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WORLD WOLF NEWS  



                       

 


Outmoded notion of the alpha wolf

The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species," written in 1968, published in 1970, republished in paperback in 1981, and currently still in print, despite my numerous pleas to the publisher to stop publishing it. Although most of the book's info is still accurate, much is outdated. We have learned more about wolves in the last 40 years then in all of previous history.

One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. "Alpha" implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that's all we call them today, the "breeding male," "breeding female," or "male parent," "female parent," or the "adult male" or "adult female." In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the "dominant breeder" can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a "subordinate breeder."

  April 12, 2013 – Gray wolf populations were extirpated from the western United Stated by the 1930s. Public attitudes towards predators changed and wolves received legal protection with the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. Subsequently, wolves from Canada occasionally dispersed south and successfully began recolonizing northwest Montana (MT) in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, 66 wolves from southwestern Canada were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park (YNP) (n=31) and central Idaho (ID) (n =35). Recovery goals of an equitably distributed wolf population containing at least 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs in 3 recovery areas within MT, ID, and Wyoming (WY) for at least 3 consecutive years were reached in 2002. By 2012, the entire Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment (NRM DPS) was delisted and wolves were managed under State authority in MT, ID, WY, eastern one-third of Washington (WA) and Oregon (OR), and a small part of north central Utah (UT). Based on minimum population counts, the 2012 NRM DPS wolf population contained >1,674 wolves in >321 packs with >103 breeding pairs (MT >625wolves in >147 packs with >37 breeding pairs; ID >683 in >117 packs with >35 breeding pairs; WY >277 wolves in >43 packs with >21 breeding pairs; WA >43 wolves in >7 packs with >4 breeding pairs; and OR >46 wolves in >7 packs with >6 breeding pairs). No packs were documented in Utah (UT).

Seeking Common Ground In Wolf Settlement

Last week's landmark wolf management settlement paves the way for the future of wolf recovery in Oregon.

It's often easy to despair that Oregon's anti-wolf and pro-wolf factions will ever find common ground.

Absolutists on one side view gray wolves as four-legged piranhas that devour cattle and sheep, defy wildlife management plans and should be hunted to extinction, as they were a century ago. Their counterparts on the other side insist that wolves must be protected at all costs because of their contributions to the ecosystem and their historic vulnerability to the unwarranted fear and loathing of no-wolf forces. Fortunately, some people understand that a workable wolf recovery plan will require concessions on both sides.

Last week a group of such pragmatists agreed to a settlement in a lawsuit that for the past year and a half has prohibited the killing of wolves that prey on livestock. The agreement, announced by Gov. John Kitzhaber's office, creates strict new guidelines that make killing wolves that prey on cattle and sheep a last resort after nonlethal protections have been exhausted and livestock attacks have become chronic. The rules give ranchers greater authority to kill wolves that attack or chase their herds, but only under strictly limited circumstances.

Purists on both sides are certain to be unhappy about this settlement. The no-wolf faction wants nothing less than open season on wolves, failing to understand that most Oregonians want wolf recovery to continue. Some adamantly pro-wolf folks oppose the killing of any wolves, even those known to be chronic killers of livestock. They fail to acknowledge how this puts an untenable burden on ranchers and stokes opposition to wolf recovery in rural areas.

   

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by conservation groups two years ago after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a kill order for two wolves in the Imnaha Pack, the first pack to form in Oregon from wolves crossing the Snake River from Idaho. The lawsuit claimed that the kill order violated the state Endangered Species Act and could lead to the destruction of the pack.

   

The Oregon Court of Appeals barred the state from killing wolves until the lawsuit was resolved, making Oregon the only state with wolves where authorities could not kill those that preyed on livestock. In an intriguing development that merits further study, the numbers of wolves increased in Oregon while the court order was in effect, yet the number of livestock killed by wolves decreased. By contrast, extensive hunting in Idaho has decreased the number of wolves in that state but has resulted in an increase in livestock attacks.

   

This isn't the first time that a landmark compromise has paved the way for wolf recovery in Oregon. In 2003, the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission appointed a task force made up of ranchers, conservationists, hunters, economists and tribal representatives who forged a visionary but practical strategy that made Oregon the first Western state to independently embrace the return of gray wolves.

That plan, like the wolf population itself, has proven to be a work in progress. Last week's settlement represents the latest course correction, one that should help reduce conflicts between wolves and ranchers and enhance the prospects for the long-term recovery of the gray wolf .

   

- Gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain region will no longer be protected under the endangered species act.

- This means states will manage control of the animals and hunting will resume in some states.

- Gray wolves in Wyoming will remain under federal management until the state has a management plan.

The U.S. government said Wednesday it is formally removing about 1,300 gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain region from the endangered species list, acting on the orders of Congress last month.The Interior Department will also seek to remove thousands more wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered list because they have recovered to "healthy levels," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters.

   

The issuing of the final rule means that states will manage control of the animals, and that hunting will resume in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Utah, Oregon and Washington.Gray wolves in Wyoming will remain under federal management until that state develops a suitable management plan, he said.

"The recovery of gray wolves in the United States is a tremendous success story of the Endangered Species Act," said Salazar."From a biological perspective, gray wolves have recovered. It is now time to return their management to states that are prepared to ensure the long-term health of the species."The move caps a long political and legal battle that dates back to the George W. Bush Administration.Last month, an annex was added to the highly disputed budget bill, removing the wolves in that range from federal protection, marking the first time Congress ever removed an animal from the endangered species list.Environmental groups opposed the move, but admitted defeat after years of fighting in court to preserve the endangered status of the gray wolves.

   

The wolves had all but disappeared from the region until they were reintroduced in the 1990s, and their protected status has allowed them to reach a total population of 1,651 across the entire Rocky Mountain region, including Wyoming, which is not affected by Wednesday's decision, said the Sierra Club.But ranchers say wolves are a nuisance to livestock and could even threaten humans if their population grows too large.Salazar said the government would accept public comments on its proposal to delist gray wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin before acting further."To be sure, not everyone will be satisfied with today's announcement," Salazar said."Wolves have long been a highly charged issue but let us not lose sight of the fact that these delistings are possible because the species has recovered in these areas."

Although gray wolves were reintroduced into the Northern Rocky Mountains in 1995, with promises to foster their recovery, wolf persecution resurfaced 14 years later. In March 2009, the Obama administration’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar activated a Bush administration plan to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Five hundred wolves were shot that year in Idaho and Montana by hunters and federal agents under the “livestock protection” banner. One legal defender of wolves was a federal judge whose subsequent rulings blocked wolf hunting proposals created by government bureaucrats.

Although there are thought to be only 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, these states championed their ranchers’ and elk hunters’ interest in removing wolves from the ESA and legalizing public wolf hunts.
Since the ESA passed in 1973, no species has been delisted  stripped of their legal protections  in political bargains, despite the Bush administration’s repeated attempts to weaken the Act. Scientific reasons prompted delistings. But in April 2011’s budget bill, a deal was cut. “Science has been subordinated to political instrumentalism, setting a dangerous precedent for the future,” warned David N.Cassuto, Professor of Law at Pace University School of Law, in an April 19, 2011 editorial in The Christian Science Monitor.

On Friday, April 8, 2011, Rep. Mike Simpson (R, ID) and Senator Jon Tester (D, MT) conspired to overturn Judge Donald Molloy’s ruling in U.S. District Court last summer, which returned wolves to the endangered species list, thus safeguarding their lives in the western region.Simpson’s and Tester’s trigger fingers attached an irrelevant rider into the federal budget bill pending before Congress to remove federal protections from the wolves of most of the Northern Rockies. They threw the wolves’ fates to Idaho and Montana hunters. Jay Tutchton, an attorney at WildEarth Guardians told High Country News that the actions of Tester/Simpson were “cowardly…because slipping wolves into a ‘must have’ budget bill pre-empts the legislation from being open to full scrutiny, and from being argued on its own merits.”
 


The wolves were in a particularly weak position at this point, as several environmental groups had just attempted to cut a settlement deal to remove ESA protections from wolves. Molloy refused to accept that settlement—on two main grounds. First, Malloy had already ruled that the 2009 delisting was legally flawed, and declined to go back on that ruling. Second, the settlement wouldn’t satisfy all the parties, especially the four environmental groups which, represented by Tutchton, rightly wanted to keep their original court victory.
Immediately after Judge Molloy’s ruling against the delisting scheme, Montana’s Senator Tester started talking about delisting wolves as part of his political campaign. Tester, a cattle rancher, is battling Rep. Denny Rehberg (R, MT) in the upcoming 2012 election, and apparently thinks the state’s biggest wolf-hater will garner the most votes.Congressional leaders and the White House gambled that wolf hunting might save Tester’s seat in the Senate, so with a wink and nod, the rider had few votes to slow it down.

 

As noted above, 10 of the 14 plaintiff groups that sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and theU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to block them from delisting wolves made a strange decision in March 2011. The moved to settle the lawsuit, and place wolves under state management in Idaho and Montana. This would have exposed wolves in two states to public hunts. The groups said such a settlement would protect more wolves than a delisting that eliminates wolf protections in five states.



Most oddly of all, the ten groups claimed anti-wolf sentiment would grow if they held the line. They were offering political (not ecological) reasons to compromise. How could “anti-wolf sentiment” get any worse? Idaho’s Gov. Butch Otter already claims “respect” can be the same as “hate” for wolves, and has boasted about joining a wolf trophy hunt.Judge Molloy sided with the four non-settling parties and rejected the settlement on the day Tester and Simpson imposed the wolf rider.

A week later, on April 14th, Congress, as expected, approved the budget deal, including the rider that directs Ken Salazar to reinstate the 2009 decision that delists wolves in five states: Idaho, Montana, Washington, Utah and Oregon. Wyoming is expected to follow.“This is more than a victory for Montana,” chirped Tester, who chairs the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, “and it’s what’s right for the wolves themselves.”Denise Boggs, the Executive Director of the Montana-based Conservation Congress, has a sobering view of Tester: “He’s a consummate liar who has gone back on virtually every environmental promise he made while unning for the Senate.”Attorney Jay Tutchton warns that once Obama signs the bill, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will re-publish its 2009 delisting rule in the Federal Register and then that rule delisting wolves will be in effect.



Ask not why Congressional leaders felt they had read the tea leaves on how environmentalists would react to their reckless, revolting deal-making that preserved the wolf rider in the 2011 budget. Ten groups — a few of them extremely wealthy - showed their disinterest in wrangling with Congress, crafting an unnecessary “settlement” to heave wolves to hunters in Montana and Idaho.



 




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