Wolves: Washington to Wisconsin

A reader of my blog, Jo Deese, forwarded me the website of the Steven’s County Cattleman’s Association (SCCA). It appears these cattlemen (not sure about the women) are keeping busy in the war against wolves.  Their site even includes a “Wolf attack photo gallery” with gruesome pictures of livestock depredations.

Same as we heard from ranchers at the recent Washington Department Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) meeting in Olympia, the SCCA website promotes the delisting of wolves in the Eastern part of the state. Due to the intricate details of the Washington wolf plan, an early delisting would be extremely difficult to implement, as explained to me by WDFW Public Information Officer Madonna Luers. Thank goodness for legalities, at least in this case. However, the livestock industry holds a lot of power so the possibility of delisting is certainly not out of the question.

The SCCA website states a calf was killed last week by the Smackout pack, despite the fact that the WDFW would not confirm this as a wolf depredation. SCCA President Scott Nielson says, “Our oversaturation of wolves in Eastern Washington means these kinds of incidents will be spreading throughout the region in the near future if the management of this animal is not changed.”

The problems of ranchers are real. Wolves can and do kill livestock. But wolves are being managed, as evidenced by the elimination of the Wedge pack and hundreds of other situations where wolves were lethally removed for killing cattle or sheep. Nielson’s statement makes more sense if it reads, “Our oversaturation of CATTLE in Eastern Washington…”  Cattle are the animals that need to be managed in order to reduce their sitting duck existence on lands that host native predators such as wolves and grizzlies. Their numbers are out of control, as well as their impact on the environment. Priorities need to shift.

Wisconsin hunters brought in Wolf Awareness Week with a bang, killing four wolves on October 15th, the first day of the season. On that same day, Funds for Animals and the Humane Society filed suit to demand the return of the Great Lake wolves to Federal protection. I certainly hope their suit is successful, it does happen. But invariably, the counter against these suits is that the wolf population can withstand the deaths of one-half, two-thirds, or even more of their population. Perhaps they can. They will reproduce and the numbers will rise again for the next years hunt. But it is a weak and narrow minded argument to say that the hunting and trapping of wolves is a legitimate activity simply because it does not wipe out the entire population. One must ignore so much of what is known about these animals to kill them without remorse. One must ignore the complexities of pack structure, the intelligence of wolves, their role in the ecosystem, as well as the fact that killing them randomly may very well lead to more problems with livestock.

But those that desire to kill wolves seem to invariably have their way. As my sister-in-law Kathy Elgin, a Wisconsin resident, discovered, “The people who want to hunt wolves feel more passion than the the people I talk to who are against it.” She added, “Freedom to hunt is such a WI tradition I guess it clouds some people minds, even the students I come in to contact with everyday.”

Sad but true. The complacency of many has allowed the passion of  a few to determine the fate of wolves. I might add that misinformation also adds to this dilemma, including the radical and fear-filled attitude the Steven’s County Cattleman’s Association is propagating on their website.

This is not reason to give up, but perhaps reason to align our efforts and work toward a unified front.  Each and everyone of us is needed to win this battle, we just need to do it together.

5 thoughts on “Wolves: Washington to Wisconsin

  1. One thing I can’t ignore; all this talk about how a “population” can withstand hunting pressures. What about the welfare of the individual wolf? The “wolf” may survive as a population, but we have failed to protect many individuals. It seems that people are clouded by the idea that since a population remains, there has been some sort of success. The animals ruthlessly killed surely wouldn’t think so. The fear, pain, and suffering of a hunted wolf have been pushed to the back burner, as people tend not to like to think of ugly realities. Besides the fundamentalist rancher types and sociopaths, who do you know that would be capable of violence like this? To kill, torture, or maim one the most beautiful, intelligent, and animals so like ourselves as the wolf, is an atrocity that represents the worst in human nature.

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    • Hannah, you speak for most of us – I’m certain. Reminds me of the starfish story, you know the one, how all the stranded starfish on the beach couldn’t be rescued, but saving even one individual certainly mattered to that one. I hate thinking of the fear of a snared wolf or any other animal. The panic in the trapped wolf who MUST be thinking of it’s pack and how it will get back to it….or to it’s pups. God, it makes me feel emotions I never knew I had…not necessarily a good thing 😦

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  2. Beckie, a well-written and thought-provoling entry as usual.
    You wrote:
    “This is not reason to give up, but perhaps reason to align our efforts and work toward a unified front. Each and everyone of us is needed to win this battle, we just need to do it together”
    Did you have any particular direction in mind? It’s sounding as if we advocates should be working WITH the cattlemen. How does THAT happen? Their hatred for predators appears to be so intense.

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  3. We all must understand that most of these ranchers are federally subsidized, they run their cattle on our public lands and then double dip(like lie about predator depradations and then putting their hand out for even more compnsation). Many, not all, refuse to cooperate and actually bait wolves and other predators. The fact is, less than 1% of all cattle losses are due to predator depredation–cougars, woves, bears. More cattle are lost to auto collisions, the upsurge in cattle rustling and the refusal of many ranchers to immunize their cattle or even maintain proper fencing. The whole federal grazing permit is a legacy of conquest–the Indian wars are over and the EuroAmericans obviously won and have been destroying land, creatures and indigenous societies ever since. It’s time to bring the brutal Legacy of Conquest to an end. Withdraw all grazing permits on public land. Make these ranchers and sheepmen shoulder their own responsibilities and care for their cattle on their own land. The ranching industry in Washington, Oregon and California contributes very little to any state economy. By the time you consider their subsidies, the cheap grazing fees on our public lands and the fact that you could make the entire cattle industry West of the Great Plains disappear over night and no one would notice, as most American cattle are raised the the Southeast–where there is more water and better grazing, we shold just run them off. Ecotourism would pay better for them and their families. These ranchers are, to use an good Texas expression, “whiney butts.” They honk and tweet, they lie and kill.. They refuse to understand the fact that laws should be equally applies in any civilized nation, where rule of law is prevalent. So, stop the whining–withdraw their grazing permits. Enforce the Endangered Species Act and relist our wolves.

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