Should NE Washington wolves be transplanted?
B.C. undertakes massive wolf kill to save mountain caribou-

Washington wolf relocation?

Wolves are on their way to recovery in Washington state, but most of it has been in the state’s Eastern Washington recovery region. There is also a significant population in central Washington (North Cascades zone) where the wolf restoration actually begin when it was colonized by wolves from coastal British Columbia. No wolves are known in the state’s South Cascades/Northwest coast zone.

The strong recovery in Eastern Washington was expected because it is adjacent to Idaho, where wolf recovery is said to be complete. There are more wolf packs in this part of Washington than the minimum needed for state recovery goals — fourteen packs, using a loose definition of a wolf pack.

Cattle and sheep interests and some hunting organizations think this is far too many wolves and wish the process would be complete. They also believe that Western Washington folks favor wolves more than they, and so should have some as neighbors. As a result, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, who is from NE Washington, has introduced a “share the love” bill in the state House of Representatives. It would require some wolves be transplanted from Eastern to Western Washington.

There is in fact good habitat in parts of Western Washington, a place that is not all urban and suburban, though some folks in the area with the wolves speak as though the Puget Sound urban agglomeration was Western Washington.

Killing wolves to save the mountain caribou?

A wolf “cull” is now underway in the area just north of the Idaho and NE Washington border to kill almost 200 wolves. The mass shooting from helicopters is said to be to save the caribou herds that are obviously just barely hanging on the southern Selkirk mountains.

Mountain caribou struggle throughout B.C. Part of the southern herd sometimes crosses into Idaho/Washington. There have been efforts to save them for many years, though more recently the U.S. government is said to have caved to Idaho snowmobile interests. The caribou no longer are recorded as entering the United States.

Many conservation groups say the true situation is not wolves versus caribou. It is habitat destruction that favors deer, leading to wolves that kill caribou as a small part of their diet. Ian McAllister, who is conservation director for Pacific Wild was quoted by CBS News saying, “While the government is not moving forward to protect adequate amounts of habitat to save the caribou, they’re instead using wolves as a scapegoat and planning just a horrific level of aerial killing in the coming months. This is truly a war on wolves in British Columbia.”

A small part of the wolves’ diet can be, however, a large portion of the remnant caribou.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

49 Responses to Some wolf news

  1. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    It’s only a short-term fix, delaying the inevitable. It’s the lack of large tracts of habitat that are threatening wildlife – caribou and wolves have been relegated to a very small areas relative to the species snowmobile! Sea lions and salmon, cormorants and salmon, wolves and ungulates. It’s the same story that we do not want to address, and that may be too late anyway to address. Every person on the planet, even the most vile murderer, is considered more important than any animal’s welfare.

    As humans, we can’t keep growing and taking, at some point it all will become a critical problem.

    • avatar ramses09 says:

      Amen Ida!

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Thanks! The sad and terrible thing is that the caribou have been in severe decline since the ’80s I believe? Nothing’s been done – except for the occasional poisoning or aerial gunning campaign to make people feel better.

        There’s only about 20-30 individuals left? Aside for an emergency breeding program in a hurry, these tactics are nothing but an excuse to extirpate wolves too. See what I mean about human deviousness?

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          sorry, that should read ‘nothing’s been done except for the occasional poisoning or aerial gunning campaign to eliminate wolves’.

          If I am wrong, please let me know.

    • avatar Amre says:

      If 200 wolves are shot, then the caribou will still go extinct if habitat isn’t protected. Blasting wolves will, at the most, only delay their extinction a bit unless something urgent is done to conserve habitat.

      • avatar Yvette says:

        …..but it’s so much easier to point the finger at anything besides human actions. Whether it’s wolves eating all the caribou or elk or X species, or domestic cats killing billions of birds a year, we seem to prefer blaming anything besides ourselves. Gawd forbid we ever look at our own actions of destroying habitat.

        The more one is involved in any kind of conservation the more apparent it becomes that you also need a background in psychology/sociology.

    • avatar sleepy says:

      While I think it’s evident that habitat destruction has been the primary reason for the decline of the mountain caribou, I have also read–too lazy to find the link–that mountain lion predation was far higher than wolf predation.

      But mountain lions don’t serve nearly as well as wolves for the scary wild animal crowd.

  2. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    ::raises hand enthusiastically::

    I’ve always wanted wolves back in Maine and Vermont, and New Hampshire if possible.

    • avatar sleepy says:

      Here in Iowa there have been 2 confirmed sightings of wolves in the past year–confirmed because they were shot when mistaken for coyotes.

      Northeast Iowa would be suitable habitat for wolves–hilly, rocky, wooded–not the usual open prairie farmland of Iowa. Plus there are confirmed wolfpacks 50 miles across the stateline in Wisconsin.

      So . . . . . you never know.

  3. avatar Barb Rupers says:

    The mountain caribou situation in BC is primarily due to the reduction of old growth trees that supply the needed winter lichens in the mountains plus snowmobiles in their winter habitat that leave trails which open the area to wolves so that at low population numbers wolves do have a detrimental effect on the caribou.

    Hopefully the government will address the habitat problem.
    http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/mountain+caribou+decline+requires+extreme+measures/7907470/story.html

  4. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    That’s misleading – any wolf predation of caribou is not the primary cause, which is loss/degradation of habitat, but secondary. We’ve caused the caribou to become more vulnerable in several ways – so it is unfair to blame wolves. It’s still not addressing the real problem. The numbers of caribou appear to be so few that slaughtering wolves isn’t going to do anything but satisfy the human desire to kill (maybe).

    Here’s an article from 2012 that I refer back to a lot – an outrageous amount of land has been put aside for snowmobiling. Until we address that, nothing else will work. It’s so outrageous is give me a chuckle every time, especially the habitat loss for the poor snowmobiles:

    “Snowmobiling has lost thousands of acres where we have historically ridden, so every acre is important,” said Sandra Mitchell, Boise-based public lands director for ISSA. “They’re all important, and they provide opportunities for recreation that further the quality of life and economic prosperity of rural Idaho.”

    Seeking to conserve the species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate 375,552 acres of the southern Selkirks as critical habitat for upland caribou in 2011. The area would have covered a broad swath of the Kaniksu National Forest in north Bonner County, the entire western half of Boundary County and the northeast corner of Pend Oreille County in Washington. Opposition was immediate, notably from outdoors groups like the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, arguing protection of so much territory effectively closes the northern Panhandle’s backcountry to recreational use.

    After 150 days of analysis and public outreach, Fish and Wildlife announced a final critical habitat designation on Nov. 27 [2012] that carved out only 30,010 acres for the caribou–about one-tenth of the first proposal–and split between 6,000 acres in northwest Boundary County and 24,000 acres across the border in Washington. No areas in Bonner County were included in the designation.>

    “One study by biologist Stan Boutin, whose affidavit accompanied the application, says two herds have declined by three-quarters in the last 10 to 15 years alone. Some now number fewer than 200 animals and are at risk of disappearing completely by 2030.”

    Reindeer Games

    So what’s more important – ever growing recreational use and more livelihoods to be protected, or wiping out forever two species of animal?

    • avatar MAD says:

      Since I’m not sure of the legal status of either of the 2 species, or their current population numbers and distribution, it’s difficult to really draw any conclusions.

      But, from a biological and ethical standpoint it would be very easy to either substantiate or refute the claims by the B.C. officials who are planning on killing the wolves. Get a bunch of Biology grad students, and some specially-trained dogs, to locate and collect wolf scats in the area. Perform a visual analysis to estimate diet composition and then perform DNA sampling, if necessary. This non-invasive method has been used with dozens of different animals, and has been the subject of numerous published, peer-reviewed articles in professional journals. It is relatively inexpensive and would provide accurate information on what wolves are “really” eating, as opposed to vague assumptions which seem to dominate most of these types of debates.

    • avatar Barb Rupers says:

      Ida
      Perhaps you didn’t understand the point of my comment. The habitat destruction by humans, primarily by logging and then snowmobiling, is causing the decline in caribou. Wolves are the scapegoat, as usual, so Canadian officials are looking for a temporary fix.

      Your discussion is for northern Idaho. The article I suggested was about British Columbia.

  5. avatar Brett Haverstick says:

    Just goes to show you how much wolf habitat there is in WA. with 14 packs in the northeast and growing. What is the carrying capacity of the state? I’m guessing 50-60 packs, more? The conservation movement needs to stop compromising and draw a line in the sand that sticks to conservation biology principles, public opinion and ethics. Why are we faced with a management plan that allows for, perhaps, a quarter of the actual carrying capacity in the first place? As for “sharing the love” can we put WA. Rep. Joel Kretz in the immigration bill and deport him, too.

    • avatar Barb Rupers says:

      BH
      Do you have any additional news regarding the wolf shot in Whitman County, WA last fall as reported in the Moscow-Pullman news this past week?
      http://dnews.com/local/report-wolf-shot-in-whitman-county-not-an-imminent-threat/article_7f23afb5-21e6-5d85-88ce-7ef2434fae6b.html

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        Is this one the incident where the man said he was worried about all the black wolves he saw nearby as he traveled?

        If so, it was reported in Facebook that they were 6-month old wolf pups.

    • avatar Louise Kane says:

      +1!!! “Why are we faced with a management plan that allows for, perhaps, a quarter of the actual carrying capacity in the first place?”

      More importantly no management plan for wolves and predators should allow for public hunting.

      • avatar WM says:

        ++More importantly no management plan for wolves and predators should allow for public hunting.++

        And, yet every single state to my knowledge does. What is that now 9 states that have or will have wolves of sufficient number in the near future …..to control range and numbers…and, marginally to deal with some problem wolves?

        • avatar Louise Kane says:

          WM just because these plans do account for wolf management through pubic hunting doesn’t mean its a remnant anachronism that deserves reconsideration. I always look back to MN with its 10 year relatively stable population of wolves and Idaho reaching a similar stasis. The resulting wolf management strategies are tragedies. There was no need to allow people to slaughter wolves for trophies. Knowing how wolves interact with one another, how their pack sizes are smaller than they would be in a wilderness area and that “surgical” removal and non lethal approaches are better approaches for wolves and to decrease depredation makes human hunting all the more despicable.

  6. avatar snaildarter says:

    Canada has a reputation for being green minded that it really doesn’t deserve. From tar sands, to cutting old growth, and now Sara Palin style wolf murder from a helicopter. Wow how disgusting can you get aye. Wildlife needs a sanctuary from human activity, not management.

  7. avatar WM says:

    A little more on the “share the love” bill from a NE WA legislator who wants wolves moved to other parts of the state, principally the SW part. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/feb/05/kretz-legislation-proposes-relocating-wolves/

    Interesting idea, since it is actually a fundamental aspect of the WA Wolf Management Plan, which recognizes discontiguous habitat, due to development and human density in parts. I say go for it. What is not to like, the NE gets some (temporary reduction/relief which it has been seeking) and rapid enhancement toward achieving geographic range and larger numbers is likely to be enhanced significantly? And, cost, well who cares?

    • avatar Louise Kane says:

      You are being disingenuous WM
      This proposal is partly based in a desire to move wolves around so that the criteria for delisting will be met. Then the ranchers will be pushing for wolf hunts. Furthermore, whats not to like? Wolves inhabit the territories that are best suited to support them. Humans will need to make adjustments to their expectation of species abilities to endlessly “adapt” to manipulation unless game parks is the ultimate objectives.

      how well would you and your family do if you were relocated. I find that so disturbing.

    • avatar Leslie says:

      I don’t know WA well, but of course that is exactly what we did to bring wolves into YNP. Doesn’t actually sound like a bad idea, despite the legislators intention.

  8. avatar Immer Treue says:

    “Many conservation groups say the true situation is not wolves versus caribou. It is habitat destruction that favors deer, leading to wolves that kill caribou as a small part of their diet.”

    Heiko Wittmer did studies on this 2005 and 2007 that shows support for this correlation. I have posted these before, sometimes full access allowed, sometimes not.

    Search Heiko Wittmer caribou wolves.

  9. avatar rork says:

    My reading of the maps is that there are few packs in the North Cascades, and I don’t really get why there aren’t more. I would have guessed Pasayten Wilderness would be one of the first places they’d appear – I’ve seen enough elk and mule deer there, I think. (Teach me.) The landscape variety from east to west is tremendous. Reintroduction is OK I guess, but I’m a bit baffled about the slow invasion. For southern cascades I might get it better, but like WM’s article mentions, moving wolves around can get some folks more riled up. If it weren’t for that, I get the desire for speed (you can take more “actions” without as much worry about slowing the spread).

    Compare the pack maps, with the public land maps around there:
    http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/graphics/draft_pack_map_2-27-2014.jpg
    http://www.summitpost.org/pasayten-wilderness/171077
    I guess if I’m right about habitat, there will be lots more wolves there soon.

    • avatar WM says:

      ++ I’m a bit baffled about the slow invasion.++

      Not insurmountable physical barriers, but most source wolves have to cross the Columbia River and a bunch of high desert with nothing but large stretches of sage brush, and few if any ungulates (only bunnies to eat if they are lucky). The packs near Cle Elum (origin Canada so it seems) are on the west side of the Columbia, and they could make it south fairly easily. I bet once they hit the Yakama Reservation on the east side of Mt. Adams, with their large elk herd they stop there for a long while, and may not be as welcome as some might think if they decide they like beef and sheep better than elk.

    • avatar bret says:

      Rork,
      —My reading of the maps is that there are few packs in the North Cascades, and I don’t really get why there aren’t more. I would have guessed Pasayten Wilderness would be one of the first places they’d appear—

      The Pasayten has few elk or moose the mule deer are migratory and spend winters in ground that the Lookout pack now occupies.

      The North Cascades black tail densities are low compared to other parts of the state.

      My guess is that wolf packs/ BP’s will be confirmed in the Blue Mountains soon in the SE part of the state, followed by packs South of I-90. I agree with WM once they cross I-90 and hit the Reservation they will expand rapidly South and West.

      The Olympic NP and North Cascades will be occupied last??

  10. avatar Logan says:

    So if I am to correctly understand some of the anti wolf-cull opinions here, we should not kill wolves to reduce predation on the caribou and should instead wait 200 years for the habitat to recover well enough to support the caribou at which time none will be left?

    It was logging and other practices that altered the habitat in ways that made it more suitable to deer and elk which led to more wolves being present than historically existed in the area. IDFG also cites increased mountain lion populations for the same reasons on the US side of the border. So we now have more wolves than ever existed in those areas due to a man made problem, seems like it would be reasonable for man to remove those excess wolves while the habitat recovers.

    Yes, killing the wolves is a short term solution to buy time for the caribou but otherwise, by the time habitat protections begin to bear fruit there won’t be any caribou left to protect. I agree that it should be coupled with increased protections on the caribou habitat. Unfortunately, in Idaho at least, snowmobiling interests successfully reduced the amount of land protected. Hopefully British Columbia can do both habitat protection and wolf reduction.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      Logan,
      Yes, exactly. A wolf kill ain’t gonna do one bit of (insert adverb) good. It’s the habitat. Kill all the wolves you want, and it won’t mean a thing to the caribou. Anthropogenic aftermath, period.

    • avatar Logan says:

      Wow, I guess I am shocked but not entirely surprised that the only animal that certain conservationists are interested in protecting are those that look like their pets at home.

      The wolves only exist in the caribou range because of human caused deforestation that increased deer populations and the wolves followed. Removing the wolves would be restoring the way things were before we screwed it up. Combine that with habitat protections and give the caribou a chance.

      Yes, at 18 animals the southern herd may be doomed anyways but the overall population of woodland caribou in southern BC is 1500. Bison were recovered from smaller numbers, I guess we should have given up on them too.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Not at all. These animals are incredibly beautiful, and this should have been addressed much, much sooner – their sad decline to the point of extinction is the fault of those we entrust to protect our wildlife.

        I know the term ‘bunnies’ is received with eyerolls, but these are Santa’s reindeer! Their antlers are amazing; what a terrible loss if they are allowed to go extinct over snowmobiles. Of course these animals are valued; it isn’t just those that resemble our pets at home. There are wonderful stories associated with many animals. Killing wolves isn’t going to help these animals. A breeding program and habitat restoration should start immediately.

        There’s also a risk to mountain caribou I have read about a parasitic or bacterial infection passed from other ungulates?

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Logan,

        Wow, I guess I am shocked but not entirely surprised that the only animal that certain conservationists are interested in protecting are those that look like their pets at home.

        The wolves only exist in the caribou range because of human caused deforestation that increased deer populations and the wolves followed. Removing the wolves would be restoring the way things were before we screwed it up.

        Bullshit! Wolves were always there, as they were in BC and elsewhere. Perhaps not in the numbers they are now. Why not kill all the deer, prevent any new deer from entering area, and keep people and their machines the hell out of there.

        • avatar Logan says:

          I should have quantified my statement, of course wolves were always there but as you acknowledged they did not exist at their present numbers.

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            Then kill all the deer that are there due to the activities of man, eat the deer, give them to shelters…let old growth continue, (it will be a much slower process with the presence of deer) and perhaps caribou might make a comeback. Killing wolves is like Curly’s response to Moe to get water out of the boat by drilling holes in the boat’s bottom.

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NxEOiqtV_MA

            • avatar Logan says:

              That is something that should be considered. With both caribou and deer the wolves have the ability to prey-switch and increase their population even if one prey species is dwindling. If only one prey species exists then the predator population would be unable to hunt them to extinction due to dimishing returns.

              Again I say, Protect the habitat, temporarily reduce the predators and liberalize the deer hunting season to reduce their population to speed habitat improvements and prevent them from expanding in the absence of wolves.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                Makes more sense. But to emphasize, must cut down on biomass food supply for wolves in regard to deer, or any other ungulates other than caribou.

                We had caribou where I live 150 years ago. Now we have deer, and DNR treads lightly on deer effect in moose. Deer are parasites of forests and woodlands.

  11. avatar Scott MacButch says:

    Brad Hill a biologist and wildlife photographer living near Invermere, BC had this to say on his blog recently:

    “The Caribou Population Crash Is Because of Habitat Loss.

    As mentioned earlier, NO ONE on either side of the debate – not even the government – is arguing against the fact that habitat loss is the main driver in the caribou population declines. In the case of mountain caribou it is made even worse by the fact that the animal specializes during the winter months on species of lichens found predominantly in old growth forests. When it comes to long-term survival (in evolutionary time-frames), over-specialization of diet kills, especially when changes are made to the landscape in chronological time, not geological time. And that’s what humans do – make incredibly fast changes to the habitat, changes so fast that highly-specialized wildlife can’t react to them.

    It’s Simply Too Late To Save Some Of These Populations!

    Even if the wolf cull/slaughter had a positive effect on the populations of these caribou herds/populations, the numbers of some of them are now so low that their mid- or long-term survival is highly unlikely. This is particularly true in isolated populations that have no immigration or gene flow, such as in the South Selkirk population. With only 18 or fewer caribou this population is especially susceptible to random mortality factors (anything from avalanches to drowning crossing a stream or getting hit by a vehicle, etc.). Couple this with unsuitable habitat and you’re left with virtually no chance of survival of this population.

    Simply put, the Government of BC simply waited far too long (measured in DECADES) before taking drastic action to save these caribou – and that drastic action should have taken the form of complete and total habitat protection. Culling/slaughtering wolves NOW makes it LOOK like the government is doing something, when the fact is they avoided the true heavy-lifting needed to protect these caribou decades ago.”

    • avatar Nancy says:

      Thanks for the update Scott, dismal (and factual) as it is.

    • avatar Barb Rupers says:

      Brad Hill stated the situation very well.

      It is important to save large ecosystems that contain many species rather than bits here and there for several single species.

  12. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    “We show that really, all we did was buy a bit of time, and hardly recovered caribou. The population was stable during the wolf control, but did not increase,” said Hebblewhite.

    “In contrast, all other adjacent herds continued to decline. So we concluded that wolf control without effective habitat conservation is merely buying time in a more degraded world.”

    Hundreds of Wolves Killed to Save Caribou

    “Is predator control something we want to do? Not at all. Is it something we know how to do? Yes. 🙁

  13. avatar Matt says:

    Yes. They should put wolves in the Olympic National Park area. Mount Rainer Nat Park and Mount Saint Helens. Good sized protected areas where they should be.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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