Latest from The Spokesman-Review
TRAPPING — With wolf trappers and hunters crossing paths with recreationists on public lands, a Montana trapping group this week appealed to trappers to use common sense and keep traps away from popular recreation trails.
This action comes after:
- A wolf hunter shot a malamute that was running with its owner, who was cross-country skiing on a closed logging road near Lolo Pass.
- A Sandpoint woman appealed to trappers after her dog joined her for a ski on a National Forest road, was caught in a snare and nearly choked to death.
On Wednesday, the Montana Trappers Association announced it wants trappers to think twice about setting traps anywhere near the dog-friendly cross-country ski trails at Lake Como in Montana's Bitterroot Valley.
Read on for the story by Perry Backus of the Ravali Republic.
FISHING — The fading art of smelt dipping — bagging swarms of the oily ocean fish with long-handled nets as they migrate into rivers — may be up for a revival. That's good news for all sorts of fishermen, since smelt not only are human food source but also an important prey base for sport fish.
Click “continue reading” for the scoop, so to speak, from Allen Thomas of the Columbian.
USFWS again extends comment period on protection of wolverines
A dispute on the reliability of conflicting research on wolverines was cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its decision to extend by six months the public comment period on a proposal to put the elusive species under federal protection.
HUNTING — A predator hunting derby organized out of Salmon will offer trophies and cash prizes up to $1,000 to hunters who kill wolves and coyotes on Dec. 28-29.
The “Two-Day Coyote and Wolf Derby” is sponsored by Idaho for Wildlife, a nonprofit whose aim is “to fight against all legal and legislative attempts by the animal rights and anti-gun organizations” to impose restrictions on hunting or guns, according to the group's website.
Participants must check in at the derby headquarters in Salmon, a hub of predator resentment among ranchers and hunting guides who contend wolves and coyotes threaten livestock and big game animals prized by sportsmen.
The tournament offers cash and trophies to two-person teams for hunting categories such as bagging the largest wolf and the most female coyotes. Children as young as 10 can compete in the youth division.
Idaho opened wolves to licensed hunting as a management tool more than two years ago after the federal government declared wolf recovery accomplished in Idaho and Montana.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game wolf manager Jason Husseman said the upcoming event is believed to be the first competitive wolf shoot to be held in the continental United States since 1974, when wolves across the country came under federal Endangered Species Act protections, according to Laura Zuckerman, reporting for Reuters from Salmon.
The report quotes derby organizer Shane McAfee as saying media inquiries were not welcome. But outfitters and wolf experts say wolf hunting is difficult and very few wolves are expected to be killed.
Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker says the derby organizers don't need to be defensive, just sportsman-like:
Of course, if (McAfee) were to defend publicly his public event he might point to the big buck contests that are are everywhere during deer season nationwide. How about big fish contests?
The issue of course is respect for the quarry. Predator derbies, which have been held across the West for years largely have held their targets up for ridicule, not respect.
A predator management policy adopted 13 years ago by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission states: “Fish and Game will not support any contests or similar activities involving the taking of predators which may portray hunting in an unethical fashion, devalue the predator, and which may be offensive to the general public.”
Idaho Fish and Game Department officials say that while the derby rules are within legal hunting parameters, the agency is not involved in the event.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — There appears to be no refuge for woodland caribou, which already has become the most endangered big game species in the United States.
Report says the number of woodland caribou on the decline in Alberta
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology tied a rapid decline in woodland caribou numbers to increased industrial development, and called for an aggressive campaign to protect habitat to help the species stabilize.
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.
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
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:
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.”
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
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.
FISHERIES — The eggs of endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon in Idaho and Montana are less likely to hatch in the river because of flow changes caused by Libby Dam and other human actions, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Associated Press reporter Nicholas K. Geranios says the report issued this week concluded that sturgeon eggs hatch best in places where rocks are washed clean of algae by river flow.
Read on for the rest of the AP story.
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.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's another take on that spectacular wildlife watching opportunity posed in mid-September by the death of a bison 400 yards from a road in Yellowstone Park.
- Five grizzlies and five gray wolves challenged each other for three days as they jockeyed for a place at the dinner table.
In the YouTube video above, Deby Dixon — who took a videography course at Spokane Falls Community College from S-R photographer Colin Mulvany — captured an instructive wildlife moment as a wolf nips a yearling grizzly cub in the butt.
Wildlife biologists say this is not uncommon. An Alaska biologist described the same practice to me as he was explaining wolf behavior.
Wolves learn and survive by observing, testing the waters and pushing the limits. Even among grizzlies, wolves are quick enough to get away with murder.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A man who killed a gray wolf while big-game hunting in the Pasayten Wilderness told Washington Fish and Wildlife police he felt threatened by the predator and acted in self defense, according to a report in the Methow Valley News.
Wolves are federally protected under the endangered species in the western two-thirds of Washington, so federal authorities were called in and few details have been released as the investigation continues.
The hunter called state officers on Sept. 20 to report shooting the adult female wolf, which is protected under federal law as an endangered species. Wolves east of that region through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are de-listed from federal protection and managed by the states.
In the eastern third of Washington, they are protected by state endangered species rules.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal officials offered a staunch defense today of a proposal to drop legal protections for the gray wolf in most of the country, as opponents rallied in the nation’s capital before the first in a series of public hearings on the plan.
Read the latest in this story from the Associated Press.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A coalition of six conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to cut more than 93 percent of protected critical habitat for the endangered mountain caribou — from a proposed 375,562 acres to a mere 30,010 acres.
The November decision was a major setback for the struggling animals, which in recent decades have only survived in the lower 48 states in a small area in North Idaho and northeastern Washington.
Caribou numbers have dwindled due to logging of old-growth forests, road construction and growing recreational use of snowmobiles, the groups say.
The groups warned in January they would file the lawsuit.
“This reduction in protected habitat is a death sentence for mountain caribou. They will not survive in the United States if we don’t protect their habitat,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision ignored the science and caved to political pressure.”
Caribou once ranged across much of the northern lower 48 states, including the northern Rocky Mountains, upper Midwest and Northeast. The southern Selkirks mountain caribou, the last remaining population in the northern Rocky Mountains was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1984.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, however, never designated critical habitat for the caribou, and in 2002 the groups filing today’s notice petitioned, and eventually litigated, to obtain a designation.
In keeping with a scientific recovery plan for the caribou, the proposed critical habitat issued in 2011 included more than 375,000 acres, which encompassed a majority of the area specified in the scientists’ plan as necessary for the animals’ recovery.
Organized business groups in north Idaho and state leaders opposed designating a large area of critical habitat.
In cutting this proposed acreage by more than 90 percent, the Fish and Wildlife Service appears to have abandoned the goal of recovering caribou in the contiguous United States, the conservation groups contend in the lawsuit.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s cut in critical habitat will greatly increase the caribou’s risk of extinction in the lower 48 states,” said Mike Petersen, executive director at the Lands Council. “It will be a sad day if we have to tell our children and grandchildren that we once had our own reindeer, but that we allowed them — like the passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet and so many others — to be wiped out.”
In 2005 conservation groups sued the Forest Service and obtained a closure to snowmobile use for most of the caribou’s critical habitat included in the proposed rule. The final designation, however, only includes a fraction of this area, and the Forest Service is already considering lifting the closure.
With new technologies allowing snowmobiles to get ever farther into the backcountry, these machines are a major threat to the shy, easily spooked animals, the conservation groups say.
“Now is not the time to back away from nearly 30 years of effort to recover the mountain caribou,” said Tim Layser, a wildlife biologist with the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. “With adequate protection from snowmobiles and other threats, caribou can once again thrive in the United States.”
Mountain caribou are a unique form of woodland caribou adapted to surviving winters of deep snow, with dinner-plate-sized hooves that work like snowshoes and an ability to subsist for three to four months on nothing but arboreal lichens found on old-growth trees. The caribou are part of a population that straddles the border with British Columbia and consists of fewer than 30 animals.
“Habitat loss and fragmentation is the top reason for the decline of mountain caribou,” said Brad Smith, a conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League. “If we are going to recover the last herd of caribou in the lower 48, then we must protect the habitat they need to survive.”
The groups on the lawsuit include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Idaho Conservation League, The Lands Council and Selkirk Conservation Alliance. They are represented by Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal wildlife agents are investigating the death of an endangered gray wolf in Okanogan County.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Doug Zimmer says the adult female wolf was shot and killed on Sept. 20 during a big game hunt in the area. He says hunters were in the field hunting elk or deer in the Pasayten Wilderness out of Harts Pass, and reported to state wildlife officials that they had shot and killed a wolf.
Zimmer says federal wildlife officers are working to determine whether the shooting was a legitimate accident, or killed under other circumstances.
It’s not legal to hunt wolves in Washington state. Gray wolves are federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Washington.
He says the gray wolf is an un-collared female but it’s unclear which pack she belonged to
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a revision in the critical habitat designation the Canada lynx, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The proposal would designate more than 41,000 square miles within the states of Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming as critical habitat for the Canada lynx.
- See reaction from U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., House Natural Resources Committee chairman.
The federal government is asking for public comment on aspects of the proposal, including whether areas where the lynx have recently moved into, including parts of New Hampshire and Vermont, should be added to the critical habitat.
The proposed revision comes after several snowmobiling groups launched unsuccessful legal challenges of the previously designated critical habitat.
As part of the proposal announced Wednesday, federal officials said they considering excluding more than 1,900 square miles of tribal lands within the states of Maine, Montana and Washington.
The new critical habitat adds some land as well, including some private timber lands in northern Maine, as well as Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service land in northeastern Wyoming. The lynx have been protected since 2000.
The Center for Biological Diversity applauded the Fish and Wildlife proposal, saying the extra space could help the rare wildcat whose population has been reduced by trapping and habitat loss.
“Like many animals, Canada lynx need quiet places free of disturbance from snowmobiles and other human activities to survive, so we’re thrilled the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed expanding their critical habitat,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The federal government has also asked the public to consider whether some lands in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Washington should be considered essential habitat, in part because they connect the places where lynx live.