Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Caught on film: Few of us are lucky enough to glimpse wolves in the wild. Unless, of course, you work for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, monitoring the return of wolves to the northeast corner of the state. Check out their latest footage of the Imnaha Pack bounding through snow just a couple weeks ago.

CO wolf poisoned: Investigators have determined that a wolf found dead in Colorado in 2009 was poisoned with a chemical known as Compound 1080. The substance is illegal to use in Colorado but is still used in other states to kill unwanted predators. The poisoned wolf had voyaged more than 1,000 miles from its home in Montana and was tracked with a radio collar into Colorado.

Dispersing wolves in MT: Reports from Montana suggest that wolves may be moving farther east into new territory. Two calves were injured in central Montana’s Fergus County, while 27 sheep were killed near Great Falls over several days. USFWS wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs says young wolf dispersal peaks around this time of year, which is likely why these wolves were venturing out beyond their normal range. He adds, however, that packs have never established themselves in open range land dominated by livestock. Either way, the incidents highlight why Defenders ongoing efforts to work with ranchers to protect livestock are so important.

Yellowstone elk (and wolf) decline: Biologists reported this week that Yellowstone’s northern elk herd has continued its 15-year decline with a 24 percent drop from last year. Elk numbers soared to historic levels in the absence of grizzly bears and wolves, reaching 16,791 in 1995—a herd population that was seen as unsustainable. Part of the decline in the elk herd has been attributed to the return of wolves and grizzlies, though other factors such as hunting pressure and a 10-year drought have played an important role. The wolf population has also continued to decline in recent years, from 94 in 2007 to 37 in 2010, indicating that both populations may still be finding their equilibrium. Listen to Yellowstone wolf expert Doug Smith as he goes in-depth during an interview on NPR (segment starts at 14:40).

Great letter in Oregon: In an open letter published in the La Grande Observer (OR), Wally Sykes urges Congressman Walden not to dismantle the Endangered Species Act with legislation to delist wolves:

“The Endangered Species Act was created and implemented, may I remind you, by a Republican administration which felt that protecting American wildlife was a duty to our future generations, our environmental health, our fellow creatures and the uniqueness of the American way of life.”

As he rightly points out, the problem is irresponsible state management plan like Idaho and Wyoming, not the ESA.

MT calls for legislative delisting: Montana state legislators are renewing their calls to strip federal protections for wolves. Speaker of the House Mike Milburn is just the first to introduce a bill seeking a rash political solution that could jeopardize wolf recovery and unravel the ESA itself.  Unfortunately, anti-wolf extremists appear to have been successful in convincing state Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Joe Maurier to support the effort. Maurier also said he hopes Wyoming’s new governor, Matt Mead, will help work toward a compromise.

Don’t blame enviros for wolf woes: In a guest column that ran in both the Bozeman Chronicle and the Missoulian, Denver Bryan blames environmental groups for continuing to fight to protect wolves. What he fails to mention is that if wolves were delisted today under existing plans, there would be nothing to stop the states from killing all but 100 to 150 wolves per state.