By MATTHEW WEAVER
A week after state wildlife managers killed a wolf that was attacking cattle in northeastern Washington state, a rancher there has found two more dead calves.
Laurier, Wash., rancher Len McIrvin found a dead calf the afternoon of Aug. 14.
McIrvin believes the evidence was consistent with a wolf attack, with multiple bites and fang marks on the hindquarters about 1 3/4 inches apart.
Nate Pamplin, assistant director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said state biologists and Steven’s County Sheriff’s officers responded to the report.
“What I’m hearing so far is it looks like wolves were likely involved in this attack,” Pamplin said.
Protocol is to collect data from the scene, including noting injuries on the animal, tracks, scat and the struggle site, Pamplin said. A determination isn’t made in the field, giving agency employees time to review the material and “bounce ideas” off others, he said. That process was being completed the morning of Aug. 16.
McIrvin said he has it in writing that if the attack is confirmed to be a wolf, the state will remove the Wedge Wolf Pack from the area.
“It’s unfortunate the pack is demonstrating a pattern of predation here,” Pamplin said. “It’s looking like we would be having to address and potentially put additional lethal removal on the table.”
Relocation of the pack is an option, but Pamplin said the pack’s pattern of depredation makes them poor candidates for moving elsewhere in Eastern Washington. The goal would be to disrupt the pack enough to move on or disperse, he said.
McIrvin said he found another dead calf the evening of Aug. 15 but wasn’t certain of the cause of its death. Pamplin had not heard of the discovery, but said it was possible field staff were aware of it.
McIrvin reported a loss of 11 calves and five bulls last year, and expects higher numbers this year. He believes it might take wolves entering populated areas for the public to support ranchers.
There are so many wolves now, he said, the only acceptable option is trapping and poison.
Compensation is not the answer, McIrvin said, because the proposed fund is for a maximum of 10 ranches to receive $5,000.
“We’d use up the $50,000 ourselves,” McIrvin said. “We’ll still have the wolves and they’ll still put us out of business if we don’t eliminate them.”
Pamplin said the department received $50,000 in its supplemental budget from the state Legislature, and has small grants for a wolf-livestock demonstration project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Defenders of Wildlife.
“We would be able to spend what we have available,” he said.
The agency recognizes the importance of having additional funds and resources available as the wolf population grows, and as it considers its funding request for the coming legislative session, Pamplin said.