Latest from The Spokesman-Review
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A coalition of 29 pro-wolf organizations says it submitted 101,416 comments today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service favoring continued protection for wolves under the Endangered Species Act.
Members of the Pacific Wolf Coalition say they have organized in response to the Obama administration’s plan to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves. They say the comments on behalf of the coalition’s members and supporters in the Pacific West are among a million comments collected nationwide expressing Americans’ disapproval of the Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove federal protections from gray wolves across most of the continental United States.
“The gray wolf is one of the most iconic creatures of the American landscape and wolves play a vital role in America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” said Pamela Flick, California representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “Californians, Oregonians and Washingtonians want to see healthy wolf populations in the Pacific West. In fact, recent polling clearly demonstrates overwhelming support for efforts to restore wolves to suitable habitat in our region. Removing protections would be ignoring the voices of the majority.”
Read on for a list of the groups in the coalition.
PREDATORS — State wildlife officials have hired a hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in a federal wilderness area in central Idaho because officials say they are eating too many elk calves, according to the Associated Press.
Fish and Game Bureau Chief Jeff Gould tells the Idaho Statesman that hunters are having a difficult time getting into the Frank Church-River of No Return wilderness, so the agency hired hunter-trapper Gus Thoreson of Salmon to kill the wolves in the Golden and Monumental packs.
The U.S. Forest Service allowed the state agency to use an airstrip and cabin in the Payette National Forest as a base.
Fish and Game paid $22,500 for aerial killing of 14 wolves in the Lolo area in 2012. Gould said Monday he didn’t know how much the agency would end up paying for Thoreson’s salary and expenses.
THREATENED SPECIES — A panel of wildlife officials says it’s time to lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
An Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spokesman says the panel’s members voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of ending the federal protections, the Associated Press reports.
The committee’s recommendation will be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency could propose a rule by mid-2014 to end protections.
Scientists say there are more than 700 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming following a decades-long recovery.
Revoking the animal’s threatened species status would open the door to limited hunting, but other conservation measures would stay in place.
Environmental groups worried about climate change say it’s too early to take the bears off the threatened list.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Two whitetail bucks that locked their antlers in battle near Liberty Lake during the rutting season set the stage for a ghoulish drama video that's gone viral on YouTube.
Pete Caruso of Spokane and Eric Martin of Colbert were heading out toward Mica to hunt predators on Nov. 15 when they spotted three coyotes feeding on what they initially thought was a gut pile — until a buck rose up from the bloody melee.
The coyotes were chewing on the haunches of a dead buck whose antlers were locked with a buck that was still very much alive and struggling futilely to break away. The dead buck had died, possibly of a broken neck, in what must have been one heck of a battle for mating dominance that night.
After spooking away the coyotes and sizing up the situation, the two hunters and two other men moved in to help. They risked harm from the still-alive buck's flying hooves and sharp antler points as they struggled to unlock the entangled antlers.
Caruso captured the ordeal on video as one unidentified man sat on the bloody, mangled carcass of the dead buck to give Martin and the other man more leverage for twisting the antlers apart.
The best part of the video comes at the end, when the freed buck sprints away, offering a classic whitetail leap as if to say “Yahoo!” as it disappears over the horizon.
“Eric and I are starting working to start an outdoorsman video club for hunting and wildlife action clips,” Caruso said.
This video clip of Martin using a decoy and predator call to lure a cougar into close range is an example. Check out the look on the cougar's face when it senses it's been had.
Biennial report tracks changes in Yellowstone National Park
The Yellowstone Center for Resources released its biennial report on conditions within Yellowstone National Park and the 2013 “Vital Signs” said that drier conditions were reported across the park in the past two years as precipitation has declined, visitor numbers have increased, while populations of elk, trumpeter swans and three species of fish have declined.
—Bozeman Daily Chronicle;
THREATENED SPECIES — A “hair of the bear” study has accounted for at least 42 grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains and Yaak River drainage regions of northwestern Montana, according to the Associated Press.
Research leader Kate Kendall reported her findings to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Tuesday, the Missoulian reported.
Researchers used about 800 scent-baited “hair corrals” where rings of barbed wire snagged hair as the animals stepped over or under it to investigate the scent. They also collected samples in about 1,200 places where bears naturally stop to scratch their backs, such as trees, posts and poles in a 3,750-square-mile area in the mountains above Eureka, Libby, Trout Creek, Yaak and Troy.
The samples, collected in 2012 and analyzed this year, identified 38 grizzlies by their DNA. Researchers also knew about four collared bears whose DNA didn’t appear in the samples.
“That’s the rock-solid minimum count we detected,” research leader Kate Kendall told the committee at its meeting in Missoula. Including visiting bears and bears that died during the study, the figure could be as high as 54, she said.
The number is important because the health of the grizzly population influences how much logging and mining can take place in the area.
Read on for more details from the AP.
PREDATORS — This kitty didn't run.
Female mountain lion makes a meal of young wolf in W. Wyoming
Mountain lions lose their share of cubs to wolves. The cats are generally programmed to climb a tree and avoid confrontations that could leave them injured. But a female mountain lion with kittens recently killed a young wolf in western Wyoming. Because the cat was fixed with a tracking collar, scientists monitoring the mountain lion were able to document a rare event among predators.
— Jackson Hole New & Guide
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson and his wife, Lisa, were in the right place at the right time to see a killer wildlife drama play out on below-zero temperatures on Monday. I'll let Jaime explain:
We had a really amazing thing happen today. We were heading up a mountain road to get to a whitetail deer spot that we frequent when we spotted a nice 5x5 whitetail right across the river from us. It has been sub-zero here
for several days and the river has four or five feet of ice on each side frozen. Slush is flowing down the river. River is four or five feet deep. It looks really really cold. I was photographing the buck when all of the sudden, he looked behind him and bolted. In an instant, he was gone. I lowered my camera to see what was up. Then, to our left - a doe whitetail on the opposite side of the river was running full steam towards us (towards the river). Before I could get my camera raised, she jumped with all of her might over the icy edge of the river strait into the swift current. Reminded me of a kid jumping into a deep swimming hole except it was almost zero, I couldn’t believe what I saw – (what was she thinking).
Then, right behind her – a mountain lion appeared. He hit the brakes when he saw us, turned and vanished instantly (no pictures). The doe was swept downstream about a hundred feet or so before she could get started up on the ice. She managed (after several attempts) to get her front legs up on the ice, but couldn’t seem to get her hind legs up. She laid there for a few minutes and then flailed until her hind legs got up. We could tell she was freezing, but could do nothing. She walked about 15 feet and shook as much water off as she could, barely able to walk. She eventually laid down and stayed there for the next six hours. She eventually got up and fed away.
HUNTING — The story of a Montana wolf hunter shooting a pet malamute as it romped with its owner near Lolo Pass in November is a long way from being as dead as the dog.
USA Today has just posted a story rehashing and updating the Nov. 18 reports that an unnamed hunter in camouflage shot one of three malamutes being exercised on a closed forest road as its owner, Layne Spence, cross-country skied with them.
While law enforcement officials still say no laws were broken, Spence of Missoula contends state law prohibits hunters from shooting on or across roadways an that hunters should always identify their prey before shooting.
He points out that a hunter could be fined for not positively determining whether an elk is a cow or a spike. Spence contends his malamute, Little Dave, did not look like a wolf. Indeed, a duck hunter must be able to tell the difference between a mallard hen and a mallard drake in all lighting conditions.
But what gets me, a lifelong hunter, is buried deep in the USA Today story when Spence points out he doesn't want to get the hunter into bad trouble. Mainly, he said, “I just want an apology.”
Holy smokes. You shoot a guy's dog while he's yelling at you to stop and you don't have the guts to say “I'm sorry.”
This hunter ranks in my memory as one of the most despicable representatives of the sport of hunting, not to mention the human race.
PREDATORS — The number of livestock killed by wolves in Idaho has decreased in recent years, notably after the species was delisted and public hunting and trapping seasons were set on wolves.
To maintain the trend despite reduced federal funding of animal control programs, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation members have passed a proposal to raise the state brand renewal fee by $25 to increase funding for wolf-control efforts by Idaho Wildlife Services.
The farm bureau acted Thursday at its annual meeting in Sun Valley, the Capital Press reported.
Idaho Wildlife Services has lost about $750,000 in funding since 2010, reducing the agency’s total budget to $2.1 million.
The agency said the state this year has had 77 confirmed or probable wolf kills of cattle and 565 sheep kills. The number of confirmed or probable wolf depredations so far in 2013 is down 26 percent from 2011.
“It’s slowly working its way down again,” said Idaho Wildlife Services State Director Todd Grimm, attributing some of the decrease to sport hunting seasons for wolves. “Hunting season has absolutely made a difference.”
The minimum estimated wolf population in Idaho peaked in 2009 at 856 and has gradually decreased to 683, officials said.
Read on for more details from the Associated Press report based on the Capital Press story:
PREDATORS — Notice to the owner of the black cat missing on the South Hill: We may have solved the mystery..
Says Facebook friend Dan Barth, who posted this photo:
If you are missing your black cat… this friendly neighborhood bald eagle has relocated it….
Loose-running cats kill millions of song-birds each year.
Perhaps this is the big bird's symbolic way of trying to even the score.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolf sightings have been reported in Whitman County off and on for several years, but last week, Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists were able to verify wolf tracks in the Palouse.
Two biologists verified one set of wolf tracks in the Rock Lake area, about two miles from where wolf sightings had been reported in the Ewan area.
They surmise the wolves may be wandering in from packs established in Idaho, just a short hop away for a wandering wolf.
Wolf tracks are huge in the canine world, measuring at least 4 inches long — twice the size of a coyote track.
- The agency last week had to denounce rumors that it was releasing wolves in the Palouse and that wolves had attacked horses.
PREDATORS — The latest livestock attack by Oregon’s Snake River wolf pack puts it one bite away from a potential state kill order, according to Jeff Barnard of the Associated Press.
An Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife report released Monday says the rancher who found a wounded cow Nov. 21 in the rugged country between the Imnaha and Snake rivers had taken required nonlethal steps to deter wolf attacks. Those steps included cleaning up old cow carcasses, putting out radio-activated alarm boxes and checking the cattle up to five times a day.
The report says bite marks on the cow’s hindquarters were characteristics of wolf attacks. The wounds were estimated to be a week or two old, and a GPS tracking collar put the pack in the area at that time.
New rules established under a legal settlement allow officials to consider a kill order after four qualifying attacks by a wolf pack in six months, the AP reports. The most recent attack makes three for the Snake River pack since October.
Unlike other states trying to control wolves in cattle country, Oregon has adopted specific rules requiring ranchers to take nonlethal steps to deter wolf attacks before the state can shoot a wolf for attacking livestock. The rules were the result of a legal settlement of a lawsuit from conservation groups.
Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild, one of plaintiffs, says the department is faithfully carrying out the new rules. He noted that the number of attacks by the Imnaha pack has gone down as nonlethal efforts have gone up. The Imnaha pack was Oregon’s first and had the most livestock kills last year when a decision to shoot two of its members was blocked by court order.
“I think the agency deserves a lot of credit for following the letter of the plan, putting out reports and making them public, which is a big change over where we were a couple years ago,” Pedery said.
Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the department, said more ranchers have bought into nonlethal control in the range of the Imnaha pack, where they have been dealing with wolves for a longer time. However, it is still uncertain whether the nonlethal controls are responsible, he said.
Morgan added that the Imnaha pack is made up of different wolves, except for the breeding pair, than when the pack was more actively attacking livestock. Young adults have moved on, and the pack has at least seven new pups.
Rancher Rod Childers, who negotiated the rules on behalf of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers are still frustrated with the slow pace of the process, which can take a week or more to confirm a kill and determine whether it qualifies under the rules.
“People are learning it’s here and we’ve got to deal with it,” he said of the seven confirmed wolf packs in northeastern Oregon. “We just want it dealt with in a more timely manner than what it is.”
Updated 11-26-13 at 9 a.m. with correction from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
WILDLIFE — Just in time for Thanksgiving! Montana's online permitting system to legally take possession of road-killed big game goes operational today.
A new state law allows people to salvage deer, elk, antelope and moose killed on roadsides.
According to reporter Rob Chaney of the Missoulian, anyone wanting to claim one of those game animals they find dead can fill out the online permit within 24 hours. State law enforcement officers will also have permits available if called to the site of an animal-vehicle collision. The permits are free.
The move could offer a lot of extra protein to Montana dinner tables albeit at the expense of beetles, ravens, eagles, coyotes and other critters in nature's clean-up crew. The Missoulian reports:
- In 2012, Montana motorists hit 4,754 whitetail deer, 1,977 mule deer, 220 elk, 72 antelope and 28 moose, according to state Department of Transportation records.
- They also hit 39 black bears, five grizzly bears, six mountain lions, 15 bighorn sheep, an uncertain number of wolves, and uncounted birds of prey and furbearing mammals. Those predators, birds and sheep are not allowed for roadkill possession.
- At least 17 other U.S. states allow some level of roadkill possession and consumption.
But Washington is not one of them. It's illegal to pick up roadkill without a permit in Washington.
Read on for more details about the Montana law and salvage permit system:
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A rare dark-colored mule deer was documented recently in photo on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area as the doe fed with three normal-colored deer, including a buck in the rut.
Wildlife biologists say the deer appears to have an unusually high occurrence of melanin, a black pigmentation of the skin and hair.
The photo was made by Justin Haug, the assistant wildlife area manager who has a gift for capturing great photos from the state-managed land in Okanogan County near Loomis.
HUNTING — While hunting pheasants on Sunday, this is how my English setter, Scout, defined the idiom, “Got 'em dead to rights.”
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Some smart asses had a lot of fun this week spreading rumors that wolves had attacked three horses near La Crosse, Wash.
A Whitman County Gazette reporter tried to track down the word-of-mouth reports and so did several Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police and biologists.
“We tracked down the source and can verify there's no substance whatsoever to the rumors,” Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW regional manager in Spokane, said this morning.
He said the rumors were not even a case of mistaken identity, such as stray dogs attacking livestock or anything like that. “It's just purely a rumor,” he said.
While we're putting that issue to bed, let's also dismiss the rumor going around that WDFW staff has been releasing wolves in Whitman County. For God's sake, get a clue out there.
“Somebody is saying they actually saw the department releasing four wolves and that's pure rumor,” Pozzanghera said. “The department is not relocating wolves, and we have not had a capture or any hands-on activity with wolves in recent months.”
- In Idaho, for the record, a wolf attack on a horse was confirmed on Aug. 20 at West Pass Creek, about 20 miles south of Clayton, according to Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife manager Jon Rachael in Boise.
Turnbull elk rumor
One more rumor that needs to be squashed is the persistent rant that WDFW uses a helicopter to herd elk away from hunters and onto Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge each fall. Indeed, the hunting seasons enacted on the refuge a few years ago were designed specifically to help move elk OFF the refuge to reduce damage on Turnbull and increase hunter harvests outside the refuge boundaries.
A two-day helicopter survey is run at the end of September each year to monitor Turnbull-area elk, but the elk are not herded.
Farmers who've had depredation problems with elk can verify that nobody could chase a herd of elk to a patch of ground on one weekend and expect them to stay there throughout the fall hunting seasons. Nobody with a hint of knowledge about elk would believe that, and nobody with a brain would repeat the rumor.
Research belies wolf management by the numbers
Through 43 years of studying wolves primarily in Alaska, wildlife biologist Gordon Haber says his research found that wolves are the most “social of all nonhuman vertebrates.” Trying to manage them by the numbers simply won't work, he says in this column by Marybeth Holleman, a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Sergio Pierluissi will discuss the federal agency's activities in the Idaho Panhandle, as well as its recent priorities in the Pacific Northwest region during the monthly program organized by the Kootenai Environmental Alliance on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Iron Horse Restaurant, 407 E Sherman Ave. in Coeur d'Alene.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the only federal agency whose primary mission is managing the country's wildlife. From the thousands of species protected under the Endangered Species Act, to the millions of acres managed as Wildlife Refuge, the USFWS employs a diverse array of tools to work with others to protect and manage wildlife.
In North Idaho, the agency has been involved in issues ranging from tundra swans dying in the toxic sloughs of the Coeur d'Alene River drainage during their spring migrations to critical habitat for woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains.
PREDATORS — Am I shocked that a wolf hunter has shot someone's pet near a popular Montana-Idaho winter recreation area? Yes.
Am I surprised? No.
And the Missoula County sheriff’s office is just throwing up its hands, saying there's nothing it can do as it ends its investigation into the fatal shooting of a malamute on Lolo Pass by a hunter who apparently mistook it for a wolf.
According to the story moved by the Associated Press, Layne Spence of Missoula said he was skiing with his three dogs on a quiet logging road near Lee Creek Campground Sunday afternoon when he heard a shot and saw his dog, Little Dave, fall down with a leg injury.
About 15 to 20 yards away, Spence said he saw a man wearing camouflage and carrying a gun.
“I started screaming ‘Stop, stop,’ and the man kept shooting,” Spence, 48, said. The dog was struck in the neck and died.
“My dog is lying there, dead and I shouted ‘What are you doing?’ and the guy said, ‘I thought it was a wolf.’ ”
- Photo above shows a pair of malamutes for comparison.
Spence said the hunter asked if there was anything he could do, but Spence said he was so distraught he told the man to leave.
When Spence returned to town he filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office.
The Missoulian reports the agency passed the case over to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Forest Service.
“There is no criminal activity here, and this is out of our jurisdiction,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Paige Pavalone said on Monday. “We don’t have any witnesses and we’re not investigating the situation any further.”
Spokespersons for both FWP and the Forest Service had said Monday morning that they believed the case would be a criminal matter.
“This doesn’t have to happen,” Spence said. “Not every big dog is a wolf. These are pets, they all had their collars and lights on, they were all with me the entire time.”
He wondered what would have happened if he had a child on a sled or if a bullet ricocheted.
“There are other people who use the woods besides hunters this time of year,” Spence said.
The U.S. Forest Service maintains the Lee Creek campground for non-motorized winter use. Lolo National Forest recreation manager Al Hilshey said the area is popular with cross-country skiers who like to bring their dogs.
LESSONS FROM THE TRAGEDY
- Hunters must be extra alert when hunting in areas such as Lolo Pass, where other people routinely recreate, and they should be accountable for their actions.
- Dog owners must be aware that hunters can legally target wolves in Montana and Idaho. Dogs — especially malamutes and other dogs that resemble wolves in any color ranging from white to black — should be wearing large fluorescent orange collars and even vests when recreating in areas where hunters could be out.
Wolf management a factor in updating Idaho's elk plan
Among the 1,203 people who reviewed Idaho's proposal to update its 1999 elk management plan, 442 people commented and 150 of those people urged more aggressive wolf management to help protect elk populations.
Craig White, the plan coordinator, said while aggressive wolf management would be part of the plan in some areas of the state, in others where elk numbers are so high that crop damage is a problem, management of the predators would be limited to keeping them away from cows and sheep.
—Twin Falls Times-News
PREDATORS — Idaho's wolf trapping season opens Friday, Nov. 15, in the wolf management zones in northern and eastern parts of the state.
The trapping seasons runs through March 31 in the Panhandle zone, except in parts of units 2 and 3, and in the Lolo, Selway, Middle Fork zone; Salmon and Island Park zones.
Here's a warning from Idaho Fish and Game officials:
While trapping has been part of the landscape in Idaho, Fish and Game reminds hound hunters, hunters with bird dogs, and people with pets that trappers have an increased interest to be in the woods because of the wolf trapping season. People with pets should know how to release a pet that is caught in a foothold trap or neck snare.
Trapping regulations prohibit traps from the center and within 5 feet of center line of all maintained designated public trails and from the surface and right of way of all maintained designated public roads. Ground traps are prohibited within 300 feet of any designated public campground, picnic area and trailhead.
Wolf trapping season also runs through March 31 in the Palouse-Hells Canyon Zone units 13 and 18 on private lands only – closed in units 8, 8A, 11 and 11A; and in the Dworshak-Elk City zone, except Unit 10A, which opens February 1.
In the McCall-Weiser Zone, trapping runs through March 15 in units 19A and 25 and on private land only in unit 22. Units 23, 24, 31, 32 and 32A are closed.
All other zones are closed to trapping.
Trappers must complete a required wolf trapping class before they can buy wolf trapping tags.
Licensed trappers may buy up to five wolf trapping tags per trapping season for use in those zones with an open wolf trapping season. In addition, up to five wolf hunting tags may be purchased per calendar year for hunting. Unused wolf hunting tags may be used to tag trapped wolves in wolf zones with an open trapping and hunting season. Trappers should note that bag limits are not the same for all the wolf zones.
Only three wolf trapping tags may be used in the McCall-Weiser, Salmon and Island Park zones.
Wolf tags cost $11.50 for resident hunters, and $31.75 for nonresidents. Trapping tags are valid for the trapping season, but wolf hunting tags are valid only for the calendar year.
Click here fore additional details on wolf hunting and trapping seasons and rules.
Idaho Fish, Game Commission hears complaints about wolves
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission began its quarterly meeting in Jerome Wednesday, and at a public forum that evening, about half of the dozen residents that spoke up said they blamed wolves for the lack of elk.
The meeting continues today with both the westslope cutthroat trout management plan and an update of the 1999 elk management plan on the agenda.
—Twin Falls Times-News
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Serious wildlife photographers are not amused by this latest viral video of a man who exposed himself to serious danger with a yearling “spike” elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
One lunge and the man could have lost an eye or been killed. This is stupid, and the people who sat and watched are equally stupid.
The man made the initial error by getting too far from a vehicle and leaving himself exposed to the elk's advance.
The videographer who posted the video on YouTube apparently doesn't like the criticism going out on the internet and he/she deleted it from this post.
- See the ABC news story with footage from the video plus an interview with the photographer, James York.
We already posted the news of the spike elk that Western Montana wildlife officials dispatched this fall after it became too aggressive around people who tried to treat it like a pet.
Comments from professional wildlife photographers include:
This is the kind of idiot that prompts excessive and overbearing rules for photographers in national parks, wildlife refuges, etc.The guy could have easily stood up, waved his hat and yelled at the bull, but no, he had to play with it. I'm sure he thought that such behavior was cute. What would not have been cute is when the bull lowered one of those antlers (or both) and impaled him through the chest…
- The guy is not a nature photographer; he is an idiot…
- Sadly if the guy had gotten killed or even seriously injured, the bull would have been killed…
- I seriously hope that the park where this took place look long and hard at prosecuting the guy in any way they can…
—Tim Christie, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
PREDATORS — While Idaho is already hunting wolves, and the state's wolf trapping season will reopen on Friday, the state of Michigan is on the verge of reaching its own milestone in dealing with wolves.
About 1,200 people have bought hunting licenses to participate in Michigan’s first wolf hunt since the animal was placed on the endangered species list nearly 40 years ago. The season is set to open Friday and run through December or until a quota of 43 wolves is reached.
Michigan is the sixth state to authorize wolf hunting following the removal of federal protections in recent years, a testament to the strong comeback of a species that was close to eradication in the lower 48 states.
- Actually, wolf hunting is allowed in at least seven states if you include the season the tribal council has opened to tribal members on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington. Elsewhere in the state, the gray wolf is still protected.
Although fairly opening received in states such as Montana and Idaho, the hunt is bitterly contested in Michgan.
Supporters say Michigan’s wolf population — which the Department of Natural Resources estimates at 658, all in the Upper Peninsula — is healthy and secure. They contend a hunt is needed to rein in a predator that has killed or injured hundreds of cattle, sheep and dogs since the mid-1990s.
Opponents say the damage and danger are exaggerated. Relatively few farms have experienced problems, they in an Associated Press story moving on the wire today, and the landowners have legal authority to shoot wolves caught attacking livestock.
“There is no sound scientific basis to be killing these animals,” said Nancy Warren, an Upper Peninsula resident and regional director of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition. State wildlife officials “are bowing down to special interest groups,” she said.
DNR biologist Brian Roell acknowledged that a disproportionate number of livestock attacks have happened on a single farm whose owner has drawn criticism for practices such as leaving animal carcasses unburied and failing to use state-provided fencing.
But 26 attacks were reported on 10 other farms in the same hunting zone between 2010 and 2012, despite use of non-lethal controls such as flashing lights and guard donkeys, the department says.
The hunt is a last-resort means “to reduce conflicts in areas where our current tools just haven’t cut it,” DNR fur-bearing animal specialist Adam Bump said.
Read on for more of the story from the Associated Press:
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A reader called today wondering if the animals he saw west of Spokane recently were wolves or coyotes.
He didn't have a photo to help with the identification and he didn't measure tracks, so there's no way to tell for sure.
The chart above gives some distinguishing features to note when you see canines in the field.
Here's some elaboration from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists:
One of the greatest differences between the two species is size, which can be difficult to estimate determine at a distance. A gray wolf is much larger than a coyote. Wolves weigh 80 to 120 pounds, while coyotes weigh 20 to 50 pounds. Track size measures about four by five inches for wolves, compared to two by two and a half inches for coyotes.
Ear shape is also much different; wolves have somewhat rounded ears while coyotes have taller, pointed ears. Wolves have a broader, shorter snout, while coyotes have a narrow more pointed nose. A wolf’s howl is long and drawn out, while a coyote produces a shorter, yapping sound. Fur coloration can be quite similar between wolves and coyotes and therefore is not a good characteristic for separating the two species. For more visual comparisons, visit: Wolf Identification: Physical Appearance of Wolves.
Large dogs and wolf-dog hybrids can also be mistaken for wolves, although they usually act more familiar with people. Wolf-dog hybrids can be unpredictable and aggressive. Some hybrids have been released into the wild, living like feral dogs. Distinctions between these hybrids and wild wolves can sometimes be made only by DNA testing.
PREDATORS — In some cases, the Internet is incredibly predictable.
The Facebook caption says: “A little Wyoming justice by some folks that are fed up with wolves and the affect they are having on wildlife populations, livestock, and our way of life as hunters and Wyoming residents. The bunny huggers are having a conniption fit over this so let's show our support these guys.”
Hunters can buy a hunting license and wolf tag and legally harvest a wolf under Wyoming law.
So while this photo is distasteful to some people, it doesn't imply anything illegal, just an attitude that's still pervasive.
WILDLIFE — The signs along highways warning motorists that wildlife frequently crosses the road in certain stretches aren't random acts of government spending.
State's keep track of roadkill — what they pick up and where motor vehicles are reported to have collided with critters. fall and winter are the most hazardous times.
Statewide, more than 1,100 wildlife/vehicle collisions are reported to the Washington State Patrol every year. Many more go unreported but leave animals dead. Washington Department of Transportation crews remove an average of 3,500 deer and elk carcasses from highways every year.
Those “wildlife crossing” signs are placed in the hot spots for these statistics.
Eastern Washington areas with the highest wildlife/vehicle collision rates include:
- Spokane County's and the state highways heading north, especially in the Chewelah-Colville area as well as Newport, where highways intersect with white-tailed deer wintering grounds.
- The Methow River Valley, home of the state’s most prolific mule deer herd, consistently has high numbers of animals killed in collisions each year.
- The Wenatchee vicinity has high deer collision rates on the busy highways that run through prime mule deer ares north and west of the city. On U.S. 97.
- Goldendale and to the north between Omak and Tonasket have high wildlife collision rates.
- Interstate 90 near the Easton/Cle Elum vicinity has the highest number of elk/vehicle collisions in Eastern Washington.
Several factors combine to make late fall the peak of the “bumper crop.”
- Colder temperatures and snow force more deer and elk from the mountains to milder conditions and better food sources in the lowlands.
- Hunting seasons are underway, increasing deer movements.
- Deer mating season, which also increases deer movements and makes normally wary bucks stupid, builds from late October, peaking in mid-November and tapering off into December.
A 2008 analysis of deer-elk collisions along Washington state highways — the lead author was Woody Myers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife big-game researcher based in Spokane — gives state agencies more guidance in planning highway routes and when to use measures such as fencing or wildlife overpasses or underpasses.
- The DOT has posted a short video of images from cameras that illustrate how a range of wildlife use properly sited underpasses.
- See commonly asked questions and answers about reducing the risks of wildlife vehicle collisions can be found in this DOT Question and Answer page.
WSDOT is working with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other stakeholders on a statewide Habitat Connectivity assessment that will identify areas where wildlife require movement across the highway.
The Hyak to Easton project under construction on I-90 has a number of wildlife crossing structures and wildlife fencing.
WILDLIFE — A rutting bull moose and the cow moose he was pursuing near Woodridge Elementary School was tranquilized and removed from the Indian Trail neighborhood Monday, but not before his 900-pounds made kindling out of a section of the wood fence around the Dave and Marcia Hardy's home.
Marcia, who watched the events through the window of her house said she was amazed at the size of the animal.
She also praised the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers for their safety and efficiency in handling the situation, even when crowds of neighbors showed up to take photos and after a neighbor drove by and spooked the moose into a more difficult place to handle.
Incidentally: The bull already had a red tag in its ear after being rescued in 2010 when it had become entangled in an electrified fence on Green Bluff, WDFW officers said.
Hunters with a moose permit should avoid these moose because the tranquilizing drug remains in their system for a month, WDFW says. Both animals were transported and released near Lake of the Woods in north Spokane County near the Pend Oreille County Line and the Idaho border.
The cow has a yellow ear tag and the bull has a red ear tag — and it's antlers have been sawed off for safety during transport.
Romance lost? Both moose were released together. After the ordeal, it may be the bull who tells the cow, “Not tonight, I have a headache.”
HUNTING — Wolf-watchers say they’re concerned that hunters participating in Wyoming’s second annual wolf hunt may have killed five members of the Lamar Canyon Pack, a well-known wolf pack whose territory includes part of Yellowstone National Park.
- The story from the Jackson Hole News & Guide is moving today by the Associated Press.
Officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say it’s impossible to determine if the two male and three female wolves were members of the Lamar Canyon Pack. The five were killed in a hunt area northeast of Cody over three days in mid-October.
Recent counts put the number of wolves in the pack at 11, meaning almost half the pack might have been killed.
State law prohibits Game and Fish employees from disclosing details about wolves killed in Wyoming’s annual wolf hunt. That includes the specific locations where wolves are killed and the wolves’ age, coloration and breeding status, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.
Regardless, Game and Fish officials can’t determine the identity of the wolves killed for certain because the wolves weren’t among those in the region that are wearing radio collars, department spokesman Alan Dubberley said.
“There’s no way to know. We just don’t have that information,” Dubberley said.
Wolves of the Rockies President Marc Cooke said he sought the identity of the wolves killed from Game and Fish officials but didn’t get any answers.
“They might as well face the reality that there’s a good possibility that wolves killed were from Yellowstone,” Cooke said.
The hunt area had a limit of four wolves. The five killed exceeded that by one. Last year, hunters were allowed to kill up to eight wolves in the hunt area.
This year’s statewide wolf hunt limit is 26, down from 52 last year. The wolf hunting season began Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 31 with the exception of a hunt area south of Jackson where hunting began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 31.