After a pack of wolves killed over a dozen sheep in Eastern Washington, Washington Fish & Wildlife kills alpha wolf from the pack in response.
At the end of August, wolves from the Huckleberry Pack in Eastern Washington began killing sheep belonging to a rancher near the Spokane Indian Reservation. Initially, Washington Fish & Wildlife officials hoped to halt the killings using non-lethal means. However, the death toll from the wolf attacks steadily climbed to over two dozen sheep.
In response to the increasing number of sheep being killed, Washington Fish & Wildlife decided to implement lethal control measures and kill up to four wolves from the estimated 12 in the pack. They hoped that the wolves would learn to associate their attacks on the sheep herd with danger and refrain from further attacks without Fish & Wildlife officials having to exterminate the entire pack.
A federal contractor successfully shot a female wolf from a helicopter at the end of August as part of this new strategy. They initially thought that this was a subordinate female wolf in the pack, which is why they shot her. However, the necropsy report from this wolf just came back and it turns out that the wolf was actually the Alpha Female in the pack, according to King 5 News.
Not only is this embarrassing for Washington Fish & Wildlife, but it is also bad news for that wolf pack because the Alpha Female is the only breeding female in a pack, and her death could significantly disrupt the social structure.
Admittedly, I’m not an expert on wolves. However, this is something that happens regularly in nature when the Alpha Male or Female dies for one reason or another. I assume that one of the other female wolves in the pack will step up and fill the shoes of the Alpha Female, but the death of the original Alpha Female could potentially disrupt the pack, or even cause it to break up, which is exactly what WDFW was trying to prevent.
In my experience as an outdoor writer, I’ve noticed two subjects in particular that tend to evoke very strong reactions by people from both sides: hunting the big cats (lion, leopard, mountain lion, and cheetah), and the subject of wolves in general. Now, this article is not meant to be a discourse on the advantages and disadvantages of hunting wolves or the big cats, just an observation.
On the spectrum of feelings towards wolves, I come down somewhere in the middle between exterminating all the wolves in the world and mandating that everyone have a pet wolf. That is to say, I feel that having a healthy population of top predators, such as wolves, offers many important benefits to the ecosystem. However, the predator population needs to be managed to ensure that prey populations do not suffer too heavily and to prevent negative human interactions with predators whenever possible. I also have no issues with killing wolves that start killing livestock.
What do you think about the news that Washington Fish & Wildlife accidentally killed the alpha female in the Huckleberry Pack? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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