Voyageurs Wolf Issue Back in Court
Dean Rebuffoni, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 13 December 1996
Although conceding there's no proof that snowmobiles have harmed wolves in Voyageurs National Park, an environmental attorney argued Thursday in a federal Appeals Court that the park's superintendent still can ban the machines in part of the preserve.
Brian O'Neill said Superintendent Barbara West has discretionary authority to keep snowmobiles and wolves apart "because she wants to; because she thinks it's a good idea."
Corey Ayling, an attorney for snowmobilers, made a different pitch to the court. He contended that banning the machines to protect Voyageurs' wolves is "a solution in search of a problem," noting that a lower court decided that there's no proof that snowmobiles have harmed the animals.
Ayling wants the Appeals Court to dismiss the case. That would let stand the lower-court decision, which lifted a partial ban on snowmobiles in the 218,000-acre park.
He and O'Neill made their arguments before a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul. Ayling's client is the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association, which represents 25,000 snowmobilers. O'Neill represents seven environmental groups, including the Voyageurs Region National Park Association.
At issue is a decision by U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum, who ruled in January that federal officials had failed to prove that snowmobiles have harmed Voyageurs' wolves....
That lifted the three-year-old ban and reopened 6,540 acres of bays and lakeshore to snowmobilers, who had sued to do just that. Although the environmentalists decided to appeal Rosenbaum's decision, the Park Service chose not to. Rather, it now proposes to close 4,393 acres to snowmobiles and other public use this winter, including some areas included in its earlier ban.
....[T]he Park Service says the proposed ban is supported by data showing that [wolves] consistently avoid [snowmobiles]. The agency says it would be prudent to close some key wolf foraging areas to winter use until more studies are completed.
....That could prompt a new lawsuit by snowmobilers....
Member of Wisconsin's Very Small Wolf Population Believed Shot to Death
Dean Rebuffoni, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7 December 1996
Wisconsin conservation officials were searching Friday for the person who apparently shot a female timber wolf that was fitted with a radio monitoringd device.
The yearling wolf was found dead on a lakeshore between Minong and Hayward, in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin. It had been captured last summer by state biologists as part of an ambitious program to restore wolves to areas of Wisconsin from which they were extirpated decades ago.
A radio transmitter was put around the wolf's neck and she was released. The radio's signal allowed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to follow her movements from aircraft.
A pilot monitoring the signal noticed Monday that the wolf had not moved for at least five hours. Conservation officers then used the signal to find the dead animal, said Adrian Wydeven, a state wolf ecologist.
He said it appears that the wolf was shot last weekend, although the cause of death won't be clearly known until after laboratory tests this weekend. Wolves are on the Wisconsin and federal endangered-species lists, and there are fines of up to $105,000 for intentionally killing a listed animal.
Wydeven emphasized that, despite the death, Wisconsin's overall wolf population remains healthy. Also, the program to restore wolves to areas of the state is ahead of schedule.
Before European settlement, wolves were found throughout Wisconsin, as they were throughout most of the United States. Unregulated hunting was largely responsible for the animal's decline, and by the early 1960s it had virtually disappeared from Wisconsin.
Still, wolves continued to wander into the state occasionally from Minnesota, usually by crossing through the sparsely populated, heavily wooded watershed of the upper Nemadji River, south of Duluth. Also, the wolf gained new legal protection in the 1960s and 1970s, and in 1989 Wisconsin developed a program to establish a permanent wolf population.
The original goal of that program, which emphasizes public education and wolf protection, was 80 wolves by the year 2000. Rather than reintroduce wolves from other states, the program relies on natural wolf reproduction within Wisconsin and the animal's gradual dispersal.
Wydeven said Friday that there are an estimated 110 to 150 wolves in Wisconsin, the most in perhaps 60 years. By contrast, Minnesota has an estimated 2,200 -- more, probably, that at any time since the turn of the century.
The vast majority of Wisconsin's wolves are in the northwestern quarter of the state. However, one group of several wolves, known as the Wildcat Mound Pack, is wandering through Jackson and Wood counties, north of Tomah and east of La Crosse.
Until that pack was formed in 1992, wolves had not been seen that far south in Wisconsin since about 1900. Motorists traveling on Interstate Hwy. 94 pass within 2 miles of a den of the Wildcat Mound Pack, Wydeven said.
He said computer analysis indicates that Wisconsin could support 350 to 450 wolves. But that is the state's "biological carrying capacity" for the wolf, based on the food and suitable habitat available for it.
"Probably the real ceiling for wolf numbers will be the 'social-carrying capacity,' as is true for many of our wildlife species," Wydeven said. "That's the maximum number of wolves that will be tolerated by humans, and especially depends on human tolerance in farm areas on the fringe of wolf habitat."
Hunters Urged to Take Care Not to Confuse a Coyote With a Wolf
Wisconsin State Journal, 23 November 1996
Timber wolves, once only thought of as a creature of the North Woods, are now numerous enough in central Wisconsin that the state Department of Natural Resources is warning hunters to be on the lookout for the animals during deer hunting season.
Dick Thiel, a DNR wildlife ecologist, said hunters should be careful not to mistake a [wolf for a coyote].
...."Hunters need to use caution if they see what they think is a coyote bounding through the woods in the central forest region," Thiel said. "Hunters are responsible for being sure of their target before they shoot. Ignorance or misidentification are no excuse."
A mistake could be costly.
The timber wolf is listed as an endangered species by both the state and federal government. State fines for killing a wolf are from $1,000 to $2,000 while federal fines can be as high as $10,000.
Thiel said hunters should be careful because wolves and coyotes are closely related and can appear similar when seen in the field. Coyotes, however, are smaller. Coyotes stand about 18 inches at the shoulder and weight about 30 pounds. Wolves stand 25 to 32 inches tall and weigh from 50 to 100 pounds. Both have grizzled grayish-brown coats, although wolves can be light gray to black. Tracks of wolves range from 4 to 5 inches long while those of coyotes seldom reach 3 inches.
The state started a timber wolf recovery plan in the mid-1980s. Although no wolves have been physically relocated in the state, wildlife officials, through public education and careful monitoring, have boosted the state's wolf population to an estimated 120 animals.
Moving into the state from the large stands of timber in northeastern Minnesota, the wolves have followed riverways and other forested routes into several areas of northern Wisconsin.
But wildlife officials were surprised when they discovered timber wolves also had set up housekeeping in west-central Wisconsin. Two wolf packs reside in Jackson County in the Black River State Forest and on Jackson County forest lands. And a third pack is living in the Wood County Wildlife Area in southwestern Wood County.
Wildlife officials said wolves have turned up as far south as Portage. A timber wolf was hit several years ago by a car on Highway 51 just north of Portage. Signs of wolves also have been observed in northwestern Juneau, western Clark and northeastern Monroe counties.