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.”

Copyright 2017 EarthFix. To see more, visit EarthFix.
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Bison kill planned for Grand Canyon

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/science/ct-shoot-grand-canyon-bison-20170911-story.html

Felicia FonsecaAssociated Press

The National Park Service plans to thin a herd of bison in the Grand Canyon through roundups and by seeking volunteers who are physically fit and proficient with a gun to kill the animals that increasingly are damaging park resources.

Some bison would be shipped out of the area and others legally hunted on the adjacent forest. Within the Grand Canyon, shooters would be selected through a lottery to help bring the number of bison roaming the far northern reaches of the park to no more than 200 within three to five years.

About 600 of the animals now live in the region, and biologists say the bison numbers could hit 1,500 within 10 years if left uncontrolled.

The Grand Canyon is still working out details of the volunteer effort, but it’s taking cues from national parks in Colorado, the Dakotas and Wyoming that have used shooters to cut overabundant or diseased populations of elk. The Park Service gave final approval to the bison reduction plan this month.

Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club says she’s hopeful Grand Canyon will focus mostly on nonlethal removal.

The Grand Canyon bison are descendants of those introduced to northern Arizona in the early 1900s as part of a ranching operation to crossbreed them with cattle. The state of Arizona now owns them and has an annual draw for tags on the Kaibab National Forest. Nearly 1,500 people applied for one of 122 tags this year, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The bison have been moving in recent years within the Grand Canyon boundaries where open hunting is prohibited. Park officials say they’re trampling on vegetation and spoiling water resources. The reduction plan would allow volunteers working in a team with a Park Service employee to shoot bison using non-lead ammunition to protect endangered California condors that feed on gut piles.

Hunters cannot harvest more than one bison in their lifetime through the state hunt, making the volunteer effort intriguing, they say.

“I would go if I had a chance to retain a portion of the meat,” said Travis McClendon, a hunter in Cottonwood. “It definitely would be worth going, especially with a group.”

Grand Canyon is working with state wildlife officials and the Intertribal Buffalo Council to craft guidelines for roundups and volunteer shooters, who would search for bison in the open, said Park Service spokesman Jeff Olson.

Much of the work would be done on foot in elevations of 8,000 feet or higher between October and May when the road leading to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is closed. Snowmobiles and sleds would be used to remove the bison meat, and helicopters in rare instances, park officials said.

Carl Lutch, the terrestrial wildlife manager for Game and Fish in Flagstaff, said some models require volunteers to be capable of hiking eight miles a day, carrying a 60-pound pack and hitting a paper plate 200 yards away five times.

The head and hide of the bison would be given to tribes, or federal and state agencies.

Lutch said one scenario discussed is splitting the bison meat among volunteers, with each volunteer able to take the equivalent of meat from one full bison. Anything in excess of that would be given to tribes and charities, he said. A full-grown bull can have hundreds of pounds of meat.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota used volunteers in 2010 for elk reduction, selecting 240 people from thousands of applicants, said park spokeswoman Eileen Andes. Some quit before the week was over, she said.

“We had quite a bit of snow, so you’re not in a vehicle, you’re not on a horse,” she said. “You’re hiking through snow to shoot elk and haul them out. It was exceedingly strenuous.”

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

Lawsuit Challenges California’s Mismanagement of Commercial Trapping Program

September 13, 2017

Contact:

Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org

Lawsuit Challenges California’s Mismanagement of Wildlife Trapping Program

Public Agencies Illegally Subsidize Private Profiteering Off
Fox, Coyote, Badger Pelts
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Project Coyote sued the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife today for improperly managing and illegally subsidizing the state’s commercial trapping program.

Thousands of coyotes, foxes, badgers and other fur-bearing animals are trapped each year in California so their pelts can be sold overseas. Today’s lawsuit notes that the two state agencies have illegally diverted as much as half a million dollars since 2013 to subsidize commercial fur trapping in California.

“Commercial trapping is a cruel, destructive practice that shouldn’t be subsidized by California taxpayers,” said attorney Jean Su, the Center’s associate conservation director. “It’s wrong that a handful of trappers slaughter our wildlife for private profit while the state foots the bill. These animals are far more valuable as essential species in California’s web of life than as skinned pelts shipped to Russia and China.”

In 2015, conservationists celebrated the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to ban the commercial trapping of bobcats, whose pelts are some of the most lucrative on the international fur market. But more than a dozen other furbearing animals still experience cruel trapping under the state’s mismanaged trapping program.

California law requires that the states’s costs of managing a commercial trapping program must be fully recovered through trapping license fees. The state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on wardens, biologists and administrators to oversee and enforce trapping regulations, yet license fees cover only a tiny fraction of the program’s total costs. Taxpayers foot the bill for the shortfall.

Since the fee-recovery mandate became effective in2013, the commission and the fish and wildlife department have illegally diverted upwards of half a million dollars to subsidize commercial fur trapping in California.

“The illegal subsidization of the state’s commercial trapping program violates not just the letter of the law, but the will of the California people,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote. “An overwhelming majority of Californians do not support commercial trapping.”

In the 2015-2016 license year, approximately 200 trappers purchased commercial licenses. Of those, 50 reported killing the nearly 2,000 animals trapped for fur that year, according to a department report. To ensure undamaged pelts, trappers often kill animals through strangulation, gassing and anal electrocution.

If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few if any trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California.

“It’s shocking that California still permits the inhumane slaughter of our wildlife for fur,” Su said. “It’s time the state is held accountable for its poor management of a program that benefits only a few.”

Today’s lawsuit targets the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife for failing to raise license fees to the levels adequate to recoup the entire commercial trapping program’s costs, as mandated under law. If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few, if any, trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California.

Recognizing the ecological importance of carnivores, the Center and Project Coyote use science-based advocacy to defend these magnificent animals from persecution, exploitation and extinction. Find out more about the Center’s Carnivore Conservation campaign here and aboutProject Coyote’s Predator Protection Programs here.

OREGON REMOVES TWO MORE WOLVES FROM HARL BUTTE PACK

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

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

Continued below

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

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

Slaughter Of Yellowstone Bison At The Center Of Culture War

In the same year that Congress voted to make bison the national mammal, Yellowstone National Park had its second largest cull ever — reducing the heard by more than 1,200 animals.

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

Americans have always liked the idea of bison, but living with them is another matter. In the same year Congress made bison the national mammal, more than 1,200 were culled from the Yellowstone National Park herd. Amy Martin reports on why the U.S. is killing so many of the animals it also idealizes.

AMY MARTIN, BYLINE: Thirty miles north of Yellowstone is a place called Paradise Valley. Picture snowy peaks, a winding river, big sweeping meadows…

(SOUNDBITE OF COWS MOOING)

MARTIN: …And cows. Drusca Kinkie runs a cattle ranch here.

DRUSCA KINKIE: I think the concept of free-roaming bison will harm agriculture immensely.

MARTIN: The annual bison cull in Yellowstone attracts controversy every year, and this winter was the second biggest ever. But Kinkie supports the reduction of the herd.

KINKIE: There’s a disease issue with bison. They’ve been exposed to brucellosis.

MARTIN: Brucellosis is a bacterial disease, which elk and bison in the Yellowstone area originally caught from livestock. Kinkie says the threat of transmission back to cattle looms large. And it’s that fear that drove the state of Montana to sue Yellowstone in 1995, forcing the park to ship more animals to slaughter. But there’s more going on here than just disease. Bison are caught in the culture wars. Kinkie says she feels misunderstood.

KINKIE: You have all these people out there fighting for free-roaming bison. And it’s a concept. It’s a vision that they have. And we’re fighting for our ability to survive here and make a living as we have for the last 60, almost 70 years. And they don’t have anything to lose in their vision. And we have everything to lose in ours.

ROBBIE MAGNAN: Buffalo has taken care of Native Americans since the beginning of time.

MARTIN: Robbie Magnan says there is a lot to lose on the other side. He’s the director of the Fish and Wildlife Department for the Fort Peck Tribes in northeastern Montana. For him, the culture wars started much further back when Europeans first arrived in North America and more than 50 million wild bison roamed the continent.

MAGNAN: The federal government massacred them because they figured out that was the only way to bring the Indians down to their knees – it was destroy their economy. And that’s why they were almost wiped out.

MARTIN: Now, only about 30,000 bison are protected in North America and, of those, less than half are living in anything close to wild conditions. As Magnan drives up into the hills of the reservation, he says wild bison are an important part of the country’s heritage. That’s why he helped to develop an alternative to slaughter.

MAGNAN: Instead of massacring these animals when they migrate out of the park in the wintertime when they’re hungry, OK, let’s get them out alive and start other cultural herds going.

MARTIN: To do that, the Fort Peck Tribes built a 320-acre brucellosis-quarantined pasture surrounded by extra high fences. Here, the Yellowstone bison can be held and tested and many eventually declared brucellosis free. Last year, the National Park Service said it supported using the facility, but then Magnan says…

MAGNAN: After they found out it works, they quit it. And why quit something when you know it works?

MARTIN: The person responsible for answering that question is Sue Masica, who oversees this region of the park service. But she declined requests for an interview.

Those guys are moving.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How many did you count? Yeah, they’re going.

RICK WALLEN: I’m guessing there’s 200-plus.

MARTIN: Rick Wallen is the team leader for the park’s bison management program. He’s watching a large bison herd move quickly down the valley of the Yellowstone River. It’s a cold day and their dark shapes stand out against the snow. Despite the beauty, the mood is intense. For most of the year, Wallen studies these animals. But every winter, he manages their slaughter.

WALLEN: There is a cost, and that cost is more emotional for some than others. I’ve even had people on days that we were supposed to go there and do the work call and say, you know, I can’t do this anymore. I have to resign my position. I’m sorry.

MARTIN: Wallen thinks a better solution would be quarantine. That would allow him to do what he says is his job.

WALLEN: Protect the wild in wild bison. Otherwise, they go extinct.

MARTIN: That extinction comes in the form of domestication. Bison are increasingly raised as livestock and bred with cattle to make them more docile. Wallen says Yellowstone is a bulwark against this trend, a place where bison still have to use their instincts to survive in the wild. For NPR News, I’m Amy Martin in Yellowstone National Park.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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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.

Nightmare before Christmas: Siberia plans to cull 250,000 reindeer amid anthrax fears

One third of world’s largest reindeer herd could be killed in an effort to prevent the spread of the ‘zombie’ disease in the Russian tundra

Reindeer culls are traditionally held in November and December, but the number of animals to be killed this year is expected to be much higher because of the threat of an anthrax breakout.
Reindeer culls are traditionally held in November and December, but the number of animals to be killed this year is expected to be much higher because of the threat of an anthrax breakout. Photograph: Amos Chapple/REX

A cull of a quarter of a million reindeer by Christmas has been proposed in northern Siberia in a bid to reduce the risk of an anthrax outbreak.

There are thought to be more than 700,000 animals in the Yamalo-Nenets region, in the arctic zone of the West Siberian plain – the largest herd in the world.

About 300,000 of those are on the Yamal peninsula, prompting concerns of overgrazing and dense herds that could facilitate the spread of disease, the Siberian Times reported.

Dmitry Kobylkin, the governor of Yamalo-Nenets, has called for a proposal for how to reduce the population by 250,000 animals to be finalised by the end of September.

Culls are traditionally held in November and December, but the number of animals to be killed this year is expected to be significantly increased, following outbreaks of anthrax in recent months.

The so-called “zombie” disease is thought to have been resurrected when unusually warm temperatures thawed the carcass of a reindeer that died from anthrax several decades ago, releasing the bacteria.

A state of emergency was imposed in July. A 12-year-old boy from the Yamalo-Nenets region later died after consuming the venison of an infected reindeer.

Some 2,350 reindeer also perished in the outbreaks, reported the Siberian Times, as well as at least four dogs.

A Nenets herdsman gathers his reindeer as they prepare to leave a site outside the town of Nadym in Siberia. The Nenets people live in snow and freezing temperatures some 260 days of the year and are mainly nomadic reindeer herdsmen.
A Nenets herdsman gathers his reindeer as they prepare to leave a site outside the town of Nadym in Siberia. The Nenets people live in snow and freezing temperatures some 260 days of the year and are mainly nomadic reindeer herdsmen. Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva/AFP/Getty Images

Officials are now calling for the reindeer population to be reduced, warning that infection can spread rapidly through large herds.

Nikolai Vlasov, the deputy head of Russia’s federal veterinary and phytosanitary surveillance service, told the Siberian Times the more dense an animal population is, the greater the risk of disease transfer.

“Density of livestock, especially in the tundra areas that are very fragile, should be regulated. … It is impossible to breed reindeers without limits.”

More: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/30/nightmare-before-christmas-siberia-plans-to-cull-250000-reindeer-amid-anthrax-fears

Norway plans to cull 47 of its remaining 68 wolves

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     yesterday in Environment
Norwegian wildlife department is planning to issue hunting permits to shoot up to 47 of an estimated 68 remaining wolves living in wilderness citing harm done to livestock by the carnivores.

 freewallpapersdotcom golden-wolf
Norway, which has more than 200,000 registered hunters, has one of Europe’s smallest wolf populations. Around a quarter of the country’s wolves were killed in culls during the previous years. The animals, most of which are in a designated habitat in the southeast of the country , were nearly wiped out in the last century, and restored in the 1970’s after they gained protected status. The government strictly controls their breeding to protect the livestock.

Many conservation groups have expressed outrage over the decision to cull more than two-thirds of the remaining wolves. The number of wolves to be culled is the highest in a year since 1911. Nina Jensen, the head of the Norwegian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said:

This is mass slaughter. We have not seen anything like this in a hundred years, back when the policy was that all large carnivores were to be eradicated. Shooting 70 percent of the wolf population is not worthy of a nation claiming to be championing environmental causes. People all over the country, and outside its borders, are now reacting.

Farmers have welcomed the hunting of wolves as they are considered a threat to their sheep. Erling Aas-Eng, a regional official for a farming association said:

We find the reason (for the killing) justified and intelligent, especially the potential damage that these wolf packs represent to farming.

Norway’s annual wolf hunting begins on October 1 and ends on March 31. Last year, a whopping 11,571 people signed up for licenses to kill 16 wolves.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/norway-plans-to-cull-47-of-its-remaining-68-wolves/article/475081#ixzz4KdiIiXeb

Wildlife Services’ — AKA Murder, Inc.’s — Unregulated Killing Fields: The Body Count of this Killing Agency is Sickeningly Reprehensible

by Marc Bekoff

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wildlife-services-aka-murder-incs-unregulated_us_57de8514e4b0d5920b5b2de5?timestamp=1474205510303

“Wildlife Services is one of the most opaque and least accountable agencies I know of. It is not capable of reforming itself. They need a mandate for reform… it’s going to have to be imposed on them.” REP. PETER DEFAZIO, Senior U.S. Congressman (D-OR)

A recent essay in the New York Times by Richard Conniff called “America’s Wildlife Body Count” is a must read for anyone interested in the ways in which Wildlife Services, AKA Murder, Inc., conducts business as usual. It is simply amazing how those who work for Wildlife Services get away with killing millions upon millions of nonhuman animals (animals) “in the name of coexistence and conservation” using brutal and sickening methods including poisoning, trapping, snaring, and shooting, even from airplanes. And, of course, non-target animals, including people’s pets, are also part of the carnage.

You can learn more about Wildlife Services’ killing ways in a short film called EXPOSED: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife at the website for Predator Defense. Mr. Conniff’s essay is a nice, but depressing, follow-up, to a recent essay of mine called “The Wars on Wolves, Cats, and Other Animals: It’s Time to Forever Close Down the Killing Fields” (please also see “The Psychology of Killing Wolves, Cats, and other Animals” about people who say they love animals and then support killing them). I know many people simply do not believe what they hear about Wildlife Services and their and others’ unrelenting wars on wildlife, but the facts speak for themselves, and we need to put them all out of business as soon as possible.

Predators are not the leading cause of livestock deaths and killing them doesn’t work

Mr. Conniff’s essay is available online so below are a few facts and snippets to whet your appetite for more, although the body count for which Wildlife Services is responsible will make you ill. He provides a concise review of a recent peer reviewed research paper by the University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Adrian Treves and his colleagues called “Predator control should not be a shot in the dark.” The abstract for this landmark study that analyses if predator control actually works — it clearly does not — reads as follows:

Livestock owners traditionally use various non-lethal and lethal methods to protect their domestic animals from wild predators. However, many of these methods are implemented without first considering experimental evidence of their effectiveness in mitigating predation-related threats or avoiding ecological degradation. To inform future policy and research on predators, we systematically evaluated evidence for interventions against carnivore (canid, felid, and ursid) predation on livestock in North American and European farms. We also reviewed a selection of tests from other continents to help assess the global generality of our findings. Twelve published tests – representing five non-lethal methods and 7 lethal methods – met the accepted standard of scientific inference (random assignment or quasi-experimental case-control) without bias in sampling, treatment, measurement, or reporting. Of those twelve, prevention of livestock predation was demonstrated in six tests (four non-lethal and two lethal), whereas counterintuitive increases in predation were shown in two tests (zero non-lethal and two lethal); the remaining four (one non-lethal and three lethal) showed no effect on predation. Only two non-lethal methods (one associated with livestock-guarding dogs and the other with a visual deterrent termed “fladry”) assigned treatments randomly, provided reliable inference, and demonstrated preventive effects. We recommend that policy makers suspend predator control efforts that lack evidence for functional effectiveness and that scientists focus on stringent standards of evidence in tests of predator control.

Mr. Conniff begins:

Until recently, I had never had any dealings with Wildlife Services, a century-old agency of the United States Department of Agriculture with a reputation for strong-arm tactics and secrecy. It is beloved by many farmers and ranchers and hated in equal measure by conservationists, for the same basic reason: It routinely kills predators and an astounding assortment of other animals — 3.2 million of them last year — because ranchers and farmers regard them as pests.

Referring to Dr. Treves’ study Mr. Conniff notes:

To find out, the researchers reviewed scientific studies of predator control regimens — some lethal, some not — over the past 40 years. The results were alarming. Of the roughly 100 studies surveyed, only two met the “gold standard” for scientific evidence. That is, they conducted randomized controlled trials and took precautions to avoid bias. Each found that nonlethal methods (like guard dogs, fences and warning flags) could be effective at deterring predators.

Note that only around 2% of the studies presented solid scientific evidence about the question at hand. Would you get out of bed if you only had a 2% chance of making it through the day?

Wildlife Services pretty much does whatever they want to do as if they’re the only show in town, and a horrific show it is. When Mr. Conniff tried to get Wildlife Services to respond to queries they were not very cooperative. He writes, “I’ve had better luck getting access at the C.I.A.”

Others also have noted that Wildlife Services gets away with doing what they do with no oversight whatsoever. They just continue killing millions of animals “in the name of coexistence and conservation,” as if the animals were disposable garbage. Indeed, at a talk I heard last year, someone working for Wildlife Services claimed they were “heroes” for the people they served. Many in the audience were incredulous and sighed deeply, as if asking, “Are you kidding?”

Some more facts are worth quoting about Wildlife Services unrelenting egregious and lethal war on wildlife. Mr. Conniff asks:

But why were different species killed, or where? Your guess is as good as mine — and not just about the predators but about the agency’s decision to kill 17 sandhill cranes last year, or 150 blue-winged teal ducks, or 4,927 cattle egrets. Before killing 708,487 red-winged blackbirds that year, did anyone weigh the damage they do to ripening corn and other crops against the benefit they provide by feeding on corn earworms and other harmful insects? Is the scientific support for killing 20,777 prairie dogs (on which the survival of species like the burrowing owl and the black-footed ferret depend), better than that for killing predators?

Mr. Conniff concludes:

In their study, Dr. Treves and his co-authors urge the appointment of an independent panel to conduct a rigorous large-scale scientific experiment on predator control methods. They also recommended that the government put the burden of proof on the killers and suspend predator control programs that are not supported by good science. For Wildlife Services, after a century of unregulated slaughter of America’s native species, this could be the moment to set down the weapons, step out of the way, and let ranchers and scientists together figure out the best way for predators and livestock to coexist.

Please do something to put Wildlife Services out of business once and for all

“Poisons banned since the 1970s, that the official record said didn’t exist, were being bought from the Wyoming Dept. of Ag. to sell to ranchers and predator boards.” REX SHADDOX, Former Wildlife Services trapper & special investigator for Wyoming Sting operation 

Please read Mr. Conniff’s essay and contact members of congress and ask them to put Wildlife Services out of business once and for all. Your money is supporting their murderous ways. To wit, Mr. Conniff notes that taxpayers spent $127 million in 2014 to allow Wildlife Services to continue brutally killing other animals with no transparency at all. That’s a lot of money that could be used to foster coexistence in non-lethal and humane ways, an idea that obviously is totally foreign to Wildlife Services. The rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of compassionate conservation(please also see “Compassionate Conservation: More than ‘Welfarism Gone Wild,’” “Compassionate Conservation Meets Cecil the Slain Lion,” and the website for The Centre for Compassionate Conservation) could surely come to rescue of the millions of animals who are wantonly and brutally killed each and every year.

As a reminder of the urgency of putting Wildlife Services out of business, I end with the quote with which I began:

“Wildlife Services is one of the most opaque and least accountable agencies I know of. It is not capable of reforming itself. They need a mandate for reform… it’s going to have to be imposed on them.” REP. PETER DEFAZIO, Senior U.S. Congressman (D-OR)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wildlife-services-aka-murder-incs-unregulated_us_57de8514e4b0d5920b5b2de5?timestamp=1474205510303

America’s Wildlife Body Count

Until recently, I had never had any dealings with Wildlife Services, a century-old agency of the United States Department of Agriculture with a reputation for strong-arm tactics and secrecy. It is beloved by many farmers and ranchers and hated in equal measure by conservationists, for the same basic reason: It routinely kills predators and an astounding assortment of other animals — 3.2 million of them last year — because ranchers and farmers regard them as pests.

To be clear, Wildlife Services is a separate entity, in a different federal agency, from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, whose main goal is wildlife conservation. Wildlife Services is interested in control — ostensibly, “to allow people and wildlife to coexist.”

My own mildly surreal acquaintance with its methods began as a result of a study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, under the title “Predator Control Should Not Be a Shot in the Dark.” Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin and his co-authors set out to answer a seemingly simple question: Does the practice of predator control to protect our livestock actually work?

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/opinion/sunday/americas-wildlife-body-count.html?_r=2