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State wildlife managers given green light to kill Togo wolves following cattle attacks

UPDATED: Wed., June 15, 2022

A gray wolf pauses on a trail in Pend Oreille County, Wash.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
A gray wolf pauses on a trail in Pend Oreille County, Wash. (JESSE TINSLEY)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will attempt to kill up to two wolves in the Togo pack area following repeated attacks on cattle.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the killing of one to two wolves on Monday. The killings are “not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach the statewide or local recovery objective,” according to an agency news release.

“In previous years, WDFW has documented 12 to 30 mortalities per year and the population has continued to grow and expand its range,” according to the statement. “The Department’s wolf plan also modeled lethal removal to help inform decision makers during this stage of recovery. The analysis in the plan included wolf survival estimates from northwest Montana, which incorporated a 28% mortality rate. It is important to note that agency lethal control was factored into that 28% mortality estimate. To err on the side of caution (i.e., when in doubt, assume greater impact to wolf population so true impact is not underestimated), the scenarios modeled in the wolf plan included an even higher level of lethal control (i.e., removing 30% of population every four years in addition to baseline 28% mortality rate). Based on that modeling analysis, as well as an analysis of higher levels of potential mortality on the actual population level of wolves in the eastern recovery zone and statewide, we do not expect this action to jeopardize wolf recovery in the eastern recovery zone or statewide.”

The Togo wolf pack has a minimum of seven members, per the state’s 2021 wolf survey. In 2021, the Togo pack was targeted by state shooters following repeated livestock attacks, but no wolves from the pack were killed. WDFW spent $3,109.87 on that unsuccessful effort.

There were a minimum of 206 wolves and 33 packs in Washington state in 2021, according to an annual survey conducted by state and tribal biologists.

Despite that continued growth, wolf advocates decried Monday’s order, noting that some research indicates killing wolves disrupts pack structure and can lead to more attacks on livestock.

“It’s so disheartening to hear that Washington is trying to kill even more endangered wolves, especially when we know it doesn’t actually help anyone,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in an emailed statement. “We desperately need rules here in Washington that lay out a thorough and transparent process for handling wolf predation. A good rule would make the killing of wolves rare and create a clear process for both the state and the livestock industry to follow.”

The agency has drafted new wolf-livestock rules and the WDFW commission will vote on July 8 whether or not to adopt that rule. The new rule, which was open to public comment into April, would require that before the state could kill wolves that attacked livestock, agency staff would need to confirm that livestock owners had implemented appropriate nonlethal deterrents. The proposal would also create Chronic Conflict Zones within the state. These zones would have area-specific criteria for the use of nonlethal and lethal measures. The proposed rules do not explicitly state which nonlethals are considered appropriate. Chronic conflict zones would have more detailed conflict management plans.

Below the WDFW statement is copied in full:

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