Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

10.6.04 ONTONAGON, MI (Ironwood Daily Globe) -- Ontonagon County resident Nancy Warren gave a vigorous defense of the wolf to the county board of commissioners Tuesday. Warren was responding to a petition signed by 13 residents asking that timber wolves be eliminated from the county and from the Upper Peninsula. Warren presented to the board information for her claim that it is important that losses by wolves are kept in proper perspective. The material included a case history of wolf-human encounters in Alaska and Canada, "Wolves of Michigan" by the Timber Wolf Alliance, and the most recent wolf depredation data compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Warren also stressed, contrary to comments by many, wolves that currently inhabit the U.P. were not reintroduced, but naturally re-established themselves into northern Wisconsin and the U.P. from Minnesota and Canada. In responding to complaints of wolves killing livestock and dogs, Warren noted livestock depredation by wolves has been extremely low, compared to the losses by bears and coyotes. She said the DNR, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Defenders of Wildlife and the International Wolf Center in Minnesota, established a Michigan wolf compensation program which reimburses farmers for livestock killed by wolves. Unlike Wisconsin, dog losses are not reimbursed, however. Warren noted since April of 2003, as a federally threatened species, wolves responsible for livestock depredation can and have been killed. Six hunting dogs were killed in Mass City last year, Warren noted. She submitted the investigative reports for each incident and noted before the dogs were killed, both the MDNR and U.S. Forest Service personnel told the handlers they were training their dogs in the immediate area of a wolf rendezvous site, but they chose to ignore all warnings. Warren said she has seen wolves, bear, bobcats, badgers, fishers, skunks and porcupines on her property and she does not allow her dogs to roam outside, unsupervised, especially at night. "Being a pet owner, anywhere, not only in wolf territory, demands responsibility," she said.
10.6.04 MONTANA (The Billings Gazette) -- Rules to give Montana and Idaho more power to control wolves were supposed to become official last summer but lawsuits have delayed them until at least early next year, a top federal official said Tuesday. Workers at the Department of Interior have been kept busy with five lawsuits involving the wolf controversy and haven't had enough time to fully develop a new proposal for state management, said Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams was in Billings on Tuesday to discuss a proposal for conservation easements in Montana. Although temporary rules could be in place next year, Williams said he couldn't speculate on when the Department of Interior will propose removing the wolves from the endangered species list. "So much depends on these lawsuits and I don't control that," Williams said. When wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains in 1995 and 1996, federal biologists predicted there would be about 400 in the region by the end of 2003. Instead, there are nearly 800. Federal officials say the population has met recovery goals and it's time to hand over management to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Montana and Idaho have approved plans to manage wolves. Wyoming's was rejected by the Interior Department - a decision that is now part of a lawsuit. With delisting delayed, Interior in March announced plans to pass some management authority to Montana and Idaho and give ranchers and others more flexibility in dealing with problem wolves. The rules would allow increased killing of wolves on private and public lands if they are harassing livestock or pets or pushing game herds below minimum levels. Non-lethal control methods, such as loud noises, could also be used.
10.6.04 ALBERTA (The Jasper Booster) --Finding the culprit who swiped a wolf that was struck and killed by a vehicle on Sept. 24 could help in reducing the illegal market for wildlife parts, says Jasperís senior warden. A traveler on Hwy. 16 near Talbot Lake spotted and reported the dead wolf at about 10 p.m. In the estimated half-hour it took Parks to arrive at the scene, the animal had been taken. This is the third time this year that an animal corpse has been removed from the park. Jim Mamalis, senior warden for Jasper National Park, said that animals are sometimes taken from the park to be sold on the black market. While wolves arenít on the top of the list for illegal sales, black bear parts, such as the paws and gallbladders, can bring poachers large amounts of cash. But itís often difficult to catch the culprits. Itís been at least eight years since the last time someone was busted for taking an animal corpse from the park. But Mamalis said itís important to go after any poachers. ďThe more of the stuff (illegal animal parts) that is out there, the easier it is for people to come into the park and poach live animals as well,Ē he said, adding that cracking down on people who take animal parts from the park would deter people from selling on the black market. Wolves are a protected species under the National Parks Acts, and taking this animal can bring fines of up to $100,000 and five years in jail. Parks Canada hopes the person driving the vehicle that struck the wolf will come forward, or that anyone else who was in the area and noticed any suspicious activity will contact Parks at 780-852-6155.
10.5.04 WYOMING (Associated Press) -- Hunters - often among the loudest critics of the expanding wolf population - are the wolf's best friend this time of year by leaving behind gut piles and other tasty remains of their successful hunts, a federal wolf expert said Monday. The easy meals come at a time when wolves are trying to fatten up for winter without expending too much energy in the process, said Ed Bangs, Rocky Mountain wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "When human hunting season starts, our wolves in areas with hunting pressure pretty much stop killing big game," he said. "There are so many gut piles or wounded but unretrieved animals they can pretty much stop hunting for themselves...." Bangs said wolves don't become habituated to humans the way some people argue grizzly bears do - equating gun shots with a dinner bell. Because wolves become scavengers during hunting season, livestock depredations fall off in the fall. Bangs said research indicates that wolves are a little nutritionally stressed around September "more so than in the spring when big game is not in as good shape. You can see weight decline and pups can actually starve to death in extreme cases." Pups, born in the spring, now weigh 50 to 60 pounds and are becoming more mobile but are not yet skilled enough to hunt on their own. "In a pack of four adults that has five pups, it means you have to feed not only yourself but the pups."
10.4.04 BRITISH COLUMBIA (National Geographic) -- From the inland fjords to the windswept outer islands, the north and central archipelago of British Columbia in Canada has been largely untouched by time. In the thick temperate rain forest, wolves reign supreme, just like they have for millennia. To Chris Darimont, a University of Victoria Ph.D. student, the rugged and remote islands are "the home of the truly wild." Since 2000 he has been studying, among other things, the foraging behavior of wolves in the Great Bear Rainforest to learn more about the little-known ecology of the islands. The wolves play an integral part in the ecosystem in the archipelago, and their diet can offer scientists important clues about the dynamics between predator and prey. Investigating the feces of the elusive wolves, Darimont found that their diets consist to a large extent of black-tailed deer. But he also found that their diets vary greatly depending on location. On the outer islands, for example, wolves are far less likely to have a deer for lunch than on the inner islands. These findings suggest that wolves can deplete resources in isolated areas, making the link between the predators and their prey more delicate there. The information is important for understanding not only island ecosystems, but also for conservation efforts. If scientists can understand how species behave on isolated islands, they may be able to figure out how the species will behave in other places that are becoming more fragmented. "Our planet is turning out to be a series of islands for wildlife and nature," said Darimont, who is halfway through his Ph.D. in conservation biology. "Instead of oceans and waterways separating habitable landmasses, we have highways, farms, and cities. The more we learn about island ecology, the more we can apply this information to the rest of the world." On the relatively species-rich mainland, wolves hunt deer, but also moose, mountain goats, and smaller mammals. On the inner islands, the best habitat for deer, the wolves' diet is almost completely dominated by deer. On islands farther out in the archipelago, across water channels that may run several miles wide, deer make up about 50 percent of the diet. On the extreme outer islands, the number drops to below 20 percent. "Isolation is a really important factor in determining how wolves make their living," Darimont said. "Predators can run out of resources in isolation." This suggests that wolf populations are more vulnerable further out to sea, in greater isolation. When animals depart from their main prey, they are taking greater risks. The findings may have important implications for the design of protected areas for wolves and other carnivores. What happens on coastal islands is likely to happen in parks. "In a better connected park system Ö the predator-prey association is less likely to be affected," Darimont said. The coastal wolf project has also shed further light on the genetics of wolves. Wolves are more widely distributed than any known large mammal. This strongly suggests they have a lot of genetic variability, which allows the predators to adapt to different environments, from deserts to high mountains. Researchers say that wolves in the coastal region are much more genetically variable than wolves elsewhere in North America. This may be because their populations have not been decimated from hunting as they have been elsewhere. "We may be looking at the historic wolf rather than the modern wolf," said Paul Paquet, a biology professor at the University of Calgary who initiated the coastal wolf project. Because of their greater genetic variability, the coastal wolves may be more adaptable and resilient than other wolves, Paquet said.