Grouse Flats

Washington state authorities say a calf killed in Garfield County qualifies the Grouse Flats wolfpack for lethal removal.

The Grouse Flats wolfpack killed a calf in Garfield County, Washington Fish and Wildlife said Monday, becoming the first pack in southeast Washington to attack enough livestock to be a candidate for lethal removal.

A range-rider found the dead 450-pound calf in a fenced pasture on private land Aug. 30. The pack killed two calves in July and killed or injured three cattle last year.

Fish and Wildlife’s policy calls for it to consider lethal control after four attacks on livestock in 10 months. The most recent depredation was the fourth in 10 months and two days, but the department will count it, a spokeswoman said.

Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind has not decided what the department will do, she said. The department retains flexibility in choosing to use lethal control, ramp-up non-lethal measures or hope wolves and livestock move apart.

The department has shot wolves in northeast Washington to protect cattle and sheep, but has never used lethal control in southeast Washington.

The department’s use of lethal control in places with many more attacks on cattle has been challenged, sometimes successfully, in Western Washington courts in counties without wolves.

The Grouse Flats pack’s territory extends into northeast Oregon. The pack had eight wolves at the end of 2018, according to Fish and Wildlife, making it the second-largest of Washington’s 27 packs.

The rear half of the calf found Aug. 30 had been mostly eaten, according to Fish and Wildlife.

Investigators found wolf tracks. A radio collar worn by one wolf showed that at least one member of the pack had been in the area, the department said.

The rancher watches the herd with range-riders five days a week, has people regularly in the area, puts lights in the pasture and disposes of livestock carcasses, according to the department.

The department also will consider lethal removal after three attacks in 30 days. The Grouse Flats pack has not crossed that threshold.

Fish and Wildlife confirmed July 8 and July 22 that the pack attacked calves. One calf was attacked on private land. The other was on a grazing allotment in the state 4-0 Ranch Wildlife Area.

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