October 20, 2015 Source The Dodo
I talked recently with a man who had relocated from Michigan to Gardiner, Montana, a small town just outside of Yellowstone. Given that both states have wolves, we discussed them. The man, large enough to be a pro-football lineman, said he often hunted for deer in Michigan’s wolf country. He recalled one day when he was sitting in his blind and heard wolves howl. He felt a tingle of fear. As darkness fell and he made his way to the car, the wolves howled again, too close for his comfort. As he hustled through the woods, he had a pistol in one hand and a rifle in the other. His headlamp beam moved like the light on a prison guard tower, as his head swiveled left to right.
“I’ll tell you, the hairs were up on the back of my neck, and I was ready to blast them wolves if it came to that,” he said.
His fear was obvious and real. But was it realistic? A few days later, I once again searched for an answer to the question of whether we should fear wolves.
I found two documented fatal — and tragic — attacks by wolves in North America. On Nov. 8, 2005, searchers recovered the body of a man in northern Saskatchewan. Two years later a jury found that he had died from “injuries consistent with a wolf attack.” An investigator suspected that the attacking wolves might have lost their fear of people after eating at open garbage dumps. Luigi Boitani, wolf expert, expressed a different opinion in a 2015 interview with Spiegel. He said that the man had apparently been feeding the wolves regularly and that this could cause them to lose their fear of people.
On Mar. 8, 2010, the body of a woman was found along a road near a rural Alaskan community. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game — relying on DNA evidence for the first time — concluded that wolves killed her and that the wolves were not defending a kill or habituated to people.
So wolves have killed two people, one in Alaska, one in Canada. But what about in the lower 48 where that hunter feared for his safety?
A 2002 report prepared for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game found no human deaths in North America attributed to wild, healthy wolves since at least 1900.
In 2011, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said that no wolves have attacked humans in the Rocky Mountain states. The Oregoniannewspaper investigated the claim. A reporter contacted the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, where a spokesperson stated that wolves have not attacked humans in the lower 48.
I found no other reports since 2011 of fatal wolf attacks. But I did come across statistics that help place those two wolf-related fatalities in a different light.
The National Canine Research Council reported 41 confirmed or potential fatal dog attacks in 2014 and 32 verified fatalities in 2013.
Records at the International Hunter Education Association show that during one six-year period 265 people died in hunting accidents.
An article from The Interstate Sportsman reports that each year in this country 1,500 to 1,800 people drown, and 800 to 875 die in boating accidents.
Dog attacks, drowning, and hunting and boating accidents claim far more lives than wolves have or ever will. Yet I don’t hear anyone demanding that we eradicate all dogs or ban hunting, swimming, or boating so that we can protect ourselves from such dangers.
The chance of wolves killing people are minuscule; there are many greater fears to worry about. That some people use the fear of wolf attacks as a way to justify killing wolves — an endangered species — is another example of the incredible power of the myths and misinformation that surround these essential predators.
As always, I welcome your comments about this topic.
Rick Lamplugh is a wolf advocate and author of the bestselling “In the Temple of Wolves.” Available as eBook or paperback. Or as a signed copy from the author.
Learn more about the creation of worldwide wolf hatred.
By Rick Lamplugh
Want to know more? Try this link: Wikipedia -List of wolf attacks in North America
From: Ireland’s Wildlife
January 19, 2015 by Dan Lettice
Centuries ago wolves roamed the wilds of Ireland. In this full-length feature Ireland’s Wildlife contributor Dan Lettice, explores whether or not, one day, they could do so again….
Could the European grey wolf roam Ireland’s landscapes again? Dan Lettice explores the question (Gunnar Ries [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
The grey wolf, Canis lupis, was once reasonably common in Ireland and existed on all parts of the Island. The last wolf in Ireland was probably killed in or around 1786 but small populations or individual wolves may have existed into the early 1800’s. Before English rule in the country wolves were hunted, mainly by the ruling classes, and plenty of wolf skins were exported to Britain, but there seems to have been no coordinated attempt to exterminate them. During English rule this changed, and people began to view wolves as a troublesome species and targeted them for extermination. During Cromwell’s rule bounties for wolves were initiated and so began the complete removal of the wolf from the Irish landscape.
The wolf itself was once one of the most common land based mammals on the planet, and existed in the whole of the Northern hemisphere and on the Indian subcontinent. Sub species also existed in parts of Africa and South America. As human populations across Europe grew the wolf population suffered. There were many reasons for this, loss of habitat and decline of prey certainly contributed but a building hatred toward the species, mostly based on myth and folklore, resulted in their removal from large parts of Western Europe, with only isolated populations remaining.
As European Settlers set sail for the New World, North American Wolves suffered the same fate. As the settlers moved west across what is now the United States, wolves were steadily hated into extinction in most of the lower 48 States. No other animal suffered the same level of hatred and concentrated effort to exterminate it.
The almost complete destruction of the North American bison herd and the introduction of domestic cattle compounded the hatred and intensified the extermination effort, as wolves increasingly came into conflict with humans. For a much of the latter 1800’s and early 1900’s a large proportion of this extermination was state-sponsored. Finally in the early part of the 20th century most of North America’s wolves had been exterminated. An animal that was once revered and highly respected by Native Americans suffered the same fate as it had in Europe.
Although populations remained healthy in Canada, Alaska, Russia, and parts of Asia, the grey wolf had been removed from almost everywhere it found itself in proximity to people.
Fast forward nearly a century to 2015, and talk of re-introducing wolves to Ireland.
I’ve heard plenty of people arguing for re-introduction, or supporting it, but there are many complex issues that need to be considered before a re-introduction could even be considered. Many people consider wolves the epitome of true wilderness. Perhaps a pang of guilt for our role in their destruction makes some of us desperately want them back in our landscape. I would love, in an ideal world, to have wild wolves roam Ireland again, and I’m not alone, but not at any cost.
Potential benefits of wolves
The re-introduction of a top predator, what was perhaps Ireland’s top predator, into an area would have many benefits. Predators affect not just prey species, but the entire balance of an ecosystem right the way down the food chain. This natural phenomenon, known as trophic cascade, impacts everything from the immediate prey species right down to the primary producers in the ecosystem. When wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, for example, elk, which form a large portion of the wolves’ diet in the park, could no longer stay in a feeding area for long periods overgrazing local plant populations. Instead, with wolves to worry about, elk, white tailed deer and mule deer had to be wary, and stay on the move to evade the predators.
We observed this at a distance on a recent visit to Yellowstone. On a faraway hillside a large, strung-out group of elk were feeding in reasonably close proximity to the Junction Butte Wolf pack. Over the course of 5 hours the elk fed on surrounding vegetation, but they were constantly moving and watching the wolves. The wolves kept them ‘honest’ by attempting to take an elk on a few occasions. In the absence of wolves the elk would have continued to overgraze the plant population.
Twenty years after the re-introduction of wolves the trophic cascade effects in Yellowstone are clear. Once over-grazed willows, aspen and other small trees are now thriving. Beavers have re-populated the park to take advantage of this ready supply of food and building material for their dams. Waterfowl, bird, and fish species have moved in to take advantage of the habitats created by the beavers, and so it continues.
From an Irish perspective a re-introduction might result in less tree damage from deer herds which have become over abundant. These deer are the subject of annual culls to control their numbers. In theory, a wolf re-introduction might result in these deer becoming more vigilant, resulting in less damage to our forests in the areas selected. Whether wolves would result in a significant reduction in deer populations is another question. Wolves generally kill weak, sick, young or old deer, and any re-introduction here would likely involve a small, heavily controlled wolf population. In such a scenario a significant reduction of the deer population would be unlikely.
Another potential benefit of wolf re-introduction is a possible eco-tourism opportunity. Wolf watching, similar to what already exists in Yellowstone, Northern Spain and parts of Scandinavia could potentially contribute significantly to the local economy of re-introduction areas. It may also, selfishly, satisfy our desire to see wolves roam in Ireland once more, bringing a little ‘wild’ back to an Island that in reality has lost most, if not all of its true wilderness.
Reintroduction of wolves: the inevitable down side
Those that argue against a re-introduction on the basis of the ‘danger’ wolves pose to the human population are barking up the wrong tree if you’ll pardon the pun. Research and experience worldwide proves that wolves are no more a danger to humans than any other large wild mammal. Wolf fatalities worldwide in the last century are few and far between. In North America, including Canada, there were no recorded deaths after 1900 until the early part of this century. Two deaths occurred in Alberta province in Canada since 2000. One is probable the other one is certain. One was possibly down to wolves that had been habituated to humans through irresponsible feeding.
Despite these incidences you are far far more likely to be killed in North America by a moose, elk, bison, or indeed a domestic dog. The same would apply here, you would be infinitely more likely to be injured by your own or a neighbour’s dog or in the ‘wild’ by something like a large red deer, than you would by a wolf.
As long as wolves aren’t fed by humans (an incredibly stupid and irresponsible practice, resulting in habituation) then they want absolutely nothing to do with us. There have been deaths recorded on the Indian subcontinent but these were down to rabid wolves, a problem we would not have here. In short a re-introduction here would pose no threat to the human population. Wolves are not the demonic killing machines they are depicted to be by some people. They are highly evolved social animals and, similar to humans in the sense that family bonds are so strong, possibly the strongest of all animals, including chimpanzees and gorillas. Family bonds and interactions govern almost everything wolves do.
While the advantages of re-introduction are clear the difficulties associated with such an undertaking on our part, and perhaps more importantly for the wolves, are less clearly understood and rarely discussed.
Wolf populations are recovering in Europe, and wolves now exist in most European countries, Ireland is a different proposition, as is the Britain. Most of the recovery in Europe has been the result of re-population of areas from extant neighbouring populations, rather than the physical re-introduction of animals. Wolves from Italy (which never fully died out) have re-populated parts of France and Switzerland. Wolves from Eastern Europe moved westward and now occupy parts of Germany. In the US some argue that even without a formal re-introduction programme in Yellowstone and Central Idaho wolves were already moving through Alberta in Canada into Montana and Idaho and would have continued the natural expansion of their range. Wolves have also repopulated Oregon, Wisconsin, and Washington State naturally, without re-introduction.
Some reports suggest Ireland, Great Britain, Holland and Denmark are now the only European countries without a wild wolf population, although a dead wolf may have been discovered recently in Holland. Ireland and Britain would require a physical re-introduction of the species, and this presents many more difficulties.
Location, location, location
Glenveigh National Park — a possible site for wolf re-introduction in Ireland (by Michal Osmenda , [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
Firstly we need to consider where we would re-introduce them. Our largest National Park, Glenveagh National Park in Donegal is 170 square kilometres in size. To put this into context, Yellowstone National Park is nearly 9,000 square kilometres in size, and Cairngorms National Park in Scotland is over 4,500 square kilometres in size. While a wolf pack can live in a relatively small area given abundant prey, our parks are small and are not buffered by wilderness areas. Using Yellowstone or Cairgorms again as an example they are buffered by wilderness areas outside the park, in particular Yellowstone which is buffered by the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem with many large areas of wild country.
Prey abundance may not be an issue, at least initially, as wolves will eat almost anything, rabbits, hares, deer, carrion, wild goats and sheep (which may exist in Glenveagh) in some cases fish and even mice and rats. Where difficulties may begin to arise is when the wolf population grows, and grow it will. Pack size would increase significantly each year, assuming prey abundance and successful breeding. Wolf packs would inevitably drive some individuals out and some may leave of their own accord. These bigger packs would require more food and need to range further. The individual animals who have left the pack will wander in search of a mate and a territory. This will lead them outside the park and into contact with humans either directly or indirectly through interactions with farm animals.
Wolf / human interaction, perception and persecution
While wolves now exist in Europe in areas where the average human population is 37.5 people per sq KM (Donegal has a population density of 33 people per sq KM), Irish wolves would be wandering into areas where people have no experience of dealing with large predators, and have been led to believe, through myth and fairytale, that wolves are savage killing machines. Wolves kill when they need to feed themselves or their young, and despite what some might have us believe, they do not kill for fun or kill more than what they need. So while they won’t devastate or severely impact anyone’s livestock, they will come into contact with them and occasionally take cattle and sheep.
Even with extensive control of the wolf population (as discussed below), some livestock losses will occur. Our landscape, outside national parks, is heavily farmed, making farm animal encounters and losses almost inevitable. Acceptance of this loss would take a massive change in attitudes by people in the area and would also need the introduction of a program to compensate farmers for their losses.
While we have other nature reserves and protected areas outside our natural parks these are detached from each other and, again, are small. Wildlife corridors, which might allow wolves to pass between reserves and parks, simply do not exist here.
Our only experience of reintroductions are those of the golden eagle in Donegal, white-tailed eagle (WTE) in Kerry and Red Kite to Wicklow. While all of these programmes have successfully led to the first breeding of these birds in the wild in Ireland for a long time, they have not been without difficulties.
The reintroduction of the WTE in Killarney in particular met with a lot of resistance. Some representatives of the farming community protested at the airport as the first chicks arrived from Norway. They protested that the eagles would decimate their sheep herds with one prominent member even raising the issue of the safety of small children when the eagles were re-introduced. There have also been many poisoning and shooting incidences involving all 3 re-introduced species. No prosecutions for any of these wildlife crimes have been taken and like many other countries, Ireland’s record of dealing with wildlife crime is poor. This does not bode well for re-introduced wolves here. While education and communication will convince a lot of people it wont convince them all, and wolves would be a much harder sell given their unjustified reputation, the likelihood they would take some livestock, and the fact they are on terra firma rather than flying above our heads like the eagles.
The difficulties discussed above are significant, as would be the financial commitment. Research would need to be preformed, studies carried out, wolves transported, legislation enacted or reviewed, wolf populations sourced and compensated for, wolf management strategies developed and enacted, and those management strategies continued throughout the program. The ongoing wolf management would require telemetry equipment, wolf collars, periodic flights over the park, education programs, ongoing public consultation and full time personnel to carry it out. Compensation programmes for farmers, as discussed above, could also prove costly.
Never mind “could we” — how about “should we”?
European grey wolves in southern Norway (photo AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Marius K. Eriksen via Flickr)
The difficulties discussed thus far are ecological, physical and financial ones, but what about the moral and ethical ones?
The most important aspect in all this discussion needs to be the welfare of the wolves themselves. Wolves for re-introduction here in Ireland would be sourced from multiple populations to give an initial genetic diversity. More wolves would possibly need to be added later to maintain this genetic diversity and prevent inbreeding, although wolves often disperse to avoid this. Even if the source country or countries agree to this, given our failure to stem poisoning and shooting of our re-introduced raptors, it could apply significant pressure on source populations.
The physical collection of wolves would pose difficulties and is likely to result in some losses. They would be collected by trapping, snaring or incapacitation by dart from a helicopter. All of these methods pose risks. During the collection of animals for the Yellowstone re-introduction programme at least 10 wolves died early in the process through trapping and snaring and at least one died during incapacitation from helicopter. One might argue that techniques have evolved and improved since then, but some losses would almost certainly occur.
Removal of alpha (lead) animals from a pack would cause huge upheaval, and studies show that it would almost certainly lead to the break up of the pack. Packs that may have been in existence for generations could literally be wiped out by the removal of perhaps just one animal. Wolves may also attempt to make their way back to their own territories. Relocation of wolves in Alaska’s Denali National Park has led to them returning hundreds of miles to their previous locations. Obviously wolves introduced in Ireland would be unable to do that, but the instinct to return home could lead them to wander into areas where they will subsequently need to be removed from.
Wolves re-introduced in Ireland would need to be heavily managed, some might say controlled. It’s likely that their locations would need to be monitored daily, and that at several animals in the pack would be burdened with telemetry collars. Wolves may need to be re-captured if they move into areas deemed undesirable, and pups may have to be relocated if adults den outside the national park they are introduced into.
Would such a heavily monitored and managed population really mean we have wild wolves in Ireland again?
In my opinion, while the re-introduction of wolves here might have some benefits, both ecologically and psychologically for us, there would be no benefit whatsoever to the wolf, either as a species, or to the individual animals released here. The number reintroduced would, by necessity, be small, extensively managed, and their population artificially controlled. Given the difficulties discussed above in relation to space, and interactions with humans, any such reintroduction would stand a reasonable probability of failing, resulting in the destruction of all of the wolves concerned. It would also have a significant negative impact on source populations.
Re-introduction in Ireland would not result in any increase in the the worldwide wolf population, and would simply be an exercise to satisfy our own selfish needs.
For re-introduction to even be considered in Ireland we would need a massive change in perception, understanding and attitude towards wolves and predators in general. We would need far more extensive wilderness areas, and a well established network of wildlife corridors to connect them. Wolves haven’t roamed free in Ireland for at least 200 years, and personally I don’t think they will be doing so again any time soon.
These are my own views on wolf re-introduction in Ireland, and I welcome debate about the subject via comments here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wolves, Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation, L.David Mech and Luigi Boitani
- Among Wolves, Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman
- Wolves in Ireland, Kieran Hickey
- Wolf Wars, Hank Fischer
- Decade of the Wolf, Douglas W. Smith and Gary Ferguson
- Shadow Mountain, Renee Askins
- A Wolf Called Romeo, Nick Jans
- In the Temple of Wolves, Rick Lamplugh
- Recovery of large carnivores in Europes’s modern human dominated landscapes. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6216/1517
From: Center for Biological Diversity
MLive.com, November 5, 2014
By Jonathan Oosting
LANSING, MI — Wolf hunting opponents declared victory Tuesday night in Michigan, where voters rejected two separate laws that paved the way for an inaugural season last year.
While the victory was decisive, the impact remains unclear.
A third wolf hunting law set to take effect in March or April will reaffirm the authority of the Natural Resource Commission to name game species and establish hunting seasons.
With 93 percent of precincts reporting,Michigan Proposal 1 was headed for defeat, with 55 percent of voters choosing to reject the first wolf hunting law. Proposal 2 was on its way down as well, with 64 percent of voters saying “no” to the second wolf hunting law.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a group funded primarily by the Humane Society of the United States, has vowed to fight the third wolf hunting law in court.
In an email to supporters late Wednesday, campaign director Jill Fritz also called on the Legislature and NRC to honor the outcome of the vote.
“The people of Michigan don’t want the NRC setting a wolf hunting season, and they don’t want to give the NRC the authority to open new hunting seasons on protected species,” Fritz said. “And the NRC should honor the judgment rendered by voters come 2015.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommended the state’s first ever wolf hunt last year with the aim of reducing attacks on livestock and discouraging comfort around humans.
There are an estimated 636 grey wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, up from just six in the 1970s. Hunting groups say the NRC, not voters, should decide how best to manage the population.
© 2014 MLive Media Group.
This article originally appeared here.
From: Center for Biological Diversity
Two Canada Lynx kittens after being processed. Credit: James Weliver / USFWS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
13 Federally Protected Lynx Trapped in First Month of Trapping Season
ORONO, Maine — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a permit today allowing trappers and state agents to injure or kill federally protected Canada lynx during Maine’s trapping season and as part of state-run predator control programs. The permit approval comes less than a month into Maine’s 2014 trapping season, during which 13 lynx have already been reported captured albeit released alive. Two lynx required veterinary treatment for injured toes.
“Maine’s trapping plan simply doesn’t do enough to ensure that threatened Canada lynx are not harmed or killed,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should never have granted this permit — it’s definitely a setback for recovery of these beautiful cats in Maine.”
Wildlife advocates say the state’s plan to minimize harm to lynx, which is required in order to obtain the federal “incidental take” permit, falls far short of what is actually needed to safeguard the forest-dwelling cats from trapping, to which they are particularly susceptible. The state plan requires trapper education — primarily through the distribution of a new DVD to all licensed trappers — and management of a mere 6,200 acres of state forest for lynx reproduction. Even within this small mitigation area, however, Maine intends to allow trapping. To monitor “take” of lynx, the state is relying almost exclusively on trappers to voluntarily report when they accidentally capture or kill a lynx.
“The state of Maine keeps asserting that traps don’t really hurt lynx, and trappers will reliably self-report when their traps injure lynx,” said Daryl DeJoy, executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine. “This is not scientifically based conservation; it is relentless self-delusion, at best. And lynx are going to be paying for it with injuries and with their lives.”
The final permit includes coverage for several new activities that were not considered by the Fish and Wildlife Service in earlier draft rounds of the permit. In addition to Maine’s recreational trapping program, the state added to the final permit its Predator Management and Animal Damage Control programs. As part of these state-funded programs, the state pays trappers to kill wildlife such as coyotes, beaver and foxes. The predator management program pays incentives and gas money to trappers who will travel to remote parts of the state to kill coyotes, as part of Maine’s effort to maintain high deer populations. Within these programs, the state will also allow the use of cable restraints, which capture animals around the neck but are designed to not asphyxiate them. However, cable restraints designed for smaller mammals may kill, larger, non-target species, such as lynx. The state plans to phase in use of cable restraints in the general trapping program. Maine will also open the state to use of larger traps than previously allowed.
The Canada lynx is a wild cat of northern latitudes and snowy climes. It weighs between 14 and 31 pounds, has large, furred paws, long, black ear tufts, and a short, black-tipped tail. In the lower 48 states, it is found only in a few areas, including Washington state, the northern Rockies and Minnesota. In the Northeast the only breeding population of lynx is in northern Maine, where several hundred live. The lynx was listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000. Because of the threat of Maine’s coyote-snaring program to the lynx, the state and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service commenced negotiations on an incidental-take permit in 2002. A lawsuit brought by wildlife groups against the state’s trapping program a few years later led to an interim plan for lynx protection, until the Fish and Wildlife Service approved Maine’s permit application for the “incidental take” of lynx under the trapping program.
Wildlife groups reject the near-exclusive reliance on trapper self-reporting as the means by which the state and the federal government monitor lynx take. Lynx activists say more active law enforcement, including unannounced inspections of trapper operations, as well as lynx exclusion devices on all killing traps, padded or offset trap jaws, and a ban on the use of chain drags and wire snares, are needed to ensure that the fewest lynx possible are hurt or killed in traps. In addition, wildlife advocates say the trapping plan should hold the state to a higher standard of proof than trapper self-reporting that lynx are not injured by trapping. A previous study of radio-collared lynx in Maine showed that after being caught by trappers, only three of six lynx survived a month.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
From: Center for Biological Diversity
Obama Administration Prematurely Abandoning Recovery, Despite Ample Room for
Wolves in Southern Rockies, West Coast, Northeast
SAN FRANCISCO— A first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity identifies 359,000 square miles of additional habitat for gray wolves in 19 of the lower 48 states that could significantly boost the nation’s 40-year wolf recovery efforts. The study indicates the gray wolf population could be doubled to around 10,000 by expanding recovery into areas researchers have identified as excellent habitat in the Northeast, West Coast and southern Rocky Mountains, as well as the Grand Canyon, an area where a radio-collared wolf was photographed in recent weeks.
|Map by Curt Bradley, Center for Biological Diversity. This map and wolf photos are available for media use.
The report comes as the Obama administration moves to strip Endangered Species Act protection from gray wolves by the end of the year, even though wolves have been recovered in less than 10 percent of their historic habitat and are routinely trekking hundreds of miles to disperse to areas of the American landscape they once called home.
“This wolf’s pioneering journey to Arizona, like the wolf OR-7’s remarkable trek across Oregon to California, highlights the compelling on-the-ground reality made clear in this new report,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “The Obama administration must finally acknowledge that the job of recovering wolves to sustainable populations is far from done.”
Today’s report, Making Room for Wolf Recovery: The Case for Maintaining Endangered Species Act Protections for America’s Wolves, analyzes 27 published research papers identifying suitable wolf habitat. It shows that the current wolf population of 5,400 could be nearly doubled if federal protections were retained and recovery efforts began to restore wolves to some of the places they once called home.
The report documents 56 instances over 30 years where wolves have dispersed from existing core recovery areas to states where they have yet to reestablish, including Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Massachusetts and Maine. These events, which frequently have ended in the dispersing wolves being shot, highlight the need for continued federal protections and recovery planning to increase the odds for dispersing wolves to survive and recolonize former terrain. The most famous dispersing wolf, OR-7, traveled hundreds of miles from northeast Oregon to California and has started a family along the border of the two states.
The report’s findings come as federal wildlife officials are working to verify the genetic identity of the radio-collared wolf photographed near Grand Canyon National Park — a discovery that suggests the wolf is likely a northern Rockies gray wolf who traveled hundreds of miles to historic wolf habitat where wolves were exterminated more than 50 years ago.
“What we’re seeing is that the amazing journeys of OR-7 and the wolf spotted in Arizona are far from oddities — they’re reflections of very natural dispersal patterns in recent years, where wolves have travelled hundreds of miles trying to expand to enough of their historic range to survive ongoing threats,” Weiss said. “But without the protection of the Endangered Species Act, we know that these wolves will too often face the same kind of hostility that nearly drove them extinct a century ago.”
Since endangered species protections were taken away from wolves in 2011 in the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, the states have enacted aggressive hunting and trapping seasons designed to drastically reduce populations. To date more than 2,800 wolves have been killed, resulting in a 9 percent population decline in the northern Rockies and a 25 percent decline in Minnesota. Idaho passed legislation this year creating a “wolf control board,” with the sole purpose of killing wolves, and appropriated $400,000 for the task. Removal of protection in the rest of the country will ensure that anti-wolf prejudices prevail and wolf recovery is stopped in its tracks.
“State management of wolves has turned an Endangered Species Act success story into a tragedy,” said Weiss. “Rather than sound science, gray wolf management by the states has been dominated by anti-wolf hysteria and special-interest politics. Wolves need federal protection so they can survive, continue to recover, and eventually reprise their historic wilderness role at the top of the food chain.”
The report details the serious problems with state management and the important part wolves play in ecosystems; it can be read and downloaded here.
Large members of the canid family, gray wolves are habitat generalists able to live nearly anywhere other than extreme desert or tropical environments, but which require human tolerance for survival. Living in family packs that typically range from five to 10 animals, wolves are highly social animals, with all pack members involved in rearing of young and in hunting forays for their prey (predominantly large wild ungulates such as elk, deer, moose and caribou). At around the age of two to three years, wolves tend to disperse from their family packs to seek mates and territories of their own.
Gray wolves were once the most widely ranging land mammals on the planet, with an estimated 2 million distributed throughout North America at the time of European colonization. As settlers moved west, they cleared the land for their grain and livestock, wiping out first the wolves’ wild prey and then the wolves themselves. Government-sponsored predator-eradication campaigns conducted on behalf of the livestock industry exterminated wolves everywhere in the lower 48 states, with the exception of a remnant population of fewer than 1,000 wolves in far northeastern Minnesota.
Wolves were first federally protected in 1967, under a precursor to the Endangered Species Act. This allowed Minnesota’s wolf population to expand in number and range into neighboring Wisconsin and parts of Michigan. In the mid-1990s, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho; their descendants have slowly dispersed into parts of Washington and Oregon, with one wolf making it to California. In the late 1990s, the most highly endangered subspecies of gray wolf, the Mexican gray wolf, was reintroduced to Arizona.
In 2011 Congress stripped wolves of federal protections in the northern Rockies and adjacent areas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did the same for wolves in the Western Great Lakes region. Under state management, in less than three years, wolf populations in these states have demonstrated substantial declines, with nearly 3,000 wolves killed in state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons.
In June 2013 the Obama administration proposed stripping federal protections from wolves across most of the lower 48 states. Despite receipt of more than 1.5 million public comments opposed to delisting wolves and critical comments from scientists and a peer review panel, the administration is expected to issue an official rule removing protection from wolves before the end of the year.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.