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Category: Wolves & Coyotes

Obama administration officials and wildlife advocates reach uneasy agreement over gray wolves' status

A gray wolf in Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. — Facing mounting pressure from lawmakers over gray wolves, wildlife advocates reached an agreement with the Obama administration Friday to lift protections for the species in Montana and Idaho and allow hunting.

The settlement agreement, opposed by some environmentalists, is intended to resolve years of litigation that has kept wolves in the Northern Rockies shielded by the Endangered Species Act even as the population expanded dramatically.

It also is meant to preempt action by Congress, where western Republicans are leading efforts to strip wolves of their protections nationwide.

"For too long, wolf management in this country has been caught up in controversy and litigation instead of rooted in science, where it belongs. This proposed settlement provides a path forward," said Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes.

Court documents detailing the proposed agreement between the U.S. Department of Interior and ten conservation groups were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Montana.

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Montana's governor encourages ranchers to kill wolves

Gray wolf howling

BILLINGS, Mont. — Defying federal authority over gray wolves, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on their livestock -- even in areas where that is not currently allowed -- and said the state would start shooting packs that hurt elk herds.

Schweitzer told the Associated Press he no longer would wait for federal officials to resolve the tangle of lawsuits over wolves, which has kept the animals on the endangered species list for a decade since recovery goals were first met.

"We will take action in Montana on our own," he said. "We've had it with Washington, D.C., with Congress just yipping about it, with [the Department of the] Interior just vacillating about it."

State wildlife agents and ranchers already kill wolves regularly across much of the Northern Rockies, where 1,700 of the animals roam parts of five states. Rules against killing wolves have been relaxed significantly by federal officials over the past decade but hunting remains prohibited.

Livestock owners in southern Montana and Idaho have authority to defend their property by shooting wolves that attack their cattle, sheep or other domestic animals. And federal agents regularly kill problem wolves, with more than 1,000 shot over the past decade.

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Environmental group says it plans to sue Obama administration over gray wolves

Gray wolf

BILLINGS, Mont. — Environmentalists said Tuesday they intend to sue the Obama administration to force it to restore gray wolves across the Lower 48 states -- even as Republicans in Congress sought unsuccessfully to strip the animals of protection.

The Center for Biological Diversity said in a formal notice to the Interior Department that it will sue the agency in 60 days unless the government crafts a plan to bring back wolves throughout their historical range.

"Wolves once roamed nearly the whole country and down into Mexico, but at this point they're just in a fraction of that range," said Noah Greenwald, director of endangered species for the Center for Biological Diversity.

About 6,000 wolves live in the Lower 48. They are protected from hunting except in Alaska.

Biologists for the Arizona-based group argue there is enough wild habitat to support thousands of wolves in New England and New York, the southern Rocky Mountains, parts of Colorado and the Cascade Range of Oregon and Washington.

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Ancient Mexicans bred wolf-dog hybrids, anthropological study finds

Jawbone

Mexican researchers said Wednesday they have identified jawbones found in the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacan as those of wolf-dogs that were apparently crossbred as a symbol of the city's warriors.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said the jawbones were found during excavations in 2004 and are the first physical evidence of what appears to be intentional crossbreeding in ancient Mexican cultures.

The jawbones were found in a warrior's burial at a Teotihuacan pyramid. Anthropological studies performed at Mexico's National Autonomous University indicate the animal was a wolf-dog.

"In oral traditions and old chronicles, dog-like animals appear with symbols of power or divinity," said institute spokesman Francisco De Anda. "But we did not have skeletal evidence ... this is the first time we have proof."

Wolf- or dog-like creatures appear in paintings at Teotihuacan, but had long been thought to be depictions of coyotes, which also inhabit the region. But archaeologists are now reevaluating that interpretation.

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Agency attempts to remove Great Lakes gray wolf from endangered species list

Gray wolf TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The federal government is planning another attempt to remove gray wolves in the Great Lakes region from the endangered-species list.

An assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Thomas Strickland, says the department will release a proposal by April and hopes to make a final decision by the end of 2011.

Biologists say the wolf has made a strong comeback from near-extinction in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The government has tried three times in the last seven years to remove federal protections and return management of the region's wolves to the states -- most recently in 2009. But federal courts have overruled the decisions in response to lawsuits by environmentalists and animal-rights groups.

Officials say they believe the new plan will withstand court challenges.

RELATED WOLF NEWS:
Montana governor says negotiations over gray wolf's endangered status have hit impasse
Wolf-hunting proponents consider a new tactic: Killing gray wolves in the name of research

-- Associated Press

Photo: William Campbell / Associated Press

Montana governor says negotiations over gray wolf's endangered status have hit impasse

Wolf BILLINGS, Mont. — Negotiations to remove Northern Rockies gray wolves from the endangered species list hit an impasse Monday, after Wyoming and Idaho refused to go along with an Interior Department proposal on the issue, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer said the breakdown in talks between the three states and the Obama administration makes it unlikely Congress will address the issue this year.

Western lawmakers have introduced multiple bills to strip protections from an estimated 1,700 wolves in the Northern Rockies, where the animals' attacks on livestock and big game herds have stoked growing resentment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has previously approved plans to hunt the predators in Idaho and Montana -- but not Wyoming. That's because Wyoming law classifies wolves as predators that can be shot on sight across most of the state.

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Negotiations over gray wolves' endangered status continue, but with no consensus

Gray wolf

BILLINGS, Mont. — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and governors from three Northern Rockies states resumed negotiations last week to remove the region's wolves from the endangered list but reached no conclusions.

Western lawmakers are pushing bills in Congress that would declare the region's 1,700 wolves recovered and no longer in need of federal protections.

However, Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D-Wyo.) says there still is no consensus on how that should be done.

Freudenthal said a Thursday conference call with Salazar marked progress toward balancing wolf restoration against local concerns about wolf attacks on livestock and wildlife. Montana's Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, also participated.

Montana's two Democratic senators, Jon Tester and Max Baucus, on Thursday released a letter in which they urged Salazar "to keep the governors of the three states at the table to find a unified way forward."

Meanwhile, wildlife advocates were scrambling to head off the push against wolves in Congress, saying it could set a dangerous precedent and severely undermine the Endangered Species Act.

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Obama administration meets with Western governors over gray wolves' endangered status

Yellowstone Wolf

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — After years of legal wrangling over wolf management, the Obama administration and three governors Monday discussed crafting an endgame -- including whether Congress should pull the plug on the debate by declaring the animals' numbers have fully recovered in the Northern Rockies.

The federal government has been turned back twice in its efforts to get wolves off the endangered species list. Success would open the door to public hunting -- something the governors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming say is badly needed to keep the predators' expanding population in check.

All three states are anxious to reduce wolf numbers to protect other wildlife and reduce livestock attacks.

The frustration from the governors and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "is that everybody recognizes that the [wolf] population is not only recovered, but it is robust," Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said after the meeting. "And why we can't get to de-listing, I think, is very frustrating for all of the people sitting around that table."

The federal government originally said it wanted a population of 300 wolves when it started its reintroduction program in the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. Biologists say there are now at least 1,700 wolves in parts of six states.

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Valley Forge park officials are urged to use coyotes, rather than hunters, to control deer population

Valley Forge Deer

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — An animal-rights group that opposes the use of hunters to cut the deer population in Valley Forge National Historical Park wants officials to consider using coyotes instead.

Friends of Animals opposes a plan to use sharpshooters to eliminate more than 80% of the Pennsylvania park's deer in the next four years. Last year, they sued to try to stop the hunts.

Now, the group has started a campaign called the Coyote Coexistence Initiative. They want park officials to consider encouraging natural predators rather than shooting the deer.

Park officials tell The Philadelphia Inquirer the proposal wouldn't work. They say the number of deer has to be cut from an estimated 1,277 to about 175 in the next four years.

Friends of Animals says it will seek an injunction to stop a hunt planned for next month.

RELATED WILDLIFE NEWS:
Sharpshooters employed to thin out the deer population around Maryland's Camp David retreat
'Do not feed the wildlife' signs installed in Griffith Park following coyote attacks

-- Associated Press

Photo: A deer bounds across the path at dusk in Valley Forge National Historical Park in 2001. Credit: Peter Doyle / Associated Press

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denies Montana's request to kill gray wolves in a 'conservation hunt'

Gray Wolf

HELENA, Mont. — Federal officials have denied Montana's request to hunt endangered gray wolves in response to the predators' increasing attacks on livestock and big-game herds.

The state hoped to exploit a loophole in the federal Endangered Species Act and hold a "conservation hunt" for up to 186 wolves this fall.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Daniel Ashe denied the request Thursday, saying that his agency supports sport hunting of wolves but would not expect approval of Montana's proposal to survive a legal challenge.

A federal judge in August restored wolves in Montana and Idaho to the endangered species list after environmentalists filed suit.

RELATED WOLF NEWS:
Western lawmakers set their sights on gray wolves
Mexican gray wolves' endangered status to be reviewed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

-- Associated Press

Photo: A wolf howls in White Cloud Mountains of Idaho. Credit: Isaac Babcock / For The Times

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