A Washington state cattle producer is taking extra precautions to ensure his herd’s safety after wolves were spotted near the ranch.
Ross Hurd’s cattle are typically given 5,000 acres to roam during the spring until early May when the 60-head herd is collected for branding. This year Hurd has consolidated his herd to a smaller fenced section of his ranch south of Wenatchee, Wash. due to two gray wolves seen nearby.
Late last month, Hurd lost a pregnant cow and thought the two wolves might be responsible. An investigation by state wildlife biologists concluded the wolves were not responsible, but action may be needed if the wolves develop a taste for beef.
“We’re just kind of on pins and needles hoping that this livestock operator doesn’t have any more issues with dead cows,” said Matt Monda, regional wildlife program manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Yakima Herald. “Once wolves learn that livestock is a meal, then we will have to go in and take action.”
The agency has not determined if the wolves are establishing territory near the ranch. Hurd built fences to protect his herd last week and has installed extra remote cameras to keep an eye on the wolves.
Gray wolves are listed as endangered under Washington state law. The Associated Press reports livestock owners in the state can shoot wolves without a permit when wolves attack their animals.
Hurd will keep his livestock within the fenced area until state officials are able to put tracking collars on the wolves. He hasn’t seen the wolves in two weeks and hopes they follow the deer and elk in the area when they migrate.
Hurd told the Wenatchee World his family has been ranching in the canyon for more than 100 years and this is the first time they’ve had to fence in cows because of predators.