Conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture arguing that a plan in Washington State to allow Wildlife Services to shoot and trap wolves that threaten farm animals has put gray wolves in grave danger, according to Courthouse News Service.
As Outside wrote in January, the West’s gray wolf population has undergone a major population recovery over the past three decades, owing largely to the animals’ protection under the Endangered Species Act. Now, many ranchers and livestock farmers would like to see those protections lifted in cases in which wolves pose aggressive threats to grazing animals.
In December 2013, to judge whether lifting the protections would be beneficial, Wildlife Services began an environmental impact assessment of a plan that authorized the killing of wolves in places where species protections were invalid. Though the plan was approved by the director of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s western region, complainants say that the environmental impact assessment failed to consider an alternative to killing wolves.
Quoting a series of articles published in the Sacramento Bee, conservation group Cascadia Wildlands and its co-complainants say Wildlife Services’ contract has placed the lives of the state’s gray wolves in the hands of employees who don’t know what they’re doing. The lawsuit claims that Wildlife Services has not been disciplined for killing wolves unnecessarily and irresponsibly in recent years. As a result, they argue, the state's 15 packs, comprising 52 known gray wolves, may be needlessly and indiscriminately killed.
The lawsuit also asserts that wolf attacks are responsible for a very small fraction of total livestock losses, and that lethal removal of wolves is not effective at reducing the number of depredation incidents.