Editor’s note: This is staggering information from Washington State University about last week’s statements by one of its wolf researchers on where a rancher turned out his cattle in northern Ferry County.
The nut is that Dr. Robert Wielgus “acknowledged that he had no basis in fact for” saying that “This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it, I just want people to know.”
Those words only served to inflame an already volatile situation.
The following is WSU’s statement issued this afternoon:
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University and the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences today issued the following statement regarding public statements made by Dr. Rob Wielgus, associate professor and director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at WSU, related to the Profanity Peak Wolf Pack.
Some of Dr. Wielgus’ statements in regard to this controversial issue have been both inaccurate and inappropriate. As such, they have contributed substantially to the growing anger and confusion about this significant wildlife management issue and have unfairly jeopardized the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group’s many-months long stakeholder process. Moreover, the statements do not in any way represent the views or position of Washington State University or the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences. These statements are disavowed by our institutions.
We offer the following corrections of the information in the public arena:
In an article published by the Seattle Times on Aug. 25, 2016, Dr. Wielgus stated that a particular livestock operator had “elected to put his livestock directly on top of (the wolves’) den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it…”
In fact, the rancher identified in the article did not intentionally place livestock at or near the den site of the Profanity Peak wolf pack, and Dr. Wielgus subsequently acknowledged that he had no basis in fact for making such a statement. In actuality, the livestock were released at low elevation on the east side of the Kettle Crest more than 4 miles from the den site, and dispersed throughout the allotments based on instructions found in the Annual Operating Instructions (AOI). The CC mountain allotment is more than 30,000 acres and livestock are generally moved from pasture to pasture following an established rotation.
In the same article, Dr. Wielgus stated that a particular cattle rancher had also “refused to radio-collar his cattle to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves” and that there had been no documented “cattle kills among producers who are participating in research studies and very few among producers using Fish and Wildlife’s protocol.”
In fact, the rancher identified in the article has held a term grazing permit for 73 years and has worked with both the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service in the management of livestock in order to avoid conflict – following procedures outlined by the Washington Wolf Advisory Group. In order to reduce wolf/livestock conflict, the rancher has modified livestock rotation practices and utilized range riders to ensure livestock safety. While the rancher is not currently participating in Dr. Wielgus’ ongoing study, radio-collaring of livestock is not a Wolf Advisory Group procedure nor is it 100 percent effective at preventing depredations. It is inaccurate to state that there have been no cattle kills among producers participating in the study. There is at least one permittee who is participating in the study who has incurred livestock depredations.
The decision to eliminate the Profanity Peak Wolf pack came after two years of careful work and scientific analysis by the Washington State Wolf Advisory Group, consisting of a collaboration between scientists, industry, and conservation partners. Washington State University subscribes to the highest standards of research integrity and will not and cannot condone statements that have the effect of compromising that integrity.
Regarding future steps for preventing subsequent inaccurate or inappropriate statements, we are implementing applicable internal university processes.
WSU apologizes to our friends, our science partners, and to the public for this incident.