Experts Foresee Grizzlies, Wolves in Utah
Tom Wharton & Jim Woolf, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 November 1996
When Dick Carter dreams about the High Uintas Wilderness Area, he hears wolves and imagines grizzly bears feeding on berries in an alpine meadow.
"I'd like to sit somewhere below Kings Peak and hear a pack of wolves howl off in the distance," says the founder of the new High Uintas Preservation Council. "I'd like to sit in the middle of the trail where a grizzly has walked past and see a footprint. That's when you understand what wild is and what tame is."
Though the idea might seem absurd to hikers accustomed to being the most dangerous animal on the trail, a growing group of wildlife biologists, ecologists and environmentalists is broaching the possibility of bringing back wolves and grizzly bears to the 460,000-acre High Uintas wilderness -- Utah's largest block of roadless land.
Wolves and grizzly bears are protected by the Endangered Species Act, and they cannot be moved without extensive studies and numerous public hearings. No one has asked for this process to be started, says Reed Harris, Utah field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Still, experts say, these animals could move into Utah on their own, bypassing the lengthy federal decision-making process.
Wolves in Yellowstone National Park almost are certain to move south as their population continues to grow. Young wolves tend to strike out on their own, traveling as much as 500 miles in search of a mate and new terrain. That puts northern Utah well within the range of Yellowstone's wolves.
"I doubt there are wolves in Utah today, but if a wolf showed up tomorrow it wouldn't surprise me," says Robert Schmidt, a researcher at Utah State University who is encouraging Utahans to develop a strategy for dealing with the animals before the wolves arrive.
Most experts believe it will be years -- maybe decades -- before two wolves meet in Utah and decide to begin their own pack. It could happen in the Uintas or any other area with a healthy population of the deer and elk on which they feed.
....Utah wildlife officials concede they have no plan to deal with wolves or grizzlies that show up unannounced.
"The subject has been broached a few times, but not in a serious conversation," says Wes Shields, wildlife supervisor for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources....
....Tom Bingham of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation agrees it is "just a matter of time" before wolves arrive in Utah, but says his group would "vigorously oppose" any attempts to encourage the establishment of wolves or grizzlies. He worries about the danger to humans and livestock.
USU's Schmidt says a lengthy series of public-opinion surveys done by him and graduate student Kristen P. La Vine found that Utahans generally have favorable attitudes toward wolves.
Almost 52 percent said they either like or strongly like wolves, while 17 percent said they dislike or strongly dislike them. The rest were neutral.
And their survey found the vast majority were willing to manage the wolf populations to minimize conflicts with humans.
Schmidt encourages ranchers, hunters, hikers and others to negotiate a management plan for wolves. It will be easier to do it now than in the politically charged period after the first pack is discovered, he says.
....Montana bear expert Doug Peacock likes the idea of allowing grizzlies to move into the Uintas on their own. He does not like the way wolves were transplanted from their Canadian homes into Yellowstone. And he is not sure that grizzly bears should be artificially reintroduced anywhere, including the Uintas, by well-meaning biologists.
....If left to their own devices, Peacock believes, grizzlies eventually would work their way south from Yellowstone into Wyoming's Wind River Range and then south along the Green River to Utah.
Wild About the Wolves
Benedict Le Vay, The [London] Daily Mail, 22 October 1996
A survey this week reveals that many Scots would not oppose the reintroduction of wolves to the wild, but things were once very different.
The elimination of the wolf from our hills and forests was once seen as a source of celebration. The Wolf Monument, on the Golspie-Helmsdale road in Sutherland, commemorates the slaying of the last wolf in the county[sic] in 1700. The last wolf on the British mainland was killed in 1743, but the animal has enjoyed a long career as the villain in pantomime and fairy tales.
The survey follows a Brussels order that the Government consider reintroducing extinct species. Could bears be next?
Wolves at the Door in the Highlands
The [London] Daily Mail, 19 October 1996
When an animal boffin set out on his ambitious bid to see wild wolves again roaming the forests of Britain he realised his main obstacle would be to overcome public fear.
So from next spring Roger Panaman plans to take wolves round schools on a lead and put them on show at fairs to prove there is no real threat to humans from beasts which in Britain are classified as Dangerous Wild Animals.
Educationalists were yesterday not so sure, some parents are horrified and wildlife experts say people and the environment just are not ready for wolves yet.
Mr. Panaman also plans to run a wolf centre just south of Aviemore, in Inverness-shire, which he hopes will eventually see 300 wolves let loose into the Highlands.
However, the local council was not so sure. Education vice chairman Sandy Russell said: "It does not sound like a very good idea. I am not all that enamoured with the prospect of wolves going into our schools. It is our duty to ensure no harm comes to any children."
A Scottish NFU spokesperson said: "This idea is totally unacceptable. While it may be the case that wolves go for deer they will soon find that sheep are easy meat."
Breeders Bend the Law to Sell Family Pets With a Wild Streak
Sean Poulter, The [London] Daily Mail, 9 October 1996
They look as if they'd make a cuddly addition to any family.
But these pups are wolves -- and should be treated as predators instead of pets, animal welfare groups warned yesterday.
Breeders in Northern Ireland are selling the pups in Britain, exploiting a loophole in the law over the keeping of wild animals.
Yesterday MPs joined the RSPCA in calling for a halt to the trade.
"Clearly these are large and potentially dangerous animals," said MP Roger Gale, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary animal welfare group.
"There is every reason to think they could revert to their basic wild instincts with horrendous consequences."
An RSPCA spokesman condemned the trade in wolf pups, adding: "There is a real danger of people being hurt and even killed."
If the wolves were being brought into this country from overseas, they would need an import licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.
However, it is not illegal to breed and own dangerous wild animals in Northern Ireland. Consequently, wolves can be bred without any checks in Ulster and then shipped to the mainland.
While a licence is needed to own a wolf in England, Scotland and Wales, the Ulster loophole makes it difficult to keep track of the animals. It is also difficult for the authorities to prove the animal is a wolf and not some type of cross-breed dog.
Mr. Gale, who has raised the issue with the Department of the Environment, said wolves were the latest "designer dog."
"This seems to me to be a highly undesirable trend. Whether the existing law can be used to do anything about it has yet to be seen," he added.
The trade came to light in an advertisement offering wolf "hybrid" puppies for [pounds sterling]800 each in a local evening paper in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
The Mail traced the advertisement to breeders Victor and Sandra Gibson in Bangor, County Down.
Mr. Gibson said the pups' father was a 13st Canadian timber wolf, while the mother was "95 per cent wolf."
"Basically the pups are as near to full as you could find in this country," he told an undercover reporter.
He insisted the wolves would make ideal family pets.
"They have a wonderful nature, they are very good with children. Personally I would trust one much more than a dog.
"Over here we have different laws. I could keep a tiger out in my back garden if I wanted and I wouldn't need a licence."
The RSPCA, which has warned against the dangers of keeping dogs with even part-wolf ancestry, was horrified at the sale of the pups. A spokesman said: "In this case, the puppies are first generation wolf and as such are much more likely to revert to dangerous wild behaviour."
Howl of the Wild Once Again Echoes in Woods of Wisconsin
Wisconsin State Journal, 9 October 1996
Loping through the boggy woodlands around Wilson Flowage and Bootjack Lake in northern Wisconsin, the old timber wolf named Bo knows a lot of things. Bo knows the boundaries of the piney, up-and-down territory he has staked out for himself and his small family.
He knows about trails taken by other wolves and by deer and other prey and humans. He knows how to howl when he gets lonely or curious and raise the howls of others in his pack or in nearby packs; he's even conversed over the years with howling wolf researchers.
Mostly, Bo knows how to survive. Adrian Wydeven, a wildlife biologist who oversees the state Department of Natural Resources' timber wolf recovery program, said biologists fondly call animals like Bo "hard-luck wolves."
Bo is probably 12 years old or so and that's old for a wolf in the wild. He's seen miles of country and he's been through a lot -- illness and hunger and the deaths of mates and pups to disease, hunter's guns and cars. At one particularly hungry point in his career, he learned to free meat from the researchers' traps by quickly running his paw over the mechanism to spring the bait free.
What Bo doesn't know is that he's a much-studied wolf. In the growing body of research about wolves in Wisconsin, he's rather famous. Nor does he know that his continued existence in Wisconsin's North Woods is testament not only to his scrappy nature but also to the success of the DNR recovery program that has seen wolves like himself become an accepted part of Wisconsin's landscape again after nearly disappearing by 1996 or so.
In fact, the DNR's timber wolf recovery program has been so successful that the agency may reclassify the timber wolf from endangered to threatened. A series of public meetings will be held around the state next week to see what people think about the idea.
Timber wolves, also known as gray wolves, were common in pre-settlement Wisconsin. There were probably as many as 5,000 animals at one time. But as the wild country disappeared, so did the wolves. Bounties sealed their fate. By the 1960s, the howl of the wolf, like the thunderous flight of the passenger pigeon flocks, seemed a relic of Wisconsin's untamed past.
But wolves hung on, living like gray ghosts in the dark reaches of timber in northern Minnesota. In 1974, the wolf was protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. And by the mid-1970s, there were growing numbers of stories in northern Wisconsin about distant wolf howls and shadowy sightings. Timber wolves from Minnesota, it turned out, were moving through the northern forests and along the river valleys into Wisconsin, reclaiming some of their old haunts.
Wydeven said the DNR's $100,000-a-year recovery plan, started in 1986, simply encourages the movement of wolves from Minnesota to Wisconsin. There has been no stocking of animals, he said, just increased public education, more monitoring of wolves in the field, and some treatment of diseases such as parvovirus and mange.
The results can be heard on a crisp fall night in northern Wisconsin when a healthy human howl is likely to raise a wild response, sometimes by an entire wolf chorus. Even biologists like Wydeven still thrill to the sound.
"Each time I hear them," Wydeven said, "it's like I'm hearing them for the first time."
Today there are between 99 and 105 wolves in 31 territories that cover parts of 13 Wisconsin counties. Wisconsin is more conscientious these days about husbanding its wild lands and that is to the wolf's benefit. Computer studies have shown there are about 5,700 square miles of probably wolf habitat in northern Wisconsin, land that could eventually support as many as 300 to 400 wolves.
An interesting surprise, Wydeven said, is the appearance of timber wolves in Wisconsin's central forests. In 1993, he said, the agency started receiving reports of wolves in central Wisconsin, including one killed by a car on Highway 51 near Portage. That wolf, Wydeven said, wore a radio collar from a Minnesota study and had traveled some 350 miles in the three months before its death.
By November of 1994, researchers had discovered a wolf den in the Black River State Forest, less than two miles from Interstate 94. And the DNR's computer survey turned up between 300 and 400 square miles of habitat in the state's central forests, enough room for as many as 20 to 30 wolves.
Wydeven said a number of things account for the wolf's return to the state. The deer herd is at an all-time high, so the wolves have plenty to eat. Wolves, in fact, have been more likely to dine on venison than farm livestock. Such depredation, a concern when the program started, has not been as much of a problem as anticipated, Wydeven said, and the state has paid only an average of $1,200 per year in damages to farmers who have lost animals to wolves.
More than anything else, Wydeven said, an education program aimed at correcting misconceptions about wolves has increased public acceptance of an animal that was once feared and reviled.
"We're busting the myths," said Pam Troxell, coordinator of the Timber Wolf Alliance, a private group that works at educating the public about wolves.
Meanwhile, unaware of all this activity, the wolves live their lives.
There are lots of stories. Bo, despite losing pups and at least a couple of his mates to disease and hunters, struggled by himself in the early 1990s to maintain the Bootjack Lake territory near Minocqua, territory he had roamed for nearly 10 years. Biologist Ron Schultz raised lonely howls from Bo in the fall of 1991 and there was evidence the wolf was sick with mange.
But Bo persevered. He found another mate, fathered another litter of pups. A daughter and her mate, a black timber wolf, took over the Bootjack Lake territory and Bo moved on, establishing a new pack nearby.
Bo wore a radio collar that sent out signals for years, the longest of any research wolf in the recovery program, according to Wydeven. Recently, the collar ran out of juice. And even though the collar isn't working, Wydeven said, Bo is no doubt still out there, roaming his territory and adding his voice to a landscape that, thanks to him, is a wilder place.
New Wolves in Yellowstone Thrive and Begin Food Chain Correction
Louis Sahagun, The Houston Chronicle, 22 September 1996
Yellowstone National Park, WYO. -- Field biologist Mike Phillips was fretting over the mysterious death of a young female wolf in a temporary holding pen when the telephone rang.
It was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official desperately wanting to ship at least five pups from a troublesome Montana pack to Phillips' already overcrowded pens.
Phillips hung up the phone, sighed and said: "I can't turn my back on those pups; the alternative is killing them. On the other hand, there may be a flaw in our husbandry program that could put other wolves at risk."
It was another trying day at the office for the head of the historic project designed to bring wolves back to the top of the food chain in the nation's oldest national park. He would rather have been out watching the effort unfold in the wild.
And unfolding it is. Twenty-one months after gray wolves from Canada were reintroduced to the northern Rocky Mountains of Yellowstone and central Idaho, they are settling in and breeding so successfully that biologists hope to begin the process of removing the wolf from the endangered species list.
With 34 wolves in five packs now loping through the forests, significant repercussions are being recorded throughout the 2.2-million-acre park's wildlife hierarchy. Wolf predation, coupled with the sudden bounty of wolf-killed elk, is dramatically reshaping the behavior of scavengers, from grizzly bears to carrion beetles.
As a result, biologists say, life in Yellowstone is returning to a more natural state faster than anyone had anticipated.
"Over the past year, a wink in ecological terms, we've seen things we can scarcely believe," said Robert Crabtree, a field biologist and federal consultant studying wolves and coyotes in the park. "Elk huddling in larger groups, grizzly bears fighting wolves, wolves killing coyotes and coyote pups, wolves forcing coyotes to den in places where they are running into black bears."
The absence of the wolves had disrupted the natural balance of predator and prey throughout the Rocky Mountain region and resulted in a population explosion of such species as deer and elk. A fully recovered wolf population is expected to kill 1,200 elk, deer and moose a year.
Right now, Crabtree says, the greatest impact is being felt by coyotes, which were top dog in the park until the wolves returned.
"What was once a quiet, comfortable condominium complex for coyotes is now a totally socially disrupted system," Crabtree said. "We've seen wolves kill coyotes with severe bites to the chest that crush ribs, play with the carcasses and then toss them aside unconsumed."
....Trouble is, sheep also are being killed by wolves that roam beyond the park's boundaries. When a wolf becomes a problem it is captured and released elsewhere in the park, or killed.
Nevertheless, ranching organizations are continuing legal efforts to dismantle the wolf program and have the animals that have been released so far returned to Canada.
"It's a very sad thing to have your sheep eaten by wolves, and equally sad to have wolves shot to death on your property," said Susan Brailsford, who lost four sheep to a lone Yellowstone wolf this year.
"The first time we lost sheep, the Feds...brought in a helicopter, netted the wolf, tranquilized it and then released it deep inside the park," said Brailsford, whose family ranch is about 25 miles north of Yellowstone. About three weeks later, the wolf was back at her ranch, sniffing around the barn. Federal wildlife authorities killed the wolf with a shotgun fired from a helicopter.
Ranchers and their congressional allies once predicted that wolves would kill hundreds of sheep and cattle. In fact, no livestock were killed in 1995. So far, Yellowstone wolves have killed only 12 sheep this year, and all affected ranchers have been compensated.
Losses of wolves are also lower than anticipated. Nine wolves have died in Yellowstone this year: Two adults and one pup were believed killed by other wolves, two were illegally killed, one was killed by federal wildlife authorities, one was hit by a delivery truck, a pregnant female died after falling into a hot spring and a female pup died of undetermined causes in a holding pen.
For biologists, those are acceptable losses.
"There is nothing simple about this restoration plan, but we are good at what we do," Phillips said. "Also in our favor, wolves are good at what they do and [are] hard-wired to breed."
The prospects of watching wolves in action -- and spectacular carnage -- is drawing hordes of "wolf groupies" to northern Yellowstone's lush Lamar Valley, a vast meadow between steep mountains where three packs are settling territorial scores.
The biggest thrill in federal ranger Rick McIntyre's 20 years of studying wolves came in June when he was standing on a roadside pullout in the valley with 100 people who had never seen a wild wolf before, all watching two packs battling over an elk carcass.
There were, he says, "Shakespearean dimensions" to that bloody encounter. A young male that charged an invading pack and pinned down its leader had, unknowingly, taken revenge on the very wolf that had killed his father in a fight a month earlier.
....As predicted, most of the wolves are settling in the general vicinity of their release sites in the northern portions of the park because that is where most of their prey lives. The cooperation of neighboring states and tolerance of their residents will determine the wolves' ultimate range.
Before they were vanquished by the government-backed poisoning and trapping campaigns, wolves thrived in nearly every region of North America north of Mexico City.
....With the wolf project under budget and ahead of schedule, biologists have forgone their original five-year plan to capture gray wolves from Canada annually and transport them here.
"By the end of this century, we will have about 80 to 100 wolves in the Yellowstone ecosystem," Phillips said. "Complete recovery in the northern Rockies will come about when we have 10 packs in Yellowstone, northwestern Montana and central Idaho breeding simultaneously for three consecutive years."
Once that happens, the wolves will no longer need their federal protection, and the financial burden of managing them will fall to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The cost for the states is expected to be a fraction of the $6.7 million the federal government will spend shepherding the project through 2010, said Ed Bangs, the wolf recovery leader for Fish and Wildlife.
Phillips and a small army of volunteers continue the logistically demanding work of monitoring -- on the ground and from the air -- packs that roam 30 miles a night.
They supply 3,000 pounds of meat each month to wolves in remote acclimation pens and relocate wolves to avoid conflicts on private land.
Phillips does not know what killed the captive young female wolf. But he did take in the five Montana pups -- and five more that arrived a few days later.
"In a few years we'll be out of the confinement mode and doing research beyond letting wolves go. I'm looking forward to the day when we can let things sort themselves out in the wilds."
Groups Intervene in Lawsuit Over Protection of Timber Wolves
Dean Rebuffoni, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 17 September 1996
Two groups that favor continued strong federal protection for timber wolves in Minnesota have intervened in a lawsuit in which they will challenge a third group's contention that hundreds of wolves have been illegally killed in the state since 1986.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Lebedoff ruled Monday in Minneapolis that the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife can enter the suit, which was brought against federal officials by Friends of Animals. No trial date has been set.
Friends of Animals is a group based in Connecticut that claims 150,000 members. It sued federal officials last year, contending that they have mismanaged the program that allows the trapping of wolves that are believed to have killed livestock.
The suit seeks, among other things, to block government trappers from taking wolves unless farmers who complain of livestock losses can provide "adequate proof" that they had taken all nonlethal steps, including fencing farmland and using guard dogs, to protect their livestock.
Federal officials dispute the group's allegations and are asking Lebedoff to dismiss the case. The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, which claim 550,000 and 118,000 members, respectively, asked Lebedoff to allow them to intervene. That was opposed by Friends of Animals, which argued that the two groups had endorsed the wolf-management program and that their interest would be adequately protected by the federal defendants.
Lebedoff didn't agree. He noted that the two groups had twice successfully sued federal officials to better protect Minnesota's wolves. The present wolf-management plan is the direct result of those suits.
In one of the suits, the two groups blocked federal officials from transferring control of wolves to the state Department of Natural Resources, which wanted to allow the sport trapping of wolves.
Defenders in the Friends of Animals' suit are officials of the Interior and Agriculture Departments. Officials of the latter agency head the wolf-control program in northern Minnesota, where most of the state's more than 2,000 wolves roam.
Wolf Packs Take Indian Children
Villagers in terror as the toll reaches 36 dead and 20 injured
Suzanne Goldenberg, The [London] Observer, 8 September 1996
As night descends, two guards carefully heel-to-toe along the bank of a paddy field to a group of mud huts. They are armed only with a torch and a bamboo stave but they are the sole official defence against the return of an old menace: man-eating wolves.
In Barahupur, a village a mile off the road in the eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh, people are so terrified of the man-eaters that they plunder their hoards of kerosene to keep lamps burning through the night. A week ago, all the morbid imaginings of Barahupur came true when the daughter of Chhote Lal Viskarma, the village blacksmith, was carried off by the wolves.
"There was only one sound -- one cry -- that's all," said her mother Durgaoti....Ram Lakhan Singh, the animal conservationist charged with hunting down the wolves, believes the terror may soon end. On Wednesday night, forest rangers shot at a wolf crossing a road, severely wounding it. "If no killing takes place in the next four or five days, we will have reason to believe that the animal shot is the man-eater. I am very much hopeful that it will end soon," said Singh, formerly directly of the Project Tiger conservation programme.
Forest rangers on foot are searching for the carcass of the wolf in the elephant grass that clings to the bare earth by the river and in the head-high fields of maize and sugar cane. This is the terrain which has given sanctuary to the pack since it began its killing spree last March.
The rangers are part of a force of 180 men deputed to protect some 40 villages along the Sai river, a tributary of the Gomti, which has been the wolves' hunting ground in the past few weeks.
Along with police and home guards, they have been enlisting the villagers into teams of nightwatchmen, and cautioning them to put their young ones indoors.
But the wolves have outwitted their human predators, roaming beyond the trap Singh set up along the swollen banks of the Sai, and ignoring the clumsy decoys: tape recordings of a wailing infant and a tethered goat or two. "They are very strategic," said Singh. "They learnt which villages we are protecting and avoid them."
In Cheti, a cluster of huts decorated with ears of corn from the surrounding maize fields, the wolves carried off Poonam Devi, aged about ten months, from under the noses of the guards.
On the night of 24 August, the women and children slept inside, drawing a chain across the blue wooden shutters that serve as a door, and the men stretched out on string beds, or charpoys, under the thatch that passes as a verandah. One of the children woke up and stumbled outside to the waste ground that is used as a lavatory, leaving the door unbolted.
The wolf must have struck then, creeping into the hut, and running swiftly out with Poonam clutched in its jaws. Inside, her grandmother, Samrati Devi, was awake, but she did not see or hear anything....
....Thirty-six babies and small children have been killed, and 20 mauled since 17 March, when the first child, a two-year-old boy, was snatched from the banks of the Gomti. Since then, the killer wolves have roamed to more than 100 villages, and to the neighbouring districts of Pratapgrah and Sultanpur. Local people still cannot absorb the horror. "If you haven't seen it, how can you know if it's an animal or a man?" asked Naneya Yadav, a Cheti farmer....
Even the claw marks on the chest of Mahendra Kumar Binda, a spindly-legged fatherless boy...fail to persuade them....
Mahendra's mother, who was woken by the sound of clay water jugs being smashed, drove the animal away with a stick. But she is not sure what she saw in the night. It was a constantly changing shape, she said, first a man, and then a beast: a werewolf.
"They have been living with wolves for so many years, it took days for us to convince them that wolves were responsible for these attacks," said Brijesh Chandra Tiwari, the forestry officer for Jaunpur district where the latest killings have taken place.
However, scientists from India's wildlife institute for visited Jaunpur last week are convinced a single wolf pack is behind all the killings. They have studied the pattern of attacks and discovered wolf hair fibres on the remains of some of the victims.
At the forestry officer in Jaunpur, Tiwari holds out a photograph of one of the wolves killed by hunters. It was just over two feet high and stretched to 4.5 feet long....It was notably thin. "They were definitely hungry, that's why they were coming close to human habitation," Tiwari said.
Environmentalists in New Delhi believe advancing civilisation has changed the hunting habits of wolves which usually live on peacocks, hares and small rodents. "Hardly any wolf today is totally reliant on natural prey. More and more are depending on livestock and this man-eating is a further deviation," said Ranjit Singh, author of India's wildlife protection Act.
However, hunger alone will not drive an animal to kill people. Ram Lakhan Singh believes the attacks may have been triggered by the killing of two wolf pups by villagers early in the spring. His theory is that the wolves were acting in revenge. Once a wolf discovers the ease of preying on children it cannot be broken of the habit.
Man-eating wolves are a cyclical plague in India. British colonial records show cases in several parts of the country. Wolves last developed a taste for human flesh in 1981, killing 13 children in the Hazaribagh district of Bihar.
In India -- where hunting has been banned for five years -- the killing of wolves is a delicate affair. The animals are on the A list of endangered species under the wildlife protection Act, and there are fewer than 150 remaining in this part of the country.
Ranchers Lose Sleep, Sheep to Wolves
Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times, 4 September 1996
DENVER -- Rancher Brad Little has been up at night counting sheep lately, but it hasn't improved his sleep.
His family began camping out on his father-in-law's ranch near Emmett, Idaho, last month after two gray wolves attacked the flock and injured 13 sheep, five of which have since died. Mr. Little himself lost a calf in June, when a wolf jumped on its back in broad daylight and scampered off only after ranchers fired shots at it.
"I'm told the word in Washington is the wolves aren't causing much problem," said Mr. Little in a telephone interview. "Well, I've lost one calf; my neighbor's lost three. We've spent hundreds of hours meeting with [the] Fish and Wildlife [Service].
"The sheep are so jumpy they're not gaining weight," he continued. "These wolves are putting us out of business."
....The Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf-recovery program is getting mixed reviews. Despite a series of mishaps this spring resulting in the deaths of nine wolves, their population is thriving, with as many as 100 animals now settled in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
....But the program's success may have come at the expense of the livestock industry. Even though they are compensated for sheep and cattle lost to wolves, ranchers say tougher federal restrictions on predator control have strained their finances and made their herds more vulnerable to attack.
Predators are responsible for 30 percent of sheep losses and 2.4 percent of cattle losses each year. Most of those are killed by animals other than wolves, primarily coyotes, bears and mountain lions. Until wolves were reintroduced, ranchers relied on traps and aerial shooting to control those animals.
However, federal biologists, fearful that such methods also will harm the wolves, have sharply curtailed the use of lethal-control methods. Their substitutes are harmless but arguably less-effective devices such as noise-makers, called "sonic booms," and strobe lights.
Many ranchers are investing in skilled guard dogs to ward off predators, but if a dog should kill a wolf, its owner faces a $100,000 fine and possible jail time. Under the recovery program, the wolves are listed as a protected species and cannot be killed, tracked or even harassed by anyone other than federal biologists.
...."It's not the wolf that's the problem -- it's the regulations that come with the wolf," said Tom McDonnell, spokesman for the American Sheep Industry here. "It's our inability to control any predator....[But] there's nothing we can do. We have to wait for public attitudes to change."
Indeed, surveys show most Americans favor bringing the Canadian wolves to the Rockies. Supporters of the recovery plan note that the number of sheep and cattle killed so far this year -- about 21 -- is far less than that originally predicted.
"The first goal of the program is to recover wolves, and from that standpoint they're doing very well. The other goal is to reduce livestock losses, and at this point we're below what the EIS [environmental-impact statement] predicted," said Hank Fischer, Northern Rockies representative of Defenders of Wildlife, which has paid ranchers $2,238 this year to cover their losses.
"The only thing that would satisfy some people would be if there were no livestock losses, and that's unrealistic," he said....
33 Children Killed by Wolves in India: Villagers Turn to Superstition for Answers
John F. Burns, The New York Times, 1 September 1996
When the man-eating wolf came to this tranquil village toward dusk on an evening in mid-August, it was every child's worst nightmare come true.
The wolf pounced while Urmila Devi and three of her eight children were in a grassy clearing at the edge of the village, using the open ground for a toilet. The animal, about 100 pounds of coiled sinew and muscle, seized the smallest child, a 4-year-old boy named Anand Kumar, and carried him by the neck into the luxuriant stands of corn and elephant grass that stretch to a nearby riverbank.
When a police search party found the boy three days later, half a mile away, all that remained was his head. From claw and tooth marks, pathologists confirmed he had been killed by a wolf, probably one of a pack that conservationists believe has been roaming this area, driven to killing small children by hunger or by something else -- the equivalent in wolves of thrill-seeking in human villagers who steal cubs from a lair -- that has upset the natural instinct of wolves to avoid people.
It has been more than a century since India faced the threat of man-eating wolves on anything like the scale now terrorizing villages on a stretch of the Ganges River basin, 350 miles from New Delhi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In the region, 33 children have been carried off and eaten by wolves, and 20 others have been seriously mauled, since the attacks started five months ago, according to police. Ten wolves have been killed so far in a hunt by thousands of villagers and police officers.
With new attacks each week, hysteria is sweeping the area....
A frenzy of rumors has put the blame for the killings not on wolves but on werewolves, the half-man, half-wolf creatures that have stalked their way through folklore for about as long as human societies have existed.
Other rumors have put the blame for the killings on human infiltrators from Pakistan dressed up as wolves. Pakistan is India's traditional enemy.
Villagers have turned against strangers, and sometimes against one another, in lynchings that have killed at least 20 people and prompted the authorities to arrest 150 others.
"It's the worst wolf menace anywhere in the world in at least 100 years," said Ram Lakhan Singh, the animal conservationist chosen to lead an effort to kill wolves suspected of attacking humans.
....Matters are still far from the disaster of 1878, when British officials in this area recorded 624 human killings by wolves. But fear is pervasive. Men stay awake all night, keeping vigil with antique rifles and staves....
In the dark interiors of stark brick homes made clammy by the monsoons, wild stories are told, sweeping aside all attempts by officials to convince villagers that the killers have been wolves.
"It came across the grass on all four paws, like this," said Sita Devi, the 10-year-old sister of the boy killed by a wolf in Banbirpur on Aug. 16, as she moved forward in a crouch from a cluster of villagers gathered by a well. She told the story with tears in her eyes, to anxious murmurs from the crowd.
"As it grabbed Aband, it rose onto two legs until it was tall as a man," she said. "Then it threw him over its shoulder. It was wearing a black coat and a helmet and goggles."
The girl's grandfather, Ram Lakhan Panday...said: "As long as officials pressure us to say it was a wolf, we'll say it was wolf. But we have seen this thing with our own eyes. It is not a wolf; it is a human being."
Nearly half of India's 930 million people are illiterate, and the figure is higher in villages like Banbirpur .... [T]hey learn little to allay the superstitions of village life.
In the case of wolves, these are compounded by fairy tales told to children, Indian versions of "Little Red Riding Hood," in which wolves and werewolves are represented as among the most cunning and dangerous of all creatures.