Washington Fish and Wildlife will again target a wolfpack preying on cattle in the Kettle River Range, the department announced Wednesday morning.
Fish and Wildlife shot a male wolf July 13, as well as two others in the OPT pack last fall. Wolves, however, have continued attacking cattle grazing on a Forest Service allotment in the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.
“The chronic livestock depredations and subsequent wolf removals are stressful and deeply concerning for all those involved,” Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind said in a statement.
“The department is working very hard to try to change this pack’s behavior, while also working with a diversity of stakeholders on how to prevent the cycle from repeating.”
Also Wednesday, Fish and Wildlife said it confirmed a calf had been killed by the Togo pack in northeast Washington. The pack has a history of attacking cattle. The department shot one wolf in the pack last fall in hopes of stopping the depredations.
The OPT pack has four adults and at least four pups, according to Fish and Wildlife. The department did not say how many wolves it planned to kill. The department’s policy generally calls for it to shoot one or two wolves and pausing to see whether the pack will stop attacking livestock.
The department paused after shooting the wolf July 13. Since then, the pack has killed two calves and injured five, according to the department.
Fish and Wildlife did not say when it would start to look for wolves, but timed its early morning announcement to fulfill a pledge to a judge last year to give an eight-hour notice.
The delay will give environmental groups time to seek a restraining order. An hour after the department announced it would resume lethal removal, Center for Biological Diversity attorney Sophia Ressler said the organization was discussing whether to go to court later in the day.
The OPT pack has killed or injured 27 livestock since Sept. 5, according to the department. Eight attacks have occurred in the past 30 days.
The wolves are attacking cattle on land grazed for decades by the Diamond M ranch. Livestock-wolf conflicts there occur annually.
Cattlemen say the wolves have thinned deer herds and turned to cattle for food. Non-lethal measures to stop the depredations work, at best, for a short time against hungry, smart and determined wolves, they say.
Environmentalists say the range is ideal wolf habitat and have called on Fish and Wildlife to find ways to break the cycle of depredations and lethal removal.
Fish and Wildlife says the ranch has taken steps to prevent wolves from attacking its cattle. The ranch began using a wildlife deputy employed by the Ferry County Sheriff’s Office as a range-rider on July 26.
Cattle have been rotated on the allotment to stay away from areas the pack has gathered at in the past, according to Fish and Wildlife.
Fish and Wildlife said it expects the wolves to continue attacking cattle, even with the non-lethal efforts to guard the herd.
In justifying the resumption of lethal removal, Fish and Wildlife said the number of wolves killed in recent years, including those shot by the department to protect livestock, has not prevented the state from moving toward achieving its wolf recovery goals.
The number of wolves in the eastern one-third Washington has exceeded recovery goals.