.
``We love our wolves,'' said Elaine Switzer, an instructional assistant and sponsor of the student council, which headed a fundraising effort that paid the adoption fees.
A Wolf For Each Team
The fundraising project was of the simplest sort. The student council asked the roughly 700 children at Marlowe to donate their spare change. The council collected $323 in one day.
Because of that, each of the school's seven teaching teams was able to adopt a wolf each of the past two years. The teams all received a stuffed toy wolf and the students received ``I adopted a wolf'' stickers.
``We didn't think we would get one per team when we started,'' Mutell said.
Defenders of Wildlife offers different levels of adoption, Switzer said.
The school paid $25 per adoption the first year, when all seven teaching teams adopted a wolf.
Last year, because of dwindling funds, Marlowe switched to a $15-per-wolf adoption.
Most of the wolves are somewhere in Yellowstone National Park, though wolf updates keep locations vague to protect the wolves from hunters, Mutell said.
School mascots such as Marlowe's wolf are common, but not every school weaves the mascot into the curriculum.
Mutell decided when Marlowe Elementary opened in August 1999 that she wanted the mascot to be more than just an illustration on a sign out front.
Mutell hoped to integrate the mascot into the children's studies. She had adopted a wolf on her own before - as well as manatees and a tiger - and felt that would be a good project for the students.
She said she loved animals as a youngster.
``Anything that crawled or crept, I brought home, much to my mother's chagrin,'' Mutell said.
She had the academic possibilities in mind when she chose the mascot.
``I wanted something that is endangered because I think that is a big lesson,'' she said. ``These kids have a big responsibility in front of them.''
A few people questioned whether wolf studies might be too frightening for elementary students, but most parents seemed to love the idea, she said.
Before long, the school's wolf motif took off. Large rugs with wolves on them hang from walls in the office reception area and the cafeteria. So do yellow ``Wolf Crossing'' signs. Wolf screen savers appear on computer monitors.
School starts each day with a jazz CD that features howling wolves.
On Fridays, the school's morning news show features Muffy and Duffy, two wolf puppets, manipulated by students, that act as news anchors and read the day's announcements.
As the school's wolf enthusiasm grew, Mutell found herself the recipient of all kinds of wolf items from students, parents and teachers.
Switzer said wolf lore quickly becomes addictive. She realized just how much when she was on a vacation in Alaska.
``I'm in the gift shop at Denali [National Park & Preserve] getting wolf postcards,'' she said.
Chelsea Van Den Kooy, 10, a fifth- grader, said students were a tad confused a few years ago when teachers told them of the plans to adopt a wolf.
``We thought they were going to bring a wolf to the school,'' she said.
Zachary Stacey, 10, also a fifth- grader, said he imagined his school turning into a miniature wildlife sanctuary.
``I thought they would put a fence up and let the wolf stay in there,'' he said.
But the children quickly acclimated to the idea of adopting faraway wolves that they hear about but never see, except in a photograph. As they study the wolves, though, they can visualize them stalking the forests.
``I try to see them out wherever they are, trying to survive,'' Lee Marker, 10, said.
The children say the highlight of their wolf studies was a visit from Max, a wolf hybrid owned by a woman who often takes the animal on nursing home visits.
``It was bigger than I thought it was going to be,'' Destiny Johnson, 10, said. ``It was cool seeing a live wolf.''
Trapped by Doubts
Approach to reintroducing wolves into the wild is under attack
Tania Soussan, Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, 31 August 2003
Two years have passed since scientists recommended fundamental changes to the Mexican wolf reintroduction program in the Southwest.
So far, few of their major suggestions have been met.
Even now, as a five-year review of the reintroduction program is at hand, controversy persists over the unresolved recommendations made in the three-year review.
The scientists said in 2001 that the program should immediately change its rules to allow the endangered wolves to roam outside the government's recovery area boundaries.
They said ranchers should be required to take some responsibility for cattle carcasses that could attract hungry wolves. They also said the wolf recovery plan should be revised by June 2002 with clear goals for getting wolves off the federal government's endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet proposed any change to the boundary rule. It has not made ranchers responsible for carcasses. And the agency is just beginning work on the updated recovery plan.
The Mexican wolf program aims to establish a population of 100 wild wolves in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. The lobos were hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.
Measuring the reintroduction program's success so far is difficult.
How many wolves?
The goal was to have a total of 11 packs and 55 wolves in the wild by the end of this year. There are roughly 30 radio-collared wolves in the wild now. But biologists believe there are many more wolves out there because an unknown number of juveniles and pups do not have collars.
"There's no doubt we're moving toward recovery," said acting program manager Colleen Buchanan. "I'm very optimistic about the wolf program."
Others have their doubts.
Twenty-four conservation, animal protection, religious and community groups have asked the government to heed the warnings of the panel of scientists that reviewed the program several years ago.
The scientists said two years ago that the Fish and Wildlife Service's "control program" -- the way it manages the wolves -- is endangering individual animals and the entire species.
Meanwhile, ranchers and county government leaders are suing the Fish and Wildlife Service. They say the agency did not adequately consider the potential for livestock depredation and wolves hybridizing with other canines.
They have asked a federal judge to ban new wolf releases and order all wolves removed from the wild until the service meets its obligations.
The debate reflects the complexity of endangered species reintroduction programs. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists cannot base their decisions solely on what would be best for the wolves. By federal law, they also have to consider impacts on ranchers and other people in the area.
Fixing an imbalance
Environmentalists believe the current rules favor ranchers and don't do enough to protect the wolves.
Ranchers see it differently.
"The way the rules are set up, they are stacked against the livestock industry," said Howard Hutchinson, executive director of the Glenwood-based Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth.
"The only way the wolf recovery program will have any chance of success at all is to have local buy-in from the people who live in the area and have to deal with it," he said.
Michael Robinson, a Pinos Altos resident and representative of the Center for Biological Diversity, agreed that local community needs must be considered. But he said the current balance is tipped in favor of ranchers.
"There's got to be some attempt at coexistence, but that effort hasn't been made," he said.
Buchanan said the scientists' recommendations are being weighed along with funding, other priorities and public input.
Dale Hall, Southwest regional manager of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said it has taken time for him to understand the nuances of the wolf program since coming to Albuquerque early last year.
He also said some of the issues raised by the scientists should be addressed as the new recovery plan is written. But he said their recommendations are not off the table.
John Vucetich, a research assistant professor at Michigan Technological University and one of the scientists who did the three-year review of the wolf program, said other changes are overdue.
"It's disappointing that they haven't done much or anything, and it's not even clear why," he said.
Another of the reviewers, Mike Phillips, the first lead scientist for wolf restoration in Yellowstone National Park, said he also stands by the recommendations.
"A comprehensive review today would show many of those recommendations are still called for," he said.
The Arizona and New Mexico state game departments endorsed the scientists' recommendations as "scientifically valid." But they said that was only part of the story.
"Some of the recommendations do not adequately reflect social and cultural issues," their report stated. "There is no such thing as 'pure science' in an endangered species reintroduction."
Phillips agreed reintroduction programs must consider social factors. But he said he and the other scientists were asked to weigh a narrow set of questions.
"There's a trade-off between making rules that make sense for the biology and making rules that are politically acceptable," Vucetich added.
Chuck Hayes, assistant chief of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, said more people are accepting the fact they will have to live with wolves.
"I think it's on track," he said of the program. "I don't think there's a wolf program that's going to go on without wrinkles."
An unseen line
Current rules require the recapture of wolves that cross over an invisible line marking the boundary of their recovery area.
The scientists said that doesn't make sense because wolves roam over large distances and limiting the recovery area needlessly excludes good habitat. They said the policy is not consistent with other wolf reintroduction programs or with wildlife management in general.
They also said ranchers should be made responsible for livestock carcasses that wolves can scavenge on, acquiring a taste for domestic animals.
Leaving carcasses on public land is irresponsible, Vucetich said.
"We know that asking ranchers to adopt a potentially more complex husbandry program could be a royal pain in the ass," Phillips said. But he said a change is needed.
In the federal government's Northern Rockies wolf reintroduction program, for example, ranchers bear some responsibility for removing livestock carcasses from federal lands so they do not attract wolves.
Another change the scientists recommended was quickly updating the recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf -- the document that should set goals for getting wolves off the endangered species list.
The service is just now putting together the team to rewrite the plan, which is more than two decades old and based on old science.
"The critical question is at what level does the population reach a self-sustainable mode," Hall said.
The current recovery plan does not set any criteria for getting the wolves off the endangered list, so-called "delisting." Federal biologists often refer to the reintroduction program goal of 100 wolves re-established in the wild as a recovery goal, but it is not an official benchmark.
The number likely will be higher once the new plan is written.
"Anyone will say 100 of anything is not a recovered population," Buchanan said.
Getting wolves off the endangered list will be good for everyone, Hall said.
"We really don't have a choice," he said. "We have to find a way. If the wolf stays not recovered, then it's going to continue to be, in the agricultural community's mind, an onerous situation and, in the environmental community's mind, an onerous situation."
Recovery or delisting would mean the wolves no longer face extinction and would allow ranchers more flexibility in dealing with the predators.
Series of setbacks
Environmentalists say the reintroduction program rules are so restrictive that the wild wolf population is declining and the species is not moving toward recovery.
"We have a control program masquerading as a recovery program," Robinson said.
He said there is a long list of examples of how the Mexican wolves have suffered because of recaptures and other measures in Arizona and New Mexico:
* A Mule Pack female's foot was injured by a mechanical trap in a recapture effort; it later had to be amputated. When she was rereleased, she separated from her mate and now appears to be lost.
* The government, for the first time in decades, shot and killed a wild Mexican wolf in May after she killed calves. Earlier, the alpha female had been trapped from the wild and rereleased twice and had scavenged on livestock carcasses.
* Three pups from the Pipestem Pack died of parvo virus after being recaptured. A veterinarian's report says the pups likely were recovering from the virus but relapsed "as (a) result of stress from the whole trapping affair."
* Another litter of pups from the Francisco Pack died in May. Their pack had been running wild in Arizona but was recaptured in March after straying onto the San Carlos Apache reservation.
The tribe does not want wolves on its land. In fact, most of the wolves removed from the wild have been recaptured at the request of San Carlos, Buchanan said.
The alpha female gave birth to five pups while back in captivity at Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch southwest of Truth or Consequences. Soon after, a major construction project to protect native fish started in Animas Creek near the wolf pen.
"We had concerns," Buchanan said, adding that the wolves were stressed, running and pacing around their enclosure.
Phillips, who also is executive director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, founded by media mogul Ted Turner, said experts agreed there was little chance the construction would have any long-lasting impact.
But in the end, the pups died.
Last week, the wolf program team set traps and started hazing a group of wolves in an effort to move them away from a public lands grazing allotment even though there were no confirmed depredations.
Robinson said the trapping effort could set a bad precedent for other wolves, but Buchanan said it is not a new tactic.
Trapping and moving wolves can be hard on the animals, but it is a necessary part of a reintroduction program, especially in the early years, Phillips said.
"We're removing wolves but we have to -- that's the way our law is written," Buchanan added.
Predators and purity
Ranchers have their own complaints.
Livestock industry and county groups from New Mexico and Arizona contend in a lawsuit that the Fish and Wildlife Service has not been honest about how many cattle and sheep the wolves would kill.
"Our calculations have been borne out by the on-the-ground facts," Hutchinson said. "The depredation numbers have been much higher than they predicted."
He said hundreds of head of livestock have been killed.
Buchanan said she could not talk about the suit, but the Fish and Wildlife Service has denied the allegations in court filings.
Hutchinson said the service based its depredation numbers on areas with different grazing systems.
The suit also says hybridization threatens the wolves' genetic purity. In September, the service euthanized seven pups born to a Mexican gray wolf after they were found to be wolf-dog hybrids. No other hybrids have been confirmed among the animals in the program, despite ongoing genetic testing.
"The 'Mexican gray wolves' that were released into the wild by the (Fish and Wildlife Service) are no longer pure Mexican gray wolves, if they ever were to begin with," the suit states. "The released wolves are apparently breeding with either coyotes or dogs."
The livestock industry has proposed changes to the program, such as compensating livestock owners, hunters and state game departments for lost income caused by wolves that kill cattle or game animals, Hutchinson said.
Making A Home Fit for Wolves
Matt Fleming, The (Plymouth, UK) Evening Herald, 27 August 2003
An unexpected visitor to a South Hams tourist attraction has prompted a plan to build a new area and start a breeding programme.
Lobo the Canadian timber wolf was born to a pack of new female wolves introduced to Dartmoor Wildlife Park in Sparkwell at the start of the year.
But the cub had to be removed from the pen and is now going back, with plans afoot to make sure her future brothers and sisters will be able to remain with the pack from birth.
Lobo has been raised by staff at the park since the April showers were in full force earlier this year.
Her mum, who does not have a name, had given birth to Lobo in the wolf sanctuary's purpose-built house.
But she had taken the youngster out of the house after a couple of days to give her shelter in a makeshift den on the other side of the sanctuary - probably because of a draught in the house.
Lobo was soaked through in the den and had to be rescued by staff only days after her birth, as they were worried she would die in the harsh conditions.
But, four-and-a-half months later, Lobo is fully recovered, thanks to round-the-clock care from animal carers Zoe Lambert-Gorwyn and Rose Hext.
She is ready to join her mum, dad Zak, and four other female wolves in the lupine enclosure - but won't be put in the pen until September, when the summer crowds have died down.
Zoe, who works with big cats at the park, said: "By September she should be quite a big girl, so she will be ready to join the rest of the pack.
"It's been hard work, but fun raising Lobo. She's fantastic: a real live wire."
Once Lobo moves into the enclosure, a new 10ft-long underground pipe will be installed so the wolves have somewhere to shelter from the rain.
Owner Ellis Daw said: "The pipe will give the wolves somewhere dry. It'll blend in with the environment, so we're expecting them to really take to it."
Business has been good this summer, according to staff at the park, now in its 36th year.
Mr Daw said that due to rising insurance costs the park was not making 'a huge amount of profit', but was still proving a success over the summer.
Other developments to look out for later in the year include a revamp of the Asian otters' enclosure to give it a 'romantic touch' and a new big cat enclosure - which is only an idea so far - on a field near the park's entrance currently used for red deer.
To donate cash to the park, or to help the Wolf Appeal, which helps to fund the upkeep of the pack of seven wolves, contact the park on 837645, or pay it a visit yourself.
Montana Releases Wolf Management Plan
Becky Bohrer, Associated Press, 21 August 2003
Montana released its plan for managing gray wolves Thursday, but federal wildlife officials said a proposal for taking the wolves off the endangered species list still could be months away.
A decision could be delayed even further if the plans presented by Montana, Idaho and Wyoming need changes to ensure the sustainability of wolves in the region, the officials said.
Montana's plan released by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department is largely unchanged from a draft issued earlier this year. It centers on maintaining at least 15 breeding pairs of wolves in the state and allows regulated hunts if the wolf population is high enough.
It calls for rigorous monitoring of the animals and allows ranchers to kill gray wolves if they threaten their livestock, including guard animals.
Carolyn Sime, Montana's wolf plan coordinator, said Thursday the plan is a balanced approach that meets the wolves' "biological needs," while taking into account concerns raised by the public.
Joe Fontaine, assistant wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, said the plan seems to be a "good effort, but like all of the plans, it will need additional review."
The Fish, Wildlife and Parks director must sign a record of decision, which is the official notice that a plan is adopted, officials said. It can't be signed earlier than 15 days after the final environmental impact statement is released, spokesman Tom Palmer said, citing a state environmental law.
Federal wildlife officials have said they're ready to move toward removing gray wolves from federal protection because the wolves have made a remarkable recovery since first being reintroduced to the region in 1995. But Montana, Idaho and Wyoming all must first come up with plans for managing wolves that ensure the animals continue to thrive.
Roughly 660 wolves roamed the region at the end of last year and officials estimated that 183 wolves were in Montana, including about 16 breeding pairs.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will review the state plans to see if they meet "minimal requirements," said Sharon Rose, a spokeswoman with the agency's regional office in Denver. If they do, they will undergo scientific "peer" review, a process which may be completed during this fall, she said.
Fontaine said the goal for proposing delisting is next year. "We don't know how everything is going to fall just yet," he said.
If there are problems with one or more of the plans - something, perhaps, that state legislators might need to address - the process could take a while, Rose said.
"I don't think we're anticipating problems. We're hopeful that a lot of kinks are worked out," she said. "But when you bring a new group in to review things, it's possible they will see things that we didn't."
Conservationists, ranchers and even federal wildlife managers have raised concerns about Wyoming's plan, which calls for a dual-classification system for the wolves. In some areas, gray wolves would be considered trophy game and subject to regulated hunting. In other parts, they would be classified as predators and could be shot with few restrictions.
Montana has garnered praise for an open process that brought stakeholders together early and throughout the process of developing a plan, which is "clearly, the best of the bunch," said Nina Fascione, vice president of species conservation for the Defenders of Wildlife.
However, "I don't see delisting happening at all smoothly," she said. "It will happen eventually but not smoothly."
Fascione said her group has "grave concerns" about Wyoming's plan and expected litigation, though she said it was too early to say if her organization would be involved.
Brian Vincent, a program coordinator with the Animal Protection Institute, called the three state plans "a collective war on wolves."
"The portrait these plans paint is that wolves are dangerous animals and need to be controlled," he said. "We move into their habitat, have essentially lured them with livestock. We're logging their habitat, grazing in their habitat."
Under Montana's plan, regulated hunts would be allowed when the population reaches a level considered "biologically sustainable" and ranchers could kill wolves that threaten their livestock but would need to report this to Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Sime said.
An important next step is coming up with a compensation program, she said. The plan says the state "intends to find or create an entity to administer" such a program.
Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said it's a good idea but won't work if it has too many "limitations." "If you're only compensated on documented losses, it's not going to be successful," he said.
Ranchers dealing with wolves bear costs beyond some cattle losses, he said. Some hire extra help to keep watch or bring cattle to confined areas at night, he said.
Wolf monitoring is also a part of the plan. It would be done in a way that balances the need for information with cost-effectiveness, Sime said.
Costs for managing wolves remains a concern for all three states.
Alaskans Are Divided Over Wolf Protection
Kimberly Edds, The Washington Post, 17 August 2003
Willie Petruska came home from his annual hunt last year without a moose, for the first time ever. For Petruska, whose family depends on the meat a moose provides for the winter, it is no small matter that restrictions on hunting gray wolves have led to a sharp decline in the moose population.
"I've seen a lot of wolves killing the calves," said Petruska, 64, who lives in Nikolai, about 200 miles from here, and has been hunting in this part of central Alaska for much of his life. "A lot of people never got their moose last September."
But subsistence hunters such as Petruska may soon benefit from a state law that takes effect this fall. For the first time, private citizens will be allowed to use airplanes to track and shoot wolves as part of a state-run program to reduce the predator's population. The initiative has sparked renewed debate here over whether Alaska should try to actively manage its wildlife in such fashion.
"Potentially, the impacts are huge. We have something now that we haven't had in the past: a political administration that is willing to push this as far as it can go. Hundreds of wolves might be taken all over the state," said Vic Van Ballenberghe, a wolf biologist from Anchorage.
There was a time when control of the Alaskan wilderness had to be wrestled from wolves and bears, but many Alaskans now see those as bygone days. No lethal control programs have been carried out since 1994. And in just the past seven years, voters have twice overturned legislative attempts to reinstate "land-and-shoot" hunting, which allows hunters to track prey from the air, then land and shoot them immediately without giving their targets a chance to escape.
Those attitudes are now clashing with a powerful contingent of traditionalists who want to preserve the Alaska institution of big game hunting, a group that includes Gov. Frank H. Murkowski (R).
"It's hard for people looking at this from different value systems to come to a consensus on the best way to manage these resources," said Matt Robus, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's wildlife conservation director.
Under current law, the Alaska Board of Game must determine that the moose and caribou populations have fallen below certain levels before launching a predator-control program. The new law, which takes effect in September, allows the board to act regardless of population numbers and puts private citizens, rather than state employees, in the driver's seat.
Current hunting laws also require hunters to land and wait until 3 a.m. the next day before opening fire, rules that will not apply in the state-approved control program.
The effort, backed by Murkowski, allows residents to volunteer their time and provide their own planes, fuel and equipment. Subsistence hunters such as Petruska would take part in thinning the wolf population and would benefit themselves as the moose herds grew.
So would big game hunters, who come to Alaska to bag those same moose and caribou. Critics of wolf control have accused the board and the Murkowski administration of launching an attack against Alaska's wolves as a way of preserving big game hunting and the money it generates. A single hunt can net an experienced guide $ 10,000.
"They say this is really to benefit the poor native, but what they really want to do is benefit the sport hunter," said Joel Bennett, a former game board member who is now a representative of Defenders of Wildlife. "It's a selfish purpose. It's not that they're ridding the universe of something bad for the benefit of others. They basically want to knock out the competition for themselves."
The program's supporters say only active predator management can level the playing field for hunters. Board members and hunters claim that moose and caribou populations have plummeted in many parts of the state. In one area that covers nearly 24,000 square miles, biologists estimate the moose population dropped from 7,400 in 1990 to 3,800 in 2001.
John Manly, a spokesman for Murkowski, said it is time for the state to manage its wildlife, instead of sitting back and watching while nature runs its course.
"It's not going to make a whole hill of beans," Manly said. "I think people are overblown in their concern."
Wildlife activists claim that wolves, not moose and caribou, are being killed off at an alarming rate, and that further reduction could be devastating. Of the estimated 11,000 wolves in Alaska, nearly 1,700 were reported killed by hunters across the state last year, but the actual number may be higher, said Karen Deatherage, a spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife. Daily bag limits for wolves are as high as 10 in some areas, and private bounties are being offered to cut down on the population.
Predator control has long been the subject of debate in the state. During the 1940s and '50s, widespread wolf control was conducted using poison, bounties and aerial shooting by federal agents. The program was effective, resulting in small predator populations and large numbers of moose and caribou. Aerial permits were issued until 1972, when the Federal Airborne Hunting Act was passed.
In 1992, the Alaska Board of Game approved a five-year aerial control program that would have eliminated as much as 80 percent of the wolves in three areas. Calls and letters from angry Alaskans flooded then-Gov. Walter J. Hickel's office, and a successful tourist boycott was organized. The plan was dropped.
A 1996 state ballot initiative and a ballot referendum in 2000 banned same-day aerial hunting of wolves. Supporters of those measures accuse the current game board of trying to circumvent the will of the people and effectively bring back land-and-shoot and aerial hunting.
Visitors spend more than a half-billion dollars a year on wildlife viewing, with wolves being the species most want to see. But if the wolf population is reduced, those dollars will start disappearing, too. There is already talk of a tourism boycott.
State Sen. Ralph Seekins, a Republican from Fairbanks who authored the new law, said he wants hunters to get a fair shake, as well. Hunting accounts for 3 percent of the harvest of moose and caribou, said Seekins, who would like hunters to get as much as a third of the annual take.
"Predators in this state are getting more than their share," Seekins said. "If someone wants to hunt to feed their families, they should have a reasonable chance of success."
Wildlife advocates worry that allowing aerial tracking by members of the public instead of professional shooters employed by the state also will lead to widespread abuses and the wounding and maiming of wolves by unskilled shooters. Predator-control proponents argue the goal of game management programs is to reduce the wolf population as quickly and humanely as possible.
"The scenario that hundreds of airplanes are going to be flying willy-nilly all over the state shooting at whatever moves is pretty imaginative," said Dick Bishop of the Alaska Outdoor Council, a pro-hunting lobbying group.
The shooting could start as soon as the first snowfall, a necessity for tracking wolves from the air and for safely landing airplanes.
In Nikolai, the decision is easy. Instead of the months-long supply of moose to which they are accustomed, residents pay $ 4 a pound for frozen hamburger and almost $ 15 for a steak, luxuries the majority of Nikolai's 100 residents cannot afford. Hunting moose is how they survive.
"There's too many people," Nikolai resident Nick Dennis said. "One guy gets one moose, and he shares it with lots of people. . . . I don't know what's going to happen this fall."
Wolves Staking Claim in White Clouds
Gregory Foley, Idaho Mountain Express, 13 August 2003
After a one-year hiatus, gray wolves have returned to the White Cloud Mountains, renewing a debate in central Idaho over how huge tracts of federal land in and around the region are managed.
Wolf advocates have applauded a federal ruling this year that prohibits federal officials from killing wolves that prey on livestock in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which includes the White Clouds. At the same time, many object to grazing permits that allow thousands of sheep and cattle to be placed in proximity of known wolf dens in the 756,000-acre SNRA.
Meanwhile, opponents of wolf reintroduction in Idaho have asserted that Idaho’s wolves are negatively impacting livestock and elk populations, threatening the valued institutions of ranching and hunting.
Two new wolf packs moved into the White Clouds this year, filling a void left in 2002 by the erstwhile Wildhorse Pack, which disbanded, and the Whitehawk Pack, which was killed by federal officials after it was implicated in attacks on livestock.
The recently named "Galena Pack"—which resides in the western foothills of the White Clouds, near the Champion Creek drainage—was deemed a viable pack last spring after a litter of five pups was born to two adults.
In July, officials confirmed the viability of a second new pack in the northeastern White Clouds, named the "Castle Peak Pack." That pack comprises two adults—including the former alpha male of the Wildhorse Pack—and four pups.
Carter Niemeyer, Idaho wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency currently charged with managing reintroduced wolf populations in Idaho, Montana, and Yellowstone National Park, said the new packs bring to 20 the number of wolf packs with litters in Idaho. An additional 20 known groups of wolves without a breeding pair reside in the state.
Niemeyer said the USFWS has seen ample evidence to believe that wolves are also residing near the Bench Lakes in the Sawtooth Mountains.
The region around the White Cloud Mountains is considered by biologists to be excellent wolf habitat, offering the far-ranging canines room to roam and abundant big game to feed on.
"It is very good wolf habitat," said Robin Garwood, wildlife biologist for the SNRA.
The SNRA wolves currently have an extra measure of protection over that provided by its status as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. In April, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill renewed a 2002 injunction that prohibits killing wolves in the SNRA—even those that prey on livestock.
Still, wolf advocates have opposed permits that allowed approximately 4,500 sheep and 2,500 cattle to graze in the SNRA this summer—some in pastures immediately adjacent to the den of the Champion Creek wolves.
A third wolf pack residing just outside the SNRA boundaries is not protected by Judge Winmill’s order. The Buffalo Ridge Pack, which in spring was established south of Clayton, has been a candidate for federal control actions this year because of previous suspected livestock kills.
The pack, however, relocated this summer into the mountains above Squaw Creek before any lethal control actions were deemed necessary.
Niemeyer said only a handful of suspected wolf predations on livestock have been reported this year. "We’ve had an extremely quiet summer all over Idaho," he said.
Niemeyer said a key to this year’s success in keeping wolf-livestock interactions to a minimum has been a series of collaborative efforts by wolf managers and wolf advocates. Efforts have included installing electric fencing in some areas and delaying the installation of cows with calves in pastures near wolf dens.
"We certainly believe that if we can keep wolves and livestock apart, that would be the best solution," Niemeyer said.
Despite the newfound success of wolves in the White Clouds, their future is not certain. The wolves are scheduled to soon lose their federally protected status, and eventually will be managed by the state of Idaho. The state has determined it will manage wolves depending on the number of packs in the state, with an overall goal of maintaining at least 15 wolf packs in Idaho.
Anti-Wolf Group Preps for Legal Attack
Associated Press, 12 August 2003
BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition – formerly known as the Central-Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition – is trying to raise money to file a class-action lawsuit asking the federal government be ordered to eliminate wolves from Idaho.
Coalition founder Ron Gillett of Stanley told a news conference Sunday said that increasing wolf populations across the state are putting stress on wildlife, outfitters and ranchers.
“I am afraid we are about to experience the biggest wildlife disaster in Idaho’s history,” Gillett said. “Something must be done immediately, because the Canadian gray wolf population has exploded to the point of decimating Idaho’s big game herds.”
Coalition member Bill Campbell of Nampa said many outfitters and hunting guides are having a hard time with game shortages.
“That’s what brought this whole thing together,” said Campbell.
“There are outfitters who are literally going out of business because hunters come in from all over to hunt big game and don’t see anything. Then they never come back.”
Research from the Nez Perce Tribe indicates that wolf populations are decreasing in some areas because as packs grow the territorial animals roam into less desirable territory.
“The density of wolves in a given area is pretty much fixed. That is all the wolves you are going to have in an area.” said Curt Mack, director of wolf recovery in Idaho for the Nez Perce Tribe.
Because the density of wolves in particular areas is not growing, predation of elk by wolves will likely increase across the state but won’t increase in localized areas.
Researchers say that elk account for about 80 percent of the diet of wolves, while deer makes up the rest.
An average wolf pack probably eats 80 to 100 elk per year, said Curt Mack, director of wolf recovery in Idaho for the Nez Perce Tribe. He guessed wolves kill about 2,500 to 5,000 elk per year.
“The pressure on elk is distributed over a larger geographic area, but the pressure and wolf predation on elk within an occupied territory remains the same,” Mack said.
The lawsuit is meant to force federal officials to dispose of the animals through any means necessary.
“There’s just no way that you can trap all those wolves. You can trap some, and that would be the humane thing to do. But the fact is they’re a predator and you’ve got to deal with them one way or another,” said Nampa rancher and coalition member Bill Campbell.
Organizations in Montana and Wyoming share that sentiment and the coalition hopes they will join in the lawsuit, said Campbell.
The Idaho group is gathering funds and plans to hold a dinner and auction Aug. 22 in Nampa. The coalition hopes to raise about $100,000 for its legal efforts by spring.
The coalition has not yet decided whether it will seek damages in the suit, but Gillett said it is a possibility that they will ask that the federal government and some environmental groups pay an unspecified amount for each wolf-killed elk.
The latest estimates of Idaho’s wolf population place it around 284 and composed of about 19 packs. The numbers come from the 2002 gray wolf status report produced by the Nez Perce Tribe.
Gillett’s coalition estimates the population has reached between 700 and 1,000 animals.