NEAR CHEWELAH, Wash. - Washington State biologists are spending their nights patrolling a sheep herd in Northeast Washington State to prevent another clash between ranchers and wildlife advocates.
The Huckleberry Pack of wolves reportedly killed at least 16 sheep in a herd being managed on private timber lands near Chewelah. Tests are being conducted on several other sheep carcasses to see if they too are wolf kills.
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDF&W) biologists hope by chasing away the wolves before they strike, they can avoid the kind of controversy that erupted in 2012 when WDF&W teams destroyed the entire Wedge Pack of wolves that was preying on cattle herds near Colville
Agency leaders know if they cannot protect these sheep they may have to destroy more wolves. They have already given permission to the sheep herder to shoot wolves he sees attacking sheep.
It is an unprecedented effort by government employees to help protect livestock in Washington State.
The Department is being praised by animal protection groups and legislators such as State Sen. Kevin Ranker who were highly critical of the handling of the Wedge Pack.
But the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association is criticizing WDF&W for not notifying the rancher of the presence of wolves in the area. And a spokeswoman told King 5 the agency needed to destroy the problem wolves immediately to prevent more losses.
The Biologists are loaded up with non-lethal shotgun loads and other hazing materials if they encounter wolves near the sheep herd. But they said just the human presence is enough to deter most wolves from getting close.
Last night they successfully scared off wolves in the area but also discovered a new sheep carcass. They are conducting a necropsy on the animal to see if it was a victim of wolves.