The state has killed one wolf in the Huckleberry Pack and is authorized to kill three more in an effort to stop the pack from preying on sheep near Hunters, Wash.
A federal wildlife agent contracted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife killed one wolf Aug. 23. The agent used a helicopter.
Wolves from the pack killed 22 sheep owned by Dave Dashiell and injured three more in six separate incidents, according to the agency. Also on Aug. 23, crews found five dead and three injured sheep attacked the night before or earlier in the morning. Investigators confirmed wolves were responsible for all the attacks, according to the agency.
State Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson authorized the removal of up to four members of the pack, estimated to have 12 members.
“Unfortunately, lethal action is clearly warranted in this case,” WDFW program director Nate Pamplin said in a press release. “Before we considered reducing the size of the pack, our staff and Mr. Dashiell used a wide range of preventative measures to keep the wolves from preying on the pack, but these efforts have not succeeded.” Non-lethal activities are continuing, Pamplin added.
According to the agency, the situation meets all conditions for lethal removal under the agency’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and related procedures: There have been repeated, documented wolf kills; non-lethal methods did not stop the predation; attacks are likely to continue; and the owner has not done anything to attract the wolves.
The Center for Biological Diversity and seven other conservation agencies issued press releases protesting the agency’s actions and urging them to explore other non-lethal options.
“Non-lethal measures, such as range riders and moving the sheep, were being put in place and should have been allowed to work before the agency moved to kill wolves,” stated Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf manager for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release. “With only 52 confirmed wolves in Washington, we can’t afford to kill any, particularly when non-lethal measures have yet to be fully tried.”
WDFW reported in March that at least 52 wolves in 13 packs live in the state. The number is likely higher, carnivore section manager Donny Martorello said at the time.
Pamplin said the preferred option is to move the sheep, but finding a grazing area for 1,800 animals presents a challenge.
Jack Field, executive vice president for the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said he was pleased to see the department adhere to its management strategy and work with the livestock producer.
“This is certainly a complex issue and one that will definitely raise questions from individuals in the conservation community, but it’s the right thing to do,” Field said.
If wolves are seen, non-lethal tools such as rubber bullets and paintballs should be used to haze them away, Weiss told the Capital Press.
Weiss said the department has not accepted an offer to use fox lights, a type of light that blinks continuously at night and in dim light. Fox lights have deterred wolf-livestock conflicts elsewhere, Weiss said.
“They should be accepting every offer of assistance in non-lethal methods that are feasible to implement, and they need to explain why they are not doing so,” Weiss said.
The department’s decision to control problem wolves bodes well for all stakeholders, Field said.
“The most effective method and the best thing for the wolf is to effectively control and manage problem wolves,” he said. “If we can eliminate the problem wolves, it’s going to be better for the wolves out there minding their own business, not creating conflict.”