Disease and migration have reduced the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park by half since 2003 . . .
The gray wolf population in Yellowstone National Park has dropped to about 80 wolves, officials say — less than half of the high population mark in the park.
While Yellowstone leaders won’t have an accurate count until the fall after surviving pups are visible, the park’s top biologist doesn’t expect numbers to rise dramatically after litters are included in population estimates.
“Unfortunately, many of them die. Gray pup survival is about 7 percent,” Doug Smith, long-time project leader for the Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone, said in a Wednesday video broadcast on the park’s Facebook page.
Not entirely unexpected: The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List for for the entire country . . .
U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s run into conflicts with farmers and ranchers after rebounding in some regions, an official told The Associated Press.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the proposal during a Wednesday speech at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Denver, a weeklong conservation forum for researchers, government officials and others, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.
The decision was based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. Further details were expected during a formal announcement planned in coming days.
Montana officials are hoping to try a new, less expensive way to estimate the wolf population . . .
In the span of a human lifetime, gray wolves have re-established their presence in Montana’s mountains and forests.
Human settlers had driven most of the predators out by the early 1930s. But beginning in the 1970s, Endangered Species Act protections and re-introductions fostered a recovery. Montana’s wolf population has grown from about 50 confirmed animals in the 1990s to nearly 500 today.
The recovery is often hailed as a success story for wildlife management. But now, the wolf population’s growth is making management tougher.
Montana plans to change the way they count wolves. The Missoulian has the story. We’ve also included a link to the official Montana FWP press release discussing the subject . . .
Montana wildlife officials say the way they count wolves is too expensive and falls far short of an actual population estimate, so they plan to switch to a model that uses information gathered from hunters.
However, wildlife advocates say wolf numbers are declining and the switch could threaten the species’ survival. They worry the data is too unreliable to be used to manage the population.
The change, expected within the next three years after improvements to the model, will be cheaper than the annual wolf counts conducted now and provide a more accurate estimate of the total population, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said.
Wow! North Forker and NFPA member Diane Boyd has a very nice write-up in the Flathead Beacon titled “The Jane Goodall of Wolves” . . .
In 1979, Diane Boyd left her native Minnesota and headed west to begin tracking the first radio-collared gray wolf from Canada to recolonize the Western U.S., where humans had effectively eliminated the species by the 1930s through hunting, poisoning and habitat loss. Boyd, a 24-year-old wildlife biology graduate student at University of Montana, was fueled by optimistic idealism and boundless energy. When she pulled up to her new home, deep in northwestern Montana’s rugged North Fork Flathead River valley, it was apparent she would need both.
“It was like, ‘Wow,’” Boyd recalls of seeing the cabin, which had no plumbing, electricity or means of communicating with the outside world. “I’d spent a lot of time outdoors, but this was true isolation.”
Though wolves had been extirpated statewide, reports of sightings and shootings started trickling in during the 1960s and ‘70s, leading University of Montana professor Bob Ream to launch the Wolf Ecology Project in 1973, the same year that Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act. It was through the Wolf Ecology Project that researcher Joe Smith trapped a female wolf, dubbed Kishinena, on April 4, 1979 in the North Fork drainage along the northwestern edge of Glacier National Park.
Science is at its best when it produces unexpected results . . .
Research that compared Yellowstone National Park grizzly bear and wolf interactions with those same animals in Sweden has produced a surprising finding: brown bear presence in both ecosystems reduces the wolf kill rate.
“It’s a baffling finding,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s wolf biologist. “To be honest, for 20 years I’ve been saying bears increase wolf kill rates because bears steal so many carcasses.”
That data from two very different ecosystems pointed to the same conclusion helped convince Yellowstone bear biologist Kerry Gunther that the research was “not just a fluke.”
Several conservation groups want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue keeping an eye on things in areas where the gray wolf has been delisted . . .
Five conservation groups on Tuesday asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend its oversight of wolves in Montana and Idaho that is set to expire in May.
The agency removed the two states’ gray wolf populations from the Endangered Species List in 2011 after finding they were sufficiently recovered. The delisting order required the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue monitoring the population for five years as the states’ wildlife agencies assume management of the species.
A group of scientists feels that Montana, as well as other states with wolf populations, are more or less just playing things by ear . . .
A group of 14 scientists with backgrounds in large carnivore research have called on state wildlife management agencies to set “clearly defined, quantitative policy goals” for wolf management.
“One of the big issues in science-based management is to have clear goals,” said Scott Creel, a professor in the Department of Ecology at Montana State University in Bozeman and the lead author of the paper published in the December issue of Science magazine. “Avoiding being listed under the Endangered Species Act is one of the goals, but it’s not clear if that’s the only goal.”
Creel said the conservation policy paper is an “attempt to redefine what is a sustainable level” of wolf removal through hunting, trapping and those killed by stockmen.