#TWEETSTORM sponsored by the following groups Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, Wolves and Writing, Canis Lupus 101, Passions For Wolves, Vote4wilderness, Medicine of the Wolf, Apex Protection Project and Save Wolves Now
In December of 2014, federal protections were reinstated for wolves in the Great Lakes states of MI, MN and WI because federal judge invalidated FWS’s delisting of wolves, the federal courts held that the state management plans for wolves did not protect wolves.
The result of these two recent court decisions is that wolves in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are back on the federal Endangered Species Act list.
A new threat to wolves in the form of a house appropriations bill with a rider attached
Section 121 of the FY 2016 House Interior/EPA bill nullifies both of these recent federal court decisions, directing the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the two wolf delisting rules that federal…
I’m happy to have the opportunity to share this information on the upcoming Speak for Wolves event. Thanks to Brett Haverstick, founder and organizer, for creating the event and for the following write up. Speak for Wolves was greatly successful last year and promises to be in the years to come. Imagine–a gathering complete with live music, educational talks about subjects you feel passionate about, a film about OR 7, and all the time being surrounded by fellow wolf advocates in the magical land of Yellowstone. It doesn’t get much better than that!
This year marks the 2nd Annual Speak for Wolves near Yellowstone National Park. On August 7-9, 2015 people will gather in the Union Pacific Dining Lodge in West Yellowstone, Montana to hear about the need to reform wildlife management in America. The 3-day family-friendly event will feature speakers, panelists, live music, children’s activities and wildlife documentaries. The Friday night screening of OR7-The Journey cost $10 and the rest of the event is free.
Filmmaker Clemens Schenk will be in attendance on Friday August 7 for the screening of the award-winning documentary, OR7-The Journey: The Epic Journey of a lone wolf from Oregon To California. http://www.or7themovie.com/ Amaroq Weiss with the Center for Biological Diversity will be accompanying Clemens to answer questions at the end of the film. Doors open at 6pm with music by Neil Haverstick. Film begins at 7:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased on-line at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1634194
The Saturday August 8 afternoon program will run from 12:00 – 4:00 pm. Kim Wheeler of the Red Wolf Coalition will be delivering a program about the plight of the red wolf and the need to continue the US Fish & Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery program. http://redwolves.com/wp/. Wolf activist Oliver Starr will be delivering a program about the decline of gray wolves in Denali National Park and the need to re-establish a park boundary buffer zone to better protect wolves form hunting and trapping. Brian Ertz of Wildlands Defense will speak about the need to reform the controversial McKittrick Policy and equip the Department of Justice with tools to prosecute killers of threatened/endangered species. Live music by Neil Haverstick and Matt Stone. Children’s activities offered by Marilyn McGee and Gail McDiarmid of the children’s book, Running for Home. http://www.amazon.com/Running-Home-Gail-S-McDiarmid/dp/0985467703
The Saturday evening program will feature an exciting panel discussion led by Camilla Fox of Project Coyote. http://projectcoyote.org/.
Joining her will be Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, Kevin Bixby of the Southwest Environmental Center and author George Wuerthner. The group will discuss wildlife killing contests targeting wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and other species for prizes and inducements and efforts to ban them on public and private lands in the U.S. Doors open at 6:00 pm with music by Matt Stone. Panel discussion begins at 7:00 pm.
On Sunday August 9 Mary Lee Sanders will wake us up at 10:00 am with an interpretive dance of the wild wolf. Music and song by Goodshield Aguilar will follow. Mike Mease and other members of the Buffalo Field Campaign will end the program by giving a presentation about the hazing and senseless killing of bison in and outside of Yellowstone National Park in order to appease the livestock industry. The group will offer a vision for a new management plan of America’s last and only genetically pure wild bison herd and speak about the efforts to list buffalo under the Endangered Species Act.
Speak for Wolves is an opportunity for the American people to unite and demand wildlife management reform and take steps to restore our national heritage. The five principles to management reform can be found at http://www.speakforwolves.org/about/
We hope you and your family can join us on August 7-9, 2015 in the historic Union Pacific Dining Lodge of West Yellowstone, Montana!
Last Friday, wolves in Oregon were granted at least five more months before the decision may be made to remove them from the state Endangered Species List. During this time period, information will be gathered on the possibility of delisting them in certain areas, rather than state wide, or to leave them all on the list. Most likely, wolves in the eastern part of the state would lose protection while those in western Oregon would maintain it. There are 77 known wolves in the state and four breeding pairs, most residing in northeast Oregon.
Not only does this reprieve give wolf advocates more time to rally against delisting but it will also likely come after the scheduled five-year review to the Oregon Wolf Plan. This is important because without state protection for wolves, the plan would likely be weakened, allowing an increase in lethal action against wolves as well as a decrease in the use of nonlethal methods to prevent problems.
The April 24th meeting of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission was held in Bend, Oregon. Staff from ODFW presented their Biological Status Review of Wolves in Oregon to the commission, as well as to an audience both for and against the delisting. I’m told that wolf advocates outnumbered opponents 33 to 5. The commission listened to nearly four hours of testimony, most of it from those who believe wolves should retain protection under the state’s ESA.
Several folks we know of spoke up, including Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild who is quoted as saying, ““The idea that 77 animals of any kind represents recovery doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
Amaroq Weiss, West Coast representative for the Center for Biological Diversity, said there is “simply no science anywhere on earth” that would support delisting such a small population.”
Wally Sykes, member of Wallowa County’s wolf compensation panel, stated 77 wolves is far too few to provide genetic diversity.
And Suzanne Stone, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, is reported as saying that ODFW’s field staff has earned the public’s trust, but that delisting is not warranted.
Other wolf news is that OR 25, a black male from the Imnaha pack has recently dispersed from his homeland in northeast Oregon to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, north of Mount Jefferson. Russ Morgan, ODFW’s wolf coordinator, reports that the wolf was collared last year and is now a two year old, a common time for dispersal.
News was released that there are three (not two as previously reported) wolves in the Keno unit in southwest Oregon. This group is within howling distance of Journey’s family, known as the Rogue Pack. This ups the number of wolves in this part of the state to at least seven, not counting pups that we hope were born this month. I’m blessed to live a few miles from this “area of known wolf activity” and travel there frequently to be in their presence.
Last month, a proposal was made to allow Oregonians the option of purchasing a specialty license plate featuring a wolf, specifically the much celebrated OR 7. Funds from sale of the plate would provide valuable monies for non-game projects within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
We wouldn’t be wise to put our guard down yet, but it seems a fine time to take a deep breath and breath in the fresh, spring air of a state that has become a leader in the preservation of all of its natural resources, including wolves, a species that creates much more dissension than they earn. With this proactive approach to allowing the wild places to be truly wild, Oregon is a great place for wolves, and for humans.
Last December I spent a few days in western Wisconsin with a group of avid wolf supporters including Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County and members of Rod Coronodo’s Wolf Patrol. We were there during the wolf hunting season, specifically the time when hounds could be used to track down and kill wolves. We drove the back roads along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border looking for hound hunting activity. By that time, the snow had melted and there weren’t many hunters out, but it was a powerful experience being in the presence of people whose dedication to wolves takes them out of their comfort zones and into the field.
Since wolves in the Great Lakes regained protection under the Endangered Species Act in December of last year we’ve all been breathing sighs of relief. But good news in the wolf world often is short lived so many folks in Wisconsin and elsewhere are still battling to keep them safe.
A story on a Wisconsin news station released yesterday reported that the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has completed its Wolf Protection Plan. According to this plan the Red Cliff Reservation will be considered a wolf sanctuary and if hunting is legalized again, it would not be allowed on their land. There is to be a six mile buffer zone around the reservation to protect wolves as they leave and enter the area. Red Cliff Reservation is on the tip of the Bayfield Peninsula in far northern Wisconsin and it encompasses approximately 14,000 heavily forested acres. Sounds like prime habitat for wolves, or Ma’iinganag as they are known to the Red Cliff Tribe. I suggest you take a look at the plan, it’s full of interesting information on wolves and their importance to the Chippewa people.
Another group, Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf has recently released a full length documentary, aptly named Political Predator, about the wolf hunting situation in their state. This film is an educational and insightful look at the background of how wolf hunting has been managed (or not), the powers behind the harvest, and the opinions of those who do not see the need or value of the hunt. Enjoy the movie and use the information to further educate yourself about wolves in Wisconsin. The more we know, the more powerful will be our voice.
I first met Gail McDiarmid and Marilyn McGee when they asked for my assistance in editing Running for Home, their youth book on the return of wolves to Yellowstone. But Gail and Marilyn are advocates for more than Yellowstone wolves. Living in the southeast, they are in close proximity to Canis rufus, the red wolf. Their latest venture focuses on educating others, both young and old, about this unique and highly threatened species. I am deeply inspired by their work and reminded that each and every one of us can contribute in our own way toward an atmosphere of co-existence with wolves and other predators.
And their project comes at a good time, as the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently requested that the USFWS gather up and remove the red wolves they released there, saying that 64 of the wolves were set loose on private rather than public land. The state agency, which governs hunting and fishing in N.C. is asking the USFW to stop their efforts to reintroduce the red wolf in the southeast. I have no inside information on the details of this issue, but it sounds like there is some bad blood between these two agencies, or at least a vastly different philosophy on the importance of protecting endangered animals.
But Marilyn and Gail will continue their efforts to teach people about red wolf, and coyotes as well. They have started a new outreach program specifically on coyotes, partly in response to the coyote killing contests held in North Carolina and elsewhere.
Below is Marilyn’s intriguing story of how she and Gail became involved with “reds” and are spreading the word of how important it is to protect these beautiful animals:
Seven years ago, gravel country roads lead sister’s Gail McDiarmid and Marilyn McGee to one of North Carolina’s most unique wetland habitats, the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Lured in by the soft, dangling Spanish moss, they discovered bogs, marshes, hardwood and cedar swamps. And it was also there that these southern ladies first heard one of the most soulful songs of the south.
Synonymous to the Carolinas, one often associates sweet tea, shrimp and grits, and lighthouses to this region. But to these curiosity seekers this part of eastern North Carolina meant learning more about the elusive and endangered red wolf.
Kim Wheeler, Executive Director of the Red Wolf Coalition, and former outreach coordinator Diane Hendry, took Marilyn and Gail into the Sandy Ridge enclosure to observe the shy, red wolf in captivity. After hours of discussion, both sisters realized that they were seeing the Southeast’s least known treasure.
Even though they have lived in the south their entire lives, neither knew the red wolf existed or the daily challenges it faced. The more they found out about the red wolf’s plight, the more they wanted to know!! Obsessed with learning, the ladies began reading science journals, interviewing the experts, and observed both gray and red wolves as often as possible. They have dedicated their free time to developing a Red Wolf Outreach Program for the public about North Carolina’s top predator.
When working with students of “all ages,” Gail and Marilyn realized the importance of capturing the attention of their audience. Whether the presentation was at a campground, within the walls of the public library, an assisted living facility, or in an elementary school or University, the goal of the programming was to teach in an entertaining fashion.
Several times, they outfitted themselves as characters from the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. This story allows them to address the fears and misconceptions about the wolf. On another occasion, they dressed as detectives with a spy glass in hand and lead a nature scavenger hunt. Eye catching props and colorful costumes lead to interactive discussions about red wolf behavior. Using artifacts such as pelts, skulls, tracks, and radio collars the participants learned about how this top predator helps to maintain the balance and health of ecosystems.
The song “Country Roads” by John Denver and “The Song of the South” by Alabama are two popular tunes heard along the eastern NC shore. But if left up to Gail and Marilyn, all citizens living in the state will know more about the real stars of the south, the red wolf!
Their dedication to educating the public about the wolf inspired them to write their first book, Running for Home. Their goal in writing is to change attitudes with education, one heart at a time. Gail and Marilyn are also doing outreach programs to educate others about the plight of the much maligned coyote.
And if you haven’t read The Secret World of Red Wolves by T. Delene Beeland, you’ll want it. It is the definitive book on the red wolf, published in 2013.
House Bill 212 endeavors to affirm that trapping is a form of hunting protected under the Montana Constitution. The bill, sponsored by Republican Representative Kirk Wagoner, changes terms and definitions within the constitution so the verbiage encompasses the right to trap, putting trapping in the same category as hunting and fishing which is currently preserved under Article IX, Section 7 of the Montana Constitution.
The Montana Wool Grower’s Association (MWGA) is all for the bill. A recent statement from them points out the antiquated and unscientific thinking behind HB 212, that if something was done a hundred years ago, it should still be done today, with no regard for the harm the action may cause. In the words of MWGA, “…historical evidence indicates that trapping has been taking place in Montana since the great Lewis and Clark adventure in the early 19th century. Further, there is a reason Trapper Peak is named “Trapper” Peak.”
Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) is putting forth great effort to raise awareness about HB 212. TFMPL was behind the 2014 ballot measure effort to curtail trapping on public lands. In four months of campaigning, volunteers obtained more valid signatures than any other 2014 initiative, although not enough to get on the ballot largely due to time constraints. A side effect of HB 212 is that ballot issue committees such as TFMPL would need a whopping 50,000 signatures (twice the number needed now) to get their initiative to the voters. This is because if HB 212 passes, TFMPL would be trying to change a constitutional amendment with their initiative. One wonders why HB 212 does not have to meet the same criteria as this bill is clearly an effort to change an amendment.
This is not only an issue about trapping, it’s also about adhering to what the public wants. In 2004 the Montana public voted to enact the inalienable rights of hunting and fishing (per the voter handbook) with no mention at all of trapping. Surely, this was not an oversight. HB 212 is making an attempt to significantly change an amendment without consulting the citizens of Montana. This approach seems underhanded and reminds me of the 2011 budget bill rider that served special interest groups that wanted wolves delisted so their individual states could mange them. Neither are actions approved by the majority.
TFMPL is asking us to say No! to HB 212. This link to legislators is easy to follow, takes only a minute, and can be used by everyone, not solely Montana citizens. When I did this, I checked the out of state box, chose to send my message to a committee, then picked the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee. Next I added my comment as to why I think the bill should not be passed.
We only have until 3 PM Mountain Time on Thursday, January 29, 2015 to submit comments. We’ve had enough success in our advocacy work to know that speaking up can make a difference. Please do so now!
Once again, I look back at the wolf related events of the past year and am in wonder at the controversy these four-legged beasts create. Is there any other creature, other than humans, that continually make the front page, year after year? Wolves are enigmatic animals, but it’s most certainly the people, not the wolves, that create the drama.
The following is a partial list of wolf news, month by month from around the world. There is a mixture of good news with the inevitable bad news. I’ve included hot links so you can read the source article. Feel free to help me out by adding your own news in the comment section. I’m sure I missed a lot as it has been a busy year.
Thanks to Wally Sykes and Rob Klavins for your wolf updates, to Rachel Tilseth with Wolves of Douglas County, and to Defenders of Wildlife for their Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up. And thanks to all of the wonderful folks out there who are determined to make this world a better place for wolves, and in turn, for humans as well. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know many of you in the three years I’ve been writing about wolves and I look forward to meeting more of you in the future. Wolf advocates are some of the finest people around!
A wolf that wandered into Southeast Missouri was shot and killed by a man who mistook it for a coyote. Coyotes are considered vermin there and can be hunted year round. This was the fourth of five wolves that have been seen in Missouri since the species was eradicated in the state in 1950. The man was not charged for his actions.
Journey continues to travel throughout southwestern Oregon. ODFW Wolf Program Coordinator Russ Morgan was interviewed by Jefferson Public Radio about the famous lone wolf. The article says, “He (Journey, not Russ) might be getting bored… there are just no opportunities to find mates in OR-7’s recent territory.”
On February 1, 2014, OR 4, Journey’s father, was darted from the air and his radio collar was replaced. ODFW reported that his previous GPS system quit working in late December. OR 4 is one wolf the ODFW wants to keep an eye on to help monitor for livestock depredations. In fact, this is the fourth time they have changed collars on this canine senior citizen.
Western Washington nonprofit Conservation Northwest offered a $7,500 reward (see comments below for addendum on reward) for help in solving the case of a wolf illegally shot and killed on February 9, 2014 in northern Stevens County. The wolf was a collared female that had been a member of the Smackout pack until they disbanded in April of 2014.
After being extinct in Germany for over 150 years, Canis lupus has made a comeback. This February 18, 2014 article in The Olympian reports that there are now 150 wolves in 35 packs in Germany. Scat studies show that fifty-two percent of the wolves diet is roe deer, 25 percent red deer, 16 percent is wild pig. Sheep, cattle, goats and pets combined comprise less than 1 percent of the diet. But as you can imagine, problems exist between humans and wolves, especially when fueled by the mythology and fairy tales of this long inhabited land.
Wolf numbers in Washington are stable. The annual count done by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reported that there are 52 wolves in the state, only one more than in the 2012 count. Five packs were counted in both years.
Wolf tracks are found on Mount Hood in north-central Oregon!
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fish released a pair of Mexican wolves in the 4.4 million acre Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) that expands into Arizona and New Mexico. They also announced that a second pair would be released the following week. At the end of 2013 there were 83 wolves in the the BRWRA, with 60% of them wearing radio collars. Out of the fourteen known packs, seven of them produced pups in 2013. Two Mexican wolves had already been suspiciously killed in 2014, one in Arizona and one in New Mexico.
April was a good month for Mexican wolves. Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed two anti-wolf bills. SB 1211 would have allowed ranchers to kill these animals on public lands. HB2699 called native Mexican wolves varmints and sought to end the 16 year recovery program.
In the southeast, a court in North Carolina granted a temporary injunction against the shooting of coyotes in five counties in the Red Wolf Recovery Area. It has been reported that at least 50 red wolves have been shot when mistaken for coyotes. since 2008. With only 100 of the endangered red wolves in the wild, every effort must be made to protect them. Red wolves, as well as coyotes, can still be shot if they are caught preying on livestock.
When biologists checked their trail cams in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest of southern Oregon on May 7, 2014 they saw evidence that Journey had found a mate. The black female (later dubbed Wandering Wanda by Bob Ferris of Cascadia Wildlands) was captured on a couple of photos. In one she was squatting in a decidedly female way. As it was denning season, there was speculation that the pair may have mated and were caring for pups.
Implementing 13 years of data on 280 collared wolves in Yellowstone National Park several biologists, including Doug Smith and Dan Stahler, provide evidence that wolves regulate their populations. Their findings were published in Journal of Animal Ecology on May 21, 2014.
Author and environmentalist Farley Mowat, of Never Cry Wolf fame died at age 92 on May 6, 2014. He wrote over 40 books in his lifetime.
The month started out with a bang as the ODFG released the news that Journey was a father. He and the black female had indeed denned up and were raising a family, the first in the Oregon Cascades since the 1940s. John Stephenson, biologist with the USFWS took a photo of two pups, a black and a grey, peeking out from beneath a log. The origin of the black wolf is still unknown but scat samples have been collected to help determine this.
A few days after the new Oregon pack was photographed, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 3 to 1 to add wolves to their state Endangered Species List. This will allow protection for Journey and kin if and when they disperse south a few miles into California.
OR 18, a two year old Oregon wolf from the Snake River pack was illegally killed in Montana after he traveled through Idaho to enter the Bitterroot Valley of the Big Sky State. This is the first known Oregon wolf to have died in Montana, primarily because they don’t make it through Idaho alive. Five Oregon wolves had died in that state so far. The nonprofit group Wolves of the Rockies added $2,500 to the $1,000 reward originally offered by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The first Speak For Wolves event is held on June 27-29 in Gardiner, Montana.
Oregon representative Peter Defazio fires a letter off to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell requesting that buffer zones be established around our National Parks to protect wolves. In Yellowstone alone, twelve wolves were killed as of March 2013 when they left the park.
A litter of five wolves are born in Mexico, the first litter born in the wild there for over 30 years. The Mexican grey wolf was extinct in the wild by the late 1980s. Reintroductions using captive animals began in 1998 in Arizona. All living Mexican greys come from only seven founding wolves! Later in the month, six more Mexican grey wolves were released in the Gila Mountain Wilderness of New Mexico.
Writer Marybeth Holleman speaks aboutAmong Wolves, her recently published book on the much respected Denali wolf researcher Gordon Haber. Haber worked for thirty some years, following packs in Denali and trying to educate the public and authorities that these animals are intelligent and valuable beings. He was killed in a plane crash in the Alaska bush in 2009.
This is the month of the Huckleberry pack fiasco in Washington state. Stevens County rancher, Dave Dashiell reported that wolves from the Huckleberry pack had killed at least 24 of his 1,800 sheep since mid-August. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife gave the OK to lethally remove up to four members of the Huckleberry pack. A 66 pound female was killed from a helicopter and three weeks later, it was released that she was the three year old alpha female.
ODFW releases the news that scat studies show Journey’s mate, Wandering Wanda, is related to wolves in the Snake River and Minam packs of NE Oregon. Of course, these wolves came originally from Idaho so she may have made the long trip from there to find her new partner. The studies also prove that the pups (now up to three) are legitimate offspring of Journey and Wanda. Not that there was much question of that!
The fight continues to stop a Predator Derby to be held in January 2015 on public lands near Salmon, Idaho. Representative Pete Defazio (can we come up with a special award for this guy?) writes the BLM stating, “…this proposed activity is clearly inconsistent with BLM’s mission ‘to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
For the first time since the 1940s, a grey wolf was seen in the Kaibab Plateau, just north of Grand Canyon National Park. The collared wolf, later determined to have dispersed from the Rocky Mountains, was named Echo in a contest sponsored by several conservation groups. Milwaukee, Oregon resident, ten year old Zachary Tanner chose the name Echo. He said he came up with this name, “because she came back to the Grand Canyon like an Echo does.”
Wolf hunting in Wisconsin begins again on October 15. This will be the third season since the delisting. Wisconsin is the only state that allows wolves to be hunted with the use of hounds. A group called Wolf Patrol spearheaded by former Sea Shepard rebel Rod Coronado, goes to the field to observe the hunt, to report activities to the public and watch for infractions of the law.
The long and arduous battle by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and many others is won when voters rejected the passing of laws that would have allowed the second season of wolf killing in Michigan to begin. 22 wolves were killed there in the 2013 season. This action led to a relatively peaceful year for the 700 some wolves living in the beautiful state of Michigan. Meanwhile, Isle Royale wolf numbers continue to drop and the controversy continues as to whether a relocation effort should be put into action.
Early season for wolves in Minnesota is set to start on November 8 and ends November 23. Late season runs from November 29 until January 13, with trapping allowed from November 29 until January 31. Harvest limits may alter the season dates. The previous winter’s wolf count reported 2,423 wolves in 470 packs. Wolf hunting licenses cost residents $30 and nonresidents $250.
Conservation Northwest, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the US, and the Woodland Park Zoo offer a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the poacher of the Teanaway Pack breeding female. She was killed in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in October 2014.
Most likely under similar circumstances, two Mexican greys were found dead in New Mexico. The USFWS is investigating the case.
The Wisconsin wolf hunt ends on December 5, 2014. 151 wolves were killed.
Remember Echo, the collared wolf seen by the Grand Canyon? A wolf fitting her description was shot by a Utah hunter near the Colorado/Utah border. No, he was not charged. Despite the fact that Echo wore a conspicuous radio collar and weighed twice as much as a coyote, the hunter told authorities that he mistook her for a coyote and so was not cited.
How right she is. Enough is enough, and those who understand the importance of wolves in the ecosystems of our world will continue to advocate for their existence in 2015, 2016, 2017, and however long it takes. Happy New Year to all!
Sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, a federal District Court has ruled. The court overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of wildlife protection groups, including Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live and Friends of Animals and Their Environment, filed suit against the USFWS’s premature December 2011 delisting decision. The decision threatened the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region—where state politicians and agency officials have rushed forward with reckless killing programs that threaten wolves with the very same practices that pushed them to the brink of extinction in the first place.
Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said, “In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations. We are pleased that the court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks.”
In its 111-page ruling, the court chided the USFWS for failing to explain why it ignored the potential for further recovery of wolves into areas of its historic range that remain viable habitat for the species. The court also noted that the USFWS has failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species.
Following federal delisting, Wisconsin and Minnesota rushed to enact emergency regulations to allow the first public hunting and trapping seasons in the Great Lakes region in more than 40 years. The states authorized some of the most abusive and unsporting practices, including hound hunting, snares, baiting, electronic calls and the use of leg hold traps. Wisconsin’s wolf hunt ended this year after killing 154 wolves – 80 percent of them in leghold traps. And in Minnesota, 272 gray wolves were killed – 84 percent of the wolves in this year’s late season were trapped.
The Michigan legislature also passed three separate laws to designate wolves as a game species, in its zeal to allow the state to authorize a trophy hunting and trapping season for wolves, and to undermine a fair election by Michigan voters on wolf hunting. However, in response to a referendum campaign launched by The HSUS and other animal welfare and conservation groups and Native American tribes, the 2014 wolf hunt was canceled and voters in Michigan soundly rejected sport hunting of wolves in the recent November election.
Despite rhetoric from state politicians about wolf depredation of livestock, a new study of 25 years of wolf data has shown that hunting wolves may increase livestock losses. Michigan lawmakers relied on false stories about wolves to push through a hunting season, and had to apologize for misleading statements.
Today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia follows another ruling by the same court in September that rejected the USFWS’s decision to delist wolves in the State of Wyoming. The HSUS was also a plaintiff in the Wyoming litigation.
The plaintiffs in the Great Lakes lawsuit were represented in the case by Schiff Hardin, LLP and attorneys within The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section.
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?