Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wolves and Prey

Wolves have a reputation for killing needlessly or for fun, but in reality wolves work hard and rarely succeed when hunting large prey like elk, moose, bison, and deer. In Yellowstone National Park, wolves only successfully make a kill in about 1 of every 5 hunting attempts! 
Elk are large, smart animals, and they've evolved alongside wolves for thousands of years. It's extremely difficult for wolves to take down healthy adult elk. Wolves can be injured or killed by a kick from an elk. For this reason, wolves tend to target very young, old, or unhealthy elk. Even so, it takes a huge amount of energy for wolves to chase and (if they can) take down prey.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Working With The Wood River Wolf Project

I spent most of August around the West learning about wolves, wolf recovery, and livestock.
A big highlight was volunteering for the Wood River Wolf Project, which is based in the middle of wolf and sheep country in Idaho. The project, with Lava Lake Lamb, works collaboratively with livestock producers in the community to prevent depredations (killing of livestock) by wolves and other predators. They work with ranchers to implement proactive, nonlethal deterrents including livestock guardian dogs, foxlights, starter pistols, and fladry. They have found that the comprehensive and correct use of these tools has led to a direct decrease in attacks on livestock by wolves - as well as other predators like bears, cougars, and coyotes.
Not only do these methods help ranchers, they also help wolves. When ranchers and their livestock can successfully share the landscape with wolves, it means that less wolves are killed through "lethal control actions" in response to wolf depredations on livestock. Proactively preventing depredations often works much better than reacting after attacks happen.
While volunteering with the Wood River Wolf Project, I helped to conduct howl surveys. Howl surveys involve playing a recorded wolf howl in the backcountry and listening for responses. Responses can determine where and how many wolves might be in a particular area. This helps herders and range riders know where it's safe to move sheep bands and when particular proactive tools should be used.
The Wood River Wolf Project and the livestock producers who put time and energy into living with wolves are a model for wolf/livestock coexistence across the country and world. It was a privilege to work with them and Lava Lake Lamb and to learn more about ranching in wolf country!
Help support other ranchers taking on predator coexistence here:
Specific breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs help to discourage wolves from approaching livestock during certain times of the year.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Springtime for Wolves and Livestock

Springtime means a new generation of wolf pups, but it also means a new generation of sheep and cattle for the summer grazing season. This can lead to conflict between wolves and livestock, as wolf families work to feed their growing pups and young livestock are especially vulnerable. This time of year, it's especially important to use proactive tools like range riders, foxlights, fladry, and others to protect livestock from wolves. About 80% of wolves in a population don't cause problems for ranchers. But it's important to be proactive and make sure those wolves don't start associating livestock with food as they hunt wild prey for their pups.

Photo of Spruce at Wolf Haven International.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Idaho's Wolves

 Idaho's finance committee just approved using another $400,000 in taxpayer money to kill wolves.
This is the third year they've allocated this much money, but they haven't even used most of the money in past years. Representative Burtenshaw argued that they need another $400k because "you get in a helicopter in the air to hunt these wolves and it’s expensive."

Already during 2016, Idaho Fish and Game has shot 23 wolves from helicopters on national forest (public) land. Keep in mind, those "problem" wolves weren't shot because they were killing domestic livestock - they were killed because they were killing elk, wolves' natural prey. Last year, Idaho killed 72 wolves for "preying on livestock or wildlife," and in the winter of 2013/2014 the state hired a professional to snare two wolf packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in order to artificially boost elk populations. Wilderness, as defined by the National Park Service, is supposed to be "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man...which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." 

During the aerial killing programs, aerial sharpshooters need to locate the wolves from helicopters. They do this by tracking the signals of the wolves with radio collars. Sometimes these wolves were collared for research, but sometimes they are collared specifically so that they can later lead the helicopters to their packs. After the sharpshooters have killed as many members of that wolf's family as they can, they leave the collared wolf alive. The hope is that this collared wolf will later join up with other wolves or form its own pack, and the helicopters can come back the next year, using the  collared wolf to track down and kill its family yet again. Conceivably, this collared wolf could go year after year watching its pack die, oblivious that it is the one leading the helicopters straight to them. These wolves are sometimes called "Judas" wolves. A similar system is used to cull wolves in British Columbia and other areas.

 Idaho hopes to reduce their wolf population as much as they can without wolves being re-listed as an endangered species (re-listing would mean that wolves would be protected from public hunting). There is currently an extremely liberal wolf hunting, trapping, and snaring season - with no harvest limit in most of the state - in addition to the government killing programs. One person can buy 5 wolf trapping tags and 5 wolf hunting tags - meaning one person could legally kill 10 wolves during the season.

 Politicians have written the "Wolf Control Board" funding so that the money can ONLY be used for "lethal control" of wolves. None of the money can be used to help ranchers implement nonlethal, proactive deterrents to protect their livestock from wolves, or to compensate ranchers for any potential losses due to wolves.

And while the Idaho government is spending all this taxpayer money to kill wolves, Idaho ranks 49th in the United States on school spending and 46th on education overall. Makes you wonder if that $400,000 per year could be better spent on educating Idaho's kids. Or, if they really want to help elk populations, they could work on habitat restoration after fires, action against invasive plant species, or limiting human development in elk habitat; and if they really want to help ranchers deal with wolves, they could put that money towards training wildlife conflict specialists and providing ranchers with tools to successfully live alongside wolves and wildlife.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Contact Your Senator!

The U.S. Senate has an impending on H.R. 2406 (“Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015”), which includes an amendment that would REMOVE endangered species protection for wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Wyoming - which would lead to wolf hunting reopening in those states. This bill has already passed the house with the harmful amendment.

Please tell your Senator to vote NO on Amendment #2 on H.R. 2406! 

Click here to find your Senator's contact information so you can let them know you care about wolves:

Those 4 states contain the majority of the continental U.S.'s wolf population. In addition, the amendment prohibits any judicial review of the delisting ("delisting" means removal of wolves from the Endangered Species List) ruling - meaning there would be no way to appeal the action, even though a court already ruled that delisting wolves in those states was illegal and against science.

It only takes a minute and it WILL make a huge difference. Politicians don't really care about the wolf issue, but they will care if they know that their constituents and future voters (YOU!) care about wolves. Thank you!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Meeting with the Washington Wolf Advisory Group

       Yesterday I had the opportunity to address Washington state's Wolf Advisory Group, or the WAG. The WAG is a group of stakeholders (hunters, ranchers, and conservationists) that provides different perspectives and recommends strategies for reducing conflict with wolves to the Department of Fish and Wildlife as wolves return to Washington. 
       Because the members of this group have radically different views on wolf management, they had had trouble being productive and respectful towards each other when the group first started out a few years ago; so the department brought in a professional human/wildlife conflict facilitator to help improve the process and build trust between the members. As part of that, the facilitator is having the WAG meet with members of the public with various perspectives on wolves and how they should be managed. In May, the WAG met with some ranchers in wolf territory; yesterday, I voiced my opinion as part of the conservation community; and later, they will meet some hunters. 
        When I spoke to the WAG, I talked about my experiences studying wolves in the wild, why I think wolves are important, and what I think about the conflicts in Washington and in other places. I also talked about my experiences here on Kids4Wolves, interacting with you guys on Instagram and Facebook but also hearing from kids who are hunters and ranchers and have a different opinion about wolves than I do. I talked about how nasty these online conversations sometimes start (as some of you guys may have seen), but also how often we can get to a place where we respect each other's views even if we disagree. I think respect is essential if we want to accomplish anything. Hopefully the members of the WAG can respect each other and get something done for wolves and the communities that live alongside them. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kids4Wolves on Instagram

The main branch of Kids4Wolves is on Instagram; there, we post facts, photos, videos, ways to help, and updates on wolves around the country almost every day. We are up to over 12,000 followers as of September 2015! Please follow us to learn about wolves and to get involved!