A day after Oregon officials revealed that the Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County is raising at least four pups this summer, we’re learning that Northeast Washington/North Idaho’s Diamond Pack is also rearing more pups.
And while the alpha female of the Methow Valley’s Lookout Pack in North-central Washington was pregnant this spring, the radio-collared animal has since gone missing, like the Imnaha’s alpha male earlier this year.
“We’re monitoring pretty carefully, but it’s not looking good right now,” said Harriet Allen, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s lead wolf manager this morning. “There’s nothing definitive, but we’re concerned about her status.”
The Lookout was Washington’s first confirmed pack in 70 years. It set up just outside Twisp and produced six pups in 2008, at least four last year and it’s considered “probable” that it also had a litter in 2007, making the female a pretty fecund individual, though survival of its pups has been low for reasons not well understood.
It was last seen May 12, about the time pups in a den would have been four weeks old. Whether the wolf’s VHF collar has failed, the pack has just moved to a location where a signal is difficult to get, or if the breeding animal is dead is unclear.
“It could be a substantial loss,” says Allen. “It could lead to the break-up of the pack. But it’s incredibly difficult to confirm. We’re monitoring closely to assess the situation.”
At least one member of the pack was killed in late 2008. Nobody has been charged in the case.
The agency has hired a contractor who will be attempting to put GPS collars on more members of the Lookout Pack.
Currently, the alpha male and one of the yearling females of the Diamond Pack are wearing satellite devices.
“The Diamond Pack, we’ve been able to confirm, has six pups,” Allen says.
They were spotted on the Idaho side of their home range in early July, she says. Last year, the pack had at least four pups.
“We’re fairly confident there’s a third (pack) in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness,” on the north side of the Washington-Oregon border but tucked way back in the woods, Allen adds. A biologist has set up trail cams to capture photographs.
Just south of the border is Oregon’s Wenaha Pack, though not much is known about it.
“It’s possible Oregon and Washington could be sharing some wolves, but we don’t have any conclusive data saying that is the case,” says Michelle Dennehy, an ODFW spokeswoman in Salem.
As WDFW continues to address roughly 60,000 or so public comments as well as a blind scientific peer review into its draft wolf management plan in anticipation of getting the document to its Wolf Working Group and Fish & Wildlife Commission later this year, work will continue on tracking down more information on other sightings in Northeast Washington and the North Cascades.
“We did have some indication of scat and tracks in the Hozomeen area,” says Allen. “It’s an area you might expect wolves coming in from Canada.”
Hozomeen is on the eastern shore of Ross Lake, just south of the Canadian border. It’s an area of wolf sightings over several summers in the early 1990s, though it’s now believed someone’s released pet wolf may have been responsible for some of the activity.
Appendix H of WDFW’s draft plan contains 2 1/4 pages of sightings throughout counties ringing the edge of Eastern Washington in the 2000s.
Meanwhile, as Idaho and Montana pursue higher wolf quotas for this fall, the region remains on hold for U.S. District Court Judge Molloy to make his ruling from Missoula on whether wolves in the Northern Rockies (which includes the Diamond, Wenaha and Imnaha packs) should go back on the endangered species list.
Montana has approved the culling of 186 wolves, but put tag sales on hold until Aug. 23. Idaho has folded a wolf tag into nonresident deer and elk tags, and will decide in August on the use of electronic calls and trapping as well as hunting quotas.
Kill orders on two livestock-killing wolves in Wallowa County, where Forest Service offices burned in a mysterious fire on Sunday, have also been on hold since early July after a lawsuit by Oregon Wild, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Cascadia Wildlands and Center for Biological Diversity against USDA Wildlife Services.
Dennehy adds that ODFW has also been sued by the groups for authorizing the kill order.
The lawsuit, filed July 12 in State Circuit Court in Multnomah County, alleges that the agency violated the state Endangered Species Act, Oregon Administrative Rules and Administrative Procedures Act when it authorized lethal removal of wolves, according to a statement on ODFW’s Web site.
In other predator news, pictures purporting to show a grizzly bear strolling through a man’s yard in northern Pend Oreille County popped up on Hunting Washington yesterday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: BASED ON NOTES FROM THIS MORNING’S CONVERSATION WITH ALLEN, AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE STATED THAT THE LOOKOUT ALPHA FEMALE HAD HAD PUPS THIS YEAR. HOWEVER, ALLEN CALLED BACK TO CORRECT THAT, SAYING WDFW KNEW THE WOLF HAD BEEN PREGNANT IN APRIL, BUT NOT WHETHER IT HAD BORNE A LITTER.