Washington state kills a wolf for livestock depredations

One sub-adult female removed from the NE Washington Wedge pack-

Wolf numbers are growing slowly in Washington State as they migrate in from intense persecution in Idaho and down from British Columbia.  Due to topography a fair number end up in NE Washington, though a surprising number have not, contrary to early expectations.  There are wolves in north central Washington in the Northern Cascade Mountains (the very first ones) and occasionally in SE Washington in the Blue Mountains of the Oregon/Washington border.

As expected from events in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon, wolves eventually began to kill a few livestock, and the number killed is in dispute. This has happened with the Wedge Pack that lives in “the Wedge,” hard up against Canada and bounded by the Kettle River and the Columbia River.  Wolf supporters and the State Department of Fish and Game say the pack killed a cow calf and injured several others over the spring and summer with a trend of increasing harassment and dead or injured cattle (July).  As a result, Washington Fish and Game killed a non-breeding female from the pack, which is thought to have 4 or so adults and some pups.  The dead wolf is first to be killed by Washington State for livestock depredations. It is not clear if she did some killing, participated in harassment of cattle, or was absent.

Most of the controversy is in the vicinity of the Diamond M Ranch, owned by Len McIrvin, of Laurier, Wash. As often the case in other states, this rancher claims many more lost animals than the state, says his cattle don’t gain weight due to wolf harassment, and fail to mate effectively.  Washington State has an extremely generous wolf depredation of livestock policy. Livestock operators get compensation for two animals for any confirmed wolf kill and compensation for one cow for a probable wolf kill.  As has often been the case in other states, here the owner says he wants dead wolves for each dead head of livestock, not monetary compensation.  Over the 17 years we have covered wolf stories, this kind of response is fairly common.

A ranch sympathetic story on the matter is found at MyEagleNews.com. By Matthew Weaver East Oregonian Publishing Group. “Wolf kill fails to placate Washington rancher ‘You can’t see them, but you can hear them all the time’ “ .

The state tells its side of the story in an interview found in the article, EarthFix Conversations: Why Washington Officials Killed An Endangered Wolf. By Ashley Ahearn. KUOW.org.

Although attempts are being made of magnify the issue, the reality is one of minor economic impact in a small area. Similar incidents have been repeated enough in other states that it no longer makes the news.









  1. ramses09 Avatar

    I would love to know to the extent, how well McIrvine guards his calfs/cattle on the range???? How big is his ranch?
    Has he tried to put into place guard dogs,llamas or mules? My guess is probably not.

    1. jon Avatar

      Those 5 cowboys who are paid to frequently check on the herd are not doing their job good enough. Killing wolves is supposed to promote co-existence,but it doesn’t seem that way with this particular rancher McIrvan.

      1. jon Avatar

        There was another article talking about how they (WDFW) didn’t know if the wolf they killed was killing livestock or not.


        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Thanks Jon,

          Somehow I forgot to put in this important point, so I modified the story just now.

      2. bret Avatar

        Or wolves are very capable predators.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      You can find this ranch easily on Google Earth, though not its boundaries. It sits in the timber about 1 mile south of British Columbia between the Kettle River and the cliffs of the Kettle Mountain range. I’ve been through there once . . . pretty country.

      There is pasture in the stream valley. Unless the ranch is in distributed parcels, it looks like it is not huge, but possibly quite productive land in the valley bottom. It looks like topography constrains things.

      Laurier, Washington is basically a border crossing. Here is a picture of Laurier from Google Earth.

  2. MAD Avatar

    I have to be honest, it bothers me greatly when I read how a gov’t entity can seemingly act so arbitrary and biased in favor of a select few, and my brethren who call themselves Officers of the Court (aka attorneys) sit by and watch it all go on. Are there so few legal advocates or residents of moral character who reside in these areas to question these ridiculous actions? Are they all so blinded by their own twisted prejudices not to be able to sit down with others, discuss the issues, and come to a rational, agreed upon solution? It makes me chuckle when people ramble on and on about their “Western roots” and romantic tales of yore, while simultaneously looking down their noses on the fact that I grew up on the East coast. As my mom from Kentucky would say, “Let me ‘splain something to y’all”, back East, most likely we’d sit down in a bar or restaurant, have a few drinks and try to hash out a settlement and get this issue fixed once & for all, rather than dance around it and call eachother names for years on end.

  3. WM Avatar

    Looks to me like the state “action” to remove one wolf, not knowing whether it was involved in any depredation incidents is merely a PR move to say to the ranching community, “see, we are doing something,” as well as decreasing the growing WA wolf population by 1.

    This guy will get 2x the value of confirmed wolf-killed livestock ONLY because he has a spread larger than 100 acres. That was a concession made when the wolf plan was developed to play to the livestock owners not objecting so much, or doing a little 3S, when all their wolf-killed livestock cannot be found back in the woods or in some willow or debris filled gully.

    I expect just the one wolf won’t placate them. Or, what will be the next step if the remaining members of the Wedge Pack keep livestock on their menu, as they will be inclined to do?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      You are probably correct. I wrote the story in a we-have-seen-this-all-before tone, because we have. It’s boring and irritating both. Everyone seems to know their part.

      If these people lived a mile north in Canada, there would be no public controversy.

    2. WM Avatar

      Should also say, the elk population in this part of the state is not large. The state and the Colville tribe have increased the population which stood at about 1,000 in 2001, to about 2,400 animals now, recently providing more hunting opportunity. These wolves are eating deer mostly, and the occasional moose (there are few in WA, though the population has been growing). And, to the extent they get appreciable numbers of elk or moose, hunting opportunity on the Colville Reservation or on public lands will be adversely affected.

      So, in the end, its about more than livestock, but as among the food alternatives guess which will be the easiest least-risk opportunity for a wolf meal (other than the consequences for killing and eating beef)?

      This wolf – livestock problem is not going to go away very easily. This is just the beginning of the lethal control actions that will accompany more wolves in WA.

      1. WM Avatar


        Sorry, our comments must have passed in cyber-space before I saw yours.

        True, it is boring to those of us who have been following this for so long. But for WA residents generally they are going through the orientation for the first time, about 3 years after OR.

        I tend to think the WA experience will be a bit different. Friendly wolf policy planning from the start, a willingness to work the problem regarding livestock conflicts, but also a bit of naivete, IMHO.

        The political landscape says more tolerance here, but as the wolf population grows, and the first translocations (part of the plan) occur, bringing wolves to the west side of the Cascades, for example, it will likely get more interesting, and not so boring for all. The tension will increase, I suspect because of higher human density here – what will it be like as the goal of 15 breeding pairs, with a resident population of 300 plus wolves, is approached?

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan


          Yes, translocations will be controversial, but I don’t think population density of people itself matters a great deal. Wolves around the world often live in small scraps of space — kind of like suburban coyotes plus a size or two.

          In Idaho the most upset people live in rural, or often deep wilderness counties with few people and lots of public land.

          In the Wedge, where these Washington events just took place, Google Earth shows a landscape with low population density except around Christina Lake, the recreation area in Canada, just north.

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        I think it is important that not too many wolves bunch up in NE Washington, which will probably be what happens, though I am surprised that the first were not there. I could be wrong.

        The Washington State wolf plan provides for a statewide distribution of wolves, and they ought to make that happen as much as they can. The density of wolves does not have to be very high anywhere, in my opinion, just so there is genetic exchange, a reservoir of protection from Idaho and an opportunity for wolves to move south into Oregon and the Oregon wolves into Washington (as has happened barely).

        I don’t see much sense fighting hard over what is really a border pack, but I would over wolves farther west and from there, southward.

  4. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    I hope they due get to move twoards the south into Oregon and California,these states are more pro wolf, and I do believe the wolf has a better chance of survival.

  5. DLB Avatar

    There’s a rumor out that they might be confirming new depredations by the Wedge Pack involving the same rancher.

    1. bret Avatar

      Two more calves found dead in Washington

      Capital Press
      A week after state wildlife managers killed a wolf that was attacking cattle in northeastern Washington state, a rancher there has found two more dead calves.


    2. jon Avatar

      “There are so many wolves now, he said, the only acceptable option is trapping and poison.”

      It is sad and disturbing, but not surprising that ranchers who think like this are still around today.

  6. Richie G Avatar
    Richie G

    Well here we go again it’s Aug.22 and the people in Fish and game in Washington state are are to kill all the adults to in the edge pack,I called but it’sa still too early ,when will they stop or will they always take the word of the ranchers. These poor wolves can’t get a brake. In red or blue states, I guess sb was right,he did say it’s only a matter of time, until the ranchers compalin. If anybody reads this and is pro wolf please call Washington state,s government to stop this.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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