WDFW Wolf Slaughter Continues Despite Lack of Oversight
For Immediate Release
September 30, 2022
Hannah Thompson-Garner, Director of Advocacy and Mission Advancement, Northwest Animal Rights Network, email@example.com, (206) 229-2035
FOR PEOPLE WHO EAT BEEF BUT DON’T SUPPORT WOLF SLAUGHTER, THE WA DEPT. OF FISH AND WILDLIFE JUST MADE YOUR LIFE A WHOLE LOT MORE COMPLICATED
WDFW’s lack of a real wolf-livestock conflict deterrence rule leaves wolves at the mercy of an opaque “protocol,” which dictates that kill orders are issued based on the whims of Dept. Director Susewind, with little oversight.
Update, October 18th, 2022. — Despite no new movement on revising the wolf-livestock conflict protocol or efforts to implement a new wolf rulemaking, WDFW killed one more Smackout pack member, a yearling female, on October 7th. Her killing comes after Director Susewind already authorized the killings of two other members of her pack, killed in September, and after WDFW attempted to kill another member of the pack, but ended up killing a member of a different pack entirely. Director Susewind has now killed five wolves in direct response to rancher complaints over conflicts that occur while wolves and cows share the same land.
These killings also come after the Department revealed that it was aware of six wolves poisoned to death in Stevens County in early 2022. Twenty wolves have died in Washington State so far this year. NARN and other animal organizations have offered over $51,000 dollars in reward money for information on the death of these six wolves.
A large coalition of conservation organizations, including NARN, will meet this week to discuss ways to reform Washington State wildlife management. This meeting is the first formal Washington wildlife reform summit that will occur as part of the broader Washington State wildlife management reform coalition group. NARN is honored to be a member of the Steering Committee for this first meeting. Significant focus will be on wolf management policies. The public can expect a separate release detailing the meeting’s notes relating to wolves released early next week.
Second update Tuesday, October 18th, 9:42 AM PST
Update, October 13th, 2022. — An additional kill order issued by Director Susewind on October 9th for the Leadpoint pack has been rescinded after the Department released information revealing that one of the complaining ranchers had neglected to properly dispose of multiple bodies of cattle that belonged to their grazing herd. These dead bodies may have attracted wolves to the area.
According to the WDFW wolf-livestock conflict protocol, before kill orders may be initiated for livestock depredations, ranchers should demonstrate that they are not contributing to any instances of conflict by needlessly attracting predators to the area, including wolves. Wolves are attracted to areas that smell like there may be available food; if dead cows and other animals used as livestock are left out in the open, their decomposing bodies will begin to attract wolves to the area. To avoid this, ranchers are required to properly bury dead livestock animals so as not to attract wolves. If bodies are not properly buried or the ranchers neglect to remove the body, the Department should not issue kill orders for any pack of wolves that are attracted to the improperly buried prey.
WDFW is investigating the incident. Non-lethal deterrent methods are shown to be vastly more efficient than lethal deterrent methods when it comes to minimizing instances of wolves harming cows and other animals used as livestock. Properly burying dead animals is an effective non-lethal deterrence measure.
Updated Thursday, October 13th, 12:58 PM PST
Seattle, WA.– In July 2022, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) rolled back its efforts to better manage conflict between wolves and livestock in Washington State when the Fish and Wildlife Commission refused to require a new rulemaking after the most recent rulemaking was rejected for being woefully misinformed. At the behest of ranchers, who have shown little compassion for both wolves and the livestock they claim to protect, WDFW has reverted back to complacent lethargy in its efforts to prevent wolves from hunting and preying upon cows and other animals used as livestock. Instead, Director Susewind has killed three wolves in the past 30 days.
Washingtonians have consistently and enthusiastically called for non-lethal measures to manage the wolves who returned to this state in the early 2000s. However, the will of the public is not reflected in WDFW’s ongoing issuance of its controversial “kill orders,” used to theoretically deter wolves from eating non-native livestock animals by killing off a member or two of the pack. In 2020, after sound science indicated that kill orders do not decrease depredations and massive public outrage directed at WDFW, WA Governor Jay Inslee ordered the WDFW Fish and Wildlife Commission, the policy-setting branch of WDFW, to implement a rule that governs how the State must manage the conflict resulting from both wolves and cows and other livestock animals needing to share the same land. The intent behind the rule was to decrease the number of wolves, an endangered species in this state, killed using taxpayer money.
In 2022, and in response to a petition submitted by The Center for Biological Diversity in 2020 and Gov. Inslee’s order, WDFW initiated a rulemaking to draft their own wolf-livestock conflict deterrence rule. After months of pushback from both wildlife advocate and rancher industry stakeholders regarding the rule’s contents, The Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected WDFW’s version of the rule. And that was that.
Currently, no more rulemakings for a wolf-livestock conflict deterrence rule are underway, and the Governor’s order remains unmet. The problem now centers on the lack of legal requirements dictating how WDFW must manage wolves and livestock conflict. WDFW manages these conflicts using an opaque “protocol,” first implemented in 2016, that leaves little clues available to the public as to the reasoning behind the decision to kill wolves. Because the public does not have this information on why the Director decides to issue kill orders, it remains definitively unknown how many livestock animals must be killed by wolves before wolves are ordered killed by Susewind, as well as exactly what steps ranchers must take to protect their animals from wolves before wolves are ordered killed.
Using the protocol as a nebulous guide (one that does not use the best available science), Director Susewind issued a kill order for the Smackout pack on September 1, 2022. Following this order, WDFW officials killed one wolf. WDFW did not confirm the age of the wolf before firing from a distance; the wolf killed turned out to be pup, less than one year old. Killing a pup was not their only mistake that day; WDFW later admitted that it killed the pup despite not being sure that the pup was even a member of the pack with a kill order over it. As it stands now, WDFW remains mute on whether the pup was a member of the Smackout pack or a member of a nearby pack, the Dirty Shirt pack.
Immediately following the debauched killing of the wolf pup, WDFW suspended its kill order operations. That suspension was short lived. Despite no efforts made to reform the protocol, a kill order was issued for the Leadpoint pack on September 21st. On September 27th, WDFW killed one male member of the pack. On September 28th, WDFW killed another member, a female.
For all the aforementioned reasons, it remains murky why WDFW felt the need to issue a kill order for these two packs and others like them. The public has little power to influence WDFW regarding these kill orders, due to there being no rule mechanism requiring public participation in the kill-order decision making process. However, if another rulemaking is issued for a new wolf-livestock conflict deterrence rule, this rulemaking would trigger a public comment process for the potential rule.
This flagrant lack of public process and clear disregard for transparent decision making in wolf management begs WDFW to initiate a new rulemaking that prioritizes transparency and fosters communication between all stakeholders before it’s too late and these problems become irreparable, both in terms of in the loss of species biodiversity and in terms of public trust in WDFW. Washingtonians have already demonstrated that a majority of them prefer to keep wolves safe in Washington State, regardless of whether they consume the animals potentially preyed upon by wolves if sharing the same land.
Despite this sentiment, the public remains in the dark regarding how their food choices may be impacting other animal species that they care about. A transparent wolf-livestock conflict deterrence rule would help with this lack of public awareness and increase public trust in, and participation with, WDFW. Last month, CBD filed a formal complaint urging that the Commission vote made last July be overturned, and that a new rulemaking for wolf-livestock conflict deterrence begin at once. The outcome of this complaint remains yet to be seen. As long as WDFW continues to kill wolves at the behest of ranchers and livestock producers, the public deserves to know how the animal agricultural industry in this state impacts the wildlife that also call these lands home.
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