June 24, 2018

Repeating False History of Wolves

The other day I was reading an article in which the author quoted a section of Maine’s Game Management Plan for deer. The portion quoted that caught my eye was: “In the 19th century, extirpation of wolves and cougars from Maine allowed deer to further expand and increase in number essentially unencumbered by predation.”

The use of the term “extirpate” is interestingly convenient. According to an Online definition and from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, extirpate is defined as “root out and destroy completely” and/or “to destroy completely; wipe out.” Upon further examination of “wipe out” I discovered: “the act or an instance of wiping out: complete or utter destruction; a fall or crash caused usually by losing control”.

It would, therefore, be safe to conclude that to extirpate something – in this case, wolves and cougars in Maine – would involve the deliberate act of men to purposely, or without knowledge, “completely destroy” and wipe out populations of these predators. Is this factual history?

I guess that depends on who you talk to and what you choose to believe according to what most conveniently fits your agenda, ideology, and narrative.

The use of the term extirpate, which points a big fat accusatory finger at evil men, is forever used when any form of wildlife disappears or more accurately within this lopsided and misinformed society when wildlife doesn’t appear in numbers to satisfy the social demands of some.

To environmentalists and to animal rights perverts, Man is evil. They cause about as much chaos as global warming – which is also caused by man in their eyes – and at the same time hunting causes wildlife species to grow. According to the expert EnvironMENTALists, hunting, fishing, and trapping has and is causing the extirpation of wildlife species every day, and yet, when convenient, that same action causes species like predators to magically perform some sort of compensatory increase in sexual activity and a boost in reproductive rates. Scientism on full display, bolstered by Romance Biology and Voodoo Science.

According to the quote by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), wolves and cougars in Maine were extirpated (by men) in the 19th Century and this act caused the population of deer to grow “unencumbered by predation.”

I have not spent a lot of time read searching cougars in Maine but I have studied the history of wolves and coyotes in Maine quite extensively. It appears that MDIFW, and all willing and eager True Believers, want to believe that man by deliberate intention “completely destroyed” the wolf population in the state. And yet, there is little history that supports that statement.

History is loaded with accounts of the troubles that Mainers had with wolves dating back into the 1600s and yet little is written about many wolves being killed for those actions, not necessarily due to lack of trying.

Actual historic accounts of wolves in Maine, show their presence but, like the deer population, there was no honest way of knowing what the real population of wolves was other than anecdotal evidence. It is more convenient for us to make up population estimates pertaining to history in order to complete our narratives.

In some cases, there were bounties established in hopes of ridding the residents of depredation attacks on their livestock, but there is no history that shows a systematic approach to “extirpate” the wolf and cougar from the Maine landscape.

Aside from the fur of the wolf during the winter months, neither animal had much value – certainly, it was not a food source. It isn’t to say that the open season on wolves and cougars didn’t contribute to the control of these predators, but history simply doesn’t give a blanket cause and effect of what happened to both of these large predators, especially to be able to continue to state that man extirpated these beasts – directly or indirectly.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our angst and eagerness to blame the existence of the human race on everything, including global warming, we put aside honest historical and scientific research and take the easy way out. Such is the case here I’m afraid.

Maine’s historical accounts of wolves actually show an interesting phenomenon – or at least from my perspective based on my read search. Maine also used to have caribou roaming about the countryside, mostly found in the northern half of the state. It is either unforgotten or never learned that wolves, will eat deer but prefer elk, moose, and/or caribou. But let’s also not forget that when hungry and wolf will eat anything, including dirt to stop the hunger pangs.

Maine history tells us that when wolves and cougars were part of the countryside, deer migrated south, away from the large predators, and often took up residence on the islands off the coast of the Pine Tree State – their learned adaptation for survival.

Environmentalists eagerly want to blame the actions of man for the “extirpation” of the caribou. At the time caribou were present in Maine, there were little management and regulatory guidelines to ensure sustainability. But, like the wolf, did man “extirpate” the caribou from Maine?

Not according to many historical documents. Perhaps more accurately we see an interesting phenomenon that happened in Maine. It is written by some historians that suddenly the caribou, for reasons at the time unexplained, simply migrated out of the state and likely found their way into Canada. Whether directly related or not, along with the departure of the caribou, disappeared the wolf – the common sense explanation given that the wolves simply followed their preferred food source.

As a society, we tend to hate men and their actions, while at the same time near worshiping animals and extolling their intelligence. Some animals are quite crafty and to ensure survival, these animals learn to adapt.

Man, on the other hand, was given a brain, and while at times I might question whether we know how to use it, generally speaking, we have used our brains to figure out there must be limits and plans devised and carried out in order to maintain wildlife populations. For the most part, these actions have done remarkable things where most negative consequences seem to be the result of actions by environmentalism and animal rights groups, i.e. perpetuating and protecting large predators at the expense of other more valuable species such as game animals as a useful resource.

I might suggest that it would do a world of good if men would learn to use that brain a bit more to discover the full truth of historical wildlife accounts and stop repeating what somebody else said simply because you like it or it sounds good. That does no good for anybody.

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Hunting: Biological or Political?

A Maine outdoor writer and associate asks whether caribou hunting in Canada is political or biological. “Given the fact that the native communities in Quebec and Labrador apparently have not had their caribou harvest quotas decreased by government closures, some are questioning whether the sport hunting ban is as much political as it is biological.”

I could ask why V. Paul Reynolds might not think any sport hunting isn’t political. But I see things just a tad differently than Mr. Reynolds.

It is a shame that we have now reached a point in North America where this question of whether hunting is still considered part of the North American Model for Wildlife Management, where allotments or management plans are a scientific approach to manipulating and sustaining a healthy and productive population of any species or politics and social demands rue the day – a bitter regret perhaps not realized yet but eventually will be.

Caribou hunting in Quebec and Labrador Provinces has been suspended until further notice. According to Quebec’s Minister of Forests, the reason is “sustainability of the species.” Does this announcement come without warning? If so, what has happened in these provinces that so abruptly demolished a caribou herd that hunting goes from “normal” to zero in no time flat?

Sounds to me like either politics and social demands by the usual suspects or extremely poor caribou management. Take your pick.

One thing is for sure. The plan to “change the way wildlife management is discussed and carried out” appears to be working just swell.

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Data from: Compensatory selection for roads over natural linear features by wolves in northern Ontario: implications for caribou conservation

*Editor’s Note* – This editor would like to know two things. One, does the study account for fluctuations in wolf densities? In other words, while one probably cannot argue that the availability of corridors, man-made or natural, increases the rate of depredation of prey, how does this rate vary according to the variance of wolf populations and prey populations?

Second, is this fundamental suggestion within this study, a generalization that can be carried over to other predator/prey relationships that seem to require travel corridors to carry out their kills?

Abstract
Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Ontario are a threatened species that have experienced a substantial retraction of their historic range. Part of their decline has been attributed to increasing densities of anthropogenic linear features such as trails, roads, railways, and hydro lines. These features have been shown to increase the search efficiency and kill rate of wolves. However, it is unclear whether selection for anthropogenic linear features is additive or compensatory to selection for natural (water) linear features which may also be used for travel. We studied the selection of water and anthropogenic linear features by 52 resident wolves (Canis lupus x lycaon) over four years across three study areas in northern Ontario that varied in degrees of forestry activity and human disturbance. We used Euclidean distance-based resource selection functions (mixed-effects logistic regression) at the seasonal range scale with random coefficients for distance to water linear features, primary/secondary roads/railways, and hydro lines, and tertiary roads to estimate the strength of selection for each linear feature and for several habitat types, while accounting for availability of each feature. Next, we investigated the trade-off between selection for anthropogenic and water linear features. Wolves selected both anthropogenic and water linear features; selection for anthropogenic features was stronger than for water during the rendezvous season. Selection for anthropogenic linear features increased with increasing density of these features on the landscape, while selection for natural linear features declined, indicating compensatory selection of anthropogenic linear features. These results have implications for woodland caribou conservation. Prey encounter rates between wolves and caribou seem to be strongly influenced by increasing linear feature densities. This behavioral mechanism – a compensatory functional response to anthropogenic linear feature density resulting in decreased use of natural travel corridors – has negative consequences for the viability of woodland caribou.<<<Read More>>>

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Bears are Bigger Killers Than Thought

*Editor’s Note* – When media crafts these headlines, it would be nice if they were a bit more accurate and explicit in whom they are referring when they write: “Bears are Bigger Killers Than Thought.” Thought by whom? I didn’t think they were sparse eaters of such things as moose, caribou and even cannibalism. Perhaps maybe, scientists are catching on a little bit instead of relying on Bambi and Yogi Bear to determine who kills and eats what.  

Overall, the bears [just seven of them] killed an average of 34.4 moose and caribou calves over 45 days. That’s far higher than average kill rates from previous studies using other methods, including aerial observation. Compared with one 1988 study in which scientists counted an average of 5.4 moose calf kills from the air in a different part of Alaska, the new study found an average of 13.3 moose calf kills. The new study also found wide variation in the number of calves killed by any one bear, with one killing 44 calves in 25 days and another killing just seven in 27 days.<<<Read More>>>

I wonder what cameras on wolves would reveal?

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Did Man Extirpate the Caribou from Maine?

I was reading Part II of V. Paul Reynolds’ report about “Wildlife Restoration Projects.” He wrote mostly about Maine’s two attempts to restore caribou to northern Maine and seemed to suggest that with years of gained knowledge, perhaps it was time to try again. I’m not so sure about that, but…..

I did want to add to something that he wrote about the extirpation of caribou in Maine when he wrote: “Historical documents indicate that Maine’s last remaining caribou were killed off by market hunters who sold them to big city restaurants.” I won’t deny that market hunters made serious dents in deer, moose and caribou herds in their day. However, there are other historical documents that equally indicate the vanishing act of caribou and wolves cannot all be blamed on unregulated hunting.

A few years ago I did an extensive research piece on wolves in Maine from the 1600s until the time they were essentially declared missing in action. Readers should understand that this work was nearly 100% taken from the book, “Early Maine Wildlife: Historical accounts of Canada Lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603-1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving – The University of Maine Press, Orono, Maine 2010.

It seemed that around the mid-1800s there existed, even then, disagreements as to whether deer, moose and caribou “disappeared” due to wolves or hunters. One writer made the claim, “Curiously enough there are old settlers in Maine who retain the theory that wolves follow deer. They claim that there were no deer at the time of the wolves – ‘the wolves killed them all off’ – but that since the extermination of the wolves the deer have gone on increasing.”

A hunter and trapper, in the book described as experienced, claimed: “In 1853 wolves were very plenty, and for the next five years were not scarce, plenty could be found within sixteen miles of Bangor in 1857 and 1858. They seemed to leave quite suddenly, the last I know of positively being taken was killed by Frank Fairbanks in 1860 in Munsengun. I know the wolves were not exterminated, as from the time they were quite plenty till the time they disappeared, very few skins were brought in. They left of their own accord, just as the caribou left us.”

Those that have some knowledge of the habits and behavior of wolves, understand that many things influence their behavior. For example, at times wolves can eat up all their prey. If this happens, the wolf moves on and the possibility exists that if the prey doesn’t return, neither will the wolf. If there exists alternative prey, i.e. there is more than one prey species to feed wolves, the large predator canine may never leave an area. It would probably require quite a number of wolves in Maine to seriously reduce or extirpate moose, deer and caribou.

In the quote above, we read of the first indication that wolves were not “exterminated” and simply up and left “just as the caribou left us.” This should be important information to consider.

According to evidence found in the book of reference, wolves were mostly gone from the state by the mid-1800s. From around 1860 into the early 1900s, there were very few, to almost zero, recorded wolf kills – the last official wolf kill took place in Andover, Maine in 1920.

One account in the Maine Sportsman, in 1900, of the absence of wolves, claims that, “During the whole winter we saw no deer and but few moose, the entire absence of deer being due to the wolves with which the woods were overrun. Caribou we saw everywhere and I plainly remember that one day, coming out upon them trailing along in single file was a herd of 17 caribou.”

It would seem this would indicate that with reports of wolves being missing from Maine by the mid-1800s, that in 1900, some 40 or 50 years later, there were still quite a few caribou, or at least more of them seen than deer or moose. One must honestly consider that if caribou “recovered” after a presumed disappearance of wolves, in 40 or 50 years, wouldn’t the deer and moose have recovered? Because there are so many influencing factors in wildlife management, that question cannot be simply answered. Other accounts from this book also indicate that after what appeared to be the absence of wolves, deer, moose and caribou made recoveries.

We also know that in the late 1800s Maine began it’s work to regulate the hunting and fishing activities throughout the state, with regulations well in force by the early 1900s.

Examination of the information provided in this book help to support the historic behavior of wolves, i.e. that once they had reduced the numbers of the prey to a certain level, the wolves took off for better hunting grounds. However, this event appears to have occurred nearly 50 years before the caribou disappeared.

It cannot be argued that many factors contributed to the disappearance of the caribou in Maine. That disappearance cannot and should not be completely attributed to hunting. We know that after the wolves mostly disappeared from Maine, the deer, moose and caribou recovered. If in 1900 loggers were reporting seeing “herds of 17 caribou” it was not market hunters and uncontrolled hunting that killed them after that.

If Maine was ever going to seriously consider a third try at caribou restoration, many, many factors must be considered other than introducing more of them this time. Perhaps the habitat of northern Maine simply cannot support caribou any longer. If caribou, in the very early 1900s, one day just walked out of the state – some believe they moved into New Brunswick and never returned – there had to be reasons. Do we know what those reasons were? Are we interested in finding out? Perhaps knowing what took place in the early 1900s would answer a lot of questions as to whether another attempt at caribou restoration would work.

Some things to consider:

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A Third Try at Caribou Restoration?

Should Maine consider a third attempt at restoring caribou? Some think maybe.

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Sensible Statement About Predators

“The issue is not wolves, it’s the combination of wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and cougars,” Bob Jamieson, a systems ecologist and environmental consultant, told the paper. “The prey species can’t handle the combined impact of those four animals,” he said. “A lot of people [blame] habitat problems because they don’t want [to] wrap their head around the predator issue.”<<<Read More>>>

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Won’t You Guide My Sleigh Tonight?

Caribou:

Caribou

Photo by Al Remington

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11 Wolves Killed to Save Caribou

*Edited for corrections 4/23/2015*

Understand this logic(?) if you can. In North America there are an estimated 61,000 – 69,000 wolves alive. In the South Selkirks 11 wolves were killed, leaving 10 behind. This, they say, was done to save the caribou. There are an estimated 14 caribou left in the South Selkirks.

Where wolves live near caribou, one adult wolf kills 15-20 caribou in one year.

In all honesty, does this make any sense at all?

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Insanity Prevails in Decision to Kill British Columbia Wolves Killing Caribou

As many as 184 wolves must be shot in British Columbia, Canada, in order to save the caribou, according to a statement from the provincial government. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced plans on January 15 to address what they consider the threat of wolf predation in the areas of the South Selkirk Mountains and the South Peace, along the border of US states Washington and Idaho.<<<Read More>>>

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