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Compensation to ranchers small part of Washington’s wolf budget

Wolves are a seven-figure expense for Washington; a fraction of the money goes to pay for dead or injured cattle
Don Jenkins

Capital Press

Published on April 16, 2018 8:59AM

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spent $1.27 million on wolf-related activities in 2017, of which $3,700 went to compensate ranchers for dead or injured livestock.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spent $1.27 million on wolf-related activities in 2017, of which $3,700 went to compensate ranchers for dead or injured livestock.

A calf suffers from a gaping wound inflicted by wolves in Washington. The Department of Fish and Wildlife spent $1.27 million on wolf-related activities in 2017, of which $3,700 went to compensate ranchers for dead or injured livestock.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

A calf suffers from a gaping wound inflicted by wolves in Washington. The Department of Fish and Wildlife spent $1.27 million on wolf-related activities in 2017, of which $3,700 went to compensate ranchers for dead or injured livestock.


Washington ranchers received $3,700 in compensation last year for livestock attacked by wolves, out of the $1.27 million the Department of Fish and Wildlife spent on wolves.

The department’s total spending, contained in a recently released report on wolf recovery, was in line with previous years. Wolf-related expenditures have topped $1 million a year since at least 2015, the year the department began disclosing the figure in annual reports.

The department also spent money to protect livestock and to cull two packs that were attacking cattle.

Ranchers are eligible for compensation for wolf attacks confirmed by the department. Ranchers can also apply for payments for missing or underweight livestock, or for low pregnancy rates caused by wolves harassing herds.

Two ranchers were compensated for direct losses last year. No rancher filed a claim for indirect losses.

Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said the low payouts do not reflect the damage wolves inflict on individual producers.

“Man, when you’re the affected producer, it becomes pretty bad pretty fast,” he said.

Nielsen said that some ranchers are reluctant to go through submitting a claim for indirect losses. He also said that confirmed depredations understate losses.

“Wolves killed a heckuva lot more (livestock) than the department says they did,” he said.

The department last year confirmed that wolves killed eight cows or calves and injured five others. The department confirms attacks when enough flesh of the animal remains to see wolf-inflicted wounds.

Stevens County sheep rancher Dave Dashiell said that he remains unhappy with how the department handled his claim for indirect losses in 2014.

“It’s a pain in the (rear) to get any money out of them,” he said.

The department confirmed that wolves killed 28 of Dashiell’s sheep and shot one wolf in response in 2014. Dashiell said he was soon compensated for those sheep, but it took nearly two years to receive payment for some 300 sheep that were never found.

“Then it was half to two-thirds what they were worth,” he said. “They didn’t pay any attention to my figures.”

To be eligible for compensation, a producer must have agreed to use department-approved ways to prevent depredations. The producer must provide sales records for the previous three years and declare in writing he has exhausted all other sources of compensation from non-profit groups.

“We’ve heard from folks that it’s cumbersome,” Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said.

He said the department plans to talk to producers about revising the process. “We’re open to having that conversation,” he said.

The department paid out more in compensation in 2016 — $20,037 for direct losses to six producers and $65,648 for indirect losses to two producers. They are the only two claims ever paid by the department for indirect losses caused by wolves.

Last year, the department spent $306,000 to share costs with 37 producers on non-lethal measures, such as range riders, to protect herds. This was down from $410,000 and 54 producers in 2016.

The department spent $15,087 to kill two wolves in the Sherman pack. The department last fall preliminarily estimated spending less than $7,000 to kill one wolf in the Smackout pack. The department has not provided a final number.

The department did not report how much it spent on the Wolf Advisory Group. The department has invested in the 18-member panel to ease social and political clashes over wolves.

State lawmakers last year appropriated $950,000 over two years for “conflict transformation.”

Martorello said the department allocated $25,000 over two years for staff members to prepare and attend the meetings, and to reimburse staff and panel members for travel expenses.

A bigger cost has been the department’s contract with consultant Francine Madden. She signed a two-year, $425,000 contract extension last year to help the department soothe conflicts. Previously, she had signed contracts worth up to $1.2 million over two years. Her fee for leading meetings of the advisory group is $8,000 a day.



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