Eastern Washington wolf pack 'habituated' to eating beef

Sep 28, 2012
by WLJ

—WDFW agrees to remove Wedge pack.

Due to the ongoing carnage and loss of cattle at the Diamond M ranch in eastern Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has agreed to remove the “Wedge” wolf pack they say has become “habituated” to eating cattle. The Diamond M has had 17 wolf attacks on their herd since June, with 10 dead and seven injured calves.

In a public meeting on Sept. 20, WDFW Regional Director Steve Pozzanghera said that the behavior of the Wedge pack this summer is “unacceptable” and that the pack has “turned a corner.”

“This pack has turned the corner and have made cattle their primary prey,” said Pozzanghera. “This pack needs to be removed.”

Pozzanghera said WDFW is committed to removing the entire Wedge wolf pack using trapping and shooting methods, including night vision equipment. Aerial equipment may also be used in the efforts.

“We know wolf behavior is different in different situations. Not all wolves habituate in eating livestock. Wolves have a different ‘search image’ when looking for prey and that doesn’t include cattle,” he said. “But the problems with this pack have escalated over the last several months and the situation is unacceptable. So we are committing additional resources and activities to the removal efforts.”

However, the McIrvins and members of the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (SCCA) are skeptical.

“The department has changed the number of wolves they are going to remove all summer, so when they make this statement, they need to prove it. Success is not measured by efforts, but by results,” said Diamond M co-owner Len McIrvin.

Confidence in WDFW has also been eroded by past public statements about the wolves that were not consistent. In addition to changes in the number of wolves the department said they would remove, Pozzanghera had also signed a conditional agreement with the cattlemen in August to remove the Wedge pack. Two weeks later, he said he had “gone beyond the department” and could not fulfill the agreement.

Only after more attacks on the Diamond M did the department say they would remove up to four wolves from the Wedge and dispatched a team to the area. At present, despite over 20 days pursuing the wolf pack, the department continues to be unsuccessful in removing the wolves.

The need for removal of the Wedge pack was again highlighted when two more injured calves were found at the Diamond M on Sept. 20, bringing the wolf-livestock conflict tally to 17.

But even if the Wedge pack is removed, SCCA President Scott Nielsen said the problem will not be solved.

“We have eight wolf packs in the immediate eastern Washington area that can also become ‘habituated’ to eating cattle. We need the wolf removed as an endangered species in the eastern Washington region so livestock owners can practically deal with the situation themselves on an as-needed basis,” said Nielsen. “We are not advocating the removal of all wolves, but we want the packs brought to a manageable number and for livestock owners to be able to protect their animals from wolves without fear of jail time or a felony charge.” — WLJ