For Immediate Release, August 30, 2012
Contact: Tim Ream, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 531-8541
Bob Ferris, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463
Washington Wolves Get Temporary Reprieve From Kill Order
State Asked to Cancel Kill Order Permanently
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Following more than a week of pressure from conservation groups and thousands of members of the public, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has temporarily called off the killing of up to four wolves in the Wedge pack in the northeastern part of the state.
“We’re thrilled state officials heard our concerns and gave these wolves a reprieve,” said Tim Ream, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should never have ordered the killing of endangered wolves based on questionable information and improper standards — we hope very much that the kill orders will be permanently rescinded.”
The controversy began Aug. 17 when the state’s wildlife department announced it intended to kill up to four young wolves in an attempt to stop what it alleged was a pattern of livestock predation by the Wedge pack. According to the agency’s own reports, however, it is not clear that wolves were involved in several of the instances where livestock were injured or died. Still, the state relied on those faulty reports to order the killing of the wolves.
An Aug. 16 field investigation of a dead calf found no evidence of obvious bite or scratch marks to the hide and no evidence of wolf tracks or scat near the dead calf, leading two outside experts to conclude that wolves’ involvement was questionable. One of the experts observed that “the apparent injuries to the calf appeared superficial and that if a wolf killed it, the wolf would have had more gums than teeth.”
“Washington’s wolf-management plan makes clear wolves cannot be killed until specific criteria have been met,” said Bob Ferris (see blog), executive director of Cascadia Wildlands. “In this case, the criteria have clearly not been met, and the wolf that has already been killed should not have been.” That wolf was a female member of the Wedge pack, shot by state wildlife agents on Aug. 7.
In addition to documenting that wolves have clearly killed livestock, the department is also required to document that nonlethal measures to prevent depredations have been attempted and that unnatural attractions, like bone piles and carcass piles common to some ranching operations, were not present. None of the depredation reports provide any documentation of nonlethal measures taken to resolve the situation, nor have requests to the department produced any documentation.
Last week seven groups sent a letter to the department outlining these shortcomings, and thousands of concerned Washingtonians flooded the governor’s office with phone calls. On Wednesday, State Senator Kevin Ranker sent the state wildlife agency a letter expressing similar concerns.
This pack is known as the Wedge pack because its range includes a triangle-shaped area defined by the Canadian border and the Kettle and Columbia rivers. The alleged incidents took place on public land leased for grazing within the Colville National Forest.
Wolves are just beginning to make a comeback in Washington after a government- sponsored program of poisoning, shooting and trapping the animal to extinction in the state. There are currently eight packs of wolves in Washington since the animal’s return in 2008. This past December the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the “Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington,” a stakeholder-developed framework that outlines recovery and management objectives for the state’s wolves.
The groups calling for a more thorough investigation of the alleged wolf incidents include Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, Snohomish Group of the Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, Western Environmental Law Center and Wolf Haven International.