Wildlife officials in Washington are planning to take lethal action against a pack of wolves that have been attacking and killing cattle near the Canadian border.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFA) has authorized field staffers to take lethal measures to remove one or more members of the Togo pack. 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 depredations have occurred in the past 30 days according to Donny Martorello, WDFW's lead wolf manager.
The Togo pack was first suspected in 2016 and was confirmed this year during the annual winter survey. There are believed to be at least two adults and an unknown number of pups. In June, WDFW officials fitted an adult male with a GPS tracking collar.
According to Kelly Susewind, WDFW director, the response by the department is consistent with Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2011. The policy was updated in 2016 by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group to determine lethal removal when wolves prey on livestock three times in a 30 day period or four times in a 10 month period. Both thresholds have been met in the cases involving the Togo pack.
“I have reviewed the pack’s pattern of depredation along with the department’s wolf plan and wolf-livestock interaction protocol, and have concluded this action is warranted,” Susewind says. “The evidence shows that non-lethal measures have not been successful, and the pack will continue preying on livestock unless we take action to change its behavior.”
Under WDFW policy ranchers who sustain losses from wolves must first use at least two approved non-lethal measures to protect their livestock to be considered for an authorization for lethal action.
As reported by Drovers a rancher suffered two cases of depredation earlier in August. A third case reported on Aug. 18 where a 450 lb. calf was attacked prompted the shift in decision making by WDFW.
The rancher who had cattle attacked by the Togo pack took several preventative measures to reduce conflict with his herd. Cattle were kept off summer range until late June when calves would be larger and he also held his cattle at home in a pasture with bright strobe lights to deter wolves. Once the cow-calf pairs were turned out on grass any sick or injured cattle were removed from the grazing allotment. Each day one or more range riders rode through the herd while on summer pasture and cattle were moved when needed to avoid interactions with wolves.
Lethal action to remove the wolves cannot start until after 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20, because of a court order that requires the department to provide one business day (8 court hours) advance public notice.
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 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: