Wolf, © Didier J. Lindsey

Washington State’s Decision: A Frustrating Loss for Wolves

Several nights this week, I’ve headed home from the office incredibly sad and frustrated.

The reason for that has been making headlines here in the Pacific Northwest for a while now: The state is targeting a pack of wolves in Washington state – the Profanity Peak Pack – to be killed because of conflicts with livestock.

This is the point that we never wanted to come to. In our vision for wolves, lethal removal would never have to be used.  Our team has been working for years to help livestock producers avoid conflicts with wolves, specifically because of the lethal results that these conflicts often end up having for wolves. In many cases, using nonlethal tools is enough to keep wolves away from livestock and out of trouble. This time, it wasn’t.

Pushing for Nonlethal Measures is Making Progress for Wolves

Defenders of Wildlife is one of many stakeholders on Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) – a cross section of organizations and individuals that work together to provide guidance to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on how to implement the state’s wolf management plan.  WAG members provide recommendations including how the state can handle conflicts between wolves and livestock. Every state with wolves has some type of plan like this, though the level to which those plans protect wolves is extremely varied. Idaho’s plan, for instance, takes a “shoot first” approach, allowing for the killing of any wolves even suspected of preying on livestock. That approach has led to the deaths of more than 350 wolves in that state each year since 2011.

Working with the other stakeholders on the WAG, we have been able to negotiate a far better deal for Washington’s wolves. Livestock producers can’t just call the state when a wolf is spotted nearby and have a sharpshooter kill it. New protocols adopted this year require ranchers who experience problems with wolves to use multiple nonlethal conflict prevention measures: tools like range-riders, removing “attractants’ such as sick or injured livestock and other methods that have long been shown to help keep wolves away. And when a wolf-livestock conflict does occur, the state works with the producer to ramp up the on-the-ground nonlethal measures before the state will even consider a lethal option.

It’s hard to overstate how big a difference rules like this make for Washington wolves. In just the past two years, the number of livestock producers in Washington that are participating in conflict prevention plans with WDFW has tripled. This rapidly expanding use of nonlethal measures to deter wolves is a striking indication of how attitudes are changing across the landscape. Even some of the livestock producers originally most hesitant to work with the state are starting to adopt a nonlethal approach.

You never hear about the conflicts that almost happened, but didn’t. Or about the wolves that could have been killed as a consequence, but are safe today because the right steps were taken just in time. A large and growing number of ranchers and rural communities are finding ways to successfully coexist with wolves, taking proactive steps to minimize the chance of a conflict – which is a win for them AND for wolves. This approach is the best way to secure a real future for wolves in Washington.

Washington Wolf Recovery Is a Work in Progress – We Still Have a Lot to Do

Despite this progress, implementation of Washington’s plan is certainly not perfect. This was the first year of management under the new protocols, and we can still improve them to better protect both wolves and livestock.  The good news is that in a few weeks’ time, the WAG will begin evaluating the protocols and identifying potential changes before the next grazing season. We will work closely with the other WAG members to refine these protocols based on experiences this season. We will also continue pressing the U.S. Forest Service to more actively promote non-lethal conflict prevention measures on the public lands they manage in known wolf territories.

I know that our supporters have placed their trust in us to do everything possible to ensure a future for wolves here in Washington. We work hard toward that goal every single day. When we lose wolves to conflicts like this, it is devastating for everyone and it can be easy to feel that what we’re doing isn’t working. But I’m here to tell you that as gut-wrenching as this loss is, we know that on the whole, the work we are doing is making a safer landscape for wolves across Washington. We’re literally trying to change an entire culture. One that was built on the absence of wolves over the span of decades. It’s slow going – but it’s working.  What we’re seeing right now is hopefully just one very sad page in the much longer story of success for wolf recovery in Washington state.

Categories: Living with Wildlife

33 Responses to “Washington State’s Decision: A Frustrating Loss for Wolves”

  1. Laurie

    When you say that this time nonlethal means were not enough, can you be more specific? The Seattle Times reports today that the ranchers refused to radio collar their cattle. They also allowed cattle to “swamp” a known wolf den with pups. The public needs to see evidence of real deterrents, not just verbal claims that there were one or two range riders. Why did you state that you supported the killing of this wolf family, the elimination of 12 percent of our fragile population, when we have seen that the rancher deliberately put cattle by a wolf den and refused effective protections?

    • Ava Harrison

      Thank you Laurie! There are so many non lethal ways to deal with predators. My Father was a cattle rancher and always tried non lethal predator control. Wolves were here before humans and the slaughtering of Wolves has become so commonplace, that some states don’t even require ranchers to try non lethal means to deal with Wolves. Shoot first is their motto. When I started watching this closely 5 years ago, I was appalled. Now I am angry. These people just want to kill Wolves. They’re not doing it to protect livestock.

  2. FRANCINE HAUCK

    I’m so confused as to WHY ranchers have all these rights to dictate use of public lands and the slaughter of the Wolves and other animals that call there homes. It’s pure Bullshit, if they want there livestock safe make them keep them on there own property, help them put in place measures and fencing to keep their livestock on their own property. And with lime any animal if you cannot provide for them DON’T OWN THEM ,public land is just that PUBLIC LAND but yet we have to pay to camp,hike,even park , But these so called ranchers get money from the government every Frickin yr, and yet they can afford helicopters and bs, to cowardly wipe out complete families. Where in anyone’s mind is this right ,! If it is truly public lands then what on God’s disappearing green earth gives them the right?

    • María Berdayes

      Ava Harrison, the wiser words I’ve read… That’s the way it should be, non lethal methods! but it’s always easier for some people to take the “easy path”. The problem is people are not aware of the consequences of slaughtering wolves.

  3. William Wilkins

    We need to protect wolves they are living breathing creatures with feelings

  4. Judy Merrick

    If you are working with WAG with success then why in Hell are you supporting the killing of an entire pack of wolves? You should never support the killing of wildlife. These damn ranchers get reimbursed for livestock that is killed by wolves. They are a bunch of cry babies and many of the ranchers just don’t want to be bothered with taking non-lethal measures to protect the stock. This particular rancher was allowed to move cattle onto federal land but the wolves were there first. I will not donate to DEF. of WILDLIFE anymore until you take a strong stand against culling anything but cattle. I’m disgusted and will put my donation dollars somewhere else.

    • Susan Welsford

      My sentiments exactly, Judy. I had emailed D of W a couple of times asking for a response from Jaime Rappaport Clark but never received a response. If D of W won’t take a stand for these endangered wolves against the ranchers and the hunting/firearms industry, they’ve betrayed the trust of the innocent, voiceless animals and supporters.

  5. Mary Chambers

    Said it before. Saying it again.
    Very disappointed in the rhetoric coming from your organization this week concerning the Profanity Peak wolf pack murders in Ferry Co. Washington.
    “Go along to get along” is just getting more wolves killed. The conservationists on the “Wolf Advisory Group” need to grow a pair. V.v. sad and angry.

  6. Robin Brooks Camponeschi

    Cooler heads MUST prevail, but so too MUST the rights of the Wolves to lives their lives as once upon a time: free born, untagged, & free to roam the Earth as God, or stardust intended. Beef cattle can be eliminated by one major swath of a viral &/or bacterial infection germain to cattle alone. That may cause ranchers everywhere to take pause. Ranchers do not care nor consider their rape of American land. Ranchers’ Cattle eat & destroy more grassland in a single month than a pack of Wolves in 2 years or more!! If it calls for we humans to make a change in our eating habits & cut out the antibiotic-filled, dope-filled, lasix-filled beef we consume daily to preserve & protect our native-born wolf AND Ourselves, WHY are we lining the cattle ranchers pockets with our hard-earnec money? WHY are we making it So Easy for cattle ranchers & their backers in political places to take Us for granted? WHAT are we/have we been waiting for?? It is way past time my friends to save the wolves of our land … and ourselves … for by God’s grace go us …

  7. Ron Starkey

    Eli Fisher Looks like our little podunk piece of paradise here in Ferry County Washington has made national headlines with the culling of this wolf pack. Seeing as I live roughly 11 miles from Profanity Peak, I feel I get to add my two as well. Folks can disagree and call me all the nasty names they want, I don’t care. I live here, I work in an Environmental profession, and my great grand father was a game warden in this state for a couple decades.

    1st – The gray wolf is not, nor has it ever been, endangered. There are in fact large populations of this species all across Canada, Alaska, Yellowstone, and the states that surround Yellowstone. Just because there are 90 (that they know of) individuals here in Washington does not mean that the species as a whole is endangered. Educate yourselves before you spread ignorance. This is, after all, the age of information and technology so take advantage of it. Speaking of information: There were only 2 wolves in this state in 2008, less than a decade later there are 90 (that they know of), so all the public outcry about how the wolf population in Washington will never recover from the deaths of these 11 is ludicrous.

    2nd – This sub species of wolf is not native to Washington, it is invasive. The original sub species of wolf was 50-60lbs lighter on average and tended to be more solitary whereas this wolf is larger and pack oriented. The original wolf species was exterminated a long time ago. The extermination of the original wolf was WRONG, but introducing a non native species of wolf to compensate is also WRONG. The game department may claim that this is the original wolf and they are repopulating naturally but there are many eye witness accounts of the game department releasing these animals around our area. There are many old photos and documentation of the original wolf, that prove its smaller size, on display by hunters who pursued them for sport and bounty payment.

    3rd – No one here has anything personal against this larger non native species of wolf, they are simply behaving according to what is in their nature. They are evolved to prey upon large ungulate species such as elk, moose, and bison. We do not, nor did we ever, have natural populations of bison in Washington. Here in Ferry County we do have small populations of elk and moose but they certainly are not common because they were never originally native to here. It is actually quite exciting and worth talking about if one sees either species. There is not enough of a population of these two ungulates to support multiple packs of this Canadian gray wolf here in Ferry County. Predators will often avoid killing livestock if their natural prey is abundantly available. The reason this pack has preyed upon multiple cattle for the past several years is because their natural prey is not, and never has been, abundant here. Cattle are a locally abundant domesticated ungulate that this non native wolf is substituting as prey due to the lack of natural prey. These cattle did not infringe on endangered wolf habitat, this non native wolf was planted in what has been rangeland for over a century.

    4th – This isn’t Yellowstone. Stop using Yellowstone as an example to justify a non native wolf being introduced to this area. The once incredible overabundance of elk in Yellowstone causing adverse effects to the environment, and the introduction of wolves bringing back environmental equilibrium, is unique to Yellowstone. Once again, we have a very small population of large ungulates here in Ferry County, and the environment here is by no means overburdened by them or by cattle. Stop comparing the two as if they are the exact same situation.

    5th – There may be a substantial population of white-tailed and mule deer here but we already have the two apex predators to balance these populations out. Since hound hunting was outlawed in this state the cougar and black bear populations have increased greatly. Adding yet another apex predator to the mix, especially a non native super predator like this Canadian gray wolf, is not justifiable. By word of mouth, at our local brewery from some people doing a study for Washington State University on the wolf impact in this area, the mule deer population is being detrimentally diminished by these wolves. I take huge issue with the only true native deer species in this area potentially being wiped out by an invasive predator.

    6th – The rangeland is not free for ranchers. Many instigators would have you believe ranchers are making a killing off of public land, free of charge, and it’s nothing but a big welfare handout. This is false. Ranchers have to pay range fees to the government agency responsible for the property in the same manner as if the land were private and a lease agreement was arranged with the land owner. In addition; the care and maintenance on the range land such as fencing, water troughs, weed control, etc comes out of the ranchers personal time, money, and resources. The common outlook on ranchers as being rich land barons is an unfit stereotype to the ranchers in this area of the world. The few successful ranching families around here live modestly while the majority would qualify as impoverished.

    7th – The agreement with WDFW regarding the wolf population being established stated that this measure would be taken on a pack if the loss of livestock were to reach a certain point. There has been far more than these recent cattle killed by this particular wolf pack over the past several years. More often than not in this area, when a livestock animal is killed by wolves, the WDFW claims they “cannot confirm or deny” that the death of the livestock animal was indeed caused by wolves despite overly obvious evidence such as fresh wolf tracks and scat all around the carcass. When that is the case the rancher does not get reimbursed for their loss and the WDFW does not document the incident as a wolf kill. I, for one, applaud WDFW for finally admitting this is a problem pack and owning up to the original agreement.

    8th – Shame on all of those who have sent death threats to the employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and our elected officials for carrying out this action item. You truly are the scum of society.

    Finally – If you do not reside in Ferry County, then your input should not be taken into consideration. Govern your own areas and we shall govern ours

    • Lori

      Ron, Are you saying that no one outside of a particular county can care about the animals and ecosystem of that county?

    • BobA

      Glad you don’t care what folks think of you Ron. That’s probably good.
      What sort of environmental profession do you work in?
      Lori’s question to you is an excellent one; “no one outside of a particular county can care about the animals and ecosystem of that county”? What?!?
      Invasive species? Do Canadian wolves carry passports and pass through customs when traversing the border?
      Regardless, your comment is so full of inaccuracies and bias that it’s not too hard to guess your motivations.

    • Mark Tele

      “Finally – If you do not reside in Ferry County, then your input should not be taken into consideration. Govern your own areas and we shall govern ours.”
      That statement renders the rest of your diatribe as pure cow pie. Cattle grazing, logging and mining interests have dominated wildland policy in this country for too long. There were no cattle grazing in your neck of the woods before it was stolen from the native people. You and your cattle are outsiders as well. This land, in what is now eastern WA, is not yours to govern.

  8. Don Lipmanson

    Defenders needs to understand that devoting endless time to developing mild reforms, followed by endless compromises and concessions over the implementation of those reforms on the part of inside-the Beltway “environmental organizations,” is exactly what allowed western forests to be decimated over the past 50 years. It was militant demonstrations and illegal tree sits by EarthFirst! and their local allies, not lobbying by NRDC or EDF, that produced some real improvements in regulation of logging. It was Greenpeace’s and Sea Shepherd’s confrontations with whaling vessels that galvanized the public and forced governments to reject whaling. It is PETA-led protests and direct action by smaller animal rights organizations that is reining in the abuse of domestic animals and livestock.

    What does not produce lasting reform is the “go along to get along” model favored by bureaucrats in the mainstream national organizations, a direction in which Defenders has been moving since a top federal bureaucrat became its president and now uses every extinction crisis as a fund-raising opportunity. It’s downright disheartening to see this approach filtering down to Defenders staff at the state level; the only solution I see is to slash my monthly donation and hope others will act in ways that catch the Board’s attention and get Defenders back in fighting mode.

    • Louise Smart

      Very well said. I am inclined to agree with you about cutting donations to D of W.

  9. Lori

    I understand why groups like DFW cannot advocate for veganism. You’d never be able to work on those advisory groups or work with ranchers to help them understand non-lethal methods of dealing of wolves and other predators. However, I’m not supporting anymore wildlife or environmental groups who do not advocate for veganism.

    For those who care deeply about wolves (I care about all animals) the obvious choice is to stop buying the products made from ranchers, namely beef, leather, lamb and wool. As one who works in farm animal rescue, I’ve done much research on many ranches and ranching practices and almost all of them use devastating practices to wildlife and the ecology. Not to mention, the unethical act of breeding an animal only to kill them for products that we don’t need.

    If you care about wolves, and animals in general, as well as the environment and your own health, please consider going vegan.

  10. ROBERT ABBOTT

    I am disturbed to say the least by northwest director of Defenders of Wildlife Shawn Cantrell’s comment regarding the Profanity Peak wolf pack; “This is for us very sad and disappointing because we really hate to see any cows or any animals killed, but we do support the department moving forward at this time”.
    This position completely ignores facts including that ranchers allowed cattle to migrate into an area knowing that these wolves were there, and that there was going to be a problem,
    The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a reputation of favoring business (ranchers) and hunting interests and frankly Cantrell/Defender’s position sounds far more political than any concern for wildlife.
    Although this might appear to some to be reality it doesn’t help the wolves or the ecology to treat killing our wildlife as politics since there is zero chance that wildlife or biodiversity will survive *any* form of political “compromise”.
    Unhappy monthly donor.

  11. Lisa Hughes

    The Center for Biological Diversity sent this out today after the killing of 4 more wolves, leaving only 1 female and 4 pups surviving. “The killing of this pack — which, once it’s done, will have wiped out 12 percent of the wild wolves in the state — has been authorized by Washington’s wildlife agency despite evidence that a rancher placed his cattle right over the pack’s den. Robert Weilgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, told reporters that “This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it.” We can’t allow this kind of provocation to keep leading to state-sanctioned wolf slaughter.Not only are the state bureaucrats in Washington hoping to finish off the Profanity Peak pack, local Ferry County officials also swear they’ll take matters into their own hands. They’ve said they’re eager to send their sheriff to finish the job by killing any remaining pack members. This would be a gross violation of the law and set a terrible precedent — a local posse bent on killing is brutal and primitive.”
    Obviously this was a provoked killing from the rancher who intentionally placed his cattle there. Despite what the citizen above claims. Public lands were intended for preservation, not the cattle industry. And I whole-heartedly agree with the declining direction Defenders of Wildlife has taken.

  12. Kristin Gearin

    I am confused and disheartened. As a long time supporter of Defender’s of Wildlife and others who work toward protecting wolves. I feel that Shawn Cantrel’s
    response to the killing of the Profanity Peak pack is like a weak shrug of the shoulders. Why does this single rancher have the power to kill 11 wolves on public land when he chose to graze cattle right on there den?

    The assumption that we have power and control over all of nature is cause of such damage to the earth and humanity itself. To carelessly kill out of greed and laziness is not with out layers of consequence.

    Is this it? Is there nothing more to be done? When is this “lethal management” to take place?

    Mr. Cantrel tell us what can be done not some watered down political jargon.

    Kristin Gearin

    • Louise Smart

      I completely agree. What angers me the most is that MY tax dollars are supporting this hideous act.

  13. Marie Russo

    Ron Starkey, it looks like you are the one that needs to do your research. You point that “This sub species of wolf is not native to Washington, it is invasive. The original sub species of wolf was 50-60lbs lighter on average and tended to be more solitary” although it maybe correct, totally discount the fact that “cattle” are not native to America period! Public land was set aside for wildlife not cattle!
    Defenders – I am very disappointed in the fact that you allow ranchers to have precedence over wildlife on PUBLIC land. You once were an organization I supported… but no more! And beef is no longer in my diet!

  14. Martha Hall

    I’m also disappointed in Defenders of Wildlife. I hope we hear an answer to
    the first writer’s question, exactly what did this rancher do to prevent losing
    cattle to wolves????? I want to see the complete list and how long and hard he used each of these non-lethal methods. There are no shortage of cattle so it
    doesn’t sound like an emergency to me. There were 12 confirmed killings of cows. Well, time to try another non-lethal method, while collecting the money
    ranchers get paid for cows killed by wolves. I also don’t understand why anyone who claims to love animals eats any kind of meat. We became vegetarians in 1971 because they were killing wolves and other predators and everything else with the 1080 (a poison) across the west. We’re in our 70s and
    pretty healthy. We don’t need their meat.

  15. Mary Ting

    I too have been a member/supporter of Defenders of Wildlife for some 35 years.
    I am DEEPLY disheartened by the stance it took on the Profanity Peak Pack killings and the statement that Defenders made is insufficient to me. I also expected some further comment here but was disappointed to see so little. All the newspaper statements did strike me as political, especially they comment that Cantrell credited the state officials for trying their best! And the best was this extreme lethal killing! see below from the NBC news post:
    “But Shawn Cantrell, Northwest program director for the nonprofit environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, credited state wildlife officials for trying their best to preserve the wolf pack while balancing the safety of livestock and other wildlife.

    “It’s a disappointing day when the state has to move forward with the last resort of lethal control, but we have come to that day,” Cantrell said in a statement.

    “Removing members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack is a loss to wolf recovery efforts in the region,” he said. “The best thing to do is to learn from this sad outcome and redouble our collective efforts to proactively prevent future livestock-wolf conflicts.”

    I am a monthly donor and now re-considering for 2017, I really think we, the members deserve a more thorough explanation. Until then, my donations will go to other groups.

  16. Martha Hall

    Remember, if you care about wolves, to vote for all Democrats. The Republican Party’s platform supports giving much of our public land to states and local
    governments and opposes listing of the gray wolf as endangered. Then we wouldn’t have any wolves in most states and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And focus on the ranchers and their grazing allotments – write
    into allotment plans the requirement to co-exist with predators or remove their cattle and sheep.

  17. Susan Welsford

    Mr. Cantrell, I can honestly say I disagree with you on every front of this issue. The pack should have been trapped and relocated. If you can’t speak up for the wolves in this situation, when will you? Cattle ranchers and the firearm/hunting industry have padded the wallets of legislators for decades, and this is the result–profits before wildlife. Animal protection organizations are the only voice our wildlife has. Your organization has accepted donations to do just that and now sides with the lethal control of wolves.

    Needless to say, it was a sad and sobering day I read about your position on the Take Part website. Defenders of Wildlife has stolen money from their contributors who donate to protect animals, but your betrayal of our innocent and defenseless wildlife is unconscionable.

  18. David Linn

    Basically, Shawn and the rest of the “environmental” groups on the WAG got duped into agreeing to rules that ensure wolf killing in Washington. If you look at the decision-making protocol on the WDFW web site you will find:

    1. WAG is composed of three groups – environmentalists, livestock producers and hunters. That is two that support killing wolves and one that opposes the killing.
    2. If a proposal or recommendation is made, three dissenting votes can stop it, however all three dissents cannot be from the same group. So it is impossible to stop a wolf killing proposal unless one hunter or livestock producer agrees. This is very unlikely given their economic interests.
    3.”Once a decision is reached, it will be supported by the entire group, including those who opposed the decision.”
    4.”Dissenting voices recognize that maintaining the long-term integrity of the process and relationships is more important than the decision and therefore will work outside WAG and within their own group or community to 1) uphold support for the decision within their community or group and 2) ask for their organization or group to “stand aside” and not take action to oppose or overturn the decision, even if they themselves did not secure their preferred decision.”

    The bottom line is that the “environmental” group agreed with rules that give them no voice in a decision, yet requires them to publicly support the decision of the hunters and livestock producers. What a bunch of dopes!

  19. Louise Smart

    I am so sickened by this whole affair. What angers me the most is that I am paying for this hideous culling. And on top of that I am reimbursing the dirt bag rancher who placed his poor cattle “on top of a wolf den”. What in hell is wrong with people?!?! And D of W, shame on you for your lily livered response to this crime! You’ll get no more of my money. Writing to legislators, but for this pack it is obviously too late…

  20. Joey Sinkovic

    This state is going Republican that’s the problem. Everybody get out and vote these bastards out !

  21. Pedro Tai

    Clearly, the fact that this litany of passionate and reasoned comments has elicited no response from Shawn Cantrell or Defenders of Wildlife implies that there is no rational ‘defense’ for their failure to ‘defend’ these hapless wolves. Perhaps a change of name is in order: “Defenders of Politics As Usual and the Status Quo”?

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