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Killing of wolf pack criticized by key Washington state lawmaker

Washington State completes a sharpshooter cull of a wolf pack that had been feeding on livestock. KING 5's Gary Chittim reports.

The chairman of the state Senate committee that oversees Washington's Department of Fish & Wildlife tells NBC News that the killing of a gray wolf pack in recent days was "inexcusable" and that he is demanding answers about why the agency thought it was necessary.  

"I find it inexcusable that we allowed ourselves to get to a place where killing the entire pack was the necessary decision when other non-lethal options – within the department and with ranchers – were not totally exhausted first," said Sen. Kevin Ranker, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters Committee. 

"I find it ironic that the attacks on livestock that caused this situation ... took place on a ranch that has been outspoken about the removal of the pack and has refused to work with the department to implement prevention measures successfully adopted by other ranchers," he added.

The department gave the order to kill the entire pack, estimated to be eight wolves, after the pack became accustomed to attacking cattle instead of relying on wild prey.

"To say I am disappointed in the department's actions would be a gross understatement," Ranker said. "I can tell you, however, as the chair of the committee with oversight over the Department of Fish & Wildlife, this story is far from over."

In a letter Friday to the department, Ranker demanded to know:

  • What specific actions the department took before authorizing the kill;
  • Exact costs associated with killing the pack;
  • What actions the department will take to avoid a repeat.

The department "has provided very general descriptions of a few non-lethal measures taken" under the state plan for managing gray wolves, he said in the letter. "The wolf plan however includes an extensive list of husbandry techniques, non-lethal deterrents, and relocation options that were not utilized in the case of the Wedge pack. The fact that the Department pursued removal of not just individual animals, but the entire pack, clearly evidences the agency's failure to effectively use these non-lethal tools to deter wolf-livestock depredation."

Ranker also said the department's strategy for managing gray wolves could backfire. "I fear that the Department’s actions ... will be viewed by some who do not support wolf recovery as setting a precedent that localized public pressure can dictate wolf plan implementation, including lethal removal decisions," he stated.

Related: Wolf pack eliminated, state says
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