The State of the Wolves, 2015-2016

by Rick Lamplugh’s Blog click HERE to go to Rick’s blog

  
For wolves and their advocates, 2015 was a year of triumph and tragedy. The year began with the glow from a great victory: wolves had been placed back under federal protection in four states where they had been slaughtered. The year ended with advocates breathing a tired sigh of nervous relief that wolves had not been stripped of that federal protection through a last-minute, cagey congressional rider.
Meanwhile, wolves did what comes naturally: dispersed in search of mates and territory. Wolves returned to their home in a state where they had not walked in ninety years. In other wolf states they dispersed into new areas.

And we humans also did what comes naturally: we let our wide-ranging beliefs about these essential predators bring out our best and worst. In one state, pro-wolf and anti-wolf groups met regularly to try and find common ground. In another state, a poacher in his truck chased an innocent wolf down, shot it, turned himself in, and was fined a measly $100 for killing an endangered animal.
Here is a wolf-state-by-wolf-state report on the triumphs and tragedies of 2015. As well as a glimpse into what 2016 may hold in store for wolves and their advocates.

California

 

 In May and July, trail cameras in Siskiyou County recorded images of two adult wolves and five pups. California’s first wolf pack was named the Shasta Pack. Their scat was analyzed, and DNA revealed that the Shasta pack’s breeding female was born into Oregon’s Imnaha Pack, that state’s first wolf pack.

Any wolf that enters California is protected under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will encourage the use of non-lethal methods to minimize livestock losses from wolves. This welcoming of wolves was, for Patricia Herman, founder of California-based Protect the Wolves advocacy group, “…our biggest success after fighting for so long with so many states to stop killing them. When we found a state that actually welcomed the idea of wolves it was a dream come true.”

The gray wolf is native to California. Records from 1750 to 1850 show that wolves roamed California’s Coastal Range from San Diego to Sacramento. From 1850-1900, they were spotted in Shasta County and in the central Sierra Nevada.
California has plenty of room for more wolves. The Klamath-Siskiyou and Modoc Plateau regions in northern California and southwestern Oregon could support up to 470 wolves, according to a study conducted by the Conservation Biology Institute and reported by the California Wolf Center.
CDFW is preparing for the return of wolves by developing a wolf management plan. “But the plan steps far outside the bounds of credible research and into the world of special interest-driven politics when it calls for authorizing the state to kill wolves when the population reaches as few as 50 to 75 animals,” says Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity. The deadline to comment on California’s plan is February 15, 2016.

Oregon

By early 2015 Oregon had 81 wolves in nine packs, most in eastern Oregon. OR-7’s Rogue pack lives in the southwestern part of the state. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) confirmed that two new wolves were spotted traveling in territory near the Rogue pack.

Oregon’s response to the return of wolves has been positive. “Oregon has been the only state in the nation with a meaningful wolf population that did not kill them despite having the authority to do so,” said Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild.
But that may change. In November, ODFW stripped Oregon’s wolves of state endangered species protection. Wolves remain fully protected in the western two-thirds of state under the federal Endangered Species Act. In Northeast Oregon, where most of the wolves live, ranchers can still only shoot a wolf caught in the act of wounding, biting, killing, or chasing livestock. The state still makes non-lethal deterrence the first choice for resolving conflicts between ranchers and wolves. 
To delist wolves, ODFW had to show that wolves were not in danger of extinction or population failure. The agency claims it did that. Klavins says ODFW did not. “They ignored substantive critiques from world-renowned scientists while justifying delisting based on a few sentences (in some cases cherry-picked) from a small number of selected experts of varying levels of credibility. They ignored over 20,000 public comments and overwhelming public testimony in favor of continued protections. They ignored troubling conflicts of interest and likely violated important legal requirements. The agency was dishonest with conservation stakeholders. Governor Brown was silent.”

On December 30, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal challenge to the removal of protection from gray wolves under Oregon’s Endangered Species act. 

Washington 
By early 2015, Washington had at least 68 wolves in 16 confirmed packs in the eastern and central portions of the state. Though Congress stripped wolves of federal Endangered Species Act protections in the eastern third of the state, all wolves remain protected under Washington’s ESA.

But, as elsewhere, protection hasn’t stopped the killing. According to the Seattle Times, at least half a dozen Washington wolves have been killed by poachers since 2012. This includes a Whitman County poacher fined a measly $100 last September. Another wolf was struck and killed on Interstate 90. State sharpshooters in helicopters shot and killed seven wolves in one pack in 2012 for preying on livestock.
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) went to court to stop such state-sponsored killing. WELC sued Wildlife Services, a federal extermination program under the USDA, challenging its authority to kill wolves in Washington. In late December the Seattle Times reported that a federal judge ruled that killing wolves “to reduce predation on livestock is not only highly controversial, but highly uncertain to work as intended, given the ongoing scientific dispute about the policy. 

Therefore, the agency must complete a full environmental-impact statement before engaging further in “lethal removal” of wolves…” 
As of early December, north-central Washington has a new wolf pack. The Loup Loup pack was identified after numerous reports of wolf sightings prompted wildlife officials to investigate the Methow Valley. Biologists tracked up to six animals traveling together. Because this pack is in western Washington, the animals are protected under the federal ESA. Officials plan to outfit at least one wolf with a radio collar.
Wolves have also been spotted in the North Cascades, where they have been moving back and forth across the Canadian border. Scientists have identified more wild landscape in Washington that wolves could occupy, including on the Olympic Peninsula.

Idaho

The most recent official count found 770 wolves surviving in Idaho at the end of 2014. In that same year, hunters killed 256 wolves, wildlife agents killed 67, and 19 other wolves died at the hands of humans. 
And 2015 looks to be as deadly. Wildlife Services has removed 70 wolves and as of early December 120 wolves have been shot or trapped, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. And 145 more could still die.
The cost of hunting licenses reveals how Idaho values wolves. A wolf tag costs $11.50, while a turkey tag costs $19.75. A tag to take an elk costs $30.75. Hunters may buy up to five wolf hunting tags per year and use electronic calls to attract wolves.
A group of hunters with the misleading name Idaho for Wildlife was planning a January 2016 wolf and coyote killing derby on public lands near Salmon, Idaho. The contest included a $1,000 prize for whoever kills the most wolves and another $1,000 to the killer of the most coyotes. But in mid-November the group canceled the derby after being challenged in the courts by the Western Environmental Law Center, representing WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Boulder-White Clouds Council. Four other groups—Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, and Project Coyote—also sued the Bureau of Land Management, contending the permit opposes the federal government’s wolf-reintroduction efforts.
Both lawsuits continue since the derby organizer has said that the derby would be held in January—but on private ranches in the Salmon area and on U.S. Forest Service land that doesn’t require a permit.
In early-August, conservation groups won another victory for Idaho wolves. Earthjustice, representing Ralph Maughan, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity, had filed a federal lawsuit to halt the killing of wolves in Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Idaho wanted to kill 60% of the wolves in this federally protected area managed by the USFS. But the USFS has told Earthjustice that Idaho will kill no wolves in the area in the winter of 2015-2016.

Montana
The number of gray wolves in Montana continues to fall under state management. The verified population at the end of 2014 (latest data) was 554, as compared to 627 wolves at the end of 2013, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP). In 2011, the year wolves were stripped of ESA protection, there were 653 wolves in Montana.
In 2014, 308 wolves died; 301 at the hands of humans. Wildlife managers, including Wildlife Services, killed 57 of those wolves. Hunters killed 206 during the state’s expanded 2014-15 hunting season. A wolf-hunting license costs $19 for residents, and 20,383 wolf licenses were sold in 2014. The combined maximum hunting and trapping bag limit is five wolves per person.
Conservation groups saved some wolves from hunters. In July of 2015 The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission reduced from three to two the number of wolves that can be killed each year in two hunting districts near the north border of Yellowstone National Park. These districts are two of the three more tightly controlled wolf-hunting districts in the state. The third is near Glacier National Park, which already had a quota of two wolves. This quota reduction represents ongoing success: In 2014 wolf advocates were able to get the quota in those two units adjoining Yellowstone reduced from four to three wolves.
Also in 2015 MFWP brought together groups that want to protect wolves (for example, Wolves of the Rockies, Bear Creek Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Montana Audobon Society) and groups that want to shoot wolves (Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Bowhunters’ Association, and Montana Stockgrowers’ Association). The groups discussed, among other issues, whether non-hunting conservation groups and hunter conservation groups can find common ground. “This is a promising move forward in working together for the betterment of wildlife management and is open to the public to attend,” said Kim Bean, vice-president of Wolves of the Rockies.

Wyoming

Wolf from Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack. (Mary Strickroth)

At the end of 2014 (most recent count), Wyoming had 229 wolves in the state with an additional 104 in Yellowstone National Park for a total of 333 wolves.
In 2014 Earthjustice, representing Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Biological Diversity, fought in court to keep Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. The coalition won and stopped the killing of Wyoming’s wolves. The federal government and the state of Wyoming have appealed. “Wyoming appears determined to defend its uniquely hostile approach to wolf management,” said Tim Preso, managing attorney for Earthjustice.
History supports Preso’s statement. The federal government turned wolf management over to Wyoming in 2012. Most of the state was designated a predator zone, where anyone could kill any wolf, at any time, and for any reason. In less than two years, more than 200 wolves were slaughtered, according to Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife. Among the early victims of Wyoming’s killing spree was 06, the famous alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack.
The return of ESA protection has not stopped the killing. Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, reported in late-October that 55 wolves have been killed in Wyoming—mostly by Wildlife Services—and that is the largest government-funded wolf killing in eight years.
In mid-November, two U.S. senators (Republicans from Wyoming and Wisconsin) vowed to push to strip federal protection from gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states—and to prohibit courts from intervening in those states on the embattled predator’s behalf.

The Great Lakes States

In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimated that 3,722 wolves live in the three Great Lakes states, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. About sixty percent of those wolves roam Minnesota. The remainder is split almost evenly between Michigan and Wisconsin.
In December of 2014, all of those wolves came back under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act. Relisting was a huge victory for wolf advocates, but fighting to keep them listed, says Rachel Tilseth, of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, has been the biggest challenge of 2015. She told Wisconsin Public Radio, “Can states be trusted to manage wolves? I think not, and many other scientists agree that individual states cannot be trusted.”
In November two groups of scientists wrote letters about whether the gray wolf should be delisted as an endangered species.
First came a letter signed by 26 wildlife scientists urging the federal government to strip ESA protection from gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region. The scientists sent the letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Dan Ashe, director of USFWS. Among those writing the letter were David Mech, a wolf specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota. The scientists say that the integrity of the ESA is undercut if species aren’t removed when they’ve scientifically recovered. They believe that the combined population in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin represents recovery.
Less than a week later a group of 70 scientists and scholars wrote an open letter disagreeing with their colleagues. These scientists said that removing ESA protection from wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could be justified if and when the USFWS “uses the best available science that justifies delisting,” But, they added, ”Currently, it does not.”
“Quite simply, wolves still fit the legal definition of endangerment in the Great Lakes region and nationwide,” said the scientists, including John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University, leaders of a long-standing study of wolves at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.
The Associated Press reported that in the rebuttal letter, the scientists said public tolerance of wolves has risen substantially since they were given protection. Any suggestions that patience is wearing thin are spread by “special interest groups that are vocal, but small in number.”

Michigan

Michigan has about 630 wolves and all were believed to reside in the Upper Peninsula. In September, the website Michigan Live reported that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) confirmed that a second gray wolf has reached the Lower Peninsula. Genetic testing of male wolf scat found that this dispserser may have originated in northeast Ontario. Though wolves have moved into the Lower Peninsula, there’s not yet evidence of a breeding population.
Meanwhile, in Isle Royale National Park, the wolf population has fallen to three, including one deformed from inbreeding. In 2014, park officials hoped that new wolves would come to the island across ice bridges, but that didn’t happen. “There is now a good chance that it is too late to conduct genetic rescue,” John Vucetich told UPI. Vucetich and Rolf Peterson suggest that fewer and smaller ice bridges as well as development on the mainland may hinder repopulation.

Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said in August that the state’s wolf population estimate has not varied “significantly” over the last three years. The latest survey estimates that 2,221 wolves live in 374 packs within northern and central Minnesota. That estimate is down from the previous winter’s estimate of 2,423 wolves. 

Wisconsin

In June, wildlife officials announced that the state’s wolf population is close to an all-time high. Preliminary surveys conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) place current wolf numbers between 746 and 771, about a 13 percent increase from last year’s 660.

In August, WDNR reported that a pack of three to four wolves resides in the Wisconsin Dells area, according to WiscNews. Except for one other location in the state’s southwest, this is the farthest south that wolves have migrated in Wisconsin.
A Look Ahead to 2016

Here’s how some of the advocates contacted for this report see 2016 shaping up.

“Sadly, our wolf, wildlife, and environmental issues will play out in the political arena based largely on special interest and politics, not on science, conservation, or preservation,” says Dr. Robin Chriss of Chriss Wildlife Consulting. “We need to be there in solidarity as wolf advocates, to be a voice. If not, we will lose a lot in 2016.”

“Corporate ranchers and farmers,” says Patricia Herman of Protect the Wolves, “don’t want to learn to coexist with wolves. They just want to continue to take more and more land, until there is no room for wildlife anywhere.”
“Keeping the Great Lakes wolves under federal protection,” says Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, “is and will be the biggest challenge of 2016.” 
For Oregon Wild’s Rob Klavins, 2016 looks scary. “Anti-wolf interests and their political allies have brought anti-wolf legislation every year since wolf recovery began. They’ve promised to do so again, and wolves have lost some of their champions in recent years.”
Kim Bean from Wolves of the Rockies believes the attack on the ESA will continue and “wolves will most likely be delisted nationally.” This leaves the states to manage wolves without any federal help. “We as advocates,” advises Bean, “need to stand and fight even harder, and will need the help of an empathetic public to do so. We need one loud and powerful voice.”

Go to Rick Lamplugh’s blog here

A day to day webdocumentary – A video journal filmed by Jim Brandenburg and directed by Laurent 

I’m a fan of Nature 365 and have the ap on my IPad.  Brandenburg and Joffrion’s daily webdocumentary present the viewer with beauty, serenity and spirituality of our natural world. I crave more of these videos and hope this series will continue in 2016.  ~Rachel

Source: 365 moments of nature, from January 1 to December 31, 2015. A video journal filmed by Jim Brandenburg and directed by Laurent Joffrion. A naturalist and poetic vision of the northern wild biotopes.

Introduction by Jim Brandenburg, wildlife photographer and filmmaker
For many years I filmed the forests around my wilderness home in the great northwoods and the wide-open prairies of my childhood. I had no particular project in mind; I simply enjoyed documenting the moods of the day and the coming and goings of the wild creatures that were almost like family to me. It became like a diary and for many years it was rare not to ‘write’ something with my camera nearly every day.

Those precious experiences and memories have now found a safe home where they can be shared with many of my friends from around the world. It surprised me how extensive this diary had become. Day by day, year after year the pages accumulated. The resulting journal found its voice. Each day a one minute impression of a unique event that I was fortunate to witness is presented. Less can be more in this case. Like a good poem, the material that is left out gives weight to what remains. Nature has blessed me with its gifts of subtle but powerful teaching. One might even describe these moments I give back as a form of a small prayer; a mindful effort to pay homage to a wild and natural living land.

There were themes that kept presenting themselves to me – like the resident wolf pack that over the years learned to trust my presence. The wolf is a recurring subject, perhaps more than any other. In their trust, secrets were revealed to my camera that were not known, even to science. Then on occasion I entered into another world and encountered a ghost from the past in the name of a Native American spirit. Those that lived a natural existence here for centuries before me have left a strong presence. I felt their presence and knew it was appropriate to include that spirit.

The seasons would usually slide into their nearly imperceptive rhythm and other times the land transformed overnight. The magic of living and embracing the grandeur of wild nature is heightened by dramatic weather changes that can leave city dwellers unbalanced. Nature has become the enemy to many. That is a dangerous condition.

I have tried to project the miracle as I saw it. A translation of the unknown gift we often don’t understand or even see. I hope the message was received and understood, better yet felt. For that I would be honored; the land and its creatures would be eternally thankful.

 Intentions by Laurent Joffrion, director
One day, Jim Brandenburg came to me with a mysterious gift. He gave me some hard drives filled with video clips that no one had ever seen. A work of several years in the northwoods and the great prairies of the Midwest, USA. His backyard at Ravenwood, where he lives, and Luverne, where he was born.
« It’s for you… he said, I don’t know what we can do with this, but perhaps we could work together ? »
An honor and a great challenge.
So I reviewed all of these videos. For hours and hours… And I found this remarkable body of work. I watched the seasons pass through the years. Spring blooms, fall colors, first snows, vast frozen horizons… I followed streams and canoed on preserved lakes; I wandered the great plains on the bison footsteps. Deep in the forest, I witnessed how the wolf pack evolved and their puppies grew; Wild orchids, migrating birds gathering, prairie dogs… I marveled at air bubbles trapped under transparent ice, at sparkling frost or morning silhouettes hiding in the fog. I contemplated northern lights, heard the loons call, slept under the stars…
For almost ten years, Jim filmed his natural environment, keeping an exclusive journal. Exceptional. These videos are remarkable as they come from a long term commitment, as they reflect a unique and poetic vision by Jim, and as they show the beauty and diversity of the great natural systems of the northern hemisphere, the boreal forest and the great plains, as they are when their wilderness is preserved. I don’t think I’ll ever have an other opportunity to work with such a body of work on a natural history subject.
Then, thinking about Jim’s previous successes such as Chased By The Light, Looking for the Summer or 93 Days of Spring, all built on the principle of one picture a day, I thought «Why don’t we present one daily video sequence, for the whole next year ? 365 original clips which, as a set, would reveal the pertinence of Jim’s documentary work. A journal; a collection of short and personal stories; an innovating web documentary offering an authentic and poetic vision of nature…»
This project, named Nature 365, was born from my connection with Jim, the discovery of his rare and precious video work, and from our common wish to share it with people. I hope that each person who will here discover this great wilderness, will appreciate it as much as I do.

Jim Brandenburg has published many bestsellers including: Chased by the Light, Looking for the Summer, Brother Wolf, White Wolf and Minnesota Images of Home. He has also published many young adult books including the National Geographic book titled Face to Face with Wolves. His movie and TV work includes filming with NHK in Japan, National Geographic Television Specials and the BBC television series “Life.” Several Brandenburg photographic exhibitions are planned in the US, Europe and Japan over the next several years.
Jim Brandenburg’s work can be seen on the web at http://www.jimbrandenburg.com or at the Brandenburg Gallery in Ely, Minnesota and Luverne, Minnesota.

About Laurent Joffrion
His passion for nature and his particular interest for the relationship that unites man with his environment inspire french director Laurent Joffrion to usually offer an optimistic vision of nature. Stories of artists who value biodiversity, stories about people committed to the preservation of their natural heritage, stories about synergies and conservation projects… His most important films have won awards at national and international festivals. Laurent Joffrion has worked with several television production companies, in France and abroad, and on the new medias by exploring innovating narrative forms. For this purpose, he created the multimedia company FollowFocus, which runs the Nature 365 channel : http://www.followfocus.fr

All images are from: Nature 365 Website

December 29, 2015 click HERE to watch the last video of the year. The following are Jim’s thoughts…

  
Once a wolf – Day 363 of 365

And thoughts…
This being the last wolf video of the year, I’d like to share some background on the continuing story of the Ravenwood wolves. The image of the wolf skull in this moment has a story with it that I felt you should hear.
Ravenwood is my home tucked in the wilds of Minnesota’s Superior National Forest. It is the area where all the wolves in Nature365 were filmed. It’s a vast wild land that contains the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi. The huge Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is just outside my door. Only two major roads between my home and the North Pole would be crossed if one went that direction. My location is just four miles from Canada.
I moved there many years ago to be close to the only small pocket of wolf population that escaped extermination and near extinction in the contiguous U.S. Wolves have roamed this land since the glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago. They have always been a crucial part of this ecosystem, and were here long before us humans and the white-tailed deer, that we love to hunt so very much. Wolves represent the wild as much as any animal I know. I needed to be close – to live with them to tell their story. For more than 35 years I’ve attempted to do just that through words and pictures. It hasn’t been easy but it certainly has been rewarding and even life changing.
When I first came to the wild Northwoods from the tamed prairie I saw the hatred for the wolf. It is not unique to Minnesota. I have seen that same fear and disgust in my travels all around the world, from Norway (one of the worst examples) to France. I only see a form of curious compassion in countries where the wolf has disappeared. That’s the way it goes – once we lose or destroy something there is often a new and fresher view and understanding. Perhaps a form of regret, and/or guilt, comes over the reflective and collective culture – a looking back.
In my studies and work with animals I have seen that the wolf is unique in how people perceive them. It is the most persecuted and misunderstood animal of them all. That is a story I expanded greatly upon in my book Brother Wolf. It is one reason I chose to spend my life with wolves and tell their story. I had thought over the years the work that some of us had done had made a difference.
I was rather startled by the attention that came my way because of the wolf connection ‘fame’. The wolf became a charismatic figure – it felt like a revolution had taken place. Movies were made like “Dances with Wolves”, hundreds of books were published and wolf centers were built like worship temples – bringing in thousands of people. I needed to retreat deeper into the forest from the rock star – like attention. At the same time I was terribly pleased to see the public’s new love for the wolf.
Then, the reality of a sad and deepening trend surfaced. The “a wolf got my deer” hunting crowd proposed a wolf hunt. Almost over night a bill was written and promoted by misguided legislators to satisfy the angry hunters and wolf haters. I never would have dreamed of such a development. The bill passed. The mystery is how it slipped by with 80% of Minnesotans opposing a wolf sport hunt. It is a complex and old sad story where misperceptions and scapegoating prevailed to achieve political ends. With resentment and competition towards wolves, it became easy to incite the willing with emotional tales that played to fears. Wolves were terrorists in our midst.
All of the wolves that you have been watching on these daily videos are gone now. I have not seen a wolf at Ravenwood in more than four years! Ever since the first wolf hunt the wolf family that I got to know so well was either shot or dispersed because of the stress because of the chaos that developed. As you have seen through the year, the wolf family is extremely closely knit. Not unlike the human family. I have seen the depression and confusion that overtakes the pack’s mood when one or two go missing. Those of you that have dogs know how they react when a prominent member of the human or dog family leaves. Same animal, with the same reaction – dogs are wolves. That’s why I have a hard time understanding the sport-killing concept.
One serious unintended (but not surprising) consequence happened once the hunt was in place. It’s rarely talked about, or even known in wolf circles. I have been in a unique position to see the profound change in a wolf pack caught up in that war… that’s what it looks and feels like to me. That consequence is that once Federal laws took protection away from the wolf and the state Department of Natural Resources allowed a hunt, it caused a kind of subtle permission to degrade the protective status or even “feeling” that wolves were off limits to kill. I know many of the wolves in my pack were killed illegally – the dam was opened and the culture gave its permission with an uncaring wink. I have heard first hand stories of local wolf haters shooting them out of season. Bragging goes on in the local bars; it’s a status thing with some (not all) in the hunting tribe – a badge of honor. One needs to live in the culture to see it. Secrets are revealed. I saw things that are lost to visitors.
Very few, if any have spent as much time as I have – living near the pack and in the midst of several generations of wolves being born and dying. I knew them all – some intimately. I hope this daily peek into my wolf world has helped some understand and see the magic of this remarkable animal. It’s a partnership that goes back 40,000 years or more when man invited the wolf into his family and then they became dogs.
The status of the wolf comes and goes in the Federal legal sense. For now they are safe in Minnesota. That will be challenged again I’m sure. If we care and value this national treasure I would encourage people to make even a small gesture to help. Howling for Wolves is a Minnesota based group that has made a huge difference in exposing the wolf’s plight. Please see their work here and contribute: http://www.howlingforwolves.org. I also am very proud to have worked with my friend Julia Huffman in making her documentary movie Medicine of the Wolf that tells the story of the hunt and reveals some intimate details of my wolf experiences at Ravenwood. One can purchase or rent the movie on iTunes or Julia’s website: http://www.medicineofthewolf.com.
There is a mix of sadness and relief in sharing this story. It has changed my life; things never remain the same – in nature and in culture. A combination of sadness and pride is also felt in seeing this year’s collection of moments end. A total of about six hours has been shown in the Nature365 series. It is at times difficult to see and comprehend how much time and effort I invested into this. When one is in love, measurements don’t matter. I was in love with my subject. I hope those that did not see all of the moments this past year will have the opportunity to view them during the next year as they will be replayed in full on this site.
Finally, my dear friends and colleagues at the editing studio in France did the incredible task of crafting each day from the hundreds of hours of video that I shot over the years. I give my deepest admiration and respect to Laurent Joffrion who conceived and directed this year’s NATURE 365 presentation. Benoit Maximos and Léo-Pol Jacquot patiently worked with Laurent and me through the year. I am indeed humbled and honored.
Jim Brandenburg

‘Behind the Eyes of a Dog’ by Artist – Diana J. Smith, 

‘Behind the Eyes of a Dog’ by Artist Diana J. Smith

The inspiration for this body of work comes from the way dogs looks at you with intense concentration as if trying to understand your words or thoughts. I am intrigued by the intelligence and extreme focus in their eyes and the depth of their concentration as well as their beautiful noses, detecting smells we cannot even acknowledge.

All dogs evolved from mother wolf, and I suggest that by blending of images the dog with his kind and his forbearers. Embracing collage techniques, I collect countless pictures of dogs and wolves from old discarded books and magazines. As I begin each piece, I select several hundred of these images based on color and value; I cut out each one and adhere it to the canvas surface. When grouped together, these tiny pictures form a much larger image, the crux of the composition. My style is loose and suggestive with painted detail reserved for eyes and nose.

 

I ask the viewer to experience each painting at a distance, and then, as they approach, discover the hundreds of elements which make up the piece. In so doing, the viewer develops a new awareness and admiration for the beauty and intelligence of the wolf. They should ponder evolution and the hundreds of breeds of companions we enjoy today, all descended from the wolf. I want them to treasure the wolf as they do their dogs.

Behind the Eyes of a Dog by Artist Diana J. Smith website

Great Lakes Wolf News Highlights of the Year 2015

This year in review for the Great Lakes wolf has seen it all from being federally protected, to threats of delisting, and anti- wolf riders being rejected. The year 2015 started out on a positive note for wolf advocates, because a federal Judge had ordered the Great Lakes Wolf back on the ESA on December 19, 2014. This positive news didn’t last long and wolf advocates began to brace themselves against the possibility that the Great Lakes wolf could be delisted at any given moment. Anti-wolf factions were angered by the decision that returned the wolf back under federal protections. These anti-wolf factions began to work with special interests groups to undermine the endangered species act by attaching riders on legislation that would prevent any judicial review and return wolves back into the hands of states. Thus began the battle to save the Great Lakes wolf. 

On Friday December 19, 2014 the news broke that Great Lakes wolves were put back on the Federal Endangered Species Act immediately.

IMG_2654

Great Lakes wolves ordred back on the ESA , December 19, 2014


Several organizations challenged a rule that had removed the Great Lakes wolf from the Endangered Species Act. The humane society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, Help Our Wolves Live, Friends of Animals and their Environment, and Born Free USA were the organizations that successfully sued to have the Great Lakes wolf put back on the ESA.
The following is a press release from HSUS…

“Sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, a federal District Court has ruled. The court overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.” Cited from HSUS http://bit.ly/1Qozn3U

The following is excerpts from the ruling…

“In its 111-page ruling, the court chided the USFWS for failing to explain why it ignored the potential for further recovery of wolves into areas of its historic range that remain viable habitat for the species. The court also noted that the USFWS has failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species.”  Cited from HSUS http://bit.ly/1Qozn3U

Great Lakes states were not willing to protect an endangered species. The following are some examples of unregulated sport hunting of wolves that took place while they were off the ESA list.

IMG_2612

Young wolf killed in Wisconsin’s third wolf hunt. Wisconsin is the only state that allows unregulated wolf hound hunting.


1. Wisconsin rushed to hunt wolves with the aid of hound hunting dogs. Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” 
http://bit.ly/1P3877L

2. Minnesota used snares to kill wolves. Can it get any more violent? Wolves were killed in Minnesota using these snare traps. Minnesota hunting regulations MDNR use of snare for trapping begins. Cited from WODCW blog http://bit.ly/221SBjM

In other news, Michigan citizens worked hard to overturn any and all bids to hunt wolves and to keep wolves protected. For more information on this fight visit Keep Michigan Wolves Protected. http://bit.ly/1RNqiB6

Returning wolves to the ESA was the best news of the year for wolf advocates in the Great Lakes region.  Shortly after this good news broke, anti-wolf legislators started designing legislation calling to delist wolves without any judicial review. In response to this anti-wolf legislation, several pro wolf organizations called for a compromise.

“… a petition from 22  regional and national conservation and wolf advocacy organizations, to keep protections in place – asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify wolves from “endangered” to “threatened.” The proposal would ensure federal oversight of wolves, encourage the development of a national recovery plan, and keep funding in place for wolf recovery while permitting states to address specific wolf conflicts.” Cited from WODCW blog http://bit.ly/1QCCmWy

The fight to keep Wolves on the endangered species list continued in June, as the US Fish and Wildlife Service denied the threatened status for the gray wolf.  Science was ignored  by Wisconsin and Minnesota and trophy hunting became the only acceptable tool used to manage the Great Lakes wolf.  It was no wonder a Federal Judge ordered them back on the ESA on December 19, 2014 after three years of unregulated trophy hunting in the Great Lakes region. 

In WI news, it was determined that a trophy hunt on wolves did not increase tolerance of wolves and that WI residents need wolf education to increase tolerance of wolves.

Scientists began to speak out against trophy hunts on wolves…

“There was a notion held widely in the scientific literature and said at public meetings that a public hunting season would increase acceptance of wolves,” says Adrian Treves, professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and co-author of the study. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cited “maintaining social tolerance” as a goal of the wolf harvest in a statement in 2013… While wolf hunting is again illegal — the animals were relisted as a federally endangered species in 2014 — study lead author Jamie Hogberg, a researcher at the Nelson Institute, suggests policymakers and wildlife managers might consider other ways to improve social tolerance and reduce conflict between the animals and people going forward.” Cited from, Tolerance of wolves in Wisconsin continues to decline, UW-Madison news http://bit.ly/1NZQrGW

In an attempt to satisfy anti-wolf special interests, several members of congress began to push legislation to delist the Great Lakes wolf.

“Johnson’s bill would mirror H.R. 884, a bill introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble that would again remove wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan from the Endangered Species List. The bills would override a December federal court ruling that outlawed wolf hunts. Cited from Wisconsin Public Radio, Sen. Johnson Plans To Introduce Bill Delisting Wolf Under Endangered Species Act, Legislation Would Mirror Rep. Ribble’s Bill In House,” Friday, March 6, 2015, 6:50pm, By Glen Moberg http://bit.ly/1NsFv5a

Conditions worsened for the Great Lakes wolf,  as anti-wolf legislation took the form of a  rider attached to federal budget that called to delist the wolves without any judicial review.

Great Lakes wolf advocates rushed to defend the endangered species Act from being undermined. Advocates held tweetstorms, letter writing, and email campaigns to stop anti-wolf legislation.

  
The most recent news on the delisting question took place in November 2015…

However, a greater debate broke out between scientists. There were many who advocated delisting, but there were even more who did not believe wolves should be delisted. The following is an account of the pro-wolf listing scientists:

Scientists Sound Off Over Gray Wolf Hunting, Species Currently Protected But Congress, Courts Could Change That, Wednesday, November 25, 2015, 5:10pm, By Chuck Quirmbach of WPR

“In recent weeks, scientists and researchers have been speaking up. Adrian Treves, a University of Wisconsin-Madison environmental studies professor, has co-authored a paper in the journal Biological Reviews that says by allowing hunters to shoot and trap wolves, Wisconsin legislators violated the Public Trust Doctrine that says governments must maintain natural resources for the use of current and future generations of the general public… This week, Treves joined 28 other scientists in arguing that Endangered Species Act protection for the wolves should be kept. Treves contends a different group of scientists that released a pro-delisting letter last week misunderstood the finer points of law, public attitudes and scientific evidence.”  Cited from WPR http://bit.ly/21h1be4

The following information concerns scientists who asked that wolves be delisted:

“Former DNR wolf biologist Adrian Wydeven, now coordinator of the Timber Wolf Alliance at Northland College in Ashland, said the group has a message for Congress: “Just want to let them know that many of us feel wolves have recovered and they should be a state-managed species at this point,” Wydeven said.”  Cited from WPR http://bit.ly/21h1be4

I even weighed in on the debate in the same post…

“Various advocates are lining up behind the two groups of scientists. Rachel Tilseth, of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, disagreed with Wydeven…”Can states be trusted to manage wolves? I think not, and many other scientists agree that individual states cannot be trusted,” Tilseth said.” Cited from WPR http://bit.ly/21h1be4

Since the Great Lakes wolf were returned to the endangered Species Act on December, 19, 2014, the news coming out of Washington D.C. has been a steady stream of of anti-wolf legislation.  Keeping the Great Lakes Wolf under federal protection has been the biggest battle of the year. 
Wolves must remain under federal protection until individual states in the Great Lakes, can learn how to protect an iconic species. Scientists have just begun to understand how essential wolves are to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Hunting wolves as a management tool only serves special interest groups bent on eradication. Cited from WODCW blog http://bit.ly/1Yfo79h

  A welcomed bit of hope for the wolf came out in April 2015 in the form of a documentary, Medicine of the Wolf, a film made in Minnesota. This film features wolf advocates, such as renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg and Michigan Scientist John Vucetich. This film was produced and directed by Julia Huffman. I recommend you purchase this film available for sale now. The following link will take you to the film’s website: http://bit.ly/1fufXDP

At last, a victory came for the Great Lakes wolves, almost one year after they were ordered back under federal protections. The rider ordering the delisting of our wolves was removed from the omnibus budget bill:

“A proposal that would have taken gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region and Wyoming off the endangered list did not make it into a massive year-end congressional tax and spending package, an omission that surprised its backers but was welcomed Wednesday by groups that support maintaining federal protections for the predators… “Cooler heads prevailed in Congress,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. He said a letter written by Sens. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Barbara Boxer, D-California, and signed by 23 other senators including Gary Peters, D-Michigan, helped make the difference. Cited from WODCW blog http://bit.ly/1QuCpUd

Although this is good news for Great Lakes wolves, they are not out of the woods yet; read on:

“The Obama administration, Michigan, Wisconsin and Wyoming are appealing the two decisions. Minnesota is not formally a party to the Midwest case, but the state attorney general’s office filed an amicus brief Tuesday supporting a reversal…The brief says Minnesota’s wolf management plan will ensure the animals continue to thrive in the state. It says Minnesota’s wolf population and range have expanded to the point of saturating the habitat in the state since the animals went on the endangered list in 1973, creating “human-wolf conflict that is unique in its cost and prevalence.

There are still several anti-wolf bills in congress that would delist the wolf in the Great Lakes region, but at the end of this year, the Great Lakes wolf is still federally protected by the endangered species act. The question I ask for the coming year is this: will the president and congress protect iconic and endangered species? We must constantly remind both that they should do exactly that.

For more information on how to help keep the Great Lakes wolf listed, click on the following links: 

Howling for Wolves http://bit.ly/1anEY4R

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin http://bit.ly/1HOF6Nw

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected http://keepwolvesprotected.com/about

  

Learning How to Coexist with Wolves by Meeting the Needs of the Local People

People share the northern Wisconsin forests with wolves. ​These folks​view the wolf from several perspectives:​​​ some fear him, others love him, ​and still ​​there are those who outright ​hate him.  ​​Regardless of opinion, the wolf is the most talked about wild animal in Wisconsin. ​So how do we all live in these woods with such a well-known creature? ​

Dr. Jane Goodall believed in order to save Chimpanzees local people’s needs must be addressed; she said: ​”People living in the forests surrounding critical chimpanzee habitat are among the poorest on the planet. Consequently, it is short-sighted to develop solutions for chimps without addressing the needs of local people. Effective programs must provide win-win solutions for both chimps and people. Thankfully, conserving forests benefits both local people as well as chimps and other fauna (Source:​ Lessons Learned from Dr. Jane Goodall, by Nancy Merrick).

Dr. Jane Goodall

​We can apply these same words to our situation by meeting the needs of our own locals.​ Firstly, these needs can be economic. If local communities rely heavily on hunting to meet their financial needs, then we need to offer alternatives. Wolf-ecotourism could be that alternative. Such an endeavor would offer job opportunities to many. But how does that affect wild wolves?  People traipsing all over wolf habitat in the hope of viewing the elusive wild wolf will likely only disturb them. Perhaps then, we should arrange for guided tours that are allowed to go only in certain areas.

   

Secondly, another way to meet the needs of the local people would be in providing wolf education and awareness.  Living with Wolves and National Geographic developed a Grey wolf Educator’s Guide for schools.  This guide is about: “The purpose of this guide is to provide educators of students from kindergarten to high school with activities that will enrich students’ understanding about the gray wolf of North America. The activities are intended to dispel common myths and prejudices that are held about these animals and to encourage youth to get involved in conservation efforts.” (Source: Grey Wolf Educator Guide, by Living with Wolves and National Geographic.) These guides would benefit local people and wolves.  People would have a new perspective about how beneficial wolves are for ecosystems.

Living with Wolves

Lastly, helping local people live alongside a large carnivore such as the wolf requires a way to mitigate conflicts. Wisconsin Department of Natural resources has a Wildlife Damage Specialist, Brad Koele.   Click here to watch WODCW’s video interview with Koele The WDNR Wildlife Damage program could be expanded to add citizen liaisons as volunteers. Volunteers would attend local county board meetings. The volunteers would take any wolf related concerns back to the WDNR Wildlife Damage specialist.  A volunteer wolf liaison program would give local people a voice in wolf management.

Solving the needs of the local people is a necessary step to resolving conflicts that stand in the way of coexisting with wolves.

 

 

Wolves may be recovered enough to delist but are individual states prepared to protect them? 

 

Wild wolf howling in the Canadian Rockies Copyright : John E Marriott

 
Point counter point:

The newest debate on the fate of America’s wolves comes in the form of a letter…”The 18 November (2015) letter, sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), is intended to support the federal government’s position that wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan are fully recovered and that states should now manage the species.” Science Insider

The letter from 26 scientists states that wolves have recovered enough in the Great Lakes region and do not need protection under the Endangered Species Act. 

Recovery of wolves has made great strides over the last four decades in the region with a population of over 3,700 wolves. 

That is until 2011 when wolves were officially delisted in the Great Lakes and states like Wisconsin rushed to enact emergency legislation that mandated a wolf hunt…”Department authority. If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169

States caved in to the pressure from sportsman and agricultural special interest groups. Wolf recovery ended and trophy hunting of wolves began. 

Wisconsin was the worst, even allowing the use of dogs to track and trail wolves proving it cannot be trusted to protect an endangered species…

“Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”” Fact Sheet: Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”

Wisconsin went as far as to stack wolf management in favor of hunting interests.

 The majority of the seats on Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee consisted of hunt clubs.  (WI Bear Hunters Association and WI Bow Hunters Association to name a few).

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary, Cathy Stepp, admitted that wolf advocacy groups were booted…

“Stepp confirmed what her critics have alleged: that wolf hunting opponents were by and large kicked off the committee…When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Wisconsin Public Radio

Is this an example of how Wisconsin protects an endangered species? Can states be trusted to manage wolves?

I think not and many other scientists agree that individual states cannot be trusted to manage wolves

“John Vucetich, a wildlife ecologist at Michigan Technological University in Houghton and a signer of the February letter, sees things differently. “The problem is that the recovery criteria don’t meet the standards of the ESA,” he says. And “if wolves are threatened by peoples’ hatred, then the ESA requires this threat to be mitigated.” He predicts that if the wolves are taken off the federal list, “every one of these states will have a wolf hunting season, ending any further expansion of the gray wolf.”  Science Insider

Science not hatred must be the deciding factor in the fate of America’s wolves.

That’s why (January 2015) the Humane Society of the United States, along with other wolf advocacy groups signed on to a letter sent to Secretary Jewell asking to downlist wolves from protected to threatened status. This is a compromise that would allow farmers and ranchers to address any concerns but not allow the hunting of wolves. 

“Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin signed onto this proposal. WODCW believes this threatened status will give non-lethal opportunities to address concerns regarding wolves with livestock producers and maintain the health of wolves. WODCW believes wolves should remain healthy, wild and not harassed from trophy hunts.” WODCW Blog January 27, 2015

Threatened status was rejected by Secretary Jewell proving states are not interested in a compromuse that would protect wolves.  

Wolves must remain under federal protection until individual states, such as Wisconsin, can learn how to protect an iconic species. Scientists have just begun to understand how essential wolves are to maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Hunting wolves as a management tool only serves special interest groups bent on eradication. 

Will individual states be trusted to protect wolves? 

~~~

Image: John E. Marriott

 

Trapping of Wisconsin Wolves Ends-Wolves have moved on and are not considered a threat. 

This is good news for a pack of wolves that were rearing their pups at the Colburn Wildlife Area in Adams county Wisconsin.

In news released on Friday October 30, 2015 in an article from WKOW Channel 27

“DNR carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland says no wolves were captured in traps.”

“MacFarland says signs of wolf activity in the wildlife area included tracks, scat and disturbed tree bark.”

“MacFarland says the wolves used the area as a rendezvous point as part of pup rearing. He says it’s an activity that takes place in the summer, and the wolves have moved on to other habitat.”

“Officials say the wolves’ aggression was likely a product of their proximity to activity in the state preserve.”  WKOW channel 27

The trapping of a pack of wolves in Adams County started back in September 23, 2015 when a hunter had an encounter with wolves. The hunter according to the DNR may have stumbled into a rendezvous site. 

A rendezvous site is where wolves place their pups while they are out hunting.

The hunter shot one of the wolves in self-defense and the wolf carcus was never found. United States Fish & Wildlife Service did a full investigation with no charges filed against the hunter from Friendship Wisconsin.  

Wisconsin wolves are on the Endangered Species List and are illegal to hunt. 

You can read the hunters story of his encounter with wolves in The NRA American Hunter article click here.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and USFW determined that the Freindship Wisconsin hunter’s encounter with a pack of wolves in Adams county was not a wolf attack. 

 Areas of the Colburn Wildlife area were closed after a second encounter occurred between a hunter and his son and the same wolf pack.

 In a news article by Ryan Mathews of the Northwoods River News on October 30, 2015…

DNR Large Carnivore Specialist David MacFarland said a second encounter, which supports Nellessen’s claim, occurred Oct. 10 at the same location as the Sept. 23 encounter.

“An individual and his son were hunting during the Youth Deer Hunt, and they actually were in the same exact location, down to the tree, as the first incident,” MacFarland said. “It was the same situation where wolves came uncomfortably close. Not the same interaction that the first individual had, but wolves getting a little too close and acting in a bold manner.”  The Northwoods River News

The Department of Natural Resources followed protocal on these two wolf encounters considering them to be a threat to human safety.

“MacFarland said the USDA Wildlife Services, in consultation with the USFWS and the property manager, has begun trapping in the area with the intent to lethally remove wolves from the area. Despite being protected federally, the state retains the authority to implement lethal control methods if animals are deemed a threat to human health and safety.”  The Northwoods River News

David MacFarland DNR carnivore specialist.

No wolves captured in traps…

In news released on Friday October 30, 2015 in an article from WKOW Channel 27

“ADAMS (WKOW) — Trapping for wolves in a state wildlife area in Adams County ends Friday, as wildlife specialists say the threat from the animals appears over, after hunters had two frightening encounters.”  WKOW Channel 27

  

Wildlife officials believe the wolves have moved out of the Colburn Wildlife Area and are not a threat to human safety. 

Feature imaged by John E. Marriott