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Fall 2003, Volume 21.1


READING THE WEST

read-ing [from ME reden, to explain, hence to read] _ vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to; study.

 

No Longer Endangered

In April, 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the classification of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Service established three distinct population segments. Gray wolves in the Western and Eastern segments were reclassified from endangered to threatened. Gray wolves in the Southwestern segment retain their previous classifications as endangered or experimental. The Service explained that wolf recovery under the Endangered Species Act has been successful because of "scientific research, increased protection, reintroduction and management programs, and education efforts that helped increase public understanding of wolves." The Service also reports that:

 

…Today about 2,445 wolves live in the wild in Minnesota, fewer than 20 on Lake Superior's Isle Royale, about 278 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, 323 in Wisconsin, and about 664 in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Wolves are being reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico. An occasional wolf is seen in Washington State, North Dakota, or South Dakota. Populations fluctuate with food availability, strife within packs, and disease. In some areas, wolf populations also may change due to accidental and intentional killing by people…. In Alaska wolf populations number 5,900 to 7,200 and are not considered endangered or threatened.

In Minnesota, home of the largest wolf population in the lower 48 states, a state program provides compensation for livestock confirmed to be killed by wolves, and a Federal program conducts trapping of individual wolves that prey on domestic animals. Similar compensation and trapping programs exist in Wisconsin and Michigan. In the West and Southwest, a private compensation program run by the Defenders of Wildlife pays for livestock killed by wolves.

Map of the US showing the three regions.

 

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Gray Wolf Recovery: http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/

Wolves in Utah

In 1987 biologist William Newmark, Research Curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History, published in the journal Nature the results of his study of carnivores, hoofed animals, and rabbits in 14 national parks in the western United States and Canada. He discovered that 43 percent of his study species had become extinct in the areas he surveyed. Specifically, 29 species of mammals had disappeared from National Parks in the western US because the parks were simply not big enough for the animals to maintain a viable population of individuals. The boundaries of most large national parks were created primarily to protect scenery, not ecosystems.

Newmark wrote, "Only the largest North American park assemblage, the Kootenay-Banff-Jasper-Yoho park assemblage (20,736 sq. km.), still contains an intact historical mammalian assemblage." Most important, Newmark found that the older and smaller a park is, the more species it loses. Small park size speeds the rate of extinction because smaller parks start with smaller, more vulnerable wildlife populations. Moreover, if wildlife populations on lands surrounding parks die off, park animals become isolated from others of their kind. The parks become prisons, disrupting the full range of natural behaviors.

In mid-January 1995, 14 wolves from many separate packs were trapped in Canada and then transported into Yellowstone and placed into one-acre acclimation pens. Thus began efforts to reintroduce wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem. (For information about Yellowstone's Wolf Reintroduction, see: http://www.yellowstone-bearman.com/wolves.html)

On November 30, 2002, the first confirmed wolf sighting in Utah in more than 70 years was reported. Biologists had been predicting the arrival of wolves for over a decade; but Yellowstone's Wolf No. 253 was caught in a leghold trap in Morgan, Utah. The wolf was captured and re-released in Yellowstone. The Associated Press reported:

 

Two months after being caught in northern Utah, the first wolf found in the state in more than 70 years is again running with his Yellowstone pack. The 2 ½-year-old male wolf, known as "253," was spotted at dawn Friday in the Lamar Valley, a region in Yellowstone National Park's northeastern corner.

"We heard howling, roughly south of Lamar ranger station," said Rick McIntyre, a park ranger who monitors the pack. Wolf 253 "was right in the middle of his Druid Peak pack. He had that very characteristic bad limp in his hind leg."

It also had a limp in its right front leg, probably from an injury suffered since it struck out on its own in mid-October.

The wolf was caught in a coyote trap Nov. 30 about 25 miles north of Salt Lake City. A second set of wolf prints was found nearby, leading biologists to speculate he and a mate were attempting to start a pack in Utah.

…State officials notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, which dispatched an officer to take custody of 253, which was released in Grand Teton National Park, southwest of Yellowstone, on December 3.

Last week, 253's signal was picked up east of Yellowstone Lake, indicating it was trying to return to Lamar Valley.

The wolf injured its rear leg during a fight with a rival pack about a year ago. The injury caused a pronounced limp, which, along with the wolf's uncharacteristic black coloring, made him popular among the thousands of people who observe the Druid pack each year.

After making his foray into Utah, 253's fame has grown, McIntyre said.

"He was well known before his trip to Utah," the park ranger said. "There has been a lot of sympathy generated by his story and condition. All of that is multiplied to a higher level of notoriety. He's a real celebrity now."

Source: "Wolf 253 running (well, limping) free in Yellowstone," Deseret News, December 22, 2002, A10; http://www.desnews.com.

 

Killing Wolves in Utah

Other wolves found in Utah have not been so fortunate. In March 2003, two wolves were killed near the Utah-Wyoming line, about 17 miles southeast of Bear Lake by federal predator-control agents from Salt Lake City.

 

…Mike Jimenez, FWS wolf coordinator for Wyoming, said the wolves, both males, were probably yearlings from a pack in Grand Teton National Park.

Utah conservationists uniformly condemned the decision to destroy the wolves, a federally protected endangered species that, thanks to a federal recovery effort, have made a remarkable comeback in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

"It's not putting a good face on wolf recovery if every time there's a hint of trouble, the wolves are lethally controlled. Clearly, it's a one-strike-you're-out policy," said Allison Jones, coordinator of the Utah Wolf Forum, a coalition of environmental groups hoping to see the once-extirpated critter re-colonize the Beehive State.

Under a special exception to the Endangered Species Act and to help protect the livestock industry, the FWS has authority to destroy wolves that cause trouble. Since 1987, more than 150 depredating wolves have been killed by the government.

...[The killed] wolves were probably staking out new territory in southwestern Wyoming and northern Utah, parts of which are scarce in big game but rich in livestock. On Tuesday morning, the wolves intruded into a sheep pen on private lands about 10 miles east of Bear Lake. Upon hearing the commotion, the rancher scared the wolves off but not before they had inflicted mortal wounds on two sheep, worth about $200 each.

"The fact we had a depredation in the morning and it's resolved in the evening should give people confidence that we can deal with these things," said Bangs [who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf recovery effort for the Northern Rocky Mountains].

Dick Carter, coordinator of the High Uintas Preservation Council, said his confidence has been shaken.

The summary execution of these two wolves, which Carter believes were in Ogden Valley near Huntsville last week, does not bode well for the animal's future in Utah. "If we look at every mistake a wolf makes as a fatal one, that is not good wildlife management."

John Carter, Utah director of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Council, was equally angered.

"My problem is that there is no room for wolves on public lands due to livestock and there's no room for them on private lands because of livestock. What are they supposed to do, levitate?"

The director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which will manage the wolf once it is removed from the federal endangered list, was circumspect about Tuesday's killing of the wolves.

"Depredating wolves probably need to have lethal action taken against them," Kevin Conway said. "I don't
know if there are any other options."

Jimenez said wolves that kill sheep tend to be repeat offenders. Destroying such offenders, he explained, is important to maintaining the ranching public's tolerance of wolves….

Source: Brent Israelsen, "Marauding Wolves Killed," Salt Lake Tribune, 6 March, 2003; http://www.sltrib.com/2003/Mar/03062003/utah/utah.asp.

 

Wolf Packs In the Intermountain West

According to a summer 2003 report issued by Nancy Sparta with Wolf Haven International, many new wolf packs are forming in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. Recent Gray Wolf Recovery Updates confirm denning behavior among 14 packs in Yellowstone, 7 in Wyoming outside the Park, 14 in central Idaho, and 14 in northwest Montana.

 

…The wolf population growth in Idaho appears to be slowing down as wolf packs are facing a shortage of prime territory, according to Curt Mack, director of wolf recovery in Idaho for the Nez Perce tribe: "The density of wolves in a given area is pretty much fixed, that is all the wolves you are going to have in an area." Currently packs are averaging 350-400 square miles of territory. He also indicated that research shows Idaho's wolves' diet consists of 80 percent elk and the rest deer. The average pack consumes 80-100 elk per year. With about 125,000 elk in Idaho, hunters kill 17,000-20,000 and wolves only 2,500-5,000.

A new pack of wolves, the Galena pack, has formed in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). In addition, there are 2 packs just outside the boundaries. In the past, either killing or relocating by the government due to livestock depredation eliminated every pack in the SNRA. The SNRA is at the center of the debate over public grazing allotments. A Federal court order this past April prohibits killing any wolves in the SNRA for any reason, but it doesn't protect those that wander outside the boundary. This new pack has established its territory in an area near a grazing allotment….

Source: http://www.wolfhaven.org

 

Howling for Wayne Owens

This Fall Deseret Morning News Washington correspondent Lee Davidson pronounced the reintroduction of the wolf into the West a success. He credited former representative Wayne Owens, deceased:

 

Dear former Rep. Wayne Owens,

I know you cannot read this, since you died last year. But I felt I had to write this because I lived one of your longtime dreams this past weekend.

I saw a wolf in Yellowstone National Park.

That's something I never really thought I would experience when you started pushing to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone—after a 50-year—absence back in the 1980s.

Your proposal brought out the beast in some members of Congress and ranchers in the West. They worried their cattle and other livestock would essentially become wolf burgers if your plan proceeded.

They promised to throw every roadblock possible at you—and they did. I didn't think you could overcome that. But you believed you could, and you did.

I remember one press conference in particular in 1989 at the U.S. Capitol when you were again reintroducing your legislation—with a real, live wolf flown in from the state of Washington as a prop.

I remember that the Capitol police were not thrilled to see a wolf on the Capitol lawn—and protested that Capitol rules banned wild and certain other animals.

But your staff had done its research. It argued that the wolf was not wild and had been tamed and often taken to schools. Staff also pointed out that while Capitol rules specifically banned horses, sheep and insects, they said nothing about wolves, so police let your wolf stay for the press conference.

…But the same day at another press conference, the anti-wolf forces were also out. Former Rep. Ron Marlenee, R-Mont., threatened to call for introduction of wolves in Utah along the Jordan River, City Creek Canyon or Liberty Park. Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., called your work "a misguided and zealous effort."

They vowed to fight until your Democratic colleagues decided to "call off the wolf man." Instead, Democrats—who then controlled both houses of Congress—backed you….

Last weekend, I traveled out West to drop off my daughter at Brigham Young University-Idaho. It isn't far from Yellowstone. My daughter had never seen it, so I took her and my mother for a quick tour….

Soon, we came upon a traffic jam. In Yellowstone, that means people are looking at some sort of wildlife. That's how we spotted deer, elk, bison, a bald eagle and some moose that day. This time, I thought I saw a coyote—a smaller cousin of the wolf that always looks half-starved and acts afraid of its own shadow.

But this was too big, too fat and too furry. It was a wolf. He was near the road for just a few seconds. People were scrambling for cameras. The wolf didn't like the attention and disappeared into the woods. But I saw him. And I thought of you, Wayne.

Reintroduction of the wolf in the West, by most accounts, has been a howling success. They no longer are considered "endangered," only "threatened." Dire predictions about them generally appear to have been wrong. Somewhere, Wayne, I think you are looking down and smiling at all of that.

Source: Lee Davidson, "Reintroduction of Wolf is Howling Success," Deseret News, 3 September 2003, A9; http://www. desnews.com/.

 

Wolves and Trees

Scientists studying forests in Yellowstone Park suggest that wolves are necessary for the growth of new aspen trees. Since Yellowstone's establishment in 1872, 95 percent of its aspen forests have been lost. Though they never covered more than 4 percent of the park's area (in its northern range), aspen groves support a greater variety and abundance of birds and understory plants than do surrounding Douglas fir and lodgepole pine forests.

 

…The culprits behind the decline of Yellowstone's aspen were elk, whose populations began to boom after the wolf disappeared. The hungry animals devoured new growth of willow as well as aspen. For many years, the park service controlled elk numbers by culling herds, but in 1968—in response to a public outcry to Congress—it made a controversial decision to minimize human meddling with the park's wildlife, including elk. Without culling or natural predation, there was then nothing to limit the grazers but the carrying capacity of the land.

In a study of the trees' growth rings, ecologists William Ripple of Oregon State University and Eric Larsen of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point found that aspen that have managed to grow to tree height—rather than being eaten by elk as sprouts—began their lives between 1700 and the 1920s. After that, aspen continued to germinate, but they were heavily browsed by elk and seldom managed to grow
taller than six or seven feet. Ripple says their study supports the hypothesis that wolves, through their effects on elk, help aspen flourish. A recent National Academy of Sciences report agrees that heavy browsing by elk has been the driving force behind the park's aspen decline, though it notes that climate change and fire suppression also have affected the trees' growth….

Heavy browsing by elk during the wolf's absence may have affected other species too. Before the predator's reintroduction, beavers had vanished from the park's northern range, although they flourished in the 1920s when aspen groves harbored trees of all ages, including the stem sizes preferred for dam-building. The animals themselves contributed to aspen decline—to some degree eating themselves out of house and home—but some ecologists believe the tree would have continued to regenerate had they not suffered from browsing by elk. Today, following their reintroduction on U.S. Forest Service land adjacent to Yellowstone, beavers are returning to the parts of the park frequented by wolves. In these areas, not only aspen but also willows are sending up tall shoots again.

Ripple believes that the wolf, the beaver and the aspen all have powerful effects on one another. "If any of these three are missing from the system," he says, "problems could occur, especially if large numbers of ungulates are present." He enumerates the links between the species: Wolves travel along streams and often prey on beaver; beaver need aspen for food and dam construction; wolves control elk browsing patterns, allowing aspen to grow; and beaver dams flood the land, creating more good habitat for aspen.

Hebblewhite believes that over time, the wolf will prove to have as powerful an influence on Yellowstone's ecology as it has on Banff's—and that the wolf will have the last word in a long-standing argument among ranchers, hunters, and wildlife scientists over the best way to manage grazing animals like elk and moose. "Restoring predators in the areas that you can is the easiest solution," he says. "It's the best way of achieving some measure of ecological integrity."

Source: Sharon Levy, "A Top Dog Takes Over," National Wildlife; 41(Oct/Nov2003):22; www.nwf.org/expeditions/trips/trip%5f wolvesbearsgeysers.html

 

Wolves in Indiana?

Outdoor Life noted recently just how far wolves wander.

 

When a dead gray wolf was discovered in an Indiana soybean field this past June, it triggered a wave of speculation as to what attracted the canine to the Hoosier State in the first place. (A visit to the National Cookie Cutter Museum in Knightstown, perhaps?) The wolf, which was born in 2002, had made a remarkable journey of several hundred miles after leaving the Wildcat Mound Pack in Wisconsin's Black River State Forest. The animal had been captured and fitted with an ear-tag transmitter as a 46-pound pup back in 2002 (scientists believe it was born in April of that year), but the transmitter failed sometime after last January 15, at which point the wolf was still in Wisconsin. After leaving Wisconsin, it made its way nearly to the Ohio border before it died. If you draw a line between the two points, the wolf was found 407 miles from its home turf, but given that the line goes through Chicago, Gary, Ind., and the southern end of Lake Michigan, the true length of its journey was obviously much longer.

Source: "Wandering Wolf," Outdoor Life, Vol. 210 (October 2003).

 

Pluie

In an effort to build more public support for protecting wolves in the West, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative tells this story of one wolf named Pluie.

 

…Pluie, a grey-colored female wolf, was captured by researchers with the Central Rockies Wolf Project and radio-collared in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, on June 6, 1991. Her age was estimated to be 5 years at the time of capture. Pluie was fitted with a satellite transmitter, capable of recording her movements via satellite, without the requirement of aerial or ground telemetry.

After her capture and release, Pluie remained in Kananaskis Country for approximately six months, before embarking on an extraordinary journey. Analysis of the movement data provided by satellites revealed that Pluie moved through southern Alberta, across the Crowsnest Pass area to Fernie, B.C., south to the Flathead area of B.C., across the Canada-U.S. border to Glacier National Park, Montana. From there, Pluie moved south to approximately 50 km east of Browning, Montana, then west to the panhandle of Idaho, before returning to Kananaskis Country via Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park. Pluie was visually observed with two other wolves in Idaho. At that time, few wolves frequented Idaho. Shortly after returning to Kananaskis Country, Pluie once again journeyed to Montana via the Crowsnest Pass, and returned to Kananaskis Country after an absence of several weeks.

Pluie's travels took her as far north as the Cascade Valley in Banff National Park. She was observed by Paul Paquet with two grey-colored wolves that were not recognized as members of the Cascade Pack. Pluie was last located via aerial telemetry near Fernie in December,1993. Sometime after that location was recorded, researchers received a message from a Guide Outfitter that Pluie had been shot near Fernie, and the battery box of Pluie's collar was returned to Paul Paquet. Researchers on the Central Rockies Wolf Project believed that Pluie was dead. It was discovered in December of 1995, however, that Pluie had not been killed; she had in fact colonized a pack south of Kootenay National Park after the time that she was reported to have been killed. Pluie's mate for the past one and a half years was Orion, a radio-collared disperser from Kootenay National Park. Orion and Pluie had two sets of pups during the last two years. Observers of the pack suspected that Orion's mate wore the leather band from a radio collar, but it was unknown where the wolf had come from.

On December 18, 1995, Pluie, her mate Orion and one of their pups were shot legally by a hunter, south of Kootenay National Park.

It is an understatement to say that Pluie did not recognize jurisdictional boundaries. During her travels, she moved through approximately thirty different Canadian provincial and federal, as well as U.S. state and federal jurisdictions.... Pluie's story draws attention to the fact that the population of wolves in the Rocky Mountains is a metapopulation: a large population, interconnected by smaller subpopulations. The Rocky Mountains function as a travel corridor for wide-ranging large carnivores such as wolves. Liberal management regimes or proposed developments that threaten to pinch off the corridor could potentially compromise the movement ability and survival of dispersing wolves. Individuals such as Pluie are essential for maintaining a viable metapopulation of wolves in the central Rockies.…

Source: http://www.y2y.net/default.asp

 

Watching Wolves (and other critters)

Department of Interiors U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report this October which found that 66 million Americans spent more than $38 billion in 2001 observing, feeding, or photographing wildlife. The new report, called the 2001 National and State Economic Impacts of Wildlife Watching Addendum relied on data collected in the Services 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

Direct expenditures by wildlife watchers included expenditures for items such as cameras, binoculars and bird food, and for trip-related expenses such as lodging, transportation and food. For each $1 of direct spending associated with wildlife watching, an additional $1.49 of economic activity was generated.

The total industrial output of $95.8 billion resulted in 1,027,833 jobs (full and part time) with total wages and salaries of $27.8 billion.

Wildlife-watching expenditures generated a total state sales tax revenue of $2.1 billion; a total state income tax revenue of $712 million; and a total federal individual income tax revenue of $3.3 million. The full report is available on-line at http://federalaid.fws.gov. The Associated Press reported the specific expenditures in Wyoming:

 

About 498,000 people engaged in wildlife watching in Wyoming during 2001, generating about $264 million in direct spending, according to a federal study….

In Wyoming, about 171,000 residents were wildlife-watching participants during 2001, or about 34 percent of the state's population, according to the report.

The state also drew about 327,000 out-of-state visitors who came to Wyoming to view the state's abundant wildlife.

Around the region, some 53 percent of Montana residents participated in wildlife watching, 70 percent of Utah residents, 77 percent of Colorado residents and 69 percent of South Dakota residents. Florida drew the most out-of-state wildlife watchers, about 490,000, in 2001.

The report said during 2001, the $264 million spent by wildlife watchers in direct expenditures and sales in Wyoming created about $8.6 million in state sales tax revenue for the state.

Nonresidents accounted for about $179 million of that $264 million.

…The economic output from wildlife watchers supported more than 6,557 jobs in Wyoming during 2001 and about $108 million income from those jobs. The economic impacts from wildlife watching represented 2.1 percent of Wyoming's gross state product, according to the report.

[Chris] Burkett [Game and Fish Department Strategic Management Coordinator] said the department continues to work on habitat and development issues threatening some of the species that nonresidents come to view, including elk, deer, antelope, wolves, grizzly bears and bison.

"If we don't work to really try and preserve some of these critters in the long run, then people will go and spend their money somewhere else," he said. "There's some real bad economic things that could happen if these resources go away."

Source: Associated Press, "Wildlife watchers spend in Wyoming," The Billings Gazette, 17 October 2003;. http://www.billingsgazette.com/

 

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