Monday, November 5, 2018

Managing Wolves Requires Managing Cattle

The recent slaughter of wolves in Washington highlights a sad fact: cattle grazing on public lands is lethal for wolves. Washington has 1.1 million cattle and more than a third of the state is public land that many of those cattle run roughshod over. Those public lands are by necessity the home of Washington’s minuscule population of around 120 wolves. With so many cattle invading wolf territory, conflict happens.

A six-month-old wolf pup and his father, believed to be the last two wolves from the Old Profanity Territory pack in Washington, will soon be killed by state-sanctioned snipers, according to a report by the Center for Biological Diversity. This follows the state’s killing in September of the other pup and the mother wolf. The Center goes on to say that Washington state approved these latest killings at the request of a rancher who has kept his livestock on public lands past the date when he was legally required to remove them. He failed to implement key conflict-prevention measures like moving all his cattle away from sites wolves use, moving a salt block to stop drawing cattle in, or removing injured calves.

Washington has a Wolf Management Plan, but that plan’s basic premise—wolves are the problem and must pay the price for cattle-wolf conflict—is flawed. Washington is not unique: Wolf management plans in other states use the same flawed premise.

Washington—and other wolf states—need a Cattle Management Plan. Here’s the premise of the plan I propose: Killing wolves on public land is not acceptable; wolves have nowhere else to live. Instead, the livestock owner bears the burden for reducing conflict his animals cause while grazing on public land in wolf territory. If the owner is not willing to accept this premise and coexist with wolves, the owner should keep his livestock on private land and off public land. 

If the owner accepts this premise and his cattle create conflict with wolves on public land, the owner would have several chances to quickly remedy the situation.

With the first cattle-wolf conflict on public land, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife would determine the non-lethal steps the owner must take to keep livestock separate from wolves. This analysis and compliance would happen quickly, let’s say within fourteen days. No wolves would be killed during this time.

With the second conflict, the owner’s herd would have to be moved away from the wolves they infringed upon. Let’s say a move of at least thirty miles within seven days. No wolves should be killed during this time. If the owner cannot locate all his cattle within that time, that is his problem and wolves should not be punished for taking strays that remain after the deadline.

With the third conflict, the owner’s privilege of grazing livestock on public land would be suspended for two years or more. All his livestock would be removed immediately, and no wolves would be killed. 

A Cattle Management Plan such as this should be operating and enforced in Washington and every other state where cattle create conflict with wolves on public land. This plan puts the responsibility for reducing conflict on the shoulders of the owners that benefit from the cost savings of grazing millions of cattle in wolf territory around the United States. 

This plan would also save the lives of many wolves that are simply trying to survive on public lands—the only home left to them.

Support the Center for Biological Diversity (donations through 12/31/18 will be matched) and Cascadia Wildlands (during November donations will be matched), currently suing the state of Washington over its lethal removal policy. 

Rick's award-winning Deep into Yellowstone and best-selling In the Temple of Wolves are available signed or unsigned on Amazon.

Rick's new book, The Wilds of Agingis available signed or on Amazon.

Photo by Rick Lamplugh


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Perhaps instituting appropriate fines along with the proposed cattle management plan would "encourage" those in violation of wolf/cattle conflict resolution orders to comply.