WDFW documents the fourth depredation by the Sherman wolf pack

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On August 24, 2017, the Department documented the fourth wolf depredation by the Sherman pack within the last 10 months. WDFW officials confirmed that one or more wolves were responsible for killing a calf on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Ferry County. The report was made by a range rider contracted by WDFW who found the dead calf while monitoring livestock in the area. The fourth depredation within the last 10 months has prompted WDFW to initiate the provisions of the wolf-livestock interactions protocol (Protocol) developed jointly by WAG and the Department earlier this year.  

The four depredations by the Sherman pack include: 

  • June 13, 2017, a confirmed wolf depredation resulting in a dead calf.

    The Department officials who conducted the investigation indicated that the first event was an intact calf carcass with injuries to the groin, inside areas of both the hindquarters and hamstrings. The injuries consisted of bite lacerations and puncture wounds with hemorrhaging associated with those bite wounds. The injuries to the calf were consistent with a wolf depredation. The GPS points from the Sherman Pack collared wolf showed that the wolf had been at the location several times between June 3-11. Data from another collared wolf from the Profanity Peak Pack showed the animal was in the area sporadically from June 5-7. Based on all available factors, the event was classified as a confirmed wolf depredation by one or more members of the Sherman Pack. The depredation occurred on Bureau of Land Management grazing lands.

  • July 12, 2017, a confirmed wolf depredation resulting in a dead calf.

    The Department officials who conducted the investigation indicated that a combination of evidence at the scene (including wolf tracks, scat, possible gray canid hair, and signs of a struggle), injuries on the carcass that occurred while the calf was still alive (hemorrhaging on right rear leg associated with bite wounds on leg and tail, and broken humerus bone), wolf collar location data, and another depredation investigation completed within 200 yards of this carcass on June 13, 2017 clearly indicate a wolf depredation. Wolf GPS collar data also showed that a Sherman Pack wolf was at the scene during the estimated time that the calf was attacked (July 10-12). Based on all available factors, the event was classified as a confirmed wolf depredation by one or more members of the Sherman Pack. The depredation occurred on Bureau of Land Management grazing lands.  

  • July 21, 2017, a confirmed wolf depredation resulting in an injured calf.

    The Department officials who conducted the investigation examined the injured calf and found lacerations and puncture wounds consistent with wolf bite marks. The injuries consisted of wounds on the upper left shoulder, left armpit area, lower left brisket, left hip, lower and upper left rear leg and around the groin. The calf also had a broken right shoulder. The calf was euthanized by the producer due to the severity of the injuries. A subsequent necropsy showed massive hemorrhaging of the underlying tissue next to the lacerations and puncture wounds. GPS collar data showed that the collared wolf from the Sherman Pack was in the area when the incident occurred. Tracks near the scene showed that at least two wolves were present. The depredation occurred on Bureau of Land Management grazing lands. 

  • August 24, 2017, a confirmed wolf depredation resulting in a dead calf.

    WDFW staff investigated a report of two calf mortalities in Ferry County after a report by a WDFW contracted range rider. The first calf mortality consisted of skeletal remains and was determined to be an Unknown Cause of Death. In the area where the remains of the first calf was discovered; wolf scat, tracks, and GPS collar data indicated that a member of the Sherman Pack was there at the approximate time of death. It is likely the first calf mortality may have involved the Sherman Pack, but due to scavenging little remained of the calf to make a definitive determination of wolf involvement. The second calf carcass discovered consisted of a mostly intact animal and was within a quarter mile of the first calf remains. After an investigation of the scene and a field necropsy it was determined that the calf was a confirmed wolf depredation. Lacerations, puncture wounds, and hemorrhaging were noted on areas of the calf consistent with a wolf depredation. Wolf tracks, scat, and GPS collar data placed a member of the Sherman Pack at the scene during the approximate time of the second calf depredation. Both calves were discovered on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment.  

As a result of these events, the criteria in the Protocol for consideration and implementation of lethal removal have been reached for the Sherman Pack. WDFW Director Jim Unsworth has authorized lethal removal of wolves from the pack, consistent with the Department’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the wolf-livestock interactions protocol.  

The purpose of lethal removal is to influence and/or change wolf pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock while continuing to promote wolf recovery. Consistent with the terms of the protocol, the rationale for lethal removal in this case is as follows:  

  1. WDFW has documented four wolf depredation events in the Sherman pack area in the last 10 months. All four of the depredation events were confirmed wolf depredations, three resulted in a dead calf and one resulted in an injured calf. The four depredations occurred over approximately 10 weeks and were within two and a half miles of each other, AND

  2. At least two (2) proactive deterrence measures and responsive deterrence measures have been implemented and failed to meet the goal of influencing/changing pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock. The livestock producer that sustained the four wolf depredations implemented the following proactive deterrence measures: The producer’s calves were born outside of occupied wolf range and were trucked into the area for the summer grazing season. The producer rotates five WDFW contract range riders throughout their grazing allotments to increase the level of human presence around the cattle. The range riders started patrolling the area on May 9, before the cattle were turned out to check for carnivore activity and to proactively increase regular human presence. They have continued to patrol the area with cattle on a near-daily basis, and communicate frequently with the producer. In late July, three additional range riders began rotating shifts patrolling the surrounding grazing allotments. Any changes in cattle behavior or carnivore activity has been shared with WDFW. The range riders monitor the activity of GPS collared wolves in the area. The producer, his family, and employees (a total of five) also work cattle throughout their allotments and noted wolf activity in the area. Department staff also considered other potential deterrence measures but didn’t believe those would have an impact on wolf movements, activity patterns, or behavior. There are no known wolf dens or rendezvous sites in the area. AND

  3. WDFW expects depredations to continue (e.g., deterrence measures have not changed pack behavior, and overlap between wolves and livestock is expected to continue in the near future), AND

  4. The Department has documented the use of appropriate deterrence measures and notified the public of wolf activities in a timely manner as outlined in the wolf-livestock protocol. WDFW provided updates on June 16, July 14 and 25 with information on all wolf depredations on livestock in the area, AND

  5. The lethal removal of wolves is not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach recovery objectives statewide or within individual wolf recovery regions.

As mentioned earlier, Director Unsworth has authorized an incremental removal of pack members from the Sherman Pack. The last estimate of pack size from the 2016 winter survey was 5 wolves. There is no evidence this year that the pack denned or produced pups. The Department expects to begin the effort this week and will likely continue for two-weeks or less. 

The Department will use humane lethal removal methods consistent with state and federal laws. The objective of the methodology is to use the best method available while considering human safety, humaneness to wolves, swift completion of the removal, weather, efficacy, and cost. Likely options include shooting from a helicopter, trapping, and shooting from the ground. 

Per the Protocol, WDFW’s approach is incremental removal, which has periods of active removals or attempts to remove wolves, followed by periods of evaluation to see if the goal of changing pack behavior was met. The first incremental removal will follow the provision of the protocol in section 7.  
The Department will keep the public informed about this activity through weekly updates. The Department will provide a final report to the public on any lethal removal action after the operation has concluded.