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Washington lifts kill order on Smackout Pack after two attack-free months

Wolf policy lead Donny Martorello said it looks like removing two wolves from the pack changed the pack’s behavior.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on September 29, 2017 9:00AM

Last changed on October 3, 2017 2:19PM

Washington wildlife managers say the Smackout wolfpack hasn’t killed any more cattle since two wolves were killed this summer.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington wildlife managers say the Smackout wolfpack hasn’t killed any more cattle since two wolves were killed this summer.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife won’t kill any more wolves from the Smackout Pack, because the predators haven’t attacked any cattle for two months.

Under the state’s wolf plan and protocols, department director Jim Unsworth can authorize “an incremental removal of wolves,” said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW. That includes a period of active removal followed by a period to evaluate whether that action changed pack behavior.

The department captured and euthanized two wolves from the pack July 20-30, and entered the evaluation period July 31.

“We were monitoring the movements of wolves and looking for proximity of wolves and livestock,” Martorello said. “We were really trying to see, are these animals co-existing on the landscape without conflict?”

Several ranchers have livestock on federal grazing allotments in the area. They will begin to collect the cattle at the end of the month, Martorello said.

The three ranchers who experienced five documented losses to the Smackout Pack all met expectations for proactive and responsive measures to deter wolves, he said.

In early August, a rancher moved livestock from a fenced area to join other cows on open-range allotments. The department wanted to see if the wolves’ behavior had changed, and did not detect any further depredations on livestock during that time. The department concluded the evaluation period Sept. 21.

The department will continue to monitor wolves and cows, Martorello said.

The state’s 2011 wolf plan allows for killing problem wolves if four depredations occur in 10 months, or three in 30 days.

The department estimated 13 to 15 wolves in the pack before the two wolves were removed.

“That pack is still one of our larger packs in the state,” Martorello said. “Knock on wood, it looks like the behaviors changed.”

Department directors have authorized killing wolves four times in Washington, Martorello said. Members of the Wedge and Profanity Peak packs were killed, and one wolf in the Huckleberry pack was killed.

“This is the first time we were able to remove a couple animals (in) a fairly large pack and it looks as though we’ve changed that behavior,” Martorello said. “It’s encouraging that we haven’t seen any more conflict.”

A lawsuit filed by conservation groups Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity, which seeks to prevent the department from issuing future kill orders, did not have any bearing on WDFW’s decision, Martorello said.


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