By Bob Ferris
I am bone tired after dogging the Huckleberry Pack issue nearly non-stop for approaching two weeks. And now I am angry and disappointed. That is a very bad time to put your thoughts down electronically, but someone needs to.
I am not angry at the rancher who may have or may have not placed sheep in harm’s way. He was just being a rancher—acting as we have come to expect from this quadrant of Washington. Perhaps he was pushing the issue and abusing the system, but that is relatively immaterial to my anger.
I am not angry at the private timber company who allowed the sheep on to their property so that they could graze forest understory that could have been used by deer and elk populations. That is even though they are more than likely getting tax breaks from the State for providing benefits for wildlife and watersheds. Still not there anger-wise.
I am mad, however, at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Why? Not because their contractor could have made an honest mistake and shot an unintended wolf. Not because they said they would not shoot either of the alpha wolves in this pack. I have worked in wildlife long enough and under tough conditions to know that honest wildlife managers working under similar conditions can make mistakes.
I am mad because the WDFW did not own up to their mistake when it happened. Why would I learn about this 12 days after it happened and then only because I saw a random Facebook post made by a fairly new friend of a tweet by a Washington newscaster (see above)? Really?
After the Wedge Pack disaster of 2012 the WDFW had a heavy burden to carry in terms of their credibility as an agency capable of dealing with the complexity of wolf recovery. They were given a second chance with the Huckleberry Pack to do it right and demonstrate that they were willing and able to deal with this recovery.
They were on a path to failing the test put before them, but with this action (or inaction) WDFW just put the punctuation on that failing grade. Clearly the Governor and legislators need to step in and force the agency to undergo the rule making that we have all requested. But it is more than that, because this is a cultural failure within this public agency and in their governing body to understand their responsibility to the whole public in this matter and not just ranching interests and trophy hunters.