COULEE CITY – Ranchers in northern Washington, from the Cascades to the Idaho border are suffering an increase in wolf attacks.
“They're coming this way (toward the Columbia Basin),” says Washington Cattle Producers' publicist Teresa King of Coulee City. “It's just a matter of time.”
King also noted that some Basin ranchers move herds into the north country for grazing at certain times of the year. In some cases they move domestic animals into the paths of the predators.
In the latest incident report, five calves were attacked by wolves at the Diamond M Ranch in northeastern Washington, bringing wolf-livestock conflicts to 15 in a three-month period. Three calves were found dead, and two more suffered severe injuries, according to ranch co-owner Bill McIrvin.
The two calves that survived were discovered on Sept. 12 and 14. Both had suffered severe bites and torn flesh to their hindquarters, King said. One of the calves had parts of her reproductive and urinary tract torn from her body. She can no longer urinate properly.
Diamond M has been working with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to implement non-lethal methods to prevent damage. It waited to turn calves out on summer range until they were 200 pounds. The ranch also employed more cowboys to patrol its grazing range.
Despite these efforts, attacks to the herd have persisted, resulting in a state confirmation of 10 dead and five injured since June. The McIrvin’s herd records suggest there are likely a total of 40 dead from wolf attacks.
The WDFW dispatched personnel to try and “incrementally” remove a few of the problem wolves in late August but deemed the radio-collared Alpha male and a breeding female off-limits.
The Gray Wolf is still listed as an endangered species in the State of Washington.
Despite nearly 20 days of pursuit by WDFW of the “Wedge” wolf pack, the Department efforts have not brought an end to the aggressive wolf pack behavior.
“The McIrvins feel this is due to a lackluster effort on the part of WDFW, who has sent out teams with no wolf hunting experience and insufficient equipment,” said Jamie Henneman, Stevens County Cattlemen's Association governmental affairs specialist.
McIrvin commented that taking out one or two wolves will likely not solve his conflicts with the predator.
“We want WDFW Director Phil Anderson and the Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider de-listing the wolves in eastern Washington in a shorter time frame than currently outlined in the plan,” he said.
“We have nine of the 12 packs in the state in Eastern Washington, which is more than our fair share.”
In its latest reporting on eradication, the WDFW said its sharpshooters killed two wolves on Sept. 25 and three on Sept. 26 in the area of the Diamond M.