EUGENE, OR - A new documentary by the wildlife advocacy group Predator Defense has people across the country fuming at an irresponsible rancher in Washington State who set up a pack of wolves living on public land in a remote forest to attack his cattle. People are also outraged at how state wildlife officials and major conservation organizations were party to the killing of the wolf pack, a slaughter that resumed against a new pack in 2017.
Noted scientists and environmentalists who have watched the film, "The Profanity Peak Pack: Set Up & Sold Out," are speaking out, excoriating the players in the case, whose actions they find representative of all that is wrong with America's treatment of wolves.
"The decisions by the rancher/owner of the cattle and the state wildlife agency are irresponsible, bordering on the outrageous in terms of common sense," said Barrie Gilbert, Ph.D., senior scientist emeritus for the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University. "The pack was lured by placement of cattle, which displaced the elk food-base of the wolves, so the wolves, victimized once, are then destroyed, becoming victims a second time."
"Why should one person, the rancher in this case, have more say over what happens on public land-land owned by all of us-than the other 300 million people in the U.S.?" said John Laundré, Ph.D., predator ecologist and author of landmark study, The Landscape of Fear. "Why should we run whole ecosystems for one person or one industry? It is a crime ecologically and it does not even make sense economically!"
The film has been brushed off by four conservation organizations involved, who do not want people to know about their role in setting wolves up for the slaughter. The groups include Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Northwest, and Wolf Haven International. They are all members of Washington's Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), a body comprised of ranching interests, state wildlife officials, and environmental/conservation organizations. WAG is driven by consensus and requires all members to be bound by the majority decision.
In response to the decision by WAG and other decision-makers Laundré said, "I have seen the enthusiasm and hope of re-establishing ecological order across the West that the wolves offered, become perverted by lies and ignorance, often by the very organizations and agencies designated to protect wildlife."
This is exemplified by a statement from Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). When justifying slaughtering the Profanity Peak pack for attacks on cattle in 2016, Martorello said: "Is that really the wolf population we want to repopulate the state?"
"So here you have the state's top wolf manager who apparently doesn't understand or value the basic nature of wolves as apex predators, performing their vital role in our ecosystems," said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. "Killing wolves disrupts the social order of the pack and often has serious unintended consequences. It can remove the wisdom of elder pack members and drive younger, less experienced wolves to make unwise decisions. Over the years I've seen killing wolves can actually increase attacks on livestock."
Tragically, Washington State resumed slaughtering wolves in July 2017, killing two members of the Smackout Pack for attacks on livestock. "Our goal is to change the pack's behavior before the situation gets worse," said Martorello. In August WDFW also authorized killing one or more members of the Sherman Pack.
But in all three instances, the same ranching family is involved, the events have taken place on grazing allotments with mountainous terrain that makes them essentially impossible to defend, and the non-lethal deterrent used has been range riders. While range riders are deemed more effective than other measures in this terrain, they have proven insufficient, likely due to the geographic constraints and the inadequate "near daily" schedule they kept.
"There are two ways to prevent depredations on grazing allotments with indefensible terrain," said Fahy. "Either stop planting cattle where they cannot be defended, or stop holding wolves accountable for behaving like wolves. Instead of trying to change wolf behavior, let's change human behavior. Let's prevent these situations by making informed, intelligent decisions."
The film, "The Profanity Peak Pack: Set Up & Sold Out," isn't just about wolves in Washington State. It addresses America's overall approach to wolves, calling it unjust, counterproductive and cruel. Around 5,000 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers alone in seven states since wolves lost endangered species protection in 2011 and management was turned over to individual states. "So I have to ask," said Fahy, "Did we bring wolves back just to slaughter them all over again?"
Washington and Oregon had remained fairly safe havens for wolves until 2016, when the Profanity Peak Pack was slaughtered. In August 2017, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed four out of ten members of the Harl Butte wolf pack, which, like the Profanity Peak pack, also lives in territory not suitable for unsupervised, free-roaming cattle. Trail cameras show cows literally using the same trails as the wolves' known territory. Oregon has also issued a kill permit to a livestock producer to exterminate two members of the Meacham pack. Neither Oregon nor Washington have a recovered wolf population. Both states have over a million cows and barely 100 wolves, yet they are using management tactics from Idaho and Montana, which have larger wolf populations and have slaughtered thousands.
"Lethal 'management' is no substitute for developing a just and sustainable way of human life that respects the lives of other animals," said William Lynn, Ph.D.,* ethicist & social scientist. "The ideology that drives our troubled relationship with wolves and other animals is 'human exceptionalism'...[which] both science and ethics have debunked. The [Profanity Peak] film reveals the wider political and scientific malpractice of lethal wolf management....the blatant immorality of victimizing wolves for the benefit of corporate agriculture. It also exposes the moral shame that lies at the heart of traditional conservation-the often blind reliance on killing wildlife."
[*LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Mr. Lynn's views are his own, and do not represent those of other individuals or institutions.]
"The bottom line is that these cows are raised only to be slaughtered for profit and there are some places where it is absolutely inappropriate to have livestock," said Fahy. "It is outrageous that ranchers are allowed to destroy public lands with livestock grazing while taxpayers help them externalize their business costs and fund the killing of wolves and other native predators. Wolves should have priority over cows on public lands. They need a place to live in peace."
The film, "The Profanity Peak Pack: Set Up & Sold Out," and full versions of the scientists' and environmentalists' testimonials, are available online at