SPOKANE — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed one of the three members of an endangered wolf pack in the northeastern corner of the state in an attempt to reduce the pack’s attacks on cattle.
The adult, non-breeding female member of the so-called Wedge wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle on public and private grazing lands in northeastern Stevens County was killed on Monday, the agency said in a statement.
The killing came four days after conservation groups petitioned Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to order the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft new rules limiting when state officials can kill wolves over conflicts with livestock. No action has been taken on that petition.
The killing of the wolf “sends a message that the state prefers to manage wolves with bullets rather than seriously consider more effective, non-lethal solutions to livestock predation,″ said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity conservation group.
Fish and Wildlife director Kelly Susewind approved the removal of one wolf from the Wedge pack last week after the agency workers confirmed five wolf attacks on cattle within the previous 30 days. Two more attacks on cattle were confirmed after the wolf kill authorization was granted.
State officials hope that killing one wolf in the pack will change its behavior. Officials since 2012 have killed more than 30 wolves, nearly all for preying on livestock.
Wolf advocates criticize the strategy as ineffective and inhumane.
“Killing wolves is a short-term Band-Aid approach that has not and will not prevent ongoing conflicts,” said Zoë Hanley of Defenders of Wildlife.
She also said the state needs to find non-lethal methods for dealing with wolves that prey on livestock, such as the use of lights at night and more range riders to scare the predators away.
The fish and wildlife department in a statement said officials have “invested an extensive amount of time building a robust engagement program that has been recognized for its approach to consensus building.″
Officials in June authorized the killing of two wolves in the so-called Togo pack in nearby Ferry County for repeatedly attacking cattle but the wolves haven’t been found yet.
Wolves were exterminated in Washington by the 1930s, but began returning to the state from Idaho and British Columbia early this century. Most live in sparsely-populated northeastern Washington state.
There have been repeated conflicts with cattle, leading to the extermination of some wolf packs.
The state has said the wolf population grew to an estimated 145 wolves in 26 packs in 2019. That compared to 126 wolves in 27 packs in 2018.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the eastern third of the state but preserved it for those in the western two-thirds. Under state law, wolves are listed as endangered statewide.