It didn’t have to be like this. On Friday, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced its plans to remove the entire Wedge Pack, and we found out yesterday that at least two had already been killed.
The state’s decision to take out up to eight wolves came on the heels of continued reports of cattle losses blamed on the Wedge Pack—some fairly, others not. We don’t fully understand the basis for this decision since some of our questions still haven’t been answered, but the state is moving forward nevertheless.
While we continue to support the state’s wolf management plan when properly implemented, it’s disappointing to see this pack being targeted unnecessarily. If the state had taken swift action after the first depredation reports to deter further attacks, this whole situation might have been avoided. This is the reason that we fought so hard to include nonlethal conflict management provisions in the plan, and it’s the reason we asked state officials last month not to pursue lethal removal of the pack.
Our bigger concern, however, is that we’re likely to see the same scenario play out in the future unless proactive steps are taken to prevent conflict before it happens. What will happen next year if a new pack moves in and unguarded cattle are still grazing in the area? From decades of work in the Northern Rockies, we have learned that lethal control alone doesn’t resolve these conflicts—it only perpetuates the loss of more livestock and more wolves.
While the state claims to have exhausted all their options, the root cause has still not been addressed. We have made numerous offers to the state to assist with implementing nonlethal deterrents and better animal husbandry practices. The state has used our equipment such as turbofladry in other areas, but it remains unclear what nonlethal measures, if any, were used with the Wedge pack.
Unfortunately, we do not have control over the fate of this pack, and it’s too late now to save them. But we stand ready to partner with the state and local ranchers to help make sure the Wedge Pack doesn’t die in vain. This is an important lesson for us all about the value of working together in advance to prevent conflict. In order to coexist over the long run, we need the willing participation of all stakeholders—state wildlife managers, national forest managers, ranchers and the conservation community. That’s the best and only way to ensure a future for wolves in Washington.
What You Can Do
Next Friday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is hosting a public meeting in Olympia. Part of this meeting will be used to address the department’s handling of the Wedge pack situation. If you are able to attend this meeting, please plan to be there. Those arriving in time to register will have three minutes to express their concerns to the commission. Click here to see meeting details.