Letter: Wolf reintroduction in Washington State of grave concern

Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington State
August 6, 2011

Dear Commissioners,

I am given to understand that Washington State is in the final stages of approving a Washington Wolf Plan.

This plan is of grave concern to hunters, livestock producers, and outfitters, and should be of grave concern to every resident in this state and anyone who plans to visit this state in years to come.

If you are not aware of the disaster that has befallen Idaho, under a very similar wolf plan, you should be. Idaho is now so overrun with wolves that there has been no limit set on the number of wolves that may be taken in several units, and the wolf hunt has been substantially lengthened.

While Idaho Fish and Wildlife claims a minimum of 800 wolves, that number is substantially higher and growing with each litter of pups born to the over 90 breeding pairs in the state.

The Wolf Plan Washington State is proposing is a recipe for disaster.

First of all, Washington does not have near the wilderness area that other states do. This means that wolves will move into the more rural areas much quicker than in other states. 15 breeding pairs in three distinct population segments (DPS) for three years, under the definition provided, will result in the same situation that Idaho is now experiencing. Is this your intent? If not, both the definition of a "breeding pair" and the number of years needs to be changed; delisting in one DPS should not be contingent on any other DPS. Washington cannot possibly support the number of wolves that 15 breeding pairs would produce, under the current definition, without significant impact on people, local economies, livestock producers and ungulate herds.

Speaking of ungulate herds, the Woodland Caribou are truly and endangered species. Yet no provision is made in this plan to protect either the Woodland Caribou or other truly endangered ungulates in Washington State. It appears that preference is being given to wolves at the expense of other truly endangered species. With over 100,000 wolves on the North American Continent, wolves are not now, nor have they ever been, endangered. And to put it bluntly, there is no proof, whatsoever, that Washington State has ever been, historically, part of the range of the Canadian Grey Wolf.

The Wolf Plan acknowledges five (5) wolf packs in Washington State. Yet in 1992, Washington State bragged of six (6) packs in the Cascades alone. We can look to what has happened in other states to know that the number of actual packs now residing in Washington State is being deliberately understated. Two years ago, the number of known packs was (7) seven in Eastern Washington alone; this was at a time when Fish and Wildlife acknowledged two (2) packs state-wide.

We can look to what has happened in Idaho to see what the future of Washington will look like if wolves are allowed to reproduce as they have in Idaho. In Elk City, Idaho, parents cannot let their children outside to play; wolves are coming right into the community. Idaho County Sheriff Deputies have been authorized to shoot any wolf seen in the Elk City area. Other communities, towns and cities in Idaho are experiencing the same problem.

People out enjoying the outdoors, walking on their property, or hunting in Idaho have had the very unpleasant experience of coming face to face with wolves. The romantic notion that wolves are a shy Disneyesque creature is sadly misleading. Were Candice Berner able to speak from beyond the grave, she would undoubtedly tell a tale of horror leading up to her throat being ripped out by a pack of pursuing wolves who drug her to the ground and killed her, leaving a blood trail that led an innocent passerby to her mutilated body.

In Idaho County, a year ago, a father took his children to the bus stop. After the bus picked his children up, he watched in dawning horror as a pack of wolves scoured the area where his children had been waiting for the bus less than a minute before. The wolves were obviously watching the children, trying to decide how best to make them lunch. This is called prey testing. The history of wolf attacks in other countries tells us that wolves are more likely to attack women and children.

In Pend Oreille County, two years ago, a hunter was surrounded by a pack of wolves. Had he not kept his head; had he not had a gun; searchers would have undoubtedly spent a long time, if ever, finding his body.

So far, there has not been a death from wolves in the contiguous United States. So far. How long before that changes given the fact that wolves have overrun the Idaho landscape and the number of wolf/human encounters are increasing exponentially?

Wolves are apex predators. The elk, deer and moose carcasses, lust or sport killed, and left to rot, litter the Idaho wilderness area. Wolves have decimated the elk herds in the Lolo Zone in Idaho and the Yellowstone National Park; two of the largest elk herds in the Pacific Northwest. They will do the same, if their numbers are not strictly controlled, in Washington State.

Two-thirds of the wolves in Idaho carry the Echinococcus granulosus (E.g.) tapeworm. They are considered the definitive host and carry the sylvatic form of the E.g. tapeworm. Infected wolves emit thousands of E.g. eggs in their feces. The eggs are highly mobile, are viable for up to three years, are not killed by cold but are killed by fire, and are scattering on a mere breeze to surrounding vegetation where they are eaten by the intermediate host – hooved animals such as ungulates, horses, cows, sheep, goats. Humans are also an intermediate host. Once inside the intermediate host, the eggs hatch in the intestine, burrow through the intestinal wall and travel, via the circulatory system to vital organs – most often to the liver and lungs, less often to the heart and other internal organs; they can also travel to the spinal column, the brain, and bones. There they form bladder cysts. One tape worm egg, hatching inside the body, can form a cyst full of thousands of tapeworm heads. If a cyst bursts inside the body and the host does not die of anaphylactic shock, the cyst tissue spawns new cysts full of tapeworm heads. The bladder cysts can exist for years inside the host without detection.

The disease is known as Hydatid disease. The disease is spreading through the ungulate population in Idaho. There are two known human cases of Hydatid disease in Idaho at this time. There are undoubtedly many more who have the disease and don't know it.

With a bare minimum of 800 wolves populating the Idaho landscape, millions of the E.g. tapeworm eggs are scattered throughout the Idaho wilderness area; posing a threat to sportsmen, campers, sightseers, outdoor enthusiasts and unsuspecting tourists.

Humans most often come in contact with the disease via the family dog that is allowed to roam and gets into the offal of a dead infected animal, killed and left by wolves. Once infected, the dog begins emitting thousands of E.g. eggs in the feces, scattered around buildings, on lawns, close to vegetable gardens, berry patches and orchards where the eggs float on a breeze. Children, playing in the grass are at risk; anyone mowing the grass runs the risk of disbursing and/or ingesting the eggs disbursed on the turbulence created by the mower blades; children playing on the floor inside the home are at risk if the family dog is allowed inside or by eggs being walked into the home on the soles of shoes; anyone petting and handling the family dog is at risk; anyone picking and eating vegetables out of the garden, fruit of the orchard, or berries out of the berry patch without first washing the produce (as rural folk are known to do) is at risk. Anyone buying that produce is also at risk.

The disease, once diagnosed, is difficult if not impossible to cure, and costly in the process. In one Idaho case, the woman, after several local procedures failed to stop the disease, sought treatment in Seattle and no small cost. If cysts form in the heart or brain, the disease is often fatal. If a cyst ruptures, anaphylactic shock and death often occur. It will become a disease to be checked for in children and teens playing sports where an elbow to the ribs or torso could burst an unsuspected cyst.

The only way to lower the risk to humans of this disease is to keep wolves far away from civilization. This is the standing policy in Canada where wolves that come in contact with populated areas are killed. Unless that policy is adopted and strictly maintained in the United States, Hydatid disease will become a plague on the populace. This is yet another reason why 15 breeding pairs for 3 years in all three DPS before delisting is beyond reason. Such will produce a situation in which wolves will move into populated areas.

What liability does the State of Washington — knowing full well that wolves, migrating to Washington from Idaho, are infected with the E.g. tapeworm — assume in allowing the migration and propagation of these wolves in this state, especially in light of the fact that the sylvatic form of this disease did not exist in the contiguous United States before the Canadian Gray Wolf was introduced here?

The eastern part of Washington State has already been delisted under the Endangered Species Act. Measures to control wolves in that portion already delisted should be implemented immediately. In the rest of Washington State, a set number of breeding pairs with a one year window for definition should be established. That number should be set according to the actual number of prey killed by one wolf in one year and according to what the prey base will handle without decimation. Endangered ungulates must be protected. Local economies must be protected. Pets and livestock must be protected. People must have the right to defend themselves, their families, their livestock, their pets, their livelihood.

Wolves should not be allowed to overrun the Washington landscape as has happened in Idaho; wolves should not be given preference over any other animal or humans.


Lynn M Stuter
Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026
7th District