WDFW Authorizes Deadly Smackout Wolf Abduction After Five Livestock Attacks

(The Center Square) – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind has authorized the deadly removal of a wolf from the Smackout pack after five attacks in the past 30 days made four dead and two injured.

Four depredations in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties since Aug. 17 have been confirmed by wildlife managers to have been committed by wolves, and the fifth is considered a likely attack by Smackout’s pack.

Susewind announced in a September 1 report that lethal culling was necessary because proactive non-lethal deterrents used by three affected ranchers failed to stop the attacks.

Deadly Withdrawal permission expires when a Smackout Wolf has been withdrawn or after September 15, whichever comes first. The WDFW indicates that the authorization could be extended or modified to include other wolves in the pack area if additional depredations are documented after the initial authorization or if other extenuating circumstances are identified.

WDFW’s lethal removal policy allows wolves to be killed if they have injured or killed livestock three times in the last 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.

WDFW reports that the first rancher affected by Smackout wolf depredations had multiple riders daily checking cattle on a U.S. Forest Service pasture lot. This breeder had also put 20 VHF ear tags on adult cows to help track groups spread across the allotment. Sick or injured cattle were removed from allotment and carcasses were properly disposed of to avoid attracting predators.

When depredations began to occur, the rancher began camping near grasslands where large numbers of cattle congregated and spent several nights there each week, according to WDFW.

In addition, the herder penned his cattle at night and lit them. A Fox light was deployed on August 25 and a radio-activated guard box was deployed on August 29.

This rancher removed several smaller calves from the forest when depredations began to reduce the likelihood of an attack. WDFW staff and course riders reportedly passed areas of high wolf use to the grower after the first confirmed depredation based on collar data so he could concentrate resources in those areas.

The second affected rancher took many of the same measures, including delaying the calves’ participation in the forest service award until mid-July so they would be larger and less vulnerable to attack.

The third rancher worked with Cattle Producers of Washington to deploy riders on private leased pastures. This year, WDFW reports that even greater efforts have been made to increase the effectiveness of a human presence on these lands through better communication and rotation of runners.

In addition to cattle producers, the breeder has worked with the Northeast Washington Wolf Cattle Collaborative and WDFW staff to monitor cattle and track wolf activity.

According to the Susewind report, the proactive and reactive non-lethal deterrents implemented by these ranchers were the most suitable for their operations. Having five attacks within a two-week period appeared to WDFW as an escalation in predatory behavior, which was deemed likely to continue.

Susewind said the decision to remove just one Smackout wolf, rather than two, is to increase the chances that there will be enough adult wolves left in the pack to take care of the juvenile wolves. He said the removal of a wolf should not negatively affect the ability of the pack population to meet statewide recovery goals.

In the past, WDFW documented 12-30 wolf mortalities per year and the population has continued to grow and expand its range.

The Smackout pack was confirmed in northeastern Washington State in 2011. According to the 2020 population survey, the pack numbered at least six wolves and was considered a successful breeding pair in 2020.

Official Washington wolf population figures released in April show that Washington has about 206 wolves in 33 packs, with 19 successful breeding pairs.

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