Even when their boss says some of the wolves in the Togo Pack have to go, managers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just don’t seem to be able to get the job done.
That’s got a lot of people who live and run cattle in northeastern Washington wondering what, exactly, is going on.
Let’s look at the department’s track record. In the past four years, the department’s director, Kelly Susewind, has ordered the agency’s biologists to remove Togo wolves on five separate occasions. During that time, only one wolf was removed, and that was three years ago. It was killed after it had previously been wounded by a rancher after he caught it in the act of attacking his livestock.
Most recently, WDFW managers just gave up, saying that culling wolves from the pack wouldn’t be effective.
It’s as though the department really didn’t have any intention to follow Susewind’s orders, or the state’s wolf management plan. The pack had attacked three calves in a month, putting it over the threshold for culling several pack members under the plan.
Ranchers in the area wonder out loud whether this reflects a lack of willpower on the part of department hunters. Or maybe there’s a “wink and a nod” from managers that it’s OK not to kill any Togo wolves.
Whatever the case, the lack of follow-through by the department has resulted in a lack of credibility. Ranchers just don’t believe its top administrator when he says the department will cull the Togo Pack.
In good faith, ranchers in the area have used nonlethal means to try to keep the Togo Pack at bay. They just didn’t work.
When the department says it will remove a wolf, its managers should make sure that happens. Anything else, and the level of trust drops. Fail four times, and the department’s credibility has bottomed out. It’s now clear that, more often than not, the department won’t do what it says.
We have an idea. The WDFW hunters should invite others along. If ranchers, the county wildlife deputy and a couple of range riders want to come along, good. The more the merrier.
It may be that killing a wolf is harder that it seems. We say that, although hunters in Idaho and other states seem to have little problem killing hundreds of wolves each year.
Or, it may be that someone else might prove to be a more proficient hunter.
Either way, the department would be back on track to regaining some level of credibility.
Wolf management is not easy. Sometimes, managers have to do the right thing, even if it’s hard.
But credibility is fleeting.
At the request of environmental groups, Gov. Jay Inslee last year ordered WDFW to write a new wolf management rule — tossing into the trash a plan that the state spent more than $1 million developing with members of the Wolf Advisory Group.
Our concern is that by the time that new rule surfaces, all of the state’s credibility will be long gone.