OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday announced it will kill members of the Smackout wolf pack after confirmation that a calf was injured by one or more wolves on public grazing land in Stevens County on July 18. The kill operation will likely result in the deaths of the 3-month-old wolf pups from this year’s litter.
The kill order was issued under a new wolf-livestock interaction protocol adopted by the department in June. The protocol allows the Smackout wolves to be killed because they were previously involved in several livestock losses or injuries 10 months ago. However, in September nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures were implemented, successfully stopping any further attacks until recently.
“Instead of gunning down wild wolves, state officials should be ramping up nonlethal conflict-prevention measures,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Killing 3-month-old wolf pups is an appalling way to resolve this issue. We’re extremely concerned and upset that a kill order has been issued after a 10-month period of no livestock injuries or losses due to this pack.”
The new protocol — plus the fact that wolf-management policies are being developed through the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s own Wolf Advisory Group — has been criticized by several conservation groups and the public because it provides no adequate opportunity for citizens to weigh in and undertakes no environmental review in establishing new wolf-management policies.
Under the protocol, wolves can be killed if there are either three depredation events within a 30-day rolling window of time or four depredation events within a 10-month rolling window of time. The protocol establishes limited requirements that nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures be used before resorting to killing wolves, and it mandates agency transparency about wolf-related activities.
The Smackout pack kill order raises additional concerns because the protocol is being applied retroactively. In addition, the agency failed to inform the public of known increased wolf activity in the area and what additional steps — if any — were being taken to prevent the conflicts.
This is the fourth time in five years that state-endangered wolves have been slated for death due to the grazing of privately owned cattle on publicly owned lands, and each time this has happened, the kill operations have sparked enormous public outrage. By the end of 2016, Washington’s wolf population was confirmed to be 115 wolves, but a report recently issued by the state wildlife agency indicates that five wolves have already been killed in Washington this year: Two were struck by cars, two are suspicious deaths (still the subject of investigations), and one was a wolf killed in late June by a range rider monitoring cattle after catching the wolf in the act of attacking livestock.
Under Washington’s wolf plan, livestock owners who have had wolf-caused losses are eligible for taxpayer-funded compensation, and — as is the case here — are eligible for double compensation when the livestock were grazing on areas of 100 or more acres.
“We should all question a policy that was developed without public input and allows the killing of wildlife on publicly owned land, even though the livestock owner can already collect double compensation for the losses,” said Weiss.