Washington Fish and Wildlife will attempt to cull a southeast Washington wolfpack that has been attacking cattle, the department announced early Tuesday.
Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind authorized “incremental removal.” The department’s practice has been to shoot one or two wolves and pause to see whether the depredations on livestock stop.
By giving public notice shortly before 8 a.m., the department complies with a promise it made last year to give environmental groups a full day to challenge the order in court.
The Grouse Flats pack would be the first in southeast Washington to be culled by the department. The pack’s territory extends into Oregon. The pack had eight wolves at the end of last year, according to the department.
The pack has attacked four calves or cows in the past 10 months, just crossing the threshold for the department to consider lethal removal. The pack has attacked cattle twice in the past 30 days and seven times since Aug. 23, 2018.
The pack crossed the three-attacks-in-one-month threshold in late August, but the department held off on using lethal control. The department said Tuesday that additional non-lethal efforts to deter the pack had not reduced the potential for more depredations.
In a written statement, the department presented its case for killing wolves. The pack persisted in attacking cattle despite steps taken by four ranches to protect their herds, according to the department.
One rancher, with a permit to graze cattle in Fish and Wildlife’s 4-O Ranch Wildlife Area, maintained regular human presence. After a depredation, the producer hired two more people to watch the herd, installed lights and moved the cattle to a smaller fenced pasture.
The producer moved the cattle out of state on Aug. 10 when the lease expired, according to the department.
The other three ranchers, who graze cattle on private and Fish and Wildlife land, took similar preventive measures and increased herd monitoring in response to depredations. The response also included putting up more trail cameras to track wolves.
Wolves are not federally protected in the eastern one-third of Washington, giving Fish and Wildlife the option of shooting wolves to stop chronic attacks on livestock. Wolves are a federal endangered species in the western two-thirds of Washington.
The department says its level of lethal removal won’t stop the population of wolves from growing and expanding in Washington.
Fish and Wildlife shot eight wolves in northeast Washington this year to eliminate a pack that had been attacking cattle on U.S. Forest Service grazing lands. The department also has a standing order to kill the two known wolves in the Togo pack, also in northeast Washington.
The department promised a Thurston County judge last year to give one-day notice before shooting wolves. Environmental groups have mostly been unsuccessful in seeking restraining orders, but lawsuits are pending in Thurston and King counties challenging the department’s use of lethal control against wolves.