The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lethally removed an adult, nonbreeding female member of the Wedge wolf pack in Northeast Washington on Monday, reducing the pack to two known remaining members.
According to the WDFW, this pack has repeatedly preyed on cattle on public and private grazing lands in Stevens County.
The lethal action comes four days after conservation groups petitioned Gov. Jay Inslee to order the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft enforceable rules that limit when the state can kill endangered wolves for conflicts with livestock.
“It’s disappointing that less than a week after Gov. Inslee was urged to rein in the state fish and wildlife agency’s endless wolf-killing, the agency executed this kill order, which nearly eradicates an entire wolf pack,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It sends a message that the state prefers to manage wolves with bullets rather than seriously consider more effective, nonlethal solutions to livestock predation.”
Since 2012, the state has killed 31 wolves. Nearly all were killed for conflicts on public lands, and 84% were killed for the same livestock owner, according to the CBD.
“Year after year, the department has failed to craft strategies to address high-conflict areas that are prime wolf habitat,” said Weiss. “The distressing failure to break this destructive pattern shows why the commission needs to make rules to protect Washington’s wolves and livestock.”
WDFW director Kelly Susewind authorized the removal of a wolf from the Wedge pack on July 23 after WDFW said staff confirmed five depredation incidents within the previous 30 days. WDFW staff confirmed two additional depredations two days after the authorization, prior to Monday’s lethal removal of the Wedge wolf, bringing the total number of documented depredations according to the WDFW to 11 incidents resulting in three dead and 11 injured livestock since May 11.
WDFW’s approach to incremental removal consists of a period of active operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions changed the pack’s behavior (for example, by disrupting the overlap of wolves and livestock or the pattern of repeated depredation). The department has entered an evaluation period.
“The history is clear. Killing wolves is a short-term Band-Aid approach that has not and will not prevent ongoing conflicts,” said Zoë Hanley, Northwest Program Representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
“The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife needs standardized protocols to ensure that effective range riding takes place prior to authorizing lethal control, and the U.S. Forest Service needs to promote grazing practices which reduce livestock vulnerability to predation. Defenders of Wildlife has said it before, and we’ll continue to say it – it’s time to take a new approach.”
If WDFW documents another livestock depredation and confirms that it likely occurred after the action Monday, the department may initiate another lethal removal action following the guidelines of the Wolf Plan and 2017 wolf-livestock interaction protocol.