State and federal wolf managers have teamed up to haze wolves in northern Stevens County where a newly confirmed pack responsible for recent livestock attacks is on the proverbial tight leash.
“If we have another confirmed kill in the Wedge, we’d move to lethal removal,” says Steve Pozzanghera, the wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in Spokane.
Earlier this month, the Diamond M Ranch lost at least one calf to a wolf or wolves and had another calf and a cow injured by the predators. Two others were also slightly hurt. Another calf was killed by a cougar. In 2007, the ranch also lost a calf to a wolf.
Pozzanghera says that staff from Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are in the area to haze wolves and reduce the chances of another livestock attack.
However, the federal agency would not pull the trigger if another cow goes down.
“They don’t have the proper legal paperwork in place to kill wolves in Washington,” he says.
That means the job could fall to WDFW.
The state offered Diamond M a caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permit, but in a conversation with Northwest Sportsman for our August issue, out later this week, rancher Bill McIrvin said he didn’t want it.
Since then and the subsequent capture of a male wolf and a pup, it’s been quiet in the Wedge.
“Quiet is good,” says Pozzanghera.
The adopted wolf management plan says this about what would trigger a removal:
Lethal control to resolve repeated livestock depredations: Lethal removal may be used to stop repeated depredation if it is documented that livestock have clearly been killed by wolves, non-lethal methods have been tried but failed to resolve the conflict, depredations are likely to continue, and there is no evidence of intentional feeding or unnatural attraction of wolves by the livestock owner. Situations will have to be evaluated on a case-specific basis, with management decisions based on pack history and size, pattern of depredations, number of livestock killed, state listed status of wolves, extent of proactive management measures being used on the property, and other considerations. If it is determined that lethal removal is necessary, it will likely be used incrementally, as has been done in other states, with one or two offending animals removed initially. If depredations continue, additional animals may be removed. Lethal removal methods may include trapping and euthanizing, or shooting.
While moving wolves around inside the state is also part of the plan, Pozzanghera says the Wedge wolves “are not candidates for translocation” because of the attacks.
Events here will be closely watched by all parties involved.
One other note: Conservation Northwest volunteers report hearing howling in the Little Naches, in the Southern Cascades, earlier this summer. The area is part of the home range of the state’s second largest elk herd. There have been a few other wolf reports in the area over the years — our contributor Dave Workman says he saw two in 2004 — but nothing to indicate a pack had set up residence in the heavily hunted drainages here.