A southeast Washington wolfpack has injured another cow, reopening the possibility that Washington Fish and Wildlife will lethally thin the pack.

Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind may decide as early as Monday whether to cull the Grouse Flats pack, a department spokeswoman said Friday.

The pack crossed the numerical threshold to qualify for lethal control in late August. The department has held off, hoping the pack's periodic attacks on cattle would not become an engrained habit.

If the department chooses to kill wolves, its policy calls for removing one or two wolves initially and pausing to see whether the survivors continue to attack livestock.

Fish and Wildlife has killed wolves in northeast Washington, but has never shot wolves in southeast Washington. The Grouse Flats pack's territory extends into Oregon.

The pack has killed three calves and injured one cow since July 8, according to Fish and Wildlife's count. The pack also injured a cow last October.

Fish and Wildlife will consider lethal removal after four depredations in 10 months or three in 30 days.

Under the 30-day standard, the pack has two strikes. The attacks were confirmed Aug. 30 and Sept. 12.

In the latest depredation, a rancher reported an injured cow in a private pasture on Sept. 11. The cow had cuts and holes in its hindquarters from the groin to the udder. The department confirmed the next day that wolves attacked the cow. 

GPS data from a collar worn by a wolf in the pack showed it was in the area at the approximate time of the attack, according to the department.

The rancher regularly monitors the herd and has flashing lights in pastures, according to the department.

Fish and Wildlife counted eight wolves in the pack at the end of 2018, making it the state's second-largest wolfpack. Larger packs have not had conflicts with livestock, while smaller ones have.  

In northeast Washington, an order issued Aug. 9 by Susewind to kill the last two known wolves in the Togo pack remains in place. The department has not made any effort to remove the pack for several weeks.

The department hoped to trap one wolf, fit it with a GPS collar and then find both wolves. The wolves, however, avoided the traps, and the department pulled them. The department has not ruled out trying to trap again this fall, the spokeswoman said.

The Togo pack has killed or injured cattle six times in the past 30 days, nine in the past 10 months and 18 since November 2017.

A rancher on July 24 shot a wolf in the pack as it was attacking cattle. The wolf left and was not found, but wildlife managers believe the wound was fatal. The department determined the shooting was lawful.

Fish and Wildlife has so far this year documented that wolves definitely or probably killed or injured 28 cattle in Washington. The department recorded 35 attacks on livestock in all of 2018.

Fish and Wildlife shot the last four known wolves in the OPT pack in mid-August. The pack had killed or injured at least 29 cattle, dating back to last fall, and 13 this year, according to the department.

Recommended for you