Tag Archives: conservation northwest

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.