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Analysis counters WSU profs’ opposition to wolf killing

ENDANGERED – A Washington State University professor erred in controversial research released in 2014 suggesting that killing wolves that attack cattle is counterproductive because it stimulates more attacks, according to a statistical analysis released on Tuesday.

Working with a Ph.D. statistician, the Washington Policy Center analyzed the data provided by Dr. Robert Wielgus and found several problems with conclusions that are widely used by critics of Washington’s wolf management, especially in cases where wolves are killed.

“Rather than support his hypothesis, his own data point in the opposite direction, supporting the state’s policy of removing wolves when there is a conflict and undermining Wielgus’ own hypothesis,” says Todd Myers of Seattle-based WPC, a conservative think tank that promotes public policy based on free-market solutions.

Since 2011, Washington has periodically resorted to lethally removing wolves – from one or two to an entire pack in one case – to stop continued attacks on livestock.

Wielgus surveyed the literature and reported that the practice is counterintuitive. “People think, let’s kill the wolves and get rid of the problem,” he told The Spokesman-Review in 2014. “But it doesn’t work that way with carnivores. Sometimes, the punitive solution is causing the problem.”

Wielgus tied the increased livestock deaths to disruptions in the pack’s social structure.

“If you kill the alpha male and female, the pack fractures,” he told S-R reporter Becky Kramer. “Instead of one breeding pair, you may have two or three.”

The first challenge to the Wielgus study was published in 2016 by three University of Washington statisticians who crunched numbers and found that killing wolves that prey on livestock can lead to a short-term increase in attacks, particularly for sheep. But the year after the wolves were killed, livestock attacks went down.

At that time, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had decided to remove members of the Profanity Peak Pack to stop repeated attacks on cattle in Ferry County. Wielgus, leaning from academia toward activism, strongly attacked the decision. The controversy led to death threats and an unusual denunciation of the professor by WSU officials.

The new analysis by the Washington Policy Center says the Wielgus 2014 study claim that killing wolves results in increasing attacks on cattle and sheep isn’t supported by his own data.

Statistical analysis identified several problems with the research and confirms weaknesses previously identified by UW statisticians in 2016, Myers said.

“Contrary to Wielgus’ conclusions,” he said, “our re-analysis of his study’s data finds that the strongest explanation of an increase in loss of cattle and sheep was simply an increase in the wolf population.”

Geology presentation on Columbia Gorge

GEOLOGY – A free lecture, “Columbia Gorge Geology and the Ice Age Floods: 50 million years of geologic tumult,” is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at The Lair, Building 6, Spokane Community College.

Lloyd DeKay, of the Columbia River Gorge Ice Age Floods Institute Chapter, will talk on current stunning beauty of the Columbia River Gorge region that belies its geologic history of volcanic arc eruptions, massive fissure eruptions of flood basalts, catastrophic sediment-saturated Ice Age Floods, huge landslides and massive earthquakes.

Outdoor Writing Contest deadline Nov. 8

HIGH SCHOOL – The deadline for entries to The Spokesman-Review’s 2017 Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students in Nov. 8.

Entries must be on the general topic of “outdoors.” This includes subjects such as hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, boating, nature and conservation. Any literary style – including humor, fiction, letters or poetry – is acceptable.

Contestants must be in grades 9-12 and from the newspaper circulation area in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Stories must be original and may be no longer than 1,000 words.

Include the writer’s name, school, grade, home address and telephone.

Stories must be typed and received by Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.

One entry per student.

Email entries (preferred) to richl@spokesman.com. Receipt of all email entries will be acknowledged.



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