Wolves sacrificed to grizzly reintroduction

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1997:

mauling deaths of two wolf pups amid the high-profile
annihilation of the Boulder pack to which they belonged
almost went overlooked. But two sanitized accounts of
the deaths appeared on August 5.
“Federal workers captured three of the five
Boulder pack pups in mid-July,” wrote Kortny Rolston of
the Montana Standard, “and put them in a pen in Idaho
with two adult male wolves. Joe Fontaine, Montana wolf
recovery project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, said they learned recently that two of the penned
pups are dead.
“‘At this point it’s pure speculation, but we
think one of the males killed two of the pups,’” Fontaine
told Rolston.

“The two males have since been released into
the central Idaho wilderness,” Rolston concluded, “The
third pup remains in the pen.”
Elaborated Bill Loftus in the same day’s
Lewiston Tribune, “Nez Perce Tribe wolf biologists,”
tracking the Idaho phase of the Yellowstone region wolf
reintroduction under contract to the USFWS, “hope the
wild country along the Clearwater River’s North Fork will
hold a pair of wolves with wanderlust. The pair had been
penned at a remote backcountry ranch along the Selway
River. They were moved after a test to see if they would
adopt pups from a Montana pair. Two of the three pups
placed in the one-acre pen were killed by the adults,
apparently as they tried to feed on a deer carcass.”
Neither article mentioned that USFWS wolf
biologist David Mech, among others, documented that
wolves kill the pups of other packs during some of the
studies used to plan the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction.
But both did mention, albeit incompletely, that
the incident was part of an apparently successful effort to
wipe out the problematic Boulder pack––the southernmost
of seven packs who migrated into the greater Yellowstone
area on their own, independent of human-managed reintroduction.
Their mere presence challenged the wisdom of
the reintroduction effort, and none more than the Boulder
pack, whose alpha female had migrated all the way from
Banff National Park, Alberta, 400 miles to the north.
In September 1995, the Boulder pack killed
three calves in six weeks. All but the alpha female were
captured. Two adults were moved to Glacier National
Park. The three pups were radio-collared, then returned
to their mother. One pup was shot in November 1995,
and one was roadkilled in March 1996, but somehow the
pack recovered. They killed livestock in January 1997; a
USDA Animal Damage Control technician contracted out
to USFWS retaliated by killing four pack members. With
less help to provide for her April 1997 litter, the aging
and somewhat lame female killed two calves in June.
Public enemy #1
That made the old alpha Public Enemy #1 to
influential people on all sides of the Yellowstone predator
reintroduction program. Ranchers wanted her and her offspring
dead as alleged threats to their stock. USFWS wolf
recovery coordinator Ed Bangs wanted them dead as
threats to getting wolves off the Endangered Species List,
the official goal of the reintroduction program: according
to the convoluted logic of the master plan, ranchers won’t
kill wolves on sight if they trust the USFWS and ADC to
kill those who menance livestock. Defenders of Wildlife
Rocky Mountain representative Hank Fischer may have
wanted them dead to help him achieve grizzly bear reintroduction
to the nearby Selway-Bitterroot National
Wilderness under a protocol similar to the one he negotiated
to achieve the wolf reintroduction.
The deal in each case calls for reintroducing the
predators in exchange for dropping their endangered status
to avoid their presence bringing restrictions on the use of
habitat; removing individuals or groups of predators who
prey on livestock; and compensating ranchers for any
livestock losses.
The cost of the compensation is fast rising. In
Montana, for instance, wolves killed six cattle and sheep
in 1994, and just five in 1995, but 24 last year and 28 the
night of June 23 in a single raid by the Murphy Lake pack,
costing Defenders nearly $4,000––11% of the total
Yellowstone region wolf predation payout since 1987,
now totalling $35,000. In another bloody gesture more
likely to have symbolic resonance than stop the predation,
the ADC killed the Murphy Lake pack alpha male.
Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana now have
about 275 wolves in 23 packs, among them, making a
symbolic handful readily expendible to appease such foes
as Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Conrad Burns (RMontana),
who in July tried to pull grizzly bear reintroduction
funding out of the federal budget, and
Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), who argues,
much as she did of wolf reintroduction, that grizzly reintroduction
could “shut down human activity” in a region
the size of New England.
Whetting rancher fear of grizzlies, a grizzly was
suspected of killing six calves and a dozen sheep near
Pinedale, Wyoming, in the first 10 days of August. The
stock owner, Bill Thomas, in 1996 reportedly lost more
than 100 sheep to bears––both black bears and grizzlies.
A feasibility study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service bear biologist Chris Servheen, published in July,
recommended that grizzlies be restored to the Bitterroot
mountains by translocating 25 from Canada, much as
wolves were restored to Yellowstone National Park two
years ago. At least 49 animal and habitat defence organizations,
from both sides of the border, have petitioned
against such enforced translocation.
Scary bears
Amid the fracas over grizzly reintroduction,
human/grizzly conflicts in and around Yellowstone
National Park actually fell from 144 in 1995 to just 74 in
1996. Bear biologists credited strong crops of army cutworm
moths, whitebark pine nuts, and berries with keeping
grizzlies at higher elevations.
But the usual summer series of scary bear incidents
probably hasn’t help Fischer’s campaign. In the
bloodiest case, a 225-pound black bear on August 14
counterattacked at Liard Hotsprings National Park in
northern British Columbia, after hikers tried to scare him
away from a pond. The bear killed Patti McConnell, 37,
of Paris, Texas, as she protected her seven-year-old
daughter Kristen; slashed her son Kelly, 13; killed Ray
Kitchen, 56, of Fort Nelson, B.C., as he tried to rescue
McConnell; and was mauling University of Calgary geophysicist
Arie van der Velden, 28, when shot dead.
The Liard Hotsprings attack came six weeks
after two grizzlies lightly mauled film student Brent
Walters, 20, at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta,
and three weeks after a 170-pound black bear chased and
bit Adam Dietrich, 19, of Tucson, as he hiked in Grand
Teton National Park. National Park Service biologists
finally tracked and shot the bear who attacked Dietrich
about two weeks after the attack.
Two reminders that pumas are actually the most
dangerous wild predator in the Rockies came from Mesa
Verde National Park, Colorado, on July 14, and Rocky
Mountain National Park, also in Colorado, three days
later. In the first incident, a puma pounced Rafael
DeGrave, age 4, of France, as a park ranger escorted his
family to a parking lot because of a report of a puma in the
area. DeGrave may have been attacked only because he
saw the puma, screamed, and ran. DeGrave escaped serious
injury, but on July 17, Mark David Miedsma, 10, of
Lakewood, Colorado, ran ahead of his family on a hiking
trail to see if chipmunks had taken nuts he set out for them
the day before, was pounced by a puma as he dashed
beneath rocks overlooking a deer meadow, and––though
not severely mauled––choked to death on his own vomit
before his family and other hikers could respond. They
caught the puma just dragging Miedsma off the trail.
A park staffer and a photographer were attacked
by pumas in the same vicinity in 1995 and 1996, but
Miedsma was the first person ever killed by a puma in
Rocky Mountain National Park.
Loggers as well as ranchers and hikers are jittery
about grizzly reintroduction. Chances of a mutually undesired
encounter with either grizzlies or black bears are
higher in the breeding season. Thus the Timber Mountain
Bear Coalition in May and June urged the Forest Service
to defer salvage logging of trees killed by engraver beetles
in the Uinta Mountains of Utah until after July 1. Spanish
Fork Ranger District chief ranger Tom Tidwell let the
work start in early June, however, upon learning that the
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources let houndsmen track
and tree bears right through the heart of the bear mating
“After I found out about the pursuing activity,”
Tidwell said, “it was hard for me to justify not allowing
the timber purchaser to cut trees,” a less provocative disturbance.

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