Evansville Lone Wolf Will Stay in Wild
Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 8 March 2005
An injured wolf that has been lurking around a village on the Koyukuk River 200 miles northwest of Fairbanks for the past few months will be left to fend for itself.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced it will not issue a permit to capture a wolf that has been roaming around Evansville, a cluster of a half dozen cabins with 15 residents located on the outskirts of Bettles. Some local residents and an Outside animal-rights group requested a permit to relocate the wolf to a sanctuary in the Lower 48.
"It is not appropriate to take an animal from the wild and send it to a captive facility in another state just because people have become attached to it," said Matt Robus, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation.
The lone wolf has been roaming around Evansville with an injured foot for the past several months.
While the wolf has not seriously injured anyone, it did scratch one person when he tried to pet it.
The wolf has been fed by some local residents, according to troopers with the Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement. Not only is that illegal, but it is also probably the reason why the wolf continues to hang around, according to wildlife officials.
"This situation appears to have been caused by illegal behavior by well-meaning people," Robus said.
Habituated and food-conditioned wolves have attacked people in Canada and Alaska, department officials noted in a press release. In April 2000, a boy was attacked in Icy Bay by a wolf that reportedly had been fed by humans.
Although the lower portion of the wolf's right front paw is missing, it appears to have healed and is able to get around, according to wildlife officials.
When a few local residents who appealed to Fish and Game to help the wolf were rebuffed, they contacted Friends of Animals, an animal-rights group in Darien, Conn., to coordinate a rescue.
Friends of Animals found a sanctuary in Washington state, Wolf Haven International, that agreed to take the wolf and the animal-rights group said it would cover any costs associated with trapping and transporting the wolf.
The group's director, Priscilla Feral, was disappointed when told Monday the state wouldn't intervene.
"That's just mean-spirited," Feral said by phone from Connecticut. "The nicest thing to do for an animal that can't get food for itself would be to offer it sanctuary. ... That's the ethical thing to do."
The wolf will most likely be shot by a hunter or trapper now, Feral said.
"This doesn't bode well for her fate," she said.
The wolf's presence has divided the village. While some residents want the wolf saved, others want it shot and killed.
"It's a wild animal and wild animals shouldn't be in the village," said Phillip Anderson, chairman of the Evansville Tribal Council. "The boys do have instructions now if they do see the wolf to pop it."
Fish and Game officials, meanwhile, don't plan to kill the wolf unless it poses a public safety issue. Troopers in Coldfoot are monitoring the situation.
"If people stop feeding it and the wolf doesn't threaten anyone, there is no reason for the state to kill it," Interior regional supervisor David James said. "If the local trooper thinks the wolf poses a public safety problem, we would support the idea of killing the wolf.
"If the wolf is found in very bad condition and the trooper feels it needs to be put down, we'd support that action, also."
At the same time, wildlife officials noted that any licensed hunter or trapper can legally harvest the wolf before the season ends April 30.
If the wolf threatens people or their property, such as a dog, the animal could be taken under defense of life and property laws.
Ranchers Protest Oregon's Wolf Plan
Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald, 7 March 2005
Eric Colton hates Oregon's new wolf plan more than he loves to hunt.
And he really loves to hunt.
"Been doing it all my life," Colton, 34, said.
Colton, a Baker Valley cattle rancher, said he won't hunt or fish this year.
Nor will he and his wife, Darcy, allow anyone to hunt or fish on their 3,500 acres, which include habitat for deer, antelope and waterfowl, as well as a reach of the Powder River.
In past years the couple opened their property to all hunters and anglers who asked permission, Eric Colton said.
But this year six other local ranches, totaling more than 20,000 acres, mostly in Baker Valley, have joined the Coltons in their protest against the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, which on Feb. 11 approved the state's wolf conservation and management plan.
Ranchers contend the plan prevents them from killing wolves that threaten their livestock. At least three wolves migrated to Oregon from Idaho in 1999 and 2000, and biologists expect the predators will continue to cross the border as Idaho's wolf population grows.
Eric Colton said Oregon's wolf plan made him so mad that he decided not to buy a license or tag or anything else that would add a single cent to the state's fish and wildlife budget.
And by banning hunting and fishing on his property, he hopes to discourage other people from contributing to the state's coffers.
Those decisions, Colton admits, were difficult ones.
"It hurts," he said. "But it hurts worse (if) I get wolves in here and they're killing my livestock and I can't do anything about it.
"It's too bad we have to do something like this, but we have to make the Fish and Wildlife Commission listen to us."
Colton's cousin, Mike Colton, agreed.
Mike Colton, 43, helps run the Charles Colton and Sons spread of about 3,000 acres. That land, which used to be open to hunters and anglers, now is off limits, Mike Colton said.
He thinks the commission ignored ranchers who insisted that Oregon's wolf plan should allow landowners to kill wolves that threaten livestock.
But the plan the commission approved states instead that ranchers can kill a wolf only if the animal is "found in the act of attacking domestic animals."
Ranchers are about as likely to win the lottery as they are to catch a wolf with its teeth or claws in a calf, Mike Colton said.
"As far as I'm concerned the plan doesn't mean anything," he said. "It's just a good selling point for the commission, to say the plan allows ranchers to shoot wolves.
"Why they would tell us that we have to tolerate this predator, and tie our hands at the same time, makes no sense to me."
To bolster their protest, the Coltons and the other local ranchers bought newspaper ads announcing that their properties are closed to hunting and fishing, and that "violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Joining the two Coltons are the Heritage Ranch, Ron Lay Ranches (in the Medical Springs area northeast of Baker Valley), Colton Cattle Co., B. Kent Justus and Justus Ranch.
Eric Colton admits that banning hunting and fishing on a handful of ranches won't bankrupt the fish and wildlife commission.
He knows most hunters and anglers in Baker County congregate on public land, which remains open, not on private land.
But Colton believes ranchers who oppose the wolf plan can, and should, express their disgust in ways other than writing letters and testifying at public hearings.
"We just started something," he said. "If enough people would do it, I think they would listen to us."
Bringing ranchers, hunters together
Although the Coltons concentrated their comments on the Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Baker County ranchers' campaign is not limited to the commission's seven members.
Eric Colton said he's also trying to recruit Oregon hunters to join his crusade against the wolf plan.
Colton fears wolves, in addition to preying on livestock, will decimate deer and elk populations, and force the state to severely reduce the number of tags it sells to hunters.
In other words, he dislikes the state's wolf plan from two viewpoints: as a rancher and as a hunter.
"We're all together in this, hunters and ranchers," Colton said.
He emphasizes that he and his wife did not decide to exclude hunters from their property because they oppose hunting.
"I know we're going to make some people upset," Eric Colton said. "We don't want to punish hunters. I love to have them come here and hunt. But we think this is a tool we can use to get hunters on our side."
Ivan Sanderson of Salem represented hunters on the committee that reviewed the wolf plan and recommended the commission adopt it.
Sanderson said that although he supports the plan, he understands ranchers' concerns about wolves.
"I think ranchers should always have the right to protect their property," he said.
But Sanderson said the state can't pretend wolves won't migrate to Oregon from Idaho, a path at least three wolves followed in 1999 and 2000.
The Oregon Hunters Association, which represents about 8,400 hunters, made the same argument in late October in a letter that Association President Ken Hand and chairman of the board Joe Dalla Bona sent to Marla Rae, chair of the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
In that letter Hand and Dalla Bona wrote that the hunters' organization is "on record as not wanting the wolf to return to Oregon's wildlife ecosystem because of the predation that will occur to Oregon's deer, elk, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat populations. We also believe the depredation of domestic animals, social changes and economic loss to Oregon from the wolf's return are far greater than any benefits it may have."
However, the association officials agreed with the commission that the state should write a wolf plan because, according to the letter, "it is better for Oregon to plan now to meet the challenges the wolf will present than to wing it' after the wolves arrive."
Ranchers Want Wolves Recaptured
Jennifer Emmons, El Defensor Chieftain, 2 March 2005
Local ranchers, fearful that their livestock are in danger, are looking to the Socorro County Commission for support in removing a pair of Mexican wolves from the San Mateo and Magdalena Mountain area back to the designated recovery area.
Arch "Buck" Wilson, who owns a cattle ranch in western Socorro County, near Magdalena, asked the commission Tuesday to consider the possibilities of helping area ranchers in getting the pair of wolves, dubbed the San Mateo pact, removed from the area.
"I'm here to start a process that will take time, but I'm hoping the commission will support the ranchers in their mission," Wilson said.
Colleen Buchanan, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involved with the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, said the San Mateo pact, a male and female, had found their way to that area in Socorro and Catron counties on their own.
"They showed up in January 2004 and we recaptured them in August 2004 because they were outside the recovery area," Buchanan said.
"We returned them to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, Apache Stigrevas and the Gila National Forest in Arizona and New Mexico, but the pact has found their way back," she said.
At Tuesday's meeting, Wilson gave commissioners a letter dated Jan. 22 and signed by approximately 50 ranchers in the Magdalena and San Mateo Mountain region requesting that U.S. Fish and Wildlife recapture the wolves and return them to the recovery area.
The letter also stated that the ranchers don't want to expand the recovery boundaries as, Wilson said, Gov. Bill Richardson has indicated he has wanted to do.
"Gov. Richardson has said that he wants to protect the wolf, which we are not against, but also that he wants the recovery area to cover the entire state that would be very detrimental to ranchers, to our livestock," Wilson said.
Although Richardson cannot authorize the boundary expansion, it can be done if the issue passes through the National Environmental Policy Act procedures.
"It (the letter) came about because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife indicated that the people weren't really concerned about the San Mateo pact, but they were wrong. So we, the ranchers, got together and drafted the letter stating that we are concerned about the pact.
"We want to show the government how concerned we are," Wilson said. "If I would have had a big long list of all the ranchers in Socorro and Catron counties, it would have been some 320 pages long."
Wilson said that he and other ranchers do try to keep track of the San Mateo pact as a precautionary measure.
Richard Graby, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Catron County, tracked the wolves Wednesday and got a signal on them near Sergeant Tank, which is on the northwest side of the San Mateo Mountains, Wilson said.
"So we have a pretty good idea of where they are and we'd like to keep it that way so we can protect our livestock," Wilson said.
"This pact hasn't actually killed too much livestock, but we are still concerned," he said. "The fact that they will kill ranchers' livestock is a good possibility; just because it hasn't been confirmed yet, it is a definite that they will try. We are concerned we are going to have some losses and we don't want that. We have enough loss with other predators, like coyotes and mountain lions."
Commissioner Jay Santillanes said he sympathizes with Wilson and the other ranchers.
"Wolves are a real concern," Santillanes said. "I'm all for protecting them, but I'm also all for protecting our ranchers and their livelihood. Wolves can be much worse predators than coyotes."
Wilson said the San Mateo Pact has been staying in that area for two to three months. "We don't know exactly of what they are eating on, but we don't have any reports of depridations."
There was one confirmed depridation caused by the San Mateo pact last year on Wilson's ranch. There were some dead calves on his and another rancher's property, but those deaths cannot be confirmed as wolf-caused depridations.
"If you can't find the dead animal within a day, there's almost no way of telling of how they got killed, because you have to measure the teeth marks on the dead animal it's hard to do," he said.
Buchanan said that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is aware that the two wolves are outside the recovery area and that they've been spotted by ranchers in the area.
"We hear complaints about them, mainly that they are just there," she said. "Behaviorly, they have been good, but last year, there was a depridation that was unconfirmed, but mainly, the ranchers just don't want the wolves outside the recovery area."
Buchanan said that the federal service is looking at all the options as to how to resolve the issue the San Mateo Pact is presenting.
"The wolves are in a difficult position to capture. The wolves aren't established in any one area, which makes trapping difficult," she said. "One of the wolves is radio collared, the female, the male does not have a tracking collar."
It is breeding season now, throughout February and March. Buchanan said that if the female wolf is not pregnant now, she most likely will be soon, which means she'll have pups in April or May.
Wilson said that although the county has little jurisdiction over the federal government, he hopes the commission will support the ranchers, if the issue does arise at future decision-making meetings regarding the reintroduction program.
"When you think about it, the county is limited in having any real power, because we are dealing with federal law," said Adren Nance, the county attorney. "We could make an ordinance, but it would have no effect and it would not supersede federal law."
As requested by Commissioner Santillanes on Tuesday, Nance is looking into a way in which the county can stand behind the ranchers.
"I haven't figured out a way to form an ordinance yet, with it having any real effect. The resolution option is probably a better way to go," he said. "With a resolution, it generally stands as is the opinion of the commission. I think it would be most helpful to have a resolution stating that the county would like to see that the wolf boundaries not be expanded.
"Then we could send it off to the federal agencies," Nance said. "To have a an elected public body's opinion in the mix for the discussions before a decision is made whether to expand the boundaries is what we are probably going to end up doing."
Nance said he is against drafting an ordinance just yet, because it would have no effect. The National Environmental Policy Act, which is federal process to get such changes as expanding the wolf boundaries done, among many other environmental changes, is what needs to be done before any changes are made regarding the program.
"It's all environmental protection procedures. It's one of those frustrating things, especially as a county, because you want to protect your citizens and their property, but right now, the main thing is make our voices heard that's what the commission wants," Nance said.
Wilson said, as it is, if the wolves were to kill any livestock, there's little the federal government would do to compensate the rancher.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife will not be held responsible monetarily for the depridations. As it is now, a non-profit organization the Defenders of Wildlife, based in Tucson, do pay for depridations. They did pay me and other ranchers who have had depridations," Wilson said.
The Defenders of Wildlife are the only organization that has agreed to pay for depridations; they do support the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, but they voluntarily have chosen to pay for livestock depridations, also seeing the cost for the ranchers, he said.
No other federal agencies will be responsible for endangered species that have been reintroduced into wild that have caused a depridation, although the ranchers want that.
"The ranchers want the federal government to be responsible they are the ones who put the animals out there and they should be responsible for the depridations," Wilson said.