A wolf pack in Washington known for preying on livestock has made three more attacks on cattle to start the New Year after 16 previous attacks this past fall.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) released a statement after three separate attacks by the Old Profanity Territory (OPT) pack in early-January resulted in cattle dying.
WDF staff were notified of dead livestock on Jan. 4 by the Stevens-Ferry County Wildlife Specialist on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Ferry County. The cattle were owned by a rancher who has had multiple depredation cases involving the OPT pack in 2018.
Prior to the notification, the rancher was looking for several cow-calf pairs that were still on a grazing allotment along the Kettle Crest, which is in the OPT pack’s range. The rancher was able to locate a live cow and two calf carcasses on Jan. 3. The cow was taken out of the area and had no injuries.
The two carcasses had to be left at the kill site until Jan. 5 because of a lack of daylight and WDFW staff not being able to reach the area. Upon further investigation WDFW staff was able to locate another dead cow in close proximity to the calves’ carcasses. The three separate wolf depredations occurred within 850 meters of one another.
A necropsy of one calf showed that the internal organs and back half of the carcass was partially consumed. The calf’s hide had bite lacerations and puncture wounds on both hindquarters and legs.
The second calf had its two front legs and vertebral column remaining. A majority of the second calf had already been eaten. The necropsy of the remaining tissue showed significant hemorrhaging in the left armpit of the calf.
The necropsy of the cow carcass revealed significant wounds and consumption of the soft tissues of the head and puncture wounds above the hock on the left rear leg. More hemorrhaging and tissue damage was revealed after skinning the left leg.
All of the necropsies showed results that are wolf depredation and wolf tracks were documented at each site. Additionally, GPS data from the radio-collared wolf in the OPT pack showed the male wolf was in the area when the attacks would have occurred. Following the attacks the wolves remained the area for about a week.
There had been no wolf deterrents in place because it was believed that the cattle had been removed from the grazing allotment. The majority of the cattle had been removed approximately two months earlier.
The OPT pack was previously involved in 16 other depredation cases of livestock that resulted in 13 animals being injured and three cattle dead. The death toll has now climbed to six head.
After a series of attacks on livestock WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the killing of two wolves in the pack. The wolves were removed and it was thought to have left two more wolves in the OPT pack that were authorized to be killed. However, after two weeks lethal action was paused on Nov. 13 after trouble locating the wolves.
Susewind is currently revaluating the situation and considering the next steps.
The OPT pack runs in a similar territory to a wolf pack called the Profanity Peak pack that was similarly removed after a string of cattle killings in 2016 that resulted in at least 15 dead cattle. 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.
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 five were injured.
For more information about the livestock depredation cases involving wolf packs in Washington read the following stories: