Tag Archives: conservation northwest

More Wolf-Calf Problems In Ferry County; Togo Wolf Shot

Updated, 9:05 p.m., July 31, 2019

For the second time in two years, a Togo Pack wolf has been shot under reported caught-in-the-act provisions, and the northern Ferry County wolves have also attacked three calves in the past 10 days.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

It means WDFW Director Kelly Susewind may have another decision to make this week on whether to lethally remove wolves from a Eastern Washington pack to try and head off more livestock losses.

This morning he reauthorized taking out members of the OPT Pack after continued depredations there that now tally at least 27 since last September.

Protocols call for removals to be considered after three confirmed/probable attacks in 30 days, or four in 10 months.

An agency update out late this afternoon on the Togo depredations says, “WDFW staff are discussing how best to address this situation; Director Susewind will also assess this situation and consider next steps.”

This evening WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello said staff will meet internally to go over variables such as the rate of depredations, what happened, what deterrence are being used, the wolf shooting and put it all on the table for the director to consider.

Part of today’s wolf update was also to give the public an alert that there is an issue with the Togo wolves and it may require action.

The Togos run to the north of the OPTs, but unlike issues with grazing cattle with that pack, these latest depredations occurred on private lands, according to WDFW.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

The wolf shooting was reported on July 24 to WDFW, and is listed as being “under investigation” in the update, to not presuppose game wardens’ final report, but this afternoon an agency spokeswoman confirmed a Capital Press story that said the animal had been “lawfully” shot by a producer “as it was attacking a calf,” according to WDFW.

“We have heard that the preliminary assessment (from WDFW law enforcement) is that this was a lawful caught in the act incident. There was no evidence of foul play” said Martorello.

The wolf’s carcass was not recovered but it is believed to have been fatally wounded. The calf’s body was left in the field to aid in trapping and collaring efforts but was later removed.

The other two Togo depredations were looked into July 29 and earlier today, according to WDFW. More information on the latter is expected in the coming days.

“The livestock producer (producer 2) who owns these livestock removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd (when discovered), removes sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, delays turnout of livestock onto grazing allotments until June 10 when calving is finished (and deer fawns, elk calves, and moose calves become available as prey), and monitors the herd with a range rider,” WDFW reported.

Early last September, a Togo adult male was taken out following a series of summertime depredations and after a Thurston County Superior Court judge denied a preliminary injunction from Arizona-based Center For Biological Diversity that had halted WDFW’s initial plans to remove the animal in mid-August.

In late October 2017, an uncollared female Togo wolf was shot by a rancher during a series of depredations that summer and fall.

Hardcore wolf advocates had eight hours starting this morning at 8 a.m. to challenge in court Susewind’s OPT authorization, and were reportedly mulling it early in the day. They didn’t try to block an early July one that resulted in the removal of the pack’s breeding male.

After the day’s business hours were done, Martorello said that none was filed.

“We’re preparing to initiate that operation. We’ve passed 5 p.m.,” he said, adding it would likely begin in the morning on Thursday.

Wolf advocates appear to be issuing press releases and firing off tweets instead of trying the courts, perhaps in an effort to attract the attention of the governor who is involved in the presidential race.

WDFW stresses that removing OPT wolves is “not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach the statewide recovery objective,” which it has done so and how in the federally delisted eastern third of the state.

Martorello said “multiple animals” could be removed, meaning two or more.

“We think Washington’s approach is the best conservation strategy for wolves in any Western state today,” Conservation Northwest also said in a statement sent out late in the day. “Through these policies and the collaborative work of the [Wolf Advisory Group], our wolf population continues to grow, expanding to more than 126 animals at the end of last year. While at the same time, the number of ranchers using proactive conflict deterrence measures is increasing, and livestock conflicts and wolf lethal removals remain low compared to other states.”

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Tax On Recreational Gear To Help Fund WDFW Gets Hearing In Olympia

An idea whose time has come, an “unfixable” one — or something in between?

Washington lawmakers heard all sides during a hearing on a bill that would add a .20 percent tax on certain recreational equipment and clothing over $200 to help fund the upkeep of WDFW-owned fish and wildlife habitat.

MEMBERS OF THE WALGAMOTT-ECKSTEIN CLAN SET UP TENTS IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS DURING A FOURTH OF JULY CAMPOUT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Citing a ring of invasive knapweed around a state wildlife area sign in Okanogan County, prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said he was trying to fix a long-standing problem for the agency since the Great Recession chopped a big part of state General Fund support for its myriad missions.

“I think $2 million would give us a start,” he told members of the House Finance Committee.

That’s how much a fiscal note says HB 2122 as initially written would raise on average over the coming six years for WDFW’s Wildlife Account, from $800,000 in 2020 to $2.9 million in 2025

Hunters and anglers presenting their licenses at that point of sale would be exempt as we already pay through federal excise taxes via the venerable Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

“That group has been paying the freight for a pretty long time,” Kretz pointed out.

REP. JOEL KRETZ TALKS ABOUT HIS BILL, HB 2122, BEFORE A HOUSE COMMITTEE DURING A TELEVISED PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

However, representatives from the retail industry say they oppose it, including for its broad language and the dollars that outdoor activities already generate for local economies and state taxes — $26 billion and $2 billion, according to Mark Berejka of Seattle recreational giant REI.

“This bill is not a fix and it is not fixable,” he said.

He also questioned how the sportsman exemption would work when buying items online, and complained that the bill had been “sprung” on his industry.

THOMAS O’KEEFE OF AMERICAN WHITEWATER STATED THAT THE BILL WOULD TAX THE SKIS HE STRAPS ON ON FEDERAL LANDS BUT NOT THE PADDLE HE’D USE AT A WDFW WATER ACCESS SITE. ANOTHER SPEAKER WONDERED IF HORSE SADDLES WOULD BE TAXED. (TVW)

James Moshella of the Washington Trails Association said his group was opposed, but that if such a tax was going to be imposed it needed to have a broader conversation and also should benefit all state lands — WDFW, DNR and State Parks — that hikers use.

Organizations closer to WDFW’s mission expressed support.

Jen Syrowitz, a hunter and hiker with Washington Wildlife Federation, called the bill a “fair ask of the recreational community.”

She said there was a “disconnect” between state residents and our wildlife and the bill would help everyone understand they’re all stakeholders in WDFW carrying out its conservation mission.

Syrowitz called the tax nominal, and in offering Audubon Washington’s support, Adam Maxwell said it amounted to “60 cents on a pair of Nikon Monarch binoculars.”

He said that the dollars WDFW receives generate a 350 percent return on investment to state coffers.

Calling himself an avid hiker and photographer, Chris Bachman of Spokane’s The Lands Council said, “I’m glad to pay the tax.”

He added that what would be taxed under the bill needs to better defined, a work-in-progress sentiment that was echoed by Tom Echolls of the Hunters Heritage Council and Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest. The former gentleman signed in as “other,” the latter in support.

WITH WDFW’S NATE PAMPLIN LOOKING ON, CONSERVATION NORTHWEST DIRECTOR MITCH FRIEDMAN EXPRESSES SUPPORT FOR THE BILL DURING THE PUBLIC HEARING. (TVW)

Also testifying was WDFW’s Nate Pamplin, which said his agency was supportive of the intent of the bill, which came out of legislative requirements for state fish and wildlife overseers to review their operation, conduct an audit, look for efficiencies and convene stakeholders, the Budget and Policy Group, or BPAG.

He said that that found that the department’s mission benefits all Washingtonians, and it should be funded that way.

Asked by Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) how much WDFW lost in General Fund revenues due to the recession 10 years ago, Pamplin said funding went from $110 million in the 2007-09 biennium to $75.6 million in 2009-11 to $57.7 million in 2011-13. While it recovered to $94.4 million in the current two-year budget cycle, with inflation it’s still $30 million below where it might otherwise be.

Rep. Kretz said the dropoff could be seen in “lapses in management” and in his opposition to habitat acquisitions, such as Scotch Creek, where the aforementioned weed-ringed wildlife area sign stands.

“We really appreciate the sponsor [Kretz] for thinking outside the box and this committee for holding the hearing,” Pamplin said, adding that he looked forward to working with stakeholders on the bill.

Next Washington Wolf Count Likely To Show Increase, Possibly Sharp Jump

An out-of-state environmental group is trying to minimize the number of wolves running around Washington, but the year-end tally is likely to be significantly higher than their “approximately 120.”

That figure comes from a pressure ad by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity that appeared in the Seattle Times and is aimed at getting the governor to force WDFW to stop killing wolves in response to repeated livestock depredations.

A RECENT AD FROM THE CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY MAKES SEVERAL DEMANDS ABOUT HOW WASHINGTON WOLVES SHOULD BE MANAGED.

It comes as the two parties are locked in a court battle over the state’s lethal removal protocols for wolves.

Twenty have been taken out by WDFW since 2012, an average of just three a year as Washington’s gray wolf population has more than doubled, but it still might have been the inspiration for a Central Puget Sound lawmaker to prefile a bill for the 2019 session along those exact same lines a couple days later.

Ultimately it all may backfire.

In response to CBD’s estimate, instate wolf advocates are indicating that there may actually be more than 150 wolves in Washington these days — even 200.

That higher number comes from Mitch Friedman, head of Conservation Northwest, which put out the lower figure in a post that Friedman shared publicly and in doing so offered his own guesstimate.

Those would be 23 to 64 percent increases over the official 2017 minimum (122).

The former is unsurprising, given the longterm 30 percent annual growth rate, and while the latter may seem shocking it is not outside the realm of possibility any more.

WDFW’s 2018 count probably won’t come out until March, like it has for the past five years, but for the first time wolf poop could help provide a much more accurate estimate of how many animals are really out there.

Earlier this year a University of Washington researcher was awarded a $172,000 grant from the state legislature to run his dung-detection dogs through areas where the number of public wolf reports has grown but no packs let alone breeding pairs were known to exist.

“If there are wolves south of I-90, the odds of the dogs locating them should be quite high,” Dr. Samuel Wasser, who heads up UW’s Center for Conservation Biology, told me for an April story. “Colonizing wolves range widely, our dogs can cover huge areas, and their ability to detect samples if present is extraordinary.”

With the 2018 field season over, the samples are now in the lab and being analyzed, and the data will also provide information on diet.

“It will be a little while because we are moving to Next Generation Sequencing, which allows us to simultaneously identify the carnivore scats and what they ate in a single run,” Wasser said by email this week.

Up to this year, WDFW’s year-end count has been a mix of collaring individual wolves and then locating them and their packs again in winter, when they’re easier to track or spot in the snow from the air, monitoring breeding pairs and collecting imagery from a network of trail cameras.

The agency has stressed that their annual tallies were just minimums, that there were likely more wolves on the landscape that had eluded them, and hunters have generally believed there to be many more than official figures.

So using DNA this new information could provide a closer estimate of the state’s actual population, not to mention possibly help us get to the wolf management plan’s recovery goals sooner.

As of this past March there was just one known breeding pair in the Northern Cascades Zone, the Teanaway Pack, and none in the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast Zone.

Under the plan there must be four in each, but since that count there have been tantalizing public reports around Granite Falls, the northwest side of Mt. Rainier, and Stampede and White Passes.

Wasser says the new method for testing wolf doots his dogs find is just about dialed in, with results likely available later in winter.

“We are close to having it validated, using sample previously run using our old method from Northeast Washington,” he says. “Once that’s done, we will move forward with the Central Washington samples. That should move pretty quickly once we’re at the stage. We hope to finish the validations this month. If all goes well, we aim to have all our results by the end of February (or March), although that could be optimistic.”

The results could arrive just about the time that the Center for Biological Diversity and WDFW attend a court hearing for CBD’s lawsuit over the state’s development of the removal protocols. Both parties are due before Thurston County Superior Court Judge John C. Skinder on March 8 to review documents submitted in support of their arguments and determine when to set a trial.

By that time, it’s pretty likely that Rep. Sherry Appleton’s (D-Bainbridge) HB 1045, which would bar WDFW from killing cattle- and sheep-killing wolves and — hilariously — instead require the agency to relocate them, will have died without a committee hearing.

But not before it offered Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) yet another chance to needle Westside wolfies, this time to mull introducing a counter measure to designate Appleton’s island a wolf preserve.

In other Washington wolf news, in October WDFW issued a notice that it was beginning a periodic review of the species.

“Based on the information collected and reviewed, the department will make recommendations to maintain the species current listing status as endangered or reclassify species to sensitive, threatened, or other status,” the agency stated.

Public comment will be announced later.

And late this morning WDFW announced a confirmed wolf depredation of a calf on its Chiliwist Wildlife Area, part of the Sinlahekin complex.

The 400-pound animal was among a herd of cattle that had just been brought off of DNR land on Nov. 27 to a traditional gathering site on WDFW land and was found dead the next day.

The producer was advised to cover the carcass and did so, and on the 29th, an examination of the remains revealed typical wolf wounds along with the tracks of a single.

The incident occurred in the still-federally listed part of the state, in or very close to the Loup Loups’ territory, but in detailing the attack, WDFW did not attribute it that pack.

“No collared wolves were present in the area at the time of the depredation,” the agency stated.

It would be one of the latest if not the latest attack to occur in any year since wolves began recolonizing the state.

WDFW Provides New Details on Wolf Depredations In Profanity Peak Area, Prevention Measures; Key Group Balks At Going Lethal

Updated: 10:15 a.m., Sept. 12, 2018

Washington wolf managers Tuesday night issued a lengthy statement on five recent confirmed depredations by a pack of wolves running in a rough, mountainous part of Ferry County that has seen other livestock attacks and lethal removals the past two summers as well.

A WOLF CAPTURED ON A FERRY COUNTY TRAIL CAMERA IN 2017. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

Among the new details released is that three other calves also died in the area of unknown causes; only their bones and scraps were left by the time a county wildlife specialist and contracted range riders found them in late August.

That area appears to have become a second rendezvous site for the pack this summer, according to telemetry off of a male member captured in early June.

The unnamed pack known by the acronym OPT for Old Profanity Territory, consists of three to four adults and no more than two pups, it is believed. Its existence was first reported in late May.

WDFW’s statement outlines preventative measures taken by the livestock producer running his cattle on the Forest Service allotment, including turning out calves nearly a month and a half later than otherwise allowed under the grazing agreement, as well as preseason scouting for wolf activity by contracted range riders, and data sharing of wolf locations.

Following discovery of the calf carcasses on the landscape, range riding activities were increased — at least 150 days of effort occurred from April through July but August and September data isn’t available — and the cattle herd also began to be moved west.

But in early September injured and dead calves began turning up, with WDFW late last week ultimately confirming wolves had attacked five.

State Rep. Joel Kretz, who lives nearby, has reported some details on WDFW’s initial then reclassified depredation determinations on his Facebook page.

Nowhere in the agency’s Tuesday night statement are the words “lethal removal” mentioned.

“The depredations in this area happened in quick succession, and department staff have spent several days gathering information, assisting the producer, providing reports, and considering next steps,” WDFW summarizes.

One instate-based wolf advocacy organization, which in the past has supported the state taking out problem wolves under agreed-to lethal removal protocols, is balking this go-round.

“We appreciate the report, and the level of effort, but there’s nothing new there from our perspective,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, which had put out a statement Monday night that it couldn’t support taking out wolves in response to the depredations.

The organization says the recurring conflicts here don’t meet removal protocols it and other members of the state Wolf Advisory Group agreed to, and that the rugged terrain should be taken into account to adjust tactics to increase the odds that cattle and wolves don’t tangle.

In 2016, seven members of the Profanity Peak Pack were removed for a string of depredations and last year the Sherman Pack male was killed by state sharpshooters.

“It’s a tough situation, but our positions haven’t changed. We continue to support the protocol, and the need for coexistence and collaborative management,” says Gunnell. “Still, in our eyes the state killing wolves in one general area three years in a row for the same livestock producers does not fit within the intent and letter of the protocol.”

Before the agency issued more information, another member of the WAG, Shawn Cantrell of Defenders of Wildlife, said WDFW shouldn’t authorize lethal removals.

An out-of-state group is poised to try to again take legal action against WDFW, KING 5 reported Tuesday night.

Editor’s note: I’ll continue to fold in comments through the day as I receive them or are reported elsewhere.

 

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.

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.

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.