SEATTLE — The killing of a pack of wolves in northeastern Washington to protect cattle is producing death threats for people on both sides of the emotional issue, The Seattle Times (http://bit.ly/2ceSsb9) reported Wednesday.
Researcher Rob Wielgus of Washington State University this week declined further comment on the pending elimination of the Profanity Peak pack by hunters for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, citing the death threats.
“My friends in WDFW have received death threats . It’s gone tooooo far,” Wielgus wrote in an email to the newspaper.
Last week, state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, told the newspaper that cattle producers also were receiving death threats in the wake of the controversy.
Wielgus said last week the conflict with wolves was inevitable because one of the ranchers involved had turned out his cattle on top of a known wolf den. Wielgus was challenged on that claim Monday afternoon by Conservation Northwest, a nonprofit environmental group, which said it heard the cattle were turned out five miles away from the den and that the den was not in use.
Asked to respond Monday, Wielgus wrote: “I can’t understand this . of course the den was in use and I have many photos of cattle on den. What gives?”
In a later email, he wrote that Donny Martorello, the state’s wolf-policy lead, told him the cattle were turned out five miles away and moved to the den site later.
Officials for Washington State University on Wednesday issued a statement disavowing Wielgus’ original comments regarding the wolf den.
“Some of Dr. Wielgus’ statements in regard to this controversial issue have been both inaccurate and inappropriate,” Washington State University said in the press release.
“As such, they have contributed substantially to the growing anger and confusion about this significant wildlife management issue,” the Pullman-based school said. “The statements do not in any way represent the views or position of Washington State University or the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences. These statements are disavowed by our institutions.”
Wielgus is an associate professor and director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at WSU.
Martorello did not return phone calls, and neither did the rancher, who grazes cattle on public land in the Colville National Forest.
That rancher and another producer with cattle near the Profanity Peak pack had been taking steps recommended by the department to avoid conflict with wolves, Martorello has said, from deploying range riders to picking up carcasses to avoid attracting wolves, and turning out calves when they were bigger and more mature. He praised the ranchers’ cooperation.
Jack Field, vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said Tuesday he sees steady progress in acceptance among ranchers in working with the department and using nonlethal methods to avoid conflict with wolves.
Many producers, he noted, are successfully operating in what is once again wolf country, after the carnivores’ more than century-long absence.
Wolves were exterminated in Washington in the early 1900s — in part by ranchers to keep them away from sheep and cattle. Wolves began recolonizing the state in 2008, when the first packs were confirmed in Washington, from populations in Idaho and British Columbia.
There were about 90 wolves in the state as of early 2016, most of them documented in packs in northeastern Washington.
Since mid-July, WDFW has confirmed that wolves from the Profanity Peak pack have killed or injured six cattle and probably five others. The state’s policy authorizes “lethal removal” after confirming that wolves have preyed on livestock at least four times in one calendar year, or six times in two consecutive years.
Department staff had killed six of the 11 members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack as of last Friday. Remaining were two radio-collared adults, used by the department to track the wolves, and several pups.
Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com