‘Landscape of Fear’ Not Impacting Yellowstone’s Elk
by Virginia Morell
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Not elk in the Greater Yellowstone area of Wyoming and Montana. That’s the contention of a new study that disputes the notion that Rocky Mountain gray wolves, which were reintroduced into the region in 1995, have turned the once peaceful area into a “landscape of fear.”
After the wolves’ return, scientists noticed that the aspen trees and willows began to recover, while elk numbers declined. Researchers attributed the trees’ new growth to the wolves, because the elk could no longer blithely feed; they had to be vigilant and on the move. That added stress, some suggested, could also cause female elk to have fewer successful pregnancies, which would account for the elk population’s dropping numbers.
Endangered Canids: Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis)
by Jaymi Haimbuch
This is the world’s most endangered canid with fewer than 500 individuals left on earth. Located way up in the highlands of Ethiopia, it is the only canid species to have made a home at such altitudes.
The Red Wolf is often overshadowed by its more popular cousin, the Gray Wolf. These residents of the southeast were nearly driven to extinction by the middle of the 1900s by two main threats: first, humans killed them to prevent attacks on livestock; second, coyotes began spreading from the west into the east where they hybridized with the wolves. There were only 14 pure red wolves left in 1973.
Today, after decades of conservation efforts, there are around 120 red wolves living wild and another 200 in captivity but the same threats still exist today. An especially significant threat is the occurrence of coyote hunts — red wolves can easily be mistaken for coyotes from a distance and are still illegally killed either on purpose or by being misidentified as a coyote. Advocates for the wolvesseek to end coyote hunting competitions and night hunts in order to protect red wolves from this threat.
Endangered Canids: Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
by Jaymi Haimbuch
The Mexican Gray Wolf is the smallest gray wolf subspecies present in North America, and it is also the most genetically distinct. Nearly wiped out in the 1900s as ranching took over the southwest, the species was listed as endangered and given protections in 1976, though they had been eliminated from the US entirely and populations in Mexico were severely reduced.
Thanks to the success of captive breeding programs, the first of the captive-bred wolves were released back into the wild in the US in 1998 as part of a recovery program. That program also focuses on helping to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts and promote coexistence with this unique and rare canid species.
While many people may view zoos first and foremost as attractions, these institutions have a long history of supporting and instigating conservation work, including saving species from extinction that have vanished from their wild habitat. But such efforts require not just dedication and patience, but herculean organizational efforts. Enter, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which works with zoos and aquariums to set up conservation programs and track endangered species in captivity.
“Most of the major international conservation organizations have moved away from species conservation in recent years, now focusing on issues such as poverty alleviation, global change, ecosystem services, etc. It is the role of zoos and aquariums to keep alive the flame of species conservation!” Markus Gusset, Conservation Officer with WAZA, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.
Gusset says that zoos and aquariums should be conservation centers first and businesses second. He points to a long history of zoos in saving species that have gone extinct in the wild, including five mammals and one bird that would not be around today without the protective efforts of modern zoos…
(images: T - Red Wolf, Seth Bynum /Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium; 2L - Przwalski’s Horse, Petra Kaczensky/International Takhi Group; 2R - California Condor, Mike Wallace/San Diego Zoo Global; 3 - Black-footed Ferret, USFWS; BL - Arabian Oryx, Tim Wacher; BR - European Bison, Mieczysław Hlawiczka)
Spain’s wolf population is estimated at 2,000 and growing. Wolves are considered a game species, though they are protected in the southern regions of the country. Compensation is paid for livestock damage, though this varies according to regional laws.
Report on the conservation status and threats for wolf (Canis lupus) in Europe
The wolf is the most controversial predator in Europe, as it occupies conflicting places in people’s imaginations, being simultaneously loved and hated. On one hand it is held up as symbol of wilderness and the return of nature, while for others wolves symbolise waste, destruction and negative changes. As a result wolf conservation is almost always controversial.
Historically wolves have been heavily persecuted in Europe for millennia, and were exterminated from most of northern and western Europe in the last two centuries, probably reaching their minimum in the 1940’s to 1960’s. Since then, many populations have begun to recover and expand their range, for example in Spain and Italy. Furthermore, in the last twenty years, the species has been recovering naturally and reappearing in areas from which they had become extinct, for example in France, northern Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. In 2005 a wolf was even sighted in Austria (Styria region).
However, the present distribution of wolves in Europe is extremely uneven and densities vary greatly from country to country. This recovery has revealed their extreme ecological adaptability, enabling them to survive in extremely diverse environments…
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is putting the finishing touches on a proposal to strip wolves of their protection under the Endangered Species Act across most of the lower 48 states. Consider a donation so NRDC’s wildlife experts will be fully prepared to respond swiftly and effectively the moment this proposal is issued.
But I recently learned that “wolf denning” refers to the killing of wolf pups in or near their dens.
In many parts of the U.S., wolves are still protected by the federal endangered species act, but in certain area,s where reintroduction efforts in the mid-1990s have been successful, the animals are fair game.
According to Defenders of Wildlife’s John Motsinger, since October 2012 Wyoming has allowed wolves to be killed year-round, without a license and by almost any means, across 85 percent of the state—the so-called “predator zone.”
Fortunately, most wolves live in the protected areas of the state. Unfortunately, wolf denning is practiced illegally in places where it’s prohibited…
(read more: TakePart.org) (photo: Stephen J. Krasemann/Getty)
In Tibet, Change Comes to the Once-Pristine Roof of the World
Renowned biologist George Schaller has been traveling to the remote Tibetan Plateau for nearly three decades, studying its unique wildlife. But with climate change and overgrazing taking a toll on the landscape, he reports, scientists and the Chinese government are working to preserve one of the planet’s wildest places…
Herein, we examine the hypothesis that relatively low densities of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) and the imperiled status of lynx (Lynx canadensis) may be partially due to an ecological cascade caused by the extirpation of gray wolves (Canis lupus) inmost of the conterminous United States decades ago.
This hypothesis focuses on 2 plausible mechanisms, one involving ‘‘mesopredator release’’ of the coyote (C. latrans), which expanded its distribution and abundance continentally following the ecological extinction of wolves over the temperate portion of their geographic range. In the absence of wolves, coyotes may have affected lynx via increased predation on snowshoe hares, on which the lynx specializes, and/or by direct killing of lynx. The second mechanism involves increased browsing pressure by native and domestic ungulates following the declines in wolves.
A recovery of long-absent wolf populations could potentially set off a chain of events triggering a long-term decrease in coyotes and ungulates, improved plant communities, and eventually an increase in hares and lynx. This prediction, and others that we make, are testable. Ecological implications for the lynx may be dependent upon whether wolves are allowed to achieve ecologically effective populations where they recolonize or are reintroduced in lynx habitat. We emphasize the importance of littleconsidered trophic and competitive interactions when attempting to recover an endangered carnivore such as the lynx.
The mystery surrounding the origin of a wolflike predator that once lived near Antarctica — a puzzle that stumped even Charles Darwin — has now been solved, researchers say.
The extinct carnivore apparently made its way to islands hundreds of miles from the nearest continent by crossing the frozen sea thousands of years ago, scientists explained.
The reddish coyote-sized Falkland Islands wolf was the only mammal native to the Falkland Islands far off the east coast of Argentina. The foxlike predator lived on seals, penguins and sea birds until hunters exterminated it in 1876.
The existence of the Falklands wolf perplexed Darwin when he first encountered it in 1834. “How did this great big carnivore arrive to a set of islands 460 kilometers (285 miles) from the nearest mainland when no other terrestrial mammal did?” asked researcher Alan Cooper, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “If it came by a land bridge, then the islands should’ve been covered with rodents as well, since South America is rodent central.”…
Packs of wolves (Canis lupus) usually include a dominant breeding pair, along with several generations of kids and the occasional aunt or uncle. While breeding pairs usually remain bonded until one partner dies and were long considered truly monogamous, a study in Yellowstone National Park revealed that some males were mating with several females and causing rivalries within the pack.