Courtesy of WDFW
Two Washington cattlemen said Tuesday that wolves have resumed attacking cattle grazing in the northeast corner of the state, where depredations last summer led state wildlife managers to cull a wolfpack.
Ferry County, Wash., rancher Arron Scotten said he found the remains of a calf Monday evening that had apparently been killed by wolves. He said he found bones nearby of a second calf, but too little of it may remain for a state Department of Fish and Wildlife investigator to attribute the attack to wolves.
The calves belonged to the Diamond M Ranch and were grazing near the boundary of private and Bureau of Land Management lands.
They are also near the location where WDFW last year shot seven wolves from the Profanity Peak pack to stop depredations. Four pack members survived.
Efforts to reach WDFW officials were not immediately successful Tuesday.
WDFW has said it will issue monthly reports on wolf activities and provide other updates on depredations, but has not committed to reporting depredations within a certain time frame.
The attack, if confirmed by WDFW, would be the first official depredation this year, though Diamond M co-owner Justin Hedrick said he believes wolves already have killed four of his cattle, including two on private land a couple of weeks ago.
Hedrick said the depredations continue a pattern of attacks that began several years ago, though the attacks are beginning earlier than in previous grazing seasons.
“I honestly thought we were going to have a little bit of a reprieve this year,” Hedrick said. “As soon as the cattle came back, boom, they were hit.”
Hedrick said he believes the wolves have become too numerous and too habituated to eating cattle and have too little prey to be deterred by non-lethal measures.
Scotten, who is also a range rider, said he was checking Monday evening on cattle grazing in the Lambert Creek area of Ferry County because radio-collar data showed a male wolf was near the livestock. WSDA traps and fits wolves with tracking collars and shares the information with ranchers.
“The cattle were acting really strange. They were pretty fidgety,” Scotten said.
Scotten said he found the calf bones, walked the area and found the carcass of the second calf nearby. “There was actually quite a bit left that showed lacerations and punctures,” he said.
Scotten said he camped out overnight to keep scavengers from eating the evidence. WDFW investigators place high importance on finding flesh damage to confirm that an animal was killed by wolves.
A WDFW investigator arrived early in the morning. According to WDFW policy, investigators will determine whether the calves were killed by wolves. Scotten and Hedrick said the department should allow investigators to tell ranchers at the scene about their conclusions to bolster confidence in the investigations.
It’s unclear which pack may have attacked the calves found dead Monday. Scotten said he was checking on radio collar data from a male wolf in the Sherman pack.
The pack’s territory, however, adjoins the Profanity Peak pack’s territory.
The Sherman pack was formed last year when a female from the Profanity Peak pack began traveling with a male wolf, according to WDFW.
According to WDFW, the state shoots wolves to stop pack behavior. WDFW will consider lethal control after three depredations within 30 days or four within 10 months by a wolfpack.