The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) issued a death sentence for an entire pack of eight gray wolves due to conflicts with ranchers, despite the fact that wolves are listed as endangered under state law and proactive measures weren’t taken to prevent conflict.
“Once wolves become habituated to livestock as their primary food source, all of the wolf experts we’ve talked to agree that we have no alternative but to remove the entire pack,” said Phil Anderson, Director of the DFW. “By doing that, we will preserve the opportunity for the recovery of grey wolves in balance with viable livestock operations.”
The wolves in question, known as the Wedge pack, were discovered in July and are the first to come into the area since wolves were eradicated decades ago. This summer, the state killed a non-breeding female of the pack to see if that would deter them, even though at the time it was unclear whether they were killing or just scavenging carcasses that were already there. Yesterday, two were slaughtered after being shot from a helicopter a few miles away from the Canadian border.
The pack is believed to have killed or injured at least 15 calves and cows from the Diamond M Ranch in Stevens County despite non-lethal measures to control them, but some conservationists argue that the rancher who complained, Bill McIrvine, was uncooperative and could have done more to prevent predation.
Mitch Friedman, Director of Conservation Northwest, told King 5 that McIrvine should have done more to protect his cattle and points out that he didn’t join the range riding program like others had and argues that he should be responsible for using alternative methods to deter wolves since he’s grazing on publicly owned national forest land.
McIrvine reportedly “believes radical environmental groups are conspiring to introduce wolves in order to force ranchers off public lands.”
The state’s wolf management plan requires at least 15 breeding pairs distributed throughout the state for three years in a row before federal protection can be removed. As of now, there are only eight confirmed packs in the state.
Even though ranchers keep crying about financial losses and calling for wolves to be killed, the state’s wolf management plan allows for ranchers “to be compensated up to $1,500 per cow for wolf predation classified as ‘probable.’ The plan also allows ranchers to be paid up to twice that amount for lost livestock that are “confirmed” to have been killed by wolves on ranches over 100 acres.”
Officials believe wolves will relocate to the area over the next year or two, but conservationists want assurances that something like this won’t happen again.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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