WDFW has ended its hunt for the last members of the livestock-killing Profanity Peak Pack for the second time, but warns it will take action again if attacks resume.
Since early August, state sharpshooters have killed seven wolves in the pack which is blamed for 15 confirmed and suspected depredations on 15 calves and cows roaming grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest north of Sherman Pass.
It’s believed that one female and three juvenile wolves remain in the pack. Another member is believed to have died from natural causes.
In August, WDFW also suspended the hunt for awhile, but then took to the air again after further depredations occurred.
“The goal of our action was to stop predations on livestock in the near future,” Director Jim Unsworth said in a press release this afternoon. “With the pack reduced in size from 12 members to four and most livestock off the grazing allotments, the likelihood of depredations in the near future is low.”
That said, in an October 2012 debriefing after the Wedge wolves were taken out, former WDFW Director Phil Anderson noted that the radio-collared alpha male had basically followed cattle out of the hills to the Diamond M Ranch.
The Profanity operation has been marked by a tightly controlled flow of information out of state wolf managers, and a full report is expected later this fall, but today’s announcement of the suspension of the hunt included a timeline from WDFW:
Early June: Ranchers arrived with their livestock on federal grazing allotments. WDFW field staff captured two adult members of the Profanity Peak pack and fitted them with GPS radio-collars, allowing the department to monitor the pack’s movements.
July 8: WDFW confirmed the first calf killed by wolves.
July 12: WDFW documented two probable wolf attacks, one of which was on a second rancher’s allotment.
Aug. 3: WDFW confirmed the fourth and fifth wolf attack on cattle and documented three probable wolf attacks. Per the protocol, the WDFW director authorized staff to remove some members of the pack to deter further depredation.
Aug. 5: WDFW removed two female wolves from the Profanity Peak pack.
Aug.18-19: The director ended his authorization for lethal removal after 14 days without a depredation. The next day, he authorized the removal of up to the full pack after field staff documented four more wolf attacks, two confirmed and two probable.
Aug. 21-Sept. 29: WDFW removed five more wolves from the Profanity Peak pack.
Oct 3: WDFW documented the last depredation on cattle by the Profanity Peak pack.
Oct 18: WDFW suspended lethal removal of wolves in the Profanity Peak pack
State managers say their actions have been consistent with lethal removal protocols in the wolf plan, and that ranchers who suffered cattle losses had been using nonlethal measures to deter attacks.
After initial successes in August, the hunt became tougher and tougher for WDFW as wolves moved into thicker country. In recent weeks, Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber commissioned a local resident to help collect data on the pack.
WDFW says Maycumber said he and his staff will “monitor the movements of the (collared) adult female wolf for signs of conflict with people, pets, or livestock in lowland areas.”
The Profanity Pack operation will be remembered not just for how thin the trickle of news was out of the state, but for over-the-top claims by some in the wolf advocate community, including a Washington State University professor’s allegations that a rancher turned out his cattle “directly on top of” the pack’s den. That earned Rob Wielgus a sharp rebuke in a WSU disavowal which said its Large Carnivore Lab head acknowledged he’d had “no basis in fact” for making the statement.
Even friends of wolves that supported WDFW’s actions came under intense fire from fringe activists, and yesterday, one of those organizations, Conservation Northwest posted a blog “fact-checking” the claims, starting with the Center For Biological Diversity’s ridiculous claim that OMG! sharpshooters were going to take out “12 percent of the state population.”
The first thing every cub reporter on the wolf beat learns is that the population numbers are only minimums, that there are likely more — many more — out there that haven’t been counted because they’re sneaky critters that hang out in rough country where even state sharpshooters in helicopters or packing traps have a tough time getting around.
Soon enough we’ll learn how much it all cost, though we’ll probably never know how well the melodramatic outrage filled coffers.