Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tracking seminar offered this weekend

By JOHN PEPIN, Journal Munising Bureau

MUNISING — The first of three upcoming seminars on wildlife tracking skills will be offered this weekend in Munising.

Expert wildlife tracker Jim Halfpenny, PhD. will be the instructor for the two-day Munising seminar, which features both indoor and outdoor instruction. The emphasis of the professional level sessions is on reading trails to understand animals behavior and ecology.

The program is being offered by the Timber Wolf Alliance of Northland College’s Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute of Ashland, Wis. The day-long Munising sessions will begin at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Express on Saturday and Sunday. Pre-registration is required and space is limited to 40 participants.

Two additional two-day sessions will be taught on Dec. 5-6 in Watersmeet and on Dec. 9-10 in Tomahawk, Wis. The cost for the workshop includes instruction, meals, materials, and for some workshops, lodging.

“We are thrilled to have one of the world’s foremost professional wildlife trackers teach these workshops,” said Pam Troxell, coordinator of the Timber Wolf Alliance program. “It is quite an opportunity to have someone of Jim’s caliber be available to us.”

Halfpenny has taught tracking for nearly 30 years, has partnered with Timber Wolf Alliance on tracking workshops for the past decade, and is the founder of “A Naturalist’s World,” an educational tracking adventure company.

He is a former research associate at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, was an instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School, and served as director of the Mountain Research Station.

In addition to numerous scientific and popular articles, Halfpenny is author of “A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America,” “Winter: An Ecological Handbook, and the soon to be released “Scats and Tracks of the Great Lakes Region.”

The goal of the Wildlife Tracking Skills workshops is to offer quality tracking skill training and information about large carnivore ecology to participants in both classroom and field settings, Troxell said.

“Our workshops cover track and sign identification, footprint analysis, gait interpretation, trail reading, and understanding animal behavior and ecology,” Troxell said.

In Wisconsin, similar tracking sessions have helped citizen volunteers become qualified to help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources track wolves in that state.

Cost for the Munising session is $170 without lodging, $155 for Timber Wolf Alliance supporting members.

The Watersmeet workshop will be held at the Lac Vieux Desert Casino, and the cost is $170 (without lodging), $155 for TWA supporters. The Tomahawk, Wis. sessions will be held at the Treehaven Field Station. Cost is $190 (with 1 night lodging), $175 for TWA supporters, $210 (with 2 nights lodging), $195 for TWA supporters.

For more information about the workshops, contact the Timber Wolf Alliance at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute by calling (715) 682-1223, or e-mail

  • The Mining Journal
  • Crying wolf? Committee looking to control population

    By Howard Meyerson - Grand Rapids Press Outdoors Editor

    A citizens advisory committee looking at whether Michigan's gray wolf population might be controlled using lethal means has given the nod to holding a managed hunt, should it ever become necessary -- when and if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes the wolf off the federal endangered species list.

    "That's the model we would use," said Todd Hogrefe, the state's endangered species coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "But the group emphasized using non-lethal means wherever it is feasible and effective."

    That group is the state's Wolf Management Roundtable, a citizens committee representing 20 different organizations across a wide political spectrum.

    The groups drew from animal welfare organizations such as the Michigan Humane Society to big-game hunting groups like Safari Club International. It also included the Sierra Club, farm bureau, tribal interests and those who hunt with dogs.

    The roundtable was convened last summer to develop a set of "guiding principles" for the state to use in revising its gray wolf management plan. Those principles were released this week in a report titled: Recommended Guiding Principles for Wolf Management in Michigan.

    Federal officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed last March that the gray wolf be taken off the federal endangered species list for Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan along with nearby states where they may move. Final action on that proposal is expected in March.

    Michigan wildlife officials say they want to be ready for that change. There are approximately 434 wolves living in the Upper Peninsula. The state's goal for the endangered wolf was to have 200 for five consecutive years. Hogrefe says that has more than been exceeded and there are 4,000 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

    Those wolves also are expected to spread out over time. That, in turn, will mean more good and bad encounters with humans.

    State officials say the new guidelines will help them with their wolf plan revisions. They are a clear indication of what stockholders will tolerate and support.

    Wolves are protected by federal law. It is currently illegal to kill one in Michigan except when being attacked. The state also has that authority when a wolf proves a human safety concern or the wolf is sick or injured.

    In 2005, Michigan lost its authority to kill them in the case of livestock predation after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lost a lawsuit challenging its previous decision to de-list the wolf.

    Hogrefe said 10 wolves were "euthanized" between April 2003 and January 2005 for that purpose and nearly $20,000 was paid to farmers to compensate them for livestock losses in 76 cases.

    "We have no authority to use lethal control in these situations now, but we can use non-lethal harassment," Hogrefe said.

    The new guidelines give the DNR the flexibility to use a managed hunt if it's needed in the future, but roundtable members could not agree about hunting of wolves for recreation and issued no recommendation.

    "They agreed to disagree," said Hogrefe, who explained that opposing groups included the various tribes who value the wolf for cultural and religious reasons, the animal-welfare groups that were concerned about their suffering and the Sierra Club, which is not anti-hunting, but whose members did not want to see it hunted.

    Other guidelines included in the report call for:

    -educating Michigan citizens about wolves
    -using non-lethal means wherever possible
    -not setting numerical population goals, but rather maintaining a sustainable population while minimizing risks to humans, dogs and livestock
    -giving the DNR authority to use lethal control for livestock predation problems as well as the livestock producer.
    -not giving dog owners authority to kill wolves unless wolf attacks on dogs become a chronic occurrence and nothing else works.

    Hogrefe said the guidelines have been sent to DNR director Becky Humphries for review. A revised draft wolf management plan is expected from the DNR in March. It will get a 90-day public review before being adopted.

  • Grand Rapids Press
  • U.P. wolf killings probed

    By SCOTT SWANSON, Journal Staff Writer

    MARQUETTE — At least six wolves have been killed in the western Upper Peninsula since the beginning of firearm deer season.

    Prosecution is pending against hunters in three of the incidents, while investigations are ongoing in two others, according to an official with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

    A sixth animal was killed by other wolves, the official said.

    In addition to a $1,500 restitution fee, a person found guilty of killing a wolf — a federally endangered species — faces up to 90 days in prison, a fee of $100 to $1,000 and a loss of hunting privileges at the discretion of the court, said Lt. Tom Courchaine of the Crystal Falls DNR office.

    “You think you’re out in the middle of nowhere, but there are a lot of clues out there,” he said. “Especially during deer season, when there are a lot of eyes and ears out in the woods.”

    Prosecution is pending against individuals who allegedly killed wolves near Trout Creek in Ontonagon County, southern Iron County and Dickinson County, Courchaine said.

    The DNR is still investigating a wolf killed in northern Iron County, although a preliminary investigation indicated that it was shot, Courchaine said. The investigation of a wolf killed on tribal land in Baraga County is being handled by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

    And a wolf found dead near Ewen in Ontonagon County was determined to have been killed by other wolves, Courchaine said.

    Courchaine said that an increase in the killing of wolves during deer season is not unusual.

    “Six wolves in the month of November is an increase for us from the past couple of years, but we’ve had one or two years with fairly similar numbers,” he said.

    The DNR handles a potential wolf kill like any criminal investigation, Courchaine said. Wildlife biologists and conservation officers are sent to the scene to gather physical evidence and conduct interviews with hunters and other witnesses. As many as six officers at a time have been placed on wolf-kill cases.

    Courchaine added that it is illegal to shoot coyotes during deer season in Michigan.

    “All the people that kill a wolf and claim they thought they were shooting a coyote, that doesn’t hold much water,” he said.

    Because wolves in Michigan and several other Great Lakes states have exceeded recovery goals for several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing it from the federal endangered species list. A decision is expected in March.

  • The Mining Journal
  • Half-Breed Wolf Dog Hero Rescues Elderly Owners From Snowstorm

    By Liza Porteus

    NEW YORK — When Eve and Norman Fertig rescued a sick, two-week-old half wolf, half German shepherd puppy from a breeder almost seven years ago, they'd never dreamed that the animal one day would save their lives.

    "God is watching; he's watching all the time," Eve Fertig told FOXNews from her home at the Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y.

    He apparently was watching on Oct. 12, when the 81-year-old Fertigs were treating injured animals in the forest sanctuary on their property. One such animal is a near-18-year-old raven, while another is a crow who was shot, blind in one eye with two broken legs.

    It was routine for the couple to feed and exercise the dozen or so animals there around 7 p.m. every night.

    "While we're in there, the lights go out and I realized something's wrong," Eve Fertig said. "We go outside to see what's happening and down comes one massive tree … the trees came down across us."

    The massive storm that hit upstate New York that night felled trees, blocking the Fertig's path to the other sanctuary buildings — such as the school and storage building — and to their home, which was at least 200 feet away.

    "We were in big trouble. … I said to my husband, 'I think we could die out here,'" Eve said.

    'The Most Heroic Thing I've Ever Seen'

    The Fertigs huddled in a narrow alley between the hospital building and the aviary, where they were sheltered from falling trees. They couldn't climb over the trees without injuring themselves. Neither had warm clothes on since it was a clear, crisp fall day just a few hours ago. They hugged each other for warmth, since by 9:30 p.m., temperatures had dropped.

    "I wasn't prepared for this … I thought, 'we're trapped, we're absolutely trapped,'" Eve said. "That's when Shana began to dig beneath the fallen trees."

    The 160-pound dog that habitually follows her owners around — Eve likens it to "Mary had a little lamb," when the lamb went everywhere Mary went — eventually found the Fertigs and began digging a path in the snow with her teeth and claws underneath the fallen trees, similar to a mineshaft, and barking as if to tell them to follow.

    A reluctant Norm said, "I had enough in Okinawa in a foxhole," referring to his service in World War II.

    "'Norman, if you do not follow me, I will get a divorce,'" Eve said to her husband of 62 years. "That did it. He said, 'a divorce? That would scandal our family.' I said, 'all of our family is dead, Norman!'"

    After Shana tunneled all the way to the house — a process that took until about 11:30 p.m. — she came back, grabbed the sleeve of Eve's jacket, and threw the 86-pound woman over her back and neck, which Eve described as "as wide as our kitchen shelf."

    Norman grabbed Eve's legs, and the dog pulled them through the tunnel, under the trees and through an opening in a fence to the house, at which they arrived around 2 a.m.

    "It was the most heroic thing I've ever seen in my life," Eve said. "We opened the door and we just fell in and she laid on top of us and just stayed there and kept us alive … that's where we laid until the fireman found us."

    There was no electricity and no heat in the house, so Shana acted as a living, breathing generator for the exhausted Fertigs until the local fire department arrived the next morning.

    Concerned neighbors — many of whom had children Eve taught — who couldn't get hold of the elderly couple via telephone throughout the night had called the Town Line Fire Department.

    But when the fire department urged the Fertigs to go to the firehouse to take shelter along with 100 others, they told them they would have to leave Shana behind.

    "We said, 'we don't go anywhere without her.' ... I said, 'we'll stay until the people are gone and we'll take Shana,'" Eve said.

    So the couple stayed at home with Shana until Sunday, when the firehouse emptied out. During the three days in a house with no power, heat or hot water, Shana slept with her owners to keep them warm.

    "She kept us alive. She really did," Eve said.

    Also during that time, firefighters not only helped clear trees from their grounds, but they brought food and water for both human and animal.

    "They kept looking at that tunnel and said, 'we've never seen anything like it,'" she said. "I can't thank them enough — they're heroes."

    When they went to the firehouse Sunday, Shana followed the Fertigs everywhere, even to the bathroom. And she was 'spoiled rotten' by the fire crews there, Eve said.

    She said the fire chiefs said her story of being saved by her pet rejuvenated exhausted fire teams. "The story, they said, just gave them new hope."

    A Lesson Learned

    Last Thursday, Shana received the Citizens for Humane Animal Treatment's Hero's Award for bravery — an award traditionally given to humans. The plaque, complete with Shana's picture on it, hangs in the Fertigs' living room, along with other pictures of wolves the couple has worked with.

    Eve, who teaches courses in Saving Endangered Species and Caring for Injured and Orphaned Wildlife at community colleges and trains animal rehabilitators in New York, said she hopes her story will help further her message of humanity toward animals and educate people about how even a wolf, if treated with care and dignity, can be a "kisser and a hugger" like Shana.

    "If you're vicious to a human being, they'll become fighters," Eve said, but even wolves, "once you treat them right and raise them in your house, they're magnificent."

    Eve has taught 400 adults to be wildlife rehabilitators. She and her husband are volunteers who pay for their own teaching licenses and caring for the sanctuary animals, out of their Social Security checks every year.

    "I've never been on a cruise and I don't shop and I haven't seen a movie in two years," Eve said.

    The only time the Fertigs go to the movies is, of course, when they are submitting to a higher calling.

    "What I do to get signatures for my petitions, I go to [a] movie that's showing a wolf, horse or whale story," and she and her husband camp out outside the theater and get petitions signed to help save various animals, which they send along to wildlife organizations.

    "I have a motto ... joint abilities don't create hostilities," Eve said. "I make it my business to talk to all groups, all conservationists, all hunting clubs, to let them know what they're missing out there."

    Editor's Note: The Fertigs rely on food donations to help feed the injured animals they try to rehabilitate at their Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y. They told that the Oct. 12 storm completely wiped out their supply of food. The Fertigs would welcome any donations. Please contact them at 716-681-5918 if you would like to donate or volunteer.

    Editor's Note II: After this story was published, Eve Fertig contacted and said she received phone calls from all over the U.S. with people asking about Shana's story and how they can donate food for the Fertigs animals, toys for Shana, or money for their sanctuary. Mrs. Fertig asked that her address be published so people can send such items to them. Their address is:

    Mrs. Eve Fertig

    Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary

    11380 Cary Road

    Alden, N.Y. 14004-9547

  • Fox News
  • Wolf deaths up as management changes, numbers increase

    BILLINGS, Mont. - The number of wolves shot this year by government agents and livestock producers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho has surpassed 150, about 50 more than were killed last year, federal officials say.

    Wolf managers are taking a more aggressive approach with problem wolves, largely because the overall population in the three states has surpassed recovery efforts, officials say.

    "We've got a recovered population so we're pretty hard on them if they get into trouble," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Since their reintroduction more than a decade ago, gray wolves have flourished, with wildlife officials now estimating the population in the three states at more than 1,200. The Fish and Wildlife Service has declared wolf recovery a success in the northern Rockies and has turned over most management duties in Montana and Idaho to state wildlife officials. The federal agency has yet to approve Wyoming's management plan, which remains the center of a legal battle.

    The vast majority of the wolves killed were shot by federal wildlife agents. A small percentage were killed by private landowners in Montana and Idaho, who can shoot the animals under specific circumstances.

    So far this year in the three states, wolves have been blamed for killing 170 cows, 344 sheep, eight dogs, a horse, a mule and two llamas, FWS said.

    In recent years, 6 percent to 7 percent of the wolf population has been killed after preying on livestock. This year, the rate is around 12 percent overall, the agency said.

    "It's still just a small percentage of wolves involved but when a pack gets into chronic trouble, we get rid of 'em," Bangs said.

  • Helena Independent Record
  • Ranchers seek to band together

    By JOHN MORGAN - Star-Tribune staff writer

    Wyoming ranchers will need to band together to protect their interests against potentially harmful environmental regulations regarding the wolf and the sage grouse, ranchers said at a convention this week.

    "There's a whole lot of misinformation going on about wolves," said Meeteetse rancher Jack Turnell during a joint winter convention between the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Wyoming Wool Growers Association this week at the Parkway Plaza and Convention Centre in Casper.

    "Wolves are moving in every different direction," Turnell said. "Don't tell me I have two thirds of all the wolves in the area on my property. There are way more wolves than they're saying. The way we're headed, you're going to have wolves scattered all across the U.S. in a few years."

    There are at least 1,264 wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, according to new figures provided Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, roughly a 20 percent increase over 2005. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996 and are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

    "I don't have to tell you how fast these wolves reproduce," said state Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody. "It's very difficult to get rid of them. We have the wolf. We're never going to get rid of the wolf, I don't think."

    "It's not about wolves, it's about getting rid of us," Turnell said.

    Rob Hendry, a Lysite rancher and Natrona County Commissioner-elect, said another issue facing Wyoming ranchers is the possible listing of the sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

    "If the sage grouse is going to be listed, we need to have the information to be able to come back and say that the situation isn't quite as dim as it looks," Hendry said. He said he has had a consultant studying the grouse and other wildlife patterns on his ranch.

    "I've got a lot of birds on my land that haven't been counted by the government," Hendry said. "We have to have the data to save both our lives -- the sage grouse and ours."

    Wildlife consultant Dave Lockman said he is worried that the environmental battle could be narrowed to responsible use of the land versus no use at all. No use is where conservation appears to be heading, he said.

    Randy Teeuwen, a community relations advisor with EnCana Oil and Gas Inc., said energy officials are willing to help keep the sage grouse off the listing if at all possible.

    "There are 280 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the epicenter of the sage grouse habitat," Teeuwen said. "If the sage grouse is listed, the impact could be catastrophic."

  • Casper Star Tribune
  • Agents, landowners killing more wolves

    By MIKE STARK Of The Gazette Staff

    Wolves caught eating what they shouldn't are paying a higher price these days.

    A record number have been killed this year in the northern Rocky Mountains for going after cows, sheep, dogs and other domestic animals.

    So far, 152 wolves have been shot by government agents or private landowners, about 50 more than last year and an eightfold increase from five years ago.

    In Wyoming, one-quarter of all wolves living outside Yellowstone's protective boundary were killed after reports of attacks on livestock.

    Wolf managers are taking a more aggressive tack with problem wolves mostly because the population in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho has soared beyond expectation in recent years.

    "We've got a recovered population so we're pretty hard on them if they get into trouble," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    There are at least 1,264 wolves in the three states, according to new figures provided Monday.

    That's roughly a 20 percent increase over 2005, which is on top of years of steady growth since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996.

    "I'm surprised we ever got over 1,000 wolves, but in the long term I think it will be less," Bangs said. "I think we're on the top edge of that bubble and it's going to go down."

    All three states saw the number of wolves grow in 2006 over the previous year. Montana's total increased from 256 to 300, Wyoming's grew from 252 to about 314 and Idaho's grew from 512 to around 650.

    In Montana, the increased numbers reflect more wolves in the northwest part of the state and better reporting on the ground in recent years, said Carolyn Sime, who leads the wolf program for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

    "I feel like the minimum estimates are more realistic now than anything in the last 10 years," she said.

    Much of the best wolf habitat, especially in Yellowstone, is filling up. Eventually, as the good spots disappear and it becomes harder to find ample food, the population will dip back down, Bangs said.

    So far this year, wolves in the three states have killed 170 cows, 344 sheep, eight dogs, a horse, a mule and two llamas, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The kills - greater for sheep and cattle than any other year - are almost certainly higher than the numbers show because confirming wolf kills can be difficult.

    But more wolves have been killed in turn.

    The vast majority were shot by agents with federal Wildlife Services. A small percentage were killed by private landowners in Montana and Idaho, which were recently given more flexibility in pursuing wolves that were trying to kill livestock.

    Typically, 6 to 7 percent of the wolf population has been culled by "lethal control," as some call it. This year, the rate is around 12 percent overall and 25 percent in Wyoming outside Yellowstone.

    "It's still just a small percentage of wolves involved, but when a pack gets into chronic trouble, we get rid of 'em," Bangs said.

    A University of Calgary study published earlier this year said killing problem wolves is only a temporary solution to livestock attacks. Once the offender is removed, another eventually moves in to take its place.

    "Wolves are being killed as a corrective, punitive measure - not a preventative one," Marco Musiani, one of the study's authors, said earlier this year.

    A better approach, he said, is to look at when and where depredations occur and take steps like changing grazing patterns and using guard dogs, fencing, wolf repellants and other measures.

    Though wolves grab the attention, their impact on domestic animals is far exceeded by other predators.

    Coyotes kill 28 times more sheep and lambs than wolves, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foxes, dogs, bears and even eagles also rank higher, and that's not to mention weather, diseases and lambing complications.

    For losses that are confirmed kills by wolves and grizzly bears, the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife pays the value of the animals lost.

    "I think we're looking at a little above average year," said Suzanne Stone, who works out of the group's Idaho office.

    The group has paid out $153,930 for wolf kills so far this year, more than $50,000 over 2005.

  • Billings Gazette
  • Officials don't know if predator was wolf or where it came from

    By MIKE STARK Of The Gazette Staff

    Was it a wolf or wasn't it?

    The mysterious, sheep-killing predator shot and killed a month ago between Jordan and Circle was initially thought to be a wolf.

    But now, wildlife officials aren't so sure.

    "Frankly, it has mixed characteristics," said Carolyn Sime, head of the wolf program for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

    Some clues indicate that it's not a wolf from among the 1,200 or so that live in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The animal shot in Garfield County in early November had shades of orange, red and yellow in its fur, unlike the Northern Rockies wolves, which tend more toward browns, blacks and grays.

    The orangish coat may be more indicative of wolves that roam the upper Great Lakes region, Sime said.

    The animal also had long claws and teeth in good condition, somewhat unusual for a 4-year-old wolf, raising the possibility it might be a hybrid that had spent some time in captivity, Sime said.

    On the other hand, the wolf was fairly large at 106 pounds with a big head and hunting skills, which suggests it was wild, Sime said.

    "Right now," Sime said, "we're just as curious as everyone else."

    Whatever it was, it had landowners in McCone, Garfield and Dawson counties on alert for months. About 120 sheep were killed and others were hurt in a series of attacks that started about a year ago.

    The animal roamed wide swaths of the landscape, occasionally attacking sheep before moving on only to circle back later. Several landowners were given permits to shoot if it was seen attacking livestock, but it was never caught in the act.

    The animal eluded trackers for months until this fall, when footprints were spotted in deep snow. Agents with Wildlife Services shot it from the air Nov. 2.

    The animal was initially reported as a wolf, but closer inspection raised concerns about the identification.

    Muscle tissue has been sent to the University of California Los Angeles, where scientists have been analyzing DNA from the Northern Rockies wolf population and putting together a sort of family tree.

    The animal's carcass was sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., for genetic analysis.

    The work could take several months to complete.

    Sime said that if the animal is a wolf that came in from the Rockies or Canada or the upper Midwest, the genetic testing should provide clear evidence. It wouldn't be the first time that a wolf has wandered hundreds of miles. In recent years, wolves from Yellowstone have been found in Utah and Colorado.

    "If it's neither of those, the question becomes 'OK, what is this animal and where is it from?' " Sime said. "The uncertainty level goes up a lot."

  • Billings Gazette
  • Idaho researchers say wolves aren't decimating elk

    The Associated Press

    MCCALL, Idaho -- A pair of University of Idaho researchers living in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness say that while wolves around their three-room cabin are making elk more skittish, they're not decimating populations of the big game animals as some hunters fear.

    Wolf researcher Jim Akenson, 48, and his wife, biologist Holly Akenson, 48, live and work at the Taylor Ranch Field Station as part of what is so far a nine-year study of wolf behavior.

    The Akensons concede elk have become harder to find, but they say that's not because wolves are killing them. They say the wolves' presence has made elk more leery of exposed ground. That makes hunters mad because tracking the big ungulates during fall hunting season has become more difficult.

    A spooked elk in wolf country typically plunges into a river or mountain lake, because wolves are at a disadvantage in water, the Akensons said.

    Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are trying to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections for wolves, whose population in the region including Yellowstone National Park now tops 1,200.

    Eventually, the states want to hold legal wolf hunts. Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say such hunts are needed to restore balance in areas where wolves have gotten the upper hand.

    The Akensons are surrounded by three wolf packs at Taylor Ranch, but say they've never been threatened.

    Wolves generally hunt in packs of eight to 12 and have killed several hunting dogs in Idaho in recent years.

  • Santa Fe New Mexican
  • Man pleads guilty to trying to poison wolves with meatballs


    A former Salmon resident now living in Montana has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trying to kill endangered gray wolves with poisoned meatballs.

    Timothy B. Sundles, 48, signed a plea agreement last week admitting his activity. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams is scheduled to take the plea and sentence Sundles on March 1 in Pocatello. He faces a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $25,000 fine.

    According to the plea agreement, on February 19, 2004, Sundles placed numerous meatballs containing aldicarb in the Wagonhammer Creek drainage on the Salmon National Forest near North Fork. Aldicarb is a poisonous pesticide sold under the name Temik.

    No dead or injured wolves were found, but several other animals were injured or killed by the poisoned meat, including a coyote, a fox, several magpies and three domestic dogs.

    Prosecutors are expected to ask at sentencing that Sundles spend 30 days in jail, be banned from public lands for two years, and pay veterinary bills of $128.90 for treatment of the dogs.

    The gray wolf is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

  • Monday, November 13, 2006

    Snowy Yellowstone a wondrous backdrop for wolf-watching

    By John Flinn - San Francisco Chronicle

    Yellowstone National Park · The wolves were at our door -- almost literally.

    They killed a big bull elk on the steps of the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel dining room the night before we arrived. Now, as we crunched across the frozen parking lot in the predawn darkness, we could hear their not-so-distant howls.


    Enthralled was more like it. This is what we'd come for. Since their reintroduction here 11 years ago, Yellowstone National Park has become the premier venue in North America -- possibly in all the world -- for viewing wild wolves. To wildlife enthusiasts, they're a bigger attraction than Old Faithful.

    It's possible to see them most times of the year, but winter is best -- especially February through April (January is usually too cold). The wolves are more active during the day, their dark gray coats stand out against the white snow, and they follow their prey from the high country down to valley bottoms more easily accessible to humans.

    Winter is also when Yellowstone is at its most beguiling. The geysers are more sharply etched as they erupt into the biting-cold air. The hot, sulfurous clouds billowing out of fumaroles and mud pots gain dramatic definition. Bison, their shaggy beards coated with snow, snort steam as they use their enormous heads as snowplows.

    On the down side: It's cold. Sometimes really cold.

    Last winter my wife, Jeri, and I joined a wolf-watching program run by Xanterra Resorts, the park's concessionaire, and the Yellowstone Association Institute. The "Winter Wolf Discovery" package, which comes in two- and three-day versions, includes lodging at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel inside the park, several meals and daily tours guided by sharp-eyed wildlife biologists.

    At a briefing the night before our first outing, our guide, Brad Bulin, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, told us that wolves once ranged over most of North America. But by the early 1920s they were gone from Yellowstone and most of the West -- poisoned or shot by bounty hunters because they posed a threat to settlers' livestock.

    In the 1970s, after gray wolves had been placed on the newly created Endangered Species List, wildlife biologists began a campaign to return them to Yellowstone. Opposition from local ranchers stalled the effort for two decades, but in 1995 biologists captured 14 gray wolves in the Canadian Rockies and set them free in the Yellowstone backcountry. The following year, they released 17 more.

    The wolves quickly formed into packs, established territories and began to breed. The last of the original transplanted wolves died in 2002, but their progeny are thriving. Or at least they were until last year (more on that later).

    Leaders of the pack

    The first morning, five minutes from the hotel, our van came across six members of the Swan Lake pack. These were the wolves we'd heard howling before dawn.

    We spilled out of the van, fumbling with binoculars, spotting scopes and telephoto lenses. But we didn't really need them. The wolves were perhaps 90 yards away on a snowy hillside -- distant enough for safety, but near enough that we could watch them with our naked eyes. Wolf sightings this intimate are rare.

    A pair of frisky young wolves was play-fighting: wrestling, gnawing at each others' necks and tumbling over one another in the snow. "They're starting to establish their positions in the pack," Bulin said. "It's a process of figuring out who's the future alpha."

    We drove into the Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of Yellowstone. Cradled between Specimen Ridge and the Absaroka Mountains, the broad, glacier-carved valley is sometimes called "North America's little Serengeti." It's one of the finest places on the continent for spotting wildlife. There's a plentitude of elk, bison, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, moose, bald eagles and, in summer, grizzly bears. And this prey-rich valley is the best spot in all of Yellowstone to see wolves.

    If you're not up for a full wolf-viewing program, you can do pretty well on your own by driving into the Lamar Valley (the road is kept open in winter) and looking for clusters of parked cars and big spotting scopes on tripods. These belong to the wolf watchers, sometimes called "wolfies" -- amateur enthusiasts who flock to Yellowstone to observe and keep tabs on the animals.

    Wolf watching, they tell you, is dangerously addictive, especially once you learn to recognize individual wolves, to understand pack behavior and to appreciate the drama that unfolds as wolves battle for territory and dominance.

    Wolf packs constantly encroach on each other's fiercely defended turf. As alpha males and females fall in battle, their groups disperse or reform into new packs. Last winter, for example, according to a dispatch on, the Nez Perce pack disintegrated when its alpha female was killed next to Old Faithful by "the new power on the Madison and Firehole rivers, the Gibbon pack."

    "Watching all this," said a wolf watcher who invited me to look through his scope, "is the ultimate reality show."

    Kills and coyotes

    Down on the valley floor, next to the river, a lone wolf was keeping watch on a recent kill -- an elk or a bison -- while bald eagles and ravens perched nearby. Ten or 11 other members of the Slough Creek pack had gorged themselves on the carcass -- 20 to 30 pounds of meat apiece at one sitting is normal -- and now were staggering drowsily and lying in the snow to sleep it off. Biologists call this being "meat drunk."

    The wolf guarding the kill kept a wary eye on what looked like two small and timid wolves crouching low in the snow a respectful distance away. They were, in fact, coyotes.

    Wolves are typically larger than coyotes. Before 1995, Yellowstone supported one of the nation's largest and most stable coyote populations. But within two years of the wolves' arrival, half the coyotes were dead, often after making the fatal mistake of trying to stand their ground. The survivors learned they're no longer at the top of the food chain and now spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders. That's how you spot the difference: Wolves strut, coyotes skulk.

    For the first decade after reintroduction, Yellowstone's wolves multiplied and thrived. From a start of 31 wolves, the park's population had grown to 171 by 2004. It was, according to Dan Stahler, a Yellowstone wolf biologist, a "very healthy population."

    "With the wolves here," he said, "Yellowstone feels more whole, more together. For the ecosystem to function as nature intended, wolves were the last missing piece of the puzzle."

    A few wandered out of the park and were killed by ranchers, many of whom still see the predators as a menace to livestock. But a program run by a private group, Defenders of Wildlife, has somewhat defused the situation. Ranchers who lose sheep and cattle are compensated at market value.

    A year ago, Yellowstone supported one of the highest wolf densities ever recorded anywhere, according to Stahler. But the census conducted at the end of 2005 brought troubling news: The population had fallen by almost one-third, to 118. Only 22 pups had survived, compared with 69 the previous year.

    Biologists aren't sure of the reason, but a leading suspect is canine parvovirus, the same disease that affects household dogs.

    "What are we going to do about it? Not much," Stahler said. "Our feeling is that it's best to let nature take its course. Potentially, this is a mechanism for saying that the ecosystem had more wolves than it can support."

    Because Yellowstone's wolf population had been so large and healthy, Stahler believes it will probably bounce back quickly to a sustainable number.

    "We're concerned about this, and we need to stay on top of it," he said, "but we're not alarmed. At least not yet."

  • South Florida Sun-Sentinel
  • (Virtually) Run With The Wolves

    Minnesota Zoo Computer Program Allows Users To Live (And Maybe Die) In The Wild

    Mary Tan- WCCO-TV

    (WCCO) Apple Valley, Minn. The Minnesota Zoo is developing a video game that simulates being in a pack of wolves in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. The computer-animated simulation, called Wolfquest, is designed to put players in real-life situations in the middle of the wild where the wrong decision may make all the difference between life and death.

    "We want our players to gain an empathy for wolves -- what it is to be a wolf, [to] gain an emotional connection, to be with them," said Grant Spickelmier, a naturalist at the Minnesota Zoo.

    The object of the game is fairly straightforward: find food, care for your offspring, avoid predators and otherwise stay alive.

    The backdrop of Yellowstone was chosen for its scenic and natural beauty.

    The game is designed as an educational tool for children -- boys and girls -- from 9 to 13.

    "We want to make a game that's attractive enough that they would pick it up on their own," said Spickelmier, adding, "they get hooked and, hey, maybe they'll learn something about wolves."

    The game is expected to be finished and beta-tested by December 2007.

    The goal is to put Wolfquest on the zoo's Web site and free for anyone to use.

    Local zoo educators are also working with the Phoenix Zoo, the National Zoo in Washington D.C., and the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn.

  • Endangered wolves on display at Minnesota Zoo hopes to breed wolves

    Three of North America's most endangered wolves went on exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo on Thursday. Zookeepers hope the captive-bred female Mexican gray wolves will breed with the zoo's four male wolves already on exhibit on the Northern Trail.

    Mexican gray wolves were wiped out in the United States by the middle of the 20th century, but the subspecies found a sliver of hope in the late 1970s after a trapper working for the government captured five wolves in Mexico.

    The zoo has been part of a two-nation effort to breed those captive wolves and return their descendants to the wild; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the Apple Valley zoo to help in 1994.

    One of the zoo's former wolves was released into the Blue Mountain Range in Arizona earlier this year.

    With only about 60 Mexican gray wolves left in the wild, international wolf experts rate recovery of this species as the highest priority of gray wolf recovery programs worldwide

  • St. Paul Pioneer Press
  • Italy claims Swiss are killing protected wolves

    By Peter Popham

    ROME - Italy is this week to call on its European neighbours to put a halt to the "extermination" of wolves, which it claims is putting at risk decades of effort in bringing the beautiful but ferocious mammal back to the wild. Despite theoretical protection under EU law, wild wolves continue to be targeted in Europe; the most recent kill was in Goms, Switzerland, at the end of last month.

    According to Italian conservationists, "decades of conservation work" are now at risk from the hunters, who despite the legislation do not hesitate to shoot wolves dead on sight. Tomorrow, at a meeting of the Convention of the Alps in Austria, Italy is preparing to take up the cudgels on behalf of the predator.

    After disappearing from most of Europe early in the 20th century, wolves have gradually returned in small numbers and are found now in most parts of the Italian peninsula and in France, Switzerland and Germany. The species is protected by the Bern Convention of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, of which all EU members are signatories.

    But this has not deterred hunters and farmers in France and Germany from attempting to wipe out the hated sheep-lifter all over again.

    It is a repeat of the fate that befell Bruno the bear, whose unhappy story made news day after day in the summer. The brown bear happily and safely resident in Italy made the mistake of straying across the border into Baviara, where it was shot by a hunter, despite its status as a species theoretically protected across the EU.

    "In Italy the wolves must be protected," commented Italy's environment minister, Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, who also heads the Green Party. "In France and Switzerland on the other hand they are massacred. The situation is unsustainable. I have already raised the issue at the Council of European Ministers and with Stavros Dimas, the EU's Environmental Commissioner, who has taken on the task of drafting a directive for the protection of the species across borders.

    "We have got to get out of this surreal situation as quickly as possible," the minister went on. "The EU finances the protection of the wolf and the EU member states kill them. This is no good. We don't accept a repetition of the Bruno saga, the bear which Italy succeeded in protecting but which, as soon as it set foot in Bavaria, was shot."

    The appeal to the minister to do his bit to save wolves straying across Europe's borders was launched by Legambiente, Italy's largest environmental organisation. "One can't protect them by day and kill them by night," said Damiano di Simine, head of the organisation's Alpine observatory.

    "In Bavaria no bear had been seen in more than a century and the first to arrive was riddled with shot. With chronometrical precision Switzerland does away with all wolves, and is charged with the killing of at least 25 wolf cubs, which amounts to a generalised licence to kill. France is proposing to eliminate six wolves."

    Italy's own record is not spotless. "We ourselves have a problem with poaching," Alberto Meriggi told La Repubblica newspaper, a researcher at the University of Pavia and an expert on the distribution of wolves in the northern Appenines.

    "But our decision to apply the law protecting wolves without exception has allowed the Appenine wolf to return vigorously throughout the peninsula. The first traces were in 1986 in the province of Genoa, then three years later in the maritime Alps, in the province of Cuneo. Today once again the Italian wolf is in resurgence. We must be careful not to allow the destruction of decades of work."

  • 5 wolves killed after attacks on cattle

    By The Associated Press

    AVON - Wildlife officials killed five wolves this week on private land south of here, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said Thursday. The agency authorized U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services to kill the animals after a series of attacks on livestock. Since February, three cattle were confirmed to have been killed by wolves, and one calf was probably killed by wolves, FWP said.

    Wildlife Services investigated the most recent depredation on Sunday and killed the wolves the next day.

    "The Spotted Dog pack territory is mostly comprised of private lands managed for livestock production, both cattle and sheep," said Carolyn Sime, FWP wolf program coordinator. "Previous lethal control in September left at least nine wolves in this large pack. Removing additional wolves is part of our incremental approach to addressing confirmed livestock kills."

    A collared female and up to five other wolves remain in the pack, the agency said.

    USDA Wildlife Services is a cooperating federal agency that investigates injured and dead livestock to determine the cause, and carries out the field response at the direction of FWP.

    Both agencies work to help reduce depredation risks and address wolf-related conflicts, FWP said.

  • Billings Gazette
  • Sanctuary installing security measures after poisonings

    BROKEN ARROW, Okla. A Broken Arrow animal sanctuary is installing security measures to protect its animals after three wolves were poisoned to death. Safari's Interactive Animal Sanctuary handlers believe trespassers threw poisoned meat over the fences where the wolves are kept. At least three died and the deaths of two other animals earlier this year are thought to be suspicious.

    Safari's president and founder Lori Ensign said yesterday that the sanctuary hadn't had any problems in its 11 years of existence. Ensign is spending thousands of dollars for lighting, higher fencing and other security measures for the animals, which include everything from raccoons to bears.

    Safari's and its supporters also are offering a $1200 reward for information leading to an arrest in the October killings. Authorities say investigators are still waiting on toxicology results to determine what kind of poison was used to kill the wolves.

  • No scientific basis for current wolf control program

    By Gordon Haber

    Alaska’s aerial wolf-killing program now covers five areas equal to about two-thirds the size of Wyoming. Wolf control using snowmachines, other non-aerial methods, and even by allowing hunters to shoot adults while they are raising dependent pups at spring-summer dens and rendezvous sites is effectively under way over additional, much larger areas as well. Altogether, at least 1,500 wolves are killed annually in Alaska.

    For most of this killing, state biologists and the Board of Game avoid the public process and written findings required for control programs by claiming they are merely providing wolf “harvesting” opportunities. However, they are unable to avoid these requirements for the five areas where airplanes are used. The details are revealing.

    Foremost, the available information does not support the underlying claims about moose, caribou, and related hunting problems.

    For example, state biologists continue to mislead Alaskans about the need for predator control in the McGrath area, where local hunters have enjoyed among the highest moose-hunting success rates in the state for at least 14 years. This is reminiscent of claims about the nearby Nowitna area in 1979, where state biologists insisted moose had declined from 2,000 to 1,000 and began an aerial wolf control program, only to determine a year later that there were actually 3,500-5,000 moose in the area. This past spring, state biologists convinced the board that it was necessary to triple the size of the Fortymile aerial wolf control area to boost caribou numbers — where caribou numbers have already doubled since 1997!

    The only condition that might necessitate killing wolves to provide a sustainable ungulate harvest is the so-called predator pit, a low stable state that can occur at varying densities both naturally and via human causes. Because ungulate recruitment increases and decreases in counterintuitive ways across wide ranges of population densities, merely showing that there is low calf survival or that survival increases following a predator reduction does not suffice to identify a predator pit. Low calf survival and similar responses to predator reductions can also occur at high populations.

    Recruitment information must be interpreted with good population estimates, and vice versa, in order to confirm a predator pit. But there are few if any reliable estimates of populations and their trends for the control areas, and the available information provides more reasons to question than accept the claims about current predator pits.

    Game Management Unit 20A, south of Fairbanks, illustrates the importance of identifying this condition accurately and not otherwise jumping to conclusions about negative impacts on moose and moose-hunting even when wolves are at natural levels. Moose in 20A were overhunted into a likely predator pit in the early-mid 1970s, then rebounded during wolf control from 1976 to 1982. According to state reports, wolves recovered to natural or near-natural levels by mid 1983 and for the most part have remained there since. Yet during this period of relative wolf abundance — 1983-2006 — moose numbers increased another two-to-three-fold (within an upper “stable state”) and 20A has become the best moose-hunting area in Alaska.

    In contrast to 20A wolves, 20A bears have remained at low levels, due to past heavy hunting and for other reasons. Thus the 1983-2006 observations also debunk the notion (e.g., at McGrath) that unchecked wolf predation during the winter will undo early calf-survival gains from reductions in bear predation.

    Data from neighboring Denali National Park (in my doctoral dissertation), based on all the ungulates that two groups of wolves ate during 2,666 miles of their travels over a series of mild, severe, and average winters, help to explain why. The wolves scavenged rather than killed 60-77 percent of the moose they ate (47-48 percent of the moose, sheep, and caribou they ate combined) and killed only 2.0-8.9 percent of the moose they encountered. The state’s findings for the control areas are full of speculation about predation impacts but mention nothing about this Denali research, the most detailed and extensive body of wolf foraging information ever published.

    I invite readers to consider the details of these and related arguments. They appear in a 67-page scientific review — with citations to 81 other reports — that I submitted to the Board of Game at the March-May 2006 meetings (as RC-35 and RC-201). The board neither considered nor even mentioned this and other scientific opposition during its subsequent deliberations.

    Once again, agency biologists and the board have been able to avoid meaningful review and sell their gratuitous control programs to Alaskans under the guise of “science.”

    Gordon Haber, Ph.D., has studied wolves and wolf-ungulate systems in Alaska since 1966.

  • Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
  • Wolf Saga returns

    Sorry for the interruption in posting to Wolf Saga. Personal and technical demands required my attention.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Yellowstone Wolf Report- Agate, Slough, Druid News

    Wolf watcher Cindy Knight posts an interesting report on some Yellowstone wolf packs on Ralph Maughan's new Wildlife News site:

  • Ralph Maughan's Wildlife News
  • Wyoming sues U.S. Fish and Wildlife over wolf plan

    By CAT URBIGKIT - Star-Tribune correspondent

    The chasm remains vast between the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wyoming’s attempts to have wolves removed from federal protection. That gap widened further Tuesday when state officials filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an order directing the federal agency to proceed with delisting the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies.

    In July, the federal wildlife agency rejected Wyoming’s petition for delisting, continuing steadfast in the agency's demands that for delisting to proceed, wolves must be:

    * Classified as trophy game animals.

    * That the state commit to maintaining some wolf packs in northwest Wyoming outside national parks.

    * And that the state change its definition of what constitutes a wolf pack so that Montana, Idaho and Wyoming all use similar definitions.

    The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the Northern Rockies is a total of 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves, with Montana, Idaho and Wyoming each sustaining a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves for a minimum of three consecutive years. This goal was attained in 2002. Last month, Fish and Wildlife estimated the tri-state area contains a minimum of 1,229 wolves and 87 breeding pairs, including 309 wolves in Wyoming, with 24 potential breeding pairs.

    The federal rejection of the Wyoming wolf petition prompted Game and Fish to prepare a technical analysis of that rejection in preparation for the filing of the lawsuit. Game and Fish Director Terry Cleveland sent the analysis, along with a cover letter, to Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Mitch King last week, asserting that the rejection of the wolf petition was “flawed in various aspects and is lacking depth and understanding of several issues brought forth in Wyoming’s petition.”

    Cleveland accused Fish and Wildlife of delaying delisting with reasoning based on “unrealistic assumptions, misinterpretation of data, misrepresentation” and said the agency used “infeasible or highly unrealistic” hypothetical examples.

    The state wildlife agency took Fish and Wildlife to task in its 60-page analysis of the rejection of the state’s petition. Game and Fish noted that when wolf reintroduction was examined in an environmental impact statement in 1994, that analysis examined the impact of a recovered wolf population of 100 animals in Wyoming. Now that Wyoming has a minimum of 300 wolves, Fish and Wildlife only discusses impacts as a rate per 100 wolves, rather than the impact of the total wolf population, which is at least three times that original number.

    Wyoming Game and Fish says the federal agency “has a permanent, legal obligation to manage wolves at the levels on which the wolf recovery program was originally predicated, the levels described by the impact analysis in the 1994 EIS.”

    Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank said Tuesday that the state is eager to have a judge review whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to reject the management plan was warranted. "We've alleged all along that they've failed to follow the best science mandate, and the rejection of our management plan was based on political considerations, especially fear of future lawsuits by environmental groups," Crank said.

    Crank said the state has concerns about the growing wolf population. "It's a very serious issue with regard to the health of our other wildlife herds. It's a serious issue with regard to our livestock producers," he said.

    The lawsuit also seeks a court order to force the Fish and Wildlife to act on state proposals to limit the wolves' effect on wildlife and livestock. Crank said the proposals include allowing state wardens to intervene if wolves harass elk at state winter feedgrounds.

    Eric Keszler, public information officer for Game and Fish, said Tuesday the department estimates there are now about 30 wolf packs in the state. "The number of wolves has been growing by about 20 percent a year since they've been introduced," Keszler said.

    Keszler said the department doesn't have any conclusive studies about the effect of wolves on Wyoming's elk and deer herds. But he said, "There are lower cow-calf ratios than there have been in previous years in some of the elk herds where we know wolves are present."

    “Despite research findings in Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone Area, and monitoring evidence in Wyoming that indicate wolf predation is having an impact on ungulate populations that will reduce hunter opportunity if the current impact levels persist, the (Fish and Wildlife) Service continues to rigidly deny wolf predation is a problem," the Wyoming Game and Fish analysis says.

    Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said his group and others, known as the Wolf Coalition, strongly support the state lawsuit. "We're seeing tremendous growth in the population," Magagna said. "And each year we're seeing more wolf predation of livestock, and they are more dispersed over a geographical area."

    Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, Mont., said Tuesday that his agency had expected the state lawsuit but was sorry to see it filed nonetheless. "I guess the bottom line is I'm kind of sorry to just see this court stuff just go on and on and on," Bangs said. "We'll do our best to see all the information presented, and defend our position, if that's the right thing to do."

    Bangs said that once Wyoming has a federally approved wolf management plan in place, the state will be able to take over management of the animals.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service has already turned management of wolves over to state agencies in Montana and Idaho. About 400 wolves have been killed in those states for preying on livestock and for other reasons since 1987, Bangs said earlier.

  • Jackson Hole Star-Tribune
  • Kempthorne likely to seek Endangered Species Act changes

    By FAITH BREMNER - Tribune Washington Bureau

    WASHINGTON — Conservation groups expect Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to seek major changes next year to a federal law that protects plants and wildlife from extinction, picking up where he left off nine years ago when he was in the U.S. Senate.

    In 1998 as a senator from Idaho, Kempthorne nearly pushed a bipartisan bill through Congress that would have updated the now 33-year-old Endangered Species Act. The measure would have given landowners an incentive to work with federal authorities to help endangered species. It also would have given landowners more say over plans to protect species habitat and would have required more scientific review before species could be listed.

    The bill fell apart when it was blocked in the House. Shortly afterward, Kempthorne became the governor of Idaho.

    Critics complain that the endangered species law is too punitive and does not do enough to encourage landowners to protect and restore vital habitat. About 90 percent of endangered species in the United States exist on private land. The act forbids federal agencies from taking actions that jeopardize endangered species and it prohibits the public from harming them without a federal permit. The act helped save bald eagles, wolves and grizzly bears from extinction.

    Environmental groups now say they expect Kempthorne to again try to push his ideas through Congress and change department regulations. While his earlier proposal was considered moderate by many, environmental groups worry the new version would tilt more toward landowners and developers.

    But if Democrats win control of the House in November, Kempthorne would have to act more cautiously, said Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president of Defenders of Wildlife and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton.

    "The election will matter hugely," Clark said. "There should be no illusions about what could happen, particularly since it's the last two years (of the Bush administration). A lot of mischief could occur in two years."

    Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he supports updating the act, but any legislative proposal for change would have to be balanced between Republicans and Democrats or it won't pass.

    "I want to ensure that any further reform is a common-sense solution that protects both wildlife and private property rights at the same time," Baucus said.

    Kempthorne has not said whether he plans to try to change the Endangered Species Act, department spokesman Hugh Vickery said.

    Since taking over Interior's reins from Gale Norton in June, Kempthorne has been holding a series of public listening sessions around the country on cooperative conservation, along with the secretaries of Commerce and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and the head of the Council on Environmental Quality — the White House's environmental office.

    During his Senate confirmation hearing, Kempthorne said he looked forward to "again being at the table discussing ways to improve the act and make it more meaningful in helping the very species that we're trying to save."

    But environmentalists are wary of Kempthorne's record, opposing federal programs to recover threatened grizzly bears and endangered wolves when he was Idaho governor, said Liz Godfrey, program director for the Endangered Species Coalition.

    "Given his record, it's potentially dangerous to open up the Endangered Species Act," said Godfrey, whose group opposed Kempthorne's 1998 bill. "I don't think (the act) needs to be changed. It needs to be funded. It has been consistently under funded over the course of the years."

  • Great Falls Tribune
  • Utah offers bounty for dead coyote ears

    Written by Mark Watson

    In an effort to help increase the deer population and also protect grazing sheep in Utah, the state provides money to eight Utah counties to pay bounties for killing coyotes.

    Most of the money comes to the state from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The bounty program has been in place in Utah since 2000 and receives positive reviews from ranchers and members of the Utah Division of Wildlife. Some environmental groups call the practice immoral and ineffective.

    County leaders learned at the Sept. 26 commission meeting that there will be over $7,000 available for those who kill coyotes in Tooele County.

    "The bounty is there to help protect pheasants, chuckars and deer. It also helps ranchers protect their livestock," said Commissioner Dennis Rockwell.

    He said the county will pay $20 per coyote. If someone kills a coyote they should call the county for further instructions. Sometimes there are designated wildlife specialists who want to see the animal. Most the time all that is needed are the ears of the coyote to receive the $20. The county pays out the money and is then reimbursed through the state. The commissioner said the county paid for nearly 500 coyotes last year.

    "Coyotes are a problem, but it is a manageable problem," said Leland Hogan, president of Utah Farm Bureau.

    Mike Tamllos is an agent for the USDA in Vernon. He also said the government participates in reducing coyote numbers near sheep herds. He said that wildlife organizations are more active in eliminating coyotes to protect deer and pheasant populations than are sheep ranchers.

    "Back in 1927 there were 2.7 million sheep in Utah, now there are about 300,000," Tamllos said. The government used to poison coyotes, but that practice was banned in 1972, he said.

    "Raising sheep in Utah is a dying business. It is more difficult because of environmental movements and complaints about over-grazing. And people don't go into the sheep business unless they inherit the business. There used to be a lot more sheep than cattle in Utah, but now there are 350,000 head of cattle and dwindling sheep numbers," Tamllos said. The United States receives most of its wool from Australia, Tamllos said.

    Central Region wildlife information manager Scott Root said there is a debate among wildlife biologists as to whether cougars or coyotes kill more deer fawns. "We used to think cougars killed more deer, but coyotes may kill more. They are everywhere & in the mountains and deserts. Sometimes when I'm up in the mountains I can hear 20 coyotes howling. Controlling coyotes helps the deer population."

    Hunters are allowed to shoot coyotes at any time during the year.

    "Utah Environmental Congress strongly opposes the county offering bounty for coyotes," said Kevin Mueller, executive director for UEC. "First it is immoral and second it is not sound biological. It does not reduce the number of coyotes."

    He explained that when members of a coyote pack are reduced, it stresses the pack and instead of one or two females bearing litters, additional females have litters and numbers increase.

    "Then you have more juvenile coyotes which creates more problems for wildlife," Mueller said.

    "Also, ethically speaking, it is a horrible way to treat animals," he said. Quoting Mahatman Ghandi, Mueller said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

  • Tooele Transcript Bulletin
  • Wolves have made huge comeback in U.P.

    MARQUETTE, Mich. It's Wolf Awareness Week in Michigan, and the state is hoping to clear up misinformation about the animals.
    Nearly exterminated from the state during the 1970s, wolves began to return to the Upper Peninsula through Wisconsin and Ontario in the late 1980s. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says as of last winter, there were 436 wolves in the U-P and 30 more on Isle Royale.

    While many fear wolves, D-N-R wolf coordinator Brian Roell says no wolf attacks against humans have ever been documented in the lower 48 states.

    Roell says the state is updating its wolf management plan to reflect that wolves have moved beyond recovery in Michigan.

  • Targeted Vaccinations Could Save Ethiopian Wolves

    GLASGOW, Scotland, October 12, 2006 (ENS) - Specific groups of Ethiopian wolves must be targeted for rabies vaccination in order to prevent the world's rarest carnivore from the infectious disease, scientists said Wednesday. Rabies nearly drove the Ethiopian wolf to extinction in the 1990s and conservationists fear future outbreaks could wipe out the species entirely.

    "Theoreticians have devoted a lot of effort to working out how to vaccinate populations in ways that prevent epidemics getting started, but this requires coverage that is impractical in wild populations," said lead author Dan Haydon, a University of Glasgow scientist. "We've looked at vaccination studies that don't prevent all outbreaks, but do reduce the chances of really big outbreaks - ones that could push an endangered population over the extinction threshold. These strategies turn out to be effective and a lot more practical.'

    The study, published in the journal "Nature," suggests that vaccinating 30 percent of the wolf population that comes most in contact with domestic dogs would prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease.

    The findings are important for a species at major risk of extinction. Found in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, the species is at risk from habitat destruction, but rabies has proven a more imminent threat.

    First exposed to rabies via contact with domestic dogs, the wolves suffered an outbreak in the 1990s that killed nearly 75 percent of the population. Another outbreak in 2003 hit the species hard, leaving only about 500 wolves spread across six subpopulations.

    In the wake of the 2003 outbreak, an emergency vaccination program was introduced. Analysis of that program by Haydon and other British researchers with the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program (EWCP), suggests that a targeted vaccination program is a far more effective strategy that a blanket vaccination effort.

    Blanket vaccinations are too difficult because the wolves live in remote, inaccessible mountain enclaves.

    The alternative strategy adopted by the EWCP is an effective reactive response to outbreaks, whereby Ethiopian wolves living in the mountain valleys close to infected packs are targeted.

    The researchers suggest that in the event of a single suspected case, monitoring should be intensified and once two rabid carcasses are found, vaccination teams should be dispatched to target subpopulations living in connecting valleys.

    Additional measures, such as vaccinating between 10 and 40 per cent of wolves in affected packs, if targeting the particularly large and highly connected packs, can further reduce overall mortality due to these outbreaks.

    "We have shown that the vaccination of Ethiopian wolves, when appropriately and strategically used, is a safe, direct and effective method of reducing extinction threats," said coauthor Karen Laurenson, a University of Edinburgh researcher. "With the advent of new generations of oral vaccines, such methods are becoming ever more feasible and cost-effective."

    The researchers note that vaccination of domestic dogs is also critical to protecting the wolves.

    "Canid diseases, such as rabies and distemper, transmitted from domestic dogs pose the most immediate threat to their persistence, and targeted reactive vaccination intervention presents a useful tool to protect the remaining small wolf populations from extinction," said Dr Claudio Sillero-Zubiri, from Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).

    Researchers with the WildCRU have been studying the wolves for two decades and in 1995 established the EWCP to address the most urgent threats to the species' survival.

    "The WildCRU's aim is to put innovative science to practical use," said WildCRU Director David Macdonald. "These discoveries would have been impossible without long-term field-studies, and they show how cutting-edge science can have down-to-earth practical significance both for the protection of a very rare, and spectacular, wild species, and also for human well-being."

  • Environment News Service
  • Forest Workers Evacuated After Hearing Wolves

    KETCHUM, Idaho The sound of howling wolves prompted two "very scared" U.S. Forest Service employees from Utah to call for a helicopter evacuation from the Sawtooth wilderness, officials said.

    The employees became frightened Sept. 23 after seeing wolves chase a bull elk across the meadow and later hearing the animals howl, said Ed Waldapfel, a spokesman for the Sawtooth National Forest.

    The news shocked a wolf expert at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

    "Holy moly - sounds to me like someone's read too many of Grimm's fairy tales," Steve Nadeau said. "I'm flabbergasted that (the Forest Service) would go to that extent over wolves howling in the woods because wolves howl in the woods all the time. That's how they communicate."

    Waldapfel did not know the employees' names, but said they were from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Ogden, Utah, and were conducting a forest inventory in the Sawtooths.

    "They called on their radio or satellite phone and asked their supervisor if they could leave the area," Waldapfel told the Idaho Mountain Express.

    "No matter which way they went they said they could hear the wolves," he said. "They admitted they were very scared and wanted to get out of the area."

    The employees' supervisor called national forest officials and "asked for a helicopter to come in and retrieve them," Waldapfel said.

    The wolves never made any aggressive moves toward the pair. There are no documented cases of wolves attacking humans in Idaho, though the employees may not have known that, Waldapfel said.

    "They're not part of our regular work force and so they hadn't had training for this kind of wildlife encounter," he said.

    Howling, especially in rocky, mountainous areas, can echo, said Lynne Stone, a Stanley resident who regularly observes wolf behavior.

    "There are great wolf-howl acoustics. They probably weren't surrounded by wolves," Stone said. "I'd be more afraid of running into a moose cow with calves, or a black bear with cubs, than encountering howling wolves."

    Sawtooth National Forest officials will review training procedures to better prepare out-of-area Forest Service personnel for the wildlife they may encounter while in Idaho.

  • Monday, September 25, 2006

    Madison wolves targeted for death

    By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard

    ENNIS — The hunt is on for two wolves that have attacked and maimed three heifers so badly near Ennis that they had to be euthanized. Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have issued two shoot-on-sight permits to a Madison Valley rancher whose cattle were attacked by the wolves. Officials did not name the rancher.

    Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services are also looking for the wolves. The predators are suspected of being members of the Wedge pack, but officials haven’t confirmed that, said Carolyn Sime, FWP wolf program coordinator. That pack got into trouble earlier this year for attacking cattle on the same ranch. Two wolves from the pack were killed to deal with the problem.

    Sime said the fact that the cattle in this latest incident were yearling heifers means the attacks are serious and warrant lethal control. “They’re pretty good-sized cattle, as opposed to calves,” she said.

    Federal trappers and ranch hands will keep hunting for the wolves until two are killed. Sime said FWP uses an incremental approach to dealing with wolves that are causing problems. That means while more wolves may have been involved in the attack, officials haven’t confirmed that and don’t want to over-react, which could result in killing more wolves than necessary that may not have been involved with the attacks.

    “More often than not you don’t know how many were involved in the predation event, versus feeding on the carcass,” she said. “The level of response is commensurate with the level of damage.” The Wedge pack is known to roam around the property where the cattle were attacked. But Sime said in the fall wolves wander more and often branch out in smaller groups, or on their own, so the wolves could be from another pack.

    The permits issued are valid until Oct. 15, when the cattle on the property are removed for the winter.

  • Montana Standard
  • Suspected wolf on Zumwalt may be vanguard in Oregon

    By Elane Dickenson

    Biologists have not yet been able to positively confirm the presence of a young black wolf on the Zumwalt Prairie of Wallowa County, despite a videotape taken in about mid-July by an archery hunter from Eugene, who was scouting the area. The U.S. Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have since received a couple of other possible sightings in the area, one from a fence builder about three weeks who initially suspected that the animal might have been a dog, according to Craig Ely, Northeast Oregon Regional Director based in La Grande.

    Ely said that biologist spent 10 or 12 days in the evenings looking for the animal with no success, and sent a plane over the prairie in the search after that most recent report. "If it's a wolf, they move around a lot," Ely said, adding that while the animal could be a wolf hybrid, or even a dog gone wild, but it could also be a wolf. "My assessment is that, as an agency, we believe there are wolves in Oregon, we just haven't confirmed it yet�Sooner or later, Oregon will be recolonized with wolves from Idaho."

    While Oregon passed it's own wolf management plan this year, the wolf is still listed as an endangered species and Ely said that federal law "is the law of the land" as far as wolves are concerned and the federal fish and wildlife service is the lead agency. He said, if biologists are able to capture a wolf, a radio collar would be placed on it and it would be released. Ely said that would allow the animal to be tracked and that ranchers - who are not allowed to shoot the federally protected wolf - be kept apprised of its whereabouts.

    The suspected wolf appears to be a young "sub adult" animal, the equivalent of a human teenager, Ely said.

    Wallowa County ranchers have taken the lead on opposing the presence of wolves in Oregon and county commissioner Ben Boswell was on the committee that formulated the wolf plan for the state, though he feels the plan is not completed until there is a provision for financial compensation for ranchers, a provision for ranchers to "take" a wolf under limited circumstances and the wolf is reclassified at the federal level as a "game animal with a special status" (by permit only). He said there is an attempt in the works for an amendment to the federal plan to exempt Oregon

    "I'm not surprised," Boswell said about the recent unconfirmed sightings of wolves in Wallowa County. "The thing started with their introduction in Idaho. That's been remarkably successful; they've been breeding like rabbits."

    Oregon has had three confirmed sightings of wolves, the most recent six years ago. One was a female with a radio collar who was tracked in 1999 from the Brownlee reservoir area in Baker County to near John Day, where it was captured and sent back to Idaho. In 2000, two wolves were killed in Oregon: one in was hit by a vehicle south of Baker City and one illegally shot near Ukiah.

    "We've had over 90 sightings in Oregon since then, some with merit and some with no merit, but none of them have been confirmed," Ely said. Another recent report of a wolf sighting close to home was in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Union County, according to Ely. In early August, someone reported seeing two adults and two pups. "A considerable amount of time" was spent following up on the report, and finally "one animal was seen at a great distance," Ely said.

  • Wallowa County Chieftain
  • Federal plan would remove Great Lakes wolves from endangered, threatened lists

    By Kurt Krueger - News-Review Editor

    More than a year after its initial plan was reversed in federal court, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is again proposing to remove Wisconsin's gray wolves from the federal Endangered Species List. But this time, the agency has singled out Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota instead of lumping other states into the delisting proposal, which was overturned by a federal judge in Oregon last January.

    Officials say the wolf population in the western Great Lakes region now numbers close to 4,000 animals, including more than 3,000 in Minnesota. Wolves have become well-established in Wisconsin and Michigan, with numbers totaling at least 425 and 405, respectively. In Wisconsin, the wolf population was estimated at between 425 and 455 in the winter of 2005. The 2006 wolf population count is due in April.

    In August 2004, the gray wolf was removed from Wisconsin's Endangered and Threatened Species List and designated a protected wild animal. The delisting recognizes that the gray wolf has completely recovered after being extirpated in the 1960s.

    "This is a landmark in Wisconsin's gray wolf history. Gray wolves join the bald eagle, osprey, fisher and wild turkey as a species again flourishing in our state," said Natural Resources Secretary Scott Hassett.

    Federal delisting from both the endangered and threatened list would return all management authority to the state wildlife agencies in the areas covered by the population segment. Under federal control, state biologists have had limited, inconsistent authority to trap and kill some depredating wolves. Although the wolf will be classified as a protected nongame species, the delisting will make it easier for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services to control problem wolves which prey on farm animals. State officials say greater authority also may be given to landowners to allow them to control problem wolves attacking livestock on their land.

    Adrian Wydeven, a DNR biologist who heads the wolf-management team, said they also can use proactive management to keep wolves in the territories where they belong. He said wolves that attempt to relocate and establish packs in agricultural areas away from large public forests could be trapped and killed. "We would have quite a few new tools for keeping wolf numbers in check and keeping wolf packs in the public forests where they belong," said Wydeven.

    FWS officials said the reclassification effort will take several months and the delisting could be completed late in 2006 or early in 2007. With the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan population goal of 350 wolves now exceeded, Wydeven said it will be important for the department to use all of the available tools for controlling wolf numbers. He said wolf depredation has increased threefold in just four years, going from eight cases in 2002 to 25 cases in 2005. "We are hearing more negative attitudes from landowners and hunters, but with this delisting proposal, our ability to control the spread of the population is looking bright," said Wydeven.

    A wolf population count completed in April 2005 included 414 to 442 outside of reservations putting it as much as 26% above goal. Another 11 to 13 wolves were located on reservations, with new figures expected out next month.

    While wolf numbers have grown in past years, Wydeven said the annual increase has averaged 11% in this decade compared to an average of 22% annual growth in the 1990s. "It's quite possible that the wolf population is nearing its carrying capacity in wolf range," he said. "The challenge is to keep them away from the edge of wolf range, where it overlaps with private land and agriculture."

    Signe Holtz, director of the DNR's endangered resources bureau, said the goal of 350 wolves "is a number around which we can manage; in the ballpark." She said the wolf plan states that if the tools available to state biologists are not successful in keeping the population near goal, the DNR could consider a public harvest or other measures.

    Hassett said there are no plans at this time for public harvest of the wolf. He said the wolf plan's 350-animal goal was established as the level at which public harvest could be considered, but specific language was not included in the plan on how such a harvest might occur. The Natural Resources Board avoided specific language on harvest in the 1999 plan after public input. Legislative approval would be required prior to any public harvest.

    Public hearings on the proposed wolf delisting will be May 8 in Duluth, Minn., May 10 in Wausau, and May 16 in Marquette, Mich. The official hearings start at 7:30 p.m., but will be preceded at 6 p.m. by information sessions. The Wausau hearing will be held at Westwood Conference Center. Information about the sessions is available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site,

    Wisconsin's current gray wolf population recolonized from Minnesota when the protections of state and federal endangered species acts took effect. The first Wisconsin pack was located in 1975. With considerable public involvement, the DNR developed first a Wisconsin Wolf Recovery plan in 1989, and later a Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan in 1999. The management plan, approved by the Natural Resources Board, outlines management of the wolf in the state after federal delisting and can be viewed at

  • Vilas County News-Review
  • Trappers hired to capture escaped wolf hybrids in N.H.

    LEMPSTER, N.H. — One of the seven wolf-hybrids that escaped from a pen this week returned on its own, and the police chief figured the others would follow as they got hungry.

    "They are lazy like us," police Chief Shady Blackwell said Friday. "We are going to go to grocery store for food, not hunt it down. They know where the grocery store is, and it's inside the pens."

    The seven escaped from Dancing Brooke Lodge sanctuary and have been spotted in neighbors' yards. Concerned for their pets and kids, neighbors have guns ready and professional trappers were trying to capture the hybrids. The Fish and Game Department is not involved because the dogs are considered domestic animals. But neighbors said they were concerned about safety.

    Neighbor Carol LaBounty said worry over her pets and children who live nearby prompted her to prepare her shotgun. She said many of her neighbors were doing the same. Blackwell said there was some initial panic as residents learned the hybrids were on the loose, but as he spread the word that the animals basically are shy and stay away from people, residents calmed down.

    The sanctuary's 44 dogs are 50 percent to 90 percent wolf. All have been spayed or neutered. The animals are strictly regulated in most states and Dancing Brooke often takes in out-of-state animals to keep them from being euthanized.

    Dancing Brooke president Bill Russell, a Massachussetts state trooper, says his organization is the only one set up to take in wolf hybrids. Russell and his wife, Anna, were cited in Maine in 2004 when dogs they were keeping there escaped.

    Bill Russell said after two dogs escaped Tuesday through a hole in the fence, he opened the fence so the dogs could re-enter their pen. When the animals didn't return Wednesday, he closed the fence and filled the hole with a log. He believes the other five dogs moved the log and dug out around the fence and escaped sometime Wednesday night or Thursday morning. He said the escaped dogs are a father and six offspring.

    Blackwell said Russell didn't immediately inform neighbors or authorities. "I'm disappointed in their initial response," Blackwell said. Russell said he didn't call local police because the dogs were close by and he believed that as a trooper, he could do a better job of searching.

    The lack of communication has upset some neighbors, said LaBounty. She said she supported the sanctuary until she learned of the escaped dogs. "He's not keeping us informed as to what's going on," she said. "Now, we want them gone, we want them off this street."

    Neighbors have been complaining about noise from the sanctuary since people began bringing dogs there two years ago. This month, a judge said the 44 dogs would have to be euthanized unless new pens were built for them farther away from neighbors.

  • Maine Today
  • Saturday, September 23, 2006

    Willow & Twister Howl at Wolf Park

    Wolves attack three heifers in Montana's Madison Valley

    BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - A Montana landowner has been given a shoot-on-sight permit to kill up to two wolves, after wolves so badly injured three yearling heifers that they had to be euthanized.

    Federal wildlife officials investigated the attacks on September 19th and the 22nd. The rancher's name was not released, but he resides in the Madison Valley area.

    The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department authorized the killing of up to two wolves by either federal officials or the landowner. The permit is valid through October 15th. After that, the cattle will be removed from the property for the winter.

    The landowner has had wolves on and around his property since July. Two wolves from the Wedge pack were killed after attacking cattle on the same ranch in July.

    It's unclear if the Wedge pack is responsible for the latest attack.

  • Feds reject Idaho plan to kill wolves


    BOISE, Idaho -- Federal officials have rejected Idaho's plan to kill up to 43 wolves in north-central Idaho to boost elk numbers, saying scientific data gathered by the state do not justify the action. At a recent meeting, federal officials told Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game Department's large carnivore manager, that state studies of elk declines in the Lolo region didn't adequately demonstrate wolves are the primary cause.

    "We agreed the wolves are playing an important role in limiting recovery. The question comes down to whether or not there's an unacceptable impact," said Jeff Foss, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor in Boise. "Based on the information that was provided at the meeting, the service didn't feel it had enough at that time to draw (that) conclusion."

    The Idaho agency said the federal decision means the plan will not be put into effect this winter, but research to gather supporting data will continue.

    "The department would have liked to move forward by this winter," Jim Unsworth, the department's wildlife bureau chief, told The Associated Press. "That's not likely."

    Last January when the state's proposal was unveiled, conservation groups came to the same conclusion as the federal scientists. They argue that poor habitat, not wolves, is the main reason Lolo elk now number less than a quarter of the 16,500 counted in the region north of the Lochsa River in 1989.

    Fires in the early 20th century cleared heavy timber there, creating good elk habitat. In recent years, however, once-grassy hillsides that supported thousands of elk have filled in with lodgepole pine, red fir and western cedar, they said.

    While the Idaho Conservation League backs removing federal protections from wolves in the state because their numbers have met recovery goals in Idaho's wolf management plan, spokesman Jonathan Oppenheimer said plans to remove specific wolves such as those in the Lolo still should be scientifically sound.

    "Regardless of whether they have to get the OK from Fish and Wildlife or whether they get it (through) delisting, if you want to have more elk, you've got to have the habitat to support them," Oppenheimer said.

    State officials, including Gov. Jim Risch, say Idaho is collecting new information to support its aim of reducing wolves in the Lolo elk management zone on the Idaho-Montana border by 75 percent. But they said their main focus now has shifted to getting the Interior Department to lift federal Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the region.

    Since January, Idaho has had day-to-day management over central Idaho wolves - including the Lolo pack - that are considered "experimental, nonessential" and thus not fully protected under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still manages wolves north of U.S. Interstate 90 in the Panhandle, where the animals are listed as endangered.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering removing federal protections in most of Idaho and Montana, where wolves number 800. If that happens, Idaho would no longer need permission from the federal agency to start killing wolves in the Lolo or anywhere else in the state.

    That's the state's main desire, Idaho Office of Species Conservation Director Jim Caswell said. But he added the state is still committed to its proposal to reduce the Lolo pack - a stance he acknowledges has political risk. "It could cause people to fight against a potential delisting proposal," Caswell said. "Sure, it's a concern. It's always been a concern."

  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • Wolves get a little too close in Michigan national park

    Associated Press

    HOUGHTON, Mich. (AP) - For campers at Isle Royale National Park, sighting a gray wolf is a rare and thrilling experience. At least, until now. Some wolves got a bit too familiar this summer, wandering into camping areas and showing little of their customary fear of people. No attacks or threatening behavior have been reported. But the close encounters prompted warnings to visitors not to feed the wolves.

    "Wolves are wild animals and potentially dangerous like any wild animals,'' said Michigan Tech University biologist Rolf Peterson, who has studied wolves and moose on the Lake Superior island chain for more than 30 years.

    Wolves seldom target humans, although it's not unheard of, Peterson said. In fact, a wolf attacked several people at Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario recently before the superintendent killed it. Such incidents could happen more often if wolves begin to identify people as a food source, Peterson said.

    "The best thing is that they never associate us with a speck of food,'' said Phyllis Green, the Isle Royale superintendent.

    Beavers, which were once the wolves' prey, have mostly disappeared in the area due to habitat loss. So the wolves now have little to feed on except moose, whose numbers also have nose-dived recently. A census earlier this year counted about 450 moose - fewest in the 48 years biologists have monitored the relationship between the two species in Isle Royale's closed environment.

    Meanwhile, the wolf population was a healthy 30. Peterson predicts it will decline because of the food shortage, which likely is what's making them less fearful of humans. In bygone days, "maybe one visitor in a thousand'' would spot a wolf, Peterson said. "Now, when I give a talk to 50 people, there will be two or three in the audience that saw wolves.''

    Other words of wisdom: If you see a wolf, get away as quickly as possible but don't run. Don't follow or howl at them. If you come upon a moose carcass, don't hang around; wolves may be nearby even if you don't see them.

  • Houston Chronicle