Friday, January 26, 2007

GERMANY NEWS: Wolf Resurgence Magically Turns Some Hunters into Crybabies

BAERWALDE, Germany - There's blood on the frost and blame in the air.

The wolves are back, hunting in the night, skulking through gardens, making the farm dogs restless. Sleek and mystical, they have roamed through folklore and fairy tale, a bit of enticing danger at the forest's edge.

But Joachim Bachmann, a hunter with a wall full of trophies, is not so lyrical when it comes to the wolf's reappearance amid the birch and pine of the eastern woods in Saxony.

In today's Germany, the wolf is a "protected species." Mention these two words and you had better duck, because Bachmann can't quite get his mind around how a sheep-eating machine should not be shot on sight. It bothers him even when he sits at the big table in his big house looking out the window to a damp land speckled with paw prints.

"What positive thing does a wolf bring to nature? Nothing," he says.

Something else out beyond the winter grass perturbs him too. Down the road, past a church and through a forest so dense it seems like walking through the bristles on a hairbrush, a woman Bachmann describes as a misguided Little Red Riding Hood charts the personalities and nocturnal habits of wolf packs.

Gesa Kluth's boots are muddy, and her maps are worn; to Bachmann, the biologist is an infuriatingly dedicated state-funded wolf lover.

She's not cooing about him either. Kluth points to a picture on her door of a sturdy white-haired man in a hunting hat peeking out from a stand of evergreens. It's Bachmann.

"He's our No. 1 enemy. We were thinking about getting darts to throw at it," she says.

Kluth spends her days and nights tracking wolves, where they sleep, play and hunt on a territory of about 115 square miles. She plans to trap a few, fix them with radio transmitters and follow their migrations, which appear to be drifting north and west. To her, the wolf is a stealthy, swift, misunderstood beauty.

"The problem is that hunters see themselves as the predators who control the animal population from overpopulating," she says. "But now the wolves have returned and they are the natural predators, which threatens the hunter's lifestyle."

Wolves were hunted to near extinction in Germany in the Middle Ages. They reappeared from time to time, between wars and other epochs that changed borders and rearranged forests.

Dozens were shot in East Germany during the Cold War. But the demise of the communist government and the rise, after German reunification, of environmentally conscious successors have given nature a foothold on land that had been lost to warehouses and iron mills that today languish like industrial ghosts.

Wolves reappeared in this part of Saxony in the mid-1990s, when a lone male crossed the Neisse River from Poland, which has about 500 wolves.

The first German pups were born in 2000; today at least 25 wolves wander the forests on army training sites and hunt along the brown coal of strip mines. A few others live to the north in Brandenburg, where their territory widened as 1.5 million people fled East Germany after the Berlin Wall fell. Last year, a wolf believed to have wandered up from Italy was hit by a car in southern Bavaria.

Like the beast he despises, Bachmann arrived in the east after what people here call "former times." He was born in a part of Silesia that reverted to Poland after World War II. He and his family were forced into East Germany. They escaped in 1953 and moved to the Ruhr region of West Germany, where he eventually ran a fleet of coal trucks. A few years before the wolves rediscovered Saxony, Bachmann built a wood house here, decorating it with an antler chandelier and mounted heads of wild boar, bison and rams.

He and his buddies track deer. So do the wolves. Bachmann is worried that the deer population will be thinned and the state will reduce quotas for hunters. Hunting is cheaper in eastern Germany than in the west, but if wolves upset the ecosystem, hunters would have less deer meat to sell and might stop paying to use privately owned game lands. This could suppress real estate values in a region with limited prosperity.

"The wolf population is doubling each year," Bachmann says. "Soon we'll have more than 120, and then the wild deer will be gone and the forests will be empty. I think many of these wolf lovers orchestrated the return of the wolf. They're getting paid to protect the wolf. They use the wolf as a magnet for donations. Look on the Internet -- you can become a 'wolf patron.'"


PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: No Hunt in Norristown Farm Park

COURTHOUSE - The Montgomery County commissioners have ruled out a public deer hunt this year in the Norristown Farm Park.

County Solicitor Michael D. Marino said on Thursday the county and park officials are investigating whether some type of contraception, such as darting, would work instead.

"We are just taking a step back to look at things," said Commissioners Chairman Thomas J. Ellis.

"But we are not going to wait too long because the destruction of assets is just awesome," said Commissioner James R. Matthews, citing the damage to park vegetation when there is an over-abundance of deer.

Last year's three-day shotgun hunt - the first ever in the 700-acre urban park that straddles Norristown, East Norriton and West Norriton - resulted in the slaying of 139 deer including 21 bucks and 118 does.

Animal rights activists strongly opposed the hunt.

However, county officials at that time maintained that the hunt was necessary to decrease the size of the park's growing deer population.

The state game commission had estimated that there was over 400 deer in the park in 2004. County officials added another 100 to that estimate following the 2005 spring fawning season.

County officials have estimated that the park can only sustain a herd of seven to 20 deer. This is based on a game-commission recommendation that a healthy deer population is about 10 deer per square mile.

The county last October held its sixth annual bow-and-arrow deer hunt in the county's Lorimer Park in Abington.

Some 47 hunters participated, bagging a total of 11 deer, including 10 does and one


MAINE NEWS: Proposal To Cull Deer on Marsh Island (Orono)

How to deal with deer overpopulation on Marsh Island has been a controversial issue for more than 10 years in area towns, but now the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has come up with a suggestion.

In a recent letter to Town Manager Cathy Conlow, DIF&W regional wildlife biologist Marc Caron proposes to pursue new rules to open Marsh Island to archery-only deer hunting and add the island to the existing archery area, which includes portions of both Old Town and Orono.

"The solution [Caron] offers is a pretty good one," Conlow said.

DIF&W classifies the island as a wildlife management area where hunting is prohibited, but the department’s commissioner has the authority to change that rule.

The intent of the expanded archery area is to allow hunting in areas that are not open to firearms hunting because of municipal firearms discharge ordinances. All of the areas are near homes and are interspersed with small woodlots, according to the DIF&W Web site.

Before any final decisions are made, she said, the Orono council will hold a public hearing on the issue at its Feb. 12 meeting.

There has been question over the last couple of years whether it would be possible to control the deer herd in some way if the University of Maine, the largest landowner on Marsh Island, decided not to participate.

UM has decided not to jump on board with the plan, and Caron has considered that in his proposal.

"Our decision at this point is that we would not open university land to a hunt, selectively managed or controlled hunt," UM Public Safety Director Noel March said Wednesday.

March headed the UM committee that explored the deer population and control issue.

"As much as there does appear to be certainly a legitimate need to address the deer herd population on Marsh Island, we have concerns to safety of those who use university forests and land, hiking trails, and open fields," March said. "But we will agree to cooperate with abutting landowners in the event that a deer hunt on their property requires them to come onto university land to retrieve a deer or otherwise."

UM’s decision not to participate makes it difficult to hunt on the Orono side, but Conlow said Caron’s proposal still offers some solution to the problem.

"It’s hard to hunt Orono lands, but it will still enable Old Town to deal with the problem over there," Conlow said.

Old Town councilors previously voted to move forward with a controlled hunt as long as safety precautions are taken.

"As long as none of the provisions change, I don’t see any reason to not move forward with the proposal of inland fisheries," Old Town City Manager Peggy Daigle said Thursday.

Old Town councilors also have received a copy of the letter to review.

Caron is seeking a response from Orono officials next month in order to begin steps toward the rule-making process.


MONTANA NEWS: Deer Cull in Helena Moves Forward

Most of the people who spoke at the Urban Wildlife Task Force's first town hall meeting on Helena's growing deer herd favored reducing the population.

Those folks were evenly split between culling the herd and a combination of lethal and non-lethal options.

A few residents said they don't believe a problem exists. They said they've learned how to live with the animals and don't want to see them killed.

Several people said they favor trapping and transporting the deer to another location, but the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has a number of concerns about the option.

The task force, which began tackling the issue in May, is set to present its recommendations to the Helena City Commission in early March. The city then will decide whether the herd should be reduced and, if so, how to do the work and how to pay for it.

Any management plan must then be approved by the FWP Commission before it can be implemented. Helena officials said they hope the agency will partner with the city in funding any possible plan.

If the city decides to manage the herd, it will be an ongoing practice.

The population

Gene Hickman, a Helena wildlife consultant who was hired to estimate the herd's size, said the Queen City may have as many as 350 deer during late summer and autumn. He cautioned the estimate is no more than an "educated guess."

He hasn't finished working with the numbers, but said he believes the city had about 300 deer when he did his counts, beginning about a month ago. The census is a snapshot in time - no one knows the herd's size for certain. The highest numbers were found along the city's southern boundary.

One thing is certain: the deer are healthy, and the city's buck/doe ratio means the population will continue to grow, he said.

FWP wildlife biologist Gayle Joslin said population models show the herd will grow exponentially. It could double every three to five years, she said.

If the city decides to manage the population, it will need to set benchmarks, Hickman said.

"We need to find out what the socially acceptable number of deer is," he said.

The options

The task force is considering a number of non-lethal and lethal options. Among them:

- Status quo. Leaving the situation alone could result in additional costs down the road as the herd grows, and could increase the amount of property damage and the risk of accidents and injuries.

- Encouraging the use of unpalatable landscaping, repellants and barriers to keep deer out of yards.

- Fertility control or sterilization. Trained workers could inoculate deer with contraceptive or abortive drugs. The process is expensive, and no FDA-approved chemicals are yet available.

- Capture and transfer. Deer could be tranquilized or trapped, and then moved. It's a high-cost option, and one FWP has concerns about - transporting urban deer to a wild setting could result in high mortality and could possible spread illnesses such as chronic wasting disease.

- Capture and kill. This option may require property owners' permission, and tranquilized deer cannot be consumed.

- Professional wildlife removal. Sharpshooters could bait and cull the deer.

- Certified urban hunting. Community bowhunters could be selected and trained to target the herd.

Lists of options will be displayed at the Lewis and Clark Library and the City-County Building for public viewing.

The comments

One woman drew laughter from the crowd numbering more than 100 when she playfully suggested introducing wolves into the city to cut down the herd's numbers.

A man suggested allowing Helenans and their kids to drive the animals out of town using paintball guns.

A number of speakers said they're worried the deer could spread disease or become aggressive toward children. Folks also are concerned the herd draws predators into the city.

"(Deer) are unpredictable and they aren't safe, and my children aren't safe," a woman said. She said a deer charged a child in her neighborhood last year.

"We have a responsibility to have safe neighborhoods in our community," she added.

One woman said she's concerned about the danger of deer spreading diseases to humans. An FWP official said he's not worried about the possibility, which he said is highly unlikely.

"We're sick of them," one man said of the dozen or so deer he sees in his yard most days. He favored killing the deer.

One older man said he often hiked in the mountains south of the city in his youth. Seeing a deer was rare. Now he sees as many as 19 out his window.

He said he once saw a doe repeatedly pounce on a small dog, killing it.

"Something should be done to eliminate the deer," he said.

One man thought a certified urban hunt was the best option and said many people would volunteer to participate, making it a cheaper choice.

"I don't think this has to cost as much as it could," he said.

Some don't want the city to reduce the herd.

"I enjoy seeing the deer," a woman said. "We learn to adjust with them.

"If someone shoots a deer in my yard, I don't want to pay for it," she added.

A second meeting is planned for Feb. 14 at the Civic Center.



Professional sharpshooters are being used in the Kettle Moraine State Forest for the first time because chronic wasting disease is discovered in deer there.

As many as nine cases of CWD have been found on the border of Waukesha County.

Sharpshooters are also being used for the first time in Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo. About 50 deer have been killed in that effort that began this month.

The Department of Natural Resources are using sharpshooters instead of relying on hunters to reduce the herd because tests show CWD has grown in the parks.