Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tourists lured to South Africa to take part in trophy hunts

By: Joanna Della-Ragione

THE lion cub in my arms is just two months old. His dappled yellow fur is cotton-wool soft and his long lashed eyes glow gold. He is calendar-cute, picture perfect, but when he scrambles out of my arms razor-sharp claws scrape my skin and I'm jolted back to reality, reminded that he's a wild animal. That I'm able to cradle him at all is paradoxical.

This isn't nature or the expansive wilderness of the Kruger National Park - if it were the pride would have torn me limb from limb by now - rather I'm standing in a large cage, home to eight cubs including two baby tigers and two white lions who playfully nip my ankles. The pungent scent of cat urine rising from the dusty ground permeates the air.

I've driven three hours from Johannesburg across vast expanses of bleak farmland which constitute South Africa's Orange Free State, down a nausea-inducing dirt track to the Moreson Ranch, which markets itself as a "holiday and game farm" where rich hunters both amateur and professional come to shoot animals for sport. It is just one of many lionbreeding farms in South Africa where tourists can pay a mere 50 rand (about $5.80) to cuddle a cub.

What the tourists aren't told is that these cubs have been snatched from their mothers at just an hour old and come adulthood they're likely to die at the hands of wealthy trophy hunters, just like the rest of the 5,000 captive bred lions in South Africa.

Monday, January 27, 2014

She Wolf 06 832F

On Sunday, January 19, Nat Geo Wild aired it’s documentary, “She Wolf”, and the story of one of Yellowstone’s most famous and respected celebrity wolves, 06 832F. Following the reintroduction of the Grey Wolf to Yellowstone, the packs have acquired a following among about one million nature lovers. The wolves have inspired many who love to watch them for their intrinsic value, and they have contributed to science by demonstrating the importance of an apex predator to the trophic cascade of our ecosystem. They were valued by those who knew of them on many levels.

“She Wolf” tells of one lone wolf, and how through her perseverance as a young adult, she forms a family with a younger wolf who is not yet mature enough to provide for her or provide protection for her. As he plays she hunts as a lone female, unusual for wolves, and she does so while carrying pups. She has her pups, and with her mate, 755M, they form the now famous Lamar Canyon Pack. She became known as the “alpha female”, as a wolf with amazing courage, tenacity, and wits, who provided for and protected her pack.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wolves and Human Well-Being: Ecological and Public Health Concerns

By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Wolves play an integral role in maintaining the health of wildlife and ecosystems, and indirectly, livestock and public health. Recognition of this role and its ecological ramifications calls for greater respect, protection and incresed numbers of wolves in appropriate habitats across North America. Current federal and state government initiatives, backed by diverse vested interests, are poised to reduce the nation’s existing wolf population which is contrary to the directives of sound science, reason and the public interest.
State wildlife management practices directed to maximize deer numbers for recreational hunters, rural America’s virtual extermination of the wolf over the past two centuries, coupled with forest management practices and agricultural expansion indirectly providing feed for deer and the encroachment of real estate housing developments with deer-attracting gardens and vegetation in municipal parks, have had unforseen consequences associated with high White tail deer numbers; and elk in western states. Two of these unforseen consequences concern public health and potential harm to the livestock industry which a higher population of wolves across the U.S. would do much to recitify.
According to the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, “After the young (fawns) are born each spring, there are between 900,000 and 1,000,000  (White tail) deer in Minnesota. The hunting season is important to keep the deer population from getting too large. Each year, Minnesota hunters harvest between 150,000 and 200,000 deer”.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Are wolf populations in Yellowstone leveling out?

A new report shows a declining population of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, but a lead author describes it as a result of the predators coming into balance with their environment.
“The number of wolves are here that can be supported by prey,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone Senior Wildlife Biologist and leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.
The most recent annual report provides insight into the park’s wolf population as of the end of 2012. Wolf numbers then stood at at least 83 wolves in 10 packs. It’s a 15 percent drop from the previous three years and a 50 percent population drop from 2007, after which wolves failed to bounce back from a disease outbreak. Wolves were originally reintroduced to the park in 1995.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yellowstone 19 Years after wolf Re-introduction

By Kathie Lynch: Wolf Watching not as easy as it used to be in Yellowstone-Copyright © Kathie Lynch 2014
Looking for wolves in Yellowstone’s Northern Range has its ups and downs these days. Watchers may get lucky and see the Junction Butte pack of nine or even the Eight Mile pack of 18. But, failing that, opportunities can be few and far between. The only other possibilities include the two Lamar Canyons, two in 755M’s Group, possibly three Blacktails, and the seven Canyons—if they happen to visit the Mammoth area.
On my recent week-long visit in early January 2014, I saw only 17 wolves total, including three wolf-less days, three days with an hour or less each day of the two Lamar Canyons (in a snowstorm every time), and one “just like the good old days” day of watching all nine Junction Buttes and then 755M and his mate, 889F.
It is always a treat to see everybody’s favorite, the silvery-black former Lamar Canyon alpha, 755M. He is now on his third new mate since losing “The ’06 Female” (832F) to a Wyoming hunter’s bullet over a year ago. His latest partner, 889F, was formerly with the Junction Butte pack, although she probably originally came from the Mollie’s pack.
Seven fifty-five had pursued her last spring, but lost out then to 890M, who dispersed from Junction Butte with 889F. The two dark blacks spent the summer together and were sometimes seen up the Tower Road in the Antelope Creek area.
However, in October, 890M returned to the Junction Butte pack and 889F started appearing with 755M. The new duo is now called “755’s Group,” and we hope that they will stay together though the breeding season and produce pups.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The importance of predators: The Yellowstone case

Wolves were systematically killed in the Yellowstone region and many other areas of the West beginning in the late 1800s. A concentrated effort between 1914 and 1926 finished the job - the last known wolf pack disappeared in 1926.
This video provides a highly educational overview of the important role an apex predator like the
North American gray wolf plays in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Now, with the recent reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone in 1995, streamside shrubs and cottonwoods within the Lamar Valley are beginning to become more prevalent and taller, and were the focus of a second study in the same area. That study outlines how the fear of attack by wolves apparently prevents browsing elk from eating young cottonwood and willows in some streamside zones.
With the renewed presence of wolves, young cottonwoods and willows have been growing taller each year over on "high-risk" sites, where elk apparently feel vulnerable due to terrain or other conditions that might prevent escape. In contrast, on "low-risk" sites, they are still being browsed by elk and show little increase in height.
Traditionally, "keystone" predators such as wolves were known to influence the population of other animals that they preyed on directly, such as elk or antelope. What researchers are now coming to better understand is the "trophic effect," or cascade of changes that can take place in an ecosystem when an important part is removed.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nonlethal Tools: Good for Livestock, Good for Wildlife

Zack Strong
NRDC Switchboard
For a century and a half, ranchers in the northern Rocky Mountains have been grazing cattle and sheep in the backyards of bears, lions, coyotes andwolves.  Despite these temptations, predators are responsible for only a tiny fraction of livestock deaths each year (according to USDA NASS statistics, about 6.5% of deaths in Montana, and 5.5%nationwide in 2010).  Weather, disease, complications from calving and other reasons unrelated to predation cause the vast majority of losses.  However, depredations do occur (there were 98 confirmed and 27 probable wolf depredations in Montana in 2012), and it is important to work to prevent them, to save the lives of livestock and predators alike.

All too often, landowners and government agencies resort to lethal measures in response to livestock attacks.  While killing an offending predator may provide a temporary solution, it rarely results in any long-term fix.  That is because when, for example, a depredating wolf pack is destroyed, another pack will quickly move in to reclaim the vacant territory, and the cycle of death will simply repeat itself.  In fact, studies suggest that killing carnivores may even lead to more conflicts.  For example, killing a wolf or coyote pack’s experienced hunters could cause the rest of the pack to resort to easier prey such as livestock.  Also, disrupting a pack’s social structure could lead to an increased number of breeding pairs, resulting in more hungry mouths to feed (consider the old adage, “Kill a coyote, and two will show up at its funeral”).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Idaho damages its public image as well as its rural economy

Idaho Statesman - Guest Opinion

January 15, 2014 

Read more here:
On a crisp December morning at the edge of the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, a steady stream of cars flowed to a pullout that was filled with hopeful visitors braving frigid temperatures in the predawn light to catch a glimpse of a pair of wolves that had been feeding on a road-killed bison. We were among the fortunate ones who got a parking spot that morning and were rewarded with a view of the wolves trotting along the creek bank in the early morning light, making for a magical, wild sight.
We returned to our car and soon heard a short news report on the wolf and coyote derby to be held in Salmon. A few days later while reading The New York Times, an editorial titled "wolf haters" negatively portrayed Idaho as it described the upcoming wolf derby, as well as Idaho Fish and Game's recent hiring of a professional wolf killer in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The wolf derby not only infuriates the conservation community, but also many hunters interested in promoting ethical, fair and respectful hunting. The conservation community is questioning the legality of the hired hunter as a possible violation of the Wilderness Act. These recent events resulted in worldwide negative publicity for Idaho and have likely alienated potential visitors. Instead, Idaho could capitalize on tourism dollars by promoting the lucrative wolf-watching industry.
Look at Gardiner, Mont., as an example of a rural community benefiting from the presence of wolves. Just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone, we observed a bustling winter economy, largely driven by wolf watchers staying in hotels, patronizing restaurants and hiring wildlife watching outfitters. Couldn't and shouldn't Idaho foster this sustainable form of tourism in its rural communities instead of creating opportunities for the media to depict a state paralyzed by irrational fear and loathing of a predator that is a natural and important part of the state's ecosystems?
Some folks will cite the damage caused by wolves to Idaho's elk herds and livestock, as well as some who espouse the dangers to life and limb of just having predators in our midst, but consider some information that provides a more balanced view of the role of wolves and other wildlife here in Idaho:
• The amount of compensation paid to ranchers and farmers by Idaho Fish and Game related to wolves has been less than the amount of claims paid out for crop losses due to elk.
• Though wolves are vilified for preying on elk, black bears and mountain lions, whose populations far outnumber wolves, are major predators of elk.
• There are no documented cases of a wolf in Idaho injuring or killing a person. However, the Idaho Department of Transportation reports that since 1997, more than 27 human deaths resulted from vehicle collisions, mostly involving deer and elk.
• Other states have greater densities of both people and predators. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have approximately 2,000, 800 and 700 wolves, respectively. Densely populated New Jersey now has approximately 3,500 black bears. Idaho, on the other hand, appears to be fearfully preoccupied with fewer than 700 wolves.
There is a complex picture of how the wolf fits into Idaho. It's unfortunate that recent publicity has depicted our state as intolerant, disrespectful and ignorant with regard to dealing with this animal.
We need to repair this image, investigate additional ways to coexist, determine whether there are opportunities to embrace the wolf-watching economy in rural Idaho, and ensure that a more balanced picture of the wolf is presented to the country and the world.
Broglino is an environmental professional. Spatz is a scientist with the Department of Interior. They live and work in Boise.

Read more here:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Idaho violates the Wilderness Act and wolves die

By Leonard Hitchcock

Where in Idaho can a wolf find a friend? Obviously not among the cattlemen, or the sheep men, and certainly not among the hunters and outfitters, whose credo seems to be: If humans enjoy killing another species, like elk, then they have the right to eliminate any non-human predator that reduces their chances of doing so.
And then there are all those Idahoans who may not feel any particular animosity toward wolves, but for whom wolves symbolize the big, bad federal government’s unwelcome interference in Idaho’s affairs. These are the same people who eagerly help themselves to federal agricultural support payments and tax subsidies and cheap grazing fees for public lands, and snatch at dollars flowing into the state from innumerable other federal programs, but who feel that only Idahoans have a right to control that land within the state that legally belongs to all the citizens of the nation.
When the U.S. Congress – which is to say, the people of this country – passed the Wilderness Act, in 1964, its intentions were perfectly clear. The country was in danger of losing all those areas in which nature alone shaped the landscape and the living things within it: areas that could still remind us of the America that Europeans found several hundred years ago when they appropriated it and began the inexorable process of transforming it to suit their needs and desires; areas in which we can now find solitude and rejuvenation; where we can reestablish contact with the daily rhythms and activities of a living world independent of us, a world in which we are now, of necessity, only visitors, yet one to which we are still attuned because it is akin to the world in which our species evolved.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Idaho Has Changed the Definition of a Wolf “Breeding Pair”

By Ken Cole
The Wildlife News
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is using a new definition for “breeding pair” that differs from the definition used in the USFWS delisting rule of 2009. This definition is important because it is the primary marker used to determine whether wolves should remain delisted from protections of the Endangered Species Act or not. The state of Idaho seems committed to only maintain the absolute minimum number of breeding pairs it can to keep them from being relisted but Idaho Department of Fish and Game is having a difficult time monitoring wolves and documenting the minimum required number of breeding pairs because there has been such high mortality among collared wolves. This high mortality has caused them to lose contact with many of the packs they are trying to intensively monitor, in turn, it has led to them loosen the criteria they use to determine what constitutes a breeding pair. With the increased effort exhibited by Governor Otter to reduce the population even further, it may become even more difficult for Idaho Department of Fish and Game to conclusively document the minimum required number of breeding pairs.

There is a legal definition for what a wolf “breeding pair” is that is very specific and this definition has undergone changes over the years to make it even more specific. When the reintroduction of wolves was being contemplated during the 1980′s, the USFWS determined that it needed to define what a wolf breeding pair was so that they could accurately define the recovery goals.  The 1987 recovery plan “specified a recovery criterion of a minimum of 10 breeding pairs of wolves (defined as 2 wolves of opposite sex and adequate age, capable of producing offspring) for a minimum of 3 successive years in each of 3 distinct recovery areas…”

What's the Matter With Idaho?

By Noah Greenwald
Huffington Post
Idaho's hateful treatment of wolves has reached disturbing new lows in recent weeks.
Late last month the sadly misnamed "Idaho for Wildlife" held a two-day "predator derby" out of Salmon, Idaho, offering prizes for the most coyotes and wolves killed and the biggest wolf taken.
Fortunately, no wolves were killed. But roughly 21 coyotes were gunned down in the event which was pitched as a family friendly opportunity to teach kids about responsible hunting.
How killing as many animals as you can, none for food, qualifies as responsible hunting defies reason -- but not Idaho law.
Also last month the Idaho Department of Fish and Game -- with approval from the U.S. Forest Service -- hired a bounty hunter to trek into the largest wilderness in the lower 48 states, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, and kill two entire wolf packs.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wolf slaughter is un-American

William Gibson
4th November 2013

The return of the wolf to the USA's Northern Rockies has brought out some dark undercurrents in American culture and history. A spineless political establishment has fallen into line.

This photograph above is yet more evidence that, two years after political reactionaries led a successful campaign in the House of Representatives and then the Senate to remove the North Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list, the slaughter of wolves continues to escalate as wolf hunters fall deeper in their paranoid fantasy that the wolf represents a liberal conspiracy against rural communities.

The Facebook page  that originally posted the image belongs to two Wyoming hunting outfitters, Colby and Codi Gines. The Gines run CG Wilderness Adventures, headquartered in a highly remote part of Wyoming’s Bridger Teton National Forest, bordering on the southeast section of Yellowstone National Park.  "Wyoming is God’s country, and we invite you to come see it for yourself", says the Gines' website.

For more wonder, rewild the world

Wolves were once native to Yellowstone National Park -- until hunting wiped them out. But when, in 1995, the wolves began to come back (thanks to an aggressive management program), something interesting happened: the rest of the park began to find a new, more healthful balance. In a bold thought experiment, George Monbiot imagines a wilder world in which humans work to restore the complex, lost natural food chains that once surrounded us.
In his book "Feral," George Monbiot advocates the large-scale restoration of complex natural ecosystems.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lions are critically endangered in West Africa

A report published today concludes that the African lion is facing extinction across the entire West African region. The West African lion once ranged continuously from Senegal to Nigeria, but the new paper reveals there are now only an estimated 250 adult lions restricted to four isolated and severely imperiled populations. Only one of those populations contains more than 50 lions.

Led by Panthera's Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr. Philipp Henschel, and co-authored by a team from West Africa, the UK, Canada and the United States, the paper The lion in West Africa is critically endangered was published yesterday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The report's sobering results represent a massive survey effort taking six years and covering eleven countries where lions were presumed to exist in the last two decades. The new, very fine resolution information builds on an earlier continent-wide review of  status produced by Duke University, to which Dr. Henschel also contributed. Both surveys received funding from National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative (BCI).

Panthera's Dr. Philipp Henschel explained, "When we set out in 2006 to survey all the lions of West Africa, the best reports suggested they still survived in 21 protected areas. We surveyed all of them, representing the best remaining lion habitat in West Africa. Our results came as a complete shock; all but a few of the areas we surveyed were basically paper parks, having neither management budgets nor patrol staff, and had lost all their lions and other iconic large mammals."
Read more . . . 

Large carnivore decline puts humans at risk , study says

by John Roach, NBC News
A few years after wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in 1995, fifth-generation Montana rancher Rick Jarrett gave up on the
parcel of federal land near Yellowstone National Park that he grazed for 20 years. The carnivores harassed his cattle so much that they stopped gaining weight. Skinny cattle don't sell.

"It wasn't worth being there anymore," he told NBC News. To turn a profit, he now confines his livestock to several thousand acres on and around his ranch in Big Timber, where his cattle and sheep are free to pack on the pounds — for now. The wolves, he said, will eventually get there, too.

While Jarrett is bitter about having to live with wolves, such coexistence is increasingly necessary if the world hopes to reverse a downward spiral of its largest carnivores such as wolves as well as lions, tigers, and bears, according to a review study published Thursday in the journal Science.

As the carnivores decline, ecosystems and food chains that humans depend on for survival are unraveling and, in many cases, adding to the economic woes of everyone from farmers to ecotourism companies.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Top Yellowstone Expert Takes on the Wolf Critics

Speaks to “Non Native Subspecies” Charge and “Surplus Killing”

Recently, the Montana Pioneer spoke with Doug Smith, Yellowstone National Park Wolf Project Leader and Senior Biologist at the Yellowstone Center for Resources, about the nature of the wolves introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, including the “non native subspecies” charge advanced by critics, and about ongoing research on wolves in the park.

MP: What were the genetic sources of wolves introduced into YNP—where did the existing wolf population originate?

DS: Forty one wolves were introduced to YNP in 1995. There were 14 in 1995 from Alberta, and 17 in 1996 from British Columbia, and 10 in 1997 from near Choteau, Montana. We have genetic evidence that some of those wolves went on to breed. So, 10 of the wolves that were introduced were from Montana, and 31 were from Canada.

Read more . . . 

The Lone Wolf Returns

Last month, the first wild wolf recorded in California in ninety years made a quick return to the Golden State. The wolf’s story was the subject of a feature by Joe Donnelly in the September/October 2013 issue of Orion.

The lone gray wolf known to scientists as OR7—and to anthropomorphically inclined fans as Journey—has sealed his reputation for the dramatic, or at least the symbolic, by crossing back to California for a couple of visits in December.
The large male wolf made a return appearance to the happy hunting ground where he spent all of 2012 and the first few months of 2013. And he arrived just in time to shine a spotlight on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s long-simmering petition to protect gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act.
Some brief backstory: When intrepid OR7 first made it to California, right around this time in 2011, he didn’t just add a milestone to his remarkable trek south from remote Wallowa County in northeast Oregon—he also enlisted California in the cultural and political civil war that’s been chasing wolves across the West ever since their successful mid-1990s reintroduction into the Northern Rockies. That OR7 happened to spend a significant amount of time sniffing around Lassen County, where the last indigenous Californian gray wolf was killed for a bounty in 1924, added a touch of poetry to OR7’s journey.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Welcoming Wolves Back To California – A Rancher’s Perspective

My husband and I live on the Bar C R ranch in Petaluma, CA where we run 300 mother cows using predator friendly ranching methods. I am also an advisory board member of Project Coyote – a coalition of educators, scientists and predator-friendly ranchers who promote coexistence between people and wildlife. As someone who understands the importance and benefits that predators provide to both ranch lands and entire eco systems, I want to see the wolf recover in California.
Last week I spoke at a rally in Sacramento in support of maintaining federal protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)- and against a proposal put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist wolves from the ESA. To delist wolves would be wrong in so many ways; these important canids are keystone species and necessary for the balance and health of wild creatures and wild places.  To delist would be unscientific, counter-productive, and financially wasteful.
As important apex predators, wolves need and deserve protection across their historical range. And as they try to expand into their former range, they run the gauntlet of misinformed management that results in their needless death. Wolves are unaware that they are crossing political boundaries where they will face ever-changing policies ranging from excessive killing to nearly full protection. If they are not consistently protected with sound conservation strategies now, how will delisting improve their peril?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Idaho Wolves Deserve Conversation Not Eradication

By Heather Pilkinton on January 2, 2014
The wolves beat the hunters in the recent, and highly contested, wolf and coyote derby in Salmon, Idaho. Wolves eluded the participants for the entire two-day hunt,
but 21 coyotes were not so fortunate. The absence of any wolf kills, however, has not lessened the intensity of the controversy, nor the temperature of the debates. Wolves are a touchy subject, no matter the stance; as with most hotly contested issues, there is an abundance of information, but not all of it is correct.

So are the wolves predators that destroy livestock other wildlife, creating devastating losses for both ranchers and hunters? Or are they prey? Misunderstood, maligned and victimized only for what comes naturally to the species? Do wolves contribute significantly to the spread of parasites to elk and cattle, and can humans get these same parasites? Are the wolves found in the Idaho mountains the same wolves that were here before, or are these wolves truly different from the ones they replaced?
And the biggest question of all – can wolves, and humans get along?