Lethal Removal of Profanity Peak Wolves Unfortunate, but Part of State’s Wolf Management Policy

Lethal Removal of Profanity Peak Wolves Unfortunate, but Part of State’s Wolf Management Policy

Conservation Northwest / Aug 04, 2016 / Restoring Wildlife, Wolves

Five confirmed depredations by Profanity Peak pack trigger DFW’s lethal take protocol, yet wolf recovery in Washington still expected to succeed

Conservation Northwest is disappointed that wolf depredations on livestock within the territory of the Profanity Pack appear to have become habitual. We recognize that as wolf populations grow in Washington, under the state’s Wolf Management Plan (Wolf Plan) animals that habitually prey on livestock may need to be removed. This fact of responsible wolf recovery can be heartrending, but it won’t stop wolves from flourishing in our region over the long run if removals are done with care and restraint. 

The area of northeast Washington where these events have occurred contains more than a half dozen confirmed wolf packs, with additional packs nearby in Canada and Idaho. We do not expect the loss of Profanity Pack members to impact the sustained recovery of wolves in Washington.

Washington’s wildlife belongs to all the people of the state regardless of where they roam, or where the people live. When it comes to wolf management, citizens deserve timely and accurate information on the circumstances that led up to any lethal removals. We commend the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for providing information on this conflict in a prompt, thorough and transparent manner.

Based on GPS tracking collar data and observations from agency experts on the ground, a total of one adult cow and three calves have been confirmed as killed by Profanity Pack wolves, in addition to three probable depredation events by the same pack. This count has reached the point where lethal removal of pack members by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is permissible under policies developed and agreed upon by consensus of the WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, on which CNW has a seat. The Department accepted these recommendations and adopted them as policy.

As a regional conservation organization committed to attaining practical solutions through collaboration and genuine listening, we were closely involved in the development of these lethal management policies and Washington’s Wolf Plan. Though it’s tremendously difficult to see wolves killed, we understand and accept this action as a necessary component of coexistence where people, wolves and livestock share territory. 

WDFW conflict specialists worked with livestock producers to put a range rider into a grazing allotment that had not previously had one. This occurred shortly after the first confirmed depredation. The second affected producer already had a WDFW contract range rider since last year. Additional human presence, beyond the range riders, has been added by the producers. Both producers have been promptly removing or securing the carcasses of depredated livestock to help prevent further association of wolves with cows as a food source. We respect these steps and deeply appreciate that many ranchers across our region have been doing the same in recent years.

Through our Range Rider Pilot Project and other efforts, CNW is working to help livestock operators adopt these proactive conflict avoidance measures and promote tolerance for wolves in their communities. These services are freely offered (within our capacity) to ranchers who are willing to partner with us, and in 2016 more than half a dozen operators have done so. Tools like range riders, guard dogs and fladry aren’t a cure all, but can work well, particularly when deployed for the duration of the grazing season. Compensation is also available from the state for Washington ranchers who have documented losses to wolves, lessening the economic impact of situations such as this.  

The requirements for lethal removal as agreed upon by the WAG have been met. It is our hope that targeted lethal removals done in the most humane manner possible, as well as the further use of conflict avoidance measures by both the ranchers and WDFW staff, will resolve this issue without continuing losses of either livestock or wolves.

Wolf recovery that works

Conservation Northwest’s goal when it comes to wolf recovery in Washington is for our state to be a place where wolf recovery and management works in the long run; for people, wolves and all the Northwest’s wildlife. But to achieve this goal it will take hard work, respect and compromise from stakeholders on all sides.

It is important also to note that this will not be the last time wolves and livestock are in conflict in our state. Nor will it be the last time that wolves habitually preying on livestock will need to be lethally removed. Even with proactive range riding programs, thoughtful range management, and other coexistence efforts, such conflicts are infrequent but expected occurrences in areas where wolves have recovered such as Montana, Idaho and Alberta where the loss of a small number of cows to wolf predation, and the lethal removal of wolves habituated to livestock depredation is understood to be an accepted part of ranching and wildlife management. This will sometimes be the reality here in Washington too, especially where wolves and livestock overlap on large public land grazing allotments.

With calm collaboration and responsible problem-solving among all stakeholders, together we can reduce and appropriately respond to incidents like those of the Profanity Pack, and build a future that works for ranching families, rural communities, conservationists, and vital native species.

Wolves are part of our cultural and natural heritage. As a native keystone species they play an important role in the health of our wild ecosystems. Wolves belong in our state. Even as we lament the loss of both cattle and wolves in these events, Conservation Northwest looks forward to continuing to work with all parties to make the return of wolves to Washington a long term success.