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Six injured in rare wolf attack

SAULT STE. MARIE (Sep 7, 2006)

Hamilton Spectator

A lone wolf that attacked six people, including several young children, in a provincial park over the long weekend has tested negative for rabies, the Algoma Health Unit said yesterday.

The wolf, which has been blamed for several separate attacks Monday at the popular Katherine's Cove beach on Lake Superior was shot by park staff.

The wolf had a broken clavicle and tooth when it was shot following the attacks, which may explain its abnormal behaviour, said health unit inspector Bob Frattini.

"Wolves work in packs and not individually, and it was probably ostracized," Frattini said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency plans to conduct further testing on the wolf's body to try and find other possible causes for the attacks, which left several families injured and badly shaken.

The attack on the Wright family occurred on Bathtub Island, a large rocky area within wading distance of the mainland and about 100 metres south of Katherine's Cove.

Brenda Wright, on a day trip with her sister-in-law, two children and their cousins, aged 10 and 13, said her family was probably attacked first. Park officials say they aren't sure about the order of the attacks.

Her son, Casey, 12, noticed a black, doglike animal running across the beach.

She said the animal nipped the ankle of her 13-year-old nephew, Jake, then clamped down on her son's buttock, carrying him about half a metre before dropping him and lunging at her.

The wolf's teeth tore into her hands and her leg as she fought back and the group raced into the shallow swimming area. Wright said the wolf followed them, this time going after Emily Travaglini-Wright, 14.

"(Emily) was a real fighter. . . She got mostly claws in her head and her arm," her mother said.

Alerted by the screams, two strangers raced over and managed to scare off the wolf. As families hid in the trees, the wolf returned minutes later and rifled through their picnic stashes.

For Jerry and Rachel Talbot, it started at around 4 p.m. The Wawa, Ont., couple, on their way to a wedding in Sudbury, with granddaughters Leah, 3, and Madison, 5, pulled off Highway 17 for a quick swim at a popular picnic area in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

According to park staff, more than a dozen others were enjoying the end of the Labour Day weekend at Katherine's Cove when the Talbot family wandered onto the beach and began to remove their shoes.

Jerry Talbot noticed a black animal chasing a girl across the sand. Too slow for the girl, the animal veered off and grabbed a slower, smaller target: Leah.

It clamped its jaws around the blond toddler's left upper arm and began dragging her away from her grandmother and sister.

The girl was dragged about six metres before the wolf dropped her on her back, startled by the shrieks of her grandparents and those who had jumped in to help.

Leah started to run, but she was in sand and she was in shock.

The wolf grabbed the hood of the little girl's black jacket. This time, Rachel Talbot's advances and screams caused the wolf to drop the girl momentarily and she lunged forward, scooped up the child and raced to her vehicle. Jerry Talbot and Madison were close behind.

The International Wolf Center is one of the premier sources of information on wolves. What follows are excerpts from wolf 'faqs' found at:


* There are three species of wolves in the world: the gray wolf (Canis lupus), the red wolf (Canis rufus) and the Ethiopian (or Abyssinian) wolf, (Canis simensis). Some researchers believe the Ethiopian wolf is not a wolf, but actually a jackal.

* The gray wolf, Canis lupus, lives in the northern latitudes around the world.

* There are five subspecies of the gray wolf in North America and seven to 12 in Eurasia.

* Wolves usually live in packs which consist of the adult parents, referred to as the alpha pair, and their offspring of perhaps the last 2 or 3 years. * Pack size is highly variable because of birth of pups, dispersal, and mortality. Generally, a gray wolf pack has from six to eight wolves, but in Alaska and northwestern Canada some packs have over 30 members.

* Territory size is highly variable. Gray wolf territories in Minnesota range from about 25 to 150 square miles, while territories in Alaska and Canada can range from about 300 to 1,000 square miles.

* Wolves breed at slightly different times, depending on where they live. For example, gray wolves in the Great Lakes Region breed in February to March, while gray wolves in the Arctic may breed slightly later in March to April.

* The gestation period of gray and red wolves is usually around 63 days.

* Adult female gray wolves in northern Minnesota weigh between 50 and 85 pounds, and adult males between 70 and 110 pounds. Gray wolves are larger in the northwestern United States, Canada, and Alaska where adult males weigh 85 to 115 pounds and occasionally reach 130 pounds.

* The average length (tip of nose to tip of tail) of an adult female gray wolf is 4.5 to 6 feet; adult males average 5 to 6.5 feet. The average height (at the shoulder) of a gray wolf is 26 to 32 inches.

* Adult gray and red wolves have 42 teeth, while adult humans have 32.

* The massive molars and powerful jaws of a wolf are used to crush the bones of its prey. The biting capacity of a wolf is 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch. The strength of a wolf's jaws makes it possible to bite through a moose femur in six to eight bites. In comparison, a German shepherd has a biting pressure of 750 pounds per square inch. A human has a much lower biting pressure of 300 pounds per square inch.

* Gray wolves prey primarily on large, hoofed mammals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, caribou, bison, Dall sheep, musk oxen, and mountain goat and smaller mammals, such as beaver and the snowshoe hare.

By Chris Thew
The Chronicle staff


     State Senator Bob Morton, R-Orient; Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, and Rep. Bob Sump, R-Republic, called on NOAA Fisheries to extend the comment period on the federal agency's revised version of the upper Columbia salmon recovery plan Nov. 8.
     The plan is being prepared by the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board and NOAA Fisheries to address recovery of the endangered spring run Chinook, endangered steelhead and threatened bull trout.
     In 2001, the state Legislature authorized regional salmon recovery planning as a means of involving residents and policy makers in the recovery of salmonid species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
     The completed plan will apply to the Moses Coulee, Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan and Foster Creek sub-basins.
     During a NOAA meeting in Okanogan, the legislators asked that the comment period be extended at least until Jan. 30, 2007. Bonnie Lawrence, Okanogan Resource Council chairwoman, also called for a 60-day extension on the comment period, which ends Nov. 28.
     "Forgive us if it doesn't set our minds at ease to know that NOAA Fisheries chose to co-author our plan," wrote the legislators. "All we know is that your staff has now hijacked our 'local plan,' and if allowed to stand, (it) will be to the detriment of our local economy, private property and way of life.
     "We have a much different take on 'encouragement' when one agency like yours holds all the cards - it's called blackmail and third-party lawsuits," wrote the legislators.
     UCSRB-contracted biologists Tracy Hillman and Chuck Peven talked about the history of the plan and talked about the logistics of how any progress would be monitored.
     "The plan cannot work without considering people and fish," said Pevin. "It's got to be biologically and technically sound but it's got to consider the regional and local culture's social and economic values of the people.
     "It cannot be accomplished just through legislation in rules or even money," he continued. "It's got to have local support, in other words. It's got to share the burden and that doesn't mean share the burdens just within this valley. It means share the burden everywhere the fish are affected."
     Peven explained how the scientists came up with figures for salmon recovery.
     They used facts, based on empirical science "when we had it, but we didn't always have empirical science."
     Otherwise, they tried to get by local knowledge and professional judgment."
     Hillman, Peven and NOAA Fisheries assistant regional administrator Rob Walton balked at questions of whether the plan would be regulatory and gave personal opinions, but gave no confirmation from NOAA that landowners would not be required to submit to actions and would be allowed to say no once the plan is finalized.
     Morton was upset with the representatives from the recovery board and NOAA.
     Morton questioned why actions were needed if fish return numbers for each of the past five years were higher than counts in the 1930s. Morton also questioned how biologists could consider fish different, based on when they showed up at the spawning ground.
     "We count them on the spawning grounds on the appropriate timing period," said Peven.
     Morton asked when counts were done on salmon.
     "Senator, if you're asking me, I can't tell you, but it's all in the plan," said Walton, whose comment was followed by laughter from the crowd.
     Morton then asked the dates of just Columbia River spring Chinook.
     "It doesn't matter what date we set that they pass the dam, because that's not what we base all of our analysis on," said Peven. "We base our analysis on going to the spawning grounds and observing the fish in the appropriate areas where the fish spawn during the appropriate time. It's arbitrary when the fish pass the dam."
     Morton pulled out a letter he received from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that said spring Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam begin Jan. 1 and run to June 15, summer Chinook run from June 16 to July 31 and fall Chinook run from August to Dec. 31.
     "When we count our calves, we count them the whole year," said Morton. "This is what they refuse to recognize."
     Morton said the biologists needed to consider all Chinook salmon as Chinook salmon no matter the date they show up to spawn.
     "We can't comment on these sort of shenanigans that are going on up here, we just can't," said Morton. "The foxes are in the hen coop and they're telling us how they're going to monitor for more chicks. I don't buy it."
     Morton again called on Walton to ask NOAA regional administrator Bob Lohn for additional time to review the 1,400-page document.
     Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said he was upset with the way the NOAA officials are treating the concerns of landowners.
     Hillman, one of the plan's writers, smirked when many members of the audience challenged the agency's stance that the plan was written with the best available science.
     "I'm seeing arrogance, I'm seeing no interest in answering our questions," said Kretz. "How bad do they want you guys to know what's going on? I don't think very bad. It's pretty unacceptable I think."
     Kretz asked Walton, Hillman and Peven if the plan was really voluntary and non-regulatory.
     "Will this plan put us out of jeopardy? My opinion is no," said Kretz.
     Kretz noted a line in the recent Federal Register in which NOAA writes: "Upon approval of a final plan, (National Marine Fisheries Service) will make a commitment to implement the actions in this plan for which it has authority to work cooperatively on implementation of other actions and to encourage other federal agencies to implement plan action for which they have responsibility and authority. NMFS will also encourage the State of Washington to seek similar implementations and commitments from state agencies and local government."
     "What do you think that means?" asked Kretz. "They're going to encourage anything they don't have the regulatory ability to regulate. They're going to encourage state and local."
     "Land use actions on the local level are supposed to be controlled locally," said Kretz. "In my opinion what we're looking at here is the federal government coming through the back door through blackmail, just to be blunt.
     "It's a threat," he continued. "If you don't do it, we'll be forced to do something worse. Or if you're not participating and giving away your rights, you'll see something worse.
     "I don't see that as a reason to go ahead with something. I don't think this is voluntary," he said. "It's clearly regulatory and it's the step of getting local government to give away the protections for your private property rights that have to remain local and you're going to be looking for permits in Okanogan County and you're going to be asking the feds for them."
     Kretz questioned why the Colville Confederated Tribes, Yakama Nation and Douglas County were being included in the salmon recovery board when no recovery will be required of the three groups.
     "It's not going to be enforced on the tribes," said Kretz, noting the plan would be enforced on Okanogan and Chelan counties.
     Kretz called for more time, but then said it was probably too late to fix problems with the proposed plan.
     "I just think its time to say no to this thing," said Kretz, which brought applause. "I've tried to be civil the last five or six years, but I'm right at the end of my rope. I don't think there's any reason to be nice about this any longer.
     "If it goes forward, let it be their plan, but don't call it ours," said Kretz. "I think it's real critical. I think there's ways to oppose a federal plan, but if it's our plan and our local government signs off on this, the horse is out of the barn at that point and I don't think there's any way of getting it back."
     Walton said he would ask Lohn for a document describing the implications to landowners and provide it to the recovery board.
     "When we went down there last time, he wouldn't answer that to our face. What's changed now?" asked Kretz, referring to a visit by the three legislators last year.
     Walton, who has worked for NOAA Fisheries for three years, said his personal opinion was that the federal government would not trample on landowner rights.
     "The federal agencies are not in a position to come in and take your land in this situation," said Walton. "It's inconceivable to me personally, in my own opinion, that the federal government would come in and use anything like eminent domain or something like that to take private land. That's just not in their equations for endangered species."
     "It is in your document," shouted Shelly Short, Kretz's legislative assistant. "It says that if you don't accept these things that you want implemented, then you will go to (the Endangered Species Act) and force it."
     "I'm not sure there's anything I could say that would comfort you that we're not going to come in and do the things you're worried we're going to do," said Walton. "I don't personally think that the federal agencies under this administration for sure are going to come in and take your private property. I just don't see it."
     Okanogan County commissioner Bud Hover asked if Walton could say that landowners could decline actions.
     "If you're asking about a voluntary portion of this plan, the answer is yes," said Walton. "Absolutely, they can decline."
     Walton's comment drew calls from the audience on what part of the plan was voluntary and which was not.
     "This plan is supposed to be a roadmap to recovery. It's not going to force you, in my opinion, to do something as a private landowner," said Walton.
     Hover again asked for Walton to say whether landowners would be forced into actions.
     "Can the landowner decline to participate?" asked Hover.
     "Yes," said Peven.
     Walton told the crowd that the group probably should get together again to discuss concerns with the plan.
     "I understand that's your concern, your suspicion, your worry," said Walton. "We've been telling you for months that this is not enforceable. Our lawyer says it, our boss says it; you don't believe us."
     No decisions have been made on whether NOAA will allow for additional time for comments.
     Written comments and materials can be sent to Lynn Hatcher, National Marine Fisheries Service, 304 S. Water St., Ellensburg 98926. Comments can be submitted by e-mail to UpperColumbiaPlan.nwr@noaa.gov with a subject line of "Comments on Upper Columbia Salmon Plan" or by fax to (503) 872-2737.
     Copies of the plan are available online at www.nwr.noaa.gov/Salmon-Recovery-Planning/ESA-Recovery-Plans/Draft-Plans.cfm or okanogancounty.org/planning/salmonlrecovery.htm.
     Copies on disc can also be requested by calling Carol Joyce, (503) 230-5408, or by e-mailing carol.joyce@noaa.gov.
     More information is available from Lynn Hatcher, NMFS interior Columbia salmon recovery coordinator, (509) 962-8911 Ext. 223, or Elizabeth Gaar, NMFS salmon recovery division, (503) 230-5434.




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