The Daily Howler: Studies Show Washington Wolves Like Eating Deer

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog misreported elements in Item 1, namely that early results of WSU research on what wolves are gnawing on was from the Methow Valley alone. In fact, they represent data from several packs spread across Eastern Washington. That has been corrected. Our apologies for the mistake, which was unintentional but put incorrect information out about wolves and moose. The Daily Howler has been sent to his kennel to bone up on his reading comprehension skills.

1) Deer accounted for nearly half of all the animals most likely killed by four packs of Eastern Washington wolves studied over the past two summers, according to university researchers.

Not exactly breaking news, but they also found that moose make up a fair portion of their diet as well.

Of 285 “probable wolf kills,” 137 were deer, “by far the most common prey,” WSU grad student Gabe Spence told a gathering earlier this month and whose comments were reported on last week in the Methow Valley News.

Spence also found that moose made up between 22 and 28 percent of the rest of the kills — 63 to 80 animals.

Livestock comprised 2.3 percent of the tally.

Overall, the predators made at least two kills a week while being monitored, according to the News‘ account of Spence’s presentation.

The data comes from telemetry collars placed on wolves and numerous cows and calves.

Spence et al hope to continue the study for two or three more seasons.

2) WDFW reports lots of wolf activity in the Blue Mountains in recent weeks.

In the Feb. 8-14 weekly Wildlife Program report, four uncollared wolves were reported running in the Rainwater Wildlife Area/Jasper Mountain area, which is on the western side of the range.

Earlier in the month and on the eastern side, OR29 was hanging out on private lands in Garfield and Asotin Counties, and fed on the carcass of a cow that had died of natural causes. The producer was advised that carcasses can be dropped at the local landfill at no cost.

Numerous wolf tracks were also found amongst elk tracks in the Cloverland area, northwest of Anatone.

3) The aftermath of dueling WSU and UW papers on crunching data sets to forsooth the effects of removing livestock-depredating wolves is playing out in the pages of the Capitol Press, an ag-industry-oriented publication

To quote at length:

“Our goal in writing the rebuttal was to verify the science,” [UW researcher Nabin] Baral said. “We would like to tell the audience that this paper is not about for or against wolves, it is about proper time series analysis.”

The director of WSU’s large carnivore conservation laboratory in Pullman, Wash., [Rob] Wielgus said the new study says the number of wolves and breeding pairs and livestock at risk had no effect or a benefit on depredations.

“If you believe their results that refuted my results, you have to believe the number of wolves has no effect on depredation or is beneficial,” he said. “Their results are a biological impossibility.”

Wielgus claims the UW paper was rejected by four of six reviewers, and yet was still published by PLOS ONE.

PLOS ONE spokesman David Knutson said it isn’t unusual to have studies reach conflicting conclusions. The review process is confidential, but the editor took into “careful consideration” the comments provided by all reviewers, he said.

“(The UW article) underwent a thorough peer review as well as our standard process for manuscripts that dispute published work,” Knutson said. “Both research groups have noted that further research is necessary in this area and we welcome future submissions reporting additional analyses which contribute to knowledge in this research field.”

On the sidelines, more than a few eyebrows (and smiles) were raised by UW’s results.

“It certainly lets us know there’s more than one way to look at the issue,” Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association told the Press.

A WDFW staffer said agency scientists had been skeptical as well.

4) The Capital Press is also where we turn to for resolution in last fall’s Oregon wolf shooting case.

Brennon D. Witty of Baker City was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay ODFW another $1,000 in restitution for shooting a wolf while coyote hunting on private lands in Grant County last October.

Witty, 26, reported killing the radio-collared male known as OR22 to ODFW and OSP.

5) And finally, the bill ratifying the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission’s decision to delist wolves statewide leaped another fence yesterday when it passed out of a Senate committee on a 3-2 vote.

Voting aye were Senate Environment and Natural Resources chair Sen. Chris Edwards and members Sens. Alan Olson and Doug Whitsett, while nos came from Sens. Michael Dembrow and Floyd Prozanski.

Next up would be the full Senate.

OK, The Daily Howler’s gotta go howl up another tree!

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