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Wash. authorizes shooting wolves preying on flock near Spokane

A rancher and state wildlife officials working to herd a flock of 1,800 sheep away from the site of recent wolf attacks in southern Stevens County today received authorization to shoot wolves that approach the flock.

Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, on Wednesday authorized livestock owner Dave Dashiell, of Hunters, and agency field staff to use limited lethal measures and preventative steps to avoid additional attacks on the flock.

Since Aug. 14, WDFW has confirmed that wolves killed 16 sheep in four separate incidents on leased forest land near Hunters, a small community about 48 miles northwest of Spokane. The latest attack occurred the night of Aug. 18.

Nine other sheep found prior to Aug. 14 had decomposed to the point where the cause of death could not be determined.

Signals from a radio collar attached to a male wolf in the Huckleberry Pack show the animal was at the site, likely with other pack members, when the attacks occurred, said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director.

Necropsies of the carcasses confirmed the sheep were killed by wolves, he said.

"The rancher has four large guard dogs and camps alongside his flock at night," Pamplin said. "Yet, the attacks have continued, even after the department sent four members of our wildlife-conflict staff and an experienced range-rider to help guard the sheep and begin moving them out of the area."

To further protect his sheep, the livestock owner has removed the carcasses of dead animals where possible to do so and kept his flock on the move around the grazing areas, Pamplin said.

"Dave Dashiell has worked closely with WDFW field staff to find solutions to this situation," Pamplin said. "We really appreciate his efforts and his cooperation in working toward a shared goal."

To support those efforts, Anderson directed WDFW wildlife staff to:

-- Help the livestock owner find an alternative grazing area away from the Huckleberry Pack.

-- Capture and collar additional wolves in the pack to provide additional information on their movements.

-- Be prepared to shoot wolves in the vicinity of the livestock owner's sheep. Neither WDFW staff, nor the livestock owner, who was also authorized to shoot wolves in the vicinity, will actively hunt the wolves or attempt to draw them into range.

"Observing a wolf in the wild is a fairly rare thing," Pamplin said. "Given the escalating pattern of attacks on this flock of sheep, it's safe to assume in this situation that any wolves in the vicinity of that flock pose a direct risk to those animals."

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal list of endangered species in the eastern third of the state, but the species is still protected under Washington state law. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and state laws set the parameters for responding to wolf predation on livestock.

"Our preferred option is to help the livestock owner move the sheep to another area, but finding a place to graze 1,800 animals presents a challenge," Pamplin said. "We'll continue to do everything we can to avoid further conflict."

The Huckleberry Pack, confirmed as the state's seventh wolf pack in June 2012, is known to have at least six members and perhaps as many as a dozen. There is no documented evidence that the pack, named after nearby Huckleberry Mountain, has preyed on livestock until now.

Columbia Basin Bulletin The Columbia Basin Bulletin e-mail newsletter is produced by Intermountain Communications of Bend, Oregon and supported with Bonneville Power Administration fish and wildlife funds through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Articles republished by The Dalles Chronicle with permission.

Comments

Skippystrand 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Animals are the natural extension of the human race. Many need protection, before they are wiped out due to ignorance. In the United States, the Grey Wolf is one such species that is on the “run” again for its survival. Please go onto MoveOn and read, and if inclined, please sign my petition. Search by the words: States are Reckless – Please put Grey Wolves Back on Federal Protection List

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ARWarrior 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The department’s secretive weekend assault on this endangered wolf pack is unconscionable. The fact that a public agency would take action to kill an endangered species without notifying the public is an outrage. These wolves belong to the public and decisions about whether they live or die ought to be made by "we the people" whose tax dollars are used for this senseless slaughter, which, by the way, goes against the scientifically proven fact that killing part of the pack only diminishes the hunting capabilities of that pack, which, in turn, will resort to hunting more easily obtained food sources such as livestock.

Given the fact that some of the sheep carcasses were decomposed to the point that a wolf kill could not be determined is evidence that this issue was not addressed early enough.

Nonlethal measures, such as range riders and relocation of the sheep, were decided upon belatedly and should actually be given the chance to work before deciding to kill these magnificent animals essential to the ecosystem. After all, there are only 52 confirmed wolves in Washington.

The huckleberry pack has pups only a few months old, slated for death by starvation if these wolves are killed.

When when human encroachment for human gains ever end, I wonder.

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