They’ve been running up and down U.S. 395 pretty steadily for a month now answering depredation calls, and with another calf’s injuries tied today to Canis lupus, WDFW staffers will again head north, in force, to the Wedge of northern Stevens County on Monday to capture wolves and possibly kill one or more.
While agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers said the top priority was to collar wolves, policy lead Steve Pozzanghera later said WDFW’s options were open with a goal of breaking up the pack.
Wolf techs, wildlife biologists and perhaps other state staffers are likely to join WDFW’s wolf trappers as they try to get a handle on exactly how many animals are in the area and how far they range in this remote, thick borderland between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and into southern British Columbia.
Currently only one member of the Wedge Pack has a radio collar, the alpha male, captured in mid-July. The devices, often with GPS equipment, allow managers to track the animals’ movements. In some cases, such as Smackout Pass where two males are collared and in Northeast Oregon, managers can text coordinates to range riders and ranchers to help keep wolves out of stock.
The collared Wedge wolf’s signal also likely led a sharpshooter to the pack last week when a nonbreeding female was killed following a series of depredations.
Wolves here have been tied to one dead calf and now at least six injured cows and calves, all on the Colville National Forest’s Churchill allotment grazed by the Diamond M Ranch. Earlier this year wolves were also in a neighboring operation’s calving pen, and Diamond M experienced a calf depredation in 2007.
The latest attack was reported Tuesday night; a determination it was “definitely wolf-caused” was made this morning.
“The marks on the injured calf were punctures and tears on the hindquarters and groin, consistent with wolf,” said Luers.
Evidence was reviewed inside and outside the agency, she said.
Luers initially disputed an online report by Capital Press that two calves have died this week, but since then the agency has been contacted by the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office that they were en route to the scene of a dead calf with vultures circling nearby possibly indicating another downed animal.
Not all stock deaths and injuries up here this summer have been caused by wolves. A cougar killed one calf in mid-July and an examination of another last week found “no indications of cause of death … and it was determined that the calf had not been killed by a predator,” according to WDFW.
Still, the McIrvins, which run Diamond M, reported 11 calves and five bulls missing last fall, far more than any time in the past. They believe the answer isn’t compensation but killing off the Wedge Pack, however many animals that might be.
WDFW’s wolf plan allows for lethal removal of wolves that repeatedly kill or injure livestock.
“It’s not definite we would shoot another wolf, but it’s possible,” notes Luers about next week’s operation.
She said that any wolf attacks between now and Monday would not change the agency’s game plan.
They’re waiting until after the weekend to get started due to staff availability.
Meanwhile, others at WDFW are sure to find themselves later today or tomorrow at the scene of the latest dead calf or calves.