Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wolf advocates howling over WDFW action in ‘The Wedge’

Wolf management by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Northeast Washington could be on a collision course with the Defenders of Wildlife (DOW), which is sounding alarms over plans by the agency to kill up to four more wolves because of predation on cattle.

In a blistering commentary on the DOW website, Suzanne Asha Stone declared that a “Washington wolf pack may die” because of agency plans to kill as many as four wolves in the Wedge Pack.
So-called because they roam a triangular-shaped area between the Kettle and Columbia rivers in northwest Stevens County, the Wedge Pack has been blamed for problems with cattle in the area. According to Stone’s narrative, the WDFW is all wet and has not provided any proof that wolves have done any harm.
“Several wolf depredation experts, including myself have reviewed the state’s investigation reports and found that none of the injuries are characteristic of wolf predation on livestock. Though I’m not a field investigator, I have personally evaluated more than one million dollars of livestock depredations due to wolves, and managed Defenders’ wolf compensation program from 1999 to 2011. We would have rejected these reports and considered them unrelated to wolf predation. Just because wolves are in the area does not mean they are killing livestock, and scavenging from dead livestock left in the national forest is not a crime punishable under the Washington State wolf plan. These reports fail to prove that wolves killed or injured livestock, and the majority of the injuries — most of which are not even close to life threatening — can be easily classified as those commonly sustained by cattle ranging on national forest lands, inflicted by barbed wire, trees or bushes, moving debris during storms, and a host of other possibilities, including animals other than wolves.”—Suzanne Asha Stone
The agency, however, maintains that wolves are responsible for the trouble. In an Aug. 17 press release, WDFW reported, “State wildlife managers today confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack of northeast Washington were involved in the injury of one calf and the death of another this week in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch near the Canadian border. This brings to eight the total number of injured or dead livestock from the Diamond M ranch since July. Officials also said they were expanding their efforts to address the pack's persistent attacks on livestock.”
On Monday, Northwest Sportsman reported that the agency may kill up to four wolves in what spokeswoman Madonna Luers described as an effort to disrupt the pack and reduce predation. State Sen. Pam Roach told Examiner earlier this summer she plans to introduce legislation to address the predation issue in January.

Wolf management was a component of the gubernatorial election questionnaire recently sent to both Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna about hunting issues. Neither sent back the completed questionnaire, and while McKenna’s camp did attempt a boilerplate response, Inslee’s people appear to have ignored it completely.

It might seem natural to dismiss DOW assertions that wolves aren’t responsible because of that organization’s history of bitterly resisting proactive wolf management. On the other hand, the WDFW has been reacting rather swiftly to problems in The Wedge, and some might consider it an over-reaction. The pack was only confirmed a couple of months ago.

A call to Luers in the WDFW’s Spokane regional office was not immediately returned.

Readers, what do you think? Should the WDFW declare war on wolves in The Wedge, potentially risking a lawsuit by Defenders of Wildlife?