Washington wolf managers may soon go on the state’s first hunt in over 80 years after wolves again attacked livestock in the Wedge of northern Stevens County.
That’s one possible response following the injury of a calf by a wolf or wolves late last week and which followed mid-July depredations by wolves as well as a cougar in this remote part of the state between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and the Canadian border.
Following that case, Steve Pozzanghera, the wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in Spokane, told Northwest Sportsman, “If we have another confirmed (wolf) kill in the Wedge, we’d move to lethal removal.”
Any hunt would be aided by the GPS collar on what’s believed to be the pack’s alpha male.
It’s the first time under WDFW’s wolf management plan, barely eight months old, that the agency may take this step.
As one of the commissioners who last December unanimously signed off on the final, amended plan later stated, ”People are going to have to realize that wolves will be wolves and some will have to be managed.”
Managed is a euphemism for killed or moved, and it’s clear — if the Northern Rockies are a sign — that wolves and cows will tangle: Since 1987, a wolf has been killed for every cow that’s turned up dead in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
And earlier this year two caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permits were offered to ranchers in Stevens County; Bill McIrvin refused his, we’ve reported, while the other expired after 30 days.
However, a final decision on the state shooting a wolf or wolves has not been reached as of late Monday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane.
“Olympia is working through the possible responses,” she said.
Sparking the consideration is a determination earlier today that the calf was attacked by a wolf or wolves, she said.
Luers termed it a “continuation of the pattern of wolf-livestock” problems affecting the Diamond M Ranch.
The plan says that lethal removal may be used to stop repeated livestock attacks after nonlethal methods have failed. A USDA Wildlife Services staffer has been in the area, the ranch’s grazing allotment in the Colville National Forest, to haze wolves over the past 12 days or so.
The plan calls for incremental killing, starting out with one or two wolves and then additional ones if attacks continue. Managers can trap and euthanize, or shoot to kill.
Wolf advocates will watch things closely, if events in Northeast Oregon with the Imnaha Pack are any indication. Some support elements of the plan like lethal removal — as long as they believe preventative measures have been taken.
WDFW also has the option of moving trouble wolves, but Pozzanghera previously told us that the Wedge wolves were “not candidates for translocation” because of the initial attacks.
The pack has been long suspected by locals and even a former state biologist, Luers said this afternoon, but was not confirmed until late June when the male and a pup were captured by a WDFW trapper.
A calf was also killed here in 2007, the first in modern record.
Wolves are protected under state and federal law in Washington; bounties were collected on them into the late 1920s.
In the Northern Rockies, livestock kills and wolf removals were slow to build in the early years of wolf recolonization/reintroduction, but after 2001 federal managers quit moving Canis lupus and began shooting them. Depredations and wolf killing peaked in 2008 and 2009.
For more, see Rich Landers’ article on the situation