Wolves are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy…

Wolves have an amazing olfactory sense. They will blow on the bed where a White-tailed deer slept causing all the particles to flow up and into their olfactory sense. By doing this the wolf can tell if the White-tailed deer is healthy or not. A wolf can tell if the tick that fell off the White-tailed deer has puss in the blood. Wolves can tell if a White-tailed deer has a tooth infection by smelling a chewed leaf. Wolves have kept a healthy balance in the wild for centuries. Yet, the politician claims to be the best at deciding the fate of the wolf. Stand firm, speak for wolves, because we have the moral high-ground. Wolves are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy. They keep the White-tailed deer healthy.

Featured image by John E Marriott

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The Shasta Pack

California’s seven gray wolves are missing, according to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle. California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Pete Figura said the wolves, known as the Shasta Pack, could have migrated to a new region with more prey, but that it was unusual for the pack hunters to abandon their breeding grounds.
We’re reasonably confident that last year they did not use the same area as a pack as they did the year before, and we don’t know why,” Figura said. “Why they were not detected anywhere else this past summer we don’t have a clear explanation for.”
The Shasta Pack, which were the first wolf pack to live in California for nearly a century, have not been seen since May 2016. The pack was being monitored in southeastern Siskiyou County, by the CDFW and according to Figura, fresh wold tracks were spotted in late January this year, about 10 miles from the pack’s home in Siskiyou County. He said they’ve collected some scat and are currently awaiting DNA analysis to determine if it belongs to them.
“It could have been a member of the Shasta Pack or a completely different animal. We don’t know at this time,” Figura said.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s West Coast Wolf organizer Amaroq Weiss said she hoped the wolves moved on to different territory instead of being poached. Weiss said wolves in the northern Rockies had been poached in 2010, and a study found that poaching was responsible for 24 percent of wolf mortality within that region. The following year she said three family members were convicted of killing two wolves of the Lookout Pack in Washington state.
“Their poaching activities were uncovered when they tried to ship bloody wolf skins by mail to British Columbia, Canada to be tanned. They claimed to be shipping rugs but a mail clerk became suspicious when he noticed blood seeping from the package,” Weiss said. “I have no specific information to indicate the Shasta pack has been poached, however, I also have no information establishing that these wolves are still alive. (Like Figura said) it is odd that the pack has not been seen anywhere in the region of where they had previously set up a territory, den site and rendezvous sites.”
Weiss said she’s asked around and checked in with numerous people who know ranchers in the general area but no one has reported any sightings of the Shasta Pack. She said another possible outcome would be that the wolves had fallen victim to snares or poison bait traps that were used by ranchers to protect against coyotes.
“California has so few wolves. Those wolves face dire threats like intentional poaching and accidental poisoning or snaring highlights precisely why full state endangered species protections for these magnificent animals must remain in place,” Weiss said.

The Shasta Pack is believed to have killed and eaten a calf in November 2015, the first reported case of livestock predation by wolves since their return to California. That was also the last time the entire pack was known to be together. Figura said he has no evidence to suggest the wolves were killed in retaliation. Source

Feature image Shasta Pack


Gray wolves living in Wisconsin’s northern forest captured in video

Video is of Echo Valley Wolf Pack published on February 21, 2017 – 45 minutes in length showing multiple members of the pack over a four hour period.

Best clip

There were eight wolves visible in the YouTube Video from Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Photographs taken from video show that wolves are weary and alert to any sign of danger.

Ravens also called, wolf-birds, can be heard on the video. Screen shot of a Raven upper right.

Full 45 minutes 


In Wisconsin wolf hunters plan to run dogs on wolves during mating season…

Wisconsin wolf hunters plan to run dogs on wolves during mating season.  January and February are prime breeding times for wolves. Wolves are very protective of their families at this time of the year. 

In 2006 while tracking wolves I found signs of the alpha pair’s mating ritual.  On a snowy north wood road I found alpha pair scent markings about every 10th of a mile. The whole family was in on this mating ritual, from subordinate individuals to the alpha pair. Subordinate individuals make squat urination signs, and the alpha pair make raised leg urination. Typically only the alpha male and female make the raised led urination scent markings. 

These markings were made at the edge of their range. As I stated earlier, wolves are very territorial at this time of the year. At a mile down the road, I found a small, about a foot tall, snow covered pine tree with rusty-red colored urine on it.  The rusty-red colored (blood in it) urine meant the alpha female was in estrus. I felt honored to have found these signs of wolf-love in the woods.  

Can you imagine the carnage that will happen if wolf hunters run dogs on wolves during prime breeding times? There are no regulations in place for running dogs on wolves, yet they plan to hunt wolves using dogs. Wisconsin is the only state that uses this barbaric method of hunting, known as wolf hounding.  Wisconsin quite literally throws dogs to wolves.

Wolves were hunted into near extinction, then thanks to the Endangered Species Act have started to recover over the last forty years. Wild wolves are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy. Wolf recovery began in the late 1970s. It’s wrong to hunt an imperiled species just off the endangered species list. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. There are currently two bills in congress that call for delisting wolves in Wisconsin and three other states. 

Please take action to stop the War on Wolves Act call your members of congress 

Click HERE to take action

Yellowstone wolf researcher Kira Cassidy highlights the value of what old individuals can teach us…

Aging in the wild: lessons from animals about the value of growing old –  Kira Cassidy – TEDxBozeman

What do wolves and societal attitudes toward elderly humans have in common? Kira Cassidy relates her research on Yellowstone wolves with other wildlife studies focused on understanding the value of older individuals in group-living species. Cassidy explains how these studies highlight the value of what old individuals can teach us: where we’ve gone wrong, what we might be missing, and what we can do to fix it. Kira Cassidy was raised in Illinois where she developed a deep respect for wildlife and the outdoors through a childhood of (purposely) getting lost in the forest, raising three baby raccoons, and gardening for subsistence with her family. Kira holds her M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota, with projects focusing on territoriality and aggression between packs of gray wolves. Now working as a Research Associate for the Yellowstone Wolf Project, Kira’s scientific interests include territorial dynamics, the evolution of sociality, and the value of the individual in group-living species. Kira has assisted film crews in Yellowstone National Park and on Ellesmere Island, living with an arctic wolf family during the summer of 2014 in the effort to help communicate science to the public through different forms of media. Kira lives in Gardiner, Montana and can be found painting, reading, flying a kite, or exploring with her two distant wolf-descendants (hound dogs Badger and Wyatt). This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

“A wolf pack is truly a family.”  ~Kira Cassidy 


Featured image by John E Marriott

Life and Death Among Yellowstone’s Wolves

Photo courtesy of NPS

Photos courtesy of NPS

The big screen fills with images. A lone male wolf looks up a snowy slope. On that slope stand the seven wolves of the Lamar Canyon pack, staring back at him. Suddenly, the three Lamar adults and four pups, tails raised, sprint down the hillside toward the loner.

The big screen fills with images. A lone male wolf looks up a snowy slope. On that slope stand the seven wolves of the Lamar Canyon pack, staring back at him. Suddenly, the three Lamar adults and four pups, tails raised, sprint down the hillside toward the loner.

Kira Cassidy of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, the presenter of the video, reveals that the lone wolf had been approaching the Lamars for a few hours. Wolves are territorial, don’t like intruders, and post plenty of KEEP OUT signs. One of those signs, their scent marks, can last as long as three weeks in the wild. Cassidy has observed wolves digging through deep snow to uncover a scent mark. Wolves also howl to claim territory. She speculates that wolves may hear a howl ten to fifteen miles away.

Did this lone wolf miss the scent marks or howling? Did he disregard them? Was he trying to join the pack? Did he have his eyes on one of the females?

Only he knows why he chose to approach, but when he sees the seven charging wolves, he knows that it’s time to split. He bounds away through deep snow. The Lamars, following in his tracks, quickly gain on him. Two black males lead the chase. One is 755M, the alpha male. The other, 754M, is his bigger brother. Next come the pups, two males and two females. Bringing up the rear is the pack’s famous alpha female, called 06 (oh-six) by wolf watchers.

I am viewing this video with about 75 people, many of them avid watchers of Yellowstone’s wolves. Cassidy, who has worked with the Yellowstone Wolf Project since 2007, says that she has watched this video over and over, often one frame at a time so that she could study the behavior of each wolf. She discovered that 06, running behind the pack, is not focused on the lone wolf. Instead, 06 is looking up and down the valley, making sure that her pack will not be surprised if more wolves are nearby. A murmur of agreement comes from the audience. Many of them had observed firsthand the ample intelligence and strong leadership of 06—before she was killed in December of 2012 in a legal Wyoming wolf hunt.

On the screen, brothers 754M and 755M reach the lone wolf but hesitate to attack. The intruder is bigger than either of them. The pups arrive, glancing at the two adults for cues. Almost as large as the adults, the pups are now traveling with the pack as full-fledged members. But they are inexperienced. This may be their first battle.

Cassidy has studied how levels of aggression change as a wolf grows from pup to adult. For females, the level stays the same over the course of the animal’s life. For males, on the other hand, the level increases: males are more and more likely to be a part of an aggressive chase as they mature.

Suddenly, the brothers attack the lone wolf with no mercy. The pups join in, with the males more active than the females. 06 joins the fray and all seven wolves ravage the loner, now on his back in the snow, his body covered by a writhing mass of biting wolves.

In the packed, darkened meeting room scattered exclamations reveal how others are as unsettled as I am by this fierce, seven-against-one assault.

The tide finally turns for the loner when he sits up and bites one of the pups on the head. All four pups back off, leaving the two brothers and 06, and she wasn’t that involved in the attack to begin with. She had continued scanning for other wolves.

Finding some room to breathe, the lone wolf remains seated, presenting his back to his attackers so he can protect his face. Then, for no apparent reason, the attack grinds to a halt. The loner stands and starts walking away.

As I breathe a sigh of relief, questions fill my head. How can he even move? Is it possible that the Lamars pulled their punches? Was there just not enough biting power?
In the fatal interactions Cassidy has recorded, the killing was usually accomplished by a group of at least four wolves. In this battle, there were three adults and four pups. But perhaps, she says, the unskilled pups didn’t count for much. Perhaps just three adults were not enough to kill that big lone wolf.

Or maybe he was just lucky. Cassidy has studied data from 1995 to 2011 on 292 aggressive chases. Seventy-two of the chases escalated to physical attack. Only thirteen of the attacks resulted in a wolf being killed; many wolves have escaped what could have been fatal encounters.

Photo courtesy NPS

For a moment, the Lamars watch the loner leave. As his walk turns to a trot, the two male pups follow but make no contact. They may have been confident enough to escort him out of the area because they knew the pack’s adults were nearby and ready.

Territoriality and aggression like we are watching has long fascinated humans. Cassidy notes that Aristotle wrote about bird territoriality. Darwin wrote on the subjects. In the 1800s, experiments were conducted with the hypothesis that aggression builds up inside—like a ticking time bomb—until the animal, even a human, explodes and attacks. Later, scientists came to believe that aggression is a reaction to something the animal experiences externally. More recently, scientists developed a theory that being aggressive must provide more benefits than it costs.

While aggression has long been studied, it wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that scientists began studying individual wolves and packs in the wild. Biologists would follow a single pack on the ground for months or even years. But few ever witnessed such an encounter as the one that has us nailed to the seats of our folding chairs.

All that changed in 1995. With the reintroduction of wolves, Yellowstone became the best place in the world to study wolves. Unlike many other areas where wolves are hard to see in forests, Yellowstone has wide-open, grass-filled valleys that draw elk. Hungry wolves follow. Winter snow makes this life and death drama even easier to spot and film, as renowned videographer Bob Landis did several years ago with the encounter we are watching.

As the lone wolf distances himself from the Lamar pack, he shows no obvious sign that he has even been attacked. This surprises me but not Cassidy. She has studied a number of wolves killed by other wolves. From the outside there often appears to be little damage. There is hardly any blood. But when investigators peel back the fur of the wolf, they find a lot of hemorrhaging; damage from the attackers’ canine teeth. Those canines can even puncture a skull.

This wolf was indeed lucky. Cassidy says that up to 70% of the known natural causes of wolf death in Yellowstone are wolves killing other wolves. During the years right after wolf reintroduction, when the population was small, there were few aggressive encounters. The number of attacks increased as the population of wolves in Yellowstone’s northern range grew. Cassidy says that once there is a jump in wolf population, the very next year there is a jump in aggressive interactions.

The pack stands and watches as the lone wolf crosses the Lamar River and leaves their territory. When Cassidy says that the loner survived and continued roaming Yellowstone, sighs of relief flow from the audience.

Several days passed before my mind stopped replaying troubling scenes from the video. I struggled to accept that such a ferocious and one-sided assault is the natural way of things. But as a species, wolves have roamed this earth for millennia. And In all that time they have behaved just as we saw them, as they protected their young, food, and hard-won territory from intruders. Wolves die in the process, but the species survives. This is just as it should be, regardless of how difficult it may be for us to watch.

Rick Lamplugh lives near Yellowstone’s north gate and is the author of the Amazon Bestseller In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter’s Immersion in Wild Yellowstone. Available as eBook or paperback. Or as a signed copy from the author.