Wolf identification confirmed in Iowa

WOLVES do live in Wisconsin’s central forests areas. Minnesota also has wolves primarily in the central to northern areas of that state. And the wolves of Manitoba and Ontario, Canada are well known to trappers who can take them during winter time. Iowa’s furbearer specialist with the DNR, Vince Evelsizer, stated in a report not too long ago that “given the proximity of wild wolves in southeast Minnesota and nearby Wisconsin, it is probably only a matter of time before a wild wolf is confirmed in Iowa.” Now it has happened.

The last known wild wolf was killed in Butler County during the winter of 1884-85. From the perspective of settlers in Iowa from the mid-1800s, the wolf was seen as a threat to livestock, particularly since its natural prey of deer, elk and bison had already been pushed out or taken through unregulated hunting and drastic habitat changes to the land. Iowa had two sub-species of wolves according to wildlife professors from Iowa State University. One was in the Great Plains Wolf primarily in the western two-thirds of the state. Bison and elk were its major prey. And it scavenged upon the remains of bison after Native American hunters finished a hunt. The other sub-species was the (Gray) Timber Wolf.

The hunter from Buchanan County was fully cooperative with officials and game wardens. There was no intent to knowingly take a wolf. The entire hunt was based on coyote and coyote hunting tactics. Coyote hunting in Iowa is a continuous open season. The very intelligent coyote is most vulnerable to hunters during late winter when snow, open farm lands and forest areas without leaf cover make the animal more visible. Calling is one tactic to bring a coyote into the open.

The wolves of the greater Yellowstone area of Wyoming have regained full population status. Their numbers have grown substantially from the minimum 300 breeding pairs thought to be a minimum viable level. Now there are thousands. As a once endangered species, the wolf in western states has pitted environmentalists against land owners for a long time. Each has valid points, however, the problem has been how to find a balance point that society can live with. A big credit is due to those western state conservation departments where it is now possible to apply wildlife management goals to wolf populations. The wolf is not endangered anymore. In fact a recent study of Yellowstone wolves found that a wolf density of 62 animals per 1,000 square miles seems to be kind of magic number for that habitat. Above that, wolves kill other wolves and/or their pups in an interspecies rivalry. From a wildlife biology standpoint, ensuring enough prey animals for the survivors seems to be the reason for wolf on wolf predation.

There are lots of wolves in Alaska and Canada. The mountainous states of the west also have wolves. In the Midwest, Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Michigan are strongholds. Their survival will ultimately hinge on how well humans will tolerate them and allow them to coexist with us. Coyote hunters in northeast Iowa this coming winter will be studying very carefully the image appearing in the rifle scopes. Is it a coyote or a wolf?

NORTHEAST IOWA is famous for its Mississippi River bluff lands, great scenic views, lots of tall forests intermixed with farms. And it is now getting a new designation that is for the birds, literally. The Iowa Audubon Society and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will join on May 31 to officially designate the Effigy Mounds-Yellow River State Forest Bird Conservation Area as the state’s first Globally Important Bird Area. The dedication will be at 11 a.m. at the Yellow River State Forest headquarters in Allamakee County,

Globally Important Bird Areas (IBA) are part of an international system designating sites critical to declining species of birds for nesting or for large migratory concentrations. The Mississippi River of northeast Iowa easily meets that criteria. Extensive documentation is a requirement for the title of IBA. The bird that helped establish the credit goes to the Cerulean Warbler, a very small bird that has seen its population decline by 70 percent since the 1960s. According to Doug Harr, president of Iowa Audubon, researcher Jon Stravers of Elkader has spent years documenting the Cerulean Warbler at Effigy Mounds, Yellow River State Forest and thousands of surrounding forests on private lands.

The Important Bird Area status gives recognition to the unique habitats on the region that hold the key to survival for many species of wildlife. The IBA program is conducted worldwide by Birdlife International, based in Great Britain. Each nation provides a partner, which in the U.S. is the National Audubon Society, with Iowa Audubon conducting the program at the local state level. Within Iowa, there are also 18 designated Bird Conservation Areas. BCA’s are large landscapes containing a core of permanently protected habitats of both public and adjacent private lands. One such area is the Iowa River Corridor from Tama/Toledo downstream to Coralville. Saylorville Lake and the Des Moines river valley upstream to Boone is another.

To learn more about or obtain a complete bird species list for the Effigy Mounds-Yellow River sites, go to the this site: www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/wildlife/bca/EffMo%20-%20YFR.pdf.

Today is NATIONAL KIDS to PARKS DAY. The idea behind this national effort is to get kids outside. Parks are one of the best places to go where exploration can take place and inquisitive minds get the chance to learn about nature. So if you have your own youngsters, grandkids or others that want to spend time together and outside, pick a park. Go look for mushrooms, look for birds, smell the wildflowers, enjoy a picnic lunch, a long hike along a trail or just soaking up sunshine. Just do it. Kids of any age qualify, but today especially the younger set is the focus of attention.

Next weekend is nearing MEMORIAL DAY which is Monday, May 26. Since it is a three-day weekend, and the unofficial start of summer outdoor recreation pursuits, many will find their way to a favorite park, campground or lake. And as the water temperature increases, so does boat traffic on area lakes or bigger rivers. Boaters are reminded to have current registrations in place, boat stickers attached, life saving devices such as vests, jackets or other floatation devices inspected and available. Boating safety is no accident. But if one falls in the water without a life jacket in place, the chances of mishap goes way off the charts. Officers do not like to go on rescue missions, or recovery missions of a dead body. Prevention is so easy. And the puzzle is why some people do not practice this quick fix to saving lives. Wear life jackets at all times when on the water.

Unfortunately, a long weekend and time in a boat on the water, added to overconsumption of alcohol, means trouble is just waiting to happen. During 2013, 56 times Iowa boat operators were cited for boating while intoxicated. Patrol officers see it too often. You can be certain that on Memorial Day weekend, boat safety inspections and checking for under the influence boat operators will be a top priority. Also during 2013, there were 17 cases of personal injuries associated with boat accidents. There were also three fatalities last year. Iowa has 235,000 registered boats.

BOBOLINKS are a small bird, mostly black and white, that likes big grasslands to feed and nest. On average, May 16 is the expected return date of this migratory bird to Iowa. It spends its winter in Argentina. This bird knows what long distance travel is all about.

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.