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

alpha pair Wolves pictureDeep in the absolute wild backcountry of Montana's Flathead National Forest on the western side of the continental divide, lies the Great Bear Wilderness; part of the 1.5 million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.  This wilderness is dominated by dozens of mountains, all part of the Rocky Mountain Front.  A huge overthrust fault spanning 400 miles through Canada and Montana with elevations ranging from 4,000 to 8,705 feet.  The Great Bear is the origination point of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River flowing through a timbered valley to Schafer Meadows raging for 50 miles below cliff faces and over boulder-strewn rapids.  It has been designated as a Wild River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  The river and its tributaries provide fishing for cutthroat trout, dolly varden, whitefish, and kokanee salmon.  Roaming about these rugged ridge tops, gently sloping alpine meadows and thickly forested river bottom are grizzlies, lynx, wolverine, deer, elk, moose, black bear, mountain goat, mountain sheep, and wolves.  On September 18, the southern slopes of Soakem Mountain in the upper reaches of Schafer Creek were adorned with an 8-member wolf pack.  The Wolf pack was just lying together sunbathing in the last of the summer's 90 degrees sharing the little basin with seven cow elk.  A vertical image began to break the horizon in the scene around 9:30 a.m. and one of the wolves stood up.  Locking eyes with a hunter at 30 yards then dropping to the ground.  Although the crack of the gun was said to fill the basin, the rest of the wolves did not bolt but only moved off 30 yards and waited.  This was the end of the story of the first wolf killed in the northern wilds of Montana during the state's first regulated gray wolf hunting season.  The mountain, the only one that has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf watched the fierce green fire dying in the wolf's eyes along with the wolf's pack members.  Reportedly, the hunter's opinion is that the story of the wolves going into a basin and decimating the elk herd just isn't true.  It was not his intent to hunt wolf but he bought the tag to support the state's wolf management program and feels there are extremists on both sides of the controversy.  Forum discussion 

The statewide quota for Montana is 75 wolves.  Montana brought in $167,000 to the state selling over 10,000 wolf tag permits.  As of this writing, 9 wolves have been killed.  For updated information visit Montana FWP's Wolf Hunting Season Status website page.

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." ~ The Wilderness Act


By September 1, it was becoming clear that the injunction to halt the hunts was not going to arrive in time.   It was opening day of hunting season in Idaho.  Each side of the controversial hunt stayed on the lookout for opposite news from the media.  Then, it came.  The words waited upon by history and the world.  At daybreak on September 1, in the mountains near the Lochsa River, an 80 pound yearling female wolf became the first gray wolf killed in the first state regulated gray wolf hunt in the lower 48 when she stepped out of the woods looking for the source of the sound of a wounded coyote.  The rest of her pack was described as howling and milling about after the shot was fired; an "adrenaline rush" for the hunter who accomplished the trophy he set out to receive.  However, the event earned the hunter both credit and disdain from several sources and even boiled over onto our own forum.

A man was issued citations for poaching a wolf outside an open hunting zone and shooting from a public road.  Witnesses told officers he shot the wolf while standing in the road at the back of his pickup truck.  Investigation is ongoing and charges have not been filed yet.  Officers seized the wolf hide and skull, a rifle, camera and tag.  The wolf was a small female, still a pup.  An illegal take has been charged to the harvest limit of the McCall-Weiser wolf zone where she was killed.

The total statewide quota for Idaho is 220 wolves.  Idaho has sold 15,403 resident wolf licenses that raised $229,772.50 for the state.  As of this writing, 16 wolves have been killed.  For updated information visit The Idaho Fish & Game Wolf Harvest Information website.

Republican announced candidate, Rex Rammell said he will sign an executive order allowing anyone to shoot a wolf without following Idaho Fish and Game regulations if elected governor in 2010.  As governor, his intent is to reclaim the state's land, 2/3 of which is federal government land in the form of National Forest land and Bureau of Land Management.  Rammell is also in favor of strengthening Idaho's militia and challenging the federal government. The candidate was highly criticized for what he professed to be a joke when he answered an audience member with a comment about buying Obama tags during a discussion on wolves.

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners approved the auction of wolf tags 1 through 10.  The rare wolf tags are expected to generate $60,000.00 due to the high interest in them as collectors' items.  Commissioners set the tags aside before the start of the historic wolf season.  The most valuable number 1 tag is estimated to bring between $20,000.00 to $30,000.00.  Profits are to be used for wolf management and conservation.  Two of the tags will be sold on ebay and the others at live auctions and other websites.

The Salmon-Challis National Forest has announced scoping comments for its proposed NEPA analysis of the Idaho Department Fish and Game's requested permission to land a helicopter up to 20 times to capture and radio collar wolves.  Environmentalists strongly oppose the move and question its legality.  The environmental analysis alone needed to land a helicopter in a wilderness area would cost as much as $250,000.00 to land once or twice.  Details and directions for comments can be found on our forum here.

New Mexico

The US Fish and Wildlife Service can remove wolves that kill three head of livestock within a year.  However, they have decided to allow the family group named the Middle Fork Pack to stay in the wild despite confirming that a cow depredation was their third.  Released in 2004, the alpha couple is a breeding pair raising at least four pups.  Removal could jeopardize the pups' survival.  The alpha pair are both three-legged wolves.  Each had a leg amputated after being caught in separate incidents in leg-hold traps put out in the area by unknown parties.  "What do they expect a pair of 3 legged Wolves to do to feed their family?"~ Nakoowolf

Northern Rocky Mountains

On September 8, Federal Judge Molloy denied a preliminary injunction that would have halted 2009-2010 regulated Northern Rocky Mountains gray wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.  The Judge said the groups had not proven that hunting wolves would irreparably harm the population.  Although he denied this motion, the Judge said the groups are likely to prevail in their lawsuit challenging the USFWS's removal of ESA protection for these wolves.  The lawsuit argues that since the region of the wolves' population includes all three states, delisting should not occur in Idaho and Montana before Wyoming has an acceptable wolf management plan.  A separate hearing is yet to be scheduled.  Wolf advocates chose not to appeal the decision regarding the injunction and instead have filed a motion for summary judgement seeking to expedite ruling of the lawsuit to return NRM wolves under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.  The schedule calls for the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and opening briefs to be filed by Oct. 26.  Similar documents from the federal government are expected by Nov. 23, and from organizations intervening on behalf of the government by Dec. 2.


The first control order on wolves in Oregon was issued.  A male and female wolf pair were killed in Baker County by USDA Wildlife Services.  The healthy young 87-pound male was radio collared in May after being accused of the first documented livestock depredation since wolves moved into eastern Oregon around 1999.  Because the wolves initially moved onto the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and stayed away from Keating Valley ranches for a few months this spring and summer, it appeared that the non-lethal approaches were working.  The wolves returned in August but the device installed this spring, which blares a siren designed to scare away the radio-collared wolf if it comes within a quarter-mile, was removed before the wolves returned last week.  Both wolves were yearlings that never bred.  Their genetics link them to Idaho wolves.  For unknown reasons, the wolves were on their own at a young age, which could have contributed to their inability to survive on wild animals rather than livestock.  Oregon's wolf population is less than 10 wolves.


On 9/22/09, Wildlife Serivces confirmed a calf was killed by wolves on private property west of Cody.  Control was completed on 9/23 when WS removed 3 wolves from the Carter Mountain Pack.  Based on preliminary reports through September 2009, a total of 17 cattle and 177 sheep were recorded as confirmed wolf kills, and 28 wolves were killed in subsequent control actions in Wyoming.


Since wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone in the 1990's, there have been three years when the pup survival rate was extremely low:  1999, 2005 and 2008.  Canine parvovirus was believed to be the cause of the wolf pup deaths in 1999 and 2005.  That was because parvovirus is known to cause a high mortality rate in domestic dogs, and was suspected in the high death rate of wolves at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan in the early 1980's.  Results of newly published research point to canine distemper as the cause of the low pup survival rates.  Last year, only 14% of the wolf pup population in the parks Northern Range survived.

Yellowstone Park Journal estimates wolves bring in $7 million to $10 million in annual tourism revenue with an estimated $100,000 people there to watch the wolves.

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