Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind today authorized the use of lethal measures to remove wolves from two packs that have repeatedly preyed on cattle on grazing lands in northeast Washington.
The two wolf packs subject to lethal action are the Smackout pack in Stevens County and the Togo pack in Ferry County.
Susewind authorized the removal of one or two members of the Smackout pack after WDFW field staff confirmed that the pack preyed on five cattle since Aug. 20. Four heifers were killed and one calf was injured in those attacks on privately owned pastures.
The pack includes four or five adult wolves and no known pups, said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead.
Martorello said the latest depredations were confirmed in the last week, crossing the threshold for considering lethal action under WDFW’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol. Under that policy, WDFW can use lethal action to deter wolves if department staff documents three predations by wolves on livestock within 30 days, or four within 10 months.
“The purpose of this action is to change the pack’s behavior and deter continuing predation on livestock,” Martorello said. “That strategy is consistent with the guidelines established by the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the department’s protocol.”
Susewind also authorized the removal of the remaining members of the Togo pack, which has accounted for the death or injury of six cattle over the past 10 months in Ferry County.
On Sept. 2, the department removed one male wolf from the pack after documenting six depredations by the pack, then suspended that operation to determine whether it would deter further attacks.
On Nov. 1, WDFW staff confirmed another injury to a calf by the Togo pack, prompting Susewind to reauthorize removing additional wolves from the pack. The Togo pack consists of one female adult wolf and two pups.
Because the affected cattle are on private land, Susewind issued a permit to the rancher allowing him, his immediate family or his employees to kill wolves if they enter the private fenced pasture where the livestock are located.
Consistent with WDFW’s wolf-livestock protocol, the ranchers whose cattle were killed or injured by the two packs have employed range riders and other non-lethal measures to deter predation by wolves, Susewind said.
“Authorizing the removal of wolves is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional career,” he said. “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.”
As of the first of the year, the state 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.