Tag Archives: wolves

ODFW To Remove 2 Harl Butte Wolves To Head Off Chronic Depredations

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

ODFW wildlife managers intend to remove some of the adult wolves in northeast Oregon’s Harl Butte pack to limit further livestock losses as non-lethal measures and hazing have not been successful in limiting wolf depredations.

On July 28, ODFW received a lethal removal request from several affected livestock producers from a local grazing association after two depredations were confirmed in a five-day period. They asked that the entire Harl Butte pack be removed due to chronic livestock depredation. ODFW has decided to deny the request and will take an incremental approach instead, removing two members of the pack and then evaluating the situation. “In this chronic situation, lethal control measures are warranted,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We will use incremental removal to give the remaining wolves the opportunity to change their behavior or move out of the area.”

AN ODFW MAP SHOWS THE AREA OF NORTHEAST OREGON WHERE THE HARL BUTTE PACK RESIDES. (ODFW)

In the past 13 months, ODFW has confirmed seven depredations by the Harl Butte Pack in Wallowa County, which killed three and injured four calves. Six of the depredations have occurred in an area that supports dispersed livestock grazing in large forested pastures on private and public lands.  ODFW believes that depredations may continue or escalate despite non-lethal deterrent measures in place due to the history of depredation by this pack.

When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if it confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.

In this situation, the livestock producers have maintained a significant human presence in the area of the depredations. Human presence is recognized as one of the best non-lethal methods to limit wolf-livestock conflict in dispersed grazing situations because wolves tend to avoid people. The producers coordinate between themselves, their employees, a county-employed range rider and a volunteer to ensure daily human presence coverage of the area. They increase human activity in areas when they see wolf sign, learn (through telemetry of a radio-collared wolf) that wolf activity is in close proximity to livestock, or when livestock show behavior that could indicate wolf presence.

The increased human presence has given the livestock producers and the range rider multiple opportunities to haze wolves that were chasing or in close proximity to livestock.  On seven different occasions in June and July 2017, wolves have been hazed away from cattle by yelling, firing a pistol, shooting at, walking towards, and riding horseback towards the wolves.

Producers or their employees have also been spending nights near their cattle. Several producers are keeping their stock dogs inside horse trailers at night (as wolves are territorial and may attack dogs). Other producers are changing their typical grazing management practices including bunching cow/calf pairs in a herd (which enables cows to better protect themselves) or delaying pasture rotation to avoid putting cattle in an area where wolves have been.

While investigating reported livestock depredations, ODFW looks for attractants to wolves such as a bone pile or carcass that may contribute to the conflict. Livestock producers have also been watching for vulnerable livestock and carcasses in order to keep them from becoming wolf attractants and have been quick to remove them. Three injured or sick livestock were moved to home ranches for treatment and to protect them from predators. One dead domestic bull was removed from an area of concentrated cattle use (a pond). ODFW has not identified any circumstances or attractants that could promote wolf-livestock conflict in this area.

All these methods used by livestock producers have complied with Oregon’s applicable laws.

The Harl Butte Pack’s first depredation of livestock was confirmed in July of last year. ODFW received a request for lethal control in October 2016, after the fourth confirmed depredation. The department denied this request because most cattle were being removed from the large dispersed grazing pastures and out of the depredation area, so future depredation was unlikely.

The situation is different now because cattle will be grazing in the area on public lands until October and private lands into November, so ODFW expects the depredation will continue.

“Based on the level of non-lethal measures already being used and the fact that wolves are likely to be in the presence of cattle in this area for several more months, there is a substantial risk that depredation will continue or escalate,” said Brown.

ODFW intends to remove up to two adult uncollared wolves from the Harl Butte Pack by trapping or shooting from the ground or air. Once two wolves have been removed, the removal operation will stop. If two wolves have not been killed after two weeks, ODFW will assess whether removal efforts will continue another two weeks. If a new depredation occurs after the removal of two wolves, lethal control may resume.

About the Harl Butte Wolf Pack

The Harl Butte wolf pack may have formed and bred as early as 2015 though they were not documented until 2016. ODFW counted 10 wolves at the end of last year and observed seven wolves in the pack in March.  One wolf in the pack, OR50, was collared in February 2017 and is believed to be the breeding male of the pack.

The pack is expected to have bred this year, and their weaned pups would now be about four months old, though the exact number of pups is unknown.

RMEF Sees Silver Lining In Court’s Great Lakes Wolf Listing Ruling

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION

Unlike its decision earlier in 2017 upholding efforts to delist wolves in Wyoming, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia chose not to do the same in the Western Great Lakes states.

“We are disappointed with this latest ruling, but the court wholeheartedly rejected a number of claims by environmental groups regarding wolves and wolf management,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “The court undid a number of roadblocks thus providing a path forward.”

 

Positive points from the decision:

  • Rejected an environmental group argument that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not use the best available science
  • The Endangered Species Act allows the FWS to delist a distinct wolf population segment
  • Supported FWS’s reliance on state management of wolves and other wildlife in the Western Great Lakes states
  • Upheld the FWS’s determination that disease and human mortality do not pose a significant threat to the wolf population
  • There is no permanent barrier to delisting wolves

“This latest ruling came six years after the FWS tried for a third time to delist wolves in the Great Lakes. We call on Congress to approve and pass a legislative fix to halt this non-stop litigation that frustrates successful wildlife management,” said Allen. “These environmental groups continue to use the wolf as a fundraising tool while overlooking and ignoring each state’s approved wildlife management plans.”

As of 2015-16, there is an estimated minimum population of 3,762 wolves in the Great Lakes states. Minnesota’s wolf population is approximately one and a half times above objective. Michigan’s wolf population is more than 200 percent above its state plan and Wisconsin’s wolf population is more than 250 percent above objective.

RMEF recognizes that predators have a proper place on the landscape but that they need to be managed just as elk, deer and other wildlife are managed in accordance with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model.

WDFW Reports More Sherman, Smackout Pack Depredations

Washington wolf managers are reporting a new pair of depredations by packs already in trouble for recent attacks on cattle.

They say that the Shermans of Ferry County injured a calf not far from a pair of previously confirmed depredations on BLM land. The calf was so torn up it had to be put down, WDFW reports.

WDFW’S 2016 YEAR-END WOLF MAP SHOWS THE ROUGH BOUNDARIES OF THE STATE’S 20 KNOWN PACKS, INCLUDING TWO NEW ONES CONFIRMED LAST YEAR, SHERMAN AND TOUCHET, ON EITHER SIDE OF EASTERN WASHINGTON’S FEDERALLY DELISTED ZONE. (WDFW)

GPS data and tracks at the scene put at least two members of the pack at the attack.

WDFW reports the producer has been using five agency-contracted range riders since early May, and has also increased human presence on the grazing area.

The other two attacks were investigated July 12 and June 12.

One more depredation before mid-August could put the Sherman Pack in jeopardy under WDFW’s new protocols that allow for lethal removal to begin if three attacks (three confirmed or two confirmed and a probable) occur in a rolling 30-day period.

Four confirmed attacks across a year also qualify, and that’s the case in Stevens County already with the Smackout Pack

The agency says it was responsible for killing a calf in a private, fenced 40-acre pasture near the producer’s home last week.

WDFW investigated July 22 and said that GPS data from two collars puts the wolves at the scene at the time of the attack.

It’s the fifth by the Smackouts since last September, and on July 20, WDFW announced it would begin incremental lethal removals to stop the attacks. An update on that operation is expected later this week.

WDFW Reports Second Sherman Pack Depredation, 5 Recent Wolf Deaths

The Sherman Pack attacked and killed a calf for the second time in a month, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The confirmed depredation was outlined today in a wolf update from the agency.

(WDFW)

The fresh carcass was found Wednesday, July 12, by a range rider, similar to last month, and also within 200 yards of that wolf kill, on a Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment in Ferry County.

According to WDFW, bite marks and other wounds on the calf as well as GPS collar data from the Sherman male “clearly indicate a wolf depredation.”

The producer uses five range riders and has been patrolling the area since even before turning their cattle out in late May on private ground, say state wolf managers.

They say there are no known dens or rendezvous sites in the area.

Under the agency’s new protocols, just three depredations, including one probable, in a 30-day period, could lead to the beginning of lethal removals. Last year it was four confirmed.

In other Washington wolf news from the update, WDFW reports that a Goodman Meadows Pack male that was captured in collared in January was legally harvested in Idaho;

That a Dirty Shirt Pack male that dispersed to Salmo Pack country in April was subsequently lethally removed by British Columbia officials trying to protect rare woodland caribou;

That the deaths of another Dirty Shirt wolf as well as one from the Loup Loup Pack are under investigation;

And that a wolf that had been part of the Huckleberry Pack in 2014 was recently mortally wounded by a vehicle collision further north this month and was dispatched by WDFW staff.

Killings wolves in Washington is illegal, and west of Highways 97, 17 and 395, where they are listed under ESA, a federal offense.

The update also includes proactive deterrence measures being used on a number of packs, recent activities of those wolves and community outreach provided by WDFW and volunteers.

Pretty interesting reading.

 

WA-ID-BC Border Caribou Herd Down To 10; New Film Highlights Plight

A caribou herd that roams where the borders of Washington, Idaho and British Columbia converge is down to 10 animals, a new low, with the recent death of a mature bull.

The news was confirmed this morning by a tribal biologist after it was announced last night at the premiere of a movie highlighting the precarious state of mountain caribou habitat in the Inland Northwest.

A SIGN ON A LOGGING ROAD IN 2003 ADVISES HUNTERS IN FAR NORTHERN IDAHO’S GRIZZLY AND MOUNTAIN CARIBOU COUNTRY TO BE SURE OF THEIR TARGETS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It’s a decline of two animals since last fall, when the herd was featured in a New York Times story, and one since an April survey  found 11.

There are now believed to be two yearlings, seven cows — though some could be young males — and one bull left in the South Selkirk band.

New calves could have been born since — along with last year’s pair, there was one in 2015 and 2014 — but other herd members without telemetry could have also died as well. 

Kalispel Tribe biologist Bart George in Ione says the latest one died in a remote area 10 miles north of the Canadian border that required a helicopter to access.

Because of an issue with the mortality signal, the carcass had been pretty well picked over by bears by the time researchers arrived last week, so it’s unclear what led to the animal’s death.

Captured as a 2- or 3-year-old bull, it was one of six South Selkirk caribou collared in 2014 for research. Two others have since been killed by wolves, one by an undetermined predator and a fifth was hit by a vehicle, George says.

Ten is the fewest the herd has ever numbered, though at one time mountain caribou were as numerous as “bugs,” according to a First Nations man interviewed for Last Stand: The Vanishing Caribou Rainforest, which debuted at The Mountaineers building at Sand Point in Seattle last night.

He was speaking about his grandfather’s memories, a time when mountain caribou ranged from the Prince George area of interior BC southeast to the mountains out of Spokane.

Along with providing sustenance for tribes, they were also hunted in Washington — or at least were listed in the 1905 regulations (annual limit one male during a season that ran from mid-September to mid-December).

WASHINGTON’S 1905 HUNTING AND FISHING REGULATIONS, CERTAINLY SOMEWHAT SMALLER THAN TODAY’S TWO PAMPHLETS. (DAN CHRISTENSEN)

“The South Selkirk subpopulation was considered abundant and possibly numbered in the hundreds in the late 1800s,” notes a WDFW status review published last year.

Those days are as long gone as some of the habitat for the lichen-eating herbivores that haunt the heights in winter and valleys in spring and fall.

According to the movie, less than 1,500 mountain caribou remain in what’s considered to be the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, which has provided more than a few of the boards that have gone and still go into our decks and homes, and is also subject to wildfires and bug and disease outbreaks.

It’s believed that as logging has opened up the mountains, moose, deer and elk followed and benefited from the new forage, but also drew wolves, as well as cougars and bears into caribou country. Unfamiliar with the threat, they’ve proven easy prey.

The South Selkirk Herd has declined from 51 in 1993, to 41 in 2003, 27 in 2013, 18 in 2014 and 14 in 2015, according to WDFW.

To save the species, BC began a wolf cull, with 20 removed in the herd’s range in the first two years (and hundreds elsewhere); it’s unclear how this past winter’s efforts went.

Wolves can also be hunted in North Idaho, but are off limits in Washington, though the state management plan has a clause that allows for removals “if they are causing a significant reduction in ungulate populations.”

Further north, biologists are also trying maternity penning to boost herd numbers. They’ve shown some success, but also received criticism.

That was certainly the case in Last Stand and afterwards during a question-and-answer session with the producers and others, where it was pointed out that protecting cows and calves at a vulnerable time came with a significant financial cost.

Overall, I found the 35-minute production to be good and fair, and I appreciated that it didn’t shy away from the threat posed by wolves, and that the producers recognized the loggers taking down the old growth were also human. They told a story about how just before one tipped over a big tree, he excitedly called them over to see a toad he’d just spotted.

As another First Nations man noted in the film, there are no good guys and bad guys in this.

Last Stand was directed by Colin Arisman and produced by David Moskowitz, along with coproducers Kim Shelton and Marcus Reynersen.

A trailer is available here, and it’s scheduled to be seen in Vancouver and Victoria tonight and tomorrow night, and Inland Northwest and Southeast BC locations this fall.

The only question is, will the South Selkirk caribou still be around then?

The movie narrator told last night’s audience the herd numbered 12, even as the producers revised that to 10.

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.

WDFW Issues New Wolf Depredation Prevention, Lethal Removal Protocols

New protocols for removing problem wolves in the federally delisted area of Eastern Washington began yesterday, the traditional start of grazing season in the region’s national forests and mountains.

The biggest change may be the reduction in the number of depredations needed before WDFW wolf managers begin lethal removals, now three including one probable, in a 30-day period.

During last summer’s cattle attacks by the Profanity Peak Pack, that was four, and all had to be confirmed.

THE LETHAL REMOVAL ASPECTS OF THE NEW PROTOCOLS AFFECT PACKS IN THIS MAP’S EASTERN WASHINGTON REGION, THE AREA OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES HAVE BEEN FEDERALLY DELISTED. (WDFW)

The protocol also addresses ways ranchers and others can reduce the likelihood of depredations in the first place, increasing the number of preventative measures required for consideration of wolf removal.

The overall idea is to act faster to reduce the number of dead or injured livestock as well as limit the number of wolves that may have to be taken out, explained the agency’s Donny Martorello in late March.

The changes are a collaboration between WDFW and its Wolf Advisory Group.

“The protocol draws on a diversity of perspectives expressed by people throughout the state for protecting wildlife populations as a public resource and livestock,” the agency states in the 18-page document posted yesterday afternoon. “These values include achieving a sustained recovered wolf population, supporting rural ways of life, and maintaining livestock production as part of the state’s cultural and economic heritage. This protocol also serves to increase the transparency and accountability of the Department’s activities and management actions related to wolves.”

A WDFW graph shows a 40 percent increase this year in the number of livestock producers who’ve signed onto damage prevention agreements and/or hiring range riders.

“In 2017, we’re seeing a dramatic uptake in ranchers utilizing proactive deterrence measures over the past several years, and this has come through relationship-building and respect for rural communities and producers,” said Conservation Northwest’s Paula Swedeen, whose organization is on the WAG and supports the new protocols. “Use of those proactive methods is vital for coexistence, and the updated protocol better recognizes that.”

WDFW is also pledging to include monthly updates on its wolf work. According to Director Jim Unsworth, that will include:

* Newly documented wolf packs, changes in known wolf occurrence areas, and non-dispersing lone wolves wearing an active radio collar.  This will include updates to the wolf pack maps on the Department website.
* Recent wolf collaring  activities.
* All known wolf mortalities.
* Department activities related to implementation of deterrence measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict.
* All livestock depredation events that resulted in the classification of a confirmed or probable wolf  depredation.
* Public notice when the criteria for lethal removal has been met and the Director has authorized lethal removal actions.
* Highlights of wolf-related work activities by  Department field staff.
* Wolf outreach and information sharing activities by Department staff.
* Information on wolf ecology and coexistence measures.
* Notice on all Wolf Advisory Group meetings and work items.

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.

WDFW Reports Smackout Pack Depredation

A Northeast Washington pack of wolves that has been the subject of intensive nonlethal deterrents killed a calf last week.

WDFW investigated the depredation in the Smackout Pack range last Wednesday and announced it was a confirmed wolf kill on Friday evening.

It’s the first by the pack since last October when it injured a calf that subsequently died.

“The livestock producer has maintained sanitation by removing or securing livestock carcasses, and deployed a range rider at the start of the grazing season,” reported state wolf manager Donny Martorello.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK OF WOLVES IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK OF WOLVES IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

Conservation Northwest said it was “disappointed” to hear the news, as over the past five years it has helped ranchers who run cattle here to use nonlethal tactics to try and prevent conflicts with wolves.

But the organization also acknowledged that that’s just not always going to work.

“With the range rider seeing signs that younger adult wolves from the Smackout Pack had been testing the cows in recent weeks, the ranchers had significantly increased human presence on the grazing allotment prior to the depredation,” Conservation Northwest said in a statement. “In addition to the range rider regularly working 14-hour days, seven days a week, other family members provided more herd supervision across the grazing allotment on foot, horseback and ATV.”

The calf was apparently killed several hours after being seen with its mother before dark.

“After discovering and documenting the depredation, the range rider cleaned up the site and removed the carcass. However, trail cameras deployed over the weekend showed that wolves later returned to the site,” CNW stated.

Martorello said he’d be updating the WDFW’s online event chronology as it pertains to the Smackouts.

He also reported that a Spokane Tribe hunter had killed a wolf on the reservation where hunting is allowed year-round with an annual limit of six. It was reported elsewhere that another wolf was taken there in July. The black-coated Huckleberry wolves roam this country in southern Stevens County.

On the Profanity Peak front, Martorello reports that efforts to remove the rest of the livestock-depredating pack are ongoing. Spokeswoman Madonna Luers also reiterated that Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber is not operating unilaterally, as was alleged by a Facebook page late last week, and that he continues to work with WDFW.

On Friday the state and sheriff jointly investigated an attack on a dog northeast of Republic and Luers says the culprit could not be determined and is considered “unknown.”