Keeping track of Oregon’s wolves — Biologists with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have been busy so far this summer keeping tabs on all the wolf activity. Earlier in the month, they collared two wolves—a six-year-old male in the Umatilla River area, and a 2-year-old female in the Wenaha pack. This week, they received a trail-cam photo of a lactating female near the Eagle Cap Wilderness area. See photos below, courtesy of ODFW:
Lactating female caught on trail-cam near Eagle Cap Wilderness
Six-year-old male, OR-14
Two-year-old female, OR-13
“Boise” arrives at Busch Gardens – The lone Idaho wolf pup found by a roadside in central Idaho now has a couple of mates at his new home in Williamsburg, Virginia. Zoologists at Busch Gardens have named him “Boise,” and they’re raising him with two other pups brought in from Montana. The pups are handled regularly so they grow accustomed to human contact but will be raised primarily by a surrogate female dog. The zoo manager expects the pups will be on public display within a few weeks. See Busch Gardens press release, video and photos of Boise’s arrival last week.
Woo-hoo for Wood River! — The Idaho Mountain Express reported on last week’s successful workshop, highlighting areas of broad agreement on moving the Wood River Wolf Project forward. As the story notes, not a single wolf has been killed within in the project area since 2008, which demonstrates how effective nonlethal deterrents can be when used appropriately. Wolves have been killed just outside the project area, however, where ranchers have not taken sufficient steps to prevent conflict with livestock. This sharp contrast indicates that innovative management tools really can make a difference.
The final pup-date?– Well, this isn’t how we hoped it would turn out, but it appears the lost wolf pup will be leaving the Boise Zoo soon for a permanent captive facility. (Read the full story in the Idaho Mountain Express.) After two weeks of searching the central Idaho wilderness, our wolf team and Idaho Fish and Game were unable to find the rest of the pup’s pack. The remote cameras we placed did not turn up any evidence near the area where he was found, and dense cover has made it nearly impossible to track wolves from above or below.
Several well-established wolf rescue facilities have offered to make a new home for the pup. In the end, the sad saga reminds us all that wild animals, no matter how apparently helpless or irresistibly cute, are best left alone. The out-of-town campers who found the pup can’t be blamed for trying to help, but the result is still one less wolf in the wild.
Thanks again to everyone who pitched in over the last two weeks, including the Sun Valley Animal Center, Idaho Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service, Steve Garman with Lighthawk, and our many, many supporters in the community.
Ewes lambing near the Flat Top Ranch in central Idaho's Wood River Valley.
Bad to worse at Flat Top ranch — Wildlife Services is after three more wolves in the Wood River Valley after more dead sheep were found this week on the Flat Top Ranch near Carey, Idaho. Ranch owner John Peavey has not yet adopted adequate nonlethal deterrents and continues to leave carcasses out in the field that draw wolves and coyotes to the area. (Read more in the Idaho Mountain Express.) His ewes are spread out in small bands that are unguarded instead of protecting them in lambing sheds, making them an easy target for hungry predators. So far this month, fourteen coyotes and one wolf have been killed to reduce threats to his sheep.
While it may be too late to spare the wolves being blamed for the sheep losses, we’re also concerned that the incident undermines the tremendous success we’ve had to date. For five years, the Wood River Wolf Project has been able to minimize losses, bringing the depredation rate well below the state average. Further, our positive collaboration with wolf advocates, county officials and local ranchers had created much goodwill in the community. We’re hoping Mr. Peavey will take us up on our offer to help him implement a better lambing program to avoid further losses in the future.
Wildlife Services' "killer bee" airplane targets coyotes and wolves for removal in response to sheep losses.
The Flat Top incident has also highlighted the serious failing of USDA Wildlife Services. This federal program’s vision is to improve the coexistence of people and wildlife. However, the only actions they have taken in this instance have made the situation worse. They have been flying the area extensively and killing coyotes and now a wolf instead of helping with nonlethal measures to avoid losses.
Great Lakes wolf management — By and large, the Great Lakes states have done a good job of restoring wolves and putting reasonable management plans in place (if only we could say the same about the Northern Rockies). However, both Wisconsin and Minnesota are quickly moving forward with regulations to allow controlled wolf hunts. Minnesota has issued a survey to solicit feedback from the public on their wolf management. Don’t miss your chance to weigh in! Read more about the survey here. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources is holding three public meetings next week to discuss population monitoring, livestock depredation and wolf hunting. See details below:
Wolf Harvest Rules Meeting – Friday, June 15, open house at 6 p.m., presentations at 7 p.m., James Williams Middle School Auditorium, 915 Acacia Lane, Rhinelander
Wolf Science Committee Meeting – Friday June 15, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Quality Inn, 668 West Kemp St., Rhinelander (open for public observation)
Wolf Stakeholders Committee Meeting – Saturday, June 16, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Quality Inn, 668 West Kemp St., Rhinelander (open for public observation)
Here’s a short video of Suzanne howling on Tuesday night to try to find the pack (nice camera work, Patrick!):
Suzanne and Patrick were able to continue the search on Wednesday thanks to generously donated flight time from Lighthawk, an organization that provides planes and pilots to aid conservation efforts. A very bumpy flight (due to windy conditions) did not turn up the rest of the pup’s pack as the rugged Sawtooth National Forest is not an easy place to spot wolves, especially during the summer when there’s more tree cover and no snow to show their tracks.
Here’s some footage of their search flight on Wednesday that gives a sense of the terrain:
Thanks again to Steven Garman at Lighthawk for his excellent piloting and for donating his time and aircraft. See a few more photos of the expedition:
Suzanne prepares for a survey flight to look for the lost pup's pack.
In the cockpit
Steven Garman of Lighthawk donates his flight time and aircraft.
Patrick Graham, head field techinician for the Wood River Wolf Project, in position to scan the hillsides for wolves.
View from above
Jagged mountains in the Sawtooth National Forest, no sign of wolves
Our crew set up trail cameras on Thursday in hopes of finding the pack while the pup rested comfortably at a zoo in Boise. Several professional wolf rescue facilities have already offered to take the pup if he cannot be returned to the wild, but we at Defenders still have our fingers crossed that he will soon be reunited with his pack.
See more coverage from the Idaho Statesman. Thanks to Idaho Fish and Game for all their help so far.
Flat Top retaliation – The Idaho Mountain Express reported that a young female wolf was killed last week in response to sheep losses at the Flat Top ranch near Carey, Idaho. The wolf was killed by Wildlife Services from an airplane while a kill order is still in effect for another wolf in the area.
Ranch owner John Peavey has left many of his sheep unguarded, and as our wolf expert Suzanne points out, he has done very little to protect his thousand-plus pregnant ewes.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on an amputation,” she said. “It’s not going to be sufficient to address what the problems are, and we’ve made that clear [to Peavey].”
Another local wolf advocate was equally disappointed in Peavey’s efforts to safeguard his livestock. In a letter to the Idaho Mountain Express, Lynne Stone (no relation to Suzanne) writes:
“Aerial gunning of wolves doesn’t need to be happening. There are ways for predators and livestock to coexist. Ranchers must be willing to change. Sheep need a human presence. Guard dogs help, but must be backed up by a person. Sheep cannot be left on their own and be safe.”
Oversight overdue – Speaking of Wildlife Services, the Sacramento Bee published another editorial railing against the “pre-emptive indiscriminate and unnecessary killing of wildlife” by that agency. The Bee called for much stronger oversight at all levels of government, including from California stakeholders who contribute $3-4 million each year to Wildlife Services for predator control.
Top dog vs. big cat – Though we often talk about wolves as “top predators,” they often find themselves on the losing end of battles with other species—and I’m not just talking about with us humans. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf specialist Liz Bradley said in a recent AP report that mountain lions have been responsible for the death of at least two collared wolves in the Bitterroot Valley since January. She found two dead wolves last year too that were likely killed by mountain lions.
This is a stark reminder that life in the wild is tough for all animals and that relationships between species can be quite complicated. The number of predators that can survive in a given area is not just a function of how much prey is available but also the abundance of rival predators.
Suzanne points to wolf tracks by the side of the road believed to be those of the mother and siblings of the lost pup.
Good news! Defenders wolf expert Suzanne Stone and lead field technician Patrick Graham from our Wood River Wolf Project went out last night searching for the lost wolf pup’s family in the central Idaho wilderness. They were able to find tracks of what appear to be the mother and several other pups. The tracks indicate that the mother wolf was using the road to move her litter through Sawtooth National Forest where they were disturbed by human activity and the one pup got separated from his family.
In cooperation with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, our field crew is heading back out to search for the den site and hopefully find the rest of the pup’s family. Wolves travel fast though, so if they can’t be found on foot, it may be necessary to conduct survey flights to locate them by plane if possible.
In the meantime, the pup is still being fed and cared for by professionals and is expected to be transferred to a zoo later today. Let’s keep good thoughts going for his reunion with his family.
Here’s a video Patrick took over the weekend of the pup at an animal care facility:
Over the holiday weekend, some out-of-state campers visiting central Idaho found what appears to be a young wolf pup wandering alone on a road in the national forest. They took him to the Sheriff’s office, and he is now being cared for by professionals. We’re not sure what if anything happened to the pup’s family, but our field crew is trying to locate the other wolves at this time. I caught up with our wolf expert Suzanne Stone to learn more about this unfortunate situation.
How did you hear about this incident?
The pup was found within one of our wolf coexistence project areas, so our local partners contacted us immediately for help. We recommended that he be taken to a professional animal care facility until a longer term solution can be found. It’s still unclear at this point what happened to the pup or why he was by himself, but we’re helping Idaho Fish and Game figure out if there’s a way to return him to his family.
We did get some basic location information about where the pup was found, so I’m heading out with our head field technician to try to find the rest of the pack in the hope that he can be returned to them. Unfortunately, it has become much more difficult to track wolf activity in the last year or so since many of the collared wolves have been killed during the wolf hunting and trapping seasons. We now have very limited information about wolves in the area.
How is the pup doing?
He’s very frightened of people, and it looks like he hasn’t eaten in days. We’re trying to find some goat’s milk and bison meat to feed to him, but he really needs to be returned to his pack as soon as possible. Wolf pups are extremely vulnerable at this stage, and their chances of survival on their own are very low.
What’s next for the pup?
It’s hard to say without knowing the status of the rest of the pack. If the adults are still alive and we can find them, there’s a good chance the pup can be returned to the pack and survive. But if the adults are dead or can’t be found, then there’s no sense leaving a pup out there by himself. We might be able to find another pack to act as surrogate in another location, but there’s always a risk they will not accept the pup as one of their own.
Are there any other options?
The last resort is for him to be raised in captivity. We’d much rather see the pup survive in the wild than being fed by hand behind a fence. But captivity could be the only option if we can’t find the rest of his pack or another pack willing to adopt him. If that’s the only option, one of the country’s top wolf rescue facilities has already offered to take and care for him.
Is there anything we can do to help?
Our top priority right now is to find the rest of the pack and see if the adults are still alive and if there are other pups. Ultimately, the decision will rest in the hands of Idaho Fish and Game, so there may be opportunities to support their efforts to save this pup. Please stay tuned as we learn about the situation…