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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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WDFW OPT Wolf Removal Op Can Proceed After Lawsuit Attempt

Editor’s note: Since this blog was posted around 3:30 p.m. today, Aug. 1, 2019, a King County Superior Court judge has sided against parties trying to stop WDFW from lethally removing livestock depredating wolves. “Judge decided in DFW’s favor so we can move forward with removal,” said agency spokeswoman Staci Lehman at 5:30 p.m. via email. “However, we don’t have a timeframe currently and someone else could file another TRO at any time.”

Editor’s note 2: During the Aug. 2, 2019 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, Director Kelly Susewind provided an update to say that there will be an Aug. 16 court date “for a follow-up status report” and that in the meanwhile WDFW is “actively looking” to implement his lethal removal authorization.

Another active day in Washington’s wolf world, as the focus shifted from northern Ferry County to Seattle today.

That’s where a Maryland-based organization says a motion has been filed to stop WDFW from killing more Old Profanity Territory wolves for chronic cattle depredations.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The state agency has paused its planned lethal operation against the pack now blamed for killing or injuring 27 cows and calves since last September pending a judge’s decision.

A temporary restraining order could be granted with a follow-up court date in several days, or the injunction could be tossed out, which would allow WDFW to proceed, according to spokeswoman Staci Lehman.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, word one way or another had yet to emerge from court.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind had greenlighted more OPT removals first thing yesterday morning, and following an eight-hour window for court challenges, state staffers could have begun targeting the eight wolves last evening or this morning.

But the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court by “two Washington residents” represented by Seattle attorney Johnathon Bashford and “with the support” of Wayne Pacelle’s Center for a Humane Economy put a halt to that.

Lehman says that technically motions can be filed by anybody at any time but that the eight-hour notice is a “courtesy” for people to get their “legal ducks in a row” before WDFW takes action.

Appealing for a restraining order is the same play that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands made last August after the Togo Pack had attacked three times in 30 days and Susewind OKed killing one or two to try and head off more problems.

A Thurston County Superior Court judge initially granted the out-of-state groups a TRO, but it was lifted about 10 days later by another judge because it didn’t meet a legal benchmark to be able to move forward, and one Togo wolf was ultimately taken out.

In this latest lawsuit threat, the parties are taking issue with WDFW for removing wolves depredating on Diamond M Ranch cattle on federal grazing allotments and trying to draw attention to the livestock producers’ alleged “needlessly provocative actions.”

Meanwhile, they’re also taking their own — attempting to break the fragile peace that is wolf management in Washington, just as the Arizona- and Oregon-based organizations before them.

They’ve taken out a full-page ad in The Seattle Times in recent weeks and 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.

Yesterday, WDFW also announced that a Togo Pack wolf had been shot by a rancher as it chased a calf and that the pack had three attacks within the past 30 days. The agency also alerted the public a week or so ago the Grouse Flats Pack had three in the past 10 months.

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Ranch Hand Shoots, Kills Adams Co. Wolf Chasing Cattle

A ranch hand shot and killed one of three wolves he spotted chasing cattle in northeast Adams County earlier this week, a legal use of “caught in the act” provisions under state rules.

A SCREENSHOT FROM GOOGLE MAPS SHOWS ADAMS COUNTY (RED LINE) AND A YELLOW CIRCLE SHOWS ITS NORTHEASTERN CORNER. (GOOGLE MAPS)

After seeing the livestock running on the evening of Feb. 4 then the wolves, the employee yelled, causing two of them to break off pursuit, but after a brief pause the third continued to chase one cow, WDFW reported this morning.

“The ranch employee shot and killed the wolf from approximately 120 yards away,” the agency stated.

WDFW staffers and game wardens quickly responded to the scene to investigate that evening.


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“Based on the preliminary findings, WDFW law enforcement indicated that the shooting was lawful and consistent with state regulations. In areas of Washington where wolves are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, WAC 220-440-080 states the owner of domestic animals (or an immediate family member, agent, or employee) may kill one gray wolf without a permit issued by the WDFW director if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals,” a WDFW statement out this morning said.

The wolf was determined to be an “unmarked” adult female but its breeding status wasn’t immediately clear. Mating season is now.

There have been other caught in the act incidents in the delisted part of the state, but what makes this one unusual is its location.

It occurred in the Channeled Scablands, at the edge of the open, lightly populated far eastern Columbia Basin and northwestern corner of the Palouse, far from what we’ve come to know as classic wolf country.

WDFW’S 2018 WOLF PACK MAP. (WDFW)

Three wolves traveling together constitutes a pack and then some — pups born in previous years? — but none are shown anywhere near here on WDFW’s wolf maps, and there aren’t many public reports from the region either.

Still, there has been at least one depredation in these parts in the past, a pregnant ewe killed in nearby northern Whitman County in December 2014.

State wildlife conflict staffers are working with the rancher to try and prevent more attacks and others are looking for the wolves to potentially add them to the pack map for the annual year-end count for 2018, WDFW reported.

With wolves in this unexpected area of Washington, it’s highly likely that the agency’s minimum count will be well above last year’s 122, with one University of Washington researcher suggesting it’s nearing 200. That was based in part on evidence his wolf-poop-sniffing dogs found in the state’s northeast corner and elsewhere.

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.