Long term costs for ranch family high
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife removed one wolf from the Sherman Pack late last month after the pack had killed or attacked four cattle within a year, per departmental guidelines. The affected rancher has non-lethal deterrent methods in place, including consistent human presence by five cowboys employed by the producer. WDFW is now waiting to see if there will be additional kills before removing more wolves.
While the death of the calves from the Sherman Pack has an immediate impact to the ranch family, there are also long-term impacts that are often not considered. For the Sherman pack, while only four wolf depredations have been confirmed, the total number of attacks is at nine and there are other costs.
SCCA President Justin Hedrick noted that when wolves start attacking cattle herds, the presence of wolves has negative impacts on herd health including cows that don’t breed during the summer and reduced weight gain due to stress.
“The rancher feels the impact of an event like a wolf depredation long after the killing occurred, because it means instead of the cattle being able to benefit from the food available out on the range, they are stressed out all the time,” Hedrick said. “This means our animals will come into the fall thinner and need more feed to make it through the winter because they weren’t able to get all the benefits from summer pasture. That will increase winter feeding costs for the ranch, which can be hard to afford.”
In addition, the breeding cycle for cattle is interrupted and some cows may not become pregnant with a calf that will bring revenue to the ranch in the coming year.
“A lot of folks may be thinking that being out a calf or two isn’t such a big deal, but there are impacts far beyond the cost of just that animal,” Hedrick said. “When wolves start attacking a cattle herd on a regular basis, the hardships for the ranch continue into the next year or more. That’s an impact some outfits just can’t handle.”
In addition, with Washington now home to over 20 wolf packs, the negative impacts to deer and elk populations are bound to become evident. Some groups, like the Colville Tribe, are taking proactive measures to protect their ungulate populations by expanding the area its members can hunt wolves.
“We know ranches have a hard time recovering from wolves, but deer and elk populations are taking a hit too,” Hedrick commented.
SCCA is advocating for a regular reduction in wolf pack sizes and quick removal of wolves that are preying on domestic livestock. For more information, visit http://www.stevenscountycattlemen.com