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Wolf News Around the World, SUMMER 2009 - by Chris Kirby

wolf webcam pictureAlaska

Congressman George Miller reintroduced the Protect America's Wildlife (PAW) Act in the House of Representatives - federal legislation to end Alaska's aerial wolf-killing programs and prevent the slaughter from spreading to other States by closing a loophole in the Aerial Hunting Act of 1971.  For the first time ever, the bill was also introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Ben Cardin of (MD).  The bill, signed by 105 congressmen, would explicitly prohibit hunters from chasing, shooting and killing wildlife from aircraft.  To ensure that anyone following the issue didn't miss the political element, the senators noted in the press release that it would specifically end the targeting of "wolves."

Defenders of Wildlife has included Alaska Department of Fish & Game photos from recent aerial wolf hunting in a new video call opposing the hunts.  The operation claimed the lives of 84 wolves.  This year alone, more than 250 wolves have been killed, making the 2008/2009 aerial wolf-killing season one of the deadliest in years.


The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is investigating the deaths of six juvenile wolves on national forest land north of Fairfield.  Fish and Game officers found the partially decomposed wolves on Friday, August 21.  Preliminary necropsies have been performed but the cause of death is still unknown.  Tissue samples have been sent to an Oregon laboratory to be analyzed further to determine what killed the 35-pound wolves.  There were no outward signs of injuries or bullet wounds and viruses like parvo have also been ruled out.  Anyone with information is asked to call the Citizens' Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999 or Fish and Game's Magic Valley regional office at 208-324-4359.  Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward for information leading to a citation or conviction.

Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game elected to postpone any retaliatory action against the Phantom Hill Pack.  Fish and Game was prepared to kill members of the pack linked to the deaths of 12 sheep.  Due to miscommunication among on-the-ground field assistants, the sheep were left totally unguarded.  A decision was reached after the rancher involved requested that the wolves be given a reprieve.  The long-time rancher also agreed to allow participants in the Wood River Wolf Project to take additional non-lethal measures to keep wolves and sheep separate including setting up night pens to keep the sheep safe as they trail out of the area.  Fish and Game will continue to monitor the situation.  Any additional sheep deaths could cause F&G to take action and kill members of the valley's well-known pack.

When the Idaho Fish and Game held its Commission meeting July 24, they postponed discussing wolf hunting.  Wolf hunting quotas for Idaho's first public wolf hunting season were set at the August 17 meeting just days before the scheduled September 1 wolf hunt.  The delay is widely viewed as a political maneuver intended to avoid an expected injunction to stop the hunts until the pending court case against delisting is settled.  In addition to the sport harvest of 220 wolves, the Nez Perce Tribe could take 35 of Idaho's estimated wolves.  The authorized wolf killing represents 30 percent of the last reported Idaho wolf population estimate, which was 845 wolves and only 39 breeding pairs at the end of December 2008.  70,000 wolf tags are expected to be sold.  A preliminary injunction requested by animal rights groups for an emergency halt of the hunts is awaiting a hearing set for August 31.  An Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner told a gathering of Western attorneys general that hunters are so angry about Idaho's wolf population, they will hunt the animals in the state's backcountry this fall - whether it's legal or not.

Wolf pups will be barely four months old on September 1.  Photos of our own Wolf Howl Animal Preserve's wolf pups at 4 months old.


Do you think it's fair to hunt Wolves this age and size?  Apparently Idaho's Department of Fish and Game does.


The 2008-2009 wolf track survey showed an increase in the Upper Peninsula's wolf population according to the state's wolf coordinator, Brian Roell.  Preliminary data show that a minimum of 580 wolves roam the U.P.  This year the data points to an increase of about 70 more wolves than last year.  The growth rate has seen a fairly steady decline since 1996 when there were fewer than 100 animals and is expected to level off as wolves near the carrying capacity of the available habitat.

Arthritis is devastating Isle Royale wolves.  A painful and disabling deformity of the animals' spine caused by inbreeding pinches nerves.  The wolves are crippled so badly, they can't dodge the flailing hooves of a cornered moose, and every single wolf on the island has the same defect.  The wolves roam freely in this northern paradise but will decline, possibly to the point where their population is in jeopardy of facing extinction.


Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that they will offer wolf hunting licenses for sale beginning August 31st for the state's first regulated wolf hunting season.  Officials set the statewide harvest quota at 75 wolves or 15% for hunting seasons that are set to open September 15th.  Montana's last official wolf population estimate was 497 wolves and only 34 breeding pair at the end of December 2008.

New Mexico

Three Mexican wolf pups were found dead after their den was abandoned.  The alpha female from the San Mateo pack moved one pup to a new den.  However, the remaining three were abandoned because they couldn't be coaxed out of the den.  The agency said the mother left scratch marks from her efforts to get the pups out of a deep crevice in the den.  Officials attempted to reunite one of the pups with the mother and the pack's alpha male but it was later found dead.  The other two abandoned pups were taken to the Sevilletta National Wildlife Refuge.  In the days and weeks prior to the San Mateo adults vacating their den, there was extraordinary human activity in the den's vicinity, including the presence of federal, state and county employees and/or contractors.  Environmentalists are very concerned that human activity around the den site could have caused the wolves' departure.  16 conservation groups are requesting a federal investigation from the Secretary of the Interior into the New Mexico wolf pups deaths.

A southern New Mexico man has pleaded guilty to a charge stemming from the death of a Mexican gray wolf that had been released into the wild as part of the reintroduction program.  A plea was entered to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully possessing a Mexican gray wolf, an animal that's protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Federal prosecutors said the man shot and killed the wolf August 6, 2008, and tried to hide the carcass from the USFWS.  The U.S. attorney's office said no charges were made of shooting the wolf because he claimed he didn't know it was a Mexican gray wolf at the time he shot the animal.  Spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the wolf that was shot had a tracking device, as are all wolves that are released as part of the program.  A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Northern Rocky Mountains Region

Thirteen environmental and animal rights groups represented by Earthjustice have been granted a last-minute hearing before a federal judge on their request for a preliminary injunction to stop upcoming wolf hunts beginning September 1 in Idaho and September 15 in Montana.  U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said he would host a three-hour hearing August 31 in Missoula to hear arguments in the case.  The injunction request asks that wolves be put back on endangered species status while the larger lawsuit to restore federal protection is pending settlement.  To win that, the wolf advocates must show two things: That they are likely to win the larger case and that allowing a hunt in the meantime would do irreparable harm to the wolf population.  The groups contend that hunting seasons would "cripple" the regional wolf population by isolating wolves into disconnected subgroups incapable of genetic or ecological sustainability.  Hunts would allow the killing of breeding wolves thereby disrupting the social group and leaving pups more vulnerable.  As it stands now the three-state area has a population of nearly 1,600 wolves and 100 breeding pairs at the end of 2008, plus an estimated 500 to 700 new wolf pups this summer.  Overall, environmentalists argue that the population in the NRM is not large enough to sustain hunting.  The wolf hunting is in addition to wolf killing due to livestock conflicts.  No other endangered species has ever been delisted as such a low population level and then immediately hunted to even lower unsustainable levels.  Wolves remain on the endangered list under federal protection in Wyoming.  A federal court previously ruled that Wyoming's wolf management plan was hostile to the continued survival of wolves largely due to state law allowing wolves to be shot on site across most of Wyoming.  Although the Fish and Wildlife Service in the recent past held that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the ESA, this year they took wolves in Idaho and Montana off the endangered species list while leaving those in Wyoming on the list.  DETAILS

Southwest Region

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to release specific information on the locations of conflicts between livestock and the Mexican gray wolves that are roaming New Mexico and Arizona as part of a reintroduction effort.  It has been over a year since conservation groups filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all records relating to the capture of Mexican gray wolves over the past decade.  The agency did turn over documents but withheld identifying specific locations stating concern for landowner privacy.  Conservationists applauded the decision, saying the coordinates will help determine if there are any problem areas and whether steps can be taken to limit wolf contact with livestock in those areas.

Three conservation groups filed petitions asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Mexican gray wolf on the federal endangered species list separate from other gray wolves in North America.  The Mexican gray wolf is not currently protected as a distinct entity.  The current federal "recovery plan" for the Mexican gray wolf was developed 27 years ago as an interim strategy.

The American Society of Mammologists has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop trapping and shooting wolves until the population reaches a benchmark of at least 100 wolves in the Gila and Apache National Forests in New Mexico and Arizona.

The current population of critically endangered Mexican gray wolves is reason to fear that the wolves will not be saved and could be facing extinction if the program continues the way it is now.  Mexican wolf reintroduction has fallen short of most of its goals.  Pup survival rates are far lower than expected, adult wolf mortality higher than projected, and the recovery program is way behind the timeline that federal biologists established.  Most recent official tally shows there are currently only 52 documented Mexican gray wolves in the wild after an 11-year struggling effort.  A lawsuit filed by a group of conservationists is still pending against the federal government for "failing to recover" and challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's management methods.


From howling surveys and remote cameras, wildlife biologists have confirmed that the Lookout Pack, the state's first of two documented packs, is raising at least a trio of gray wolf pups.  A third adult was confirmed to be traveling with the pack when a wolf howl was heard among the higher pitched howls of pups during a time when the radio-collared adults were out of the rendezvous area; presumably hunting.

State biologists have confirmed a second wolf pack in the state.  This time in a remote area of Pend Oreille County.  Genetic tests on a hair sample collected showed it to be from a Rocky Mountain male gray wolf from Alberta/Montana stock.  Biologists were able to confirm the presence of at least one adult wolf and three pups by playing digital recordings of howling.  A 105-pound wolf, believed to be the pack's alpha male, was captured and outfitted with a satellite-tracking collar in northern Pend Oreille County.  The collar will help state biologists monitor Washington's second confirmed wolf pack, which has been named the "Diamond Pack."  Two pups were also caught, outfitted with ear tags and released.  The wolves were caught in padded leg traps.  Four pups, already coyote-sized, were on a recent picture taken by the motion-sensor camera.  The size of the pack is unknown at this time.  WHAPLINK & PHOTOS

Western Great Lakes

Federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Western Great Lakes region have been reinstated under a court-approved settlement agreement between conservation groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The Service conceded that they violated procedure by not providing sufficient public review and comment, required by federal law, and withdrew their decision to delist the Western Great Lakes wolves.  This agreement will also give the administration opportunity to review wolf-management policies, scientific information and hopefully put to rest plans for sport hunting and trapping of wolves.  Opening public comment is anticipated in winter or spring of 2010.


After several incidents involving hunting hounds, the Department of Natural Resources has added Bayfield, Burnett, Clark and Oneida counties to its list of wolf caution areas.  Wolves are again listed as a federally endangered species.  Killing a wolf is illegal.  DNR officials say bear hunters should avoid training or hunting in areas with concentrated wolf activity.  Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammalian ecologist, said wolves have pups in rendezvous sites at this time of the year, and it is most probable they were protecting their young.


Fifteen wolf packs have denned and produced pups in Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park this year, according to a USFWS report dated July 20-24.  The federal agency announced it is continuing to monitor reproduction but did not assess how many pups might have been born to each pack.

USFWS has discontinued their efforts to trap wolves in the Big Horn Mountains since wolf conflicts have come to a halt.  No additional wolf sightings or attacks have been reported since June 25.  The sudden disappearance has left Mike Jimenez perplexed.  "It is unusual that if a pair denned in an area with a lot of sheep that they would just up and leave.  I guess we'll just see what happens."

A livestock producer was held accountable for wolf predation.  WGFD and Wildlife Services confirmed a calf killed by wolves in the Upper Green River drainage.  At least 7 carcasses from cattle that died from causes other than wolf predation were left in general vicinity where the depredation occurred.  WGFD investigated 11 additional dead cattle in the same area.  Two dead cattle were confirmed as bear kill, but 9 other cattle died from causes other than predation.  Carcasses left in the area have become an attractant to wolves and therefore no wolf control will be implemented.


Summer monitoring of Yellowstone wolves focused on reproduction and summer predation.  Pup production appears typical of non-disease years, with no evidence of significant pup or adult mortality patterns as in previous disease years.  Wolves are beginning to move to higher elevations typical of summer patterns that mirror ungulate movements to higher elevations presumably following greenwave pattern.


An update from our forum's "underground wolf" brings us a must-see film about the unique population of wolves that live on the coast of BC.  It is a wonderful and rare opportunity to witness the wolves and their habitat, which is the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest, left in the world.


A new litter of four wolf pups has been discovered in Germany's Lausitz region.  It has yet to be determined whether the pups came from a pack that migrated to Brandenburg from Saxony.  Experts say there are about five packs making up a total of 40 to 45 wolves in the Saxon Lausitz.

The Mexican government plans to return the rarest of North America's gray wolves to their historic range south of the border.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it learned of the plan to release a pack of Mexican gray wolves during a meeting with Mexican officials.  A male, female and two yearlings could be released in Sonora as soon as October.  Another release is planned for December and more could happen next year.  The Mexican agency that oversees natural resources and the environment is known as SEMARNAT.  American wildlife officials and ranchers are raising questions regarding the status of the wolves should they cross into the United States.

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