Washington Wolves

Mar17

Official 2017 Washington Wolf Count Released

out_5_wolf_trail_cam_t1140The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released its official 2017 wolf count this past Friday.  You can find the report in full here, but fourteen wolves were killed by humans and the overall state population grew by just seven.  Concerns over high levels of human-caused wolf mortality are one of the reasons Cascadia Wildlands is challenging the state's "lethal protocol" that permits agency officials to kill wolves in response to livestock depredations. You can read more about that lawsuit here.

Dec11

Reward Boosted to $20,000 in Search for Killer of Two Washington Wolves

For Immediate Release, December 11, 2017

Contact:  

Nick Cady, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org 

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org
        

Reward Boosted to $20,000 in Search for Killer of Two Washington Wolves

Groups Push for Increased Federal Law Enforcement

SEATTLE— The Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands today increased a reward to $20,000 for information leading to conviction in the killing of two wolves last month in northeast Washington. 

The groups also called for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step up its law enforcement efforts to investigate poaching incidents in both Washington and Oregon.

“Poaching wolves or other wildlife is a deplorable crime,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “We need people to come forward and help put a stop to the killing of these endangered animals.”

The two wolves killed were part of the Smackout and Dirty Shirt packs. Information on their loss and a $10,000 reward was issued by another conservation group, Conservation Northwest, on Saturday. These killings follow the poaching of three other Oregon wolves over the past several months. Wolf populations in both Washington and Oregon remain small and poaching could have a serious impact on their continued recovery.

“Poaching represents a real threat to the recovery of wolves in Washington and elsewhere on the West Coast,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “It’s time for federal and state law enforcement to meaningfully act and catch and prosecute these lawless poachers.”  

Following a government-sponsored campaign of poisoning, shooting and killing, wolves were wiped out from all lower 48 states except a small corner of northeast Minnesota. With protection under the Endangered Species Act, wolves have made a comeback in portions of their range. They began returning to Washington and Oregon in the past 10 years or so, now numbering between 100 and 150 animals in each state.       

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion. Join our movement today.
 

Oct18

The Deja Vu of Killing Wolves

WOLF_OR17_odfw_Photo taken July 6 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack. Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pupsPhoto courtesy of ODFWby Nick Cady, Legal Director

Late last month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it would shoot up to four wolves in the Harl Butte pack.  Again. In August, following conflicts between wolves and livestock in the same area, the Department killed another four wolves from the same pack

The Harl Butte territory is no stranger to conflicts between wolves and livestock.  This is the same area formerly occupied by the Imnaha pack along the Imnaha River near Oregon's border with Idaho.  The Imnaha pack was wiped out last year by the Department, after numerous other kill orders over several years. 

It is important to keep in mind that the number of wolf/livestock conflicts remains incredibly low when compared to livestock animals lost to coyotes, cougars, and wild dogs. It shrinks to insignificance when compared to the number of animals that die from the weather, disease, traffic accidents, or good ole-fashioned cattle rustling.  Regardless, killing wolves remains the persistent agenda of numerous commercial lobbyist groups in the Pacific Northwest, and our Fish and Wildlife Departments all too often oblige.

It is also critical to remember that ranchers are getting compensated, at full market value, for any livestock they lose as long as they show they attempted to proactively reduce conflict between wolves and livestock.  That generous cash program is subject to ongoing investigations of questionable payments being made to some of these producers.

The State's wolf killing is designed to prevent future depredations, but we are experiencing livestock losses repeatedly in the same areas.  The same story is playing out in Washington, where the State has killed wolves three separate times at the behest of the same livestock producer in the same region. The question remains: Why are we forced to kill wolves in the same areas, again and again?

The Cattlemen's Associations contend it is because the wolves have developed a taste for beef and teach the ways of the burger to their pups.  But Oregon and Washington continue to wipe out entire packs. Depredations resume the next year when new wolves move into the vacated habitat.   

Oregon Wolf August 14It is not because beef is delicious that wolves are targeting cows. Pervasively across the West there are areas where wolves and livestock are in close proximity without conflicts. If wolves prefer beef, there would be conflicts any place where wolves and livestock interact. But this is not the case.

Instead, it appears to be a product of there being too many cattle on the landscape.  Rob Klavins, a close friend and employee for Oregon Wild, lives out in this Harl Butte/Imnaha area where he and is wife run the Barking Mad B&B (check it out if you're ever near Enterprise). He maintains a series of wildlife cameras on public lands where Harl Butte and Imnaha wolves were regularly seen. When talking with him about this recent kill order, he shared that in reviewing his tapes, of all the different wildlife that pops up on his motion activated cameras, well-over 90% are cows.  

Is it that wolves are eating cows because bovine are the only viable prey species left in that area?  When cattle are intensively grazed in the specific areas, they drive out the deer and elk that otherwise might comprise the majority of a wolf's diet. This also drives the herds of deer and elk down into agricultural lowlands, where they munch on farmers' fields. This can lead to frustrated farmers poaching loads of elk.  It seems likely there are simply too many cattle grazing in these particular areas during the grazing season, which is driving out other game.  

Now I know you are saying to yourself, "wait, commercial agriculture overusing a resource? This would never happen."  But just maybe this is what is occurring.

Regardless of why wolf-livestock conflict continues in these particular areas, shooting wolves in response to depredations simply is not a long-term solution. It is a money-pit and bad policy.  Every year our Fish and Wildlife Departments will continue to shoot wolves, spending tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each kill order, in response to a few dead cows, only to see it recur time and time again.  

real niceAnd yet the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is going broke, or is already broke.  They increasingly rely on general fund taxpayer dollars. The Department is coming to the conservation community with its hat in its hand.  The conservation community works with the Department to recover habitat and protect non-game species that include many of the imperiled species in the state on the verge of extinction.  The conservation community wants to work with the Department on these species.

However, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spends 2% of its funding on non-game species, even though these comprise 88% of the species in the state. Only three of the agency's 1,200-person staff work on non-game species. Their requests for money remind me of  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where cousin Eddie promises to get you something real nice with the Christmas gift money he borrows from you, but you know that gift is going to be a hastily dug trench filled with dead carnivores. 

It is past time for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission to deal with this issue in a direct manner, instead of bending like a willow to interest groups.  But this will not happen on its own! Oregon's wildlife needs strong leadership from Governor Kate Brown. She appoints the Fish and Wildlife Commission that makes the calls on these issues, and she needs to send a clear message to this floundering agency and its Commission.  

Give Governor Brown a call: (503) 378-4582. If you like wolves, tell her to stop killing them.  If you decry government waste and hate to watch the Department endlessly dump public money into a problem of its own creation that it has no intention of solving, give her a ring.  If you enjoy the film Christmas Vacation, let her know.  Governor Brown was just awarded the Environmental Champion of the Year Award by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Let's see if she will put her money where her mouth is.

Sep25

Cascadia Lawsuit Challenges Wolf Killing in Washington!

Lawsuit Challenges Washington Wolf-killing Protocol

Injunction Sought Against Further Killings After State Nearly Wipes Out Three Packs for One Livestock Owner

out_5_wolf_trail_cam_t1140

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit today seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its director, James Unsworth, from killing any more state-endangered wolves.

Today’s suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, asserts that the agency’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf advocate. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

In June of this year, Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol provided for the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years. As the lawsuit notes, the protocol was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable. This is a state agency spending taxpayer dollars.”

The department has since relied on the protocol to order killing of wolves from two packs, with two wolves from the Smackout pack and one wolf from the Sherman pack killed to date. At the time of the Sherman pack kill order, only two wolves could be confirmed as comprising the pack, one of which the department has now killed. The department has temporarily paused killing wolves from both packs, but will resume if there are more livestock losses.

Overall, since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 16 percent of the state’s current confirmed population of 115 wolves. Fifteen of the wolves killed since 2012 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner; those kills have now led to the near eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Profanity Peak pack last year, and the Wedge pack in 2012. The rancher in question has been a vocal opponent of wolf recovery and has historically refused to implement meaningful nonlethal measures designed to protect his livestock from wolves.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 20 confirmed packs as of the end of 2016.

But wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress. Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable. Given the continued endangered status of wolves, the state and livestock operators should stick to nonlethal methods as the sole means for reducing loss of livestock to wolves.

“We appreciate that many livestock owners already are using nonlethal methods, said Weiss, “since the science shows such methods are more effective anyway.”

Plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorneys from the law firm Lane Powell.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. Recognizing the ecological importance of wolves, bears and other carnivores, the Center uses science-based advocacy to defend these magnificent animals from persecution, exploitation and extinction. Find out more about our Carnivore Conservation campaign here.

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

Jul20

Washington to Kill Wolves

WDFW NEWS RELEASE 
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091 
http://wdfw.wa.gov/

July 20, 2017

Contact: Donny Martorello, (360) 902-2521

WDFW plans to take lethal action to change wolf pack's behavior

OLYMPIA – State wildlife managers plan to remove members of a wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Stevens County since 2015.

Jim Unsworth, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorized his staff to take lethal action against the Smackout wolf pack, based on four occasions where wolves preyed on livestock since last September.

Unsworth said that action, set to begin this week, is consistent with Washington's Wolf Management Plan of 2011, which authorizes WDFW to take lethal measures to address repeated attacks on livestock.

It is also consistent with the department's policy that allows removing wolves if they prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period, said Donny Martorello, WDFW's lead wolf manager.

That policy was developed last year by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, which represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.

"The purpose of this action is to change the pack's behavior, while also meeting the state's wolf-conservation goals," Martorello said. "That means incrementally removing wolves and assessing the results before taking any further action."

The Smackout pack is one of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. At that time, the pack was estimated to consist of eight wolves, but it has since produced an unknown number of pups.

Martorello noted that the state's wolf population is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.

The pack's latest depredation on livestock was discovered July 18 by an employee of the livestock owner who found an injured calf with bite marks consistent with a wolf attack in a leased federal grazing area.

During the previous month, the rancher reported to WDFW that his employee had caught two wolves in the act of attacking livestock and killed one of them. The department has since determined that those actions were consistent with state law, which allows livestock owners and their employees to take lethal action to protect their livestock in areas of the state where wolves are no longer listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Over the past two months, radio signals from GPS collars attached to two of the pack's members have indicated that those wolves were frequently within a mile of that site during the previous two months, Martorello said.

"This rancher has made concerted efforts to protect his livestock using non-lethal measures," Martorello said. "Our goal is to change the pack's behavior before the situation gets worse.

Since 2015, WDFW has documented that wolves have killed three calves and injured three others in the same area of Stevens County.

Gray wolves are classified as "endangered" under Washington state law, but are no longer protected in the eastern third of the state under the federal Endangered Species Act. The state's wolf plan sets population recovery objectives and outlines methods for minimizing wolf-livestock conflicts

For more information on WDFW's action, see Update on Washington Wolves at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/.

WDFW's Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/livestock/action_criteria.html.

Persons with disabilities who need to receive this information in an alternative format or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact Dolores Noyes by phone (360-902-2349), TTY (360-902-2207), or email (dolores.noyes@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/reasonable_request.html.

Aug04

Wolves Being Killed in Northeast Washington

For Immediate Release, August 3, 2016

Contacts: 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.orgAmaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org

Wildlife Agency to Kill Wolves in Northeast Washington
Members of Profanity Peak Pack To Be Targeted in Ferry County

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced late today they will kill members of the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County. The kill order was issued following investigations concluding the wolves recently killed three calves and a cow and that three other calf deaths are probable wolf kills. All of the losses occurred on public lands grazing allotments, in territory occupied by the Profanity Peak pack. The decision was made under the guidelines of a new lethal removal protocol that was agreed to this spring by the state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and representatives from the ranching, hunting and conservation community.

“We appreciate the agency’s use of nonlethal measures to try to prevent losses of both livestock and wolves, and are glad to hear the ranchers in question have been working cooperatively with the state, but we are deeply saddened that wolves are going to die,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are not part of the advisory group but have made clear to the group that we don’t support the killing of the public’s wildlife on public lands.”

According to the protocol agreed to by the advisory group, lethal removal of wolves is considered after four confirmed depredations in one calendar year, or six confirmed depredations in two calendar years. The protocol also requires that the affected ranchers have employed sanitation measures to avoid attracting wolves to livestock carcasses and have tried at least one proactive measure to deter conflicts with wolves at the time the livestock losses took place. 

“It’s tragic to see wolves killed, and I hope we continue to see growing wolf populations in Washington despite the yearly culling that inevitably takes place, said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands.  “I do not believe it makes sense to spend taxpayer dollars to kill wolves in remote roadless areas on public lands.”

“The decision to kill wolves is always a sad event, and one that should not be taken lightly” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “But it is even harder to stomach when that decision relates to wolves on our publicly owned lands.”

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems.  We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia Bioregion.  We like it wild.  Join us at: www.cascwild.org 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest nonprofit law firm. WELC combines legal skills with sound conservation biology and environmental science to address major environmental issues throughout the West. WELC does not charge clients and partners for services, but relies instead on charitable gifts from individuals, families, and foundations to accomplish its mission. www.westernlaw.org

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Dec21

Huge Legal Victory for Washington’s Wolves

For Immediate Release December 21, 2015
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Timothy Coleman, Kettle Range Conservation Group, 509-675-3556, tcoleman@kettlerange.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-525-5087, mellgren@westernlaw.org
 
Conservationists deal blow to Wildlife Services in landmark WA wolf case
Court rejects indiscriminate wolf killing
 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In response to a challenge brought by a coalition of conservation organizations, a federal court rejected plans to escalate cruel wolf killing in Washington state by the secretive federal program dubbed "Wildlife Services." Federal District Judge Robert Bryan held that Wildlife Services should have prepared a more in-depth environmental analysis of the impacts of its proposed wolf killing activities, finding the program’s cursory environmental assessment faulty because the proposed actions would have significant cumulative impacts that are highly controversial and highly uncertain.

Wildlife Services is a controversial program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service responsible for killing millions of wild animals every year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes and birds, with almost no oversight or accountability.

Judge Bryan vacated the program’s analysis, stating "Wildlife Services shall not take any further wolf management actions in Washington under the proposed action alternative, but shall observe the status quo in place prior to the environmental assessment and [finding of no significant impact]."

"Wildlife Services has long asserted that it need not comply with our nations’ federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, but this decision rejects those arguments and requires Wildlife Services to comply with all federal laws, not just those it finds convenient to comply with," said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney John Mellgren.

A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. The program employs incredibly cruel tools to kill wildlife including aerial gunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons.

"It is long past time that we base wildlife management decisions on the best available science, not on antiquated anti-wolf rhetoric and myth," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. "Wildlife Services needs to come out of the shadows, update its analyses and adopt practices in keeping with modern science and values about the ethical treatment of animals."

The environmental assessment prepared by Wildlife Services failed to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claimed that killing wolves reduced wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The environmental assessment also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

"This decision is so incredibly encouraging," said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. "We have been working for over a decade to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its blind, reckless lethal control programs. This decision paves the way for meaningful analysis of the program’s impacts and hopefully a meaningful look at whether or not this wolf killing is worth it."

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ wolf killing program firsthand. In August 2014, Wildlife Services snipers shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

Wildlife Services also "advised" the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after predation of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

"The Court made a wise and prudent decision that safeguards the legal right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name," said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. "The so-called Wildlife Services cannot just grant itself authority to execute an endangered species absent the public interest or best available science."

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. According to WDFW, Washington currently has at least 68 wolves in 16 packs.

The organizations, Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and the Lands Council were represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.

A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
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Mar03

Cascadia Challenges Wildlife Services in Washington

 March 3, 2015

Conservationists Challenge Wildlife Services’ Authority to Kill Wolves in Washington

Wildlife Services Activities Threaten Wolf Recovery, Healthy Ecosystems

Olympia, Wash. — Today, the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of five conservation groups, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services program challenging its authority to kill endangered wolves in Washington state.

OR11_odfwThe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires USDA to prepare an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) addressing the effects of employing Wildlife Services to kill endangered wolves in Washington. The agency completed a less-detailed Environmental Assessment (EA), but the document contains significant gaps and does not address specific issues that will significantly impact wolves and the human environment. NEPA review is designed to ensure all environmental impacts are analyzed and that the public has an opportunity to comment, and therefore influence, activities conducted using public funds.

The EA prepared by Wildlife Services fails to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The EA also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.

"Wildlife Services’ activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful," said John Mellgren, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. "The science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic animal and it needs to stop."

Wildlife Services is a stand-alone federal extermination program under USDA that kills roughly 4 million animals per year, including wolves, grizzly bears, otters, foxes, coyotes, and birds—with almost no oversight or accountability. A 2013 internal audit revealed that Wildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated state and federal laws. Concerns about the program’s practices and effectiveness are the focus of an ongoing investigation by the USDA’s Inspector General.

"Wildlife Services has a horrendous track record of animal abuse, missing funds, poor or nonexistent policy, and misinformation that has inflamed rural areas throughout the Pacific Northwest," said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. "This program has no place in Washington where the people have tasked the state’s agencies to facilitate wolf recovery and conservation."

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ recklessness firsthand. Last August, Wildlife Services’ snipers mistakenly shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The killing was in direct violation of explicit instructions from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to not kill either of the pack’s alpha members. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

"Let’s put this issue of wolf management into the proper context," said Timothy Coleman, executive director of Kettle Range Conservation Group. "There are just three breeding female wolves in all of Washington, so why is the federal government’s Wildlife Services and their sharpshooting snipers in Washington killing and trapping wolves? Certainly the public should have more of a say when such decisions are made."

Wildlife Services also ‘advised’ WDFW in the contentious 2012 killing of Washington’s Wedge wolf pack. In that instance, WDFW killed seven wolves after depredations of livestock on public lands, despite the rancher’s failure to take sufficient action to protect his cattle.

"Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best available science strips the public of an opportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impacting the health of ecosystems on which we all depend," said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. "It’s past time that the dark practices of Wildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent public process."

"Wildlife Services has a long, well-documented history of ignoring not only state and federal laws, but also its own policies," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. "It is egregiously out of control, and its methods are barbaric and unscientific."

Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The species began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and the wolf population in the state has grown to 13 confirmed packs. Despite this growth, wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats—including the threat of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.

Western Environmental Law Center is representing the following organizations in the lawsuit: Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense, and The Lands Council.  Find a copy of the complaint here.

 

Dec19

Lethal Control of Predators: Of Science, Scapegoats and Icebergs

By Bob Ferris
 
I have been looking at the issue of lethal predator control for many, many years and the longer I look at it and 2019372475the more science I read and assimilate, the more convinced I become that lethal control of predators is more punitive than practical.  It is an activity and a supporting attitude that simply does not wash in the light of what we know and have tested. 
 
I know some will argue that lethal control is still needed for situations of chronic livestock depredation and where predators are dampening prey or endangered species recovery.  But even in these instances our opting for trigger, trap or poison is really more about our inability to admit that we are often raising the wrong animals in the wrong way in the wrong places and also our reluctance to recalibrate our expectations in regards to our ability to harvest, destroy and neglect our natural resources at unsustainable levels without consequence. 
 
Three wolf examples come to mind when I think of prime illustrations of the above: the Huckleberry pack control action, continual calls for wolf control in the Lolo National Forest to save elk and the killing of wolves in Alberta to save caribou. 
 
With the Huckleberry incident in eastern Washington—which we have written about repeatedly (1,2,3)—you  basically have too many of the wrong animal (i.e., sheep including rams) placed in poor habitat with little or no supervision near an area of known wolf activity.  Certainly livestock losses are regrettable and we have sympathy for the rancher who has to move his or her animals to alternative pasture, but the question hovers: Was this choice of stocking levels, location and inattention to non-lethal alternatives prudent given the situation?  One thing to think about in this context is the idea that anyone can leave roughly $180,000 worth of assets on any landscape without providing some measure of presence or protection from mishap.  In any event, this set of circumstances seems to not be a compelling argument for lethal control of a species recently released from federal protection and still under Washington State protection. 
 
The elk population decline in the Lolo has been offered up far too often as the poster child for the need for wolf control regardless of the fact that the decline started long before wolves came on the scene.  And biologist after biologist has pointed to this decline being associated with habitat succession (i.e., open areas transitioning to brush land and then to forests).    Certainly wolves are causing this decline to linger longer but at the end of the day this elk population is still habitat limited and will remain so as the availability of early seral habitat continues to decline.  Elk are creatures of disturbance and when the logging is done or fires put out the ticking clock of transition from good elk habitat to bad starts.  The State of Idaho is pursuing lethal control of wolves in this area but they are unlikely to get any awards for sound science or innovative management out of this endeavor (see here).  
 
Woodland caribou in Alberta are in terrible shape and getting worse (1,2,3).  The main reason for this decline is the explosion of tar sand development as well as tradition gas and oil development in the province.  Yet when searching for solutions, the province did not look to restrict fossil fuel operations, set up refugia or restore habitat they felt the “logical” approach was to cull wolves.  I suppose on some level this illogical of wolf culling is easily dwarfed when looking at the totality of this tar sands lunacy where wilderness is being sacrificed so we can accelerate climate change, ocean acidification and a host of other ills that compromise our ecological support systems.  
 
Alberta’s wolf cull strategy is not only wrong-headed but it may turn out to be an ironic choice as wolf biologist Robert Hayes reported in his excellent book Wolves of the Yukon that smaller packs had to kill more prey per capita because they lack the numbers to effectively protect their kills from crows, ravens and other scavengers.  Hayes’ observations are illustrative of the problem faced by lethal control proponents who only look at the obvious iceberg tip of predator-prey relationships and do not see the more important aspects below the surface that are not seen by the casual observer.  
 
The latest nail in the coffin of the lethal control illogic is Rob Wielgus’ recent findings that culling wolves likely does more harm than good.  This is solid and well-reviewed work, but it is by no means unique in sending the message that lethal control is generally a flawed approach.   In 2012, for instance, the American Society of Mammalogists issued a strong letter to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—where USDA Wildlife Services is housed or hidden—heavily criticizing the program’s overdependence on and use of lethal control.  And investigative journalist Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee wrote an excellent set of articles examining problems with USDA Wildlife Services as well as lethal control in 2012 (1,2,3,).
 
At this point there are likely some who are asking: If science has shown that lethal control of predators—particularly via random culling programs—is generally ineffective or often deleterious then why does it continue? The answer to this question is that livestock producers, energy developers, and timber interests want access to natural resources on public lands and the presence of predators—particularly legally protected predators—often inhibits their ability to fully exploit and derive maximum benefit from these public lands.  Yes there are groups that also support predator control, but if you scratch the surface of most of the groups with anti-wolf or anti-predator leanings you do not have to look too hard to also find connections between those groups and these industries either through funding, governance or association (see here).  
 
Moreover, for wildlife managers, scientists and politicians, there is real peril in questioning the lethal control model.  Both Rod Sando (1) in Idaho and Ken Mayer in Nevada (1,2) lost their jobs as directors of their state wildlife agencies, in part, because they took a principled and scientifically defensible position on the lethal control of predators.  Likewise Dr. Wielgus’ work—before it was even completed—was attacked and his objectivity questioned by the livestock producers’ front group the Science First Coalition (which has since taken down their website).  And Congressman Peter DeFazio who has long championed reform of Wildlife Services and wolf recovery as well as opposing predator derbies has taken considerable lumps from the above crowd.  Being principled is a perilous course and frequently comes at a price.  
SCCA Talking Science
I met with the leadership of Wildlife Services in DC roughly 20 years ago armed with a stack of literature that questioned the efficacy of lethal control actions particularly as they applied to coyotes and we also talked some about wolves.  The agency and the approach has changed some since then because of public pressure, legal actions and congressional attention, but only cosmetically such as not stenciling an airplane with a wolf silhouette each time you kill one.  Lethal control continues not because there is a lack of science or inadequate evidence of problems but because the myths and fear continue to be promulgated by the same interests and industries (see above).  
 
As you enter the holiday season and think about this coming year and those in the future, please take some time to think about how you can help all of us turn the tide on this monumental effort to bring facts and science to wildlife management and public perceptions—particularly in rural areas.  We need to break the strangle-hold and undue influence these industries have on our wildlife agencies, public lands policy and the minds of our children.   Our future and the future of what we hold dear depends on it, so please support groups that work in this area, vote for candidates who embrace science, and educate where you can with fact-based and scientifically defensible arguments.  
 
 
Dec04

Jamie and the Amazing Wolf Hatred Echo Chamber

By Bob Ferris
WARAW Billboard
In my twenty-five years working on wildlife issues I have rarely seen anything as reprehensible as the above billboard slated to be displayed in Spokane, Washington.  Those involved should be ashamed not only for the content and imagery but also for being part of so transparent a propaganda device.  
 
What we see above is part of what is known as an “echo chamber.”  How does it work?  Someone or a small group wants a certain message to reach the public so they put it out and then bounce it off other like-minded groups until it is amplified and appears larger and more meaningful than it really is.  Volume in this instance is meant to correlate with truth.  Often times with each “bounce” the message gets shriller too as we see above.  And when there are not enough groups to bounce off to have the appearance of diversity you manufacture those groups—Washington Residents Against Wolves (WARAW) and the Science First Coalition are good examples of this deceptive strategy.
Eastern Washington Anti-Wolf Echo Chamber
The echo chamber associated with the billboard consists of the above groups and was likely orchestrated by Jamie Henneman who is the communications guru or spokesperson for many of the groups spouting similar messages—including WARAW.  When you look at the members and leaders we start to see many familiar names including the Dashiell brothers—Dave of Huckleberry pack fame and Don who signed the anti-wolf resolution coming out of Stevens County.  These gentlemen are also active in Cattle Producers of Washington and the Science First Coalition respectively.  And so the net gets more entwined and the actual constituency smaller as original voices are separated from the resulting echoes. 
Education and Certificates
When you look at Ms. Henneman’s profile on LinkedIn, the story on this becomes clearer.  Although she has worked for small market newspapers, her proof-reading skills (see above) and ethical behavior are not those of a trained journalist.  What we do see here and what is consistent with this “echo chamber” approach is her coursework at the on-line institution American Military University which includes a course entitled Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation (INTL653).  And if you visit the current syllabus for that course you will see that this course covers important topics such as “dirty tricks.”  Add that to her emphasis on social media and the sudden explosion of websites and Facebook pages—all with anti-wolf messaging—in this sector makes sense.
 
"Hedquist noted that the parasitic disease that affects an estimated 2–3 million people and results in an annual monetary loss of over $750,000,000 worldwide. Incidents of human infection increase as exposure to the canine feces that carry the parasite also increases. The Centers for Disease Control and every state where wolves are present, except Washington, warns the public of the dangers via public information campaigns." WARAW Press Release
 
The intemperate and misleading comments by Luke Hedquist in the press release associated the launch of the above billboard are somewhat surprising as he—in the absence of anything resembling any apparent grounding in Science First Coalition New Membersscience beyond his high school  coursework—is suddenly expounding authoritatively on a very complicated issue of parasite epidemiology.  It is not surprising that he got it wrong (see Little Worms, Big Lies) Moreover, his use of global figures is purposely done to induce panic when the reality is that hydatid disease in humans is extremely rare in North America and the incidence in the lower 48 states is so rare that individual cases generally rate a journal article and typically are about people coming to the US with the disease.  But this constant overstatement of risk is what we have come to expect from this fear machine.
 
All in all, the participants in this broader effort to promulgate biological bigotry in eastern Washington from the various cattlemen’s associations and these shadow “groups” should take some time to see where their moral compasses are pointed, because there is nothing about this complicated web they have constructed that bespeaks of integrity, principle or much in terms of stand-up character.  The choice is fairly simple:  Do you want to be known for being honest brokers or for your dirty tricks?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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