For the second time in less than a month wildlife officials in Washington have approved taking lethal action on another wolf pack following a number of attacks on cattle.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind made the authorization on Sept. 12 following the confirmation of six separate cattle depredations by a pack of wolves on the federal grazing lands in the Kettle River Range of Ferry County.
The Old Profanity Territory pack made the six attacks on cattle starting on Sept. 4, killing once calf and injuring five others on a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) grazing allotment. The pack is running in an area near the Profanity Peak pack which was believed to be killed or moved territories after a similar case of cattle depredation in 2016.
An “incremental” removal of wolves from the pack has been authorized by WDFW’s lethal removal protocol under guidance of an 18-member Wolf Advisory Group. A threshold of three wolf attacks on livestock in 30 days warrants lethal removal under WDFW policy, along with preying on livestock four times in 10 months.
Under the plan and protocol incremental removal allows for one or two wolves to be lethally taken from the pack. Lethal action can be taken by starting on Sept. 13 in the afternoon following a court ordered waiting period of one business day.
Humane lethal removal tactics include shooting from a helicopter, trapping, and shooting from the ground.
Before lethal action could be taken it was required that the impacted rancher also use non-lethal methods to deter wolves from preying on livestock. In this particular case the rancher did the following:
- Using range riders to keep watch over his herd;
- Calving outside of occupied wolf range;
- Delaying turning out cattle until July 10 – a month later than usual – when calving is finished and the calves are larger and less prone to predation;
- Removing or securing livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd; and
- Removing sick and injured livestock from the grazing area.
Besides the cattle that were preyed on in September, there were other possible cases of depredation on the grazing allotment that were not determined to be wolves. Three calves were found dead from Aug. 20-26, but most of the flesh was already missing from the calves.
The rancher and range riders attempted to move cattle from allotment and increase patrols to help limit wolf activity at the time.
“This is a very difficult situation, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area,” Susewind said. “We are committed to working with a diversity of stakeholders in a collaborative process to seek other creative and adaptive solutions to prevent future losses of wolves and livestock.”
Earlier this month a male wolf was killed in northern Ferry County after the Togo pack had preyed on livestock six times since November, with three cases happening during a 10 period in August. The Togo pack removal saw backlash from activists groups who sued to stop the kill order. During the waiting period for a court hearing a rancher shot at the male wolf in self-defense, resulting in an injury to the wolf before a final kill order was approved.
The original Profanity Peak pack had seven wolves removed after a string of cattle killings in 2016 that resulted in at least 15 dead catte. At the time there were believed to be a female and three pups remaining in the pack. The kill order came under scrutiny after it was revealed that the removal cost $135,000 and activist groups were outraged with the number of wolves removed.
According to WDFW the wolf population in Washington has been on the rise for nine straight years. Following the department’s annual winter survey it was determined there are at least 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs in the state. The survey determined that the Togo pack was one of four new packs in the east of the Cascade Mountain range.
In 2017, there were five different wolf packs involved in at least one livestock mortality. During 2017 at least eight cattle were killed while another fiver were injured.
For more information about the livestock depredation cases involving wolf packs in Washington read the following stories: