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A farewell to a wonderfully curious wolf pup of the Hoodoo Pack

I have been randomly calling the Wyoming Mortality Hot Line or going to the online link to find out how many wolves have been killed (let’s not call it by the euphemism ‘harvested’).  I am especially interested in my Area (area 1).  As of today, 3 of the quota of 8 have been taken.

Today, I just found out that one of those wolves was the yearling pup I’ve seen many times over the last year.

Yearling pup this spring

He was born a year ago spring.  I first saw him with his mom last fall.  She is a black alpha female (not sure if she’s still around) and she was harassing a cow as her pup tried to help.  The cow didn’t run, but just kept turning around and chasing her down.  Finally she gave up.  If prey don’t give chase, wolves usually get confused.  They can too easily get kicked and hurt by confronting large prey from in front.

The pair seemed inseparable and the next time I saw the pup was around January.  He was with his mom loping up a nearby ridgeline.  Mom turned, looked, and sprinted off.  But the yearling was curious and watched me for awhile.  We shared a moment from afar on that cold winter early morning.

The last time I saw him was this spring.  I was hiking down a draw, following a cougar track.  Koda lagged behind.  I was above a creek on a thin deer trail when I spied something odd behind a tree about 20′ ahead.  I stopped and his grey head peeked out.  He’d been curious, watching Koda and I.  When he saw that I noticed him, he ran off to join his mom in the meadow a few hundred yards away.   I sprinted up beyond the trees to catch a glimpse again of the Alpha female. (I was able to snap the photo below of her).  She eyed me warily for a bit then took off with her pup.

Alpha female; mom of yearling pup killed this week

Last spring I went to a WY G&F information meeting about the hunt.  It was clear that it would go through, starting this October 1.  The quotas were already set, with my area having the largest.  Immediately I knew that this curious youngster would be amongst the first to die.  Wolves have been hunted by helicopters around here for years, but not by hunters on foot.  Although these wolves were wary, they were not yet scared of humans.  The opportunity I’ve had over these last seven years to see wolves over and over again fairly close (I’ve had at least three occasions where I’ve seen wolves 25′ away, eye to eye, both of us curious about one another), has come to a close.  It will be better that way for the wolves.  Within a year or two of these hunts, wolves will not be seen casually in these parts.

Predators by nature and design must be smart.  They need to think and strategize. Wolves cooperate when they hunt and that takes smarts.  Prey are given the gift of speed.  They look, listen and run.  But predators must be more cunning than that.

If you share a moment with one of these magnificent creatures, you realize how intelligent, how full of Life they are.  They embody everything that is wild and free. When they look you in the eye, they see right through you, much deeper than you see into them.   In the end, though I am saddened by the loss of these wolves in Sunlight,  the hot button issues surrounding wolves is not really about wolves at all.

I am reading ‘Shadow Mountain’ by Renee Askins, one of the spearheaders of bringing wolves back to Yellowstone National Park.  I highly recommend this engaging, personal and well-written book.  I end this entry with a quote from Askins book and a fond farewell to that magnificent and curious pup who shared with me not only his inquisitive nature, but his wild and free spirit.

“It soon became clear that in most discussions wolves merely provided a pretext to talk about much deeper and more personal political views, invariably those having to do with control–control of land and control of animals.  Who controlled the “rights” to the animals, who could kill the elk that the wolves would prey upon, who could kill the wolves that killed “too many” elk, who could control which prey species and which predators and where and when and how.  In truth, all of it was a discussion about killing and control veiled in the professional shibboleth of “wildlife management.” Wildlife management is, of course, an oxymoron.  Animals that are truly “wild” are, by definition, not managed.  Yet I would discover…over the next several years a troubling trend toward complete control or manipulation of many “wildlife” populations even within national parks.

Alpha male of the Hoodoo pack

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Last chance to have your voice heard on Wyomings’ wolf delisting plan

Comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Wyoming’s wolf delisting plan MUST be received within a 100 days on or before January 13, 2012.  This is our last chance to be heard regarding this plan.  I sent a letter to Wyoming Game and Fish before the comment closing date which was on a Thursday.  The following tuesday they announced their acceptance of the plan.  Had they read my comments?  I doubt they were reading over the weekend.

But these are the Feds and the ones who have initiated the deal and done the science.  The more comments, maybe we can actually hold them to the science instead of the back door political deal Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar maneuvered with Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

Folks,  wolves do not belong to Wyoming and Wyoming politics.  Wolf recovery and management shouldn’t be based on the demands of the Elk Foundation, the NRA, or the Safari Club International.

In the USF&W website maze, I found it hard to locate the information as to where to send comments so I will print it here.  I am also copying an attachment from a letter from the Sierra Club Resilient Habitat department regarding talking points you might include in your letter.  Please take a moment and have your voices heard.  Thank you.

A majestic predator that deserves to take its place in the ecosystem

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that its draft rule to delist wolves in Wyoming is flawed and should be withdrawn. Submit your comment today!

 

Written comments can be submitted by one of the following methods:

1) Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Enter “FWS-R6-ES-2011-0039” in the “Keyword” box and check “Proposed Rule” in the “Document Type” box.

2) U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. [FWS–R6–ES–2011–0039]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

 

Consider making the following points in your comments:

  • This plan is virtually identical to multiple plans that have been rejected previously by both USFWS and federal courts because of their unacceptable impacts to wolves and the lack of regulatory mechanisms to conserve wolves as required by the Endangered Species Act.
  • Wolves should be managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department across the entire state, not as “predator” in 88% of the state (where they can be killed by any means by anyone, without a license) and “trophy game” in an arbitrary zone around the national parks. No unregulated killing of wolves should be allowed.
  • The proposed “flex-zone” area south of Grand Teton National Park is not grounded in sound science. The USFWS has arbitrarily drawn this line where wolves will receive limited protection as ‘trophy game” for only 4 months of the year. The USFWS admits that this will only likely protect half of the seasonal dispersal of wolves and that only 35% of dispersing wolves will probably reproduce. This proposed zone will almost certainly not protect effective dispersal because wolves will be hunted during the period of protection and very likely be eradicated (through unlicensed killing) from the area for the remaining 8 months of the year.
  • The USFWS will allow Wyoming to define “unacceptable impacts” of wolves on elk and other ungulates (which will almost certainly result in wolves being killed), yet Wyoming’s plan has not defined any criteria for determining “unacceptable impacts” by wolves. Currently, all of Wyoming’s 35 elk management units are at or above the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s numeric objectives for those herds.
  • The USFWS disingenuously concludes that the Wyoming dual classification (trophy game/predator) plan is biologically sound because the remainder of the state is unsuitable wolf habitat. However, the proposed predator zone has contributed 3 breeding pairs, and 6 of the state’s 30 packs have entire or partial territories within this zone.
  • Relying on the indiscriminate shooting of wolves as the primary management tool to reduce wolf conflicts is not a strategy for success. Wyoming should work with stakeholders to promote tolerance and prevent conflict by implementing nonlethal, proactive wolf deterrents and livestock husbandry practices. There are active and successful programs working with ranchers and wolf managers in other states and this could be expanded to Wyoming if state and federal agencies are willing to work collaboratively and support these management tools.
  • Wolves play a key role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, beavers, songbirds and many other species are making a comeback. These benefits must be recognized in any management plan.
  • Millions of people come to Wyoming every year for the chance to see a wolf in the wild. Wolves in Yellowstone alone generate an estimated $70 million annually in cumulative impacts from wildlife viewing.