WDFW this afternoon reported that it cost over $53,000 to herd a southern Stevens County sheep flock away from depredating wolves and kill one member of the pack last month.
That amount is split about evenly between nonlethal and lethal work during the three weeks that agency conflict specialists were with the large flock and then sent a contract gunner up in a helicopter to remove up to four wolves.
Previously we’ve reported that WDFW is paying for this sort of work through dedicated funding to wolf management from the increase in the cost of some personalized license plates passed by the state legislature, not with hunter license or taxpayer dollars. By comparison, the removal of the Wedge Pack in August and September 2012 cost $76,500.
Elsewhere in WDFW assistant director Nate Pamplin’s presentation today to the state Fish & Wildlife Commission on this summer’s wolf management activities are a series of maps showing the movements of the GPS-collared Huckleberry Pack breeding male, and how its trips to the sheep herd’s grazing grounds diminished over time, though were still linked to a depredation on Aug. 28, five days after its mate had been lethally removed.
Pamplin also outlined the preventative measures taken by the herder as well as the next steps with the pack and outreach to local producers.
Another map in today’s presentation shows that the most recent depredating pack, Profanity Peak, is smack in the middle of a dozen federal grazing allotments in northern Ferry County.
County commissioners there earlier this week called on WDFW to “immediately” kill all six members, but according to regional manager Steve Pozzanghera, things are “not to the point with the Profanity Peak Pack where pack removal would be warranted.”
He says he’s only aware of a single depredation incident, the death of a cow and calf belonging to the Diamond M and which was confirmed by WDFW on Sept. 12.
(Earlier it was said that another of their calves had been confirmed to have been bitten.)
“The wolf plan identifies an incremental approach for removal following preventative measures,” Pozzanghera says.
With the Huckleberry Pack, it took four separate depredation events that involved anywhere from one to 12 dead sheep before WDFW director Phil Anderson granted the herder a permit to take out up to two wolves approaching his flock.
Ferry County commissioners also declared a state of emergency and said that wolves posed a threat to the county’s residents, pets and stocks.
“We already have a law in place that allows citizens to kill a single wolf that’s in the act of attacking livestock or pets,” Pozzanghera notes.
Yet more cartography from Pamplin updates the official state wolf pack map and names the group of wolves confirmed in early summer, the Goodman Meadows Pack, between Salmo and Diamond Packs in northern Pend Oreille County.
And he reports that it’s cost $8,300 so far to haze a lone Pend Oreille County wolf that’s exhibiting some very unwolflike behavior, including being “chased by livestock.”
I am not making that up.
There actually appears to be increasing concern about the behavior that the Ruby Creek female is demonstrating as it haunts the valley near the intersection oh Highways 20 and 31 south of the small town if Ione. Despite what anti-wolf folks say, attacks on humans are very rare, but according to WDFW, 19 of the 28 that occurred between 1969 and 2001 involved wolves habituated to people. (Another five were linked to people out with dogs.) The state’s Wolf Advisory Group was recently emailed a paper on “Management Of Habituated Wolves In Yellowstone National Park.”
As pro-wolf groups and Northeast Washington ranchers pull WDFW in different directions, Pamplin’s presentation concludes by saying Washington’s wolf population continues to increase, the state management plan anticipated conflicts with livestock, and it indicates a stay-the-course path but asks where can the agency improve.
The agreed-to recovery goal is a minimum of at least four successful breeding pairs in each of three broad regions of Washington for three straight years, after which the species can begin to be removed from the state threatened listing (U.S Fish & Wildlife Service wants to delist them from the federal ESA list statewide).
Pamplin also includes a list of four challenges, three of which have check marks beside them — restoring a self-sustaining wolf population, managing wolf-livestock conflicts, and maintaining a healthy prey base — while the last, developing public understanding and promoting coexistence, doesn’t.