Tag Archives: lethal removals

Washington Governor Asks WDFW For Changes In Wolf Management

Updated 6:30 a.m., Oct. 1, 2019.

For the second time in recent years, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is stepping in state wildlife managers’ wheelhouse on predator management, in 2015 with cougars and this fall over wolves.

He sent WDFW Director Kelly Susewind a letter today that in part asks the agency to “make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

Referring to issues in Ferry and Stevens Counties, Inslee claims that the state wolf plan “does not appear to be working as intended” there and that he believes WDFW “cannot continue using the same management approach on this particular landscape.”

Northeast Washington is not only where the most wolves in the state are and where recovery goals were met long ago but also the sight of the most conflicts with livestock, mostly cattle but some sheep, on federal allotments and private lands.

Even as most Washington wolf packs generally stay out of trouble, there have been chronic depredations in the Kettle Range three of the past four years with the Profanity Peak, Old Profanity Territory, Togo and Sherman Packs coming under WDFW’s gun as livestock pile up and nonlethal tactics fail.

The agency uses a hard-won protocol to detrmine when to remove wolves, with requirements that producers use a set number of conflict prevention measures and that there have been either three confirmed/probable wolf attacks in a month or four confirmed in a year. It was agreed to by WDFW and members of its Wolf Advisory Group, made up of ranchers, hunters, advocates and others from Washington. Ever since it has been in place, out-of-state groups have been trying to blow it up.

Triggered by issues there again this year, wolf advocates, mostly from out of state and now including Wayne Pacelle, formerly of HSUS, have been mounting yet another pressure campaign on the governor.

It also involved a court battle this summer that saw WDFW lethally remove what were believed to be the last four OPT wolves just before a judge ordered them to cease the operation.

“We must find new methods to better support co-existence between Washington’s livestock industry and gray wolves in our state. The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable,” writes Inslee.

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) is right in the thick of things in Northeast Washington and read the letter for the first time this evening.

He reiterated that he supports non-lethal work that is site-specific as well as more innovative local range riding programs, but also said that problem wolves need to be dealt with quickly, effectively and completely to head off more down the road.

He feels that 2018’s and 2019’s OPT Pack was the same as the Profanities that were in the middle of 2016’s end-of-summer nightmare.

Kretz said he prefers working with those invested in the area and claimed groups like Center for Biological Diversity are driven to create conflict for the revenues it brings in rather than the good of the local community.

“I think it’s people from hundreds of miles away throwing hand grenades,” Kretz said.

Pacelle’s Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy bought a full-page ad in The Seattle Times this summer and reintroduced former WSU professor Rob Wielgus, now in Oregon, back into the fray. A Spokane-based group also put a message on a video billboard along I-5 for a couple week.

WDFW wasn’t expected to have a comment until Tuesday.

The letter to Susewind and cc’ed to Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Larry Carpenter comes not long after the director authorized incremental removals on the Grouse Flats Pack in the Blue Mountains and as there is an ongoing operation on the Togo Pack, and WDFW sent Inslee a request to include $26 million from the state General Fund in its supplemental budget next legislative session.

It arrives as the federal grazing season wraps up.

And it comes as WDFW’s post wolf delisting planning stage kicked off earlier in September.

“I believe the Canadian Gray wolf population within Washington’s borders has reached a population level that warrants delisting by the Fish and Wildlife Commission,” Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), chairman of the House natural resources committee which WDFW legislation goes through, said Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Inslee is asking the agency to fast track an ongoing lethal management guidelines update and work with the Forest Service, which is in charge of grazing on national forest lands.

And he gave them a Dec. 1 deadline for a progress report on his requests.

WDFW Releases More Info On Removal Of OPT Pack, Court Case Impact

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW PRESS RELEASE

On the morning of Aug. 16, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lethally removed the four known remaining members of the OPT wolf pack. A series of WDFW investigations had shown the pack responsible for 29 depredation incidents.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind reauthorized the lethal removals on July 31 (wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/updates/wdfw-director-reauthorizes-lethal-opt-7-31-2019), in response to continuing depredations of cattle on federal grazing lands in the Kettle River range of Ferry County.

The removal decision was made with guidance from the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00001)

and the lethal removal provisions of the department’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol (wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-02/final_protocol_for_wolf-livestock_interactions_jun012017.pdf).

The OPT pack has been involved in 14 livestock depredations in the last 10 months, with nine in the last 30 days, and a total of 29 since Sept. 5, 2018. The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock took several proactive, nonlethal, conflict deterrence measures to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, and WDFW will continue to monitor for wolf activity in the area and work closely with producers.

This was the fourth time Director Susewind has authorized lethal removal in the OPT pack since Sept. 12, 2018 (wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/updates/wdfw-director-authorizes-lethal-action).

Plaintiffs, supported by the Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy, filed a petition for review of Director Susewind’s July 31 reauthorization, and sought a temporary restraining order in King County Superior Court on Aug. 1. The motion for a restraining order was denied by a court commissioner at the time, allowing the removal effort to continue. The hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction was scheduled for Aug.16, when the court was expecting to, and did, hear an update on the department’s removal activities.

According to Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW, the department had been working steadily to meet its stated intentions since the courts gave it the clearance to move forward on Aug. 1. To date the department has removed:

· On Aug. 7, one wolf

· On Aug. 8, one wolf

· On Aug.13, one wolf

· On Aug.16, four wolves

WDFW believes it has removed all members of the OPT pack, although another wolf was sighted in the area late this spring. That wolf may have dispersed from a different pack.

“I know this is an extremely difficult time for many of our communities around the state and having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is something we take very seriously,” said Director Susewind. “Hopefully we can pull from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to find better solutions for coexistence.

Counsel for WDFW appeared in court today for the preliminary injunction hearing. The court was informed of the lethal removals that have occurred since the Aug. 1 hearing. At the end of the hearing, King County Superior Court Judge John McHale ruled from the bench and issued a preliminary injunction that would prohibit WDFW from lethally removing any remaining wolves from the OPT pack until the court has a chance to hear the merits of the case.

In April 2019, the department reported 27 wolf packs in Washington. A summary of Washington wolf recovery and activity can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf.

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One O.P.T. Wolf Removed; Dead Cow Also Found

WDFW reports lethally removing a juvenile wolf from the Old Profanity Territory Pack this past Sunday.

The agency also says that the northern Ferry County wolves killed a cow in the same area, bringing the number of cattle confirmed to have been attacked and killed or injured this month to seven.

The latest depredation is believed to have occurred before the 50-pound wolf was killed by a helicopter-borne sharpshooter.

“The department is currently working to determine the next option to deter wolf depredation by the OPT pack under the current incremental removal action,” WDFW said in a statement this afternoon.

That was authorized last week by Director Kelly Susewind. It allows up to two wolves to be taken out as part of an incremental removal to change the pack’s behavior after it injured five calves and killed another.

Three other wolves were seen during air operations Sunday. WDFW said it’s difficult to discern between adult and young wolves this time of year.

The OPT Pack was believed to include three or four adults and two pups.

According to the state, the producer, identified in the press as the Diamond M, has used a range of nonlethal measures to try to limit depredations but they haven’t worked.

This is the third summer in a row that the agency has had to resort to killing wolves to try and head off livestock conflicts in this portion of Ferry County. In 2016, the Profanity Peak Pack was targeted, while last year it was the Sherman Pack.

6 Weeks Of Peace, But ODFW Targets Harl Butte Wolves After 2 More Calf Attacks

Oregon wildlife managers have authorized lethally removing up to four more Harl Butte wolves after two more calf depredations in recent days.

The Wallowa County pack has already been reduced by four following a series of attacks on cattle and the initial failure of nonlethal techniques to stop them.

AN ODFW MAP SHOWS THE AREA OF NORTHEAST OREGON WHERE THE HARL BUTTE PACK RESIDES. (ODFW)

Roblyn Brown, ODFW’s acting wolf coordinator noted that there had been a six-week period without trouble following the removal of four wolves in August, but that ended with a confirmed kill of a calf on Sept. 29 and a confirmed injury to a calf on Oct. 1.

“As wildlife managers, we are responsible for balancing the conservation of wolves on the landscape with our obligation to manage wolves so that damage to livestock is limited. We need to take further action with this pack,” Brown said in a press release.

Along with ODFW staffers, members of a local grazers association have been granted a temporary permit to kill wolves in public and private pastures where their cattle are located.

The agency believes there are nine Harl Butte wolves; any may be killed.

In other Oregon wolf news, a period of quiet with the Meacham Pack has led to the expiration of lethal controls there.

In Washington, WDFW continues to evaluate the Sherman Pack response to a removal and says no depredations have been reported since Aug. 28.

 

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.

WDFW In Evaluation Period With Smackouts After 2 Removals; No New Depredations Reported

A weekly update from Washington wolf managers yesterday afternoon indicates that, for the moment, things have quieted down in the northeastern corner of the state.

WDFW reports it is now in an evaluation period with the Smackout Pack to see if lethally removing two members following a series of calf depredations that stretch back to late last September can head off more livestock attacks.

A MEMBER OF THE SMACKOUT WOLF PACK OF STEVENS AND PEND OREILLE COUNTIES AWAKES AFTER BEING DRUGGED, EAR TAGGED AND WEIGHED IN LATE MAY 2012. (WDFW)

“The duration of this phase is largely dependent on the behavior of the wolves,” the Aug. 3 update states.

It began July 31.

The agency says there have been no new depredations since July 22, but if another occurs, it may go back in and take out more wolves.

WDFW continues to keep details from northern Stevens County quiet, saying only that it killed the two wolves between July 20, when the operation was announced, and July 30.

Under its lethal removal protocols, incremental removals can be authorized after three confirmed depredations (or two confirmed and a probable) in a rolling 30-day period or four confirmed across a year.

WDFW says that all three producers whose calves have been gnawed on continue to try and keep their stock and wolves from tangling, including the use of range riders, taking dead, sick or injured animals away from the main herd, using fladry or strobe lights and checking on their cattle.

Apparently things have also been quiet with the Sherman Pack, which is sitting on three depredations since June 12.