Wolf News Roundup
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 15, 2015
While the list of co-sponsors to a Congressional bill that would remove federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes States and Wyoming grows to an impressive bipartisan coalition, wolf advocates are suing in an attempt to stop federal wildlife damage control activities in Idaho. The lawsuit was filed by Western Watersheds Project, Wildearth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater and Project Coyote, against USDA Wildlife Services and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction suspending animal damage control activities until Wildlife Services prepares a full environmental impact statement for its activities in Idaho. The case was filed in federal district court in Idaho.
From Wild To Captive
Meanwhile, wildlife officials with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife captured a wolf in northeastern Washington and placed it into a captive wolf sanctuary. According to a press release from the agency, the wolf had become habituated to humans and could cause problems if left in the wild. "The adult female wolf, the last known member of the Ruby Creek pack, was captured near the community of Ione in Pend Oreille County where she had spent months living near people, domestic dogs and livestock.
Dave Ware, wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the wolf’s behavior prompted concerns she would breed with a domestic dog, produce wolf-dog hybrids in the wild, and become increasingly associated with humans.
"This is a rare situation," Ware said. "We know that placing wolves in captivity is not an option every time there is a problem. In this case, however, we believe permanent placement in a wolf sanctuary is a good match given the animal’s habituation to humans."
Since last fall, the Pend Oreille County Commission has urged WDFW to move the wolf out of Ione, Ware said. Yet, she eluded capture and remained in the area despite the department’s efforts to trap her.
After the wolf’s capture, she was spayed and transported for permanent placement to Wolf Haven International, a non-profit wolf sanctuary and wildlife education facility in Thurston County.
If the wolf does not adapt well to life in captivity, according to criteria developed by the department and Wolf Haven, she will be euthanized. The Ruby Creek pack was confirmed by WDFW in 2013 when two adult female wolves were found traveling together in the area of Ruby Creek south of Ione. A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. Last winter, after the other female mated with a domestic dog, it was captured, spayed and returned to the wild. That wolf was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on a road last spring.
The gray wolf is listed by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as an endangered species in the western two-thirds of the state.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that the annual year-end population survey has documented a minimum of 109 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, up from 83 the year prior (a 31-percent increase in 2014). In 1982, the Mexican wolf recovery team recommended a population of at least 100 wolves as a hedge against extinction.
According to the federal agency: "In spring of 2014, the Interagency Field Team (IFT) successfully implemented a field technique in which genetically valuable pups were transferred to a similarly aged litter of an established pack."
"During the count operation, the IFT captured one of the two pups that were placed in the established pack during 2014, which confirmed this "cross-fostering" technique as an additional method for the IFT to improve the genetics of the wild population. In addition, the IFT conducted 14 releases and translocations during 2014, some of which provide promise for improving the wild population’s genetic health in the future."
"Testing and implementing new management techniques, such as cross-fostering, can help us improve the genetics of the wild population," said Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle. "The experimental population is growing – now our strategy is to focus on establishing a genetically robust population on a working landscape."
The results of the surveys reflect the end-of-year minimum population for 2014. Results come from population data collected on the ground by the IFT from November through December of 2014, as well as data collected from an aerial survey conducted in January and February 2015. This number is considered a minimum number of Mexican wolves known to exist in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, as other Mexican wolves may be present but
uncounted during surveys.
The aerial survey was conducted by a fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter. Biologists used radio- telemetry and actual sightings of wolves to help determine the count. "The results from the aerial survey, coupled with the ground survey conducted by the IFT, confirmed that there are a total of 19 packs, with a minimum of 53 wolves in New Mexico and 56 wolves in Arizona. The current survey documented 14 packs that had at least one pup that survived through the end of the year, with two that had at least five surviving through the end of the year.
"The 2014 minimum population count includes 38 wild-born pups that survived through the end of the year. This is also considered a minimum known number since it might not reflect pups surviving but not documented."