The Monthly Free E-Newsletter of South African Friends of Wolves
Volume 10, Issue 131, September 2015
From the Editor’s Desk
We have a fairly short newsletter this month, the reason apparently being a later-than-usual journalistic summer break in the Northern Hemisphere. For once I am spared to stomach bad wolf news from the US, I am inclined to say. However, this will very likely be only a temporary pseudo-relief, and as our snippet in the International news section indicates, wildlife in the US will be threatened ever more by lobby-employed politicians. Johnny reports along the same lines from Zimboland. Read both for yourself…
We report on a series of incidents involving a wolf pack in Germany that, even though nothing serious happened, illustrates what can happen if wild wolves are habituated to humans through well-meant yet misguided actions.
We also have an old tale that makes for entertaining reading, but Erin was busy otherwise and could not manage to update all of us on her pack. I am sure she will be back for the next issue, for one thing is sure, it’s never boring in her household.
Enjoy our September newsletter,
News from the Wolf Front
Nothing to report
From Defenders of Wildlife (http://www.defenders.org)
- USA: Gray wolves seem to love California!
We just learned that an entire new pack has been discovered in northern California. The pack, dubbed the “Shasta Pack,” consists of a breeding pair of adults and five pups. The pups are thought to be three or four months old.
This news comes just weeks after officials announced sightings of a suspected wolf caught on trail cameras in May and July.
This is a landmark development in the return of wolves to their historic Golden State habitat. And because these wolves are protected by both federal and California state law, it is unlikely this new pack will face the same fate as so many of its Northern Rockies brethren.
Hope for re-establishing wolves in California soared in 2011 when OR-7, the famous wandering wolf, became the first wolf in decades to enter the state. This new pack means that restoration of wolves in California is now a dream that’s finally coming true.
We have been given a second chance to restore this iconic species to a landscape they had been missing from for nearly one hundred years. We must seize this opportunity to forge new partnerships to help wolves live in harmony with people and livestock in their California home;
Please join us in celebrating California’s first wolf family of the 21st century!
From California Wolfcenter
Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project Monthly Update
Endangered Species Updates August 1-31, 2015
The following is a summary of Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project (Project) activities in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in Arizona, including the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR), and New Mexico. Additional Project information can be obtained by calling (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653, or by visiting the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at www.azgfd.gov/wolf or by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/ mexicanwolf. Past updates may be viewed on either website, or interested parties may sign up to receive this update electronically by visiting www.azgfd.gov/signup. This update is a public document and information in it can be used for any purpose. The Reintroduction Project is a multi-agency cooperative effort among the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), USDA Forest Service (USFS), USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS WS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT).
To view semi-monthly wolf telemetry flight location information please visit www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/RWL.cfm
Please report any wolf sightings or suspected livestock depredations to: (928) 339-4329 or toll free at (888) 459-9653. To report incidents of take or harassment of wolves, please call the AGFD 24-hour dispatch (Operation Game Thief) at (800) 352-0700.
Numbering System: Mexican wolves are given an identification number recorded in an official studbook that tracks their history. Capital letters (M = Male, F = Female) preceding the number indicate adult animals 24 months or older. Lower case letters (m = male, f = female) indicate wolves younger than 24 months or pups. The capital letter “A” preceding the letter and number indicate breeding wolves.
Definitions: A “wolf pack” is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an established territory. In the event that one of the two alpha (dominant) wolves dies, the remaining alpha wolf, regardless of pack size, retains the pack status. The packs referenced in this update contain at least one wolf with a radio telemetry collar attached to it. The Interagency Field Team (IFT) recognizes that wolves without radio telemetry collars may also form packs. If the IFT confirms that wolves are associating with each other and are resident within the same home range, they will be referenced as a pack.
CURRENT POPULATION STATUS
At the end of August 2015 the wild Mexican wolf population consisted of 44 wolves with functional radio collars dispersed among 21 packs and three single wolves. Members of the IFT continue pup counts this month and have so far counted 39 pups produced by 11 packs in the MWEPA.
Bluestem Pack (collared AF1042, m1331, f1333, m1382, m1404, and f1405)
In August, the Bluestem Pack continued to use their traditional territory in the central portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF). Bluestem wolves’ f1333, m1382, and m1404 have been located in the vicinity of the den during the month, while m1331 and f1405 have been located separate from the pack. A diversionary food cache has been set up to reduce potential conflicts with livestock. Wolf m1331 and f1405 has been located separate from the Bluestem Pack throughout August.
Elk Horn Pack (collared AF1294 and M1342)
In August, the Elk Horn Pack continued to make broad movements within their traditional territory in the northeast portion of the ASNF. Visuals on the pack have not revealed the presence of pups. The IFT will continue efforts to determine whether or not the Elk Horn Pack is travelling with pups.
Hawks Nest Pack (collared AM1038, AF1280, m1383, f1439, and fp1438)
In August, the Hawks Nest Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north central portion of the ASNF. The Hawks Nest Pack continued to demonstrate rendezvousing behaviour in August. The IFT captured and collared a female pup born in April of this year (fp1438) and a sub-adult female born last year (f1439) this month. A diversionary food cache has been set up to reduce potential conflicts with livestock.
Hoodoo Pack (collared M1290)
In August, M1290 remained localized in the north-central portion of the ASNF. Based on this localization and howling documented from a pup, the IFT continues attempts to determine whether M1290 has a den and pups.
Marble Pack (F1340)
The IFT continued to document a male wolf with a non-functional radio collar travelling with F1340 in the northwest-central portion of the ASNF. F1340 continued to display rendezvousing behaviour during August. The IFT documented a minimum of five pups travelling with F1340 and her mate this month. The IFT has continued trapping efforts on the Marble Pack in an attempt to collar pups and replace the non-functional collar on the male. The IFT captured and collared a male pup born this year (mp1440) this month. A diversionary food cache has been set up to reduce potential conflicts with livestock.
Maverick Pack (collared AM1183, AF1291, and f1335)
During August, the Maverick Pack travelled within their traditional territory both on the FAIR and ASNF. The IFT has not documented denning behaviour from the Maverick Pack this year.
Panther Creek Pack (F1339 and M1394)
The IFT has documented denning behaviour from the Panther Creek Pack, and has documented a minimum of one pup. The Panther Creek Pack has been located in the east-central portion of the ASNF throughout August. A diversionary food cache has been set up to reduce potential conflicts with livestock.
Rim Pack (AF1305)
In August, AF1305 has remained in the traditional Rim Pack territory in the central portion of the ASNF.
Bear Wallow Pack (m1338 and f1335)
The pack continues to utilize the east-central portion of the ASNF. The Bear Wallow Pack did not den during 2015.
Single M1161 (Collared)
M1161 has not been located during the month of August.
ON THE FAIR:
Diamond Pack (collared 1437)
During August, the Diamond Pack was located on the FAIR.
Tsay o Ah Pack (collared M1343 and AF1283)
During August, the Tsay o Ah Pack was located on the FAIR.
IN NEW MEXICO:
Coronado Pack (collared AM1051)
During August, AM1051 of the Coronado Pack was not located by the IFT.
Dark Canyon Pack (collared AM992, AF923, M1293, m1354 and m1347)
During August, the IFT located this pack within its traditional territory in the west-central portion of the Gila National Forest (GNF). The IFT continues to document denning behaviour in this pack during the month. A diversionary food cache has been set up and maintained to reduce potential conflicts with livestock.
Fox Mountain Pack (collared m1396)
In August, the IFT documented the Fox Mountain Pack within their traditional territory in the northwest portion of the GNF. The IFT attempted to trap other members of the Fox Mountain Pack this month to collar additional wolves, but efforts were unsuccessful.
Iron Creek Pack (collared AM1240 and AF1278)
In August, the Iron Creek Pack continued to utilize their territory in the northern portion of the Gila Wilderness and the southern portion of the GNF. The IFT continues to document denning behaviour in this pack during the month.
Lava Pack (collared M1285 and F1295)
In August, the Lava Pack was located in its traditional territory in the northwest portion of the Gila Wilderness. The IFT has documented pups produced by the Lava pack this month but has not obtained an accurate count. Two diversionary food caches have been maintained to reduce potential conflicts with livestock.
Luna Pack (collared AM1155, AF1115, and m1398)
In August, AM1155 remained in the Luna Pack territory in the north-central portion of the GNF. The IFT documented pup presence with the Luna pack this month, despite the fact that no denning behaviour was documented or observed. AM1155 and m1398 have been documented travelling together and separate at different times during the month of August. The IFT suspects that the collar on AF1115 has failed.
Prieto Pack (collared AM1387, AF1251, m1386 and f1392)
During August, the Prieto Pack was located within their traditional territory in the north-central portion of the GNF. The IFT continues to document denning behaviour in this pack during the month. A diversionary food cache has been set up and maintained to reduce potential conflict with livestock.
San Mateo Pack (collared AF903 and M1345)
During August, the San Mateo pack was located within their traditional territory in north eastern portions of the GNF.
Willow Springs Pack (collared AM1185, f1390 and f1397)
Throughout August, the IFT located the Willow Springs Pack in their traditional territory in the north central portion of the GNF.
During August, M1284 was located within the GNF in New Mexico.
m1350 was not located during August.
Mangas Pack (collared M1296)
M1296 was not located during August.
No mortalities were documented during August.
During August, there were 3 livestock depredation reports involving wolves and one nuisance report.
On August 3, Wildlife Services completed a depredation investigation of a dead cow near Centerfire in New Mexico. The investigation determined the cow had been killed by a wolf or wolves. The depredation incident was assigned to an uncollared wolf or wolves.
On August 5, an Eagar citizen was horseback riding in Murrey Basin south of Eagar. The citizen reported being followed by 4 wolves. The IFT listened for collared wolves and did not hear any wolves in the area.
On August 24, Wildlife Services completed a depredation investigation of a dead calf on the Green’s Peak Allotment in AZ. The investigation determined the calf had been killed by a wolf or wolves. The depredation incident was assigned to uncollared wolves in the area.
On August 31, Wildlife Services completed a depredation investigation of a dead calf on the Green’s Peak Allotment in AZ. The investigation determined the calf had been killed by a wolf or wolves. The depredation incident was assigned to the Bluestem Pack.
COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION
On August 7, IFT personnel met with FS and AZGF personnel from the Lakeside and Black Mesa Districts of the Sitgreaves national forest to discuss potential release sites. On the same day, IFT personnel met with FS and AZGF personnel from the Payson and Pleasant Valley Districts of the Tonto national forest to discuss potential release sites.
On August 13, IFT personnel met with FS personnel from the Mt. Talyor Districts of the Cibola national forest to discuss potential release sites.
On August 18, IFT personnel attended the Springerville NRCS meeting to give a wolf update.
On August 20, IFT personnel had a meeting with permittees on the Payson and Pleasant Valley ranger districts of the Tonto National Forest to discuss potential release sites.
On August 27, IFT personnel met with FS personnel from the Magdalena District of the Cibola national forest to discuss potential release sites.
No significant activity to report.
The USFWS is offering a reward of up to $10,000; the AGFD Operation Game Thief is offering a reward of up to $1,000; and the NMDGF is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the conviction of the individual(s) responsible for the shooting deaths of Mexican wolves. A variety of non-governmental organizations and private individuals have pledged an additional $46,000 for a total reward amount of up to $58,000, depending on the information provided.
Individuals with information they believe may be helpful are urged to call one of the following agencies: USFWS special agents in Mesa, Arizona, at (480) 967-7900, in Alpine, Arizona, at (928) 339-4232, or in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at (505) 346-7828; the WMAT at (928) 338-1023 or (928) 338-4385; AGFD Operation Game Thief at (800) 352-0700; or NMDGF Operation Game Thief at(800) 432-4263. Killing a Mexican wolf is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act and can result in criminal penalties of up to $50,000, and/or not more than one year in jail, and/or a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
Nothing to report
From Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (www.zctfofficialsite.org)
ZCTF Report 24th August 2015
CONSERVATION OR NOT?
We often hear of trophy hunters claiming to be conservationists and we find this difficult to understand. If this is the case, then there are 2 types of “conservation”.
There is the breeding of wild animals for hunting. This industry is supported by the hunting fraternity and animal breeders. The animals are bred en masse for the purpose of being inhumanely shot or hunted. Once these animals are captured, they can never be released back into the wild. In the case of lions, they are captured when they are cubs and at first, are sometimes used for customers to “walk with the lions”. Once they get too big for this, they are moved to another enclosure where they are offered to hunters to be shot. They are drugged and the hunter then shoots the lion. This is not really hunting because the lion doesn’t have a chance to escape. Some of them are used in canned hunting as well.
Landowners have gone into biodiversity, utilizing the land that was previously used for growing crops, for breeding these wild animals. They claim to have the right to give life to these animals by breeding them but in the end, they are shot with a rifle or a bow and arrow. To breed these animals and “play God” by giving life and then taking life away is cruel and inhumane especially in the case of the cat family, elephants and rhino. They are kept in cages and have no freedom. These so-called conservationists claim this industry is sustainable but it only benefits the landowners and trophy hunters, most of whom are millionaires.
They claim that once the animal has passed its breeding age, it’s no good and should be shot. This is the wrong conception. Humans are over-populating the world but when they are old, do we shoot them or do we look after them? Life is like a big chain and each species is like a link in the chain. Each link has a purpose and a job to do. When you start killing the animals, the chain gets shorter and shorter and this interferes with the circle of life.
Our National Parks is where the real conservation should be taking place. The animals should be free to roam and tourists can come and see them and photograph them. Hunting should be banned altogether. We, as humans, rely on some of the animals for medicines etc. The elephant is a mobile manure factory, helping to germinate seeds, some of which are used to make medicines. Every species has an important part to play and this is why hunting should be banned.
The local people who live around the wildlife areas should be stakeholders in the industry. They should be given a percentage of the money earned from tourism in exchange for taking care of the animals. At the moment, these people don’t get anything. We should be able to co-exist with the wildlife without the cruelty and inhumanity.
Animals can take care of themselves as they always have. When there are too many of one species, the predators kill them for food. This is the way it should be. They don’t need our help to keep their numbers down.
We have heard that some Americans teach their children to hunt as young as seven years old. This is a horrifying concept. When the child is annoyed at school, they could possibly shoot someone because they have been brought up that way. We appeal to children all over the world to please write to their governments to ask them to stop hunting. We have received some letters from children and these are very important to us.
Money talks – guilty walks.
18th September 2015
ELEPHANT SKINS SEEN
An informer reported to us recently that he was at Chase Motors Service Station, parked behind a one ton pick-up with Mashonaland Tobacco Company written on the door. The truck was loaded with something and the informant realised it was elephant skins so he took photos of it. This is quite suspicious because it could mean that elephant skins are being shipped to China in tobacco containers, possibly underneath the tobacco. The photos are attached.
We have received a report that 10 elephants were recently killed to the west of Tsholotsho by 2 top government officials. The elephants were decapitated and the tusks were taken.
PEOPLE KILLED BY ANIMALS
A tour guide was taking a group of tourists around Hwange National Park and they came across a pride of lions. We are not sure what happened but the tour guide was charged and killed by one of the lions.
In another incident, a hunter was hunting buffalo in the Mana Pools area. He shot a buffalo but didn’t kill him. The buffalo was tracked for 3 days and on the third day, they found him still alive. The buffalo attacked and killed the hunter.
We would like to warn people that these are wild animals and to be very careful when confronting them.
29 sable were captured recently, 2 of which were dead. They were captured in Zimbabwe near the Limpopo River, trying to make a crossing into South Africa without going through the border post. Theo Bronkhorst was arrested in connection with this but has since been released on $100 bail. He is still due to appear in court on the 28th September 2015 on the Cecil the Lion case.
Bronkhorst’s property in Zimbabwe was inspected and 27 live sable were found there as well as many animal skins. He is apparently being charged with this as well.
A rhino was killed in Midlands Conservancy, bringing the total killed this year to 6. 6 people have been arrested in connection with this.
From Defenders of Wildlife (http://www.defenders.org)
USA: Urgent: Help to protect our nation’s endangered species!
When it comes to protecting endangered wildlife, the demands of special interest groups have more weight with some in Congress than the majority of American voters. If you think that’s upsetting, imagine the thousands of animals that could die because of it.
Tell your Members of Congress to protect our wildlife by upholding the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from attacks in Congress:
There aren’t a lot of things that are 99 percent effective – but the ESA is one of them, in its ability to prevent the extinction of listed endangered species. So why would Congress want to attack one of our nation’s most effective and popular conservation measures, despite the 90 percent of American voters who support the ESA?
Because special interest groups don’t want to protect wildlife – they’re only interested in getting them out of their way, no matter what the cost.
And Congress is listening to them. More than 80 bills, riders and amendments have been proposed this Congress to undermine our nation’s most important environmental law.
This is a crucial time for wildlife. A record number of anti-ESA measures have been placed in the FY 2016 House and Senate bills that fund the Interior Department and other key wildlife agencies, threatening wolves and other endangered wildlife in America. These measures attempt to block or remove protections for individual species and undermine key sections of the ESA – like making it significantly more difficult for citizens to bring government agencies to court for failing to follow the law.
Urge your Members of Congress to oppose the record number of anti-ESA proposals in Congress:
The ESA has saved so many species on the brink of extinction – won’t you help us protect this bedrock of environmental law so that other imperilled species can be saved?
Wolves and Wolfdogs
Problem wolves in Lower Saxony?
Are the wolves living on the army training grounds in Munster (Lower Saxony, Germany) closing in on humans? A case was recorded by Uwe Martens, a voluntary wolf consultant, on 6 February 2015:
Mrs. Nowak was taking her and her neighbour’s dog for a walk in the forest when she saw seven wolves approaching her. As the dogs had not spotted the wolves yet she quickly put them on leash, and when the wolves came closer, she started talking to them to chase them off. But the wolves were unimpressed, and she turned around to walk away from them, which caused her quite some effort because her neighbour’s dog wanted to make contact with the wolves.
When the wolves moved in closer and the distance between her and them was just about 15 m she started screaming at them. The wolves stopped for a moment, but then continued to come closer, and this scenario repeated itself a few times. After about 15 minutes, the lady walked into a different direction while the wolves continued to follow the main path. She got into her car and drove to a neighbour in Amelinghausen where she suffered a nervous breakdown. An ambulance was called.
What had happened here?
The confrontation was without a doubt traumatic for this lady. Try to imagine seven wolves coming face to face with her at a distance of just 15 m, and she still has to control two powerful dogs that want to make contact with the wolves. However, she also emphasised that these were young wolves that were alert and curious but not aggressive. For the biologist and animal filmmaker Sebastian Körner, who has been familiar with the Munster pack for years, this fairly dramatic incident is nothing unusual, though, because dogs are a great attraction to young wolves, and this has nothing to do with aggression.
After the incident went widely unnoticed for ten days, the hunter’s magazine Jäger reported it online under the headline “Wolves hunt lady stroller”. Mrs. Nowak distanced herself from this report immediately, stating she only wanted to pass on the information and neither downplay nor dramatize it and again emphasised that the wolves did not show any signs of aggression. The Jäger magazine has become widely known for riding on the imaginary Piotr saga, according to which wolves are captured in the East and transported to Munster for release, and a journalistic revision of the irrational “Meißen survey” culminating in a tale of nine horses that died when they tried to run from wolves. The question is how a journal like the Jäger got its hands on the report by wolf consultant Uwe Martens?
The Jäger furthermore reported that on 26 January, a female jogger had to take refuge from the Munster wolves by scaling a deerstand. This particular pack of wolves was recently also shown in an Internet video filmed by a forest ranger, in which they are seen walking without any fear up and down in front of a car. It seems that the Munster wolves may have made only good experiences with humans. Have they perhaps been fed repeatedly by soldiers? Is this the first phase of habituation? Will the Munster wolves become problem wolves?
Although no aggressive interaction has been reported, alarm bells should start ringing if the monitoring bodies take their duties seriously. Monitoring on the army training grounds must be intensified, talks with the site administration must be initiated to stop and prevent any kind of feeding the wolves, and at least one wolf should be radio-collared to make monitoring easier. Measures of discouragement should also be contemplated.
Some wolf friends might think of all this as exaggerated, because wolves are shy and avoid contact with humans, or at least that is what is written in every flyer. But empty phrases and sayings are the last things needed in wolf management, and it would be better to assume the worst-case scenario instead of relying on “nothing bad will happen”. Wolves are always good for surprises, and sometimes also for unpleasant ones.
http://woelfeindeutschland.de/problemwoelfe-auf-dem-uebungsplatz-munster/, article by Ulrich Wotschikowsky in Aktuelles, 20.02.2015 (translated here from German and summarized)
Wolf Myths and Legends, Part 119
The Wolves Of Cernogratz
“Are they any old legends attached to the castle?” asked Conrad of his sister. Conrad was a prosperous Hamburg merchant, but he was also the one poetically disposed member of an eminently practical family.
The Baroness Gruebel shrugged her plump shoulders.
“There are always legends hanging about these old places. They are not difficult to invent and cost nothing. In this case there is a story that if anyone dies at the castle, all the dogs in the village and the wild beasts in forest will howl all night long. It would not be pleasant to listen to, would it?”
“It would be weird and romantic,” said the Hamburg merchant.
“Anyhow, it isn’t true,” said the Baroness complacently, “since we bought the place, we have had proof that nothing of the sort happens. When the old mother-in-law died last spring we all listened, but there was no howling. It is just a story that lends dignity to the place without costing anything.”
“The story is not as you have told it,” said Amalie, the grey old governess. Every one turned and looked at her in astonishment. She was wont to sit silently and prim and faded in her place at table, never speaking unless someone spoke to her, and there were few who troubled themselves to make conversation with her. Today, a sudden volubility had descended on her; she continued to talk, rapidly and nervously, looking straight in front of her and seeming to address no one in particular.
“It is not when any one dies at the castle that the howling is heard. It was when one of the Cernogratz family died here that the wolves came from far and near and howled at the edge of the forest just before the death hour. There were only a few wolves that had their lairs in this part of the forest, but at such a time, the ground keepers say, there would be scores of them, gliding about in the shadows and howling in chorus, and the dogs of the castle and the village and all the farms around would bay and howl in fear and anger at the wolf chorus, and as the soul of the dying one left its body, a tree would crash down in the park. That is what happened when a Cernogratz died at his family castle. But for a stranger dying here, of course no wolf would howl and no tree would fall. Oh, no.”
There was a note of defiance, almost of contempt, in her voice as she said the last words. The well-fed, much-too-well dressed Baroness stared angrily at the dowdy old woman who had come forth from her usual and seemly position of effacement to speak so disrespectfully.
“You seem to know quite a lot about the von Cernogratz legends, Fraulein Schmidt,” she said sharply; “I did not know that family histories were among the subjects you are supposed to be proficient in.”
The answer to her taunt was even more unexpected and astonishing than the conversational outbreak that had provoked it.
“I am a von Cernogratz myself,” said the old woman, “that is why I know the family history.”
“You a von Cernogratz? You?” came in an incredulous chorus.
“When we became very poor,” she explained, “and I had to go out and give teaching lessons, I took another name; I thought it would be more in keeping. But my grandfather spent much of his time as a boy at this castle, and my father used to tell me many stories about it, and, of course, I knew all the family legends and stories. When one has nothing left to one but memories, one guards and dusts them with especial care. I thought little when I took service with you that I should one day come with you to the old home of my family. I wish it had been anywhere else.” There was silence when she finished speaking, and then the Baroness turned the conversation to a less embarrassing topic than family histories. But afterwards, when the old governess had slipped away quietly to her duties, there arose a clamour of derision and disbelief.
“It was an impertinence,” snapped out the Baron, his protruding eyes taking on a scandalised expression; “fancy the woman talking like that at our table. She almost told us we were nobodies, and I don’t believe a word of it. She is just Schmidt and nothing more. She has been talking to some of the peasants about the old Cernogratz family, and raked up their history and their stories.”
“She wants to make herself out of some consequence,” said the Baroness; “she knows she will soon be past work and wants to appeal to our sympathies. Her grandfather, indeed!”
The Baroness had the usual number of grandfathers, but she never ever boasted about them.
“I dare say her grandfather was a pantry boy or something of the sort in the castle,” sniggered the Baron; “that part of the story may be true.”
The merchant from Hamburg said nothing; he had seen tears in the old woman’s eyes when she spoke of guarding her memories – or, being of an imaginative disposition, he thought he had.
“I shall give her notice to go as soon as the New Year festivities are over,” said the Baroness; “till then I shall be too busy to manage without her.”
But she had to manage without her all the same, for in the cold biting weather after Christmas, the old governess fell ill and kept to her room.
“It is most provoking,” said the Baroness, as her guests sat round the fire on one of the last evenings of the dying year; “all the time that she has been with us I cannot remember that she was ever seriously ill, too ill to go about and do her work, I mean. And now, when I have the house full, and she could be useful in so many ways, she goes and breaks down. One is sorry for her, of course, she looks so withered and shrunken, but it is intensely annoying all the same.”
“Most annoying,” agreed the banker’s wife, sympathetically; “it is the intense cold, I expect, it breaks the old people up. It has been unusually cold this year.”
“The frost is the sharpest that has been known in December for many years,” said the Baron.
“And, of course, she is quite old,” said the Baroness; “I wish I had given her notice some weeks ago, then she would have left before this happened to her. Why, Wappi, what is the matter with you?”
The small, woolly lapdog had leapt suddenly down from its cushion and crept shivering under the sofa. At the same moment an outburst of angry barking came from the dogs in the castle-yard, and other dogs could be heard yapping and barking in the distance.
“What is disturbing the animals?” asked the Baron.
And then the humans, listening intently, heard the sound that had roused the dogs to their demonstrations of fear and rage; heard a long-drawn whining howl, rising and falling, seeming at one moment leagues away, at others sweeping across the snow until it appeared to come from the foot of the castle walls. All the starved, cold misery of a frozen world, all the relentless hunger-fury of the wild, blended with other forlorn and haunting melodies to which one could give no name, seemed concentrated in that wailing cry.
“Wolves!” cried the Baron.
Their music broke forth in one raging burst, seeming to come from everywhere. “Hundreds of wolves,” said the Hamburg merchant, who was a man of strong imagination.
Moved by some impulse which she could not have explained, the Baroness left her guests and made her way to the narrow, cheerless room where the old governess lay watching the hours of the dying year slip by. In spite of the biting cold of the winter night, the window stood open. With a scandalised exclamation on her lips, the Baroness rushed forward to close it.
“Leave it open,” said the old woman in a voice that for all its weakness carried an air of command such as the Baroness had never heard before from her lips.
“But you will die of cold!” she expostulated.
“I am dying in any case,” said the voice, “and I want to hear their music. They have come from far and wide to sing the death-music of my family. It is beautiful that they have come; I am the last von Cernogratz that will die in our old castle, and they have come to sing to me. Hark, how loud they are calling!”
The cry of the wolves rose on the still winter air and floated round the castle walls in long-drawn piercing wails; the old woman lay back on her couch with a look of long-delayed happiness on her face.
“Go away,” she said to the Baroness; “I am not lonely any more. I am one of a great old family . . . “
“I think she is dying,” said the Baroness when she had rejoined her guests; “I suppose we must send for a doctor. And that terrible howling! Not for much money would I have such death-music.”
“That music is not to be bought for any amount of money,” said Conrad.
“Hark! What is that other sound?” asked the Baron, as a noise of splitting and crashing was heard.
It was a tree falling in the park.
There was a moment of constrained silence, and then the banker’s wife spoke.
“It is the intense cold that is splitting the trees. It is also the cold that has brought the wolves out in such numbers. It is many years since we have had such a cold winter.”
The Baroness eagerly agreed that the cold was responsible for these things. It was the cold of the open window, too, which caused the heart failure that made the doctor’s ministrations unnecessary for the old Fraulein. But the notice of passing in the newspapers looked very well – “On 29 December, at Cernogratz Castle, Amalie von Cernogratz, for many years the valued friend of Baron and Baroness Gruebel.”