Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a helicopter gunner killed the alpha male of a cattle-preying wolf pack Thursday, concluding the mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.
The wolf was shot just south of the U.S.-Canada border in the third day of aerial shooting that claimed six wolves, agency director Phil Anderson said in a news release. The alpha male has been wearing a GPS tracking device since early summer, when it was caught and released by a state wolf researcher.
The state has been following the GPS signals to locate the pack, which officials have been targeting for elimination since Saturday.
The pack’s alpha female was killed earlier this week, Anderson said.
A younger female wolf was shot by an agency staffer on Aug. 7 during the first lethal efforts to curb attacks on cattle that started in early July.
“Directing the pack’s removal was a very difficult decision, both personally and professionally, but it was necessary to reset the stage for sustainable wolf recovery in this region,” Anderson said.
“Now we will refocus our attention on working with livestock operators and conservation groups to aggressively promote the use of nonlethal tactics to avoid wolf-livestock conflict.”
With the latest operation concluded, Anderson said the department would continue to monitor wolf activity in the Wedge region as it is doing in other parts of the state. While some Department of Fish and Wildlife staff were working full time with the Wedge Pack for most of the summer, other staffers have been working to document wolf activity in Okanogan, Chelan and Kittitas counties, the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in Northeast Washington.
With the support of key conservation and livestock organizations, the department announced Sept. 21 it would remove the pack to create the opportunity for wolves that are not habituated to preying on livestock to recolonize the region.
Anderson said he looked forward to continuing to work with interested groups on a broad range of nonlethal management strategies under the terms of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission in December.
“Lethal removal will remain a wolf-management option, but we will use it only as a last resort, after all reasonable nonlethal options are exhausted,” Anderson said.