Tag Archives: wolves

McMorris Rodgers Calls On Zinke To Delist Wolves, Addresses Grizzlies

While wolves have been delisted in her Eastern Washington district, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is calling for that federal status to be extended across the rest of the state.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS. (CONGRESS/WIKIMEDIA)

The Spokane Republican wrote that she “would insist the (Trump) Administration look at delisting the wolf in Washington State” in a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke in which she also states her opposition to reintroducing grizzly bears in the North Cascades.

“Keeping the gray wolf listed and reintroducing the grizzly bear would have devastating consequences in Eastern Washington. I urge you thoroughly revisit both of these issues and thank you for your consideration,” McMorris Rodgers writes.

Earlier this month, one of her fellow Eastside reps, Dan Newhouse, successfully slipped an amendment into an Interior appropriations bill that defunds federal proposals to bring in the big bruins.

Newhouse also inserted language into the bill requiring Zinke to delist wolves by September 2019.

Both say they’re reacting to constituents’ concerns.

On the wolf front, McMorris Rodgers touches on a 2015 letter WDFW sent to Newhouse asking for his help in encouraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the delisting process, which the federal agency proposed five years ago this month.

That had been held up in part by lawsuits over packs elsewhere in the country, but USFWS has begun reviewing wolves’ status again.

“Incompatibility between the Washington state management plan and the federal management plan creates a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves communities in Eastern Washington unable to defend themselves against increasing wolf attacks and livestock depredations,” McMorris Rodgers wrote to Zinke.

WDFW Investigates Stevens Co. Depredations; Wolves Reported Back In Profanity Peak Area

Things are getting busy again in Northeast Washington, home to the most wolves in the state and increasing efforts to keep them from tangling with livestock.

On the heels of May 20’s confirmed wolf depredation in northern Ferry County, state wildlife managers investigated a dead calf in neighboring Stevens County last Friday.

They found that wolves had scavenged on the carcass, but there were “no indicators” the predators had killed the calf, so the loss went down as an “unconfirmed cause of death.”

WOLVES HAVE TURNED UP AGAIN IN THE PROFANITY PEAK AREA OF NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY, WHERE THIS ONE WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN SEPTEMBER 2014. (WDFW)

WDFW reported that the producer has been using deterrents such as human presence, flagged fencing and trail cameras to keep watch on livestock. They were also provided with fox lights, horns, fireworks and a state-contracted range rider to “help reduce wolf activity.”

The agency also said this month it had investigated at least three other dead or injured Stevens County calves and sheep, classifying them as bear and cougar attacks and a nondepredation event.

Attempts to catch the bruin and lion were unsuccessful, WDFW reported.

Staffers also checked on a report of missing cattle in Stevens County but found none.

Also in the county in May, biologists spent time trying to catch Huckleberry Pack wolves to get telemetry on them, but were unsuccessful.

In June they hope to put collars on members of the Lookout, Grouse Flats, Beaver Creek and Togo Packs. The Togos were involved with the aforementioned confirmed calf depredation in Ferry County a week and a half ago.

State and county wolf works also discovered new wolf activity in the Profanity Peak region, to the south of the Togos’ initial range dot and where seven members of a pack that preyed on more than a dozen cattle were lethally removed in 2016.

They’ll be working with local producers to get ahead of potential conflicts as turnout on federal grazing allotments in the Kettle Range begins, WDFW reports.

And biologists will be following up on recent reports from the Central and South Cascades. The latter area is where dung detection dogs will be used as well to try and find wolves.

Northern Ferry Co. Wolf Pack Kills Calf

A northern Ferry County wolf or wolves killed a young calf early this week as a new pack appears to have resumed its livestock-chasing ways.

Washington wildlife managers believes the Togo Pack is responsible for this depredation as well as two early last November that resulted in an injured and a dead calf.

Another wolf was shot in the area late last October after being caught by a producer in the act of pursuing cattle.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS WHERE THE TOGO PACK IS BELIEVED TO BE CENTERED IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

The latest incident occurred north of Orient, a small community along the lower Kettle River, and was discovered by a woodcutter who heard a cow bawling and observed a black-coated wolf running from the scene.

The producer was alerted and told WDFW that the calf had been seen alive earlier that day.

It was described as a week-and-a-half old black Angus owned by Ron Eslick and was found dead on federal ground about a third of a mile from the rancher’s brother’s residence, according to a Capital Press story.

The carcass was necropsied by a state official as well as a local county wildlife specialist.

“The investigators found that the calf had bite lacerations and puncture wounds to both rear quarters, upper rear legs, neck and sternum, consistent with predation by a wolf. Hemorrhaging was visible near the bite wounds and was also found in the left front armpit, where no lacerations or punctures were visible. Evidence indicated the calf was alive during the depredation event,” WDFW reported.

“A lot of the quarters were eaten off,” Eslick told the Press. “If we had come two hours later, it would have been eaten and nobody would have known anything about it.”

According to WDFW, the producer had been using at least one proactive deterrence measure, checking on their animals daily.

The agency’s depredation protocols require at least two to be used and to have failed before lethal removal is considered.

Later on Sunday, a range rider was put on the job of keeping the Togos and cattle apart.

Last November’s two qualifying depredations occurred despite multiple deterrents being employed.

WDFW can go after problem wolves if there are four attacks in a rolling 10-month period or three in 30 days, with various criteria.

The Togo Pack is a new one and local reports last year helped WDFW confirm it.

It had two members at the end of 2017 and is named for a nearby mountain in the northern Kettle Range.

WSU Wolf, Cougar Researcher Resigning In Settlement

Washington State University and a wolf and cougar researcher there are parting ways under a $300,000 settlement.

Rob Wielgus will resign as part of the deal in which neither party admits wrongdoing following an academic freedom lawsuit filed by the professor and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility against the school.

WSU’S ROB WIELGUS SPEAKS DURING A WOLF SYMPOSIUM. (YOUTUBE)

A brief statement from WSU said the money would come from the state.

Over the years, Wielgus garnered attention with his counterintuitive carnivore studies, and was a darling of wolf advocates with his research that appeared to show killing livestock-depredating wolves just resulted in more attacks.

But other researchers found lethal removals could yield different results, and Wielgus began to fall out of favor with some former allies following his summer 2016 claim that a Northeast Washington livestock producer had turned out his cattle “directly on top” of a wolf den but in fact were released 5 miles away and which led to a stunning rebuke from the university.

Subsequent articles by The Seattle Times detail tensions over Wielgus between ranching and political interests and university officials and programs.

In a PEER press release, Wielgus said WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, which he headed up, will close.

PEER claimed that without the professor’s work, “Washington lacks a coherent, science-based wolf management policy.”

The lab’s listed assistant director is now WDFW’s statewide wolf specialist.

Cry ‘Hiccup!’ And Let Slip The Dogs Of Spoor

Dr. Samuel Wasser and his dung-detection dogs are set to begin searching for wolves in Washington’s South Cascades, where the number of public wolf reports is growing but no packs let alone breeding pairs are known to exist.

The University of Washington researcher heads up Conservation Canines, which received $172,000 from state lawmakers earlier this year to survey a 2,000-square-mile patch of countryside between I-90 and the Columbia River.

Conservation Canines field technician Jennifer Hartman and dog Scooby collect a sample during carnivore research in Northeast Washington’s Colville National Forest. (JAYMI HEIMBUCH)

Since 1997, Wasser and his rescue dogs have been deployed around the world to help monitor other species, collecting poop the pups find for labs to analyze.

Sending handlers and their canine companions into the woods and meadows around Mts. Rainier, Adams and St. Helens should produce results faster than leaving it to wildlife biologists chasing down intriguing leads or hoping to cut tracks in winter’s snows.

“Our goal is to maximize coverage of the study area, sampling all areas around the same time, within and between seasons to maximize comparison,” explains Wasser.

“Currently, the plan is for a fall and spring sampling, the latter being important to sample for pregnant females. We are still gathering data to identify the best sampling areas. Cost permitting, we hope to have four teams.”

While WDFW’S latest wolf map shows no known packs south of I-90 in the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast recovery zone, there have been numerous public reports in recent years from the mountains here, as an agency map illustrates. (WDFW)

Wasser has 17 dogs, including Hiccup, who’s also trained to find moose doots.

Which ones are deployed to the recesses of the Gifford Pinchot and south ends of the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests hasn’t been determined yet, but he’s confident in his pack’s abilities.

“If there are wolves south of I-90, the odds of the dogs locating them should be quite high,” Wasser says. “Colonizing wolves range widely, our dogs can cover huge areas, and their ability to detect samples if present is extraordinary.”

Under the state’s wolf delisting scenarios, there must be at least four breeding pairs here to meet the management plan’s current recovery goals.

If wolves are found, that might decrease the need to translocate packs here from elsewhere in Washington, notably the northeast corner where most territories are full and conflicts with livestock occur annually.

State wildlife managers haven’t been inclined to move wolves around, despite that tool in the plan, but earlier this year Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) successfully kick-started efforts to at least consider it.

Legislators also asked Wasser to gather data on the effect any wolves in the region might be having on predator-prey dynamics, and if they’re not, establish base-line data for when they arrive.

ODFW Removes Two More Wolves From Depredating Pack

Oregon wolf managers lethally removed two more members of a pack that’s now killed four calves and injured six others in five incidents in the state’s northeastern corner.

(ODFW)

The news comes as local producers continue calling for all members of the new Pine Creek Pack to be taken out. The depredations have impacted two different ranchers.

ODFW had previously authorized killing two wolves for early-April depredations, and one was killed almost immediately by agency personnel.

But following subsequent depredations that occurred around 5 miles away and were confirmed on Sunday and Monday, last night ODFW authorized killing two more.

Those two animals are described as an uncollared yearling female and an adult male that is also uncollared. They were shot on private land from a helicopter.

One more wolf can be killed at the site of the April 6-7 depredations, either by the state agency or a rancher who was issued a permit that’s good till early May.

“Producers in the new area have been implementing non-lethal activities including burying bone piles and removing carcasses,” ODFW reported. “Ranch staff have hazed the wolves away multiple times. Ranch staff have also been patrolling cattle from before daylight until darkness daily and keeping track of the wolves’ location with ODFW assistance.  Finally, ranch staff have delayed turning out cattle on large open range pastures and have moved cattle from pastures where  the most recent depredations occurred.”

The Pine Creek wolves currently number five, the breeding pair and three yearlings.

ODFW Says Minimum Of 124 Wolves Roaming Oregon

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

ODFW wildlife biologists counted 124 wolves in Oregon this past winter, an 11 percent increase over the number counted last year.

THE BREEDING FEMALE OF THE WALLA WALLA PACK MOVES PAST A LOGSTACK IN UMATILLA COUNTY THIS PAST JANUARY. (ODFW)

This count is based on verified wolf evidence (like visual observations, tracks, and remote camera photographs) and is considered the minimum known wolf population, not an estimate of how many wolves are in Oregon.

Twelve wolf packs were documented at the end of 2017. Eleven packs were successful breeding pairs, meaning that at least two adults and two pups survived to the end of the year. This marks a 38 percent increase in breeding pairs from 2016.

“The wolf population continues to grow and expand its range in Oregon,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Coordinator. “This year, we also documented resident wolves in the northern part of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains for the first time.”

More information about the minimum wolf count is available in Oregon’s 2017 Annual Wolf Report. See the full report at ODFW’s web page (in Director’s Report portion of the April Commission meeting agenda).

A PAIR OF MIDDLE FORK PACK WOLVES MOVE THROUGH FOREST SERVICE LAND IN EASTERN WALLOWA COUNTY. (ODFW)

Other highlights from the report:

  • The 12 wolf packs documented had a mean size of 7.3 wolves, ranging from 4-11 wolves. Another nine groups of 2-3 wolves each were also counted.
  • Known resident wolves now occur in Baker, Grant, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wasco counties.
  • 25 radio-collared wolves were monitored, including 19 wolves that were radio-collared during 2017.
  • Four collared wolves dispersed out of state (two to Idaho, one to Montana, one to Washington).
  • 13 wolf mortalities were documented, 12 of those human caused.
  • 54 percent of documented wolf locations were on public lands, 44 percent on private lands, and 2 percent on tribal lands.

Illegal take of wolves

Four wolves were killed illegally in 2017, two in areas of the state where wolves remain on the federal Endangered Species List (west of Hwys 395-78-95). Three of those poaching investigations are ongoing with rewards for providing information ranging from $2,500-$15,000.

The fourth case, involving a wolf trapped and then shot in Union County, was prosecuted. The defendant was penalized with 24 months of bench probation, 100 hours of community service, a hunting/trapping license suspension of 36 months and a $7,500 fine paid in civil restitution to ODFW. He also forfeited the firearm and all trapping related items seized during the investigation and was sentenced to an additional $1,000 court fine.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement and Oregon State Police continue to actively seek information on the remaining open cases.

ODFW’S LATEST STATEWIDE WOLF RANGE MAP SHOWS KNOWN AND ESTIMATED AREAS OF WOLF PACK USE. (ODFW)

Livestock depredation

ODFW investigated 66 reports of livestock depredation by wolves and confirmed 17 of those to be caused by wolves, compared to 24 confirmed depredations in 2016. ODFW confirmed losses of 11 calves, one llama, one alpaca and 23 domestic fowl to wolves in 2017 (compared to 11 calves, 7 sheep, one goat and one llama lost in 2016.) During 2017, 24 percent of known wolf packs depredated livestock, compared to 57 percent in 2016.

Since 2009, 75 percent of confirmed wolf depredations have occurred on private land with most happening during four months (May, August, September, October). While wolf numbers have increased considerably over the last eight years (only 14 were counted in 2009), depredations and livestock losses have not increased at the same rate.

The Wolf Plan stresses non-lethal preventative measures in all phases of wolf management. Reducing attractants by removing carcass and bone piles is thought to be the single best action to keep from attracting wolves to areas of livestock.  ODFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services continue to support livestock producers by providing technical advice and non-lethal supplies including electrified fladry, fencing, solar chargers and radio-activated guard (RAG) boxes.

“We appreciate all the hard work of Oregon’s livestock producers in putting in place preventative measures to decrease the risk of problems with wolves,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW wolf coordinator.

When non-lethal measures are ineffective, the Wolf Plan allows for lethal control against depredating wolves. Five wolves were killed to address chronic livestock depredation in 2017 (four Harl Butte wolves taken by ODFW, one Meacham wolf taken by producer with permit).

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance Grant Program also awarded 10 counties $252,570 in grant funds to compensate livestock producers for losses and fund preventive non-lethal measures.

“It is encouraging to see the continued recovery of Oregon’s wolf population into more of their historic range,” said Governor Brown. “Despite this good news, ongoing issues of poaching and livestock depredation must be carefully considered as we explore more effective management and conservation practices.”

ODFW staff will present an overview of the draft 2017 Annual Wolf Report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their April 20 meeting in Astoria.

Baker Co. Rancher OKed To Kill Up To 2 Wolves After Depredations By New Pack

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

ODFW will provide a kill permit to a rancher in Baker County, after two confirmed depredations by wolves of the Pine Creek Pack in two days on private property he is leasing to graze his cows. The wolves killed three calves and injured four others.

(ODFW)

While the producer requested full pack removal, ODFW is only authorizing the take of two wolves at this time. Under the terms of this permit, the producer can kill up to two wolves on the private property he leases where the depredations occurred, when his livestock is present on the property. The permit expires on May 4. ODFW staff are also authorized to kill the two wolves.

Under the Wolf Plan rules, livestock producers must be using non-lethal methods and document unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation through these non-lethal means before lethal control can be considered. Also, there can be no attractants on the property (such as bone piles or carcasses) that could be attracting wolves.

ODFW determined that there were no attractants on the property when it responded to a depredation report late last week. In terms of non-lethal measures, this producer was penning cattle and pairing calves and cows before turnout (keeping the mother cow with her calf can help deter depredation). This producer had delayed turning out his cattle and before he did, he and range riders watched for wolf activity but saw none. After the first report of wolves in the area chasing his cows, the producer used the range riders to check cattle and harass wolves. After the second depredation, riders hazed (shot firearms without harming wolves) to get the wolves to move. Beginning Sunday and continuing into Monday, ODFW staff have assisted in non-lethal efforts by using aircraft to haze wolves away from the pasture.

The Pine Creek is a new pack previously referred to as the OR29/OR36 pair. It was designated after ODFW’s winter counts showed it met the definition of a pack (minimum of four wolves travelling together in winter, typically a breeding male and female and offspring). It currently numbers eight wolves—a breeding male and female, five yearlings (wolves born a year ago), and one other adult wolf. The breeding female appears to be pregnant and if she is, is expected to den up in the next 1-2 weeks.

The pack’s breeding male, OR50, was formerly of the Harl Butte Pack but left that pack in October 2017 and joined OR36 in Baker County. The previous breeding male OR29 left the pack in the fall and did not return.

Removing wolves is intended to stop further depredations by the Pine Creek Pack on this producer’s cattle. Authorizing incremental take and providing a kill permit is typically the first step ODFW takes when livestock producers using non-lethal measures cannot stop losses and ODFW believes depredations will continue. In this case, collar data shows these wolves have a pattern of routinely using this property at this time of year and many producers are getting ready to place cows on the neighboring pastures soon.

6 Years In, Commissioners Want To Know If Washington Wolf Plan Can Be Tweaked

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners want to take a look at whether WDFW’s 2011 wolf management plan is actually working in a key area and if it could be tweaked.

Two somewhat unlikely commissioners — at least judging by conventional wisdom standards — led the charge too.

They’re Jay Kehne, the Conservation Northwest staffer based in Omak, and Kim Thorburn, the Spokane birder.

WASHINGTON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS JAY KEHNE AND KIM THORBURN. (WDFW)

They made their thoughts known last Saturday morning during the commission’s annual briefing on the state of the state’s wolves, which showed that at the very least we had 122 in 22 packs, including 14 successful breeding pairs at the end of 2017, all increases over 2016 but which also did diddly squat for reaching state delisting goals.

Kehne then Thorburn spoke up right after WDFW staffers displayed a map showing the 2017 dispersal paths of seven telemetry-collared Evergreen State wolves — animals that went every which way but in the one direction that’s actually needed to help meet current recovery benchmarks.

“They’re not dispersing south,” lamented Thorburn.

One wolf, a Smackout female, took a 1,700-mile trek the wrong direction entirely.

It went from Stevens County southeast across North Idaho into Western Montana before cutting back southwest all the way to Riggins, Idaho, then south to Boise, east across the northern edge of the Snake River Plain, checked into West Yellowstone then literally walked off the map on a southeasterly bearing towards central Wyoming.

MAROON AND PURPLE DOTS TRACE THE 2017 DISPERSAL PATHS OF THE LOUP LOUP AND SMACKOUT WOLVES.(WDFW)

Same thing with a Loup Loup wolf.

It took a 540-mile hike through the Okanogan north into southern British Columbia, with a last ping recorded somewhere east of Kelowna.

True, 2017 did see the capture of the first Western Washington wolf in modern times, in eastern Skagit County, and three years before that the first roadkill west of the crest, recovered east of North Bend, so it’s highly likely that other wolves without GPS devices are lurking elsewhere in the Cascades, steadily moving from east to west, north to south, as WDFW often likes to say.

But modeling and assumptions made as far back as nearly a decade ago during development and passage of the wolf management plan — not to mention a March 2014 prediction by then Director Phil Anderson that we could see recovery goals met as soon as 2021 — are now under scrutiny.

A WDFW MAP RELEASED IN LATE 2017 SHOWS THE DISPERSAL PATHS OF 12 COLLARED WASHINGTON WOLVES SINCE 2012. (WDFW)

“The plan is excellent. It was well done. It was based on science, based on input from stakeholders. However, it was a plan,” Kehne said during a phone interview with Northwest Sportsman earlier today.

Pointing to the example of adaptive management of Columbia River salmon fisheries, what Kehne says he’s asking for is a check-up on whether the wolf plan is working the way commissioners and WDFW staffers thought it would when it was put together in 2008, ’09, ’10 and approved in early December 2011.

With very little information about where wolves would actually settle in in Washington, data from other sources was used to create maps of where colonization was most likely to occur and thus the three recovery zones.

One hundred years from now it might be a different story, but so far Canis lupus has done fantastically well in some of the toughest possible habitat to wear a wolf suit, and very poorly in some of the best.

The northern edge of the state’s biggest elk herd’s range is a valley away from the Teanaway wolves, and yet the pack doesn’t appear to give two howls about it. Meanwhile, their cousins are snuggling up with northeastern ranchers’ stock.

Kehne pointed to page 67 of the plan, which notes that “The expectation is that over time, as wolves recolonize Washington, WDFW will be able to collect data from within the state to determine whether the model assumptions are appropriate.”

The thought continues on page 68:

“If future data reveal that the population dynamics of wolves in Washington are significantly different from those used in the model, these conclusions will need to be reevaluated. 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.”

I’m no mathematician, but I do pay attention to probabilities (which I use to collect more than my share of fivers from coworkers during the NFL season) and I now think the odds of having four successful breeding pairs in the South Cascades — where there currently are no known wolves (but likely are) — for three straight years (as required under the plan) by the end of 2021 are very long at best.

I wouldn’t put much more money on four there plus four in the North Cascades and 10 elsewhere in any single year — the recovery shortcut — by 2021 either.

But if I’m wrong, hell, feed me to ’em.

Meanwhile, wolf numbers in the state’s upper righthand corner — where no less than 75 percent of the population, 16 of the packs and 12 of the breeding pairs occur — continue to grow.

ANOTHER 2017 WDFW WOLF MAP SHOWS 72,000 COLLECTED OFF COLLARED WOLVES SINCE 2008.NOTE THAT THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE DATA FROM THE COLVILLE OR SPOKANE RESERVATIONS, WHERE SEVERAL PACKS ARE KNOWN TO OCCUR. (WDFW)

“We’ve been hearing from Northeast Washington for years now, ‘We’re overrun with wolves,'” said Kehne during the commission meeting. “At first we thought, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re just new there and they’re not used to them.’ But they are overrun with wolves. Southeast Washington will be sooner or later full up on their quota of wolf packs.”

“We’re there,” Commissioner Jay Holzmiller of Anatone interrupted him briefly to say.

Earlier this week, Conservation Northwest described Jay Kehne’s role with the organization, telling this magazine that while Kehne is an employee, he has not been involved in its wolf work since late 2017 and instead is focusing his efforts on a Columbia Basin sagelands initiative.

“His role on the commission is entirely independent of his work at CNW and he has every right to express opinions that are not reflective of his employer’s positions,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell.

A statement that Conservation Northwest also posted online after the meeting defended the existing wolf plan and said it “is better left as is until recovery goals are achieved.”

The statement also said that the Wolf Advisory Group, which it is heavily engaged in, will begin discussing what comes after delisting goals are met “and will be advising the Department on how to incorporate new science as well as how to design a fair and inclusive public process for future wolf conservation and management.”

Kehne, who is a hunter and retired from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said that with state legislators just having granted WDFW $183,000 in the budget to look into the SEPA process for translocating wolves around the state, staffers should tack on also doing so for making a couple “simple changes” to recovery map boundaries.

“I guess what I feel now is, we’re at recovery, we just don’t meet it by  definition that we established seven years ago,” he said during the commission meeting. “And that bothers me because there’s people that come to these meetings, you know, and tell us their stories about losing livestock. And that’s all part of wolf recovery, but I’m really hearing that and it’s bothering me at this stage of the game that we can’t make, at least look into, could we make an adjustment, not be afraid of it, if it made sense?”

Thorburn thought so.

“Getting back to the initial modeling assumptions, everybody involved in the plan development says, ‘We didn’t expect this pileup in Northeast Washington. We expected the dispersal to be a little more spread out.’ And it really has created that social pressure, despite all of the outstanding work by (WDFW) staff,” she said.

Commission Vice Chair Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon said he was also on board with having a report prepared for the citizen oversight panel, though Commissioner Barbara Baker of Olympia cautioned that opening the wolf plan was a “can of worms.”

So as Saturday’s meeting came to a close, a “blue sheet” request from Kehne was put to a vote.

It asks WDFW to prepare a briefing on “administrative options for conserving wolves including (not limited to): updating the 2011 wolf conservation and management plan; targeted narrow change to wolf conservation and management plan recovery boundaries and names to better reflect current recolonization in our state; translocation and postdelisting management plan.”

It passed 8-1, with Baker voting against it, and is expected to be ready by the commission’s August meeting.

Editor’s note, March 23, 2018, 9:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this said that the blue sheet request had passed unanimously, per the commission office, but according to a spokesman the vote was 8-1.

Wolf Numbers Continue To Grow In Washington

UPDATED 6:20 P.M., MARCH 16, 2018 WITH QUOTES FROM THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL AND CONSERVATION NORTHWEST

Stop me if you’ve read this before, but Washington’s wolf population grew again in 2017, making it nine straight years.

According to WDFW’s just-released year-end count, there is a minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs across the state, though all but 16 of those animals are in the federally delisted third of Washington.

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

Those figures are all up over the previous count of 115, 20 and 10, and despite around a dozen lethal removals, tribal harvests, caught-in-the-act takes and illegal poachings last year.

WDFW’s wolf specialist Ben Maletzke stressed that the numbers are base figures and that they help to show longterm trends. Since 2008, when the Lookout Pack was confirmed, wolf numbers have increased an average of 31 percent each year, though last year was up only 6 percent.

Mark Pidgeon, president of the Hunters Heritage Council and member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, said wolves are “firmly established” in Washington and it’s now time to start planning ahead.

“The Wolf Advisory Group’s single mission is to work on that post-delisting plan. More than ever, hunters, ranchers, and the conservation community have to come together for the common good. This post-delisting plan is where hunters have the most skin in the game. Before, it was protecting ranchers and agriculture. The post-delisting plan is where we need to make sure that hunting opportunities are protected.”

Among the new packs are Frosty Meadows on the eastern side of the Colville Reservation, Togo in northern Ferry County, Five Sisters between the Spokane Reservation and Spokane, Leadpoint in northern Stevens County and Grouse Flats in the southeastern Blue Mountains.

WDFW’S LATEST WOLF PACK MAP SHOWS YET MORE PACKS, ER, PACKED INTO NORTHEAST WASHINGTON, AS WELL AS A NEW ONE IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, BUT STILL NONE SOUTH OF I-90 IN THE CASCADES, A KEY AREA TO MEET STATE RECOVERY GOALS. (WDFW)

Though WDFW’s newest wolf map puts a green circle denoting a pack in eastern Skagit County, a presentation for the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s meeting tomorrow notes there is only one animal there. It also seems to indicate that suspicions there might be more wolves in the North Cascades couldn’t be confirmed.

Only one of the three packs in WDFW’s North Cascades zone successfully bred last year, the Teanaways.

To meet minimum recovery goals for state delisting, there have to four successful breeding pairs there as well as four in the Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast zone and Eastern Washington zones, plus three floating pairs for three straight years (the other formula is 18 in certain numbers for one year).

The eastern zone has 13 breeding packs alone, but there are none south of I-90, and despite intriguing reports from western Yakima and Kittitas, northern Skamania and eastern Lewis Counties, WDFW reports not finding any wolves here, though it’s entirely possible.

There’s been increasing pressure to move wolves out of the Northeast Washington, and a translocation bill jumped from the state House to the Senate and while it died there, lawmakers supplied WDFW with the funding to begin SEPA reviews towards that, with an update on that work due at the end of 2019.

As for other facts and figures from the commission presentation, 2017 saw six known dispersals of Washington wolves, animals that either moved elsewhere instate, up to British Columbia or — in the case of one — across northern Idaho into Montana, back into central Idaho, down to the edge of the Snake River Plain, up to Yellowstone and then off the map into Northwest Wyoming.

The state’s largest pack is the Carpenter, at 13 animals. WDFW captured 12 wolves in a dozen different packs last year, and monitored 22 in 15. Currently, 13 percent of Washington’s known wolves are collared.

In early 2017, WDFW launched a predator-prey study in key game-rich areas, the Methow, Colville and Pend Oreille River Valleys, collaring deer, elk and moose, and while expected to run through 2021, preliminary results aren’t very conclusive, as the cause of death for a half dozen muleys and wapitis wasn’t able to be determined.

Last year saw eight cattle depredations linked to four different packs, the Sherman/Profanities, Smackouts, Leadpoints and Togos. That represents the highest number of packs involved in livestock attacks, but also a dropoff in total depredations from 2016 levels.

To get ahead of conflicts, WDFW reports that the number of cost-share contracts and range riders afield last year was the highest yet, and triple 2015’s.

“As wolves have continued to recolonize wild areas of our state, Washington has engaged in a decision-making process rooted not in acrimony and moving goalposts, but in dialogue, a search for common-ground, and thoughtful collaboration so that we can have both healthy wolf packs and local communities that accept them,” said Mitch Friedman,  executive director of Conservation Northwest. “Tolerance for wolves in the rural areas where they reside is essential for long-term recovery. Forums including the state’s Wolf Advisory Group are leading to an increased understanding of wolf issues on all sides.”

As for managing  wolves, the agency spent $1.27 million between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 on deterrence ($543,575), population monitoring ($263,775), lethal removal ($135,094) and compensation ($57,752), among other costs.

Funding for all that work came from WDFW, state and federal monies and special license plate sales.