Howl for Wolves as Alpine Tunnel Threatens Valley
Paul Webster, The [London] Observer, 25 August 1996
Isola, Alpes Maritimes -- The good news for nature lovers is the return of wolf packs to Isola's neighbouring Alpine wilderness dominated by the Mercantour reserve. The bad news is the arrival of motorway engineers surveying the route for a multi-lane highway from Nice in the south and for what will be the longest trans-Alpine tunnel between France and Italy.
The entrance to the 10 3/4-mile tunnel, approached by a road through the adjoining Italian Alpi Maritime park, is a few hundred metres from this village of 200 people in the constricted Tinee valley, centre of an epic ecological battle. In the past few days opponents of the project, which is being pushed through under pressure from French and European road lobbies, handed around a video showing the environmental impact of the Mont Blanc road tunnel to the north....
Opponents in the Aspe valley believe the heavy lorry traffic will ruin its natural attraction as well as frightening away France's last colony of brown bears in the nearby nature reserve. But local councillors and MPs say the highway will open up a depressed area to new industries and holidaymakers. There is little hope of stopping the work at Somport, but the lessons learnt are reinforcing the crusade in the southern Alps.
Conditions here repeat the Aspe valley's fundamental conflict between environmental and motor vehicle lobbies. While EU conservation funds were withdrawn from the Pyrenean nature reserve in protest against the highway and tunnel, the EU road lobby, backed by big vehicle manufacturers, forced through work that was condemned even by the late President Francois Mitterand.
The policy of France's Gaullist-led government, strongly in favour of motorway schemes, will help the European car lobby, anxious to hurry through several cross-frontier road plans, to improve the international network and create new economic zones.
....Nice city council's planning representative, Gilbert Stellardo, said the tunnel would form part of a transport infrastructure linked to new developments in North Africa and central Europe. 'If opponents succeed in holding it up, they will open the way to 20 more years of recession and population decline,' he said.
As nobody has yet given a serious estimate of what villages such as Isola have to gain, the emotional factor could be decisive. Opponents believe that much of the protest's success now hangs on the return of wolves to the Mercantour, which already attracts 500,000 visitors a year.
Jean-Raymond Vinciguerra, head of the regional environment action group, said the animals were taking on the same symbolic role as the Pyrenean bears. Hunted to virtual extinction in the last century, no wolves had been sighted in the mountains until they took advantage of improved conservation and returned about three years ago. Now two packs of five and seven have been reported after moving from an Italian refuge. Some reports say that as many as 40 were roaming the snow-covered mountains last winter.
'When there are thousands of lorries roaring through the valley spewing pollution, will the wolves go back to Italy?' a game ranger said at the park's HQ, where the animals have become the main publicity material. 'Wolves seek solitude far from man and his nuisances.'
But sympathetic environmental noises...will have little echo in Paris, where the authorities seem touched by motorway madness, under pressure from carmakers and public works lobbies....Several projects will go ahead despite vigorous ecological arguments.
Wolf at the Door
Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News, 11 August 1996
Norwood, CO -- When San Miguel County invited gray wolves to relocate to this rural and formerly conservative part of western Colorado, the commissioners' 2-1 vote was a painful sign of painful times.
The county, a rectangle on the Utah border, is a divided territory of abandoned mines, extravagant homes, third-generation loggers, trust fund heirs, cattle spreads and outdoors fanatics.
The ranching heritage, with a stronghold in Norwood, has dominated values.
But Telluride's proliferating resort culture now controls the votes.
"Growth is right there in people's faces," said Commissioner Jim Craft, who introduced the wolf resolution as his statement of principle against unfettered growth.
"There's a rancher with 1,200 acres who is surrounded on three sides by ranches owned by the heir to the Chrysler fortune, someone from the Johnson & Johnson family and someone connected to Toyota.
"That's a clash of values," said Craft, a 19-year-resident of the area.
From Norwood to Telluride along Colorado 145, large log homes with manicured lawns have blossomed on lots next to the battered trailers and boxy little cabins that have lined the San Miguel River for 20 years. Realty signs grace long-forsaken shacks. Mountain mansions stud the hillsides.
Change in western Colorado isn't confined to San Miguel County -- superheated growth is slathering subdivisions across river valleys from Durango to Steamboat Springs....
In the eyes of longtime San Miguel County residents, the wolf vote was a sure sign that the moneyed, left-leaning newcomers from alien planets like southern California had taken over.
Specifically, Telluride's new Mountain Village development has added 728 residents -- a significant number in a county of 5,380 and enough to shift the political scales.
The wolf vote has led to an unprecedented epidemic of newcomer bashing -- a hallowed Colorado tradition of ridiculing new residents' ignorance of mountains, weather, country etiquette and wildlife....
But the actual discomfort isn't about the people, it's about the revolution that prompts county commissioners to welcome wolves to ranchers' turf. Craft said the wolf resolution wouldn't have passed five years ago when the demographics still favored real ranchers, not environmental idealists.
"Ranching is the glue that holds this culture together," said Peter Spencer, the former mayor of Telluride who moved to Norwood five years ago and started a weekly newspaper.
"When I was mayor, we fought for growth in Telluride. We succeeded so well that we can't afford to live there," he said.
That's the twist in San Miguel County's growth saga. The county, especially the rural western half, spent the early 1980s singing the blues about the loss of mining jobs, a population exodus, an eroding tax base and an absolute absence of hope.
By 1985, futurist John Naisbitt had declared Telluride a bellwether community for the nation, an isolated territory of acutely attuned residents able to sense the gales of change.
And it was a sign of the times one Saturday in July when three grizzled ranchers ambled through a Norwood antique store, gazed at the vintage gas pumps, swapped stories and pined about their old, discarded gas pumps now worth $1,000 or more.
Norwood, located on Wright's Mesa with grassy flats for farming and ranching, has a bumper crop of "For Sale" signs, but most of the 450 residents wave hello to every stranger on the street.
"It's still affordable, but now we're a town of a few ranches and a lot of people who work in Telluride instead of a mining and ranching town," said Doris Harrison, a Chamber of Commerce officer.
In the last five years, property taxes have jumped about 30%, housing prices have tripled and about 65% of the residents work in Telluride, she said.
For Harrison and others, the wolf resolution was irrelevant.
"I don't have sheep. I don't even have a dog. But the ranchers don't need another predator when we can't even control people's loose dogs," she said.
....Unlike Naisbitt, who sees progress and prosperity when he looks into the future, Spencer sees the new politics of hypocrisy accelerating.
"They ban dogs in the Mountain Village, but not wolves? They want to get rid of ranchers who protect the open space," he said. "They want to end logging, which they need for all those big houses?
"I suggest that we keep the population in balance here not by introducing the wolf, but by introducing muggers and drive-by shootings," he said.
The commissioners' vote has no impact on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf reintroduction program.
And local politics -- not biology -- keeps the wolf issue alive. On Tuesday, voters pick one of three Democratic candidates from Norwood to run for county commissioner and replace Leslie Sherlock, who cast the lone vote against the wolf.
Keith LaQuey, one of the candidates, is against wolf reintroduction. His campaign poster features the burly, bearded welder holding a 3-foot wrench under the headline, "Solid, Sturdy, Safe. The People's Choice."
...."Telluride is the awakening giant," he said. "They have no faith in their neighbors or in nature. If they can't control it, they want to blow it away."
Biologist Tracks First Wolf Pups to be Born in Idaho in 80 Years
Bill Loftus, Lewiston Morning Tribune, 28 July 1996
Lewiston, Idaho -- Nez Perce tribe biologists have documented the first litter of wolf pups born in Idaho in 80 years.
"We heard them howl Saturday night and found the den Sunday," said Curt Mack, the tribal biologist who has overseen efforts to track several pairs of wolves in Idaho's remote wilderness.
Mack and another biologist backpacked into the headwaters of the Selway River east of Elk City this weekend to try to find the fledgling pack. They returned with the first evidence that wolves released in Idaho by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995 and 1996 have produced a litter.
He learned Tuesday that another team of biologists under contract to the tribe have confirmed another litter, this one in the Landmark area east of McCall on the Payette National Forest. Mack said biologists there spotted a wolf pup during their foray.
Timm Kaminski, a wildlife biologist who began searching for wolves in Idaho in the early 1980s for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the last litter of wolf pups documented in Idaho was in 1916.
Federal trapper Leo Twitchell reported that litter along the Blackfoot River in southeastern Idaho as part of the campaign to eradicate wolves from the West.
"The only possible exception I am aware of would have been up on the Salmon River along Hat Creek. That was in 1921," Kaminski said.
2 Groups Drop out of Trapping Study
Gary Gerhardt, Rocky Mountain News, 10 July 1996
Two environmental groups Tuesday quit a group studying how predators in Colorado should be controlled, saying their views weren't being taken seriously.
Sinapu, which promotes the reintroduction of wolves to the wild, and the Colorado Environmental Coalition expressed disappointment with a process they charged was set up to serve the ranching industry.
"I feel this is a very one-sided process without a lot of hard scientific data, with very polarized interests, and I don't feel I can be of any value," said Colorado Environmental Coalition representative Suzanne Core.
The study group, comprising sheep and cattle ranchers, trappers, hunters, environmentalists and other interested parties, is chaired by state agriculture commissioner Tom Kourlis. It was called for by Gov. Roy Romer after the legislature handed responsibility for predator control to the Department of Agriculture instead of the Division of Wildlife.
The group's 14 members have been wrestling with such issues as use of leghold traps, poisons, aerial gunning and trapping seasons for killing predators, especially coyotes.
Four environmental representatives remain on the panel, although some of them also have written letters to Romer expressing concern with the process.
Pam Uhlein of Sinapu said she felt the environmentalists on the panel were simply window dressing.
Uhlein and Core said their organizations are backing an initiative that would ban most trapping in Colorado. Colorado People Allied With Wildlife needs 54,424 valid signatures to put the measure to voters in November. It says it has collected 80,000 so far.
Bardot Offers Reward Money to Save Wolf's Hide
The Buffalo [NY] News, 7 July 1996
Paris (AP) -- Actress and animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot is offering $2,000 for the hide of a lone wolf with a taste for sheep -- as long as the predator is captured alive.
The French government has authorized the killing of the wolf terrorizing flocks in southern France's Larzac region.
Bardot announced her reward offer on Europe 1 radio, saying: "I adore wolves because they are animals who are poorly loved, who are rejected by society."
Her animal-rights foundation has donated $100,000 to a nature reserve in southeastern France created to protect the small population of wolves there.
"I know them well and I find that they are more interesting than certain human beings," Bardot said of the wolves.
Hunters Looking for Child-Eating Wolves in India
The Buffalo [NY] News, 6 July 1996
New Delhi, India (AP) -- Hunters are on the prowl for a pack of wolves blamed for killing as many as 20 children in four months in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state.
The body of the latest victim, a 2-year-old boy, was found half-eaten earlier this week about a half-mile from his home, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
Villagers near the city of Lucknow say the wolves have been speaking into neighborhoods and snatching children from their beds in open-air huts.
Wolves Thriving in Siberia
Rocky Mountain News, 9 June 1996
Moscow -- Wolves are flourishing in Siberia and prowling near by cities, leading authorities to offer huge bounties to hunters, a report said last week.
Game wardens in the Krasnoyarsk region in southern Siberia blame the striking increase in wolves on post-Soviet economic chaos, the Izvestia newspaper said.
In Soviet times, teams of hunters were engaged, and the bounty for a single wolf was equal to about a month's wages.
But inflation and a lack of money have reduced the bounties, and as a result, the number of wolves grew several times in five years. Game wardens worry that wolves, who are losing a fear of humans, may attack people.
Under pressure from game experts and farmers, regional authorities have increased the bounty for a wolf from 200 rubles, or 4 cents, to 7.4 million rubles or $150 -- 10 times the minimum monthly wage.
They are also considering allowing wolf-hunting from helicopters, as was the custom in the past, making the hunters' job easier and less dangerous, the newspaper wrote.
New Lair at the Zoo
Matthew Tungate, The [Cleveland, OH] Plain Dealer, 22 May 1996
The sounds of hammers and heavy equipment at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will be replaced next year by howls at the moon.
Three to five gray wolves should be housed in the new "Wolf Wilderness" by this time next year, Zoo Director Steve Taylor said yesterday. The $2.4 million exhibit should be finished this fall, with the wolves introduced to their new home in the spring, he said.
The exhibit was supposed to cost less than $1 million and be completed by 1995, but the design became more elaborate and the setting more like a wolf's natural habitat, Taylor said.
"We went from a wolf exhibit to a wolf wilderness," he said.
Construction of the 1-acre exhibit began in December 1995, zoo marketing representative Esther Newman said.
Visitors to Wolf Wilderness will enter a cabin decorated to look as though it belonged to wildlife researchers in the American Northwest. A large glass window in the back of the cabin will provide a view of the wolves and a beaver pond.
Two cameras in the exhibit will provide visitors with a view of shier animals.
A glass-walled walkway outside the cabin will give zoo-goers a view of fish, turtles and beavers beneath the surface of the pond, Taylor said. An aviary will house several species of birds, including bald eagles.
The exhibit features animals found in the wolf's natural habitat. "There are a lot of animals other than just wolves" in the exhibit, Taylor said.
However, the centerpiece of the exhibit is the gray wolves. They were picked because the zoo didn't have any members of the canine family and because wolves are being reintroduced in several parts of the country....
"We want to tell that story," Taylor said. "It's one of the great conservation stories of the decade."
....Hugh Quinn, the zoo's general curator, said he wasn't sure where the exhibit's wolves would come from, or which subspecies, such as timberwolf or Mexican gray wolf, would be displayed.
Some types of gray wolf, which was declared an endangered species in 1973, are already extinct, he said.
"This...will be a key exhibit to wolf conservation," Quinn said.
And the zoo will help in that effort, he said. "When people watch [wolves], they have a greater appreciation for them."
Pups Show Transplanted Wolves are Thriving in Yellowstone Home
The Seattle Times, 12 May 1996
Billings, Mont. -- Around Yellowstone National Park, five wolf dens have new litters, leading biologists to predict that the wolf packs introduced into the park from Canada in the past year and a half will thrive on their own, without more imports.
"Wolf reintroduction is done, unless something unusual happens," said Ed Bangs, a biologist with the federal Fish and Wildlife Service who helped coordinate the airlifts of gray wolves from Canada over the past two winters.
When Yellowstone opens fully on Wednesday, wildlife watchers will find that the population of wolves has tripled from that of last year. Besides 17 adult wolves added in January, biologists have counted eight new pups in two litters and are confident that three more females gave birth late last month.
"There are 15 to 30 new pups on the ground, making a total of 50 to 65 wolves," Mike Phillips, head of the National park Service's wolf restoration project, said at his office in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo.
The wolves now in Yellowstone are the first to roam the park since the 1920s, when the last of that era's population were killed by a government eradication program favoring livestock. Now the species has been brought back to Yellowstone, and to places in Idaho and western Montana, by the federal restoration project, which sprang largely from an overpopulation of elk.
In their new habitat, the wolf packs have killed an elk about every five days as well as an occasional mountain sheep, mule deer or moose.
The consolidation of the park's new wolf packs has defied not only court challenge and hostile politicians, but also misadventure. Of late, gunfire or nature has killed at least one adult wolf a month. In February, one was killed by a mountain lion in western Montana, and another, which had wandered 80 miles south of the park, was shot by a passer-by.
In March, a rancher shot a wolf that was roaming through a calving pasture 50 miles west of the park. And on April 14, an adult female fell into a Yellowstone thermal pool and was scalded to death. An autopsy showed she had been just two weeks short of delivering six pups.
For all that, Bangs said, the program is doing well. "Overall," he said, "we expected a 30 percent mortality rate. Instead, we have a 15 percent mortality rate."
It is the wolves' propensity to foray beyond their Yellowstone base that makes the park's neighbors nervous. Two packs have established dens in Montana at sites 35 miles northeast of the park. In April, one wolf roamed even farther north, to the town of Reedpoint, only 50 miles west of Billings. Already a federal judge in Wyoming is considering four lawsuits, backed by ranching groups, to reverse the wolf-restoration program.
And, in an election year, some Western politicians are accusing one another of being "soft on wolves."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., recently denounced the multimillion-dollar program....In retort, his Republican challenger, Dennis Rehberg, cited a "dramatic election-year conversion," noting the senator's earlier support for wolf reintroduction.
Wild Controversy: Effort to Reintroduce Wolves Deemed Unfair by Ranching Group
Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News, 23 April 1996
Ranchers resent efforts by urban environmentalists to restore the wolf to rural areas, a leader of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association told an Earth Day gathering Monday.
Reeves Brown, a fourth-generation rancher and a vice-president of the cattlemen's group, said environmentalists want to re-create the ecosystem destroyed by man a century ago. But no one proposes wolf packs for the area between Denver and Fort Collins, he said.
"Is it fair to thrust that burden on some other community in a rural area and say, 'We want you to purge our guilty conscience by you living with the wolves' -- as if they don't have concerns for their safety, they don't have concerns for their pets or their kids waiting for the school bus?" Brown asked.
Brown faced Rob Edward of Sinapu, a Boulder-based group that favors return of the wolf to Colorado, in a debate at the Auraria Higher Education Center.
Edwards said it's no more unfair to ask ranchers to put up with wolves for the sake of the environment than to ask power companies to absorb the cost of cleaning up generator emissions.
"We as a society are already paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in various subsidies to the ranching industry to let them continue to exist," Edward said. "We ask for the wolf to be returned, and that's asking too much? I don't think we're asking for much at all."
Brown and Edward agreed that no wolf attacks on humans have been recorded in North America. But wolves have attacked dogs in Minnesota, Brown said.
Brown said wolves won't end the cattle industry. But, he said, losing a cow -- currently valued at $800 to $1,000 -- would be a burden to some ranch families, which have median household incomes of $27,000.
Brown said the ecosystem is not unbalanced since regulated hunting has replaced the wolf in keeping down the number of deer and elk.
Edward countered that wolves cull the weakest members of elk herds, keeping the species strong. Hunters do the opposite, taking the healthiest for trophies.