Federal Push To Lift Protection For Wolves Has Conservation Groups Howling

Mar 24, 2014

Don’t be alarmed if you hear the eerie sound of wolves howling in the distance at noon today. The group howl heard in the city will be put on by humans.

The howl is a protest action aimed at stopping active management programs that allow the killing of a species, which, until recently, was listed as endangered under federal law. 

In Washington state and much of the west, the delisting is only partial. But there’s a proposal to lift all federal protections on gray wolves nationwide.

Seattle resident Mandy Varona, who calls herself a wolf warrior, organized the group howl to call for wolf protection in Washington. And she’ll even demonstrate the howl if you ask her to.

"We usually do it with two or three or more, and it sounds very cool," she said. "It sounds eerie."

Varona’s interest in this cause began two years ago when she read in the newspaper that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife had killed a whole pack of wolves — “the Wedge pack in eastern Washington; seven wolves.”

“They just shot’em from helicopters. It just shocked me. And that’s when I realized that that is going on in a lot of states since the Endangered Species Act federal protections were lifted,” she said. 

The Wedge pack was blamed for killing or injuring 16 calves on a ranch in eastern Washington. Repeat attacks on livestock are part of what led to the delisting of gray wolves in 2012.  

But protestors like Varona say the proof is often scanty in such incidents, and non-lethal control methods, such as electric fences or colorful streamers, should be used to deter wolves instead.

State officials say the killing of the Wedge pack was a low point. The state has since adopted and found funding for a management plan that includes better support for ranchers. Wolves are protected statewide under Washington law.

But the Department of Fish and Wildlife supports the federal proposal to delist wolves nationwide and let states manage them.

The deadline to comment is Thursday, which is why Varona and her pack, along with many other conservation groups, have been howling in protest. They want people to send letters and emails to the state and to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

A decision is expected by the end of this year.