Posts Tagged ‘wolves’

Oct12

Celebrate and Practice Wolf Awareness This Week and Beyond

By Bob Ferris
 
I get philosophical when riding my bike.  I got so philosophical the other night that I almost biked into an openinglactating_female_wolf_eagle_cap_odfw2 car door, but I digress.  A lot of my pedal-powered thinking of late has been directed at wolves, science and our various governments’ intellectual and moral responsibilities—with the Huckleberry Pack and the proposed Wolf and Coyote Derby near Salmon, Idaho both heavy on my mind.  
 
The Huckleberry Pack raises so many questions in these contexts.  Are state wildlife agencies culturally suited to recover species or are they often too stuck in a management mindset that can only think in terms of reducing or setting acceptable losses?  Moreover, how does an agency oriented towards maximizing revenue via the taking of wildlife and fish suddenly switch to being the champion of species recovery and increasing numbers?  It strikes me that is a little like expecting someone skilled with a wrecking ball or sledgehammer to suddenly become of finish carpenter—certainly they are both valued members of the building trades but they tend to attack their professions in different manners and attitudes.   And yes I know folks that are good at both in both arenas but exceptions should give us sensitivities rather than stop us from trying to deal with this core issue.
 
And in parallel to the above, what role does the very presence or existence of USDA Wildlife Services in this equation play in whether or not lethal control is chosen by the state as an approach? Is this “last resort” option too easy and available when Wildlife Services is just a phone call away and when the whine of ranchers and rural county commissioners becomes simply too shrill?   And what is a program that focuses on lethal control and population reduction with a business model that is dependent upon the existence of wildlife conflicts doing anywhere near a recovery program?  
Wildlife Services Paw Prints
 
Admittedly, my feelings about Wildlife Services are greatly influenced by that flat and bruised spot gained from beating my head against the program’s impenetrable wall that has protected it from science and scrutiny for more than 20 years.   Although they no longer allow pilots to paste wolf paw prints on the side of their planes people should always remember that Wildlife Services—in a former incarnation—was actually the instrument that caused the endangerment of wolves in the first place.
 
This is all—the agency culture, Wildlife Services and the undue influence of ranching and extreme trophy hunting interests—really a house of cards built from a deck that is badly stacked against the wolf.  This tenuous structure then sits on a table with shaky legs made of bad science, inappropriate expectations from livestock producers, agency opaqueness and myths about wolves and other predators that have lived for far too long. 
 
Moving on to the predator derby, as we look at science and federal responsibility in the context of this proposed wolf and coyote derby in Salmon, Idaho it literally makes the head spin, particularly when we understand that the BLM thinks that the impacts of this proposal are not that bad.  Really?  Setting aside the fact that the analyses are far from complete and ignore much in the current literature—and we will deal with that—but what about the deeper and more fundamental impact and implications of the federal government helping to perpetuate the mindset that predators are somewhat disposable and are unwelcome elements on the landscape?  
 
Regardless of how one feels about hunting and the consumption of meat, I think that most would agree that there is a fundamental difference between killing a deer or elk for food and shooting a wolf or coyote because you hate them.  Isn’t the federal government tacitly endorsing and financially enabling the misinformation and myths promulgated by the anti-wolf group by granting permission to conduct this economic activity on public lands?  Shouldn’t one of the roles of the federal government be to adhere to and promote science’s current understanding of the role of predators in any and all actions?  Shouldn’t the federal government be a corrective and progressive force that leads us into a brighter future rather than anchoring us to ideas disproven early in the last century?  
 
As we enter Wolf Awareness Week today, we should think about these questions and issues.  We should also think about what we can all do to make others more wolf aware.  We need to break these non-productive cultural barriers and cycles of myths and ignorance.  For me this awareness-raising exercise begins again in earnest when I pick up friend and writer Todd Wilkinson tomorrow to do our Two Talking Wolves Tour at nearly 20 venues in the Pacific Northwest.  Join us if you can and please think about what you will do during this important week and beyond to bring awareness and understanding for wolves and other predators.  See some of you soon.

 

Oct01

California Wolves: Waiting for Fulfillment

By Bob Ferris
 
People who know me understand that I am not a wolf fan per se.  I haven’t always read the latest book on a particularWolf Pup wolf and my house is not festooned with paintings and pictures of wolves.  I have worked on wolf recovery for more than 20 years, but wolves—in my mind—are simply one, albeit important, tool in our work to restore a semblance of wildness to our damaged landscapes.  And in North America, wolves thriving is a physical manifestation of our success.  
 
Yes wolves are remarkable and fascinating animals. And with each passing field season we find out more and more about their true roles as keystone predators and how wrong we were when we looked at these critters as valueless varmints and pests.  It was wrong for us to nearly wipe them out in the United States.  It is wrong for some to still continue this war.  And it is right—in an Aldo Leopold sense—for us to want to restore wolves when and where we can.   
 
I tend in all this not to anthropomorphize wolves.  Certainly I do compare humans and wolves on occasion to talk about a behavior such as dispersal and why wolf control is a bad idea in terms of letting teenagers loose on the landscape.  I also tend to quietly cringe a little when folks treat wolves like long lost friends.  All this said, I have named two iconic wolves during my career for good reasons.
 
The first was during a creative meeting at Defenders of Wildlife in Washington DC when the first wolves were denning after their reintroduction two decades ago and the first litter of pups was thought to have been born in Yellowstone.  I sat in on these meetings to make sure the fundraisers and marketers didn’t go too far afield of the science.  So they were likely surprised when I said: Why don’t we call the hypothetical first pup born in Yellowstone “Promise?”
 
The idea was adopted and for the next four or five years, folks all over the US were treated to stories in direct mail pieces about this wolf known as Promise.  And I lived—at times—to regret my rash outburst.  I would crisscross the country talking about wolves and invariably someone would ask: How is Promise doing?  Early on I would try to explain that Promise was not really a wolf per se but rather the idea of reproducing wolves and the promise that happy happenstance offered ecologically.  I was naming a process as much as an individual.  But soon I just gave up and for a while I just said Promise was doing fine.  And then Promise had pups.  I took a break from wolves before I would have been forced to say that Promise was probably dead. Death being just as much a part of nature as life.  
 
With the second wolf I named, Wandering Wanda, I felt more of need to name a specific wolf.  This was in part because I felt for her not having a name when her mate clearly did.  I kept having to talk about this internationally known couple as Journey or OR-7 and the female wolf without a collar who came from we-do-not-know-where.  She needed a name that reflected her story and once I had the wandering part—for her travels are equally as remarkable as her mate’s—the Wanda tag just simply fell into place.  And Wandering Wanda, wolf of the West was born.  
 
I get some sideways glances from those who know me and wish I’d kept to my practice of sticking to the science.  I’ll live with that.  I have never pretended to be perfect, consistent or predictable.  And I’ll have to admit that I would love to name just one more wolf.  That wolf is a little like Promise in that it will likely not be a specific wolf, but rather a pup born in darkness and likely not seen.  This pup is little like the pre-ordered novels you see on Amazon.com and I would like to call it “Fulfillment.”  
 
In my mind, Fulfillment should be the name of the first wolf pup born in California and I have been thinking about this pup for more than 20 years.  Fulfillment was in the back of my mind when we were trying to maximize the number of wolves brought down from Canada in 1996 so we would have the critical mass of animals needed for a successful reintroduction.  Fulfillment was also clearly on my mind when I was speculating about wolves coming back to California in 1999.  And he/she was one of the reasons that I was quick to argue that B-45 should be allowed to stay in Oregon in an opinion piece in the Oregonian and when Todd Wilkinson (see also Two Talking Wolves Tour) wrote about the situation at the same time.
 
Fulfillment is a little of a full circle name for me too.  It harkens back to the purpose-loaded handles of my Puritan ancestors like Temperance, Constance and Supply handed out during those times when wolves were first persecuted in the newly formed colonies and the first game law in the colonies was a bounty on wolves.   Fulfillment would demonstrate how far we have come from those dark and somber times (not that all the darkness is gone).
 
It also puts a punctuation point on recovery under the federal Endangered Species Act—not the way the US Fish and Wildlife Service is presently trying to interpret it but how it was originally envisioned and how it should really be in a society that embraces science and sincerely wants to reclaim wildness where we still can.  In this last sense we who “like it wild” all want fulfillment and I hope that we will all continue to work together to achieve that important goal.  We need Fulfillment.
 
 
P.S. We need "Satifaction" in the Southern Rockies too, in case some was thinking that I had forgotten.  
 

Sep26

Practicing for Two Talking Wolves

By Bob Ferris
 
I had a short talk with Todd Wilkinson yesterday morning. These chats are becoming more frequent as our book and lecture tour becomes more real and concrete.  We talk logistics but we also talk current events and philosophies. 2019372475 On some level we are like musicians trading guitar licks in preparation for a set of concerts after not playing together for decades.  The good news is that we are pleased and comfortable with the sound.
 
This morning we talked about wolves—huge surprise.  Specifically, we opined about the joyous Wyoming decision and the sadness and anger over the Toby Bridges incident—one playing off the other like bass and lead guitars.  The song that emerges is that many states are just not ready to be responsible for wolves—philosophically, culturally or operationally.  
 
The Wyoming wolf experience and the judge’s ruling reinforces the reality that many state fish and wildlife agencies—particularly those heavily influenced by timber, energy and trophy hunting interests—cannot tackle this important undertaking without serious revision and retooling.  This really runs deep with the wildlife commissions as well as the agencies they oversee. And the public clearly sees through the rhetoric to the underlying and often contradictory attitudes and actions.  
 
The physical manifestation of this wink-wink-nudge-nudge approach to post-federally listed wolves (that does not really fool anyone) is Toby Bridges of Missoula, Montana running over two wolves and bragging about it on Facebook.  Yes this is Montana and not Wyoming, but I cannot help but think that these seeds of wolf hatred would grow less easily and spontaneously if these state agencies did not create such fertile soil through their treatment of wolves and messaging.  
 
wolf-110006State agencies need to demonstrate that they are serious about wolf recovery prior to taking over the reins on this.  And that conversation cannot start with “this how we will manage wolves,” it has to start with “this is how we will continue recovery of wolves.”  Until this cultural shift happens we will continue to do this dance in states that want to manage a “problem” rather than demonstrating that they are serious about restoring an important ecological actor.  Hopefully at some point these states will realize that holding on to their out-of-date and biologically indefensible culture is the reason they spend time in court and why the global public sees them as a region full of folks just like Toby Bridges.  
 
Now we certainly see areas within wolf country try to distance themselves from the Toby Bridges’ of the world like Ketchum, Idaho recently did by passing a resolution urging co-existence with the wolf.  But for every “Ketchum” there seems to be an “Idaho for Wildlife” style derby or website.  
 
My sense is that those looking after the reputations and also tourism revenues of their respective states should take a moment to examine the public’s reactions to those diverse actions.  Some serious thinking about which public face leads to more filled chairs, beds and rooms is likely in order, as I have yet to see studies indicating that ignorance, hatred and illogical persecution of wildlife “sell” a particular tourist destination.  Moreover, I remain unconvinced that the actions of Toby Bridges, Idaho for Wildlife or others represent the majority sentiment in those states so the many are being financially penalized for the loud and out-of-scale voices of the few.
 
More later as we get ready to take the stage in less than a month.  Hopefully we will see many of you as we travel north from Ashland on the 14th of October towards BC.  Bring your friends and questions.
 
 

Sep18

Huckleberry Hounding

By Bob Ferris
 
I read an article recently that reported that when peace officers wore cameras happier outcomes resulted for the2019372475 police and for citizens.  I think of this now as our Legal Director Nick Cady readies himself for to meet along with our members of our coalition with officials in Washington about the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s handling of the situation with the Huckleberry pack.
 
In my mind also is a depredation report that I recently reviewed from Oregon (see below).  This well-reasoned and thorough report—available to the public—is one of the tangible results of our lawsuit and 18 months of negotiation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Cattleman’s Association.  It is part of the manifestation of the “video camera” we have installed on that wolf recovery program and hope to install in Washington too.  
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ODFW LIVESTOCK DEPREDATION INVESTIGATION REPORT
Investigation ID: 140905 Wallowa
Date Investigated: 9/5/2014
General Area: Chesnimnus Creek area ‐ public land
General situation and animal information: On 9/2/14 hunters found a dead adult cow on a ridge. Wolf depredation was suspected and on 9/5/14 ODFW was asked to respond. ODFW investigated the same day. Scavengers had removed muscle tissue and hide from the left side of the neck, the left hindquarter and the medial portion of the right hindquarter. All entrails were gone from the body cavity except for the rumen contents. The skeleton was intact. The entire cow was skinned during the investigation. The cow was estimated to have died 9/1/2014.
Physical evidence of attack by a predator: There were no signs of predation on the carcass or the scene. The majority of the hide, including most of the areas commonly bit by wolves, was present and had no bite wounds on them. There was a scrape from a large blunt object on the outside of the front right leg above the knee. There was diffuse premortem bruising and blood clots just below the scrape under the hide at the knee, but no damage into the muscle fascia. There was pocket of pus next to the right hind leg hamstring (rear flank above the hock), but no bruising or damage found to the hide or muscle nearby. No signs of a chase or attack were found in the area around the carcass.
Evidence that the predator was a wolf: N/A
Evidence of wolf presence near the time of the animal(s) death/injury: There was no wolf sign at or near
the carcass or a nearby pond.
Recent wolf depredation in the same or nearby area: One calf was confirmed killed by Chesnimnus wolves 5.5 miles away on 7/16/2014 and one calf was confirmed injured by Chesnimnus wolves 10 miles away on 8/14/2014.
Cause of death/injury: Confirmed Wolf Probable Wolf Possible/Unknown Other
Summary: The cause of death is unknown, though there were no signs that predation was involved.
*******
Now this comprehensive report indicated that a wolf was not at fault.  But had a similarly detailed report indicated that a wolf had killed the livestock I would have been satisfied as well—not as happy, but satisfied.  This is an example of the type of changes that we are trying to institute in Washington’s program.  It is all about being transparent and open about what you are doing, balancing rights with responsibility, and moving wolves towards recovery.  We wish our team well!
 
 
 
 
 

 

Sep17

Another mistake in managing wolf recovery

The Olympian
September 16, 2014 
 
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has mismanaged another conflict between an Eastern Washington 2008937557rancher and an important wolf pack. This time the department accidently killed the breeding alpha female of the Huckleberry pack, one of the state’s most stable and prolific packs. Gray wolves are an endangered species in Washington.
 
This is a catastrophic mistake that will likely lead to more conflict between the pack and livestock. The loss of a breeding adult in a pack is well-known to wildlife experts to cause chaos within the pack and unpredictable future behavior.
 
But the department’s mishandling didn’t end there. The agency knew the rancher had refused conflict avoidance resources from the DFW and Washington State University and proceeded to put 1,800 sheep in the wolf pack’s territory in difficult terrain without state-advised deterrents in place and protected by only a single herder and four dogs.
 
State wildlife officials surely knew this was a recipe for disaster.
 
When dead sheep started appearing on Department of Natural Resources-owned land, DFW should have been prepared to take quick and effective nonlethal deterrent action. It was not, and instead issued a secret kill order without notifying members of the Washington Wolf Advisory group in advance.
 
The DFW sharpshooter, working from a helicopter, was authorized to kill four of this year’s pups. But he mistakenly killed the pack’s alpha female.
 
Diane Gallegos, executive director of Wolfhaven International, located in Thurston County, said the conservation community is unanimous that the DFW and the rancher didn’t follow the state wolf plan and that the DFW shouldn’t have issued a kill order.
 
“This is an endangered species, and it is unconscionable that they accidently killed the breeding female of an endangered species,” Gallegos said. We agree.
 
In 2012, the DFW killed the entire Wedge Pack, even though it had failed to effectively implement the non-lethal measures required by the state’s wolf conservation management plan.
 
When ranchers engage in cooperative agreements with DFW, the state saves money, ranchers protect their livestock and wolves survive on other food sources.
 
Ranchers can also call on nonprofits, such as Conservation Northwest, to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock. Conservation Northwest is using private funds and staff to train and provide range riders to oversee livestock sharing range with wolves. They are currently engaged in five separate projects, and in three seasons have not lost any livestock to wolves.
 
After the Huckleberry blunder, some of the most passionate gray wolf advocates are questioning whether DFW has a tendency to favor the interests of livestock operators. Clearly, the agency should be doing more to protect an endangered species.
 
Hundreds of thousands of gray wolves once roamed the West. When their natural food sources dwindled after human settlements, they sometimes turned to livestock earning the ire of pioneers. By the middle of the last century, most wolves had been killed off.
 
Today, thanks to protected status, wolves are making a comeback. They are a natural resource that belongs to the people of this state.
 
Gov. Jay Inslee should order a review of the department’s wolf plan management, and state lawmakers must legislate a requirement that ranchers engage in good-faith cooperative agreements with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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Sep11

Female wolf is Northwest descendant: Trail cameras first spotted OR-7’s black female companion in May (an Excerpt)

By Lacey Jarrell
Klamath Falls Herald and News
September 6, 2014 
 
The mysterious female wolf that mated with OR-7 is a confirmed descendant of Northwest wolves.Potential OR-7 mate
 
According to a press release, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has received the results of scat samples sent to the University of Idaho for analysis. The samples, collected in Southwest Oregon in May and July, identified OR-7’s mate and two of the pair’s pups as wolves.
 
************
Cascadia Wildlands Executive Director Bob Ferris dubbed OR-7’s female companion “Wandering Wanda,” or just Wanda for short, in a June blog post for his organization.
 
“We got tired of calling her the uncollared wolf that came from nowhere,” Ferris said. “Wanda probably wandered as far as OR-7 and her story is probably just as remarkable as his.”
 
Ferris said although Wanda is just a nickname, he believes it’s a reasonable solution to talking about a well-known animal that doesn’t have anything to call it by. ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said biologists don’t name wolves; however, as a function of being collared, wolves are given an identification, such as OR-7’s. Dennehy said “OR” represents the state — Oregon — and “7” indicates he was the seventh wolf collared in Oregon.
 
 
 

Sep06

Huckleberry Hindsight

By Bob Ferris
 
The true character of any person, institution or machine becomes revealed by stress. You could think, for huckleberry_pupsinstance, that you were in good shape until you climb that steep hill and realize differently because your lungs are struggling, your heart beats like a drum and your head aches. For the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) the “steep hill” is wolf recovery. And as we look back at the Wedge and Huckleberry pack experiences we clearly see they are ill-equipped to handle this challenge or even see the most logical pathway—a rulemaking process—to remove themselves from this constant, consistent and well-deserved public beatings (1,2,3,4,5).
 
All bureaucracies fear change and generally need to be dragged kicking and screaming to any process that alters the way they do business, but even the most entrenched within this bastion of rigidity must understand that the current mode operation is not working. If forced to characterize the problem I would state it by saying the agency is deficient in comprehension, commitment and communications.
 
I am a wildlife biologist and have worked in the conservation arena for more than 30 years in various capacities. During my education I was deeply exposed to ecological theory and practice including an extensive examination of the evolution of ecological thinking influenced by folks like Aldo Leopold, Olaus Murie and others. Moreover, from my earliest education in the 1970s until now I have had the advantage of watching my profession evolve from an exercise in maximizing game and fish populations to an understanding of the value of maintaining ecological function and biodiversity. All this drives how I think and act in regards to conservation.
 
This above grounding allows me to easily recognize others with similar grounding and understanding. When dealing with WDFW’s upper management and my collective sense of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, I do not get this sense of intellectual resonance. Now granted the WDFW clings to the old-school and dated notion of maximization rather than managing for sustainability or resiliency, but even given that I do feel that there is much in the way of effort being exerted to swim upstream rather than float with the current.
 
Anyone who has been involved with wolf recovery understands that the successful pursuit of the activity requires commitment. Many states want control of this activity but lack the commitment and also do not grasp that management and recovery are fundamentally not the same thing. That is why many organizations—including Cascadia Wildlands—would prefer federal recovery efforts to state management. This is in part because we understand that these are different functions and approaches and because we have the negative examples of Idaho and elsewhere.
 
Communications with stakeholders are key to the success of any endeavor and wolf recovery is no exception. When done correctly communications engender connectedness and trust. When done poorly—as with the WDFW’s press release on the killing of the alpha female—they result in several thousand angry phone calls and e-mails to the Governor. That is a major public relations failure.
 
Why was this press release such a problem? Emerging science indicates more and more that maintaining pack structure is very important—which means it is critical to keep the alpha pairs. Our group and others were assured through various channels at WDFW that lethal control would be directed only towards young of the year and that the alpha pair would be preserved. Additionally, the WDFW, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Governor are engaged through various legal petitions and the Wolf Advisory Committee (WAG) either directly with Cascadia Wildlands or via our partners in the Pacific Wolf Coalition which makes us a stakeholder and gives us standing on this issue.
 
"The department’s wildlife veterinarian conducted a necropsy this week indicating the wolf was the pack’s breeding female."  WDFW press release September 4, 2014
 
So when we find out—basically by accident—that the alpha female was killed nearly two weeks after she died,lactating_female_wolf_eagle_cap_odfw2we are upset. When we find news of this event buried deep in what can only be characterized as a pro-ranching press release our blood pressure raises a little more. And when we see this monumental mistake mentioned offhandedly, in a manner that dismissively characterizes the role of this female, and that implies that the delay in notification is related to the need for a necropsy (the animal equivalent of an autopsy) we really have to question whether this agency takes its role in wolf recovery or it responsibility to public at all seriously. (Please see trail camera photograph of lactating female wolf taken during the summer in Oregon to understand how absolutely silly the necropsy defense is.)
 
The list goes on and on, but the answer to all of this is for WDFW and the Commission to finally wake up and undergo rulemaking. With rulemaking they would emerge with an approach that incorporates the understanding of all the stakeholders including those of the conservationists and ranching interests reflected in rules for wolves as well as for livestock producers. With rulemaking WDFW would also demonstrate that they are committed to a recovery pathway rather than one that simply manages. And with rulemaking lines of communications as well as mechanisms for communication would be created that would make sure that all parties had the information that they needed.
 
The public scrutiny and openness may seem like a pain but the agency has to ask themselves how is this current path working for them.  Because this public pressure will continue until WDFW makes meaningful changes in their program and their approach.
 
 
 
 
        

Aug28

With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolves

For Immediate Release, August 28, 2014
 
Contacts: 
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
Tim Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, (509) 775-2667
 
With Huckleberry Wolf Pack in Crosshairs, Conservation Groups Appeal to Gov. Inslee to Require Rules Limiting Killing of Washington’s Endangered Wolveshuckleberry_pups
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee today to reverse the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s denial of a petition asking for enforceable rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations. The petition seeks to limit when the Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves and require livestock producers to use nonlethal measures to protect their stock. Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon and are working to encourage ranchers to enact nonlethal measures; there, the number of depredations has decreased dramatically, and the state has not killed wolves in more than three years.  
 
“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Many, many questions about the circumstances that led the Department to secretly move to kill wolves in the Huckleberry pack this past weekend — on top of the disastrous killing of the Wedge pack in 2012 — highlight a clear need for such rules.”
 
In 2012 the Department killed seven wolves in the Wedge pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock. A similar situation is now taking place in southern Stevens County with the Huckleberry pack. The pack has been involved in multiple depredations of sheep, but there are many questions about the practices of the rancher in question. In particular, the rancher is grazing 1,800 sheep in highly dissected terrain in close proximity to a known wolf rendezvous site. Reportedly, the sheep have been protected merely by four guard dogs since a sheep herder quit roughly a month ago and was not replaced. Additionally, sheep carcasses have been left in the area, serving as a potential attractant to wolves.  
 
Once depredations were discovered, the Department advised the Commission that the sheep were being moved, a range rider was being deployed and that agency staff were on-site to help deter further depredations, but before these actions were fully implemented, the Department secretly put a helicopter in the air to shoot wolves. To date, one wolf has been killed and the sheep still have not been moved.  
 
“This is exactly the type of situation where, if strict, enforceable rules were in place to implement the state’s wolf plan, the sheep owner’s lax practices and the failure of the Department to follow through would have kept the Huckleberry pack safe from the knee-jerk kill order that has been issued against them,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands.
 
Last Wednesday the Department issued an order authorizing agency staff and the sheep owner to kill any of the Huckleberry pack wolves in the vicinity, instead of using rubber bullets or other hazing tools. It has also come to light that the Department failed to accept offers of assistance from a Washington State University wolf researcher to help get sheep carcasses out, implement more nonlethal measures, and help monitor the situation. It also failed to accept an offer from a conservation group of special predator-deterrence lights used elsewhere in conflict situations. Instead, without notice to the public or even to the stakeholder advisory group the Department consults with to implement the state’s wolf plan, the Department launched a secret aerial gunning campaign over the weekend with the aim of killing up to four of the pack’s wolves. One young wolf, which may have been a pup from this spring’s litter, was killed from the air and after more unsuccessful airtime, the helicopter was grounded but efforts continue by the Department to trap and euthanize up to three more wolves.
 
“When the Commission denied our new petition, one reason they gave for the denial was that wolf-livestock conflicts are complicated,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney with Western Environmental Law Center, “but that’s precisely why clear rules must be adopted. When the Department shoots from the hip, as they have these past two weeks in dealing with the Huckleberry pack situation, the outcome is tragic for the wolves and a public-relations nightmare for the Department.”
 
Conservation groups filed a similar petition in the summer of 2013 but withdrew it based on promises from the Department to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. A year later, with no negotiations having taken place, the Department gave notice to the Commission it was going to introduce its own, far-less-protective lethal wolf-control rule, leading the groups to refile their petition.
 
“The Department’s actions have been extremely controversial and we know that Gov. Inslee’s office has received thousands of emails and phone calls just this week since the helicopter sniper took to the skies,” said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group. “So we think he is fully aware of how much Washington residents care about the state’s endangered wolves and how badly it is needed for the Commission to adopt legally enforceable rules to prevent this from ever happening again.”
 
In 2011 the Commission formally adopted the state’s wolf plan, which was crafted in a five-year process with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. However, Commission and Department officials have publicly stated that they view the plan as merely advisory. Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy. According to the Department’s annual wolf report, Washington’s wolf population grew by only one wolf, from a population of 51 wolves to 52 wolves from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. 
 
The appeal to Gov. Inslee was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.  
Upon receipt of the appeal, the governor’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision.
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Aug26

Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest–Suit Follows Scientist’s Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened

For Immediate Release, August 26, 2014 :
 
Gabe Scott, Cascadia Wildlands, (907) 491-0856
Larry Edwards, Greenpeace, (907) 747-7557
David Beebe, GSACC, (907) 340-6888
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894
Joel Hanson, The Boat Company, (907) 738-1033
Chris Winter, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2725
 
Lawsuit Takes On Devastating Old-growth Logging Project in Tongass National Forest Suit Follows Scientist's Warning That Alexander Archipelago Wolves Are Threatened
 
PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND, Alaska— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today to stop the U.S. Forest Service’s Big Thorne timber project on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Big Thorne is by far the largest aawolfU.S. Forest Service logging project on the Tongass National Forest since the region’s two pulp mills closed about 20 years ago.
 
The lawsuit asks the court to find, among other things, that the federal government failed to heed research by Dr. David K. Person, a former Alaska Fish and Game wildlife biologist and foremost expert on Alexander Archipelago wolves. A formal declaration by Person says that Big Thorne would “break the back” of the ecosystem dynamic between the wolves, deer and hunters on the island.
 
The geographically isolated Prince of Wales wolf population is known by state and federal biologists to have dropped sharply in recent years to a low but undetermined number. If the project proceeds, more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest would be cut into nearly 150 million board feet of logs. This old-growth forest is a mix-aged group of trees, with the oldest approaching 1,000 years of age. What remains of it is increasingly important to wildlife.
 
“Prince of Wales Island is the most heavily logged part of southeast Alaska,” said David Beebe of the Greater SE Alaska Conservation Community (GSACC). “The Big Thorne project would add to the enduring impacts to wildlife from massive clearcuts and about 3,000 miles of logging roads on the island, created beginning in the 1950s.”
 
“Without enough old-growth winter habitat in the forest for shelter, deer populations plummet during deep-snow winters,” explained Gabriel Scott, Alaska legal director for Cascadia Wildlands in Cordova. “And without enough deer to go around, wolves and hunters are direct competitors. That never ends well for the wolf, or for hunters, because deer are the wolves’ primary prey. Big Thorne bites hard into necessary winter habitat.”
 
“The other Big Thorne shoe dropping on Archipelago wolves is more roads,” said Larry Edwards of Greenpeace. “With 3,000 miles of logging roads, a high road density, you get uncontrollable wolf poaching.” Big Thorne’s 46 miles of new roads would add to 580 miles in that project area already; another 37 miles would be reopened or reconstructed. “The Forest Service consistently circumvents its road density standard and guideline,” he said.
 
“Big Thorne is the antithesis of the ‘rapid transition’ out of Tongass old-growth logging the Forest Service promised over four years ago,” said the Center for Biological Diversity’s Randi Spivak. “Time’s up. It’s deeply irresponsible for the agency to proceed in the face of the need to end old-growth logging and of Dr. Person’s dire warning about continuing a failed land-management scheme that will devastate deer and wolf populations.”
 
The plaintiffs expressed outrage at the suppression of science the Forest Service and Parnell administration have committed with this project. Dr. Person first circulated his concerns within the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where he worked at the time. The comments were buried by the agency and by higher-level state bureaucrats to implement Governor Parnell’s “one voice” policy, which suppresses troublesome science in order to maximize logging.
 
Dr. Person’s strongly held concerns were discovered through public records requests made by the plaintiff organizations. Then, after confronting the Forest Service with the material in comments on the Big Thorne draft environmental impact statement, the agency simply ignored its existence in the final statement and project decision.
 
“That gambit by the two governments backfired,” said Scott. “The project was put on hold for nearly a year while a formal declaration by Dr. Person about Big Thorne’s impacts to deer and wolves was reviewed. The declaration, prepared after Person quit ADF&G, was filed by the plaintiffs in an administrative appeal of the August 2013 Big Thorne decision.
 
A special six-person Wolf Task Force with personnel from the Forest Service, ADF&G and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, reviewed the declaration. Opinion was evenly split, “unsurprisingly,” Scott said, given political pressure and the state’s one-voice policy. Breaking ranks was a Forest Service biologist who has done wolf research on the island. 
 
“Nonetheless, the Forest Service is again proceeding with the project rather than delve further into the ecology, revise the EIS, and reconsider the decision,” said Edwards. “We are suing to reverse that. And also to force revision of the Tongass forest plan into compliance with law that, if followed, would have avoided Prince of Wales’ ecological mess in the first place.”
 
“People from all continents and walks of life book passage on our educational cruises to see charismatic predators such as wolves in their natural habitat,” said Joel Hanson, conservation program director with plaintiff The Boat Company. “But with this timber sale, the Forest Service proves once and for all that it is blind to the wolf’s value as either a visitor attraction or vital component of a healthy coastal island ecosystem. It sees only trees, and pictures only the benefits of using forests as a commodity.”
 
“This case is the last line of defense,” said Chris Winter, at Crag Law Center who represents the conservation groups. “Otherwise, the Forest Service is going to log these species and the old-growth forests on Prince of Wales Island into oblivion.” Crag Law Center, in Portland, Oregon, is a public interest environmental law firm that works from Northern Alaska to Northern California.
 
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Aug24

Unfolding Huckleberry Pack Tragedy—We Have Been Here Before

By Bob Ferris
 
A little more than 20 years ago I started administering the wolf compensation program for Defenders of Wildlife.  huckleberry_pupsThat meant that every compensation claim during my nearly eight years with the organization had to go through me to get signed and then paid.  That also meant that I had to know the wolf side of the equation and understand the rancher or livestock owner's side as well.  So I look at the Huckleberry Pack (video of pups in 2012 below picture above right) situation through that lens and what I am seeing (and hearing) bothers me.
 

The lack of agency transparency and the clear bias towards the livestock producer’s rights rather than responsibilities is troubling in this situation involving an endangered species, but what irks me most is that I have written this piece before–twice in fact (1,2).  This is the Wedge Pack incidence played out again only with sheep instead of cattle and on private lands rather than public.   
 
Certainly Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has made progress in terms of trying to do what is right by the species under their care, but it is very much a work in progress and very far away from the model we see to the south in Oregon.  The agency has to do better and one way to get them to do that is to respectfully ask Governor Jay Inslee to intercede.  So please click the below button to take action on this critical wolf issue and also spread it around to other activists.  
 
 
 
 
 

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