Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind today authorized the killing of wolves in two packs attacking cattle in the northeast corner of the state. The orders come as the department continues to try to remove the rest of a third wolfpack.
The department plans to kill one or two wolves in the Smackout pack in Stevens County. Susewind also gave permission to a rancher in Ferry County to shoot the remaining three wolves in the Togo pack in Ferry County if the wolves enter a private fenced pasture with cattle.
Fish and Wildlife is continuing an effort to remove the remaining two wolves in the Old Profanity pack, also in Ferry County, the department’s wolf policy coordinator, Donny Martorello, said Wednesday. The department killed wolves in the pack in September and resumed targeting the pack Oct. 26 because of depredations on cattle continued.
Fish and Wildlife won’t immediately undertake removing the Togo pack because it’s occupied with the two other packs, but may in the coming weeks, according to the department.
Fish and Wildlife shot one Togo pack wolf in early September, but the pack has continued to attack cattle. The wolf already had been wounded by the rancher, who said he was approached by the wolf and shot in self-defense.
The department protocol calls for removing one or two wolves initially and waiting to see whether wolf depredations on livestock stop.
Fish and Wildlife won’t start the lethal-removal operation against the Smackout pack, or allow the shooting of Togo pack wolves, until Thursday at the earliest. The early morning directives today give environmental groups one day to go to court to challenge the order.
The notice is fallout from a lawsuit by environmental groups challenging an order last year to kill wolves. A Thurston County Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, but said the department should give time for courts to review future lethal-removal orders.
The Smackout pack has killed four heifers and injured one calf on private land since Aug. 20, according to Fish and Wildlife. Four of the attacks occurred between Oct. 14 and Nov. 1.
Fish and Wildlife considers lethal removal after a pack attacks three times in 30 days or four times in 10 months. The department policy calls for ranchers to do whatever they can to prevent the attacks and for wildlife managers to conclude that the attacks will continue unless the state intervenes.
The Smackout pack has four or five adult wolves, according to recent surveys by the department. The pack includes one female wolf that had been trapped and fitted with a radio collar that transmits her location. The department has not seen evidence that the pack produced pups this year.
The Togo pack has attacked cattle at least six times in the past 10 months, according to Fish and Wildlife. Two of the attacks were confirmed after the department shot one of two adults in the pack. The department confirmed the first attack Sept. 7, but held off restarting lethal removal because the department was concerned that killing the last adult would doom the pups given their size at the time.
Fish and Wildlife confirmed Oct. 26 that the pack had attacked another calf. The latest depredation indicates the pack will continue to prey on livestock, according to the department.
Fish and Wildlife said in a statement today that it did not expect the lethal-removal operations to harm the state’s overall recovery objectives. The goal is to have wolves established and regularly reproducing at least as far west as the Cascades. Washington wolves now are mostly confined to Eastern Washington, particularly in four northeast counties.
The wolf population in the eastern one-third of Washington is more than three times the recovery goal for that region, according to Fish and Wildlife.
As the wolf population has grown in that corner of the state, so has attacks on livestock. The department has removed wolves before, dating back to 2012, but has never had three lethal-removal operations active at the same time.