Garfield County commissioners don’t want to let wolves in

Grey Wolf
Walking Grey Wolf.
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Garfield County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution opposing reintroducing wolves to Colorado. But the county’s resolution may not matter when voters head to the ballot box next year.

“I’m amazed that people want to do something like this, because I don’t think it would be good for anyone, in any way,” Commissioner Mike Samson said of efforts to bring wolves into the state.

But in fact, many people in Colorado want wolves here, according to one 2019 poll.

With so many supporting wolves in Colorado, Rob Edward, founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund backing the initiative, says it’s high time to get started.

Edward is behind the effort of putting wolf introduction on the ballot for Colorado’s November 2020 general election. The initiative requires creating plans and bringing wolves into Colorado by the end of 2023.

Edward is confident that volunteers have collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

He’s also convinced of broad support for wolf introduction.

“We have the Western Slope with us, it’s just a matter of helping people understand the nuances of living with wolves,” Edward said.

On the Western Slope, where the wolves would be introduced if Initiative 107 passes, 61% of respondents favored wolf introduction, according to the poll.

Those opposed to wolf reintroduction have a number of concerns.

“Not only do (wolves) kill the cattle, but they bother them, they chase them around and stir them up,” and as a result, there are fewer cattle pregnancies, Garfield County rancher Frank Daley told the commissioners.

Based on his experience with coyotes, Daley also worries that the cattle made anxious by wolves will break fences and injure calves.
“We definitely don’t need to add in another predator,” he said.

The impact on wildlife is another concern.

“We do not want to have wolves reintroduced into the state of Colorado for many reasons, one of which is that it would be devastating for the moose, elk and deer populations of our state, not to mention domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep,” Samson said.

The effect of wolves on elk and deer where they have been reintroduced in isn’t completely settled.

Wolves appear to be a factor in declining elk herds in Yellowstone National Park, but elsewhere, like Montana, elk herds are increasing.

In 2004, the Colorado Department of Wildlife, which has since been renamed Parks and Wildlife, commissioned the wolf working group, recommended managing wolves that came into the state, but tabled reintroduction efforts.

Garfield County commissioners see their opposition as continuing that management plan.

“The wolves are kind of introducing themselves and they are getting into Colorado from Wyoming and the southern part from New Mexico,” Jankovsky said.

Two potential gray wolf sitings in 2019 are being investigated by state wildlife officials.

According to Edward, who was a member of the wolf working group, going to the voters is appropriate.

“It’s not circumventing the DOW or the Wildlife Commission. It very explicitly involves them. It simply says, ‘The people want you to do this, so do it,’” Edward said.

Idaho GOP considers ‘wolf hunter sanctuary state’ proposal

Parents’ rights and decriminalizing marijuana also on the table at meeting that concludes today in Boise

Idaho GOP officials will consider a proposal to designate Idaho a “wolf hunter sanctuary state” during their summer meeting in Boise today.

The two-day convention, which began Friday, gives party members from across the state an opportunity to mingle and meet with elected officials. It’s also a chance to take positions on various topics of interest and tweak party procedures.

The election of a new state party chairman highlights today’s agenda. However, officials will also consider a number of resolutions and proposed rule changes — several of which were submitted by Republicans from north central Idaho.

The list includes a new “platform loyalty and accountability” rule, which allows the state central committee to judge, reprimand and sanction any Republican legislator deemed to have undermined and opposed the core principles of the Republican Party.

The rule, proposed by the Idaho County Central Committee, lays out the procedure for challenging a legislator’s commitment to the party principles.

If the lawmaker is found guilty, a warning will be issued; if he or she is found guilty of a second violation, the committee would have the authority to withdraw the party’s endorsement, and the legislator would no longer be recognized as a Republican.

The Clearwater County Central Committee proposed the resolution designating Idaho a “wolf hunter sanctuary state.”

The measure cites the impact wolves have on the state’s moose, deer and elk populations, as well as on livestock. It also notes that Democratic jurisdictions have created various sanctuary regions by refusing to cooperate with federal officials on detaining illegal immigrants or other issues.

The resolution calls on the state central committee to work with Idaho lawmakers to pass legislation prohibiting Department of Fish and Game employees, as well as county and city officials, from assisting the federal government in enforcing any laws regarding wolves.

Once such legislation is approved, “hunters will be allowed to shoot and kill an unlimited number of wolves with no interference from any state or local officials,” the resolution declares.

Out-of-state hunters who have the necessary tags and licenses to hunt other game would also be allowed to purchase a special wolf permit for $10.

The Latah County Central Committee submitted a resolution supporting multiyear licensing for boats, motorhomes, ATVs and other recreational vehicles.

The resolution suggests that discounted three- and five-year licenses be created.

The Benewah County Central Committee proposed a resolution “to protect the rights of parents concerning their child’s health, safety and well-being.”

The resolution cites government-mandated vaccines, anti-homeschooling sentiments, the gay rights agenda and driver education requirements as potential threats to the fundamental right of Idaho parents to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children.

The measure encourages the Idaho Republican Party to support a parents’ rights amendment to the Idaho Constitution.

Other resolutions being considered at this year’s meeting include a proposal for at least one employee of every school to be designated a school security officer and be authorized to carry a concealed weapon; a proposal to decriminalize marijuana and all other forms of cannabis; and a measure supporting President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national border emergency.

Wolf hunting could be allowed at nighttime under Montana bill

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Wolves could be hunted at night and traps set along seasonally closed roads under a pair of bills brought by a northwest Montana lawmaker Thursday.

Rep. Bob Brown, R-Thompson Falls, brought House Bills 551 and 552 to the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee.

Rep. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls)
Rep. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls)

The first bill would allow nighttime wolf hunting, making them the only big game animal that could be hunted outside of daylight hours. Other nongame animals such as coyotes and skunks already may be hunted at night.

“I know this is going to be a kind of an unpopular thing,” Brown acknowledged after several wolf bills have already brought strong debate this session. But many of his constituents in northwest Montana have been outspoken about reducing wolf numbers, he said.

The bill saw support from two individuals who described it as “another tool in the toolbox” to manage wolves.

Garrett Bacon testified that it would help key in on problem wolves by allowing hunting when they are most active and possibly preying on livestock.

Scott Blackman also testified in support and believed the number of hunters that would focus on hunting wolves at night would be limited to a few serious individuals.

Several conservation groups testified in opposition on topics ranging from ethics to safety.

“We feel hunting any game animal at night is unethical,” and won’t help the image of hunters, said Nick Gevock with the Montana Wildlife Federation.

Marc Cooke with Wolves of the Rockies agreed with the ethical concerns but also noted that shooting at night raises safety issues with identifying a target and beyond.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks testified in opposition, echoing the concerns of others as well as the propensity for poaching at night, which is often associated with spotlighting.

Brown’s second bill, SB 552, was borne out of what he sees as difference in opinion about what constitutes a closed road when it comes to trapping and particularly the trapping of wolves.

Along open roads and trails, trapping regulations require traps be set a certain distance away. Called a “setback,” the distance is intended to reduce conflicts with other recreationists, particularly those with dogs that may be unintentionally caught. Traps for most animals must be set 50 feet from a road or trail while wolf traps require a 150-foot setback.

Under the bill, setback regulations would not apply to roads closed year-round to highway vehicles nor would they apply to seasonally closed gated roads for wolf trapping. The setback regulations currently apply to seasonally closed roads.

Brown said he believed the definition of a closed and open road should be made by legislators rather than the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, and that many of the gated roads are in the high country that sees lower use by other recreationists. He also noted that while the areas in question are public land, pet owners “also need to take responsibility for their pets” when venturing out in wolf habitat and where trapping is taking place.

Blackman, testifying for the Montana Trappers Association, agreed with the bill and felt it was “nothing more than a clarification.”

KC York with Trap Free Montana Public Lands disagreed, holding up a wolf trap and saying “Traps hold our public lands hostage,” and adding that a great deal of work went into establishing setbacks.

Art Compton with the Sierra Club felt that roads closed year-round should be the last place to lift setbacks, as recreationists such as skiers and snowshoers seek those areas out to get away from motorized users.

Brown closed on the bill by noting that many miles of ungated roads would still fall under the setback regulations and reiterated responsibility.

“(We’re) asking some responsibility from trappers in many cases and I think we need to ask some responsibility from pet owners,” he said.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bills.

WY G&F proposes increase to 58 wolves in 2018 hunt

WYOMING – Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing an increase to the wolf mortality limit for the grey wolf 2018 hunting season. After a successful season last year where the 44-wolf quota was met, officials at WGFD would like to see the harvest targeted at 58 now, as they say the population is thriving and exceeding all criteria established to show that the species is recovered.

“The primary change for the 2018 wolf hunting season proposal is adjustment of the wolf mortality limit, which was increased to 58,” said Ken Mills, Game and Fish’s large carnivore biologist who focuses on wolves. “We calculate mortality limits annually based on the best available population and mortality data for wolves and packs present in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area to be sure harvest levels are appropriate and ascribe to our commitment to manage for a recovered wolf population. This proposal is the result of a data-driven approach based on measured wolf population dynamics.”

The total minimum population of wolves in Wyoming living outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation at the end of 2017 was 238, with 198 in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area. The proposed mortality limit for 2018 is expected to result in an end of year population of around 160 wolves in the trophy game area, similar to the 2017 wolf hunting season.

The draft regulation for the 2018 wolf hunting regulation is now available for public comment.

It includes the allocation of higher hunt area quotas in those areas where wolf conflicts with livestock are high or in areas where wolves are impacting big game populations.

Public meetings on these regulation changes and others will occur at the following times and locations:

  • April 30, 6pm, Sheridan, Game and Fish Office
  • May 2, 6pm, Laramie, Game and Fish Office
  • May 8, 6pm, Cody, Park County Library
  • May 9, 6pm, Casper, Game and Fish Office
  • May 10, 6pm, Dubois, Headwaters Arts & Conference Center
  • May 16, 6pm, Pinedale, Game and Fish Office
  • May 17, 6pm, Jackson, Teton County Library Auditorium
  • May 22, 6pm, Evanston, BEAR Center Pavilion
  • May 23, 6pm, Kemmerer, South Lincoln Events Center
  • May 24, 6pm, Green River, Game and Fish Office

Written comments will be accepted through 5pm June 4 at public meetings, by mailing: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY  82604 or online at http://wgfd.wyo.gov. Copies of the proposed regulations are available on the Game and Fish website and at the address above.

Written comments will be presented to the Game and Fish Commission prior to the public hearing at its July 10-11 meeting in Laramie at the Game and Fish Office.

Wolf numbers “curbed” by hunting

Wolves
A wolf watches park visitors as it feeds on a elk carcass near the road in Yellowstone National Park in this June 2008 file photo. The return of hunting wolves has trimmed their numbers, but not as high as state goals.

File, Star-Tribune

JACKSON — Hunting’s return to the landscape slashed the number of wolves in Wyoming last year, though not to the degree wildlife managers sought.

Wyoming’s goal was to cut its wolf population by nearly a quarter in places in which the state has control, but only a 16 percent reduction was accomplished. The reason managers missed the mark, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf biologist Ken Mills said, is there were more wolves than expected.

“What happened is the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t have anyone on the ground monitoring wolves,” Mills said. “We located four additional packs. There were 19 adult wolves in those packs.”

Hunters would have been allowed to target more wolves, he said, if those animals were identified ahead of an annual report that informs hunting seasons.

The annual census of Wyoming’s wolves, published Wednesday, found there were 347 animals thought to roam the Equality State as the calendar turned to 2018 — down 30 from a year ago. Yellowstone National Park’s population, 97 animals, remained about the same, as did the number of lobos calling the Wind River Indian Reservation home.

The most significant changes came in areas where Wyoming authorizes hunting, where the population fell from 285 to 238. A managed “trophy-game” hunting area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s interior housed 198 wolves at the end of the year. Another 40 of the large canines roamed the remainder of Wyoming, where wolves are managed as pests and can be killed indiscriminately. In both areas combined, 77 wolves were killed last year.

Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity view the calculated, hunting-driven population decline as a travesty.

“Wolves won’t persist outside Yellowstone National Park if Wyoming continues to eradicate them at this appalling pace,” said Victor, Idaho, resident Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the center.

Mills sees it differently. Wyoming’s population, he said, is well above federally required “recovery” requirements: 50 wolves and five breeding pairs in Yellowstone and 100 animals and 10 breeding pairs outside the park. The wolf biologist noted the number of breeding pairs in the state increased over the last year, from 18 to 19.

“It’s recovered, and it’s functioning as a population,” Mills said. “There’s actually more wolves in 2017 in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation than there were before 2011 — before we ever managed wolves.”

A lawsuit caused Wyoming to lose control of its wolf population from 2014 to spring 2017, during which time the Endangered Species Act protected lobos from hunting and populations hit record highs.

2016 was the most conflict-prone one for wolves and livestock since the native carnivores were reintroduced to the region 23 years ago. Twenty-five wolf packs killed 243 sheep, cattle and horses, and 113 wolves were killed in retaliation. The numbers fell last year, with 191 wolf-suspected livestock deaths and 61 lobos killed in response.

“I think pretty much everyone can say that’s a positive, right?” Mills said. “Whether fewer wolves is a positive depends on who you are, but less conflict is a good thing.”

Wyoming Is Waging a War on Wolves

The Cowboy State’s scorched earth campaign threatens wolf recovery

Ever wanted to kill a wolf? If so, now’s your time. In Wyoming, wolf hunting is now legit—365 days a year across 85 percent of the state, where wolves are classified as shoot-on-sight vermin. Guns, snares, explosives, trucks, and snowmobiles—almost any form of violence is allowed to kill these animals. Today anyone in most of Wyoming can kill wolves without a hunting license, putting at great risk a wildlife species whose populations in the Lower 48 remain a dim shadow of what they once were and whose recovery in the Rockies is tenuous at best.

And what about the other 15 percent of the state, concentrated around the Jackson Hole area and the Tetons? That’s a “trophy area” where wolves may be seasonally hunted from October 1 to December 31. Unlike much of the rest of Wyoming—where ranches and extractive industries have seriously degraded valuable wolf habitat—the northwest corner still offers wolves, grizzlies, and the other large predators remaining in the West a corner in which to struggle to survive.

And now even that refuge is under fire. During the 2017 hunting season (the first legal hunt in Wyoming since 2013), licensed hunters killed 44 wolves in the trophy area—12 alone within the first 40 hours of the open season. Another 32 were killed across the rest of the state last year. And at least 48 are estimated to die annually from human impacts outside of hunting. To put this in perspective, before wolves were removed from Endangered Species Act protection, there were approximately 380 wolves inhabiting Wyoming’s 97,814 square miles. In a single year, Wyoming may have lost a quarter of all its wolves.

How did this happen? Let’s take a look back. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park. The wolves prospered, multiplied, and eventually offered affirmative proof of this animal’s importance to ecosystem health. The successful reintroduction also demonstrated that, almost incredibly, there was still sufficient unimpeded wilderness in the continental United States to allow this far-ranging alpha predator to thrive. The growing number of packs steadily expanded their range as succeeding generations of wolves began to disperse, following the elk herds on their seasonal migration southward out of Yellowstone and into the Tetons. And that’s when the trouble began.

In 2003, just eight years after the Yellowstone reintroductions, the USFWS reclassified the endangered gray wolf under the ESA as threatened, thereby downgrading its protective status. The USFWS, fatigued from years of having to manage the intense public opinions that surround this species, was eager to stop having to oversee wolf management and began planning the wholesale removal of the “recovered” Northern Rockies populations from the ESA. The agency planned to devolve wolf management to the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, which under law would have to devise management plans that would ensure the maintenance of minimum sustainable populations.

For more than a decade, wildlife advocates fought the attempted delisting in court. The wolves in the Northern Rockies bounced back and forth between being legally protected and at the mercy of state agencies. After a brief period under state management, Wyoming wolves were placed back under the protection of the ESA. A 2009 federal district court decision held that the entire state constituted a “significant portion” of the wolves’ range—a proven historical fact, all the more pertinent given the depleted numbers of wolves throughout North America today.

But in March 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court reaffirmed Wyoming’s wolf management plan, ruling that the “2009 decision has been overtaken by events.” According to the court, the USFWS “has adopted a new definition of ‘significant portion of its range,’” allowing wolves outside the trophy zone to be destroyed with no repercussions to the species recovery across the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Therefore, the court held, “The [USFWS] has offered ample rationale for determining that the predator area was never ‘envisioned to meaningfully contribute to wolf recovery in the region’ and is thus not a ‘significant portion of its range.’” Wyoming’s wolves were overnight reduced from a federally protected species to vermin across 85 percent of the state.

Idaho and Montana have adopted a more traditional approach to wolf hunting based upon districts, season licenses, and quotas. While those licensed hunting programs have still proved lethal to wolves—at least 271 wolves were killed in Idaho 2016, and 247 in Montana—they are not as sweeping as the no-holds-barred approach across most of Wyoming.

What’s behind Wyoming officials’ antipathy toward wolves? The primary justification for the state’s wolf hunt is, supposedly, economic. Wolves are blamed for livestock depredations in a region that is still emotionally and economically invested in the teetering myth of the independent cowboy, despite the fact that many ranchers graze their herds on public lands and insist that representatives of the USDA’s Wildlife Services agency employ any number of methods—including, per the USDA website, “trapping, snaring, shooting, and the use of chemical products and immobilization and euthanasia drugs”—to remove or kill offending predators.

According to the USFWS, wolves killed a record number of livestock in 2016, including 154 cattle, 88 sheep, and one horse; that’s up from a total of 134 depredations in 2015. In response, government “wildlife managers” killed 113 wolves, up from 54 the year before. To put this into context, the 2016 casualties from disease and weather alone among Wyoming’s sheep herds was 37,550 animals.

Wyoming residents are permitted to shoot on site any wolf they find that is attacking or “molesting” livestock or a domesticated dog. Ranchers are also able to seek compensation for livestock lost to wolves. A brochure published by Wyoming Game and Fish states “Landowners may be compensated for verified damage to livestock caused by wolves. Landowners must submit a signed and notarized damage claim affidavit to the WGFD.” But even though ranchers may get financial relief for any wolf attacks on their livestock, some ranchers insist that the wolves still have to die.

Why do wolves kill livestock? Because they’re easy prey, bred by humans over millennia to be pliant. As Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told US News and World Report last summer, “When you have native predators on the landscape and non-native livestock on the landscape, it’s not surprising that the predators are going to view them as prey.”

This all makes scientific sense—but science isn’t the issue in Wyoming. Rather, it’s the occasional threat to livestock growers’ incomes that fuels the attacks against wolves and other predators. But predators are hardly the main problem; according to the USDA, in 2015 non-predator causes of death (mainly respiratory diseases) accounted for almost 98 percent of adult cattle mortality, and almost 89 percent for calves. Of the numerical sliver of cattle and calves that were killed by predators, wolves took only 4.9 percent, while coyote predation came in at 40.5 percent. Even domestic dogs claimed 11.3 percent, more than twice that of wolves.

The second reason for an intensive wolf hunt is the perceived reduction of trophy game such as elk, deer, bison, and moose. For the last few generations, big game has been abundant throughout much of the West, in part because of predator persecution. According to Yellowstone National Park’s website, “Early-20th-century protectionist policies, including the elimination of wolves and cougars, boosted elk numbers and stoked concern that the herd was too large. In response, park managers and hunters shot, trapped, and relocated tens of thousands of elk between 1920 and 1968.”

The annual elk slaughter was conducted primarily to prevent damage to important biotic features such as the cottonwoods and willows that stabilized stream banks; without any fear of predation, elk herds would simply stay put streamside and gnaw new shoots to the roots, eventually resulting in erosion, sedimentation, and the loss of freshwater trout habitat. Large carnivores were reintroduced to the landscape in part for this reason: They keep prey species below their maximum carrying capacity and in the process hold diseases in check and balance ecosystems. With the reintroduction of wolves, and a concomitant increase in grizzly numbers (the bears will sometimes appropriate or scavenge the remains of wolf kills), Yellowstone’s bloated elk population rapidly decreased by around 65 percent.

But this turned some hunters against the resurgent wolves. The trophy males that are the chief interest of hunters are (if not infirmed by age) usually the healthiest and strongest members of the herd. Anyone who has encountered a cantankerous 1,500-pound bull moose standing seven feet at the shoulder will understand the reluctance of any predator to challenge it head on. Predators naturally target the easiest, least demanding prey: the young and old, the sick and lame. Therefore the impact of wolves to healthy adult male elk, mule deer, bison, or moose is ecologically minimal.

As it currently stands, Wyoming’s wolf management plan requires the maintenance of a 100 x 10 ratio: that is, 100 wolves with at least 10 confirmed breeding pairs in the entire state, not including Yellowstone National Park or the Wind River Shoshone/Northern Arapahoe Reservation. The plan also calls for state biologists to define a “buffer” against this minimum required population, which presumably would mean more wolves than the required minimum. But the buffer, already vague, is not a legal requirement of the state’s management plan.

And in any case, the Wyoming plan appears to violate federal guidelines, according to attorneys with the nonprofit advocacy group Earthjustice. Under federal regulations, Wyoming must retain a total of 150 wolves, including 15 breeding pairs, throughout the entire state, including the national parks and the trophy game area. Although the state can take the population down to the bare minimum and still remain within the law, the targets seem arbitrary, says Timothy Preso, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s office in Bozeman, Montana.

“There is huge pressure on the ‘trophy zone’ to maintain a viable population without a legal safety net,” Preso said. Reestablishing wolves was a huge and successful effort by the American taxpayer, he said, one that has been sacrificed to extremists who may use any means not already illegal, like certain poisons, to wipe out wolves. “They can dynamite pups in their dens, run them over with snowmobiles, shoot them, trap them.” Preso continued, “There’s not a rational discussion underlying the management of wolves in Wyoming. They’re such a symbol of different things. To some people they epitomize wilderness and freedom; to others they’re pure evil, even somehow scapegoats for dislike of the federal government.”

Preso said the statewide “dual classification” zoning system that is unique to Wyoming, along with the state’s lack of a meaningful buffer to support the minimum required numbers of this isolated population, is at the heart of conservationists’ issues with the Wyoming plan. “We will continue to fight to protect wolves against extreme and hostile state management policies,” he said.

Ken Mills, wolf management specialist with Wyoming Game and Fish, neatly summed things up regarding his state’s unprecedented ability to devastate an ecologically vital, formerly federally protected species. “There’s no other jurisdiction that has to manage wolves the way we do,” Mills told the Jackson Hole News & Guide last spring. “We have a much smaller population [compared with other Northern Rockies states] and a smaller area of suitable habitat. But on the plus side Idaho and Montana can’t manage their populations; they can’t overharvest their population. We can. Essentially we’re managing a population in a brand-new way.”

Trapper who shot E. Oregon wolf gets probation, fine

Trapper who shot E. Oregon wolf gets probation, fine

Found it caught in trap

Wolves in Serbia: A Trophy of a Lifetime

Even a single wolf can devastate the hard work of farmers and ranchers. While wolf hunting is forbidden in most of Western Europe, it’s being allowed — for a short time — in Serbia’s southern forests . . .

Though much of the country is appalled by the “slaughter” of the illusive creatures, there are a few that hunt them with pride as Phys.Org reports.

Rifle fire rips through the silence of the forest and fields on the slopes of Jastrebac mountain in southern Serbia. Two wolves have just fallen victim to a legal hunt.

Forbidden in most of western Europe, the blood sport is allowed from July to April in this Balkan country, where wolves are not endangered.

Around 800 of them roam the wild and depopulated mountains of southern Serbia, a region of mostly poor farmers and herders. It is not uncommon for wolves to attack livestock, especially in winter.

Wolves aren’t seeking to make friends in rural country and they don’t discriminate when it comes to what or who they devour.

“Last year they slaughtered four of my sheep in just five minutes,” said farmer Ivan Milenkovic, who keeps around 60 sheep in the village of Dresnica.

“I installed spotlights that light up every night to deter them,” he told AFP.

Other mountain residents take up arms during the hunting season to counter the wolf attacks. Local hunting associations that monitor the wolf population set quotas.

On a recent cold winter’s dawn, more than 400 hunters gathered near Blace, a town of about 5,000 people between the mountains of Jastrebac and Kopaonik.

After swigging some rakija (local fruit brandy), the hunters split into two groups, the trackers and the watchers, and exchanged their traditional greeting: “Good vision and calm hand!”

The silent watchers spread out in a line through the woods, while the trackers form another line a couple of kilometres away and walk towards the watchers, squeezing the gap between them which holds their prey.

As they wait amid the trees, the watchers examine fresh wolf prints in the snow.

Six wolves in one season is hardly enough to make a dent in the population of wolves that can exist an a place where hunting them is forbidden.

According to regional hunting quotas, six wolves can be killed in the Blace area in one hunting season.

“You wait your whole life to kill a wolf,” said Dejan Pantelic, one of the hunters.

“It’s extremely rare, many never see it. I’ve been hunting for 24 years and I’ve not killed one.”

So clever that they can evade seasoned hunters and in most cases from even being seen at all.  Sounds like the perfect killing machine to me.

The wolf is smart with an exceptional sense of smell and hearing, the 42-year-old explained.

And few animals are more mobile—the wolf can easily travel between 50 and 100 kilometres (31 and 62 miles) a day.

“An isolated hunter has practically no chance of killing a wolf, only an organised hunt can yield results,” Pantelic said.

Call me crazy but I’d like to try. Well, OK, with a guide. You?

The snarling war between cattle ranchers and conservationists over wolves

By Nigel Duara Jan 24, 2018

About 23 years ago, the United States embarked on an experiment: What would happen if U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released grey wolves in the West?

The results were… mixed.

To their credit, the wolves have successfully controlled the grass-munching elk and deer populations of the Northern Rockies, leaving more habitat available for other species, like bugs and beneficial algae.

But the wolves, it turns out, aren’t that picky when it comes to dinner, and ranchers’ cows make for easy targets. So states have had to readjust. In states like Idaho, for example, ranchers are permitted to protect their herds by killing wolves, and some states also allow wolf trophy hunts in an effort to further thin the packs.

But in Oregon, ranchers have found themselves caught between a snarling rock and a hard regulation — the wolves killing cows on their grazing grounds, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has strict rules against killing them in all but the rarest circumstances.

The ranchers who keep losing cattle to wolves, and the residents of Eastern Oregon who rely on the economy created by the cattle industry, have long argued the state of Oregon should loosen the rules.

And for the first time, starting last year, the state allowed for just that. But when four wolves from the Harl Butte Pack of northeastern Oregon were killed, environmentalists decried the wolf killings as unnecessary and cruel.

Still, ranchers here hope it’s just the start.

As Northwest States Kill Wolves, Researchers Cast Doubt On Whether It Works

http://kuow.org/post/northwest-states-kill-wolves-researchers-cast-doubt-whether-it-works

  NOV 25, 2017
Originally published on November 27, 2017 2:53 pm

The long hunt finally paid off on the night of Aug. 6 for two employees of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They’d spent a combined 85 hours and driven 752 miles in pursuit of the Harl Butte wolf pack in the northeast corner of the state.

They had already come close, spotting wolves twice but never firing a shot.

But finally, on a Saturday evening, they killed a young male. Two days later, an Oregon Fish and Wildlife employee fired a kill shot from a helicopter while patrolling the rolling forests and pastures. This time it was a young female.

The wolf-killing mission was meant to halt a pack that was helping itself to ranchers’ livestock.

It won’t work, thought Todd Nash. He and other local ranchers wanted the whole pack gone.

“If there was a gang in downtown Portland and there was 13 of them and you randomly took two, you didn’t know if they were the ringleaders or what they were … would you expect to have a positive outcome?” Nash said.

It turned out Nash was right; it didn’t work.

Weeks later, some of the Harl Butte pack’s surviving wolves tore into a 450-pound calf. It was found dead in a pasture Nash leases, with bite marks across its legs, flanks and hocks.

So Oregon wildlife officials killed two more wolves. Weeks later, they said the depredations had stopped.

They hadn’t. The Harl Butte pack struck again in late September, killing a 425-pound calf.

As the number of wolves in Oregon and Washington has grown, wildlife managers are increasingly turning toward lethal tactics to keep them away from ranchers’ livestock. State governments in the Northwest now spend tens of thousands of dollars to kill wolves that prey on cattle and sheep.

State wolf managers are walking a tightrope: growing and sustaining a population of wolves while limiting the loss of livestock for the ranchers who make their living where the predators now roam.

Managing wolves in the West is as much about politics, economics and emotion as it is about science.

“Sometimes you view it as being between a rock and a hard place, or being yelled at from both sides,” said Derek Broman, carnivore and furbearer coordinator for Oregon Fish and Wildlife. “I like to say it’s balance.”

To balance the costs of killing wolves, ecological needs and the concerns of ranchers and wolf advocates, it’s the policy of both Oregon and Washington to kill wolves incrementally — starting with one or two at a time. But in making that compromise between preserving wolves and preventing livestock damage, they’ve taken a course of action that scientific evidence suggests could achieve neither.

Policies and practices in both states go against a growing body of research casting doubt on the overall effectiveness of killing predators.

Neither state follows recent recommendations from top researchers that their efforts to control predators be conducted as well-designed scientific studies. And neither follows the primary recommendation from the research most often used as evidence, which found killing most or all of a pack is the most effective form of “lethal control” to reduce ranchers’ damages.

Instead, some scientists and advocates say, Oregon and Washington are risking harm to the Northwest’s wolf population without ever reducing predation on cattle and sheep.

“Oregon and Washington may be playing with fire in their incremental control approach,” said professor Adrian Treves, who founded the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the University of Wisconsin. “Not only is there very little evidence for the effectiveness of lethal methods, but there are more studies that find counterproductive effects of lethal control, namely that you get higher livestock losses afterward.”

Northwest wildlife managers say they use lethal control, in part, to increase people’s willingness to tolerate wolves. Treves said there’s little data to support that it’s actually helping shape public opinion to accept wolf reintroduction. In fact, Treves has published research suggesting otherwise: that government-sanctioned killing of wolves may actually embolden individuals to illegally do the same.

Policies under scrutiny

He and others have called on governments to re-evaluate their predator control policies. Treves was also one of multiple scientists who filed comments with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, saying his research and others’ had been misinterpreted in the state’s revision of its wolf management plan, which Treves and others criticized for being biased in favor of lethal control.

“It’s just like (when) the government is putting a medicine out there; it needs to prove the medicine is effective,” Treves said. “ Because there are costs. And not just financial. Animals are dying.”

Lethal control policies in both Oregon and Washington are getting pushback from wolf advocates.

In Oregon, multiple groups have called on Gov. Kate Brown’s office to intervene. The governor’s office has not publicly responded and did not respond to requests for comment.

In Washington, two environmental groups filed a lawsuit in September claiming the state’s approach to killing wolves is unnecessary and that its protocols do not satisfy Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act.

Donny Martorello, wolf coordinator for Washington Fish and Wildlife, said the state has seen mixed results with lethal control.

“We’ve had situations where we’ve initiated lethal removal and had to stay with it for quite a period of time. Removing more and more wolves because the conflict kept going and going and going,” he said. In other cases, he said, it seemed to reduce the conflict.

Martorello said the decision to kill wolves to is not about decreasing long-term livestock losses. It’s about intervening in an escalating situation, where prevention has failed and a rancher’s cattle or sheep are dying.

“We turn to lethal removal as a last resort,” Martorello said. “When we remove wolves it is trying to change the behavior of wolves in that period of time. We can’t extend that to say that will prevent negative wolf-livestock interactions in the long term. Because it doesn’t.”

In its lethal control protocol, WDFW cites a paper from Michigan saying the “the act of attempting to lethally remove wolves may result in meeting the goal of changing the behavior of the pack.”

However, that study’s authors do not make claims about changing behavior, and attribute any lower recurrence of attacks on livestock to the increase in human activity nearby — not anything specific to lethal control.

That study also  found no correlation between killing a high number of wolves and a reduction in livestock depredation the following year.

Instead, it found the opposite: “Our analyses of localized farm clusters showed that as more wolves were killed one year, the depredations increased the following year.”

Ranchers say lethal is needed

In mid-October, Nash was hauling bags of mineral feed to where his cattle graze in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. He kept stopping along the snowy road.

“That right there is a wolf track,” he said, hopping out for a closer inspection.  He spotted another smaller set next to them. “That looks like a pup.”

They were fresh and led toward cattle.

Nearby, a state biologist and the local range rider were doing the same. From time to time, Nash checked in and shared what he knew.

“There’s tracks going both ways,” he tells them. “These were smokin’ fresh.”

In Oregon, like in Washington, wildlife managers only kill wolves if demonstrated non-lethal efforts to deter wolves have failed. Those preventative measures have been adopted inconsistently, and with mixed reviews. Many say they’ve seen improvements by removing bone piles that attract wolves and by increasing human presence. Here, Nash said he’s had someone in the pasture nearly every day, including his own cowboys, a county range rider and a friend he hired to camp nearby.

Cattle die for many reasons on the open range. Wolves account for only a fraction of ranchers’ losses, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures. In the Northwest, documented kills by wolves amount to a few dozen per year in a region with more than two million cattle.

But for an individual producer, wolf damage can be a devastating blow. Especially when it’s on top of added stress and added costs of preventing wolf attacks.

Turning cattle out to roam after a long winter used to be a time to relax and celebrate, Nash said.

“You’d go, ‘oh, this is so nice,’” he said. “And now, that’s been taken away from us. I’m sad about that.”

This past summer’s wolf killings are in the same area where Oregon officials previously killed four members of the Imnaha pack. Nash said killing wolves from the Imnaha pack bought ranchers temporary relief from the predators. But, eventually, a new pack moved in.

After a few hours on snowy roads in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Nash had no wolves in his sights. He decided to head home.

“I’m a little disappointed,” he said, patting a black bolt-action rifle resting beside the driver’s seat of his pickup. “I’m definitely nervous. You see how close they are to the cattle.”

In most Western states where wolves live,  ranchers can submit claims for financial compensation for cattle killed by wolves. But Nash said that’s a poor substitute for losing one of the cows or calves he takes pride in and cares for.

“We’ll take the no wolves over compensation any day, given the choice,” Nash said. “It’s not in us to allow our cattle to be killed. It’s an act that’s contrary to everything we do.”

Lethal control has broad support from farmers and ranchers. It’s seen as a crucial tool to protect livestock. Government killing of predators is common worldwide — from wolves, cougars and coyotes in the American West to dingos in the Australian Outback. In the United States, the federal government’s Wildlife Services agency has killed more than two million mammals since 2000.

In the dark on what works

“It’s not fair to our farmers,” said Australia-based scientist Lily Van Eden, who published a paper on the subject in 2017.

Examining past studies of the various techniques used to control predators, Van Eden found wide swings in results. That includes two studies of lethal control and one of guardian dogs that all showed increases in livestock losses.

Van Eden’s paper was one of four published in the past two years examining the current landscape of predator control research.

Each team reached the same conclusion: there is not sufficient evidence to say if and when killing large carnivores, such as wolves, actually achieves the desired result of reducing the loss of cattle or sheep. The same can be said for most non-lethal techniques.

Much of the research into the topic of both lethal and non-lethal predator control is flawed in one way or another. Of the research that does exists, more studies showed lethal control efforts to be ineffective or counterproductive at reducing ranchers’ losses.

Without gold-standard research on the subject, existing data can be used to justify opposing positions.

Take, for instance, a study published in 2014 led by Washington State University professor Robert Wielgus. It used data from the wolf population in Rocky Mountain states. The study showed livestock lost to wolves actually increased after some wolves were killed. It was criticized for not adequately accounting for changes over time. A University of Washington team re-analyzed the data and published essentially the opposite finding, only to be criticized for over-correcting and making their own statistical errors.

Exactly how killing wolves could lead to an increase in depredations is not well understood. But there are several possible factors: Removing a pack could allow new wolves to move in, creating disruptions and unusual foraging techniques. Removing part of the pack could displace the remaining wolves to neighboring farms or pastures, who then prey on livestock. Or the pack could be weakened, limiting its ability to successfully hunt its natural prey of elk and deer.

“The information out there is not conclusive,” said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Broman. “It’s still kind of an early discipline. We look at what pieces of that information are most applicable here and what could potentially work.”

Avoiding the all-or-nothing approach

That paper’s findings do not wholly endorse what Oregon and Washington are doing when they kill only one or two wolves at a time.

“There wasn’t very much gained by such a small partial pack removal. You gain about two months,” Bradley said.

The study concluded killing one or two wolves from a pack meant an average of about two months until the next wolf kill. With no action taken, that time between wolf attacks was a little less than a month. That’s a marginal difference compared to eliminating the full wolf pack, which resulted in an average of about two years until the next wolf attack. Ranchers like Todd Nash say this is a good reason to favor full pack removal.

Bradley acknowledged removing a full wolf pack isn’t always an option. But if you’re going to kill only one or two members of the pack, she found, it has to be within a week to be most effective. Bradley said her study wasn’t intended to endorse or condemn killing wolves but rather to offer guidance on how to be most effective.

Exactly why, she doesn’t know. But she suspects it increases the likelihood of shooting the culprit wolf.

Washington officials say they aim to respond within two weeks after a depredation. Oregon’s last two state-sanctioned wolf killings were carried out 10 days and 19 days, respectively, after a depredation.

These wolf attacks on livestock often happen in remote areas and go undiscovered for stretches of time. Responding within a week might not always be an option.

“If you don’t do it within the first week or two weeks, then you probably shouldn’t bother,” Bradley said. “After that, we found there was no difference.”

ODFW’s Broman said Oregon is testing out unproven methods like incremental pack killing because it doesn’t want an all-or-nothing approach.

“We’re seeing if it works. It’s still a test to see what we’re looking for,” Broman said. “If you went exclusively by Bradley, you’d either do nothing or full pack removal. Full pack removal is very difficult.”

The problem with non-lethal, and finding a better way

Wolf advocates have pushed non-lethal alternatives to killing wolves to reduce livestock depredations. They advocate techniques like hazing wolves, fencing off cattle or using guard dogs. But there’s also a lack of evidence on those. And they’re also expensive and time consuming for ranchers.

A recent study done in Idaho by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Defenders of Wildlife yielded promising results for non-lethal techniques. Over seven years, researchers found the rate of sheep losses due to wolves was 3.5 times lower in an area where they used only non-lethal techniques, compared to an area open to lethal control. That was in rugged, remote pastures where non-lethal techniques were used.

That was a designed study with funding from conservation groups, the federal government and private donors. The study included field technicians who could help pen sheep at night and employ other wolf deterrents. The study’s author, Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife, said those non-lethal methods cost less money than Wildlife Services spent on killing wolves in nearby pastures. And those same methods are being used as part of a non-lethal program covering 10,000 sheep grazing across an area of nearly 1,000 square miles.

Most ranchers don’t have the time or manpower to do what that study did, said Julie Young, a researcher for the government’s Wildlife Services.

Young has been working on how to adapt non-lethal practices for widespread adoption.

“Maybe there’s a happy medium,” she said. “We’re going to do these things, but we actually want to measure it as we’re doing it, so we can know if this program we’re investing time or money or resources in is cost-effective or effective at all.”

She said programs like lethal control and compensation for non-lethal measures, including the ones used in Oregon and Washington, are ripe for study.

“We need better data,” Young said. “Otherwise we’re going to also lose trust, if we just start pushing tools on people and they don’t work.”

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