Conservation groups protest Washington state’s secrecy on managing, killing wolves

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/conservation-groups-protest-states-secrecy-on-managing-killing-wolves/

Divided over strategy, wildlife conservation groups agree the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is too secretive about its killing of wolves.

They are divided over the best strategy to recover wolves in Washington. But 14 conservation groups joined together Friday to send a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, protesting secrecy in its management of wolves.

The letter, signed by wildlife conservation groups across Washington, was issued after the department released a five-word account of its ongoing kill operation of the Smackout Pack in northeastern Washington, to protect ranchers’ cattle.

That followed a July 14 report that belatedly revealed four wolves had died in Washington over the past year, including two under circumstances still being investigated. That was at least six weeks and in some instances months after the department had the information.

Washington’s wolves

The letter was sent to Donny Martorello, wolf-policy lead for the department. Last week he told The Seattle Times the department was withholding information on its operations on the Smackout pack until a final report at an unspecified time to “keep the temperature down,” in the interest of public safety.

He could not be reached Friday for comment on the letter.

“That little five-word statement was just a slap in the face,” said Nick Cady, of Cascadia Wildlands, about the department’s report on the Smackout Pack. “You are a public agency, spending the public’s money to kill the public’s wolves. You have responsibilities and obligations to inform the public.”

Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the department’s management of information about its wolf operations “is a huge step backward. It inflames the public to be treated like children.”

Members of the Wolf Advisory Group who worked with the agency all winter to craft its information policy for this season stated in the letter the agency was not living up to the parameters agreed to.

“We are concerned the department has chosen to withhold basic information regarding the operation that would not compromise safety,” the letter stated. “We do not agree with the department’s interpretation of the 2017 revised protocol … the department’s decision to only release the number of wolves killed is an unnecessary and inappropriate retreat from the level of transparency in previous (wolf) removal actions.”

Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, representing more than 20 publications across Washington, said the agency needs to be transparent.

“If you don’t tell anybody what is going on, nobody trusts anybody,” Thompson said. “They need to give out this information so people know what happened, and can make up their own minds about it. Not only the public, but legislators and the people making policy about this issue need to know.”

Signing the letter were the Center for Biological Diversity; Defenders of Wildlife; Conservation Northwest; Cascadia Wildlands; Eastern Washington Wolf Coalition; Endangered Species Coalition; Kettle Range Conservation Group; Lands Council, Mountain Lion Foundation; the Washington State director for the Humane Society of the United States; the wildlife director for the Washington State Sierra Club; Western Environmental Law Center; Western Wildlife Conservation; Wildlands Network; and Wolf Haven International.

The Wolf Killers Wore Green


The shooting of the Profanity Pack last year and now a kill order for the Smackout Pack in Northeast Washington clearly demonstrated the failure of the current strategy of many conservation groups who are involved in wolf recovery efforts.

In this case, a number of organizations, including Wolf Haven International, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society had joined the Wolf Advisory Group or WAG, a collaborative group that worked with the state of Washington as well as other “stake holders” (read ranchers) to produce a wolf recovery strategy.

The plan, among other components, calls for the lethal removal of depredating wolves. This applies to both public and private lands. Therein lies the rub. Who should have priority on public lands? Public wildlife or private livestock?

I am sure that these organizations have the best intentions—they want to see wolves thrive—however, they need to take a step back and consider whether their current strategy ultimately gains acceptance for wolves and other wildlife or merely becomes a “green washing” of actions that maintain the status quo and ultimately never really improves conditions for wolves and other wildlife.


Editor’s Note: To leave the fate of a near-extinct species like wolves in the hands of conservationists is misguided. Conservationists are the “liberals” of the animal defense world, people who more often than not co-opt themselves for the sake of getting along with the establishment’s way of doing business. Now, as detailed by the author, the combination of namby pamby wolf advocates and sociopathically greedy ranching interests—always bolstered in their depredations by ubiquitous speciesist politicians in Congress and state assemblies—simply spells doom for these animals.  And for what? So that a few morally retarded humans can have more steaks via the murdering of more cows, grazed in public lands? So that ranching interests can increase their profits? Or so that depraved “sport” hunters may enjoy more live targets? I for one most definitely object!—PG

When the Profanity Pack killed some cattle on a public lands grazing allotment, these organizations supported the killing of the pack, despite the fact that the rancher involved had placed his cattle on an allotment with a known wolf pack. He even placed salt blocks within a few hundred yards of a wolf den and rendezvous site. In essence, the Profanity Pack was set up to be killed by the agencies managing the land and wolves. But as members of the WAG, these organizations did not object to the killing which they called termed “regrettable” and other adjectives, but which they ultimately supported.

 


As members of the WAG they were silenced from voicing outrage, and even more importantly, condemning the entire situation where private livestock are given priority on public lands. And in this case, where the rancher and public agencies like the Forest Service did not take actions to avoid the conflict.

What could have been done differently? Well for one, the Forest Service, the agency managing these lands could have closed the allotment temporarily to grazing to preclude interactions between wolves and livestock. Better yet it could have removed the cattle entirely. But without a united voice from wolf advocates, the agency allowed this tragic and almost inevitable conflict to occur.


This gets to the heart of the issue. Which animals should have priority on public lands? The public’s wildlife or domestic livestock being grazed as a private use of public resources for private profit?

The conservation groups that are part of the WAG cannot change the paradigm. The reason is simple. Collaborations like the WAG start with certain assumptions—that domestic livestock has a priority on public lands—and if you don’t agree with that starting premise, you are not welcome on the collaboration.

It is no different than timber collaborations where the starting assumption is that our forests are “unhealthy” and “need” to be “managed” (read logged) to be “fixed”. If you disagree with that starting assumption, there is no welcome for you in forest collaborations.

This gets to the issue of strategy. As long as the assumption is that private livestock has priority on public lands, nothing will change. Wolves will continue to be shot unnecessarily.

But it goes further than whether wolves are shot. Domestic livestock are consuming the same forage as native wildlife like elk. On many grazing allotments, the bulk of all available forage is allotted to domestic livestock, thereby reducing the carrying capacity for wild ungulates (like elk) which are prey for predators like wolves.


In addition, there are a number of studies that demonstrate that once you move domestic cattle on to an allotment, the native wildlife like elk abandons the area. This means wolves must travel farther to find food, exposing them to more potentially greater mortality from hunters, car accidents, and so on.

You won’t hear any of these conservation groups articulating these “costs” to native wildlife because one of the consequences of joining collaboration is that your voice is muted. You remain silent to “get along.”

The groups joining the Washington WAG defend their participation by saying ranching on public lands is not going away, so the best way to influence wolf policy is to participate in these collaborative efforts.

The problem is that this legitimizes the idea that ranching and livestock have a priority on public lands. Keep in mind that grazing on public lands is a privilege. It is not a “right” despite the fact that the livestock industry tries to obscure the truth by referring to “grazing rights”.

If we are ever going to change the situation for wolves and other predators, not to mention other wildlife from elk to bison, we need to challenge the starting assumptions that livestock have a “right” to graze on our public lands.

Imagine for a minute what the Civil Rights movement would have accomplished if its leaders had joined a collaborative with the KKK and folks who were intent on maintaining the status quo in the South. Under such a paradigm nothing much would change. Sure they could have made the same rationale that today’s conservation groups make when they argue that public lands livestock grazing is not going away—and I’m sure many people involved in the Civil Rights movement assumed that segregation would never end either.

But some brave souls did not accept the starting assumptions. They refused to give up their seats at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. They demanded that all citizens had a right to vote without polling taxes and other measures designed to disenfranchise black voters. 

The failure of conservation organizations to avoid questioning the presumed “right” of livestock operations to exploit the public’s land means we will never really change the circumstances under which predators live.

While any organizations that continue to support public lands grazing might defend their decision by suggesting that changing the paradigm is too difficult, I respond by saying as long as they never challenge anything, nothing will change.

I am reminded of David Brower’s admonishment “Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.”

State Just Decided To Kill Endangered Wolves — While They’re Still Raising Their Babies

https://www.thedodo.com/in-the-wild/washington-kill-smackout-pack-wolves

“They will essentially be destroying this pack.”

JULY 21, 2017

Gray wolf

WA state to kill more wolves to protect livestock–for the fourth time!

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/washington-state-to-kill-more-wolves-to-protect-livestock/

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife intends to kill wolves in the Smackout Pack in Stevens County beginning this week to protect two ranchers’ cattle grazing on public land.

The department’s intention is to kill members of the pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Stevens County since 2015, said Jim Unsworth, the department’s director, in a news release.

The goal at this time is not to take out the entire pack. The department intends to assess results of incrementally killing the wolves before taking further action.

The decision to start killing pack members is consistent with policy set by the state’s wolf-management plan set in 2011, and in particular, policy that allows killing wolves that prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period.

That policy was developed last year by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, formed to represent the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.

The state’s pack-removal policy has split environmental groups, with some supporting the policy and others dead set against it

 “While heart-rending it is our hope that this action … will cease further livestock depredations and prevent the need for additional lethal actions, protecting the integrity and future of this pack,” the nonprofit Conservation Northwest stated in a news release. “We see this as a test of the theory that early lethal intervention can disrupt depredating behavior.”

Others were outraged.

“The environmental community has been incredibly meek when it comes to this,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group. “This is outrageous. This is a cost of doing business: If you have cattle on public land, you suffer the losses.”

Ranchers in Stevens County have borne the brunt of wolf recovery in Washington. Many ranching families there — with deep ties to the land, their animals and the ranching tradition — operate on slim financial margins, and have had to make unwelcome adjustments in their practices to continue ranching in what has once again become wolf country. Some ranchers have trouble even keeping their animals up in the forest because of wolf harassment, and those are lands their operations depend on.
“We know they’re out there,” said Rhonda DalBalcon, who runs a ranch with her husband Kevin DalBalcon. “You can’t sleep at night when you know there’s wolves,” he said. (Steve Ringman and Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)

Critics, including Fahy, argue that the rugged, remote wild lands of the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington are perfect habitat for wolves, but not suited to livestock. “It’s high time we address this. It’s going to keep happening over and over. Get the cattle off the lands,” Fahy said. “Otherwise we are just going to be killing more and more wolves. We have to start the discussion.”

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Ranching has been a permitted use on national forest lands, including the Colville National Forest, for more than a century. The state’s wolf policy calls for coexistence of wolves and people, including livestock producers, on the landscape.

The Smackout pack is one of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. At that time, the pack was estimated to consist of eight wolves, but it has since produced an unknown number of pups.

With four confirmed attacks on cattle since last September, the pack’s number is up, notes Don Dashiell, a member of the state’s Wolf Advisory Group and a Stevens County commissioner. “Let ’er go,” he said of the state’s removal effort. He said the state should take out half the pack now, and if that doesn’t work, keep going.

The pack’s latest depredation on livestock was discovered Tuesday, when an employee of the livestock owner found an injured calf with bite marks consistent with a wolf attack in a leased federal grazing area.

During the previous month, the rancher reported to WDFW that his employee had caught two wolves in the act of attacking livestock and the employee killed one of them.

The killing of the wolf — a state protected species — is allowed under state law that empowers livestock owners and their employees to protect their livestock by killing up to one wolf in areas where wolves are no longer listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Smackout pack lives in the northeastern corner of the state, where wolves are not federally protected.

Wolves began their return to Washington in 2008 after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to local extinction. They are a state-protected species all over Washington — with exceptions to protect livestock — and are federally protected only in Western Washington. The state’s wolf population overall is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.

Martorello said both ranchers made efforts to protect their livestock using nonlethal deterrence. “Our goal is to change the pack’s behavior before the situation gets worse.”

Wolf recovery remains a very low risk to cattle ranching. Most packs in Washington do not kill livestock, even when sharing the landscape with cows and sheep, and very few cattle are documented as killed by wolves.

Most cattle are lost to accidents and illness and other causes not related to wildlife.

This is the fourth time the state has taken aim at wolves to protect cattle; it has previously targeted the Profanity Peak pack, the Wedge Pack and the Huckleberry pack.

Mitch Friedman, executive director for Conservation Northwest, predicted more heartache as the state’s wolf population grows.

“We want a healthy wolf population and healthy wolf packs, and we don’t see a way that doesn’t involve occasional trauma like this,” Friedman said. “We have less than a handful of serious conflicts — that is a pretty good batting average. That is success even though every incident will be traumatic, for the rancher, and for the people who love wolves.”

Wolf That Bit Thurston County Boy Relocated to Sanctuary

    • By Amelia Dickson / The Olympian
    • Jun 20, 2017

 

 A female wolf that bit off part of a 3-year-old Thurston County boy’s arm in April has been relocated to an out-of-state wildlife sanctuary, along with her pups and her Alaskan malamute mate.

The puppies were born in Thurston County Animal Services’ custody after the adult animals were seized following the attack, said Animal Services Director Ric Torgerson.

“Typically, in a lot of these situations, they end up euthanized,” Torgerson said. “It’s hard to find homes for them. They were lucky in this case.”

Torgerson said tests confirm that the female is 100 percent wolf, and the male is a malamute. That makes the puppies a wolf-dog hybrid.

“In this state, wolf hybrids are considered to be dogs, but they behave differently than dogs in many situations,” Torgerson said.

It’s not legal in Washington to privately own or breed wolves.

But the animals’ former owner, Rick Miracle, said the female, named Cheyenne, isn’t a full-blooded wolf. He calls her a “high-content wolf-dog,” and said that her wolf content is so high that the dog portion wouldn’t register on a test. He said that Cheyenne isn’t mean, she’s just extremely food-motivated.

“She’s not aggressive in a mean way,” Miracle said. “She just liked food.”

He believes that the boy was trying to feed Cheyenne a piece of pizza when he was attacked.

The malamute is named Ed, he said.

A Thurston County Sheriff’s Office report says deputies responded to Miracle’s home, located on the 7000 block of Meridian Road Southeast, at about 3:15 p.m. April 3. Multiple people had called 911 and reported that an animal had bitten off part of a child’s arm.

The boy was flown to Harborview Medical Center and survived his injuries. Information about the boy is limited because he is a minor. However, the Sheriff’s Office report requested that Child Protective Services be contacted regarding the incident.

“Entering the property, I could see that there was a large wooden cage with metal wiring just outside of the main entrance of the property, inside the fenced area,” wrote Deputy Evan Cofer in his report. “Inside the cage were two wolf/malamute breed dogs. At the entrance to the cage was a large amount of blood where one of the two animals has bitten (the child’s) lower right arm off. There was a blood trail from the cage leading into the house.”

Miracle told deputies he had been renting a room to the boy and his mother, a 31-year-old Thurston County woman. The woman reported that she was in her bedroom at the time of the attack, and she thought one of the other tenants was watching the child. The other tenant had been in her own bedroom, according to the report.

No adults witnessed the attack.

Miracle told deputies that he warned both the child and his mother to stay away from the cage, according to court documents.

Ed and Cheyenne, who was pregnant at the time of the attack, spent all of their time in a large enclosure on Miracle’s property. Their former owner said it wasn’t because they posed a risk to humans.

“It’s not that I think my dogs are dangerous,” Miracle said. “It’s that they’re animals. An animal is unpredictable no matter what.”

However, Miracle said he has a German shepherd that is allowed to roam his property.

Ed and Cheyenne aren’t the first of Miracle’s animals to end up at a sanctuary. Angel, Zoe and Lakota reside at Wolf Haven International, located near Tenino. State law allows wolves to reside at sanctuaries like Wolf Haven.

Wolf Haven’s website describes Lakota as a “male gray wolf who was privately owned in Washington state. After he escaped from his backyard enclosure and ran through a nearby town, Lakota was nearly euthanized.”

A blog post penned by Wolf Haven’s Communications Director Kim Young and Sanctuary Director Wendy Spencer explained that both Angel and Zoe were rescued from “deplorable conditions” earlier this year.

The post alleges that Angel was purchased by a local wolf-dog breeder, and that he decided to “get rid of her” after she went six years without producing offspring. Zoe was the runt of an unrelated half-wolf litter and was housed with her mother. The two animals fought for dominance, the post says.

Miracle said the animals were his, and he always took good care of them. He said he gave Angel, Zoe and Lakota to Wolf Haven “because they really wanted them.”

But why breed wolf-dogs? Miracle said he had one as a boy, and it was a wonderful animal. When he moved from Georgia to Washington state several years ago, breeding wolf-dogs seemed like the right fit.

“When I think of the Northwest, I think of living free and John Denver,” Miracle said. “My intention was never to be the guy who stuck out like a sore thumb and got all this attention.”

Wolves get comfortable with Mount Spokane

http://www.union-bulletin.com/things_to_do/diversions/wolves-get-comfortable-with-mount-spokane/article_25847b82-52a9-11e7-8a21-affedc2e06e8.html

  • Rich Landers Spokesman-Review
  • Jun 18, 2017

SPOKANE — For the second consecutive year, a Spokane man’s motion-activated trail camera has captured an image of what appears to be a gray wolf in Mount Spokane State Park. Wolves are protected by state rules as endangered species in Washington.

The photo gives more credence to sightings of wolves and wolf tracks that cross-country skiers have been reporting with more frequency for several years.

However, Washington wolf biologists have not confirmed the sightings as anything more than wolves passing through.

The most recent image was captured at 11:58 a.m. on March 30 by a trail cam. Hank Seipp said he just retrieved the images this week because he doesn’t ski and had to wait until mountain snow had melted. The camera was set up just outside of the downhill ski area, he said.

Seipp, who put out a trail cam that photographed a darker wolf last summer near the Nordic skiing trails, also snapped recent photos of tracks in the mud and scats that also appear to be from a wolf.

“We have not been able to confirm any pack activity at Mount Spokane despite the fact that we have been running cameras in that area for a couple of years now,” said Trent Roussin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist.

“We do occasionally get a photo of a disperser traveling through, but have yet to document multiple individuals traveling together or consistent use of the area, both of which are indicators of any potential pack activity.”

“A radio-collared wolf that came through Mount Spokane a few years ago was from the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.

Roussin said the department is interested in any information the public can offer about wolf activity that might lead to confirmation of a new pack.

Gray wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies with releases in Yellowstone and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996. However, wolves already were moving in on their own from Canada, most notably into Glacier National Park.

The wolves recolonizing Washington stem from wolves dispersing for more than a decade from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Canada.

The wolves are thriving, agency officials say, expanding on their population from a few scattered sightings approximately 13 years ago to 19 confirmed packs in Washington at the end of 2016.

Wolves are protected by federal endangered species protections in the western two-thirds of Washington. Wolves in the eastern third of Washington, as well as in Idaho and Montana, have been federally declassified.

However, wolves are protected statewide by Washington’s endangered species rules and managed by a citizen-drafted wolf management plan that establishes guidelines for their recovery and eventual declassification.

Once a threshold of packs is achieved in regions across the state, wolves would be open to more management options, much as they are in Idaho, including the possibility of limited hunting.

The bulk of Washington’s wolf packs currently are in the northeastern corner of the state.

Steve Christensen, Mount Spokane State Park manager, reacted to last year’s wolf photo by looking at the positive side: “Now there’s one more reason for people to keep their dogs on leash while in the park.”

Confirmation of wolves in the Mount Spokane area serves as another warning for people living outside the park to be more proactive and protective of their pets and domestic animals, state wildlife managers say. Information can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

“We have not had any confirmed wolf depredations around Mount Spokane, and really haven’t gotten many, if any, reports of any problems caused by wolves,” Roussin said.

“I think it is safe to say that wolves from both Washington and Idaho could occasionally be roaming in Mount Spokane State Park. We know that dispersers can disperse at any time of the year, and could really be anywhere.”

Washington Wildlife Officials Too Quick to Kill Wolves

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/wolf-06-02-2017.php

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials late Thursday released a new protocol that would allow wolves to be killed too soon after incidents with livestock and without enough oversight.

The new “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” guides when the agency will move to kill wolves in response to livestock depredations. Conservation groups are concerned that the protocol allows wolves to be killed under dubious circumstances and lacks sufficient requirements for ranchers to exhaust nonlethal measures.

“This protocol fails to protect the state’s small wolf population or prioritize scientifically proven nonlethal measures to safeguard livestock,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife officials should have left much more room for nonlethal measures and allowed for occasional livestock losses. Washington needs to protect its recovering wolf population — not make it easier to kill these amazing animals.”

Under the new protocol, a kill order for wolves is considered after three depredations (deaths or injury to livestock) in 30 days or four depredations in 10 months. Affected livestock owners are required to have tried at least two proactive measures to deter conflicts with wolves at the time the livestock losses took place, but there’s no requirement in terms of how long the measures must have been in place to determine if they have been effective.

This protocol would allow wolves to be killed even for livestock deaths not confirmed as caused by wolves; provides for the same threshold for killing wolves on public lands as on private lands; and does not have stringent requirements for keeping livestock away from known den and rendezvous sites where wolves raise their pups. There is also no requirement, only a recommendation, for human presence near livestock, despite it being one of the most effective means known to deter wolf-livestock conflicts.

The new protocol does increase the number of nonlethal measures required under last year’s protocol by one, and does indicate that if nonlethal measures are not in place long enough in advance of a depredation, the Department will only consider issuing a kill order for wolves at a higher number of events and after nonlethal measures have been tried and failed. The protocol also acknowledges the Department has a responsibility to manage wildlife in trust for the citizens of Washington, and not just on behalf of any one special-interest group. The Department has been increasing its outreach efforts to livestock owners, to seek voluntary implementation of conflict-deterrence measures.

“Sadly, this protocol is setting Washingtonians up to foot the bill for even more ill-advised, scientifically unjustified and extraordinarily costly wolf-killing operations in 2017 at the expense of wolf recovery,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Although certain provisions are an improvement over last year’s protocol, it is worse in others, and does not provide the stringent requirements that a legally binding rule resulting from an official public process provides, nor the accountability and public disclosure that the public deserves.”

Under last year’s protocol, the state killed nearly an entire wolf pack, the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County, despite failure by state Fish and Wildlife staff and a livestock owner to use appropriate nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures to prevent conflicts in the first place or to take adequate responsive measures to halt the conflicts. Four years earlier the state had killed another wolf pack on behalf of the same livestock owner, despite his refusal to use conflict deterrents. The cost to taxpayers was $74,500 to kill the Wedge pack in 2012, and more than $135,000 to kill members of the Profanity Peak wolf family in 2016.

The Profanity Peak pack kill operation lasted nearly 11 weeks and resulted in the deaths of seven of the pack’s 12 members, including the breeding female, a three-and-a-half to four-month-old pup and one female who was mortally wounded but not located and put out of her misery until three days after first having been shot. The public was outraged and called for a massive overhaul of the protocol, no more killing of wolves on public lands, and management actions aimed at conserving wolves instead of capitulating to the livestock industry.

This year’s protocol, and last year’s, were both crafted with input from a state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and some representatives of the ranching, hunting and conservation communities. However, the advisory group’s composition does not represent the diversity of views of Washington residents. Additionally, its role in helping the state craft wolf-management policies and protocols does not have the same requirements as regulations formally adopted by the state wildlife commission to provide notice to the public, opportunity to review a draft document and then submit written comments or provide testimony on the document, along with a requirement that public comments and testimony be considered before the protocol is finalized. The new protocol released today was not circulated to the public for review before being finalized.

Diamond pack wolf

Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Portland howls for the future of Oregon wolves (Guest opinion)

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/05/portland_howls_for_the_future.html

A wolf pack is pictured earlier this year on a remote camera in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
A wolf pack is pictured earlier this year on a remote camera in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.(Courtesy of ODFW)

By Quinn Read

Wolves were once abundant throughout Oregon, but by the 1940s they were wiped out by hunters, poisoning campaigns and bounties. Thanks to conservation efforts by a variety of local, state and federal agencies and organizations, wolves are making a comeback in Oregon. Yet a draft plan threatens to turn back the clock on wolf recovery by weakening protections and opening the door to hunting and trapping.

At a public hearing in Portland on May 19, Oregonians can weigh in on the draft Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which will guide how wolves are managed in the state for at least the next five years. Since wolves were removed from Oregon’s endangered species list a year ago, the wolf population appears to have stagnated. This year’s Oregon wolf count shows three fewer breeding pairs and one fewer pack in the state, though severe weather made surveying difficult. These numbers show we cannot take wolf recovery in Oregon for granted.

The draft Wolf Plan is heading in the wrong direction. It ignores the impacts of wolf poaching in the state and includes terms requested by hunting proponents as “a foot in the door” for a future general wolf hunting season. The draft would allow private hunters and trappers to carry out state-sanctioned killings of wolves to address so-called chronic livestock depredations. This means three or more livestock deaths caused by wolves within a year, but the new policy would also include a lower standard for determining whether livestock deaths were caused by wolves. Moreover, the state could issue permits to kill wolves if there are declines in elk and deer populations, even when wolves are not the primary reason for these declines. This is a clear departure from what the majority of Oregonians want for wolves in our state.

The draft Wolf Plan does have some promising components, including expanded descriptions of non-lethal tools such as livestock-guarding dogs and fencing to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts, detailed direction to reinitiate state protections when wolf populations decline, and the formation of a citizen advisory group to foster ongoing communication and collaboration among stakeholders.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission should reject proposals that make it easier for the public to kill wolves, and should instead focus on new data, scientific research and lessons learned in Oregon. Oregon is a national leader in wolf recovery and has documented fewer wolf-livestock conflicts than any other wolf-occupied state in the nation. The updated Wolf Plan should reflect our conservation leadership and strengthen – not weaken – requirements for the use of non-lethal coexistence tools. Oregonians have a unique opportunity to speak out on behalf of wolves. Let’s not slide backwards towards a culture that favors killing wolves over protecting them.

Quinn Read is a northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife.