It was a little like coming home. The two story farm houses, the flat horizon, and the fields of corn stubble covered by snow looked much like Iowa, where I grew up. But I was keenly aware of one major difference between the two states. Wisconsin has wolves. Iowa doesn’t, at least not yet.
I spent last weekend in Western Wisconsin researching a story for Earth Island Journal. I met with Rachel Tilseth, wolf advocate and author of the informative blog Wolves of Douglas County, as well as members of the Great Lakes Wolf Patrol, a grassroots organization spearheaded by Rod Coronado (formerly with Sea Shepard). The mission of Wolf Patrol, whether in the Great Lakes or Montana, is to document the wolf hunt, educate the public, observe for poachers, and make sure hunts end when they are supposed to.
Their efforts, along with Rachel’s Twitter storm, no doubt influenced Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to stop this year’s wolf hunt when they did. There was talk that the hunt would continue longer, as some zones had not killed their quota, even though the overall quota of 150 wolves had been met. The extended season would have allowed hound hunters more time to go after wolves. This atrocious sport, allowed only in Wisconsin, did not legally begin until the regular wolf season ended on December 1.
On the morning of December 4 the DNR still hadn’t made a decision on when to close the hunt. Rachel and Wolf Patrol encouraged their supporters to call the DNR and demand that enough wolves had been killed. A few hours later, it was announced that the hunt would close the next day at noon, allowing for the required 24 hour notice to hunters.
I spent that final day of the hunt traveling the rough gravel roads of Wisconsin with Wolf Patrol. The only place we saw hound hunters was at the local cafe, where they sat for hours, dressed in camouflage, talking and drinking coffee. It was a relief when noon came and the hunt was officially over. But as Rod Coronado said, it was a hollow victory, because the training will continue. Hound hunters can train their dogs on wolves, bears, coyotes and other animals year round, with no restriction on pack size. As you can imagine, dogs entering wolf territory are prime targets as the wolves instinctively protect their homeland. So far this year, thirty hounds have been killed by wolves. One can’t help but wonder if the maximum $2,500 payment given to hunters by the state when dogs are lost to wolves has something to do with these losses. And one also wonders how many wolves are killed and never reported during these horrific encounters.
So although the season is officially over, when fresh snow falls in rural Wisconsin, wolves and other wildlife will continue to face bloody confrontations with hounds as hunters train their dogs year round. Once again, a minority of the population, one that finds entertainment in violent acts, continue their sport in an era when this activity should be known only as a cruel mistake of the past.
Articles have appeared telling us that efforts to trap OR 7, better known as Journey, have so far been unsuccessful. U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, John Stephenson along with another biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, recently backpacked into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and stayed there for a week with the intention of trapping Journey, his mate, or their pups in order to collar them. All wolves eluded their efforts. The battery on Journey’s collar is due to expire soon and his signal will be lost, making future capture of the pack even more difficult. Besides, its getting pretty chilly for backpacking.
The reasons given for the collaring effort are so the USFWS and the ODFW can continue doing research on the wolves but also to help them monitor for the pack’s involvement in livestock losses. Stephenson is quoted as saying “ranchers in southern Oregon are worried,” and “Generally, wherever you have wolves in proximity to livestock you do get some level of depredation.” Radio collared wolves are much easier to locate. They often become the infamous “Judas wolf” by giving away the location of their pack so they can be lethally removed by Wildlife Services or other entities. There are dozens of examples of this, including the Wedge and Huckleberry packs in Washington.
But there are other, perhaps more far-reaching reasons to put those heavy, unattractive collars on at least a handful of wolves. Imagine if Journey had been a wolf without a collar, like his mate, known as Wandering Wanda. The world would know little to nothing about his amazing 3,000 mile venture from NE Oregon, into California, and back into Oregon. We would not have gained a vast amount of knowledge about the dispersal of wolves, nor would we have this poster child for the importance of wildlife corridors that enable animals to traverse the back country with some element of safety. Journey also represents how Oregon and California are doing a good job in preserving wild and open spaces so that an apex predator like the wolf can repopulate their native territories. And if Journey had been collarless, he may well have been shot and his death never revealed. Who knows how many dispersing wolves this happens to? The one who recently made it all the way to the Grand Canyon is one lucky wolf.
The argument for and against collaring wolves is an interesting one. Do we need to manage them as much as we do, or should wolves be allowed to lead a less accountable life? What are your thoughts?
Wolves don’t live in a world unto themselves. They, like all species, exist in an interactive and pulsating place, one that is increasingly influenced by humans and their influence. Good or bad, a significant part of human influence has to do with finances. Money talks, and it speaks both for and against wolves, depending on the source. We hear a lot about prominent groups that use their wealth to kill wolves. But Ted Turner, who has a net worth of 2.2 billion and owns over 2 million acres of land, is using his money to help them.
I learned about Turner’s far-reaching philanthropy last evening at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. The lecture I attended was the first in a Pacific Northwest tour entitled, “Two Talking Wolves” featuring writer Todd Wilkinson, who just released the paperback version of his book, Last Stand, Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, along with long-time environmental advocate and Cascadia Wildlands executive director, Bob Ferris. The Ashland talk, as well as the one tonight in Roseburg, includes Mike Finley, who, among dozens of other attributes, was supervisor of Yellowstone National Park when wolves were relocated there in 1995 and 1996.
Capitalism, as demonstrated by Ted Turner, has tremendous potential to reduce the damage done to the environment and its inhabitants. Turner’s vast Flying D ranch near Bozeman, Montana is home to 5,000 bison, a ton of elk, as well as the Beartrap pack, one of the largest groups of wolves in the country. The Beartrap is one lucky pack. Turner doesn’t shoot them when they ingest his resident ungulates. He wants them there, because he likes wolves and also because when wolves dispersed from Yellowstone to the Flying D, Turner achieved the rare distinction of owning land with biological wholeness, a place with an intact collection of native creatures. He’s even rewilding prairie dogs, with a quarter of a million of the little rodents tunneling away so far. The cascade effect is in action here; black footed ferrets, our most endangered mammal, find homes in the prairie dog tunnels.
Turner’s resources serve a multitude of organizations, as we learned from Mike Finley, president and treasurer of the Turner Foundation. Finley calls foundations “change agents,” as they have a way of getting things done that the government is unable to. The best way to gain an appreciation for the generosity of this foundation is to check out the appendix in the back of Willkinson’s book. There are seventeen pages, each page with three columns (and the print is small) listing the organizations that received money from the Turner Foundation up until September 13, 2012. The total giving was $385 million. The groups benefiting range from the Montana Zoo to the Alzheimer’s Association, from the China Women’s Hotline to the Wildlife Society. The organizations are as diverse as is imaginable. No one can accuse Turner or his foundation of being narrow minded in their choice of beneficiaries.
If you live near Roseburg, Oregon don’t miss the chance tonight to hear Mike Finley’s part of the conversation. Finley is well known for his proactive work in the National Park System. In 1988, as superintendent of Everglades National Park, he pushed for a law suit against sugar cane growers to stop their pollution of the “River of Grass.” In his position at Yosemite, Finley limited the number of visitors allowed in the valley to prevent harmful overcrowding. And at Yellowstone, he used the same determined approach to help bring wolves back to the park. Finley currently serves on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission where last week, he stood up against the proposal to increase the spring bear hunt in southern Oregon. He is also a graduate of Southern Oregon University.
Wilkinson has been a journalist and writer for over twenty-five years. His 1998 book, Science Under Seige: The Politicians War on Nature and Truth, sheds light on how the government puts politics in front of truth, often ignoring evidence discovered by their own scientists. He spent seven years on the biography of Ted Turner and his book is filled with revealing interviews, showing us a side of Turner that is rarely made public.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of “Two Talking Wolves” is hearing of the camaraderie between the presenters. Wolf advocacy goes back a long way and when Finley was in Yellowstone working toward the return of wolves, Bob Ferris was in Washington D.C., speaking for Defenders of Wildlife on the reasons why wolves should live in the park. He admitted that he had to testify that yes, of course all the wolves could be rounded up if need be after their release. After all, they all wore telemetry collars. I envision his fingers crossed behind his back, knowing how difficult this task would actually be. Ferris was also part of the team that went to Ft. St. John B.C. to capture wolves for the Yellowstone and central Idaho reintroduction. He has a keen interest in what goes on in the human mind regarding wolves, believing that understanding the root cause behind the war against wolves is essential to solving the problem.
Ferris and Wilkinson met each other years ago while working on a swift fox project on the Blackfoot reservation in Browning, Montana. They hit it off, no surprise, and have maintained a friendship ever since.
Ferris also talked about OR 7 and his mate, Wandering Wanda, the name he coined for the female black wolf. He pointed out that Wanda has a story as fascinating as Journey’s but she isn’t getting the same attention. Ferris predicted years ago that wolves would return to his home state of California. Journey, and perhaps Wanda as well, have made this come true. And no doubt their pups will disperse into the Golden State sometime soon.
Between the efforts of Wilkinson, Ferris and Finley, there are decades of work toward creating a saner, safer world for wildlife as well as for human beings. And Ted Turner adds his own style of environmentalism to the mix, one that throws in the benefit of his assets. While it’s easy to become discouraged about the problems we face in defending wolves, something Bob Ferris said comes to mind. “If we are frustrated by the lack of progress, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t working hard behind the scenes.” Two Talking Wolves” provides proof of this. Be sure and attend if you can. Visit Cascadia Wildlands website. Details of the upcoming talks are below.
If you have suggestions about venues we should investigate or people we should contact along this general pathway, we would be most appreciative. We are also flexible in terms of presentation format and audiences. Carolyn Candela at Cascadia Wildlands will be helping with logistics on this tour, but please feel free to contact any of us about opportunities or interest (bob[at]cascwild.org), (tawilk[at]aol.com) or (Carolyn[at]cascwild.org).
I’m nearly done reading the captivating book, Among Wolves. This work is comprised of the late Gordon Haber’s essays, field notes, scientific papers, photographs and even Tweets, as well as personal commentaries from those who knew him best, including the pilots who flew Haber over the vast Denali National Park so he could pursue his exhaustive study of wolves.
I’ll be writing a review for EcoLit Books after finishing Among Wolves but I am so enamored with the book that I wanted to share some of it with you now.
Alaska writer Marybeth Holleman compiled the words and pictures and created a book that does justice to the vast body of work done by Haber in the forty-three years he spent as a student of Canis lupus. Among Wolves is a readable and informative text that is accessible to all. There is science here but also anecdotes and meaningful insights. Holleman writes that Haber “…was, above all, a scientist-one who never forgot the initial sense of wonder, curiosity and excitement that drew him to study wolves. He was never afraid of drawing conclusions from his research, or of voicing those conclusions.” (pg 12). Haber’s passion for his work is apparent throughout the pages of this book.
Perhaps because he didn’t work under the thumb of a Federal or state agency (his research was funded by sources such as Friends of Animals), Haber portrayed wolves differently than most biologists. He built on what was already known about them, adding depth and dimension to more basic facts and figures.
One section I especially enjoyed was Haber’s description of the den areas of several of the packs he studied. In 1966 and 1967, Haber mapped out the underground structure of the Toklat pack’s homesite. In order to do this in his typically thorough manner, he crawled into each of the dozen or so tunnels that made up the den area. He found the burrows clean and dry and the ground of the major chambers lined with a thick layer of wolf underfur, providing a soft bed for the thirteen newborn pups the two breeding females produced that year.
This particular homesite was one of a cluster of dens within an eight mile radius. The packs, Haber learned, tended to use several sites each summer, depending on prey availability and disturbances by humans. He believed they also moved from one to the other to help train their young to travel. The homesites not only contained dens, they also had an above ground layout with lookouts for adult wolves, interconnecting trails, and play areas for pups. Tunnel entrances usually faced the south, allowing for early sunshine in the spring. Water was nearly always close by. And the sites were often constructed in elevated areas, providing wolves with good views to watch for prey and predators alike.
These homesites were used over and over again by the Denali wolves. The area Haber mapped out was known to be in use for at least twenty years before he crawled into the tunnels. But Haber as well as his predecessor, Dr. Adolph Murie, believed the sites had housed wolves for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Haber didn’t like the word “pack.” He saw wolf groups as families, believing the term pack failed to “convey the fascinating essence of what sets wolf social organization apart from the organization of other species.” (pg 244) The Toklat wolves, in his estimation, were “one of the world’s oldest known nonhuman social groups in the wild,” (pg 238) comparing them to the chimpanzees Jane Goodall studied in Gombe National Park, Tanzania.
The Toklat family had long and lasting relationships. One primary breeding female held her position for fourteen years. Non-breeding wolves were very involved with training and rearing the young. Females who weren’t mothers even nursed other female’s pups. Hunting techniques were honed by this group and practices passed on from generation to generation.
Homesites reminiscent of villages and complex social structures can’t help but make one think of human culture. If family groups of wolves are allowed to exist for long periods of time without destruction they can offer us insights into our own past and current societies.
A vocal opponent of the Alaskan tendency to eradicate their wolves, Haber said, “Numbers are secondary to relationships and actions. It isn’t about numbers, it’s about traditions and cultures.” (pg 237)
Wolves are not isolated entities, they are complex social creatures. Even if hunting and trapping does not lead them to a threatened or endangered status, this random killing destroys much more than an individual wolf. As Haber said, “…although wolf numbers often rebound from public hunting, trapping, and heavier agency killing, at least in the short term, the repercussions are distinct and long-lasting. There are lost traditions, fragmentation, and continued mortality long after direct killings. Effects can be felt for generations.” (pg 246)
Haber’s death in 2009 at age 67 was a profound loss, yet his writings remain to be used to help us understand wolves as the intricate and essential species they are. Among Wolves should be required reading by those who believe managing these animals is only a matter of counting them. Perhaps someday, the rest of the world will catch up with the progressive thinking of Gordon Haber.
(Quotes are from Among Wolves by Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman, University of Alaska Press, 2013)
It appears that Journey’s mate made the same arduous trip he did, but without the fanfare. The black female, who is now mother to a litter of pups, is most likely from a pack in northeast Oregon.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, scat samples were collected in May and June of this year from the southwest Cascades where Journey and his family reside. The scat was examined by scientists at the Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics at the University of Idaho. Results reveal that the black female is related to wolves in the Snake River and Minam packs of northeast Oregon, perhaps at the half-sibling or aunt-uncle level to the alpha females of these packs.
However, as John Stephenson biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service points out, “It could be she also came from an Idaho pack that had dispersers. She may not be the girl next door, but it’s possible. That’s the neat part of the story. It was kind of a needle in a haystack once she did get out all this way. It shows they have ways of finding each other.”
The genetic study also showed that the black female is all wolf, not a wolf-dog hybrid as a few has believed.
Wherever she’s from, Wandering Wanda, as some folks call her, went on a very long walk-about. And because she doesn’t wear a collar no one was aware of her travels. This is in sharp contrast to Journey’s trip, one that’s been followed by thousands of people across the globe as his GPS coordinates were shared (after the fact, for safety reasons) by the Oregon and California Departments of Fish and Wildlife.
The mysterious black female is an enigma, one that evokes many questions. We wonder not only where she is from but what travails she may have met in her travels. Did she bring down deer or elk on her own or did she rely on carcasses and small game? It appears she stayed away from livestock or we certainly would have heard about that. And how did she end up in the same location as Journey? No doubt it was not happenstance. ODFW spokesperson Michelle Dennehy reports that wolves follow scent markings left by other wolves that leave their homeland to seek new territory. This makes sense, however, Journey left his family of origin three years ago. Do scent trails last that long?
Wanda’s story is fascinating and we certainly don’t need or expect to have all the answers. It’s good enough to know that she is there and that wild wolves have instincts and skills and sometimes sheer luck that allow them to perform such miraculous feats. There is certainly a larger force at work here as well. Wolves and other large predators are returning to their native lands all across the world, despite the obstacles of humanity that cross their paths. This lends hope to an otherwise despairing situation, where wolves continue to be killed for being wolves.
Good luck to Journey, Wanda, and their pups. May they roam the wilderness of southeast Oregon and into California as well, helping to return the landscape to the true and diverse wilderness it once was and perhaps will be again.
It’s a disconcerting deja vu. Two years ago we fought hard to prevent the killing of the Wedge pack for their supposed role in livestock depredations. But the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department (WDFW) ignored public opinion as they spent over $76,000 in a full scale war against the Wedge pack wolves, killing seven of its members.
An OPD article dated November 14, 2012 quotes WDFW spokesperson Madonna Luers as saying, “Our director (Phil Anderson) has said that he never wants to do this again… The social acceptance is just not there.”
Mr. Anderson must have forgotten making this statement because now the Huckleberry pack is being targeted under his authorization. One member, reportedly a pup, has been shot already and three more are in the scopes.
I spoke today with Bob Ferris, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands about the issue. Bob has been involved in wolf recovery for over twenty years. For eight of those years he worked with Defenders of Wildlife, either vetoing or giving the OK for the release of funds for livestock compensation claims. Wolf and livestock issues are a subject Bob is very familiar with.
According to Bob, one of the primary problems is the lack of transparency within the WDFW. He compared their department with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which (at least since the Oregon Wolf plan was revamped) is maintaining a high level of transparency in their actions with wolves. WDFW kept quiet their plan to eliminate the Huckleberry wolves until just before the weekend, when they came forth with a brief statement on their intentions, then reported that nothing more would be said until Monday. There was no time for public comment or even a Q&A.
Bob said that the WDFW might benefit from a plan more like Oregon’s, one in which they would be accountable to clear guidelines and regulations. This Cascadia Wildlands press release from February 6, 2014 explains the current Washington wolf plan and its failings. Their plan was adopted in 2011, and management was quickly switched from the Endangered Species Division to the Game Division. Not surprisingly, the Game Division instituted a lethal control program, granting themselves the authority to make decisions that so far, have proven to be far from science based.
Bob suggested that their actions with the Huckleberry pack is more punishment based than science based. As if killing four wolves will tell the rest of the pack to steer clear of sheep. While some non-lethal measure were reportedly used by rancher Dave Dashiell to prevent these depredations, more measures were offered than were implemented. There was talk of moving the sheep but this was never done. Range riders were just beginning to circulate. And depredation was not a chronic problem for this pack, they had not been associated with any livestock deaths until this month. Nonlethal measures take time and diligence, according to Bob, and they must be varied depending on the situation.
Is there anything we can do? Bob advises that no matter the outcome of the current situation, we should contact Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Our persistent voices do have an effect, especially with an elected official. The Governor’s phone number is 360-902-4111. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Ferris lends hope in a time of discouragement. He reminds me that the wolf recovery effort has been a long and challenging one, but one that has been overall quite successful. The first talk of relocation to Yellowstone was back in the 1940s and it took over fifty years to come to fruition. And decades ago, Bob had the foresight to project that one day, wolves will return to California. His peers doubted him, but thanks to Journey, his optimism has proven out.
So don’t give up, continue to support wolves in whatever way you can. They need our patience and persistence now more than ever.
Good wolf news is invariably mixed with not so good wolf news.
This week we saw a reprieve in the Idaho Fish and Game’s plan to eradicate 60% of the wolf population in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area until November of 2015. But what then?
I applaud Ralph Maughan, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, The Center for Biological Diversity, Wilderness Watch, as well as Earthjustice who is representing them, for their efforts in halting this baseless culling of wolves. Read Ken Cole’s report in The Wildlife News for details.
Journey and his new family have been enjoying a peaceful summer in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest of southeastern Oregon. But two threats to their homeland cast a shadow on their seemingly safe existence.
The Oregon Gulch Fire started yesterday morning just north of the Oregon/California border during one of the many lightning storms we’ve been having lately. The fire spread quickly and is still raging today.
I was at the Green Springs Inn on Highway 66 last evening waiting for my son, Dylan and friend Erick to meet me for dinner after they finished fly fishing at the Klamath River, a dozen miles to the east. The Inn was filled with talk of the Gulch Fire, only about ten miles away as the crow flies. A great plume of smoke, looking like a puffy cumulus cloud, rose high in the sky behind us. From the time it took me to sip a glass of Pinot Gris, the extent of the fire reportedly went from 1,700 to nearly 3,000 acres.
The USFWS continues to report that Journey and his family are living somewhere in southeast Jackson County and southwest Klamath county, in the very vicinity of the fire.
I drove from the Inn east for five miles to Copco Road, the gateway to the fire. Television news crews were setting up. Huge earth-moving equipment was being hauled in to build trenches to contain the fire. Single engine aircraft and helicopters buzzed overhead. Firefighters poured in from neighboring Medford and Ashland. I spoke to someone from the sheriff’s department about the fire. When I asked if she’d heard anything about the wolves, she gave me a blank look. Hard to imagine someone not knowing about Journey and kin, but it appears there are a few out there.
A dark orange sunset, color tainted by the spreading smoke, was ahead of me as I returned to the Inn. Finally, Dylan and Erick arrived and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. They came with tales of large, brown trout and of seeing deer bounding to safer parts of the forest. They’d watched helicopters repeatedly dunking huge buckets into the Klamath river to help fight the fire.
By the time we finished two platefuls of nachos, over 5,300 acres had burned. The fire had traveled south into California and east into Klamath county. We heard that 500 more firefighters were arriving the morning. The folks at the Greensprings Inn were also concerned about Journey and his family. They’ve long been avid wolf supporters. When Journey first entered the area, the Inn threw him a party, complete with a talk by Amaroq Weiss and large pins sporting a picture of a grey wolf and the words, “Welcome to the Greensprings!”
By this morning, the fire has consumed over 7,500 acres of land. Journey and the new pack may be miles away. Let’s hope so, and let’s hope the families and firefighters in the Greensprings are safe as well.
As if the threat of fire isn’t enough for the wolves in southwestern Oregon, they stand to lose their territory to logging as well.
The Bybee Timber Sale was originally proposed in 2012, has gone through several appeals and revisions, and is now on hold thanks to the ever diligent folks at Oregon Wild. Yet if this appeal doesn’t hold, the The Bybee logging project would drastically affect 1,300 acres in the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness, just north of where Journey now resides. The logging efforts and the twelve miles of roads they would construct would sever several intact wildlife corridors, the very pathway Journey used to travel to southeast Oregon in the winter of 2011.
I spoke about the logging issue with Morgan Lindsay, Outreach Director for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, better known as KS Wild. Morgan educated me about the details of the Bybee sale. She told me that no trees have fallen in the project yet, and hopefully, none will. KS Wild, part of the Pacific Wolf Coalition, is very active in protecting forest land in the area as well as the animals that live in them. Check out their website and join the KS Wolf Pack for updates on Journey and the status of wolves in the area.
Life is never simple, especially if you’re a wild wolf, doing everything you can to survive in a world that seems hell-bent on destroying you. But there is always hope, especially with the individuals and organizations who continue to put time and energy into raising their voices to protect our natural resources. Thanks to all of you who strive to make this a better world, not only for the wild creatures and the environment, but for those humans who appreciate these elements as well.
While our new wolf pack here in southern Oregon is apparently thriving, I’d like to shift to other locations and discuss how wolves are doing elsewhere.
This post was written by Kristi Lloyd, who provides a powerful voice for wolves in her home state of Michigan. Kristi is also an advisor for Wolves of the Rockies, a Montana based advocacy group. Kristi is a wonderful individual, one I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know during a couple of trips to Yellowstone. Besides being dedicated, passionate, and well-informed about all things wolf, Kristi is a blast to hang out with!
The text will inform you on the status of wolves in Michigan. At the same time, it may surprise you as Kristi recounts some of the hard to believe details of the fight to protect Michigan’s wolves. Seems those who want wolves gone will go to extremes to win their case, no matter what it takes…
“Gray wolves once inhabited all of Michigan’s eighty-three counties, which include both the Upper (UP) and Lower Peninsulas. In 1838 Michigan began a bounty program for wolves. In 1922, a trapping system was implemented and the bounty program ended. But it resumed in 1935, the same year the last wolf was killed in Yellowstone National Park by government trappers. By 1960 the only wolves in the lower 48 were in Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park. Only one wolf was reported in Michigan in 1959.
In 1965, Michigan gave the gray wolf protection under state law. They were then added to the Federal Endangered Species List in 1974. Also that year there was an attempt to reintroduce wolves to the UP of Michigan, but the four wolves brought from MN were illegally killed and the decision was made to let wolves migrate and colonize on their own.
Michigan’s wolves were removed from the Federal Endangered List in January 2012. On December 27, 2012, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed the bill that approved a wolf hunt in Michigan. This hunt went from November 15 through December 31, 2013 and was held in 3 separate areas in the UP. Twenty-two wolves being killed out of a quota of forty-three. Trapping was not allowed but trappers are pushing for a trapping season in 2014. The hunt was said to make wolves more wary of humans (a typical, nonsensical excuse) and to reduce livestock conflicts.
Shortly after wolves the hunt was approved, an organization called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) was created to fight the wolf hunt that was politically motivated, as it is in all of the wolf-hunting states.
KMWP put together a petition drive for a ballot initiative to repeal the designation of wolves as a game species which opened the door to a hunt. A minimum of 225,000 signatures from MI registered voters had to be collected and submitted within ninety days from December 27, 2012. The petition drive began in January of 2013. Throughout the winter MI residents were circulating and signing the petition. (I was one of them, brrrrr!!)
Some of us took abuse from those in favor of the wolf hunt. It seems just the mere mention of the word “wolf” makes some people think they can talk to others in any fashion they like. Of course we heard the usual UNscientific, UNdocumented “facts”…wait ‘til they eat one of your kids, they are killing all the deer, they are taking babies from strollers (yes, this was actually said), as was, kill ‘em all! But, before March 27, 2013 there were enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot which would repeal the designation of wolves as a game species. Over 256,000 signatures were collected in two months and submitted to the Board of Canvassers (BOC) office. KMWP had also garnered support from residents and organizations from across the state.
While awaiting the signatures to be verified through the BOC, the GOP-dominated legislature came up with a way to keep the ballot proposal from being voted on. A new bill, created by Senator Tom Casperson to intentionally head off the proposal, was introduced and passed. This bill gave the unelected, appointed Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the authority to designate game species and they promptly took action.
The MI Constitution gives MI residents the right to referendum laws so what the legislature did was cut off the voices of 256,000 registered voters. The new bill would deflect the ballot proposal since the NRC is not an elected body. The goal was to ensure that there was no public support against the wolf hunt.
KMWP again went to work and created another petition for yet another ballot proposal. This one would repeal the law in which the unelected NRC is given the authority to designate game species. Originally, the authority was granted to the Senate in 1996 with the passing of Proposal G.
Once again, this petition drive took place during one the coldest, snowiest winters on record. 160,000 signatures were needed to repeal the law, and once again that goal was attained and exceeded with 183,000 signatures collected. There will be two ballot proposals for MI residents to vote on in November, 2014. One is to repeal the wolf being designated a game species and the other to repeal the law of giving the NRC authority to designate game species.
A coalition of “conservationists” called Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), consisting of hunters, hounders and trappers was created and drew up its own ballot initiative. This organization is backed by state legislators, out-of-state organizations like the Safari Club International, Rocky Mt. Elk Foundation (even though ALL the wolves are in the UP and ALL the elk are in the LP), as well as the National Turkey Federation.
Professional and scientific evidence demonstrating that wolf hunts are not effective to minimize conflicts between wolves and livestock was offered by Michigan Technological University’s Dr. John Vucetich and Dr. Rolf Peterson (both of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study and have studied wolves for decades) to the NRC and to the legislature in the spring of 2013. This information went out the window. The wolf hunt was based on lies, MISinformation and fabrications—and one particular cattle farmer in the UP.
Out of nine hundred working livestock farms in the UP, this farm, owned by John Koski, was the site of 80% of all of the livestock depredations. Koski was in violation of the law by leaving cow carcasses on his property and using deer legs to attract wolves onto his (uninhabited) farm. He was given kill permits by the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) and he used them to give to friends to kill wolves on his property. Twenty-two wolves were killed on this property.
One of the agents involved with this lethal removal was a judge who had written (along with Senator Tom Casperson) the resolution to delist MI’s wolves…which was based on a fabricated incident regarding wolves and a day care center. The judge, Anders Tingstad, called the resolution one of his best writings. Senator Casperson said in a news article in November, 2013 that if the information was found to be inaccurate he would rescind the resolution. But in December, when he apologized for lying about the information in the resolution, he said he would not rescind the resolution. In his apology for lying, Casperson pointed fingers and laid blame at others, further spewing MISinformation saying that wolves can and will attack people (there are no recorded wolf attacks on humans in MI). How sincere is that apology? He also says wolves live in “herds” and called Dr. Rolf Peterson Dr. Wolf.
John Koski was finally charged with animal neglect after an investigative news series revealed the carcasses and deer legs. Mr. Koski made a plea bargain and pleaded no contest to a charge of attempted animal neglect regarding the deaths of two guard donkeys and the removal of another one. He was found guilty and ordered to pay approximately $1,900 in court costs/fees. Koski had received over $30,000 in compensation for livestock losses and the DNR/Wildlife Services used another $200,000 in resources (tax payer $$) to work with Mr. Koski.
Since then, Mr. Koski has sold his cows and is in the process of selling his farm property. 70% of the wolves killed for his benefit were not involved in livestock attacks within five miles of where they were killed, and some had not been involved in a livestock depredation in one, two or three years.
An employee within the DNR, Adam Bump the fur bearer specialist, fabricated a story saying that wolves were peering into homeowners’ sliding glass doors and not being scared off when the owners banged on the doors. Through a FOIA request it was found this never happened and Mr. Bump apologized for his statement where he “misspoke”. The apology also came out after the investigative news story. He “misspoke” in May but it was not addressed by the DNR or corrected until November of 2013. One of the NRC Commissioners, JR Richardson, tossed thousands of public comments and a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (that were solicited by the DNR/NRC but never opened) into a dump file.
Over 2,000 comments were against the wolf hunt, only thirteen were for the wolf hunt. And yet this organization, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, swears up and down that the wolf hunt is based on science. And why are they now asking for “professional” wildlife management? Why is their initiative being called the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act? They collected over 300,000 signatures for their initiative, which will NOT go to the voters of MI. It will go to the very same legislature that rammed the wolf hunt through in the first place. The legislature will have forty days after signature verification to take up this proposal or reject it. The signatures were turned in toward the end of last month and might take six weeks or so to be verified.
Those who circulated this petition used the “your hunting rights are being taken away!” line as well as “protect your right to hunt!” and mostly everything was against KMWP and/or the Humane Society of the United States. This organization also wants $1 million to fight the invasive Asian carp, which is really an appropriation. Appropriations attached to a citizens initiative make it referendum proof…there will be no recourse if this bill is not rejected by the legislature. They also want free hunting and fishing licenses for military members and while they do deserve that perk, it will result in the loss of millions of dollars in grants for conservation, preservation via Pittman-Robertson and Johnson-Dingall funding. There will be no taxes paid on those licenses.
Wolf hunts are based on science, eh? They are if you ask Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota and now Michigan. Where is this science? I have asked that question many, many times and I get the same answer….silence. Sometimes I get insults and personal attacks. I’d rather have the silence. One more time…where is the science? “
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) has until this Friday to gather enough signatures to get Initiative 169 on the ballet. I-169 allows the public to determine whether they want recreational and commerical fur trapping on public lands. This is a fair and reasonable measure. It applies only to trapping and only on public lands, which make up 1/3 of Montana. Hunting and fishing rights are not affected by I-169.
But reasonable and fair is not how the opposition to this initiative are behaving. Members of the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) have continually bullied signature gatherers across the state, upsetting some volunteers to the point that they have given up. The MTA has also openly harrassed citizens into not signing the initiative. Signed signature pages have been stolen from veterinary clinics and other locations. Recently, at the Hamilton County Farmer’s Market, a very large trapper verbally assaulted two female TFMPL…
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) has until this Friday to gather enough signatures to get Initiative 169 on the ballet. I-169 allows the public to determine whether they want recreational and commerical fur trapping on public lands. This is a fair and reasonable measure. It applies only to trapping and only on public lands, which make up 1/3 of Montana. Hunting and fishing rights are not affected by I-169.
But reasonable and fair is not how the opposition to this initiative are behaving. Members of the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) have continually bullied signature gatherers across the state, upsetting some volunteers to the point that they have given up. The MTA has also openly harrassed citizens into not signing the initiative. Signed signature pages have been stolen from veterinary clinics and other locations. Recently, at the Hamilton County Farmer’s Market, a very large trapper verbally assaulted two female TFMPL volunteers. At the same event, members of the MTA showed up pulling a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks trailer and using their materials, violating campaign ethics and giving the distinct impression that the state agency is going along with the efforts to sabatoge I-169.
Not all of the battle has been so public. Last month an official complaint was filed by TFMPL with the Commissioner of Politcal Practices against MTA and their cohorts, Montanans for Effective Wildlife Managment. The allegation is that the MTA, a nonprofit, has been raising large amounts of unreported funds to fight I-169, including an auction that brought them nearly $25,000. The complaint is currently under investigation.
With this knowledge, it takes a stretch of the imagination to see the MTA as an ethical and responsible organization. Their efforts to squelch I-169 appear desperate and self-serving. Perhaps their actions are so extreme because they realize that much of the population wants to see trapping go the way of the musket.
While it can be acknowledged that some trappers are true naturalists who value their time in the wilderness and take pride in the heritage of trapping, no one can honestly dispute the cruelty of their sport. And the supposed role of trapping in managing wildlife is a story few believe any longer. Chronic trapping of beaver has desecrated riparian habitat throughout the US. Rare and endangered species, such as lynx, wolverine, golden eagles and kit fox fall prey to traps. Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that each year, an average of fifty dogs are indvertently trapped in Montana alone. Many of these deaths and injuries go unreported because the pet owner fears retaliation by the trapper. Or they simply know nothing will be done.
The effort to end trapping won’t go away. States and nations across the world are realizing that fur is no longer a needed entity and that we can do better than to impose suffering on our native wildlife. Steel-jaw traps have already been banned in 88 countries. Their use is banned or restricted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington. The European Union forbids the use of steel-jaw traps as well as the importation of pelts from countries that use these devices to trap and kill fur-bearing animals.
We still have a few days to do what we can to put trapping on Montana public lands to the vote. If you live in Montana, or know someone who does, hurry to the TFMPL website to see how you can sign the initiative! Each vote counts. Our persistence and patience will pay off. Eventually, public lands will be a place that can truly be enjoyed by all, including the native species that reside there.