By Eli Francovich
State wildlife officials ordered the killing of more wolves, Wednesday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife ordered the incremental removal from a pack WDFW has dubbed the Old Profanity Territory pack.
Since September 4 members of the pack killed one calf and injured five others. The animals were on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment.
The wolves are inhabiting the same general area that was the range of the Profanity Peak pack.
“This is a very difficult situation, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind in a news release. “We are committed to working with a diversity of stakeholders in a collaborative process to seek other creative and adaptive solutions to prevent future losses of wolves and livestock.”
Wolves from the Profanity Peak pack were killed by WDFW in 2016 following documented cattle depredations.
In 2016 WDFW killed members of the Profanity Peak pack and in 2017 the agency killed members of the Sherman Pack.
Following the Sherman Pack action, a judge ruled that WDFW must wait eight court hours between the announcement of a lethal action order and the execution of the order.
In August WDFW ordered the killing of members of the Togo wolf pack. The order was temporarily blocked by two environmental groups. However, a judge ruled at the end of August that WDFW could continue.
WDFW officials said in a news release that they will start lethal removal of the Old Profanity Territory pack members mid-day Thursday.
Although Seattle-based Conservation Northwest has supported lethal removal in the past they do not support Wednesday’s decision.
“As this third conflict between wolves and livestock indicates, sufficient reduction of the potential for conflict in this specific territory in northeast Washington’s Kettle Mountain Range has not yet occurred,” said Paula Swedeen, Conservation Northwest policy director said in a news release. “We call on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, other Wolf Advisory Group members, livestock producers and community leaders to work together towards a more sustainable approach. We are ready to roll up our sleeves to find short-term solutions other than lethal removal that keep the livestock producers whole.”
She added, “We also think it is important to take a step back to consider what it means that wolves continue to return to this area even after lethal removal. Creating a carousel of killing wolves is not our goal in supporting the protocol. Nor is seeing cattle at continued risk. We all need to urgently seek a different path here.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based organization, also decried the order in a statement. The Center for Biological Diversity was one of the groups that challenged the kill order for the Togo pack in August.
“Washington officials must stop the senseless, heartless slaughter of wolves,” said Amaroq Weiss, the west coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in an emailed statement.
WDFW’s lethal removal policy allows killing wolves if they prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period. That policy was developed by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, which represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters and livestock ranchers.
The policy also stipulates that cattle producers have employed at least two proactive deterrence techniques. Lethal control is allowed in the eastern third of the state where wolves are protected by state endangered species rules. Wolves remain federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state.
Despite losses of roughly a dozen wolves a year from selective state-authorized lethal control, plus poaching, vehicle collisions and other human-related causes, Washington’s wolf population has grown each year. A minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs was reported by the WDFW this winter.
The Old Profanity Territory pack was not included in that assessment. Wolves were documented in the area in June.