WDFW’s 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol describes tools and approaches designed to influence pack behavior with the goal of reducing the potential for recurrent livestock depredation while continuing to promote wolf recovery.
On July 20, WDFW notified the public that non-lethal deterrence measures were not achieving that goal in the Smackout pack territory, and that the director had authorized incremental lethal removal of wolves as another tool to address recurrent depredations.
Protocol and management action
The department’s approach to incremental removal consists of a period of active operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions changed the pack’s behavior.
The protocol states that once a removal operation has begun, the department will update the public weekly on the number of individuals removed. Since July 20, the department has removed two wolves from the Smackout pack. As called for in the Protocol, the department has begun the evaluation period.
The duration of the evaluation period is largely based on the behavior of the wolves. If the department confirms another livestock depredation by the Smackout pack after the removal period (in other words, a fresh depredation, not one that likely occurred during or before the removal period), the department may initiate another lethal removal action.
Meanwhile, both proactive and responsive deterrence measures are being deployed. Range riding activity will continue daily on grazing allotments. The cattle are currently enclosed in a fenced pasture surrounded by fladry (a type of fence with streamers designed to deter wolves). The rancher who experienced the most recent depredation will continue to check his cattle daily. Also, Fox Lights (strobe light designed to haze large predators) have been installed around his private pasture as a further deterrent.
The department will provide a final report to the public on the wolf-livestock interactions in the Smackout pack, including details about the lethal removal action, after the summer grazing season ends.