A state trapper this morning caught two wolves, collaring what may be the alpha male of the “new” Wedge pack of Northeast Washington and put ear tags on a pup.
Meanwhile more cattle of the Diamond M Ranch than originally known may have been attacked by wolves in the area last week.
Footage of the wolf capture is expected to appear on KING 5 TV tonight at 10 and 11 p.m.
For the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the presence of the pup confirms that a pack is in the area, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers.
While ranchers have talked of wolves in the area for awhile and a number were caught on video cameras last winter, officially the Wedge wolves are now the state’s eighth confirmed pack, and the sixth in Northeast Washington.
This remote, forested grazing area of northern Stevens County has also been the scene of recent predator depredations on cattle, including the killing of two calves and wounding of a cow and calf last week.
The wounded animals were found July 11, the dead ones July 12, but it’s believed the dead calves were hit first based on maggots.
WDFW says that a wolf or wolves attacked the cow and calf and killed one of the calves; a cougar got the other.
Over the weekend it came to light that two more calves turned up with wounds.
“The rancher found a couple more slightly injured calves that were probably attacked and injured at the same time as the cow and calf,” Luers said.
Last week’s attacks made the Wedge her agency’s No. 1 wolf-trapping priority.
The male, which weighed 94 pounds, was given a GPS and VHF radio collar.
“The GPS is really nice for downloading data from a satellite,” says Luers.
Also over the weekend, director Phil Anderson arrived to get a first-hand look at the situation.
He’s offered Diamond M a caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permit.
It’s unclear how effective that or other hazing devices might be in this case. While a radio-activated guard, or RAG, box might work when calves are in a pen, the rancher is now running cattle over a massive allotment that would also be all but impossible to put fladry up in.
And anyway, the ranchers have no interest in the permit or the compensation they’re eligible for, our Jeff Holmes learned after speaking with Diamond M’s Bill McIrvin this weekend.
He called the permit a “feel-good token,” saying he’s only seen wolves once in the area, at midnight a year ago, and had multiple objections to the money.
From a period of relative quiet, wolf management activities have quickly ramped up in Washington this summer.
“That’s why we have four full-time people whose only job is wolves,” said Luers.
Earlier this year saw confirmations of the Huckleberry and Nc’icn packs of southern Stevens and southern Ferry Counties, and two separate confirmed and probable wolf depredations elsewhere in Washington.
Meanwhile, WDFW’s wolf policy lead spoke in front of Blue Mountain ranchers last Tuesday about cougars and other issues. We’ll have more on that and the Stevens County attack in part I of a two-part report on Washington wolf management in our August issue, due on the press, oh, an hour or so ago.