Should we kill our wolves this way?
Our forlorn Department of Wildlife — perhaps it should be named Department of Livestock — caved in again to the entrenched ranching interests of North Central Washington.
The killing on public lands of an entire family of wolves by illegal, if not unethical means, is a low-point in public relations. This misguided act should have repercussions that cause heads to roll. The cattle preyed upon were not in the rancher’s barnyard but on National Forest lands. The cows were in the wrong place not the wolves. For sure a ranching family or ranching interest raises beef for money and to lose animals before market time can cause some financial woes. But in many instances the cattle people are running too many animals, severely impacting range for wildlife.
Overgrazing of public lands in the West, coupled with loss of winter range for deer and elk, is slowly sending the mule deer into that dreary spiral toward endangerment.
Would the powers that be have eliminated a pack of wolves if they were killing deer or elk? Some ranchers in Okanogan County have even been opposed to a growing elk population. You would think they would want a few more wolves to keep elk numbers down. Wolves are very adept hunters in their territory. This can cause consternation among human hunters, but that can be worked out by limited legal hunting if a wolf pack becomes troublesome.
Why weren’t licensed legal hunters allowed to take these predators? Many hunters would be glad to buy a tag from the economically challenged Game Department.
Another alternative might be instead of expensive concerted efforts to kill wolves by helicopters is to buy out the troubled rancher that is in danger of going under because of excessive predation losses.
In the future, will there be deer, elk, a few wolves and grizzlies in the Okanogan Highlands and Cascade and Selkirk Mountain foothills? Or will it be one big cattle spread interspersed with vineyards and vacation homes dotting the hills adjoining the lands of the Okanogan and Colville National Forests?
It would be lonely in that beautiful country with just cows and people for neighbors.