Tag Archives: stevens county

WDFW, UW Set To Again Collar Deer, Elk, Wolves, Lions For 5-yr NE WA Predator-Prey Study

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will start capturing deer in northeast Washington in early December and fit them with radio-collars as part of an ongoing predator-prey study that began two years ago.

EARLIER THIS YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA IN STEVENS COUNTY CAPTURED WHAT’S BELIEVED TO BE A SMACKOUT PACK YEARLING PACKING FAWN QUARTERS BACK TO THE DEN. (JEFF FLOOD)

The study, scheduled to run at least five years, will help to assess the impact of wolves, cougars, and other predators on deer and elk by monitoring the interactions of all species.

This winter, researchers hope to capture at least 30 white-tailed deer in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties – primarily on public land, but also on private land where WDFW has secured landowner permission. Capture techniques include trapping animals using bait, entangling them in drop nets, and darting them with immobilization drugs from the ground.

The study plan also calls for radio-collaring wolves, cougars, bobcats, and coyotes in Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Okanogan counties. Some wolves are already radio-collared in those areas, but researchers want to maintain collars on at least two wolves in each of the packs within the study area. Cougar capture work with the use of dogs will get underway in late November, followed by bobcat and coyote captures using box traps and foothold traps after Jan. 1.

Collaborating researchers from the University of Washington (UW) will join WDFW research scientists and field biologists to monitor radio-collared ungulates and track their movements, distribution, habitat use, diet, productivity and survival. Cougars will be monitored to learn about changes in social behavior, population dynamics, prey selection and movements in areas where wolves also occur.

State wildlife managers ask that hunters who harvest a radio-collared deer or elk – and residents who encounter a dead radio-collared animal – contact WDFW’s Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley (509-892-1001), so researchers can recover the collar and collect biological samples from the carcasses.

Funding for the five-year study comes from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, federal Pittman-Robertson funds, and state wildlife funds.The UW also secured National Science Foundation grant funds for part of the project.

So About That ‘Wolf’ Story I Shared …

When is a wolf not precisely a wolf?

Sometimes on Sunday mornings of long holiday weekends when your Google News Alerts for “Stevens County Wolf” sends you a link to an overnight story and you open it without having your coffee first.

NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY WOLF, 2014. (WDFW)

In this case it was a piece in the Spokane Spokesman-Review detailing a hunter’s encounter over the carcass of his deer last month.

Reading it twice and glancing at the image on my smartphone I decided to share it on Facebook as another example in the continuing saga of wolf recolonization in Washington and for the hunter’s cool reaction under duress.

Andrew Norby had killed a whitetail buck near Jump Off Joe Lake the afternoon of Oct. 20 and as he wrapped up butchering the carcass of the deer he felt he was being watched.

“I looked up and about 20 to 25 yards to my left, there was what I assumed was a wolf,” Norby told the newspaper’s outdoor reporter Eli Francovich. “He just kind of snuck up on me while I was working with all the meat.”

Norby explained how he parried the animal’s aggressive moves towards the deer with his own reactions, but decided against shooting it or even blasting off a warning shot as he believed it would have resulted in “a mess to try and explain to someone why I shot a wolf. I had no wish to be mauled or anything, but also no wish to go through that process.”

I had a buttload of stuff to do on Sunday — thorough house cleaning, catch snippets of the Hawks game, shop for the week, kid birthday party — but as I checked in from time to time I saw that, as with all things wolf, the reaction on Facebook to my story share was of course heated.

Partly that was due to the Spokesman-Review‘s initial headline that carried over in the link, “Wolf steals deer from Stevens County hunter.”

That did not accurately reflect the events in the field, and in my share I noted things actually occurred over the carcass of the buck, meaning most of the meat had already been removed.

I could have done a better job relating that as even though that info was in the narrative of the newspaper’s story, lord knows I’ve been known to react to just a headline too.

But questions also began to arise from readers on our Facebook page and elsewhere whether said wolf was actually a wolf.

Later on Sunday the SSR changed the headline to “Canine steals deer from Stevens County,” which I added as an update to the online thread Monday morning when I got to work.

Looking more closely at the accompanying image of the animal on my large desktop monitor I also facepalmed myself for not having blown it up on my phone to better scrutinize it in the first place.

The sleek coat and the shape of its body from head to paws suggested to me something more along the lines of a sled dog.

Of course I’m not an expert, but, er, doggedly following the story himself, reporter Francovich heard back from someone who is for a subsequent update yesterday afternoon.

Longtime wolf researcher Paul Paquet, a former Canadian Wildlife Services biologist now associated with Project Coyote, said it looked to him like “a husky mix (malamute, Siberian?) and possible hybrid (wolf X dog).”

But Paquet added that like Norby, “given the circumstances, I would likely have thought this was a wolf.”

In following the wolf issue in Washington over the past decade, I’ve found that wolf reports beget wolf reports.

That is, the mere mention of wolves will have people relating all sorts of sightings, howls, tracks and suspicious events.

Some are in fact legit; others, like the one posted this past Saturday on WDFW’s observation page of two in somebody’s yard not far from Redmond Town Center, less so.

I’m not blaming Eli or the SSR’s headline writer one bit — what do they say about people and glass houses?

Rather, with how hot wolf news burns, this will serve as a reminder to yours truly that even as a greater and greater percentages of events are legit, a cool eye is still needed for each and every one to accurately report on wolves in Washington and all that comes with it.

Washington Wolves, Ranchers, Ideas In The News

As Washington wolf managers report taking out one member of a cattle-depredating pack and suspending efforts to kill the last two in another, a pair of in-depth reports on the issues around managing the rangy predators are also in the news this week.

TOGO WOLF. (WDFW)

They’re much better pieces than the usual slap-dash broad-brush strokes passed off as wolf reporting in these pages and elsewhere these days.

KREM 2 in Spokane interviews and brings together rancher Ron Eslick of Ferry County, whose cattle have unfortunately fed the Togo Pack, and two representatives from The Lands Council of Spokane who have an idea for restoring old meadows throughout the Colville National Forest with an eye towards grazing.

It wasn’t immediately clear how that bid might fit into the just revised forest plan, but allotments are key for livestock producers, allowing them to cut their home pastures in summer to build up a winter store of hay while their cow-calf pairs bulk up in the forested mountains, but the arrival of wolves have led to conflict between the critters as well as people.

At the tip of the spear is Ferry, Stevens and Benton Counties’ Diamond M, said to be the state’s largest ranch and which is the subject of a 2,600-word article in the Capital Press.

It charts the McIrvin family’s history on the range back to the late 1940s when members drove their cattle into the mountains of Northeast Washington in old Army trucks, but how what worked for the ranch founders and next generation or two isn’t working anymore with pack upon pack after pack settling in.

They feel like they’re not going to win the popularity contest that essentially pits the Old West against a species in the internet age widely adored around the world. A fellow producer says that if the Diamond M goes down, it would be a “humongous trophy” for environmental groups, like those that vowed the national forests would be “Cattle Free by ’93.”

In the background is WDFW, whose new director is not entirely happy with the repeated conflicts.

He termed the lethal removal protocols in place the last two seasons “pretty conservative” and while “not saying we need to make it easy to kill wolves, but as soon as we can get into a routine of managing, I think things will go better,” in another Press article.

Interesting reads.

WDFW Investigates Stevens Co. Depredations; Wolves Reported Back In Profanity Peak Area

Things are getting busy again in Northeast Washington, home to the most wolves in the state and increasing efforts to keep them from tangling with livestock.

On the heels of May 20’s confirmed wolf depredation in northern Ferry County, state wildlife managers investigated a dead calf in neighboring Stevens County last Friday.

They found that wolves had scavenged on the carcass, but there were “no indicators” the predators had killed the calf, so the loss went down as an “unconfirmed cause of death.”

WOLVES HAVE TURNED UP AGAIN IN THE PROFANITY PEAK AREA OF NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY, WHERE THIS ONE WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN SEPTEMBER 2014. (WDFW)

WDFW reported that the producer has been using deterrents such as human presence, flagged fencing and trail cameras to keep watch on livestock. They were also provided with fox lights, horns, fireworks and a state-contracted range rider to “help reduce wolf activity.”

The agency also said this month it had investigated at least three other dead or injured Stevens County calves and sheep, classifying them as bear and cougar attacks and a nondepredation event.

Attempts to catch the bruin and lion were unsuccessful, WDFW reported.

Staffers also checked on a report of missing cattle in Stevens County but found none.

Also in the county in May, biologists spent time trying to catch Huckleberry Pack wolves to get telemetry on them, but were unsuccessful.

In June they hope to put collars on members of the Lookout, Grouse Flats, Beaver Creek and Togo Packs. The Togos were involved with the aforementioned confirmed calf depredation in Ferry County a week and a half ago.

State and county wolf works also discovered new wolf activity in the Profanity Peak region, to the south of the Togos’ initial range dot and where seven members of a pack that preyed on more than a dozen cattle were lethally removed in 2016.

They’ll be working with local producers to get ahead of potential conflicts as turnout on federal grazing allotments in the Kettle Range begins, WDFW reports.

And biologists will be following up on recent reports from the Central and South Cascades. The latter area is where dung detection dogs will be used as well to try and find wolves.

Smackout Pack Strikes Again, Killing Cow

The Smackout Pack appears to be back within one confirmed livestock attack of serious consequences after killing again in early October.

WDFW reports that one or members of the large Northeast Washington pack took down a cow grazing in the Colville National Forest.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON AS OF THIS SUMMER. (WDFW)

The depredation in Stevens County was investigated Oct. 9.

Details are scant – just three sentences reported in the agency’s Oct. 13 update, one of which reads:

“This depredation marks the third wolf depredation by the Smackout pack within the last 10 months and the first within the last 30 days.”

Four confirmed attacks in 10 months or two confirmed and one probable in a month are the triggers for consideration of lethal removals, according to state protocols.

The agency promises more information in its Oct. 20 update.

At the start of this year’s grazing season, June 1, it was believed there were 13 to 15 Smackout wolves, three of which had telemetry collars. The grazing season in this area ended Oct. 15.

After years of relatively good behavior but also increasingly strong efforts needed to head off issues with the wolves, the pack struck twice and probably once more in September 2016, then were confirmed to have injured two calves this July.

One wolf was legally shot in June by a ranchhand when it and another were caught in the act of attacking cattle, and after July’s first depredation, WDFW Director Jim Unsworth authorized incremental lethal removals and two wolves were killed July 20 and July 30.

That and nonlethal work seemed to do the trick of heading problems off, and no further confirmed attacks occurred in August and September, leading WDFW to end removal operations.

A 94-page after-action report stated:

“The collaboration between WDFW personnel and the livestock producers, the approach highlighted in the protocol of both proactive and responsive nonlethal deterrents, and the incremental removal, appeared to have the intended effect of changing the Smackout Pack behavior to reduce the probability of reoccurring depredations while continuing to promote recovery.”

The probability of wolf attacks appears to have been reduced for a period of time. Ultimately they struck again.