North Lake Tahoe Bonanza,
extinction rumors, gray wolf remains protected
Scott Sonner, Associated Press,
December 28, 2005
RENO - The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service is refusing to take the gray wolf
off the list of endangered species in Nevada, even
though agency biologists acknowledge the animals
have been extinct in the state for decades.
In fact, while the University of Nevada's athletic
teams are nicknamed the Wolf Pack, there's general
agreement that the mountains and high desert valleys
that boast mountain lions, black bears and bighorn
sheep haven't been home to more than a handful of
wolves for centuries.
The Nevada Division of Wildlife petitioned the
federal agency to delist the wolf in Nevada,
primarily to give the state more options to manage
the wolf population in case the carnivores wander
here after being reintroduced elsewhere.
In rejecting the petition earlier this month, the
Fish and Wildlife Service said the Endangered
Species Act makes it clear a species cannot be
removed from the protected list unless it's
documented the animal was listed in error and that
either the species never existed or could not exist
in an area because of unsuitable habitat.
"We agree with NDOW, that wolves never were abundant
in the state, that there is limited habitat
available for wolves in the state and that there
probably never was a self-sustaining wolf population
here," said Jody Brown, the federal agency's deputy
field director for Nevada.
"So we don't dispute that there weren't high numbers
historically. But that's not enough to say they
never did exist or never could exist," she told The
Defenders of the wolf point to several American
Indian tribes in Nevada who feature wolves in many
of their stories and celebrations as evidence they
must have once been a significant presence.
And despite the arid nature of most of the state,
conservationists say there are significant parts of
Nevada that someday could again support the
creatures that once stretched across most of North
Neither federal nor state officials are sure the
last time a gray wolf was confirmed in Nevada. In
recent years, some ranchers in northeast Nevada
claimed to have seen wolves, but they may have been
State officials point to "Mammals of Nevada" - a
book by E. Raymond Hall first published in 1946 - as
the most authoritative source on the topic.
It confirms a sighting in extreme northwest Nevada
in 1941 by Fred Vogel.
Vogel had worked for the U.S. Bureau of Biological
Survey killing wolves in the Great Plains and later
killing coyotes in Nevada and therefore was presumed
to be "competent to distinguish the northern wolf
from the coyote," Hall wrote.
Vogel knew of only one wolf killed in all his time
in Nevada. In 1916 or 1917 he saw the skin of one
trapped near Little High Rock Canyon in the Black
Rock Desert, the book said.
Wolf sightings were more frequent in northeast
Nevada, although still rare. One was killed in 1922
at Gold Creek in Elko County and a state trapper
caught one near Mountain City in 1923.
In 1941, animal control officers reported that only
six wolves had been taken in Nevada in the previous
two years - three in Elko County, one near Eureka,
one in White Pine County and one north of Reno near
the California border.