Perspectives on lethal removal of wolves from Togo Pack
Conservation Northwest / Sep 01, 2021 / News Releases, Range Riding, Restoring Wildlife, Wolves
The following is a statement from conservation northwest’s Wolf Program Team:
Late last week, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind authorized the lethal removal of one to two wolves from the Togo Pack territory in response to repeated depredations of cattle on public and private grazing lands of Ferry County.
WDFW has documented four depredation events in three months and three within the last 30 days resulting in one dead and three injured calves since June 24, 2021 attributed to the Togo Pack.
The proactive and responsive non-lethal deterrents used by the three affected livestock producers (described here)—including Department-contracted range riders as well as riders from the Northeast Washington Wolf Cattle Collaborative (NEWWCC) and Cattle Producers of Washington (CPoW)—in the area this grazing season have unfortunately not curtailed further wolf depredations on livestock.
Lethal control is always a difficult situation, one that we don’t like to see occur. It can be understandably emotional for wildlife advocates, livestock producers, and agency staff.
However, when affected producers, participating range riders, and Department staff all make consistent and credible efforts to proactively deter depredations, and the agreed-upon threshold for lethal wolf removal after chronic livestock depredations is exceeded, it’s a situation we should accept in the interest of long-term wolf recovery and coexistence.
That is the purpose of Washington’s Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol, last updated in October 2020 with our input and that of other representatives on the state’s Wolf Advisory Group, including animal welfare advocates, environmentalists, ranchers, hunters and outdoor recreationists. To not accept this difficult reality in the name of coexistence risks loss of cooperation and continued genuine deterrence efforts on the part of ranchers and rural residents.
Based on our fact finding so far, we have seen evidence of range riding effort that met or exceeded expectations of the recently revised protocol in the Togo Pack territory this season. Other proactive conflict avoidance tools were deployed as well, including carcass removal, the use of a radio-activated guard (RAG) box for approximately six weeks, and experimental approaches like GPS ear tags on cows to make them easier to find.
We are interested in a more detailed report from the WDFW on all of the ways in which they tried to implement deterrence measures and improve coordination among all parties this season under the pilot Special Focus Area program. But based on the information we have received, it is too early for us to critique how things may have been done differently, if at all.
We hope that lethal wolf removal can be done with a minimum number of wolves removed and the pack structure remaining intact. We understand this will be a ground-based effort so there will be an opportunity to avoid killing pups and breeding adults.
We’ll share more information and perspectives on the Togo Pack situation should new developments occur.