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.