Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

January-February 2003
2.28.03 JACKSON (Wyoming Gazette Bureau) – For wolves in winter, Wyoming’s elk feed grounds near Jackson must seem like a giant, open-air smorgasbord. But the wolves aren’t overindulging, and the elk aren’t being driven out of the area, according to Mike Jimenez, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf coordinator in Wyoming. “These elk have adjusted to wolves being around,” Jimenez said. “Even though these are very accessible elk (to wolves), we’re not seeing any kind of mass killing. They’re not slaughtering the elk and they’re not chasing them off forever.” When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996, many feared that the predators would flock to the elk feeding grounds to kill large numbers and force elk out of the area. He noted that last winter the cow-calf ratio, which is often used to help determine the overall health of the herd, dropped from a five-year average of 24 calves per 100 cows to 17 calves per 100 cows. The overall trend for the last 10 years has been a decline in that ratio with a few minor ups and downs, Jimenez said. It’s too early to tell what the numbers from last winter mean and how much wolves can be blamed for the decline. In Yellowstone, biologists have attributed declining rates to several factors including wolves, the ongoing drought and past severe winters.
2.24.03 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) -- The Druid Peak wolf pack, once the park’s largest and most recognized pack, is slowly vanishing in the rugged wilds of the Lamar Valley. At the height near the end of 2001, the pack had 37 members and was one of the most popular attractions for visitors. But biologists say its members have been either dying off or leaving to form four other packs. The pack now has only eight members at most and is facing an uncertain future as its leaders age and other packs are expected to make incursions into Druid territory. “They’re getting by on borrowed time now,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s lead wolf biologist. “They had their day and now it’s the other packs’ day.”  The pack ballooned in 2000 after three females gave birth to 21 pups, 20 of which survived. In most packs only one female typically gives birth each year. But the pack got so big that feeding all its members became more difficult. “The average pack size in Yellowstone is 10 wolves,” Smith said. “There’s an equilibrium with the size of the prey base. When you get much over that, you have to kill more elk, which is hard because the elk are good at rebuffing wolf attacks. “With 37 in the pack, they couldn’t keep up. Some of their key individuals left and were the foundation for other, new packs,” Smith said. The Geode Creek, Slough Creek and Agate packs were started by Druid wolves. Another new pack, led by wolf No. 261, has not been named yet. Smith speculated that territorial skirmishes might occur as some of the younger packs move into the Druids’ homeland. Spinoff packs have already reclaimed the territory that the Druid pack took from the Rose Creek wolves.
2.11.03 ITALY (Ananova.com) -- Animal welfare campaigners have criticised a council in southern Italy, which is offering £35 to hunters for every wolf's head they hand over. The bounty is intended to control the wolf population in Reggio di Calabria, where they cause widespread damage to sheep and other livestock. But the World Wildlife Fund has condemned the reward offer as "medieval" and "unhygienic". It warns the animals could face extinction as a result, and is outraged the reward money will come out of European Union and government funds designed to protect the environment.
2.7.03 KYRGYZSTAN (IWRP) -- Abibilla Sultanov's life was shattered in less than an hour. The shepherd was woken by sound of a wolf howling on a freezing night just before New Year, and ran out to find a ferocious pack tearing his prized flock to pieces. Fumbling for his shotgun, he was able to fire a warning blast, which drove the wolves back into the night. But the damage had already been done. Nearly 30 of his sheep lay dead in the pen - taking Sultanov's livelihood with them.The shepherd is one of a growing number whose livelihoods are being destroyed by wolves, whose numbers have increased significantly in recent years. Now people are asking why nothing has been done to curb the growth in numbers, and what the authorities plan to do about it. During the Soviet era, the wolf population was kept under control by well-funded hunting operations, which included helicopter patrols, major armed expeditions, and judicious use of poison. But in the years following independence, the Kyrgyz authorities had many other things on their minds. The patrols dropped away, fewer traps were set, and the wolves began to multiply at an alarming rate. While the government passed a decree on January 14 allocating one million soms for a new hunting programme designed to reduce the wolf population, the hunters are not satisfied.It is estimated that there are around 7,000 wolves in the republic's mountains and forests - and their numbers are growing all the time. [Manas Ryskulov, head of the Chui regional department for protecting and regulating the use of hunting resources] told IWPR that the optimal number in Kyrgyzstan should not exceed 2,000 to 2,500.
2.6.03 AVON, MT (Helena Independent Record) – The tracks in the snow tell the story. Tana and John Bignell can fill in the details. The proof is lying dead in the pasture. An 1,100-pound pregnant cow was attacked and killed by wolves on the Bignells’ ranch near Avon. “Every predator does its job in a distinct way,” said Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gray wolf recovery coordinator. “The power of the wolf is in its bite. Its bite causes tremendous hemorrhaging. If you skin (a wolf-killed animal) you’ll see tremendous bruising.” In the Bignells’ case, the evidence was indisputable. The cow was killed by the Halfway pack. The Bignells’ cow was the second wolf-killed casualty this week. Earlier, a 1,400-pound bull was killed by the Castlerock pack on another ranch in the Avon area. The investigation into the depredations, however, is over and the sentence is set. USFWS directed its Wildlife Services division to eliminate the Castlerock pack and the Halfway pack. “It’s pretty rare that adult cattle are killed,” Bangs said. “The main reason that we’re removing these packs is because it indicates to me that they are familiar with cattle. Killing adult cattle indicates they consider them another prey item. It indicates a serious behavioral instinct.” After the Castlerock and Halfway packs are destroyed, there will be one remaining pack in the area – the Great Divide pack. Last year, the alpha female of the Great Divide Pack was killed by a car along Highway 12 on the east side of MacDonald Pass. USFWS estimates that there are six members in the pack.
1.27.03 JAPAN (Yomiuri Shimbun) -- A group of Tokyo University and other researchers have successfully extracted a gene from a stuffed Japanese wolf, a species considered extinct nearly a century ago, and conducted the first ever gene analysis on the extracted cell nucleus. The Japanese wolf, which was about one meter long, with relatively short limbs and ears, was once found all over Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. However, the species is considered extinct as there has been no official record of its capture since a hunter in Nara Prefecture caught one in 1905. Besides the specimen at the university's agricultural department, which was purchased in Iwate Prefecture in 1881, there are only four other stuffed Japanese wolves. They are preserved at the Tokyo National Museum, Wakayama University, the British Museum and the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, the Netherlands. The researchers said the gene from the stuffed wolf would help them study the origin and ecology of this particular species compared with dogs and other kinds of wolves. The world's wolves are believed to be commonly descended from a species of wolf that lived in Mongolia. About 6 percent of the genes from the Japanese wolf were found to differ from that of the ancestral wolf species, according to the researchers.
1.22.03 HILDESHEIM (Expatica) -- A lone she-wolf that roamed Central Europe for months has been killed by a hunter in Germany - who now faces up to five years in prison, authorities said Wednesday. In Germany the rights of animals are protected under the country's constitution and the wolf is an endangered species. There are no known wild wolves left in Germany, so Baerbel the she-wolf drew attention of conservationists and animal-lovers on her travels since escaping last summer from a wildlife park in eastern Germany. She was sighted in the Czech Republic early last summer and in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps late in the summer as she made her way northward through Germany. She reached Lower Saxony in northern Germany in November. It was there that the six-year-old animal was brought down by the unnamed hunter, who claimed he fired on the wolf in self-defence.
1.10.03 CALGARY (Calgary Herald) -- A German Web site and international e-mail campaign is calling on tourists to boycott Banff National Park in light of recent wolf deaths, being referred to as "animal murders." Hundreds of e-mails are being sent to federal and provincial land managers, echoing recent calls for a buffer zone around national parks to protect wide-ranging wolves from hunting and trapping pressures on provincial lands. Business officials say the letters are laden with wrong and misleading information, adding the trapping deaths were legal and outside park boundaries. The alpha male of the Bow Valley pack, known as Storm, and his eight-month-old son Yukon were killed last month in legal traps on the outskirts of B.C.'s Kootenay National Park. One letter calls for closure of the scenic Bow Valley Parkway from dusk to dawn to protect the pack's remaining two wolves, a young female and her eight-month-old pup.
1.7.03 VICTORIA (CP) -- Wolves and cougars on Vancouver Island are threatening to wipe out the rarest mammal in North America, says a scientist working to protect the Vancouver Island marmot from extinction. The only chance the estimated 30 marmots still living in the wild have for survival is if British Columbia's government permits a wolf and cougar kill, Andrew Bryant, Marmot Recovery Foundation chief scientist, said Monday. A Water, Land and Air Protection Ministry spokeswoman said the government is examining the plight of the marmots and will decide this month if it will approve a wolf and cougar kill. Six of the 18 marmots fitted with radio-transmitter collars were killed by predators last year, Bryant said. Wolves killed four, an eagle killed one and a cougar killed the other, he said. Jill Thompson, a Sierra Club of B.C. spokeswoman, said her organization wants the marmots to survive. But it will not endorse a wolf or cougar kill until the government admits its forest policies caused the marmot's problem. Bryant estimated there are about 20 wolves and six cougars living in the areas populated by marmots. He could not estimate how many cougars and wolves live on Vancouver Island. There are unconfirmed reports of between 150 and 250 wolves on the island and up to 400 cougars.
1.3.03 CANADA (CFCNPlus) -- The only wolf pack in the Bow Valley is all but wiped out. Three wolves were killed recently in traps. Two of them were the alpha and beta males from the Bow Valley pack. All that's left is a female and a pup. Park wardens believe there are fewer than 60 wolves left in Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper national parks. They've been keeping an eye on the Bow Valley pack for quite some time. "We've been monitoring or tracking the Bow Valley pack for 17 years since it first re-colonized the Bow Valley in the mid 80s," said Ian Syme, chief warden of Banff National Park. When they learned two males from the pack had been killed by a trapper, they took the news hard. It’s illegal to hunt or trap wolves within national park boundaries, however wolves are trans-boundary. Depending on available food, they can roam an area of up to 3,000 square kilometres, and these wolves were trapped just outside of national park boundaries in British Columbia. Trapping is legal in B.C., where three wolves were killed. Syme said while it doesn't make a huge difference to the overall population. Losing two will most-likely mean the end of the Bow Valley pack. In the meantime wardens will continue to work with the provinces to insure the barely sustainable wolf population survives. About 25 per cent of all the wolf packs are lost every year to natural causes or hunting.