Tag Archives: center for biological diversity

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.