Wolf News Around the World, February 2008 - by Chris Kirby
State Fish and Game Department officials repeat warning residents to stay clear of Juneau's high-profile wolf after receiving an increased number of reports of dogs playing with the wolf or of people feeding the wolf. People are instructed to yell or clap if the wolf gets too near. Feeding the wolf is considered wildlife harassment. Officials want people to enjoy the wolf from a distance for their safety and his. The black wolf also known as Romeo has been seen frequently in the Mendenhall Lake Recreation Area.
The deep snow is forcing deer, elk and moose - and the wolves that prey on them - down from the mountains and into the small communities flanking the St. Joe River in north Idaho. Officials reassured residents the increased presence of wolves isn't a threat to people who live there. Fish and Game Conservation Officer Jerry Hugo said, "A lot of people don't understand wildlife behavior enough to begin with, so they have a predisposed fear of them," he said. "But they are just as afraid of us as we are of them." The wolf population grew at a lower rate in 2007 - 10 percent - than in previous years, said Steve Nadeau, coordinator of the State Wolf Program. The population had been growing about 20 percent a year. "Wolves kill deer and elk," Fish and Game Biologist Dave Spicer said. "That's what they do." "If it's not wolves, it's mountain lions or something else. It's just another winter and it's a tough one." Spicer said Fish and Game has not been able to show wolves have had a "significant negative impact" on North Idaho's elk population, based on hunter harvest numbers. [According to Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, there are more than 30,000 mountain lions in the Intermountain West and no one argues about getting rid of all them.]
Idaho Wildlife Services are planning further control efforts after confirming that wolves from the Buffalo Ridge pack depredated 3 calves and injured another on private land near Clayton. There were four or five sets of wolf tracks at the scene and the telemetry signal of one of the collared wolves from the Buffalo Ridge Pack showed that he was in the area. Wildlife Services has already removed 3 members from this pack in the last 3 months after previous depredations on the same property. Federal regulations prevent naming the ranch where the events occur. However, a well-known ranch in the area has had more wolves killed due to depredations on it than any in Idaho. It is rented for pasturage. On it is pastured cow/calf operation, which has its cows begin to calf in December; a month that is very cold in the bottom of this deep canyon. This year has been colder than usual meaning natural mortality of calves will be higher, often much higher than during the more common March or April calving time. This is usually done so that the calves will be much bigger and fetch more money when they are sold at the end of the year.
Wildlife Services reports the blame of nine sheep depredations on federal sheep grazing allotments in the upper Big Wood River drainage during last summer on the Phantom Hill Pack. The presence of the small band of all-black wolves marked the first time wolves were discovered denning in the valley since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced gray wolves during the winters of 1995-6. The agency will no longer use non-lethal methods to keep the sheep and wolves and has recommended that lethal control actions be taken this summer if the pack resumes depredations. In any given year, coyotes kill far more sheep than do wolves. In Idaho in 2004, the Agricultural Statistics Board reports wolves, ravens, vultures and other predators combined to kill 1,000 sheep. By comparison, coyotes killed 7,100 sheep.
Radio signals in mid-January indicated Monitor Mountain pack had moved to Mitchell Mountain near Wolf Creek, more than 20 miles away from the area where its members killed livestock resulting in the lethal removal of their alpha female and two pups. This left the pack with an alpha male and 4 eight-month olds with no chance of reproducing. To the surprise of wildlife authorities, a new female was with the pack. Officials said she might be an alpha female -- if she is, pups may be on the way. The same livestock temptations exist around Mitchell Mountain that got the wolves in trouble south of Augusta, which could make the pack's turnaround short-lived, especially if pups are born.
Montana's Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board, will oversee the state's new wolf depredation reimbursement program when it launches this spring. The new program, which is attached to the Montana Department of Livestock, is designed to reimburse livestock producers for confirmed losses to wolf depredation. Created by legislation passed in 2007, the program replaced one funded by Defenders of Wildlife for the past two decades. There are currently seven people on the board; five have livestock interests and the remaining two represent wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife and the Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf Compensation Trust provided a $100,000 grant to get the program started. Over its 20-year history, the DOW have made 276 payments to Montanans totaling more than $317,000 for 336 cattle, 689 sheep, 16 livestock dogs and 15 other animals, including mules and llamas. In 2007, the group spent more than $81,000 for projects that used nonlethal deterrents to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock. More than half of that - $48,000 in total - was spent in Montana. In the future, Sime said the state may also consider taking a look at indirect losses ranchers have complained about in the past, including weight loss and pregnancy issues.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission voted to approve an official wolf-hunting season. The season's opening date will coincide with the big-game hunting season, but will be extended a month longer through December 31. Hunters will be able to take wolves with both firearms and bows. The Commission also approved a wolf-trapping season, but will not allow the animals to be trapped for the next two years.
A wolf was spotted and photographed in Iowa County just north of Yellowstone Lake State Park, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said. Adrian Wydeven, head of the DNR's wolf management program, said the wolf probably traveled at least 80 or 90 miles from the nearest pack at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in western Juneau County. A business analyst who lives in the town of Waldwick said she took the photo around noon February 2 from her house after she spotted the wolf outside "playing" with her dog. Yelling out the patio door in the kitchen caused the wolf to just look around and slowly start walking away. The picture was taken as the wolf was leaving. Yellowstone lake is about 40 miles southwest of Madison.
The DNR confirms that an animal shot and killed by a hunter in Winnego County near Oshkosh is a gray wolf not a coyote. The animal was killed in the town of Nekimi. DNR officials say they'll levy the minimum fine of 306.30 against the 40-year-old archery hunter who killed it but will not revoke his license. Authorities say they turned down the option to charge him criminally because the hunter was forthcoming in the incident and investigation. A Natural Resource Citation for taking a protected species was issued which is a civil citation that is no different than a traffic ticket. The known wolf packs closest to Winnebago County are the Menomonie Reservation to the north and Wisconsin Rapids area to the west.
On February 21, 2008, the Bush Administration finalized its controversial decision to remove the Northern Rockies gray wolf from the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. News Release
The delisting will take effect March 28, 2008, 30 days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published the Final Rule in the Federal Register February 27, 2008. At that time, gray wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will lose their protected status under the federal Endangered Species Act. The delisting proposal will also extend to the eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon as well as a small portion of north-central Utah.
The National Resource Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife filed a petition requesting that the Fish and Wildlife Service establish legitimate targets for recovery of wolves throughout the lower 48 states. The groups want a national recovery plan with regional recovery goals aimed at supporting sustainable populations of wolves in the northern Rockies, the northeast and the southwest.
On February 27, 2008, eleven environmental and animal rights groups notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it violated the Endangered Species Act by removing the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population from the list of endangered species despite the genetic inadequacy of the present population and the refusal of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to make meaningful commitments to wolf conservation. The groups intend to challenge the Service's decision in federal court. In an effort to overturn the Service's delisting rule before hundreds of wolves can be killed in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, the conservation groups served their letter within hours of the publication of the delisting rule in the Federal Register. While the remarkable recovery has made progress it is not yet complete. Delisting would further endanger wolves because of increased wolf killing, reduced wolf numbers, and less genetic exchange between wolf populations. Earthjustice submitted the notice letter on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and Western Watersheds Project. The group's attorney, Doug Honnold with Earthjustice, said he would ask for an emergency court injunction if the states move to kill wolves before the lawsuit is filed. The 11 member coalition said they plan to sue over the wolves' removal in federal court in 60 days - the required first step for litigation under the ESA.
Twenty-two out of 59 Mexican gray wolves were removed from the wild in 2007 -- 19 of them either for killing livestock or because they were young pups associated with a parent wolf that killed livestock, 2 for moving outside the wolves' designated range and 1 for nuisance behavior. In addition, three wolves disappeared in November.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's annual count, there were 52 Mexican gray wolves in the wild on the New Mexico-Arizona border -- seven fewer than last year. The survey counted 29 wolves in Arizona and 23 in New Mexico. Shortly after the survey two Mexican wolves from the Rim Pack in Arizona were killed by vehicles in January leaving us with a population of only 50. They are going into 2008 with only 3 breeding pairs!
Perhaps the most important news is that the non-native parasitic mange infestation has finally spread from either Wyoming, or more likely Montana into the Park. The first afflicted wolf was discovered last year, a member of Mollies pack who was old and soon died. The closest source of mange outside the Park has always been from Gardiner, Montana; north, especially the Paradise Valley where many packs have battled mange. Last week two wolves afflicted with mange were put down. Wolves with mange are susceptible to dying from the cold, which is why they are often found seeking shelter in barns. It is thought, but not proven, that very cold weather and, thus altitude, will limit the spread of mange deep in the Park.
It was discovered that the Delta Pack is the largest in Yellowstone -- 22 wolves. This pack also members the Park's oldest wolf, she is wolf 126F, daughter of two of the originals 13M and 14F of what was then named the Soda Butte Pack. She is eleven years old, was wearing a non-functioning radio collar, and was found to be in good condition, weighing 121 pounds, and might still be capable of reproduction.
One of the collared wolves of the Cougar Creek Pack in the NW corner of the Park turned out to have just 3 legs. One had been completely amputated. It is unknown whether or not she chewed it off after an injury or a trap outside the Park. She was in good condition. This pack is led by wolf 151F who is 10 years old.
What may be a local resurgence of the grey wolf is being increasingly observed in the Lower Mainland region. A species persecuted in British Columbia for close to a century through bounties, poisoning campaigns, hunting and trapping. And not just the upper Pitt River Valley (southwest BC), but the Skagit and Squamish drainages, Pemberton, and the Sunshine Coast. The ministry estimates eight wolves were shot in the region in 2005 based on hunter surveys, all west of Highway 99. Province-wide, the ministry estimates there are 8,000 wolves. Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee said the sighting of a wolf pack in the Pitt River Valley is cause for celebration. The wolf pack in the upper Pitt Valley, 25 km north of Pitt Meadows is especially interesting because the province relocated 23 Roosevelt elk -- three bulls and 20 cows and calves -- there from the Sunshine Coast in January 2005. Almost two years later, the herd had increased to 40. Gerak said environment officials had predicted wolves and grizzlies would follow once the elk had become established in the valley. Tracks in the snow show the elk heading into the forest with wolf prints following.
Environmental activist Linda Duncan with some two dozen protestors gathered in front of the Edmonton headquarters of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. Protestors assembled to demand the ministry kill oil and gas development in the Alberta foothills rather than wolves to protect the endangered Little Smoky caribou herd. Instead of protecting the area, the government is killing off wolves while allowing increasing amounts of industrial activity.