Exposing the Big Game

Forget Hunters' Feeble Rationalizations and Trust Your Gut Feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior

Exposing the Big Game

Inside the Outdoors: The wolves of Washington

An ever more interesting conversation, this discussion of wolves and their status, behavior, and management here in our state. There seems almost no action ranchers in now-wolf-country, and the wildlife managers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), can propose or take to deal with livestock depredation that doesn’t trigger protest and a court battle. The conflict over DFW policy has been bubbling over the past decade and more.

Over the years since the 2009 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), titled “Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington” was released, a number of wolves and entire packs have been killed after persistently preying upon domestic livestock. Nearly all of the lethal removals have been in and around the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington. The removals took place following one or another DFW policy — each of which required that stockmen carry out some extensive level of non-lethal means of separating livestock and wolves over some time period. The latest removal in the Colville area was in August, just before a restraining order was issued in a Seattle courtroom.

As a geographer and lifelong wildlife nut, the management goals for wolves in our state — in the context of other western state wolf recovery goals — seemed to me so unrealistic that conflicts were inevitable. Consider the following bit of western state geography (areas suitable wolf habitat are from the Federal Register (02/08/07, Vol. 72, Num. 26), and the human populations are from the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau.

Thus, in Washington we have a human population of four to thirteen times the other “wolf” states, a population density of five to nineteen times theirs, and “suitable habitat” only eleven to 15 percent of theirs. Yet, in each of the other states, the goal for delisting was 100 wolves (10 breeding pairs), while Washington’s goal was 15 breeding pairs/packs of wolves (about 150 animals) before delisting. The clock has been ticking ever louder over the past decade.

At last 2018 population survey, DFW biologists estimated Washington’s wolf population at a minimum of 126 individuals, 27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs.

The number of wolves across the state has reached a point that many are pushing for delisting of wolves from any statethreatened or endangered list, and turning wolf management over to DFW — similar to management in other western states. To that end, DFW officials have begun a broad public outreach effort.

In late summer wildlife officials scheduled a series of 14 open public meetings across the state to begin assessing possible changes to the state’s wolf-management policy. Within a week or two, officials changed those meetings to online discussions, citing a fear of violence rising from a number of unspecified threats of both violence and disruption.

After the Nov. 15 deadline, your next opportunity will come once the agency drafts an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in late 2020. That draft will evaluate actions, alternatives, and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management.

Want to know about the wolves here in Paradise? This coming Monday evening (Nov. 11) Steve Wetzel (DFW Wildlife Conflict Specialist), with DFW Statewide Wolf Biologist Ben Maletzke will be speaking of the Wolves of Kittitas County. This is the program for the monthly meeting of the 100-year-old Kittitas County Field & Stream Club, at the Hal Holmes Center, 7:00 p.m. You and your friends are welcome for what promises to be a very interesting Veteran’s Day evening.

Jim Huckabay is retired from the Department of Geography at Central

11 thoughts on “Inside the Outdoors: The wolves of Washington

  1. “There seems almost no action ranchers in now-wolf-country, and the wildlife managers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), can propose or take to deal with livestock depredation that doesn’t trigger protest and a court battle.”

    They’ve done more than enough already, and it needs to stop.

    The implied “They’re doing well enough in the entire state that we can afford to pop a few for Len McIrvin every year, so what are you complaining about?” is not good management.

  2. The data on the density of people in ID, MT, WY compared to the much greater density in WA is valid but more than sort of beside the point and maybe an obfuscation in wolf management. The problem is a few “welfare ranchers” on public land for a pittance, and mainly one, who is not really attempting to coexist with wolves, displacing wildlife and wolves, disrupting wildlife habitat with their cattle, demanding that wolves be killed for them, and WA wildlife agency ever ready to kill wolves for them. If ranchers are going to ranch in wolf country they should be mandated to high tolerance and accept the predation on their cattle or sheep.

    • Yes – I have always thought, especially in modern times, that dealing with wildlife behaving as nature intended is the cost of doing business as a rancher.

      IDK, the population density argument seem like playing to people’s (unnecessary) fears about wolves – wolves do not live or thrive in the greatest human population areas. And who could blame them.

      It’s time that we stop habitually deferring to human interests – it is impossible to satisfy, and we have enough given up in our favor.

  3. Also, the ‘goal’ for delisting in those ‘other’ states was not based on science, but stubbornly not wanting them in the first place, and holding those who used the number of 100 in order to get the wolves reintroduced. It’s not based on science, but on human emotion.

  4. 100 is the arbitrary number held to by tyrants. I’m sure ID, MT and WY would looooooooooove to get their wolf population down to 100 in each state.

    Per Wikipedia, here’s the estimate of the wolf populations:

    “The Northern Rocky Mountain states (Wyoming, Idaho and Montana) have an approximate population of 1,657 wolves in 282 packs (including 85 breeding pairs).”

  5. This discussion is meaningful, as we here all understand the real issue: Humans cannot leave anything alone, I’m afraid. Homo sapiens has had serious flaws from the beginning: this species has always been driven to kill things, to manage & manipulate things, to pave over, to build over, to cut down, to poison, trap, hunt, to war against each other and other species– and to breed way too much. No human should give birth anymore.
    John A. Livingston, in his Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation did not hold out much hope for our species–or for Nature.
    But, this is not an excuse to give up as far as I’m concerned. It is a continuously dire warning (remember the Dire Wolf?) for those of us Fighters for the Wild to not give in or up. We will not compromise, and we will be persistent: ENDLESS PRESSURE APPLIED ENDLESSLY.
    Just as with those who may be removing steel traps from the land, we can make livestock moochers on public lands, and those who still hunt/trap animals want to quit.

    http://www.foranimals.org stealtraps.com

    Thanks for your comments, folks.

  6. I agree Rosemary, too much compromise has been done already, and with the predictable outcome. I don’t know why people cannot seem to learn.

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