Monday, October 31, 2011

Image of the Day

Good friends by danihernanz
Good friends, a photo by danihernanz on Flickr.

Wildlife Commission tackles Washington wolf plan Thursday in Spokane

Posted by Rich
Oct. 30, 2011
ENDANGERED SPECIES – Washington’s proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan will be presented and discussed during the state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. at the Ramada Spokane Airport, 8909 W. Airport Dr.
Public comment will be taken during the afternoon session.

This is the last of four public meetings the commission has scheduled on the controversial management plan that's been two years in the making.
See the agenda for the commission meeting.
See details of the proposed wolf plan and a timetable for its authorization.
Read on for more details about the meeting, which was rescheduled from Olympia to Spokane just last week.

OLYMPIA – A Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission work session on a proposed state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan will be held Nov. 3 in Spokane, followed by a meeting Nov. 4 on other issues.
The citizen commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will hold both meetings at the Ramada Spokane Airport hotel, 8909 W. Airport Drive, in Spokane. The commission’s regular November meeting had previously been scheduled in Olympia.
At the Nov. 3 work session, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., the commission will resume its discussion about the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan recommended for approval by WDFW. Public comments will be accepted during the afternoon portion of the meeting.
The recommended plan is designed to guide state management efforts as wolves re-establish a sustainable breeding population in the state. The plan is available online at
The commission is expected to take action on the plan in December.
At the meeting on Nov. 4, the commission is scheduled to take action to amend existing restrictions on importation of harvested wildlife from states known to harbor chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wildlife populations. The proposed change would add Maryland and Minnesota to the list of states with CWD. The restrictions are aimed at protecting Washington’s native deer, elk and moose populations.
In other business, the commission is scheduled to consider approval of a proposed acquisition of 7,711 acres in Kittitas County and hear a briefing from WDFW staff on criteria for setting population objectives for deer and elk.
The Nov. 4 meeting will open to the public at 9 a.m. Initially, the commission’s November regular meeting was scheduled to run Nov. 4-5, but the commission now expects to conclude its business on Friday and not meet on Saturday, Nov. 5.


Meet the Maned Wolf

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Image of the Day

Fighting wolves by Tambako the Jaguar
Fighting wolves, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

Rare wolves raised near NYC for return to the wild

In this Oct. 6, 2011 photo, Alawa, a Rocky Mountain wolf, looks though a fence at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem is raising and breeding endangered Mexican and red wolves. The animals roam in large pens on the 27-acre property, eating roadkill and whatever they catch. The center is an important part of the effort to return wolves to the wild in North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

 In this Oct. 6, 2011 photo, Alawa, a Rocky Mountain wolf, walks through the grass at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. The Wolf Conservation Center is raising and breeding endangered Mexican and red wolves. The animals roam in large pens on the 27-acre property, eating roadkill and whatever they catch. The center is an important part of the effort to return wolves to the wild in North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Oct. 6, 2011 photo, a Mexican wolf sits on the ground at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. The Wolf Conservation Center is raising and breeding endangered Mexican and red wolves. The animals roam in large pens on the 27-acre property, eating roadkill and whatever they catch. The center is an important part of the effort to return wolves to the wild in North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

 In this Oct. 6, 2011 photo, a breeding pair of Mexican wolves look around their enclosure at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. The Wolf Conservation Center is raising and breeding endangered Mexican and red wolves. The animals roam in large pens on the 27-acre property, eating roadkill and whatever they catch. The center is an important part of the effort to return wolves to the wild in North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In this Oct. 6, 2011 photo, red wolves walk around their enclosure at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. The Wolf Conservation Center is raising and breeding endangered Mexican and red wolves. The animals roam in large pens on the 27-acre property, eating roadkill and whatever they catch. The center is an important part of the effort to return wolves to the wild in North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

 In this Oct. 6, 2011 photo, a red wolf runs at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. The Wolf Conservation Center is raising and breeding endangered Mexican and red wolves. The animals roam in large pens on the 27-acre property, eating roadkill and whatever they catch. The center is an important part of the effort to return wolves to the wild in North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. (AP) — She seemed perfectly normal, so it was surprising and a little scary when Maggie Howell suddenly let loose with a long, loud, screechy yell that sounded unlike anything human.
Then came the responses. A yip, a bark, and then howl after howl, cascading down the wooded hill from two dozen or so unseen animals at the Wolf Conservation Center in the New York City suburbs.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" said Howell, 39, the wolf center's managing director.
The chorus went on for more than a minute, a strange and unfamiliar sound within 45 miles of midtown Manhattan.
The wolf center is a key component in the national effort to return endangered wolves to the wild. In partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the 27-acre center is raising and breeding Mexican and red wolves in large enclosures, letting them eat roadkill and whatever they catch and limiting their contact with humans.
The hope is that they or their progeny can one day be released into the wild in North Carolina or along the Arizona-New Mexico border and help save animals that were nearly wiped out by man through hunting, poisoning and loss of habitat.
There are 53 zoos and nature centers in the Mexican wolf program and 42 in the red wolf program, but the Wolf Conservation Center is among the more valuable, officials said.
"They keep several animals as wild as they can, they participate in breeding, and they can get the joy of fostering animals into the wild," said David Rabon, who is based in Mateo, N.C., as national coordinator of the red wolf recovery program.
"Being able to do what the WCC is doing so close to a major metropolis is pretty remarkable," said Peter Siminski, coordinator of the Mexican wolf program based in Palm Desert, Calif.
Of the 10 pairs of wolves chosen to breed for the Mexican wolf program this coming winter, two pairs are at the WCC. The red wolf program has also designated two of the center's pairs for breeding.
So there's great anticipation on the center's wooded grounds in South Salem, where almost all of the space is taken up by one- to three-acre wolf pens, each with a pair or family.
During a recent visit, a pair of greyish Mexican wolves, barely visible in the dense foliage in their 1-acre pen, kept a wary eye on the humans at the fence. In a neighboring enclosure, a family of red wolves, shorter, ruddier and with pointed ears, was even more withdrawn. But suddenly all the reds — parents followed by 17-month-old pups — raced through the dappled sunlight in a clearing.
"It's great to see them like this," Howell said.
None of the red and Mexican wolves are given names, part of the effort to limit their human contact. Their designations are letter-and-number combinations like F1397 and M1483, with the letters designating their sex.
The wolf center also plays a key role in combatting the notion of wolves as grandmother-gobbling monsters or mindless sheep-killers. Three socialized "ambassador" wolves, not involved in the back-to-the-wild task, help educate schoolchildren and others about the animals' nature and history. The wolf center also hosts lectures, movies and "howls," tours that include getting the wolves to sing.
The newest ambassador wolves are juveniles — black Zephyr and tawny Alawa, both Canadian grey wolves. They loped eagerly to a fence when humans approached and tugged at their toys, which included a teddy bear and part of a bison skull.
The third ambassador, a regal arctic grey wolf named Atka, rested in a separate pen. He'd been out the previous night — visiting an upstate high school.
The wolf center's education aspect has suffered some recent setbacks. Three of its longtime ambassador wolves died within the last year and a half of cancer or old age.
Then in July, the wolf center lost a court case and had to give up a donation of land worth nearly $1.5 million. The case pitted two conservation groups against each other: the Westchester Land Trust claimed that erecting wolf enclosures would violate an existing conservation easement on the land.
The lawsuit spoiled plans to move the educational aspects of the wolf center to the new acreage a couple of miles away. Instead, the wolf center is hoping to buy some of the land it's currently leasing from pianist Helene Grimaud and photographer J. Henry Fair, who together founded the wolf center in 1999.
Meanwhile, staffers are hoping to see wolf mating and wolf pups in 2012.
"Hopefully, with four breeding pairs, we'll celebrate at least one new litter, but this is captivity and these are arranged marriages, so you just don't know," Howell said.
The Mexican wolf was all but extinct in the wild in the 1980s.
"To save the subspecies, the Fish and Wildlife Service took a few animals from the wild and established a captive breeding program," Siminski said.
"In 1998, wolves from the program were released on the Arizona-New Mexico border. To maintain genetic diversity, the 50 or so wolves in the wild are restocked from pups born to the 300 wolves kept in captivity.
"Breeding pairs are selected carefully, Siminski said.
"They have to know what wild prey is, they need to fear people, and they need to be good social wolves," he said.
Pups born into the Mexican wolf program would likely be sent to a prerelease facility, paired with opposite-sex wolves and allowed to raise pups themselves before being sent out into the wild.
The red wolf story is similar. In 1970, on the brink of extinction, 14 were gathered up for a captive breeding program that led to a release in eastern North Carolina in the 1980s. There are about 115 wolves there, and about 180 in captivity.
The red wolf program uses a technique called fostering-in. Rabon said that if a wolf in captivity and a wolf in the wild have litters within a few days of each other, and the captive litter is big enough, pups from the captive litter can be rushed down to North Carolina and placed in the wild wolf's den.
"It has to be done before the eyes open," Rabon said. "We have found that mothers will take them in and we have no evidence of harm to the birth mother or the rest of her litter."
That could mean that next spring, a wolf born in metropolitan New York will be in the care of a wild pack in North Carolina.
"It would be amazing to celebrate pups," Howell said, "and then say, 'Bye-bye, have fun, do what you need to do out there.'"


Killing Wolves: A Product of Alberta’s Big Oil and Gas Boom

The development of the tar sands and other oil and gas fields in Alberta has carved up the Canadian province's boreal forest, threatening herds of woodland caribou. But rather than protect caribou habitat, officials have taken a controversial step: the large-scale killing of the wolves that prey on the caribou.

by Ed Struzik
In the spring of 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured several wolves from west central Alberta and set them loose the next year in Yellowstone National Park, hoping they would fill in the missing link in the park’s complex system of predator-prey relationships.
In the last five years, Alberta has spent more than $1 million poisoning wolves and shooting them from the air. Wolves hadn’t been seen in Yellowstone in 70 years. Beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, and despite fierce opposition of some local ranchers and hunters, these and other wolves brought in from Alberta and British Columbia adjusted extremely well. Today, 11 packs, with nearly 100 wolves, are thriving in Yellowstone.
The fortunes of wolves in west central Alberta, however, have moved in a completely different direction. Over the past five years, the government of Alberta has spent more than $1 million poisoning wolves with strychnine and shooting them from the air. In all, more than 500 wolves in the Little Smoky River region have been destroyed in a controversial effort to save woodland caribou, whose numbers have plummeted as the oil, gas, and logging industries have increasingly carved up Alberta’s boreal forest in recent decades.
The killing of wolves in Alberta is not going to end any time soon. Indeed, if some wildlife managers get their way, the predator control program could be expanded to include several other areas of the province, including the heavily mined tar sands region, where four caribou herds are being squeezed by the massive, multi-billion dollar oil mining operations. Two of those herds are already at risk of disappearing if their habitat is not restored soon, according to the Alberta Caribou Committee, which is charged with helping recover caribou populations. All told, tar sands deposits in Alberta underlie 54,000 square miles — an area the size of New York State — and while only a small portion of this is currently being developed, the continued expansion of the tar sands will further destroy caribou habitat.

In its latest report, the Alberta Caribou Committee notes that three of the province’s 18 herds are at immediate risk of disappearing because of loss of habitat. Six are in decline, three are stable, and not enough is known about the remaining six to determine how well they are doing. Scientists are confident, however, that they are in decline as well, further fueling efforts to protect caribou by eradicating wolves.

“Wolf control can be an effective way of conserving dwindling caribou numbers,” says Stan Boutin, a University of Alberta biologist who has spent more than 20 years trying to prevent caribou from disappearing in the province. “But the province is kidding itself if it thinks that wolf control alone is the answer. It’s not.”

The answer, according to nearly every scientist involved in the debate, is habitat protection — something that has not been high on the list of the Alberta government as it has pushed energy development in the tar sands region and throughout the province.

Alberta officials have defended the killing of wolves in regions where woodland caribou numbers have plummeted, yet these officials acknowledge that preserving habitat is essential.

“Scientists recognize that wolf control is a legitimate means of managing caribou populations that are in trouble,” said Darcy Whiteside, spokesman for the Alberta Sustainable Resources Department. “This is definitely needed to save that [Little Smoky River caribou] population. It has definitely stabilized that population. However, we also recognize that it is only a short-term solution and that habitat protection is key to saving caribou in the long run.”

Wolves have long been used as scapegoats for wildlife management problems. For much of the 20th century, the U.S. and Canadian governments systematically targeted wolves. Initially, wildlife managers used bounties to encourage people to kill wolves. Then they used poison, leghold traps, and marksmen from helicopters to wipe out the predators. In extreme cases, such as in northern Minnesota, men were sent to dig out dens and strangle wolf pups.

Sometimes, these predator control programs worked too well, as in Yellowstone and Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, where wolves also were completely extirpated. (They have since come back to Banff, albeit in small numbers). Most times though, the programs failed because biologists underestimated just how quickly a wolf population can rebound as long as there is prey for them to exploit.

These heavily criticized wolf eradication programs were discontinued almost everywhere in North America — except in Alberta and Alaska. The only difference now is that wildlife managers think they have a better handle on how to make wolf control programs work: Kill at least 60 percent — 80 percent is preferable — of the wolves in an area, according to the formula that most predator control experts rely on, and you begin to see a rebound in prey species after several years, as long as there is suitable habitat in which the species can recover.

The issue in Alberta is much different than in Alaska, where wolf control is done largely to enhance hunting opportunities for caribou. Because of intense logging and oil and gas development in Alberta, there is too much good habitat for wolves and not enough for caribou. That may sound strange, but in the unprotected areas of Alberta the old growth forest that used to support moderate numbers of wolves and caribou is increasingly being carved up. At last count, 34,773 wells, 66,489 kilometers of seismic lines, 11,591 kilometers of pipelines, and 12,283 kilometers of roads had been built in caribou country in west central and northern Alberta. That doesn’t include the vast areas of forest that have been logged. Open areas such as these favor moose, elk, and especially deer. As the number of these creatures expand, so do the number of wolves. More often than not, caribou, which rely on old growth forests for lichen and predator protection, are nothing more than passing targets as wolves move easily from one clear cut to another through the shrinking old growth forest.

For more than two decades, scientists have been warning the Alberta government about the consequences of fracturing old growth forest in this way. The latest to weigh in on this issue was a team of 30 boreal forest scientists commissioned by the Canadian government to review the data and habitat conditions of caribou in Alberta. In 2008, they recommended that cut lines, well sites, and roads that favor wolves need to be reforested if caribou are going to have a chance of surviving in oil and gas country.

The Canadian government, which is ultimately responsible for the country’s endangered species, deferred taking action, claiming that not enough is known about the “spatial distribution” of caribou to warrant identification of critical habitat. But then last August, the federal government came up with a recovery plan that opened the door for the wolf control program in Alberta to continue. Noting that “human-induced habitat alterations have upset the natural balance between boreal caribou and their predators,” the report said that wolf eradication programs “will be required... to stabilize individual local populations in the short term.” In the long term, the report said, caribou populations can only be self-sustaining if their habitat is preserved.

Lu Carbyn, scientist emeritus with the Canadian Wildlife Service and adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, has been studying wolves in North America for more than 40 years. While he is not a big supporter of predator control programs, he says they can be a very effective way of reviving ungulate populations that are under stress. But Carbyn believes there is no sense killing wolves if habitat is not restored in highly disturbed oil and gas regions.

University of Alberta biologist Boutin notes that no matter how many wolves have been killed in the territory of the Little Smoky caribou herd, the wolves keep bouncing back. “They’re spending an awful lot of money killing a lot of wolves in order to keep a handful of caribou calves alive,” said Boutin. “Sooner than later, this strategy is going to fail them.”

Boutin; Richard Schneider, executive director of the Alberta Center for Boreal Research; and University of Alberta natural resource economists Vic Adamowicz and Grant Hauer have estimated that it would be possible to preserve half of Alberta’s caribou habitat while giving up less than 1 percent of potential revenues from resource development.

Recently, criticism of wolf eradication programs has come from an unexpected source — Bob Hayes, a biologist who led the Yukon government’s wolf control programs in the 1980s and 1990s. By his own count, Hayes has killed 851 wolves and sterilized many others in the name of science and conservation biology. Despite sharp professional disagreements, hate mail from environmentalists, and threats from eco-terrorists, Hayes says he has never doubted that he was doing what needed to be done to protect caribou, moose, and other prey species in the Yukon Territory.

But Hayes, author of Wolves of the Yukon, now believes that wolf eradication programs merely buy time and do little to address the real reason why ungulates are in decline. “I spent 18 years studying the effects of lethal wolf control on prey populations,” says Hayes. “The science clearly shows killing wolves is biologically wrong... When we kill wolves, we’re killing the very thing that makes the natural world wild.”


New wolf pack identified in northeastern Oregon along Snake River

Published: Saturday, October 29, 2011
umatillawolfJPGView full sizeThe Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided this photo of OR-10, a female pup from the Walla Walla pack as it was released Oct. 2 in northern Umatilla County after being captured and fitted with a radio collar. The department says tracks show at least five members of the new Snake River pack near the Hells Canyon area of northeastern Oregon.
JOSEPH -- With the shrinkage of the state's oldest and biggest pack of gray wolves to four -- and a potential kill order looming over two of the pack's remaining wolves for preying on livestock -- Oregon's fledgling wolf population looked like it was in trouble.

But a new pack of five gray wolves is now hunting on the Oregon side of the Snake River along the Oregon-Idaho boundary in Wallowa County. One is a pup, and the pack's actual number might exceed five, said Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Snake River pack's male and female won't officially become a "breeding pair" unless two or more pups are documented during the next two months, she said.

Oregon now has four wolf packs encompassing 19 gray wolves and four rootless, roaming wolves for a total of 23 compared to a count of 14 about a month ago, Dennehy said.

"There are very likely more wolves out there," Dennehy said. "We only give the minimum number because we want to be certain."

The current breakdown: four wolves in the Imnaha pack (formerly the biggest at 16 wolves); four in the Wenaha pack; six in the Walla Walla pack; five in the Snake River pack; two more wolves in northern Umatilla County; and two radio-collared males that trotted from northeastern Oregon's Wallowa County into central Oregon.

The state has targeted wolves in the Imnaha pack for killing cattle and the latest episode happened last week in Wallowa County. Wolves injured a cow and it was euthanized, Dennehy said.

The state has issued a "kill order" for two Imnaha pack wolves, the alpha male and a younger male wolf, in response to an earlier livestock death. But the order is on hold while the Oregon Court of Appeals reviews a challenge filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Oregon Wild.

The conservation groups contend the kill order violates Oregon's Endangered Species Act and exceeds the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's statutory authority to address livestock deaths.

A response by the Oregon Department of Justice argues that nothing in the state Endangered Species Act or related statutes prohibits wildlife biologists from killing wolves.

The state response also says Oregon's 6-year-old Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is predicated on a belief that "human tolerance" is the primary limiting factor for wolf survival and that nonlethal and lethal controls may promote the long-term survival of wolves in the state.

It notes that from 1996 to 1999 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed up to 14 percent of the previous year's estimated wolf populations because of livestock depredation. "Even at that level of agency-caused mortality, wolves continued to expand," the response said.

Sean Stevens, spokesman for Oregon Wild, said the Department of Justice is adopting a paradoxical stand that to save wolves, they must be killed.

"With few wolves in the state and a population struggling to recover, ODFW has been far too quick to implement lethal controls," Stevens said. The agency shouldn't be in such a rush to kill the Imnaha pack's two male wolves, he said.

"We can figure out if the state is breaking the law first, and then move forward," he said.

Oregon Wild contends the state has potential habitat for 1,000 wolves.

Wolves were virtually exterminated across the West by the 1930s and declared endangered by the federal government in 1976. Oregon's newest generation of wolves is less than 5 years old. The first evidence that two wolves had paired up after migration here from Idaho took place in 2007, when tracks were found on the south side of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

"They are slowly on the path to recovery, as long as we are willing to allow them to move toward that," Stevens said.

On the opposite side of the question, officials of Wallowa, Grant, Umatilla and Union counties have filed "friend of the court" briefs and committed $8,000 to oppose the delay in the kill order.

"We chose to support their efforts due to the fact that we have wolves now," said Umatilla County Commissioner Larry Givens. "We hope we won't have to call on neighboring counties to come back and support us."


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Legislature Next Step in Wolf Management in WY

Posted: Oct 28, 2011
Governor Mead says Wyoming's wolf delistment is now up to the legislature.

He says the need is for legislative action conforming statutes to the agreement reached with the Department of Interior. Mead says he feels his staff has been successful in explaining their feeling on wolf management and why it would be a good plan to turn control over to Wyoming.

"I would not even try to say what the Legislature is going to do, although I would say my staff has been fairly successful in reaching out to members of the Legislature explaining why we think this is a good plan to move forward and how it would turn control over wolves to Wyoming and have them delisted," Governor Mead said.
 Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed delisting rule for wolves in Wyoming.


Wolves 'thriving' in Germany

Wolves are thriving in Germany, according to a new study, which found the animals could soon become part of the natural wildlife across the country.

One hundred years since hunting nearly wiped wolves out in Germany, they are moving out from their last bastion in the forests on the Polish border.
While 11 years ago there was one pack, there are now 12, and the return of the wolf to all of Germany, said Professor Beata Jessel, head of Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, is now "unstoppable".
The two-year study by the agency has surprised experts by revealing that far from requiring vast forests, the grey wolf has started to adapt to the modern environment.
"Wolves do not need wilderness, rather they can rapidly spread in our landscape and fit into the most varied habitats," said Prof Jessel in an interview with the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
GPS tracking of one female wolf revealed that she built her lair just 500 metres from a busy road and raised her young undisturbed by the traffic.
Two packs, comprising 18 animals all together, now live just 40 miles from Berlin.
"One should thus be prepared for the appearance of wolves across Germany, and use management plans to establish the most conflict-free relations between people and wolves as is possible," the professor added.
The study also showed the huge distances wolves can travel. One male animal, called Alan by researchers, travelled the 963 miles to Belarus in two months, crossing countless main roads and swimming the Oder and Vistula rivers. This tendency to wander, wolf specialists say, should aid the spread of wolves across Germany.

But canis lupis also face dangers.
Wolves have struggled to shed a reputation forged in centuries of folklore and stories that casts them as sinister and ruthless killers, prepared to hunt down man or beast. This has made them a target for hunters.
Official figures put the total of illegally shot wolves since 1990 at 13 but experts believe the true figure is much higher owing to hunters hiding the carcases.
Road accidents also inflict an annual toll on the population with 17 reported deaths since 2000.


Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

(courtesy of   Defenders of Wildlife Blog )
Posted: 28 Oct 2011

The amazing disappearing, reappearing wolves of Oregon

Newly released map of wolf groups in Oregon
Wolf numbers in Oregon have fluctuated quite a bit this year, but according to a new map, state wildlife managers now believe at least five distinct groups of wolves comprising four different packs exist today. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announced this week that a new pack has been identified along the border with Idaho in the northeast corner of the state. That brings the total number of known wolves in Oregon to at least 23: four in the Imnaha pack, six in the Walla Walla pack, five in the Snake River pack, four in the Wenaha pack, two wolves in northern Umatilla county, and two have dispersed from the Imnaha pack to central Oregon.

The official count, however, won’t be determined until the end of the year when ODFW does their survey for the 2011 Northern Rockies annual report. Only packs with at least two adults (one male, one female) and two or more pups are considered “breeding pairs.” The state’s initial goal as outlined in the Oregon wolf management plan is to have four breeding pairs on either side of the Cascade Mountains. If Oregon’s wolves continue to move about the way they have this year, the state may reach their goal sooner rather than later.

Depredations remain low across region

So far, so good for most ranchers in the Northern Rockies this year. Most states saw a continued decline in the number of confirmed livestock losses with Montana, Idaho and Wyoming reporting 74, 57 and 38 cattle depredations and 12, 65 and 30 sheep depredations, respectively, for the year. (See the latest Wyoming status report for more detailed information on livestock losses in the past decade.) With millions of cattle and hundreds of thousands of sheep out on the range, wolf related livestock losses remain well below one percent of overall livestock losses. Yet Defenders will continue to work with willing partners in the livestock community to further reduce those losses.

Unfortunately, the number of wolves being killed by hunters picked up dramatically this week as general rifle season opened in Montana. The combined total for both Idaho and Montana passed the 100 mark this week, with 83 killed in Idaho and 27 killed in Montana

Sheepherding: an ancient pastime finds new relevance

A herder puts up fladry to protect his flock in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho.
It’s one of the oldest jobs in human history. Tending a flock of sheep dates back at least to biblical times and probably long before that. But unlike basket-weaving or the caber toss, it’s an age-old tradition that’s perhaps even more relevant today.
Recently, Jessica Robinson with the Northwest News Network tagged along with a few Peruvian sheep herders in the mountains above McCall, Idaho, where their job entails not only herding the sheep, but keeping an eye out for wolves. Having a constant human presence is one of the best deterrents to wolves, and as Defenders has demonstrated with the Wood River Wolf Project, paying for full-time herders can be well worth the investment if it prevents sheep from getting eaten by wolves.

Listen here:

Final Washington wolf plan meeting coming up

If you live in eastern Washington, don’t forget to RSVP for the upcoming meeting on the state’s wolf plan. This is your last chance to make sure that Washington’s wolves will be guaranteed a bright future. Some area ranchers have been pushing to roll-back many of necessary protections for wolves, so we need you to speak out in favor of sound wildlife management that supports the long-term recovery of the species. Details below…
What: Public Meeting Management Plan on Washington’s Wolf  
When: Thursday, November 3rd 1:00 p.m – 4:00 p.m.
Where: Ramada Inn
8909 West Airport Drive
Spokane, WA 99224
    This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now  

Image of the Day

Wolf by gunnarkelly
Wolf, a photo by gunnarkelly on Flickr.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Washington wolf plan opposition gets pointed

Thursday, October 27, 2011
MOSES LAKE, Wash. - Members of Cattle Producers of Washington grew heated and talked about their constitutional right to protect their cattle after listening to an Idaho ranch manager describe substantial losses to wolves.
"As an appointed official, you take an oath of office to protect the welfare of people. Nowhere in this (Washington's pending wolf plan) is there protection from diseases in the scat of wolves. It can affect our pets and family. When you threaten my grandchildren, I'm coming after you, buddy," Craig Vejraska, president of CPoW told Chuck Perry, a member of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission. Perry, sitting on a wolf discussion panel, did not respond.
It was one of many sharp comments at CPoW's annual meeting Oct. 21 from cattlemen who believe the state is more enamored with wolf recovery than cattle protection. The meeting was held at Pillar Rock Grill in Moses Lake.
The discussion started with a presentation by Casey Anderson, manager of OX Ranch that runs cattle on 150,000 acres of private and leased public land east of Hell's Canyon in Idaho.
Wolves cost the ranch at least $250,000 in 2009, Anderson said. Most of that was loss of weight on cattle harassed by wolves but there also were 18 confirmed kills and another 70 calves, five cows, two yearlings and one bull that disappeared, he said. Reproduction drops among cattle under constant wolf stress, he said.
Anderson showed pictures of cows and calves killed and maimed by wolves. Some had chunks of flesh gone. Many cases could not be confirmed because spacing of canine teeth marks and bloodshot trauma are required as evidence that it's caused by wolves, he said. Some of his pictures showed that. Others showed so little carcass left that evidence was gone.
Studies show 93 percent of cattle killed by wolves go unconfirmed, he said.
University and government studies comparing wolf behavior at the ranch to other locations are being done. A wolf spent all day within 300 yards of a ranch foreman's house where there are children, Anderson said.
"But no worries. Wolves don't kill kids, just wildlife and they don't really kill them they just use them for food source," Anderson said sarcastically.
State Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, a rancher, said watching Anderson's presentation made him a little ill.
"The science of the wolf plan was written by wolf lovers. I'm going to say something I'll probably get in trouble for. You know, that (wolf) pack in the Okanogan hasn't been doing too good," Kretz said.
He said he's not encouraging anyone to shoot wolves because that can bring big penalties. But, he said, "Everyone has a constitutional right to protect what's theirs."
Jeff Dawson, a Colville rancher, said he's had unconfirmed wolf-kill of cattle. He said his cows cluster in the center of open fields on a hot day, afraid to seek shade in trees because of wolves. Loss of 25 to 50 pounds in their weight per head is hurting his income, he said.
Len McIrvin, a Laurier rancher, said he had the state's first documented kill several years ago and has had severely wounded calves. He called Fish and Wildlife "a runaway rogue agency" and the wolf plan "unacceptable."
"What we have going here seems to be a direct recipe for rebellion or revolt," he said.
McIrvin talked about cattle stewardship and a constitutional right to protect them.
Tim Rasmussen, Stevens County prosecutor, told the group he will uphold property protection rights but evaluates each case on its merits. He said the state Supreme Court upheld a man's right to protect his apple crop by shooting elk.
Commissioner Perry, a Moses Lake resident and former range land specialist for the state Fish and Wildlife Department, said all he heard would be considered.
"There also is another side to this," Perry said. "It may not seem as important to you, but there is 75 percent of the people in the state who would like to have unmanaged wolves. They vote."
It's extremely difficult to balance their opinion, since there's no direct impact to them, versus ranchers who are impacted, he said.
After the meeting, Perry thanked Anderson for his "factual and scientific" presentation.
Asked if ranchers have a constitutional right to protect their property, Perry said, "I'm not an attorney. I do not know."
State law requires commissioners use only scientific information in their decision, Perry said. Public comment is not ignored, but can't be given the same weight as science, he said.


Oregon argues wolf kills will help pack

Thursday, October 27, 2011 
Oregon conservationists hoping to stop the killing of problem wolves are doing the species more harm than good, the state argued Wednesday in a filing with the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The contention came in a response to the court's Oct. 5 order halting the killing of two Wallowa County wolves.
Three conservation groups obtained the stay from the court even as a rifleman with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tracked the animals. They argued that killing the two targeted animals, both implicated in preying on livestock, would decimate the Imnaha pack and hinder the species' reintroduction into Oregon.
The conservationists also claim the state has no authority under the Oregon Endangered Species Act to kill wolves.
But lawyers for the Oregon Department of Justice argue the conservationists' claims are not likely to stand up in court. They say the stay order on killing the two wolves, the alpha male and a sub-adult, should be lifted.
The state Wolf Management Plan allows for killing wolves in cases of "chronic depredation," according to a brief filed by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, state Solicitor General Anna M. Joyce and Senior Assistant Attorney General Inge D. Wells.
ODFW decided to kill the two wolves after determining their responsibility for killing a calf Sept. 22 near Joseph.
Fifteen cases of cattle deaths since May 2010 illustrate that non-lethal methods such as range riders, flagging fences and radio-activated guard devices have been unsuccessful, the state argues. Killing the wolves is a necessary last resort to "foster human tolerance of wolves, thus ensuring their survival in Oregon," the brief states.
The wildlife department on Oct. 27 reported another case of a wolf attack on livestock, a cow injured and later euthanized, according to department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy. She said another wolf of the Walla Walla pack, the second in a week, a male pup, was collared Wednesday.
The state argues that killing two wolves "will not cause irreparable harm to the gray wolf population in Oregon, and, in fact, will aid in the recovery of the species...," according to the brief.
Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for Center for Biological Diversity, one of the three conservation groups, this morning said they don't see an exemption in state law that allows the state to kill wolves.
"There's really no evidence that killing wolves increases tolerance. In fact, there are studies that show it doesn't increase tolerance, he said "The wolf population is too small to take these kinds of killings."
The state counts 14 wolves in Oregon and under the management plan is required to treat them as endangered until at least four breeding pairs are established in Eastern Oregon for three consecutive years.
"While the population continues to be endangered, petitioners have not demonstrated that the loss of two wolves from the Imnaha pack will have a detrimental effect on the species as a whole," the state argues.
The state argues that the wildlife agency doesn't exceed its authority under the state Endangered Species Act by killing problem wolves. As long as removing wolves linked to livestock losses is "in furtherance of the conservation goals of the Endangered Species Act and is necessary for the recovery of the species of the whole," the department is on solid legal ground, the brief states.
The state argues the conservationists' lawsuit would not likely prevail on its merits and should be dismissed. Arguments have yet to be scheduled.


Cattlemen seek funding for wolf management

By Heather Thorstensen

Minnesota has had a plan in place to manage its gray wolf population for a decade but, as a federal agency prepares to shift control back to the state, it's uncertain whether money will be available to handle control efforts as planned.

The Department of Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will publish a final rule by the end of the year that would remove protections that Minnesota's wolf population has under the Endangered Species Act. The wolf is currently listed as a threatened species.

The rule would give wolf management back to the state through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The DNR would follow a management plan that calls for funding from a cost-share agreement between state and federal dollars.

So far, federal funds have paid for USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, an agency responsible for trapping and removing or killing depredating wolves. Since wolves are protected, only authorized state or federal personnel can take a wolf.

However, the budget to pay for these trappers was cut by Congress. Funding briefly ran dry Oct. 1 before USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack dedicated more money for federal trappers in Minnesota until the end of the year.

The Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association says it's a top priority to get long-term funding for these trappers so they can remain on the job after the state takes control. MSCA's executive director, Joe Martin, says the association is working with the state's Congressional delegation to secure the funding.

"Part of the message we've tried to convey is even after the wolves are de-listed and returned to state management, that doesn't mean there still isn't going to be a (threat) on livestock or pets, or threatening human safety. Because of that, we still have a need for expert trappers to be called on to remove wolves," Martin said.

Dan Stark, the large carnivore program leader at the Minnesota DNR, says the state plan — which was finalized back in 2001 —anticipates it will cost $200,000 per year to handle wolf control with support from federal funds. The state legislature has appropriated $120,000 per year for 2012 and 2013 in anticipation that wolves will be de-listed.

The federal funding for wolf management in the state that was cut was $276,000.Wildlife Services, which can also receive funds from other sources, spent approximately $550,000 responding to wolf damage last year.

"We don't have a budget identified to fund that at that level," said Stark.

If federal funding isn't restored, the state will have to look at ways to maintain the program. They can certify private trappers, residents will be able to shoot wolves under certain conditions and the DNR has been authorized to develop a wolf hunting season, pending public comment, Stark said.

"There certainly would be a different level of depredation response," he said.

The Minnesota State Cattlemen plan to work with the DNR, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and USDA to work out a cost-share agreement. The details have to be worked out, but Martin said it would be reasonable to have the state pay 50 percent and the federal government pay 50 percent.

In Montana and Idaho— states that regained their wolf management responsibilities— depredation response is funded through a combination of state, county, federal and private contributions. Some of the money comes from a tax on livestock owners.

The state cattlemen's association supports the state regaining control of wolf management because it gives livestock owners more options. Instead of waiting for the wolves to attack their livestock before they call trappers, residents will be able to shoot and destroy wolves in certain situations.


Volunteers needed to help monitor Wisconsin wolf population

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources utilizes a team of volunteer trackers each winter to help monitor the state's wolf population.

It's been called the largest such wildlife tracking program in the nation.

Volunteers are required to attend one or more training sessions to qualify for the effort. The DNR is issuing its annual call for volunteers as well as listing the schedule of workshops planned in the coming weeks.

Volunteer trackers are assigned survey blocks in forest portions of northern and central Wisconsin, and are asked to conduct three or more surveys in their assigned block each winter. Data they gather can be compiled with those of other volunteers to aid Department of Natural Resources biologists in evaluating wolf populations.

Wolf and Carnivore Tracker Training sessions are scheduled:

•Nov. 5, Ashland, Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, Highway 2 & G, west of Ashland.
•Dec. 3, Babcock, Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center, 1 mile north of Highway 173 along County Road X.
•Dec. 10-11, Tomahawk, Wildlife Tracking with James Halfpenny, Treehaven UW-SP Field Station on Pickerel Creek Road off County A.

Training sessions run at Ashland, and Babcock will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Applicants should register as soon as possible because space is limited. There is a small fee for the classes. Training at Treehaven near Tomahawk will be held Dec. 10 and 11 and will be led by renowned tracker James Halfpenny. Cost of the workshop has yet to be determined.

Details about the volunteer tracking program and the wolf ecology and tracking training sessions are available here.

In late winter 2011, DNR biologists and volunteers estimated there were from 782 to 824 wolves in the state, including 751 or more outside Indian reservations. About one-third of the state packs are monitored by radio-telemetry; the remaining packs are monitored by DNR and volunteer trackers.

In 2011, 137 volunteer trackers surveyed 86, 200-square-mile survey blocks covering 8,232 miles of snow-covered roads and trails. Volunteers averaged 4.1 surveys per block, covering 95.7 miles, conducting 15.4 hours of tracking per block, and detected more than 430 different wolves.

“With the continued spread of the state wolf population and reduced funding for surveys, the volunteer carnivore tracking program is critical for us to obtain accurate counts of the state wolf population,” said Adrian Wydeven, DNR mammal ecologist who coordinates the state wolf program. “Despite changes in federal listings these surveys will continue to be important for long-term conservation of wolves and other forest carnivores in Wisconsin.”

Volunteers are also helpful in other ways, Wydeven said. Last fall, several volunteers conducted hunter outreach in the field and made contacts with deer hunters across several northern counties. During the spring volunteers helped with wolf trapping, radio collaring, donations of radio collars, and howl surveys as well as staffing educational booths at sport shows and other events.

Training sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please try to register at least two weeks before each session.
Volunteers are also strongly encouraged to take a wolf ecology course if they have not already done so. Biologists recommend taking the wolf ecology course before signing up for track training workshops. Wolf ecology courses will be offered next year on the following dates at the locations listed.

•Jan. 14-15, Tomahawk - Treehaven, cost $102-$150 (includes meals; lodging is optional). Contact Treehaven at
•Jan. 21-22, Babcock - Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center, Babcock, $80 (includes two meals and dorm lodging). Contact
•Feb. 18-19, Babcock - Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center, cost $80 (includes two meals and dorm lodging). Contact
•Feb. 25-26, Tomahawk - Treehaven, cost $102-$150 (includes meals; lodging is optional). Contact Treehaven at


Image of the Day

Dharma on the Log by The Sewer Bear
Dharma on the Log, a photo by The Sewer Bear on Flickr.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em: Mexican Wolves

27 Oct 2011
Mexican Gray Wolf
Only 50 Mexican wolves survive in the wild, and now they're under attack in Congress.
A weekly homage to endangered species, large and small

Earlier this year, we saw an unprecedented level of attacks on individual species orchestrated by politicians trying to undermine the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of special interests (see Defenders’ comprehensive report, Assault on Wildlife). So this summer, we interviewed several wildlife experts from outside Defenders during their recent visit to Washington, D.C., to talk about current threats to imperiled wildlife and the importance of upholding the Endangered Species Act.

Saving Mexican Wolves

Kim Crumbo of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council was a Navy SEAL and did two combat tours in Vietnam, so he knows what it’s like to try to survive in the wild on your wits alone. That might explain why he was drawn to defending Mexican wolves–one of the rarest, most endangered species in the entire world.
As Kim points out, only 50 Mexican wolves survive today in the wild along the border between Arizona and New Mexico. But that hasn’t stopped politicians like Rep. Steve Pearce (and, more recently, Sen. Orrin Hatch) from trying to derail the Mexican wolf recovery program.

In February, Pearce tried to tack on a rider to must-pass legislation to fund the federal government that would have zeroed out funding for Mexican wolves. Then he proposed the same amendment again during FY2012 budget negotiations this summer.

Without adequate funding for the recovery program, Mexican wolves will almost certainly be doomed to extinction, and the potential benefits they can bring will be lost. Mexican wolves, like all gray wolves, play a critical role in keeping wild prey species in check and maintaining healthy ecosystems. They are part of our national wildlife heritage and have also become an important cultural symbol across many parts of the Southwest.

Enterprising individuals are finding ways to make money by offering wildlife tours in wolf country. Local businesses have started promoting wolf awareness and conservation. And many ranchers are learning to coexist with wolves
by employing nonlethal techniques to prevent conflict with their livestock .

Fortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has convened a group of stakeholders including scientists, wildlife experts and ranchers to draw up a new recovery plan that will ensure the long-term survival of the species. Now we need to make sure that politicians representing special interests in the livestock community do not sabotage this effort before it’s given a chance to work.

In a 2008 poll, 69 percent of New Mexicans and 77 percent of Arizonans supported the idea of restoring wolves the landscape. Clearly, some members of Congress need to start listening to all of their constituents.
Learn more about Mexican wolves on Defenders’ websiteand blog.

Researcher's study of bones shows Yellowstone wolves' grit

BILLINGS - Despite loose and missing teeth, disease and an injury from being kicked by an elk, at 7 years old wolf No. 8M was still hunting elk in Yellowstone National Park as the alpha male of the Rose Creek pack.
The animal's determination and grit impressed Sue Ware, a paleopathologist who works for the Denver Museum and has been studying bones of the park's wolves, including 8M, since 2008.
"I don't understand how an animal could live through this," she said.
After his death, Ware's examination of 8M's skeleton showed his muzzle to be riddled with holes from a bone infection, his canine teeth were loose and blunted. The infection probably led to his death, since it can cause heart disease, organ damage and severe pain.
Yet a week before he died, wolf watchers had shot a video of the male hanging onto an elk during a hunt - loose, dull teeth and all.
"He was never challenged for his position in the pack, and he was doing everything you would expect him to do in the pack," she said.
Ware's analysis of about 160 wolf skeletons over the past three years has revealed more details on just how tough it is in the wild canid's world. Her examination of their bones has revealed injuries from attack by other wolves, a cougar bite to one wolf's skull, assorted broken ribs and legs from kicks by elk and bison, as well as broken foot bones.
"One of the things that is most detrimental is reinjury," Ware said. "I see a lot of reinjured bones."
The reinjuries occur because, unlike an injured human athlete, the wolves can't sit out of the wild games until they are healed. They have to soldier on.
To make her examinations, Ware has to first have the carcasses cleaned of all tissue. Then she examines each of the wolves' 320 bones (321 for males). To determine what animal may have caused a bite injury - another wolf, bear or cougar - she measures the incision and compares it to the tooth size and shape of the other predators.
It's a painstaking task, one that she's used to study wolves from the upper Midwest, Canada and Alaska, as well as the fossilized remains of dire wolves - a large-headed relative of the gray wolf that went extinct in North America about 9,500 years ago.
Compared to wolf bones she has examined from other areas, Ware said the Yellowstone animals tend to be healthier. Yet those with injuries, some of them quite severe, demonstrate how tough the animals can be and provide the most interesting tales.
Take wolf No. 21M, an alpha male for the Druid Pack. He lived to be 9 years old, despite an injury to the top of his skull and cracked and worn teeth. Wolf No. 483F of the Leopold and Geode Creek packs suffered two different attacks that scarred the top of her skull - one likely from another wolf, and another probably from a female cougar. Although she survived those attacks for a while, she later died from a brain infection likely caused from the injuries.
"One good thing about the research that I'm doing is that it provides another lens for looking at these wolves," Ware said. "It gives other researchers a little more information on each and every one of these guys. It's a pretty interesting story all around."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Image of the Day

Mani Portrait by The Sewer Bear
Mani Portrait, a photo by The Sewer Bear on Flickr.

Wolves May Not Need to be Smart to Hunt in Packs

Wolves have been observed working together to ambush a prey animal, leading researchers to consider whether they are displaying foresight, planning, and other signs of impressive smarts. But new work suggests that as long as each wolf obeys a couple simple rules, the seemingly complex behavior emerges naturally, without any need for higher intelligence.

Using a computer model, researchers had each virtual “wolf” follow two rules: (1) move towards the prey until a certain distance is reached, and (2) when other wolves are close to the prey, move away from them. These rules cause the pack members to behave in a way that resembles real wolves, circling up around the animal, and when the prey tries to make a break for it, one wolf sometimes circles around and sets up an ambush, no communication required.

Just because certain aspects of pack hunting could be  emergent—arising from the interplay of certain basic rules—rather than the fruits of intelligence doesn’t mean that they necessarily are, nor does it mean that wolves are dumb. But it does suggest that pack hunting isn’t necessarily the reason that wolves form packs, which opens up space for evolutionary biologists to jump and discuss why, if not for hunting, wolves live the way they do.

[via New Scientist]
Image courtesy of Doug Smith / US Park Service


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wolves in Oregon

New wolf pack found In Oregon

Credit: Marc Bales
Posted on October 25, 2011

NEAR JOSEPH, Ore. - Oregon Fish & Wildlife managers have confirmed a new wolf pack in the state.
State wolf coordinator Russ Morgan said Tuesday at least five wolves, including at least one pup, have been sighted in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
Photographer Marc Bales captured photos of what are believed to be members of the same pack in that area last summer.
Biologists told the Associated Press the new pack Northeast of Joseph may be a splinter group from another Idaho or Oregon pack.
Members of Oregon's Teanaway pack are blamed for attacking and killing calves on cattle ranches in the Joseph area.
Oregon Fish & Wildlife hunters were trying to kill the alpha male of that pack and another male before an Oregon judge ordered the hunt halted. The judge approved the request of wildlife groups, who wanted the hunt stopped until more was known about how the death of the alpha male would affect the rest of the pack.



  From the Defenders of Wildlife Blog

OP-ED: Wolf Coexistence in Oregon
Posted: 24 Oct 2011 09:20 AM PDT
The following commentary, by Defenders’ wolf expert Suzanne Stone, appeared this weekend in the Oregonian.

It’s been a busy summer for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) wolf biologists: 2,552 text messages on wolf whereabouts, 264 personal contacts with individual ranchers, 51 reports of wolf activity, 20 livestock depredation investigations, 18 aerial wolf monitoring flights, four public presentations, and two wolf removals.
State biologists spend hours tracking wolves through the Oregon backcountry, sometimes through deep snow when it's easiest to follow prints. Here, ODFW biologist Russ Morgan puts a collar on a female pup in early 2010.
These statistics, reported in ODFW monthly program updates, capture the depth and breadth of their activities between April and August. But they do not document the countless hours devoted by ODFW staff and some ranchers and conservation groups to finding ways for Oregon’s wolves and people to coexist.

Disagreements over the return of wolves to Oregon have distracted attention from some great work on the ground. This year alone in Oregon, 10 different landowners have used about 11 miles of fladry, flagging that scares away wolves, to protect their livestock. For a second season, a full-time range rider patrolled mountain valleys late at night and early in the morning to monitor wolf activity and run wolves off if necessary. Radio-activated alarms have been installed at three ranches. One rancher is even experimenting with cowbells to keep wolves away from his cattle while they graze on a Forest Service allotment.

These are all-important advances. Each is an innovative tool for safeguarding livestock and protecting wolves and each demonstrates that coexistence is possible.
Red flags, known as fladry, help keep wolves away from livestock operations.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the summer though was the passage of Oregon’s wolf coexistence and livestock compensation program. With unanimous support of the Legislature and a strong endorsement from Gov. John Kitzhaber, this program will help ensure that ranchers have incentives to do the right thing for livestock and wolves. The new program will compensate them for livestock lost to wolves, but only if they demonstrate that they have taken common-sense steps to minimize their losses. Further, it provides funds to help pay for nonlethal deterrents that can prevent conflict in the first place. Most important, it has shown that wolf supporters and the livestock industry can find common ground on practical solutions that benefit both parties.

Living with wolves is not impossible. Wolves are smart animals that don’t often take unnecessary risks. They are wary of humans. They don’t like bright lights and loud noises. They can be intimidated by guard dogs. For some reason, they don’t like bright red flags flapping in the wind, and they learn very quickly to respect electric fencing.
Defenders helped pay for Oregon's first dedicated ranger rider, who spent the summer grazing season keeping an eye on cattle herds and monitoring for wolves.
People are learning too. For example, a rotting cow carcass is a great way to attract wolves. That’s why state wildlife managers helped landowners get rid of five bone piles this year, and many ranchers have taken it upon themselves to remove carcasses during the winter and spring. Adding a range rider or a team of guard dogs and penning animals in at night is not free, but it’s a small price to pay to protect livestock and secure a better future for wolves in Oregon.
Defenders of Wildlife has worked with three different sheep producers in central Idaho, combining many of these techniques into one comprehensive project. Field technicians monitor wolves and work with herders to implement deterrents, including teams of guard dogs and electrified fencing at night, to protect more than 10,000 sheep that move through the Sawtooth wilderness during the summer grazing season. And in four years running, less than 20 sheep have been lost to wolves, showing that, with a little extra effort, it is possible to have a thriving wolf population without raising the stakes too high for livestock producers.

Oregon has a unique opportunity to duplicate what’s been accomplished in Idaho on a much bigger scale. State wildlife managers, forward-thinking ranchers and various conservation groups have already been paving the way toward coexistence. We can and should continue to find better ways to share the landscape with wolves.

Suzanne Stone is Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, based in Washington, D.C. She manages the organization’s wolf conservation and coexistence programs, including in eastern Oregon.

Image of the Day

New Genetic Evidence Confirms Coyote Migration Route to Virginia and Hybridization With Wolves

Coyote. (Credit: © Denis Pepin / Fotolia)

ScienceDaily (Oct. 25, 2011) — Changes in North American ecosystems over the past 150 years have caused coyotes to move from their native habitats in the plains and southwestern deserts of North America to habitats throughout the United States. In a new study, published Oct. 17 in the Journal of Mammalogy, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics used DNA from coyote scat (feces) to trace the route that led some of the animals to colonize in Northern Virginia. The researchers also confirmed that, along the way, the coyotes interbred with the native Great Lakes wolves.

According to the study, coyotes migrated eastward via two main routes -- one that went through the northern United States, and one that went through the south. Using DNA samples, the researchers found that Virginian coyotes were most closely related to coyote populations in western New York and Pennsylvania. It appears the northern trekkers eventually encountered the Great Lakes wolves and interbred before converging again on the East Coast. They then gradually headed south along the Appalachian Mountains toward what is considered the Mid-Atlantic region, to an area centered around Virginia.

"The Mid-Atlantic region is a particularly interesting place because it appears to mark a convergence in northern and southern waves of coyote expansion," said Christine Bozarth, an SCBI research fellow and lead author on the paper. "I like to call it the Mid-Atlantic melting pot."

Bozarth and her colleagues collected scat samples in Northern Virginia from local coyote populations. They were then able to extract DNA from the intestinal cells in the scat and compare it to the DNA from preserved historic wolf specimens that had lived in the Great Lakes region before coyotes colonized the area. They shared some of the same genes, supporting the hybridization theory. Hybridization between canid species usually occurs when one species is rare. Those individuals may have trouble finding mates and therefore breed instead with closely related species.

"This does not mean that we have massive, wolf-like coyotes roaming around here in Virginia," Bozarth said. "Coyotes with wolf ancestry have differently shaped jaws, which may allow them to fill different ecological niches. They tend to hunt small prey and scavenge large game, so hybrid coyotes might be helpful in controlling the overly abundant deer population."

While coyote populations have been expanding, wolf populations have become endangered. Hybridization with coyotes is now a major threat to the recovery of wolves.

"For the past decade, our lab has developed and used noninvasive techniques to monitor and survey rare and endangered species in various regions of the world and in this study, we were able to show that noninvasive techniques can also be an effective tool for tracking the origins and movement patterns of this elusive canid," Jesús Maldonado, SCBI research geneticist and paper co-author. "The admixed coyotes have also been found further south, into North Carolina, which brings the hybridized coyote into the range of the critically endangered red wolf, further complicating the issue."

The study's authors from SCBI are Bozarth, Maldonado and Frank Hailer (now a postdoctoral researcher at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Frankfurt, Germany). Bozarth is currently an assistant professor in the science, technology and business division at Northern Virginia Community College. The additional authors are Larry Rockwood and Cody Edwards from the department of environmental science and policy at George Mason University.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute plays a key role in the Smithsonian's global efforts to understand and conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Va., SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Smithsonian.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Christine A. Bozarth, Frank Hailer, Larry L. Rockwood, Cody W. Edwards, Jesús E. Maldonado. Coyote colonization of northern Virginia and admixture with Great Lakes wolves. Journal of Mammalogy, 2011; 92 (5): 1070 DOI: 10.1644/10-MAMM-A-223.1

Smithsonian (2011, October 25). New genetic evidence confirms coyote migration route to Virginia and hybridization with wolves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/10/111025163149.htm