The depredations are the first of the year. Officials are also searching for two missing calves.
Two adult cows have been killed by wolves on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Stevens County in northeast Washington. They are the first wolf depredations of the year, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A cow was found dead Thursday evening, and an investigation confirmed it had been killed by wolves, almost certainly from the Dirty Shirt pack, WDFW carnivore section manager Donny Martorello said.
The producer, who was not identified by the department, found a second dead cow, which WDFW investigators also concluded was killed by wolves.
The cow carcasses were surrounded by fladry, an electrified fence with red ribbons, to keep wolves from returning to feed.
WDFW this year has investigated several suspected wolf depredations, but these were the first wolf kills confirmed in 2015 by state wildlife managers and the first since last fall.
Martorello said the producer had 83 cow-calf pairs. A search was continuing today to find the two calves that were paired with the dead cows, he said.
WDFW has counted six wolves in the Dirty Shirt pack, which until this weekend had never been implicated in livestock depredations.
To create distance between the wolves and cows and calves, the producer moved the herd to lower elevations, Martorello said.
Since Friday, WDFW has patrolled the area with range-riders to haze wolves, he said. The range-riders reported seeing one wolf.
Martorello said range-riders will stay in the area until at least Thursday, when the agency will reassess the situation.
Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Justin Hedrick said Monday that non-lethal deterrence is ineffective once a pack starts preying on livestock. “None of it’s worked yet,” he said. “Once they start killing cattle, there’s nothing you can do but kill the wolves.”
The killings occurred in the eastern one-third of Washington, where wolves are not a federally protected species, but are protected by the state’s endangered species law.
In the past, WDFW has authorized shooting wolves to protect livestock, most recently last year to stop depredation by the Huckleberry Pack of a Stevens County sheep herd. The department approved shooting up to four wolves. One was shot before operations were suspended because the sheep where no longer in the pack’s territory
Before considering lethal removal, WDFW policy calls for the department to confirm multiple depredations and to conclude that future depredations are likely, even though non-lethal deterrence has been tried.