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

Excerpt: Letter from Predator Defense on the slaughter of the Profanity Peak pack

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

The Profanity Peak wolf pack was wrongfully slaughtered. They were set up for the kill. The rancher, a known wolf-hater, put his cattle to graze on pristine, forested public land in the core of the pack’s territory. His cattle, of course, displaced the wolves’ normal prey–elk and deer. The cattle then became prey. The rancher did not use anywhere close to an adequate level of nonlethal deterrents to prevent predation. He also put salt blocks near the pack’s den, according to WDFW, which drew the cattle right to the wolves. And so, the wolves predated on the cattle.

After this WDFW’s Wolf Policy Lead had the gall to state in a TV interview: “Is that really the wolf population we want to repopulate the state? Wolves that have demonstrated that behavior and see livestock as prey items.” In other words, wolves being wolves (let alone being set up!) and doing the job nature gave them as apex predators should not be themselves?!

So WDFW has now killed at least 6 of the 11-member pack and is actively trying to kill the rest. This situation is an outrage! The slaughter of the Profanity Peak Pack must be stopped. And cattle should cease being placed in wolves’ territory unless truly adequate nonlethal control methods are in use. There are also areas where it is inappropriate to have livestock, and this is surely one of them.

Brooks Fahy
Executive Director, Predator Defense
http://www.predatordefense.org

State Turns Down Sanctuary’s Proposal to Save Wolves Facing Extermination

http://www.chronline.com/state-turns-down-sanctuary-s-proposal-to-save-wolves-facing/article_b0a9b220-7700-11e6-af50-37a4b2d1b449.html

Profanity Peak Pack: Official Says California Facility’s Offer Isn’t Feasible

Posted: Friday, September 9, 2016 7:45 pm

Washington state officials have rejected a proposal by a wildlife preserve to save the Profanity Peak wolf pack targeted for extermination.

“We received the proposal to relocate the remaining Profanity Peak pack members to California, but that approach just isn’t feasible,” said Eric Gardner, assistant director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in an emailed statement.

Lorin Lindner and Matthew Simmons, co-founders of the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, a 4,000-acre preserve near the Los Padres mountains in Ventura County, Calif., offered to use helicopters to find and tranquilize the wolves, then move them to the preserve.

The pack, originally estimated at 11 animals — six adults and five pups — was cut in half in August after six of the wolves were killed. State officials authorized the exterminations following a series of attacks on livestock put out to graze on public land in the Colville National Forest.

Since mid-July, WDFW has confirmed that wolves from the Profanity Peak pack have killed or injured six cattle and possibly five others. The most recent incident occurred on Aug. 31, when a calf was killed, a WDFW spokesman said.

Simmons and Lindner said they began putting out feelers about their proposal after hearing of the state’s decision in August. 

Last week, they traveled from California to rural Ferry County to make a pitch directly to state and local officials about providing a nonlethal alternative at no cost the state.

“We knew it was a last-ditch effort,” Simmons said. “Bringing wolves into a sanctuary should be a last option, but we think it’s a viable one if the alternative is killing the animals.”

But according to WDFW officials, Simmons’ proposal is unworkable. “We know from experience that darting and capturing wolves when there’s no snow on the ground to slow them down isn’t practical,” Gardner said.

Reached Thursday, Simmons rejected the state’s assessment of his offer, adding that he would be open to adjusting the means of removing the wolves.

“People in your state seem to be determined to kill these animals even when there’s an offer to remove them that won’t cost the state a dime,” he said.

The fate of the remaining members of the wolf pack remains in limbo. The department is open to new strategies, but will continue to re-evaluate the situation at the end of each week to determine whether efforts to exterminate the pack should continue, said WDFW spokesman Craig Bartlett. What, if any, nonlethal strategies are being considered was not immediately made clear.

State policy authorizes “lethal removal” after confirming that wolves have preyed on livestock at least four times in one calendar year, or six times in two consecutive years. Livestock must have been confirmed to have been killed by wolves in at least one of the events.

The state’s Wolf Advisory Group is scheduled to hold meetings on wolf management policy in North Bend on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Profanity of the Profanity Peak Wolf Pack Massacre

By George Wuerthner

The recent killing of six members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in NE Washington in retribution for the loss of a few cattle is emblematic of what is wrong with public land policy. As I write, trappers are out to kill the remaining pack members – including 4-month old pups.

What is significant about the destruction of this pack is that the Profanity Peak wolves roamed national forest lands. These are our lands. They belong to all Americans and are part of our national patrimony.

Currently private commercial businesses such as the livestock industry are allowed to use public lands if they do not damage, degrade and impoverish our public lands heritage. Clearly the killing of this pack violates that obligation and responsibility.

What is particularly egregious about the on-going slaughter of the Profanity Pack is that it was essentially a preventable conflict. Had the rancher, whose cows invaded the wolf pack’s territory, been required to use other public lands, or better yet, simply lease private pasture, there would have been no livestock losses, hence wolf deaths.

Placing cows on top of a wolf pack territory is analogous to, and irresponsible as leaving picnic baskets or coolers out in a campground. In most national parks, if you leave a cooler or other food available to bears, you are fined for this careless behavior. We don’t blame the bear if it happens to eat that food. But when it comes to the livestock industry, we essentially allow four-legged picnic baskets to roam at will on our lands, and should a predator – be it a coyote, cougar, bear or wolf – kill one of those mobile picnic baskets, we don’t hold the rancher responsible, we kill the public wildlife.

This represents the wrong priorities.

We expect different behavior from people using public resources. I can, and do, mark up and highlight passages in books that I own in my personal library, but it would be inappropriate for me to mark up or otherwise damage books in a public library.

In a similar manner, we should expect different consequences for livestock owners who willingly use public lands (at almost no cost I might add) for their private commercial interests. In this case and others like it across the public lands of the West, we should expect ranchers utilizing public lands (our lands) to at the least accept any losses from predators that may occur while they are using public property. And if conflicts continue, we should remove the livestock, not the wolves or other predators.

It’s important to note that the mere presence of livestock negatively impacts wolves whether they are shot or otherwise killed.

Domestic livestock consume forage that would otherwise support the native prey of wolves, like elk. So more domestic animals means fewer elk.  In essence, domestic livestock grazing public lands are compromising the food resources of public wildlife so that ranchers can turn a private profit.

Worse for wolves, especially wolves confined to a den area because of pups, as was the case in the Profanity Peak Pack, when domestic cattle are moved onto our public lands, it creates a social displacement of elk. In other words, elk avoid areas actively being grazed by livestock. If the livestock are grazing lands near a den site, then the wolves automatically have fewer elk to take and must travel further to find their dinner.

Who can blame the wolves if they take the most available prey—which is often domestic livestock. Robert Weilgus, a Washington State University professor, studying the Profanity pack noted that cattle were placed near the den site, or as he was quoted in a Seattle Times article as saying the cattle were released “right on top of the den”.

Some commentators, including Washington State University tried to discredit Wielgus suggesting the cattle were released about four miles away. What that demonstrates is either their ignorance of wolf biology or a not so-veiled attempt to confuse the public. If you are a wolf where regular daily hunting exclusions of 20-30 miles are common, four miles is a short romp. It is essentially “right on top” of the wolves.

If you place cattle within a dozen miles of a wolf pack you are essentially putting the livestock “right on top” of the wolves. And if the presence of cattle forces native prey like elk to abandon the area, can anyone blame the wolves if they resort to killing a domestic animal once in a while?

The loss of the Profanity Peak Pack has occurred on the same grazing allotment where another wolf pack was destroyed in 2012. This begs the question of whether any livestock grazing should be permitted in this area. It is obviously good wolf habitat—except of course for the presence of domestic animals. The only realistic long-term solution is to retire the grazing allotment. Either transfer the cattle to another portion of the public lands or, better yet, simply pay the rancher with a voluntary permit retirement to close the allotment and permanently remove the livestock.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has been studying predators for four decades. He serves on the Science Advisory Board of Project Coyote and is the author of 38 books including Welfare Ranching, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, Energy: The Delusion of Endless Growth and Overdevelopment, Thrillcraft, and Keeping the Wild.

More wolves killed because of the sacred cow at the public trough

copyrighted-wolf-argument-settled
The way the state Department of Fish and Wildlife are slaughtering wolves is an outrage. Guest columnist Brooks Fahy explains way.
By Brooks Fahy
Special to The Times
IF you’ve heard about the wolf killing under way in northeastern Washington, you most likely have been led to think that progress is being made, simply because groups as disparate as ranchers, wildlife officials and environmentalists have agreed on something.

But what’s going on is an outrage. And it can only be understood if the common assumptions about ranching and wolves are exposed for what they are — a travesty for wildlife, public lands and the taxpayer.
What has happened is a family of wolves known as the Profanity Peak pack has been targeted for death by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Their “crime” was killing livestock grazing on public lands in remote and rugged parts of the Colville National Forest after ranchers had allegedly used nonlethal deterrents. The first two wolves were gunned down by helicopter on Aug. 5. Four more were killed by Friday morning. The agency has slated the rest for death — this in a state that has barely more than 90 wolves.

The agency’s reaction — killing wolves at the behest of ranchers — is a loss for Washingtonians and the American public. Here’s why:

• It’s cruel, anti-science and fiscally unfair.

• Nonlethal deterrents work when used appropriately.

• Ranching is destroying our public lands.

• Wildlife should live in peace on public lands.

More Op-Eds
Why a single-payer health-care system is inevitable | Op-Ed
A cheap, workable model to solving hunger in Seattle
Vaccinate your child against a killer: meningitis type B | Op-Ed
The role of government in fixing the broken mental-health system | Op-Ed
The real value of our national-park system is conservation | Op-Ed
Settling for the ‘enough house’ brings sigh of relief | Op-Ed
First, the cruelty: Science increasingly shows that animals experience pain and loss. Wolves are pack animals with a social hierarchy similar to our own families. Imagine what they experience when they see family members killed and maimed. With aerial gunning, wolves are chased by helicopters and often run to exhaustion before being blasted by a shotgun as the helicopter hovers. They experience sheer terror. The actual act is something government agencies don’t want the public to see. Isn’t it odd that we see news coverage from war zones, but not from the war on our wildlife?

Next, the financial reality: The iconic image of cowboys on horseback tending their herds was deeply ingrained into our psyches by old Western movies. No one is stopping ranchers from tending livestock this way now — but ranchers don’t tend livestock this way. Livestocks on public land tend to be scattered far and wide, and most ranchers don’t want to spend time and money guarding them. Why should they? They know the government will come in and kill predators on the taxpayers’ dime. They also know they’ll be compensated for their losses, and many ranchers now consider these handouts a right, not a privilege. No other industry has been more adept at externalizing their costs. This is not a fair or sustainable business model.
Nonlethal ways to protect livestock abound, but the best is effective human presence. With the Profanity Peak pack, the terrain is not suitable for grazing; it is pristine forest where only an army of range riders could effectively deter wolves. Equally troubling, ranchers have been known to put cattle in the middle of wolf rendezvous areas in hopes of encouraging predation. We’ve heard reports that may have happened in this case.

Livestock causes enormous environmental damage. They remove forage and ground cover other animals need to survive. Cattle trample and denude riparian areas and pollute streams with waste. Heated-up streams can no longer support dozens of species, including fish. Thousands of miles of fencing fragment habitat, causing deathly obstacles for fast-running species like pronghorn antelope.

So we pay for ranchers to destroy our land, and wildlife’s habitat!

Surely we want the word “wild” to remain part of wildlife. Wolves and other predators shouldn’t have to suffer a mortal fate for doing what they are born to do. And we shouldn’t remove what balanced ecosystems require.

It all points to bigger questions. But I will close with just one: What is the appropriate use of public lands?

Public lands are our lands; they don’t belong to ranchers. They are inappropriate places for livestock.
It’s high time the public and politicians say: “Enough! Get your livestock off our lands!”

Brooks Fahy of Seattle is a wildlife filmmaker and executive director of the national wildlife advocacy organization Predator Defense.

Profanity Peak wolf pack in state’s gun sights after rancher turns out cattle on den

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/profanity-peak-wolf-pack-in-states-gun-sights-after-rancher-turns-out-cattle-on-den/

Profanity Peak wolf pack in state’s gun sights after rancher turns out cattle on den
Originally published August 25, 2016 at 7:59 pm Updated August 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm
Gabe Spence, of the WSU Large Carnivore Lab, listens for the signal from radio collars on the Profanity Peak wolf pack. (Robert Wielgus/Washington State University)
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife authorized fieldstaff to kill the Profanity Peak wolf pack to prevent more attacks on cattle in the rangelands between Republic and Kettle Falls.

The state is going to wipe out the Profanity Peak wolf pack because they are killing cattle, but a WSU researcher monitoring the den says the conflict is predictable and avoidable.

By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times environment reporter
For the second time in four years, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is exterminating a wolf pack to protect Len McIrvin’s cattle — this time, a WSU researcher says, after the rancher turned his animals out right on top of the Profanity Peak pack’s den.

Robert Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, has radio-collared 700 cattle and dozens of wolves, including animals in the Profanity Peak pack, as part of his ongoing study of conflicts between wolves and livestock in Washington. He also camera-monitors the Profanity Peak pack’s den.
“This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it, I just want people to know,” Wielgus said in an interview Thursday.

McIrvin, of the Diamond M Ranch, near the Canadian border north of Kettle Falls, Stevens County, in northeastern Washington, did not return calls for comment Thursday. The allotment Wielgus monitors, and McIrvin grazes, is on public land in the Colville National Forest.

Related Opinion content
Op-Ed: More wolves killed because of the sacred cow at the public trough
The cattle pushed out the wolves’ native prey of deer, and with a den full of young to feed, what came next was predictable, Wielgus said.

After the wolves repeatedly killed McIrvin’s cattle, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, as per its protocol, authorized shooting wolves in the pack by helicopter, killing the pack’s breeding female by mistake. The department then stopped the killings after the wolf predations subsided.

But the department announced Saturday that after more cows were killed, it would eliminate the entire Profanity pack. That killing is ongoing, and department staff killed four more wolves this week, bringing the total to six.

The department targeted the Wedge Pack after McIrvin lost cattle to that pack, near the same area.

McIrvin has refused to radio-collar his cattle to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves, Wielgus said.

He called the killing of cows by the Profanity Peak pack at their den site predictable and avoidable.
By contrast, Wielgus has documented no cattle kills among producers who are participating in his research studies and very few among producers using Fish & Wildlife’s protocol.

“In Washington, more cattle are killed by logging trucks, fire and lightning than wolves,” Wielgus said.

Carter Niemeyer, of Boise, Idaho, a wolf expert who led the effort to reintroduce them into Idaho for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before he retired in 2006, said things won’t change until the Forest Service changes its policy to bar grazing on allotments with known active dens and pup rendezvous sites.

“If this were on private land, it’s turn the page, ho-hum,” Niemeyer said. “But public lands have to be managed differently. Those lands belong to all of us, and so do the native wildlife.”

Killing the wolves is not a lasting solution, he predicted. “It is a short-term solution to a long-term problem; they will just come back,” Niemeyer said.

“It puts the responsibility on the managing authority; it’s, ‘Come get your wild dogs, you said you would, and you set the protocol, and I want these wolves out of here,’ and he (McIrvin) has a good track record of demanding that.”
But it’s the pack that’s got to go, not the ranchers using the allotment, said Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship.

“The McIrvin family has run cows on that allotment for 73 years, and now all of a sudden they have to pull out because of wolves and go somewhere else?

“I haven’t met anyone here who wants them wiped out,” Blankenship said of wolves. “But we want them managed.”

The commission last Friday passed a resolution authorizing the Ferry County sheriff to take out the pack if the state doesn’t.

“For the most part, the local people believe the removal of that pack is long overdue,” Blankenship said. He said the county depends on a healthy ranching economy, which is also part of the state’s culture, custom and history.

“You don’t think Seattle had wolves originally? I am more than willing to pay as a county to round these critters up and bring them to you. If they are in your backyard, you have a whole new attitude about it,” Blankenship said.
Wolf advocates have been dismayed by the state’s decision to kill the pack — 11 animals of a total estimated state population of 90 wolves in 19 packs, as of early 2016.

Listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act west of U.S. Route 97, the wolves are not protected east of the highway. People remain their biggest impediment to recovery, which is required by state law.

Since July 8, 12 cattle have been killed or hurt in the Profanity Peak pack area, according to Fish & Wildlife. So far, the department has killed six wolves in the pack under the authorization of Director Jim Uns­worth. He is appointed by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, which in turn is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

Donny Martorello, the department’s wolf-policy lead, said the state remains committed to wolf recovery and coexistence. It confirmed its first wolf recolonizations in 2008, and so far has authorized lethal removals in three instances.

“The majority of the time, these two can coexist,” Martorello said of wolves and livestock. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s, but have been gradually recolonizing, from populations in Idaho and British Columbia.