Stiffer penalties needed for poaching wolves

http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/stiffer-penalties-needed-for-poaching-wolves/

Poaching may be limiting progress toward wolf recovery goals.

WOLVES are important native predators and vital pieces of our wildlife heritage. The news [“Four new wolf packs recorded in state,” Local News, March 14] that Washington is now home to at least 90 wolves, 18 packs and eight breeding pairs is exciting.

However, eight years after wolves were first confirmed back in the North Cascades, there are only three wolf packs in that designated recovery area. There remain no confirmed wolf packs in the Cascades south of Interstate 90 or in Western Washington. In order to meet wolf-recovery goals agreed upon under the Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (Wolf Plan), and for the long term viability of the species in our state, it’s important that wolves recolonize the high-quality habitat in the Olympic Peninsula and Washington’s South Cascades.

Wolves are protected by both state and federal endangered-species laws in Washington. Yet wolf poaching has occurred with tragic frequency in recent years. Several members of the Methow Valley’s Lookout Pack were poached in 2010. A wolf from the Smackout Pack was poached in late 2013. The 2014 poaching of a Kittitas County breeding female wolf is still unprosecuted. In September 2015, shamefully minimal fines were announced for a Whitman County wolf poacher. Also in 2015, investigators announced that a lone wolf killed by a vehicle on I-90 west of Snoqualmie Pass had previously been shot. Numerous other unconfirmed rumors of wolf poaching reach us each year, and some are most certainly true.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bull elk or a wolf, poaching is never acceptable.

Death of wolf pack is a sobering turn for Oregon’s wolf plan

http://www.dailyastorian.com/da/capital-bureau/20160408/death-of-wolf-pack-is-a-sobering-turn-for-oregons-wolf-plan?utm_source=Daily+Astorian+Updates&utm_campaign=304b60fbbe-TEMPLATE_Daily_Astorian_Newsletter_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e787c9ed3c-304b60fbbe-109860249
Age and injury may have fractured Oregon’s most influential wolf pack, and led to the downfall of its longtime alpha male.

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on April 8, 2016 12:01AM

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists place a new GPS collar on OR-4, the Imnaha wolf pack’s alpha male, after darting him from a helicopter in March 2012.

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists place a new GPS collar on OR-4, the Imnaha wolf pack’s alpha male, after darting him from a helicopter in March 2012.

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press

<!–

–>

They called him OR-4, and by some accounts he was Oregon’s biggest and baddest wolf, 97 pounds of cunning in his prime and the longtime alpha male of Wallowa County’s influential Imnaha Pack.

But OR-4 was nearly 10, old for a wolf in the wild. And his mate limped with a bad back leg. Accompanied by two yearlings, they apparently separated from the rest of the Imnaha Pack or were forced out. In March, they attacked and devoured or injured calves and sheep five times in private pastures.

So on March 31, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff boarded a helicopter, rose up and shot all four.

The decisive action by the department may have marked a somber turning point in the state’s work to restore wolves to the landscape. It comes on the heels of the Wildlife Commission’s decision in November to take gray wolves off the state endangered species list, and just as the commission is beginning a review of the Oregon Wolf Plan, the document that governs wolf conservation and management.

Oregon Wild, the Portland-based conservation group with long involvement in the state’s wolf issue, said shooting wolves should be an “absolute last resort.”

“While the wolf plan is out of date and under review, we shouldn’t be taking the most drastic action we can take in wolf management,” Executive Director Sean Stevens said in an email.

The commission should not have taken wolves off the state endangered species list in the first place, but it isn’t likely to revisit that decision, Stevens said.

The commission should call upon the department to not shoot more wolves until the plan review is finished, he said.

“But, more importantly, they should recognize that delisting does not mean that we should suddenly swing open the doors to more aggressive management,” Stevens said.

The ongoing wolf plan review, which may take nine months, should include science that wasn’t considered in the delisting decision, and the public’s will, he said. It also should create more clarity on non-lethal measures to deter wolves, he said.
Both sides
Publicly, at least, no one is celebrating the shootings.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, long on the opposite side of the argument from Oregon Wild, said ODFW’s action was authorized by Phase II of the state’s wolf plan.

“The problem needed addressed and ODFW handled it correctly,” spokeswoman Kayli Hanley said in an email. “We acknowledge that while this decision was necessary for the sake of species coexistence, it was a difficult decision.”

Michael Finley, chairman of the commission, said the department handled the situation properly.

“I feel that the department acted in total good faith,” Finley said. “They followed the letter and the spirit of the wolf plan.”

Another conservation group, Defenders of Wildlife, called the shootings “a very sad day for us” but also said it appeared Fish and Wildlife followed the wolf plan.

“The final plan is a compromise, but it is among the best of all the state plans in that it emphasizes the value of wolves on the landscape, and requires landowners to try non-lethal methods of deterring wolves before killing them is ever considered,” the group said in a prepared statement.

Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Imnaha Pack shootings may lead to more poaching, because killing wolves decreases tolerance of them and leads to a belief that “you have to kill wolves in order to preserve them.”

Weiss agreed that coming across a calf or sheep that’s been torn apart and consumed — the skull and hide was all that was left of one calf after the OR-4 group fed on it — must be gut-wrenching for producers. But she said those animals are raised to be killed and eaten. “They don’t die any more a humane death in a slaughterhouse than being killed by a wild animal,” she said. “It’s a hard discussion to find a common place of agreement.”

She said such losses are the reason Oregon established the compensation program: to pay for livestock losses and to help with the cost of defensive measures that scare wolves away.
Rush to Phase II
Weiss said Oregon rushed to move to Phase II of its wolf conservation and management plan in the eastern part of the state, which was prompted by reaching a population goal of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. That also prompted the Fish and Wildlife Commission to take wolves off the state endangered species list in 2015, although they remain on the federal endangered list in the Western two-thirds of the state.

Like others, Weiss believes the state should have held off on such changes until it finished the mandated review of the wolf plan.

“Under Phase I, Oregon was the state we could all point to” for successfully managing wolves, Weiss said. “I would hope they look at what parts of the wolf plan are working, and look at the parts that are not working.”

Politics and policy aside, the shooting of OR-4 gave people pause. He was a bigger-than-life character; he’d evaded a previous state kill order and had to be re-collared a couple times as he somehow shook off the state’s effort to track him.
Pack history
OR-4’s Imnaha Pack was the state’s second oldest, designated in 2009, and it produced generations of successful dispersers. OR-4’s many progeny included Oregon’s best-known wanderer, OR-7, who left the Imnaha Pack in 2011 and zig-zagged his way southwest into California before settling in the Southern Oregon Cascades.

OR-25, which killed a calf in Klamath County and now is in Northern California, dispersed from the Imnaha Pack. The alpha female of the Shasta Pack, California’s first, is from the Imnaha Pack as well.

Rob Klavins, who lives in Wallowa County and is Oregon Wild’s field representative in the area, ran across OR-4’s tracks a couple times and saw him once.

Despite his fearsome reputation, the wolf tucked his tail between his legs, ran behind a nearby tree and barked at Klavins and his hiking group until they left.

“Killing animals four or five times your size is a tough way to make a living,” Klavins said. “Some people appreciate OR-4 as a symbol of the tenacity of wolves, even a lot of folks who dislike wolves have sort of a begrudging respect for him.”

Oregon: Enlightened or Dishonest, Cruel and Corrupt?

 

Robert Goldman's photo.
by Robert Goldman

Oregon’s legislators and governor have a big decision to make regarding the future of wolves in the state. It is a litmus test on whether these leaders are honest, decent and wise and whether they serve the hopes and dreams of a clear majority of Oregonians, or other interests. Will these supposed leaders do the right thing for wolves and for a brighter future for Oregon or will they fall back on the dark side of Oregon’s history?

Honest science, healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, the public trust doctrine, basic decency and respect and the clear will of the majority, all favor wolf protection. 96% of Oregonians told the state wildlife agency they favor wolf protection. Additionally, Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife website makes crystal clear that the presence of approximately one hundred wolves has resulted in a near zero effect on the state’s 1,300,000 cattle, as depredation by wolves is barely out of the single digits per year. No honest person can claim with a straight face that Oregon has anything resembling a wolf problem because it does not have such a problem.

The truth is, just as in nearby Idaho, there is a people problem, but in Oregon it comes from a relatively small number of people. Their long held prejudices and their willingness to demonize and kill vital and innocent wolves while lying about them is well known. Some have no shame in spreading utter nonsense about ‘Canadian super wolves’, snarling monster beings and the end of the world triggered by…. fairy tales.

But Oregon is supposed to be different, isn’t it? Oregon is a green and enlightened state, where honesty, decency and justice rule, right?

I had the pleasure of visiting Oregon for three weeks in June and July of 2014. I arrived in the state with a high regard for its vast natural beauty, its magnificent native wildlife, lush forests and magical coast. The forward thinking reputation of its people resonated in my mind.

After an enjoyable week with a hiking club based in Portland, I rented a car and drove to the Wallowa Valley drawn by my respect for Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce people whose sacred homeland this had been for thousands of years. I hiked into the mountains and canoed, took lots of pretty pictures of horses and deer (they are everywhere), water and forests and people and their dogs. I explored and lingered for many hours in the very field where Chief Joseph gathered with his people as they prepared to flee their homeland, their very lives hanging in the balance. My heart felt heavy and sad, as if the unbearable heart ache of 800 innocent souls still hovers over this valley and the beautiful green field guarded by trees and mountains.

The Nez Perce were the peaceful native tribe who saved the entire Lewis and Clark expedition from certain starvation and death only seventy years earlier. President Jefferson personally promised, in gratitude, that the Wallowa Valley would never be taken from the Nez Perce. Later Presidents re-affirmed that promise, even as more white settlers invaded and threatened to steal the land from its rightful owners. The settlers kept coming and kept threatening. Gold was discovered nearby and the land was taken, the promises broken.

The ancestors of these white settlers are among the 8,000 people who call the Wallowa Valley home today. Some of these people are present day Wallowa cattle ranchers who mythologize and demonize wolves, pressure the state wildlife agency to take action, persistently lobby state legislators and the governor to do something about the wolf problem, the problem that exists in their own minds.

I visited the tourist town of Joseph and its wonderful museums, including the Maxwell Plantation Museum dedicated to African Americans who worked for a time as lumbermen in the region. There I learned that the founding state constitution of 1859 forbade the presence and citizenship of African Americans anywhere in Oregon.

Just east of the Wallowas, I explored the dusty, rugged town of Pendleton. On the Pendleton Underground Tour, I learned of the hard working Chinese men who helped build the early railways of the expanding United States. When their decades long hard labor was done and the rail lines complete, they were not wanted by the white settlers who had only recently established the new town of Pendleton. These human beings, thousands of miles from their native land, excavated a village beneath the streets of early Pendleton, a cavernous and dark place. There they lived, set up small businesses and did their best to survive from day to day. Above ground, it was legal to shoot a “Chinaman” for no reason. These poor souls survived in their underground village into the early 1900’s, which is not much more than a hundred years ago.

This not so distant history is part of Oregon’s past, or is it?

On behalf of ecologically vital, remarkably intelligent and social, deeply family-connected and innocent wolves, on behalf of the hopeful and decent majority of Oregonians you are supposed to serve and who have spoken clearly on this issue, in light of the facts and honest science, with full knowledge of your obligation to at long last live up to the public trust doctrine in which wildlife belongs to everyone and is to be managed (or left alone) accordingly, I am asking Oregon state legislators, the governor and the state wildlife agency, which Oregon will you be? The enlightened Oregon of your reputation or the dishonest, cruel and corrupt Oregon of your past?

Take Action to Protect Our Nation’s Wildlife

alt text

HUMANE ALERT
main-feature
Take Action to Protect Our Nation’s Wildlife
Dear Jim,

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is still collecting public comments on a proposed rule to limit predator control activities on Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges. At stake is an opportunity to stop:

• brown and black bear trapping
• brown bear baiting
• the killing of black bears, wolves and coyotes in their dens
• the aerial gunning of bears

Please send a message to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of the proposal.

Cattle kills rare in wolf-occupied areas

copyrighted-wolf-argument-settled

http://methowvalleynews.com/2016/02/18/wsu-study-shows-wolves-favorite-prey-is-deer-but-moose-are-also-on-the-menu/

WSU study shows wolves’ favorite prey is deer — but moose are also on the menu

by on

By Ann McCreary

An ongoing, state-funded study of interactions between wolves and livestock shows that — no big surprise — wolves primarily eat deer, according to a researcher involved in field studies conducted over the past two summers.

The study is documenting, among other things, the types and numbers of animals killed and eaten by wolves, said Gabe Spence, a graduate student at Washington State University (WSU), which is leading the scientific investigation.

The goal of the $600,000 study, which was authorized and funded by the Washington Legislature, is to provide accurate data about wolf depredations on livestock and evaluate ways to prevent conflicts between livestock and wolves.

Spence discussed the research and preliminary findings during a presentation at the North Cascades Basecamp in Mazama last week.

The Methow Valley’s Lookout Pack is one of seven packs in north central and northeast Washington that have been studied during the past two years to develop a more accurate picture of the prey taken by wolves, Spence said. Researchers monitored four packs last year.

A team of WSU researchers conducted field studies during grazing seasons, from May through October, when cattle are turned out on public grazing allotments known to overlap with the territories of gray wolf packs.

Researchers placed radio and GPS devices on calves, cows and wolves to track their locations, determine where wolves and livestock occupy same area, and locate wolf kills to document what wolves are eating.

Over the past two years the researchers have documented 285 “probable wolf kills” by the packs they have studied. Four of the 285 animals killed by wolves were cattle, and involved three different packs.

No cattle were killed in 2014 by the packs being monitored, and none of the four cattle killed last year were in the Methow Valley, Spence said.

Spence said that about 940 cows and calves occupied the same territory as the wolf packs during the 2015 grazing season. That means that the four cattle killed equal .4 percent of the cattle in wolf-occupied areas.

“I don’t know if people realize how often wolves and cows are in the same place at the same time. All the time. Every day,” Spence said.

“Livestock deaths on the range are really small. Of the ones that die, only a tiny fraction are killed by predators, and of those a tiny fraction are killed by wolves,” Spence said.

The cattle kills account for 2.3 percent of the all the prey killed by wolves in 2015, Spence said.

Preliminary results show that over the past two summers deer accounted for almost half the prey killed by wolves. Researchers documented 137 deer that were among the probable wolf kills.

“Deer are by far the most common prey,” Spence said. The second-most common prey is moose, which account for about 22 to 28 percent of the animals killed by wolves.

By tracking wolf kills, researchers determined that the average kill rate for wolves in the Cascades area is about .3 kills per pack per day during the summer grazing season, Spence said.

That equals one kill every 3.3 days, or about 110 kills per year if the kill rate stays the same year round.

Even if kill rate is higher, for instance .5 kills per pack per day — to account for possible error or winter kill rates — it would add up to 183 kills per year, Spence said.

“To put this into perspective, roughly 350 deer are killed on the highway in the Methow Valley every year,” he said.

The study is expected to continue another two to three years and will likely include more packs, including the Methow Valley’s Loup Loup pack, if a collar can be placed on one of the wolves in that pack.

Researchers lost contact with a radio-collared female in the Lookout Pack last fall, and are not sure whether the collar failed or the wolf died or was killed. Spence said wildlife officials would try to capture and collar another Lookout pack wolf in spring or summer.

“Both packs overlap quite a bit with livestock,” Spence said.

One of the biggest challenges in conducting research into wolves and livestock “is how excited people get about this topic, on both sides. It makes it about the politics, not the biology,” Spence said.

“Having large predators on the landscape is really a social issue. The biology is pretty clear. It comes down to what we want for ourselves and our children,” Spence said.

Protect Wolves and Bears on National Refuges

Protect Wolves and Bears on National Refuges

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently proposed a new rule sharply restricting certain controversial wolf and other predator control measures on 77 million acres of federal wildlife refuges in Alaska – measures promoted by Alaska state wildlife managers like:

  • Killing wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the animals’ denning season.
  • Taking black bears with artificial light at den sites.
  • Taking brown or black bears attracted to bait.
  • Targeting bears with snares, traps, etc.
  • Using dogs in black bear hunts. State law currently prohibits using dogs to hunt big game, with an exception for black bears. The park service will no longer honor this exception on national preserves.
  • Shooting swimming caribou, a practice primarily used in the Noatak National Preserve in Northwest Alaska.

Federal public hearings are now underway across Alaska to gather public input prior to adopting the final rule. The draft rule, published in the Federal Register, aligns with a similar National Park Service rule that was finalized in October and would formally establish a goal of “biodiversity as the guiding principle of federal management of wildlife refuges.”

That stands in contrast to the goal of the Alaska Board of Game, which is to ensure maximum sustained populations for hunting. Increasingly over the last decade, the Game Board and the federal agencies have clashed over managing predators, largely over the idea that the state manages for “abundance” of moose and caribou. Under state law, the Board of Game focuses on sustaining populations of moose, caribou and deer for hunting and consumption.

The Wolf Conservation Center commends the USFWS for following the law, for managing the refuges as Congress intended, and for excluding extreme measures that are in direct conflict with preserving biological integrity, natural diversity and environmental health. To do anything less would violate public trust in the agency responsible for managing the national wildlife refuges — “special places that belong to all of us.”

The USFWS is accepting until March 8th. Comments can be submitted online through the Federal Register [using docket number FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005]

Please Comment Now

Minnesota coyote-hunting tournament is latest to draw opposition

http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-coyote-hunting-tournament-is-latest-to-draw-opposition/369533731/

itemprop

Michael Pearce, TNSAs in many places across the country, coyotes are not protected in Minnesota; with some restrictions, they can be hunted without a license.

Publicity about the second annual “Save the Birds” tournament in Marshall, which began Friday and was to run through Saturday, sparked an online petition calling for it to be banned and a heated dialogue between supporters and opposers in the town’s local newspaper.

 

As in many places across the country, coyotes are not protected in Minnesota; with some restrictions, they can be hunted without a license. The tournaments, which are legal, are popular with hunters vying for prizes and enjoying the accompanying social occasions.

But many anti-cruelty groups adamantly oppose them. They include the Minnesota-based nonprofit Howling for Wolves, which along with more than 169,000 signers of a Change.org petition posted by Scott Slocum of White Bear Lake, campaigned for the contest’s suspension, deeming it dangerous to wildlife and criticizing its competitive nature.

The protesters sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton, according to Howling for Wolves founder Maureen Hackett. A spokesperson for Dayton said he’s in Washington, D.C., until Monday and sent a response from Linden Zakula, Dayton’s deputy chief of staff.

 “State law provides no protection for coyotes in Minnesota; therefore, no license or permit is needed to take them, and no DNR approval is required,” Zakula said. “Our office has informed Howling for Wolves that the governor has no legal authority to prevent a coyote hunt from taking place.”

Despite their legality, the hunts are still offensive, protesters say.

http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-coyote-hunting-tournament-is-latest-to-draw-opposition/369533731/

Meanwhile:

3 dead wolves found dumped in northern Minnesota ditch; poaching suspected

The hunting of wolves is illegal in Minnesota; federal authorities are offering a reward for information.
By Star Tribune

Gary Kramer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceThe gray wolf is currently listed by the federal government as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

The carcasses of three wolves “frozen solid” were found dumped in a ditch along a northern Minnesota highway in what conservation officials are confident is a case of poaching, federal authorities said Thursday.

The discovery on Hwy. 8 near Floodwood, about 35 miles southeast of Grand Rapids, was reported on Jan. 22 to a state Department of Natural Resources poachers tip line, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

“The wolf carcasses were discovered in a pile in the ditch just off the shoulder of the road, as though someone had driven up and dumped them off the edge of the shoulder,” agency spokeswoman Tina Shaw said.

The gray wolf is currently listed by the federal government as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, meaning they cannot be hunted except in defense of human life. A conviction for each violation could result in up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

The federal agency announced a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

More: http://www.startribune.com/3-dead-wolves-found-together-in-northern-minnesota-poaching-suspected/369263491/

Ranchers and hunters intent on wiping out wild horses wolves bison

Wild horse and bison roundup area

Wild horse and bison roundup area
Image: Public Domain

 

Petition on BC Wolves

http://action.sumofus.org/a/stop-wolf-cull/?sub=fb

Nearly 200 wolves are going to be shot from helicopters over the next few weeks — a bloody attempt to save an endangered caribou herd in western Canada. And these killings are likely to go on for five years.

Oil, gas, mining, and logging companies have been trashing the mountain caribou’s habitat for decades — but instead of curtailing this industrial habitat destruction, the British Columbia (BC) provincial government is scapegoating wolves, condemning them to a gruesome death.

This cull is just a stopgap measure and not a viable long-term solution to the caribou’s problems. It will, however, cause immense suffering to the wolves, who are highly social and intelligent creatures.

Tell the BC government to stop the industrial encroachment of the caribou’s and wolves’ territory!

Decades of habitat destruction and human encroachment have led to this tragic situation. The BC government needs to be protecting the caribou’s critical food and natural habitat, such as lichen-rich interior forests.

Part of the problem is the caribou’s natural protection from wolves has been undermined by commercial activity. Normally, thick winter snow is enough to keep them safe from most predators, but the wolves have been using the industrial infrastructure of pipeline corridors, roads, railways and snowmobile trails to move through the landscape and hunt. Some feel the cull is awful but necessary to save the caribous, and others feel the cull should be canceled outright — but fundamentally, the BC government should never have let the problem get to this point.

We need to stand up for nature against profit-making companies who are destroying our wildernesses all over the world. These innocent wolves, who are right now being hunted from the skies, are a powerful symbol of how the long-term future of the natural world is being sacrificed for short-term profit.

Please add your voice to ask BC to place responsibility at the feet of the oil, gas, mining and logging companies who are causing the real damage to caribou and wolves.

Sign the petition asking the BC government to protect caribous and wolves from industrial encroachment.

********** More information:

B.C. wolf cull will likely last 5 years, assistant deputy minister says, CBC News,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 683 other followers