WDFW will cull Profanity Pack

By: 
Chris Cowbrough
S-E Editor

Cattlemen want entire pack gone

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has initiated efforts to remove wolves from the so-called Profanity Peak pack after a fourth calf was confirmed by the department to have been killed by the pack earlier this month.

The pack, which numbers at least 11 wolves, has killed five calves and has likely been responsible for the deaths of at least three more calves. At least five cattle have been killed by the Ferry County pack in the last 30 days.

Dead cattle have been located northeast of Republic and belong to two different ranching operations.

Protocol

The decision by Fish and Wildlife to eliminate members of the pack was made under the guidelines of a new lethal removal protocol that was agreed on this spring by the State Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and members from the hunting, ranching and conservation community.

All of the cattle losses occurred on public lands’ grazing allotments in territory occupied by the Profanity pack.

Now that WDFW has committed to addressing the problem, Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Justin Hedrick contends the agency needs to commit to the full removal of the pack.

“The Ferry County Commissioners have not only declared a state of emergency, but they have demanded the department complete a full removal of the pack,” said Hedrick, whose Diamond M Ranch lost cattle to the pack.

“Considering the ongoing damage these wolves have caused over the last three years, we feel that request is reasonable and should be met.”

In 2014, the Ferry County Commissioners declared a state of emergency and called for pack removal by WDFW. Since that time, the Wolf Advisory Group that was formed by the department developed specific protocols with WDFW on when problem wolves should be removed.

According to the advisory group checklist, among the protocols are four confirmed kills by WDFW within a calendar year and concerted attempts to utilize non-lethal methods to stop the depredation.

Those efforts have been ongoing—to no avail.

Undeterred

Diamond M Ranch and another affected ranch tried additional non-lethal deterrents that included the use of range riders, removing carcasses of dead cattle and others, but to no avail. The Profanity pack has continued to prey on cattle.

WDFW has confirmed that measures like increasing human presence around the herd hasn’t deterred the attacks.

Hedrick says the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association expects WDFW to follow through on their commitment to remove wolves “until the job is done.”

“In the past, we have seen wolf removal crews pull out and leave because of a holiday weekend,” Hedrick noted. “This problem does not take a holiday and we want WDFW to follow through with their commitment to address this situation.”

Washington Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice-President Jack Field said he is pleased that WDFW is stepping in.

“”I’m disappointed there was another depredation, but I’m happy to see the department is ready to step in,” Field said.

WDFW Director Jim Unsworth authorized the lethal removal of wolves after department investigators confirmed the latest kill in northern Ferry County.

At this juncture, no numbers have been released by WDFW, although WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said the department plans to remove part of the pack and has a certain number in mind. Those numbers won’t be disclosed until WDFW completes the operation.

WDFW says the wolves could be trapped or shot from the ground or from a helicopter.

In 2014, the department announced it planned to remove up to four wolves from the Huckleberry pack. WDFW faced criticism then for ending the operation after shooting one wolf, the pack’s breeding female.

Martorello conceded that the department won’t be able to single out specific pack members for lethal removal.

“We don’t have the ability to distinguish individuals,” he pointed out.

Seven members of the Wedge pack were shot in 2012.

No federal help

In those cases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services assisted WDFW in the lethal removal of wolves. Since then, a federal judge has ruled the federal agency can’t help Washington lethally remove wolves without doing a more extensive study of the potential environmental impacts.

“We have the capacity to do it and we will be carrying it out,” Martorello assured.

The predators began re-colonizing in Washington about a decade ago.

The agency counted 90 wolves in the state at the end of 2015. That number has likely increased, if not markedly, then certainly incrementally, since then.

Of course, the decision to lethally remove wolves in another Northeast Washington wolf pack has drawn its share of criticism, mostly from out of a region that has to deal with the apex predator.
“We appreciate the agency’s use of non-lethal measures to try to prevent losses of both livestock and wolves, and we are glad to hear the ranchers in question have been working cooperatively with the state, but we are deeply saddened that wolves are going to die,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are not part of the advisory group, but have made clear to the group that we don’t support the killing of the public’s wildlife on public lands.”

“It’s tragic to see wolves killed, and I hope we continue to see growing wolf populations in Washington despite the yearly culling that inevitably takes place,” added Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “I do not believe it makes sense to spend taxpayer dollars to kill wolves in remote roadless areas on public lands.”

Category: