Dr. Rob Wielgus: War on Wolf Science
Rob is one of the continent’s leading experts on wolf-livestock interactions. His pioneering research on wolves and livestock in eastern Washington found that lethal control of wolves was in fact increasing livestock depredations, and that ranchers who took part in his cooperative program employing nonlethal measures experienced minimal livestock mortality due to wolves.
Due to political pressure placed upon the administration of the Washington State University, the College of Agriculture placed limits on the speech of Dr. Wielgus and his Large Carnivore Research Laboratory concerning wolves, removed grant funding from Dr. Wielgus, and subjected him to a series of wrongful disciplinary actions as a means of forcing silence on lethal control issues, oftentimes at the behest of a local Republican legislator.
Dr. Wielgus contacted PEER, and his First Amendment academic freedom case resulted in a settlement enabling him to retire from the university.
PEER’s campaign center is located here: https://www.peer.org/campaigns/wildlife-protection/war-on-wolves-and-science/
A WSU wolf researcher takes the payment to go away in the settlement of a lawsuit over academic freedom. Seattle Times
Seattle Times environment reporter
A leading wolf researcher has agreed to leave Washington State University at the end of the spring term in return for $300,000 to settle a suit he brought over infringement of his academic freedom.
Robert Wielgus, director of the Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, pioneered research of wolf behavior in cattle country as the predators began their return to Washington.
Wielgus tracked the behavior of wolves and cattle and learned that the state’s policy of killing wolves that had preyed on cattle was likely to lead to more cattle predation, not less, because it destabilized the structure of wolf packs.
The research was unpopular with ranchers, who complained to lawmakers in the Washington State Legislature, who, in turn,
Wielgus filed a lawsuit this past year with the assistance of PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, alleging the university had silenced and punished him for his research findings to placate politicians beholden to ranchers.
Emails obtained by The Seattle Times under a public-disclosure request revealed that WSU administrators were worried funding for a new medical school was in jeopardy unless controversy in the Legislature and among ranchers over Wielgus was quelled.
“ … Highly ranked senators have said that the medical school and wolves are linked. If wolves continue to go poorly, there won’t be a new medical school,” Dan Coyne, lobbyist for WSU, wrote his colleague, Jim Jesernig, another WSU lobbyist, two days after the paper’s publication. Read full Seattle Times Story here
Feature image by Ian McCallistar