by Don Jenkins
A 5,000-bird game flock in Okanogan County has been infected with highly pathogenic bird flu, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
It’s the largest avian influenza outbreak to date in Washington, where three non-commercial flocks in other parts of the state had previously been infected, apparently by migrating birds. Wild birds and a captive falcon that died after eating wild duck also tested positive for bird flu.
“There’s no real way to predict where it might crop up,” WSDA spokesman Hector Casto said.
The owner of the flock in Riverside, near Omak, reported this past weekend to the WSDA that about 40 pheasants and 12 turkeys had died.
The Washington State University laboratory in Puyallup confirmed the birds had been sicked by highly pathogenic bird flu, as opposed to a less contagious and less lethal low pathogenic strain.
Samples have been sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ames, Iowa, to pinpoint the strain. So far, three different highly pathogenic bird flu strains have been found in Washington since mid-December.
Castro said the flock has been quarantined and will be destroyed. WSDA plans to establish a larger quarantine zone around the game farm to restrict the movement of birds and poultry products. The WSDA has not released the name of the flock’s owners.
Castro said the flock tested negative for bird flu in November, but that was before bird flu first appeared in the region. Bird flu was confirmed Dec. 1 in a British Columbia, Canada, poultry farm near the Washington border. Between Dec. 1-19, 11 B.C. commercial poultry operations and an 85-bird backyard flock fell victim to the virus.
Highly pathogenic bird flu was confirmed last week in a 145,000-bird Foster Farms turkey farm in Stanislaus County, Calif., the first U.S. commercial operation to be infected.
Backyard flocks also have been infected in Oregon and Idaho.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture on Wednesday lifted a quarantine in place since mid-December around the premises where a backyard flock in Winston in Douglas County was infected in mid-December.
WSDA last week lifted a quarantine in Benton and Franklin counties around where two backyard flocks were exposed to the virus in early January.
A quarantine remains in place where a non-commercial flock in Clallam County was infected.
WSDA and USDA officials have take samples from birds at 32 places inside the quarantine zone, and all tested negative for bird flu, Castro said.
Let’s see, Unsworth is an avid hunter, has 4 kids, holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from the University of Idaho, a master’s degree in fish and wildlife management from Montana State University and a doctorate in forestry, wildlife and range sciences from the University of Idaho, yes, he should make a fine addition Washington’s wolf management team.
Too bad compassionate Washingtonians didn’t have a vote or voice in this decision…
Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
January 10, 2015
Contact: Commission Office, (360) 902-2267
Commission selects Unsworth as new director of WDFW
TUMWATER – Dr. Jim Unsworth), deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was chosen today as the new head of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to select Unsworth after interviewing eight candidates for the director’s position in December and narrowing the field to four finalists. The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, announced its decision at a public meeting Jan. 9-10 in Tumwater.
Unsworth, who will replace Phil Anderson, formally accepted the job today.
Commissioners said they sought a visionary leader with a strong conservation ethic, sound fiscal-management skills and the expertise to work collaboratively with the commission and the department’s constituents.
“After a thorough nationwide search, we’re confident Jim is the right person to guide the department through the many challenges that lie ahead,” said Miranda Wecker, chair of the commission. “His solid understanding of natural resource issues and strong leadership skills will be invaluable in the department’s effort to manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources that are so important to the people of this state.”
As director, Unsworth will report to the commission and manage a department with more than 1,600 employees, and a biennial operating budget of $376 million. His annual salary will be $146,500.
Unsworth, age 57, has spent more than 30 years in wildlife management with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and has served as deputy director for the agency since 2008. He previously held several management positions for the department, including wildlife bureau chief and state big game manager.
Unsworth holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from the University of Idaho, a master’s degree in fish and wildlife management from Montana State University and a doctorate in forestry, wildlife and range sciences from the University of Idaho.
“I’m thrilled at this opportunity,” Unsworth said. “I look forward to taking on the many exciting challenges that come with managing fish and wildlife in the state of Washington.”
Unsworth and his wife Michele have four adult children. He is an avid hunter and fisher.
Unsworth will replace Anderson, who announced in August he was resigning from his position at the end of 2014. At the commission’s request, he has since agreed to stay on as the head of the agency until a new director is in place.
“Phil’s enormous dedication to managing Washington’s fish and wildlife will truly be missed,” Wecker said. “As director, he was a tireless worker who successfully guided the department through one of the most difficult times in the history of this state. Under his leadership and with his support, the department made important progress in meeting some very challenging issues. We are extremely grateful for his service and all the contributions he made during his career at WDFW.”
Wecker said a statement of appreciation for Anderson will be posted in the next week on the commission’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/ .
This photo (allegedly taken in late November, 1947, near Roswell, New Mexico) recalls some of the most common feeble rationalizations humans use to justify the killing and consumption of the other beings with whom we share this planet.
Another equally feeble rationalization just cropped up in a letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, using the twisted logic that since all animals are going to die someday, we might as well kill and eat them.
The letter, entitled, “Hunting, trapping to manage wildlife,” by the president of the Southern Nevada Coalition “for Wildlife,” starts out attacking animal rights activists and defending trappers and hunters:
“The litany of attacks on trappers and hunters by animal rights activists lately are usually based on the claim that trapping and hunting are inhumane. One needs to ask the question: compared to what? Compared to the standards of Walt Disney productions where Bambi and his deer family think and talk things over and where Lion Kings rule? Perhaps so, but in the real world of nature and wildlife, it is a different story.
“Every wild animal will die someday. If animal rights activists think wild animals die comfortably in their beds surrounded by loving family members, they are sadly mistaken. Disease, starvation, dehydration and predation are the most probable causes, and in the absence of management tools like hunting and trapping, entire wildlife populations suffer horribly.
“That is the reason the entire wildlife management profession and every conservation association support regulated hunting and trapping.
“Professionals know that regulated hunting and trapping are far more humane than letting nature run its course unimpeded. The animal rights activists beg to differ, but how is it more humane to allow (or mandate) that wild animals must die by disease, starvation or predation, or, much worse, allow (or mandate) entire populations to suffer this way when there is a much better way?”
A better way? That’s assuming a lot, such as that an unaware animal is killed outright with one clean shot (which almost never happens). And how is trapping an animal and letting it struggle until a human returns to finish it off ever humane?!
Yes all animals are going to eventually die someday, but usually when that day happens, nature steps in and prepares the individual for it through a process that includes shock, withdrawal and the gradual shutting down of the senses. Hospice professionals know the process well; it’s outlined in handouts they share with anyone who is caregiving for the dying.
Ending a healthy life (human or otherwise), before he or she have had the chance to fulfill their life’s journey, is murder, no matter how you rationalize it.
The pro-human predation letter ends with the line: “Since 1937, it’s been proved that regulated hunting and trapping programs are the essential tools of modern wildlife management.” Humans can just thank their lucky stars that no bigger brained beings have rationalized away their existence…yet.
Part of the reason hunters get their way so often when it comes to “game management” decisions is that they don’t hesitate to make their wishes known to state agencies. Why should they, they’re all one in the same, right? But wildlife lawmakers are required to acknowledge all sides; the more input they get from the animals’ side, the harder it will be for them to act like hunters are the only one’s with a stake in the issues.
Here’s something posted on a hunting chat board promoting contest hunts that begs for an equal and opposite reaction from the coyote’s side…
I would like to ask all hunters to take one minute and send a short friendly message to the Washington Wildlife Commission now. You should also ask friends, family members, and members of any sporting groups you belong to do the same
Here is a sample message, add an additional point or two if desired, but keep it short and friendly:.
Send To…. email@example.com Subject….. I Support Coyote Hunting Contests
Dear WDFW Commissioners, I would like to express my strong support for coyote hunting contests. These contests provide a great deal of recreation for hunters across the state and much needed management of Washington’s undermanaged coyote population.
Thank you for your consideration, (your name & address here)
By Doris Lin
Most people think of wildlife management agencies as serving the ecosystem, interfering minimally and mainly to preserve wildlife. These agencies do have programs to protect endangered species and to protect habitat in general. But instead of managing wildlife solely for the optimal health of the ecosystem, state wildlife management agencies also manage wildlife for recreation. The agencies have a financial incentive to do so.
Deer as a Resource
To these agencies, deer are a resource, not sentient beings with their own inherent rights. The resource must be conserved, or used wisely, so that there will be plenty of deer for future generations of hunters. As a result, deer management is usually designed to keep the deer population high. For example, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission is:
To conserve, enhance, and restore Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources and habitats through aggressive protection and management programs, and to provide wildlife resources and safe watercraft and off-highway vehicle recreation for the enjoyment, appreciation, and use by present and future generations.
The desire for a high deer population led Pennsylvania and other states to stock deer in the early 20th century.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources states in their annual report: “We rank first in the country for the highest single year deer harvest on record and are number one for deer harvest over the past decade. All of us work hard to keep it that way.”
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation takes the “needs” of hunters into account when determining their goals for deer management:
The goal is to balance deer with their habitat, human land uses and recreational interests. Ecological concerns and the needs of landowners, hunters, and other interest groups must be considered.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission also considers the desires of hunters in their deer management strategy:
Managing Pennsylvania’s deer herd is an enormous undertaking that frequently includes input from everyone from hunters and naturalists to farmers, foresters and suburbanites. Each has his or her own idea about how many deer we should have. As a general rule, hunters want as many as possible. Still others, particularly people made a living from their land, prefer fewer deer. But history has shown that no one group gets its way entirely.
These are just a few examples of state wildlife management agencies stating that they manage the deer population in a way that increases recreational hunting opportunities for hunters.
Most people find it incredible that their state wildlife management agencies are trying to keep deer populations high when so many residents complain that there are too many deer, but the agencies have financial incentives for pleasing hunters. The agencies depend on sales of hunting licenses for their funding, and hunters like a high deer population. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources states on their website:
Michigan hunters have supplied millions of dollars for the development of hunting regulations based on scientific data. They have also provided funds to enforce those rules in the field. Millions of dollars have been contributed for the acquisition of land and for the improvement of deer habitat on those lands. In many cases, legislative action to protect deer, acquire land, and improve deer range has been initiated by hunters themselves. This partnership among the Michigan deer hunter, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Michigan Legislature speaks well of our ability as citizens to work together through state government to manage wildlife.
Also, the federal Pittman-Robertson Act gives money from the excise taxes on sales of guns and ammunition to state wildlife agencies to increase wildlife populations. Pittman Robertson funds can also be used for land acquisition, hunter safety education and for the construction and maintenance of target ranges. To be eligible for Pittman-Robertson funds, a state must not divert money from the sales of hunting & fishing licenses outside of the state’s wildlife management agency.
How Do The Agencies Increase the Deer Popuation?
To increase the deer population, sections of forest in state wildlife management areas are clear-cut, to create the “edge habitat” that is preferred by deer. For example, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends for deer management:
Openings in a forested area encourage the production of preferred food plants and may compensate for yearly and seasonal fluctuations in food supplies, like acorns. Natural openings in forests should be maintained. Openings of one to three acres in size should be created, and be strategically located throughout an area to provide diversity and edge.
State wildlife management lands are also sometimes leased to farmers, and the farmers are required to plant deer-preferred crops and leave a certain amount of their crops standing so that the deer will be fed and reproduce more. Sometimes, the state wildlife management agencies will plant “deer mix” themselves, to increase the deer population. For example, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources explains,
Portions of the area are managed under a farm lease program to promote upland wildlife habitat and to demonstrate the potential for producing wildlife on farm lands. Site personnel supplement natural habitats with tree and shrub plantings, native grass seedings, specialty food crop production and succession control.
Of course, animal rights activists oppose hunting and oppose wildlife management that artificially increases the deer population. As long as state wildlife agencies are funded through sales of hunting licenses and Pittman-Robertson funds, they will have an incentive to manage deer as a source of recreation and they will continue to be at odds with animal rights activists.
Red-tailed hawks and other raptors fall as unintended or illegal targets each October as upland game bird season resumes in Montana. Those that survive the blast occasionally wind up in the care of raptor rehabilitators like Rob Domenech of Wild Skies Raptor Center.
“Most of it goes untold because the birds just drop and that’s it – end of story,” Domenech said. “But last week, I got a call from the manager at the Missoula landfill who had a raptor there. He found it right near the scale house. We think it was shot in that area, because it couldn’t have gone too far with those pellets all over its body. It was lead shot, probably for upland game birds.”
The hawk is slowly recovering at a clinic on Missoula’s south side under the care of Brooke Tanner, a licensed raptor rehabilitator.
“This one was the worst I’ve seen in all my years doing rehab,” Tanner said. “Usually it’s one piece of metal. This bird had nine. It must have been far enough away because the injuries were superficial. But the bird had been on the ground several days, and the wounds smelled pretty bad. We’ll let the bones heal and treat for infection before we try to dig out the pellets.”
Tanner has also treated owls, crows and numerous other non-game birds for firearms injuries. The red-tailed hawk with the blasted wing feathers was still able to fly, so she left it in the wild.
Federal law and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibit the killing of migratory raptors such as red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, and all owls. Crows don’t have that kind of protection, but most of the corvids Tanner’s seen were shot inside Missoula’s city limits, where discharging firearms is illegal.
“I get several crows every year when the babies are fledging and they’re pretty vocal,” Tanner said. “People don’t like the noise.”
With raptors, the problem may be a mistaken assumption that the birds of prey compete with two-legged hunters for pheasants and other game birds.
“Rough-legged hawks are not predators of upland birds,” said Ben Deeble, president of the Big Sky Upland Bird Association. “They have a real small foot, and eat nothing but smaller rodents. Red-tailed hawks are more generalist, and they catch the occasional upland bird. But we don’t consider hawks to be a predation problem where there’s good habitat.”
Most hawks seek mice and voles that compete with pheasants for forage in fields and meadows. Golden eagles will kill game birds, but there aren’t many of them in the Missoula or Mission valleys where bird hunters are active.
Pheasant season started Oct. 12, while other upland game birds like grouse and partridge have been legal since Sept. 1.
“Among some, there’s sentiment raptors are big birds that kill things and don’t have much other purpose,” Domenech said. “There’s some anti-predator sentiment out there. It’s disheartening someone would kill these birds. This (birdshot hawk) is a young bird, and they have 60 (percent) or 70 percent mortality in their first year of life anyway. It’s tough out there if you’re a raptor. All it takes is one bad person with a shotgun and they take out a lot of hawks.”
[This isn’t all that surprising considering the attitude of the Washington Department of Wildlife Assistant Director quoted in an earlier post entitled, What Really Motivates a Hunter.]
Four Washington State legislators are crafting a letter questioning the State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to support federal delisting of the gray wolf.
One of the four, Senator Kevin Ranker, said he was shocked a state agency would advocate dropping federal protection of wolves when a recent poll shows the vast majority of Washington State residents support it.
Wolves are currently protected under both the state and federal endangered species acts.
State Fish & Wildlife Director Phil Anderson argued the state protection is more than adequate and the federal listing only gets in the way of Washington State’s approved plan for wolf management. He said he has clearly stated on several occasions that WDFW supports federal delisting but is committed to protecting wolves until they fully recover in the state.
Ranker said he can find no evidence WDFW tried to gather public input before sending a manager to a hearing in Washington D.C. to formally support the delisting.
Anderson said the state has developed a comprehensive protection plan scientifically based on the state’s unique wolf population.