Cattlemen call for better management
The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) has applauded a recent decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove the grey wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species list.
With constant wolf attacks in Eastern Washington and no sign of relief for ranch families, SCCA advocates that wolves should also be removed from the Washington State Endangered Species list, providing better management options.
In Washington State, wolves are still federally protected in two thirds of the state so for those who want wolves in Washington, SCCA noted that removing them from the state list would not necessarily be a game-changer.
“One of the things that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) said when wolves started coming back into the state was the social tolerance of wolves from affected communities was critical to wolf recovery,” said SCCA President Justin Hedrick. “But what we are seeing is that as wolves cause more damage and hardship in Eastern Washington, WDFW is distancing themselves from making any decisions or sharing information about wolf killings. That’s not management.”
The status of the wolf in Oregon is much like the status of the wolf in Washington State, with the wolf still listed as federally endangered in two-thirds of the state and the state only managing the Eastern portion. If Washington State removed the wolf from the state ESA list, wolves would still have federal protections until they are delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, but Eastern Washington ranchers could experience some relief from the over-saturation of wolves.
Hedrick noted that since 2012 wolves have been attacking livestock operations in Eastern Washington, with severe activity in the summer months ranging from cattle attacks near the Canadian Border, cattle kills near the Colville Valley, in grazing areas near Chewelah and at a sheep operation near Springdale. In 2015, wolves from the Dirty Shirt pack killed cattle near Chewelah; the Huckleberry Pack mauled a guard dog near Hunters and the Smackout Pack killed a calf, despite years of non-lethal deterrents and “range riders.”
In response, WDFW hired an $850,000 consultant to work with the pro-wolf heavy Wolf Advisory Group and is trying to form an advisory group to decide which ranchers should receive compensation. WDFW has also stopped making any lethal management decisions, demurring to the Wolf Advisory Group to decide when wolves should be removed. Governor Inslee also recently killed a provision from the Fish and Wildlife Commission that would have allowed for more cougar tags to be issued in 14 areas of the state to help alleviate pressure from predators.