Washington State Kills Last Four of a Wolf Pack Hours Before Court-Ordered Reprieve
The last four members of an embattled wolf pack were killed in Washington State Friday, hours before the court order that could have saved them.
The wolves, members of the Old Profanity Territory pack in the Colville National Forest of Northeastern Washington, were killed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) after the pack killed or injured 14 cattle in a ten month period, KUOW reported.
The killings occurred early Friday morning, before a court hearing began at 9:30 a.m. in King County Superior Court. The judge ordered the state to temporarily halt its wolf killings until the case could go to trial, but the order came too late.
"It's unbelievably tragic that this wolf family has already been annihilated by the state," Sophia Ressler of wildlife advocacy group the Center for Biological Diversity told the Associated Press. "It seems like Washington's wildlife agency is bent on wiping out the state's wolves."
A judge just ruled to stop the killing of Old Profanity wolves, but sadly the order came too late — 8 of the 9 members of this wolf family had already been killed, including four pups. And the Togo pack remains unprotected.— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) August 17, 2019
Please: Raise your voice now. https://t.co/Kab7V0qKYO
Washington State's wolf management plan allows for the "lethal removal" of wolves that attack livestock in the eastern part of the state, where they are not federally listed as an endangered species, according to KUOW. Before the agency resorts to wolf killings, however, any rancher whose livestock is threatened must first show that they took reasonable measures to protect their animals. These include hiring a type of cowboy known as a range rider, using lights and noise to scare wolves and removing sick and injured animals. The WDFW claimed reasonable steps were taken in the case of the Old Profanity Territory pack, but the Center for a Humane Economy, the group that supported the suit to stop the killings, disagreed. They argued that the rancher in question had asked state range riders to leave his ranch July 8. Nine of the 14 recent livestock attacks occurred after this date.
The group also questioned WDFW's decision to schedule the killings for the morning before a hearing.
"It's like, 'Okay, we've got to get these wolves now, in case the judge stops us,'" Center for a Humane Economy President Wayne Pacelle told KUOW.
WDFW spokesperson Staci Lehman said the scheduling of the killings was just "unfortunate timing."
"It's always unfortunate whenever we have to remove wolves," Lehman told KUOW. "It's never taken lightly by anybody at the department."
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the lethal removal of the pack on July 31 after finding it responsible for 29 total livestock attacks since Sept. 2018, according to an agency statement. Since Aug. 1, WDFW has killed seven wolves on the following dates:
- Aug. 7: one wolf
- Aug. 8: one wolf
- Aug.13: one wolf
- Aug.16: four wolves
The wolves killed included four pups, the Center for a Humane Economy said in a statement. The agency said it had killed all known members of the pack, though another wolf was sited in the area in the spring. WDFW said it might be a member of another pack, while KUOW and the center reported it as a surviving member of the Old Profanity Territory pack.
The ranch that originated the complaints that led to the killings is the Diamond M Ranch owned by the McIrvin family, the center said. Complaints from this family have prompted 87 percent of the wolf killings in Washington.
"The McIrvin family is baiting wolves with live cattle on our federal lands," Pacelle said in the statement. "And then they complain when the inevitable occurs, and then plead with the state to kill more wolves from helicopters."
Pacelle told KUOW that ultimately he would like to see Washington stop granting grazing allotments in wolf habitat.
The Old Profanity Territory pack is the second lethally removed wolf pack from the area in three years. A kill order is currently in effect for two members of the Togo pack, who also live in Northeast Washington.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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