Updated: 10:15 a.m., Sept. 12, 2018
Washington wolf managers Tuesday night issued a lengthy statement on five recent confirmed depredations by a pack of wolves running in a rough, mountainous part of Ferry County that has seen other livestock attacks and lethal removals the past two summers as well.
Among the new details released is that three other calves also died in the area of unknown causes; only their bones and scraps were left by the time a county wildlife specialist and contracted range riders found them in late August.
That area appears to have become a second rendezvous site for the pack this summer, according to telemetry off of a male member captured in early June.
The unnamed pack known by the acronym OPT for Old Profanity Territory, consists of three to four adults and no more than two pups, it is believed. Its existence was first reported in late May.
WDFW’s statement outlines preventative measures taken by the livestock producer running his cattle on the Forest Service allotment, including turning out calves nearly a month and a half later than otherwise allowed under the grazing agreement, as well as preseason scouting for wolf activity by contracted range riders, and data sharing of wolf locations.
Following discovery of the calf carcasses on the landscape, range riding activities were increased — at least 150 days of effort occurred from April through July but August and September data isn’t available — and the cattle herd also began to be moved west.
But in early September injured and dead calves began turning up, with WDFW late last week ultimately confirming wolves had attacked five.
State Rep. Joel Kretz, who lives nearby, has reported some details on WDFW’s initial then reclassified depredation determinations on his Facebook page.
Nowhere in the agency’s Tuesday night statement are the words “lethal removal” mentioned.
“The depredations in this area happened in quick succession, and department staff have spent several days gathering information, assisting the producer, providing reports, and considering next steps,” WDFW summarizes.
One instate-based wolf advocacy organization, which in the past has supported the state taking out problem wolves under agreed-to lethal removal protocols, is balking this go-round.
“We appreciate the report, and the level of effort, but there’s nothing new there from our perspective,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, which had put out a statement Monday night that it couldn’t support taking out wolves in response to the depredations.
The organization says the recurring conflicts here don’t meet removal protocols it and other members of the state Wolf Advisory Group agreed to, and that the rugged terrain should be taken into account to adjust tactics to increase the odds that cattle and wolves don’t tangle.
In 2016, seven members of the Profanity Peak Pack were removed for a string of depredations and last year the Sherman Pack male was killed by state sharpshooters.
“It’s a tough situation, but our positions haven’t changed. We continue to support the protocol, and the need for coexistence and collaborative management,” says Gunnell. “Still, in our eyes the state killing wolves in one general area three years in a row for the same livestock producers does not fit within the intent and letter of the protocol.”
Before the agency issued more information, another member of the WAG, Shawn Cantrell of Defenders of Wildlife, said WDFW shouldn’t authorize lethal removals.
An out-of-state group is poised to try to again take legal action against WDFW, KING 5 reported Tuesday night.
Editor’s note: I’ll continue to fold in comments through the day as I receive them or are reported elsewhere.