Tag Archives: Washington

Togo, Smackout Packs Now In Crosshairs For Continued Cattle Depredations

The clock is ticking on two more wolf packs in Northeast Washington.

WDFW this morning authorized the lethal removal of the last two members of one pack and one or two from another after continued depredations.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATIONS OF THE TOGO AND SMACKOUT PACKS. THE OLD PROFANITY TERRITORY PACK RUNS TO THE SOUTH OF THE TOGOS. (WDFW)

Both operations can begin tomorrow morning at 8 after an eight-hour waiting period due to a previous court order passes.

With a third pack also in the crosshairs for total removal, in a twist, the kill order for the Togo duo was given to a northern Ferry County livestock producer, his family and employees to carry out if they see the wolves in their private pasture.

WDFW says the OK was given because the previous removal of the breeding male in September didn’t change the pack’s depredating behaviors.

The breeding female and/or a juvenile injured a calf in late October. The pack also is blamed for seven other injured or killed calves and a cow since last November.

The state wildlife management agency has shouldered the burden of removals in the past, but with three lethal operations underway at once, Susewind “decided to issue a permit rather than having department staff conduct the removal because of limitations of resources.”

As WDFW attempts to kill the last two Old Profanity Territory wolves further south in Ferry County, it will also be gunning for the Smackouts to the east in northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

Susewind OKed incremental removals after a fifth attack since Aug. 1 by the pack, all on private pastures.

The latest occurred Nov. 1 and followed three in the last three weeks of October.

An agency statement sent out during Election Night outlined the preventative measures two producers have been using to try and head off trouble with the Smackouts.

It said that WDFW has been pooling resources with ranchers and a local group to protect stock and deter wolves.

“The affected producer has met the expectation in the wolf plan and 2017 protocol for implementing at least two proactive non-lethal deterrents and responsive deterrent measures,” a statement said.

Two wolves in the pack were removed in 2017 following four depredations in a 10-month period, one of two triggers for considering a kill order under WDFW’s protocols. The other is three attacks in a month.

The state says taking out as many as two members of the Smackout Pack, which has four or five adults and no juveniles, is not expected to impact wolf recover in Washington at all. It says that average wolf mortality between 2011 and 2018 has been 11 percent, well below the 28 percent modeled in the management plan adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Still, signing off on a kill order is no easy decision.

“Authorizing the removal of wolves is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional career,” said Susewind in a press release out later in the day. “Our department is committed to working with a diversity of people and interests to find new ways to reduce the loss of both wolves and livestock in our state.”

For more details, see WDFW’s Gray Wolf Updates page.

Caribou Reported In Northwest Montana

Just days after British Columbia wildlife managers announced they would round up the last two members of a mountain caribou herd that haunts the international border country, Montana officials are reporting sightings in the northwestern corner of their state.

(USFWS)

“The multiple sightings include the potential for a bull and a cow in separate locations,” Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported in a press release out yesterday.

As hunting seasons in the area continued, the agency urged sportsmen to be sure of their targets, as both sexes of adult caribou carry antlers.

A SIGN ADVISES HUNTERS IN FAR NORTHERN IDAHO’S GRIZZLY AND MOUNTAIN CARIBOU COUNTRY TO BE SURE OF THEIR TARGETS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The border-crossing South Selkirk herd has declined in recent years, with a particularly sharp drop reported earlier this year.

Where there were a dozen animals in late winter 2017, only a trio — all cows — were spotted during an intensive three-day survey this past March.

Kalispel Tribe biologist Bart George speculated that it was possible other members had been hit by an avalanche or there was a vehicle strike on the main Canadian highway through the mountains, though he didn’t hear of one.

Perhaps some struck out on their own instead.

The plan is to capture the two South Selkirk cows — the third was killed by a cougar this summer — and put with the last three bulls and a cow from the South Purcell herd in a pen 100 miles north of the border.

It’s hoped the animals will breed and a subpopulation could return to the Lower 48, according to a Spokane Spokesman-Review article out over the weekend.

It’s believed that clearcutting in mountain caribou habitat created plentiful browse for moose and other deer species to colonize the heights, and that in turn brought up more cougars, bears and wolves.

Unlike their cousins on the tundra, these caribou apparently didn’t recognize the predators as threats and have declined sharply as a result.

WDFW Reports More Cattle Depredations By 2 Northeast Washington Packs

Wolves continue to attack cattle in Northeast Washington, with two depredations by the Togos and Smackouts in recent days leaving WDFW mulling what to do next with both packs.

State wolf managers report that the former pack, in northern Ferry County, injured a calf on Oct. 26, while the latter took down a heifer on Halloween, the third cow killed by the northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties wolves in the space of two and a half weeks and fourth overall since midsummer.

(WDFW)

That now could trigger incremental lethal removals under the agency’s protocols.

“Director Susewind is reviewing the details of the four depredations by the pack and is considering next steps,” a WDFW statement out this afternoon reads.

The Smackouts have been the subject of intense range-riding and other nonlethal efforts to keep cattle and the pack from tangling for several years now, but in mid-2017 two of its 13 to 15 members at the time were taken out following four depredations in a 10-month period.

As for the Togos, on Oct. 19 WDFW sent out what was to be the last update for the pack after 42 days passed without any known depredations and the removal of the alpha male in early September to change the wolves behavior.

Despite a subsequent attack, WDFW took no action because the agency’s options were poor — the pack included the alpha female and two juveniles.

But the state also said that lethal removals could resume if there was another attack.

Wolf-cattle conflicts have mostly occurred during the summer grazing season on federal allotments, but have also taken place afterwards, typically on private ground.

Cluster Of Wolf Reports In Central Snohomish County

Does a recent cluster of reports mean there are wolves in central Snohomish County?

A photo posted on a Granite Falls discussion board and hunters and others’ reports suggest that is the case, and it’s not as if wolves haven’t poked out of the Cascades into Western Washington before.

RECENT WOLF REPORTS CENTER AROUND THE MT. PILCHUCK FOOTHILLS TOWN OF GRANITE FALLS, IN CENTRAL SNOHOMISH COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

DNA confirmed that one captured near Marblemount last year was a wolf, while another hit on I-90 east of North Bend in 2015 had apparently come as far west as Snoqualmie where it was spotted on a backyard trail cam.

About halfway between those two known wolves — likely dispersers from packs in Eastern Washington and beyond — is where the latest reports come from and it involves multiple individuals.

A resident’s photo shows the back end of one canid and front end of another trailing behind as they skirt the edge of a yard near Granite Falls.

The tail of the front animal and head of the other do appear to be wolflike.

A GRANITE FALLS RESIDENT SNAPPED THIS IMAGE AND ANOTHER OF WHAT MIGHT BE A PAIR OF WOLVES IN THEIR BACKYARD. (COURTESY IMAGE)

A second photo shows them as well.

(COURTESY IMAGE)

And in a KIRO interview, Becca Van Tassell, who said she had been hunting since she was 13 and has had up-close encounters with a coyote, says she now believes she saw one in the same area this past weekend.

“There’s no way that’s a coyote — that’s huge,” she said, recalling her sighting with reporter Joanna Small.

Then there are a series of reports this month posted to WDFW’s wolf observation map.

On Oct. 27 a deer hunter reported that after trying for a follow-up shot on a blacktail up on Mt. Pilchuck, they spotted a “large wolf heading after where the deer had gone. He looked about 100 pounds.”

An Oct. 22 report from the Granite Falls area reads, “Just passed through my back yard. My kids saw them the week before, but I did not,” while another Oct. 27 post says one was lying in resident’s backyard and was really big, and an Oct. 14 report from the Darrington area over the mountains to the northeast suggests multiple animals howling around daybreak.

I sent links to state and federal wolf managers for their thoughts — typically they like to confirm the species through scat, fur or biological samples rather than photos — but in the meanwhile Amy Windrope, the regional WDFW chief in Mill Creek, told KIRO’s Small, “It is possible.”

Washington’s Wolves, a Facebook page operated by Conservation Northwest, linked to the TV station’s report and called it “Exciting news for wolf recovery in Western Washington,” an unusually strong statement for them.

More developments as they arrive.

Last 2 O.P.T. Pack Wolves To Be Lethally Removed

Washington wolf managers will take out what they say are the last two Old Profanity Territory Pack wolves after a 16th attack on a producer’s grazing cattle in the Kettle Range of northern Ferry County in less than two months.

The latest depredation, a dead calf, was investigated October 23rd and came after an adult and a juvenile member were lethally removed in September.

The pack was initially believed to include three or four adults and two or three juveniles.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind’s kill reauthorization follows an evaluation period that saw an additional attack by the pack investigated Oct. 7 that could have triggered action but he “sustained the evaluation period to consider the details and complexities of the situation in the field.”

A statement this morning from the agency also reiterated that the allotment is large, wild and completely within the OPT pack’s range, and that following an October 5th depredation “the department took additional steps to document the range-riding operation on the allotment to make sure it is as effective as” can be.

While WDFW doesn’t name the producer, it is known to be the Diamond M Ranch, which has previously suffered depredations by the Wedge and Profanity Peak Packs, triggering other lethal removals.

The state says the rancher is using non-lethal methods to try and stave off wolf attacks including contracting with range riders, removing sick stock off the range and dealing with carcasses.

WDFW Director Appears On Hour-long TVW Program

New WDFW Director Kelly Susewind talked budget, wolves, orcas and Chinook, tribal relations and more on TVW ahead of his upcoming six-stop tour across Washington.

The hour-long interview with Inside Olympia host Austin Jenkins is posted here and comes as Susewind nears the end of his third month in the hot seat.

A SCREEN SHOT FROM TVW SHOWS INSIDE OLYMPIA HOST AUSTIN JENKINS AND WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND AT THE END OF THEIR ONE-HOUR INTERVIEW. (TVW)

As with previous stories here and elsewhere, it fleshes out his thinking on hot-button fish and wildlife issues, and sets the tone for what his priorities are going forward.

It also included news that the Old Profanity Territory Pack has struck again in northern Ferry County and that Susewind is expecting a recommendation from field staff soon on whether to take out its two remaining wolves or continue with the evaluation period.

Asked by Jenkins if he was concerned that a court could take lethal removal off the table, Susewind defended the agency’s protocols that have been challenged by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, saying he believes WDFW has “a good solid case.”

“We’re ahead of most of the country in wolf management, I think, by trying this … collaborative (approach), by having reasonable minds at the table from both sides talking about, ‘How can we make this work for everybody?” he said.

On helping out starving killer whales by producing more Chinook, Susewind said that while the olden day’s Johnny Appleseed approach to hatchery operations may have damaged wild runs, the pendulum may have swung too far the other way.

“We’ve learned from that, but have we gone too far to the point we’re restricting ourselves? In my opinion, yes,” he said.

While quickly acknowledging his lack of fisheries management experience but that he had staff who were experts, he also noted that “You can’t just turn the orca dial, you’ve got to turn the whole ecosystem dial.”

As for November and December’s open houses with the public, Susewind considers the half-dozen chances to meet with hunters, anglers and other Washington residents an “opening of the door.”

“Tell me what you need, what you’re not getting, and help us get into a position so that we can deliver that to you,” he told Jenkins.

Next year Susewind hopes that lawmakers are more amenable to WDFW’s big budget ask than the previous one that went down in flames.

Three-quarters of the overall $60-plus million proposal would come from the General Fund and the rest from a 15 percent across-the-board license fee increase to address funding shortfalls and boost hunting and fishing opportunities and habitat and other investments.

Those meetings are slated to occur:

Monday, Nov. 5 – CenterPlace Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley
Tuesday, Nov. 6 – Grant County Public Works, 124 Enterprise St. SE, Ephrata
Wednesday, Nov. 7 – Selah Civic Center, 216 1st St., Selah
Tuesday, Nov. 13 – Montesano City Hall, 112 North Main Street, Montesano
Wednesday, Nov. 14 – WDFW Ridgefield Office, 5525 South 11th Street, Ridgefield
Wednesday, Dec. 12 – Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Watershed Science Center, 125 W Sunset Way, Issaquah

All run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

2nd Weekend: Some Deer Taken Despite Dry, Warm Weather

Editor’s note: Updated at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 25, 2018, with information on deer hunting in Klickitat County.

How warm and dry was it for the second weekend of rifle mule deer season in Northcentral Washington?

“It was so warm and dry the Crescent Mountain Fire flared back up and has burned an additional 3,000-plus acres,” reports WDFW’s Okanogan County district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

DAYN OSBORN, 9, SHOWS OFF HIS FIRST BUCK, A DOUGLAS COUNTY, WASHINGTON, MULE DEER, TAKEN WITH A 60-YARD SHOT FROM HIS REMINGTON 700 IN .243. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

He says that given the conditions it wasn’t surprising how slow hunting was the final Saturday and Sunday.

The check station that Fitkin and fellow bio Jeff Heinlen run at Winthrop’s Red Barn saw 65 hunters bring in 12 deer, nearly as many critters as the first weekend (13) but by fewer riflemen (82).

Still, this year’s overall harvest saw an increase, at least as measured at the game check.

“For the season we checked 147 hunters and with 25 deer,” Fitkin notes. “Both of these numbers are up from last year — 131 hunters with 15 deer — suggesting a modest increase in hunter success in 2018 despite the mildest general season weather in recent memory.”

Indeed, it was a far cry from 2017’s hunt, when yours truly and my dad rolled into Deer Camp before opening weekend to find a skiff of snow, then a much heavier fall blanketed western Okanogan County during the second.

But despite the warmth and crackle of twigs, needles and cones underfoot and the haze from the aforementioned fire burning up the Twisp River, we gave it a pretty good go this October, and I had my chance at bringing home a buck. It was also pretty amusing to have two deer run through camp at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the final day of the 11-day season.

Hunting continues, however, through tomorrow, Oct. 26, in Northeast Washington for whitetails.

District biologist Annemarie Prince runs the Deer Park check station and she reports checking 81 hunters with seven bucks and seven does, all flagtails.

On last year’s second Sunday, 75 came into Deer Park with 15 bucks and 10 does, as well as one antlered muley.

WDFW also had a station at Chewelah, where another 11 whitetails were brought, including six bucks and five does, by 38 hunters, Prince reports.

The late rifle season for whitetails in Game Management Units 105-124 is Nov. 10-19, which includes two full weekends.

In the opposite corner of Eastern Washington, Klickitat Wildlife Area manager Susan Van Leuven says the general season was “very poor” this year.

“I only checked two legal bucks the first weekend. I heard of a couple other deer that were taken on or near the Soda Springs Unit, but that is all,” she says.

Van Leuven says it’s the fourth consecutive October with “near-nonexistent deer harvest” and she worries that the herd’s recovery will be more of a gradual one than a quick response.

Some of that is likely due to the hard 2016-17 winter in these parts, but her wildlife area is also primarily winter range and there hasn’t been any weather to speak of that would push deer down to it. There was also an adenovirus outbreak here in summer 2017.

Reports Van Leuven’s hearing from western Klickitat County aren’t much better.

In Western Washington, blacktail hunting runs through Halloween, and many units open up again Nov. 15-18 for the late season.

Next month and December also see numerous bow and black powder opportunities for those with unnotched tags and archery, muzzleloader or multiseason hunting licenses.

For a roundup of photos of successful hunters and their deer, check out this thread on Hunting Washington.

And feel free to send your pics and stories to Northwest Sportsman for our annual Bucks and Bulls feature in our February issue! Email the editor at awalgamott@media-inc.com with details! All photos are automatically entered in our Browning Photo Contest.

Hunters Urged To Apply For Washington Wolf Advisory Group Seats

The next few years could be crucial ones in Washington’s wolf world, and with the Department of Fish and Wildlife putting out the call for nominations to its Wolf Advisory Group, one sportsman says they hope that “thoughtful, respectful and vocal hunters apply.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

The individual didn’t wish to be named, but says that having sat in on numerous WAG meetings in recent years, as wolves close in on state recovery goals it’s more important than ever for hunters to participate more.

Among the discussions likely to occur is planning for the postdelisting period, how wolves may be managed in terms of impacts on big game species and possibly even through hunting.

It will mark a sharp shift in the WAG’s workload, which so far has primarily focused on dealing with wolf-livestock conflicts, a multiyear effort that was led by an outside facilitator who has since departed.

The tug-of-war between livestock producers and predator advocates led to a consensus that stressed nonlethal preventative measures and established a clearer structure for WDFW to lethally remove problem animals.

That protocol has survived two years of outsiders’ objections and this summer a judge twice shot down efforts to halt kill authorizations, though it will still have its day in court.

But it’s also meant that the conversation about wolves in Washington has been “stuck on yesterday’s cattle conflicts,” according to the observer, “with far too little attention given to tomorrow’s wolf management, the needs and values of hunters as wildlife stakeholders, and the importance of the game species we pursue.”

HUNTERS DISCUSS THE DAY AROUND A CAMPFIRE IN THE OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No matter your opinion on wolves — good, bad or indifferent — they’re here to stay, so it behooves hunters to be involved in the process.

“We have to be at the table, and we have to speak up once there.”

WAG has 18 positions for those in the hunting, ranching, rural and environmental communities, and members serve staggered terms. Four current members do represent sportsman interests.

The plan is for WDFW Director Kelly Susewind to plug in new advisors as seats become available, starting with the one open now by next February.

“We are looking for candidates who can work cooperatively with others to develop management recommendations that reflect a diversity of perspectives,” Susewind said in a press release.

The group generally holds four two-day meetings each year at different locations across the state.

In their applications, prospective members are asked to address several items, including their knowledge of the state wolf plan and how they’ve worked collaboratively with those of different viewpoints.

Forms can either be emailed to Donny.martorello@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello, WDFW, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

Deadline is 5 p.m., Nov. 30.

55 Washington Lakes Being Stocked For Fall Fishing

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

With thousands of rainbow trout destined for Washington lakes before November, anglers should have plenty of places to enjoy great fishing this fall and through the holiday season.

XANDER YARNOLD AND HIS GRANDPA JIM GILBERTSON TEAM UP TO LAND A NICE-SIZED RAINBOW TROUT AT LELAND LAKE NEAR QUILCENE YESTERDAY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will stock at least 55 Washington lakes with catchable-size trout this fall. Additionally, the department stocks millions of smaller trout each spring, many of which will have grown to catchable size.

“Fall is the time to reel in a nice-sized trout, and our crews are working hard to build on a Northwest tradition of fishing through the seasons,” said Steve Caromile, WDFW’s warmwater fish program manager. “Most of the stocked trout are 13 to 15 inches long, with a few larger ones in the mix.”

Some of the lakes recently stocked include Island Lake in Kitsap County; Island, Lost, Nahwatzel, and Spencer lakes in Mason County; Lake Sylvia in Grays Harbor County; and Gibbs, Teal and Leland lakes in Jefferson County.

Dozens of additional lakes will be stocked throughout the state in October and November providing fishing opportunities into the new year.

The complete list of lakes to be stocked, and the department’s recently updated stocking plan, are available for viewing at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/fall-into-fishing/.

The fall fish plants are in response to anglers’ requests to increase fall and winter trout fishing opportunities, said Caromile.

The effort also includes stocking lakes across the state for the Nov. 23 Black Friday opener, which offers anglers the opportunity to skip the shopping malls, get outside and enjoy fishing on the day after Thanksgiving.

For up-to-date stocking information this fall, anglers should follow the department on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, accessible from http://wdfw.wa.gov, or see the department’s weekly catchable trout stocking report at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

XANDER YARNOLD SHOWS OFF HIS LELAND LAKE CATCH, A PAIR OF FRESHLY STOCKED, POWERBAIT-BITING ‘BOWS TO 17 INCHES LONG. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

To participate, anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2019.

Licenses can be purchased by telephone at 1-866-246-9453, at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, or at hundreds of license vendors across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.

FISHING WAS ACTUALLY SCHOOLWORK FOR XANDER, A BIOLOGY LESSON. HE READS WHILE PATIENTLY WAITING FOR MORE FISH TO BITE AT LELAND. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Second O.P.T. Wolf Shot, WDFW Now Evaluating If Removals Change Depredating Pack’s Behavior

Washington wolf managers say they shot and killed a second member of the cattle-attacking Old Profanity Territory Pack and will now evaluate whether that changes the behavior of the northern Ferry County wolves.

A PAIR OF WOLVES USE A LOGGING ROAD IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

“If WDFW documents another livestock depredation and confirms that it likely occurred after today’s action, the department may initiate another lethal removal action following the guidelines of the Wolf Plan and 2017 Protocol,” the agency said in a late-afternoon statement.

According to that, the wolf that was killed was an adult and is believed to have been the breeding female.

Helicopter-borne state staffers report seeing one other wolf, an adult male, during air operations, and they believe there is one other juvenile in the area.

The OPT wolves are blamed for 12 cattle depredations on federal grazing land in the Colville National Forest this month.

“The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock continues to use contracted range riders to monitor his herd, is removing or securing livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, is using foxlights at salting locations in high wolf use areas, and is removing sick and injured livestock from the grazing area until they are healed,” WDFW reported.” The majority of the producer’s livestock will be moved off federal grazing allotments to adjacent private grazing lands by mid-October.”

On Sept. 16, following Director Kelly Susewind’s incremental lethal removal authorization for up to two wolves, one juvenile was killed.

The pack is believed to have initially numbered five or six, with three or four adults and two young-of-the-year animals.