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Tag Archive | "wolves"

Wolves in Ecosystems Part 3


The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

In wilderness ecological functions can maintain natural processes with limited human influence. Human activity in non-wilderness areas results in significant disruptions. Society does not maintain many large intact wilderness areas but those that do exist allow species to go about their business. Such areas allow scientists to study ecological nature niches to learn how ecosystems function. George Monbiot wrote about the role of wolves driving trophic cascades that cause changes from top carnivores down. I outlined in part 2 of my series how hares caused plants to die to the ground causing hares to starve and that in turn caused top predators to starve.

No one species drives all major events in ecosystems but individual species do drive major changes. Overriding physical influences such as global climatic change and pollution have impacts making it difficult to determine how even “pristine” environments function unhampered. It is an over simplification to attribute credit or blame to a single species. The hypothesis about how trophic cascading works in nature is a self-correcting study in progress.

After writing parts 1 & 2 about social, political, and ecological aspects of wolves in ecosystems, L. David Mech, a world-renowned wolf researcher wrote me regarding trophic cascades and human views towards wolves. Dave has conducted wolf research on Isle Royale and has been involved in biological and social aspects of wolf study across the continent since 1958. My articles were reasonably accurate. There are aspects that could use clarification. It is an enormous challenge to adequately discuss a topic in short space. George Monbiot’s description has validity and supportable evidence but L. David Mech and I think other variables influence how much wolves direct trophic cascading. Evidence-based scientific studies will help self-correct current knowledge.

Key points from the previous articles were that some people want wolves protected, others want them exterminated, while others want them managed to protect livestock, pets, and wildlife populations while allowing wolves to thrive. The November ballot options were both defeated. One ballot proposal would have allowed a small politically appointed group to make decisions regarding hunting. The other would have created a wolf-hunting season managed by DNR wildlife biologists. The current practice to manage wolves on an individual basis when and if a problem develops will continue. That is social/political aspect.

The greatest numbers of votes were probably cast on emotion rather than science supported data. Most people do not have the time or inclination to read scientific studies before decision-making.

Scientific research gathers data to draw conclusions. It is the nature of science to challenge all studies and look for weakness in study design and conclusions. Through the process, studies are repeated to verify data accuracy and to correct errors. Science is self-correcting and is constantly refined toward making accurate conclusions.

Our instant satisfaction society wants definitive answers and conclusions immediately. Such conclusions are often applied to all situations instead of being applied to specific circumstances. Historically wolves were hated (emotional) and extirpated from most of the United States. The Endangered Species Act allowed recovery in some regions including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where biological recovery has been achieved. The species was delisted in recovery areas but most of the continent’s historic wolf range remains without wolves. That is the scientific aspect.

Studies regarding wolves as the driving force behind trophic cascades in ecosystems continues. Wolves do cause elk and deer to move and evidence indicates vegetative communities recovered where once stationary elk moved from degraded overbrowsed habitat. Other natural factors have influence. No one species is responsible for ecosystem changes.

In national forests, where human alterations are used for watershed management, timber harvest, cattle grazing, hunting, hiking, other recreation, and mining, there is greater impact on plant growth and associated animal species than is caused by wolves. Human activities dramatically alter non-wilderness areas. Though Yellowstone National Park is massive in size it is not adequately large to meet wolf needs. Wolf hunting is allowed outside the park in national forest. Management plans are working to largely exterminate wolves rather than manage a healthy population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Even a radio collared research pack was killed when it entered the national forest. You can review part 2 of this series regarding trophic cascades by Googling Cedar Springs Post, click Outdoors, and click Nature Niche to read previous articles. You might want to read George Monbiot’s book, Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea, and Human Life and Mech’s book, The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

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Wolves in Ecosystems Part 2


The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Wolves’ presence and behavior increases wildlife populations despite their killing individual prey. Their predatory role in ecosystems has significant positive impacts on animal and plant communities. For thousands of years their presence in Michigan nature niches fluctuated in relation to plant and animal population abundance.

Canada lynx studies found plant populations control top predator populations. The Hudson Bay trapping records show snowshoe hare populations increased despite lynx, wolf, and other predators until the hares over browsed the plants causing hare starvation. When hares died the predators starved. Predation slowed hare population growth that helped maintained healthier communities.

When wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, they caused elk and other prey species to roam more. This saved shrubs and trees from being over browsed in valleys along rivers. Shrubs and trees regenerated habitat when protected by wolves.

Mice, rabbits, and other herbivores were able to find food where deer and elk had previously devastated wildlife communities by overgrazing. Songbirds moved into areas when vegetation recovered. Beavers found rapid growing aspens provided essential food that allowed their return to streams and rivers. They built dams creating rich floodplain habitat that had been lost and washed away in the absence of wolves. Wolves eat beavers when the opportunity arises but these rodents reproduce more rapidly than predators kill them. Large fires in the Yellowstone region also rejuvenated early succession communities but wolves caused elk and deer to move preventing overgrazing.

Beavers created wetland habitats, stabilized stream banks, and reduced soil erosion. Fish populations found healthier streambeds for egg laying. More oxygen in less silted rivers aided fish survival.

With increased landscape vegetation that resulted from wolf presence, plant-eating rodents increased and resulted in more predators like hawks, eagles, weasels, foxes, and badgers. Carrion left by wolves allowed bears, ravens, and other animals to provide more food and it improved their health and reproductive success. Increased shrubs provided more berries needed by bears, birds, and many other animals. What inferences can be applied to Michigan ecosystems? No one animal or plant is responsible for all positive or negative changes. It is a community effort but some animals like the wolf start what is called a positive “trophic cascade” in how they change animal movements and cull animal populations with selected animal predation.

The wolves even changed the course of rivers. Overgrazed landscape along rivers cut straighter channels when wolves were removed but with the wolf return stream meanders returned. Vegetation recovery along banks reduced erosion causing stream meandering. More pools developed with more fish hiding places. Waterfowl increased. Wolves transformed the landscape to healthier nature niches for plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, insects and a host of native wildlife that had diminished in wolf absence.

Human social and economic aspects of wolf presence have been beneficial in the Yellowstone ecosystem but not completely. Ranchers drive cattle into the national forest and leave them unattended to feed. In Michigan, farmers graze animals on their private property and care for their livestock. The national forests are public lands used for watershed flood management, timber harvest, grazing, hunting, hiking, camping, recreation, fishing, and mineral extraction. In short they are all things for all people.

This becomes a management challenge when people consider their interests more important than their neighbors and it results in Congressional gridlock. Maintaining healthy ecosystems to provide for future generations of our families requires decisions beyond one group’s personal self-centered interest.

There are times when wolf management is important for our neighbors. At present in Michigan, each case is addressed when a problem arises. Legal hunting might one day be appropriate in balance with the multiple uses of our National and State forests in the UP. Decisions should be ecosystem focused for maintaining society’s sustainable needs. Plants and animals have essential roles in ecosystem sustainability that we cannot duplicate. Future generations are as important as our own but decisions frequently place priority only on the present.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Wolves in Ecosystems (Part 1)


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Wolves crossing the Straits of Mackinaw to the Lower Peninsula (LP) seems unlikely, but it was reported three crossed on ice near Mackinac Bridge. A shipping lane is open all winter but it froze long enough. It turned out the canines were dogs and not wolves.

The Northern LP is heavily populated with people so it is likely human/wolf conflicts would require DNR intervention. Coyotes sometimes take livestock and the DNR receives trapping requests for offending animal removal. This occurred near Rogers City. The farmer was issued a permit to trap the coyote. To everyone’s surprise a wolf was trapped. That is the only wolf known from the LP in almost a century. No tracks, sightings, characteristic predation, or road kills have been found since.

Four wolves were reintroduced to the Upper Peninsula (UP) in 1974 but vigilantes illegally shot two, one was trapped and killed, and a vehicle hit the fourth. Later wolves immigrated on their own from north of Lake Superior in Minnesota, expanded into Wisconsin and reestablished a population in Michigan. They arrived in the western UP about 1984. I personally saw one in the eastern UP that year.

I was conducting contract insect research for the MDNR in Schoolcraft County in a forest clear cut when a wolf stood with forelegs on a cut tree to look at me. My 85 lb. German Shepard was 300 feet to the east. The wolf was about 300 feet to the west. The wolf was larger than a coyote. Coyote’s weigh about 35 lbs. Coyotes are skittish and depart quickly. The wolf paused to look at me before dropping to the ground and disappearing in the open clear cut. That is also typical wolf behavior, while coyotes typically run. I was amazed the wolf could sneak away unseen in a relatively open area. Jim Hammill, MDNR wolf biologist, agreed it was probably a wolf based on the behavior description.

Wolves are predators and were eradicated from Michigan. Following forest logging in the 1800’s, the deer population grew. Few hunters venture into the depths of regenerating forest and many prefer bucks with large antlers instead of does. The deer herds grew until the 1950’s, when a series of hard winters decimated the population. Since then deer herds grew with some reduction years.

The MDNR is responsible for managing wildlife population sizes where political and social motivations often have priority over ecological science. One MDNR wildlife biologist told me he knows hunting licenses pay his salary so it makes it right to base his decisions on license fee promotion rather than sound ecological science. He tries to balance both when possible.

Devastation of plant and animal populations caused by deer feeding habitats has concerned people. Most people, however, do not read supporting ecological studies. Some State Parks and nature centers began politically challenging deer hunts to reduce the devastation. Hoffmaster State Park hosted a Trillium Festival where deer eliminated most trilliums and reduced other plant and animal populations. Objections to these hunts are often based on emotional responses and personal desires rather than nature niche ecology.

Four conservation groups visited Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary during September and were pleased with the abundance of native species compared to exotics species. The back 40 acres have been leased for hunting for decades and it helps keep the deer herd in ecological balance. Several years ago, the hunters told me poachers shot several deer and left them to rot in the woods. If the deer meat was processed, it would have been reported and hunters prosecuted. The sanctuary is surrounded by agricultural land so I suspect a local farmer did the poaching. The MDNR will issue harvest permits for deer causing damage to farmers, so poaching is not necessary. The same is true for wolves where they live. If wolves were present here, the deer population would probably not be as large and fewer would be killed annually on the road at Ody Brook. Unfortunately there would be social/political wolf problems in Kent County because of our large human and domestic animal populations. Wolves will kill pet dogs and domestic animals.

Wolves in the UP now exceed the target population of 200. Some conflicts exist between farmers and wolves. The MDNR inspects problems and specific wolves are removed. This helps prevent wolf packs from learning to take domestic animals. I waited to share this until after the recent wolf ballot election to avoid the ire of people voting based on emotion and personal interest and those preferring scientific research study decisions. Details of the role of wolves in ecosystems will be described in Part 2 of this article next week. Suffice it to say for now, I am pleased both issues were defeated. The first ballot issue was to create a hunting season on wolves managed by the MDNR. It was the better of the two but political pressure similar to deer hunting pressure would be significant. The 2nd ballot issue would have placed decision control with a small politically appointed group that could accept or reject scientific findings. I expect there will be a time when managed hunts might be appropriate.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net. Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. Phone 616-696-1753.

 

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Ballot issues


 

Voters will have several proposals to vote on in next ‘Tuesday’s election.

State: There are two proposals on the ballot in regard to wolves.

Public Act 520 of 2012 would: Allow an open hunting season for wolves and allow the Natural Resources Commission to schedule annual wolf hunting seasons. Require a person who wishes to hunt wolves to obtain a wolf hunting license.

Provide criminal penalties for unlawful possession or taking of wolves; and create a Wolf Management Advisory Council for the purpose of making nonbinding recommendations to the legislature regarding the proper management of wolves.

Public Act 21 of 2013 would: 

Allow the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to designate animals as game for hunting purposes without legislative action.

Allow the NRC to establish the first open hunting season for newly designated game animals without legislative action.

Allow the NRC to schedulde a wolf hunt.

Grant the Legislature the sole authority to remove a species from the list of designated game animals.

Eliminate the $1.00 hunting and fishing licensing fee for members of the military, whether stationed inside or outside of Michigan, subject to any lottery.

Give the NRC the sole authority to regulate fishing.

Kent County: There are two proposals at the county level.

Dedicated millage for Veterans services: Shall Kent County levy .050 mill which is equal to five cents per $1,000 of the taxable value on all Real and Personal Property subject to taxation for the period 2014 through 2021, inclusive, for the purpose of providing dedicated services to veterans of active United States military service and their dependents? The amount raised by the levy in the first year is estimated at $1,001,290.

Nelson Township: Nelson is asking for an additional 0.1068 mill ($0.1068 per $1,000 of taxable value) for a period of ten years, beginning in the year 2014 and continuing through the year 2023, both inclusive, to provide library services and support and maintenance of the Township library. It is estimated that a levy of the additional 0.1068 mill would provide revenue of $12,718 in the first calendar year. The revenue from this millage levy will be disbursed to the Township of Nelson for distribution to the Library Fund.

School districts:

Cedar Springs Public Schools: Is asking for a renewal of its operating millage. Homeowners will NOT see an increase in their taxes. This renewal is for the 18 mills currently established on non-homestead property. ($18.00 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation.) It is not a new tax. A Yes vote allows for the continued quality education programs offered at Cedar Springs Public Schools, with no additional cost to homeowners. A no vote does not mean a reduction in homeowner taxes, but it would mean a loss of over $2 million used to maintain current educational programs and services. They are asking for a 10-year renewal.

Tri County Area Schools: Is asking for a renewal of its operating millage. Homeowners will NOT see an increase in their taxes. This renewal is for the 18 mills currently established on non-homestead property. ($18.00 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation.) It is not a new tax. The first year would bring in $661,000. They are asking for a four-year renewal.

Other school districts asking for renewals in our area include Rockford, Greenville, and Montcalm Community College.

 

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Red Hawks triumph over Wolves 


S-Football-vs-Wyoming-web

Improve record to 5 and 1

On Friday, October 3, many faithful Red Hawk fans made the trip to cheer on the hometown team when the Red Hawks traveled to Wyoming to meet the Wolves for a first time conference meeting. The Red Hawks proved to be too much for Wyoming by putting up 60 points to the Wolves 28, which put a damper on Wyoming’s homecoming celebration.

Cloudy skies, steady rain and gusting west winds made their presence known as the Red Hawks began their ground assault on the unwilling Wolves defense. But in the end, Wyoming had no answers for Cedar’s offensive grind, which gained 478 yards on the ground and led to six Red Hawks—Kaden Myers, MavRick Cotton, Zach Wamser, Collin Alvesteffer, Anthony Topolski  and Taylor Van Dyke—all finding the end zone throughout the four quarters of the game.

Wyoming quarterback Brendan Berg was 10 for 16 on pass attempts, for a total of 157 yards through the air. The Wolves answered back three times, with scores from the passing attack, and a total offensive effort of 160 yards, which was not enough as the Red Hawk’s defense held steady through the night.

The Red Hawk defense was led in tackles by Cameron Umphrey with six, Anthony Topolski with five tackles, along with Damarcus Barnett, MavRick Cotton, Collin Alvesteffer, Nate Sorensen, Caden Burrows and Lane Gott all adding four take downs for the Red Hawks.

Next week the Red Hawks will journey back to Forest Hills Northern for a 7:00 p.m. contest with the Forest Hills Northern Huskies. This will be a showdown of the top two teams in the OK Bronze Conference. Please come out and make some noise for your Red Hawk Football team!

 

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Red Hawks lose to Wyoming Park; beat up on Eastern


Cameron Link looking to take a shot against Wyoming Park. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

Cameron Link looking to take a shot against Wyoming Park. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

By Kendra Coons

On Monday, February 3, the Cedar Springs varsity boys basketball team took on the Wolves of Wyoming Park. It was a tough battle between the Red Hawks and the Wolves, but in the end Wyoming Park took home the win 72-60.

At the end of the first quarter, the Red Hawks were leading 23-21. The Wolves came back after the first quarter and scored 14 more points, but that wasn’t enough to take the lead away from the Red Hawks. Cedar Springs went into halftime leading 38-35. Wyoming fought back and came out after halftime and scored 15 more points to take the lead. Cedar Springs tried to come back after the third quarter and scored 13 points in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. Wyoming scored 22, giving them the win 72-60.

“Wyoming is a good team, with a lot of athleticism. It was a good for us to play a team that plays a little different style,” commented head Coach Jeff Patin.

Senior Cameron Link and junior Brad Brechting led Cedar Springs in points. Link had a total of 30 points with a shooting percentage of 47.6. Brechting was right behind him coming in at 20 and went 9 for 12 on all of his shots. Wyoming’s Nick Staten led the Wolves in points coming in at 23 and went 7 for 14 on his shots. Coming in second for Wyoming was Jacob Traylor with 17 and a shooting percentage of 35.7.

“I thought we played well for most of the game. It was an up tempo game and we were playing our 3rd game in 4 days, and with about 2 minutes to go, we just couldn’t get the big stop or a basket,” stated Coach Patin.

The boys varsity basketball team also played Forest Hills Eastern this week on Friday, February 7. This was the second meeting of Cedar Springs and FHE. The first time the Red Hawks played the Hawks Cedar Springs defeated FHE 61-57.

In this matchup, it was very close at the beginning. At the end of the first quarter, Cedar Springs was in the lead 20-14 over FHE. After the first quarter, FHE came back fighting hard and scored 11 more points to make the score 30-25 still in favor of the Red Hawks. After halftime, Cedar Springs was still in the grove and added 19 more points to their score to stay in the lead. At the end of the third quarter the score was 49-40. FHE tried fighting back during the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. The final score was 70-55 with Cedar Springs defeating FHE.

“It was a good win for us. This time of year it’s good to win even if you haven’t played your best,” said Coach Patin.

Junior Brad Brechting led the team in points for Cedar Springs coming in at a total of 20. Senior Austin Hilyer was not far behind with 13 and Cameron Link came in third at 10.

“We were able to string some good defense possessions together to extend the lead,” exclaimed Coach Patin.

The boys varsity next game is Friday, February 14 at West Catholic. The team will be looking for their 11th win. So come on out and cheer on your Red Hawks!

 

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Wolves removed from endangered species list


The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to remove wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the federal endangered species list. The decision returns management of the species to the state level.
The federal delisting rule removing wolves from the endangered species list will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, Dec. 28, and will take effect Friday, Jan. 27, 30 days after its publication.
Returning wolves to state management will allow the Michigan Department of National Resources to more effectively manage the species under Michigan’s highly-regarded Wolf Management Plan, which was created through a roundtable process involving interested parties representing viewpoints from all sides of the wolf issue.
“This is great news for the state’s wolf population and for Michigan citizens who have been affected by this issue,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Treating wolves as an endangered species, when the population has exceeded federal recovery goals in Michigan for more than a decade, has negatively impacted public opinion in areas of Michigan where wolves are established on the landscape. I firmly believe that the more flexible management options allowed under the state’s Wolf Management Plan will help increase social acceptance of the species while maintaining a healthy, sustainable wolf population.”
Once wolves are removed from the endangered species list, the DNR will continue to recommend nonlethal methods of control first, including flashing lights, flagging and noisemakers. In addition, the DNR administers a grant program that provides some funding to livestock owners with depredation issues for improved fencing and guard animals such as llamas, donkeys and Great Pyrenees dogs.
However, in cases where nonlethal methods are not working or feasible, DNR officials will now have the ability to kill problem wolves when appropriate. Under federal Endangered Species Act protection, wolves are protected from lethal control measures except in defense of human safety.
Livestock and dog owners in Michigan will also be able to legally protect their private property from wolf depredation once wolves are removed from the endangered species list.
The Michigan Legislature passed laws in 2008 to allow livestock or dog owners, or their designated agents, to remove, capture, or, if deemed necessary, use lethal means to destroy a wolf that is “in the act of preying upon” (attempting to kill or injure) the owner’s livestock or dog(s). These state laws will go into effect on Friday, Jan. 27, 30 days after the Final Rule is published in the Federal Register.
After the wolf is taken off the federal endangered species list, the animal will remain a protected species in Michigan. There is no public hunting or trapping of wolves allowed in Michigan. The DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will investigate and continue vigorous prosecution of any wolf poaching cases. Illegally killing a wolf is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both, and the cost of prosecution. Reports about poaching can be made to the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-292-7800.
For more information on Michigan’s wolf population and to see the state’s Wolf Management Plan, go to www.michigan.gov/wolves.

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DNRE seeks help to detect presence of wolves


The Department of Natural Resources and Environment today announced it will conduct a survey in the northern Lower Peninsula Feb. 15 through March 14 to detect the presence of gray wolves in that region of the state.
“The purpose of the survey is to verify the presence of wolves both where we have previously confirmed animals and to detect new occurrences in other areas,” said DNRE wildlife biologist Jennifer Kleitch. “Given the low probability of observing a wolf or tracks in the Lower Peninsula it’s helpful to have as many eyes looking as possible. That’s why public reports are so important.”
Wolves are a federally protected species that began naturally returning to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula via Canada and Wisconsin in the early 1990s. Since that time populations have increased and continue to expand their range.  Evidence of range expansion into the Lower Peninsula came when a gray wolf was accidentally killed in Presque Isle County in 2004.  More recently, wolf breeding was verified in Cheboygan County in 2010.
The DNRE is asking the public to report any recent sightings of wolves or tracks they believe were made by wolves to the Gaylord Operations Service Center at 989-732-3541, ext. 5901 during the survey period. Reports of observations can also be submitted online at www.dnr.state.mi.us/wildlife/pubs/wolf_obsreport.asp.
Survey teams will be searching areas where there have been one or more observations. Priority will be placed on recent reports and those submitted during the survey period.
“It’s important that observations are reported in a timely manner so we can work with fresh evidence. If the public finds what they believe are wolf tracks, they should preserve the physical evidence and disturb it as little as possible or take a photo of the tracks alongside a ruler,” Kleitch said. “If someone has a photo of a wolf in the Lower Peninsula, we’d certainly be interested in that as well.”
Information on wolves in Michigan and links to other wolf-related web pages can be found at www.michigan.gov/wolves.
The DNRE is partnering in this survey effort with US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the Little Traverse and Grand Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and The University of Michigan.

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