Once again, I’ve compiled wolf news highlights for the past year. This is a challenging task and I’m sure there are many news worthy events that I’ve missed. Feel free to add events in the comment section. I appreciate your help! Thanks to Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon Wild and Wally Sykes for their posts on wolf news. This has made my work much easier. For an update specific to Great Lakes wolves read Rachel Tilseth’s post on her blog, Wolves of Douglas County. Rick Lamplugh has also written a state by state review of wolves in the lower 48. With all of these offerings, readers have a thorough update on what has been going on, and what is in the future, for Canis lupus.
January 2015: This month marked the twentieth anniversary of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The auspicious event was commemorated at YNP with a gathering of some of the folks responsible for the reintroduction, including Carter Niemeyer, Dr. Doug Smith and Suzanna Stone.
In Oregon, Journey’s pack was officially named the Rogue Pack, not because they’re rogues but because they range in and near the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Also, a new adult male wolf was seen via trail camera in the Keno area just north of the Oregon-California border, marking further progression of wolves to southern Oregon. Later in the month, another wolf was spotted in the Keno Unit, this one a large black animal. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reports that there are now nine known wolf packs in Oregon, all of them breeding except for the Imnaha pack. These numbers triggered a move to phase two of the state’s wolf recovery plan.
February 2015: The North Carolina wildlife commission calls for an end to the 27 year old Red wolf project, requesting that the US Fish and Wildlife Service capture all wolves that were released on private property. Reasons given include wolves eating too many deer and breeding with coyotes.
March 2015: Some grim statistics: Wolves killed so far this season in Idaho total 116 by hunting and 94 by trapping. Montana reports 127 lost to hunting and 77 to trapping. This comes to a total of 420 for the season. The total number of wolves killed since Federal delisting (not including lethal control by Wildlife Services) is 2,323.
In Washington state, an overly friendly wolf was caught up and relocated to Wolf Haven International in Tenino. Ione, the only remaining member of her family group, sought company with dogs near her namesake town of Ione. Rather than euthanize the wolf for her potentially problematic behavior, state officials trapped her and took her to safe refuge where she happily resides with a wolf-dog hybrid named Luca.
Idaho Fish and Game reports the completion of a wolf cull program in the Lolo zone in the northern part of the state. Wildlife Service agents killed 19 wolves in late February. The costs for this helicopter extermination was not released. The expense was financed with Wolf Depredation Control Board money funded through the purchase of hunting licenses. Defenders revealed that in 2014, “31 wolves (were lethally removed) between July and January – which comes out to $4,516 per wolf.” In the press release, Fish and Game justified their actions with this statement: “The overall objective is to maintain a smaller, but self-sustaining, population of wolves in the Lolo zone to allow the elk population to increase.”
April 2015: Two Mexican wolves were released by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, boosting the number of Canis lupus baileyi in the southwest to over 100. The wolves released were a mated pair and the female was pregnant. This new family group will bring much needed genetic diversity to the Mexican wolf population.
The BBC reports that five Norwegians were sent to prison for organizing an illegal wolf hunt. The sentences ranged from six months to a year and eight months as well as the revocation of hunting privileges for various time periods. The article states, “They were tried under Norway’s organised crime laws following a high level police operation involving telephone wiretaps.” There are only 30 known wolves living in Norway.
Montana wolf population declined about 12%, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Their count at the end of 2014 was 554 wolves. They also reported that depredations were down 46% from 2013 making cattle losses due to wolves the lowest in 8 years.
May 2015: USFWS confirmed that the animal shot (I thought it was a coyote!) outside of Kremmling, Colorado was indeed a grey wolf. This is the second disperser to travel over 500 miles to Colorado and then be killed. Echo, a female grey wolf was seen near the Grand Canyon late in 2014, but she died in Utah when shot by a hunter. No charges were filed. The Grand Canyon has been without wolves for over 70 years.
A letter signed by 36 Representatives to Sally Jewel, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and to Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, requested that federal protections be removed for wolves in much of the lower 48. The decision was delayed, perhaps due to the fact that they received over one million comments opposing the delisting.
June 2015: An article by Taylor Hill explains the sad situation of wolves in Southeast Alaska. Known as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, these animals live in SE Alaska, British Columbia and the Prince of Wales Island. Their territory includes the Tongass National Forest. Due to pressure from hunting and trapping, as well as habitat loss and timber harvest, their numbers have declined over 60% in just one year. Hill reports a decline of 221 to 89. Greenpeace and Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the government to obtain an endangered species status for these wolves. Some believe they are genetically distinct enough to be considered a distinct subspecies. (While writing this I learned that the USFWS denied endangered species status for the Alexander Archipelago wolf, despite admitting that populations on Prince of Wales Island went from 356 in 1994 to only 89 in 2014. The article mentions that timber sales would have been restricted if the wolves had been granted endangered species status.)
OR 25, a large black male wolf from northeast Oregon’s Imnaha pack, disperses to Klamath County in the southern part of the state. His GPS collar located him near or on the 5,000 acre Yamsi Ranch at the headwaters of the Williamson River. Jerri Yamsi is quoted as saying, “I don’t care if the wolf is here. It doesn’t bother me.” She also said that she believes wolves have been on the ranch in the past.
July 2015: ODFW finds scat to verify that OR 7 and his black mate (determined to be from the Snake River and Minam packs in NE Oregon) have had a second litter of pups. Elsewhere in the state, the Umatilla pack killed three sheep near Wester Mountain. Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says, “There has not been a depredation of this pack for some time. We are in phase two of our rules and that does have a different criteria for when lethal control of problem wolves is an option, but we’re really not at this stage yet with this pack.” Washington state reported its first wolf depredations of 2015. Two cattle were determined to be confirmed wolf kills on a grazing allotment in Stevens County in the northeast part of the state.
An article in The Spokesman-Review reveals how dogs rescued from shelters are being trained to locate scat from wild animals, including wolves. The University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology spearheaded the Conservation Canine program that is aiding scientists in locating scat that helps determine the distribution of wildlife, their diet, hormone levels and other useful information.
August 2015: California has its first wolf pack since 1924! Named the Shasta Pack, five pups and an adult pair were photographed in the area near Mount Shasta in north central California. Protected under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts, these wolves will hopefully avoid harassment as their numbers grow.
The second annual Speak For Wolves event was held at Yellowstone National Park. The event hosted speakers including Oliver Starr, who educated the audience on the need for a safe boundary zone for wolves leaving Denali National Park, and Kim Wheeler who spoke on behalf of the Red wolf. There was music and movies and a good time had by all. We look forward to the event again in 2016. Thanks Brett Haverstick for creating and organizing Speak For Wolves!
September 2015: News is released that two wolves were found dead only 500 feet apart from each other in the Sled Springs area of Wallow County in NE Oregon. One of the wolves was collared and a mortality signal alerted ODFW personnel of the death. The cause of death is being investigated.
In British Columbia the controversial wolf cull program makes media news as pop star Miley Cyrus speaks up against the action. In reaction, BC Premier Christy Clark choses insults over science-based evidence to support the government program to eradicate wolves in order to preserve endangered caribou herds. Nothing is said by Christy of the environmental degradation created by logging and oil extraction in the lands where the caribou herds and wolf packs exist.
October 2015: Oregon Wild hosts its first ever Crater Lake Wolf Rendezvous. The event is held near Crater Lake National Park and included visits with the park’s terrestrial ecologist, Sean Mohren and US Fish and Wildlife Service wolf biologist, John Stephenson, as well as several informative hikes and long evenings around the campfire. We expect this will be an annual event, one you won’t want to miss!
An article in BBC News Magazine reports that a rewilding process may see the return of wolves to Scotland. Written by Adam Weymouth, the story ventures south, following Weymouth’s 200 mile trek. He takes us to where the last wolf in Scotland was killed and to villages in the Scottish Highlands, where wolves would have adequate food and habitat to make a comeback. Hopefully, next year we’ll be reporting progress on this endeavor.
November 2015: The big news in Oregon this month is that the grey wolf loses protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act. After eleven hours of testimony from both sides, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Commission voted 4 to 2 to delist wolves. Oregon’s wolves remain covered under the federal ESA in the western two-thirds of the state, and ODFW officials report that the state wolf management plan remains in effect to protect wolves at this time. Within a month, environmental groups file suit against the decision.
Only sixteen wolves remain on Isle Royale, and a decision is in the making whether to intervene or not. “Wolves would restore balance to the system, and their numbers on Isle Royale should be augmented now,” 47 top conservation scientists wrote in a letter to the Park Service last month, stating that wolves are essential to balance on Isle Royale and that wolf numbers should be augmented now. In their words, “Delays in acting will only worsen the situation.”
December 2015: I must add this article that discusses how wolves may well return to my home state of Iowa, via Minnesota and Wisconsin. Of course, the ones that have dispersed there so far have been shot. Let’s hope Iowan’s will educate themselves and understand the benefit Canis lupus can bring to their environment.
We end on a good note! The congressional wolf delisting riders were removed from the Federal Budget Bill, ensuring protection for wolves that have not lost Federal protections before. Hopefully, this will regain some good feelings toward the Obama administration that was compromised due to their previous passing of the Budget Bill that delisted wolves.
I hope this post has been helpful and will inspire you to continue to do whatever possible to speak up for wolves and the environment. Our help is needed everywhere and in all capacities, from contributing to wolf advocacy groups to writing editorials and calling public officials to educating others on the facts about wolves. And don’t forget to get out there and enjoy the wilderness whenever you can. There is no better form of therapy!
This is a link to my recent article in Earth Island Journal, called Hounding the Hunters. The article reviews the work of vigilante groups such as Wolf Patrol and Wildlife Defense League as they endeavor to protect wolves and other species.