No sooner had the final gasps of the 2012 Gun Rights Policy Conference been heard than did the Internet start breathing fire with a new angle to Washington’s wolf management story that is certain to maintain traction in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
NBC News and its Seattle affiliate, KING 5 News, are reporting that Orcas Island Democrat Kevin Ranker (40th District) is raising a stink over the killing of the Wedge wolf pack. This column has detailed the problems with that pack here, here and here over the past several weeks.
For the first time in recent memory, there was no panel discussion at GRPC covering hunting-related issues, but that doesn’t mean gun rights activists are turning a deaf ear to the hunting community. Bellevue’s Alan Gottlieb told this column Sunday that it was one of the most successful conferences ever, with loads of press coverage, as noted here.
Some 60 speakers appeared, covering many topics, and the audience left with a fire in its collective belly to protect their civil rights at the ballot box Nov. 6.
Hunters on the Hunting-Washington and HuntFishNW forums are talking about Ranker’s rancor over the wolf issue, and they’re beginning to discuss it on the Northwest Hikers forum as well.
Ranker is grabbing national headlines six weeks before the election, demanding to know why the Department of Fish & Wildlife resorted to killing Wedge pack wolves before it had apparently exhausted other, non-lethal options. He was quoted by KING 5 claiming to have become sick to his stomach over the killing of the Wedge alpha male by a sharpshooter the other day.
He is also apparently miffed that a local rancher had declined to participate in efforts to reduce predation on his cattle herd.
Evidently, Ranker has never raised livestock for a living. It’s not a matter of reducing livestock losses to wolves, it’s eliminating them altogether that is on the rancher’s mind. In his letter, quoted by NBC, Ranker contended that the wolf management plan “includes an extensive list of husbandry techniques.”
It is not quite clear what he means. Is he talking about breeding and raising livestock that wolves won’t eat, or breeding and raising wolves that don’t like beef?
Because the Wedge pack was concentrating on cattle, one might presume that hunters don’t have a dog in this fight, as their concern would be about the whitetail deer. That’s an erroneous presumption, however, as hunters began raising alarms long ago not only about impacts on game herds, but also about livestock.
Hunters understand that wolves and other predators have one thing on their minds from dawn to dusk, and that’s finding the next meal. If it’s not venison, it’s going to be something else, and cattle are pretty easy to take down.
It is much like many of the conversations that occurred at the GRPC in Orlando, where Second Amendment activists concurred that they cannot allow themselves the luxury of throwing any interest group under the political bus. They have fully embraced the cause of knife rights, since knives are “arms” too, and there is nothing in the Second Amendment that defines what arms a private citizen can keep and bear.
There is a battle raging in New York City right now over possession of pocket knives; something that Washingtonians living in wolf country might find preposterous. Out here, a knife is a utility tool, but in the Big Apple, it’s a felonious weapon. Go figure.
Gun rights activists are not about to give up on knives, because there is not a single gun owner who does not own at least one knife.
Thus, Washington hunters learned through the experiences of Montana and Idaho that they cannot throw cattle and cattlemen to wolves and figure everything will turn out fine for deer and elk. And the WDFW — much to Sen. Ranker’s obvious dismay — seems to realize that management involves a lethal aspect at times.
Ranker’s letter also mentioned “relocation options” that hadn’t been tried. Perhaps he would be happier if wildlife managers live-trapped the Wedge pack and relocated it to Orcas Island.
Because this issue has now made national headlines, Evergreen State sportsmen can anticipate a deluge of pity from wolf advocates all over the country rivaling a November downpour in Skykomish. The timing could hardly be better, with deer and elk hunting seasons unfolding.
It could be just a swell autumn.