November 15, 2012
SCCA calls for proactive management from WDFW
The $76,500 cost for removing the “Wedge” wolf pack in Stevens County this summer is likely to be a repeated expense if management of the animal does not change, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.
SCCA President Scott Nielsen said the reported $76,500 bill to eliminate 6 members of the pack could have been prevented if better management by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department was in place.
“The last time we were in Olympia, we heard from people who were upset that the pack was removed and the truth is we are upset too,” said Nielsen. “We believe if WDFW had removed the individual problem wolves sooner, eliminating the whole pack may not have been necessary and a considerable amount of taxpayer money would have been saved.”
The circumstances leading to the pack removal started in early May 2012, as the Diamond M Ranch near Laurier began to lose calves to wolf attacks. As the attacks worsened and injured or dead calves was a near daily occurrence, WDFW hesitated about what to do, dithered on confirming wolf activity and did not take appropriate action, said Nielsen.
Despite non-lethal methods employed by the Diamond M, including moving cattle and range riders, the pack depredation could not be deterred.
WDFW finally removed the Wedge pack in September with an aerial crew after the agency had already expended over $54,000 to deploy on-the-ground personnel for 39 days. The land-based efforts only resulted in the removal of one wolf.
By the time the wolves were removed, the pack had killed 10 calves and injured 8 more at the Diamond M. The financial loss to the ranch due to death, injury, mutilation and stress on their cattle caused by wolves is estimated to be over $100,000, according to the Diamond M.
This scenario is set for a repeat, according to Nielsen, unless state wolf management changes.
“What we hope the Department has learned from this is that wolves and livestock do not mix. We have eight more wolf packs in our region that are likely to find penned horses, grazing cattle and backyard goats easier to kill and more appealing than searching for their natural prey,” said Nielsen. “If we don’t reduce the number of wolves in our area, we will be looking at a ‘Diamond M’ type situation again in the near future.”
Nielsen said SCCA is advocating for a reduction in the number of wolves in the region; both by reducing pack size and relocating some of the Eastern Washington packs to other parts of the state.
“One thing that we have heard from other parts of the state is how much they want wolves to be on the Washington landscape. We have an overabundance of these animals in our area and know that relocation can help reestablish them throughout Washington,” Nielsen noted.
Nielsen noted SCCA is also advocating to delist the wolf in the Eastern Washington region so there can be a needed adjustment in management.
“We need to transition from a recovery mindset to a management mindset in this state,” he said. “The numbers are there, the conflicts are easy to predict, so let’s deal with reality.”