Monday, September 10, 2018

An Insider's Look at the Mistreatment of the Togo Wolf Pack

I recently posted “Thoughts on a Wolf Execution” in which I made the case that the execution of the Togo pack’s alpha male by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is the beginning of the end for the Togo pack. This execution also exemplifies why livestock should not be grazed on public land. The post brought in many comments that revealed the deep anger and widespread frustration readers feel over the mistreatment of wolves.
One of the comments came from Amaroq Weiss. She is a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of two conservation organizations (the other is Cascadia Wildlands) that have sued WDFW. The organizations argue that WDFW should have completed a supplementary environmental impact statement when it created the process for killing wolves. They also argue that the decision to kill wolves in the Togo pack did not come from a “reasoned decision-making process.”
Weiss has been deeply involved with the battle to save the Togo pack. Her comments provides a true inside look at how the pack and its alpha male have been mistreated.
Weiss wrote:
“Despite the reports provided by WDFW of what was or was not done as far as nonlethal measures in each instance where a livestock predation was attributed to the Togo pack, a careful analysis reveals smoke and mirrors.
In instances where WDFW reports said no unnatural attractants were present, there were multiple instances of injured calves or dead cows that had not been removed yet clearly are attractants to wolves and any predator. One calf was found with two "weeping wounds" on its back that the rancher had discovered in June, yet the calf was still out on the range with those wounds in November. In another instance an injured calf was found with wounds already scabbing over, so no one had been keeping an eye on the cattle to discover the animal while its wounds were fresh. In yet another instance there was the stench of a dead cow for days that range riders could not locate until days later, and obviously if humans could smell the stench, so could predators.
The fact these injured or dead animals weren't discovered right away indicates that any range riders present weren't doing an effective job of monitoring the cattle. In one instance an injured calf could not be found for days even though it was within a fenced pasture. In another instance, one predation was found ‘miles away from where the cattle were supposed to be.’ So, in reality: who is watching over these cattle and why don't they know where they are?
The evidence suggests range riding was not being done effectively and therefore should not have counted as a deterrent measure. The evidence also suggests that the rugged terrain and dense forests of this region—with many downed trees where cattle can become trapped and where it is dangerous to take a horse into and impossible to drive an ATV in—is indefensible terrain and the state should not be killing wolves for livestock losses here. Particularly not when you add in the fact that most of the predations were on public lands grazing allotments.

As for the rancher who shot the Togo pack’s alpha male wolf, he knew exactly where to go to find the wolf because the week prior, on two separate dates, WDFW told the rancher where the wolves' rendezvous site was and gave him access to the wolves’ GPS collar data. Evidently WDFW didn't bother (or did it?) to tell the rancher that when approached at rendezvous sites, wolves will give off a bawling type of bark which is an expression of their alarm that their pups might be in danger.
WDFW well knew it should have advised the rancher on this aspect of wolf behavior since WDFW had just gone through the wringer over a recent incident: a graduate student doing Forest Service stream surveys happening into an area near a wolf pack's rendezvous site, hearing their barks and yips for a half an hour and not knowing they were asking her to leave.
Additionally, reports are that when the rancher shot at the Togo male, he broke the animal's hind leg. That suggests the shooting was done with a varmint-killing kind of rifle, not a shotgun, which is what you might take with you if you were simply intending to haze a wolf away from an area by shooting up into the air.
During the recent court hearing, in response to the judge's question of whether the severe injury to the wolf had changed the circumstances, WDFW told the judge that the injury meant the wolf was not a factor/threat to livestock at this time. WDFW also told the judge that if WDFW kills the male wolf, his mate may likely hunt livestock to feed her young, since livestock are easier prey to hunt than wild game, if you are a wolf hunting on your own. So if WDFW's purported reason in killing wolves is to change the behavior of the remaining pack members, why kill a wolf when you admit your actions may instead create a greater risk the remaining pack member(s) will predate on livestock?
The Togo pack hasn't gotten a fair shake from the start, the execution of the male is tragic and senseless, and the fate which awaits his mate and pups may be just as senseless, predictable, avoidable and tragic.”
Many thanks to Amaroq Weiss, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands for all their tireless efforts to protect the Togo pack and wolves in general.
Indie author Rick Lamplugh writes to protect wildlife and preserve wild lands.

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