“Behind the Eyes of a Dog” Artist Series: Blends Images of the Dog & His Forebears

“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.” ~Diana J Smith, Artist’s Statement

“The Nature of Things” 40×30 mixed media collage. Diana J Smith fine artist.

I’ve followed the work of fine artist Diana J Smith for awhile now. You can view all of her work at http://www.dianajsmith.com

Behind the Eyes of a Dog http://www.dianajsmith.com

Artist’s Statement:

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.

“Ancestor” 8×8 mixed media collage http://www.dianajsmith.com

“Heritage” 8×8 mixed media collage http://www.dianajsmith.com

“Past-Future” 18×18 mixed media collage http://www.dianajsmith.com

About artist Diana J Smith

Artis Diana J Smith

An Oklahoma native, Diana J. Smith received a BFA in painting from the University of Oklahoma. Her intense interest in masks led her into additional studies in anthropology.

Diana has exhibited in numerous juried, group, and solo shows and has won awards for her paintings, ceramics and masks. While Diana also enjoys pure abstraction, she is best known for her acrylic paintings of canines, enlivening her subjects with qualities of loyalty, humor, inquisitiveness, mystery and patience.

Diana created masks of leather during the 1980’s which are in private collections all over the country.

Represented by:

Worrell Gallery

103 Washington Ave.

Santa Fe, NM 87501



JRB Art at the Elms

2810 N. Walker Ave.

Oklahoma City, OK 73103



Marta Stafford Fine Art

200 Main Street

Marble Falls, Texas 78654



Beartooth Gallery Fine Art

110 S. Broadway Ave.

Red Lodge, MT 59068



Will the Endangered Species Act Survive Unscrupulous Politicians?

Ecosystem Services: Think of bees that pollinate more than 90 commercial crops in the U.S. That’s the beauty, or bounty, that the Endangered Species Act provides. The ESA ensures these beneficial ecosystems just don’t unravel. You see the Endangered Species Act doesn’t just protect the individual species, it also protects the lands, or habitats, the endangered species need to survive. For sure protecting these habitats can make it difficult for certain industries, mainly extractive industries, such as; oil & gas, mining and lumbering. Renewable energy is out pacing coal, oil & gas extractive industries in America. It’s a well known fact that, extractive industries cause more harm for our vital ecosystems; such as land, water, air and wildlife. But there are several politicians, like Senator Barrasso, Republican from Wyoming, that supports these extractive industries and wants to rewrite the ESA to accommodate these dying-extractive-industries.

The Trump administration is making drastic changes to how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is applied announced this week.

Chief among the changes is the removal of blanket protections for threatened animals and plants.

Until now, any species deemed threatened — a category for organisms at risk of becoming endangered — by the FWS automatically received the same protections as endangered species. They include bans on killing threatened and endangered species. Now, those protections will be determined on a case-by-case basis, a move which will probably reduce overall protections for species that are added to the threatened list, says Hartl.

The US government says that these updates will ease the burden of regulations and increase transparency into decisions on whether a species warrants protections. But critics say that the revisions cripple the ESA’s ability to protect species under increased threat from human development and climate change.

“These changes tip the scales way in favour of industry,” says Brett Hartl, government-affairs director for the environmental advocacy group the Center for Biological Diversity, who is based in Washington DC. “They threaten to undermine the last 40 years of progress.” Source

What are the economic benefits the Endangered Species Act generates from protecting vital habitats?

In the following article from Time The Endangered Species Act Is Criticized for Its Costs. But It Generates More than $1 Trillion a Year.

“Yeah, there are costs: it might slow down certain industries and help certain industries,” says Jason Shogren, an economics professor at the University of Wyoming. “We have to think about all the non-market benefits that exist for knowing these species exist, for knowing the web of life is intact, for knowing that these ecosystems aren’t going to unravel.”

Economists often describe this broad set of benefits as “ecosystem services,” and their value to the U.S. economy is enormous. Think of bees that pollinate more than 90 commercial crops in the U.S. like fruits, nuts and vegetables or birds that eat mosquitoes that would otherwise spread disease to humans.

A 2011 study prepared for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a government-affiliated conservation group, tabulated the total value of ecosystem services at about $1.6 trillion annually in the U.S. The value totaled more than $32 billion in National Wildlife Refuges protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Critics of the Endangered Species Act often couch their concerns in terms of the damage that it does to specific industries.

Speaking at a hearing on the law in 2017, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming went through a laundry list of economic interests he said were being harmed by the 1973 law.

“States, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders are all making it clear that the Endangered Species Act is not working today,” he said.

Biologist warn that changes to the ESA could be disastrous for species like the Monarch Butterfly.

But as the Trump Administration prepares a set of regulatory changes that could dramatically undermine the law, some supporters are highlighting the economic benefits of protecting endangered species.

They note that the law doesn’t just protect individual species, it also protects the ecosystems that support that species. That work sustaining natural lands and the species that call them home helps ensure everything from a hospitable climate to clean drinking water.

The Trump administration and republican law makers have been working to change the ESA…

Changes from Republicans in Washington would prioritize these industry concerns. The Department of the Interior in a press conference announced the changes to how the agency implements the law:

The changes finalized today by Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service apply to ESA sections 4 and 7. Section 4, among other things, deals with adding species to or removing species from the Act’s protections and designating critical habitat; section 7 covers consultations with other federal agencies.

These changes spell disaster for our natural resources…

The rule change would tighten standards for protecting new land, potentially allow regulators to ignore the effects of climate change on a species and, perhaps most significantly, allow for cost considerations when previously decisions were made on science alone.

Democrats are likely to fight these changes to the ESA…

Tinkering with the Endangered Species Act isn’t a political winner with polls showing most Americans broadly supporting the law, along with other environmental protections. But Democrats argue that their Republican counterparts have bet that reforming the popular law are ok with that so long as they reward the interest groups that helped put the current Republicans in office in the first place.

In a statement last year…

“The Trump Administration doesn’t seem to know any other way to handle the environment than as an obstacle to industry profits,” said Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, in a statement. “If a single company can make a single dollar from the destruction or displacement of an endangered species, it’s full speed ahead.”

Take action to preserve the Endangered Species Act…

Contact your Senator today! Center for Biological Diversity has an easy to use form and note to your congressman to tell the Trump Administration to stop gutting the ESA!

Use Center for Biological Diversity’s Take Action form click here.

Three Wolves Added to Isle Royale Population…

The Isle Royale fall wolf translocation project concluded on September 13 after successfully moving three wolves from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the park. The new wolves, two males and one female, bolstered the total island wolf population to 17, which now includes nine males and eight females, according to Isle Royale National Park Service Press Release.

Third Wolf runs down the trail just after release while NPS staff observe. Photo credit: NPS Phyllis Green.

According to the NPS a fourth wolf was moved to the park on September 13, but its collar sent out a mortality signal over the weekend. Biologists from the National Park Service (NPS) and State University of New York – College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) located the wolf and confirmed the mortality late on Tuesday afternoon. The carcass of the wolf will be sent to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for necropsy. “Capture, anesthesia, and translocation are stressful events for wolves and the impact of that stress on each individual wolf is unknown,” Isle Royale Park Superintendent Phyllis Green noted. “There is a field examination, however underlying health conditions of wolves prior to their capture are difficult to determine. The analysis of the samples collected during the examination and the necropsy may reveal more information about the cause of death, which will inform future transfers.”

The NPS worked closely with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), US Department of Agriculture APHIS – Wildlife Services (APHIS – Wildlife Services), and SUNY-ESF on the project. From September 5 – 13, seven wolves were captured; three of those not meeting translocation criteria were immediately released. The four adults were examined, documented, tagged and fitted with tracking collars before being flown to the park on a US Fish and Wildlife Service airplane.

“Adding genetics from Michigan wolves was a key piece of the puzzle to provide the best opportunity for genetic diversity that supports the sustainability of the introduced population. The Michigan DNR, APHIS – Wildlife Services, and SUNY-ESF did an outstanding job, given the weather,” Green said. “Our focus now will be on broad population goals and the opportunity these Michigan wolves represent. We will continue to learn what we can and track how the wolves integrate into the island landscape.”

The three to five year effort to establish 20 -30 wolves on Isle Royale is being completed in order to restore predation as a key part of the island ecosystem. Researchers involved in the planning effort recommended this number of wolves from the Great Lakes region. Additionally, they recommended an equal number of males and females in order to establish genetic variability in the new population. The NPS and its partners will monitor the wolf population to determine evidence of social organization, reproduction and predation. Click here to learn more about Isle Royale NPS wolf Project.

Last October (2018) I met up with John Vucetich at the International Wolf Symposium and interviewed him.

The following video was Filmed at the International Wolf Symposium on October 13, 2018 by Rachel Tilseth. The wolf introduction plan comes at a critical time. The 2018 winter study, led by researchers from Michigan Technological University, confirmed that just two wolves remain on the island and there is no hope that this pair will successfully breed. The nearly 1,500 moose at Isle Royale may double in population over the next several years, throwing the health of the park out of balance and devastating the island’s vegetation. Now is the time to restore this top predator and bring balance back to Isle Royale National Park, NPS. A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films, LLC.

Click here to learn more about Isle Royale NPS wolf Project.

WDNR Report of an injured gray wolf in Wisconsin.

Readers contacted me a few days ago because they had seen an injured gray wolf. I’m withholding location of the injured wolf in my article for obvious reasons. I contacted Todd Schiller, Chief Warden, Bureau of Law Enforcement Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and he let me know he was looking into the situation and would have someone get back to me.

Scott Walters WDNR Large Carnivore Specialist got back to me and here’s what he had to say.

We’re aware of this wolf, and are monitoring the situation. It’s not been observed in a week or so, which may suggest that it’s moved away from the area. We’ll continue to keep track of any observations, and will respond appropriately. The fact that the wolf has been observed in yards and near roadways, and has allowed people to approach fairly closely, has raised concerns about habituation and potential human safety issues, but we’ll assess any future encounters and respond accordingly.

The wolf clearly has an injured foreleg. Wolves and other wildlife have been known to survive with 3 legs, so hopefully this wolf is able to either heal or make a living away from people in its current condition. The fact it’s only been observed alone suggests that it’s not (closely, at least) associated with a pack, and its habit of showing up near humans suggests it may be having a hard time securing food. But again, we’ll hope for the best for this animal- that being that it’s not observed again and has found a way to survive away from people.

I asked him what people should do if they see this injured wolf, and should they haze the wolf to scare it way? And his response was the following.

If the wolf is observed again, it’s of course important that it not be approached by people as an attempt at hazing. If the wolf is not moving away from people on its own, indicative of health issues or habituation, my best advice would be to have people call USDA-Wildlife Services staff at 1-800-228-1368. Honking a horn or yelling out a car window may be attempted to get the wolf to move, but I’d recommend people still contact Wildlife Services so that they are aware of the interaction. We certainly all want what’s best for this wolf, but most important is that we ensure it does not become a threat to human safety.

It’s important not to approach, follow or interact with this injured gray wolf as it would put him/her in jeopardy. Gray wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Wisconsin Gray wolf, Photograph Credit USF&WS

Teaching Compassion—Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy Documentary Film Series

The Yellowstone Story

Director Statement by Rachel Tilseth

This is a story of passion, endurance and fighting even when the odds are against you. In this story I want to introduce you to four courageous people working to preserve the legacy of Yellowstone’s wolves. People either love or hate the wolf, and he’s been long misunderstood for many centuries.

Thousands of people in vehicles line the roads in Yellowstone National Park hoping for a glimpse of a wild wolf. People are everywhere, dozens at a time, searching through spotting scopes for wolves. One of these wolf watchers is advocate Ilona Popper, whose passion for wolves can be clearly heard in her voice. We introduce the viewer to ilona Popper as she sets up her spotting scope in Lamar Valley home to one of Yellowstone’s beloved wolf packs. As Ilona speaks you can hear the urgency in her voice because it’s September and the Montana wolf hunt is just around the corner. She recounts the tragic story of a famous alpha female wolf that was killed by a wolf hunter after she left the sanctuary of the park.

Time lapses will introduce the viewer to the ever changing weather that wolves face in Yellowstone.

Drones are not allowed in the park boundaries but aerial footage will, along with the time lapses, give a perspective of the immensity of the park landscapes.

We introduce the viewer to Dr. Nathan Varley as he hikes in a picturesque landscape that is Yellowstone in winter, and is set at the Buffalo Ranch situated near the Lamar river. Dr. Varley is on a hike with wolf watcher clients where he explains the history of Yellowstone’s wolf reintroduction. Throughout the year, Dr. Varley along with his business partner and wife Linda Thurston, take their clients into the park every morning.

We introduce you to Marc Cooke President of Wolves of the Rockies during a spring snow storm and within view of the famous northern gate of Yellowstone. The viewer will see herds of bison, elk and antelope in spring time grazing on the moist green grasses as Marc talks about the famous Lamar Valley wolf pack. I will introduce the viewer to cell phone audio of the Lamar Valley wolf packs’ hauntingly mournful howls that was recorded at the very same spot where their family member was killed by a wolf hunter just outside of the park.

I will introduce the viewer to Yellowstone’s wolf watcher community; then you will watch them as they move from one pull out to the next counting wolves. You’ll hear engine noise from above as the head Yellowstone Wolf Project staff Dr. Doug Smith flies about counting wolves. The viewer will meet Yellowstone Wolf Project staff Kira Cassidy as she talks about wolf pack dynamics, recounting observations of one wolf pack’s struggle for survival, against the back drop of the Yellowstone River in Winter.

Film Treatment

What happens as Yellowstone wolves leave the sanctuary of the park? The states that border Yellowstone National Park hold legal trophy hunts. Meet the Advocates Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story

A famous wolf, known as 06, lost her life to a trophy hunter as she left the the park’s sanctuary in 2012. Six years later 06’s daughter, known as Spitfire, wolf 926F suffered the same fate in November 2018. Today, Wolves in Yellowstone have become the “rock stars” of their species due to the hundreds of thousands of people that venture into the park hoping for a glimpse of a Yellowstone wolf. Meet the advocates that work to preserve the legacy of Yellowstone National Park wolves as they face an uncertain future from legal trophy hunts just beyond the border. Advocates: Ilona Popper, Nathan Varley, Linda Thurston & Marc Cooke. A Wolves of Douglas County WI Films LLC, http://www.wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com produced by Maaike Middleton and Rachel Tilseth Directed by Rachel Tilseth.

Learn More About This film project click here.

Interview with Matteo Serafini an Italian Wolf Researcher…

Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Italian Story

Interview by Brunella Pernigotti

First of all, thank you Matteo for accepting our interview request, where we will try to trace a brief portrait of the Italian wolf for an audience accustomed to quite different situations, even if the problems of management and coexistence with this endangered species are equivalent both in US and in Europe, due to the atavistic prejudices and the vision that men have always had of the wolf as a competitor in the hunt and as a danger for domestic animals.

Matteo Serafini – Interview

Would you please tell us something about you, about your life and the studies that led you to be interested in wolves?

I began to take an interest in this species in 2009, in summer. I was a student in Natural Sciences at the University of Pavia and I was preparing my specialist degree thesis: in these two years of studies and training I researched and evaluated the impact of the predator on livestock activities in the Liguria Region, where the species had been monitored since 2007. In 2012 I won a three-year research assignment at the Antola Regional Natural Park (Genoa), which was one of the leaders of the regional project “Il Lupo in Liguria”, where I dedicated myself to the work on the field (data collection), verifying the alleged predations on the zoo-technical property, and to educational activities. Since the end of this regional project, in 2015, I haven’t had any opportunity to work again actively with wolves. Since then, however, I have continued to collaborate with various universities (Pavia, Turin, Pisa), supporting in their degree theses those students who want to study the wolves, and helping them in data collecting and analyzing. I’m still continuing my educational activities both at any institution that asks me for them (Public Administrations, Schools or corporation) and individually as an Environmental Hiking Guide.

Was there a profound reason that prompted you to be interested in wolf management and conservation in Italy?

To be honest, I didn’t choose to work with wolves … It was a coincidence, even if I had a sort of epiphany: when I was a student, one night I had a dream in which I was chased by a bear, so the next day I went immediately to my teacher, Prof. Alberto Meriggi (who held and is still holding the course of Management and Conservation of the fauna at the University of Pavia) and I told him that I wanted to work on large carnivores. At that time, he was the scientific director of a project to study the wolf in Liguria, so he sent me to the Western Liguria to work on it for my thesis internship. It all has started since then …

In your opinion, is the Italian wolf (Canis lupus italicus) particularly valuable for biodiversity? What problems do we have at a national level if we want to preserve its purity, against the risk of hybridization?

Ecologically, the wolf, like any other species, influences the components and processes of the ecosystem to which it belongs, causing a series of cascading effects. In general, large predators, occupying the top of the food chain, carry out a direct demographic control on prey species, reducing their number, influencing their structure (e.g. age classes) or quality (e.g. by eliminating the weakest or sickest individuals); besides they indirectly modify also the behavior of their preys (e.g. occupied areas or activity rhythms). All this also affects lower trophic levels and the resources that the potential preys could exploit: in this way they indirectly help to maintain the structure of the plant life which is present in their habitat, too. The large carnivores also influence the presence of other small and medium-sized carnivores that, living at higher densities, can have a negative effect on the smaller fauna (e.g. micro-mammals, birds, etc.). It is clear that this top-down effect is of great importance to keep good levels of biodiversity. Under a more managerial profile, then, I think evaluating and conserving habitats for vulnerable or endangered species, such as the wolf, are important for proper land management. Protecting the wolf, which needs large territories relatively undisturbed by man, means also to protect the habitats and species that live within that territory (in this sense we can speak of an “umbrella” species); this also helps to preserve or boost biodiversity. Finally, the wolf is also an economic resource, as a charismatic and totemic species it contributes to generating attractiveness for the territory, bringing wealth and resources to those areas where the state of abandon by men has led to poverty and loss of biodiversity: for instance, neglected open areas, such as meadows and pastures, have favored the “advance” of the forest, with a consequent loss of biodiversity for the local flora and invertebrate species.

Hybridization with domestic dogs is a very complex phenomenon and it’s difficult to resolve. While it is very simple to “pollute” the genetic pool of a population, since a single reproduction event is sufficient to do it, on the other side it is impossible to eliminate the introgressive component completely. To complicate matters there is also the fact that at a normative level it is not clear what a hybrid is: up to what generation can we consider a hybrid? How should it be treated? … We have been considering this phenomenon for a too short time! Identifying the eventual hybrids and captivating or sterilizing them and then releasing them in the wild are effective but palliative methods, on the contrary intervening at the source, that is on canine straying and rambling (framework law 281 of ’91) has so far proved completely inefficient. To this we must also add the profound animalist sensitivity that dwells in our country and which the scientific world often clashes with: let’s think about the difficulty of eradicating some invasive alien species, such as nutrias or gray squirrels. Finally, it should be taken into account that, as long as the number of wolves continues to have a positive trend in Italy and Europe, the chances of a wolf-dog encounter will increase.

Canis lupus italicus

And now let’s talk about the Liguria Region. We all know that Italy is morphologically very different, because it has two mountain ranges: the Apennines that cross it longitudinally from north to south, and the Alps that outline its northern borders. Liguria is in a strategic position: could you explain to us what geographical and logistic role it had, and still has, in the phase of dispersion and expansion of the Apennine wolves travelling towards the Alps?

The mountains have always been an important ecological corridor for all those creatures that can move independently: they are continuous areas, rich in resources and vegetation and with a low human disturbance. Of course, it has not always been so: the progressive urbanization and abandonment of mountain areas by men, that began after the Second World War, allowed a rapid re-naturalization of the territory with the formation of new forest areas and the return of the typical fauna; there were actions encouraged by men, too, such as afforestation and faunal reintroductions for economic purposes. To this we must add the role of the protected areas which, precisely in those depopulated mountain areas, have found a way to establish. Liguria is between the two most important mountain ranges of our country, and it represents a very important ecological corridor. This territory, typically mountainous and wooded with the human population concentrated on the coast, has played a primary role in the displacement of animal and plant species through the Apennines, the Alps and the Provencal reliefs, in both directions of travel. Numerous cases of radiolabeled wolves (wolf M15 is the best known case: it had been named “Ligabue”, and its travel was traced from Parma to Cuneo, that is more than 1000 km!) or of genetic samplings have shown how the process of expansion of the species towards the Alpine arc has passed through the Ligurian mountains: in some cases, moving north through the province of Genoa to Piedmont, Lombardy or Emilia Romagna or, in other cases, continuing westward to Piedmont and then to France.

In Italy wolves are opposed more by breeders, than by sport hunters. During your studies and researches on the field, did you get to deal with breeders who are favorable to the presence of the wolf in their area? When they don’t, what do they especially complain about?

Certainly, I dealt a lot with the relationship between wolves and breeders during my project years, meeting breeders and associations. I have never found anyone particularly favorable to the presence of the predator, however some entrepreneurs have proved to be virtuous and, rather than complaining, they have rolled up their sleeves, listened to and followed the proposals and advice from the experts and although they could not reset their economic damage, they made it acceptable, finding a solution to their coexistence with wolves. However, working on the subject, I could figure out that the wolf, strictly speaking, is the last of the breeder’s problems. There are numerous problems of different kinds: from the economic convenience in working as a breeder, to the management of the damages that undeniably lead to a very difficult and tense situation for these entrepreneurs. Being a breeder (or rather a shepherd) is a hard and tiring job: it’s very often carried out in areas with poor services (such as roads, water points, electricity, etc.) while management costs are very high (shelters, places to product cheese, forage, pasture rent, veterinary expenses etc.) and the income is influenced by numerous factors (environmental and climatic conditions in the season, price of milk and meat, diseases etc.). Probably, without any kind of European, State, or Regional economic contribution, no breeder, who still practices extensive grazing, would survive. To this we must add that when an alleged predatory event occurs, a long and difficult process starts to ask and (in some cases) obtain a refund. 1) It is necessary to find the dead animal within 48h (which is not always easy because of the morphology of the territory, the climatic conditions and the number of men in the pasture) in order to be able to carry out a careful necropsy and certify that the animal is dead because of a predation, but the more time passes the more the carcass decomposes or other animals can arrive and eat it. 2) If the carcass is found in time and we can say for sure that it has been killed, the predator must be determined: was it a dog? a wolf? other? Depending on it, there are different regulations and procedures to follow in order to request a refund; but it is not always easy to remove the doubt: in some cases, it is possible to do DNA tests on the wounds … but who pays for them? 3) Once causes and predator are ascertained, one must draw up the report of damage request and send it, but how much is the damage worth? Species, age, sex and aptitude of the animal contribute to determining the value; besides, the indirect damages, such as the loss of production or the shock for the rest of the herd / flock are not considered. 4) The costs of the carcass disposal are charged to the owner who in any case must report the death of the animal to the competent authorities in order to discharge the head fiscally. So the breeder should: contact our National Health Authority, the rangers or specialized officials, then he has to download, fill out and send the forms, remove the carcass and wait for the result of the request! This process often discourages farmers from reporting the damage, but, without any complaint from them, the Public Administration cannot estimate the total costs of damages to the territory and therefore they cannot arrange the resources for any mitigation measures. So we enter a loop difficult to come out of.

Let’s get to the numbers: approximately how many packs are estimated to be permanent and reproductive currently in Liguria? How many losses are there per year, considering also deaths for poaching and for any anthropic reasons?

It is not possible to provide recent data, since there has no longer been a regional monitoring in Liguria since 2005. In the last report delivered to the Regional administration, six breeding packs, with a population of about 28-35 settled individuals were estimated for certain, in the area. However, these numbers do not represent the totality of the animals that move within the territory, as many other packs are present along the contact areas through Liguria, France, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, whose individuals cross regions and state borders. Altogether, from 2008 to 2014, 21 dead wolves were detected in Liguria; the main cause of death was poaching (57% by firearms or poisoning), followed by road accidents (14%) and to a lesser extent by diseases (9%); in 20% of the cases it was not possible to trace the cause of death.

Since each Italian Region has different political approaches, what particular measures has the Ligurian Administration taken in order to mitigate conflicts with farmers and to favor a balanced coexistence with this predator?

The Liguria Region embarked on various actions on the matter: particularly it has improved the procedure of Complaint-Verification-Reimbursement of damage and offers support to farmers who accept to test the prevention methods.

Thanks to specific agreements between the Region, the Provinces, the ASL, the former Forestry Corps and the University, a protocol was set up to ascertain the damage: it included the formation of a task force that carried out the inspection, collected the data and prepared the reimbursement reports and death certificates, minimizing the time and expenses for the breeder who was allowed to report the damage indifferently to regional or provincial offices, or to the corps of forest rangers, or to the National Health Authority or to the Park’s Authority. With the acquired data on predations it was possible to develop a probabilistic predation risk model used to classify the most vulnerable farms and then intervene by testing some preventive systems. Mainly two methods were used: electrified fences for the night shelter of the livestock and the installation of acoustic dissuaders. Solutions mixing the two methods were also tested. The results showed that where the systems were installed according to the precise instructions of the experts, the damage decreased. As the results were positive, many breeders invested personal resources to buy new materials. Thanks to the study on the risk of predation it was possible to evaluate other variables that influenced the risk of damage (e.g. droppings with or without a human presence, seasonal periods of sensitivity, kind of pasture) and therefore to suggest other solutions to limit the damage. Most breeders had no intention of changing their methods, but they made at least one attempt. We never tried to introduce livestock guarding dogs, because we believed that this resource, which is very effective and useful especially in Abruzzo where the wolf never became extinct, would be difficult to apply in an area where the shepherd dogs tradition is missing. Managing, educating and working with these dogs is not easy and we could not risk entrusting dogs to people who could not have the knowhow and the time to educate them properly and who, indeed, could have further problems, especially with the many hikers and cyclists coming to our mountains.

In conclusion, clearing the damage is almost impossible where the predator is present (e.g. a switch that does not work, a badly placed or too low wire, a thunderstorm, the frequent fog in August etc.), but making the business risk acceptable, guaranteeing support to farmers and providing them with a fair reimbursement, these are feasible and desirable actions.

What can we hope for, realistically speaking, about the future development of a wolf management policy in Italy?

Speaking in technical terms the management of the wolf is not desirable, as in Italy the term “management” means a direct intervention on the population, it happens for many other species such as wild boar or roe deer. All large carnivores in Europe (wolves, bears, lynxes and wolverines) are threatened and as such, every effort must be aimed at their conservation rather than at management. On the other hand, it’s important to manage the damages and the monitoring at a national level. It is not possible that in each different area of Italy we have different methods for compensation of damages and different approaches for monitoring.

Regarding your personal experience, is there something that impressed you most while monitoring wolves? Are there any episodes or close encounters with wolves that you particularly love to remember?

Unfortunately, in all the years I worked in Liguria, I saw only dead wolves, despite the many kilometers on foot; but the wolf-howling experiences, in which I happened to hear both adults and cubs, have been very significant. Every time I heard them, I remember a shiver down my back and a feeling of joy and emotion. Perhaps those nights around the mountains have been the most exciting and rewarding part of all my field work.

We have come to the end: would you like to say anything more? For my part, there is a documentary, “Medicine of the wolf” by Julia Huffman: this title refers to the myth of the natives of Minnesota that consider wolves as totemic animals and the medicine of the world. Therefore, I ask you: is there anything what the wolf taught you? Can you say that it is a medicine for you?

I venture to say that today I would not be the man I am, if I had not started working on this animal. I left my hometown, south to Milan, seven years ago, in order to move to Liguria and follow the project more closely, then I knew a new and wonderful territory that today, even if my research ended, I would not want to leave. I became very keen on the mountains, so now I am able to interpret every aspect of nature, and I am interested in many other concerning activities. Last but not least, I met the person with whom I have been sharing all this since 2012 and without whom I would not have been able to get where I am. Undoubtedly my life would be very different if I had not taken up the way of the wolf.

Photograph Brunella Pernigotti Alpin valley, taken from the window of my mountain house.

About Brunella Pernigotti

I am a lover of wolves and of Nature in general. With the means of knowledge and awareness, I try 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 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.

The Wisconsin Story…

 Flash back to April 01, 2012 just before WISCONSIN ACT 169 Date of enactment: April 2, 2012 calling for a trophy hunt on wolves. I did my first news story in an effort to stop the Wisconsin wolf hunt, read on:

Source: WQOW TV 18, Local tracker voices wolf hunt concerns
By Mike Joyce

Posted: Apr 01, 2012 9:18 PM CDT

 Menomonie (WQOW)- Just two months ago, killing a wolf in Wisconsin was illegal. Fast forward to the present, Wisconsin lawmakers have called for a statewide wolf hunt beginning in October.

“It’s funny how the wolf is either loved or hated,” says Rachel Tilseth.
You can pencil volunteer wolf tracker Tilseth into the love category. She’s been tracking wolves in the area for the last 15 years.
“There’s a bunch of us that fan out throughout the state during the winter time to track wolves and to monitor their whereabouts,” Tilseth explains.
She’s one of 300 volunteer trackers that send their data to the DNR so they can come up with official state wolf numbers. Those numbers are way up, but Tilseth warns if too many wolves are targeted, other species will be affected.
“A wolf is a key predator and once you save him, you save everything else in his environment,” Tilseth says. “The wolf acts as a steward of the deer herd. It will push the animal so that it doesn’t overgraze an area.”
Tilseth says the state is moving too quickly and she has at least one lawmaker that agrees with her.
“You can’t go from being on the endangered species act one day to night-time hunting with dogs and spotlights the next year without people being concerned,” says State Representative Brett Hulsey.
“They just went off the endangered species list in January,” says a bewildered Tilseth. “I don’t think that’s enough time. I think we need to take a longer look at it.”
So now trackers like Tilseth are trying to get the attention of those that can make a difference.
“I have written the governor. I have written to my legislatures, everybody I could get a hold of. I would like to see the bill vetoed and if that’s not the case, I would like more input on how the hunting occurs,” she reveals.
Wisconsin lawmakers have approved the wolf hunting bill. So now it’s up to Governor Walker to sign off on it. Two other issues many have with the bill center on it being legal to use spotlights and hunting dogs to hunt wolves. Trackers like Tilseth say if it’s not vetoed, they would like to see those issues cleared up.


Flash forward to today

Wolves in Wisconsin are on the ESA but face threats in the form of anti wolf legislation now making its way into congress.

Take action for wolves call your U.S. Senator now. To call your senator: Alternatively, you may phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

Image by Kiri Stuart-Clarke