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OPT wolf pack to be targeted; Ferry County rancher shoots wolf

UPDATED: Wed., July 31, 2019, 5:09 p.m.

In this Sept. 26, 2018,  photo, provided by the National Park Service, a 4-year-old female gray wolf emerges from her cage as it released at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. (AP)
In this Sept. 26, 2018, photo, provided by the National Park Service, a 4-year-old female gray wolf emerges from her cage as it released at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. (AP)

Wolves from a pack in Northeast Washington will again be in the crosshairs of wildlife managers.

On Wednesday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced plans to kill another member of the Old Profanity Territory pack after repeated attacks on cattle.

“The chronic livestock depredations and subsequent wolf removals are stressful and deeply concerning for all those involved,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a news release. “The department is working very hard to try to change this pack’s behavior, while also working with a diversity of stakeholders on how to prevent the cycle from repeating.”

WDFW killed a radio-collared adult male OPT pack member on July 13. Since then, according to the release, the pack has killed two cattle and injured five.

The cattle most recently attacked by the OPT pack are owned by the same producer as the earlier attacks. The cattle are grazing on Colville National Forest land.

The pack inhabits the geographic area formerly lived in by the Profanity Peak Pack before WDFW killed seven pack members in 2016. The OPT pack is credited with 27 depredations since Sept. 5, according to the agency.

In a letter sent to Susewind last week, the Spokane-based Lands Council called for WDFW and the U.S. Forest Service to change grazing practices to avoid wolf-cattle conflicts.

“It is time for the Forest Service to use the flexibility built in to allotment agreements to shut down these areas of chronic conflict,” said Chris Bachman the wildlife program director of the Lands Council in a Wednesday news release. “It is evident at this point, grazing in an area of prime wolf habitat is folly. This is an area where livestock will continue to fall prey to wolves. We need to find effective sustainable solutions. Each time wolves have been removed due to conflicts with Diamond M cattle, more wolves move in to occupy the area. It’s time to try moving the cattle instead.”

Also on Wednesday, WDFW announced that a member of the Togo wolf pack was shot by a rancher July 24 on a private grazing allotment in Ferry County. The rancher shot the wolf as it attacked a calf, according to a WDFW release. The shooting is being investigated.

According to state law, in areas of Washington where wolves are not federally protected the owner of domestic animals and their immediate family members or employees may kill one gray wolf if the wolf is caught attacking their domestic animals. The caught-in-the-act rule has been used three times, once in summer 2017 on the Smackout Pack, once in November 2017 on the Togo Pack and in February near Sprague Lake.

The wolf is believed to be dead, although it was not found after the shooting. The producer, according to WDFW, had nonlethal deterrents in place and had been working with a WDFW-contracted range rider.

The Togo pack has been involved in four depredations since Oct. 26.

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