Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

November 2003
11.27.03 NAIROBI (AFP) - The environmental group, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), warned that a rabies epidemic is threatening to wipe out a rare Ethiopian wolf, a statement released in Nairobi said. "A rabies epidemic in parts of southeastern Ethiopia is threatening the survival of the most endangered member of the dog family -- the Ethiopian wolf," the statement said. "At least 30 Ethiopian wolves have died from rabies since the disease broke out in Bale Mountains National Park at the end of September," the statement added. The park is home to some 300 wolves, more than half of the total population of 500 still left in the Horn of Africa nation. WWF said that since the first death was reported in September, conservationists have been isolating affected wolves and started a vaccination programme to try to contain the epidemic. "Conservationists fear that unless more funds are forthcoming to vaccinate the wolves, their population will further dwindle," it said. WWF's Bale Mountains National Park coordinator Ermias Bekele has called for a stop in the recent influx of illegal settlers into the park in order to save the wolves from extinction. "We have also to ensure that the settlers' dogs do not breed with the wolves, eroding the unique genetic make-up even further," [said] Bekele. In the last rabies epidemic in Ethiopia in 1991 and 1992, more than two-thirds of the park's wolves were wiped out.
11.27.03 ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Associated Press) -- A Superior Court judge yesterday issued a court order to prevent temporarily the shooting of wolves from airplanes under a state predator control program. "At the order of the court, we're suspending operations for now," said Matt Robus, director the state Department of Fish and Game's division of wildlife conservation.Friends of Animals, a group based in Darien, Conn., joined seven Alaska plaintiffs in seeking the temporary restraining order after the state issued three permits to allow pilot-and-hunter teams to shoot wolves in the McGrath area of Alaska's Interior.Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued the order late yesterday after hearing arguments in the morning.She is also scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on whether to issue a preliminary injunction sought by Friends of Animals to stop the program.If that effort fails, the group will call for a tourism boycott of Alaska as it did a decade ago when 53 demonstrations, called "howl-ins," were held at 51 cities nationwide, said Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral. The first tourism boycott and strong national opposition resulted in former Gov. Walter J. Hickel imposing a moratorium on wolf control in 1992. Former Gov. Tony Knowles then suspended state-sanctioned wolf killing shortly after gaining office in 1994. Murkowski, who took office in December, favors lethal wolf control. The predator control program for the McGrath area is intended to reduce the number of wolves near the town and increase the number of moose calves so there will be more moose for residents to eat. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that McGrath-area residents need between 130 and 150 moose, but harvests have been averaging 60 to 90 moose for the past decade. The program calls for killing about 40 wolves this winter. State lawyer Kevin Saxby argued yesterday that even a temporary restraining order could mean scrapping the program. Plans called for killing wolves in October and November to protect moose calves vulnerable to predation in the winter.
11.24.03 EUREKA, MO (Associated Press) -- A St. Louis-area wolf sanctuary known for its breeding of endangered species might be getting a much bigger home. The Wild Canid Survival and Research Center, now situated on 65 acres of Washington University’s Tyson Research Center, is awaiting approval for a planned move to a 610-acre site just south of Eureka in northwest Jefferson County. The Jefferson County Commission is expected to vote Dec. 3 on a zoning change needed to allow the move to the G.A. Buder III property off Highway FF. The change has been recommended for approval by the county’s planning and zoning commission. The center, known simply as the Wolf Sanctuary, has remained at the same spot since it was opened in 1971 by Marlin Perkins and his wife, Carol. It is the only wolf facility in the world accredited by The American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Last year, the center had three of the four Mexican gray wolf pup litters born in the United States. It has more Mexican gray wolves than any other program. It also works with the endangered red wolf, the maned wolf from South America and the Swift fox. The sanctuary has been leasing land from Tyson Research Center but would own the new location. The new site will allow the center to stay open to the public year-round instead of closing from mid-April until late May while female wolves give birth, said director Susan Lindsey. The heavily wooded area also has three lakes and a 7,000-square-foot house the sanctuary plans to use for a visitors’ center and offices.
11.20.03 SILVER CITY, NM (Associated Press) -- A necropsy has determined that a gunshot killed an endangered Mexican gray wolf in Arizona, federal officials say. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is awaiting necropsy results on seven other Mexican gray wolves found dead since March in Arizona and New Mexico. All eight deaths are considered suspicious, Victoria Fox, an agency spokeswoman in Albuquerque, said Wednesday. Rewards of up to $10,000 are being offered to anyone who can help in the apprehension of people responsible for the animals' deaths, she said. The 6-year-old wolf, the dominant female of her pack, was found dead Sept. 15 in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. She had been shot in the left hind leg, and gangrene killed her a week or two later, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. As of the end of October, there were 23 radio-collared wolves in eight packs and seven lone wolves, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
11.19.03 FAIRBANKS (Juneau Empire/AP) -- Bob Magnuson considers it his "civic duty" to kill a wolf every now and then. That's why he's planning to apply for a permit to shoot wolves from his airplane this winter after the Alaska Board of Game approved the state's first aerial wolf-hunting program in more than 15 years. "If you take a moose, you should take a wolf or five wolves," said Magnuson, a pilot who owns an air taxi service in the Bush village of McGrath. "You gotta maintain a balance."The program is intended to increase the number of moose for local subsistence hunters. The state wants to remove 40 wolves from a 2,200-square-mile area east of McGrath, the same area it captured and moved more than 80 bears from earlier this year before the moose calving season. Alaska voters essentially banned aircraft-assisted, land-and-shoot wolf hunting in ballot measures in 1996 and 2000, and although regulations allowing state biologists to shoot wolves from the air for predator control remain on the books, Gov. Frank Murkowski has refused to let state employees do the work. Joel Bennett of Juneau, a former game board member, helped organize the two ballot measures, which he said 60 percent to 70 percent of Juneau residents favored. "The fundamental concern is we had two statewide votes on this subject of aerial shooting, whether by the state or by private persons detailed by the state," Bennett said. "I'm disturbed by this Legislature, especially with the governor, signing off on it. I mean, how many times do the people have to vote on this?" Bennett said the issue isn't hunting wolves, but the fairness of hunting them from the air and the difficulty of retrieving the killed animals for their pelts. He also said there isn't a biological emergency justifying the wolf killings. The game board also is expected to approve an aerial wolf-hunting program in the Nelchina Basin south of Fairbanks, another area where moose populations have plummeted while wolf packs have thrived. The state is targeting between 100 and 130 wolves to be taken from the 7,800-square-mile region. While permits are available, the state doesn't expect much hunting to take place yet. The best hunting is in the spring when the days are longer and the snow is deep, making it harder for wolves to get around. The game board approved the plan despite the threat of a tourism boycott by animal conservation groups, the same tactic that prompted then-Gov. Wally Hickel to eliminate an aerial wolf-control plan in the early 1990s.
11.19.03 WYOMING (Billings Gazette) -- Federal officials are investigating the deaths of three wolves in Wyoming, including one that appears to have been shot. The dead wolves include the alpha males for the Greybull River and Sunlight Basin packs, according to Mike Jimenez, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf coordinator in Wyoming. The wolves were found this fall at different times and in different places so there is no direct evidence that the deaths might be linked, said Dominic Domenici, FWS agent in charge for Wyoming. All of the wolves were found on public land or near public land. Domenici declined to say exactly where the wolves died or the general location of the wolf that appeared to be shot. It was difficult to determine how long each of the three wolves have been dead, he said, adding that “it looks like it spanned quite a period of time.” The three carcasses have been sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore. Domenici said he hopes to hear back from the lab in the next two to three weeks about how the wolves died. If it turns out that one or more of the wolves was killed illegally, the investigation will continue, he said. It is a federal crime to kill a wolf without authorization because wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. It has been about two years since there has been an illegal killing of a wolf in Wyoming, he said, so this latest batch of three dead wolves within the last month seemed odd. “It seems very unusual to us in Wyoming because there's been such a time period without finding unexplained dead wolves,” he said. “But with the increasing number of wolves, you're going to find more dead wolves either through natural causes or illegal causes.”
11.18.03 OREGON (Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife) -- The first meeting of the Wolf Advisory Committee formed by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will be held Wednesday and Thursday at Silver Falls State Park to begin the process of writing a draft wolf management plan. No wolves are confirmed to be in Oregon at this time. However, numerous unconfirmed sightings have been documented. Biologists expect wolves to enter Oregon from the expanding population in Idaho and eventually establish a permanent population. The Commission decided earlier this year to proactively develop a wolf management plan so the state is prepared for wolves. This decision came after hearing from many wolf experts and the results of 15 town hall meetings held nearly a year ago. Members of the public may submit written comments. Forms will be provided at the meeting. Written comments also may be submitted to ODFW.Comments@state.or.us
11.13.03 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (Billings Gazette) -- The wandering wolves have returned to Yellowstone National Park — many of them, at least. The Nez Perce pack, missing from Yellowstone since mid-October, was spotted this week in Hayden Valley “The core group is back in the park,” said Cheryl Matthews, a park spokeswoman. She said 11 members of the all-gray pack were seen. There may or may not be more in Yellowstone. One of the males from the pack, No. 72, has been spotted with a female wolf farther south in Wyoming. The wolf, which may have been the pack’s alpha male, was not expected to return to the park, according to biologists. Matthews said she was not sure where the rest of the Nez Perce pack has been in recent weeks. The disappearance act has become almost an annual affair. The pack left Yellowstone in November 2001 and turned up in eastern Idaho, near Afton, Wyo., before returning to the park. Last December, the pack left Yellowstone for six weeks, turned up at the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyo., and eventually went home. Wolf biologists theorize that the pack, which could have as many as 20 members, may be leaving the park at the onset of winter looking for food. But this year, with members of the pack apparently scattered in different directions, there were questions about whether it would re-form again in Yellowstone. The recent return of 11 members may begin to answer that question, but, as of Wednesday, the location of the remaining members was still unknown.
11.12.03 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (Daily Californian) -- The reintroduction of grey wolves into Yellowstone National Park has had surprising effects on scavenger populations, according to new studies from UC Berkeley researchers. Chris Wilmers, a doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, began studying the grey wolf’s effect on scavenger populations in 1998. Initially, many expected that the wolves’ largest ecological impact would be on moose and elk populations. Surprisingly, wolves have not made a dent in either population—but have had a far greater impact on scavenger populations. Before wolves, a large cause of death for elk and moose was starvation, especially at the end of severe winters. This would lead to a large “pulse” of carrion, which often overwhelmed the few scavengers who had also managed to survive through the harsh winter. That was before the wolves smoothed things out. Wolves, chronic food-wasters who often kill more than they can eat in one sitting, tend to spread out the amount of carrion for scavengers. Instead of having a large number of elk starving at the end of the winter, wolves space things out by killing elk at a steadier pace. This not only reduces the number of rotting carcasses lying around, but also helps keep scavengers healthy too, by providing them with a more constant source of food—and in turn keeping more scavengers around to clean up. These effects on scavengers stand in stark contrast to the effects that human hunters have on the carrion-eaters populations. “With the hunter kills, you get this kind of recruitment hierarchy. Bald eagles and ravens tend to consume nearly all the food,” said Wilmers. “Whereas with wolf kills, a number of species can get there, bald eagles, magpies, coyotes, grizzly bears, coyotes—it (also) happens fairly quickly so no species is able to completely dominate the resource.”
11.11.03 VIENNA (IOL) -- The Worldwide Fund for Nature on Tuesday reported sightings of wolves in Austria where the animals were previously thought to be extinct. WWF expert Norbert Gerstl said lone wolves had been spotted moving into the deepest mountain forests of central and southern Austria. Although a wolf pack has not been detected, it was likely that there would be packs in 10 or 20 years. The species had not been seen in the country for decades, except for two lone wolves in northern Austria which were mistaken for a fox and a wild dog and shot in 1996 and 2001, he said. Gerstl pointed out that Austria was surrounded by wolves, as they were still common in Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and had even migrated to Switzerland from Spain and France. In Croatia, where hunting wolves has been prohibited since 1995, more wolves were now killed illegally than legally before the ban. In Austria the WWF was trying to lobby for the wolf, an animal considerably less popular than the bear, of which a small number had returned to the Austrian mountains, he said.
11.7.03 BLACK RIVER FALLS, WIS. (AP) -- People worried about losing livestock and game animals to wolves turned out at a public hearing in western Wisconsin to discuss reducing the animal's protected status. The state Department of Natural Resources is gathering opinion on a proposal to remove the wolf's threatened status in Wisconsin. That would make it easier for the state to control the wolf population and deal with problem wolves, said Dick Thiel, the DNR's central forest wolf monitoring coordinator. Jim Johnson Jr. of Hixton favors the idea. "A lot of people in the big cities thought (bringing back the wolf) was a neat thing to do," said Johnson, a member of the Jackson County Conservation Congress. "I say, if they want them, they can take them." He was one of about 30 people at a hearing Thursday in Black River Falls to discuss removing the wolf from threatened status in Wisconsin. The hearing was one of five this week on the issue. At a similar hearing Thursday in Rhinelander, about 40 people attended to generally support the change. Dennis Schoeneck of Pelican Lake said he would like no wolves but knows that is unlikely. "They are not a threatened animal. There are lots of them all over the country. It just so happens that we are stuck with them," he said. "So if this re-listing is one way to minimize the impact of the animals, then I am all in favor of it." The federal government reclassified the wolf from "endangered" to "threatened" in April. Wisconsin had done so in 1999. That means government agents can kill problem animals, such as those that grow addicted to livestock or pets. A survey last winter placed the state's wolf population at 335, well above the threshold for delisting when the DNR developed its wolf management plan in 1999. Many of the people at Thursday's hearing spoke about their fears that more wolves would mean less deer and other game and would put their livestock and pets in danger. Only one person, Doug Moericke of the Timber Wolf Alliance, spoke in favor of protecting the wolf, but his comments were met with silence rather than the applause given to other speakers.
11.4.03 ALASKA (Reuters) -- Alaska hunters will be allowed to shoot wolves from aircraft for the first time since 1972 under a plan approved on Tuesday by the state Board of Game. The board, which sets policy for state wildlife management, authorized the aerial wolf control program in limited parts of interior Alaska where local hunters say populations of moose and other game have been depleted. Fewer than 200 of the state's 15,000 wild wolves will be killed under the program, which is to take place this winter and to involve shooting from aircraft as well as land-and-shoot practices, said officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Environmentalists criticized the plan. "We're leaping back many decades into old practices, shooting wolves from the air," said Paul Joslin, a biologist with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. He and other activists argued that the Board of Game, a panel made up entirely of hunters, is acting contrary to the wishes of most Alaskans. Voters in 1996 and in 2000 approved ballot initiatives banning aircraft-assisted wolf hunting, Joslin pointed out. Alaska wolves are not classified as threatened or endangered, and hundreds are killed legally each year by trappers. But wolf control -- killing wild wolves to boost game populations for hunters' benefit -- has long drawn heated opposition. The last aerial control program, conducted in the early 1990s, was halted by a threatened tourist boycott and other expressions of public disapproval.