People Want To Kill Two Wolves Just For Trying To Feed Themselves
It's a dad and his son — and they've already lost the rest of their family.
The male wolf and 5-month-old pup have already lost so much — and they’re about to lose even more.
Earlier this year, officials from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) killed their family members, including the pup’s mother and another pup, leaving the two wolves to fend for themselves. And now, the same officials are trying to kill them as well.
These two gray wolves are the last surviving members of a family called the Old Profanity Territory Pack, who lives on public lands in the northeastern part of Washington state. WDFW originally estimated that the pack consisted of five to seven wolves, but it turns out there were probably only four — two parents and two pups. However, the small family ran into trouble when they killed livestock belonging to a local farmer, who owns Diamond M Ranch, to feed themselves.
On September 16, WDFW used a helicopter to chase down and kill one of the 5-month-old wolf pups, and, on September 28, they killed the mother. During the second hunt, the other pup actually disappeared — and Amaroq Weiss, lawyer and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, has grave concerns for his safety.
“We don’t know if, during the terror of the helicopter chasing down the mom wolf, the second pup got separated from its dad,” Weiss said. “If so, that second pup may not even still be alive since it can’t hunt for itself.”
While the second pup’s survival is uncertain, WDFW announced on October 26 that it would kill the remaining adult male and the pup, if he’s still alive — and animal welfare advocates like Weiss aren’t happy about this decision.
Gray wolves are listed as an endangered species in Washington state, but unfortunately, this doesn’t offer the animals much protection. WDFW can still kill them if they’re involved in conflicts with people, including killing a rancher’s livestock.
“It’s not a very protective endangered species act,” Weiss said. “Most states do have their own state endangered species act, but ... very few of the states’ endangered species acts are as protective as the federal act.”
Gray wolves are federally protected in the western two-thirds of Washington, but since the members of the Old Profanity Territory Pack live in the eastern part of Washington, they’re at the mercy of the state government.
“Time after time, wolves keep getting killed, and the agency is basically turning the public’s national forest into a no-wolf zone,” Weiss said.
This isn’t the first time WDFW has killed wolves to protect the interest of Diamond M Ranch in particular. In 2012, the agency killed an entire wolf family from the Wedge Pack, and in 2016, it killed seven wolves who belonged to the Profanity Peak Pack (not to be confused with the Old Profanity Territory Pack). Last year, WDFW also killed a wolf from the Sherman Pack. All of these deaths were retaliatory after the wolves killed livestock.
It’s estimated that only 122 gray wolves currently live in Washington state — so killing any wolves, particularly those of breeding age, can have a detrimental effect on local populations.
“There’s science that shows that if you kill a breeding animal, that’s particularly damaging to the pack,” Weiss said. “It’s much more likely that the pack will split apart into smaller packs, or will dissolve entirely. There’s also evidence that it can reduce reproduction of pups, and reduce the survival of pups.”
What’s more, killing wolves often leads to more livestock being killed, Weiss explained.
“Pups aren’t born knowing how to hunt — they have to be taught where the good hunting places are, and where you can routinely find elk and deer, and that’s taught to them by their parents,” Weiss said. “So when you start to take out the older animals, you actually set up the likelihood that there will be even more conflict with livestock because these younger animals, who haven’t yet learned hunting skills, are much more likely to turn to prey that’s much easier to kill, like livestock.”
WDFW did not respond to The Dodo's request for comment.
Instead of killing wolves to protect livestock, Weiss advocates for nonlethal methods to be used, such as using herders to keep cattle together and remove injured individuals, who may attract the attention of predators like wolves.
“The majority of Washington residents like their wolves alive, and want their wildlife protected on public lands — not gunned down for private interests,” Weiss said.