Protect our wolf population
I attended a rally at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) office in Olympia on Thursday, Sept. 1. It was a small but committed group of people who understand the value of a diverse environment and an intact ecosystem. We were there to show our disapproval of the recent decision by WDFW to slaughter an entire wolf pack (family) in the Colville National Forest.
It seems they were targeted to be killed simply because they were inconvenient for a rancher who was grazing cattle on public lands and would not take appropriate actions to protect his animals. Wolves are apex predators and, in a natural setting, will kill and eat prey animals – such as deer and elk. However, when a large number of an invasive species such as cattle are introduced into this environment, they consume so much of the vegetation the deer and elk are driven out. It should come as no surprise when confronted with this substitution of prey animals, wolves will attack those substitutes.
Wolves are listed as an endangered species in Washington and need to be protected from human predators. As of last year, a survey by WDFW indicated there were only 90 wolves in the entire state. The recent “kill order” was to eliminate the entire Profanity Peak Pack of 11 individuals (12 percent of the entire population). The current report from WDFW is that six members of that family (five adults and one pup) had been killed, leaving one adult to care for the four remaining pups until the killers find them. The pups are approximately 4 months old. The killing methods used are brutal – trapping the animals with leg-hold traps and snares, and then gunning them down from helicopters. Many of the wolves are collared with GPS devices making them easy for the gunners to find.
Wolves, like other predators, are an important part of a healthy environment. Remove them and the prey animal population expands and the natural systems get out of balance. Wolves attack the weakest of the species and so help maintain the vitality of the prey population while keeping it in check.
Ranchers are granted leases by the Forest Service to graze on public lands at rates that are a fraction of the rates charged on private land, and so are a huge subsidy to the ranchers. Wanting to protect this welfare, the ranchers put political pressure on WDFW officials to remove anything that may get in the way of their profits.
I think it is time to stop the cattle and sheep grazing on public land and stop the destruction of our national forest lands by these invasive species. Just as we try to keep invasive plants from overtaking our native vegetation, we need to stop invasive animals from overtaking our native animals.
And, I think it’s time for the WDFW to represent all of the people of Washington and not just to the commercial interests of a small minority.
Wolves are endangered, cattle are not.