Latah County hunter shot with .50-caliber muzzleloader

Hunting Accident:

http://dnews.com/latah-county-hunter-shot-with–caliber-muzzleloader/article_12ffbcc4-d9f4-11e7-bff0-4790a4f4f844.html

A 60-year-old Moscow man was shot in the buttocks by a .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle while hunting near the 1300 block of Mica Mountain Road near Deary Monday morning.

Latah County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the accident about 9 a.m. and determined that the man’s hunting partner, a 72-year-old Potlatch man, believed he had been firing at an elk when he accidentally shot his friend.

The man was transported to Gritman Medical Center by the Deary ambulance and was in stable condition Tuesday.

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Suspects in massive Wash. poaching investigation plead not guilty

File photo

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CENTRALIA, Wash. (AP) – Two of the three newest suspects in a massive poaching investigation out of southwest Washington have pleaded not guilty.

The Chronicle reports Aaron Hendricks, his father-in-law David McLeskey of Woodland and Aaron Hanson are facing charges of first-degree animal cruelty, unlawful hunting of black bear, cougar, bobcat or lynx with dogs and second-degree unlawful hunting of animals.

Hendricks and McLeskey have pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Hanson is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

According to court documents, officials uncovered a network of poachers after investigating William Haynes and Erik Martin who are suspected of engaging in illegal hunting activities.

Law enforcement identified Hanson, Hendricks and McLeskey as suspects and co-conspirators in the illegal activities from cellphone evidence.

Loophole allows illegal bear hunt involving dogs every year

 http://www.king5.com/tech/science/environment/loophole-allows-illegal-bear-hunt-involving-dogs-every-year/441848427

A bear hunt is going on, even though voters outlawed the hunting practice two decades ago.

A hunting practice banned by Washington voters two decades ago continues to this day. Hound hunters are used to protect stands of commercial timber from the destructive habits of black bears. But a year-long KING 5 investigation shows the bears, killed for tree damage, may not be causing any problems whatsoever.

Hunting bears with dogs, outlawed in 1996 by the voter-approved Initiative 655, happens every spring in Washington. Animal rights advocates who backed I-655 decried the practice as cruel and unsportsmanlike. Hounds chase bears over long distances, exhausting them and allowing hunters to zero in for a final kill. Dogs are then rewarded by chewing on the bear. Bears are typically already dead or near dying.

Hunting bears with dogs is perfectly legal under an exception built into I-655. The provision in the law allows hound hunting to continue for the protection of property, but critics and experts say the legal loophole is being abused by the state and timber farmers against the letter and spirit of the law.

The official codification of I-655 – RCW 77.15.245 – includes the following allowance: “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit the killing of black bear, cougar, bobcat, or lynx with the aid of a dog or dogs by employees or agents of county, state, or federal agencies while acting in their official capacities for the purpose of protecting livestock, domestic animals, private property, or the public safety. A dog or dogs may be used by the owner or tenant of real property consistent with a permit issued and conditioned by the director.”

The controversy centers on an interpretation of what it means to to protect private property. It’s pitting the Washington Department of Wildlife against its own staff and the backers of I-655.

“I think it’s disgusting and it’s frankly quite surprising to me that the Department of Fish and Wildlife would be so open violating a state initiative that the people of this state resoundingly approved,” said Lisa Wathne, who spearheaded the I-655 campaign 20 years ago while working for PAWS. Today, she is the Captive Wildlife Specialist for The Humane Society. Her group’s efforts to ban recreational hound hunting in Washington won with 63 percent of the vote.

Wathne was comfortable with the loophole in I-655 that allowed hound hunting to protect property by removing problem animals.

“They were to be very specific and for specific animals, not for a wholesale thinning of a population by any means,” she said.

In the case of bears, the allowance is used every spring on timber farms. Bears are hungry when they come out of hibernation, and trees offer a quick, high-calorie snack thanks to syrup underneath the bark. When the bears peel the bark, though, they can damage or even kill trees. Trees between the age of 12 and 25 years old are the most vulnerable. The Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA) blames bears for millions of dollars in damage every year.

Timber farmers argue they need to protect their trees from bears that are damaging their product. But KING 5 found the springtime bear hunts on timber farms are not focused on targeting problem bears. Hundreds of internal staff emails and documents obtained by KING 5 show that the program centers on reducing the overall number of bears in vulnerable tree stands, not – as state law requires – removing specific bears known to be damaging trees.

A man who has hunted for the Bear Timber Depredation Management Program (BTDM) for decades said the program is being abused, at the expense of non-offending bears. He describes a system that has evolved into an elite hunting club rather than a damage-control program. It didn’t start that way, he says. He’s noticed a trend that’s taken the program away from its original intent.

“The idea was to take the problem bear and there was no pressure on you to get out there and kill as much as they are now,” the man said. He asked us not to disclose his identity for fear of retaliation against his family and his dogs.

For decades the man has used his dogs to hunt bears, helping kill hundreds of them. But he said he’s concerned that both large industrial timber foresters and small forest landowners are no longer concerned with targeting problem bears. They just want to kill bears, he says, and WDFW enables it while clouding the hunts in secrecy.

In recent years, declared kills on timber farms have resulted in the reported death of about 100 bears. Other years, the number of bears removed has hovered around 200. But a year-long KING 5 investigation concludes those official tallies could be considerably inaccurate, as the bear hunts on private lands have historically occurred with little oversight. Even the state’s wildlife enforcement officers say the system is so broken that there’s little they can do to enforce hunting rules.

This hunter says he’s never once crossed paths with wildlife police while hunting bears on timber land.

“The old saying is, if you don’t see it, you don’t have to think about it,” he said. “It’s just like, OK, it’s all-out war guys.”

When foresters find one damaged tree, WDFW grants a permit to kill two bears. Permits are also granted on what’s called “historical damage” from the previous year. That means a forester can get a renewed permit to kill bears the year after they find fresh damage. They do not have to prove bears are causing any new issues. It doesn’t matter if several bears were already killed for the damage in the year prior.

Stacks of emails KING 5 obtained through public disclosure show state employees are also alarmed about the program. In a late 2016 internal email, a WDFW biologist wrote about timber giant Weyerhaeuser, “They are viewing the bear damage program as a means to suppress the overall bear population and therefore, reduce damage. I get why, as a timber company, they would want to do that but that is not the way this program was designed.”

In another 2016 staff report, a wildlife specialist argues Weyerhaeuser is creating a large hunting area. Several complaints KING 5 uncovered show that timber companies stack permits beside each other to maximize land areas for the hunt. The wildlife specialist who wrote the report says it goes against the program’s intent “to avoid killing more bears than necessary.”

A WDFW biologist wrote in one email dated November 7, 2016: “It seems like the system in place is just being manipulated by those who want to be able to run their dogs and to some extent by timber owners/individual foresters who are facilitating it…it seems like they don’t even want the bears, just the chance to pursue them.”

Another WDFW biologist wrote in a 2014 email, “Only one-quarter of bears killed have bark in their stomach.” An additional 2016 internal report to WDFW management says the system is “purposely being abused,” but staff are discouraged from revoking privileges.

The hunter we interviewed believes the program has turned into a secret fraternity where power and politics provide an exclusive bear hunting season – the only one left in Washington for hunters who want to use dogs. Timber farms benefit by reducing the potential for damaged trees, he says, while hunters get to run their hounds. They’re chosen by the timber companies and approved by Georg Ziegltrum, the longtime head of WFPA’s Animal Damage Control Program.

“If given opportunity they all girdle trees and they all are ‘problem’ bears in damage areas,” Ziegltrum said.

For Ziegltrum, every bear has the potential to peel.

“Intraspecific stress (too many bears in one given area) may have more to do with timber damage than one ‘guilty’ ingenious bark peeler,” he said. “I-655 is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. The WDFW understands our problem and is closely and effectively working with our industry. Regulations for bear removal are plentiful and heavy. All damage is witnessed and approved by WDFW. I have a 100 percent compliance record with the agency for years and I’m proud of it.”

KING 5 learned that foresters often tell hunters not to discuss the hunt, for fear of public outrage.

“Some of the foresters want you to kill, kill, kill – no matter what. Even the foresters have kind of a game between ‘em to who gets the trophy every year for the most bear killed,” the hunter said. “Just like one forester said, ‘All I want to know is about the first bear and the last bear. In between, I don’t care.’”

Internal WDFW emails and reports reveal that kill permits are given to timber farms before wildlife specialists verify damage. A program administrator wrote in a 2014 email, “Timber companies have put pressure on the program to issue first, then verify.” Another staffer wrote in 2015, “Often times the permit has been filled before the Conflict Specialist has gone out to the site to even verify.” In another 2015 email, a wildlife specialist said, “I have not been able to verify the preliminary damage prior to them taking two bear.”

Sources told KING 5 that procedures like this, aimed at speeding up the permitting process, are unique to the bear damage program even though elk damage, for instance, is far more common statewide. Reports also show that, sometimes, staff arrive to alleged damage sites only to find “no significant damage at all.” But it’s too late, as bears authorized for kill might already be dead.

One state biologist wrote in a 2016 email, “This is not the way this program was designed.”

WHY BEARS ARE TARGETED

For Ken Miller, the damage is anything but insignificant.

“Brown spots all over the hillside and those were dead trees,” he said while pointing toward a ridgeline in Oakville, southwest of Olympia.

Miller is a small forest landowner, which means he farms far less land than an industrial company like Weyerhaeuser. His tree farm borders the Capitol State Forest near Olympia, which is prime bear habitat. He took us on a long and bumpy drive to see his trees, though land he says foresters protect from development. He thinks his profession is often the object of unfair negativity, criticized for killing trees and sometimes the wildlife that hurts profit. He argues, more often than not, bears benefit from tree farming.

“It really is cool to be a tree farm,” he said. “We’re doing great stuff for the environment.”

Miller and his wife saw their farm as an investment in their retirement or grandchildren’s education. The couple and their son planted 18,000 trees by hand in three months. They each planted 500 a day.

“I made bags we wore around our waist,” said Ken’s wife, Bonnie. “We were really proud of ourselves. We had some nice trees. Then all of a sudden, we found something.”

What they found alarmed them – dozens of trees damaged by bears.

“I was desperate, in a panic, because our financial wherewithal for our retirement years was on the line,” Ken said. “That’s big money. That’s like someone stealing money out of your 401(k).”

Ken admitted that he was so desperate that he asked a hunter to kill bears in secret. He says that was 15 years ago, and he hasn’t broken any rules since.

“Maybe I’m not totally proud of it, but I would do it again if I was in that same situation and that was the only option I had to protect my property,” Ken said.

He said there are too many bears for available habitat, and he believes he is drowning in a permitting process that prevents him from killing bears fast enough to protect his trees. For Miller, small forest landowners suffer unduly from bear damage and need more help from the state, given that a few damaged trees represent a much greater percentage of lost investment compared to industrial farms.

If the program is about population control as critics argue it is, he says, WDFW is failing.

If there were fewer bears, and the state eased the path toward removing them, Miller believes he would have fewer problems.

Ninety-percent of the damage is typically reported in Regions 5 and 6, which includes Pierce, Cowlitz, Lewis, Wahkiakum and Clark Counties. The bear harvest during timber hunts tends to be about 35 percent of the bears harvested in those regions during the general season. WDFW does not include the timber hunt harvests in the information shared with the public on its website.

“I think we under harvest bears, probably, in this state as a whole,” said WDFW Game Division Manger Anis Aoude.

In an interview that lasted two hours, KING 5 asked Aoude and his WDFW colleague, Stephanie Simek, about the Bear Timber Depredation Management Program. A couple years ago, the program’s oversight was handed from Enforcement to the Wildlife Program. Aoude and Simek created a subcommittee comprised of biologists, conflict specialists, enforcement officers, and foresters in order to forge new paths toward better management.

It was the moment when many staffers hoped chronic abuses of the program would finally see change, internal sources told KING 5. Today, that hope has turned into increased frustration. As one employee wrote in a November 2016 email, “Wow, I am blown away that the same issues keep occurring over and over with absolutely no consequences. It seems absolutely crazy that we have taken the time to careful (sic) develop all of these rules and they aren’t being followed.”

“We’re trying to find a way where folks can still grow timber and harvest it and bears can still be on the landscape,” Aoude said. “We hear the criticism. We take it to heart. We are working to improve things.”

For Aoude, any bear that lives near vulnerable trees is a potential problem.

“You’re never going to know what bears are peeling and what bears are not,” he said.

He pointed to efforts at tightening restrictions like reducing the hunt zone from a 5-mile radius to a 3-mile radius. That way, he and Simek said, hunters don’t kill bears far away from damage.

In an email Simek sent on April 15, 2015, she told several foresters, “Remember that the presence of a bear on your property does not mean it has or will cause any damage.”

And yet, Simek and Aoude support allowing hunters to use hounds for killing bears before damage ever occurs. When trees are between 15 and 30 years old, they are most susceptible to bear peeling. Aoude says it makes for efficient property protection to reduce the number of bears in timber stands of that age class.

“Once the damage has occurred, you’re almost too late,” he said. “So if you had damage the year before, you can almost guarantee you’ll have damage the year after. Because not only are those trees peeled and could be peeled further, there are trees next to them that are the same age.”

The hound hunting ban allowed bear populations to grow problematically and hurt the state’s ability to manage the carnivores, Aoude said.

“It’s unfortunate that the tool was removed by legislation, because it is one of the most effective ways to pursue and harvest bears,” he said.

Aoude defended the practice of killing two bears per permit as well, even if no fresh damage was found, by calling it an efficient way to give good customer service.

“And at this point, bears are doing fine in the state. Their populations are doing just fine and there’s really no need for us to be concerned with individual woodlots,” he said.

As for allegations the system is abused by foresters, Simek says, it’s an unfair characterization.

“I think it’s an overgeneralization. People say what they want to say and what they want to believe,” Simek said.

Still, people like Wathne and others are concerned WDFW’s approach violates the law. That’s because they believe the spirit of I-655 only allowed for hound hunting when animals are actively causing damage. They believe voters wanted to ban the practice for population control, and allow for it only when an animal proves it’s a problem.

About 40 hunters participate in the program annually, but the vast majority of bears are taken by a few dozen. By comparison in the same regions, the recreational bear season sees about 3,500 hunters buying licenses to harvest bears later in the year. Their success rate is far lower than the hound hunters.

If someone wants to know how many bears are killed on tree farms, though, it’s not so easy to find. WDFW does not include the data on its website with other bears harvested in general seasons.

That’s why KING 5 filed a request for the number of bears killed each year since 2004. Our research shows, in some years, the state’s authorized the killing of as many as 334 bears for timber damage alone. That was in 2011. It was the highest number of permits granted in the records we obtained. The total amount of bears harvested on the 2011 permits was 182, with 66 females and 116 males killed. The lowest year for permits written was 2016, with 162 bears authorized for removal. Of the total allowed, 86 were reported killed; 27 were females and 59 were males.

Without exception, male bears are killed far more often than females. Typically, hunters kill nearly double the amount of male bears as female bears. For WDFW bear expert, Rich Beausoleil, that’s concerning since data shows the offending bears are more often hungry females, many with new cubs. Male bears, however, may be targeted for their size.

“What we’re finding from the removal statistics that are coming in is that males are being targeted. Females are dying too, but more males than females. That makes us wonder, are we targeting the right bear?” he said.

Beausoleil said the state has used hunter data to estimate the bear population until recently. Hunters are supposed to turn in a tooth from the bear for research, but they only do that 20 percent of the time. That’s why Beausoleil’s recent research project is showing that the long-held belief Washington has 35,000 bears is wrong. He estimates the number is much closer to 20,000. The average bear has an annual survival rate of about 80-90 percent, but on timber farms, that number drops to 60 percent.

Though the number of bears killed for causing timber damage typically totals only 10 percent of the bears killed every year statewide, Beausoleil says the number is much higher when considered from a more localized perspective.

“We could see harvest rates at 40 percent, and that’s higher than we’d like to see. That can cause a population decline, if that’s not what we want to do as an agency,” he said. “So, it’s really important not to look at it on a washed-out statewide view or even on a regional view, but to zoom and see what’s going on, because this could be your backyard, and you might have an interest in knowing the bears are OK where you live.”

Timber farms are invaluable assets for protecting wildlife in the state, Beausoleil says. That’s why he hopes collaboration with foresters and better program management will provide opportunity for change.

“These lands that private timber provide, provide habitat in a big way. There’s a lot of land out there that’s helping wildlife,” he said.

KING 5 told former state legislator Hans Dunshee about its investigation of the bear depredation program. Dunshee, a Democrat from Snohomish, served as the 44th District state representative for two decades and was a fierce supporter of I-655 and opposed several attempts to repeal it.

“You’re not authorized by the will of the people to just exterminate all bears in an area, because they might be a problem,” he said. “This program violates the initiative because it focuses on population. It assumes population is a problem not a problem animal.”

Dunshee believes the state’s abusing its power and violating voter trust, all while setting a bad example.

“We’re all supposed to follow the law. If government doesn’t follow the law, then citizens say, ‘We don’t have to,’” he said. “The department is destroying the trust of everybody, and it’s creating lawlessness.”

And that’s exactly what we found WDFW staff are concerned about, as well.

“I’ve had more than one officer tell me, ‘I’m not going to work these anymore,’” said retired WDFW Captain Murray Schlenker.

Schlenker retired from WDFW police last year. He calls the rules confusing and inconsistent.

“You can go out and knock yourself out as a law enforcement officer, but cases aren’t going to get anywhere,” he said.

Our investigation found hunters caught breaking the rules aren’t held accountable. They’re almost always allowed to keep on hunting. In a 2014 case involving one of the program’s most prolific hunters, an enforcement officer recommended the state ban an offending hunter from killing bears on timber farms.

Here’s what happened: Hunters get one yellow tag per bear they’re allowed to kill. That tag is supposed to be immediately clipped onto the bear’s ear so that it cannot be reused, a policy aimed at preventing hunters from taking more bears than allowed. This particular hunter was located nearly four miles from the kill site, the bear gutted and packed in a box used to transport dogs. But the hunter had the tags in his pocket.

Though the officer who filed the case told management the hunter should not be allowed to hunt on timber permits any longer, WDFW management did nothing. That hunter continues to be one of the most active in the program

KING 5 obtained an email written by the enforcement officer at the time. He complained, “My frustration level is at an extreme,” because hunters “pick and choose” what rules to follow.

“That level of frustration is there for them and they don’t want to try good faith, conscientious effort and have it thrown back at them. That’s very demoralizing from an employee standpoint,” Schelnker said.

“It’s becoming harder to get good people out there, but we still have the good people: the good hound hunters, the ethical hound hunters, the people who play by the rules. We still have them working for us,” Ziegltrum said.

Ziegltrum, director of WFPA’s Animal Damage Control Program, is the one who gives final approval or denial of all hunters allowed on the BTDM permits. Aoude said that if hunters are legally allowed to harvest bears in Washington, WDFW has no power to deny their participation in the program. Ziegltrum does that.

“There is a very strong incentive for these people to stay in line,” he said. “They recognize we are the only game in town.”

As for the hunter caught with tags in his pockets, Ziegltrum says it was an honest mistake.

“This guy is still hunting, because we explained the situation to the state agency, and this young gentleman did not get himself into trouble,” he said.

Last year, WDFW Wildlife Program Manager Sandra Jonker wrote a letter of commendation to honor a hound hunter for exceptional efforts. “In particular I want to thank you and your hunting party for your help over the years…for ethically responsible hunting behavior,” she wrote.

It belongs to the same hunter who said the timber hunts are so mismanaged that ethical hunters are being forced out, leaving behind those willing to bend the rules.

“And, the way the foresters think, is that they will have to do it our way because we’re the biggest employers in the state,” he said.

He’s not against hound hunting. He thinks dogs, with their keen sense of smell, are the best way to target problem bears. But dogs only do what their handler wants, and he says too often, foresters and hunters just want blood.

“These guys don’t have no respect for wildlife. The more they get, they think the better hunter they are,” he said.

Dunshee believes WDFW’s management of the BTDM program could set the agency back in its efforts to unite culturally and politically disparate groups in Washington, often divided over wildlife.

“I think it destroys the trust in the agency. The agency is doing good things on wolves and cougars. I think this destroys the good will that’s been built between rural communities and animal welfare advocates,” Dunshee said. “I think the legislature should do an investigation. The evidence you have should be laid out for the public to see. I think it ought to be dealt with and if there are people in the upper management who have been burying this story, I think they ought to be held accountable.”

For Wathne, it’s criminal. She believes WDFW has turned a problem bear into a hunting season. She calls that poaching.

“And the department is enabling it. They are putting their stamp of approval on it apparently. You bet it’s poaching. It’s a violation of the law,” she said. “The initiative itself is very clear. So, perhaps it’s time to go to the Governor.”

In a staff report filed by a WDFW animal conflict specialist concern is voiced over the long-term effects of the timber farm hunts. In some Game Management Units, between a quarter and a third of the bears are killed because of tree damage. The report said, “During a conference call it was brought up that conflict staff in Region 5 does not support killing 2 bears per permit because we do not know the population effects. That statement was countered with the argument that if we don’t know the populations (sic) effects then why not allows (sic) two bears per permit? Is this consistent with this agency’s mission?”

In other documents KING 5 obtained, employees expressed concern that the bear hunts on timber farms reduce the available bears for harvest during recreational seasons, when hunters are paying for licenses that support the budget of WDFW.

“I think that as an agency we should be concerned with the fact that in the south Cascades in 2015 we had a recreational bear harvest of 99, but in 2016 we had a depredation harvest of 37. That is 27 percent of the recreational harvest, and we are talking about 3,600 recreational bear hunters versus a handful of hound hunters. The success rate for recreational hunters was 2.7 percent. I can’t help but wonder if taking these bears through the depredation hunt it isn’t taking away an opportunity from thousands of other recreational hunters who are purchasing a bear tag,” a WDFW biologist wrote in 2016.

Another staffer wrote in the same thread, “the system in place is just being manipulated.”

“We are not providing people with recreational opportunity,” Ziegltrum said.

Wathne met with Ziegltrum in the 1990s to discuss I-655. She met with many stakeholders as they molded the allowance for hound hunting to reduce tree damage. She believes the intention of the law was clear, not just for her but for WDFW and the timber industry. There should be no misunderstanding, she says, the loophole was never meant to cull bear populations.

“And what does it say to the people of Washington state?” Wathne said. “The Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t give a damn about what you voted for or about the bears of this state.”

Since KING 5 initially broadcast the investigation, Conservation Northwest has made a public appeal to WDFW for transparency on the issue, voicing concern that the use of the hunts violate I-655.

CLARIFICATION: The original script said hunters do not have to buy a bear license like recreational hunters to participate. We’ve since learned they do have to buy a bear tag but they do not use it for this hunt.

Watch the TV version of this story with closed captioning: Part 1 | Part 2

Wolf advocates outraged over plan to kill E. Wash. wolf pack

Gray wolf (File photo)

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Some wolf advocates are outraged that the state is preparing for the second time to exterminate an entire wolf pack for preying on livestock in northeastern Washington state.

This is the second time in four years that a pack of endangered wolves has received the death penalty because of the grazing of privately owned cattle on publicly owned lands, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

Washington is home to about 90 wolves, and killing the 11 members of the Profanity Peak pack would amount to 12 percent of the population.

“By no stretch of the imagination can killing 12 percent of the state’s tiny population of 90 wolves be consistent with recovery,” said Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, on Thursday.

“We can’t keep placing wolves in harm’s way by repeatedly dumping livestock onto public lands with indefensible terrain, then killing the wolves when conflicts arise,” she said.

Last week, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it would exterminate the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County. Since mid-July, the agency has confirmed that wolves have killed or injured six cattle and probably five others, based on staff investigations.

Jim Unsworth, director of the agency, authorized the wolf hunts between the towns of Republic and Kettle Falls.

Wildlife officials shot two pack members Aug. 5, but temporarily ended wolf-removal efforts after two weeks passed without finding any more evidence of wolf predation on cattle.

“At that time, we said we would restart this operation if there was another wolf attack, and now we have three,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”

Since 2008, the state’s wolf population has grown from two wolves in one pack to at least 90 wolves and 19 packs.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington at the beginning of the last century. Since the early 2000s, they’ve moved back into the state from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia.

That has set off alarm bells from people in rural areas, especially in northeastern Washington where the animals are concentrated.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has walked a fine line between environmental groups, who support wolf recovery, and ranchers who want to protect their herds. The issue has become a dividing line between urban and rural residents.

In 2012, hunters hired by the state killed members of the Wedge pack of wolves, in the same general area, for killing livestock.

Conservation groups say the livestock is the problem, not wolves.

“Cows grazing in thick forest and downed trees in the Colville National Forest are in an indefensible situation,” said Tim Coleman, executive director for Kettle Range Conservation Group. “We believe the wildest areas of our national forests should be a place where wolves can roam free.”

Under Washington’s wolf plan, livestock owners are eligible for taxpayer-funded compensation for losses. Taxpayers have also funded the radio collars placed on wolves.

Those collars are now being used to locate and kill the wolves. This practice is referred to as the use of “Judas wolves,” because the collared wolves unknowingly betray the location of their family members, Weiss said.

Some conservation groups do not oppose the hunt. Wolf Haven International, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and Conservation Northwest said they are focused on long-term goals.

“We remain steadfast that our important goals remain the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves in our state alongside thriving rural communities,” the groups said in a press release. “We believe that ultimately we can create conditions where everyone’s values are respected and the needs of wildlife, wildlife advocates, and rural communities are met.”

WA Gov. Blames Climate Change for Wildfires

A major fire in the forests at Ahirikot in Srinagar, Uttarakhand state, India, Monday, May 2, 2016. Massive wildfires that have killed at least seven people in recent weeks were burning through pine forests in the mountains of northern India on Monday, including parts of two tiger reserves.(Press Trust of India via AP) INDIA OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO ARCHIVE

Inslee declares state of emergency, blames climate change as E. Wash. wildfires rage

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Several wildfires continued to burn in Eastern Washington Tuesday and Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for 20 counties.

Firefighters appeared to be gaining the upper hand against wildfires burning in the Spokane region, although heavy smoke blanketed the state’s second-largest city.

Inslee visited a fire command center on the Spokane County Fairgrounds on Tuesday morning, and blamed tree diseases and rising temperatures caused by climate change for the state’s recent spate of record wildfire seasons.

Inslee says diseased trees and climate change have created “explosive conditions” in forests.

“Our forests and wild lands are under attack from climate change,” Inslee said.

More: http://komonews.com/news/local/eastern-wash-wildfires-keep-growing-gov-inslee-heads-to-area

Death Toll Update

PETITION UPDATE

Peace for Geese Project

AUG 16, 2016 — Wildlife Services killed 578 geese in King County and 287 on Lake Washington in 2015. Shooting has become their preferred method of killing, but they also conducted two round-ups on Lake Washington where they gassed to death geese and their goslings. The numbers for 2016 will not be available until next year.

In a report to members of the Interlocal Agreement, Wildlife Services stated that they hazed and harassed 3,892 geese in King County. The techniques used included “working dogs, boats, paintballs, and firearms.”

In a decreasing trend, egg addling dropped to just 292 eggs. Clearly, egg addling is not a priority. It is obviously much easier to shoot geese or round them up and gas them instead of addling eggs to prevent their development.

Exact details concerning Wildlife Services killing in the Puget Sound area and Washington State Parks continues to be either non-existent or sketchy at best.

The report also stated “2015 represented the 29th year of Urban Waterfowl Management efforts in the greater Seattle area.” In a vicious cycle of killing, year after year, geese continue to be killed in our parks. And of course, few if any members of the Interlocal Agreement will take any responsibility for the killing. They seem to think that they are not responsible for the killing even though they have all collectively paid for it under the agreement.

Members of the 2015 agreement included: Washington State Parks, Seattle, Bellevue, Kent, Kirkland, Mountlake Terrace, Renton, SeaTac, Woodinville, Port of Seattle – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Tacoma MetroParks, Tukwila, and the University of Washington.

Data released by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that Wildlife Services destroyed over 2.7 million animals in 2014. It is time to stop the war on wildlife!

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Shooters reduce Profanity Peak Pack by two wolves, so far

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2016/aug/11/shooters-reduc-profanity-peak-pack-two-wolves-so-far/

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two gray wolves in Ferry County have been killed by helicopter gunners after the Profanity Peak Pack was linked to killing livestock, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

Staff has been in the field every day since Aug. 4 after agency Director Jim Unsworth authorized killing a portion of the pack as a last resort after failed attempts to deter the attacks.  More wolves in the pack of about 11 animals are being targeted.

Gray wolves are protected by Washington state endangered species rules but allowances are made for removing wolves that can’t be thwarted from attacking livestock.

Two adult female wolves were shot on Friday, Aug. 5, said Donny Martorello, department wolf program manager.

“One of the wolves was this year’s breeding female,” he said.  “We were not targeting the breeding pair in this pack, but there is no way to identify the breeding animals during a removal operation, so there is always a chance a breeding animal may be killed.

“Given the age of the pups, we know that they are weaned, so the removal of the breeding female is not likely to impact their survival.  Typically, at this time of year, all of the remaining adults will provide food for the pups.”

The agency has not disclosed how many wolves will be killed.

As lethal removal efforts continue, the Diamond M Ranch livestock producers are continuing efforts to prevent wolf attacks on their cattle by using range riders to monitor activity around the herds, Martorello said.

No wolf depredation reports have been received since the lethal removal operation began, he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Department is posting updates on the effort on its Profanity Peak Pack webpage.

This is the third time the state agency has approved lethal removal operations since wolves were confirmed making a comeback in the state more than a decade ago.


Killing of Coyotes in Laurelhurst‏

http://unionbaywatch.blogspot.com/2016/07/coyote-challenge.html

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Coyote Challenge

To my readers,

I was extremely disappointed to learn that three coyotes were killed last week, near Union Bay, in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle. Historically, humanity’s fear and ignorance of wild creatures has often led to killing and extermination. My fear is, if we do not learn to coexist with wild creatures then future generations will live in a dismal world of crows, concrete and mechanical contraptions. 
 
My personal goal is to promote harmony between nature and humanity, specifically around Union Bay which includes the Laurelhurst area. My blog about nature-in-the-city is called, Union Bay Watch. I believe that if we pay attention to wildlife, and treat wild creatures intelligently, we can find ways to coexist. 
 
A few weeks ago, I met one of the adult coyotes on the trail in the Union Bay Natural Area. Given the time of the year and because the coyote was out and about at mid-day, I suspect it was looking for food for its young. The coyote turned and fled into the brush as I approached. A perfectly acceptable response from a truly wild creature.
 
Because of my blog and my local interactions, I have talked with many different people who have seen the coyotes. No one who I spoke with mentioned any aggressive behavior. I truly believe the majority of the local people have been excited and happy to have coyotes as neighbors. I hope we can all agree that killing wild creatures should be a last resort.
 
The information I have read and the reaction from the neighbors causes me to seriously question whether extermination was warranted. The only justification I can find for the killing is, as reported on King5 NewsWildlife services received a request to assist in the management of several coyotes near the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Seattle. The coyotes had become increasingly aggressive towards people and pets in the area.
 
This statement leaves a lot to the imagination. I admit I do not know the details. I can however make a couple of logical assumptions given the information provided.
 
a) Since no injuries to humans were reported, I suspect the coyotes did not injure anyone.
 
b) Since no injuries to pets were noted, I suspect the coyotes did not injure any pets, either.
 
If the coyotes did not injure any humans or their pets then I wonder, What exactly did they do? What does “increasingly aggressive” really mean? 
 
Does it mean that in the Spring, with young to feed, the coyotes were being seen more often during the day, because their normal nocturnal hunting was not sufficient? Does it mean that the coyotes chased someone’s cat up a tree? Does it mean that they growled at an off-leash dog that came near their den? Does it mean that the coyotes came into to someone’s yard because the owner left pet food or open garbage outside? All of these fictional examples could be resolved with human education. It makes me wonder if the actual situation could have also been resolved with community guidance and instruction.
 
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides an extensive online resource entitled, Living with Wildlife. The highlighted link goes directly to the specific portion of the site related to coyotes. The site lists many non-lethal options.
 
Our Canadian friends propose a simple three-step process for learning to deal with coyotes. The Stanley Park Ecological Society says, “1) Be Big, Brave and Loud. 2) Never Feed. 3) Spread the Word.” They have additional links and information on their site, Co-existing with Coyotes. Please note that they even have an educational program for K-7 students. If our northern neighbors can teach their kindergarten students how to safely encounter coyotes I suspect we should be able to do the same. 
 
Was education given a fair chance? I have read nothing which implies that the folks in Laurelhurst were provided instruction on how to co-exist with coyotes. The next time your organization is contacted to resolved an issue with coyotes, I sincerely hope you will ensure that the community as a whole gets to participate in the process and that the educational alternatives are fully exhausted.
 
Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this issue.
 
Larry Hubbell
www.UnionBayWatch.blogspot.com

Update to Readers:

Does anyone happen to have a photo of the coyotes they would be willing to share?

Thank you to Doug Parrott for sharing his coyote photo taken on June 26th at the Union Bay Natural Area.

More Updates:

From the folks at The Laurelhurst Blog.

Here is the post the Laurelhurst Blog did on Friday about the killings:

Thousands of cormorants abandon their nests

By Cassandra Profita

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Published on May 20, 2016 11:33AM

Last changed on May 23, 2016 10:03AM

A month-old double-crested cormorant at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.

Joshua Bessex/The Daily Astorian

A month-old double-crested cormorant at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.

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A double-crested cormorant rests atop of nest of eggs in the colony on East Sand Island.

The Daily Astorian/File Photo

A double-crested cormorant rests atop of nest of eggs in the colony on East Sand Island.

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Officials say thousands of cormorants abandoned their nests on East Sand Island in the Columbia River and they don’t know why. Reports indicate as many as 16,000 adult birds in the colony left their eggs behind to be eaten by predators including eagles, seagulls and crows.

The birds’ mysterious departure comes after the latest wave of government-sanctioned cormorant shooting. It’s part of a campaign to reduce the population of birds that are eating imperiled Columbia River salmon.

Amy Echols, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the contractors who monitor the birds for the Corps reported May 16 that the East Sand Island colony had been significantly disturbed.

“The disturbance resulted in nest abandonment and the loss of all the cormorants’ eggs by avian predators like seagulls, eagles and crows,” she said. “We don’t know yet what the cause of the disturbance was.”

Officials didn’t see any evidence of a coyote or any other four-legged predator, but they did see 16 bald eagles on the island.

“Bald eagles are known to significantly startle and disperse nesting colonies,” Echols said. “We don’t know if that magnitude of bald eagles could have done this.”
Eagles may not be responsible
Bald eagles have been blamed for decimating Caspian tern and cormorant colonies on the island in the past. But Dan Roby, a researcher with Oregon State University who has studied the tern and cormorant colonies for decades, said he doesn’t think eagles could have flushed so many cormorants off their nests.

“I’m pretty confident that’s not what caused the cormorants to abandon the colony,” he said. “We’ve seen that number of eagles out there before. We’ve seen them killing cormorants on their nests, and it doesn’t cause that kind of abandonment.”

Roby said researchers on his team did an aerial survey of the island on Tuesday and saw a large group of cormorants on another part of the island. But the nesting area was completely abandoned.

“There were absolutely no cormorants anywhere in the colony,” he said. “It’s a real mystery for us. It actually amazes me that any kind of disturbance — even people going on the island if that’s what happened — could cause all the birds to leave their nests with eggs and then gather on the shoreline as if they were afraid to go back to their nests. It’s certainly unprecedented in all the years we were out there working on that cormorant colony.”
Biologists investigating
Echols said about 4,000 birds have returned to the island, but not the nesting area. A team of biologists is investigating what caused the birds to flee their nests.

Federal agents have been shooting cormorants in the area and oiling cormorant eggs on the island as part of a long-term plan to shrink the cormorant colony and reduce how many threatened and endangered salmon the birds are eating. They reported killing 209 cormorants between May 12 and Wednesday.

Officials haven’t attributed the disturbance of the cormorant colony to any shooting or egg oiling activity. Echols said the last time the agents were oiling eggs on the island was May 11. Agents were on the water shooting cormorants on May 16, she said, but they have now stopped all culling activities because the number of cormorants in the colony has dropped below the level where they’re required to stop.
Vocal critic
Bob Sallinger with the Portland Audubon Society has been a vocal critic of the Corps’ cormorant management plan. He said colony failure has been one of his chief concerns as federal agencies shrink the size of the cormorant population.

“When you do that, you make a population extremely vulnerable,” he said. “Regardless of whether this abandonment was caused by eagles or their own activities, the fact is they’ve gone in there and deliberately decimated the population. Federal agencies have deliberately put the western population of cormorants at direct risk, and it needs to stop.”

Echols said federal officials are monitoring the Columbia River estuary to see where all the cormorants have gone.

Roby said it’s still early enough in their breeding season that the birds could still return to their nests and lay more eggs to avoid complete colony failure for the year.

Beavers may be part of answer to climate change

Beavers may be part of answer to climate change

by on • 8:59 pm No Comments

Photo courtesy of Methow Beaver Project Methow Beaver Project team members release a beaver in a high mountain meadow that has since become a new beaver colony site that holds millions of gallons of water.

Photo courtesy of Methow Beaver Project

Methow Beaver Project team members release a beaver in a high mountain meadow that has since become a new beaver colony site that holds millions of gallons of water.

Local relocation project returns animals to natural habitat

By Ann McCreary

Can a rodent species native to the Methow Valley help solve problems created by climate change?

Absolutely, according to a local biologist who leads the Methow Beaver Project.

Beavers, the animal kingdom’s version of the Army Corps of Engineers, build dams that store water in mountain streams. And that could help mitigate the impacts of diminishing winter snowpacks and warmer temperatures that are anticipated as a result of climate change, said Kent Woodruff.

beaver-quoteThe Methow Beaver Project, now in its ninth year, relocates beavers to tributaries in the upper reaches of the Methow watershed. The goal is to restore beavers to their historical habitat and allow them to do what comes naturally — build dams and create ponds that store water both above and below ground.

Water held in those storage basins is released gradually throughout the warm months when it is needed for fish, wildlife and irrigation. That slow release has the added benefit of keeping water in tributaries cooler, which enhances habitat for fish and other creatures, said Woodruff, a biologist with the U.S. Forest Service.

Climate change models predict dramatically lower snowpacks in the future. As humans consider ways to adapt to the changes resulting from a warming climate, beavers have some lessons to offer, according to Woodruff.

“One of the things I’m excited about is the Beaver Project provides an example and inspiration for climate adaptation,” he said.

Woodruff provided an overview of the Methow Beaver Project last Thursday (Jan. 14) in a presentation at the North Cascades Basecamp near Mazama.

With predictions of diminishing mountain snowpacks as a result of climate change, it is important to find ways to hold water high in the watershed. That’s precisely what beavers do when they build dams in streams, Woodruff said.

The ponds created by beavers support a complex and diverse ecosystem, and help restore the function of the mountain watersheds, he said.

Well adapted

Beavers are well adapted to areas like the Methow Valley that experience wildfires, because their favorite food  — Aspen trees  — thrive in riparian areas that have been burned, Woodruff said. And dams built by beavers may help reduce damage from post-fire flooding, he said.

Since the Methow Beaver Project began in 2007, team members used satellite imagery and computer modeling to survey hundreds of tributary drainages in the Methow Valley and identified 161 sites that would provide a good home to beavers, and where beavers could improve the surrounding watershed.

About 240 beavers have been relocated at 51 sites within the watershed. Despite the project team’s efforts to select locations that provide excellent habitat, some beavers choose not to stay at their release site.

The animals that have remained at or near their release sites, however, are responsible for creating 176 ponds, Woodruff said.

“I like the fact that we’re putting little tiny reservoirs all over this watershed,” he said.

A biologist last year measured the amount of water stored at 62 of the ponds created by beavers released into the watershed. She found they stored 5 million gallons of water, which she calculated as enough for an average Twisp household for five years, Woodruff said.

Woodruff estimated that as much as 65 million gallons of water is stored behind the beaver dams annually. That’s enough water to serve an average household in Twisp for 24 years, Woodruff said.

Studying impacts

Beaver Project team members are studying the impacts that beavers have on water storage and temperature, water quality, and overall impacts on the ecosystem.

Beavers that are relocated through the program are often trapped and removed from private property, where their industrious tree cutting may not appreciated by homeowners, and occasionally results in trees falling on rooftops and vehicles, Woodruff said.

They are taken to the National Fish Hatchery in Winthrop where they are temporarily housed in ponds until they are relocated to a chosen site.

The team prepares the relocation site by building a shelter of logs, branches and mud to simulate a beaver lodge, giving the beavers a place to escape predators when they are released.

A PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag is implanted in the beavers’ tails before release, which allows biologists to track the animals’ movements. Team members have been surprised by how far beavers travel, Woodruff said.

“Beavers are much more mobile than we thought,” he said. For instance, a beaver that was released in the upper part of the Methow Valley swam to the mouth of the Methow River, then up the Okanogan River almost to the Canadian border. Records show that some beavers have traveled almost 100 kilometers in a four-month period.

“We don’t know for sure why” they travel so far, Woodruff said. “We want them to stay” at the release site.

Beavers were nearly exterminated by the early 1900s in the Methow Valley as a result of fur trapping, and Woodruff said there is still a legal trapping season in Washington. A beaver pelt is worth about $20 he said.

Woodruff said the project is working to re-establish a beaver population in the Methow Valley “that will be able to take care of itself.”

Biologists have tried to estimate the value of habitat restoration that beavers provide by storing water, and have put the number at about $3,000 per beaver, Woodruff said.

The Methow Beaver Project has generated interest from many agencies and organizations around the country, he said. Team members have provided information to help launch similar projects in the Yakima and Skykomish river drainages, in Idaho, Colorado, Utah and northern California.