Claim that rancher turned out cattle on wolf den untrue, WSU says

Claim that rancher turned out cattle on wolf den untrue, WSU says
Originally published August 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm Updated August 31, 2016 at 8:15 pm
A researcher’s statements about wolves interacting with livestock that stirred up controversy were inappropriate and inaccurate, Washington State University says.

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By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times environment reporter
Statements by a Washington State University researcher that a rancher turned out his cattle on top of a wolf den were inappropriate and inaccurate and “contributed substantially to the growing anger and confusion about this significant wildlife management issue,” the university said in a statement Wednesday.

As state officials work to exterminate a wolf pack, the university apologized and said it disavows the statement made by the researcher, Robert Wielgus, associate professor and director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at WSU, to The Seattle Times. Wielgus “subsequently acknowledged that he had no basis in fact for making such a statement. In actuality, the livestock were released at low elevation on the east side of the Kettle Crest more than four miles from the den site and dispersed throughout the allotment,” the statement asserted.
In an interview with The Seattle Times last week, Wielgus had said, “This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it, I just want people to know.”

Another statement by Wielgus that none of the participants in his study, in which both wolves and cattle are radio-collared, experienced loss of livestock also was not true, the university stated. At least one rancher in the study had lost livestock to wolves, according to the study.

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Asked to comment Tuesday on challenges to his statements by a conservation group, Wielgus told The Seattle Times that he would have no further public comment on the subject.

The rancher he criticized, Len McIrvin of the Diamond M ranch on the Canadian Border north of Kettle Falls, did not return calls for comment.

In an Aug. 19 email to The Seattle Times, Wielgus stated: “No ranchers in wa that cooperated w us or wdfw had any losses over the last 3 years,” and, “None of the cooperators with me or wdfw has experienced any losses in 2 years. Len Mc (Irvin) has refused to cooperate with us to reduce depredations and has had 2 wolf packs killed so far. He hates wolves … and welcomes conflict … because the wolves die in his allotments.”

McIrvin and another rancher actually had been taking steps to avoid conflict with wolves on their allotments on public land in the Colville National Forest, including deploying range riders, putting out calves at higher weight, and picking up carcasses to avoid attracting predators, according to Donny Martorello, wolf-policy lead for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

But Wielgus gave a very different impression.

“After careful thought…..go ahead and quote me ‘where mcI (rvin) grazes … dead wolves follow’. He will be proud of it!,” Wielgus wrote to The Seattle Times in an email.
The controversy erupted as the WDFW was killing the Profanity Peak pack to protect McIrvin’s cattle, after he and another producer lost stock to wolf kills. It is the second time the department has killed a pack to protect McIrvin’s cattle; the first time was the Wedge Pack, in 2012


9 thoughts on “Claim that rancher turned out cattle on wolf den untrue, WSU says

  1. It seems to be a matter of semantics, not unlike ‘we can’t reintroduce wolves to downtown Denver’. Well of course not, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other places to reintroduce them. Here, it may not have been literally at the den site, but year-after-year-after-year in a known wolf area, and wolves were first spotted there again in Sept. of 2014. It’s hardly a walking back of the claim, but more of a CYA. We get the picture!

  2. Such political bullshit. From personal on the ground friends, the guy is telling the truth. But WSU is taking it in the shorts, apparently, and has to hammer on this guy to retract or fire him. Hating ranchers, WDFW, and the very weak Governor.

  3. This rancher leading his very own wolf eradication program on the taxpayers dollars

    He had figured out how to “smoke a pack” letting his Cattle chase away the deer and making it impossible for the wolves to survive with out eating some of his cows who he had swamp the den .. Pure genius set up for the perfect crime . Making a fool of the taxpayers and the wildlife officials ordering the extermination.
    Very ” Bundyesque” and sage brush rebellion style .. Gets his goals met by the officials wanting to please their rancher contingency
    Don’t eat meat it supports them and their product which gets America’s wolves killed !
    And support the wolf researcher at WSU
    Lot of scaredy cats in Washington state that jump when someone cries “Wolf” !
    The governor who used to be smart now turning into a member of the cattle men’s association!
    Disgustingly lack of moral fiber and strong character all sadly missing in Washington state right now

  4. What’s extremely disappointing is that the gov’t supports this man every step of the way, and now a few conservation groups too. Apparently the conservation groups must feel they are helping the entire population of wolves, but I wish they would take the blinders off because those who don’t want wolves on the landscape cannot be trusted or reasoned with. The gov’t just wants to go along to get along, because I think they are afraid of the ranchers and hunters. The only reports of threats, are from hunting and agricultural sources and some local sources, naturally, and some are making threats themselves. And they know this shuts dissent down completely.

  5. Cattle grazing on this terrain, cattle grazing on national forest land, is wolf baiting by its very nature. He should be there. Predation in these circumstances should be acceptable collateral damage paid for by stock loss board and/or assumed by the rancher. Get ranchers off national forests lands!

    • To say nothing about the habitat degradation done by the cows stuck out there. If the land is healthy enough for wolves, the feds should be retiring cattle grazing permits. It’s supposed to be a national forest, not a weed-choked cow pasture.

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