Western wolf delisting looms

This article says it may be Feb. 28, but I just heard it will be tomorrow.

Story in the Idaho Mountain Express.

I see what might appear to be two rival strategies emerging among conservation groups to deal with delisting. In fact, I think this might be a good idea even though it will leave some bruised feelings, but more about that when I learn more.

One other item, Montana set up the details of a wolf hunting season today (as expected). Reaction to the details are still coming in.


Regarding the Mountain Express article above, I have to take issue with the reporter’s statement that the reintroduced wolf population in the 3 state area grew by “leaps and bounds” from 66 wolves to 1500.

It was 12 years. If deer, elk, jackrabbits, fox, etc. had been reintroduced into good habitat and protected, would 66 to 1500 in 12 years be considered “leaps and bounds,” “remarkable,” or any of the common terms many writers use? Wolves are short-lived species capable fast reproduction, but also quick depopulation if a pup year fails or the habitat declines.

If a long-lived species like humans, elephants, or tortoises had grown from 66 to 1500, that might be “leaps and bounds.”

Some Yellowstone Park wolf news

Although I expect Kathie Lynch may soon have a detailed report, I got information about a few items today.

The Bechler Pack of SW Yellowstone (the only pack down there) was finally seen. It had eleven members and was several miles south of the Park near the Idaho/Wyoming border. While they will go back to the Park, this points out a serious problem with Wyoming wolf management, the Bechlers, a Yellowstone Park wolf pack could be shot during a Wyoming trophy hunt season when they leave the Park as many Park packs sometimes do.

There has been a pretty wild mating season, with a lot of cross pack mating. In a first, an alpha male (of the Leopold’s 534M) was seen mating with the beta female of the rival Agate Pack (471F). He had already mated with his “mate,” the Leopold alpha female.

302M has left the Druids, at least temporarily, and is probably doing his favorite thing, searching for love.

Genetic research by Dan Stahler, and others,* has shown that the Park wolves have gone to great lengths (although I doubt they are thinking of genetic diversity as they check each other out) to avoid inbreeding.

The Haydens might have found a new home range. It is the territory left abandoned as the new Swan Lake Pack disintegrated — from Mammoth, north to Norris Geyser Basin. Two of the five Hayden’s got radio collars — the new adult male of the pack, who will be 639M and the well known black pup, who is now 638M. Dan Stahler finds the black pup very ineresting in that his is likely the son of the pack’s former beta or subordinate female and a black interloper. If he came from the alpha pair, he should be gray or light gray like the other 2 surviving pups.

Recently a Druid pup, among other Druids was radio collared. While still somewhat under the effect of the drug, two gray wolves, unseen by the darters and collarers, came down, and one tried to attack the pup. The pup is apparently not hurt and is seen looking perfectly fit now among the rest of the Druids.


* The genealogy and genetic viability of  reintroduced Yellowstone Gray Wolves.  Molecular Ecology (2007).  Bridgett M. Vonholdt, Daniel R . Stahler, Douglas W. Smith, Dent A. Earl, John P. Pollinger, and Robert K. Wayne

EPA slams new plan for gas field near Pinedale, WY

Wow, if Bush’s EPA doesn’t like it, it must have a really terrible environmental impact.

EPA slams new plan for Sublette gas field. Watchdog agency rips BLM proposal, says past study underestimated pollution by factor of 5. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide

“The EPA letter comes in response to the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal for two options to develop 4,399 new wells on 12,278 acres of the Pinedale Anticline, late last year. The anticline is a tight-sands gas reserve beneath the Pinedale Mesa, located about 70 miles southeast of Jackson.

The windswept mesa is winter range to mule deer that summer as far away as Snow King Mountain and rises on a migration route for antelope that summer in Grand Teton National Park.”

Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Challenging Illegal Sheep Grazing in Yellowstone Ecosystem

For years the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station, headquartered at Dubois, Idaho (not Dubois, Wyoming) has been grazing sheep in the top of the Centennial Mountains and elsewhere in the general area, and with no environmental analysis.

After yet another successful lawsuit by Western Watersheds and the Center for Biological Diversity, represented by Advocates for the West, they have agreed to do their first environmental analysis.

I recently found out they winter the sheep at the base of Lemhi Mountains in high semi-arid country. I had wondered since 1972, when I first went there, why this country looked so beaten out come spring.

Ralph Maughan

For Immediate Release, February 20, 2008


Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 534-0360
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 788-2290
Todd Tucci, Advocates for the West, (208) 342-7024

Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Challenging Illegal Sheep Grazing in Yellowstone Ecosystem: U.S. Sheep Experiment Station Agrees to Conduct Environmental Analysis

Boise, Idaho – The Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project have reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in eastern Idaho to resolve a lawsuit filed last summer. The settlement requires the U.S. Sheep Station to analyze the environmental effects of the sheep grazing under the National Environmental Policy Act and to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the impacts of the sheep grazing on threatened and endangered species. The Sheep Station is part of the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The presence of these thousands of domestic sheep, and management actions taken on their behalf, harms sensitive and endangered native wildlife such as Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, lynx, gray wolves, and grizzly bears – and yet these impacts have never been examined on the thousands of acres that are directly managed by the U.S. Sheep Station in southeastern Idaho and southwestern Montana. Analysis of impacts on the even larger tracts of national forest and Bureau of Land Management public lands is decades out of date and was cursory.

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Tiger Breeder looks at Eastern Idaho for his facility

There are elk farms, and now a tiger breeder wants to build a facility in Eastern Idaho. Unlike elk, to which Idaho’s Department of Agriculture hands out permits like politicians hand out brochures, the Dept. is fighting this and the proponent fighting the denial of a permit in court.

Tiger breeder eyes Idaho. Jackson Hole Star Tribune.

Defenders of Wildife gives Montana a grant and Montana takes over wolf compensation

Here is the version of the story from the Missoulian. State set to take over wolf kill payments. By Perry Backus of the Missoulian.

“Over its 20-year history, the Defenders of Wildlife have made 276 payments to Montanans totaling more than $317,000 for 336 cattle, 689 sheep, 16 livestock dogs and 15 other animals, including mules and llamas”

$317,000 over 20 years. I read that and I am shocked at how little direct economic damage wolves have done. Some might say $317,000 is a lot of money, and yes, consider this . . . if you extrapolate, then over 200 years wolves might do over 3-million dollars damage, and 2000 years, 30-million dollars.

Defenders expects, and Montana says they will use part of the state fund to provide for new mitigation efforts that help keep wolves separated from domestic animals. This in fact might be the least cost solution, especially when social conflict is factored in.

When a popular wolf pack is terminated by the government because of minor livestock losses, and especially when there are volunteers or people that would work for expenses or a small stipend to patrol and keep wolves and livestock apart, citizens can make the killing of that pack quite costly.

Right now we stand at the brink of an era of decreasing conflict on this issue, working these problems out, or one of escalation of ill feeling. I’m not just, or even especially writing about Montana.

Addition: Montana wants to build this fund up to $5-million, which is far more than any conceivable losses from wolves given the 20-year record above. This means they should have plenty of money to employ people and techniques to keep wolves and livestock apart — fewer dead cows and sheep, and fewer dead wolves. I think a majority of people would find this to be a better solution than to have to compensate after the fact.