In recent years Washington has seen a striking increase in the number of gray wolves residing within the state. In the last twelve months alone the number of wolves has jumped from 27 to well over 50. This growth has sparked fierce debate primarily between conservation groups and those involved in the cattle production industry. Urban conservation groups are unified in their support for wolf protection, yet less is known about what ranchers in the eastern part of the state want in regards to growing wolf numbers. Using mixed-methods and grounded theory, this exploratory study addresses stereotypes held by urban Washingtonians about rural ranchers- that is, that ranchers are unified, unyielding, and aggressive in their desire to once again eliminate wolves from the state. By conducting interviews with eastern Washington ranchers I found these stereotypes to be inaccurate, and discovered that most often ranchers are resigned to the urban-rural power dynamic, and simply more concerned with their ability to protect their livelihoods. Additionally, this research uncovered the profound mistrust held by many in the cattle production industry when asked to discuss the “wolf problem” with outsiders. This finding has profound implications for future policy which aims to support sustainable relationships between gray wolf conservation and agricultural interests.

Publication Place

Tacoma, Washington


University of Puget Sound

First Advisor

Leon Grunberg

Degree Type


Degree Level

Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Sociology

Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2013


Comparative Sociology


University of Puget Sound