HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
For the past month, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has taken some harsh criticism from various animal rights groups and individuals over the department’s lethal removal of one non-breeding wolf from the Wedge pack that resides in an area bordered by the Columbia and Kettle rivers and the Canadian border in Stevens County.
Since 2007, Wedge pack wolves have been preying on livestock belonging to the Diamond M Ranch and other neighboring ranches. After months of attempting to curtail the predation, last month, department personnel killed one non-breeding wolf in an attempt to change the packs pattern of attacking livestock. Unfortunately, the effort failed, and to date, wolves have killed 10 head of livestock belonging t to the Diamond M.
Charged with reducing wolf/livestock interactions WDFW personnel were dispatched to the Wedge after wildlife managers confirmed Wedge pack wolves were involved in a recent injury of one calf and the killing of another in the grazing area of the Diamond M Ranch.
Phil Anderson, WDFW director, said a team of wildlife specialists were being sent to the Wedge area to attempt to attach another radio transmitter to an additional member of the pack. The pack’s alpha male has already been fitted with a transmitter collar that alerts the department to the pack’s movements.
Anderson also said the department will continue to pursue management options to address repeated livestock depredation and may resume the effort to lethally remove some wolves from the Wedge pack.
The department can take those actions under the terms of the state’s 2011 wolf conservation and management plan to ensure long-term recovery of the gray wolf population. However, the plan specifically authorizes the department to take lethal measures to address repeated attacks on livestock. Relocation is not an option in this recovery area because other packs are present. The Wedge pack is in the eastern third of the state, where there are no federal protections under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Predator control is one of the most controversial subjects in North America to-day; however this was not always the case. Until very recently, public opinion was almost universal that the only good varmint was a dead one. This concept was shared not only by farmers, ranchers and sportsmen, but by some leading natural scientists in the country. In 1931, William T. Hornaday said the gray wolf should always be killed.
Settlers declared war on the wolf almost as soon as the first ships arrived from Europe, and right or wrong, little has changed since that period. One of the first acts passed by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 was a law offering a reward to anyone who killed a wolf. Frontiersmen hated wolves with a passion.
It should be no surprise to anyone that wolves turn to killing livestock. Sheep and cattle are easy prey and pose less danger to the wolves themselves. No one in our wildlife department has advocated extermination of Wedge pack wolves or any other wolf pack. What they do advocate is control. If there is one subject on which animal rights groups collectively agree upon, it is the fact that they believe they are the only experts when it comes to the management of wildlife. Our wildlife department is fortunate to have some very competent and dedicated biologists within its folds, and it is my opinion they do not need any advice from outside sources on how to perform their duties. They do a pretty good job of it as it is.
When it comes to predators affecting an individual’s livelihood, the old adage “You can’t blame a guy for trying to make a living” doesn’t cut it. You can bet your booties, if predators were affecting the livelihood of those critics of the department, they would be the first to cry “wolf”
Outdoors writer Bob Brown lives in Roy. He can be reached at robertb1285 @fairpoint.net