The Daily Howler: Facebook Wars

1) Somewhere around the comment No. 465 to 470 mark in WDFW’s latest Facebook post on wolves is a report from the Methow Valley of a wolf attack on a dog west of Twisp.

This afternoon, the lead local fish and wildlife officer is confirming to Northwest Sportsman and the Wenatchee World that the incident occurred.

Sgt. Dan Christensen says that yesterday a bulldog suffered apparent bite wounds to the neck, possibly from a pair of young wolves.

It occurred up Poorman Creek, so the two would be members of the Lookout Pack which last year had three pups.

Christensen says that the dog’s owner, who is familiar with wolf behavior, described the attack as wolves trying to get the dog to submit.

That wasn’t exactly the case in two other recent wolf-dog encounters on the West Coast, but this time the dog is OK, according to the officer.

Update March 20, 2014: The Omak Chronicle has more on the incident in this report. Unusually, this is the second dog named Shelby in this area to be hit by wolves in the past year; not far away, Shelby White, an 11-year-old girl, shot a cougar following her brother earlier this winter.

2) Stop me if you’ve seen this headline before: WDFW Hearing It From Both Sides On Wolves.

As the agency is hammered online for teaming with two out-of-state groups to up the reward for information on an illegally killed Smackout Pack female (the abovementioned post), an in-state organization (that ponied up $7,500 too) has joined the chorus calling for WDFW to reconsider its support for federal delisting of the species, albeit at a less brazen pitch than others, and it has a different idea on a way forward for uncoupling Washington wolf management from other states.

Conservation Northwest this morning sent Director Phil Anderson a letter that reads:

The (U.S. Fish & Wildlife) Service’s proposal lacks scientific merit and Washington’s nascent wolf population faces increasing threats. We ask that you consider advocating for a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) designation for wolves in the Pacific Northwest to expedite wolf recovery and state wolf management…

A PNW DPS designation may best serve the Department’s objectives for scientifically-defensible wolf recovery and state wolf management. As the science panel pointed out, recent research indicates that coastal wolves in British Columbia are genetically and ecologically unique. These distinct coastal wolves are now spearheading recovery in Washington’s Cascades en route to the rest of their historic range in Oregon and California. A DPS designation would allow the Service to delist wolves in the PNW if they recovered more rapidly than elsewhere in the lower 48; a likely prospect given the strong public support for wolf recovery and potential for successful conflict avoidance programs in our region.

In a conversation earlier this month, WDFW’s wolf manager Donny Martorello allowed that the Lookout and Teanaway Packs are genetically linked to BC coastal wolves, but also to those in the Northern Rockies. He said that with a large number of wolves to the state’s north, northeast and east, it’s more likely that those would be the ones to “swamp” Washington.

“In our (management) plan it doesn’t matter. If the Cascades are a mix, so be it. Our plan lets whatever nature’s course is to occur,” he said.

Since wolves are not Western pond turtles, the zone of intermixing between sub-brands is likely to be “hundreds of miles wide,” Martorello notes.

3) Back to Facebook. WDFW’s taking a lot of heat about the part of the press release that states:

WDFW, with the help of three non-profit organizations, is offering a reward of up to $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.  Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, and The Humane Society of the United States, have each pledged $7,500 to create the reward.

Some posters are not happy with the agency that oversees hunting in the state teaming up with HSUS and CBD, which are viewed rightly or wrongly as anti-hunting, but also as very pro-wolf and very much pro-wolf litigation.

Though the species passed recovery benchmarks in the early 2000s, state management in Idaho and Montana was held up for years by the wolfies repeatedly going to court, moves that ultimately thunderheaded into resentments over the species and the federal government and is now backfiring on the groups.

So what is WDFW doing in business with them?

I asked one of the agency’s spokesfolks, and this morning Madonna Luers responded that HSUS and CBD had come to them at different points with offers of reward money.

“We did not ask for it,” she stressed. “We don’t ask organizations to do that.”

She did add that in the past the agency has had standing invites from groups like the Spokane area’s Inland Northwest Wildlife Council for reward funding.

While some might see conspiracy and collusion in WDFW’s press release, it harkens to the agency’s other twin mandate, to conserve and protect the state’s species. Even with 10 gazillion wolves in Canada and Idaho, wolves are still listed as state endangered across Washington, and it’s illegal to kill them unless they’re attacking your critters  (in the eastern third of the state) or you reasonably feel threatened.

To prevent shooting, shoveling and shutting up, the big reward.

“Experience has taught us that money talks. If someone is going to put it up, we’re not going to look at the color of the money,” Luers says.

And for the record, they wouldn’t turn down coin from the other side either.

“If cattlemen wanted to put up money for the loss of the collared animal, which helped to prevent depredations, fine,” Luers said.

She termed that GPS device and the wolf itself an “important management tool.”

For two summers data from the collar has helped keep the Smackout Pack out of a rancher’s cattle.

Luers noted that it’s not easy to capture wolves, making those on live ones even more important.

“They’re not just endangered, but a tool for us,” she said.

4) The tool that is OR7’s collar is running out, a press report today notes.

Reports OPB:

According to John Stephenson, a private land and wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, radio collars have a three-year lifespan. OR-7’s was fitted in late February 2011, meaning it just passed its three-year mark. Stephenson said as of now, officials don’t plan to re-collar OR-7, but a final decision hasn’t been made yet.

“No low battery signals have come through, so there’s still time,” he said.


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