ENDANGERED SPECIES -- Wolves killed two adult cows near Chewelah this week, state wildlife officials confirmed today.
The cattle were found dead on Thursday and today in the upper portion of the North Fork of Chewelah Creek in the Dirty Shirt Pack territory, said Nate Pamplin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife assistant director.
Wildlife officials and the Stevens County Sheriff’s department investigated the case, since wolves are protected as a state endangered species.
The producer runs 83 cow/calf pairs on the Colville National Forest allotment, Pamplin said.
"Staff will contact the producer on a daily basis to share the location of the collared wolf from the Dirty Shirt Pack," Pamplin said. The wolf fixed with a GPS collar can be tracked by satellite to help the rancher track the pack and deter further attacks.
"We have conflict staff deployed for the weekend and range riders will be mobilized soon."
Before the announcement of the wolf kills, the Fish and Wildlife Department issued a media release noting that the agency has stepped up proactive measures to prevent livestock depredations. Here's some of the information:
Since 2013, WDFW has offered cost-sharing arrangements to livestock producers who invest in non-lethal deterrents such as range riders, guard dogs, “fladry”(fencing), and carcass disposal. During the past year, WDFW signed 41 cooperative agreements with ranchers, committing more than $300,000 in financial assistance to help them adopt measures to protect their livestock.
Other conflict-prevention strategies employed by WDFW in the past year include:
- Range riders: WDFW contracted with five range riders that state wildlife managers could deploy to help ranchers monitor their livestock, remove sick and injured animals and haze wolves away from active grazing areas. In addition, all livestock owners with cooperative agreements qualify for cost-sharing arrangements for range riders.
- Radio collars: State, federal and tribal biologists have captured 11 wolves and fitted them with radio collars since January. There are now 14 active collars on wolves distributed among 10 of the state’s 16 known wolf packs.
- Wildlife conflict staff: WDFW now employs 11 wildlife-conflict specialists to work with livestock producers in areas with active wolf packs. In all, there are 27 members on WDFW’s wildlife-conflict staff, including specialists working statewide on other issues, including deer and elk damage
A Wolf Conflict-Deterrence Update on the agency's website describes how proactive strategies have been applied to specific areas occupied by wolf packs.
Prior to spring pupping season, a survey conducted by WDFW found a minimum of 68 gray wolves in Washington, up 30 percent from the previous year. The number of confirmed wolf packs also increased to 16 from 12 the year before.
As the state’s wolf population continues to rise, ranchers in Eastern Washington have reported losing an increasing number of livestock to wolf predation.
On two occasions – in 2012 and 2014 – WDFW took lethal action against wolf packs involved in persistent attacks on livestock. Both actions occurred in the eastern third of the state, where wolves are no longer listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Still in his first year as WDFW Director Jim Unsworth has extensive experience with wolf management from his work in Idaho, a state with nearly 10 times as many wolves as Washington.
Noting that Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan provides guidance for both lethal and non-lethal wolf-deterrence strategies, Unsworth said he plans to emphasize preventive measures to reduce conflicts with wolves.
“Washington needs to chart its own course in wolf management,” Unsworth said. “I think the proactive strategies we’ve pursued over the past year have put us on the right path and reinforced the importance of working with livestock producers to minimize conflicts with wolves.”