ENDANGERED SPECIES -- Lethal action is being taken on another wolf pack associated with livestock attacks in northeastern Washington, the state Fish and Wildlife Department announced this afternoon.
Wolves in the Sherman Pack have repeatedly preyed on livestock in Ferry County during the past two months, wildlife managers say in a release.
Jim Unsworth, department director, has authorized field staff to kill one or more members of the Sherman Pack, which has been involved in four documented livestock predations since mid-June despite preventative efforts by the producer, the agency said.
Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species in Washington as their populations naturally recover historic range.
Also this summer, lethal removal was authorized for the Smackout Pack of Stevens County after several livestock attacks. After agency-authorized shooters killed two wolves in June, the attacks stopped. Officials said they will not kill any more of the Smackout wolves if they stay away from livestock.
“The purpose of this action is to change the pack's behavior, while also meeting the state's wolf-conservation goals,” said Donny Martorello, the department's wolf program leader. “That means incrementally removing wolves and assessing the results before further action.”
The same approach will be taken in dealing with the Sherman Pack, he said.
The Sherman and Smackout packs are two of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington by department staff in 2016. According to their surveys, the state's wolf population is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year despite occasional interventions to kill problem wolves.
Last year lethal removal was ordered for cattle attacking wolves in the Profanity Peak Pack of Ferry County. The effort was stopped after five wolves were killed.
State Fish and Wildlife officials spent $135,000 to kill seven of 11 gray wolves in the pack, which had attacked or killed about 15 cattle on national forest grazing allotments in Ferry County during the summer and fall of 2016.
This season, at least three calves have been killed and one injured by members of the Sherman Pack, according to agency investigations. The pack has at least two members – including one fitted with a tracking collar. A survey last winter indicated there were five members in the pack.
Martorello said ordering lethal removal of at least some of the Sherman wolves is consistent with Washington's Wolf Management Plan of 2011, which authorizes the agency to take action to address repeated attacks on livestock.
The rancher who lost livestock to the Sherman Pack employed a variety of non-lethal deterrents before lethal measures were approved, he said. "The rancher engaged multiple range riders to patrol his herd in a leased grazing area on a near-daily basis," he said.
The rancher and the range riders also shared information with WDFW about cattle behavior and wolf activities throughout the area, Martorello said.
“This rancher has made concerted efforts to protect his livestock using non-lethal measures, and has met the department’s prerequisite for lethal action,” he said. “Our goal is to change the pack's behavior before the situation gets worse.”
Martorello said the situation meets the department’s condition for lethal action that predation by a wolf pack occur three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period.
That condition is part of a protocol for wolf removal developed by WDFW in conjunction with an 18-member advisory group that represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters and livestock ranchers.