Profanity Peak wolf controversy
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
September 8, 2016
The plight of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in northeastern Washington has drawn national attention after the pack repeatedly preyed on cattle and state officials made the decision to lethally control the entire wolf pack. Wolves in this region of the state are not under federal protection, but have protected status under state law.
In an unusual move, conservation organizations joined in and said while the need to remove the pack is regrettable, it is necessary. (See links below)
But a Washington State University professor, Rob Wielgus, was vocal in his opposition, going so far as to blame the livestock producer for the entire conflict. In an interview published in the Seattle Times, Wielgus claimed that the rancher intentionally turned his cattle out over the top of a wolf den.
Washington State University took the unusual step of issuing a statement on the Wielgus claims, noting: "Some of Wielgus’ statements in regard to this controversial issue have been both inaccurate and inappropriate. As such, they have contributed substantially to the growing anger and confusion about this significant wildlife management issue and have unfairly jeopardized the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group’s many-months long stakeholder process. Moreover, the statements do not in any way represent the views or position of WSU or the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources Sciences. These statements are disavowed by our institutions."
The statement continued: "In an article published by the Seattle Times on Aug. 25, Wielgus stated that a particular livestock operator had "elected to put his livestock directly on top of (the wolves’) den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it…"
"In fact, the rancher identified in the article did not intentionally place livestock at or near the den site of the Profanity Peak wolf pack, and Wielgus subsequently acknowledged that he had no basis in fact for making such a statement. In actuality, the livestock were released at low elevation on the east side of the Kettle Crest more than 4 miles from the den site and were dispersed throughout the allotments based on instructions found in the Annual Operating Instructions (AOI). The CC mountain allotment is more than 30,000 acres and livestock are generally moved from pasture to pasture following an established rotation.
"In the same article, Wielgus stated that a particular cattle rancher had also "refused to radio-collar his cattle to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves" and that there had been no documented "cattle kills among producers who are participating in research studies and very few among producers using Fish and Wildlife’s protocol."
"In fact, the rancher identified in the article has held a term grazing permit for 73 years and has worked with both the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service in the management of livestock in order to avoid conflict – following procedures outlined by the Washington Wolf Advisory Group. In order to reduce wolf/livestock conflict, the rancher has modified livestock rotation practices and utilized range riders to ensure livestock safety.
"While the rancher is not currently participating in Wielgus’ ongoing study, radio-collaring of livestock is not a Wolf Advisory Group procedure nor is it 100 percent effective at preventing depredations. It is inaccurate to state that there have been no cattle kills among producers participating in the study. There is at least one permittee who is participating in the study who has incurred livestock depredations."
The WSU statement ended with this: "WSU subscribes to the highest standards of research integrity and will not and cannot condone statements that have the effect of compromising that integrity. Regarding future steps for preventing subsequent inaccurate or inappropriate statements, we are implementing applicable internal university processes.
"WSU apologizes to our friends, our science partners and to the public for this incident."
Wielgus was the primary author of a published research paper claiming that killing wolves actually increases depredations on livestock – a paper that received widespread publicity and was later discredited.
The dispute over the future of the Profanity Peak pack has caused disputes between environmental groups, and wolf advocates have split on the issue as well.
Conservation Northwest’s Mitch Friedman wrote why his group supports removal of the pack: "we totally support the policy itself (the lethal take protocol), as even the most diligent steward using the best conflict avoidance measures can still get into conflict with wolves that persistently prey on livestock. Not only do such ranchers deserve support in surmounting this new challenge on a moral basis, but there’s simply no way that rural communities, who are the ones that overwhelmingly end up having wolves more involved in their lives than urban folks, would support wolf recovery without such policies."
Check out the links below for all the details mentioned in this story.