Washington Wolf Packs: Wedge

Wedge Pack 2012 Chronology of Events

September 27, 2012

WDFW concludes action to remove Northeast Washington wolf pack
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) concluded its action to eliminate a pack of wolves in Northeast Washington today after an agency marksman killed the pack’s alpha male just south of the Canadian border.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson said the wolf was shot this morning from a helicopter. Its death brought to six the number of wolves from the Wedge Pack removed in the past three days, including the alpha female. Learn more >>

September 26, 2012

OLYMPIA – Three wolves from the Wedge Pack in Northeast Washington were killed today as the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) continued its effort to put a stop to persistent attacks on livestock by eliminating the pack.

Since July, Wedge Pack wolves are believed to have killed or injured at least 17 cows and calves from the herd of the Diamond M Ranch of northern Stevens County. 

Department Director Phil Anderson said a WDFW marksman shot the wolves from a helicopter at about 8 a.m.  The wolves were located about seven miles south of the Canadian border in the same area where two other wolves from the Wedge Pack were killed yesterday.

Anderson said a department wildlife veterinarian would perform necropsies on all five of the wolves killed this week.

For more information see the Wedge Pack Lethal Removal Actions FAQ

September 25, 2012

Two wolves from Wedge Pack killed in Northeast Washington

OLYMPIA – A marksman with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) killed two wolves in Northeast Washington today as part of an effort to eliminate a pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in a remote grazing area near the Canadian border.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson said teams of marksmen and wildlife biologists returned to an area known as the Wedge late last week, but had not killed any wolves after several days of around-the-clock activity.  Beginning Monday, the department called in a helicopter to aid the effort, and an airborne marksman shot the two wolves early Tuesday afternoon, about seven miles south of the Canadian border.

Anderson had directed the pack’s removal last week in response to the wolves’ escalating pattern of predation on the livestock herd of the Diamond M Ranch of Stevens County.  Since July, wolves are believed to have killed or injured at least 17 of the herd’s calves and cows, despite non-lethal efforts to minimize wolf conflict by the rancher and department staff. 

The rate of attacks on Diamond M livestock increased even after the department killed a non-breeding member of the pack on August 7.  Anderson said the wolves killed Tuesday were among six that were spotted about seven miles southeast of the ranch on the Diamond M grazing allotment.  Another wolf was seen Tuesday morning at the Diamond M’s private livestock pasture.

“We decided to eliminate the Wedge Pack only after non-lethal measures were unsuccessful, and after the removal of one pack member failed to alter its behavior,” Anderson said.  “We are committed to the recovery and sustainability of the gray wolf in Washington, and its numbers are increasing rapidly, but recovery won’t succeed if ranchers’ livelihoods are threatened by persistent wolf attacks on livestock.”

The Wedge Pack is one of eight confirmed and four suspected packs in the state, most of which are in Pend Oreille, Stevens, and Ferry counties.

Anderson said a department wildlife veterinarian would perform necropsies on the wolves later this week.  He said the animals’ hides and skulls eventually would be used for educational purposes.

For more information see the Wedge Pack Lethal Removal Actions FAQ

September 21, 2012

WDFW plans to eliminate wolf pack to end attacks on livestock and 'reset' stage for recovery in the Wedge
In response to ongoing attacks on livestock by a wolf pack in Northeast Washington that appears to be preying exclusively on cattle, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced it plans to eliminate the pack and lay a foundation for sustainable, long-term wolf recovery in the region. Learn more >>

September 4, 2012

State wildlife managers said today they are resuming their effort to lethally remove up to four wolves from a pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in the Wedge region of Northeast Washington.

The most recent confirmed attacks on livestock occurred last week, when wolves from the Wedge pack injured two calves from the Diamond M ranch in northern Stevens County.  Those depredations brought to 10 the number of injured and dead livestock from the Diamond M herd since July.  The latest investigation was conducted by staff from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, and the results were reviewed and confirmed by independent wildlife biologists.

The two calves were removed from the range on August 30, one day after WDFW Director Phil Anderson temporarily suspended a 12-day effort to kill wolves from the pack to break its pattern of predation.  Department staff killed a non-breeding member of the pack on August 7 but did not kill any wolves between August 18 and 29. 

WDFW staff will return on Wednesday morning, Sept. 5, to the remote Wedge region, which is located just south of the Canadian border and between the Columbia and Kettle rivers.

WDFW management efforts reflect the provisions of the state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, adopted in December 2011 by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.  The plan’s primary goal is to restore the wolf population in Washington, but it authorizes lethal removal of wolves that repeatedly attack livestock when:

  • There is documentation that livestock have clearly been killed by wolves;
  • Non-lethal means have failed to resolve the wolf-livestock conflict;
  • Livestock depredations are likely to continue; and
  • There is no evidence of intentional feeding or unnatural attraction by the livestock owner.

All of those criteria have been met in the case involving the Wedge pack wolves, Anderson said.

August 31, 2012

State Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators today confirmed that wolves had attacked two more calves in the Wedge region of Northeast Washington.

Department Director Phil Anderson said two injured calves from the Diamond M ranch in northern Stevens County were brought off the range on Thursday, Aug. 30.  One calf was severely injured, while the other was less seriously wounded.  Department staff and Stevens County Sheriff’s Office officials who examined the animals confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack were responsible for the attacks, Anderson said.

The latest depredations brought to 10 the number of injured and dead livestock from the Diamond M herd since July.

August 29, 2012

State wildlife managers have temporarily suspended their on-site wolf management efforts in Northeast Washington and will re-evaluate next week the effort to remove more wolves from a pack that has persistently preyed on livestock in a remote area of Stevens County known as the Wedge.

Staff from the Department of Fish and Wildlife did not kill any wolves during a 12-day initiative that began August 18.  WDFW staff went to the Wedge, an area bordered by the Columbia and Kettle rivers and the Canadian border, after wildlife managers confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack were involved in the recent injury of one calf and the death of another in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch near the Canadian border. Those depredations, in mid-August, brought to eight the total number of injured or dead livestock from the Diamond M ranch since July.

WDFW staff killed a non-breeding member of the pack on August 7 in an effort to disrupt the pack’s behavior, but that action did not change the wolves’ pattern of attacking livestock.

Department Director Phil Anderson said today he ordered the latest effort suspended to give the team a break from field activities; to avoid conflicts with Labor Day recreationists; and to allow the department to evaluate what it has learned before deciding on next steps.  Anderson said the department will continue to pursue management options to address repeated livestock depredation and may resume the effort to lethally remove wolves from the Wedge pack.

August 24, 2012

State wildlife specialists are continuing their on-site wolf management efforts in Northeast Washington, where they have spent the past week attempting to remove wolves from a pack that has persistently preyed on livestock in a remote area known as the Wedge.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) team did not kill any wolves during the week, but biologists reported finding the decomposed body of a young wolf within the Wedge pack’s range in northern Stevens County. 

During a necropsy on Aug. 21, a WDFW wildlife veterinarian was unable to determine the cause of death because the carcass was too badly decomposed, said Nate Pamplin, director of the department’s wildlife program.

WDFW staff went to the Wedge, an area bordered by the Columbia and Kettle rivers and the Canadian border, last weekend after wildlife managers confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack were involved in the recent injury of one calf and the death of another in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch near the Canadian border. The latest depredations brought to eight the total number of injured or dead livestock from the Diamond M ranch since July.

August 17, 2012

State wildlife managers today confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack of northeast Washington were involved in the injury of one calf and the death of another this week in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch near the Canadian border. This brings to eight the total number of injured or dead livestock from the Diamond M ranch since July. Officials also said they were expanding their efforts to address the pack's persistent attacks on livestock.

Phil Anderson, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the department is sending a team of wildlife specialists to the remote area in an effort to attach a radio transmitter to an additional member of the pack. The pack's alpha male has already been fitted with a transmitter collar that alerts the department to the pack's movement.

In conjunction with the collaring effort, the department's team plans to kill up to four other wolves from the pack in an effort to disrupt its pattern of predation, reduce its food requirements, and potentially break it up permanently.

These efforts follow the department's action on August 7 to lethally remove a non-breeding female member of the pack.

The department is taking these actions under the terms of the state's 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The department's primary goal under the plan is to ensure long-term recovery of the gray wolf population. However, the plan specifically authorizes the department to take lethal measures to address repeated attacks on livestock.

Wedge Pack Depredation Timeline
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
As of August 22, 2012

Note:  The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan discusses the management of wolf-livestock conflict on pages 85-89 and compensation issues on pages 90-94.

  1. Sept 4, 2007 – Confirmed wolf depredation on one calf near the Diamond M Ranch
    • Ranch owner received compensation.
  2. During 2011 – Several livestock operators report increased calf losses in the vicinity of Wedge Pack in Northeast Washington.
  3. April 1-14, 2012 – Wolves stalked calving operation at a ranch adjacent to Diamond M.
    • Specialized fencing (fladry with electric fencing) was installed around neighboring ranch’s calving operation.
    • Department issued neighboring ranch a permit to kill a wolf “in the act” of attacking livestock if wolves penetrated an electric fence protecting his calving operation.
  4. July 11, 2012 – One or more wolves injured a cow and calf belonging to the Diamond M Ranch
    • Diamond M carrying out operational plan to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts, including:
      1. Placing calving areas in Southeast Washington away from wolf-occupied regions.
      2. Releasing cow-calf pairs onto the range later in the spring (June 12) so the calves were older and bigger. This makes them less vulnerable to predation and delays their exposure until natural prey are more available.
      3. Increasing to five the number of cowboys who go out daily to check on cattle.
      4. Removing livestock with significant injuries from the range for treatment and rehabilitation.
  5. July 12, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in killing a calf near the Diamond M Ranch.
  6. July 14, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in injuring two calves belonging to the Diamond M Ranch.
    • Diamond M ranchers also observed two additional injured calves that they were not able to capture.
    • Management actions:
      1.  Wolves hazed away from Diamond M livestock by WDFW and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services staff in late July. (Efforts continued through early August.)
      2. WDFW stated that if another incident occurred, it would initiate the removal of 1 to 2 wolves.
      3. Department issued Diamond M Ranch owner a permit to kill a wolf “in the act” of attacking livestock.
  7. August 2, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in injuring a calf near the Diamond M Ranch.
    • In addition, the remains of another carcass were also discovered, but the cause of death was indeterminate.
    • Management actions:
      1. To reduce wolf-livestock interactions, WDFW lethally removed one non-breeding female from the Wedge pack and shared wolf pack location information with Diamond M Ranch.
      2. WDFW stated if wolf attacks on livestock continue, the Department will employ strategies to break up the pack through additional lethal removal(s) (see pages 85-89).
  8. August 14, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in injuring a calf belonging to the Diamond M Ranch.
    • Department initiates strategies to break up the Wedge pack to break the pattern of wolf-livestock interaction.
  9. August 16, 2012 – Wolves involved with killing a calf near the Diamond M Ranch. 
    • Department deploys strategies to break up the Wedge pack to break the pattern of wolf depredations.

Summary
The above actions led to the Department to continue offering compensation to the Diamond M Ranch (declined by the owners); lethally removing one non-breeding wolf, and initiating actions that could lead to removing four additional members of the Wedge pack.  Before making the decision to pursue lethal removal, the Department reviewed the conservation objectives of the Plan to make sure that action was consistent with the conservation goals outlined in the Plan (page 64 of the plan).  Several factors influenced the Department’s decision to lethally removal wolves:

  • The Department has documented multiple attack incidents on area livestock on multiple age classes of livestock (one adult cow, seven calves).
  • WDFW has documented multiple livestock injured or killed on multiple dates.
  • The attacks persisted well into the time when natural prey is abundant.
  • The Wedge pack is in the eastern third of Washington state, where there are no federal protections under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  • Removing a wolf pack in the Eastern Washington recovery area has a low probability of impacting the Department’s conservation objectives (statewide and regional), because the recovery area includes six confirmed packs and three suspected packs (see appendices G and H of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan).
  • The Department has radio collared the alpha male from the Wedge pack.
  • Relocation is not an option in this recovery area, because there are other packs present and support for moving wolves associated with livestock killing is unlikely from potential recipients.
  • This pack has successfully bred for a minimum of two years, based on photos last winter and the captured pup this summer. The local community believes that pups were produced initially as early as 2009 (four years).

July 2012

On July 16, 2012, an adult male wolf (believed to be the pack alpha) was captured  in northwestern Stevens County near the Canada border and equipped with a monitoring collar (Global Positioning System or GPS, and VHF radio) before being released.  A second wolf, a young of the year, was also captured and ear tagged only. 

The pack is named for “The Wedge,” the wedge-shaped part of the county between the Kettle River on the west (also the Ferry County line and Hwy. 395) and the Columbia River (and Hwy. 25) on the east.  The Wedge pack is Washington’s eighth wolf pack, and the sixth in the Eastern Wolf Recovery Region.

A wolf pack had long been suspected in the Wedge, but past trapping efforts had  been unable to confirm the pack’s existence.  When wolf attacks on livestock were reported and investigated in mid-July of 2012, wolf trapping in the wedge became top priority.