Wildlife officials have approved the lethal removal of wolves from two packs in Washington that are responsible for multiple attacks on cattle.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind made the authorization on Nov. 7 to approve lethal action against the Smackout Pack in Stevens County and the Togo Pack in Ferry County.
The Smackout Pack has preyed on five cattle since Aug. 20, with four heifers being killed and a calf being injured during attacks on private pasture. The attacks prompted Susewind to authorize the removal of one or two members of the pack. There are four or five adult wolves and no known pups in the pack.
Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead, says the latest attack in late October helped meet the threshold for considering lethal action under WDFW’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol.
Lethal removal policy for WDFW allows wolves to be killed if they prey on livestock three times in a 30 day period or four times in a 10 month period. The latest attacks would mean the Smackout Pack eclipsed the 10 month threshold established by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group in 2016.
“The purpose of this action is to change the pack’s behavior and deter continuing predation on livestock,” Martorello says. “That strategy is consistent with the guidelines established by the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the department’s protocol.”
Additional lethal removal has been authorized for the remaining members of the Togo Pack. Earlier this grazing season 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.
It was confirmed on Nov. 1 by WDFW staff that another calf was injured by the Togo Pack after being attacked on private land by the pack. Currently, the pack consists of one female adult wolf and two pups.
Since the affected cattle are grazing private land, a permit was issued to the rancher to kill the wolves. It would allow the rancher, his immediate family or his employees to kill wolves if they enter the private fenced pasture where the livestock are located.
To help limit wolf interactions with cattle there have been a number non-lethal measures utilized by the ranchers impacted by the attacks of both packs. These methods include using ranger riders as deterrents.
“Authorizing the removal of wolves is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional career,” Susewind says. “Our department is committed to working with a diversity of people and interests to find new ways to reduce the loss of both wolves and livestock in our state.”
These wolf removal announcements follow a similar approval for lethal action on the Old Profanity Territory Pack at the end of last month. That pack has attacked 16 cattle this year and already had two wolves killed.
Since the start of the year, the Washing was home to at least 122 wolves, 22 packs, and 14 successful breeding pairs, according to an annual field study conducted by state, tribal, and federal wildlife managers. That compares to 27 wolves, five packs, and three successful breeding pairs documented in 2012.
For more information about the livestock depredation cases involving wolf packs in Washington read the following stories:
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