As is usually the case, news of Washington wolves has also prompted local ranchers’ to kick up controversy and concern that their livelihood won’t be able to compete with these conditions of the natural world – on our public land. Recently, a dead cow was found near Twisp, Washington – and although wolves almost certainly had nothing to do with the kill, invariably – that’s where local media put the attention first.
What are managers doing to protect the Lookout wolf pack ?
The “Lookout pack” resides on the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest. These wolves migrated from Canada, they are not dispersers from Idaho. One (or more) Washington wolves has already been killed by a poacher, a local hobby rancher whose family was allegedly caught trying to ship the wolf hide to Canada for tanning into a rug – the mail was identified as suspicious when the wolf’s blood began leaking from the package in transit. That violation of the ESA is still “under investigation” by US Fish & Wildlife Service. Wolves in Washington are still protected under the Endangered Species Act, and are fully protected, not being subject to the 10(j) Rule that allowed for liberal killing of wolves in the Northern Rockies “Distinct Population”. Conviction of killing a fully protected endangered species (as are the wolves in Washington state) could result in a $100,000 fine.
While individuals may be prosecuted for illegal take of a fully federally protected Washington wolf after the fact, managers whose legal obligation it is to protect wolves and manage public land-use to avoid potential conflict remain largely unwilling to make meaningful changes in lieu of the altered circumstances given the Lookout pack’s recent presence on the landscape.