The Ferry County Sheriff’s Office will monitor the remnants of the Profanity Peak pack in northeastern Washington, watching to see whether the wolves come into conflict with livestock, people or pets, according to Sheriff Ray Maycumber.
Maycumber in an email Thursday confirmed that his office was taking a “defensive position” now that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has stopped hunting for the pack’s surviving adult and three pups.
The pack’s movements have been disrupted and it probably won’t establish new behavior patterns until hunting season ends and fewer people are in its territory, Maycumber said.
The sheriff said he will has deputized a trapper and will consult with state wildlife managers about the threat the pack poses “as the situation unfolds.”
“We are also gathering information on other wolf sightings not attributed to the Profanity Peak pack, which have been close to residences and school bus routes,” Maycumber said.
WDFW announced Wednesday that it was ending the hunt for the pack after shooting six adults and one pup between Aug. 5 and Sept. 29. An eighth wolf, another pup, presumably died of natural causes, according to WDFW.
WDFW had planned to eliminate the entire pack, but the adult and pups were elusive in the rugged and heavily forested region, WDFW wolf policy lead Donny Martorello said.
WDFW officials say they will resume the hunt this year if the pack attacks more livestock, but they rated the chances of that as low.
Investigators have not confirmed an attack on cattle since Oct. 3, and cows are coming off grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest, where most of the attacks have occurred.
Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship said Thursday he was frustrated that WDFW didn’t eliminate the pack, as planned.
“I just don’t see the department’s fortitude there,” he said.
Commissioners in August raised the possibility of challenging the state’s authority over the state-protected species by passing a resolution authorizing Maycumber to spend the resources to remove the entire pack.
Blankenship said it will be up to the sheriff how to respond to the pack, but that he foresees a growing risk to public safety and ranching, one of the county’s few sources of economic activity.
WDFW has attributed up to 15 depredations since July 8 to the Profanity Peak pack, though ranchers says that represents only a fraction of actual losses. Bill McIrvin, co-owner of the Diamond M Ranch, said at a county commissioners meeting in late July that wolves were attacking about one calf a day.
“What am I suppose to do, let the McIrvins lose another hundred head?” Blankenship asked.
Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity said she was relieved WDFW had suspended the culling of the pack. “The whole thing is deeply unfortunate and misguided. It never should have happened in the first place,” she said.
WDFW should spend more money on preventing attacks on livestock and compensating ranchers for losses, rather than shooting wolves, she said. Ranchers who graze on public lands also should expect losses to wolves, she said.