Washington wolf

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is discussing alternatives to culling wolves that repeatedly kill cattle in the Kettle River Range.

The Togo wolfpack killed a cow and injured a calf in northern Ferry County last week, meaning Washington’s new Fish and Wildlife director will have to decide this week on whether to cull the pack to stop the attacks.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have now blamed the pack for five depredations on livestock in the past nine months. The department discounted one depredation, concluding that more could have been done to prevent the attack. Still, the pack has met the threshold of four depredations in 10 months for the department to consider lethal removal.

Fish and Wildlife director Kelly Susewind, less than a month on the job, told wildlife managers to work over the weekend to confirm the number of adults in the pack and learn as much as possible about the pack’s activities before he considers further action, according to a department statement Saturday.

The department captured an adult male in the pack on June 2 and fitted it with a radio collar. The pack has at least one adult female, and they produced an unknown number of pups this spring. The pack may have a third adult, according to the department.

A wildlife officer employed by the sheriffs in Ferry and Stevens counties contacted Fish and Wildlife on Wednesday about a dead cow on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in the Togo pack territory near Danville, according to the state agency.

The cow had suffered bites and hemorrhaging. Investigators found signs of a struggle down a steep hill and around the cow carcass, and signs of wolves. Fish and Wildlife confirmed the depredation and assigned blame to the Togo pack.

The carcass was left in the remote and rugged area. The producer and his range rider pushed the herd to a different area on the allotment. The cow had been turned out with a calf, which was missing.

On Thursday, a range rider that contracts with Fish and Wildlife reported finding an injured 350-pound calf owned by the same rancher. The rancher and range rider moved the injured calf, accompanied by the cow, from the allotment to a pen near the rancher’s residence, according to the department.

The next day, investigators found bites on both of the calf’s hamstrings and left flank, as well as puncture wounds and hemorrhaging to the left hindquarter and stomach, according to the department.

To deter wolves from attacking his cattle, the rancher delayed putting cow-calf pairs on the allotment until late June so the calves would be larger, according to Fish and Wildlife. The rancher used special lights on his private pasture to deter wolves.

The rancher has removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment and used one or more range riders every day to check the herd, according to the department.

Fish and Wildlife blamed the Togo pack for two attacks on livestock in November and one in May. The one in May did not count toward meeting the threshold for the department to cull the pack.

The department’s policy calls for the director to consider lethal removal when a pack attacks livestock three times within 30 days or four times within 10 months. Ranchers must have at lest two preventive measures in place, such as lights or range riders, for the depredation to count toward the threshold.

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