Category Archives: Wolf News

Actual Oregon Wolf Disputes Claim State’s Population Has Stagnated

Dear Wolfies,

Hi, it’s me again, the talking Oregon wolf. Ya’ll might know me as OR777 or whatever, but my real name’s Jimbo.

JIMBO THE OREGON WOLF. (ODFW)

So this week my Google News Alerts has been filled with headlines that are all like “Ahhh!!!!!! Oregon Wolf Growth Stalls,” “Oregon Wolf Numbers Barely Budge,” “Oregon Wolf Count Up Hardly 1.87654321 Percent,” and “Oregon Wolf Population Stagnates.”

Calling me a lazy dog?!??! Gonna bite your … Water stagnates, not wolves.

Anyway, you’d probably expect me to be all jumping out of my skin about this news from ODFW’s annual survey, but honestly, I don’t think it’s a big deal. We’ve figured out how to bust their little electro collars, got way more than 112 wandering around this place.

Here, step into my den for a little ride in my wolfy-wolf way-back machine.

Lemme adjust these settings here, let’s see …. Washington … circa … 2013 and 2014.

Poof!

All right, here we are in early 2013 in the Evergreen State, let’s see what the year-end wolf population was … says here it doubled to 51. And that was despite the Wedgie they gave us.

Indeed, pretty respectable for about that time period, roughly five years into our recolonization.

Let’s fast forward a year now.

Poof!

All righty, what are we up to this go around? Fifty-two.

Daaaaaamn, that seems pretty anemic. The hell’s wrong with those Washington wolves?

Oh, never mind, I get it.

All right, let’s head back to the future. Poof!

What’s Washington’s 2016 count? Holy smokes, 115!

Boy, maybe you shouldn’t judge one year against the next because it fits into the delisting narrative, but look at the longer trend.

All right, back to chasing chickens elk and stuff.

ODFW Releases 2016 Wolf Surveys, Calls For Comment On New Draft Plan

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DPEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WIDLIFE

ODFW releases its 2016 Wolf Annual Report and a Draft Revised Wolf Management Plan today. Find both documents at ODFW’s Wolf webpage (www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves)

These documents will be presented (for information only, not adoption) at the upcoming Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting on April 21 in Klamath Falls. The draft Plan will also be presented at a second Commission meeting on May 19 at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport. Public comment is welcome at both meetings or at odfw.commission@state.or.us.

(ODFW)

Below are some highlights from the Annual Report, which summarizes 2016 wolf management activities and results of annual winter surveys:

  • ODFW counted 112 known wolves in Oregon in 2016, up two wolves from 2015. Counts are based on verified evidence (like tracks, sign, remote camera photographs, visual observations) and are considered a minimum known population. Severe winter weather made counting wolves much more challenging this year.
  • Surveys documented 11 packs and eight of those were breeding pairs.
  • 2016 was the third consecutive year of more than seven breeding pairs in eastern Oregon which moved the East Wolf Management Zone into Phase 3 of wolf management.
  • The wolf population continued to expand in distribution, with new areas of wolf activity in northeast and southwest Oregon.
  • Two previously occupied areas of wolf activity have changed, including the newly named Harl Butte Pack which is using part of the area previously held by the Imnaha pack.
  • ODFW radio-collared 11 wolves last year.
  • Staff monitored collared wolves in ten groups during 2016.
  • ODFW confirmed 24 livestock depredation events by wolves in 2016, an increase from 2015.
  • Seven mortalities were documented during 2016, including three radio-collared wolves.

For more details, see the Annual Report.

ODFW also released an updated draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan today. The draft Plan is the result of a year-long review process to evaluate its effectiveness and address opportunities for improvement. It incorporates the latest science about wolves and includes new sections on potential conservation threats to wolves and non-lethal measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict. It also updates base information about wolf status, population and distribution, plus management improvements based on actual field experience with wolves.

This current review has the benefit of large amounts of Oregon-specific wolf data. “When the Plan was first developed, Oregon had no known wolves and relied heavily on information from other states,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf program coordinator. “This review of the Plan incorporates more information from Oregon, and adds a great deal of new science about wolves.”

The draft Plan maintains the original Plan’s goals and aims to keep its original intent. The Plan was first negotiated between stakeholders and adopted by the Commission back in 2005 after ODFW’s largest-ever public process. The draft Plan offers more details on several policies agreed on in the original Plan.

For example, the original Wolf Plan allowed controlled take of wolves in Phase 3 only, and only in two specific circumstances; 1) situations of chronic livestock depredation, or 2) if wolves are determined to be causing declines in ungulate populations such as deer and elk. This draft Plan does not change that intent, but does add additional guidelines and specific prerequisites for when this type of take can occur. The draft Plan also continues the policy of not allowing general seasons of wolf hunting or trapping in Oregon.

Other policy issues addressed in the draft Plan include:

  • The definition of chronic depredation is proposed to become more stringent in Phases 2 and 3. The current definition is two confirmed or one confirmed and three attempted depredations with no time period set. The new proposed definition is three confirmed depredations or one confirmed and four probable depredations within a 12-month period.
  • The requirements to use non-lethal measures before consideration of lethal control of depredating wolves continue.
  • A citizen advisory group is proposed to improve information sharing and collaboration between ODFW and stakeholders.
  • As the wolf population increases, the use of monitoring methods which do not require capture of wolves (like howling and track surveys, camera surveillance, aerial surveys) will become increasingly important. Staff will continue to attempt to collar wolves, but other survey methods will be explored.

The presentation of the updated draft Plan during the April and May meetings is considered informational only; the Draft Plan will not be considered for adoption at these meetings. A date for final consideration and adoption of the Plan has not yet been set.

Comments on the Draft Plan may be provided to odfw.commission@state.or.us or in-person at the meetings.

For more information on wolves in Oregon, visit www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves

Washington Looks At Quicker Wolf Removals To Save More Livestock, Wolves

Washington wolf managers could move faster to head off depredations, saving more cattle, sheep and other stock as well as wolves, under new policies recommended by an advisory group.

Instead of waiting for four confirmed depredations before taking lethal action, WDFW could move if three occur in a 30-day rolling window, including one probable, if the agency adopts the policy.

“When conflict happens, we could act earlier to reduce the number of deaths to wolves and livestock,” says Donny Martorello.

At least one of the three would still need to be a confirmed kill, while the other could be an injury.

The current protocol requires four confirmed depredations in a calendar year, along with prevention measures.

The new policy came out of the Wolf Advisory Group, made up of livestock producers, hunters, wolf advocates and others. It does require ranchers to be meeting expectations to use at least two deterrence measures tailored to their operation.

Indeed, the overarching goal in Washington remains to recover wolves while working with cattlemen and shepherds to prevent conflicts in the first place.

Martorello says it’s about “doing our best to influence wolf behavior before conflict.”

For packs that may get in trouble and are hazed away before meeting the standards for “acute” conflict but then attack stock months later, WAG also recommended a “chronic” category with a 10-month rolling window and threshold of four depredations, one of which can be a probable, along with proactive prevention measures, to trigger the possibility of lethal removals.

Martorello said there had been “a lot of energy and synergy” between the many stakeholders in crafting the new guidelines, giving everyone involved a “sense of ownership.”

He says that wide involvement is important to the agency, and that he’s been pleased to work with everyone.

It all may give sportsmen cause to roll their eyes, but it appears to be working. Lowering thresholds for removals demonstrates a trust throughout Washington’s wolf world. While you and I would likely consider a probable depredation in the middle of a string of confirmed attacks to be a confirmed, it’s good to see wolf advocates appear to agree. The more people on board, the lower the tensions around an animal that generates a lot of angst.

WDFW also plans to change how it communicates its wolf activities to the public. Mostly, the agency puts out news when conflicts are ramping up, giving the public a head’s up about what’s going on, but Martorello says they’d like to put out monthly reports on the nonlethal things they’re doing.

And when situations are building to a head, he’d like to provide more of a narrative about the events than a few words in a field in a PDF.

For more details, see the Capital Press story.

Wolves Continue Packing Into NE WA, State Population Grows 28 Percent

The Evergreen State’s wolf population grew by 28 percent last year, breaching the triple-digit mark and adding a new pack in both corners of Eastern Washington.

WDFW’s annual wolf report says there were a minimum of 115 wolves in 20 packs, 10 of which were classified as successful breeding pairs, at the end of 2016.

That’s up from 90, 18 and eight coming out of 2015, and five, one and one in 2008, the first year wolves were confirmed recolonizing the state.

A WASHINGTON WOLF CAUGHT ON A WDFW CAMERA. (WDFW)

Once again the bulk of the numerical growth occurred where it’s not necessarily needed, at least to meet delisting benchmarks under the agency’s management plan for the species.

There are now 17 packs in the federally delisted eastern third of the state, including last year’s new Sherman and Touchet Packs.

Agency directorJim Unsworth says that that growth “underscores the importance of collaborating with livestock producers and local residents to prevent conflict between wolves and domestic animals.”

There are still only three packs in the North Cascades zone and none in the South Cascades.

Hunters may be buoyed to know that no wolves were known by state biologists to be running with the state’s two largest bunches of elk — the St. Helens and Yakima herds — as 2016 came to a close, but until the current wolf plan is changed, both zones require at least four successful breeding pairs three years in a row to match regional recovery goals set back in 2011.

There has, however, been increasing talk that perhaps the packs in Northeast Washington should be managed differently than those elsewhere in the state. Hunters and livestock producers have been there for awhile, but as a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner recently put it, while the species is technically still recovering statewide, they’ve already done so there.

Earlier this winter, while WDFW expressed opposition to a bill in the state legislature that would have regionally delisted wolves, wolf manager Donny Martorello added, “We do believe it’s time to begin the discussion for reviewing the plan,  talking about adaptive changes and even postdelisting management. It’s been nearly six years since the plan was adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and it was intended to be an adaptive document.”

Overall, the 2016 report shows that Washington’s wolves continue to prosper despite lethal removals for livestock depredations (seven members of the Profanity Pack last year),  increasing tribal harvest (three killed by Colville and Spokane hunters), poaching (at least two, with the cause of death of two others listed as unknown), and natural dispersal.

Telemetry from radio-collared wolves show that three went for out-of-state walkabouts. A Teanaway female went due north into British Columbia, a Huckleberry member went a straight-line distance of nearly 400 miles southwest into Montana and ended up near White Sulphur Springs, while a Smackout wolf is heading through the Idaho Panhandle, destination unknown.

But another wolf that wandered out of Northeast Oregon formed half of the new Touchet Pack in the western Blue Mountains.

The Sherman Pack was formed by a nearby Profanity Peak Pack member.

With the Sherman and despite most of the Profanities having been taken out, there are still a minimum of 80 wolves in Northeast Washington, up from 63 in 16 packs last year.

WDFW reports six wolves in Southeast Washington’s two packs, and 16 in the three in the North Cascades, up one and one, and four and none, respectively.

And it says that there are at least 13 lone wolves wandering the landscape of the state, up from 10 in 2015.

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

Like always, WDFW says these are minimum figures and that there are likely more on the landscape.

“We know there are more wolves out there,” says Martorello. “These figures are just what we’ve observed.”

A page the agency collects citizen reports at includes numerous unconfirmed observations around the state. While many don’t seem plausible because of their location or description, one from just a week ago notes a group of five chasing elk off a national forest road between Wilkeson and Mt. Rainier.

“It greatly helps (WDFW) staff in finding new packs if people would call in tracks or sightings to the hot line,” urges Dave Duncan, a lifelong hunter and cattleman who represents Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation in a state wolf advisory panel.

“We all know that there could be a pack or packs that are not found or identified at the time of their annual census, and single wolves roaming the landscape just have to be an estimate,” Duncan says.

He says he thinks WDFW’s wolf workers are “doing a great job overall.”

A lot of that work last year centered on wolf-livestock conflicts, and 2016 matched a well-established pattern across the Northern Rockies in which 20 percent of packs get in trouble, which four of the 20 in Washington did.

Nine cattle were confirmed to have been killed by wolves while another six were injured by packs. Six more dead cattle were probable wolf depredations, as was the attack on a dog.

“WDFW processed 4 claims and paid a total of $12,330.85 to compensate livestock producers who experienced direct livestock losses caused by wolves.  In 2016, the Livestock Review Board recommended payments in full to two claimants and WDFW subsequently paid a total of $65,648.19 for indirect losses possibly caused by wolves,” the report states.

As wolf numbers grow, more and more ranchers appear to be taking deterrence measures to prevent livestock attacks, according to a WDFW graph out earlier this week.

“We know that some level of conflict is inevitable between wolves and livestock sharing the landscape,” says Martorello. “For that reason, we are encouraged by the growing number of livestock producers using proactive, non-lethal measures to protect their herds and flocks over the past two years.”

Conservation Northwest’s Chase Gunnell said the organization was buoyed that wolf population was expanding “and that participation in conflict avoidance efforts are going up as well.”

As for other facts and figures, WDFW reports that in 2016, 15 wolves were captured and collared by state, tribal and university researchers, that 25 in 13 different packs were monitored, and that the average pack size was 5.1 members, with the high end being 13 and the low — and the definition of a pack — being two wolves traveling together.

The agency reports 35 pups survived to the end of the year, though how they’ve fared in what will go down as a severe winter is unknown.

As for how much it cost the state to manage wolves last year, that figure came in at $973,275, which doesn’t include expenses for range riders, livestock loss compensation, Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreements, or the contract with a facilitator to work with WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group.

That panel of ranchers, hunters and wolf advocates reached a key consensus on lethal removal protocols last spring, and it was put to the test shortly afterwards not only by the Profanity Peak Pack’s depredations, but errant statements from a Washington State University professor and out-of-state wolf fanatics. But they held together, and an excellent Bloomberg article outlined that “delicate dance.”

This year they will consider if probable wolf attacks should count as “qualifying depredations” that build towards lethal removals where now only confirmed ones are.

Of the nearly $1 million spent on actual wolf management and monitoring, WDFW reports 93 percent came from state funds  “which came from a combination of additional fees for the registration of personalized and endangered species license plates and legislative funding,” and the other 7 percent came from federal grants.

WDFW’s yearly update also includes a section outlining ongoing research into wolves’ impacts on other critters, including the agency’s recently launched Predatory-Prey Project, as well as some interesting initial details from a University of Washington study of whitetail and mule deer and wolves in eastern Okanogan County that we’ve written about before.

According to a write-up, researchers found that deer mortality was no different between wolf and nonwolf areas, but that muleys and flagtails did use different habitats where their range overlapped with Canis lupus and where it didn’t.

“The scale of shifts in habitat use patterns depended on the escape behavior of each prey species and its effectiveness in different landscape types in relation to wolf hunting behavior. Mule deer responded to wolf utilization distribution at the landscape level. Animals in wolf areas used steeper slopes, areas farther away roads, and more forested areas, compared to animals in non-wolf areas. This is likely an attempt to reduce encounter rates with wolves. White-tailed deer responded to wolf utilization distribution at the fine scale. Animals in wolf areas used more gentle slopes, areas with greater visibility, and fewer obstacles to escape, compared to animals in non-wolf areas. This is likely an attempt to aid early detection of wolves and greater chance of escape following detection. These analyses have been written up and are in the process of being submitted for peer-review in a scientific journal …” researchers state.

It will be interesting to see if other studies bear these results out, but hunters may use the information to their advantage when pursuing deer in Washington’s wolf country.

“WDFW will have to balance a fine line of ensuring wolf recovery, while preserving hunting opportunities, and protecting ungulate populations, livestock producers, and rural communities from the effects of wolves. WDFW have a lot of very good people on staff to do the job and I have full confidence in them,” says Mark Pidgeon of the Hunters Heritage Council.

As for what 2017 will bring, that’s hard to say, but a WDFW document sent out earlier this week estimates that this year’s year-end minimum wolf count will be in the range of 135 to 165 individuals.

According to population modeling, delisting goals in the current plan should be met around 2021, agency staffers have said.

Martorello says he expects packs to form south of I-90 through the Cascades and that goals are on track to be met.

CNW’s Gunnell was more circumspect.

“We wouldn’t be surprised to see individual wolves confirmed south of I-90 this year; there were several reliable sightings in 2016 but no photographs that we’re aware of. However, at this point is difficult to confidently say if a pack will be confirmed in that area. Additional research may be needed to understand if human or habitat barriers are preventing wolf expansion in the South Cascades, and with it progress towards statewide recovery goals,” he says.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog gave an incorrect count for Washington’s 2008 year-end wolf population. According to WDFW, it was five, not ten as previously stated. Our apologies.

Washington Wolf Population Into Triple Digits

Washington’s wolf population reached triple digits in 2016, state managers will report later this week.

They say that the year-end count found a minimum of 115 animals, up from 90 at the end of 2015.

A GRAPH BUILDING ON WDFW’S 2015 YEAR-END WOLF COUNT SHOWS HOW THE 2016 YEAR-END COUNT OF 115 STACKS UP AGAINST PAST YEARS. (WDFW/NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN)

That’s despite the lethal removal of seven members of the Profanity Peak Pack in northern Ferry County, and continues an unbroken trend since confirmation of Washington’s first pack in modern times in 2008.

A WDFW STAFFER’S PHOTO OF THEIR BOOT BESIDE WOLF TRACKS IN THE SNOW EARLIER THIS WINTER IN ASOTIN COUNTY. (WDFW)

The Evergreen State reached the inconsequential but notable mark a year after the Beaver State’s wolves hit three figures. Earlier this winter, in confirming at least seven breeding pairs for three straight years there, Oregon managers moved into a new management phase for wolves in the eastern third of the state.

Washington’s wolf plan has higher bars to meet management changes.

Earlier this winter WDFW launched a predator-prey study in the state’s wolfiest districts, Northeast and North-central Washington, as part of a five-year study to better determine the effect wolf recolonization is having on populations of prey and predator and across a variety of landscapes.

The 2016 count comes from a document prepared for a teleconference scheduled for tomorrow with WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group. It speculates the 2017 count could end up between roughly 135 and 165.

More specifics such as pack numbers are expected later this week, when the Fish and Wildlife Commission receives the annual report.

Dear Wolfies, We Need To Talk About Wolves. Signed, An Actual Wolf

Hey, hi, how’s it going?

Say, this morning I got a Google news alert about a story on some of my packies in Eastern Oregon, so I clicked on it and read that there’s good and bad news for them.

The good, of course, is that we’re really recovering there — hurray, us!

(As if there was any doubt we would, silly humans.)

“WHO SAID SOMETHING ABOUT DELICATE?!?” (ODFW)

The bad was that — yikes — “It’s getting a little bit easier for humans to kill” us.

Run away! Run away!

JK, we’re not going anywhere.

Sounds like our population has reached some number or another in some big old management plan document that everybody agreed to in the distant past, and now, as you two-leggers like to say, the chickens are coming home to roost.

(Pro tip: Best served raw.)

Well, duh.

Look, thanks to the reintroduction of my great-great-great-great-great grandparents, Herkimer and Wilhelmina Wolf, into the Northern Rockies 20-whatever winters ago, and those federal and state protections, we’re unstoppable.

The kid gloves you’ve been handling us with? Yeah, those can come off — and asap.

Honestly, that part of this whole thing has been way too embarrassing, for way too long.

Those sneaky little cameras on the trees and those collar thingies put around our necks apparently don’t record their taunts, but the bears and cougars give us so much sh*t about being the “bios’ little favorites” and stuff.

Even the coyotes laugh at us, and That’s. Just. Not. Cool.

So, enough with that.

And this quote from the aforementioned story? “We’re still in this very delicate phase when it comes to wolf recovery,” said Arran Robertson of Oregon Wild.

Puh-lease, wolfy, never ever use the word “delicate” in reference to us again.

We’re not delicate flowers, we’re not delicate snowflakes, we’re not delicate nothing.

Ahem, these fangs? The huge horkin’ paws?

“If you had something like a disease outbreak, that could affect a huge chunk of the population,” Robertson fretted, according to the article. “So we still want keep protections in place … because we could end up falling backwards very easily.”

Trust me, we wouldn’t feel the same way if a nice dose of the plague hit ya’ll.

You’re going to have to get used to what recovery brings with it.

I know that will be hard, but we’re wolves here, damnit. Not unicorns. Not Bigfoot.

Not circus freaks or zoo exhibits.

We’re regular animals. We’ve got day jobs, families, homes, we have fun little get-togethers, yeah OK sometimes we get in trouble with the neighbors.

(Pro tip: Best served raw.)

Speaking of, here’s another thing: Quit reporting that people in the Middle Ages made up stories like Little Red Riding Hood.

You’re killing our reputation, coyotes are laughing at us — we’re talking libel suit here!

We can handle this, really. See what we’ve done in Idaho? Montana? Northeast Washington?

Nothin’ different about Oregon; if anything this is even more fertile ground, even if it’s further away from the 1.2 trillion cousins of ours up in Canada.

Sometimes we think you want us to fail, to always be just below some magic recovery number so we can’t take our place in the animal kingdom, so that we can be your little pets for all eternity.

Not to bite the hand that feeds us …

(Yep, best served raw.)

… but let go, we got this.

 

Sincerely,

Wolfy von Wolferstein IIIIX

Eastern Oregon Wolves Reach Phase III Benchmark, ODFW Reports

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

Eastern Oregon is now in Phase III of wolf management after ODFW staff documented a third year of seven or more breeding pairs in the region east of U.S. Highways 97, 20, 395 for year 2016.

A “breeding pair” is two adult wolves that produce at least two pups that survive through the end of the year. The eight packs that qualify as breeding pairs in 2016 are Meacham and Walla Walla (Umatilla County), Catherine (Union County), and Snake River, Chesnimnus, Wenaha, Minam and a group of unnamed wolves in the Imnaha Wildlife Management Unit (Wallowa County).

SNAKE RIVER PACK WOLVES CAPTURED BY REMOTE CAMERA IN THE HELLS CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA EARLY LAST MONTH. (ODFW)

“Moving into Phase III is a significant milestone towards the recovery of gray wolves in Oregon,” says Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf biologist. “It shows how successful wolves can be in this state – in just nine years under existing management we have gone from no packs of wolves to multiple packs and an expanding distribution.”

In addition to counting wolves, ODFW biologists have placed 14 radio-collars on wolves this winter in seven groups.  Another milestone was reached on Feb. 24 when OR50 was collared in the Imnaha Wildlife Management Unit, marking the 50th wolf collared in Oregon.  Biologists may soon learn more from the DNA and radio-collar data about whether OR50 is part of a new group of wolves or a pack that shifted its home range into the area previously occupied by the Imnaha pack.

ODFW completes its annual year-end survey of wolves and announces the results in its 2016 Wolf Annual Report.  The report is set to be presented to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on April 21 in Klamath Falls.

Western Oregon remains in Phase I of wolf management, with protections that match those implemented when wolves were listed as state endangered.  Wolves also remain listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act west of U.S. Highways 395, 78, 95.

Under the current Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, Phase III continues to focus on conservation of wolves while addressing instances of wolf-human conflict.  This includes continuing to emphasize the use of non-lethal deterrents, the use of controlled take in certain situations, and expands livestock producer options for investigating potential wolf depredations of livestock.

The current Plan states that controlled take of wolves can be allowed in two specific circumstances: 1) if wolves are determined to be causing declines in ungulate populations such as deer and elk or 2) in specific cases of chronic livestock depredation.

“These Phase III provisions do not replace good faith efforts at non-lethal solutions to wolf conflicts,” Morgan says. “Take of wolves can only be considered as a management response in very specific situations and there are no plans for controlled take at this time.”

As we move into Phase III, the current Plan allows either ODFW or USDA Wildlife Services to confirm wolf depredations in Eastern Oregon. The Plan also allows USDA Wildlife Services to continue to assist ODFW with wolf damage management using the skills and experience of both agencies.  Lethal removal of wolves for specific cases of chronic depredation will be decided by ODFW and will continue to be based on a rigorous evidence-based investigation process.  USDA Wildlife Services will not assist in the lethal removal of wolves or expand its role in depredation investigations (including confirming wolf depredations) until it has evaluated its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act.

ODFW staff are currently working on a routine five-year Wolf Plan review and will present the draft, updated Wolf Plan to the Commission at their April 21 meeting, though final action on the plan is not expected to occur until later in the year.

ODFW Reports NE OR Wolf Killed Unintentionally During Wildlife Services Operations

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

Wolf OR48, a Shamrock Pack adult male, died on Feb. 26 on private land in northeast Oregon after an unintentional take by the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.

The wolf died after encountering an M-44 device, a spring-activated device containing cyanide powder. The device was in place as part of Wildlife Services operations to control coyotes and prevent coyote-livestock conflict on private land in northeast Oregon.

(odfw)

“The death of this wolf shows the risk involved when wolves are in areas where Wildlife Services conducts these types of operations,” said Doug Cottam, ODFW Wildlife Division administrator. “This is a situation we take seriously and we’ll be working with Wildlife Services with the goal of preventing it from happening again.”

 

ODFW and Wildlife Services are evaluating the incident and discussing how to prevent unintentional capture or take of wolves while addressing livestock damage problems.

“Wildlife Services’ specialists care about wildlife and work hard to prevent the unintentional take of animals when addressing human-wildlife conflicts,” said Dave Williams, state director for USDA Wildlife Services in Oregon.  “We have begun an internal review of this incident to see if any changes to our procedures are necessary.”

Wolf OR48 was collared on Feb. 10 of this year in Wallowa County and was part of the Shamrock Wolf Pack. At the time of collaring, he weighed over 100 pounds and was estimated to be just under two years old. Wolf OR48 was not the breeding male of the pack.

 

Looking Down The Road On Washington Wolves

Two conversations in Olympia on wolves over the past week will serve as sparks for discussions state residents will have in the coming years about future management of the four-legged predators, while a new study will add meat to understanding the impact they have on deer and elk in Washington.

Hunters and livestock producers have been there for awhile, but as a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner recently put it, while the species is technically still recovering statewide, they’ve already done so in Washington’s northeastern quarter, where 16 of 19 known packs roam.

Is it time to manage those differently than the few roaming elsewhere?

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

At the very least, with the wolf management plan having been considered, written and approved at a very different moment in the recolonization of the state by Canis lupus, and with the potential for packs to meet benchmarks by 2021 or so, it’s time to crack that opus open and plan for recovered populations.

FOR WHATEVER REASON, wolves have not moved very fast down the Cascades, nor west across the crest. Asked point blank yesterday by a state legislator if there are any packs south of I-90, key to achieving recovery goals, a WDFW official said there weren’t.

But meanwhile, packs in Ferry, Okanogan, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties are prospering as well as depredating, leading to increasing conflicts with ranchers and others.

That led Rep. Joel Kretz et al to propose House Bill 1872, which would direct the Fish and Wildlife Commission to delist wolves from state Endangered Species Act protections in those four counties.

“We’re well recovered,” said Kretz, a Republican who lives in eastern Okanogan County’s mountains, during a public hearing before Rep. Brian Blake’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Kretz has introduced several wolf bills over the years — one as a tongue-in-cheek gesture tweaking Westsiders — but he said this latest one was narrowly focused and has some precedence in the form of cougar removals for public safety.

He acknowledged the success WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group has had building relationships among disparate stakeholders, but said he wanted to be able to return to his district and Northeast Washington this spring with something a little more concrete than “a couple truckloads of fladry.”

Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat and hunter, later said he supports the bill but it won’t move forward this session. He explained he wants to give the WAG “a little more time” to work.

The group, comprised of hunters, livestock producers, wolf advocates and others, came together last year on a set of protocols for removing problem wolves, and stuck with it as WDFW took out members of the calf-killing Profanity Peak Pack last summer — despite high heat from outside wolf fanatics and inflammatory instate press.

Even so, several WAG members were split yesterday on HB 1872.

Conservation Northwest, the Humane Society of the United States and two Westside residents were against, while the Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association and Stevens County’s Wes McCart and Dave Dashiel were in favor.

WDFW also chimed in.

Statewide wolf manager Donny Martorello said the agency was “respectfully opposed” to the bill in favor of continuing to follow the 2011 wolf management plan.

“That being said, we do believe it’s time to begin the discussion for reviewing the plan,  talking about adaptive changes and even postdelisting management,” he added. “It’s been nearly six years since the plan was adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and it was intended to be an adaptive document.”

That will be a challenge given the make-up of the state’s residents, Martorello told the committee, but he felt that the WAG pathway would build a “solution that is durable and lasting,” and limit the pendulum swings of management shortcuts that “are not good for Washingtonians and are not good for animals.”

He says with it having taken five years to come up with the original wolf management plan, “it will take a significant amount of time” to update it, so it’s time now to start discussing things.

ONLY TWO CURRENT Fish and Wildlife Commissioners were on the oversight board back in December 2011 when the plan was unanimously approved — former chair Miranda Wecker and current chair Brad Smith.

They were among the citizen panel members who last Friday afternoon listened as Martorello and several others talked about managing wolves and people.

Their hour-long presentation included a discussion that gingerly reviewed several different scientific papers that looked at the effects of poaching and lethal control.

We nonscientists tend to see the latest paper as The Final Word, especially when it validates our opinions, but WDFW’s wolf biologists consider them to be building blocks.

“How one values wolves also influences what one perceives as being good science, because no matter your viewpoint of wolves, there’s gonna be science to support it,” said WDFW wolf specialist Scott Becker. “Wolves are one of the most studied animals on the planet and there are more scientifically peer-reviewed publications written about wolves and wolf management than almost any other species on Earth.”

Consistent management is key, he said. When people know what’s coming, they’re more likely to accept that.

WDFW’s game plan is to continue to “normalize” wolves, to manage for the population and not the individual, and treat them like any other species on the landscape, Becker said.

The presentation gave commissioners ideas to chew on, and they offered some immediate reactions.

Smith wasn’t so sure that wolves were like other species, pointing to centuries of demonization and papal decrees.

But Kim Thorburn likened the normalization of wolves to what she experienced as a physician during the HIV/AIDs epidemic, which saw “AIDs exceptionalism” that led to the disease being treated differently than other health issues.

“In order to accomplish normalizing (wolves), all of us are going to need to take some bold steps that just start changing some of those approaches to make wolves more like all the other animals that we manage,” said Thorburn. “The same thing we did with HIV — it’s now pretty normal.”

Wolf advocates have a big job ahead of them on that front — “There is some concern that if wolves are delisted at the state level, wolf hunting could become legal in Washington,” frets a KUOW story about HB 1872.

Well, duh, they’re not unicorns, rather the southwestern edge of a massive population across North America that’s hunted everywhere else they’re delisted and yet are still thriving.

On the flip side, listening to testimony during the public hearing on the bill, it’s clear that even those affected most by wolves, northeast producers, accept that they’re a part of the landscape, effective normalization of the predators’ presence, if not exactly wanted.

Wecker spoke to coming challenges in the years ahead.

  • Increasing numbers of wolves moving into the federally listed area where the state has no management authority, and;
  • Onto private ground as packs run out of room on federal and state lands;
  • And the potential for more inconsistent management due to polarized national politics.

“On top of that, what really is going to be hugely difficult is dealing with the impacts of wolves on ungulates and the expectations we have raised to our hunting community — the importance of hunters in our financial picture,” Wecker said. “All of those things create this train coming at us that’s going to be really difficult for us, because of just difficulties with the science, the litigiousness, the polarization. So as we try to tackle this goal that we have of managing wolf populations to protect ungulates or hunter opportunity, it’s just going to get that much more difficult … I welcome the idea of looking again at the wolf recovery policy/plan. There are a lot of moving parts.”

Some of what Wecker spoke to — predator-prey impacts — should be fleshed out in a new study launched this winter in North-central and Northeast Washington.

Over the next five years, WDFW and UW biologists hope to keep a couple hundred radio collars on whitetails, mule deer, elk and cougars to see what impact wolves are having on those species as well as across different landscapes. It could provide key scientific data … depending on your viewpoint, of course.

I’ll end this with some of the thoughts of Commissioner Jay Kehne, the Omak-area resident who is also a part-time staffer for Conservation Northwest.

He cautioned commissioners against cherry-picking science that supported one view or another, said that the frustration Northeast Washington residents are feeling is real and can’t be ignored, and spoke to the convergence of carrying capacity and social tolerance that is key for communities and the critters of the day.

“We eventually will have to take everything that is provided through science, as well as on-the-ground, real-life stories from conflict specialists, from our biologists, from the latest research coming out, because it’s a tough decision. We’ve got to think of this whole concept of one part of our state is at recovery, and yet what is required there might be different and yet we can’t necessarily have a regional delisting, but possibly there’s ways to manage that population at a different level.”

A convoluted (off-the-cuff) statement, certainly, but apropos for a complex situation to manage.

Final Profanity Peak Wolf Removal Report Out; Cost Pegged At $135,000

Washington wolf managers have posted a 200-page after-action report on their efforts to remove a northern Ferry County wolf pack that preyed on more than a dozen cattle last summer.

The operation, which was hindered by turnover of local staffers for unrelated reasons and thick terrain that limited the use of a helicopter to times the telemetry-collared Profanity Peak wolves were in more open areas, ran from mid-August through mid-October, ending with 15 confirmed and probable depredations on mostly calves belonging to two local ranches and the removal of seven wolves.

A PAGE IN TODAY'S REPORT SHOWS WOLF MOVEMENTS AND THE SITES OF PROBABLE AND CONFIRMED DEPREDATIONS BY THE PROFANITY PEAK PACK. (WDFW)

A PAGE IN TODAY’S REPORT SHOWS WOLF MOVEMENTS AND THE SITES OF PROBABLE AND CONFIRMED DEPREDATIONS BY THE PROFANITY PEAK PACK. (WDFW)

It tested the solidarity of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, which had recently agreed to protocols for when to take out wolves attacking livestock, but the stakeholders held together despite intense pressure from nonaligned wolf advocates and fuel-to-fire comments from a Washington State University wolf researcher that turned out to be false.

Though the end goal was to remove the entire pack, aproximately four members are still alive, and WDFW says it’s keeping an eye on them and may take out more if attacks continue in 2017.

A TABLE DETAILS THE CONFIRMED AND PROBABLE DEPREDATIONS. (WDFW)

A TABLE DETAILS THE CONFIRMED AND PROBABLE DEPREDATIONS. (WDFW)

Overall, the agency reports the effort cost just under $135,000, mostly for helicopter and staff time, but also $10,000 for a local trapper who assisted WDFW at a key time and whose work was viewed “as an opportunity to build trust with the local community.”

Funding for the lethal removals came from the agency’s Wildlife State account, which includes revenue from license sales, but not taxpayer dollars, wolf manager Donny Martorello has reported.

By comparison, efforts to prevent conflicts between sheep and the Huckleberry Pack and the removal of one member in 2014 cost $53,000, the Wedge Pack in 2012 $76,500

The rest of the document describes delayed turnout of the cattle onto grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest in June, nonlethal prevention work, supporting investigative reports complete with images of wolf-wounded calves and other evidence from the scenes of the attacks, as well as the recommendation from the regional manager to proceed with lethal removals.

Martorello will brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission tomorrow on the operation.

He also told advisory group members and other interested parties that the carcass of an adult female wolf was recovered Dec. 22. It dued after colliding with a vehicle in northern Stevens County.