Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior

2.26.05 ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)--The alpha female in the Toklat wolf pack, which has delighted visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve for years, was killed by a trapper outside park boundaries. Gordon Haber, an independent wildlife scientist who has studied the pack for 40 years, said the radio-collared wolf was killed Feb. 11 by a trapper on state land on the Savage River within a few hundred feet of the park's northeast boundary and on the outside edge of a wolf buffer zone created in 2001. Haber reported the wolf kill to the National Park Service. An Alaska State Trooper later determined that the trapping site was legal and just outside the wolf buffer zone. Haber said the 10 remaining wolves in the Toklat wolf pack, including the dead wolf's mate and eight young produced in 2003 and 2004, went almost straightaway to the group's den 13 miles away. The pack also includes an unrelated female that joined up last summer. Denning this time of year is unusual, Haber said, and was likely an indication of confusion and stress within the pack. Haber returned to the area the next day and saw the pack headed to the trapping area again. Once there, the alpha male headed to a ridge and howled repeatedly. Haber sent a letter Feb. 17 to Wayne Regelin, the acting commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, and Mike Fleagle, chairman of the Board of Game, asking for an emergency closure of hunting and trapping in the area until the end of trapping season.
Haber said he has not yet received a response. While the federal park won't call for the closure itself, it would support such a measure, said Philip Hooge, the park's assistant superintendent for resources. The pack not only is important to park visitors but has been the focus of lengthy research, Hooge said. Haber and wildlife biologist Vic Van Ballenberghe, a former game board member, said the wolves need expanded buffer zones around the park. There are about 75 wolves in the park. The Toklat pack could go back as far as the late 1930s, Haber said. Haber recommended establishing a 600-square-mile buffer zone that would wrap around the north and northeast corners of the park and extend down the side. He said the buffer zone is needed because the area, which is rich in moose and caribou, attracts hungry wolf packs from 70 to 80 miles away.
2.26.05 COLUMBIA, SC (Associated Press) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is suspending a red wolf breeding program on Bull Island designed to help spare the species from extinction. The service says the program is no longer as important to wolf recovery as it was in 1987 when the government first brought breeding pairs to Bull Island, near Charleston. Pups born there would grow and learn to survive in the wild before being moved to North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on a vast, undeveloped barrier island. Bull Island and an island off Florida have been the only two offshore sites where red wolf pups were raised in the wild for release at Alligator River. In the past 16 years, 26 red wolf pups have been born at Bull Island. At Alligator River, "it looks like they have a self-sustaining population of wolves up there; it's getting close to what they were expecting," said Donny Browning, who oversees the program at Bull Island and the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge for the federal agency. Alligator River has about a third of the approximately 300 red wolves left in the world. Native to the east, red wolves are smaller than gray wolves but bigger than coyotes. Settlers nearly wiped out the elusive, rust-colored animals. A female red wolf died last August at Bull Island after being given a shot containing heart worm medicine that has been linked to canine deaths nationally. Fazio said the move is not linked to that incident. The pups' father now will be transferred to the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Center on the mainland near Bull Island to breed with a captive female, Fazio said. The 10-month-old pups will be paired with wolves that soon will need mates at Alligator River.
2.20.05 YELLOWSTONE (Billings Gazette) The secret of success may be in the genes. A decade after wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, a UCLA researcher is studying the wolves' DNA to better understand how genetics and family ties influence where they live, with whom they mate and how they choose their friends. "We're trying to understand, in a sense, the secret soap opera of wolves in Yellowstone," said Robert K. Wayne, professor of biology and co-founder of UCLA's Conservation Genetics Resource Center. The project, expected to be completed later this year, also could help wildlife managers if they try to reintroduce other species in the future. "Most reintroductions don't succeed," Wayne said. But since 31 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and 1996, the population has grown beyond expectations. There are about 170 wolves in the park, 300 in the Yellowstone ecosystem and more than 800 in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Wayne is looking for the possible genetic basis of the program's success. Specifically, he'll look at how family ties between wolves affect the establishment of packs, roaming patterns, mating and rivalries with other packs. In Minnesota, the second leading cause of wolf mortality is aggression between packs. Yellowstone also has interpack fights, especially on the Northern Range where packs are clustered closer together. Wayne said researchers want to find out whether the level of aggression between wolves is connected to their kinship. So far, more than 500 blood samples have been taken from wolves in Yellowstone and outside the park's borders in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Through genetic analysis, researchers hope to create a sort of family tree for Yellowstone wolves over the past 10 years. "This is the most comprehensive genetic analysis of North American carnivores ever undertaken, and involves the most notable U.S. population," Wayne said. Among other things, it will help determine whether there is sufficient gene flow between wolf populations, a point that could influence whether wolves in the Northern Rockies are removed from the endangered species list.
2.19.05 PETRICH, BULGARIA (AFP) - Thousands of Bulgarian hunters embarked on a nation-wide out-of-season campaign to cull ever-increasing numbers of wolves, foxes and golden jackals driven by cold weather to prey on farm livestock. "The permission to hunt, even if only for a day, was rather necessary in our region," said Dimitar Kitanov, local hunt master in this southwestern district. "In the last week alone, five wolves were killed around here by appointed hunters granted individual out-of-season hunting certificates to appease villagers whose domestic animals have been menaced by predators," Kitanov said. "Heavy snowfall drove over 20 hungry wolves down from the mountains around Petrich in search of prey. But we'll be lucky if we corner a wolf or two." Kitanov recalled that night patrols in the border area with neighbouring Greece had repeatedly complained of packs of 10 to 15 wolves roaming the area. "People are afraid they might be attacked while at work," he said. Over 2,230 wolves were counted in the latest game tally in Bulgaria, an 11 percent increase since 2003. The fox population has reached 36,500 and golden jackals number more than 27,000, according to the forestry and agriculture ministry. "In recent years there has been a tendency for predator populations around the country to increase, posing a serious threat to other game as well as to domestic animals," hunting experts commented in a statement announcing Saturday's nationwide hunting spree. During the official hunting season ending January 31, 13 wolves were killed in the region of Petrich and 15 more further north in Blagoevgrad, local hunting parties told AFP.
2.17.05 ALBUQUERQUE, NM (Associated Press) -- Two young Mexican gray wolves have been captured and returned to New Mexico after attacking and killing cattle on a federal grazing allotment in Arizona.
The endangered wolves are part of a federal program to reintroduce the animals to southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. The 9-month-old male and female from the Aspen pack separated from their parents soon after being released into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest last summer. Officials said they were doing well, eating deer and elk during the fall and winter. Meanwhile, ranchers Gary and Darcy Ely brought 71 heifers into a pasture near the wolves. "About the third week, we found them all bunched and nervous," Darcy Ely said Thursday. "We found two of them that had been attacked." One cow had to be destroyed, the second is on antibiotics and might recovery, she said. The wolves were trapped in January and now are at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico. Officials with the reintroduction program hope to release them. Ely said she was glad to see them captured. She and her husband have had trouble with wolves before. Wolves are believed to have killed five calves and a horse on their ranch in 2002. The rest of the Aspen pack was targeted for capture and relocation recently because they were hanging around homes in the Blue River area. They were not involved in any depredations, according to Shawn Farry, the Arizona Game and Fish Department's field team leader for the wolf program. Officials said the parents have moved away from the homes, and the pup caught in December is at the Ladder Ranch captive facility in New Mexico awaiting re-release.
2.17.05 COLORADO (Rocky Mountain News) -- Three out of five panelists discussing the future of wolves in Colorado predicted there would be no wolves in the state in 100 years. Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator, Gary Skiba, state Division of Wildlife wolf management planning coordinator, and Jean Stetson, a Western Slope rancher and member of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, all said "zero." It was based, they all said, on projected development in the state. "If you see we now have 4.5 million people here, in 100 years there will be no room left for large predators like wolves," Skiba said. Tina Arapkiles, a biologist with the Sierra Club, disagreed and said there would be 1,000 wolves a century from now, based on available habitat and prey base. Meredith Taylor, a conservationist, educator and outfitter, predicted 400 wolves by the turn of the century. The discussion on the future of wolves in Colorado was held in the IMAX theater before a large group of the public and centered on the possibility of wolves wandering down from Yellowstone into Colorado, or up from New Mexico, to start packs here. "I'm a far better historian than a prophet," Bangs said, "but the entire possibility of wolves in Colorado depends solely on the culture and acceptance by the livestock industry." Stetson said few ranchers are willing to accept wolves, although they also don't want the species to become extinct. "There is a lot of talk about restitution for livestock killed by wolves, but only about one in eight kills are confirmed as wolves, and any producer who takes a large hit on his livestock will be forced out of business," she said. Arapkiles and Taylor both argued for the good that wolves do by killing off the weaker elk and deer and by forcing those animals to move out of riparian areas where they've stayed since wolves were killed off. "Once the elk quit being 'slackers' and are forced to migrate, the willows and aspen regenerate and it's good for birds and a number of other wildlife," Arapkiles said.
2.10.05 OLYMPIA, WA (Associated Press) -- Federal inspectors are investigating claims that a wolf at Wolf Haven International was allowed to suffer needlessly for several days before being put down. The case involves Akela, a 15-year-old gray wolf that had lived at the wolf sanctuary near Tenino. Former volunteers and staffers say the animal stopped eating in late December and by early last month was emaciated, immobile and in the final stages of kidney failure. On Jan. 5 and again two days later, the attending veterinarian recommended that Akela be euthanized, according to Erin Darling, who worked in Wolf Haven's animal care department at the time. But according to Darling and others, Wolf Haven Executive Director Susan Sergojan twice overruled the request to put the animal down. After staffers contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture's animal inspection division, two inspectors visited on Jan. 10 and had the animal euthanized. The agency is investigating, spokesman Darby Holladay said. Wolf Haven has an 80-acre compound south of Olympia and is home to more than 40 wolves and wolf-dog hybrids and two coyotes. The organization receives animals from zoos, research centers and private owners, and runs an education and outreach program. Wolf Haven board member Chuck Groth told The Olympian newspaper on Tuesday that allegations about mistreatment of Akela run counter to the organization's whole reason for being. "We're all here out of concern for the wolves," he said. "This type of publicity isn't good for Wolf Haven." He said the board will decide within two weeks whether to keep Sergojan as director.
2.9.05 GAYLORD, MI (Gaylord Herald Times) -- In an effort to estimate the number of gray wolves living in the Lower Peninsula, the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct a wolf survey from Cross Village to Alpena, north of M-32. Coordinating the survey will be DNR Wildlife Habitat Biologist Brian Mastenbrook, who along with other DNR employees, members of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Fish and Wildlife service, and biologists from the Odawa Indian Natural Resources Dept. will drive back roads in order to spot wolf tracks. The survey will be conducted between Feb. 21 and March 4. "We are trying to detect the presence of wolves in Presque Isle County. We believe there is one pack out there and want to determine whether or not there are more groups in the area," stated Mastenbrook, who believes two or three wolves may have migrated to the area from the Upper Peninsula, crossing the Mackinac Straits on ice. Last fall a hunter killed a gray wolf in Presque Isle County after mistaking the animal for a large coyote, according to Mastenbrook who stated, "We'd like to prevent that from happening again." Mastenbrook explained the difference between wolves and coyotes, is primarily the size. "Females (wolves) weigh about 55 to 80 pounds, and males run between 70 to 95 pounds. Wolves footprints are much bigger. They have longer legs and a broader chest," Mastenbrook explained, but noted it is very difficult to identify a wolf from any distance.
"I know of a biologist in the Upper Peninsula who has worked with wolves for 10 years. He was called to look at an animal which had been caught in a trap. As he got close to the animal that was standing still on the top of a hill, he had no doubt it was a wolf." Mastenbrook continued, "It wasn't until he got within about 50 feet of the animal that he realized it was a large black coyote, and he's an expert." For that reason Mastenbrook requests people who believe they have seen a wolf to preserve as much physical evidence as possible and to call the DNR immediately. "If they can find a footprint or hair, we would ask them to cover it until we can come out to see it. We can tell a lot about the animal from a footprint," Mastenbrook explained.
2.8.05 MONTANA (Bozeman Chronicle) -- Starting Monday, ranchers in most of Idaho and Montana who catch a wolf chasing livestock on their property can legally shoot it dead. Feb. 7 marks the first day of a new federal rule that allows ranchers, along with permitted outfitters and grazing allotment holders on public land, to protect their own livestock. However, the new rule does not mean open season on wolves, cautioned Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wolves remain a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. Kill one illegally and you could face stiff fines and jail. Under the old rules, ranchers had to catch a wolf in the physical act of attacking before they could kill it legally. That's hard to do. Or, if they found dead livestock, they had to call federal officials, who decided whether to try to hunt down the offending wolves. The new rule allows more immediate action. Bangs advised ranchers who shoot a wolf to leave the carcass where it lies and preserve any evidence of the wolf's activity. That could include bite marks, trampled grass, mixed wolf and livestock tracks or other signs. Any shooting must be reported within 24 hours and will be investigated. Bangs said he does not believe the new rules will result in a great number of dead wolves. "It just adds a little bit of flexibility on how problem wolves can be managed," he said. In Montana the rule applies west of Interstate 15 and south of Interstate 90. East of I 15, it applies south of the Missouri River. In Idaho, it applies south of I 90. During the summer and fall, the rule will allow holders of grazing allotments on federal land and outfitters on public land to shoot wolves attacking livestock. It allows anybody to harass wolves at any time, as long as the harassment causes no injury. Such harassment must be reported in seven days. For ranchers and outfitters, the ability to shoot a wolf applies when wolves attack livestock, herding or guard animals and dogs. However, people recreating on public land without an outfitter can't legally kill a wolf that attacks livestock or dogs. The new rule also allows state government to kill wolves causing "unacceptable" impacts to wildlife populations, such as deer and elk. This will be allowed only after state or tribal governments complete science-based plans that have undergone review by the public and by scientific peers. Once some more paperwork and money transfers are accomplished, Bangs said, state governments can take over wolf management in the experimental areas. The new rule drew wide, though not unanimous, praise when it was announced, both from wolf supporters and traditional opponents.
2.8.05 RHODE ISLAND (Barrington Times) -- The Canada geese at Barrington High School are gone for now. Dennis Perry, the baseball coach and an industrial arts teacher at the high school, recently devised a method to rid the athletic fields of the geese so they would be ready for the opening of the spring sports season. He created four wolf cut-outs and stationed them across the baseball and field hockey fields that run parallel to County Road. The fake wolves worked perfectly, scaring the birds from the fields, but evidence of the geese's earlier inhabitancy still remains. Mr. Perry noticed the problem earlier this winter and took his idea to high school Principal John Gray and Vice Principal Joe Hurley, who both granted approval for the work.
"I had my students go on the Internet and pull down photos of wolves so that I would have a good idea of what I was going to cut out. Then I went down to the art room and had students make a sketch of it," Mr. Perry said.
He then started making cut-outs of wolves on sheets of metal. Once the cut-outs were finished, he spray-painted them black and mounted them to rods so they would stick in the ground. Two of the wolves were secured to swivels for more life-like action. The four fake wolves have kept the fields clear of geese since they were installed. George Finn, Barrington High School athletic director, was very impressed with Mr. Perry's work. "I haven't seen a bird out there since we put them up. It's been an ongoing problem with the geese. They migrate here and make a mess of the field. It's an experimental opportunity and so far it's worked," Mr. Finn said. "The geese have probably migrated to Hundred Acre Cove. They go there at night when they're not on the fields. Their new home is probably there." As of Monday morning, one of the wolves had strayed from high school grounds, leaving three to oversee the fields.
2.2.05 GRANTS PASS, OR (Corvallis Gazette-Times) -- Oregon will not be able to allow ranchers to shoot gray wolves that attack livestock under a federal court ruling that changed the federal Endangered Species Act status for wolves migrating into the state. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will be looking for other ways to control wolves that attack livestock when it votes Feb. 11 on a management plan for wolves moving into the state from Idaho, commission spokeswoman Ann Pressentin Young said Tuesday. If non-lethal means do not work, that will likely mean calling on federal wildlife agents to shoot or trap wolves that kill livestock, Young said. A federal judge in Portland threw out a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule imposed in April 2003 that reduced Endangered Species Act protection from endangered to threatened for wolves migrating into neighboring states from thriving experimental populations in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The rule was part of an effort to turn over greater responsibility for wolves to states. One result of the threatened species status was that ranchers would be allowed to kill wolves threatening their livestock. Under the endangered listing, only federal agents could kill a wolf. No wolves are currently known to be in Oregon, but three have been confirmed in recent years that. The wolves strayed into the state from Idaho, where they were introduced in the 1990s, and more are expected. The draft calls for dividing Oregon into two independent wolf zones: Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon. Each zone has an initial goal of establishing four breeding pairs of wolves. Once four pairs produce two young each annually for three years in the eastern zone, the commission can consider taking wolves off the state endangered species list. Then the plan moves into a second phase with the goal of establishing seven breeding pairs in each zone. Once that level is met, the plan moves into a third phase, where populations could be controlled through public hunting and trapping as well as by wildlife managers.
2.2.05 ANCHORAGE, AK (Associated Press) -- An animal rights group said Tuesday it hoped to collect 28,000 pledges this month in support of an Alaska tourism boycott to protest the state's aerial wolf control program. Friends of Animals also said it was launching virtual howl-ins to enable supporters to voice their opposition online. The Darien, Conn.-based organization has collected about 5,000 signatures at actual howl-ins, or protests, staged across the country since December, said group president Priscilla Feral. The group is seeking to have the wolf program -- authorized in five sections of the state -- suspended until May 16 when the issue is scheduled for trial in Anchorage. Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason last week refused to issue a temporary injunction in the matter. Gleason said she needed more time to review new concerns raised by the group, which likens the program to slaughter. The first such aerial wolf control program in a decade in Alaska was approved by the game board for the McGrath area in 2003. Friends of Animals, which claims 200,000 members, has since staged more than 200 howl-ins promoting its tourism boycott. Despite those efforts, the state's tourism numbers are climbing. The number of summer visitors to Alaska in 2004 rose from the year before to an estimated 1.4 million people. Alaska's 15 national parks set a record for visits last year as well. Over the next few months, the state has set a goal of killing as many as 610 wolves, with an aim to boost the number of harvestable moose. As of Tuesday, 93 wolves had been killed this winter, said a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game. Hunters reported killing 144 wolves last winter in the program's first year.
2.2.05 ALBUQUERQUE, NM (Associated Press) -- A federal judge has tossed out a challenge to the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program. The judge dismissed all claims made by groups seeking to have the wolves removed from eastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico -- where the US Fish and Wildlife Service launched its reintroduction program in 1998. The Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth, the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association and others claimed the agency should do an in-depth analysis of the effects of the program. But the judge says that requiring a detailed analysis at every turn would render the agency's decision-making process intractable to the point of absurdity.
2.1.05 GRANTS PASS, OR (MSNBC) -- A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act when it relaxed protections on many of the nation's gray wolves. The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland rescinds a rule change that allowed ranchers to shoot wolves on sight if they were attacking livestock, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. In April 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divided the wolves' range into three areas and reclassified the Eastern and Western populations as threatened instead of endangered. The Eastern segment covers the area from the Dakotas east to Maine, while the Western segment extends west from the Dakotas. The agency left wolves in the Southwest classified as endangered. The judge ruled that the government acted improperly by combining areas where wolves were doing well, such as Montana, with places where their numbers had not recovered. "Interior Secretary Gale Norton tried to gerrymander the entire contiguous 48 states so that wolves in a few areas would make up for the absence of wolves in much larger regions," Robinson said. Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency is looking at the ruling to determine its implications. "We haven't had a wolf killed by a private citizen defending private property since the new rule went into effect," Bangs said. Practically speaking, only wolves in northwestern Montana were affected by the rule change that allowed ranchers to shoot wolves on sight, Bangs said. The rule downgrading wolves to threatened never extended to experimental populations in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho and the rest of Montana, and no packs have been established in other states in the region, Bangs said.