SEATTLE (AP) — A state official on Wednesday approved killing members of a new wolf pack that attacked cattle in northeast Washington, the second time within weeks he has done so.
Kelly Susewind, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, authorized killing one or more wolves from a new Old Profanity Territory Pack in Ferry County near the Canadian border.
The agency said in a statement that the wolves killed a calf and injured five others on federal grazing land in Ferry County since Sept. 4. The attacks occurred in an area once occupied by the Profanity Peak pack, whose members were targeted and killed by the state in 2016.
Amaroq Weiss with the Center for Biological Diversity said her group planned to file a legal challenge Thursday to temporarily halt the killing. "State-sanctioned wolf-killing defies reason, science and the will of Washingtonians," she said.
Last month, the center and another group, Cascadia Wildlands, went to court to challenge the state's plan to kill members of the Togo wolf pack. An agency marksman this month shot and killed a male member of that wolf pack.
The agency has killed 19 wolves in the state, according to the group, as it tries to balance preventing livestock attacks with efforts to recover wolves in the state.
Wolves were wiped out in Washington early in the last century but began returning to the state a decade ago. There are at least 122 wolves in 22 packs in the state, according to an annual survey in March.
The agency said Wednesday that the killing isn't expected to harm recovery efforts.
Wolves are protected as an endangered species throughout the state. But a protocol developed by the agency and others to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock allows the state to kill wolves if officials confirm a certain number of livestock attacks within a certain time period.
Efforts to trap or shoot the wolves will begin no earlier than Thursday afternoon to give the public one business day notice of the lethal action, which is required by a court order.
The agency said the rancher, who was not identified, took preventative measures to protect livestock, including using range riders to keep watch over the herd and removing sick and injured cattle from the grazing area.
"This is a very difficult situation, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area," Susewind said. He said the agency is committed to preventing more wolf and livestock losses.