Horse Killed For Wolf Bait in Denali

Old news, but still “legal”:

Following up on the good news about the release of two dolphins into the wild, I learned this morning about a most heinous and perverse situation in Alaska. Healy, Alaska trapper Coke Wallace “apparently walked a horse out to an area off the Stampede Trail near the boundary of Denali National Park – an area made famous by the 1996 book Into the Wild – shot the horse, and set snares all around the area hoping to catch wolves attracted to the carcass. Wolves from Denali National Park were drawn to the dead horse, resulting in the killing of a primary reproductive female wolf from the Grant Creek (also called Toklat West) pack from the park, along with at least one other wolf. It is unknown how long the two wolves were alive in the snares before being killed and collected by the trapper. The Grant Creek wolf pack has been one of the three packs most often viewed in Denali National Park.”

All of this happened in a former buffer area where wolves were protected from 2002-2010 when the Alaska Board of Game eliminated the protected area. The loss of these wolves puts the fate of this long-lived and long-studied pack in jeopardy. Observations began on this pack back in the 1930s. Of course, the loss of any wolves due to killing another animal to use as bait is reprehensible, legal or not.

This kind of hearltess slaughter must not be tolerated and it’s important to call attention to it and to protest it loudly and clearly. While “the incident does not violate state law, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is looking at potential violations of state water quality regulations, which prohibit discarding carcasses in surface waters of the state.”



Hunters protesting protections for Denali wolves

By Sam Friedman / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner /

Published Aug 17, 2016 at 12:02AM

Tired of having their concerns not addressed by Alaska’s Board of Game, opponents of wolf hunting near Denali National Park sought the attention of Gov. Bill Walker recently with a protest in downtown Fairbanks.

About two dozen people assembled at noon outside the 7th Avenue state offices building. They held signs and periodically howled likes wolves, drawing puzzled looks from people headed into the building.

Their signs addressed Walker directly with words like “Gov. step up” and “Bill, it’s time to act.” One used Walker’s Tlingit name of Gooch Waak, which means “wolf eyes.”

The protesters want Walker to order an emergency closure for the wolf hunting season near Denali National Park. The season opened last week.

A Walker spokeswoman said that she hadn’t had a chance to ask the governor for a response to the protest, but that Walker planned to meet with one of the protesters during his visit to Fairbanks and the Tanana Valley State Fair.

Gray wolves roam abundantly through much of Alaska but in recent years have become much less common inside Denali National Park — one of the main places visitors come to Alaska to see them.

The protesters argue that to protect Denali’s natural ecosystem and reputation as a place to spot wolves, wolf hunting should be stopped along the Stampede Trail corridor, a peninsula of state-managed land that juts into the park northwest of Healy.

The state instituted a buffer zone in 2000 to prevent wolf hunting close to the park boundary, but the Alaska Board of Game repealed it in 2010.

Fairbanks-based organization Alaskans For Wildlife organized last week’s demonstration. The group has about 40 members around Alaska, according to its president, Jim Kowalsky, who has a long history in environmental advocacy as a founder of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.

The group held the protest because the seven-member Board of Game has repeatedly voted down their requests for an emergency reintroduction of the wolf buffer zone. Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten has also rejected their demands for emergency wolf-hunting closures, with the exception of the spring 2015 season, which Cotten closed two weeks early.

Despite limited movement so far from the Walker administration, Kowalsky was somewhat optimistic that the demonstration would change policy.

The killing of wolves in a particularly famous wolf pack has given the buffer zone campaign fresh attention.

The East Fork Pack, also known as the Toklat Pack, has been the subject of National Park Service studies since the 1930s. The pack dropped from 14 wolves in March 2015 to perhaps zero in July 2016, according to the Park Service’s official narrative of the pack history. The agency attributes the loss of wolves to factors such as trapping, hunting, an animal attack — possibly from a golden eagle — and wolf dispersal to other areas. The Park Service study observed that the loss of the long-researched pack is “unfortunate” but that it doesn’t mean the loss of the pack’s lineage, which lives on in the descendants of East Fork pack that formed or joined other packs.

copyrighted wolf in water

Park Service ended a study of Alaska wolves, since so many have been killed

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

The state culled wolves that had been collared, and it’s no longer feasible to continue research.

For more than two decades, the National Park Service monitored the wolf packs in Alaska’s Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Now, so many of the predators have been killed by the state’s Department of Fish and Game that the feds have had to drop the program. It’s no longer feasible to conduct research, according to information recently published by the watchdog nonprofit, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The state has been shooting the wolves when they wander outside the boundaries of the federal preserve, to try to increase populations of moose and caribou for human hunters. According to Greg Dudgeon, superintendent of the preserve, since 2005, 90 wolves with ranges in Yukon-Charley have been killed, including 13 radio-collared animals that were essential to the park’s study. Each of the preserve’s nine wolf packs has lost members, and three packs have been entirely eliminated, while another five have been reduced to a single wolf each. The last population count by the National Park Service in 2011 came up with 77 wolves. Since that count, the Park Service wound down its study, officially ending it in 2014.

Jeff Rasic, chief of resources for Yukon-Charley Rivers and Gates of the Arctic National Park, says that federal budget constrictions played a factor in ending the study, but so did the number of collared wolves killed by ADFG and the fact that the state stopped giving the Park Service permits for collaring wolves on state land. “The state was pretty successful in killing wolves,” Rasic adds.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility published a letter on August 8, 2016 about the impacts the state’s predator killings had on the feds’ wolf study, bringing these issues back into the public eye.

“The expense of collaring and monitoring wolves for research is not sustainable when ADFG culls the same animals when located outside of the Preserve,” Dudgeon wrote in the letter to Richard Steiner of PEER, who had asked him what impacts ADFG has on wolf packs.

In additional correspondence that has been made public by PEER, Bruce Dale of ADFG confirmed that from 2011 to 2015, the department killed 179 wolves through its wolf control program. Dale also confirmed that his department uses 28 radio-collared “Judas” wolves to help them locate and kill other wolves.

Last fall, the National Park Service banned several sports hunting practices within federal preserves in an attempt to protect Alaskan predators like wolves and bears. But recent news of how many wolf packs have been eliminated or severely reduced by Alaska Department of Fish and Game across the state call into question if the federal ban went far enough to protect predators.

The 1916 Organic Act requires the National Park Service to manage wildlife for healthy populations of all animals, not just the ones that humans hunt for food. In October 2015, the Park Service made a breakthrough with something they had been asking Alaska Board of Game to do for years — exclude harmful practices within preserves like hunting wolves and coyotes with pups, baiting black and brown bears and using artificial lights to rouse hibernating bears out of their dens. The ban took effect this January.

Alaska’s Board of Game says that it’s required to curb predators by a 1994 food security law that required managing for abundant ungulate populations. By reducing wolves and bears, the board said, those populations would do better, benefiting Alaskans that rely on the herds for sustenance. The ban was eventually approved within the preserves, but the practices are still allowed outside their borders. This includes directly outside Denali National Park, where in 2010 the Board of Game eliminated a 122-square-mile buffer that protected wolves from hunting and trapping.

The park’s famed East Fork wolf pack, which had 17 members in 2014, disappeared in July 2016, according to state biologists. A number of wolves were known to have been hunted and killed, but it’s not clear what happened to the rest. Three days before Dudgeon wrote about the loss of wolves in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, biologists visited the den. Vegetation had begun to creep back over the entrance, and there were signs that porcupines had taken up residence. No wolves had been there for some time.

Anna V. Smith is an editorial intern at High Country News. She tweets

Shooters reduce Profanity Peak Pack by two wolves, so far

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two gray wolves in Ferry County have been killed by helicopter gunners after the Profanity Peak Pack was linked to killing livestock, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

Staff has been in the field every day since Aug. 4 after agency Director Jim Unsworth authorized killing a portion of the pack as a last resort after failed attempts to deter the attacks.  More wolves in the pack of about 11 animals are being targeted.

Gray wolves are protected by Washington state endangered species rules but allowances are made for removing wolves that can’t be thwarted from attacking livestock.

Two adult female wolves were shot on Friday, Aug. 5, said Donny Martorello, department wolf program manager.

“One of the wolves was this year’s breeding female,” he said.  “We were not targeting the breeding pair in this pack, but there is no way to identify the breeding animals during a removal operation, so there is always a chance a breeding animal may be killed.

“Given the age of the pups, we know that they are weaned, so the removal of the breeding female is not likely to impact their survival.  Typically, at this time of year, all of the remaining adults will provide food for the pups.”

The agency has not disclosed how many wolves will be killed.

As lethal removal efforts continue, the Diamond M Ranch livestock producers are continuing efforts to prevent wolf attacks on their cattle by using range riders to monitor activity around the herds, Martorello said.

No wolf depredation reports have been received since the lethal removal operation began, he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Department is posting updates on the effort on its Profanity Peak Pack webpage.

This is the third time the state agency has approved lethal removal operations since wolves were confirmed making a comeback in the state more than a decade ago.

Storied Alaska wolf pack beloved for decades has vanished, thanks to hunting

A wolf photographed near the park road in Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo: Tim Rains of the National Park Service.© Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post A wolf photographed near the park road in Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo: Tim Rains of the National Park Service.

For decades, the wolves of the storied East Fork pack were beloved by researchers and tourists alike at Alaska’s Denali National Park. They frequented the park’s entrance and roads and became the stars of hundreds of thousands of family vacation photos.

Since the 1930s, scientists have documented every detail of the pack’s lives: their hunting ranges, mating rituals, even the content of their droppings. They traced family lineage through dozens of generations, giving individual wolves names like “The Dandy,” “Grandpa” and “Robber Mask.”

Now the researchers must record one final detail in the wolves’ long history: They may all be dead.

The last radio-collared male was found shot dead near a hunting camp in May. Now, park officials can’t find the last three pack members: a uncollared female and her two pups. It’s impossible to know for sure what happened to them, officials said, but it’s unlikely that the mother and her pups will survive without the support and protection of a pack. The family’s den is empty and overgrown with weeds. Porcupines have taken it over since June 28, when the group was last seen.

The wolf pack is the most recent fatality of a controversial Alaska policy that allows hunters to kill wolves and other large predators in the state’s national wildlife refuges, wildlife advocates say. Park officials estimated 49 wolves lived in Denali National Park this spring, only three more than the park’s all-time low of 46 in 1986 and a significant decline from the early 2000s when it was common to count more than 100. In 2015, only 5 percent of Denali visitors reported seeing a wolf — down from 45 percent in 2010.

The East Fork pack’s decline was fast and drastic. In 2013, the nine-member East Fork pack was one of the largest of the nine monitored groups. By the fall of 2014 the pack’s numbers had grown to 17, according to park service data. Then, the numbers steadily drop.

The causes of their deaths vary. Many are shot and killed (legally and illegally) by hunters. One died of blood loss after becoming trapped in a snare. Some become untraceable and others die of natural causes. But one pattern emerges: About 75 percent of deaths in the East Fork pack in the past year were caused by human trapping and hunting, park biologist Bridget Borg told Alaska Public Media.

By May, only the mother wolf and her two cubs remained. Now, they are gone as well.

In a July report that details pack numbers, park officials wrote “it is unfortunate to lose track of this long-tenured and well-followed pack,” though they do note that the pack’s lineage would continue in the members of other packs who have bred with the East Fork wolves. Two other park packs, the Savage Pack and the Headquarters Pack, were previously destroyed by hunting and trapping, according to Wolf Song of Alaska, a non profit dedicated to preserving wolves.

The more than 70 years of continuous study make the East Fork pack one of the longest-observed large mammal families, perhaps only rivaled only by Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees.

Observation of the pack began in 1939 when National Park Service biologist Adolph Murie began tracking the wolves, following them on foot for more than two years — through buggy summers and hair-freezing winters — as they traversed the park’s 3,000 square miles. In 1944, he published a book, “The Wolves of Mount McKinley,” detailing his observations.

Things were better for the wolves then, it seems. Murie wrote “but as yet man’s activities have probably not altered conditions sufficiently to seriously change the (wolves’) natural relationships.”

Original drawings by biologist Adolph Murie of some of the first East Fork wolves from his 1944 book.© Images courtesy of the National Park Service. Original drawings by biologist Adolph Murie of some of the first East Fork wolves from his 1944 book.

But there might be hope for the remaining Denali wolves.

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the hunting of predators in Alaska’s 16 wildlife refuges unless needed “in response to a conservation concern.” The change was a challenge to a continuous push by the Alaska Board of Game to loosen the regulation of predator hunting, which the board calls “intensive predator management.”

Over the past few years, the board has approved a variety of controversial hunting methods, including targeting bears and wolves from planes and shooting wolves and their pups in their dens. In 2010, it eliminated a “buffer zone” that banned wolf hunting just outside of Denali’s borders, near the East Fork’s historic range. The zone was an effort to protect park wolves who wander outside of its boundaries. The last East Fork male was found dead in an area that would have been protected by the buffer.

“There comes a time when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must stand up for the authorities and principles that underpin our work and say ‘no,’” the wildlife service’s director, Dan Ashe, said about the new restrictions in a blog post published by The Huffington Post.

The state government “strongly opposes” the new rules, arguing that it is federal overreach into one of the state’s most lucrative industries and shrinks the moose and caribou populations that Native American groups rely on for food, The Guardian reports. Guided hunting generated a total of $78 million in economic activity and more than 2,210 jobs in 2012, according to a study commissioned by the Alaska Professional Hunters Association.

“These lands are your lands,” he wrote. “They are not game farms managed for a slice of their diversity for the benefit of a few people who would call themselves hunters.”

State Evidence Suggests New Wolf May Be in California’s Lassen County

Center for Biological Diversity

SAN FRANCISCO— New evidence released by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests there may be a wolf in Lassen County. The information — not yet conclusive — includes photos from four trail cameras between August and May and a hair sample from one of the sites. While DNA test results were inconclusive as to whether the animal is a wolf, dog or wolf-dog hybrid, the fact the animal persisted through the winter in this remote location leads agency officials to believe the animal is likely a wolf. The animal is not wearing a radio-collar, so its movements will be detectable only by trail camera, tracks, scat and sightings.

Possible wolf sighted in Lassen County
Photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We’re crossing our fingers that another wolf has arrived in California as part of the ongoing recovery of wolves across the West,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves continue to prove what scientists have said all along – that California has great habitat for wolves.”

The first wolf in nearly a century to enter California was OR-7, a radio-collared wolf from Oregon that dispersed from the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon and entered California in late 2011. OR-7 ranged across seven northeastern counties in California before returning to southwestern Oregon, where he found a mate and has now had litters of pups for three consecutive years. Then, in August 2015, California’s first known wolf family was confirmed from trail camera images captured in Siskiyou County. Named the Shasta pack, the all-black wolf family was comprised of two adults and five pups. And in December 2015, wolf OR-25, also originally from the Imnaha pack, crossed the border into California for three weeks before returning to Oregon, and has made several more forays into the Golden State since that time.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife also reported this month that scat samples from the two adults and four pups of the Shasta pack collected last October have been DNA-tested, and the results indicate that both the breeding male and female adults are related to wolves from Oregon’s Imnaha pack.  Of the four pups whose scat was tested, one is female and the other three are males

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) are native to California but were driven to extinction in the state by the mid-1920s. After OR-7 dispersed from Oregon into California, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the state to fully protect wolves under California’s state endangered species act. In June 2014 the California Fish and Game Commission voted in favor of the petition, making it illegal to intentionally kill any wolves that enter the state. In 2012 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife convened a citizen stakeholder group to help the agency develop a state wolf plan for California, and then circulated a draft version of the plan for public comment in early 2016. The agency anticipates releasing the final version of the plan sometime this year.

“With the potential confirmation of another wolf in California, we’re glad that that these magnificent animals are fully protected under state and federal law because each new wolf we gain is critical for the species to be able to recover here,” said Weiss. “We drove this species to extinction here and we are extremely fortunate to get a second chance to see these ecologically essential and beautiful animals return.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

North Idaho wolf pups killed at den; reward offered

Gray wolf pups. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)Gray wolf pups. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game is asking for the public’s help in determining who is responsible for removing and killing young wolves from a den in North Idaho.

The incident occurred in Kootenai County, about 15 miles from Coeur d’Alene, in the Sage Creek drainage, says Phil Cooper, department spokesman.   The incident likely occurred sometime during the week of May 16.

“Fish and Game manages wolves in Idaho as big game animals,” he said.  “There was no open season for wolves in the area when the juvenile wolves were killed.”

Fish and Game officers collected evidence at the scene and are following leads.

Information about the incident can be called in to the Citizens Against Poaching Hotline, (800) 632-5999.

“Callers may remain anonymous,” he said. “A reward is available for anyone providing information that leads to criminal prosecution of the case.”

Wolf and Bear

from Defenders of Wildlife:

It’s supposedly an energy bill, but the “North American Energy Infrastructure Act of 2016” contains a lethal dose of anti-wildlife amendments that will lead to dead wolves, dead bears and the destruction of many important wildlife protections.

And while the pro-oil, pro-coal, climate change-denying provisions of the bill are despicable, the anti-wildlife measures are equally catastrophic.

Tell your senators to oppose this bill’s wide array of anti-wildlife provisions.

This bill has incorporated the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Opportunity Act,” with all of its horrific attacks on wildlife and public lands that we have spoken about before.

The deadly wildlife provisions include:

  • Forced delisting of Wyoming and Great Lakes gray wolves – you might recall that before the federal courts reversed a premature delisting of Wyoming wolves, over 85 percent of the state had been declared a “predator zone,” where anyone could kill a wolf, at any time and for any reason;
  • Gun lobby-endorsed language that would hasten the extinction of African elephants by hindering U.S. efforts to crack down on the illegal ivory trade;
  • Provisions that would allow the most extreme forms of wolf and bear hunting on over 100 million acres of federally-protected wildlife habitat in Alaska, including baiting, snaring and killing mothers and young; and
  • Language that would severely undermine wildlife safeguards and encourage increased logging in the national forests that millions of creatures rely on for survival.

The anti-wildlife forces just won’t give up. It’s up to you and me to stop them.

Tell your senators to protect wildlife by opposing this harmful House Energy Bill!

Thanks for your tireless help on behalf of the wildlife we love.


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