Oregon, Washington Wolf Update

Coverage out of last weekend’s wolf symposium in Albany, Ore., featured words from a federal official on the possible future status of Canis lupus in the western two-thirds of a pair of Northwest states.

“What wolves there are in Western Oregon and Western Washington may lose their federal Endangered Species Act protection after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completes a regional review this fall,” reports Mitch Lies of the Capital Press, an agribusiness news Web site which has been regularly reporting on wolves in the states.

He quotes Paul Henson, USFWS supervisor for the Beaver State, as saying, “The service is taking a serious look at that.”

The service is conducting regional reviews of wolf populations in the Northwest, Southwest and Northeast, Henson said. The reviews were recommended in the service’s regular five-year status review of the wolf, which it completed in February.

Currently wolves in eastern Oregon and Washington are protected under state endangered species acts, but aren’t federally listed.

The review is analyzing whether to break out one or more distinct population segments from the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolf, which now comprises all wolves in the Northwest U.S.

Henson said a delisting recommendation would trigger several steps, including a public comment period.

The symposium was hosted by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and Oregon Hunters Association. OHA says that much more is known about wolves and their potential impacts on Western ungulates than when Oregon’s wolf conservation and management plan was developed.

“The purpose of the symposium is to better inform the public of the impacts wolves have on Oregon’s wildlife,” said Fred Craig, president of the Oregon Hunters Association in a press release. “While livestock producer issues with wolves have been in the news nothing is said about the take of big game and other wildlife. Hopefully a better-informed public will lead to the proper management of the wolf in Oregon. We believe Oregon can be proactive in implementing the Oregon Wolf Plan and not suffer the devastation of our big game and livestock like our neighboring states before proper management is started.”

The symposium featured the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s David Allen, among other speakers. Pointing to Canadian and Alaskan populations in the tens of thousands, he said that “that does not qualify in my view as an endangered species.”

According to the Capital Press, he also questioned federal biologists’ population estimates, saying they’ve basically been around 1,700 since 2009 though they can reproduce by 30 percent a year.

Former USFWS wolf manager Ed Bangs, however, has said that population growth was slowing down as almost all potential wolf habitat is now occupied.

Despite wolf advocates’ out-of-proportion worries that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s presence at the event was tantamount to supporting poaching, three high-up officials were on hand to talk about the importance of following the agency’s approved wolf conservation and management plan.

Joining Director Roy Elicker were Ron Anglin, Wildlife Division chief, and Bruce Eddy, ODFW’s Northeast Region manager.

“They felt like the meeting went well,” said ODFW spokesman Rick Hargrove in Salem.

For more on the symposium, see the article here.

Henson’s words didn’t surprise WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane.

“It would make things simpler,” she said. “When they divide two states it’s confusing as heck for anyone with any interest in wolves.”

It’s not as simple as this, but basically WDFW and ODFW manage wolves east of Highways 17 and 395 while USFWS is in charge to the west of the asphalt.

Luers says that this past winter WDFW Director Phil Anderson submitted a letter to Dan Ashe, USFWS chief for Washington, recommending that the wolf status review “not result in a new (distinct population segment) for Western Washington and asked for a minimum step of downlisting to threatened from endangered.”

She adds that the letter also thanked the feds for $100,000 for wolf work.

Trappers from both states are now out trying to capture and collar members of the various packs, including one wolf that killed at least four sheep in Northeast Oregon while another ram was killed in another nearby attack blamed on wolves.

Luers says that efforts in The Wedge and Hozomeen areas of Washington didn’t work out and that trappers are now focusing their work on the Smackout Pack on the Stevens-Pend Oreille County line.

From there it will be onto the Diamond Pack and, presumably, Southeast Washington’s suspected pack in the Touchet drainage.

“Sooner or later we’re going to get something radio-collared,” she says.

The agency is receiving around five or six wolf calls a week, Luers adds.

And in Oregon, the state police say that there is now a $2,500 reward for information on the killing of a possible wolf in Union County earlier this year.

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