Depredation by OPT pack confirmed in Ferry County

Publish date

On July 6, WDFW staff discovered a dead adult cow while monitoring livestock in areas of recent wolf activity from OPT pack members. The owner of the cow is the same livestock producer who experienced wolf depredations by the OPT pack in 2018.

Investigation of the carcass by WDFW staff revealed bite lacerations and puncture wounds on the base of the tail, nose, inside of the right rear leg, left hamstring area, left flank, left front leg, right upper neck, and the chest area. Hemorrhaging accompanied the puncture wounds on the nose, tail, inside right rear leg, and the right upper neck. The carcass was mostly consumed.

The damage to the carcass was indicative of wolf depredation. Wolf tracks were also documented at the site. In addition, location data from the GPS-collared wolves in the OPT pack showed they were in the vicinity during the estimated time the cow died. Based on the combination of bite wounds with associated hemorrhaging, wolf locations, and sign in the area, WDFW staff classified this event as a confirmed wolf depredation.

The livestock producer had taken the following proactive, nonlethal measures:

  • The producer calves outside of occupied wolf areas and cow-calf pairs are trucked to the grazing site. Calving outside occupied wolf areas protects calves when they are first born and most vulnerable to depredation.
  • The turnout date for grazing on the U.S. Forest Service allotment is June 1; the producer delayed turnout of the livestock until June 15. 
  • As part of this producer’s business model, the producer breeds cattle early, so calves are generally around 200 lbs. at turnout. Delayed turnout and early calving are considered proactive conflict mitigation measures because the calves are larger and more defensible. Additionally, deer fawns, elk calves, and moose calves become available as prey in mid-June.

Through coordination with the U.S. Forest Service, the grazing rotation on the allotment this season diverts cattle away from wolf rendezvous sites identified in previous years.

Since turnout, the cattle have been in three main groups—two around salting sites and one around a watering site. The salting sites are predetermined by the U.S. Forest Service and have been used historically, so even if the salt was removed, the cattle have a strong fidelity to the site and familiarity with the location from salt in the ground. Accordingly, WDFW wildlife conflict specialists deployed Fox lights to deter wolves from these areas on June 23.

In addition, starting on June 17, near daily patrols of the area were coordinated among the producer, the Ferry-Stevens County Wildlife Specialist, and Department staff. The Department also contracts with a range rider who works near daily with this producer’s cattle. That range rider was working on the other side of the Kettle crest within the OPT territory, east of the allotment where the depredation occurred, during the time of the depredation. The Department is shifting the contracted range rider to the portion of the OPT pack’s territory and grazing area where the depredation took place.  

In 2018, the OPT pack was involved in a total of 16 depredations (three killed and 13 injured livestock) in under two months, which prompted lethal removal action by the Department. In 2019, three depredations documented outside the grazing season were confirmed on Jan. 5. This additional depredation brings the total to 20 depredations (seven killed and 13 injured livestock) since Sept. 5, 2018. A summary of all documented depredation activity within the past ten months is included in every monthly update.

On Nov. 13, 2018, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind paused action seeking to lethally remove the two remaining wolves from the OPT pack that repeatedly preyed on cattle in Ferry County. For a summary of removal operations in this pack during 2018, please see page 37 of the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2018 Annual Report.

During the annual winter survey, WDFW staff counted four wolves in the OPT pack. Recent pictures from a remote camera in the pack area indicate there may be a fifth adult. The pack denned this spring and has at least four pups.

Director Susewind is now assessing this situation and considering next steps.

For more information, please see previous updates on the OPT pack from the following dates:

2018

  • Sept. 7, 11, 12, 14, 18, 25, 28
  • Oct. 5, 19, 25, 26
  • Nov. 15

2019

  • Jan. 11
Packs
OPT