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Wolf poaching in Washington more than just a crime

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Mar 27, 2009 01:15 PM |

Wolf poaching in Washington more than just a crime

We are saddened and angered by the shameful poaching of wolves, including one of the pups from Washington's Lookout Pack. A vast majority of Washington residents support wolf recovery, and this act will not be tolerated.

New: Take action for the Lookout Pack today

Who is more loathsome: An AIG executive coddled with a bonus or a poacher so low as to deliberately and without provocation kill wolves, including a pup, from Washington’s first wolf pack?

Perhaps the value in such people is that they make the rest of us feel saintly in comparison, even as they suck out some of the hope we have reserved in our hearts. I am so sad that tragedy befell the Lookout Pack at its very point of genesis. We can’t know how many descendants that poor pup would have begat. And I am so angry that Twisp resident Tom White, allegedly with the apparent support and assistance of his family, would do such a thing. This guy allegedly used a body grip trap to kill at least two wolves, and has also allegedly used hounds to poach cougars and bobcats. His father, rancher Bill White, an outspoken critic of wolf recovery, is also under investigation.

No arrests have yet been made, but state agents have secured abundant evidence. We will post links to press stories as they come out, and you can read the search warrant here (warning, not for the faint of heart). It’s a dramatic and horrific story, touched off by Tom White’s wife allegedly attempting to ship the pup’s hide to a Canadian taxidermist through a FedEx outlet at the WalMart in Omak. Fortunately an astute clerk noticed the parcel was leaking blood and called authorities.

Northwest skies are full of silver linings. Since it's likely that the Whites have poached prolifically, I am delighted at the prospect that the poachers will soon lose their freedom, and our wildlife are now a bit more secure. Given the indescribable malice needed to kill a defenseless pup from a natal pack, I expect few will rally to the perpetrators' defense or martyrdom, but many will condemn or at least distance themselves from them and poaching generally. A poll recently conducted by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife found that these poachers and their ilk are not the norm; the vast majority of Washingtonians support allowing wolves to recover in Washington.

The situation also presents us with a so-called teachable moment. Conservation Northwest is stepping up outreach efforts, including adding local staff capacity, in the communities surrounding wolf activity. Our plans include holding a forum in the Methow this May focused on wolves; organizing wolf-supportive turnout to public meetings about the state’s wolf management plan; screenings in Seattle and Spokane of a new film about the ecological importance of wolves; direct outreach to ranchers in Okanogan County; and a pilot project to demonstrate tools available to livestock owners for dealing with wolves.

And don't forget, there are still four strapping year-old pups and their parents making their way in the wild lands of Washington that need our support. They are the beginning of a hopeful, wild future.

Now is the time for those who know wolves and wildlife are vital to our ecosystems, heritage, and wild landscapes to step forward and be heard. What do you have to say?

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