The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to kill all the wolves of the Profanity Peak Pack in Ferry County has earned national headlines, support from local ranchers and criticism from conservation agencies.
After wolf attacks by the Profanity Peak Pack on local cattle in July went above the threshold for lethal removal, state officials decided it was time to act. The pack roams around grazing lands between Republic and Kettle Falls.
There were six confirmed cattle kills by wolves and five others that were probable. In August, the state killed two females belonging to the pack and would continue lethally removing wolves if the attacks on cattle continued.
“At that time, we said we would restart this operation if there was another wolf attack, and now we have three,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead in a public statement. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”
The state will now remove the entire pack, which has at least 11 members. Conservation groups expressed displeasure as that number is a high percent of the estimated 90 wolves and 19 wolf packs currently in Washington. Northeast Washington has the highest concentration of wolves with 15 packs living in the region.
“By no stretch of the imagination can killing 12 percent of the state’s tiny population of 90 wolves be consistent with recovery,” Amaroq Weiss, a wolf conservationist with the Center for Biological Diversity – which is based in Arizona.
In response to the WDFW decision to lethally remove the Profanity Peak Pack, the Joint Conservation Wolf Advisory Group issued a statement expressing sadness over the loss of the pack but added that the state is following procedures developed by the advisory group. The emailed document was attributed to Wolf Haven International, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and Conservation Northwest.
“The loss of the Profanity Peak wolf pack is devastating and challenges our long-term vision for wolf recovery,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO for Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife said in a statement. “Wolves need our support and tolerance to ensure their safe passage on suitable lands where they can rightfully roam freely in the wild.”
Along with the wolf shot in 2014, WDFW removed seven wolves from the Wedge pack in 2012. They were assisted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, but since then a federal judge has ruled federal agencies cannot help lethally remove wolves without doing an environmental impact study.
Lethally removing the Profanity Peak Pack will prove challenging, the WDFW said, given the rugged, timbered landscape in the area.
A WSU researcher, Robert Wielgus, said that cattle were released right on top of a wolf den, reports the Seattle Times. Wielgus is the director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at WSU and his research includes putting radio collars on 700 cattle and a dozen wolves. He also has cameras at the Profanity Peak Pack’s den.
“This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it, I just want people to know,” Wielgus told the Seattle Times.
Wielgus said Len McIrvin of the Diamond M Ranch, which is near the border north of Kettle Falls was the ranchers that released his cattle that wolf habitat. McIrvin has his cattle graze on public land in the Colville National Forest.
Wielgus said to the Seattle Times that the cattle pushed out deer, which are the natural prey for wolves and the Profanity Peak Pack then moved on the cattle. McIrvin did not respond to calls made by the Seattle Times.
Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship, however, did respond.
“The McIrvin family has run cows on that allotment for 73 years, and now all of a sudden they have to pull out because of wolves and go somewhere else?” Blankenship said. “I haven’t met anyone here who wants them wiped out, but we want them managed.”
According to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association, “Diamond M and another affected ranch tried additional non-lethal deterrents like range riders, removing carcasses of killed cattle and other methods, the Profanity Pack has not stopped preying on cattle.”
For more information on gray wolves in Washington, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wag/ which has updates on the lethal removal of wolves.
By The Independent Staff