By Deena Shanker, Revmodo.com
For better or for worse, property rights are sacred in this country. Right now for the Wedge Pack of gray wolves in Washington – one of only eight confirmed wolf packs in the state – it is certainly for the worse. In response to the wolves’ attacks on nearby cattle herds, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife announced that it will be eliminating the entire pack.
Since mid-July, the wolves have killed or injured at least 15 cattle in northern Stevens County, Wash. In response, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s wolf policy coordinator, Steve Pozzanghera, stated that the department would be attempting to “remove” the entire eleven members of the pack. The so-called “removal” effort will involve hiring marksmen and trappers, and possibly aerial hunters.
The challenge the wolves present is not simply that they are feeding on local cattle, but that experts believe they have now become dependent on the cattle.
“Once wolves become habituated to livestock as their primary food source, all of the wolf experts we’ve talked to agree that we have no alternative but to remove the entire pack,” said Fish & Wildlife Director Phil Anderson. “By doing that, we will preserve the opportunity for the recovery of gray wolves in balance with viable livestock operations.”
Surprisingly, at least some conservationists are in agreement with the agency’s findings and with the decision, despite the species’ being listed as endangered throughout the state. Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, said he understood the solution even if he didn’t like it.
“As difficult as this situation with the Wedge Pack is to accept on a personal level, we understand and agree that pack removal is the right action at this point,” said Friedman. “We have been strong advocates for exhausting all non-lethal means possible to avoid this situation and are extremely disappointed that it has come to this.”
“There has to be a commitment on the part of all sides to allow wolves to occupy the landscape while protecting the rancher’s livelihood and maintain their ability to raise cattle,” Friedman continued.
While state law requires cattlemen to work with the state to find nonlethal measures to mitigate wolf-caused losses, when push comes to shove, a person’s right to protect his property will always prevail over the right of an animal to live.
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