Following a probable killing of a sheep by a wolf in northwestern Whitman County late last week, state wildlife conflict specialists are working with local producers to prevent further attacks.
Joey McCanna, WDFW’s local wildlife conflict specialist supervisor, says that Fox lights, which go on and off periodically, are being installed and other measures will be taken to protect sheep in the upper end of the Channeled Scablands.
He says the death of the 41/2-year-old ewe was reported early Friday afternoon, and that he, another conflict specialist and two fish and wildlife officers went to the scene, which is described as five miles northeast of the tiny town of Lamont, to the southwest of the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
It occurred on stubble and conditions didn’t really allow for tracking, but a full necropsy on the carcass suggested that a wolf or wolves had been involved, he says.
McCanna says that a portion of a three-strand electric wire around the flock of 1,200 had failed, and that several sheep got out.
Over the past year or so there have been several wolf sightings in the open Scablands, which on the face of it would seem to be very unusual territory for wolves, which do better in timbered, mountainous country. However, within the past three weeks, at least four sightings have come in, mostly singles spotted near Lamont, but one report of a pair.
McCanna says that he has a general idea of where the wolf or wolves might be, thanks to those local reports, and rain later this week may aid capturing and collaring efforts.
Since the depredation he’s been working hard to reach out to producers and ramp up preventative measures. Turbo fladry will be strung around the flock during the upcoming lambing season, and an apparently already predator-proof carcass composting area will be further protected.
A probable wolf kill is one step below a confirmed, but above unknown and other.
THE FOLLOWING IS A REPORT SENT TO THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE’S WOLF ADVISORY GROUP
On Friday, December 5, 2014, WDFW staff investigated a reported depredation which resulted in a final determination of a probable wolf kill of an adult ewe in Whitman County.
The producer owns approximately 1,200 sheep that were grazing in a 330 acre pasture of wheat stubble. The pasture is enclosed by an electrified multi-wire and mesh perimeter fence and the hot wire might not have been operational Thursday evening. The producer also uses three guard dogs, as further deterrent, on this specific pasture. Staff worked with the producer to get the fence back ‘on-line’ Friday evening. There were no further depredations over the weekend. Additionally, WDFW staff, in cooperation with the producer, installed seven “fox lights” in a few hillside draws and along the fence line that will provide random flashes of blue and white lights giving the perception of someone walking around the area.
The producer typically moves the sheep about this time of year to a pasture near their house and we understand they plan to initiate and complete that move by the end of December. The pasture near their house has a perimeter mesh fence to keep coyotes away and the producer is working with WDFW to add a turbo-fladry perimeter to improve it for wolf deterrence.
Nate Pamplin, Assistant Director
Editor’s note: Asked what caused the outtage of the electrical fence, Pamplin replied:
“The producer indicated that there was about a 1/4 inch of freezing rain on Thursday night, which likely ‘grounded’ the electrical fence.
The fence was operational again last Friday after it thawed.”