Washington Wildlife Officials Weigh Further Wolf Removals as Livestock Is Killed

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by: David Tipling/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Wolf attacks on livestock have been occurring frequently over the last few months in Washington. As a result, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has begun authorizing the lethal removal of several area wolves. Now, amid public outcry in defense of some of the creatures, officials are considering further removals after discovering more attacks.

According to The Center Square, the WDFW recently located a slain calf two days after officials authorized the culling of a yearling female wolf. She was formerly a member of the state’s Smackout pack, one that has been causing serious trouble recently. On October 7th, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the lethal removal of a second wolf from the Smackout pack. The ruling came after further attacks affected livestock grazing both public and private lands in northeast WA. Of the most recent kill, however, local officials determined the attack had taken place two days before the her death. That, therefore, rules out a surge in renewed wolf attacks.

Still, the most recent removal marks one of several hunts that have taken place over the last few months. In total, 11 attacks on livestock have occurred since August 17th, leaving seven cows dead and four injured. And all so far have been attributed to the Smackout pack. The attacks have affected three different livestock producers between Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

One of the WDFW’s prior wolf hunts drew increased backlash from ranchers and conservationists. In tracking down another Smackout wolf, they mistakenly killed a wolf pup. The kill was especially controversial as the outlet states the pup had been a member of the nearby Dirty Shirt pack. Though not a member of Smackout, the pup had been exploring the boundaries of the pack’s territory. Aside from the Smackout pack, the region’s most infamous wolves, other targeted packs include the Leadpoint pack.

Regulations for Authorized Wolf Hunts:

Washington wolf packs have been causing serious problems for the state’s ranchers and livestock producers. Nevertheless, there are restrictions that wildlife officials must follow before seeking out, and potentially killing, any troublesome wolves.

The news outlet reports officials are authorized to enact a hunt when a pack kills or injures livestock three times within 30 days or four times in 10 months. In addition, the state requires affected ranchers to have attempted non-lethal measures for discouraging area predators from attacking before a lethal hunt is permitted.

Part of the reason Washington counties might be seeing increased wolf attacks is that since 2020, there has been an increase in the state’s wolf population. At the height of the pandemic, there were 178 wolves making up 29 packs statewide. By 2021, that number had grown significantly, with experts counting 206 making up 33 packs.