Tag Archives: packs

Wolf Numbers Continue To Grow In Washington

UPDATED 6:20 P.M., MARCH 16, 2018 WITH QUOTES FROM THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL AND CONSERVATION NORTHWEST

Stop me if you’ve read this before, but Washington’s wolf population grew again in 2017, making it nine straight years.

According to WDFW’s just-released year-end count, there is a minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs across the state, though all but 16 of those animals are in the federally delisted third of Washington.

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

Those figures are all up over the previous count of 115, 20 and 10, and despite around a dozen lethal removals, tribal harvests, caught-in-the-act takes and illegal poachings last year.

WDFW’s wolf specialist Ben Maletzke stressed that the numbers are base figures and that they help to show longterm trends. Since 2008, when the Lookout Pack was confirmed, wolf numbers have increased an average of 31 percent each year, though last year was up only 6 percent.

Mark Pidgeon, president of the Hunters Heritage Council and member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, said wolves are “firmly established” in Washington and it’s now time to start planning ahead.

“The Wolf Advisory Group’s single mission is to work on that post-delisting plan. More than ever, hunters, ranchers, and the conservation community have to come together for the common good. This post-delisting plan is where hunters have the most skin in the game. Before, it was protecting ranchers and agriculture. The post-delisting plan is where we need to make sure that hunting opportunities are protected.”

Among the new packs are Frosty Meadows on the eastern side of the Colville Reservation, Togo in northern Ferry County, Five Sisters between the Spokane Reservation and Spokane, Leadpoint in northern Stevens County and Grouse Flats in the southeastern Blue Mountains.

WDFW’S LATEST WOLF PACK MAP SHOWS YET MORE PACKS, ER, PACKED INTO NORTHEAST WASHINGTON, AS WELL AS A NEW ONE IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, BUT STILL NONE SOUTH OF I-90 IN THE CASCADES, A KEY AREA TO MEET STATE RECOVERY GOALS. (WDFW)

Though WDFW’s newest wolf map puts a green circle denoting a pack in eastern Skagit County, a presentation for the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s meeting tomorrow notes there is only one animal there. It also seems to indicate that suspicions there might be more wolves in the North Cascades couldn’t be confirmed.

Only one of the three packs in WDFW’s North Cascades zone successfully bred last year, the Teanaways.

To meet minimum recovery goals for state delisting, there have to four successful breeding pairs there as well as four in the Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast zone and Eastern Washington zones, plus three floating pairs for three straight years (the other formula is 18 in certain numbers for one year).

The eastern zone has 13 breeding packs alone, but there are none south of I-90, and despite intriguing reports from western Yakima and Kittitas, northern Skamania and eastern Lewis Counties, WDFW reports not finding any wolves here, though it’s entirely possible.

There’s been increasing pressure to move wolves out of the Northeast Washington, and a translocation bill jumped from the state House to the Senate and while it died there, lawmakers supplied WDFW with the funding to begin SEPA reviews towards that, with an update on that work due at the end of 2019.

As for other facts and figures from the commission presentation, 2017 saw six known dispersals of Washington wolves, animals that either moved elsewhere instate, up to British Columbia or — in the case of one — across northern Idaho into Montana, back into central Idaho, down to the edge of the Snake River Plain, up to Yellowstone and then off the map into Northwest Wyoming.

The state’s largest pack is the Carpenter, at 13 animals. WDFW captured 12 wolves in a dozen different packs last year, and monitored 22 in 15. Currently, 13 percent of Washington’s known wolves are collared.

In early 2017, WDFW launched a predator-prey study in key game-rich areas, the Methow, Colville and Pend Oreille River Valleys, collaring deer, elk and moose, and while expected to run through 2021, preliminary results aren’t very conclusive, as the cause of death for a half dozen muleys and wapitis wasn’t able to be determined.

Last year saw eight cattle depredations linked to four different packs, the Sherman/Profanities, Smackouts, Leadpoints and Togos. That represents the highest number of packs involved in livestock attacks, but also a dropoff in total depredations from 2016 levels.

To get ahead of conflicts, WDFW reports that the number of cost-share contracts and range riders afield last year was the highest yet, and triple 2015’s.

“As wolves have continued to recolonize wild areas of our state, Washington has engaged in a decision-making process rooted not in acrimony and moving goalposts, but in dialogue, a search for common-ground, and thoughtful collaboration so that we can have both healthy wolf packs and local communities that accept them,” said Mitch Friedman,  executive director of Conservation Northwest. “Tolerance for wolves in the rural areas where they reside is essential for long-term recovery. Forums including the state’s Wolf Advisory Group are leading to an increased understanding of wolf issues on all sides.”

As for managing  wolves, the agency spent $1.27 million between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 on deterrence ($543,575), population monitoring ($263,775), lethal removal ($135,094) and compensation ($57,752), among other costs.

Funding for all that work came from WDFW, state and federal monies and special license plate sales.

 

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.”