Archive for the ‘U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’ Tag

Idaho Begins 2015 With 3-Day Wolf and Coyote Hunt   2 comments

From:  TakePart article

Jan. 02, 2015 by Emily Gertz

A gray wolf looks out from its snow-covered shelter. Some hunters are beginning 2015 with a 3-day coyote and wolf-hunting contest near Salmon, Idaho.

 

The Predator Hunting Contest and Fur Rendezvous, organized by a group called Idaho for Wildlife, began at sunrise Thursday morning and ends on Sunday, Jan. 4.  The hunt is happening on about 3 million acres of privately owned ranchlands, as well as U.S. Forest Service land, near Salmon, a town in eastern-central Idaho that bills itself as “the birthplace of Sacajawea.”

A listing on coyotecontest.com notes that the contest includes two youth categories (ages 10–13 and 14–17) and bars traps as well as aerial and dog-assisted hunting. Idaho for Wildlife’s website was inaccessible at press time.

In mid-November, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued a five-year permit to Idaho for Wildlife that would have allowed the hunt on BLM lands throughout the state. But the BLM withdrew the permit two weeks later after conservation advocates sued the agency for not fully investigating the hunt’s environmental impacts, reported The Oregonian.

The BLM also received 56,500 public comments on the permit, most of them against the hunt, reported Boise State Public Radio.

The coyotecontest.com listing notes that participants must “sign a waiver stating that no predators taken on BLM land will be eligible” for prizes, suggesting that hunters might pursue animals on the agency’s lands nonetheless.

Wolves were nearly wiped out in the contiguous 48 states by the 1960s, and they were protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. But their numbers didn’t grow significantly until active efforts began in the 1990s to reintroduce them in some parts of their historic U.S. range.

Wolf populations in Alaska are considered healthy, while in Canada wolves still inhabit nearly all of their historic range. “We have 6,000 wolves in Alberta alone,” University of Alberta biologist Mark Boyce told Nature News recently. “Except for Mexican wolves, the populations in the lower 48 states add nothing to the genetic diversity of the species,” while expanding them could lead to more predation on livestock herds, he believes.

Since 2009, the Obama administration has removed federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies, including in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, as well as for wolves in nine states across the western Great Lakes region, including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Those moves turned wolf management over to the states.

But last month, a federal judge restored federal protection to wolves in the western Great Lakes, finding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had violated the ESA when it took them off the endangered list in 2012. “[A]t times, a court ‘must lean forward from the bench to let an agency know, in no uncertain terms, that enough is enough,’ ” wrote U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in her final ruling on Dec. 19.

“This case is one of those times,” Howell continued, describing the move to delist the Great Lakes wolves as “no more valid than the agency’s three prior attempts to remove federal protections for a population of gray wolves, which are otherwise members of an endangered species.”

 

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Rare gray wolf seen at Grand Canyon may be dead   1 comment

From:  azCentral 12 News

Dec. 30, 2014 by Brenna Goth

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(Photo: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

 

The federally protected female wolf seen last month near the Grand Canyon may have been shot and killed in southwestern Utah on Sunday, wildlife groups fear.

If that’s true, the first northern gray wolf seen in northern Arizona in 70 years has been lost.

A hunter shot the radio-collared animal over the weekend in the Tushar Mountains outside of Beaver, Utah, according to a release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The mountains are about 200 miles north of the Grand Canyon.

The hunter mistook the animal for a coyote, the agency said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not confirmed the wolf’s identity. But the Utah agency said the federal service identified the animal as a 3-year-old, female northern gray wolf. She was collared last January in Wyoming.

That description and the wolf’s location means she was likely the Grand Canyon wanderer, said Michael Robinson, wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

That wolf, first seen in northern Arizona in October, has has been celebrated by conservationists as a symbol of hope for the species’ recovery. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the wolf traveled at least 450 miles to reach northern Arizona and was likely looking for food or a mate.

“Justice should be done for this animal,” Robinson said. “This shouldn’t just be brushed under the rug.”

MONTINI: Hooowl no! What this killing teaches us about wolves, and us.

Conservationists were early advocates for the radio-collared animal spotted and photographed by visitors and hunters on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon National Park.

State wildlife agencies worked together to track the animal after they discovered its radio collar was dead. They were originally unsure if it was a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid.

An animal seen north of Grand Canyon on Oct 27, 2014.

An animal seen north of Grand Canyon on Oct 27, 2014.(Photo: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

 

In November, a genetic test on the animal’s scat showed it was the first Rocky Mountain gray wolf seen in the area since the 1940s.

Attempts to replace the wolf’s tracking collar were unsuccessful, though the agency said DNA tests could confirm its identity from previously captured wolves.

Gray wolves were once common in the area but disappeared in the early 1900s after being hunted and killed. Robinson said last month that the wolf’s presence proved the Grand Canyon was still a suitable environment for the species.

Sunday’s death — whether or not it’s the same wolf — is a setback, he said.

“Whether it was persecution or recklessness, it highlights that wolves still need protection,” he said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is calling for a full investigation into the Sunday shooting.

Conservation officials are still reviewing the case, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

 

Study: Killing wolves doesn’t result in fewer livestock attacks   Leave a comment

From:  UPI

“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” Rob Wielgus said.
 By Brooks Hays   |   Dec. 4, 2014 at 11:31 AM

PULLMAN, Wash., Dec. 4 (UPI) — The frequent fights that boil up over the protection of wild predators routinely feature the same interested parties — conservationists and animals rights activists one on side, ranchers on the other.

Understandably, ranchers are consistently concerned about their ability to protect their herds — their assets. But now, new research may weaken their bargaining position, as recent scientific evidence suggests killing wolves does not reduce the frequency of livestock attacks.

Researchers at the Washington State University arrived at their findings after analyzing 25 years of lethal control data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The data on wolf killings in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho showed that killing a single wolf actually increased the chance of livestock attacks the following year.

One dead wolf increased odds of depredations four percent for sheep herds, and five to six percent for cattle. If 20 wolves were shot or trapped the year prior, livestock deaths doubled.

“I had no idea what the results were going to be, positive or negative,” Rob Wielgus, a wildlife biologist at Washington State University, said in a press release. “I said, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see what happened.’ I was surprised that there was a big effect.”

Wielgus, who conducted the research with the help of data analyst Kaylie Peebles, says that killing wolves likely disrupts the social order of the pack. An older mating pair will keep younger, less mature wolves from coupling and starting a family. But should one or both of two mature mating wolves be killed, younger pairs will form. Starting a family limits a wolf’s ability to hunt, and increases the likelihood that a wolf will be forced to seek out easy prey like cattle and sheep.

Wielgus encourages ranchers to use more effective non-lethal strategies like guard dogs, range guards on horseback, flags and spotlights.

“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” Wielgus said, “and society has told us that that’s not going to happen.”


 

The study was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE:

Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations

  • Robert B. Wielgus,
    Kaylie A. Peebles mail
  • Published: December 03, 2014
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113505

Abstract

Predator control and sport hunting are often used to reduce predator populations and livestock depredations, – but the efficacy of lethal control has rarely been tested. We assessed the effects of wolf mortality on reducing livestock depredations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from 1987–2012 using a 25 year time series. The number of livestock depredated, livestock populations, wolf population estimates, number of breeding pairs, and wolves killed were calculated for the wolf-occupied area of each state for each year. The data were then analyzed using a negative binomial generalized linear model to test for the expected negative relationship between the number of livestock depredated in the current year and the number of wolves controlled the previous year. We found that the number of livestock depredated was positively associated with the number of livestock and the number of breeding pairs. However, we also found that the number of livestock depredated the following year was positively, not negatively, associated with the number of wolves killed the previous year. The odds of livestock depredations increased 4% for sheep and 5–6% for cattle with increased wolf control – up until wolf mortality exceeded the mean intrinsic growth rate of wolves at 25%. Possible reasons for the increased livestock depredations at ≤25% mortality may be compensatory increased breeding pairs and numbers of wolves following increased mortality. After mortality exceeded 25%, the total number of breeding pairs, wolves, and livestock depredations declined. However, mortality rates exceeding 25% are unsustainable over the long term. Lethal control of individual depredating wolves may sometimes necessary to stop depredations in the near-term, but we recommend that non-lethal alternatives also be considered.

Figures

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Table 1. AIC and log-likelihood values for forward selection of main effects and interaction effects models of cattle depredations

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.t001

In both models all of the main effects and some two way interactions were found to be statistically significant (Table 2). The number of wolves killed in year one was positively related to the number of cattle depredated the following year (rate ratios = 1.05, 1.05 and 1.06,z = 5.67 and 5.66, 4.69, P<0.001) (Figure 1). For each additional wolf killed the estimated mean number of cattle depredated the following year increased by 5 to 6%. The number of breeding pairs was also positively related to the number of cattle depredated (rate ratios = 1.08, 1.09 and 1.08, z = 6.28, 4.87 and 6.04, P = 0.0336 and <0.001) (Figure 2). For each additional breeding pair on the landscape the estimated mean number of cattle depredated the following year increased by 8 to 9%. Breeding pairs were highly correlated with numbers of wolves (Table S2).
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Figure 1. Wolves killed vs cattle depredated.

Number of wolves killed through control methods the previous year versus the number of cattle depredated the following year. The dashed lines show the upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval for the best fit line.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.g001

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Figure 2. Number of breeding pairs vs cattle depredated.

Number of breeding pairs present on the landscape the previous year versus the number of cattle depredated the following year. The dashed lines show the upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval for the best fit line.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.g002

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Table 2. Summary of best model for cattle depredated.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.t002

There was also one important 2-way negative interaction for the relationship between the increasing numbers of wolves killed and decreasing breeding pairs on livestock depredations (rate ratios = 0.99, z = −5.39, −5.49 and −5.12, P<0.001. In our models, the main effects of wolves killed was increased depredations. But the negative interaction effect in the model shows that depredations ultimately declined with increased wolf kills as number of breeding pairs decreased. These conflicting effects on livestock depredations are represented here as proportion of wolves killed vs. cattle depredations in (Figure 3). Depredations increased with increasing wolf mortality up to about 25% mortality but then depredations declined when mortality exceeded 25%.

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Figure 3. The proportion of wolves killed vs cattle depredated.

Proportion of wolves killed the previous year versus the number of cattle depredated the following year. The dashed lines show the upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval for the best fit line.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.g003

One model out of 53 (Table 3) was also selected for determining which factors may influence the number of sheep depredated the following year (Table 4). The model was g(y) = exp [−10.499+0.05539(minimum wolf population) +0.03883(wolves killed through control methods) +3.058×10−5(cattle) +2.077×10−4(sheep) – 5.116×10−4(wolves killed*wolf population) – 4.932×10−7(wolves killed*cattle) – 1.159×10−7(wolf population*cattle) – 3.712×10−6(wolves killed*sheep) – 6.827×10−7(wolf population*sheep) – 3.408×10−10(cattle*sheep) +6.532×10-10(wolves killed*wolf population*cattle) +4.819×10−9(wolves killed*wolf population*sheep) +3.682×10−12(wolves killed*cattle*sheep) – 4.336×10−15(wolves killed*wolf population*cattle*sheep)].
thumbnail

Table 3. AIC and log-likelihood values for forward selection of main effects and interaction effects models of sheep depredations.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.t003

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Table 4. Summary of best following year sheep depredated models.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.t004

Both of the main effects and one interaction effect were significant in this model. Once again, the number of wolves killed was positively related to the number of sheep depredated the following year (rate ratio = 1.04, z = 2.218, P = 0.026) (Figure 4). For each additional wolf killed the estimated mean number of sheep being depredated the following year increased by 4%. The minimum wolf population was also positively related to the number of sheep depredated the following year (rate ratio = 1.06, z = 3.220, P = 0.001) (Figure 5). For each additional wolf on the landscape the estimated mean number of sheep being depredated the following year increased by 6%. The number of cattle and sheep were found to be positively related to the number of sheep depredated but the coefficient was negligible (rate ratios = 1.00 and 1.00, z = 4.718 and 3.320, P = <0.001 and 0.001) which results in an increase of sheep depredated the following year by 1.00 or less than 1%. However, as with cattle, there was an important 2-way negative interaction. Sheep depredations increased with increasing wolf mortality rate up until about 25%, then depredations began to decline after mortality exceeded 25% (Figure 6).
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Figure 4. Wolves killed vs sheep depredated.

Number of wolves killed through control methods the previous year versus the number of sheep depredated the following year. The dashed lines show the upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval for the best fit line.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.g004

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Figure 5. Minimum wolf population vs sheep depredated.

Minimum year end wolf population the previous year versus the number of sheep depredated the following year. The dashed lines show the upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval for the best fit line.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.g005

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Figure 6. Proportion of wolves controlled versus the number of sheep depredated.

Proportions of wolves killed through control methods the previous year versus the number of sheep depredated the following year. The dashed lines show the upper and lower limits of the 95% confidence interval for the best fit line.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.g006

Discussion

Our results do not support the “remedial control” hypothesis of predator mortality on livestock depredations the following year. However, lethal control of wolves appears to be related to increased depredations in a larger area the following year. Our results are supported by the findings of Harper et al. (2008) in Minnesota where they found that across the state (large scale) none of their correlations supported the hypothesis that killing a high number of wolves reduced the following year’s depredations. Harper et al also found that trapping and not catching wolves decreased depredations more than no trapping at all, suggesting that a mere increase in human activity at depredation sites reduced further depredations by those wolves in their study area. By contrast, Bjorge and Gunson (1985) found reducing the population from 40 to 3 wolves in 2 years in Alberta (a 10 fold reduction to near extirpation) resulted in a decline of livestock depredations for two years – followed by subsequent recolonization and increased depredations thereafter. Tompa (1983) also found that lethal control prevented conflict for more than a year in some areas of British Columbia. It should be noted that these 2 studies examined wolf control and livestock depredations at a fine scale (grazing allotment or wolf pack territory or management zone). They did not examine wolf control and livestock depredations at a larger scale (wolf occupied areas) as was done by Harper et al. (2008) and us (this study). It appears that wolf control is associated with reduced depredations at the local wolf pack scale but increased depredations at the larger wolf population scale. This appears consistent with Treves et al. (2005) prediction that the removal of carnivores generally only achieves a temporary reduction in livestock depredations locally when immigrants can rapidly fill the vacancies.
There were several different factors that influenced the number of livestock depredated the following year by wolves. In order of importance, based on the values of the rate ratios, these include: the number of wolves removed through control methods, the number of breeding pairs, the minimum wolf population, and the number of livestock on the landscape. Consistent with expectations, each additional breeding pair on the landscape increased the expected mean number of cattle depredated by 8 to 9% and each additional wolf on the landscape increased the expected mean number of sheep depredated by 6%. Cattle were most affected by breeding pairs and sheep by wolves – perhaps because it takes more than one wolf (a pack) to kill a relatively larger cow and only one wolf to kill a smaller sheep. However, contrary to the “remedial control” hypothesis, each additional wolf killed increased the expected mean number of livestock depredated by 5–6% for cattle and 4% for sheep. It appears that lethal wolf control to reduce the number of livestock depredated is associated with increased, not decreased, depredations the following year, on a large scale – at least until wolf mortality exceeds 25%. Why 25%? The observed mean intrinsic growth rate of wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana is about 25% [21]. Therefore, once anthropogenic mortality exceeds 25%, the numbers of breeding pairs and wolves must decline – resulting in fewer livestock depredations.
Below 25% mortality, lethal control may increase breeding pairs and wolves through social disruption and compensatory, density dependent effects. For example, wolf control efforts occur year round and often peak during grazing season in areas with livestock depredations[22], [23]. However, if control takes place during the breeding season and a member of the breeding pair is removed it may lead to pack instability and increased breeding pairs [24], [10]. Furthermore, loss of a breeder in a pack during or near breeding season can result in dissolution of territorial social groups, smaller pack sizes and compensatory density dependent effects – such as increased per-capita reproduction [11], [25], [26]. Culling of wolves may also cause frequent breeder turnover [11] and related social disruption – which can result in reduced effective prey use (through loss of knowledge of prey sources and ability to subdue prey) which may also result in increased livestock depredations [27], [28]. All of these effects could potentially result in increased livestock depredations.
We would expect to see increased depredations, wolves killed, and breeding pairs as the wolf population grows and recolonizes the area – but our data suggest that lethal control exacerbates these increases. The secondary effects of time, wolf population growth rate, wolf occupied area, and wolf population size on depredations were already subsumed in the primary main effect terms of breeding pairs (cattle) and wolves (sheep), so those secondary effects cannot account for the positive effects of wolf kills on depredations. We do not yet know the exact mechanism of how increased wolf mortality up to ≤25% results in increased livestock depredations, but we do know that increased mortality is associated with compensatory increased breeding pairs, compensatory numbers of wolves, and depredations [24], [10], [27],[28], [11], [26]. Further research is needed to determine the exact causal mechanism(s). Annual mortality in excess of 25% will reduce future depredations, but that mortality rate is unsustainable and cannot be carried out indefinitely if federal relisting of wolves is to be avoided. Furthermore, a 5% (sheep) and 5% (cattle) kill rate of wolves yields the same number of cattle and sheep depredations as a 35% (cattle) and 30% (sheep) kill rate (Figures 3 & 6), but the 30% or 35% rate is unsustainable for wolf population persistence and the 5% rate is not. The worst possible case appears to be a high mortality rate at about 20–25%, since this corresponds to a “standing wave” of the highest livestock depredations. Further research is needed to test if this high level of anthropogenic wolf mortality (25%) is associated with high levels of predation on natural prey such as deer and elk.
Further research is also needed to account for the limitations of our data set. The scale of our analysis was large (wolf occupied areas in each state in each year) and the scale of some other studies were small (wolf packs). Simultaneous, multi-scale analysis (individual wolf packs, wolf management zones, and wolf occupied areas) may yield further insights.
Although lethal control is sometimes a necessary management tool in the near-term, we suggest that managers also consider testing non-lethal methods of wolf control [29] because these methods might not be associated with increased depredations in the long-term.

Supporting Information

Figure_S1.tif1 / 4

Proportion of wolves harvested vs cattle depredated. Proportion of wolves harvested the previous year in each state (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) versus the number of cattle depredated the following year.

Figure S1.

Proportion of wolves harvested vs cattle depredated. Proportion of wolves harvested the previous year in each state (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) versus the number of cattle depredated the following year.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.s001

(TIF)

Figure S2.

Proportion of wolves harvested vs sheep depredated. Proportion of wolves harvested the previous year in each state (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) versus the number of sheep depredated the following year.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.s002

(TIF)

Table S1.

Data by state, 1987–2012. Data for all variables used in the analysis grouped by state from 1987–2012.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.s003

(DOCX)

Table S2.

Pearson correlation matrix. Pearson correlation matrix for independent variables: cattle, sheep, minimum wolf population, wolves harvested and number of breeding pairs.

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113505.s004

(DOCX)

Acknowledgments

This analysis and paper benefitted from the insights and comments of Hilary Cooley (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and John Pierce, Donny Martorello, Brian Kertsen, Ben Maletzke, and Stephanie Simick (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife).

Author Contributions

Conceived and designed the experiments: RBW KAP. Performed the experiments: RBW KAP. Analyzed the data: RBW KAP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: RBW KAP. Wrote the paper: RBW KAP.

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