WDFW removes wolf from Smackout pack, initiates evaluation

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On Nov. 8, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) marksman shot and killed an adult male member of the Smackout wolf pack, which has repeatedly preyed on cattle on private grazing lands in Stevens County.

At that time, the pack included four to five adult wolves and no known pups.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the incremental removal of one to two members of the Smackout pack after WDFW field staff confirmed that the pack preyed on five cattle since Aug. 20.

The affected livestock producers had several proactive non-lethal wolf deterrent measures in place while livestock were on the range, including calving outside of known wolf territory, containment of livestock in fenced pastures, human presence around livestock, range riders, Fox lights and radio-activated guard (RAG) boxes in specific pastures, hazing wolves with nonlethal munitions, fladry, and the removal and/or confinement of sick and injured livestock and livestock carcasses (see wolf update on Nov. 6 for details for each producer).

After moving their cattle to private pastures, the producers also maintained human presence around livestock, deployed range riders and fladry, and observed approved sanitation practices place.

Four heifers were killed and one calf was injured in those depredation incidents, meeting the criteria for considering lethal action under WDFW's wolf-livestock interaction protocol. Under that policy, WDFW can lethally remove wolves if department staff documents three depredations by wolves on livestock within 30 days, or four within ten months, and depredations are expected to continue.

Because the most recent depredations involved larger cattle located on private pastures, WDFW wildlife managers expected the pattern of livestock depredation by wolves in this area to continue, leading to the recommendation of lethal removal.

After WDFW staff reported removing the adult male wolf, Susewind suspended removal operations and initiated an evaluation period to determine if that action will disrupt the pack’s pattern of depredating livestock.

If WDFW documents another livestock depredation that likely occurred after removing the wolf, the department may consider another lethal removal action under the guidelines of the 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol and the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2011. 

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 hindering recovery of a sustainable wolf population. The purpose of the Smackout lethal action was to change wolf pack behavior to reduce the potential for continued depredations on livestock while continuing to promote wolf recovery. 

Packs referenced in this update