Stevens County ranchers protest Profanity Peak wolf pack

A Northeastern Washington ranchers’ organization says members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack have become “chronic killers” of livestock and wants 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 cattlemen’s association, criticized the steps required by the state before problem wolves can be killed.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 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.

Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW, said the department has not begun transitioning to killing any wolves in the pack. According to the WDFW, the official toll in the Profanity Peak pack area is two confirmed livestock kills by wolves and two probable kills by wolves.

“We are coordinating with the county in the event we get two more confirmed depredations on livestock and continue to meet the expectations for deterrence measures,” Martorello said.

Local law enforcement asked for more coordination with the department, particularly regarding public safety and staff safety.

“Hopefully no more livestock are lost, but we’re keeping a diligent eye out there in case something does go down,” Martorello said. “We’re continuing to keep an eye on the situation, working with local livestock producers and monitoring the situation in case of additional livestock losses.”

Hedrick stated in a press release he believes the WDFW is trying 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.”

In 2012 the ranch lost 40 calves to the Wedge pack and 20 the previous year. WDFW ultimately killed seven Wedge Pack wolves.

Hedrick estimated the ranch lost 26 calves and four cows in 2014 to the Profanity Peak pack. The department confirmed the loss of only one cow-calf pair and a calf to Profanity Peak wolves that year.

The ranchers have met the expectations of the wolf plan, Martorello said. The use of range riders will 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.

“Our goal is not to have dead livestock,” Martorello said. “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.”

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