Statement on wolf depredations in Profanity Peak area

Statement on wolf depredations in Profanity Peak area

ConservationNWAdmin / Sep 10, 2018 / News Releases, WDFW, Wolves

September 13 update: Statement on lethal removal of Old Profanity Territory wolves 

In response to depredations on livestock by a new breeding wolf pack within the former range of the Profanity Peak Pack, Conservation Northwest issued the following statement:

“We care deeply about bridging divides and working to transform conflict around wolves returning to our state,” said Paula Swedeen, Conservation Northwest Policy Director. “However, we strongly believe this situation, the third episode of conflict in this area, does not meet the intent and letter of Washington’s Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol. In the interest of wolf conservation, coexistence and the integrity of the Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol, we cannot support lethal removal in this instance at this time,” said Swedeen.

“As this third conflict between wolves and livestock indicates, sufficient reduction of the potential for conflict in this specific territory in northeast Washington’s Kettle Mountain Range has not yet occurred,” said Swedeen. “We call on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, other Wolf Advisory Group members, livestock producers and community leaders to work together towards a more sustainable approach. We are ready to roll up our sleeves to find short-term solutions other than lethal removal that keep the livestock producers whole.”

Two wolves in northeast Washington’s Kettle Mountain Range in 2017. Photo: Conservation Northwest Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project.

“Our organization brings to this position our experience from deep involvement in the development of our state’s Wolf Plan, more than eight years working with ranchers to reduce depredations through our Range Rider Pilot Project, and active participation on the Wolf Advisory Group,” said Swedeen.

Conservation Northwest’s goal remains the long-term recovery and coexistence of wolves alongside thriving local communities. The organization has long taken a visible position in support of collaborative wolf conservation and management, including publicly supporting lethal wolf removal as a reasonable measure to resolve persistent conflicts with livestock after thorough non-lethal methods have failed in accordance with the Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol.

“Our position on the importance of collaboration has not changed,” said Swedeen. “We have invested substantially towards coexistence and social tolerance for wolves, providing in excess of $300,000 in direct funding for range riders and other conflict avoidance measures since 2011, developing protocols and building relationships that further collaborative management, and speaking up in support of the needs and values of local communities as well as the conservation of wolves.”

Conservation Northwest fully recognizes that as the wolf population grows in Washington, under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (Wolf Plan) animals that persistently prey on livestock may need to be removed. The Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol developed by the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) at the direction of the Wolf Plan explicitly states that ‘livestock producers and the local WDFW Wildlife Conflict Specialist will work in collaboration to identify and plan the proactive deployment of the best suited deterrence measures’ prior to consideration of lethal removal.

In addition, the protocol describes a set of conditions under which the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) may consider lethal removal, but does not mandate that it must exercise that option under all circumstances that meet the minimum conditions.

The intent and letter of the above and other sections of the protocol mandate appropriate work and tactics to avoid recurrent or chronic conflicts. Neither non-lethal methods as implemented, nor lethal removal, have ended chronic conflict in the Kettle Range. The People of Washington, wildlife stakeholders, and wolves as a public trust in the care of the state cannot be expected to endure perennial wolf removal, especially if it is proving to be ineffective at stopping depredations, in specific areas or grazing allotments in the absence of an appropriate level of adaptation on the part of the producer and WDFW.

We also understand the difficulty that repeated losses pose to livestock producers so our position opposing lethal removal in this instance is based on a desire to reduce the deaths of both wolves and cattle.

“Though we have yet to see full details from the Department, we understand and appreciate that non-lethal efforts have been made and that range riders spent a lot of time on the ground,” said Swedeen. “However, given previous experiences in this area, we believe that the protocol requires that WDFW and the producers take the difficult geography into account and adjust methods to increase the likelihood of successful deterrence.”

“We also think it is important to take a step back to consider what it means that wolves continue to return to this area even after lethal removal. Creating a carousel of killing wolves is not our goal in supporting the protocol. Nor is seeing cattle at continued risk. We all need to urgently seek a different path here.”

Background:

Conservation Northwest was deeply involved in crafting Washington’s Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol, and the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. We support the revised protocol as an important collaborative policy that ensures a future with healthy, sustainable wolf populations and thriving rural communities. We continue to back these guiding documents, support that is detailed in-depth in an Amicus Brief and Declaration in support of the Protocol submitted during recent court proceedings. Our support and desire to see the Wolf Plan, Protocol and the Wolf Advisory Group succeed is part of our opposition to lethal removal in this instance at this time.

A range rider at work in northeast Washington. Photo: Chase Gunnell, Conservation Northwest

We believe conservationists, animal advocates, hunters, recreationists, ranchers, Native American nations and other wildlife stakeholders are best served by seeking common ground and working together towards win-win solutions. To collaborate in this manner requires recognizing and accepting the diverse values our wildlife and public lands provide for all parties. Collaboration provides a better future for wolves here than does polarizing litigation.

Our views are informed by social science literature, through which we believe that collaboration works far better for both wolves and people than treating other stakeholders in an antagonistic manner. That is a key reason we have participated in the Wolf Advisory Group. The WAG, through careful deliberation, developed procedures that put heavy emphasis on methods to deter wolves from depredating on livestock before lethal measures are considered. No other U.S. state invested as heavily in both involving citizens collaboratively in its decisions and in non-lethal conflict avoidance. It’s also why we have invested heavily in on-the-ground work with ranchers through our Range Rider Pilot Project, using skilled human presence, or range riding, for herd monitoring and management.

Learn more about our work for Washington’s wolves. Talking points on coexistence between people and wolves are also available here.