As WDFW more fully lays the groundwork to the public why it’s trying to kill wolves in the Wedge, later this afternoon it will also brief Stevens County ranchers about the agency’s efforts to date — and in the near future.
There is a strong indication that WDFW is no longer just targeting “up to four wolves,” its stated goal since Aug. 20 for reducing or breaking up the livestock-depredating pack.
A lengthy FAQ it posted some time yesterday reads in part, “The department is prepared to remove additional wolves as necessary to protect area livestock.”
That would indicate it wants to take out more members of the pack which is estimated to have begun the summer at eight to 11 members strong and which appears to have become habituated to feeding on beef.
High-ranking wolf managers will explain to cattlemen as well as the public what that means and, presumably, new measures that will be taken to reach those results. Already WDFW has added more shooters and trappers to the Wedge.
That occurred last weekend, and though one dead calf was found on Sunday, so far this week there hasn’t been any news of additional depredations that Northwest Sportsman is aware of.
As it stands, the Diamond M Ranch has had 15 calves and cows confirmed or probably killed or injured by wolves since July, according to WDFW, while the agency has lethally removed one nonbreeding female, back in August.
Based on the number of dry or tight-bag cows, livestock producers Bill and Len McIrvin believe they’ll have lost as many as 40 calves off Colville National Forest grazing allotments when the herd is rounded up next month.
Wolf advocates had pointed to some disagreements between current and retired federal experts and state biologists and game wardens about what was responsible for earlier depredations, but now generally accept it is wolves, though they still urge long-term solutions that keep wolf-livestock conflicts to a minimum in the first place. WDFW states in its FAQ that “Western U.S. wolf experts agree this pack is now targeting livestock over natural wild prey.”
The Wedge has some mule deer, whitetail deer, moose and elk, but studies have found that a “good number” of the muleys and some percentage of the whitetails are migratory. The former come in from high-mountain summer range 30 miles north in British Columbia.
It will be interesting to see whether, when the cattle come out of the forest Oct. 1, the pack follows them down for the winter or switches to preying on a deer herd that has provided rifle hunters with anywhere from 250 to 370 bucks over the past 10 falls.
Putting cows in valley-floor pastures for the season would presumably make for clearer shots for WDFW marksmen. There have been doubts about the seriousness of the agency’s hunt, but a source indicates they are deadly serious.
The rest of the FAQ addresses these questions:
Why is the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) attempting to kill wolves in Northeast Washington?
What gives the department the authority to kill wolves? Aren’t gray wolves a protected species in Washington?
The Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was approved just last year. How can the department justify killing wolves so soon?
Were non-lethal measures used to control predation by the Wedge Pack?
How does WDFW know that wolves from the Wedge Pack were involved in attacks on cattle?
Does WDFW follow a specific process in determining whether wolves were involved in an attack?
Is WDFW concerned that killing wolves will set back the statewide recovery effort?
How does WDFW decide when to take lethal action against wolves?
It appears that the attacks on cattle occurred on National Forest lands. Why would WDFW kill wolves that live on public land?
It’s the second time this summer that WDFW has presented its case online. When it announced it would take out up to four wolves in mid-August, it posted a history of wolf attacks on cattle and a summary of its thinking (see August 17 update here).
Tonight’s meeting will be held in the Stevens County Commissioners’ meeting room, 230 East Birch Street, Colville.
It begins at 5 p.m.
It is open to the general public.