Have these wolves really killed any livestock at all?

A Washington state rancher near the Canandian border in the territory of the Wedge wolf pack says he has found two more dead calves he thinks were killed by wolves because of the bite marks on their hindquarters. As a result the state indicates they will probably eliminate the entire wolf pack. Recently the state killed a subadult female from the pack. We reported on that controversy earlier.

On the other hand, Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife says “there is no solid evidence that wolves did kill livestock and no details [have been] provided of any nonlethal deterrents being tried. Several wolf depredation experts, including myself have reviewed the state’s investigation reports and found that none of the injuries are characteristic of wolf predation on livestock.”  Stone has been deeply involved in Defenders wolf depredation compensation program for many years, and has evaluated hundreds of wolf attacks and supposed wolf attacks on livestock.

Unless dead livestock are found quickly and the evidence properly protected, it is usually hard to tell wolf killed animals from those that were only scavenged by wolves.

Whether the wolves killed livestock or not, sometimes killing some wolves helps reduce rancher ire; but many times it does not. Defenders is asking people to call political officials to try to stop the killing of the wolf pack.

Defenders story. Will A Washington Wolf Pack Die Tomorrow? Suzanne Asha Stone. Posted on 21 August 2012
Here is the story as reported by an agricultural newspaper, the Capital Press. Two more calves found dead in Washington wolf country. By Matthew Weaver.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

46 Responses to Washington State might kill off the Wedge Pack today.

  1. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    How many wolf packs will this leave in Washington if this pack is killed off?

    • avatar Mysticwolf45 says:

      Including the wedge pack, there are 8 known packs in Washington.

      • avatar WM says:

        ++…8 known packs…++

        That likely translates in to 10-12, plus dispersers and border packs, including the ones not officially documented. So ading about another 20-25% to the official population count wouldn’t be far off.

    • avatar DLB says:

      I’m in agreement that 10 packs is a conservative estimate. There could easily be multiple additonal packs in the northeast part of the state that have yet to be confirmed.

  2. avatar Mysticwolf45 says:

    Why was this story published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on August 17th. They say they confirmed then it was the wolves of the Wedge pack then.
    Washington Wolf Packs: Wedge

    August 17, 2012

    State wildlife managers today confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack of northeast Washington were involved in the injury of one calf and the death of another this week in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch near the Canadian border. This brings to eight the total number of injured or dead livestock from the Diamond M ranch since July. Officials also said they were expanding their efforts to address the pack’s persistent attacks on livestock.

    Phil Anderson, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the department is sending a team of wildlife specialists to the remote area in an effort to attach a radio transmitter to an additional member of the pack. The pack’s alpha male has already been fitted with a transmitter collar that alerts the department to the pack’s movement.

    In conjunction with the collaring effort, the department’s team plans to kill up to four other wolves from the pack in an effort to disrupt its pattern of predation, reduce its food requirements, and potentially break it up permanently.

    These efforts follow the department’s action on August 7 to lethally remove a non-breeding female member of the pack.

    The department is taking these actions under the terms of the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The department’s primary goal under the plan is to ensure long-term recovery of the gray wolf population. However, the plan specifically authorizes the department to take lethal measures to address repeated attacks on livestock.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Mysticwolf45,

      You might want to try to get in touch with Suzanne Stone to she why see believes there is no proof the wolves have killed livestock.

      Also, I noticed something that is maybe odd in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s news release. They wrote, “State wildlife managers today confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack of northeast Washington were involved [boldface mine] in the injury of one calf and the death of another this week in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch . . . .” “Involved?” This could just be sloppy wording, but it might mean they don’t really know — they found an injured calf and a dead calf and wolves were merely nearby? Maybe they heard howling in the area? Maybe they don’t really know, but thought they should kill some to make sure and appease the ranchers.

      Then maybe they flat out saw the wolves kill a calf and injure another. I don’t know.

      • avatar Mark L says:

        This sounds somewhat like a ‘hightech lynching’: there was nothing to deter them from attacking cattle (really?…nothing?), an owner with his trigger on the panic button already, and state officials chomping at the bit to look like they are ‘doing something….anything’ in an election year.
        Were these wolves in the ghetto they’d be charged just for ‘looking suspicious’ and being dark skinned.
        Come on man….we can do better than this. /rant

        • avatar WM says:

          Not sure what “in an election year” means in WA for change in policy direction. The state is pretty much blue, with most the population on the west side of the Cascades. The wolves (all of them documented so far) and the red voters are on the east side. Interesting how that all works out, huh?

          Where these wolves, cows and ranchers are is more like ID or MT. This area, 80 miles or so north of Spokane, near the Canadian border is called the “Forgotten Corner” of the state. There are even a couple of books written about it. Kiniksu NF (at least I think it is still called that, but it could be part of the Colville NF and is a distant step child to the SO that serves it) at one time reported to the Regional USFS office in Missoula(Region 1), rather than Portland (Region 6). I do not recall which year the change was made to make the regions contiguous to state lines.

          You do realize most of the non-lethal stuff, like fladry except maybe the electrified stuff, doesn’t work long term, according to the research and an admission of the International Wolf Foundation in Ely, MN, yes? Suzanna Stone often forgets to mention that part, of course, as she also forgets to mention the additional capital and labor costs to the rancher for daily temporary fencing, dogs/burros, range riders, and general clean-up husbandry practices. Not being judgmental here (as to whether it should be done) just that it doesn’t get mentioned as much as it should.

          And, the cattle and sheep folks were really pissed, coming out with a minority report about cost/impacts in the draft wolf management plan, which the staff totally ignored. The new WDFW Commissioner (on less than a year) from Colville works for Conservation Northwest, a group which is advocating wolves. He is no doubt getting an ear full at the local coffee shop and grocery store, these days. Colville is a very small town.

          • avatar Mark L says:

            “Where these wolves, cows and ranchers are is more like ID or MT. This area, 80 miles or so north of Spokane, near the Canadian border is called the “Forgotten Corner” of the state.”
            Yep, know it. I like forgotten corners like that…I’m between 2 Tennessee’s (state and river) but still in Alabama…state labels only matters to states, animals just don’t get it, do they? BTW, we do dogs/alpaca/burros here for coyotes…not that expensive. And it’s better than ‘welfare’ dogs which do nothing but breed and eat. And, coyotes aren’t fooled by fladry.
            Despite being a blue state, the WDFW has to look like he is ‘tough on crime’ in his area, I understand that (politics).

            • avatar WM says:

              ++… BTW, we do dogs/alpaca/burros here for coyotes…not that expensive.++

              I think we are talking watermelons and apples here, Mark.

              A 35 lb coyote (often alone) is a bunch different than a couple to even 6-9 wolves at 70-90 pounds each. Guard dogs out here(usually a couple for each herd) have to be large, trained, learn to protect livestock in their care, and fed something other than what they are protectng (then there are the vet bills or replacement costs as they are sometimes killed). All of that is expensive capital and maintenance cost outlays. Wolves have killed mules/burros in the West, and an alpaca or even llama doesn’t stand a chance against more than one wolf. Nice try.

              The wolf policy decisions are being made out of Olympia, the state capitol on the west side of the state south of Seattle, where the color is a very deep blue.

          • avatar louise kane says:

            Nice to hear that a WDFW commissioner actually has conservation roots.

            I’d appreciate seeing your research that illustrates that predator avoidance tactics do not work. I’m not sure the International Wolf Foundation is enough evidence for me. They seem to be just as biased as you indicate that Defenders is. As I have argued in the past, this organization bends over backward to provide facts that support killing wolves as a management tool and has argued that killing them is necessary to appease ranchers. I don’t see how that tact is working. Killing wolves only seems to heighten the desire to kill more as per the increasingly aggressive and hostile wolf management and or hunting plans.
            I know you will hate the statement about the International Wolf Center but I’m calling it like I see it.

  3. avatar DLB says:

    I’ve heard there’s been a lot of WDFW activity up in the Wedge over the last few days. One can only imagine how much time they’ve spent planning for how to handle this kind of situation when it inevitably came up. It looks like they are leaning towards the aggressive side in an attempt to send a message to the ranching community.

  4. avatar WM says:

    With as much scrutiny as has gone into preparing a mostly wolf friendly management plan (and the planning staff behind it, including Director Anderson), it would seem somewhat inconsistent to me for WDFW to iniate a sanctioned removal action for several wolves WITHOUT PROPER VERIFICATION that these wolves were responsible.

    Not to be too critical of Suzanne Stone, because the facts of the investigative report or other information are not known to us at this point, but I have seen enough of the way Defenders spins things for their own purposes. The question we should also ask is how truthful Defenders representatives are when summarizing the facts of these depredation incidents.

    If there is an actual lack of objectivity as Stone asserts, maybe WDFW needs the same protocols Oregon Fish & Wildlife used to make their determinations – independent review by a forensic vet lab (there is one at WSU in Pullman), and review of the investigative information by experienced field investigators like Carter Neimeyer or others. Maybe they already have such protocols in place.

    To me that is the proper request that should be made to Governor Chris and the WDFW Director, not some plea to save the wolves regardless of the facts proving depredation (and the standard for removal need only be more probable than not, IMHO).

    • avatar DLB says:

      This is probably another case of the DOW overreaching.

      I do support independent review by a forensic lab, and I know that WDFW has worked with Carter in the past.

  5. avatar Richie G says:

    Was this on section to be known as a National Forset and if so the forest belongs to all of us not just a few. We all pay taxes and this is public land,why does the rancher get most of the rights. Also a slaugther house was just shut down,some great footage to see,makes you want to pick up a burger real fast.

    • avatar Savebears says:

      If he leases, that is why he gets most of the rights, although I am sure he pays way less than it is worth, it is still a contract, giving him quite a bit of say when it comes to his livestock being killed.

      Don’t take that to mean, I agree with it, but right now it is simply a fact.

      • avatar DLB says:

        I don’t think enviros are going to get anywhere with hammering on the cheap grazzing fees. At some point, even the ranching lobby is going to give in and accept an increase in fees, and then leverage that concession to further entrench themselves on the allotments.

        I’ve had occasion to talk with multipe ranchers on this subject and even the most combative fellow had no problem with an increase in the fees.

        • avatar Randy says:

          No matter what the fees are, doesn’t the lease come with terms and conditions, just like any other lease? If I lease an apartment, I don’t get to trash it if I pay higher fees. What do Forest Service grazing regulations say about predators on leased lands? The Taylor Grazing Act permits private use of forage on BLM lands, but does it also grant the right to eliminate predators on that leased land?

          • avatar WM says:

            ++…but does it also grant the right to eliminate predators on that leased land?++

            No, that is the purview of the state (WDFW), unless the particular predator is under protection of the federal government, such as the ESA (grizzlies and NRM wolves until recently). But that is all behind us for now, at least for these wolves.

  6. avatar Richie G says:

    opps one and forest sorry

  7. avatar amy says:

    A few things…. First is, my grandfather raised cattle. He had two fenced huge fenced in areas for them (each one had to be at least 20 acres) He did everything he could to protect his cattle from preditors…however, he still lost some to cougers. He never took this mentality of: Oh, I must go out and shoot a couger to teach them a lesson. He saw his occupation, as with every occuption, with consequences…and losing cattle to a preditor is one of them.
    Second is, if you let your cows, wander willy nilly through unprotected land, and your not out there physically to protected them…(I don’t care if it leased)in an area that is know to have wildlife…then that is your fault. You don’t teach animals to stop hunting, that is their way of life and their food. The only thing your doing with this mentality is revenage. The state needs to put in their lease agreements…these are your cows it is up to you protect them when wandering this land..get out and protect them since known preditors look for food here…or don’t complain if one or several of them or killed by wildlife. It is afterall..the nature of life. Just has you will surely as u will eat at least one of these cows your grazing on this land. So will a preditor hunt one of them. Take responsilbity for your animals.

    • avatar louise kane says:

      Amy
      clap clap clap
      how amazing and wonderful to hear your voice
      thank you

    • avatar louise kane says:

      Amy please call the Washington Dept of Fish and Game they need to hear from people like you, with a history of ranching that take into consideration responsibility of the rancher to limit and reduce predator cattle conflicts and that want to live with predators and see them as a cost of doing business.

    • avatar WM says:

      ++… He had two fenced huge fenced in areas for them (each one had to be at least 20 acres). He did everything he could to protect his cattle from preditors…++

      Two fenced 20 acre pastures, for a total of 40 acres, is probably a managable area to try to protect stock for awhile. But that is rather small operation by most standards, nearer to hobby ranching. You can maybe run 20-50 cows, maybe a few more with irrigation, and maybe a few acres of hay. Not a typical operation at great risk, especially if the owner/operator lives near.

      And for the spelling conscious, the word is “predAtor.” If you are going to talk about them, spelling the word correctly adds credibility.

      • avatar WM says:

        To get a sense of scale, bacause it is certain many of our urban friends here have not a clue: 40 acres is 1/16th of a section (a section is 1 mile x 1 mile and rangeland leases sometimes cover as many as 5-10 sections).

        If the 40 acres is in a square configuration that is 440 yards x 440 yards. On a run a wolf can cover 440 yards in about 30 seconds, and a human running in about a minute.

    • avatar Mike says:

      Applause!

  8. avatar jon says:

    You might want to take a look at this article Ralph.

    http://www.nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/08/22/wolf-advocates-trying-to-stop-wdfws-wolf-hunt-not-getting-anywhere-at-the-moment/

    Some experts from Idaho and Wyoming don’t think some of the livestock attacks were caused by wolves.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      I think it was Niemeyer and Jimenez who were skeptical. If so, that is heavy weight skepticism.

  9. avatar Richie G. says:

    To sb;
    I agree the rancher does have more rights being it’s a contract,but to add something,how was that contract made with the state,this we do not know,it’s all political I will bet my bottom dollar, the rancher has a hook, period. That is the way it really is,and it is just not ethical, but that is government to a large degree,very sad.

  10. avatar Richie G. says:

    To sb;
    I agree the rancher does have more rights being it’s a contract,but to add something,how was that contract made with the state,this we do not know,it’s all political I will bet my bottom dollar, the rancher has a hook, period. That is the way it really is,and it is just not ethical, but that is government to a large degree,very sad. First the rancher is getting the lease at a very cheao price,second it’s on the publics dime,the taxpayers,third the rancher should not be allowed to have the cattle graze freely,he needs a rider to stay with his cattle.Now this seems fair to me,if he gets the lease cheap on public land he should responsible for his cattle.

    • avatar Mark L says:

      Yeah, I’m curious if they tried fladry, or fladry with electric fencing (like their neighbor did) before they chose the ‘nuclear option’ of zapping the whole pack. Also, reading the report, they say there were 2 injured calves on the ranch that couldn’t be caught (like leaving an open purse on a sidewalk and blaming a passerby for looking in it).

  11. avatar Richie G. says:

    opps cheap

  12. avatar Monica says:

    Frankly, I don’t care if the wolves did or did not participate in the killing of two calves. These animals were killed on property that BELONGS to the federal government and is leased by the cattle rancher. As federal land, I have a right to say what happens on that land and I believe wolves are a more appropriate species than cattle for a national forest!

    And WM, if the cattle operation in question is huge, then he can far more afford the few loses than Amy’s grandfather could.

    • avatar Savebears says:

      Once it is under lease, no you don’t have more say, the government acted as your agent and leased the land..

      Monica, do you make a good living? if so, you can afford to loose more that people who don’t..

      • avatar Savebears says:

        To add,

        I am against public lands ranching as it is currently is practiced, but right now that is what we have, until the public puts enough pressure on the law makers to change it.

  13. avatar Richie G. says:

    Did the rancher have a fence on a national forest,or public land, if no, who did he lease it from a private owner?

    • avatar Nancy says:

      Richie G. – It can be down right confusing out here when it comes to livestock and grazing allotments on public lands (unless of course, you happen to be a rancher 🙂

      There’s a ranch across from me that has roughly 3,000 acres. A small portion of it is state land but they have managed, thru rotation, to keep their cattle (around a 1,000 head) on those 3 thousand acres and at the same time, managed to get in a sizeable hay crop for the winter months.

      Then, there’s another ranch nearby that has about 20,000 acres of land (and about 2,000 head of cattle) that take advantage of the cheap, public lands grazing fees – they move most of their cattle (every year) off their ranch, for miles over public roads, into the forests, so they can put up hay while those cows are gone.

      Hay, that may or may not be used, come winter. Hay that may well be sold to other “less fortunate” ranchers?

      Not the only “sizeable” ranch near me that does this. Believe the forests, meadows, wetlands close to me, have close to 10 thousand cattle “grazing” on them – July thru October.

      Begs the question – Is anyone doing the math? And do the officials in charge, really give a crap, as long as their political base is being “satisfied?”

  14. avatar Richie G. says:

    Sb you are correct to a large degree,but this is insider trading,like congress can do. They have hooks with the government,and people who visit yellowstone and buy shirts of wolves and bears. We think we have such a great government to let wildlife run free,until this happens and the political climate changes,and we have a site like Ralph’s to let you ladies and gentlema write and we learn.Then we see how money goes to money,and the people who really love what they see get hurt by it all.I said this before the two beings that can’t protect themselves are babies and animals, I will also add the poor,homeless,the ones who got left out in the cold so to speak.

  15. avatar Richie G. says:

    Nancy with what you said,if they take their cows off their land why are the wolves responsible, the wolve are on public land for an easy meal they ran into cows ,is their a sign do not eat not allowed, doesn’t make sense.Wolves are wolves how can you blame them for an easy meal.

  16. avatar Richie G says:

    Thank you Nancy great article ! How can anyone blame a wold it’s all politics

  17. avatar Richie G. says:

    sorry I meant wolf

    • avatar bret says:

      UPDATE – August 31, 2012. State Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators today confirmed that wolves had attacked two more calves in the Wedge region of Northeast Washington.

      Department Director Phil Anderson said two injured calves from the Diamond M ranch in northern Stevens County were brought off the range on Thursday, Aug. 30. One calf was severely injured, while the other was less seriously wounded. Department staff and Stevens County Sheriff’s Office officials who examined the animals confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack were responsible for the attacks, Anderson said.

      The latest depredations brought to 10 the number of injured and dead livestock from the Diamond M herd since July.

      as I understand this happened on private property.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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