Usually Washington’s wolf world cools off as winter approaches. Not this fall.
WDFW this afternoon is reporting a second depredation in northern Ferry County this month just as an out-of-state environmental group has filed a second lawsuit against the agency this autumn.
As the kids like to say these days, let’s unpack these one at a time.
THE LATEST DEPREDATION — a dead calf — was discovered Nov. 8, six days after another calf was reported injured nearby.
Both attacks occurred on a local livestock producer’s fenced private land though in different locations.
The dead calf was found as a cattle herd was being moved, and was tarped to preserve evidence.
The next day, WDFW determined it to be a confirmed depredation, based on bite marks, signs of struggle, wolf tracks and the injured calf.
The two depredations follow on the heels of another rancher catching a wolf in the act of attacking their stock in late October and killing it, which is legal in this part of Washington.
That wolf was killed less than 3 miles from where the dead calf was found, according to state wolf managers.
Even with two confirmed attacks in less than 30 days, it’s unclear what pack may be to blame should state gunners be authorized for lethal removals. Reporting on the injured calf earlier this month, WDFW said that attack occurred outside known ranges.
“The producer checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,” the agency noted in today’s update. “The producer has also used range riders periodically this year and last year. The producer removes sick or injured cattle from the area. The producer also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.”
In October, there was a confirmed depredation in Stevens County by the Smackout Pack. In previous years, livestock attacks have mostly occurred in June, July, August and September.
AS FOR THAT LAWSUIT, it was filed by the Center For Biological Diversity in Thurston County Superior Court against WDFW over public records.
The Arizona-based organization is trying to get ahold of details on the June caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf by a Stevens County ranchhand, as well as information on the removal of much of the Profanity Peak Pack of northern Ferry County in 2016 for a series of depredations.
“The public has every right to know how and why wolves are being killed in Washington,” CBD’s Amaroq Weiss said in a press release. “Wolves are still in a fragile state in Washington. It’s frustrating that state wildlife officials won’t come clean with the full details on these lethal operations.”
It’s the outfit’s second lawsuit in two months, following on one in late September trying to stop lethal removals, and it “disappointed” instate wolf advocates.
“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell. “Balanced coexistence, not courtroom wrangling, is the best path for long-term wolf recovery. We firmly believe that sitting down with other wildlife stakeholders to create common-ground policies and win-win solutions is far more effective than divisive lawsuits.”
While both organizations are listed as members of Pacific Wolf Coalition, CNW has a seat on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group while CBD does not. The former is typically more in tune with on-the-ground realities in Washington’s wolf world than the latter, which attempts to paint the population as “fragile,” even as numbers increase year over year as more arrive from Canada, elsewhere in the Lower 48 and instate packs multiply and split.
“WDFW can’t comment at this point, since neither we nor our attorneys have had the opportunity to review the complaint,” said agency spokesman Bruce Botka.