Washington wildlife managers have confirmed that a calf found this week on private land was injured by the diminished Profanity Peak wolfpack, a sign depredations will continue until the entire pack is eliminated, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The injured calf, found last week, was at least the 10th bovine attacked by the pack this summer, according to WDFW. The department concluded five other cattle were probably attacked by the pack.
WDFW has shot seven wolves in the pack since Aug. 5, leaving at least one adult female and three pups. The last shooting was Sept. 29.
Citing continuing depredations, WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello reaffirmed that the department plans to eliminate the entire pack.
“Given this pattern, we do not believe recent lethal removals are likely to achieve the goal of stopping depredations in the near future,” he said in an email.
Also Thursday, Martorello reported that WDFW investigators determined Sunday that the Dirty Shirt pack had injured a cow on a state Department of Natural Resources grazing allotment.
Martorello said the rancher turned out livestock June 5. Because of the depredation, the producer is moving the livestock off the allotment, he said.
The attack was the first confirmed depredation this year by the Dirty Shirt pack. WDFW considers culling a pack after four confirmed depredations. Only the Profanity Peak has reached that threshold this year.
Although WDFW says it intends to remove the pack — an operation that has outraged some environmental groups — frustration remains high among some ranchers in northeastern Washington, said Stevens County rancher Scott Nielsen, vice president of the Cattle Producers of Washington.
Conflicts between livestock and wolves are escalating, and WDFW’s official depredation tally reflects only a fraction of the losses in Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties, he said.
Losses may come into sharper focus when the grazing season on public season is over at the end of October.
“There are a lot of people worried about what they’re going to get when they bring (cattle) in,” Nielsen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised that if in this tri-county area there were 200 livestock missing or bitten.
“Last year, we hardly had any problems,” he said. “Everybody is having problems up here this year.”
Ferry County rancher Arron Scotten said Friday he will move his cows from the Colville National Forest over the next week to avoid conflicts with wolves. That’s two weeks earlier than usual.
“We’re trying to get cattle off the allotment, and what we’re finding are the injured calves that we weren’t necessarily finding before,” he said.
He said he expects calves to be thinner and fewer cows to be pregnant because they have been harassed by wolves.
“They became habituated to beef, and everywhere we moved cattle, they would follow,” Scotten said.
National Forest spokesman Franklin Pemberton said that he knows of at least one other rancher who plans to bring in his cows early.
The Forest Service and ranchers have tried all summer to adjust grazing plans to create space between cattle and wolves, he said.
“It was a little more intensive this year than last,” Pemberton said. “The number of wolves goes up every year.”
Scotten said he’s concerned that wolves will follow his cattle out of the national forest.
“With this situation, the way it is, when we bring them home, we’ll be doing daily checks,” Scotten said.
Ending the grazing season early will lead to spending more money on hay this winter, he said.
Scotten said he plans to feed his cows closer to his house this winter and install lights in calving pens.
“We’re trying our best to do our part,” he said. “Everything we do literally has to change. We have to rethink every aspect of how we produce cattle.”