The Merciful Bullet

This essay has recently been submitted by SCCA as a “Letter to the Editor” to newspapers throughout the state on behalf of our member Len McIrvin. His letter highlights the tremendous loss ranchers in Northeast Washington are facing due to out of control wolf populations.

Merciful bullet photo

A mother cow stands near her dead calf in a grazing area in Stevens County. This sight has become increasingly common in Northeast Washington that now has at least 15 wolf packs.

The Merciful Bullet


As I looked into the dark, pain filled, pleading eyes of the calf lying on the ground in a dense thicket, many thoughts flashed through my mind. This had been a strong, healthy heifer calf (in human terms, she would have been a 5 or 6  year old girl-halfway between birth and puberty, with-hopefully-her whole life ahead of her)

As I looked at the calf’s ripped and torn, blood-soaked body; with her shoulder ripped from it’s joint, her hindquarters and her back and upper leg deeply punctured and lacerated with dozens of wolf bites – I had to ask myself, “Why?”     Why is this becoming a common place event for cattlemen and sheepmen all over the West as they see their herds ravaged by wolves?

The mother cow mournfully bellows to her unmoving, fatally wounded calf. Her udder is swollen with milk but is never again to be suckled by her baby. Showing her love and concern, the mother cow stands watch over her calf all day long; refusing to leave the area where it was attacked by wolves. Her grief-stricken cries haunt me as she continues to call to her dying baby.

Once again I ask myself “Why?” Why this terrible waste to satisfy the desire of a few people who just hope to hear a wolf howl?

I couldn’t help but think “Why” once again as the Fish and Wildlife Officer asked my grandson if he could dispatch the victim, stating that he would then transport the body to the dump. What a waste of a healthy, young calf to end up in that place where she will rot or be eaten by scavengers.

I looked again at those dark, pain filled, and pleading eyes of the calf as my grandson compassionately placed the Merciful Bullet between them. Even though this is an experience I have lived through over 100 times, I still cannot accept this merciless killing of our herd by wolves.

Wolves kill whatever they want to kill, but death by wolves is slow, and horrible, and a long time coming. In the case of this calf, she could have lived for days, or lived until the wolves came back and started eating her alive. With tears in my eyes, I am asking all the good friends, neighbors, and citizens in our area, state, and nation for help in ending this situation.

God has said He put man on earth to have dominion over the animals. For those of you who believe there is a Lord, you must assume this responsibility and demand that this terrible carnage ends and that our predators are managed to the point that our herds and flocks, our pets, and our wonderful herds of game animals can survive.

There are only 3 factors involved in controlling the population density of wolves:

  1. The first factor is disease and parasites, which invariably come when wolf population reaches its saturation point. (these are transmittable to humans)
  2. The second factor is starvation. The starvation factor kicks in at the point when there is no food source available. At this point, they become cannibalistic and start eating each other, thereby controlling their own population.
  3. The third factor and the most viable and effective population control of wolves is man; but in today’s political correctness, man has been taken out of the equation. This is the scenario we are facing today.

As a cattleman who has been involved with cattle all my life-nearly 3/4 of a century, I am asking for your help as we deal with the consequences of an exploding wolf population. Local control is the only answer. Let’s do everything possible to assure that each County Sherriff has complete control and is totally in charge of all the wolf predation that affects his citizens and their property.

Len McIrvin, Partner

Diamond M Ranch

Laurier, WA 99146



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SCCA Awards 2017 Scholarship

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association recently awarded Julie Huguenin a $300 scholarship as part of the organization’s annual scholarship program.  The scholarship is awarded to either SCCA youth members or relatives of a current SCCA member who completes an application sharing their participation in the industry and outlining their future academic goals. SCCA is active in supporting local youth not only through the scholarship program, but also through supporting the Fat Stock Sale at the Northeast Washington Fair and at other events. For more information, visit

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Grazing starts on Colville National Forest

Cattlemen follow agency-approved grazing plans

The start of the 2017 grazing season on the Colville National Forest (CNF) started June 1, allowing ranchers with grazing agreements to turn out their cattle on various portions, or allotments, of the forest. Now that the season has begun, the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association feels it is important to clarify the misinformation about cattle grazing on federal land and remind the public what requirements ranchers must meet during the grazing season.

For instance, although wolves may be present in some areas of the CNF, cattlemen do not automatically have wolf information, like collar data, available to them as part of their grazing lease.  While the grazing agreement between a ranch and the CNF does include many details, it does not include wolf information. In addition, the summer grazing plan must be approved by CNF staff that oversee a variety of specifics, including where salt blocks and water tanks can be placed, pasture rotation, fencing, road access and other matters.

Each permit, or allotment, has also been through a rigorous National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review before cattle can be turned out on the allotment. The NEPA addresses such issues as recreational use of the land, water quality issues and other items of potential concern.

“Our ranchers are working with grazing professionals in order to develop their grazing plan for the season and these plans must be approved by the federal agency before cattle are turned out,” said SCCA President Justin Hedrick. “We know the public doesn’t understand how many regulations the cattleman has to meet in order to graze that land. Our ranchers on public lands are responsible, diligent and under federal supervision.”

In addition, ranchers are not required to sign agreements with state agencies , like the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, in addition to their agreement with the CNF.

By working with the federal government to provide seasonal grazing on the CNF, local ranch families are helping to reduce fuel loads for wildfires while paying their grazing fees and contributing to the local economy.

“We are proud of the job our ranch families do on the CNF. We enjoy and appreciate having federal lands in our area and we want to ensure they stay healthy and available for public use,” said Hedrick. “We believe the multi-purpose designation of the CNF is a benefit to our area and our ranch families help ensure that goal is met.”

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Increase of wolves unwelcome to cattlemen

Area saturated with wolves, family ranches suffering

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) is working to prepare their members for another difficult summer grazing season, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently announced wolf populations grew by 28 percent in 2016. The department now estimates that there are at least 20 known packs and 10 breeding pairs in the state.

Since the 28 percent increase is occurring primarily  in northeast Washington, those cattle and livestock producers who were already having problems with the wolves anticipate their struggle will grow.

“We know the problem is getting worse and every year the department tells us they are going to do more to help us, but we have yet to see evidence of that,” said SCCA Vice President Scott Nielsen. “Every year as their number of wolves grows, the number of cattle producers who are suffering from losses to their operations or being driven off their grazing grounds is also continuing to grow. That’s not something to be proud of.”

Since wolves started regularly attacking cattle in Stevens County in 2011, the wolf attacks have peaked every summer when cattle are out on grazing lands, culminating in lost calves and cows. In addition, sheep have been killed, guard dogs and domestic dogs have been attacked. Wolves have also become so prolific in some areas that ranchers are unable to return to their summer grazing lands in areas like Chewelah because the wolves harass and attack the cattle, making management of the cattle difficult.

In response, WDFW has continued to consult the Wolf Advisory Group, an environmentalist-heavy panel of volunteers, to determine how to address the issue and decide when problem wolves need removed. WDFW has also pushed a variety of management methods deemed “non-lethal deterrents” that have yet to prevent wolf kills.

“What we know about their ‘non-lethal’ methods is that they only delay the killing and are not applicable to many situations,” said Nielsen.

WDFW’S “Range Rider” program, for instance, only authorizes department-paid volunteers to look for dead cattle, but the riders are not authorized to stop or prevent  wolf kills in any way.

“It’s ironic that this program gets so much attention because ranches have had ‘range riders’ for a long time—they are called cowboys—but our cowboys have the job of taking care of the cattle. The state sponsored range riders don’t maintain fence, they can’t doctor sick animals, they don’t help with any of the ranch management. Instead, they just look for things wolves have killed. It would be better to call them range coroners,” said SCCA President Justin Hedrick.

SCCA said it will continue to advocate for its members on the wolf issue and provide support to affected operations whenever possible.

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Grizzly Bear reintroduction still a bad idea

bears-1149459__340SCCA recently commented on the latest version of the National Parks Service proposal to reintroduce Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades. SCCA spoke out on the issue in 2015, but NPS is continuing to pursue the idea. Considering the serious impacts of other reintroduced predators (wolves), adding to the predator burden is foolish. Read our comments below and then be sure to make a comment at:

This is a formal comment from the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association to again record our strong opposition to any reintroduction or “recovery” of grizzly bears into the North Cascades. A deliberate, artificial introduction or encouragement of this species in Washington State will cause untold economic and social damages in areas that are not suited to the proliferation of this large, dangerous predator.

In addition to having serious impacts to farms, ranches and orchards in the North Cascades, grizzlies also pose serious risks for recreationalists as the bears can be very aggressive and can easily harm or maim human beings.

In 2013 alone, 7 people were attacked by grizzlies, including a hunter in Alaska, two habitat researchers in Idaho and hikers in Yellowstone National Park. In 2011, two hikers were killed in two separate grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone, exactly in the area where grizzly bear “recovery” is being promoted. There are at least 593 grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone area in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

Grizzlies are also thriving in nearby Montana where approximately 1,000 grizzlies live on the 8 million acres of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem that encompasses western Montana and Glacier National Park. The number of bears in that area now makes the grizzlies candidates for removal from the federal Endangered Species list.  The bears were originally listed in that area as “endangered” not due to an actual decrease of the species but for “lack of biological information on its status and habitat requirements,” according to Montana Fish and Parks.

Closer to home, in Idaho, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declined to upgrade protections in 2014 for grizzlies in Idaho and Northwest Montana, noting that the population is considered “stable.” Populations in the Selkirk Mountains will also not receive special protections from USFWS, with nearly 90 bears in the population.

In addition to high numbers in Yellowstone and Montana and a stable number of grizzlies in Idaho, the total number of grizzlies worldwide is estimated to be above 200,000. This animal is not endangered.

In addition to the questionable statistics regarding the grizzlies’ endangered status, there is also the issue of forcing a population in an unsuitable area. In Montana, where grizzlies have proliferated to the point of attacking people and livestock, there are only 6.8 people per square mile. In Washington State, there is an average of 101.2 people per square mile. This difference in density is incredibly important to consider, as the potential for grizzly-human conflict, grizzly encroachment near homes, into livestock paddocks and other places of human occupation is incredibly high.

The benefits of grizzly introduction of bringing back the “cultural heritage of the North Cascades” and the  “opportunity for  residents and visitors to again experience grizzly bears in their native habitat” noted in the NPS documents are foolish objectives, ignorant of the realities grizzlies have presented in areas where they are “recovered.”

Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association  is categorically opposed to any efforts by the National Parks Service to “recover” a grizzly population in the North Cascades due to the fact the bear is not actually endangered globally or in the West; the fact that grizzlies pose serious safety considerations for residents and visitors to the North Cascades and that the economic detriment that will be caused to farms, ranches and orchards far outweighs any “grizzly experiences” for tourists.

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SCCA Banquet coming up soon!

Don’t miss our 2017 banquet coming up on Sat., Feb 11 at the Colville Community College. Social Hour is at 5pm, Prime Rib dinner at 6pm. Tickets $30


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SCCA opposes Beef Checkoff increase

The Washington State Beef Checkoff program is seeking to increase the per-head tax on cattle sales from $1.50 to $2.50 in the coming year. SCCA is opposed to this notion for reasons we recently shared with the measure’s potential sponsors, Rep. Tom Dent and Sen. Judy Warnick. See below:

December 13, 2016

Dear Senator Warnick and Representative Dent,

We are writing to OPPOSE any increase to the Washington State Beef Checkoff Assessment and strongly urge you not to support a bill that would increase the tax burden on our ranch families.

The current $1.50 per head Beef Checkoff fee for cattle sold in Washington is not actually helping Washington State ranch families, as the marketing dollars do not specifically highlight or promote their product—beef raised in the U.S. and in the great state of Washington. A generic “beef” campaign is being used by the Washington Beef Commission which fails to alert consumers to the very real differences in quality between U.S. raised beef and beef from countries like Canada, Mexico, Australia and many countries in Latin America. To fail to recognize the higher standards achieved in the U.S. is to deceive the consumer and the only real beneficiary of the campaign is the end salesman—the multi-national meat companies like Tyson who would prefer the consumer never be able to tell the difference.

As the numbers of ranchers is continuing to decline in Washington, the WA Beef Commission does not seem to find a problem with taking their ineffective, generic marketing campaign back to ranch families and asking them to pay more for a program that is not working for them. The Beef Checkoff program has not kept Washington’s ranchers in business, as recent research indicates.

According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are less than 10 ranchers left in the state of Washington with more than 1,000 head of cattle and there were less than 200 operations left with enough cattle to be considered a full-time enterprise. In fact, the number of ranchers in our state has dropped by 52 percent since 1984. Those who survived have experienced a severe drop in live cattle prices in the last two years, dropping from a high of nearly $3.00 a pound in calf prices down to just over $1.00 a pound this fall.

The Washington State Beef Commission should take a great interest in recognizing the negative long-term trends that threaten the survival of the cattle industry in Washington State, including subsidized imports, and actively work to promote the product of the U.S. cattleman over all others.

If the commission fails to make this very important reform, the program should be abolished and we are confident that Tyson and other large meat retailers will find a way to market their own product. Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association DOES NOT support and increase to the Beef Checkoff at this time and seriously recommends the program be scrutinized not for its ability to sell “beef” but to act as an effective marketing campaign for the people paying the bill: the U.S. rancher.


Justin Hedrick, President

Scott Nielsen, Vice President


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SCCA Annual Business Meeting Dec. 3

The 2016 Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) annual business meeting will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 1pm at the Stevens County Ambulance building located at 425 N. HWY 395 in Colville. The meeting will include officer elections, discussions on local issues and guest speakers. For more info, email
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WDFW to remove Profanity Peak wolf pack

profanity pack attack 2016

This photo was featured in a recent edition of the Ferry County View and shows a calf from the K Diamond K ranch who was likely attacked by a wolf.


August 5, 2016

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has begun efforts to remove wolves from the Profanity Peak wolf pack after a fourth calf was confirmed by the department as a wolf kill last week.

The Profanity Peak  wolf pack, which numbers at least 11 total wolves including pups, has killed five calves and the pack was deemed a  “probable” cause in the death of three more calves. In total, at least five cattle have been killed by the pack within the last 30 days. The dead cattle have been found northeast of Republic and belong to two different ranches.

Now that WDFW has committed to addressing the problem, Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Justin Hedrick said WDFW should commit to full removal.

“The Ferry County Commissioners have not only declared a state of emergency, but have demanded the department complete a full removal of the pack,” said Hedrick, whose ranch ,the Diamond M, lost four calves to the pack. “Considering the ongoing damage these wolves have caused over the last three years, we feel that request is reasonable and should be met.”

The Profanity Peak wolf pack has been killing cattle for the last three years. In 2014, the Ferry County Commissioners declared a state of emergency and called for pack removal by WDFW, but they were ignored. Since then, a Wolf Advisory Group formed by the department has developed specific protocols with WDFW on when wolves should be removed. Precursors to wolf removal, according to the WAG checklist, include four WDFW confirmed kills by wolves within a calendar year and an attempt to use non-lethal methods to stop the killing.

Although the Diamond M and another affected ranch tried additional non-lethal deterrents like range riders, removing carcasses of killed cattle and other methods, the Profanity Pack has not stopped preying on cattle.

Hedrick said SCCA expects WDFW to follow through on their commitment to remove wolves until the job is done.

“In the past, we have seen wolf removal crews pull out and leave because of a holiday weekend,” said Hedrick. “This problem does not take a holiday and we want WDFW to follow through with their commitment to address this situation.”

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Profanity wolf pack becoming chronic killers

delist_the_wolf_ash_grey_tshirtJuly 13, 2016

Wolf pack on third year of cattle attacks

The Profanity wolf pack, located in northeast Ferry County, has again started their killing spree, killing three calves within the last 10 days. The pack that numbers at least seven adult wolves, a breeding pair and likely a new litter of pups is again taking advantage of the rugged territory near Sherman Pass to kill cattle that are out on summer range.

The three calves killed belong to the Diamond M Ranch that has had previous “confirmed” killings by the Profanity Pack in 2014. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that the ranch lost a cow-calf pair and a calf to the Profanity wolves in 2014, however, the actual losses were much higher.

“We were missing 26 calves and four cows in 2014. Most of those losses are due to unconfirmed wolf kills,” said Diamond M Ranch co-owner and President of the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association Justin Hedrick. “Our usual death loss for that area can be up to four calves.”

The 2014 losses and the addition of at least three more killed calves this year is a significant loss to the ranch, with each loss calf costing at least $1,500 in potential revenue.

The persistent attacks from the Profanity Pack are making for a reoccurring nightmare for the Diamond M that saw this kind of behavior explode into a crisis situation in 2012.  Wolf activity from the Wedge Pack in 2012 culminated into 17 wolf attacks and the ranch absorbing over $100,000 in losses due to the Wedge Pack activity. Eventually, some of the Wedge pack was removed by WDFW, but as the losses were mounting in the summer of 2012, WDFW did nothing but mark down the body count.

“A scenario like the Wedge pack is happening again,” said Hedrick. “Last year we didn’t see as much killing from the Profanity Pack due to a lot of wildfire activity. But now that things have settled down, they are back at it.”

While the Diamond M is trying to work with WDFW and local officials to address the situation, Hedrick said experience has shown that the only way to stop the carnage is to remove the offending wolves.

“This is a chronically depredating pack that needs to be removed,” said Hedrick.

Yet, at the time when the ranch needs help, WDFW has tightened up restrictions on lethally removing wolves. A lethal removal plan passed by the Wolf Advisory Group in May requires the ranch to implement sanitation measures as well as using a “non-lethal deterrent” approved by WDFW. In addition, lethal removal protocols also require 4 confirmed kills in one calendar year by the pack; non-lethal deterrents have to fail and the public has to be notified that the wolves will be removed. With only one of the three calves killed by the Profanity Pack this year being “confirmed” kills, Hedrick said WDFW is working to avoid reaching the 4 killings needed to start lethal removal.

“This situation needs to be addressed because if it isn’t, we are going to see as many losses as we did in 2012 from the Wedge Pack. That is rugged country and the wolves are going to just keep killing,” Hedrick related.





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