Norway’s recent decision to destroy 70% of its tiny endangered population of wolves shocked conservationists worldwide and saw 35,000 sign a local petition. But in a region dominated by sheep farming support for the cull runs deep.
Norway has a population of just 68 wolves and conservationists say most off the injuries to sheep are caused by roaming wolves from Swedish packs. Photograph: Roger Strandli Berghagen
Conservation groups worldwide were astonished to hear of the recent,unprecedented decision to destroy 70% of the Norway’s tiny and endangered population of 68 wolves, the biggest cull for almost a century.
But not everyone in Norway is behind the plan. The wildlife protection group Predator Alliance Norway, for example, has campaign posters that talk of wolves as essential for nature, and a tourist attraction for Norway.
Nothing unusual about that, given it’s a wildlife group, except that the group is based in Trysil, the heartland of the territory where most of the wolf culling announced by Norwegian authorities last week will take place.
Lars-Erik Lie, a 46-year-old mental health worker who founded the group in 2010, told the Guardian: “I got so upset and saddened by the locals’ thirst for wolf blood, and wanted to show that not all villagers are in favour of wiping out this beautiful animal.
“Many locals think there should be room for both predators and livestock, but they have kept their mouths shut out of fear for repercussions.” Lie has himself been the target of threats.
Culling could undermine the viability of the entire Norwegian wolf population, say conservationists. Photograph: Roger Strandli Berghagen
At the heart of the matter is the conflict between sheep farmers and conservationists. Norway is a large sheep farming nation, unique in letting most of its 2 million sheep roam free all summer without herding, fencing and with little supervision.
As a result, 120,000 sheep are lost each year, and 20,000 of these deaths are attributed to predators, judging by state compensation payouts, which are based on documentation and assessment by the authorities. Beyond that, 900 cadavers found annually are confirmed to have been killed by predators. The wolf accounts for 8% of kills.
Wolves, bears, lynx, wolverines and golden eagles are Norway’s native top predators.
In 1846, the authorities issued bounties to hunt them down, resulting in all species being virtually extinct by the mid-20th century, The wolf was given protected status in 1973, a watershed in wildlife management for the acknowledgement of its part in Norwegian fauna and in need of protection. The first wolf returned in 1980, though the first breeding entirely on Norwegian soil did not take place until 1997.
In the meantime, a new breed of sheep had invaded the land. “The breed of sheep vastly favoured by Norwegian farmers is unsuited to roam around the rugged terrain of the country,” said Silje Ask Lundberg, from Friends of the Earth Norway.
The sheep is favoured for its size and large proportion of meat, but is a bad climber and has poor herding and flight instincts, unlike the old short-tail land race, considered the original Norwegian sheep race, prevalent on the west coast, where ironically there are no wolves.
Just across the mountain from Lie’s house in Trysil, is the territory of the Slettåsen pack, which has been marked out for a complete cull even though the wolves live within a designated wolf zone.
The framework for predator management has been set by parliament, with local predator management boards setting hunting and culling quotas when population targets have been achieved.
“The lack of a scientific and professional approach is obvious,” said Lie. In January his organisation filed a complaint that the board votes in representatives with vested interests, such as farmers, whereas green party members have been excluded.
Lars-Erik Lie of Predator Alliance Norway. Photograph: Arve Herman Tangen
At his office in Oslo, Sverre Lundemo of WWF Norway is also puzzled. “It seems strange that we should punish the wolf for following its natural instincts, particularly within specially designated zones where the wolf supposedly has priority over livestock,” he says.
“The Slettåsen pack is very stable and of genetic importance. Scandinavian wolves are subject to inbreeding and poaching, and this makes the small population more vulnerable to random events. Culling these individuals can undermine the viability of the entire Norwegian wolf population.”
According to Lundemo, the decision for culling appears to be based on politics as much as on science. The WWF have examined the case document that formed the base of the decision. “This a questionable decision on many levels. The case documents don’t substantiate why these three particular territories were singled out for culling,” said Lundemo.
Despite the population within the wolf zone having almost doubled since last year, attacks on livestock have almost halved. “Most of the injuries are inflicted by roaming young wolves from Swedish packs,” said Lundemo.
Sweden has stricter regulations for sheep farmers, refusing to compensate farmers who don’t protect livestock properly. As a member of the EU, Sweden had a planned licenced cull of 10 % of their wolf population of 400 in 2014 reduced following pressure.
Friends of the Earth advocate more suitable breeds of sheep, or cattle, and better fences and herding. WWF is exploring the option to challenge the decision legally before the wolf hunt sets in on 1 January 2017.
Back in Trysil, the Predator Alliance is gaining momentum. The group has submitted a 35,000-signature petition for protecting the wolf to the prime minister, Erna Solberg. “We humans have become greedy, behaving like nature is there for our taking,” said Lie. “When you have a population as small as the one we have in Norway now, you have to draw the line.”
“The wolf population is already very small and critically endangered,” Silje Lundberg, a prominent Norwegian environmentalist, told the U.K.’s Express. “To eradicate 70 percent of such a vulnerable species is shocking.”
Most recent reports suggest wolves kill , at most, 1,500 of the country’s 2 million grazing sheep annually. Another 100,000 have died from poisonous plants, drowning, traffic accidents and various diseases.
Scientists, however, contend that taking wolves out of the ecological picture will have a profound effect on all wildlife. As a keystone species, wolves play “a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions,” National Geographic notes. “Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.”
“This is pure mass slaughter,” Nina Jensen, of the Norwegian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature, told the Guardian. “We haven’t seen anything like this in almost 100 years, when the policy at the time was to exterminate all the big predators.”
Indeed, if recent history is an indication, all of Norway’s wolves seem to be on a slippery slope. So far, more than 11,000 people have signed a petition calling the country’s lawmakers to cancel the cull.
The Modoc County wolf left his birthpack in northeastern Oregon in April, was in southwestern Oregon by December and recently crossed the border into California, according to wildlife conservation advocates.
“California is clearly wolf country because they keep coming here from Oregon. This is a great moment to celebrate,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Perhaps they are following a scent trail from other wolves that have come here the past couple years but, whatever the reason, it makes it all the more necessary to ensure they have the protections needed to thrive once they get here.”
The gray wolf is native to California but was extirpated from the state by the mid-1920s.
In June 2014 the California Fish and Game Commission voted in favor of the petition, making it illegal to intentionally kill any wolves that enter the state. In 2012 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife convened a citizen stakeholder group to help the agency develop a state wolf plan for California, and recently released a draft plan for public comment.
“With the establishment of the Shasta pack and now with OR-25’s presence, it is all the more critical that the state wolf plan provide management strategies that will best recover and conserve these magnificent animals,” said Weiss.
National Geographic photographers reveal their intimate encounters with these unique coastal predators.
Two wolves run on the beach, exploring the tidal zone for meals. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)
When we hear the word “wolf” nearly every one of us will think of wolves in a forest. Perhaps in our mind’s eye, we see a pack of wolves chasing down an elk or bison in Yellowstone, or monitoring a herd of caribou in Alaska, looking for the weakest link. But what we likely don’t think of is a wolf standing in an estuary stream catching salmon, or strolling along a beach poking through washed-up kelp for barnacles and other morsels to eat.
Yet that is exactly what happens among a very specific population of wolves living on the coastal islands of British Columbia. These wolves don’t hunt deer, in fact many may go their whole lives without ever seeing a deer. Instead, they rely on what the tide brings in. Fish roe, crustaceans, seals and washed-up whales are common meals for these wolves, which have been named sea wolves for their reliance on the ocean for food.
They are entirely unique and with behaviors that have scientists fascinated, but they are also heavily persecuted by humans. Between this and a future threatened by climate change, the outlook for these wolves is tenuous at best.
Photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier recently went on assignment for National Geographic, spending weeks in the field crouched in a blind to photograph the intimate lives of these secretive wolves. We spoke with them about their experience, as well as what the average person can do to help preserve a highly unique and little-understood population.
Coastal rain wolves live on the outer Islands of the BC coast. Wolves on these Islands live on a very diverse selection of food including deer, chitons in the intertidal zone. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)
MNN: You spent weeks on the ground, waiting for sightings of a pack of wolves. What was it like the very first time you laid eyes on them?
CM and PN: We arrived on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia where we knew a couple of wolves had been sighted. We used our zodiac (small raft) to circumnavigate the island — a journey that took about 1.5 hours, until we sighted paw prints on the sand. The trick for us was to predict the patterns, trails and times the wolves were patrolling certain beaches, and to try to be there before them.
The first time we saw them it was a total fluke. We landed the zodiac on a beach and as Paul and Oren went up a stream to check things out, I stayed with the zodiac and was utterly surprised when one of the wolves came trotting out of the bushes. A small, slender female, she was completely calm and she just kept trotting my way until she was just 30 feet away.
At the same time, Paul and Oren rounded the corner of the stream and came into the open beach. Now the wolf was in between us. Instead of panicking, she just sat on her haunches, did a long, lazy stretch and then just went back the same way she had come from.
It was a comedy of errors, in which the wolf played its part and we, as photographers, fumbled and made mistakes and ended up with only mediocre pictures of a perfectly lovely encounter.
You had the unique opportunity to watch wild wolf pups hang out with their family. What was it like to witness the family structure of the wolves?
What we found was a pack of five pups being watched by a single adult female, presumably their mother. When pups are young, the entire pack helps take care of them. All the members bring food to the mother, who has to stay with the young pups. On this occasion, the pack must have been out hunting and when night fell and we had to leave, they still had not returned.
The next morning, when we returned to the beach, the pups were gone, so presumably the pack returned and they all moved on to another den site.
A mother and pups on the beach is a rare sight for anyone, and these photographers put in their dues to be able to witness it. (Photo: Cristina Mittermeier)
You two spent weeks in a tiny blind, waiting for opportunities to photograph the wolves. What do you do to stay, you know, sane?
Working in the blind gave me a whole new level of respect and admiration for photographers who specialize in wildlife. We spent a total of 28 days working from this blind, and it was hard.
The first few days were fun and busy as we selected the site and slowly and carefully set out to build the blind. One has to work slowly and early in the morning as not to disturb things. We laid a tarp on the ground to keep ourselves dry.
Unfortunately, the material crinkled and made noise every time we moved, so we had to remain really still. This meant stiff muscles and boredom. To pass the time we rnd a lot of time together. It teaches you a lot about a partner, when you have to be jammed in a small space and unable to move or talk for long periods of time. I have to say I enjoy Paul’s company very much.
Three wolf pups play with a piece of kelp. (Photo: Cristina Mittermeier)
Why these wolves? What sets them apart so much from other wolves as an extra concern for conservation?
The wolves of British Columbia are very different from any other wolves we have ever encountered. Unlike the gray wolves of the BC interior or the much larger timber wolves, rain wolves or sea wolves as they are known are small and dainty.
Unlike any other wolves, these ones don’t mind swimming between islands, sometimes for long distances but what truly sets them apart is the fact that over 70 percent of their diet is marine. They patrol the beach during low tide and eat mussels, clams and other marine life.
They are also very adept at hunting for salmon as the fish make their way up forest streams. Most impressively, they are able to hunt seals and sea lions.
These wolves are specialists in the meals that are available along a coastline. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)
Which is the most pressing concern to the future of these coastal island wolves?
Very little is known about them and preliminary DNA studies by scientist Chris Darimont from the University of Victoria indicate they might be a distinct race or even a subspecies.
For us, the real driver, however, is the fact that these fascinating animals are not protected by provincial or federal laws and people are not only allowed, but encouraged to kill them.
They are so curious and their habit of patrolling the beach exposes them to the danger of shooters who can spot them from boats.
The coastal island wolves are used to getting their feet wet for a meal. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)
What can the average reader do right this minute to help protect coastal wolves?
One of our partner organizations, Pacific Wild, a small NGO based in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, is doing a lot of work to make authorities more aware of the ecological and indeed, the cultural importance of these animals.
The recent approval of a plan to slaughter 400 wolves in central BC makes it even more imperative to encourage the drafting of some laws that offer some protection.
Pacific Wild has gathered almost 200,000 signatures in a petition to the Premier of BC, Christy Clark to protect rain wolves. Supporting such a petition, opposing the wanton slaughter of wildlife, and educating themselves about the impacts of recreational hunting of apex predators is the best things people can do.
Find out more about Nicklen and Mittermeier’s conservation work at SeaLegacy, a nonprofit working to document the planet’s fragile marine ecosystems and inspire advocacy for their protection.
StandForWolves Wyoming has been fighting Washington over delisting since 2003, objecting to the federal standards and offering its own plan for controlling wolf populations. Wyoming treated wolves as “vermin” and allowed them to be hunted along the borders of Yellowstone National Park and throughout National Forest lands south of Jackson Hole.
219 wolves were killed in 80% of Wyoming opened to “unlimited” killing since the delisting in late August 2012.
Overruling U.S. wildlife officials, a federal judge (Amy Berman Jackson) restored protections for gray wolves in Wyoming in September 2014.
Wyoming’s kill-on-sight attitude as a wolf management plan throughout much of the state is a disgrace. Wyoming officials need to be conscious of the fact that “sport” (trophy) hunting of wolves is inconsistent with the need for continued protections for this essential, iconic species. Labeling the wolf as a predator that could be shot in four-fifths of the state is hardly a way to treat a species freshly removed from the ESA.
Cast your vote. How should Wyoming’s wolf population be managed~certainly not by the state, please choose the first option: “The current federal controls will protect the population.” #VOTE4WOLVESHERE.
The governors of Wyoming and Montana will headto Washington, D.C. thisweek (Tuesday, September 29th) to give their perspective on how to“improve” (ie. dismantle) the Endangered Species Act.
Please find several tweets to send off at the bottom of this post.
Western Governors’ Association Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will be joined by Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, WGA Vice Chair), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota),Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Gary Herbert (Utah) at a number of meetings with congressional leaders. Governors Mead and Bullock will appear at a briefing on the topic “Improving the Endangered Species Act : Perspectives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Governors.” In addition to the governors’ appearance and remarks on the ESA, (which is the focus of Gov. Mead’s Chairman’s Initiative), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, also will be present and will make a statement.
Mead last month announced that the Western Governors’ Association will hold five forums around the West to collect information on how to improve the Endangered Species Act. The first will be held in Wyoming this fall. The act “touches the people and economies of Western states in a significant way,” Mead said last month in announcing the effort. “This initiative is intended to take a hard look…” Mead has focused much of his criticism of the ESA on how difficult it is to remove federal protections for a species once it is listed. He has said that since 1973, when the federal law was enacted, 2,280 species have been protected but only 30 have been taken off the list after being classified as recovered. The truth of the matter is, as Montana lawyer, Tim Preso of Earthjustice, states: “The proper measure of success of the Endangered Species Act is its track record of preventing species from going extinct”. He said he regards current calls for improving the law to be “Trojan horse efforts” to undermine key provisions.“The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent effective at preventing extinctions, which is kind of amazing when you consider the huge amount of population expansion, and expanded human footprint on this continent since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973”.
Let us not forget that Wyoming’s wolf management plan classified the animals as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most areas, an approach that drew opposition from national environmental groups.
Bottom line, the Endangered Species Act works. The longer an animal or plant species is protected under the ESA, the more likely it is to recover. Today the ESA is under attack at a time when we can least afford to lose it.
The ESA safeguards ecological processes, such as predation, as well as maintaining biodiversity. Science tells us that the most effective way to mitigate climate change is by maintaining ecological resiliency. The ESA protects keystone species (such as the gray wolf and sea otter) which create more resilient ecosystems by increasing biodiversity.
Politicians should not be meddling in what should be science based decisions. Please reach out to the members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works – Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife via twitter. Tell them that the ESA works, leave it alone!
FRISCO — Since the Dakotas are sandwiched between Montana and Minnesota, it’s probably not completely surprising that wolves turn up there from time to time.
But the latest sighting of what certainly looks like a wolf has spurred a call for more education and public outreach to prevent the animal from being shot, either by accident or purposefully by over-eager hunters.
“Most hunters, just like other folks, try to do the right thing,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They appreciate wolves’ important role in natural ecosystems. We hope this wolf will continue to enchant viewers and contribute to recovery of his species,” Robinson said, reacting to the most recent sighting in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Wolves are larger and appear bulkier than coyotes, with longer legs and more rounded ears. In two recent wolf killings in Colorado and Utah, hunters said the mistook wolves for coyotes — one of the reasons that wolves are having a hard time re-establishing populations in new areas.
Wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act throughout the United States except in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and portions of Utah, Oregon and Washington.
The Center for Biological Diversity has urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help educate the public about the difference between wolves and coyotes — and about the fact that wolves are protected under federal law — in order to enhance protections for the animal seen in the recent video. So far the Service has declined to take action.
Moreover, despite the steady push by gray wolves to expand into areas they historically inhabited, instead of expanding public education and wolf-management programs the federal agency has proposed stripping their Endangered Species Act protections across most of the country.
“Removing wolves from the endangered species list would increase the number that are killed, confine wolves to artificial islands of habitat where they risk becoming inbred, and cut off the benefits these beautiful animals provide to ecosystems, wild places and other animals in the food web,” said Robinson. “The antidote is twofold: More room in people’s hearts for wolves, and keeping them protected under the law.”
While the wolf restoration effort in the northern Rockies has been successful, the predators haven’t been able to recolonize much territory outside that area even though they once roamed widely across most of North America.
Scientists say it’s critical to maintain linkages between wild wolf populations for the long-term genetic health of the species. The Black Hils region is not mapped as potential wolf habitat, primarily because of the road density in the area, according to Robinson.
The Center for Biological Diversity has documented the fates of 56 wolves known to have dispersed from established recovery areas since 1981. Forty-eight of those were found dead, including 36 by gunshot, including five in South Dakota between 1981 and 1991.
The other 12 wolves among the 48 that died included four in South Dakota: two with the causes of mortality not disclosed, one hit by a vehicle and another thought to have been hit — in 2001, 2006 and two in 2012. Genetic tests on the 2012 animals determined that one was from the northern Rockies and the other from the upper Midwest.
Welkom op de blog van Discobar Bizar. Druk gerust wat op de andere knoppen ook, of lees het aangrijpende verhaal van Hurricane Willem nu je hier bent. Welcome to the blog of Discobar Bizar, feel free to push some of the other buttons, or to read the gripping story of Hurricane Willem whilst you are here!