Tag Archives: wolf hunting

Wolves A Topic As WDFW Director Appears On TVW

While Washington hunters’ and anglers’ kids were out trick-or-treating last night, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind was on TVW’s Inside Olympia, speaking on agency hot-button items of the day — if not the past decade.

Budget; wolves; salmon production, fishing seasons and orca recovery; sea lion management; and Columbia gillnetting.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND (RIGHT) APPEARED ON INSIDE OLYMPIA WITH HOST AUSTIN JENKINS TO TALK ABOUT VARIOUS FISH AND WILDLIFE ISSUES. (TVW)

Given Governor Jay Inslee’s recent letter to WDFW on wolves and its response, and a court hearing today with two environmental groups, host Austin Jenkins dedicated a full third of his near-hour-long show to the subject of Canis lupus in Washington.

Watching it this morning, my ears perked up when the subject of wolf hunting came up for several minutes.

“It’s a legitimate hunting activity.”
–WDFW Director Kelly Susewind

That topic is among the boxes, per se, folks can check off as an important one to them in the agency’s extended scoping survey as it begins planning for postrecovery wolf management.

In the interest of sharing with fellow hunters where WDFW’s at with the issue, here’s how the conversation went down, based on a corrected transcript:

Austin Jenkins: In a kind of post-protected status environment, can you imagine a management plan that allows for the hunting of wolves?

Kelly Susewind: It’s certainly on the table. It’s a controversial issue. I don’t know if we’ll get there or not — that will be the outcome of our processes — but it certainly needs to be on the table. It’s been an activity that occurs in other states when they’ve reached the recovery stage.

AJ: And why does it need to be on the table? Is that a management question?

KS: Well, I guess it doesn’t have to be. To me it’s a process question, it’s good governance. We’re going into this with an open mind; we have no preconceived notions of what a postdelisting plan looks like. And so I want virtually everything on the table. Let’s give it a thorough vetting with a broad public base. Let’s understand where the citizens want to be on this issue.

We could manage with or without a hunting season. I think as you get the bigger numbers, there’s just the realities of what it’s going to take to manage, and we have to manage: It’s an apex predator. It’s wonderful that we’re getting to recovery; we have to manage in a way where they can coexist with humans.

A WASHINGTON HUNTER TAKES A LOOK AT A MOUNTAINSIDE AS HIS SHADOW STRETCHES OUT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AJ: I think people can, and even if somebody who doesn’t hunt themselves might, understand hunting fowl, they might understand hunting deer and elk, because clearly when you hunt those animals you’re getting meat and you can eat them and there’s sort of this reason for, you know, getting your own food source. Hunting wolves doesn’t necessarily have that correlation, so what would be the purpose for hunting wolves other than somebody doesn’t like them and wants a tag to go kill them, or the sport of it, or perhaps because it’s a way to augment population control to the extent the agency wants and needs to do that?

KS: I would hope it would be the latter two. We don’t want folks out there killing wolves because they don’t like wolves. It’s a legitimate hunting activity. It’s not for protein, as you said, but hopefully — not hopefully, it has to be if we allow it — it has to be done as a part of management control, population control. 

From that perspective, there are a lot of folks out there who would like to enjoy going out and pursuing. It would be a challenge, to say the least. To do this from the ground in the way that we hunt in this state would be a challenge for folks. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we again no preconceived notion of how that turns out.

Certainly there’s less of an appetite for hunting that’s not associated with food, with gathering protein, so it’s tougher in general. Then you bring in the passion people have for wolves. We’re a long ways from getting to a hunting season, I think.

TWO WOLVES ROAM ACROSS A SNOWY EASTERN WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE. (UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

Since they were delisted in the early years of this decade wolves have been hunted in northeastern Washington by the Colville and Spokane Tribes, both on and off reservation, and now year-round with no limit on how many can be taken.

State managers have never worried that tribal hunting seasons would be a conservation concern either in that well-wolfed corner of Washington, or beyond.

Then again, there’s not much they — or even the fiercest of pro-wolfers — can do about it, as the tribes are sovereign nations and can manage wildlife how they want.

As for whether state hunters will one day be able to pursue wolves, there’s a two-part answer to that.

The technical process — the road map to a hunt — is easy.

It needs to be part of the environmental impact statement that will be developed out of this fall’s scoping process. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has to approve the plan with that element, downlist the status of wolves from state endangered to game species as they meet the recovery goals, and then set regulations and seasons.

The more difficult part is that wolf hunts are a “magnitudes bigger issue” than wolf-livestock conflict, which itself is huge.

There will be titanic headwinds and icy waters to steer through.

One avenue may be mediation between the sides — hunters, wolf lovers and other interested instate parties — just like how the disparate interests on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group came together to agree on nonlethal preventative work and lethal protocols for removing wolves that attack cattle, sheep and other domestic animals.

Yet even as the idea is now percolating, as it were, it may also be on that stove for quite some time.

“We’re a long ways from getting to a hunting season, I think.”
–Susewind

Meanwhile, the scoping period that will help shape the draft environmental impact statement for how to manage wolves postrecovery continues through 5 p.m., Nov. 15.

It would behoove us hunters to register our thoughts formally. The time it takes to leave yet another comment on a Facebook wolf post isn’t much longer than it takes to fill out the seven-field questionnaire.

Go here.

Northeast Washington Tribe To Begin Hunting Wolves Off Reservation

The tribes that first began hunting wolves in Washington have expanded seasons to off-reservation areas, a first as well.

The Colville Tribes’ Business Council voted this morning to amend its 2016-19 hunting regs to open the “North Half,” where the Profanity Peak, Sherman, Wedge and Beaver Creek Packs largely run, to tribal hunters.

THE RED LINE REFLECTS THE  FORMER NORTH HALF OF THE COLVILLE RESERVATION, WHERE THE TRIBAL BUSINESS COUNCIL HAS APPROVED WOLF SEASONS. (WDFW)

The hunt will be modeled on those in the South Half, where the quota is around one-fifth to one-quarter of the overall population, according to a Tribal Tribune article out yesterday.

Though it’s highly likely there are more wolves now, the 2016 year-end count reported 16 in the four North Half packs, as well as 12 in two South Half packs that roam into the North Half at times.

But if the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife kills any in the area to head off cattle depredations — the Shermans are sitting on two confirmed calf kills and one confirmed calf injury since June 12, and a fourth attack could lead to removals of one or two members — that could reduce how many are available for tribal hunters to take, according to the paper.

The North Half includes state, federal and private lands in northeast Okanogan County, the northern half of Ferry County and that part of Stevens County north of the Columbia River, where the Colville Tribes maintain hunting and fishing rights and comanages wildlife with WDFW.

“It is entirely consistent with the Tribes’ rights to hunt and fish in that area,” said Steve Pozzanghera, the state agency’s regional manager.

He says that there was “good communication” between tribal wildlife managers and WDFW as the proposal moved towards the business council.

Pozzanghera says that if hunting on the North Half proceeds as it has to the south, the state has no concerns about it impacting the wolf population as a whole.

Wolves in this part of Washington are federally delisted. The Colvilles opened seasons in 2012, though it wasn’t until last fall that one was reported taken. Spokane Tribe of Indians hunters have been more successful.

State hunts are dependent on first, set numbers of successful breeding pairs occurring in the eastern third, North Cascades, and South Cascades and Olympic Peninsula — benchmarks that are nowhere close to being met — and then the Fish and Wildlife Commission changing their status to game animal and approving opening a season.

The Colvilles’ fifth annual wolf hunt in the South Half began Aug. 1 and runs through Feb. 28. Trapping season begins Nov. 1-Feb. 28. The overall limit is three.

Top goals in their wolf management plan, approved earlier this year, are to “1) outline strategies for maintaining viable wolf populations that persist through time, while 2) maintaining healthy ungulate populations capable of meeting the cultural and subsistence needs of Colville Tribal Members and their families.”

The amendment opening the North Half was approved with little discussion except that one member of the council noted that wolves are sacred animals to the Colville Tribes and that elders recalled some taking pups as pets.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:00 p.m., Aug. 3, 2017, with comments from WDFW.