New wolf numbers leave out ranch losses

SCCA highlights quit operations, reduced numbers

A recent announcement by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife(WDFW) that wolf populations have grown for the 12th straight year is not positive news for local cattlemen who note other numbers should also be tallied.

“Over the last 12 years, multiple ranch operations have decided to quit instead of continuing to fight on the wolf issue, but those numbers aren’t being considered,” said Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Scott Nielsen. “We also know of operations that have had to reduce their numbers or give up grazing pastures as the numbers of wolves have continued to grow.”

As of December 2020, WDFW said there were 132 wolves in 24 packs.  The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation also counted 46 wolves in five packs in Washington. Thirteen of the packs WDFW monitored were documented as successful breeding pairs.

“We know that as the numbers have increased, the negative economic impact to our rural communities is increasing,” Nielsen said. “The department’s message seems to be that we need to celebrate increased numbers even though the wolf population is dispersing much slower than planned. We are forced to live with the burden that comes with the wolf population oversaturation in our community. That’s just not right.”

While wolf advocates are excited about the increase of wolves, the brunt of the burden is being experienced in Eastern Washington, Nielsen noted.

“We need to recognize that Eastern Washington continues to experience the overload of wolves, which makes it less exciting for us,” Nielsen said.

Although wolves were delisted at the federal level in January, they are still recognized as an endangered species in Washington State and have special protections.

Going forward, SCCA said it wants to see policies and practices implemented that will encourage wolves to disperse throughout the state.

“Current WDFW practices have enabled wolves to become very comfortable living in our back yards. We do not see this as positive news,” Nielsen noted.

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