Wolves attack, kill Stevens County cattle

Published On: Sep 26 2012 04:34:49 PM PDT   Updated On: Sep 26 2012 06:49:10 PM PDT
Gray wolves de-listed; hunts planned

Ranchers in northeastern Washington say they're under attack from wolves.

The Diamond M Ranch in north Stevens County said it lost more than 40 head of cattle in the last year to wolves.

For many it's presumed wolves were driven out of that region in the 1930s by homesteaders and ranchers but it wasn't until Labor Day weekend of 2007 near the original homestead on the Diamond M Ranch that wolves returned, killing two calves, the first documented kill in Washington in decades.

In a pen on the ranch, Diamond M Ranch partner Len McIrvin looks over two injured calves.

"It had an area as big as a soccer ball taken out of it and now it's starting to fill in," said McIrvin, inspecting the hind quarter of a smalL calf.

Attacked by wolves, one may live, the other probably won't be so lucky.

"This is a cattle-killing pack of wolves and total elimination is the only answer," said McIrvin.

McIrvin's family has been ranching the Diamond M for five generations. Wolves haven't been a serious problem until the last couple years, killing 16 head of cattle last year.

"(I) see wolf tracks all over. See them everywhere," said Greg, one of the Diamond M cowboys.

But paw prints and dead cattle are the only signs they're leaving.

"They're ghosts," said Greg. Even if McIrvin caught a wolf killing a cow he couldn't do anything. Wolves in Northeast Washington are protected by the state.

"All the wolves that are here have come here on their own either from Idaho, Montana or British Columbia," said Dave Ware, game division manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ware says he's surprised how fast wolves are recolonizing the region and recognizes this pack of at least eight need to be destroyed.

"Couple of different groups of hunters up there. We are conducting trapping operations as well," said Ware.

But McIrvin said he needs his hands untied to protect what was given to him by his father.

"It's not the wolves we are fighting. Wolves do what wolves do, they are killers. It's the beaurocracy, the regulations and the restrictions," said McIrvin.

Senator Bob Morton, who represents this district, agrees.

"And we've made this a choked up situation. We've got to unchoke it and give these people an opportunity to raise some of the best beef in the world," said Morton.

So for now McIrvin has to rely on fish and wildlife hunters and hope his cowboys keep some wolves at bay.

"Just try and have a presence out there which is impossible when you are talking 40,000 acres," said McIrvin.

The Diamond M Ranch says if nothing is done about the wolf problem this year they'll have problems sustaining their production into next year.