Tag Archives: opt pack

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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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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Susewind OKs Targeting OPT Pack Wolves For Chronic Livestock Attacks

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind this morning authorized incremental lethal removals of a Northeast Washington wolf pack involved in at least 20 cattle depredations since last September, the latest a cow that was killed sometime before this past Saturday.

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

“This is a very difficult situation for all those involved, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area,” Susewind said in an agency statement. “Our goal is to change this pack’s behavior.”

His OK is subject to an eight-hour window for any possible court appeal.

State sharpshooters took out two members of the OPT or Old Profanity Territory Pack last fall following a series of attacks on calves.

The effort was paused twice, and there were three attacks in January on private land attributed to the pack, though those “were not considered in the Director’s decision.”

All totaled, WDFW says that the wolves in the northern Ferry County group have killed at least seven calves and cows and injured 13 since Sept. 5, with 15 of the attacks occurring in the rolling 10-month window where lethal action can be considered.

Yesterday afternoon, the agency began laying out its case for possibly making this decision, detailing nonlethal preventative measures taken by the producer including turning out calves later and older, wolf-livestock conflict avoidance work being done where the cattle are grazing on a Colville National Forest allotment, and outlining the pack’s chronic history of depredations.

Those were reiterated and expanded in this morning’s announcement.

“As called for in the plan and protocol, incremental removal includes periods of active removals or attempts to remove wolves followed by periods of evaluation to determine if pack behavior has changed,” WDFW states.

This mostly public-lands, mountainous and forested/burned forest region interspersed with some meadows and grazing allotments has seen numerous depredations in the past, including last year by the Togo Pack, in 2017 by the Sherman Pack, in 2016 by the Profanity Peak Pack and in 2012 by the Wedge Pack.

It’s believed there are nine members in the OPT Pack, five adults and four pups.

We’ll have more as news comes in.

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OPT Wolves Involved In 20th Livestock Depredation, WDFW Says

Washington wolf managers are reporting a fresh cattle depredation in a troublesome part of the state.

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF A NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY WOLF PACK SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (WDFW)

WDFW says that the OPT wolves are responsible for the death of a cow discovered this past Saturday in northern Ferry County, bringing the number of livestock killed or injured by the pack since early September 2018 to 20.

“Director (Kelly) Susewind is now assessing this situation and considering next steps,” the agency stated in an update to its wolf pages.

The livestock producer wasn’t identified, but WDFW said it is the same one who was hit by a string of depredations last summer and fall, meaning the Diamond M Ranch.

They turned out cattle onto Forest Service allotments two weeks later than allowed under their permit, according to the agency, which added that for the past three weeks, there have been “near-daily patrols” of the herds by its staffers, ranchhands, and Jeff Flood, the Ferry-Stevens County wildlife specialist.

WDFW’s report includes more details about proactive, nonlethal measures being taken, along with details on how the cattle have been using the area.

On June 23, fox lights were also deployed to try and keep wolves away from the livestock.

Following last September’s attacks by the OPTs, which occupy the old territory of the Profanity Pack, Susewind authorized  incrementally removing members, taking out two of the four known wolves, paused the operation, restarted it again after late October depredations, then it paused again in November.

In January three more depredations occurred, though those don’t count towards considering lethal removal.

A monthly wolf report WDFW sent out yesterday shows that 13 and now 14 depredations with this latest have occurred within the 10-month rolling window for consideration through Saturday, July 6.

Thirteen of the 20 attacks resulted in injured calves or cows, the other seven deaths.

Diamond M operators suffered depredations from the Profanity Peak Pack in 2016 and Wedge Pack in 2012.

There are at least four and possibly five adults in the OPT Pack, along with four juveniles, the agency reports.

Things are otherwise generally quiet with Washington’s wolves, at least according to WDFW’s June report.

It states that six wolves, including two females in the Beaver Creek Pack, an adult female in the Dirty Shirt Pack, a yearling female in the Huckleberry Pack, an adult male in the Lookout Pack, and an adult male in the OPT Pack were all captured and collared last month.

The agency also stated that a collared Teanaway female that dispersed out of Central Washington was legally killed near Douglas Lake in British Columbia, and that members of its pack were also involved in “an interaction” with cattle.

Away from the woods, get ready for more wolf talk later this summer and fall.

“WDFW will begin a public engagement process in August that will propose the development of a post-recovery wolf conservation and management plan,” state managers posted in their monthly update. “The evaluation of wolf translocation will be incorporated into this process. Wolves are currently listed as a state endangered species in Washington. The post-recovery planning process is being initiated proactively because WDFW anticipates it will likely take two to three years to complete. The post-recovery plan will guide WDFW in long-term wolf conservation and management, and will evaluate various wolf management tools, including translocation. WDFW will announce the public scoping for the post-recovery plan and associated public meetings in August.”

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