Monday, July 30, 2012

“No Overpopulation of
Wild Horses and Burros”

by Carol Knight Watson

From left, Diego, Starlin, Jim, Eliza, Gabrielle
Amberwood Sanctuary

     As a biologist and advocate of the wild horses and burros in the American West, I have had the experience of observing and studying these creatures in the wild, both in Montana and Nevada.  These intelligent and very family-oriented animals are not just a beautiful example of freedom and all that entails but are an absolutely necessary component of ecological balance on the range.
     I have witnessed the effort on the part of the Bureau of Land Management to remove thousands of wild horses and burros from legally designated herd management areas. This removal is based upon unscientific methods and false data, motivated by the cattle and sheep industry and old prejudice. In virtually every environmental assessment made public to explain the need for a roundup, the BLM will cite what it calls the Appropriate Management Level. This it does to impress upon the public what it considers overpopulation of these creatures, always stating that the removal of wild horses and burros is to maintain a thriving ecological balance.
     In truth, there is no overpopulation of wild horses and burros, nor has there ever been such a state. I can assert, as a biologist, that almost every wild horse and burro in the BLM holding facilities, approximately 50,000 now, could be released back into the wild from which they were taken without having any negative impact on the land. Their presence would help to bring balance back to the range.

                                                                 Robert C. Bauer
                                                                 New Albany, Indiana

Trapper Shoots Horse as Bait to Trap
Last Breeding Wolf from Toklat Pack
     DENALI NATIONAL PARK, AlaskaHunting guide Coke Wallace, of Healy, has acknowledged walking an aged horse to the Stampede Trail near the northern boundary of Denali National Park, shooting the horse, and setting snares around the carcass. The snares killed the last known breeding female wolf from the Grant Creek packthe pack that roams the area made famous by the 1996 book by Jon Krakauer and 2007 feature film Into the Wild, about the 1992 death nearby of 22-year-old would-be survivalist Christopher McCandless.
     The Grant Creek pack, also called the Toklat West pack, is among the three wolf packs most often viewed and photographed by Denali visitors. The pack has been continuously studied since 1939, first by Adolf Murie until his death in 1974, then by Gordon Haber from 1966 until his death while spotting wolves from a light plane in 2009, and currently by Anchorage conservation biologist and former University of Alaska professor Rick Steiner.
     One of the dead wolves was equipped with a radio collar attached by scientists. She was the only female from the pack known to have raised pups last year,” reported Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles TimesThe packs only other known breeding female was found dead near the packs den, probably of natural causes. A third wolf, also snared near the horse carcass, was a male who may or may not have been part of the Grant Creek pack, according to Denali National Park biologist Tom Meier.
     Wallace contended that the female wolf he snared was emaciated. “Coke’s wolf was in a trap for a week and was scavenged by a wolverine before he ever even saw it,” Meier responded to Murphy. “These wolves aren’t starving.” Meier pointed out that wolves are normally lean in spring, after enduring the harsh Alaskan winters.
     The Denali National Park wolf population has declined since 2006 from 103 wolves in 15 packs to 70 wolves in nine packs, a 20-year low, Meier said.
     “The snares were within the former protected Denali buffer, where trapping and hunting of wolves was prohibited from 2002 to 2010,” 
e-mailed Steiner.
Ignoring several proposals to expand the no-take Denali wolf buffer zoneincluding a proposal from Denali National Park itselfthe Alaska Board of Game instead eliminated the protective buffer and imposed a moratorium on future consideration of any Denali wolf protection buffer proposals until 2016.
     The Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Wallace had not broken any laws, but downstream residents David and Susan Braun told the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that the rotting horse carcass had contaminated their drinking water.
     Friends of Animals and Defenders of Wildlife amplified appeals for the Denali buffer zone to be restored.
     Amid the controversy, acting Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Doug Vincent Lang on May 1, 2012, told Dan Joling of Associated Press that the agency would do a year of further study before implementing a recommendation by the Alaska Board of Game that wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears should be culled on the Kenai Peninsula to boost the numbers of moose available to human hunters.

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      When I began this website, I surely had no intention of neglecting it. I did, however, and still do, have some reservations about the amount of time necessary to research and write articles that are interesting and helpful to anyone reading our material. 
     Well, as with everyone, things happen! I have had a long bout of various misadventures, but I do hope Im back on a steady course. 
     Everyone here at Amberwood Sanctuary is doing well. Jake, our oldest donkey, is beginning to show his age. When he turned 25 in March, he seemed to be his usual self. But then he began looking poor. The vet didnt think there was anything wrong with his teeth, and the lab work didnt show anything abnormal. I think possibly, because hes not as aggressive as some of the other donkeys, he was being pushed away from the hay. In June, I began penning him up so no one can push him away from the hay, and hes getting lots of sweet feed for seniors. He already looks a lot better.
     We have two new residents at Amberwood Sanctuary. In May of this year, Danny was brought to us. His people no longer wanted him. He is very gentle, but his demeanor suggests that he possibly has been beaten. Last October, Ortez was rescued from just down the road. There didnt seem to be enough money for feed for him and the many goats with whom he shared a small pen. Necessity is the mother of invention: He would escape the pen and go into a nearby field to eat. Of course, the farmer who owned the field was not happy about having part of his crop eaten. I began noticing him frequently wandering along the road. When I stopped and talked to the children who were in the yard where he lived, one of them told me to take him, that they didnt want him, that he kept getting out of his pen. Now, he has all he wants to eat.
     Great News: We have received a grant from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for repairs to our “old” barn in our holding area. This is the first grant we have ever received and were really thrilled to get this help. 
     Talk to you next time... (and I hope it wont be as long as it was this time.)
P. S. If there is any way you can help us here at Amberwood Sanctuary in any manner, we really need some help!

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Remembering Jake and Harry

                   JAKE                                              HARRY