Nearly a hundred protesters rallied outside the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife headquarters in Olympia Thursday.
“This [is] kind of a Hail Mary, last ditch attempt to get the Governor to intervene and stop this wolf slaughter if there are any wolves left,” said Predator Defense Executive Director Brooks Fahy.
When to kill a wolf pack took a year’s worth of negotiations among a variety of stakeholders on the Wolf Advisory Group, ranging from ranchers to conservationists. The Profanity Peak pack qualified for removal after a dozen attacks on cattle.
These protesters believe the lethal take policy is a bad policy, and argue the state caved to ranching politics. They want a new rule, one they say makes wolf lives a greater priority.
“And to never again kill the public’s wolves on publicly owned land!” shouted Center for Biological Diversity West Coast Wolf Organizer Amaroq Weiss.
Signs read: “Stop welfare ranching.” Protesters disagree with cattle grazing on public land when it compromises wolf lives by increasing the chance for conflict. But ranchers aren’t the only ones who support the state’s decision to kill the pack. Groups like Conservation Northwest believe wolf recovery depends on balancing public interests.
Executive Director Mitch Friedman recently released a statement which reads, in part:
“Yes, we totally support the policy itself (the lethal take protocol), as even the most diligent steward using the best conflict avoidance measures can still get into conflict with wolves that persistently prey on livestock. Not only do such ranchers deserve support in surmounting this new challenge on a moral basis, but there’s simply no way that rural communities, who are the ones that overwhelmingly end up having wolves more involved in their lives than urban folks, would support wolf recovery without such policies. And without some level of rural social acceptance, wolves will be forever plagued with poaching and political opposition that will cause far more damage than the occasional state removal of a pack from areas where they are relatively numerous."
WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello says there’s another reason to support the removal of the pack.
“Is that really the wolf population we want to repopulate the state? Wolves that have demonstrated that behavior and see livestock as prey items,” he said.
Martorello and other state employees have received death threats over the decision, as have ranchers, who say attacks on their cattle make them feel a lot like these wolf advocates.
“They’re just like members of the family and no one wants to see them injured or hurt,” said Washington Cattleman’s Association Executive VP Jack Field.
So far, the state said it’s killed about half the Profanity Peak pack. Making noise to save the rest was as emotional as it was vocal for the group in Olympia, as some howled toward the sky while others cried.
“If what’s happening is outrage, the response to the outrage is do something about it – speak up,” Weiss said.