THIS WAS THEIR REPLY!
Dear Interested Party,
Thank you for contacting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to express your concerns about plans to remove some members of the Smackout wolf pack in Stevens County. We are unable to respond individually to every message, but we believe the information below will address the issues you raised.
WDFW is committed to the recovery of gray wolves in Washington state. To achieve that goal, we have a responsibility to respond to livestock losses and other issues resulting from the growing number of wolves within our borders. Both of these priorities are critical to the long-term success of wolf recovery. The state’s wolf population has increased from five wolves to a minimum of 115 today, growing at a rate of 30 percent per year. Most of that increase has occurred in northeast Washington, where 15 of the state’s 20 wolf packs share the landscape with rural residents and ranching operations. With that increase, it is inevitable that wolves will encounter livestock on both public and private land.
Washington’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan, adopted in 2011 to guide wolf-recovery efforts, anticipated the current challenge. The plan states that “lethal control of wolves may be necessary to resolve repeated wolf-livestock conflicts.”
Since September 2016, our wolf management team has documented five instances in which the Smackout pack preyed on cattle in Stevens County. That conflict occured despite multiple ranchers’ pro-active efforts to protect livestock. Working closely with WDFW staff, the ranchers have:
· Employed range riders to monitor the herds;
· Removed or secured livestock carcasses and other “attractants;”
· Actively hazed wolves with firearms and pyrotechnics;
· Confined cattle in a fenced pasture within the grazing allotment;
· Used spotlights on a nightly basis to deter wolves;
· Monitored data from GPS collars that we placed on Smackout wolves to focus non-lethal deterrent measures; and
· Used streamers attached to wire or rope (known as “fladry”) to deter wolves.
The department announced its intent to take lethal action against the Smackout pack after confirming the pack’s fourth incident of preying on livestock within the past 10 months. With that incident, the pack met all the criteria for lethal action developed by WDFW and its citizen-based Wolf Advisory Group, which reflects the perspectives of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock producers.
Consistent with that protocol, the department’s goal is to influence/change wolf pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock while continuing to promote wolf recovery.
Relocating wolves to defuse conflicts is problematic. Studies show that many relocated wolves return to their original range or resume attacking livestock in their new location. Capturing wolves and placing them in captive facilities is also complicated. Live-capturing wolves is extremely difficult, and experience has shown that wolves, who use a territory of 350 square miles in the wild, do not adapt well to captivity.
Some people who have contacted the department believe that ranchers should not be allowed to graze livestock on federal rangelands in the first place. That issue is beyond the department’s authority, and changing current practices would require action by the U.S. Congress. WDFW has a responsibility to manage wolves in areas under state jurisdiction regardless of ownership.
Despite occasional conflicts, gray wolves are clearly on the road to recovery in our state and the majority, nearly 80 percent, of wolf packs coexist with livestock without chronic conflict.