WDFW Director Kelly Susewind today (August 9, 2019) reauthorized Department staff to lethally remove the two remaining wolves from the Togo pack in response to repeated depredations of cattle on grazing lands in the Kettle River range of Ferry County.
The Department has documented three wolf depredations in the last 30 days and four in the last 10 months. During one of those depredations, a livestock producer shot a wolf during a caught-in-the-act scenario where the producer responded to a wolf depredating his livestock.
The proactive non-lethal deterrents used by the two producers (described below) in the area have not curtailed repeated 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 wolf-livestock interaction protocol.
WDFW's approach to incremental lethal removal consists of a period of active operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions changed the pack's behavior.
Last August 20 (2018) Director Susewind authorized lethal removal in the Togo pack in response to repeated wolf depredations, and Department staff removed one wolf on September 2, 2018. After documenting subsequent livestock depredations by the pack, the Director reauthorized the lethal removal of the remaining three wolves in the Togo pack on November 7, 2018; however no wolves were removed during that effort.
The goal of lethal removal, as described in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, is to manage wolf-livestock conflicts to minimize livestock losses without undermining the recovery of a sustainable wolf population. The purpose of the lethal action (and non-lethal tools) in the Togo pack is to change pack behavior to reduce the potential for continued depredations on livestock while continuing to promote wolf recovery. In this situation, the non-lethal tools did not change pack behavior.
Consistent with the guidance of the plan and protocol, the rationale for reauthorizing lethal removal of Togo wolves is as follows:
- WDFW has documented ongoing depredation on livestock by the pack since Nov. 3, 2017 (11 total, 4 within the last 10 months and three in the last 30 days). The depredations were shared with the public in a timely manner, as described in the protocol.
The four depredations in the last 10 months were classified as confirmed depredations, two of which were deaths to the livestock.
- At least two proactive deterrence measures and responsive deterrence measures (if applicable) were implemented and did not meet the goal of influencing/changing pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock. During the 2019 grazing season, the following non-lethal deterrents were implemented:
- Livestock producer 1 removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, and monitors the herd with a range rider. A WDFW-contracted range rider has been working with this producer since May.
- Livestock producer 2 removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd (when discovered), removes sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, delays turnout of livestock onto grazing allotments until June 10 when calving is finished (and deer fawns, elk calves, and moose calves become available as prey), and monitors the herd with a range rider.
The department documented these deterrents in the agency's "wolf-livestock mitigation measures" checklist, with date entries for deterrent tools and coordination with the producer and range rider.
- WDFW expects depredations to continue based on the history of this pack. The most recent depredation by the Togo pack is the third event in 30 days, forth event in 10 months. This series of repeated depredations shows a pattern in pack behavior as defined in the wolf-livestock interaction protocol. WDFW staff believe depredations are likely to continue in the near future even with the non-lethal tools being utilized.
- The lethal removal of wolves in the Togo pack is not expected to harm the wolf population's ability to reach the statewide recovery objective.
WDFW has documented ten known wolf mortalities in the state since Jan 1, 2019. In previous years with fewer wolves, WDFW has documented between 12 to 14 mortalities annually and the population has continued to expand its range and grow each year, both in numbers of individuals and numbers of breeding packs.
Comparing the actual level of wolf mortality to that modeled in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (appendices G and H), actual average wolf mortality per year is about 8.5 animals or approximately 10 percent of the estimated population from 2011-2018. This level is below the 28 percent baseline annual mortality assumed in the wolf plan model (before any simulated wolf removals); which incorporates a 30 percent lethal removal mortality in addition to the baseline mortality. The modeling assumed the regional wolf population met the regional component of the statewide recovery objective. The wolf population in the eastern recovery region is three times the regional component of the statewide objective.
T he department is providing one business day (eight court hours) advance public notice before initiating lethal removal activity. WDFW will use humane lethal removal methods consistent with state and federal laws. The objective is to use the best methods available while considering human safety, humaneness to wolves, swift completion of the removal, weather, efficacy, and cost.
WDFW will keep the public informed about this activity through weekly updates. The next update will be provided on Aug. 16.
2019 Togo pack updates
- July 31, 2019
For a summary of removal operations in the Togo pack during 2018, please see page 28 of the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2018 Annual Report. WDFW will provide a final report on any lethal removal operations during 2019 in the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2019 Annual Report.
A summary of all documented depredation activity within the past ten months is included in every monthly wolf update.