To Repeat Ineffective Actions is Foolish, and Wolves are Paying the Ultimate Price
Early in the morning on Thursday, before the agency’s office was officially open for business, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced that it authorized the killing of a state-endangered wolf from the Wedge pack territory in response to depredations of cattle on both public and private lands in Stevens County.
WDFW is required provide one full business day advance public notice before initiating lethal removal activity. The agency’s early morning notice gave the public just eight hours to obtain a court order to thwart the killing, and airborne marksmen the green light to begin gunning as early as the following morning.
For decades, gray wolves in Washington were listed as endangered under federal and state law because they were nearly wiped throughout the lower 48 via robust federal predator eradication programs.
In the last two decades, however, wolves have been able to re-establish themselves in Washington after reintroduction and conservation efforts successfully revived their populations in the Northern Rockies and with wolf dispersal from Canada.
Full protection was short-lived.
A level of protection was stripped from Washington’s wolves nearly a decade ago with a precedent-setting move that continues to threaten wolves and undermine the ability of Americans to seek out justice. In 2011, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) inserted an amendment (a.k.a. rider) in a must-pass federal budget bill that removed federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho, as well as the eastern third of Washington, and portions of Oregon and Utah.
It was the first time in history when a species was removed from the ESA via an act of Congress rather than federally mandated scientific analysis. To add insult to injury, the bill also stipulated that the action would not be subject to judicial review thus prohibiting any legal challenge.
While state sanctioned hunting seasons resumed in Montana and Idaho, wolf populations continued to recover in Washington with eight packs established by 2012. During this time, however, with federal protections removed, wolves faced a growing threat – cattle grazing on their newly claimed turf. Sharing this same “wedge” of public land between the Kettle and Columbia Rivers in northeastern Washington, conflict between wolves and cattle began to escalate and despite the wolves’ state-endangered status, the state turned to lethal control to address the problem.
Throughout the summer and fall months of 2012, WDFW gunned down members of the Wedge wolf pack using airborne sharpshooters to protect cows on public land. It was the first time since wolves began recolonizing Washington, that WDFW turned to lethal measures to address conflict. It would not be the last.
In the eight years since the original Wedge pack was destroyed, not much has changed. Livestock owners still graze their cows on core wolf habitat – rugged, forested public lands that are better suited for native ungulates, and WDFW is still killing wolves to benefit the profit margins of private businesses. In fact, 26 of the 31 state-endangered wolves that have been killed since 2012 were shot on behalf of the same livestock operator.
To repeat ineffective actions is foolish.
If WDFW’s singular goal is to stop depredation on cattle, the agency’s efforts over the past decade have demonstrably failed.
Science shows that killing wolves to deter depredation on cows is ineffective and can even result in increased attacks.
WDFW’s latest attack on the Wedge territory wolves is not the solution; it only furthers the vicious cycle in which nobody wins and wolves pay the ultimate price.
Speak up for wolves.
While it’s too late to protect the other 31 endangered wolves WDFW has gunned down since 2012, today’s wolves need our help.
Please take action to respectfully call on WDFW Director Kelly Susewind and Governor Jay Inslee to immediately end this cycle and their assault on Washington’s wolves.