Stories from the field

Stories from the field

Conservation Northwest / Aug 22, 2019 / Our Staff, Ranching, Range Riding, Wolves

One rancher within the Smackout Pack’s territory in northeast Washington wants you to know that our efforts for wolf coexistence are making a difference.

By Jay Shepherd, wolf program lead

Recently, I got a call from a rancher and long-time partner we’ve worked with for decades to support wolf coexistence. They wanted to express their gratitude for our help during a close call on the Smackout grazing allotment in northeast Washington.

Two wolves from the Smackout Pack spotted during monitoring of the grazing allotment. Photo: Janey Howe

A few weeks ago, I checked in with the family, who operates near the town of Ione, which is nestled right between the Colville National Forest. After talking with them about the wolves that have been active near the meadows they use during the first half of the grazing season, and learning that they were in a particularly tense situation, I (along with an employee of the Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative) pitched in by pulling an all-nighter watching the Smackout allotment from dusk until dawn, providing constant human presence and checking for any separated cows and calves, or stragglers, that might be a tempting target.

It was a long and exhausting night, and one of more than a few in the past several summers, but it’s exactly what ranchers and range riders across northeast Washington have been doing nearly every day and night to keep some peace. I was glad to be able to give our partners in coexistence at least one night off, and they were grateful for our support. The pack has since moved off a distance, giving a reprieve.

A couple of weeks later, the rancher called to thank us for our efforts—not just our nightlong vigil in Smackout Meadows, but all of Conservation Northwest’s efforts for wolf conservation, from range riding to policy and everything in between. He specifically wanted me to pass this appreciation on to you, our members.

Things haven’t always been perfect—there have been some losses of wolves and livestock. But this area is a prime example of the often under-appreciated hard work of local ranchers who accept wolves yet want their livelihoods to be successful.

Once again, thank you for your support to build a brighter future for wolves and ranchers in Washington.

Through our Range Rider Pilot Project and other efforts, we’ve spent significant money and effort working with local ranchers to reduce conflicts and promote coexistence between people and wolves.