The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has determined that a pack of gray wolves in the northeast part of the state must be removed — which means in this case, hunted and exterminated.
NBC News reports that marksmen are hunting the pack, believed to number between eight and 11, after a series of attacks on livestock. The repeated attacks led wildlife officials to determine that the wolf pack, called the Wedge Pack, removal was the only option. In a previous attempt to stop the attacks, officials killed one member of the pack, but the attacks continued.
“Once wolves become habituated to livestock as their primary food source, all of the wolf experts we’ve talked to agree that we have no alternative but to remove the entire pack,” Fish & Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said, according to REVMODO. “By doing that, we will preserve the opportunity for the recovery of gray wolves in balance with viable livestock operations.”
While the decision to eliminate the pack may seem harsh, at least one conservation group agrees with the decision.
“As difficult as this situation with the Wedge Pack is to accept on a personal level, we understand and agree that pack removal is the right action at this point,” Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, said. “We have been strong advocates for exhausting all non-lethal means possible to avoid this situation and are extremely disappointed that it has come to this.”
Gray wolves are listed as endangered under state law.
Conservation Northwest, while in agreement with the state, said rancher Bill McIrvine, who lost part of his herd to the pack, “has total responsibility for the problem” because he failed to do enough to protect his cattle.
Officials say they cannot simply relocate the wolf pack because once they are dependent on livestock, moving them only moves the problem since gray wolves will roam areas so large they will eventually find livestock again.