Wolves fed on cow, but authorities resist official predation determination
By MATTHEW WEAVER
COLVILLE, Wash. -- Wolves are suspected of killing a year-old cow grazing near Colville, Wash., ranchers say, but state officials did not confirm it as predation.
The remains were found Oct. 5 on Rocky Creek, 20 miles northeast of Colville.
According to the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association, the yearling was part of an all-natural beef herd raised by Olsen Farms. An Olsen Farms representative was not available for comment.
Craig Bartlett, spokesman for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said department staff and Stevens County sheriffs investigated the death of the 1,000-pound cow on Oct. 9.
It was not confirmed as a wolf kill, Bartlett said, "because it was pretty chewed up," but wolves ate the carcass.
"Whether they brought the animal down or not, we don't know for sure," he said.
They used telemetry from the radio collar belonging to the alpha male of the nearby Smackout Wolf Pack to determine it had fed on the carcass.. The cow had been dead one to three weeks.
"We know the alpha male fed on it, but what happened before or after that, I don't know," Bartlett said.
The kill means wolf activity isn't exclusive to the Wedge Wolf Pack, association president Scott Nielsen said in a press release. It's also not the result of "sloppy ranching," as conservation groups have suggested, he said.
Department of Fish and Wildlife shooters killed seven wolves from the Wedge Wolf Pack after they killed cattle belonging to the Diamond M Ranch.
"Our oversaturation of wolves in Eastern Washington means these kinds of incidents will be spreading throughout the region in the near future if the management of this animal is not changed," Nielsen said.
The association wants the state to take the gray wolf off the list of endangered species in the state. If it is delisted, it can be managed as a predator like cougars, bears or coyotes.
Nielsen said discussions at a recent Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting included claims that the Diamond M Ranch could have avoided losses if its owners had worked with conservation groups, but said that just meant the ranch owners did not accept money from environmental groups or the state.
"Money cannot fix this problem and nonlethal methods do not always work," Nielsen said. "We need to be honest about the situation here in Stevens County and rethink the approach."
Bartlett said the department is working with the landowner on nonlethal methods of keeping wolves away from the cattle.