Tag Archives: north cascades national park

North Cascades NP Shares More Details On Wolf Observations

A North Cascades National Park official is shedding light on his revelations yesterday that there may be two or three packs of wolves there.

That news caught Washington state wolf managers off guard during a Wednesday morning interagency teleconference they’d organized because their maps and updates this year don’t report any packs in the park itself.

THIS MAY, A TRAIL CAMERA STATIONED IN THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK CAPTURED AN IMAGE OF THIS WOLF. (NPS)

But at the same time, information federal wildlife biologist Jason Ransom shared with Northwest Sportsman today does correspond to locations wolves are known to occur in the northern Cascade Range, have been spotted in recent years or is not that far from previous pack ranges.

And more to the point, it shows that additional attention should be focused on this remote region of the state, especially as the important winter population and breeding pair counts near.

“Bottom line is there is quite a lot more activity in the park over the last year or two,” says Ransom “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Hozomeen wolves had a den in the park, but we just don’t know about it if they do. Same goes for the other areas. We’ve certainly gotten a lot more track reports this year, which could mean some localized use.”

A MAP OF NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK COMPLEX, WHICH INCLUDES ROSS LAKE AND LAKE CHELAN NATIONAL RECREATION AREAS, WILL SHOW HOZOMEEN AT TOP RIGHT, MT. LOGAN AND LAKE CHELAN AT BOTTOM RIGHT AND MARBLEMOUNT AT MIDDLE LEFT. (NPS)

Hozomeen is located near the northern end of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, part of the federal land complex in the region.

Up until early 2016 WDFW maps did identify a pack there, though it was shaded differently because the wolves were believed to den in British Columbia, which in standard protocols means it didn’t count towards state delisting goals. Per the agency’s website, “Packs may be removed from the map due to natural breakup of the pack, lethal control, or no longer detected.”

Ransom says that wolves here are occasionally turning up on trail cameras on either side of the border, mostly on the east side of Ross.

“We’ve seen up to three animals together in winter, which meets the state definition of a pack. We’ve also picked up tracks of two individuals traveling on the west bank of Ross Lake, but we have no way of knowing if those are the Hozomeen wolves or others,” he says. “Otherwise, we continue to receive anecdotal reports of tracks by backcountry staff in the area, and generally interpret those reports as some likelihood the same wolves detected on camera are using that area of the park through time. ”

This past May and June saw a flurry of activity around Marblemount, where biologists ultimately confirmed a lone 100-pound, two- to three-year-old male. Ransom said there have been “anecdotal visitor and staff reports” on this side of the park, it’s western face, over the past two years, including different-colored and multiple animals.

He says that one of two trail cams deployed picked up a canid whose “behavior and general structure of the animal strongly suggests a wolf rather than coyote,” but it won’t be till next year before the devices are checked again.

Most intriguing might be reports from the southern end of the park, between Highway 20 and Lake Chelan. Ransom says there’s been “quite a bit of activity from multiple individuals” there over the last year, “including at least one detection event of two animals together in late winter/early spring.”

That isn’t too far west from where the state’s first confirmed pack, the Lookouts, roamed, sightings of which have been few and far between this year, with WDFW capturing in mid-September what it said was just the second trail camera image of a wolf in that territory since last winter.

“This year, we’ve detected at least three individuals in the southern part of the park based on color and markings, with several other detections that could be the same animals or different ones,” says Ransom. “Wolves were detected on at least eight cameras in the area this year, roughly south of Mt. Logan to the head of Lake Chelan.”

Logan sits in the headwaters of Thunder Creek, itself an arm of Diablo Lake, and North Fork Bridge Creek, which ultimately drains into Chelan via Bridge Creek and the Stehekin River.

“Like elsewhere in the park, we’ve received numerous anecdotal reports of tracks from field staff in the backcountry and generally interpret those reports as some likelihood the same wolves detected on camera are using those general areas of the park,” Ransom adds.

He says DNA from scat might be able to determine whether the south park wolves and Lookouts are related, but also notes that only 80 percent of samples sequence out.

Following yesterday’s teleconference, WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello said state staffers were looking into the park service’s reports. He said the agency, which reports to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms packs in Washington.

Next March there may be more dots on the map.

Unknown Wolf Packs In North Cascades National Park? Hmmmm

A somewhat dull interagency teleconference on Washington wolves this morning turned jaw-dropping an hour and a half in when a National Park Service ecologist said they believe they have two or three packs in the North Cascades.

It particularly stunned the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf managers.

“Stephanie had to revive me,” said Donny Martorello about the agency’s carnivore manager, Stephanie Simek, who was leading the call.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS NO KNOWN WOLF PACKS IN THE NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK (GREY INSIDE RED CIRCLE) AS OF LAST WINTER, BUT A BIOLOGIST THERE TOLD A TELECONFERENCE THERE MAY BE TWO OR THREE. (WDFW)

That’s because WDFW’s maps and its regular wolf updates don’t show or list any packs in that highly rumpled country south of the Canadian border, and the agency’s public reports site records very, very few observations over the years.

“We weren’t aware at all you had pack-level activity in the park,” said Martorello, who is the state’s wolf policy lead.

Now, whether the Park Service actually does or not is a good question.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the wolves that NPS wildlife ecologist Jason Ransom referred to were discrete packs that heretofore haven’t been identified, were wanderers from the two known packs in western Okanogan County, the confirmed solo animal in eastern Skagit County or others from southern British Columbia, or were some combination thereof.

Nor was it clear what the evidence was — observations, trail cam pictures, tracks, scat, howls, bumps in the night?

Or whether the park’s definition of a pack is the same as WDFW’s (two or more wolves traveling together in winter).

(A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman regularly queried since June has made no mention of anything.)

While recent years have seen wolves around Hozomeen, on upper Ross Lake just east of North Cascades park proper, activity there in the early 1990s and that NCNP still touts on its website was related to a more sordid episode.

Ransom didn’t return a phone call and email to Northwest Sportsman, but did tell the teleconference that data and DNA samples were being collected for analysis.

Under the math we’re locked in to get wolves delisted at the state level, breeding pairs would be relatively helpful in that region.

Needless to say, Martorello and Simek directed their lead wolf biologist Ben Maletzke to get in touch with Ransom asap.

All four were among the couple dozen or so federal, tribal and state staffers who took part in the call, which was the first get-together of the group in a year and a half.

Interested parties could also listen in on mute.

Most of the rest of the teleconference was fairly tame in comparison, and it allowed WDFW to bring its wildlife and land management partners up to speed on all things wolf in Washington.

This winter will see district biologists scouring the mountains south of I-90 for signs of Canis lupus, said Maletzke.

“There are a lot of reports to follow up on, especially after this hunting season,” he said.

(Hunters, keep ’em coming.)

There’s also a lot more work to be done on the big predator-prey studies that were launched last winter in the Methow Valley and Northeast Washington.

Biologists and others captured and collared cougars, wolves, deer, elk and moose in some of the state’s best hunting country to try and figure out the dynamics between the herds, packs and prides.

Analyzing the results is a ways out, but that particular subject weighed heavily on the mind of one caller

Near the end of the teleconference, Ray Entz of the Kalispel Tribe called for proactive management of wolves where they overlap endangered species, versus WDFW’s somewhat reactive one used with livestock depredations.

“We cannot afford to wait for a dead caribou. There are only 10 left. We’ve really got to up our game, people,” Entz said.

He said that without Canada going after wolves preying on the South Selkirk herd, “we don’t think we’d have any caribou left.”

Entz said that radio collar data shows that the herd’s last two “transgressions” into the U.S. were to Northeast Washington rather than habitat in Idaho and Northwest Montana, but the jaunts — not to mention the caribou — are becoming “fewer and farther between.”

ACCORDING TO RECENT SURVEYS, THERE ARE NOW ONLY 10 SOUTH SELKIRK HERD WOODLAND CARIBOU LEFT. (USFWS)

He said that tribe has just completed constructing an 18-acre maternity pen in southern BC for use next spring to keep woodland caribou moms and calves safe from predators.

Earlier in the meeting, Martorello said that with Washington about halfway to meeting wolf population goals, it was time to start thinking about what’s next and developing a postdelisting plan. He will bring that topic to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at the oversight panel’s December meeting.

While Anna Schmidt with the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought now might be time to update the state’s management plan — itself a five-year endeavor the first go-around — Travis Fletcher with the Colville National Forest, which is home to more wolves than any other federal woods in the state, noted that with recovery “going quite well” it was “better to look forward than back.”