Washington wildlife officials confirmed Thursday that the alpha female of a sheep-attacking wolf pack was killed by a helicopter shooter last month.
A Stevens County rancher has moved his sheep away from the site where a pack of six to 12 wolves killed at least 24 of the animals since mid-August, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday.
The move came after one of the wolves – the Huckleberry Pack’s alpha female – was killed Aug. 23 by a helicopter shooter. The breeding female was small, only 66 pounds, and not easy to distinguish.
Wildlife officials had tried to target younger wolves to avoid interrupting the pack’s social structure.
Kristin Mansfield, Washington’s state veterinarian, completed a necropsy confirming the wolf killed was a 3-year-old breeding female.
Working through Labor Day weekend, rancher Dave Dashiell rounded up his flock of 1,800 sheep and herded them to temporary holding pens five miles away and has begun trucking them to their winter pasture in the Columbia Basin.
Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association and Dashiell issued statements over the weekend complaining about being forced off private land for the sake of wolves.
Nate Pamplin, director of the agency’s wildlife program, is cautioning other ranchers in the area to be vigilant as members of the Huckleberry Pack move about their range.
At the height of the attacks on Dashiell’s sheep, the department authorized the removal of up to four members of the Huckleberry wolf pack, one of 13 documented packs in the state. The alpha female was killed the next day. No others have been removed.
Pamplin called the killing of the pack’s breeding female an “unfortunate development.”
“We anticipate concerns about pack integrity; and while we don’t know what will happen in this specific case, we do know that other pack members can step into that role when an alpha is displaced,” he said.
The collared male in the Huckleberry Pack, believed to be the alpha male, has not been in the vicinity of the sheep flock since approximately Aug. 27, Pamplin said.