Tag Archives: wolves

More Details Come Out On 2 Poached NE WA Wolves

Washington wildlife managers are adding and correcting details from the weekend’s story that two female wolves have been found shot dead in Northeast Washington in recent weeks and are the subject of poaching investigations.

WDFW this afternoon reports that one was retrieved last Tuesday, Dec., 5, 15 miles southwest of the town of Republic in Ferry County.

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE PROFANITY PEAK PACK. (WDFW)

It had been part of the Profanity Peak Pack in the northern portions of the county when it was radio-collared in fall 2016, but wasn’t associated with any group of wolves this fall, according to the agency.

The animal’s collar had quit transmitting early last month.

The other wolf was classified as a breeding female, and it was discovered by hunters 10 miles southeast of Colville in Stevens County on Nov. 12.

WDFW is assuming that since it was within the range of the Dirty Shirt Pack, it was a member.

Earlier press reports listed the wolves as belonging to that pack and the Smackouts, the latter of which drew outrage from Conservation Northwest, which has worked closely to prevent the pack from tangling with a local producer’s livestock over the years.

Still, it along with two other organizations subsequently, are offering up to $20,000 in reward for info on the cases.

Anyone with information is being asked to call (877) 933-9847 or (360)902-2936.

Killing a wolf in the federally delisted part of the state is listed as a gross misdemeanor, with a penalty of as much as a year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000, according to WDFW.

Predators May Be To Blame For Recent Moose Calf Survival Issues In Part of NE WA

Washington wildlife managers looking into how a growing suite of hungry predators are affecting deer, elk and moose populations believe a Shiras subherd in the state’s northeast corner bears watching.

WDFW reports an unusual signal seen in moose calf survival in east-central Stevens and southern Pend Oreille Counties in recent years.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS TWO MOOSE STUDY AREAS, THE NORTHERN ONE OF WHICH SAW LOWER CALF SURVIVAL THAN THE SOUTHERN ONE. (WDFW)

It was lower in back-to-back years than in a study area just to the south and a cause for concern, biologists say.

“Calf-survival in the northern area, particularly during 2014, was low enough to elicit concern for population stability,” note authors Brock Hoenes, Sara Hansen, Richard Harris, and Jerry Nelson in the just-posted Wildlife Program 2015-2017 Ungulate Assessment.

They’re not sure why that is, except to say it’s probable some — maybe all — of the calves in question ended up as dinner and that more study will help flesh that out.

“Calf mortality occurred irregularly, with no discernible seasonal concentration,” they report. “We are unable to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths (the study is not designed to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths). That said, it is likely that at least some of the calf deaths were caused by predators.”

Among the toothsome crew roaming this country are cougars, black bears, perhaps a grizzly or two, and wolves.

According to WDFW’s latest wolf map, the Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows and Skookum Packs occur entirely or partially in the northern moose study area, and  all of which were successful breeding pairs in 2016. And in the past the Diamond wolves were here too.

A CLOSE-UP OF WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF MAP SHOWS PACK LOCATIONS. THE NORTHERN MOOSE STUDY AREA OVERLAPS ALL OR PORTIONS OF THE DIRTY SHIRT, GOODMAN MEADOWS, CARPENTER RIDGE AND SKOOKUM PACKS. (WDFW)

By contrast, in the southern moose study area — Blanchard Hump and Mt. Spokane — there are no known packs, or at least were at the time of the biologists’ review last December.

Their 186-page report was posted late yesterday afternoon, two days before the state Fish and  Wildlife Commission will be briefed on wolves, wolf management and the future thereof by WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello.

It’s important because buried in the aforementioned wolf plan is a section addressing the species’ impacts on ungulates.

If “at-risk” big game herds such as woodland caribou are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or others see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if that particular recovery zone has four or more breeding pairs, regardless of statewide delisting.

As for the assessment of the rest of Washington’s moose, as well as its wapiti, deer and bighorn sheep, the report looks at each species, breaking them down by major herds or zones, details recent hunter harvest, and discusses other sources of mortality and factors that may influence population dynamics, before wrapping up with “Sub-herd Concerns” and “Management Conclusions.”

“Using the data at our disposal, none of the ungulate populations in this assessment appear to show clear signs of being limited by predation,” state Hoenes, Hansen, Harris, and Nelson in the executive summary.

That conclusion may not go over well with some Evergreen State hunters concerned about what their and others’ observations are telling them about how the animals are doing in the woods.

And it’s not to say that bucks and bulls, does and cows, calves and fawns aren’t affected in other ways by mountain lions, bruins, coyotes and wolves. They are, of course.

New research is beginning to show how wolf packs affect mule deer and whitetail behavior in North-central Washington, leading to different use of habitat than before.

The authors also acknowledge that limitations in the data sets “might preclude the ability to detect impacts of predation on a specific ungulate population.”

But the assessment is another way WDFW is attempting to show hunters it is keeping its eye on wolf impacts as numbers of the wild dogs near recovery goals and the conversation begins to turn to post-statewide delisting management.

Biologists will also take to the air and woods again soon for year two of a half-decade-long predator-prey study in the Okanogan, and Huckleberry and Selkirk Ranges.

ODFW Posts Revisions To Draft Wolf Plan Update; Up For Approval In Jan.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

A working copy of the revised Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is now available online at http://bit.ly/2j1w4nt. This working copy shows the edits staff have made to the April 2017 Draft Wolf Plan as a result of comments from stakeholders, the public and commissioners.

NORTHEAST OREGON WOLVES. (ODFW)

ODFW staff will brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission on this Working Copy of the Draft Wolf Plan at their Dec. 8 meeting in Salem. A panel of representatives from stakeholder groups has also been invited to testify at the meeting, but no other public testimony will be taken on Dec. 8.

ODFW staff will complete additional edits after the December meeting in preparation for adoption and rule-making of a final Draft Wolf Plan scheduled for the Jan. 19, 2018 commission meeting in Salem. Public testimony will be taken at that meeting and can also be provided via email at odfw.commission@state.or.us.

North Cascades NP Shares More Details On Wolf Observations

A North Cascades National Park official is shedding light on his revelations yesterday that there may be two or three packs of wolves there.

That news caught Washington state wolf managers off guard during a Wednesday morning interagency teleconference they’d organized because their maps and updates this year don’t report any packs in the park itself.

THIS MAY, A TRAIL CAMERA STATIONED IN THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK CAPTURED AN IMAGE OF THIS WOLF. (NPS)

But at the same time, information federal wildlife biologist Jason Ransom shared with Northwest Sportsman today does correspond to locations wolves are known to occur in the northern Cascade Range, have been spotted in recent years or is not that far from previous pack ranges.

And more to the point, it shows that additional attention should be focused on this remote region of the state, especially as the important winter population and breeding pair counts near.

“Bottom line is there is quite a lot more activity in the park over the last year or two,” says Ransom “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Hozomeen wolves had a den in the park, but we just don’t know about it if they do. Same goes for the other areas. We’ve certainly gotten a lot more track reports this year, which could mean some localized use.”

A MAP OF NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK COMPLEX, WHICH INCLUDES ROSS LAKE AND LAKE CHELAN NATIONAL RECREATION AREAS, WILL SHOW HOZOMEEN AT TOP RIGHT, MT. LOGAN AND LAKE CHELAN AT BOTTOM RIGHT AND MARBLEMOUNT AT MIDDLE LEFT. (NPS)

Hozomeen is located near the northern end of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, part of the federal land complex in the region.

Up until early 2016 WDFW maps did identify a pack there, though it was shaded differently because the wolves were believed to den in British Columbia, which in standard protocols means it didn’t count towards state delisting goals. Per the agency’s website, “Packs may be removed from the map due to natural breakup of the pack, lethal control, or no longer detected.”

Ransom says that wolves here are occasionally turning up on trail cameras on either side of the border, mostly on the east side of Ross.

“We’ve seen up to three animals together in winter, which meets the state definition of a pack. We’ve also picked up tracks of two individuals traveling on the west bank of Ross Lake, but we have no way of knowing if those are the Hozomeen wolves or others,” he says. “Otherwise, we continue to receive anecdotal reports of tracks by backcountry staff in the area, and generally interpret those reports as some likelihood the same wolves detected on camera are using that area of the park through time. ”

This past May and June saw a flurry of activity around Marblemount, where biologists ultimately confirmed a lone 100-pound, two- to three-year-old male. Ransom said there have been “anecdotal visitor and staff reports” on this side of the park, it’s western face, over the past two years, including different-colored and multiple animals.

He says that one of two trail cams deployed picked up a canid whose “behavior and general structure of the animal strongly suggests a wolf rather than coyote,” but it won’t be till next year before the devices are checked again.

Most intriguing might be reports from the southern end of the park, between Highway 20 and Lake Chelan. Ransom says there’s been “quite a bit of activity from multiple individuals” there over the last year, “including at least one detection event of two animals together in late winter/early spring.”

That isn’t too far west from where the state’s first confirmed pack, the Lookouts, roamed, sightings of which have been few and far between this year, with WDFW capturing in mid-September what it said was just the second trail camera image of a wolf in that territory since last winter.

“This year, we’ve detected at least three individuals in the southern part of the park based on color and markings, with several other detections that could be the same animals or different ones,” says Ransom. “Wolves were detected on at least eight cameras in the area this year, roughly south of Mt. Logan to the head of Lake Chelan.”

Logan sits in the headwaters of Thunder Creek, itself an arm of Diablo Lake, and North Fork Bridge Creek, which ultimately drains into Chelan via Bridge Creek and the Stehekin River.

“Like elsewhere in the park, we’ve received numerous anecdotal reports of tracks from field staff in the backcountry and generally interpret those reports as some likelihood the same wolves detected on camera are using those general areas of the park,” Ransom adds.

He says DNA from scat might be able to determine whether the south park wolves and Lookouts are related, but also notes that only 80 percent of samples sequence out.

Following yesterday’s teleconference, WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello said state staffers were looking into the park service’s reports. He said the agency, which reports to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms packs in Washington.

Next March there may be more dots on the map.

Unknown Wolf Packs In North Cascades National Park? Hmmmm

A somewhat dull interagency teleconference on Washington wolves this morning turned jaw-dropping an hour and a half in when a National Park Service ecologist said they believe they have two or three packs in the North Cascades.

It particularly stunned the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf managers.

“Stephanie had to revive me,” said Donny Martorello about the agency’s carnivore manager, Stephanie Simek, who was leading the call.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS NO KNOWN WOLF PACKS IN THE NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK (GREY INSIDE RED CIRCLE) AS OF LAST WINTER, BUT A BIOLOGIST THERE TOLD A TELECONFERENCE THERE MAY BE TWO OR THREE. (WDFW)

That’s because WDFW’s maps and its regular wolf updates don’t show or list any packs in that highly rumpled country south of the Canadian border, and the agency’s public reports site records very, very few observations over the years.

“We weren’t aware at all you had pack-level activity in the park,” said Martorello, who is the state’s wolf policy lead.

Now, whether the Park Service actually does or not is a good question.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the wolves that NPS wildlife ecologist Jason Ransom referred to were discrete packs that heretofore haven’t been identified, were wanderers from the two known packs in western Okanogan County, the confirmed solo animal in eastern Skagit County or others from southern British Columbia, or were some combination thereof.

Nor was it clear what the evidence was — observations, trail cam pictures, tracks, scat, howls, bumps in the night?

Or whether the park’s definition of a pack is the same as WDFW’s (two or more wolves traveling together in winter).

(A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman regularly queried since June has made no mention of anything.)

While recent years have seen wolves around Hozomeen, on upper Ross Lake just east of North Cascades park proper, activity there in the early 1990s and that NCNP still touts on its website was related to a more sordid episode.

Ransom didn’t return a phone call and email to Northwest Sportsman, but did tell the teleconference that data and DNA samples were being collected for analysis.

Under the math we’re locked in to get wolves delisted at the state level, breeding pairs would be relatively helpful in that region.

Needless to say, Martorello and Simek directed their lead wolf biologist Ben Maletzke to get in touch with Ransom asap.

All four were among the couple dozen or so federal, tribal and state staffers who took part in the call, which was the first get-together of the group in a year and a half.

Interested parties could also listen in on mute.

Most of the rest of the teleconference was fairly tame in comparison, and it allowed WDFW to bring its wildlife and land management partners up to speed on all things wolf in Washington.

This winter will see district biologists scouring the mountains south of I-90 for signs of Canis lupus, said Maletzke.

“There are a lot of reports to follow up on, especially after this hunting season,” he said.

(Hunters, keep ’em coming.)

There’s also a lot more work to be done on the big predator-prey studies that were launched last winter in the Methow Valley and Northeast Washington.

Biologists and others captured and collared cougars, wolves, deer, elk and moose in some of the state’s best hunting country to try and figure out the dynamics between the herds, packs and prides.

Analyzing the results is a ways out, but that particular subject weighed heavily on the mind of one caller

Near the end of the teleconference, Ray Entz of the Kalispel Tribe called for proactive management of wolves where they overlap endangered species, versus WDFW’s somewhat reactive one used with livestock depredations.

“We cannot afford to wait for a dead caribou. There are only 10 left. We’ve really got to up our game, people,” Entz said.

He said that without Canada going after wolves preying on the South Selkirk herd, “we don’t think we’d have any caribou left.”

Entz said that radio collar data shows that the herd’s last two “transgressions” into the U.S. were to Northeast Washington rather than habitat in Idaho and Northwest Montana, but the jaunts — not to mention the caribou — are becoming “fewer and farther between.”

ACCORDING TO RECENT SURVEYS, THERE ARE NOW ONLY 10 SOUTH SELKIRK HERD WOODLAND CARIBOU LEFT. (USFWS)

He said that tribe has just completed constructing an 18-acre maternity pen in southern BC for use next spring to keep woodland caribou moms and calves safe from predators.

Earlier in the meeting, Martorello said that with Washington about halfway to meeting wolf population goals, it was time to start thinking about what’s next and developing a postdelisting plan. He will bring that topic to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at the oversight panel’s December meeting.

While Anna Schmidt with the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought now might be time to update the state’s management plan — itself a five-year endeavor the first go-around — Travis Fletcher with the Colville National Forest, which is home to more wolves than any other federal woods in the state, noted that with recovery “going quite well” it was “better to look forward than back.”

Smackout Pack Strikes Again, Killing Cow

The Smackout Pack appears to be back within one confirmed livestock attack of serious consequences after killing again in early October.

WDFW reports that one or members of the large Northeast Washington pack took down a cow grazing in the Colville National Forest.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON AS OF THIS SUMMER. (WDFW)

The depredation in Stevens County was investigated Oct. 9.

Details are scant – just three sentences reported in the agency’s Oct. 13 update, one of which reads:

“This depredation marks the third wolf depredation by the Smackout pack within the last 10 months and the first within the last 30 days.”

Four confirmed attacks in 10 months or two confirmed and one probable in a month are the triggers for consideration of lethal removals, according to state protocols.

The agency promises more information in its Oct. 20 update.

At the start of this year’s grazing season, June 1, it was believed there were 13 to 15 Smackout wolves, three of which had telemetry collars. The grazing season in this area ended Oct. 15.

After years of relatively good behavior but also increasingly strong efforts needed to head off issues with the wolves, the pack struck twice and probably once more in September 2016, then were confirmed to have injured two calves this July.

One wolf was legally shot in June by a ranchhand when it and another were caught in the act of attacking cattle, and after July’s first depredation, WDFW Director Jim Unsworth authorized incremental lethal removals and two wolves were killed July 20 and July 30.

That and nonlethal work seemed to do the trick of heading problems off, and no further confirmed attacks occurred in August and September, leading WDFW to end removal operations.

A 94-page after-action report stated:

“The collaboration between WDFW personnel and the livestock producers, the approach highlighted in the protocol of both proactive and responsive nonlethal deterrents, and the incremental removal, appeared to have the intended effect of changing the Smackout Pack behavior to reduce the probability of reoccurring depredations while continuing to promote recovery.”

The probability of wolf attacks appears to have been reduced for a period of time. Ultimately they struck again.

6 Weeks Of Peace, But ODFW Targets Harl Butte Wolves After 2 More Calf Attacks

Oregon wildlife managers have authorized lethally removing up to four more Harl Butte wolves after two more calf depredations in recent days.

The Wallowa County pack has already been reduced by four following a series of attacks on cattle and the initial failure of nonlethal techniques to stop them.

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

Roblyn Brown, ODFW’s acting wolf coordinator noted that there had been a six-week period without trouble following the removal of four wolves in August, but that ended with a confirmed kill of a calf on Sept. 29 and a confirmed injury to a calf on Oct. 1.

“As wildlife managers, we are responsible for balancing the conservation of wolves on the landscape with our obligation to manage wolves so that damage to livestock is limited. We need to take further action with this pack,” Brown said in a press release.

Along with ODFW staffers, members of a local grazers association have been granted a temporary permit to kill wolves in public and private pastures where their cattle are located.

The agency believes there are nine Harl Butte wolves; any may be killed.

In other Oregon wolf news, a period of quiet with the Meacham Pack has led to the expiration of lethal controls there.

In Washington, WDFW continues to evaluate the Sherman Pack response to a removal and says no depredations have been reported since Aug. 28.

 

Still Another Study Pokes Holes In WSU Professor’s Wolf-Livestock Attack Findings

Yet another study is casting doubt on a Washington State University professor’s much-lauded 2014 conclusions about cattle depredations and wolves.

A Washington Policy Center brief out yesterday says that Dr. Rob Wielgus’s findings that killing wolves for livestock depredations leads to a higher risk of attacks the following year had “serious methodological flaws and critical omissions in its analytical methods.”

Write authors Todd Myers and Stephen Sharkansky, his “main conclusions are, at best, unsupported by the data, if not refuted outright. His central conclusion that killing wolves increases depredations of cattle and sheep is based on a false statistical argument unsupported by reasoned analysis.”

A GRAPH INCLUDED IN A WASHINGTON POLICY CENTER BRIEF ON RESEARCH INTO WOLF REMOVALS AND LIVESTOCK LOSSES SUGGESTS THAT AS WOLF NUMBERS GREW, ATTACKS ON CATTLE AND SHEEP DID AS WELL, A “COMMON-SENSE CONCLUSION” IN THE WORDS OF THE AUTHORS. (WASHINGTON POLICY CENTER)

They say the reason for increasing losses of sheep and cattle is simply increasing wolf populations. A retired federal wolf manager has stated that 20 percent of packs will depredate.

WPC’s work will be panned by some in the wolf world as that of a conservative, free-market think tank with a pro-ag agenda in part.

But it does follow on similar findings by University of Washington researchers earlier this year.

Using the same open-source data, statisticians there could not replicate Wielgus and coauthor Kaylie Peebles’s results either.

“Rather than more culling of wolves leading to more killings of livestock in the following year, our results indicate that more culling of wolves would lead to fewer killings of livestock in the following year than expected in the absence of culling,” wrote Nabin Baral of the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences in the College of the Environment, et al.

Before that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks researchers found that for wolf recovery over the long term, it may be better to kill an entire livestock-depredating pack now rather than just one or two of the predators at a time in hopes of ending the attacks because in the long run, you have to kill more wolves.

To be clear, that’s not the current tack that Washington wolf managers are taking.

It’s based on plenty of nonlethal work, set numbers of attacks over periods of time and then incremental lethal removals to stop a pack’s bad behavior, followed by a period of observation and continued conflict-avoidance work, and either more removals if attacks resume or an end to lethal operations if they don’t.

With the Smackout Pack of Northeast Washington this summer, taking out two members in July appears to have changed that large group of wolves’ behavior, at least for now.

(Of note, that appears not to have worked in Oregon with the Harl Butte Pack, which is attacking cattle again.)

The goal is ultimately to quickly reduce the number of dead livestock and wolves.

“Data in Wielgus’ study actually support the current Washington state strategy of removing wolves where there is conflict with a rancher, consistent with the common-sense conclusion that removing wolves reduces livestock deaths,” write WPC’s Myers and Stephen Sharkansky.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the wolf management spectrum, Arizona- and Eugene-based pro-wolf groups will now get 48 hours notice of WDFW lethal removal actions after filing a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court, a bid to be able to possibly stop them.

“There hasn’t been any loss of department authority or ability to take action,” state wolf manager Donny Martorello told the Capital Press.

He said that WDFW was “disappointed” in the lawsuit filed by the “out-of-state groups” — Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands — and said the agency is “committed to continue working with our citizens, stakeholders, wolf advocates, hunters and livestock producers as we have in the past. We will deal with the litigation and lawsuit, and keep moving forward.”

Neither CBD or CW are on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group. One organization that is offered a tepid response to their lawsuit.

“Though not based in Washington, these groups have the right to seek to improve our state’s wolf management process using legal means. It will be up to the courts to decide the validity of their claims,” noted Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest. “However, we’re concerned by the way in which these groups dismiss the collaborative process in Washington, a process that’s making significant progress towards coexistence and tolerance for wolves, all while our wolf population continues to grow by more than 25 percent annually. We sincerely hope that this lawsuit doesn’t throw the baby, or in this case the wolf pup, out with the bathwater, so to speak.”

Smackout Pack Removals Finished, WDFW Says

WDFW is officially mum about a lawsuit filed yesterday over its lethal removal protocols but this afternoon said that operations targeting the Smackout Pack are over due to good behavior by the wolves as the grazing season comes to an end.

“This action was consistent with the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2011 and the department’s current protocol,” wolf manager Donny Martorello said in a press release. “Both policies support the recovery of wolves in our state, while also recognizing the need to address repeated predation on livestock.”

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE SMACKOUT PACK NORTHWEST OF SPOKANE IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

The Smackouts of northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties attacked three calves late last September and two more in July, leading to the removals of a 30-pound pup and 75-pound adult female in July.

There have been no further depredations by the large pack since mid-July, more than two months ago.

“Our goal was to change the pack’s behavior, and the break in wolf depredations on livestock is consistent with the desired outcome,” Martorello said. “We’ll continue to track the pack’s movements via GPS signals, but the removal operation is now over.”

Yesterday’s lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene. It claims WDFW “relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis” before authorizing lethal removals of the Smackouts as well as Sherman Pack this summer.

WDFW says that three different livestock producers affected by Smackout depredations all were using nonlethal deterrents which were backed up by the agency’s stepped-up efforts to prevent conflicts as well.

“The pack has stayed out of trouble for eight weeks and the summer grazing season is coming to a close,” Martorello said. “If depredations resume, WDFW would revert back to the protocol to assess the time since the previous depredations and assess any further actions.”

Pro-Wolf Groups File Suit To Try And Stop Lethal Removals In Washington

Pro-wolf groups from out of state are challenging WDFW’s lethal removals, filing a lawsuit in court today in a bid to prevent managers from killing any more in the federally delisted portion of Washington.

The move could fracture the collaborative work of in-state stakeholders managing the return of a difficult species with longterm recovery goals in mind.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE SHERMAN PACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. A LAWSUIT CLAIMS WDFW’S AUTHORIZATION TO REMOVE MEMBERS WAS IMPROPER. (WDFW)

 

It comes after three wolves in the Smackout and Sherman Packs in Northeast Washington were taken out this summer by WDFW as it follows a protocol that blends rancher buy-in and nonlethal deterrents with real consequences for depredating packs by acting faster to head off larger livestock and wolf body counts.

The 619-page lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court by the litigious Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene.

It claims that WDFW Director Jim Unsworth improperly authorized going after Sherman Pack members in late August in violation of the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, and Adminstrative Procedure Act, or APA.

That authorization came under new protocols adopted this year following discussion with the Wolf Advisory Group. Now, the number of depredations needed before WDFW begins lethal removals is three including one probable, in a 30-day period, or four confirmed over a 10-month period.

Removals start with one or two wolves followed by a period of observation. Since two Smackouts were killed in July, there have been no further depredations.

The agency’s wolf management plan went through SEPA before it was adopted in 2011, and the lethal removal protocols agreed to by the WAG — of which neither CBD or Cascadia Wildlands are a part of — are said to “flow from” that document.

WDFW did not have an immediate comment about the lawsuit except that officials needed time to read and understand what they’d just received this afternoon.

The suit comes at the tail end of the grazing season. The latest that WDFW has shot a wolf for chronic depredations was Sept. 27, 2012, when the collared Wedge alpha male was killed by a marksman.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said CBD’s Amaroq Weiss in a press release. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

A 2014 poll found 63 percent of Washington’s public in fact supports lethally removing wolves to protect livestock with 28 percent opposed. In 2008, those percentages were 61 and 31.

The groups’ press release also plays the taxpayer card, though we’ve previously reported that lethal removals are funded by the agency’s Wildlife State account, which includes revenue from license sales, but not taxpayer dollars.

Despite the removal of almost all of the Wedge Pack, and members of the Huckleberries, Profanity Peaks, Sherman and Smackouts, the state’s population has done nothing but grow at a rate similar to that seen in the Northern Rocky Mountains.