Collaboration leads to dead wolves

The shooting of the Profanity Pack last year and now a kill order for the Smackout Pack in Northeast Washington clearly demonstrated the failure of the current strategy of many conservation groups who are involved in wolf recovery efforts.

In this case, a number of organizations, including Wolf Haven International, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society had joined the Wolf Advisory Group or WAG, a collaborative group that worked with the state of Washington as well as other “stake holders” (read ranchers) to produce a wolf recovery strategy.

The plan, among other components, calls for the lethal removal of depredating wolves. This applies to both public and private lands. Therein lies the rub. Who should have priority on public lands? Public wildlife or private livestock?

I am sure that these organizations have the best intentions—they want to see wolves thrive—however, they need to take a step back and consider whether their current strategy ultimately gains acceptance for wolves and other wildlife or merely becomes a “green washing” of actions that maintain the status quo and ultimately never really improves conditions for wolves and other wildlife.

Plus many agency professionals, including wildlife biologists, fishery biologists, hydrologists, botanists and others whose positions require them to challenge the working paradigm that puts resource exploiters and private interests ahead of public values secretly hope, wish, and pray that “green” groups will strongly admonish their agencies. They need the political cover that active criticism and legal challenges can provide.

When the Profanity Pack killed some cattle on a public lands grazing allotment, these organizations supported the killing of the pack, despite the fact that the rancher involved had placed his cattle on an allotment with a known wolf pack. He even placed salt blocks within a few hundred yards of a wolf den and rendezvous site. In essence, the Profanity Pack was set up to be killed by the agencies managing the land and wolves. But as members of the WAG, these organizations did not object to the killing which they called termed “regrettable” and other adjectives, but which they ultimately supported.

As members of the WAG they were silenced from voicing outrage, and even more importantly, condemning the entire situation where private livestock are given priority on public lands. And in this case, where the rancher and public agencies like the Forest Service did not take actions to avoid the conflict.

What could have been done differently? Well for one, the Forest Service, the agency managing these lands could have closed the allotment temporarily to grazing to preclude interactions between wolves and livestock. Better yet it could have removed the cattle entirely. But without a united voice from wolf advocates, the agency allowed this tragic and almost inevitable conflict to occur.

This gets to the heart of the issue. Which animals should have priority on public lands?

The conservation groups that are part of the WAG cannot change the paradigm. The reason is simple. Collaborations like the WAG start with certain assumptions—that domestic livestock has a priority on public lands—and if you don’t agree with that starting premise, you are not welcome on the collaboration.

It is no different than timber collaborations where the starting assumption is that our forests are “unhealthy” and “need” to be “managed” (read logged) to be “fixed”. If you disagree with that starting assumption, there is no welcome for you in forest collaborations.

This gets to the issue of strategy. As long as the assumption is that private livestock has priority on public lands, nothing will change. Wolves will continue to be shot unnecessarily.

But it goes further than whether wolves are shot. Domestic livestock are consuming the same forage as native wildlife like elk. On many grazing allotments, the bulk of all available forage is allotted to domestic livestock, thereby reducing the carrying capacity for wild ungulates (like elk) which are prey for predators like wolves.

In addition, there are a number of studies that demonstrate that once you move domestic cattle on to an allotment, the native wildlife like elk abandons the area. This means wolves must travel farther to find food, exposing them to more potentially greater mortality from hunters, car accidents, and so on.

You won’t hear any of these conservation groups articulating these “costs” to native wildlife because one of the consequences of joining collaboration is that your voice is muted. You remain silent to “get along.”

The groups joining the Washington WAG defend their participation by saying ranching on public lands is not going away, so the best way to influence wolf policy is to participate in these collaborative efforts.

The problem is that this legitimizes the idea that ranching and livestock have a priority on public lands. Keep in mind that grazing on public lands is a privilege. It is not a “right” despite the fact that the livestock industry tries to obscure the truth by referring to “grazing rights”.

If we are ever going to change the situation for wolves and other predators, not to mention other wildlife from elk to bison, we need to challenge the starting assumptions that livestock have a “right” to graze on our public lands.

Imagine for a minute what the Civil Rights movement would have accomplished if its leaders had joined a collaborative with the KKK and folks who were intent on maintaining the status quo in the South. Under such a paradigm nothing much would change. Sure they could have made the same rationale that today’s conservation groups make when they argue that public lands livestock grazing is not going away—and I’m sure many people involved in the Civil Rights movement assumed that segregation would never end either.

But some brave souls did not accept the starting assumptions. They refused to give up their seats at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. They demanded that all citizens had a right to vote without polling taxes and other measures designed to disenfranchise black voters.

The failure of conservation organizations to avoid questioning the presumed “right” of livestock operations to exploit the public’s land means we will never really change the circumstances under which predators live.

While any organizations that continue to support public lands grazing might defend their decision by suggesting that changing the paradigm is too difficult, I respond by saying as long as they never challenge anything, nothing will change.

I am reminded of David Brower’s admonishment “Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.”

To learn more about the circumstances surrounding the Profanity Pack demise and advocacy for removal of livestock see Predator Defense’s new documentary at






  1. MTConservationist Avatar

    George, copying my comment from your last article as it is just as relevant here. I, and in response a number of your readers, urged you to pursue a more thoughtful, reasoned and pragmatic track in future wolf writings. Instead, you doubled down on controversy and unrealistic ideals, ignoring the bigger picture.

    Want to get the cows off public lands? Call your Congressperson. They may listen, they may agree, or they may not. Regardless, today’s Congress is not going to change the multi-use mandate that governs public lands outside designated Wilderness and national parks. Will tomorrow’s? Maybe, though any seasoned political observer would call that extremely unlikely even with a shift in power.

    In the meantime, projects like Wood River, and others you’ve ranted against in Montana and Washington, offer collaborative progress to protect the lives of wolves and the livelihoods of small business owners operating in often economically depressed rural areas. Considering the circumstances, that sort of compromise with legitimate win-win benefits should be applauded and repeated elsewhere.

    George, it’s extremely disappointing that someone as seemingly intelligent and experienced as yourself continually fails to recognize that politics and policy in general, and conservation in particular, does not happen in a vacuum of idealism. We work within the state of play we’re given. You advocate for an ideal outcome in an un-ideal world, dismissing incremental progress along the way. That helps neither wolves and wildlife nor rural communities.

    In fact, one could make a strong argument that this same sort of unbridled idealism without a necessary dose of pragmatism or compromise is exactly what caused the narrative and social dynamics in our country that led to the current President being elected.

    I hope you’ll consider a different, more thoughtful and realistic track in future writings.

    1. Two Wolves Avatar
      Two Wolves

      The one that is failing to see the truth isnt George! It is you that fail to see that groups he has mentioned just rollover…. Had they at the very least fought to the bitter end… They would have received a different article…

    2. Susan Rhem-Westhoff Avatar
      Susan Rhem-Westhoff

      The pragmatism you purport has done NOTHING to save wolves. Nothing. Where is the justice for ranchers refusing to protect their cattle?! Enough of your politics and sleeping with the devil – and then expecting anything but death as result.

      1. MTConservationist Avatar

        On the contrary, wolves are doing just fine in the American West thanks to pragmatism. Their population numbers are high and stable in the Northern Rockies, they are recovering rapidly and gaining new ground in the Pacific Northwest, and they are branching out into other areas, hopefully soon including the Dakotas, Colorado and beyond. Expansion I very much support when it is accompanied by sensible conservation and management policies to promote coexistence.

        You confuse saving individual wolves with saving healthy, sustainable wolf populations. The latter is the appropriate goal, and it’s happening due to agencies, pragmatic conservation groups, and locals working together.

        To ignore that legitimate success, and instead focus on a few individual wolves, entirely misses the bigger, brighter picture of this conservation story.

  2. Mitch Friedman Avatar

    Pretty crappy stuff, George. In your state, about 20% or more of the wolf population is killed (by hunters, ranchers, and the state) annually. In my state, 3 or 4 wolves get killed by the state. Yet you’re pointing fingers this way. Get your own house in order, then we can compare strategies.

    One more point: You used an analogy that compares ranchers to the KKK. The main ranch family involved in the Smackout territory have been totally committed to deterrence tactics for seven years. They succeeded not only in avoiding conflict until this year, but also were the model that helped get about 100 ranchers in WA to commit to deterrence effort. They’re also pro wilderness and put their base ranch in a conservation easement. And you think of them as Klansman. That’s fucked up. Wonder why Trump won?

    1. louise kane Avatar
      louise kane

      With due respect Mr. Friedman, Montana and Idaho were subject to a congressional delisting tactic that left little maneuvering for challenges or collaborative bargaining in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Likewise there was a strong push to hunt and kill wolves post delisting.

      Conversely, in Washington there was broad public support to protect wolves despite the potential for conflict with livestock interests.
      Initially the state seemed to take a good, proactive precautionary approach to wolf management, using input from its stakeholders and ordinary citizens.

      I believe more than 78% were in strong favor of wolf recovery and non lethal tactics. But the direction of the initial strong purposeful protection of wolves seemed to be degraded slowly and surely first by hiring Idaho’s Jim Unsworth and then more steadily as the “conservation” groups capitulated to the status quo positions that George writes about.

      As seems to be the trajectory, favorable polices for wolves are easily degraded by minorities with powerful voices and exaggerated claims. At a time when detrimental compromise might have been avoided or at least advocates were in a position to keep their voices strong with good public support, your organization unnecessarily and easily capitulated.

      Why did the status quo position have to prevail in a highly favorable to wolves political atmosphere?

      Your position, whether you intend it to be so, legitimizes killing as the go to action/policy when cattle or livestock face threats.

      Challenging the status quo would have been a much more appropriate action especially given the ability to do so as the proverbial waters were being tested in a highly pro wolf state where public sentiment most likely would have helped to sustain serious challenges to the traditional lethal response.

      Your charge about getting one’s house in order rings hollow given the road you might have taken right from the start, but chose instead to ignore the obvious political advantages of your position post WDFG survey on wolves and strong pro wolf sentiment.

      1. louise kane Avatar
        louise kane

        One final thought, I called the department to object to the killings. A spokesperson claimed, I believe incorrectly, that random wolf killing ends or reduces depredations.

        I can only find evidence to support the contrary of the department’s position, i.e that random killing may exacerbate depredations. Short of taking them all out I don’t understand how killing wolves who have no knowledge of the punitive reason for their or their pack member’s deaths would prevent depredations or prevent other wolves from depredating in the future since the livestock will continue to graze. I don’t also understand how a conservation group can support that kind of, the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different response, tactic.

    2. Guepardo_lento Avatar

      “In my state, 3 or 4 wolves get killed by the state…” That “3 or 4” is not accounting for those previously removed from a slowly rebounding wolf population by WDFW over protecting livestock:
      2016 profanity (7 killed)
      2014 huckleberry (1 killed)
      2012 wedge (7 killed)
      These numbers do not account for other sources of moralities.

      While 18 wolves killed by WDFW since 2012 (including 3 in smackout) may pale in comparison to numbers of lethal removals over livestock in WY, MT or ID, we are talking about WA state where the population estimate was (as of Feb-Mar 2017) ~115 wolves. That number has since changed due to an unknown number of pups of the year and other known and unknown moralities, and dispersal.
      Now the Sherman pack (occupying territory adjacent to profanity)is on the edge of being lethally removed if one more “probable” or confirmed depredation is assigned to them. That would be at least 2, perhaps 3 killed to “change the behavior” of the pack. It’s still early in the year and likely more wolves to be killed to protect cattle (and btw according to the USDA, the 2016 cattle population in WA is 1.1 million head).

      Also, in regards to the family involved in smackout, I would agree that they were a rare exception in proactive activity in trying to deter wolves. They are also compensated for losses (in addition to the cost of the removal operation). I would not go so far as to say they’re “pro wilderness” at least as wilderness regs are written in the U.S., as you so freely state, they are however “pro” forest service lands for grazing at a reduced rate and active predator control. Besides, the closest wilderness area is a good distance from them, in the Salmo-Priest, which makes it easy to say “I like widerness…but just not in my backyard.”

      Also, while this family may be proactive with the smackout pack this is not the same behavior for most of their ranching neighbors, many of which who do not have active range riders and rarely check stock in the “back 40”. Therefore the efforts of 1 proactive family with range riders is quickly diminished when 8 out of 10 of their neighbors do not participate or agree with non-lethal deterrents.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        Thanks for a post with thorough information.

        It appears that even after last year’s Profanity Peak pack killing, the ranchers want to up the killing numbers by killing wolves from two packs, two years in a row, when before it seemed to be an every other year occurrence! I don’t know that the state’s wolf population has grown that much, or has remained stable? But killing two packs, and expanding hunting for the Colville, is a lot.

        Doesn’t sound like they ever plan to cooperate, except for in the cases you mention, and the public will not stand for it.

  3. Dr. D.W. Johnson Avatar
    Dr. D.W. Johnson

    A good, comprehensive, well reasoned article. thank you George for presenting it.

  4. Patrick Avatar

    We subsidize beef and dairy that is housed on our public lands and then we kill wildlife to protect it. Beef and dairy are two of the largest forces driving our leadership in chronic illnesses of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes, obesity etc. . As outrageous as that sounds, it true.

  5. Kirk Robinson Avatar
    Kirk Robinson

    You have argued for your position very well George – about as well as anyone can, I think. So why aren’t Mitch Friedman and some other long-time conservation warriors and erstwhile “brothers-in-arms” convinced?

    It may be that their position implicitly commits them to the proposition that livestock must (for now) be given priority over all others on public lands, but that is probably not the reason they give to justify their position, for it begs the question why livestock grazing must (for now) be given priority over all others on public lands. And I doubt if this hasn’t occurred to them. They might even admit that livestock should not be given priority on public lands, but believe that the status quo cannot be changed except by way of collaborative efforts that result in less than ideal outcomes. You, on the other hand, will say that the collaborative efforts themselves serve to legitimize and support the status quo; and there is no doubt truth in this. But who is right and how is it to be decided who is right?

    I don’t think I know the answer to this question, but I doubt if anyone else does either. Ultimately it all comes down to which strategy will do more to conserve wild nature, including wolves, in the long run. And I don’t think we can know this with any certainty.

    All I can say is that I personally cannot go along with the idea of killing more wolf packs in Washington even if it is true that the rancher in question likes wilderness and has tried deterrence, etc. And the reason I can’t is that I believe that a necessary condition of conserving wild nature, complete with ecologically effective populations of predators, is that people eventually overturn the status quo priority given to livestock over wild nature. They will have to reverse the order of value. And if this is right – and it seems to me almost a certainty – then it means if we don’t hold the line on wolf pack removal (among other things), we will have to settle for half-measures and a continuing cultural relationship with wild nature that is one of deprecation and hostility toward it. And this is presumably exactly what none of us want.

    It would be one thing if society had a big need for public land ranching, but it doesn’t. And it would be another thing if giving livestock priority over wildlife on public lands wasn’t so awfully destructive in so many ways, not just to wolves and other predators. There was a time when public land livestock ranching had a reasonable justification, but that time is now long gone. We have to think seriously about what sort of future we are want to create and move in that direction.
    And we can do it a lot more effectively if we are united than if we aren’t.

    Is this a knock-down argument that should convince any rational being? I can’t say that. But I think it is a really good argument and it convinces me. I wish they would withdraw their support for killing more wolves on grounds of morality. Or do they really think at this point that by supporting the killing they are doing the most good? I would like to read thoughtful arguments, not ad hominems.

    1. Two Wolves Avatar
      Two Wolves

      Because they are afraid of loosing their cattle rancher supporters…. Mitch needs to find a different profession… Especially when he publicly trys to discredit groups….

    2. JB Avatar


      I think adopting George’s framing (that is, that wolf-killing is a question of priorities) actually plays to the advantage of ranchers who have both the political sway and can show clear economic damages in the case of depredations.

      I think that if we start with the ethical proposition that humans have obligations to look after the welfare of both wolves and the livestock that we produce, then we reason from a much stronger position. Specifically, killing wolves after they’ve killed livestock represents a failure on both counts (that is, it means we’ve done a poor job of looking after the welfare of both groups of animals). This framing also readily lends itself to salient aphorisms such as ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right.’

      With that said, it is ultimately true that current legislation guiding the Forest Service’s approach to managing public lands calls specifically for the Service to manage lands both for wildlife and for grazing of livestock. Choosing not to collaborate is not going to change that legal reality, and arguably, their failure to participate could lead to more wolves and livestock being killed. And that may leave us at an impasse, created in no small part by the guidance of different ethical theories (e.g., consequentialism vs. virtues).

      1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
        Kirk Robinson


        You make a very good point. Thanks. Also, when you look at what Idaho does to its wolves, you see clearly what the alternative could be in Washington. It makes one shudder.

        On the other hand, looking at the situation from George’s perspective (I assume), which is not only idealistic but holistic, the idea of destroying wolf packs for depredating livestock on public land looks like support for the livestock industry and all the damage it does to land, water and wildlife – the “externalities” that we taxpayers pay for. This strikes most of us as egregious and unjust – especially if it is true that the rancher in question deliberately put his cows virtually on top of a known wolf den and placed salt blocks nearby as well. That’s just asking for trouble.

        Now, I have to say that I don’t know for sure that these allegations are true, but I have heard them repeated by people I generally trust to get it right. And if they are true, isn’t it fair to say that this particular rancher (and any others who do this) has forfeited his privilege of having wolves killed for the sake of his private enterprise?

        I would love to hear Mitch Friedman, or someone, speak plainly regarding this and the issue of livestock grazing on public lands generally. How do they envision that we might be able to truly conserve our public lands, water and wildlife so long as these shared values are sacrificed for the sake of livestock grazing on public lands at public expense?

        Thanks for responding, JB!

        1. JB Avatar

          All good points, Kirk. If you’re asking, ‘Should those actions be considered as mitigating factors in each case?, my answer is, ‘You bet!’. But if the actions that put livestock at risk are considered, we should also consider those actions ranchers take to protect their stock. Unfortunately, like you, I do not have information on the specific actions taken by the ranchers in question (I’m forced to rely on others’ accounts).

          In regards to Louise’s comment below, I would note that most of the writers that post at TWN (Ken, Brian, Ralph, George) have taken shots at collaboration over the years, and we’ve had lengthy debates hear in the past concerning the vices and virtues of different approaches. To a great extent, those arguments turn on the extent to which people believe that government policy should be shaped by (top-down) principles, based on well-reasoned arguments, vs. (bottom-up) consensus, based upon compromise between competing interests (to an extent, these ideas also reflect the debate between Hamilton and Jefferson concerning the role of the central government).

          In any case, I have maintained in the past (and continue to believe) that the case against collaborative processes is overstated here, as the best practices in collaboration indicate that all interested parties (stakeholders) must be represented (this notion probably seems obvious to anyone who believe that good governance requires a balanced representation of societal interests). Unfortunately, in practice, collaborative processes are sometimes ‘stacked’ such that outcomes desired by implementing agencies are more likely to be obtained.

          Where I disagree with George’s essay (and the continuing editorial perspective of TWN) is with their condemnation of those conservation groups who choose to participate; as I attempted to point out (above), one can establish a strong argument for participation based upon the likely consequences for wolves (essentially, that not participating would lead to policy that is actually worse for the welfare of wolves). If you accept such an argument, as I do, criticizing the collaborative efforts of other conservation organizations appears counter-productive.

          1. JB Avatar

            Ugh. “Hear” should be “here”. Damn homonyms.

          2. Kirk Robinson Avatar
            Kirk Robinson

            I agree with you, JB, that we should not condemn the groups that collaborated as members of the WAG. And I also agree that, while principles matter (justice and other ideals), when it comes to citizens trying to work together in a democratic sort of way, consideration of the likely consequences of decisions, and thus considerations of prudence (pragmatics) are essential. (My gloss of your words, of course.)

            We seem to be in complete agreement on this. What distresses me is that this issue is causing a rather violent rift among us, and I don’t know how it can be mended. And that is to our detriment.

          3. Louise Kane Avatar
            Louise Kane

            Are we as a species going to insist that intact habitats and healthy wildlife populations are prioritized or will we continue to accept a trajectory of compromise that is leading us to a sixth extinction?

            At this point, one could argue most other forms of life are at risk. When other species are already classified as threatened or endangered or newly recovered does it make sense to continue to deal with one sided compromise?

            The ESA was/is a popular law, for most, and put us on the right track. The first compromise in wolf recovery was made even despite the fact that it derailed the purpose and Intent of the esa

            At that Point compromise was not required and certainly not imho smart

            In any event, When compromise is always stacked against one side, is that really compromise or is it better defined as forced capitulation ?

            And if so a good argument can be made to reject that model of compromise

            That is what I think George and others argue for, a change in negotiations with terms that don’t always require lethal action

            As for wolves, like Immer, I wish in this instance the initial compromise had never been necessary. I would have liked to have seen wolves quietly recolonize

      2. louise kane Avatar
        louise kane

        I did not think that George was arguing non collaboration is the answer, rather that collaborating with a faulty assumption from the start and as the point from which negotiations begins is the problem. I would agree. From the start recovery was compromised by abrogating the ESA and allowing the purpose of the ESA (to protect endangered species even in the face of economic consequences) to be bypassed to favor/compensate ranchers and in creating ludicrously low recovery numbers for wolves. I think Dale Gobel, Harvard law professor, made one of the best arguments against compromise of protecting wolves based on livestock interests in Wolves and Welfare Ranching, wolf recovery has suffered ever since.

        1. Immer Treue Avatar
          Immer Treue

          Thus the seeds of argument for natural recolonization vs reintroduction. It would have taken longer, but perhaps full ESA protection from the get-go. That said the SSS boys would have slowed the process more so.

      3. Phil Maker Avatar
        Phil Maker

        However, the Colville NF Management Plan contains the following language: “Management of grazing by domestic livestock will be guided by project level allotment plans.  The development of these plans will be integrated with the needs associated with use and values present in the area.  All associated uses and values will be considered, with special consideration given to:  (1) fish and wildlife habitat needs; (2) timber harvest and cultural activities; (3) riparian values; (4) recreation use; and (5) threatened, endangered and sensitive species.  Further considerations are contained as other resource standards and guidelines in this section of the plan.” So even though the have a mandate to consider livestock grazing as a legitimate use of public land, they don’t have to place cows/sheep on every allotment, especially on those where “special consideration” must be given to (1) fish and wildlife habitat needs; and (5) threatened, endangered and sensitive species (which wolves are per WDFW designation).
        In this most unfortunate situation, I think the blame can be placed squarely at the feet of the US Forest Service, which ultimately is responsible for the proximity of wolves and cattle.

        1. Louise Kane Avatar
          Louise Kane

          Excellent comment Phil

        2. Gary Humbard Avatar
          Gary Humbard

          I use to write federal environmental documents regarding mainly timber sales, but I think because gray wolves in Washington are not a federally listed species, the issue of “take” (killing) would not stop WDFW from taking lethal actions.

          Unfortunately, removing a few wolves from NE Washington federal land where the species is recovering would have minimal cumulative effects to the population.

          To truly get an understanding of federal land management decisions, go to the NF website for the district affected and click on “SOPA”. That is where legal documents are located which explain the who, what, where, why and how of the project. If you can’t find the particular document for an action, call the local ranger station and ask how to find it.

          If you don’t want to do that, just continue to write away and vent your uninformed comments.

          BTW, I believe THE best solution for conflicts like this is to work to “buy out” the rancher and expire these allotments. The rancher may not agree, but at least an attempt was made and numerous NGO’s do just that.

          1. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            Gary you know that I value your knowledge and comments, but why remove them though? It isn’t necessary. It seems rather dismissive. The ‘let them get it out of their system’ approach has proved to be false.

            As a taxpayer, I’d sooner reimburse the rancher for their losses than see wolves killed needlessly, especially since there are only 100 so. I think it is debatable whether or not it would harm the population. Why doesn’t anyone ever consider wildlife advocates’ opinions?

            I was reading the other night an article that I think says just the opposite about the effectiveness of ‘picking off’ just a few wolves here and there. Consistency would be appreciated.

            1. Ida Lupine Avatar
              Ida Lupine

              The problem I see is that it is never enough! Wolf ‘management’ has advanced now to baiting, and possible bounties being discussed! A continual creep, which does not make for trust at all. Why isn’t enough, enough? Ranchers’ losses due to wolf depredation are very minimal, as we read over and over and over again.

              I wish the hunters could be like the Florida sportsfishermen in that they have proven they want to protect their resources as much as the enviros do, but turning in abusers.

              Hawaii and Florida seem to really care about their environment, and the RM states take theirs for granted.

  6. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “I am reminded of David Brower’s admonishment “Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.””

    As long as people feel that they must have meat, this will continue.

    Ranchers are given priority by us because supposedly they are feeding humanity. Whether we want to admit it or not, our country’s people feel this is their first priority. Conservation groups still feel they will get cooperation by making concessions, but after two years of killing wolves in Washington, and dishonesty by ranchers, we can see the conservation groups’ ideal isn’t happening and isn’t a reality.

    The larger our population gets, the more cattle there will be, cattle in the US number nearly 100 million, and the more wildlife and wildlands will be sacrificed for it. I really don’t think we can have both – as much meat as we want, as much energy as we can use, and healthy wild places and healthy wildlife populations. (And no, I do not eat beef, lamb or pork, and very little meat at all.) And yet I’ll be condemned for being holier-than-thou, when those who won’t give up their creature comforts I feel are weak-willed.

    Nancy posted an article recently where because of wildfires in Montana, a wildlife refuge has been opened to grazing cattle! So that shows the priority right there.

  7. Kirk Robinson Avatar
    Kirk Robinson

    I want to make another point, which is that it seems clear to me that the burden of proof in this controversy is on those conservation members of the WAG who support the lethal removal of wolf packs for depredation, rather than on their critics. And the reason is simple and obvious: they are the conservationists who are saying that in this case (and who knows how many others more or less like it?)the goal of conservation is best served by sacrificing the lives of depredating wolves. Maybe so, but I want to know why. I don’t just want to know that they agreed to collaborate in the first place and now feel honor-bound to defend the consequences. I want to know why they are convinced that their strategy is the one that will best further our share conservation goals. Please note, I am not blaming you guys. I just think you owe the rest of us a really good argument for your decision to collaborate in the first place, as well as why you now feel honor-bound to defend the consequences of your decision. Also, I am not asking for this because I am looking for a fight, but because I really would like to be enlightened. But I will certainly look at an answer with a critical eye – as we all should.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Yes! I agree with you. Thank you.

      The conservationist members of the WAG defended their decision and support of the Profanity Peak killings last year, but over and over we can see that those ranchers who are demanding no wolves on the landscape at all will not cooperate. This year they are trying a new killing tactic and two years in a row is concerning.

      I want to know why an ‘unconfirmed wolf kill’ of cattle is being allowed to be taken into consideration when a wolf or an entire pack is to be killed, on public land and funded by taxpayers dollars.

      When you consider that there are only 100 or so wolves in the entire state, it’s especially worrisome.

  8. Two Wolves Avatar
    Two Wolves

    Excellent Article George!

    These compromisers need to be on Front Street. The only ones that complain…. are the ones that stand to loose anything 😉 They are afraid of the truth… Look at Mitchs comment…. what a rollover that guy is…. I see he is trying to publicly discredit groups…. He is just showing hes afraid of publishing the truth without sugarcoating it! Not to mention He is being outdone by publishers of the truth like YOU!!

    Keep up the Excellent Writing George!

  9. Jerry Black Avatar
    Jerry Black

    This may very well end up in the hands of voters in 2018. There is talk of a citizens initiative to ban the killing of Washington wolves. Citizes initiatives were successful in banning both trapping and the use of dogs in cougar hunting so the precedent is there and voters on the Westside of the state overwhelmingly support wolves… this would take wolf management decisions away from WDFG, the conservation groups, and WAG….

    1. louise kane Avatar
      louise kane

      Jerry, lets hope it does because time and again the overwhelming majority of those polled do not favor killing wolves, favor wolf recovery, or are in favor of non lethal management. The travesty is that wildlife agencies leap to serve minority interests and seem to work to preserve the status quo further reinforcing faulty policy. In Michigan the voter referendum was fiercely sidetracked as the legislature attempted to derail the voter referendum. When voted on citizens voted (over 60%+ ) to kill hunting of wolves. Even after the referendum the UP legislator with a vigorous and persistent hatred of wolves pushed through two laws to allow hunting if wolves are delisted. what could be more undemocratic than that?

  10. Robin Avatar

    So you signed up with the Devil Did You WTF Humans Are Not There Only Right On This Planet but you all are killing yourselves anyway ?????? Stop Killing The Ecosystems STOP

  11. Annie Leymarie Avatar
    Annie Leymarie

    Sorry if this is not felt relevant enough but I live in the UK where we don’t have ranching yet similarly isolated ecologists fight against a large livestock-supporting majority:

  12. Jane Eagle Avatar
    Jane Eagle

    None of these organizations (Wolf Haven International, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society) will ever get a penny from me or any other person who is not fooled by their onslaught of pleas to “save the wolves”. They are worse hypocrites than PETA.
    We need to get ALL the damn livestock off OUR Public Lands. At OUR expense, we provide access roads and many other amenities to wealthy cattle barons who pay pennies on OUR dollar.Grazing leases cost us taxpayers a lot of money.

    These lazy welfare ranchers put their private livestock on OUR lands, then insist that OUR wildlife be killed. These moochers should keep their livestock on their own private property, and away from OUR PUBLIC TRUST LANDS. By destroying OUR wildlife, the Forest Service, Fish & “Wildlife” and the other crooked governmental agencies are violating the Public Trust which we PAY THEM to protect for us: not the damn “ranchers”. SHAME on them.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Yes, I also agree with what Louise said – no one is against collaboration, but it can’t be one-sided.

      1. josh Avatar

        Ida you are saying you are for collaboration with livestock/hunting industry to find a compromise? I highly doubt you or Louise would be comfortable with any wolf being killed for about any reason.. Am I wrong. I know you are against hunting wolves, so is Louise. So I fail to see where the “collaboration” would take place? If the death of even one wolf is uncalled for in your view.

    2. Joanne Favazza Avatar
      Joanne Favazza

      Jane: Love your post,and I totally agree!

  13. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Under the right circumstances, I would be for collaboration, and I think most reasonable people would be, it’s the first option. I think all wildlife advocates go into it with an open mind and hopefulness.

    In fact, we’ve naively tried it and just keep getting taken advantage of since the forcible delisting, a continual creep of more killing. Now, unconfirmed wolf kills and baiting have been added to the compromises the public is supposed to accept. I won’t collaborate with that, of course.

    1. josh Avatar

      There are a lot of things I don’t agree with like trapping and baiting. I don’t like indiscriminate killing.

      I think the wolf issue is over blown on the pro/anti side. I have been scouting in wolf hot spot’s and have seen plenty of elk, and not heard or seen any wolves yet. Though I have been told there is a confirmed wolf pack in the area.

      The far pro side wants all wolves killed and the far right side wants no wolves killed. I am in the middle.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I agree with whoever it was here that said ‘there should be a very good reason’ for killing any wildlife, was it JB?

        1. josh Avatar

          When you start applying your ethics on someone else is when you start losing collaboration. Some peoples reasons are a lot different than others, when you start making decisions emotionally is when everyone stops coming to the table… On both sides of the issues.

  14. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    Thank you, George, for a great essay. I especially like this excerpt. So true!

    “Imagine for a minute what the Civil Rights movement would have accomplished if its leaders had joined a collaborative with the KKK and folks who were intent on maintaining the status quo in the South.

    Under such a paradigm nothing much would change. Sure they could have made the same rationale that today’s conservation groups make when they argue that public lands livestock grazing is not going away—and I’m sure many people involved in the Civil Rights movement assumed that segregation would never end either.”

  15. Marc Bedner Avatar

    The problem is deeper than the collaboration by professional lobbyists. The whole premise of the North American model of game management is flawed. Professional game managers, who have adopted the trademark “wildlife biologist,” treat wolves as livestock, with the ultimate aim of increasing the numbers of targets for hunters. Disputes between hunters and ranchers may be interesting to observe, but they do not help wildlife. The North American model claims to represent the common person, opposed to the European model which gave full authority to the sovereign. The USA has never been a democracy, so it is not surprising that we not only have Trump as president, but we also continue to see the overwhelming public support for wildlife ignored.
    Europe has a proud history of how to deal with collaborators. It’s time we imported the European model.

    1. josh Avatar

      Marc in the European Model who “owns” the animals in question or is responsible for their management?

      1. Nancy Avatar

        Josh, interesting video:

        And please, let me know your thoughts if you made the time to watch it.

        1. josh Avatar

          Hey Nancy,

          Thanks for the link, I watched some of it, that sort of clip has a hard time keeping my interest for over an hour! I agree with some of the points (needless animal suffering) but disagree with lots of it. I dont agree with inflicting pain just to inflict pain and when I hunt I try to make as quick a kill as possible.

          I will always hunt, until I am physically unable to. I will own bird dogs as long as I can still follow them across the CRP. I like meat and will continue to eat meat.

          The documentary is pretty far left from where I stand.


          1. Nancy Avatar

            Get back to me Josh when you can watch the entire clip, not part of it, the whole clip.

            And from where I stand, nothing far left about this clip when it comes to the gross and inhumane treatment of other beings.

      2. Marc Avatar

        Josh, I was referring to the European model of how to deal with the traitors who collaborated with the Nazis. Here in the USA collaboration with the enemy is regarded as something positive. No wonder the alt-right is gaining strength!

  16. louise kane Avatar
    louise kane

    and more killing to be done, in Oregon
    Ill never forget the tragedy of OR4 being gunned down along with his whole pack
    a terrible tragedy for a 10 year old wolf, or any
    please call the department to object
    keep calling, keep sharing

    the department number is listed below

    Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017

    SALEM, Ore.—ODFW wildlife managers intend to remove some of the adult wolves in northeast Oregon’s Harl Butte pack to limit further livestock losses as non-lethal measures and hazing have not been successful in limiting wolf depredations.

    On July 28, ODFW received a lethal removal request from several affected livestock producers from a local grazing association after two depredations were confirmed in a five-day period. They asked that the entire Harl Butte pack be removed due to chronic livestock depredation. ODFW has decided to deny the request and will take an incremental approach instead, removing two members of the pack and then evaluating the situation. “In this chronic situation, lethal control measures are warranted,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We will use incremental removal to give the remaining wolves the opportunity to change their behavior or move out of the area.”

    In the past 13 months, ODFW has confirmed seven depredations by the Harl Butte Pack in Wallowa County, which killed three and injured four calves. Six of the depredations have occurred in an area that supports dispersed livestock grazing in large forested pastures on private and public lands. ODFW believes that depredations may continue or escalate despite non-lethal deterrent measures in place due to the history of depredation by this pack.

    When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if it confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.

    In this situation, the livestock producers have maintained a significant human presence in the area of the depredations. Human presence is recognized as one of the best non-lethal methods to limit wolf-livestock conflict in dispersed grazing situations because wolves tend to avoid people. The producers coordinate between themselves, their employees, a county-employed range rider and a volunteer to ensure daily human presence coverage of the area. They increase human activity in areas when they see wolf sign, learn (through telemetry of a radio-collared wolf) that wolf activity is in close proximity to livestock, or when livestock show behavior that could indicate wolf presence.

    The increased human presence has given the livestock producers and the range rider multiple opportunities to haze wolves that were chasing or in close proximity to livestock. On seven different occasions in June and July 2017, wolves have been hazed away from cattle by yelling, firing a pistol, shooting at, walking towards, and riding horseback towards the wolves.

    Producers or their employees have also been spending nights near their cattle. Several producers are keeping their stock dogs inside horse trailers at night (as wolves are territorial and may attack dogs). Other producers are changing their typical grazing management practices including bunching cow/calf pairs in a herd (which enables cows to better protect themselves) or delaying pasture rotation to avoid putting cattle in an area where wolves have been.

    While investigating reported livestock depredations, ODFW looks for attractants to wolves such as a bone pile or carcass that may contribute to the conflict. Livestock producers have also been watching for vulnerable livestock and carcasses in order to keep them from becoming wolf attractants and have been quick to remove them. Three injured or sick livestock were moved to home ranches for treatment and to protect them from predators. One dead domestic bull was removed from an area of concentrated cattle use (a pond). ODFW has not identified any circumstances or attractants that could promote wolf-livestock conflict in this area.

    All these methods used by livestock producers have complied with Oregon’s applicable laws.

    The Harl Butte Pack’s first depredation of livestock was confirmed in July of last year. ODFW received a request for lethal control in October 2016, after the fourth confirmed depredation. The department denied this request because most cattle were being removed from the large dispersed grazing pastures and out of the depredation area, so future depredation was unlikely.

    The situation is different now because cattle will be grazing in the area on public lands until October and private lands into November, so ODFW expects the depredation will continue.

    “Based on the level of non-lethal measures already being used and the fact that wolves are likely to be in the presence of cattle in this area for several more months, there is a substantial risk that depredation will continue or escalate,” said Brown.

    ODFW intends to remove up to two adult uncollared wolves from the Harl Butte Pack by trapping or shooting from the ground or air. Once two wolves have been removed, the removal operation will stop. If two wolves have not been killed after two weeks, ODFW will assess whether removal efforts will continue another two weeks. If a new depredation occurs after the removal of two wolves, lethal control may resume.

    About the Harl Butte Wolf Pack

    The Harl Butte wolf pack may have formed and bred as early as 2015 though they were not documented until 2016. ODFW counted 10 wolves at the end of last year and observed seven wolves in the pack in March. One wolf in the pack, OR50, was collared in February 2017 and is believed to be the breeding male of the pack.

    The pack is expected to have bred this year, and their weaned pups would now be about four months old, though the exact number of pups is unknown.



    Michelle Dennehy, (503) 947-6022,

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    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Can wolves change their behavior? It sounds a lot like eagles ‘learning’ to avoid wind turbines. It’s sad that the ‘livestock producers’ always are the villains. You’d think they’d want to polish up their bad image a little.

      I’m glad I don’t contribute – there’s a current post on Mercy for Animals website about “Washington State Plans to Kill More Wolves So You Can Eat Meat”. Now it’s Washington’s Little Brother Oregon who wants to get in on it too. California may be the only voice of reason – but that is in doubt too. Just imagine if the pick off OR-7, what a PR disaster that will be for F&W.

      Can four-month old pups survive on their own? Add them to the death total then. What a bunch of lies and bob-and-weave tactics.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I just read where it’s supposedly two wolves F&W wants to take out. Apparently the ‘livestock producers’ had the gall to request the entire pack be taken out!

  17. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    I’ll repost FB comment by Bob McCoy (WA and OR have similar wolf vs. livestock realities):

    ” National Agricultural Statistics Service shows Oregon cattle ranchers (NAICS 112111) having cattle-death losses of more than 70,000 cows & calves annually in the decade of the ’90s. For most of this decade, the death losses have been in the low 60,000s. Surely, wolves weren’t responsible for the 1990s’ losses? Today, with each of 155 wolves eating a head per week, that still leaves more than 50,000 carcasses annually due to other causes.

    However, the Capital Press (11/16/15) stated “From 2009 through June 2015, Oregon’s confirmed losses to wolves stood at 79 sheep, 37 cattle, two goats and two herd protection dogs.” Somehow, there’s a problem in the wolf-loss calculus. Perhaps the industry avoids preventative husbandry to better shout “Wolf!” to draw attention from the environmental toll of their industry. As Marcellus might say, “Something is rotten in the state of Oregon.”

    1. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
      Mareks Vilkins

      that is, THOUSANDS of ranchers who lost livestock are scratching their collective arse and trying to figure out whom to blame for it (not themselves)and those FEW ranchers who got compensations (after they provided evidence that wolves are culprits) will not silence the murmur coming from the thousands. It’s simple physics.

  18. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
    Mareks Vilkins

    long discussion about wolf vs. livestock issue on Suzanne A. Stone FB profile

  19. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    From the HCN. Don’t you just hate it when misinformation continues to be spread about this issue?:

    “”We’re earlier in recovery, and we’re the outlet for the frustration for activists that didn’t get what they wanted from Rocky Mountain states,” says Paula Sweeden, carnivore policy lead at Conservation Northwest, a group that works with ranchers, agency officials and other conservationists to compromise on wolf policy. “I think it’s because we’re a last bastion.””

    What about the livestock community who put continual pressure on? Their interests are overrepresented on the public lands, and much, much more than the public who want wolves on the landscape. As usual, advocates are made to look like the bad guys.

    “The Sherman pack in Washington represents only the fifth time since 2008, when the state’s first wolf pack formed, that the agency has targeted a pack of wolves due to attacks on livestock. (By comparison, Wyoming killed 113 wolves in 2016, with much less outcry.)”

    Absolutely and totally wrong. There has been, and will continue to be, plenty of ‘outcry’ about WY (and ID, MT and UT) killing of wolves. People were promised a ‘better’ plan from WA and OR, and it’s the same old, same old. If it’s ‘early on’ in wolf recovery, its that people don’t want to fall into the same habits of WY, etc.


George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner