Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2002
Page 1
Will Utah Find Room for Wolves?
A majority of Utahns like the idea, but hunters, ranchers harbor doubts
Brent Israelsen & Skip Knowles, The Salt Lake Tribune, 31 December 2002

Just after sunrise on a crisp October day, elk hunter Shane Turner scanned the forest on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains. About 80 yards out, he eyed what he thought was a coyote pouncing, probably in pursuit of a rodent.
Turner raised his rifle and trained the scope onto the coyote, considered a varmint in Utah.
But he did not shoot.
"It stood up broadside and looked at me. I thought, 'Oh my god, that's a wolf.' I stood there in disbelief. I wished I'd had a camera."
Encountering the endangered wolf in Utah was one of the most exhilarating experiences in his 30-plus years of traipsing the wilds, but Turner, of Lehi, is not sure he wants wolves around. After all, they kill livestock, and "I respect ranchers very much."
Turner's personal conflict about America's most controversial predator illustrates a larger debate emerging in Utah.
Simmering since wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho -- both within a wolf's stroll of the Beehive State -- the debate heated up Nov. 30.
On that day, a coyote trapper accidentally captured a wolf that had wandered from northeastern Yellowstone to within 25 miles of Salt Lake City.
It was the first confirmed wolf in Utah in more than 70 years. Experts agree it will not be the last.
The thought of wolves from Wyoming and Idaho seeking out new territory in Utah has energized many environmentalists and biologists, who this week formed a coalition called the Utah Wolf Forum to encourage the state to make room for the wolf.
The wolf, they argue, is an important part of America's wildlife heritage, plays a vital role in a healthy ecosystem and adds immensely to the increasingly valuable "wilderness experience" sought by so many urban refugees.
The wolf advocates are armed with a new report from Utah State University, which concludes that about 200 wolves could live in Utah without causing significant problems.
Wolves also would enjoy popular support. A new Salt Lake Tribune survey shows that 61 percent of Utah residents favor wolf recolonization.
"What an opportunity we have to welcome back a native Utahn and not whine about it," says Dick Carter, director of the High Uintas Preservation Council, a member of the new coalition.
Not Welcomed by All
Although the Yellowstone wolf captured in Utah last month caused no mischief, livestock and hunting groups already are rallying their forces to oppose wolf recovery in Utah.
"We're not too thrilled about getting wolves back in here, for obvious reasons," says Tim Munns, president of the Utah Cattlemen's Association, which has passed a no-tolerance resolution toward wolves.
Don Peay, director of the Utah-based Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, also is unenthused.
"Utah's wildlife are doing very well today without wolves. . . . We don't need them."
Caught in the middle of this emotional conflict is the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which has yet to develop a long-term plan to manage wolves.
Division director Kevin Conway says his agency is in a holding pattern pending decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Utah Legislature, which may consider wolf measures when it convenes next month.
In early 2003, the Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to upgrade the wolf from "endangered" to "threatened." Later in the year, it may remove the species from the endangered species list altogether. Until that time, the wolf will be afforded full federal protection in Utah.
There are basically four options for the state once the wolf is removed from federal endangered status:
* Actively reintroduce wolves into Utah.
* Allow the wolf to recolonize in Utah naturally and unregulated.
* Allow recolonization but with active management, such as killing wolves that cause problems.
* Ban wolves, declaring the species a varmint that can be killed at will.
"It would be premature on our part to start on a path where we don't know the end," Conway says. "We need to know what our latitude is going to be."
Other states experiencing the spread of wolves from the federal government's official recovery zone have been more engaged in developing a wolf management plan. Oregon, for example, just completed a series of meetings statewide to gather facts and public comment.
In Search of Wolf Facts
As they await their marching orders, Division of Wildlife Resources officials are educating themselves about wolf issues. For the first time, a state biologist this month traveled to the annual meeting of the Northern Rockies wolf recovery team.
State officials also are taking a closer look at the new report by a group of graduate students and faculty at Utah State University.
Led by Robert Schmidt, a professor in the College of Natural Resources, the group examined wolf-related data from states where the federal government has reintroduced wolves. Using scientific modeling, they then applied the information to Utah's natural and socio-economic environments.
The report estimates that Utah's mountains, which cover about 8.8 million acres, or 16 percent of the state, could sustain at least 700 wolves. The most favorable habitats, which are in six different areas around Utah, would support about 200 wolves.
Assuming the lower figure, the USU researchers predict annual losses to livestock would be minimal: two cattle, 116 calves and 200 sheep and lambs, for a dollar loss of $ 74,040. That represents a tiny fraction of Utah's cattle industry, which last year grossed $ 376 million in sales, and sheep industry, which last year counted 320,000 breeding animals.
Livestock losses could be offset by an environmentalist fund that reimburses ranchers for their wolf-related losses. The fund, administered by Defenders of Wildlife, has paid out more than $ 250,000 since 1987.
In central Idaho, northwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming -- where the Northern Rockies federal wolf recovery effort has been focused -- wolves have killed about one-third the number of livestock that environmental studies predicted would be lost. Ranchers counter that the official number of livestock losses is low because many are impossible to confirm.
Wolves vs. Hunters
In addition to having little impact on Utah's livestock industry, the Utah State University report predicts that 200 wolves "would not significantly decrease overall [elk, deer and moose] populations in Utah."
Peay is not convinced.
Wolves, he says, are a direct threat to hunting in Utah.
Utah has rebuilt deer, elk and sheep herds since severe depletions of the 1930s, Peay says, and bringing in wolves would be a big step backward.
Hunters spent $ 3 million buying elk habitat in the Book Cliffs. Twenty wolves in the Book Cliffs could kill up to 400 elk and deer each year.
"Throw in a few wolf litters," Peay says, "and in four years you're out of elk."
Schmidt says such claims are not based in fact.
"There is absolutely no evidence, from a big-game perspective, that the sky is falling. There is no evidence that elk will disappear."
According to the USU report, a population of 200 wolves would kill no more than 3,600 deer and elk a year -- less than 1 percent of the current deer and elk populations and about the same number of big game killed each year on Utah's highways.
The biggest threat to hunting, the report says, is that hunters might have to work harder to bag their game. Wolves keep deer and elk herds on the move.
In Idaho, hunting guides with permits for specific regions are suffering because they cannot follow herds moved by wolves. Clients paying guides thousands of dollars expect to see elk and they do not return if they don't, the guides say.
The town of Gardiner, Mont., is largely dependent on elk hunting tourism, which counts on a vast northern Yellowstone herd that biologists say was artificially high because of an absence of wolves.
Nate Creek, 23, who helps guide elk hunters in the Gardiner area, sees wolves constantly.
"We've watched wolves play for hours," he says. "It's really neat to hear them howl. I love seeing them. It's just that we depend on the elk."
Yellowstone wolves have reduced elk herds, taking mostly older and diseased animals, but there is no shortage of elk, says park wolf expert, Doug Smith. Besides, many biologists say, the park's elk herds were unnaturally large.
At the same time, wolf packs appear to be regulating themselves. About three dozen wolves have been killed by fellow wolves recently. Smith has seen entire packs lying bloodied in the snow, licking their wounds from turf wars.
Wolves also kill other predators, particularly coyotes, although they seem to be helping grizzly bears by increasing the availability of carrion.
Who Decides
As Utah debates how to deal with the return of the wolf, the USU report urges the state to establish a "philosophically and politically balanced wolf advisory committee," rather than rely on Utah's Wildlife Board and its regional advisory councils, which guide state wildlife policy.
Those institutions "remain largely invisible to the general public and are weighted heavily in favor of hunting and agricultural interests."
High Uintas Preservation Council's Carter calls that an understatement.
"If I were a wolf, I'd run as fast as I could from a [Division of Wildlife Resources] truck or badge," he says. "The [division and its boards] will not approach wolves with much integrity."
Hunting and livestock interests already have lobbied to keep the debate within the realm of the wildlife board and the advisory councils. Conway says he will make the same recommendation.
So, when the human whining and howling about wolves subsides, will wolves be welcome here?
Barring an anti-wolf law from the Legislature, Conway says yes.
"I'm confident we can come up with a product that will work for all communities. . . . You will see the wolf remain a protected species in the state of Utah."
Help Save Algonquin Park Wolves from Slaughter
Mark Coakley, The Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator, 31 December 2002.
Wolves have beautiful voices. In the wildest parts of Ontario, the nighttime chorus of a wolf pack is inspiring, like music from the heart of nature. The haunting song of the wolf, floating every night over the thick forests of Algonquin Park, has been heard for millions of years.
Will the song of the Ontario wolf soon be silenced?
Several prominent Canadians have urgently spoken out on behalf of Ontario's endangered wolves.
Farley Mowat, one of Canada's great authors, recently wrote a public letter to Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources, asking the politician to "take strong and immediate action to ensure the survival of the wolves of Algonquin Park" and to declare a permanent end to the killing of wolves around the provincial park.
"There is every likelihood that the Algonquin wolf, which has been genetically determined to be a distinct and previously unrecognized species, will become extinct. ... Only 9 per cent of Ontario's land base is currently free of wolf snares, traps and gun hunters. ... Ontario is the worst jurisdiction in North America for the wolf."
Scientist David Suzuki recently wrote about "a much maligned and little understood animal, the wolf.
"Learning about wolves brought back memories of the fire that kindled my career in science, an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder at life's complexity and mystery."
Gord Miller, Ontario's Environment Commissioner, criticized the Ontario government in his 2002 report for poor protection of the wolf.
Miller recommended that Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources act strongly to protect the Algonquin wolves, "maybe the most endangered population in the world."
Only recently have human attitudes towards wolves changed. Scientists have shown that wolves actually help keep deer populations healthy, because wolves mainly catch sick deer.
There is no record of a North American wolf killing a person. Wolves normally eat deer, moose, beavers and mice, and will only attack farm animals when human development forces the wolves out of their forests.
Wolves are social animals. To other wolves, they can be as affectionate as Labrador retriever puppies.
Wolf society is based on co-operation, discipline and family loyalty. Wolves communicate by howling, territorial scent-marking, facial expressions, barking and wagging their tails.
Wolf packs often run more than 100 kilometres together in a single day.
Male and female wolves mate faithfully for life, and co-operate in raising their playful young.
According an estimate on the Web site www.wolvesontario.org, there are now only 7,000 wolves left in Ontario. Most are in the Far North; only about 150 wolves survive in Algonquin Park.
Since the late 1960s, Ontario's wolf population has been cut in half.
One cause is loss of habitat. Farms and suburbia dominate land that once was covered with forest.
Because wolf packs are constantly on the move, they need a lot of territory to survive -- as much as 500 square kilometres.
There are only two provincial parks in Ontario with enough territory to support wolves: Algonquin Park and Lake Superior Park.
Strip-mining, clear-cut logging and road-building are now legal inside most of Ontario's provincial parks. Seventy-five per cent of Algonquin Park is open for logging; the noise and stink of mining scares away wolves, and roads in forests turn wolves into roadkill.
Another reason for the declining wolf population in Ontario is the fact that large numbers of wolves are being shot or trapped. Sixty-six per cent of the wolf deaths in the Algonquin Park area are caused by hunting and trapping.
Wolf killing should be reduced.
A small game licence costs $17. That enables someone to kill wolves in Ontario 365 days a year. There is no limit to the number of wolves killed. It is legal to use chemical scents to attract wolves to hunters, and 328,000 people in Ontario have a small game licence. Nobody knows how many wolves are killed each year.
A trapping licence costs $37.45. It's effective 365 days. If someone has a trapping licence, there's no limit to the number of wolf traps they can use. More than 6,000 Ontario wolves have been killed in traps over the past 10 years, even though a wolfskin is worth only $30.
Snares are the most common method of trapping wolves. Snares are pieces of thin metal wire, in a loop designed to catch a wolf by the neck and slowly, painfully strangle it to death. To lure wolves into snares, trappers often place fresh meat or a chemical scent nearby.
We need to change how we treat these beautiful animals.
Our provincial government should protect wolf habitats and put strict regulations on the hunting and trapping of wolves.
With a strong protection plan, the beautiful, inspiring song of Ontario's wolves will be heard by generations to come.
Ranchers Uneasy
Most accept the predators, but some fear a way of life is coming to an end
Skip Knowles & Brent Israelsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 December 2002
SALMON, Idaho -- In Yellowstone National Park, biologists can tell when wolves are near. The elk bunch together.
The same can be said of people living in wolf country.
Polls show most Americans are hungry to see the wolf return and to hear its howl at twilight in their national forests -- a powerful signal that some past wrongs in the American West have been righted. But the sounds of the big carnivores bring chills to the Baker family for different, more primal reasons.
Wolves are literally at their door, and they sleep with the window open through the bitter winter nights, listening with dread.
Their 2,000 acres on the East Fork of the Salmon River became a battleground after wolves were released into the wilderness north of here in 1995. The Bakers' plight became a flash point in a cultural war of Old West versus New, galvanizing ranchers and elk hunters from central Idaho against wolf proponents.
The Bakers' land covers high mountain valleys that form a natural wolf funnel of prime game habitat. Twice, wildlife officials have come in and completely wiped out entire wolf packs, shooting them from helicopters.
The Bakers earned tremendous public enmity. The wolves, among them a big white female named Alabaster, were beloved by wildlife watchers.
Six generations of Bakers have ranched here. Photographs of bighorn sheep and other wildlife decorate the modest living room of Dick and Betty Baker. A 1934 black-and-white photo shows Dick at a nearby lake holding long, thick trout.
In Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the official numbers on livestock depredation are low -- less than one-third what was predicted when the federal government studied wolf recovery in the three states.
But ranchers say wolf kills of livestock are difficult to trace, evidenced mostly by an absence of calves coming home after herds graze national forests. This keeps the highly praised program of compensation by the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife -- which has paid out more than $ 250,000 since 1987 -- from meaning much to some ranchers, who can rarely confirm kills in the forest.
For the Bakers, wolf attacks sometimes occur in the back yard.
Their grief started on public land, like most, as mother cows came home alone and walked around bawling for days with swollen udders and no calf. Then, wolves started taking livestock in the valley. Wolves killed a niece's prize-winning sheep as it tried to hide in a herd of cattle, and a day-old calf was killed behind the house beside a barn in a corral. One Baker spread lost eight calves on private ground.
The White Cloud pack came first, and was exterminated after relocation failed. The White Hawk pack moved in the next year, killing cattle as deterrents failed.
"They really got after them with rubber bullets and helicopters and spent a lot of money," Dick Baker says. "Then we see wolves lay right up there on the bench watching the cattle and waiting for dark."
The Bakers -- wildlife lovers who do not like seeing wolves shot -- praise wildlife officials for trying everything before pulling the trigger.
Fortunately, the Bakers' troubles are an exception in an otherwise successful story of wolf reintroduction.
In the three states targeted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wolf recovery, the biological goals have been met. The agency will soon upgrade the animal's status from "endangered" to "threatened."
Later next year, the wolf may come off the endangered species list altogether, depending on whether the agency decides the states can maintain wolf numbers without federal protection.
So far, Montana and Idaho, after 17 tries, have wolf management plans acceptable to Fish and Wildlife. Wyoming, however, is balking. Its proposed open hunting season on the wolf outside Yellowstone and federal wilderness areas is unacceptable, says Ed Bangs, Helena, Mont.-based director of the federal wolf recovery effort.
Old West vs. New
The problem is animosity between the Western states and the federal government.
"Wolves biologically aren't a big deal," says Bob Loucks, a former Lemhi (Idaho) County commissioner and a 33-year veteran agricultural extension agent for the University of Idaho. "Politically, they're a huge deal, a symbol. To the city dweller, they're a big beautiful animal. To the country people, it's the goddamned federal government telling us how to live our lives."
Loucks knows ranching economies, and he wishes Idaho had no wolves, but he is a voice of reason in a vitriolic debate.
Salmon is a cow town, and local business is supported by ranching, not the fleeting tourist season. The black shapes of scattered cattle fill the valley in herds that stretch for miles. Flocks of magpies, hawks and the occasional deer are seen in December, while elk stay high until the snow falls.
It is the Rocky Mountain West people dream of -- golden foothills falling away from timbered mountains and a broad grassy valley with wandering streams full of ocean-run fish. The hopes of the New West, populated and urban, are coming back, represented by packs of wolves.
The predator has returned beyond expectations in a place where gubernatorial candidate Cecil Andrus campaigned with a "no wolves" platform and tried to block Fish and Wildlife planes from landing when the agency first attempted to bring the first of 35 wolves into the state in 1995.
"The problem is [the wolves] did too damned good," says Jay Wiley, a rancher with 290 acres on the Salmon River. He loses calves in the forest each year to wolves on his national forest grazing allotment north and east of town.
"The population just exploded, and they've lost control," Wiley says. "They don't have time, money or personnel to capture or keep collars on them."
Living With Wolves
Idaho wolves number about 300 now, but ranchers hardly trust that number because only packs with radio collars can be tracked.
Mistrust of wolf advocates' motives is as fixed as the mountains behind Wiley's ranch.
"They blew so much smoke about how they'd release them and they'd stay in the wilderness," he says. "It took them two days to leave Frank Church [River of No Return Wilderness] and kill a calf on private ground in Iron Creek. They did exactly what we said they would do and the opposite of what the wolf people said they would do."
Loucks predicts wolves will have "tremendous impact on a few ranchers and a few elk herds. A few elk hunting guides will go out of business. But overall there will be very little impact. Individual ranchers will have to be bought out of [grazing] allotments, and a few wolves will have to be killed. Wolves will simply never be able to exist in areas with concentrations of livestock."
But few ranchers are losing livestock to wolves, and depredation is actually lower than wolf advocates expected.
And although elk numbers are down in some areas around Salmon, hunters still harvest more elk annually than made up the total elk population before the 1970s.
Wolves and ranchers can co-exist in the West, Loucks says.
"You don't have to kill them all, just make them scared of people."
'Getting out': Wiley counts himself lucky. His neighbor John Aldous lost two dozen calves grazing public land last year -- about $ 12,000 worth -- in a business that has not seen a real price increase in decades. Aldous says that with sage grouse and bull trout headed for endangered listing and weak beef prices, his wolf loss is pushing his operation over the edge.
"I'm looking at getting out. They should never have brought [wolves] here," Aldous says. "I'll have to sell my place and help make this look like Sun Valley."
Nationally, public lands grazing receives little sympathy, and Aldous knows it. But outsiders should care because subdivisions will replace ranches, Wiley says.
The New West is breathing down their neck, with trophy homes sprouting like mushrooms on the benches. A development near his house is home to a California cellular phone businessman, a banker, a government worker and someone who works in Antarctica.
"They're good people," Wiley says, "but they're all cow haters, and now we have [domestic] dogs running the hell out of our cows." Aldous' land was homesteaded by his family 110 years ago. His son, John Junior is making a go of ranching but without high hopes.
"It's a business of such tight margins you throw in wolves and that can kill your operation," he says.
The Jureano wolf pack eats his calves in the mountains and is re-forming after almost being killed off. Ranchers will not do the same, he says. His brother, Jacob, fixes cars and sees ranching as a losing bet.
"I don't think anybody will make it, to tell you the truth," Jacob says.
Calves that are not killed on the Aldous allotments sometimes come out of the woods with their rear ends torn out, hideous wounds filled with maggots. Rarely are they saved. Ranchers say they are victims of wolf pups training to hunt.
Pawn in a Larger War
Still, most ranchers do not hate wolves. Almost all say the wolf would have returned on its own terms. They say these "natural" wolves would have been better accepted and possess a stronger fear of people. Instead, a bigger, badder animal from Alberta with no fear of people was introduced, not for the wolves' sake, the ranchers say, but to get cattle off public land.
Biologists say natural recolonization would not have occurred for decades, if ever.
An anti-wolf sign outside the River of No Return taxidermy shop on Main Street in Salmon shows a ghoulish wolf with a red cross-out across its face above words telling sandal-wearing, Subaru-driving, ponytailed people to get lost.
The shop's owner, Dan Hooper, a burly elk hunter, sells a lot of the signs. Elk hunting is big business in the West, and those invested in hunting do not like competing with an old predator.
The days of huge elk herds may be ebbing, but the bottom line is that elk and wolves coexisted for eons, says biologist Isaac Babcock, who worked for the Nez Perce tribe, which stepped in to help administer wolf recovery in Idaho after the state refused. "Wolves just generate animosity or love from people."
Counting Sheep
Lava Lake Land and Livestock company is trying to live with predators while grazing sheep on 24,000 acres in central Idaho. Biologist Mike Stevens is chief manager of the company, formed in 1999 from five historic Hailey-Ketchum area ranches.
Lava has suffered two wolf attacks. A pack killed 14 animals over three nights in June. Then, shortly after, a wolf killed two lambs near a herder.
"We're new at this," Stevens says, "but we want to stay away from lethal methods."
Sheep flock tightly but are easy to kill.
Can a sheep rancher live with wolves?
"There is a good incentive to do so, with predator-friendly marketing," Stevens says. "Organic, predator-friendly lamb" has a nice ring, and Stevens hopes to accomplish that by knowing where the wolves are, keeping a herder with the sheep at all times, and using herding dogs and Great Pyrenees, 130-pound guard dogs.
People living in wolf country face another issue: fear, though documented wolf attacks on people in North America are almost nonexistent.
Idaho state Sen. Brad Little argues that people are in more danger from wolf-chased elk crossing the road than from actual attacks by the reclusive carnivores.
A rancher heavily engaged in the wolf debate, he found a drowned, problem wolf tangled in a leg-trap chain in a creek on his land.
"It was this big, beautiful silver wolf, just a gorgeous animal," he says. "A big son of a gun, big paws."
But the romance of the wolf soon wanes.
"My in-laws have lost well over a hundred head of sheep," Little says. "My wife and kids slept out with my in-laws' sheep one night to try and keep the wolves out. Two wolves came in and killed sheep while they were sleeping."
Living With Wolves
Gathering shed antlers is a huge esteem-booster and moneymaker for Salmon kids, but Melanie Baker, Dick and Betty Baker's daughter, will not let her children do it anymore based on reports of wolves showing aggression around their kills. Another friend packs a gun while cross-country skiing, at the insistence of her husband, who had a run-in with snarling wolves on a kill.
"A lot of people in our area are very fearful," Melanie Baker says. "Last Monday a gal who lives near here said the wolves killed an elk calf where she walks and she was scared to go up there now."
At the Bakers' spread, ranch hands are dreading spring. The wolves do the most damage in April, and they are certain a new pack is forming in the ridges above their home because hunters have seen them. Wolves killed a deer 40 yards from their porch last January.
"It's a lot of no sleep, and it ain't too fun to see how them little calves is chewed up," Dick Baker says. "The cows start bellowing in the middle of the night, and the sons-a-bitches are barking and growling and the cows are all herded up."
The bedroom window will stay open well into spring.
Wolves Run Wild in Human Imagination
Judy Fahys, Salt Lake Tribune, 29 December 2002
In the real world, wolves are famous for eluding humans.
In the human imagination, though, Canis lupus looms large. Everywhere. Over centuries.
Gluttons wolf down their food. Those who cry wolf are soon ignored. The damned are thrown to the wolves. The indebted have a wolf at their door. Wolf whistles transform women into prey.
We have wolves in sheep's clothing to suggest sinister deceit. We have men who danced with wolves and women who run with them getting in touch with their wilder selves. We have wolves who have suckled the sons of the war god, Ares, and ordinary people who morphed into cannibalistic werewolves.
Onto wolves, humans have heaped our deepest fears and wishes in myth, folk tale and legend.
That puts wolves in good company with all other subjects of human preoccupations expressed in story, song and art, according to David Stanley, an English professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
"When we tell stories or tell jokes or sing songs," says Stanley, "we are looking for a way to understand the issues of the world -- why people hate and kill each other, why they betray their spouses and their friends."
Author Barry Lopez of Oregon says what people see in wolves is mostly about themselves, not wolves. Nearly 25 years after writing the groundbreaking volume, Of Wolves and Men, he still sees projections of the human heart -- rather than science -- driving the wolf debate.
"There is a lot to be learned from [wolves]," says Lopez. "But you just throw all that [understanding] out the window when you rely on your projections."
Wolves rarely come out looking good in Western civilization. Though sometimes cast as dupes, they more often play the villain, the embodiment of brutality and rapacious greed.
Generations of children have learned about wolves from fairy tales and fables. They have heard about the boy who cried wolf once too often and lost his credibility. They recall the wolf that huffed and puffed at the cottages of three little pigs, and the wolf that lured little Red Riding Hood astray and gobbled up grandma.
The fascination with wolves has an adults-only section, too.
Bruno Bettelheim described Little Red Riding Hood as a tale of girl's sexual awakening, with the lip-smacking wolf fulfilling libidinous wishes. And lust peppers the gruesome tales about men and women werewolves.
Even the Bible is tough on wolves. Christ, in the New Testament, warns his disciples in Matthew: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." More than a century later, the church of medieval Europe warned Christ's flock against falling prey to the wolf, which symbolized Satan himself.
An 18th century French legend has two wolves devouring 64 people in the countryside.
And in pioneer Montana, the Ghost Wolf and four-toed Snowdrift were blamed for killing more than 3,500 animals on separate livestock rampages before each was hunted down.
History has only echoed the wolf's despicable reputation. Adolf Hitler called his Prussian military headquarters the Wolf's Lair and his submarines "wolf packs."
The wolf is not evil in every tale. Sometimes it is dim-witted.
The ballet, Peter and the Wolf, is based on a Russian folk tale and folk tune about a napping wolf captured by a boy and his friends (a bird and a cat) after the wolf has eaten another friend, a duck. The wolf spits up the live duck, explaining he was hungry. And the boy protects the wolf from hunters, who are persuaded to help escort the repentant predator to a zoo, where it will be safe but harmless.
And in an Aesop fable, a goat saves its own skin by playing flute to a hungry wolf. Lulled by the tune, the wolf lets its quarry escape.
Another Aesop fable helps illustrate why wolves inspire -- and sometimes awe -- people. It is the story of how a well-fed dog invites a starving wolf to enjoy the comforts of domestication. The wolf notices a bare spot on the dog's neck where its collar has rubbed away the hair. The disgusted wolf chooses freedom instead and walks away.
Centuries later, the wolf's sharp intelligence and independent streak maintain a strong pull on humans.
Wolf lore is its own industry.
There are silk scarves, coffee mugs and original art for wolf-lovers. There are wolf-watching vacations. And, for youngsters, there is Polar Mission Action Man, whose dogsled is pulled by Blizzard, a cyberwolf that growls.
Oddly, it seems that the many ways people use the wolf to express their human concerns lead not to understanding but new myth.
"In the end," Lopez says of the wolf, "they are still a mystery."
And so, too, is our fascination with Canis lupus.
Shepherds Face Prison as Wolves Die in Alpine Traps
John Lichfield, The Independent (London), 21 December 2002
WHILE SHEPHERDS watched their flocks by night ... wolves prowled, lawyers and politicians squabbled and animal-rights lobbyists breathed down their necks.
A test prosecution of an Alpine shepherd in the New Year will signal the beginning of what is likely to be a pitched legal and political battle over the gradual invasion of the French Alps by packs of wolves.
Herve Bernardon from the village of Saint-Crepin near Gap in the Hautes- Alpes will become the first man to be prosecuted in France for killing a wolf.
Other French Alpine shepherds, who claim to have lost 8,800 sheep to wolves in the past 10 years, plan to stage a noisy demonstration in his support outside the court.
M. Bernardon, 35, caught the animal in a metal trap two years ago after wolves had killed 60 of his ewes. The decision was finally taken this week that he should be prosecuted for "destruction of a protected species". If convicted, he faces a fine of up to EUR9,000 (about pounds 6,000) and a prison sentence of up to six months.
The case will bring to a head a gathering confrontation between shepherds and anti-wolf, mostly right-wing politicians on the one hand, and environmentalists and pro-wolf, mostly green and left-wing politicians on the other.
The French parliament has begun a commission of inquiry into the implications of the recolonisation of France by wolves from Italy. The inquiry - boycotted by animal-rights groups - will consider next year whether France, as a signatory to European conventions on the defence of endangered species, should abandon its commitment to protect the wolf.
Alpine shepherds complain that the only endangered species since wolves began to re-appear in the French Alps in 1992 have been the sheep and the shepherd. The wolf, exterminated in France in the 1920s, has infiltrated from the Italian Alps and has reached as far north as the Belledonne chain of mountains near Grenoble and the Vercors range near Valence in the Rhone valley.
Although there are thought to be no more than 40 wolves in France, organised in five or six packs, Alpine villagers say that the creatures are becoming increasingly aggressive and increasingly bold.
Two weeks ago, the mayor of Chichilianne, a village near Grenoble, reported seeing a wolf trotting through his village during the day. This winter, there has also been a rash of reports of wolf-attacks in Alpine valleys, compared with in the high pastures where the animals mostly roam.
Although the government pays compensation for proven wolf attacks, M. Bernardon is not the only shepherd to take the law into his own hands. The Ministry of Ecology announced last month that it was investigating the deliberate poisoning of a wolf cub found dead in the Mercantour range of mountains on the Italian border north of Nice.
The French Association for the Protection of Wild Animals accuses the shepherds of, in effect, crying wolf. Although it does not dispute that there are some wolf depredations (1,466 dead sheep last year alone), the association says that wolves are responsible for only 1 per cent of premature sheep deaths in France.
In 2001, wild or undisciplined dogs killed more than 20,000 sheep, the association points out. Many other thousands of sheep fell victim to natural phenomena, such as avalanches and lightning strikes. The environmentalists argue that a wolf is as natural a part of the Alps as an avalanche and should be left alone.
USU Wolf Report Provokes Growls
Jerry Spangler, Deseret News, 8 December 2002
That howling you've been hearing hasn't all been coming from wolves prowling Utah's mountains. Rather, it is coming from ranchers and farmers, sportsmen and wolf advocates, biologists and lawmakers.
It seems everyone has an opinion on wolves, usually on one extreme or another. But there are two points upon which all agree: The wolves will be coming in greater and greater numbers, like it or not, and their arrival will stir a public debate over wildlife the likes of which Utah hasn't seen in decades.
In fact, wildlife biologists at Utah State University are now stirring that debate with a voluminous report titled "Wolves in Utah: An Analysis of Potential Impacts and Recommendations for Management." The report is careful to note it "does not advocate for wolf reintroduction," but it also debunks much of the criticism against wolf reintroduction.
The bottom line: Utah could, in theory, support up to 700 wolves, but more realistically that number would be about 200, most scattered through potential wolf habitat in the Bear River Range, the Uinta Mountains and the Book Cliffs. There is even good wolf habitat in southern Utah in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Boulder Mountain, LaSal Mountains and Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Zion national parks.
In all, there are more than 36,000 square kilometers of potential wolf habitat in Utah.
Historically, wolves were once found from one end of the state to the other, with Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves inhabiting the northern part of the state and Mexican gray wolves the southern part of the state.
"Southern Colorado and southern Utah is where the two subspecies blended together, and it would be very appropriate to have that happening again," said Nina Fascione, vice president of species conservation for Defenders of Wildlife. "Wolves are very adaptable, and southern Utah is a definite possibility."
Some see it as inevitable as Mexican gray wolves establish themselves in New Mexico and Arizona. And there are currently proposals to reintroduce wolves to southern Colorado and the Grand Canyon, both areas that are only a hop, skip and a jump from the canyons of southern Utah.
In northern Utah, wolves have already begun migrating into the Cache Valley and the Morgan area, where a 2-year-old male was captured last week and returned to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.
But actually Utahns have been seeing the wolves for years. The Deseret News has received more than a dozen e-mails from people who say they have seen wolves, including one as far south as Mount Timpanogos. In one case, there are photos to prove that wolves have been here for some time.
Those sightings were not "verifiable" according to the standards of wildlife biologists, and it wasn't until this summer when a wolf killed sheep in the Cache Valley that wildlife managers admitted they had finally arrived, probably from packs in the Yellowstone area where they were reintroduced in 1995.

Research and results

Craig McLaughlin, mammals program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says he is feeling heat to come up with a state management plan for wolves, all the time knowing it will be ripped apart by everyone from the Utah Farm Bureau, which is leading the opposition charge, to Defenders of Wildlife, the nation's foremost advocates for wolf recovery.
That plan is expected to be released for public comment sometime in 2003.
Everyone on all sides of the Utah wolf debate knew the wolves were coming, but only USU wildlife biologists tackled the thorny issue. They are already drawing howls of protest. Among the USU findings:
Studies in other states have determined that wolves do not dramatically reduce populations of deer and elk, usually preying on young, sick, injured and old animals. In fact, wolves might improve the overall health of big game by eliminating diseased animals that could infect the entire herd.
The USU study determined "that a wolf population of 200 would not significantly decrease overall ungulate (deer, elk) populations in Utah."
The presence of wolves might cause elk and deer to change their herding behavior, which could improve overall big game habitat. In Yellowstone, this shift in elk behavior has led to a recovery of aspen groves and riparian areas devastated by over-grazing. The same behavior is predicted for Utah.
The presence of wolves seems to have reduced the number of coyotes, but the increased abundance of carcasses from wolf prey actually helps bears, cougars, raptors and foxes. "Most of these effects are positive and appear to be increasing overall ecosystem integrity," the USU report found.
Wolves could improve Utah's tourism economy, as has happened in North Carolina and Yellowstone. In Minnesota, a wolf interpretive center generates $3 million a year in tourism revenues.
People are wildly supportive of wolf recovery and express it with their pocket books. One study in Yellowstone found that each person surveyed would give, on average, $22.87 for wolf recovery. The USU study recommended a comprehensive economic analysis of potential benefits.
Based on studies in other states with wolves, the number of livestock killed by wolves in Utah would be minimal, only about 2 adult cows a year, 116 calves a year and 385 sheep.
The USU study also noted that the numbers of sheep and cows killed might actually go down after the reintroduction of wolves because wolves diminish the numbers of coyotes, the primary predator of sheep.
Collectively, the value of Utah livestock lost to wolves would be about $39,000 a year. In other states, Defenders of Wildlife compensates ranchers for livestock killed by wolves under the policy that the cost of wolf recovery should be shifted to those who want to see the wolf restored to its original range. The same scenario would likely occur in Utah, said Curt Hawkins, a Utah wolf advocate who is currently campaigning to raise $100,000 for a compensation fund.
Wolves do not diminish revenue from hunters or diminish hunters' success rates. In Yellowstone, it was predicted that reduced hunting opportunities would cost the area between $200,000 and $400,000 a year. But a study in 2000 found there was no actual economic loss since the wolf was reintroduced.
Primarily, the USU scientists encouraged the state to become more proactive in its management of wolves and to develop a public education campaign that will dispel myths on both sides of the debate. It also called for the creation of a Wolf Advisory Committee that "would solicit input from scientists, managers, ranchers, hunters, wolf advocates and other interested parties.

For and against

Focusing the debate solely on biology may be the hardest part for anyone involved in the issue. Wolves evoke inexplicable passions both for and against them.
For many, passion for wolves is almost an ideology. "The wolf is so symbolic. People go nutty over them and always have," said Ed Bangs, head of the wolf recovery program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
For others, the wolf is a different kind of symbol, that of a vicious predator exterminated from the Utah landscape some 70 years ago with good reason.
"We cannot sustain wolves, we do not need them and we do not want them," said Wes Quinton, vice president of public policy for the Utah Farm Bureau.
The USU study is already generating considerable discussion as different groups line up to take their shots at the USU researchers. C. Booth Wallentine, chief executive officer for the Utah Farm Bureau, growls that he "simply does not agree" with the report's finding that Utah could support 200 wolves. "We believe it is faulty, and so does the U.S. Department of Agriculture," he said.
Don Peay, director of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, disagrees with the premise wolves do not adversely impact deer and elk herds. He has seen how elk hunting in the Yellowstone area is in full decline since wolves returned, and some outfitters there say they can no longer in good conscience bring hunters to the area.
USU professor Robert Schmidt, who headed the wolf project (it was not funded by any outside government or special interest group), said critics are welcome to take shots at the research. "We just put the ideas out on the table, and hopefully it will stimulate discussion," he said.
And that's more than anyone else has done in the Utah wolf debate.
McLaughlin said the Yellowstone wolves are not waiting around for Utahns to resolve their differences over how wolves are managed. And sooner or later there will be a breeding pack roaming the state, he said, characterizing the Utah wolves of 2002 as the "first wave of colonization."
Federal authorities say future wolves who wander into the state are welcome to stay, and they are fully protected by the tough mandates of the Endangered Species Act while here. And there will be no more attempts to trap and return wolves to home ranges in the Yellowstone area.
Defenders of Wildlife says there is some question whether it was even legal under the Endangered Species Act for the gray wolf trapped in Utah earlier this month to be returned to Wyoming. "That's a $64,000 question right now," Fascione said.
Defenders is not planning legal action, but Fascione says the entire incident illustrates the need to have a management plan in place to deal with those situations when they come up. "It's very clear the wolves are not going to stay in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming," she said.
And on that point, all sides agree. But there is little other common ground, something that threatens to turn the debate away from biology. And if politics rules the day, common sense may be the first casualty, Bangs said.
"The time to start talking is before emotions are running high," he said. "Before the symbolism and the rhetoric gets people all riled up."
Wolf Killings Seen as Last Resort
Leslie Linthicum, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, 7 December 2002
A wolf hunter with orders to kill was on the ground in eastern Arizona on Friday looking for two Mexican gray wolves believed responsible for killing five calves and a horse in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
Brian Kelly, manager of the federal program to reintroduce the endangered lobos in the mountains of southern New Mexico and Arizona, said he approved killing the two wolves after forensic evidence and a rancher's firsthand account implicated the wolves in a number of livestock attacks on the 4 Drag Ranch.
Environmental groups have protested the kill order and have asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton to intervene and spare the wolves.
Norton has not responded to the plea.
Kelly said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs the wolf recovery program, has tried for months to find a nonlethal solution to predator problems on the 4 Drag Ranch.
Ranch owners Gary and Darcy Ely, who raise Hereford cattle on roughly 8,000 acres of rugged public land along Eagle Creek in the national forest, first brought their complaints about wolves to Kelly's attention at a meeting in Arizona in May 2001.
"I was presented with a bunch of wolf poop," Kelly said. The scat contained cow hair and had been collected on the 4 Drag Ranch.
The Elys have lost a number of branded calves to predators and they blamed reintroduced Mexican gray wolves, along with mountain lions and bears, for the deaths.
The wolf recovery team set traps on the ranch and caught one male wolf, which they fitted with a radio collar and released to another part of the forest. Gary Ely then saw an uncollared wolf attacking two calves, which later died, Kelly said. Over the next months, the Elys found the carcasses of two more calves that necropsies concluded were killed by wolves. A horse was also determined to have been killed by a wolf and one of the Ely's cow dogs was attacked by a wolf, Kelly said.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a fifth calf was killed, and program managers said they suspect that it was killed by the wolves.
"We feel strongly these are the culprits," Kelly said. And under the reintroduction agreement, if wolves are proven responsible for chronic killing, they can be killed.
Ordering them killed was an unprecedented action under the reintroduction program and was a last resort, Kelly said.
Kelly said program managers tried unsuccessfully in July and August to trap the two uncollared wolves that had been seen in the area. They hired a helicopter to scan the area on Nov. 24 and 25 and to try aerial trapping, but the wolves were not found.
"I don't relish killing anything," Kelly said. "I'm not comfortable. I'm stuck in the middle."
Fish and Wildlife asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division to kill the wolves. Government hunters the same people who kill coyotes and mountain lions that are killing livestock went to the ranch on Nov. 26 and 27 but had to leave because of a snowstorm. They returned Nov. 30 and have been there since, Kelly said.
They will try to attract the wolves, then shoot them with a rifle, Kelly said. They are using a "predator call" a call that sounds like an injured rabbit and fresh meat bait, Kelly said.
If the wolves cannot be found and killed and the livestock killings stop, Kelly said he would consider the problem solved and the wolves would be allowed to move on to another part of the vast forest, assuming they did not kill livestock elsewhere.
"I'm not convinced of 'once a bad wolf always a bad wolf,' " Kelly said.
If they were to move across the fence into the San Carlos Apache reservation, they would continue to be hunted, Kelly said, because the tribe has requested that all wolves be removed from their lands.
The kill order has set off a new round of emotion in the highly charged debate over the role wild wolves should play in the American West.
Michael J. Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Silver City, one of the organizations that petitioned Norton, said Friday that cattle ranchers who run their businesses on rugged land thick with predators should be required to take precautions against attacks or move off the land.
"Should that business be given priority over Mexican gray wolves?" Robinson said. "We can't expect wolves not to be wolves."
Laura Schneberger, a cattle rancher in the Gila National Forest, said the wolves' deaths should be balanced against "a life of misery" that the wolf reintroduction program has imposed on ranchers.
"That does not seem to be a bad deal for the wolves to me," she said.
Wolves of the Rainforest
Denning beneath ancient cedars, swimming ocean channels, fishing for salmon, these genetically distinct timber wolves roam a 70,000-square-kilometre coastal wilderness
Cameron Young, Beautiful British Columbia Magazine, 44/4, December 2002
Hooves as small as acorns lie buried amid tufts of deer hair and splinters of white bone. They form the centrepeice of a pie-shaped wolf scat that sits on a bed of brown moss. A few steps ahead, the moss gives way to a squishy black bog where the paw print of a coastal wolf is splayed out as large as a human hand. Bubbles oozing from the edges of the imprint are a clue to its freshness.
"Clearly, our wolf has just passed through here," says researcher Chris Darimont. "It must be lurking nearby." He glances around the rainforest, an obscure maze of standing trees and windfalls. Hemlock seedlings and salmonberry bushes sprout from rotting logs, and dwarf dogwood covers the forest floor in a carpet of creamy poka dots. Sunlight filters through the canopy like spotlights on a stage, an arboreal theatre of highlights and shadows.
Four of us have made an hour's run by speedboat from Bella Bella, a native community on Campbell Island, 500 kilometres up British Columbia's inside passage from Vancouver. This is the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, a labyrinth of islands and meandering coastline that extends from Knight Inlet, across from Vancouver Island's northern tip, to the Alaska panhandle. Amid this 70,000-square-kilometre coastal wilderness are more than 80 intact watersheds: ancient forests line the narrow river valleys, which double as wildlife highways; the waters teem with salmon.
We hover over the wolf scat like campers around a fire, and sense the wolf's watchful eyes upon us as the howling begins, low and soft, rising and falling as it resonates through the woods. We hold our breath and listen.
''Let's get our work done and get out of here,'' says Darimont. ''We have disturbed the wolf too much as it is.'' A graduate student from the University of Victoria, Darimont is leading fieldwork that he hopes will help preserve B.C.'s coastal grey or timber wolf and its habitat. His work on the Rainforest Wolf Project is funded largely by the Raincoast Conservation Society, one of a coalition of environmental groups fighting to save the Great Bear Rainforest. While the long-term fate of this area is far from being determined, much of the region is under a logging moratorium until the summer of 2003.
Darimont fears that logging old-growth forests here would diminish the foraging grounds for black-tailed deer, the coastal wolf's prime prey. ''Fewer deer means fewer wolves,'' he observes. ''It's really that simple. We should be conserving biological diversity, not reducing it.''
The Great Bear Rainforest may be one of the best remaining wolf habitats on Earth. Unlike other parts of North America where wolves have been exterminated, B.C.'s coastal wilderness is an island-like refugium. Wolves likely have evolved here uninterrupted for at least 8,000 years, adapting in unique ways: they are slightly smaller than Interior wolves, and while they rely on deer, they are also known to eat salmon, shellfish, and marine-mammal carcasses that wash ashore. And like the black-tailed deer, coastal wolves island-hop, swimming wide channels, often through strong tides and ocean surf.
The demise of wolves in most places in North America, especially the lower 48 states, has caused permanent loss of genetic diversity, Darimont explains. ''The largely undisturbed wolves of the Great Bear Rainforest are truly vestiges from the past, a globally significant population.''
Skull measurements suggest these wolves of B.C.'s mainland coast, together with those of Vancouver Island and coastal Alaska, are isolated members of the subspecies Canis lupus nubilis, which includes populations from central Canada and Minnesota. However, research collected by Darimont and other collaborators shows that B.C.'s coastal wolf may differ genetically from any other wolves.
Official subspecies or not, the coastal wolf is its own distinct entity. Its smaller, slimmer stature can make it look like a dog, but it is no wolf-dog hybrid, as some people contend. Its coat often has a reddish tinge, like the colour of fucus, a seaweed that grows on intertidal rocks. ''Their reddish tawny shading is a perfect camouflage,'' Darimont observes. ''You're certain you're looking at rocks on the beach, then suddenly they jump up and trot away.''
Darimont pokes through the wolf dung with a Popsicle stick, bagging a sample to be analyzed for diet, While early results confirm that the rainforest wolves subsist mainly on deer, a surprising 8 percent of the wolf's diet is black bear.
''Two wolves can easily take down a black bear,'' says Darimont, ''especially on a beach where the bear has no tree to climb. And, of course, bear cubs are very vulnerable.'' He pauses. ''Wolves eat high on the food web. That's what makes them a keystone species for the ecosystem. If you can protect for the wolf, chances are you are protecting the entire system.''
He prods the dung again and puts a second sample into a vial of ethanol for later DNA testing. Darimont's team has travelled widely, sampling coastal wolf DNA throughout the Great Bear Rainforest and beyond. This wolf's genetic profile, along with thousands of other samples Darimont will collect this year, will be entered into a North American wolf database comprised of DNA samples from across the continent.
''We are primarily trying to count the animals in the landscape. That means identifying individual DNA fingerprints, which opens up a window into their lives.'' He hopes to identify most of the wolves within his  2,500-square-kilometre study area, and to determine where they travel and what they eat.
While Darimont probes the scat, Gudrun Pflueger, an Austrian biologist, pinpoints the location by waving a satellite-linked global positioning device over the deposit. This is the dawn of a new era of wildlife research. No trapping, no sedating, no bejewelling the wolf's neck with radio-collar hardware. Instead, researchers walk in the footsteps of wolves, quietly collecting scat samples and all the secrets they hold.
''In Europe there is an evolving fascination with wolves, which are considered an exotic species,'' says Pflueger. ''They are discussing reintroducing them in regions where they might have a chance to survive. Here in B.C., it's the mirror opposite: people are struggling to maintain wolves in their wild environment.''
Taking notes about the age and location of the scat pile is its finder, Gordon Gladstone, a Heiltsuk native who is studying to be a teacher. The wolf has long been a fixture in the cultural and physical environment of the Heiltsuk. Before Darimont began his research, he appeared before the Hemas, the body of Heiltsuk hereditary chiefs who play a major role in Bella Bella affairs, to seek permission to work in their territory. Today, local Heiltsuk people are involved in every aspect of the Rainforest Wolf Project.
''The Heiltsuk are working on their own land-management plan for their traditional territory,'' says Darimont. ''I believe our research can provide them with important ecological information to use in developing that plan.''
It has been raining almost non-stop for two weeks and it's a wet boat ride back to Bella Bella. In the distance, we see what looks like two logs floating on the channel, their twisted branches extending out of the water. Then we realize we are watching two swimming deer, their antlered heads held perfectly stiff, the rest of their bodies submerged.
Half-heartedly we look to see if a wolf is swimming after them, but a deer can outswim a wolf. Indeed, deer will take to the water to avoid wolf attacks. What we can't figure, however, is how either animal can endure even a minute in the bone-chilling water, let alone survive a 10-kilometre swim.
We anchor off Yeo Island and scan a stretch of beach. There's at least one wolf den back there in the bush, and wolves are often spotted patrolling the shoreline for wayward deer.
A rainforest wolf den typically consists of small tunnels excavated under the roots of a big cedar tree. The location is critical: not far from fresh water, and close to an estuary where deer and other prey roam. At other times of year, wolves travel widely, maybe 50 kilometres a day, but this is June, and the pups are just finding their legs. So the pack of a dozen animals stays close to home. Darimont does not go near the den for fear of spooking the wolves, forcing them to relocate. Left undisturbed, a pack may use the same den year after year.
Later in summer the pups will be stronger, but still unable to keep up with the adults. That's when the pack establishes rendezvous sites where pups are left with babysitters while other adults hunt.
''Last September I was observing a rendezvous site from what I figured was a safe distance,'' Darimont recalls. ''The pups were maybe four and half months old, and they seemed to be playing hide-and-seek. All you could see were their little butts poking up from behind a log.''
Then Darimont was spotted by the pack's alpha, or dominant, female. She ran straight at him, stopping about 50 metres away. She walked slowly, sniffing, urinating and defecating with ears forward, tail up, mane erect. He looked her in the eye and spoke softly until the wolf returned to her pups. Darimont was elated to be so close to a wolf, though wary. ''She could tear me apart if she wanted to. But clearly this was never her intention.''
Darimont spends 16-hour days leading his research team into the womb of the rainforest. They slosh along countless creeks and estuaries, searching out wolf trails and fresh scat. On sailing excursions along the coast, researchers swarm beach after beach in their quest for samples. At this stage, he can only guess how many wolves are out there -- perhaps several hundred dispersed ''everywhere from the innermost fiords nestled in the Coast Mountains to the outermost windswept islands.''
Our quiet wolf watch is interrupted suddenly by the clanking sounds of heavy machinery, and then the unmistakable, shattering blast of dynamite. A new logging road is being pushed across Yeo Island, and Darimont believes it will pass precariously close to the wolf den. The den is located near an ancient Heiltsuk house site, adding cultural heritage to the environmental values here.
The animals have gone into hiding, so we head back in the gathering gloom to Bella Bella, home of lan and Karen McAllister, co-founders of the Raincoast Conservation Society. Until the McAllisters began drawing public attention to the Great Bear Rainforest, little was known about the wolves here. The focus had been on grizzly bears and the white Kermode, or ''spirit bear.''
''Whenever we went looking for bears we kept running into wolves,'' notes lan. ''It became clear there was a great gap in our knowledge of the coastal ecosystem, of the lowelevation forest archipelago. I have often said this region may have the highest concentration of wolves anywhere in the world. Now I hope Darimont can prove me right.''
This sentiment is echoed by Dr. Paul Paquet, a carnivore expert from Saskatchewan known for his wolf work in the Rocky Mountains. He is co-ordinator of the Rainforest Wolf Project. ''This environment is so unique, and so under studied, most of the coastal region from Vancouver Island north to Alaska should be under some form of protection. This is one of the few places in the world where wolves have the opportunity to live in the fashion they have for thousands of years, with almost no disturbance by humans.''
When spawning salmon return to the Great Bear Rainforest in autumn, Darimont comes back to enjoy a scientific breakthrough. Although there have been anecdotal accounts of wolves fishing for live Pacific salmon, Darimont's documentation of such an event may be the first. Over a three-week period he watches two adult wolves and two pups stand knee-deep in a tidal stream, plunging their heads underwater and biting hard on the backs of pink or chum salmon. They carry the fish ashore or sometimes deeper into the woods.
''It slowly dawned on me: I was observing an evolutionary pattern that is maybe 10,000 years old, connecting the rainforest with salmon and wolves. We know that grizzlies and black bears transfer salmon into the forest, enriching the entire rainforest ecosystem. And now we know for certain, for the first time, that wolves do that as well. It's so cool.''
From Wolf to Dog, Yes, But When?
Nicholas Wade, New York Times, 22 November 2002
Few relationships are so laden with mutual benefit as that between man and dog. Much of the credit for this unusual state of affairs, it now turns out, may lie on the canine side of the equation.
Three studies in today's issue of Science shed light on the questions of when, where and how dogs were first domesticated from wolves. One suggests that a few wolves, perhaps from the same population somewhere in east Asia, are the mothers of almost all dogs alive today.
Despite some researchers' belief that dogs were domesticated independently in the Old World and in the New, domestication may have happened only once, probably around 15,000 years ago. Dogs seem quickly to have become highly prized and were brought along by the settlers who reached North America via the land bridge across the Bering Strait until the last ice age. This is the conclusion of a second study, based on DNA retrieved from ancient dog bones from Mexico, Bolivia and Peru, which found that all the pre-Columbian dogs belonged to Eurasian dog lineages.
A third study probes the psychology of dogs, showing that although chimpanzees may have brain power of far greater wattage, there is one task at which dogs excel, that of picking up cues from human behavior. This interpretive skill was perhaps the ability for which they were selected.
The origin of dogs, as judged by their mitochondrial DNA sequences, was first addressed five years ago by Dr. Robert K. Wayne and colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Wayne showed that dogs were indeed derived from wolves, as long suspected, but he set their date of origin as a separate population at 135,000 years ago.
Archaeologists found the date implausible because the earliest known dog bones date to only 14,000 years ago. Dr. Peter Savolainen, a former colleague of Dr. Wayne now at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, has now proposed a date that is more palatable to archaeologists. On the basis of DNA from several wolf populations and from the hairs collected off 654 dogs around the world, Dr. Savolainen calculates a date for domestication either 40,000 years ago, if all dogs come from a single wolf, or around 15,000 years ago, the date he prefers, if three animals drawn from the same population were the wolf Eves of the dog lineage.
Dr. Savolainen believes that dogs originated from wolves somewhere in East Asia, because there is greater genetic diversity, often a sign of greater antiquity, in Asian dogs than in European dogs.
Separately, Dr. Wayne and another colleague, Dr. Jennifer Leonard, analyzed the DNA of New World dogs, expecting to find that they had been domesticated by American Indians from local wolves. To exclude dogs brought from Europe, Dr. Leonard gathered pre-Columbian dog bones from archaeological sites and extracted their DNA. The samples matched that of Eurasian dogs, not American wolves, showing that dogs, of at least five lineages, must have been brought from the Old World to the New by pre-Columbian settlers.
These pre-Columbian dog lineages have disappeared. Even New World breeds of dog like the Eskimo dog, the Mexican hairless and the Chesapeake Bay retriever, derive from dogs brought from Europe. It is not clear why the pre-Columbian dogs were lost, but possibly American Indians preferred the European dogs for some reason and prevented their own dogs from breeding with them.
The dates yielded by dog DNA suggest that wolves were domesticated by hunter-gatherers, before the invention of agriculture and permanent human settlements. But domestication is an arduous process, in which animals must be selected for a particular trait through many generations, by several generations of people. It is hard to see how hunter-gatherers could have foreseen the payoff from domesticating wolves, or would have known what traits to select for.
Two experiments bear on this puzzling issue. One was started by Dmitry K. Belyaev, a biologist at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia. He spent 26 years domesticating the silver fox, using tameability as the sole criteria of selection. Dr. Lyudmila Trut, who continued Dr. Belyaev's work after his death, reported recently that after selecting from 45,000 foxes over 40 years the institute now had 100 fully tame foxes. Tameability has brought with it other changes, like floppy ears and white-tipped tails where pigment has been lost from the fur.
Another experiment, reported in today's Science by Dr. Brian Hare of Harvard and colleagues, shows that dogs have a special ability to pick up human cues. Chimpanzees will notice where a person is looking but do not take the hint that the box being looked at is the one holding the hidden food. Dogs get the picture immediately, Dr. Hare reports.
Wolves, though very smart, are much less adept than dogs at following human cues, suggesting that dogs may have been selected for this ability.
So were dogs' ancestors selected for tameability or trainability? Dr. Ray Coppinger, a dog behavior expert at Hampshire College, believes that neither is the case. Wolves domesticated themselves, Dr. Coppinger argues in a recent book, "Dogs," written with his wife, Lorna Coppinger. Wolves, which are scavengers as well as hunters, would have hung around the campsite for scraps, and those that learned to be less afraid of people survived and flourished, in his view.
"It was natural selection -- the dogs did it, not people," Dr. Coppinger said. "The trouble with the theory that people domesticated dogs is that it requires thousands of dogs, just as Belyaev used thousands of foxes."
From the half-tamed, camp-following wolves, he believes, people may then have adopted some cubs into the household and found that they could be trained.
Hunter-gatherer peoples often bring back baby wild animals and keep them as pets until they become unmanageable. Dr. James Serpell, an expert on dog behavior at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that this is a more likely explanation of dog domestication than that people adopted scavengers. The particular population of East Asian wolves identified by Dr. Savolainen's genetic studies, Dr. Serpell suggests, might have had some special feature that made them easier to train.
Once dogs had been domesticated, they would have been of great value to hunter-gatherer societies, though it is hard to know what specific quality the domesticators sought.
"They could have been useful as guard dogs, for hunting, as an emergency food supply, as bed warmers," Dr. Leonard said.
When two species live together for a long time, each usually influences the genetically conferred qualities of the other. People may have selected preferred abilities in the dog, but dogs too may have fostered their favorite qualities in people -- not of course deliberately but simply by giving people who used dogs a better chance of surviving than people who did not.
"This is a symbiotic relationship with substantial time depth," said Dr. Richard Klein, a Stanford University archaeologist. "You could imagine dogs would be useful for giving warning signals, or tracking other animals, so you can see how both sides would benefit."
If people and dogs have been living together for a long time, "there would have been some co-evolution of traits that made them function together better," Dr. Serpell said. Dogs' ability to pick up on human cues, as shown by Dr. Hare's study, is an example.
Dr. Hare hopes to visit Novosibirsk and test Dr. Belyaev's tame silver foxes. If the foxes do just as well as dogs in interpreting human behavior, that will suggest that selecting for tameability alone brings about trainability as well, perhaps because calmer dogs are better learners. If the foxes flunk the test, however, that would indicate that trainability must be selected for separately, Dr. Hare said.
Dogs were probably the first animal to be domesticated and seem to have assumed considerable importance in early human societies. Dr. Darcy Morey, a University of Kansas archaeologist who has studied dog burials all over the world, speaks of the "incredible compatibility of wolves and men." The finding that pre-Columbian settlers brought their dogs with them from the Old World is an indication of the animals' value to them.
Wolf Recovery Has Farmers Howling
Dan Egan, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 16 November 2002
GRANTSBURG, Wis. - It starts after sunset with howls echoing from the black woods at the edge of the pasture.
Then the cows begin to moan.
It is the return of the endangered timber wolf. And for the Fornengo family, there is nothing remotely romantic about it.
These beef cattle ranchers in northwestern Wisconsin say nighttime wolf raids cost them 92 calves last year alone, and they expect similar losses when the cattle are finally tallied for this year.
They say they are being driven out of business _ and practically out of their minds _ by a wildlife recovery program run amok. When they think of wolves, they see red.
Blood red.
They've found calves with their hindquarters shredded, still alive and trying to suckle. They have stumbled upon a pregnant cow ripped open and her fetus torn out. They have seen calves with crushed throats _ dead without losing a drop of blood. Killed, they believe, simply for the thrill.
"You see pictures of (wolves) looking all pretty in the winter, but you don't see pictures of what they do," says Cortney Fornengo, 19. She says wolf numbers have increased so much in the past two years that she no longer will walk alone in the woods around their ranch. "There is a reason the farmers made (wolves) extinct before, and this is probably the reason," she says.
Reviled for their uncanny ability to make life hell for farmers, wolves were shot, trapped, poisoned and eventually eradicated in Wisconsin by the late 1950s. Now, three decades of federal and state efforts to restore the species to the state are starting to pay off in a big way.
Just over a decade ago, the state was home to less than a few dozen of the deer-loving carnivores that had roamed over from Minnesota's northern timberlands. Today, packs are breeding here with abandon, and their numbers easily top 300.
"I don't know if we ever thought we would be at this point. We figured 100 or 150 wolves may be as many as the state could hold," says Adrian Wydeven of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
In Wisconsin's North Woods, the wolves have reclaimed their spot as the top carnivore, but the federal government has yet to formally acknowledge that success.
The wolf in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula is still listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and that means each animal, no matter how problematic for a farmer, is still protected and cared for as if it were worthy of a berth on Noah's ark.
Most wolves live off deer, though some develop a taste for livestock. So as wolf numbers climb, so do problems for some farmers. Last year alone, Wydeven says 17 hunting dogs were also killed by wolves.
Now even the staunchest wolf advocates agree it is time to reclassify the animals as "threatened," which would allow government workers to kill problem animals. Minnesota wolves have been classified as threatened since 1978.
The federal government first proposed the switch for Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula more than two years ago, but the papers have yet to be signed _ thanks, basically, to a tangle of red tape in Washington, D.C. One of the problems is that Wisconsin's reclassification is lumped in with a proposal to change protection levels for wolves in the West. That is a highly emotional and political issue, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is proceeding cautiously.
Still, the reclassification should come before year's end, and most expect the species could be listed as officially recovered within a couple of years. That could open the door to limited wolf hunts.
Meanwhile, trapping and relocating problem animals are the only options to help people such as Cortney Fornengo's father, Tony. He says the process is too slow, and there is no guarantee problem wolves won't return in a couple of days.
When it comes to wolves, Tony Fornengo can be an emotional and sometimes foul-mouthed fellow. Some wildlife workers just shake their heads when his name comes up. But people do agree he has a problem that could be fixed with the stroke of a pen.
"I'm frustrated by the slow pace of the (reclassification) process probably just as much as the folks out there with wolves in their pastures," says Ron Refsnider, regional endangered species listing coordinator for U.S. Fish & Wildlife in Minnesota.
Probably not.
As Fornengo pilots his big black Dodge turbo diesel pickup truck across one of the muddy pastures on the family ranch that stretches over more than 2,000 acres and straddles the Wisconsin-Minnesota border north of Grantsburg, he looks past his herd and off into the woods. He knows there are yellow eyes staring back.
He believes government wildlife officials secretly and illegally reintroduced the animals to Wisconsin, something DNR officials say is nonsense. "It's a (expletive) nightmare around here," he says. "Start shooting the bastards, or let us kill them."
He hears howls at night and gets so mad he can't fall back asleep.
He says he is about to adopt a wolf-management policy he says some others in the area already embrace. It's called shoot, shovel and shut up. "It's gotten to the point where I'll take care of it myself," he says.
Warns Refsnider: "There is a risk. A very big risk."
The maximum federal fine for killing an endangered wolf is up to $100,000 and six months in jail.
Wildlife officials acknowledge illegal killings are on the rise. In a recent 12-month period, 15 wolves were found killed in Wisconsin. This fall, four turned up shot in the Upper Peninsula.
"In the past, we'd probably have one or two shot per year," Wydeven says.
Fornengo insists he is left with little choice but to take the endangered species law into his own hands.
The bleeding, he says, has spilled out of his pastures and into his ledgers, and he is not sure how long he can keep operating the ranch his father purchased in 1953. He says the wolves claimed $50,000 worth of livestock last year alone.
State policy provides for Fornengo and other farmers to be reimbursed for livestock lost to wolves, but state wildlife managers question Fornengo's numbers. Only nine of his losses last year could be confirmed. Fornengo says wolves are such voracious eaters that they often leave no trace of their kill on his expansive ranch lands, which are home to more than 1,200 head of cattle. State biologists remain dubious, but they did agree to pay for about one-third of the family's reported losses last year.
Fornengo sent back the check, hired a lawyer and has vowed to sue.
"I'm just trying to make an honest living," he says.
Before he will talk about the issue, Fornengo wants to know one thing: "Are you for the wolf, or against the wolf?"
He divides people into these two camps. His side is by far the underdog.
The wolf enjoys overwhelming support across America. Maybe it's because the creatures have been gone for so long they no longer seem so big and bad. Maybe it is because people today have a greater appreciation for all aspects of the environment, even the messy business that goes on at the top of the food chain.
Maybe it's because the closest most people ever get to one of the beasts is a glossy magazine photo.
Sitting on a bar stool in the North Woods city of Spooner, Wis., well driller Chris Lindstrom says it is simply a matter of respecting Mother Nature.
"We have coyotes. We have fox. We have fishers. We have a lot of predators in this area," he says. "It's nice to have the wolf around. You've got to have balance."
Not everyone is so tolerant. Gilman's Lawrence Krak has fought wolf recovery for years. He doesn't believe the species ever was endangered, given its numbers in Minnesota and Canada. He considers the recovery a make-work project for federal biologists. As for the wolves themselves, he says, "We got along just fine without them."
For others, the animals have become, quite literally and simply, a matter of fact.
Asked what she thinks about the creatures, Radisson, Wis., gas station attendant Amy Rynda replies, "They're around. That's all."
It is a testament to a wolf recovery program that has been, by most accounts, a wild success.
The wolf was among the first protected following passage of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, and not long after that, they began to roam over from northern Minnesota and slowly began to recolonize Wisconsin forests.
Today biologists count 323 animals inside state borders, and the actual figure likely is higher. The Upper Peninsula has a similar number.
The key to the recovery?
"Just quit shooting them for a while, and let them do their thing," says Martin Smith, a biologist for the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.
Perhaps their natural return is the reason so many people in the northern Midwest have been so willing to make room for them.
It was a different story out West.
In 1995, the federal government embarked on a controversial program to capture Canadian wolves and drop them in the wilds of central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park.
Network television news loved the story, but many Westerners saw the reintroduction more as a chance for the federal government to flex its muscles than as an attempt to save a species.
It didn't take long before some of the animals started turning up dead with bullet holes in them.
Now, almost eight years later, populations in both Yellowstone and Idaho continue to grow. While rules do allow problem wolves to be killed, hard feelings about the transplant linger.
Stanley, Idaho, hunting guide and outfitter Ron Gillett opposed the reintroduction but says he decided to give the wolves a chance when they first arrived. Their population in Idaho has since blossomed from a handful to hundreds, and he says it is ruining ranching and killing the elk hunt upon which his business depends.
He has sympathy for people such as Fornengo who are trying to cope with a creature Gillett refers to as a "land piranha."
"If I ever go to jail, it will be because of wolves."
Wildlife officials like to say that understanding the science behind an environmental problem and finding a solution to it are the simple parts. Problems occur when that science collides with human interests.
That's when the fur flies. That's where the wolves could be headed as their numbers climb.
"We've built up a store of goodwill in this state toward the wolf," says Eau Claire, Wis., wolf advocate Jim Olson, a retired college professor. "That is gradually eroding as we get more and more depredation kinds of issues."
Wisconsin state wildlife managers are scrambling now to keep a handle on the burgeoning species. With federal rules prohibiting killing wolves in all but the most extreme cases, such as when a human life is threatened, biologists are playing an elaborate game of musical chairs. Dozens of animals this year have been trapped and transferred around the state.
Recently, an entire pack was shipped to the Menominee Indian reservation, about 40 miles northwest of Green Bay.
"We're running out of places to relocate problem wolves, and we're starting to run the risk that relocated wolves could cause new problems in other locations," says the DNR's Wydeven.
Just last week, one of the wolves that plagued the Fornengo farm was relocated to central northern Wisconsin.
The DNR planned the release for late afternoon to lessen chances that someone would stumble upon the creature while it was in a drug-induced stupor.
The biologists were worried it might get shot.
Their worries were not unfounded. Their dream of restoring the wolf to the North Woods has been realized, but the fear exists that a public relations nightmare could be in store for the animal if the government doesn't move to strip its endangered status.
Some wildlife managers may not like Fornengo's feisty attitude, but they know he has a legitimate problem.
"It's way beyond time" to begin killing problem wolves in Wisconsin, says David Mech, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and perhaps the world's foremost authority on North America's wolves.
"I worry," says Mech, who has worked to recover the wolf for more than three decades. "If we don't handle it right, and if the government doesn't respond to people's needs by delisting the wolf and by letting appropriate management tools be used, then there will be an increasing backlash."
Big, Bad Wolves May Be In Utah
Jerry Spangler, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), 13 November 2002
The wolves are here! The wolves are here!
Well, not officially, but some wildlife officials are convinced a wolf visited northern Utah twice this year, stopping long enough to dine on some sheep.
"It could still be bouncing around," said Montana-based Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Given the behavior of the animal that killed the sheep, I am confident it is a wild wolf from Yellowstone."
The prospect of wolves roaming Utah mountains and feasting on livestock has raised concerns among Utah ranchers, and now one Utah lawmaker is preparing legislation for the 2003 Legislature -- only two months away -- that would require the federal government to trap and remove any wolves that stray into the state.
"I don't want wolves exterminated," said Rep. Michael Styler, R-Delta, who becomes the House assistant majority whip next year. "I just don't want them in Utah."
The problem with any legislation dealing with wolves is that wolves fall within the domain of federal law, and there's not much the state can do to force the federal government to manage wolves one way or the other. And any wolf that wanders into Utah brings with it the full protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Henry Maddux, Utah field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said any wolves in Utah would be managed under federal recovery plans already in place in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
And the wolf management approach is simple: If the wolves feed on wildlife, they are protected; if they feed on sheep and cattle, they will be killed.
Federal and state wildlife officials are waiting and watching for the wolves' arrival in Utah. "It's only a matter of time," Maddux said, adding he wants better proof than what he's seen so far.
Whether the critter spotted in the Cache Valley earlier this year was a wolf remains a matter of debate within the wildlife management community. Maddux said it is certainly possible that a young male, pushed out of a Wyoming pack, roamed into Utah before returning to its home range.
But it is also possible the animal was a wolf-dog hybrid that was abandoned by its owner. Such hybrids are common in the Cache Valley, federal wildlife officials said, and when they become too aggressive to be pets they are sometimes turned loose into the wild. They usually die within a few months.
Bangs, who believes it was a wolf, says it should not be surprising that a lone wolf here and there would make it to Utah. The nearest Yellowstone pack is only 130 miles away, and that distance is but a hop, skip and a jump for a wolf. One wolf from a northern Michigan pack was recently killed hundreds of miles to the south in Missouri.
Utah is certainly within the range of Wyoming and Idaho wolves, particularly for the young males that are pushed out of their packs to find homes of their own. But for Utah to become home to a pack of wolves, "it could still be a decade or so," he said.
The Cache Valley wolf, he adds, "was not the first soldier in an impending wave."
The federal government has no plans to reintroduce wolves into Utah, even though some wildlife groups have advocated their reintroduction into remote places like the High Uintas.
Styler wants to send a message that wolves are not welcome anywhere in Utah.
Utah, unlike Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, simply doesn't have the populations of elk to support packs of wolves, he said. And with 80 percent of the wolf diet coming from elk, the shortage of elk would result in wolves feeding on livestock.
"They would move quickly from elk to livestock," he said. "The food base is just not there."
Styler admits the state probably cannot tell the federal government what it must do. But the state can have a law that "requests" the federal government "to come pick them up and move them back to where they came from."
Bangs, a native Utahn, said the wolf recovery program has been a phenomenal success -- at least 30 breeding pairs during each of the last three years, and about 700 wolves total in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
As of Dec. 31, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reduce the status of the wolf in those three states from "endangered" to "threatened," a status that gives state wildlife managers greater leeway in how to manage the animals.
Any wolf coming to Utah would still be protected by the Endangered Species Act, and any legislation the state might enact "is purely symbolic," Bangs said.
Other states and communities, he said, have passed laws declaring wolves to be "unacceptable species," or designating them predators that can be killed anytime and by any means possible. "The reality is that federal law will fully protect those wolves," Bangs said.
Bangs praised Utah wildlife officials who are already developing a wolf management plan for that inevitable day when wolves re-establish themselves in the state.
"The time to talk about wolves is now," he said, "not when we have a pack of wolves and a dead calf, and then we have ranchers on one extreme and wolf lovers on the other, and everything is very emotional and very irrational."
"When that happens, nobody stays with the facts."
Canadian Wolves Living Near U.S. Border
Wilson Ring, Associated Press, 11 November 2002
A small pack of wolves might be living in the Quebec wilderness within about 20 miles of the U.S. border on the south side of the St. Lawrence River, experts say.
If it's proven true, it's almost certain the wolves or their offspring will find their way to the forests of northern New England, experts say.
"It's pretty close" to the U.S. border, said Mario Villemure, a graduate student at the University of Sherbrooke, who has studied the animal caught by a trapper last winter. "A wolf pack can have so large a territory they can, just in their daily activities, go in (to) Maine and then come back." The natural return of wolves to the region would end a bitter debate about whether wolves should be reintroduced to the Northeastern United States.
"We hear that natural recovery is OK," said Peggy Struhsacker, a wolf specialist for the National Wildlife Federation office in Montpelier, which is advocating to bring back wolves. "It's the reintroduction nobody wants."
Struhsacker and her organization are asking hunters across northern New England this fall to watch for wolf tracks to see if any have already arrived. And the group is distributing a brochure that points out the differences between wolves and coyotes.
DNA tests on an 85-pound carcass caught last winter by a trapper near the Quebec town of Lingwick have not been completed so it has not been conclusively proven if the animal was a wolf or just a large coyote, said Villemure.
But Struhsacker said photographs of the carcass showed it was a wolf.
"I've shown the picture to many wolf biologists across the county," Struhsacker said. "They say 'nice wolf."'
The trapper estimated there were at least three additional wolves living in the area, Villemure said. Struhsacker said the trapper found evidence the wolves had bred, but it's not certain if they had produced a litter of wolf pups.
Struhsacker and others from her organization are planning to head to Quebec this winter to look for evidence that could prove there is a wolf pack in the area.
Wally Jakubus, a wolf specialist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said he'd seen the photo of the animal trapped in Quebec.
"It could be just large coyotes. If these large canids happen to be wolves, then the chance is they have established a pack and may be breeding," Jakubus said. "We are a long way from saying that yet."
His office occasionally gets credible sightings of animals that could be wolves and DNA tests confirmed that a black wolf was shot and killed near Bangor 1993, although it's remains unclear where the wolf came from.
"If you were to expect wolves, that's where I'd expect them," Jakubus said of the area of northern Maine and adjacent parts of Quebec. "There's a good food source, it's fairly remote, people wouldn't be bugging them."
European settlers worked for centuries to eliminate wolves from the Northeastern United States. They succeeded about a century ago when the last wolves were killed by hunters.
In recent years there has been a push to restore wolves across the United States. In the mid-1990s wolves were restored to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and they are doing well.
Some biologists say wolves, which live and hunt in packs, are needed to restore the ecological balance to the region. Coyotes have moved in to fill the niche once occupied by wolves, but they are not thought to prey on moose the way wolves do.
A 1998 study estimated Maine and New Hampshire could support almost 500 wolves. But there is little popular support for reintroducing wolves.
Gray wolves are known to live in Quebec, on the north side of the St. Lawrence River. But the river has always been thought to be the most significant barrier that kept the animals from migrating south.
But the 1998 paper by University of Maine scientist Dan Harrison said there were two areas near Quebec City where it would be possible, although unlikely, for wolves to cross the St. Lawrence either on the ice in the winter or by swimming.
Struhsacker said wolves have been known to swim long distances and the St. Lawrence has a narrow stretch just west of Quebec City. Coupled with a mild winter last year and reduced hunting pressure on the wolves in Canada could mean that wolves are roaming further looking for territory in which to live.
"It's a low probability they are going to make it, but I wouldn't say it's impossible," said Jakubus.