The Natural Resources Board on Monday unanimously approved a statewide harvest quota of 200 gray wolves in a hunting and trapping season planned for Feb. 22-28 in Wisconsin.
The kill goal would be spread across the state’s six wolf management zones, excluding American Indian reservations.
Permit applications ($10) will be available beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday through midnight Saturday. Winners can purchase a $49 license beginning Feb. 22.
The flurry of activity comes after a Jefferson County judge ruled last Thursday that the Department of Natural Resources must hold a wolf hunting and trapping season this month.
State law calls on the DNR to hold a hunting and trapping season running from early November to the end of February if the wolf is not on the endangered or threatened species list.
The wolf was removed from the federal Endangered Species List on Jan. 4; the DNR planned to wait until November to begin the next wolf season. The board, which sets policy for the DNR, agreed in a 4-3 vote at its Jan. 22 meeting.
But Thursday’s ruling by Jefferson County judge Bennett Brantmeier forced the DNR and NRB to implement a season this month.https://2ab5fb641878beb095eb3234bac4b38a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
The ruling is being appealed in District Court I in Milwaukee County; the appeal was filed last Friday. Attorneys representing the DNR and NRB also submitted a motion seeking an expedited stay. The motion asks the appeals court to rule by 5 p.m. Monday.
Absent any new legal ruling, the DNR and NRB are proceeding with the wolf hunting and trapping season.
Monday’s board meeting was held by Zoom and lasted less than an hour. No public testimony was permitted.
National parks are important but insufficient for species revival
In 1987, a farmer near the town of Pouce Coupe, British Columbia, saw four gray wolves on his property and shot one of them. The wolf happened to be radio-collared, and the farmer reported the collar to authorities. The data revealed that the five-year-old female wolf had traveled all the way from Montana’s Glacier National Park—a distance of some 540 miles. This wolf, which was among the first litter of radio-collared wild-born wolves in the western United States, had loped through protected national parks and private ranches, crossed interstate highways, dodged traffic, and, along the way, avoided the rifle crosshairs of ranchers—until it met the last one.
That one wolf’s story is significant because it illustrates the opportunities and challenges that confront any wolf trying to recolonize the species’ former habitats. Before that event, biologists knew, via radio-collar tracking, that wolves traveled as much as 30 miles a day—but they didn’t know how far they would disperse. “This wolf was miles and decades away from the Yellowstone reintroduction,” says Diane Boyd, who is now the wolf and carnivore specialist of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Region 1. “Wolves were making a strong comeback in Montana on their own, [even though] Yellowstone was in the limelight for their reintroduction efforts.”“This is the most successful conservation story in North America.”
When many people think of wolf restoration, they naturally flash on the historic reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. Most people aren’t aware that wolves were simultaneously reintroduced in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness of No Return, and that, even before those notable events, wolves naturally recolonized Glacier National Park, in far northwestern Montana, in the early 1980s. National parks like Yellowstone and Glacier, it turns out, are only one part of the wolf recovery story.
“Parks and wilderness areas aren’t big enough [for full recovery],” says Michael Jamison of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Today, wolves have successfully recolonized many western states, including Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, while dispersals from those packs have migrated even farther outward to Washington, Oregon, and California and, more recently, to Colorado, Utah, and even Arizona. “This is the most successful conservation story in North America,” Boyd says.
As wolves rebound across the western United States, conservation biologists are looking at ways to connect migration routes that are independent of traditional land conservation models in order to allow the species to disperse and diversify its gene pool. Parks are a good start, but such protected areas are biological islands in a sea of private property, too small to hold on to all of their wildlife. Once wolves leave the safety and security of protected areas, they have to find suitable habitat, navigate roads, and dodge hunters and ranchers intent on killing them. In order to achieve full recovery, biologists and wildlife conservationists say, we need to connect together the isolated refuges of the parks. “We have to connect the dots,” Jamison says.
“Public land holdings are puppy factories,” says Carter Niemeyer, a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service wolf trapper who has studied wolves for 50 years and helped bring wolves down from Canada’s Jasper National Park to Yellowstone and Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness. “They are essential for pumping out animals.” But if wolves leave their family pack, they have “a one-way ticket” out if they leave the park because “outfitters, hunters, and trappers are on the edge knocking the hell out of them.” Idaho law, for example, allows individual hunters and trappers to kill up to 30 wolves a year. “All the different categories of public lands are central to dispersing animals and migrating species,” Niemeyer says.
Despite the threats from hunters and other obstacles such as roads, gray wolves are thriving in a way they haven’t in generations. There are an estimated 145 wolves in eastern Washington, and now 22 packs and 158 wolves in Oregon. There are at least a thousand wolves in both Idaho and Montana. Wyoming has 311 wolves. Experts estimate that California has 15 to 20 wolves. Voters in Colorado recently approved a ballot measure directing the state’s parks and wildlife agency to reintroduce wolves there—the first time that wolf reintroduction has been initiated via a popular referendum.
“One of the most important keys to wolf recovery is dispersal,” Boyd says. Wolves are dispersing from the epicenters like Glacier, the Frank Church Wilderness, and Yellowstone and moving westwards with ease because there are continuous forest corridors. But if they move south out of Yellowstone into Wyoming, there is an open expanse of land where they are considered varmints and can be shot on site or even aerially gunned down in fracking fields. Lone wolves have trouble making safe passage to distant lands because of the old rancher mentality of “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
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For the wolves themselves, such dispersals are often arduous; for humans, they can be inspiring. In 2009, a Yellowstone female made it to Colorado. In 2008, a female wolf named B-300 swam the Snake River to cross into northeastern Oregon from Idaho. The following year, she mated and had pups. One of them was the famous OR-7—the first wolf to appear in California in more than a century. That wolf found a mate and is now back in southwestern Oregon.
In 2014, wolf scat was found on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and later confirmed to belong to a gray wolf from the northern populations. Experts believe dispersals this far south means that the northern gray wolf populations could reintegrate with the Mexican gray wolf populations in the Southwest and help diversify the wolf gene pool. Also, in 2014, a four-year-old male from the Boundary Pack in northern Idaho was identified in Utah’s Uinta Mountains.
A few years later, OR-54, a pup of OR-7, was the 54th wolf to be collared in Oregon. Since January 2018, this female has traveled more than 8,700 miles looking for a mate. She never found one, and in the course of her search, she has crossed back and forth from Oregon to California twice, passing through nine counties. Along the way, the she-wolf also killed some livestock. In December 2019, her radio collar went silent.
If wolves don’t get shot once they leave protected areas, there is a very high chance they will be hit by a car. The 4.18 million miles of roads that crisscross the United States carve up and fragment important habitat. In an early sign of wolf expansion, eight years after the Yellowstone reintroduction, a two-year-old female from Yellowstone’s Swan Lake pack was hit on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs, Colorado. And once a road is constructed, it opens up former wildlands to the disturbance of human development and more habitat loss.
So, have wolves fully recovered?
Not exactly. The only truly healthy wolf populations that remain are in Alaska and Canada, where 90 percent of the wolves in North America live. This is mostly a function of viable habitat: Most of Alaska and Canada are undeveloped, and so there are simply fewer people, fewer hunters, fewer antagonistic ranchers, fewer vehicles, and fewer roads. In the Lower 48, wolf recovery—for all of its successes—remains precarious. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, there are no more than 6,000 wolves in the continental United States, and they occupy less than 10 percent of their historic range.
Boyd says she was midway through her career before she realized “people were going to make or break wolf recovery.” She smiles and reflects about how she loved wildlife but dreaded people. “Basically, the first 10 to 15 years of my career, I was kind of a misanthrope living in the North Fork Valley and running crews of dedicated volunteers. All we did was live and breathe wolves.” Now she spends most of her time creating “wolf tolerance zones” by mitigating problems with farmers and ranchers and correcting information. “Only through education can conservation be implemented.” “The old methods of conservation need to evolve into more complementary land-use models that include private lands held in conservancies and agricultural lands featuring a matrix of working acreage and wildlands.”
Boyd and Niemeyer agree that a lot of wildlife management is spent at the kitchen table in a ranch house, drinking coffee and getting acquainted. “Talking about the issues as well as forming relationships of trust,” Niemeyer says.
But even if conservationists succeed in cultivating human tolerance of wolves, the animals will remain isolated in protected areas unless we can construct migration corridors. Wolves and other animals don’t, of course, understand borders and boundaries as lines drawn on the maps. “The flipsides of boundaries are connections,” Jamison says. “Critters are going to go where critters have always gone, and sometimes that is inconvenient for us to figure out.”
That means that the old methods of conservation need to evolve into more complementary land-use models that include private lands held in conservancies and agricultural lands featuring a matrix of working acreage and wildlands. “Conservation has to wrangle with a pretty colonialist past of just putting lines on a map around pretty places that happened to be other people’s homes for thousands and thousands of years,” Jamison says.
One example of a new land-use designation is the proposed 130,000-acre Cultural Heritage Area in the Badger-Two Medicine portion of Montana’s Lewis and Clark National Forest. If established as envisioned, roughly half of the area will be set aside for conservation and the other half for cultural heritage preservation. “We have to work and heal our relations because all of the easy stuff has been done,” Jamison says. “New designations will deal with the fact that humans live here. But that is what connectivity is: linking up migrations and corridors by connecting the islands through existing land ownership and connecting people.”
In other places, wildlife migration corridors can be established through relatively simple methods such as building wildlife overpasses or underpasses to allow safe access across highways and interstates—a measure that also cuts down on vehicle collisions with wildlife and saves both animal and human lives. Another strategy is to create wildlife-friendly ranches that, among other measures, commit to removing the lowest strand from barbed-wire fences to allow pronghorn antelope to move through, or removing fences and opening fence gates at certain times of the year to allow elk or other game to move through. “Wolves can get around most obstacles, but the fewer the fences, the more receptive the land is to dispersal and migration of wildlife the better,” Niemeyer says.
“Nature’s a nomad, and she needs to move now more than ever because of a rapidly changing climate, compounded by the rapid development of landscapes, whether it is for industry or for highways or subdivisions,” Jamison says. “Critters are forced to move in ways they’ve never been forced to move before.”
*Trigger warning: Animal cruelty and wolf abuse discussed below
For over a year, my colleague at Western Watersheds Project and I have been paging through gory reports of dead livestock, most of them (questionably) attributed to Mexican wolf predation. I’ve gotten somewhat inured to seeing the bloody corpses of cattle, decapitated calves, and dissection necropsies. It’s unpleasant work, but it’s turned up some very interesting results: Namely, many of the confirmed Mexican wolf depredations are unsubstantiated based on the evidence in the reports, and some are so full-scale bogus as to call into question how, exactly, Wildlife Services is making these decisions.
Still, all the mangled livestock in those color photos didn’t prepare me for looking at photos of dead Mexican wolves. I have recently been poring through law enforcement reports of lobo deaths that were provided to me by the Center for Biological Diversity who obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act and, let me tell you, there are some real sickos out there killing wolves. Like, really sick.
I recently uncovered some evidence that Craig Thiessen, already known as a brutal wolf-hating rancher who whacked a trapped young wolf #1385 (named “Mia Tuk”) with a shovel so hard that it broke loose the lobo’s jaw, actually admitted to beating trapped wolves twice. He apparently confessed that he beat two trapped lobos into submission, and in a later declaration, he claims he let Mia Tuk go free afterwards and “sadly, it was later killed by other wolves.” The “sadly” of that sentence really ices the cake of this guy’s crime, given that he’s the same person who was investigated for leaving out poisoned meatballs near cow carcasses on the public lands that he rents from the American public to graze his cattle.
Other wolves from the same pack went missing the same year, and many of these disappearances look pretty darned suspicious. There’s the skull of Mia Tuk’s mother, AF1279, that was recovered a few months later in the vicinity of Mia Tuk’s body. The lower jaw had been cut with a handsaw, meaning (maybe?) that someone knew something about this wolf’s death and went back to try to… I don’t know… retrieve some wolf teeth? Why does someone take a saw to a wolf skull?
I wish that I could put these reports into a file called “Isolated Incidents,” and close that box. But then there’s female pup fp1389 who was shot with a projectile twice, hit in the head with a hammer-like object, and didn’t die until several days later when she developed a secondary infection. There’s adult female wolf #1212 who was caught in a snare trap by a rancher who knew there were wolves in the area but went ahead and set up traps for “coyotes.” (And yes, I’m just as horrified that coyotes are treated this way, but lobos are a highly endangered species, already at high risk of a second wild extinction, and every loss of an individual wolf puts the recovery of the entire species at risk). Then there are the poisoned meatballs, the high-powered rifles, the people who intentionally ran over a wolf with their truck, all the various ways that people kill wolves simply out of hatred and stupidity.
Somehow, even after years of hearing about “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up” from ranchers and trophy hunters, and seeing social media posts that boast about acts of extreme cruelty, the existence of these sick people still shocks me. I’m shocked at the maliciousness, the remorselessness, and the sheer spite it would require to torture or kill these creatures, and it enrages me how so many of them get away with it. My outrage alone doesn’t change anything; 96 wolves were known to have been killed illegally and missing under suspicious circumstances between 1998 and 2018.
So how do we change this? How do we get state law enforcement interested in prosecuting under the Animal Cruelty laws? How do we get federal prosecutors to actually go after these bastards? How do we get rid of the McKittrick policy that allows liars to claim they “thought it was a coyote” despite the brightly colored collars and the knowledge that there are lobos in the area? How do we solve the problem of entitled sickos who think it’s OK to rob wolf packs of family members and ecosystems of essential predators? I sure don’t know, but I know that by burying the crimes deep in the agency files isn’t helping, but maybe bringing some of these horrible stories to light will. Maybe with enough public pressure, we’ll see more interest in pursuing and prosecuting these crimes.
The gray wolf has been removed from the federal Endangered Species List, allowing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies to assume management of the species.
The delisting decision, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in late October and published in early November, became effective Jan. 4.
The change allows lethal measures to be used on the animals, including the killing of wolves that cause depredation of livestock as well as the use of hunting and trapping seasons to manage populations of the native predators.
In a statement, the DNR said it has “successfully managed gray wolves for decades and will continue to do so in accordance with the laws of our state and the best science available.”
The state most recently held management authority over wolves from 2012-14, when it held three hunting and trapping seasons and killed 528 wolves. A federal judge returned wolves to the Endangered Species List in Dec. 2014.
Wisconsin law requires a wolf hunting and trapping season to be held when the species is not under protections of the Endangered Species Act. The DNR plans to begin the next wolf season Nov. 6.
The agency also said it is working to complete a 10-year wolf management plan to help guide future management decisions for the species in Wisconsin.
Although delisted, it remains unlawful to shoot a wolf unless there is an immediate threat to human safety. Or, if on private land, a wolf can be shot and killed if it is in the act of killing or wounding livestock or a domestic animal such as a pet.
The delisting also triggered a change in the funding source and the timing used to pay for wolf depredations. The monies must now come from proceeds of sales of wolf hunting and trapping licenses and applications. When protected by the ESA, the compensation is drawn from the state’s endangered resources fund.https://3e22d27c5b1ac2c4e967ae96df5b0471.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Under state management, the payouts for wolf depredations will also be delayed until the end of the year, and could be pro-rated based on available funds, said Brad Koele, DNR wildlife damage specialist.
State statute allows payments of $2,500 to hound hunters and others who have lost dogs to wolves. But that could be reduced if insufficient funds are available.
Wolf depredations in Wisconsin were running higher in 2020. A DNR report through the end of October showed 90 confirmed or probable wolf depredations, compared to full-year depredations of 82, 73 and 61 in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively.
No wolf depredation of a farm animal or pet has occurred in Wisconsin so far in 2021, according to state data.
The DNR estimated the 2019-20 Wisconsin wolf population at a modern-era high of 1,195 animals and 256 packs.
No case of a wolf attack on a human has been verified in Wisconsin history.
If wolf depredation is seen or suspected, the public should contact USDA-Wildlife Services at (800) 228-1368 in northern Wisconsin and (800) 433-0663 in the rest of the state.
The agency, which is contracted by the DNR, will send a staff member to the site to conduct an investigation. https://3e22d27c5b1ac2c4e967ae96df5b0471.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
To assist with the investigation, USDA-Wildlife Services recommends not moving or unnecessarily handling a carcass as well as preserving any evidence at the kill site by using a tarp to cover a carcass to discourage scavengers and preserve any tracks, scat and other material.
The delisting was opposed by American Indian tribes and many environmental and animal protection organizations.
Several groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, have vowed to overturn the delisting through legal action.
Experts say old, repurposed techniques and new technologies may be better than bullets at curbing attacks by the predators
By Max G. LevySMITHSONIANMAG.COM
DECEMBER 11, 2020
Nestled amid butterscotch-scented Ponderosa pines in Idaho’s backcountry one sunny, summer day in 1991, Suzanne Stone scooped her hands around her chin and let out an “Ahwooooo.” Stone, now an expert in wolf restoration heading the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, was then an intern at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). After she sent two boisterous wolf howls rippling through nearby meadows, she listened curiously for a reply. Instead, a bullet from a distant rifle whistled just above her and her supervisor’s heads. Steve Fritts, a leading wolf scientist at USFWS, hurried Stone back to their car before reporting what happened. Hunting was legal in the area, but firing at federal employees—even unknowingly—was not. Federal investigators later traced the shot to a hunting outfitter hundreds of yards away.
“I knew then what wolves were facing in the backcountry,” she says. For nearly three decades, wolf populations in Idaho have been on the rise, pitting local communities and powerful interest groups against each other, a situation that plays out in many areas across the country where wolves exist. Hunters contend that wolves have fully recovered and now deplete elk and deer populations while some ranchers argue wolves need to be killed to keep livestock alive. Conservationists, on the other hand, say that the apex predators contribute vitally to a healthy ecosystem and are still functionally extinct in about 85 percent of their historic range.
In October, the Trump administration delisted gray wolves from the endangered species list, a move celebrated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Safari Club International, a hunter advocacy group, in a joint statement. The conservationist group Defenders of Wildlife, meanwhile, issued a statement of their own calling the delisting “premature and reckless.” They have joined other conservation groups to file a formal intent to sue the USFWS soon after the law takes effect in January.
With gray wolves set to lose their federal protection when delisting takes effect in January, individual states have resorted to patching together their own terms for management, making it easier for people to hunt them in some states. But hunting will likely stunt wolf recovery and destabilize ecosystems already hobbled by their scarcity. Wolves regulate coyote populations, preventing the latter group from hunting pronghorn antelope; wolves pick off weak, rather than healthy, prey, leading to stronger deer and elk herds; and they keep wild herbivores from overgrazing, rippling benefits down to the soil. For these reasons, biologists have been trying to convince ranchers and policymakers that nonlethal methods, both old and new, should be used to reduce livestock conflicts and keep wolf populations stable or growing.
Wolves were nearly wiped out from the lower 48 by 1960, but numbers rebounded after Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and scientists reintroduced the predators to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in 1995. Hunting ramped up between 2008 and 2012 when the USFWS delisted gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, in part to protect livestock from attack. But that tactic may have been counterproductive. Research from the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the University of Wisconsin Madison has shown that killing gray wolves actually leads to three times more livestock attacks, a finding supported by behavioral studies elsewhere. “The wolf pack is a family,” says Adrian Treves, who runs the lab. They cooperate to defend territory and raise pups. When one is killed, the destabilizing effect ripples through the pack. Reproductive age goes down, and naive juvenile attacks on livestock go up, according to Colleen St. Clair, a biologist at the University of Alberta.
Ranchers’ fears also run deeper than just slain cows. Even if livestock don’t die, wolves may chase or stress cattle enough that many lose weight, get trampled or injured. “I have major concerns about [wolves],” says Megan Brown, a cattle rancher in northern California who has encountered bears and wolves on her property. “I’ve noticed this happening slightly more now that the wolves are back.” (In 2011, California confirmed its first wild wolf sighting in 87 years.)
One newly proven tactic to discourage wolf-cattle conflicts is to keep an abundant population of the predators’ natural prey. Wolves prefer eating native wild animals, and depleted deer or elk populations nudge them toward abundant sheep and cattle. “Predators are always facing this cost benefit ratio,” St. Clair says. “When they choose to try to prey on livestock, it’s because they are in a situation where that’s their best option.” She suggests that planting deer or elk carcasses in wolf habitats or imposing stricter hunting limits could increase prey populations. Since doing so could also grow predator numbers, both approaches are contentious.
A tried-and-true change some ranchers have made is to keep their herds disease-free and haul dead livestock far from the rest. Wolves are exceptionally sensitive to weakened prey. “It’s like ringing the dinner bell and saying, ‘Come on in there’s a feast here’,” says Stone. Once the scent of a carcass lures them near a herd, healthy livestock become more vulnerable. Moving bone piles and carcasses far from the herd “may be the single best action” to prevent wolf predation on livestock from happening in the first place, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This approach, while effective, adds costs to ranching and requires some to manage land differently than they have for generations.
It’s also not going to be a cure-all; ranchers can’t bury or haul thousand-pound carcasses from some remote pastures in the dead of winter, and healthy herds need protection too. Since wolves have evolved to be shy around unfamiliar things, a common strategy is to scare them away with devices called nonlethal deterrents. A centuries’ old example comes from Polish hunting practices: fladry is a perimeter of tightly spaced colorful flags. The configuration is not a physical barrier, but the narrow spacing between flags still throws wolves off. Hunters previously used fladry to funnel wolves into an ambush area, but scientists now champion the tool to spare them. In one instance, a biologist used fladry around a carcass visited by wolves. A hungry carnivore leapt over a nearby barbed wire fence “like it wasn’t even there,” but didn’t cross the fladry.
Since wolf reintroduction in 1995, scientists have gathered much evidence showing that random blasts of colorful light, noise or motion can also protect livestock enclosures by keeping wolves on edge. Stone recalls one wolf getting blasted with Van Halen. “It was one of our Wildlife Services guys’ favorite albums, and it was very hard rock,” she says. The frightened wolf fled further than any other in her experience. Ranchers also scare away wolves using strobe lights and starter pistols. Stone, who has used countless deterrents in her 30 years of experience, even reported success with inflatable tubemen—those giant grinning effigies that dance unpredictably, often around used car lots. She assembled a pair on an Oregon hobby farm in 2018 where wolves had eaten llamas, and wolves have still not returned, she says.
Nonlethal deterrent devices have limitations, though. Some require electricity and all only protect enclosed areas—two deal-breakers for herds grazing open pastures. Even in ideal scenarios, wolves eventually tease out empty threats. “Animals are incredibly smart,” says St. Clair. “Their lives depend on figuring out which of these dangers are real dangers.” Targeting multiple senses with a rotating library of deterrents staves off their pattern recognition, but habituation remains a major consideration.
Recent research suggests that tricking carnivores into thinking livestock is disgusting food, can condition, rather than scare them. The approach includes developing microcapsules with nauseating chemicals that ranchers would plant in carcasses as bait for curious carnivores. Making an animal vomit triggers an association with what they just ate, ironing a crease into a primitive subsection deep in the brain. So if a wolf eats a carcass laced with this flavorless capsule, it would start to steer clear of dead steer. This “conditioned disgust” aversion showed promising results in a 2009 study on captive wolves, but the method hasn’t been tested widely in wild wolves.
Recognizing animal cognition inevitably leads to appreciating individual differences between wolves. “We know that individuals vary in their ingenuity—their determination to get through our defenses, their tendency to repeat and cause multiple problems,” Treves says.
The environmental nonprofit Resolve and AI company CVEDIA recently announced WildEyes, a field camera that reportedly recognizes different individuals. “It’s a perfect example of how technology is catching up with the new paradigm of coexistence-type work,” says Stone. WildEyes can automatically alert ranchers of worrisome individuals in the area, or set off deterrents to scare the wolves away. The new technology has been tested on Tibetan wolves, but has not been used in the United States.
According to Stone, one rancher in Montana is testing a tool that monitors livestock heart rates to detect distress—a sort of Fitbit for ungulates. When the device senses stressed livestock, it alerts the rancher that a predator may be close. And other ranchers are also supercharging classic deterrents. Turbofladry combines fladry with electric fences, and works well for smaller enclosed herds.
While some ranchers try new methods, others have stuck with a couple of old standbys that scientists still encourage. Range riders, people paid to travel alongside free-grazing herds on horseback or ATV, can cover more area than electric fences usually surround. In addition to just supervising cattle, range riders encourage wolf-resistant behaviors: grazing as a dense cluster, keeping newborns with moms and moving injured cattle to safety. And guardian dogs, such as Great Pyrenees, can also travel with livestock beyond fence lines. A 2010 study from Central Michigan University proved their ability to dramatic reduce wolf activity, protecting sheep, goats and cattle. At several cattle farms randomly assigned guardian dogs, wolf visits dropped from about once per month to zero visits in three years. Brown says, however, that ranchers with many acres need many dogs—each costing thousands to feed and maintain.
“Every part of this is about having the right tool and using it the right way,” says Stone, pointing out that some ranches require multiple tactics at once. In 2017, Stone published findings from a seven-year case study comparing sheep killings in a lethally controlled area to one protected by range riders, turbofladry, guardian dogs and other nonlethal deterrents. The nonlethal controls led to 3.5 times fewer dead sheep—just .02 percent of the total population.
Switching from lethal to nonlethal measures widely, however, is tough without more buy-in from government and ranchers. More than half of ranchers surveyed in one study wanted to learn more about nonlethal techniques, but funding to foster that desire is lagging. Some states, such as Oregon, do provide grants to help cover costs for nonlethal controls though. When Colorado welcomes wolves back after passing a reintroduction bill in November, Stone hopes policymakers will learn from that evidence, and encourage the suite of nonlethal solutions for protecting livestock and wolves, rather than the lethal measures which endanger both.
For now, the best approach to deter gray wolves’ from attacking livestock is to combine multiple nonlethal methods, and encourage biologists and ranchers to keep innovating. “People often want a silver bullet: they buy this technique, they install it, it works forever,” says St. Clair. “It’ll never be like that. Animals will always be testing, especially animals as smart as wolves.”
October 29, 20204:42 PM ET
A gray wolf is captured by a remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in Oregon in 2017.Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife/AP
Gray wolves, a species that has long been vilified and admired, will no longer receive federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in the Lower 48 U.S. states, the Trump administration announced Thursday.
The long-anticipated move is drawing praise from those who want to see the iconic species managed by state and tribal governments, and harsh criticism from those who believe federal protections should remain in place until wolves inhabit more of their historical range. Gray wolves used to exist across most of North America.
“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, announcing the delisting, which will revert management of wolf populations to local wildlife agencies.
Federal wildlife officials are hailing the move as a success story, similar to endangered species recovery stories such as the bald eagle and American alligator.
After being nearly wiped clean from the contiguous U.S. by the mid-20th century, there are now more than 6,000 gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, largely clustered in the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes region.Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://f5581fa88159aeabf2406214dd563910.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Critics are calling the move premature, though, and are already promising to sue.
“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice.”Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast.”
Some critics are portraying the move as another environmental attack by the Trump administration, which has rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, including protections for endangered species and migratory birds. But wolves have a complicated history that doesn’t fit cleanly into the bipartisan rancor that now dominates U.S. environmental policies.
After being hunted, trapped, poisoned and harassed to the point of near extirpation in the contiguous U.S., all gray wolves south of Canada were given federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1978.
Under that protection, their numbers slowly recovered in the Great Lakes region, and in 1995 federal wildlife officials reintroduced gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, where their population has since flourished.
In 2013, the Obama administration also proposed to delist gray wolves, saying that the species had rebounded to the point where they were no longer at risk of extinction and should be managed by state and tribal governments.
A couple of years earlier, wolf populations in Montana and Idaho were delisted by a congressional budget rider, authored by a Democrat and Republican senator in each of those states who were pressured by agricultural and sportsmen groups. Wolves are an apex predator that, at times, kill livestock. Subsequent lawsuits saw gray wolves get delisted, relisted and delisted again in Wyoming.
Today, state wildlife agencies manage wolf populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and hunting of the species is permitted.
Similar hunting seasons are expected in some Midwestern states if the national delisting survives the anticipated court challenges, and wildlife groups contend that hunting seasons will limit wolves’ ability to repopulate other parts of the country.
Randy Johnson, a large carnivore specialist for Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, told Wisconsin Public Radio this month that if wolf management fell back to the state, it would use all of the tools available to find a balance “between a healthy and sustainable wolf population, but also addressing those social concerns and livestock concerns when and where needed.”
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! An individual may now kill 30 wolves per year in Idaho !!!!!!!!!!!!!
September 11, 2020
Samantha Bruegger, WildEarth Guardians, (970) 363-4191, firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THIS RELEASE
Wildlife Gray wolf
#DefendCarnivores, #EndTheWarOnWildlife, #EndangeredSpeciesAct, #StopExtinction
BOISE—As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that the removal of wolves from Endangered Species Act protection nation-wide is “very imminent,” new data from Idaho show the ugly face of state wolf management there.
According to an analysis of records obtained by Western Watersheds Project, hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies have killed 570 wolves in Idaho during a 12-month period from July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Included in the mortality are at least 35 wolf pups, some weighing less than 16 pounds and likely only 4 to 6 weeks old. Some of the wolves shattered teeth trying to bite their way out of traps, others died of hyperthermia in traps set by the U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services, and more were gunned down in aerial control actions. The total mortality during this period represented nearly 60 percent of the 2019 year-end estimated Idaho wolf population.
“There is nothing scientific about the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s management, which seems to be guided by anti-wolf hysteria among some members of the ranching and hunting communities, rather than any sort of conservation ethic,” said Talasi Brooks of Western Watersheds Project. “It is cruel, morally and ethically reprehensible, and policy is set through a process which denies conservation interests any voice.”
About 400 wolves have been killed each year in Idaho for the past several years, and the 570 wolves killed in 2019-2020 is record-breaking, perhaps reflecting Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s (IDFG) incentivization of wolf killing. This level of population disruption leads to population-level effects among wolves, including population decline, a younger, destabilized population, and ultimately more livestock conflicts.
“It’s sickening to see how wolves have been slaughtered in Idaho once federal Endangered Species Act protections were lifted,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If wolves are delisted nationwide, this cruelty could extend to all wolves within our country’s borders. This treatment of our nation’s wildlife is unacceptable.”
“Idaho’s reckless, violent, massacre of wolves and their pups not only showcases the worst of state wildlife “management,” it shines a light on the darkest corners of humanity. To maim, bludgeon and actively seek to destroy a native animal, that is familial and social by nature, is disgusting,” said Samantha Bruegger, Wildlife Coexistence Campaigner with WildEarth Guardians. “Tragically, the Idaho narrative clearly shows, to the rest of the country, what can happen to wolves if they are delisted from the Endangered Species Act.”
“Idaho is not ‘managing’ wolvesbut is attempting to reduce the state wolf population to the brink of federal relisting while jeopardizing region-wide recovery of a native carnivore. This inhumane mass killing of wolves abuses federal recovery objectives and is one of many reasons why Endangered Species Act protection is so important for gray wolves nationwide,” said Zoe Hanley of Defenders of Wildlife.
IDFG recently announced it had awarded approximately $21,000 in “challenge grants” to the north Idaho-based Foundation 4 Wildlife Management, which reimburses wolf trappers a bounty up to $1,000 per wolf killed. The Foundation also has received funding for wolf bounties from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. A single individual may now kill up to 30 wolves under IDFG hunting and trapping rules—a new increase from the 20 wolves previously allowed.
“It is beyond tragic that Idaho has become the poster child for animal cruelty through their pathological destruction of wolves,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “I find it hard to believe that most Idahoans would approve of this indefensible carnage being carried out on behalf of zealots in the ranching and hunting community. Time and again we see that removing Endangered Species Act protection and allowing states to manage wolves generally leads to mass slaughter.”
“Wolves are a native species and part of our iconic Western wildlife heritage,” said Derek Goldman, Northern Rockies Representative of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It’s deeply disappointing that Idaho Department of Fish and Game is abandoning science and ethics in its zeal to eradicate wolves, when many nonlethal, less-costly approaches to conflict prevention already exist.”
Andrea Zaccardi, Center for Biological Diversity, (303) 854-7748; Zoe Hanley, Defenders of Wildlife, (509) 774-7357; Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261; Talasi Brooks, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 336-9077; Derek Goldman, Endangered Species Coalition, (406) 370-6491
Restrictions Aim to Protect Rare Tricolored Blackbirds, Beaver, Gray Wolves
SAN FRANCISCO— In response to a lawsuit filed by wildlife advocacy groups, a federal animal-killing program must restrict its use of bird-killing poisons in Northern California and stop setting strangulation snares and other traps in places like the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The agreement, approved today by a San Francisco federal court, also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to analyze the environmental impacts of its killing of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and other wildlife in California’s “Sacramento District.” This 10-county region covers Colusa, El Dorado, Lake, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties.
“This victory will save hundreds of animals that would have needlessly suffered and died in traps set by Wildlife Services over the next several years,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney representing the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit. “It’s another important win in our fight to shut down this agency’s destructive and indiscriminate war on bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife.”
Under the court order approved today, Wildlife Services must provide, by the end of 2023, an “environmental impact statement” that analyzes the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in the Sacramento District. It must also offer opportunities for public input.
Pending completion of that study, the court order imposes several measures to protect wildlife in the 10-county area. For example, it restricts use of the avicide DRC-1339 to prevent accidental poisoning of state-threatened tricolored blackbirds. It also bans any use of body-gripping traps, such as strangulation snares, in several areas.
The court order further ends most beaver-killing in waterways where endangered wildlife depends on beaver-created habitats. The order also spells out several measures to protect California’s endangered gray wolves from being accidentally killed in traps set for other carnivores.
“We are pleased that Wildlife Services has agreed to consider the environmental impacts of its wildlife-killing program,” said Cristina Stella, an attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Wild animals in California deserve our protection, and this victory assures that they will be free from some of the cruelest killing practices until Wildlife Services complies with federal law.”
“This agreement will ensure greater transparency and accountability from a federal agency that has run roughshod over America’s wildlife for far too long,” said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote executive director. “Many cost effective, non-lethal solutions exist to address human-wildlife conflicts that are more humane, ecologically sound and ethically defensible. We are hopeful that this settlement will propel a shift in this direction statewide.”
Today’s victory is the result of a lawsuit filed in August 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund and Project Coyote.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is a multimillion-dollar federal program that uses painful leghold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and aerial gunning to kill coyotes, cougars, birds and other wild animals. Most of the killing is in response to requests from the agriculture industry.
In 2018 Wildlife Services reported killing nearly 1.5 million native animals nationwide. That year, in California, the program reported killing 26,441 native animals, including 3,826 coyotes, 859 beavers, 170 foxes, 83 mountain lions and 105 black bears. The 5,675 birds killed in 2018 in California included blackbirds, ducks, egrets, hawks, owls and doves.
Today’s victory follows several other recent wins by wildlife advocates in their campaigns against Wildlife Services, including in California (2019 and 2017), Oregon (2018), Colorado (2017), Arizona (2017), Idaho (2019 and 2018) and Wyoming (2019).
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Project Coyote is a national nonprofit organization and a North American coalition of wildlife educators, scientists, ranchers, and community leaders promoting coexistence between people and wildlife, and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy. For more information, visit www.projectcoyote.org
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2019 12:01PM EST
MONTREAL – A Quebec government plan to kill wolves that get too close to an endangered woodland caribou herd is raising concern among environmentalists, who accuse the government of sidestepping the true problem of habitat loss.
The plan by the Department of Forest, Wildlife and Parks involves placing tracking collars on both the caribou and members of local wolf packs to monitor distances between them.
If a wolf were to threaten the herd, trained shooters in helicopters could be sent in to kill the wolf in a “targeted intervention,” according to Francis Forcier, who is the general manager for strategic mandates at the department.
“What we’ve started to do, given this drastic fall of nearly 50 per cent in two years, is to look at measures that are stronger but temporary, because the principal element we have to do is restore the habitat,” he said in a phone interview.
Forcier said no wolves have yet been shot, and they will be left alone as long as they don’t threaten the herd. Overall, he believes no more than a dozen wolves will need to be killed.
The plan has drawn criticism from both environmentalists and members of the public. A petition denouncing the plan to shoot the wolves currently had amassed more than 9,000 signatures by Wednesday.
Rachel Plotkin, a caribou expert who works with the David Suzuki Foundation, says predator control is a popular management practice employed by provinces “that don’t have the political will to do the habitat restoration and protection that is needed to recover caribou populations.”
She said that while wolves are indeed killing caribou, that’s because of human activity that has destroyed the old-growth forests that protect them.
“Predator control is just a band-aid measure that further degrades ecosystems,” she said. “Predators and their prey have co-evolved for thousands of years, and they’re not the reason the caribou is declining.”
Plotkin notes that the federal government’s caribou management plan found that caribou herds need a minimum of 65 per cent of their range left undisturbed if they’re to have any reasonable chance of survival. The Charlevoix herd’s habitat has only 20 per cent.
Both environmentalists and the government agree that habitat preservation is crucial to the survival of the caribou, which are especially sensitive to human interference and depend on thick, old-growth forests to shield them from predators and provide the lichen they eat.
Those same old-growth forests are prized by the forestry industry, and Forcier acknowledged that finding a balance between economic growth and conservation is a challenge. But he said the government is limiting development on important lands and will take even stronger action in a caribou restoration plan to be unveiled in 2022.
Henri Jacob, the head of environmental advocacy group Action Boreale, feels the provincial government’s actions show it has no intention of helping caribou. He points out that the promised action plan will only be implemented at the end of the current government’s mandate.
“In other words, for their whole mandate they’ll do nothing to protect the caribou,” he said.
He also criticized the province’s decision, announced this week, to remove protection for some 460 square kilometres of woods in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, which had been previously designated protected caribou habitat.
Jacob is also critical of the government’s plan to kill wolves, noting they can actually help keep herds healthier by eliminating sicker, weaker animals.
He said that while predator management can sometimes be part of a temporary preservation strategy, it serves no purpose if it is not paired with serious effort to preserve habitat.
“When you want to make a cake, if you only put in flour, you won’t have a cake,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec 11, 2019