Interview with Diamond M Ranch: The Wedge Pack Controversy

I admit, calling a fourth-generation rancher of the largest ranch in Washington, who has admitted publicly that he wants the Wedge pack killed, was not an easy thing for me to do. I put it off, walked the dog, ate some scrambled eggs, watched TV, ate some toast, then finally told myself to quit hem-hawing around and make the call.

It wasn’t as bad as I expected. The phone number of the Diamond M is easily found online and when I rung them up, a woman answered. I told her who I was, said I was interested in writing about their wolf situation. She handed the phone to Len McIrvin. I gave him my (well-rehearsed) spiel and he said his son, Bill, was handling most of these wolf calls so I was passed over to Bill who had a calm, measured voice and agreed right off to talk with me.

Deep breath. 

Bill tells me that the first confirmed wolf kill on the Diamond M was in 2007, and probably from the same pack accused of livestock depredation now, the Wedge pack. When I ask about other predators, Bill says lots of predators go after their cattle, including black bear and cougar, although he is unable to tell me how many cattle succumb to these animals yearly. But wolves, he says, are the worse. Why? I ask. Because they are killing but not eating–for fun, not merely for food, he responds.

My next question is about the efforts the Diamond M ranch has made to prevent wolf-livestock problems and if they have received assistance in this from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDF&W). Bill answers, “They (WDF&W) talk to the public about it but they know there’s no way to do that up here.” I ask why this is. “Nonlethal methods do absolutely nothing, they are completely ineffective up here.”

Let’s pause from my interview and skip to later, when I call up Steve Clevidence, long-time rancher and consultant for Living with Wolves. This is a happy phone call, one I don’t need to overeat before making. According to Steve, fladry may be difficult to use in the thick brush and trees of northern Washington but there are most certainly other means to prevent, or at least decrease, problems. Also, he says, on Blackfoot land, an innovative form of fladry is being used, one that rolls out in reels that are carried on four wheelers. The wire is hooked up to the batteries of the vehicle so it is has a charge. Amazing what people can come up with to prevent livestock depredations when they set their minds to it. Steve shares with me other ideas, he has so much enthusiasm, so much hope, and so much measured wisdom. I wish he could teach at each and every cattle ranch in the West.

The folks at Diamond M ranch refuse compensation for their livestock losses due to wolves and I ask Bill McIrvin about this. He says they feel the compensation is a trap, that accepting it is like accepting the wolves. Also, he says, the amount is trivial compared to the actual loss. I ask him who he feels is ultimately responsible for the problems caused by livestock-wolf interactions and he says the State. He tells me that the State is not adhereing to the wolf management plan they recently enlisted because the plan calls for lethally removing repeat offenders (ie wolves), and this is not being done. And Bill believes that when wolves turn to killing cattle, the wolves should be killed. I do hear a hint of possibility in his words of a tolerance to wolves, but only those wolves that are far away from cattle. He tells me, “We’re definitely in the midst of a struggle here. I guess we don’t feel that wolves ever have been and probably never will be compatible with cattle.”

This statement is my lead in to the main reason I called. I ask, politely, if he would consider calling someone who is also a rancher, one who has worked with wolf-livestock problems extensively. And he’s a nice guy besides, easy to talk with, and smart, I say. Bill asks his name. Steve Clevidence, I answer. Do you want his number? Pause… then Bill says, Yes, I’m not guaranteeing I’ll call him but I’ll talk to my partners and see what they say. He takes the number and thanks me.

We go on to discuss how even if the Wedge pack is removed, wolves will be back, and that perhaps it’s worthwhile not to either vilify them or glorify them but remain objective, for the benefit of all. And how most of us that want to see wolves survive also want to see ranchers survive so they need to find a way to co-exist. Well, maybe I’m doing much of the talking here, but Bill’s on the other end, sitting there at the Double M, not hanging up on me, hopefully listening.

My last question is, Is there anything you would like to say to those of us who support wolves, anything about your situation that may make us understand your situation better? Bill responds, “I don’t know if I can convey my feelings very good, but…our cattle are a part of our livelihood, they’re a part of our life. All we’ve ever done is grown up caring for cattle day and night so its really not about money to us, its about our life. So when we see them killed for sport…its pretty tough for us to deal with, its like its happening to a family member. And I guess we kind of feel like we’re in a bit of a war here and we’re the only side that has something at stake–we’re losing our livelihood and the people who are fighting with us are still drawing the same wage.”

I talk to Bill McIrvin for about fifteen minutes and the dialogue is reasonable, calm, and honest When I tell Steve Clevidence about the conversation I say that I could be wrong, but I sensed a hint of an openness in Bill regarding the wolf situation. He listened when I talked. And he agreed to speak to his partners and maybe call and ask for help, not an easy thing for many of us to do. I also suggested to Steve that there seems to be a lack of either education or openness on the part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency that is considered the experts on wolf problems in their state. If the department is telling ranchers that non-lethal measures are a waste of time, someone hasn’t been doing his/her homework.

Bill and Len McIrvin

Steve said he would be more than happy to talk to Bill, that he would consult with Timmothy Kaminsky and Carter Niemeyer about what might work best to decrease wolf problems in northern Washington. Steve even offered to drive out, on his own dime, to appraise the situation at Diamond M ranch and do whatever he could to help. And he took Bill’s number. So now they both have each others number. I feel a bit like a match-maker, looking forward to hearing how the first date goes.

34 thoughts on “Interview with Diamond M Ranch: The Wedge Pack Controversy

  1. Bravo, Beckie, for your courage! I don’t think I could’ve done it!! What you did is more of what we need in general in this world: bridge-building.
    Also, out of curiosity, is it true that wolves kill for sport? I didn’t think that any animal in the wild did, but perhaps I’m mistaken?

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    • So, now that the McIrvins had the entire Wedge Pack slaughtered and are openly murdering wolves, coyotes and even people’s dogs with indiscrimate poisoning, what has this fantasy of “building bridges” with these greedy neanderthals accomplished?

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    • If Diamond M was so straight up, People would not have an Attorney hired because they are scared of him for 1 thing! Next thing These Ranchers are Given the Wolves Locations prior to releasing their Cows… To avoid conflict. This Rancher didnt care and dumped them right at a Den Sight according to WSU who have pictures of the doing so!

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      • Beckie I wanted to re-read your post on the interview with Bill McIrvin after the Wedgepack tragedy in 2012. Again, it strikes me how unwilling the McIrvins are to do anything to avoid wolf conflicts then, or in the future. So now fast forward to 2016 and we have the “problem” with the Profanity Peak Pack. He states in the interview how their cattle “are like family”. Really, Bill McIrvin, I am pretty sure you don’t have family members shipped off to slaughter. And his comment that wolves “kill for fun” has been disproved more times than I can remember, by people with scientific degrees. They may leave a carcass for a time but come back to it. I can assure Mr. McIrvin that getting kicked by a cow, an elk or any other animals simply to feed yourself and your family is not something a wolf would “do for fun”. The McIrvin family at the Diamond M Ranch have made it abundantly clear, they intend to go right ahead sacrificing their cattle. This amounts to baiting as far as I am concerned.

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      • Roger Dobson’s post seems to be based on some inaccurate information per this story in the Seattle Times: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/claim-that-rancher-turned-out-wolves-on-den-untrue-wsu-says/
        I often recreate in the Colville National Forest and in some surrounding private land (with permission). I’m a wolf enthusiast and hope wolves can maintain healthy populations in our state – where their presence is a benefit to the environment and not a detriment to ranchers. For that to happen truthful information has to be exchanged between all parties involved.

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      • How true! Even when facts are presented we can often disregard them if we’re not open minded enough or we’re overly invested in a particular point of view – even to the point of being a detriment to our own best interests.

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  2. Hi Marla! Great question…I do not believe wolves kill for sport, but often, their activities are misunderstood. In 2009, 24 penned sheep were killed in Eastern Oregon by a pair of young, inexperienced wolves. Many people were appalled and called for the extermination of these wolves, which was granted. However, these wolves were young and hungry and in the unnatural setting of the pen, they were no doubt confused. Wolves also do what is called “surplus killing,” in which they kill more than they can eat at one sitting when the situation arises. This way, they can return later to finish up. Kind of like keeping a well-stocked refrigerator.

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    • I live in Oregon and remember that situation real well. It was sad on both parts. Most of the wolf stories I have heard that if they go after cattle or other farm animals it is usually because of hunger when they can’t take down their deer/elk which is their main source of food. I have seen a wolf in the wild here in Oregon. Alot of people don’t want to admit that they are here, but they are and I am truely glad. I saw the special on the Wedge pack on the discovery channel. It was a great special. Thank you.

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  3. Thank-you for doing his Beckie. Your courage and writing are making a difference. We’re off to the North Cascades to wander around in the Lookout Pack’s territory for several days – more wolf-generated tourism!

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  4. Classic lies they all say. Killing for fun had to be their to favorite. Whats probably happening is IF the wolf actually even killed the thing, hes probably scared off then liars take pics and voila “they killed this for sport”.
    “livestock is our livelihood ” heres an idea, try living on an income the rest of us live on without slaughtering a species!! those”ranchers” act as tho its the early 1900s. Get a real job that didn’t consist of riding a horse.

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  5. Wow! What a result! That was a real brave thing to do, I guess it just shows that its so true what Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. I hope, I know you will keep us informed of how that situation goes.
    What you did reminds me of a story I read a few years ago and I reconnected with it just recently,

    In confronting one of his own personal challenges, U2 singer Bono referred to a story about one of the world’s most famous civil rights leaders.
    Bono was asked to explain why a radical rock star, renowned for humanitarian activism, appeared to be supporting the conservative U.S. president, George W Bush. To answer that question Bono recounted a story told to him by another famous singer, Harry Belafonte.
    Belafonte told Bono about a meeting with Martin Luther King Jnr, the great, civil rights leader. At that time, the early sixties, the U.S. civil rights movement seemed to have hit a stone wall. Robert Kennedy had just been appointed U.S. attorney general. Famously disinterested in the civil rights movement, Kennedy’s appointment seemed catastrophic to King’s supporters. (I think Kennedy had ordered the Secret Services to ‘bug’ Kings phone calls and he being of Irish descent, it was perceived that there was a social pecking order in place, English, Irish, Hispanic, Italian, Jewish, Negro and would do King et al no favours)
    At the meeting, King’s dejected team voiced their despair at the turn of events. When he’d heard enough, King slammed his hand down and ordered them all to stop.
    “Is there nobody here who has got something good to say about Bobby Kennedy?”
     The reply was that there was nothing good. To this King replied:
    “Well, then, let’s call this meeting closed. We will re-adjourn when somebody has found one thing redeeming to say about Bobby Kennedy, because that, my friends, is the door through which our movement will pass.”
    Martin Luther King had demonstrated why he was to become one of history’s most charismatic leaders. He wouldn’t hear any more negativity about Bobby Kennedy. Instead he wanted his team to find the positives in what seemed a lost situation. These positives would be used to turn that situation around.
    As it turned out, Robert Kennedy was very close to his bishop, and King’s supporters used this to their advantage. They befriended the bishop, possibly the one man who could get through to the attorney general.
    This was the positive action King had been looking for and Kennedy’s change of heart was momentous. Belafonte’s story ended with these words:
    “When Bobby Kennedy lay dead on a Los Angeles pavement, there was no greater friend to the civil rights movement. There was no one we owed more of our progress to than that man.”
    Bono concluded:
    “Whether he (Belafonte) was exaggerating or not, that was a great lesson for me, because what Dr King was saying was: don’t respond to caricature, the left, the right, the progressives, the reactionary. Don’t take people on rumour.
    Find the light in them, because that will further your cause.”
    In a famous leadership quote Martin Luther King once said:
    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
    Some lesson to learn I guess, how many of us could work with those who hold views that repel us.
    Looks like maybe you opened a door just a little. “Everything has a crack in it, that’s how the light gets in”.
    Still interesting how people talk about the incompatibility of wolves and cattle. I read a herd of cattle sometimes to a wolf is like ‘meals on wheels’, its a gift and we brought the cattle in where bison, who can defend themselves, were eradicated. As Lopez and others have said, its as if there is a lack of communication between wolves and cattle or sheep, no ‘communication of death’, no signals going on. Sounds weird to some, but if we can have body language (which we often ignore!) why not animals. In fact I would say there is a stronger case for it in animals as they do not talk!!
    Maybe wolves just look at cattle and get confused signals or no signals, doesn’t that happen to us with our governments, us? Isn’t that whats happening here with people, hunters, cattlemen and wolf advocates? Its all very subtle stuff going on and we should not be so arrogant as to believe we know and understand 4000 million years of evolution, we are to me an ape that got ‘lucky’ and should behave accordingly.

    Great stuff Beckie, any chance this article will go to a newspaper? It deserves to.
    I think Mr McIrvin should be congratulated for at least taking ‘one small step for a man’, if i can use that phrase at this time.

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  6. Just the fact that this rancher won’t take compensation for cattle losses tells us alot about these people. Coexistece is not in his vocabulary- and he does things his way- the old way- which will not work if predators like wolves are trying to survive- the same old story…..just kill the predators. He is a dinosaur

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  7. I spoke this morning to Mrs. McIrvin and explained the reason for my call, and asked to speak to Bill. Bill was out already working and would not be back until this evening. Working on a ranch, the work is never done. Mrs McIrvin seems like a very nice lady and we had a pleasant conversation even though it was brief. I told her, who I was, and that I was calling with hopes of perhaps offering some suggestions that may help them with their present and perhaps future problems concerning predators and their cattle. She told me that she would inform Bill of my call. So now its wait and see. If I do not hear from them by this evening, I’ll call again. Personally I am looking forward to chatting with Bill, and perhaps together we may find a few proactive solutions.
    I’ll keep you informed on any positive developments as they happen Beckie. ~ Wulf

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  8. Beckie……First, Thanks for having the courage to pick up the phone and reach out to these individuals. Its easy to sit behind a computer and advocate for wolves….its another to actually speak to the individual or look them in the eye! I could not agree more that livestock producers and wolves need to coexist. Not an easy task I might add. As for Steve Clevidence….Steve’s the real deal here in the Bitterroot Valley and elsewhere. If Steve is looking for someone to head to the Diamond M ranch with him….all he has to do is give me a call! Thanks for all it is you are trying to do to help our wolves! Marc

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  9. Not good news for the Wedge pack, or those of us supporting them. This quote is from the Facebook page of Wolf Haven International, a wolf sanctuary that has been fighting the good fight for wolves for over 30 years. In their words, posted less than an hour ago:

    “The latest news on the Wedge wolf pack is that two injured calves were discovered on August 30 on the Diamond M Ranch. One calf was severely injured and died over the weekend, and the other was less seriously wounded. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff and outside experts including Carter Niemeyer confirmed that the attacks were from wolves. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will initiate lethal control today, and could kill up to four wolves in the Wedge Pack.”

    Do I believe our efforts have been fruitless? Not at all. If we know anything by now, we realize that in order to save wolves at all we must fight for the lives of each and every one of them. And hopefully, by communicating with the Diamond M ranch in a positive manner, we’ve opened the door for the chance of a better future for wolves in Northern Washington. Thanks Steve, and everyone who has called, emailed, brainstormed, prayed, or put forth any other type of effort to keep this pack alive.

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  10. Becky….thanks for this informative article, and Steve….hopefully they’ll give you a chance to present the solutions you advocate.
    I just returned from hiking in the Gila Wilderness…….a very “fire scarred” but beautiful wilderness area in New Mexico. It’s also the home of endangered Mexican Wolves. Our guide was Dave Parsons who led the USFWS Mexican Wolf recovery effort from the very beginning.
    The drive to the trailhead took us through Catron County, the center of anti-wolf, anti-government activism. The numerous anti-wolf signs, reinforced bus shelters that were built to protect the children from wolves, etc were apparent throughout the county. The hate of wolves in that county rivals or surpasses that of the Bitterroot Valley of Montana or even places in Idaho. It illustrates the “cultural hate” that ranchers have for wolves, regardless of the number of wolves killed, the number of cattle that die, the amount of compensation paid…..it doesn’t matter to them and after all these years, they remain firm in their beliefs.
    So…….Steve, any time there’s even a finite chance of breaking through that hate, it needs to exploited, and I hope they give you the opportunity to do so. Thanks for your efforts and I wish you success.

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  11. Thanks for you comment Jerry. Agreed, “cultural hate” is the biggest obstacle by far in ending the needless destruction of wolves. It sounds like your trip was a lesson on this. I’ve spent time in that area and know what you mean. Hard to imagine things being any more hateful than they are in Idaho or Montana but they just might be down there.

    I’m reposting a comment by Amaroq Weiss, as well as my reply to her.
    Amaroq’s reply is in the “re-blogged” section and I’m concerned that it is not being seen. Here it is:

    Amaroq Weiss says:
    September 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm
    Beckie,

    May I just start with applause? Any of us who work in wolf conservation and do outreach and presentations often remark to our audiences that wolves are adaptable animals and can live pretty much anywhere humans will tolerate them. Seems like a simple sentence, but the last phrase is the key to everything. Human tolerance for wolves begins with human understanding of each other’s viewpoints, a willingness to speak to one another, and a willingness to listen to each other. We don’t have to agree, but we’ll never get anywhere if we don’t ask and listen. Your actions in the interest of understanding deserve applause; you create stepping stones along the path to increased tolerance. Many, many thanks for your post-breakfast phone call. And, by the way, I get that part of it, too. It’s lovely that you include in your writings how the whole process affects you, as well.

    Amaroq

    Reply
    Beckie Elgin, Freelance Writer says:
    September 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm (Edit)
    Thank you, Amaroq. Your words mean a great deal to me. My hope is that by listening and trying to understand, even to someone who has a viewpoint as different from mine as the ranchers at the Diamond M, is that an opening of the heart and the mind may be created which can lead to a better future for everyone involved. Your many years of wolf work, currently with the California Wolf Center, has done so much to pave the way for wolves everywhere. I applaud your efforts as well. Thanks again!

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  12. Hi Beckie, thank you for being a link between wolf supporters and the McIrvins. I believe that non lethal means should be employed (and documented) before any wolf depredation occurs.

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  13. If cattle are ” like a family member” to Mr. McIrvin he should re think about selling his cattle to slaughter houses. We all know how the cows are “cared for” there. Also he refuses to be compensated for his losses and states “wolves will never be compatible with cattle”, no one believes that either, but there are ways to resolve the issues without killing the wolves. Wake up and smell the starbucks coffee cowboys, this ain’t the wild, wild west anymore. Humans have evolved and found much more humane ways to deal with wildlife other than slaughtering them when they become a burden for just doing what is natural to them.

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  14. This is all for publicity!! The wolves can’t set up and brag about their supposedly cow killing ,but these idiots that claim that wolves killed their cows sure as hell can and do.There is no proof that the wolves killed the cows.Wolves like dogs will come along and eat another animals kill but a Mt Lion will not! If any of these so called men ranchers see a wolf eating any part of an already dead cow then the whole pack of wolves has to die.The wolves are doing what they are supposed to do as in cleaning up our environment unlike the ranchers that are messing it up with dead wolves that nothing will eat.They want the Double M ranch to be in the news so everyone will talk about it.If we would all just ignore them they will stop all this bull.

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  15. I wonder what many of the environmentalists on the west side of the Cascades would think if there was a wolf pack in their area preying on their cats and dogs? I live in Port Angeles but have property near Republic WA and have concerns about packs of wolves roaming our property there. I consider myself an environmentalist but think there is a limit on reintroducing wildlife back into populated areas. Should we introduce wolves in the Kent valley? How about Enumclaw? Isn’t there some national forest near Ravensdale that needs a wolf pack? Why is it OK for parts of Eastern Washington but not the west side? Or, do the people in Ferry County not matter as much as those in King and Pierce?
    Randy Pratt

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    • Are there large public rangelands in those areas where they could be re-introduced?

      No, of course not. The re-introduction of wolves has been very selective around location, putting them on large swaths of public lands where there are unlikely to be conflicts with humans. But if ranchers target that same territory, and put their cattle in a known wolf den area, aren’t we the ones now encroaching on them?

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  16. I enjoyed your interview.

    Has anyone started funding for the fladry? I think most ranch managers would be open to professional services if they were not cost prohibitive.

    Thank you,

    Wayne, Luvsiesous

    Like

    • Hello Wayne, and thanks for reading and for your comment. Groups such as Defenders of Wildlife as well as state agencies have historically helped ranchers with nonlethal measures such as fladry. However, I should point out that fladry doesn’t work in all settings, especially spread out ranches like the McIrvins. There are certainly other measures that can be implemented.

      Liked by 1 person

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