Three more wolves in the Wedge Pack were killed this morning by state sharpshooters, according to a WDFW source.
It’s the second day in a row that members of the livestock-depredating pack have been lethally removed.
The pack started the summer with an estimated eight to 11 animals. Two were killed yesterday, another in early August and an eartagged pup was found dead of unknown causes last month.
As with yesterday afternoon, today’s wolves were taken out by helicopter, at around 8 a.m., in the same area as Tuesday’s pair, roughly 7 miles south of the Canadian border in northern Stevens County where the pack is blamed for killing or injuring 17 of the Diamond M Ranch’s cattle this summer.
Outside of two injured calves reported late last week, there haven’t been any depredations on the ranch’s Colville National Forest allotment or home pastures this week, according to one high-ranking state wolf manager.
Again, there was no early word on the age or sexes of the dead wolves, but WDFW’s veterinarian will perform necropsies at some point on the five killed so far this week. August’s wolf was a nonbreeding female.
The hunt is being aided by the GPS collar on the alpha male, captured in mid-July.
The agency plans to continue to try to eliminate the pack, “resetting” the scene for improved livestock-wolf conflict resolutions in the future, and will assess its progress so far.
While some outside wolf advocates are calling on the governor to stop the hunt, one Washington-based organization supports the state’s decision to take out the pack.
This week’s events are in strong contrast to WDFW’s unsuccessful efforts in late August and early and mid-September to take out four wolves and break up the pack and its cycle of depredation on cattle. That drew derision from Diamond M, where results matter more than talk.
But with Sept. 21st’s kill order on the entire pack, the toolbox was opened up to include more manpower in the hills, technical assistance from USDA Wildlife Services, deputizing Stevens County Sheriff’s officers to hunt wolves, and aerial gunning.
It’s guesswork to a degree, but there probably at least two wolves left in the western Wedge. WDFW reported yesterday that the two wolves it shot were in a group of six, leaving four, and with today’s removal, that would leave one. An additional wolf was seen yesterday in a private pasture.
If/when the Wedge wolves are eliminated, it will leave six other confirmed packs north of the Columbia Basin and east of the Okanogan River. At least four of those packs have had pups this year. There are also suspected but unconfirmed packs in the Ruby Creek and Boulder Creek drainages, and a Forest Service worker encountered two apparent wolves in the upper Hall Creek drainage between Sherman Pass and the Colville Reservation.
Elsewhere in Eastern Washington, the search for wolves continues. WDFW today reports that two wildlife biologists removed some number of trail cams from the Blue Mountains but that none had images of wolves, though two snapped shots of a “black fox” above Bluewood Ski Resort. It’s at least the second survey here in recent months that has turned up no wolves.
A wolf tech continues to check camera traps in Okanogan County. And the agency also followed up on a report from southwest Skagit County but “no evidence was observed to support wolf presence.”