WDFW OKs Lethal Removal From Columbia County Pack

Photo: Wikimedia

On Wednesday, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind authorized permits for the removal of up to two wolves from Columbia County. The wolf pack in question is new and lives north of the Touchet pack territory and west of the Tucannon pack territory outside of the Tri-Cities. Susewind said this week’s action is in response to repeated depredations of cattle on private grazing lands in Columbia County. 

Staff believe there are four adults and four pups in this pack.

WDFW has documented four depredation events affecting two different livestock producers resulting in one dead and four injured livestock since August 25th; all attributed to wolves in the area of new wolf activity. All events except one were considered confirmed wolf depredation incidents; the other incident involved one calf confirmed injured by wolves and two others probably injured by wolves.

All incidents took place on private land. The Department said proactive deterrence measures and responsive deterrence measures were implemented by producers to prevent the depredations. Those efforts include: 

Producer 1 
Proactive deterrents 

  • Range riding (1 – 2 times per week) with herding dogs present
  • Regular pre-grazing/turnout checks 
  • Fox lights deployed on pasture 
  • Delayed turnout to forested/upland grazing pastures (calves at least 200 pounds)  
  • Practicing carcass sanitation  
  • Opportunistically hazing wolves away from occupied pastures  

 Responsive deterrents 

  • WDFW staff communicated the location of a core wolf activity center to Producer 1, who then moved mineral blocks away from the wolf activity center. 
  • Producer 1 was willing to move livestock off their current pasture if WDFW could find different pasture ground, or take the cattle home if feed was available. WDFW staff were unable to find alternate pasture or purchase hay to feed their cattle for the rest of the grazing season.  
  • Producer 1 worked with an adjacent private property owner with fenced pasture ground and did move some of their livestock onto pasture further away from the core wolf activity center in mid-September. 
  • Producer 1 pyrotechnically hazed a wolf away from their pasture area on September 13.  
  • In response to the depredation on September 13, WDFW staff tried to haze wolves out of the area where livestock were grazing. On September 16, WDFW staff hiked into the rendezvous site to attempt to push the wolves to a new rendezvous site further from the livestock. Staff located several adult wolves and pups and used air horns, gunshots, and yelling to haze the wolves out of the area. The wolves responded to the disruption by moving out of the area temporarily but returned to the same location within a day of the harassment.  
  • On October 6, 16, and 26, Producer 1 gathered and moved a significant portion of their livestock off the private pasture and back to their home place (which is not an occupied wolf territory) in response to the wolf activity.

Producer 2
Proactive deterrents 

  • Range riding (near daily) with herding dogs 
  • Regular pre-grazing/turnout checks 
  • Fox lights deployed on pasture 
  • Delayed turnout to forested/upland grazing pastures (calves at least 200 pounds) 
  • WDFW staff communicated the location of a core wolf activity center to Producer 2, who then moved mineral blocks away from the wolf activity center. 
  • Practicing carcass sanitation 
  • Opportunistically hazing wolves away from occupied pastures 

Responsive deterrents 

  • Producer 2 deployed additional fox lights. 
  • Producer 2 actively worked to keep cattle away from core wolf activity areas and moved mineral blocks. 
  • Producer 2 cleared brush in areas where cattle are vulnerable to depredation.  
  • In response to the depredation on September 13, WDFW staff tried to haze wolves out of the area where livestock were grazing. Producer 2 allowed land access for this purpose. On September 16, WDFW staff hiked into the rendezvous site to attempt to push the wolves to new rendezvous site further from the livestock. Staff located several adult wolves and pups and used air horns, gunshots, and yelling to haze the wolves out of the area. The wolves responded to the disruption by moving out of the area temporarily but returned to the same location within a day of the harassment. 

The Department documented these deterrents in the agency’s “wolf-livestock mitigation measures” checklist, with date entries for deterrent tools and coordination with the producers and range riders.

The proactive, non-lethal deterrence measures implemented by these two livestock producers were those best suited for their operations in the professional judgement of WDFW staff, with the exception of the frequency of range riding for Producer 1. WDFW has an expectation of daily to near daily range riding for dispersed grazing operations. Producer 1 has expressed willingness to use range riders and requested a WDFW-contracted range rider prior to experiencing depredation. Efforts were made by both the producer and WDFW staff to solicit one, but none were available in the Blue Mountains area. Ongoing labor shortages in southeast Washington made hiring additional hands challenging. Conservation Northwest provided a range rider for eight days in October. 

If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-1618, or e-mail [email protected]

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *