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Wolves knocking on Nevada’s door   Leave a comment

From:  Las Vegas Review-Journal

web1_Grand-Canyon-wolf-10-2014_NPS_FPWC-copy.jpg

 

Beyond the one that prowls the university in Reno, Nevada is not known for its wolf packs.

But a national environmental group believes the Silver State could someday support wolves, assuming the animals survive long enough to make it here.

A new Center for Biological Diversity report identifies almost 360,000 square-miles of potential gray wolf habitat in the West and Northeast, including roughly 6,000 square-miles in scattered patches of Nevada.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based group argues that the current gray wolf population could be doubled to about 10,000 by expanding recovery efforts.

The report, titled “Making Room for Wolf Recovery: The Case for Maintaining Endangered Species Act Protections for America’s Wolves,” comes as the Obama Administration considers removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list, a decision expected by year’s end.

The wolf came under federal protection in 1973. Efforts to reintroduce it to the wild began in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1994 amid controversy and stiff opposition from ranchers and other residents of the rural West.

No one is advocating that wolves should be released into Nevada, which apparently hasn’t had a confirmed wolf sighting since one was killed in Elko County almost a century ago. But the animals could find their way here on their own, and they deserve to be protected if they do, said Amaroq Weiss, the Center for Biological Diversity’s West Coast wolf organizer and one of the authors of the report.

She said that in 56 documented cases over the past 30 years wolves have dispersed from designated recovery areas into other states, often with disastrous results ending with the wandering animals being shot.

“Wolves are desperately trying to make their way to these places that are good for them. It’s a question of whether we have the political will to let that happen,” she said.

ARIZONA’S UNLIKELY ANIMAL

The idea is more than hypothetical. In recent weeks, a “wolf-like animal” has been repeatedly spotted — and photographed — near the north rim of the Grand Canyon, about 250 miles east of Las Vegas.

The U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service has not yet determined whether the animal is a protected gray wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid, but it does appear to be wearing a radio collar that no longer works.

Some experts believe it’s a gray wolf from the Northern Rocky Mountains, and that it made its way to Northern Arizona from Idaho or central Wyoming, the two closest areas where wolves have been caught and collared.

Wildlife officials expect pending DNA tests of the wolf’s scat will tell them what they are dealing with. If it’s a wolf, they hope to capture the animal, examine it and give it a new, brightly colored radio collar before turning it loose.

There have been no confirmed wolf encounters on the Kaibab Plateau, near the canyon’s north rim, since 1939, said Jeff Humphrey, spokesman for the Fish &Wildlife Service in Arizona.

What’s happening now is rare, regardless of whether the animal turns out to be a hybrid living in the wild, a Northern Rocky gray wolf roughly 700 miles from home, or a Mexican gray wolf that found its way across or around the Grand Canyon from a federal recovery area established along the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998.

“Any of these scenarios would seem far-fetched, but that’s what we’ve got on the ground,” Humphrey said.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Nevada has the least amount of wolf habitat of any Western state, with only patchy areas mostly along the Utah and Idaho borders. The state’s largest potential wolf country is in eastern Lincoln County, near Beaver Dam State Park, no more than 200 miles from downtown Las Vegas.

NO COUNTRY FOR LONE WOLVES

Some are skeptical of the center’s findings.

Brian Wakeling is game division chief for the Nevada Department of Wildlife in Reno. He said he doubts Nevada could support more than a handful of wolves — too few to form a genetically viable pack — because there simply aren’t enough deer and elk to hunt. And it’s been that way for a long time.

“Historically there were never a lot of wolves in Nevada,” Wakeling said. “It’s not unreasonable to think that wolves have occurred in Nevada, but they were certainly not abundant.”

State wildlife officials designated the gray wolf as a game species in 2008, but no sanctioned hunt has been held. Wakeling said the change was made to give state officials the regulatory framework to prosecute anyone who might kill a wolf in Nevada.

Wolves remain federally protected through much of the U.S., at least for now. The Center for Biological Diversity insists they should stay that way until they have been restored to far more of their historic range, which once stretched from coast-to-coast covering more than 75 percent of the country. Their survival cannot be left in the hands of individual states that have shown no ability — or inclination — to protect them, the center argues.

“We didn’t lose wolves because we lost habitat. We lost wolves because we killed them,” said the center’s Weiss. “The Obama Administration must finally acknowledge that recovering wolves to sustainable populations is far from done.”

As for the “wolf-like animal” currently prowling north of the Grand Canyon, Humphrey said it appears to be alone, but that doesn’t mean it’s doomed to stay that way. There have been other well-documented cases of wolves wandering hundreds, even thousands of miles from where they were born, yet still finding a mate.

“Wolves have a way of finding other other wolves,” Humphrey said.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

English: Shot at the Minnesota Zoo. A critical...

English: Shot at the Minnesota Zoo. A critically endangered Mexican Gray Wolf is kept captive for breeding purposes. Less than 15 Mexican Wolves are currently estimated to survive in the wild. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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.

Recent Proposal To Remove Protection For Wolves A Bad Move   Leave a comment

Recent Proposal To Remove Protection For Wolves A Bad Move

Recent Proposal To Remove Protection For Wolves A Bad Move

POSTED BY  ON TUE, JUN 11, 2013 AT 10:04 AM

The Obama Administration has recently announced a proposal to lift most federal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states.

An article from ABC by the Associated Press reads:

 

“State and federal agencies have spent more than $117 million restoring the predators since they were added to the endangered species list in 1974. Today more than 6,100 wolves roam portions of the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.

 

With Friday’s announcement, the administration signaled it’s ready to move on: The wolf has rebounded from near-extermination, balance has been restored to parts of the ecosystem, and hunters in some states already are free to shoot the animals under state oversight.”

 

Hold on – what?

Because wolves are no longer “near-extermination,” hunters are allowed to shoot the animals again?

I understand that we can’t let a wolf population grow so large that it becomes impossible to contain, but I do feel that this decision was made a little carelessly.

The article goes on to explain that hundreds of wolves have been killed in recent years by “government wildlife agents responding to livestock attacks.”

By lifting wolf protections, ranchers will no longer have to suffer from their livestock being killed by wolves, apparently.

But what about areas that still have space for wolves? Areas that do not include farmland, that would ecologically benefit from having a wolf population? 

If hunters are allowed to shoot them again, how will they possibly continue to grow? And if hunted, won’t they start migrating into other territory, where they might not be wanted or needed? I may not be a wolf expert, but this decision seems a little counterproductive.

According to Defenders of Wildlife– 
“Wolves keep large herd animals in check, which can benefit numerous other plant and animal species. The carcasses of their prey also help to redistribute nutrients and provide food for other wildlife species, most notably other scavengers.”

Just like any animal, wolves play a huge role in the ecosystem. Taking away federal protection not only endangers the wolves themselves, it endangers the environment.

 

Gray Wolves have been hunted to near extinction.

  • Joel Sartore – National Geographic
  • Gray Wolves have been hunted to near extinction.

 

Luckily, the proposal has not been without a fight.

According to the same article from ABC, The Center for Biological Diversity has vowed to take court action against the government if the animals are removed from the endangered species list as planned.

The Center for Biological Diversity released a press release on Friday, including a letter to Washington, D.C. from some of the “world’s leading wolf researchers,” and a quote from Noah Greenwald, endangered species director, who stated, “This proposal is a national disgrace. Our wildlife deserve better.”

The letter begins:

 

As scientists with expertise in carnivore taxonomy and conservation biology, we are writing to express serious concerns with a recent draft rule leaked to the press that proposes to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 States, excluding the range of the Mexican gray wolf. Collectively, we represent many of the scientists responsible for the research referenced in the draft rule.
Based on a careful review of the rule, we do not believe that the rule reflects the conclusions of our work or the best available science concerning the recovery of wolves, or is in accordance with the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

 

The full letter can be found here.

It is truly heartbreaking to see such blatant disregard of our wildlife, especially against the word of reputable scientists around the country. I have to agree with Noah Greenwald on this one – The proposal is a national disgrace.

Shame on you, Obama Administration.

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