Norwegian wolf poachers on trial


This video says about itself:

Wolf pups (Canis lupus) – Wolf behavior

30 May 2012

There were four adorable woulf pups, just one week old. The entire pack works together to care for those young pups.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Norwegian court to rule on six men accused of illegal wolf hunt

Landmark case pits survival of one of Europe’s smallest wolf populations against Norwegians’ cherished hunting rights

Elisabeth Ulven and Tone Sutterud in Oslo

Sunday 19 April 2015 15.33 BST

Six men charged over hunting some of Norway’s last wolves will learn their fate this week when a court rules on a landmark case that has gripped the country.

Illegal hunting of wolves is thought to be extensive in Norway, driving down population numbers to perilously low levels.

Now, for the first time, the authorities have prosecuted an alleged hunting team, charging the six men with environmental offences and organised crime, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 11 years.

“It’s such a serious offence that we were given almost unlimited investigative powers by the state attorney,” says Tarjei Istad, a prosecutor in the case.

The indictment includes attempted illegal hunting, firearms offences and organised crime. The prosecutor has asked for a five-year ban from hunting, which is something most Norwegians see as a birthright. The defendants are pleading not guilty.

All European countries except the UK and Ireland are believed to have a population of wolves, ranging from the largest in Spain, with an estimated 2,000 animals, to Norway, which has one of the smallest populations, with perhaps as few as 30. The grey wolf is listed by Cites as endangered regionally, though not globally.

“This is a question of attitude in certain hunting teams and communities,” said Istad, referring to audio surveillance of the suspects that revealed a lot of boasting about their hunts. He believes this court case is important to get the message across that Norway will not take illegal hunting lightly.

Petter Wabakken, an internationally acclaimed expert on wolves, agrees.

“Our research shows that half of all wolves felled in Norway were killed by poachers,” he said. “This is disturbing, especially considering that we have the smallest wolf population in Europe. Government policy has been to allow three breeding female wolves within an allocated area. This is not enough to sustain a healthy population.”

Norwegians are deeply divided over the management of wolves. Urban communities are generally positive about having large predators in their vicinity, while people in the countryside see them as much more of a threat.

Wolves tend to be targeted because of conflicts with human interests, such as competition for game, human safety and depredation of livestock.

“We can only conclude that poachers take the law into their own hands. It’s not licensed but illegal hunting that regulates the Norwegian wolf tribe,” Wabakken said.

Wolf in the Netherlands was wild German wolf


This Dutch video is about Wolven in Nederland. This organisation prepares for when wolves will come back to the Netherlands, trying to prevent human-wolf conflicts.

Translated from the Wolven in Nederland site:

The wolf which wandered in early March through Drenthe and Groningen provinces comes from a pack of wild wolves in Germany. It is a young animal from the “Munster” pack in the region of Hamburg-Bremen. This is shown by DNA analysis.

Early this month, the Netherlands was fascinated by a wolf of unknown origin, which for a few days ran through Drenthe and Groningen. The animal appeared regularly and behaved not exactly in a shy way. Research shows that it nevertheless was a wild wolf.

Wolf back in the Netherlands, after over two centuries


Wolf of Noord-Sleen, photographed from a car

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The wolf is back in the Netherlands, says the foundation Wolves in the Netherlands. This morning the animal was spotted and photographed near Noord-Sleen, in the province of Drenthe. According to wolves expert Leo Linnartz there is no doubt. “It’s the same wolf as the last days was seen near the border with Germany.”

German colleagues of Linnartz informed him in recent days that the wolf was on its way to the Netherlands. “It was no surprise that this morning we received the message that one was seen.”

Linnartz is sure that the photos he has seen are real. “There is no indication that the story is not true. It’s all very reliable,” he says.

See also here. And here. And here. And here.

This 5 March 2015 video shows a wolf in Germany, probably the same wolf as in Drenthe now.

This is another video of that wolf in Germany.

Interview with Jan van der Aa, maker of the Dutch wolf photos: here.

In 1772, the last wolf had been caught in this area in Drenthe.

Wolves helped by Syria-Israel conflict


This 2009 video says about itself:

The demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea has become an accidental paradise for wildlife.

Bloody wars and other deplorable human conflicts usually have bad consequences for the environment and for wildlife. However, in some cases they may have unexpected positive side effects for wildlife. Like for wildlife in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. For leopards in minefields left from the Iran-Iraq war. For Nubian nightjars in minefields in the Israel-Jordan border area.

Or, sometimes, for wolves.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Living in a minefield: the wolves of the Golan Heights

In the Golan Heights, a dangerous minefield provides an unlikely wildlife reserve where wolves are thriving

Arian D Wallach, Churchill Fellow, Dingo for Biodiversity Project, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Friday 6 February 2015 11.51 GMT

Sitting in the cold of an open jeep, we are waiting for dawn. The thick snow provides some reflective light and we strain our eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wolf pack as they return home from their night’s hunt. This family of wolves holds one of the safest territories a large predator could possibly hope for: a minefield in the Golan Heights, near the Israel-Syria border.

One step outside the barbed-wire fence, however, and the wolves must be very careful. Although wolves are provided with substantial legal protection from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) – enabling one of the greatest wolf recoveries in the world – they are hunted, culled and poached across the region. In an effort to appease ranchers who fear for their livestock while simultaneously conserving this growing wolf population, three management zones were delineated.

In the southern Golan Heights, ranchers can legally shoot wolves, and may even be rewarded with a generous bounty. Further north, wolves can also be hunted, but only by special permit issued by the INPA. Hunting wolves is forbidden inside national parks, and carries a heavy penalty, but poaching does occur occasionally, and can be difficult to enforce. Throughout the Golan, the INPA kills wolves, in a controversial effort to limit their population.

Itamar Yairi, a photographer who has been closely observing the Golan wolves for the past two years, witnessed the potentially dire consequences for those who venture out of the minefields.

The pack Itamar follows, led by a distinctly large and beautiful matriarch, chose to conceal their pups in a den just a few meters outside the minefield’s perimeter. “They were living like royalty, completely relaxed,” Itamar tells me. “Lying in the sun all day, playing and resting, watching over their pups, and then going out under the cover of darkness to hunt.” But one morning Itamar arrived to find a tragedy. The wolves were gone, and inside the pup’s den he found a box of meat laced with poison.

Poisoning wolves is strictly illegal in Israel, but occasionally it does happen, causing extensive deaths of wolves and other wildlife including jackals, foxes, wild boar and raptors. The death of wolves is bound to ripple through every facet of the Golan ecosystem, from the gazelles and wild boar that they hunt, and the jackals that they dominate, to the entire fabric of the remnant oak woodlands.

For several months Itamar could not find his wolf pack, but slowly, one by one, some of them reappeared: the matriarch and her mate and their two adult daughters returned, but their adult son is gone, and so are the pups. “I don’t want to know what happened to them,” he says.

Wolves live in extended family units, in which only one pair reproduces and the entire pack cooperate in raising and educating the young. They hunt together, patrol their territory together, and are deeply bonded to one another. Some wolves stay with their parents well into adulthood. It is these social ties that make wolves such powerful ecological players. It is the pack – not the individual wolf – that is the apex predator.

The loss of pack members is therefore a terrible blow, both to the wolves and the ecosystem. “They haven’t fully recovered from the loss,” Itamar tells me. “I only hope that they keep their next litter of pups deep inside the minefield.”

In 2010, 11-year-old Daniel Yuval was badly injured when he accidentally wandered into a snow-covered minefield, detonating a land mine during a family hike near the village of Merom Golan. Daniel lost his leg, and his sister sustained serious injuries. The incident sparked a global campaign to clear land mines, and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) responded by improving the visibility of warning signs and fence maintenance. Landmines remain common and deadly however, and in 2013, Roi Alphi, a Combat Engineering Corps soldier, was killed during an accident in an operation to clear anti-tank mines in the southern Golan.

The landmines and the tensely patrolled militarised zone make it a dangerous and forbidding place for humans, but a sanctuary for the wolves. “I have watched the wolves running towards the minefields, only to slow down to an easy trot when they pass the fence,” Itamar explains. “If the mines go, so will the wildlife.”

As the day breaks, the sun lights the massive fence running along the Israel-Syria border. Beyond the fence we watch the sleeping Syrian town of Quneitra. There is no sign of electricity, nor is there smoke rising from a chimney. I wonder how they warm their homes on this bitterly cold morning. We can hear occasional gunfire, but Amir Drori, jeep tour guide and local resident, tells me that this is a relatively quiet day. “Its too cold to fight. We have in a way gotten used to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions from our neighbours on the other side of the fence.”

We did not see Itamar’s pack that morning, but we did find their tracks crossing in and out of the minefield a short distance away.

Will Oregon wolves survive?


This video from the USA is called OR7 – THE JOURNEY Movie trailer.

From Sierra magazine in the USA:

Underdog

Celebrity wolf OR7 may be “too famous to kill,” but his pups will need to watch out if they wander into the wrong state

By Peter Frick-Wright

I’m heading home to Portland from a cabin in the central Oregon woods, down a road I’ve traveled a thousand times before, when something new comes loping through the forest. It’s moving fast without rushing. My brain registers graceful first. Then coyote. But no, it’s too tall and slender.

Then it hits me: Wolf!

It’s already gone.

I grew up in these woods. I like to think I know them. Black bears and mountain lions live out here, plus bobcats, beavers, and the occasional fox. At night you can hear great packs of yipping coyotes coalescing for a hunt.

But there aren’t any wolves.

Except, I remember a heartbeat later, that’s not completely true: A lone male wolf came through here a few years ago. It was a big deal—America’s most famous wild canid. And he had a funky name, like a robot: OR7.

He was Oregon’s seventh wolf to be caught and fitted with a radio collar—hence the name. He was from the Imnaha Pack, which roamed the northeastern corner of Oregon. But sometime in September 2011 he left the pack and wandered southwest, crossing four mountain ranges and five national forests, all the way down into California. He got halfway to Sacramento before circling back to southern Oregon.

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife released information on his general whereabouts, and for a while everyone went wolf-crazy. Someone started a parody Twitter account for @WolfOR7. (“Attn. Oregon backpackers. You can keep your trail mix but I wouldn’t mind some of your beef jerky.”) We were all enamored with his 3,000-mile against-all-odds search for a fresh start and a mate.

It was a remarkable PR coup for a species long regarded as a pest, or worse. Humans, after all, have been demonizing wolves ever since we started filling our pastures with delicious, defenseless livestock. In his book Where the Wild Things Were, William Stolzenberg writes that the first systematic attacks on wolves took place alongside the birth of farming in the Nile River Delta, 10,000 years ago. Agriculturalists in this country share the antipathy. In 1843, the first semblance of Oregon’s state government was voted into existence at “wolf meetings” meant to address the problem of lost livestock. Not long after, the whole country embarked on an extermination campaign in which wolves were trapped, shot, poisoned, disemboweled, and lit on fire. Once airplanes were invented, they were put to work dropping cyanide-laced pellets of fat from the sky. In Alaska, wolves are still shot from planes.

A few cagey survivors grew legendary in their refusal to be caught, though traps sometimes claimed parts of a paw: A wolf named Three Toes terrorized Harding County, South Dakota. New Mexico had Old Three Toes. Old One Toe roamed Arizona. None had Twitter accounts.

Eventually, however, the West was won. Oregon’s last wolf was killed in 1947 for a $25 bounty, and ranchers slept easily at night. Devastated by population reduction, wolves became different beasts—underdogs.

In 1995, the tide began to turn. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced 66 wolves from Canada back into Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in Montana and Idaho. By 1999, wolves were starting to turn up in Oregon. Ten years later, the Imnaha Pack had taken up permanent residence just west of the Hells Canyon Wilderness on the border with Idaho. OR7, who had been tagged and radio-collared eight months earlier, dispersed in search of new territory in 2011. As he wandered, wolf supporters played up his celebrity status in a concerted effort to make him, as the Huffington Post put it, “too famous to kill.”

Now, here in central Oregon, as I scan the trees for another glimpse of the gray wolf that just crossed my path, it strikes me that this must be a new disperser, following in OR7’s path.

Three weeks later, just outside Joseph, Oregon (population 1,052), I’m halfway up Finley Butte and creeping toward the summit. It’s a little past 4 a.m., and the sunrise just cracked open the skyline behind me, staining the Wallowa Mountains a radical violet and rousing a chorus of birds.

“If we want to get wildlife shots, we need to get in close without the birds announcing our presence,” whispers Michelle Van Naerrsen of the Wolf OR7 Expedition, a monthlong, six-person trek retracing by foot and mountain bike part of the canid’s 3,000-mile odyssey. If the birds go suddenly quiet, she says, that tells the whole valley to be afraid.

This morning is day one of the expedition, the official mandate of which is to “explore the challenges of a 21st century wolf.” We’re setting off in the crisp predawn to check out OR7’s original home range. If we’re stealthy, we might catch a glimpse of the herds of elk he hunted as a pup. The group is filming a documentary, though, not to mention blogging and Facebooking the whole trip, and our cameras keep blowing our cover. As expedition video­grapher Daniel Byers lines up a shot of the glowing horizon, for example, Galeo Saintz takes a picture of him with his phone. I take a picture of Saintz taking that picture. We’re here to see elk, but we’re also here to be seen trying to see elk. We’re tweeting, but now we’ve scared the birds—and they’re not.

That’s OK, I’m told. The goal isn’t finding OR7 so much as following in his footsteps, and (hopefully) inspiring a new appreciation for the creature’s wild savvy.

“There are two landscapes that we’re walking through, the physical landscape and the psychological landscape,” says Rachael Pecore-Valdez, an aquatic ecologist and story­teller who is the trip’s instigator. “I’m interested in a story that is true to both.”

Problem is, wolves are often not appreciated in either landscape. European folklore reads like a class action suit against the species: Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, et al. v. Big Bad Wolf. For some other cultures, though, wolves are allies.

“There would be certain howls,” Joe Whittle explains to the Wolf OR7 Expedition cameras later that day. “Because of those howls, hunters would find deer or elk to hunt.”

Born in the nearby town of Enterprise and a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma, Whittle is a back­country guide, U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger, and student of Native American cultures. We’re in a meadow up Hurricane Creek, where the Wallowas’ tallest peak, Mt. Sacajawea, towers overhead. Whittle is describing the mutually beneficial relationship that developed between wolves and the Nez Perce tribe, as described to him by tribal elder Horace Axtell. Nez Perce hunters, he says, would kill an animal and leave a gut pile. “It didn’t take long for the wolves to realize that they could get an easy, free meal just by vocalizing where the game are. They just do a little howling and here they have an easy snack.”

It’s not just indigenous humans who benefit from the presence of wolves. Apex predators have been shown to have an outsize influence on ecosystem health, Oregon State University professor Bill Ripple tells me later. He’s best known for his work in Yellowstone showing how aspen trees thrive when wolves keep elk at bay—limiting herbivore populations as well as influencing their behavior. Moose and elk move quickly and browse more gingerly in wolf territory; the divided attention allows some aspen shoots to establish themselves.

Last year Ripple also found that wolves keep grazers from hogging all the wild berries. His team analyzed scat samples of Yellowstone grizzlies and found that the presence of wolves increased the amount of available berries.

So that means that OR7 might bring real, tangible benefits to wherever he settles, right?

Not so fast, Ripple says. Large species generally need large swaths of habitat, and humans keep carving the country into smaller and smaller pieces. It’s entirely possible that through agriculture, logging, and road building, we’ve negated any benefits that wolves could bring to the landscape. These big bad wolves may come home only to find that we long ago blew down their houses.

That is, if we let them come home at all. In the current wolf-reintroduction scheme, when recovering wolf populations hit preestablished benchmarks, they lose their endangered species protection and the states can step in to manage wolves as they see fit.

In 2008, when Idaho’s wolves were first delisted, the state sold wolf-hunting tags, and it has essentially hunted the population in and out of federal protection ever since. Montana opened a wolf season in 2011 to reduce the population by 25 percent. It came up short, so the hunting season was extended. In 2012, Wyoming classified wolves as predators that could be shot on sight. In September 2014, following a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and others, a federal judge revoked the state’s management rights and returned federal protections.

That reprieve may be temporary. In 2013, citing healthy populations in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting wolves across the entire country, essentially handing all wolf management decisions to the individual states. Washington, Oregon, and California have comprehensive, science-based management plans in place or in the works for the day wolves are delisted. But should those wolves wander across state lines to, say, Nevada, it would be like entering enemy territory.

The next day, hiking toward the Imnaha River, a cold, steady rain turns to glops of slush and then snow. When my boots finally soak through, I send the expedition on its way and start driving around Wallowa County, knocking on ranch house doors. What’s it like, I wonder, to live in a place one notch wilder than it used to be?

There’s a grassy ridgeline out here called the Wolf Highway, which I figure is a good place to start. It runs between the Eagle Cap Wilderness, where elk spend their summers, and the Zumwalt Prairie, where they winter. Wolves follow the herds, but fenced-in cattle dot their path, like fast food on the interstate.

When I arrive at Lori Schaafsma’s door, she invites me in, puts the kettle on for tea, calls her neighbor, Ramona Phillips, and informs me that they both have much to say on the subject of wolves. She’s not kidding.

“When we first had wolves come here, I don’t think I had any prejudice at all,” Phillips says. “[But] it’s changed our life in every way.” Both women say they’re frustrated that they’re not allowed to protect their property; Schaafsma compares her situation to living in gang territory, where it feels like violence might erupt at any moment.

Between their two herds, however, the state has confirmed exactly one case of wolf depredation. Nationwide, wolves are responsible for less than 1 percent of lost livestock. That means zilch, though, to the individual ranchers losing cattle. The gulf between the actual numbers and the perceived threat makes managing wolves also a matter of managing people, for whom encountering a wolf on their property inspires less reverence than it does a feeling of acute vulnerability. “I don’t think people understand how close to our houses they are,” Phillips says. “It skews how we look at them. It has to.”

In Portland, where wolves aren’t devouring property or pets—­not even the occasional little hipster dog—­perspectives can skew the other way. On a rainy Sunday, Clemens Schenks’s documentary OR7—the Journey (not to be confused with the Wolf OR7 Expedition film) is premiering at a brewpub movie house. “Sold out!” a woman laments, as she turns from the ticket counter. It’s not a happy scene.

The timing of the premiere could not be better. The batteries in OR7’s radio collar are expected to die at any moment, but days earlier a trail camera captured him in close proximity to a small black female wolf—perhaps a mate.

The film is short on nuance and subtlety, but the pro-wolf audience doesn’t care. As it gathers steam, scattered applause turns to full-on cheers for definitive statements about the benefits of wolf reintroduction and anti-hunting policies.

“I think it says something about everyone’s fear of what’s happening to us,” an audience member tells me. “OR7 is a reason to celebrate at a time when we’re nervous about our future.” In other words, if a decimated species can find enough connected habitat to fill in the spaces we emptied of them, perhaps we’ve done something right.

Four years after leaving his pack, OR7 is still top dog in the wolf media world. Every few months someone pays tribute with a new song or an epic poem or an hourlong dance performance, and whoever’s behind the OR7 Twitter account is still going strong. Last June, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents tromped into the woods and confirmed that OR7 had indeed found a mate and that the happy couple had at least three pups in a den not far from the California border. Adorable photos soon followed.

If the pups make it through the winter, OR7 and his mate will be considered a “breeding pair.” It takes four such pairs to constitute a minimum sustainable population, according to the state’s management plan. But beyond five pairs, wolves—even famous ones—begin to lose protections.

Under ideal circumstances, wolves can double their numbers every two years, but that’s assuming adequate territory, food supply, and genetic diversity. Much of that is still a question mark. It remains to be seen just how badly we’ve chopped up the landscape and whether or not packs in surrounding states can spin off enough wandering wolves to find each other, like OR7 and his mate. So while their union feels like a huge victory for Canis lupus, it’s a tenuous one. Given the history of famous wolves in our country and culture, you might better call it a toehold.

This article was funded by the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.

Grand Canyon wolf killed by hunter?


This video from Arizona in the USA is called Grand Canyon National Park.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

US hunter ‘shoots dead’ historic first grey wolf seen in Grand Canyon for 70 years

‘Echo’ attracted national attention when she made her way to the Arizona landmark through several states

Laura Zuckerman

Wednesday 31 December 2014

A gray wolf killed by a Utah hunter may have been “Echo,” a female who attracted national attention after wandering through several states to become the first of the protected animals seen at Arizona’s Grand Canyon in 70 years, officials have said.

The hunter, who was not named by authorities, told Utah wildlife officers on Sunday that he accidentally shot and killed a wolf equipped with a radio collar near the Arizona border after mistaking it for a coyote.

Wolves in Utah are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which bans killing of imperiled animals without a special permit, but coyotes in the state are allowed to be shot on sight.

The incident, which is coming under sharp criticism by conservationists, is being investigated by federal and state conservation officers as a possible violation of U.S. and Utah wildlife laws, authorities said.

Information gleaned from the radio collar shows the wolf killed in Utah was a 3-year-old female that was captured and collared in January in northwest Wyoming, said Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Mark Martinez.

The wolf spotted near the northern rim of the Grand Canyon in October was also a young female, which had apparently roamed hundreds of miles (km) south from the Northern Rockies, according to an analysis of droppings near where she was seen.

It may be weeks before additional testing reveals whether the wolf killed in Utah is the same one, which was nicknamed Echo in a contest.

Echo was the first gray wolf seen in the Grand Canyon since the 1940s, when the last wolf there was killed as part of an extensive eradication campaign, said Chris Cline with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The gray wolf is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in most states.

Utah regulations require hunters to properly identify their target before shooting but cases of mistaken identity sometimes happen, Martinez said.

“It’s something we train people for in hunter education classes but it’s not a unique thing,” he said.

The hunter who shot the wolf near the city of Beaver in southwest Utah immediately contacted the state to report the incident as required by law, Martinez said. He said several coyotes in Utah have been equipped with radio collars tied to a research project.

Wildlife advocates said the death was shameful, whether or not the wolf was Echo.

“It’s very sad either way,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.