The news was released Friday afternoon that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) plans to kill not only four of the Wedge pack wolves, but the entire pack. Their efforts sound serious, employing state marksmen, trappers, and biologists, 24/7. They will bait the wolves with deer carcasses and may also enlist the help of the sheriff’s department deputies. And if all this doesn’t work, they’re bringing in helicopters. Wildlife Services cannot legally assist without going through NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).
Price ticket for this dire lethal removal plan? Who knows. And when another pack of wolves infiltrates the Wedge, what will the state of Washington and resident ranchers do differently to prevent the same problems?
Jack Field, Executive Vice President of the Washington Cattleman’s Association, is quoted in the Sept 21, 2012 WDFW news release as saying, “We understand that as wolves re-populate the state there will be conflicts with livestock. We also understand that we need to work with WDFW to find solutions, including the use of non-lethal measures…”
Yet in a power point presentation recently delivered by WDFW Director Phil Anderson that listed “Non-lethal Tools Deployed” I read only three non-lethal measures the Diamond M tried: 1. They separated young calves from wolves by pasturing cow-calf pairs in an area without wolves until the calves are older. 2. They increased the number of range riders who checked on livestock daily. 3. They removed livestock with significant injuries…
Other tools listed were used by WDFW and included such things as sharing wolf location information with the Diamond M and providing non-injurious harassment to wolves if detected near livestock.
Conservation Northwest, a non-profit whose focus is “Keeping the Northwest Wild,” must think so. They say in the WDFW news release issued yesterday, “…We understand and agree that pack removal is the right action at this point.”
On Thursday, before this news broke loose, I had a nice talk with Madonna Luers, Public Information Officer for WDFW. She informed me that as of yet, no wolves had be killed other than the female shot in July, and that the alpha male of the Wedge pack was not to be killed because, “We don’t want to shoot our informant.”
She stated “The Wedge area will always have wolves,” and agreed that preventative measures should be taken to prevent further problems there. She had heard that some rancher from Montana had contacted the McIrvins of the Diamond M ranch, offering to drive out and do whatever he could to research non-lethal measures that had not yet been used. I told her that this Montana rancher was Steve Clevidence and about the successful work he, Timm Kaminsky, and others are doing at ranches in Alberta and elsewhere.
She was interested in this. But it was up to the McIrvins to take the next move in enlisting the help.
Madonna mentioned that Steve Pozzanghera, Eastern Regional Director WDFW and Policy Lead on wolves, was attending a meeting near the Wedge area, one held monthly with ranchers. She gave me his number but said he would be out of town after this week.
I think I’d go out of town too.
The more I delve into the Wedge issue, the more complex I realize it is. There are people working hard, struggling to do the right thing, learning from their mistakes. And there are wolves that are just trying to eat. Yet the order to eliminate the entire pack, using deputies and helicopters, is over the top.
Madonna said something that made me think, and I hope everyone who reads this will give it some thought too, including those that pushed for the elimination of these wolves. She said, “I wish I could wave a magic wand and have more people than not see the gray wolf as just another wildlife species.”
And she added, “Isn’t it a point of pride that we have enough wild places that a few wolves can live in.”
When will pride in our wilderness trump commerce and special interest? I hope my kids live to see that day.