On the morning of Aug. 16, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lethally removed the four known remaining members of the OPT wolf pack. A series of WDFW investigations had shown the pack responsible for 29 depredation incidents.
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind reauthorized the lethal removals on July 31, in response to continuing depredations of cattle on federal grazing lands in the Kettle River range of Ferry County.
The removal decision was made with guidance from the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the lethal removal provisions of the department’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol.
The OPT pack has been involved in 14 livestock depredations in the last 10 months, with nine in the last 30 days, and a total of 29 since Sept. 5, 2018. The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock took several proactive, nonlethal, conflict deterrence measures to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, and WDFW will continue to monitor for wolf activity in the area and work closely with producers.
This was the fourth time Susewind has authorized lethal removal in the OPT pack since Sept. 12, 2018.
Plaintiffs, supported by the Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy, filed a petition for review of Susewind’s July 31 reauthorization, and sought a temporary restraining order in King County Superior Court on Aug. 1. The motion for a restraining order was denied by a court commissioner at the time, allowing the removal effort to continue.
The hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction was scheduled for Aug.16, when the court was expecting to, and did, hear an update on the department’s removal activities.
According to Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW, the department had been working steadily to meet its stated intentions since the courts gave it the clearance to move forward on Aug. 1. To date the department has removed:
•On Aug. 7, one wolf
•On Aug. 8, one wolf
•On Aug.13, one wolf
•On Aug.16, four wolves
WDFW believes it has removed all members of the OPT pack, although another wolf was sighted in the area late this spring. That wolf may have dispersed from a different pack.
“I know this is an extremely difficult time for many of our communities around the state and having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is something we take very seriously,” said Susewind. “Hopefully we can pull from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to find better solutions for coexistence.”
Counsel for WDFW appeared in court for the Friday, Aug. 16 preliminary injunction hearing. The court was informed of the lethal removals that have occurred since the Aug. 1 hearing.
At the end of the hearing, King County Superior Court Judge John McHale ruled from the bench and issued a preliminary injunction that would prohibit WDFW from lethally removing any remaining wolves from the OPT pack until the court has a chance to hear the merits of the case.
The ruling came just hours after the state killed four of the surviving members of the pack.
In April 2019, the department reported 27 wolf packs in Washington. A summary of Washington wolf recovery and activity can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf