Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Washington wildlife managers are watching to see whether the Smackout wolfpack in Stevens County attacks more cattle before deciding whether to kill more wolves, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday.
WDFW killed two wolves before pausing July 30. The department has not verified any new depredations since then.
“The department may consider initiating another incremental lethal-removal period directed at the Smackout pack, but only if WDFW finds evidence of a new depredation after the last removal period ended,” according to the department’s weekly update.
WDFW began targeting the pack July 20 after the fourth depredation in the past 10 months, meeting the threshold for the department to cull a pack. Wildlife managers confirmed a fifth depredation July 22.
Following a new wolf-control policy, WDFW targeted wolves sooner than in previous years, hoping shooting two wolves will deter the rest of the pack. Previously, WDFW waited longer to intervene, but with initial plans to shoot several wolves. WDFW shot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack last year.
WDFW has reported that the five cattle attacked by the Smackout pack since Sept. 21 belonged to three different producers.
In the most recent depredation, wolves injured a calf in a private, 40-acre fenced pasture. The calf was bitten in several places by wolves, according to WDFW investigators.
The other four depredations — three in September and one in July — occurred on federal grazing land, according to WDFW.
WDFW has not released further details about the operation, holding back details such as how the wolves were killed and their sexes and ages. WDFW’s withholding of information has upset conservation groups, including some with representatives on the department’s Wolf Advisory Group.
The department says it’s attempting to tamp down public fury over shooting wolves and shield WDFW officials and ranchers from harassment. The department also has been slow to release information about wolves killed in other ways, such as by being hit by vehicles.
Conservation groups say WDFW’s tight-lipped approach has undermined trust in the department and created an information vacuum, which could be filled by rumors and misinformation.
The groups stated their complaints in an Aug. 4 letter to WDFW. The letter was signed by 15 organizations, including five on the Wolf Advisory Group. The five are Defenders of Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Humane Society of the United States and Wolf Haven International.