How Washington ranchers are learning to cope with wolves, with lessons from Uganda

https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-02-24/how-washington-ranchers-are-learning-cope-wolves-lessons-uganda

Bill &Carol2.jpg

Rancher Bill Johnson and wildlife researcher Carol Bogezi are pictured, here, on Johnson’s ranch in Washington’s Teanaway Valley. Bogezi has been working with Johnson and other ranchers in eastern Washington to try to find a way to help them live more amicably with wolves.

Credit: Eilis O’Neil

Bill Johnson lives with his seven border collies in a log house that he built himself in the Teanaway Valley, just over the Cascade Mountains that divide rural eastern Washington state from the more urban western part.

Johnson’s been a cowboy here for about 16 years. When he started, there were no wolves around, but that changed about five years ago. He vividly remembers his first encounter with the returning predators.

He was driving out of the valley one night when a deer ran across the road.

“And these three large German shepherds ran across after the deer,” he says. “And I’m thinking, ‘Those aren’t German shepherds, those are wolves. … Those are wolves! Can you believe it?’”

A month later, the return of wolves to the area really hit home. Johnson was out with his dogs when one of them — Lance — disappeared.

“Lance went off on his own and by the time I realized he was gone, it was too late,” Johnson says, his voice cracking and his eyes tearing up. It was the first animal he’d lost to a wolf.

That night, Johnson saddled his horse and grabbed his gun.

“I was going to kill every wolf in the Teanaway,” he says.

Bill Johnson raises cattle but the first animal he lost to a wolf after they returned to the region was one of his beloved border collies. When that happen, Johnson says, he wanted "to kill every wolf in the Teanaway."

Bill Johnson raises cattle but the first animal he lost to a wolf after they returned to the region was one of his beloved border collies. When that happened, Johnson says, he wanted “to kill every wolf in the Teanaway.”

Credit: Eilis O’Neil

Johnson says a lot of ranchers in eastern Washington feel the same.

“There are ranchers who operate on the premise that ‘the only good wolf is a dead wolf,’” Johnson says. “When the wolves first came here, their vision was that the wolf pack was going to run rampant through the Teanaway Valley and kill all the elk and all the deer, and then start working on the horses and the llamas and the cattle, and eventually they would start pulling children out of the sleeping bags at night.”

It’s a common fear around here. Wolves have been unknown in Washington since the 1930s when they were largely eradicated.

But, since 2008, Washington’s wolf population has gone from zero to nearly 100, as wolves began moving back to the state from longstanding populations in Canada and reintroduced populations in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Conservationists have championed the return of wolves to some of their original territory. But many ranchers and other rural residents see the animals as a threat to their way of life.

It’s not an abstract fear. Since the first wolves returned, they’ve killed at least 27 cattle.

Wolves were eradicated from Washington state in the early 20th century, but they've begun repopulating the state over the last decade. This photo was shot by the state's wildlife department in 2014.

Wolves were eradicated from Washington state in the early 20th century, but they’ve begun repopulating the state over the last decade. This photo was shot by the state’s wildlife department in 2014.

Credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The state generally protects the animals, but it does have a policy of culling any pack in eastern Washington that kills more than four cattle.

It also offers to compensate ranchers for animals lost to wolves, but it turns out that ranchers don’t much like that idea.

“With compensation, someone comes in and you have to write [everything] down, and it’s like you’re begging for this money,” says Carol Bogezi, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. Bogezi’s been talking about wolves with ranchers and cowboys like Bill Johnson for the past two years, enough time to know how many of them they feel.

And getting to know them well has been key to her work here: trying to find ways to help rural residents become more accepting of wolves.

The effort starts with the choice of attire for her conversations: a checked flannel shirt.

And she says she starts every interview in the same way: “I’m not even from Seattle,” she tells each rancher, “so I won’t be telling you what to do!”

“Not from Seattle.” It’s a big icebreaker in these parts. For many folks in eastern Washington, Seattle represents the urban elite, people who like to pontificate about what others should do but have no idea what life elsewhere is really like.

And Bogezi is, indeed, not from Seattle. She grew up in Uganda on her family’s small farm outside the capital Kampala. But she says she understands the ranchers’ perspective because her family had problems with predators, too — things like civet cats and monkeys that would eat her family’s chickens, sheep and goats.

It was her job to shoo the predators away during the day. At night, the family hired someone to take more lethal action.

Bogezi would sometimes find a dead predator in the morning.

“It was heartbreaking,” she says. “You don’t want them to be eating the lambs or baby goats or chickens, that’s tough, but then also finding a dead civet cat felt sad.”

Carol Bogezi says she learned empathy for ranchers dealing with predators growing up on her family's farm in Uganda. She also says her status as an outsider in Washington's ranching communities made her have to listen more closely to residents' concerns t

Carol Bogezi says she learned empathy for ranchers dealing with predators growing up on her family’s farm in Uganda. She also says her status as an outsider in Washington’s ranching communities made her have to listen more closely to residents’ concerns than someone else might have.

Credit: Eilis O’Neil

Bogezi says her family thought she’d outgrow her love of predators, but she didn’t. After college in Uganda, she worked with crocodiles before getting a scholarship for grad school at the University of Washington.

At UW, she’s studied a range of possible solutions to Washington’s wolf conflict. The one she thinks would work best is a wolf-friendly meat certification program, in which ranchers who do their best to minimize conflict would be able to sell their meat for a premium in — ironically — places like Seattle.

There are a couple of reasons it could work, she believes.

“Once a market incentive takes off,” Bogezi says, “it pretty much is regulated by the laws of economics, which ranchers really mostly like to work with.”

And places like Montana have already tried out similar programs, so “it’s also not a very novel thing in the West,” she says. “You don’t have to start from scratch.”

Bogezi recently won a fellowship from the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation that will help her study the certification idea from the consumer side, to see how much people might be willing to pay for wolf-friendly meat.

After that, she hopes to start a trial run of such a program.

Rancher Johnson was skeptical of the idea at first. But he says his talks with Bogezi helped change his mind about living with wolves.

“Once the anger and the grief was gone, it was a natural process,” Johnson says. “You take somebody swimming in the ocean, there’s a chance they get eaten by a shark. The wolves came back — they’ve basically wandered back into their homeland — and so we’re going to get along. We’re going to make it work.”

If it does work, Bogezi says it may be partly because of her role as an outsider — not just from the other side of the mountains, but from the other side of the world.

“Because what happened here, is, I have to listen more. I have to make sure I understand,” she says. “And I think that’s a great skill to have when you’re going to be working with communities about wildlife or other natural resources which they may not think of as the most valuable thing.”

It’s a skill that Bogezi eventually hopes to bring back to Uganda, as well. When she has finished her work here, she wants to go home to work on preventing conflicts between people and elephants.

Wolf Packs in Washington (as of June 2016)

This shows wolf packs in Washington as of June 2016. The state’s wolf population has grown from zero to around 100 since 2008, after having been eradicated in the 1930s.

Credit: Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

The WDFW & University of Washington are Collaborating on Wolf Study

http://lcvalley.dailyfly.com/Home/ArtMID/1352/ArticleID/45975/The-WDFW-University-of-Washington-are-Collaborating-on-Wolf-Study

pbrinegar / Monday, February 20, 2017

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Washington are collaborating on a study to determine how eight years of growth in the wolf population is affecting other wildlife species in the state. This study is expected to last five years and will assess the health of deer and elk herds in northeast Washington.
From the WDFW:
“The experience in other western states shows that wolves and other predators may affect the size and behavior of deer and elk herds,” said Eric Gardner, head of the WDFW Wildlife Program. “We want to take a closer look at the situation here in Washington state as our own wolf population continues to grow.”
Researchers will also examine the response to wolves by other predators, especially cougars, said Gardner, noting that the study will dovetail with an ongoing research project on moose in northeast Washington.
As of June 2016, WDFW had confirmed the presence of 19 wolf packs and at least 90 wolves in Washington state – up from a single pack with five wolves in 2008. Most of the growth in the state’s wolf population has occurred in northeastern Washington, where the new study is now underway.
In January, WDFW research scientists and field biologists began capturing deer, elk, and cougars and fitting them with radio-collars to monitor their movements. Capture techniques include trapping animals using bait, steering them into nets, and darting them from helicopters with immobilization drugs.
The goal is to keep 65 white-tailed deer, 50 elk, and 10 cougars collared in one study area that includes areas of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, said John Pierce, chief scientist for the WDFW Wildlife Program. In addition, researchers plan to collar 100 mule deer and 10 cougars in a second area in Okanogan County.
Some wolves are already radio-collared in those areas, but researchers want to maintain collars on at least two wolves in each pack within the study areas, Pierce said.
Pierce asks that hunters who take a collared deer or elk contact the department, so researchers can recover the collar.
UW students will join WDFW research scientists and field biologists to monitor radio-collared animals and track their movements, distribution, habitat use, diet, productivity and survival. Cougars will be monitored to learn about changes in social behavior, prey selection and predation rates in areas where wolves also occur.
“This study concentrates on multiple-use lands used by people for activities such as logging, livestock ranching and hunting,” Pierce said. “In that way it differs from most other studies on the impact of wolves, which tend to be conducted in national parks and other protected areas.”
Pierce said the principal investigators from WDFW and UW will periodically develop and publicly share progress reports about the study over the next five years.
Funding for the five-year study includes $400,000 from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, $450,000 in federal Pittman-Robertson funds and $150,000 of WDFW funds. The UW also secured nearly $900,000 in National Science Foundation grant funds for the project.

Congressional effort to allow killing hibernating bears and wolf pups in their dens moves to U.S. Senate

February 22, 2017

Last week’s vote on H.J. Res. 69 was one of the most disturbing actions by Congress I’ve witnessed during more than a quarter century of political advocacy for animals. By a 225 to 195 vote, a narrow majority of the U.S. House voted to rescind a rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to forbid the worst wildlife management practices introduced to the field in the last century – shooting hibernating bears with their cubs and denning of wolves and their pups; using airplanes to scout, land, and shoot grizzly bears; and baiting and trapping black and grizzly bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and neck wire snares.

Both obedience to and fear of the NRA and Safari Club International, along with an interest in securing campaign donations from those groups and their supporters, drove more than 200 lawmakers to vote against good sense and common decency.

Rep. Don Young of Alaska, a former board member of the NRA and a licensed trapper – who conceded on the floor that he used to kill wolf pups in their dens for a bounty paid by the federal government — initiated this action and led the charge for his terrible resolution. An identical resolution, introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska as S.J. Res. 18, may be taken up in the Senate next week or soon thereafter.

Let’s take a look at several of Young’s arguments brandished in the run-up to this vote.

Young and other proponents simultaneously argued that the federal rule would restrict hunting and even fishing rights, yet they also said that the practices forbidden under the rule don’t occur.

It’s almost a logical impossibility to severely restrict hunting and fishing rights for practices that aren’t occurring. So what’s really at work here, and where do the truth and these politicians lie? The state of Alaska, especially since the enactment of the Intensive Management Act, has been on a crusade to use well-heeled trophy hunters and state agents to drive down the numbers of grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, in order to create more moose and caribou for hunters to shoot. In pursuit of this goal, it’s authorized all manner of appalling practices, including hunting and killing methods forbidden by the FWS rule on their lands. In short, if these methods weren’t legal and used, then the state, the Safari Club, and the NRA wouldn’t be clamoring for a rescinding of the measure.

Young and his allies invoked the 10th Amendment and called the battle a states’ rights issue, saying the federal government has no business managing wildlife on federal lands.

This is their most dangerous argument, since this is an attempt to supplant wildlife management by the National Park Service (NPS) and the FWS on over 170 million acres of land throughout the United States – from the refuges and national parks and preserves in Alaska to Yellowstone and Acadia and Everglades in the rest of the United States. While the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have traditionally deferred to the states on wildlife management, the FWS and the NPS have for decades directly controlled the management of wildlife on land dedicated to species preservation. That power is derived from the Constitution and Congress, and the federal courts have repeatedly upheld that right. The FWS rule is aligned with the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act (which Young opposed in 1980) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, along with the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The sweeping application of Congressman Young’s invocation of the 10th Amendment would upend management practices at hundreds of parks, preserves, seashores, battlefields, refuges, and other designated land holdings. This has been a long-held aspiration of the NRA and Safari Club, and lawmakers aligned with them took the ball and ran with it. If this principle had merit, then it would just be a matter of time for the state of Wyoming to open hunting seasons on grizzly bears and wolves within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, if state managers chose that strategy.

Young said that everybody in Alaska is in favor of his effort to repeal the federal rule.

Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia argued against H.J. Res. 69 and read excerpts from a series of letters from Alaskans opposing the rule. On top of that, there were letters from more than a dozen wildlife biologists from Alaska saying that the FWS rule is the right policy, and that the rule itself was crafted by FWS biologists who work and live in Alaska and felt duty-bound to proscribe activities at odds with the purposes of the refuges. None of these people are cranks, and it turns out, they are not in the minority. statewide pollconducted in February 2016 showed Alaskans oppose denning of wolves by more than a 2-to-1 margin. At a series of public meetings on the FWS proposed rule, many Alaskans turned out to publicly support the rulemaking actions because they want these inhumane, unsustainable, and unsporting practices to end. At the Fairbanks meeting, a clear majority supported the proposed rule. Alaskan voters have put the issue of aerial gunning of wolves on the ballot three times, and passed two of the measures (still lawmakers, violating the wishes of their own constituents, overturned those laws).

The FWS rule, years in the works, was hardly an example of the federal government running roughshod over the state. The opposite is far closer to the truth, with the state trying to bully its way into our national wildlife refuges and national preserves, authorized by Congress. Congress provided the FWS with a statutory mandate requiring the agency to conserve wildlife species, and prohibiting the denning of wolf pups and land-and-scout hunting of grizzly bears falls in line with that mandate. Yet, consistent with its policy, the FWS appealed to the Alaska Board of Game dozens of times to amend its rules to exempt National Wildlife Refuges. The Board of Game refused.

The House outcome is intolerable, and now the debate moves to the U.S. Senate. Only determined action by citizens can stop the Senate from replicating the House action. Call your U.S. Senators and urge them to oppose S.J. Res. 18, by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. It’s not just the lives of the wolves and bears at stake, it’s nothing less than the principle of federal control of our parks and refuges throughout the United States.

http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/02/congressional-effort-allow-killing-hibernating-bears-wolf-pups-dens-moves-u-s-senate.html?credit=fb_postwp022217

blog.humanesociety.org
Last week’s vote on H.J. Res. 69 was one of the most disturbing actions by Congress I’ve witnessed during more than a quarter century of political advocacy for animals. By a 225 to 195 vote, a narrow majority of the U.S. House voted to rescind a rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) . . .

Mexican gray wolf population bounces back in Southwest

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/17/mexican-gray-wolf-population-bounces-back-southwest/98078884/

PHOENIX — Endangered Mexican gray wolves rebounded from a deadly 2015 to reach a population of 113 in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico last year, the most since the species returned to the wild almost 20 years ago, federal and state biologists announced Friday.

The population of wolves, first reintroduced from captive breeding into the two states in 1998, had grown by fits and starts to 110 two years ago before dropping back to 97 at the end of 2015. Unsolved illegal shootings contributed to the losses, and officials said that year also saw lower pup survival.

Last year was different, according to winter ground and aerial surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partner wildlife agencies in the two states. Fifty wild-born pups survived the year, compared with just 23 in 2015.

At least 63 wolves roamed the forests of eastern Arizona as of January, the agencies reported.

“We are encouraged by these numbers, but these 2016 results demonstrate we are still not out of the woods with this experimental population,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle said in a news release.

The year’s positive numbers didn’t sway wolf advocates, who say the population needs a major infusion of new blood with new releases of captive wolves.

Arizona has favored placing captive-born pups with wild packs in the state lately, instead of releasing pairs to form new packs. The tactic remains risky, Robinson said, as the annual census shows only three of six wolves fostered in this manner apparently survived last year.

New Mexico, meanwhile, has secured a court injunction barring new releases into that state for the time being.

Both states face pressure from ranchers and deer and elk hunters to limit potential wolf predations.

“New Mexico is paving a path that could lead to Mexican gray wolf extinction,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Releases are crucial to increase lobo numbers and improve their genetic diversity in the wild.

“We need more wolves and less politics.”

Arizona expects the survival of wild-born pups to help sustain last year’s growth rate, said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The Mexican wolf is the rarest of gray wolf subspecies and is somewhat smaller than its northern cousins. It was hunted into near extinction with U.S. government help in the past century before a captive breeding program began with the last seven survivors in the 1970s.

Mexico also has re-established a small population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long struggled to produce a recovery plan that would lay out a population goal and the means to get there, but it is due to release one this fall.

Bill Introduced by State Lawmaker to Remove NE WA Gray Wolves From Endangered List

Mia Carlson / Monday, February 13, 2017

OLYMPIA, WA – A Washington State lawmaker has introduced legislation that would remove gray wolves from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s endangered species list in four eastern Washington counties. House Bill 1872 would prohibit the agency from designating or maintaining a designation of the gray wolf as an endangered, threatened, or sensitive species in those counties along the Canadian border – areas of the state hit the hardest by predatory actions.

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Joel Kretz, raises horses and cattle on a ranch in the mountains of Okanogan County near Wauconda.  He says he has seen firsthand the devastation of predatory gray wolves.

“We’ve got one rancher with upwards of 70 head losses this year. You can’t sustain that very long. I’m really concerned that we’ve got grazing season this spring and I’m afraid that we’ll have a lot of ranchers will be out of business this year if it goes like it has,” Kretz says.

Kretz says the federal government has already delisted gray wolves. Some 19 packs have recovered with growing populations, and 16 of those packs are in northcentral and northeast Washington counties. The 7th District lawmaker says his bill could allow the state to get a preview in the four counties of proper wolf management before the animal is finally de-listed statewide.

The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Kill Them or Move Them? Wolf Control Options Weigh on Wildlife Panel

http://www.chronline.com/news/kill-them-or-move-them-wolf-control-options-weigh-on/article_824b6554-f3ab-11e6-8060-8b4d17214337.html

Legislature: Wildlife Experts, Members of the Public Say They Prefer Relocation

  • By Matt Spaw / For The Chronicle
  • Feb 15, 2017

OLYMPIA — In a surprising turn, a state panel discussing studies of lethal means to control wolves preying on farm animals and invading humans’ territory found that non-lethal control is a more effective option.

Wildlife experts and members of the public came together at a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Friday to discuss wolf removal.

According to the panel, most of the state’s wolf packs are in northeastern Washington, with some in the North Cascades region. The panel was made up of Department of Wildlife experts specializing in wolves, wildlife conflict and carnivores.

Wolves present a challenge for livestock owners. Wolves are reestablishing themselves after being nearly eradicated in the early 1900s, but ranchers and others face the problem of protecting their livestock from wolf predation.

“We need to hone in on our objective. Is it tolerance? Is it to stop depredations forever?” said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for the state agency.

The panel went over studies about the culling of wolf populations. The studies were all peer-reviewed, but taken together were not conclusive. The primary focus of Friday’s meeting was on using lethal methods to cull wolf populations, although non-lethal means also were discussed and debated.

Most of the studies examined Friday found non-lethal methods to be more effective than lethal methods at preventing livestock death. Four of the five non-lethal tests had preventive effects, while only two of the seven lethal tests had preventive effects. Two of the lethal tests increased predation.

Non-lethal methods include fladry, which involves hanging flags that flap in the breeze and scare wolves, as well as using guard dogs for livestock.

In some areas the desired effect of culling wolf populations occurred. “Less livestock were killed. In some areas it did not work,” Martorello said. “It drives home the message that there is no perfect solution.”

The department suspended the controversial killing of Profanity Peak wolves in October. That program, aimed at killing a pack of 11 wolves, resulted in the deaths of seven and cost $135,000 before being suspended. The wolves had attacked or killed about 15 cattle.

“Wolves are one of the most studied animals on the planet,” said Scott Becker, state wolf specialist. The large number of recent studies used by the panel supported that statement.

Panel members said their own anecdotal evidence and personal experience also provide important information about wolf populations and control.

The panelists also examined public opinion of wolves and what studies say about perception.

“If one has a positive valuation of wolves, they generally like to focus on the benefits,” Becker said. “If one has a negative value of wolves, they generally focus on those costs.”

Only 61 of 358 Northern Rocky Mountain region wolf packs in the United States — or about 17 percent — were involved in at least one confirmed livestock killing, according to Becker. People are willing to accept some level of conflict with wolves, but 50 to 70 percent of that conflict occurs on private property, which could affect public perceptions.

At the meeting, public comments centered on opposition to lethal methods of wolf removal.

“We spend too much time talking about lethal removal. Could we have a panel on non-lethal control?” asked Melinda Hirsch of Conservation Northwest. “The studies are showing that those are the ones that are effective.”

The meeting will be used by the department’s Wolf Advisory Group to inform future recommendations. The group of landowners, conservationists, hunters and other interests work together to recommend strategies for reducing conflict with wolves.

•••

Groups want summary judgment in wolf lawsuit

Environmentalists trying to stop federal agency from killing wolves in Idaho

wp-1468782690732.jpg

By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune 6 hrs ago 0

Environmental groups have filed a motion for summary judgment in their case that seeks to stop the federal Wildlife Services agency from killing wolves in Idaho.

According to the lawsuit, the small agency has killed dozens of wolves in the state’s Lolo zone in each of last six years at the behest of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and its efforts to aid elk herds there. The agency also has acted in concert with the state to kill wolves that prey on livestock.

The Boise-based Advocates for the West argued that the federal agency – even when acting at the request of the state – must follow the National Environmental Policy Act. The 1970 law requires the federal government to study and publish the environmental consequences of its proposed actions and to consider viable alternatives

Advocates of the West Executive Director Laird Lucas said the agency has based its wolf control actions on a 2011 environmental assessment that he argues is outdated and falls short of essential details, such how many wolves would be killed, when and where the control might take place and what the ecological effects would be.

The lawsuit also argues the 2011 assessment is out of date because it relied on a population objective in a state wolf management plan that was changed even before the assessment was complete, and that a more lengthy and detailed environmental impact statement is needed to fully consider the effects of the agency’s wolf killing program.

The lawsuit asks federal district court judge Edward J. Lodge to require the agency to set aside the environmental assessment and require the agency either expand its study or to update it.

“We have this secretive agency trying to operate outside of the public eye,” Lucas said. “Many people in the public really care about wolves, and that is the point of (the National Environmental Policy Act) – to publicly disclose what you are doing.”

The lawsuit was filed in June by the Friends of the Clearwater, Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Predator Defense.

The federal government has not yet responded to the request for summary judgement that was filed Friday. If the environmental groups were to prevail, it would make it much more difficult for the state to manage the size of wolf packs in remote areas like the Lolo Zone.

Last year, Wildlife Services employees in helicopters shot 20 wolves in the Lolo Zone. A similar number of wolves was killed there in the three previous years. Idaho’s predator management plan for the Lolo Zone, north of the Lochsa River, calls for a 70 to 80 percent reduction of wolf numbers. In 1989, the department estimated the area had about 16,000 elk. A 2010 survey estimated the herd had dropped to 2,100 animals. The state agency is counting wolves in the Lolo Zone again this winter.
http://lmtribune.com/northwest/groups-want-summary-judgment-in-wolf-lawsuit/article_3ed65c8a-912f-5205-9d96-7534522e0aeb.html

Time to end the era of aerial gunning of wolves

http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/02/time-end-era-aerial-gunning-wolves.html

Time to end the era of aerial gunning of wolves

by Wayne Pacelle

February 9, 2017 

One of the most despicable acts against animals in contemporary times is the aerial gunning of wildlife – chasing down these animals in aircraft and then strafing them with bullets, mainly as a way to wipe out local populations and artificially boost populations of moose and caribou for hunters to shoot at a later time. It’s not only a scrambling of intact ecological systems, but it is barbaric, and it’s been sanctioned by some Alaska politicians and their appointees at the Board of Game in Alaska for years, even though voters in the state time and time again have tried to ban it by ballot initiative.

In 2015 and 2016, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said “not on our lands,” and adopted rules to forbid aerial scouting, landing, and then shooting of wolves and grizzly bears; killing of hibernating black bear mothers with cubs; and denning of predators on national preserves and national wildlife refuges. It was a long overdue pair of policies, and broadly supported by so many Alaskans and by people throughout the nation.

Now these rules are facing a double-barreled attack – in the federal courts and in Congress.

The HSUS joined several national and local conservation groups this week to challenge an attempt by trophy hunting interests to reopen some of the cruelest hunting practices on federal lands in Alaska. Lawsuits filed last month by the state of Alaska and Safari Club International seek to nix the regulations. And next week, in the U.S. House of Representatives, Alaska’s sole Congressman, Don Young, will offer a resolution to strike the rule, under a law known as the Congressional Review Act. The CRA allows Congress, by simple majorities in the House and Senate and with the signature of the president, to strike any recent rule of the prior administration in the first few months of a new Congress.

These are our federal lands, and the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are the primary managers. Those attacking these rules are attacking the professional wildlife managers who developed these policies on the ground in Alaska. At field hearings conducted in the run-up to the final rulemaking actions, significant numbers of Alaskans testified in favor of adopting the rules. It’s false framing for Rep. Young and anyone else to say Alaskans oppose these rules and support these unsporting and barbaric practices. In fact, voters have put the issues of aerial gunning of wolves on the ballot three times, and passed two of the measures (still lawmakers, violating the wishes of their own constituents, overturned those laws).

Congress created national wildlife refuges and national preserves so people can enjoy these magical places, but also to allow wildlife to thrive. We now know too much about wolves and grizzly bears to treat them like a curse and to try to decimate them. They play an essential role in balancing ecosystems, and have a cascade effect to benefit species up and down the food chain and even to help forest and stream health. It also is a proven truth that wolves and grizzly bears are the biggest draws for tourists who trek to Alaska and spend over $2 billion annually to see these creatures in their native habitats. Wildlife-based tourism creates thousands of jobs and commerce for Alaska – particularly for rural gateway communities. The FWS has reported that, in Alaska, wildlife watchers number 640,000 compared to 125,000 hunters and spend five times more ($2 billion) than hunters ($425 million) for wildlife recreational opportunities.

The state officials who brought these lawsuits, and the federal lawmakers from Alaska who are pushing their resolutions to repeal these new federal rules, are working against the economic interests of their state in advocating for more killing and maiming of wolves and grizzly bears. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service were right to draw a line and say these activities cannot occur on federal lands set aside for wildlife. Wolves and bears are the best ambassadors for these land holdings, and no one has to pay them a dime or provide an ounce of food or a drop of water. They just need to be left alone.

But those rules are in jeopardy unless you act. Contact your federal lawmakers and urge opposition to the Young CRA joint resolution (H.J. Res. 69) and a similar effort in the Senate, advanced by Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (S.J. Res. 18).

It’s time to raise your voice if we want to ground the aerial gunships revving up to kill wildlife on some of America’s most extraordinary wild lands and ecosystems.

Death Threats Prompt Move To Withhold Personal Information From Wolf Management Documents

http://kuow.org/post/death-threats-prompt-move-withhold-personal-information-wolf-management-documents

FEB 2, 2017

A bill in a committee of the Washington House of Representatives would exempt some personal information relating to the state’s wolf management efforts from public disclosure.

Supporters say it will keep those who work directly with wolves safe. Opponents are concerned about the loss of transparency.

Whether you like wolves or not, the folks who come in contact with them aren’t necessarily threatened by the top carnivore, but recently, they have stopped feeling safe.

On one end of that are the people who work for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Shortly after they started shooting wolves from the Profanity Peak pack in Northeastern Washington last summer, Donny Martorello said he decided to put his family up in a hotel.

“I’m a biologist, I’m a manager, a wolf manager,” Martorello said. “I don’t carry a gun, I’m not law enforcement, and I did sign up for the job but my family did not.”

Martorello is in charge of Washington’s wolf policy. During a hearing, he told members of the Committee on State Government, Elections and Information Technology that he and colleagues received death threats, harassing phone calls and messages.

And he said it doesn’t just happen to him and his colleagues. He said some ranchers–or “livestock producers” have reported having their photos taken and their homes stalked.

“There are producers out there that I have spoken with personally that believe that they are having interactions where wolves are attacking their livestock and they are fearful of coming to the department for reasons that we just talked about,” Martorello said.

By the 1930s there were no wolves left in Washington state. People got used to that. In 2005, the state started receiving reliable reports of their return. Under a new policy implemented last year, managers can lethally remove wolves after four confirmed reports of wolf-killed livestock or pets.

That’s exactly what happened last summer.

A news story about the efforts to lethally remove the wolves prompted state Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican from Okanogan County, to co-sponsor House Bill 1465, which would amend state law to exempt personal information for anyone connected to a report of a wolf or a wolf-kill from public disclosure.

“The big problem that we’re trying to get out here is that the people, whose animals were attacked were named,” Kretz said. “They were on the front page of the Seattle Times with not only their address but their personal phone number, instantly getting hit with death threats nonstop.”

The newspaper did name a livestock producer and describe the general location of his ranch. News industry representatives said at the hearing that the story was linked to supporting documents at the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. They said that’s where ranchers’ personal information could be found. They also said the link was later removed.

Roland Thompson is the executive director for the Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington. He agrees that anyone who files a report about a problem wolf should not be intimidated.

“It’s the rest of this information that we’re paying good money to have done – the identities of the people of the agency that are working on this, they are in essence law enforcement, they are armed and they are moving about the landscape and they are acting on policies that are set by the legislature and implemented by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and we need to know who those people are and what their actions are that they are taking,” Thompson said.

Democratic state Rep. Sherry Appleton of the Kitsap Peninsula argued the bill proposal might go about protecting sensitive information in the wrong way.

“if it’s the threat and the harassment that we are talking about with this bill, then I think we should do legislation to prohibit fish and wildlife from releasing the names and numbers and addresses,” Appleton said.

In other words, she said legislation should keep private phone numbers and addresses private, but it should not limit what we can know about what public employees do on public land.

The committee is now scheduled to decide whether to advance the bill to the House for consideration.

Copyright 2017 NWNews

Study: Human toll on gray wolves higher than estimated in Wisconsin

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/06/study-human-toll-gray-wolves/97579676/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

USA TODAY NETWORKLee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel11:41 p.m. ET Feb. 6, 2017

MILWAUKEE — A University of Wisconsin-Madisonstudy shows the human toll on wolves is higher than previously estimated and that state officials have underreported wolf deaths in past analyses.

For years, wolves have been shot illegally, struck by cars and trucks or legally killed by authorities acting on reports that wolves were killing and threatening livestock and pets.

But in a study published Monday in the Journal of Mammalogy, UW researcher Adrian Treves and a group of scientists found higher levels of illegal killing of wolves in Wisconsin than reported by the Department of Natural Resources.

As part of the study, the researchers reinvestigated fatalities of a subset of wolves and found “abundant evidence” of gunshot wounds and injuries from trapping that may have been overlooked as a factor in their deaths, the authors said.

The study is likely to be controversial. As wolves have recolonized and their population has grown to an official count of nearly 900, the debate over their impact has only intensified.

Treves, for example, has been a critic of the design of the state’s hunting and trapping season for wolves and its potential to damage a healthy wolf population over the long term.

In an open letter in November 2015, Treves was one of more than 70 scientists and wolf experts who said studies show citizens are more tolerant of wolves than commonly assumed. The scientists questioned whether wolves can sustain their populations under state hunting and trapping seasons.

Adrian Wydeven, a retired DNR wolf ecologist, who read an advance copy of the study, disagreed with aspects of the research, including Treves’ interpretation of DNR data.

The study “seems to suggest … intent by (the DNR) to under-report (poaching) when it really just represents use of different models or agency reporting raw data,” Wydeven said in an email to several wolf experts that was shared with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“We always tried to report exactly what we found in the field,” Wydeven said in an interview.

Wydeven retired from the DNR in 2015 and is coordinator of the Timberwolf Alliance at Northland College in Ashland.

In a statement, DNR spokesman Jim Dick said: “While the (DNR) data collected is useful in determining wolves killed, that’s not its intended purpose. The data collected is meant to determine population and such things as pack territories. Wolf mortality numbers are based on actual dead animals detected.”

Treves said he and his fellow researchers examined the DNR’s methodology and are not claiming that officials are purposefully underestimating wolf deaths.

In the paper, the researchers say that failing to accurately account for wolf deaths, especially in future hunting and trapping seasons, is “risky.” Also, if officials continue to underreport poaching, it “will risk unsustainable mortality and raise the probability of a population crash,” they write.

“My argument is that scientifically you have to put your best foot forward,” said Treves, founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at UW-Madison. “And when the DNR didn’t, they were doing it with an illegal activity (poaching).”

The UW study investigated the deaths of 937 gray wolves from October 1979 to April 2012 — a period that ends before Wisconsin initiated hunting seasons for wolves. Of the 937 wolves that died and whose deaths were investigated, 431 wore radio collars.

The UW researchers said that their analysis showed that the death of radio-collared wolves attributed to human causes was 64%. But the DNR calculated 55% and said an additional 18% of deaths were due to unknown causes, according to a DNR report in 2012.

Said Treves: “That’s a big number. We dug deeper and maybe it’s poaching.”

The researchers re-examined government records of necropsies and X-rays and found in some instances that gunshot wounds were a factor in the cause of death when other causes were cited.

The analysis also showed 52 wolves, or 20% of 256 animals that were X-rayed, revealed evidence of gunshots that did not kill the wolves. These cases were not added to researchers’ own estimates of higher poaching.

But the study said that figure lends credibility to the researchers’ claim that more wolves have been subject to poaching than the DNR reported.

Julie Langenberg, one of the authors of the study and a former DNR veterinarian, re-examined wolf death records.

She found evidence of gunshots that in the initial analysis were either mentioned briefly or not identified. Sometimes it was her own work.

“You are not looking at alternative facts,” Langenberg said of her review of wolf mortality in the study. “You are looking at the same facts, but because you are asking different questions, you are doing a different kind of assessment.”

She said the DNR’s job was to simply determine the cause of death.

Wisconsin officials reported that 528 wolves were killed during the state’s wolf hunting seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

During 2013, 257 wolves were killed — nearly half of all wolves harvested during the three years. Then  the wolf population dropped 18% from 809 in 2013 to 660 in 2014.

The hunts were halted in December 2014 by a federal judge who said Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan were violating the Endangered Species Act. This year, Congress, including Republicans and Democrats from Wisconsin, introduced a bill to replace federal protections with state management.

copyrighted wolf in water