Removal of Wolf Pack Authorized in Washington After 16 Cattle Attacks

After 16 separate attacks on livestock, wildlife officials in Washington have approved the lethal removal of the remaining pack members. ( Multimedia Graphic Network, Inc. )

The lethal removal of a wolf pack in Washington has been approved by wildlife officials following repeated attacks on cattle.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind made a reauthorization for staff members to kill two remaining wolves in the Old Profanity Territory (OPT) pack. The pack has already had two wolves killed in September following a number of livestock depredations.  That left an adult female and a juvenile wolf left in the pack that is running through the Kettle River Range of Ferry County.

An evaluation period was enacted by WDFW as part of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the department’s protocol to determine if the pack was still preying on livestock and if additional lethal measures would be needed.

Three additional attacks by the OPT pack were observed from Oct. 5-11 with calves grazing on U.S. Forest Service allotments being attached. One of the attacks was confirmed to have occurred after the first two wolves were removed.

Additional steps were taken to limit interactions between the cattle and wolves. However, another depredation was observed on Oct. 23 bringing the total number of attacks by the OPT pack to 16 wolf depredations. The last two attacks helped warrant the decision by Susewind under guidance from the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

The impacted rancher had been using range riders to help reduce the likelihood of wolf interactions and is also in the process of removing cattle from the grazing allotment. The cattle were to be removed by Oct. 15, with approximately 90% taken off the allotment by that date. Because of the rugged terrain and dense timber there are still some cattle left to take off the range.

The cattle are being transported via stock trailers to private grazing lands just west of the Kettle Crest. Those pastures are still within outskirts of the OPT packs range and lie on lower elevations which should limit the chance of additional depredations.

The OPT pack runs in a similar territory to a wolf pack called the Profanity Peak pack that was similarly removed after a string of cattle killings in 2016 that resulted in at least 15 dead cattle. At the time there were believed to be a female and three pups remaining in the pack. The kill order came under scrutiny after it was revealed that the removal cost $135,000 and activist groups were outraged with the number of wolves removed.

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.

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.

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 five were injured.

For more information about the livestock depredation cases involving wolf packs in Washington read the following stories: