From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

About as far from the Gulf of St.
Lawrence seal hunt as one can get and still
be within Canada, the government of the
Northwest Territories has invoked rhetoric
similar to that of Newfoundland, based on
local culture and poverty, in defense of a mere
dozen native hunters who reportedly used
snowmobiles to chase down more than 460
wolves during the winter, who were shot and
skinned after collapsing of exhausting.

Lawrence Adam of Fond-du-Lac alone killed
172 wolves. By the end of the wolf hunting
and trapping season the Northwest Territories
toll was expected to be circa 1,000. The
neighboring Yukon Territory by contrast
closed wolf-killing in late 1997 until at least
the turn of the century, prompting the
Canadian Journal of Environmental Education
to ask readers to thank Yukon minister of
renewable resources Eric Fairclough a t
Thirteen of the 24 wolves residing
on Isle Royale, Michigan, at the beginning
of 1997 died by mid-winter 1998, Isle Royale
National Park superintendent D o u g l a s
Barnard recently told Dean Rebuffoni of the
Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Three pups were
born during the year, leaving 14 wolves still
on the island. Biologist Rolf Peterson, studying
the Isle Royale wolves since 1970, suggested
the decline “could just be an aftershock
of the moose die-off in the spring of 1996,
when we lost nearly 2,000 animals––almost
80% of the herd.” The current moose herd
numbers about 700. But Peterson also worries
that the pack might somehow have become
infected with canine parvovirus. Wolves have
inhabited Isle Royale since 1949, when they
crossed over frozen Lake Superior from
Canada and were caught when the ice melted.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in early February released a pair of sterilized
young red wolves in an experimental recolonization
of St. George Island, Florida, more
than six months behind schedule. The release
was delayed for more than six months while
USDA Wildlife Services tried unsuccessfully
to trap a lone coyote, who devours sea turtle
eggs, was considered a potential threat to the
endangered red wolves, and––to prevent
hybrid matings––was the reason the red
wolves were neutered. Genetic evidence indicates
red wolves are themselves descended
from wolf/coyote hybrids.
USDA Wildlife Services, working
under contract to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
S e r v i c e, on February 28 used both a fixedwing
plane and a helicopter to find and kill
O p a l, the eight-year-old female alpha wolf
who formed the Boulder Pack in mid-Montana
circa 1993 after finding her own way 400
miles south from Banff National Park,
Alberta. Once trapped and radio-collared in
Canada, Opal was later trapped again and reradio-collared
in Montana, leading to her
eventual demise. Officially, Opal was killed
for eating at least 14 cattle and sheep over the
past several years. But she was always legally
problematic to the Yellowstone region wolf
reintroduction plans touted by USFWS,
Defenders of Wildlife, and other major conservation
groups. She enabled ranchers to
argue that reintroduction was unnecessary,
since wolves were recolonizing the region on
their own. On December 12, 1997, U . S .
District Court Judge William Downes recognized
that argument in ruling that USFWS had
no authority to reintroduce wolves to
Yellowstone National Park and northern Idaho
under an “experimental, nonessential” status
which contrary to the Endangered Species
Act allows wolves, officially endangered, to
be killed if they harm livestock. Wildlife
Services first tried to kill Opal and the other
adult members of her pack in July and August
1997. They killed the two other adults, and
captured four pups, at least two of whom were
soon afterward killed by other wolves in an
Idaho holding pen, but Opal and two more
pups got away. Opal then found a new mate.
A rancher spotted the two of them, and while
Downes’ ruling that wild wolves in the
Yellowstone region should have full ESA protection
was stayed under appeal by at least
four conservation groups and the U.S.
Department of Justice, “It was probably time
to get her out of the picture,” said USFWS
wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs.
The USDA Wildlife Services d i v ision,
formerly Animal Damage Control, has
predictably issued itself a “finding of no significant
impact” in an environmental assessment
of wolf control activities in Minnesota,
which chose “integrated management” as the
favored control strategy. That tends to mean
killing wolves except when the public is
watching. Wildlife Services currently traps
wolves at 70-90 Minnesota farms per year,
responding to farmer complaints, killing 150-
225 wolves per year, according to the
EA––about 10%, on average, of the state
wolf population. As the population is “well
above the Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery
Plan goal of 1,400 by the year 2000,” the EA
says, “the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources has asked the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to delist the wolf in
Minnesota” as a threatened species “because
the population is now considered recovered.
The delisting process could begin as early as
March 1999.” In anticipation, Minnesota legislator
LeRoy Stumpf, of Thief River Falls,
has already introduced a bill to open recreational
wolf hunting and trapping.
Eleven Mexican gray wolves w e r e
introduced to acclimation pens in the Blue
Range of Arizona during the first week in
February, in preparation for spring release.
They will be the first wild Mexican wolves in
the U.S. since the last native packs were hunted
to exinction by Animal Damage Control,
now USDA Wildlife Services, in the mid-
1930s. The Mexican wolf was added to the
U.S. Endangered Species List in 1976, soon
after the remains of perhaps the last wild U.S.
survivor were discovered near the junction of
Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. The last
wild survivor in Mexico was seen in 1980.
About 175 are in captive breeding programs.

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