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March 2008

March 31, 2008

Four Wolves Killed??

The word on the street (from a reliable local media contact) is that four wolves have already been killed in Wyoming's shoot-on-site zone. One by a rancher, and three by hunters over the weekend.

While this news is yet to be confirmed, we are keeping our ears open and will let you know as soon as there are any developments or confirmations.

The fact that there is a 10-day reporting period in this area, and only a $110 dollar fine for not reporting a wolf kill, means that we will most likely not get any accurate numbers or information about what is going on for quite some time -- if ever.

Please let us know if you've heard anything on-the-ground about the wolf situation post-delisting. All updates are encouraged and greatly appreciated.

"Wolves Are Back. Humans Are Howling"

Check out this informative opinion piece from Sunday's Washington Post.

March 28, 2008

Wolves Stripped of Protections Today

Ed Bangs may be sipping Champagne and celebrating the fact that today marks the Bush administration's stripping of protections from the Northern Rockies gray wolf, but placing the species future surivival in the Northern Rockies at the mercy of insufficient or hostile state management plans is a poor cause for celebration.  Wyoming’s plan, the worst of the bunch, amounts to open season on wolves, which can now be shot on sight for no reason in 88% of the state – at least five wolf packs live in the shoot-on-site zone, and 10 more packs may drift in and out of this area. 

This is a major setback for both wolves and the spirit of coexistence and conservation in the West.  Intentionally vague language in the Idaho and Wyoming management plans means that wolves can be killed without justification.  This ill conceived delisting plan risks ending up right back where we started, with wolves back on the endangered species list and under federal control because these plans permit wolf populations in the Northern Rockies to dramatically decline, eliminating any likelihood of establishing firm connections with Canadian wolf populations or promoting the establishment of wolf populations in other states such as Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Colorado.

It’s taken 13 years for the wolf population to grow strong enough in numbers to expand into more of their historic range in Utah, Colorado and Oregon. Delisting at this point threatens to literally stop these wolves in their tracks. 

I will follow the actions of the states closely during this period and look to the court for hope of reversing this politically expedient but biologically unstable delisting scheme.

March 25, 2008

Non-Lethal Deterrents: Part I

Lava Lake: Photo of fladry around a sheep pen
Photo of fladry around a sheep pen. Credit: Lava Lake Land and Livestock

As we slowly approach spring, many of the sheep producers involved in my proactive projects are getting ready for lambing season. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I work with producers to help them find non-lethal ways to deal with wolves. One way the producers can try and prevent conflict with wolves is by using fladry.

Fladry consists of a rope or wire that has strips of red or orange flagging all along its length. This flagging 'whips' about in the wind and acts AS a 'psychological' deterrent to wolves. First used in Eastern Europe, it was brought to North America a decade ago to be used to keep wolves away from livestock. Producers often use fladry to surround their night corrals, where they enclose the sheep for the night so that they can better keep an eye on their herds, and to protect them from predators.

Photo of a ranch worker putting up fladry
Photo of rancher putting up fladry. Credit: Lava Lake Land and Livestock

Fladry is very lightweight and is easy to put up and take down, so herders are able to move these portable corrals every couple of days so as to avoid overgrazing a certain area. When an electrified wire is added to the fladry, it is called 'Turbo-fladry'. If any predators let their curiosity get the better of them, and they try and touch the turbo-fladry, the shock they get reinforces the idea that anything to do with fladry is bad.

Each livestock operation is different, and so fladry may not work in every case. This is just one of the tools in our 'toolbox' that we have at our disposal when helping livestock operations avoid conflicts with wolves. We have had good results when using fladry, and we will keep you posted on the results of this non-lethal deterrent in the coming months.

March 24, 2008

Recent News:

Ironically, while Wyoming's state plan focuses on largely ridding the state of wolves, tourists are paying upwards of $1,500 to visit the state for the sole purpose of viewing wolves in their natural habitat.

Oregon is already looking ahead to wolves residing in their state and has a wolf  management plan in place for that eventuality  - although the approaching delisting makes an Oregon wolf population far less likely. 

Also, please check out the compelling Op-Ed in the Idaho Statesman by our very own Suzanne Stone!

March 20, 2008

Not Entirely Good News...

Great news that wolves are expanding their range into the second new state this year (see Oregon wolf story)... Unfortunately, the Utah state wolf management plan is not very wolf-friendly.

Utah's plan focuses more on protecting livestock than wolves and makes no effort to restore the species. If delisting occurs under the current conditions (e.g. wolves are stripped of all protections outside the small Trophy Game area in Wyoming), wolves in this pack - who are so close to the Wyoming border - will be subjected to Wyoming's "shoot on site" management plan if they cross the border and will be unable to disperse to other parts of their historic range, particularly in Utah and Colorado. 

The news that wolves have ventured into Utah is cause for celebration because it proves that, with the right numbers of wolves in the northern Rockies, they will disperse to adjacent historic range. However, it also makes overturning the 2008 delisting rule absolutely crucial to long term wolf conservation in the region due to the fact that it only offers protections for less than 500 wolves; one third of the current number of wolves in the region today.

Breaking News

A wolf pack has been sighted in Utah for the first time in almost 80 years!

This is very exciting news.

March 19, 2008

Finally, Some Perspective!

I want to alert everyone to a rarity these days in the wolf-related media; a Billings Gazette article about wolves that focuses on factual numbers, and highlights the common misconception people have that wolves are responsible for many livestock losses. In reality, other factors such as disease and weather are responsible for many more deaths than wolves are. Please check it out!

Also -- Please look at the below table illustrating the disturbing trend that - despite declining depredation rate over the years - the number of wolves being removed for this reason are actually increasing in Wyoming. This is just one more example of how extreme, and unwarranted, Wyoming's anti-wolf position is.

Wyoming

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Livestock Killed

51

97

82

162

73

Wolves Removed

19

29

41

44

63

Source: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualrpt07/tables/FINAL%202007%20DEP%20by%20STATE%20Table%205b.pdf

March 18, 2008

Oregon Wolf Discussion

I have some exciting news about wolves on the Oregon front.

Last week I attended the first gathering of biologists, educators and conservationists since a young female wolf (B300) was documented in January in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area just north of La Grand, Oregon. She is the only confirmed wolf in the state (she came from Idaho's Timberline pack) and she's a beauty. There are also more reports of wolves in adjacent national forests and wilderness areas. 

One of my first assignments at Defenders was to initiate stakeholder meetings when B45 (the first Idaho wolf confirmed in Oregon) was documented in John Day  (less than 100 miles from the Eagle Cap wilderness), Oregon in 1999.  These stakeholder meetings later led to the development of Oregon’s wolf management plan. Currently, wolves are protected under the state's  Endangered Species Act and will remain so (even after wolves are federally delisted in the eastern part of Oregon) until four breeding pairs are documented in the eastern region of the state for three consecutive years.      

At last week's meeting, we focused on many issues, including  proactive wolf/livestock management deterrents, public outreach and education, funding, and strengthening partnerships with hunters and the ranching community.  It's so exciting to see the transition underway as agencies move from theoretically having wolves to having real ones now on the ground.

It was very rewarding to be part of this budding wolf program and offer help based on the "lessons learned" restoring wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Let's hope for pups this spring!

March 17, 2008

Promoting Cohabitation

As Jesse mentioned in his previous post, Defenders created the Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund to prevent conflict between imperiled predators and humans before it occurs. Jesse and his team have created a comprehensive map that illustrates their efforts with ranchers in the area.

217 projects have been supported by the fund from 1998-2007 with expenditures totaling more than $739,000.

Efforts such as these are extremely important in promoting long-term cohabitation between ranchers and wolves.

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