Tag Archives: wolves

ODFW Posts Revised Draft Wolf Plan For Comment Ahead Of June Commission Vote

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

ODFW released its draft proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan today at www.odfw.com/wolves

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to vote on the Plan at its June 7 meeting in Salem.

Once adopted, the Plan will be the third edition of the Wolf Plan, which was first adopted in 2005 after an extensive public process and revised in 2010.

A WALLA WALLA PACK WOLF WALKS THROUGH SNOWY COUNTRY IN FEBRUARY 2019. (ODFW)

The proposed Draft Plan was written by staff but involved extensive meetings with stakeholders and public comment at several prior Commission meetings. In 2018, the Commission also directed ODFW staff to host facilitated meetings with stakeholders to seek consensus on unresolved issues.

The draft Plan incorporates ideas where consensus was reached, but agreement was not possible on all topics. See a report on the facilitated meetings’ outcomes here https://www.dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/WPSR.asp

“Wolf management is a polarizing topic with strong views on all sides, so it’s tough to find consensus,” says Derek Broman, ODFW carnivore and furbearer program coordinator. “But regardless of people’s views on wolves, the wolf population in Oregon is growing in size, number of packs and packs reproducing, while expanding its range.”

Defining chronic depredation that might lead to lethal control of wolves and hunting of wolves are some of the most contentious issues. Staff previously proposed the definition of chronic depredation be three confirmed depredations in a 12-month period in Phase 2 and 3, a change from the current definition (two confirmed depredations in an unlimited timeframe). Due to feedback from stakeholders at the facilitated meetings, the Draft Plan now proposes two confirmed depredations in nine months in Phases 2 and 3 (so the only change from the current definition is a  9-month time restriction).

Like the original Plan, the Draft Plan would allow controlled take only in Phase 3 (currently eastern Oregon) in instances of recurring depredations or when wolves are a major cause of ungulate populations not meeting established management objectives or herd management goals.

ODFW is not proposing any controlled take of wolves at this time, but believes regulated hunting and trapping needs to remain a tool available for wolf management.  Any proposal for controlled take of wolves would require Commission approval through a separate planning and hunt development process.

Other major topics addressed in Plan include:

  • Wolf-livestock conflict, including an expanded section on the latest non-lethal tools and techniques for reducing conflict.
  • Wolf interactions with native ungulate populations, including annual ungulate population estimates before and after wolf establishment. Elk, wolves’ primary prey, have increased in some units with wolves and decreased in others. However, interpretation of the impact of wolf predation on elk is confounded by management efforts to reduce elk numbers in units where they are over management objective or to minimize conflicts with elk on private land. Mule deer have been below desired levels for more than two decades, before wolves’ returned to Oregon, with changing land management strategies, invasive weeds, and recent severe weather among the main reasons for their decline.
  • Wolf population monitoring and potential conservation threats.
  • Strategies to address wolf-human interactions.

Public testimony on the draft Plan will be taken during the June 7 meeting and can also be sent to odfw.commission@state.or.us. Emails sent by May 23 will be included with staff proposal as part of the review materials shared with Commissioners prior to the meeting.

ODFW Also Reports Increased Wolf Population; 2018 Count Finds Minimum Of 137 In Oregon

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

State wildlife biologists counted 137 wolves in Oregon this past winter, a 10 percent increase over last year’s count of 124, according to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management 2018 Annual Report released today at odfw.com/wolves.

A WOLF IN THE CHESNIMNUS PACK OF NORTHEAST OREGON APPEARS ON A TRAIL CAMERA IMAGE. (ODFW)

This annual count is based on verified wolf evidence (like visual observations, tracks, and remote camera photographs) and is considered the minimum known wolf count, not an estimate of how many wolves are in Oregon. The actual number of wolves in Oregon is likely higher, as not all individuals or groups of wolves present in the state are located during the winter count.

Sixteen packs were documented during the count, up from 12 packs in 2017. (A pack is defined as four or more wolves traveling together in winter.) Eight other groups of 2-3 wolves were also identified. Fifteen of those packs successfully reproduced and had at least two adults and two pups that survived through the end of 2018, making them “breeding pairs,” a 36 percent increase over last year’s number.

“The state’s wolf population continues to grow and expand its range, now into the central Oregon Cascade Mountains too,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Coordinator.

Highlights from the report:

  • Resident wolf numbers and reproduction increased in western Oregon. A second pack (White River Pack) reproduced and was designated a breeding pair for 2018, joining the Rogue Pack. The Indigo group of at least three wolves was also found in the Umpqua National Forest.
  • Three collared wolves dispersed to California and one to Idaho.
  • Approximately 13% of wolves known at the end of the year in Oregon were monitored via radio collar.
  • Biologists documented more than 15,000 wolf location data points by radio collar or other methods including aerial, track and howling surveys. 53% of these locations were on public land, 40% on private and 7% on tribal.
  • The breeding female of Oregon’s oldest known reproducing pack, the Wenaha Pack, disappeared and no reproduction was documented for the pack in 2018. The female wolf was at least 10 years old, which is old for a wolf living in the wild, and she appeared in poor body condition in summer trail camera photos.

Unlawful take of wolves decreases
Two wolves were found killed unlawfully in 2018 (down from four in 2017). A juvenile wolf believed to be from the Grouse Flats Pack (a pack that uses Oregon but is counted as a Washington state pack because it dens there) was shot. The radio-collared breeding female of the Mt Emily Pack was shot on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Oregon State Police and CTUIR law enforcement continue to investigate these incidents and are actively seeking more information. Rewards ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 have been offered for information leading to a conviction in these and previous cases.

ODFW’S LATEST WOLF MAP IS NOT UNLIKE WDFW’S, WITH MOST PACKS CONCENTRATED IN THE STATE’S NORTHEAST CORNER AND A FEW IN THE CASCADES AND ELSEWHERE. (ODFW)

Livestock depredation increases
Confirmed depredation incidents by wolves increased 65 percent from last year, with 28 confirmed incidents (up from 17 last year). A total of 17 calves, one llama and two livestock guardian dogs were lost to wolves and an additional 13 calves were injured. Three wolf packs were responsible for the majority of depredations (Rogue – 11, Pine Creek – 6 and Chesnimnus – 5).  While known wolf numbers have increased considerably over the last nine years, depredations and livestock losses have not increased at the same rate.

In all phases of wolf management, Oregon’s Wolf Plan mandates that non-lethal efforts are undertaken before lethal removal is considered. In 2018, those measures included removing attractants, hazing, electrified fladry, fence maintenance, radio-activated guard boxes, increased human presence, range riders and other husbandry practices.

ODFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services continue to support livestock producers in their non-lethal efforts with technical advice, supplies and assistance with implementation.

“As the wolf population has expanded into new areas in Oregon, livestock producers have adjusted the way they do business to remove bone piles and incorporate non-lethal measures that can reduce the vulnerability of their livestock to depredation by wolves and other predators,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Coordinator. “We extend our thanks and appreciation for their efforts.”

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance Grant Program also awarded $160,890 in grant funds to compensate livestock producers for losses and to fund preventive non-lethal measures.

ODFW staff will present an overview of the draft Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management 2018 Annual Report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their April 19 meeting in St Helens. The presentation will be during the Director’s Report, and no public testimony is taken during this portion of the meeting.

###

Washington Wolf Numbers Up Again In 2018 Annual Count

Washington wildlife managers say that wolf numbers increased yet again, marking a tenth straight year of growth, with new packs popping up in Skagit, Kittitas and Columbia Counties and on and near the Colville Reservation.

THE MALE WOLF OF THE DIOBSUD PACK MOVES THROUGH A FORESTED SECTION OF THE NORTH CASCADES. (WDFW)

They report that there were a minimum of 126 wolves in 27 packs with 17 successful breeding pairs at the end of 2018, up from 122, 22 and 14.

The rise occurred once again despite tribal hunting and state removals to head off livestock depredations.

State wolf policy manager Donny Martorello did call the 2 percent growth “modest,” but said that the increase in breeding pairs in the North Cascades to three was important.

“We’re pleased we’re taking another step towards the recovery objective. The local recovery objective is four,” he said.

It was expected in some quarters including this one that the 2018 annual count would be significantly higher based on the work of Dr. Samuel Wasser in Northeast Washington and the South Cascades.

His scat-sniffing dogs found evidence of 60 different wolves in Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties during a timeframe that WDFW’s official count listed a minimum of 30.

But Martorello said that Wasser and WDFW were largely working at opposite ends of the wolf population cycle, the University of Washington researcher after litters were on the ground and wolf numbers were highest, and the state agency in the dead of winter, which can see 50 to 60 percent mortality among young-of-the-year animals.

“We’re doing a minimum count when the population is lowest,” he said.

Minimum also means the animals that they can visually count out of aircraft or on trail cams, though they use a 12 percent expansion factor to account for dispersers.

Speaking of, one of the six new packs was formed in the upper Skagit Valley when the male that’s been hanging out near Marblemount since 2018 was joined by a female this winter. The duo are being called the Diobsud Pack, after a local stream.

It’s being termed the first pack west of the Cascade Crest, though several wolves ran in the border-straddling Hozomeen area of the upper upper Skagit a few years ago, though apparently didn’t den in Washington, the official metric for determining residency.

The new Butte Creek Pack runs in the Blue Mountains and includes one that dispersed from elsewhere in the state, and the Naneum Pack is in northeast Kittitas County.

And the Nason, OPT for Old Profanity Territory, and Sherman Packs are on or north of the Colville Reservation.

WDFW’S 2018 WOLF PACK MAP SHOWS WHERE THE 27 GROUPS OF WOLVES OCCUR. (WDFW)

That upper right quarter of Washington is already positively thick with wolves, though the Five Sisters Pack broke up “due to unknown reasons.”

That didn’t much worry Martorello, who said that with recovery goals long ago surpassed, the year to year fluctuations were a sign of “normal ecological changes.”

Indeed, the report underscores yet again that wolves are doing quite well in Washington and are likely to continue to do so, and it will be taken into account as WDFW reviews the status of the species and its robustness.

That process will begin in May and will use Washington wolf data instead of other states’ to update population models. It will also incorporate mortality and fecundity data.

Based on that review, WDFW will make a recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission next February on whether gray wolves’ continued state ESA listing is warranted or not.

Well down the road, that could potentially lead to hunting opportunities similar to those already enjoyed by members of the Colville and Spokane Tribes.

Earlier this year, federal wildlife overseers announced they would propose delisting packs in the western two-thirds of the Washington as well as Oregon and elsewhere in the Lower 48.

More details on the annual count will come out tomorrow as WDFW managers present it to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, but other details from the agency’s press release today include:

  • Along with the disperser that’s part of the Butte Creek Pack, another Washington wolf left the state and headed through Oregon and into Idaho (this winter, a Montana wolf was also spotted on the Palouse);
  • At least 12 wolves died in 2018, six taken during tribal hunting seasons, four (two OPTs, one Togo, one Smackout) killed by WDFW after repeated livestock depredations in the federally delisted third of the state; and two that are being investigated;
  • Since wolves were first confirmed as returning to Washington in 2008, their numbers have increased 28 percent a year, and that is likely to continue as the population in the Cascades growsk, managers say;
  • WDFW and 31 ranches had cost-sharing agreements to protect livestock herds;
  • Five packs depredated on at least one farm animal in 2018, with 11 confirmed cattle and one sheep deaths and 19 cattle and two sheep injured by wolves;
  • And WDFW reports it processed damage claims totaling $7,536 for wolf-caused losses and $5,950 for an “indirect” claim for reduced weight gain or other wolf-related interactions.

Researchers have been looking into the impact of wolves on important hunting species, with University of Washington scientists earlier this year reporting that muleys are moving higher up in the mountains of North-central Washington to avoid the predators (though also closer to cougars).

WDFW is also in year three of its five-year Predator-Prey Project in the Okanogan and Northeast Washington.

Kretz Washington Wolf Status Review Bill Passes House, Now In Senate

Even as WDFW begins a status checkup of gray wolves in Washington, state lawmakers are giving hard deadlines for the agency to complete it and for the Fish and Wildlife Commission to decide whether to update the species’ listing.

REP. JOEL KRETZ SPEAKS DURING DEBATE ON THE FLOOR OF WASHINGTON’S HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES EARLIER THIS WEEK. (STATE LEGISLATURE)

“We need the department to take this step to officially document how the wolves are faring,” said prime sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) in a press release yesterday. “I know how my ranchers and communities are faring, and it’s not good. Despite honest efforts on both sides of this issue, folks back in my district are desperate. The state needs to show that it’s listening, it hears them, and is going to start taking their concerns to heart.”

HB 2097, which passed out of the House on Monday, requires the review to be based on statewide wolf numbers and scientific data to determine if the “population is no longer in danger of failing, declining, or no longer vulnerable to limited numbers, disease, predation, habitat loss or change, or exploitation.”

The bill must still pass the Senate, where this morning it was introduced and referred to the natural resources committee, and be signed by Governor Inslee, but under it WDFW’s work would have to be finalized by the end of next February and its citizen oversight panel need to reconsider the state endangered status of wolves by August 31, 2020.

A status review is one of two ways under the Washington Administrative Codes’ “delisting criteria” that a species can be taken off state ESA lists.

WAC 220-610-110

Endangered, threatened, and sensitive wildlife species classification.

Delisting criteria
4.1
The commission shall delist a wildlife species from endangered, threatened, or sensitive solely on the basis of the biological status of the species being considered, based on the preponderance of scientific data available.
4.2
A species may be delisted from endangered, threatened, or sensitive only when populations are no longer in danger of failing, declining, are no longer vulnerable, pursuant to section 3.3, or meet recovery plan goals, and when it no longer meets the definitions in sections 2.4, 2.5, or 2.6.

The other is by meeting benchmarks set by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. With wolves, that 2011’s management plan, approved before recovery really got going. Under it, there needs to be either 15 or 18 successful breeding pairs in various parts of the state for certain periods of time.

WDFW has been estimating that that would occur somewhere around 2021, give or take.

Where the latter criteria is essentially a “measuring stick” for how close wolves are to reaching the wolf plan’s predetermined numerical figures, the former considers the “robustness” of the actual population. The most recent annual count did find nearly 15 breeding pairs, though almost all were in one single recovery region.

Indeed, there can be no doubt that pack goals have been reached in Kretz’s district — Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry Counties and northeast Okanogan County — but his initial bill’s possible regional delisting wording was stripped out as it moved through the legislature’s lower chamber after its Feb. 19 introduction.

Still, the unanimous 98-0 vote was a good sign for ranchers, hunters and others concerned about growing wolf numbers.

The bill also includes provisions for WDFW to study how wolf recovery in the state’s federally delisted eastern third is affecting recolonization elsewhere.

While a fringe out-of-state pro-wolf blog is already claiming the goal posts are being moved, page 68 of the wolf plan also states that if 2011’s population models turn out to be wrong, “Incorporating wolf demographic data specific to Washington will allow WDFW to update predictions of population persistence during wolf recovery phases and to revise the recovery objectives, if needed.”

And the bill would continue efforts in Ferry and Stevens Counties to deal with wolf-livestock conflicts, and create a grant program for using nonlethal deterrents in all of Eastern Washington.

“In many ways, the state has drug its feet in addressing my constituents’ concerns regarding the wolf issue,” said Kretz in the press release. “The state needs to step up financially and assist with the problems it has created, or at the very least, neglected.”

Paula Swedeen of Conservation Northwest said she appreciated lawmakers commitments to recovering wolves and providing enough funding for wolf-livestock conflict avoidance work, what she called “a significant positive step for both wolves and ranchers.”

“This allows for more social tolerance to be fostered across the state, including in the rural areas where wolves are already abundant. There is robust discussion about increasing the effort to promote coexistence in areas where livelihoods are affected by wolf recovery,” she said in a statement.

It all comes as US Interior Department Acting Secretary David Bernhardt last week said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would soon propose removing gray wolves from ESA protections in the western two-thirds of Washington and elsewhere in the Lower 48.

WDFW has long maintained it is ready take over managing wolves across the state.

Kretz has introduced numerous wolf bills in the state legislature, some more serious than others. It appears this latest one has a good head of steam and could pass.

Washington Game Commissioners Hear About Northeast Predator, Prey Issues

With the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s monthly meeting being held in Spokane, members had a chance to hear about the region’s predator and prey issues from local residents this morning.

A 197-POUND NORTHEAST WASHINGTON COUGAR SNARLS AFTER BEING TREED FOR A PREDATOR-PREY RESEARCH STUDY. (WDFW)

And from too many cougars to not enough deer to wolf management, hunters, homeowners and ranchers gave WDFW’s citizen oversight panel an earful, and then some, during public input.

In testimony that was being live-streamed, some talked about how few deer they were seeing anymore where once they would routinely see hundreds.

One hunter who had been afield for 40 years and whose family has a longtime deer camp near Sherman Pass spoke of seeing only one mature mule deer buck and a handful of does last season.

He tearfully called for a six-year deer hunting moratorium across Eastern Washington so future generations would have opportunities to see the animals.

A Colville-area man proposed a pilot Sept. 1-March 31 lion season in WDFW’s District 1, the popular game management units of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

His idea called for a minimum harvest of 45, but if the take fell below that the hunt would be restricted as a sign of a declining population.

RESIDENTS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT NORTHEAST WASHINGTON PREDATOR AND PREY POPULATIONS BEFORE THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. (WDFW)

Another talked about fearing letting his kids play in the backyard, relating a story about a cougar having been as close as 3 feet from someone.

Some called for reinstating hound hunting, and another spotlighted one tribe’s predator and prey management, essentially saying that big game is their primary priority.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

A man with a CDL volunteered to help translocate wolves out of the region.

And a livestock producer told commissioners how ranchers were poo-pooed that one wolf pack had twice as many members as state managers thought, but were vindicated when a recent aerial survey showed just that.

He also indicated he was more comfortable speaking in Spokane than Olympia, where he said he felt like he might be shot in the back by audience members.

Speaking of Olympia, several predator and prey bills that could affect Northeast Washington have been active there.

SB 2097, directing WDFW to review the status of wolves in Washington, has been amended after pushback to kill the possibility of considering regional delisting;

SB 5525 deals with whitetail deer surveys and gives the agency a goal of increasing counts to eight to nine per mile;

And HB 1516 and SB 5320 would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.

Meanwhile, for this hunting season, WDFW is proposing to eliminate antlerless whitetail tags and permits for youth, senior, disabled, second deer, early and late archery and early muzzleloader seasons in GMUs 101 through 121 to try and increase the herd.

Back in Spokane, the commission’s public input period was scheduled to run from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m., but didn’t wrap up until 10:48 a.m. such was the number of people who wanted to speak.

“We heard you and we’ll start discussing this internally and see what we can do,” said Chairman Larry Carpenter in closing testimony.

At the end of today’s session, Carpenter touched on predators again, as did another commissioner.

“We’re not headed on the right compass course,” said Jay Holzmiller of Anatone, who said it was a bad idea “to keep walking down the road fat, dumb and happy.”

“We’re sitting on a powder keg,” he said.

North-central Washington Mule Deer ‘Really Changing Their Home Ranges’ In Response To Wolves: UW Study

A University of Washington press release is fleshing out something I reported before last deer season:

Muleys and whitetails are beginning to change their behavior as wolf numbers increase in North-central Washington, and hunters might want to start looking in rougher country for the big-eared bounders.

A MULE DEER DOE AND FAWN CAPTURED ON A TRAIL CAM DURING A UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON WOLF-DEER STUDY. (UW)

“Overall, the researchers found that mule deer in gray wolf areas changed their behavior to avoid wolves altogether — mainly by moving to higher, steeper elevations, away from roads and toward brushy, rocky terrain,” states the news release that came out yesterday.

“Alternately, white-tailed deer that favor sprinting and early detection as ways to escape from predators were more likely to stick to their normal behavior in wolf areas, sprinting across open, gently rolling terrain with good visibility — including along roads,” it continues.

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

That conclusion from the press release is based on field research involving collared deer and wolves and trail cams from 2013 through 2016 in areas of Okanogan and Ferry Counties occupied and unoccupied by packs.

“Mule deer faced with the threat of wolves are really changing their home ranges, on a large scale,” said UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences associate professor Aaron Wirsing.

He is one of six UW, Oregon State University and other coauthors of an article recently published in the journal Oecologia recently.

He said that the species is moving uphill into less smooth territory “where wolves are less likely to hunt successfully.”

While the UW press release does note that that shift “could affect hunting opportunities” — “Indeed, some hunters in eastern Washington have already reported seeing mule deer higher on ridges where they are less accessible than in past years” — what it doesn’t mention is that that move just puts muleys closer to the jaws of another predator better adopted to stalking rough country.

Mountain lions.

A SCREEN GRAB FROM A VIDEO CAMERA SLUNG AROUND THE NECK OF A WHITETAIL DOE FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON’S DEER-WOLF STUDY SHOWS A MOUNTAIN LION ATTACK. THE CAMERA WAS LATER RECOVERED AND ITS VIDEO POSTED TO NRA PUBS’ YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

One of the coauthors, Justin Dellinger, pointed that out when I spoke to him in the lead-up to 2018’s rifle buck hunt.

While the number of deer killed by wolves in the study was considerably fewer than how many cougars took –2 vs. 12 — he was quick to note that the data set is short, and it’s specific to North-central Washington and the early stages of wolf colonization.

Dellinger stated that the study occurred during relatively easy winters and theorized that in a severe one, mule deer driven down into open lowland winter range by snow could be preyed upon more heavily by wolves.

But there can be no doubt that even as deer adapt to the return of the long-legged lopers, they are still ending up on the menu.

Not far to the east of the study area, in similar though more densely forested country with fewer muleys and more whitetails, another UW researcher and his scat-sniffing dogs found that deer are the primary food source for wolves.

LAST YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA CAPTURED WHAT’S BELIEVED TO BE A SMACKOUT PACK YEARLING PACKING HINDQUARTERS OF A WHITETAIL FAWN BACK TO THE DEN IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (JEFF FLOOD)

Earlier this winter, Dr. Samuel Wasser told Washington lawmakers, who funded his work, that they collected 8,456 piles of poo in northern Stevens and Pend Oreille County between April 2015 and June 2017, ran 6,095 through a lab and found that 826 had been left by 114 individual wolves.

As for what those packs were digesting, deer represented the largest portion of their diet, though moose weren’t far behind.

A PRESENTATION BY A UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PROFESSOR BEFORE THE STATE LEGISLATURE SHOWS WHAT LAB ANALYSIS FOUND TO BE KEY PARTS OF THE DIET OF WOLVES IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (DR. SAMUEL WASSER)

Deer also made up the plurality of cougar and coyote diets.

According to the UW press release, wolves will chase deer  “sometimes upwards of 6 miles.”

It postulates that whitetail hunting “likely won’t change to the same degree with the presence of wolves.”

It also says that the return of wolves to deer country “could affect other parts of the ecosystem,” likely meaning vegetation cover, “and perhaps reduce the number of deer-vehicle collisions.”

A heat map detailing where roadkill salvagers have picked up the most deer on state routes since July 2016 does show a number on Highways 20 and 21 in the area near where the wolf-deer study took place, but much higher concentrations in more populated areas where wolves are somewhat less likely to occur.

A MAP PREPARED FOR THE WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION EARLIER THIS WINTER SHOWS ROADKILL SALVAGE HOT SPOTS FOR BLACKTAIL, WHITETAIL AND MULE DEER ACROSS THE STATE. (WDFW)

The UW wolf-deer study was funded by the university, National Science Foundation, WDFW, Safari Club International Foundation and Conservation Northwest.

The Colville Tribes recently changed its wolf season for tribal members in areas that were part of the study — the reservation and the “North Half” — to year-round without a quota.

WDFW and UW researchers are also in year three of a five-year predator-prey study across the northern tier of Eastern Washington that should also bring new information about how wolves, deer, moose, elk, cougars, coyotes and other critters in the area’s wildlife guild are adapting to the changing dynamics.

Wolf Season Now Open Year-round, No Limit On Colville Reservation, North Half

UPDATED 5:30 P.M. FEB 22, 2019 WITH COMMENTS FROM WDFW NEAR BOTTOM

Colville wildlife managers posted a rule change this afternoon that removes the annual limit on wolves for tribal hunters as well as switched the season to open year round both on the reservation and what’s known as the “North Half.”

ONE OF TWO YOUNG WOLVES CAPTURED AND COLLARED ON THE COLVILLE RESERVATION SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (COLVILLE CONFEDERATED TRIBES)

Last September, the Business Council had dropped the three-wolf limit on the “South Half” — the 2,100-square-mile reservation in North-central Washington’s southeast Okanogan and southern Ferry Counties — but yesterday members approved extending that to both zones in a 12-0 vote.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

Wolf hunting in the North Half, which is comprised of federal, state and private lands comanaged with WDFW, was otherwise slated to end at the end of this month.

“Tags are still available at the Fish and Wildlife Offices as well as hide sealing by appointment,” a notice from the department reads.

The hunt is only open to tribal members, and there are somewhere around eight packs combined in both halves, including the Old Profanity Territory, Togo, Beaver Creek, Strawberry, Nc’icn, Nason, Frosty and Whitestone wolves.

Following the federal delisting in the eastern third of the state, the Colvilles opened the first wolf hunt in Washington in modern history in 2012, on the reservation, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the first was taken.

Then in 2017, the Business Council opened the North Half with a quota of three wolves.

When the 2017-18 South Half season came to a close last February, wildlife managers reported all three wolves in the quota had been taken.

“We’re not expecting it to represent a conservation concern in the region or statewide,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf manager, late this afternoon.

He confirmed that eight of the state’s 25 known packs overlap the halves and that the recovery region already has 13 successful breeding pairs, three times as many as are required under the state management plan.

Martorello also said that he didn’t anticipate the tribal harvest to be markedly different than what it has been.

When the Colvilles first began hunting wolves, the agency pointed out that the tribes have the right to manage wildlife on their reservation however they wish.

Earlier today in Olympia, a bill directing WDFW to immediately begin a status review of gray wolves across Washington and consider whether to change the species’ listing either statewide or regionally had a public hearing and was passed out of a House natural resources committee.

Chief sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican from Wauconda, not far north of the Colville Reservation, said there wasn’t anything “prescriptive” in the bill and that it wasn’t meant to make “to make people nervous,” but that it raised the possibility of managing distinct wolf populations differently.

“My district has 90 percent of the wolves in the state. I get pictures every day of wolves all over, outside pack boundaries, in backyards,” he said.

However, the bill will probably be amended if it moves forward.

Ranch Hand Shoots, Kills Adams Co. Wolf Chasing Cattle

A ranch hand shot and killed one of three wolves he spotted chasing cattle in northeast Adams County earlier this week, a legal use of “caught in the act” provisions under state rules.

A SCREENSHOT FROM GOOGLE MAPS SHOWS ADAMS COUNTY (RED LINE) AND A YELLOW CIRCLE SHOWS ITS NORTHEASTERN CORNER. (GOOGLE MAPS)

After seeing the livestock running on the evening of Feb. 4 then the wolves, the employee yelled, causing two of them to break off pursuit, but after a brief pause the third continued to chase one cow, WDFW reported this morning.

“The ranch employee shot and killed the wolf from approximately 120 yards away,” the agency stated.

WDFW staffers and game wardens quickly responded to the scene to investigate that evening.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

“Based on the preliminary findings, WDFW law enforcement indicated that the shooting was lawful and consistent with state regulations. In areas of Washington where wolves are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, WAC 220-440-080 states the owner of domestic animals (or an immediate family member, agent, or employee) may kill one gray wolf without a permit issued by the WDFW director if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals,” a WDFW statement out this morning said.

The wolf was determined to be an “unmarked” adult female but its breeding status wasn’t immediately clear. Mating season is now.

There have been other caught in the act incidents in the delisted part of the state, but what makes this one unusual is its location.

It occurred in the Channeled Scablands, at the edge of the open, lightly populated far eastern Columbia Basin and northwestern corner of the Palouse, far from what we’ve come to know as classic wolf country.

WDFW’S 2018 WOLF PACK MAP. (WDFW)

Three wolves traveling together constitutes a pack and then some — pups born in previous years? — but none are shown anywhere near here on WDFW’s wolf maps, and there aren’t many public reports from the region either.

Still, there has been at least one depredation in these parts in the past, a pregnant ewe killed in nearby northern Whitman County in December 2014.

State wildlife conflict staffers are working with the rancher to try and prevent more attacks and others are looking for the wolves to potentially add them to the pack map for the annual year-end count for 2018, WDFW reported.

With wolves in this unexpected area of Washington, it’s highly likely that the agency’s minimum count will be well above last year’s 122, with one University of Washington researcher suggesting it’s nearing 200. That was based in part on evidence his wolf-poop-sniffing dogs found in the state’s northeast corner and elsewhere.

Oly Update II: Gill Net Ban, Bainbridge Wolf Preserve Bills Introduced

Just a brief update from the Olympia Outsider™ as the second week of Washington’s legislative session comes to a close.

Lawmakers continue to introduce fish- and wildlife-related bills, and several of note were dropped this week, some more serious than others.

A TONGUE IN CHEEK BILL INTRODUCED IN OLYMPIA THIS WEEK WOULD ESSENTIALLY DECLARE BAINBRIDGE ISLAND A WOLF PRESERVE. IT’S REP. JOEL KRETZ’S RESPONSE TO A LOCAL LEGISLATOR’S BILL THAT WOULD BAR WDFW FROM LETHALLY REMOVING DEPREDATING WOLVES IN HIS DISTRICT. NEITHER ARE LIKELY TO PASS. (THE INTERWEBS)

With our rundown last Friday starting with House bills, this week we’ll lead off with new ones in the Senate:

Bill: SB 5617
Title: “Banning the use of nontribal gill nets.”
Sponsors: Sens. Salomon, Braun, Van De Wege, Rolfes, Wilson, L., Rivers, Fortunato, Palumbo, Keiser, Das, Frockt, Randall, Warnick, Hunt, Honeyford, Brown, Cleveland, Saldaña, Nguyen, Darneille, Conway, Pedersen, Wilson, C., and Liias
Bill digest: Not available as the bill was just introduced this morning, but parsing through the text, which cites declining wild salmon runs, the importance of Chinook to orcas and reforms on the Columbia, it would phase out gillnets “in favor of mark selective harvest techniques that are capable of the unharmed release of wild and endangered salmon while selectively harvesting hatchery-reared salmon.” It would not affect tribes’ ability to net salmon.
Olympia Outsider™ analysis: First thing that jumps out about this bill is the massive number of cosponsors, 24 — nearly half of the Senate on board from the get-go. The second is its bipartisan support — 17 Democrats, seven Republicans. The lead sponsor is the recently elected Sen. Jesse Salomon of Shoreline, who defeated commercial fishing supporter Maralynn Chase last fall. It’s highly likely that the bill will make it through its first committee too, which is chaired by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, one of the cosponsors. It also comes with some apparent backsliding led by Oregon interests on efforts to get gillnets out of the shared Columbia.

Bill: SB 8204
Title: “Amending the Constitution to guarantee the right to fish, hunt, and otherwise harvest wildlife.”
Sponsors: Sens. Braun, Fortunato, Takko, Wagoner, and Wilson, L.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but if passed would put the above up for a vote at the next general election.
OO analysis: The nut of this bill has been around for a few years, but here’s hoping it gets more traction this legislative session than 2017’s!

Bill: SB 5404
Title: “Expanding the definition of fish habitat enhancement projects.”
Sponsors: Sens. Rolfes, Honeyford, Van De Wege, McCoy, Salomon, Hasegawa
Bill digest: None available, but essentially adds projects restoring “native kelp and eelgrass beds and restoring native oysters” to those that could be permitted to enhance fish habitat.
OO analysis: A recall watching shimmering schools of baitfish off a pier in Port Townsend that had signs talking about the importance of eelgrass to salmon and other key species, such as herring. With so many acres of beds lost over the decades, this seems like a good idea.

Bill: SB 5525
Title: “Concerning whitetail deer population estimates.”
Sponsor: Sen. Shelly Short
Bill digest: None available, but directs WDFW to annually count whitetail bucks, does and fawns on certain transects in Northeast Washington with the ultimate goal of increasing deer numbers to 9 to 11 per mile.
OO analysis: State wildlife biologists already drive roads here in late summer to estimate buck:doe ratios, but we’re not going to argue with getting more deer in the woods!

Bill: HB 1404
Title: “Concerning a comprehensive study of human-caused impacts to streambeds.”
Sponsor: Rep. Blake
Bill digest:  Unavailable, but directs WDFW, DNR and DOE to review scientific literature for the effects that mining, running jet sleds and operating diversion dams, among other impacts, have on fish, gravel and water quality, with the report due next year.
OO analysis: Could be interesting to read that report.

Bill: HB 1516
Title: “Establishing a department of fish and wildlife directed nonlethal program for the purpose of training dogs.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Dent, Chapman, Kretz, Walsh, Lekanoff, Orcutt, Springer, Pettigrew, Hoff, Shea
Bill digest: Unavailable, but essentially a companion bill to the Senate’s SB 5320, which yesterday had a public hearing and enjoyed widespread support from hunting, ranching, farming and conservation interests — even HSUS. It would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.
OO analysis: To quote the chair at Thursday’s hearing on the Senate side bill, “We love when there is widespread agreement.”

Bill: HB 1579 / SB 5580
Title: “Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing chinook abundance.”
Sponsors: Reps. Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Lekanoff, Doglio, Macri, Stonier, Tharinger, Stanford, Jinkins, Robinson and Pollet; Sens. Rolfes, Palumbo, Frockt, Dhingra, Keiser, Kuderer, and Saldaña.
Note: By request of Office of the Governor
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per a news release from Gov. Jay Inslee the bills “would increase habitat for Chinook salmon and other forage fish” through hydraulic permitting.
OO analysis: Good to see some teeth when it comes to overseeing projects done around water. Of note, this bill would also essentially reclassify some toothsome Chinook cohabitants, scrubbing smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and walleye from the list of officially approved state “game fish,” a precursor to slashing limits?

Bill: HB 1580 / SB 5577
Title: “Concerning the protection of southern resident orca whales from vessels.”
Sponsors: Reps. Blake, Kretz, Kirby, Peterson, Appleton, Shewmake, Morris, Cody, Jinkins; Sens. Rolfes, Frockt, Liias, McCoy, Dhingra, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Saldaña, Wilson, C.
Bill digest: Unavailable, but per the Governor’s Office, “would protect Southern Resident orcas from vessel noise and disturbance. The bills would require vessels to stay at least 400 yards away from Southern Resident orcas and report vessels they witness in violation of the limit. It would also require vessels to travel under seven knots within one-half nautical mile of the whales. The legislation would create no-go and go-slow zones around the whales to protect them.
OO analysis: With vessel disturbance one of three key factors in why Puget Sound’s orcas are struggling, this bill follows on recommendations from Inslee’s orca task force. Having companion bills makes passage more likely.

Bill: HB 1639
Title: “Ensuring that all Washingtonians share in the benefits of an expanding wolf population.”
Sponsor: Rep. Joel Kretz
Bill digest: Unavailable at this writing, but essentially declares Bainbridge Island a wolf preserve and would translocate most of the state’s wolves there so “they can be protected, studied, and, most importantly, admired by the region’s animal lovers,” as well as sets new limits for considering when to lethally remove depredating wolves, including after four confirmed attacks on dogs, four on domestic cats or two on children.
OO analysis: Rep. Kretz is known for dropping some amusing wolf-related bills in the legislature, often at the expense of lawmakers who live on islands, and this latest one needles Bainbridge’s Rep. Sherry Appleton, whose HB 1045 would bar WDFW from killing livestock-attacking wolves to try and stave off further depredations in Kretz’s district and elsewhere in Washington. Neither bill is likely to pass, but the text of HB 1639 is a hoot.

So How Many Wolves Are There Actually In Washington?

Are there twice as many wolves running around parts of Washington as WDFW’s minimum count suggests?

It seems more likely in the wake of a state Senate committee work session on the species Tuesday afternoon.

Information from it is giving Washington wolf world observers a chance to compare WDFW’s figures for parts of two northeastern counties with how many wolves that dung dog-gathered data says were actually there at the time.

Dung dogs would be canines that the University of Washington’s Dr. Samuel Wasser et al have trained to find scat. They’re so good that they can smell Puget Sound orca ordure a mile away, Wasser told senators.

On dry land between April 2015 and February 2016, they helped researchers sniff out 4,685 piles of poo in wild portions of Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties.

A MAP FROM DR. SAMUEL WASSER’S PRESENTATION TO A WASHINGTON SENATE COMMITTEE SHOWS THE ROUTES THAT HIS SPECIALLY TRAINED DUNG-DETECTION DOGS RAN IN AREAS OF STEVENS AND PEND OREILLE COUNTIES IN 2015 AND EARLY 2016, A PERIOD DURING WHICH FIVE KNOWN WOLF PACKS OCCURRED IN THE AREA. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Their survey area that season overlapped the territories of the Smackout, Dirty Shirt, Carpenter Ridge, Goodman Meadows and Skookum Packs.

With 3,917 of the samples subsequently analyzed in the lab so far, 1,878 (48%) were determined to be coyote crap, 714 (18%) to be bobcat BMs, 541 (14%) to be wolf waste, 323 (8%) to be black bear brownies and 212 (5%) to be mountain lion leavings.

What the remaining 7 percent was wasn’t clear, but the scat not only told researchers what species excreted it (as well as what they’d been, er, wolfing down), but also allowed them to genetically identify the specific animal from whose alimentary canal it exited.

While counting wolves has been an inexact science up to this point, Wasser told members of Sen. Kevin Van De Wege’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee they were able to determine that those 541 wolf samples were left by 60 different individual wolves.

WASSER’S PRESENTATION OVERLAYS WOLF SCAT WITH KNOWN WOLF PACK LOCATIONS. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

He said his abundance estimate for the area between spring 2015 through midwinter 2016 was 68.

Now, it’s not quite apples to apples, more like apples to pears, but that timing does allow us to compare his findings with some from WDFW’s 2015 year-end count, which came out in early 2016.

The state agency estimated that the packs that left all that poop numbered at least 30 wolves — eight in Smackout, eight in Dirty Shirt, two in Carpenter, seven in Goodman and five in Skookum.

Thirty is, I want to stress, a minimum number, the confirmed headcount, but it is also a lot fewer than 60, let alone 68.

Hunters and others have long suspected that there are more wolves running around than WDFW’s minimum, and the evidence collected by scat-sniffing dogs from just one part of the state, albeit a wolf-heavy one, seems to bear that out.

So how might the state agency explain such a big numerical difference?

Partially it’s that this is a different, more precise way to count wolves than how WDFW has had funding to do it — collaring wolves and trying to find them and their packies later on.

But some of Wasser’s 60 known animals could have been pups born in spring 2015, defecated all over, but didn’t survive to the end of the year to be counted during the state’s aerial surveys.

They could have been dispersers from elsewhere that, say, ate a 49 Degrees North deer/moose/elk/cow/bird/rodent/snowshoe hare/etc., left a dropping or two and continued on their journey out of the area.

They could have been born to one of the packs, learned how to hunt and subsequently dispersed before biologists buzzed around that winter in the Cessna.

They could have been poached — state game wardens did find evidence that a man illegally killed at least two members of the Goodman Meadows Pack prior to a March 2016 search warrant on his cabin.

And it’s possible that at least three if not more of WDFW’s nine listed known lone/miscellaneous wolves in the greater Eastern Recovery Zone at the end of 2015 were in this area during the survey, so it’s the known 30 plus that many more.

Still, it’s eye-opening, and what’s more Wasser also told senators that during the following field season his dogs found evidence of at least 92 wolves in the same area, and he estimated there were 95 there then.

He said that between the two sessions of fieldwork, they found evidence of 114 unique wolves there.

The bottom line?

Later this winter WDFW will release its 2018 year-end minimum count. That figure is likely to be a lot higher than 2017’s 122, and it may also include new packs from a whole new area of Washington.

While state wolf managers have yet to confirm there are any wolves in the South Cascades, thanks to legislative funding, last year Wasser’s dogs found potential evidence in northwestern Yakima County and multiple parts of Skamania County.

ANOTHER SLIDE FROM WASSER’S PRESENTATION SHOWS ROUTES HIS DUNG-DETECTION DOGS RAN IN THE CENTRAL AND SOUTH CASCADES AND WHERE THEY FOUND POTENTIAL WOLF POOP THAT IS NOW UNDERGOING FINAL ANALYSIS WITH RESULTS EXPECTED SOON. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Those feces are now undergoing final analysis with results expected soon, but if “potential wolf” droppings the dung dogs found in the known Teanaway Pack territory are any indication, it seems possible there may be a pack or two in the South Cascades.

Yes, wolves, wolf impacts and wolf people are pains in the ass to manage, but having four successful breeding pairs there is important to reaching the recovery goals that begin statewide delisting processes, and the sooner that occurs the better.

Well, the better for everyone except the groups that are trying to keep the species under kid-glove management, including through an upcoming court case against WDFW.

But this new data strengthens the argument that there are far more wolves in Washington, they’re likely far more widespread and they’re far, far more resilient than Arizona’s Center for Biological Diversity etc., want you to know.