WDFW will kill one or two Wedge wolves, possibly eliminating the Northeast Washington pack after an earlier lethal removal failed to stem a series of calf depredations this spring and summer.
Director Kelly Susewind made the call this morning, and in doing so set the clock ticking on an eight-business-hour court-challenge window before state operations begin.
The pack had numbered three adults before a nonbreeding female was taken out in late July by WDFW to try and head off a series of chronic depredations stretching back to May.
According to the agency, the Wedge wolves have injured 19 calves and killed four in 16 events – 12 in the past month – and those are expected “to continue even with non-lethal tools being utilized. Staff also believe there are no reasonable, additional, responsive, non-lethal tools that could be deployed.”
Attacks have clustered in mid-May, mid-June, mid-July and late July and early August, per a state timeline posted yesterday.
They’ve impacted herds of three ranches.
“The proactive and responsive non-lethal deterrents used by the affected livestock producers in the area this grazing season have not curtailed further depredations. Director Susewind’s decision is consistent with the guidance of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the lethal removal provisions of the Department’s 2017 wolf-livestock interaction protocol,” a statement out early this morning said.
WDFW’s decision will likely infuriate wolf advocates, hardcore and more moderate alike, who complain bitterly that the agency is just the hired gun of the Diamond M Ranch, which suffered some of the depredations in July. Two other packs, Wedge v. 1.0 and Old Profanity Territory, have been removed in these parts in past years.
They have also gone to the governor for relief after their petition to the Fish and Wildlife Commission to require nonlethal tactics be used to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts was rejected as too shackling.
According to WDFW, taking out one or two more wolves from the Wedge “should not negatively impact the ability to recover wolves in Washington.”
“We don’t believe this action will slow the recovery of wolves in Washington. Particularly because there’s no evidence that this pack has pups,” said spokeswoman Staci Lehman.
The species in this part of the state was taken off the federal Endangered Species Act list in 2011.
Lehman acknowledged the weight of the decision but given the pattern with the pack that WDFW has seen since May, she said calf attacks would likely continue if nothing was done.
“A second lethal removal will impact people on both sides of the wolf issue – we understand and feel the weight of that acutely. Yet, this is a part of managing the difficult balance between the needs of wolves, livestock and humans, as we strive to co-exist,” she said.