Thursday, September 4, 2014

Washington’s Endangered Wolves Remain the Crosshairs


Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia (Canada). They are listed as endangered throughout Washington under state law and the western two-thirds of the state under federal law.

In 2011 the WDFW Commission formally adopted the state’s wolf plan, which was crafted in a five-year process with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. The plan requires 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years to remove endangered-species protections. The goal of the plan was to recover wolf populations while minimizing livestock losses. However, the Commission and Department officials have publicly stated that they view the plan as “merely advisory.”

Less than a year (2012) after adopting the plan, the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife wiped out an entire pack of wolves, the Wedge Pack, including its young pups, which had allegedly depredated on cattle that grazed on public and private land. Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said the effort was necessary. "Lethal removal will remain a wolf-management option, but we will use it only as a last resort," Anderson said. "We are committed to the recovery and sustainability of the gray wolf in Washington, and its numbers are increasing rapidly."

The truth is wolf recovery is still in its infancy in Washington. According to the Department’s annual wolf report, its wolf population grew by only one wolf, from a population of 51 wolves to 52 wolves from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. In contrast, there are 1.1 million head of cattle that roam public and private lands in the state – including throughout known wolf country.

The Wedge Pack debacle taught all involved that there must be commitments from the state and cattlemen to expand the early use of nonlethal efforts and proven effective wolf conflict avoidance techniques to ensure the future sustainability of wolves that are just beginning to reclaim parts of its historic range. Unfortunately, not much progress was made in that regard.

Now, another pack, the Huckleberry Pack, is the newest target of WDFW’s mismanagement. It was alleged that the pack was responsible for depredating 22 sheep pastured by Mr. Dave Dashiell - placed in an area that made it very difficult to implement nonlethal deterrents and conflict avoidance measures. While some attempts were made to use simple non-lethal methods, they were woefully late and poorly implemented. It is commonly known that these measures are effective only when used correctly and given time to work.

Like the Wedge Pack, the Huckleberry pack now remains in the crosshairs. The department already aerial-gunned a female wolf pup on August 24th. On Aug. 29th, the Steven’s County Commission released the following resolution.


It is important to note that among those Commissioners who signed it, is the brother of said sheep rancher, Commissioner Don Dashiell. Also interesting is the sheep rancher is eligible for compensation (at taxpayer expense) for any lost sheep that were the result of confirmed wolf depredation.

Over the weekend, Stevens County ranchers moved their 1800 sheep to a temporary pasture before getting trucked to their winter range. During this move, members of Huckleberry wolf pack received temporary three-day reprieve. But, it is apparent that the kill order on this wild family has resumed.

On Aug. 28th, eight conservation groups filed an appeal with Governor Jay Inslee asking for reasonable and enforceable rules that mandate what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species. Rules similar to those in place in Oregon and are working to encourage ranchers to enact nonlethal measures; there, the number of depredations has decreased dramatically, and the state has not killed wolves in more than three years. The appeal to Gov. Inslee was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club. Upon receipt of the appeal, the governor’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision. 

Thus, the Wolf Conservation Center’s Awareness and Action Committee is encouraging its supporters to champion this effort by respectfully urging the Governor to (1) revoke the state’s kill order on the Huckleberry pack (2) adopt reasonable and enforceable measures that will ensure a future for wolf recovery in the state.

Please email and call Governor Inslee
• governor@gov.wa.gov
• 360-902-4111

 Please remember to keep your comments respectful.

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