Media Advisory, August 31, 2016
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Wildlife supporters, including several conservation groups, will rally Thursday at noon in Olympia to mourn the loss of Washington’s Profanity Peak pack and to call on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to stop killing the public’s wolves on public lands to benefit the private ranching industry.
The agency has already killed at least six of the pack’s 11 members and aims to eradicate the entire pack, including five 4-month-old pups. The wolves are being targeted for conflicts with livestock on federal public lands after a rancher moved his cattle into an area known to be a den and rendezvous site for the pack.
What: Members of the public, including members of multiple conservation organizations representing thousands of Washington residents, will rally at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife headquarters to mourn the loss of the Profanity Peak wolf family and to send a clear message that state residents want the agency to protect Washington’s endangered wolves, not kill them on public lands to benefit irresponsible ranchers.
When: Noon to 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1.
Where: The sidewalk and parking lot in front of the main entrance to the headquarters building of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, at 1111 Washington Street, SE, Olympia, WA 98501.
Visuals: Attendees will hoist posters and banners with messages in support of protecting wolves from irresponsible ranchers; images of killed wolves will be displayed on the ground. Speakers will include Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity; Brooks Fahy, executive director for Predator Defense; Paul Ruprecht, staff attorney for Western Watersheds Project; and several citizen-activists.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Predator Defense is a national nonprofit advocacy organization working to protect native predators and end America’s war on wildlife. Our efforts take us into the field, onto America’s public lands, to Congress, and into courtrooms.
Northwest Animal Rights Network is a Pacific Northwest based animal rights organization which advocates for the rights inherent to all sentient beings to live a full life, to be free, and to not be used and exploited.
The mission of Western Watersheds Project is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy.
WildLands Defense: Working to inspire and empower the preservation of wildlands and wildlife in the West.
After multiple livestock were killed in northeastern Washington’s Stevens County, state agency says it will eliminate the pack
- By Josh Babcock, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Daily News
There were about 90 endangered gray wolves in Washington state earlier this summer, but that number is set to decline by 11 after cattle belonging to a rancher in northeastern Washington were recently killed near the den of the Profanity Peak wolf pack in the Colville National Forest.
To resolve the issue the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking to the air to kill the pack of 11. As of last week at least six wolves in the pack had been shot and killed from a helicopter, according to advisories from the WDFW.
The incident is the second involving the Stevens County rancher, Len McIrvin, who several years ago also suffered livestock losses from the Wedge wolf pack, which was eventually killed by the state as well. “The facts are this is the second wolf pack he is having eradicated,” said Robert Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University. Wielgus said the livestock losses and the killing of one of the state’s 19 recognized wolf packs could have been avoided. He said while many ranchers opt to sign a cooperative damage prevention agreement to work with state wolf researchers, McIrvin chose not to, despite being approached by Wielgus to do so on multiple occasions. Wielgus said those agreements help provide ranchers with information on the location on wolves and their dens so they can better protect their cattle from predation. He said ranchers who have decided to work with him haven’t lost livestock to wolves. Wielgus said when cattle began to graze near the den the wolves’ native prey of deer were pushed away, and the wolves began to prey on the most populous food source around – McIrvin’s cattle.
Some say the rancher relocated his cattle near the den on purpose, as a way to have the endangered species wiped out from his family’s longtime grazing ranges. As per state law, ranchers who lose livestock to wolves also receive financial reimbursement. “It’s literally a war on wildlife and it’s a situation that could have been easily avoided,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director for the national wildlife advocacy organization Predator Defense. “The rancher was looking for a showdown – he got what he wanted. These animals were dumped knowingly right on top of the core of (wolf) territory. It’d be like someone coming into your home and dropping a bunch of aliens off in your home.”
Others disagree. “There could be a wolf den in the pasture, but the idea the producer willingly drove their cattle on it, I don’t know anyone that would drive their cattle into harms way,” said Jack Field, Washington Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president. “It’s very frustrating to think that that is getting a lot of play.” Field said it’s important to realize the pastures are very large and feature steep terrain, both of which can make it difficult to identify a wolf den. “It’s almost a crime,” he said. “It takes all the context out. I can tell you it’s tough country, steep terrain, a lot of brush. My only concern is we’re not giving a fair shake to what that landscape really looks like.”
While Field noted the family has been having the animals graze in the same ranges on national forest land for many decades, Fahy said it’s the wolves that are in their natural habitat. “Nonnative cows are displacing elk, deer, ruining streams – they are wreaking havoc. They are large non-native exotic herbivores,” Fahy said. “He doesn’t own this land – the American public owns this land.”
Fahy said he doesn’t know what the rancher pays to graze in the national forest, but he estimated it’s far lower than the roughly $80,000 it cost taxpayers to kill the Wedge wolf pack a few years back.
Donny Martorello, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf-policy lead, could not be reached Monday despite multiple phone calls from the Daily News. McIrvin also could not be reached.
by Stephen Capra
For the second time in four years, one rancher, Len McIrvin, is dictating policy on our public land. In this case, despite the clear knowledge that he released his cows in a wild, forested and rugged land that had an existing wolf den.
The Washington Department of Fish And Wildlife, with the agreement of conservation groups that include Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Northwest and Wolf Haven International, the Profanity Peak Pack is being destroyed so that we can maintain the status quo: Ranchers controlling our public lands.
Think for a moment what life is like being a wolf in the West. Every day is running a gauntlet of traps, hunting seasons, ranchers and state game departments that take pride in your destruction; the pure hell of a helicopter hovering above with scope and a sharp-shooter taking aim at your family and with crushing accuracy destroying your very life force. All the while the health of our lands, the value of biodiversity, and the reality that we are losing species to climate change and mans ignorance is lost to the mantra that livestock comes before wildlife. The parochial concept is that public lands are to be exploited for profit, rather than protected for life.
So this wild and beautiful pack of wolves must die, so a rancher-one with a clear vendetta against wolves- a man who has learned well in his family’s 73 years of enjoying the subsidies and special treatment afforded ranchers on our public lands and how to “game the system.”
The press release from the various conservation groups speaks to this being a “tough but necessary step.” Jamie Rapport Clark, the head of Defenders of Wildlife, hearing the outrage loud and clear from her membership went to Huffington Post to state: “I want you to know how gut-wrenching as this loss is, the work we do every day is creating a safer landscape for wolves.”
If that were actually true, I think most of us could agree. But the reality is quite different: wolves are being slaughtered as they struggle to gain a foothold. The fantasy that we can have wolves and happy rural communities, is just that, a fantasy. In such a cultural battle, we cannot continue to believe that conservation voices will breakdown generations of thinking. That is the definition of arrogance. Another major flaw is the creation of these so-called “working groups” that bring ranchers, conservationists, and State Game and Fish agencies together to work on wolf issues. We are losing every time we allow a killing, every time we give voice to a ranching community that does not seek fairness, but simply to maintain their power over agencies, politicians and the press. By participating we give away our power, not gain it, and the victim in this travesty, is the wolf.
We are fighting to shift a paradigm in need of change. Supporting ranchers and giving them a larger voice is destroying all we hold precious. The “profanity” in all of this remains the reluctance of the conservation community to unify and fight this senseless killing. There are no easy answers, yet it seems clear after more than 25 years of effort, of trying to find common ground with the ranching community, that wolves and other large carnivores are paying the price in a trail of blood that stretches from Alaska to New Mexico. It has helped to inspire the takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and the continued harassment of government agencies that manage our public lands. It continues to inspire legislation designed to open lands to exploitation and undermine generations of conservation effort.
The appeasement of the ranching community must end. It’s time to put focused and determined effort into removing cows from our public lands. The value of these lands as a reservoir for biodiversity far outweighs the reckless subsidies of our future that continues to be degraded and disrespected in the hands of ignorance. We are fighting now for justice, for true equality for all life, not just that of humans. We are asking for sanity in a situation that has frankly become insane.
Like any real social movement, education alone does not evoke change. From civil rights to gay rights to environmental protections, it has usually taken the hammer of our courts to force the changes in social norms. Likewise, ranchers and rural communities are going to have to face similar stark realities in order to force an evolution. Some will thrive with change and some will not. We have witnessed this when logging moved away or mining packed up and left.
The government can help support a transition as it should and the retirement of allotments continues to create an economic incentive for a dying industry.
The future of rural communities is not livestock grazing, but wolves, recreation and the restoration of our lands and waters that have been so degraded by the cow.
History is always a guide to the present. For many it is hard to look at our past, to read of the slaughter of Native Americans, to the destruction of bison on the Great Plains, to remember an America where the color of your skin was a barrier to a future. So too will we be remembered as a generation that brought back a magnificent animal from the brink, but only if we truly give it freedom, life, and the liberty to live and thrive in a place we call wildness. For this to happen we must demand more of ourselves and be strong enough to challenge a Western culture soiled in blood.
Only then can the Profanity Peak Pack truly rest in peace.
The way the state Department of Fish and Wildlife are slaughtering wolves is an outrage. Guest columnist Brooks Fahy explains way.
By Brooks Fahy
Special to The Times
IF you’ve heard about the wolf killing under way in northeastern Washington, you most likely have been led to think that progress is being made, simply because groups as disparate as ranchers, wildlife officials and environmentalists have agreed on something.
But what’s going on is an outrage. And it can only be understood if the common assumptions about ranching and wolves are exposed for what they are — a travesty for wildlife, public lands and the taxpayer.
What has happened is a family of wolves known as the Profanity Peak pack has been targeted for death by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Their “crime” was killing livestock grazing on public lands in remote and rugged parts of the Colville National Forest after ranchers had allegedly used nonlethal deterrents. The first two wolves were gunned down by helicopter on Aug. 5. Four more were killed by Friday morning. The agency has slated the rest for death — this in a state that has barely more than 90 wolves.
The agency’s reaction — killing wolves at the behest of ranchers — is a loss for Washingtonians and the American public. Here’s why:
• It’s cruel, anti-science and fiscally unfair.
• Nonlethal deterrents work when used appropriately.
• Ranching is destroying our public lands.
• Wildlife should live in peace on public lands.
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First, the cruelty: Science increasingly shows that animals experience pain and loss. Wolves are pack animals with a social hierarchy similar to our own families. Imagine what they experience when they see family members killed and maimed. With aerial gunning, wolves are chased by helicopters and often run to exhaustion before being blasted by a shotgun as the helicopter hovers. They experience sheer terror. The actual act is something government agencies don’t want the public to see. Isn’t it odd that we see news coverage from war zones, but not from the war on our wildlife?
Next, the financial reality: The iconic image of cowboys on horseback tending their herds was deeply ingrained into our psyches by old Western movies. No one is stopping ranchers from tending livestock this way now — but ranchers don’t tend livestock this way. Livestocks on public land tend to be scattered far and wide, and most ranchers don’t want to spend time and money guarding them. Why should they? They know the government will come in and kill predators on the taxpayers’ dime. They also know they’ll be compensated for their losses, and many ranchers now consider these handouts a right, not a privilege. No other industry has been more adept at externalizing their costs. This is not a fair or sustainable business model.
Nonlethal ways to protect livestock abound, but the best is effective human presence. With the Profanity Peak pack, the terrain is not suitable for grazing; it is pristine forest where only an army of range riders could effectively deter wolves. Equally troubling, ranchers have been known to put cattle in the middle of wolf rendezvous areas in hopes of encouraging predation. We’ve heard reports that may have happened in this case.
Livestock causes enormous environmental damage. They remove forage and ground cover other animals need to survive. Cattle trample and denude riparian areas and pollute streams with waste. Heated-up streams can no longer support dozens of species, including fish. Thousands of miles of fencing fragment habitat, causing deathly obstacles for fast-running species like pronghorn antelope.
So we pay for ranchers to destroy our land, and wildlife’s habitat!
Surely we want the word “wild” to remain part of wildlife. Wolves and other predators shouldn’t have to suffer a mortal fate for doing what they are born to do. And we shouldn’t remove what balanced ecosystems require.
It all points to bigger questions. But I will close with just one: What is the appropriate use of public lands?
Public lands are our lands; they don’t belong to ranchers. They are inappropriate places for livestock.
It’s high time the public and politicians say: “Enough! Get your livestock off our lands!”
Brooks Fahy of Seattle is a wildlife filmmaker and executive director of the national wildlife advocacy organization Predator Defense.
Profanity Peak wolf pack in state’s gun sights after rancher turns out cattle on den
Originally published August 25, 2016 at 7:59 pm Updated August 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm
Gabe Spence, of the WSU Large Carnivore Lab, listens for the signal from radio collars on the Profanity Peak wolf pack. (Robert Wielgus/Washington State University)
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife authorized fieldstaff to kill the Profanity Peak wolf pack to prevent more attacks on cattle in the rangelands between Republic and Kettle Falls.
The state is going to wipe out the Profanity Peak wolf pack because they are killing cattle, but a WSU researcher monitoring the den says the conflict is predictable and avoidable.
By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times environment reporter
For the second time in four years, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is exterminating a wolf pack to protect Len McIrvin’s cattle — this time, a WSU researcher says, after the rancher turned his animals out right on top of the Profanity Peak pack’s den.
Robert Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, has radio-collared 700 cattle and dozens of wolves, including animals in the Profanity Peak pack, as part of his ongoing study of conflicts between wolves and livestock in Washington. He also camera-monitors 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 said in an interview Thursday.
McIrvin, of the Diamond M Ranch, near the Canadian border north of Kettle Falls, Stevens County, in northeastern Washington, did not return calls for comment Thursday. The allotment Wielgus monitors, and McIrvin grazes, is on public land in the Colville National Forest.
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The cattle pushed out the wolves’ native prey of deer, and with a den full of young to feed, what came next was predictable, Wielgus said.
After the wolves repeatedly killed McIrvin’s cattle, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, as per its protocol, authorized shooting wolves in the pack by helicopter, killing the pack’s breeding female by mistake. The department then stopped the killings after the wolf predations subsided.
But the department announced Saturday that after more cows were killed, it would eliminate the entire Profanity pack. That killing is ongoing, and department staff killed four more wolves this week, bringing the total to six.
The department targeted the Wedge Pack after McIrvin lost cattle to that pack, near the same area.
McIrvin has refused to radio-collar his cattle to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves, Wielgus said.
He called the killing of cows by the Profanity Peak pack at their den site predictable and avoidable.
By contrast, Wielgus has documented no cattle kills among producers who are participating in his research studies and very few among producers using Fish & Wildlife’s protocol.
“In Washington, more cattle are killed by logging trucks, fire and lightning than wolves,” Wielgus said.
Carter Niemeyer, of Boise, Idaho, a wolf expert who led the effort to reintroduce them into Idaho for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before he retired in 2006, said things won’t change until the Forest Service changes its policy to bar grazing on allotments with known active dens and pup rendezvous sites.
“If this were on private land, it’s turn the page, ho-hum,” Niemeyer said. “But public lands have to be managed differently. Those lands belong to all of us, and so do the native wildlife.”
Killing the wolves is not a lasting solution, he predicted. “It is a short-term solution to a long-term problem; they will just come back,” Niemeyer said.
“It puts the responsibility on the managing authority; it’s, ‘Come get your wild dogs, you said you would, and you set the protocol, and I want these wolves out of here,’ and he (McIrvin) has a good track record of demanding that.”
But it’s the pack that’s got to go, not the ranchers using the allotment, said Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship.
“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?
“I haven’t met anyone here who wants them wiped out,” Blankenship said of wolves. “But we want them managed.”
The commission last Friday passed a resolution authorizing the Ferry County sheriff to take out the pack if the state doesn’t.
“For the most part, the local people believe the removal of that pack is long overdue,” Blankenship said. He said the county depends on a healthy ranching economy, which is also part of the state’s culture, custom and history.
“You don’t think Seattle had wolves originally? I am more than willing to pay as a county to round these critters up and bring them to you. If they are in your backyard, you have a whole new attitude about it,” Blankenship said.
Wolf advocates have been dismayed by the state’s decision to kill the pack — 11 animals of a total estimated state population of 90 wolves in 19 packs, as of early 2016.
Listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act west of U.S. Route 97, the wolves are not protected east of the highway. People remain their biggest impediment to recovery, which is required by state law.
Since July 8, 12 cattle have been killed or hurt in the Profanity Peak pack area, according to Fish & Wildlife. So far, the department has killed six wolves in the pack under the authorization of Director Jim Unsworth. He is appointed by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, which in turn is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.
Donny Martorello, the department’s wolf-policy lead, said the state remains committed to wolf recovery and coexistence. It confirmed its first wolf recolonizations in 2008, and so far has authorized lethal removals in three instances.
“The majority of the time, these two can coexist,” Martorello said of wolves and livestock. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”
Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s, but have been gradually recolonizing, from populations in Idaho and British Columbia.
State kills 6 wolves so far in drive to exterminate predatory pack
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – The state so far has killed six members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack, which has been preying on cattle in Ferry County.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is using hunters flying in helicopters to shoot the animals north of Sherman Pass.
The Spokesman-Review says the wolf pack is estimated to contain 11 animals, including six pups.
Since mid-July, the state says wolves from this pack have killed or injured six cattle, and possibly five others.
Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Unsworth authorized the elimination of the wolf pack on Aug. 19. That decision has drawn criticism from some conservation groups.
Profanity Peak is one of 19 known wolf packs in the state.
Tell Governor Inslee — Stop the Slaughter of the Profanity Peak Wolves!
- By: Center for Biological Diversity
- Target: Washington Governor Jay Inslee
The wolves were killed by the state on behalf of livestock operators who run their cattle on public land in wolf territory. The killings occurred after the pack was confirmed to have preyed on three calves and a cow and three other stock losses were deemed probable wolf kills.
There is strong science showing that killing a breeding animal like the Profanity Pack’s matriarch may lead to a splintering of the pack and cause increased conflicts with livestock.
The Profanity Pack wolves were killed to satisfy the demands of a politically connected minority of cattle interests that want to operate America’s public lands like a publicly subsidized feedlot.
Authorities have finally suspended their hunt but say they will reinitiate efforts to kill wolves if more livestock conflicts occur. Take action — tell Washington Governor Jay Inslee to prevent the slaughter of any more members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack by ordering non-lethal measures if further conflicts arise.