The Washington Wolf Dilemna

Huckleberry pups, June 2012

Huckleberry pups, June 2012. Photo from WDFW website.

It’s a disconcerting deja vu. Two years ago we fought hard to prevent the killing of the Wedge pack for their supposed role in livestock depredations. But the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department (WDFW) ignored public opinion as they spent over $76,000 in a full scale war against the Wedge pack wolves, killing seven of its members.

An OPD article dated November 14, 2012 quotes WDFW spokesperson Madonna Luers as saying, “Our director (Phil Anderson) has said that he never wants to do this again… The social acceptance is just not there.”

Mr. Anderson must have forgotten making this statement because now the Huckleberry pack is being targeted under his authorization. One member, reportedly a pup, has been shot already and three more are in the scopes.

I spoke today with Bob Ferris, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands about the issue. Bob has been involved in wolf recovery for over twenty years. For eight of those years he worked with Defenders of Wildlife, either vetoing or giving the OK for the release of funds for livestock compensation claims. Wolf and livestock issues are a subject Bob is very familiar with.

According to Bob, one of the primary problems is the lack of transparency within the WDFW. He compared their department with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which (at least since the Oregon Wolf plan was revamped) is maintaining a high level of transparency in their actions with wolves. WDFW kept quiet their plan to eliminate the Huckleberry wolves until just before the weekend, when they came forth with a brief statement on their intentions, then reported that nothing more would be said until Monday. There was no time for public comment or even a Q&A.

Bob said that the WDFW might benefit from a plan more like Oregon’s, one in which they would be accountable to clear guidelines and regulations. This Cascadia Wildlands press release from February 6, 2014 explains the current Washington wolf plan and its failings. Their plan was adopted in 2011, and management was quickly switched from the Endangered Species Division to the Game Division. Not surprisingly, the Game Division instituted a lethal control program, granting themselves the authority to make decisions that so far, have proven to be far from science based.

Bob suggested that their actions with the Huckleberry pack is more punishment based than science based. As if killing four wolves will tell the rest of the pack to steer clear of sheep. While some non-lethal measure were reportedly used by rancher Dave Dashiell to prevent these depredations, more measures were offered than were implemented. There was talk of moving the sheep but this was never done. Range riders were just beginning to circulate. And depredation was not a chronic problem for this pack, they had not been associated with any livestock deaths until this month. Nonlethal measures take time and diligence, according to Bob, and they must be varied depending on the situation.

Teanaway wolf, from WDFW website

Teanaway pack wolf, from WDFW website.

Is there anything we can do? Bob advises that no matter the outcome of the current situation, we should contact Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Our persistent voices do have an effect, especially with an elected official. The Governor’s phone number is 360-902-4111. His email is governor@gov.wa.gov.

Bob Ferris lends hope in a time of discouragement. He reminds me that the wolf recovery effort has been a long and challenging one, but one that has been overall quite successful. The first talk of relocation to Yellowstone was back in the 1940s and it took over fifty years to come to fruition. And decades ago, Bob had the foresight to project that one day, wolves will return to California. His peers doubted him, but thanks to Journey, his optimism has proven out.

So don’t give up, continue to support wolves in whatever way you can. They need our patience and persistence now more than ever.

 

Salmo pack wolves, photo from WDFW website

Salmo pack wolves, photo from WDFW website.

 

63 thoughts on “The Washington Wolf Dilemna

  1. Thank you for this.
    I fully understand the need to manage wild life
    and in some cases by reducing (however tragic it is) numbers will actually improve their existence.
    When managed properly it will benefit all.
    Howls (((awhoooo)))

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    • Though I can see your point of view, I have to say that I disagree. There are plenty of non-lethal management systems that could be implemented. Education should be the first step in helping to solve this issue, and co-existence should be the goal. The wolves will find a natural rhythm (ie. wolves hunt elk, elk become scarce, wolves die back and thus there are more elk the following season, wolf population increases again, etc.). Killing wolves will not benefit them. We shouldn’t be punishing wolves for obeying their instincts, rather educating the livestock keepers about how to keep wolves out (by non-lethal means). Also – livestock produce more offspring when predators are in the area, so these farmers have more to spare anyway.

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      • Don’t get me wrong, I’m against killing and I agree with everything you’ve said.
        Nature knows how to balance itself out.
        We humans are the issue, well, some humans.
        I’m on the wolves side.
        Thank you for your reply.

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  2. Thank you again, Beckie Elgin, for your level-headed summary of this issue. I know it is hard for folks to not get very, very angry when actions like this are taken, but it’s also hard to be confronted with that anger over and over again. Cool heads will prevail.

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  3. Put up 6 foot fences that a snake couldn’t get thought, oh it cost to much it’s just easier to kill the problem. Yeah I know it’s money it’s just easier to kill the problem. I feel like I’m having a conversation with ISIS.

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  4. There is a huge issue of 1800 sheep on leased public land, then too quick to lethally mange wolves on public land. This is huge encroachment. There should be an additional burden of tolerance and nonlethal responses by all concerned on public land.

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  5. Leave the poor, innocent wolves alone and let them live in peace. If the ranchers are worried, make them put up better fences around their herds. I really hope that the stupidity and insensitivity stopped at the Idaho border, but apparently I was wrong. It has entered into Washington’s government and wildlife management teams!

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  6. Beckie, I have sent emails to both Governor Inslee and Director Anderson of the WFWS regarding the proposed killing of the Huckleberry Pack. I am requesting that you send this blog “The Washington Wolf Dilemma” to both of these individuals. I am disgusted that my state is choosing to eliminate wolves in such a covert manner. Maybe Director Anderson will be replaced with a more environmentally friendly individual upon his upcoming retirement.

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  7. With how much education, in these times of working together for the benefit of all, I’m surprised. The stories of one farm in Washington…sounds to me like he needs a way to protect his family profits. Understood. One thing I’d like him to know… You have much more support understanding the “other side” wants to protect you too. How about we sit down and talk about how important it is for you to keep your herd safe, and to keep the wolves. There have been some remarkable outcomes, as of late, showing these animals are not horrifying. (Not that you will have made it this far in the reading, my hopes are that you have, we have people who will watch your flocks, AND tell the wolves they can’t come here. (Oregon is doing this just fine, and having benefits any natural ecosystem would encounter)

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  8. Please stop the killing. Please make sure ranchers use precaution to protect there herds and do not leave in attended. Please research the benefits of natural predators. It is time for nature to get back in balance and these poor animals are getting slaughtered. In the balance of nature there should be 80,000 wolves in your state not 600. This breaks my heart. Thank you and please protect the earth

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  9. Thanks everyone for your comments. They are much appreciated.

    Many of us are writing emails or calling the Governor. Below is a set of bullet points that you might find helpful in formulating your thoughts on this subject.Thanks to Amaroq Weis at the Center for Biological Diversity for writing these.

    “This wolf pack has denned 3-4 miles from this location – on reservation land, but still that close – for the last 3 years and WDFW knew it.

    The terrain the sheep were being grazed in should not have been used for sheep grazing; it’s rugged terrain, there are 1800 sheep spread out all over the place; the sheep owner had his shepherd quit a month ago so the sheep had only 4 guard dogs out there with them and no human presence and even then, 1 shepherd for 1800 sheep is not enough; there should be more shepherds out there.

    The Dept said a week ago the sheep were being moved right then to a new location; but the sheep still haven’t been moved.

    The Dept said a range rider would be on site on Aug 15 – he did not get out there until late the night of Aug 20 and so was not out monitoring until Aug 21, 6 days later.

    The dept said they had staff on site – but staff went home 1-2 nights in the midst of all this.

    The dept did not accept an offer from a conservation group early on of special lights that help deter predators.

    The dept did not accept an offer from WA State Univ researchers early on to come help with nonlethal measures and help sheep carcasses out that would be drawing in wolves.

    The Dept showcased only their limited nonlethal efforts on the tv news, not giving any hint to the public they would carry out a secret kill operation on a weekend morning while the public slept unaware.

    They have betrayed the public trust in their lack of transparency and misleading assertions of having used all nonlethal possible before resorting to lethal control.

    The sheep rancher himself had signed up this spring to participate in WSU’s nonlethal research project which would have given him assistance on the front end but then he pulled out.

    The sheep rancher cannot expect the public to think he can reasonably monitor 1800 sheep with no shepherds present; in fact when he first discovered sheep losses the bodies were too decomposed to determine how they died, which demonstrates it had been awhile since anyone checked on them.”

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    • I so wish they would stop lying/and or get off their tushes and help deter the wolves by keeping a better eye on their sheep….I realize it is their livelihood and they support their families that way, however, the bigger pictures is…take away the wolf and other predictors increase…there is a better and less cruel way to control these predictors, not to mention, the balance of nature is on a slippery slope….I stand for wolves. ALWAYS!! Thanks for what you do!!

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    • The public has been given nothing but lies and deceit. This is public land and nothing but nonlethal measures should be taken, as promised. These officials can not be trusted. Stop the killing. Move the sheep as promised and use the nonlethal methods that were promised.

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    • You should know that those talking points created by CBD are pure nonsense. They use a version of facts that were created out of thin air.

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      • Mr. Dashiell, perhaps you can tell us what exactly was done with your sheep to prevent problems with wild wolves and also why the sheep weren’t moved to a safer location, for their own well being as well as to prevent the kill order on four members of the Huckelberry pack.

        As you can see, there are a vast number of people who disagree with this order. Although they obviously weren’t affected by the depredations like you were, the public still holds some right in how our wildlife is managed, especially a species like the wolf who is just making a comeback into Washington and other areas.

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    • Hi Becky,
      We have similary probs in Germany, Lower Saxony, at the moment. But it is no problem to find out wolf DNA at all, I guess. And here every shepherd gets money for lost sheep from the State. So you can guess that from his point of view it should be a wolf anytime and not a wild dog… 😉 But the good news of it: The wolves are left alone and not hunted :))) Last weekend I saw a shepherd with an e-fence build up to protect his sheep, what should work!

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  10. Stop killing the wolves. What you need to do is worry about gun violence. The guns you supply that are killing children. Wake up.

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  11. Please rescind kill order. A pup was killed. That is contrary to what was said about killing young adults to deter sheep depredation.

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  12. If we kill everything on this planet we’ll have nothing to pass down – including the planet! We can’t continue to lay waste to all the denizens of the earth and expect a fruitful outcome. Enough is enough! But if you’re so almighty and powerful, instead of shooting at an aerial range, go into the grounds with as much armor as the wolf. Make it a fair fight – your bare hands against their bare teeth. Let’s see who wins. You won’t ofcourse. Simple humans need full on advantages because the animal might harm them. On their own lands. Minding their business. Coexisting with nature. Hmm….

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  13. Save them…we should not be hunting them at all…tens of thousands of wolves used to roam North America just a few hundred years ago….we took them to the brink of extinction…enough already. They are essential to the health of the land. Tired of hitting deer on the road, the solution is natural not always a bullet.

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  14. Re: The Huckleberry Wolf Pack in WA and their management (WDFW), and 1800 sheep on rugged mountainous land, sheep depredation and decision for lethal management action on public land: This amounts to wolf baiting. There is very low likelihood that these sheep, this many on public land can be maaged without essentially baiting wolves by their very presence. We are not going to have balanced ecology with wolves or grizzlies if we do not halt this continuing encroachment. Ranchers, maybe the most entitled thinkers on earth continue eating up pubic land for a pittance and have the gull to complain about wildlife. Lethal management on public land should be prohibited. There is an unholy alliance of the traditional anit-wolf crowd of hunters and ranchers and state wildlife agencies, groups parochial and irrationally biased and actually ignorant, their heads full of folklore and myth and lies, when it comes to balanced ecology, wolf and other predator management.

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      • No one should reasonably expect to have 1800 sheep out on their own with no shepherd and no non-lethal deterrents and has no predation! This is insanely irresponsible. But, I suspect that the owner will be compensated regardless of his complete lack of responsible behavior! What is absolutely wrong is a secret agenda of helping this irresponsible owner by secretly planning to kill wolves! THIS IS COMPLETELY WRONG-HEADED ACTION! As a tax-payer, I am horrified and infuriated that DFW would “help” this irresponsible owner and yet secretly by killing wolves while we are paying them!!! STOP NOW! DOW is ready and willing to help and educate this owner and any owners with non-lethal deterrents right now! SAVE THE WOLVES!
        ACT RESPONSIBLY!

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  15. Encroachment Situations: Re: The Huckleberry Wolf Pack in WA and their management (WDFW), and 1800 sheep on rugged mountainous land, sheep depredation and decision for lethal management action on public land: This situation amounts to wolf baiting and gross encroachment. There is very low likelihood that these sheep, this many on rugged, mountainous public land can be managed without essentially baiting wolves by their very presence. We are not going to have balanced ecology with wolves or grizzlies if we do not halt this continuing encroachment. Ranchers, maybe the most entitled thinkers on earth continue eating up public land for a pittance and have the gall to complain about wildlife. Lethal management on public land should be prohibited. There is an unholy alliance of the traditional anti-wolf crowd of hunters and ranchers and state wildlife agencies, groups parochial and irrationally biased and actually ignorant, their heads full of folklore and myth and lies about ungulate predation and stock predation, and when it comes to balanced ecology, wolf and other predator management. There are 23,000 leases on public land in 16 western states for grazing on national forests lands and BLM land. Even when the public opinion is taken and it is overwhelmingly in the favor of wolf presence, nonlethal management, wildlife agencies and politicians let a minority crowd of ranchers-hunters-parochials have their anti-wolf way, which shows that they are of the same ilk and the need to do something about major reformation of state and federal wildlife agencies.

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  16. Anyone in government who allows these barbaric actions should be closely looked at by their constituents and vote them out! If these people want to shoot so bad, enlist in the military. At least you may be viewed as a hero. Now, you’re just low class barbarians!

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  17. what in the heck is going on?! Who said anyone could shoot wolves from helicopters? The insanity has to stop, before you start a revolt across the nation. We will all come after those responsible. Wild beings survive and coexist without human interference. Man cannot manage his own sad state of affairs, he certainly doesn’t need to interfere with a perfect system devised by Nature.

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  18. I am disgusted by the continuous neglect and ignorance of “OFFICIALS” who pretend they know what they are doing, yet don’t LISTEN to the VOICE who really matters….the animals who have a system in place that makes SENSE- that heals itself and maintains a healthy balance without the interruptions of greed and power! Is it really only going to be about MONEY….every time, all the time? Shame on you!

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  19. The killing of wolves is really ticking me off. I believe that, if, this “people”, continue with this slaughter, that they will not stop with wolves. There will always be something that “people” want to eradicate. Nothing is safe. Sooner or later, it will boil down to humans will be slaughtered. We, as humans, are a bigger danger to this earth than any animal could possibly do. Stop this cruel treatment of an animal that, in fact, protects the very livelihood of the forest.

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  20. Dear Governor. U have no right under God to kill such precious baby pups that r only 5 months old. What is wrong w u? U never had the sheep moved which lots of people took pictures of. & u can sit behind ur desk n lie to people who vote for u! What kind of a person r u?? If u would meet a wolf in person u would change ur mind. God put them on this earth for a reason to kill the population of deer n elk n help nature. N which u dnt know nothing about wildlife. That you have to sit there n listen to the fish n wild life people who r wrong in justice! People who have cattle n sheep do a very poor job of taking care of their animals. & the wolves get all the blame. U dnt know squat about the animals but killing them. How dare u how low can u stoop. U politicians r liars to no end. Wolfs r like dogs. They breed. Bears eat others lions eat other animals why dnt u leave God’s nature alone! !?? I see u dnt have a heart for anything! How would u like it if someone shot ur pets! If u cared about animals u would help stop this insane crap!! Abuse towards animals. God did not say to kill every animal on this planet. U need to change ur heart around n start cracking down on the ranchers n farmers so they quit their complaining. U wanna talk about animal abuse n killing look what the slaughter houses do to the animals way before slaughter. It’s aweful. N I dnt think u would eat the meat nor chickens once u saw what goes on behind the scenes. God will get u bad in thee end n answer to him. I hope u will never sleep at all. Animals of all kinds have feelings like us n goes through the same diseases as us. That’s how God intended!! Change ur ways. Cuz ur not perfect!

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  21. A Native American elder, living in the Pacific Northwest, was once asked why he didn’t kill wolves more often, to make life simpler and easier. After a long silence, the veteran hunter shook his head and simply replied, “They’re too much like us.”

    I cannot help but agree.

    I’m so disappointed in this state. I’ve lived here my whole life and the ‘people’ in Olympia always have made stupid decisions. And I doubt this will make them bat an eye at the issue. :/

    I would’ve smoked that chopper.

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  22. Stop shooting these family of wolves! We extinct them before n now you are trying to do this again? Please they are essential to our environment! Stop please the world is watching your actions!

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  23. When you start culling people then maybe I will agree… screw all you people who BELIEVE in Killing animals to sustain your greedy share of the earth….

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  24. The way things are going what will we leave for our future generations? The way I see it there will be nothing to pass on besides books. Books about wolves, and all other endangered species. They will never hear the real cry of the wolf. What we do today not only impacts our world, but the future of our children and great grandchildren. Please stop the killing, or face the fact that you are responsible for what is left behind.

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  25. This country spends millions to come up with ways to kill off the wolf population but have you ACTUALLY TRIED to come up with ways to live with Nature? Stop abusing your powers to destroy what will ALWAYS BE…. NATURE

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  26. Please stop the needless killing of this wildlife. Killing wolves indiscriminately affects their paks, and affects the balance in nature.

    Thank you!

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  27. This not the American Way to kill our natural national treasures. It’s just wrong, our fore fathers are turning over in their graves!

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  28. Thanks for all of these comments, keep ’em coming. The dialogue is useful for all. As of this date, the sheep have been moved out of the territory of the Huckleberry pack, however the kill order is still in effect. A appeal by eight conservation groups has been filed to rescind it.

    I’m copying (with permission) a FB comment written by Steve Clevidence, rancher, photographer and adviser for Living with Wolves. I feel Steve’s words do a beautiful job of summing up the issue between livestock owners and natural predators.

    “There will be no co-existence between livestock and wolves in livestock country until livestock producers truly understand wolf behavior. The livestock producer has to work diligently to modify grazing practices in order to reduce livestock vulnerability to wolves. The time when livestock producers scattered their charges all over the landscape to fend for themselves is long past. It is not the wolf that is creating the problem when it comes to livestock/wolf conflicts, it is the livestock producers themselves who are creating the conflicts. Moving livestock into the vicinity of known predators and then deciding to eliminate the wolf when there is predation, by shooting, trapping the animal is not resolving the problem, but rather compounding it. Killing members of a resident wolf pack fragments and disrupts that packs social structure, which in turn, very well may cause further and more frequent attacks upon the livestock.
    As long as there are livestock producers who have a sense of entitlement to graze their livestock upon public land, without implementing necessary non-lethal methods to protect their livestock there will be conflict. These non-lethal methods are not kept secret from the producer, they are widely known and published. Many organizations are more than willing to help put them into place if the rancher simply asks. But these non-lethal methods will not be affective if the livestock producer refuses to put them into place and utilize them.
    The livestock producer has a choice. He can either change his own behavior and practices or he can continue as he has in the past and continue to lose livestock to predators. Granted, at times there will be a need to remove a habitual predator, but only after all other options have been exhausted, lethal removal should always be the last option, not the first. There needs be a price for refusing to change, and that is if the producer refuses to change his ways, he becomes solely responsible for his own losses. It is not the public’s responsibility to compensate him for the way he does business. Compensating the producer that refuses to use non-lethal methods only reinforces his determination to continue as he has in the past. He can’t have it both ways. Ultimately it is the livestock producer’s choice.”

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