Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington Fish and Wildlife has killed one wolf in Stevens County and suspended efforts to shoot two more wolves after a fruitless two-week search in Ferry County.
The department disclosed the shooting of an adult male wolf in the Smackout pack, which has been attacking cattle in private pastures, in a court filing Nov. 8. The department also reported it has ended the search for the surviving members of the Old Profanity Territory pack, which has been attacking cattle in the Colville National Forest.
Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello stated that the Smackout pack wolf was shot from a helicopter Nov. 8. The wolf was wearing a radio collar that transmitted its location.
The shooting leaves three or four more adults in the pack, according to the department’s count.
Fish and Wildlife will wait to see whether the surviving wolves continue to attack cattle and has no immediate plans to pursue the remaining wolves, according to Martorello.
The Smackout pack killed four heifers on private pastures between Oct. 14 and Nov. 1, according to the department. The pack had previously attacked a calf in a private pasture Aug. 20.
A Fish and Wildlife biologist said it was significant the wolves began attacking larger heifers because it suggested a concerted effort and that the pack had become accustomed to attacking cattle.
Fish and Wildlife concluded that the pack would likely continue to attack cattle because its territory overlaps with private pastures where livestock graze year-round. The pack is centered about 20 miles northeast of Colville, the county seat of Stevens County.
Fish and Wildlife had not previously announced killing the wolf. Martorello disclosed the shooting in a declaration defending the department resorting to lethal-removal to stop chronic depredations by wolfpacks.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands are seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the department from killing wolves in the Smackout and Old Profanity Territory packs. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but the department has already ended both operations.
Fish and Wildlife shot two wolves in the Old Profanity Territory pack in September. Martorello reported that Fish and Wildlife searched nearly a dozen times from a helicopter since Oct. 26 for the last two wolves, a male adult wearing a radio collar and a juvenile born last spring.
“The department does not believe the continued use of the helicopter in the next two weeks will change that outcome,” Martorello stated.
“The department believes that the pack will continue to prey on livestock, but the likelihood is lower right now because there are fewer livestock within the pack’s territory. That said, the department may consider further action if an opportunity arises that would increase the effectiveness of the removal effort,” according to Martorello.
The two environmental groups also are challenging a permit Fish and Wildlife issued to a Ferry County rancher authorizing him or ranch employees to shoot wolves in the Togo pack if they enter a private pasture where cattle are grazing. The permit expires Dec. 7.
Fish and Wildlife killed one wolf in the pack in September, but the three surviving wolves have attacked cattle since. The wolf killed by the department and had been wounded a few days earlier by the rancher, who said he acted in self-defense. Fish and Wildlife has concluded the shooting was lawful.
The department issued the permit instead of undertaking another lethal-removal operation. None of the three wolves are wearing a collar and finding the pack would be an intensive operation, according to the department.