WDFW response to wolf killing, and a possible response from you

WDFW response to wolf killing, and a possible response from you

Photo by Arne von Brill (some rights reserved)

Photo by Arne von Brill (some rights reserved)

The office of Jim Unsworth, the director of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, responded to public concerns about the killing of the Profanity Peak wolf pack with the long email below.

Here’s a possible response — his email is director@dfw.wa.gov:

Dear Dir Unsworth,

Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and comprehensive response.

This part rings untrue: “Capturing wolves and placing them in captive facilities is also problematic. For one thing, live-capturing wolves is extremely difficult, especially in the rugged terrain of the Profanity Peak pack’s range. In addition, experience has shown that many wolves do not adapt well to captivity.”

Your department regularly captures wolves to collar them, including in the Profanity Peak Pack. At least one sanctuary offered to take them in. To learn more about sanctuaries, perhaps you should attend the Wolf Haven International event at Town Hall in Seattle next month.

In this case, it’s also concerning that you believe that the rancher(s) had taken appropriate measures. Although Washington State University has (inappropriately, I believe) disavowed its professor’s claim that the cattle were placed on top of the wolves’ den, the rancher himself is apparently acknowledging that the cattle were placed within a few miles of it. What do your guidelines say about that? Perhaps they should account for the fact that when this law was enacted more than a century ago, most ranchers lived near their cattle and that alone acted as a deterrent to the wolves.

Finally, while I realize cattle are technically property, perhaps you should reconsider calling them that. Aren’t the wolves in this case public “property” whose lives and well-being you should guard?

Thank you for your consideration,

Awesome vegan’s name here

Email from Dir. Unsworth’s office:

“The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) received your message regarding the removal of wolves in the Profanity Peak pack and appreciates your concerns. The volume of comments we have received on this issue precludes responding to individual messages, but we welcome the opportunity to explain the department’s actions.

Many people who contacted WDFW suggested that the department should focus on conserving endangered wildlife, rather than protecting ranchers’ cattle. Conserving native species is indeed our first priority, but the department also has a legal obligation to respond to reports of property damage and public safety threats caused by wildlife. In fact, addressing these situations is essential to maintain and increase public acceptance of wolves, bears, cougars and other wildlife on the landscape.

Wolf management in Washington is guided by the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which addresses issues ranging from regional wolf-recovery objectives to strategies for reducing wolf depredation on livestock. The wolf plan was developed by WDFW in conjunction with the department’s Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), a diverse citizen panel including conservationists, ranchers and hunters. The state plan was adopted after an extensive public process and review, including consideration of over 65,000 public comments.

Earlier this year, the department worked with WAG to develop a new management protocol that established specific criteria for using lethal measures to stop wolves from preying on livestock when other measures prove ineffective. The protocol lays out specific conditions that must be met for taking lethal action, including a requirement that ranchers use preventive measures to protect their livestock.

In this case, both ranchers involved in the conflict with the Profanity Peak pack took proactive measures prescribed by the protocol and WDFW field staff to prevent attacks on their cattle. Yet, by the first week of September, the department had documented eight confirmed and five probable wolf attacks on grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest.

While ranchers can apply for compensation for those losses, state payments do not address the additional cost of protecting livestock or the disruption to ranching operations resulting from repeated predation by wolves.

Some people who contacted the department maintained that ranchers shouldn’t be allowed to graze their livestock on federal rangelands in the first place. Changing that century-old policy is beyond the department’s authority, and would require action by the U.S. Congress. So long as Washington ranchers can legally graze their livestock on public lands, WDFW has a responsibility to manage wolves in the eastern portion of the state where they were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2009.

Since then, the state’s wolf population has grown from five wolves to at least 90 today, increasing by approximately 30 percent per year. Most of that growth has been in the eastern section of the state, where 15 of Washington’s 19 wolf packs share the landscape with rural residents and ranching operations.

Unfortunately, WDFW’s options for relocating wolves to defuse conflicts are limited, especially if a pack has a history of preying on domestic animals. Studies show that many relocated wolves return to their original range, or resume attacking livestock in their new location.

Capturing wolves and placing them in captive facilities is also problematic. For one thing, live-capturing wolves is extremely difficult, especially in the rugged terrain of the Profanity Peak pack’s range. In addition, experience has shown that many wolves do not adapt well to captivity.

For these reasons, Washington’s wolf management plan concludes that “lethal control of wolves may be necessary to resolve repeated wolf-livestock conflicts.”

We at WDFW understand that the public is divided on this issue, and that many people are upset by the idea of killing wolves to protect livestock. Yet, eight states with growing gray wolf populations – Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – have found it necessary to use lethal measures as a last resort to manage wolf populations.

As gray wolves continue to reestablish themselves in our state, some conflicts with humans, livestock and other wildlife species are inevitable. WDFW is committed to the recovery of wolves, but recognizes that maintaining the support of people who live and work near this apex predator is essential to achieving that goal. Without their support, wolves will face a far less certain future in our state.

For more information about wolf management in Washington state, please see the WDFW website.”

Wild horses won’t be slaughtered

I was about to write a post about how the US government was planning to slaughter 45,000 wild horses and burros and provide a call to action.

Good news! After public outrage, the plans have been halted.

It’s a great reminder to speak up for animals. From an article about the decision: “The panel’s recommendation created an uproar among animal rights activists and highlighted the challenges ahead for the U.S. government as it seeks to control the population of wild horses and burros.”

Letters, calls, and petitions DO make a difference. I’ll keep an eye on this issue and post action items if the situation changes.