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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Conservation group supports state decision to kill Togo wolves

A gray wolf is photographed as part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ongoing Predator-Prey Project.  (Courtesy of Benjamin Drummond)

One Washington conservation group has publicly supported the state’s decision to kill up to two members of a northeast Washington wolf pack following repeated cattle attacks.

In a blog posted this week, Seattle-based Conservation Northwest, wrote “lethal control is always a difficult situation, one that we don’t like to see occur. It can be understandably emotional for wildlife advocates, livestock producers, and agency staff. However, when affected producers, participating range riders, and Department staff all make consistent and credible efforts to proactively deter depredations, and the agreed-upon threshold for lethal wolf removal after chronic livestock depredations is exceeded, it’s a situation we should accept in the interest of long-term wolf recovery and coexistence.”

In late August, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife authorized the killing of up to two wolves from the Togo Wolf Pack. As of last Sept. 2, WDFW had not killed any Togo wolves, although it has tried. The order expires when the wolf or wolves have been removed or after Sept. 26, according to a WDFW statement.

The decision to support the WDFW order was made because of “reports from our staff and others on-the-ground of exceptionally diligent proactive and reactive deterrence efforts in Togo territory,” CNW spokesman Chase Gunnell said .

Those measures included range riding from the Northeast Washington Wolf Cattle Collaborative, the Cattle Producers of Washington and WDFW-funded range riders, said Jay Shepherd, a co-founder of the North East Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative and the wolf program lead for Conservation Northwest.

The area in question was “covered pretty well” Shepherd said, despite challenging drought conditions that congregated cattle and wolves around limited water sources.

The Togo Pack is the first to reach the lethal-removal threshold set by WDFW’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol and the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan this grazing season. According to WDFW, Togo wolves have killed one calf and injured three others since June 24. Three occurred within the past 30 days.

The decision to target two wolves from the Togo wolf pack was decried by other conservation groups.

“To any who support and continue to support – despite ongoing wolf kill orders and ongoing conflicts – the Department’s Livestock-Wolf Interaction Protocol, the question must be posed: Is the Protocol really working if the livestock industry is constantly unhappy and stressed, the conservation community regularly heartbroken and outraged, the Department receiving complaints from both sides, and wolves and cattle are continuously harmed? Who is that working for?” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity in an email.

There are at least 178 wolves in Washington and 29 packs and 16 successful breeding pairs , according to recent state information.