Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2004
Page 1
Politics Hamper Wolf Recovery
Michelle Dunlop, The Times-News, 27 December 2004
Ten years after Moonstar Shadow, Chat Chaaht, Akiata and Kelly bounded into the Idaho wilderness, the state's contemptuous position toward wolves remains unchanged.
"We don't want them here. We don't like them," said James Caswell, director of Idaho's Office of Species Conservation. "But ... we're going to manage wolves to the proper level to perpetuate them in the state."
Initially, the Idaho Legislature refused to ratify an acceptable state management plan. The Legislature further forbade the Idaho Department of Fish and Game from participating in wolf recovery or management.
Early on, Ed Bangs, the federal wolf recovery leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, began lining up another job -- so confident was he in the states' taking over management of wolves. Instead, it would take seven years before Idaho would devise a state management plan.
While the Legislature's view of the creatures themselves hasn't changed, its attitude toward managing wolves has come a long way. The Endangered Species Act proved too formidable an opponent for the state. Over the years, legislators eventually resolved themselves to the fact that wolves were here to stay. Their original actions, however, shaped the course of wolf recovery in Idaho and still play a role in anti-wolf sentiment among residents today.
"The state essentially bailed," Bangs said. "It was just too hot for the states to handle."
Confusion over wolf reintroduction  
One former Idaho legislator, Laird Noh of Kimberly, believes state legislators and their constituents didn't fully understand what was at stake with wolf reintroduction.
Classifying wolves as a nonessential, experimental population remains a key decision in the whole process of reintroduction, Noh said. A nonessential, experimental population does not receive the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. That classification allowed a flexibility in managing wolves that made dealing with conflicts between wolves and livestock easier, he said.
"It would have only been a few years before wolves in Montana would have come here and enjoyed the full protection of the Endangered Species Act," Noh said.
The reintroduction of wolves under the nonessential classification, Noh said, helped the state of Idaho and its residents avoid the very stringent regulations of the Endangered Species Act at its full force.
At the time, only a few leaders in the Legislature and livestock community understood the implications of the Endangered Species Act, Noh said.
In the beginning, though, it was the Nez Perce Tribe who took the lead role in managing Idaho's new wolves when the Legislature rejected a state management plan.
"We didn't realize the implications," Noh said. "In essence, they kind of stepped into the shoes of the state."
Idaho's management plan
The Office of Species Conservation was established by Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to coordinate endangered species issues in the state. Kempthorne charged the office with ensuring that a state plan for managing wolves was developed and approved. A task force devised a plan for delisting; the process occurred over a seven-year period, Caswell said.
"The Office of Species Conservation helped shepherd the plan through the Legislature," he said.
By the time the state management plan finally got to the state Legislature, livestock community leaders and political leaders played an important role in getting it passed, Noh said.
"Over time, leadership of the livestock community educated their constituents," he said.
Former Idaho Cattle Association president Dave Nelson concurred. The association encouraged the Legislature to develop a state management plan, he said.
"We always said we could live with wolves if we could manage them," Nelson said. "We don't know if we're pleased or not, but that's the only way we can go."
Wyoming's holdup
Idaho's march toward state management suffered another setback when the state of Wyoming failed to produce a management plan that the Fish and Wildlife Service would approve. The federal agency requires that all three states involved in wolf reintroduction -- Idaho, Montana and Wyoming -- submit acceptable management plans before any of the three can assume management authority. While Montana's and Idaho's plans have been accepted, Wyoming's has not.
Why didn't Wyoming's plan pass?
"It comes down to the issue of take," Caswell said.
Each state must describe how the state will control the indiscriminate killing of wolves once the species is delisted. Under Idaho's plan, wolves will be classified as big game, subject to the same regulations the Idaho Department of Fish and Game imposes for other big game animals such as mountain lions, black bears and elk. Wyoming, however, chose another classification.
"In the case of Wyoming, wolves are classified as predators," Caswell said.
All three states need to maintain at least 15 packs in order to avoid taking cautionary measures to keep wolves from being listed again as endangered species. Wyoming's plan categorizes eight of the 15 packs as big game animals. These packs would mainly exist in wilderness areas and parks. The remaining seven packs could be classified as big game or predators, Caswell said. The Fish and Wildlife Service viewed Wyoming's classification system as conflicting with the Endangered Species Act.
"They're shooting themselves in the foot," Noh said.
With Wyoming's state management plan up in the air, removing wolves from the protection of the Endangered Species Act looks a long way out. Even when delisting occurs, Caswell speculated, "the Feds will get sued."
"We know we're going to get sued," he said.
Instead of waiting for delisting to occur, the state of Idaho took action in its own hands. The state has asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider an amendment to the Endangered Species Act, the 10(j) proposal, that would allow the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to manage wolves -- with some restrictions -- even though Wyoming's plan has not been approved.
"We need more flexibility," Caswell said. "It won't hurt the population."
Currently, the Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the proposed change. Under the proposal, wolves remain a listed species. Some of the policies guiding wolf management would be relaxed in Idaho.
"It's still listed under the Endangered Species Act," Caswell said. "It just gives us more flexibility as far as managing the critter."
By most accounts, the longer it take to delist wolves in Idaho, the more problems that will arise. The delay in delisting means that the state can't utilize the same tools to manage and control wolves that it would have once the species is delisted. This adds to livestock-wolf conflicts.
By waiting so long to delist, "promises appear to have been broken," said Steve Nedeau, who manages big game animals for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "Animosity will continue to increase ... the longer it takes to delist."
Idaho's lack of participation
What impact did Idaho's diminished role in wolf recovery play through the last decade?
State involvement would have allowed for more Fish and Game employees to be involved from the beginning, rather than trying to play catch up now with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Caswell said. The state also would have a better relationship with landowners, rather than trying to forge those associations nearly 10 years into the process, Caswell said.
"We would know the problems better," he said. "I am disappointed the state didn't take the management early on. I understand why."
Noh also expressed disappointment in the state's role early on. Noh labeled the state's action as "self-defeating" and "foolish" and said that it "plagues us today in our management."
Unlike many in the state, Nelson agreed with the Idaho Legislature's initial decision not to participate in wolf recovery. The state didn't support wolf reintroduction, so it made sense not to be involved, he said.
"I think the approach was probably right," Nelson said. "I say we got them crammed down our throats."
Wolf Advocates Offer to Pick Up the Tab
Michelle Dunlop, The Times-News, 27 December 2004
Ten years ago, Suzanne Stone found herself right in the thick of wolf reintroduction.
"It was like seeing a dream come true," she said.
Stone's personal interest in wolves led to her involvement in wolf recovery. Over the years, Stone has played various roles -- from monitoring public opinion for the Wolf Education and Research Center to her current position as a spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife, an organization that works to protect wild animals and their habitats.
"I've just always been fascinated by wolves," she said. "I got into it because I love wolves.
"It's been my life."
Stone remembers how thick the layer of misconception among the public was during the early years of wolf recovery. She believes those attitudes have changed over time.
"I think I hear people talk about accepting that wolves are here," Stone said.
In fact, one of the things that has added to that level of acceptance -- livestock producers in particular -- is a compensation program provided by Defenders of Wildlife. Even before the first wolves were reintroduced, it became apparent that one of the major controversies of the species recovery would be livestock losses due to wolf predation. Defenders instituted a mechanism to ease that controversy and encourage a greater tolerance for wolves -- a reimbursement program for livestock producers. Today, the state of Idaho administers a complementary program to further promote acceptance.
Defenders established its reimbursement program in 1987. The plan pays market value up for livestock killed by wolves. Livestock owners receive up to $2,000 for confirmed wolf kills and 50 percent of market value for probable kills. Since 1987, Defenders has paid almost $430,000 in compensation.
Defenders additionally established the Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund, which helps pay for proactive measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict. The organization helps fund such things as guard dogs used to protect livestock herds, electric corrals to keep wolves out, and studies that examine practices that discourage wolves. Defenders also pays for ranchers to utilize alternate grazing areas for livestock.
"We started seeing links as to what was attracting wolves," Stone said.
Proactive efforts have been initiated by both ranchers and the Defenders organization, she said.
Are livestock producers satisfied with the compensation they receive? According to the organization's surveys, about 70 percent of producers say they are "definitely satisfied;" roughly 12 percent remain dissatisfied. Not receiving compensation for missing livestock stands as a major source of their discontent, Stone said.
"A lot of these deaths get attributed to wolves that really aren't," she said. "It doesn't mean that we're catching all of them."
Rancher and former Idaho Cattle Association president Dave Nelson doesn't view Defenders' program in quite the same light as Stone.
"The Defenders' plan is probably not too good," Nelson said.
The problem, Nelson said, lies in the probable and missing category. Studies have shown that "for every calf you find dead, there's probably five or six lost," Nelson said.
Weiser livestock producer Margaret Soulen Hinson hasn't received compensation for all of her missing sheep. However, Soulen Hinson says, the organization has been good to work with, providing funding for extra equipment for her sheepherders when dealing with wolves.
Retired state Sen. Laird Noh, R-Kimberly, worries about what will happen to livestock producers who have grown accustomed to being compensated by Defenders if the program goes away.
"I don't like it in principle," Noh said. "They don't really have a responsibility here."
However, Noh credits the Defenders compensation plan with making the idea of reintroduction a little easier for livestock producers to digest earlier on.
"It's helped a lot of ranchers," Noh said. "It's helped smooth the way for reintroduction."
One wolf advocacy group, Western Watersheds, dislikes the Defenders program for entirely different reasons. The group feels it's unproductive for environmental groups to help ranchers.
"We're not primarily interested in working with ranchers," said Jon Marvel, executive director. "There's no evidence that the Defenders' compensation program has changed the attitude of ranchers toward wolves.
"Ranchers are big crybabies."
There could be an even bigger reason to cry if Defenders discontinues its program when delisting occurs. Stone isn't sure the organization will compensate ranchers for their losses after delisting.
"We're asking them to help evaluate the compensation program," Stone said. "Almost 90 percent said 'yes,' they want compensation to continue."
Defenders intends to place greater emphasis on its proactive/nonlethal programs. The group hopes to find ways to minimize conflicts between livestock and wolves.
The state also offers a compensation program through the Office of Species Conservation. However, while the state administers the program, funding comes from the federal government.
"This is a species of national importance," said James Caswell, director for the office. "We didn't want it. They brought it to us. If the federal government is going to bring it to us over our objections, then they need to pay for it."
Unlike Defenders' program, which precedes reintroduction, the state's program began only two years ago. Livestock producers can ask the state to compensate them for losses unaccounted for by the Defenders of Wildlife program.
Noh doubts that federal funding for the state's compensation program will continue once wolves are delisted.
"Hopefully there will be less need for it," he said.
That's why, Noh said, there has been talk of establishing a kind of trust fund to help states deal with Endangered Species Act issues. The state administered insurance program for livestock and agricultural producers may provide relief in the future for producers affected by wolf depredations, Noh said. The real hope, Noh said, lies in wolf management.
Nelson doubts that either the state's or the Defenders' plan will last. However, Nelson, like Noh, isn't putting his faith in compensation programs.
"We're not really worried about compensation," Nelson said. "We're not interested in compensation ... We want the wolves managed."
Group Values Wolves Over Livestock
Michelle Dunlop, The Times-News, 27 December 2004
Snowy mountaintops with fading emerald slopes seem perfectly framed in the windowsill of the Western Watersheds office in downtown Hailey on a sunny November morning.
Two books resting on the coffee table call out for attention. A drawing of an American Indian and a wolf covers the first book. The second captures the major premise behind Western Watersheds in its title, "Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West."
Possibly one of the more infamous characters in Western ranching history sits across the way -- Jon Marvel. Marvel isn't the Jessie James bad boy-type infamous. No, instead he's more of the Henry David Thoreau with an attitude and a lawsuit-in-hand infamous. And, Marvel has proven himself to be a true enemy of many a livestock producer.
Of ranchers, Marvel says, "Their day is over. Let's face it, it really is."
Then, taken at first glance, Marvel's next statement seems curiously out of place.
"I personally opposed the reintroduction of wolves in '95 and '96," he says.
Why would an avid opponent of ranching appear to essentially side with the enemy when it comes to wolves? With Marvel, little is as simple as it seems.
"We know we had wolves in central Idaho before 1995," he said. "We knew wolves were here before reintroduction. In my judgment, we would have had less contention if we would have just let wolves come back on their own. It would have been slower, which would have been good."
The crux of Marvel's statement comes in what he does not say. Had wolves been allowed to wander back into Idaho on their own, they would have received the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. Instead, reintroduction reclassified the species as a nonessential, experimental population, making it legal for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize the elimination of problem wolves.
While livestock producers can count their lucky stars that wolves did not receive the full protection of the act, Marvel and his organization oppose the killing of problem wolves.
Snuggled on the edge of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and in what is likely the most liberal spot in Idaho, Western Watersheds draws many members from the surrounding community. That community took particular offense to the elimination of three wolf packs in the SNRA: the White Cloud, the Sawtooth and the White Hawk packs. Federal agents killed most members of the packs after the animals continued to prey on livestock grazing in the SNRA.
"Ranchers feel they have a right to be there," Marvel said. "Our society has condoned the killing of these packs for the benefit of livestock."
Marvel and supporters felt that the Fish and Wildlife Service's reaction was disproportionate to the wolves' actions. Two packs now reside in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area: the Castle Peak pack that resides near Big Lake Creek and the Galena Pack that lives on the west side of the White Clouds. Western Watersheds condemns and has litigated against killing wolves in the SNRA the last two years.
"Those packs remain at risk because of their proximity to livestock," Marvel said.
Unlike other wolf advocacy groups, Marvel's Western Watersheds isn't looking to work with livestock producers to reduce conflicts, and the organization certainly isn't trying to make friends with ranchers. The group doesn't feel it's productive for environmental groups to help ranchers.
If you listen to Marvel, conflicts in the SNRA aren't caused by problem wolves. Rather, conflict exists because of the problem livestock grazing poses to wolves and wilderness.
The economics of ranching have changed over time to a point that most in the ranching community can't make money unless they own their ranch outright or inherit it, Marvel said. The industry as a whole relies on government subsidies to survive. Instead, Marvel says, the federal government and the state support a lifestyle rather than a viable economic source.
"If we're going to save lifestyles, then let's have a general discussion about it instead of saying ranching is so special," Marvel said. "Nothing is going to keep these guys in business forever."
And, Marvel seems determined to make sure ranchers aren't in business forever. Western Watersheds has begun buying up grazing "privileges" -- as Marvel calls them -- in an effort to keep ranchers off of public lands.
Wolves and other wildlife are only seen as a detriment because of livestock, Marvel said. By getting rid of predators such as wolves and grizzly bears, we are taming the wilderness, making it less wild, Marvel said, harkening Thoreau. Marvel said he hopes that the people of Idaho will see wildlife -- including wolves -- as a benefit instead of a detriment.
"It's an unfortunate culture we've created in the West," Marvel said. "Everybody in America actually places more emphasis on wildlife than on livestock."
Confusion Over Special Status for Eastern Wolf
Kate Harries, Toronto Star, 18 December 2004
Ontarians were misled by the Ministry of Natural Resources two months ago when the Eastern wolf was added to the province's list of species at risk, an environmental group says.
The Eastern wolf — a smaller, reddish version of its grey cousin — was designated a species of special concern, which gives it protection in just one area: Ontario's provincial parks.
That's because of a 1998 parks policy that treats species of special concern in the same way as if they're threatened or endangered. The policy would prohibit killing of the Eastern wolf in parks by trappers, the only people who are permitted to hunt or trap furbearers in provincial parks.
But a week before the Sept. 30 posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry of the Eastern wolf's new status, the ministry quietly changed its parks policy to provide for exemptions. It made the Eastern wolf the first and only species of special concern to be excluded from the protection given to animals in the higher categories.
The discovery of the policy change — along with the fact that it was not posted for public debate — dismayed those who have fought for protection of the wolf.
It means that "the positive announcement that Ontario, as of this September, finally recognizes the at-risk status of the Eastern wolf will have no effect on the ground," says Jean Langlois, executive-director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "It makes it a meaningless gesture."
Not so, says Barton Feilders of the natural resources ministry, noting that a decision earlier this year to permanently ban killing of wolves in Algonquin Park and surrounding townships is not affected.
There was no need to post the policy change because "the exception for trapping in parks wasn't a crucial decision," Feilders says. "We don't believe there are significant numbers being harvested by trappers ... Within the context of broader strategy, we decided to maintain the status quo."
He says the exception could be revisited as the ministry finalizes its proposed wolf conservation strategy, released for public consultation last month by Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay.
Feilders rejects the view that the unreported policy change makes a mockery of the species at risk process.
But Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller says he's concerned.
"We're a little puzzled as to why they would implement this exception," he says, adding that his agency is trying to examine whether the effect on wolf numbers is as "trivial" as the ministry insists.
"It seems inconsistent — recognizing the species, recognizing its special status and, at the same time, opening the door to allow trapping."
John Theberge, whose groundbreaking, 14-year study of wolves in Algonquin Park helped change public attitudes toward Ontario's top predator, says the trapper kill is not evenly distributed across the province and has the potential of a significant impact at the local level.
Theberge, who now lives in British Columbia, met with Ramsay Sept. 29 and presented a plan for seven "large carnivore" protected areas across the province.
Theberge says he's disappointed that Ramsay did not include his plan — which would have increased protected wolf range to 14 per cent from the current 3 per cent — in the proposed wolf strategy.
Langlois says he views the ministry's actions as a clear example of the need for clear legislation stating the rules on hunting and trapping in parks.
"We can't leave it up to policy because policy just changes in dark corners of the bureaucracy," he says.
"To me, it's sort of a litmus test. It indicates that when it comes right down to it, the Ontario government is still not prepared to protect the Eastern wolf, even within parks."
The new wolf strategy proposes the first limits on hunting wolves, including a closed season on Crown land in central and Northern Ontario from April to September, and a limit of two wolves per hunter per season.
The proposal places no limits on the total number of wolves that can be hunted or trapped. The ministry estimates the total wolf population in Ontario at 8,850, down from 10,000 to 15,000 in the mid-1960s. The Eastern wolf, ranging across central Ontario, is estimated at 937 animals.
The ministry considers the population to be stable, occupying 85 per cent of its historic range.
"I think it's a stretch to suggest we need greater harvest restrictions at this point in time," says Howard Noseworthy, general manager of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, which represents about 6,000 Ontario trappers.
Ranchers Take Aim at Wolf Plan
Brad Cain, Associated Press, 10 December 2004
Eastern Oregon ranchers complained Friday that a rule to manage the reintroduction of wolves into Oregon places too many restrictions on when ranchers can kill wolves that harm livestock.
"You really need to say that we have the right to protect our livestock anytime, anyplace,'' said Mack Birkmaier, a rancher from the Joseph area.
Birkmaier was among 40 people — many of them ranchers — who testified at a state Fish and Wildlife Commission hearing on the draft rule.
Responding to changes in federal policy that are expected to cause wolves to migrate to Oregon from Idaho, the commission has drawn up a plan that would allow ranchers to kill wolves that attack their livestock.
Ranchers, however, said the plan is overly restrictive because it requires that ranchers actually observe a wolf attacking livestock before it could be killed.
La Grande-area rancher Bob Beck said it is unrealistic to require that wolves "have to be attacking my stock right before my eyes before I can kill them.''
"Clearly, your plan seeks to control my behavior in the face of an invasion of large predators into my grazing lands,'' he said. "I hope you will see that this plan does not give me tools or options to deal with wolves that you insist are coming.''
The draft rule drew praise from an Oregon Natural Resources Council spokesman, who said it would amount to a long overdue "welcome home'' for wolves.
"Forty years ago we made a terrible mistake when we allowed the last wolf in Oregon to be shot to death under a misguided campaign of extermination,'' Jeremy Hall said. "Today we have an historic opportunity to correct this by welcoming wolves home to Oregon.''
The federal government downgraded wolf species protection after successfully establishing new wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park and Idaho.
State wildlife officials say there are reports of sightings but no confirmed wolves in Oregon yet.
Friday's hearing was the first of three scheduled by the fish and wildlife panel before Feb. 11, when it is to make a final decision on the plan.
The state would adopt a federal policy allowing ranchers to shoot wolves they see attacking livestock on private land and to get permits to do so on public lands.
The change also would require action by the 2005 Legislature to revise the state's endangered species law to allow ranchers to shoot wolves in limited circumstances....
Reintroduced Wolves Fighting Tooth and Nail
Mitch Tobin, Arizona Daily Star, 28 November 2004
Mexican gray wolves would be doing a lot better if people would stop shooting them.
Illegal shooting has claimed at least 20 wolves since reintroduction began in the Southwest in 1998, and bullets remain the No. 1 killer of wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico border.
Federal officials also have sanctioned the shooting of two more wolves that wouldn't stop eating cows. Even wolves that steer clear of livestock face a stressful relocation if they leave a 9,290-square-mile recovery area whose outline is based more on politics than biology.
But despite the unsolved shootings, a management style officials admit is heavy-handed and the age-old contempt for wolves that persists among many residents here, the wolves are starting to come back.
At least 50 wolves are now in the wild - halfway to the goal of getting 100 to roam the rugged Blue Range by 2008. Wolves are taking down full-grown elk and pumping out enough pups that releases of captive-bred animals have been scaled back.
"It's functioning as a population now," said Colleen Buchanan, assistant recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We don't have to be so concerned about individual animals as we used to be. You have to put the losses in that perspective."
Irony pervades a program that's already spent $10 million to undo past policies. Fish and Wildlife's precursor - the U.S. Biological Survey - led the 20th century extermination of the Mexican subspecies. Canis lupus baileyi is named for biologist Vernon Bailey, the founder of the control program who proudly reported in 1908 that hunters had killed 127 wolves in Arizona and 232 in New Mexico.
In 2005, Fish and Wildlife may revise its rules so wolves can leave the recovery area. Environmentalists also want to return wolves to other parts of their historic range, including "sky island" mountains near Tucson and the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon.
But even as activists talk of expansion, foes are fighting the existing program.
Fear along the Blue River
This fall, ground zero for human-wolf conflict has been along the Blue River, home to about 60 ranchers and others who live on private parcels tucked within the nation's last remaining primitive area.
The Forest Service describes the area as "a sort anachronism, with wilderness designation more or less permanently 'pending.' " The Census Bureau still classifies surrounding Greenlee County as "frontier" because it's so sparsely settled.
No one is accusing residents along the Blue of shooting wolves, but the nuisance created by a newly released pack has stiffened local opposition. The idea of wolves howling may give urban residents a warm and fuzzy feeling. Along the Blue, it leaves some in a cold sweat and asking why wolves aren't put in Phoenix and Tucson if people there love them so much.
"When the wolves come down, I don't sleep the rest of the night," said Jean Hutchison, a native Tucsonan who moved to the area in 1987.
Hutchison said the wolves have increased her labor and costs because she must keep her livestock indoors at night and buy feed because it's too risky to let them graze in the open.
"They impact our economy, our lifestyle and our very basic right to feel safe and secure," she said. "Isn't man supposed to be the top dog?"
At an April 23 meeting down in Morenci, residents pleaded with officials not to release wolves nearby and predicted they'd come down to the Blue. But on July 27, two adults and three pups were set free, in part to make up for the illegal shooting of six alpha wolves in 2003. By September, the Aspen pack was at the post office in Blue.
The wolves have scuffled with two dogs but haven't killed any livestock, and officials say they still aren't enough of a problem to warrant recapture. Still, biologists are now stationed along the Blue virtually 24/7, ready to scare off the wolves with firecrackers and shouting.
The government has given some residents boxes with bullhorns that blare the sound of gunfire, sirens and helicopters when activated by wolves' radio collars. The captive-bred wolves may still associate people with food, and the aversive conditioning is meant to reverse that.
The wolves are still naive, but largely avoiding people, said Shawn Farry, an Arizona Game and Fish biologist who has been stationed overnight on the Blue.
"When push comes to shove, the animals will lose, so it's in their interest to learn to give people a wide berth," he said.
Sharon Gould, who runs an outfitting business with her husband, said she appreciates the government efforts, "but it's closing the barn door after the horse is out." The Goulds are going to move because they fear wolves will attack the 15 expensive hound dogs they contract out for lion hunting.
Rancher Barbara Marks, whose husband's family settled here in 1891, said she can deal with other predators, but grizzlies and wolves had to go.
"They're kind of like criminals in society," she said. "You remove them because they don't play well with others."
Ancient conflict
Animosity toward wolves probably stretches back to prehistoric hunters who competed with the animals for big game.
"Men and wolves have been at odds ever since," writes Arizona State University biologist David E. Brown in "The Wolf in the Southwest: The Making of an Endangered Species."
Wolves once roamed almost anywhere there was forest in Arizona. By the early 20th century their range may have expanded because settlers imported a new food source: livestock.
Ranchers demonized wolves, viewing them as a bigger threat than other predators. The way wolves kill didn't help their cause: Solitary lions pounce and kill quickly, but wolf packs run down their prey and practically eat cows alive.
So began a six-decade, federally sponsored crusade that was "almost as great as that devoted to neutralizing the Apaches," Brown writes.
Wolves were shot on sight by ranchers, who could then claim a bounty up to $50 as late as 1960, plus some cash for the pelt. Livestock carcasses were laced with strychnine, cyanide, other poisons. In spring, when pups were born, hunters would engage in "denning," digging out litters and dispatching them with bullets or "numbing clubs."
Even ecologist Aldo Leopold, idol of many modern environmentalists, took part in the slaughter as a young ranger, though he would later regret it.
In his 1949 "Sand County Almanac," Leopold recalls how his party spotted a wolf and her pups near Eastern Arizona's Escudilla Mountain, shot them at once and reached the mother in time "to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes."
"I was young then, and full of trigger-itch," he wrote. "I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view."
By 1925, after more than 900 wolves were killed in a decade Brown likens to the Nazi "final solution," the wolf was mostly a memory in the American Southwest. But it held on in Mexico's Sierra Madre, and for the next quarter century predator-control agents would act like the Border Patrol and prevent lobos from coming north.
A decade after the wolf was listed as endangered in 1967, Fish and Wildlife sent a hunter to Durango and Chihuahua to find wolves for captive breeding. Five wolves were caught and sent to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. There are now 260 wolves in 45 facilities in North America.
At the Desert Museum earlier this month, curator Pilar Rinky tossed balls of horse meat to two aging, cowering wolves.
"The wolves are actually quite shy. People think they're aggressive, but they'd rather not be near people," she said.
"What's its predator?" asked some second-graders visiting from Lineweaver Elementary School.
"Man," Rinky replied.
Stereotype persists
Children are still taught that wolves are deceitful and murderous in the tales of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. But people's image of wolves went through an extreme makeover in the 20th century, and the creatures were lionized in Kevin Costner's 1990 film "Dances With Wolves."
Still, when President Bush's campaign needed to pick a symbol of terrorists for a commercial, it chose wolves in a dark forest. Phoenix activist Bobbie Holaday said she wanted to beat Andrea Mitchell on the head when the NBC correspondent described the ad as effective.
"It just encourages those yahoos up there to go get their guns and kill 'terrorists,' " said Holaday, who recounts her 11-year struggle to start the reintroduction in "The Return of the Mexican Gray Wolf."
Authorities continue to investigate the shootings, but won't describe suspects or what evidence they've found.
When wolves are found shot to death, authorities turn the area into a crime scene, collect evidence and ship the remains to Oregon for forensic analysis.
"Wildlife poaching, in general, are very hard crimes to solve," said Doug McKenna, a Fish and Wildlife agent in Mesa.
"You're dealing with a gunshot, maybe vehicle tracks and not much beyond that," said Jon Cooley, head of Game and Fish's Pinetop office.
Fish and Wildlife and environmentalists have put up a $45,000 reward for turning in a wolf killer. There's also an emphasis on educating hunters since shootings tend to increase in hunting season and some of the dead wolves are thought to have been mistaken for coyotes.
Shooting in self-defense is OK
It's legal for someone to shoot a wolf in self-defense, and it's always OK to scare them off.
There have been no fatal attacks by wild wolves in North America in the past half-century.
It's illegal to harm a wolf attacking a pet, and ranchers can kill wolves preying on livestock only on private and tribal property - not federal land.
Gauging how often wolves kill livestock is tough because remains may never be found and wolves sometimes scavenge. Since 1998, the wolf program has documented 47 confirmed instances of predation and 22 possible and probable cases. That's more than triple the rate in the Northern Rockies - where grazing isn't year-round - but in line with government projections.
Elk make up 74 percent of wolves' diet and livestock account for 4 percent, according to analysis of wolf droppings.
Ranchers who lose livestock to wolves are eligible for compensation from Defenders of Wildlife. Since 1998, the group has paid $34,023 to ranchers in the Southwest. But they complain it's difficult to get paid.
More room to roam?
Environmentalists - and even some ranchers - think the conflict could be eased if wolves weren't so concentrated.
Federal officials raised concerns about their boundary rule as early as 1999, and independent scientists' three-year review of the program also said recaptures were inhibiting recovery.
Capture-related stress is blamed for only one of the 45 wolf deaths documented by Fish and Wildlife. But Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity believes trapping and relocation has actually killed around 10 animals.
Highly social wolves struggle to survive if their packs are broken up, he said. And public records released to Robinson show that when three pups died of a virus after being captured in 1999, a veterinarian blamed their deaths on "stress from the whole trapping affair."
The boundary rule was a concession to wolf opponents, but next year, when a new recovery plan is drafted, Fish and Wildlife may change the policy.
Wolves naturally disperse to open habitat and have already made it to near Flagstaff, but it's unclear if they could reach the area around Tucson or north of the Grand Canyon without some help. Any expansion of the Southwest program is also tied to ongoing litigation over Fish and Wildlife's desire to loosen Endangered Species Act protection for other subspecies of wolf.
In the meantime, wolf supporters hope to get ranchers to change husbandry practices and remove livestock carcasses that attract wolves. As a model, they point to Will and Jan Holder's operation on Eagle Creek, northwest of Clifton.
Will's grandfather used to kill wolves along the Mogollon Rim, and he grew up with plenty of horror stories about them.
"It was bogeyman kind of stuff," he said. "You never saw it as a little kid, but you were fearful."
He and Jan met while working in advertising for America West in Phoenix, and when they moved back to Will's family ranch they decided to produce "predator-friendly beef."
"We used to ranch like pretty much everyone else and just throw our cattle out there," he said.
Now the Holders keep a close eye on their cows and make them herd so they're a more formidable opponent for predators.
While their product is double the price of other beef, finding customers hasn't been a problem. But persuading other ranchers to follow their lead or accept their pro-wolf stance has been nearly impossible.
"It's been abject hatred," Holder said. "We've been real fearful of people doing harm to us or burning down our house."
Aerial Wolf Control Program Resumes
Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 27 November 2004
Aerial wolf hunters claimed their first kills of the season this week near McGrath and in the Nelchina Basin as officials renewed wolf-control efforts in certain parts of the state to boost moose and caribou populations for hunters.
Four wolves were killed this week--two in Game Management Unit 19D East near McGrath and two in Game Management Unit 13--as pilot-gunner teams took to the skies with permits supplied by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game last week.
Those are two of the five regions the state Board of Game has designated for aerial wolf control this winter. Three more areas--Unit 16B west of Anchorage, Unit 19A on the central Kuskokwim River and Units 12 and 20E near Tok--were added to the list earlier this year.
The state wants more than 500 wolves in the five areas killed this winter.
In addition to Unit 13 and 19D East, almost three dozen permits have been issued for Unit 16 west of Anchorage. Those hunters can take to the air beginning Wednesday, according to information officer Bruce Bartley with Fish and Game in Anchorage.
It will probably be at least another week or two before permits will be issued in Unit 19A because biologists are still finishing up moose surveys in the area, according to Cathie Harms, ADF&G information officer in Fairbanks. She wasn't sure how many permits would be issued for Unit 19A.
The harvest objective in Unit 16 is 100 wolves, while hunters in Unit 19A can take up to 150. The harvest objectives in Units 13 and 19D East are the same as they were last year at 140 and 40, respectively.
Hunters will be allowed to land and shoot or shoot from airplanes in Unit 19D East and Unit 19A near Aniak, while hunters in Unit 13 in the Nelchina Basin and Unit 16B will be allowed only to land and shoot.
The state is also planning to issue permits for portions of Units 12 and 20E sometime in late December or early January, Harms said. The harvest objective for that area has yet to be determined but will likely be at least 100 wolves.
After being chased around by hunters in airplanes last winter, state game managers expect wolves in Units 13 and 19D East to be harder for hunters to track down this winter. Last year, hunters killed 127 wolves in Unit 13 and 17 in 19D East.
"The wolves we've got left are a lot smarter," Bartley said. "It's going to be a lot harder to take wolves this year than last year."
As a result, the Department of Fish and Game reduced by almost one-third the number of permits it issued to pilot-gunner teams to hunt wolves in Unit 13 south of Fairbanks. The state is only issuing 20 permits this year as opposed to 33 last year when hunters claimed 127 wolves in the Nelchina Basin.
"The biggest complaint we had from permittees last year was there were too many airplanes out there," Bartley said. "We ratcheted it back to guys who had the most success last year."
The state received more than 80 applications from pilot-gunner teams to hunt wolves in the four regions. Permits are issued based on a pilot's familiarity and flying time in an area, as well as previous experience hunting wolves.
Similar to last year, the state's aggressive stance against predators has drawn protests from Lower 48 wildlife advocacy groups such as Friends of Animals and Defenders of Wildlife.
Friends of Animals is once again organizing a tourism boycott of Alaska by organizing "howl-in" demonstrations in a more than a two dozen cities in the Lower 48. The group organized a similar campaign last year with more than 150 howl-ins but the protests failed to put a dent in Alaska's $2 billion-a-year tourism industry. The number of visitors in Alaska last summer was 1.4 million, up 100,000 to 150,000 from the previous summer, according to the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
Defenders of Wildlife, meanwhile, has once again petitioned Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to halt the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska under the Federal Airborne Hunting Act. The group is also collecting signatures on a petition to send to President Bush. As of Friday, more than 5,600 people had signed the petition.
""They have no idea how many wolves are in these areas, yet they're going in with these numbers made up on purely anecdotal information and doing some serious damage to the predator population," said Karen Deatherage, the Alaska representative for Defenders.
But state wildlife biologists say there are plenty of wolves to go around. Alaska's wolf population is estimated at anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 and hunters and trappers on average kill 1,500 a year.
The Ecology and Politics of Fear
The Vail Trail, 25 November 2004
Here’s some good news: In Yellowstone National Park, the cottonwood groves are thriving. Cottonwoods are a key element in the Yellowstone ecosystem, but not so long ago it seemed that they were doomed by dense herds of elk that clustered along the park’s rivers and browsed the trees so heavily that no young saplings survived.
Then, nine years ago, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone after a 70-year absence. The wolves quickly learned that elk in the river valleys were easy hunting. Today, Yellowstone elk have drastically changed their behavior in response to the threat of wolf attack and are much more scattered, easing pressure on the cottonwoods. Biologists have come up with a term to describe such far-reaching effects of predators on the behavior of their prey: “the ecology of fear.”
Fear, it turns out, is not simply an emotion. Fear is a powerful force in the world, a force whose impact may far surpass the direct effects of what is feared. Biologists are learning that many aspects of animals’ lives are a response to the fear of predation. Take away that fear, and behaviors that were assumed to be genetically determined may simply disappear. Reintroduce that fear, and old patterns quickly return, even if it has been generations since the species faced predators.
On Sept. 11, 2001, a particular sort of fear was reintroduced to an American population that had long ago come to take security as our birthright. When hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center towers and struck the Pentagon, almost 3,000 people died. It was a horrible moment in our nation’s history, and the enduring tragedy of those deaths continues to reverberate through the lives of all of us.
And yet, these deaths are far fewer than the 42,900 Americans who died in 2001 from traffic accidents, not to mention the 700,142 who died of heart disease or the 553,768 who died from cancer and all those who died from a myriad of other diseases. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 400,000 Americans die every year as the result of poor diet and inactivity, though poor diet and inactivity cause us to feel, if anything, mild guilt and not paralyzing fear. Clearly, our reaction to being attacked on our home ground transcends the simply rational.
It has become a truism that Sept. 11 “changed everything.” Who would dispute that our country today is radically different from the America we lived in before the attacks? These sudden deaths convinced most Americans that we were “at war.” That conviction made possible not only the immediate retaliation against Afghanistan, but the war in Iraq, even though we now know that the Iraq invasion was unjustified by any threat posed to the United States by Saddam Hussein or his ties to Al Quaeda.
At home, opinion polls indicate that most Americans will willingly sacrifice some freedom in exchange for security, and, sure enough, our civil and privacy rights have been drastically reduced as a result of the Patriot Act. Most telling of all, we have just passed through a presidential campaign that seemed a contest between a vision of hope and a vision of fear. In the end, the fearful vision prevailed.
It is impossible to know exactly what fear feels like to an elk as it scans the hills, looking for the sight of an onrushing wolf pack. But it must be a very, very bad feeling — bad enough for the elk to change its way of life in order to avoid that fear. This, it seems, is what we are trying to do. But the more we try to escape fear, the more it pursues us.
It is America’s misfortune that at this moment in our history we have ceded power to those who use fear to gain and maintain their position. In the presidential campaign, a television ad featured wolves circling ever closer to the camera, as the narrator intoned, “Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.” Immediately following those words, we heard, “I’m George W. Bush and I approve this message.” Delivering his message in the nearly instinctual language of fear may have made all the difference in this election.
Over the next four years, all of us will learn just how far the ecology and politics of fear will transform the America we thought we knew.
Timber Wolves Sighted in Central Wisconsin
Allen Hicks, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, 23 November 2004ve
He was driving on Ranger Road in the town of Saratoga recently when a large animal crossed his path.
"I thought, 'What was that?'" said Kurtz, 53, of Saratoga.
The animal stopped by the side of the road, and Kurtz got a good look. His wife later spotted two of them. He's convinced they saw wolves.
"We're not experts, but I think we're sharp enough to realize that it was not a dog, and it was not a coyote. That doesn't leave much else," Kurtz said.
There's no doubt timber wolves have returned to central Wisconsin, which is home to about 60 wolves in a 10-county area that includes Adams, Clark, Marathon, Portage and Wood counties, said Adrian Wydeven, mammal ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The sometimes controversial timber, or gray, wolves were absent from the central Wisconsin wilderness for nearly 100 years, until wildlife officials confirmed that they had returned in 1994, Wydeven said. The animals are thought to have migrated to Wisconsin from Minnesota and Michigan.
Wolf sightings in Saratoga are of interest because the community sits on the east side of the Wisconsin River, and there are no known wolf packs in southern Wood or Portage counties east of the river, Wydeven said.
Wydeven encourages people who spot wolves or see signs of the animals to contact their local branch of the DNR.
Because wolf populations have been recovering throughout the country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is expected to decide soon whether to remove federal protection from the animals and turn management issues over to the state.
The federal process might be complete by early to mid-summer of next year, Wydeven said.
If the animals are "delisted," the state would likely relax the rules to allow people to kill wolves in the process of attacking pets or livestock on their land, Wydeven said. Currently, people face fines or prison sentences if they kill wolves for any reason other than to protect human life. There are both federal and state programs available to assist livestock owners who have suffered animal losses.
There hasn't been a documented case of a wolf killing a person in North America in the last 100 years, although there were a couple of people who died of rabies contracted from the animals in Alaska in the 1940s, Wydeven said.
"Rarely do (people) even get a chance to see them," Wydeven said.
Kurtz considers himself lucky that he got a glimpse so close to his home.
"I think it's cool," he said. "I think it's pretty neat that we got them (in south Wood County)."
Not everyone shares that view about wolves in the state.
Lawrence Krak thinks all state and federal protection should be removed from the animals.
Krak, a hunter and outdoorsman, is the organizer of People Against Wolves, a loose network of people who discuss their wildlife experiences.
Although he hasn't had close contact with wolves, Krak said he has talked with farmers and hunters who have lost dogs and livestock to them.
"I think restoring (wolves) is a big mistake," said Krak, 80, who lives in the Taylor County community of Gilman.
Kurtz enjoyed seeing a wolf in the wild, but he said they could be a problem if they become too plentiful, especially in areas where there are a lot of people.
"Somebody's dog is going to get it, or somebody's going to have an encounter that they're not going to be happy about," he said.
Wildlife officials estimate there are about 373 to 410 wolves and 108 wolf packs in the state this year. The highest concentration is in the northern portion of the state, beginning at the northern reaches of Taylor County, Wydeven said.
There are four known wolf packs in Wood County, ranging from two to four wolves; four in Adams County; and three in western Clark County. Lone wolves have also been reported in the Pittsville area and in southern Portage County, although single wolves can roam for large distances.
"Lone wolves can appear almost anywhere in northern and central Wisconsin," Wydeven said. "We call it a pack if there's a pair of wolves that show any indications of breeding activity."
It's uncertain if much of the area is "wild enough" to support large wolf packs, Wydeven said.
Wolves generally need solid forest cover and plenty of their main prey - deer and beaver. And for much of Adams, Portage and Wood counties, adequate forest cover just isn't there, Wydeven said.
That doesn't mean the wolves can't be spotted, even in the Wisconsin Rapids area.
Richard Blount said he was turkey hunting in Saratoga with his grandson in October when a wolf stepped on the road, stopped and looked at him.
"I would be pretty sure it was a wolf," said Blount, who estimated he was about 150 yards away. "It was much bigger than a coyote."
"We've seen them on the other side of the (Wisconsin) River, (west of Nekoosa)," said Blount, 69, of Saratoga.
Although he hunts, Blount wasn't concerned that the animal might kill wildlife. He said it's part of nature's checks and balances.
He'll likely remember his close encounter for some time.
"It's kind of a treat to see the wolf itself, because they're rather shy," Blount said. "I'd like to see him again, see if he's still around and doing well."