Wednesday, October 2, 2019

I'm Offline 10/3-11/1




Recently Mary and I went canoeing in Grand Teton National Park. One of the highlights was this splendid moon rise over peaceful Jackson Lake. This image of canoe, lake, and moon brings back a fond memory and is a good way to announce that Mary and I are preparing to cruise away on a fall road trip. I’ll be offline 10/3-11/1. 

While offline, I will not be posting to social media or shipping signed books until at least November 1.

Of course, my books will still be available unsigned from Amazon in my absence. 

I hope you have a great October with lots of splendid, peaceful moments wherever you may be.

Award-winning Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes, speaks, and photographs to protect wildlife and wild lands. His bestselling In the Temple of Wolves and the award-winning sequel, Deep into Yellowstone, are available signed from Rick or unsigned on Amazon.



Rick's new book, The Wilds of Aging, is the prequel to In the Temple of Wolves and is available signed or on Amazon.



Photo by Rick Lamplugh


Good News for Washington Wolves



Our actions make a difference! Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed wolves regularly despite the outrage of citizens, advocates, and conservation groups. On September 30, Governor Inslee directed WDFW to change their wolf-killing ways. Here are some excerpts from his letter to Kelly Susewind, WDFW Director.

*****

“I write to ask that you make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”

“For reasons that are not entirely clear, numerous conflicts with livestock producers have occurred in a handful of federal grazing allotments.”

“I share the public’s concern and am troubled that the Wolf Plan does not appear to be working as intended in this particular area in Northeastern Washington. I believe we cannot continue using the same management approach on this particular landscape…The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable.”

“…please consider what opportunities exist to work with the U.S. Forest Service and other public land managers to make changes that would reduce the conflicts, including changes in allotment policies for public lands that are prime wolf habitat…”

*****

Thank you, Governor Inslee, for listening to your citizens and working to help wolves survive on public lands—the only home available to them.

And an even bigger thanks to all the citizens, advocates, and conservation organizations who called, wrote, and spoke to the governor. Your voice made the difference!

Here is a list of 26 wolves killed at the request of one ranch, the Diamond M Ranch, in Northeastern Washington. (list by Predator Defense)

2012 – 7 Wedge Pack wolves
2016 – 7 Profanity Peak Pack wolves
2017 – 1 Sherman Pack wolf
2018 – 2 Old Profanity Territory Pack wolves
2018 - 1 Smackout Pack wolf
2019 – 8 Old Profanity Territory Pack wolves

I sincerely hope that WDFW and the USFS decide to move livestock off this ranch’s grazing allotment which is in prime wolf habitat. And if Diamond M Ranch does have to move its livestock to another allotment and continues to lose livestock to wolves, I think that the rancher’s privilege of grazing his cattle on public land should be suspended.

To learn more about a plan to keep wolves and livestock separate and alive on public lands, read my post Managing Wolves Requires Managing Cattle

To Read the Governor’s Letter.

Award-winning Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes, speaks, and photographs to protect wildlife and wild lands. His bestselling In the Temple of Wolves and the award-winning sequel, Deep into Yellowstone, are available signed from Rick or unsigned on Amazon.



Rick's new book, The Wilds of Aging, is the prequel to In the Temple of Wolves and is available signed or on Amazon.



Photo by Rick Lamplugh

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

PART 3: The Battle to Bring Wolves Back to Colorado



PART 3: Does Colorado Have Room for Wolves?

There’s a movement to reintroduce wolves, and there’s a movement to keep them out. Both anti-reintroduction folks and wolf supporters concerned with wolf safety claim there’s not enough room. How does Colorado compare to other wolf states? Here are some claims and comparisons.

The Claim: Colorado is Too Crowded

Colorado has 5.6 million people and covers 103,000 square miles. Wolves would be reintroduced into the less populated western half of the state.

Minnesota with more than 2600 wolves also has 5.6 million people. And they live in less space (80,000 square miles). Most of their wolves roam the less populated northern part of the state. All are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Washington with more than 125 wolves has more people (7.5 million) than Colorado. And less space (66,000 square miles). Most of the wolves roam in the less populated eastern third of the state where they are not protected by the ESA.

The Claim: Colorado Does Not Have Enough Public Land

If we’re to have wolf recovery, it must happen on public land, the only home left to wolves. How does Colorado compare with some other wolf states in terms of amount of public land? 

Thirty-nine percent of Colorado is public land. That’s more than 40,000 square miles with no permanent wolf population.

Seventeen percent of Minnesota is public land. That’s just 13,600 square miles. Yet more than 2600 wolves manage to live in the state.

Thirty-six percent of Washington is public land. That’s just 24,000 square miles. More than 125 wolves live there.

The Claim: Colorado Has Too Many Cattle

Colorado has 2.8 million cattle and no permanent wolf population. 

Wisconsin has 3.4 million cattle. Have that state’s 900 wolves harmed Wisconsin’s cattle producers? Wisconsin lost 30 cattle to wolves according to the most recent report. Another eight were injured.

Oregon has 1.3 million cattle and lost just 17 to their 137 wolves in 2018.

Wolves will likely take some cattle in Colorado, especially on public land. But the number taken will not be enough to ruin the livestock industry. And the proposed Colorado wolf reintroduction plan requires reimbursing producers for losses to wolves.

There Is Scientific Support for a Colorado Wolf Reintroduction

Several years ago three scientists, John Vucetich, Jeremy Bruskotter, and Michael Nelson, published a journal paper “A Framework for Envisioning Gray Wolf Recovery.” The scientists state that wolf recovery is feasible in the Lower 48, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service should develop a NATIONAL WOLF RECOVERY PLAN. 

The scientists calculated that wolves will recover best where fewer than 142 of us humans crowd each square kilometer. They produced a map (accompanies this post) that shows these areas with too many humans freckle the Lower 48’s eastern half, but the West has few. 

Their map also reveals where wolves could live, even if reintroduction is necessary. Three potential recovery areas are in the West. One of them is in less populated western Colorado where the battle to reintroduce is under way.

After considering the claims and comparisons, it seem to me that Colorado has enough room to bring back wolves that lived in the state until the mid-1940s. The real question is whether some Coloradans—like some people in other wolf states—are willing to coexist with this essential predator.



Award-winning Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes, speaks, and photographs to protect wildlife and wild lands. His bestselling In the Temple of Wolves and the award-winning sequel, Deep into Yellowstone, are available signed from Rick or unsigned on Amazon.



Rick's new book, The Wilds of Aging, is the prequel to In the Temple of Wolves and is available signed or on Amazon.




Map of wolf recovery by Vucetich et al.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

PART 2: The Battle to Bring Wolves Back to Colorado



PART 2: Will Wolves Decimate Colorado’s Elk?

There’s a movement under way to reintroduce wolves in Colorado. And there’s a movement to keep them out. One anti-wolf site features four videos; each with a Coloradan explaining why reintroduction is wrong. Three speakers claim that wolves will decimate the state’s huge elk herd. But did that happen in Montana after wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone and central Idaho?

There’s no doubt wolves eat elk. Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995 to help reduce the park’s out-of-control elk population. From Yellowstone they dispersed into Montana. Do these reintroduced wolves take so many elk that hunters now come up empty handed? Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) keeps thorough records on elk hunts and wolf populations, and I dug through both.

In 2005, ten years after that reintroduction, MFWP counted 256 wolves and hunters took more than 26,000 elk statewide.

In 2018, twenty-three years after reintroduction, MFWP counted 819 wolves and hunters took 27,793 elk.

In other words, after a thirteen-year period when Montana’s wolf population more than tripled, hunters still took more—not less—elk. 

In August of last year, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks issued a press release that forecasted hunting opportunities statewide. MFWP revealed that these are good times for elk hunters in Montana. Even with a growing wolf population, elk numbers remain strong across most of the state. However, MFWP adds, elk have changed their behavior: many take refuge on private lands, and that can reduce hunting success since in many hunting districts access to private lands can be difficult.

Elk have also changed their behavior in Idaho and Wyoming, where the fish and wildlife departments of both states report that elk hunting remains good even with significant wolf populations. Idaho reports that some elk have moved from wilderness and backcountry toward areas with more human presence and private lands where hunting access can be difficult. Wyoming reports that some elk have abandoned familiar migration routes and now spend time in areas shunned by wolves and grizzlies—areas that may be difficult to access or off limits to hunters. 

But elk hunters in Colorado—or Montana, Wyoming, or Idaho—who fear coming home empty-handed can learn from wolves, the very same animals the anti-reintroduction contingent seeks to villainize. 

In Yellowstone lives the Mollie’s pack, named in honor of Mollie Beattie, the late director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. She was instrumental in Yellowstone’s wolf reintroduction. 

Historically, the Mollie’s diet has varied by season. In summer and fall elk make up most of the pack’s diet. But once winter arrives and elk become scarce in the pack’s Pelican Valley home, the wolves have two choices.

First, they can switch to eating bison that winter in Pelican Valley. A bison is ten to fifteen times heavier than a wolf and armed with sharp horns and deadly hooves. Bringing down a bison is dangerous and may take days. But the hungry pack hunts smarter and succeeds.

Second, they can leave Pelican Valley and go where the easier-to-hunt elk go. That’s why the Mollie’s have travelled to the Lamar Valley each winter.

Empty-handed hunters have the same options as the Mollie’s. Hunters can stay in their preferred elk hunting unit but hunt smarter, or they can go where the elk now are.

Instead of villainizing and fearing wolves, Colorado hunters—if they’re willing to share the land—can learn from wolves. After all, wolves have survived on their hunting skills far longer than humans have.

Award-winning Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes, speaks, and photographs to protect wildlife and wild lands. His bestselling In the Temple of Wolves and the award-winning sequel, Deep into Yellowstone, are available signed from Rick or unsigned on Amazon.



Rick's new book, The Wilds of Aging, is the prequel to In the Temple of Wolves and is available signed or on Amazon.



Photo of elk standing off wolves by NPS

Monday, September 16, 2019

PART 1: The Battle to Bring Wolves Back to Colorado




At one time, wolves roamed 41 of the Lower 48 states. It took just a couple hundred years to exterminate them in 95 percent of their range. In Colorado they were killed off by the mid 1940s. Now two organizations want to see wolves reintroduced into Colorado—the only Rocky Mountains state without wolves. In an innovative approach, the organizations are petitioning voters to place an initiative on the ballot. The initiative would allow voters—instead of unwelcoming state wildlife managers—to decide if wolves should return. Predictably, an anti-reintroduction organization has formed and wants to block any reintroduction. 

Wildlife ecologist Mike Phillips is advising the two pro-reintroduction groups, Rocky Mountain Wolf Project and Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund. Phillips was the leader of the project to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone. 

Proponents of reintroduction must obtain 200,000 signatures to place the initiative on the November 2020 ballot. If Initiative 107 reaches the ballot, it will ask voters to approve a law that requires the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan—using statewide hearings and the best available science—to reintroduce wolves on public lands west of the Continental Divide by the end of 2023. The commission would not be able to impose any land, water, or resource restrictions on private landowners to further the plan. The commission must fairly compensate owners for livestock lost to wolves. 

With wolves now in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona, dispersing wolves have reached Colorado. Some have ended up dead: poisoned, hit by a car, and shot by a hunter claiming he thought he shot a coyote. Just recently a collared male last tracked near Yellowstone showed up in Colorado’s rural Jackson County.

With dispersers arriving, the Colorado situation is similar to the one in Yellowstone before reintroduction. Wolves had dispersed from Canada and taken up residence in northern Montana. In 1994 Montana had 50-60 wolves and they might have dispersed to Yellowstone eventually. In 1995 and 1996 sixty-six Canadian wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone and central Idaho. Today more than 1500 wolves roam Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Though the reintroduction succeeded, many people opposed it.

And plenty of opposition exists today to reintroducing wolves into Colorado. In January of 2016 the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission issued a resolution opposing “the intentional release of any wolves into Colorado” because of conflicts with the livestock industry and big game management. No surprise there. The commission described both ranching and hunting as important to the state’s economy. A recent report by Jason Blevins in the Colorado Sun states that elk and mule deer hunting brings in $919 million to the state, especially in rural areas.

Of course, the anti-wolf Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has weighed in against reintroduction. On their website, RMEF claims, among other things, that reintroduction “would trigger the potential for real issues” because Colorado is smaller than other wolf states and has more humans crammed into it. 

Then there’s the newly formed Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition. Their website brims with photos of bloody, ravaged livestock. They feature videos that present many “dangers” of bringing wolves back. They are sponsoring their own petition because “extreme activist groups want to force introduction of destructive non-native wolves onto public lands in Colorado.”

In this multi-part series, I will explore this battle to bring wolves back to Colorado. I will dig into the reasons presented by the RMEF and the Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition against reintroduction. Are they fact or fiction?

Award-winning Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes, speaks, and photographs to protect wildlife and wild lands. His bestselling In the Temple of Wolves and the award-winning sequel, Deep into Yellowstone, are available signed from Rick or unsigned on Amazon.




Rick's new book, The Wilds of Aging, is the prequel to In the Temple of Wolves and is available signed or on Amazon.



Wolf photo by Rick Lamplugh