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Washington to kill more wolves to protect cattle

August 1, 2019

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The state of Washington has announced plans to kill more wolves from a pack that is repeatedly preying on cattle in Ferry County.

Conservation groups contend it may be time to consider moving the cattle off of public lands in the Kettle River Range.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that it planned to kill more members of the Old Profanity Territory wolf pack. The agency killed one member of the pack last month in an effort to change the pack’s behavior.

Since then the pack is blamed for killing two cattle and injuring five. The pack is credited with a total of 27 depredations since last September.

“The chronic livestock depredations and subsequent wolf removals are stressful and deeply concerning for all those involved,” agency director Kelly Susewind said in a press release. “The department is working very hard to try to change this pack’s behavior.”

The Lands Council, a Spokane-based conservation group, said it may be time to move the cattle off Colville National Forest grazing land instead.

“It is evident at this point, grazing in an area of prime wolf habitat is folly,” Chris Bachman of the Lands Council said in a Wednesday press release. “This is an area where livestock will continue to fall prey to wolves.”

Bachman noted that wolves have come into regular conflict with cattle from the Diamond M Ranch in Ferry County, and the state has killed numerous wolves in recent years in response.

“It’s time to try moving the cattle instead,” Bachman wrote.

The Center for Biological Diversity also opposes killing more wolves.

“Four years of ineffective wolf killing in the same area for one private ranching business is a senseless waste,” said Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the center. “If this rancher keeps putting cattle in prime wolf habitat, he needs to accept some losses just like any other business.”

In 2016, the agency wiped out the Profanity Peak pack of wolves for preying on cattle. The Old Profanity Territory pack occupies the same general area.

Wolves were exterminated in Washington by the 1930s on behalf of ranchers. The animals started returning to the state earlier this century from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia.

Most of the wolves are located in the rugged mountains of northeastern Washington, but they have started spreading to other areas of the state.

The WDFW said the state had a minimum of 126 wolves in 27 packs with 15 successful breeding pairs last year. For the first time, a pack was found living west of the Cascade Range.

Gray wolves are no longer listed as an endangered species under federal protection in eastern Washington. They are still federally protected across the rest of the state, although the federal government is considering lifting those protections.

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