The way of the wolf

HOLLIS – "In every dog is the soul of a wolf, " goes the dog food commercial, and dog owners presumably warm to the message that their golden retriever or Lhasa apso has a wild side.

Down through the ages, people have loved and hated this wild canine, with fear and prejudice living beside fascination and admiration.

Those contradictory feelings were reflected in the name of Chris Schadler’s slide presentation, "Dark Knights: Wolves of Eastern North America," given before a crowd that filled the Lawrence Barn on Nov. 20.

Over thousands of years, the wolf in the human imagination has evolved from an evil beast to a valued apex predator that balances out the ecosystem.

The "evil beast" idea held sway until the mid-20th century, and by that time the gray wolf – which had once roamed nearly all over the United States – was nearly gone because of loss of habitat and government persecution. By 1968, the last remaining wolves were in Superior National Forest in Minnesota.

The Endangered Species Act helped the population rebound, said Schadler, who is a wild canid ecologist. But in recent years, their numbers have been going down as moose disappear from the north woods, probably because warmer temperatures have increased the winter tick population.

Now, there are more than 5,000 gray wolves in the western Great Lake states and the northern Rocky Mountains, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park is a refuge for about 225 Eastern wolves, a gray wolf subspecies that was recently declared its own species.

The reason we aren’t seeing wolves in New England is because there is a "wall" of coyotes in northern Vermont, New Hampshire and New York that prevents them from spreading south, Schadler said. An occasional wolf might be seen in the northern parts of the states, but there is no viable population.

But when we see Eastern coyotes around here, we are seeing an animal that is partly wolf. That’s because they have bred with wolves, and 30 percent of the genes of the typical New Hampshire coyote are wolf genes.

"Interbreeding is really testing our concept of species," Schlader said.

And it definitely complicates thinking about the Endangered Species Act. Wolves are federally protected, but it’s always open season on coyotes.

"The further north you go, the more wolflike is the coyote," Schadler said. "My family in New Jersey sees small coyote," and in New Hampshire, we see animals that are so wolflike, they can be called wolves.

Because the canines are swapping genes, some of their traits are swapped, too. Coyote have long been hunters of small prey, but a few years ago, researchers at Southern Ontario University reported four confirmed cases of adult moose killed by coyotes.

Coyotes are smaller, but in many ways they are sturdier. A trait called "responsive reproduction" means they produce more cubs the more their existence is threatened. Wolves can be eradicated, Schadler said, while coyotes are here to stay.

Yellowstone National Park offers an example of how these big predators are essential to a healthy ecosystem, she said. Before the wolf was reintroduced to the park in 1995, the elk population had exploded, causing beaver populations to severely decline.

Wolves, scientists learned, inspired elk to keep moving, so vegetation improved, because browsing by moving elk does far less damage to the willow trees that are vital for the survival of beaver. Populations of birds that feed on carrion left by wolves, including eagles and ravens, also revived.

The park’s degradation after wolves were eliminated is called a "trophic cascade," something like when a pebble cascades down a mountain in a way that eventually causes an avalanche.

During the question-and-answer session after Schadler’s presentation, someone wanted to know the size difference between an Algonquin wolf and a "Hollis coyote."

The Eastern wolf could be between 60 and 90 pounds, while the coyote reaches a maximum of about 45 pounds, and the gray wolf of the western U.S. can grow to more than 125 pounds, she said.

A wolf is a specialist and reproduces slowly, so it’s a species that can’t deal with human depredation. Coyotes are the opposite.

"You can’t wipe them out," Schadler said. "The only way wolves survive is if people let them."

Yet, she is opposed to human-engineered wolf reintroduction into New England, and we will have to wait and see if the wolf can make it here on its own, she said.

"The table is set. … We have a ton of deer overgrazing," Schadler said, "but wolves won’t have a chance until coyotes are protected. They look almost identical. … Your kids will get to see the rest of the story."

Schadler is a co-founder, with longtime North Country columnist John Harrigan, of the New Hampshire Wildlife Coalition, which is trying to expand public partnership in the state Fish and Game Department. She is also the New Hampshire and Vermont representative of Project Coyote.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

The way of the wolf

HOLLIS – "In every dog is the soul of a wolf, " goes the dog food commercial, and dog owners presumably warm to the message that their golden retriever or Lhasa apso has a wild side.

Down through the ages, people have loved and hated this wild canine, with fear and prejudice living beside fascination and admiration.

Those contradictory feelings were reflected in the name of Chris Schadler’s slide presentation, "Dark Knights: Wolves of Eastern North America," given before a crowd that filled the Lawrence Barn on Nov. 20.

Over thousands of years, the wolf in the human imagination has evolved from an evil beast to a valued apex predator that balances out the ecosystem.

The "evil beast" idea held sway until the mid-20th century, and by that time the gray wolf – which had once roamed nearly all over the United States – was nearly gone because of loss of habitat and government persecution. By 1968, the last remaining wolves were in Superior National Forest in Minnesota.

The Endangered Species Act helped the population rebound, said Schadler, who is a wild canid ecologist. But in recent years, their numbers have been going down as moose disappear from the north woods, probably because warmer temperatures have increased the winter tick population.

Now, there are more than 5,000 gray wolves in the western Great Lake states and the northern Rocky Mountains, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park is a refuge for about 225 Eastern wolves, a gray wolf subspecies that was recently declared its own species.

The reason we aren’t seeing wolves in New England is because there is a "wall" of coyotes in northern Vermont, New Hampshire and New York that prevents them from spreading south, Schadler said. An occasional wolf might be seen in the northern parts of the states, but there is no viable population.

But when we see Eastern coyotes around here, we are seeing an animal that is partly wolf. That’s because they have bred with wolves, and 30 percent of the genes of the typical New Hampshire coyote are wolf genes.

"Interbreeding is really testing our concept of species," Schlader said.

And it definitely complicates thinking about the Endangered Species Act. Wolves are federally protected, but it’s always open season on coyotes.

"The further north you go, the more wolflike is the coyote," Schadler said. "My family in New Jersey sees small coyote," and in New Hampshire, we see animals that are so wolflike, they can be called wolves.

Because the canines are swapping genes, some of their traits are swapped, too. Coyote have long been hunters of small prey, but a few years ago, researchers at Southern Ontario University reported four confirmed cases of adult moose killed by coyotes.

Coyotes are smaller, but in many ways they are sturdier. A trait called "responsive reproduction" means they produce more cubs the more their existence is threatened. Wolves can be eradicated, Schadler said, while coyotes are here to stay.

Yellowstone National Park offers an example of how these big predators are essential to a healthy ecosystem, she said. Before the wolf was reintroduced to the park in 1995, the elk population had exploded, causing beaver populations to severely decline.

Wolves, scientists learned, inspired elk to keep moving, so vegetation improved, because browsing by moving elk does far less damage to the willow trees that are vital for the survival of beaver. Populations of birds that feed on carrion left by wolves, including eagles and ravens, also revived.

The park’s degradation after wolves were eliminated is called a "trophic cascade," something like when a pebble cascades down a mountain in a way that eventually causes an avalanche.

During the question-and-answer session after Schadler’s presentation, someone wanted to know the size difference between an Algonquin wolf and a "Hollis coyote."

The Eastern wolf could be between 60 and 90 pounds, while the coyote reaches a maximum of about 45 pounds, and the gray wolf of the western U.S. can grow to more than 125 pounds, she said.

A wolf is a specialist and reproduces slowly, so it’s a species that can’t deal with human depredation. Coyotes are the opposite.

"You can’t wipe them out," Schadler said. "The only way wolves survive is if people let them."

Yet, she is opposed to human-engineered wolf reintroduction into New England, and we will have to wait and see if the wolf can make it here on its own, she said.

"The table is set. … We have a ton of deer overgrazing," Schadler said, "but wolves won’t have a chance until coyotes are protected. They look almost identical. … Your kids will get to see the rest of the story."

Schadler is a co-founder, with longtime North Country columnist John Harrigan, of the New Hampshire Wildlife Coalition, which is trying to expand public partnership in the state Fish and Game Department. She is also the New Hampshire and Vermont representative of Project Coyote.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

The way of the wolf

HOLLIS – "In every dog is the soul of a wolf, " goes the dog food commercial, and dog owners presumably warm to the message that their golden retriever or Lhasa apso has a wild side.

Down through the ages, people have loved and hated this wild canine, with fear and prejudice living beside fascination and admiration.

Those contradictory feelings were reflected in the name of Chris Schadler’s slide presentation, "Dark Knights: Wolves of Eastern North America," given before a crowd that filled the Lawrence Barn on Nov. 20.

Over thousands of years, the wolf in the human imagination has evolved from an evil beast to a valued apex predator that balances out the ecosystem.

The "evil beast" idea held sway until the mid-20th century, and by that time the gray wolf – which had once roamed nearly all over the United States – was nearly gone because of loss of habitat and government persecution. By 1968, the last remaining wolves were in Superior National Forest in Minnesota.

The Endangered Species Act helped the population rebound, said Schadler, who is a wild canid ecologist. But in recent years, their numbers have been going down as moose disappear from the north woods, probably because warmer temperatures have increased the winter tick population.

Now, there are more than 5,000 gray wolves in the western Great Lake states and the northern Rocky Mountains, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park is a refuge for about 225 Eastern wolves, a gray wolf subspecies that was recently declared its own species.

The reason we aren’t seeing wolves in New England is because there is a "wall" of coyotes in northern Vermont, New Hampshire and New York that prevents them from spreading south, Schadler said. An occasional wolf might be seen in the northern parts of the states, but there is no viable population.

But when we see Eastern coyotes around here, we are seeing an animal that is partly wolf. That’s because they have bred with wolves, and 30 percent of the genes of the typical New Hampshire coyote are wolf genes.

"Interbreeding is really testing our concept of species," Schlader said.

And it definitely complicates thinking about the Endangered Species Act. Wolves are federally protected, but it’s always open season on coyotes.

"The further north you go, the more wolflike is the coyote," Schadler said. "My family in New Jersey sees small coyote," and in New Hampshire, we see animals that are so wolflike, they can be called wolves.

Because the canines are swapping genes, some of their traits are swapped, too. Coyote have long been hunters of small prey, but a few years ago, researchers at Southern Ontario University reported four confirmed cases of adult moose killed by coyotes.

Coyotes are smaller, but in many ways they are sturdier. A trait called "responsive reproduction" means they produce more cubs the more their existence is threatened. Wolves can be eradicated, Schadler said, while coyotes are here to stay.

Yellowstone National Park offers an example of how these big predators are essential to a healthy ecosystem, she said. Before the wolf was reintroduced to the park in 1995, the elk population had exploded, causing beaver populations to severely decline.

Wolves, scientists learned, inspired elk to keep moving, so vegetation improved, because browsing by moving elk does far less damage to the willow trees that are vital for the survival of beaver. Populations of birds that feed on carrion left by wolves, including eagles and ravens, also revived.

The park’s degradation after wolves were eliminated is called a "trophic cascade," something like when a pebble cascades down a mountain in a way that eventually causes an avalanche.

During the question-and-answer session after Schadler’s presentation, someone wanted to know the size difference between an Algonquin wolf and a "Hollis coyote."

The Eastern wolf could be between 60 and 90 pounds, while the coyote reaches a maximum of about 45 pounds, and the gray wolf of the western U.S. can grow to more than 125 pounds, she said.

A wolf is a specialist and reproduces slowly, so it’s a species that can’t deal with human depredation. Coyotes are the opposite.

"You can’t wipe them out," Schadler said. "The only way wolves survive is if people let them."

Yet, she is opposed to human-engineered wolf reintroduction into New England, and we will have to wait and see if the wolf can make it here on its own, she said.

"The table is set. … We have a ton of deer overgrazing," Schadler said, "but wolves won’t have a chance until coyotes are protected. They look almost identical. … Your kids will get to see the rest of the story."

Schadler is a co-founder, with longtime North Country columnist John Harrigan, of the New Hampshire Wildlife Coalition, which is trying to expand public partnership in the state Fish and Game Department. She is also the New Hampshire and Vermont representative of Project Coyote.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.