Wolfies are now threatening to never, ever travel to the state of Washington again if the Department of Fish & Wildlife doesn’t stop its wolf hunt in the Wedge of northern Stevens County this very instant.
“If this pack is killed it will leave a black eye on Washington’s supposed progressive reputation,” blogs Howling For Justice, whining, “I will personally add Washington to the list of wolf states I won’t visit if they kill this pack.”
The post, which shows three fuzzy wuzzy pups with the cutline “If the pack is killed, pups like these will be orphaned or worse,” directs people to call state tourism counselors.
While on the one hand as laughable as one of my sons’ temper tantrums, it will surely galvanize emotional and passionate calls that catch attention at higher levels in state government and perhaps chambers of commerce.
Indeed, the call volume ramped up after Defenders of Wildlife’s Tuesday blog exhorting its members to phone Governor Gregoire and two ranking WDFW officials and ask that the hunt order be rescinded.
And on another serious note, one also has to wonder how soon it might be till lawsuit time, a la Oregon Wild, that state’s Court of Appeals and ODFW’s suspended chase last fall for two members of the cow-chewing Imnaha Pack.
As of this morning, no Wedge wolves had been killed for a string of depredations this summer nor had any court papers been filed that we know of — though the rumor is that a few folks were looking for angles.
One prominent Washington group closely involved in wolf recovery is actually not looking to go to court — at this time — we have learned.
Some wolfies just will never accept the killing of a single wolf, but other organizations know that that will just be a fact of recovery as packs mix it up with livestock herds.
Over the years a protocol has emerged for investigating those depredations. It involves skinning dead animals and photographing the wounds on those and injured ones, passing the information around to experts, and settling on one of four possibilities:
Not predation – say, when the animal dies of weather, disease, health issues (those first three claim most cattle), eating poisonous stuff, being struck by a vehicle, lightning or some jackass’s bullet;
Unknown — when the evidence just doesn’t support more certain conclusions;
Probable predation — when it’s likely a predator was involved in the attack (they’re in the area, there’s been a pattern of attacks, GPS collar data puts them nearby) but there’s not enough evidence to determine a specific species;
Confirmed predation — clear evidence that a predator took down its prey, marked by internal hemorrhaging (the grape jelly effect) bite marks, sprays of blood, signs of a struggle, etc.
Before it decided on Friday to take out most if not all members of the Wedge Pack, WDFW investigated an injured calf and a dead calf last week and ended up checking the “confirmed” box in both official reports.
Wolf advocates are taking issue with that because a handful of outside Federal experts who reviewed forwarded material from state biologists during the investigations had varying opinions on the causes — confirmed, perhaps an unconfident wolf, a pack that was run off a kill by human presence, lacking the power of an attack one would expect from Canis lupus.
In all likelihood one of those experts is Carter Niemeyer, the guy who rewrote the book on how to go about determining what took down stock animals.
The groups also have a point that it’s tough to say for sure that any single wolf WDFW takes out is linked by more than familial/pack bond to the actual depredator — our criminal code demands full justice for the perps, not those merely associated with them.
For Conservation Northwest WDFW’s actions on implementing the Wedge so far are earning it a “failing grade.”
To answer some questions about why it’s doing what it’s doing where it’s doing, the agency yesterday put together a timeline showing a growing series of depredations stringing back to 2007 as well as preventative measures that have been taken to get between cattle and wolves.
The easy way out would be for the state’s sharpshooters and trappers to just scare the “bejeebus” out of the Wedge wolves, sending them skedaddling into Canada, for good.
But there aren’t usually easy outs when it comes to wolf management, which in its more muscular moments also requires some black eyes.
It appears that Washington’s joining the bruised club of states in the Northern Rockies, as it also carefully ensures the species will continue to recolonize, doesn’t overly impact livestock and game herds, and maintains the social tolerance for wolves as they spread.