Wolves continue to cause headaches and financial loss for ranchers in Washington and Oregon, with confirmed depredations occurring in both states in late October.
The problem in Washington has escalated to the point that Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind reauthorized department staff to lethally remove the remaining two wolves from a pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle in the Old Profanity Territory (OPT) in the Kettle River Range of Ferry County.
The pack occupies the same general area as the Profanity Peak pack in 2016. In September, WDFW lethally removed wolves from the pack and initiated an evaluation to determine if the action changed the pack’s behavior and reduced the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock. The Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the department’s protocol indicate that a post-removal evaluation period should consider any depredations that take place after one or more wolves are removed from a pack.
Even after wolves were removed, the department documented two wolf depredations to calves found in the allotment between Oct. 5-7, and determined that the depredation by the OPT on Oct. 5 likely occurred after the removal period. That incident would have supported a decision to remove more wolves at that time, but Susewind extended the evaluation period to consider the details and complexities of the situation in the field.
The U.S. Forest Service allotment where the affected producer grazes his livestock is large and lies entirely within the territory of the OPT pack. After the Oct. 5 depredation, the department took additional steps to document the range-riding operation on the allotment to make sure it is as effective as it can be. However, the department documented another wolf depredation to livestock on Oct. 23, bringing the total to 16 wolf depredations by the OPT pack.
The affected producer was scheduled to remove his livestock from the U.S. Forest Service allotment by Oct.15, but due to dense timber and rugged terrain it sometimes takes longer to round up all of the cattle.
The producer is transporting a portion of his cattle to private grazing lands west of the Kettle Crest and another portion out of state. The private grazing lands west of the Kettle Crest are within the OPT pack territory, although they are at lower elevations and on the periphery of the pack territory, which may reduce the likelihood of wolf depredations in these areas this winter.
The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock has continued to employ nonlethal methods to deter wolves from preying on his herd.
Oregon livestock producers are also continuing to see cattle killed by wolves as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) discusses a new framework for the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (See WLJ, Oct. 22, 2018).
The ODFW livestock depredation investigation reports from Oct. 22-27 show one confirmed calf injury and four confirmed calf deaths in Grant and Klamath counties. In addition, the department investigated the deaths of three ewes and determined that case to be “possible” wolf depredations.
Attacks on Oct. 24 and 27 in the Wood River Valley were attributed to the Rogue pack.
In Oregon, ODFW needs to make the determination for lethal removal of chronically depredating wolves to be considered or if the livestock producer wants financial compensation from the Oregon Department of Agriculture. In these cases, a decision on what action would be taken was not available at press time. — Rae Price, WLJ Editor