SPOKANE — The state of Washington on Wednesday approved the killing of up to two wolves for preying on cattle in an area of new wolf pack activity in Columbia County in the southeastern part of the state.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife believes there are four adults and four pups in this new pack, located in the southeastern corner of the state.
WDFW has documented four depredation events affecting two different livestock producers resulting in one dead and four injured livestock since August 25. All events except one were considered confirmed wolf depredation incidents, the agency said.
The two ranchers involved took numerous proactive deterrence measures, the agency said. That included hiring range riders, with herding dogs present; regular checks on cattle; use of lights on pasture; removing carcasses of dead cattle and hazing wolves away from pastures.
On September 16, agency staff located several adult wolves and pups and used air horns, gunshots, and yelling to haze the wolves out of the area. The wolves moved out of the area temporarily but returned to the same location within a day of the harassment, the agency said.
“WDFW staff believe depredations are likely to continue, even with additional non-lethal deterrence efforts,” the agency said.
The lethal removal of one to two wolves from the area is not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach the statewide or local recovery goals, the agency said.
The WDFW has documented four known wolf deaths in the state since Jan. 1. In previous years, WDFW has documented 12 to 21 mortalities per year and the wolf population has continued to grow and expand its range, the agency said
The lethal removal permits expire when the wolf or wolves in the permits have been killed, livestock are moved from the affected pastures, or after Dec. 10, regardless of whether wolves have been removed.
Conservation groups have decried the killing of wolves in prime habitat to benefit cattle ranchers.
“More of Washington state’s endangered wolves are going to be killed,” said Sophia Ressler of the Center for Biological Diversity. She said the state contains more than a million head of cattle, but only 178 wolves.
Wolves were killed off in Washington by the 1930s, but returned to the state early in this century from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. There have been numerous conflicts with ranchers since. Most of the wolves live in eastern Washington.
Wolves are protected as an endangered species under state law, although the state has killed 34 wolves over the past eight years for preying on cattle.