FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has ordered that the Profanity wolf pack in northeast Washington be killed. The kill order is the result of on-going depredations of domestic cattle that are being grazed on national forest lands. The continued killing of the Profanity pack is emblematic of what is wrong with our wildlife policies, especially with regards to public lands.

The problem is expressed by the attitude represented in a recent quote from Donny Martorello, Fish and Wildlife wolf policy lead, said in a statement. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”

What about protecting wolves from repeated depredations by livestock? What about preserving the ecological role of large predators on our public lands?

The typical reaction of state wildlife agencies to any predator conflicts is to remove the predators, rather than remove the livestock. However, grazing on public lands is a privilege, not a right.

While livestock grazing is a legally permitted use of public lands, that use is contingent upon livestock production not harming other public values. In this case, the killing of a wolf pack is an obvious harm to the public’s right to have healthy wildlife populations on our public lands.

But it goes beyond simply the killing of our wolves so that a commercial business can profit from exploiting our public lands. The mere presence of livestock socially displaces the prey of predators. Elk and other herbivores avoid areas that are being actively grazed by domestic livestock.

This means that predators like wolves may have to travel further to find food or alternatively they simply take the easiest and closest prey which may be domestic animals.

Of course, by consuming the forage on public lands, domestic livestock are taking the food out of the mouths of wildlife like elk and other wildlife that support predators like wolves, cougar, and coyotes.

Furthermore, there is growing evidence that killing predators does not solve answer conflicts in the long run. Killing predators can fragment packs, or eliminate the more experience hunters in a pack.

Indiscriminate killing of predators as is common in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana also destroys the social bonds in packs, and skews packs towards younger animals. The remaining pack members may be less experienced at hunting and may not know the territory and information like where prey may winter or migration routes that is critical for a successful pack.

In reality we should be demand that livestock be removed from public lands whenever there is a conflict, rather than killing our wildlife.

Ethically we can ask why a private business exploiting our public lands should be given preference over the public’s interest in wildlife like wolves.

A long-term solution to conflicts between private business interests and the public interest in preserving its wildlife can be accomplished through permit retirement.

Permanently closing allotments precludes future conflicts forever and provides ranchers with a golden saddle. They can use the money to retire, or buy additional private lands.

Strategies like range riders, or other ideas that some organizations support to reduce conflicts does not really make the public lands safe for predators—our wildlife. Harassing public wildlife to facilitate private use of our public lands is ethically wrong in my view.

In the end, we should be working to provide safe havens for predators so they can exert their evolutionary influence on the landscape. Permit retirement is one way to help achieve this goal.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
Dean Baker
In Praise of Budget Deficits
Howard Lisnoff
Want Your Kids to Make it Big in the World of Elite Education in the U.S.?
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Foreign Policy is Based on Confrontation and Malevolence
John W. Whitehead
Pity the Nation: War Spending is Bankrupting America
Priti Gulati Cox
“Maria! Maria! It Was Maria That Destroyed Us!” The Human Story
Missy Comley Beattie
On Our Knees
Mike Garrity – Carole King
A Landscape Lewis and Clark Would Recognize is Under Threat
Robert Fantina
The Media-Created Front Runners
Tom Clifford
Bloody Sunday and the Charging of Soldier F
Ron Jacobs
All the Livelong Day      
Christopher Brauchli
Banking, Wells Fargo-Style
Jeff Mackler
After Week-Long Strike, Oakland Teachers’ Contract Falls Short
Chuck Collins
Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism!
Binoy Kampmark
Grounding Boeing
James Munson
Why Are We Still Sycophants?
Jill Richardson
Politicians Are Finally Catching Up on Marijuana
Warren Alan Tidwell
Disasters Don’t Discriminate, But Disaster Recovery Does
Robert Koehler
Artifial Morality
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Goodenough Island in MacArthur’s Wake
Alex McDonald
U.S. Iran Policy: What is Great?
Tracey L. Rogers
Stop Making Women Apologize
John Sarbanes – Michael Brune
To Clean Up the Planet, Clean Up DC First
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail