August 21, 2012

Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Just a few months ago, we celebrated the discovery of Washington State’s eighth wolf pack, called the Wedge pack. This pack is particularly important because it’s a border pack that helps maintain a link between wolves in Washington and Canada.  In a small population like this, genetic exchange between these populations is very important.

Recently, wolves have been accused of killing livestock in the Colville National Forest on the northeastern boundary of the state’s border with Canada.  Under the state’s wolf management plan, if wolves repeatedly prey on livestock, and nonlethal deterrents fail, the state can choose to kill wolves to protect livestock.  However, in this case, there is no solid evidence that wolves did kill livestock and no details provided of any nonlethal deterrents being tried.

Several wolf depredation experts, including myself have reviewed the state’s investigation reports and found that none of the injuries are characteristic of wolf predation on livestock.  Though I’m not a field investigator, I have personally evaluated more than one million dollars of livestock depredations due to wolves, and managed Defenders’ wolf compensation program from 1999 to 2011. We would have rejected these reports and considered them unrelated to wolf predation.  Just because wolves are in the area does not mean they are killing livestock, and scavenging from dead livestock left in the national forest is not a crime punishable under the Washington State wolf plan. These reports fail to prove that wolves killed or injured livestock, and the majority of the injuries — most of which are not even close to life threatening — can be easily classified as those commonly sustained by cattle ranging on national forest lands, inflicted by barbed wire, trees or bushes, moving debris during storms, and a host of other possibilities, including animals other than wolves.

Photo courtesy of Didier Lindsey

Despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, the state has already used the complaints as a basis to kill a female wolf from the pack, and now has issued a kill order on the rest of the pack’s adult wolves. Since one of the adults has been fitted with a GPS collar, the state’s sharpshooters will find it all too easy to locate the pack and carry out this unjustified sentence, and they have been given the go-ahead to do so as soon as possible. It will mean the deaths of four adult wolves, and likely the death or forced captivity of the pack’s several pups as well. An entire pack wiped out based on circumstantial evidence that they were in the area and therefore responsible for the depredations.

Unless we act now, it appears that the Wedge pack could be eliminated this week — as early as tomorrow.  That’s why we’re asking our members and supporters to contact Governor Christine Gregoire (360-902-4111); Phil Anderson, Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (360-902-2200 Assistant Director Nate Pamplin (360-902-2693); and the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission (360-902-2267 or today and respectfully tell them that this was the wrong decision. Tell them:

1)    Stop: Rescind the kill order! Don’t sentence an entire pack to death.

2)    Prove it: Conduct an independent review of the evidence to determine that wolves were at fault for the injuries, and publish the review’s findings. If the wolves are at fault, there should be no problem in proving it publicly.

3)    Start slow: If the review finds that the wolves are at fault, use non-lethal deterrents first. Sending sharpshooters after wolves should be the absolute last resort, not the go-to option.

Ask these officials to stand up for responsible wildlife management, not give in to fear and false information. If Washington starts down this path of killing wolves based on misidentification and speculation, no pack in the state will be safe.

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