The Rare Observation of a Common Occurrence: East Pack kills a bull moose

 

"At some unknown moment, the moose's spirit passed, and the spirit of the East Pack wolves was renewed. This miracle of live [sp.] and death occurs several times a week on Isle Royale."

 

(Note: There are four photos circulating by email showing a moose being chased, attacked, killed and partially eaten by a pack of wolves. After some digging, the photographer and author of the accompanying article was identified. The attack did not take place in Idaho, or even in the West; it happened in Isle Royale National Park, an island near the Canadian border located in Lake Superior. The photographs were taken from a tree stand. It seems odd for there to be a tree stand in a national park... Perhaps it was a portable tree stand. For those that don't have a vested economic interest, i.e., economic gain, in 'recovering' or 'saving' wolves, be forewarned that this is the view from the other side of the coin. The "Click here for info on permission to use images" is a broken link. The report of the attack and kill reports that four wolves weighed a total of 320 pounds, with a total of eight wolves involved in the attack and kill. The moose is reported to still have been "extremely dangerous" after having been "stopped" four times by the wolves. The description is not for the faint of heart, and the thoughtful reader is asked to consider the wording employed. Is there to be any 'protection' or 'recovery' for large ungulates like moose, elk, deer, etc., which may well become truly threatened/endangered, or only for large predators, which may, or may not, actually be 'threatened' or 'endangered?' "...the 2002 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service census lists a population of 17 wolves and 1,100 moose." Source for quote: http://www.outdoorlife.com/outdoor/print/article/0,20068,424948,00.html Please be sure to read all the way through the rather lengthy compilation below, especially the Center for Biological Diversity's December 14, 2006, press release. I don't recommend contacting photographer/author, for reasons including, but not limited to, his very close ties to the Center for Biological Diversity, a litigious "non-profit" "environmental" organization if there ever was one.)

 

February 12, 2006

 

By John Vucetich

 

The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale

 

Click here for info on permission to use images 

 

Isle Royale, Michigan - Don Glaser, our pilot, had just picked me up from Lake LeSage, where I had spent the past several hours snowshoeing into a site where Chippewa Harbor Pack had killed a moose a few days before. I performed a necropsy and collected a few bones that we'd later study in more detail.

It was later in the day. I expected it would be a routine ending to a beautiful, but routine, day. Before flying back to Washington Harbor, our winter base, we would make one final check for the day on each of the packs. I'd expect to find each pack and record their locations and activity.

We flew upon East Pack just as they were crossing over to the west side of McCargo Cove. How bold. Two weeks ago, East Pack killed the alpha male of Chippewa Harbor Pack. Now, as they crossed to the West side of McCargo Cove, they would be in territory that usually belongs to Chippewa Harbor Pack.

I had been fortunate enough to witness East Pack kill the alpha male of Chippewa Harbor Pack. It was the most dramatic wolf event I had ever observed. I expected it would be some time before witnessing anything like that again.

We didn't have much daylight left. So, we couldn't watch East Pack for too long and expect to find the other packs. After noting the direction of travel and number of wolves, I suggested to Don that we start looking for Chippewa Harbor Pack. As we were leaving the area, I noticed a bull moose feeding in a thinly forested area just ahead and upwind of the direction East Pack was traveling. Hmmm. Should we wait and see what happens. If we waited, we wouldn't find the other packs. Besides, I'd seen this many times: a pack of wolves tests or chases a moose and then nothing. The moose escapes and the wolves regroup.

Although I expected that today was going to be routine, nothing about Don Glaser's life is routine. He suggested that we wait and see what happens. I happily agreed, but expected nothing.

The moose was just about 200 yards ahead of East Pack.  A thick stand of cedars separate the wolves and the moose.  It took a few minutes for East Pack to arrive at the other side of the cedars, where the land was more sparsely cover in aspen.  Just as East Pack punched through a very thick stand of cedars, the wolves and moose saw each other. They were perhaps just 50 meters away from each other.

In an instant the moose spun around and fled. The wolves followed as quickly. When the wolves were at his heels, the moose stopped and spun around again to make a stand. The wolves skidded to a stop and then lurched back a few steps. Within another moment, wolves surrounded the moose. Wolves at the moose's rear lunged. The moose tried to turn and face each lunge. But every turn left some other wolf free to lunge. For a brief moment, there was a beak in the circle of wolves that enclosed the moose. The moose bolted for that opening, heading for the thick cedar stand from which the wolves first came. From there the moose might be able to protect his back side with a large tree or thicket of small trees. As the moose passed by one of the wolves, it lunged and bit deeply into the moose's right, hind quarter. Running through deep snow, the moose drug 80 pounds of wolf attached by the sharp, powerful points of its four canine teeth. With each forward lunge of the moose, the wolf was violently struck in the belly by the moose's rear leg.

After 20 meters, the moose broke free from the wolf and ran unhindered. The wolves pursued. The moose didn't quite make the edge of the thick cedar stand when the wolves caught up and one managed to bite and hang from its teeth on the moose's hind quarter. The moose slowed down considerably. A second wolf leapt and hung by its teeth to the moose's rear. Dragging 160 pounds of wolf caused to the moose to slow enough for the alpha male to run to the moose's front. It aimed to bite and weigh down the moose's nose. From this position, a wolf is relatively safe from being kicked by a front leg, and the moose is more easily brought down with wolves attached to both ends.

Although the moose was stopped, it was still standing and still extremely dangerous. The alpha male waited and maneuvered to find a safe angle and timing of attack. The moose never gave such an opportunity, and the alpha never managed to grab the moose's nose. During this time, four wolves -- 320 pounds -- had grabbed the moose's rear end, causing his rear legs to collapse to the ground. Amazingly, the moose's front remained upright, and still no wolf could bite his nose. By means difficult to envision, the moose shook himself free from all four wolves and stood up. However, the moose remained surrounded by the eight wolves of East Pack. Some were focused and waiting for the right moment to attack, others milled around just waiting to feed.

After several minutes in this formation, one wolf attacked, then a second, third, and fourth. The moose's rear was brought to the ground once again, where it remained for several minutes. The pounded out snow had begun to turn pink and then red with the moose's blood. After a few minutes the moose managed to once again shake the wolves. This cycle of being brought half-down and then recovering repeated itself two more times. In the final cycle, 40 minutes after the wolves first chased the bull, his front end collapsed soon after the wolves had brought down the rear end. As the once powerful and magnificent body of this bull moose hit the ground, all eight wolves struck the moose and began tearing its flesh from all sides. From the ground he could no longer kick. For a few moments, the wolves fed while the moose was not quite dead.

At some unknown moment, the moose's spirit passed, and the spirit of the East Pack wolves was renewed. This miracle of live [sp.] and death occurs several times a week on Isle Royale. Worldwide, more than 250 species live by the flesh of other warm-blooded animals. Except for plants and scavengers, all animals live from the living flesh of some other organism. In such a world, no day is routine. Only lack of awareness makes the day seem routine.

http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/photo_ess/pe_EP_kills_moose.htm

 

Additional research, related reading:

 

Additional information regarding the 2002 USFWS census:

http://www.fws.gov/endangered/esb/2003/07-12/2003_07-12.pdf 

http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/ann_rep/ISRO_annrep01_02.pdf 

http://training.fws.gov/library/Pubs9/graywolf_olympic.doc 

http://www.fws.gov/endangered/esb/2003/07-12/2003_07-12.pdf 

http://www.fws.gov/planning/2003Fish_Final.pdf 

http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/annualrpt05/2005_WOLF_REPORT_TOTAL.pdf 

 

John A. Vucetich, Assistant Research Professor, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Michigan Tech (MTU) http://forest.mtu.edu

186 Noblet Building

Houghton, Michigan

906-487-1711

Fax: 906-487-2915

javuceti@mtu.edu

"I am a population biologist. I spend most of my time studying the wolves and moose of Isle Royale. I am also interested in the philosophy and ethics of ecological and conservation science." - John A. Vucetich, Ph.D.

Curriculum Vitae: http://forest.mtu.edu/faculty/vucetich/cv2006.pdf (5 pages; 100 KB)

http://forest.mtu.edu/faculty/vucetich/index.html 

http://www.googlesyndicatedsearch.com/u/michigantech?q=wolf&domains=mtu.edu&sitesearch=mtu.edu&RD=DM&OPs=R

 

Here's Page One of the above search results:

 

Wolf-Moose Drama, Wolves Recover from Disaster

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Page Eleven:

TechAlum News, May 17, 2004

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gl019079 1..5

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=====

 

Suit Challenges Bush Administration Refusal to Implement Science Panel Proposal to Save Mexican Gray Wolf: Federal Recovery Team Scientists Condemn Agency Hostility to Science, Undermining of Recovery Efforts

 

(Note: Hyperlinks below are shown in their entirety rather than merely the 'clickable links' in the original. The text of the two prepared statements has been pasted below the press release. John A. Vucetich, the apparent photographer of the moose kill by "East Pack," http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/photo_ess/pe_EP_kills_moose.htm )

 

December 14, 2006

 

Center for Biological Diversity Press Release


Michael J. Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity 505-534-0360

David R. Parsons, (retired) Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator 505-275-1944

John A. Vucetich, Michigan Technological University 906-370-3282, 906-487-1711


The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today in Washington, D.C., challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) refusal to implement the recommendations of a scientific panel convened to save the agency's faltering Mexican Gray Wolf recovery program.

"The endangered Gray Wolf is a resilient, prolific, intelligent species," said Michael Robinson, carnivore conservation coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. "If protected from shooting and given room to roam, it will recover quickly."

The well-managed Great Lakes population http://www.esasuccess.org/reports/profile_pages/EasternGrayWolf.html increased from about 500 individuals in 1963 to 3,880 in 2004. The northern Rocky Mountains population http://www.esasuccess.org/reports/profile_pages/GrayWolf.html increased from zero in the 1970s to 912 in 2005. The Mexican Gray Wolf recovery program, however, has faltered. There are less than 50 adult wolves in the wild today.

"Recovering wolves is not rocket science," said Robinson. "It just takes respect for biology and some political will. Unfortunately, Fish and Wildlife Service bureaucrats have neither."

In a *prepared statement, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/mexwolf/parsons-12-2006.pdf David R. Parsons, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator (1991-1999) said "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is systematically undermining recovery of the Mexican wolf." Its "management appears to throw science out the window. the agencies continue to kill and remove Mexican wolves from the wild population at rates that preclude achievement of recovery objectives.. Anti-wolf politics have been controlling agency decisions and actions to the detriment of wolf recovery."

Also in a **prepared statement, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/mexwolf/vucetich-12-2006.pdf John A. Vucetich, member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery team and professor of biology at Michigan Technological University, said "In the late 1990s, great effort - in the face of great obstacles - led to important improvements in the condition of Mexican wolves.. Now, in more recent years conditions have deteriorated substantially. Governments have ignored critical recommendations presented in the only independent assessment ever conducted regarding the Mexican wolf recovery program - a set of recommendations that were commissioned by the government."

In June 2001 an independent scientific panel convened by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduction program. Vucetich, Mike Phillips from the Turner Endangered Species Fund and Paul C. Paquet from the University of Calgary were members of the panel. The science panel concluded http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/Mexican_Wolf_3_Year_Biological_Review.pdf that "Survival and recruitment rates, however, are far too low to ensure population growth or persistence. Without dramatic improvement in these vital rates, the wolf population will fall short of predictions for upcoming years."

It recommended specific management changes to ensure the Mexican Wolf's recovery:

1. "Immediately modify the final rule and develop the authority to conduct initial
releases into the Gila National Forest. This is by far the most important and simplest change the Service can make to the existing reintroduction project." (p. 65)

2. "Immediately modify the final rule to allow wolves that are not management problems to establish territories outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. Retrieving animals because they wander outside the primary recovery area is inappropriate because it is inconsistent with the Service's approach to recover wolves in the southeast, Great Lakes
states, and the northern Rockies" (p. 65)

3. "Require livestock operators on public land to take some responsibility for carcass management/disposal to reduce the likelihood that wolves become habituated to feeding on livestock.Such diligence will probably reduce predation on livestock, which in turn will improve the cost-effectiveness and certainty of the reintroduction project." (pp. 67-68).

Neither the Great Lakes nor the Northern Rockies recovery programs are saddled with such devastating and politically motivated limits on wolf recovery.

None of these central recommendations were implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Consequently, as predicted by the science panel, population goals have not been met. The current population is well short of the 102 projected for year-end 2006. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's predator control agency has killed and trapped so many wolves that the wild population is actually declining. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/SPECIES/MEXWOLF/Population-graph.pdf

To jump start the recovery program, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal petition http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/SPECIES/MEXWOLF/APApetition.pdf on March 29, 2004, asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to implement the three reforms. The agency has refused to reform the program or even respond to the petition as required by law. Today's lawsuit seeks to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to review the petition and enact stricter wolf protection standards.

"The science is well-established, the wolves know what to do, the only thing holding this recovery program down is political intervention," said Robinson.

The Center for Biological Diversity is represented in this case by Erin Tobin and Katherine Meyer of the firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity http://www.biologicaldiversity.org is a national non-profit conservation organization with more than 25,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and habitat.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/PRESS/mexican-wolves-12-14-2006.html

 

*Prepared statement Number One:

Statement of David R. Parsons, retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator (1991-1999)

December 12, 2006

My former employer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), is systematically undermining recovery of the Mexican wolf.

The FWS squandered authority (granted by the Assistant Secretary of Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in September of 1999) to change the existing ineffective rule governing the reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. The FWS took no action to revise the rule under this authority.

A formal three-year review of the Mexican wolf reintroduction project (commonly referred to as the "Paquet Report" released in 2001) conducted by credentialed independent wolf scientists concluded that substantive changes to the rule were necessary to make positive progress toward recovery of the Mexican wolf. They identified the need to allow wolves to disperse and occupy areas outside the established boundaries; the need to release wolves directly into the Gila National Forest; and the need to require ranchers dispose of dead livestock to reduce habituation by wolves to livestock and subsequent depredations. To this day, the FWS has not acted upon these recommendations.

The FWS's own internally conducted five-year review released in December 2005 and annual population estimates document a failing project. Yet none of the 37 recommendations set forth in the document will increase the odds of survival and persistence in the wild for a Mexican wolf for the next 2-3 years or longer. And the FWS has yet to initiate a rule change process.

Incredibly, the FWS continues to authorize the killing and removal of Mexican wolves from the wild population at rates that preclude achievement of recovery objectives. This is being done for the purpose of "resolving" livestock-wolf conflicts. The FWS states that killing or removing wolves that kill livestock is essential to gaining a level of tolerance among ranchers for supporting wolf recovery. There is no credible evidence that any such social tolerance has been achieved, yet all conflict continues to be resolved to the detriment, and often death, of individual wolves and to the detriment of the wild population of Mexican wolves.

The Mexican wolf reintroduction project is managed by a multi-agency committee that purports to use an adaptive management process to make changes in support of the goal of wolf recovery. Adaptive management is a formal process that uses the science of monitoring and research to inform the art of management to make decisions that improve progress toward recovery of the Mexican wolf. The FWS's brand of adaptive management appears to throw the science out the window. In the face of two consecutive years of population decline (2004 and 2005), this group proposed a moratorium on any new releases of wolves and more lethal control procedures for killing or removing wolves that prey on livestock. Anti-wolf politics have been controlling agency decisions and actions to the detriment of wolf recovery.

An important distinction that evades the FWS is that "conflict" is not caused by wolves.

Conflict is caused by a clash of values resulting from attempts to use our public lands for both wolf recovery and livestock grazing. Killing more wolves has done little to resolve the underlying conflict and is antithetical to wolf recovery. What we need are policy changes that set priorities for compatible uses of our public lands and real innovations in livestock management and husbandry that reduce livestock-wolf conflicts, thus allowing more wolves to survive and persist in the wild. Given enough political will, such changes are possible.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/mexwolf/parsons-12-2006.pdf

 

**Prepared statement Number Two:

A statement about recent developments concerning Mexican Wolf recovery

11 December 2006

Dr. John A. Vucetich javuceti@mtu.edu

Assistant professor, wolf biologist, and population biologist

Michigan Technological University

The recovery of Mexican wolves has been and remains well justified from several perspectives - scientific, ethical, and social. In the late 1990s, great effort - in the face of great obstacles - led to important improvements in the condition of Mexican wolves. Despite important progress in the late 1990s, the condition of Mexican wolves has always been precarious. Now, in more recent years conditions have deteriorated substantially. Human activities have contributed importantly to the population's recent deterioration. Moreover, government agencies charged with recovering Mexican wolves seem to be ignoring the two best sources of credible scientific advice they have: 1) Mexican wolf recovery team activities have been in a state of suspended animation for about two years now; 2) Governments have ignored critical recommendations presented in the only independent assessment ever conducted regarding the Mexican wolf recovery program - a set of recommendations that were commissioned by the government.

The recovery of Mexican wolves depends critically on certain realities that have not yet been manifest.

One reality is that recovery depends on Mexican wolves being able to exist on a landscape larger than what government agencies have permitted. If the value of a viable Mexican wolf population is taken for granted, then the need for Mexican wolves to exist on a larger landscape is not scientifically or logically controversial. For not allowing wolves to exist on a larger landscape, governments charged with recovering Mexican wolves seem to be a significant obstacle to their recovery.

A second reality is that recovery of Mexican wolves depends on critically lower rates of human-caused mortality and removal. There is no scientific controversy that high rates of human-caused mortality is detrimental to wolves, and no controversy that Mexican wolves have been exposed to high rates of such mortality. This is the circumstance that motivates continued calls to change how we treat wolves that scavenge livestock carcasses on public lands and subsequently kill livestock (also often on public lands).

One proposal - pardoning death sentences to wolves that scavenge livestock carcasses and subsequently depredate on public lands - is reasonable and necessary, though it may not go far enough. The proposal is reasonable because it is a simple way to reduce the number of wolves that are killed or removed, and does so in a manner that impacts ranchers the least. Some people object to the proposal on grounds that there is uncertainty in details about how the behavior of depredation is related to the behaviors of scavenging livestock and depredating. There is uncertainty on this issue, but this uncertainty is no ground for opposing the proposal. In fact, what needs to happen is: give this proposal a trial period, and if human-caused mortality/removal is not reduced, then even more significant actions will be in order.

A sadly ironic aspect of this issue is that public lands, which belong to the public, are where wolves cause the least conflict with private economic interest and ought to be where wolves are most protected from human threats. However, our public lands have not been safe places for Mexican wolves.

The condition of Mexican wolves is dire and their fate is largely up to us. Our citizenry and our politicians have the ability to make things much better for Mexican wolves. The recovery and viability of these wolves requires more land and less human-caused killing and interference. There is no doubt that these wolves compete with some human interests. There is no doubt that living with wolves comes at some cost to a few individuals. The ultimate question is whether we are so unwilling to share some small portion of the resources we use as to prevent the recovery of a species that so many value so greatly.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/mexwolf/vucetich-12-2006.pdf (2 pages; 14 KB)