1) Two more dead calves were discovered today in the Wedge of Northeast Washington.
WDFW Director Phil Anderson told the Fish & Wildlife Commission just after the beginning of its 1 p.m. meeting that one had been found “an hour ago” and characterized it as a “fresh kill” while the other appeared three to four days old.
An investigation is now ongoing, but he said “We may well get to 12 (wolf depredations) before the week is out.”
At least nine calves and one cow have been injured or killed by wolves so far in extreme northern Stevens County this summer, according to WDFW. Another calf was killed by a cougar.
Anderson also told the citizen panel that the agency has since resumed its wolf hunt and has moved its marksmen to a private-land pasture where today’s carcasses were found in hopes of taking out up to four of the pack’s members.
He said that they would try to avoid the alpha female, but …
“We need to get that pack cut down” in terms of numbers.
There are an estimated 12 Wedge wolves.
2) The Wedge pup captured and ear-tagged in mid-July was identified as the dead wolf that was found in August, Anderson revealed.
3) He also explained that GPS data from the Wedge alpha male showed that the pack has moved its rendezvous points. Whether that was due to pressure from the state’s hunt or the McIrvins of the Diamond M Ranch moving their cattle was unclear, but WDFW has also been in close contact with the operator — three times just today — sending them locational information on the wolf, Anderson said.
3.5) There’s been little information about the agency’s actual wolf hunt, but the director provided a glimpse or two into it today.
“They got close, saw wolves, but didn’t have clear targets,” he said about the 12-day search for the pack across the back half of last month.
As for trapping efforts, he says the pack appears to have become “trapwise.”
“We’ve even seen where they’ve pawed around the traps,” he said.
4) While he’s also got that Oh-yeah-whole-Oregon-governor-wants-to-move-Columbia-gillnetters-into-Astoria-bays-most-ricki-tick deal on his plate, Anderson said wolves are the “area I’m spending most of my time on.”
5) His presentation included a series of Power Point slides (available here) which he narrated, including information that WDFW has trapped in nine of the 12 areas of confirmed of suspected wolf activity around the state, has collars on seven wolves and on at least one member of five of the eight confirmed packs.
He also said that Colville tribal biologists had captured another wolf on their reservation quite recently. The tribes, which have not been too forthcoming with info on their pack(s), collared at least two other animals this spring.
6) They grudgingly accept that last Thursday’s injuries to two calves were caused by Canis lupus, but a pair of wolf advocacy groups still say members of the Wedge Pack shouldn’t be killed.
In a joint press release before Anderson’s latest depredation news, Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands instead say that nonlethal means and rancher compensation should be used to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts on the Diamond M and Colville National Forest grazing allotments it runs cattle on.
They say that only minimal preventative measures were taken — disputed by WDFW.
The organizations also cast aspersions on the agency’s wolf work:
“Regardless of whether or not it is ultimately determined that wolves clearly killed livestock in the Wedge area, the experience to date has indicated that the department needs to take some time to get its ducks in row,” Cascadia’s Bob Ferris said in a press release. “Endangered species such as wolves need to be managed with clear rules and solid procedures by people adequately trained in this process, and we hope to see that in the future.”
Wolves in that area are no longer on the Federal endangered species list but remain state listed as such.
While the agency has built a compelling case based on a list of wolf-livestock incidents here since 2007, wolf advocates have leaned on some outside experts’ skeptical opinions on the evidence WDFW has gathered at the scenes of this summer’s series of depredations.
7) Anderson acknowledged to commissioners that there have been differences of opinion on what’s happened to the McIrvin’s calves.
“Frankly, that’s one of the areas we’ve been challenged because some (of the depredations) are not clear cut,” he said.
He outlined the four-stage review the agency goes through to label each incident either confirmed, probable, unknown/other or not predation, from the gathering of evidence by game wardens and state wildlife biologists to internal review to external opinions and then a final determination by field staffers.
He said that review by the three recognized federal wolf experts adds a lot of credibility to WDFW’s work, noting that “we don’t necessarily have to agree with them all the time.”
But he also put a lot of stock in Carter Niemeyer’s statements on photos of one of last Thursday’s injured calves that that was the “smoking gun” image the retired federal wolf manager and depredation-investigation pioneer has been looking for in the case of the Wedge’s attacks.
8] Commissioner Gary Douvia and Anderson both warned that depredation news could get worse before it gets better.
“September, October is when we just begin to find out what’s going on up there,” said Douvia, who lives not too far south down Highway 395 from the Wedge.
Speaking to the fall cattle roundup, Douvia said, “I dread the count. It looks to be significant.”
That remains to be seen, however.
“We won’t really know what level of losses operators have had until they bring their cattle off the allotments,” Anderson said.
Commissioner Chuck Perry asked Anderson if field staffers had been finding any other big game carcasses, indicating the Wedge Pack feeding on natural prey.
The director said if they had, he hadn’t heard about it.
Opinions vary on how relatively game-rich or -poor the mountainous, forested Wedge is.
9) And finally, tip of the cap to blogger/author Beckie Elgin.
While the usual suspects again howl past each other on WDFW’s latest Facebook wolf post, Elgin, of “Wolves and Writing,” had the minerals to call up and talk to the McIrvins about what’s happening to their stock.
She posted her interview and her thoughts.
Asked if he had anything to say to pro wolf folks, Bill McIrvin responded:
“I don’t know if I can convey my feelings very good, but…our cattle are a part of our livelihood, they’re a part of our life. All we’ve ever done is grown up caring for cattle day and night so its really not about money to us, its about our life. So when we see them killed for sport…its pretty tough for us to deal with, its like its happening to a family member. And I guess we kind of feel like we’re in a bit of a war here and we’re the only side that has something at stake–we’re losing our livelihood and the people who are fighting with us are still drawing the same wage.”
10) The end.
10.5) For at least 10 minutes.