Don JenkinsCapital Press
The Colville National Forest issued a statement Monday contradicting a claim by the national head of the Humane Society of the United States that state wildlife managers asked the Forest Service to cancel grazing to prevent conflicts between cattle and wolves.
In a Humane Society blog post Sept. 9, Wayne Pacelle, the organization’s president and CEO, wrote that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife “saw a problem brewing and asked the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw the grazing permit, but the federal agency rebuffed the request.”
Through a forest spokesman, the Forest Service said it was not asked to pull permission to graze. The agency said it has been working with state officials and advisers to prevent wolves from attacking livestock.
“There has been no request made by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife or the Washington Wolf Advisory Group to withdraw the grazing permit. The Colville National Forest will continue working closely with these organizations to help reduce predator/cattle conflicts,” the Forest Service stated.
A WDFW spokesman said the department didn’t ask the Forest Service to withdraw grazing allotments.
“We know of no request from WDFW staff — even at the field level — for the USFS to withdraw grazing permits in the allotments associated with the Profanity Peak pack,” he said in an email.
Efforts to reach the Humane Society’s national office and Washington state director Dan Paul were unsuccessful.
A member of the Wolf Advisory Group, Paul agreed last spring to a policy that allows for state-protected wolves to be killed if efforts by ranchers to prevent depredations have failed.
The policy is under attack by animal-rights activists and environmental groups, some of whom have accused ranchers of willfully putting their livestock at risk.
Washington State University wolf researcher Rob Wielgus told The Seattle Times a rancher turned out cattle “on top” on a wolf den. WSU officials rebuked Wielgus and said the comment was inaccurate.
In his blog post, Pacelle said cattle were placed “right in the center” of the pack’s range.
According to WDFW, 198 cow-calf pairs cows were released 4 miles from the pack’s den in early June. The whereabouts of the den was unknown at the time, according to WDFW.
Wolves have attacked since early July at least eight cattle in the national forest and probably attacked five others, though there too little evidence to rule out another predator, according to WDFW.
Livestock have been attacked as far away as 10 miles from the pack’s den and rendezvous sites, according to WDFW.
The department has announced shooting six wolves and says it intends to kill the Profanity Peak pack’s other five members.
Although its policy calls for at least weekly reports on the number of wolves killed, WDFW has not provided an update since Sept. 2.
Pacelle stated that the Humane Society of the U.S. wants the Washington’s wolf policy to be re-examined. “We are urging that the idea of killing an entire pack be taken off the table entirely.”
WDFW’s lethal-control policy emerged from lengthy meetings between Washington ranchers, environmentalists, hunters and animal-rights activists.
The agreement has helped ease tensions and made future collaboration on managing Washington’s growing wolf population more promising, Washington Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jack Field said.
“I know there is a lot of attention and focus on the removal effort, but the department is following the protocol to a T,” he said.
The Wolf Advisory Group will meet Wednesday and Thursday in Issaquah. The two-day meeting was scheduled before WDFW started removing the Profanity Peak pack.
Field said he hoped conservationists on the advisory panel can withstand the pressure exerted by other environmental groups. “Because if not, we’re right back where we started,” he said.