Washington wolf managers have posted a 200-page after-action report on their efforts to remove a northern Ferry County wolf pack that preyed on more than a dozen cattle last summer.
The operation, which was hindered by turnover of local staffers for unrelated reasons and thick terrain that limited the use of a helicopter to times the telemetry-collared Profanity Peak wolves were in more open areas, ran from mid-August through mid-October, ending with 15 confirmed and probable depredations on mostly calves belonging to two local ranches and the removal of seven wolves.
It tested the solidarity of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, which had recently agreed to protocols for when to take out wolves attacking livestock, but the stakeholders held together despite intense pressure from nonaligned wolf advocates and fuel-to-fire comments from a Washington State University wolf researcher that turned out to be false.
Though the end goal was to remove the entire pack, aproximately four members are still alive, and WDFW says it’s keeping an eye on them and may take out more if attacks continue in 2017.
Overall, the agency reports the effort cost just under $135,000, mostly for helicopter and staff time, but also $10,000 for a local trapper who assisted WDFW at a key time and whose work was viewed “as an opportunity to build trust with the local community.”
Funding for the lethal removals came from the agency’s Wildlife State account, which includes revenue from license sales, but not taxpayer dollars, wolf manager Donny Martorello has reported.
By comparison, efforts to prevent conflicts between sheep and the Huckleberry Pack and the removal of one member in 2014 cost $53,000, the Wedge Pack in 2012 $76,500
The rest of the document describes delayed turnout of the cattle onto grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest in June, nonlethal prevention work, supporting investigative reports complete with images of wolf-wounded calves and other evidence from the scenes of the attacks, as well as the recommendation from the regional manager to proceed with lethal removals.
Martorello will brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission tomorrow on the operation.
He also told advisory group members and other interested parties that the carcass of an adult female wolf was recovered Dec. 22. It dued after colliding with a vehicle in northern Stevens County.