According to the recently published results of a study conducted by the New York State Museum, it appears wolves have migrated into the Empire State as well as other areas in the Northeast. For the first time, scientists used a new isotope test to determine whether eight wolves found in the Northeast over the past few decades had been living in the wild or had escaped from captivity.
Wolves are not known to breed in New York state but are occasionally discovered here. Three of the eight wolves tested were probably natural immigrants, because they had a history of eating wild foods. One of those wolves was found in Saratoga County in 2001 and the other two came from Vermont in 1998 and 2006.
The isotope signatures of the five others suggests they had been eating food in captivity and were probably escaped pets or zoo animals.
Wolves have allegedly been extinct in the northeastern United States since the late 1800s, but populations have survived in Quebec and Ontario and have recently been expanding in the Great Lakes area.
NO BREEDING PROOF
Although the study shows at least three of the critters naturally migrated into the Northeast, there is no evidence at this point to suggest there is an established breeding population hereabouts.
Citing other studies that show increases in wolf populations in the Great Lakes area and increased protection of wolves in Ontario, it’s likely even more wolves will migrate into the Northeast in the near future. The study concludes there is “... substantial suitable habitat in northeastern New York and New England that could support a viable population of wolves.”
A TOP PREDATOR
If the critters become established this new top predator would probably reduce the coyote population in the Northeast and change the behavior and densities of other prey such as deer. I’m not certain replacing one predator with a much larger, more efficient one is such a great idea, but if wolves were to migrate into New York state I can’t imagine how that movement could be mitigated.
As for changing the “behavior and densities” of deer populations, it can’t result in anything but a further reduction of the herd, though you’re not likely to find many wolves in areas where there are already low deer population. Little food means few wolves.
DEER PLAN ADOPTED
Last week the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation announced it has adopted a five-year deer management plan, containing revisions based upon public comments made after the release of a draft version.
I’m still not certain what this all means, primarily because so much of it appears nebulous. In any event, here’s what the five-year management plan involves.
The plan describes six primary goals encompassing the current priorities for deer management.
1. Manage deer populations at levels appropriate for human and ecological concerns.
2. Promote and enhance deer hunting as an important recreational activity, tradition and population management tool.
3. Reduce negative impacts caused by deer.
4. Foster public understanding about deer ecology, management, economic aspects and recreational opportunities.
5. Manage deer to promote healthy and sustainable forests and enhance habitat conservation efforts.
6. Ensure necessary resources are available to support sound management of whitetail deer.
Public comments on the draft plan were reviewed by the DEC and several notable changes were made, including:
• changing to a five-year cycle for evaluating deer population objectives;
• dropping the proposal to completely discontinue either sex and antlerless-only tags;
• dropping details for implementing a youth deer hunting opportunity, to allow continued discussions to identify the most appropriate option; and
• clarifying that a special antlerless-only season for muzzleloader hunters will only occur as the third phase of a multi-phase process and only in wildlife management units where additional doe harvest is needed.
BY 2012-13 SEASONS
While many strategies will take several years to develop, DEC expects to begin rulemaking to implement a number of hunting-related aspects of this plan prior to the 2012-13 hunting seasons, including:
• establishing a youth deer hunt;
• starting the Southern Zone bow season Oct. 1;
• allowing deer management permits to be used during bow and early muzzleloader seasons in the Northern Zone, and;
• expanding mandatory antler restrictions into seven WMUs in southeastern New York state. If you’d like to peruse the entire plan you can do so at: www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife. If that doesn’t take you directly to it, try typing “deer plan” in the subject index. That should do it.