A Northeastern Washington ranchers’ organization says members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack have become “chronic killers” of their livestock and want them removed.
The wolf pack has killed three calves belonging to the Diamond M Ranch within the last 10 days, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.
Justin Hedrick, Diamond M Ranch co-owner and president of the association, criticized the steps required by the state before problem wolves can be killed.
A ranch must implement sanitation measures and a non-lethal deterrent approved by WDFW. Protocols require four confirmed kills in one calendar year by the pack, non-lethal deterrents have to fail and the public must be notified that the wolves will be removed.
This year, the ranch has one calf confirmed by WDFW as killed by wolves and two calf carcasses classified as probable wolf kills.
Hedrick stated in a press release he believes the WDFW is working to avoid reaching the four killings needed to start lethal removal.
“This situation needs to be addressed because if it isn’t, we are going to see as many losses as we did in 2012 from the Wedge Pack,” Hedrick stated. “That is rugged country and the wolves are just going to keep killing.”
Hedrick estimated the ranch lost 26 calves and four cows in 2014, with the majority of losses due to unconfirmed wolf kills.
The department confirmed the loss of a cow-calf pair and a calf to Profanity Peak wolves that year.
“This is a chronically depredating pack that needs to be removed,” Hedrick said.
“Our goal is not to have dead livestock,” said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW. “It’s a reality of wolf management, if you see escalation in depredations, preventative tools have been tried and they’ve failed, we’re going to do that part of our job.”
Martorello confirmed that a Diamond M Ranch calf had been killed in the Profanity Peak area the week of July 4. He previously declined to name the rancher.
The department is investigating another livestock depredation on an adjacent rancher’s U.S. Forest Service allotment.
“As folks in the community are deeply concerned about a pattern establishing here, we are too, and doing everything we can,” Martorello said. “If we see this pattern continue, the agency will be able to consider lethal removal per the protocols.”
The ranchers have met the expectations of the wolf plan thus far, Martorello said.
“The department is really pleased with their decision to put out a range rider,” he said.
Doing so will either help reduce the risk of future losses or help discover depredations, he said.
The department has two active GPS radio collars on Profanity Peak wolves and monitors them daily for clusters of wolf activity.
“If we see clusters in areas where we know there’s active grazing, we’re going to go investigate to see if there’s a livestock carcass there,” he said. “I hope that sends the signal to the producers that if there are carcasses out there by livestock, we’re not looking the other way. We want to find those in a timely manner.”