Monday, April 27, 2009

NAT: Aboriginal Language Funding

Apr 24, 2009 10:03 ET
The Government of Canada Provides Funding for Aboriginal Languages

BRANTFORD, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 24, 2009) - On behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, Phil McColeman, Member of Parliament (Brant), today announced funding for Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council, an organization that promotes Aboriginal languages across Ontario.

The funding will enable Sweetgrass to undertake seven short-term projects, including the design and development of a website to serve Aboriginal-language communities in Ontario, the documentation of the last fluent speakers of Lenni Lenape/Delaware language, Cayuga language resource mapping at Woodland Cultural Centre, the documentation of hunting and gathering practices in the Oneida language, and research into Anishinaabek, Mushkegowuk, and Onkwehonwe languages.

"Our Government is proud to support the work Sweetgrass is doing to document, maintain, and strengthen First Nations languages for future generations," said Minister Moore. "Since 1989, the Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council has been a champion in providing leadership and counsel in the preservation and promotion of Ontario's 13 First Languages."

"Aboriginal culture has always been an integral part of our shared history," said Mr. McColeman. "I'm proud that this funding will help local Aboriginal voices continue to tell their stories."

"This supplemental funding will assist a number of community projects and activities to support critically endangered languages in Ontario," said Amos Key Jr., Ontario Aboriginal Language Initiative Regional Coordinator, Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council. "It is essential that we document and preserve these endangered 'multi-dimensional' languages, as they carry within them the intellect and world views of the first civilizations of Ontario."

The Government of Canada has provided $104,995 in funding through the Aboriginal Languages Initiative, part of the Department of Canadian Heritage's Aboriginal Peoples' Program. This program supports the full participation of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian society and the promotion, revitalization, and preservation of Aboriginal languages and cultures. It also helps Aboriginal peoples address the social, cultural, economic, and political issues affecting their lives. The Aboriginal Languages Initiative provides funding to support the preservation and promotion of Aboriginal languages to increase the use of these languages in community and family settings. This funding is in addition to $697,410 that Sweetgrass receives under a three-year agreement to deliver financial support for Aboriginal language community-based projects.

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NAT: Cree Opera

Tomson Highway's libretto for Cree opera inspired by real life
April, 26, 2009 - 12:13 pm, Ahearn, Victoria - (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

TORONTO - In October 1990, celebrated Cree playwright Tomson Highway lay on a Toronto hospital bed beside his dying brother Rene and held him in his arms. As he fell asleep, he dreamed they were in a boat floating toward an island on a misty waterway.

"On that island, only one of us was allowed to get off and it was him," the writer, who was born near Maria Lake, Man., recalled recently during a telephone interview from his home in the south of France. "I had no choice but to go back to the mainland in that boat by myself."

The dream, which came a few days before his brother's death of meningitis (he also had AIDS), helped inspire Highway's libretto for the Cree opera "Pimooteewin: The Journey" that starts touring northern Ontario on Monday.

[continued below]

"It comes from reality," Highway, a member of the Order of Canada, said of the story. "It's a very powerful experience and I believe with every ounce of my being that (Rene) is still on that island, which is here, just in a different psychological space.

"I live every single day of my life for him."

Directed and choreographed by Toronto-based performer Michael Greyeyes to the haunting music of Montreal-based composer Melissa Hui, the opera follows two characters traditional to aboriginal mythology - the comical Trickster and the Eagle - as they cross a river on a boat to a magical island inhabited by spirits.

A cast of about 30 - including dancers, a narrator, an orchestra, the Elmer Iseler Singers and soloists Xin Wang (soprano) and Bud Roach (tenor) - perform to Cree lyrics that are translated through surtitles. The choreography and costumes incorporate aboriginal and Japanese cultures.

The opera is said to be the first written in the Cree language.

"This opera could only have occurred in Canada," said Greyeyes, a member of Saskatchewan's Muskeg Lake First Nation. "And the reason why I say that is, it's uniquely Canadian: It involves First Nations culture, it involves numerous communities - music, dance, theatre - and I think the Canadian consciousness has really evolved.

"I think that Canadian audiences are really receptive to the sort of innovations that indigenous artists are interested in pursuing."

Although the story deals with death, it has a light, humorous tone as it celebrates the aboriginal myth that the dead pass into form of energy on Earth, said Highway.

"In aboriginal mythology, there is no heaven and there is no hell," said Highway, who is also a musician and has studied different mythologies for 30 years. "You cross a kind of a River Styx and you go into this region of the human consciousness ... you don't go away."

Highway said Lawrence Cherney, artistic director of production company Soundstreams Canada, first approached him and Hui to do the project about a decade ago at a music conference. Hui felt the melody of the Cree language fit beautifully into the operatic form and Highway agreed because he's always looking for ways to help preserve the Cree language.

With Soundstreams as producer and commissioner, the opera debuted to rave reviews last February over a weekend at Toronto's Jane Mallet Theatre. Its northern Ontario tour, which will hit six regions through May 15, marks its first time on stage since then. Tickets range from just $10 to $20.

The tour will arrive in each city a week early so talent can go into local schools to teach arts workshops to students from Grades 4 through 12 who will also get to see the opera.

Greyeyes said Soundstreams plans to take the tour and outreach program to Western Canada and Quebec next year.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

ATH: U-17s Advance

U-17's Advance To The World Cup

The United States Under-17 National Team advanced to the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup with a 4-2 win over Canada in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Under CONCACAF rules, making the semifinals advances a team to the World Cup.

“We are very happy that we qualified," US coach Wilmer Cabrera said. "That was our objective from the very beginning. Qualifying is something we had to do. Our Under-17 program has been developing young players in the United States and we have qualified for every World Cup. We wanted to do nothing less than qualify. We succeeded in qualifying based on the results of the two games and we played well, individually and as a team. We are the first qualified team but we want to get to the final.

Jack McInerney converted a 2nd minute penalty and grabbed a 30th minute goal. Sebastian Lletget scored in the 39th to put the USA 3-0 at halftime. Canada cut that lead in the 71st through Jaineil Hoilett. The US got their fourth through Joseph Gyau in the 85th, with Canada scoring one minute later.

The US plays Honduras on Saturday to finish off Group A. “We had a meeting right after the game in the middle of the field and we talked about not changing anything," McInerney said. "We’re going to try to win and keep playing our game. We always say that we have to keep our focus on the next game."

Match: US Under-17 Men’s National Team vs. Canada
Date: April 23, 2009
Competition: CONCACAF Under-17 Championship
Venue: Estadio Caliente; Tijuana, Mexico
Kickoff: 4 p.m. PT
Attendance: TBA
Weather: 90 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 3 1 4
CAN 0 2 2

USA – Jack McInerney (penalty) 2nd minute
USA – Jack McInerney (Alex Shinsky) 30
USA – Sebastian Lletget (Luis Gil) 39
CAN – Jaineil Hoilett 71
USA – Joseph Gyau (Eriq Zavaleta) 85
CAN – Coulton Jackson 86

USA: 1-Earl Edwards; 3-Tyler Polak, 6-Jared Watts, 2-Eriq Zavaleta, 4-Perry Kitchen; 8-Alex Shinksy, 5-Marlon Duran, 20-Sebastian Lletget (15-Carlos Martinez, 76), 10-Luis Gil (13-Joseph Gyau, 84); 7-Stefan Jerome (17-Juan Agudelo, 65), 9-Jack McInerney
Subs not used: 11-Dustin Corea, 14-Zachary Herold, 18-Spencer Richey, 16-Nicholas Palodichuk
Subs not available: 12-Emilio Orozco, 19-Andrew Craven
Head Coach: Wilmer Cabrera

CAN: 1-Richard Causton, 2-Hugo Lapointe-Senecal (14-Coulton Jackson, 65), 3-Feras Samain, 4-Francesco Augustin, 5-Derrick Bassi, 7-Jonathan Lao (13-Brennan McNicoll, 70), 8-Janeil Hoilett, 11-Russell Teibert (capt.), 12-Kevin Cobby, 19-Justin Maheu, 20-Karl Oumette
Subs not used: 9-Jordan Ongaro, 10-Sylla Abdoulaye, 16-Caolan Lavery, 18-Ezequiel Lubocki, 22-Garrett Cyprus
Subs not available: 6-Felix Cardin, 15-Amine Meftouh
Head Coach: Sean Fleming

Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 14 / 4
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 8 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Perry Kitchen (caution) 18th minute
USA – Alex Shinsky (caution) 85

Referee: Paul Delgadillo (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Marcos Mejia (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Mark Sullivan (JAM)
Fourth Official: Francisco Chacon (MEX)

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Friday, April 24, 2009

NAT: Kalispel Speakers

Speakers try to keep rare language alive
The deaths of 11 elders of the Kalispel Tribe within three months of each other caused members to worry about the survival of their native language.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The deaths of 11 elders of the Kalispel Tribe within three months of each other caused members to worry about the survival of their native language.

"It is said if we lose our language we are not going to be a tribe anymore," said Francis Cullooyah, one of more than 64 speakers of Southern Interior Salish who gathered for a language summit at Spokane Falls Community College this week.

No one can remember a gathering of so many speakers of the first language of the Inland Northwest, Michelle Wiley-Bunting, board president of the Center for Interior Salish, told The Spokesman-Review.

There are few fluent speakers left of the language once heard from Vernon, British Columbia, to Vantage, Wash., and from Wenatchee to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.

"Our elders taught us that we are like brothers because of our language," said Coeur d'Alene tribal member Felix Aripa.

He spoke in English and Coeur d'Alene, one of seven dialects of Southern Interior Salish spoken at Wednesday's meeting. Also attending were speakers of Kalispel, Spokane, Colville Okanogan, Wenatchee-Columbian, Pend Oreille and Montana Salish.

Not represented at the conference were speakers of the three Northern Interior Salish dialects: Shuswap, Thompson and Lillooet, all in Canada.

"Our language is our culture," Aripa said. "It is how we learned about our animals, our plants and our mountains. And that's what, through the language, we want to teach our kids."

Cullooyah said Kalispel is taught at Cusick, Wash., schools, and the tribe is transcribing the spoken language using the International Phonetic Alphabet.

He said only he and two other people are fluent in Kalispel.

There are believed to be two fluent speakers of Coeur d'Alene, six who speak Spokane, and five who speak Wenatchee-Columbian, according to the Center for Interior Salish. There are about 200 fluent speakers of Colville-Okanagan, three-quarters of whom live on the Canadian side of the border.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ATH: US U-17s over Cuba

U-17's Open With Big Win

The United States Under-17 National Team beat Cuba 5-0 to start the 2009 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Stefan Jerome opened the scoring in the 31st minute for the USA. Jack McInerney made it 2-0 four minutes later, and Sebastian Lletget added a third in the 40th minute. McInerney got his second goal of the game in the 48th, and Luis Gil added a goal to his two assists in the 63rd to finish off the scoring.

“At first we were a little hesitant, but as the game went on we took control and created opportunities,” US coach Wilmer Cabrera said. “We took advantage of the opportunities that we had. We were very focused on the game and we had several good training sessions. We had a good victory but we can’t take anything away from Cuba, they were a great opponent and we must keep our heads in the game against Canada and Honduras.”

US keeper Earl Edwards got the shutout without having to make a save. In all, Cuba managed two shots with none on goal. The United States put eleven shots on goal from 16 taken, including McInerney hitting the woodwork twice in the opening 31 minutes.

The United States plays Canada on Thursday at 7pm ET.

Match: U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team vs. Cuba
Date: April 21, 2009
Competition: CONCACAF Under-17 Championship
Venue: Estadio Caliente; Tijuana, Mexico
Kickoff: 4 p.m. PT
Attendance: TBA
Weather: 90 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 3 2 5
CUB 0 0 0

USA – Stefan Jerome (Jack McInerney) 31st minute
USA – Jack McInerney (Luis Gil) 34
USA – Sebastian Lletget 40
USA – Jack McInerney (Luis Gil) 48
USA – Luis Gil (Jack McInerney) 63

USA: 1-Earl Edwards; 3-Tyler Polak, 6-Jared Watts, 2-Eriq Zavaleta, 4-Perry Kitchen; 8-Alex Shinksy (15-Carlos Martinez, 64), 5-Marlon Duran, 20-Sebastian Lletget (13-Joseph Gyau, 70), 10-Luis Gil; 7-Stefan Jerome (19-Andrew Craven, 75), 9-Jack McInerney
Subs not used: 11-Dustin Corea, 14-Zachary Herold, 17-Juan Agudelo, 18-Spencer Richey,
Subs not available: Emilio Orozco, Nicholas Palodichuk
Head Coach: Wilmer Cabrera

CUB: 1-Odisnel Cooper (12-Yeimi Guerra, 44); 13-Alejandro Marquez, 15-Yadien Ortiz, 4-Daniel Cantero, 3-Yordan Exposito; 14-Dayron Blanco (16-Ricardo Pena,77), 10-Luis Portal, 5-Liosvel Hernandez, 18-Ovaldo Lemus, 20-Osdany Soto (17-Humberto Ruig, 58)
Subs not used: 2-Yandry Prieto, 6-Over Urgelles, 8-Raydel Fernandez, 11-Randy Lizama
Head Coach: Alexander Gonzales

Stats Summary: USA / CUB
Shots: 16 / 2
Shots on Goal: 11 / 0
Saves: 0 / 6
Corner Kicks: 6 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Alex Shinsky (caution) 47th minute
CUB – Ovaldo Lemus (caution) 88

Referee: Raymond Bogle (JAM)
Assistant Referee 1: Mark Sullivan (JAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Dion Niel (JAM)
Fourth Official: Paul Delgadillo (MEX)

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NAT: Language at UM

UM’s Blackfeet language class still offered to students
Story by Allison Maier, April 21, 2009, Montana Kaimin

Changes stemming from the state’s new college course numbering system appear to have produced rumors that The University of Montana’s Blackfeet language class was cancelled for next semester, according to Native American Studies faculty.

The Montana University System has adopted what is called a “common course numbering system.” Under this system, classes at different Montana universities that are deemed equivalent to one another are given the same course number, prefix, and—in some instances—the same title. The theory is that this will help eliminate some of the barriers students face when transferring between colleges, making it easier to complete a bachelor’s degree.

One aspect of the new numbering system is every discipline has been given a course prefix never used before to ensure that students don’t end up with duplicate course numbers representing different classes on their transcripts.

UM’s Blackfeet language course was originally given a NAS designation, representing a Native American Studies course, but this was then changed to NASL. Because of this shift, it was placed under a category called Native American Language on Cyberbear for the fall 2009 registration as if it belonged to a department separate from Native American Studies.
“It’s a fictitious department, so I don’t know how you would find it as a student,” said Native American Studies professor Dave Beck.

Though the Native American Studies faculty asked if the course could be listed under both categories, this just created more problems because it looked like it was more than one course, according to Wade Davies, chair of the Native American Studies program.

Beck said the department is currently working with the Registrar’s office to find a solution that will make it less confusing for students to register for the class. By Monday afternoon, nobody had registered to take the course, according to Cyberbear.

Justin Cole, a peer advisor and an operator on the Undergraduate Advising Center’s common course numbering hotline (243-2800), said he received a few questions about the program. He said the hotline has received fewer calls than he anticipated and that students seem to accept the changes.

“I think it’s been well-communicated so people can figure it out,” he said.

The Blackfeet language course has been offered to UM students for the past couple of years, though up through 2008, it was taught via teleconference from the Blackfeet Community College in Browning. This semester, the professor has taught the course on campus.

Rumors about a possible program cut have spawned speculation that the university is thousands of dollars in debt, an allegation that Bob Duringer, vice president of administration and finance, flatly denies.

“No. Hell no,” he said.

Duringer said UM is in fine financial standing.

The new numbering system grew out of a series of meetings among faculty members from the various universities teaching similar disciplines. The process started in 2007, with more than $250,000 in funding from the Montana Legislature. This will be the first semester that it has been used.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

ATH: Cherundolo, Altidore out

From the U.S. National Team Players Association

Cherundolo Needs Surgery - Altidore Out

United States National Team right back Steve Cherundolo will need surgery to repair an injured hip. He is expected to miss the rest of the season with Hannover 96 and likely won't be back with club or country until late in the summer. Cherundolo attempted to play through his hip issue, but in recent weeks it became clear that surgery was the only realistic option.

Meanwhile, striker Jozy Altidore has had a procedure on an injured toenail that will require three to four weeks of recovery. Altidore has yet to appear for Spanish second division club Xerez.

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ENV: First recent Cahow chick

Bermuda says rare national bird born on reserve
By DAVID McFADDEN, The Associated Press, Saturday, April 18, 2009 9:34 AM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A fuzzy fledgling of Bermuda's national bird, spotted on a secluded offshore sanctuary this week, may help bring the rare creature back from the brink of extinction.

The baby bird _ found nestled in an artificial concrete burrow on protected Nonsuch Island by scientists _ is the first recorded Bermuda petrel chick seen on the 16-acre (6-hectare) site for centuries, Bermuda's Department of Conservation said Thursday.

Just 300 of the endangered birds, commonly known as Cahows, exist in and around Bermuda. They breed nowhere else in the world.

Jeremy Madeiros, the conservation officer who has been overseeing efforts to revive the bird species for nine years, could barely contain his relief that mating had been successful.

"I'm just beyond thrilled," Madeiros said during a phone interview on Thursday. "To have a nesting pair produce a chick so soon is just such a big surprise."

The Cahow lives almost all of its life out on the open ocean, hunting squid, krill and anchovies in the Gulf Stream and beyond, he said. It returns to its Bermuda home only to mate, and no invasive predators are left there to threaten the species.

The adult bird, with its blackish-grey head, white belly and eerie, moaning cry, was once very common in Bermuda, numbering about a million before Spanish explorers discovered the islands in the early 1500s.

But pigs brought to Bermuda by Spanish sailors and rats, cats and dogs brought by early British settlers devastated the population, along with hunting by settlers. The bird was thought to be extinct by the 1620s, yet a few breeding pairs were found nesting on craggy islands off the British Atlantic territory's east end in 1951.

Retired conservation officer David Wingate helped create the Nonsuch reserve as a safe breeding ground for the Cahow. About two miles off Bermuda's main island, it is now a living museum of flora and fauna found by Bermuda's first settlers 400 years ago.

Wingate said he could "not think of a more perfect success story" to commemorate the settlement's 400th anniversary than this chick's hatching about a month ago.

The little bird was nicknamed "Somers" in honor of Sir George Somers, whose shipwreck marked the beginning of Bermuda's permanent settlement. It is expected to leave Nonsuch within nine weeks and will then spend three to four years at sea before returning to the exact spot from where it left to select a mate and build a nest.

"I'm hopeful that next year we will see more chicks born on Nonsuch," Madeiros said. "We will then truly have secured a major victory in ensuring the future survival of this most extraordinary bird."

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Monday, April 06, 2009

ENV: Iraq Wildlife

Uncovering Iraq’s unique wildlife

Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) has completed their fifth winter survey of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) across the country. “From Kurdistan in the north, to the Mesopotamian Marshlands in the south, our surveys have highlighted the global importance of Iraq for birds, biodiversity and people”, said Dr Azzam Alwash – CEO of Nature Iraq.

Along with sightings of several Globally Threatened and endemic birds, the survey teams discovered an endemic sub-species of otter, and observed a worrying drought.

Nature Iraq have been working in coordination with Iraq’s Ministry of the Environment to conduct survey and monitoring work at KBAs since 2005. “Nature Iraq’s KBA project has sought to locate and assess potential areas of biological diversity, and to install a programme of monitoring”, said Dr Alwash.

This winter’s KBA surveys covered 65 sites, of which 12 in Kurdistan, and 53 in the middle and south of Iraq - including 14 new locations. “Two teams have been working hard to record the unique ecology of Iraq”, commented Ibrahim Al-khader - BirdLife’s Director for the Middle East. “The BirdLife Partnership will continue to support Nature Iraq’s work to identify and conserve sites globally important for biodiversity”.

“This winter we observed a flock of 410 Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus and considerable numbers of Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca – both Vulnerable - in Kurdistan”, said Korsh Ararat – leader of Nature Iraq’s KBA surveys in northern Iraq.

The Mesopotamian Marshes in the south of Iraq are especially important for wintering waterbirds. “As one of the most important wetland complexes in the Middle East, if not the world, these marshes are essential for the conservation of many species of birds as well as other wildlife”, remarked Mudhafar Salim - leader of Nature Iraq’s KBA surveys in the marshes and birding section leader.

“We observed African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus and African Darter Anhinga rufa making the Mesopotamian Marshes one of the only known sites in the Middle East for these birds. In addition, we recorded over 5,000 Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris, 2,340 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and seven Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga - all Globally Threatened or Near-Threatened species”, added Mudhafar Salim.

For centuries, the marsh region between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers was vital for food – mainly fish and rice - production until 90% of it was drained by Saddam Hussein’s regime; forcing the local Marsh Arabs to flee the area. “During this time average temperatures in the area rose five degrees Celsius”, noted Dr Alwash.

Since the collapse of the regime, rehabilitation of the marshes has begun. Water has started to return to the internationally important wetland, restoring a vital habitat that is critical for the survival of biodiversity in the region.

Recently the wetlands covered more than 9,000 km2 – equivalent to over 13 million tennis courts - making surveys a very challenging task. “We were very excited recently when we discovered an endemic sub-species of otter – the Vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli”, noted Mudhafar Salim. “This indicates that there’s plenty more still to find!”

However, the marshes are now shrinking again as a result of drought and intensive dam construction and irrigation schemes upstream. "Flooding has been disrupted by the dams built in Turkey, Syria and Iraq itself", noted Dr Azzam Alwash. "The natural flow system is not going to return until and unless the dams outside Iraq are actively managed as part of a basin-wide coordinated management of the Tigris and Euphrates. In response, Nature Iraq is currently producing a drought management plan”.

Nature Iraq is also running an awareness programme aimed at hunters in the Basra region. “Our hunting campaign will help to conserve Globally Threatened species such as Marbled Teal”, said Dr Alwash.

Nature Iraq is part of BirdLife’s Born to Travel campaign which is aiming to improve the conservation status of migratory birds and their habitats along the African-Eurasian Flyway. Through the Born to Travel campaign Nature Iraq is seeking support in order to really make the difference for migratory birds.

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

ENV: Wolf genetic issues

Inbreeding taking a toll on Michigan wolves
Biologists say small gene pool is causing backbone malformations
The Associated Press, updated 8:21 a.m. CT, Sat., April. 4, 2009

The two dozen or so gray wolves that wander an island chain in northwestern Lake Superior are suffering from backbone malformations caused by genetic inbreeding, posing yet another challenge to their prospects for long-term survival, according to wildlife biologists.

Although confirmed only recently, the problem apparently has been festering for decades in the small, isolated packs in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park. The abnormalities, also found in some domestic dogs, can cause pain and partial paralysis while limiting the range of motion so crucial for predators in the wild.

The discovery raises the ethically thorny question of whether scientists should try to dilute the gene pool by introducing wolves from elsewhere, said researchers with Michigan Tech University in Houghton, which hosts a 51-year-old study of the island park's wolves and moose.

It is among the world's longest continuing observations of symbiotic relationships between predator and prey species and their natural surroundings.

Historically, biologists have taken a hands-off posture as wolf and moose numbers have risen and fallen, preferring to let nature take its course even if it meant extinction of one or both species. But strong arguments could be made for intervening as well, project leaders now say.

"This is not a decision just for scientists to make any more," said Rolf Peterson, who has taken part in the study since 1970.

The research team reported its findings this week in the current issue of the journal Biological Conservation and is soliciting public comments on its Web site.

Remote island
Although part of Michigan, Isle Royale is closer to Minnesota and Ontario. Moose found their way to the island — probably by swimming the 15 miles from Canada — around 1900. Two or three wolves arrived in the late 1940s, crossing a rare ice bridge from the mainland.

Weather, food availability, disease and other factors have caused the two species' populations to fluctuate over the years. The most dangerous period for the wolves came in the 1980s, when their total dropped to 12 because of a parvovirus outbreak.

Their population stood at 24 this winter, roughly the long-term average. They were divided into four packs.

Scientists had long watched for problems from inbreeding, such as poor survival rates for pups. Instead, the first solid evidence surfaced when Jannikke Raikkonen of the Swedish Museum of National History, an expert in wolf anatomy, visited Isle Royale several years ago to examine the project's bone collection.

She identified malformed vertebrae in all wolf remains found the previous dozen years. Such abnormalities show up in just 1 percent of observed populations that are not inbred.

Peterson and biologist John Vucetich found two dead wolves this winter with misshapen vertebrae. One had been killed by fellow wolves. The other had unusually severe arthritis for its age and a neck injury suggesting a moose kick. The bone malformation may have lessened its ability to dodge the lethal blow, Vucetich said.

Living on the edge
Spinal malformation from inbreeding poses no immediate threat of extinction, Peterson said. The biggest short-term problem is a drop-off in moose, the wolves' primary food supply, which scientists attribute to climate change. This winter's moose census turned up 530 — only about half their long-term average and a drop-off from last year's estimated 650.

But inbreeding joins the list of reasons why the wolves will always be living on the edge, one disaster away from disappearing, Vucetich said.

"It just makes everything a heck of a lot more complicated," he said.

The study team is considering whether to propose a "genetic rescue" — trapping unrelated mainland wolves and bringing them to Isle Royale, hoping they would breed and mix their genes with the existing population.

The question involves competing scientific and ethical values, Vucetich said.

Opponents of intervention believe humans should not tinker with wilderness systems. Even if Isle Royale's wolves die out, their loss would provide information that could save endangered species elsewhere.

Other would counter that attempting to save the wolves also could yield valuable data, while sparing individual animals from painful bone deformities.

"We have an incomplete understanding of genetic rescue — when and how and why it works," Vucetich said. "Even so, it may be an important conservation tool as more population species become rare."

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