Tag Archives: cascadia wildlands

WDFW OPT Wolf Removal Op Can Proceed After Lawsuit Attempt

Editor’s note: Since this blog was posted around 3:30 p.m. today, Aug. 1, 2019, a King County Superior Court judge has sided against parties trying to stop WDFW from lethally removing livestock depredating wolves. “Judge decided in DFW’s favor so we can move forward with removal,” said agency spokeswoman Staci Lehman at 5:30 p.m. via email. “However, we don’t have a timeframe currently and someone else could file another TRO at any time.”

Editor’s note 2: During the Aug. 2, 2019 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, Director Kelly Susewind provided an update to say that there will be an Aug. 16 court date “for a follow-up status report” and that in the meanwhile WDFW is “actively looking” to implement his lethal removal authorization.

Another active day in Washington’s wolf world, as the focus shifted from northern Ferry County to Seattle today.

That’s where a Maryland-based organization says a motion has been filed to stop WDFW from killing more Old Profanity Territory wolves for chronic cattle depredations.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The state agency has paused its planned lethal operation against the pack now blamed for killing or injuring 27 cows and calves since last September pending a judge’s decision.

A temporary restraining order could be granted with a follow-up court date in several days, or the injunction could be tossed out, which would allow WDFW to proceed, according to spokeswoman Staci Lehman.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, word one way or another had yet to emerge from court.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind had greenlighted more OPT removals first thing yesterday morning, and following an eight-hour window for court challenges, state staffers could have begun targeting the eight wolves last evening or this morning.

But the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court by “two Washington residents” represented by Seattle attorney Johnathon Bashford and “with the support” of Wayne Pacelle’s Center for a Humane Economy put a halt to that.

Lehman says that technically motions can be filed by anybody at any time but that the eight-hour notice is a “courtesy” for people to get their “legal ducks in a row” before WDFW takes action.

Appealing for a restraining order is the same play that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands made last August after the Togo Pack had attacked three times in 30 days and Susewind OKed killing one or two to try and head off more problems.

A Thurston County Superior Court judge initially granted the out-of-state groups a TRO, but it was lifted about 10 days later by another judge because it didn’t meet a legal benchmark to be able to move forward, and one Togo wolf was ultimately taken out.

In this latest lawsuit threat, the parties are taking issue with WDFW for removing wolves depredating on Diamond M Ranch cattle on federal grazing allotments and trying to draw attention to the livestock producers’ alleged “needlessly provocative actions.”

Meanwhile, they’re also taking their own — attempting to break the fragile peace that is wolf management in Washington, just as the Arizona- and Oregon-based organizations before them.

They’ve taken out a full-page ad in The Seattle Times in recent weeks and 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.

Yesterday, WDFW also announced that a Togo Pack wolf had been shot by a rancher as it chased a calf and that the pack had three attacks within the past 30 days. The agency also alerted the public a week or so ago the Grouse Flats Pack had three in the past 10 months.

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Revised ODFW Wolf Plan Sent To Wildlife Commission For Adoption

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

After completing the last scheduled facilitated meeting with stakeholder representatives on Monday, Jan. 8, ODFW staff are working to finalize a revised Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. That Plan will be presented to the Commission at its March 15 meeting in Salem for final adoption.

SNAKE RIVER PACK WOLVES CAPTURED BY REMOTE CAMERA IN THE HELLS CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA. (ODFW)

Last year, Commissioners decided to postpone Wolf Plan revisions and conduct additional facilitated outreach in hopes of getting more consensus from stakeholders. Professional facilitator Deb Nudelman with Kearns and West facilitated five meetings with stakeholders from late August 2018 through early January 2019.

While stakeholders representing ranching, hunting and wolf conservation came to agreement on some topics, there was no consensus on several of the most controversial issues including the number of livestock depredations that leads to consideration of  lethal removal of wolves when nonlethal deterrents have not worked. Environmental group stakeholders with Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife announced late last Friday, Jan. 4 that they would not attend the final meeting.

“We were disappointed these groups left the discussion and we did not have the full stakeholder group present at the final meeting,” said Derek Broman, ODFW Carnivore Coordinator. “Since the drafting of the original 2005 plan, stakeholders remain very passionate so consensus is challenging to achieve.”

The facilitated process was designed to create a space for stakeholders to negotiate and allow for give and take on all sides,” he continued. “We thank all stakeholders for their time and attention at the meetings and for the progress made on several issues, and everyone thanks Kearns and West for their professional facilitating of these meetings.”

Stakeholder groups were able to find some consensus on wolf collaring priorities, the desire to increase the use of nonlethal techniques and funding enhanced population modeling. But stakeholders remained divided on lethal take of wolves when they are killing livestock, including the number and time frame of confirmed depredations before lethal control of wolves is considered.

ODFW is responsible for investigating livestock depredations and uses a rigorous, evidence-based process to determining if a wolf or wolves was responsible.  A certain number of “confirmed” livestock depredations can lead to consideration of lethal removal of wolves by the department or a landowner. Currently, the Plan allows for consideration of lethal removal after two confirmed depredations within no specific time frame, but ODFW typically authorizes lethal removal after three or more confirmed depredations. In practice, ODFW has denied more lethal removal requests for wolves than it has approved.

Since the first Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was approved in 2005, hunting of wolves has been in the Plan as a potential tool to manage wolf populations. Throughout the current review of the Wolf Plan, no proposals have been made by ODFW to begin hunting wolves.  If hunting of wolves were to be proposed by staff in the future, it would have to be approved by the Commission in a public rule-making process.

The Wolf Plan proposal will be available for review prior to the March 15 meeting Commission meeting on the wolf website at www.odfw.com/wolves

Judge Denies Out-of-state Groups’ Initial Bid To Derail WA Wolf Protocols

Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as additional material arrives.

A Thurston County judge this morning turned down out-of-state environmental groups’ bid to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from lethally removing the breeding male of a depredating wolf pack in northern Ferry County.

“As a result, a temporary restraining order issued by the court on Aug. 20, which has prohibited WDFW’s lethal removal action, will expire at 5 p.m. today,” spokesman Bruce Botka said.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS WHERE THE TOGO PACK IS BELIEVED TO BE CENTERED IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

In video tweeted out of the courtroom by KING 5 reporter Alison Morrow, Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy denies the organizations’ request for injunctive relief because it didn’t meet a legal benchmark to allow it to move forward.

“That applies both to the extension of the temporary order, or a preliminary injunction, or I use the word ‘stay,’ essentially staying the action until the resolution of this matter,” said Judge Murphy. “It also applies to the request to halt any future orders under the 2017 plan.”

That plan is the state’s lethal removal protocols, a hard-won compromise between ranchers, hunters and instate wolf advocates and WDFW that Arizona’s Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon’s Cascadia Wildlands are trying to derail through the court.

Two Monday mornings ago, when WDFW announced it would target the Togo Pack for six depredations since last November, including three in a 30-day space this summer, the two organizations filed a lawsuit and another Thurston County judge issued an order that temporarily blocked any lethal removals and set a hearing date for today.

The groups claimed the protocol was “faulty” and should have undergone a state environmental review.

Judge Murphy acknowledged how controversial the issue is but said that WDFW was following its 2011 wolf management plan and the protocol.

“It is clear to me from the record that there was some process that was followed,” she said in the Morrow video.

KUOW reporter Tom Banse tweeted, “Agency director (Kelly Susewind) watched from back of courtroom, said he is ‘glad’ WDFW’s authority to manage wolves to facilitate ‘social acceptance’ upheld.”

There were real concerns about what might happen in Eastern Washington if the TRO had been extended by the court.

Susewind, at his post less than a month, made a second trip to the state’s northeast corner last weekend to listen and talk with Rep. Joel Kretz and livestock producers about the situation.

“It would have absolutely exploded here” if Judge Murphy had ruled the other way, said Kretz this afternoon.

With a horse ranch on Bodie Mountain, on the Okanogan-Ferry County line, Kretz has been in the middle of the issue literally and metaphorically for seven years and. He said he’s been trying to keep people in his district from “going over the edge” and that the ruling was “a relief.”

From his vantage point he’s seen the “tremendous amount of work” that has gone into development of 2011’s wolf plan, the protocols and more, all of which he said were upended for 10 days as the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands essentially ran wolf policy in the state.

Speaking to the collaborative approach being taken with Washington’s wolf issues, where everybody is getting some but not all of what they want, as well as local forestry management that was challenged by another out-of-state group, Kretz said he hoped that the era of running to court to block things was coming to an end.

But in the aftermath of today’s court skirmish, defiant CBD spokeswoman Amaraq Weiss told the Capital Press, “We’re not done.”

She told KING 5 that there would be a future court date over WDFW’s alleged violation of two state acts in creating the lethal removal policy.

Following last week’s lawsuit, instate wolf advocates, hunters and the editorial board of the ag-oriented Press all issued statements of support of the protocol.

After Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese issued the TRO last week, the Togo’s breeding male was apparently hit by the bullet of a livestock producer checking on his cattle and who felt threatened as it approached and barked at him. The wolf survived but with a broken leg.

In a statement posted after the judge’s ruling, WDFW says that the kill order will be implemented after 5 today because wolf managers believe:

  • There is no evidence to indicate the pack’s behavior – the killing of livestock – will change.

  • While the male wolf is injured, the adult female may have trouble feeding both the adult male and her two pups unless she continues to prey on livestock.

  • It is more difficult for wolves to successfully capture wild game animals, such as deer and elk, than cows and calves.

Key Court Hearing On Washington Wolf Management Friday Morning

All eyes in Washington’s wolf world will be focused Friday morning on a Thurston County courtroom where a judge will determine whether to extend a temporary restraining order against a WDFW kill order.

(WIKIMEDIA)

It’s a decision with implications as out-of-state environmental groups try to insert themselves into the management of an already hot-button species and the hard-won lethal removal protocols reached by the Wolf Advisory Group’s ranchers, hunters, wolf advocates and WDFW over how to deal with the inevitable depredations.

“Lots of people in my world are very concerned that it may become a permanent restraining order,” Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jay Holzmiller of Anatone said during a teleconference Monday. “If it becomes permanent, it’s going to be Katy bar the door because people are frustrated.”

The TRO applies only to the Togo Pack of northern Ferry County, and last weekend, new Director Kelly Susewind made another trip to Northeast Washington to meet with local state Rep. Joel Kretz and livestock producers and hear their concerns.

During the conference call, he said he’d vowed WDFW would present its best legal case Friday but also that vigilantism would be counterproductive if the order is extended by Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese.

“People are really on edge. If it goes that way, they’re going to abandon the collaborative approach, I think, and what that means I’ll leave to them,” Susewind said.

A WDFW spokesman declined today to give a comment for this blog.

The agency hasn’t reported any depredations since Susewind’s Aug. 20 kill order for one or more members of the pack and that may be in part due to extra effort in the field.

In continuing to draw a very sharp contrast between the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity’s and Oregon-based Cascadia Wildlands’ court tactics and its own collaborative approach, Conservation Northwest this afternoon reported its staffers and contracted range riders have been working hard to prevent further depredations by the Togos.

“We and others stepped up to help the rancher protect cattle day and night given the Temporary Restraining Order [on lethal removal]. We have reduced possible wolf depredations by using night herd monitoring and also through the use of day time range riders that are protecting cow/calf pairs currently in the midst of the Togo Pack territory in the north Kettle Mountains. The well-trained range rider group uses years of experience and low-stress livestock handling methods to potentially aggregate cattle and document and monitor wolf activity,” the Seattle-based organization said in a statement this afternoon.

On Aug. 23, the breeding male also was apparently hit by the bullet of a livestock producer checking on his cattle and who felt threatened as it approached and barked at him.

According to WDFW, the pack has been involved in six attacks on two producers’ cattle since last November, including three in a 30-day period this summer, a triggering level for consideration of lethal removals.

After some hesitation to better gauge the pack, that was approved but immediately stymied by the lawsuit which contends the lethal removal protocols are “faulty” and should have been subject to a state environmental analysis.

Wolves in this part of Washington are managed by WDFW and by all accounts appear to be doing pretty well, despite the agency’s rare removals after chronic depredations to prevent further conflicts.

The editorial board of the Capital Press, which reports on ranching and farming issues, lent its voice to the issue today, scolding WDFW for agreeing to give an eight-hour window to challenge kill orders, but also taking direct aim at CBD and Cascadia Wildlands.

“The two environmental groups claim their interests would be damaged if one Togo wolf was killed. But it’s nothing compared to the damage those two groups and their lawsuit have done to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s years of efforts to reach a consensus on managing wolves.”

Hunters on the WAG have also said they support WDFW’s position and others’ stance against the outside groups.

The hearing begins at 9 a.m.

If anything’s become clear in all this, it’s that the court action to delay and tie managers’ hands that had been seen in other states has arrived in Washington, and now Fish and Wildlife Commissioners are thinking longterm towards delisting planning, the battles there and getting their ducks in a row to limit hold-ups in the process.

“We’ve got a recovered wolf population in Eastern Washington. Our hands are tied because we’re still doing recovery management and we have to go through a bunch of legal steps on paper to get to where we really are in Eastern Washington. I’m really concerned about any delays,” said Kim Thorburn of Spokane.

CBD Wolf Lawsuit ‘A Giant Step Backward For Social Tolerance’ — Hunter

Hunter representatives on Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group are lending their voices to the growing backlash against out-of-state environmentalists’ legal actions temporarily blocking lethal removal of Togo Pack wolves.

“The Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit is a giant step backward for social tolerance and management of wolves on the landscape,” said longtime WAG member Dave Duncan. “Sadly it is all about cash flow.”

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

Duncan, of Ellensburg, belongs to Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation, an umbrella organization of sportsmen’s clubs and others around the state.

Last Monday, after WDFW announced it was going to take out one or more members of the northern Ferry County pack for depredations stretching back to last November, including three in a recent 30-day period, CBD of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Oregon got a Thurston County judge to issue a temporary restraining order, blocking implementation of the kill order.

It took several days but anger began to bubble to the surface from other members of the WAG.

On Thursday, Conservation Northwest said it saw “little upside” in going to court because “lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere,” and the organization instead called for continued collaboration.

Essentially, the lawsuit is over the hard-won lethal removal protocol that WDFW and the WAG came up with.

“It was really difficult to get through,” Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican who represents almost all of Northeast Washington, told the Capital Press. “It’s all out the window now.”

County officials and ranchers in this part of the state held a meeting on Friday about what to do.

“When the judge put the restraining order on the department he didn’t put the restraining order on the wolves,” Stevens County commissioner Don Dashiell told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

WDFW hasn’t reported any more depredations, but last Friday the agency investigated after a livestock producer checking on cattle when collar data showed a wolf near them fired a shot at one in self-defense.

In the meanwhile, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese has scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for this Friday. That could determine how long the restraining order is in place for.

“I concur with Conservation Northwest, Northeast Washington lawmakers, area county officials, and others speaking against it,” said Mark Pidgeon of Hunters Heritage Council, a political action organization dedicated to hunting, and who is also a longtime WAG member. “I think Representative Kretz’s comments sums it up the situation pretty well: ‘I think it’s a tragedy.'”

I’m going to butt my way into this story to say that when CBD and Cascadia Wildlands inevitably went to court last Monday I actually felt my tolerance level for this whole thing slip a few notches.

Like I told someone, I get that it’s process and I’m not going to suddenly starting spouting SSS, but in these wildly overly politicized times, it boggles my mind why in the hell the two groups would mess with things here.

Jet fuel, anyone? How’d that work out the last time?

Instate Wolf Advocates Blast Out-of-staters’ Court Moves Against WDFW

An instate organization deeply involved in Washington wolf issues over the past decade is blasting two out-of-state environmental groups whose legal moves have initially blocked WDFW from targeting a pack to head off further livestock depredations.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A MEMBER OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY PACK, WHICH ROAMS THE PART OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES ARE STILL FEDERALLY LISTED, STANDS IN A FOREST. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW)

“Lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere, so we see little upside in spreading those tactics to Washington, where wolf recovery is going relatively well overall” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, in a statement this morning. “Instead of polarization, our focus is on collaboration and long-term coexistence.”

CNW is a member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group which helped craft a set of lethal removal protocols that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands are now contesting in court.

On Monday, they got Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese to issue a temporary restraining order against Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization for one or more members of northern Ferry County’s Togo Pack, implicated in six attacks on cows and calves on private and public land since last November, including three in a recent 30-day period.

The two groups, based in Arizona and Oregon and neither of which are on the WAG, claim that the protocol is “faulty” and should have been subject to an environmental review.

While CBD stresses that Washington’s wolf population is still “small” and uses its own faulty math to make it appear that a higher percentage of wolves have been lethally removed than in any single year, CNW says recovery is actually going better in the Evergreen State compared to the Northern Rockies.

CNW calls the lethal removal protocol a “deliberate approach” and one that the state’s packs “can easily withstand the current level of impact.”

And it says that working with others rather than going to court is the key.

“We think the collaborative work of the WAG is leading to less social conflict concerning wolves and more willingness of ranchers to embrace proactive techniques to lower both wolf-livestock conflict and the use of lethal removal. This is real progress towards the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities in our state, and an important model for coexistence between people and wildlife,” the organization said.

A WDFW DOCUMENT DETAILING DEPREDATIONS OF THE TOGO PACK HIGHLIGHTS BITE MARKS AND OTHER EVIDENCE ON THE CARCASS OF A COW THAT WAS CONFIRMED TO HAVE BEEN ATTACKED BY WOLVES. (WDFW)

This is not the first rodeo for the local and out-of-state advocates.

Last fall, Conservation Northwest said it was “disappointed” with the Center’s filing of a lawsuit to get ahold of public records related to previous removals and a ranchhand’s caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf that June.

“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” a CNW spokesman said at the time.

Editor’s notes: For reactions from state lawmakers about the lawsuit, see Rep. Joel Kretz‘s and Rep. JT Wilcox’s comments.

Judge Temporarily Blocks WDFW From Lethally Removing Member(s) Of Togo Pack

A Westside judge has issued a temporary restraining order that bars WDFW from beginning the lethal removal of one or more wolves from a pack that’s been depredating Ferry County cattle since last November.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

The state agency had announced early this morning that it would start operations after 5 p.m. today, but two out-of-state animal rights groups went to Thurston County Superior Court to block it and Judge Chris Lanese granted it based on the suit meeting procedural criteria.

A preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for late next week.

The Togo Pack has struck six times in the past 10 months, including three times in the last 30 days. In five of those cases, livestock producers had been using measures to prevent wolf-cattle conflicts, according to WDFW.

But the 71-page petition filed by Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands calls WDFW’s plan “arbitrary and capricious” and alleges various environmental procedural errors.

The groups had sued last year over the Sherman Pack but earlier this year that lawsuit was dismissed as moot because the pack no longer existed.

However, WDFW agreed to give a notice of one business day notice before future lethal removals.

A 7:30 a.m. press release from the state this morning set the clock ticking.

The judge’s order is specific to Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization but does not impact local ranchers’ ability to shoot up to one wolf caught in the act of attacking livestock.

The Aug. 31 hearing will determine whether the temporary restraining order should be replaced with a longer one or not, according to WDFW.

Still Another Study Pokes Holes In WSU Professor’s Wolf-Livestock Attack Findings

Yet another study is casting doubt on a Washington State University professor’s much-lauded 2014 conclusions about cattle depredations and wolves.

A Washington Policy Center brief out yesterday says that Dr. Rob Wielgus’s findings that killing wolves for livestock depredations leads to a higher risk of attacks the following year had “serious methodological flaws and critical omissions in its analytical methods.”

Write authors Todd Myers and Stephen Sharkansky, his “main conclusions are, at best, unsupported by the data, if not refuted outright. His central conclusion that killing wolves increases depredations of cattle and sheep is based on a false statistical argument unsupported by reasoned analysis.”

A GRAPH INCLUDED IN A WASHINGTON POLICY CENTER BRIEF ON RESEARCH INTO WOLF REMOVALS AND LIVESTOCK LOSSES SUGGESTS THAT AS WOLF NUMBERS GREW, ATTACKS ON CATTLE AND SHEEP DID AS WELL, A “COMMON-SENSE CONCLUSION” IN THE WORDS OF THE AUTHORS. (WASHINGTON POLICY CENTER)

They say the reason for increasing losses of sheep and cattle is simply increasing wolf populations. A retired federal wolf manager has stated that 20 percent of packs will depredate.

WPC’s work will be panned by some in the wolf world as that of a conservative, free-market think tank with a pro-ag agenda in part.

But it does follow on similar findings by University of Washington researchers earlier this year.

Using the same open-source data, statisticians there could not replicate Wielgus and coauthor Kaylie Peebles’s results either.

“Rather than more culling of wolves leading to more killings of livestock in the following year, our results indicate that more culling of wolves would lead to fewer killings of livestock in the following year than expected in the absence of culling,” wrote Nabin Baral of the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences in the College of the Environment, et al.

Before that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks researchers found that for wolf recovery over the long term, it may be better to kill an entire livestock-depredating pack now rather than just one or two of the predators at a time in hopes of ending the attacks because in the long run, you have to kill more wolves.

To be clear, that’s not the current tack that Washington wolf managers are taking.

It’s based on plenty of nonlethal work, set numbers of attacks over periods of time and then incremental lethal removals to stop a pack’s bad behavior, followed by a period of observation and continued conflict-avoidance work, and either more removals if attacks resume or an end to lethal operations if they don’t.

With the Smackout Pack of Northeast Washington this summer, taking out two members in July appears to have changed that large group of wolves’ behavior, at least for now.

(Of note, that appears not to have worked in Oregon with the Harl Butte Pack, which is attacking cattle again.)

The goal is ultimately to quickly reduce the number of dead livestock and wolves.

“Data in Wielgus’ study actually support the current Washington state strategy of removing wolves where there is conflict with a rancher, consistent with the common-sense conclusion that removing wolves reduces livestock deaths,” write WPC’s Myers and Stephen Sharkansky.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the wolf management spectrum, Arizona- and Eugene-based pro-wolf groups will now get 48 hours notice of WDFW lethal removal actions after filing a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court, a bid to be able to possibly stop them.

“There hasn’t been any loss of department authority or ability to take action,” state wolf manager Donny Martorello told the Capital Press.

He said that WDFW was “disappointed” in the lawsuit filed by the “out-of-state groups” — Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands — and said the agency is “committed to continue working with our citizens, stakeholders, wolf advocates, hunters and livestock producers as we have in the past. We will deal with the litigation and lawsuit, and keep moving forward.”

Neither CBD or CW are on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group. One organization that is offered a tepid response to their lawsuit.

“Though not based in Washington, these groups have the right to seek to improve our state’s wolf management process using legal means. It will be up to the courts to decide the validity of their claims,” noted Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest. “However, we’re concerned by the way in which these groups dismiss the collaborative process in Washington, a process that’s making significant progress towards coexistence and tolerance for wolves, all while our wolf population continues to grow by more than 25 percent annually. We sincerely hope that this lawsuit doesn’t throw the baby, or in this case the wolf pup, out with the bathwater, so to speak.”

Smackout Pack Removals Finished, WDFW Says

WDFW is officially mum about a lawsuit filed yesterday over its lethal removal protocols but this afternoon said that operations targeting the Smackout Pack are over due to good behavior by the wolves as the grazing season comes to an end.

“This action was consistent with the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2011 and the department’s current protocol,” wolf manager Donny Martorello said in a press release. “Both policies support the recovery of wolves in our state, while also recognizing the need to address repeated predation on livestock.”

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE SMACKOUT PACK NORTHWEST OF SPOKANE IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

The Smackouts of northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties attacked three calves late last September and two more in July, leading to the removals of a 30-pound pup and 75-pound adult female in July.

There have been no further depredations by the large pack since mid-July, more than two months ago.

“Our goal was to change the pack’s behavior, and the break in wolf depredations on livestock is consistent with the desired outcome,” Martorello said. “We’ll continue to track the pack’s movements via GPS signals, but the removal operation is now over.”

Yesterday’s lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene. It claims WDFW “relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis” before authorizing lethal removals of the Smackouts as well as Sherman Pack this summer.

WDFW says that three different livestock producers affected by Smackout depredations all were using nonlethal deterrents which were backed up by the agency’s stepped-up efforts to prevent conflicts as well.

“The pack has stayed out of trouble for eight weeks and the summer grazing season is coming to a close,” Martorello said. “If depredations resume, WDFW would revert back to the protocol to assess the time since the previous depredations and assess any further actions.”

Pro-Wolf Groups File Suit To Try And Stop Lethal Removals In Washington

Pro-wolf groups from out of state are challenging WDFW’s lethal removals, filing a lawsuit in court today in a bid to prevent managers from killing any more in the federally delisted portion of Washington.

The move could fracture the collaborative work of in-state stakeholders managing the return of a difficult species with longterm recovery goals in mind.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE SHERMAN PACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. A LAWSUIT CLAIMS WDFW’S AUTHORIZATION TO REMOVE MEMBERS WAS IMPROPER. (WDFW)

 

It comes after three wolves in the Smackout and Sherman Packs in Northeast Washington were taken out this summer by WDFW as it follows a protocol that blends rancher buy-in and nonlethal deterrents with real consequences for depredating packs by acting faster to head off larger livestock and wolf body counts.

The 619-page lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court by the litigious Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene.

It claims that WDFW Director Jim Unsworth improperly authorized going after Sherman Pack members in late August in violation of the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, and Adminstrative Procedure Act, or APA.

That authorization came under new protocols adopted this year following discussion with the Wolf Advisory Group. Now, the number of depredations needed before WDFW begins lethal removals is three including one probable, in a 30-day period, or four confirmed over a 10-month period.

Removals start with one or two wolves followed by a period of observation. Since two Smackouts were killed in July, there have been no further depredations.

The agency’s wolf management plan went through SEPA before it was adopted in 2011, and the lethal removal protocols agreed to by the WAG — of which neither CBD or Cascadia Wildlands are a part of — are said to “flow from” that document.

WDFW did not have an immediate comment about the lawsuit except that officials needed time to read and understand what they’d just received this afternoon.

The suit comes at the tail end of the grazing season. The latest that WDFW has shot a wolf for chronic depredations was Sept. 27, 2012, when the collared Wedge alpha male was killed by a marksman.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said CBD’s Amaroq Weiss in a press release. “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.”

A 2014 poll found 63 percent of Washington’s public in fact supports lethally removing wolves to protect livestock with 28 percent opposed. In 2008, those percentages were 61 and 31.

The groups’ press release also plays the taxpayer card, though we’ve previously reported that lethal removals are funded by the agency’s Wildlife State account, which includes revenue from license sales, but not taxpayer dollars.

Despite the removal of almost all of the Wedge Pack, and members of the Huckleberries, Profanity Peaks, Sherman and Smackouts, the state’s population has done nothing but grow at a rate similar to that seen in the Northern Rocky Mountains.