Ranchers discover lost, hurt cattle during round-up in wolf country

Alison Morrow reports.

Right now, ranchers across the state are rounding up their cattle. For those ranching near wolf packs, it's a tense time.

For three decades, Sam Kayser's family has grazed cattle in Central Washington. But something changed a few years ago when the herds started getting aggressive with dogs.

It was the first sign for Kayser that wolves had moved far enough west that his cattle were now living among them. Now, the Teanaway pack is the closest wolf pack to the Cascades.

The winter round-up is typically when Kayser finds out who survived.

"It makes me real nervous that we have some cows coming in without calves and I have one that had its butt chewed on and half its tail chewed off," he said.

A couple weeks ago, one of Kayser's calves turned up with a huge bite mark in his inner right leg.

"They'll usually go for the hamstring, the back of the leg," said Bill Johnson, a range rider.

Range riding is one of the non-lethal methods used to steer cattle away from wolves to reduce conflict. It's a method that didn't work earlier this year with the Profanity Peak Pack in Northeast Washington. After more than a dozen cattle attacks, the state authorized the killing of the entire pack.

It's a move that prompted death threats toward ranchers and state wildlife managers.

"I think the wolves have a place, but when there's too many in one area, that's what's going to happen," Kayser said.

Both Kayser and Johnson wonder if reducing the size of wolf packs would also reduce conflict.

"We are the stewards. We really need to step in and take charge," Johnson said. "If we're going to have a wolf program, we need to manage it properly."

Critics argue cattle shouldn't graze on public land, that it tempts wolves like kids in a candy store. Kayser believes it’s possible for wolves and cattle to roam the same range.

"I compare it to logging," he said. "Logging is a necessity if we want houses. It can be done so that the environment is protected."

During the round-up, we came across a group of three cows that should have been four. One of the adults was missing her calf. Kayser may never find out what happened.

"How do you always find every carcass on 20,000 acres?" he said.

And yet, he still supports wolf recovery.

"I want to believe there is room out here for all of us,” Kayser said.

Copyright 2016 KING


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