(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)
HARASSMENT: Inlander reports that violent threats to WDFW largely came from pro-wolf advocates…
WDFW cancelled 14 community meetings about wolf management in August over concerns about safety after several online threats. When the story previously broke, the nature and source of the threats were in question, and fingers were pointed by both pro-wolf and anti-wolf sides. The Inlander in Spokane did a public request for documents involved in WDFW’s decision to cancel the meetings and reported that it stemmed from multiple violent social media threats from wolf supporters including the Facebook page for the Center for Biologicial Diversity.
WDFW spokeswoman Staci Lehman told the Inlander that several Facebook comments with violent rhetoric were part of the reason that the meetings were cancelled. She said while there were angry comments from both sides of the issue, there were no specific violent threats coming from the anti-wolf issue. WDFW also said that online comments weren’t the only factor, taking into account info from law enforcement on the ground about the safety of the meetings.
In the heated issue of wolves in Washington, there are several people who said they have felt threatened, including former WDFW officers and officials. One WDFW employee told the Inlander that wolf advocates were trailing WDFW staff back to their Spokane residences. Ranchers in the area have also told the Independent they and their families have received several death threats over the phone during times of wolf-cattle conflict.
The Stevens County Cattlemen have been offering a $15,000 reward for information concerning people who shoot cattle in Stevens County. Ranchers claim that they have had several cattle shot, and these incidents seem to spring up when there are conflict with wolves.
Posts on the Center for Biological Diversity page about WDFW killing members of the Old Profanity Peak pack had comments including people calling for the murder of WDFW employees, shooting of the sharpshooters who carry out the lethal removal and shooting down WDFW helicopters.
In predator issue stories posted by the Independent on Facebook, several comments had to be moderated and blocked after the rhetoric either got violent or turned into personal attacks against people on the page. Community members in local predator groups were also doxxed, having their identity spread around in several pro-wolf groups.
Pro-wolf groups have asked on their Facebook groups to tone down the rhetoric.
“Please DO NOT make threatening comments about WDFW staff or their families on my Facebook page, or on any Facebook page,” Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote on her Facebook page, the Inlander reported.
In 2017 the state began hiding the identities of the employees and contractors involved in lethal removal, refraining from naming the ranchers whose cattle had been killed by wolves.
WDFW RESPONDS TO GOVERNOR’S CALL TO KILL LESS WOLVES
Governor Jay Inslee released a letter on Sept. 30 asking for WDFW to kill fewer wolves after lethal removal protocol had been enacted by the agency several times in NE Washington over conflicts with livestock. The most recent resulted in the complete removal of the Old Profanity Territory Pack which repeatedly preyed on livestock in Ferry County.
WDFW responded to Inslee’s statements in late November, with agency director Kelley Susewind saying the department has already taken actions to reduce conflict with livestock and would also be looking into new measures but did not provide specifics, the Capital Press and Spokesman Review reported. The WAG held meetings to talk about options like range riding and changing grazing allotment rules and locations.
Susewind said the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) is in the process of revising the wolf-livestock interaction protocol and that should come out in January. The WAG, which include cattle producers, wildlife groups and local leaders in NE Washington, has been a point of contention for locals who think the group doesn’t have enough collaboration and they don’t see WDFW carrying out the protocol the way it was agreed upon.
Susewind also pointed out that WDFW has been collaborating with U.S. Forest Service to employ better nonlethal measures to help limit conflicts between wolves and cattle on Forest Service grazing allotments.
The letter to Inslee also said they could work better on conflict mitigation with a bigger budget. WDFW is currently asking for $26 million from the Legislature in the supplemental budget cycle. This would fully fund the agency and backfill a budget deficit that has been running since 2008.