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Speak for wolves

Photo courtesy of “Speak for Wolves.”

Here is the link to watch their video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX1D33gEzpQ

“On June 28-29 2014, Americans of all-walks-of-life will meet in Arch Park in Gardiner, Montana to tell our elected leaders that we need to reform wildlife management, at both, the state and federal level. Approximately 3000 grey wolves have been killed in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes region since they were delisted from the Endangered Species Act. 

Speak for Wolves: Yellowstone 2014 is about taking an important step towards stopping the wolf slaughter that is currently taking place across the United States. We must take bold measures, however, and address the root-cause(s) of the wolf slaughter, the killing of other predators, as well as bison, wild horses and other members of the animal kingdom. The status quo for wildlife management in America is broken and it must be fixed.

This 2-day celebration of predators and our national heritage will feature prominent speakers, live music, education booths, children’s activities, food/drink vendors, local wildlife photography, screening of wildlife documentaries and more. 

This festival-type event is family-friendly, educational, inspirational and non-confrontational. Alcohol will not be served. Predator-friendly beef, chicken, pork, vegetarian and vegan options will be available for purchase. There is no admission fee. Arch Park is a public venue adjacent to the northwest entrance of Yellowstone National Park (Mammoth Hot Springs). 

The 5 Keys to Reforming Wildlife Management in America are as follows: 

1. Restructuring the way state Fish & Game departments operate: 
Western governors currently appoint agency commissioners, which essentially, tell the state Fish & Game Departments what to do. This is cronyism at its worst. State Fish & Game Departments are mostly funded by the sale of hunting/trapping/fishing licenses. These agencies are bound into serving the interest of “sportsmen” because it’s the hand that feeds them. Modern funding mechanisms, application of the best-available science and genuine public involvement in decision making are sorely lacking in these institutions and it must be addressed. Another option would be to empower the federal government to manage all wildlife on federal public lands. 

2. Removing grazing from all federal public lands: 
The “control” of native wildlife to benefit the livestock industry is ground zero for the badly-broken wildlife management status quo. For more than a century, the livestock industry has single-handedly transformed the once-wild west into a tamed pasture of cows and sheep, resulting in the reduction of native wildlife populations that compete with habitat and forage. It is also well documented the damage that grazing causes when livestock infests federal public wildlands. Livestock are non-native and largely responsible for soil compaction, a decrease in water retention and aquifer recharge, erosion, destruction of wetlands and riparian areas, flooding and a net-loss of biodiversity. Grazing enables invasive plant species to proliferate, which greatly affects the West’s historic fire regime. 

3. Abolishing Wildlife Services: 
Hidden within the US Department of Agriculture, is a rogue agency that is essentially, the wildlife killing-arm of the federal government. This federal tax-payer-supported agency works with the livestock industry to kill native wildlife like wolves, coyotes, black bears, cougars and many other non-predator species. Over the past century, Wildlife Services is responsible for the death of tens-of millions of native wildlife. Methods of killing include trapping, poisoning and aerial gunning. At the very least, the predator-control segment of Wildlife Services must be terminated.

4. Banning trapping/snaring on all federal public lands: 
We must evolve as a society and move away from this barbaric, unethical, cruel and torturous method(s) of killing native wildlife. Leg-hold traps, conibear traps and other devices are indiscriminate killers. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of dogs caught/killed by traps on public lands in states like Idaho. It’s only a matter of time before a child or adult steps into one of these bone-crushing devices. Some states currently require individuals to check their traps once every 72-hours, while other states do not require trappers to check them, at all. 

5. No killing of predators, except for extreme circumstances: 
The best available science suggests that predators, including wolves, are a self-regulating species. In other words, predators don’t overpopulate, nor do they kill for “fun”. Instead, their populations naturally fluctuate, as do prey or ungulate populations. We need to better understand and embrace the trophic cascade effect predators have within ecosystems. Non-lethal measures should be implemented in rare instances where there are actual human/predator conflicts. For example, an aggressive and/or habituated bear may need to be killed after non-lethal measures have failed.

While state fish and game agencies enable the slaughter of America’s wildlife, the best-available science suggests that predators, particularly wolves, play a crucial role across the landscape. 
Known throughout the scientific community as trophic cascade, gray wolves are apex predators whose behavior effects dozens of other species, leading to an increase in biodiversity. Soils, plant communities, other wildlife species, riparian areas and forests are all effected by the presence of wolves.

***Come to Arch Park in Gardiner, Montana June 28-29, 2014. The event is family friendly and will feature prominent speakers, live music, video production crews, education and outreach booths, food and drink vendors and the screening of wildlife documentaries. This is going to be the event of the year in the northern Rockies. Together we can make history and restore our wild national heritage!”

**Special thanks to “Speak for Wolves,” http://www.speakforwolves.org/, for providing this information!


 

March 5th, 2014

“Many hunter organizations like to promote the idea that hunters were the first and most important conservation advocates. They rest on their laurels of early hunter/wildlife activist like Teddy Roosevelt, and George Bird Grinnell who, among other things, were founding members of the Boone and Crocket Club. But in addition to being hunter advocates, these men were also staunch proponents of national parks and other areas off limits to hunting. Teddy Roosevelt help to establish the first wildlife refuges to protect birds from feather hunters, and he was instrumental in the creation of numerous national parks including the Grand Canyon.  Grinnell was equally active in promoting the creation of national parks like Glacier as well as a staunch advocate for protection of wildlife in places like Yellowstone. Other later hunter/wildlands advocates like Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie helped to promote wilderness designation and a land ethic as well as a more enlightened attitude about predators.

Unfortunately, though there are definitely still hunters and anglers who put conservation and wildlands protection ahead of their own recreational pursuits, far more of the hunter/angler community is increasingly hostile to wildlife protection and wildlands advocacy.  Perhaps the majority of hunters were always this way, but at least the philosophical leaders in the past were well known advocates of wildlands and wildlife.

Nowhere is this change in attitude among hunter organizations and leadership more evident than the deafening silence of hunters when it comes to predator management.  Throughout the West, state wildlife agencies are increasing their war on predators with the apparent blessings of hunters, without a discouraging word from any identified hunter organization. Rather the charge for killing predators is being led by groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation,  and others who are not only lobbying for more predator killing, but providing funding for such activities to state wildlife agencies.

For instance, in Nebraska which has a fledging population of cougars (an estimated 20) the state wildlife agency has already embarked on a hunting season to “control” cougar numbers.  Similarly in South Dakota, where there are no more than 170 cougars, the state has adopted very aggressive and liberal hunting regulations to reduce the state’s cougar population.

But the worst examples of an almost maniacal persecution of predators are related to wolf policies throughout the country. In Alaska, always known for its Neanderthal predator policies, the state continues to promote killing of wolves adjacent to national parks. Just this week the state wiped out a pack of eleven wolves that were part of a long term research project in the Yukon Charley National Preserve. Alaska also regularly shoots wolves from the air, and also sometimes includes grizzly and black bears in its predator slaughter programs.

In the lower 48 states since wolves were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act and management was turned over to the state wildlife agencies more than 2700 wolves have been killed.

This does not include the 3435 additional wolves killed in the past ten years by Wildlife Services, a federal predator control agency, in both the Rockies and Midwest.  Most of this killing was done while wolves were listed as endangered.

As an example of the persecutory mentality of state wildlife agencies, one need not look any further than Idaho, where hunters/trappers, along with federal and state agencies killed 67 wolves this past year  in the Lolo Pass area on the Montana/Idaho border, including some 23 from a Wildlife Service’s helicopter gun ship. The goal of the predator persecution program is to reduce predation on elk. However, even the agency’s own analysis shows that the major factor in elk number decline has been habitat quality declines due to forest recovery after major wildfires which has reduced the availability of shrubs and grasses central to elk diet. In other word, with or without predators the Lolo Pass area would not be supporting the number of elk that the area once supported after the fires. Idaho also hired a trapper to kill wolves in the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness to increase elk numbers there.

Idaho hunters are permitted to obtain five hunting and five trapping tags a year, and few parts of the state have any quota or limits. Idaho Governor Butch Otter recently outlined a new state budget allotting $2 million dollars for the killing of wolves—even though the same budget cuts funding for state schools.

Other states are no better than Idaho. Montana has a generous wolf six month long season. Recent legislation in the Montana legislature increased the number of wolves a hunter can kill to five and allows for the use of electronic predator calls and removes any requirement to wear hunter orange outside of the regular elk and deer seasons. And lest you think that only right wing Republican politicians’ support more killing, this legislation was not opposed by one Democratic Montana legislator, and it was signed into law by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock because he said Montana Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks supported the bill.

Wyoming has wolves listed as a predator with no closed season or limit nor even a requirement for a license outside of a “trophy” wolf zone in Northwest Wyoming.

The Rocky Mountain West is known for its backward politics and lack of ethics when it comes to hunting, but even more “progressive” states like Minnesota and Wisconsin have cow-towed to the hunter anti predator hostility. Minnesota allows the use of snares, traps, and other barbaric methods to capture and kill wolves. At the end of the first trapping/hunting season in 2012/2013, the state’s hunters had killed more than 400 wolves.

Though wolves are the target species that gets the most attention, nearly all states have rabid attitudes towards predators in general. So in the eastern United States where wolves are still absent, state wildlife agencies aggressively allow the killing of coyotes, bears and other predators. For instance, Vermont, a state that in my view has undeserved reputation for progressive policies, coyotes can be killed throughout the year without any limits.

These policies are promoted for a very small segment of society. About six percent of Americans hunt, yet state wildlife agencies routinely ignore the desires of the non-hunting public. Hunting is permitted on a majority of US Public lands including 50% of wildlife “refuges as well as nearly all national forests, all Bureau of Land Management lands, and even a few national parks. In other words, the hunting minority dominates public lands wildlife policies.

Most state agencies have a mandate to manage wildlife as a public trust for all citizens, yet they clearly serve only a small minority. Part of this is tradition, hunters and anglers have controlled state wildlife management for decades. Part of it is that most funding for these state agencies comes from the sale of licenses and tags. And part is the worldview that dominates these agencies which sees their role as “managers” of wildlife, and in their view, improving upon nature.

None of these states manage predators for their ecological role in ecosystem health. Despite a growing evidence that top predators are critical to maintaining ecosystem function due to their influence upon prey behavior, distribution and numbers, I know of no state that even recognizes this ecological role, much less expends much effort to educate hunters and the public about it. (I hasten to add that many of the biologists working for these state agencies, particularly those with an expertise about predators, do not necessarily support the predator killing policies and are equally appalled and dismayed as I am by their agency practices.)

Worse yet for predators, there is new research that suggests that killing predators actually can increase conflicts between humans and these species. One cougar study in Washington has documented that as predator populations were declining, complaints rose. There are good reasons for this observation. Hunting and trapping is indiscriminate. These activities remove many animals from the population which are adjusted to the human presence and avoid, for instance, preying on livestock. But hunting and trapping not only opens up productive territories to animals who may not be familiar with the local prey distribution thus more likely to attack livestock, but hunting/trapping tends to skew predator populations to younger age classes. Younger animals are less skillful at capturing prey, and again more likely to attack livestock. A population of young animals can also result in larger litter size and survival requiring more food to feed hungry growing youngsters—and may even lead to an increase in predation on wild prey—having the exact opposite effect that hunters desire.

Yet these findings are routinely ignored by state wildlife agencies. For instance, despite the fact that elk numbers in Montana have risen from 89,000 animals in 1992 several years before wolf reintroductions to an estimated 140,000-150,000 animals today, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks does almost nothing to counter the impression and regular misinformation put forth by hunter advocacy groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or the Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife that wolves are “destroying” Montana’s elk herds.

I have attended public hearings on wolves and other predator issues, and I have yet to see a single hunter group support less carnivore killing.  So where are the conservation hunters? Why are they so silent in the face of outrage? Where is the courage to stand up and say current state wildlife agencies policies are a throw-back to the last century and do not represent anything approaching a modern understanding of the important role of predators in our ecosystems?

As I watch state after state adopting archaic policies, I am convinced that state agencies are incapable of managing predators as a legitimate and valued member of the ecological community. Their persecutory policies reflect an unethical and out of date attitude that is not in keeping with modern scientific understanding of the important role that predators play in our world.

It is apparent from evidence across the country that state wildlife agencies are incapable of managing predators for ecosystem health or even with apparent ethical considerations.  Bowing to the pressure from many hunter organizations and individual hunters, state wildlife agencies have become killing machines and predator killing advocates.

Most people at least tolerant the killing of animals that eaten for food, though almost everyone believes that unnecessary suffering should be avoided. But few people actually eat the predators they kill, and often the animals are merely killed and left on the killing fields. Yet though many state agencies and some hunter organizations promote the idea that wanton waste of wildlife and unnecessary killing and suffering of animals is ethically wrong, they conveniently ignore such ideas when it comes to predators, allowing them to be wounded and left to die in the field, as well as permitted to suffer in traps.  Is this ethical treatment of wildlife? I think not.

Unfortunately unless conservation minded hunters speak up, these state agencies as well as federal agencies like Wildlife Services will continue their killing agenda uninhibited. I’m waiting for the next generation of Teddy Roosevelts, Aldo Leopolds and Olaus Muries to come out of the wood work. Unless they do, I’m afraid that ignorance and intolerant attitudes will prevail and our lands and the predators that are an important part of the evolutionary processes that created our wildlife heritage will continue to be eroded.”

**Special thanks to   ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology, for providing this information (http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2014/03/05/whither-the-hunterconservationist/)


Wolf Park wolf copyright

**Photo courtesy of Monty Sloan, Wolf Park

“Wolf Park’s 13th Annual Easter Party
Saturday April 12, 2014
Open 1:00 -5:00 pm

Featuring the Easter Bunny!

You are invited to join Wolf Park on Saturday, April 12th for our 13th annual Easter Party!

There will be egg hunts for kids 1-13 years of age (bring a basket!), and there will also be an egg hunt for the Wolf Park wolves at 2 pm! The Easter Bunny will hop into the wolf enclosure (the wolves will be elsewhere) and will hide Easter eggs for the wolves to find (they will be let back into the enclosure after the Bunny leaves). Come see our wolves get their Easter treats, and get some treats of your own!

Wolves’ egg hunt begins at 2:00 pm sharp!

Egg hunts for children will be held between 3:00-4:00 pm.

Guided tours of the Park will be offered at 1:15, 2:15 3:15, and 4:15, followed by a handling demonstration at 4:30.

Wolf Park closes at 5:00 and the gates re-open at 7 for Howl Night.

SPECIAL ADMISSION:
Adults regular price
Children 13 and under FREE”

**Special thanks to “Wolf Park” for providing this information!  (http://blog.wolfpark.org/?p=968)


Save the Lobo

**Photo courtesy from “Lobos of the Southwest.”

Arizona Daily Sun, March 6, 2014

“Talk about over-reacting.
The last time we visited the topic of endangered Mexican gray wolves in this space was to call for more details of a proposed expansion plan and consultation by federal officials with local communities.
That was back in August, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did agree to at least one public hearing in Arizona and entered talks with state Game and Fish officials.
But some state lawmakers took the expansion plan as a call to arms, and this winter they have introduced bills seeking not only to hamstring or kill off the recovery program but end the entire federal Endangered Species Act in Arizona.
The last was introduced by Flagstaff Rep. Bob Thorpe, who later withdrew that clause after staff officials said it would compromise tens of millions of dollars in federal aid given to the state for protecting endangered species and habitat restoration under their many cooperative agreements. Those programs include the California condor, black-footed ferret, Chiricahua leopard frog, native fish and other species.
He also took out the part about deporting any animal species in a federal recovery program not “cooperatively implemented” with the state, a direct assault on federal authority over endangered species.
But Thorpe did retain a clause in the bill calling on the federal government to establish a compensation fund for cattle losses, then turn it over to the state to be administered on state terms.
Other bills and resolutions would allow state employees for the first time to kill a problem wolf on public land, cap the number of wolves at 100 and relocate them to Mexico. And when the bills are inevitably challenged in court, another bill calls for a $250,000 litigation fund to be set up to defend them.
If the measures above came in response to hundreds of marauding wolves decimating cattle herds, we’d pay attention. But just the opposite true: There are about 80 wolves in the wild and the number of claims made by ranchers for wolf depredation is minuscule. Most cattle are killed by disease and by predators with much larger populations, such as coyotes or mountain lions. But if a cow is killed, there is a compensation fund in place and one proposal calls on ranchers to be paid extra simply for sharing their leased land with wolves.
Further, public opinion is solidly behind the wolves, not the ranchers. Poll after poll shows most citizens believe there is plenty of room on the national forest for cows and wolves with sensible management.
Does that mean we’re satisfied with the management plan to date and the expansion proposal? On the latter, we feel Fish and Wildlife owes residents of communities in the expansion zone (which extends northward to Interstate 40) some answers to specific questions:
— How often would they anticipate that wolves establishing new territories would roam into suburbs and other settled areas?
— How would wolves interact with pet dogs in particular?
— What tactics and strategies could be employed to keep those human-wolf contacts to a minimum?
These are the issues that lawmakers ought to be focusing on as part of diversifying and preserving Arizona’s wildlife heritage. Wolves are part of that heritage, and they deserve a chance to stay.
Please Act Today to stop these
anti-wolf bills!
You can help by contacting your Arizona House Members and submitting a letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Sun.
If you don’t live in AZ, you can still help by submitting a letter to the editor.
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers. Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. These are also good talking points for contacting your legislators.
Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
  • At last official count, only 37 Mexican gray wolves were found in AZ, and only 83 were found total in the wild, making them critically endangered. We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to ensure their recovery and not push them closer to extinction as these bills aim to do.
  • The proposed legislation will waste taxpayer money on litigation to impede wolf recovery and embarrass the state by attempting to illegally override federal laws that protect endangered species.
  • Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Legislation to impede wolf recovery is a slap in the face to the majority of voters who want wolves to thrive.
  • People who care about wolves should call on their AZ House members to oppose anti-wolf measures. Information about how to do that is at mexicanwolves.org.
  • Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
  • Wolves generate economic benefits – a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.
  • Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long.
  • The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Funds are available to help livestock growers implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing the editorial.
  • Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “cows may have been killed by wolves, but…” Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
  • Provide your name, address, phone number and address. The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
Please also contact AZ House members directly and tell them politely that you expect them to oppose these bills that embarrass Arizona, waste taxpayer money and fly in the face of overwhelming majority public support for wolf recovery.”
 **Special thanks to Lobos of the Southwest, http://www.mexicanwolves.org/index.php/news/1209/51/Editorial-Anti-Wolf-Bills-Clear-Case-of-Over-Reaction, and Arizona Daily Sun for providing this information!
 

Image

 

**Photo courtesy of Tim Springer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“”We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then and have known ever since that there was something new to me in those eyes, something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.” – Aldo Leopold, 1949

We Americans, in most states at least, have not yet experienced a bear-less, eagle-less, cat- less, wolf-less woods. Germany strove for maximum yields of both timber and game and got neither.”  – Aldo Leopold, 1935

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” – Aldo Leopold, 1949 

2014: Idaho Fish and Game recently hired a paid a bounty hunter to try and eliminate two packs of wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, one of the largest wilderness areas in the United States. Idaho hunters have organized wolf-killing competitions and killer co-ops to pay trappers to kill wolves. The state legislature and governor declared wolves a “disaster emergency” and have allocated $2 million to killing wolves. More recently the department conducted secretive aerial shootings of wolves from helicopters with no public knowledge or input and spent $30,000 to kill 23 wolves. Idaho Fish and Game is doing this and more in an ongoing effort to appease many ranchers and hunters to protect livestock and maintain artificially high and unhealthy numbers of elk for hunters to shoot at.

One of the cornerstones of our “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation” – which hunters and hunting-based organizations love to tout and claim to support — is that wildlife, all wildlife, be managed based on good, sound science.  That good, sound science shows that the return of wolves to much of the western United States has resulted in significant overall, long-term benefits to wildlife and the habitat that sustains them — including the species we love to hunt. (Check out: “How Wolves Change Rivers.”)

Elk populations are increasing in most of the West. In Idaho, the fish and game department is expanding elk hunting to reduce elk populations while simultaneously killing wolves under the guise of protecting and boosting elk numbers. Where elk populations do appear on the decline there are plenty of factors to consider in addition to wolves: Changes in habitat; the previous existence of artificially high elk populations at levels beyond the viable carrying capacity of the land; lack of mature bulls and low bull-to-cow ratios in herds (often resulting from early season hunting and too much hunting pressure on bull elk) which influences the timing of the rut and breeding behavior, the timing of spring calving, and often results in increased vulnerability of elk calves to predation; influence of other predators including mountain lions, black bears and grizzlies; unanticipated impacts of various hunting regulations and hunting pressure, and changes in behavior and habitat use by elk in the presence of wolves. And more.

Where I hunt, the growing presence of wolves has changed the behavior and habits of elk. Elk bunch up more for safety, and move around more to evade and avoid wolves. They are a lot more wary. I have adapted and adjusted to these changes and have no problem finding elk.This is part of the beauty and value of hunting within wilderness — to adjust, adapt and be part of the landscape; to be, as my friend David Petersen put its, part of the “bedrock workings of nature.”  We render the wilds a diminished abstract when we alter it to suit our own needs and desires and, in the process, make it less healthy and whole. There are those who espouse the virtues of backcountry hunting and yet seem apathetic or supportive towards the destruction of backcountry integrity. Those who understand the wilds know how critically important predators are to the health of the land; to remain silent about the nonscientific, politically-based killing of wolves in the wildest of places is to be complacent towards the degradation of what we claim to cherish.    

Yet hunters, in general, hate and blame wolves for pretty near anything and everything including their own lack of skill, knowledge and effort in hunting elk. Science is shunned and ignored. David Allen, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation,  a national hunter-based conservation organization, claims wolves are “decimating” elk herds and calls wolves the “worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison” despite research funded by the organization that shows otherwise. Most of what many hunters claim to know and understand about wolves and wolf and elk interactions is based on myths, lies and half-truths; they rapidly and angrily dismiss logic, facts and science as coming from “anti-hunters,” “wolf-lovers” and “tree-huggers” from “back East.” Most hunter-based conservation organizations and state agencies avoid the topic for fear of being pegged “one of them.” Many actually help perpetuate the lies and half-truths to boost and maintain membership. Some try to come across as reasonable by stating that they think wolves should be managed just like other wildlife, such as elk.  

But wolves are not elk; being a top predator they have altogether different, and self-regulating, reproductive and survival behaviors and strategies. “Other” wildlife, such as elk,  are managed based on science — based on what we know about behavior, ecology, breeding behavior, habitat use and selection and other factors. Wolves are being managed purely based on politics driven by ignorance and hate.  Many hunters and others in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho long advocated for the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act and turning management over to the states. It happened. And now these states — particularly Idaho — are doing what they can to kill as many wolves as possible, science be damned.

Idaho is proving over and over that their state cannot handle the scientific, sustainable management of wolves. No public agency should have the power to decide such things as Idaho Fish and Game is doing with so little public accountability and oversight. They are acting on behalf of a small, but politically-influential segment of our population based on pure politics, lies, myths, misconceptions and half truths about wolves and ignoring what we do know about wolf biology, ecology, behavior and interactions with and impacts to elk.

As an avid and passionate hunter in Montana (who has killed and eaten 26 elk over the years) I am absolutely disgusted that no hunter-based conservation organization — most of which claim to support and defend sound, science-based management of wildlife — are speaking out against this slaughter which is a clear violation of the North American model of wildlife management these organizations claim to uphold. At best, many hunters and hunting-based organizations are remaining silent for fear of being ostracized; at worst, most hunters and hunting organizations are supporting this. More and more I feel like an anti-hunter who hunts. It’s embarrassing, appalling and outrageous.

Even groups I support and respect, including Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, theTheodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Wildlife Federation are ignoring and avoiding this clear violation of science-based wildlife management and our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation they claim to uphold and defend — I can only assume as to not upset their membership base.

As Aldo Leopold so aptly put it more than 50 years ago: “The sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong. The sporting press no longer represents sport; it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer. Wildlife administrators are too busy producing something to shoot at to worry much about the cultural value of the shooting.”

I am growing increasingly disgusted and angry towards my so-called fellow hunters, and most hunter-based organization, for continually talking “Aldo Leopold” and the “North American Model” out of one side of their mouths while ignoring or even supporting this sort of political, nonscientific “management” of a critical keystone, umbrella wildlife species that plays a critical role in shaping, maintaining and influencing healthy wildlife and wildlife habitat for all species — including the species we love to hunt and the habitat that sustains them.
This is one of the flaws of our current and mostly good system of wildlife management in which states generally have full authority over managing their wildlife. State fish and game departments, such as Idaho Fish and Game, are overseen and controlled by state politicians and game commissioners (who are often ranchers and hunters) appointed by politicians — and the hunting and ranching industries have more influence over state decisions than others. Aldo Leopold, widely considered the “father” of modern wildlife management, warned against such things more than 50 years ago. 

A recent report about the flaws of the North American Model summed it up this way: “The scientists also express concern that the interests of recreational hunters sometimes conflict with conservation principles. For example, they say, wildlife management conducted in the interest of hunters can lead to an overabundance of animals that people like to hunt, such as deer, and the extermination of predators that also provide a vital balance to the ecosystem.”

It needs to change. 

More than half a century ago Leopold wrote: “I personally believed, at least in 1914 when predator control began, that there could not be too much horned game, and that the extirpation of predators was a reasonable price to pay for better big game hunting. Some of us have learned since the tragic error of such a view, and acknowledged our mistake.” 

We still haven’t caught up to Leopold.

If we hunters truly believe in sound, science-based wildlife management, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, and the ideas and principles preached and promoted by the likes of Aldo Leopold, then it is time to speak up.”

 
**Special thanks to David Stalling, “From The Wild Side,” for providing this information!  

Wolf Ice Bridge

The wolves of Isle Royale National Park have lived in isolation for over four years, but ice bridges caused by an extremely cold winter may change that.     Photo Credit given to Rolf Peterson
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2014

A rare ice bridge between Isle Royale National Park and the mainland offers a lifeline to the island’s dwindling wolf pack.

“The Park Service website for Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park describes it as “a rugged, isolated island where wolves… abound.” Rugged and isolated, yes. Wolves abounding? Not quite. Only 8 wolves live on the 133,000-acre island today, down from 24 in 2009, according to Lake Superior Magazine’s Phil Bencomo. The pack’s isolation, and resulting lack of genetic diversity, is causing its decline.

But the deep freezes accompanying this winter have have brought more to the upper Great Lakes that ice caves, it has formed ice bridges between the island and the nearest mainland, around 20 miles away. This is a rare event, not seen since 2008. That time, no new wolves came to the island—in fact, two collared wolves are believed to have to used the bridge leave it. Prior to 2008, the water had remained open since 1997, when an alpha male came to the island via the frozen lake. All the island’s wolves alive today descend from that animal.

Rolf Peterson, a Michigan Technological University researcher who has studied Isle Royale’s wolves and moose for more than 40 years, told Bencomo that he predicts that, by 2040, Lake Superior simply won’t have significant ice cover in the winter.

This might be one of the wolf pack’s last chances to stem its decline—and if temperatures continue to rise as they have this week, the window is quickly closing.

Meanwhile, a major debate is brewing around whether biologists should intercede by introducing new wolves and deepening the genetic pool. Nearly the entire islandis Wilderness with a capital W, and thereby protected by the Wilderness Act, so the short answer is “that’s not legal.”

But here’s the thing: the reason the wolves are suffering is tied directly to the fact that cold winters are exceedingly rare. So, the only way to effectively and sustainably help the island’s wolves is to, basically, reverse climate change. This makes the whole argument over the legal implications of the Wilderness Act rather inconsequential.

Writes Bencomo: “Rolf [Peterson] contends that humans have already significantly impacted Isle Royale through climate change and other influences, so wilderness preservation today requires active human assistance, not merely drawing up park boundaries and stepping away. ‘The 20th century notion of ‘wilderness’ is not immutable.’ He argues that intervention is essential to fulfilling the NPS mission of conservation.”

I expect that we are going to see more and more instances where land managers are stuck between preserving ecosystems (by leaving them alone) and trying to somehow preserve them by helping them adapt to a changing climate.

As Isle Royale’s superintendent Phyllis Green said: “When you get these really large effects that are more indirect, I mean, climate change is so huge, it’s not like a situation where people went in and trapped out a species. You have this very insidious effect that’s going to happen over time to multiple species. So trying to sort out our role in that is why this decision process is taking the time it is.”

**Special thanks to    , for providing this information! http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/the-current/footprint/Why-This-Brutal-Winter-Can-Mean-Good-Things-for-a-Pack-of-Midwest-Wolves.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tweet

Howls of Outrage


howling wolf

Photo Credit: Tim Fitzharris/Getty

Special thanks to  Michelle Nijhuis  @nijhuism • February 10, 2014, for providing this information!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relied on shaky science in its effort to boot wolves off the Endangered Species List. Here’s the full story behind the biological brouhaha.

“About 300 wolves live in the nearly 2-million-acre swath of central Ontario forest known as Algonquin Provincial Park. These wolves are bigger and broader than coyotes, but noticeably smaller than the gray wolves of Yellowstone. So how do they fit into the wolf family tree? Scientists don’t agree on the answer—yet it could now affect the fate of every wolf in the United States.

That’s because last June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing gray wolves across most of the country from the endangered species list, a move that would leave the animals vulnerable to hunting. To support its proposal, the agency used a contested scientific paper—published, despite critical peer review, in the agency’s own journal—to argue that gray wolves never existed in the eastern United States, so they shouldn’t have been protected there in the first place.

Instead of the gray wolf, the service said, an entirely different species of wolf—the so-called “eastern wolf,” a species whose remnants perhaps survive in Algonquin Park—once inhabited the forests of eastern North America. Canid biologists have argued over the existence of this “lost species” for years. Yet researchers on all sides say that even if the Algonquin wolves are a separate species, that shouldn’t preclude continuing protections for the gray wolf.

On Friday, an independent panel of five leading geneticists and taxonomists came down hard on the agency’s proposal to delist gray wolves, unanimously concluding that the service had not relied on the “best available science.” Individual panel members described “glaring insufficiencies” in the supporting research and said the agency’s conclusions had fundamental flaws.

“What’s most significant,” says Andrew Wetzler, director of land and wildlife programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth), “is that this is coming from a group of eminent biologists who disagree with each other about the eastern wolf—and even so, they agree that the agency hasn’t properly understood the scientific issues at hand.”

* * *

How did 300 wolves in the Canadian wilderness become central to the debate over protecting their U.S. relations? For years, the Algonquin Park wolves have been something of a scientific mystery. Their coats are typically multicolored, with reddish-brown muzzles and backs that shade from white to black. Visitors from the southeastern U.S. often note their resemblance to red wolves, which are limited to a small reintroduced population in eastern North Carolina.

As biologists began to investigate the relationships among the various North American canids, including Algonquin wolves, red wolves, coyotes, and gray wolves, they collided with one of the most basic—and vexing—questions in their field: what is a species?

“No one definition has as yet satisfied all naturalists,” Charles Darwin himself conceded in On the Origin of Species, adding that “every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species.” So do the rest of us. We know that hippos are different from canaries, and that bullfrogs are different from giant salamanders. But the more alike the organisms, the trickier the species question becomes, and thanks to our modern understanding of DNA, the scientific disagreements are—if anything—more passionate today than in Darwin’s time.

In 1942, the biologist Ernst Mayr formalized the definition of a species as a group of interbreeding organisms, reproductively isolated from other interbreeding groups. That’s the definition that most of us learned in high-school biology, and it remains useful in many cases. But the advent of cheap, fast DNA analysis has exposed its limits: many apparently distinct species hybridize with one another, and few animals hybridize more enthusiastically than wolves, dogs, and other canids.

Genetic samples from the Algonquin Park wolves contain what appears to be coyote DNA, gray wolf DNA, and even domestic dog DNA, creating what Paul Wilson of Trent University in Ontario, one of the first scientists to study the Algonquin Park population, calls a “canid soup” of genetic material.

Biologists studying North American canids fall generally into two camps. Wilson and several of his colleagues in Canada support what’s sometimes called the “three-species” model: according to their interpretation of the genetic data, coyotes, modern gray wolves, and the eastern wolf are separate species that evolved long ago from an ancient common ancestor. The eastern wolf, they say, may have once ranged throughout eastern North America, and may in fact be the same species as the red wolf.

Other biologists, including canid geneticist Robert Wayne at the University of California-Los Angeles, support a “two-species” model: it posits that only gray wolves and coyotes are distinct species. According to this model, anything else—a red wolf, Algonquin wolf, or the so-called “coywolf” recently spotted in suburbs and cities—is a relatively recent wolf-coyote hybrid.

Wayne describes the debate between supporters of the two models as “long-running but very polite”—and it’s not over yet.

“People on all sides have done some very good work, but it’s an extremely complicated issue,” says T. DeLene Beeland, author of The Secret World of Red Wolves. “It gets at the heart of the species question.”

* * *

Were it not for the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the controversy over the eastern wolf might well have stayed polite. That landmark law is, as it states, intended to protect species, and the murky definition of a species has complicated conservation efforts for jumping mice, pygmy owls, gnatcatchers, pocket gophers, and several other animals. But the debate over wolf taxonomy has become especially fierce.

When the gray wolf was placed on the endangered species list in 1967, it was defined as a single species with a historic range that covered most of the United States, from Florida to Washington state. Hunting, trapping, poisoning, and habitat loss had driven the gray wolf nearly to extinction in the continental United States, and confirmed sightings were rare.

After the species was protected, wolves from western Canada began to venture south, and beginning in 1995, some 41 wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. They multiplied rapidly, and for the first time in decades, wolf howls were heard in the park. Today, many consider the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction one of American conservation’s greatest success stories.

In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service took the Great Lakes wolf population off the endangered species list. The same year, a controversial act of Congress delisted gray wolf populations in most of the Rocky Mountains, returning responsibility for wolf protection to the states. But wolves are famously energetic travelers, and these wolves didn’t stay put. In recent years, wolves from the northern Rockies have been spotted in Washington, Oregon, and northern California, and are rumored to be ranging into Colorado and Utah. Wolves from the Great Lakes have turned up in Illinois and Iowa.

 

“The reason why wolves became in endangered in first place is that states allowed people to hunt the hell out of them.”

 

Outside the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes, wolves are still protected by the Endangered Species Act, so these wanderers have raised delicate political questions. Although some states are willing to work with the federal government on wolf management, others want sole control of any wolves that turn up within their boundaries. And the White House’s slim margin of support in the Senate relies on centrist Democrats from Western states—many of whom support full wolf delisting, in part because some Western ranchers want the right to shoot wolves that menace their livestock.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for its part, wants to devote its limited money and resource to conservation of the Mexican wolf, a type of gray wolf that was reintroduced into northern New Mexico and Arizona in 1998 and continues to struggle for survival. “The time has now come for the service to focus its efforts on the recovery of the Mexican wolf,” agency director Dan Ashe said at a public hearing last year in Washington, D.C.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the rest of the country’s gray wolves from the federal endangered species list last June, protecting only the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies. Any gray wolves that roamed beyond the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes, it announced, would no longer enjoy endangered species protection. The delisting proposal set off a contentious public comment period that was due to end in September, after which the delisting would either be finalized or scrapped.

One part of the agency’s proposal was especially unusual: it argued that its original listing of the gray wolf, back in 1967, had been flawed. In the delisting proposal, the agency not only recognized the eastern wolf as a separate species but also concluded that its existence required a major revision to the historic range map of the gray wolf—making it far smaller than the initial listing had claimed.

Agency director Ashe argued at the hearing in Washington, D.C., last September that there is “no one set formula for how to recover a species.” The law requires only that species be safe from extinction, he said, not restored throughout its historic range, before it can be taken off the endangered species list. The two thriving populations in the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains, the agency said, were reason enough to delist the gray wolf.

But historic range has long been an important factor in delisting decisions. “If you eliminate the entire East Coast from the gray wolf’s range map, it’s just much easier to argue that wolves are no longer endangered,” says NRDC’s Wetzler.

At the D.C. hearing, Don Barry, who served as an assistant Interior secretary during the Clinton administration, took the microphone to speak for himself and two other former assistant secretaries. Barry recalled that the bald eagle, American pelican, American alligator, and peregrine falcon had been removed from the endangered species list only after returning to suitable habitat throughout most of their historic ranges.

“That is how the Endangered Species Act is supposed to work,” said Barry. By stark contrast, he said, the proposal to delist the gray wolf reflected “a shrunken vision of what recovery should mean.”

* * *

The Fish and Wildlife Service is required to back up its decisions with science, but in this case, the science was hard to come by. When the agency recognizes new species, for instance, it usually relies on the judgment of scientific organizations such as the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature—which doesn’t recognize the eastern wolf as a separate species. Neither does any similar scientific group.

So instead, the agency relied on a 2012 study by Steven Chambers, a Fish and Wildlife Service staff biologist, and three of his agency colleagues. The Chambers study had already caused controversy: it was published in a recently revived agency journal, not a standard scientific journal. When outside researchers reviewed the paper, the majority had significant criticisms, with one going so far as to say that the study’s argument “is made in an intellectual vacuum.” Although the journal’s editors asked Chambers to respond to the critiques, the revised paper was not resubmitted to reviewers, as it would have been at a standard journal.

In 2012, the agency cited the Chambers paper in a proposal to remove the Great Lakes wolf population from endangered species protection. The agency had to remove the citation after outcry from other scientists in the field and acknowledged at the time that the study “represents neither a scientific consensus nor the majority opinion of researchers on the taxonomy of wolves.”

Two years later, though, the agency once again used the Chambers paper, this time to support the removal of all federal protections for wolves.

 

When outside researchers reviewed the paper, the majority had significant criticisms, with one going so far as to say that the study’s argument “is made in an intellectual vacuum.”

 

“There’s a lot wrong with the process that the Fish and Wildlife Service used that led to the development of the Chambers paper, and to its subsequent policy decisions,” says Sylvia Fallon, a senior scientist at NRDC. (Agency officials did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)

Fallon and many other conservationists are also critical of the agency’s review process for the delisting proposal itself. Whenever the agency proposes a change to the status of a species, it is supposed to rely on the “best available science.” To make sure it is doing that, it convenes an independent review panel of experts to critique the agency’s reasoning.

But this past summer, three respected wolf biologists were dropped from the review panel; all of them had signed a letter opposing the designation of the eastern wolf as a distinct species. “We were delisted,” jokes UCLA’s Wayne, one of the excluded scientists. The resulting public outcry forced the agency to extend its comment period and convene a second panel in September. This time, Wayne was on it, along with NRDC’s Fallon. So was one of the leading supporters of the “lost wolf” theory, Trent University’s Paul Wilson.

Despite their continuing disagreement over the provenance of the Algonquin Park wolves, the peer reviewers were unanimous in their verdict on the agency’s science. The proposal was too dependent on the Chambers paper, they said, and the paper’s central argument was far from universally accepted.

Wolf geneticists also disagree with agency’s use of the eastern wolf as support for shrinking the gray wolf’s historic range. The two could easily have existed side by side, they say. In fact, historical accounts from New York State describe two distinct types of wolves—one smaller and more common, the other larger, heavier, and rarer.

* * *

On Friday, when the Fish and Wildlife Service released the review panel’s report, the agency also issued a brief statement extending the comment period on the delisting proposal until late March—after which the agency will decide whether and how to continue with the delisting effort.

With the comment period reopened, conservationists are again arguing that the full, nationwide delisting of the gray wolf is too much, too soon, and not supported by current science. The Northern Rockies population fell 6 percent in the year after Congress removed wolves there from the endangered species list—a drop due largely to the revival of wolf hunting. Idaho Governor Butch Otter is now supporting a billthat would reduce the number of wolves in his state from about 680 to just 150. Advocates fear the same response in other states where wolves lose federal protection.

“The reason why wolves became in endangered in first place is that states allowed people to hunt the hell out of them,” says Bill Snape, a veteran endangered species lawyer who now works for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Why, after years of effort and a lot of success, would we hand the key right back to the entities that got us in hot water in first place?”

Snape acknowledges that “no one wants wolves to stay on the endangered species list forever,” but he points out that the agency could take a more measured approach to delisting, as it has done with other high-profile species.

Whatever path the agency chooses, says NRDC’s Wetzler, it needs to heed the warnings of the expert panel and stick to the science. “It’s not that the agency has bad intentions, or bad scientists. It’s that the idea that gray wolves never existed on the East Coast of the U.S. was a very convenient result—it matched up nicely with their view of wolf recovery and what they wanted to do.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in your own story.”


This article was made possible by the NRDC Science Center Investigative Journalism Fund.

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