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.

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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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