Following a lawsuit by two activists groups, a court has temporarily halted the lethal removal of a wolf pack in Washington that was responsible for killing multiple livestock.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese granted a restraining order filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands on Aug. 20, in the afternoon prior to a 5 p.m. deadline. The two activist groups made the request after Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind authorized the removal order following multiple confirmed livestock depredations. The order would allow one or more wolves to be removed from the pack.
According to the judge the plaintiffs’ complaint met the criteria for a temporary restraining order under the state Administrative Procedures Act. A hearing will be held again in the court on Aug. 31 with WDFW and the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction, to determine whether to replace the restraining order with a longer-lasting court order.
Since November the Togo pack has been responsible for six separate cases of livestock depredation all involving cattle near the Kettle River Range in northeast Washington. Three of those cases occurred from Aug. 8 to Aug. 18, meeting a threshold of three attacks in 30 days that warrant lethal removal under WDFW policy.
The policy also states that if livestock are preyed on four times within 10 months that lethal removal can be used. The policy was created in 2016 by WDFW with the guidance of its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group. The advisory group includes livestock producers, hunters, conservationists, and representatives from Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation and the Humane Society of the United States. There are no members of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands on the advisory board.
“It’s outrageous that Washington wildlife officials want to kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” says Amaroq Weiss, the Center for Biological Diversity’s West Coast wolf advocate. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, and current science says that killing wolves to prevent conflict is counterproductive. This isn’t the Old West anymore.”
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. The survey determined that the Togo pack was one of four new packs in the east of the Cascade Mountain range.
There are two adults confirmed to be in the pack, along with an unknown number of pups. An adult male was fitted with a GPS collar in June to help monitor the pack’s movement.
“The state should not take actions against the public’s wildlife that are counter to best available science nor should it be violating state laws to craft protocols giving itself permission to take these ill-advised actions,” says Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “Wolves are part of Washington’s wildlife heritage, and agency management of these magnificent animals should be based on science, follow the law and allow for full public input.”
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 fiver were injured.
“We know that some level of conflict is inevitable between wolves and livestock sharing the landscape,” says Ben Maletzke, WDFW statewide wolf specialist. “Our goal is to minimize that conflict as the gray wolf population continues to recover.”
For 2017, WDFW processed two claims for livestock compensation totaling $3,700 in losses to producers. Last year two wolves from the Smackout pack were removed after killing two cattle during the grazing season and showing a history of preying on livestock in 2016. Similarly, one wolf was killed from the Sherman pack after killing four cattle and injuring another in the 2017 grazing season.
A map of the wolf packs in Washington can be viewed below: