UPDATED 8:15 p.m. with info about missing guard dog.
PREDATORS -- More sheep have been killed by a wolf or wolves in northwestern Whitman County since the first attack in decades in the county occurred on Dec. 9.
Three dead sheep were investigated Tuesday where about 1,200 sheep are being pastured in stubble fields near the Spokane and Lincoln county borders.
The ranchers say one of their guard dogs also is missing.
Both wolf depredation events occurred on sheep belonging to Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack near his ranch north of Lamont. Gray wolves are protected by state Endangered Species regulations in Eastern Washington.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff confirmed today that one pregnant ewe was killed by a wolf or wolves. The other two sheep could not positively be confirmed as wolf kills because the remains were too sparse, said Nate Pamplin, the agency's assistant director in Olympia.
"Apparently, some of the sheep got out of the pasture that is surrounded by an electric fence on Dec. 14," he said. "Due to the freezing and thawing throughout the day, a small portion of the electric fence pulled out of the ground in a draw in which some sheep escaped under the fence. The reported mortalities occurred approximately one half mile outside of the fenced area."
The sheep killed on Dec. 9 also had escaped to a portion of downed fence. In that case, freezing rain had cause the break.
One of three anatolian guard dogs protecting the sheep has been missing for about a week and presumed dead, the Swannack family said. The mother and sister of the missing 4-year-old male dog also were with the sheep but are unharmed.
"The fence has been fixed with heavier posts being used to hold the fence in the ground and the sheep are back inside the pasture," Pamplin said. Fox lights (that blink) continue to be deployed throughout the fenced pasture. Carcasses were removed from the site and cameras were deployed at the kill site."
Swannack has entered a Livestock Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreement with the state wildlife agency.
The producer plans to follow their normal practice and move the sheep from the current grazing pasture to another fenced location around their house by the end of the year, Pamplin said.