6 Jan 2009, 11:16pm
by admin

Declaration of L. David Mech

In this third of four posts we give selected excerpts from the testimony of wildlife biologists, experts in wolf biology. The testimony was solicited in regards to the lawsuit brought by enviro groups to enjoin the delisting (removal from the Endangered Species List) of Rocky Mountain wolves. The Plaintiffs prevailed last July when U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy granted a preliminary injunction, throwing out the delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and ordering them put back on the Endangered Species list. [here]

Judge Molloy set himself up as a wolf expert and disregarded the testimony of the actual authorities, upon whom the USFWS is legally bound to rely. Molloy found that delisting would threaten “genetic exchange”. That is the exact opposite of the testimonies of the experts. We post what the real experts had to say in order to reveal just how egregious and unsound Judge Molloy’s decision was.

Selected excerpts from the DECLARATION OF L. DAVID MECH, PH.D., H.D.A. to the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA, MISSOULA DIVISION (Mech’s entire Declaration is [here]).

I received a B.S. degree in wildlife management from Cornell University in 1958, a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Purdue University in 1962, and an Honorary Doctorate of Agriculture from Purdue in 2005. I have worked for the U. S. Department of the Interior (DOI) since 1969 as a wildlife research biologist studying wolves, and I am currently a Senior Research Scientist, Biological Resources Discipline of the U.S. Geological Survey (formerly Division of Endangered Species Research, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)… I am also an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Ecology and Behavioral Biology, University of Minnesota—1979 to present, and the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology—1981 to present (Graduate Faculty of both). …

[R]ecent data demonstrates connectivity between the YNP population and wolves elsewhere in the Northern Rocky Mountains. …

A total of 41 wolves were translocated into YNP, and they came from 3 widely disparate populations, Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana. Within both the Alberta and British Columbia founders, there were members of several different packs. Thus the YNP population was founded with high genetic diversity. …

No genetically effective immigration has been found in the closed Isle Royale (IR) wolf population for 50 years, yet the population persists at the same range of levels (12-50, average about 25/per year) as it has for 50 years. In fact the Isle Royale wolf population is informative for several reasons. Contrary to the 3 NRM wolf populations it was founded by only 1 female and 1 or 2 males (Wayne et al. 1991) and has inbred for 50 years. The IR wolves look and act like any other wolves, prey successfully on one of the species’ largest prey animals, the moose (Alces alces), and survive at as high a level as any other wolf population. It has even withstood a bout of canine parvovirus for decades (Peterson et al. 1998; Fuller et al., 2003:189-190.) …

It has not been demonstrated that “a substantial reduction” in wolf abundance will occur, and my opinion is that it will not because merely to hold a wolf population stationary requires an annual take of 28-50% per year. Indeed, the agencies outside the NRM which are seeking to reduce wolf populations try to kill 70% per year (Fuller et al. 2003). Such extreme taking of the kind necessary to effectively reduce wolf populations is done via concerted and expensive government agency (Alaska, Yukon Territories for example) programs using helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Normal regulated public harvest such as is contemplated in the NRM is usually unable to reduce wolf populations (Mech 2001). …

Starting with a base population of 1,545 wolves in late 2007 (Final Rule) and adding the average 24% annual increase shown from 1995 through 2006 yields 1,916 wolves expected to be present in fall 2008. (Here I should note that the estimate of 1,545 wolves is a minimum estimate, i.e. there were supposedly a minimum of 1,545 wolves. As wolf populations increase, it becomes increasingly harder to count them accurately and the minimal counts become increasingly lower than actual. Thus a better estimate of the actual population could be about 1,700, and thus the 2008 estimate would be 2,108.) …

Wolves were originally exterminated by concerted, prolonged, year-round government efforts using every means possible, but mostly by widespread open-range poisoning, which is now illegal in most areas and highly regulated in the 2% of wolf range where it is not outright illegal. For these reasons, plaintiffs’ allegation that wolves will be harmed at the population level by state management post-delisting are not well founded. …

Wayne’s conclusion that “Yellowstone Area wolves are likely to experience increased juvenile mortality” goes beyond his study’s design and findings. The study included only YNP wolves, whose population was about 170 wolves (Von Holdt et al. 2007: Figure 8), whereas the Yellowstone area exceeds 450 wolves. Third, Figure 8 itself from the Von Holdt study is highly theoretical and already contradicts itself. Figure 8 predicts a decline in heterozygosity (Ho) in the YNP population of from about 0.740 to about 0.710 in 10 years, yet the Ho actually increased from 0.694 in 1995 to 0.725 in 2004 (Von Holdt et al. 2007:Table 1). Finally, rather than raising concerns about inbreeding depression, the Von Holdt et al. study concluded that “the Yellowstone population has levels of genetic variation similar to that of a population managed for high variation and low inbreeding… .” (Von Holdt et al. 2007. Summary). …

In addition, of course, the contention itself is all based on the assumption that there will be no immigrants. In fact, since the data of 2004 there have been immigrants into the YNP population, and YNP wolves have emigrated to the ID population. Elsewhere wolf movements (measured straight-line from beginning to end) have been documented up to 1,092 km (655 miles) through every kind of habitat including that similar to the 150-200 km (90-120 miles) separating the main YNP population from the ID population. One satellite-collared wolf from central Minnesota traveled 494 km (296 miles) straight-line distance across Wisconsin farmland but covered a minimum of 4,251 km (2,550 miles) during her travels and crossed highways at least 17 times (Merrill and Mech 2000). Wolves from YNP have traveled to central Colorado and Utah, and wolves from ID have traveled to Oregon and Washington. There is no reason to believe that there is not and will not be regular connectivity among the ID, YNP, and MT populations. …

[T]he NRM wolf population is already a metapopulation with proven connectivity among its subpopulations and continuous connectivity expected regardless of possible reduction in numbers of dispersers and immigrants as a result of state-sanctioned taking. Furthermore, even if connectivity were totally disrupted-a highly unlikely event given the extreme documented mobility of wolves-each subpopulation remains large enough to withstand even the threat of genetic deterioration based on the persistence of several smaller wolf populations for many decades (Fuller et al. 2003:189-190).



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