Latest from The Spokesman-Review
NATURE — WREN, a Coeur d'Alene-based environmental education and conservation nonprofit organization, is accepting applications for its July 11-12 wildlife camp for youths ages 11-13.
The campers will meet in Coeur d'Alene before heading to wildlife education field trips in the lower Coeur d'Alene River chain lakes one day and Farragut State Park on the other.
Instructors are professional wildlife biologists and educators. Fun, hands-on activities include field trips, live raptors, a butterfly survey and outdoor games.
A living history presentation about the animals Lewis & Clark discovered and other features are new for this year’s camp. Students will also explore wildlife tracking and bird identification. They will learn how scientists study wild animals and their habitats.
Pre-registration is required. Cost: $75.
Info:Jenny Taylor, (208) 755-4216.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two female grizzly bears have been transplanted from the Whitefish Range to the Spar Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains as part of an ongoing effort to boost the struggling Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population.
The 2-year-old siblings were captured in the Deadhorse Creek drainage on the Flathead National Forest and moved Friday to the West Cabinets and a drainage with a hiking trail to Spar Lake near the Montana-Idaho border.
The bears have no history of conflict with people and have never been captured before, wildlife officials told the Daily Interlake.
Those factors plus their young age are part of the criteria for the augmentation program, a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The state agency captures the bears while the federal agency monitors them after their release. The bears are fitted with Global Positioning System tracking collars to allow for their movements to be monitored.
Friday’s release marks the 12th and 13th grizzly bears to released into the Cabinets since 2005.
In the early 1990s, three grizzly bears were moved into the Cabinets. Most of the bears that have been moved have been females.
Last year, a study that made use of genetic analysis of bear hair samples produced a population estimate of 42 bears for the Cabinet-Yaak region.
Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service based in Libby, said that estimate means that there may have been fewer than 15 grizzly bears prior to 1990, and that indicates that the grizzly population might have vanished without the augmentation efforts.
As of last year, it was still unknown if any of the bears that have been moved since 2005 have reproduced. That’s partly because the young bears were moved well before they reached reproductive age of 5 or 6 years old, and they drop their tracking collars within a couple of years.
PREDATORS — The bottom line is that state's can't afford to continue spending millions of dollars to monitor wolf populations. There has to be an easier more affordable way.
Montana researchers come up with a new way to count wolves
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' requirement to provide minimum wolf counts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expires in two years, and researchers from the state wildlife agency and the University of Montana have developed a new statistical technique to come up with wolf numbers.
—Helena Independent Record
PUBLIC LANDS — The legacy of Smokey Bear is celebrating its 70th anniversary of fire prevention messages this year.
The campaign's roots date back to 1942, when the U.S. Forest Service’s popular icon of wildfire prevention was conceived during World War II to publicize the need to protect a critical natural resource—wood. The first artist’s rendering of Smokey was created by Albert Staehle in 1944.
The ad campaign: "Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires", was created in 1947 by The Advertising Council.
The ad campaign got a flesh and blood boost starting in 1950, when firefighters working a blaze in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains came back to camp packing an orphaned six-week-old black bear cub with singed hair and burned feet.
Ray Bell, a state Game and Fish Department ranger and pilot, flew the bear to a veterinarian in Santa Fe for initial treatment and then took the cub home, where his wife and daughter helped him nurse the bear back to health over two months. Initially, they had to get the cub to suck a mixture of honey, milk and baby food from their fingers.
The cub originally was named "Hot Foot Teddy," but U.S. Forest Service officials saw the potential for news about the cub to translate into a hot campaign for forest fire prevention. They renamed the bear Smokey.
The cub was taken to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., later that summer, where he became an instant celebrity as he grew into a 400-pound bear. Smokey lived there for 26 years before his death in 1976.
While preventing forest fires continues to be a noble cause, the Forest Service in recent years has had to come to terms with over-protection of some forest areas. Education efforts have expanded to showing that that fire suppression in some cases can let fuels build up on forests to a degree that a fire sparked by humans or nature can blow up to catastrophic proportions.
- The goal and theme of the Smokey Bear campaign was adjusted in the last decade, from "Only you can prevent forest fires" to "Only you can prevent wildfires." The purpose is to respond to the criticism, and to distinguish 'bad' intentional or accidental wildfires from the needs of sustainable forests via natural 'good' fire ecology.
Meanwhile, the 70 years of Smokey Bear campaign created a legacy of artwork, some of which can be viewed online. Federal land agencies and Firewise are producing an exhibit of Rudy Wendelin’s famous Smokey Bear prints at the Idaho Capitol Building in Boise through June.
Wendelin worked for the US Forest Service from 1949-1973 and took the approach to “soften & humanize” the appearance of Smokey Bear to gain the attention of children. This method was successful in helping spread the fire education message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Researchers are setting snares in the Hughes Meadows area north of Priest Lake this month in an ongoing effort to capture grizzly bears and fit them with radio collars.
As of Tuesday, the two-man crew working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had caught one bear – a black bear. The 5-year-old male, weighing 134 pounds, was ear-tagged and released, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.
Radio collars have been helping wildlife biologists monitor North Idaho grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, since the first grizzly was collared in the Selkirks in 1983, Wakkinen said.
More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured.
“There have been some years when we didn't trap in Idaho but we've generally been trapping in either Idaho or the British Columbia portion of the Selkirk ecosystem since then,” he said.
This year, the first significant research trapping in Washington occurred in May. The federal crew set snares in the Molybdenite Mountain south of Sullivan Lake. No grizzly bears were captured.
“The crew places warning notices at all major access points and trailheads in the area,” Wakkinen said. “They place more signs closer to the actual snare site.”
Researchers also are trapping bears in the northeastern corner of Idaho near Copper Creek and Copper Lake in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area, he said.
Wayne Kasworm, federal grizzly bear biologist who's supervising the collaring project, said his crews plan to be trapping high in the mountains in July and August.
"We currently have five female grizzly bears with collars in the Selkirks and we hope to collar four or five more," he said.
Snares are checked at least once a day, or twice a day in hot or cold and rainy weather, he said. Most of the traps have transmitters that signal if they’ve been triggered with a radio signal to the crew.
The snare sites are placed well off of trails to reduce the chance of an encounter with humans, Wakkinen said.
Snare sites are baited, typically with road-killed deer. “If a person smells something stinky the best bet is to not investigate,” he said, “but this advice holds true whether there is trapping going on or not.
“If there's something stinky there's a chance that a predator of some sort – black bear, cougar, grizzly bear – may be around to check it out. Or you might be poking your nose into a recent kill site where a cougar has stashed its prey.
“Radio collars can yield a great amount of information such as survival rates, cause of mortality, reproductive output, cub survival and identification of seasonal ranges and dispersal,” he said. “These data in turn can be used to make informed land management decisions.”
WILDLIFE — Close but no cigar for a bighorn skull found in Canada. It just misses world record status, the Boone and Crockett Club says.
A long winter buried in snow apparently swelled the horns of a bighorn sheep that died of natural causes. The ram was found this spring by Alberta wildlife officials and green-scored as a potential new world record.
Following the Boone and Crockett Club's mandatory 60-day drying period, the ram's horns lost an astounding four inches in net score. The original scorers reconvened to find that every measurement was smaller on both horns.
Still, with a final score of 205-7/8, the ram ranks No. 5 all time. It has been entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta.
The reigning World's Record, taken by a hunter in Alberta in 2000, stands at 208-3/8.
"Though it's not a World's Record, it is another tremendous specimen symbolic of continuing, successful conservation programs. For that, we congratulate Alberta wildlife officials," said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee.
Hale added, "Biologists speculate this latest ram died of old age in early summer 2013, so the horns were exposed to the elements through the remainder of summer, all fall and all of a wet, snowy winter. Apparently, the horns absorbed an incredible amount of moisture, because four inches of shrinkage during the 60-day drying period is very rare."
The Boone and Crockett Club, long recognized as the leading authority on big-game recordkeeping, requires air drying all trophies at habitable room temperature for 60 days immediately prior to final scoring. It's a rule made precisely for this kind of situation.
"By standardizing the scoring process as much as possible, we ensure the credibility of our records. That's very important for the biologists who use these data to compare and contrast outstanding habitat, strong recruitment into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. It's also important to sportsmen in that all trophies are being treated as equally as possible," said Hale.
HUNTING — The public is getting a chance to help shape the Washington's game management plan at a series of public “open house” meetings scheduled by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) this month.
The public can also comment on key aspects of the six-year plan via an on-line survey, from today through July 18.
The meetings are scheduled to run in Eastern Washington from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. as follows:
- June 17 – Wenatchee, Red Lion Inn Wenatchee , 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave.
- June 18 – Kennewick, Red Lion Inn Kennewick, N. 1101 Columbia Center Blvd.
- June 19 – Spokane, Double Tree by Hilton Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Court..
Once adopted, the plan will be used by WDFW to guide development of hunting seasons and other management policies in future years, said Dave Ware, WDFW game program manager.
“We want to hear people’s concerns, especially those that address significant conservation or management issues,” he said.
- Key issues in the draft plan include:
- Hunter recruitment and retention.
- Hunter access to timberlands.
- Possible new rules requiring the use of non-toxic shot.
- New proposals for managing predator/prey relationships.
- Developing a plan to manage wolves after they are no longer classified as an endangered species.
Ware said comments received at the public meetings and from the online survey will be used to develop additional recommendations, which will be available for further review.
Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for a public hearing in August and adoption in September.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — I was minding my own business running through the woods near my South Side house this morning at 5:30 a.m. with my dog when the yearling bull moose started chasing us.
Your bucket list isn't complete unless you've had that thrilling experience.
Lesson: Never be far from a big ponderosa pine in moose country.
PREDATORS — Conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, are petitioning the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to limit the killing of wolves in response to livestock deaths.
Even though the state has take significant steps and statewide guidelines for preventing wolves from being attracted to livestock, the groups filed their petition late on Friday, asking the state to require ranchers to exhaust nonlethal options to prevent their livestock from being preyed on by wolves before killing the predators.
The Associated Press reports the groups are still hung up on the rare extreme action the state took in 2012 when Fish and Wildlife aerial gunners killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack. The groups contend the northern Stevens County rancher didn't go far enough in taking nonlethal actions that might have prevented wolves from attacking his cattle. The rancher endured 17 attacks on his cattle on private and public land.
The groups say that ranchers and sports-hunting groups have refused to consider their proposals, and that the state is moving forward with less protective wolf-control rules.
The groups filing the petition include the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately return a message to the Associated Press.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The speculation is over on whether Oregon's famous radio-collared wandering wolf has a mate.
OR-7 and its mate have produced pups, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed.
- See other images of OR-7, its mate and other Oregon wolves at ODFW’s wolf photo gallery
OR-7, the name given to the male wolf when it was first captured, radio-collared and released in northeast Oregon, found a mate in the Rogue River area of southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains after capturing worldwide attention as its movements were followed on the web through Oregon and California.
See more details in today's story from the Associated Press.
PREDATORS — The gist of the comments and online chat-room posts I've seen regarding my column about Washington's survey of public opinion on wolf management seem to sum up this way:
- Wolves: a few people love 'em, a few people hate 'em, and most people are in between, generally supporting wolf recovery but not to the point that wolves are hurting the livestock industry or decimating big-game herds.
Sizing up the comments also confirms that a few people, especially in the anti-hunting camps who grieve over the death of any critter, would prefer to kill the messenger, especially if it's an outdoor writer writing about wolves.
You don't have to settle for my take on this rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department. The agency has posted the entire 190 pages of the survey report as well as the summary.
- Compare the responses with a somewhat similar survey conducted in 2008 to see the trends.
The full title of the survey is: Washington Residents’ Opinions on Bear and Wolf Management and Their Experiences With Wildlife That Cause Problems.
It offers some interesting insight on several issues, including how Washingtonians view hunting in general: 88 percent of residents support hunting while only 8 percent strongly or moderately disapprove.
But mostly the survey is about wolves, the hottest state-wide fish and wildlife management issue in Washington.
See a longer, more hunter-oriented analysis of the survey by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ed Cairns had a great critter-watching experience at the upstream end of Twin Lakes near the Washington-Idaho border.
"Five moose eating and swimming in the video.
"Lots of birds, even a couple of Great Blue Herons…..one is sitting on the fence line at about 14 seconds into the video.
"I saw nine moose (one baby), three rabbits, one elk and several deer."
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The death of a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park is a reminder to hikers and climbers that spring and summer trekking across steep snowfields can be hazardous.
A member of the Glacier Park road crew found a male grizzly bear dead on Going-to-the-Sun Road on Thursday morning.
An initial investigation by the National Park Service indicated the bear, one of about 300 grizzlies in the park, probably fell onto the road from a steep snowbank.
A necropsy revealed the 190-pound bear suffered head injuries, broken ribs and other internal injuries consistent with a fall. Park officials say the terrain above where the bear fell includes a steep snowbank, some steep cliffs and a drop of approximately 12 feet.
THREATENED SPECIES — Our big bears need lots of room to roam, something that's in short supply in our ever-more-developed world.
Grizzly bears in NW Montana face trio of obstacles
An estimated 45 grizzly bears reside in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem in the northwest corner of Montana. In most cases, their lineage traces back to a female grizzly from British Columbia that was trapped and released to the area in 1993 to boost the population. The effort continues as the species struggles with isolation from other populations, conflicts with humans and habitat.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — "This is the first fawn we’ve seen this year – we took a couple quick images and moved on – mom was still working on having another one!" says Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.
Wildlife officials in Washington, Idaho and Montana all are issuing reminders to leave fawns alone if you find one. Even though they may seem abandoned, it's normal for whitetail or mule deer does to stash their fawns motionless in a hiding spot for up to 8 hours before returning to feed.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — "Only in Alaska," says Levi Perry in posting a YouTube video of a cow moose giving birth to twins — in the backyard of his girlfriend's home on the east-side of Anchorage.
The video captured Sunday by Victoria Hickey and Sarah Lochner recaps the birth of one calf and the loving attention of the mother to clean up the youngster. Minutes later you realize that while she was tending to the first-born, she was nonchalantly giving birth to the second calf.
It only takes minutes for her to get them looking clean. The little ones waste no time testing their legs and moving in for dinner.
Tiz the season of renewal! Wildlife watching at its best.
PREDATORS — Wyoming's bottom line is at the bottom.
Wyoming manages wolves to keep number near allowable level
Of the five states that are managing wolves—Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan and Wisconsin, Wyoming has set its sights on keeping the number of wolves in the state at the bare minimum required to comply with federal rules.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide
As a form of therapy following a stroke, Spokane artist Pat Adams has oil-painted scenics and portraits of family members at her kitchen table for more than 30 years. But after the death of her beloved dog Sage, Adams took her painting in a new direction. (SR photo: Colin Mulvany)
They say all dogs go to heaven. In the Inland Northwest, the most special of our canine companions also make it to Pat Adams’ canvas. Adams is a Spokane painter with a giving heart who memorializes cherished dogs on canvas, capturing their big eyes, perked ears and slobbery grins to bring comfort and peace to grieving pet owners. She also paints the occasional cat, bird and most recently a pet turtle. “This one is for my vet’s father,” Adams said one April morning while using a small brush to outline a handsome tan dog face on a black canvas. She dipped the brush in a dark chestnut paint to draw the tip of the floppy ear/Erica Curless, SR. More here.
Question: Do you think pets go to heaven?
ENDANGERED SPECIES — OR-7, a wolf originally from northeast Oregon, may have found a mate in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.
In early May, remote cameras on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest captured several images of what appears to be a black female wolf in the same area where OR-7 is currently located. The images were found by wildlife biologists when they checked cameras on May 7.
The remote cameras were set up by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of ongoing cooperative wolf monitoring efforts. New images of OR-7 were also captured on the same cameras and can be accessed and viewed at ODFW’s wolf photo gallery (see first three images).
“This information is not definitive, but it is likely that this new wolf and OR-7 have paired up. More localized GPS collar data from OR-7 is an indicator that they may have denned,” said John Stephenson, Service wolf biologist. “If that is correct, they would be rearing pups at this time of year.”
The Service and ODFW probably won’t be able to confirm the presence of pups until June or later, the earliest pup surveys are conducted, so as not to disturb them at such a young age. Wolf pups are generally born in mid-April, so any pups would be less than a month old at this time.
If confirmed, the pups would mark the first known wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century.
Wolf OR7 is already well-known due to his long trek and his search for a mate—normal behavior for a wolf, which will leave a pack to look for new territory and for a chance to mate. “This latest development is another twist in OR-7’s interesting story,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator.
The Service and ODFW will continue to monitor the area to gather additional information on the pair and possible pups. That monitoring will include the use of remote cameras, DNA sample collection from scats found, and pup surveys when appropriate.
Wolves throughout Oregon are protected by the state Endangered Species Act. Wolves west of Oregon Highways 395-78-95, including OR-7 and the female wolf, are also protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, with the Service as the lead management agency.
At the end of last year, there were 64 known wolves in Oregon. Except for OR-7, most known wolves are in the northeast corner of the state.
OR-7 was born into northeast Oregon’s Imnaha wolf pack in April 2009 and collared by ODFW on Feb. 25, 2011. He left the pack in September 2011, traveled across Oregon and into California on Dec. 28, 2011, becoming the first known wolf in that state since 1924.
Other wolves have traveled further, and other uncollared wolves may have made it to California. But OR-7’s GPS collar, which transmits his location data several times a day, enabled wildlife managers to track him closely.
Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent the majority of his time in the southwest Cascades in an area mapped on ODFW’s website.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — I hope everyone had a great Sunday honoring the mothers in your family. But in the world of wildlife, it may not have been flowers and breakfast in bed.
Don't watch this video if you don't want to see one of the most sobering lessons in the natural order.
I'm posting this video because it shows a wild side of motherhood: A cow moose fighting bravely for the life of her calf against impossible odds: a pack of five wolves. A pack's efficiency and teamwork is at once fascinating and terrifying
This is simply educational: not pro-wolf or anti-wolf.
It's just the way nature is in all its rawness.
PREDATORS — Few of the dozens of outfitters and conservationists who showed up for a Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf meeting Wednesday saw eye to eye, or approved of the status of the hunt, according to a report in the Jackson Hole Daily.
Wyoming Game and Fish is proposing to target 46 wolves this fall — 20 more than last year — in the state’s trophy game management area. Managers aim to bring the population of wolves in Wyoming’s jurisdiction down to near 160, wolf program biologist Ken Mills said.
Big-game hunting outfitters want more wolves killed. Wildlife-watching outfitters want more restrictions on hunting wolves that venture out of Yellowstone Park.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A few years ago, I'd get several photos a week from readers sharing the sight of moose in their yards or on their walks or adventures.
Nowadays I get very few. The reason: moose sightings are almost common.
Phil Cooper of Idaho Fish and Game's Panhandle Region has a column this week with all sorts of details about moose and why the department sometimes will respond and remove a moose that's wandered into town — and why the staff sometimes just leaves them be.
Summary: Don't be fooled by their calm demeanor — keep your distance! And never provide food for moose.
Read on for the details from Cooper.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — I was driving through Canada's Kootenay National Park in spring early in the morning one year when I spotted a black bear paralleling the highway in the vegetation along the road. I stopped and watched. The bear walked for a quarter mile eating the blossoms off dandelions like a kid in a candy store.
A few days ago, I filled my second tag in Washington's spring gobbler hunt. When I checked the crop of my tom, it was full of dandelion blossoms. He'd been taking advantage of the spring bloom.
Dandelion's are the weed that feeds wildlife.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A massive bighorn sheep that died of natural causes and was later found by wildlife officials could be a new world record, according to the Missoula-based Boone and Crockett Club.
The ram was found in Alberta. The skull is in possession of provincial officials and will be entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta.
"Many hunters are unaware that Boone and Crockett records include many found trophies," said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. "The main reason we keep records is to document conservation success. Although they aren't taken by hunters, found trophies are nonetheless an important gauge of outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. Picked-up trophies are an integral part of the conservation success story. Without them, the story is incomplete."
Alberta biologists speculate the bighorn died in early summer 2013 at 10-1/2 years of age.
Boone and Crockett official measurers in Alberta taped the horns and alerted the Club they had totaled a preliminary green score that would exceed the current world record. That ram, also from Alberta, scored 208-3/8 B&C points and was taken in 2000.
Although Montana has been producing some tremendous rams in recent years, all Boone and Crockett world record bighorn sheep throughout history have come from Alberta.
The long-followed next procedural steps for certifying a new world record include an evaluation of an official score sheet (prepared after the required 60-day drying time) and photos, and officially entering the trophy into Boone and Crockett records. If all remains in order, the club will convene a special judge's panel to re-score the ram, confirm a final score and make a record determination.
An official announcement should follow within the next 90 days, said Hale.
- See a Calgary Herald story about the bighorn find.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ken Vanden Heuvel got a big surprise when he checked out the photos on the trail cam that's pointed down the driveway of his Newman Lake-area home.
Check it out closely: 1, 2, 3, 4 — 5 cougars in one shot.
Time to keep the dog in the house!
- Even more impressive is the photo I published in 2010 with the story about about the Wenatchee hunter who captured a pride of EIGHT mountain lions in ONE trail cam photo. See the story and photo here.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A state board is considering endangered species status for the gray wolf endangered species status, giving it a chance at returning to California in significant numbers after a decades-long hiatus.
Just one wolf from Oregon has been tracked in recent years crossing into Northern California, renewing interest in returning the species to a thriving population. The California Fish and Game Commission will vote on giving the wolf legal protections at a meeting in Ventura.
Advocates such as Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity are hopeful for the wolf’s return.
“There’s already one wolf here,” Greenwald said Tuesday. “It’s not going to be long until there’s more.”
Ranchers remain opposed to the wolf’s reintroduction.
“Wolves directly kill livestock and in addition to that they can cause disease and other harm from stress,” such as weight loss in animals, said Kirk Wilbur, director of government relations for the California Cattlemen’s Association.
The last gray wolf in California was killed in 1924, clearing mountain ranges for cattle herds and other valuable livestock that fall prey to wolves.
Yet if the gray wolf is listed, ranchers not only couldn’t kill animals on their property, they couldn’t even chase them off, Wilbur said.
“If I see a wolf attacking one of my calves, I can’t do anything about that,” Wilbur said.
Nationally, wolves were near extinction not long ago. They were reintroduced with federal protections in the 1980s and ’90s, Greenwald said.
Wolves now occupy large parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes.
Federal protections have ended in those two regions, and there is a pending proposal to lift protections across much of the remaining Lower 48 states.
In 2008, a pack started moving into Oregon. That’s when the wolf now drawing interest for hopscotching into California became known as OR-7 — he was the seventh Oregon wolf fitted with a GPS tracking collar.
UPDATED April 10 with background about video, which went viral after the initial posting.
WILDLIFE — Watch this video of a massive elk herd crossing a road near Bozeman, Mont., and envision which of these critters you'd zero in on if you were a predator.
Read on for the story behind the video.
POACHING — Mercy. The value of wildlife seems to have gone down the tubes with a relatively light sentence in Western Washington last week.
"A Tacoma man described as 'one of the largest illegal wildlife traffickers in Washington state history' was sentenced Friday to 30 days of community service and 60 days’ home detention for selling deer, elk and sturgeon in violation of state law," the Tacoma News-Tribune reports.
See the story, and shake your head.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Under the endangered species regulations governing gray wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, states must monitor wolf numbers and file annual status reports on wolf populations and packs.
- See stories about the latest wolf status reports for six states, including Idaho, Montana and Washington.
Federal authorities review the reports to ensure wolves are being properly managed above standards that could trigger relisting as an endangered species.
Monitoring and reporting wolf status an expensive task that's been funded mostly by the federal government. But as the federal funding dries up, state's are looking at how to bring monitoring into fiscal reality.
Researchers from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the University of Montana on Friday released preliminary results of a new technique for estimating wolf numbers to produce a less expensive and more accurate population assessment.
The typical method used to document the state's wolf population focuses on ground and aerial track counts, visual observations, den and rendezvous confirmation and radio collaring to count individual wolves as required by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Montana's new approach: From 2007 through 2012, a team of 11 researchers to determine the number of gray wolves in Montana by estimating the:
- Areas occupied by wolves in packs;
- Number of wolf packs by dividing the occupied area by average territory size; and
- Numbers of wolves by multiplying the number of estimated packs by average annual pack size.
For instance, population modeling for Montana's wolves in 2012—where actual counts verified a minimum of 625 wolves and 147 packs—predicted that 804 wolves and 165 packs inhabited the state. Similar estimates are not yet available for 2013.
The typical method used by states produces a minimum number of wolves that can be verified, leaving biologists to say they believe there are actually more wolves in the field. The new Montana method seeks to give a more accurate number.
"This new approach is not only good science, it's a practical way for Montana to obtain a more accurate range of wolf numbers that likely inhabit the state," said Justin Gude, FWP's, chief of research for the wildlife division in Helena
Montana wolf population estimates were derived for the years 2007 through 2012 via a mix of rigorous statistical evaluations; wolf observations reported by recreational hunters during the annual hunter-harvest surveys; and Montana's annual wolf counts.
Results generally estimate a Montana wolf population 25-35 percent higher than the verified minimum counts submitted over the six-year period.
- See more at Montana Wolves.
UPDATED: 5:20 p.m.
PREDATORS — Gray wolves are maintaining a strong presence in Idaho despite stepped up hunting and trapping seasons plus other measures to control their numbers, according to the 2013 Idaho wolf status report released today by the state Fish and Game Department.
- Number of wolves: At least 659.
- Documented packs: At least 107, down from 117 at the end of 2012 but still the second highest number since reintroduction.
- New packs: At least seven.
- Border packs: At least 28 documented border packs overlapping with Montana, Wyoming and Washington.
- Reproducing packs: At least 49. Of those, 20 qualified as breeding pairs at the end of the year.
- Pack size: 5.4 (mean), down from 8.1 average during the three years prior to the 2009 opening of hunting seasons.
- Wolves killed: 356 by hunters and trappers and 94 by control efforts in response to wolf-livestock depredation. At least 16 wolves died from other human-related causes and 7 were found dead from unknown reasons.
- Confirmed wolf depredations: 39 cattle, 404 sheep, four dogs and one horse. Another seven cattle, nine sheep, and one dog were considered probable wolf kills.
Idaho posted its report on the deadline required of Northern Rockies states involved in the federal endangered species recovery programs.
- See wolf recovery status reports from all the affected states on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northern Rocky Mountains page.
Read on for an Associated Press story, April 4, 2014, on the regional wolf status reports with reaction from various groups and experts.