November 5, 2010

CASPER, Wyo. – Much of the debate about wolf recovery has focused on the number of wolves in each state. But another indicator of recovery success considered under the endangered species law is whether or not packs are interbreeding to ensure genetic diversity. A new round of DNA testing shows there is some success to report, but there’s a glaring lack of genetic exchange with packs in Yellowstone National Park.

Study author and carnivore biologist Bob Wayne says it may just be a matter of time, though.

“There is some migration into the Greater Yellowstone Area, but there’s still no migrants into Yellowstone National Park.”

Wayne believes the study has been misinterpreted by those saying the research proved the gene pool to be strong, when in fact, it doesn’t make that statement.

He predicts that more wolf pack mingling will happen over time, and even in Yellowstone, but more time is needed, along with scientific proof.

“There’s been a bit of a disease epidemic and the population has crashed by a third, or so. That may leave more openings for migrating wolves to come in and successfully reproduce — just don’t know.”

Wayne takes issue with those claiming 100 animals per state means “full recovery,” since that doesn’t take into account the genetic diversity needed to keep the species healthy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped pay for the DNA research, which was published in the October issue of the journal Molecular Ecology.
Deb Courson, Public News Service – WY

Wolf is unique in maintaining ecosystem health
By kirk robinson

Published Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
Updated Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM

In his commentary “Management of wolves needs to be left up to the states” (Opinion, Oct. 16), Don Peay argued that the Endangered Species Act should be rewritten to exclude gray wolves from endangered species protection throughout the United States.

This would include all wolves in the northern Rockies and the upper Midwest, as well as the struggling Mexican gray wolf population in the Southwest which illegal killing has reduced to a mere 42 individuals.

The reason Peay gave for this startling proposal is essentially that hunters have a proprietary right to wildlife. They can shoot trophy elk for wall decorations because they buy licenses and pay excise taxes on hunting equipment, but it is unacceptable for wolves to eat elk to survive.

Wolves do eat elk and deer, and occasionally cows and sheep. But surely this cannot be a good reason to discriminate against this one species, excluding it from federal protection at the behest of special interests and in total disregard of science.

Peay asked the Utah Wildlife Board to endorse two federal bills that will do exactly this. And in a meeting on Oct. 19, they obliged him. The seven geriatric white male members of the Wildlife Board voted unanimously to endorse Sen. Orrin Hatch’s S. 3919 and H.R. 6028, endorsed by both Reps. Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz. Never mind that there is not a single shred of science to support these bills or that their passage would set an egregious precedent.

There is no other species of animal on the continent capable of occupying the supremely important role of wolves in maintaining ecosystem health. Hunters can’t do it. They don’t alter the behavior of ungulates in the way wolves do (dubbed “the ecology of fear”), and they generally select for completely different classes of animals (robust adults as opposed to small, sickly or weak animals). As a result of replacing wolves with hunters we have deteriorating watersheds, biological impoverishment, and diseases spreading through game populations.

What an irony! The animal species most maligned, vilified and persecuted by human beings turns out to be necessary to the very health of the land on which we too depend.

It is a fact not yet recognized in our lore or our ethics.

Here are more facts:

Coyotes have been documented to kill 20-30 times more sheep and 20-30 times more cows than wolves do, and they eat a lot of deer and elk, too. Wolves will permanently cut coyote populations in half practically for free.

There were 16 percent more elk in the northern Rockies in 2009 than there were in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced.

There are only 1,700 wolves, compared to half a million elk and a couple of million deer, in the northern Rockies gray wolf recovery area, which is larger than the state of Texas.

A recent 10-year study showed that the moose population in western Wyoming grew too large because of lack of predation, and then collapsed almost entirely due to poor nutrition. If wolves had been reintroduced earlier, they might have prevented this.

Wolves occasionally eat a cow or sheep, but wolf depredation accounts for less than 1 percent of total losses in the northern Rockies. In Idaho one year, the numbers of livestock killed by dogs and wolves, respectively, were 1,400:270 sheep and 100:20 cows.

So far as researchers have been able to document, wolves have killed only two people in North America since 1900, while cougars have killed 22 and black bears have killed 61. Dogs have killed 345 people in Canada and the United States since 1982.

Kirk Robinson is executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.

Published Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
Updated Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
In his commentary “Management of wolves needs to be left up to the states” (Opinion, Oct. 16), Don Peay argued that the Endangered Species Act should be rewritten to exclude gray wolves from endangered species protection throughout the United States.

This would include all wolves in the northern Rockies and the upper Midwest, as well as the struggling Mexican gray wolf population in the Southwest which illegal killing has reduced to a mere 42 individuals.

The reason Peay gave for this startling proposal is essentially that hunters have a proprietary right to wildlife. They can shoot trophy elk for wall decorations because they buy licenses and pay excise taxes on hunting equipment, but it is unacceptable for wolves to eat elk to survive.

Wolves do eat elk and deer, and occasionally cows and sheep. But surely this cannot be a good reason to discriminate against this one species, excluding it from federal protection at the behest of special interests and in total disregard of science.

Peay asked the Utah Wildlife Board to endorse two federal bills that will do exactly this. And in a meeting on Oct. 19, they obliged him. The seven geriatric white male members of the Wildlife Board voted unanimously to endorse Sen. Orrin Hatch’s S. 3919 and H.R. 6028, endorsed by both Reps. Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz. Never mind that there is not a single shred of science to support these bills or that their passage would set an egregious precedent.

There is no other species of animal on the continent capable of occupying the supremely important role of wolves in maintaining ecosystem health. Hunters can’t do it. They don’t alter the behavior of ungulates in the way wolves do (dubbed “the ecology of fear”), and they generally select for completely different classes of animals (robust adults as opposed to small, sickly or weak animals). As a result of replacing wolves with hunters we have deteriorating watersheds, biological impoverishment, and diseases spreading through game populations.

What an irony! The animal species most maligned, vilified and persecuted by human beings turns out to be necessary to the very health of the land on which we too depend.

It is a fact not yet recognized in our lore or our ethics.

Here are more facts:

Coyotes have been documented to kill 20-30 times more sheep and 20-30 times more cows than wolves do, and they eat a lot of deer and elk, too. Wolves will permanently cut coyote populations in half practically for free.

There were 16 percent more elk in the northern Rockies in 2009 than there were in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced.

There are only 1,700 wolves, compared to half a million elk and a couple of million deer, in the northern Rockies gray wolf recovery area, which is larger than the state of Texas.

A recent 10-year study showed that the moose population in western Wyoming grew too large because of lack of predation, and then collapsed almost entirely due to poor nutrition. If wolves had been reintroduced earlier, they might have prevented this.

Wolves occasionally eat a cow or sheep, but wolf depredation accounts for less than 1 percent of total losses in the northern Rockies. In Idaho one year, the numbers of livestock killed by dogs and wolves, respectively, were 1,400:270 sheep and 100:20 cows.

So far as researchers have been able to document, wolves have killed only two people in North America since 1900, while cougars have killed 22 and black bears have killed 61. Dogs have killed 345 people in Canada and the United States since 1982.

Kirk Robinson is executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.

Published Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
Updated Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
In his commentary “Management of wolves needs to be left up to the states” (Opinion, Oct. 16), Don Peay argued that the Endangered Species Act should be rewritten to exclude gray wolves from endangered species protection throughout the United States.

This would include all wolves in the northern Rockies and the upper Midwest, as well as the struggling Mexican gray wolf population in the Southwest which illegal killing has reduced to a mere 42 individuals.

The reason Peay gave for this startling proposal is essentially that hunters have a proprietary right to wildlife. They can shoot trophy elk for wall decorations because they buy licenses and pay excise taxes on hunting equipment, but it is unacceptable for wolves to eat elk to survive.

Wolves do eat elk and deer, and occasionally cows and sheep. But surely this cannot be a good reason to discriminate against this one species, excluding it from federal protection at the behest of special interests and in total disregard of science.

Peay asked the Utah Wildlife Board to endorse two federal bills that will do exactly this. And in a meeting on Oct. 19, they obliged him. The seven geriatric white male members of the Wildlife Board voted unanimously to endorse Sen. Orrin Hatch’s S. 3919 and H.R. 6028, endorsed by both Reps. Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz. Never mind that there is not a single shred of science to support these bills or that their passage would set an egregious precedent.

There is no other species of animal on the continent capable of occupying the supremely important role of wolves in maintaining ecosystem health. Hunters can’t do it. They don’t alter the behavior of ungulates in the way wolves do (dubbed “the ecology of fear”), and they generally select for completely different classes of animals (robust adults as opposed to small, sickly or weak animals). As a result of replacing wolves with hunters we have deteriorating watersheds, biological impoverishment, and diseases spreading through game populations.

What an irony! The animal species most maligned, vilified and persecuted by human beings turns out to be necessary to the very health of the land on which we too depend.

It is a fact not yet recognized in our lore or our ethics.

Here are more facts:

Coyotes have been documented to kill 20-30 times more sheep and 20-30 times more cows than wolves do, and they eat a lot of deer and elk, too. Wolves will permanently cut coyote populations in half practically for free.

There were 16 percent more elk in the northern Rockies in 2009 than there were in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced.

There are only 1,700 wolves, compared to half a million elk and a couple of million deer, in the northern Rockies gray wolf recovery area, which is larger than the state of Texas.

A recent 10-year study showed that the moose population in western Wyoming grew too large because of lack of predation, and then collapsed almost entirely due to poor nutrition. If wolves had been reintroduced earlier, they might have prevented this.

Wolves occasionally eat a cow or sheep, but wolf depredation accounts for less than 1 percent of total losses in the northern Rockies. In Idaho one year, the numbers of livestock killed by dogs and wolves, respectively, were 1,400:270 sheep and 100:20 cows.

So far as researchers have been able to document, wolves have killed only two people in North America since 1900, while cougars have killed 22 and black bears have killed 61. Dogs have killed 345 people in Canada and the United States since 1982.

Kirk Robinson is executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.

Published Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
Updated Oct 30, 2010 12:00AM
In his commentary “Management of wolves needs to be left up to the states” (Opinion, Oct. 16), Don Peay argued that the Endangered Species Act should be rewritten to exclude gray wolves from endangered species protection throughout the United States.

This would include all wolves in the northern Rockies and the upper Midwest, as well as the struggling Mexican gray wolf population in the Southwest which illegal killing has reduced to a mere 42 individuals.

The reason Peay gave for this startling proposal is essentially that hunters have a proprietary right to wildlife. They can shoot trophy elk for wall decorations because they buy licenses and pay excise taxes on hunting equipment, but it is unacceptable for wolves to eat elk to survive.

Wolves do eat elk and deer, and occasionally cows and sheep. But surely this cannot be a good reason to discriminate against this one species, excluding it from federal protection at the behest of special interests and in total disregard of science.

Peay asked the Utah Wildlife Board to endorse two federal bills that will do exactly this. And in a meeting on Oct. 19, they obliged him. The seven geriatric white male members of the Wildlife Board voted unanimously to endorse Sen. Orrin Hatch’s S. 3919 and H.R. 6028, endorsed by both Reps. Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz. Never mind that there is not a single shred of science to support these bills or that their passage would set an egregious precedent.

There is no other species of animal on the continent capable of occupying the supremely important role of wolves in maintaining ecosystem health. Hunters can’t do it. They don’t alter the behavior of ungulates in the way wolves do (dubbed “the ecology of fear”), and they generally select for completely different classes of animals (robust adults as opposed to small, sickly or weak animals). As a result of replacing wolves with hunters we have deteriorating watersheds, biological impoverishment, and diseases spreading through game populations.

What an irony! The animal species most maligned, vilified and persecuted by human beings turns out to be necessary to the very health of the land on which we too depend.

It is a fact not yet recognized in our lore or our ethics.

Here are more facts:

Coyotes have been documented to kill 20-30 times more sheep and 20-30 times more cows than wolves do, and they eat a lot of deer and elk, too. Wolves will permanently cut coyote populations in half practically for free.

There were 16 percent more elk in the northern Rockies in 2009 than there were in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced.

There are only 1,700 wolves, compared to half a million elk and a couple of million deer, in the northern Rockies gray wolf recovery area, which is larger than the state of Texas.

A recent 10-year study showed that the moose population in western Wyoming grew too large because of lack of predation, and then collapsed almost entirely due to poor nutrition. If wolves had been reintroduced earlier, they might have prevented this.

Wolves occasionally eat a cow or sheep, but wolf depredation accounts for less than 1 percent of total losses in the northern Rockies. In Idaho one year, the numbers of livestock killed by dogs and wolves, respectively, were 1,400:270 sheep and 100:20 cows.

So far as researchers have been able to document, wolves have killed only two people in North America since 1900, while cougars have killed 22 and black bears have killed 61. Dogs have killed 345 people in Canada and the United States since 1982.

Kirk Robinson is executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.

http://magicvalley.com/news/local/wood-river/article_64d3fe91-1afd-5794-b5a0-62129c6f11ca.html

Wolves have long been blamed for elk deaths in Idaho. But research is showing the predators have gotten a bum rap.

In its August newsletter, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game summarized recent elk studies and found only a minority of elk populations are declining and wolves are culprits in few.

A third of elk populations are increasing even though wolves have been in Idaho since 1995. Though statewide numbers have dropped some, claims that wolves are wholly responsible for declining elk populations aren’t holding up.

Craig White of Fish and Game said the agency’s wildlife division conducted elk studies in 11 of the 29 state elk management areas between 2005 and 2008. The sample included five of the six areas in the state with declining populations. White said biologists tried to collar approximately 30 female elk in each area, but didn’t provide exact numbers.

“We selected areas we thought would be representative for a snapshot of what was happening across the state,” White said.

Biologists found that wolves killed significant numbers of collared elk in only one area, the Lolo zone along U.S. Highway 12 in north Idaho. Over the three years, the report claims wolves killed 20 percent of the Lolo sample, or about six elk. Three-quarters of the collared elk survived, less than Fish and Game’s survival goal of 88 percent.

White said deteriorating habitat in the Lolo zone has contributed to declining elk numbers since at least 1988, before wolves entered the picture. The population dropped by 40 percent during the severe winter of 1996-97 alone. Bears and cougars also kill many elk. Just across the border, Montana biologists are starting a similar collaring study in Ravalli County, where one factor of elk decline may be high human population growth.

The report said wolves caused the highest number of deaths in two other areas with declining populations. But in the Smoky Mountain zone west of Ketchum, where wolves were said to have killed 5 percent of about 30 collared elk, other predators and hunters together killed 7 percent. The Sawtooth zone, west of Stanley, had similar results.

Conversely, the report showed that hunters were the biggest cause of elk kills in two other areas with declining populations: the Pioneer zone east of Ketchum, and Island Park near Rexburg. In the Island Park zone, hunters killed 17 percent of collared elk while wolves killed none.

White said Fish and Game ran a shorter study starting in 2008, collaring 6-month-old calves in just the Lolo and Sawtooth zones. In both areas, wolves killed around a third of the calves. But in the Sawtooth area, only one-third of calves survived, meaning other factors were also to blame.

The conclusion that wolves don’t have a greater effect on elk runs counter to the expectations of many. In July 2009, an informal Fish and Game survey of 2,500 out-of-state hunters found that three in 10 didn’t plan to visit Idaho because of the perceived effect of wolves on elk populations.

In the late ’90s, even ecologists like Scott Creel of Montana State University expected wolves to kill a lot of elk. But after eight years studying the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem where wolves are numerous, he’s learned that other factors are more likely to reduce elk populations.

Before wolves were reintroduced, elk populations were larger and elk stayed in the open, which is what hunters got used to, Creel said. Now, he said, elk may be acting like they did before wolves were eliminated.

Given time, Creel said, he thinks both populations would stabilize. He noted population sizes are only considered “good” or “bad” based upon arbitrary ideas of what the size should be.

“No predator has ever eliminated its food,” Creel said. “Change is always the most dramatic at the beginning, then population numbers settle.”

Laura Lundquist may be reached at llundquist@magicvalley.com or 735-3376.

wolves in Utah!

July 26, 2010

Wolf sighting, trapping confirmed in Utah
By nate carlisle

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated 19 minutes ago Updated Jul 26, 2010 08:35AM
In signs the state may have a significant wolf population, the legendary predator killed sheep and cattle in Utah earlier this summer and a ranch hand shot a wolf menacing a herd.

The wolf was shot by a ranch herder in southern Idaho, but that wolf had earlier attacked livestock in Cache County, Utah, said Mike Linnell, Utah director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services. An earlier report the wolf was shot in Utah was incorrect.

Linnell said wildlife agents also trapped and destroyed a wolf in Rich County, Utah, on Saturday morning. That wolf had preyed on calves in that area.

“We’re going to have challenges if [wolves] come into Utah,” Leonard Blackham, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said. “There’s no question about it. Our mountains just aren’t secluded enough.”

There have been periodic sightings of wolves in Utah for years. Less often, wolves have been blamed for killing livestock in northern Utah. In September 2002, wolves killed 15 sheep and lambs near Hardware Ranch in Cache County.

Those wolves were suspected of originating in the Yellowstone-Grand Teton area of Wyoming. Wolves were introduced into that state, Idaho and Montana in the 1990s. Ever since, there have been disputes between ranchers, environmentalists and government over how to manage the increasing numbers of wolves.

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It’s unknown how many wolves are in Utah, though a 2002 report estimated Utah could one day support 700 wolves across the state.

In the Utah cattle kill, Dennis Wright, of Coalville, said he found two calf carcasses about two weeks ago. They were killed in Summit County on private ground about three miles south of the corner formed by the Utah-Wyoming line.

“People don’t understand how they kill,” Wright said. “They’ll hamstring an animal. They’ll cut both hamstrings on an animal.”

Wright said that after the predator disabled the calves, it ate them from their anus through their stomach, leaving the remainder of the carcass. Wright said state wildlife agents arrived and confirmed the predator was a wolf.

Blackham confirmed the account. He said the wolf likely traveled from Idaho or Wyoming.

“They haven’t caught that one, but they’re working on it,” Blackham said. “It’s probably moved on by now because it hasn’t repeated itself within the last week to 10 days.”

The loss of Wright’s calves stings: Earlier this year, he testified at the Utah Legislature against reintroducing wolves into the state.

“I’m in the business to feed people, not wolves,” Wright said Sunday.

Norman A. Bishop, a member of the board of directors of the Wolf Recovery Foundation, which supports reintroduction of the animal into the Rocky Mountains, said wolves belong on the wild landscapes they roamed before humans eliminated them.

“There are certainly places where nobody likes wolves, like livestock ranges,” Bishop said. “But on wilderness areas and areas where there [is] little conflict, they are a tremendous boon to the ecosystem.”

Bishop pointed to research showing wolves have helped increase the number of beavers in Yellowstone National Park.

Bishop said political conflicts can be minimized when ranchers are allowed to voice their concerns. Compensation funds to repay ranchers for killed livestock also help, he said.

In Utah, ranchers are permitted to shoot menacing wolves only in an area north of Interstate 80 and east of Interstate 84 to the Wyoming and Idaho lines. A wolf must also kill livestock in that area for a rancher to receive compensation from the state, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ website.

Wright’s calves were killed outside that area, but Blackham thought he might still qualify for some reimbursement. Wright said the deaths may have cost him $1,500.

Any ranchers who think a wolf has killed livestock need to contact state authorities so they can investigate and document the case, Blackham said. They need to “watch their livestock closely and report any incident immediately.”

With no means to prevent another wolf attack, Wright said he did not know what to do except “wait for it to hit again, just like all the neighbors and everybody else.”

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

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