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.

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Rebel, Rebel

courtesy of the Missoula Independent
by Erika Fredrickson

Black Wolf Yields a Wild Hero

In the next few weeks—from May 7 through May 14—the 34th annual International Wildlife Film Festival screens 100 films that attempt to tell wildlife stories that are both entertaining and accurate. Among those, The Rise of Black Wolf is at the top, as a film that tells a good, solid story without resorting to melodrama. The Montana-made documentary, by Emmy Award-winner Bob Landis, follows almost the entire life of one wolf as he breaks from his pack and lives to be nine-and-a-half years old—one of the oldest wolves documented in Yellowstone National Park. This particular black wolf, known by scientists and wolf enthusiasts as Black Wolf, Casanova, and 302M, has been the protagonist in other Landis films, including In the Valley of the Wolves, and was monitored by the Yellowstone Wolf Project because of his unique behavior.

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Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Anti-Wolf Rider

courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity

Challenge Says Congress Illegally Lifted Wolf Protections in Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest

The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a challenge in federal district court in Missoula, Mont., arguing that a congressional rider requiring removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is unlawful because it violated the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution. The rider was attached to last month’s must-pass federal budget bill by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and marked the first time an animal or plant has been removed from the endangered species list by Congress.

“The wolf rider is a clear example of overreaching by Congress that resulted in the wrongful removal of protections for wolves,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The rider is not only a disaster for wolves but for any endangered species that a politician doesn’t like. Congress has set a terrible precedent that we hope to overturn.”

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Brisk Sales of Permits for Planned Idaho Wolf Hunts

courtesy of Reuters
by Laura Zuckerman

Permits for planned wolf hunts sold briskly in Idaho on Thursday, as most wolves in the Northern Rockies were officially removed from the endangered species list and conservationists sued over the unprecedented removal of protection by Congress.

The end of federal protection means that the roughly 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana will be managed by state wildlife agencies. The two states are seeking to kill hundreds of wolves, mostly through public hunting to begin in the fall.

Hunters were lining up in Idaho to purchase “tags” priced at $11.95 to help fill a hunting quota expected to be set at 220 of the state’s 700 wolves. Montana is likely to set the same quota for its 550 wolves.

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Wyoming Elk Researchers to Give Talk About Study

courtesy of The Ravalli Republic
by Perry Backus

Wyoming researchers looking for the cause behind declining pregnancy rates in a Yellowstone National Park elk herd will talk about their study this week in Hamilton.

Sponsored by the Ravalli County Fish and Game Association, the talk begins at 6 p.m. at the Bitterroot River Inn.

“When dealing with wildlife management, you can never have too much information,” said association president Tony Jones. “We’re hoping that some of the things they learned may transfer over to what’s happening here.”

Last winter, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks started an ambitious study in the Bitterroot Valley looking the relationship between elk and predators.

“Big game numbers here are doing the same thing that they’ve seen in Wyoming,” Jones said. “We want to get a better handle on why our big game numbers are on a fast decline … when you have wolves and lots of them, it’s easy to say they are the problem. Sometimes it’s not the wolf that’s doing the bulk of the damage.”

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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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