By Nicholas K. Geranios / Associated Press
SPOKANE — Wolves from two packs that have been preying on cattle in the northeastern corner of the state will be killed, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday morning.
Hunters will kill members of the Smackout Pack in Stevens County and members of the Togo Pack in Ferry County, the agency said.
Wolves from the two packs have continued to prey on cattle despite efforts to get them to stop, agency director Kelly Susewind said.
“WDFW staff have confirmed that on five separate occasions since Aug. 20, one or more members of the Smackout pack injured one calf and killed four heifers on private pastures,” the agency said in a news release.
Meanwhile, the agency documented six depredations by members of the Togo Pack in the past 10 months, and the remaining three wolves in that pack will be killed.
The hunting of wolves can begin on Thursday, the agency said.
Last month the state decided to kill the remaining two wolves from the Old Profanity Peak Territory Pack, which has repeatedly preyed on cattle in Ferry County.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups have criticized the killing of wolves to save cattle grazing on public lands.
Wolves were killed off in Washington state early in the past century. But they began moving back into the state early in this century from Idaho and Canada. That has created intense conflicts with ranchers in the mountainous and sparcely-populated northeastern part of the state
Wolves are listed as an endangered species throughout Washington. But a management plan allows the state to kill wolves if officials confirm a certain number of livestock attacks within a specific time period.
In the case of the Smackout Pack, Susewind authorized incremental removal of wolves from the pack. One or two wolves will be killed, and then there will be a halt to determine if that stops the depredations, the agency said.
The agency said it will use humane lethal removal methods consistent with state and federal laws. Likely options include shooting from a helicopter, trapping and shooting from the ground.
The department documented the existence of the pack in 2011. Recent surveys indicate the pack includes four or five adult wolves.
In the case of the Togo Pack, Susewind said a recent depredation was an indication that the pack behavior of preying on livestock has not changed.
Susewind decided to issue a permit to the livestock owner allowing him, his immediate family, or his employees to kill wolves if they are within his private fenced pasture.
Susewind decided to issue a permit rather than having department staff conduct the hunts because of a lack of resources due to having three hunts underway at the same time.
The Center for Biological Diversity has tried unsuccessfully to block past wolf hunts in court, saying that killing wolves ignores science and goes against the wishes of many in the state.
“Washington residents have made it clear that they support wolf recovery,” Amaroq Weiss of the center said in a recent news release.
The state since 2012 has killed 21 wolves, 17 of them to benefit the same livestock owner, she said.
“Washington residents are fed up with wolf-management policies that reward livestock owners for irresponsible business practices,” Weiss said. “The wildlife department’s mission is to preserve and protect the state’s wildlife.”