Category Archives: Gray Wolf News & Actions

After Years of False Starts, WDNR Finally Moves on Developing an Updated Wolf Management Plan

Photo taken in Northern Wisconsin at the turn of the 20th Century

Admittedly, I am new to Wisconsin’s wolf management plan process so to write this I set out to do in-depth research and reporting.  After over twenty-four hours of watching the Wolf Management Plan Committee (WMPC) meetings, more than ten hours of reading the past plan, its update and articles, and several more hours discussing the future of wolves in Wisconsin, I certainly expected to have a clear sense of what will happen next. The truth is, I learned a lot and realized how little I could predict.  

The History

As has been reported in this publication (and elsewhere), wolves were eliminated from Wisconsin and much of the lower-48 by the mid-20th century. Gray wolf populations continued in Minnesota and on Isle Royale (Michigan). These holdouts to extirpation began extending their territory and reemerged in Wisconsin by the mid-1970s. In 1989, the state began work on a state recovery plan with the the goal of upgrading the status of the wolf from endangered to threatened.  By 1999, the year of the first statewide Wolf Management Plan, Wisconsin had a population of more than 190 wolves and the state set out to manage the wolf to eventually delist the species from state and federal protection all together. Wisconsin updated the 1999 plan in 2007. The state attempted to draft a new plan between 2013 and 2015, but did not finish the job. The 1999 plan listed fourteen specific areas of wolf management strategies: 1. Wolf management zones, 2. Population monitoring and management, 3. Wolf health monitoring, 4. Habitat management, 5. Wolf depredation management, 6. Wolf education programs, 7. Law enforcement, 8. Inter-Agency cooperation and coordination, 9. Program guidance and oversight, 10. Volunteer programs, 11. Wolf research needs, 12. Wolf-Dog hybrids and captive wolves, 13. Wolf specimen management, and 14. Ecotourism. 

Prior to the 2013-2015 attempt to revisit the Wolf Management Plan, the state often engaged with a state scientific committee. However, the 2021-2022 plan is the first significant work toward a new plan since efforts were abandoned in 2015. When I learned this, I knew an update to the 1999 Wolf Management Plan would be extremely difficult, and all of this is occurring in the shadow of the February 2021 wolf hunt and the return of the wolf to federal protection in February 2022

Before I sat down to watch the four meetings of the WPMC, I asked myself, what has changed between 1999 and 2022? The answer was not hard to find – the wolf population. What was a number under 200 in 1999 is now a population of more than 1,000 animals in the state.  Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest also experienced increases in population sizes.  In my opinion, the gray wolf recovery is a conservation success story but now the question facing Wisconsin is how to successfully coexist with a more stable population of apex predators?

The WMPC Process

To help answer this question, the DNR assembled the WMPC, a diverse group of stakeholders and Tribal representatives to meet four times between July and October 2021. The DNR tasked this group with providing input for the latest installment of the Wolf Management Plan. 

The meetings of the WMPC were facilitated by a third party, nongovernmental, professional with the help of the DNR’s large carnivore specialist, Randy Johnson. I took the hiring of an outside facilitator to be both prudent, given the diverse perspectives of the WMPC members, and also a signal of the value of public input. Throughout the course of four meetings (including work prior to each meeting directed by the faciltator) the members of the WMPC assembled 138 individual pieces of input for the DNR. The input was then organized by the facilitator and the DNR, with the consent of the WMPC members, into groups of related input, known as nutshells

There was no expectation that the group would reach a consensus on any recommendation, though I was intrigued by the level of general support  for a number of key issues, including “[m]aking sure wolves remain in Wisconsin” (input 112). There was broad support for protecting livestock from wolf depredation and it will be interesting to see how the DNR handles the issue of payments for livestock loss.  Unsurprisingly, no consensus was reached regarding wolf hunting, but the group seemed to agree, generally, that it would be important to develop strategies for effective coexistence between wolves and humans.  

“There was no expectation that the group would reach a consensus on any recommendation, though I was intrigued by the level of general support  for a number of key issues, including “[m]aking sure wolves remain in Wisconsin” (input 112).”

Two significant areas which received some of the most attention and diverse perspectives were (1) the wolf count, and (2) what should the population objective be for wolves in Wisconsin. 

Gray Wolf in Jackson County. Credit: Snapshot Wisconsin

The Wolf Count

Several stakeholder groups indicated a distrust of the overall wolf count in Wisconsin, arguing the number wolves in the state is higher than the DNR indicates.  In my opinion, this is a nuanced argument.  To some, more wolves means less hunting opportunities for humans.  Reduced opportunities could mean fewer sales of hunting licenses – which could decrease funding for the DNR and the hunting economy – a staple of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.  In practice, however, 2020 saw a 12% increase in deer hunters compared to 2019 while 2021 showed a slight decrease from the 2020 numbers (per the 9- day gun hunt tallies).  

For over forty years, the DNR used territory mapping to establish a minimum count of wolves in the state. This method employed ground tracking, aerial observation and the location of collared wolves to establish a map of pack territory and estimate pack size. The combined data established the minimum population of wolves in the state. This method worked well when the wolf population was smaller; however, as the number of wolves grew, the DNR needed a new way to estimate the number of animals. Beginning in 2018, the agency incorporated scaled occupancy modeling alongside territory mapping.  The DNR compared the data gathered from the two methods and determined that the minimum count data using territory mapping was within the scaled occupancy model population.  Per the DNR, occupancy modeling is less subjective and accounts for wolves that are present in an area but undetected.  Due to the confidence in occupancy modeling, the DNR will no longer conduct a minimum count.

What should the population be?

What the wolf population should be in Wisconsin was an area of disagreement amongst the stakeholders. One camp perferred a defined number – invariably, the goal of 350 wolves as established in 1999. Other groups preferred to not define a specific number but achieve a wolf population that was healthy and sustainable through outcome based objectives. This method only establishes a minimum threshold below which the wolf population should not fall. Should the DNR move in this direction, it will be interesting to see which objectives are selected for consideration and why.

“Our job is to sharpen our tools and make them cut the right way… [T]he sole measure of our success is the effect which they have on the forest.”   

- Aldo Leopold

Overall the WMPC process was fascinating to witness and I am grateful for the work of each member. The importance of public input and citizen involvement in the decision-making that impacts our wild spaces and wildlife was on full display. The DNR, the facilitator, and the members of the WMPC spent many hours debating and engaging in critically important questions of wolf sustainability and ecological health. Given the goal was to provide input to the DNR, I believe the agency is the recipient of diverse views that represent many of the constituencies in the state. How the DNR uses this input will be something that we continue to cover here.

 


WORT Radio‘ Access Hour Presents:

Rachel Tilseth And Wolves Of Wisconsin

Mon April 4 @ 7:00 Pm  8:00 Pm

Rachel Tilseth returns with special guests Adrian Wydeven and Peter David for another informative discussion regarding the new WDNR 2022 Wolf Management Plan that will be presented to the public for review. Wort Radio Access Hour listeners are encouraged to call in with concerns or questions. http://www.wortfm.org

 

 

Gray Wolves Regain Federal Protection

Gray wolves in much of the lower 48 have regained federal protection  following a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Photo Credit: John E. Marriott

In the final months of the Trump administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rule that delisted the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act.  Gray wolves were also previously delisted through the Bush (2007), and Obama Administrations (2009, 2012). The 2020 delisting was hailed by the then-Administration as a success story and defended in Federal Court by the Biden Administration.  As a result of the 2020 effort, the gray wolf returned to state and tribal management throughout the U.S. after over 40 years of federal protection.

Gray wolf recovery “depends on the cooperation of wildlife managers at the state, tribal and federal levels, and a reliance on the best available science to guide management decisions.”                                               – Secretary Haaland, Department of the Interior

 

On February 10, 2022, Judge Jeffrey White of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an ruling which nullified the delisting of the gray wolf and restored federal protection for the animal in much of the U.S.  Gray wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming were previously delisted and not the subject of the Judge’s opinion. Similarly, Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico were never delisted and never lost federal protection. However, as ordered by Judge White, a George W. Bush appointee, management of gray wolves in the lower 48 outside of the Northern Rockies will once again be in the hands of the Federal Government. The ruling comes days after Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wrote of the successes of gray wolf conservation and that their recovery “depends on the cooperation of wildlife managers at the state, tribal and federal levels, and a reliance on the best available science to guide management decisions.” 

The 2020 delisting of the gray wolf was heralded by some and scorned by others.  It was this rule that began a legal challenge that ultimately resulted in the February 2021 wolf hunt in Wisconsin – a hunt that garnered headlines for the speed at which the hunting quota was achieved and surpassed.  A Dane County Wisconsin judge later blocked a Fall 2021 wolf hunt holding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must first propose a rule for wolf hunting that would need to be approved by the legislature.  With Judge White’s federal order, Wisconsin’s state managed wolf hunt is foreclosed, for the moment. 

Whether the Biden Administration will appeal Judge White’s order remains an open question as is Wisconsin’s update to the state’s Wolf Management Plan. The state’s current plan was developed in 1999 and updated in 2007. However, the DNR had been working toward a new update to the plan in 2022. 

“I hope the DNR will move forward…and clarify what the management goals for the state ought to be.”          – Adrian Wydeven, retired DNR Wolf Biologist

 

Rachel Tilseth, founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, believes there is still work to do. The gray wolf “may be protected again (blessing) but nothing’s changed. Still have the same fight between pro and anti-wolf organizations with no compromise.  The work must continue to write a comprehensive wolf management plan that takes into account all stakeholders,” Tilseth writes. 

Adrian Wydeven, a retired Wisconsin DNR wolf biologist, hopes that Wisconsin will complete the wolf management plan update. “I hope the DNR will move forward…and clarify what the management goals for the state ought to be,” Wydeven said. He also expressed hope “to see states manage wolves [once again] but to do so more responsibly and without politics.” 

Whether and when the states outside of the Northern Rockies will be responsible for the management of wolves is likely the subject of additional litigation and rulemaking. For now, the gray wolf in much of the lower 48 is under federal management and protection. 

 

Every wolf howls with its own “voice”and that’s how researchers are identifying non-radio-collared pack members.

Photo credit Angela Dassow

Identifying individual gray wolves by use of radio-tracking has been used for many years. Because wolves are rarely seen this is one of the main ways biologists have used to monitor them. The collars are used to monitor gray wolves, are also known as radio telemetry. They weigh around a pound, and have a transmitter on them that emits a signal on a specified frequency or channel. A biologist uses a special receiver and an antenna dialed to the specific channel signal being transmitted by a collar to locate the wolf. But this method for monitoring wolves has its drawbacks. Wolves can be injured in the process of capturing to fit them with a collar. There is another method and it’s very promising not to mention less invasive for the wolf. It’s been studied in Wisconsin’s central forests and the researchers are working to finely tune Acoustic Monitoring.

Every wolf howls with its own “voice.”

Angela Dassow

Biologists learn a great deal through use of radio-collaring

Some radio collars will emit different types of signals, if the wolf is active, the beeps might become more rapid. Most collars are equipped with a mortality signal, the one signal biologists hate to hear. It only comes on when the collar has not moved for several hours, and means the wolf is no longer wearing the collar or the wolf has died.

How do biologists catch a wolf and fit them with a radio collar?

This is where it can get tricky because biologists use cable foot snares to catch and restrain the wolf. This method can be invasive as well causing injury at times. The restraint is a long cable type rope with a grappling hook attached at the end. Once the wolf takes the bait, the foot hold trap is sprung, as the wolf moves the grappling hook wraps around bushes to hold the wolf in place. The idea behind the grappling hook is that the wolf is “gently caught” because it allows him/her to move. But can this method of trapping cause injury to the wolf?

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee fastens a radio collar onto a sedated female gray wolf. Lori Iverson/USFWS, CC BY

USGS performed a study “Evaluating Trapping Techniques to Reduce Potential for Injury to Mexican Wolves.” The following is some of the results.

“There was considerable variation in the severity of injuries sustained from the use of different foot snare models when they were tested on coyotes. Onderka and others (1990) tested two types of foot snares,
one of which produced injuries similar to that of an unpadded foothold trap, with the other model causing injuries similar
to a padded foothold trap.”

These methods for catching wolves in order to fit them for radio collars are being evaluated all the time for improvement and safety. That’s because there’s so much data and research gathered from the collars, and how it helps to mitigate human and wolf conflicts. But is it safe for the wolf? For instance, once the wolf is caught in the trap, they are given a knock out drug. Even though the wolf is knocked out, temporarily paralyzed, they are awake. The wolf can see and hear everything that is being done to them. Biologists try to do the least amount of harm to the captured wolf by working as safely and as quick as they can. They take blood and hair samples and weight the wolf, and they put on a blinder to protect their eyes, as well doing temperature checks. While knocked out the wolf cannot regulate their body temperature and the biologists have ice packs on hand to help keep them cool. Biologists put on the collar and finally administer the wake up drug. Trained biologists make sure they don’t keep the wolf knocked out very long and check them for any injuries sustained by the leg hold snare before releasing them back into the wild.

As I’ve stated this method of monitoring individual wolves has been used for many years, and it does help biologists learn more about this species. But is there another way to monitor individual wolves that is less invasive? As it turns out the answer is yes there is another less invasive method for monitoring individual wolves. An article in The Conversation, dated July 13, 2018, “Scientist at work: Identifying individual gray wolves by their howls” explains how scientists are studying individual wolves by their howls. The following is from one of the researchers Angela Dassow, Assistant Professor of Biology, Carthage College.

The traditional way to track wolves involves setting traps, sedating and then radio-collaring individual animals. While effective, this approach is time intensive and expensive, and entails risks for the animals.

I was fortunate to participate in this entire process firsthand as an undergraduate student. During the summer trapping seasons, I became familiar with each of the wolves in the central forest region of Wisconsin. This experience led to several conversations with the wildlife biologists in the area about whether wolf howls could be used to help identifying non-radio-collared pack members.”

This question remained a fun thought experiment for many years. Now as a biology professor who specializes in bioacoustics, I’ve been able to turn that thought experiment into a full research question: Can we use acoustic features to identify individual wolves in the wild?Angela Dassow, Assistant Professor of Biology, Carthage College.

Listen to a lone wolf howl.

Angela Dassow and Cara Hull survey a road in central Wisconsin for signs of wolves. Caitlin McCombe, CC BY-ND

“In 2013, behavioral ecologist Holly Root-Gutteridge and her colleagues successfully demonstrated that they could identify individual wolves in captivity using acoustic features. Their research provided evidence that it made sense to test whether vocal identification in wild animals is possible.”

“So with the support of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at Carthage College, volunteers from the Timber Wolf Information Network, and wildlife managers at Sandhill Wildlife Area in Babcock, Wisconsin, my undergraduate students Cara Hull and Caitlin McCombe and I began to record wolves in the wild.”

“It would be an understatement to say fieldwork can be challenging. On any given day, there can be daunting weather fluctuations. Biting insects, especially mosquitoes and deer flies, are abundant in wolf habitat. We had to constantly check ourselves for ticks. And then of course comes the actual fieldwork.”

Here’s what they discovered…

“We were able to isolate 21 howls from two adult wolves over two evenings. For each howl, we made six types of frequency measurements and two types of duration measurements. Frequency is how high or low the pitch of the howl sounds and duration is the length of time the howl lasted.”

“For wild gray wolves, we found that the maximum frequency – that is, the highest sound an animal produced – and the frequency at the end of the howl were the two variables that were most individualistic. For captive wolves, it was different. The lowest frequency an individual produced – what in acoustics is called their fundamental frequency – and the loudness of its calls were the factors that best differentiated among the captive individuals.” You can read Angela Dassow’s full article in The Conversation.

This method is promising and definitely less invasive than radio collaring. While radio-collaring could still work in some cases, vocal identification is a less invasive alternative for monitoring individuals because they eliminate any possibility of accidentally injuring an animal in a trap. The researchers will need to gather a database of positively identified individual wolves. The researchers say they can use remote monitoring stations to record howls, thus reducing the amount of time spent conducting nightly surveys. Acoustic monitoring could potentially track all the wolves in multiple packs whereas radio-collaring is typically used to track a single member in select packs according to the researchers.

You can read Angela Dassow’s full article in The Conversation.

Professor Angela Dassow received her B.S. degrees in wildlife ecology and entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003. After spending several years as the head preparator and assistant curator of herpetology at a natural history museum, she joined Prof. Michael Coen’s lab and earned her M.S. in zoology in 2010 and Ph.D. in zoology in 2014. She joined the Carthage faculty in 2015.

Prof. Dassow’s research focuses on computational analyses of animal vocalizations, exploring correlates with human linguistic phenomena at the phonetic, morphological, and syntactic levels. This work has centered on understanding the vocal communication systems of wild and captive white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar); however, she has examined other species as well, ranging across a variety of taxa including cetaceans, bats, canids, and song birds. By combining aspects of ecology, linguistics, computer science, and information theory, we are able to gain new insights into the communicative abilities of white-handed gibbons and demonstrate previously unrecognized complexity and structure in their vocal communication system.

Grey Wolves & White-tailed Deer: Urban Legend versus Scientific Fact

Stats are from 2019, but still hold true in 2021 proving there is no scientific basis for a wolf hunt in Wisconsin or anywhere else!

“Minnesota has also become the number two all time Boone and Crocket trophy white- tailed deer producing state, followed by Wisconsin. This might suggest that wolves and deer are co-existing very well.”

Wolves and Deer 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated 1.8 million White-tailed deer statewide. The 2018-2019 midwinter count estimated that there are a minimum of 914-978 Gray wolves in Wisconsin, in 243 packs.

Producing a trophy White-tailed deer

Minnesota has developed one of the largest deer herds in the nation while simultaneously restoring the gray wolf to an estimated 3,000 animals. Minnesota has also become the number two all time Boone and Crocket trophy white-tailed deer producing state, followed by Wisconsin. This might suggest that wolves and deer are co-existing very well.
Wolves may even play a role in helping to increase the health and fitness of the overall deer population by culling the sick, weak, and the old and leaving the healthier animals to reproduce and thrive.
From Wolves and Deer in Wisconsin WDNR website
Wisconsin’s White-tailed doe with fawns photo credit Snapshot Wisconsin

Misleading the public

Considering that all the data points to “wolves and deer are coexisting very well” why do we only hear negative news about the gray wolf? Case in point From a staunch anti wolf website. Wisconsin Wolf Facts claims that Gray wolves killed more deer than hunters. The cherry picked data claims wolves are killing more deer than the gun-deer hunters in the 2019 season:

“Gray wolves are now responsible for killing more white-tailed deer in four counties of one Great Lakes state than annual the number of deer killed by gun-hunters, according to data released this week by Wisconsin Wolf Facts.” The group is headed by Lauri Groskopf, a hunter that lost two dogs to wolves while bear hunting a few years back. Wisconsin Gray wolves photo credit Snapshot Wisconsin

Laurie Groskopf has a seat on the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan Committee.

The following table is being widely distributed to pro wolf hunting groups in the hopes that if gray wolves get delisted this cherry picked data will serve as proof that a wolf hunt is needed.Table from Wisconsin Wolf Facts shows incomplete data from Wisconsin White -tailed deer hunt 2019 

The above table only shows results from gun-harvest summarizes for 2019. This table conveniently scapegoats the gray wolf, proving it’s biased data.

In reality when WDNR data of Deer Mortality in Wisconsin’s Northern and Central Forests data has Wisconsin black bear estimated deer kill at 33,000 compared to gray wolves deer kill estimated at 13,000. Deer

Mortality in Wisconsin’s Northern and Central Forests From WDNR 2019

Gray wolves in Wisconsin’s Northern and central forests are helping to keep white-tailed deer healthy by culling the weak, the sick and the old. Gray wolves are providing Wisconsin’s deer hunter with a stronger and healthier White-tailed deer. 

Science versus anti wolf bias 

A single gray wolf while hunting comes across an abandoned White-tailed deer bed, and gently blows upon it causing all the particles to flow up into the wolf’s olfactory sense. The wolf then can determine if the blood in the tick, that fell off the deer the night before, contains pus in it. Wisconsin’s Northern and Central Forests data has Wisconsin black bear estimated deer kill at 33,000 compared to gray wolves deer kill estimated at 13,000.

Perhaps White-tailed deer have become wise to deer baiting and may be eating at night while hunters are sleeping.

Today’s white-tailed deer hunter sits in a tree stand waiting for an unsuspecting deer to approach and eat the corn or apples used for deer bait. The baiting of White-tailed deer for hunting is allowed only in areas where there is no CWD present. Wolves have a sense of smell 100 times greater than humans and they use this keen sense while hunting. Photo credit NPS

In summary 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated 1.8 million White-tailed deer statewide. The 2018-2019 midwinter count estimated that there are a minimum of 914-978 Gray wolves in Wisconsin, in 243 packs. “Minnesota has also become the number two all time Boone and Crocket trophy white- tailed deer producing state, followed by Wisconsin. This might suggest that wolves and deer are co-existing very well.”

Wolves may even play a role in helping to increase the health and fitness of the overall deer population by culling the sick, weak, and the old and leaving the healthier animals to reproduce and thrive.
From Wolves and Deer in Wisconsin WDNR website

Following video is from the Great Lakes Symposium

Honor the Earth A Frontline Documentary on the Efforts to Stop Fossil Fuel Expansion

A 38-minute frontline documentary on the effort to stop fossil fuel expansion and encourage real energy security. More at http://www.honorearth.org website.

Predatory industry hijacked the US regulatory system in 2019, placing ancient food systems and a fifth of the world’s freshwater in imminent danger. LN3 features indigenous firebrands Winona Laduke, Tara Houska, and poet-hip hop artist ThomasX, as they lead an alliance to take on Big Oil and their enablers at the institutional level, and on the frontlines. This is the battle for Earth.

Directed by Suez Taylor (USA)

Thomas X on the Seven Teachings

Honor the Earth uses indigenous wisdom, music, art, and the media to raise awareness and support for Indigenous Environmental Issues. We leverage this awareness and support to develop financial and political capital for Indigenous struggles for land and life. http://www.honorearth.org

Click here to take action.

BEMIDJI, Minn. (WCCO) — You’ve likely heard about Line 3 by now. It’s a pipeline that would bring tar sands oil through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

Part of it would run alongside an existing pipeline corridor but some of the route requires carving out a new path.”

Read the entire article and watch the news broadcast here: https://cbsloc.al/3i6HN3I

The Endangered Species Act not only protects the endangered animal (grey Wolf) it also protects the habitat they depend upon. Delisting the wolf now opens up their habitat to exploration by greedy oil & gas, real-estate and logging corporate interests.

Rachel Tilseth

From http://www.honorearth.org website

Our mission is to create awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities. Honor the Earth develops these resources by using music, the arts, the media, and Indigenous wisdom to ask people to recognize our joint dependency on the Earth and be a voice for those not heard.

As a unique national Native initiative, Honor the Earth works to a) raise public awareness and b) raise and direct funds to grassroots Native environmental groups. We are the only Native organization that provides both financial support and organizing support to Native environmental initiatives. This model is based on strategic analysis of what is needed to forge change in Indian country, and it is based deep in our communities, histories, and long-term struggles to protect the earth. 

Background: 

Honor the Earth was established by Winona LaDuke and Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, in 1993.  In our 20+ years of operation, we have re-granted over two million dollars to over 200 Native American communities.  

We believe a sustainable world is predicated on transforming economic, social, and political relationships that have been based on systems of conquest toward systems based on just relationships with each other and with the natural world. As our mission states, we are committed to restoring a paradigm that recognizes our collective humanity and our joint dependence on the Earth. 

We have seen the rise of a highly inefficient American industrial society on our lands. The largest mining companies in the world began in the heart of Anishinaabe territory- the Keweenaw Peninsula and the Mesabi Iron Range and then traveled the world. 

The society which has been created is highly extractive and highly inefficient, where today material resources and water become wasted and toxic, and we waste 60% or more of the energy between the point of origin and point of consumption. This highly destructive economy has reached material limits and is now resorting to extreme extraction. Whether the removal of 500 mountaintops in Appalachia (largely for foreign coal contracts), extreme mining proposals in the Great Lakes region, to Fracking and tar sands extraction, we are clearly on a scorched path.

Choosing the Green Path

Honor the Earth is interested in the transition from this destructive economy and way of life, back towards land-based economics. In this land-based economics, we see that intergenerational and inter-species equity are valued, that cyclical systems are reaffirmed, that not all “natural resources” are up for extraction, and that we behave responsibly.  We recognize the wealth of a land-based economy because we have lived it, and we will continue to work to keep these waters for wild rice, these trees for maple syrup, our lakes for fish, and our land and aquifers present for all relatives.

Native people are in a pivotal position in this time and region. It is essential that we affirm principled and culturally-driven agency. That is to say that, tribal communities often conflicted over extraction as a result of a historic set of decisions forced upon us, are able to be essential agents of change in this time. Honor the Earth will work in the next two years, with first nations, Indigenous communities, and tribal governments to oppose extraction, support a tribal regulatory push for environmental protection, strengthen renewable energy and food systems work in our region, and create a curriculum and learning tool for tribal youth in Indigenous Economics.

http://www.honorearth.org

Honor the Earth Facebook Page

People & Wolves Talk Show Livestreams from Wisconsin, USA and Turin, Italy on YouTube

We educate so you can advocate.

People & Wolves Talk Show works with dedicated professionals to document the conscious relationships between People & Wolves. People & Wolves Talk show shares stories of people working to coexist with wild wolves. Wild grey wolves are now struggling for survival worldwide. People & Wolves Talk Show works with filmmakers, scientists, academics, journalists, writers, fine artists, Wildlife photographers and musicians, that share a common interest to produce, to share educational stories of People & Wolves.

Hosts Brunella Pernigotti live from Turin, Italy and Alexander Vaeth live from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and producer Rachel Tilseth live from Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Host Alexander Vaeth

Alex is a volunteer wolf tracker with the Wisconsin DNR, and a Spanish teacher by training. He completed his graduate studies in Spanish at Middlebury’s language schools in Vermont, USA, Madrid, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and volunteers as a medical interpreter in the city’s community clinic. Alex spends nearly all his free time in the woods tracking and monitoring wildlife with remote cameras and is also keenly interested in wolf advocacy and research.

Alex’s statement regarding the recent wolf hunt 

I have always been fascinated by wolves, but had never lived near a wild population until my wife and I decided to move to Wisconsin to work in the UW system teaching Spanish. We moved from North Carolina and ultimately chose UW-Eau Claire for many reasons. The Wisconsin DNR has a longstanding volunteer tracker program that allowed me to move to Wisconsin and get involved in wolf monitoring almost immediately. I have been learning about the packs I track in the Central Forest as well as the history of wolf recovery and wolf hunting in Wisconsin. The most recent hunt was deeply saddening for me, as some of the wolves I have been tracking for two years were likely killed (I have seen no sign of them since the end of February). There is no convincing biological argument I have seen for hunting wolves, let alone slaughtering them in the manner just witnessed here in Wisconsin. It is also frustrating to see the First Nations tribes in Wisconsin so brazenly ignored, as they are tried and true stewards of the natural world and need to have a role in wildlife “management” and decision-making in the region.

Host Alexander Vaeth’s recent interview with with Adrian Wydeven about the recent February 2021 wolf hunt. The discussion was live-streamed on People & Wolves Talk Show’s YouTube Channel

Host Brunella Pernigotti live from Turin Italy

I love wolves and nature in general. Even if I’m not a biologist, I’m improving my knowledge of wolves and their problems to survive in my country, to devote myself to the protection of the environment and of the endangered species as far as I can do.

I live in Turin, Italy. I’m a teacher, a writer and a photographer. I published a novel and a book of tales and have to my credit about ten one-man exhibitions of photos. I’m a member of the board of a no-profit association of Turin, “Tribù del Badnightcafè”, that organizes cultural and artistic events. Besides I created a group of volunteers to help women who are victim of domestic violence.About Brunella’s writing career. 

Someone says that from the moment we are born we begin to forget. Each story, therefore, has neither a beginning nor an end. Everything happens but nothing has happened, as in the eternal present of an empty hourglass. Time is not a line that projects us into a dark and distant future, time is circular, like the earthly sphere, like the universe, like everything that comes and goes …

Author of the Empty Hourglass 

Brunella Pernigotti was born and lives in Turin. Besides being a teacher and translator, she writes with passion and enthusiasm. 

She considers writing her main tool for investigating and trying to understand the human soul: “after all, every creative act is like a shell that is brought to the surface, after diving into the depths of ourselves”. 

In addition to “The empty hourglass”, which won several prizes, including the first prize at the “Priamar” International Literary Competition in Savona, in the “Narrativa Edita” section, she has successfully published a collection of fairy tales entitled “Let’s pretend that … “. She also writes screenplays for short films and plays.

In the last ten years she has had photography exhibitions in various personal exhibitions and creating installations and artistic projects. 

She considers life “a continuous search for new ways to express what she sees and hears”.

Brunella’s most recent interview

Interview on the National wolf monitoring about those who work in the field. Brunella Pernigotti hosted Luca Giunti and Antonio Iannibelli, who talked about the data collection strategy and possible interpretations, with particular reference to the different realities in which they operate.

Producer Rachel Tilseth

The show’s producer is Rachel Tilseth. Tilseth is a freelance writer, fine artist & educator, and environmentalist. Tilseth has been a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker since the year 2000. Tilseth worked with the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program as a volunteer since 1998, and as a result learned about the lives of wild gray wolves. Tilseth worked to draw attention to the plight of Gray wolves during the three years Wisconsin held wolf hunts. Rachel is founder and owner of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin. As an environmentalist Tilseth has organized events, film screenings and a film festival. Tilseth received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education in 1992 from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors.

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Voyageurs Wolf Project: A large litter of pups doesn’t necessarily translate into more wolves in that pack come winter.

The latest from http://www.voyageurswolfproject.org the Half-Moon Pack had the largest litter of any pack this year with 8 pups. The largest litter we have ever documented was 9 pups so this was pretty close to the record!

A large litter of pups does not necessarily translate into more wolves in that pack come winter. The pups have to run the “summer” gauntlet, so to speak, of surviving low food availability/starvation, avoiding disease, and evading predators.

Case-in-point: the Lightfoot Pack had 7 pups last year but all of the pups died. We know that a few pups died of starvation and one was killed by the Half-Moon pack. We are not sure what killed the others but suspect starvation.

And so the Lightfoot Pack remained only a breeding pair this winter despite their large litter. We will see whether the Half-Moon litter fares better!

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is focused on understanding the summer ecology of wolves in and around Voyageurs National Park in the iconic Northwoods border region of Minnesota, USA

The remarkable Canis lupus (Gray Wolf) …

…Designed by Mother Nature herself.

A gray wolf walks over to a vacated white-tailed deer bed and gently blows on it. This causes all the particles to flow up into his/hers highly tuned olfactory system (the nose). “Ah ha, says the wolf,” the deer tick’s blood is full of pus from a tooth infection. The deer tick had feasted on the white-tailed deer’s blood the night before. The deer tick’s blood now reveals a sick (unhealthy) animal. This shows how the gray wolf keeps the white-tailed deer herds healthy. This is nature’s design, original, and most certainly not man made. There’s-no-big-bad-wolf-here…only politicians with agendas…

Let’s save the Gray wolf because he/she saves us (human-kind) in the end. In the past, less than a hundred years ago, vast herds roamed throughout the planet. The vast herds were wiped out by trophy hunting & human encroachment, and now live in small pockets of wilderness surrounded by human settlements. In these small pockets animals are forced to share habitats, and just think about the consequences of different kinds of ticks eating & spreading disease all on the same animals; Animals that are isolated in pockets of wilderness surrounded by human settlements. Then, there’s Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) that if left unchecked could potentially spread to humans through infected deer. We need more research on how gray wolves help stop the spread of CWD.

The planet needs Canis lupus (Gray wolf) and other large carnivores. Large carnivores can detect diseased and weak animals.

How might wolves affect chronic wasting disease in elk and deer in Colorado? The following is from Colorado State University Extention

…One study developed a mathematical model predicting that selective predation by wolves would result in a more rapid decline in CWD in deer compared to hunting by humans…

Source

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a contagious and fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk, and moose.  It is caused by the transmission of an abnormal protein called a prion.  CWD is relatively widespread in Colorado.

Wolves are predators that chase prey. Wolves tend to target slower, more vulnerable individuals, including sick and diseased animals. One study developed a mathematical model predicting that selective predation by wolves would result in a more rapid decline in CWD in deer compared to hunting by humans. The model suggested that wolf predation may help limit CWD. There has been no field study to test this prediction. However, wolf predation has been shown to help control disease (tuberculosis) in wild boar in Spain.

Insight can be gained from other predators. Studies in the Front Range of Colorado showed mule deer killed by mountain lions were more likely to be infected with CWD than mule deer killed by hunters. This suggests that mountain lions select infected animals when targeting adult deer. Such selective predation by mountain lions, however, did not limit CWD transmission in deer populations with high infection rates. Unlike wolves who run when hunting, mountain lions are considered “ambush” predators that sit and wait for prey to pass. Such predatory behavior might make them less likely to detect sick animals compared to wolves.

When carnivores eat infected prey, CWD prions can remain infectious in carnivore feces. But, canines appear to be naturally resistant to prions.7We therefore would not expect the number of prions to increase in their digestive tracts. In fact, CWD prions may be degraded as they pass through the digestive system. While predation may not eliminate CWD from deer or elk populations, predators that selectively prey on infected animals would be expected to reduce the number of infections. This would be more likely in areas where wolves are well-established. Source

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White-tailed deer are bad for wildflowers & sugar maples and research shows how wolves are keeping them in check

With the resurgence of wolves in the region, smart deer are learning to keep away from areas with many of the predators, meaning that wildflowers and young maples there have a better chance of survival, according to a recent study by scientists from the University of Notre Dame and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Research, The work took place at Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center that straddles the border between Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin. The site has forest, bogs and swamps, with red and sugar maples as the dominant hardwoods — a preferred food for deer.

Of wolves, deer, maples and wildflowers by Eric Freedman first published on June 16, 2016 Source breaks the results of the research down in the following article:

Grey wolves are good for wildflowers like the nodding trillium and the Canada mayflower in the Great Lakes region. They’re also good for young red maples and sugar maples. That’s because white-tailed deer are bad for both wildflowers and maple saplings. And wolves are bad for deer.

With the resurgence of wolves in the region, smart deer are learning to keep away from areas with many of the predators, meaning that wildflowers and young maples there have a better chance of survival, according to a recent study by scientists from the University of Notre Dame and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The work took place at Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center that straddles the border between Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin. The site has forest, bogs and swamps, with red and sugar maples as the dominant hardwoods — a preferred food for deer.

In scientific terms, it’s not a question of deer getting smart. Rather, they adapt their behavior in wolf-heavy areas to improve their chances of survival — and incidentally improve the survivability of the maples and forbs, or herbaceous flowering plants. On a practical level, that means deer have adapted by spending less time foraging in “heavy wolf use areas,” the study found.

We conclude that wolves are likely generating trophic cascades which benefit maples and rare forbs through trait-mediated effects on deer herbivory, not through direct predation kills.”

Biologists call the process “trophic cascades.” The phrase refers to “trait-mediated” indirect effects that carnivores, meat-eaters, have on plants by killing plant-eaters or changing plant-eaters’ behavior. In other words, trophic cascades happen when predators, in this case, wolves, kill or change the behavior of their prey, in this case, deer, in ways that benefit the type of plants that deer eat.

Plant-eaters can have a major impact on environmental change, including biodiversity and the structure of plant communities, the study said, and the findings may help managers of wildlife and public lands in the Great Lakes region.

Historically, wolves were “the natural top predator of Great Lakes deer,” the researchers noted, but hunting eliminated them in the study area by the late 1950s. They stayed extinct in the area until the MDNR discovered a new pack around 2000-06.

The department’s winter 2015-16 survey found a “minimum population or 618 wolves in the U.P. That’s “a very conservative count,” said Kevin Swanson, a Marquette-based wildlife management specialist in the MDNR bear and wolf program. White-tailed deer populations in Great Lakes forests increased dramatically without grey wolves, a trend with “significant negative impacts on forest sapling growth and forb biodiversity,” the study said.

Photograph credit Linda Nelson a Wisconsin DNR volunteer wolf tracker. Since 1978, when the gray wolf (Canis lupus) was identified in Douglas County, the first sighting there in about two decades, the animal’s population across the state sharply increased. By the winter of 2017-2018, the minimum number of wolves in the state stood between 905 and 944, based on the annual count by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

There are no official estimates of the U.P. deer population but numbers are “the lowest for several decades” due to recent back-to-back hard winters, said Swanson, who was not involved in the wolf-deer-maple-wildflower research project.

Lead author David Flagel, assistant director of Notre Dame’s Montana-based Environmental Research Center West, said an estimated 5 to 15 percent of Wisconsin deer die each winter,
Originally, deer in the region chowed down on yellow birch and eastern hemlock, “but the combination of lingering logging effects and years of deer eating saplings has eliminated a lot of them from the understory,” Flagel said.

Maples are “not an absolute favorite,” but once the preferred birch and hemlock are gone, they’re “going to eat something else. Like with your fridge at home,” he said.
The study said, “Deer exhibited very different behavior in areas of high and low wolf use. Deer visited high wolf-use plots less frequently than they did low wolf-use plots, and the duration of the visits to high wolf-use areas was shorter. Deer also spent a lesser proportion of their time foraging in high wolf-use areas.”

A sap run is the sweet good-bye of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and the frosts. – John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886. Credit Environmental Education for Kids website.

Differences were dramatic. Deer density was 62 percent lower in high-wolf areas, where deer visits were 82 percent lower and foraging time was 43 percent shorter, it said.
And what about the maple saplings and wildflowers?
Not surprisingly, deer browsed a significantly larger proportion of them in low wolf-use areas, while the richness of wildflower species “was also significantly affected by wolf use,” the study said. The average richness of the wildflowers increased from 38 to 110 percent in low wolf-use sites.
“The results of the experiments revealed that the negative impacts of deer on sapling growth and forb species richness became negligible in high wolf-use areas,” the study said. We conclude that wolves are likely generating trophic cascades which benefit maples and rare forbs through trait-mediated effects on deer herbivory, not through direct predation kills.”
Study co-author Dean Beyer Jr., a MDNR wildlife biologist, called the findings “an important step, albeit, an early step in investigating trophic cascades in the Great Lakes region.”
He said, “We have known about deer response to wolves for quite some time, including a1980 study that found increased deer use of areas between wolf territories.” And in a 2014 report on research in the south-central U.P., Beyer and other scientists discovered that adult does avoid core areas that wolves use.
If additional research produces similar results, “I would expect that this information would eventually begin to influence forest and wildlife management plans,” Beyer said.
The study appeared in the journal “Community Ecology.”

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Tracker’s Journal, Story of “White Eyes” Alpha Female #447

In loving memory of “White Eyes” who died in 2009 after being hit by a vehicle. She leaves a lasting legacy as one of the Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin.

This is my story of “White Eyes” a Wisconsin grey wolf I became familiar with while tracking wolves as a volunteer in the year 2000. I first caught sight of her as she crossed the road in front of me. She stopped in the ditch, stared straight at me and that’s when I caught a glimpse of those amber-green eyes and they were all framed in white fur. So I named her White Eyes, and thus began the relationship between wolf tracker and wolf.

As a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources volunteer wolf tracker, I was assigned a tracking block in the year 2000 that had a new alpha female in the territory. I set out exploring this new territory. I spent summers scouting the wolf family’s home range, and winters surveying thier tracks.

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was founded in 2012 to draw attention to the plight of wolves in Wisconsin. Wolves were being hunted with hound dogs, trapped and killed shortly after being taken off the endangered species list 2012.

Oil Pastel drawing of White Eyes by Rachel Tilseth

In loving memory of “White Eyes” who died in 2009 after being hit by a vehicle. She leaves a lasting legacy as one of the Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin. Drawing of White Eyes by Rachel Tilseth

Part of monitoring wolves is conducting wolf howl surveys during summer and fall seasons.

  
Photograph of wolf range in Douglas county Wisconsin by Rachel Tilseth 

While conducting wolf howl surveys, I was favored with a howl from the entire wolf family, and on one evening was startled by a lone wolf howling right next to me. I was even privileged to see two wolf silhouettes in the moonlight as they howled back to me.

White Eyes’s pack only had 5 family members.

This meant that five wolves was the maximum number of wolves for this 24 square mile range. This wolf pack of 5 members couldn’t afford to leave a yearling to babysit the pups. Every adult was needed to hunt and the pups were to young to join them on a hunt. The puppies were usually stashed in a brushy area for safe keeping while the pack was off hunting.

On a warm July summer night in 2002 I was about to find out that a wolf’s trust could be broken.

I was on a howl survey that night when White Eyes stashed her two pups, then headed off to hunt.

That night on my first howl, White Eyes’ two pups responded back to me to my surprise. 

“How adorable they are” I thought to myself. One pup was light and the other was dark in color. One wolf pup was obviously an alpha, as was demonstrated with his or her aggressive behavior. 

I dared not linger, because that could bring danger to the pups. However, I did name them “Salt and Pepper.” And I left the area that night. 

Something changed that following year of 2003. The wolves didn’t howl back to me. 

I wasn’t able to get a peep out of “White Eyes” or any of her pack members. I was getting worried that maybe something happened to them.

Finally one night on a howl survey,  I said to my son Jacob, “you try a howl.” he did and was able to get several of White Eyes’s family to respond back to his howl. 

What did that tell me about White eyes? It told me , that a wolf’s trust could be broken.

I spent 2 years building a relationship with White Eyes, and in one summer lost her trust all because I got too close to her pups. All of this made me realize, that I was nothing more than a tolerated human observer; not a trusted wolf babysitter.

It took another year before the relationship was back, and I was allowed to hear the family howls again. I was able to hear them howl again, just before sunset, and while they were hunting at midnight. I learned to steer clear of White Eyes’s pups.

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