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WA: Rancher: Wolves cause breeding problems

CHEWELAH — A troubling trend has occurred for ranchers in Northeast Washington, the Capital Press is reporting, as an area rancher said their cattle are experiencing breeding issues since the migration of wolves to the area.

According to the Diamond M Ranch’s Len McIrvin, the rate of female cows ranging for them that didn’t become pregnant has increased from five percent to about 20 percent. A cow must raise a calf every summer for the rancher to recoup costs, and while the Diamond M Ranch is big enough to absorb the loss of producing cattle by auctioning the cows that don’t become pregnant off in Hermiston, smaller ranchers may not be so lucky.

Diamond M also has a winter range to cut costs, but when wolves came into the area about a decade ago, they’ve seen their cattle attacked, their own ranch put in the spotlight by environmental groups and them now playing a public role, the Capital Press reports.

The Capital Press sourced a professor of beef production at Texas A&M University that agreed with the open cow side effect from wolves, and an Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center study also showed wolf-caused stress in cows.

Diamond M said they lose 70 head to wolves in a year, while the Department of Fish and Wildlife can confirm about a handful of the depredations. Once a number of specific depredations is confirmed, the WDFW has moved into lethal removal protocol which has earned national headlines and responses from wolf conservation groups.

After being contacted by the Chewelah Independent about these concerns, conservation group Conservation Northwest said that they are always open to hearing and investigating concerns from other wildlife stakeholders, but they haven’t seen enough credible evidence from multiple unbiased sources to consider allegations of lower cow fertility due to wolves.

Conservation Northwest said their goal is long-term wolf conservation that works for wolves, other native wildlife and people.

“We want to find relative coexistence between wolves and local communities, an outcome that will require both careful and responsible wolf management, and thoughtful stewardship of livestock operations to keep conflicts to a minimum,” Conservation Northwest Communications Director Chase Gunnell said. “We’re committed to working collaboratively with local partners to find that balance.”

While ranchers can apply for compensation from the state for depredations and even side effects like underweight cattle and open cows, the McIrvins of Diamond M say they haven’t applied because they don’t approve of the department’s management of the wolves.