Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

March - April 2003
4.30.03 BUDAPEST (Science Now) -- Most researchers agree that dogs diverged from wolves and took up residence with humans over 10,000 years ago. But how the split occurred and how much dogs differ from wolves isn't known. Searching for answers, researchers at E-tv-s University in Budapest, Hungary, examined how dog and wolf pups interacted with humans when problem-solving. To make sure the wolf pups were well-socialized, the researchers gave them to graduate students who fed them every 4 hours and carried them in baby slings from 4 days after birth until they were able to scoot around independently. One set of experiments showed that both dogs and wolves can follow human directions, such as pointing or other gestures, to find chunks of meat hidden in containers, although the wolf pups had less success. The difference between the canines was more apparent when the researchers made the test unsolvable by locking the food inside a container. The wolves tended to ignore their humans and tried to get to the meat themselves. The dogs, however, looked back at their masters sooner and longer, interrupting their own efforts to get the food. It's possible that by looking back at humans, dogs are more likely to enlist their help and get the meat. But the researchers say their experiments don't shed any light on the dogs' motives. The findings simply show that humans have selected canine companions that communicate like humans. The difference between wolves and dogs may be driven by how they pay attention, says Brian Hare, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard University. He and colleagues reported similar findings last year (Science, 22 November 2002, p. 1634). Dogs' ability to pay attention to humans' signals, Hare posits, may be a byproduct of breeding for calmer temperaments.
4.29.03 CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Dick Geving rarely sees gray wolves on his northern Wyoming ranch, but he is sure they killed 14 calves last year and have run elk out of the area. If he does see one, he says he hopes he has a gun handy and the right to kill. Eight years after the first few gray wolves were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to declare the recovery program a success. With about 660 animals roaming Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the agency would like to have the wolf removed from the endangered species list in those states and perhaps much of the West by 2004. But worries over how the states will manage wolves and lingering anger over whether the animals should be here at all threaten to stall delisting, possibly for years. It is Wyoming's approach that has some wildlife officials and environmentalists worried. "Wyoming," said Nina Fascione, vice president of species conservation with Defenders of Wildlife, "has definitely thrown a wrench into the plans for delisting." The state's wolf management plan is still in the works, but the Wyoming Legislature has overwhelmingly backed a proposal that would designate wolves as predators throughout much of the state, allowing them to be killed with few restrictions in many areas. The exceptions would be in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and adjacent wilderness areas, where wolves would be classified as trophy game animals. It is illegal to hunt trophy game without a state-issued license, and federal law prohibits hunting in national parks. Fascione said establishing hunting seasons for an animal just off the endangered species list is premature. She said her group, which for 16 years has compensated ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, will sue to stop delisting if it deems any of the plans "substandard."
4.25.03 WYOMING (Gazette Wyoming Bureau) -- Lobbing urine-soaked snowballs toward moose may seem more like a juvenile stunt than scientific research. But after doing it for five years in the wilds of Alaska and Wyoming, researchers say the experiment may provide important new information about the status of grizzlies and wolves in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, researchers Joel Berger and Sanjay Pyare exposed female moose to the smells of typical predators, including wolves and grizzlies, to see how they would react.They found that moose in the area around Yellowstone barely reacted at all – which could be a sign that wolf and grizzly populations may not be fully recovered, Berger said. “They (moose) are not responding the same way as animals under more intense predation,” he said. Similar experiments in Alaska showed that moose ran away quickly when exposed to the smell of predators, Berger said. The experiment was conducted between 1995 and 2000 at Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest and in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula and farther inland. “It’s definitely unorthodox,” Berger said. “But it’s been reviewed by our (scientific) peers, published in high quality journals and been through the test mill.”
4.20.03 GREAT FALLS (AP) – Montana’s proposed wolf-management plan is being aired in hearings around the state, but commissioners in three counties have already passed resolutions declaring wolves aren’t welcome there. Phillips, Valley and Fergus counties adopted resolutions in February and March declaring wolves an “unacceptable species,” and saying wolves won’t be tolerated inside the county boundaries. Most commissioners acknowledge the resolutions have little effect, but they say local governments have to make a stand for their livelihood – agriculture. Phillips County Commissioners voted in February to prohibit “the presence, introduction or reintroduction of wolves” in the county. Commissioners in Chouteau and Fergus counties said they are concerned the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument could become home to wolf packs.
4.18.03 NEW JERSEY (NorthJersey.com) -- In Professor Les Lynn's class, students learn from the experts how to howl at the moon. "It's real exciting when they [the teachers] howl back," said Lynn, who lives in West Milford. "They" are wolves. And Lynn, a biology professor at Bergen Community College in Paramus, offers the only course in the state that allows students to interact with live ones. Twice a year, Lynn, 55, and a dozen students fly to the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn., the leading educational facility for wolf research. There, the class spends a week observing a captive pack, tracking radio-collared wolves from a plane, and inspecting abandoned dens. Intensive Wolf Study, as Lynn's course is called, does not meet in a classroom at all, but has prospered in the last five years it has been offered, attracting college students from all over the nation and as far as Switzerland. It's apparent why: Though a handful of colleges across the country offer wolf seminars, Lynn's course is considered by the wolf center to have the most depth. More interesting, perhaps, is why it attracts students from New Jersey, a state that hasn't had resident wolves in more than 200 years.Former students have gone on to study organisms and wildlife ecology at the graduate level; one other became a seasonal forest ranger in Montana. Lynn said one student even moved to Ely as a result of the course."This is an experience that most suburban people in New Jersey can't imagine," Lynn said. "If they never study wolves again, it's an experience they can talk about for their entire life."
4.17.03 WYOMING (Gazette Wyoming Bureau) -- One of Wyoming's top predator biologists has been suspended from his job after making comments last week that were critical of the state's proposed wolf management plan. Dave Moody, a Game and Fish employee since 1976, was suspended apparently for voicing concerns about the plan at a conference on wolves in Montana on April 9. Moody's comments were reported by The Billings Gazette in a story that was later picked up by the Associated Press. At the conference, Moody said he had doubts that the plan approved by the Wyoming Legislature would do enough to ensure a sustainable wolf population in the state, which is a key prerequisite for the federal government to hand over management to Wyoming. Top government officials in Wyoming, including Gov. Dave Freudenthal, were upset by Moody's comments, especially because he was charged with developing a wolf plan to present to the Game and Fish Commission. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, was contacted by other employees at the Game and Fish Department who were "afraid of the implications" of Moody's suspension, according to Eric Wingerter, the group's national field director. In an interview with The Gazette on Wednesday, Freudenthal said he didn't know the status of Moody's employment or whether he has been disciplined. "It wasn't initiated or cleared with me," the governor said. "I clearly support the (Game and Fish) director. He didn't ask me about it. He's entitled to run that agency." Moody particularly worried about a provision that limits wolves classified as "trophy game" to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and a few adjacent wilderness areas. The wilderness areas are used by wolves only about 11 percent of the time, he said. When they wander into the rest of the state, they'd be considered predators and subject to unregulated killing. "That does not provide long-term, adequate protection," Moody said last week. PEER's Wingerter said he worried that a veteran scientist such as Moody was being punished for offering his professional opinion in public. "This kind of behavior sends a chilling effect through an agency," Wingerter said. "It's injecting politics into biology."
4.16.03 POWELL, Wyo. (AP) – Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Attorney General Pat Crank have taken issue with comments by a Wyoming Game and Fish Department official that the state’s wolf plan might not be adequate. Dave Moody, the Game and Fish Department’s large game coordinator, is in charge of drafting the state’s final plan for managing wolves within Wyoming. Moody told the North American Interagency Wolf Conference in Montana recently that wolf management legislation approved by the Wyoming Legislature and the governor this winter was cumbersome and could delay removing the species from federal protection. Crank said he disagrees with Moody’s assessment. “We believe it is a workable plan,” Crank said. In his remarks, Moody said he felt the most troublesome provision is the one which designates wolves as predators and subject to unregulated killing when they wander out of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and surrounding protected areas. Moody said if Wyoming’s law proves unworkable, it could endanger the entire wolf management plan for Wyoming as well as Idaho and Montana. Freudenthal, in a brief interview, said there could be a problem with Moody’s views and his job. “The part that bothers me is if he is really in charge of drafting the plan and he feels that way, we’ll have to look at that,” said the governor. “We need someone who is committed to getting this thing done.”
4.11.03 PRAY, Mont. (AP) – There are fewer than 700 wolves in 43 packs roaming Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and their numbers are unlikely to rise above 1,000, a federal official told a group of wolf specialists Tuesday. “I think it’s going to be tough to have over 1,000 wolves” in the three states, Ed Bangs told about 150 scientists, professors, wildlife managers and wolf advocates at nearby Chico Hot Springs for the 15th annual North American Interagency Wolf Conference. Bangs, leader of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery team, said the “easy areas” for wolves to populate – such as Yellowstone National Park – are already full, and expansion probably will be into agriculture areas where tolerance levels for wolves is low. “We’re going to have more problems and we’re going to be killing more wolves” as that expansion occurs, Bangs said. “I think a lot of people are going to have a problem with this.” Bangs said his agency wants to fully delist the wolf from Endangered Species Act protections, but the earliest that can happen is late in 2004. And it won’t happen at all until Montana, Wyoming and Idaho complete wolf-management plans that can pass a scientific review saying the big carnivores won’t go back to the edge of extinction, he said.
4.10.03 (ALBUQUERQUE Tribune) -- U.S. Interior Department official Craig Manson says efforts to reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf in New Mexico and Arizona are faltering because livestock owners refuse to come to the table. He said resistance to the wolf-recovery program in New Mexico and Arizona is rooted in the ranching industry. Ranchers are concerned about wolves feeding on their livestock and undermining their livelihood. But Manson said people need to realize that the reintroduced wolves are in New Mexico and Arizona to stay. "They are not going anywhere," He said. "The sooner we get to recovery the better." Wolf-recovery programs in New Mexico and Arizona started in 1998, but there are just a handful of the animals in the wilds of the neighboring states today. Two Mexican gray wolves released in the Gila Wilderness on Tuesday bring New Mexico's wild wolf population to just eight. There are about 35 wild wolves in Arizona.
4.9.03 (IDAHO Mountain Express) -- For 10 public lands livestock grazing allotments on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, public lands officials have determined that cattle and sheep grazing do not impair Idaho’s reintroduced wolves. What’s more, a U.S. District judge ruled this week that Wolves in Idaho’s SNRA will be protected for a second grazing season, even if the predators prey on livestock. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Wednesday also clarified the injunction sought by Western Watersheds Project and the Idaho Conservation League not only protects wolves on public property, but also on private land. On June 11, 2002, Winmill also ordered the SNRA to begin analyzing whether livestock grazing is impairing wolves. In his finding, Winmill said the Forest Service had violated the law that created the SNRA, called the Organic Act, by failing to consider whether grazing is "substantially impairing" wolf populations. In the past three years, at least 30 wolves have been killed or removed in and around the recreation area due to conflicts with livestock, the environmental groups said. About 4,470 sheep and 2,500 graze on 28 Forest Service allotments there.
4.8.03 KEENE, N.H. (AP) -- Some environmental groups are threatening to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to give the gray wolf less protection in the Northeast. The federal agency last week downgraded the gray wolf from an endangered species to a threatened species in the Eastern and Western segments of the country. The wolf is still considered endangered in the Southwest. Lisa Osborn, a biologist for Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife, says the change in status is ridiculous because there are no wolves in the Northeast. A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service says it has met the goals of its gray wolf recovery plan, raising the population from a few hundred wolves in 1974 to 3,100 now. The environmental groups say the wolves have a good chance of returning naturally to the Northeast from Canada - but only if they are protected. Last week the groups petitioned the Interior Department to create a new wolf recovery region for Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont and to designate the gray wolf as endangered.
4.1.03 NORWAY (Aftenposten) -- The county veterinarian in Rogaland, western Norway, wants state authorization to hunt down two wolves believed to be wandering in the Agder area. He says he's trying to avert a livestock tragedy this summer. Kjetil Gabriel Espeland told wire service NTB Tuesday that he "dreads what might happen when sheep are set free for summer grazing," with two wolves in the area. Espeland claimed one of the wolves, based near Lillesand on Norway's southern coast, "is quite aggressive." It recently was spotted devouring a moose, and wasn't scared off by people who encountered it from just 60 meters away. He said the Lillesand wolf "has killed several animals and roamed right up to barn doors" in the area. Espeland has asked the state conservation agency (Direktoratet for naturforvaltning) for permission to shoot both the Lillesand wolf and another based in Lyngdal. He hopes for a quick decision.
3.27.03 SPALDING, Neb. (The Independent) -- A gray wolf was shot near Spalding in the state's first confirmed wolf sighting in 90 years, state wildlife officials said Wednesday. A coyote hunter shot the wolf Dec. 15 in a farm field near Spalding, about 55 miles straight north of Grand Island. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said the 100-pound male canine, which was turned in by the hunter, was recently identified by federal officials as a pure gray wolf.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting a criminal investigation to determine the circumstances of the animal's death.If there was a wolf taken in Nebraska, it would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act," Mark Webb, a special law enforcement agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in January. The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the animal originated from a population of wolves found in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The last confirmed wolf sighting in Nebraska was in 1913, when a carcass was recovered near Oconto, said Richard Bischof, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's furbearer and nongame mammal program manager. Today, there are an estimated 300,000 captive wolves and wolf-dogs in the United States. "We occasionally receive reports of possible wolves in Nebraska, but it is sometimes difficult to positively identify a wolf-like animal," Bischof said. "Wolves and domestic dogs are the same species and readily inter-breed, resulting in wolf-dog offspring." Recent efforts to restore wolves to part of their former range in the United States may result in more wolves immigrating to Nebraska, Bischof said. Wolves have been reintroduced in states as close as Wyoming and Minnesota. "The commission does not support the artificial release of wolves or wolf-dogs into the wild in Nebraska and has no wolf reintroduction plans," Bischof said.
3.16.03 ANCHORAGE (AP) — In an effort to increase the number of moose where villagers rely on game for food, the Alaska Board of Game has voted to kill wolves and move brown and black bears from a 520-square-mile area in the interior. A national animal-rights group has pledged a tourist boycott if the state enforces the predator-control program — a decision in the hands of the acting commissioner of the state Fish and Game Department and Gov. Frank Murkowski. The four-year plan also calls for a temporary ban on moose hunting in the McGrath area, already off-limits to out-of-state hunters. McGrath is 200 miles northwest of Anchorage. "We've got a constitutional mandate, and the people of McGrath are suffering right now because they don't have enough food on their table," board member Ted Spraker said. Paul Joslin, spokesman for the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said the board used old data in its animal counts, and more recent figures indicate that the moose population is stable, and perhaps even increasing slightly.
3.13.03 HELENA (AP) – Montana’s plan for managing gray wolves would maintain at least 15 breeding pairs in the state, but would allow ranchers to kill animals that threaten their livestock. That proposal, released Wednesday as part of a draft environmental impact statement, is the state’s preferred alternative for managing wolves once they are removed from federal protection. But Jeff Hagener, director of the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the plan’s success rests on whether the federal government is willing to provide funding to support the $800,000 annual price tag. Joe Fontaine, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s assistant wolf coordinator in Helena, said he had reviewed Montana’s plan Wednesday and was optimistic. “I think they’ve developed a very good, workable plan,” he said. Montana is believed to have 16 breeding pairs and a total of about 180 wolves in 33 packs. In the three-state region, the wolf population is estimated at more than 660 wolves, most of them the result of the federal government’s wolf recovery program that began in 1995. The state’s plan calls for maintaining at least 15 breeding pairs of wolves, and would allow for the “regulated harvest” of the animals if the population is “biologically sustainable.” The plan is not more specific, but Tom Palmer, a spokesman for FWP, said it would allow the state to designate hunting or trapping seasons if officials deemed that appropriate.
3.8.03 ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A national animal-rights group has pledged a tourist boycott if the state kills wolves to boost moose populations for hunters in Interior Alaska. But villagers in the area say they need more moose to keep food on the table. The Alaska Game Board is considering predator control on 520 square miles near McGrath, 200 miles northwest of Anchorage. Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals, headquartered in Darien, Conn., said Alaska can count on a tourism boycott if the plan is approved. "For every dollar you spend to kill a wolf, we will match in launching an offensive," she told the board Thursday. She promised high-profile advertisements in major newspapers urging tourists to avoid Alaska. Fish and Game Department biologists testified that the 490 moose in the study area produce about 344 calves annually. Black bears kill 100, wolves kill 90 and grizzly bears kill 43, while fewer than a dozen die of other causes. Slightly more than 100 survive, replacing the 98 or so adult moose killed in roughly equal numbers by human hunters and predators. Feral and independent wildlife biologist Gordon Haber said the Fish and Game Department has ignored scientific review that's skeptical of the situation at McGrath.
3.7.03 SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Federal predator-control agents from Salt Lake City have killed two wolves that attacked two sheep in Wyoming near the Utah border. Mike Jimenez, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf coordinator for Wyoming, said the wolves, both males, were probably yearlings from a pack in Grand Teton National Park. Utah conservationists condemned the decision to destroy the wolves. "It's not putting a good face on wolf recovery if every time there's a hint of trouble, the wolves are lethally controlled. Clearly, it's a one-strike-you're-out policy," said Allison Jones, coordinator of the Utah Wolf Forum, a coalition of environmental groups hoping to see wolves re-established in Utah. Jimenez said wolves that kill sheep tend to be repeat offenders. He said destroying them is important to maintaining the ranching public's tolerance of wolves.
3.5.03 (IDAHO Mountain Express) -- A new Idaho program will offer compensation to ranchers who lose livestock to preying wolves but can’t prove it. An agreement between the Idaho Office of Species Conservation and six central Idaho counties spells out details for the Idaho Wolf Depredation Compensation Program, which will compensate ranchers for livestock losses that were not confirmed to have resulted because of wolves. Funding for the program will come from $100,000 in federal funds approved at the request of Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig and the Idaho Cattle Association. Ranchers from throughout Idaho can apply, but will need to document the number of animals lost before wolf reintroduction compared with losses following reintroduction. Defenders of Wildlife will continue to pay ranchers for 100 percent of the value of livestock "confirmed" to be killed by wolves. The group will pay 50 percent of the value of "probable" wolf kills. The plan comes as a relief to those in the livestock industry. "Ranchers have been suffering for eight years because no payment is made if no dead calf is found," said Lemhi County Commission chairman Robert Cope. "In fact, the best estimate we have is that for every confirmed calf kill, between five and seven other calves simply disappear as wolf food. This program is late in coming, but at least we can finally get some compensation for the ranchers who have been paying personally for wolf reintroduction."