October 11, 2012 in Outdoors, Sports

Landers: Pro-wolf extremists not helping cause

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Having two totally opposing contingents works beautifully for football games.

With Cougar fans on one side of the field and Husky fans on the other side, a rivalry packs the stadium and creates a raucous atmosphere that complements the game.

In the practice of wildlife management, such total partisanship is counterproductive.

It’s not surprising that two wildly opposing camps rallied for their respective viewpoints on wolves Friday in Olympia.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission moved its regularly scheduled meeting to a larger room on Friday as emails and chat room threads drummed up a crowd to hear a presentation on the state’s wolf management efforts.

Emotions were high after the summer season of at least 17 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County, prompting the state to eliminate the Wedge Pack.

After the presentation by Fish and Wildlife Department officials, the commission listened to 41 three-minute testimonies from the audience.

The contingent from northeastern Washington focused on a call for removing wolves from state endangered species protections in their region, where most of the wolf packs are concentrated. Livestock producers in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties don’t want to take the brunt of wolf recovery for years before wolves meet the official statewide threshold for recovery.

State Sen. Bob Morton questioned whether wolves are really endangered, noting the Wedge Pack was attacking cattle in Washington, where wolves are protected, while just a few miles north in British Columbia, a hunter can shoot up to three wolves a year.

Pro-wolf groups had a wider range of concerns, but most of them called for the state to hold ranchers more accountable for preventing wolf attacks by using range riders, fencing or other non-lethal measures.

Opposition to grazing on public land was a fairly common theme.

The faction that wants wolves wiped off the state’s map kept quiet at the meeting.

The opposite extreme tried to make their case that wolves should get a better reception in Washington than they have in Idaho or Montana, where many hundreds of wolves have been killed by managers or hunters as the wolf packs reclaimed their native territory since the mid-1990s.

Pro-wolf extremists refer to lethal wolf management as a slaughter.

Meantime, another slaughter of sorts is going on, leading me to at least one clear conclusion.

If you really love wolves and you have money to spare, don’t feed it to the shrill voices of pro-wolf extremist groups.

Give it to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which has been working for decades to protect and improve elk habitat.

The amount of game in the mountains is the bottom line for wolves and the fans who cheer and jeer them.

Oh, deer: Washington’s main deer hunting season opens Saturday, three days after Idaho hunters got the head start.

You can tell the difference between hunters from the two states. Washington hunters must wear fluorescent orange clothing during the modern rifle big-game seasons. Most Idaho hunters wear camouflage.

Growing up in Montana, where blaze-orange clothing has been required since I started hunting as a grade-schooler, I’m comfortable being highly visible to other hunters while being nearly invisible to big game.

Orange camo clothing is highly efficient. I’ve verified that during plenty of close encounters with unwitting deer and elk.

The first lesson my dad gave me is still the best and most basic advice for getting close to big-game, and it works regardless of whether you’re wearing blaze orange:

A hunter should be seen and not heard – and always strive to be still and downwind.

Check your game: Spokane-region hunter check stations will be staffed this weekend, with biologists sampling the harvest for data important to managing deer herds.

Look for the stations at truck scales along Highway 395 at Deer Park and Highway 2 south of Chattaroy.

The stations will be open five days this season: Sunday, Oct. 20 and 21, and Nov. 17 and 18.

Biologists will determine the age and health of the deer as well as gathering information for a major whitetail study under way in northeastern Washington.

However, the state won’t be sampling for chronic wasting disease at the stations, so the lymph nodes won’t have to be removed from the carcasses.

The agency will be testing only animals that show CWD symptoms, such as emaciation or abnormal behavior.

A federal grant that funded the more extensive CWD testing of the past expired last month, said Kevin Robinette, WDFW regional wildlife manager.

Grizzly scene: Hikers headed to the upper Pack River for a fall trek in the Selkirk Mountains should avoid the popular trail to Harrison Lake, Idaho Panhandle National Forest officials say.

A fresh moose carcass found Wednesday near the trail about a half-mile in from the trailhead is likely to attract scavengers and predators, including grizzly bears and mountain lions.

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or email richl@spokesman.com.


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