Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hitting the Ground Running

I am a pretty excited graduate student right now.  I have applied for and received funding to get my surveys out there and my research completed this summer.  A big thanks to Central Washington University!  With my previous research proposals, I was always turned down, proving that this is the topic I was meant to research for my degree in Resource Management.  Now, it is time to get serious, juggling my photography career, family, and graduate work.

Here is my research proposal, condensed, for those who are following my work on attitudes towards wolves in Kittitas County.

ABSTRACT
After nearly being wiped out in the early 20th century, wolves made a return to Washington State in 2008 with the first fully documented pack.  From this pack, wolves migrated south, forming the Teanaway pack in 2010, which resides in north Kittitas County.  By 2013, the Wenatchee pack was confirmed.  This county, largely a ranching and farming community in central Washington, is now bordered these two packs to the north.  Wolves are an old enemy returned.  Wolves are a very polar issue and have been throughout history.  Controversy surrounds their social carrying capacity and they social tolerance for these large predators.  It is through use of surveys, this study will determine what the social tolerance for wolves is in Kittitas County.
Teanaway wolf
PROBLEM
Wolves are a controversial predator across the United States.  It began with European stories brought to North America and has stayed rooted in the minds of many (the big bad wolf).  As the west was settled and buffalo were hunted to make room for the railroad, so was the wolf (Pate et al. 1996).  Their native prey base dwindled.  Naturally, wolves turned to another prey source: domestic livestock.  Elimination of this elusive, evil creature continued.  Buffalo hunters became wolfers.  Carcasses were laced with poison, killing entire packs, traps were set, and they were shot on site (Weaver 1978 and Mech 1995).  This continued into the 20th century until there were very few wolves present, even in far reaches of wilderness.  They were hunted until they were reduced to nearly 99% of their historic population (Weaver 1978).  Humans feared them.  They were afraid of stories of wolves attacking and hunting people.  They were afraid of packs killing off their herds.  It was, and still is, an ongoing battle to change how people view the wolf as their recovery continues across the west.
SCHOLARLY SIGNIFICANCE
Many studies across the United States – Washington, Colorado, New Brunswick, and Minnesota – (Callahan 2012, Pate et al. 1996, Lohr et al. 1996, and Chavez et al 2005) have focused on how people from different professions, age groups, and geographic regions feel about the wolf.  Surveys found that attitudes toward wolves were more negative among older respondents and ranchers and more positive among younger and urban residents (Williams et al. 2002).  Successful wolf restoration is as tied to society as to the biology (Wiles et al. 2011) making surveys an important aspect of wolf recovery and management to understand the social tolerances.  Knowing how a region’s residents feel about wolves can prevent issues by allowing for proactive management.  Concern for livestock kills led to the Range Rider program, which puts a human presence on a livestock herd while they are on leased ground in wolf territory, greatly reducing any livestock losses.  Understanding social tolerances can lead to these proactive measures, keeping lines of communication open between residents and wildlife officials so that issues can be resolved before they become large conflicts.
In Washington, wolves were common throughout most of the state before 1800.  With the establishment of the Hudson Bay Company, wolf pelts became a commercial commodity and thousands of pelts were bought and traded.  Wolves were heavily hunted during the last half of the 19th century.  Livestock industry settled into the state, and hunting the wolf continued until they were almost gone by 1900 (Wiles et al. 2011). Various accounts of wolves were documented in the Cascades, but most of these were single animal sightings, not a full resident pack.  It was not until 2008 that the first fully documented pack was confirmed in Washington since the 1930s (through photographs, howling surveys, and genetic testing) (Wiles et al. 2011).  The Lookout Pack was located in Okanogan County in the north central part of the state.  Genetic testing found they were probable descendants from Canada wolves, or those introduced into the Yellowstone and Idaho areas.  Natural progression of wolf dispersion through central Washington led to the formation of the Teanaway pack by 2010 and most recently, the Wenatchee pack.  The Teanway pack is located in the north central part of Kittitas County, while the Wenatchee pack borders the northeastern portions of the county.   Kittitas valley residents are now dealing with these new, controversial neighbors.  Given that a large portion of the county is made up of ranchers and farmers, it is becoming a hot issue among residents.
METHODS
This research will follow modified methods of previous wolf attitude studies in New Brunswick (Lohr et al. 1996), Wisconsin (Naughteon-Treves et al. 2003), Minnesota (Chavez et al. 2005), Yellowstone (Bath 1987), Colorado (Pate et al. 1996), and Washington (Callahan 2012).  Data concerning attitudes of Kittitas County residents, special interest groups, and CWU students will be collected using a modified Dillman survey method.  Survey questions will ask knowledge of wolves, attitudes, perceived threats, demographics (profession, age, geographic location within county, rural vs urban, and education level), and preferred management strategies.  Answers will be rated using a 5 point Likert scale, 1 meaning strongly disagree and 5 meaning strongly agree.  Five hundred surveys will be distributed across Kittitas County.  The county will be broken into six sections – NW, NE, SW, SE, and within city limits. Addresses will be obtained from the Kittitas County Assessor.  In addition, special interest groups such as Field and Stream, KEEN, Conservation Northwest, and Washington Cattleman Association will be surveyed.  To gain insight to the attitudes of students, who do not have a permanent residence in the county, environmental classes at CWU will be involved with the survey process.  These surveys will be mailed and will include a cover letter, the survey, and a self-addressed stamped envelope.  After one month, non-respondents will receive a reminder postcard.  Prior to mailing surveys, an announcement in the Daily Record will inform about the pending survey to be mailed out to residents.
            The results will be analyzed using a chi-squared method.  Differences in attitudes towards wolves, if any, will be determined across age class, knowledge, geographic location within the county, and rural vs. urban.  Attitudes in different the different interest groups will also be analyzed using the chi-squared method to determine the differences in attitudes towards wolves.
 This study will assist state agencies and wildlife managers by providing data on the attitudes towards wolves and discovering potential conflict areas in Kittitas Valley.  It will also contribute to the continued research on how people feel about wolves, perhaps showing how attitudes are changing over time.
EXTRAMURAL POTENTIAL
This work has great potential for use outside Central Washington University.  This study will join the other documented research on attitudes towards recovering wolf populations, providing a framework for changing attitudes over time.  This study will also assist local management agencies in determining the social tolerance for wolves in the area, providing assistance in determining potential conflicts and ways to avoid them.  Given the newness of wolves in the immediate area to Kittitas County residents, this is an important study to determine how people are viewing their new neighbors.  As it is a highly controversial issue across western states.  This study will also be presented at 2015 SOURCE, the Northwest Science Conference, and a written report to WDFW.
LITERATURE CITED
Callahan, Julie. 2012. Ethics and Wolf Management: Attitudes Toward and Tolerance of Wolves in Washington State (Master’s Thesis). Retrieved from Dissertations and Theses Database. (UMI No. 1533007.)
Chavez, Andreas S., Gese, Eric M., and Krannich, Richard S. 2005. Attitudes of rural landowners toward wolves in northwestern Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 33, 517-527.
Lohr, Christine, Ballard, Warren B., and Bath, Alistair. 1996. Attitudes toward Gray Wolf Reintroduction to New Brunswick. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 24, 414-420.
McNay, Mark E. 2002. Wolf-Human Interactions in Alaska and Canada: A Review of the Case History. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 30, 831-843.
Mech, David L. 1995. The Challenge and Opportinity of Recovering Wolf Populations. Conservation Biology 9 270-278.
Naughton-Treves, Lisa, Grossberg, Rebecca, and Treves, Adrian. 2003. Paying for Tolerance: Rural Citizens’ Attitudes toward Wolf Depredation and Compensation. Conservation Biology, 17, 1500-1511.
Pate, Jennifer, Manfredo, Michael J., Bright, Alan D., and Tischbein, Geoff. 1996. Coloradan’s Attitudes toward Reintroducing the Gray Wolf into Colorado. The Wildlife Society Bulletin, 24, 421-428.
Washington. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 297 pp.
Weaver, John. 1978.  The Wolves of Yellowstone.  U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Natural Resources Report Number 14.
Wiles, G. J., H. L. Allen, and G. E. Hayes. 2011. Wolf conservation and management plan for

Williams, Christopher, Ericsson, Goran, and Heberlein, Thomas A. 2002. A Quantitative Summary of Attitudes toward Wolves and Their Reintroduction. The Wildlife Society Bulletin, 30, 575-584.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Social Carrying Capacity

animals.nationalgeographic.com
What is the social carrying capacity of wolves in Washington state?  In Eastern Washington?  In the Kittitas Valley?  How many of these elusive, graceful, cunning, politically charged predators can we tolerate in a humanized landscape?

At a Wolf Discussion organized by the Central Washington University Museum of Culture and Environment in Dean Hall February 27, 2014, these were questions brought up by the panel.  Scott Becker, a wolf biologist with the Washington Fish and Wildlife out of Wenatchee, Lee Davis the past president of Field and Stream, Sam Kayser from the Kittitas County Cattleman Association, and Jay Kehne from Conservation Northwest were the guest speakers invited to share their thoughts on these controversial animals making a comeback in our region.

Almost all of them were in agreement that the Washington Management plan for wolves set the desired breeding pairs too high.  15 breeding pairs for Washington state.  Three hundred wolves.  In a state with less habitat and a higher human population density, we want the most wolves.  Is this feasible?  It seemed that all of the speakers agreed it is not.  With the few wolves we already have in our valley, we are already seeing impacts to wildlife and livestock.  All speculation, but it can't be helped to link the elk, deer, and coyotes being down in lower elevations with the comeback of the wolf.  It can't be helped to wonder why cows are found miles from where they have stayed on allotments for 18 years.  Is this because they were tested by wolves looking for the weak?

This brings up many concerns for ranchers.  Their cattle might come down in the fall without the ideal weight.  The bulls or cows might be to busy running from wolves that they are not getting bred.  An open cow, not bred, happens.  But if it is happening at a higher rate because they are getting away from a predator becomes a huge concern for ranchers, who depend on calves to take to fall sale for their livelihood.  If deer and elk are kept lower because of wolves and are in hay fields, this is also a major concern for farmers and ranchers.  They will not have as much hay to sell or put up for winter to feed their stock.

Sam Kayser stated that this is where Fish and Wildlife have been proactive with the return of wolves.  The Range Rider program puts a human presence on the landscape while his cows are out in the Teanaway and Colockum allotments.  This deters the wolves from testing his herds.  Radio collared wolves make it even easier. The Range Rider can have access to the GPS and know where the wolves are to keep tabs on the cattle.  Another non-lethal wolf deterrent is fladry, a flag or something that flaps in the wind, that is put on fences.  But, as brought up by Scott Becker, that is a temporary solution. Eventually, the wolves will figure out that it will not harm them and they can go under.

Lee Davis, Sam Kayer, and Jay Kehne agreed that we should be allowing tags for wolves now, to manage populations that can grow quickly - 24% a year.  Wolves need to be managed like all wildlife.  Even wolf hunting is rarely successful.  Should we wait until populations are where the state wants them to be before we allow hunting, which is only 15% successful?   Wolves are largely in the eastern part of the state, yet managed from the western side - as Sam Kayser pointed out - Lewis, Thurston, Pierce, and King counties.  Do they have wolves?  Yet, it seems they want to see our state wolf-populated both on the east and west side of the Cascades.  But, wolves are not in their territory yet.  Those dealing with these predators are on the ranching side of the state.  Populations of wolves will be higher here before wolves make it to the Olympic Peninsula.  If they are able to disperse through the state.

It is a highly polarized topic.  There are those who do not want to see one wolf killed.  There are those that want to see them all killed.  The three S's comes to mind.  Shoot, shovel, shut up.  But, there needs to be a middle, as Jay Kehne argued.  There needs to be adaptive management.  There needs to be an understanding that the social tolerance of wolves must be included in the management plan.  Will 15 breeding pairs be too much for the social carrying capacity?  The answer, though no one came right out and said it, appears to be affirmative.  Davis stated that the state should shoot lower.  Perhaps a better number is eight breeding pairs and go from there.  Start small.  Wolves are here.  What's the hurry to get as many as we can?

Another agreed upon point was de-listing.  Wolves should be de-listed so that control of these animals falls to the states.  Put the power into local hands to better manage potential problem wolves.  The more wolves we have, the higher the likelihood for human-wolf interaction.  A habituated wolf is a dangerous wolf.  They are the Big Bad Wolf at your front door.  With the wolf federally protected, it takes away what the state can do to mitigate these problems before they become problems.

In conclusion, with so many right wing and left wing viewpoints on wolves, there needs to be middle ground.  Washington state has the advantage of learning from Wyoming, Montana, Idaho.  We have the potential to handle the comeback of wolves better.  Habitat is limited.  Human populations are here. It is a highly political issue.  But, as long as we work together and find middle ground, we can make it work and avoid the mess that places like Idaho have seen.  By working together, we can mitigate wolf impacts to humans, livestock, and wildlife.

Wolves are here.  They are here to stay.  By working together, implementing non-lethal, proactive measures, maintaining numbers to avoid conflicts, and giving power to the states, we can successfully have wolves in Washington state.

A/N: This was a quick write up.  The panel and audience brought up many points about wolves being in Kittitas Valley, in Washington state, but this was a quick overview of the main points..  Thank you for reading and feel free to leave your ideas and questions in the comments!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why Wolves?

My passion for wildlife management began with wolves in 1995 with their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park (and the wolf-hybrid pup we had for a few days before taking it back when my parents realized what had to be done to keep it).  We later got a Siberian Husky puppy, which in a child's mind, is close enough to a wolf!

But I digress....

As much as a ten year old can, I followed the news of wolf reintroduction and watched all the documentaries.  I knew every wolf in the Sawtooth pack - had their pictures in my room and a wolf shirt that I absolutely adored and wore regularly.  I remember going to Wolf Haven and thinking it was the best thing in the world to learn how to howl.  Wolves had captured my imagination and set forth in motion the desire to be a biologist, to work with wildlife in an urbanizing world.

When my family got into horses, and my dad in particular took an interest in BLM "wild" horses, I switched interest to the controversial management of free-roaming horses on federal lands.  This topic has held my interest since 2005.  It had been my plan to continue studying them for my graduate research, but since BLM horses are not near Washington state and those running on tribal lands are not easily accessed, I settled on another topic.  Although cattle grazing and sage grouse are also a controversial subject, it did not hold my interest nearly as well.  On top of that, the amount of work that was required to gather the vegetation data I needed to make a solid thesis was nearly impossible with my crazy life as a single mother to two children.

Que in to the wolf's return to Kittitas Valley and surrounding areas.  Although sightings of wolves and hearing howls had been documented since the 1970s (thought to be wolves dispersing into Washington from Canada), it wasn't until 2008 that the first fully documented breeding pair was discovered in the northern cascades.  They were the first known pair in over seventy years for Washington.  A momentous occasion. They were the Lookout Pack, located in Chelan county.  Through natural dispersal, wolves came from Canada and possibly from those reintroduced into Yellowstone.  This pack was documented to have a territory of 350 square miles between the years 2008 and 2010.  By June 2011, another pack, recent descendants of the Lookout pack, was located in north-central Kittitas County.  This is the Teanaway Pack.

One hundred years ago, there was a bounty on the wolf's head.  They were nearly eliminated in the United States.  Now, thirty years since they were listed as endangered and twenty years since they were reintroduced into Yellowstone, they are numerous in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho.  Washington state itself has ten confirmed packs.  The state goal before ESA delisting is 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years.   These canine carnivores are close neighbors to ranchers, hunters, hikers, and other residents in Kittitas Valley.

The Teanaway pack, and now the recently discovered Wenatchee pack are the focus of my research.  As stated in my first post, my research is to discover how residents feel about their new neighbor.  Given my previous thesis topic, this one is a sensitive and heated controversy.  The wolf debate takes me back to why I was so interested in the free-roaming horse conflicts.  Wolves are teetering on potential management conflicts in Washington.  It was stated by a WDFW biologist that we can expect another Idaho incident (I have yet to delve into those issues) here in Washington over the next ten years.  As a Resource Management graduate student, I am very interested in where we go from here.

What are your thoughts?  Are you afraid of them?  Do they fascinate you?  Do you want them here?  Want them gone?  Do you favor the three S management (shoot, shovel, shut up)?  Do you feel they have a place in our ecosystem?  Given this is my research, I would love to hear your opinion. You may comment below.  For your privacy,  feel free to comment anonymously.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Brief Introduction



Teanaway wolf
Wolf Management Debate comes to Kittitas County
Now, as I head into my fourth year in the Resource Management program at Central (and have yet to produce a thesis), I've finally found something I can really write about.  Certainly, it is more up my alley than cattle grazing impacts to sage grouse nesting habitat, and all the vegetation work that was needed to complete it.  This study will return me to childhood passions about mystical animals I once wanted - dreamed - about studying.  Wolves.


So, with packs being confirmed in and around the ranching valley where I reside, it is a perfect time to take stock about how folks feel about the return of this predator to the neighborhood.  Given the community, I expect most will be unhappy.  Some may be excited.  Some may not care.  I hope that this study on the attitudes of residents towards wolves will help with managing future conflicts.

I've always had an interest in wildlife/animal conflicts.  I spent years studying all sides of the free-roaming horse debate.  From the activists to the biologists and range managers to the ranchers.  It was, and is, a very interesting, convoluted topic.  I intended on writing my thesis on that subject, but it was just too difficult with the BLM herds so far away and native tribes closed to outsiders, for the most part.


This quote represents where I am going with this new research"

"There is nothing simple about a story of wolves and human communities.  It is a complex story with a rich history, an often controversial present, and a future that is not yet written.  It is a story of human psychology and teh ways in which our self-understanding, fears, hopes, interests, and sense of place shape our understanding of the natural world and our relationship to nonhuman species and the land."

~Introduction to Wolves and Human Communities by Virginia A. Sharpe, Bryan G. Norton, and Strachan Donnelley