Judge in Seattle to rule on wolf removal
A judge in Seattle said Monday he may rule within two weeks on
whether the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife can
continue shooting wolves to protect livestock.
King County Superior Court Judge John McHale presided over a 3
1/2-hour video conference on the legality of lethal control in
the eastern one-third of Washington, where wolves are not
An attorney for wolf advocates, Claire Loebs Davis, asked the
judge to bar Fish and Wildlife from killing wolves until the
department studies the environmental consequences and firms up
Fish and Wildlife's lawyer, Amy Dona, asked McHale to reject
what she called an invitation to micromanage wolf recovery. The
department needs lethal control to foster tolerance in northeast
Washington, she said. "It's full of wolves."
Wolf advocates and environmental groups are challenging Fish and
Wildlife's killing of wolves on several fronts. Monday's court
hearing was the most extensive yet on whether the department
should suspend the practice and conduct a public review that
could take years.
King County residents John Huskinson and Genevieve Jaquez-Schumacher,
and Tim Coleman, director of the Kettle Range Conservation
Group, filed the lawsuit last August to prevent Fish and
Wildlife from removing the OPT wolf pack in Ferry County. McHale
issued a temporary restraining order, but it was a few hours
after the department had eliminated the pack.
The hearing Monday was on the broader issue of whether Fish and
Wildlife has skirted the State Environmental Policy Act and
Administrative Procedure Act. At the end of the hearing, McHale
asked both sides to submit their desired conclusions. He said he
hoped to rule within a week after that.
Fish and Wildlife argues it doesn't have to do an environmental
review before removing dangerous wildlife, including wolves.
Dona said the department concluded shooting the OPT pack was the
only way to stop chronic attacks on cattle.
"We were beyond chronic. We were in potential hyper-chronic
mode," she said.
The cattle were grazing in the Colville National Forest and
belonged to the Diamond M Ranch — identified in court as
"Producer X." Fish and Wildlife also culled packs on the same
grazing allotment the previous three years.
Loebs Davis said the department was refusing to recognize a
brutal cycle and reconsider its approach to wolf management.
She argued the ranch took minimal steps to prevent the attacks,
a claim Dona disputed. The department determined putting more
riders on the allotment wouldn't stop the depredations, Dona
"Range-riding is not a silver bullet. They're not everywhere.
They're not cattle baby-sitters," she said.
Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind decides when to use
lethal control, guided by what the department calls a
non-binding "protocol." Wolf advocates argue the protocol
amounts to a program that should have been subjected to public
vetting, like other government actions.
The protocol calls for Susewind to consider lethal removal after
three depredations in 30 days or four in 10 months. It's not a
firm line. The department says it considers whether the attacks
can be curbed without shooting wolves.
Susewind on Friday authorized the killing of up to two wolves in
the Togo pack in Ferry County. The pack had attacked at least
seven calves over 10 months, according to the department.
The Wedge pack has attacked at least four calves in Stevens
County between May 11 and June 17, but the department has not
opted for lethal removal. The calves belonged to two different
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