Washington wildlife agency revisits pause on deadly wolf removal following new attacks

(The Center Square) – Less than two weeks after state wildlife managers suspended deadly wolf culling due to mistakes in a recent hunt, another pack has reached the limit of depredation to trigger an action.

The Leadpoint Pack which claims territory in northern Stevens and Pend Oreille counties has killed three cows and calves and injured two others since Aug. 22, according to a new report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Staci Lehman, spokesperson for the agency, said the WDFW team is developing a recommendation on how to deal with the situation. She said that plan would be delivered to Director Kelly Susewind within a day or two.

“Then it just depends on how long it takes him to review and make a decision,” she said in an email to The Center Square on Wednesday.

WDFW’s wolf culling policy allows a hunt for pack members who kill or injure livestock three times in 30 days or four times in 10 months. The breeder must prove that non-lethal measures did not work before a wolf can be euthanized.

“How long will they think about it?” asks Scott Nielsen, president of the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association and Washington Cattle Producers board member.

“The state’s wolf management plan was passed 10 years ago, and we’re still having trouble trying to get WDFW to follow their own guidelines on lethal culling. It’s time for a new process that works better to protect the interests of farmers trying to produce food.

Susewind suspended lethal takedown operations after a failed hunt for a pack member from Smackout on September 1. The pack had launched five attacks in 30 days on private and public lands in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

Seven days later, WDFW reported that a cub was mistakenly killed instead of an adult, and that the animal was likely a member of the Dirty Shirt Pack, which was also in the area.

Jeff Flood, wildlife conflict specialist for Stevens and Ferry counties, said the juvenile male killed in the WDFW hunt was black in color and there were no known black-furred wolves in the area. the Smackout Pack. He also said the pup was chased and killed in Dirty Shirt territory.

Nielsen said the question must be asked if WDFW’s failures in the latest hunt were intended to “sabotage” the lethal elimination program opposed by Governor Jay Inslee and many agency employees.

“You hate to think there’s some hidden motivation, but this is a professional agency, so mistakes of this level don’t really make sense,” he said. “There is a lot of political motivation not to solve this problem, so we have to ask ourselves what is happening here.”

Nielsen said the return of the Leadpoint Pack to kill and injure livestock is just the latest example of problems threatening the viability of small ranches.

He said WDFW wants to pay the lowest possible market prices for cows and calves that are killed or badly injured. While this is already a problem, the situation involving fair compensation is more complex, he said.

Although the market value of a cow might be $2,000 to $3,000, she would have been bred to produce more calves in the future, so the loss of income is actually much higher, a he declared.

Flood said the rancher also loses income when cows traumatized by an attack become sterile or miscarry. The entire herd may also lose weight due to stress, which lowers its market value.

If the herd has to be moved from public pastures for protection, Flood said the rancher often has to pay for hay to supplement the forage that might be found on their private pastures.

“There’s a lot more to this than the direct losses from the attack,” he said.

WDFW released a report on September 20 on the latest developments involving the Leadpoint Pack, with all attacks taking place in Stevens County.

On September 1, a rider in a private pasture reported a newly dead calf that had lacerations and punctures in the right groin and hindquarters. WDFW staff have confirmed the death of a wolf attributed to the Leadpoint pack.

Just over two weeks later, a dead cow is found by a rider in another private pasture. The cow had been killed less than 24 hours before it was found and the death was linked to Leadpoint’s activity in the area

The WDFW was called in to investigate two calf injuries at a private pasture in Stevens County on September 19. The animals had a combination of open puncture wounds, lacerations and hemorrhages consistent with wolf attacks. One calf’s injuries were estimated at 72 hours or less from the time of discovery, and the other at 24-48 hours.

According to WDFW, the concerned rancher had used two ranger jumpers provided by cattle producers. Efforts have been made to clear trees and brush on land in an area where wolves are known to cross, and other non-lethal deterrents have been deployed.

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