Killing Echo: The “Mistaken Identity” Excuse, Part One

Echo Grand-Canyon NPS

Echo (Courtesy NPS)

February 27, 2015

It’s been several months since Echo was shot dead by a coyote “hunter”. Her identity was confirmed by DNA analysis of her recovered scat, since she evaded all attempts of capture, making her one smart little wolf. I think Echo should have been called Miracle because it certainly was a miracle she managed to traverse the kill zone of the Northern Rockies and make it to the Grandest of all Canyons. She was the first wolf to set paw there in 70 years. Unfortunately she was not able to evade a bullet and so what could have been a new chapter in wolf recovery turned out to be a sad tale of loss. And the loss was huge. Echo defied the odds. She defied the USFWS who repeatedly said, no gray wolves in  Grand Canyon National Park. But Echo made it on her own, she didn’t ask permission, she left her natal pack in Wyoming and went searching for a mate. Her presence in The Canyon was history in the making, just as her male counterpart, OR7, made history by becoming the first wolf  to roam California in 90 years!

The Canyon is amazing wolf habitat, mule deer abound but there was only one problem, Echo was the only gray wolf in the park. What’s a wolf to do?  So she left the park and headed north, retracing her steps on her quest to find a mate, instead she found  a man with a gun.

Echo’s tragic story is not new, it’s been  repeated over and over again, ad nauseam. When wolves disperse out of the Northern Rockies or Great lakes they usually end up dead. How many more times will we hear about wandering wolves shot and killed by “coyote hunters”? There is no way in hell wolves will ever be able to reclaim former habitat if every time they attempt to do so, they’re killed. We could point to Oregon and Washington as success stories, Oregon now has 77 wolves.  Yes, wolves are thriving there, with OR7 as the poster wolf for that success but OR7’s story could have gone a completely different way. He made the right choice and dispersed to western Oregon and south to California, where there’s tolerance for wolves. Unfortunately a few of his siblings OR5 and OR9 took different paths and went east to the killing fields of Idaho, where they met grisly deaths.

Oregon and  Washington wolves have been successful because they’re not hunted YET. But Oregon is already in the planning stages of delisting wolves in the eastern part of the state, since Oregon’s wolf
“management” plan is so weak.

Washington, although they have a better long-term “management” plan of 15 successful breeding pairs over three years,  has not been particularly kind to wolves since they returned to the stateThe Lookout Pack, the first wolves confirmed in Washington state in 70 years were decimated by the White family.  I’m sure everyone remembers the disgusting account of Erin White trying to Fedex a bloody wolf pelt . 

“A FedEx agent declined to take the package after seeing what appeared to be blood leaking from it.

When a local police officer and the shipping-store owner discovered an animal pelt inside, they alerted state fish and wildlife agents. Genetic tests of the pelt later confirmed it was a gray wolf and an apparent member of the Washington state wolf pack.”…SeattleTimes

And we can’t forget the Wedge Pack and Huckleberry Pack debacles. Washington’s Teanaway Pack alpha female was poached in 2014, with a significant reward offered. Other wolves have been poached there as well, so all is not peachy for wolves in the Evergreen State,  even though they remain protected by state law in eastern Washington and retain federal and state protection in western Washington. Additionally the Colville and Spokane Tribes in eastern Washington hold wolf hunts on their reservations. The 2014/2015  Spokane tribe wolf hunt has a 6 wolf quota.

Aside from Washington and Oregon where are the dispersing wolves’ success stories? Can anyone name a single successful breeding pair of wolves outside of the Northern Rockies, Great Lakes or Mexican gray wolf territory, in Arizona and New Mexico?  In Missouri,  3 wolves have been killed in the last 13 years using the “coyote excuse”. In Kentucky, where wolves had been absent for 150 years, a wolf was shot dead because of “mistaken coyote identity”. The same thing in Kansas. And now Echo in Utah.

Obviously the “coyote excuse” is very convenient, even though coyotes and wolves look very different. It’s the equivalent of “the dog ate my homework” If you cop to killing a protected wolf, charges may be brought against you, probably just a slap on the wrist but there’s a possibility of fines or losing a hunting license. Using the “coyote excuse” is a get out of jail free card. This is why wolves are struggling to reclaim former habitat, because they walk around with targets on their backs, with little protection. The USFWS wants to put a final nail in their coffin with a national delisting. US Fish and Wildlife Services can’t protect wolves now when they’re listed as endangered, so how on earth can wolf recovery go forward if all federal protection is stripped from them? The message is clear and not subtle,  wolf recovery must be stopped dead in its tracks.

When Echo died it wasn’t just one wolf dying, which is tragic in itself but her demise closed the door on what could have been a new chapter for wolves in the Southwest. The Grand Canyon is perfect wolf habitat,  plenty of prey, mule deer abound, room to roam. Sadly the one thing missing were other wolves and that sealed Echo’s fate. She left the Canyon or was lured back into Utah, where she met her killer.

The Chairman of Arizona Game and Fish opined that Echo may have been deposited in the Grand Canyon by “radicalized environmental monkey wrenching”. In other words, stealth greenies snatched Echo from the Northern Rockies and plopped her in the North Rim of the Canyon, just to “monkey wrench” the USFWS plan to delist wolves nationally. Ummmmkay. Does this have anything to do with Area 51?

Here’s the article:

Wolf appears during controversy: Coincidence?

Robert Mansell 7:46 p.m. MST December 6, 2014

azcentral.com

There has been a great deal of interest in the wolf observed on the Kaibab Plateau in Northern Arizona. Many herald this as a wonderful event, and for the first time in 70 years, a wild wolf was in northern Arizona.

There are also some who view this as an example of what I have heard referred to as radicalized environmental monkey wrenching. The reality is that placing an animal that has full protection of the Endangered Species Act in a novel area requires agencies to manage a species that arrived to the area with the help of humans and not by natural dispersal.

Although the truth may never be known, I have had numerous folks call me to question how a wild wolf traveled more than 450 miles from the Northern Rockies to Arizona without having been observed somewhere along the way? Why now when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of determining whether or not to delist the gray wolf? Why now when key decisions are being made on the management of the Mexican wolf?

Recently, I got a long look at this animal, and while it looked like a wild wolf, it behaved otherwise.

To be clear, wild animals are known to make wondrous, long-distance movements, and while the arrival of a wolf on the Kaibab Plateau is not impossible, how interesting is it that this happens now when management of wolves in North America is at a critical juncture…..Robert Mansell azcentraldotcom

http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/letters/2014/12/06/grand-canyon-wolf/19962721/

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I can play the speculation, conspiracy game too. What if Echo was lured into Utah? What if the “coyote hunter” knew she was a wolf and shot her anyway? She was a threat after all, a wolf successfully dispersing into new territory? That can’t be allowed now can it? And that must have been a pretty dumb “monkey wrencher” to forget to bring along a male wolf to keep her company.

Echo traveled hundreds of miles, defying the odds, to become the first wolf to set paw in the Grand Canyon since the 1940’s. This remarkable little wolf, just three years old, could have opened a new chapter for wolves reclaiming lost habitat.  She defied the USFWS, who said NO WOLVES IN THE GRAND CANYON! Excuse me if I’m suspicious of Echo’s death. NOTHING connected to wolves is ever straightforward.

RIP Sweet Echo, you were a pioneer for your species, an ambassador, seeking to reclaim the land of your ancestors! May your species continue to follow in your tracks!

“It is nothing short of a tragedy that this wolf’s journey across the west was cut short because she was shot and killed by a coyote hunter (…) This brave and ambitious female gray wolf that made it all the way from Wyoming to the Grand Canyon had already become a symbol of what gray wolf recovery should look like – animals naturally dispersing to find suitable habitat.”….Inquisitrdotcom

Echo Arizona Game and Fish

DNA Confirms Famed Wolf ‘Echo’ Killed By Coyote Hunter In Southern Utah

February 12, 2015

http://www.inquisitr.com/1837494/dna-confirms-famed-wolf-echo-killed-by-coyote-hunter-in-southern-utah/

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Coming next: Part Two

Killing Echo/Killing Wolves: The “Mistaken Identity” Excuse

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Top Photo: Courtesy Echo – NPS

Bottom Photo: Echo – Arizona Game and Fish

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Biodiversity, wolf recovery

Tags: Echo, epic journey, wolf recovery, biodiversity, North Rim Grand Canyon, wolf in the Canyon, senseless death, “coyote excuse”

50 Renowned Scientists Send Letter To Congress Urging “LEAVE WOLVES ALONE”

Wolf Puppy Wayne Pacelle Stock Photo

“Increasingly, Americans recognize the wide range of economic and ecological benefits that wolves bring.Photo: Stockphoto”

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Pack of Scientists Urges Congress to Leave Wolves, ESA Alone

February 18, 2015

A Humane Nation

Wayne Pacele’s Blog

Today, more than 50 world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists, many of whom have devoted their entire professional careers toward understanding the social and biological issues surrounding wolves in North America, sent a letter to Congress urging members to oppose any efforts to strip federal protections for wolves in the contiguous 48 states. If Congress were to take this adverse action, according to these scientists, it would upend two recent federal court rulings, which criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for distorting the “plain meaning” of the standards of the Endangered Species Act and admonished several state wildlife agencies for conducting overreaching and dangerous trophy hunting and trapping programs upon federal delisting.

The scientists, including Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University, and Adrian Treves of University of Wisconsin, Madison, noted that “wolves are absent from most of the United States, with potentially secure populations in only a handful of states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan). Yet, in those same states, the loss of federal protections resulted in state-sanctioned seasons on wolves at levels designed to reduce their populations to arbitrary goals, which were based on politics but not the best available science.”

Rather than removing wolves’ protections completely, there is a better way forward. A federal downlisting to “threatened” would be a far superior option, allowing “lethal management to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts.” Last month, The HSUS and 21 animal protection and conservation organizations petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as “threatened” throughout their U.S. range south of Alaska (except the distinct Mexican gray wolf subspecies in the southwest which should remain listed as endangered). It’s the right compromise that balances the national interest in protecting wolves, while providing tools to federal and state agencies to allow selective control of wolves to address livestock and property damage.

This past fall, Michigan voted overwhelmingly against the notion of a trophy hunting season on wolves – in the first ever statewide votes on the issue of wolf hunting. Those votes – in a state with major hunting and agriculture industries – are additional indicators that increasing numbers of Americans recognize the wide range of economic and ecological benefits that wolves bring. More than 14 million people have viewed the documentary, How Wolves Change Rivers, showing how wolves move sedentary deer and elk populations so they don’t overgraze or browse. Wolves remove sick and weak animals, preventing slow starvation, and limiting deer-auto collisions and deer depredation on crops. By modulating prey herds, wolves act as a sort of barrier to chronic wasting disease and other infections that could cost the states millions of dollars to eradicate and in lost hunting license sales. And each year, thousands of wildlife watchers gaze at the world’s most-viewed wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, bringing in $35 million to the Yellowstone region annually. In the Great Lakes region, the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, brings in as much as $3 million each year from wolf watchers.

Lawmakers should respond to common sense, sound economics, and robust science. We’ve had enough of fairy tales and fabrications and trumped-up public safety charges against wolves. The reality is, they are hugely important in restoring the health of ecosystems and increasing the diversity of species. Wolves have their place, and with only about 5,000 of them in the lower 48 states, they should continue to receive federal protection.

http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2015/02/scientists-letter-wolves-congress.html

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Photo: Courtesy HSUS

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Endangered Species Act, gray wolf

Tags: 50 renowned scientists, biodiversity, wolves benefit ecosystem, wolf recovery, wolf persecution, Congressional overreach, weakening the ESA, HSUS

Love A Pack Today – Happy Valentines!

I    WOLVES

 

Video: Courtesy YouTube 

Posted in: biodiversity, gray wolf/canis lupus

Tags: wolfy valentine, wolf recovery, wolves are beautiful

It’s A Girl!

wolf in woods kewl

It’s confirmed!  Move over OR7, another wolf is upstaging you. There’s a Northern Rockies female wolf roaming the Grand Canyon, the first wolf to do so since the 1940’s. She traveled 450 miles or more to get there.  Boy am I ever glad she escaped the wolf hell in Idaho and Montana. We don’t really  know which wolf population she’s from in the Rockies, because her collar is dead. But who cares, she made it. They can’t catch her (good, she’s wolf wary) and have suspended the search due to cold weather. They only identified her through her scat. The Grand Canyon is so vast and rugged, it’s one of the best places in all of America for a wolf, plenty of mule deer for her! What wonderful news to start the day.

Stay safe  beautiful girl. Maybe you’re traveling with a friend we haven’t seen, one can only hope!

HOWLS!

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Feds confirm gray wolf is roaming north of Grand Canyon

Dylan Smith
TucsonSentinel.com

Updated Nov 21, 2014, 6:32 pm  Originally posted Nov 21, 2014, 3:47 pm

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials announced Friday that they’ve got the straight poop on an animal seen near the Grand Canyon, confirming that a gray wolf from the Northern Rockies is making a home on the North Rim. While biologists were unable to capture the wolf for testing, DNA analysis of the wolf’s scat showed that she is a member of the endangered species.

The wolf was first spotted north of Grand Canyon National Park in the North Kaibab National Forest, and is the first gray wolf known to be in the area for over 70 years.

The wolf’s “epic journey through at least three western states fits with what scientific studies have shown, namely that wolves could once again roam widely and that the Grand Canyon is one of the best places left for them,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency permit earlier in November to allow researchers to capture and conduct DNA testing on the creature, which observers said resembled a gray wolf.

Officials with Fish and Wildlife, along with those from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and National Park Service, were unable to detect a radio signal from a collar worn by the animal.

Biologists “attempted to capture the animal to collect blood and replace the radio collar,” said FWS spokesman Jeff Humphrey. “Those efforts were unsuccessful and have been suspended due to cold weather, as our primary concern is the welfare of this animal.”

Instead, the animal was confirmed to be a female Rocky Mountain gray wolf after testing was done on feces collected Nov. 2.

“Any future capture efforts will be for collar and transmitter replacement, and the wolf will be released on site,” Humphrey said.

“The lab may be able to determine the wolf’s individual identification by comparing its DNA profile with that of previously captured and sampled northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf females,” he said in a news release. “This analysis will take several weeks to several months.”

“The DNA results indicate this wolf traveled at least 450 miles from an area in the northern Rocky Mountains to northern Arizona,” said Benjamin Tuggle, southwest regional director for FWS. “Wolves, particularly young wolves, can be quite nomadic dispersing great distances across the landscape. Such behavior is not unusual for juveniles as they travel to find food or another mate.”

http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/112114_grand_canyon_wolf/feds-confirm-gray-wolf-roaming-north-grand-canyon/

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Photo: Courtesy kewl wallpapersdotcom

Posted in: gray wolf, Wolf Recovery, Biodiversity

Tags: Northern Rockies female wolf, Grand Canyon, wolf recovery, stay safe, DNA scat ID, Arizona

About Elk….

This is a repost from 2009 but I could have written it yesterday. We’re still stuck in the same paradigm we were 4 years ago. The only thing that’s changed is the viciousness of the campaign to exterminate the wolf.

December 3, 2009

The wolf debate has become intrinsically tied to elk numbers and endless conversations and arguments revolve around this subject. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation trumpeted, in an April 09 press release, that wild elk populations were higher in twenty-three states  then they were twenty-five years ago, when the organization started.  YET, those facts don’t sit well with some people, who refuse to believe wolves aren’t decimating elk.  I can’t recall  how many times I’ve heard elk hunters say……Well elk may be thriving in one part of my state but their numbers are down in another area.  Or elk are harder to hunt….etc.  I agree elk are harder to hunt because they’re on high alert, acting more like, ELK.  They browse and move, browse and move. It makes hunting them more difficult but when you have a high-powered rifle and the advantage of surprise I’m not going to feel sorry if you don’t bag an elk.  It’s not the responsibility of wildlife viewers to be concerned about the success of elk hunters.

Wolf recovery and wolves presence in the Northern Rockies is not about elk hunters or hunting in general, although many people want it to be.  It’s about wolves fulfilling their role in our wild places. It’s about tolerance and allowing the wolf to be the wild animal, apex predator they are, to do their job in culling ungulates and making herds stronger, what they’ve been doing for millennia.

“The dance of life and death between predator and prey makes many of us uncomfortable, and yet, prey species are also benefiting from the return of the wolf. Unlike human hunters who target healthy adult animals, wolves cull the sick and elderly from elk, deer, moose and bison herds, reducing the spread of disease and keeping the prey population as a whole healthier.”

“It’s important to remember that predators and prey evolved in lockstep together over millions of years,”  Marin Humane Society

It’s also not about conducting polls to see if  hunters are happy with wolves, or whether hunters think there are enough elk. It may be important in their world but the majority of Americans don’t hunt.

US Fish & Wildlife 2006 figures report there were 12.5 million hunters nationally with expenditures of 22.9 billion dollars.

BUT

Wildlife Watchers numbered 71.1 million and generated 45.7 billion dollars. Does it make sense that wildlife watchers have so little input in how wildlife is managed, when wildlife viewers outnumber hunters by such a large margin and generate more revenue?

Wolves have been persecuted for well over a  hundred years in the West, they were exterminated once for ranching interests by the feds.  It wasn’t until the advent of the Endangered Species Act that wolves slowly began to recover. Now the ESA is being attacked, with threats to re-write it and exclude gray wolves. The war against wolves knows no bounds. This is a perfect example of why wolves must be protected against scapegoating and persecution.

It’s constantly repeated wolves were forced on Idaho and Montana by the reintroduction program in 1995 but wolves dispersed to Glacier National Park  long before they were brought back to Yellowstone and Central Idaho by the feds.

Almost any discussion about wolves is accompanied by a critique of elk or livestock. If by some miracle we could move past these two issues and realize the wolf is a top predator that has a role to play in nature.  If emotion was replaced with science that tells us the  disappearance of apex predators around the world is causing ecosystem collapse, the science that shows the benefit wolves bring to ecosystems they inhabit, we could make progress in ending this battle.

Don’t get me wrong, I like elk, they are beautiful creatures.  Of course I like my elk living and breathing but the material point is, it’s not about elk.  It’s about wolves and what’s in their interest. They’ve been so demonized but in reality wolves are animals, the direct ancestors of our beloved dogs.There is no reason to assign motives to their behavior.  They are doing what they were born to do.

Somehow the focus must be shifted from elk, hunting, ranching, livestock and outfitters to the benefit of having apex predators on the landscape.

The dialogue concerning elk declines or increases is irrelevant to most Americans. What’s important in nature is balance, not picking one species over another. By manipulating elk numbers state game agencies have elevated elk to a god like status, woe to any predator that dares to interfere with their mission. Their transparent dislike for wolves is palpable. Neither USFWS nor the states have shown the wolf any consideration, which is evident in the way they kill entire packs including puppies. As long as this outdated mindset continues to dominant “wildlife management”, where the only priority seems to be how many prey animals are available for hunters to kill, wolves will never be safe or any predator for that matter.  What will it take to deliver the message to tone-deaf “wildlife managers’? It’s not about elk.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons and kewlwallpapers.com

Posted in:  elk flourishing among wolves, biodiversity, Canis lupus

Tags: wolf recovery, dispersing wolves, wolf myths, elk

Published in: on February 26, 2013 at 2:11 am  Comments (22)  
Tags: , , ,

Wolves, Revisting The Dream….

Wolves_IMAX 1999 film

February 3, 2013

This wonderful IMAX film was released in 1999 and documents the reintroduction of wolves into Central Idaho, while providing insight into wolf ecology and dynamics. These were good times,  hopeful times for the Nez Perce , wolf advocates and the wolves. That dream is now being dragged through the mud by the wolf states, who are bent on slaughtering them and profiting from their deaths.

Wolves – IMAX  enlightens us  regarding the true nature of  this iconic apex predator, traveling back to the heady days of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies.  The Nez Perce tribe, like other wolf advocates, had high hopes for the wolves’ return, after their long absence.  How the worm has turned.

Looking back, I see how we were all duped into thinking wolf reintroduction would have a happy ending.  In reality, it’s clear there was never any real intent to maintain a viable, robust population of wolves outside the national parks.  It seems “the plan” all along was to slaughter wolves  in trophy hunts or kill them outright when they  ”recovered”.  Recovery is never defined, except in the outdated, original capitulation to ranching and hunting interests, of 100 wolves and ten breeding pairs per wolf state (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho) Those numbers are not based on science but politics and were never revised to reflect scientific findings or what constitutes a healthy wolf population in the Northern Rockies.  Wolf recovery is whatever the “wolf managers” deem it to be.  Ten wolves, a hundred, thousands?  That’s not a question the states seem interested in answering on their relentless march to decimate wolves .

The arrogance of  hunters and ranchers who think they have the right to dictate which animals will be allowed to exist on public lands,  is stunning.  These lands belong to us all. They’re  lucky Americans have been “asleep at the wheel”, allowing the anti-wolf crowd to dictate policy to Western politicians, ready and eager to do their bidding.

Wolf recovery, once a great success, has now descended into hell, with the deaths of thousands of wolves since their delisting by Ken Salazar and the Obama administration in 2009.

But all is not lost, we can still turn this around. Wolves must re-gain their Endangered Species Protections, for without them they will not be able to thrive as viable, healthy populations.  The wolf will be doomed to their current fate…. hounded, persecuted, tortured, maligned and DEAD. With their family structure and tight bonds decimated, their gene pool further diminished, they will exist as mere ghosts on the landscape, if even allowed to exist at all.

Please sign both petitions, if you haven’t already,  to demand wolves regain their federal protections before it’s too late.

Protect America’s Wolves

Click HERE to sign

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Relist Wolves

Click HERE to sign

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: gray wolf, biodiversity, Wolf Wars, Native Americans, Wolf Recovery

Tags: Nez Perce, wolf recovery, Central Idaho, persecution of Native Americans, IMAX films, wolf delisting, wolf states, 1999, killing the dream, Relist Wolves, Protect America’s Wolves

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

National Wolf Awareness Week…October 17-23

It’s National Wolf Awareness Week. A time to celebrate wolves AND expose the hateful persecution they live under.

I begin with the ugly face of wolf hunting, if you don’t already know how hideous  it is. This video is very graphic but necessary. Only when we’re confronted with the horrors wolves suffer, will we truly understand and want to commit ourselves to protecting them.

This is why Howling For Justice and Wolf Warriors are fighting to keep wolves protected. No wolf should suffer this fate. Wolf hunting is cruel, causing immense suffering both to wolves and their families. It makes orphans of little wolf pups like the ones in the video.

Montana and Idaho legislators and their fish and game agencies are working overtime to strip wolves once again of their ESA protections and hold brutal wolf hunts. This must not be allowed to happen.

Please speak out for wolves. Call your legislators and tell them wolves need protection of the ESA. They are not recovered and only inhabit 5% of their historic range. They must not fall back into the hands of the Western states who are clamoring for wolf hunts. This will allow them to profit from wolves’ deaths by selling wolf tags. State fish and game agencies should NOT be “managing” predators, because it creates a conflict of interest.

Hunters pay licensing fees, directly contributing to fish and game agency budgets. Since wolves and humans hunt the same prey animals, whose side do you think “wolf managers” will come down on? Wolves or hunters? I think you know the answer.

State game agencies operate under a 19th century paradigm that seeks to keep predator numbers low, under the misguided premise of inflating game animal numbers. This is politically driven policy, not science based. These tactics have no place in modern society.

There are powerful forces who want wolves dead outright or their numbers depleted to unsustainable levels. Please speak out for wolves and vow to be pro-wolf active this year!! Tell your legislators hands off the Endangered Species Act or they won’t have your vote. If they think we don’t care, then they’ll do what’s politically expedient for them. We have to make our voices heard loud and clear!! The wolf haters winning the war of words. We must get our message out and let people know wolves are suffering, even though the hunts have been halted for now. Wildlife Services continues its relentless war on wolves!!

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Celebrate Wolf Awareness Week 2010

http://www.discoverycenter.net/twa_awareness_week.htm

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Contact:

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

US SENATE

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Montana State Legislators

http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/61st/roster.asp?HouseID=0&SessionID=94

Idaho State Legislators

Senate: http://legislature.idaho.gov/senate/membership.cfm

House: http://legislature.idaho.gov/house/membership.cfm

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Photo: Courtesy kewlwallpapers.com

Posted in: gray wolf/canis lupus, Wolf Wars

Tags: National Wolf Awareness Week, celebrate wolves, biodiversity, wolf recovery, brutal wolf hunts

Puppies!! Four Imnaha Wolf Pack pups caught on remote camera!

Here are recent pics of four pups from the Imnaha wolf pack…aren’t they cute?  These little guys were caught on remote camera by ODFW, there could actually be more pups. Sadly their dad has not been spotted since May 31.

From the ODFW website:

Four pups for Imnaha wolf pack

ODFW

July 14, 2010

The Imnaha wolf pack has at least four new pups this year, images captured on a motion-triggered trail camera show.    

An image taken July 3 (attached) marks the first visual observation of new pups this year. The pack may have more pups than these four.

Wolf pups are born in mid-April and litters average four to six pups. Pups generally become active outside their pack’s den in June.

Six adult wolves were also seen in the images captured by the trail camera, including the alpha female. Past evidence, including a video taken November 2009, indicate at least 10 wolves made up the Imnaha pack before the pups were born this year. The alpha male, whose GPS collar has not been detected since May 31, was not seen in the images.

For more images of the Imnaha pack taken by a trail camera set up by ODFW in an area of pack activity, visit the website below (see first six photos). Note the alpha female is not pictured in these images.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/images/photo_gallery/wolves_in_the_news/index.html

It’s nice to report a little good news after all the bad and what’s cuter then adorable wild wolf puppies? Congrats “Sophie” and the rest of the Imnahas. I hope the dad is found alive.

Photo: Courtesy ODFW

Posted in: Oregon wolves, biodiversity, gray wolf/canis lupus

Tags: Imnaha wolf pups, Oregon wolves, alpha male missing, wolf recovery

 

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