Monday, January 14, 2019

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Found Dead - At Least 18 Mortalities in 2018

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January 14, 2019 -- The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) announced in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update that a critically endangered Mexican gray wolf - yearling m1661 of the Saffel Pack - was found dead in Arizona in December 2018. "The incident is under investigation."

The status of the Mexican gray wolf population in New Mexico is unknown, according to the update from AZGFD, "December mortality data for New Mexico was not available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the time this report was prepared due to the federal shutdown."

Last month, wildlife officials announced that five critically endangered Mexican gray wolves were found dead in November. The deceased wolves were all located in New Mexico. All of these incidents were under investigation by USFWS Law Enforcement before the federal shutdown.

The death of wolf m1661 brings the total of documented wolf mortalities in 2018 to at least 18.

While their deaths alone are devastating, the implications could be far-ranging. A recent study found that USFWS officials who manage the Mexican wolf recovery program are underestimating the rate of poaching by up to 21%.

Between 1998 and 2015, there were 155 deaths and disappearances in New Mexico and Arizona of radio-collared Mexican wolves. Of these wolves, 53 had “unknown fates.”

At last count in January of 2018, the wild Mexican gray wolf population in the U.S. was estimated to be 114 individuals.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Fifty Wolves Howling


Ambassador wolves Zephyr (featured), Alawa, and Nikai; plus red wolves Charlotte, Jack, Maple, Ben, Marley, Deven, MJ, Tyke, Veronica, Sam, Martha, Rich, Max, Shane, Hunter, Skye-Rae, Notch, Tom, Gilda, and Penny; along with Mexican gray wolves Magdalena, Diego, Belle, Rhett, Maus, Jean, Max, Nita, Rosa, Alléno, Hélène, Lek, Mittermeier, Beattie, Carson, Goodall, Bria, Craighead, Diane, Trumpet, Lighthawk, Babs, Kral, and Joe Darling - forty-seven wolves howling, to be exact.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Best Available Predator Science and the Law

On December 18, 2018, the Wolf Conservation Center hosted Dr. Adrian Treves for a special webinar, "Best Available Predator Science and the Law." Predator conservation in North America is split along several fault lines that make it difficult to restore many large carnivores to native habitats. One of the fault lines is the legal basis for U.S. predator preservation. In the webinar, Dr. Treves summarizes two views of the U.S. public trust doctrine and compares how differently proponents of those views might make decisions with a case study of Wisconsin's gray wolves.

To learn more about Adrian's work, please visit the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Visit the WCC's Scientific Webinar Library for more educational presentations.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Adrian Treves earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1997 and is now a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In 2007, Dr. Treves founded the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Adrian’s research focuses on how to balance human needs with wildlife conservation and he has authored more than 150 scientific papers on predator-prey ecology or conservation.
COMMENTS
January 7, 2019, Adrian P. Wydeven, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Cable, WI, Timothy R. Van Deelen Ph.D. CWB®, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI, and Nathan M Roberts, PhD., Furbearer, Wolf and Bear Research Scientist, WI DNR, Rhinelander, WI submitted comments in response to the webinar re wolf management in Wisconsin. View them here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

First Wolf Legally Killed in Northeastern Montana Since Losing Federal ESA Protections

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A female gray wolf was shot Monday in northeastern Montana - the first wolf to be killed in that area since 2011. She was, quite literally, a trailblazer; venturing out into new territories but also, unfortunately, symbolizing a new dawn of wildlife management at the hands of state agencies.

No wolf packs are known to exist in the eastern side of the state; she was the first wolf to be killed in that region since wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Montana in 2011.


Under Montana's wolf management plan, hunters may shoot wolves from September - March, resulting in the deaths of roughly 225 wolves on average each year. The state recorded a population of approximately 633 wolves in 2018.

Montana's wolf management policies have a devastating impact not only on wolves within the state but on wolves across the United States, as the policies can influence expectations about wildlife management in other states. For example, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) were to issue a national wolf delisting rule -- meaning all wolves in the lower 48 states (except Mexican wolves and red wolves) can lose protection at a time when they have claimed less than 10% of their historic range -- state wildlife agencies might look to Montana as a model of state management.

Is this what state management looks like?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Alaska Asks US Interior to Roll Back Safeguards for Endangered Species, National Refuges

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The State of Alaska’s wildlife management program targets drastic reductions to apex predators like bears and wolves, and because this intensive management program operates in areas including federal National Wildlife Refuges, Alaska’s wildlife management program has been a flashpoint in an ongoing battle between state and federal officials over who has authority over federal lands.

According to correspondence posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Alaska's incoming governor wants the U.S. Department of Interior to drop an array of its policies protecting wildlife, habitat, and wilderness in the State of Alaska. The wide-ranging demands would also roll back safeguards for endangered species, marine mammals, and predator-prey balance.

In the letter, Alaska’s acting commissioner of Fish and Game, Doug Vincent-Lang, asks Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary Bernhardt to suspend a series of regulations and policies governing national park lands, wildlife refuges, as well as habitat protections for federally listed threatened and endangered species.

“If I were a wolf or a bear in Alaska right now, I would be headed for the Canadian border, ASAP,” stated Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member.

Read PEER's full press release here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Nine-year Old From Connecticut Honors Atka With A Poem


Ambassador wolf Atka was many things: a teacher, a leader, but most importantly, a friend. Throughout his 16 years, Atka inspired many to advocate on behalf of wolves and although his passing will forever be tinged with grief, we take comfort in knowing the impact he had on all he met.

Nathan met Atka on his 8th birthday in 2017 and was immediately drawn to his charismatic personality and striking appearance. After learning of Atka's passing, he wrote a poem to honor his wild friend.

Piercing eyes shine through the night
Howling with all his might.
Thunder roaring through the clouds
There is no wolf just as proud.
Atka, Atka, white as snow,
I tribute to him all I know.
Atka, Atka, greater than a lion,
Yet stronger and prouder than Orion.
A birthmark on our eyes shows a bond that will never die.
A friend only a brother could compare.
A friend that is great is very rare.
~9-year old Nathan Hinton from 
Connecticut, Atka’s biggest fan

Very rare, indeed. Thank you to all of Atka's friends for continuing his mission.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Wolves Naturally Limit Their Own Numbers

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The idea that state-sanctioned killing of wolves is necessary to control wolf populations is one of the most widespread assumptions in large carnivore management. However, research demonstrates that wolves limit their own numbers.

As apex predators wolves keep their own numbers in check.

Self-regulation in large carnivores like wolves ensures that the largest and the fiercest do not overexploit their resources.

According to a recent work published in OIKOS, population control is what distinguishes wolves and other “apex predators” from the rest. Wolves are highly social animals that live in well-organized family units called packs. Cooperative living gives wolf families a number of benefits. In addition to facilitating successful hunting, pup-rearing, and defending pack territory, cooperative living allows wolves to limit their own population - for example, they control the numbers within their group by only letting certain members breed. By self-regulating— they also help to keep their ecosystems in balance.

Wolf populations stabilize when carrying capacity is reached.

Since wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone over 20 years ago, the 2+ million-acre park has acted as a laboratory, offering scientists a deeper understanding of the complexity of that ecosystem, including the diverse pressures (beyond lethal control by humans) that manage wolf populations.

Because hunting wolves is not permitted within the Park boundaries, Yellowstone offers us a chance to see what happens to wolf populations when left undisturbed by humans.

National Park Service

In Yellowstone, wolf numbers have grown and generally stabilized. For the last decade, the wolf population has hovered around 100, which experts consider Yellowstone’s carrying capacity. Carrying capacity describes the maximum number of individuals or species that a specific environment's resources can sustain for an indefinite period without degrading it. Once a species reaches its carrying capacity, population numbers stabilize.

Factors that affect the carrying capacity include:
  • Food Availability
  • Disease (canine distemper virus, mange, etc…)
  • Intra- pack strife
  • Competition with other predators (bears, mountain lions, coyotes)

Protected Wolf Populations Stabilizing Beyond Yellowstone

New data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suggests Wisconsin’s wolf population may be stabilizing too. After decades of growth, wolf numbers in Wisconsin were reportedly down by 2 percent last winter.

Wolves in Wisconsin are currently afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act, but this has not always been the case.

Federal ESA protections for Wisconsin's wolves were removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011. The next year state lawmakers established a controversial trophy wolf hunt, which included the use of dogs. Hunters killed 654 wolves during three consecutive hunting seasons.

Via a federal court ruling, protections for wolves were restored in 2014, thus preventing the state to use hunting seasons to manage the population, and allowing the population to stabilize on its own - a natural development which occurs when generally left undisturbed by humans (not managed via hunting, trapping, and hounding).