16 Nov 2009, 12:50pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
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Montana wolf hunt to close Nov. 16, half-hour after sunset

by Joleen Tadej, The Clark Fork Chronicle, November 16 2009 [here]

Wolf hunting in Montana will close statewide Monday, November 16, 2009 at one half-hour after sunset.

The order halting the hunt came after Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials received word that the pre-established harvest quota for wolves in WMU 2 had been met and was expected to be met in WMU 1. WMU 3 was closed on October 26, 2009. Montana’s statewide quota was 75 wolves.

For more information, visit FWP’s web site [here]

10 Nov 2009, 7:08pm
Wolves
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Wolves Will Thrive Despite Recent Hunts

Note: this excellent article should be widely read:

Wolves Will Thrive Despite Recent Hunts

by William F. Jasper, The New American, 10 November 2009 [here]

In 1995 the federal government began transplanting Canadian gray wolves into Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. That program touched off a fierce range war that continues to rage, pitting farmers, ranchers, hunters, conservationists, outdoor recreationists, and rural folk against the major environmentalist lobbying organizations, government bureaucrats, the big-city media, and urban politicians.

After being protected for 14 years, limited hunting seasons have finally been allowed for wolves this fall, and around 150 wolves have been taken thus far. Wolf advocates are howling that the permitted hunts are “barbaric” and that those who kill wolves are “murderers.” A coalition of radical environmental groups has challenged, and continues to challenge, the hunts with lawsuits in federal court. (See the list of coalition members at the end of this article.)

Those opposed to the wolf “recovery program” rejoiced when the hunting season finally was announced, but many believe it will barely begin to address the exploding wolf population that is decimating deer, elk, and moose populations, as well as causing havoc with cattle and sheep herds. They point out that wolf population estimates by fish and wildlife officials are notorious for undercounting (i.e., there actually are far more wolves than officially admitted), and even if hunters fill all of the tag quotas, wolf populations will continue to soar. … [more]

10 Nov 2009, 12:20pm
Homo sapiens Wolves
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Humans, as predators, have duty to control coyotes

By Dick Dekker, PhD, Edmonton wildlife ecologist, The Edmonton Journal, November 9, 2009 [here]

“Coyotes Kill Young Singer Hiking on Nova Scotia Trail” was a headline in The Edmonton Journal of October 29.

This shocking news story was followed by an almost equally shocking headline, but then in a very different sense: Victim Wouldn’t Want Coyotes Killed

The bereaved mother was quoted to say: “We take a calculated risk when spending time in nature’s fold … in the coyote’s space.” By this, she probably meant that the coyote was here first, and its rights should take precedence over those of humans.

Unfortunately, her soft-hearted reaction appears to be based on the fallacious belief that Nova Scotia is the coyote’s original habitat. This is not the case at all — quite the opposite. The coyote arrived after humans exterminated its natural control, the wolf.

Prior to European settlement in North America, the original range of the coyote was restricted to the arid southwest, whereas all lands to the east and north were the domain of its bigger cousin. However, after wolves were shot and poisoned in most of the continent, the coyote took advantage of the opportunity by expanding its range.

This adaptable canid is now common from coast to coast and in all suitable habitats, as far north as Alaska.

According to various experts commenting on the Nova Scotia tragedy, coyotes rarely attack people, and the pair of animals involved in killing the 19-year old woman may not have been pure coyotes, but hybrids of coyotes and dogs (The Journal, October 29).

Eastern coyotes are somewhat larger than the western kind, and the differences may involve more than just physical size. In the Maritime provinces, coyotes have, in fact, become wolflike and now prey on deer as well as mice and rabbits.

“Eastern Coyotes May Be More Aggressive, Expert Says.” (The Journal, October 30). This opinion, however, is contradicted by the facts. Based on the known record, attacks on humans by western coyotes are by no means rare. Several dozen serious and potentially lethal cases have been reported from western national parks — including Jasper, Banff and Yellowstone — as well as from provincial recreation sites in British Columbia.

Nor is coyote aggression toward people uncommon in large cities, including Vancouver, Los Angeles and Toronto. In all of these areas, there was no hunting. Coyotes lose their fear of people, scavenge on food scraps and are sometimes fed.

Most of the woundings have involved children, which were grabbed and dragged into bushes. Luckily, in nearly all of these horrifying incidents, the timely intervention of parents saved the screaming victims from certain death.

Some well-meaning defenders of wild predators argue that attacks on humans by coyotes are very few compared with those by dogs. This is indeed a very sad fact. Serious bites and even lethal maulings by “man’s best friend” average five million reported cases per year in North America.

The difference is that some coyotes consider humans as potential food, on par with deer or bighorn sheep. The coyote’s ferociousness in attacking animals larger than itself is not a pretty sight.

In cities, the fearless coyote is a growing problem, and what to do about it is locally under review. In the opinion of Edmonton park rangers, only proven culprits should be killed, because, for every coyote removed, another one will take its place.

This realistic management option shows a surprising level of tolerance for a potentially dangerous predator in a city where people think little of destroying other wildlife, such as magpies and squirrels, just because they are noisy or a nuisance.

In wilderness habitats, the opportunistic coyote is kept in its place by the wolf. I can speak from personal experience.

During my 30 years of mammal surveys in Jasper Park’s lower Athabasca valley, where wolves have been the apex predator, coyote sightings per day have gradually declined by a factor of 10 to one.

In large cities, in the absence of wolves, humans are now the dominant predator and should take the responsibility for keeping aggressive coyotes at bay.

Copyright 2009, The Edmonton Journal.

3 Nov 2009, 5:54pm
Wolves
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Predicting Predator Attacks on Humans

by Val Geist

Note: Dr. Valerius Geist, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

In view of last week’s fatal attack on a 19-year-old woman by two coyotes in Cape Breton National Park [here], please allow me a commentary, which I ask you distribute to distribute to your affected colleagues.

1. Both coyotes and wolves have an identical manner of targeting alternative prey, and this process is drawn out and specific, so that one gets fair warning well ahead of the first attack by wolves or coyotes on people. This targeting process proceeds in steps (from Will Graves 2007 Russian Wolves. Anxiety through the Ages [here]):

Free-living wolves also follow the general habituation-exploration model… These circumstances are:

(a) Severe depletion of natural prey.

(b) Followed by wolves searching for alternative food sources among human habitations.

(c) The brazen behavior of wolves was due to the wolves being undeterred by and habituated to inefficiently armed humans (or ineffectual use of weapons or outright protection of wolves),

(d) Wolves shifted to preying on pets and livestock, especially on dogs. (In our neighborhood one or several wolves attacked dogs despite the physical intervention by their owners which the wolves more or less ignored).

(e) Wolves tested and killed livestock; the tests resulted in docked tails and ears of cattle.

(f) The wolves commenced deliberate, drawn-out exploration of humans be such on foot or on horseback, (this is not merely visual and olfactory, but included – weeks before these wolves attacked a human – the licking, nipping and tearing of clothing. Beatty 2000).

(g) This was followed by wolves confronting humans.

(h) Wolves attack humans.

According to interviews with hikers and Cape Breton National Park staff, coyotes in the park had reached stages f to h. In short, if you are aware of this targeting process you would have been highly alarmed by coyotes showing stage f behavior. The coyotes were, clearly, on the way to attacking humans. Also, the pattern of wounding as described by the press indicates that this attack was an exploratory one.

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16 Oct 2009, 3:24pm
Wolves
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Court uses flawed data in wolf case

By Richard Reeder, Cody Enterprise, October 5, 2009 [here]

An official involved in wolf reintroduction since the program began says the recent federal court ruling blocking delisting is using data that doesn’t reflect the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Doug Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Grey Wolf Restoration Project, says studies from Isle Royale used by environmentalists and Judge Donald Molloy reflect a specific wolf population, not wolves in general.

“I worked on the Isle Royale project and those wolves are an isolated population,” Smith says. “They are extremely inbred because they have no other options.”

Isle Royale is a large island in Lake Superior, not a wide open range like Yellowstone Park and surrounding states.

“The environmentalists and Judge Molloy are using that population, which has deformities in their spinal column, as an example of inbreeding problems,” Smith says. “They say we have to avoid those mistakes, but those problems don’t apply here.”

“Isle Royale has a small gene pool and population,” he added. “We don’t think its a comparable argument.”

Smith says the small population size of Isle Royale doesn’t reflect the Yellowstone area.

“It’s a small population and will remain so because of its isolation,” he says. “The genetic argument in this region is moot because it isn’t Isle Royale.”

“We’ve tested the wolves in this region extensively and so far we haven’t found any problems,” he adds. “We’ve covered all the bases, and the future of wolves here won’t be the same as Isle Royale.”

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13 Oct 2009, 10:07pm
Salmon and other fish
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Diverting Rivers and Dollars

by bear bait

The Oregonian newspaper continues to delude itself and the public regarding the Klamath River, its tributaries, and the water issues therein. The implication of their coverage is that the PacificCorp dams, part of the old California Oregon Power Company holdings once controlled by Chicago’s Jay Insull, who was brought to Oregon in chains in the 1930’s by the Oregon Public Utility Commission, are the one limiting factor for salmon survival in the lower Klamath River.

The Oregonian’s claim is that reservoirs hold hot water which is released to make power and in doing so, heats the river and kills salmon. But always missing in the discussion is that the Klamath River is, in fact, only half of the watershed. The Trinity River, a 100% a California river, is the other half.

The Trinity and Klamath join 40 odd miles above the ocean. The major salmon river is the Trinity, and most of the fish that died in the 2002 drought and subsequent die-off were Trinity fish that died below its confluence with the Klamath. The Trinity is a cold water stream with now very restricted flows due to California irrigation withdrawals.

2002 saw strong ocean numbers of chinook and restricted ocean fishing in the Klamath River Protection Zone in the Pacific Ocean. When those fish entered the Klamath, Indian fishing was hot and heavy until they could no longer find markets for the fish. A large Columbia River run had bloated the net-caught fish market up and down the coast. The summer vacation crowd was now in school, and selling fish out of totes from the back of a pickup was fruitless. SF fish buyers offered a dime a pound and the Indians quit fishing with a river full of fish during a drought.

Too many fish and too little water. The needed cold water of the Trinity had been diverted to Fresno or somewhere south of there. The fish had no claim to cool Trinity River water sucked up by farmers in the Central Valley, water which might have helped some, because gill disease from warm water parasites killed more than 35,000 salmon and maybe twice that number.

Instead, Oregon farmers got the blame. Politics, money, and California spin ruled the day. An equal die-off happened in the Rogue River, but there were no Indians with a claim to the fish, and no ag interests to blame. Dies-offs happen in trans Coast Range streams in hot, droughty early fall until the diurnal cycle begins to cool the streams with the sun moving south and frosts in the highlands of early September.
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7 Oct 2009, 11:32am
Homo sapiens Wildlife Agencies
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Lawsuit Against USFS Allotment Ranchers Dismissed

From the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association

For Immediate Release / October 2, 2009 [here]

Ranchers Claim Victory in District Court Ruling

Yesterday’s ruling by United States District Court Judge James O. Browning dismissing a challenge to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) grazing permit renewal from the WildEarth Guardians is welcome news for New Mexico ranchers and will help ranchers across the west.

“Livestock producers across the West are breathing a sigh of relief today,” said Alisa Ogden, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President, Loving. “The claims made by the WildEarth Guardians in this case regarding grazing, the livestock industry and the Forest Service were totally without merit, and Judge Browning reinforced that fact with his ruling. This is a huge victory.”

In 2007, the WildEarth Guardians, then known as the Forest Guardians, challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS’s) use of categorical exclusions (CEs) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for grazing permit renewal in Federal District Court. The case focused on 26 grazing allotments in the Gila National Forest. The NMCGA, the New Mexico Federal Lands Council and the Arizona/New Mexico Coalition of Counties intervened in the case on behalf of the 26 named allotment owners.

“This case was just one more attempt by a radical activist group to eliminate livestock grazing,” Ogden said. “Had it been successful, it would have devastated the livelihoods of the named allotment owners, and the economy of rural Southwestern New Mexico. We are so pleased that the court saw through the claims made by the WildEarth Guardians and ruled on the side of common sense and the will of Congress.

NEPA analysis is typically required for major federal actions, but due to policy decisions by the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is now required for the renewal of 10-year USFS grazing permits, Ogden explained. Now, the agency has a tremendous backlog of analysis and paperwork, because they simply are not equipped to conduct such detailed review on every grazing permit that comes up for renewal. Additionally, the WildEarth Guardians and other such groups tie up the agencies with appeals and lawsuits.

“This has created a lot of uncertainty for ranchers who depend on grazing allotments as part of their operations, and for the institutions, like banks, that they work with on a daily basis,” Ogden noted. “Fortunately, we have had strong Congressional support on this issue.”
Starting in 1995, and most recently in March of 2009, language was included in several appropriations bills by former Senator Pete Domenici directing the USFS to use categorical exclusions to keep the current terms and conditions of grazing permits in effect until the agency is able to complete the environmental analysis required for renewal.

“Through no fault of their own, these ranchers were placed in jeopardy, and we appreciate the court’s ruling. The ironic thing is, every lawsuit filed against the agency by groups like the WildEarth Guardians takes more and more time and resources away from environmental analysis and on-the-ground resource management –- making the situation even worse.” Although this ruling pertained to these 26 allotments in New Mexico, it will also have a direct influence on the court challenge that Western Watershed Project has mounted to the remaining 138 Forest Service grazing permit renewal decisions on 386 allotments across the remainder of the Western states. That case is now pending in the Northern District Court of California.

“We are extremely pleased that the USFS chose to defend itself and the ranchers on these allotments in the face of this frivolous litigation. We are also extremely proud of the representation that Karen Budd-Falen and the Budd-Falen Law Office, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming, protected the industry through participation in the case on behalf of the livestock industry,” she concluded.

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6 Oct 2009, 5:37pm
Deer, Elk, Bison
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Count the Caribou

A photo from this year’s annual caribou survey for northwestern Alaska:

Click for larger image. Thanks and a tip of the parka to T. Mayer of Save Our Elk [here]

9 Sep 2009, 9:41pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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Greater Yellowstone elk suffer worse nutrition and lower birth rates due to wolves

By Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service, July 15, 2009 [here]

Bozeman — Wolves have caused elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to change their behavior and foraging habits so much so that herds are having fewer calves, mainly due to changes in their nutrition, according to a study published this week by Montana State University researchers.

During winter, nearly all elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are losing weight, said Scott Creel, ecology professor at MSU, and lead author on the study which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Essentially, they are slowly starving,” Creel said. “Despite grazing and browsing during the winter, elk suffer a net loss of weight. If winter continued, they would all die, because dormant plants provide limited protein and energy, and snow makes it more difficult to graze efficiently.”

With the presence of wolves, elk browse more - eating woody shrubs or low tree branches in forested areas where they are safer - as opposed to grazing on grass in open meadows where they are more visible, and therefore more vulnerable to wolves.

Browsing provides food of good quality, but the change in foraging habits results in elk taking in 27 percent less food than their counterparts that live without wolves, the study estimates.

“Elk regularly hunted by wolves are essentially starving faster than those not hunted by wolves,” said Creel, who shares authorship on the paper with his former doctoral students John Winnie, Jr., and David Christianson.

The decline in the Greater Yellowstone’s elk population since the reintroduction of wolves in 1995 has been greater than was originally predicted. In the three winters prior to the reintroduction of wolves, elk on Yellowstone’s northern range numbered roughly between 17,000 and 19,000. In the three winters prior to 2008, annual elk counts had declined to between 6,738 and 6,279.

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9 Sep 2009, 10:48am
Homo sapiens Wolves
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Judge refuses to block wolf hunt

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter lauds decision

Spokane Spokesman-Review at 10:23 a.m. on September 9 [here]

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to block wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana; Idaho’s already has begun, and three wolves have been taken by hunters. The two states included hunting in their management plans for gray wolves, which until May were on the endangered species list; since they’ve been delisted, the two states now manage their wolf populations. Here is Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s response to the judge’s decision:

“Judge Molloy did the right thing. Idaho has met and exceeded the criteria agreed upon by all parties for recovery. We have a plan in place for managing wolves, based on the best science available, and we intend to keep our promises outlined in that plan. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Fish and Game Commission have done a great job of setting hunting numbers to ensure a sustainable wolf population and genetic connectivity. We are and will continue to be responsible stewards of the species.”

Dem Minnick and Rep Risch praise Judge Molloy’s decision

Spokane Spokesman-Review at 10:32 a.m. on September 9 [here]

Two members of Idaho’s congressional delegation have immediately weighed in with statements praising federal Judge Donald Molloy’s decision to reject a move to halt wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. Here are the statements from 1st District Congressman Walt Minnick, a Democrat, and Sen. Jim Risch, a Republican:

Minnick: “Today’s ruling by Judge Molloy was a victory for those of us who want land-use and wildlife decisions made at the local level, using sound science, collaboration and consensus. I applaud the decision, and now urge all parties, including the state of Wyoming, to work with scientists to ensure a healthy but balanced population of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.”

Risch: “I am pleased that the judge has allowed wolf hunting in Idaho to continue, and I hope this brings an end to lawsuits opposing the hunt. Wolf numbers have far exceeded the recovery goals set when they were introduced into the state. It is time to let Idaho’s game managers do their job and manage wolves just as they do bears, cats and other species.”

7 Sep 2009, 9:46pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
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Wyoming Gray Wolf Recovery Status Report

From: USFWS Wyoming Wolf Recovery Project Leader, Jackson, WY

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Management in Wyoming and the NRM

WYOMING WOLF WEEKLY- August 31 through September 4, 2009 [here]

Web Address – USFWS reports (past weekly and annual reports) can be viewed at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov. Weekly reports for Montana and Idaho are produced by those States and can be viewed on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Idaho Department of Fish and Game websites. All weekly and annual reports are government property and can be used for any purpose. Please distribute as you see fit.

Annual Reports

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2008 Annual Report is available [here]

Delisting Litigation Status

A hearing of the preliminary injunction request was held in Federal Court in Missoula, MT on August 31. Oral arguments were heard from the Plaintiffs, a coalition of environmental and animal rights groups, and the Defendants- U.S. Department of Interior, and two interveners- the States of Montana, and Idaho. At the conclusion of the hearing the judge complimented everyone on what he thought was a well-briefed and civil hearing. He said he would issue an order as soon as possible.

Monitoring

Yellowstone Park reports that ground observations of wolf pups in Lamar Valley indicate severe mange in 1 of 4 (pup is mostly hairless) and evidence of mange in several of the adults. Their pups are also half the size of other pack’s same aged pups. Pups from other packs appear in usual numbers and healthy.

IDFG reported as of 9/4/09 only 3 wolves have been reported taken in Idaho by licensed hunters, all during the first day that a few backcountry units were open [8/31/09]. One of those was taken as it harassed a hunters horses that were picketed by his camp [which would have been legal under the 2008 ESA experimental population rules]. He tagged it just so he could keep the pelt. Additional harvest might happen during the long Labor Day weekend.

Control

On 8/31/09, WY Wildlife Services confirmed 8 sheep (8 ewes) killed by wolves in the Big Horn Mountains. Control to remove wolves causing the depredations is ongoing but so far it has been unsuccessful.

On 8/31/09, WY Wildlife Services confined a yearling steer was killed in the Upper Green River drainage, north of Pinedale, WY. The Green River Pack consists of 11 wolves and have killed >3 cattle this summer. The pack has a chronic history of livestock depredation. The USFWS requested Wildlife Services to remove 4 wolves in attempt to reduce additional depredations.

On 8/31/09, WY Wildlife Services confirmed a cow was killed by wolves in the East Fork Pack near Dubois, WY. The pack consists of approx. 8-10 wolves. Control was completed on 9/2/09 when WY WS removed 2 wolves. …

On 8/31/09, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife authorized removal of two wolves in Baker County after five separate livestock depredation that killed a total of 27 sheep [all lambs], 1 goat, and 1 calf on 2 private ranches since April 10. One wolf was radio-collared in response to earlier depredations. Monitoring indicated that the only wolves involved were just 2 yearling non-breeders that were not associated with a pack. ODFW also issued a permit to one rancher to shoot the 2 wolves if he caught them in the act of attacking more of his livestock. The wolves were previously harassed “multiple times” from the air but these and other non-lethal methods [rancher got extra fencing, buried the carcasses, and a guard dog] of protecting the livestock were unsuccessful. …

Note: see full report [here] for Table listing confirmed livestock depredations in WY: 1999 - 2009.

7 Sep 2009, 1:25pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
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Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Supports Wolf Delisting

MISSOULA, Mont.—U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Friday granted a motion allowing the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to enter an amicus curiae brief supporting state-regulated wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana.

The move means RMEF positions will be considered against an emergency injunction filed by 13 environmental groups asking the judge to stop a planned hunt and return gray wolves to the endangered species list.

A hearing is scheduled for Monday and Molloy’s ruling could follow soon afterward.

The Elk Foundation’s amicus curiae brief is posted [here]

Wolf Delisting Declaration and Exhibits to RMEF’s Amicus Brief Filed 8.28.09 [here, 5.19MB]

“We’re grateful that Judge Molloy has agreed to hear our side of this issue,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Once you cut away the hysterics and hyperbole, this is a straightforward wildlife management issue. State wildlife agencies have proven their professionalism and capability to balance predators with other resident species. They’ve been successfully managing wildlife for decades and we have total confidence in them.”

The Elk Foundation’s brief reinforces four main points:

* Historic success of modern, hunter-based conservation in North America.

* Viewpoints of hunters who continue to pay for the big-game resources that made wolf recovery possible.

* RMEF-funded research, along with other scientific and anecdotal evidence, showing that wolf populations are fully recovered and that, where wolves are present with elk, wolves are having detrimental impacts on elk.

* State wildlife agencies are best suited to manage wolves alongside other species.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.6 million acres — a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

26 Aug 2009, 8:49pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Homo sapiens Wolves
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Wolves — When Ignorance is Bliss

Wolves mustn’t be coddled if we hope to balance them with modern ecosystems — and to avoid becoming prey

by Valerius Geist

Nothing convinces like personal experience! And I too am slave to it. As an academic I confess to this with some distress, because by training, experience and attitude I should be above it. That I am not alone in this habit is of little comfort. And so it was with wolves.

In my field research on mountain sheep, goats, moose etc. I also observed wolves, and my experience with North American wolves matches that of colleagues. Consequently, during my academic career and four years into retirement I thought of wolves as harmless, echoing the words of more experienced colleagues while considering the reports to the contrary from Russia as interesting, but not relevant to an understanding of North American wolves. I trusted my wolf-studying colleagues to have done their homework and I dismissed light-heartedly the experiences of others to the contrary. I was wrong!

I saw my first wolf in the wild early one morning in May 1959, on Pyramid Mountain in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia. I spotted an ash-gray wolf, with a motley coat, sitting and watching me from a quarter mile away with an eager, attentive look about his dark face. His red tongue was protruding, while golden morning light played on his fur. In the spotting scope his image was crisp and clear. I do not know if my heart skipped a beat, but it well might have. Whose wouldn’t?

Five months prior, in early January, I had had an informative brush with a wolf pack just a few miles from that spot. A friend and I were observing moose. We were in the midst of a migration and some two dozen, mostly bulls who had shed antlers, were dispersed over a huge burn. A few were feeding on the tall willows, but most were resting in the knee-deep snow. Suddenly we heard a low, drawn-out moan. When I glanced at the moose I saw that all were standing alert, facing down the valley. We were green then and perplexed about this unearthly sound.

As if to answer us, a high-pitched voice broke in, and then another and another. We realized we were hearing wolves. Within minutes a chorus was underway—and so were the moose. All were hastily moving up the valley and 10 minutes later the moose had vanished. I opted to stay at our lookout while my friend borrowed my rifle and went to search for the wolves. He saw them at dusk as they walked across a small lake, a pack of seven. Try as he may, the rifle would not fire; it had frozen in the great cold. This may have been kind fortune, for the first wolf I shot with that rifle instantly attacked me, but collapsed before reaching me. The second screamed, and that has triggered pack attacks in the past. Had the pack attacked, I would have been minus a friend in minutes. While a large man can subdue an attacking wolf, even strangle it, there is no defense against an attacking pack.

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25 Aug 2009, 10:37am
Homo sapiens Marine mammals Wolves
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NY Times Gums Up Science

The New York Times, that bastion of unbiased science, managed to gum up more research last week with a yellow journalism article about paleo Indians on the California coast.

The blaring headline in the NYT read, “Ancient Man Hurt Coasts, Paper Says”, but that is the opposite conclusion reached by the researchers.

Some excerpts from the NYT article:

Ancient Man Hurt Coasts, Paper Says

By CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times, August 20, 2009 [here]

The idea that primitive hunter-gatherers lived in harmony with the landscape has long been challenged by researchers, who say Stone Age humans in fact wiped out many animal species in places as varied as the mountains of New Zealand and the plains of North America. Now scientists are proposing a new arena of ancient depredation: the coast.

In an article in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Oregon cite evidence of sometimes serious damage by early inhabitants along the coasts of the Aleutian Islands, New England, the Gulf of Mexico, South Africa and California’s Channel Islands, where the researchers do fieldwork.

“Human influence is pretty pervasive,” one of the authors, Torben C. Rick of the National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian Institution, said in an interview. “Hunter-gatherers with fairly simple technology were actively degrading some marine ecosystems” tens of thousands of years ago.

And, the researchers say, unless people understand how much coastal landscapes changed even before the advent of modern coastal development, efforts to preserve or restore important habitats may fail.

Dr. Rick’s co-author, Jon M. Erlandson of the University of Oregon, said people who lived on the Channel Islands as much as 13,000 years ago left behind piles of shells and bones, called middens, that offer clues to how they altered their landscape.

“We have shell middens that are full of sea urchins,” Dr. Erlandson said. He said he and Dr. Rick theorized that the sea urchins became abundant when hunting depleted the sea otters that prey on them. In turn, the sea urchins would have severely damaged the underwater forests of kelp on which they fed.

“These effects cascade down the ecosystem,” Dr. Erlandson said.

Today, coastal scientists argue about a similar cascade, which some attribute to sea otters’ being eaten by killer whales.

Two papers by Rick and Erlandson are posted at W.I.S.E. in the History of Western landscapes Colloquium [here, here].

The paper that discusses shellfish is:

Erlandson, Jon M., Torben C. Rick, Michael Graham, James Estes, Todd Braje, and René Vellanoweth. 2005. Sea otters, shellfish, and humans: 10,000 years of ecological interaction on San Miguel Island, California. Proceedings of the Sixth California Islands Symposium, edited by D.K. Garcelon and C.A. Schwemm, pp. 58-69. Arcata: Institute for Wildlife Studies and National Park Service.

Abstract

We use data from San Miguel Island shell middens spanning much of the past 10,000 years in a preliminary exploration of long-term ecological relationships between humans, sea otters (Enhydra lutris), shellfish, and kelp forests. At Daisy Cave, human use of marine habitats begins almost 11,500 years ago, with the earliest evidence for shellfish harvesting (11,500 cal BP), intensive kelp bed fishing (ca. 10,000-8500 cal BP), and Sea Otter hunting (ca. 8900 cal BP) from the Pacific Coast of North America. On San Miguel Island, Native Americans appear to have coexisted with sea otters and productive shellfish populations for over 9,000 years, but the emphasis of shellfish harvesting changed over time. Knowledge of modern sea otter behavior and ecology suggests that shell middens dominated by large red abalone shells–relatively common on San Miguel between about 7,300 and 3,300 years ago–are only likely to have formed in areas where sea otter populations had been reduced by Native hunting or other causes. Preliminary analysis of sea urchin lenses, in which the remains of urchins are unusually abundant, may also signal an increasing impact of Island Chumash populations on kelp forest and other near shore habitats during the late Holocene. Such impacts were probably relatively limited, however, when compared to the rapid and severe disruption caused by commercial exploitation under the Spanish, Mexican, and American regimes of historic times.

Note that the abstract says, “Native Americans appear to have coexisted with sea otters and productive shellfish populations for over 9,000 years” and “Such impacts were probably relatively limited, however, when compared to the rapid and severe disruption caused by commercial exploitation under the Spanish, Mexican, and American regimes of historic times.”

That is not the same as “Ancient Man Hurt Coasts”; in fact, it’s the opposite.

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18 Aug 2009, 5:06pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin
1 comment

Idaho Fish and Game Commission Sets Wolf Hunt Limits

IDAHO FISH AND GAME HEADQUARTERS NEWS RELEASE, August 18, 2009 [here]

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, Monday, August 17, set harvest limits for Idaho’s first public wolf hunting season this fall.

Fish and Game models indicate Idaho now has at least 1,000 wolves. The population increases at a rate of about 20 percent a year, without hunting.

The commissioners adopted a strategy that would help meet the state’s wolf population objective, as outlined in the 2008 Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan.

Hunters will be allowed to take up to 220 wolves this fall and winter. Wolf tags go on sale at 10 a.m. August 24, at all license vendors. A resident tag costs $11.75, and a nonresident tag costs $186.

One of the commission’s top considerations is retaining state management of Idaho’s growing wolf population. Idaho has an approved wolf management plan, developed with public involvement. The plan was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and found acceptable by a federal judge.

The commissioners’ decision is consistent with the population goals set out in the plan.

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