SCCA demands better access to wolf collar data

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The following letter was sent from the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife demanding better access to wolf collar data so incidents like the recent wolf conflict on the Dashiell ranch near Hunters can be avoided:

September 3, 2014

Dear Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife,

This letter is a formal request from the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association to ask you to improve your protocols for sharing wolf collar data with producers in wolf pack areas. With at least 8 packs, or suspected packs, in Stevens County, the likelihood for livestock producers to experience wolf conflict is great. That possibility is even greater when producers do not know where the wolves are located and may unknowingly move their animals near a pack or near a den site, as happened on the Dashiell ranch this summer.

You will recall that SCCA asked for collar data for producers last May, prior to the turnout of livestock on U.S. Forest Service grazing allotments on the Colville National Forest. At a meeting between WDFW, the U.S. Forest Service and SCCA we were assured that obtaining collar data would only require a simple liability/release form. However, a week later we were told that producers would have to sign additional agreements, including a Damage Prevention contract in order to access the data. A number of our producers contacted WDFW and Conflict Management Specialist Jay Shepherd asking for the collar data but either received no response or were stopped by additional red tape, technical issues etc.

Given the import of this data, it is time to remove any obstacles and give producers one of the tools they need to prevent wolf conflict. We are demanding that collar data be given to any producer within a 25 mile radius of a wolf pack via a simple liability/release agreement within 30 days or by October 2, 2014. The department should contact those producers in wolf areas, potentially by working with the state Department of Agriculture/brand department to identify and contact producers. Phone calls, a letter or some other direct form of communication should be used to contact those who are within the 25 mile radius of a wolf pack.

Please let us know if you need assistance in collecting contact information for cattle producers in Stevens County. We have notified the Stevens County Commissioners and our state legislators of our request, as it is within their economic interest to make sure family ranches aren’t driven out of our area.

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Statement from Dashiell ranch on Huckleberry pack situation

This summer our ranch experienced a crisis that is becoming all too common in Eastern Washington. Our sheep herd became the target of pack of wolves determined to kill and maim as many animals as possible despite our hardest efforts to prevent it.

Our usual everyday management included what a lot of people call “non-lethal deterrents” including a full time herder, four Marema/Akbash/Pyrenees cross guard dogs that live with the herd full time and rotating the sheep in their grazing area. But these actions did not prevent the wolves from attacking our sheep. Once the Huckleberry wolf pack began feeding on our band of sheep in early August, the killing was relentless with 2-3 animals lost every day. Once the killing started, we called on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to help and they provided the addition of four Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel stay with the sheep to try and increase human presence. We also allowed  the department to provide a range rider to try and haze the wolves and allowed the Department to chronicle the wolf kills as they happened on nearly a daily basis. This experience has taught us two things: once wolves start killing livestock, no amount of effort can discourage them and don’t put too much trust in words.

Weighing how much words are worth is something I have gained more experience in over the last year in my participation in the WDFW Wolf Advisory Group (WAG). For the last year, I have served as a representative for the Cattle Producers of Washington on the WAG, oftentimes traveling to all-day meetings far from the ranch. The purpose of our committee was to help the Department find ways to prevent and address the kinds of wolf conflicts I am currently experiencing and we can see how well that worked. The WAG had  long discussions about non-lethal methods, compensation, protocols for lethal removal, the monitoring and collaring of wolves and many other topics, but in the end all of the talk did very little to help a person in my situation.

In addition to being part of the WAG group, I am also one of a group of producers who have asked WDFW for wolf collar data so we can manage our herds. In our case we received no response and other producers were asked to sign a contract with certain non-lethal management rules first as some kind of test on whether they deserved the information or not. Being denied this basic tool directly caused the wolf conflict situation our ranch experienced, as we were unaware that we were moving our band of sheep near a wolf den site. Had we had access to the information, we would have made alternate grazing plans.

Words have also failed us because they aren’t always backed with action. We were told that four wolves from the Huckleberry pack would be removed, but as of last Friday, Aug. 22, the Department called off the helicopter team after only one wolf was removed and shortly after pulled the trappers as well. Our ranch was left and high and dry to try to try and handle the situation ourselves while at the same time having our hands tied due to the wolf’s state endangered species status.

With no other choice, we moved our sheep to a friend’s pasture on Sunday where they will be held until we can move them to a new grazing location far from our current site. Having to make this kind of change in the middle of the summer has caused considerable stress, expense and hardship to our operation. The grazing lease we had arranged with the private timber company was good until the middle of October and now we have to move our animals and try to find an alternate spot at the last minute.

Our animals are stressed, many are wounded and over 24 are confirmed as wolf killed. We had hoped to stay on the private leased ground, fulfill our contract, knock down the brush and weeds on the land to help manage it and move in the fall. Instead, we are being forced to leave early because WDFW will not follow through on their commitment to manage wolves and remove chronically depredating wolves. All the commitments from the Department meant nothing and again, words have failed us.

We don’t want to see this situation play out again on a different ranch in the county. The time for words is over, we need to see action. The Huckleberry wolf pack needs to be removed, not our sheep. By making us leave we are only passing the problem along to others in the area when the wolf finds their pets, animals and livestock.
I know from experience that continuing to talk about the wolf issue is futile. Our situation and others clearly shows that while non-lethal  “deterrents” or management methods may work for a short amount of time, but they don’t work forever and once wolves start killing livestock, that behavior cannot be stopped.

Removing problem wolves is part of wolf management and this reality has been accepted by other states. Washington needs to accept this as well.If we allow people to be forced off the land, our economy and our communities will suffer greatly. We are asking our Stevens County Commissioners Steve Parker, Don Dashiell and Wes McCart, our Sheriff Kendle Allen, our County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen and our legislators Joel Kretz, Shelly Short and Brian Dansel to recognize that the time for words is over, the time for action is now.wounded sheep 1 wounded sheep 2 wounded sheep 3

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Wolf management threatens private property rights

August 28,2014

Rancher should not be forced to leave grazing land

As the situation with the Huckleberry wolf pack continues to worsen and the pack continues to kill sheep from the Dashiell ranch on private grazing ground near Hunters, some groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the rancher leave the area. Stevens County Cattlemen’s President Scott Nielsen said that option is “unacceptable.”

“We know that at as this situation worsens, there are those who believe that forcing the rancher to leave his grazing lands will solve the problem,” said Nielsen. “But preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable. Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

Over 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting the Dashiell’s sheep herd earlier this summer. Non-lethal deterrents including a range rider, the work of up to four WDFW department staff, four guard dogs and herders have provided an on-going presence to try and stop the depredation. A helicopter was authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22, but only one was killed. The helicopter was recalled and padded leg-hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them.

SCCA argues that if the state does not follow through on their commitment to remove the problem wolves and prevents allowing the Dashiells to fulfill their grazing contract with the private landholder, Hancock Timber, a series of negative circumstances can occur.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” Nielsen said. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Nielsen also said while SCCA supports the attempt to lethally remove the wolves, he said that the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the information they needed to keep their herds away from wolf areas.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they had requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den. Excuses that the information could not be obtained from the tribe are not valid, as the department has had over a year to sort that issue out,” Nielsen said. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

For more information, visit www.stevenscountycattlemen.wordpress.com

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Sheep kill by Huckleberry pack totals 17

wolf sheep kill 1

One of the sheep killed by the Huckleberry pack that has been skinned by WDFW investigators to confirm a wolf killed the animal.

wolf sheep kill 2

Remains of a sheep killed by wolves on the Dashiell ranch.

wolf sheep kill 3

A sheep that has been skinned by WDFW investigators and is being examined.

As of August 23, the Huckleberry wolf pack has killed 17 sheep on the Dashiell ranch near hunters. A number of non-lethal methods including guard dogs, a herder, range rider and movement of the herd are all being tried to prevent any more kills. WDFW has also authorized the Dashiells and WDFW personnel to use lethal force against wolves near the herd. (See WDFW press release below):
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WDFW adopts new tactics to stop wolves
from preying on flock of sheep
OLYMPIA – A rancher and state wildlife officials working to herd a flock of 1,800 sheep away from the site of recent wolf attacks in southern Stevens County today received authorization to shoot wolves that approach the flock.

Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), today authorized livestock owner Dave Dashiell, of Hunters, and agency field staff to use limited lethal measures and preventative steps to avoid additional attacks on the flock.

Since Aug. 14, WDFW has confirmed that wolves killed 16 sheep in four separate incidents on leased forest land near Hunters, a small community about 48 miles northwest of Spokane. The latest attack occurred the night of Aug. 18.

Nine other sheep found prior to Aug. 14 had decomposed to the point where the cause of death could not be determined.

Signals from a radio collar attached to a male wolf in the Huckleberry Pack show the animal was at the site, likely with other pack members, when the attacks occurred, said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director.

Necropsies of the carcasses confirmed the sheep were killed by wolves, he said.

“The rancher has four large guard dogs and camps alongside his flock at night,” Pamplin said. “Yet, the attacks have continued, even after the department sent four members of our wildlife-conflict staff and an experienced range-rider to help guard the sheep and begin moving them out of the area.”

To further protect his sheep, the livestock owner has removed the carcasses of dead animals where possible to do so and kept his flock on the move around the grazing areas, Pamplin said.

“Dave Dashiell has worked closely with WDFW field staff to find solutions to this situation,” Pamplin said. “We really appreciate his efforts and his cooperation in working toward a shared goal.”

To support those efforts, Anderson directed WDFW wildlife staff to:

 

  • Help the livestock owner find an alternative grazing area away from the Huckleberry Pack.
  • Capture and collar additional wolves in the pack to provide additional information on their movements.
  • Be prepared to shoot wolves in the vicinity of the livestock owner’s sheep. Neither WDFW staff, nor the livestock owner, who was also authorized to shoot wolves in the vicinity, will actively hunt the wolves or attempt to draw them into range.

 

“Observing a wolf in the wild is a fairly rare thing,” Pamplin said. “Given the escalating pattern of attacks on this flock of sheep, it’s safe to assume in this situation that any wolves in the vicinity of that flock pose a direct risk to those animals.”

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal list of endangered species in the eastern third of the state, but the species is still protected under Washington state law. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and state laws set the parameters for responding to wolf predation on livestock.

“Our preferred option is to help the livestock owner move the sheep to another area, but finding a place to graze 1,800 animals presents a challenge,” Pamplin said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to avoid further conflict.”

The Huckleberry Pack, confirmed as the state’s seventh wolf pack in June 2012, is known to have at least six members and perhaps as many as a dozen. There is no documented evidence that the pack, named after nearby Huckleberry Mountain, has preyed on livestock until now.

 

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Rancher loses sheep to collared wolf

The sheep at the Dashiell ranch were reported to have bite marks to the neck, like the sheep pictured here.

 

SCCA calls on Department to share collar data, improve communication

Hunters, WA–A Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association member and sheep producer recently suffered the death of 14 sheep from a collared wolf in the Huckleberry pack due to a lack of information sharing from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association(SCCA).

 

For more than a year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has failed to share the location of the Huckleberry wolf pack near Hunters with producers or landowners in the area that may be affected. This omission allowed cattleman and sheep producer Dave Dashiell to unknowingly move his sheep into close proximity to the Huckleberry den site earlier this month. Since then, the Dashiell ranch has suffered 14 confirmed wolf kills on private leased ground, with another 9 kills suspected. The estimated financial damage to the ranch is over $5,000.

 

SCCA, the Dashiell ranch and several other producers had requested collar data on Washington’s expanding wolf packs in the summer of 2013, but those requests were either denied or met with red tape and stipulations that prevented the information from being shared.

 

“We are deeply concerned that the information was not shared with the landowner or with ranchers who have previously requested the information,” said SCCA President Scott Nielsen. “This situation would not have happened if the department wasn’t keeping critical information secret and was working with producers who needed that data for their ranch management.”

 

The sheep have since been moved some distance away from the den site and the Dashiells are again requesting collar data for the Huckleberry pack. The Dashiells have been involved in sheep production for nearly 30 years and regularly utilize predator deterrents for their herds including several guard dogs, a herder(s) who maintain a consistent human presence in the area and rotational grazing of the herd over the course of the summer months. If the ranch is forced to remove the sheep from their current grazing area, the only alternative is to pen the herd and feed hay until fall pasture is available, costing the ranch roughly $35,000 in feed alone.

 

“We know that the producer in this situation is doing all they can to keep their animals alive and prevent wolves from feeding on their herd,” Nielsen said. “But you can’t do that without good information. We are calling on the department to improve their communication on this issue. We are hoping for a positive outcome. ”

 

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SCCA to manage Fat Stock sale at NEWA Fair

 

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As part of a longstanding tradition to support youth participating in the Northeast Washington Fair, the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association will again help manage the beef portion of the Fat Stock Sale. The NEWA Fair will be held Aug. 21-24. The sale is a unique opportunity for youth to sell their livestock to buyers in the community at a premium price. Many participants save their fair money towards college or other long term goals. SCCA helps put on the sale by securing the equipment, auctioneer, ring men and floor price for the event. The 2013 Fat Stock Sale raised over $129,000 that went in the pockets of local youth putting their animals up for sale. For more information about the fair, visit http://www.co.stevens.wa.us/NE_WA_Fair/new_fair_home_page.htm or call 684-2585.

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SCCA awards scholarships to ranch youth

scca scholarship recipients

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association recently awarded three $200 scholarships to local ranch youth. To apply, students needed to be SCCA members or a child or grandchild of a member and submit an application and essay. The 2014 recipients were (L to R) Hannah Smith, Colin Axtell and Kurtis McDowell.

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Wolf numbers increasing in E. Washington but possibility of delisting distant

Based on a map from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the numbers of wolf packs continue to increase in Eastern Washington, but ranchers are far from relief as removing protections for the animal depend on the number of breeding pairs, not the number of packs.

Since last year, Eastern Washington has gained as estimated two more wolf packs but WDFW only counts 5 breeding pairs in the entire state. A total of 15 breeding pairs are needed for three years before the state will consider removing protections for the wolves in the eastern third of the state.

However, as WDFW admits, “Wildlife managers emphasize that the actual number of wolves in the state is likely higher than those confirmed by the survey. The survey is not designed to account for every wolf within the state, but rather to monitor the species’ progress toward recovery.”

With that knowledge, SCCA has always advocated that the 15 breeding pair goal is not well suited to determining when wolves are “recovered” in Washington.

For more wolf information from WDFW, click on this link:http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/packs/

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Grazing helps reduce fuel load for fires

With the summer fire season fast approaching, it can be important to remember how beneficial cattle are at reducing fuel loads by doing what they do best: eating the green plant matter that can become tinder for catastrophic fires.

Below is the link to (and text) from a great article by John M. Harper of the University of California:

Benefits of Grazing and Wildfire Risk

By John M. Harper

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=5463

 

Historic fire suppression efforts have interrupted the natural fire cycle allowing fuel loads to reach unprecedented levels. Recent catastrophic wildfires, such as those seen in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Arizona, have the potential to produce extremely intense and severe burns.fire.Par.85308.Image.-1.-1.1[1]

While these fires reduce fuel load, they may also sterilize soils (Wells et al. 1979). These extensive fires may result in loss of biodiversity and the destruction of critical habitat for native plants and animals, which often leads to invasion by invasive species. Given last year’s highly productive grass season, California and the North Coast are at risk for wildfire.

Grazing may reduce fire hazard.  Prescribed grazing has the potential to be an ecologically and economically sustainable management tool for reduction of fuel loads. Existing data indicate there are two ways by which grazing impacts the fuel load: removal of vegetation, and hoof incorporation of fine fuels (Nader, et. al., 2007). Fuel management studies have shown that spread rate and flame length decrease as dry grass fuel loads decrease (Scott and Burgan 2005). Livestock grazing may modify the effects of fire in various ways, often by reducing the fuel load (Collins 1987; Noy-Meir 1995).

Diamond, et.al. (2009) showed that targeted grazing in Idaho reduced Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) biomass and cover, which resulted in reductions in flame length and rate of spread. When the grazing treatments were repeated on the same plots in May 2006, Cheatgrass biomass and cover were reduced to the point that fires did not carry in the grazed plots in October 2006.

Additional Idaho researchers, Weber, et. al. (2011), showed that livestock grazing was the most effective means to reduce fuel load (P < 0.0005) compared to recent wildfire (P < 0.05) and livestock grazing with previous wildfire (P < 0.05). See the graph at the end of this post. Livestock grazing provides a viable management tool for fuel load reduction prescriptions that avoids the negative effect of extreme fire intensity where fuel load is high.

Additionally, grazing reduces fuel load in a more selective fashion (Archer 1999) avoiding the potential sterilizing effect that an extremely intense fire may have on soil. Studies in other regions have reported results that corroborate well with the Idaho findings. Within montane forests of Zion National Park, Madany and West (1983) considered livestock grazing the primary factor in the reduction of herbaceous cover. Tsiouvaras et al. (1989)reported that grazing by goats effectively reduced 1- and 10-hour fuel load in coastal forest areas of California. Similarly, Blackmore and Vitousek (2000) found grazing in dry forest ecosystems of Hawaii to be an effective means to reduce continuity of fuels, fire intensity, and fire risk.

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Wolf exposure causes “PTSD” like symptoms in cows

Its hard to get over being chased by a predator that likes the taste of beef, as cows even reacted to German Shepherds when wolf calls were played in this recent OSU study…
http://www.ktvz.com/news/osu-cows-stress-from-wolves-similar-to-ptsd/-/413192/24820900/-/ir6ar6/-/index.html

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