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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bill Schneider following up on a previously penned article where he corrrectly seeks collaboration between pro and anti wolf groups to get to a solution that all of us can live with......................Again, discussion of connective corridors to allow for in and outflow of genes between wolf packs throughout the Rockies needs to be factored in to the discussion as well as sheer total number of wolves to fulfill their historic biological predation roles in the system...............Of course, the need to take into account how human culling of packs destroys their integrity causing young wolves to be left without "mentors" resulting in increased predation on livestock seems a long way off based on the contentious positions of the "Anti" wolf factions at this moment in time.............As Jon Stewart stated eloquently at this weekends "Sanity" gathering in D.C.--"We need to find a way to debate our fellow citizens who hold opposing views in a way that avoids animosity............rather collaboration so as to get things done"


Now Anti-Wolf Groups Are Blowing It

The pendulum swings. Pro-wolf groups pushed too hard and too long, but now anti-wolf hunting groups are taking extreme positions that worsen an already almost unbearable situation and make any reasonable outcome even more unlikely.

By Bill Schneider

No reasonable deed goes unpunished, eh?
That must be how wildlife managers or advocates who actually want to resolve the wolf-delisting impasse must feel.
On September 23, I posted a commentary with the title, Pro-Wolf Groups Blew It where I criticized the left-leaning plaintiffs in the various lawsuits for pushing too hard, too long and turning fence-sitters and most Western politicians into the anti-wolf camp and possibly endangering the integrity of the Endangered Species Act.
Now, the pendulum has swung to the far right.
Energized by newfound support from basically every Western senator and representative, anti-wolf hunting groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife have not only insisted on extreme actions but, incredibly, also want to keep wildlife agencies and green groups from even talking to each other about a possible compromise.
If you followed my commentaries on the wolf issue, which I call "The Neverending Story," you know that I have frequently and fiercely urged the stakeholders to sit down and work out a deal. I have even fantasized about being in charge of the negotiations, so I could order the stakeholders to bring a sleeping bag and a stack of pizzas, because we'd all be locked in a room until we can agree on a solution.
More Than Numbers
The wolf delisting controversy is much more than numbers, but the number of wolves does seem to be a key sticking point.
Anti-wolfers don't want any "surplus wolves" around eating elk and deer, so they insist that the original recovery goal of 300 wolves (100 animals or 10 breeding pairs per state for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) is all we need, period. Well, guys, that goal isn't even close to reality, so give it up.
The 300-wolf number is the "minimum" recovery goal, not the population levels states should shoot for in management plans. Although the original recovery plan states 300 wolves constitutes a "viable population" (assuming travel corridors secure enough to assure "genetic connectivity"), it doesn't say states should manage at that population level. Montana's management plan, for example, which is the best of the bunch, already calls for maintaining a wolf population of 400 to 450 animals, just in Montana.

The final delsting rule written by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) lists three "triggers" which require a "status review," or actual relisting, under the ESA: 
1. If wolf numbers in any state fall below 100 wolves. (In other words, Montana could have 500 wolves, but if Idaho's population fell to 90, the wolf would probably be relisted.)
2. If wolf numbers fell below 150 per state for three consecutive years.
3. If a state passed a new state law or approved a new management plan that could cause a significant threat to the wolf population.
Yet, anti-wolfers want only 300 wolves? Hello?! At the least, that's totally self-defeating. Having only 300 wolves would virtually guarantee the FWS would relist wolves and take management away from state wildlife agencies.

Even managing for 150 wolves per state would be "knife-edge management." Any other factor could come into play, such as a canine disease, and put the wolf back on the endangered species list.
Face it: There will always be more than 300 wolves running around the northern Rockies. If hunting groups can't back off this extreme position (and stop calling it "moving the goal posts"), we'll never get to the finish line.

All Wolf News is not Bad News
A few weeks ago, EarthJustice representing the plaintiffs and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department (FWP) actually started talking about a settlement that could end the impasse, at least in Montana. Proposals and counterproposals have been made. Suddenly, it seems like something good could happen. Eureka!
Such talks are touchy, and they need to be conducted in private, not on the Internet, so I hope the press stands down to give the talkers a chance to succeed. I'm not sure what all might be involved in such a "settlement" or how it would affect Judge Donald Molloy's August 5 ruling that relisted the wolf as an endangered species, nor do I know if any kind of Montana-only plan might fly. But let's keep talking, OK?
Two things I'm sure will be in any such settlement are (1) a minimum, sustainable Montana population level way north of 100 wolves and (2) assurances from the plaintiffs that they'll help Montana be exempted from the current court ruling and hence restore state wolf management.
Power Tripping?
Then, out of the blue, comes this press release and letter from the bosses of the three hunting groups. In their letter to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and FWP Director Joe Maurier, they say stop negotiating with those evil animal rights groups. You can't trust them, they say, and we should use science to determine wolf populations.
Yes, this really revs up my motor, but where do I to start?
For starters, I suppose I should say that I often agree with the policies of these hunting groups, but on this issue, they need to be called out.
They criticize FWP for talking about something other than "science-based wolf management plans," which, incidentally, Montana already has--and I'm quite sure wouldn't consider anything less. Yet, on the other hand, these same groups want a totally political solution. They're pushing Congress to amend the ESA to disallow listing of the gray wolf in all 12 states where the species occurs, even in those states with obviously endangered populations and, I might add, with zero scientific basis for doing so.
They criticize FWP for "closed-door settlement talks" when emissaries of these same groups are just back from Washington, D.C., where they had closed-door talks and tried to--and almost succeeded--tack a midnight rider on a Continuing Resolution to remove the wolf totally and forever from being protected under of the ESA. That's scientific, eh?
They criticize FWP for not including other stakeholders in the settlement talks or having "public comment periods," but again, these same guys are back in D.C. lobbying for a midnight rider without including other stakeholders such as representatives of wildlife agencies or agricultural groups. And congressional riders don't allow for any public input or have a recordable vote.
They criticize the plaintiffs for using the wolf to sell memberships and as a fundraising tool, but they're doing the same thing. I don't imagine it hurts membership sales and donations for hunting groups to stay up on the soapbox publicly ranting about hundreds of "surplus" wolves running around the northern Rockies eating all the elk and deer.
I could go on, but you get the point. No wonder it takes us forever to get nowhere.
The Art of Reality
As I've suggested several times, reasonable people can agree on a reasonable reality. Accuse me of being a "wolf moderate," but we really need to treat the wolf issue like a labor negotiation. Just hunkering down and refusing to negotiate is not an option. We must move on. Montana's wolf management plan pretty much embodies that coveted middle-ground concept. The plaintiffs don't worship it, of course, but they agree it's better than Idaho's plan and way better than Wyoming's non-plan.
Green groups will oppose any Congressional action to resolve the wolf controversy, but now that's the name of the game. Unless something happens soon, Congressional action will become our default position. And it could happen very soon, such as in the upcoming lame-duck session of the 111th Congress.
If Congress ends up "solving the wolf problem," I certainly hope lawmakers won't consider extreme approaches such as H.R. 6028 sponsored by Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX) and 14 co-sponsored including Congressmen Denny Rehberg (R-MT) or S. 3919 sponsored by senators from Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, all Republicans.
Another bill, S. 3864, sponsored by Montana Democratic Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester is a more moderate approach, but it could be problematic because it calls for leaving the wolf on the endangered species list until the FWS approves state management plans, which might not happen or not happen expeditiously. At least S. 3864 only covers Idaho and Montana and doesn't include states without plans, like Wyoming, or states with beginning, obviously endangered wolf populations, like Oregon, Utah and Washington.
I can't say I buy the Baucus-Tester bill completely, but at least somebody is out there trying do something reasonable that might become reality.
In conclusion, here's one point on which we all can agree: We outdoor writers will have a lot of wolf stories to write about for a long, long time thanks to all this futile polarization.

New, informative and is an online magazine that I endorse and heartily recommend all readers of my blog to tap into regularly to further glean insights into how we human animals are intimately and completely connected to our Planets ecosystem--Follow by going to their site directly and/or by following them on facebook--see links below

. Our friend Jami Wright, while completing her Masters in Cultural Anthropology, pens a very complete and thorough overview of humans and wolves in North America(posted last week here on Coyotes, Wolves and Cougars forever) for a new, non-profit, online magazine called Izilwane

 Izilwane's goal is to connect the human animal to the global ecosystem. You can also follow Izilwane on Facebook:

 Jami's article on wolves is a "soup to nuts" evaluation of how people have acted, reacted and fought over sharing the land with other predators since the dawn of time.  Jami is an extremely talented writer and as you know, I found it thorough, fair minded and introspective in it's commentary and thoughtfulness.

Have a look at the magazine that she writes for by clicking below:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warren A. Ferris worked for the American Fur Company and made 5 trips West trapping Beaver in the Rocky Mountains............Buffalo, Elk, Antelope, Wolves and Griz are all in abundance in the Greater Yellowstone System 1830-35.............once again another Montain Man in touch with his surroundings and being extremely descriptive of flora and fauna composition of the Rockies...............We need the folks who continue to put forth that wolves, cougars and Griz were not part of the historical Yellowstone and full Rocky Mountain spine system see the light...............The circle of predator and prey was finely represented across what became the USA , Canada and Mexico...............where there were animals eating plants......there were Carnivores eating the plant eaters................enjoy the great read below

A Diary of Wanderings on the sources of
the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado
from February, 1830, to November, 1835

then in the employ of the
American Fur Company

We set out on the 2d and reached the head of Pierre's Hole on the 3d.  On the 4th we crossed the mountain, and descended into a large prairie valley, called Jackson's Big Hole.  It lies due east of the Trois Tetons, and is watered by Lewis River, which leaves the valley through a deep cut in the mountains, impassable for pack horses; hence trappers have to cross the mountains to Pierre's Hole, in order to avoid greater obstacles, which present themselves at any other pass.  The waters of this river, in the head of the Hole, expand into a lake of considerable magnitude, which I believe is identical with one attached to the Big Horn River, on the maps of the United States, for I have never heard of any lake on the sources of that river, although our trappers have explored every spring source of it.  This lake is called the Teton Lake, from the mountain that overlooks it.  The river flows through the valley in a southwest direction, and near the lower end of the hole, a large branch from the southeast falls into it.  Those streams are bordered by aspen and cottonwood trees, and groves of cedars, in some parts of the valley.  The Hole is surrounded by lofty mountains, and receives its name from one of the firm of Smith, Sublett and Jackson.
We crossed Lewis River at a well known ford, where its waters are separated by several Islands, and are expanded to the distance of several hundred yards; but are fordable at this season for pack horses, if led carefully over, following the bars or shallow places.  In the evening we halted on a spring, four miles east of Lewis River, after marching twenty‑two miles.  On the 5th we passed six or eight miles southeast, and halted on the margin of the stream, flowing from that direction.  During our march, some of the hunters saw the bones of two men, supposed to be those killed from a party of seven, in the latter part of July.  On the sixth we entered a dark defile, and followed a zig‑zag trail along the almost perpendicular side of the mountain, scarcely leaving space in many places for the feet of our horses; we all dismounted, and led our animals over the most dangerous places, but notwithstanding this precaution, three of them lost their footing, and were precipitated sixty or seventy feet into the river below; two were but slightly injured, having fortunately fallen upon their loads, which preserved them from death; but the other was instantly killed.  At length we came out into an open valley after a march of fifteen miles, and halted in its eastern extremity.  This small valley is called Jackson's Little Hole, in contradistinction to its neighbor, which we left yesterday.  It was covered with herds of buffalo, numbers of which fell before our rifles, and supplied us with fresh meat, an article we had not possessed since we came into Pierre's Hole.

On the 7th we ascended a high abrupt hill, covered with dense groves of aspen trees, and came in view of a vast plain, gently descending eastward to Green River, which flows through it southeastward.  The plain was literally covered with buffalo, numbers of which we killed, and halted at a spring on the summit of the hill.

On the 16th we reached the head of Pierre's Hole, and found the bones of several Indians, who were supposed to have been killed during the battle in July last; and were transported here by their relations, though several miles from the battle field.  Three days after we reached Henrie's Fork amid clouds of dust which rose from our horses' feet, and filled our eyes.  The plains were covered with buffalo, in all directions, far as we could discern them.

On the 20th I departed with two others, with orders to seek the Flatheads, and induce them to meet the company in Horse prairie, if possible, in eight days from this time.  Our leaders intended to cache their goods at that place, and wished to meet the Indians, for the purpose of trading with them.  Our company continued onward a north course, whilst we passed north of the sand mountain, and bore a trifle south of west, in the direction of Cota's defile.  We reached Kamas creek at sunset, after a march of forty‑five miles, during which we suffered extremely, owing to want of water, on the route; but allayed our parching thirst when we arrived; ate a hearty supper of dry meat, hobbled our fatigued horses, and slept in a thicket until sunrise.  Next day proceeded on thirty‑five miles, to Cota's creek, and halted until dark.  During our march we saw traces of horsemen, who had passed by recently.  At dusk we passed two miles up the defile, and halted in the logs, near the margin of the creek.  On the 22nd we mounted our horses, at day break, and passed the narrows into a rolling plain, where we found several encampments made by the Flat heads twenty days since.  At noon, we halted to bait our horses, and demolished a few pounds of dried meat, ourselves.  At the expiration of two hours, we again departed; and proceeded down the plain, until near midnight, halting at length near the margin of a small stream.  During the night our slumbers were disturbed by the bellowing of a herd of bulls, near us; and by the howling of a multitude of wolves, prowling about the buffalo.  We were approached, by a formidable grizzly bear, who slowly walked off, however, after we had made some bustle about our beds.  We made during the day and night, about fifty miles.

On the 23d we arose in the morning, and found ourselves in the valley of the east fork of Salmon river.  There were large herds of buffalo slowly moving up the valley, which led us to believe, that the Indians were not far below us.  One of their encampments appeared to have been evacuated, but five or six days since; and was at this time a rendezvous for wolves, ravens, and magpies.  We likewise saw numbers of salmon, forcing their way up the small streams, in this valley - many had so worn out their fins, that they could with difficulty avoid us when we endeavored to catch them, in our hands.  With clubs and stones, we killed several of them, with which we regaled ourselves at noon, and my companions, amused themselves, whilst our horses were feeding, by adding to the numberless carcasses scattered along the shore, that had been taken and thrown away by the Indians.  We passed through this valley, and halted some time after dark at the mouth of a stream from the south, after travelling forty miles.

On the 24th we passed between two high rocky points jutting into the river, and came out into an open plain two miles wide.  Near the entrance, is a bed of stone, which is frequently used as a substitute for soap.  It is but little harder than chalk, of the same color, and when manufactured into pipes, and burnt, becomes a fine glossy jet color, and equally hard as stoneware.  In this plain we discovered an encampment that appeared to have been made so recently, that we were confident of finding the Indians before night; however, we followed the trail to the forks of Salmon River, passing several other encampments, which were now occupied by bears, wolves, ravens and magpies, which were preying upon the yet undevoured particles of dried meat, and fragments of skins scattered around them.  At dark we halted near one of these encampments in the forks of Salmon River, after riding about forty miles.  In the night we were serenaded by the growling of bears and wolves, quarelling for the half‑picked bones about them.

On the 25th we continued down Salmon River to a high abrupt plain, jutting down on the east side, which leaves a narrow trail along the brink  During  this jaunt, we killed a grey wolf which was fat, and made us a tolerable supper; we likewise wounded a grizly bear, but in his rage, he broke down bushes and saplings with such ease, that we concluded that it would be imprudent to meddle with him any more.


Friday, October 29, 2010

1800-1840 Mountain Men of distinction...George Ruxton, Jedediah Smith and Zebulon Pike all giving their birds eye view of animal populations on the Great Plains adjacent to the Rocky Mountains as well as the Greater Salt Lake Region.............Like the passages from the Lewis and Clark diaries reveal, during the first half of the 19th Century there were vast tracts of land West of the Mississippi where huge "Serenghett-like" populations of buffalo, Elk and Pronghorn(and where there were hoofed creatures, there were also wolves, cougars-Griz and coyote preying on them) abounded..............Interspersed with these "game parks" were other expansive regions where game was either scarce or seemingly non-existant.....Did the Indian neutral zones between tribes create these animal reservoirs as previous Postings on this blog have reflected on???.........Did 300 years (post 1500) of Spanish colonization and incorporation of Spanish horses into Indian hunting and warring culture impact where wildlife could safely make a living?.........Do the accounts of Pike, Smith, Ruxton, Lewis & Clark accurately reveal what faunal conditions actually existed pre European contact???????.............We will continue to explore this topic in pursuit of how and where re-wilding should take place in modern day America.

) George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847)
The Bayou Salade, or Salt Valle9Salt Lake, Utah region)y, is the most southern of three very extensive valleys, forming a series of table-lands in the very centre of the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, known to the trappers by the name of the "Parks." The numerous streams by which they are watered abound in the valuable fur-bearing beaver, whilst every species of game common to the west is found here in great abundance.
 The Bayou Salade especially, owing to the salitrose nature of the soil and springs, is the favourite resort of all the larger animals common to the mountains; and, in the sheltered prairies of the Bayou, the buffalo, forsaking the barren and inclement regions of the exposed plains, frequent these upland valleys in the winter months; and feeding upon the rich and nutritious buffalo grass which, on the bare prairies, at that season, is either dry and rotten or entirely exhausted, not only are enabled to sustain life, but retain a great portion of the "condition" that the abundant fall and summer pasture of the lowlands has laid upon their bones.
(7) Jedediah Smith, letter to William Clark (11th October, 1827)

About the 22nd of August, 1826, I left the Great Salt Lake, accompanied with a party of fifteen men, for the purpose of exploring the country to the south west, which was then entirely unknown to me, and of which I could obtain no satisfactory information, from the Indians who inhabit the country on its north east borders. My general course on leaving the Lake, was S.W. and W., passing the Little Uta Lake, and ascending Ashley's River, which empties into it, where we found a nation of Indians, calling themselves Sumpatch, who were friendly disposed towards us.

After leaving the Little Uta Lake, I found no further sign of Buffalo - there were, however, a few of the Antelope and Mountain Sheep, and an abundance of Black Tailed Hares. Leaving Ashley's River, I passed over a range of mountains, S.E. and N.W., and struck a river, running SW, which I named Adams River, in compliment to our President. The water of the river is of a muddy cast, and somewhat brackish. The country is mountainous to the east, and on the west are detached rocky hills and sandy plains. Passing down this river some distance, I fell in with a nation of Indians, calling themselves Pa Utches. These Indians, as well as the Sumpatch, wear robes made of rabbet skins; they raise corn and pumpkins, on which they principally subsist - except a few hares, very little game of any description is to be found. 
After travelling twenty days from the east side of Mount Joseph, I struck the SW corner of the Great Salt Lake. The country between the mountain and this Lake, is completely barren, and entirely destitute of game. We frequently travelled two days, without water, over sandy deserts, where no sign of vegetation was to be seen. In some of the rocky hills we found water, and occasionally small bands of Indians, who appeared the most miserable of the human race. They were entirely naked, and subsisted upon grass seeds, grasshoppers, fee. On arriving at the Great Salt Lake, we had but one horse and one mule remaining, and they so poor, they could scarcely carry the little camp equipage we had with us. The balance of the horses we were compelled to eat as they gave out.
(1) Zebulon M. Pike, An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi (1810)

15th November, 1806: Saturday. Marched early. Passed two deep creeks and many high points of the rocks; also, large herds of buffalo. At two o'clock in the afternoon I thought I could distinguish a mountain to our right, which appeared like a small blue cloud; viewed it with the spy glass, and was still more confirmed in my conjecture, yet only communicated it to doctor Robinson, who was in front with me, but in halt an hour, they appeared in full view before us. When our small party arrived on the hill they with one accord gave three cheers to the Mexican mountains. Their appearance can easily be imagined by those who have crossed the Alleghany; but their sides were whiter as if covered with snow, or a white stone. Those were a spur of the grand western chain of mountains, which divide the waters of the Pacific from those of the Atlantic oceans. Before evening we discovered a fork on the south side bearing S. 25° W. and as the Spanish troops appear to have borne up it, we encamped on its banks, about one mile from its confluence, that we might make further discoveries on the morrow. Killed three buffalo.

Oregon has become a loud hotbed of conflicting Carnivore management opinions regarding the resident Cougar population and the "start-up" re-colonizing wolf population.....Fish and Wildlife Agnecies have to start being funded by more than hunting groups if we are to adhere to the best Science in keeping our wolves, panthers and bears at optimum levels

Cougar Management In The Spotlight As Population Increases

David Nogueras

We have discussed the need for expanded wildlife road crossings if we are to optimize Carnivore populations and their gene pools.................Automatic sensing detectors in the Upper Midwest and certain Western States proving capable or reducing road kills by 90%....Florida on the verge of utilizing to prevent Mountain Lions from being cut down on highways

New Traffic Warning System Aims to Cut Florida Panther Road-kill Deaths.

Florida panther. Photo: USFWS
In the November-December issue, Kurt Repanshek writes about an innovative approach to decrease Florida panther deaths:

Recognizing shadows in the dark is hard at best, but if they trigger a motion detector, it just might be possible to glimpse them. That's the thinking behind Florida officials' new plan to help stop highly endangered Florida panthers from becoming road kill.
A creature once thought destined to follow the passenger pigeon into extinction, the panther has rebounded from only about 20 wild individuals in the 1970s to perhaps 100 today. But the path to a self-sustaining population is treacherous because of inbreeding, habitat loss, and highways that slice through their territories. By mid-summer vehicles had killed 11 of the tawny cats—about 10 percent of the known population.
The feline ghosts can stretch seven feet from tail tip to nose and cover 20 miles a day in search of white-tailed deer, wild hogs, and small game. Some of those miles, unfortunately, put them on a collision course with cars and trucks. A $675,000 grant secured by Defenders of Wildlife will be committed this fall to an "animal detection system" that will alert motorists to cats on the move.
Depending on which system officials opt for, a roadside warning sign will flash when a panther—or any large mammal—crosses an infrared or laser beam, or when a sensor detects body heat and movement.
Such technology has been used in Arizona, Wyoming, Washington, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to warn drivers of approaching elk and deer. In some cases, collisions have dropped 97 percent, says Marcel Huijser, a Montana State University research ecologist who helps test such systems. While panthers present a more ground-hugging target than deer, Huijser doesn't think that will be a problem.
The system selected will be installed near the junction of Turner River Road and U.S. 41 in southwestern Big Cypress National Preserve, which offers top-notch panther habitat. Placing it here, where roughly 2,700 vehicles a day zoom by, could significantly reduce road-kill mortality.
"Florida panther conservation and recovery is arguably among the most challenging species conservation questions in the country," says Paul Souza, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's South Florida Ecological Services Office field supervisor. "It's an extraordinarily wide-ranging animal, and this is one of our highest priorities."
Read more stories from the November-December

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Those male juvenile North Dakota lion dispersers showing up with more regularity in Minnesota--we need a couple "lady lions" to join them so that the Eastern migration of Cougars can take the next step East!

Trail cam captures another Minnesota mountain lion

The state's eighth confirmed sighting supports the theory that mountain lions are moving east.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
  • Mountain Lion in Two Harbors
  • image
    A mountain lion investigates a pile of apples in this trail-camera photo captured by Casey Komarek of Two Harbors on Sept. 20. Department of Natural 
    Few people now dispute the occasional presence of mountain lions in Northeastern Minnesota. But getting photographic documentation of them is difficult.
    Now, another verified photo has surfaced.
    On Sept. 20, Casey Komarek of Two Harbors captured five images of an adult mountain lion on a remote trail camera he placed near Two Harbors. Then he almost trashed the images accidentally.
    "It's kind of a funny story," Komarek said. "I pulled the card out of the camera and tried to download the pictures. It started flashing 'error on (digital camera) card.' I was going to throw it away. I figured the card was bad."
    But he managed to get the photos downloaded and found the mountain lion images among about 500 other images on the card.
    "I was pretty much stunned when I saw it," said Komarek, 32.
    The photo represents the eighth documentation of a mountain lion in Minnesota in the past 15 years, said John Erb, furbearer/wolf research biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids. Those documentations include photos, a dead mountain lion or DNA of a mountain lion.
    Among those eight, three have occurred since mid-August, Erb said. They include one near Littlefork, one in southwestern Minnesota near Big Stone Lake and now the Lake County photo.
    Komarek's photo was made at a site where he had put out a mineral block and a pile of apples to attract deer.
    Despite these recent documentations, Erb and other state biologists believe that these animals are not Minnesota residents but dispersing into the state, likely from South Dakota. Some of these animals could be from other western states, said Steve Loch, an independent wildlife biologist from Babbitt.
    "We have yet to document reproduction (in Minnesota)," Erb said. "We have yet to document an animal that appears to have a stable range."
    South Dakota's mountain lion population began to grow in the mid-1990s, Erb said, and some of the cats, typically males, began dispersing from the Black Hills area. One was radio-collared and was documented to have reached the Roseau area in 2005.
    "All the data still supports the notion that what we get (in Minnesota) are dispersing, probably young, males. They've all been males," Erb said. "It occurs at a time of year when dispersal might be expected."And the increase we've seen in the last 10 years matches the time period of South Dakota's population reaching a peak," he said.
    Documented photographs of wild, not captive-released, mountain lions remain rare. Erb said more than 90 percent of the supposed mountain lion sightings or photos are faked, or they are captive animals that have been released. Several mountain lion reports in recent years turned out to be captive animals, Erb said.
    Erb has seen Komarek's photo and has seen other photos of the site that verify the photo was made in northern Minnesota.
    Although some people may fear being attacked by a mountain lion, the chances are remote, Erb said. The risk of being injured in car-deer crash or bitten by a domestic dog is much greater, he said.
    If you do encounter a mountain lion, don't run, Erb said.
    "Make yourself look big, or throw rocks," Erb said. "But it's not likely the mountain lions we're seeing now are resident animals. In two days, it might be 50 miles away."
    The DNR welcomes responsible reports of mountain lions, Erb said. The agency wants exact locations, especially if there's snow on the ground, so biologists can look for tracks, he said. But lots of manipulated photos make the rounds on the Internet.
    Komarek's photo of the mountain lion was made in an area where he hunts deer. The season opens Nov. 6.
    "It'll make walking through the dark to the deer stand raise the hair on the back of my neck a little more," Komarek said.

    Our friend Jami Wright completing her Masters in Cultural Anthropology pens a very complete and thorough overview of Men and Wolves in America------A "soup to nuts" evaluation of how people have acted, reacted and fought over sharing the land with other Predators since the dawn of on her link below to go to the web magazine where Jami's article and other interesting "people connected to ecosystem" articles can be found

    click here:

    Lessons From Wolves by Jami Wright

    Gray wolves have long been the focus of a contentious battle in the Rocky Mountain West, where wolf populations were decimated due to habitat degradation and aggressive extermination tactics. However, the species began their route to recovery in 1995 when, following the discovery by ecologists and biologists that restoring an apex predator to its natural habitat may increase local biodiversity, the federal government reintroduced the Gray Wolf (Canis lupis) into the Northern Rocky Mountains. The ecological impacts of wolves continue to teach scientists about the complexity of wildlife conservation and management. Much of that complexity lies in human perceptions regarding the social impacts wolves have on people, which often represent deeper conflicts among cultures, usually relating to land use.
    The effects of wolves on the ecosystem are neither clear nor immediate, or as extreme as anticipated, and this lack of clarity fuels wolf reintroduction debates. In Idaho, many residents support efforts to completely re-eradicate wolves from the state by any means necessary, but others support the re-establishment of wolf populations. Some even view the wolf issue as an opportunity to alter land management practices to foster either more development or more wildlife conservation. It's a topic that sparks passionate debate, and most people I spoke with had received physical threats simply because of their stance on wolves, regardless of whether they support eradication or reintroduction.
    British anthropologist John Knight argues that wildlife conflicts are more often conflicts between people about wildlife, rather than actual conflicts between people and wildlife. Morgan Zedalis (2010) found the wolf to be an aspect of cultural identity for Idahoans. The survival or defeat of the wolf has come to symbolize the ability to access land in culturally specific ways, ultimately sustaining or depleting one's own culture. The sense of loss or endangerment of any culture is paired with the possible loss of irreplaceable traditional ecological knowledge, which may be vital to maintaining and improving biodiversity. Amid all of this, the wolf illuminates cultural disconnect within Idaho, pushing opposing groups further apart, or sometimes pushing them to cooperate in resource management.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a plan in the 1980s mandating the reintroduction of the gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho under the stipulations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA was enacted in 1973 to counteract what had been the decimation of countless species for the purposes of economic development. Wilson (2006) summarizes the ESA as the culmination of the gradual transfer of wildlife management authority to the federal government and away from state control.
    Throughout 1995 and 1996, a total of sixty-six gray wolves were captured in Canada and released in Idaho and Wyoming (Defenders of Wildlife) and have since dispersed throughout most of Idaho, parts of Montana and Wyoming, with limited sightings in Washington and Oregon.
    The public response to wolf reintroduction has been extreme and varied. Currently, many Rocky Mountain residents are angry about decimated deer and elk populations and blame the reduced numbers on wolves. Messier and colleagues (1995) believed that Yellowstone elk would decline significantly, more than thirty percent, following wolf reintroduction. However, Mech and Peterson (2003, p.159) 'predicted that wolf populations were unlikely to substantially affect deer and elk populations unless there were other contributing factors', like quality and quantity of habitat or high harvest by hunters. The Lolo Zone in north-central Idaho has been of particular concern. In the 1980s, elk numbers in the Lolo area were an estimated 16,000 animals; today, their numbers have dwindled to 2,178 (Idaho Fish and Game). Currently, Idaho Fish and Game is awaiting approval from U.S. Fish and Wildlife to reduce the estimated seventy-five to one hundred wolves in the Lolo region to twenty or thirty individuals through aerial gunning and trapping, despite scientists' claims that the herd has most likely declined because of poor habitat created by fire suppression throughout the previous century and the hard winter of 1996-97 (The Spokesman Review.)
    Since the reintroduction, Yellowstone wolf biologist Doug Smith (2003, 2006) found that wolves might be indirectly responsible for an increase in plants and trees along riverbeds. The Ecology of Fear theory states that prey animals will change their behaviors due to a fear of predation. Thus, scientists believe that a fear of wolves would cause grazing ungulates (hooved animals) to spend less time lingering in riparian areas, leading to a recovery of willow and aspen trees that had been overgrazed by high populations of deer and elk. Healthy riparian zones filter out pollutants and control flooding and sedimentation throughout the watershed. Scientists have documented improvements in habitat for fish and beavers, and thus, quality of water since the reintroduction of wolves. (Smith et al., 2003, p.338). However, recent findings by Kauffman et al. (2010) suggest that aspen in Yellowstone National Park might still be declining and that the effects of wolves may differ throughout the park.
    Reintroducing apex predators like wolves will undoubtedly play a role in changing local ecosystems, but there are many factors that contribute to these changes. Idaho's ungulate populations have declined since their all-time high fifteen years ago (Smith et al., 2003), but 2010 figures from a study conducted by Idaho Fish and Game found that wolves are not the sole culprit of this decline and from 2006 to 2009 hunters harvested more female elk than wolves killed. (Idaho Fish and Game). Doug Smith and colleagues (2003) note that fluctuations are normal and that wolf population peaks and declines lag behind those of prey. However, wolf extermination is a part of U.S. history and many people still believe it is a necessary component of wildlife management.
    Only sixty years prior to the reintroduction, the gray wolf was all but extinct due to one of the most aggressive species eradications in U.S. history. Canis lupus inhabited all parts of the North American continent for at least 300,000 years prior to European colonization (Wilson, et al. 2000). Lopez (1978) estimated the population of gray wolves in the western United States and Mexico alone to have been at least several hundred thousand. The species' near-extinction was hastened by aggressive extermination policies enacted to protect domestic livestock and wild ungulates on behalf of the interests of ranchers and hunters during colonization. Predator control programs became a hallmark of the federal government's efforts to preserve the wilderness from 1900 to 1920 (Schullery 1995; Worster 1977). By 1931, three-fourths of the budget for the USDA Bureau of Biological Survey (now part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) was devoted to predator-control programs (Schullery 1995; Worster 1977). The National Park Service followed suit and instituted predator control efforts in the 1920s so that the gray wolf was eradicated from the continental western U.S. by the 1930s, with the exception of a small population in northern Minnesota (Wilson 2006). Wildlife management agencies were motivated to create a well-managed landscape that would contribute to the prosperity of the country, and efforts included the protection of game animals from predators.
    According to Lopez (1978), wolvers, the men who killed wolves for a living during this time, were seen as heroes. They used poison, raided dens and strangled pups to death, clubbed wolves to death, and used traps to catch and kill wolves. A European wolfer in 1650 probably killed twenty to thirty wolves in a lifetime. An American wolfer in the 1800s most likely killed four to five thousand wolves in ten years. In Montana, 18,730 wolves were bountied for $342,764 of the state's treasury between 1883 and 1918. Consequential overpopulation of wild ungulates in the mid 1900s led to overgrazing of forests and grasslands and resulted in a re-evaluation of wolf management policies. Over the span of 150 years, Euro-Americans eradicated this predator to the brink of extinction for preying on domesticated livestock during American colonization. By the mid-1900s, the gray wolf was absent from the land with the exception of rumored howls in the northernmost states.
    When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to reintroduce this predator into the Northern Rocky Mountains only sixty years later, Idaho enacted legislation prohibiting Idaho Fish and Game from participation in most wolf recovery efforts, including the expenditure of funds for related activities (Idaho Legislature) . As the wolf release crept closer, members of Idaho congressional delegations urged Governor Phil Batt to use the National Guard or state police as a last resort to stop the reintroduction by force (Wilson,1999).
    Federal officials did not need state support because the reintroduction took place on federal lands. This loss of state control over a natural resource management issue as significant as wolves caused a great deal of uproar in Idaho. When Idaho state officials refused to develop a state management plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service circumvented the state and approved the Nez Perce Tribe to carry out the wolf recovery program. The state's refusal to accept wolf reintroduction on any level enabled Idaho legislators to sustain the much-needed support of Idaho's livestock industry, which provides a large percentage of the state's annual revenue. Many Idahoans, including some livestock owners, supported Nez Perce wolf management because it enabled the state to continue its fight against the federally mandated reintroduction. Idahoans expected the Nez Perce to support wolves because of their cultural heritage and the Nez Perce sovereign nation did not have allies to upset. For many Idahoans at this time, the wolf issue did not belong to Idaho, it belonged to the Nez Perce. One livestock spokesperson stated in regards to Nez Perce management, "The state can continue to fight against the Endangered Species Act and fight the invasion of our sovereignty" (Wilson: 1999). To the Nez Perce people, the Wolf Recovery Plan was a long awaited opportunity for cultural revival.
    I sang one of our religious songs to welcome them back. Then I looked into the cage and spoke to one of the wolves in Nez Perce; he kind of tilted his head, like he was listening. That felt so good. It was like meeting an old friend.
    Nez Perce Tribal Elder Horace Axtell, taking part in a 1995 wolf release (Littell, 2006:26).
    In 1995, the Nez Perce Tribe fully embraced the opportunity to head Idaho's wolf recovery program. They addressed social issues by conducting seminars in rural Idaho in an effort to help citizens overcome fears and hostilities toward wolves and assisted federal officials in tracking, relocating, and removing wolves that attacked livestock. The state of Idaho took over wolf management in 2005, but Governor Butch Otter signed a formal Memorandum of Agreement granting the Nez Perce the right to continue managing wolves on tribal lands.
    The Nez Perce management program served as a positive example for many tribes. It was the first time a tribe was able to take the lead role in the reintroduction of an endangered species. Much of the difficulty in managing public lands lies in determining who is authorized to make management decisions. Historically, Native Americans are not given the opportunity to participate in resource management, despite accumulated knowledge gained through millennia of experience and the passage of information down through generations of tribal members.
    Wilson (1999) argues that the Nez Perce hold a set of values which straddle the divide between extractive and ecological. These factors contribute to tribes having a broader, more nuanced understanding of possible alternatives that may help move natural resource management decision-making in new directions. Nez Perce officials contend that native tribes possess a longer historical perspective and a deeper sense of permanence in their relationship with the land.
    The Nez Perce people draw many parallels between their own historical experiences and those of the wolves. Prior to European colonization, both humans and wolves had occupied the same land for thousands of years, and in the wolf's case, hundreds of thousands. During this time, both survived the cycles of feast and famine through communal hunting practices while living in packs and bands. At the time of colonization, gray wolf numbers were estimated at several hundred thousand in the western United States (Lopez, 1978). Meanwhile, the Nez Perce had a significant, thriving community. With the onset of colonization, both were driven off the land upon which they depended for survival. This resulted in many lost lives and endangerment of culture and species. However, with the return of wolves to this area, many dormant aspects of Nez Perce culture have been revived.
    The Nez Perce people believe that animals are their ancestors, and that people still possess animal-like qualities today. Animals have unique abilities that people can attempt to develop, ultimately connecting the human animal to a larger ecosystem. In their history, the Nez Perce people were told by spirits, called wyakins, that one day they would be responsible for the protection of animals. The reintroduction of the wolf strengthens this belief and their cultural heritage.
    A Nez Perce man, Chuck , explained that the wolf is a symbol of "the Indian way of life," and that the species' reintroduction has brought a renewed sense of empowerment to his people. "It symbolizes that the Indian people are coming back to that point again where we were strong and we thrived here, pre Euro-American settlement," he said. "At the height of our existence, we lived with wolves and grizzly bears; they are our brothers. We were at our strongest mentally and physically with these beings. Why wouldn't we want to try to go back to something like that?"
    The wolf has served as a great teacher to the Nez Perce people, and despite its previous absence from the land, this legacy continues to live on today. Chuck said that "everything about wolves comes from that context (of being a teacher); they have to be treated as such. That is their role in our ecosystem." As we spoke about the wolf's role as a teacher, I came to understand an emptiness that Chuck and his people had experienced, and I realized that somewhere in that deep void lies a place for wolves.
    Chuck feels that it is the duty of the Nez Perce people to work with state and federal agencies to stop what he describes as a relentless attack on the wolf. According to him, this attack is perpetuated by "the new generation of ignorant people. Anything that they feel is an aggressive animal or something that they've been taught can take a human life just shouldn't be here; it should be killed, right now." Chuck says that this belief reinforces the need for Indian people to spread the message that "we've lived with them since time immemorial and there are very rare instances of us ever being killed by wolves." This traditional ecological knowledge, that native peoples lived with wolves for thousands of years and have little remembrance of being attacked, is significant yet often overlooked.
    When Chuck and I began to discuss the social conflicts surrounding this predator, the fact that wolves are a polarized social issue baffled him. He said, "It's amazing. There's this conflict that wolves are either really bad or really good. I mean I just don't see it like that." He feels that the United States sees wolves as critters that they can eradicate again in the future if they choose to. He continued, "It takes much more care than that to have respect for an animal, and so they really belong to us; they're our relatives."
    Chuck feels strongly that it is the duty of the Nez Perce people to help provide wolves a place within the ecosystem. "More often than not, (that place is) inconvenient to human beings, such as ranchers and farmers, because they've never had to give and wolves have given everything -- who they are genetically, scientifically -- everything about them; they've been extirpated." The Indian request for non-Indians to provide wolves a place requires non-Indians to be unselfish, especially ranchers and farmers. He said it "means that there will be livestock depredations. There will be things that are in conflict, but how they live with them is up to that individual. And that is how the Indian people tell whether you are good or bad - your character."
    Chuck noted that state and federal governments have historically protected ranchers with subsidies. Conservationists argue that the state gives ranchers inappropriate access to public lands for grazing. However, in this case, the state was unable to stop the federally mandated reintroduction of wolves in an attempt to protect ranchers, generating fear and anger in many ranchers and state officials alike.
    An Idaho rancher named Joe explained to me that "a ranch is a good place to raise kids and teach them to care for animals. That's the biggest thing when you live on a ranch; you learn that you care." His point was made clear as I watched his two-year-old grandson play appropriately and respectfully with a puppy - not a common skill-set among many two-year-olds. "That's why it's so hard to watch them get killed like that," he said, referring to cattle he has lost to wolves.
    Joe and his family had little experience with wolves prior to the reintroduction. He, and others in his community, had seen and heard what they thought were lone wolves prior to 1995. Joe felt confident that the wolves that were in his area initially were smaller and less aggressive than the wolves that live there now. "If there were local Rocky Mountain wolves, there aren't anymore," he said.
    As we gazed out the back window of his home, he pointed to the exact location where wolves were first released just past his grazing cattle and beyond two mountain peaks. Six years after the reintroduction, he lost his first calf to wolves. At first, the pack consisted of just a male, a female and five pups. The next year there were twelve, and the following year the pack had increased to eighteen wolves. That year, he saw wolves every other day. Joe thinks the pack started to prey on his cattle after they had depleted local deer and elk populations.
    Joe and his family have been taken aback by the violence of a wolf kill. Lately, the wolves have been going for adult cattle instead of the calves. This is unusual, and he thinks it's because the adults turn around to fight. When they turn to fight, one wolf latches onto the cow's nose and another onto its tail, and both rip and pull while others move in to gnaw at the cow's flanks. It appears as if the cow is eaten while it's still alive - a slow, brutal death that ranchers do not like to witness.
    Joe agreed that more livestock are lost to disease and weather than to wolves, but it doesn't make the loss any easier to bear. His profit margin is small, and every little bit hurts. "You just hope you make money more years than you lose money." One year, he lost eleven animals, five of which just disappeared. "Typically you only find one in six wolf kills because they drag the calves to their dens." As a result of these attacks, Joe has observed what he described as a tremendous change in the behavior of his livestock. Relying on humans for protection, the frightened cows now bed down around their cabin, often coming in from very far away.
    Joe and his family have had to change their own behavior as well. When a pack is stalking their cattle, either Joe or his son patrol the range every day at dawn and dusk. When the wolves start moving in at night, there isn't much they can do. "They're smart," Joes says. "Catching them out in your field is one thing, but trying to kill one is hard to do." Joe legally shot and killed one wolf that was stalking his cattle, and he has unsuccessfully shot at many more. He requested to have this pack taken out while wolves were still protected under the ESA. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined, saying that they didn't want to shoot pups. Joe thinks they were dodging harassment from wolf advocates who argued against killing wolves on public lands.
    The ESA has a bad reputation with ranchers, some of whom, like Joe, believe that the act is a tool the federal government uses to destroy and transform the West. Agriculture is the largest industry in Idaho. "Every dollar we make turns into seven for the state of Idaho," he added. "Why would you create so much strife? We don't need wolves for healthy ecosystems. Somewhere down the line, the government has to put production back on the line."
    In 1993, a fisheries scientist from Portland, Oregon, working to protect Chinook salmon runs under the stipulations of the ESA, came to survey Joe's summer grazing land. The land was a grazing endowment leased to Joe by the state in conjunction with the ranch he purchased in the 1980s. The man from Portland surveyed Joe's land for two days. To Joe, he didn't seem to know a thing about cattle. Yet, "with the stroke of a pen" as Joe put it, he submitted papers that required Joe to relinquish grazing rights on 30,000 acres, or two-thirds, of public grazing land he had been using. The loss of income from this action led Joe to enter real estate and land development in order to supplement his income and continue ranching. Two years later, wolves were reintroduced only a few miles away from his house.
    Joe readily admits that wolf activists create far more problems for him than actual wolves. He said that one man told him he would do everything he could to ruin him. People sometimes howl at his grazing cattle with the intention of spooking them, which often works. One night, someone opened one of the gates to an enclosure where his cattle were grazing and scared them out onto the highway. He recognized the car that was parked nearby and was almost positive he knew who it was responsible for the release. After his daughter and son-in-law were followed home one night from Joe's ranch, they decided not to get into ranching. Joe said, "These are people, not animals; they know what they are doing."
    Joe wants more people to accept the idea that the wolf populations need to be controlled. He advocates poisoning wolves that kill livestock and supports Wyoming's shoot-on-sight policy, saying, "Even if we were able to shoot at every wolf we saw, it wouldn't make a dent in the population." Wyoming's aggressive state policy against wolves – mirrored by Joe's attitude – returned ESA protections to the species in August 2010, until Wyoming can adopt a sustainable management plan.
    Many of the ranchers that I spoke with saw wolves as a threat to their way of life. However, it seems that the actual threat to their way of life is more about their diminished access to natural resources than the actual threat of wolves. Humans have fought over access to natural resources on a global scale for centuries, and the wolf has become a symbol of these conflicts.
    The extreme hate invoked by this predator is disproportionate to the physical effects it has on human developments. The history between Euro-Americans and this predator is lethal and, arguably, irrational. In Medieval Europe, lycanthropy, or human-wolf shape-shifting, was considered to be a crime against God, punishable by death. Both people and wolves were routinely killed, much like witches, for this perceived sin. People believed that werewolves worked on behalf of the devil, killing livestock and murdering and raping people. During colonization in the United States, the wolf was thought of as a devil, and driven from a "Godly, well-kept landscape." Hopefully, we have evolved beyond the belief that the wolf is doing the devil's work.
    There is still very much an anti-predator attitude in Idaho, so we go back and forth on this issue. Ultimately, we think in the big picture we've won; we've got wolves. We've won the battle and now we want them to like it. I mean, we've got so many conservation issues here. The fact that we have a species that's been de-listed and is thriving in Idaho, and we just don't like how they are being handled on an individual level, or even a pack-by-pack basis, is not significant ecologically. But because wolves are iconic, it's a great opportunity to do things right. To reconsider, when you're reinstating and reintroducing a keystone predator like wolves, the opportunity for learning and engagement of the public and for scientific research and for just a more holistic planning are tremendous. So, it's frustrating to see this opportunity being squandered. --A voice representing Idaho Conservation
    In 2005, when the state of Idaho struggled to devise a wolf management plan motivated to delist the species, the nonprofit group Idaho Conservation stepped in to help the state develop an appropriate plan with appropriate wording that afforded Idaho a role in wolf management. However, after wolves were delisted and the state regained management authority, both state officials and Idaho Fish and Game have denied Idaho Conservation the ability to take part in developing management decisions.
    The nonprofit had suggested wolf viewing as an income-generating activity. Dan, who is affiliated with Idaho Conservation, said, "People love it. They love tracking them and knowing what's going on. It's like a wolf soap opera." Prior to the August 2010 relisting of the wolf as an endangered species, Idaho had state control of wolf management and allowed a state-wide wolf hunt for the 2009-2010 hunting season. Dan proposed that the state set aside 10 percent of its land for wolf viewing activities. The other 90 percent would remain wolf-hunting zones. He argued that it would be a good control experiment to find out what would happen with elk and livestock depredations in these areas. Idaho Fish and Game told him that they already had their control experiment, with two categories. The first category was the previous ten- to fifteen-year period when no wolf hunting occurred; the second would be the current period, when wolf hunting would occur everywhere. He believed there was no reason to set it up as an experimental design managed with different zones. Idaho Fish and Game also told Dan, "'We are the Department of Fish and Game, not Fish and Wildlife. If your members want to have a Yellowstone-type experience, tell them to keep driving to Yellowstone.'"
    Last year was Idaho's first wolf hunt since the reintroduction. The state sold 31,393 wolf tags (the necessary permit to kill a wolf) at $11.50 a piece, mostly to residents. Of around a thousand wolves known to live in Idaho, 183 wolves were legally killed. According to a draft Environmental Assessment written in August 2010, Idaho officials are discussing the use of more aggressive hunting tactics like trapping, snaring, and electronic calls used to bait wolves, as well as state-controlled sterilization and killing of pups (USDA).The federal plan requires the state to maintain 150 wolves, a number which conservationists argue is dangerously low and drastically reduces genetic variability.
    However, the largest cause of wolf mortality is lethal control by government agencies in response to livestock predation  (Defenders of Wildlife)  In 2008, while still protected under the ESA, wildlife agents and ranchers killed 245 of the estimated 1,500 wolves in the Northern Rockies (Brown 2008). One such kill happened near Kalispell, Montana, where a pack of twenty-seven wolves, including two litters of pups, was under surveillance for killing livestock in the area. The pack had killed at least five cows, five llamas and a bull over the course of several months. Wildlife agents initially killed eight of the wolves and then decided to take out the remaining nineteen when the pack continued to hunt livestock.
    The livestock industry has been integral in the financial and structural development of Idaho. Idaho ranchers and sheepherders pay taxes to the state for the public land on which they graze their animals. These taxes help support Idaho's educational institutions (Idaho Government) . Idaho continues to depend upon, and determinedly protect, livestock owners because of their vital role in the state's economy. The reintroduction of wolves has been viewed by some in the state as a federal assault against livestock owners and the state of Idaho as a whole.
    Groups such as (Defenders of Wildlife) are devoted to working with ranchers to find non-lethal ways to stop wolf depredations, and they have experienced some success. More than 90 percent of Northern Rocky Mountain ranchers affected by wolves seek compensation from the organization. In the past twenty-three years, Defenders of Wildlife has given $1.4 million, allocated as a part of their budget, to ranchers for livestock killed by wolves. According to their website, "This program helps to reduce political opposition to wolf recovery by shifting the economic burden of livestock losses from the ranchers to wolf supporters." Initiating relationships between pro- and anti-wolf groups under the common goal of stopping wolf depredations is a major strength of the program. The Defenders of Wildlife livestock compensation program ended on September 10, 2010, and they will instead assist states in developing their own federally initiated and funded compensation programs.
    The organization claims that wolf depredations account for less than 1 percent of livestock losses, and this includes confirmed, unconfirmed, probable, possible, and improbable depredations. These terms refer to the likelihood that the animal was killed or attacked by wolves, based on findings from an investigation. These investigations have been controversial because it can be difficult to know for sure if the animal was killed by wolves. Researchers at Defenders of Wildlife also investigate tactics that minimize livestock depredations, such as the most effective ratio of dogs to number and type of livestock to keep wolves away, as it is not always financially possible, or even effective, to have a person continually guarding livestock. They also install turbofladry night corrals, a relatively new technique that combines orange or red flags and electrified wire to fence in livestock and has been successful thus far in deterring wolves.
    Jen, a Defenders of Wildlife employee, has noticed growing support for the methods from, third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation ranchers in Idaho and throughout the Rockies. It has taken some time to get to this point, and assisting livestock owners in their acclimation to wolves is a slow process in comparison to the modern speed of life. It requires patience and perseverance, and not all livestock producers are open to working with Defenders of Wildlife.
    At first, some people wouldn't even return Jen's phone calls, but the compensation method became a good way for her to get her foot in the door and begin relationships. When referring to one man she has been working with, Jen said, "He does not like wolves. He probably never will, although I have actually heard him call them beautiful before. He has stood up in front of a crowd of his peers, Idaho Wool Growers [Association], and told them that they can coexist with wolves, as long as we can manage them. We might disagree a little bit about how to manage them, but as long as we can manage them he feels that we can coexist. That was huge."
    Jen loves working with the ranching community. "Honestly, I'd rather work with ranchers or farmers, anybody that's working with land. They've got their feet on the ground and have a certain strength about them that I think is really missing from what most of us get to have on a day-to-day basis. Good community to work with. We have a lot to learn from them."
    I don't think there are good and bad animals, just good and bad managers.
    -Anonymous rancher from Beyond the Rangeland Conflict: Toward a West That Works, by Dan Dagget
    Many ranchers have traditional ecological knowledge acquired by working the same land for their entire lives and inheriting skills from previous generations that worked the same, or similar, land before them. For people who live on the land for multiple generations, maintaining the health of the land is of the upmost importance because it ensures their family's continued survival. The land becomes a part of them, and sometimes they can read its changes better than a visiting scientist.
    Bev, a pro-wolf rancher, and her family have been ranching on the same Idaho land for 140 years, making this her family's ninth generation on the land. When first settling, their predecessors lived in caves on the property. Bev's family refers to historical oral and written accounts, left by their predecessors, regarding the condition and patterns of the land, how it was managed, and notable environmental changes. Equipped with this knowledge, Bev has noticed the disappearance of important land management practices among her neighbors, such as the ability to smell a handful of earth and detect which nutrients it needs.
    These days, Bev manages her land with a combination of her family's traditional ecological knowledge and a system called holistic management, which was developed by the nonprofit organization (Holistic Management International) . This organization is dedicated to managing land resources in partnership with nature to ensure the continued and improved health of the land. Although Bev has never had any wolf encounters, she has a vision for what she believes to be the integral role of wolves for healthy land and livestock management, which is in line with the holistic management approach.
    Bev discussed the large herds of buffalo that once roamed across the western United States and the wolves that hunted them, forcing these ungulates into constant movement. This constant movement protected the land from being overgrazed and prevented riparian zones from becoming muddy bogs that were unable to support plant and animal life. Through their predatory actions, wolves played a vital role in maintaining clean water and healthy habitat.
    Bev's historical account coincides with holistic management theory, which contends that with frequent movement, cattle, like buffalo, can't eat enough grass in one place to damage the root systems of plants. Strong roots usually make for strong plants, helping to create firm land, and thus, clean water. Cattle manure is a natural fertilizer for grazing land, which the cattle incorporate into the soil with their cloven feet. The land is often healthier with cattle or other ungulates as long as the animals don't exceed appropriate stocking rates, stray too close to riparian areas, or overgraze the land. Bev and her husband now move their cattle between small grazing plots on a daily basis, replicating how their cattle might move if there were wolves in her area.
    Beavers also play an important role in ensuring clean water. An old family book written by Bev's relatives documents the extensive beaver dams along the river that runs through their property. Bev says they haven't seen beavers since fur trapping wiped them out last century. She believes beaver dams played a large role in adding structure to the river in the past. Dams slow and control the flow of water, which significantly reduces erosion. Since wolf reintroduction, Yellowstone scientists have found more beavers and beaver dams in Yellowstone National Park, perhaps connected to the returned presence of wolves (Smith et al., 2003, p.338). With improved riparian zones, beavers can now find the necessary materials to build dams and homes in which they breed.
    Some people attribute Bev's pro-wolf stance to the lack of wolf encounters on her land. She notes that her family had endured some scary times when her safety was threatened because of her pro-wolf opinion. Since then, she keeps to herself on the issue, and her family chooses not to take a stand in public. If Bev and her family experience wolf depredations in the future, she wants the option to use lethal measures, but only if necessary. She looks forward to the lessons in land and water restoration associated with the reintroduction of wolves and feels that her duty is to ensure that the ranch's ecosystems are healthy for future generations of her family.
    Originally, ranchers and sheepherders were the most vocal about their opposition to the reintroduction for fear of lost livestock, which has turned out to be relatively minimal and controllable, but still difficult. Now, it is the sportsmen who have become more vocal about their anger regarding declined ungulate populations which are attributed to wolf depredation. Scientific findings fluctuate regarding these issues, but one thing is clear: there is no simple answer, as we discover many changing factors about the effects of wolves on an ecosystem. However, wolves are often the wrong party to place the blame upon.
    The wolf invokes strong primal reactions within people, and many of the concerns surrounding this predator are actually human-created issues. As Joe mentioned, the wolf is only doing what its instincts drive it to do. People use the wolf as a symbol to attack points of view with which they disagree, as well as to teach others about culture and ecology. I propose that we must better understand the cultural factors, or human issues, affecting wildlife management in order to initiate the needed changes that will allow us to share space with the wolf and each other, ultimately protecting our natural resources for future use. David Quammen writes in Monster of God that alpha predators keep us acutely aware of our own membership within the natural world, deepening our reverence and humility. Wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies is an opportunity to better understand how we relate to the earth and to each other regarding the earth. The wolf reminds us of what we have lost and what we are losing while illuminating the need for us to make the necessary changes within in order to ensure our continued survival on the natural resources in which we depend.
    Photos are copyright protected and are used by permission of Jami Wright. courtersy of the WERC. Photographs may not be reproduced without her permission.

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    Jami is a graduate student completing her thesis for a master's degree in Cultural Anthropology at Western Washington University. Her thesis focuses on human-human conflicts surrounding wolves in Idaho. Born and raised in Fresno, California, the first eighteen years of her life instilled values pertinent to a grounded understanding, and appreciation for, cultural diversity. She completed her bachelor's degree in psychology at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo in California. During this time she gained fluency in Spanish while living abroad for one year in Chile and Spain. After completing her degree she moved to Idaho for eight years, nurturing her reverence for the mountains and wilderness. During this time she worked as a wilderness counselor/guide, finding great satisfaction in sharing and facilitating the use of the healing powers of the wilderness. It has been her dog Trooper who has opened her eyes to the remarkable intelligence of animals.

    Animal Rights folks always made out to be "wackos and nuts" when seeking to limit the trapping or poisoning of predators---Maine is the only Northeastern State to have a breeding population of Lynx..............perhaps culling them prevents their spread to parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, Mass and NY that still in this era of Warming, still has enough snow cover and snowshoe hare to support a population

    Animal Rights Activists Lose Lynx Lawsuit in Maine

    Submitted by George Smith 

    Animal rights activists have lost their latest battle to stop hunting and trapping in Maine. On October 20 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston affirmed a 2009 decision by Judge John Woodcock, Jr., dismissing the animal rights groups' Canada lynx lawsuit.
    This decision provides a very important national precedent. It's been a long trail getting to this point, but here's a quick summary:
    On November 10, 2009, Judge Woodcock of the Federal District Court in Bangor denied a request from the Animal Welfare Institute of Idaho and the Wildlife Institute of Maine for a permanent injunction against the state of Maine to stop hunting and trapping in order to protect Canada lynx.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the lynx as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act on March 24, 2000. But it has been illegal to hunt or trap lynx in Maine since 1967.
    The most important thing for you to know is this: Maine probably has more lynx today than ever, an estimated total exceeding 1,000 animals. As far as Maine officials are concerned, Canada lynx are neither threatened nor endangered. They are doing well here.
    Maine is on the southern end of the range for Canada lynx that are plentiful to our north in Quebec — so plentiful that they are hunted and trapped there. The lynx population here rises and falls along with the population of the animal's principle prey: snowshoe hares.
    Along with the excellent work of Maine Assistant Attorneys General Chris Taub and Nancy Macirowski, the testimony of Dr. Ken Elowe of Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) was the decisive factor in convincing Judge Woodcock that the lawsuit had no merit.
    Twice in the last three years, animal rights groups have used the ESA's lynx listing to seek declaratory relief and injunctions in federal court against Maine laws and regulations.The first lawsuit, Animal Protection Institute v. Martin, resulted in an October 4, 2007, Consent Decree in which IF&W made a commitment to new regulations restricting the type, size, and placement of traps in Maine. IF&W paid $140,000 in attorney's fees to API as part of that settlement.
    Much to the state's surprise, a similarly-named animal rights group, The Animal Welfare Institute, along with the Wildlife Alliance of Maine — led by people who were a party to the earlier consent decree — filed another lawsuit on August 11, 2008, seeking the same injunctive relief and charging that IF&W was violating the ESA by allowing trapping practices that result in the capture of some lynx.
    On November 26, 2008, Judge Woodcock issued a fifty-page order on AWI's motion for preliminary injunction, granting the motion in part and denying it in part. The Court ordered the state to "immediately take all action necessary to avoid the trapping of Canada lynx in Conibear traps."
    IF&W acted swiftly and adopted an emergency rule on December 4, 2008, imposing additional limitations on the way Conibear traps can be set in Wildlife Management Districts 1 – 11.
    Unfortunately, within two weeks of the emergency order, two Canada lynx were found dead as a result of encounters with Conibear traps, and AWI moved for an emergency temporary restraining order.
    That is the order that Judge Woodcock rejected on November 10, 2009. In mid-April and late June of that year, the Judge hosted six days of hearings on this matter. AWI specifically was asking that leghold and Conibear traps be prohibited on land where lynx are present.
    The state (Office of the Attorney General) and IF&W defended against the suit with support from a group of interveners consisting of sportsmen's and trapper's organizations. At the national level the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance has been very involved in defending against all of these lawsuits, and at the state level, the Maine Trappers Association has been in the lead.
    The animal rights groups immediately appealed Woodcock's November 10, 2009, decision to the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
    After hearing arguments in early September, that Court issued on October 20, 2010, a unanimous affirmation of Woodcock's entire decision that rejected the latest attempt by animal rights activists to stop hunting and trapping in Maine's north woods. The decision sets a very important precedent for similar lawsuits across the country.
    "This decision will make it harder in the future for the animal fanatics to use the federal ESA to attack trapping, hunting, or any other activity that could result in a threatened or endangered species being taken incidentally," reported Skip Trask, lobbyist for the Maine Trappers Association and an important participant in Maine's defense against the lawsuit.
    Judge Woodcock's decision plainly states that those who sue to stop trapping and hunting must prove not only that an occasional protected animal is taken, but that "irreparable harm" would be caused to the entire population of protected animals.
    In other words, the most important aspect of the judge's decision is that the take of individual members of a reasonably numerous protected species does not necessarily meet the ESA requirement of irreparable harm. He also found that the occasional catch of lynx in Maine foothold traps, from which they are normally released without harm, did not constitute irreparable harm.
    The judge was right. In the seven-year period from 1999 to 2006, during which thirty lynx were caught in foothold traps, IF&W was able to assess just under half, and only one had an injury that required veterinary treatment. None of the thirty died as a result of being captured in the trap.
    In 2007 and 2008, eight lynx were caught in foothold traps. IF&W assessed five of them. Two sustained no injuries, and the others had only minor skin lacerations. In fact, IF&W offered evidence that some lynx repeatedly visit traps for food despite being repeatedly trapped.
    The Court of Appeals concluded its decision with critical comments about the animal rights groups, noting that actions they agreed to in their first lawsuit they argued against in their second lawsuit. "AWI's bait and switch tactics in the courts are to be deplored, not rewarded," wrote the Court.
    While establishing an important precedent, this decision is unlikely to deter the constant filing of lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act. This is simply another chapter — albeit an important one — in this particular war, while we wait for Congress to amend the Act and limit these abuses of the legal system

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    The Ranchers in New Mexico and Arizona will not let up on their executions of Mexican Wolves--shameful it is!--Our friend Jean Ossorio providing us with this post


    By Rene Romo
    Journal Southern Bureau
              LAS CRUCES — The female wolf in a New Mexico-based pack was found dead earlier this month, and the pack's male wolf could not be located with radio telemetry equipment last week.
            The cause of death of the Morgart Pack female is unknown pending completion of a necropsy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
            The male and female members of the Morgart Pack had been traveling together in the northeastern part of the Gila National Forest throughout September, but last week federal officials were unable to find the male.
            "That just means it wasn't located," said Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Tom Buckley.
            The death of the Morgart Pack female is the latest setback for the 12-year-old federal effort to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves to a part of their traditional range in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
            When the reintroduction program was launched in 1998, federal officials projected the wild wolf population would grow to about 100 by 2006. But federal officials counted 59 wolves at the end of 2006, and that tally has since declined to 42 at the end of 2009, with at least three wolves having been killed under suspicious circumstances since June.
            In July, an adult male wolf from the Hawks Nest Pack was found shot to death in eastern Arizona, less than a month after another male from that pack had been fatally shot. The Hawks Nest Pack's alpha female had whelped pups, and federal officials provided supplemental food to improve the chances the pups would survive after the loss of two adult male wolves.
            Those Hawks Nest cases were referred to Fish and Wildlife Service's law enforcement arm for investigation.
            In June, the alpha male of the San Mateo Pack was found slain under suspicious circumstances in southwest N.M.
            In addition, the alpha male of the Paradise Pack on the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona disappeared in mid-April.
            The Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and several conservation groups and individuals have pledged a total reward of up to $58,000 for information leading to the conviction of anyone responsible for illegally shooting a Mexican wolf.