Latest from The Spokesman-Review
PREDATORS — Livestock growers are likely to disagree, to put it politely, with the findings of a wolf study just released by Washington State University. But here's the scoop:
It is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock, according to the analysis of 25 years of data.
Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer, the researchers say in a WSU News online release.
Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, WSU wildlife biologist Rob Wielgus and data analyst Kaylie Peebles say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly.
The trend continues until 25 percent of the wolves in an area are killed. Ranchers and wildlife managers then see a “standing wave of livestock depredations,” said Wielgus.
That rate of wolf mortality “is unsustainable and cannot be carried out indefinitely if federal relisting of wolves is to be avoided,” they said.
- See a Spokesman-Review report on the study by Becky Kramer, which has the following quote:
John Pierce, the department’s chief wildlife scientist, said the research isn’t making the agency re-think its actions.
“If his findings are true – and I think of them more as hypotheses – our typical understanding of how animals react to lethal control is not intuitive for wolves,” he said. “By removing the resident animals, you might exacerbate the situation” in the long-term.
But that doesn’t reduce the short-term value of killing wolves to halt ongoing livestock attacks, Pierce said.
- A Canadian study finds hunting increases stress on wolves.
Here are more details and background from the WSU media release:
Study analyzes 25 years of data
The gray wolf was federally listed as endangered in 1974. During much of its recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, government predator control efforts have been used to keep wolves from attacking sheep and livestock. With wolves delisted in 2012, sport hunting has also been used. But until now, the effectiveness of lethal control has been what Wielgus and Peebles call a “widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis.”
Their study is the largest of its kind, analyzing 25 years of lethal control data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Interagency Annual Wolf Reports in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The researchers found that killing one wolf increases the odds of depredations 4 percent for sheep and 5 to 6 percent for cattle. If 20 wolves are killed, livestock deaths double.
Work reported in PLOS ONE last year by Peebles, Wielgus and other WSU colleagues found that lethal controls of cougars also backfire, disrupting their populations so much that younger, less disciplined cougars attack more livestock.
Still, Wielgus did not expect to see the same result with wolves.
“I had no idea what the results were going to be, positive or negative,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see what happened.’ I was surprised that there was a big effect.”
Three breeding pairs in state
Wielgus said wolf killings likely disrupt the social cohesion of the pack. While an intact breeding pair will keep young offspring from mating, disruption can set sexually mature wolves free to breed, leading to an increase in breeding pairs. As they have pups, they become bound to one place and can’t hunt deer and elk as freely. Occasionally, they turn to livestock.
Under Washington state’s wolf management plan, wolves will be a protected species until there are 15 breeding pairs for three years. Depredations and lethal controls, legal and otherwise, are one of the biggest hurdles to that happening.
Wolves from the Huckleberry Pack killed more than 30 sheep in Stevens County, Wash., this summer, prompting state wildlife officials to authorize killing up to four wolves. An aerial gunner ended up killing the pack’s alpha female. A second alpha female, from the Teanaway pack near Ellensburg, Wash., was illegally shot and killed in October.
That left three known breeding pairs in the state.
Non-lethal interventions encouraged
As it is, said Wielgus, a small percentage of livestock deaths are from wolves. According to the management plan, they account for between .1 percent and .6 percent of all livestock deaths—a minor threat compared to other predators, disease, accidents and the dangers of calving.
In an ongoing study of non-lethal wolf control, Wielgus’ Large Carnivore Conservation Lab last summer monitored 300 radio-tagged sheep and cattle in eastern Washington wolf country. None were killed by wolves.
Still, there will be some depredations, he said. He encourages more non-lethal interventions like guard dogs, “range riders” on horseback, flags, spotlights and “risk maps” that discourage grazing animals in hard-to-protect, wolf-rich areas.
“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” Wielgus said, “and society has told us that that’s not going to happen.”
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The federal government has downgraded the protected status of the last remaining herd of mountain caribou in the Lower 48 from endangered to threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the change on Wednesday, in response to petitions from Idaho's Bonner County and a snowmobile group. The northern Idaho caribou herd is thought to number only about 30 animals, but interacts with a much-larger herd in Canada. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group seeking to protect the herd, said Wednesday's decision means the animals will continue to get the protection they need; the center issued a statement here saying the petition sought to remove all protection.
Nearly 20 years after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, deep fault lines remain in public opinion over wolves’ presence and the appropriate limits of their range, reports S-R reporter Becky Kramer. The divide was spotlighted last month, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was ready to get out of the wolf business. Agency officials have proposed ending federal protections for the 6,100 wolves in the Lower 48 states by the end of the year, with the exception of the Southwest’s Mexican gray wolves. Read Kramer's stories here, here, here, and here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.
The only place in the world where the rare Packard’s milkvetch plant is found is in a 10-square-mile area in Payette County in the Big Willow area, the BLM says, so it’s proposing new off-road travel restrictions in the area to protect the plant. The restrictions will include three designations: Areas open for motorized travel both on- and off-trail; areas closed to all motor vehicle use; and areas where motorized vehicles are limited to designated trails.
A 127-acre area would be designated as open, to allow “hill-climbing” and other off-roading. A 5,620-acre area would be closed; and 1,620 areas would be limited; the restrictions are scheduled to start in the fall.
“This decision is necessary because the habitat for Packard’s milkvetch is at risk from damage by motorized vehicle traffic,” said Terry Humphrey, field manager for the BLM Four Rivers Field Office. “These travel designations would allow motorized vehicle use to continue on designated trails and provide for hill climbing opportunities in certain areas, while insuring the protection of the plant and its habitat for further damage.
The Packard’s milkvetch is currently listed as a candidate species for protection from extinction under the Endangered Species Act; click below for the BLM’s full announcement. The agency developed the designations after two years of study, public meetings and outreach to area recreationists.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this morning announced its proposal to lift most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states (with the exception of the Mexican wolf areas), a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts.
- The move is criticized by some scientists as premature; they listed concerns in May.
- Sportsmen's groups have been quick to support delisting.
- Washington-based Conservation Northwest also says delisting is premature, citing the reduced penalties for wolf poaching.
- The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership calls wolf delisting a conservation success story.
But in a draft proposal, federal scientists said the wolves in Washington and Oregon "constitute the expanding front of large, robust, and recovered wolf populations to the north and east.
Federal officials said in the draft, “We are confident that wolves will continue to recolonize the Pacific Northwest regardless of federal protection.”
The public has 90 days to comment period on the proposal. A final decision is expected next year.
With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.
Prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.
However, you won't find many lawmakers in districts occupied by wolves calling for more wolf protections, and 72 members of Congress representing both parties signed a letter to President Obama in March requesting the gray wolf be delisted from Engangered Species protections.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., issued this statement today, calling the delisting proposal "long overdue."
Read this morning's AP report, which includes the range of opinions.
ENDANGERED SPECIES - The Los Angeles Times reports today that the feds are getting ready to announce their proposal to remove gray wolves from Endangered species protections.
Mike Jimenez, who manages wolves in the northern Rockies for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said delisting in that region underscored a "huge success story."
The sweeping rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would eliminate protection for wolves 18 years after the government reestablished the predators in the West, where they had been hunted to extinction. Their reintroduction was a success, with the population growing to the thousands.
Pro wolf groups already are arguing that the move would cut short wolf recovery before the species has advanced anywhere near its former range, including Colorado and Utah.
But it's clear that state and federal wildlife manager are saying wolves have reestablished better than scientists had predicted and the headaches and social impact make delisting a prudent step in the wolf's best interest.
- Washington wildlife managers wild decide today whether to enact an emergency rule giving landowners authority without a special permit to shoot a wolf that's attacking their pets or livestock. See details here.
- S-R Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden has a wolf report from the Legislature.
The presence of wolves has always drawn protests across the Intermountain West from state officials, hunters and ranchers who lost livestock to the wolves. They have lobbied to remove the gray wolf from the endangered list.
Jimenez said that while wolves are now legally hunted in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the federal agency continues to monitor pack populations and can reinstate protections should numbers reach levels that biologists consider to be dangerously low.
Federal authorities intend to remove endangered species protections for all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states, carving out an a exception for a small pocket of about 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a draft document obtained by The Times.
Once those protections end, the fate of wolves is left to individual states. The species is only beginning to recover in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. California is considering imposing its own protections after the discovery of a lone male that wandered into the state's northern counties from Oregon two years ago.
The species has flourished elsewhere, however, and the government ended endangered status for the gray wolf in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions last year.
Idaho delegation lauds new, smaller caribou habitat designation; ICL says it’s not enough for recovery
Idaho's congressional delegation is praising the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its final designation of critical habitat for endangered woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains, which, instead of the original 375,552 acres, designates just 30,010 acres, only 6,029 of it in Idaho. That Idaho habitat is all on national forest land in Boundary County; no land in Bonner County was included.
"I am pleased that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listened to the public outcry regarding the impacts this expanded critical habitat designation would have had upon people's livelihoods," said 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador. "This is an example of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recognizing the need for improved species management and we applaud the efforts of the men and women on the ground in Idaho who made this decision."
Sen. Jim Risch called the final designation "more realistic than the initial proposal," and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson called it a "reasonable and fact-based decision." Click below for their full statements.
Meanwhile, the Idaho Conservation League noted that the number of caribou has dropped from 46 in 2009 to just 27 in 2012. Brad Smith, ICL conservation associate in Sandpoint, said of the new habitat designation: "Unfortunately, this represents that habitat used by an imperiled herd rather than a recovered herd. More habitat must be protected to have a growing herd and achieve recovery." He released a Q&A on the caribou habitat designation; you can read it here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) ― A northern Idaho county and a snowmobile group have sued the U.S. Department of Interior in federal court, the latest step in their bid to have Endangered Species Act protections lifted from rare woodland caribou that roam the U.S-Canadian border region. Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association filed their complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court. They're being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group. Their complaint contends U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has failed to act on their petition lodged earlier this year contending the caribou were improperly given ESA protections starting in 1983. They want Salazar to make a decision on the petition ― and to pay for their lawsuit. Four caribou were counted south of the Canadian border during an aerial census last winter.
A federal judge has rejected a challenge from environmental groups seeking to force the federal government to take immediate action to increase protections for the sage grouse; such a move could have curtailed new energy production on public lands across the West, the AP reports. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Ben Neary in Cheyenne.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Rep. Dod Hastings, R-WA, says he's ready to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, according to this McClatchy report.
In his TGIF Cheers & Jeers column this week (full version here), Marty Trillhaase/Lewiston Tribune jeers state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. "Not only is he a tax scofflaw and a timber bandit, he's now a certified blowhard. It will be a cold day in Athol before Hart's political grandstanding makes a difference in Boise, much less Washington, D.C. But that hasn't stopped him from trying. Hart claims Congress knuckled under and pulled wolves in Idaho and Montana from the federal Endangered Species Act protection because of his bill declaring a state emergency and authorizing the killing of wolves.
- Rule No. 1 - Idaho can pass all the bills it wants. It can't trump a federal law.
- Rule No. 2 - Get your facts straight, Phil. Two months earlier U.S. Rep Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, engineered a rider - and an alliance with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana - to end federal wolf protection. "
Question: Who would be a good candidate to challenge Rep. Phil Hart in the 2012 GOP primary?
It may be revisionist history or simply effective campaign rhetoric, but at least Rep. Phil Hart isn’t waiting long to correct the record – as he sees it. Hart, R-Athol, said yesterday that it was the Idaho Legislature’s passage of House Bill 343 that spurred Congress to remove Idaho and Montana wolves from the U.S. Endangered Species List in April and allow this year’s wolf hunt. Forget that U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and other members of Congress and Gov. Butch Otter have worked the issue since before wolves were reintroduced in Idaho in 1995. “I was one of the main authors of the wolf emergency bill last session, which caused Congress to delist the wolves about three days after the (Idaho) Senate approved that bill,” Hart told me/Dan Popkey, Statesman. More here.
Question: Which critter above scares you most?
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how both of Idaho's U.S. senators and North Idaho's congressman introduced legislation today to amend the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it's OK to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person, in response to the Jeremy Hill incident. However, the law already says that - in the very next section after the one the new bill would amend. A spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill would “bolster” that provision, but a national species conservation group called it “simply political grandstanding”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how both of Idaho's U.S. senators and North Idaho's congressman introduced legislation today to amend the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it's OK to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person, in response to the Jeremy Hill incident. However, the law already says that - in the very next section after the one the new bill would amend. A spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill would "bolster" that provision, but a national species conservation group called it "simply political grandstanding."
Jeremy Hill of Porthill, Idaho shot a grizzly last May after it and two others wandered onto his property and were seen near his children's 4-H pig pen; he feared his six children were outside playing at the time. He was charged with a federal crime, but it later was dropped in favor of a non-criminal infraction, and Hill agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.
Derek Goldman, Northern Rockies representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, a national network of hundreds of groups that support species conservation, today blasted new legislation proposed by two Idaho senators and one Idaho congressman to amend the Endangered Species Act. “This is case of politicians using a single, rare and unfortunate incident to pander to extremists who want to undermine common-sense protections for wildlife," Goldman said. "This is simply political grandstanding by politicians who want to weaken laws that protect our wildlife and wildlife habitat for future generations of Americans.” Click below for his full statement.
Here's something odd: I've been hunting for the existing language in the Endangered Species Act that would be modified by the new legislation introduced today by three members of Idaho's congressional delegation, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, to clarify that people can shoot grizzly bears in self-defense. It turns out that practically identical language already exists in the very next section of the ESA that follows the one the Idaho lawmakers would amend.
Their bill says, "Notwithstanding any other provision of law (including regulations), the provisions of this Act shall not apply with respect to the taking of any grizzly bear by an individual who demonstrates to the Secretary by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual carried out the taking as a result of: 1 - self defense; 2 - defense of another individual; or 3 - a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual." This language, under the bill, would be tacked on to the end of Section 10 of 16 USC 1539.
In the existing law, in 16 USC 1540, there are two clauses, one about civil penalties, and one about criminal violations. They say: "Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no civil penalty shall be imposed if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual from bodily harm, from any endangered or threatened species." And: "Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, it shall be a defense to prosecution under this subsection if the defendant committed the offense based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual, from bodily harm from any endangered or threatened species."
I queried University of Idaho law professor Dale Gobel, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, to find the existing language in the law. "It's in the statute," he said, noting of the bill with a chuckle, "It seems redundant, but other than that, why not?"
Three members of Idaho's congressional delegation - Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador - are introducing legislation aimed at amending the Endangered Species Act in the wake of the Jeremy Hill case, in which a North Idaho man was charged with a federal crime for shooting one of three grizzly bears that wandered onto his property; the charge later was reduced to an infraction and Hill agreed to pay a fine. The three lawmakers said their new bill would clarify that it's not a crime to shoot a grizzly bear in self defense, in defense of another individual, or out of "a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual."
Hill said he was concerned about his children, who he thought might have been playing outside when the mother grizzly and two cubs wandered into his yard near a pen holding the children's 4-H pigs. Risch said, “Everyone who followed Mr. Hill’s case understood that he was not hunting a grizzly bear. He was protecting his family, which he truly believed was in harm’s way. This legislation will allow an individual to act in self-defense without having to mount a costly defense for their actions, if done appropriately. This is a common-sense change that needs to be passed.” You can read the three lawmakers' full statement here.
The Endangered Species Act already permits killing a grizzly bear in self-defense. "This just basically adds some more language to further bolster the self-defense language that's in the ESA," said Lindsay Nothern, Crapo's press secretary. "I wouldn't call it a major change in the law." But he said the lawmakers believe the Jeremy Hill case showed "that maybe we need to clarify the language in the law, and that's what we're doing."
The case of the north Idaho man who faces prison and a stiff fine after shooting a grizzly bear in his yard is another chilling example of a federal government that is out of control, overzealous, overreaching, overbearing and now, threatening the freedom of a father who was merely doing what any parent would do n responding to a mortal danger to his family. Indeed, Hill shot the bear because it wandered into his yard. Out of fear for his children’s safety, Hill shot the bear, and afterwards, contacted Idaho wildlife officials to let them know what happened. And yet, 33-year-old Jeremy Hill is charged by the feds with unlawfully killing the bear, which is protected by under the Endangered Species Act. Hill pleaded not guilty in the case days ago, and Gov. Butch Otter weighed in, sending a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar regarding the incident/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.
Question: Do you agree with Hoffman that the government reaction to the shooting of a grizzly in Boundary County is "overzealous, overreaching, overbearing"?
Former Idaho U.S. Sen. Larry Craig is working for a sportsmen's group that wants Congress to lift Endangered Species Act protections from wolves on grounds the prolific predators are hurting big game populations that are coveted by hunters in the region. Craig represents Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and was in Idaho's Capitol Monday, touting wolf delisting bills now in the U.S. House and Senate. Lawmakers, including Idaho U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, Craig's successor in Washington, D.C., seek to bypass the Endangered Species Act and lift 36-year-old protections for today's booming U.S. wolf population. Advocates who accompanied Craig say they have about 50 co-sponsors for federal legislation, including lawmakers from outside Rocky Mountain states, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan where most of the nation's wolves roam/John Miller, AP. More here. (AP file photo)
Question: Is Larry Craig the right person to lobby against Endangered Species Act protection for wolves?
re: Today is Endangered Species Act Day/HucksOnline
Honest George: Today I found the carcass of a beautiful golden-buff common barn-owl. Not a feather out of place, not a mark on its body — but it had died within just a few hours before I found it. Possibly it had eaten a poisoned mouse. The barn-owl isn’t on the endangered list but I’ve never had the experience of holding such a beautiful bird-creature in my hand before. Its heart-shaped face and extremely soft feathers and down is unlike anything in any of my previous experiences. The thought of a species being wiped out forever is a sobering thought. I would rather that we, as the dominant species, over-reacted in protecting all-species from a careless extermination rather than under-reacting.
Question: Do you agree/disagree w/Honest George re: caring for wild creatures?
Did you know that Idaho is home to 15 animals that are on the Endangered Species List, including grizzly bear, caribou, limpet, lynx, 3 kinds of salmon, 4 kinds of snail, northern Idaho ground squirrel, Snake River steelhead, sturgeon and bull trout. You can see the full list here. Washington has 29 animals on the list. Also, did you know that today is Endangered Species Day?
Question: Do you think the Endangered Species Act needs to be toughened, loosened, or is just right?
State representative candidate David Klingenberg said he believes Idaho needs to start fighting more battles related to one thing - the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “The federal government beats districts into submission,” he said. “The state has to stand up and say, ‘No, we’re not doing that anymore.’” Some federal regulations can be harmful to Idaho’s economy and potential job growth, he said. For example, Klingenberg said he would support the nullification of the Endangered Species Act in the state of Idaho. Efforts to add the giant Palouse earthworm to the list of endangered species potentially endangers Idaho jobs - such as agriculture and logging - and could “bankrupt Latah County,” he said/Christina Lords, Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here. Question: Do you think the Endangered Species Act goes too far, not far enough, or is just right?
State representative candidate David Klingenberg said he believes Idaho needs to start fighting more battles related to one thing - the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “The federal government beats districts into submission,” he said. “The state has to stand up and say, ‘No, we’re not doing that anymore.’” Some federal regulations can be harmful to Idaho’s economy and potential job growth, he said. For example, Klingenberg said he would support the nullification of the Endangered Species Act in the state of Idaho. Efforts to add the giant Palouse earthworm to the list of endangered species potentially endangers Idaho jobs - such as agriculture and logging - and could “bankrupt Latah County,” he said/Christina Lords, Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here.
Question: Do you think the Endangered Species Act goes too far, not far enough, or is just right?
U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar is taking the gray wolf off the endangered species list in Idaho and other Western states.
Wolves have recovered and don’t need ESA protection, Salazar said. Management plans are being turned over to the states everywhere but in Wyoming, where the state’s plan still needs work, he said.
The announcement was met with praise from the Idaho congressional delegation, who, past and present, have been working to remove federal protections for gray wolves.
Gov. Butch Otter sees this as an economic boon. He thinks letting folks hunt wolves, which is part of the state’s management plan, will help the state’s $35 million hunting and fishing industry.
Rep. Walt Minnick called it a good thing, too, saying he’s been talking with the administration and other Westerners in Congress and fellow “Blue Dog Democrats.” Yeah, there’s always been some animosity between dogs and wolves.
One of the Blue Dogs is Rep. John Salazar of Colorado. Yes, he’s related to the secretary; they’re brothers.