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Statement on Huckleberry Wolf Pack Depredations

Aug 25, 2014
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Conservation Northwest is disturbed by conflict occurring between the members of the Huckleberry Wolf Pack and a sheep herd in Stevens County. We have been contacted by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) and informed that up to four members of the pack will be killed.

Statement on Huckleberry Wolf Pack Depredations

Wolf pups from the Huckleberry pack. Photo: WDFW

Conservation Northwest is disturbed by conflict occurring between the members of the Huckleberry Wolf Pack and a sheep herd in Stevens County.

We have been contacted by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) officials and informed that as a result of ongoing sheep depredations, WDFW leadership approved the killing of up to four members of the pack. The agency has stated that they intend to avoid killing the adult breeding pair, and are trying to find a pasture to move sheep out of the pack’s range.

As of Monday, August 25th we have been informed that sharpshooters operating via helicopter have so far killed one wolf from the Huckleberry Pack.

We appreciate the present efforts of the WDFW and the livestock operator to resolve the situation by use of guard dogs, herd supervision (including range riders), spot lights and other conflict-avoidance tactics. We understand that with the natural recovery of wolves in Washington, the agency will sometimes need to use lethal removal per wolf management protocols that it has adopted.

However, Conservation Northwest is working to clarify key facts, particularly what sort of cooperation the rancher had with the state and what types (if any) of human presence and conflict avoidance efforts the rancher had in place prior to initial conflicts and in the critical early days and weeks of interaction and depredation. It has been shown that undertaking carcass removal, hazing, herd supervision, and other conflict avoidance measures prior to or promptly after livestock depredation occurs is crucial for these non-lethal management efforts to be successful.

Our experience over the last three years has been that cooperative agreements between the state and ranchers and predator conflict avoidance tactics do work well if practiced properly. Washington ranchers who have diligently used these methods; including range riding, guard dogs and on-the-ground technical assistance from state specialists, have had great success in peacefully coexisting with our recovering wolf population.

Conservation Northwest will continue to work closely with livestock operators, the state, and our partners in the conservation community to implement, support and encourage the use of non-lethal predator management strategies in the Northwest.

As accountability for conflict clearly cannot rest solely on wolves, we have long emphasized to the department through proper channels that it is essential the state fully and clearly document all conflict avoidance efforts conducted throughout situations like this. We have yet to see such documentation made in this case.

We share the frustration of all involved in how long the key step of finding alternate pasture for the sheep and moving them out of the Huckleberry Pack’s range is taking. We hope this occurs as soon as possible. This should be used as a learning opportunity that can inform livestock management and grazing leases in the future.

Finally, our hope is for the survival of the pack and the increasing use of non-lethal conflict avoidance methods so livestock and wolves can coexist in our region.

We will be sharing more information as it becomes available. Conservation Northwest members and supporters with questions regarding the situation can contact us directly at communications@conservationnw.org.

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