L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Wolves & Coyotes

'Do not feed the wildlife' signs installed in Griffith Park following coyote attacks and subsequent coyote cull


When wildlife officials responded to two incidents of coyote-on-human violence at Griffith Park by killing eight of the park's coyotes in September, many Angelenos were outraged

Adding insult to injury was the acknowledgment by officials that they had no way of knowing whether any of the coyotes killed in the name of public safety had actually been behind the attacks -- one in August and one in September -- because, in both incidents, too much time had elapsed between the time of the bite and the time it was reported for DNA evidence to be collected from the victim. (Such DNA evidence could potentially have identified the coyote attacker or attackers while letting innocent animals off the hook.)

Many who opposed killing the coyotes argued that not enough had been done to prevent the attacks in the first place.  Since Griffith Park's coyote population lives in close proximity to humans, many of the animals don't have the healthy fear of people that their less-urban cousins do.  Worse, regular visitors to the park said, well-meaning but ill-advised people regularly feed the coyotes, despite the fact that doing so is punishable by jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.

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Alaska bookseller will donate profits from Sarah Palin's book, 'Going Rogue,' to Defenders of Wildlife

SarahpalinNow, this is mavericky.

An independent bookseller in Sarah Palin's home state is donating the proceeds he makes off her book to a group that is among the biggest critics of the former Republican vice presidential candidate.

Don Muller owns Old Harbor Books in Sitka. He's selling Palin's memoir, "Going Rogue," for $28.99, and says he will donate profits to Defenders of Wildlife.

The wildlife conservation group often butted heads with Palin over her support of the state's predator control program, in which bears and wolves are shot from aircraft.

Muller says he's not a fan of Palin. He tells the Daily Sitka Sentinel that donating proceeds to Defenders of Wildlife is a way to "carry the book and do something positive."

-- Associated Press

Photo: Palin listens as John McCain addresses supporters during his election-night rally Nov. 4, 2008.  Credit: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Southern Montana's wolf hunting season lasts two days

WolfWolves in Southern Montana didn't have to hide for long.

Wolf hunting season in a large southern district of Montana ends after sunset tonight, just one day after the season officially opened. The 12-wolf quota was quickly exceeded by one.

Despite the thinning of the herd, wolf numbers are likely to increase, as reported by our friends at the Greenspace blog.

While there are about 500 wolves in Montana now, even if 75 are hunted this year, there are expected to be 590 wolves in established packs across the state, and 655 wolves overall (counting wolves that go out on their own) next year.

Do you think hunting caps are an effective way to control population growth? Let us know in the comments.

-- Mark Milian

Twitter: @markmilian

Photo credit: Associated Press

Public outcry follows killing of coyotes in Griffith Park

Many Angelenos are outraged at the news that eight coyotes in Griffith Park were killed last week in response to two incidents in which members of the public were bitten by the animals.

At the heart of many animal lovers' complaints is the fact that wildlife officials acknowledged that they have no way of knowing whether any of the coyotes killed were actually responsible for either of the biting incidents. In both cases (one in late August and one last Wednesday), too much time had elapsed between the time of the bite and the time it was reported to wildlife authorities for DNA evidence to be salvaged from the victim. Had testing been conducted, it could potentially have identified the coyote attacker or attackers.

Incidents of coyotes biting humans are mercifully rare. "It's been a while since we've had a bite here in Southern California, which is good. That's the way we like to see things," Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game, told our colleague Tony Barboza. "But almost every day someone's losing pets to coyotes." 

Indeed, one very high-profile instance of a pet being snatched happened just days before U.S. Department of Agriculture trappers began to kill Griffith Park's coyotes. Last Monday, pop singer Jessica Simpson took to Twitter to share the news that "a coyote took my precious Daisy right in front of our eyes. HORROR! We are searching. Hoping. Please help!"  Simpson posted a missing-dog poster offering a reward for the return of the little dog, a Maltese-poodle mix who was a gift from the singer's ex-husband, fellow pop singer Nick Lachey. But, unsurprisingly, no sign of Daisy has been found.

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Wildlife officials authorize killing of coyotes in Griffith Park after bite incidents


Two recent incidents in which people were bitten by coyotes in Griffith Park have caused wardens to take an unfortunate step: dispatching U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services trappers to kill some of the park's coyotes.

Although the bites occurred weeks apart, both were reported to the California Department of Fish & Game within a short period of time. The first bite occurred in late August, but wildlife authorities learned of it from Los Angeles County health officials only last week.

The second bite happened Wednesday, when a man apparently napping near the park's Travel Town section said he awoke to find a coyote biting his foot. He was not seriously injured, wildlife biologist Kevin Brennan of the Fish and Game department told The Times. 

In response to the incidents, USDA trappers shot and killed seven of the park's coyotes, owing to a policy that coyotes should be captured and killed only in the instance of an imminent threat to public safety.  "Somebody getting bitten is an imminent threat," Brennan told The Times. 

But, our colleague Tony Barboza notes in his article on the subject, authorities do not know if the coyote or coyotes that bit the two park visitors were among the seven killed. (Had the bites been reported in a more timely manner, the victims could have been swabbed to determine the DNA profile of the coyote attacker.  But since DNA evidence was unavailable for either biting incident, no testing can be conducted to determine whether the attacking animal or animals was among the dead.)

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Gray wolves back in court as rival factions contest endangered species ruling


Are gray wolves endangered, or aren't they?  It seems like a simple thing to determine, but the legal battle between government officials (who say the wolves have successfully rebounded) and environmentalists (who say that, although wolf populations have increased, the species is still endangered and needs federal protection) rages on.

In 2008, gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list, and the federal protections it grants, for about seven months.  In October, a judge reversed the decision and reinstated the wolves' endangered status.  But not for long -- just before the presidential changing-of-the-guards this January, the Bush administration announced that gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho, Montana and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon would once again be delisted.  After the delisting took effect, wolves in those areas would fall under the jurisdiction of state or tribal authorities rather than federal ones.  (Wolves in Wyoming retained their endangered status because, according to the Interior Department, not enough had been done in that state to ensure their recovery.)

Environmentalists hoped the Obama administration would reverse the Bush policy and reinstate the wolves' endangered status.  But in March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the decision to delist the wolves would stand, calling the species' population increases "one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act." 

Not surprisingly, environmentalists vowed to bring the issue back to the courts and did so on Tuesday.  In a lawsuit filed in Missoula, Mont., they argued that Montana and Idaho, like Wyoming, had not taken sufficient action to protect the wolves.  More than 1,300 wolves in those states, they said, should have their federal protection restored. 

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Gray wolf collared and released in Oregon is a first

Oregon’s first radio-collared wolf just after its release, with ear tags and a radio collar.

On the same day that gray wolves were removed from protection under the Federal Endangered Species act elsewhere in the country, a joint effort by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish & Wildlife specialists led to the first-ever radio collaring of a wolf in Oregon.

A gray wolf known to have been killing livestock in eastern Oregon was captured, collared and released.

The 2-year-old male was trapped a few miles from where a pair of wolves attacked a calf last month. Tissue samples were taken from the wolf for genetic analysis.

"The wolf was captured in the area where livestock was killed, and the track size was the same as on-site [where the calf was killed], so we know it is the same animal," said Michelle Dennehy, ODFW wildlife communications coordinator.

The radio collar will now allow the department to monitor the wolves' movements and alert ranchers if necessary.

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Gray wolves scheduled to lose federal endangered species protection next month

Gray wolves are scheduled to lose federal endangered species protection in most Western states May 2

The decision to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list, announced shortly before President Bush left office and confirmed by the Obama administration last month, is one step closer to taking effect after being published in the Federal Register last week. 

The delisting is scheduled to take effect May 2 and will apply to wolf populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Idaho and Montana, and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon.  Gray wolves will retain Endangered Species Act protection in Wyoming, where Interior Department officials say recovery efforts have been insufficient.

Delisting transfers the duties of wolf population management from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to state and tribal agencies.  In at least one of those -- the state of Idaho -- the wolves will become legal targets for hunters in short order.  Our colleague Kelly Burgess at the Outposts blog writes:

Idaho Fish and Game commissioners have already adopted dates for the wolf hunting season in the state and will set quotas once delisting takes effect.

"We have to move on and manage them similar to other big-game animals," Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen said. "This is good news for wolves, elk, rural communities and hunters. I believe this action will help defuse the animosity and anger associated with wolves when we can manage wolves in concert with our other big game species."

The Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the delisted wolf populations for a minimum of five years to ensure that they continue to sustain their recovery.  At the end of that time, it will be decided if relisting, continued monitoring or ending service monitoring is appropriate.

Idaho governor C. L. "Butch" Otter has said he supports reducing his state's wolf population from its current level of around 800 animals to 100.  "I'm prepared to bid for the first ticket [hunting license] to shoot a wolf myself," he once said.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn.

 Credit: Dawn Villella / Associated Press.

Alaska begins aerial wolf hunt to boost caribou population

Wolf Alaska's aerial hunt for gray wolves, decried by many animal activists (and, famously, by actress Ashley Judd in a Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund video), is now in full swing. 

At least 30 wolves have been killed by hunters wielding high-caliber guns in the program that began in earnest last weekend.  Our colleague Kim Murphy at the Greenspace blog has the details:

The predator control effort has run into opposition from the National Park Service, which manages the nearby Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, where biologists have been radio-collaring wolves in a long-running study of how predators and prey interact in the 2.5-million-acre wilderness near the Canadian border.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, aiming to boost the survival of caribou calves, wants to kill up to 328 wolves, leaving behind at least 88 to 103. Killing them, state officials say, will allow the Fortymile caribou herd, ravaged by three years of bad weather and heavy snow, to expand from its current level of 40,000 animals to as many as 100,000.

There are several problems with that, according to the park service. First, park officials believe there aren't nearly as many wolves as state officials estimate and that killing so many could devastate the packs. Second, the Fortymile herd hasn't approached 100,000 since the early 1900s. And preserve Supt. Greg Dudgeon fears some of the preserve's collared wolves, along with others that typically make the preserve their home, could be shot.

"They [the state] have a mandate to provide for maximum sustained yield. They want to provide more moose and caribou for people to harvest," Dudgeon said. "Our mandate is to manage and provide for healthy populations of wildlife. So we don't place the value of a wolf over a caribou, or a caribou over a moose."

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, of course, is crying foul -- and the group places the blame for what it calls a "sweeping wolf massacre" squarely on the shoulders of Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin.  "Removing such huge numbers of predators from a region will do untold damage to all the wildlife that depends on that habitat. Governor Palin is recklessly pursuing policies that could turn America's last frontier into nothing more than a large game farm," said Rodger Schlickeisen, the group's president.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Dennis Davis

Gov. Sarah Palin gets a pat on the back from Sportsmen's Alliance for her support of aerial wolf hunt

Sarah Palin gets some support from the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance No shocker here: The group U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, along with eight other organizations, including the Archery Trade Assn. and Bowhunting Preservation Alliance, has pledged its support for Alaska's wolf management program.

The program, which has come under fire from animal activists such as the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, includes the hunting of Alaska's wolves by airplane -- a measure that supporters say is necessary to maintain the state's populations of the wolves' traditional prey, including moose and caribou.  Gov. Sarah Palin's support of the aerial hunting, of course, led to the production of a controversial video narrated by actress Ashley Judd.

Sportsmen's Alliance President Walter P. Pidgeon, in a letter to Palin, dismissed the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund's attack as "part and parcel of a well orchestrated publicity stunt meant to achieve maximum exposure and minimum discourse."  From his letter:

... we want to publicly endorse your wolf management policy.  We believe the recent public relations blitz initiated by the Defenders of Wildlife grossly mischaracterizes your Administration's wolf management policy.

After years of research, it is recognized by practically all state and federal wildlife officials that predator management is a prerequisite for guaranteeing stable populations of prey species. ...

The future of effective wildlife management necessitates that emotional pleas not substitute for reasoned analysis.

Without the aerial hunting program, Sportsmen's Alliance Senior Vice President Rick Story said in a statement, "eventually, disease and hunger would kill far more wolves. ... It is simply wrong for an environmental group to use Hollywood glitz and glamour to hide science from the public."

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