The Profanity of the Profanity Peak Wolf Pack Massacre

By George Wuerthner

The recent killing of six members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in NE Washington in retribution for the loss of a few cattle is emblematic of what is wrong with public land policy. As I write, trappers are out to kill the remaining pack members – including 4-month old pups.

What is significant about the destruction of this pack is that the Profanity Peak wolves roamed national forest lands. These are our lands. They belong to all Americans and are part of our national patrimony.

Currently private commercial businesses such as the livestock industry are allowed to use public lands if they do not damage, degrade and impoverish our public lands heritage. Clearly the killing of this pack violates that obligation and responsibility.

What is particularly egregious about the on-going slaughter of the Profanity Pack is that it was essentially a preventable conflict. Had the rancher, whose cows invaded the wolf pack’s territory, been required to use other public lands, or better yet, simply lease private pasture, there would have been no livestock losses, hence wolf deaths.

Placing cows on top of a wolf pack territory is analogous to, and irresponsible as leaving picnic baskets or coolers out in a campground. In most national parks, if you leave a cooler or other food available to bears, you are fined for this careless behavior. We don’t blame the bear if it happens to eat that food. But when it comes to the livestock industry, we essentially allow four-legged picnic baskets to roam at will on our lands, and should a predator – be it a coyote, cougar, bear or wolf – kill one of those mobile picnic baskets, we don’t hold the rancher responsible, we kill the public wildlife.

This represents the wrong priorities.

We expect different behavior from people using public resources. I can, and do, mark up and highlight passages in books that I own in my personal library, but it would be inappropriate for me to mark up or otherwise damage books in a public library.

In a similar manner, we should expect different consequences for livestock owners who willingly use public lands (at almost no cost I might add) for their private commercial interests. In this case and others like it across the public lands of the West, we should expect ranchers utilizing public lands (our lands) to at the least accept any losses from predators that may occur while they are using public property. And if conflicts continue, we should remove the livestock, not the wolves or other predators.

It’s important to note that the mere presence of livestock negatively impacts wolves whether they are shot or otherwise killed.

Domestic livestock consume forage that would otherwise support the native prey of wolves, like elk. So more domestic animals means fewer elk.  In essence, domestic livestock grazing public lands are compromising the food resources of public wildlife so that ranchers can turn a private profit.

Worse for wolves, especially wolves confined to a den area because of pups, as was the case in the Profanity Peak Pack, when domestic cattle are moved onto our public lands, it creates a social displacement of elk. In other words, elk avoid areas actively being grazed by livestock. If the livestock are grazing lands near a den site, then the wolves automatically have fewer elk to take and must travel further to find their dinner.

Who can blame the wolves if they take the most available prey—which is often domestic livestock. Robert Weilgus, a Washington State University professor, studying the Profanity pack noted that cattle were placed near the den site, or as he was quoted in a Seattle Times article as saying the cattle were released “right on top of the den”.

Some commentators, including Washington State University tried to discredit Wielgus suggesting the cattle were released about four miles away. What that demonstrates is either their ignorance of wolf biology or a not so-veiled attempt to confuse the public. If you are a wolf where regular daily hunting exclusions of 20-30 miles are common, four miles is a short romp. It is essentially “right on top” of the wolves.

If you place cattle within a dozen miles of a wolf pack you are essentially putting the livestock “right on top” of the wolves. And if the presence of cattle forces native prey like elk to abandon the area, can anyone blame the wolves if they resort to killing a domestic animal once in a while?

The loss of the Profanity Peak Pack has occurred on the same grazing allotment where another wolf pack was destroyed in 2012. This begs the question of whether any livestock grazing should be permitted in this area. It is obviously good wolf habitat—except of course for the presence of domestic animals. The only realistic long-term solution is to retire the grazing allotment. Either transfer the cattle to another portion of the public lands or, better yet, simply pay the rancher with a voluntary permit retirement to close the allotment and permanently remove the livestock.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has been studying predators for four decades. He serves on the Science Advisory Board of Project Coyote and is the author of 38 books including Welfare Ranching, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, Energy: The Delusion of Endless Growth and Overdevelopment, Thrillcraft, and Keeping the Wild.


12 thoughts on “The Profanity of the Profanity Peak Wolf Pack Massacre

  1. The only real solution to this killing, is to get the damn livestock off of public lands–period. Let’s quit diddling around with wolf and other wildlife lives. The problem is that most of these “wildlife” groups continue to compromise with the livestock special interests, who are ruining the remaining wild lands. When we compromise, the wildlife always losses.

    • The only solution is for animal lovers to militarize and fight the ranchers, the hunters and the trappers with the same dirty and bloody methods they use on animals. We have been agonizing over this killing for over a month now. In the meantime the rancher got his way. Six wolves killed the rest will be trapped and killed even in worse manners. What have we done by just expressing our anger online?

  2. It’s such a racket, taking advantage of the fact that welfare of wildlife isn’t top in the public’s mind. Until many become aware of what really goes on. What kind of tough guy goes out and kills 4 month old pups? I hope when the next wolf or small pack of wolves is seen, non-lethal steps are taken immediately. It is terribly demoralizing to know that public land and taxpayer money is used to fund activities that the public doesn’t want! I hope a lawsuit will be forthcoming for the next time this happens – there is no excuse for this, what passes for ‘management’. For $77,000, I should think there are a lot better, non-lethal methods – I’d rather see that money spent on relocations and something proactive, than trying to keep ornery, complaining rancher(s) quiet as the only resort!

  3. No habitat, no wildlife, no biodiversity, no healthy planet. Time for a line in the dirt, no more, no cooperation and conciliation with the traditional enemies of wildlife such as recently happened in WA. It is capitulation. We already have too much working collaboration and compromise on giving up public land. We already have too much of it on giving up wildlife to agricultural and hunting a trapping interests, and “management of wolves, bears, coyotes, lions, wolverine, bobcat, and bios on and other critters. National Forest and BLM to private and corporate interests; and the idea of turning over public land to local and state control is absurd. “Wilderness protected through collaboration”. “Work together for effective public land management”. Stewardship demonstration projects, I.e. BCSP, a a semi-private swath oh public land for sportsmen and recreation extraction industry Sometimes there is room, time and places and projects, for compromise and cooperation, in particular situations, but more often now it is time to draw a line in the conservation sand. Takeover/local control of public land is nonsense: It would likely open a Pandor”s Box on privatization of various interests, and true wildlife ecology would take a backseat. Sporting interests is not true wilderness ecologyIt would be illegal, the states could not afford it and would quickly “compromise” the rest of it; it, compromise and cooperation is a sneaky way of an end around run on already too much compromised public land; it would end up in private and corporate hands, mostly rancher. It is likely a ploy to duck out of EPA and ESA oversight and other laws. The public does not want it. Public land is already too much used by pecuniary private interests rather than wildlife, wilderness, open spaces, recreation, wildlife viewing. The US Forest Service and BLM are notoriously well known for compromise and accommodation with providing timber sales, grazing leases (in MT 772 on national forest land 3776 on BLM, 23,000 such leases in 11 western states), access to other extraction industries, and facilitating game farming for “sportsmen” and distortion of wildlife healthy and balanced ecology, motorized recreation. BLM land is open to 55 % grazing, 63,000 gas and oil wells, over 300 mines, timber sales, and trapping on public land. “Compromise” and “multiuse” are often the protocol euphemisms which seem to often be words disguising further encroachment on the remaining 5% of true wilderness, with half of that in Alaska. “Compromised” is the characteristic of much so-called compromise and cooperation. Instead we should be thinking of wildlife corridor connections, re-wilding, predator dispersals accommodation, land bridges, over and under passes for wildlife, “untrammeled” and protected (inviolate), balanced wildlife ecology versus game farming), and retiring most of those leases if not all. There is much that could and should be done to expand, connect, and protect what is left. We can do a much better job of living with wildlife instead of against it with continued encroachment via compromise and cooperation. Often when conservation sits down to the protocol of compromise and cooperate they are giving more and more away to the pillagers and encroachers on the land and the wild.

    • Thanks Roger for your great comments. It is clear that grazing interests will never be satisfied, no matter what wild lands and wildlife sacrifices are made on the Altar of Western Ranching. Today, I read an article from a weekly paper on the grazing controversy between NM ranchers and the Forest Service, over protection of small parcels of Riparian areas, which are devastated by grazing. The answer? Of course, “better managed grazing.” A group called Quivira Coalition, a pro-ranching organization which preaches the infamous Allan Savory Snake Oil Holistic Grazing Method appears to be the new standard for the “new improved grazing” preached by Grazing Guru Savory.

      Wuerthner (a hunter) has some great photographic comparisons of how livestock grazing damages soils, water, forests, etc. But as an anti-grazing activist, I feel that the greatest travesty befalling our remaining public wild lands is this: wild lands become Domesticated Feed Lots, and the wildness is tamed, managed, and wildlife must learn to “behave” properly around livestock–or suffer the consequences. I have personally witnessed just how “managed” some of these once-wild areas have become, thanks to the Savory Method, which actually is even more damaging to the environment and wildlife because of its “intensive management model.”

      Wuerthner should realize that there simply is No Way to graze livestock without damaging and degrading the environment—and slaughtering the native wildlife that need public lands to survive, in this new Climate Change World.

  4. Profanity Peak Wolf Family Group, WA, WDFW, August-September 2016 killing entire pack at rancher behest. Is political management of wildlife at its worse: Has Pandora’s Box on killing wolves been opened? The wildlife officials have discovered, they believe, that killing an entire pack who started depredation on livestock is most efficacious at ending depredations, they believe, for wolves who have learned to prey on easy prey, livestock, the entire pack has learned. This killing is still totally out of line in terms of conservation. Wolves, other predators, should not be killed at
    the behest of ranchers leasing public land. It should be acceptable collateral damage for encroaching on wildlife. Ranchers should have non lethal management practices in place and active. It is the requirement protocol of WA and OR. Reportedly, in the case of this wolfpack, the rancher did, but there were repeated predation. There are conflicting reports, even that he baited theology pack by placing carcasses near their den. In any case this was the second time in four years for this rancher and a predating on cattle wolf pack. The terrain is reportedly hilly, rocky, tree and shrub, nearly impossible to defend against predators, a wolf pack. It is land that should not be leased to a rancher.

    Most, if not all, wolf and grizzly impacted ranchers have a predator compensation fund. Manage ranchers not wildlife. Retire those leases to wildlife conservation. When in conflict with predators existence on public land, national forests, parks, refuges, choose wildlife. We are not going to appease ranchers or hunters by killing predators for them. Wildlife agencies killing public wildlife on public land for a rancher is absurdly shameful. Rein in these renegade state wildlife agencies. Conservation agencies’ support may open a Pandora’s Box for baiting then killing “offending wolves” on public land. We cannot really find common ground with a rancher, hunter, rural interests, irrational and embedded folklore, mythology, and lies, and their wolf jihad attitudes. Some leases are so rugged and forested they are almost impossible to defend and even having stock there is baiting predators. Sloppy stock management or deliberate baiting is death knell for predators. Giving ranchers priority on public land is death knell for predators. Manage ranchers, not wolves. Who is responsible for that, National Forest Service or BLM?

    Some conservationists and newspaper pundits favor killing a cattle predation inclined wolf pack because all the pack has learned to offend, and because it may engender more tolerance among ranchers. Killing wolves reinforces the rancher attitudes of wolf jihad as killing wolves for hunters reinforces their wolf jihad attitudes. News media support of rancher and hunter hysteria reinforces their mythology, hatred, fear, entitlement, power and control attitudes. It will take a couple generations of protections, at least, for ranchers and hunters to mellow on their hatred, mythology, and lies about the big bad wolves. Wolves and other predators should have indefinite protection and regional, federal protection. State wildlife agencies are extensions of hunters, ranchers and conservative state wildlife agencies. They and USDA Wildlife Services make for an unholy alliance of traditional wolf and other predator enemies. To compromise and cooperate with these groups, as conservation groups did in this case is to capitulate, when we need a line in the sand, to stand fast, and USFWS should be backing conservation, biodiversity, balanced wildlife ecology as the conservation organizations should. The “social tolerance level in rural communities”, their mythology, folklore, lies, the entitlement thinking of ranchers and hunters, will take generations to change. Ranching is not sustainable and not in the long term interest of rural communities.

    Killing a wolf pack is simply wrong on public land or leased public land for a rancher encroaching on wildlife. Ranchers (animal farmers) offer a product, animal meat, which harms human health, and the production of which is a major environmental disaster, polluting streams, river banks, the air. It encroaches on wildlife. Forests are cut down daily for pasture around the world, further disrupting the carbon cycle. Ranchers are an entitled, power and control, victim stance positioning, self centered lot, causing pain to other sentient animals by the millions annually. Animal farming (aka ranching) is not sustainable nor healthy for man or the environment, and is not sustainable. We should start retiring those public leases and re-wilding the land and forests and re-establishing a healthy biodiversity. State wildlife agencies should be held accountable by the other 94% of us! not just hunters and ranchers. Man is continuing a war on wildlife. Man is destroying the planet.


  5. Two points:

    1. Wuerthner notes: “Private commercial businesses such as the livestock industry are allowed to use public lands if they do not damage, degrade and impoverish our public lands heritage. ”

    Not damage or degrade public lands?

    Many who have studied the effects of livestock grazing disagree. In her book “Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching,” Lynn Jacobs notes that cows eat all day and consume 700-800 pounds of vegetation per month. The author lists the foods that cattle will eat: grass, herbs, and other non-woody plants, along with much of the browse, such as leaves and twigs on shrubs, willow shoots, wild celery, young agave stalks, rosehips, lupine, honeysuckle, miner’s lettuce, cottonwood saplings, wild tobacco, marigolds, watercress, saltbush, mesquite pods, wild oats, mountain mahogany leaves, morning glories, wild strawberries, monkey flowers, vetch, mulberry leaves, bracken leaves, sunflowers, peppermint, dandelions, etc., etc. The list begs the question how many other animals who would have been in that habitat are doing without their food?

    Also many plants are ripped out of the soil, roots and all. The cropping and browsing totally destroy vegetation since plants cannot reseed normally or are eaten before their pods develop.

    Perhaps most destruction of all, the land suffers from the trampling of the cattle herds. Many plants, especially in dry environments are fragile and cannot withstand the assault from hundreds of hooves.

    So the effects of cattle herds on public land do not sound exactly benign.

    2. Wuerthner also says that the only realistic solution is to transfer cattle to other public lands or permanently remove the cattle. That may be the obvious answer, but the changes of it’s happening in the near future seem to be about zero. Not when Big Money and Big Ag are involved.

  6. Keep cattle off public land! I’ve singed hundreds of these and nothing ever happened. Remember this is public land and not cowboy land. Does anybody listen to public?

    • James, I agree with your concerns. Unfortunately, a big part of the problem is people naively think clicking on a petition or posting on Facebook is activism. It is not.
      Too many “animal/wildlife groups” are a major problem because they have capitulated to the Livestock Grazing Special Interests, under the guise of “coexistence, just as Project Coyote, Wild Earth Guardians, Defenders and others. All of us who may belong to any of these organizations, should demand a clear statement on where they stand on Public Lands Grazing. While most of these groups have done some good things, they need to hear from all of us on getting tough, no more compromise, with the Public Lands Grazing issue. These groups need to be challenged, by calling, writing, not just one time, but constantly. And, yes, we can also post on Facebook, etc. Contacting the boards of these groups might be a good idea.
      Will this be enough? No. We must all be alert in our areas for grazing articles, what they are saying, and again, challenging. Real protests, which is grassroots activism, needs to become a regular thing. Look at what has happened in North Dakota because of strong, persistent protesting.

      Will this be a battle? Yes, and it will bring out every despicable individual & group around, including hunters, trappers, and angry ranchers. But, what is the alternative? More compromise? More wolf, coyote, mountain lion, prairie dog, and other wild animal slaughter to appease ranchers?

      Most of the public is not listened to because most of the public is asleep, or playing video games.

      The reason maniac, sociopath, Donald Trump is so popular with angry, uneducated white people, is because he stirs them, gives them something to fight for.

      If what we do for wildlife is not the most passionate, persistent, and yes, vocal, nothing will come of it. Society has become too “rational,” and everything has become relative, which is why so much compromise has happened to wildlife issues.

  7. The only solution is for animal lovers to militarize and fight the ranchers, the hunters and the trappers with the same dirty and bloody methods they use on animals. We have been agonizing over this killing for over a month now. In the meantime the rancher got his way. Six wolves killed the rest will be trapped and killed even in worse manners. What have we done by just expressing our anger online?

  8. Now the trappers are finishing the job, while we are still screaming and shaking our fists in an impotent gesture of anger. The trappers are the dirtiest lowlife scum bags sub humans and they are going to get the kick out of torturing the rest of the pack to death.

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