The situation with the Wedge pack in Eastern Washington is troubling and raising our blood pressure here at Cascadia Wildlands. While we fully understand and support the need for management actions to deal with problem wolves, we are very concerned that Washington is putting the cart before the horse on this action. Our concerns in this instance revolve around three areas:
1) Conclusive Verification: From what we have heard from various sources verification of the extent and seriousness of the depredation is in question. We understand that there are 8 animals and those animals have been discovered during the last two months. What remains in question is whether those animals were killed or harmed by wolves and whether those were killed or harmed by wolves in the last two months.
2) Apparent Lack of Preventive Actions: Because these potential depredations occurred on public lands and involve species listed under the Washington State Endangered Species Act, we think the State of Washington should make sure that the lessee has taken prudent actions to avoid depredation. In this case, we have reason to believe that this lessee has not acted prudently and we think that should be a pre-condition on public lands.
3) Appropriateness of Remedy: We have heard that the state plans to kill four non-alpha wolves from the pack. The stated rationale is that this will lower the food requirements of the pack and thus solve the problem. We believe this is a political decision rather than a decision driven by science. We are dubious of this being an appropriate remedy. Moreover, this seems to violate the Washington wolf plan’s guidance about avoiding control actions during denning season.
All wolf management actions occur in a fish bowl with shouting happening from many different quarters and often in the presence of unbelievable pressure—these are all givens. But these programs must be guided first by good science and then by ethics-based commonsense. Those programs that work best are built around strong, pre-established protocols and covered with an abundance of thick skin. We think the wolf management program in Washington needs to pay more attention to the former and think about acquiring the latter.
Lest I be accused of offering harsh and detached criticism, I administered the wolf compensation program for roughly eight years when I worked at Defenders of Wildlife and was the one who ultimately signed off on all compensation payments made during that time. I understand the level of pressure and the nature of the vitriol. It is a necessary part of running a defensible program while at the same time forwarding recovery.