WDFW plans to take lethal action in response to depredation on cattle by Togo wolf pack

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On August 18, 2018, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) documented the third wolf depredation by the Togo pack within the last 30 days, which is also the sixth wolf depredation by the pack within the last 10 months. For the most recent depredation, WDFW officials confirmed that one or more wolves were responsible for injuring a calf on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Ferry County. The recent depredation has prompted Director Kelly Susewind to initiate the lethal removal provisions of the Wolf Conservation and Management plan (Wolf Plan) and wolf-livestock interactions protocol (Protocol).  

The six depredations by the Togo pack include: 

Depredation #1 - November 2, 2017

On November 2, 2017 WDFW was contacted by a livestock producer (herein Producer 1; note Producer 1 is a family operation with multiple owners) in Ferry County about an injured calf that was discovered less than three miles from where the unmarked female wolf was killed under caught-in-the-act authority on October 27, 2017 (see November 9, 2017 public update at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/updates.php?year=2017). A WDFW contracted range rider heard that there was a possible injured calf a day prior, but the calf could not be located at that time. Once the calf was found, it was taken to a holding pen for the investigation. The Ferry County Sheriff and WDFW management staff were notified and on November 3, department staff investigated a reported livestock depredation.  A Ferry County Officer was also in attendance for the depredation investigation.

The calf had injuries to both rear flanks and on both rear legs between the pin and hocks. Injuries on the rear flanks included bite lacerations and puncture wounds. Hemorrhaging was noted near bite lacerations in all four locations. After the wound was cleaned and dead tissue was removed, significant hemorrhaging was noted inside the wound, specifically around the wound margins. After a field examination of the injuries to the calf, it was determined to be a Confirmed Wolf Depredation. The determination was based on evidence and recent wolf activity in the area. Repeated reports from Producer 1 and WDFW contracted range rider included recent wolf howls, tracks, scat, and cattle grouping behavior in the pasture where the injured calf was located.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures - In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures suitable for the operation, which were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Those included:

  • Producer 1's cattle were on private fenced lands,
  • Producer 1 checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,
  • Producer 1 removes sick or injured cattle from the area,
  • Producer 1 also used range riders periodically in 2017 (as well as 2016), and
  • Producer 1 also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW's Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.

Responsive non-lethal deterrence measures - After the investigation on November 3, WDFW staff and Producer 1 considered potential responsive deterrent measures consisting of fladry, fox lights and increased range riding activity. The producer decided to move cattle to a different private large fenced grazing pasture, utilize fox lights and agreed to increase range rider activity. 

Depredation #2 - November 8, 2017

On November 8, WDFW was contacted by Producer 1 and he reported a calf carcass that was discovered while moving cattle in a different private large fenced grazing pasture. The calf was tarped by Producer 1, a hired hand, and range rider for the pending investigation. Wolf tracks were reported at the scene. The Ferry County Sherrif and WDFW management staff were notified that field staff were responding to conduct a depredation investigation per the 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol On November 9, WDFW conducted an investigation, accompanied by a Ferry County Deputy and WDFW Contracted Range Rider. After a field investigation and necropsy of the calf carcass, it was determined to be a Confirmed Wolf Depredation. The determination was based on bite lacerations with associated hemorrhaging, signs of a struggle near the calf carcass, large canid tracks near the calf carcass, recent wolf activity in the area, and the confirmed wolf depredation on November 2 in the area.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures - In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures suitable for the operation, that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Producer 1 continued using the following non-lethal deterrence measures:

  • Cattle on private fenced lands,
  • Checked on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,
  • Removed sick or injured cattle from the area,
  • Utilize fox lights ,
  • Used range riders periodically in 2018, and
  • Receiving locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW's Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.

Depredation #3 - May 20, 2018

A woodcutter reported the incident to the producer (herein Producer 2), who had seen the calf alive earlier in the day and who then found the carcass and reported the incident to WDFW.  The incident was on a federal grazing allotment in northern Ferry County, in the same vicinity as the November 2 and 8, 2017 wolf depredations.  A woodcutter working in the area said he approached a gate that separates U.S. Forest Service land from private property, where he heard a cow bawling and saw a black wolf running from the area where the calf was found. A WDFW official arrived later on May 20 and conducted an investigation with help from a wildlife specialist employed by Stevens and Ferry counties.

The investigators found that the calf had bite lacerations and puncture wounds to both rear quarters, upper rear legs, neck and sternum, consistent with predation by a wolf. Hemorrhaging, indicating the calf was initially alive during the encounter, was visible near the bite wounds and was also found in the left front armpit, where no lacerations or punctures were visible. Based on all available evidence, WDFW classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation by one or more members of the Togo pack (note, the area was confirmed as the Togo wolf pack territory from surveys conducted in February 2018).

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures - In this incident, Producer 2 did not met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation. Producer 2 deployed one proactive deterrence measure, which was checking on his cattle daily. 

Responsive non-lethal deterrence measures - Department staff and Producer 2 discussed additional responsive deterrent strategies (including the use of fladry and Foxlights) but agreed the use of range riders would be the most effective additional deterrent, given that the cow-calf operation takes place in an unfenced allotment in rugged terrain. Later on May 20, Producer 2 deployed a range rider and made plans to rotate several riders from the Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative and WDFW to provide ongoing daily or near-daily coverage.

Depredation #4 - August 8, 2018

On August 8, 2018, WDFW was contacted by a wildlife specialist employed by the Stevens and Ferry County Sheriff's Offices about a potential wolf depredation on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in the Togo pack wolf territory in Northern Ferry County, near Danville.  Later that day, WDFW staff documented a deceased adult cow.  The owner of the livestock is Producer 1.  During the investigation, staff documented bite lacerations with associated hemorrhaging, signs of a struggle down a steep hill and around the cow carcass, and recent wolf activity in the area.  Based on that evidence, they confirmed that the death was a depredation by one or more wolves from the Togo pack.

Due to the remote location and rugged terrain, the cow carcass was left on site.  However, Producer 1 and his range rider -moved the cattle to a different area of the allotment.  The cow was turned out as part of a cow-calf pair, but Producer 1 and range rider were not able to locate her calf. 

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures - In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Throughout the 2018 grazing season Producer 1 used a variety of deterrent measures to protect the livestock. Producer 1:

  • Delayed turnout until late June so the calves would be larger,
  • Used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves,
  • Following turnout, he removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment,
  • Deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle, and
  • Moved the cattle when necessary out of areas with higher wolf activity to minimize interactions between wolves and livestock.

Responsive non-lethal deterrence measures - After the investigation on August 8, WDFW staff and Producer 1 considered potential responsive deterrent measures and decided additional range riders would be the best option for their operation. 

Depredation #5 - August 9, 2018

On August 9, at about 9:30 p.m., the department was contacted by a WDFW-contracted range rider about another potential wolf depredation in the Togo pack area that injured a 350-pound calf owned by Producer 1. Producer 1 and range rider moved the injured calf, and the cow that accompanied it, from the allotment to a holding pen at their residence.

On August 10, WDFW staff and the two counties' wildlife specialist examined the cow and calf. The cow did not appear to have any injuries, but they documented bite lacerations to both of the calf's hamstrings and left flank, and puncture wounds and associated hemorrhaging to the left hindquarter and stomach.  Based on the evidence and related factors, the investigators confirmed that the calf's injuries were the result of a wolf depredation and classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation. The cow and injured calf were kept at the holding pen for monitoring.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures - In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Producer 1 continued using the following non-lethal deterrence measures:

  • Used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves,
  • Removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment, and
  • Deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle, and
  • Moved the cattle when necessary out of areas with higher wolf activity to minimize interactions between wolves and livestock.

Depredation #6 - August 18, 2018

On August 18, WDFW staff received a call from a wildlife specialist employed by the Stevens and Ferry County Sheriff's Offices about another potential wolf depredation in the Togo pack area that injured a 450-pound calf owned by Producer 1. Producer 1 and range rider moved the injured calf from the allotment, and the cow that accompanied it, from the allotment to a holding pen at their residence.  USFS District Ranger was notified of the depredation event. WDFW staff conducted a field examination of the injured calf with the help of a squeeze chute. Present during the examination were the producers and counties’ wildlife specialist.

On August 18, WDFW staff and the two counties' wildlife specialist examined the cow and calf.  The injured calf had bite lacerations and bite puncture wounds to the outside lower left hindquarter, the left hamstring, the inside of the left hock and the groin area. Adjacent to the bite puncture wounds on the hamstring and groin was hemorrhaging to the underlying tissue as indicated by severe swelling. Infection had also set in on two of the bite puncture wounds. The bite lacerations, bite puncture wounds and tissue hemorrhaging adjacent to the puncture wounds are consistent with a signature style wolf attack on cattle. Investigators confirmed that the calf's injuries were the result of a wolf depredation and classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures - In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Producer 1 continued using the following non-lethal deterrence measures:

  • Used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves,
  • Removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment,
  • Deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle, and
  • Moved the cattle when necessary out of areas with higher wolf activity to minimize interactions between wolves and livestock.

As a result of these events, the guidance provided in the Wolf Plan and Protocol the minimum threshold has been reached for consideration and possible implementation of lethal removal the Togo Pack. WDFW Director Kelly Susewind has authorized lethal removal of wolves from the pack, consistent with the Department’s Wolf Plan and Protocol.

The goal of lethal removal from the Wolf Plan is to manage wolf-livestock conflicts in a way that minimizes livestock losses, while at the same time not negatively impacting the recovery or long-term perpetuation of a sustainable wolf population. Building on that, the purpose of lethal removal in the Togo pack is to change wolf pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock while continuing to promote wolf recovery (see Protocol). Consistent with the terms of the Wolf Plan and Protocol, the rationale for lethal removal in this case is as follows:  

  1. WDFW has documented three wolf depredation by the Togo pack within the last 30 days, which is also the sixth wolf depredation by the pack within the last 10 months. All six of the depredation events were confirmed wolf depredations ( resulting in two dead calves, one dead cow, and three injured calves). The three most recent depredations occurred over approximately a 10 day period, AND
  2. At least two (2) proactive deterrence measures, and responsive deterrence measures as deemed appropriate, have been implemented and failed to meet the goal of influencing/changing pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock in 5 of the six events, AND
  3. WDFW expects depredations to continue based of the history of depredations and the appropriate non-lethal measures having been deployed resulting in no change of wolf behavior , 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 Protocol.  WDFW provided updates on November 9, November 15, December 6, 2017 and  May 24, June 1,  2018, August 11, and August 13, 2018 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. Comparing the actual level of wolf mortality to that modeled in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (appendix G and H), actual average wolf mortality is about 8.4 animals or 10% of the estimated population.  This level is well below the 28% baseline annual mortality assumed in the wolf plan model before any simulated wolf removals, which incorporates a 30% lethal removal mortality in addition to the baseline mortality.  The model was conducted assuming the regional wolf population was at the regional recovery objective. The wolf population in the eastern recovery region has more than doubled the regional recovery objective.
  6. As mentioned earlier, Director Susewind has authorized an incremental removal of pack members from the Togo Pack. The last estimate of pack size during August was 2 adult wolves and an unknown number of pups. The Department expects to begin the effort after 8 business hours following this public notice.  The removal effort will likely continue for a two-week period 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 methods 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 Wolf plan 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. 

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Togo