Latest from The Spokesman-Review
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolves killed two adult cows near Chewelah this week, state wildlife officials confirmed today.
The cattle were found dead on Thursday and today in the upper portion of the North Fork of Chewelah Creek in the Dirty Shirt Pack territory, said Nate Pamplin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife assistant director.
Wildlife officials and the Stevens County Sheriff’s department investigated the case, since wolves are protected as a state endangered species.
The producer runs 83 cow/calf pairs on the Colville National Forest allotment, Pamplin said.
"Staff will contact the producer on a daily basis to share the location of the collared wolf from the Dirty Shirt Pack," Pamplin said. The wolf fixed with a GPS collar can be tracked by satellite to help the rancher track the pack and deter further attacks.
"We have conflict staff deployed for the weekend and range riders will be mobilized soon."
Before the announcement of the wolf kills, the Fish and Wildlife Department issued a media release noting that the agency has stepped up proactive measures to prevent livestock depredations. Here's some of the information:
Since 2013, WDFW has offered cost-sharing arrangements to livestock producers who invest in non-lethal deterrents such as range riders, guard dogs, “fladry”(fencing), and carcass disposal. During the past year, WDFW signed 41 cooperative agreements with ranchers, committing more than $300,000 in financial assistance to help them adopt measures to protect their livestock.
Other conflict-prevention strategies employed by WDFW in the past year include:
- Range riders: WDFW contracted with five range riders that state wildlife managers could deploy to help ranchers monitor their livestock, remove sick and injured animals and haze wolves away from active grazing areas. In addition, all livestock owners with cooperative agreements qualify for cost-sharing arrangements for range riders.
- Radio collars: State, federal and tribal biologists have captured 11 wolves and fitted them with radio collars since January. There are now 14 active collars on wolves distributed among 10 of the state’s 16 known wolf packs.
- Wildlife conflict staff: WDFW now employs 11 wildlife-conflict specialists to work with livestock producers in areas with active wolf packs. In all, there are 27 members on WDFW’s wildlife-conflict staff, including specialists working statewide on other issues, including deer and elk damage
A Wolf Conflict-Deterrence Update on the agency's website describes how proactive strategies have been applied to specific areas occupied by wolf packs.
Prior to spring pupping season, a survey conducted by WDFW found a minimum of 68 gray wolves in Washington, up 30 percent from the previous year. The number of confirmed wolf packs also increased to 16 from 12 the year before.
As the state’s wolf population continues to rise, ranchers in Eastern Washington have reported losing an increasing number of livestock to wolf predation.
On two occasions – in 2012 and 2014 – WDFW took lethal action against wolf packs involved in persistent attacks on livestock. Both actions occurred in the eastern third of the state, where wolves are no longer listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Still in his first year as WDFW Director Jim Unsworth has extensive experience with wolf management from his work in Idaho, a state with nearly 10 times as many wolves as Washington.
Noting that Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan provides guidance for both lethal and non-lethal wolf-deterrence strategies, Unsworth said he plans to emphasize preventive measures to reduce conflicts with wolves.
“Washington needs to chart its own course in wolf management,” Unsworth said. “I think the proactive strategies we’ve pursued over the past year have put us on the right path and reinforced the importance of working with livestock producers to minimize conflicts with wolves.”
Two cattle operations and dairies in southwestern Idaho have agreed to stop over-drugging cows - at such high levels that the medications could pass to human consumers - in response to a lawsuit from the federal government, the AP reports. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sued T & T Cattle and T & T Cattle Pearl, both dairy farms and livestock dealers in Parma, along with owner Gregory T. Troost and manager Mark A. Mourton earlier this month in Boise's U.S. District Court; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
The FDA contended that animals at the farms were given medications in such high doses that once they were sold for human consumption their meat contained illegally high drug residue levels that could be dangerous for some consumers.
Under the agreement filed in federal court Wednesday, the farm operators said they would keep better treatment records, refrain from selling animals that have illegally high drug residue in their tissues for human consumption, and stop using animal medications in unapproved ways. "We're working wholeheartedly with the FDA and trying to get this whole matter resolved," said Troost on Thursday. "Our action plan is in place and I think it's working very well so far."
WILDLIFE — Montana's decision to let migrating bison roam freely across 70,000 acres outside Yellowstone National Park was upheld by a court ruling Monday that dismissed a pair of lawsuits filed by ranchers to challenge the policy.
The judge sided with state officials and conservation groups that have sought to ease restrictions on bison movements.
Thousands of bison flood out of Yellowstone during severe winters. In the past, the animals were subject to mass slaughters over fears they could spread the disease brucellosis to livestock.
The slaughters were blocked by former Gov. Brian Schweitzer. But when hundreds of bison were allowed to return to the Gardiner Basin, local officials said they posed a threat to safety and destroyed private property.
In his ruling, Phillips acknowledged the plaintiffs' struggles with bison, but said those were an unavoidable consequence of living in Montana with its abundant wildlife.
Local farmers today filed a lawsuit against a large-scale feedlot in Franklin County, saying that the cattle operation could use hundreds of thousands of gallons of groundwater a day in one of the driest areas of the state.
The case could mushroom into more than just a Franklin County water fight. A critical change in water law came when Attorney General Rob McKenna — widely assumed to be a future candidate for governor — issued a controversial opinion in 2005. Wells for watering livestock have for decades been exempt from many water regulations, but the state Department of Ecology had long said that such wells are limited to pumping 5,000 gallons a day. In response to a query from Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls and then-Rep. (now Sen.) Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, McKenna, however, said that Ecology didn’t have the right to automatically limit such wells to 5,000 gallons. (McKenna also, however, noted that Ecology could step in and impose limits on any water withdrawal in critical problem areas. He also pointed out that lawmakers can modify water law however they wish.)
Now, according to the Spokane-basede Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Easterday Ranches Inc. wants to build a feedlot for up to 30,000 head of cattle, using the stock-watering exemption to pump up to 600,000 gallons a day.
“after over 100 years of conservative farming on some of the driest land in Washington, our lives and our livelihoods are in jeopardy from this huge industrial feedlot,” dryland wheat farmer Scott Collin said in a press release announcing the lawsuit today.
(The full text of the press release is below, after the jump.)
Environmentalists and cattlemen clashed Thursday over a decades-old law that allows largely unlimited pumping from wells – with no permit – as long as the water is used for livestock.
To ranchers, that’s a common-sense exception that helps agriculture and dates back many decades.
To environmental groups and some Indian tribes, it’s a glaring loophole that’s being wrongly applied to industrial-scale feedlots.
“We don’t have water left to be giving away exempt water rights in large quantities,” Spokane environmental attorney Rachael Paschal Osborn told state lawmakers Thursday. If the Legislature wants to encourage the cattle industry and feedlots, she said, “they can go out and buy a water right just like everyone else in this state.”