Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oregon's lone wolf pack threatened

Journey, an intrepid gray wolf from Oregon's lone wolf pack, made history last year when he traveled more than 1000 miles to become the first wolf in California in nearly a century.

Now Journey's family, the Imnaha pack, is under attack again at home, this time by the Oregon Cattleman's Association, which is pushing a law that would allow for the annihilation of the pack.

Here's why:
A pack of wolves roaming grasslands in Eastern Oregon killed another cow over the weekend.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said a yearling heifer was found dead on a ranch east of Joseph in Wallowa County. ODFW officials said the rancher had coraled his 700 cattle Sunday night in a pasture near his home and that the wolves broke in and chased them out, killing a heifer. The wolves returned the next night to the same ranch but no cows were killed.

Russ Morgan, ODFE’s wolf coordinator, said the Imnaha pack has killed 19 cows since spring 2010. Usually wolves go after calves, which are the easiest prey, but the past three cows killed were adults or adult-sized, Morgan said.

“It’s worrying for livestock producers,” he said. “It’s an alarming trend.”

The agency would like to kill two wolves in the pack of at least five animals but a court-ordered stay halted that plan Oct. 5. Wildlife advocates, who took the agency to court, want the state to focus more preserving gray wolves which are protected in Oregon as an endangered species.

Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild said that the number of livestock killed by gray wolves is miniscule compared with the numbers that die being born, in severe weather or from disease. Ranchers also lose cows to thieves.

The Imnaha pack is the first wolf pack in Oregon in more than 60 years. But instead of protecting and celebrating the return of the species, special interests in Oregon are working to eliminate wolves for fear of livestock depredation.

Imnaha Pack alpha male (ODFW)

The wolf pack was the first to establish and produce pups in the state in more than 60 years. While measures should be taken to prevent depredation of livestock, there are better ways to keep cattle safe than killing the family of Journey, who captured the nation's imagination with its thousand-mile expedition to become the first wolf in California in nearly a century.

Last fall, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies won an emergency stay of execution from the Oregon Court of Appeals that stopped the state from killing two wolves in the pack -- a stay that remains in place while the Cattlemen's Association pushes this appalling bill.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wolves to be Poisoned Over Tar Sands in Canada

Expanding oil and gas production is contributing to the decline of caribou herds in Alberta.

Complete National Wildlife Foundation article

Incredibly, Canada’s proposed solution to habitat destruction from tar sands development is to destroy the wolves that prey on caribou, instead of protecting their habitat.

Two particularly repugnant methods of destroying wolves – shooting wolves from helicopters and poisoning wolves with baits laced with strychnine – would be carried out in response to the caribou declines.

Strychnine is a deadly poison known for an excruciating death that progresses painfully from muscle spasms to convulsions to suffocation, over a period of hours. Wildlife officials will place strychnine baits on the ground or spread them from aircraft in areas they know wolves inhabit. In addition to wolves, non-target animals like raptors, wolverines and cougars will be at risk from eating the poisoned baits or scavenging on the deadly carcasses of poisoned wildlife.

Canada’s Minister of Environment Peter Kent said in September that thousands of Alberta wolves will need to be killed to rescue caribou impacted by tar sands development.

“Culling is an accepted if regrettable scientific practice and means of controlling populations and attempting to balance what civilization has developed. I’ve got to admit, it troubles me that that’s what is necessary to protect this species,” Kent commented.

Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute estimates that many thousands of wolves could be destroyed over five years under Canada’s proposed plan.

The minister has it backwards. Rather than killing wolves, he should be stopping the habitat destruction and restoring habitat associated with tar sands production. Without healthy habitat, the decline of caribou is inevitable, no matter how wolves are managed. If Canada wants to protect caribou herds, the first priority should be protection and restoration of caribou habitat.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Helicopter Hunt In Idaho?

Reasons given for wolf control action and helicopter use in the Lolo Zone.

Idaho Fish and Game
has a study area within the Lolo Zone to collect detailed information on wolves and prey populations in addition to broader-scale information gathered for the entire zone. There are at least 12 packs in the Lolo including five packs that travel back and forth between Idaho and Montana. Fish and Game will continue to collect information to evaluate the effectiveness of control actions in meeting population goals for all big game species. Lolo elk populations have been in decline for years, dating back to the early 1990s. Fish and Game has conducted extensive research that indicates wolf predation is the leading cause of death of adult cow elk and calves older than six months, while black bear and mountain lion predation is the leading cause of death for younger elk calves.

Although Fish and Game’s elk objectives for the Lolo Zone are set below historic population highs to address declines in habitat quality, these objectives aren’t being achieved. Fish and Game has been working with federal land managers for several years to improve habitat in the Lolo Zone. Public hunting of black bears and mountain lions in the Lolo Zone appears to be meeting Fish and Game’s objectives for reducing elk calf predation by these species. Public harvest of wolves in the Lolo Zone, however, is well below objectives for reducing wolf predation on elk. As of December 15, 2011, the public had harvested only 7 wolves.

Fish and Game’s goal is to reduce the wolf population in the Lolo Zone to 20 to 30 wolves in 3 to 5 packs for a period of 5 years to give Lolo elk populations a chance to recover. Assuming public harvest of wolves remains low in the Lolo Zone, Fish and Game will conduct agency control actions through a combination of trapping and aerial control. These actions are consistent with its predation management plan for the Lolo Zone. Fish and Game’s predation management plan is based on research information and data regarding predator and prey populations.

Even while wolves in the Lolo Zone were on the Endangered Species List, there was a process for U.S. Fish and Wildlife to approve reducing local wolf populations to address unacceptable impacts to elk herds. Fish and Game was in the process of obtaining U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval for wolf reductions in the Lolo Zone through Endangered Species Act rules when wolves were delisted. Scientific experts outside the agency have reviewed the framework for Fish and Game’s proposal to reduce the Lolo wolf population and underlying research.

Idaho Fish and Game does not have specific details regarding Lolo aerial control actions at this time. Fish and Game will provide information regarding wolf control actions in monthly wolf management updates that will be posted on the Fish and Game website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov


IDFG Lolo Predation Management Plan

IDFG Wolf Management (Harvest Information, Monthly Management Reports)

USDA Wildlife Services . The USDA Wildlife Services Environmental Assessment, evaluating methods for controlling wolf populations in Idaho under the National Environmental Policy Act