Endangered Mexican Wolf Killed Following Livestock Attacks

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2017-09-15/endangered-mexican-wolf-killed-following-livestock-attacks

An endangered Mexican gray wolf has been killed by federal employees after a Native American tribe requested the animal be removed from the wild in the wake of a string of cattle deaths near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Sept. 15, 2017 

[ To be more accurate, this headline should have read: “Endangered Mexican Wolf (one of fewer than 50 in the wild)  Killed Following Livestock (introduced and bred by the thousands and slaughtered within a few years of birth, for human consumption) Attacks (read: predation–sorry, but it’s what wolves do and have always done).”]

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An endangered Mexican gray wolf has been killed by federal employees after a Native American tribe requested the animal be removed from the wild in the wake of a string of cattle deaths near the ArizonaNew Mexico border.

The death of the female wolf marks the first time in a decade that efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to curb livestock attacks by wolves has had lethal consequences for one of the predators.

The decision to remove the member of the Diamond Pack was first made in June after three calves were killed over several days, sparking concern among wildlife managers about what they described as an unacceptable pattern of predation.

An investigation determined the female wolf was likely the culprit based on GPS and radio telemetry tracking, according to documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

Another calf was killed in July, prompting the White Mountain Apache Tribe to call for the removal. That was followed by one confirmed kill and another probable kill by members of the pack on national forest land adjacent to the reservation.

Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle issued another order in August calling for the wolf’s removal by the most expeditious means possible.

“I am concerned with the numerous depredations in this area over the past year and the toll these depredations have caused the area’s livestock producers,” Tuggle wrote.

Environmentalists decried the move, saying they are concerned about the possibility of managers reverting to a rigid three-strikes rule that called for wolves to be removed from the wild or killed if they preyed on livestock. Following years of legal wrangling, federal officials revised that policy in 2015 to allow for more options when dealing with nuisance wolves. 

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity argued that killing wolves does nothing in the long run to reduce livestock losses.

“The recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves has taken an unnecessary step backward,” he said.

Fish and Wildlife officials said current rules allow for the control of problem wolves and that the agency will continue to manage wolves in Arizona and New Mexico under those provisions. They also said they will continue to work with ranchers to limit conflicts.

The wolf recovery team earlier this year set up a diversionary cache of food for the Diamond Pack, which roams parts of tribal land and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Two other pack members were also removed and placed in captivity at the beginning of the year due to predation concerns.

There are now more Mexican gray wolves roaming the American Southwest than at any time since the federal government began trying to reintroduce the animals nearly two decades ago. The most recent annual survey shows at least 113 wolves spread between southwestern New Mexico and southeast Arizona.

Efforts to return the predators to the region have been hampered over the years by everything from politics to illegal killings and genetics.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has been criticized for its management of the wolves by ranchers, who say the animals are a threat to their livelihoods, and environmentalists who want more captive-bred wolves to be released.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Congress: Michigan, Great Lakes wolves could lose federal protection

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/09/12/michigan-wolves-endangered-species-protection/657932001/

WASHINGTON — Legislation under committee consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives today would strip gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states of protections they enjoy under the Endangered Species Act.

Less than two months after an appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the protection afforded wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin should continue unless there is a further study, the House Federal Lands Subcommittee today took up legislation that would reverse that decision.

 A second bill —- co-sponsored by several Republican Michigan members of Congress — would do much the same and is expected to get a vote in the subcommittee, as well, perhaps as early as this week.

The section regarding gray wolves’ protection considered by the Federal Lands Subcommittee is part of a larger bill that would take steps to ensure that public lands remain largely open to hunting and fishing.

During today’s hearing, Democrats voiced deep concerns about other portions of the legislation, including measures that would make it easier for people to buy firearm silencers and put more of a legal and financial burden on law enforcement when stopping a vehicle suspected of potentially transporting a firearm across state lines.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been attempting for years to de-list the 600 or so gray wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and larger populations from Minnesota and Wisconsin from protection under the Endangered Species Act but has been turned back each time.

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In the most recent ruling, the court said Fish and Wildlife could not go through with such a de-listing without studying what such a move would mean to the population across the rest of the U.S. Proponents of hunting wolves argue that the numbers are significantly recovered to allow for de-listing and that wolves increasingly threaten livestock, reduce deer populations and even threaten humans.

In August, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, called such anecdotal evidence “fabricated” and “exaggerated,” noting that in cases where wolves are found to kill livestock, farmers can get permission to kill wolves.

“Congress should not subvert the rulings of two federal courts affirming the conclusion that de-listing of wolves in the Great Lakes region is premature,” Pacelle said today, adding that they help reduce auto collisions with deer by reducing the population. “The wolf population in the state is small and not increasing, and Michigan voters have rejected trophy hunting of the animals by voting down two statewide ballot measures to allow it.”

Michigan rejected wolf hunting in state referendums in 2014.

The legislation — like that co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, John Moolenaar of Midland and Tim Walberg of Tipton — calls for issuing the order de-listing wolves within 60 days of it being signed into law and prohibits any judicial review of the order.

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“Basically, it’s been technicalities in the rules (that have kept wolves listed). There’s no question (they) belong off the endangered species list,” said Anna Seidman, government affairs director for Safari Club International, a hunters rights group. “We need to end this endless court battle and have Congress step in.”

While it’s possible the full committee would send both measures to the full House for consideration, it’s unlikely both would be scheduled for a vote. The more sweeping legislation could be seen as more of a priority then and could get top consideration.

But the legislation still faces difficulties: With so much before Congress between now and the end of the year, it could be caught in a logjam and Democratic members of the U.S. House, while outnumbered with Republicans in the majority, will likely try to do all they can to slow it, especially because of the firearm portions of the bill.

If it gets to the Senate, it would have to cross a 60-vote threshold. Republicans hold only a 52-seat majority in the Senate, though some Democrats from western and rural states potentially might be convinced to vote for it with changes.

Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Staff writer Keith Matheny contributed to this report.

Life-and-death vote for wildlife

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Protect Alaska's wildlifeProtect Alaska’s wildlife

Today, Congress will vote on an appalling amendment from Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young that seeks to open millions of acres of National Park Service (NPS) lands to the ruthless killing of grizzly bears and wolves. These practices should not occur anywhere, least of all on lands managed by the NPS.

Congress nixed a rule that forbid these terrible practices on National Wildlife Refuges earlier in the year. Now they’re aiming at our National Park Service lands. The Young amendment #43 would subject Alaskan wildlife on NPS lands to hunting methods that most Americans find appalling—such as killing wolves and their pups while in their dens, baiting bears with rotting food in order to shoot them point-blank, and luring hibernating black bears out of their dens with artificial light in order to shoot them.

Your voice is needed to help defeat the Young amendment #43. Please make a brief, polite phone call to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler at (202) 225-3536 now.You can simply say, “Please protect wildlife in the FY18 spending package (H.R. 3354) and vote ‘no’ on the Young amendment #43.”

After you call, please send a follow-up message.

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Thank you for all you do for animals.
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Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO

Washington continues to kill wolves that prey on livestock

 http://www.hcn.org/articles/wolves-washington-continues-to-kill-wolves-that-prey-on-livestock

The state’s increasing wolf population is creating a tangle between advocates, ranchers and politicians.

 

In late August, a range rider found a calf with bite wounds and lacerations dead on public grazing lands in Ferry County, Washington. The Sherman wolf pack was at it again. The newly-formed pack had already taken three other livestock animals over the last 10 months, forcing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize lethal action against it. Under the state’s wolf plan, on Sept. 1, Fish and Wildlife officials killed one of the wolves, in hopes the remaining wolves would change their behavior.

Earlier this summer, the agency killed two wolves from another pack, the Smackout, also due to livestock killings. Seven other wolves were removed from the Profanity Peak pack last fall. In a state where wolf recolonization is a relatively new phenomenon, the killings raised the hackles of wolf advocates — and questions about how the state will manage its new population.

“We’re earlier in recovery, and we’re the outlet for the frustration for activists that didn’t get what they wanted from Rocky Mountain states,” says Paula Sweeden, carnivore policy lead at Conservation Northwest, a group that works with ranchers, agency officials and other conservationists to compromise on wolf policy. “I think it’s because we’re a last bastion.” Both the Profanity Peak and Smackout pack killings brought widespread commentary from organizations and individuals skeptical that killing wolves stops depredations.

The Snake River wolf pack lopes through the snow in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. While this pack has not been targeted, two other Oregon wolf packs have been targeted after repeated killings of cattle this year.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Sherman pack in Washington represents only the fifth time since 2008, when the state’s first wolf pack formed, that the agency has targeted a pack of wolves due to attacks on livestock. (By comparison, Wyoming killed 113 wolves in 2016, with much less outcry.) Washington’s wolf population has increased by 30 percent annually the past two years. That has heightened tensions between wolf advocates, ranchers and politicians.

Gray wolves are protected as endangered in western parts of Oregon and Washington, but they are delisted in the eastern regions where their populations have proliferated. In Washington, wolves are concentrated in the northeast corner of the state. Seventeen out of 20 of the state’s packs roam one district, No. 7. The district has a large population of ranchers, some of whom have received death threats for reporting livestock deaths and thereby instigating wolf killings. State Fish and Wildlife officials have also been threatened. “It’s a tough thing because our country is so divided right now, and more and more we have these kind of issues going on,” says Donny Martorello, a spokesman for the Washington Fish and Wildlife. “Imagine going home at night and having someone pull up to the house and taking pictures of your house at 2 a.m.”

Joe Kretz, a Republican who represents District 7, has been outspoken about the impacts wolves have on ranchers. In January, he co-sponsored a bill to protect the identities of ranchers reporting livestock deaths. Critics say the bill threatens transparency in the wolf-killing process and some argue that Fish and Wildlife already obfuscates too often.

In August, 14 conservation groups sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife, relaying their concerns. “We’re aware of the challenges the Department encounters with communications around controversial issues and appreciate the need for sensitivity,” the letter reads. “But it’s also clear that the Department can and should do much better.”

Wolves are more likely to kill or attack livestock in late summer and early fall, as they prepare for winter and teach their pups to hunt. This year, four wolf packs in Oregon and Washington have been targeted after repeated killings of cattle. It is clear that as wolves become more established, perennial conflicts will arise.

Still, Washington has no plans yet to revise its wolf management plan. Sweeden says some stakeholders think the plan does not need updating, since it has wolf population recovery goals “more robust than any other state, including Oregon.” To revisit the plan could weaken those goals. Instead, she thinks conflicts will level out as the packs disperse through the state, and as more ranchers and property owners take up deterrence methods.

Washington’s wolves are likely to continue to thrive, no matter what, Martorello says. After all, they’re doing that without much help already. Instead, the real question has more to do with the humans, and how they’ll adapt to a carnivore reclaiming the landscape.

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor at High Country News. Follow @annavtoriasmith

Ranchers and politics are killing Oregon’s endangered wolves

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/energy-environment/348943-ranchers-and-politics-are-killing-oregons-endangered

BY ERIK MOLVAR, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR –  

Ranchers and politics are killing Oregon’s endangered wolves
© Getty Images

As wolves are recolonizing the wide-open spaces of the West, they are running into a buzzsaw of political meddling at the hands of a ranching industry that yearns for the glory days of its forebears, who killed wolves to the brink of extinction generations ago.

In eastern Oregon, public controversy has erupted over the kill order issued this month by state wildlife officials for two members of the Harl Butte wolf pack in northeastern Oregon, the latest in a long and bloody history of political deals, deception and feuding over the ranching industry’s perceived “right” to kill native wildlife to ease its mind and further its profits.

Unlike many western states, the Oregon has its own Endangered Species Act, adopted in 1984 to protect wildlife rare or imperiled in the state. Wolves immediately became an endangered species when the law was adopted, and it wasn’t very controversial because the species was completely extinct in the state at that time. 

As the gray wolf began its comeback in the inland Northwest, however, the situation quickly got out of hand. In 2005, Oregon adopted a state wolf plan. As usual in collaborative processes, commercial interests got their wish list — including the ability to have wolves killed if they could be linked to predation on domestic livestock. And so the state adopted a plan allowing an endangered species to be killed, in violation of Oregon state law.

And so, when the first wolves made it into Oregon through natural dispersal, the first pack — the Imnaha Pack — was subjected to multiple killings at the request of ranchers. In 2011, the dwindling pack was targeted with a kill order for two of the four remaining pack members, including one of the alpha pair.

Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon environmental group, immediately filed for a court injunction to block the kill order. Nick Cady, an attorney with Cascadia Wildlands, succeed in having a judge block the Imnaha pack’s kill order the same day.

Thanks to these protections, one of the Imnaha Pack’s offspring, OR-7, established the first-ever breeding pack of wolves in southwestern Oregon, and later became grandsire to California’s new Lassen Pack. Wolves are listed under that state’s Endangered Species Act, and enjoy strong protections because California state law forbids the killing of wolves for the benefit of agricultural operations (or any other reason).

Of course, this scientifically questionable wolf de-listing was immediately challenged in court; the lawsuit is currently pending.

When outgoing Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber left under a cloud of ethics allegations in 2015, Secretary of State Kate Brown became governor. She inherited Kitzhaber’s staff on natural resource issues, who happened to be quite cozy with the eastern Oregon livestock industry. In the midst of the chaos, the cattlemens’ associations pushed through a bill — House Bill 4040 — declaring an “emergency” and blocking the courts from ruling on state endangered species decisions involving wolves.

Brown, newly anointed and perhaps swayed by pro-ranching staff members, signed the bill into law in a move that drew heavy criticism.

Stymied in their efforts to kill endangered wolves, the Oregon ultimately decided in 2015 to remove the legal protections by de-listing wolves under the state Endangered Species Act. The statewide wolf population at the time was only 81 animals, with only four breeding pairs, statewide numbers were tenuous. So the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife concocted a model criticized by scientists for unrealistically assuming the rapid population growth of early wolf expansion would be sustained over time, instead of factoring in known population density limits that halt wolf population growth when all available wolf territories become occupied. In science, this is called “cooking the books.”

Meanwhile, the political circus has careened onward. Earlier this year, a study funded by the Oregon Beef Association found that wolves were giving their cattle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (Conveniently for the ranchers and their concern for livestock mental health, no stress testing was conducted at slaughterhouses.) The industry then tried court filings asserting Oregon wolves aren’t native wildlife.

This summer, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued new kill order at a rancher’s request, this time for two members of the Harl Butte Pack, an offshoot of the original Imnaha Pack. This was soon followed by an additional kill order targeting the Meacham Pack at the request of a Umatilla County rancher.

Wolves are rare, highly valued by the public and of incalculable ecological value as a key part of natural systems. Cattle, by contrast, are a dime a dozen— not to mention an invasive species non-native to North America — bred specifically to be killed for their meat. Oregon alone has more than a million of them. If wolves kill a cow or calf before we get a chance to do the same, they deserve a tip of the cap as a professional courtesy to a fellow predator, not a death sentence.

But there is a bigger lesson to be drawn from the dirty politics of Oregon’s state-sponsored wildlife killings. Killing native wildlife shows everyone involved in an unflattering light: Bureaucrats look incompetent (or worse, corrupt), state biologists look like they don’t understand basic science, apologists for predator killing look like sellouts and ranchers look like bloodthirsty killers.

In politics, perception is reality. It is long past time for Oregon to take a look in the mirror, check its reality, and come up with better solutions that afford wildlife — and specifically wolves — their place in the natural order of the state. Where is Brown on solving the state’s problematic approach to wolves? Endangered species recovery based on science and coexistence rather than politics makes everyone look better, and more importantly, it actually works.

Erik Molvar is executive director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit environmental conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife. He is also a published wildlife biologist.

 

Hunters and severe winters — not wolves — key to Wisconsin’s deer numbers

http://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/columnists/paul-smith/2017/08/23/smith-hunters-and-severe-winters-not-wolves-key-wisconsins-deer-numbers/591607001/

, Milwaukee Journal Sentine lPublished 5:57 p.m. CT Aug. 23, 2017

When it comes to gray wolves and white-tailed deer, there are enough deep-seated beliefs to fill the Dells of the Wisconsin River.

Some of them, like many of the acts in the nearby town, are based more on fiction than fact.—

Here’s one: The wolves are killing all the deer in northern Wisconsin.

It’s not a new refrain, but it’s one I continue to hear from some of my hunting colleagues each year.

Now in late summer 2017, as bucks begin to lose their velvet and wolf pups start to venture out more with adults, conditions are ripe to discuss trends in both species.

In a word, both are “up.”

There are 480,273 deer in the 18-county northern forest management zone, according to the 2017 pre-hunt population estimate from the Department of Natural Resources.

The 2017 number represents an 18% year-over-year increase.

The population of wolves, as you may know, is at an all-time high in Wisconsin. The DNR in June reported a record high of at least 925 wolves, most of which are in northern Wisconsin.

The latest wolf report represents a 6% increase from 2015-’16 and a 24% rise from 2014-’15.

So the two iconic wildlife species have been increasing in number across Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Why? And how can it be? If wolves are at an all-time high – and if they “eat all the deer” – shouldn’t the deer herd at least be falling?

A look at the data and management related to each species can be illuminating.

The wolf population has increased largely due to a December 2014 federal judge’s decision that placed the western Great Lakes population under protections of the Endangered Species Act. The ruling has prevented state officials from holding public hunting and trapping seasons or using other lethal means to manage the species.

Deer have been increasing partly due to protection, too. For the last several years, the number of antlerless deer permits has been significantly reduced in northern units. Some counties have allowed zero.

With more female deer allowed to live and reproduce, the population assumed an upward trajectory.

Mother Nature is the other primary factor allowing deer herd growth in the north. The last three years have been marked by “soft” winters, including the fourth (2015-’16) and sixth (2016-’17) mildest on record since 1960, according to the DNR’s Winter Severity Index.

In contrast, two very rough winters took a toll on the deer herd in 2011-’12 and 2012-’13. The 2011-’12 winter was the third most severe on record; the following year was especially tough on deer since winter conditions lasted into May.

The milder winters have been reflected in recent years in higher fawn-doe ratios and a higher proportion of yearling bucks with forked antlers, according to DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang.

Another factor – habitat – likely has improved marginally in northern Wisconsin in recent years due to some changes in forestry practices. But it’s harder to quantify and likely takes longer to show its effects on the deer herd.

I find the status of both species particularly interesting now, as wolf numbers have climbed to a record high.

Wolves obviously eat deer. According to most experts, an adult wolf will consume the equivalent of 20 adult-sized deer annually.

But when compared to other sources of deer mortality in Wisconsin, wolves rank down the list.

I ran the numbers and trends past David Mech, senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn. Mech has studied wolves for 59 years and is considered an expert on the species and its effect on plant and animal communities.

“Under these current Wisconsin regulations and conditions, wolves are apparently not a competitor, or aren’t really having that much of an impact (on deer),” Mech said.

The leading causes of deer mortality in the state, as Wisconsin wildlife managers have long said, are human hunters and severe winters.

A 2009 DNR document ranked the deer kill in Wisconsin’s northern and central forest regions this way: 122,000 deer killed by hunters (bow and gun), about 50,000 due to winter stress (the range could vary widely), 33,000 to black bears, 16,000 to coyotes, 13,000 to motor vehicles, 13,000 to wolves and 6,000 to bobcats.

The trends over the last few years in northern Wisconsin are clear.

When I was in Bayfield and Sawyer counties in May for the Governors Fishing Opener, I counted 72 deer on an evening drive from Cable to Hayward.

The conditions reminded me of the plethora of deer I used to see in the area in the mid to late 1990s.

Wolves are up in number. Deer are too.

Humans and Mother Nature have far more control over deer populations than wolves ever will.

I’m hoping my hunting buddies read this. But as always, I’ll be happy to tell them in person.

Pass it along to your friends, too.

As we move forward with management plans on both species, it’s important to bring as many facts to the debate as possible.

OREGON REMOVES TWO MORE WOLVES FROM HARL BUTTE PACK

Last week, Oregon removed two more Harl Butte wolves from the pack after weeks of persistent livestock depredation. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) have been carefully monitoring the pack via a single radio-collared wolf in the pack; the two selected wolves were non-breeding members, according to ODFW.

“We have discovered in the past few weeks working out in the field with this pack, that it’s actually larger than originally expected,” ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy told KBND. “We thought there were seven wolves plus three pups and we’ve since learned that there were ten wolves with three pups, so now there are eight wolves, and after this there will be six. So, we hope that has the impact that we’re looking for.”

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While ODFW has worked to keep livestock safe from the Harl Butte pack via non-lethal measures like electric fences, range riders, ranchers spending more time with livestock and wolf hazing, because this pack is so large, livestock continues to be in danger. The decision to remove problem wolves from the pack follows Oregon’s wolf management plan.

“We have a wolf plan that guides wolf management in Oregon,” says Dennehy. “Unfortunately, sometimes, wolves will kill livestock, and the Harl Butte wolf pack, which is in Wallowa county, killed livestock and that’s why we are going to kill an additional two members from this pack.”

Oregon’s responsibility for wolves: Letter to the editor

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has gone astray and Gov. Kate Brown needs to pay attention. When the private property of livestock on our public lands takes precedence over Oregon’s wildlife, the agency has lost sight of its mission: “To protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats for the use and enjoyment by present and future generations.”

Oregon’s young people expect the agency overseeing wolves on our public lands to be protecting them, not killing them. Some of the Harl Butte wolves are being killed on our public lands. This is a travesty. A travesty because the lives of a few of Oregon’s 1.3 million cows are more highly valued than the lives of our small native wolf population. Our public lands are not the sole property of ranchers. They belong to our wildlife and to all Oregonians.

The decision to kill these wolves is also a travesty because it is based on an outdated wolf plan lacking emphasis on non-lethal methods or conservation. The plan was to be reviewed and revised in 2015. It still has not been completed. In 2015, ODFW chose instead to decrease protection by delisting our wolves as a state endangered species.

Gov. Brown needs to hold the fish and wildlife department accountable for its tactics and insist it gets back on track with its mission. No new killings should be allowed under these outdated rules.

Joanie Beldin, North Portland

Conservation groups protest Washington state’s secrecy on managing, killing wolves

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/conservation-groups-protest-states-secrecy-on-managing-killing-wolves/

Divided over strategy, wildlife conservation groups agree the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is too secretive about its killing of wolves.

They are divided over the best strategy to recover wolves in Washington. But 14 conservation groups joined together Friday to send a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, protesting secrecy in its management of wolves.

The letter, signed by wildlife conservation groups across Washington, was issued after the department released a five-word account of its ongoing kill operation of the Smackout Pack in northeastern Washington, to protect ranchers’ cattle.

That followed a July 14 report that belatedly revealed four wolves had died in Washington over the past year, including two under circumstances still being investigated. That was at least six weeks and in some instances months after the department had the information.

Washington’s wolves

The letter was sent to Donny Martorello, wolf-policy lead for the department. Last week he told The Seattle Times the department was withholding information on its operations on the Smackout pack until a final report at an unspecified time to “keep the temperature down,” in the interest of public safety.

He could not be reached Friday for comment on the letter.

“That little five-word statement was just a slap in the face,” said Nick Cady, of Cascadia Wildlands, about the department’s report on the Smackout Pack. “You are a public agency, spending the public’s money to kill the public’s wolves. You have responsibilities and obligations to inform the public.”

Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the department’s management of information about its wolf operations “is a huge step backward. It inflames the public to be treated like children.”

Members of the Wolf Advisory Group who worked with the agency all winter to craft its information policy for this season stated in the letter the agency was not living up to the parameters agreed to.

“We are concerned the department has chosen to withhold basic information regarding the operation that would not compromise safety,” the letter stated. “We do not agree with the department’s interpretation of the 2017 revised protocol … the department’s decision to only release the number of wolves killed is an unnecessary and inappropriate retreat from the level of transparency in previous (wolf) removal actions.”

Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, representing more than 20 publications across Washington, said the agency needs to be transparent.

“If you don’t tell anybody what is going on, nobody trusts anybody,” Thompson said. “They need to give out this information so people know what happened, and can make up their own minds about it. Not only the public, but legislators and the people making policy about this issue need to know.”

Signing the letter were the Center for Biological Diversity; Defenders of Wildlife; Conservation Northwest; Cascadia Wildlands; Eastern Washington Wolf Coalition; Endangered Species Coalition; Kettle Range Conservation Group; Lands Council, Mountain Lion Foundation; the Washington State director for the Humane Society of the United States; the wildlife director for the Washington State Sierra Club; Western Environmental Law Center; Western Wildlife Conservation; Wildlands Network; and Wolf Haven International.

The Wolf Killers Wore Green


The shooting of the Profanity Pack last year and now a kill order for the Smackout Pack in Northeast Washington clearly demonstrated the failure of the current strategy of many conservation groups who are involved in wolf recovery efforts.

In this case, a number of organizations, including Wolf Haven International, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society had joined the Wolf Advisory Group or WAG, a collaborative group that worked with the state of Washington as well as other “stake holders” (read ranchers) to produce a wolf recovery strategy.

The plan, among other components, calls for the lethal removal of depredating wolves. This applies to both public and private lands. Therein lies the rub. Who should have priority on public lands? Public wildlife or private livestock?

I am sure that these organizations have the best intentions—they want to see wolves thrive—however, they need to take a step back and consider whether their current strategy ultimately gains acceptance for wolves and other wildlife or merely becomes a “green washing” of actions that maintain the status quo and ultimately never really improves conditions for wolves and other wildlife.


Editor’s Note: To leave the fate of a near-extinct species like wolves in the hands of conservationists is misguided. Conservationists are the “liberals” of the animal defense world, people who more often than not co-opt themselves for the sake of getting along with the establishment’s way of doing business. Now, as detailed by the author, the combination of namby pamby wolf advocates and sociopathically greedy ranching interests—always bolstered in their depredations by ubiquitous speciesist politicians in Congress and state assemblies—simply spells doom for these animals.  And for what? So that a few morally retarded humans can have more steaks via the murdering of more cows, grazed in public lands? So that ranching interests can increase their profits? Or so that depraved “sport” hunters may enjoy more live targets? I for one most definitely object!—PG

When the Profanity Pack killed some cattle on a public lands grazing allotment, these organizations supported the killing of the pack, despite the fact that the rancher involved had placed his cattle on an allotment with a known wolf pack. He even placed salt blocks within a few hundred yards of a wolf den and rendezvous site. In essence, the Profanity Pack was set up to be killed by the agencies managing the land and wolves. But as members of the WAG, these organizations did not object to the killing which they called termed “regrettable” and other adjectives, but which they ultimately supported.

 


As members of the WAG they were silenced from voicing outrage, and even more importantly, condemning the entire situation where private livestock are given priority on public lands. And in this case, where the rancher and public agencies like the Forest Service did not take actions to avoid the conflict.

What could have been done differently? Well for one, the Forest Service, the agency managing these lands could have closed the allotment temporarily to grazing to preclude interactions between wolves and livestock. Better yet it could have removed the cattle entirely. But without a united voice from wolf advocates, the agency allowed this tragic and almost inevitable conflict to occur.


This gets to the heart of the issue. Which animals should have priority on public lands? The public’s wildlife or domestic livestock being grazed as a private use of public resources for private profit?

The conservation groups that are part of the WAG cannot change the paradigm. The reason is simple. Collaborations like the WAG start with certain assumptions—that domestic livestock has a priority on public lands—and if you don’t agree with that starting premise, you are not welcome on the collaboration.

It is no different than timber collaborations where the starting assumption is that our forests are “unhealthy” and “need” to be “managed” (read logged) to be “fixed”. If you disagree with that starting assumption, there is no welcome for you in forest collaborations.

This gets to the issue of strategy. As long as the assumption is that private livestock has priority on public lands, nothing will change. Wolves will continue to be shot unnecessarily.

But it goes further than whether wolves are shot. Domestic livestock are consuming the same forage as native wildlife like elk. On many grazing allotments, the bulk of all available forage is allotted to domestic livestock, thereby reducing the carrying capacity for wild ungulates (like elk) which are prey for predators like wolves.


In addition, there are a number of studies that demonstrate that once you move domestic cattle on to an allotment, the native wildlife like elk abandons the area. This means wolves must travel farther to find food, exposing them to more potentially greater mortality from hunters, car accidents, and so on.

You won’t hear any of these conservation groups articulating these “costs” to native wildlife because one of the consequences of joining collaboration is that your voice is muted. You remain silent to “get along.”

The groups joining the Washington WAG defend their participation by saying ranching on public lands is not going away, so the best way to influence wolf policy is to participate in these collaborative efforts.

The problem is that this legitimizes the idea that ranching and livestock have a priority on public lands. Keep in mind that grazing on public lands is a privilege. It is not a “right” despite the fact that the livestock industry tries to obscure the truth by referring to “grazing rights”.

If we are ever going to change the situation for wolves and other predators, not to mention other wildlife from elk to bison, we need to challenge the starting assumptions that livestock have a “right” to graze on our public lands.

Imagine for a minute what the Civil Rights movement would have accomplished if its leaders had joined a collaborative with the KKK and folks who were intent on maintaining the status quo in the South. Under such a paradigm nothing much would change. Sure they could have made the same rationale that today’s conservation groups make when they argue that public lands livestock grazing is not going away—and I’m sure many people involved in the Civil Rights movement assumed that segregation would never end either.

But some brave souls did not accept the starting assumptions. They refused to give up their seats at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. They demanded that all citizens had a right to vote without polling taxes and other measures designed to disenfranchise black voters. 

The failure of conservation organizations to avoid questioning the presumed “right” of livestock operations to exploit the public’s land means we will never really change the circumstances under which predators live.

While any organizations that continue to support public lands grazing might defend their decision by suggesting that changing the paradigm is too difficult, I respond by saying as long as they never challenge anything, nothing will change.

I am reminded of David Brower’s admonishment “Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.”