All posts by Andy Walgamott

2020 Washington Halibut Season Meetings Coming Up Aug. 29, Late Oct.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is hosting two public meetings to discuss season structure and proposed dates for the 2020 sport halibut season.

The meetings will be held on Aug. 29 and Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St.

HALIBUT ANGLERS LIKE JAKE MANDELLA WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO VOICE THEIR OPINIONS ON WASHINGTON’S 2020 SEASONS AT A PAIR OF UPCOMING MEETINGS IN MONTESANO. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

At the Aug. 29 meeting, state halibut managers will review the 2019 season and work with stakeholders to develop a range of preliminary options focused on general concepts such as ways to extend the season length and maximize fishing opportunity.

At the second meeting on Oct. 28, in addition to refining the options developed at the first meeting, WDFW staff will collect further public input, review tide calendars for next spring, and select specific season dates that attempt to balance needs across various fishing communities and charter and private fishing interests.

“The sport halibut fishery is very popular, and these meetings are a good opportunity to provide input,” said Heather Hall, coastal policy coordinator for WDFW.

These meetings will allow WDFW to gather stakeholder input prior to meetings of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) in September and November.

For more information on the halibut season-setting process visit PFMC’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org/pacific-halibut/background-information/.

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Increasing ESA-listed Oregon Coast Coho Abundance Would Yield Economic Benefits: Study

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

A new study provides evidence that increasing the abundance of a threatened or endangered species can deliver large benefits to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, finds that a two-thirds increase in the average annual number of returning coho salmon to the Oregon coast would generate up to $518 million per year in non-market economic benefits to residents of the region.

JUVENILE COHO SALMON. (OSU)

The study comes the same week that the U.S. Department of Interior announced that it will implement a new rule that stipulates that economic impacts for listing a species be considered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“When we think about actions to protect endangered and threatened species, we often focus on the costs,” said David Lewis, an economist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and corresponding author on the study. “The benefits of protecting threatened species are difficult to estimate since they are considered to be non-market and arise from the public’s values for things like the existence of abundant salmon in the wild. This study gives us a way to evaluate the benefits.”

“If an agency is considering a policy or program that would increase the number of salmon by a certain amount, our study translates the benefits for that amount of salmon to a dollar value,” said Steven Dundas, study co-author and economist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station.

“This provides evidence of the economic value Pacific Northwest residents place on protecting threatened and endangered species,” Dundas said. “We can compare it to how much we actually spend on salmon restoration activities, to see if there’s a net benefit to more investment.”

The study, a collaboration between OSU and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, also found that the public attaches a substantial value — up to $277 million a year – to achieving conservation goals sooner rather than later.

“There are sizable benefits to achieving conservation goals quickly,” Lewis said. “That has real implications for conservation programs, showing that there’s significant value to the public in up-front investments.”

Another key study finding: People benefit from Oregon Coast coho salmon conservation even if the fish aren’t declared recovered and removed from listing under the ESA.

“That’s an important concept,” Lewis said. “This indicates that we shouldn’t evaluate ESA activities only by whether a species is recovered or not. It’s not all or nothing.”

For the study, the researchers mailed surveys to 5,000 randomly selected households in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and northern California in the fall of 2017. The surveys included scenarios with levels of attributes associated with improving the abundance of Oregon Coast coho salmon: how many fish come back from the ocean, how quickly they come back and what their conservation status would be under the ESA.

Associated with these scenarios was an annual per-household cost from a combination of additional taxes and higher prices for lumber and agricultural products, ranging from $10 to $350 per year. Survey respondents then chose their preferred conservation scenario or a status quo option with $0 cost.

Twenty-one percent of the surveys were returned. By analyzing the responses, the researchers determined the public’s average household willingness to pay for salmon conservation, which is then multiplied by the number of Pacific Northwest households to get the final benefit numbers.

“The surveys create a situation for someone to make a decision about a public good — as if increases in salmon abundance were something they could choose off the shelf at the grocery store,” Dundas said.

Lewis, Dundas and co-author David Kling are all on the faculty in OSU’s Department of Applied Economics. Co-authors also included Daniel Lew at the Alaska Fisheries Center and Sally Hacker in the Department of Integrative Biology in the College of Science at OSU.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funded the study through its National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Competitive Research Program.

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WDFW Looking For Fishing Guides To Serve On Advisory Committee

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking candidates to serve on a new committee that advises the department on the commercial fishing guide industry.

WDFW IS LOOKING FOR UP TO 12 WASHINGTON FISHING GUIDES TO JOIN AN AD HOC COMMITTEE THAT WILL PROVIDE INPUT ON A NEW MONTHLY GUIDE REPORTING REQUIREMENT APPROVED BY THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. (BOB TOMAN VIA BUZZ RAMSEY)

Up to 12 individuals from the guiding industry will be chosen for two-year terms that begin in September. The committee may be extended beyond two years as needed. Candidates have until Aug. 27 to apply.

Advisors on this ad-hoc committee will initially provide input on the implementation of a new monthly reporting requirement for commercial guides, said Kelly Cunningham, acting director of WDFW’s fish program.

“Beyond that, we want to work with the guide industry to gain a better understanding of their perspective in an effort to improve opportunity,” Cunningham said.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, fishing guides will provide WDFW with information such as the date and location of each guided fishing trip, the number of anglers onboard, and the number and type of fish species caught per trip.

“We’re looking for advisors who will help us review logbook data and provide the guiding industry’s perspective on fisheries,” Cunningham said. “We’d like to establish a group that includes both part-time and full-time guides and industry representatives from the various fisheries around the state.”

Initially, the advisory group will meet monthly (beginning in September) to ensure timely implementation of the new logbook requirements next year. After the first six months, meetings will be held on a quarterly basis.

Letters of interest must include the following information:

Candidate’s name, address, telephone number, and email address.
Relevant experience and reasons for wanting to serve as a member of the advisory group.
Effectiveness in communication, including methods the candidate would use to relay information to regional constituents.

Applications are due by 5 p.m., Aug. 27, and can be emailed to Raquel Crosier at Raquel.Crosier@dfw.wa.gov. Written applications can also be mailed to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: Raquel Crosier, 600 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.

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Study Shows 74 Percent Loss Of Columbia Tidal Wetlands, 85 Percent Up And Down West Coast

THE FOLLOWING IS A NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION STORY

An unprecedented survey has revealed the loss of about 85 percent of historical tidal wetlands in California, Oregon, and Washington. The report, published in PLOS ONE, also highlights forgotten estuary acreage that might now be targeted for restoration.

Where West Coast rivers reach the sea, estuaries serve as critical nurseries for juvenile salmon and steelhead as they make the transition from freshwater to the ocean. They are among the most dynamic and productive habitats known, also supporting migratory birds and a variety of other fish, shellfish, and terrestrial wildlife.

A FEDERAL GRAPHIC SHOWS THE AMOUNT OF TIDAL WETLANDS UP AND DOWN THE WEST COAST, INCLUDING IN SOME OF THE REGION’S MOST IMPORTANT SALMON SYSTEMS. (NOAA)

A team of scientists applied new technologies and data to identify and estimate the historic reach of nearly 450 West Coast estuaries. Their results show that the estuaries historically extended far beyond where they exist now. More than a century of development has erased roughly 85 percent of original vegetated estuarine wetlands, especially around major river deltas.

San Francisco Bay has lost about 85 percent of its original vegetated tidal wetlands, the study found. The Columbia River estuary has lost about 74 percent. While other scientists have estimated losses for these and other well-studied estuaries, this is the first time researchers have applied consistent methods across all 450 estuaries of the contiguous U.S. West Coast.

Mapping Reveals Restoration Opportunities

“Given how valuable estuaries are to so many different species, it’s important to understand how much they have changed and what that means for fish and wildlife that depend on them,” said Correigh Greene, research biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle and coauthor of the new study.

The lost estuary habitat includes areas that were long ago diked and drained for agriculture, and forested wetlands that had not been widely recognized as estuary acreage, said Laura Brophy, lead author of the study and director of the Estuary Technical Group at the Institute for Applied Ecology in Corvallis, Oregon. Identifying such areas may open new opportunities for restoration of estuary habitat that otherwise might go overlooked.

BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGES FROM THE TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSHIP SHOW THE EFFECT OF REMOVING LEVEES AND TIDE GATES NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE TRASK RIVER. (TILLAMOOK ESTUARY PARTNERSIHP VIA NMFS)

“By folding in these areas that may not have been recognized as part of estuaries, we have a better idea of just how important and extensive these estuaries were,” Brophy said. “Now we can see new restoration opportunities that people didn’t realize existed.”

The study’s high-resolution mapping also highlights low-elevation areas at greatest risk of flooding as the sea level rises with climate change. Tidal wetland restoration in these vulnerable areas can re-establish natural processes like sediment delivery. This will help these wetlands remain productive into the future.

Estuaries Once Covered 2 Million Acres

The scientists combined precise elevation mapping known as LIDAR with NOAA water level modeling to establish the extent of tides that define estuary habitat. Based on these maps, they estimated that all West Coast estuaries once covered nearly 2 million acres. This is an area nearly three times the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Scientists have data on the historic and current wetlands in 55 of the larger estuaries. Those estuaries have lost about 85 percent of their original vegetated wetlands. These 55 estuaries represent about 97 percent of historical estuary area on the West Coast, so their losses reflect almost all of the estuary losses.

Since Brophy has studied estuaries for years, she found the losses “dismaying but not surprising.” She said the good news is that fish and wildlife that live in estuaries must be adaptable because of the ever-changing tidal environment. She says “if you give them the chance to move back in, they will literally jump at the opportunity.”

The authors of the study include researchers from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the Institute for Applied Ecology, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, The Nature Conservancy, Moss Landing Marine Labs, and Pacific Spatial Solutions. The project was coordinated by the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership.

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Sign Up For Washington Hunter Ed

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reminds prospective hunters to complete their hunter education class before hunting season.

“It’s a great time to enroll in hunter education to ensure you can participate in fall hunting seasons,” said David Whipple, WDFW hunter education division manager.

LONGTIME HUNTER EDUCATION INSTRUCTOR RANDALL ABSOLON WALKS A PROSPECTIVE SPORTSMAN THROUGH FIRING A BOLT-ACTION RIFLE. (WDFW)

WDFW offers both traditional and online options to complete the hunter education requirement.

“The traditional classroom experience includes direct instruction from certified volunteer instructors, which can be important for younger students,” Whipple said. “The online course offers the same content, but on the student’s schedule. If you take the online course, you must still complete an in-person field skills evaluation.”

All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 must complete a hunter education course to buy a hunting license. To find a course and learn about hunter education requirements, new hunters should visit the WDFW hunter education webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements/education/basic.

HUNTER ED STUDENTS LISTEN TO AN INSTRUCTOR. ALL PROSPECTIVE HUNTERS BORN AFTER JAN. 1, 1972 MUST TAKE THE COURSE BEFORE GETTING THEIR LICENSE, THOUGH ONE-YEAR DEFERRALS ARE AVAILABLE IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES. (WDFW)

Those who are unable to complete a hunter education course before the fall hunting seasons may qualify for a hunter education deferral. For more information on the deferral, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/requirements/education/deferral-program.

 

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WDFW Proposing Changes To How Poaching Is Prosecuted

WDFW is proposing a suite of changes to how some fish and wildlife violations are prosecuted by counties across Washington.

If greenlighted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission later this week, state lawmakers next year would be asked to pass a bill that addresses how those are charged, the forfeiture of poached animal parts, and require courts to inform the agency of their rulings.

For law-abiding sportsmen, it can be maddening how how long it can seem to take for poachers to be brought to justice — if they’re even charged at all.

In the former case it is often because despite state game wardens dutifully filing their case reports, county prosecutors and court systems have such heavy workloads and limited funding that it makes it difficult for them deal with fish and wildlife violators when there’s such a clamor from the public to go after other offenders and property crimes.

But dismissing critter cases can lead to diminished perceptions of the value of deer, salmon and other species.

And for really bad apples, it “decriminalizes these activities, allowing repeat offenders to poach without fear of punishment,” according to WDFW.

Briefing the citizen oversight panel earlier this month, outgoing legislative liaison Raquel Crosier told commissioners said the package would accomplish several things.

“The first thing it does is it reduces lower level fish and wildlife crimes to a civil infraction. This is really important because local courts are bogged down. They’ve got a lot of other cases — homicides, DUIs — and our cases often don’t get heard, and when they do it may be two, three years later,” Crosier said.

Changing misdemeanors to infractions would treat those violations “closer to a traffic ticket” that must be paid or contested in civil court, she said.

“We want some type of repercussion for these crimes, but we don’t want someone waiting for a long time with a criminal record in the meantime,” Crosier said.

Another aspect of the proposal is that it would tweak how conviction is defined, Crosier said.

The way some poaching cases are prosecuted can require WDFW to return seized fish and wildlife under certain circumstances.

“We just really want to make sure, regardless of the court outcome, we can still seize animal parts. Sometimes through a plea deal they end up allowing them to keep them. We don’t think poached animal parts should be kept under any circumstances,” said Crosier.

Several years ago, state lawmakers at WDFW’s behest stiffened penalties for those who knowingly trespassed to not allow them to keep any game they killed. Before, those chasing deer, elk or other game on private property only faced a fine of a couple hundred bucks or so, worth the cost for some when the animals taken were of trophy caliber.

The other major change being proposed  would require courts to notify WDFW of how cases turn out.

“The Department cannot effectively manage bad actors and revoke licenses or prevent a criminal from purchasing a new fishing or hunting license if the Department is not aware cases rulings or dispositions. This proposal would add a new statute, requiring the clerk of the court hearing the case to prepare and immediately forward an abstract of the court record to WDFW Enforcement,” a commission briefing statement reads.

The agency has been working on the tweaks for awhile and it appears that a proposal to revoke licenses for two violations in five years — currently it’s three in 10 — is not included in the bill.

Commissioners had numerous questions about that during their Aug. 2 meeting. Staffers say that a “preliminary analysis” on that plus plans to also work on commercial revocations mean it’s been backburnered to 2021.

As it stands, the commission is slated to give the package a thumbs-up or -down at its Aug. 23 conference call.

The next step after that would be for a bill to be written, be introduced by lawmakers and have public hearings held on it.

It would need to pass both chambers and be signed into law by the governor.

It all might be a bit of a challenge, given the short 60-day session, but WDFW staffers have cut back their legislation requests for 2020 from five bills to this and another dealing with part of its budget and transparency.

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WDFW Releases More Info On Removal Of OPT Pack, Court Case Impact

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW PRESS RELEASE

On the morning of Aug. 16, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lethally removed the four known remaining members of the OPT wolf pack. A series of WDFW investigations had shown the pack responsible for 29 depredation incidents.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind reauthorized the lethal removals on July 31 (wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/updates/wdfw-director-reauthorizes-lethal-opt-7-31-2019), in response to continuing depredations of cattle on federal grazing lands in the Kettle River range of Ferry County.

The removal decision was made with guidance from the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00001)

and the lethal removal provisions of the department’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol (wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-02/final_protocol_for_wolf-livestock_interactions_jun012017.pdf).

The OPT pack has been involved in 14 livestock depredations in the last 10 months, with nine in the last 30 days, and a total of 29 since Sept. 5, 2018. The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock took several proactive, nonlethal, conflict deterrence measures to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, and WDFW will continue to monitor for wolf activity in the area and work closely with producers.

This was the fourth time Director Susewind has authorized lethal removal in the OPT pack since Sept. 12, 2018 (wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/updates/wdfw-director-authorizes-lethal-action).

Plaintiffs, supported by the Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy, filed a petition for review of Director Susewind’s July 31 reauthorization, and sought a temporary restraining order in King County Superior Court on Aug. 1. The motion for a restraining order was denied by a court commissioner at the time, allowing the removal effort to continue. The hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction was scheduled for Aug.16, when the court was expecting to, and did, hear an update on the department’s removal activities.

According to Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW, the department had been working steadily to meet its stated intentions since the courts gave it the clearance to move forward on Aug. 1. To date the department has removed:

· On Aug. 7, one wolf

· On Aug. 8, one wolf

· On Aug.13, one wolf

· On Aug.16, four wolves

WDFW believes it has removed all members of the OPT pack, although another wolf was sighted in the area late this spring. That wolf may have dispersed from a different pack.

“I know this is an extremely difficult time for many of our communities around the state and having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is something we take very seriously,” said Director Susewind. “Hopefully we can pull from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to find better solutions for coexistence.

Counsel for WDFW appeared in court today for the preliminary injunction hearing. The court was informed of the lethal removals that have occurred since the Aug. 1 hearing. At the end of the hearing, King County Superior Court Judge John McHale ruled from the bench and issued a preliminary injunction that would prohibit WDFW from lethally removing any remaining wolves from the OPT pack until the court has a chance to hear the merits of the case.

In April 2019, the department reported 27 wolf packs in Washington. A summary of Washington wolf recovery and activity can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf.

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Chinook Released Into Lake Roosevelt

Another week, another 30 Chinook swimming where ocean-returning salmon haven’t been in the Upper Columbia for decades and decades.

A tribal newspaper based in North-central Washington reports that the Colville Tribes’ latest release occurred near Keller, above Grand Coulee Dam, which blocked anadromous fish runs 80 years ago.

GRAND COULEE DAM AND LAKE ROOSEVELT. (BUREAU OF RECLAMATION)

It’s a ceremonial move, one that’s “very sacred to us, very important,” Business Chairman Rodney Cawston said, according to the Tribal Tribune.

“We have strong prayers today, because our ancestors, our elders at the Ceremony of Tears, they had strong prayers that one day we would see these fish return back to the river, back to our people,” he said.

The summer kings were surplus to spawning needs at Wells Hatchery. Just as the 30 the tribes put into Lake Rufus Woods recently, they were screened beforehand by WDFW for an infectious fish virus before the release.

The paper reports that 30 more acoustically tagged Chinook were also let go in Rufus as an experiment, with another batch slated to go into dam-blocked Upper Columbia waters next week.

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WDFW Takes Out 4 More OPT Wolves, But Must Stop Removals After Judge’s Decision

Updated 4:30 p.m., Aug. 16, 2019 with news at bottom on the depredations of a nearby pack.

Hardcore wolf advocates won something of a pyrrhic victory in a King County court this morning.

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE ORIGINAL PROFANITY PEAK PACK. (WDFW)

A judge granted a temporary restraining order that bars WDFW from taking out any more Old Profanity Territory wolves, but with four killed this morning, there’s only one left out of the chronically depredating northern Ferry County pack.

That means lethal removal operations are now on pause.

The news was first mentioned on Western Wildlife Conservation’s Facebook page.

“We won but we lost!!” the group posted.

Earlier this month “two Washington residents” represented by Seattle attorney Johnathon Bashford and “with the support” of Wayne Pacelle’s Center for a Humane Economy filed a petition in King County Superior Court to halt the removals.

That was initially decided in WDFW’s favor with the parties ordered to return today to court for a status report update.

That appears to have been decided in advocates’ favor.

“We’ll have to go back to court for a trial that we don’t have a date for,” said spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.

She said that two of the four wolves taken out in this morning’s remarkably efficient operations were also collared animals, while two were not.

In an update earlier this week, WDFW said that it had removed an adult and two juveniles since Aug. 6, and before that it had taken out the breeding male in an attempt to change the pack’s behavior.

There were at least nine members when the pack began again attacking livestock grazing on federal allotments on the Colville National Forest near Republic.

The OPTs are now blamed for 29 cow and calf attacks since last September, nine in the past 30 days.

“Having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is a difficult situation and something the Department takes very seriously. WDFW makes every effort to make a responsible decision after considering the available evidence,” the state agency said in a statement. “We appreciate the time the court put into reviewing this material and will work with the court throughout the process ahead.”

Western Wildlife Conservation is stating that with the judge’s order that WDFW can’t remove wolves from other packs such as the Togos, which are under the gun for a series of depredations, but Lehman says that that is not her understanding that the judge’s order pertained strictly to the OPTs.

The area has been the scene of past livestock attacks, most notably in 2016.

Groups outside the mainstream have been trying to impact how wolves are managed in Washington.

Last year it was the Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Oregon with the Togo Pack.

Now it’s Pacelle’s new Maryland-based organization, which put out word yesterday on today’s court hearing.

Earlier this summer they also spread news that a full-page ad had been taken out in The Seattle Times as well as reintroduced Rob Wielgus into the fray, he of the 2016’s incendiary comments about the Diamond M and where they allegedly turned their cows out — and which led to a sharp rebuke from the university where he worked at the time.

CHE did not immediately respond to a request to identify the Washington residents involved in the suit. Instead, they focused on blaming the Diamond M for “baiting wolves.”

Meanwhile, more pragmatic wolf fans are highlighting how they are working with ranchers to reduce livestock conflicts.

And late this afternoon, WDFW reported that the nearby Togo Pack was responsible for injuring two calves and killing another.

They were reported last Sunday, Aug. 11, and investigations determined that the dead calf had been killed just hours before, while the wounds to the others likely occurred three to seven days prior to their discovery.

WDFW says their owner “removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, and monitors the herd with a range rider. A WDFW-contracted range rider has been working with this producer since May.”

It raises the Togo’s depredation tally to six in the past 30 days and 14 in the past 10 months. Thresholds for considering lethal action is three in 30 and four in 10.

On. Aug. 9 WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the removal of the entire pack, but according to the update, none have been but the removal period is ongoing.

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$100,000 RMEF Grant Awarded For WSU Elk Hoof Disease Research Facility

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to assist with construction of its elk hoof disease research facility. Construction began in May on campus in Pullman, Washington.

CONSTRUCTION OF A FACILITY FOR RESEARCHERS LOOKING INTO ELK HOOF DISEASE BEGAN THIS PAST MAY AT WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY IN PULLMAN AND FUNDING IN PART CAME FROM A $100,000 GRANT FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION. (HENRY MORE JR., WSU/BCU, VIA RMEF)

“Hoof disease is affecting more and more elk in the Pacific Northwest,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This facility will give researchers a hands-on opportunity to better determine its cause as well as why and how it spreads.”

The $1.2 million, state-of-the-art structure is the only such operation of its kind in the world and will house captive elk needed to study the disease in a secure, controlled environment. It will cover four acres and include 10 isolation pens, a handling facility and two 1.5-acre holding pastures.

Based within the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, and with the oversight of WSU’s Environmental Health and Safety and animal care programs, the facility will provide optimal compliance with biosecurity and animal care and use regulation.

“I am eager to get started with research on captive elk that will be housed in the facility,” said veterinarian Margaret Wild, the lead scientist for the program. “RMEF’s generous contribution could not have come at a better time during construction. This is the first grant we’ve received to supplement our funding and it makes it apparent the organization and its members, along with WSU, are dedicated to ensuring elk herds remain healthy and viable for future generations.”

Elk hoof disease is known in the scientific community as Treponeme-associated hoof disease or TAHD. Biologists confirmed the disease in elk herds across much of southwest Washington as well as southern Oregon and western Idaho.

Findings from research conducted at the facility will assist wildlife agencies to better manage the impacts of hoof disease in elk populations.

“We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Margaret Wild, lead scientist during a visit to RMEF headquarters. We look forward to working with her and her staff to learn more about this disease,” added Henning.

RMEF provided funding in the past to assist the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with hoof disease testing and research.

In 2019 alone, RMEF so far donated more than $1 million in research funding for the benefit of elk-related science.