Washington to kill members of wolf pack to protect cattle

August 20, 2018

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The state of Washington will take steps to kill members of a wolf pack that have been preying on cattle in the northeast corner of the state, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday.

Members of the Togo pack have preyed on cattle three times in the past 30 days, and six times in the past 10 months, which exceeds the state’s threshold to take action, the agency said.

In a press release, agency director Kelly Susewind said the department will use humane lethal removal methods consistent with state and federal laws. Likely options include shooting from a helicopter, trapping and shooting from the ground.

The agency uses a policy of incremental removal, killing one or a few wolves at a time and seeing is that stops the depredations.

The wolf hunts have sparked controversy in the past, with environmental groups saying the state is too quick to kill wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which has protested wolf hunts in the past, did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Monday.

The state last year approved the killing of members of the Smackout pack, over the objections of environmental groups, after four attacks on livestock.

In this case, the depredations started last November, with an injured calf. The rancher took numerous steps to deter wolves, including use of lights and range riders, the agency said.

But three dead cows and two more injured calves were discovered in the next 10 months, including an injured calf found Saturday on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Ferry County.

“The injured calf had bite lacerations and bite puncture wounds to the outside lower left hindquarter, the left hamstring, the inside of the left hock and the groin area,” the agency said. “The bite lacerations, bite puncture wounds and tissue hemorrhaging adjacent to the puncture wounds are consistent with a signature style wolf attack on cattle.”

The purpose of lethal removal of the Togo pack is to change wolf behavior without damaging the long-term recovery of wolves, the agency said.

The last estimate of Togo pack size was two adult wolves and an unknown number of pups, the agency said.

The existence of the Togo pack, found near the U.S.-Canada border in Ferry County, was only confirmed in late 2017.

The removal effort will start immediately and likely continue for a two-week period, the agency said.

Wolves were wiped out in Washington early in the last century. They started to return to the state from Canada and Idaho early in this century, and Washington confirmed its first breeding pack in 2008.

The wolves are federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state and protected by law statewide.

The latest count of wolves, conducted last winter, found a minimum of 122 wolves in 22 packs, with 14 successful breeding pairs. Most packs are in northeastern Washington, where there have been numerous conflicts with cattle producers.

Update hourly