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Wolf plan wanders away from reality

Published on September 28, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on October 26, 2012 9:11AM

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

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When Washington state came up with its plan for managing wolves, the idea was to compensate ranchers for the loss of livestock.

As far as it goes, that's OK, but the plan left out the other impacts a voracious predator like the wolf has on livestock -- lower weight gain, lower reproduction rate and higher costs. Considering those factors, the compensation anticipated in the wolf plan is wholly inadequate.

But the plan is flawed beyond that. It is so far off in its estimates of the impact wolves will have on livestock that we wonder whether the plan should be modified or even scrapped.

Take a look at the estimates for livestock losses.

Under the plan, 50 wolves would kill one to six cows and seven to 16 sheep a year.

Someone should tell that to the wolves. Already a few members of the Wedge Wolf Pack in northeastern Washington have shown those numbers to be dead wrong, to the point that the state's estimate appears to be fictional, wishful thinking, or both.

How could the estimates in the plan be so far off base? In neighboring Oregon, losses from a single wolf pack have been more than the Washington plan estimates for 50 wolves. Did Washington's experts even call their counterparts in Oregon? Do they read the newspaper?

They apparently didn't even look at the statistical table in their own plan. In 1996, 42 wolves in Idaho killed 24 sheep and 1 cow, according to the table, which includes figures from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1999, 56 wolves in Montana killed 19 cattle and 41 sheep.

Yet Washington's plan uses far smaller estimates for depredation, despite the fact the state borders British Columbia, which has 8,000 to 10,000 wolves.

The follow-through of Washington's wildlife managers is also less than inspiring. They've been trying to kill some wolves for weeks, but somehow those wily wolves have eluded them.

Maybe they ought to tie a calf to their legs and let the wolves find them.

In the meantime, the ranchers there report losing upward of 40 calves -- and more every week.

Washington state needs to get its wolf act together. Gov. Chris Gregoire should tell the Department of Fish and Wildlife to revise its wolf plan to reflect reality.

The plan also needs to provide funding for all losses that ranchers suffer and promptly follow through on managing wolves when they persistently kill livestock.

That was the promise the state made in its wolf plan. Or maybe that was fiction, just like some of the rest of the plan.


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