The $76,500 cost for removing the "wedge" wolf pack in Stevens County, Wash., this summer is likely to be repeated if management of the animals does not change, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association headquartered in Chewelah, Wash.
SCCA President Scott Nielsen says the reported $76,500 bill to eliminate six members of the pack could have been prevented with better management by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"The last time we were in Olympia, we heard from people who were upset that the pack was removed and the truth is we are upset, too," says Nielsen. "We believe if WDFW had removed the individual problem wolves sooner, eliminating the whole pack may not have been necessary and a considerable amount of taxpayer money would have been saved."
Circumstances leading to the pack removal began in May, 2012, as the Diamond M Ranch near Laurier, Wash., began to lose calves to wolf attacks. As the attacks got worse and injured or killed calves became more frequent, WDFW "did not take the appropriate action," charges Nielsen.
Despite non-lethal methods employed by the ranch, including removing the cattle from threatened areas, and use of riders to monitor the herd, the depredation could not be arrested, says Nielsen.
The department removed the wolves – known as the "Wedge" pack – in September with an aerial crew after the agency had spent $54,000 to deploy on-the-ground personnel for 39 days, Nielsen claims. The land based efforts, he estimates, resulted in removal of only a single wolf.
By the time the wolves were totally removed, the pack had killed 10 calves and injured eight more, the ranchers say. Financial losses of the wolf attacks were put at over $100,000, which includes stress on the cattle herd.
The event is set for a repeat, says Nielsen, unless state wolf management changes. There are eight more wolf packs in the region.