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Wolf News Around the World - September 2008 by Chris Kirby


wolf picture

Great Lakes

After being managed by the states since March 12, 2007, gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have been returned to the list of threatened and endangered species.  In a lawsuit filed April 2007 challenging the F&WS's final rule to delist the gray wolves, the Humane Society of the United States, Help Our Wolves Live, Animal Protection Institute and Friends of Animals and Their Environment claimed the government had acted illegally by designating Great Lakes wolves as a "distinct population segment" that could be bumped from the endangered list without regard to the species' nationwide standing.  On September 29, 2008, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled in favor of wolf advocates who argued that the F&WS cannot use Distinct Population Segment's (DPS's) as tools for delisting the Great Lakes wolves.  Judge Friedman said when an animal goes into "endangered status" within the nation's borders; certain regions within the nation cannot drop the status.  This now means that a wolf cannot be killed to protect livestock or pets and any permits issued to do so are revoked.  Trapping and killing problem wolves and issuing landowner shooting permits will not be allowed.  Any discussion of a state hunting season on wolves will be put to rest.  The only way a person can kill a wolf is if there's an immediate danger to human safety.  Federal protections also mean stiff fines and penalties for illegal killing.  Brian O'Neill, Minneapolis attorney for the four environmental groups that filed the lawsuit, said that the main concern is that wolf populations under state control will nosedive in a few years because of habitat loss and hunting.  Wildlife officials in the three states say the ruling will be disruptive of their own programs to manage wolf populations.  State officials say that until the lawsuit is sorted out, they will probably seek federal permits allowing non-lethal methods to deal with conflicts between wolves and livestock.
(map of distinct population segment of gray wolves and their populations of the Great Lakes region in the Upper Midwest)

Idaho

In Idaho's Boundary County bordering the Canadian province of British Columbia, hikers traveling through the Panhandle National Forest's grazing area between Grass and Cow Creeks stumbled upon 14 wolves.  Two days later, they returned to the same area to find six.  Assumptions are that the rest of the pack was out hunting.  Greg Johnson, senior conservation officer with Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boundary County, said no loss of cattle has been reported.  His agency manages the wildlife in the forest.  "They live on wildlife," he said.  "They're definitely eating deer and elk.  We do not have a way of monitoring that at this point." 

Prosecutor Paul Fitzer announced that Ron Gillette will not face a second trial on charges of assault and battery, roughing up wolf advocate and guardian Lynne Stone.  The first trial ended in a hung jury.  Fitzer said convincing a jury to convict Ron Gillett a second time around may be too difficult and not the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Montana

Three wolves from the Murphy Lake Pack have been killed.  U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services specialists shot two wolves from a helicopter, state officials said.  The 90-pound male and 70-pound female were part of the Murphy Lake pack, which is one of the oldest packs in NW Montana.  First documented in 1989, the pack has, for the most part, steered clear of trouble with neighboring ranchers.  When federal wildlife specialists caught up with them in Fortine, the wolves were actively chasing cattle on private land.  Researchers are confounded by the recent behavior of the Murphy Lake pack because the wolves have barely ever demonstrated a taste for cattle depredation in the roughly 17 years that the agency monitored them.  The last documentation was in 1997 when several sheep were depredated but that year had an obvious explanation.  The brutal winter with deep, heavy snows and bitter temperatures killed off a large segment of the whitetail deer population.  As a result, there were fewer fawns the following summer for the wolves to eat.  This most recent winter while cold and wet was not as severe as the 96-97 winter so it is surmised that minimal, if any, impact occurred on the whitetail deer population.  Typically, a pack may change its behavior to begin depredating livestock when the lead or alpha wolf grows old leading wolves to prey on the easier sheep and cattle.  This theory has been ruled out since one of the wolves from the Murphy Lake pack that specialists killed was the alpha female and although 8 years old, which is fairly old for a wolf in northwest Montana, was in excellent health according to Wolf Management Specialist Kent Laudon, MTFWP.  Before FWP killed three, the Murphy Lake pack had roughly 6 adult wolves and Laudon believes the pack currently has three pups.  Two of the 3 remaining adults now wear radio collars, which should make monitoring their behavior and tracking their movement much easier--though it may not provide any easy answers.

Minnesota

A 46 year old man has been given probation and fined for killing a gray wolf in northern Minnesota with a semi-automatic rifle and later destroying the weapon for fear that conservation officials were on his trail.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson sentenced Steven Alan Taylor of Zimmerman, Minnesota last week to two years probation during which Taylor is banned from hunting anywhere in the United States.  He was also fined $2,500.00.  Taylor faced a potential maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and a $25,000.00 fine.  Erickson determined in a bench trail last year that Taylor shot and killed the wolf near Isabella Township.  At the time of the shooting, 2002, the gray wolf was listed as a threatened species by the USFWS.  Court testimony indicated that Taylor and his party hunted in the area near Shamrock Lake on November 20-23, 2002.

Mississippi

WHAP's fifth Wolf Awareness Week celebration will commence October 19 and continue until October 25 everyday from Noon until 5:00 PM.  The Preserve will have FREE ADMISSION for that week.  Anyone interested in participating in Wolf Howl Animal Preserve's fifth Annual Wolf Awareness Week Contest as well may obtain details on the website.  For directions to Wolf Howl, click here.  The Wolves will enjoy their pumpkins and Judges will select the contest winners on the 25th; weather permitting.

Northern Rockies

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service requested that Missoula, Montana District Court Judge Donald Molloy overturn their removal of the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) gray wolf population from the Endangered Species list.  The NRM was removed from the list in May, officially placing the gray wolf under state management.  According to the FWS, the NRM gray wolf Distinct Population Segment (DPS) exceeded the population recover goal in 2000, and then achieved temporal goals by continuing to grow for at least three years.  The rule would have allowed public hunting of wolves.  A lawsuit brought against the FWS by law firm Earthjustice on behalf of a group of environmental and conservation organizations alleged that the decision to delist the gray wolf was arbitrary and that the FWS had failed to use best science or proper procedure in several areas.  Molloy issued an injunction in July that suspended the state management programs and placed the wolves back under federal protection for the remainder of the lawsuit.  The injunction halted all hunting and the strongest element was that of hindered genetic diversity.  Judge Molloy has not yet made a final ruling.  The Legislature's Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is expected to meet within the next several weeks to discuss the issue.

For the first time since reintroduction, the wolf population in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho is decreasing or at best is static according to the USFWS.  The mid-year population was estimated at 1,545 in 2007.  This year the estimate is 1,455 which means a decrease of 90.  Since wolf reintroduction 10 years ago, the average population growth was 24% per year according to the F&WS.  This year 400 pups were expected to survive to adulthood, however, it is no longer expected.  In the greater Yellowstone area, pups are dying at a high rate, the FWS said.  The cause of those deaths is suspected to be distemper contracted from domestic dogs.

Southwest

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona, where Mexican gray wolves roam, has proposed a new policy requiring proper disposal of livestock carcasses-the first time livestock owners would be tasked with a responsibility to prevent conflicts with wolves.  If the remains of livestock that have died of non-wolf causes are not made inedible or removed, they can attract wolves to prey on live livestock that may be nearby the carcass and habituate them to domestic animals instead of their natural prey.  The new policy would effectively ban the practice of "baiting wolves" which can lead to wolves being trapped or shot by the government in retribution.  Such "predator control" actions are undermining recovery of the Mexican wolf; North America's most endangered mammal.  The Center for Biological Diversity is requesting that the provision be applied not just in the Apache National Forest portion of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area which consists of the combined Gila and Apache National forests but also on all lands governed by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests' Revised Forest Plan.  The Forest Plan Revision Team is inviting public comment on the proposed changes through October 15th via e-mail at:
Asnf.planning@fs.fed.us

A federal judge has dismissed environmentalists' concerns over a western New Mexico county's ordinance regarding endangered Mexican gray wolves, saying the county amended the measure to remove provisions that would have allowed it to immediately trap or remove wolves from the wild.  WildEarth Guardians had sued Catron County in U.S. District Court in Santa Fe, alleging that an ordinance passed last year by the county violated the federal ESA and was invalid.  U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez issued a ruling Tuesday that said the group's claims were moot since the county had amended the ordinance to remove provisions that authorized county officials to take action against wolves that were deemed to be threats to people.  However, Vazquez did not yet rule on WildEarth Guardians' claim that the county commission allegedly violated federal law when it targeted a pair of wolves for trapping last year.  WildEarth Guardians sees the ruling as a partial victory.  County Manager Bill Aymar pointed to a recent case in which a Cruzville mother reported that an uncollared wolf killed family pets and attacked a horse on her property.  He said commissioners have a responsibility to keep residents safe.  After sending a letter to the USFWS requesting that the wolf be removed, Aymar said federal officials put up an electric wire and flags around the woman's property to dissuade the animal from returning.  He said the county is waiting to see if that works.

Canada

A known wolf was found dead on the highway August 25 near Redearth Creek about 10 kilometers west of Banff.  It's believed the animal reached the road through a hole in wildlife fencing.  "That's tragic and it has affected me deeply." said Banff Mayor John Stutz.  John E. Marriott, wildlife photographer who snapped images of Delinda to be used on the area's hybrid buses described her as "brilliant wolf.  She made the pack work; she was able to work with roads and people and still maintain being a very, very wild animal."  It is believed there are nine members of the wolf pack remaining including two pups born this year and six yearlings produced the year before.  Delinda's mate, the alpha male of the pack is known as Nanuk.  Here is a picture of Delinda on a hybrid bus in Banff.

Spain

A plan to hunt and shoot up to 100 wolves (10-30% of the estimated population) in the mountains of northern Spain has angered environmentalists who say the culling is an unnecessary sop to farmers who claim livestock are under attack.  Some 100 packs of wolves are believed to roam the countryside in Leon with at least a quarter of them known to be reproducing.  A meeting held September 19 authorizing the cull was held without informing conservation groups according to a communiqué issued at WWF/Adena.  Conservation groups call on the Castilla y Leon to "annul the results of the meeting, referring to all the members of this committee all relevant information and to reconvene the meeting on time and in so that the committee can exercise its functions with the required seriousness and rigor.  Gedemol (an environmental group in the mountains Leon) has made public a report that reveals the need to protect the wolf to safeguard the ecosystem of the province.
Warning:  extremely graphic news article illustrating the cull has begun.

Sweden

There will be a controlled hunt for a wolf in the Hasselfors area between Degerfors and Laxa, the Natural Resources Department decided.  The controlled hunt will be over a two week period, any time between November 1 and December 20.  The reason that there is a wait with the hunt start is that the young can grow larger and that the snow shall make wolf tracking easier.



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