WDFW in evaluation period after killing two wolves

(By Staff Reports/Chewelah Independent)

Department will see if lethal removals will stop cattle depredations in Stevens County…

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is now in an evaluation period to see if lethally removing two wolves from the Smackout Pack in Stevens County will have an effect of the pack’s behavior. The hope is the two lethal removals will discourage depredation on livestock.

This comes after WDFW announced to the public on July 20 that public non-lethal deterrence efforts were not working against the Smackout Pack and they had approved lethal removal. The agency had record five depredations by the wolf pack since September of 2016.

The agency has not confirmed any more wolf depredations on livestock since the last recorded attack on July 22.

All three cattle producers are still using nonlethal deterrents after the WDFW has recorded depredations on their stock on Sept. 21, 28, 29, 2016 and July 18, 22, 2017 on federal grazing allotments.

It was a move that was criticized by the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association on Friday.

“SCCA has received reports that the two wolves killed were pups, which isn’t likely to slow down the efforts of the adult wolves that are able to cause the most damage,” the press release reads. “This ‘incremental’ removal approach by WDFW has failed in the past and is likely to fail again.”

The Association said that once a wolf pack begins preying on livestock, the behavior is impossible to reverse.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation has approved an off-reservation special hunting season that extended from the tribe’s reservation boundary to the Canadian Border.

The Tribe had previously opened a wolf hunt in 2012 and the first wolf killed by a hunter occurred last year. The tribal member hunter was originally hunting for whitetail deer while rattling horns and attracted a wolf instead.

The Seattle Times quoted Stevens County Commissioner Don Dashiell, who showed approval for the plan.

“It couldn’t hurt. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good move,” Dashiell told the paper.

Hank Seipp, director of the Western Wildlife Coalition in Spokane is quoted by the Seattle Times as saying “it’s a travesty, it puts more pressure on them from all sides.”

The Colville reservation has at least three known wolf packs. The northern half of the reservation, which was founded in 1872, was taken away by Congress in 1892 after gold was found there, the Seattle Times reports. The tribal was able to permanently retain hunting and fishing rights in the northern area.

At the request of ranchers who said wolves had preyed on their cattle for more than a year, two adult wolves were killed by Oregon wildlife officials in Wallowa County, The Oregonian reports. State officials said they have documented seven cattle attacks, three of them deadly by wolves in the past 13 months by the Harl Butte Pack.

A national nonprofit group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which specializes in government scientist whistle-blowing protection filed a 12-page complaint in April alleging that WSU officials punished and silenced Robert Wielgus, the Seattle Times reports.

PEER said this was a move to placate ranchers and state legislators who objected to his research. Wielgus has published a peer-reviewed paper that questioned killing wolves to protect livestock.

Wielgus commented directly on the matter of the Profanity Peak pack last year where he alleged the cattle producer purposely put his cattle close to a den as a way to provoke wolves of the Profanity Peak Pack. Washington State Representative Joel Kretz and others demanded an apology for the comments last year and the university quickly issued a news release that disavowed Wielgus statements and said that Wielgus said he had no basis or fact for making those statements.

In an interview with the Independent, Kretz said that Wielgus’ statements about putting cattle next to a pack’s den to provoke an attack made no sense and were not helpful in reaching a solution to the issue.

“The cattle were put out on a 30,000-acre range and Fish and Wildlife isn’t going to tell ranchers where the dens are,” Kretz said. “The ranchers are going in blind when they release the cattle, how would they know where they are?”

He said that the comments were meant to inflame the issue and not try and reach a solution.

Kretz said that in an emotional hot topic like wolves, there is a real delicate path to find a solution which might mean local management. However, inflammatory comments like Wielgus’ cause people to stop listening and working together to find a solution, something Kretz said he’s trying to work towards with other lawmakers, conservation groups and ranchers.

Wielgus said in the Times article that the university is now afraid of angering lawmakers and grant funds are now being funneled to his lab through another researcher so they can take his name off the grant.

“Last year the university said he lied and he admitted that he lied,” Kretz said.

The Seattle Times article also quoted a lobbyist saying that state lawmakers threatened funding for WSU’s new medical school because of the wolf issue. The article, however did not provide any specific names of lawmakers that were doing this, nor did it cite any proof that lawmakers had threatened to pull funding for WSU’s medical school.

Kretz said that the article felt like it was fitting a certain narrative for the metropolitan paper of lawmakers strong-arming the school when that was not the case.

The money for the medical school did make it through the budget, the Seattle Times reported while Wielgus also lost funding for wolf research.

After the Chewelah Independent reported a cougar being sighted north of town last week, many people shared their sightings around the area.

Talea Metivier submitted video from two years ago of her mare protecting her foal from three cougars in the Chewelah area. Metivier said three cougars killed multiple pet cats while harassing their horses inside Metivier’s barn. They also attacked the family’s dog the next morning in front of them.

Oline Stehr said there have been sightings of two young cougars up Blue Creek Locke Rd. over the past week while Stevens County Commissioner Don Dashiell said a bunch of five cougars had been seen on Harvey Creek Road in Stevens County last week.

Jamie Smith said she’s seen two at her place at Jump Off Joe, while Rick Gulack said he sees them all the time on the south face of Dunn Mountain.

WDFW always reccomends that people make plenty of noise while hiking and also keep a clean campsite. They also suggest keeping small children close, but also say that Cougar attacks are extremely rare – with 120 total attacks on the continent in the last 100 years.

For more info go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/cougars.html