2009 Revisited – Gray Wolves in the Crosshairs

gray wolf

April 28. 2016

 In order to understand wolf persecution, as it stands today, it’s our obligation to look back and re-visit the Obama administration’s war against wolves, which started with the delisting of Northern Rockies gray wolves in the Spring of 2009, four months after the President took office. His rancher Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, wasted no time stripping wolves of their ESA protections. Idaho and Montana almost immediately proposed wolf hunts that started in the fall.

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September 16, 2009

The gray wolf stands at a crossroads in the lower 48.  Stripped of their Endangered Species status by the Obama administration,  they are left unprotected from the guns in Montana and Idaho. The first federally sanctioned wolf hunts in the Continental US are taking place as I write this.  Thanks Ken Salazar for allowing the de-listing of wolves to stand.  I thought a Democrat administration would be different, apparently it’s business as usual in wolf country.

Idaho’s hunt started on September 1st, with a quota of 220 wolves from a population of 875.  That’s one-fourth of Idaho’s wolves.  Montana’s hunt began Sept 15, 75 wolves are slated for execution. How did it come to this?

The purpose of this blog is to explore that question and try to understand why this magnificent apex predator is so misunderstood and hated, merely because they exist. I welcome your comments and opinions wolf lovers.

Meanwhile a federal judge in Missoula, Montana holds the fate of gray wolves in his hands. Thirteen environmental groups filed a lawsuit opposing the de-listing and asked Judge Molloy to grant an injunction to stop the wolf hunts, while the lawsuit was pending.

The judge issued a partial ruling on September 8th denying the injunction to stop the hunts but stated the plaintiffs opposing the de-listing were likely to prevail on the merits of the case. Small comfort for the wolf as it’s being hunted. Male, female wolves and pups of the year can be taken. Yes, apparently it’s OK to hunt PUPPIES!!

The war against wolves continues unabated.

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Photo: wolf wallpaper

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Howling for Justice

Tags: gray wolf/canis lupus, Montana wolves, Idaho wolves, wolf intolerance, wolf myths, President Obama, Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior, gray wolves delisted

Wolf Wars Begins – 2009 Gray Wolf De-Listing By Obama Administration…

Gray_Wolf_Delisting

April 26, 2016

Wolf Wars

Lets go back in time to the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies by the new Obama administration. It was the Spring of 2009, almost 8 years ago. Mere months after wolves were delisted Montana and Idaho planned the first organized wolf hunts, to begin in the Fall of the 2009, something unheard of for any newly delisted species. And remember before the delisting, Wildlife Services had been killing wolves and entire wolf packs since the end of the 1990’s,  for their masters, Agribusiness/big ranching/farming. Now wolves faced three foes, Wildlife Services, Wolf Hunts and Poaching.

The persecution of wolves kicked into high gear, where it’s remained until this day! 

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September 16, 2009

One of the first acts of the Obama administration was to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies.  Incredible harm and sadness has come from this completely shocking and disturbing decision, a Democrat who promised to set a new tone in Washington, turned his back on the ESA and wolves.

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PRESS RELEASE 

April 1, 2009

Alliance For the Wild Rockies

Interior Secretary Salazar Finalizes Wolf Delisting

Conservation Groups Will Challenge the Removal of Essential Federal Protections

Washington, D.C. – An advance copy of the Federal Register – released today – contains a final version of the federal government’s decision to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky mountains except for those in Wyoming. The delisting effort revives an effort launched by the Bush administration which was halted in January for review when the Obama administration took office. Today’s delisting decision is the second time in twelve months the federal government has removed federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, successfully sued to get the protections reinstated in July 2008.

Delisting wolves means they’ll be subject to state sponsored hunting year unless stopped by legal action. Idaho and Montana plan to allow hundreds of wolves to be shot.

The decision to lift wolf protections comes as Yellowstone Park wolves declined by 27 percent in the last year, one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The northern Rockies wolf population also has not achieved a level of connectivity between the greater Yellowstone, central Idaho, and northwest Montana areas that is essential to wolves’ long-term survival.

Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “Independent scientists say that between 2,000 and 3,000 wolves are needed to have a sustainable, fully recovered population. After delisting, the northern Rockies wolf population may be allowed to drop to only 300 to 450 wolves. This is not managing for recovery. It is managing for the relisting of wolves.”

Wolves will remain under federal control in Wyoming because a federal court previously ruled that Wyoming’s hostile wolf management scheme leaves wolves in ‘serious jeopardy.’ The Fish and Wildlife Service in the recent past held that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the Endangered Species Act, including in their earlier decision to not delist wolves without Wyoming’s inclusion. In today’s delisting decision, the federal government flip-flops on its earlier position.

In addition to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have refused to make enforceable commitments to maintaining viable wolf populations within their borders. On the very day the first delisting took effect in March, 2008, Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a law allowing Idaho citizens to kill wolves without a permit whenever wolves are annoying, disturbing, or ‘worrying’ livestock or domestic animals. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission established rules that would have allowed 428 wolves to be killed in 2008 alone had the court not returned wolves to the endangered species list. Montana also authorized a fall wolf hunt.

Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, will send the Fish and Wildlife Service a notice that the delisting violates the Endangered Species Act tomorrow. If the agency does not reconsider the delisting rule, the conservation groups will again ask a federal court to reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies until wolf numbers are stronger and the states pledge to responsibly manage wolves.

Earthjustice represents Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Project, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2009/interior-secretary-salazar-finalizes-wolf-delisting

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Gray wolf lawsuits filed in Montana, Wyoming

EVE BYRON – Independent Record – 06/03/09 | Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 11:00 pm


As promised, a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missoula Tuesday to try to halt the removal of gray wolves from the list of animals covered by the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho.

In an equally expected move Tuesday in Wyoming, the state sued the federal government over its decision to retain protection for wolves in that state.

“This is not about science or biology, it’s about politics,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wyoming says they have too many wolves and the environmental groups say there aren’t enough.

“Both sides are beating each other up, and we’re in the middle of the road. The wolf recovery program made our commitments, we looked at the science and made a decision. So now we’re getting run over by both sides.”

Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, says Bangs’ comment is a “straw man argument.”

“I think he’s being a little hypocritical,” Garrity said. “They said they couldn’t delist wolves before without Wyoming and now they say they can.”

The 13 groups announced their intent to sue 60 days ago, after the Obama administration in April removed gray wolves in Montana and Idaho from the list.

In Wyoming, wolves remain under federal protection because the state’s management plan classified them as predators that could be shot on sight throughout most of the state.

The ability to shoot wolves in Montana and Idaho have more restrictions on when wolves can be shot, but both states’ management plans include hunting seasons.

Critics argue that wolves don’t recognize state boundaries, and they can’t be recovered in one state while endangered in an adjacent state.

In making the delisting announcement in April, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and others with the federal government disagree, with Salazar saying in March that dropping gray wolves from the list is justified by their strong comeback in the northern Rockies, now home to 1,645 wolves in 98 breeding pairs.

An estimated 1,000 wolf pups probably were born this spring, added Bangs.

Montana has a minimum of 497 wolves with 34 breeding pairs; Idaho has 846 wolves with 39 breeding pairs; and Wyoming has confirmed 302 wolves with 25 breeding pairs.

“These numbers are about five times higher than the minimum population recovery goal and three times higher than the minimum breeding pair recovery goal. The end of 2008 will mark the ninth consecutive year the population has exceeded our numeric and distributional recovery goals,” the federal government noted in its decision to delist the wolves.

A breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female that have reproduced to create packs, and Bangs said anywhere from four to 14 wolves can be in the pack.

Yet Garrity and others argue that to ensure biological diversity of any species, about 500 breeding pairs are needed. That would equate to anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 wolves in packs.

“That’s not just in Montana, but throughout the northern Rockies and could include Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington,” Garrity said. “So Montana could have the same number of wolves; they would just be spread out among the Rockies.”

The conservation groups warn in their lawsuit that delisting wolves will cause a dramatic decline in populations so they’ll never “achieve true recovery as envisioned by Congress.”

“This suit is about ensuring a successful ending to one of the greatest of all conservation stories,” said Louisa Willcox, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Livingston. “Sustainable recovery for wolves in the Northern Rockies is tantalizingly close, but we are not there yet.

“We look forward to a time when wolves can be taken off the list; but sadly, state-sponsored hunts are only going to push that finish line further away,” Wilcox added. “Until the wolf population in the Northern Rockies reaches a sustainable level, this fight will continue.”

According to the Associated Press, Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg said his state maintains the federal government has no scientific reason to reject Wyoming’s management plan, and that the government is trying to force the state to support more than its fair share of the wolf population.

This is the third attempt to take wolves off the list of protected species, and the second time a lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Project and Hell’s Canyon Preservation Council.

In the first lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy stated that the federal government acted arbitrarily in delisting a wolf population that lacked evidence of genetic exchange between the sub-populations and shouldn’t have approved Wyoming’s wolf management plan because it failed to commit to manage for at least 15 breeding pairs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then pulled its plan, but reissued it without delisting wolves in Wyoming shortly before the Bush administration left office. The Obama administration put a hold on the delisting, but upon review decided to move forward.

Tens of thousands of gray wolves once roamed North America but were trapped, poisoned and shot until near extinction in the United States. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and reintroduction efforts began in 1994.

To view the delisting rule and a copy of the environmental groups’ lawsuit, follow the links below.

The Wyoming lawsuit hadn’t been posted as of press time.

Click here to read the federal delisting rule.

Click here to read the conservation groups’ lawsuit.

Reporter Eve Byron: eve.byron@helenair.com

http://www.helenair.com/news/state-and-regional/article_bc386a4d-dc1f-5761-8e60-d798931a3dd2.html

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File Photo

Posted in:  Howling for Justice, Wolf Wars

Tags: Wolf 2009 delisting, gray wolf/canis lupus, Idaho wolves, Montana wolves,  Obama administration delists wolves, Ken Salazar, Department of the Interior, Wolf hunts planned

Wolves ARE The True Lords Of Nature!

July 6, 2015

It’s important to remember why we need wolves!

This was one of my early posts from the fall of 2009. Wolves were being hunted in Idaho and Montana for the first time since their near extermination in the lower 48.

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October 29, 2009

Wolves effect their surroundings and bring life to the lands they inhabit. For sixty years elk browsed the meadows of the North Fork of the Flathead, in Montana. Their adversary, canis lupus, who had chased them through time, was gone, hunted to extinction in the West.

Then the wolf came home to it’s native habitat and dispersed the elk. This brought back the aspen and willow, young shoots no longer trampled under the complacent elk’s hooves. With the aspen came the songbirds and other wildlife.

Once more the circle was complete with the return of the great canine, the wolf.

 “Aspen ecosystems are considered some of the finest and richest songbird habitat on the continent, second only to river-bottom riparian zones. Remove the wolf, and you remove the songbirds. Remove the songbirds, and the bugs move in. Everything changes, top to bottom, right down to the dirt”…..Cristina Eisenberg,  Oregon State University researcher

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Wolves Increase Biodiversity And Greatly Benefit The Ecosystems They Inhabit

Matt Skoglund Wildlife Advocate, Livingston, Montana

Posted October 26, 2009 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

Wolves matter.

They lead to more songbirds.  Better trout habitat.  More game birds.  Less insects.  Better soil.  Fewer coyotes.  Wilder elk.  More aspen trees.

Wolves, in essence, are key to a healthy landscape.

So says biologist Christina Eisenberg in a fascinating Missoulian article on the effect of wolves — and their absence — on an ecosystem.

Eisenberg has been studying the top-to-bottom effect of wolves — called a “trophic cascade” — in Glacier National Park for years.  She’s also been researching ecosystems near St. Mary’s, Montana, and in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.

“Each study site is about the same size, and each has a similarly large elk population, native to an aspen-based winter range, and each has the same general density of cougars and bears.”  The difference between the sites is the number of resident wolves:  St. Mary’s has none, Waterton some, and Glacier many.

Her findings on the much heated debate over wolves and elk mirror what others have found:  there are plenty of elk in the Northern Rockies, but the return of wolves has made the elk behave again like wild elk:

The North Fork, Eisenberg said, is “full of wolves,” and has been for 20 years now.  It’s also full of elk – as many as 14 elk per square kilometer in this meadow, where the wolf den site is located.  Elk scat litters the ground not 20 yards from the den.

Clearly, the wolves aren’t eating all the elk.  But aside from the tracks and the scat and the bones and the antlers, there are no elk to be seen.

“They’ve totally changed their behavior,” Eisenberg said.  “For 60 years we’ve become used to complacent elk.  These elk aren’t complacent.  They’re on high alert.”

From a browse standpoint, that means elk eat a bit and move on, eat a bit and move on, never standing in one place long enough to eat a tree down to its roots.  And from a human standpoint, it means hunters see far fewer elk even as state wildlife officials insist Montana has more deer and elk than it’s had for years.

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Hunters, of course, prefer elk that aren’t quite so wily, but trophic cascades work both ways in wildlife management.  Remove the wolves, and elk are easier to find.  But then coyote populations explode, eating their way through the local game-bird population.  Enhance one hunting opportunity, and you affect another.

And from a bigger viewpoint than just elk, Eisenberg has found that wolves increase biodiversity and greatly benefit the overall health of the areas they inhabit:

Remove the wolves, she said, and you lose the birds.

Remove the wolves, she said, and the coyotes fill the niche.  The coyotes eat the ground squirrels, and so the meadows don’t get “plowed,” and soil productivity declines.

Remove the wolves, she said, and the deer eat the river-bottom willows, and the bull trout lose both their shade and their food, as insects no longer fall from overhanging brush.

Remove the wolves, she said, “and everything changes.”

Why is this so noteworthy?

Because the places with greatest biodiversity are the places most resilient, most able to adapt to, say, changing climate.

And Eisenberg wisely thinks her — and others’ — findings should guide wolf management.

Wolf populations aren’t recovered with 12 breeding pairs, or 15, or 20, Eisenberg said.  They’re recovered when there are enough wolves and other top-end predators to maximize biodiversity.  

Her findings are important, and they’re timely, as wolves are being gunned down all over Idaho and Montana right now.

In her research and in this article, Eisenberg simply and unequivocally points out a critical fact that’s been lost in the recent debate over the wolf hunts:

Wolves matter.

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mskoglund/wolves_increase_biodiversity_a.html

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Tracking science: Biologist’s findings show forest diversity, health influenced by wolves

Wolf%20pack

http://www.missoulian.com/lifestyles/territory/article_3ec9fc54-c01f-11de-bf16-001cc4c002e0.html

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Photo: First People

Photo: wolf wallpaper

Posted in: biodiversity, wolf recovery, gray wolf,  Glacier National Park

Tags: wolf recovery, gray wolf,  biodiversity

Of Wolves and Men…….

black-wolf-dominant retriever man dot com jpg

April 10, 2015

This was one of my first posts. It’s as timely today as it was almost six years ago.

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September 2009

Nature Magazine examines reasons behind wolf hatred and the systematic campaign to remove them from the lower forty-eight. It merits repeating that for thousands of years Native Americans were able to live with wolves and bears, while settlers saw them as a threat. Even the famed naturalist James Audubon partook in torturing wolves, which was particularly shocking to learn.

As noted in Michael Robinson’s “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West”, the federal government became the wolf killing arm for the livestock industry.

By understanding the roots of wolf prejudice it’s clear to see why wolves have been demonized in American culture. The wolf has paid dearly for these attitudes. Even though the same outdated beliefs exist today, we are moving forward to a clearer understanding of the important role predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Man cannot continue to play god, deciding which animals are good or bad. Predators do not have ulterior motives, they hunt because that is what they are born to do and by so doing contribute to the health and stamina of their prey.

The nexus of wolf wars is the continuing presence of livestock on the Western range. This has been and will continue to be the reason wolves remain caught in the crossfire.

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From Nature Online:

The Wolf That Changed America
Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

 Wolves have been feared, hated, and persecuted for hundreds of years in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans incorporated wolves into their legends and rituals, portraying them as ferocious warriors in some traditions and thieving spirits in others. European Americans, however, simply despised wolves. Many, including celebrated painter and naturalist John James Audubon, believed wolves ought to be eradicated for the threat they posed to valuable livestock. This attitude enabled a centuries-long extermination campaign that nearly wiped out the gray wolf in the continental United States by 1950.

Origins of Wolf Hatred

In the New World, two top predators – wolves and men – that otherwise would have avoided each other clashed over livestock. In Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, Jon T. Coleman writes:

Wolves had a ghostly presence in colonial landscapes. Settlers heard howls, but they rarely spotted their serenaders. The fearsome beasts avoided humans. People frightened them, and colonists knew this: “They are fearefull Curres,” reported Thomas Morton in 1637, “and will runne away from a man (that meeteth them by chance at a banke end) as fast as any fearefull dogge.”

Because humans and wolves frightened one another, they logically avoided confrontation, opening space between the species. But that space closed when European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and pigs with them over the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Without these animals – sources of food and transportation for the European settlers – the colonies would have failed. But because most early colonial communities were small, livestock often grazed on the periphery of the settlements with little protection. Their pastures abutted and bled into the wild, exposing the animals to hungry wolves in search of prey. Wolves quickly learned that docile cattle and sheep made easy meals. Suddenly, colonists found their livelihoods in danger, and they lashed out at wolves, both with physical violence and folklore that ensured wolf hatred would be passed down from one generation to the next.

Amateur and Professional Wolf Baiting

The campaign to eradicate wolves in North America began with private landowners and farmers baiting and trapping wolves. Often, colonists turned wolf baiting into both sport and protection for their livestock. Jon T. Coleman describes an incident that took place in the winter of 1814 deep in the Ohio River Valley, in which John James Audubon assists a farmer as he mutilates trapped wolves.

During the fall, a pack of wolves had robbed [the farmer] of “nearly the whole of his sheep and one of his colts.” For him, it made sense to devote his winter labor to digging pits, weaving platforms, hunting bait, and setting and checking his traps twice daily. The animals had injured him, and “he was now ‘paying them off in full.’” Audubon’s reaction to the slaying of the wolves is less understandable … The ingenious pit traps amazed him, as did the fearsome predators’ meek behavior and the childlike glee the farmer took in his work. The violence Audubon witnessed, however, did not shock him. Watching a pack of dogs rip apart terrified and defenseless animals was a “sport” both he and the farmer found enjoyable.

Further west, in Yellowstone National Park, wolf baiting and hunting had become a lucrative profession. Paul Schullery, in his guidebook to Yellowstone wolves (The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook), describes the profession and the devastating affect it had on the Yellowstone wolf population: “At least as early as 1877, ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned with strychnine by free-lance ‘wolfers’ for ‘wolf or wolverine bait.’ By 1880, [Yellowstone National Park] Superintendent [Philetus] Norris stated in his annual report that ‘…the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.’”

In the Southwest, as settlers depleted bison, elk, deer, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – the predators turned more and more to picking off livestock. In states like New Mexico where cattle ranching was big business, ranchers responded by turning to professional wolfers and bounty hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, “To protect livestock, ranchers and government agencies began an eradication campaign. Bounty programs initiated in the 19th century continued as late as 1965, offering $20 to $50 per wolf. Wolves were trapped, shot, dug from their dens, and hunted with dogs. Poisoned animal carcasses were left out for wolves, a practice that also killed eagles, ravens, foxes, bears, and other animals that fed on the tainted carrion.”

Government-Sanctioned Wolf Extermination Programs   

            

Government Trapper

Towards the end of the 19th Century, wealthy livestock owners increased both their demand for wider grazing ranges and their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the federal government established the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, initially chartered to research insects and birds. However, the livestock lobby quickly diverted the Bureau’s attention to wolves. Stockowners complained that their land was infested with wolves, calling them “breeding grounds.” They demanded the federal government secure their land for safe pasturage.

In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service acquiesced to the stockowners and enlisted the help of the Bureau of Biological Survey to clear cattle ranges of gray wolves. In other words, the Bureau became a wolf-extermination unit. Bruce Hampton writes in The Great American Wolf:

That same year [1906], bureau biologist Vernon Bailey traveled to Wyoming and New Mexico to investigate the extent of wolf and coyote depredations. Upon Bailey’s return to Washington, D.C., President Roosevelt invited him to the White House to see what he had learned. Although there is no record of their conversation, immediately following Bailey’s meeting the President, the Biological Survey recommended that the government begin “devising methods for the destruction of the animals [wolves].”

By the middle of the 20th Century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. Yet the Bureau of Biological Survey was still disseminating anti-wolf propaganda as late as 1940. One poster from the time read:

According to estimates of stockmen [the Custer Wolf, pictured in the poster] killed $25,000 worth of cattle during the seven years he was known in the vicinity of Custer, South Dakota … A local bounty of $500 failed to secure his capture. A Department hunter ended his career of destruction by a skillfully set trap. Many notorious wolves are known to have killed cattle valued at $3000 to $5000 in a year. More than 3,849 wolves have been destroyed by the predatory animal work of the Department and its cooperators since the work was organized in 1915.

It was not until the late sixties, when a greater understanding of natural ecosystems began changing attitudes in the scientific community and the National Park Service, that the plight of wolves in North America began to improve.

In 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson, in Yellowstone National Park, where the last gray wolf was killed in 1926, “the entire [gray wolf] restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act – a law created to ground a decades-old cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity.”

Since then, wolf populations throughout the country have increased. In 1995 and 1996, researchers in Yellowstone National Park released 31 Canadian gray wolves back into the wild. The event was hailed as a testament to the conservation movement’s efforts to revive wild wolf populations in America. Yet anti-wolf attitudes persist. Shortly after the release of the Yellowstone wolves a hunter shot and killed Wolf Number 10. Smith and Ferguson write about the incident: “As disturbing as the shooting itself was, more unsavory still was the reaction of a handful of locals who cheered the killing, calling it an act of heroism.”

The Wolf That Changed America

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Photos © Arizona Historical Society

Sources

Coleman, Jon T. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Robinson, Michael J. Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Schullery, Paul. The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Worland, Wyoming: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Smith, Douglas W. and Gary Ferguson. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. [updated January 2007; cited November 2008]

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-wolf-that-changed-america/wolf-wars-americas-campaign-to-eradicate-the-wolf/4312/

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Top Photo:  Courtesy retrievermandotnet

Photos: Nature Online

Video: Courtesy YouTube PBS

Posted in: Wolf  Wars

Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, Nature Online, The Wolf That Changed America, PBS

Of Wolves and Men…….

black wolf nexus wallpaper

October 7, 2014

This was one of my first posts. It traces the origins of wolf hatred and persecution. Wolves have suffered greatly at the hands of man.

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September 29, 2009

Nature Magazine examines reasons behind wolf hatred and the systematic campaign to remove them from the lower forty-eight. It merits repeating that for thousands of years Native Americans were able to live with wolves and bears, while settlers saw them as a threat. Even the famed naturalist James Audubon partook in torturing wolves, which was particularly shocking to learn.

As noted in Michael Robinson’s “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West”, the federal government became the wolf killing arm for the livestock industry.

By understanding the roots of wolf prejudice it’s clear to see why wolves have been demonized in American culture. The wolf has paid dearly for these attitudes. Even though the same outdated beliefs exist today, we are moving forward to a clearer understanding of the important role predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Man cannot continue to play god, deciding which animals are good or bad. Predators do not have ulterior motives, they hunt because that is what they are born to do and by so doing contribute to the health and stamina of their prey.

The nexus of wolf wars is the continuing presence of livestock on the Western range. This has been and will continue to be the reason wolves remain caught in the crossfire.

===

From Nature Online:

The Wolf That Changed America
Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

 Wolves have been feared, hated, and persecuted for hundreds of years in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans incorporated wolves into their legends and rituals, portraying them as ferocious warriors in some traditions and thieving spirits in others. European Americans, however, simply despised wolves. Many, including celebrated painter and naturalist John James Audubon, believed wolves ought to be eradicated for the threat they posed to valuable livestock. This attitude enabled a centuries-long extermination campaign that nearly wiped out the gray wolf in the continental United States by 1950.

Origins of Wolf Hatred

In the New World, two top predators – wolves and men – that otherwise would have avoided each other clashed over livestock. In Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, Jon T. Coleman writes:

Wolves had a ghostly presence in colonial landscapes. Settlers heard howls, but they rarely spotted their serenaders. The fearsome beasts avoided humans. People frightened them, and colonists knew this: “They are fearefull Curres,” reported Thomas Morton in 1637, “and will runne away from a man (that meeteth them by chance at a banke end) as fast as any fearefull dogge.”

Because humans and wolves frightened one another, they logically avoided confrontation, opening space between the species. But that space closed when European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and pigs with them over the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Without these animals – sources of food and transportation for the European settlers – the colonies would have failed. But because most early colonial communities were small, livestock often grazed on the periphery of the settlements with little protection. Their pastures abutted and bled into the wild, exposing the animals to hungry wolves in search of prey. Wolves quickly learned that docile cattle and sheep made easy meals. Suddenly, colonists found their livelihoods in danger, and they lashed out at wolves, both with physical violence and folklore that ensured wolf hatred would be passed down from one generation to the next.

Amateur and Professional Wolf Baiting

The campaign to eradicate wolves in North America began with private landowners and farmers baiting and trapping wolves. Often, colonists turned wolf baiting into both sport and protection for their livestock. Jon T. Coleman describes an incident that took place in the winter of 1814 deep in the Ohio River Valley, in which John James Audubon assists a farmer as he mutilates trapped wolves.

During the fall, a pack of wolves had robbed [the farmer] of “nearly the whole of his sheep and one of his colts.” For him, it made sense to devote his winter labor to digging pits, weaving platforms, hunting bait, and setting and checking his traps twice daily. The animals had injured him, and “he was now ‘paying them off in full.’” Audubon’s reaction to the slaying of the wolves is less understandable … The ingenious pit traps amazed him, as did the fearsome predators’ meek behavior and the childlike glee the farmer took in his work. The violence Audubon witnessed, however, did not shock him. Watching a pack of dogs rip apart terrified and defenseless animals was a “sport” both he and the farmer found enjoyable.

Further west, in Yellowstone National Park, wolf baiting and hunting had become a lucrative profession. Paul Schullery, in his guidebook to Yellowstone wolves (The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook), describes the profession and the devastating affect it had on the Yellowstone wolf population: “At least as early as 1877, ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned with strychnine by free-lance ‘wolfers’ for ‘wolf or wolverine bait.’ By 1880, [Yellowstone National Park] Superintendent [Philetus] Norris stated in his annual report that ‘…the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.’”

In the Southwest, as settlers depleted bison, elk, deer, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – the predators turned more and more to picking off livestock. In states like New Mexico where cattle ranching was big business, ranchers responded by turning to professional wolfers and bounty hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, “To protect livestock, ranchers and government agencies began an eradication campaign. Bounty programs initiated in the 19th century continued as late as 1965, offering $20 to $50 per wolf. Wolves were trapped, shot, dug from their dens, and hunted with dogs. Poisoned animal carcasses were left out for wolves, a practice that also killed eagles, ravens, foxes, bears, and other animals that fed on the tainted carrion.”

Government-Sanctioned Wolf Extermination Programs   

            

Government Trapper

Towards the end of the 19th Century, wealthy livestock owners increased both their demand for wider grazing ranges and their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the federal government established the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, initially chartered to research insects and birds. However, the livestock lobby quickly diverted the Bureau’s attention to wolves. Stockowners complained that their land was infested with wolves, calling them “breeding grounds.” They demanded the federal government secure their land for safe pasturage.

In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service acquiesced to the stockowners and enlisted the help of the Bureau of Biological Survey (now USFWS) to clear cattle ranges of gray wolves. In other words, the Bureau became a wolf-extermination unit. Bruce Hampton writes in The Great American Wolf:

That same year [1906], bureau biologist Vernon Bailey traveled to Wyoming and New Mexico to investigate the extent of wolf and coyote depredations. Upon Bailey’s return to Washington, D.C., President Roosevelt invited him to the White House to see what he had learned. Although there is no record of their conversation, immediately following Bailey’s meeting the President, the Biological Survey recommended that the government begin “devising methods for the destruction of the animals [wolves].”

By the middle of the 20th Century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. Yet the Bureau of Biological Survey was still disseminating anti-wolf propaganda as late as 1940. One poster from the time read:

According to estimates of stockmen [the Custer Wolf, pictured in the poster] killed $25,000 worth of cattle during the seven years he was known in the vicinity of Custer, South Dakota … A local bounty of $500 failed to secure his capture. A Department hunter ended his career of destruction by a skillfully set trap. Many notorious wolves are known to have killed cattle valued at $3000 to $5000 in a year. More than 3,849 wolves have been destroyed by the predatory animal work of the Department and its cooperators since the work was organized in 1915.

It was not until the late sixties, when a greater understanding of natural ecosystems began changing attitudes in the scientific community and the National Park Service, that the plight of wolves in North America began to improve.

In 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson, in Yellowstone National Park, where the last gray wolf was killed in 1926, “the entire [gray wolf] restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act – a law created to ground a decades-old cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity.”

Since then, wolf populations throughout the country have increased. In 1995 and 1996, researchers in Yellowstone National Park released 31 Canadian gray wolves back into the wild. The event was hailed as a testament to the conservation movement’s efforts to revive wild wolf populations in America. Yet anti-wolf attitudes persist. Shortly after the release of the Yellowstone wolves a hunter shot and killed Wolf Number 10. Smith and Ferguson write about the incident: “As disturbing as the shooting itself was, more unsavory still was the reaction of a handful of locals who cheered the killing, calling it an act of heroism.”

Photos © Arizona Historical Society

Sources

Coleman, Jon T. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Robinson, Michael J. Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Schullery, Paul. The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Worland, Wyoming: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Smith, Douglas W. and Gary Ferguson. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. [updated January 2007; cited November 2008]

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/the-wolf-that-changed-america/wolf-wars-americas-campaign-to-eradicate-the-wolf/4312/

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The Wolf That Changed America

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Photo:  Courtesy Nexus wolf wallpaper

Video: Courtesy YouTube thejungletv95

Posted in: Wolf  Wars

Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, The Wolf That Changed America, Nature

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 2:59 am  Comments (17)  
Tags: , ,

Gray Wolves in the Crosshairs

Mt_Emily_male_wolf_brown_odfw

Mt. Emily male wolf/odfw

September 9, 2014

Howling for Justice turns five on September 16 and “Gray Wolves In The Crosshairs” was my first post.

It’s hard to believe all that’s happened  to wolves in the past  five years, much of it bad. We had such high hopes of prevailing in the courts, because we were winning! After the initial delisting in the Spring of 2009 and sadly losing 500 wolves the first year, Judge Molloy relisted wolves on August 5, 2010. But the victory was short-lived, the anti-wolf forces knew they were losing so they turned to Congress to trump the ESA and delist wolves. And Congress listened.  In the Spring of 2011 the US Senate  betrayed wolves. Apparently they valued holding onto their Senate majority more than the lives of wolves. The wolf delisting rider, attached to a must pass budget bill, will forever live in infamy as a part of each Senator’s legacy who voted yes.

For the next few days I’ll be revisiting my earlier posts, written in 2009, to take us back five years and help us remember what a hard-fought battle we’ve waged for wolves.  Just remember, wolf blood continues to flow, as another year of hunting wolves spans six states. Even wolves who remain “protected” are not safe, as the accidentally/on purpose killing of  Washington’s  Huckleberry Pack alpha female clearly shows.  That’s why we cannot stop fighting for wolves!

For the wolves, For the wild ones,

Nabeki

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Gray Wolves In The Crosshairs

gray wolf in snow wallpaper

September 16, 2009

The gray wolf stands at a crossroads in the lower 48.  Stripped of their Endangered Species status by the Obama administration, they are left unprotected from the guns in Montana and Idaho. The first federally sanctioned wolf hunts in the Continental US are taking place as I write this.  Thanks Ken Salazar for allowing the de-listing of wolves to stand.  I thought a Democratic administration would be different, apparently it’s business as usual in wolf country.

Idaho’s hunt started on September 1st, with a quota of 220 wolves from a population of 875.  That’s one-fourth of Idaho’s wolves.  Montana’s hunt began Sept 15, 75 wolves are slated for execution. How did it come to this?

The purpose of this blog is to explore that question and try to understand why this magnificent apex predator is so misunderstood and hated, merely because they exist. I welcome your comments and opinions wolf lovers.

Meanwhile a federal judge in Missoula, Montana holds the fate of gray wolves in his hands. Thirteen environmental groups filed a lawsuit opposing the de-listing and asked Judge Molloy to grant an injunction to stop the wolf hunts, while the lawsuit was pending.

The judge issued a partial ruling on September 8th denying the injunction to stop the hunts but stated the plaintiffs opposing the de-listing were likely to prevail on the merits of the case. Small comfort for the wolf as it’s being hunted. Male, female wolves and pups of the year can be taken. Yes, apparently it’s OK to hunt PUPPIES!!

The war against wolves continues unabated.

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Photo: wolf wallpaper

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Howling for Justice

Tags: gray wolf/canis lupus, Montana wolves, Idaho wolves, wolf intolerance, wolf myths

Senior Wolves Give Elk A Break

social security

Update: June 30, 2012

I posted this in 2009, just as the first wolf hunts were underway in Montana and Idaho. I believed that if we provided  fish and game managers with scientific fact about the detrimental effects of wolf hunting it might have some effect. How naive I was! The only thing they care about is pleasing two groups of people (hunters and ranchers) and “managing” wolves down to a shadow population of 100 to 150 animals per state.

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November 5, 2009

It turns out wolves age just like people and according to wolf researcher, Daniel MacNulty, by age four, wolves are considered old. This insight into the life span of wolves could have far-reaching implications concerning “managing” them.   The older the wolf, the less threat they are to elk, due to their reduced physical stamina.

The teenagers and young adults of the pack do most of the leg work chasing down prey, while the older wolves are important at the end of the chase, with their larger bodies and heftier builds, they help youngsters with the take down.  It all makes perfect sense.  Dr. MacNulty states hunting wolves to reduce their numbers may backfire.

“It’s been shown in other hunted populations of wolves that hunting skews the population toward younger age classes,” he explains. And, as his research shows, that could spell more deaths, not fewer, for the elk.

The reason hunting pushes a population’s age structure downward is because being hunted is like playing Russian roulette. If, starting early in life, every member of a society had to play Russian roulette regularly, not too many would live to a ripe old age, he says.”

But wolf supporters don’t really believe wolf hunts are about “the science.”  Still I’m hopeful Dr.MacNulty’s research will open a few eyes.

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Washed-up wolves

Surprising discoveries about aging wolves and their effects on elk

washed up wolves

The elk-hunting skills of wolves decline significantly with age, a University of Minnesota study shows.

Photo: Douglas Dance

By Deane Morrison

Contrary to their fearsome, folk tale-rooted image, wolves just aren’t all that good as predators. To bring down big prey, they have nothing but speed and teeth–no claws that can rip flesh, no massive paws to kayo their quarry.

Now, a University of Minnesota-led study of wolves in Yellowstone National Park shows how even that modest ability soon ebbs away. Daniel MacNulty and his colleagues found that the wolves were in their hunting prime at the ages of 2 and 3, but then their skills deteriorated steadily. They lived, on average, till age 6.

Writing in the September 23, 2009 issue of Ecology Letters, MacNulty, a postdoctoral researcher in the University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, and his colleagues reported that the higher the proportion of wolves older than 3 in the park, the lower the rate at which they kill elk, their main source of food. The findings run counter to a belief, held by many ecologists, that wild predators maintain their physical skills as long as they live.

But the study “shows that aging impairs the ability of the wolves to catch elk,” says MacNulty, “The data connect aging with an important ecological process, namely predation.”

MacNulty has followed the Yellowstone wolves since their reintroduction to the park in 1995. He says the lowered hunting ability of older wolves may afford some protection to the elk, which would fare worse if all the wolves were spring chickens.

“For example, when 22 percent of the wolves in Yellowstone were 3 or older, the kill rate was 0.4 elk per pack per day,” says MacNulty. “If the older wolves were 52 percent of the population, the kill rate dropped to 0.22 elk per pack per day.”

In general, for every 10 percent rise in the proportion of wolves older than 3, the Yellowstone wolf population saw a decline in the kill rate of 10 to 15 percent, he says.

“… [W]hen 22 percent of the wolves in Yellowstone were 3 or older, the kill rate was 0.4 elk per pack per day. If the older wolves were 52 percent of the population, the kill rate dropped to 0.22 elk per pack per day.”

MacNulty has also documented the decline of individual aging wolves’ hunting skills. For example:

“Wolf number 21 in the Druid Peak pack lived to about 9,” he says. “Video of 21 over his lifetime showed him slowing down when chasing elk as he neared the end of life.”
As the geezer wolves lose their edge, the study suggests that young adults in the pack shoulder more of the workload and share their kills. This may provide aging members of the pack with a lupine version of social security.

Why wolf hunting may backfire

The number of elk in Yellowstone has declined in recent years, and many believe wolves are the main cause, MacNulty says. But he notes that drought, which has reduced the supply of plants elk eat, and predation of elk calves by grizzly bears have also probably contributed.

Montana legalized wolf hunting after the animal was taken off the endangered species list in 2008. But hunting of wolves won’t necessarily help the elk, and not just because only a few wolves have been taken so far, MacNulty says.

“It’s been shown in other hunted populations of wolves that hunting skews the population toward younger age classes,” he explains. And, as his research shows, that could spell more deaths, not fewer, for the elk.

The reason hunting pushes a population’s age structure downward is because being hunted is like playing Russian roulette. If, starting early in life, every member of a society had to play Russian roulette regularly, not too many would live to a ripe old age, he says.

Currently, MacNulty is working with a colleague at Michigan Technological University to “nail down,” or quantify, the effect on elk of wolf management that involves hunting. 

“We’re modeling wolf-elk dynamics and looking at how changes in wolf age structure affect elk numbers,” he says.

http://www1.umn.edu/news/features/2009/UR_CONTENT_143264.html

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Photo: Courtesy Douglas Dance

Categories posted in: gray wolf,  wolf recovery, wolves under fire

Tags: gray wolf, wolf recovery, wolf research, senior wolves, MacNulty

Wolves ARE The True Lords Of Nature!

It’s important to remember why we need wolves!

This was one of my early posts in the fall of 2009. Wolves were being hunted in Idaho and Montana for the first time since their near extermination in the lower 48.

October 29, 2009 

Wolves effect their surroundings and bring life to the lands they inhabit. For sixty years elk browsed the meadows of the North Fork of the Flathead, in Montana. Their adversary, Canis Lupus, who had chased them through time, was gone, hunted to extinction in the West.

Then the wolf came home to it’s native habitat and dispersed the elk. This brought back the aspen and willow, young shoots no longer trampled under the complacent elk’s hooves. With the aspen came the songbirds and other wildlife.

Once more the circle was complete with the return of the great canine, the wolf.

 “Aspen ecosystems are considered some of the finest and richest songbird habitat on the continent, second only to river-bottom riparian zones. Remove the wolf, and you remove the songbirds. Remove the songbirds, and the bugs move in. Everything changes, top to bottom, right down to the dirt”…..Cristina Eisenberg,  Oregon State University researcher

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Wolves Increase Biodiversity And Greatly Benefit The Ecosystems They Inhabit

Matt Skoglund Wildlife Advocate, Livingston, Montana

Posted October 26, 2009 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

Wolves matter.

They lead to more songbirds.  Better trout habitat.  More game birds.  Less insects.  Better soil.  Fewer coyotes.  Wilder elk.  More aspen trees.

Wolves, in essence, are key to a healthy landscape.

So says biologist Christina Eisenberg in a fascinating Missoulian article on the effect of wolves — and their absence — on an ecosystem.

Eisenberg has been studying the top-to-bottom effect of wolves — called a “trophic cascade” — in Glacier National Park for years.  She’s also been researching ecosystems near St. Mary’s, Montana, and in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada.

“Each study site is about the same size, and each has a similarly large elk population, native to an aspen-based winter range, and each has the same general density of cougars and bears.”  The difference between the sites is the number of resident wolves:  St. Mary’s has none, Waterton some, and Glacier many.

Her findings on the much heated debate over wolves and elk mirror what others have found:  there are plenty of elk in the Northern Rockies, but the return of wolves has made the elk behave again like wild elk:

The North Fork, Eisenberg said, is “full of wolves,” and has been for 20 years now.  It’s also full of elk – as many as 14 elk per square kilometer in this meadow, where the wolf den site is located.  Elk scat litters the ground not 20 yards from the den.

Clearly, the wolves aren’t eating all the elk.  But aside from the tracks and the scat and the bones and the antlers, there are no elk to be seen.

“They’ve totally changed their behavior,” Eisenberg said.  “For 60 years we’ve become used to complacent elk.  These elk aren’t complacent.  They’re on high alert.”

From a browse standpoint, that means elk eat a bit and move on, eat a bit and move on, never standing in one place long enough to eat a tree down to its roots.  And from a human standpoint, it means hunters see far fewer elk even as state wildlife officials insist Montana has more deer and elk than it’s had for years.

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Hunters, of course, prefer elk that aren’t quite so wily, but trophic cascades work both ways in wildlife management.  Remove the wolves, and elk are easier to find.  But then coyote populations explode, eating their way through the local game-bird population.  Enhance one hunting opportunity, and you affect another.

And from a bigger viewpoint than just elk, Eisenberg has found that wolves increase biodiversity and greatly benefit the overall health of the areas they inhabit:

Remove the wolves, she said, and you lose the birds.

Remove the wolves, she said, and the coyotes fill the niche.  The coyotes eat the ground squirrels, and so the meadows don’t get “plowed,” and soil productivity declines.

Remove the wolves, she said, and the deer eat the river-bottom willows, and the bull trout lose both their shade and their food, as insects no longer fall from overhanging brush.

Remove the wolves, she said, “and everything changes.”

Why is this so noteworthy?

Because the places with greatest biodiversity are the places most resilient, most able to adapt to, say, changing climate.

And Eisenberg wisely thinks her — and others’ — findings should guide wolf management.

Wolf populations aren’t recovered with 12 breeding pairs, or 15, or 20, Eisenberg said.  They’re recovered when there are enough wolves and other top-end predators to maximize biodiversity.  

Her findings are important, and they’re timely, as wolves are being gunned down all over Idaho and Montana right now.

In her research and in this article, Eisenberg simply and unequivocally points out a critical fact that’s been lost in the recent debate over the wolf hunts:

Wolves matter.

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mskoglund/wolves_increase_biodiversity_a.html

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Tracking science: Biologist’s findings show forest diversity, health influenced by wolves

Wolf%20pack

http://www.missoulian.com/lifestyles/territory/article_3ec9fc54-c01f-11de-bf16-001cc4c002e0.html

Photo: first people

Photo: wolf wallpaper

Categories posted in: biodiversity, wolf recovery, gray wolf,  Glacier National Park

Tags: wolf recovery, gray wolf,  biodiversity

Manifest Destiny and Ken Salazar

I recently stumbled across Barbara Clarke’s blog, she operates Dreamcatcher, a wild horse sanctuary. Her excellent post speaks about Ken Salazar and his attitude toward wolves, wild horses and other wildlife. I thought it was worthy to repost her take on why the Secretary of the Interior, who is charged with the care of our wild lands and the animals who inhabit them, is practicing the opposite of good stewardship.

It was Ken Salazar, a fifth generation rancher, appointed by the Obama administration, that delisted the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, which caused the death of hundreds of wolves in state sponsored wolf hunts. Over five hundred wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009 and more brutal hunts are planned if Judge Molloy doesn’t relist them.

It’s Ken Salazar who is directing BLM to round-up our mustangs, chasing them with helicopters in the blazing heat, literally frightening some of them to death, than squeezing them into holding pens (horse jail). Why is this being done?  Barbara Clarke answers that question.

by Barbara Clarke
February 8, 2010

“In a recent documentary about the problems involved with the reintroduction of the nearly extinct Mexican wolf, a rancher was quoted as saying “we don’t want them”. No science. No statistics. No reason or clear argument. Just “we don’t want them”.

That statement is the crux of the whole problem facing animals in the west today and the basis for Ken Salazar’s opinions as to how to manage the dwindling herds of wild horses. The ranching community still believes in the notion of manifest destiny: the right to claim the west for human endeavors.

And this is no small notion. For Salazar, a product of five generations of ranching, the belief that the west belongs to ranchers and by extension cattle, is deep and pervasive. For over one hundred fifty years the livestock industry, by sweat and blood, has clawed its way across the continent in search of the ever needed forage for hungry cattle and sheep. This neo-exploration was and still is backed by the government through subsidies and ridiculously low grazing fees.

And even though the prairies and rangelands had once supported millions of grazing wildlife including buffalo and mustangs, by the beginning of the twentieth century the once lush rangeland west of the Mississippi had been reduced to stubble, with native grasses obliterated and alarming damage done to waterways.

Anything and anyone that threatened this quest for manifest destiny or was seen as competitors for forage, was soon eliminated. Native Americans were pushed off of ancestral lands and whole species were slaughtered in the name of protecting livestock and grazing. Wolves, coyotes, eagles, bears, ground squirrels and wild horses all found themselves in the cross-hairs of powerful weapons with the full support of our nation’s leaders.

The American government wanted the west. The ranchers gave it to them. And in no small way this has made cattle and all the issues surrounding them, politically untouchable.

So it is no surprise that with the appointment of a fifth generation rancher to head the Department of the Interior, the president, who espouses change – but is granting a $26 million dollar increase in budget for Salazar to remove horses – has opened the door to an increase in the agonies that accompany manifest destiny. Wolves, coyotes, ground squirrels and wild horses are fighting for their very lives.

Wild horses, which have a clear fossil and DNA linage to our continent, are being pushed off of lands set aside for them by congress in unprecedented numbers in the dubious name of saving them from starvation or protecting eco-systems. Yet observers at roundups continue to see healthy horses being captured, thriving rangeland and most notably, no decrease in the number of cattle allowed to graze the same supposedly sensitive areas.

This rush to sweep the wild horses off the rangeland has the full support of Salazar. And why not? When he looks at the mustang, he sees them through a hundred and fifty year lens of ranching. Wild horses are competitors for forage, inhabit areas wanted for mining, the powerfully backed Ruby Pipeline and California Heliostat projects, and do not generate hunting fees. So Salazar wants them removed. But not only removed, he wants them transplanted back east……somewhere, on pseudo-sanctuaries, at a cost of $96 million dollars, where he believes people will actually pay to watch once wild horses eat grass all day.

His plan, therefore, to move them to areas in the east, is not surprising, nor is his revisionist view of wild horse history. It is the final chapter in the long saga of claiming the west. Soon the horses, like the buffalo and the wolf and so many other beings, will be mere shadows of the species they once were. And our president, and his appointees, can go down in history as those who stole the magnificence of the west from our children.”

http://dreamcatcher.typepad.com/my_weblog/

Photo: Manifest Destiny Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Wolf Wars, biodiversity

Tags: Ken Salazar, gray wolves, wild horses, Manifest Destiny

Waiting Game: Fate Of Wolves In The Northern Rockies?

It’s been over  a year since wolves were delisted in the Northern Rockies, yet it seems like decades. Almost immediately, Montana and Idaho were lining up wolf trophy hunts. Wolf advocates have always been told the states would be reasonable managing wolves, that they “loved wolves”. Well if this is love, it’s TOUGH LOVE.  500 wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009 and Wildlife Services is still killing them for agribusiness. It’s been a terrible year.

Wolf supporters watched in horror as wolves were hunted for the first time since their reintroduction. One minute they were a protected species and the next they were target practice. 

It was shocking in it’s swiftness but were we all so naive to think the states could “manage” wolves? State game agencies have never been good at managing predators.  Predators compete for the game hunters want to kill. Hunters are state game agencies’  life blood. They pay licensing fees which fill state game agency coffers.  Why would the welfare of wolves ever trump that relationship? It wouldn’t and it hasn’t.

From the Sierra Club:

“We have consistently maintained that wolves in the northern Rockies are not ready to be removed from the Endangered Species list,” said Sierra Club representative Bob Clark. “Removing federal protections for wolves has left them at the mercy of aggressive state plans that treat wolves as pests rather than a valuable wildlife resource.”

On Tuesday, June  15th, wolves went to court to gain their protections back. The lawsuit to relist wolves, brought by fourteen environmental groups, was finally moving forward.  Judge Molloy was ready to hear oral agruments from both sides of the wolf  issue, at the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in Missoula,  Montana.

Of course there were wolf protesters outside the courthouse waving their anti-wolf signs. And of course they were on the front page of  local newspapers. The anti-wolf crowd gets most of the headlines. I guess hateful rhetoric sells. But make no mistake wolves have many, many supporters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, Wolves have supporters around this country and the world. We might not be as vocal but we are no less passionate about this incredible amd persecuted animal, the gray wolf.

The courtroom was packed,  a brief recess was called when a legal student collapsed while presenting part of the case for The Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The hearing didn’t last very long,  It was all over in a few hours. 

I want to personally thank Doug Honnold, the lead Earthjustice attorney, for doing such a terrific job for wolves in their dark hour!!

Judge Molloy stated he’d rule “as quickly as I can”.  I hope it comes soon. Montana and Idaho have admitted they are aggressively going after wolves to reduce their numbers in 2010/2011. This is called “wolf love”?  It’s how they show their love for wolves by killing them?  Who do they think they’re kidding?

Both states want to significantly increase their wolf hunt quotas, Montana proposes a wolf archery season and back country wolf rifle season. Idaho may be adding calling, baiting and trapping to their “toolbox” of tricks. I shudder to think what will happen if wolves aren’t relisted.

And we can’t forget the hardcore wolf haters, that love to stir things up. One wolf hating website discussed hunters killing wolves with Xylitol, a popular sweetner, that’s deadly to canines. I guess they don’t care if  pet dogs die along with the wolves they hate so much. Seriously, what is wrong with people?  Do you see what wolves are up against in the Northern Rockies? They cannot survive here without ESA protection.

So now we wait.

The future of the Northern Rockies gray wolf  hangs in the balance.

 
Posted: Tuesday, 15 June 2010 8:46AM

Fate of Rocky Mountain wolves to be decided

Sierra Club

http://www.keci.com/pages/7470875.php?contentType=4&contentId=6288504

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Photos: courtesy kewl wallpaper

Posted in: Wolf Delisting Lawsuit, Howling For Justice, Wolf Wars

Tags: Judge Molloy, ESA, Doug Honnold,, gray wolf/canis lupus, wolf persecution

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