Tag Archives: wolves

Instate Wolf Advocates Blast Out-of-staters’ Court Moves Against WDFW

An instate organization deeply involved in Washington wolf issues over the past decade is blasting two out-of-state environmental groups whose legal moves have initially blocked WDFW from targeting a pack to head off further livestock depredations.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A MEMBER OF CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY PACK, WHICH ROAMS THE PART OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES ARE STILL FEDERALLY LISTED, STANDS IN A FOREST. (BEN MALETZKE, WDFW)

“Lawsuits and polarization haven’t worked out well for wolves elsewhere, so we see little upside in spreading those tactics to Washington, where wolf recovery is going relatively well overall” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, in a statement this morning. “Instead of polarization, our focus is on collaboration and long-term coexistence.”

CNW is a member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group which helped craft a set of lethal removal protocols that the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands are now contesting in court.

On Monday, they got Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese to issue a temporary restraining order against Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization for one or more members of northern Ferry County’s Togo Pack, implicated in six attacks on cows and calves on private and public land since last November, including three in a recent 30-day period.

The two groups, based in Arizona and Oregon and neither of which are on the WAG, claim that the protocol is “faulty” and should have been subject to an environmental review.

While CBD stresses that Washington’s wolf population is still “small” and uses its own faulty math to make it appear that a higher percentage of wolves have been lethally removed than in any single year, CNW says recovery is actually going better in the Evergreen State compared to the Northern Rockies.

CNW calls the lethal removal protocol a “deliberate approach” and one that the state’s packs “can easily withstand the current level of impact.”

And it says that working with others rather than going to court is the key.

“We think the collaborative work of the WAG is leading to less social conflict concerning wolves and more willingness of ranchers to embrace proactive techniques to lower both wolf-livestock conflict and the use of lethal removal. This is real progress towards the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities in our state, and an important model for coexistence between people and wildlife,” the organization said.

A WDFW DOCUMENT DETAILING DEPREDATIONS OF THE TOGO PACK HIGHLIGHTS BITE MARKS AND OTHER EVIDENCE ON THE CARCASS OF A COW THAT WAS CONFIRMED TO HAVE BEEN ATTACKED BY WOLVES. (WDFW)

This is not the first rodeo for the local and out-of-state advocates.

Last fall, Conservation Northwest said it was “disappointed” with the Center’s filing of a lawsuit to get ahold of public records related to previous removals and a ranchhand’s caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf that June.

“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” a CNW spokesman said at the time.

Editor’s notes: For reactions from state lawmakers about the lawsuit, see Rep. Joel Kretz‘s and Rep. JT Wilcox’s comments.

ODFW To Hold Wolf Plan Meeting With Stakeholders, Facilitator

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

ODFW will host a meeting with Wolf Plan stakeholders on Thursday, Aug. 30 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at The Dalles Screen Shop, 3561 Klindt Drive. Stakeholders deeply involved with the Wolf Plan update have been invited to attend.

A WALLA WALLA PACK WOLF STANDS IN THE SNOW OF NORTHEAST OREGON. (ODFW)

The topic of the meeting will be the Wolf Plan, which has been undergoing a review and update. Earlier this year, Fish and Wildlife Commissioners decided to postpone final Wolf Plan adoption and conduct additional facilitated outreach in hopes of getting more consensus from stakeholders.

Professional facilitator Deb Nudelman with Kearns & West will facilitate the Aug. 30 meeting and look for ways to find consensus among various stakeholders on remaining issues and concerns among stakeholders. Most of those concerns relate to the take of wolves in Oregon and terminology/definitions.

No formal decisions or rule modifications will be made during the facilitated meeting. But products from this and any future facilitated meetings will be incorporated into the Wolf Plan update for adoption by the Fish and Wildlife Commission at a future date.

The meeting will be open to the public, though seating is limited. A public comment period is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on Thursday during the meeting.

Wolf Hunting Quota Could Be Lifted On Colville Reservation

Tribal officials in northern Eastern Washington will vote early next month on lifting the wolf hunting quota on their sprawling reservation.

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

Only three can be harvested each season on the Colville Indian Reservation in southeast Okanogan and southern Ferry Counties under the current regulations, a benchmark that was also reached for the first time last season.

But under a recommendation from its natural resources committee and with as many as 40 wolves and five known packs, the Colville Business Council could remove the cap at a Sept. 6 special meeting, according to the Tribal Tribune.

The bid is being led by CBC member Jack Ferguson who worried about how fast wolf numbers could build in the next few years and said he’d rather see more deer and elk on the landscape.

“I’m not against having wolves around, but … I think we don’t put a limit on harvest, but we keep our regulations on how they’re hunted, how they’re trapped and that will regulate people and harvest,” he said, according to the newspaper.

With a population of between 30 and 40 wolves on the reservation, a tribal wildlife manager had recommended upping the quota to eight, matching a harvest level allowed in the wolf management plan, but the subcommittee voted 7-2 in support of Ferguson’s call to remove the limit, also allowed under the plan, according to the report.

Wolves in this part of Washington were federally delisted in 2011. The Colvilles opened their first season in 2012.

The current wolf seasons on both the reservation and what is known as the “north half” run from Aug. 1 through the end of February.

The quota on the north half is three annually and would appear to stay in effect. Wildlife there is comanaged with WDFW, though no state hunts are held.

The agency’s plans to remove one or more livestock-depredating wolves in northern Ferry County is on hold after environmental groups took it to court and a judge issued a temporary restraining order and set a late August hearing.

Seventeen of Washington’s 23 now known packs are in northeast Washington. As of the end of 2017, 84 of the 122 known wolves roamed that corner as well.

State Timeline Details Togo Pack’s Livestock Attacks, Ranchers’ Preventative Measures

THE FOLLOWING IS INFORMATION FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

On August 18, 2018, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) documented the third wolf depredation by the Togo pack within the last 30 days, which is also the sixth wolf depredation by the pack within the last 10 months. For the most recent depredation, WDFW officials confirmed that one or more wolves were responsible for injuring a calf on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Ferry County. The recent depredation has prompted Director Kelly Susewind to initiate the lethal removal provisions of the Wolf Conservation and Management plan (Wolf Plan) and wolf-livestock interactions protocol (Protocol).

 (WDFW)

The six depredations by the Togo pack include:

Depredation #1 – November 2, 2017

On November 2, 2017 WDFW was contacted by a livestock producer (herein Producer 1; note Producer 1 is a family operation with multiple owners) in Ferry County about an injured calf that was discovered less than three miles from where the unmarked female wolf was killed under caught-in-the-act authority on October 27, 2017 (see November 9, 2017 public update at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/updates.php?year=2017). A WDFW contracted range rider heard that there was a possible injured calf a day prior, but the calf could not be located at that time. Once the calf was found, it was taken to a holding pen for the investigation. The Ferry County Sheriff and WDFW management staff were notified and on November 3, department staff investigated a reported livestock depredation.  A Ferry County Officer was also in attendance for the depredation investigation.

The calf had injuries to both rear flanks and on both rear legs between the pin and hocks. Injuries on the rear flanks included bite lacerations and puncture wounds. Hemorrhaging was noted near bite lacerations in all four locations. After the wound was cleaned and dead tissue was removed, significant hemorrhaging was noted inside the wound, specifically around the wound margins. After a field examination of the injuries to the calf, it was determined to be a Confirmed Wolf Depredation. The determination was based on evidence and recent wolf activity in the area. Repeated reports from Producer 1 and WDFW contracted range rider included recent wolf howls, tracks, scat, and cattle grouping behavior in the pasture where the injured calf was located.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures – In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures suitable for the operation, which were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Those included:

  • Producer 1’s cattle were on private fenced lands,
  • Producer 1 checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,
  • Producer 1 removes sick or injured cattle from the area,
  • Producer 1 also used range riders periodically in 2017 (as well as 2016), and
  • Producer 1 also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.

Responsive non-lethal deterrence measures – After the investigation on November 3, WDFW staff and Producer 1 considered potential responsive deterrent measures consisting of fladry, fox lights and increased range riding activity. The producer decided to move cattle to a different private large fenced grazing pasture, utilize fox lights and agreed to increase range rider activity.

Depredation #2 – November 8, 2017

On November 8, WDFW was contacted by Producer 1 and he reported a calf carcass that was discovered while moving cattle in a different private large fenced grazing pasture. The calf was tarped by Producer 1, a hired hand, and range rider for the pending investigation. Wolf tracks were reported at the scene. The Ferry County Sherrif and WDFW management staff were notified that field staff were responding to conduct a depredation investigation per the 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol On November 9, WDFW conducted an investigation, accompanied by a Ferry County Deputy and WDFW Contracted Range Rider. After a field investigation and necropsy of the calf carcass, it was determined to be a Confirmed Wolf Depredation. The determination was based on bite lacerations with associated hemorrhaging, signs of a struggle near the calf carcass, large canid tracks near the calf carcass, recent wolf activity in the area, and the confirmed wolf depredation on November 2 in the area.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures – In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures suitable for the operation, that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Producer 1 continued using the following non-lethal deterrence measures:

  • Cattle on private fenced lands,
  • Checked on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,
  • Removed sick or injured cattle from the area,
  • Utilize fox lights ,
  • Used range riders periodically in 2018, and
  • Receiving locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.

Depredation #3 – May 20, 2018

A woodcutter reported the incident to the producer (herein Producer 2), who had seen the calf alive earlier in the day and who then found the carcass and reported the incident to WDFW.  The incident was on a federal grazing allotment in northern Ferry County, in the same vicinity as the November 2 and 8, 2017 wolf depredations.  A woodcutter working in the area said he approached a gate that separates U.S. Forest Service land from private property, where he heard a cow bawling and saw a black wolf running from the area where the calf was found. A WDFW official arrived later on May 20 and conducted an investigation with help from a wildlife specialist employed by Stevens and Ferry counties.

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, indicating the calf was initially alive during the encounter, was visible near the bite wounds and was also found in the left front armpit, where no lacerations or punctures were visible. Based on all available evidence, WDFW classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation by one or more members of the Togo pack (note, the area was confirmed as the Togo wolf pack territory from surveys conducted in February 2018).

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures – In this incident, Producer 2 did not met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation. Producer 2 deployed one proactive deterrence measure, which was checking on his cattle daily.

Responsive non-lethal deterrence measures – Department staff and Producer 2 discussed additional responsive deterrent strategies (including the use of fladry and Foxlights) but agreed the use of range riders would be the most effective additional deterrent, given that the cow-calf operation takes place in an unfenced allotment in rugged terrain. Later on May 20, Producer 2 deployed a range rider and made plans to rotate several riders from the Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative and WDFW to provide ongoing daily or near-daily coverage.

Depredation #4 – August 8, 2018

On August 8, 2018, WDFW was contacted by a wildlife specialist employed by the Stevens and Ferry County Sheriff’s Offices about a potential wolf depredation on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in the Togo pack wolf territory in Northern Ferry County, near Danville.  Later that day, WDFW staff documented a deceased adult cow.  The owner of the livestock is Producer 1.  During the investigation, staff documented bite lacerations with associated hemorrhaging, signs of a struggle down a steep hill and around the cow carcass, and recent wolf activity in the area.  Based on that evidence, they confirmed that the death was a depredation by one or more wolves from the Togo pack.

Due to the remote location and rugged terrain, the cow carcass was left on site.  However, Producer 1 and his range rider -moved the cattle to a different area of the allotment.  The cow was turned out as part of a cow-calf pair, but Producer 1 and range rider were not able to locate her calf.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures – In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Throughout the 2018 grazing season Producer 1 used a variety of deterrent measures to protect the livestock. Producer 1:

  • Delayed turnout until late June so the calves would be larger,
  • Used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves,
  • Following turnout, he removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment,
  • Deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle, and
  • Moved the cattle when necessary out of areas with higher wolf activity to minimize interactions between wolves and livestock.

Responsive non-lethal deterrence measures – After the investigation on August 8, WDFW staff and Producer 1 considered potential responsive deterrent measures and decided additional range riders would be the best option for their operation.

Depredation #5 – August 9, 2018

On August 9, at about 9:30 p.m., the department was contacted by a WDFW-contracted range rider about another potential wolf depredation in the Togo pack area that injured a 350-pound calf owned by Producer 1. Producer 1 and range rider moved the injured calf, and the cow that accompanied it, from the allotment to a holding pen at their residence.

On August 10, WDFW staff and the two counties’ wildlife specialist examined the cow and calf. The cow did not appear to have any injuries, but they documented bite lacerations to both of the calf’s hamstrings and left flank, and puncture wounds and associated hemorrhaging to the left hindquarter and stomach.  Based on the evidence and related factors, the investigators confirmed that the calf’s injuries were the result of a wolf depredation and classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation. The cow and injured calf were kept at the holding pen for monitoring.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures – In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Producer 1 continued using the following non-lethal deterrence measures:

  • Used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves,
  • Removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment, and
  • Deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle, and
  • Moved the cattle when necessary out of areas with higher wolf activity to minimize interactions between wolves and livestock.

Depredation #6 – August 18, 2018

On August 18, WDFW staff received a call from a wildlife specialist employed by the Stevens and Ferry County Sheriff’s Offices about another potential wolf depredation in the Togo pack area that injured a 450-pound calf owned by Producer 1. Producer 1 and range rider moved the injured calf from the allotment, and the cow that accompanied it, from the allotment to a holding pen at their residence.  USFS District Ranger was notified of the depredation event. WDFW staff conducted a field examination of the injured calf with the help of a squeeze chute. Present during the examination were the producers and counties’ wildlife specialist.

On August 18, WDFW staff and the two counties’ wildlife specialist examined the cow and calf.  The injured calf had bite lacerations and bite puncture wounds to the outside lower left hindquarter, the left hamstring, the inside of the left hock and the groin area. Adjacent to the bite puncture wounds on the hamstring and groin was hemorrhaging to the underlying tissue as indicated by severe swelling. Infection had also set in on two of the bite puncture wounds. The bite lacerations, bite puncture wounds and tissue hemorrhaging adjacent to the puncture wounds are consistent with a signature style wolf attack on cattle. Investigators confirmed that the calf’s injuries were the result of a wolf depredation and classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation.

Proactive non-lethal deterrence measures – In this incident, Producer 1 met the expectation of deploying at least two proactive deterrence measures that were best suited for the operation and for a sufficient amount of time for the measures to be effective.  Producer 1 continued using the following non-lethal deterrence measures:

  • Used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves,
  • Removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment,
  • Deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle, and
  • Moved the cattle when necessary out of areas with higher wolf activity to minimize interactions between wolves and livestock.

As a result of these events, the guidance provided in the Wolf Plan and Protocol the minimum threshold has been reached for consideration and possible implementation of lethal removal the Togo Pack. WDFW Director Kelly Susewind has authorized lethal removal of wolves from the pack, consistent with the Department’s Wolf Plan and Protocol.

The goal of lethal removal from the Wolf Plan is to manage wolf-livestock conflicts in a way that minimizes livestock losses, while at the same time not negatively impacting the recovery or long-term perpetuation of a sustainable wolf population. Building on that, the purpose of lethal removal in the Togo pack is to change wolf pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock while continuing to promote wolf recovery (see Protocol). Consistent with the terms of the Wolf Plan and Protocol, the rationale for lethal removal in this case is as follows:

  1. WDFW has documented three wolf depredation by the Togo pack within the last 30 days, which is also the sixth wolf depredation by the pack within the last 10 months. All six of the depredation events were confirmed wolf depredations ( resulting in two dead calves, one dead cow, and three injured calves). The three most recent depredations occurred over approximately a 10 day period, AND
  2. At least two (2) proactive deterrence measures, and responsive deterrence measures as deemed appropriate, have been implemented and failed to meet the goal of influencing/changing pack behavior to reduce the potential for recurrent wolf depredations on livestock in 5 of the six events, AND
  3. WDFW expects depredations to continue based of the history of depredations and the appropriate non-lethal measures having been deployed resulting in no change of wolf behavior , AND
  4. The Department has documented the use of appropriate deterrence measures and notified the public of wolf activities in a timely manner as outlined in the Protocol.  WDFW provided updates on November 9, November 15, December 6, 2017 and  May 24, June 1,  2018, August 11, and August 13, 2018 with information on all wolf depredations on livestock in the area, AND
  5. The lethal removal of wolves is not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach recovery objectives statewide or within individual wolf recovery regions. Comparing the actual level of wolf mortality to that modeled in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (appendix G and H), actual average wolf mortality is about 8.4 animals or 10% of the estimated population.  This level is well below the 28% baseline annual mortality assumed in the wolf plan model before any simulated wolf removals, which incorporates a 30% lethal removal mortality in addition to the baseline mortality.  The model was conducted assuming the regional wolf population was at the regional recovery objective. The wolf population in the eastern recovery region has more than doubled the regional recovery objective.
  6. As mentioned earlier, Director Susewind has authorized an incremental removal of pack members from the Togo Pack. The last estimate of pack size during August was 2 adult wolves and an unknown number of pups. The Department expects to begin the effort after 8 business hours following this public notice.  The removal effort will likely continue for a two-week period or less.

The Department will use humane lethal removal methods consistent with state and federal laws. The objective of the methodology is to use the best methods available while considering human safety, humaneness to wolves, swift completion of the removal, weather, efficacy, and cost. Likely options include shooting from a helicopter, trapping, and shooting from the ground.

Per the Wolf plan Protocol, WDFW’s approach is incremental removal, which has periods of active removals or attempts to remove wolves, followed by periods of evaluation to see if the goal of changing pack behavior was met. The first incremental removal will follow the provision of the Protocol in section 7.

The Department will keep the public informed about this activity through weekly updates. The Department will provide a final report to the public on any lethal removal action after the operation has concluded.

WDFW Wardens’ Reports Add Details To Okanogan Wolf Encounter, Reaction

The Forest Service worker who stumbled onto the Loup Loup Pack’s rendezvous site actually twice climbed a tree, the second time after trying to use bear spray on a wolf that was just under 50 feet away from her and then “darted in several times.”

Those are among the new details emerging about the tense encounter the 25-year-old stream surveyor had in a remote part of North-central Washington’s Okanogan County earlier this month.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE LOUP LOUP PACK ALONG THE DIVIDE BETWEEN THE CHEWUCH AND OKANOGAN RIVERS IN NORTHERN OKANOGAN COUNTY. (WDFW)

The woman related them to WDFW Officer Justin Trautman during an interview following her extrication that day by a DNR helicopter crew.

Outside of some scrapes on her legs from clambering up and down the tree several times, she was not injured during the July 12 confrontation.

“(The woman) at no time stated that she feared for her life, but did state that she was afraid,” reads Trautman’s three-page after-action report, procured through a public disclosure request.

That and reports from two other WDFW officers add more information about the events leading up to and during the hectic hour as the woman awaited rescue while information rocketed between dispatchers and state, federal, county and search-and-rescue officials spread between the Okanogan and Methow Valleys and as far away as Moses Lake and Olympia.

INTERVIEWED IN A BREAK ROOM AT THE OMAK AIRPORT, the woman told Trautman that she was the state lead on a PIBO, or PacFish/InFish Biological Opinion Monitoring Program, project that surveys stream corridors to see if “aquatic conservation strategies can effectively maintain or restore the structure and function of riparian and aquatic systems.”

As she headed into the study area that day, she’d seen wolf tracks, and heard “barks and howls.”

The woman then saw a wolf cross a stream “and head in her direction where she had a face to face interaction with the wolf while on the phone with her boss,” Trautman’s report states.

Over the satellite phone, her supervisor told her to climb a tree, which she did.

But after 10 to 15 minutes, she climbed back down.

She then proceeded about 100 yards before she was “cut off by what she believed was the same wolf.”

“The wolf approached her as she took steps backwards and was very vocal towards the wolf,” Trautman’s report reads. “The wolf barked and growled at (the woman). (She) pulled out a can of bear spray and eventually deployed it but it was not able to reach the wolf.”

“(The woman) stated that the wolf was approximately 15 meters away when the interaction started. (She) stated that after she deployed the pepper spray in a quick warning type deployment the wolf darted in several times,” the officer writes.

Screaming at the wolf led it to back off and she climbed back up the tree again, the report says.

She told Trautman that the “interaction” lasted half a minute.

The woman then called her boss back and said she didn’t believe she would be able to leave the scene by herself.

As she waited for help she saw the wolf howl several times “in the distance,” Trautman’s report states.

When they reached her location, DNR pilot Devin Gooch and crewmember Matthew Harris saw two running wolves, they told Trautman during the interview.

DNR HELICOPTER CREW MEMBERS INCLUDED DARYL SCHIE, MATTHEW HARRIS, JARED HESS AND PILOT DEVIN GOOCH. (DNR)

QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN RAISED ABOUT the reactions three WDFW staffers — Trautman, a conflict specialist and a wolf biologist — had in the initial minutes of the incident not to send a chopper and instead hike to the scene on foot, an estimated two- or three-hour undertaking.

In a Capital Press article out two weeks ago, it was couched as due to the woman’s relative safety in the tree out of immediate danger, and the federally listed status of wolves in that part of Washington.

Trautman’s impetus appears to have also been partially based on his knowledge of the lay of the land and its lack of suitability for landing a helicopter, records show.

There was some confusion about the Forest Service having a researcher in the area of a known wolf den as well.

Ultimately WDFW acknowledged the hesitation was wrong.

“To tell the helicopter not to go was not the right call, and we have to own that,” agency wolf policy lead Donny Martorello told Press reporter Don Jenkins. “The right call was to send the helicopter. It goes without saying we value human life over everything else.”

In a subsequent editorial, the Press said that with “two wolves from the Loup Loup pack that seemed intent on making her lunch,” WDFW had flubbed the incident:

We can’t imagine that these experts really thought through the possible consequences for the young woman had it gone wrong, or considered the potential public relations disaster this episode presented.

How could they possibly spin leaving this woman clutching a tree for dear life for three hours while wolves circled below? And what did they think the optics would be if she lost her grip or otherwise made contact before rescuers arrived?

However, as the events were unfolding, public records show that other WDFW officers were in fact working to get a bird to the scene.

Officer Jason Day was off duty at his home near Carlton at the time when he independently learned of the situation from county search-and-rescue coordinator Rick Avery.

Day got in touch with Forest Service officer Dave Graves who told him there was a helicopter available at the Winthrop smoke jumper base, so he called his supervisor Sgt. Chris Busching in Moses Lake to request it be used.

“Yes! Yes! Absolutely,” Busching replied, Day’s report states.

Shortly afterward, however, it was learned that that aircraft was in fact a fixed-wing plane, so Day and Graves continued their search before Day learned from Avery that a helicopter was on the way and then from he and Graves that the woman had been picked up.

Sgt. Dan Christensen, the Okanogan County detachment lead, was in Olympia when he got a call from Trautman apprising him of the situation. The officer told him it might not be possible to land a chopper, but Christensen told Trautman “to contact DNR and send them in to get the researcher.”

Meanwhile, USFS and DNR had OKed a chopper to go in, according to the Capital Press, with DNR dispatcher Jill Jones arguing to Trautman that her department was “more concerned for [the woman’s] life than the [federally] listed animal” and it wasn’t clear how strong the tree was or how long she could hold out in it.

Reporter Jenkins wrote that according to dispatch logs, at one point DNR was going to fly into the hills anyway and “deal with aftermath of WDFW later.”

Inside the Natural Resources Building where both agencies are headquartered at the state capitol, DNR supervisor Chuck Turley went to WDFW’s Martorello to say he wanted to send the chopper, and so Martorello got him on the telephone with lead USFWS carnivore biologist Gregg Kurz.

Wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, including that part of Okanogan County where the encounter occurred, are still federally listed. USFWS is the lead agency there and works in cooperation with WDFW to manage the species.

After a brief explanation of the situation, Kurz told Turley and Martorello, “‘Absolutely’ (use the helicopter). ‘Human safety comes first,'” recalled USFWS spokesperson Ann Froschauer, who was sitting next to Kurz during the call. “That decision on our end was immediate.”

Fourteen minutes after it took off from Omak, DNR’s flight crew reached the woman’s location.

ULTIMATELY, THIS WILL ALL GO DOWN AS ANOTHER learning moment — for the woman, the myriad government agencies and the public at large.

While we’re now a decade into the recolonization of wolves in Washington, we’re still pretty new at all of this and it’s hard to predict every situation that will occur.

Hunters appear to have had the most encounters with wolves so far, including two other instances in Okanogan County, one in Kittitas County and another in Stevens County.

But it’s also at least the second involving a Forest Service employee. In that one, which occurred south of Republic in 2012, a surveyor’s dog was injured by two wolves.

This latest is a reminder to all who roam the wilds — hunters, anglers, hikers, forest workers, horsepackers, prospectors, mushroom pickers, dog walkers, etc., etc., etc. — to be aware of what to do if they encounter a wolf or wolves.

There’s no way that WDFW is going to share GPS data with us and it’s impossible to predict where uncollared dispersers might have denned up and chosen rendezvous sites, but precautions for being where wolves (or any big predators, for that matter) are or could be include being aware of your surroundings, going with multiple people, and carrying bear spray and/or a gun.

Following a 2011 incident on the divide between Lake Chelan and the Twisp River Valley, no less of a wolf expert than Carter Niemeyer told me it would have been wise of the hunter to have fired a shot in two wolves’ direction.

“No harm in teaching wolves to be wild and preventing any possible habituation behavior from developing,” Niemeyer said.

As Sgt. Christensen also noted in his report, “Under the ESA threats to a human allow for self-defense actions.”

If you feel your life is threatened and you act lethally, be prepared to answer questions as well as face public fallout from people who were not in your boots at the time but consider themselves to be wolf experts nonetheless.

More tips can be found on WDFW’s and Western Wildlife Outreach’s sites, and before he retired from the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Rich Landers posted a great video with advice following he and his dog Ranger’s encounter with two wolves last year.

A SCREEN GRAB FROM RICH LANDERS’ VIDEO ABOUT HIKING WITH DOGS IN WOLF COUNTRY. (YOUTUBE)

In this latest case, the Loup Loup Pack appears to have been defending its pups, trying to alter the woman’s course away from the rendezvous site, not so much looking for lunch, as Capital Press editorial writers would have it.

“She took many of the right actions,” Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest spokesperson Debbie Kelly told Northwest Sportsman. “She maybe could have left the area a little sooner.”

Who am I to judge, but she probably should have stayed parked in the tree too.

Efforts by Trautman to reach her satellite phone and further assess her situation were complicated by wrong numbers initially passed along by USFS and the fact that she had turned the device off to conserve battery power.

Both Kelly and USFWS’s Froschauer said the woman actually expected that a crew was going to hike to her location.

That a chopper came instead was “a bit of a surprise” for her, said Kelly.

While WDFW had informed local USFS officials about the location of the Loup Loup Pack’s den, a half mile from the rendezvous site, the woman did not know about it nor did she check with rangers before she’d headed afield that day, according to another Capital Press article.

Kelly said that some Forest Service employees such as wildlife biologists and those who work on grazing permits generally would “have a high level of knowledge about” wolves and den locations, but couldn’t say if that was broadly known among others in the district.

She said that field staffers do receive training for working in areas where large carnivores occur — pretty much the entire national forest.

“This employee received a good level of training. She was certified to carry bear spray,” Kelly said.

While the likelihood of predators like wolves attacking a person is pretty low, it is also not zero, as we saw with May’s fatal cougar attack.

They’re wild animals. Under sustained stress, human decision making can get worse.

My intention here is not to cause wolf hysteria but to continue to document all that comes with wolves resettling in Washington.

I think it’s useful to repeat the core of this incident, as summarized by WDFW Officer Day after Trautman called him following the airport interviews:

“The wolf bluff charged several times before the reporting party climbed a tree for safety,” Day wrote. “The wolf left. After approximately fifteen minutes, she exited the tree and attempted to leave. A wolf returned and again repeatedly charged, stopped short, and veered off. The reporting party went back up the tree and stayed there till extraction.”

Those who know wolves best, who yearn to have close encounters with wolves, are leading wolf tours, or relating their own zen moments near dens or rendezvous sites would do well to consider this before giving others only half paying attention the impression that everything around wolves is perfectly safe, lest another helicopter have to be scrambled.

Researcher Was At Wolf Pack’s Rendezvous Site, Near Den

Federal wildlife overseers say the researcher who had to be rescued from wolves yesterday in Northcentral Washington was at their gathering site and also within half a mile of the Loup Loup Pack’s den.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE LOUP LOUP PACK ALONG THE DIVIDE BETWEEN THE CHEWUCH AND OKANOGAN RIVERS IN NORTHERN OKANOGAN COUNTY. (WDFW)

“After an on-site investigation, USFWS and WDFW biologists have determined the site is a rendezvous site, and concluded that the wolves were acting in a defensive manner,” said Ann Froschauer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Lacey.

With wolves still federally listed in the western two-thirds of Washington, USFWS is the lead management agency and works in cooperation with WDFW to manage the species.

It wasn’t clear why the unnamed person was where she was, however.

WDFW described the rescuee as a “U.S. Forest Service salmon researcher” and said it had notified local forest officials of the site of the Loup Loup Pack’s den in April.

An Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest spokesperson had not returned a phone call from earlier today.

Froschauer said the researcher had initially seen wolf tracks and heard barking and yipping before she was approached by wolves.

She tried to scare them away by “yelling, waving and deploying a can of bear spray in the direction of the wolves” but was unsuccessful and so she climbed a tree and radioed out for help around 12:30 p.m.

According to Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers, search-and-rescue personnel and deputies were called on to respond to the scene in the Twentymile Meadows area roughly 26 miles north of Winthrop, with officers told to shoot the wolves on sight if they were still surrounding the woman when they arrived.

WDFW fish and wildlife officers were also preparing to head for the site, through several miles of rough country north of Tiffany Springs Campground.

It would have taken them several hours to hike to the location, though, and in the meanwhile, at the request of the Tonasket Ranger District, a state Department of Natural Resources wildfire helicopter was dispatched from Omak.

According to previous reports, the wolves were still near the base of the tree the woman had climbed as the chopper arrived 14 minutes later, but scattered as it landed.

She was then safely rescued.

Froschauer says that the Loup Loup Pack’s den site is “within a kilometer of the site where the incident occurred” and that GPS collar data showed that the evening before, at least one of the pack’s adults was very close to it as well.

“Rendezvous sites are home or activity sites where weaned pups are brought from the den until they are old enough to join adult wolves in hunting activity,” she said.

Froschauer said that because of the location’s remoteness from campgrounds and trails and the “defensive nature of the encounter,” USFWS doesn’t believe there’s a threat to human safety.

Federal and state biologists plan to monitor collar data from the two adult wolves.

Sheriff Rogers told regional public radio reporter Courtney Flatt he didn’t need to deal with any more wolf encounters; three notable ones have now occurred in the county since 2011.

“I’ve tried to tell people, it’s not like the movies. The wolves aren’t running around in packs hunting humans. But if you see a pack, don’t antagonize it. If it’s feeding, for god’s sake, stay away from it. If you run upon a den, stay away from it,” he told the journalist.

A statement from Conservation Northwest said that though attacks by wolves on people are “exceedingly rare,” they are territorial around dens and gathering points.

“Barking is often a warning to stay away from pups or food sources. Thankfully nobody was harmed,” the statement said.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased at the successful rescue of the individual, and commends the quick action of our partners in their rescue efforts,” said Froschauer.

She says that wolves are generally wary of people but also advised “taking precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, hiking and camping in groups, and carrying bear spray to help avoid potential conflicts.”

She pointed to Western Wildlife Outreach as a good source of information.

DNR Chopper Crew In On Wolf Rescue Recognized

A four-member state wildfire chopper crew is being recognized for their part in a mission to rescue a woman who’d clambered up a tree after feeling threatened by wolves yesterday in Northcentral Washington.

DNR CREW MEMBERS ON YESTERDAY’S RESCUE MISSION INCLUDED DARYL SCHIE (HELICOPTER MANAGER), MATTHEW HARRIS (CREW), JARED HESS (CREW) AND DEVIN GOOCH (PILOT). (DNR)

After taking off from Omak following a request for assistance from the Tonasket Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the helicopter, piloted by Department of Natural Resources pilot Devin Gooch, was able to get to the remote location in the Twentymile Meadows area in 14 minutes.

According to The Seattle Times, the woman — initially described as a research student surveying the area but termed by DNR as affiliated with the Forest Service — had encountered one wolf there and attempted to use pepper spray on it, but with the arrival of a second wolf, she took to a tree and called for help.

Though DNR choppers aren’t typically used for rescues, getting to the location some 26 miles north of Winthrop on foot would have taken two hours, according to Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.

DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz said she was proud of the crew, calling them “tremendous assets to our communities,” and said that Gooch “truly exemplifies what it means to serve our public.”

It’s not yet clear what triggered the event, whether there was a den, rendezvous site or kill nearby, or what the woman was surveying, but local Forest Service officials are expected to provide more details on the latter shortly.

Research Student Rescued After Surrounded by Wolves

FINAL UPDATE 11:48 A.M., JULY 13, 2018: This link is the latest information on what happened during the incident.

A research student had to be rescued north of Winthrop today after she was surrounded by wolves at their rendezvous site and near their den.

The woman who was surveying in the West Fork Twentymile Creek area of northcentral Okanogan County, near Tiffany Springs and in the range of the Loop Loop Pack, called authorities around 12:30 p.m. that she had clambered 30 feet up a tree after encountering the wolves, it was reported by KREM 2 in Spokane and the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune based on a press release from Sheriff Frank Rogers.

The Seattle Times reported that she had initially encountered one and tried to pepper spray it before another arrived and she retreated up the tree.

Okanogan County deputies were initially given the go-ahead to shoot the animals on sight if they were still there when they arrived, according to the release.

Rogers told the Times that that would have been a two-hour hike for his officers.

DNR volunteered a helicopter that could get to the scene in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in less than a quarter hour and the crew was able to rescue her.

The wolves were still in the area upon the aircraft’s arrival, but scattered when it landed, according to reports.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the woman was researching, but in recent years Washington wolves have been the subject of university studies for interactions with livestock and big game.

At the end of 2017, there were at least two wolves in the Loup Loup Pack. If they were able to breed and have a litter this spring, there could be several growing pups.

It is not the first unnerving encounter between humans and wolves in Okanogan County. A lone hunter scouting for deer west of Winthrop was followed by two wolves in September 2011, and in September 2013 a hunter in the Pasayten Wilderness shot and killed a wolf after feeling threatened by it.

Others have occurred in Stevens and Kittitas Counties, also with hunters.

As the incident occurred in the still federally listed portion of Washington, USFWS is the lead agency. Late Thursday night, a WDFW official said the Service is developing a statement.

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of when it first became general public knowledge that there was a pack of wolves in Okanogan County, the state’s first since the 1930s. There are now nearly two dozen packs and a minimum of 122 wolves, nearly all east of the Cascade crest.

One Decade On Since Washington’s First Wolf Pack Heard

It was 10 years ago today that it became publicly apparent the Northwest’s wildlife world was about to change permanently.

LOOKOUT PACK PUPS PHOTOGRAPHED 10 YEARS AGO TODAY. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

On July 11, 2008, WDFW sent out a press release that three days earlier its biologists had heard howls from adult and juvenile wolves near Twisp, in North-central Washington.

The Lookout Pack would be confirmed in the following days through the capture of two adults and retrieval of trail camera images showing six pups.

I remember feeling gobsmacked.

Wolves were suddenly in the valley I’d hunted muleys for nearly a decade and a half — what was going to happen to the legendary Okanogan deer herd?

AN OKANOGAN COUNTY MULE DEER HUNTER CARTS HIS FOUR-POINT OUT OF THE WOODS DURING 2015’S HUNT. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

In hindsight, of course, the rangy predators’ arrival was inevitable as wolf populations in southern British Columbia, North Idaho and Northwest Montana grew and dispersers from Central Idaho and Yellowstone reintroductions spread out.

A dead one in Northeast Oregon in 2007, and B-300 near the Eagle Caps and a roadkill west of Spokane the following year.

And state managers had begun preparing for that eventuality by beginning to work on a management plan.

IMAGES RECORDED BY SMALL CAMERAS MOUNTED TO THE NECKS OF A COUPLE DOZEN DEER IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON PROVIDED A GLIMPSE INTO THE DAILY LIVES OF THE ANIMALS, AND HOPEFULLY MORE DETAILS ABOUT WOLF-DEER INTERACTIONS. (IMAGES COURTESY JUSTIN DELLINGER)

Yet still.

After decades with only the odd stray turning up here and there, wolves were again in Washington after being killed off some 70 years before.

Times had changed from those days. It felt like a seismic shift.

The initial news on the Lookouts from WDFW would be followed by a July 21 release from ODFW that Oregon too had its first pack, the Wenahas, in northern Union County.

OR 12, A WENAHA PACK MALE. (ODFW)

And then all hell broke loose, and it didn’t.

With yet another monthly set of magazines beckoning to get put on the press, I don’t have near enough time to list all the wolf-related events of the subsequent years as the number of wolves in Washington and Oregon grew from those first eight and four animals to a minimum of 122 and 124 as of the end of 2017.

Needless to say, there have been many depredations, lethal removals and poachings.

There have been management tweaks, federal delisting in portions of the two states, translocation bills and lawsuits.

There have been caught-in-the-act and self-defense shootings, first suggestions Washington big game subherds may be being affected by packs and wolfies chewing on wolfies

And there’s been the Diamond M, OR-7, WDFW’s wolf people tamer and, of course, Rob Wielgus.

EVIDENCE FROM A POACHING CASE AGAINST TERRY FOWLER OF LIBERTY LAKE, WASHINGTON, INCLUDED A PAIR OF WOLF SKULLS. (WDFW)

Right here I should come up with some overarching conclusion about wolves in the Northwest, but the story is nowhere near concluded, I feel.

And so I’ll keep reading, listening and calling, and writing blogs — 522 on this site at last count — and magazine articles, and see where we are in another 10 years.

Hopefully by then the feds will have completely delisted gray wolves and we’ll have reached full state recovery goals and can have limited hunts, like is already occurring on two reservations in Washington’s northeastern corner, where packs are thriving, just as they are in the same pocket of Oregon.

Indeed, after a decade, I’m sure of one thing: the wolves will be fine.

As for the rest of us, our howling over them will continue.

WDFW Reports On June Wolf Work

June was relatively quiet on Washington’s wolf scene, according to state managers’ monthly report.

WDFW reports capturing two wolves last month, adult males in the Togo and Profanity Peak ranges, and say there were no confirmed livestock depredations as producers moved more than 1,000 cow-calf pairs as well as sheep herds onto Eastside grazing allotments.

DEPREDATION INVESTIGATORS WERE UNABLE TO DETERMINE A CAUSE OF DEATH FOR A PEND OREILLE COUNTY CALF, THE BONES OF WHICH WERE DISCOVERED LAST MONTH. THE CARCASS OF ANOTHER CALF IN NEIGHBORING STEVENS COUNTY WAS ALSO TOO FAR GONE TO FIGURE OUT WHY IT HAD DIED. (WDFW)

They did investigate nine calf, sheep and goat kills in Northeast Washington and King County, finding them to be victims of cougar or, in the latter case, coyote or domestic dog attacks, or that the scenes lacked enough evidence to make any determination of cause of death.

Managers outlined a range of proactive deterrent measures being used on 10 packs, mostly in the state’s wolfy northeastern corner, and said direct hazing was used on the Dirty Shirt and Smackout Packs.

The latter pack has one depredation in the last 10 months; four within a rolling 10-month period (or three within 30 days) could lead to consideration of lethal removals under agreed-to protocols.

The pack closest to that mark is the Togos, which have three since last November 2, which means Sept. 2 is the key date to remember with those two animals.

The Smackouts key date is Aug. 9.

Yesterday saw the expiration of a 10-month window in the Blue Mountains following a Sept. 2 attack on a cow-calf pair by an unknown wolf or wolves.

In Central Washington’s Kittitas County, interactions between the Teanaway Pack and grazing cattle were closely monitored by WDFW and a producer.

The agency also reported it attempted to trap and collar wolves in the Lookout, Huckleberry and Grouse Flats ranges but without success, and planned to try in the Beaver Creek, Five Sisters and Leadpoint Pack boundaries as well.

Following up on public reports, biologists poked around south of I-90 but couldn’t find any tracks or sign.

Still, WDFW “encourages” people to post sightings to its database, saying they “can be very helpful in locating new packs on the landscape.” Confirming wolves in the South Cascades is key to moving toward state delisting goals.