5 min read

Washington Just Decided To Kill Three Rare Wolf Families

There's still time to speak up for them.

Wildlife officials have ordered the killing of rare gray wolves because they hunted cows who were allowed to graze on the national forest where the wolves live. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will allow the killing of one or two wolves from the Smackout family, the third wolf pack the department has targeted this fall. 

"Likely options in this case include shooting from a helicopter, trapping and shooting from the ground," the WDFW wrote in a release on Wednesday. 

Wild gray wolf in Washington State
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This decision comes after the department ordered the deaths of the last two remaining members of the Old Profanity Territory (OPT) family and the last three wolves of the Togo Pack. There are just four or five adult members of the Smackout family left. 

"The goal of lethal removal ... is to manage wolf-livestock conflicts to minimize livestock losses without undermining the recovery of a sustainable wolf population," according to the WDFW. 

But lethal removal of endangered wolves is very controversial. And for the first time in Washington, three families would be almost totally destroyed at once. 

"WDFW has been killing wolves to deter conflict since 2012 when the agency wiped out the entire Wedge Pack, yet depredations on livestock continue," Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC), told The Dodo. "Peer-reviewed research demonstrates that killing predators is not only an ineffective solution to deter depredation on cows, but it can even result in increased attacks."

Wild gray wolf in Washington State
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While Washington has killing wolves to try to disrupt predatory behavior for the last several years, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind admitted that “this is the worst year we’ve ever had" in an interview with the Spokesman-Review. “I know we’ve never had three packs that are above the threshold for lethal removal," Susewind said. 

A century ago, gray wolves were nearly wiped out across the country because of hunting and habitat loss.
In the 1960s, the introduction of endangered species protections helped bring them back from the brink of extinction. But when the ranching industry gets involved, the WDFW is forced to make a choice. 

"Washington has over a million head of cattle and approximately 120 wolves," Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, told The Dodo. "Killing wolves will not solve this problem. Keeping cattle away from core wolf territories on public and private lands will."

Wild gray wolf in Washington State
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Howell pointed out that killing wolves is rooted more in a thirst for retribution rather than reason. "One of the oldest and most primitive responses to conflict with livestock is to kill the predators, even if they are already rare and/or threatened with extinction," she said. 

Fahy is trying to get Washington Governor Jay Inslee to weigh in on the issue. "[He] has been completely silent," Fahy said. "It’s time to wake him up."

You can speak up about the decision to kill these wolves by contacting Governor Jay Inslee and WDFW Director Kelly Susewind.