Washington State University wolf researcher agrees to settle lawsuit…

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

By Lynda V. Mapes

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

Wolf news from across the country…

It certainly has been an up and down whirlwind of a week for news on gray wolves. From the disheartening reports out west where wildlife officials are killing members of Washington’s Smackout pack and the Harl Butte pack in Oregon, to the two encouraging news stories concerning Wisconsin wolves.

The first story affecting Wisconsin’s gray wolf was the Washington DC appellate court’s  3-0 decision to retain protection for gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. The court cited that the USFWS had not sufficiently considered how loss of historical territory would affect the predator’s recovery and how removing the Great Lakes population segment from the endangered list would affect wolves in other parts of the nation.

The second story affecting Wisconsin’s wolves was Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filing a criminal complaint citing state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations. PEER has requested a criminal investigation for violation of the Endangered Species Act.  PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco states, “Endangered species are legally protected from human activity which adversely affects the animals, not just physical injury but harm to habitat or breeding. Loosing packs of dogs on them absolutely constitutes an adverse impact.”

“Wisconsin encourages hunting practices that seem calculated to cause fatal conflicts with wolves,” ~Adam Carlesco, PEER

According to PEER, the WI DNR has not been authorized to give payments for hound depredations since 2014, but have been doing so in violation of Wisc. Stat. § 29.888 since then. This statute reads as follows:

“The department shall administer a wolf depredation program under which payments may be made to persons who apply for reimbursement for death or injury caused by wolves to livestock, to hunting dogs other than those being actively used in the hunting of wolves, and to pets and for management and control activities conducted by the department for the purpose of reducing such damage caused by wolves. The department may make payments for death or injury caused by wolves under this program only if the death or injury occurs during a period time when the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list.”

“Wisconsin DNR does not pretend to manage bear hunting in any discernible fashion, nor do they even bother to monitor what is taking place.” ~Adam Carlesco, PEER

Rachel Tilseth, worked closely with PEER in gathering information for this criminal investigation. Rachel reached out to PEER a couple months ago requesting their help and stated that she was impressed at the amount of investigation, research, and digging that PEER did. Read her blog on this story here. WPR will be publishing more on this story. Email us at wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com for more information.

Both of these stories are wonderful news for Wisconsin’s gray wolf, but this is no time to rest on our laurels; we must remain vigilant and continue advocating. US Senate bill S1514 is getting closer to coming to the Senate floor for a vote. This bill would permanently delist wolves in the Great Lakes states, and preclude any judicial review – no appeals period – taking away a fundamental bedrock of our democracy. Our wolves deserve better than this.

img_0658-8

 

Press release: Wisconsin hounders illegally harass wolves.

Criminal Complaint Cites State Payments for Hunting Dogs Killed in Wolf Clashes

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Click HERE for PEER news release

For Immediate release : Aug 02, 2017

Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Washington, DC — Hunters unleashing packs of dogs to tree bears in Wisconsin woods are criminally harassing gray wolves in violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint cites state payments to hunters to compensate for hunting dogs killed or injured in clashes with wolves as evidence of violations.

To read letter request for a full investigation click here 

During Wisconsin’s 2016 hunting season, forty-eight hounds were killed by wolves and more than fifteen of these cases occurred after hunters were informed that they were hunting in “wolf caution areas” where wolf depredations had occurred. Wisconsin also allows for training dogs to pursue bears from July 1st through August 31st – the period when female wolves are tending to their pups and are more aggressive about defending their young and their territory.

“Wisconsin encourages hunting practices that seem calculated to cause fatal conflicts with wolves,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco, who filed the complaint today with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the agency charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act. “Endangered species are legally protected from human activity which adversely affects the animals, not just physical injury but harm to habitat or breeding. Loosing packs of dogs on them absolutely constitutes an adverse impact.”

Wisconsin is also the only state with a program that compensates the owners of dogs killed by wolves while hunting other animals. Under the program, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pays each hunter $2,500 per hound killed during a wolf depredation event. In 2017 alone, the state paid out $99,400 to hunters for hounds killed by wolves.

Gray wolves are classified as an endangered species in the Great Lakes region. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, criminal “take” does not require proving that the hunter intended to hurt a wolf. Take can occur when a hunter mistakenly shoots an endangered species believed to be a non-listed animal. Criminal take can also occur when a hunter’s activities, though not specifically directed at a listed species, result in take of a listed species, as appears to be the case here.

Compounding the conflicts is the fact that bear hunting with hounds (“hounding”) is basically unregulated in Wisconsin, despite it being a banned hunting practice in 32 states. In 2015, the state eliminated the bear hound training licenses previously required. Both residents and non-residents may now participate in bear baiting, hunting, and training without a license.

“Wisconsin DNR does not pretend to manage bear hunting in any discernible fashion, nor do they even bother to monitor what is taking place,” added Carlesco, noting that the DNR compensated individuals who had prior convictions for hunting related crimes. “In any prosecution of criminal take of wolves, DNR deserves to be an unindicted co-conspirator.”

The PEER complaint asks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to open criminal investigations of twenty-two individuals who engaged in hounding during the 2016 season in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest or on DNR-managed land and who also received wolf-related compensation for damage or loss of hounds from the state. If the agency determines that criminal take took place, PEER asks that the cases be referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution. 

We’ve been working with PEER to make this happen & providing background information on this issue, and we were copied in on this press release. We are sharing this breaking news story with you.  Wisconsin Public Radio will have a full news story out on this criminal Complaint. 

Rachel

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Blog Harassment of an endangered species in Wisconsin north woods