Conflict between livestock, pets and wolves increasing
The 2015 wolf count from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is no cause for celebration, as more wolves have only resulted in more dead livestock and harassed pets, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.
WDFW reported that Washington’s wolf population grew by 32 percent in 2015, with 90 wolves counted, 18 packs officially recognized and eight breeding pairs per WDFW estimates. As the official wolf numbers have increased, SCCA said WDFW has grown more and more inactive in dealing with the associated problems and losses.
“When the problems with wolves first started four years ago, WDFW took action and removed problem wolves so they would not create greater damage to the community,” said SCCA President Justin Hedrick. “Then they lost their nerve once they got some negative press. Since then, they have sat back and watched ranchers be driven out of business while saying that they are ‘helping us’.”
SCCA advocates the lack of lethal removal of problem wolves have only emboldened wolves in Eastern Washington who do not react or run away when they are seen by people. Even more alarmingly, wolves are also encroaching on residential areas and threatening pets.
Two recent incidents involving wolves harassing and attacking dogs near Chewelah show how wolves will continue to be emboldened by passive deterrents.
“WDFW is proud of themselves for putting out more range riders and more non-lethal deterrents that don’t let wolves know that livestock and pets are off limits,” said SCCA President Justin Hedrick. “They are wasting an offensive amount of taxpayer money on the Wolf Advisory Group and its consultant instead of taking real action when it is needed.”
In the last two years, the Dashiell ranch near Hunters not only suffered the loss of over 300 sheep, but they were also driven off their private grazing range and had a guard dog mauled. The Dashiell ranch was forced to sell over 500 of their sheep herd, a forced move that will take over $100,000 out of the Stevens County economy. In 2015, a rancher near Chewelah also lost several cattle and the Smackout Pack, a pack that has had several years of range riders and non-lethal deterrents, attacked a calf last fall.