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Future of pack uncertain

Posted by Jasmine Minbashian at Sep 04, 2012 02:30 PM |
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WDFW announces that it will send marksman back into the field to lethally remove up to four animals in the Wedge Pack. This time, all the field experts agree that wolves are involved in depredations. Conservation Northwest believes that the evidence is now conclusive that Wedge wolves are actively attacking livestock. Conservation Northwest urges the Department to exercise moderation and caution.

Future of pack uncertain

Washington's eight packs show in blue on this WDFW range map, dated Aug. 8, 2012. The Wedge Pack lives near the Canadian border between the Kettle and Columbia rivers.

Over the weekend we learned that two more cattle from the Diamond M Ranch were reported as injured. This time, all the field experts, including Carter Niemeyer, agree that wolves are involved. Here is an excerpt from his analysis of the photos:

The wounds on heifer calf one are consistent with wolf bites along the hamstrings, which is a common attack point on beef calves by wolves. Tooth punctures and scrapes are clearly evident. I would confirm this calf's injuries as caused by a wolf. Obviously the wolves are very ineffective at catching and bringing down calves but nonetheless are causing debilitating injuries by wounding them.

Calf number two also has a hamstring injury that would be consistent with a wolf attack and I would not dispute the probability that a wolf inflicted the bite. Both calves represent the "smoking gun" photos that I have been waiting to view. I never doubted that wolves could be implicated in attacking calves at the Diamond M but so far, previous photos have been inconclusive in my opinion.

Conservation Northwest believes that the evidence is now conclusive that the wolves are actively attacking livestock. We appreciate the efforts made by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, especially the field staff, to respond to this difficult situation. We accept that under the Wolf Recovery and Management Plan, these incidents trigger management responses, including lethal removal, but we call for moderation and incremental action by the state and more effort towards a long-term solution that abates the attacks in the long run while preserving the existence of this pack. 

The department has called for up to four animals in the pack to be killed, with the only protection provided for the collared alpha male. 

Conservation Northwest accepts lethal control as a strategy, but killing up to four animals and putting the breeding female at risk in this case seems excessive and could put the pack at risk. Jeopardizing the pack at this early stage of recovery could setback recovery efforts in the state and delay the eventual goal of delisting.

We hope the state moves forward carefully and thoughtfully.

King 5 was out in the field covering the issue several days ago. Listen and watch.
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Wedge pack

Posted by Laurie at Sep 16, 2012 03:25 PM
I don't understand why you are agreeing to the killing of the Wedge Pack. Why were the calves on public lands? How were the calves being protected by the ranchers? Why is beef production more important than a healthy ecosystem that is fostered by wolf recovery? Why can't the rancher be compensated for the loss? I do not think we have enough wolves in Washington State to sustain healthy breeding and a positive effect on our environment.

RE: Wedge pack

Posted by Jasmine Minbashian at Sep 17, 2012 10:57 AM
Hi Laurie,

I can completely understand your concerns and your questions are good ones. This rancher has a grazing allotment on the Colville National Forest in the same area used by the Wedge Pack. The rancher says he has five ranchhands that regularly monitor the cattle. He also says that he delayed turnout until the calves were larger. That said, we believe there are some other strategies still to be tried to prevent conflicts like these from happening. Compensation is available, but this particular rancher is not interested in compensation. Conservation Northwest does not support killing or removing the entire pack, but we do support the use of lethal control to deal with chronic depredations and when non-lethal methods have failed (as per the state plan). Since there is considerable question still looming around whether non-lethal methods were effectively utilized in this case, we think the department is being excessive in trying to kill up to four wolves. We are working to shift the focus towards longer-term solutions, such as using range riders and finding alternative allotments, but this will take time.

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