Expert scientist questions Wyoming wolf plan – All five scientists asked by the federal government to review Wyoming’s proposed wolf management plans raised concerns about the plan. But one in particular said the plan could jeopardize the future of the state’s wolf population. John Vucetich, a wolf biologist at Michigan Technological University, said the plan doesn’t provide sufficient safeguards to make sure that too many wolves aren’t killed. Specifically, he said the number of wolves allowed to be killed under the plan could result in more dramatic population decline than currently estimated. Read the full story reported in the Casper Trib and download the peer-review comments.
Lucky number 27 in Washington – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says there are at least 27 wolves and three breeding pairs in the state, according to their annual tally. Unfortunately, that’s one less than they would have had, after a collared wolf from the Diamond Pack wandered into Idaho and was trapped on Dec. 20.
Washington has five confirmed packs, with three (Salmo, Smackout, Diamond) in the far northeast corner of the state, one (Lookout) in the north-central part of the state, and one (Teanaway) right in the middle of the state. The Diamond, Smackout and Teanaway all had at least one adult male and one adult female wolf capable of breeding plus two pups that survived through the end of 2011. The wolf recovery plan adopted in December commits wildlife managers to managing for the return of at least 15 breeding pairs distributed broadly across the state.
Journey’s California journey continues, first photo emerges – The latest report from the Sacramento Bee indicates that OR7 remains in California and continues moving south. But now, true to celebrity form, the 2.5-year old wolf has adopted a stage name and his first paparazzi photo has emerged. “Journey” was the winning name in Oregon Wild’s contest, initially submitted by two different children and garnering 40 percent of the online vote. The first picture came from Allen Daniels, a 24-year old hunter in Central Point, Oregon, who set up a remote camera to take pictures of deer.
Hunting restrictions protect Yellowstone wolves – While at least 124 wolves have been killed so far by hunters in Montana, the state’s quota system has helped protect wolves that live primarily in Yellowstone National Park (see full AP story). According to Yellowstone wolf biologist Doug Smith, the four wolves killed this year just north of the park boundary did not live exclusively in the park. This is a sharp contrast to 2009, when 12 wolves were killed just beyond the northern boundary, and four of those wolves were part of the Cottonwood Pack that spent 98 percent of their time inside the park and had been studied closely for years. This year’s quota of three wolves was filled very quickly, and hunting in the region has been closed since October 6.
More evidence that wolves benefit entire ecosystem – A follow-up study by Oregon State University researchers Bob Beschta and Bill Ripple confirms that the return of wolves to Yellowstone has had a positive influence on the park’s ecology (see report in Chicago Tribune). Their most recent study, published online in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, shows that willow, aspen and cottonwood trees in parts of Yellowstone have started to recover since the reintroduction of wolves. Their findings lend support to the theory that wolves reduce elk numbers and change their behavior, which prevents the elk from destroying native vegetation that supports other species. With wolves back on the scene and fewer elk munching on plants in sensitive river bottoms, songbirds and beavers are thriving once again. These trickle-down ecological benefits, known as a “trophic cascade,” result from having more food available for a greater diversity of species. The impact that top predators have up and down the food chain in discussed in great depth in the feature documentary, Lords of Nature: