Archive for the ‘Grand Canyon’ Tag

Female wolf travels hundreds of miles to northern Arizona   1 comment

From:  Deseret News

By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 21 2014 7:49 p.m. MST

Updated: Friday, Nov. 21 2014 7:49 p.m. MST

Wildlife officials have confirmed the first gray wolf in northern Arizona in more than 70 years.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A female gray wolf from the Northern Rockies traveled hundreds of miles into northern Arizona, marking the species’ first appearance in the region in more than 70 years and the farthest journey south, wildlife officials confirmed Friday.

A wolf-like animal had been spotted roaming the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the adjacent national forest since last month. Biologists collected its scat and sent it to a University of Idaho laboratory for testing, verifying what environmentalists had suspected based on its appearance and a radio collar around its neck.

“The corroboration is really good to get,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Biologists don’t know the wolf’s age or from where it traveled. The radio collar wasn’t transmitting a signal, and cold weather forced biologists to suspended efforts to capture the animal and replace the collar.

The Idaho lab might be able to glean more details about the wolf from its DNA, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jeff Humphrey said that could take several weeks or months.

“We’ll let this wolf be a wolf where it’s at, and if it decides it’s going to move back north, it can do that,” he said. “Or if somebody joins her, then that’s nature taking its course.”

Wolves often roam vast distances in search of food and mates. But the farther they go, the less likely they are to find a mate, said Ed Bangs, who led recovery efforts for wolves in the Northern Rockies over two decades before retiring from the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011.

“It’s looking for love,” he said. “It leaves the core population and doesn’t know the love of its life is going to be right over the next hill, so it just keeps traveling.”

About 25 percent of the roughly 1,700 wolves from the Northern Rockies are being tracked, wildlife officials said. They are distinguished from the Mexican gray wolves found in the Southwest by their more full bodies and less pointed ears.

Mike Jimenez with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Wyoming said Northern Rockies gray wolves are hard-wired to disperse and have traveled hundreds of miles. One young female started off in Montana and traveled 3,000 miles over six months, making stops in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado before it died, he said. Colorado had been the farthest journey south for the animals until the female was confirmed in Arizona, he said.

Wolves from another major population in the western Great Lakes have likewise been found far from home.

Wolves largely were exterminated early last century across the lower 48 states, except in the western Great Lakes area. The Northern Rockies population was restored after 66 gray wolves from Canada were relocated to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in the mid-1990s.

They’ve been absent from the Grand Canyon region since the 1940s.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in recent years lifted federal protections for the animals in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies. A federal judge recently ordered the protections re-instated in Wyoming after wildlife advocates sued.

Environmentalists are pressing for continued protection of gray wolves. Meanwhile, they celebrated the news of the one in northern Arizona.

“I wonder if she has any sense of the celebrity she has achieved,” said Drew Kerr of WildEarth Guardians.

Associated Press writer Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report.

Steller: Lone wolf deserves chance to meet others   3 comments

From:  tucson.com – Arizona Daily Star

Grand Canyon wolf

Arizona Game and Fish Deprtment

November 27, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

She must be lonely, spending Thanksgiving weekend wandering the Grand Canyon’s North Rim all on her own.

She’s a fertile, female wolf, and finding a mate is likely the force that drove her southward from her home in the northern Rocky Mountains.

This is how Ed Bangs, a former federal wolf expert in that region, explained her likely motivation: “It’s looking for love,” he told The Associated Press. “It leaves the core population and doesn’t know the love of its life is going to be right over the next hill, so it just keeps traveling.”

If only there were some wolves nearby …

Of course, there are 83 of them — about 200 miles southeast in the White Mountains and adjacent areas of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. All that stands between her and them is the Grand Canyon and our wildlife bureaucracy.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released documents that spell out some of the details of how they propose to manage the reintroduced Mexican gray wolves of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. That’s where efforts to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves began in 1998 and foundered for more than a decade before the population began to grow again over the last few years.

The documents show that the service plans to expand the areas in which the wolves are allowed to wander — a welcome change from the strict boundaries and behavioral rules that Arizona Game and Fish enforced during the first decade-plus of the effort. The newly opened areas would include about half of Arizona, including all of the southeastern quadrant, as well as about a third of New Mexico, mostly in the southwestern part of that state.

But the service sets a strict northern boundary for the Mexican gray wolves at Interstate 40. So even if the expanded range were already in effect now, wildlife managers would still prevent wolves from roaming northwest toward the Grand Canyon, cutting the distance between them and this potential new pack member and mate. Wolves north of that line could be picked up and returned or even killed if necessary.

That’s a shame, because this female wolf is from a different subspecies of gray wolves. Her genes, introduced to the semi-inbred population in the Blue Range, would increase their genetic diversity and vitality considerably. It’s also a shame because it puts our abstract rules and boundaries on what could be a natural flow.

“Wolf geneticists over the last decade have been documenting that there was genetically a gradient from the Mexican gray wolf to the northern Rockies wolves,” conservation biologistCarlos Carroll told me.

In other words, there wasn’t a clear genetic distinction between Mexican gray wolves in the south and northern gray wolves, but rather a transition zone between, say, Arizona and Wyoming, where the wolves were less and less Mexican the farther north they were found.

“That old paradigm of drawing hard lines on a map to divide subspecies — that was typical of naturalists 100 years ago,” said Carroll, of the Klamath Center for Conservation Research.

He was a member of the group of scientists contributing to the Mexican gray wolf recovery team up until last year and was lead author of a paper on wolf genetics in the journal Conservation Biology published last year. Among its conclusions: “long-term prospects for recovery of gray wolves in the western U.S. may hinge on wolves being able to successfully disperse between widely separated populations.”

The paper also points to the Grand Canyon area, all of which is north of Interstate 40, as one of the most suitable areas for additional Mexican gray wolf populations.

Arizona Game and Fish, which helped mold this latest Fish and Wildlife Service proposal, argues there is reason to have a northern boundary.

In short, the idea is that “we want Mexican wolves where Mexican wolves were,” explained Jim DeVos, the assistant director of Arizona Game and Fish overseeing wildlife.

The scientific research describes the wolves as largely having been a creature of Southeastern Arizona, as well as adjacent New Mexico and Mexico, he said. But it would be difficult to draw a line at, say, Mount Ord in the White Mountains and say no wolves should go north of there.

I-40 “is north of the historic range and a logical demarcation for Mexican wolves,” DeVos said. “Why go north when the suitable habitat goes south?”

My question is: Why demarcate the territory at all? Having reintroduced these animals, why not let them do what they obviously do naturally — roam, run into each other, mate and create their own packs and populations?

Related document:  http://tucson.com/study-of-wolf-habitat-genetics/pdf_94d895ca-f733-5bde-904f-c756dfefef40.html#.VHsVdsYNFJk.email

 

 

New Report IDs 350,000 Square Miles of Additional Habitat for Wolves in Lower 48, Including Grand Canyon Area Where Wolf Recently Spotted   2 comments

From: Center for Biological Diversity

Obama Administration Prematurely Abandoning Recovery, Despite Ample Room for
Wolves in Southern Rockies, West Coast, Northeast

SAN FRANCISCO— A first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity identifies 359,000 square miles of additional habitat for gray wolves in 19 of the lower 48 states that could significantly boost the nation’s 40-year wolf recovery efforts. The study indicates the gray wolf population could be doubled to around 10,000 by expanding recovery into areas researchers have identified as excellent habitat in the Northeast, West Coast and southern Rocky Mountains, as well as the Grand Canyon, an area where a radio-collared wolf was photographed in recent weeks.

Gray wolf habitat map
Map by Curt Bradley, Center for Biological Diversity. This map and wolf photos are available for media use.

The report comes as the Obama administration moves to strip Endangered Species Act protection from gray wolves by the end of the year, even though wolves have been recovered in less than 10 percent of their historic habitat and are routinely trekking hundreds of miles to disperse to areas of the American landscape they once called home.

“This wolf’s pioneering journey to Arizona, like the wolf OR-7’s remarkable trek across Oregon to California, highlights the compelling on-the-ground reality made clear in this new report,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “The Obama administration must finally acknowledge that the job of recovering wolves to sustainable populations is far from done.”

Today’s report, Making Room for Wolf Recovery: The Case for Maintaining Endangered Species Act Protections for America’s Wolves, analyzes 27 published research papers identifying suitable wolf habitat. It shows that the current wolf population of 5,400 could be nearly doubled if federal protections were retained and recovery efforts began to restore wolves to some of the places they once called home.

The report documents 56 instances over 30 years where wolves have dispersed from existing core recovery areas to states where they have yet to reestablish, including Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Massachusetts and Maine. These events, which frequently have ended in the dispersing wolves being shot, highlight the need for continued federal protections and recovery planning to increase the odds for dispersing wolves to survive and recolonize former terrain. The most famous dispersing wolf, OR-7, traveled hundreds of miles from northeast Oregon to California and has started a family along the border of the two states.

The report’s findings come as federal wildlife officials are working to verify the genetic identity of the radio-collared wolf photographed near Grand Canyon National Park — a discovery that suggests the wolf is likely a northern Rockies gray wolf who traveled hundreds of miles to historic wolf habitat where wolves were exterminated more than 50 years ago.

“What we’re seeing is that the amazing journeys of OR-7 and the wolf spotted in Arizona are far from oddities — they’re reflections of very natural dispersal patterns in recent years, where wolves have travelled hundreds of miles trying to expand to enough of their historic range to survive ongoing threats,” Weiss said. “But without the protection of the Endangered Species Act, we know that these wolves will too often face the same kind of hostility that nearly drove them extinct a century ago.”

Since endangered species protections were taken away from wolves in 2011 in the northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, the states have enacted aggressive hunting and trapping seasons designed to drastically reduce populations. To date more than 2,800 wolves have been killed, resulting in a 9 percent population decline in the northern Rockies and a 25 percent decline in Minnesota. Idaho passed legislation this year creating a “wolf control board,” with the sole purpose of killing wolves, and appropriated $400,000 for the task. Removal of protection in the rest of the country will ensure that anti-wolf prejudices prevail and wolf recovery is stopped in its tracks.

“State management of wolves has turned an Endangered Species Act success story into a tragedy,” said Weiss. “Rather than sound science, gray wolf management by the states has been dominated by anti-wolf hysteria and special-interest politics. Wolves need federal protection so they can survive, continue to recover, and eventually reprise their historic wilderness role at the top of the food chain.”

The report details the serious problems with state management and the important part wolves play in ecosystems; it can be read and downloaded here.

Background
Large members of the canid family, gray wolves are habitat generalists able to live nearly anywhere other than extreme desert or tropical environments, but which require human tolerance for survival. Living in family packs that typically range from five to 10 animals, wolves are highly social animals, with all pack members involved in rearing of young and in hunting forays for their prey (predominantly large wild ungulates such as elk, deer, moose and caribou). At around the age of two to three years, wolves tend to disperse from their family packs to seek mates and territories of their own.

Gray wolves were once the most widely ranging land mammals on the planet, with an estimated 2 million distributed throughout North America at the time of European colonization. As settlers moved west, they cleared the land for their grain and livestock, wiping out first the wolves’ wild prey and then the wolves themselves. Government-sponsored predator-eradication campaigns conducted on behalf of the livestock industry exterminated wolves everywhere in the lower 48 states, with the exception of a remnant population of fewer than 1,000 wolves in far northeastern Minnesota.

Wolves were first federally protected in 1967, under a precursor to the Endangered Species Act. This allowed Minnesota’s wolf population to expand in number and range into neighboring Wisconsin and parts of Michigan. In the mid-1990s, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho; their descendants have slowly dispersed into parts of Washington and Oregon, with one wolf making it to California. In the late 1990s, the most highly endangered subspecies of gray wolf, the Mexican gray wolf, was reintroduced to Arizona.

In 2011 Congress stripped wolves of federal protections in the northern Rockies and adjacent areas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did the same for wolves in the Western Great Lakes region. Under state management, in less than three years, wolf populations in these states have demonstrated substantial declines, with nearly 3,000 wolves killed in state-sanctioned hunting and trapping seasons.

In June 2013 the Obama administration proposed stripping federal protections from wolves across most of the lower 48 states. Despite receipt of more than 1.5 million public comments opposed to delisting wolves and critical comments from scientists and a peer review panel, the administration is expected to issue an official rule removing protection from wolves before the end of the year.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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