Thursday, February 26, 2015

Should DEC Plan For The Return Of The Wolf?

March coverCan wolves return to the Adirondacks on their own? If so, should the state Department of Environmental Conservation develop a plan to facilitate their recovery?

These are questions discussed in Mike Lynch’s cover story for the March-April issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine—the second in a series of articles on the Adirondacks’ missing predators.

Some people believe that the wolf, like the moose before it, could disperse to the Adirondacks. The nearest wolf population is only a few hundred miles away in Algonquin Provincial Park. There also is a substantial wolf population in the western Great Lakes states.

Wildlife advocates want DEC to prepare an action plan to aid the wolf’s return. Among other things, such a plan could educate hunters to tell the difference between a wolf and a coyote and educate the public at large about living with wolves.

So far, DEC has resisted doing so, preferring to focus its attention on species already here.

We won’t go into all the details as we’ll post the entire story on the Almanack in the near future. Incidentally, Mike also took the cover photo; it’s a wolf named Cree at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington.

The March-April Explorer contains a number of other articles that should be of interest to Almanack readers. The topics include:

  • A controversial subdivision at Woodworth Lake in the southern Adirondacks.
  • The threats to lake trout posed by climate change.
  • Ski tours across ponds south of Floodwood Road and on a new trail along the upper Hudson.
  • The ordeal of two lost hikers who spent a subzero night in Panther Gorge.
  • An initiative to create hut-to-hut networks in the Adirondacks.
  • A court ruling upholding the right of the Explorer editor (and all paddlers) to canoe Shingle Shanty Brook.
  • How two hotel projects—one controversial, one not—stand to change Saranac Lake.
  • An interview with a Catholic priest from Indian Lake who is also a Forty-Sixer.
  • NYCO Minerals’ test drilling in the Jay Mountain Wilderness.

A few of these stories will be posted on the Almanack. The rest will be available only to Explorer subscribers.

The stories listed above are just the highlights. Each issue of the Explorer also contains book reviews; columns on birds, wildlife, and natural history; opinion pieces and pro-and-con debates; news items; an Outdoor Skills page; and more.

Visit the Explorer website to find out more about this nonprofit publication. You can subscribe to our print or digital edition (or both). If you’re a new subscriber, we’ll give you a free copy of Jerry Russell’s Adirondack cartoons.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.




11 Responses

  1. Tim-Brunswick says:

    How do you differentiate between a wolf vs. a coyote running and/or even walking through brush/woods at 50 yards or better….the answer is clear……YOU DON’T and/or you can’t with any degree of assurance.

    People mistake Fisher for Mountain Lions with unbelievable frequency so how can you expect anyone, even experienced hunters to do this?

    Gee whiz…..guess you probably can’t, so how about we just shut down coyote hunting and trapping ( Does this sound like the Lynx/Bobcat situation in Maine….hmmm?) in order to protect our newest arrivals, then both wolves and coyotes can decimate the deer herds in the ADKS. And for those still living in Disney Land….Wolves KILL coyotes, hunt them down and dig out and kill the pups anytime they can find a den. It’s called cutting down the competition.

    Still think Wolves are a great addition to the ADK eco-system?….well the niche they used to occupy was long ago filled by coyotes and they’re doing a fine job of thinning the deer herd and this winter will be a prime example as soon as a crust forms on the snow.

    How about danger to all of us hikers and campers? Guess what, a woman jogger was killed/eaten by coyotes in Nova Scotia last year and if you think wolves will not kill humans given the right circumstance, then you’re truly living in fantasy land.

    Mountain Lions and Wolves and many other predators are “opportunistic” and hungry enough they kill the first likely target that comes along. The more habituated they become to humans and their pets not being a threat, the more likely they are to eat them. Annually people are killed/attacked by Mountain Lions in California. The folks in Boulder, Colorado, over a period of time, presented a banquet of their pets to the neighboring Cougar population and eventually lost one of their high school joggers to a hungry cat ( “The Beast in the Garden” by David Baron).

    NYS DEC is rightfully approaching this type of situation with extreme caution. The legal fights accompanied by Federal intervention in the listing/delisting of Wolves in the Western Great Lakes States was and still is a nightmare for all involved….except of course the attorneys!

    Be careful what you wish for……

    • AG says:

      Tim – Humans that live near wolves and mountain lions are more likely to die in a car wreck – drown – die in a fire – or be murdered than to be killed by any of those predators. Please stop the fear mongering. Also – coyotes can never fill the niche left by wolves. That’s not even serious…

    • Steve Hall says:

      Tim, you raise a number of misconceptions in your comment. There are anywhere from 250 to 500,000 wolves in the world today, and about 5 to 6,000 in the lower 48. Wolf attacks are extremely rare, and there have been none of any consequence in the lower 48 in the last fifty years. We all know that media coverage distorts nearly all aspects of life in the world today, but, as with other predators, the vast majority of people never hear or care about wolves, unless there is an attack.

      Best example of this is sharks, who kill 5 or 6 people a year in the world’s oceans. Next time you read about one of these attacks – and virtually everyone within radio, TV, internet or print access to media hears about such attacks – ask yourself how many millions of people were swimming, working, etc. in the world’s oceans at the moment of these attacks. In other words, even if you’re snorkeling or diving off the Great Barrier Reef, the odds of being taken by a shark are statistically close to zero, but we’ll only read about those unfortunate people who are attacked.

      Folks hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, etc. in wolf country die of heart attacks, exposure, drowning, lightening strikes, bee stings, accidents while climbing, etc., but, again, we don’t typically hear about them. Fear of predators is not even remotely justified by statistics, and the last thing you worry about in wolf country are the wolves.

      Mountain lions have killed about ten people in all of the U.S. and Canada over the past fifteen years. When measured against how many folks spend time outdoors in lion country, these are incredibly small numbers, and largely preventable when folks follow simple safety rules in lion country. Moose are far more dangerous to people than wolves or lions, but because their attacks tend to be defensive in nature, and because they lack the scary offensive weapons of wolf, bear and lion, and finally, because the vast majority of moose-people fatalities involve car accidents, there is no clamor to get rid of moose.

      Where it concerns wolf attacks on coyotes, western gray wolves are the main predator of the western coyote, but since wolves and coyotes can and do sometimes mate, the result is a longitudinal hybridization of wolves and coyotes starting in the Great Lakes region, and spreading north over the great lakes as far as New England, where local coyotes (“coywolves”) show varying degrees of wolf DNA. My point is that the further east you go, the less evident it becomes that wolves kill coyotes, and the need to find a mate often trumps the need to eliminate competition, for already hybridized wolves.

      There is considerable evidence from ESF studies and others, not only that coyotes have negligible overall effect on the deer population, but that shooting coyotes tends to create more coyote territories (after territorial squabbles by less aggressive males), meaning more breeding pairs, and consequently more coyotes. The main causes of deer mortality are starvation, auto accidents and hunting. We kill six million deer a year with our cars. Add that to the number who starve, and you’ll find that most coyotes make an easy living just cleaning up carcasses.

      Finally, one of the main considerations for allowing the return of higher percentage wolves to the Adirondacks is the economic aspect of adding more wildlife tourists to the groups of people who visit the Adirondacks. One of the more unforeseen consequences of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone, was about 35 million dollars in additional tourist revenue to the tourist towns which surround Yellowstone.

      There are a number of articles at the Almanack and Explorer which cover these and other wolf rewilding, natural history and economic related topics. Search for “wolf”, and you’ll find articles by me, Phil Brown, Mike Lynch and others. Cheers!

  2. Paul says:

    “Should DEC Plan For The Return Of The Wolf?”

    This seems like it would be an extremely low priority thing for the department. It looks like the probability of a “return” is pretty low. Probably should focus time and resources on other things.

    It is fun to think (and argue) about but not much more.

  3. Wally says:

    It would be wise to prepare. I certainly hope the wolf returns. But given the state of DEC resources, I’d say it is right to focus on what is there now.

  4. Bruce says:

    Unlike Yellowstone, Algonquin, Isle Royale and other very large areas of contiguous, unpopulated land where wolves do well, I believe the Adirondacks is too fragmented for a viable wolf population. Coyotes on the other hand, do well in close proximity to man and his constructions, which is one reason they’ve been in NY for as long as they have (at least since 1920 according to SUNY) and are apparently thriving. They are even coyotes living in the suburbs of New York City.

  5. AG says:

    Looking all over the country (and Canada) we see that male AND female wolves migrate hundreds of miles – following their God given instinct to spread out the gene pool… The problem is they are most often shot as being “mistaken for coyotes”…

    But there are also wolves in Gatineau – Quebec right? Isn’t that a little closer than Algonquin..?

    • Steve Hall says:

      That’s accurate, AG, Gatineau is about 150 miles away, while Algonquin is about 300 miles northwest of Lake Placid. Seen eastern wolves a number of times in Algonquin (for mere seconds, before they fled!), but still waiting to see my first wolf in Gatineau.

      • AG says:

        Ok – thanks… Well it would be great if wolves from Gatineau and Algonquin could recolonize NY and New England so there could be a diverse mixing of genes.

  6. Bruce says:

    While it’s true wolves will migrate, the success of that migration depends heavily on the quality of the new habitat. Unlike Coyotes, Wolves tend to be more secretive, and depend upon hundreds of square miles of pretty much uninhabited ground, well stocked with game to support a viable pack.

    Even in parts of Alaska where Wolves have been for hundreds of years, sightings are infrequent, and often at a distance. I’ve seen a few good studies of Wolves not in National Parks, but they were generally done by lone individuals quietly moving into the Wolves territory and becoming habituated to the pack.

    Personally, I don’t believe the Adirondack Park has to overly concern itself with Wolves establishing there. It’s a nice thought, but I believe there is just too much civilization, and too many people for this to happen.

    Yes, if a pack should become established, a few will be mistaken for Coyotes and killed, because the Eastern Coyote is larger than his Southwestern cousin.

    Coyotes are found in every county of NC, and I saw a known white individual on the Blue Ridge Parkway one morning while going to work. At first, I thought it was a fox, but it was too big, and the face was too fox-like to be a dog. Later when I talked to some wildlife people, they said I wasn’t the first to report that particular animal.