Tag Archives: wolf

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.

North-central Washington Wolf Hunt Ends With Quota Met

Tribal wildlife managers say that a wolf hunt in North-central Washington has closed now that the annual quota was recently met.

The Fish and Wildlife Department of the Colville Confederated Tribes made the announcement after a third wolf was harvested on their reservation, filling the limit, according to the Tribal Tribune newspaper.

(WDFW)

Today was the last scheduled day of the season, which began Nov. 1.

It’s also the last day wolf hunting is open on the “North Half” — that is, federal, state and other lands north of the sprawling reservation’s northern boundary.

There, the quota is also three wolves, but any removed by state wildlife managers for livestock depredations count towards that. The Sherman Pack male was killed in late summer for attacking cattle in the Kettle Range. It wasn’t immediately clear if tribal hunters had taken any others.

The Colville Tribes opened its first wolf hunt in 2012 but it wasn’t until November 2016 that an animal was reported taken. The original quota was 12, but that was subsequently reduced to three  on the reservation.

In other Washington wolf news:

* A rancher in northern Ferry County shot a wolf attacking calves in late October. The case only recently came to light in the Capital Press. It’s the third case of legal use of lethal caught-in-the-act provisions in the federally delisted eastern third of the state, two of which have involved ranchers and the other a dog owner at his cabin in the Blue Mountains.

* The Cattle Producers of Washington protested after the organization was denied grant funding for wolf work in the state’s northeast corner. More from the Press.

* Rep. Joel Kretz’s wolf translocation bill stalled in the state Senate after it passed the House on an 85-13 vote.

* And we should learn the latest minimum estimated number of wolves in Washington in the coming weeks, when WDFW releases the 2017 year-end count. It will likely show an increase over the 115 known wolves in 20 packs and 10 breeding pairs observed at the end of 2016. The agency’s next Wolf Advisory Group meeting is March 21-22 in Ellensburg.

Brown Reported ‘Confident’ In Investigation Of Oregon Elk Hunter’s Wolf Shooting

Oregon Governor Kate Brown is reported as “confident” in investigators’ work looking into an elk hunter’s killing of a wolf in Union County.

The late October shooting was determined to be self-defense, according to the Oregon State Police, and the Capital Press says that the governor “will apparently not ask state agencies” to reopen the case after a dozen and a half advocacy groups had petitioned her to.

OREGON WOLF TRACKS IN MUD. (ODFW)

Brown responded in a Dec. 1 letter, which is just coming to light today. The Press reports she consulted with OSP, ODFW and county prosecutors before making her decision.

Wolf advocates had pointed to the trajectory of a bullet through the animal as suggesting it wasn’t self-defense.

The hunter, Brian Scott, 38, said he’d had three wolves in his vicinity that morning in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit.

One “meant to make contact,” he told Oregonian reporter Bill Monroe in an in-person interview. “I was terrified. I screamed and raised my rifle. All I saw (in a scope) was hair so I shot.”

After confirming the animal was a wolf with his hunting partners, Scott immediately contacted OSP and ODFW officials, who responded to the scene with investigative equipment.

The Press reports that advocates “will continue to put pressure on the governor and agencies regarding wolf poaching investigations, and ensure those protections are taken seriously.”

There have been a number of illegal wolf kills in Oregon (as well as Washington), but this doesn’t appear to be one, if Governor Brown’s letter is any indication.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog misstated when the wolf was shot; it was in late October (Oct. 27), not mid-November. Our apologies for the error.

Washington Wolf Maps Reveal Canid’s Spread, Real And Otherwise

Say what you will about wolves, the predators’ peregrinations make for fascinating stuff.

At least to cartography and wandering wildlife geeks such as myself.

A pair of new Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife maps are revealing more about the ranges and ranginess of the state’s wolves over the past decade.

Both are based off data from all the GPS collars WDFW has strapped to various breeding males and females and other pack members since 2008.

(Dozens upon dozens more wolves over the years haven’t been collared.)

One shows nearly 72,000 of their locations — gulp, they’ve got Deer Camp surrounded, boys!

(WDFW)

Well, from the 35,000 foot level they do.

Though the GPS locations of wolves on the Colville and Spokane Reservations aren’t included, it represents “the most complete dataset currently available of wolf telemetry in Washington State,” according to WDFW.

Many of the green dots correspond to known pack areas in Northeast Washington, Kittitas County and the Blue Mountains.

But there’s a relatively surprising amount of wolf activity in state and federal lands between the Chewuch and Okanogan Valleys — the well-tracked Loup Loup Pack appears to roam north of its state-identified territory, or there’s a second pack with a collared animal there.

It also shows where the Marblemount wolf, which was captured and collared last spring, is hanging out.

The other new WDFW map shows the dispersal paths of 14 telemetry-bearing wolves since 2012, several of which are rather remarkable.

I’ve reported on two of these before — the Teanaway female shot in a British Columbia pig sty, the Smackout male that ventured into the province’s Coast Range due north of Neah Bay and set up a territory.

Another was killed in Central Montana.

But I believe this is the first time I’ve seen the winding path one took to the Cowboy State.

The wolf exited Washington north of Spokane, followed I-90 east into western Montana, trotted into the lower Bitterroot Valley before heading back southwest over Lolo Pass and down the Lochsa to the Clearwater, then south past Riggins and Cascade, Idaho, to the Boise area, loped across the north side of the Snake River Plain to Yellowstone National Park, then angled to the southeast towards the heart of Wyoming.

The new maps were part of a presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this month by Donny Martorello, WDFW’s wolf policy advisor.

The next time he talks to the citizen oversight panel, probably in March, he’ll have an updated pack range map, if that first map above is any indication.

Here’s what the one the agency published late last winter looked like:

(WDFW)

Damnit, I gotta get to work now, but I’m going to leave one final WDFW wolf map here, one I closely watch for “clusters” of citizen reports.

They’re an indication of possible wolf activity for biologists to check out —  there may be something going on south of Snoqualmie Pass and in the upper Lewis River watershed — and help keep tabs on known packs, reconfirming activity.

(WDFW)

But while WDFW’s new GPS maps do lend credence to many public observations by showing the locations of actual wolves and the campfire sparklike spread of dispersers, some state residents’ reports are, shall we say, slightly less likely to have been actual wolves, especially those coming from the I-5/405 corridor, where an inordinate number are annually spotted in the shrubberies.

Here are a couple of my favorites from this year:

No doubt.

More Details Emerge On Oregon Elk Hunter’s Killing Of A Wolf

A series of news stories are providing more details as well as commentary on the shooting of a wolf by an elk hunter in Northeast Oregon’s Starkey Wildlife Management Unit in late October.

Following last Thursday’s press release from the state police, first out was an Oregonian piece on Saturday morning based on a troopers case report obtained by the paper.

Reporter Andrew Theen wrote that Brian Scott, 38, had three wolves in his vicinity and one “had targeted me … and was running at me to make contact,” according to the documents.

A SCREENSHOT OF ODFW’S WOLF ALBUM ON FLICKR SHOWS A NUMBER OF THE WILD CANIDS ACROSS THE STATE.

That article was followed the next day by an actual interview of Scott at his Clackamas home by freelance Oregonian outdoor writer Bill Monroe.

“It meant to make contact,” Scott told Monroe while pecking at his breakfast. “I was terrified. I screamed and raised my rifle. All I saw (in a scope) was hair so I shot.”

After confirming the animal was a wolf with his hunting partners, Scott contacted the Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who arrived with “forensic equipment, GPS units and a video camera; surveying the scene and evidence and taking Scott’s statement,” Monroe wrote.

OSP’s press release, which was also posted by ODFW, stated “The Union County District Attorney’s Office was consulted regarding the investigation and based upon the available evidence the case will not be prosecuted as this is believed to be an incidence of selfdefense.”

In Theen’s Saturday article, a member of Oregon Wild questioned the path of the killing bullet, described as hitting the wolf’s right side and exiting on the left.

In a Monday story, Eric Mortenson of the Capital Press interviewed renowned retired Northern Rockies wolf expert Carter Niemeyer, who said he is in “doubt” about Scott’s story based on the wound channel which suggests a broadside shot.

Interviewed by Monroe, Scott said he couldn’t explain that as he had had other priorities in that moment in the woods.

“I screamed, raised the rifle and saw fur,” he told Monroe. “Who knows how it was moving in that split second? I don’t and was more interested in defending myself.”

It’s possible the bullet deflected off bone.

As with nearly every single bit of wolf news, this incident caused quite a stir on social media and in story comments.

It was always going to, as it was the first time an Oregon hunter has killed a wolf in what was classified as self defense (Washington’s first occurred in 2013 in the Pasayten Wilderness).

In the end, there are bits of wisdom worth gleaning.

Wolf attacks on humans remain very rare; wolf encounters with humans in the Northwest are increasing as wolf populations continue to increase; some of those are occurring at close range; we don’t all have the same comfort levels in terms of personal safety; we don’t all have the same experience with wolf behavior; and nobody can say with absolute certainty how every single wolf will act — they’re wild animals.

“If you see a wolf or any other animal and are concerned about your safety, make sure it knows you are nearby by talking or yelling to alert it to your presence,” advised Roblyn Brown, ODFW acting wolf coordinator. “If you are carrying a firearm, you can fire a warning shot into the ground.”

“That would have been the first logical thing to do,” Niemeyer told Mortenson of the Press. “The gunshot and a yell from a human would turn every wolf I’ve ever known inside out trying to get away.”

Niemeyer also suggested carrying bear repellent, which Spokane Spokesman-Review outdoor columnist Rich Landers had in hand during a similar incident this summer with his dog and two wolves.

Landers wrote about that again in a Monday blog post, as well as offered this observation:

“The wilds won’t miss one wolf as the still-endangered species is multiplying beyond expectations in the Northwest. Meanwhile, the other two wolves likely learned a tad more fear of humans. That’s a recipe for success.”

I’ll second that, and for my part I’ll point out that somewhat underplayed in all of this was that Scott did the exact right thing to do: He immediately called OSP and ODFW to come investigate. That’s stand-up. That’s jumping from the frying pan into potentially a bonfire.

The results of that evidence collecting won’t ameliorate the hard-core wolfies, but what ever will.

For the rest of us outside the fringes, it yields several lessons, even as it put a pall on the hunting season of the man at the center of the story.

“People envision this jerk hunter out to kill anything, but that’s not me,” Scott told Monroe. “It frustrates me they don’t understand. I’m a meat hunter. I was looking for a spike elk. This wasn’t exciting. It ruined my hunt.”

20-question Quiz Helps Hunters ID, Learn Differences Between Wolves, Coyotes

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

ODFW has launched a new online Coyote and Gray Wolf ID Quiz to help people differentiate between wolves and coyotes. Find the quiz at http://bit.ly/2x56uoU or at the ODFW Wolves website, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves/.

WOLF OR COYOTE? A NEW ODFW QUIZ SHOWS PHOTOS OF BOTH SPECIES AND IDENTIFIES KEY DIFFERENTIATING FEATURES. (ODFW)

The quiz uses actual photos of various wolves and coyotes of various ages to test user’s knowledge, and gives tips on how to tell wolves from coyotes. For example, coyotes have taller, pointed ears and a pointed face and muzzle while wolves have shorter rounder ears and a blocky face and muzzle.

“We encourage everyone who spends time in the outdoors to take this quiz, but especially hunters that pursue coyotes,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW acting wolf coordinator. “It is the responsibility of every hunter to know their target.” Wolf pups in particular can resemble coyotes in the fall.

Wolves are protected throughout the state of Oregon and there is no hunting season for wolves anywhere in the state. Intentionally hunting or accidentally “taking” a wolf is unlawful and can have serious legal consequences. In 2015, a hunter shot and was prosecuted for killing a collared gray wolf in Grant County that he misidentified as a coyote.

ODFW also relies on hunters, outdoor recreationalists, livestock producers and others to report wolf observations. These public wolf reports help wildlife biologists know where to focus wolf survey efforts. If you think you have seen a wolf, wolf sign or heard wolves howling please report it at www.odfw.com/Wolves/wolf_reporting_form.asp

“This quiz can help anyone better identify wolves in the field,” said Brown. “We really appreciate everyone taking the time to take the quiz.”

Apparent Wolf Captured, Collared In Eastern Skagit County

What could be the first wolf captured in Western Washington is now being monitored by wildlife managers.

The 100-pound animal was collared Thursday, June 8, in eastern Skagit County near Marblemount and released.

USFWS CONFIRMS A POSSIBLE WOLF WAS CAPTURED AND COLLARED NOT FAR UP THE SKAGIT VALLEY FROM HERE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The news was broken by the Skagit Valley Herald.

“We did capture what appears to be a 2- to 3-year-old male gray wolf,” confirms U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ann Froschauer late this afternoon.

She says blood and saliva were taken from the animal and sent to the agency’s forensic lab for testing, confirmation that it’s a full-blooded wolf and to determine where it might have come from.

WILDLIFE BIOLOGISTS WORK ON THE SEDATED CANID CAPTURED JUNE 8. (USFWS)

While at least four collared wolves have briefly wandered into Western Washington in recent years (one of which didn’t make it back out after being hit on I-90), this would be the first to have been captured, outfitted with telemetry and released west of the Cascades.

Froschauer says its movements are being monitored via GPS collar to “see if it sticks around or wanders off.”

USFWS and WDFW were drawn to the location in mid-May after a resident reported three chickens killed by a wolf and had solid photos to back it up.

Initially there were suggestions that a pack might be in the area, based on howling, but that’s less certain now.

“We did hang some cameras out. We did not see any other animals. As of right now there’s at least one that appears to be a wolf,” Froschauer says.

Grand scheme, a single wolf doesn’t do much for state recovery goals, but it has the potential to bring issues from the 509 much closer to Western Washington.

USFWS has management authority over wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, where the species remains federally listed.

WDFW had no comment.

WDFW also has had no comment about two dead calves found in the Kettle Range two days ago and which were investigated yesterday.

And WDFW probably doesn’t want to comment on the latest from Washington State University, where a professor plans to sue over alleged free speech violations involving wolves.

USFWS, WDFW Looking For Signs Of Possible Wolf Pack In Skagit Co.

Federal and state biologists are looking into the possibility that there may be wolves in eastern Skagit County.

Spokeswoman Ann Froschauer says it’s too early for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to confirm that reported tracks, howls and photos mean wolves have indeed arrived on the west side of the North Cascades or how many there might be, but in recent weeks her agency and WDFW biologists have been following up on good leads.

FEDERAL AND STATE BIOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING UP ON EASTERN SKAGIT COUNTY RESIDENTS’ REPORTS OF POSSIBLE WOLVES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Froschauer says that in mid-May, a resident reported a suspected depredation of their chickens by a wolf and had pictures to back it up.

The resident told investigators that they had heard howling and seen tracks for a couple months beforehand too, according to Froschauer.

“Follow-up conversations with other area residents included reports of additional sightings, tracks, and howling in the area,” she adds.

Froschauer says the howling is “suggestive of multiple wolves.”

“Biologists attempted to capture one or more animals over the next week and a half without success. We have deployed trail cameras, and will continue to investigate reports of wolf activity in the area,” Froschauer says.

Capturing one would help determine if the animal was a purebred wolf, hybrid or something else.

And if proven to be a wolf, it could mean the first pack in Western Washington outside of the British Columbia-denning pack that haunted the Hozomeen area of Washington’s upper Ross Lake in recent years.

Froschauer says USFWS and WDFW get multiple unconfirmed reports of Westside wolves annually, and says at least four individuals are known to have traveled from their packs west across the Cascade Crest at one point or another.

“Wolves have continued to naturally recolonize the state via dispersal from resident Washington packs and neighboring states and provinces,” she says.

Wolves west of Highways 97, 17 and 395 are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act and managed by USFWS. Those east of that line are managed by WDFW and state listed.

Washington Looks At Quicker Wolf Removals To Save More Livestock, Wolves

Washington wolf managers could move faster to head off depredations, saving more cattle, sheep and other stock as well as wolves, under new policies recommended by an advisory group.

Instead of waiting for four confirmed depredations before taking lethal action, WDFW could move if three occur in a 30-day rolling window, including one probable, if the agency adopts the policy.

“When conflict happens, we could act earlier to reduce the number of deaths to wolves and livestock,” says Donny Martorello.

At least one of the three would still need to be a confirmed kill, while the other could be an injury.

The current protocol requires four confirmed depredations in a calendar year, along with prevention measures.

The new policy came out of the Wolf Advisory Group, made up of livestock producers, hunters, wolf advocates and others. It does require ranchers to be meeting expectations to use at least two deterrence measures tailored to their operation.

Indeed, the overarching goal in Washington remains to recover wolves while working with cattlemen and shepherds to prevent conflicts in the first place.

Martorello says it’s about “doing our best to influence wolf behavior before conflict.”

For packs that may get in trouble and are hazed away before meeting the standards for “acute” conflict but then attack stock months later, WAG also recommended a “chronic” category with a 10-month rolling window and threshold of four depredations, one of which can be a probable, along with proactive prevention measures, to trigger the possibility of lethal removals.

Martorello said there had been “a lot of energy and synergy” between the many stakeholders in crafting the new guidelines, giving everyone involved a “sense of ownership.”

He says that wide involvement is important to the agency, and that he’s been pleased to work with everyone.

It all may give sportsmen cause to roll their eyes, but it appears to be working. Lowering thresholds for removals demonstrates a trust throughout Washington’s wolf world. While you and I would likely consider a probable depredation in the middle of a string of confirmed attacks to be a confirmed, it’s good to see wolf advocates appear to agree. The more people on board, the lower the tensions around an animal that generates a lot of angst.

WDFW also plans to change how it communicates its wolf activities to the public. Mostly, the agency puts out news when conflicts are ramping up, giving the public a head’s up about what’s going on, but Martorello says they’d like to put out monthly reports on the nonlethal things they’re doing.

And when situations are building to a head, he’d like to provide more of a narrative about the events than a few words in a field in a PDF.

For more details, see the Capital Press story.