WY G&F proposes increase to 58 wolves in 2018 hunt

WYOMING – Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing an increase to the wolf mortality limit for the grey wolf 2018 hunting season. After a successful season last year where the 44-wolf quota was met, officials at WGFD would like to see the harvest targeted at 58 now, as they say the population is thriving and exceeding all criteria established to show that the species is recovered.

“The primary change for the 2018 wolf hunting season proposal is adjustment of the wolf mortality limit, which was increased to 58,” said Ken Mills, Game and Fish’s large carnivore biologist who focuses on wolves. “We calculate mortality limits annually based on the best available population and mortality data for wolves and packs present in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area to be sure harvest levels are appropriate and ascribe to our commitment to manage for a recovered wolf population. This proposal is the result of a data-driven approach based on measured wolf population dynamics.”

The total minimum population of wolves in Wyoming living outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation at the end of 2017 was 238, with 198 in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area. The proposed mortality limit for 2018 is expected to result in an end of year population of around 160 wolves in the trophy game area, similar to the 2017 wolf hunting season.

The draft regulation for the 2018 wolf hunting regulation is now available for public comment.

It includes the allocation of higher hunt area quotas in those areas where wolf conflicts with livestock are high or in areas where wolves are impacting big game populations.

Public meetings on these regulation changes and others will occur at the following times and locations:

  • April 30, 6pm, Sheridan, Game and Fish Office
  • May 2, 6pm, Laramie, Game and Fish Office
  • May 8, 6pm, Cody, Park County Library
  • May 9, 6pm, Casper, Game and Fish Office
  • May 10, 6pm, Dubois, Headwaters Arts & Conference Center
  • May 16, 6pm, Pinedale, Game and Fish Office
  • May 17, 6pm, Jackson, Teton County Library Auditorium
  • May 22, 6pm, Evanston, BEAR Center Pavilion
  • May 23, 6pm, Kemmerer, South Lincoln Events Center
  • May 24, 6pm, Green River, Game and Fish Office

Written comments will be accepted through 5pm June 4 at public meetings, by mailing: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY  82604 or online at http://wgfd.wyo.gov. Copies of the proposed regulations are available on the Game and Fish website and at the address above.

Written comments will be presented to the Game and Fish Commission prior to the public hearing at its July 10-11 meeting in Laramie at the Game and Fish Office.

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Wolf numbers “curbed” by hunting

Wolves
A wolf watches park visitors as it feeds on a elk carcass near the road in Yellowstone National Park in this June 2008 file photo. The return of hunting wolves has trimmed their numbers, but not as high as state goals.

File, Star-Tribune

JACKSON — Hunting’s return to the landscape slashed the number of wolves in Wyoming last year, though not to the degree wildlife managers sought.

Wyoming’s goal was to cut its wolf population by nearly a quarter in places in which the state has control, but only a 16 percent reduction was accomplished. The reason managers missed the mark, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf biologist Ken Mills said, is there were more wolves than expected.

“What happened is the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t have anyone on the ground monitoring wolves,” Mills said. “We located four additional packs. There were 19 adult wolves in those packs.”

Hunters would have been allowed to target more wolves, he said, if those animals were identified ahead of an annual report that informs hunting seasons.

The annual census of Wyoming’s wolves, published Wednesday, found there were 347 animals thought to roam the Equality State as the calendar turned to 2018 — down 30 from a year ago. Yellowstone National Park’s population, 97 animals, remained about the same, as did the number of lobos calling the Wind River Indian Reservation home.

The most significant changes came in areas where Wyoming authorizes hunting, where the population fell from 285 to 238. A managed “trophy-game” hunting area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s interior housed 198 wolves at the end of the year. Another 40 of the large canines roamed the remainder of Wyoming, where wolves are managed as pests and can be killed indiscriminately. In both areas combined, 77 wolves were killed last year.

Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity view the calculated, hunting-driven population decline as a travesty.

“Wolves won’t persist outside Yellowstone National Park if Wyoming continues to eradicate them at this appalling pace,” said Victor, Idaho, resident Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the center.

Mills sees it differently. Wyoming’s population, he said, is well above federally required “recovery” requirements: 50 wolves and five breeding pairs in Yellowstone and 100 animals and 10 breeding pairs outside the park. The wolf biologist noted the number of breeding pairs in the state increased over the last year, from 18 to 19.

“It’s recovered, and it’s functioning as a population,” Mills said. “There’s actually more wolves in 2017 in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation than there were before 2011 — before we ever managed wolves.”

A lawsuit caused Wyoming to lose control of its wolf population from 2014 to spring 2017, during which time the Endangered Species Act protected lobos from hunting and populations hit record highs.

2016 was the most conflict-prone one for wolves and livestock since the native carnivores were reintroduced to the region 23 years ago. Twenty-five wolf packs killed 243 sheep, cattle and horses, and 113 wolves were killed in retaliation. The numbers fell last year, with 191 wolf-suspected livestock deaths and 61 lobos killed in response.

“I think pretty much everyone can say that’s a positive, right?” Mills said. “Whether fewer wolves is a positive depends on who you are, but less conflict is a good thing.”

Assault Rifle Slaughter of Denali Wolves

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Washington, DC, April 3, 2018 — The State of Alaska is scrambling to shut down hunting and trapping adjacent to Denali National Park over concerns that excessive kills may destabilize this iconic wolf population. Photos posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) show a man armed with an AR15 semiautomatic rifle displaying ten wolf carcasses outside Denali.

In an emergency order issued on March 30, 2018 and revised yesterday, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (DFG) cut short the hunting and trapping season on state land along the Stampede Trail, including land adjacent to the eastern boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve. The stated reason for the order is that –

“The wolf harvest this season in the area described is more than the past 5-year average and there is the potential for more harvest to occur before the end of the regulatory hunting and trapping seasons.”

While DFG claims in its order that “There are no conservation concerns for wolves” in the Denali region, the agency admits that it has no idea how many wolves have been killed this year. Moreover, the state has not acknowledged reports that a hunter on a snow machine armed with a semiautomatic rifle recently killed ten wolves outside Denali.

“While I am glad that Governor Walker has acted I am concerned that it may be too little, too late,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member, who has led the charge for permanent buffer zones around Denali. “The historic high level of take has already altered wolf ecological dynamics, not counting these reports of additional kills just now coming in.”

Studies show hunting and trapping outside Denali is having a big impact on the viability of wolf packs inside Denali, which is Alaska’s top tourist attraction, drawing more than a half-million visitors annually. Not only are Denali wolf family groups disrupted, but visitor-viewing success has plummeted as well.

Similarly, at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, hunting has so decimated wolf packs that the National Park Service had to end a more than 20-year research program on predator-prey relationships. Its scientists found that the wolf population in the 2.5 million acre national preserve is “no longer in a natural state” nor are there enough survivors to maintain a “self-sustaining population.”

Significantly, Alaska has agreed to participate in an independent National Academy of Sciences review of its predator control programs for the first time in 20 years since the administration of Governor Tony Knowles (1994-2002), the only governor in Alaska history to prohibit lethal predator control programs.

“Alaska’s predator control program is clearly out of control,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Alaska should put predator control on hold until it gets a handle on what is actually occurring.”

In response to the recent excessive losses at Denali, Alaska citizens are renewing their call for the Governor to establish a permanent no-kill buffer protecting all park predator species – wolves, bears, lynx, wolverines – along the boundary of Denali, to restore the natural ecosystem and visitor viewing success in the park.

Read the state emergency hunting and trapping closure order

Look at hunting adverse impacts on Denali wolf packs

See decimation of Yukon-Charley wolf packs

View Trump repeal of hunting restrictions inside Alaskan national parks and refuges

Look at growing doubts about Alaska’s predator control program

One man’s plan to let wolves roam free in the Highlands

The ‘custodian’ of the Alladale estate wants to turn it into a fenced-off wildlife reserve
Eurasian grey wolves at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Scotland.
 Eurasian grey wolves at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Scotland.
Photograph: Alamy

The echoes of Scotland’s predator prince faded into silence three centuries ago. The wolf was once lord of these Sutherland slopes and the forest floors beneath and now a voice in the wilderness is calling him home.

Paul Lister acquired the Alladale estate, 50 miles north of Inverness, in 2003 and immediately set about creating a wilderness reserve according to his perception of what these wild and beautiful places ought to look like. He can’t imagine them without the packs of wolves that once roamed free here.

But his views are considered eccentric by ramblers and conservationists, who view them as a rich man’s caprice, centring their objections on his plans to fence off the vast reserve.

Lister’s plans for the controlled release of a pack of Swedish wolves have been known for years but last week he seemed to issue an ultimatum to the Highland and Islands council, using a local newspaper interview to tell them: “I want to do this, but we would really need to have the details nailed down by the end of 2018.” Yet, when you speak to this man, driven as he is by a vision of how these places should be managed, you form an unshakeable impression that he will strive to fulfil it for as long as it takes.

There are few spaces in the UK more achingly beautiful than Glen Mor and Glen Alladale, the ancient glacial valleys that form this wilderness. The last of the winter snow still coats the top of jagged ridges high above a river that cleaves the land below. At the top of one of these peaks is the only point in Scotland where you can observe the Atlantic on one side and the North Sea on the other. These rocks and this water are as old as Scotland itself and showcase this country in its most majestic raiment.

These places were once rich in a diversity of trees, flowers and wild animals, which rubbed alongside small human settlements eking a sparse existence. The people disappeared in their thousands during the clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries, forced to flee their homes in the face of the most ruthless, forced mass eviction of British citizens ever, clearing the way for the introduction of sheep as landowners eyed quicker and easier profits. Later they would be joined by thousands of red deer to exploit the whims of aristocratic shooting parties. These creatures denuded the great forests of their biodiversity, and something more barren emerged.

Lister’s form of land management is a rebuke to the way that much of Scotland has been artificially manipulated by fewer than 500 rich individuals to satisfy the demands of affluent hunting parties. “There will be no hunting, fishing or shooting here,” he said. “My connection to the Scottish Highlands goes back to the 1980s when my family invested in commercial forestry. I shot my first deer then. But over time I began to realise that human predation and selfishness had wrecked these places so that the soil became weaker and only a thin remnant of the ancient forests remained.

“You need to keep numbers of deer artificially high to satisfy the demands of the shooters who have paid a lot of money not to return empty-handed. Thus, an imbalance occurs. I want to restore balance and harmony to this place in accordance with the way it was created and the way it was meant to be. The controlled release of a pack of wolves would help achieve that harmony by changing the behaviours of the deer and keeping their numbers down to proportionate levels.”

Lister’s inspiration is North America’s Yellowstone national park where the introduction of a single pack of wolves in 1995 led to one of the most remarkable ecological turnarounds of the modern world. This is known as a trophic cascade and is the process by which the activity of an apex predator at the top of the food chain eventually stimulates the growth of several other animal species and enriches bio-diversity. It was in response to the way that huge numbers of elk and deer had grazed large parts of the natural landscape of Yellowstone into barren waste.

Paul Lister, laird of Alladale.
Pinterest
 Paul Lister, laird of Alladale.

“I don’t see myself as the owner of the Alladale wilderness,” says Lister. “How can any human, no matter how rich or powerful he thinks he is, assume ownership of a mountain or a river? These were here long before we came along and will remain long after we’re gone. I’m merely a custodian of this place with a responsibility to leave it in a better state than when I acquired it so that future generations can derive some pleasure or solace from its natural beauty.

“My plans for the controlled release of wolves have been misrepresented. This will not mean packs of them roaming all over the Scottish Highlands. We’re talking about a fenced-in area of 50,000 square miles; this wilderness is 23,000 so I am hoping to persuade one or two of my neighbours to buy into this.”

Lister’s plans to surround the wilderness with a 9ft fence has been met with howls of outrage by the rambling community, who insist that it represents an unconscionable restriction on the right to roam that is now secured in Scots law following a long struggle. Cameron McNeish, the author and broadcaster and one of the UK’s foremost authorities on outdoor pursuits, has welcomed much of what Lister is doing at Alladale in terms of wilderness management but feels that his plan to erect a fence around such a wide area is a non-starter. He has also stated that what he believes Lister is proposing is tantamount to a zoo (albeit a large one) for high-paying customers.

The Alladale estate.
Pinterest
 The Alladale estate. Photograph: Alamy

“I believe the job of re-introducing large creatures like wolves and bears should be performed by Scottish Natural Heritage,” says McNeish. “Such reintroductions are of national importance and shouldn’t be down to the whims and ambitions of individual landowners who may, or may not, have a financial interest at heart. Lister’s proposals fall within the remit of zoo legislation, and Europe’s habitats directive.

“Having predators like wolves or bears and prey in the same enclosure would introduce animal welfare issues,” he added. “This would need careful consideration as re-introduced grey wolves would have no natural predator in Scotland.”

Lister’s reserve manager Innes Macneill said: “There aren’t any Munros in these glens and we only get around 1,000 ramblers per year. If these plans come to fruition we would expect more than ten times that amount.”

Macneill’s family has worked these lands for generations. He is responsible for planting 800,000 saplings in the hope of restoring a forest of Scots pine. He also wants to see a growth in birch, rowan, ash, alder and willow, among others. “Trees make other trees,” he said.

A personal view? Although the wolf would be installed officially as Scotland’s top predator, in reality it would never attain that status; not while humans are around. No species is more predatory than we who have specialised over centuries in making other species extinct or driven them to the brink of it.

It is ironic that we now cavil at the gentle reintroduction of a magnificent beast that we hunted down remorselessly. If some sacrifices have to be made by the walking community, some of whom invade our most beautiful places and treat them as items to be ticked off on a middle-class bucket list, then so be it.

Since you’re here …

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Should wolf hunting be increased in the Gros Ventre?

[If you’re asking me, I say HELLNO! The Tetons is where I saw my first wolf in the lower 48 states…]

Please Vote NO!!

http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/should-wolf-hunting-be-increased-in-the-gros-ventre/poll_b74e58fc-37ab-11e8-abeb-eb87d8a2d294.html

Yes. This winter’s Gros Ventre elk population suffered because of the packs. More tags!

Yes, but we need more than sport hunting to control wolf populations.
No. We don’t have enough data to show the wolves were responsible for this winter’s low herd count.
No. The nine killed in the last open season is already too much.

Vote View Results http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/should-wolf-hunting-be-increased-in-the-gros-ventre/poll_b74e58fc-37ab-11e8-abeb-eb87d8a2d294.html

 

Wolves being Booted Back to the Brink

Article posted by C.A.S.H. Committee To Abolish Sport Hunting

CLICK HERE for more from CASH COURIER NEWSLETTER, Winter/Spring 2018

By Jim Robertson

This article includes excerpts from Exposing the Big Game: Targets of a Dying Sport. Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

wolf
Photo by Jim Robertson

Although “From the Brink of Oblivion and Back Again” was the title I gave to one of two chapters I devoted to the plight of wolves in my book Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport, I still hadn’t fully realized just how apt that title would soon be. At that time, wolves were federally protected and their removal from the Endangered Species List was just someone’s bad idea that had yet to see its dark day. Frankly, I thought we would be a little more evolved as a species by now.

But over and over states have proven themselves unworthy by declaring open seasons on wolves, without regard for the species’ future or for the welfare of individual wolves. Indeed, the ongoing warlike attack on wolves is anything but sporting or humane, with kill methods ranging from traps and snares to aerial hunting, running them down with dogs or luring them in and sniping at entire packs with semi-automatic rifles—depending on a given state’s predilection.

At the same time, many hunters and trappers go out of their way to express their hatred for wolves through horrific acts of overkill. Taking sick pleasure in further degrading their victims by glibly posing in morbid photos of trapped or bloodied wolves, they spread their snuff shots across the internet fishing for praise, while taunting wolf advocates.

For thousands of years, wolves played a central role as keepers of nature’s balance across the American landscape. Wolves are the personification of untamed wilderness; their presence is a sign of an ecosystem relatively intact.

But bigotry toward wolves has thrived across the country since colonial times and wolves have long been the object of unwarranted phobias. Today’s wolf-haters panic at the thought of natural predators competing for “their” trophy “game” animals and loath anything that might threaten their exploitive way of life. They view the federal government as the enemy in their ongoing combat against wilderness, and grasp for local control of species like wolves, who, until recently, were all but extinct in the continental U.S. Far from being their foe however, the federal government has actually been a fervent ally.

The contentious removal of wolves from the federal endangered species list—long before they were truly recovered—was a coldly calculated course set in motion by the Bush Administration, dutifully followed by the Obama Administration and rendered the law of the land through an underhanded act of Congress in 2011. This crooked covenant, conjured up for the sake of ranchers and trophy hunters, left the wolves’ fate in the custody of hostile western states…and fits right in with a centuries-old, historic norm.

In 1630, Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony—known for holding the first Thanksgiving Day celebration…and Salem witch hunts—felt biblically impelled and duty-bound to “subdue the earth.” Hence, they were the first to establish a bounty on wolves. Soon the other colonies followed their example and set bounties of their own, and a systematic genocide of wolves in America spread west with the “settling” of the land.

In 1818, Ohio declared a “War of Extermination” against wolves and bears. Iowa began their wolf bounty in 1858; in 1865 and 1869 Wisconsin and Colorado followed suit. State by state wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned to extinction. As the demand for wolf pelts increased, “wolfers” began killing grazers like elk or bison and poisoning the meat as bait, decimating whole packs of unsuspecting canines in one fell swoop.

By 1872, the year President Grant created Yellowstone National Park, 100,000 wolves were being annihilated annually. 5,450 were killed in 1884 in Montana alone, after a wolf bounty was initiated there. By the end of 1886, a total of 10,261 wolves were offered up for bounty (sixteen times Montana’s 2011 population of 653 “recovered” wolves). Wyoming enacted their bounty in 1875 and in 1913 set a penalty of $300 for freeing a wolf from a trap.

Not to be outdone, the US government began a federal poisoning program in 1915 that would finish off the rest of the wolves in the region—including Yellowstone. By 1926 wolves had been completely extirpated from America’s premier national park.

Having no more regard for wolves than those who originally caused their extinctions, willfully-ignorant wolf-haters in the tri-state area of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have not received their reintroduction with open arms but rather with loaded arms, hoping to turn the clock back to the dark ages of centuries past. The posture they assume on the subject of wolves is as warped and ill-informed as any Massachusetts witch hunter’s.

With the wolf population in the tri-state area at only a fraction of its historic sum, the federal government unceremoniously removed them from the endangered species list (and consequently from federal protection) in 2009, casting their “management” (read: re-eradication) into the clutches of eager states that wasted no time implementing wolf hunting seasons. Montana quickly sold 15,603 wolf permits, while their confederates in Idaho snatched up 14,000 permits to hunt the long-tormented canids.

For its part, Wyoming has stubbornly held to a policy mandating that wolves be shot on sight anytime they wander outside Yellowstone, allegedly to safeguard range cattle (who are actually 147 times more likely to fall prey to intestinal parasites). Wolves have killed a grand total of only 26 cows (out of 1.3 million head of cattle in the state). Still, the livestock industry is in control of their wolf management decisions. Though hunters there have killed 74 wolves this season, the state of Wyoming has expanded and extended its season indefinitely, declaring an open, year-round hunt on them. Winter, spring and summertime hunts are particularly harsh since this is when wolves are denning and raising their newborn pups.

wolf
Photo by Jim Robertson

On the other side of Yellowstone, the disingenuously but suitably named “Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition,” backed by a well-funded trophy elk hunting industry, filed and circulated an initiative petition in 2008 calling for the removal of “all” wolves there “by whatever means necessary.” Fortunately, even in the state famous for potatoes, militias and neo-Nazi compounds, they failed to gain enough public support to move forward with their avaricious initiative. Even so, the Idaho government has been quietly carrying out the “whatever means” approach by adding aerial hunting, trapping, snaring and baiting to their wolf devastation arsenal. In just one season, 169 wolves were killed by trophy hunters in Idaho, while trappers there claimed the lives of 76.

It should come as no great jolt that Idaho hunters felt they could get away with asking for the renewed obliteration of an entire species—their governor, “Butch” Otter, publicly proclaimed he hoped to be the first to shoot a wolf as soon as they lost federal ESA protection. Failing that, Otter used his gubernatorial powers to declare his state a “wolf disaster area,” granting local sheriffs’ departments the power to destroy packs whenever they please.

“Meanwhile,” according to Defenders of Wildlife’s president, Jamie Rappaport Clark, “the federal government is sitting idly by as Idaho almost singlehandedly unravels one of our nation’s greatest wildlife conservation success stories. This is totally unheard of—never before has a species climbed its way back from near extinction only to be quickly decimated once again.”

Montana started out seeming to be the sensible state, appearing almost tolerant of wolves. But between their state legislature and their wildlife policy makers, they’ve made an about face and quickly caught up with their neighbors, displaying a total disregard for the public trust doctrine which holds that wildlife, having no owners, are res communes, belonging “in common to all of the citizens.” They’ve recently passed bills barring any protected zones outside Yellowstone Park, while legalizing silencers for wolf hunting and the use of recorded calls to attract wolves, as well as allowing five wolf tags per hunter, 12 years and older. (And a new state bill is proposing lowering the legal age of hunters to nine years old.) Legislators also proposed a cap of 250 on their state wolf population. Last year’s wolf hunt kill totals for Montana were 128 wolves shot to death and 97 killed in traps.

wolf

Since Congress stripped wolves of their Endangered Species status, an estimated 1,084 wolves have been killed in the Northern Rockies. Again, that’s ONE THOUSAND AND EIGHTY-FOUR living, breathing, social, intelligent wolves killed by scornful, fearful, vengeful and boastful hunters and trappers, often in the most hideous ways imaginable.

Thanks to a federal judge’s 2010 decision, the wolf was granted a one-year stay of execution. But in 2011 our federal legislators on Capitol Hill attached a rider to a budget bill circumventing that judgment. This serpentine, backbiting end-run around science and public opinion played right into the hands of anti-wolf fanatics in Idaho and Montana and cleared the way for the bloodiest butchery of wolves in almost a century. Case in point: the opening week of Montana’s nascent hunting season on wolves saw sportsmen set up just outside the park boundary gun down every adult in Yellowstone’s well-known and much-loved Cottonwood pack, leaving their dependent pups to starve. In just two years nearly 1,100 wolves have been ruthlessly murdered by hunters and trappers eager to relive the gory glory days of the 1800s.

All this is going on in spite of well-documented proof that wolves are beneficial to a given environment, and despite the fact that the majority of Americans, including most visitors to Yellowstone and the tri-state area, want to see wildlife unmolested. They are not there to hunt—the money they spend reflects their strong interest in the quiet enjoyment of nature.

Biologists studying the Yellowstone ecosystem have found that since their reintroduction to the park, wolves have kept elk herds on the move, thus allowing over-browsed streamside riparian habitats to regenerate. Among the species that rely on a healthy riparian zone—and therefore benefit from the presence of wolves—are moose, trumpeter swans, warblers, wrens, thrushes, beavers, muskrats and the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Everywhere they’re found, wolves play an important role in maintaining the health of ungulate herds by preying primarily on infirm or diseased animals, ensuring a healthy gene pool. And the remains of their kills provide a welcome relief for hungry scavengers, from bears to ermine to wolverines to bald eagles.

But rather than stepping back and allowing wolves to solve their elk “problem,” “game” “managers” want to reduce the number of both elk and wolves. Their policies are not scientific; they’re downright kill-happy. As the late Canadian naturalist and author, R D Lawrence, stated in his book, In the Presence of Wolves: “Killing for sport, for fur, or to increase a hunter’s success by slaughtering predators is totally abhorrent to me. I deem such behavior to be barbaric…”

The 1996 reintroduction of wolves to the northern Rocky Mountains in Yellowstone and wilderness areas of Central Idaho as mandated by the Endangered Species Act–along with protections against hunting and trapping all too briefly afforded them under the ESA–gave the wolf a temporary reprieve and allowed Nature to reign again over some of her sovereign lands.

Yes, wolves are spreading out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more of them; each time they find a given habitat hostile to them, they continue to branch out in search of someplace safer and more hospitable. The total wolf population of the tri-state area has fluctuated, reaching a high of around 2000 individuals. An impressive figure perhaps, unless you consider that 1,089 were killed this year (not including those killed by federal “Wildlife Services” agents); or that 10,261 wolves were destroyed between 1884 and 1886 in Montana alone; or even that 380,000 wolves once roamed the country.

While all this is going on, the Great Lakes states have been racking up a high wolf body count of their own. Wisconsin in particular seems to be bucking for a most merciless award—the cruelties they’ve unleashed on wolves are the stuff of nightmares. And even states, such as South Dakota, that don’t even have wolf populations are hastily re-classifying wolves from the status of protected to “varmint,” in the event that any lost wolf happens by.

With the return of widespread wolf hunting, it will take today’s anti-wolf bigots only a few years to boot this misunderstood embodiment of wilderness back to the brink of oblivion.


Jim Robertson is the President of C.A.S.H. and author of Exposing The Big Game.

CLICK HERE for more from CASH COURIER NEWSLETTER, Winter/Spring 2018

Denali Wolf Update: A little good news, more bad news

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game approved an Emergency Order closing the wolf hunting/trapping season adjacent to Denali National Park. However, the proposed Denali Buffer legislation is stalled in the Legislature, and controversy sparked over a hunter’s braggadocio photos of dead wolves east of the Park.

First, a little good news: ADF&G issued an Emergency Order immediately closing the Stampede Trail corridor (state land along the northeast boundary of the Park, home to the most easily viewed wolves along the Park Road) to hunting and trapping wolves.

A formal request for the Order was submitted March 24 based on information from Park biologists that five radio-collared Park wolves already had been killed by hunting/trapping this winter. Because only about one in four wolves are collared, there was concern that the total harvest would be much higher – and unfortunately it is. According to the ADF&G, eight wolves were killed so far this winter in the Stampede area, twice the average annual number. That total will increase again when the final state harvest report and spring Park wolf survey are complete.

According to the Order, hunting in the area was closed effective April 2, and the trapping season will end April 9. The seasons were scheduled to end April 15 and April 30, respectively. Trappers have 30 days after the season to report their harvest, so the final tally of wolves killed won’t be known until mid-May.

One of the wolves (apparently) trapped was the alpha male of the Riley Creek pack, which claims territory along the Park Road west of the entrance. Sightings of members of the Riley Creek pack increased the likelihood of visitors seeing wolves from about 5 percent in prior years to 17 percent last summer. Loss of the alpha male is critical to the future of the pack: the remaining wolves may fail to produce pups this spring, or disburse altogether. In recent years the loss of key breeding wolves resulted in the demise of the Grant Creek and Toklat packs; both had territories adjacent to the Riley Creek wolves.

AWA and other groups solicited comments to ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten in support of the emergency closure request. Our concerns were heard in the administration, although in practice the closure shaves only a very minimal amount of time off of the full hunting/trapping seasons.

Bad news: Just a day before the emergency closure request was submitted, the Alaska Senate Resources Committee “set aside” House Bill 105, which would establish a no wolf hunting/trapping buffer on state lands adjacent to Denali’s northeastern boundary. That action stalls – and more than likely kills – the legislation.

Again, AWA and others solicited public comments in favor of HB105 for the Committee hearing. Many were received – so many that Committee Chair Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage) actively solicited comments from the opposition. In a public online trapping forum, Sen. Giessel wrote to Fairbanks trapper Al Barrette:

“…If there are others who oppose the bill, please have them send emails, Al.

I have literally hundreds of support emails…and your one opposition email.”

Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) sponsored the bill and worked tirelessly to get it passed by the full House last May, which was a rare win for pro-wildlife legislation. He predicted it was a long shot to move ahead in the more conservative-minded Senate, and that proved true at its first committee hurdle. Nevertheless we owe Andy a heartfelt “thank you” for his heroic work on this and other bills supporting wildlife and the environment.

Bad news, illustrated. The Denali wolf controversy flared on social media last weekend when graphic photos circulated of a hunter proudly posing with an AK-15 semiautomatic rifle, snowmachine and 10 dead wolves. The two photos can be viewed on our website at:http://akwildlife.org/february-2018-wolf-kill-photos/

(Warning: they are graphic and disturbing.)

The initial anonymous email accompanying the photos implied they were Denali wolves killed in the nearby Healy area. When queried, ADF&G and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers issued a press release asserting that the wolves were not killed in the Stampede corridor/Denali area, but were harvested legally about 70 miles east of Denali in February. (Therefore it is unknown if the wolves denned in or could have been seen in the Park.)

However, without a buffer to protect wolves from hunting/trapping, such killing is legal – and certainly does occur – adjacent to the Park boundary.

Furthermore, such egregious killing is all too common statewide under the guise of Alaska’s ongoing Intensive Management (predator control) programs utilizing extended harvest seasons and liberal (or non-existent) harvest limits across multiple species, including bears and coyotes. This “slaughter”, not to be confused with reasonably regulated “hunting” using the principles of fair-chase, is commonplace across Alaska. It’s just not often the public is able to see the perpetrators’ brazen bragging.

If you have not already done so, please sign the online petition, started by Among Wolvesco-author Marybeth Holleman in 2015, asking the federal and state governments to agree to create a no-wolf-kill buffer adjacent to Denali. To date 360,000+ people have signed on.  https://www.thepetitionsite.com/423/700/229/halt-the-killing-of-denali-national-park-wolves/ 

Finally, again, thank you for supporting the Denali wolves and AWA. We are sorry we don’t have better news to report, but accomplishing anything “pro-wildlife” in this state where most politicians are openly “pro hunter/trapper” is an uphill struggle. However, there are still other avenues to pursue, and we will always keep up the fight for these wolves and all of Alaska’s wildlife.

Wyoming Is Waging a War on Wolves

The Cowboy State’s scorched earth campaign threatens wolf recovery

Ever wanted to kill a wolf? If so, now’s your time. In Wyoming, wolf hunting is now legit—365 days a year across 85 percent of the state, where wolves are classified as shoot-on-sight vermin. Guns, snares, explosives, trucks, and snowmobiles—almost any form of violence is allowed to kill these animals. Today anyone in most of Wyoming can kill wolves without a hunting license, putting at great risk a wildlife species whose populations in the Lower 48 remain a dim shadow of what they once were and whose recovery in the Rockies is tenuous at best.

And what about the other 15 percent of the state, concentrated around the Jackson Hole area and the Tetons? That’s a “trophy area” where wolves may be seasonally hunted from October 1 to December 31. Unlike much of the rest of Wyoming—where ranches and extractive industries have seriously degraded valuable wolf habitat—the northwest corner still offers wolves, grizzlies, and the other large predators remaining in the West a corner in which to struggle to survive.

And now even that refuge is under fire. During the 2017 hunting season (the first legal hunt in Wyoming since 2013), licensed hunters killed 44 wolves in the trophy area—12 alone within the first 40 hours of the open season. Another 32 were killed across the rest of the state last year. And at least 48 are estimated to die annually from human impacts outside of hunting. To put this in perspective, before wolves were removed from Endangered Species Act protection, there were approximately 380 wolves inhabiting Wyoming’s 97,814 square miles. In a single year, Wyoming may have lost a quarter of all its wolves.

How did this happen? Let’s take a look back. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park. The wolves prospered, multiplied, and eventually offered affirmative proof of this animal’s importance to ecosystem health. The successful reintroduction also demonstrated that, almost incredibly, there was still sufficient unimpeded wilderness in the continental United States to allow this far-ranging alpha predator to thrive. The growing number of packs steadily expanded their range as succeeding generations of wolves began to disperse, following the elk herds on their seasonal migration southward out of Yellowstone and into the Tetons. And that’s when the trouble began.

In 2003, just eight years after the Yellowstone reintroductions, the USFWS reclassified the endangered gray wolf under the ESA as threatened, thereby downgrading its protective status. The USFWS, fatigued from years of having to manage the intense public opinions that surround this species, was eager to stop having to oversee wolf management and began planning the wholesale removal of the “recovered” Northern Rockies populations from the ESA. The agency planned to devolve wolf management to the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, which under law would have to devise management plans that would ensure the maintenance of minimum sustainable populations.

For more than a decade, wildlife advocates fought the attempted delisting in court. The wolves in the Northern Rockies bounced back and forth between being legally protected and at the mercy of state agencies. After a brief period under state management, Wyoming wolves were placed back under the protection of the ESA. A 2009 federal district court decision held that the entire state constituted a “significant portion” of the wolves’ range—a proven historical fact, all the more pertinent given the depleted numbers of wolves throughout North America today.

But in March 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court reaffirmed Wyoming’s wolf management plan, ruling that the “2009 decision has been overtaken by events.” According to the court, the USFWS “has adopted a new definition of ‘significant portion of its range,’” allowing wolves outside the trophy zone to be destroyed with no repercussions to the species recovery across the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Therefore, the court held, “The [USFWS] has offered ample rationale for determining that the predator area was never ‘envisioned to meaningfully contribute to wolf recovery in the region’ and is thus not a ‘significant portion of its range.’” Wyoming’s wolves were overnight reduced from a federally protected species to vermin across 85 percent of the state.

Idaho and Montana have adopted a more traditional approach to wolf hunting based upon districts, season licenses, and quotas. While those licensed hunting programs have still proved lethal to wolves—at least 271 wolves were killed in Idaho 2016, and 247 in Montana—they are not as sweeping as the no-holds-barred approach across most of Wyoming.

What’s behind Wyoming officials’ antipathy toward wolves? The primary justification for the state’s wolf hunt is, supposedly, economic. Wolves are blamed for livestock depredations in a region that is still emotionally and economically invested in the teetering myth of the independent cowboy, despite the fact that many ranchers graze their herds on public lands and insist that representatives of the USDA’s Wildlife Services agency employ any number of methods—including, per the USDA website, “trapping, snaring, shooting, and the use of chemical products and immobilization and euthanasia drugs”—to remove or kill offending predators.

According to the USFWS, wolves killed a record number of livestock in 2016, including 154 cattle, 88 sheep, and one horse; that’s up from a total of 134 depredations in 2015. In response, government “wildlife managers” killed 113 wolves, up from 54 the year before. To put this into context, the 2016 casualties from disease and weather alone among Wyoming’s sheep herds was 37,550 animals.

Wyoming residents are permitted to shoot on site any wolf they find that is attacking or “molesting” livestock or a domesticated dog. Ranchers are also able to seek compensation for livestock lost to wolves. A brochure published by Wyoming Game and Fish states “Landowners may be compensated for verified damage to livestock caused by wolves. Landowners must submit a signed and notarized damage claim affidavit to the WGFD.” But even though ranchers may get financial relief for any wolf attacks on their livestock, some ranchers insist that the wolves still have to die.

Why do wolves kill livestock? Because they’re easy prey, bred by humans over millennia to be pliant. As Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told US News and World Report last summer, “When you have native predators on the landscape and non-native livestock on the landscape, it’s not surprising that the predators are going to view them as prey.”

This all makes scientific sense—but science isn’t the issue in Wyoming. Rather, it’s the occasional threat to livestock growers’ incomes that fuels the attacks against wolves and other predators. But predators are hardly the main problem; according to the USDA, in 2015 non-predator causes of death (mainly respiratory diseases) accounted for almost 98 percent of adult cattle mortality, and almost 89 percent for calves. Of the numerical sliver of cattle and calves that were killed by predators, wolves took only 4.9 percent, while coyote predation came in at 40.5 percent. Even domestic dogs claimed 11.3 percent, more than twice that of wolves.

The second reason for an intensive wolf hunt is the perceived reduction of trophy game such as elk, deer, bison, and moose. For the last few generations, big game has been abundant throughout much of the West, in part because of predator persecution. According to Yellowstone National Park’s website, “Early-20th-century protectionist policies, including the elimination of wolves and cougars, boosted elk numbers and stoked concern that the herd was too large. In response, park managers and hunters shot, trapped, and relocated tens of thousands of elk between 1920 and 1968.”

The annual elk slaughter was conducted primarily to prevent damage to important biotic features such as the cottonwoods and willows that stabilized stream banks; without any fear of predation, elk herds would simply stay put streamside and gnaw new shoots to the roots, eventually resulting in erosion, sedimentation, and the loss of freshwater trout habitat. Large carnivores were reintroduced to the landscape in part for this reason: They keep prey species below their maximum carrying capacity and in the process hold diseases in check and balance ecosystems. With the reintroduction of wolves, and a concomitant increase in grizzly numbers (the bears will sometimes appropriate or scavenge the remains of wolf kills), Yellowstone’s bloated elk population rapidly decreased by around 65 percent.

But this turned some hunters against the resurgent wolves. The trophy males that are the chief interest of hunters are (if not infirmed by age) usually the healthiest and strongest members of the herd. Anyone who has encountered a cantankerous 1,500-pound bull moose standing seven feet at the shoulder will understand the reluctance of any predator to challenge it head on. Predators naturally target the easiest, least demanding prey: the young and old, the sick and lame. Therefore the impact of wolves to healthy adult male elk, mule deer, bison, or moose is ecologically minimal.

As it currently stands, Wyoming’s wolf management plan requires the maintenance of a 100 x 10 ratio: that is, 100 wolves with at least 10 confirmed breeding pairs in the entire state, not including Yellowstone National Park or the Wind River Shoshone/Northern Arapahoe Reservation. The plan also calls for state biologists to define a “buffer” against this minimum required population, which presumably would mean more wolves than the required minimum. But the buffer, already vague, is not a legal requirement of the state’s management plan.

And in any case, the Wyoming plan appears to violate federal guidelines, according to attorneys with the nonprofit advocacy group Earthjustice. Under federal regulations, Wyoming must retain a total of 150 wolves, including 15 breeding pairs, throughout the entire state, including the national parks and the trophy game area. Although the state can take the population down to the bare minimum and still remain within the law, the targets seem arbitrary, says Timothy Preso, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s office in Bozeman, Montana.

“There is huge pressure on the ‘trophy zone’ to maintain a viable population without a legal safety net,” Preso said. Reestablishing wolves was a huge and successful effort by the American taxpayer, he said, one that has been sacrificed to extremists who may use any means not already illegal, like certain poisons, to wipe out wolves. “They can dynamite pups in their dens, run them over with snowmobiles, shoot them, trap them.” Preso continued, “There’s not a rational discussion underlying the management of wolves in Wyoming. They’re such a symbol of different things. To some people they epitomize wilderness and freedom; to others they’re pure evil, even somehow scapegoats for dislike of the federal government.”

Preso said the statewide “dual classification” zoning system that is unique to Wyoming, along with the state’s lack of a meaningful buffer to support the minimum required numbers of this isolated population, is at the heart of conservationists’ issues with the Wyoming plan. “We will continue to fight to protect wolves against extreme and hostile state management policies,” he said.

Ken Mills, wolf management specialist with Wyoming Game and Fish, neatly summed things up regarding his state’s unprecedented ability to devastate an ecologically vital, formerly federally protected species. “There’s no other jurisdiction that has to manage wolves the way we do,” Mills told the Jackson Hole News & Guide last spring. “We have a much smaller population [compared with other Northern Rockies states] and a smaller area of suitable habitat. But on the plus side Idaho and Montana can’t manage their populations; they can’t overharvest their population. We can. Essentially we’re managing a population in a brand-new way.”

Wolf hunting and trapping along Stampede Trail closed by emergency order

Denali wolf
A wolf stands in the brush near Wonder Lake in Denali National Park and Preserve.  File photo courtesy of National Park Service
 Denali National Park wolf buffer bill goes to Alaska House floor

FAIRBANKS – State biologists issued an emergency order Friday closing the wolf hunting and trapping season on state land along the Stampede Trail, including land adjacent to the eastern boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve.

The area has been the site of a years-long political and public policy battle about the killing of wolves that roam on state and federal land.

“Preliminary data indicate up to eight wolves have been taken this year in the area near the Stampede Trail, though exact harvest locations are unknown,” a news release from the Department of Fish and Game reads. “Over the last five years, the average area harvest has been about four wolves per year.”

Hunting season for wolves had been scheduled to run through April 15, and trapping season was to end on April 30. The wolf season will remain open for hunters until 11:59 p.m. Monday and for an additional week for trappers, until 11:59 p.m. April 9.

The final number of wolves legally killed in the unit won’t be known until trappers report their harvest. They have until 30 days after the season closes to file their report.

“Current levels of wolf harvest do not cause a biological or conservation problem for wolves in Unit 20C, which includes a large portion of Denali National Park and Preserve,” Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale said in a news release. “However, there is the potential for more wolves to be harvested this season.”

The wolf population around Denali National Park has been a highly controversial subject for decades. Opponents of wolf hunting and trapping the area say the number of wolves being killed is having a detrimental affect on the overall wolf population in the region, especially in Denali National Park, where reported wolf sightings by visitors have declined in recent years.

“This high level of take has impacted several wolf family groups, ecological dynamics, and the prospects for wolf viewing for hundreds of thousands of visitors to the park — our top value tourism destination in Alaska,” said Rick Steiner, a years-long vocal advocate for a no hunting or trapping buffer zone on state land along the Denali National Park boundary.

Steiner praised Gov. Bill Walker and Cotten for the decision, though he said the closure affects an area smaller than what he and others sought on March 24 in a letter to Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten.

“It is a recognition of the exceptional value of Denali wildlife to the state’s tourism industry,” he said in an emailed response to the emergency closure. “The fact is that this area should never have been open to wolf hunting/trapping in the first place.”

“The area we proposed to be closed is much larger than what the state has closed here, but at least it is something,” he said.

A bill to create a buffer zone in the area passed the Alaska House in May 2017 but was not taken up in the Senate until last week, where it was heard in the Senate Resources Committee and held.

House Bill 105 passed 22-18, with all of the votes in favor coming from the Democrat-led majority coalition. The bill is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

This story will be updated.

Washington’s Wolf Population Surge Slows, Worrying Advocates

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/washington/articles/2018-03-25/washingtons-wolf-population-surge-slows-worrying-advocates

Growth in Washington’s gray wolf population slowed dramatically last year, raising concerns from an environmental group that says the state shouldn’t kill wolves that prey on livestock.

March 25, 2018, at 12:38

The Associated Press

FILE – In this June 18, 2011, file photo, a map showing confirmed and possible wolf packs in Washington state sits next to a magazine about wolves on the kitchen table of Ray Robertson, who is both both a volunteer for Conservation Northwest and a contractor for the U.S. Forest Service, near Twisp, Wash. Growth in Washington’s gray wolf population slowed dramatically in 2017, raising concerns from an environmental group that says the state should stop killing wolves that prey on livestock. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) The Associated Press

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Growth in Washington’s gray wolf population slowed dramatically last year, raising concerns from an environmental group that says the state should stop killing wolves that prey on livestock.

At the end of 2017, Washington was home to at least 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a report released last week.

That’s the highest the population has been since annual surveys started in 2008, the agency said. However, last year’s count was up just 6 percent from the minimum of 115 wolves — with 20 packs and 10 breeding pairs — reported at the end of 2016.

By contrast, wolf populations grew at a rate of around 30 percent per year the previous decade.

 “The sharp departure from wolf number increases in past years is cause for serious concern,” said Amaroq Weiss, wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “While population growth hasn’t stopped entirely, these modest numbers clearly indicate the state should not kill any more wolves.”

Wolves are rebounding in several Western states after being wiped out in the continental U.S. in all but a slice of Minnesota. But their return has brought contentious discussions among conservationists, ranchers, hunters and others about how the animals should be managed.

In Washington, Weiss has criticized rule changes last year that allow the state to take quicker action to kill wolves that attack livestock. Environmentalists argue ranchers should take more actions to minimize contact between livestock and wolves.

Washington documented 14 wolves killed in 2017, by a combination of hunting, poaching, vehicle collisions or other causes.

 Three of those wolves were killed by members of the Colville Indian Tribe in a limited hunting season allowed on the reservation. Wolves are a protected species elsewhere in the state and cannot be hunted for sport.

Another three were designated problem wolves and killed by the state.

Ben Maletzke, a statewide wolf specialist with the state wildlife department, noted his agency employed an array of nonlethal strategies last year, including cost-sharing agreements with 37 ranchers who took steps to protect their livestock. State assistance included range riders to check on livestock, guard dogs, lighting, flagging for fences, and data on certain packs’ movements.

“We know that some level of conflict is inevitable between wolves and livestock sharing the landscape,” Maletzke said. “Our goal is to minimize that conflict as the gray wolf population continues to recover.”

Maletzke said five of the 22 known packs that existed in Washington at some point during 2017 were involved in at least one livestock death.

The agency confirmed wolves killed at least eight cattle and injured five others last year. It processed two claims totaling $3,700 to compensate livestock producers for their losses in 2017.

Wolves were wiped out in Washington early in the last century and began migrating back from neighboring areas earlier this century. Their return has sparked conflict with livestock producers, especially in the three rural counties north of Spokane where most of the wolves live.

Not all conservation groups were disappointed by the 2017 numbers.

“We’re glad to see that Washington’s wolf population continues to grow, and are particularly excited to see a notable increase in the number of successful breeding pairs compared to past years,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest.

 Still, officials are concerned because most of the wolf packs are found in northeast Washington, and there is little sign the animals are moving into the Cascade Range or the western half of the state. According to the 2017 survey, 15 of the 22 known packs range in rural Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

Wildlife managers also have been tracking the movements of a wolf in western Washington’s Skagit County that was captured and fitted with a radio-collar in June, Maletzke said.

Since 1980, gray wolves have been listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are also listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Fighting over wolves has moved to the courts.

In September, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands sued the department for failing to conduct required environmental reviews before killing wolves. In November, the center filed a separate lawsuit against the department for allegedly failing to turn over requested documents pertaining to its wolf kills as required by law.

“Wolf recovery in Washington is still in its infancy, and the population should be continuing to grow, not stagnating,” Weiss said.