OLYMPIA – State wildlife officials can kill an injured wolf in a pack that has been preying on cattle in northeast Washington, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Judge Carol Murphy refused to extend a court order against Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to kill a male wolf in the Togo pack, saying the environmental groups opposing those plans had not met the legal burden to continue the temporary restraining order issued Aug. 20.
Department director Kelly Susewind said staff would proceed with plans to kill the wolf, which has been located and appears to have a broken leg but remains mobile.
At 5 p.m., when the temporary restraining order expired, department staff in the area occupied by the pack were authorized to shoot and kill the wolf.
The wolf is part of a pack in Ferry County near the Canadian border that the department says has been responsible for six livestock killings in the last 10 months, three of them coming in the 30 days before Aug. 20. It issued an order to kill the pack’s adult male.
Wolf managers concluded there was no evidence the pack’s behavior would change, that injured wolves have difficulty hunting deer and elk and are more likely to prey on cattle, and that with the male wolf injured an adult female in the pack would likely attack livestock to feed him and her two pups.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, which are suing over the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, received a temporary restraining order against plans to kill the pack’s male.
The male wolf was captured in June and fitted with a tracking collar. On Aug. 23, a rancher who said he was acting in self-defense shot at a black wolf wearing a tracking collar and may have wounded him. The description matched the Togo pack’s adult male, and wildlife officials got within 20 yards of the injured wolf the next day.
The wolf appeared to have a broken leg but was able to run into a wooded area. A remote camera in the area showed an adult female had been there the previous night.
Amaroq Weiss, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Murphy’s ruling was sad and the department’s decision to kill the father of the Togo pack cruel.
“The agency’s ongoing killing of Washington’s endangered wolves is disturbing because it ignores science and goes completely counter to the wishes of the majority of state residents,” Weiss said. The underlying lawsuit remains in place with no date yet for a trial, but the center could seek injunctions against future kill orders.
“We hope the department doesn’t issue any more kill orders,” she said.
Conservation Northwest, which hopes to join the lawsuit in support of the department, said efforts to protect cattle while the restraining order was in place had reduced wolf attacks on them through night herd monitoring and day use of range riders.
A spokesman for the department said he couldn’t comment on plans for executing the kill order on the Toga pack’s injured wolf.
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