Category Archives: Livestock

Press Release: Wolf Livestock Depredation in WA and Profanity Peak Pack

Dr. Robert Wielgus Director, Large Carnivore Conservation Lab 3/27/17

This Press release was written by Dr. Wielgus as a private citizen and does not express the positions of Washington State University.                                                                                    

Four years ago the Washington State Legislature tasked and funded me to determine 1.) the extent of wolf livestock depredations in WA, 2.)  possible contributing factors, and 3.) possible mitigating factors – to reduce livestock depredations in WA.

Here are the verifiable facts concerning wolf livestock depredations obtained from my WSU radio-telemetry data of wolves and livestock, date and time stamped video records of wolves and livestock, and public records from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife*.

  1.  Using intensive radio-telemetry of livestock overlapping wolf home ranges: among 11 different cooperating herds studied over 2 years – zero of 764 radio-tagged livestock were killed by wolves. Among this sample of cooperating ranchers, fewer than 1% of estimated livestock losses were due to wolf depredations. 
  2.  Using extensive radio-monitoring of 5 wolf packs monitored over 3 years (15 wolf pack years) and examination of 444 wolf kill sites: 9 of 15 packs had zero wolf livestock kills at 444 kill sites and 3 of 15 packs had < 5% livestock kills. For the remaining 3 packs with more than 5% kills, one had 16% and another had 23% – and sheep comprised most of these kills. The Profanity Peak pack had 67% livestock kills. Among this sample of wolf packs, including the Profanity Peak outlier, fewer than 7% of wolf kills were livestock.
  3.  Re: the numerous livestock depredations by the profanity Peak Pack. Using radio-telemetry and date and time stamped video surveillance, livestock were documented to be concentrated in the immediate vicinity of the Profanity pack den and rendezvous site. Salt blocks were also observed within 200 meters of the den. Several days after livestock arrived at the den-site, wolves began depredating the livestock, and numerous livestock were eventually killed by wolves.  After failure of subsequent non-lethal interventions to deter livestock depredations the wolf pack was lethally controlled. 
  4. Re; Preventative measures taken in the Profanity Peak Pack. The rancher involved did not sign and abide by the terms of a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Damage Prevention Agreement* prior to lethal control of wolves.  (See Profanity Peak Post Action report, Appendix 1, Wolf-Livestock Conflict Prevention/Reduction Activities and Associated Expectations, “Avoiding Den and Rendezvous Sites”  See paragraph 4, page 14 here. Using radio-telemetry and date and time stamped  video surveillance, cattle remained in high use wolf core areas (den and rendezvous site) during the depredations and salt blocks remained in these areas until after lethal control of wolves began.  Cattle remained in high use wolf core areas before, during and after wolf lethal control actions.  

In summary, wolf livestock depredations were not widespread and chronic in wolf-occupied areas of Washington. Instead, wolf livestock depredations appear to be rare and acute, with multiple depredations occurring in particular situations, such as described for Profanity Peak.    

These results were reviewed by WSU graduate committees, independent outside members of the committees, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Director of the School of Environment at WSU. Raw data and observations were shared with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. These results will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals in summer 2017. 

I recommend to WDFW, the WAG, and ranchers in WA to sign, and/or abide by the terms of the WDFW Cooperative Damage Prevention Agreements to reduce wolf livestock depredations. Failing that, I recommend that WDFW consider that future lethal control of wolves on public lands, for livestock depredations on public lands, be conducted only on behalf of ranchers that sign and/or abide by the terms of a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Damage Prevention Agreement – in order to provide further incentives for non-lethal preventative measures.  These recommendations could prevent similar events as happened in fall 2016 and in previous years. 

I wish to thank all the cooperating and non-cooperating ranchers in Washington, the Washington State Legislature, and my research partners at WDFW, USFS, USFWS, and Colville Confederated Tribes that made this research possible.

*Signatories to Damage Prevention agreements have access to den site location and are expected to avoid such areas if possible. 
Agreements are tailored to individual producer situations, including availability of alternative grazing sites to avoid core wolf activity centers (pup-rearing den and rendezvous sites) and WDFW-radio-collared wolf monitoring information. 

Landowners agree to share information regarding wolf activity, livestock behavior, and preventive actions taken, and to allow WDFW staff access to lands owned or controlled for livestock production. 

Livestock producers interested in Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreements can contact their local WDFW Wildlife Conflict Specialist, Regional Office, or the wildlife conflict program manager Stephanie Simek atStephanie.Simek@dfw.wa.gov or at: 360-902-2476

Producers will meet with WDFW wildlife conflict specialists currently deployed to cover their area.  

Contact Info: Wielgus@wsu.edu

Fewer than 1% of estimated livestock losses were due to wolf depredations. 

Not One Wolf.

Wolves should not be killed to protect livestock grazing on public lands, and certainly not in National Forests. 

Not one single wolf.

“The Bridger Teton National Forest missed a chance to promote the public interest over private businesses when it decided in its draft management plan for the Upper Green Allotment to continue to allow ranchers to run livestock without any significant changes to protect the public’s wildlife and other values.

The Upper Green is perhaps the most important non-protected wildlife habitat in the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Yet the BTNF treats it as if the best use of this land is as a feedlot for private cattle.

Worse for our native wildlife is the fact that the Upper Green is a crucial wildlife corridor. It is regularly used by grizzlies, wolves and as a migration route for pronghorn, elk, and mule deer. The mere presence of domestic livestock creates massive conflicts, and the Forest Service has done nothing to reduce these conflicts.” – George Wuerthner

Again, I ask you to please take the time to voice your opposition to livestock grazing, on your public lands, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Your comment must be received by November 21st. Should you wish to compose your own letter, please see this blog post for talking points.
If you prefer, feel free to personalize and copy the following letter which you may either mail to: comments-intermtn-bridger-teton-pinedale@fs.fed.us

or, you may submit your comment here.

To Whom This May Concern,

Thank you for taking the time for my comment regarding livestock grazing in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. I believe livestock should no longer be permitted to graze in the allotments on the Upper Green River project area, and select “Alternative One –  No Livestock Grazing”.

It is impossible to produce livestock in the west without a multitude of negative impacts including soil erosion and compaction, water pollution, the spread of invasive weeds, spread of disease from domestic animals to wildlife, changes in plant community structure, interruption of natural nutrient cycles, disruption of natural fire regimes, and degradation of riparian zones.

I disagree with the compromising and domestication of our public lands with fencing, water tanks, pipelines, and other infrastructure designed to make our public lands better “stock yards”. The Upper Green is a crucial wildlife corridor. It is regularly used by grizzlies, wolves and as a migration route for pronghorn, elk, and mule deer. Not only does livestock grazing reduce the ability of the land to support native herbivores, but the mere presence of domestic livestock creates conflicts with predators such as wolves and grizzlies, which are, more often than not, “removed”.

Wildlife is one of the five purposes of the national forests under the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, and the Forest Service is obligated to manage for healthy, viable populations of wildlife under the National Forest Management Act and the agency’s own regulations. With such extensive grazing allotments, this obligation is ignored.

To reiterate, I select Alternative One – No Livestock Grazing, as I understand it:
Under alternative one, livestock would no longer be permitted to graze in the six allotments on the Upper Green River project area. Livestock grazing would be eliminated and current term grazing permits would be cancelled. Livestock grazing would cease two years after notice of cancellation.

Livestock grazing should *never* compromise our wildlife’s ability to thrive, and, certainly not on our public lands.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Your name

Please tweet this to your following: #Wolves should not be killed to protect livestock grazing on #publiclands #StandForWolves Take Action by Nov 21: http://wp.me/p6o9qd-11O  Tweet4Wolves

 

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Copyright © 2016

[COPYRIGHT Intheshadowofthewolf, name and webpage]. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Wyoming Grazing Allotments in Prime Wolf and Grizzly Habitat

Livestock grazing is promoted, protected and subsidized by federal agencies on approximately 270 million acres of public land in the 11 western states. By destroying vegetation, damaging wildlife habitats and disrupting natural processes, livestock grazing wreaks ecological havoc on riparian areas, rivers, deserts, grasslands and forests alike — causing significant harm to species and the ecosystems on which they  depend.

 “Conservation can be defined as the wise use of our natural environment: it is, in the final analysis, the highest form of  national thrift—the prevention of waste and despoilment while preserving, improving and renewing the quality and usefulness of all our resources.”

President John F. Kennedy 
Conservation Message to Congress (1962)

Presently, Bridger-Teton National Forest permits allow more than 7,000 sheep and 15,000 cattle to graze public land in the Upper Green. The environmental planning document from the Forest Service, which would allow grazing in the area to continue for years to come, proposes to renew livestock grazing permits on 266 square miles of public forestland near the Upper Green River has been released to the public. 
The USDA Forest Service’s preferred plan calls for retaining grazing rights on all the acreage that is grazed today and slightly reducing the number of livestock allowed to 8,772 cow-calf pairs and yearling cattle. The Bridger-Teton’s proposal (alternative 3) which would reduce the authorized grazing season on four of six allotments, and add 7 miles of fence line is still a nightmare for wolves, grizzlies, the ecosystem and other wildlife.

Hardly an environmentally friendly plan.

Take a moment to comment against plans for the future of the massive grazing allotment complex, which is also prime wolf and grizzly habitat. The complex spans the entire* Bridger-Teton National Forest from north to south, spills into the Gros Ventre River drainage, and is an environmental disaster.

The Forest Service makes the outrageous claim that their proposal is a “livestock grazing strategy designed to maintain existing rangeland and riparian conditions where they meet desired conditions and improve rangeland and riparian conditions in areas of concern.”

The Upper Green rangeland is the most concentrated area for grizzly bear conflict in the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A year ago, 80 livestock were confirmed killed by the large carnivores, and five chronically depredating grizzlies were captured and killed in return. Numerous wolves have also been removed for the crime of consumption of the “wrong ungulate”.

Beyond the Fish and Wildlife-directed guidelines, the Bridger-Teton’s plan introduces no new required nonlethal techniques to stem grizzly-cattle conflict. Forest planners hope to finalize the document before the next grazing season, by which time grizzly bears may be managed by Wyoming.

Three other alternatives are included in the Bridger-Teton’s lengthy planning document.

One option would take “no action” and allow no livestock on the rangeland, and another would continue the grazing regime as it occurs today. A fourth alternative focuses on reducing damage to riparian areas from cattle grazing.

Comments on the BridgerTetons draft plans for the Upper Green rangeland are due by November 21st. More information can be found here.

Comment on The Upper Green River Area Rangeland #3049 project here

Read the alternative options here.

*The 323-square-mile public lands rangeland complex in the Upper Green is the largest grazing allotment in the U.S. Forest Service system. The draft plan includes grazing permits on 266 square miles of this area. 
*The allotments are the site of about 40 bear-livestock conflicts a year, according to Forest Service documents.

Before September 23rd 2014, when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) delisting of wolves in Wyoming, life for a wolf was miserable, designated and “managed” as Trophy Game Animals in the Northwest
(just $18 for Wyoming residents to ‘bag their trophy”). In the rest of Wyoming, designated as Predatory Animals subject to an on-sight shooting policy, killed by any means, at any time, without a license. Should wolves lose their protected status in Wyoming, the species will be subject to this sort of mismanagement within the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

National Forests and Other Public Lands 
should not be managed for the profit margin of private businesses. Period.

The Forest Service allows people to enter into a publicly owned national forest to kill wolves, often without restrictions. Wildlife is one of the five purposes of the national forests under the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, and the Forest Service is obligated to manage for healthy, viable populations of wildlife under the National Forest Management Act and the agency’s own regulations.


Please take a few moments of your time to comment against livestock grazing in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  Eliminating livestock grazing on this enormous allotment might possibly do more for grizzly bears and wolves than any other area in Wyoming.

Please select Alternative One ~ No Livestock Grazing
Under alternative one, livestock would no longer be permitted to graze in the six allotments on the Upper Green River project area. Livestock grazing would be eliminated and current term grazing permits would be cancelled. Livestock grazing would cease two years after notice of cancellation.

The animal and plant populations of the west evolved in an ecosystem that relied on a certain amount of grazing by native animal populations, but the level of grazing that accompanied the introduction of cattle in the last 300 years disrupts the symbiotic relationships of native plants and animals.

Send a tweet to your following:
Help save #Wyoming #wolves #grizzlies #wildlife Comment against largest @forestservice grazing allotments by 11/21 
http://wp.me/p6o9qd-11g Tweet this 

Talking points:

• Numerous studies have documented that the mere presence of domestic animals displaces native species.
  
• It is impossible to produce livestock in the west without a multitude of negative impacts including soil erosion and compaction, water pollution, the spread of invasive weeds, spread of disease from domestic animals to wildlife, changes in plant community structure, interruption of natural nutrient cycles, disruption of natural fire regimes, degradation of riparian zones (the majority of riparian areas on public lands are not what hydrologist’s term “proper functioning condition”).

• With livestock comes the removal of predators like wolves and grizzlies.

• With livestock comes the removal of “pests” such as prairie dogs, a competitor of livestock, which were reduced in population to less than 1 percent of their estimated pre-19th century numbers. Because prairie dogs share dependencies with approximately 200 other wildlife species of the prairie ecosystem, their decimation led to drastic declines in the populations of these other animals. Among them, none had been more adversely affected than the black-footed ferret. Once numbering in the tens of millions, by 1986 the species had dwindled to only 18 free-living individuals.

• The degradation and domestication of our public lands with fencing, water tanks, pipelines, and other infrastructure designed to make our public lands better “stock yards” for the benefit of the few ~ public lands ranchers. Livestock grazing infrastructure, commonly bought and paid for by the American tax-payer, has quite literally tamed the once wild West.  Hundreds of thousands of miles of fencing on public lands have obstructed natural wildlife movement the migration of native ungulates, which can lead to death during times of environmental stress, such as droughts and blizzards.
Water developments built to facilitate livestock use of public lands have dewatered springs, seeps, and streams which serve as critical habitats for a variety of wildlife across the West.

• There are very few places in the West where native ungulates like bighorn sheep, deer, and elk are at their true biological carrying capacity because the bulk of forage is allotted to domestic livestock. Overgrazing by cattle can literally extirpate native vegetation. In one study, scientists found that domestic livestock grazing consumed 88.8 percent of the available forage. Fewer elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn, and even bison, means that is that much less prey is available to sustain wolves, and other top predators.

•  In the United States, livestock grazing has contributed to the listing of 22 percent of federal threatened and endangered species—almost equal to logging (12 percent) and mining (11 percent) combined. Nationwide, livestock grazing is the 4th major cause of species endangerment and the 2nd major cause of endangerment of plant species. No other human activity in the West is as responsible for the decline or loss of species as is livestock production.

References and Related content:

Veterinarians in Wildlife and Ecosystem Health Excerpt

Public Lands Ranching

The  Case against Public Lands Livestock Production

No Such Thing As PredatorFriendly Beef 

16 wolves get death penalty for eating into Wyoming cattle rancher profits

3 wolves in problematic pack targeted after livestock loss

Why Wipe Wolves from Most of Wyoming

Wyoming Court Seeking Control of Wolves

Wolves, livestock clash all around Wyoming

Public Lands Grazing 

BTNF cuddles ranchers on Upper Green

Upper Green Grazing Analysis Out

Sierra Club’s Grazing Campaign 

Feature image by Christi Sabin.  All other photography by Chris Montano Jr.

Copyright © 2016 

[COPYRIGHT Intheshadowofthewolf, name and webpage]. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

 

Be a Voice for the Profanity Peak Pack 

Be a voice for the #ProfanityPeakPack. 

Send an email on behalf of the wolves of Washington state:

Dear Director Unsworth and Mr. Martorello,

Lethal removal of the entire Profanity Peak pack to stop depredations on livestock grazing on public lands in known wolf territory is not acceptable and frankly an abomination.
The state’s policy calls for wolves to be widely distributed throughout Washington, and the slow progress toward meeting statewide recovery goals  can easily be attributed to lethal measures utilized to protect livestock.

The fact that Washington, home to 6,971,406 people, 1,100,000 cattle, and approximately 50,000 sheep, can not allow room for approximately 90 wolves is just plain outrageous.
Ranchers getting subsidized forage on our public lands, reimbursement for losses due to depredation, as well as  grazing livestock near known wolf habitat should gracefully accept their losses and/or terminate their lease.
Our public lands and ecosystems should  not be sacrificed for the private profit of individuals. Study after study has demonstrated that grazing of livestock depresses virtually all species of wildlife, and on western rangelands has probably had a greater adverse impact on wildlife populations than any other single factor. We all have a responsibility to the Earth, our environment, and our wildlife, including wolves. It is far past time for the health of our planet and the survival of our co-inhabitants to be of the utmost importance; our focus should be on eliminating that which degrades our forests and other public lands and destroys our ecosystems.

It was disheartening to hear that State wildlife officials shot two pack members of the Profanity Peak pack on August 5th, one being the breeding female with freshly weaned pups. Then, on August 21st, Department staff lethally removed one adult male. The next day, staff removed three wolves, including one female pup, an adult male, and a second adult. The Department asserts that the second adult wolf was “humanely” killed, though this is highly unlikely as Department staff have not yet retrieved this animal (“Staff verified that the wolf was humanely killed from a helicopter, but was not found during in subsequent attempts to locate it.”) We are now left with 4 surviving pups, 1 adult, and possibly 1 gravely injured wolf.

I understand that “removing” the entire Profanity Peak pack “may prove challenging, given the rugged, timbered landscape in the area”, and I am assuming that once again officials will be gunning the remaining members down via helicopter. I also assume that little thought has been given any to the remaining pups who are too young to be hunting with the pack and therefore will be the unlucky survivors of this aerial slaughter. They will have the fortune of waiting, at the den site, for the return of their family and will have the ‘opportunity’ to starve to death.

I also understand that LARC is offering a win-win scenario for all stakeholders by kindly offering to rescue and relocate the wolves to their sanctuary. This non-lethal removal/rescue is the ethical, moral way forward that meets the needs of all parties.

The ongoing slaughter of our wildlife at the behest of private businesses needs to come to a full stop. Please rescind the kill order for the remainder of the Profanity Peak pack. Removing the wolves alive is certainly more humane than lethal control. Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Your name.

Mail to: director Jim Unsworth here: jim.unsworth@dfw.wa.gov   Also email a copy to: wildthing@dfw.wa.gov.

Cc to: Donny.Martorello@dfw.wa.gov

Please also send a copy of your letter to Governor Inslee here. Or here: (contact formOr here: GovernorBoardsandCommissions@gov.wa.gov. 

Please support new legislation which will help remove livestock from our public lands.  More information can be found here.

Sign a petition here.

Related content:

Entire wolf pack to be killed.

Killing wolves on public lands is no longer acceptable.  

Copyright © 2016 [COPYRIGHT Intheshadowofthewolf, name and webpage]. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.