Tag Archives: depredations

Togo, Smackout Packs Now In Crosshairs For Continued Cattle Depredations

The clock is ticking on two more wolf packs in Northeast Washington.

WDFW this morning authorized the lethal removal of the last two members of one pack and one or two from another after continued depredations.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATIONS OF THE TOGO AND SMACKOUT PACKS. THE OLD PROFANITY TERRITORY PACK RUNS TO THE SOUTH OF THE TOGOS. (WDFW)

Both operations can begin tomorrow morning at 8 after an eight-hour waiting period due to a previous court order passes.

With a third pack also in the crosshairs for total removal, in a twist, the kill order for the Togo duo was given to a northern Ferry County livestock producer, his family and employees to carry out if they see the wolves in their private pasture.

WDFW says the OK was given because the previous removal of the breeding male in September didn’t change the pack’s depredating behaviors.

The breeding female and/or a juvenile injured a calf in late October. The pack also is blamed for seven other injured or killed calves and a cow since last November.

The state wildlife management agency has shouldered the burden of removals in the past, but with three lethal operations underway at once, Susewind “decided to issue a permit rather than having department staff conduct the removal because of limitations of resources.”

As WDFW attempts to kill the last two Old Profanity Territory wolves further south in Ferry County, it will also be gunning for the Smackouts to the east in northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

Susewind OKed incremental removals after a fifth attack since Aug. 1 by the pack, all on private pastures.

The latest occurred Nov. 1 and followed three in the last three weeks of October.

An agency statement sent out during Election Night outlined the preventative measures two producers have been using to try and head off trouble with the Smackouts.

It said that WDFW has been pooling resources with ranchers and a local group to protect stock and deter wolves.

“The affected producer has met the expectation in the wolf plan and 2017 protocol for implementing at least two proactive non-lethal deterrents and responsive deterrent measures,” a statement said.

Two wolves in the pack were removed in 2017 following four depredations in a 10-month period, one of two triggers for considering a kill order under WDFW’s protocols. The other is three attacks in a month.

The state says taking out as many as two members of the Smackout Pack, which has four or five adults and no juveniles, is not expected to impact wolf recover in Washington at all. It says that average wolf mortality between 2011 and 2018 has been 11 percent, well below the 28 percent modeled in the management plan adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Still, signing off on a kill order is no easy decision.

“Authorizing the removal of wolves is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional career,” said Susewind in a press release out later in the day. “Our department is committed to working with a diversity of people and interests to find new ways to reduce the loss of both wolves and livestock in our state.”

For more details, see WDFW’s Gray Wolf Updates page.

WDFW Reports More Cattle Depredations By 2 Northeast Washington Packs

Wolves continue to attack cattle in Northeast Washington, with two depredations by the Togos and Smackouts in recent days leaving WDFW mulling what to do next with both packs.

State wolf managers report that the former pack, in northern Ferry County, injured a calf on Oct. 26, while the latter took down a heifer on Halloween, the third cow killed by the northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties wolves in the space of two and a half weeks and fourth overall since midsummer.

(WDFW)

That now could trigger incremental lethal removals under the agency’s protocols.

“Director Susewind is reviewing the details of the four depredations by the pack and is considering next steps,” a WDFW statement out this afternoon reads.

The Smackouts have been the subject of intense range-riding and other nonlethal efforts to keep cattle and the pack from tangling for several years now, but in mid-2017 two of its 13 to 15 members at the time were taken out following four depredations in a 10-month period.

As for the Togos, on Oct. 19 WDFW sent out what was to be the last update for the pack after 42 days passed without any known depredations and the removal of the alpha male in early September to change the wolves behavior.

Despite a subsequent attack, WDFW took no action because the agency’s options were poor — the pack included the alpha female and two juveniles.

But the state also said that lethal removals could resume if there was another attack.

Wolf-cattle conflicts have mostly occurred during the summer grazing season on federal allotments, but have also taken place afterwards, typically on private ground.

Last 2 O.P.T. Pack Wolves To Be Lethally Removed

Washington wolf managers will take out what they say are the last two Old Profanity Territory Pack wolves after a 16th attack on a producer’s grazing cattle in the Kettle Range of northern Ferry County in less than two months.

The latest depredation, a dead calf, was investigated October 23rd and came after an adult and a juvenile member were lethally removed in September.

The pack was initially believed to include three or four adults and two or three juveniles.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind’s kill reauthorization follows an evaluation period that saw an additional attack by the pack investigated Oct. 7 that could have triggered action but he “sustained the evaluation period to consider the details and complexities of the situation in the field.”

A statement this morning from the agency also reiterated that the allotment is large, wild and completely within the OPT pack’s range, and that following an October 5th depredation “the department took additional steps to document the range-riding operation on the allotment to make sure it is as effective as” can be.

While WDFW doesn’t name the producer, it is known to be the Diamond M Ranch, which has previously suffered depredations by the Wedge and Profanity Peak Packs, triggering other lethal removals.

The state says the rancher is using non-lethal methods to try and stave off wolf attacks including contracting with range riders, removing sick stock off the range and dealing with carcasses.

O.P.T. Pack Injures 5 More Calves, WDFW Says Removal Ops ‘Ongoing’

Washington wolf managers are confirming that the Old Profanity Territory Pack injured five more calves on a northern Ferry County grazing allotment and that their incremental removal operation is still “ongoing.”

So far a sharpshooter has killed one wolf from the pack, a 50-pound juvenile, on Sept. 16 and under WDFW Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization another can be taken out.

He gave the order back on Sept. 12 following attacks that injured five other calves and killed a sixth in the space of a week and a half.

The pack is believed to consist of three or four adults and two juvenile wolves.

The latest calf depredations occurred five days to a week before Sept. 21, according to WDFW.

Local state lawmaker Rep. Joel Kretz reported the attacks on his Facebook page on Sept. 20.

The livestock producer, identified as Les McIrvin of the Diamond M Ranch, is using range riders, removing carcasses, bringing sick and injured cattle off the landscape and moving his herd out of the danger area, but he’s not happy about the last one.

“There is all the feed in the world at the high elevations, but the wolves are driving the cattle into a canyon with no food or water,” McIrvin told the Press.

Earlier in the grazing season he waited until July 10 to turn out his animals in the Kettle Range, the idea being to put larger, less vulnerable calves on the landscape.

After being relatively quiet since its second loss in Thurston County Superior Court, the Center For Biological Diversity again began rallying its supporters to contact WDFW against removals.

One O.P.T. Wolf Removed; Dead Cow Also Found

WDFW reports lethally removing a juvenile wolf from the Old Profanity Territory Pack this past Sunday.

The agency also says that the northern Ferry County wolves killed a cow in the same area, bringing the number of cattle confirmed to have been attacked and killed or injured this month to seven.

The latest depredation is believed to have occurred before the 50-pound wolf was killed by a helicopter-borne sharpshooter.

“The department is currently working to determine the next option to deter wolf depredation by the OPT pack under the current incremental removal action,” WDFW said in a statement this afternoon.

That was authorized last week by Director Kelly Susewind. It allows up to two wolves to be taken out as part of an incremental removal to change the pack’s behavior after it injured five calves and killed another.

Three other wolves were seen during air operations Sunday. WDFW said it’s difficult to discern between adult and young wolves this time of year.

The OPT Pack was believed to include three or four adults and two pups.

According to the state, the producer, identified in the press as the Diamond M, has used a range of nonlethal measures to try to limit depredations but they haven’t worked.

This is the third summer in a row that the agency has had to resort to killing wolves to try and head off livestock conflicts in this portion of Ferry County. In 2016, the Profanity Peak Pack was targeted, while last year it was the Sherman Pack.

WDFW Prepares To Take Out 1-2 O.P.T. Pack Wolves; Togo Wolf To Be Trapped

As three dozen people wave signs outside WDFW headquarters, a state wolf manager inside the building said that with a judge this morning again rejecting advocates’ request for a temporary restraining order, agency marksmen will carry out an order targeting a pack that’s attacked six calves this month.

A PAIR OF WOLVES USE A LOGGING ROAD IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

Donny Martorello says that local staffers in Northeast Washington have air, ground and trapping options at their disposal as they attempt to lethally remove one or two members of the Old Profanity Territory Pack.

It runs in rugged mountain country of northern Ferry County, where WDFW has previously had to kill eight wolves to try and head off livestock depredations in 2016 and 2017.

The OPT wolves — three to four adults and two juveniles — are confirmed to have injured five calves and killed another between Sept. 4 and 11.

Parts of the carcasses of three more calves were found in the immediate area, but their cause of death couldn’t be determined

WDFW reports the producer — identifed as the Diamond M Ranch in a news story — has been moving the cattle herd to the west but that 20 head remained in the area.

Producer Len McIrvin told the Capital Press that he had already lost an estimated 30 to 40 animals.

The state believes that without lethal action the losses will continue and hopes to change the pack’s behavior by incrementally removing members.

Not far to the north, the options are tougher with the Togo Pack, which has now attacked cattle seven times since last November, with the most recent incident coming after a sharpshooter killed the adult male.

Rather than kill the adult female and worry that the two pups might starve, WDFW is going to try a “spank and release” strategy, capturing one of the pups, outfitting it with a collar, and letting it go.

Martorello says that sort of negative stimulation might help prevent further conflict, but also that telemetry data will be given to the local producer and a RAG box set up in their pasture to try and help prevent more attacks.

Back in Olympia, for a second time in two weeks Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy denied a Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands request for a temporary restraining order, again because they hadn’t met the criteria for injunctive relief through the state’s Administrative Procedures Act, according to WDFW.

The agency also said that the groups had actually asked for the TRO after the eight-hour challenge window following the kill order announcement had passed, so perhaps it was all just for theatrical purposes, what with today’s prowolf rally and “die-in.”

Indeed, as Northwest Sportsman spoke to Martorello, he moved to a window in the Natural Resources Building and said he could see 30 to 40 protesters outside holding signs.

Meanwhile, other wolf advocates are choosing to focus their work in the hills.

Martorello added that Judge Murphy expedited a hearing on the merits of the CBD et al’s lawsuit against WDFW over the Togo and now OPT kill orders and is encouraging all parties to schedule it before the end of the year.

WDFW Director OKs Incremental Removal Of Wolves In Old Profanity Pack Territory

Updated 5:42 p.m., Sept. 12, 2018

WDFW plans to go after wolves in a Ferry County pack that has killed or injured at least six calves in rugged country this month.

The agency will begin incremental removals — meaning one or two animals — to change the pack’s behavior starting tomorrow afternoon if an eight-hour business-day window passes without challenge from wolf advocates. One appears likely.

A similar kill authorization last month for a depredating pack just to the north led to a temporary restraining order after out-of-state groups sued WDFW.

That one involved the Togo Pack and was lifted in late August by a Thurston County judge.

The latest incidents involve the Old Profanity Territory, or OPT, Pack which runs to the south, in the same country that the Profanity Peak and Sherman Packs occupied before members were lethally removed the past two summers.

“This is a very difficult situation, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area,” WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a statement. “We are committed to working with a diversity of stakeholders in a collaborative process to seek other creative and adaptive solutions to prevent future losses of wolves and livestock.”

The criteria for considering lethal removal is three confirmed attacks in a 30-day span or four over 10 months, and the former was met in the space of half a week.

But unlike other recent removals, some members of the agency’s Wolf Advisory Group have balked this go-around.

“… In our eyes the state killing wolves in one general area three years in a row for the same livestock producers does not fit within the intent and letter of the (lethal removal) protocol,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest this morning.

Another staffer said that the mix of preventative and lethal tactics is not working in the area but the organization said it was willing to “roll up our sleeves” on short-term nonlethal measures instead.

Shawn Cantrell, the state representative for Defenders of Wildlife, called the kill order inappropriate and suggested the right nonlethal measures nor grazing practices had been implemented.

But some WAG members are sticking by WDFW’s side.

“I am very proud of Director Kelly Susewind for standing tall and doing the right thing in authorizing lethal action on the OPT Pack,” said Dave Duncan of Ellensburg. “I was greatly disappointed with the conservation groups taking a stand against lethal action and blaming overstressed cattlemen, who have been pushed into and required to perform in a costly experiential and sometimes unreliable concept of animal husbandry. They are the real heroes in wolf management today and without a doubt need more tools, support and relief.”

According to WDFW, the rancher — identified by the Capital Press as Len McIrvin of the Diamond M — grazing his cattle on a Forest Service allotment has been using “several” of the preventative measures called for by the protocol, including turning out calves nearly a month and a half later than otherwise allowed under the grazing agreement, using range riders, and removing sick and injured animals and taking care of carcasses.

The OPT Pack includes three or four adults and two juveniles, according to WDFW. An adult male has been wearing a GPS collar since early June.

Data from it showed that when the cattle were turned out July 10, the pack was denning “north and adjacent to the allotment where the depredations occurred” and that the initial rendezvous site was 2.5 miles northwest of the den site.

However, by mid-August, telemetry showed that wolves were now heavily using an area 5.5 miles to the southeast, in the grazing area, leading to increased range riding and coordination with the rancher to head off conflicts.

That appears to have not worked.

Last night the state reported that the bones and bits of three calves had also been found in the area in late August, but there was too little remaining to determine their causes of death.

Still, it led to increased range-riding patrols and efforts to move the cattle away from the area, according to WDFW.

Then on Sept. 4 two injured calves were found, followed by a dead one Sept. 5 and two more injured ones Sept. 6 and 7.

All were confirmed to have been attacked by wolves, as was a sixth in recent hours.

Nonlethal measures put into place after the initial attacks haven’t worked, says WDFW, which believes the depredations will continue.

“It’s not a sustainable situation. It’s a wreck,” McIrvin told Capital Press reporter Don Jenkins.

McIrvin estimated 30 to 40 calves had already been lost and when the grazing season is done, the loss will be double that, and he is expecting decreased pregnancy rates and lighter cattle brought to market.

WDFW says about 20 cows are still in the area being used heavily by the OPT Pack.

According to The Seattle Times, the Center for Biological Diversity is planning to file another request for a TRO.

That, however, was not specifically mentioned in a press release in which CBD stated it and a number of other wolf advocacy organizations will rally this Friday at noon outside WDFW headquarters and plan to stage a “die-in.”

The agency says its lethal removals won’t hurt efforts to recover wolves across Washington.

“In fact, the wolf population in the eastern recovery region has increased to more than three times the regional recovery objective,” the agency states.

WDFW Provides New Details on Wolf Depredations In Profanity Peak Area, Prevention Measures; Key Group Balks At Going Lethal

Updated: 10:15 a.m., Sept. 12, 2018

Washington wolf managers Tuesday night issued a lengthy statement on five recent confirmed depredations by a pack of wolves running in a rough, mountainous part of Ferry County that has seen other livestock attacks and lethal removals the past two summers as well.

A WOLF CAPTURED ON A FERRY COUNTY TRAIL CAMERA IN 2017. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

Among the new details released is that three other calves also died in the area of unknown causes; only their bones and scraps were left by the time a county wildlife specialist and contracted range riders found them in late August.

That area appears to have become a second rendezvous site for the pack this summer, according to telemetry off of a male member captured in early June.

The unnamed pack known by the acronym OPT for Old Profanity Territory, consists of three to four adults and no more than two pups, it is believed. Its existence was first reported in late May.

WDFW’s statement outlines preventative measures taken by the livestock producer running his cattle on the Forest Service allotment, including turning out calves nearly a month and a half later than otherwise allowed under the grazing agreement, as well as preseason scouting for wolf activity by contracted range riders, and data sharing of wolf locations.

Following discovery of the calf carcasses on the landscape, range riding activities were increased — at least 150 days of effort occurred from April through July but August and September data isn’t available — and the cattle herd also began to be moved west.

But in early September injured and dead calves began turning up, with WDFW late last week ultimately confirming wolves had attacked five.

State Rep. Joel Kretz, who lives nearby, has reported some details on WDFW’s initial then reclassified depredation determinations on his Facebook page.

Nowhere in the agency’s Tuesday night statement are the words “lethal removal” mentioned.

“The depredations in this area happened in quick succession, and department staff have spent several days gathering information, assisting the producer, providing reports, and considering next steps,” WDFW summarizes.

One instate-based wolf advocacy organization, which in the past has supported the state taking out problem wolves under agreed-to lethal removal protocols, is balking this go-round.

“We appreciate the report, and the level of effort, but there’s nothing new there from our perspective,” said Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, which had put out a statement Monday night that it couldn’t support taking out wolves in response to the depredations.

The organization says the recurring conflicts here don’t meet removal protocols it and other members of the state Wolf Advisory Group agreed to, and that the rugged terrain should be taken into account to adjust tactics to increase the odds that cattle and wolves don’t tangle.

In 2016, seven members of the Profanity Peak Pack were removed for a string of depredations and last year the Sherman Pack male was killed by state sharpshooters.

“It’s a tough situation, but our positions haven’t changed. We continue to support the protocol, and the need for coexistence and collaborative management,” says Gunnell. “Still, in our eyes the state killing wolves in one general area three years in a row for the same livestock producers does not fit within the intent and letter of the protocol.”

Before the agency issued more information, another member of the WAG, Shawn Cantrell of Defenders of Wildlife, said WDFW shouldn’t authorize lethal removals.

An out-of-state group is poised to try to again take legal action against WDFW, KING 5 reported Tuesday night.

Editor’s note: I’ll continue to fold in comments through the day as I receive them or are reported elsewhere.

 

Instate Wolf Advocates Blast Out-of-staters’ Court Moves Against WDFW

An instate organization deeply involved in Washington wolf issues over the past decade is blasting two out-of-state environmental groups whose legal moves have initially blocked WDFW from targeting a pack to head off further livestock depredations.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A MEMBER OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY PACK, WHICH ROAMS THE PART OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES ARE STILL FEDERALLY LISTED, STANDS IN A FOREST. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW)

“Lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere, so we see little upside in spreading those tactics to Washington, where wolf recovery is going relatively well overall” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, in a statement this morning. “Instead of polarization, our focus is on collaboration and long-term coexistence.”

CNW is a member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group which helped craft a set of lethal removal protocols that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands are now contesting in court.

On Monday, they got Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese to issue a temporary restraining order against Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization for one or more members of northern Ferry County’s Togo Pack, implicated in six attacks on cows and calves on private and public land since last November, including three in a recent 30-day period.

The two groups, based in Arizona and Oregon and neither of which are on the WAG, claim that the protocol is “faulty” and should have been subject to an environmental review.

While CBD stresses that Washington’s wolf population is still “small” and uses its own faulty math to make it appear that a higher percentage of wolves have been lethally removed than in any single year, CNW says recovery is actually going better in the Evergreen State compared to the Northern Rockies.

CNW calls the lethal removal protocol a “deliberate approach” and one that the state’s packs “can easily withstand the current level of impact.”

And it says that working with others rather than going to court is the key.

“We think the collaborative work of the WAG is leading to less social conflict concerning wolves and more willingness of ranchers to embrace proactive techniques to lower both wolf-livestock conflict and the use of lethal removal. This is real progress towards the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities in our state, and an important model for coexistence between people and wildlife,” the organization said.

A WDFW DOCUMENT DETAILING DEPREDATIONS OF THE TOGO PACK HIGHLIGHTS BITE MARKS AND OTHER EVIDENCE ON THE CARCASS OF A COW THAT WAS CONFIRMED TO HAVE BEEN ATTACKED BY WOLVES. (WDFW)

This is not the first rodeo for the local and out-of-state advocates.

Last fall, Conservation Northwest said it was “disappointed” with the Center’s filing of a lawsuit to get ahold of public records related to previous removals and a ranchhand’s caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf that June.

“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” a CNW spokesman said at the time.

Editor’s notes: For reactions from state lawmakers about the lawsuit, see Rep. Joel Kretz‘s and Rep. JT Wilcox’s comments.

WDFW Reports On June Wolf Work

June was relatively quiet on Washington’s wolf scene, according to state managers’ monthly report.

WDFW reports capturing two wolves last month, adult males in the Togo and Profanity Peak ranges, and say there were no confirmed livestock depredations as producers moved more than 1,000 cow-calf pairs as well as sheep herds onto Eastside grazing allotments.

DEPREDATION INVESTIGATORS WERE UNABLE TO DETERMINE A CAUSE OF DEATH FOR A PEND OREILLE COUNTY CALF, THE BONES OF WHICH WERE DISCOVERED LAST MONTH. THE CARCASS OF ANOTHER CALF IN NEIGHBORING STEVENS COUNTY WAS ALSO TOO FAR GONE TO FIGURE OUT WHY IT HAD DIED. (WDFW)

They did investigate nine calf, sheep and goat kills in Northeast Washington and King County, finding them to be victims of cougar or, in the latter case, coyote or domestic dog attacks, or that the scenes lacked enough evidence to make any determination of cause of death.

Managers outlined a range of proactive deterrent measures being used on 10 packs, mostly in the state’s wolfy northeastern corner, and said direct hazing was used on the Dirty Shirt and Smackout Packs.

The latter pack has one depredation in the last 10 months; four within a rolling 10-month period (or three within 30 days) could lead to consideration of lethal removals under agreed-to protocols.

The pack closest to that mark is the Togos, which have three since last November 2, which means Sept. 2 is the key date to remember with those two animals.

The Smackouts key date is Aug. 9.

Yesterday saw the expiration of a 10-month window in the Blue Mountains following a Sept. 2 attack on a cow-calf pair by an unknown wolf or wolves.

In Central Washington’s Kittitas County, interactions between the Teanaway Pack and grazing cattle were closely monitored by WDFW and a producer.

The agency also reported it attempted to trap and collar wolves in the Lookout, Huckleberry and Grouse Flats ranges but without success, and planned to try in the Beaver Creek, Five Sisters and Leadpoint Pack boundaries as well.

Following up on public reports, biologists poked around south of I-90 but couldn’t find any tracks or sign.

Still, WDFW “encourages” people to post sightings to its database, saying they “can be very helpful in locating new packs on the landscape.” Confirming wolves in the South Cascades is key to moving toward state delisting goals.