The last four members of an embattled wolf pack were killed in Washington State Friday, hours before the court order that could have saved them.
The wolves, members of the Old Profanity Territory pack in the Colville National Forest of Northeastern Washington, were killed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) after the pack killed or injured 14 cattle in a ten-month period, KUOW reported.
The killings occurred early Friday morning before a court hearing began at 9:30 a.m. in King County Superior Court. The judge ordered the state to temporarily halt its wolf killings until the case could go to trial, but the order came too late.
“It's unbelievably tragic that this wolf family has already been annihilated by the state,” Sophia Ressler of wildlife advocacy group the Center for Biological Diversity told the Associated Press. “It seems like Washington's wildlife agency is bent on wiping out the state's wolves.”
Washington State's wolf management plan allows for the “lethal removal” of wolves that attack livestock in the eastern part of the state, where they are not federally listed as an endangered species, according to KUOW. Before the agency resorts to wolf killings, however, any rancher whose livestock is threatened must first show that they took reasonable measures to protect their animals. These include hiring a type of cowboy known as a range rider, using lights and noise to scare wolves and removing sick and injured animals. The WDFW claimed reasonable steps were taken in the case of the Old Profanity Territory pack, but the Center for a Humane Economy, the group that supported the suit to stop the killings, disagreed. They argued that the rancher in question had asked state range riders to leave his ranch July 8. Nine of the 14 recent livestock attacks occurred after this date.
The group also questioned WDFW's decision to schedule the killings for the morning before a hearing.
“It's like, ‘Okay, we've got to get these wolves now, in case the judge stops us,'” Center for a Humane Economy President Wayne Pacelle told KUOW.
WDFW spokesperson Staci Lehman said the scheduling of the killings was just “unfortunate timing.”
“It's always unfortunate whenever we have to remove wolves,” Lehman told KUOW. “It's never taken lightly by anybody at the department.”
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the lethal removal of the pack on July 31 after finding it responsible for 29 total livestock attacks since Sept. 2018, according to an agency statement. Since Aug. 1, WDFW has killed seven wolves on the following dates:
- Aug. 7: one wolf
- Aug. 8: one wolf
- Aug.13: one wolf
- Aug.16: four wolves
The wolves killed included four pups, the Center for a Humane Economy said in a statement. The agency said it had killed all known members of the pack, though another wolf was sited in the area in the spring. WDFW said it might be a member of another pack, while KUOW and the center reported it as a surviving member of the Old Profanity Territory pack.
The ranch that originated the complaints that led to the killings is the Diamond M Ranch owned by the McIrvin family, the center said. Complaints from this family have prompted 87 percent of the wolf killings in Washington.
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