Following Montana, I lived in the Methow Valley (on the east slopes of Washington’s North Cascade mountains), fifteen crow miles from the Lookout wolf pack, the pack that the White family all but destroyed. The White’s had lost no livestock to wolves while they attempted to ship bloody wolf pelts to Canada, emailing boasts and images of the dead wolves to friends.
I spoke up for the Wedge Pack in Olympia (WA’s capitol), after seven members of the pack were shot from a helicopter by Wildlife Services in 2012, all to protect irresponsibly ranged cows grazing on terrain unsuitable to livestock. Lethal removal of the Wedge, said WDFW director Phil Anderson, would hit a re-set button with ranchers so that the action would not need to be repeated. I was at the meeting when he spoke these words and they were indeed in this context.
I now live a handful of miles from the Canadian border, on the west slopes of the North Cascades and I will tell you there are wolves here, dispersers and with packs on the horizon. I saw my first wolf fourteen years ago in this greater Kulshan area, and my second wolf nine years ago in a canyon above the Methow Valley.
On Tuesday, October seventh, I attended the WDFW wolf meeting in Colville, Stevens County, in northeastern Washington. I sat quietly and observed during the meeting, taking notes and quotes, as well as images with my camera. The crowd in attendance was filled mainly with ranchers and with those opposing wolf recovery. It was a lynch mob scene! WDFW allowed the crowd to call out mean-spirited comments to those few who spoke in support of wolves (this was ranching country, after all). WDFW allowed those speaking against wolves to talk well in excess of their allotted three minutes, permitting speakers to talk back to the WDFW panel and refuse to sit down and shut up when asked. Rancher Len McIrvine refused to stop talking well after using his and other’s time allotments, and the crowd cheered. The department allowed this behavior.
WDFW allowed the crowd to stand and cheer loudly when there was talk of wolves having been killed: the Ruby creek female hit by a car and the Huckleberry female flushed out of dense forest (forest unsuitable for grazing) and shot from a helicopter by Wildlife Services.
I acquired the necropsy report for the Huckleberry female and interviewed the department’s veterinarian who had performed the necropsy and had written the report. It is notable that the Huckleberry pack female’s stomach was empty when she was shot dead. She had not eaten for close to two days. She certainly hadn’t been eating the rancher Dashiell’s sheep, and so the non-lethal tactics and helicopter hazing had worked. And yet a wolf needed to die.
The Colville crowd called for three more Huckleberry wolves to die, and better yet the whole pack! They demanded a total of at least four dead wolves, although the department had said they would shoot “up to four wolves” never guaranteeing they would shoot four wolves total. The WDFW panel just sat and listened to the calls for more dead wolves, nodding their heads and looking sympathetic, never making this correction to the ranchers’ demands for more wolf blood to be spilled.
The department’s initial statement regarding the aerial assault on the Huckleberry pack is that they would only shoot if there were multiple animals under the helicopter as a means of size comparison so that they would only take out pups and two year-old wolves. They would not target black, adult wolves as the collared male is black (they use the collars for tracking purposes, of course). Later the department’s directive was amended (changed and twisted) and it was stated they would remove any wolf (or wolves) but for the collared male.
When the Huckleberry female was shot, she was the sole animal under the under helicopter and weighed close to 70 pounds while alive (reports of 65 and 66 lbs were post-mortem, although WDFW never made this clear). Said the department’s carnivore specialist Donny Moratello, “We were certainly disappointed in this outcome but, there was no way to sort from the air in this circumstance.” When I asked him why take the risk of shooting the wrong wolf if there is no means of comparison, he replied, “You know going into it you get what you get. We did not have the opportunity to sort in this case.” As well as saying, “To not shoot (a wolf) they would have not been complying with the directive at that point, they would not be following orders.”
So, you get what you get. The helicopter had been up on multiple occasions over a number of days, unable to spot animals due to the visibility limits of the dense terrain, terrain unsuitable for healthy and responsible ranching and in which the sheep were being grazed. Simply, the lethal endeavor was becoming too expensive, so they flushed out a single black, adult sized wolf and shot. Blam! They shot the breeding female whose pups at the time were only a little over 4 months old and unable to hunt on their own. The department’s reports to this day say the pups were almost full grown but, this is grossly inaccurate as per their own veterinarian.
It is also important to note from WDFW’s own reports and slide presentation, that most of the wolf activity and depredations fell outside of Dashiell’s grazing allotment. Dashiell had not had a working range rider for close to thirty days; during the onset and well into the confirmed depredation activity. He had merely two working guard dogs which, is insufficient for the size of the herd (1800) and sprawling, densely forested terrain. Two more guard dogs and additional human presence were added around the period of the Huckleberry kill order, but it was too little too late. Wolves needed to die.
Additionally, rancher Dashiell had not been removing sheep carcasses including well before the confirmed depredations, as evidenced by the carcass’ level of decomposition and thus, the inability to determine cause of death.
Northeastern Washington commissioners spoke in support of the ranchers and the call for dead wolves, speaking to taking matters of wolf control in their own hands. There was talk of shooting, trapping and most of all, poisoning the wolves. In a Seattle Times article Rancher Len McIrvine is quoted as saying, “Our ancestors knew what had to happen — you get poison and you kill the wolves.”
The quad-county commissioners grandstanded and played to the lynch mob. Jim DeTro, Okanogan County commissioner opened his speech with, “Welcome to Okanogan County where you can now drink a Bud’, smoke a bud and marry your bud.” He said this with obvious disdain and the crowd laughed loudly. He said, “People in my county have decided to not shoot, shovel and shut up, but to be totally silent.” He said this as a wink and nod to poisoning wolves while the department panel sat there silently, nodding their heads up and down and looking sympathetic.
I tell you, when a wolf is killed illegally and poisoned, WDFW is guilty of complicity y by not speaking out against these illegal acts and by nodding their heads up and down in agreement.
DeTro continued on that people in his county don’t want the agency to know when they’ve seen a wolf or experienced (alleged) wolf depredation. They want, he said, to take matters in their own hands. DeTro then said smiling proudly, “Olympia, you have a problem.”
Mike Blankenship, Ferry County commissioner, stood there and encouraged people to take matters in their own hands, as well. All the while, WDFW just sat there nodding their heads, looking sympathetic and remaining silent. More complicity!
A local sheriff said, “Wolves are messy eaters, scattering a cow from hell to breakfast,” and making other inflammatory statements about wolves to the again cheering crowd. He said he was “pissed” that only one Huckleberry pack member had been killed.
One rancher cried out angrily, “Wolves kill to eat!” I was curious then, as to what he had done to his livestock before they ended up in the grocer’s meat section, if his livestock were not also killed to be eaten.
At the end of the meeting, WDFW director Phil Anderson acted very cozy and familiar with the ranchers, in spite of them having raked him mercilessly over the coals for not killing more wolves.
He looked sympathetic and referred to them by name, and recalled riding around in their trucks with them. Anderson said he would plan a closed meeting with the area ranchers to discuss wolf issues and management. I demand that NO meeting in relation to Washington wolves be closed.
Two final points:
-In the case of the Huckleberry pack, the department did not adequately implement the state’s wolf management plan, nor did they adhere to their own published procedures, before lethal removal took place. This negligence WILL NOT be repeated.
-We demand full documentation of every wolf mortality, and that given the threats to use poisons, we expect that toxicology reports be made public as part of any necropsy, where cause of death has not otherwise been determined. If wolves are poisoned, WDFW will be held guilty of complicity due to their behavior in Colville; supporting poisoning by remaining silent and nodding their heads up and down.
While I sat silently during the Colville meeting, a rancher two rows back passed me a piece of paper on which he had scrawled, “Wolf Lover!” When I looked back at him he scowled at me severely. I wrote in reply on the note, “So?” along with a happy face, and passed it back to him. I’ll take his accusation as a compliment.
Photo: Courtesy kewlwallpapersdotcom
Posted in: Washington wolves, Wolf Wars, gray wolf
Tags: anonymous for wolves, Huckleberry pack, WDFW, killing wolves, Northeastern Washington, ranchers, Huckleberry Pack alpha female