Tag Archives: Ferry county

WDFW Responds To Inslee’s Kettle Range Wolf Management Request

Washington wildlife managers are responding to Governor Jay Inslee’s request to do something different in a very problematic part of the state for wolves and cattle, terming it a “top priority.”

“The forest conditions and livestock operations in this particular landscape make it extremely challenging, and unfortunately, has resulted in repeated lethal removal actions. We all share the perspective that something has to change to reduce the loss of both wolves and livestock in this area. WDFW believes this is consistent with the Governor’s request,” a statement sent out this afternoon to Northwest Sportsman reads.

WDFW’S 2018 WOLF MAP SHOWS WHERE WASHINGTON’S 27 KNOWN PACKS ROAMED AT THE END OF LAST YEAR. THE O.P.T. WOLVES OF NORTHEAST WASHINGTON HAVE SINCE BEEN REMOVED FOR LIVESTOCK DEPREDATIONS, AND HAVE LED TO A REQUEST FROM THE GOVERNOR TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR FUTURE WOLF-LIVESTOCK CONFLICTS IN THE KETTLE RANGE. (WDFW)

It follows on Inslee’s letter to Director Kelly Susewind last night asking the state agency to “make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”

Wolves roaming northern Ferry County’s Kettle Range were taken out by WDFW in 2016, 2018 and again this summer in response to chronic depredations on cattle mostly owned by a single ranch, the Diamond M, and largely grazing on federal forest allotments.

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back may have been piled on in mid-July, about a month before WDFW killed the last four of the eight members of the Old Profanity Territory Pack right before a court date.

The state operates under an agreed-to protocol where producers need to have been using a set number of livestock-wolf conflict avoidance measures and suffer either three wolf attacks in 30 days or four in 10 months before lethal removal is considered.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

Even as WDFW’s gray wolf email blasts chronicled preventative steps as well as the evidence the OPTs were responsible for nearly 30 attacks stretching back to last year, a mid-July update also states, “WDFW-contracted range riders did not resume riding because the livestock producer prefers that contracted range riders not work with the producer’s cattle at this time.”

Range riders are not mentioned in subsequent updates.

Just as some cowboys are all hat, certainly not all range riders are created equal, and it’s an operator’s prerogative whether to use those offered.

But pressure has also been growing on the Democratic governor running for a third term from outside as well as inside the state to do something different in this thick, steep, half-burnt neck of the woods.

Some will see Inslee’s move as inserting himself and outside opinions about wildlife into state management, as well as meddling in affairs outside his depth.

“Perhaps Gov. Inslee, whose ideas about climate change propelled his presidential campaign into a political black hole, will have more luck dazzling voters with his wolf management expertise,” shot longtime Washington hunter and gun writer Dave Workman.

Scott Nielsen of the Cattle Producers of Washington said he’d like to see Inslee more worried about his herd, per a Capital Press story out today.

Indeed, it will be very interesting to see what better ideas the governor and his staff can come up with for better managing this cauldron.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

Some appear to want an all-but-hands-off wolf management approach, with the Center For Biological Diversity trumpeting about Inslee’s request for a new tack and his appreciation for “these ecologically essential and wondrous animals.”

It will also be interesting to see if CBD gets involved more closely going forward.

Instate wolf advocates say they are glad Inslee weighed in.

Conservation Northwest put out a statement this morning stating they agree “that more work is needed in certain areas, including northeast Washington’s Kettle River Mountain Range. We’re committed to collaborating with agency staff, ranchers, biologists and others to continue moving towards the goal of long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities.”

Love them, loath them or just wish this never-ending cow-lupus drama would end already, ultimately in a state like Washington, wolves are going to be around for a very long time, and there are other aspects of their management that have gone overlooked for far too long and deserve time too, namely ungulate impacts and possible hunting permits down the road.

Whether this new push from the governor helps or hurts that remains to be seen as well.

As it stands, roughly 90 percent of the state’s 27 known packs aren’t causing any issues with livestock — this grazing season anyway — according to WDFW.

But with conflict in the Kettles “greatly impacting many of our communities, including ranching communities, environmental communities,” and itself, WDFW said it will “continue working with the Wolf Advisory Group and stakeholders on minimizing conflict proactively with lethal removal as a last resort.”

“We are also engaging with the local community, the US Forest Service, and others to seek new solutions for this challenging landscape,” WDFW stated.

Meanwhile, there are two ongoing wolf removal authorizations in Eastern Washington that have not been placed on hold because of the governor’s letter.

“The Togo authorization still stands, although we haven’t been actively working to remove wolves from that pack in several weeks as the right opportunity — conducive weather, employee schedules, helicopter scheduling, etc. — hasn’t been available,” said a spokeswoman.

The Togo operation began not long after the nearby OPT removals, but in sharp contrast, no pack members have been killed.

“The Grouse Flats authorization still stands as well,” the spokeswoman added.

It’s the first against a pack in all of Southeast Washington since wolves began moving back into the neighborhood.

 

Curlew Lake SP, Ferry Co. Serve Up Family Fun, Good Fishing

How peaceful and restful is a week at Northeast Washington’s Curlew Lake?

Well, if you’re a guard dog that is tuckered out from all the swimming, trail running, fetching sticks and more you’ve done, you’ll sleep so soundly you won’t even hear the deer sneaking up on you.

A CURIOUS MULE DEER DOE APPROACHES OUR CAMPSITE AND NAPPING DOG NYOKI AT CURLEW LAKE STATE PARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

But Amy, River, Kiran and I also came back to the Westside happily tired out too after seven days spent exploring beautiful northern Ferry County and northeastern Okanogan County.

Along with fishing we enjoyed horseback and bicycle rides, sight-seeing and wildlife viewing, kayaking and inner-tubing, searching for fossils and swinging from a big ol’ rope into another nearby lake.

A ROAD LEADS THROUGH WDFW’S CHESAW WILDLIFE AREA, ABOVE THE REMOTE NORTHEAST OKANOGAN COUNTY TOWN OF THE SAME NAME. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I really can’t pick out one highlight over any other, as it was all really fun, the weather was mostly good, and we all had a great time. I daresay it was an instant top-five in the pantheon of Walgamott Northwest Campouts.

I brought mostly trout and bass gear and used them to little effect — meaning, maybe a bite or two from the former species and just tiny specimens of the latter — but fortunately I had a backup plan.

KIRAN WAITS FOR A BITE OFF A DOCK AT CURLEW LAKE STATE PARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

This spring reader Jerry Han cued me into the excellent perch fishing at Curlew. Perch were illegally introduced several years ago and were an initial cause of concern because of how popular and productive the rainbow fishery is and how the nonnative species competes with young trout.

As potentially harmful as it could yet prove, I will grudgingly admit that turning to yellowbellies probably saved our fishing, at least for Kiran and given the shallower, warmer south-end waters we stuck to.

IT TOOK A LITTLE BIT FOR KIRAN TO DIAL IN WHEN TO SET THE HOOK ON FISH, BUT HE EVENTUALLY GOT IT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Jerry and his family like to fish in winter and spring for perch, and he sent me some tips and equipment to try out during our trip, specifically a bait pump and Crappie Nibbles to load into it and squirt into tube jigs.

A boatload of anglers who made an emergency run to shore by our campsite so one could use the facilities also clued me in to another tactic, a little nub of nightcrawler behind an orange curltail.

Combining the two methods we got some bites, but the winds and lack of an anchor for my 12-foot sit-inside kayak also made it tough to stay on top of the schools at Curlew’s south end.

Still, it was interesting to see Kiran come up with his own fishing theories. One afternoon it was a bit stormy, so we were stuck on shore and took some casts off a fallen tree then moved over to the aviation dock at the state park.

KIRAN SHOWS OFF ONE OF THE NICER YELLOW PERCH HE CAUGHT AT THE LAKE’S SOUTHERN END. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He caught a bass at both places and the next day wanted to ditch the jig and use just a worm because he felt that that was what the fish actually wanted.

So we headed out in the kayak to our hot spot just south of Beaver Island and I rigged up his rod with just a weight, baitholder hook and a worm and handed it to him while I looped a worm behind a chartreuse curltail on a 1/32-ounce jighead and fished it myself.

As luck would have it my set-up caught the first perch, so I handed it with a fresh worm chunk to Kiran and took his no-frills rod and of course caught one on that.

But it soon became apparent that the combo of a curltail and worm was what the fish really wanted, and using it Kiran quickly outfished me, reeling up a nice mix of perch with it and learning that fishing doesn’t always make sense but a little extra sparkle and size can help increase the bite.

A TIGER MUSKY LURKS IN THE WEEDS (LOWER LEFT) AT THE STATE PARK’S SWIMMING AREA. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

One perch I caught that didn’t make it drew the instant attention of the lake’s bald eagles and osprey, and soon the rush of wind through an adult bald’s feathers whooshed right over me as the raptor reached down with its talons, grabbed the fish and flew off to a nearby tree to dine.

The biggest fish we saw was a tiger musky lurking in the weeds of the swimming area. Some other camping kids spotted it nestled in the milfoil and whatnot and the boys and I waded in to inspect it as well. It’s hard to judge how long it was, but at least 3-plus feet, and it was not afraid of people.

I had two big swimbaits that might have gotten a go from it, but that would have been followed immediately by the splintering of my rod and reel into 39 pieces, as all the combos I brought along were pretty lightweight.

THE BOYS AND I APPROACH AN OLD TUNNEL ON THE NORTHERN REACH OF THE FERRY COUNTY RAIL TRAIL. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Besides all the fishing we also enjoyed two nice bike rides on different parts of the Ferry County Rail Trail, one along the west side of the lake and the other from the town of Curlew north through the tunnel.

You can’t hunt along the abandoned railway, but there is one big bear in the area, if the numerous large piles on the trail by the tunnel are any indication. Biking along the Kettle River I cursed myself for not bringing my fly rod and hopper imitations.

RIVER LOOSENS A CHUNK OF SHALE FROM THE ROCK RACE AT THE STONEROSE FOSSIL SITE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In Republic we stopped by the Stonerose Fossil Site and gingerly whacked apart shale laid down in a shallow lake during the Eocene some 50 million years ago, finding imprints of dawn redwood needles, deciduous leaves and a March fly. Under a magnifier at the interpretive center a staffer pointed out how the bug’s wings had come off its body.

RIVER FLAGS TRAFFIC ON HIGHWAY 21 AS THE K DIAMOND K GUEST RANCH’S HORSE AND CATTLE HERDS ARE MOVED IN THE MORNING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Not far south of town is the K Diamond K Guest Ranch which had space for us one morning to join a nice long trail ride. River and Kiran assisted in gathering and herding the 50 horses and 20 longhorns from a field on one side of Highway 21 to pastures and a corral on the other before we all mounted up.

RIVER AND KIRAN RIDE ACROSS A HIGH PASTURE OF THE K DIAMOND K, A 1,600-ACRE WORKING RANCH WITH AN INCREDIBLE LODGE FRAMED BY LOGS HARVESTED ON THE SPREAD ABOVE THE SANPOIL RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In the evenings deer wandered through our camp, followed by bats flitting through the pines, and as the larch logs coaled we gazed at the stars as the Milky Way came out. Late at night coyotes serenaded us.

THE FAM RELAXES IN THE AFTERNOON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

We also took a drive to Chesaw and the Okanogan Highlands, where I camped in 2003 and 2004, and which was where Amy’s and my camera got quite a workout capturing the stunning scenery. Along the way we made a stop at an awesome rope swing at Beaver Lake, then returned a couple days later for some more water fun and in hopes the loons there would call.

RIVER AND KIRAN ENJOY THE BEAVER LAKE ROPE SWING WHILE NYOKI GOES FOR A SWIM IN SEARCH OF A FETCH STICK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

They didn’t, but I can tell you that I’d love to call on this corner of the Northwest more often than once every decade and a half.

And next time it’ll be with even more fishing gear and rods.

CURLEW LAKE IN AFTERNOON LIGHT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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WDFW Takes Out 4 More OPT Wolves, But Must Stop Removals After Judge’s Decision

Updated 4:30 p.m., Aug. 16, 2019 with news at bottom on the depredations of a nearby pack.

Hardcore wolf advocates won something of a pyrrhic victory in a King County court this morning.

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE ORIGINAL PROFANITY PEAK PACK. (WDFW)

A judge granted a temporary restraining order that bars WDFW from taking out any more Old Profanity Territory wolves, but with four killed this morning, there’s only one left out of the chronically depredating northern Ferry County pack.

That means lethal removal operations are now on pause.

The news was first mentioned on Western Wildlife Conservation’s Facebook page.

“We won but we lost!!” the group posted.

Earlier this month “two Washington residents” represented by Seattle attorney Johnathon Bashford and “with the support” of Wayne Pacelle’s Center for a Humane Economy filed a petition in King County Superior Court to halt the removals.

That was initially decided in WDFW’s favor with the parties ordered to return today to court for a status report update.

That appears to have been decided in advocates’ favor.

“We’ll have to go back to court for a trial that we don’t have a date for,” said spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.

She said that two of the four wolves taken out in this morning’s remarkably efficient operations were also collared animals, while two were not.

In an update earlier this week, WDFW said that it had removed an adult and two juveniles since Aug. 6, and before that it had taken out the breeding male in an attempt to change the pack’s behavior.

There were at least nine members when the pack began again attacking livestock grazing on federal allotments on the Colville National Forest near Republic.

The OPTs are now blamed for 29 cow and calf attacks since last September, nine in the past 30 days.

“Having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is a difficult situation and something the Department takes very seriously. WDFW makes every effort to make a responsible decision after considering the available evidence,” the state agency said in a statement. “We appreciate the time the court put into reviewing this material and will work with the court throughout the process ahead.”

Western Wildlife Conservation is stating that with the judge’s order that WDFW can’t remove wolves from other packs such as the Togos, which are under the gun for a series of depredations, but Lehman says that that is not her understanding that the judge’s order pertained strictly to the OPTs.

The area has been the scene of past livestock attacks, most notably in 2016.

Groups outside the mainstream have been trying to impact how wolves are managed in Washington.

Last year it was the Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Oregon with the Togo Pack.

Now it’s Pacelle’s new Maryland-based organization, which put out word yesterday on today’s court hearing.

Earlier this summer they also spread news that a full-page ad had been taken out in The Seattle Times as well as reintroduced Rob Wielgus into the fray, he of the 2016’s incendiary comments about the Diamond M and where they allegedly turned their cows out — and which led to a sharp rebuke from the university where he worked at the time.

CHE did not immediately respond to a request to identify the Washington residents involved in the suit. Instead, they focused on blaming the Diamond M for “baiting wolves.”

Meanwhile, more pragmatic wolf fans are highlighting how they are working with ranchers to reduce livestock conflicts.

And late this afternoon, WDFW reported that the nearby Togo Pack was responsible for injuring two calves and killing another.

They were reported last Sunday, Aug. 11, and investigations determined that the dead calf had been killed just hours before, while the wounds to the others likely occurred three to seven days prior to their discovery.

WDFW says their owner “removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, and monitors the herd with a range rider. A WDFW-contracted range rider has been working with this producer since May.”

It raises the Togo’s depredation tally to six in the past 30 days and 14 in the past 10 months. Thresholds for considering lethal action is three in 30 and four in 10.

On. Aug. 9 WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the removal of the entire pack, but according to the update, none have been but the removal period is ongoing.

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More Wolf-Calf Problems In Ferry County; Togo Wolf Shot

Updated, 9:05 p.m., July 31, 2019

For the second time in two years, a Togo Pack wolf has been shot under reported caught-in-the-act provisions, and the northern Ferry County wolves have also attacked three calves in the past 10 days.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

It means WDFW Director Kelly Susewind may have another decision to make this week on whether to lethally remove wolves from a Eastern Washington pack to try and head off more livestock losses.

This morning he reauthorized taking out members of the OPT Pack after continued depredations there that now tally at least 27 since last September.

Protocols call for removals to be considered after three confirmed/probable attacks in 30 days, or four in 10 months.

An agency update out late this afternoon on the Togo depredations says, “WDFW staff are discussing how best to address this situation; Director Susewind will also assess this situation and consider next steps.”

This evening WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello said staff will meet internally to go over variables such as the rate of depredations, what happened, what deterrence are being used, the wolf shooting and put it all on the table for the director to consider.

Part of today’s wolf update was also to give the public an alert that there is an issue with the Togo wolves and it may require action.

The Togos run to the north of the OPTs, but unlike issues with grazing cattle with that pack, these latest depredations occurred on private lands, according to WDFW.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

The wolf shooting was reported on July 24 to WDFW, and is listed as being “under investigation” in the update, to not presuppose game wardens’ final report, but this afternoon an agency spokeswoman confirmed a Capital Press story that said the animal had been “lawfully” shot by a producer “as it was attacking a calf,” according to WDFW.

“We have heard that the preliminary assessment (from WDFW law enforcement) is that this was a lawful caught in the act incident. There was no evidence of foul play” said Martorello.

The wolf’s carcass was not recovered but it is believed to have been fatally wounded. The calf’s body was left in the field to aid in trapping and collaring efforts but was later removed.

The other two Togo depredations were looked into July 29 and earlier today, according to WDFW. More information on the latter is expected in the coming days.

“The livestock producer (producer 2) who owns these livestock removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd (when discovered), removes sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, delays turnout of livestock onto grazing allotments until June 10 when calving is finished (and deer fawns, elk calves, and moose calves become available as prey), and monitors the herd with a range rider,” WDFW reported.

Early last September, a Togo adult male was taken out following a series of summertime depredations and after a Thurston County Superior Court judge denied a preliminary injunction from Arizona-based Center For Biological Diversity that had halted WDFW’s initial plans to remove the animal in mid-August.

In late October 2017, an uncollared female Togo wolf was shot by a rancher during a series of depredations that summer and fall.

Hardcore wolf advocates had eight hours starting this morning at 8 a.m. to challenge in court Susewind’s OPT authorization, and were reportedly mulling it early in the day. They didn’t try to block an early July one that resulted in the removal of the pack’s breeding male.

After the day’s business hours were done, Martorello said that none was filed.

“We’re preparing to initiate that operation. We’ve passed 5 p.m.,” he said, adding it would likely begin in the morning on Thursday.

Wolf advocates appear to be issuing press releases and firing off tweets instead of trying the courts, perhaps in an effort to attract the attention of the governor who is involved in the presidential race.

WDFW stresses that removing OPT wolves is “not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach the statewide recovery objective,” which it has done so and how in the federally delisted eastern third of the state.

Martorello said “multiple animals” could be removed, meaning two or more.

“We think Washington’s approach is the best conservation strategy for wolves in any Western state today,” Conservation Northwest also said in a statement sent out late in the day. “Through these policies and the collaborative work of the [Wolf Advisory Group], our wolf population continues to grow, expanding to more than 126 animals at the end of last year. While at the same time, the number of ranchers using proactive conflict deterrence measures is increasing, and livestock conflicts and wolf lethal removals remain low compared to other states.”

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WDFW’s Susewind OKs Removing More OPT Wolves After Calf Attacks

As livestock losses mount again in northern Ferry County, WDFW again aims to reduce the number of wolves in the Old Profanity Territory Pack, now blamed for 27 attacks on cows and calves since early last September.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

Director Kelly Susewind’s authorization came this morning following yesterday’s news that three injured calves had been found July 26 and four other injured or dead ones in the days before that.

Six were confirmed wolf depredations, the seventh a probable, making for eight attacks in the last 30 days.

“The chronic livestock depredations and subsequent wolf removals are stressful and deeply concerning for all those involved,” Susewind said in a statement. “The department is working very hard to try to change this pack’s behavior, while also working with a diversity of stakeholders on how to prevent the cycle from repeating.”

Following the early July discovery of a dead cow on a federal grazing allotment, he OKed beginning incremental removals, leading to the killing of the pack’s breeding male in hopes of heading off further depredations and changing the wolves behavior.

But the attacks continued during an evaluation period, leading to this new effort.

“WDFW staff believe depredations are likely to continue in the near future even with the current and responsive nonlethal tools being utilized,” the agency states in outlining that preventative work.

This morning’s update gives wolf advocates eight hours to challenge the decision in court before operations begin; they did not do so during the window after Susewind’s initial authorization earlier this month.

Two OPT wolves were lethally removed last fall following depredations then.

The general area of mountainous, forested and burned Colville NF ground was also the scene of wolf-livestock conflict in 2016.

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OPT Pack Continues To Attack Cattle; WDFW Decision Likely Weds.

With still more Old Profanity Territory Pack depredations reported, a decision is likely tomorrow from WDFW on what’s next for the northern Ferry County wolves now blamed for 27 dead and injured cattle in less than 11 months.

ATTACKS ON CALVES GRAZING FEDERAL LANDS IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON CONTINUE. THIS ANIMAL WAS WOUNDED SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (WDFW)

Following this afternoon’s news that three wounded calves were found Friday, July 26 by a rancher gathering and moving cattle, an announcement could come as early as 8 a.m. Wednesday to work through the required eight-hour court challenge window before operations commence if the state chooses to lethally remove more members, which it can under the wolf-livestock protocol.

WDFW Spokeswoman Staci Lehman said that regional managers forwarded Director Kelly Susewind, who was out sick on Monday, their recommendation today for review with the state Attorney General’s office.

“We’re waiting for the director to make his decision,” she said. “He’s very, very thorough.”

After six months without a confirmed depredation, the OPT wolves struck in early July, killing a cow on a federal grazing allotment.

That led Susewind to authorize incremental removals to try and head off more attacks and change the pack’s behavior, an OK that wasn’t challenged in court.

The pack’s breeding male was killed July 13 and WDFW began evaluating the remaining four adults’ and four juveniles’ response.

They struck again injuring and killing three more calves, likely killing a fourth, all of which were investigated around July 18-20.

At that point last Tuesday, Susewind was “assessing this situation and considering next steps.”

The latest three injured calves were investigated by WDFW, which confirmed a wolf attack based on bite marks, hemorrhaging, and GPS data of a young male pack member.

The calves were able to be treated and released.

“The producer is continuing to remove or secure livestock carcasses (when discovered) to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, and remove sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed,” the agency reported. “WDFW and county staff are continuing to coordinate patrols of the grazing area to increase human presence and use Fox lights at salting and watering locations to deter wolves. Other livestock producers with cattle on federal grazing allotments in the OPT pack territory have deployed range riders.”

WDFW also reports that the rancher, Len McIrvin and the Diamond M per previous stories, has declined to use WDFW-contracted range riders to “work with their cattle at this time.”

This part of Northeast Washington has seen wolf-livestock conflicts since at least 2016 and the original Profanity Peak Pack, which WDFW took out.

The OPT wolves began depredating last September and two members were lethally removed by WDFW. Unless I’m mistaken, the pack is responsible for the most cattle attacks on record in Washington.

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As OPT Cattle Attacks Continue, WDFW Assessing Situation

Editor’s note: Updated 8 a.m., July 24, 2019 at bottom with news on Grouse Flats Pack depredations

WDFW is confirming four more calves have been or were probably killed or injured by the Old Profanity Territory Pack, mostly since its breeding male was lethally removed, and is continuing to evaluate the situation.

“Director (Kelly) Susewind is now assessing this situation and considering next steps,” an agency weekly update out Tuesday afternoon reads.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

Range riding and other nonlethal conflict prevention measures will continue in the immediate short term in the northern Ferry County area where the cattle are on federal grazing allotments.

WDFW killed the OPT’s breeding male July 13 following the death of a cow, at the time the 20th depredation by the pack in less than a year, then paused its operation to evaluate the pack’s response.

Two injured calves were found on July 18, a dead one was reported on July 19 and investigated July 20 , with a fourth, also dead, discovered July 22.

The first three were confirmed wolf depredations, the last one went down as a probable, according to WDFW.

All but one occurred after the removal.

There are believed to be 8 wolves in the pack, half of which are adults, including one younger male that has a radio collar that was tied to the scene of one of the dead calves.

The agency says this about prevention measures being used:

“The owner of the calves is the same livestock producer who experienced wolf depredations by the OPT pack on July 6 and previously in 2018. On July 10, WDFW released an update detailing the proactive nonlethal conflict deterrence measures in place prior to the confirmed wolf depredation on July 6, and the subsequent lethal removal of an OPT wolf on July 13. Following the depredation confirmed on July 6, WDFW-contracted range riders were in the area for two days before pausing activity during lethal removal efforts. The WDFW-contracted range riders did not resume riding because the livestock producer prefers that contracted range riders not work with their cattle at this time.”

“The producer is continuing to remove or secure livestock carcasses (when discovered) to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, and remove sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed. WDFW and county staff are continuing to coordinate patrols of the grazing area to increase human presence and use Fox lights at salting and watering locations to deter wolves. Other livestock producers with cattle on federal grazing allotments in the OPT pack territory have deployed range riders.”

Rancher Len McIrvin of the Diamond M is dismissive of non-lethal efforts in a Capital Press story out today after the fourth calf’s carcass was discovered.

“They learn to fear the helicopter, at best, maybe,” he told the ag outlet.

WDFW says its next update on the pack will come next Tuesday, July 30.

Meanwhile, the Grouse Flats Pack has killed a second calf in two weeks, this time on private land near Anatone, according to an article in the Lewiston Tribune, which broke the news.

It’s also the Asotin County wolves’ third depredation in 10 months, the trigger for consideration of lethal removals under WDFW protocols, and fourth in less than a year.

The others were a dead calf investigated in early September and an injured cow investigated in late October.

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More Cattle Attacks In Ferry Co.; Wielgus Part Of WDFW Pressure Campaign

As wolf advocates launch a pressure campaign against Washington wildlife managers over their handling of the OPT Pack, the Ferry County wolves have reportedly attacked three more calves since the breeding male was taken out nine days ago.

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE ORIGINAL PROFANITY PEAK PACK OF NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY, WHICH WAS LETHALLY REMOVED IN 2016 AFTER NUMEROUS DEPREDATIONS. (WDFW)

The Capital Press says that one of the calves was found dead while the other two died as a result of the depredations from this past Thursday and Saturday.

The pack has been in an evaluation period after the large wolf was lethally removed July 13 in response to the killing of an adult cow on a federal grazing allotment discovered July 6.

That loss was the 20th attributed to the OPTs since early last September.

“Our team is meeting this morning as we speak,” said Staci Lehman, a WDFW spokesperson based out of Spokane, a short time ago.

The Press reports that the rancher whose cattle were attacked claims the incidents occurred near lights set up to ward off wolves.

“The only thing they can do is total pack removal,” Len McIrvin told the ag outlet.

In a new pressure campaign, McIrvin is termed an “instigator for a long series of ‘wolf depredation’ actions” taken by WDFW and accounts for 85 percent of all lethal removals.

The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action also placed a full-page ad in yesterday’s Seattle Times calling on Director Kelly Susewind not to authorize more removals, and sent out a press release that brings Rob Wielgus, the former Washington State University professor, back into the conflict.

In 2016, Wielgus claimed McIrvin and his Diamond M Ranch had turned out cattle “directly on top” of the original Profanity Peak Pack’s den, but WDFW and WSU officials refuted that, saying the herd had been let out 4 to 5 miles away.

“My research shows that non-lethal controls, such as keeping livestock and salt blocks one kilometer away from wolf denning and rendezvous areas, are very effective in deterring rare wolf attacks on livestock,” Wielgus stated in the AWA press release.

According to WDFW, the rancher delayed turnout two weeks and sent out calves born earlier in the year, both of which “are considered proactive conflict mitigation measures because the calves are larger and more defensible.”

“The producer is continuing to coordinate patrols of the grazing area with WDFW and county staff, removing or securing livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, using Fox lights at salting and watering locations to deter wolves, and removing sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed,” the agency reported last Tuesday.

At the very least, expect a weekly update on the situation from WDFW tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as outside groups attempt to minimize Washington’s wolf count and make the wild animals seem more vulnerable, the agency is increasing the visibility of how it manages wolves, placing the species as the banner on its website with a link to population information.

“The 2018 annual report reinforces the profile of wolves as a highly resilient, adaptable species whose members are well-suited to Washington’s rugged, expansive landscape,” the statement reads.

Next month expect to begin hearing more about planning for postrecovery wolf management in the state, a scoping process that will include more than a dozen meeting from September through November.

WDFW will essentially be asking the public if there is anything missing in its plans for how to deal with wolves after they reach population goals in the coming years.

For hunters or others unable to attend the meetings, there will be a webinar version.

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WDFW Kills One O.P.T. Wolf, Now Evaluating Pack Behavior

Editor’s note: Updated 11:15 a.m., July 17, 2019, with more info from WDFW near bottom

Washington wolf managers say they have lethally removed a member of the Old Profanity Territory Pack and are now evaluating the livestock-depredating wolves’ behavior.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

WDFW reports killing the collared adult male on July 13 and made the announcement yesterday.

The pack is blamed for 20 attacks on cows and calves in northern Ferry County since early last September, with 15 of those falling within a rolling 10-month window that allows for the agency to consider taking wolves out to try and head off more depredations.

Director Kelly Susewind authorized “incremental removals” on July 10 after a dead cow was found July 6 and determined to have been killed by a member or members of the pack, allowing for an eight-hour court window for challenges, but none were filed.

“WDFW’s approach to incremental removal consists of a period of active operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions changed the pack’s behavior. The department has now entered an evaluation period,” the agency states in an online update.

State sharpshooters have now taken out three members of the pack, two last fall, but some are calling for the complete removal of the animals which share countryside with cattle on federal grazing allotments and private pastures, while others say the problem will only continue because of the quality of the landscape for wolves.

It was the scene of livestock attacks and wolf killing in 2016.

WDFW says that it may restart removals of the OPTs if another depredation turns up and is determined to have occurred after Saturday’s wolf was killed.

Wolf policy manager Donny Martorello describes the animal as the pack’s breeding male, which had been part of previous depredations.

Taking out the largest, most able member is meant to reduce the rest of the pack’s ability to attack livestock, he said.

“It’s not only the removal of a key individual but the hazing can have an effect to change wolf behavior,” Martorello added.

There were believed to be five adults and four juveniles in the pack as of a week or so ago. At least two had collars, the alpha male and a yearling male captured in March.

Martorello reported there was nothing new with the Grouse Flats Pack, which killed a calf on WDFW’s 4-O Ranch Unit of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area, but that the agency is gearing up to hold a number of public meetings in the coming months.

Starting in early August, expect to begin hearing more about planning for postrecovery wolf management in Washington, a scoping process that will include more than a dozen meeting across the state from September through November.

WDFW will essentially be asking the public if there is anything missing in its plans for how to deal with wolves after they reach population goals in the coming years.

“It’s about making sure we have the bookends at the right places,” says Martorello.

He says that for hunters or others unable to attend the meetings, there will be a webinar version.

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Wolf Depredation Reported On Asotin Co. Wildlife Area

Washington wildlife managers are confirming another wolf depredation this week, this one in the southeastern Blue Mountains.

They say the Grouse Flats Pack of southern Asotin County killed a 400-plus-pound calf in a fenced 160-acre pasture of the 4-O Ranch Unit of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area.

THE DEPREDATION OCCURRED ON THE 10,000-PLUS-ACRE 4-0 UNIT OF THE CHIEF JOSEPH WILDLIFE AREA ALONG AND ABOVE THE GRANDE RONDE.  (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Its carcass was found Monday by state staffers working on the site. An investigation found classic hallmarks of a wolf kill, and telemetry from a radio-collared member of the pack put it in the area when it’s believed the calf was taken down.

“The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock monitors the herd by range riding at least every other day, maintains regular human presence in the area, removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, and avoids known wolf high activity areas,” WDFW reported. “Since the depredation occurred, the producer deployed Fox lights in the grazing area and will increase the frequency of range riding until cattle can be moved to a different pasture.”

The Grouse Flats Pack struck three times in 2018, injuring one calf in August, killing another in early September and injuring a cow in late October.

The three head all belonged to different ranchers grazing cattle on private lands and federal grazing allotments.

Meanwhile, far to the north in Ferry County, WDFW had no update to its announced incremental removal of wolves from the Old Profanity Territory Pack, according to spokeswoman Sam Mongomery.

Director Kelly Susewind greenlighted that operation on July 10.

Outside environmental groups reportedly did not want to challenge it in court during an eight-hour window.

The OPT Pack is blamed for 20 depredations, including 15 in a rolling 10-month window. Under WDFW’s protocols, lethal removals are considered for three depredations in a 30-day window or four in 10 months.

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