Updated 6:15 p.m.
ENDANGERED SPECIES -- A cow on a grazing allotment near Cle Elum, Washington, was killed by a wolf, federal officials say. It's the first confirmed case of livestock depredation in that area during wolf recovery in the state.
The cow’s carcass was discovered last Thursday by a Washington State University graduate student doing research on wolves. The kill was in the range of the Teanaway pack.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife experts found gnawing and bite marks on the yearling Angus that were consistent with a wolf kill. Tracks, scat and hair were found in the area and GPS collar locations confirmed that a wolf had been at the site.
The livestock producer operates under a grazing permit issued by the Washington Department of Natural Resources and a livestock damage prevention agreement with the state that’s designed to reduce the risk of wolf kills through the use of range riders and other measures.
The producer is one of seven Washington ranchers currently partnering with Conservation Northwest to implement range riders, which are herd supervisors that help deter depredations as the region’s wolf population recovers and their territory.
"The Teanaway ranching operation is currently in its third season partnering with Conservation Northwest’s Range Rider Pilot Project," says Chase Gunnell, commications manager for the Western Washington-based conservation group in a media release. "Up to this point, neither the rancher nor any other Washington ranchers participating in the program had experienced any wolf depredations despite ranching in the area of six different wolf packs. Nor have they had to call in the authorities to lethally remove wolves."
In Washington, the gray wolf (Canis lupus) is federally listed as endangered west of U.S. Highway 97, State Route 17, and U.S. 395. Gray wolves are also listed as endangered by the State of Washington throughout the state.
The incident was reported today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, which has jurisdiction over wolf cases in the western third of Washington.
Four cattle near Chewelah were confirmed killed by wolves from the Dirty Shirt Pack between July 5 and July 10.
"We have not documented any depredations since July 10, when we began implementing additional preventive measures," said Donny Martorello, the WDFW wolf policy lead in Olympia. He continued:
"WDFW staff will continue to provide daily updates to the producer and range riders about the location of the pack based on data we obtain from the collared wolf. Range riders will continue working the area, and our staff are actively hazing wolves detected in the vicinity of the livestock.
"If another depredation occurs and we confirm that livestock was killed after July 10, WDFW will offer a permit to the producers with a Forest Service grazing permit within the Dirty Shirt pack territory to kill up to two wolves, in total from the pack, in the vicinity of livestock. That kill permit authority would extend to the producer’s family and hired employees. Department staff working in concert with the producers and range riders would also be instructed to carry out the permit if they encountered a wolf. However, this permit would not authorize the hunting or baiting of wolves by the producers, their family, or WDFW staff.
Stevens County has been Washington's epicenter of wolf pack activity and livestock depredations. Over three years, wolves have attacked and killed livestock in all four corners of the county, from the Canada border near Laurier to the south end of the county near Springdale as well as in the Colville Valley and most recently near Chewelah.
Report wolf sightings or evidence of wolf activity in Washington State to help wildlife manages monitor the recovering species.