Wolf Recovery Leader Not Your Average Bureaucrat

courtesy of High Country News
by Ray Ring

Ed Bangs has long been a lightning rod for the controversy around the return of wolves to the U.S. Northern Rockies. Based in Helena, Mont., he led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf-recovery effort from 1988, when the region had only a few naturally occurring wolves, through the reintroduction of Canadian wolves in 1995 and ’96, until his retirement in June 2011. During those years, the number of wolves in the region increased to more than 1,700. A plethora of lawsuits, alarmist headlines and political maneuvers culminated with Congress removing most of the region’s wolves from the Endangered Species List (an action also being challenged by lawsuits) just as Bangs retired.

Throughout the wolf battles, people on all sides of the issue respected Bangs for his unusual frankness and good humor. HCN’s senior editor, Ray Ring, talked with the 60-year-old biologist on July 1 about his lifelong interest in wildlife and his reflections on wolves and human society in general.

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Scientists Debate ‘Magic Number’ of Wolves Needed for Species’ Survival

courtesy of The Missoulian
by Rob Chaney

One of the biggest arguments left unresolved by last year’s wolf lawsuit was the most obvious: How many wolves are enough?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in 2009, with the caveat that at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs endure in each of the three states in the northern Rocky Mountain population (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming). Recent surveys found at least 1,700 wolves in that area – more than enough to justify delisting.

But a coalition of environmental groups sued the government, claiming those numbers were wrong. To survive and thrive, they argued, the population needed at least 2,000 and preferably 5,000 wolves.

FWS biologists said they used the best available science to pick their number. Coalition members cited the well-established rules of conservation biology to justify their threshold. While the scientists dueled, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy decided the case on a technicality and Congress reversed him with a budget rider.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies are now delisted, but almost nobody’s happy.

Continue reading “Scientists Debate ‘Magic Number’ of Wolves Needed for Species’ Survival”

Montana FWP Wants Quota of 220 Wolves this Hunting Season

courtesy of KULR8.com
by The Associated Press

Montana officials are proposing to allow 220 gray wolves to be shot during the state’s second wolf hunting season this fall.

The figure is the highest proposed quota yet in the state — up from 186 in the canceled 2010 season and 75 in the inaugural wolf hunting season in 2009. The Independent Record in Helena reports Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the new quota will result in a 25 percent reduction from the estimated 2010 population of 566 wolves in the state.

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US Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs to Retire

courtesy of The Helena Independent Record
by Eve Byron

Ed Bangs, who for 23 years led the effort to reintroduce and recover healthy wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains, is retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June.

As the federal agency’s wolf recovery coordinator, Bangs was the face of the polarizing wolf reintroduction, conducting thousands of international, national, state and local interviews and holding hundreds of highly charged meetings, all to explain the effort as part of a massive public outreach effort. At various times, depending on the stage of the reintroduction, he was heralded as a hero while simultaneously being denounced as a wolf lover or hater, depending on people’s perspective.

Yet somehow he managed to charm many on both sides of the wolf wars, with a mix of humor tinged with a reputation for fairness.

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Big Bad Wolf – USA (short film)

Produced By ABC Australia
Distributed By Journeyman Pictures

Click here to watch the video on YouTube

Fragile species in need of protection or dangerous predator – the wolf is strongly dividing opinion in the USA. As the debate intensifies both sides are raising their hackles and squaring off for a fight.

“I think if the devil had an animal it would be the wolf.” With a license plate that simply states, ‘no wolves’, hunter Ron Gillette is on a mission. Since the reintroduction of Canadian wolves to the Rocky Mountains their numbers have grown rapidly and for Ron they are a menace growing out of control:”the wildlife terrorist”. Yet he faces strong opposition, with courts keeping the wolf on the endangered species list. For conservationist Nancy Taylor, the wolf has mystical qualities and she is equally hell-bent on protecting it.”If somebody threatened my wolves I would step in front of them and take the bullet.” Under threat or posing a threat, the question remains – how wild will the west become?

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Lawmakers to Keep Pressing Wolf Bills Despite Settlement Between Wolf Advocates and Government

courtesy of The Washington Post
by the Associated Press

Lawmakers in the West said Friday they will keep pushing to lift federal protections for gray wolves despite a proposed settlement between environmental groups and the Obama administration.

The settlement would end a decade of lawsuits over the animals. But it faces significant legal hurdles that leave uncertain whether court approval will come before lawmakers act.

Approval is being sought from a judge who has twice ruled against attempts to lift wolf protections. Also, the deal faces opposition from some wildlife advocates who say their prior court victories are being squandered in a political compromise.

Given the uncertainties, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, of Montana, told The Associated Press he won’t wait to push through his legislation taking wolves off the endangered list in Montana and Idaho.

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Feds Give Tentative OK to Wolf Hunt in Bitterroot Mountains

courtesy of The Missoulian
by Rob Chaney

Montana has won tentative approval for a government-led wolf hunt in the Bitterroot Mountains, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials announced on Monday.

The federal agency released a draft environmental assessment of the state’s request to shoot wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot that are preying on a diminished elk herd there.

If approved, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agents would kill up to 18 of the estimated 30 wolves in the area.

On Nov. 24, Montana requested permission for a Rule 10-J wolf hunt. The federal Endangered Species Act allows 10-J hunts of threatened or endangered species when they are causing unacceptable harm to other wild animal populations. However, the hunt may not lower the state’s wolf population below a total of 200 wolves and 20 breeding pairs.

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If Wolves are De-listed, Balyeat Wants Spring Hunt

courtesy of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle
by Daniel Person

Sen. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, argued Tuesday for a spring wolf hunt, saying his bill to establish the season would allow Montana to get a handle on its wolf population and make it harder for environmental groups to stop wolf hunts with lawsuits.

But a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks official said the bill could give Montana hunters a bad name by raising the prospect that wolf pups could be orphaned or killed.

Balyeat told the Senate Fish and Game Committee that his bill, Senate Bill 402, is contingent on Congress passing legislation to strip gray wolves in the state of Endangered Species Act protection, a provision that has been put forward in both the Senate and the House this year.

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Secretive Wolverines Give up Furry Clues in Glacier National Park

courtesy of The Missoulian
by Tristan Scott

The carnivore’s eyes glow like orbs in the winter darkness, the front quarter of a deer clenched in its vice-like jaws.

As the fur-covered critter wrests the carrion from a steel bolt on a bait post, it leaves behind a token that will be treasured by researchers studying the animal – a lock of wolverine fur.

The remarkable scene was captured last month by remote camera at a backcountry site in Glacier National Park, where carnivore ecologist John Waller has been conducting an unprecedented study to determine the size of the park’s wolverine population.

The creature’s tenacity in removing the bait is testament to its Latin name, Gulo gulo, meaning “gluttonous glutton.”

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Blood on the Tracks

courtesy of Outdoor Life
by Andrew McKean

Earlier this winter, as the first wave of deep snow and arctic cold slammed northeastern Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ game warden Todd Anderson was dispatched early one morning by the Valley County (Montana) Sheriff’s office.

“I was told that the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad) engineer had just called to say his train had hit a herd of antelope west of Vandalia, and there were wounded animals to dispatch,” Anderson told me this week. “I drove out there, and as I got close, I was flagged down by a railroad worker.”

The incident had happened a mile from the nearest crossing, so the BNSF employee offered to drive Anderson to the scene in his converted pickup, outfitted with a locomotive’s running gear to travel the tracks.

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Trains Kill More Than 800 Antelope & Deer on Montana Tracks This Winter

courtesy of The Missoulian
by The Associated Press

Hundreds of pronghorn antelope and deer have been killed by trains in Montana this winter after herds gathered on tracks to escape deep snows, a state wildlife official says.

Mark Sullivan, of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, said that a train recently killed about 270 pronghorn antelope near Vandalia in northeastern Montana, and 18 deer were found dead on the tracks by a grain elevator near Chinook.

Many antelope not killed by the impact had to be destroyed by Blaine County authorities.

“To hunt and shoot animals is just different than shooting wounded animals like that,” Blaine County Undersheriff Pat Pyette told the Great Falls Tribune. “You’re close to it. You can look into their eyes. We see a lot of things, but (the deputy) was sick to his stomach after that.”

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Montana House Votes to Nullify Endangered Species Act

courtesy of Associated Press
by Matt Gouras

Republicans enthused by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s recent tough talk on wolves are getting closer to using an ancient “nullification” doctrine to disregard the federal law protecting endangered and threatened species – a plan the governor quickly dismissed as “off base.”

Excited tea party politics in the Legislature have spawned increasing belief in Thomas Jefferson’s late 18th-century “nullification” idea that aims to give states the ultimate say in constitutional matters and let them ban certain federal laws in their borders. Conservatives stoking anti-federal government sentiment are not dissuaded by the legal scholars who say the notion runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution that considers federal law “the supreme law of the land.”

Republicans running the Montana House used their big majority Saturday to endorse nullification of the federal Endangered Species Act in Montana with a 61-39 vote – even though dispatching with the act would cost Montana roughly $1 billion in federal funds that comes with strings attached.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, quickly warned the lawmakers he doesn’t like their idea – even though just days earlier he encouraged ranchers in northern Montana to shoot wolves that harass their livestock and defiantly said state agents may kill packs of endangered wolves.

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Montana Governor Notifies Interior of New Wolf Management Directives

courtesy of KECI.com

Governor Brian Schweitzer today sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar notifying Interior of new directives regarding wolf management in Montana. Text of the letter below:

February 16, 2011
The Honorable Ken Salazar Secretary U.S. Department of the Interior 1849 C Street NW Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:

I write to you today regarding wolf management in Montana.

While almost everyone acknowledges that the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population is fully recovered, as the Governor of Montana I am profoundly frustrated by the lack of any actual results that recognize Montana’s rights and responsibilities to manage its wildlife. Montana has for years done everything that has been asked: adopting a model wolf management plan; enacting enabling legislation; and adopting the necessary implementing rules. Our exemplary efforts have been ignored. I cannot continue to ignore the crying need for workable wolf management while Montana waits, and waits, and waits. Therefore, I am now going to take additional necessary steps to protect the interests of Montana’s livestock producers and hunters to the extent that I can within my authorities as governor.

First, for Montana’s northwest endangered wolves (north of Interstate 90), any livestock producers who kill or harass a wolf attacking their livestock will not be prosecuted by Montana game wardens. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) wardens will be directed to exercise their prosecutorial discretion by not investigating or citing anyone protecting their livestock.

Further, I am directing FWP to respond to any livestock depredation by removing whole packs that kill livestock, wherever this may occur.

Still further, to protect the elk herds in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley that have been most adversely affected by wolf predation, I am directing FWP, to the extent allowed by the Endangered Species Act, to cull these wolves by whole-pack removal to enable elk herds to recover.

At this point, I can do nothing less and still maintain my commitment as Governor to uphold the rights of our citizens to protect their property and to continue to enjoy Montana’s cherished wildlife heritage and traditions.

Sincerely,
Brian Schweitzer GOVERNOR

Study Begins on Survival of Elk Calves in Bitterroot

courtesy of the Missoulian
by Perry Backus, Ravalli Republic

A three-year study to evaluate the factors affecting elk calf survival officially begins this week in the East and West forks of the Bitterroot Valley.

Crews will use a helicopter and net-guns to capture up to 40 elk over the course of the three to four days. Biologists will evaluate their condition and pregnancy rates, and then attach radio collars before releasing them.

The study hopes to unlock the mystery of why elk calf survival rates have been declining in the Bitterroot Valley since 2004.

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