FERRY COUNTY, Wash. — Two Ferry County range riders are being investigated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for allegedly defrauding the state out of taxpayer money.
Range riders are one of the main deterrents against wolf attacks on cattle. They basically spend days or weeks at a time out in the forest, protecting cows as they're out grazing.
But now, WDFW says Arron and Jolene Scotten may have lied about how much time they actually spent out on the range back in 2018. Environmentalists said, as a result, several wolves were killed in the same area where they were supposed to be out riding.
KREM spoke with Arron during winter 2019 for a story about the constant conflict between environmentalists and ranchers in Ferry County. Arron said during that story that the state wasn't doing enough to protect livestock.
KREM reached out to a Ferry County cattle rancher and an Washington Lands Council environmentalist for this story, and both said there need to be changes made to the range riding program if it will be successful going forward.
"To me there’s a lot of wasted money. When you take a range rider and he goes out there and checks the cows. There’s a wolf in the area, he’s not going to see it. We need somebody out there with the cows. But to tell you the truth its too late," Ron Eslick, a Ferry County rancher, said.
Chris Bachman, Wildlife Program Director for the Lands Council, said people taking advantage of the system undermines those doing honest work.
"It's frustrating when a number of people doing things right, you have a number of people out on the landscape working hard to coexist," Bachman said. "And then you have individuals in-between there taking advantage of both parties, saying they’re doing something to mitigate the conflict and they’re not doing that at all."
Since this state investigation was launched, Scotten has denied any wrongdoing.
The case is now being reviewed by prosecutors to decide on any criminal charges.
In the meantime, WDFW said in a statement to KREM that range riding is critically important.
"Though not universally effective, WDFW believes that range riding can be a critically important means of protecting cattle and deterring wolf predations. We all count on range rider to take pride in their work performance, we are thankful to those who so frequently do so," the statement reads.
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The following video is a report on state lawmakers seeking non-lethal ways to curb wolf issues.