L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
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Category: Wolves & Coyotes

Alaska's request to kill wolves in wildlife refuge rejected by federal judge; issue to be revisited

Wolf

ANCHORAGE — A federal judge on Thursday rejected the state of Alaska's request to immediately kill seven wolves in a national wildlife refuge on Unimak Island.

The state wants to remove wolves from caribou calving grounds and boost numbers for the herd in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

However, Judge H. Russel Holland refused Alaska's request for a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has threatened legal action if state employees enter the refuge in helicopters to shoot wolves.

Instead, the judge set a hearing Monday and said the court would consider a preliminary injunction. He asked lawyers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Interior Department to provide responses to the state's lawsuit by Friday afternoon.

"I think it will be best for everyone if we can get this matter out of the way," Holland said.

The state has informed the judge that Monday is the longest it can wait to prevent wolves from eating calves this year.

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Your morning adorable: Wolf pups play at Berlin Zoo

Wolf pups at play in the Berlin Zoo

Germany's Berlin Zoo stubbornly persists in maintaining what we believe to be the world's most adorable collection of baby animals.

As the most recent example in a large body of evidence, we humbly present the wolf pups above, born in late April at the zoo and now of prime rough-and-tumble playing age. (Previous evidence that Berlin is the world's cute-baby-animal capital include two knock-kneed moose calves, a batch of jaguar cubs in a basket, a litter of alarmingly cute caracal kittens and two adorable rhinoceros calves representing two distinct species. Of course, perhaps the biggest cute superstar born in Berlin is Knut, the polar bear cub who took the animal-loving world by storm a few years back. Although Knut is no longer the adorable cub he once was, in our hearts he remains an icon of cute.)

We're, quite frankly, alarmed by just how precious these wolf pups are. But it gets even sweeter; after the jump, check out a photo of one of the cubs enjoying some time out with one of its parents.

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Your morning adorable: European wolf pups make themselves at home at German conservation center

Wolf pups

At Wolf Center, a newly opened wolf education and conservation facility in Doerveden, Germany, six tiny European gray wolf pups are receiving round-the-clock care from their keepers.

The pups, five males and one female, were born May 10 at a wildlife park in the region of Lower Saxony. They join four adult European gray wolves at Wolf Center (although the pups occupy a separate enclosure).

The European gray wolf is a subspecies of gray wolf, but differs in several ways from the gray wolves that live in North America. European wolves tend to have coarser fur with thicker manes, longer ears and more streamlined, narrow skulls than their North American counterparts.

See more wolf-pup photos after the jump!

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Agency must decide on proposed endangered species listing for Mexican gray wolf by end of July, judge rules

Mexican gray wolf

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge in Arizona has approved a settlement requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a finding by the end of July on a petition that seeks to list the Mexican gray wolf on the federal endangered species list separate from other North American gray wolves.

Conservationists submitted petitions last August, arguing that a separate listing was biologically warranted and legally required.

WildEarth Guardians sued in federal court Jan. 19 in an effort to force the agency to issue a finding, contending that Fish and Wildlife had missed the deadline.

The settlement agreement was filed May 7. U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow signed an order approving it Wednesday and dismissing the lawsuit.

Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Southwest Region office in Albuquerque, said Friday the agency expects to issue the finding by the July 31 deadline.

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Montana's 2010 wolf-hunt quota to increase dramatically

Wolf HELENA, Mont. -- The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission plans to at least double the number of gray wolves that hunters can kill this year.

Commissioners voted Thursday to accept a staff recommendation to increase the quota of wolves in this year's hunting season. After a public comment period, they will vote in July whether that final number will be 150, 186 or 216 animals.

Last year's quota was 75.

According to state wildlife computer models, the proposed quotas would reduce the state's wolf population between 8% and 20% from last year's minimum count of 524.

The proposed quotas do not include wolves killed by wildlife officials responding to complaints of attacks on livestock. About 145 wolves were killed that way in 2009.

RELATED WOLF NEWS:
Northern Rockies gray wolf populations held steady in 2009, biologists say
Wolf attacks on Montana livestock spike, stirring backlash

-- Associated Press

Photo: A young wolf in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: National Park Service

Higher wolf-hunt quotas proposed in Montana and Idaho; wildlife advocacy groups object

Wolf

BILLINGS, Mont. — Hunters in Montana would be allowed to kill nearly three times as many gray wolves this fall compared with last year's inaugural hunt under a proposal announced Friday by state wildlife officials.

Wolves in neighboring Idaho also face a potentially higher quota. And hunters there could be allowed to use traps, electronic calls and, in some regions, bait to increase their odds of a successful kill. Final details are pending.

The moves to put more wolves into hunters' cross hairs come barely a year after the predators came off the endangered species list.

But a pending federal lawsuit could block the states' wolf seasons. Wolf advocates -- including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife -- argue the hunts would be too aggressive, threatening the species' long-term survival.

Ranchers counter that mounting livestock losses to wolves must be put in check through any available means, including hunting. State wildlife officials say last year's seasons proved the animals can withstand significant hunting pressure without collapsing.

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Wildlife group urges Discovery to drop Sarah Palin's docu-series

Sarah Palin winksDespite the fact that Sarah Palin didn't become vice president in 2008 and isn't even Alaska's governor anymore, she's still irking conservationists. This time around, advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is taking aim at Palin's forthcoming documentary series from the TLC network.

The group -- technically a separate entity from the related group called simply Defenders of Wildlife -- staunchly opposed Palin's policies regarding wild animals during her tenure as Alaska governor. In response to Palin's support of a program in which wolves are hunted from airplanes, the group launched a website, EyeOnPalin.org, in 2009.

The most visible moment in its anti-Palin campaign came in early February 2009, when the group released a graphic video about the wolf hunt narrated by actress Ashley Judd. In a statement, Judd decried the hunt as a "cruel, unscientific and senseless practice which has no place in modern America."

Palin responded with outrage, posting a statement on her website that referred to the Defenders as an "extreme fringe group" and accusing the group of "twisting the truth in an effort to raise funds from innocent and hard-pressed Americans struggling with these rough economic times."

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Northern Rockies gray wolf populations held steady in 2009, biologists say

Gray wolf

BILLINGS, Mont. — A new tally of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies shows the population held steady across the region in 2009, ending more than a decade of expansion by the predators but also underscoring their resilience in the face of new hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho.

Biologists said the region's total wolf population has remained stable and will be similar to 2008's minimum of 1,650 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

The number of breeding packs increased slightly, from 95 to 111. That's despite more than 500 wolves killed last year, primarily by hunters and government wildlife agents responding to livestock attacks.

If the preliminary figures hold, it could bolster the federal government's assertion that wolves are doing fine since losing Endangered Species Act protections last year.

The exception is Wyoming, where state law is considered hostile to the species' survival and federal protections remain in force. The state has challenged the decision to keep wolves under federal protection in Wyoming, and a federal court hearing in that case is set for Friday in Cheyenne.

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Wolf attacks on Montana livestock spike, stirring backlash

Gray wolf

Gray wolves killed livestock in Montana at the rate of an animal per day in 2009, stirring a backlash against the predators in rural areas and depleting a program that compensates ranchers for their losses.

The sharp increase over 2008 livestock losses, reported Thursday by state officials, was fueled largely by a wolf pack ravaging 148 sheep in southwestern Montana near Dillon in August.

"They are beautiful creatures, but they're also very deadly. They'll go out and hamstring a bunch of animals just for fun," said Barb Svenson of Reed Point, whose family ranch lost more than 30 sheep in attacks over the last two years.

"They're killing our income," she added.

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Effort to reintroduce endangered Mexican wolves to the Southwest is problem-plagued

Mexican wolf A decade has passed since the federal government began returning endangered Mexican wolves to their historic range in the Southwest. It hasn't worked out -- for the wolves, for ranchers, for conservationists or for federal biologists.

And that has resulted in frustration and resentment by many involved in the reintroduction program along the Arizona-New Mexico border, a landscape of sprawling pine and spruce forests, cold-water lakes and clear streams.

"I believe in being a good steward of the land and preserving it for generations to come, but this is ridiculous," said Ed Wehrheim, who heads the county commission in Catron County, in the heart of wolf country. "I've had ranchers' wives come to me just bawling because everything they and their parents have worked for is going down the drain."

Four ranches have gone out of business since the wolf reintroduction began and another four are expected to do the same before next summer, Wehrheim said.

The region has been hit by drought and cattle prices aren't what they used to be, but Wehrheim said pressure from environmentalists and hundreds of livestock kills by Mexican gray wolves over the past decade have only made things worse.

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