Washington’s wolves: Welcomed Home Just to Be Slaughtered?
Headlines across the US have been focused on Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) which just approved kill orders for the ‘incremental removal’ of two (more) wolf packs. Over the past 7 years, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed 30+ state endangered wolves.
Currently, Washington’s gray wolves are fully protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington, and throughout the state under state endangered species law. At the end of 2018, only 126 confirmed wolves lived in Washington in 27 packs and with just 15 confirmed breeding pairs. As a green state who boasts about its environmentally-friendly policies, why have wolves been welcomed home to Washington only to be slaughtered by taxpayers? Yes, we all pay for this to happen.
26 out of those 30 wolves killed by the State wildlife agency have reportedly been killed in response to complaints from just three people: Diamond M Ranch owners Len McIrvin, his son Bill McIrvin, and his nephew Justin Hedrick. The McIrvin family has long influenced state wolf policy, staunchly backed by Washington’s seventh legislative district state representative Joel Kretz. Before he was elected to the statehouse in 2005, Kretz, a far right Republican was known for puma hunting and trying to poke loopholes through Washington state law discouraging puma hunting with hounds. As deputy minority leader of the Washington State House of Representatives, Kretz notoriously steered state funding to help the annual Omak Stampede rodeo, including the Omak Suicide Race.
On September 30, and not a moment too soon, Washington’s Governor Inslee wrote in a letter instructing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to focus on finding nonlethal solutions for conflicts between livestock and wolves. Inslee asked WDFW Director Susewind to accelerate an ongoing update to the lethal management guidelines, with the goal of significantly reducing the role of lethal removal in the wolf management program.
“In addition, please consider what opportunities exist to work with the U.S. Forest Service and other public land managers to make changes that would reduce the conflicts, including changes in allotment policies for public lands that are prime wolf habitat, the addition of more intensive range riding, and other proven or promising methods.” Translation: Will Inslee favor cancellation of the U.S. Forest Service grazing leases that the McIrvin family has held since 1943?
The science shows that nonlethal measures effectively reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, and that killing wolves can create conflicts, reduce social tolerance for wolves, and increase poaching. The results from this Washington State University study based on 25 years of government data concludes that killing wolves and other native predators to save livestock from depredation are actually having the opposite effect. While shooting carnivores may seem like the most logical and direct response, the study shows that by killing wolves, wolf packs become disrupted resulting in an increase in livestock depredations. This study found that the increasing wolf killing results in increasing the odds of livestock depredations 4% for sheep and 5-6% for cattle.
Using this data, researchers conducted similar research on livestock killed by other predators, including brown bears, cougars, jaguars, lions, leopards, and more. Each of these studies provides similar results: killing predators creates a social disruption on the stability of their families and packs which actually causes more – not less – predation. According to 25 years of government scientific data, it seems we are ultimately better off learning to live with rather than kill native wildlife. Purposely eliminating wolves from the landscape again via shooting, trapping, and poisoning are 18th century solutions. In the 21st century, we can do better.