Wolf News Roundup 12/20/2019
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
December 20, 2019
Wyoming Wolf Hunt
Of the total quota of 35 wolves available for legal harvest in the state’s wolf trophy zone this hunting season, 26 wolves have been killed by hunters as of Dec. 19. An additional 22 wolves have been killed so far this year in the remainder of Wyoming, where wolves are classified as predators.
With the Sept. 1 opening of the wolf hunting season in many of western Wyoming’s trophy wolf hunt areas, quotas have been reached in six hunt areas, so those areas are now closed. All wolf hunting areas in the trophy zone close at the end of the year.
Yellowstone pups killed
On Tuesday, November 19, 2019, two wolves from the Junction Butte Pack were fatally hit around sunset on the road between Tower Junction and the Northeast Entrance. A necropsy confirmed the black male and female pups died from a vehicle strike. Yellowstone law enforcement officers are investigating the incident. The Junction Butte Pack is one of the most frequently observed packs in the park. Their territory ranges between Tower Junction and Lamar Valley.
During the summer of 2019, the pack of 11 adults attended a den of pups near a popular hiking trail in the northeastern section of the park. Wanting to keep visitors and wolves apart, the park closed the den and surrounding area to the public. When the pups approached the trail and were in proximity to hikers, most people quickly moved away. However, some people violated the required 100-yard distance from wolves and approached the pups when they were on or near the trail to take a photo. Other people illegally entered the closed area to get near the wolves. Having grown accustomed to hikers, the pups then came close to visitors along a road.
Yellowstone staff hazed the pups several times over the last five months in an attempt to make them more wary of people and roads. This effort was never fully successful and the pups continued to demonstrate habituated behavior due to continued close encounters with visitors.
"Having studied these pups since birth, I believe their exposure to, and fearlessness of people and roads could have been a factor in their death," said Yellowstone’s senior wolf biologist Doug Smith. "Visitors must protect wolves from becoming habituated to people and roads. Stay at least 100 yards from wolves, never enter a closed area, and notify a park ranger of others who are in violation of these rules."
The National Park Service (NPS) in collaboration with the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) concluded summer predation monitoring by the wolves introduced to the Isle Royale ecosystem in the fall of 2018 and winter of 2019. This marks the first time wolf predation has been monitored on Isle Royale during snow-free periods. The monitoring effort utilized the most recent advances in the study of wolf predation patterns.
Park staff and research partners from SUNY-ESF used GPS data from collars on the introduced wolves to identify "clusters" of locations that signified areas where wolves spent extended periods of time. Between May and October, field crews visited 381 of these sites, determined wolf behavior associated with site use, and located the remains of 60 prey, including primarily moose, beavers, and snowshoe hares.
Not unexpectedly, researchers found that the new wolves adapted well to the island environment, feeding on the moose and beaver populations of Isle Royale. A little more than half of prey remains (54.5%) were moose, demonstrating introduced wolves had few problems adjusting to this larger prey. Of the moose preyed upon, 63.4% were calves. Although not specifically designed to identify smaller prey, the predation monitoring also revealed the importance of beaver and snowshoe hare in the diets of wolves.
"Combining recent advances in technology with our knowledge of predator-prey relations will provide new insights, not only in the year-round foraging ecology of wolves on Isle Royale, but their overall role in this island ecosystem," said Dr. Jerry Belant, Professor at SUNY-ESF and collaborative partner on wolf research.
Along with other research designed to identify ecosystem effects, the NPS and researchers from Michigan Technological University (MTU) and SUNY-ESF will continue to document wolf predation each winter and summer to monitor the restoration of wolf predation, its effects on Isle Royale’s moose population, and more importantly, the health of the island community as a whole. GPS data led to the discovery of 24 moose carcasses by investigators and volunteers associated with MTU that will assist their long-term research, specifically the reconstruction of moose population estimates over time. Rolf Peterson, a research professor from MTU who helps direct citizen science teams of "Moosewatch" volunteers in the field, stated "our team members found it fascinating to explore clusters of wolf locations from last winter and spring, trying to locate bones from moose that had been killed or scavenged by wolves."
Science magazine has printed an article noting that the larger wolves relocated from Canada have been more successful than mainland wolves, noting, "the presence of their pack mates and their large physical stature gave them a leg up in getting through the snow to hunt moose again" compared to the mainland wolves, which "in contrast, were not moose hunters and were generally smaller, although they were considered healthy at the times they were moved to Isle Royale."
Check out the links below for details on these stories.