Wolf Pack Given Death Sentence in Washington State

Few animals have had a more troubled relationship with humans over the years than gray wolves. Over decades of government-sanctioned eradication spurred by ranchers, the species had been virtually eliminated from the United States. In recent years, however, with heightened awareness of the importance of predators in an ecosystem, wolves have been allowed to slowly recover -- even garnering protection under the Endangered Species Act.

But what happens when a recouping pack of gray wolves make a meal of some livestock on public land? The government orders all of them to be shot on sight.

Bill McIrvine, owner of Diamond M Ranch in northern Washington, has a lease agreement with the state to graze his cattle on a plot of public forest. Yet when the rancher learned that the land was also inhabited by a pack of gray wolves, and that several of his cows had been killed by the endemic predators, he demanded that the government take lethal action.

And in a surprise ruling, harkening back to a darker time when wolves were dealt with unsympathetically at the behest of ranching interests, the government agreed to kill the pack.

According to KRISTV, the troubling cull was deemed necessary because the pack had become too dependent of livestock. The wolves' death sentence is likely to come as some relief to McIrvine, who in an earlier interview, said that he believed "radical environmental groups are conspiring to introduce wolves in order to force ranchers off public lands."

Not only will [McIrvine] be allowed to keep grazing his cattle on leased national forest land, but state sharpshooters will spend as long as it takes to kill the wolf pack.

Gray wolves were eliminated as a breeding species in Washington by the 1930s, but they have since migrated to Washington from Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia.

Prior to decades of systematic hunting and poisoning of gray wolves, the iconic predator could be found in nearly every corner of the North America, from the northern wilds of Canada to as far south central Mexico. Only in the last several decades, thanks to federal and state Endangered Species protections, has the species begun to make a comeback. But sadly, so too it seems have the same tensions with humans.

Tags: Endangered Species