Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind has authorized the incremental removal of wolves from the Grouse Flats pack in southeast Washington in response to repeated depredations of cattle.
The Grouse Flats pack has been involved in two depredations in the last 30 days and four in approximately two months despite the use of proactive non-lethal deterrents by area livestock producers. Those deterrents include:
•Using range riders to monitor the herd,
•Maintaining regular human presence in grazing areas,
•Removing sick and injured livestock from the grazing area until they are healed,
•Removing or securing livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd,
•Calving away from areas occupied by wolves,
•Avoiding areas known for high wolf activity, and
•Delaying the turnout of livestock onto grazing allotments until calving is finished and calves are typically at least 200 lbs.
“Despite proactive non-lethal efforts and deterrents by multiple producers affected, this pack has continued to prey on cattle,” Susewind said. “While not an easy decision, this step is part of mitigating wolf-livestock conflict if non-lethal measures cease to prevent incidences of wolves preying on livestock.”
At this point, the non-lethal deterrents have not influenced or changed pack behavior. Based on pack history, WDFW expects depredations to continue if action is not taken.
“Director Susewind’s decision is consistent with the guidance of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the provisions of the Department’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol,” says a press release.
Under the protocol, WDFW can consider lethal removal of wolves if department staff confirm three depredations by wolves on livestock within 30 days, or four within 10 months.
WDFW’s approach to incremental lethal removal consists of a period of active lethal removal operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions modified pack behavior.
The lethal removal of wolves in the Grouse Flats pack is not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach statewide recovery, says WDFW.
Following an eight-hour required notification process (one business day), the department will initiate lethal removal activity. WDFW will use humane lethal removal methods.
WDFW will provide a final report on this and other lethal removal operations that have occurred during 2019 in the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2019 Annual Report, which will be published during spring 2020.