WDFW Director authorizes lethal action in Togo wolf pack territory

Publish date

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind today (August 26, 2021) authorized the lethal removal of one to two wolves from the Togo pack territory in response to repeated depredations of cattle on public and private grazing lands in Ferry County.

The proactive and responsive non-lethal deterrents used by the three affected livestock producers (described below) in the area this grazing season have not curtailed further depredations.

Director Susewind's decision is consistent with the guidance of the state's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the lethal removal provisions of the Department's 2017 wolf-livestock interaction protocol.

Consistent with the guidance of the plan and protocol, the rationale for authorizing lethal removal of Togo wolves is as follows: 

WDFW has documented four depredation events (three within the last 30 days) resulting in one dead and three injured calves since June 24, 2021 attributed to the Togo pack. All events except one were considered confirmed wolf depredation incidents; the other incident was considered a probable wolf depredation.

At least two (in this case, more than two) proactive deterrence measures and responsive deterrence measures (if applicable) were implemented by the livestock producers affected by the depredations, including the following:

Producer 1

  • The producer provided human presence and focused monitoring around private calving pastures. 
  • If sick and/or injured cattle were identified on the range, the producer transported those livestock back to the ranch headquarters and out of the Togo pack territory.
  • The producer practiced carcass sanitation by removing and/or properly disposing of carcasses so they were not attractants.
  • WDFW staff deployed a radio-activated guard (RAG) box for approximately six weeks until they deemed it had become ineffective at deterring wolves from the area, and that it was needed elsewhere.
  • The producer met WDFW’s expectation of daily to near daily range riding throughout the grazing season thus far. In addition to the producer and producer’s family regularly monitoring cattle, the producer has been working with the Northeast Washington Wolf Cattle Collaborative (NEWWCC), Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW), and WDFW to deploy qualified and experienced range riders throughout the season.

Producer 2

  • The producer calved outside of known wolf pack territories.
  • The producer transported any sick and/or injured cattle back to the ranch headquarters and out of the Togo pack territory.
  • The producer practiced carcass sanitation by removing and/or properly disposing of carcasses so they were not attractants.
  • The producer met WDFW’s expectation of daily to near daily range riding throughout the grazing season thus far. The producer has a cost-share contract with WDFW that allows the producer to hire two full-time range riders to monitor the herd within the grazing allotment. In addition, the producer receives coverage from a CPoW range rider on the upper portion of the allotment.
  • The livestock producer has implemented and tested new pilot projects to proactively mitigate wolf-livestock conflict, including using cowbells and reflective collars on cattle.

Producer 3

  • The producer calved outside of the Togo pack territory.
  • The producer provided human presence and focused monitoring around private calving pastures. 
  • The producer delayed turnout of cattle to a public grazing allotment to allow livestock calves to grow larger and to allow deer fawns, moose calves, and elk calves to become available as prey.  
  • The producer transported any sick and/or injured cattle back to the ranch headquarters and out of the Togo pack territory.
  •  The producer practiced carcass sanitation by removing and/or properly disposing of carcasses so they were not attractants. 
  • The producer avoided known areas of high wolf activity through pasture rotation strategies or delayed turnout when feasible.  
  • The producer met WDFW’s expectation of daily to near daily range riding throughout the grazing season thus far. In addition to the producer and ranch staff regularly monitoring cattle on the range, the producer has worked with NEWWCC, CPoW, and WDFW to deploy qualified and experienced range riders throughout the season.

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 three livestock producers were those best suited for their operations in the professional judgement of WDFW staff. In addition, staff recommended the following reactive measures:

  • Adding Fox lights (flashing lights that gives the impression of humans patrolling during hours of darkness) to a large private pasture experiencing increasing wolf activity for Producer 3;
  • On the allotment with the most wolf activity, staff recommended more frequent range rider activity near the wolf activity center; and
  • Increasing the frequency of collar locations to aid in separation of wolves and livestock.

Livestock are evenly dispersed throughout much of the core Togo territory. Based on the distribution of livestock in the territory, where the depredations occurred, the amount of non-lethal deterrence measures already deployed and currently being utilized, and the behavior patterns exhibited by the wolves, WDFW staff believe depredations are likely to continue, even with additional non-lethal deterrence efforts.

The lethal removal of one to two wolves from the Togo pack territory is not expected to harm the wolf population's ability to reach the statewide or local recovery objective. WDFW has documented three known wolf mortalities in the state since Jan. 1, 2021. In previous years, WDFW has documented 12 – 21 mortalities per year and the population has continued to grow and expand its range.

The Department’s wolf plan also modeled lethal removal to help inform decision makers during this stage of recovery. The analysis in the plan included wolf survival estimates from northwest Montana, which incorporated a 28% mortality rate. It is important to note that agency lethal control was factored into that 28% mortality estimate. To err on the side of caution (i.e., when in doubt assume greater impact to wolf population so true impact is not underestimated), the scenarios modeled in the wolf plan included an even higher level of lethal control (i.e., removing 30% of population every four years in addition to baseline 28% mortality rate). Based on that modeling analysis, as well as an analysis of higher levels of potential mortality on the actual population level of wolves in the eastern recovery zone and statewide, we do not expect this action to jeopardize wolf recovery in the eastern recovery zone or statewide.

WDFW discussed the impacts of removing one to two wolves from the Togo pack territory and determined the current level of mortality should not negatively impact the ability to recover wolves in Washington.

The lethal removal authorization expires when the wolf or wolves in the authorization have been removed or after Sept. 26, 2021 (regardless of whether wolves have been removed), whichever comes first. The authorization could be extended or amended to include other wolves in the pack area if additional depredations are documented in the 30 days following the initial authorization or other extenuating circumstances are identified. 

WDFW will keep the public informed about this activity through weekly updates. The next update will be provided on Sept. 2.

Previous updates

2021 Togo pack updates

WDFW will provide a final report on this and any other lethal removal actions during 2021 in the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2021 Annual Report, which will be published during spring 2022.

A summary of all documented depredation activity within the past 10 months is included in every monthly wolf update.

Packs
Togo