Thursday, October 20, 2016 9:53 am
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has stopped its hunt for the Profanity Peak wolf pack now that the grazing season on public lands in the Colville National Forest is over for the year.
Agency Director Jim Unsworth lifted his previous order to kill off the pack Wednesday. The department, though, will continue to monitor the four remaining wolves in the pack, an adult female and three young, and target them again if they harm livestock this year.
The pack once numbered 12 wolves. Since Aug. 5, state wildlife staff members have shot and killed seven members of the pack. Another wolf, a pup, is presumed to have died of natural causes.
In all, the department documented 15 dead or injured cows. Of those, 10 were confirmed to have been preyed upon by wolves. The other five probably were, according to the department.
The pack is one of 19 documented in the state so far. Most are in the eastern third of the state, where they are not protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
Under state policy, the department can take lethal action against wolves if its field staff confirm four or more attacks on livestock in a calendar year, or six or more in two consecutive calendar years.
According to the department, ranchers in the area used by the Profanity Peak pack moved cattle onto public lands for grazing in early June. The wildlife department captured two adult members of the pack and fitted them with GPS radio collars, allowing the department to monitor the pack’s movements. By July 8, the department confirmed the first calf kill.
It was no surprise to some: Ranchers and local officials in Ferry County predicted problems with the pack, and in 2014 called for the pack’s elimination, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.
The state is targeting the pack at public expense — as yet uncounted — to protect cattle grazing by ranchers on public lands and has raised a storm of controversy in Washington and beyond that has yet to subside.
The department promises a final report on its actions with regard to the pack next month.
Meanwhile, wolf recovery is expected to build in Washington.
Wolves were trapped, poisoned and hunted out of existence in Washington in the early 1900s, in part by ranchers to keep them away from sheep and cattle. Wolves began recolonizing the state in 2008, when the first packs were confirmed in Washington, from populations in Idaho and British Columbia.
There were about 90 wolves in the state as of early 2016, most of them documented in packs in Northeastern Washington.