Lawsuit claims WDFW is not following proper protocols

Photo courtesy Western Wildlife Conservation
A Smackout Pack gray wolf, photographed by a wildlife camera.

By Ann McCreary

Two conservation groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its director, James Unsworth, from killing any more gray wolves, which are listed as an endangered species by the state.

The suit, filed Sept. 25 on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, asserts that WDFW’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in the Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

In June of this year, Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol provided for the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years. The lawsuit states that the protocol was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable. This is a state agency spending taxpayer dollars.”

The department has since relied on the protocol to order killing of wolves from two packs, with two wolves from the Smackout pack and one wolf from the Sherman pack killed to date. At the time of the Sherman pack kill order, only two wolves could be confirmed as comprising the pack, one of which the department has now killed. The department has temporarily paused killing wolves from both packs, but will resume if there are more livestock losses.

“Overall, since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 16 percent of the state’s current confirmed population of 115 wolves. Fifteen of the wolves killed since 2012 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner,” said Weiss. “Those kills have now led to the near eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Profanity Peak pack last year, and the Wedge pack in 2012. The rancher in question has been a vocal opponent of wolf recovery and has historically refused to implement meaningful nonlethal measures designed to protect his livestock from wolves,” Weiss said.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 20 confirmed packs as of the end of 2016.

Wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress, Weiss said. “Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable. Given the continued endangered status of wolves, the state and livestock operators should stick to nonlethal methods as the sole means for reducing loss of livestock to wolves,” she said.

“We appreciate that many livestock owners already are using nonlethal methods,” said Weiss, “since the science shows such methods are more effective anyway.”

Plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorneys from the law firm Lane Powell.

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Washington State Ends Wolf Killing After 2 Months Without Cattle Attac

http://www.opb.org/news/article/washington-wolf-killing-smackout-pack-livestock-attacks/#.Wc0-apZmVZ8.facebook
by AP AP | Sept. 27, 2017 7:45 a.m. | Olympia, Washington
Washington officials have ended efforts to kill members of the state’s Smackout pack after two months without a documented livestock attack.
Washington officials have ended efforts to kill members of the state’s Smackout pack after two months without a documented livestock attack.

John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says efforts to kill members of a wolf pack north of Spokane have ended.
The agency said Tuesday that wolves from the Smackout pack have shown no signs of preying on livestock in Stevens County since July when state wildlife managers trapped and killed two of its members.

Agency wolf manager Donny Martorello says the wolves killed were a 30-pound female and a 70-pound female.

Martorello says officials took that action after documenting four instances of predation on livestock over 10 months. He says under their wolf-removal protocol, the pattern of predation on calves belonging to three ranchers met the threshold for lethal removal.

He says their goal was to change the pack’s behavior and that the break in wolf attacks on livestock is consistent with the desired outcome.

Lawsuit would prevent Washington from killing more wolves to protect cattle

Cowboys examine a calf they say was severely injured by wolves, latest in a series of wolf attacks on Diamond M Ranch cattle since mid July.  (Stevens County Cattlemen's Association)
Cowboys examine a calf they say was severely injured by wolves, latest in a series of wolf attacks on Diamond M Ranch cattle since mid July. (Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association)

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two conservation groups say they filed a lawsuit today seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from killing any more state-endangered wolves.

Three wolves from two packs were killed by state-authorized shooters this summer in an effort to stop a series of wolf attacks on cattle that occurred on public and private land in northeastern Washington. No further attacks on cattle have been confirmed.

However, in today’s suit the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands claim the agency’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The protocol was created by a Wolf Advisory Group that includes about 18 people with a range of interests, from wolf advocates to ranchers. The protocol was revised this year.

Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf advocate, said the suit was filed by attorneys from the law firm Lane Powell in Thurston County Superior Court.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified, ” Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands said in a release. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable.”

The Fish and Wildlife Department has been following the protocol threshold of five cattle depredations within 10 months before authorizing the killing of some wolves a pack. The protocol also requires a list of preventative measures to be addressed by the livestock producer before lethal removal of wolves is authorized by Jim Unsworth, agency director.

Two wolves from the Smackout Pack were killed this year along with one wolf from the Sherman Pack. Since attacks on cattle have stopped, no more wolves have needed to be killed, state wildlife officials say.

Weiss says supplemental environmental impact statements should have been completed before allowing lethal removal of wolves.

“We just discovered these facts,” Weiss said when asked in a telephone interview why the lawsuit is being filed now even though lethal removal of cattle-attacking wolves has been going on in Washington since 2012.

Donny Martorello, department wolf program manager, could not be reached for comment today.

The gray wolf is protected by state endangered species rules throughout Washington as well as by federal laws in the western two-thirds of the state.

Since 2012, Washington Fish and Wildlife has killed 18 state-endangered wolves. At the beginning of 2017, before the year’s new crop of pups was produced, officials said the state held a minimum of 115 wolves in 20 confirmed packs.

Two wolves, including a disperser from British Columbia, may be forming a new pack, according to the agency’s recently release wolf report.

Wolves are moving back into Washington on their own from neighboring Idaho, Oregon and Canada.

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2017/sep/25/lawsuit-would-prevent-washington-killing-more-wolves-protect-cattle/

Washington kills three wolves this season to quell cattle attacks

A gray wolf in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington triggers a trail cam put out by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Killing three wolves from two northeastern Washington wolf packs appears to have had the desired affect of stopping a series of wolf attacks on cattle, officials say.

Wolves have kept Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife field staff busy this summer, especially in Stevens, Ferry and Asotin counties.

At least six wolf attacks on livestock have been confirmed this season despite prevention efforts including range riders. Cattle depredations have been confirmed in Stevens and Ferry counties this summer as well as in Asotin County, where a cow and calf were attacked this month southeast of Cloverland by the Tucannon Pack.

Two wolves from the Smackout Pack and one wolf from the Sherman Pack have been killed by state-authorized shooters in response to separate incidents.  In both cases, no further cattle attacks in those pack areas have been confirmed.

Gray wolves are protected in Washington by state endangered species rules, but lethal measures can be taken in cases of self-defense or repeated attacks on livestock.

The wolf from the Sherman Pack in Ferry County was killed by shooters between Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 following confirmed wolf attacks on cattle on Aug. 24 and 28, according to wolf management reports posted by the agency. The Sherman Pack was involved in six confirmed cattle attacks in a span of 11 months.

More than a dozen incidents were investigated in the past month alone to see if wolves were culpable in attacks on livestock and pets. Dogs, coyotes and other issues were the cause of most of those reports, officials said.

However, a wolf that officials say may be part of a new pack forming in northern Stevens County killed a cow, confirmed on Aug. 31.  The culprit in the livestock attack is thought to have dispersed from the Dirty Shirt Pack. That wolf has been photographed in proximity to a wolf that branched out of a pack in British Columbia, officials said.

The Dirty Shirt disperser killed the cow in a fenced pen on private land despite daily checks by the producers and other deterrent actions such as using lights, said state wolf manager Donny Martorello.

The department earlier this year had confirmed at least 20 wolf packs in Washington.

Stevens County holds the majority of wolves that are naturally moving back into Washington from Idaho, British Columbia and Oregon. Six of the 20 confirmed packs in Washington are in Stevens County.

At least one wolf in all of the confirmed packs has been captured, fitted with a GPS collar and released so biologists can monitor pack movements.

One wolf that dispersed into Western Washington this season was captured and collared.  At last report, it was still in Skagit County.

Washington continues to kill wolves that prey on livestock

 http://www.hcn.org/articles/wolves-washington-continues-to-kill-wolves-that-prey-on-livestock

The state’s increasing wolf population is creating a tangle between advocates, ranchers and politicians.

 

In late August, a range rider found a calf with bite wounds and lacerations dead on public grazing lands in Ferry County, Washington. The Sherman wolf pack was at it again. The newly-formed pack had already taken three other livestock animals over the last 10 months, forcing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize lethal action against it. Under the state’s wolf plan, on Sept. 1, Fish and Wildlife officials killed one of the wolves, in hopes the remaining wolves would change their behavior.

Earlier this summer, the agency killed two wolves from another pack, the Smackout, also due to livestock killings. Seven other wolves were removed from the Profanity Peak pack last fall. In a state where wolf recolonization is a relatively new phenomenon, the killings raised the hackles of wolf advocates — and questions about how the state will manage its new population.

“We’re earlier in recovery, and we’re the outlet for the frustration for activists that didn’t get what they wanted from Rocky Mountain states,” says Paula Sweeden, carnivore policy lead at Conservation Northwest, a group that works with ranchers, agency officials and other conservationists to compromise on wolf policy. “I think it’s because we’re a last bastion.” Both the Profanity Peak and Smackout pack killings brought widespread commentary from organizations and individuals skeptical that killing wolves stops depredations.

The Snake River wolf pack lopes through the snow in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. While this pack has not been targeted, two other Oregon wolf packs have been targeted after repeated killings of cattle this year.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Sherman pack in Washington represents only the fifth time since 2008, when the state’s first wolf pack formed, that the agency has targeted a pack of wolves due to attacks on livestock. (By comparison, Wyoming killed 113 wolves in 2016, with much less outcry.) Washington’s wolf population has increased by 30 percent annually the past two years. That has heightened tensions between wolf advocates, ranchers and politicians.

Gray wolves are protected as endangered in western parts of Oregon and Washington, but they are delisted in the eastern regions where their populations have proliferated. In Washington, wolves are concentrated in the northeast corner of the state. Seventeen out of 20 of the state’s packs roam one district, No. 7. The district has a large population of ranchers, some of whom have received death threats for reporting livestock deaths and thereby instigating wolf killings. State Fish and Wildlife officials have also been threatened. “It’s a tough thing because our country is so divided right now, and more and more we have these kind of issues going on,” says Donny Martorello, a spokesman for the Washington Fish and Wildlife. “Imagine going home at night and having someone pull up to the house and taking pictures of your house at 2 a.m.”

Joe Kretz, a Republican who represents District 7, has been outspoken about the impacts wolves have on ranchers. In January, he co-sponsored a bill to protect the identities of ranchers reporting livestock deaths. Critics say the bill threatens transparency in the wolf-killing process and some argue that Fish and Wildlife already obfuscates too often.

In August, 14 conservation groups sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife, relaying their concerns. “We’re aware of the challenges the Department encounters with communications around controversial issues and appreciate the need for sensitivity,” the letter reads. “But it’s also clear that the Department can and should do much better.”

Wolves are more likely to kill or attack livestock in late summer and early fall, as they prepare for winter and teach their pups to hunt. This year, four wolf packs in Oregon and Washington have been targeted after repeated killings of cattle. It is clear that as wolves become more established, perennial conflicts will arise.

Still, Washington has no plans yet to revise its wolf management plan. Sweeden says some stakeholders think the plan does not need updating, since it has wolf population recovery goals “more robust than any other state, including Oregon.” To revisit the plan could weaken those goals. Instead, she thinks conflicts will level out as the packs disperse through the state, and as more ranchers and property owners take up deterrence methods.

Washington’s wolves are likely to continue to thrive, no matter what, Martorello says. After all, they’re doing that without much help already. Instead, the real question has more to do with the humans, and how they’ll adapt to a carnivore reclaiming the landscape.

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor at High Country News. Follow @annavtoriasmith

Conservation groups protest Washington state’s secrecy on managing, killing wolves

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/conservation-groups-protest-states-secrecy-on-managing-killing-wolves/

Divided over strategy, wildlife conservation groups agree the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is too secretive about its killing of wolves.

They are divided over the best strategy to recover wolves in Washington. But 14 conservation groups joined together Friday to send a letter to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, protesting secrecy in its management of wolves.

The letter, signed by wildlife conservation groups across Washington, was issued after the department released a five-word account of its ongoing kill operation of the Smackout Pack in northeastern Washington, to protect ranchers’ cattle.

That followed a July 14 report that belatedly revealed four wolves had died in Washington over the past year, including two under circumstances still being investigated. That was at least six weeks and in some instances months after the department had the information.

Washington’s wolves

The letter was sent to Donny Martorello, wolf-policy lead for the department. Last week he told The Seattle Times the department was withholding information on its operations on the Smackout pack until a final report at an unspecified time to “keep the temperature down,” in the interest of public safety.

He could not be reached Friday for comment on the letter.

“That little five-word statement was just a slap in the face,” said Nick Cady, of Cascadia Wildlands, about the department’s report on the Smackout Pack. “You are a public agency, spending the public’s money to kill the public’s wolves. You have responsibilities and obligations to inform the public.”

Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the department’s management of information about its wolf operations “is a huge step backward. It inflames the public to be treated like children.”

Members of the Wolf Advisory Group who worked with the agency all winter to craft its information policy for this season stated in the letter the agency was not living up to the parameters agreed to.

“We are concerned the department has chosen to withhold basic information regarding the operation that would not compromise safety,” the letter stated. “We do not agree with the department’s interpretation of the 2017 revised protocol … the department’s decision to only release the number of wolves killed is an unnecessary and inappropriate retreat from the level of transparency in previous (wolf) removal actions.”

Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, representing more than 20 publications across Washington, said the agency needs to be transparent.

“If you don’t tell anybody what is going on, nobody trusts anybody,” Thompson said. “They need to give out this information so people know what happened, and can make up their own minds about it. Not only the public, but legislators and the people making policy about this issue need to know.”

Signing the letter were the Center for Biological Diversity; Defenders of Wildlife; Conservation Northwest; Cascadia Wildlands; Eastern Washington Wolf Coalition; Endangered Species Coalition; Kettle Range Conservation Group; Lands Council, Mountain Lion Foundation; the Washington State director for the Humane Society of the United States; the wildlife director for the Washington State Sierra Club; Western Environmental Law Center; Western Wildlife Conservation; Wildlands Network; and Wolf Haven International.

The Wolf Killers Wore Green


The shooting of the Profanity Pack last year and now a kill order for the Smackout Pack in Northeast Washington clearly demonstrated the failure of the current strategy of many conservation groups who are involved in wolf recovery efforts.

In this case, a number of organizations, including Wolf Haven International, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society had joined the Wolf Advisory Group or WAG, a collaborative group that worked with the state of Washington as well as other “stake holders” (read ranchers) to produce a wolf recovery strategy.

The plan, among other components, calls for the lethal removal of depredating wolves. This applies to both public and private lands. Therein lies the rub. Who should have priority on public lands? Public wildlife or private livestock?

I am sure that these organizations have the best intentions—they want to see wolves thrive—however, they need to take a step back and consider whether their current strategy ultimately gains acceptance for wolves and other wildlife or merely becomes a “green washing” of actions that maintain the status quo and ultimately never really improves conditions for wolves and other wildlife.


Editor’s Note: To leave the fate of a near-extinct species like wolves in the hands of conservationists is misguided. Conservationists are the “liberals” of the animal defense world, people who more often than not co-opt themselves for the sake of getting along with the establishment’s way of doing business. Now, as detailed by the author, the combination of namby pamby wolf advocates and sociopathically greedy ranching interests—always bolstered in their depredations by ubiquitous speciesist politicians in Congress and state assemblies—simply spells doom for these animals.  And for what? So that a few morally retarded humans can have more steaks via the murdering of more cows, grazed in public lands? So that ranching interests can increase their profits? Or so that depraved “sport” hunters may enjoy more live targets? I for one most definitely object!—PG

When the Profanity Pack killed some cattle on a public lands grazing allotment, these organizations supported the killing of the pack, despite the fact that the rancher involved had placed his cattle on an allotment with a known wolf pack. He even placed salt blocks within a few hundred yards of a wolf den and rendezvous site. In essence, the Profanity Pack was set up to be killed by the agencies managing the land and wolves. But as members of the WAG, these organizations did not object to the killing which they called termed “regrettable” and other adjectives, but which they ultimately supported.

 


As members of the WAG they were silenced from voicing outrage, and even more importantly, condemning the entire situation where private livestock are given priority on public lands. And in this case, where the rancher and public agencies like the Forest Service did not take actions to avoid the conflict.

What could have been done differently? Well for one, the Forest Service, the agency managing these lands could have closed the allotment temporarily to grazing to preclude interactions between wolves and livestock. Better yet it could have removed the cattle entirely. But without a united voice from wolf advocates, the agency allowed this tragic and almost inevitable conflict to occur.


This gets to the heart of the issue. Which animals should have priority on public lands? The public’s wildlife or domestic livestock being grazed as a private use of public resources for private profit?

The conservation groups that are part of the WAG cannot change the paradigm. The reason is simple. Collaborations like the WAG start with certain assumptions—that domestic livestock has a priority on public lands—and if you don’t agree with that starting premise, you are not welcome on the collaboration.

It is no different than timber collaborations where the starting assumption is that our forests are “unhealthy” and “need” to be “managed” (read logged) to be “fixed”. If you disagree with that starting assumption, there is no welcome for you in forest collaborations.

This gets to the issue of strategy. As long as the assumption is that private livestock has priority on public lands, nothing will change. Wolves will continue to be shot unnecessarily.

But it goes further than whether wolves are shot. Domestic livestock are consuming the same forage as native wildlife like elk. On many grazing allotments, the bulk of all available forage is allotted to domestic livestock, thereby reducing the carrying capacity for wild ungulates (like elk) which are prey for predators like wolves.


In addition, there are a number of studies that demonstrate that once you move domestic cattle on to an allotment, the native wildlife like elk abandons the area. This means wolves must travel farther to find food, exposing them to more potentially greater mortality from hunters, car accidents, and so on.

You won’t hear any of these conservation groups articulating these “costs” to native wildlife because one of the consequences of joining collaboration is that your voice is muted. You remain silent to “get along.”

The groups joining the Washington WAG defend their participation by saying ranching on public lands is not going away, so the best way to influence wolf policy is to participate in these collaborative efforts.

The problem is that this legitimizes the idea that ranching and livestock have a priority on public lands. Keep in mind that grazing on public lands is a privilege. It is not a “right” despite the fact that the livestock industry tries to obscure the truth by referring to “grazing rights”.

If we are ever going to change the situation for wolves and other predators, not to mention other wildlife from elk to bison, we need to challenge the starting assumptions that livestock have a “right” to graze on our public lands.

Imagine for a minute what the Civil Rights movement would have accomplished if its leaders had joined a collaborative with the KKK and folks who were intent on maintaining the status quo in the South. Under such a paradigm nothing much would change. Sure they could have made the same rationale that today’s conservation groups make when they argue that public lands livestock grazing is not going away—and I’m sure many people involved in the Civil Rights movement assumed that segregation would never end either.

But some brave souls did not accept the starting assumptions. They refused to give up their seats at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. They demanded that all citizens had a right to vote without polling taxes and other measures designed to disenfranchise black voters. 

The failure of conservation organizations to avoid questioning the presumed “right” of livestock operations to exploit the public’s land means we will never really change the circumstances under which predators live.

While any organizations that continue to support public lands grazing might defend their decision by suggesting that changing the paradigm is too difficult, I respond by saying as long as they never challenge anything, nothing will change.

I am reminded of David Brower’s admonishment “Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.”

State Just Decided To Kill Endangered Wolves — While They’re Still Raising Their Babies

https://www.thedodo.com/in-the-wild/washington-kill-smackout-pack-wolves

“They will essentially be destroying this pack.”

JULY 21, 2017

Gray wolf

WA state to kill more wolves to protect livestock–for the fourth time!

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/washington-state-to-kill-more-wolves-to-protect-livestock/

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife intends to kill wolves in the Smackout Pack in Stevens County beginning this week to protect two ranchers’ cattle grazing on public land.

The department’s intention is to kill members of the pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Stevens County since 2015, said Jim Unsworth, the department’s director, in a news release.

The goal at this time is not to take out the entire pack. The department intends to assess results of incrementally killing the wolves before taking further action.

The decision to start killing pack members is consistent with policy set by the state’s wolf-management plan set in 2011, and in particular, policy that allows killing wolves that prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period.

That policy was developed last year by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, formed to represent the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.

The state’s pack-removal policy has split environmental groups, with some supporting the policy and others dead set against it

 “While heart-rending it is our hope that this action … will cease further livestock depredations and prevent the need for additional lethal actions, protecting the integrity and future of this pack,” the nonprofit Conservation Northwest stated in a news release. “We see this as a test of the theory that early lethal intervention can disrupt depredating behavior.”

Others were outraged.

“The environmental community has been incredibly meek when it comes to this,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group. “This is outrageous. This is a cost of doing business: If you have cattle on public land, you suffer the losses.”

Ranchers in Stevens County have borne the brunt of wolf recovery in Washington. Many ranching families there — with deep ties to the land, their animals and the ranching tradition — operate on slim financial margins, and have had to make unwelcome adjustments in their practices to continue ranching in what has once again become wolf country. Some ranchers have trouble even keeping their animals up in the forest because of wolf harassment, and those are lands their operations depend on.
“We know they’re out there,” said Rhonda DalBalcon, who runs a ranch with her husband Kevin DalBalcon. “You can’t sleep at night when you know there’s wolves,” he said. (Steve Ringman and Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)

Critics, including Fahy, argue that the rugged, remote wild lands of the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington are perfect habitat for wolves, but not suited to livestock. “It’s high time we address this. It’s going to keep happening over and over. Get the cattle off the lands,” Fahy said. “Otherwise we are just going to be killing more and more wolves. We have to start the discussion.”

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Ranching has been a permitted use on national forest lands, including the Colville National Forest, for more than a century. The state’s wolf policy calls for coexistence of wolves and people, including livestock producers, on the landscape.

The Smackout pack is one of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. At that time, the pack was estimated to consist of eight wolves, but it has since produced an unknown number of pups.

With four confirmed attacks on cattle since last September, the pack’s number is up, notes Don Dashiell, a member of the state’s Wolf Advisory Group and a Stevens County commissioner. “Let ’er go,” he said of the state’s removal effort. He said the state should take out half the pack now, and if that doesn’t work, keep going.

The pack’s latest depredation on livestock was discovered Tuesday, when an employee of the livestock owner found an injured calf with bite marks consistent with a wolf attack in a leased federal grazing area.

During the previous month, the rancher reported to WDFW that his employee had caught two wolves in the act of attacking livestock and the employee killed one of them.

The killing of the wolf — a state protected species — is allowed under state law that empowers livestock owners and their employees to protect their livestock by killing up to one wolf in areas where wolves are no longer listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Smackout pack lives in the northeastern corner of the state, where wolves are not federally protected.

Wolves began their return to Washington in 2008 after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to local extinction. They are a state-protected species all over Washington — with exceptions to protect livestock — and are federally protected only in Western Washington. The state’s wolf population overall is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.

Martorello said both ranchers made efforts to protect their livestock using nonlethal deterrence. “Our goal is to change the pack’s behavior before the situation gets worse.”

Wolf recovery remains a very low risk to cattle ranching. Most packs in Washington do not kill livestock, even when sharing the landscape with cows and sheep, and very few cattle are documented as killed by wolves.

Most cattle are lost to accidents and illness and other causes not related to wildlife.

This is the fourth time the state has taken aim at wolves to protect cattle; it has previously targeted the Profanity Peak pack, the Wedge Pack and the Huckleberry pack.

Mitch Friedman, executive director for Conservation Northwest, predicted more heartache as the state’s wolf population grows.

“We want a healthy wolf population and healthy wolf packs, and we don’t see a way that doesn’t involve occasional trauma like this,” Friedman said. “We have less than a handful of serious conflicts — that is a pretty good batting average. That is success even though every incident will be traumatic, for the rancher, and for the people who love wolves.”