Massive Lawsuit Filed On Monday Challenges Wolf Killing In Washington

On Monday, conservation groups filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its director, James Unsworth, from killing any more state-endangered wolves.

Filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, the lawsuit asserts that the agency’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf advocate. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

In June of this year, Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol provided for the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years.

As the lawsuit notes, the protocol was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable. This is a state agency spending taxpayer dollars.”

The department has since relied on the protocol to order the killing of wolves from two packs, with two wolves from the Smackout pack and one wolf from the Sherman pack killed to date. At the time of the Sherman pack kill order, only two wolves could be confirmed as comprising the pack, one of which the department has now killed.

The department has temporarily paused killing wolves from both packs but will resume if there are more livestock losses.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The wolves began to recolonize the state recently, growing into a fledgling population of approximately 20 packs by 2017.

But wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress. Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable.

Given the continued endangered status of wolves, the state and livestock operators should stick to non-lethal methods as the sole means of reducing the loss of livestock to wolves.

Donations can be made to the Center for Biological Diversity HERE!

People can also donate to Cascadia Wildlands HERE!

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