An entire wolf pack in Washington State is going to be culled following rash of attacks on cattle since mid-July. Specifically, the Profanity Peak wolf pack, which resides in the Northeast Washington and (at last count) included 11 wolves, is going to be wiped out to protect the livestock of local ranchers and farmers.
According to Washington State wildlife officials, the wolf pack has killed or injured at least six heads of cattle since July, and officials think that the endangered grey wolf pack may be responsible for attacking at least five more cows. The killing of the wolf pack in Washington was authorized by Jim Unsworth, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, reports KIMA TV.
Earlier this summer, wildlife officials began culling the endangered wolf pack after a slew of cattle attacks. Two wolves were shot and killed on August 5. The remaining cull of the gray wolf pack was put on hold after the attacks on livestock stopped. However, two more dead cows and an injured calf were discovered between Republic and Kettle Falls this week, so Washington State wildlife officials have decided that the culling is back on.
Donny Martorello, who is the leader of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife “wolf policy” department, says that the culling of the wolf pack was only put on hold earlier this month. A hold with conditions; namely that the wolf attacks on local cattle came to an end. Recent findings indicate the killing of cattle didn’t end, it simply paused following the culling of two members of the pack.
“At that time, we said we would restart this operation if there was another wolf attack, and now we have three. The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”
While ranchers are thrilled that Washington State is stepping in to kill the endangered gray wolf pack, not everyone is happy that the state has decided to utilize such extreme measures against an endangered species to protect non-indigenous livestock. As ABC News reports, just a few decades ago, gray wolves had been hunted nearly to extinction n the United States.
In the late 1970s, gray wolves in most of the U.S. were listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As such, they received federal protection and it was no longer legal for ranchers to hunt them with impunity. Since they were listed, gray wolf numbers in Washington State and in many areas across the nation have seen a healthy increase.
In fact, so many wolf packs are doing so well in both Washington and throughout North America that many people, largely ranchers fearing attacks on livestock, want to see the gray wolf de-listed so that it loses its federal protection.
As Oregon Live reports, some protesters are still trying to stop the Washington State wolf pack from being killed off. At least one such advocate for the survival of the wolves, Roger Dobson, a Cowlitz tribal elder with Protect The Wolves, has sent a cease and desist letter to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Donny Martorello.
In his letter, Dobson demands that the state cancel their planned culling of the wolf pack and lays the blame for the cattle deaths squarely on the shoulders of the rancher.
“This particular rancher is a proven repeat offender of placing his livestock in harm’s way for the last three years. It is not the fault of our sacred animals, they did not ask to have their home range invaded by careless livestock owners.”
Neither Washington State nor Martorello have publicly responded to the letter or the claim that the rancher who lost cattle has a history of violating grazing regulations and therefore putting his own cattle at risk.
Washington State’s Profanity Peak wolf pack is just one of about 20 known wolf packs in the state. If the state follows through with its publicly announced plans to cull the pack, the action should not imperil the rest of the state’s gray wolf population. A population of gray wolves, incidentally, has grown by leaps and bounds in less than a decade. According to multiple reports, Washington was home to only two wolves in 2008. Currently, wildlife experts estimate that the wolf population in the state is at least 90 individuals strong.
What do you think? Should the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife follow through with its plans? Or is killing off an entire wolf pack in Washington state over a few dead cows a little extreme?
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