Retain Karen Skoog Pend Oreille County Commissioner

Habituated Wolves by Karen Skoog

wolfThe story of Thelma and Louise is winding down as the last Ruby Creek Pack wolf has been placed into captivity just down the street from the State Capitol.

We first started calling them Thelma and Louise after Department of Fish and Wildlife informed us that one of the Ruby Creek wolves was hanging out with a male dog in the Ione area. They spayed her and returned her to the wild where she was later hit and killed by a car. This started an interesting interaction between the Department, wolf recovery goals and the wolves. As everyone knows, you can make a plan but the parties involved don’t always cooperate, especially when they are wild. There were a lot of firsts and adjustments that are not in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan: spaying a wolf, returning a domestic dog, and a wolf placed into captivity. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Our Board of County Commissioners represents the people of Pend Oreille County and therefore requested certain things be considered relating to these wolves.

After seeing the trials livestock producers faced from investigations and harassment from certain segments of the public as well as the pressure the Department is under when lethal removal is involved, the Board asked the Department for capture and removal of the remaining habituated wolf. Since the Department, under strong pressure, did not complete the lethal removal of depredating wolves in the Huckleberry Pack, we wanted quicker results that protected our people, not a fiasco of public opinion from people outside our community that would cause a long drawn out process. Unfortunately, nothing happened quickly.

When several weeks of trapping failed, the next action was a helicopter attempt. The Board sent a letter asking for lethal removal after only one last attempt at capture. The studies show that wolf aggression toward humans typically involve wolves habituated to humans and dogs. People can get used to a wolf’s presence and not be prepared for a wolf in breeding season when behavior can change rapidly.  People have the right to protect their lives and property if we feel threatened but then have to face investigations, public scrutiny or harassment, and possible legal fees. We wanted the Department to take the heat, not our local citizens.

This year our 7th district legislators have introduced several solutions to the disproportionate burden this region faces in wolf recovery. Tools like regional delisting, management plans that coordinate with local government, translocation, game animal status and more.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with wolves in the area as long as their numbers are at the level that they leave our livestock, pets and families alone and our game animals are not deeply impacted. I have been bringing the message to Olympia for several years that we need to have tools to deal with wolves. Wolves are in no shortage in Canada and the Rocky Mountain region. Expectations that wolves cannot be controlled in northeastern Washington due to political boundary lines is unfair to our industries and our families. People who feel no impacts by wolves need to stop blocking our ability to manage them where we live, or they need to demand more wolves in their own area by translocation to the wild which is in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

This week WDFW finally captured Louise and have relocated her to Wolf Haven to live out her life in captivity.  There is a small satisfaction knowing we sent one wolf to Olympia.

Karen Skoog
Pend Oreille County Commissioner