Tag Archives: conservation northwest

Reaction To Zinke’s Call To Restore Grizzly Bears To North Cascades

Last Friday morning’s announcement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that he wanted to “accelerate” the federal review of proposals to restore grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades led to a spectrum of reaction.

SECRETARY OF INTERIOR RYAN ZINKE SPEAKS BEFORE REPORTERS AND OTHERS ON MARCH 23, 2018, ON RESTORATION OF GRIZZLY BEARS TO THE NORTH CASCADES. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Here is a sampling:

Ethan Lane, executive director, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council, via AgInfo.net

“We are extremely disappointed with the Department of the Interior’s support to introduce Grizzly Bears to the North Cascades of Washington. For more than a year we have heard the Secretary talk about being a better neighbor, but unfortunately actions speak louder than words. Reintroducing as many as 200 man-eating predators into an area already reeling from exploding gray wolf populations is anything but neighborly. This decision won’t just impact ranchers – it’s a blow for the entire North Cascades ecosystem, the safety of locals and visitors, and the local economy, too. In fact, the only beneficiaries of an action like this will be the radical environmental activists that support this type of ill-advised ecosystem tinkering.”

Mitch Friedman, executive director, Conservation Northwest, via Skagit Valley Herald

“It’s been 30 years — it was in ‘88 that we started advocating for grizzly bear recovery. That’s quite a span of time … to have a horizon for success is astounding.”

Rob Smith, regional director, National Parks Conservation Association, via Seattle PI

“We’ve lost almost a year of progress toward grizzly recovery in the North Cascades, so we’re relieved that Secretary Zinke has decided to take the finger off the pause button and allow park and wildlife experts to continue their work.

“Wildlife science as well as public opinion support restoration of the grizzly bear to the North Cascades for ecosystem health and as a legacy for future generations.”

Sarah Ryan, executive vice president, Washington Cattlemen’s Association, via AgInfo.net

“The idea of dumping man-eating Grizzly Bears from helicopters into Washington National Parks has not been well thought out. Once the Grizzly Bears walk out of the park into rural towns and private and state lands, the communities surrounding the recovery area can be greatly impacted. Already the livestock community has had little to no help with the management and recovery of wolves in the North Cascades, and cannot accept and welcome another federally listed apex predator with no monetary help from the federal government. What is the reasoning behind thinking a recovery like this can be accomplished without the support of the ranching, logging, recreation, and natural resource based communities or consideration for public safety?”

Steven Rinella, The Meateater, via Twitter

If he follows through on this, this is big and great news.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4), via Yakima Herald Republic

“I am disappointed that Secretary Zinke did not first speak with me about his support of reintroducing grizzly bears in the North Cascades. Local communities in Central Washington thought reintroducing grizzly bears was a bad idea when proposed by the (Obama) administration and it would be just as bad an idea if entertained by the (Trump) administration.”

Chase Gunnell, communications director, Conservation Northwest, via email

As a lifelong Washingtonian and a hunter who carried a mule deer out of the wilderness of the North Cascades last year, alone and in the dark, I welcome the restoration of this iconic native species in this country that remains wild enough to sustain it. Despite high-quality habitat, the science is clear that because of isolation from other grizzly populations in Canada and the Rocky Mountains, grizzlies will not recover in the North Cascades on their own. It will take a few straightforward precautions, and some courage, but the North Cascades is big and rugged enough for both people and grizzly bears.

Salient thoughts from our social media post announcing the news, via facebook.com/NorthwestSportsmanMagazine

Daniel Martin Im one more Skagit valley republican that backcountry hunts and off trail backpacks frequently throughout the year that supports restoration of the grizzly. I’m more worried about wolves then grizzlies, it just comes down to a simple fact of human interference and over trapping, if we ( humans) have impacted the wildlife it’s our duty as humans to be Stewards of that wildlife and balance it as best as possible whether its predator or its prey. Yeah I would like tons more deer and elk walking around so I can hunt them easier but that’s being a little selfish when the last generations of humans over hunted and removed grizzlies from the landscape in the first place. No one knows if deer and elk populations will plummet when grizzlies come back but it seems that Wyoming,Alaska, and Montana are doing just fine with grizzlies around. Yeah I do think wolves need to be hunted and kept in check so they don’t deplete the game population and eventually I would want the grizzly to be managed the same.
Ralph Lane Jr. Well Daniel, we could just all move to Georgia and let the predators and rascally politicians have this place! Would that suit? The West was settled by humans FOR humans. If the populations of the indigenous went down in some cases, so be it. Adding more predatory animals back to the environment now will only result in more confrontation between them and humans and guess who LOSES?
…..
Kari Anne Hirschberger Daniel, that’s fine to be open to grizzlies inhabiting the Cascades, but it’s an entirely different issue regarding introducing them. The population in BC is heathy and they have not taken advantage of the open territory for a reason… and it isn’t due to humans hunting or otherwise minimizing their opportunities; we do NOT have the species of moths they take advantage of for a high protein source like in Montana… with the wildfires the region has seen in the past decade we definitely do not have high enough denisoty of white bark pine, and we don’t have the high density of bison and elk to take advantage of either… so what do you think these critters will eat? The habitat availability isn’t an issue… it’s the quality that has kept the numbers low. I feel introducing them sets them up for failure; either they directly compete with native black bear, or migrate to lowlands where the propensity for negative human interactions is high. Let them migrate back into the Cascades if they choose, but forcing their hand does good for nobody in my opinion. ?????
Daniel Martin Thanks for a well written opinion Kari Anne Hirschberger. I understand your point as I have listened to many a podcast and biologist speaking to your point. As far as moths and large ungulate prey is concerned as a high protein diet ( which they no doubt are) the moth issue as far as white bark Pine goes is two sided. The opinion that it is a big impact on bear diet and not a big impact on a bear diet is a debate. If biologists from our state ( which I have not heard any negatives as far as grizzly obtaining enough protein ) have good facts leading them to say they would survive fine then I trust there opinion. Grizzlies do compete with black bears in a balanced eco system, they displace black bears as they are supposed to do. There are so many meadows in the north cascade range full of bear food, and there is plenty of scavenging opportunities for all bears. I’m not worried that grizzlies will have a lack of food. As you know The reason a brown bear is so large is because of the abundance of marine protein ( salmon, shellfish etc) the brown bear is just a coastal grizzlie. The actual Alaskan grizzly which is a interior bear doesn’t naturally have the same protein access as the coastal bear and survives off vegetation and scavenging. The north Cascade’s grizzly would have a very similar habitat.
Also as a theory wouldn’t it be more of a incentive for wdfw to put more resources into growing our elk herds, mule deer herds.

Another Ferry Co. Wolf Depredation, Another CBD Lawsuit

Usually Washington’s wolf world cools off as winter approaches. Not this fall.

WDFW this afternoon is reporting a second depredation in northern Ferry County this month just as an out-of-state environmental group has filed a second lawsuit against the agency this autumn.

As the kids like to say these days, let’s unpack these one at a time.

THE LATEST DEPREDATION — a dead calf — was discovered Nov. 8, six days after another calf was reported injured nearby.

Both attacks occurred on a local livestock producer’s fenced private land though in different locations.

NORTHEAST WASHINGTON HAS SEEN MORE DEPREDATIONS THIS FALL THAN PAST AUTUMNS.  (WDFW)

The dead calf was found as a cattle herd was being moved, and was tarped to preserve evidence.

The next day, WDFW determined it to be a confirmed depredation, based on bite marks, signs of struggle, wolf tracks and the injured calf.

The two depredations follow on the heels of another rancher catching a wolf in the act of attacking their stock in late October and killing it, which is legal in this part of Washington.

That wolf was killed less than 3 miles from where the dead calf was found, according to state wolf managers.

Even with two confirmed attacks in less than 30 days, it’s unclear what pack may be to blame should state gunners be authorized for lethal removals. Reporting on the injured calf earlier this month, WDFW said that attack occurred outside known ranges.

“The producer checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,” the agency noted in today’s update. “The producer has also used range riders periodically this year and last year. The producer removes sick or injured cattle from the area. The producer also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.”

In October, there was a confirmed depredation in Stevens County by the Smackout Pack. In previous years, livestock attacks have mostly occurred in June, July, August and September.

AS FOR THAT LAWSUIT, it was filed by the Center For Biological Diversity in Thurston County Superior Court against WDFW over public records.

The Arizona-based organization is trying to get ahold of details on the June caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf by a Stevens County ranchhand, as well as information on the removal of much of the Profanity Peak Pack of northern Ferry County in 2016 for a series of depredations.

“The public has every right to know how and why wolves are being killed in Washington,” CBD’s Amaroq Weiss said in a press release. “Wolves are still in a fragile state in Washington. It’s frustrating that state wildlife officials won’t come clean with the full details on these lethal operations.”

It’s the outfit’s second lawsuit in two months, following on one in late September trying to stop lethal removals, and it “disappointed” instate wolf advocates.

“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,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell. “Balanced coexistence, not courtroom wrangling, is the best path for long-term wolf recovery. We firmly believe that sitting down with other wildlife stakeholders to create common-ground policies and win-win solutions is far more effective than divisive lawsuits.”

While both organizations are listed as members of Pacific Wolf Coalition, CNW has a seat on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group while CBD does not. The former is typically more in tune with on-the-ground realities in Washington’s wolf world than the latter, which attempts to paint the population as “fragile,” even as numbers increase year over year as more arrive from Canada, elsewhere in the Lower 48 and instate packs multiply and split.

“WDFW can’t comment at this point, since neither we nor our attorneys have had the opportunity to review the complaint,” said agency spokesman Bruce Botka.

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.”

WDFW Issues New Wolf Depredation Prevention, Lethal Removal Protocols

New protocols for removing problem wolves in the federally delisted area of Eastern Washington began yesterday, the traditional start of grazing season in the region’s national forests and mountains.

The biggest change may be the reduction in the number of depredations needed before WDFW wolf managers begin lethal removals, now three including one probable, in a 30-day period.

During last summer’s cattle attacks by the Profanity Peak Pack, that was four, and all had to be confirmed.

THE LETHAL REMOVAL ASPECTS OF THE NEW PROTOCOLS AFFECT PACKS IN THIS MAP’S EASTERN WASHINGTON REGION, THE AREA OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES HAVE BEEN FEDERALLY DELISTED. (WDFW)

The protocol also addresses ways ranchers and others can reduce the likelihood of depredations in the first place, increasing the number of preventative measures required for consideration of wolf removal.

The overall idea is to act faster to reduce the number of dead or injured livestock as well as limit the number of wolves that may have to be taken out, explained the agency’s Donny Martorello in late March.

The changes are a collaboration between WDFW and its Wolf Advisory Group.

“The protocol draws on a diversity of perspectives expressed by people throughout the state for protecting wildlife populations as a public resource and livestock,” the agency states in the 18-page document posted yesterday afternoon. “These values include achieving a sustained recovered wolf population, supporting rural ways of life, and maintaining livestock production as part of the state’s cultural and economic heritage. This protocol also serves to increase the transparency and accountability of the Department’s activities and management actions related to wolves.”

A WDFW graph shows a 40 percent increase this year in the number of livestock producers who’ve signed onto damage prevention agreements and/or hiring range riders.

“In 2017, we’re seeing a dramatic uptake in ranchers utilizing proactive deterrence measures over the past several years, and this has come through relationship-building and respect for rural communities and producers,” said Conservation Northwest’s Paula Swedeen, whose organization is on the WAG and supports the new protocols. “Use of those proactive methods is vital for coexistence, and the updated protocol better recognizes that.”

WDFW is also pledging to include monthly updates on its wolf work. According to Director Jim Unsworth, that will include:

* Newly documented wolf packs, changes in known wolf occurrence areas, and non-dispersing lone wolves wearing an active radio collar.  This will include updates to the wolf pack maps on the Department website.
* Recent wolf collaring  activities.
* All known wolf mortalities.
* Department activities related to implementation of deterrence measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict.
* All livestock depredation events that resulted in the classification of a confirmed or probable wolf  depredation.
* Public notice when the criteria for lethal removal has been met and the Director has authorized lethal removal actions.
* Highlights of wolf-related work activities by  Department field staff.
* Wolf outreach and information sharing activities by Department staff.
* Information on wolf ecology and coexistence measures.
* Notice on all Wolf Advisory Group meetings and work items.