More Input to the WDFW

Photo and Input by Oliver Starr

Photo and Input by Oliver Starr

Submitted to WDFW Hearing October 14, 2014

Today, the advocacy community is putting WDFW and all interested parties in Eastern Washington on notice. The actions taken by WDFW with respect to recent wolf-related problems are unacceptable, as is WDFW’s tepid response to the threats, statements and resolutions passed by local stock growers.
Prior testimony, as well as WDFW’s own public chronology of the Huckleberry Pack depredations show that the department has failed to faithfully implement its own management plan — or even adhere to its published decision tree. Further, WDFW’s lack of transparency with respect to the lethal removal of the Huckleberry Alpha female was reprehensible and violates the spirit of working with all stakeholders to resolve wolf/livestock/human conflict.
We wish to make it clear for the record that WDFW’s quasi-official narrative with respect to the Huckleberry Pack depredations is not the only version of events. We are aware of the changes to this story that have transpired over the past few weeks. The version being promoted by both the department and the producer differs in many key respects from the facts that were reported from the field as the incident was occurring.
We know the producer knew of the presence of wolves in advance yet failed to make even the most basic efforts to prevent wolf/livestock conflict for weeks after they ceased to have a regular and consistent human presence on the allotment. WDFW’s own photographs of multiple decayed carcasses strewn in numerous locations document the failures of the producer to take this required action. WDFW’s claim that the producer removed attractants is puzzling since it is obviously untrue.
As a result of the failure on the part of WDWF to be fully transparent, the advocacy community will now be watching, documenting and publishing everything going forward. We intend to use all means at our disposal to monitor and make public every aspect of wolf management actions in the state including using social media and FOIA requests when and if we feel the department is failing to provide us with accurate and timely information.
We wish to remind the department that they have an equal obligation to all stakeholders including those of us that advocate on behalf of wolves, and that the overwhelming public majority are in favor of wolves and oppose lethal wolf control actions.
As advocates we are deeply troubled that WDFW has failed to make it clear that the vigilante statements made by producers and the various anti-wolf resolutions being passed by county commissioners are contrary to state and federal laws. We demand the department state unequivocally that any unlawful take of wolves is poaching and will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Given the current climate as well as the threats to illegally kill wolves, the department can no longer provide producers with GPS telemetry that provides them with the locations of collared wolves. Continuing to provide this information under current circumstances is irresponsible and puts wolves at grave risk of being unlawfully killed.
Additionally, as a result of the threats to kill wolves made by the ranching community in Eastern Washington, the advocacy community demands full documentation for every suspicious wolf mortality including a full toxicology report as part of any necropsy where cause of death has not otherwise been determined.
The recent poaching of a wolf in Whitman County is an example of the results of WDFW’s clear bias against wolves and in favor of producers. WDFW has an obligation to adequately represent all stakeholders and develop and implement a sensible management plan with coexistence and not lethal actions as its cornerstone. Condoning unlawful killing or simply looking the other way is unacceptable.
While I and other wolf advocates stand ready to work with producers committed to non-lethal deterrents, we oppose efforts to remove or translocate wolves at the behest of producers that are unwilling to implement the same non-lethal methods that have proven effective at reducing and/or eliminating wolf/livestock conflict in places including Idaho that have much greater wolf density.

Don’t roll back federal protections for wolves

Don’t let the government remove Endangered Species Actcopyrighted wolf in river protections for wolves in the Lower 48 states, argues guest columnist Amaroq Weiss.

By Amaroq Weiss
Special to The Seattle Times

AS Washington state lawmakers and wildlife managers fine-tune the state’s wolf conservation and management plan, they need only look to the nation’s capital for some tips on what not to do.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering dropping Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across most of the Lower 48 states even though wolves have recovered to only a fraction of their past range and numbers. Wolves face aggressive hunting and trapping in all of the states where protections have already been removed.

The anti-wolf policies in our nation’s capital and many western states stand in sharp contrast to what most voters and top wolf scientists are calling for.

A 2011 Colorado State University report showed that 3 in 4 Washington residents wanted wolves protected. Across the nation, almost 2 out of 3 people surveyed opposed federal plans to drop protections for wolves, according to a report by Public Policy Polling this summer.

The nation’s leading wolf researchers concur that wolves need continued protection to sustain the recovery of a genetically robust population.

Yet there’s mounting evidence that bureaucrats in the nation’s capital have been actively working to muzzle some of those scientists. Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service excluded three wolf researchers from participating in the scientific peer-review of the proposal to drop federal protections for wolves in the continental U.S.

The scientists were excluded because they signed a letter calling out the service for mischaracterizing the scientists’ own research to justify dropping federal wolf protections. After public outcry, the agency backtracked.

Wildlife managers in Washington have lots of evidence about what Washingtonians want and what scientists think.

Over a five-year period, Washington residents funded and participated in a broad collaborative effort to develop the Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which was enacted in 2011. The compromise plan underwent careful review by 43 scientists and more than 65,000 members of the public commented.

It is now up to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, with oversight by Gov. Jay Inslee, to ensure that Washington’s wolf plan is faithfully implemented with the best interest of wolves in mind.

Last year the department authorized killing the entire Wedge Pack in response to livestock depredations in Eastern Washington. These wolves were killed though the rancher who lost cattle was using risky husbandry practices that involved spreading a small breed of cattle over a large area of public lands with known wolf activity.

The state Fish & Wildlife should not be in the business of killing wolves to benefit ranchers who do not use proven methods to protect their cattle.

The state department also recently enacted an emergency rule that allows permitless killing of wolves caught in the act of attacking livestock. Like the authorization to kill the Wedge Pack wolves, such a rule has the potential to provide incentives to those ranchers with long-standing anti-wolf biases to do even less to avoid conflicts with wolves in order to see them killed.

Whether Washington’s wolves, and those across most of the continental U.S., will once again be pushed to the brink of extinction, is yet to be seen.

What’s clear is this: Politicians and bureaucrats considering critical wolf-management decisions are more than willing to ignore the facts and broad public opinion whenever the voters tolerate it.

And when it comes to the future of our wolves, there’s never been a better time than right now for Washingtonians to speak up.

Public-comment periods are under way on both the federal plan to delist wolves and on new Washington state proposals on wolf management.

Comments on the federal delisting proposal must be submitted by Oct. 28, at http://seati.ms/opwolfcomment . Comments on Washington’s proposals must be submitted by Sept. 20 at Wildthing@dfw.wa.gov

Amaroq Weiss, a biologist and former attorney, is West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. Email: aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org

Sleeping With the Enemy

Q. When are wolf advocates not really wolf advocates?

A. When they advocate for wolf hunting.

While other wildlife groups have worked to get this long-suffering species back under ESA protection, the Montana-based, Wolves of the Rockies not only told the Missoulian, “We are not advocating the end of wolf hunting,” but followed up that howler with an article in the Great Falls Tribune, in which they stated: “We at Wolves of the Rockies understand and acknowledge the importance of hunting as a tool for managing wolves, and we stand beside the ethical* hunter in doing so.”

This group asked permission to use some of my wolf photos on their Facebook page. Assuming they were on the side of the wolves, I allowed it. Given their recently stated attitude, I am forced to rescind my permission and ask them to remove my photos from their site.

Why would a wolf advocacy group publically announce their support for wolf hunting, at the risk of alienating wolf supporters and undermining the efforts of other groups fighting the barbaric treatment of wolves across the country?

This question was answered nicely (nicer than I would have) by a Facebook friend with what she  called ‘just her two cents’ (but I would argue it’s worth a lot more than that): “I’ve seen other organizations feel they have to outwardly ‘support’ hunting to get the attention of game departments, DNRs, politicians etc., in order to appear ”mainstream” & therefore afforded a sympathetic ear and/or seat at the table….I DISagree with that stance because it doesn’t work. Even if you have 100 or 1000 hunters on your side, the wildlife management system is not going to support or implement non-lethal conservation or management practices. I’ll bet Wolves of the Rockies die a little inside when they say they support hunting as a tool for wolf management, because I think in a perfect world they don’t want them hunted any more than the rest of us do. It’s too bad they have taken a position of compromise…”

I see it as kind of a, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach; the same kind of thing that the Washington-based group, Conservation Northwest, pulled** during the state’s helicopter attack on the Wedge pack earlier this year. What these groups don’t realize is that when you sleep with the enemy, you don’t get just a little bit pregnant.

*see, In the Eyes of the Hunted, There’s No Such Thing as an “Ethical Hunter”

** see, Save the Wolves —Abolish Ranching and Hunting Now

And if you haven’t already, please sign these petitions to Stop Wolf Hunting in North America

and to Stop Wolf Trapping in Montana

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Mercenaries Paid $55,000 to kill Just One Washington Wolf

For those who were not quite fuming mad enough to be considered wrathful when the wolves of Washington’s Wedge pack were senselessly murdered, perhaps news that the state Fish and Wildlife Department spent nearly $77,000 to kill the seven pack members should push you over the edge.

According to a newly released report, it cost taxpayers nearly $55,000 to kill just one wolf in a 39-day ground hunt. It seems to me the state is overpaying their anti-wolf mercenaries when there are hunters in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Michagin who would have gladly done the job for free just for the bragging rights. Tens of thousands of hunters in those states are paying good money for the chance to kill a wolf.

The other six wolves were killed in a four-day period in September using a helicopter and a marksman that cost $22,000. Surely these kind of costs can’t be justified, even by those who view cows only as commodities and wolves as mere pests.

Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker has criticized the decision to kill the Wedge pack and is planning a legislative hearing next year. It might be a good time to ask the state how much they’re willing to spend to keep welfare ranchers in business. And how many wolves will have to die before the grazing of cattle on our National Forests is finally a thing of the past?

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Save the Wolves—Abolish Ranching and Hunting Now

One of the most shocking things about the recent obliteration of the Wedge pack by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was that even the allegedly pro-wolf environmental group “Conservation Northwest” supported the slaughter. Sure, they had their sound bites about hoping that eliminating entire wolf packs every time there are a few cattle depredations would not become standard practice. But by conceding to the lethal removal of the Wedge wolves (via aerial gunning by helicopter, no less), they helped pave the way for future atrocities.

Conservation Northwest’s stance is comparable to that of the World Wildlife Fund, who recently declined to go as far as Greenpeace in calling for an outright ban on offshore oil drilling in the rapidly-thawing Arctic—they felt their concessions to the wildlife-destructive industry insured them a seat at the bargaining table.  I suppose CNW didn’t want to appear extreme, like some radical who might say something such as…

The surest way to keep this kind of canicide from happening again is to get cattle off our national forests. Better yet, abolish ranching altogether (thereby also sparing cows a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the livestock industry). The only way to guarantee you’re not supporting the abuse of cows and the destruction of wolves is to boycott beef. While you’re at it, why not go vegan and spare all animals unnecessary suffering? And of course, if we really want to protect wolves, we should abolish deer and elk hunting.

But the conservation group played it safe and didn’t even come close to mentioning these or any other long-term solutions. I guess they figure it’s better to leave it to the true animal extremists—compassionate people like the folks at Change.org, who added this postscript to their eleventh-hour petition urging the WDFW not to kill the Wedge pack wolves:  “That part of the world is “safe” for the burger & steak gluttons once again; no nasty wolves will cut into their meat farming profits.”

Many mainstream environmental groups and their members still cling to the notion of “sustainable” beef. It’s surprising how many people who advocate for wolves eat meat like there’s no tomorrow, comfortable in their rationalization that cows are “domesticated” or “dumb animals” bred for slaughter.

I lived for years in northeast Washington and worked on the Colville National Forest—where the Wedge wolves tried to establish a home. I pity the cows, who are cruelly de-horned, trucked up to the ends of the logging roads and left to fend for themselves on some thistle-covered clear cut with only a drying up creek for water. But as a forestry contractor taking seedling growth and survival surveys, I saw first-hand how the US Forest Service panders to the cattle industry. I routinely found half of the new green growth eaten on young conifers in a tree “plantation” or the whole tree trampled upon by the ever-present bovines, whose wallows and trails further denuded the landscape. A cow pie plopped right on top of a smothered seedling was a common sight.

Yet whenever I pointed out the damage caused by livestock grazing, the forest service representatives would tell me to record it as deer damage. By blaming the native deer and elk, the forest service kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. It lets their cronies in the cattle industry off the hook and serves as fodder for the game department good ol’ boys to help justify expanded hunting seasons.

For the sake of the forests and all who live there, it’s time to remove ourselves from the wildlife equation and leave the predating to the natural predators. Wild animals are not just playthings for sportsmen, and human beings can live much healthier on a plant-based diet, as their primate cousins always have. True carnivores, such as wolves, coyotes, cougars, marine mammals or members of the weasel family have to eat meat to survive. If you’re not willing to go vegan for the sake of the animals you eat, maybe you could at least think of the other animals affected by your bill of fare.

Earlier this month, Mitch Freedman of Conservation Northwest made the nebulous statement, “There needs to be a way for wolves and man to coexist. Wolves were here first.”

There is a way…but it would mean getting the cows off of our National Forests, the sheep out of our Wilderness Areas and putting a stop to the sport of big game hunting.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wolves Under Tyrannical Control

According to a recent article about the planned destruction of Washington’s Wedge pack, Bill McIrvin of the Diamond M ranch said in an interview in July that he believes radical environmental groups are conspiring to introduce wolves in order to force ranchers off public lands. Yeah right—nice thought—but that sounds pretty paranoid to me.

Most “radical” environmentalists are smart enough to know that cattle ranchers have wildlife and the wildlife agencies by the balls with a death grip that won’t let go until Nature hertself is under their tyrannical control.

If the rancher is this suspicious of environmentalists, how paranoid must he be of the wolves? And why should we blindly accept all his claims of depredation at an almost unprecedented level?

I can just see him laughing under his hat at the wildlife agents he’s duped into doing his bidding by annihilating the entire Wedge pack (he’s stated several times he won’t settle for anything less). Heck, even the presumed wolf-champions at Conservation Northwest (in an obvious effort not to appear “radical”) have turned their back on the pack for the sake of the cattle rancher.

Not only will McIrvin be allowed to keep grazing his cattle on public national forest land, but now he’s got the state sharpshooters’ promise that they’ll spend as long as it takes to kill each and every wolf in the pack.

No, there’s not much chance of crafty extreme environmentalists covertly re-introducing wolves to this crazy cattle-industry controlled world. But we can always hope that some animal ‘extremist’ will usher them back into Canada for now, until the ranchers of Eastern Washington can put their prejudices aside and learn to live with the diversity of wildlife they’re fortunate enough to have in their backyard.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

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Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

I Call Horse Pucky on That!

As I believe I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the mainstream media is often full of shit—especially when reporting on animal issues. It’s not necessarily that they knowingly or willingly distort the truth, just that they keep re-hashing the same old bovine excrement that they pick up off the AP or some other newswire, without first checking out the facts for themselves.

For example, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the following statement in papers over the past few days: “Washington Fish and Wildlife officers confirmed on Friday that two more cattle had been killed by Wedge Pack wolves in northern Stevens County.” If I were of a mind to trust the news—or Washington’s Fish and Wildlife officers for that matter—I might think there’s a reason the game department is resuming their lethal “removal” (read: sniping and trapping) of four more pack members.

But a little digging revealed these interesting details: Of the two carcasses found on Diamond M-owned land this Wednesday, one was intact, the other eaten. “We marked ‘confirmed’ on both individuals,” said the agency’s wolf policy coordinator Steve Pozzanghera this morning, “recognizing that there will be some question about confirming on an entirely consumed carcass.”

Damn right there’s “some question,” in fact there’s practically no way of knowing how a calf was killed after it’s been “entirely consumed” by hungry carnivores and/or scavengers!!!  Pozzanghera said at the end of the day, WDFW considered it a kill rather than a calf that had died of other causes and then was subsequently fed on by wolves…

I’m sorry, but if that’s how these “wildlife officers” go about determining whether an animal has been killed by wolves or not, I don’t have any faith in their decision that any calves or cows were ever killed by the Wedge pack. It all seems awfully coincidental to me that an outspoken wolf hater would suddenly start having problems with wolf depredation. It’s a little too reminiscent of when Washington’s first confirmed wolf pack, the Lookout pack, started hanging around convicted poacher Bill White’s ranch—just a mile out of the town of Twisp—of all places. I lived fourteen miles from the White’s place—fourteen miles further up the Twisp River, in a remote setting surrounded by the Lake Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness Area—and I never had a problem with wolves.

After a lengthy and costly police investigation (which resulted only in a measly slap on the wrist for the wolf poachers), it was determined that Bill White and his son set out deer carcasses as bait to attract wolves to the traps they had set for them. As ranchers, White claimed not to want wolves around, yet he lured them onto his property with bait.

How do we know that the folks at the Diamond M ranch aren’t luring in wolves with carcasses of calves who have died of one of the many other causes that cows naturally die from? We don’t. Unfortunately, we can’t count on our Wildlife officers to reveal the truth either. And don’t bother checking the local media; they’re too busy recycling horse pucky to get to the bottom of it.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

 

When in doubt, blame it on the wolf

The fate of a Washington wolf pack hangs in the balance

Late Friday, seven pro-wolf groups have sent a letter asking Governor Chris Gregoire and other state officials to end efforts to kill up to four “Wedge” wolf pack members, even as a team from Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) heavies are on-site continuing their lethal wolf “management” efforts. The WDFW thugs have spent the past week in Northeast Washington, attempting to “remove” (lethally, of course) wolves from the besieged pack.

The good news is they’ve had no luck killing any wolves during the past week. However, biologists reported finding the decomposed body of a young wolf within the Wedge pack’s range in northern Stevens County. A WDFW wildlife veterinarian was unable to determine that wolf’s cause of death since the carcass was too badly decomposed.

Although lacking hard evidence of any wrongdoing against cattle by wolves, wildlife “managers” earlier this month “lethally removed” one female from the Wedge pack and shared wolf pack location information with the outspoken wolf-haters from the Diamond M Ranch. (I for one have a strong suspicion as to how the Stevens County wolf might have died.)

The letter to Governor Gregoire and other Washington state officials sent by the Western Environmental Law Center and signed by pro-wolf groups, such as The Humane Society of the United States and Conservation Northwest, charged that Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officers didn’t find conclusive evidence that wolves were responsible for attacks on cattle and are jumping to a lethal option too hastily.

Two of the three non-agency experts who peer-reviewed the field investigations were unconvinced the purported cattle attacks were the work of wolves, said Suzanne Stone of the Defenders of Wildlife.

“The reports and especially the photos indicate injuries uncharacteristic of wolves,” she said.

The following Incident Report, #WA – 12 – 007485, by a WDFW agent should give you an idea just how inconclusive the “evidence” of some of these alleged wolf “attacks” really is:

“On 08/02/12 at approximately 1430 Hrs. Officer Parker and I were on a routine patrol on the Churchill Mine road. We approached the cattle pens and observed Bill McIrvin and three other ranch hands. I could see that Bill and his ranch hands were busy with corralling and dealing with large calves in the holding area. I contacted Bill in an effort to introduce Officer Parker. Bill told us one of his calves had bite marks on it and wanted me to see them. Bill also had a bleached out bone that had been eaten/chewed on. Bill stated it was from one of his calves. I observed it. It had been chewed on one end of the bone. I could not determine exactly what had chewed on it or cause of death.

“Bill then moved a cow and calf into the corral for closer inspection. I could see that the calf seemed normal and healthy. I did see on the back right leg, middle of leg, a laceration, approximately 2” wide. I could see no other apparent wounds. The calf was cornered and handled by 4 men to where it was put on its side for me to look at the wound and possible bite4 marks. Once, the calf was down, Bill pointed out the obvious laceration (photo taken). It was approximately 2 to 3” long. No maggots and still a fresh opening through the hair/hide. Bill then pointed out a bite mark next to the laceration. Using my fingers and feeling through the hair, I could not see or confirm a bit mark was there. Bill then grabbed underneath and inside the back right leg. Bill wanted me to grab and feel in this area for another bite mark. I reached in with my fingers and began felling in the same spot as well. I used my fingers feeling through the hair and touching the hide and felt no bite marks. I observed no obvious bite marks or trauma in any areas inside the back rear legs. Bill then pointed out an area he believed the calf had been bitten on the forward chest area. I used my fingers and felt through the hair and hide and felt no bite marks. I observed no obvious signs of trauma in the forward chest area as well.

“I spoke with Bill regarding compensation. I asked Bill if he would reconsider accepting compensation for his calves. Bill stated he was not interested in compensation this year.

“…I explained to Sheriff Allen [with Stevens County Sheriff’s Office] that I had looked at the calf and did not believe it was a wolf encounter… based on no apparent bite marks, no trauma, one laceration, I could not determine what had caused the laceration.”

When in doubt, blame it on the wolf…