STEVENS COUNTY, Wash. – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to take lethal action against a Stevens county wolf pack Monday, known as the Smackout Pack.
This decision comes after wolves attacked livestock several times this year. Ranchers around Laurier, Wash., have reported four attacks since September.
The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association has chronicled calves recently killed by wolves with photos on their website. There have been repeated attacks reported in the area that let the Department of Fish and Wildlife initiate lethal removal of some of the Smackout Pack to prevent livestock attacks. Gray wolves are listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington, but a state plan allows them to be killed under certain conditions.
The decision has created a divided debate. Wolf Haven International said it supports lethal removal of these animals since it is a last resort. On the other side, a West Coast Wolf advocate said killing the wolves will only make the situation worse.
“I don’t know of any other preventative measures that producers could have used to try and prevent a problem. They’ve been diligent in their efforts,” Director of Wolf Haven International Diane Gallegos said. Even though Wolf Haven supports the killing of wolves in this situation, Gallegos said it may still not be the most effective measure.
“What you find is a family group gets splinter off and it becomes often time more difficult for them to hunt because they don’t have their coordinated family group,” Gallegos explained.
West Coast Wolf Advocate Amaroq Weiss said this is one point she agrees with. “You actually shoot yourself in the foot when you shoot wolves.”
Weiss said wolves are social animals, so when they are separated it puts the pack in social disarray and increases the risk of conflict.
“It puts the pack in a situation where the younger members may not be as skilled to take down wild prey like elk and deer, so they turn to eating more vulnerable prey such as livestock,” Weiss explained.
While the debate continues, both sides said they believe most people in Washington generally do not want to see the wolves killed.