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Washington wolf attacks mount

by MATTHEW WEAVER, Capital Press 9/20/12

The wolves in the Wedge Wolf Pack are now dining almost exclusively on beef, according to a northeastern Washington cattle rancher.

"The game department told me they're nearly 100 percent beef in the manure piles," Laurier, Wash., rancher Len McIrvin said. "They've taken all the game in this area and are just living on these cattle."

There have been two more kills and two more injured cattle, which state officials confirmed to be wolf-caused, on McIrvin's Diamond M Ranch in recent weeks.

However, he estimates 40 calves have been killed, as evidenced by mother cows that are now dry.

"The wolves are killing about a calf a day or every other day right now," he said.

Dave Ware, game division manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said efforts to kill several wolves in the pack are ongoing. The department increased the number of staff in the area to operate on several sites and increase efforts to keep the wolves from the livestock.

"We haven't actually been able to take a wolf, but we've been close several times," he said. "We feel we will be successful in the near future."

After killing several wolves, the state will evaluate the situation, Ware said.

McIrvin estimated the cost to his operation is approaching $100,000 in cattle kills, weight loss, injuries, extra labor and low conception rate. The department has $50,000 allotted for compensation to ranchers, $5,000 per ranch.

McIrvin has refused compensation, saying it would be akin to supporting the wolves' presence. He'd prefer to see the entire pack killed.

"The next step's to go out of business if we can't eliminate that pack," McIrvin said. "A cattle ranch can't sustain that kind of losses."

McIrvin said he still gets phone calls, with the callers seem to be evenly distributed between industrial support and avid wolf supporters.

"As long as it's not their cattle, pets or kids getting eaten, everything is great," he said wryly. "One woman in Seattle said, 'I love wolves, I'd just like to take one home to cuddle with.' I wish she would."

McIrvin blames the regulations for the complications.

"It's not the wolves' problem -- wolves do what wolves do: They kill for fun, support and hunger," he said. "We could take care of it, but when you've got an agency that won't allow it, our hands are tied."

As ranchers bring their cows in from open ranges and federal and state allotments and hunters begin to go out into the field, Ware recommends they report any signs of wolves, including scat and tracks.

Jamie Henneman, media relations representative for the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association, said eastern Washington cattlemen are concerned about developments at the Diamond M Ranch, since Stevens, Ferry, Pend Orielle and Okanogan counties have eight of the state's 12 wolf packs.

"The aggressive wolf behavior at the Diamond M proves wolves will attack cattle even when the weather is agreeable and wild game is available," Henneman said.

Henneman said the inability of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to handle the situation is "not inspiring much confidence."

The association is advocating for immediate delisting of the wolf as an endangered species in eastern Washington. Henneman said the association wants producers to have the same discretion with wolves as other game animals.

"Cattlemen in our area regularly deal with other predators like cougars or bears without 'wiping out' those populations," Henneman said.



Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


Stevens County Cattlemen's Association: http://stevenscountycattlemen.wordpress.com/



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