A gnawed-on carcass of a yearling cow or bull was discovered last week by a graduate student studying the gray wolves. Scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife looked at tracks, scat and bite marks on the carcass and confirmed the animal had been killed by a wolf.
Both agencies were involved because the attack occurred in an area west of U.S. Highway 97, where the wolves are still protected under federal law as well as state law, said Bruce Botka, spokesman for the state agency. East of Highway 97, where most of the state’s confirmed 68 wolves live, the species is no longer on the federal endangered species list.
Botka didn’t know on which grazing allotment the attack occurred. The area includes both state and federal lands. One livestock owner who grazed in the general area, Sam Kayser, had been working with the state and Conservation Northwest for several years to use range riders and other deterrent measures to keep wolves away from his cattle.
No management actions are planned specifically in response to the attack, said Ann Froschauer, a spokeswoman for the federal wildlife agency. But the state will continue to work with the livestock operator on prevention, Botka added.
According to a survey done last fall, the Teanaway pack had at least five members, including a breeding pair, Botka said. The pack was first reported in the area in 2011.
The pack made news in October when one of its members, a collared female, was found dead of a gunshot wound just north of Lake Cle Elum. The person responsible was never found.
Recent research suggests that losing the breeding female can destabilize packs and cause remaining members to turn to livestock for food instead of hunting deer and elk, Conservation Northwest said in a news release Tuesday.
Last year, wolves in the northeastern part of the state reportedly killed or injured 35 sheep, four cows and a dog, according to state wildlife officials.