A Washington state rancher says he was left “high and dry” when state wildlife managers called off a wolf hunt to protect his 1,800 sheep.
The cancellation forced Dave Dashiell of Hunters, Wash., to move his flock or risk more attacks by the wolves, which had already killed 24 animals.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers had planned to kill four wolves from the Huckleberry pack but called off the helicopter hunt after one wolf was killed and pulled out trappers shortly after.
“We’re on pause right now, if something new develops — another series of depredations, perhaps even with a different producer and the same pack in neighboring areas — then we’ll reassess at that point,” department carnivore section manager Donny Martorello said.
A federal wildlife agent contracted by the state killed one adult female Aug. 23 from a helicopter. The helicopter hunt wasn’t as efficient as the department expected, Martorello said. The wolves were screened by thick trees or were on the Spokane Tribe of Indians reservation, where they couldn’t be killed. The department continued trapping until the start of the Labor Day weekend, then removed the traps because of the increase in recreational activities like camping and hunting in the area, he said.
The department still has the authority to kill more wolves in the vicinity of the sheep, Martorello said.
“Our ranch was left high and dry to try and handle the situation ourselves while at the same time having our hands tied due to the wolves’ state endangered species status,” Dashiell said in a Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association press release. Wolves in the area are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Dashiell moved the sheep to a friend’s pasture, where they will stay until he can move them to a new grazing location far from the current site.
The department is working with Dashiell to determine his strategies for managing straggling sheep and will keep a range rider on the site, Martorello said.
The department is also communicating with other producers in the area.
“Having to make this kind of change in the middle of the summer has caused considerable stress, expense and hardship to our operation,” Dashiell said. “The grazing lease we had arranged with the private timber company was good until the middle of October and now we have to move our animals and try to find an alternate spot at the last minute.”
Martorello said there are no requirements in the department’s wolf management plan and protocols that producers move their livestock to alternate grazing sites to reduce conflict. It was an opportunity to break the pattern of repeated behavior, he said.
“In this particular case, with the producer nearing that period of time where they were moving sheep to a winter range, we wanted to work with the producer to see if we could expedite that process at all,” Martorello said. “We weren’t asking the producer to necessarily take a step he wasn’t going to take, but maybe to do that a little bit sooner.”
Dashiell has represented the Cattle Producers of Washington on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf advisory group.
“But in the end all of the talk did very little to help a person in my situation,” he stated. “The Huckleberry wolf pack needs to be removed, not our sheep. By making us leave we are only passing the problem along to others in the area when the wolf finds their pets, animals and livestock.”