The carcasses of two calves and a cow were discovered in Ferry County on a federal grazing allotment early in January.
Wolves from the Old Profanity Peak Pack area are responsible for the attacks, according to a statement from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The producer who owned the cattle is the same producer who lost multiple animals to wolves in 2018.
No wolf deterrents were in place, according to WDFW, because the agency believed the cattle were off the federal grazing allotment. Per federal rules producers can only have their cattle on allotments for certain periods of time. In this case the producer was supposed to have the cattle of the allotment by Oct. 15, although the Forest Service did issue a short extension
Jay Shepherd, a co-founder of the North East Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative and the wolf program lead for Conservation Northwest, said ranchers struggled to get their cattle of the federal allotments this year.
“This was a difficult year for everybody not just that allotment holder,” Shepherd said. “It was just a difficult gathering year. Largely because of the pressure from wolves.”
The threat of predation disperses cattle and thickness of the Colville National Forest makes it difficult for ranchers to find the animals.
The OPT pack has been credited with 16 depredations (13 injuries and three killed livestock) in under two months, according to WDFW.
Counting the newly discovered animals the OPT pack been involved in 19 depredations since Sept. 4, 2018.
WDFW’s lethal removal policy allows killing wolves if they prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period. That policy was developed in 2016 by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, which represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters and livestock ranchers.
The policy also stipulates cattle producers have employed at least two proactive deterrence techniques.
In October WDFW attempted to kill the two surviving members of the OPT pack but they were unable to locate the wolves.
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind paused the lethal removal order. The order could be reinstated at any time, said Donny Martorello, the wolf policy lead for WDFW.
“Right now the director is keeping all of his options open,” Martorello said. “He is going to be receiving information from our field staff on the details and specifics of this situation.”
Martorello doesn’t know when exactly Susewind will make a decision, although he anticipates that it will take a week or two.
WDFW is in the process of surveying Washington’s wolf population in an effort to come to a minimum number of wolves in the state. The survey results will be announced in March.
A minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs was reported by WDFW at this time last year.
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