Washington Wolf Killed After Judge Approves Lethal Action

A male wolf in Washington has been killed by wildlife officials after its pack preyed on cattle three times in August. ( Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife )

A wolf in Washington has been killed following multiple cattle deaths and a lawsuit that resulted in a judge blocking and then approving lethal removal.

Wildlife officials with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) confirmed that a GPS collared male member of the Togo wolf pack was killed after preying on livestock. The wolf was shot by a WDFW marksman fatally on Sept. 2 from a helicopter in Ferry County near the Canadian border.

The Togo pack has repeatedly preyed on cattle grazing U.S. Forest Service allotments in the past year. Since November there had been six attacks on livestock, three of them occurred in August during a 10 day period.

This prompted WDFW to pursue lethal action to control the wolf pack under the guidance of the 18-member Wolf Advisory Group lethal removal rule. However, a lawsuit was filed by two activist groups that halted the kill order until a court hearing on Aug. 31.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy denied request for a preliminary injunction by two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, which would have prohibited the wolf’s removal. Murphy said the two activist groups had not met the legal standard required for her to issue an injunction. By denying the request it allowed WDFW officials and the impacted rancher to take lethal action by removing one wolf from the pack.

During the time that the temporary halt in lethal action was in place because of the lawsuit, the rancher shot at the male wolf in self-defense. The wolf was hit in its left rear leg which appeared to be broken below the knee, but the wolf was still mobile.

Upon killing the wolf, WDFW officials confirmed that the wolf had in fact been injured when it was shot by the rancher. A necropsy will be performed on the wolf as soon as possible.

WDFW field staff will continue to monitor the Togo pack’s activity and work with the rancher to prevent any further conflicts. There is at least one adult female left in the pack and two pups born in the spring.

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.

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