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WA: WDFW shoots Sherman wolfpack member

Washington wildlife managers shot one wolf in the Sherman pack, leaving one known survivor

Don Jenkins
Capital Press

Washington wildlife managers reported killing a wolf Friday in Ferry County, leaving one known member in the Sherman pack.

The dead wolf and the surviving wolf, both adults, were likely responsible for five attacks on cattle between June 12 and Aug. 28, Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said.

The most recent depredation, in the Colville National Forest, was confirmed three days after WDFW determined the pack had apparently dwindled to two wolves from five at the beginning of the year.

“Of the five depredations, we don’t have evidence of more than two wolves,” Martorello said.

WDFW said the pack apparently produced no pups. One wolf was hit and killed by a vehicle, while the other two are no longer with the pack for unknown reasons, according to WDFW.

The department said it will not target the surviving wolf, though it may if the animal attacks more livestock.

The department shot two wolves in the Smackout pack in Stevens County on July 20-30. WDFW reported Thursday that it has not documented any more depredations by the pack since July 22.

The agency says it will consider killing more wolves if the pack resumes attacking cattle.

Cows and calves in the Smackout pack’s territory are now in a fenced pasture, but will have to move soon to graze on unfenced portions of a federal grazing allotment. That will be a better test of whether the pack has been warned off, according to WDFW.

“I guess we’re in a wait-and-see approach,” Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said. “I don’t believe the incremental approach is going to work,” he said. “I don’t think the wolf realizes he’s been given a chance.”

WDFW officials say they are withholding some details of lethal-removal operations to keep from inflaming the public and to protect department employees and ranchers from harassment.

The department has declined to report where wolves are attacking livestock, except in broad terms.

Wolves began recolonizing Washington a decade ago, but have remain concentrated in four northeast counties. Wolfpacks are overlapping. The Sherman pack formed in 2016 when a female from the Profanity Peak pack paired up with a male wolf, according to WDFW.

The department last summer shot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack. WDFW in June was initially unsure whether to blame the Sherman pack or the Profanity Peak pack for a dead calf. The department eventually marked the depredation down as a strike against the Sherman pack.

WDFW has gotten better recently in issuing regular updates, but the absence of information makes it hard to evaluate the extent of the conflicts between wolves and livestock, and the response by ranchers and WDFW, said Tim Coleman, executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group and member of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group.

“It’s the shortage of details that makes people suspicious, no matter where they are on the political spectrum,” he said.

Nielsen said the department’s silence may leave the public unaware of how much trouble wolves are causing livestock producers.

“They may do that to help the rancher, but there’s a downside for the rancher, too,” he said. “People don’t know the carnage that’s going on when they don’t put the information out there.”