Category Archives: Wolf News

Hunter Candidates Needed For WDFW Wolf Advisory Group

Hunters are being called on to put in their application to serve on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group.

It’s a key time to join the panel and comes as many Evergreen State sportsmen are also preparing for the opening of rifle deer season this weekend and Eastside elk later in the month.

A LATE-SEASON BLACKTAIL HUNTER LOOKS OVER WESTERN WASHINGTON REPROD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The three-year term will overlap WDFW’s development of post state delisting wolf management planning, and follows on the WAG’s steady focus on livestock conflicts since it was formed in 2013.

“This group has been extremely helpful in advising the department on the challenging issue of recovering and managing gray wolves in our state,” Director Kelly Susewind said in a press release. “We are looking for candidates who value working cooperatively with others to develop management recommendations to advise the agency.”

WDFW is also looking for representatives from the ranching, environmental and at-large communities to fill out four vacancies.

Around this time last year, when the agency made a similar call as other seats came open, a hunter urged their fellow sportsmen to put in for the WAG.

Applications are being taken through 5 p.m., Nov. 8. To apply or nominate someone, WDFW is asking for:

* The applicant or nominee’s name, address, telephone number, and email address;
* People or groups making nominations must also submit their own names and contact information;
* The candidate’s relevant experience, organizational affiliations, and reasons why they would be an effective advisory group member;
* Familiarity with Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and current wolf recovery status and management issues; and
* Experience in collaborating with people with different values.

Materials should either be emailed to wildthing@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to WDFW, P. O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

First Wolf In Washington’s Blues Removed After Cattle Attacks

WDFW reported today that it took out a Grouse Flats wolf late last month, making it the first to be killed by state managers in Washington’s Blue Mountains in response to cattle depredations there.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE ROUGH LOCATION OF THE GROUSE FLATS PACK’S RANGE, ON THE SOUTHEAST SIDE OF SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON’S BLUE MOUNTAINS. (WDFW)

The agency describes the animal as an adult female and says it’s likely the breeding female of a pack that numbered at least nine before Director Kelly Susewind authorized the incremental removal operation Sept. 24.

The Asotin-Garfield County wolves are blamed on at least seven attacks on cows and calves since August 2018, including four in the last 10 months and two in a recent 30-day period.

The incidents occurred on a mix of federal and state grazing lands and private ground.

WDFW says it’s now entered the evaluation period with the pack to see if the removal changes its behavior, “for example by disrupting the overlap of wolves and livestock, or reducing the caloric intake needs for the pack.”

There are six adults and two juveniles in the group, according to spokeswoman Staci Lehman.

The removal occurred Sept. 25, nearly a week before Gov. Jay Inslee sent WDFW a letter to do more nonlethal and less lethal management of wolves elsewhere in Eastern Washington.

“We must find new methods to better support co-existence between Washington’s livestock industry and gray wolves in our state. The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable,” the governor wrote Sept. 30 about issues in the Kettle Range that cropped up during the summers of 2019, 2018 and 2016, primarily with Diamond M Ranch cattle grazing in the Colville National Forest.

By one count, around a dozen and a half wolves — members of the Profanity and Old Profanity Territory Packs — have been removed there following chronic depredations of dozens upon dozens of cows and calves.

Wolf advocates welcomed the news while WDFW’s response to Inslee’s request was said to be “muted” by the Capital Press.

The ag-world news source also paraphrased the federal forest’s range supervisor as saying “that he doesn’t know of anything else to test, short of canceling grazing permits or closing allotments” to do in terms of nonlethal tactics.

“Anything outside of that, we have tried,” Travis Fletcher told the Press. “I would say there’s not a producer we work with who hasn’t adjusted their practices in some way.”

Inslee asked WDFW to fast track an ongoing lethal management guidelines update and work with the Forest Service, as well as gave the agency a Dec. 1 deadline for a progress report.

Most Washington wolf packs stay out of trouble with livestock, 90 percent, according to WDFW, a higher percentage than nearby states.

WDFW Responds To Inslee’s Kettle Range Wolf Management Request

Washington wildlife managers are responding to Governor Jay Inslee’s request to do something different in a very problematic part of the state for wolves and cattle, terming it a “top priority.”

“The forest conditions and livestock operations in this particular landscape make it extremely challenging, and unfortunately, has resulted in repeated lethal removal actions. We all share the perspective that something has to change to reduce the loss of both wolves and livestock in this area. WDFW believes this is consistent with the Governor’s request,” a statement sent out this afternoon to Northwest Sportsman reads.

WDFW’S 2018 WOLF MAP SHOWS WHERE WASHINGTON’S 27 KNOWN PACKS ROAMED AT THE END OF LAST YEAR. THE O.P.T. WOLVES OF NORTHEAST WASHINGTON HAVE SINCE BEEN REMOVED FOR LIVESTOCK DEPREDATIONS, AND HAVE LED TO A REQUEST FROM THE GOVERNOR TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR FUTURE WOLF-LIVESTOCK CONFLICTS IN THE KETTLE RANGE. (WDFW)

It follows on Inslee’s letter to Director Kelly Susewind last night asking the state agency to “make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”

Wolves roaming northern Ferry County’s Kettle Range were taken out by WDFW in 2016, 2018 and again this summer in response to chronic depredations on cattle mostly owned by a single ranch, the Diamond M, and largely grazing on federal forest allotments.

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back may have been piled on in mid-July, about a month before WDFW killed the last four of the eight members of the Old Profanity Territory Pack right before a court date.

The state operates under an agreed-to protocol where producers need to have been using a set number of livestock-wolf conflict avoidance measures and suffer either three wolf attacks in 30 days or four in 10 months before lethal removal is considered.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

Even as WDFW’s gray wolf email blasts chronicled preventative steps as well as the evidence the OPTs were responsible for nearly 30 attacks stretching back to last year, a mid-July update also states, “WDFW-contracted range riders did not resume riding because the livestock producer prefers that contracted range riders not work with the producer’s cattle at this time.”

Range riders are not mentioned in subsequent updates.

Just as some cowboys are all hat, certainly not all range riders are created equal, and it’s an operator’s prerogative whether to use those offered.

But pressure has also been growing on the Democratic governor running for a third term from outside as well as inside the state to do something different in this thick, steep, half-burnt neck of the woods.

Some will see Inslee’s move as inserting himself and outside opinions about wildlife into state management, as well as meddling in affairs outside his depth.

“Perhaps Gov. Inslee, whose ideas about climate change propelled his presidential campaign into a political black hole, will have more luck dazzling voters with his wolf management expertise,” shot longtime Washington hunter and gun writer Dave Workman.

Scott Nielsen of the Cattle Producers of Washington said he’d like to see Inslee more worried about his herd, per a Capital Press story out today.

Indeed, it will be very interesting to see what better ideas the governor and his staff can come up with for better managing this cauldron.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

Some appear to want an all-but-hands-off wolf management approach, with the Center For Biological Diversity trumpeting about Inslee’s request for a new tack and his appreciation for “these ecologically essential and wondrous animals.”

It will also be interesting to see if CBD gets involved more closely going forward.

Instate wolf advocates say they are glad Inslee weighed in.

Conservation Northwest put out a statement this morning stating they agree “that more work is needed in certain areas, including northeast Washington’s Kettle River Mountain Range. We’re committed to collaborating with agency staff, ranchers, biologists and others to continue moving towards the goal of long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities.”

Love them, loath them or just wish this never-ending cow-lupus drama would end already, ultimately in a state like Washington, wolves are going to be around for a very long time, and there are other aspects of their management that have gone overlooked for far too long and deserve time too, namely ungulate impacts and possible hunting permits down the road.

Whether this new push from the governor helps or hurts that remains to be seen as well.

As it stands, roughly 90 percent of the state’s 27 known packs aren’t causing any issues with livestock — this grazing season anyway — according to WDFW.

But with conflict in the Kettles “greatly impacting many of our communities, including ranching communities, environmental communities,” and itself, WDFW said it will “continue working with the Wolf Advisory Group and stakeholders on minimizing conflict proactively with lethal removal as a last resort.”

“We are also engaging with the local community, the US Forest Service, and others to seek new solutions for this challenging landscape,” WDFW stated.

Meanwhile, there are two ongoing wolf removal authorizations in Eastern Washington that have not been placed on hold because of the governor’s letter.

“The Togo authorization still stands, although we haven’t been actively working to remove wolves from that pack in several weeks as the right opportunity — conducive weather, employee schedules, helicopter scheduling, etc. — hasn’t been available,” said a spokeswoman.

The Togo operation began not long after the nearby OPT removals, but in sharp contrast, no pack members have been killed.

“The Grouse Flats authorization still stands as well,” the spokeswoman added.

It’s the first against a pack in all of Southeast Washington since wolves began moving back into the neighborhood.

 

Washington Governor Asks WDFW For Changes In Wolf Management

Updated 6:30 a.m., Oct. 1, 2019.

For the second time in recent years, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is stepping in state wildlife managers’ wheelhouse on predator management, in 2015 with cougars and this fall over wolves.

He sent WDFW Director Kelly Susewind a letter today that in part asks the agency to “make changes in the gray wolf recovery program to further increase the reliance on non-lethal methods, and to significantly reduce the need for lethal removal of this species.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

Referring to issues in Ferry and Stevens Counties, Inslee claims that the state wolf plan “does not appear to be working as intended” there and that he believes WDFW “cannot continue using the same management approach on this particular landscape.”

Northeast Washington is not only where the most wolves in the state are and where recovery goals were met long ago but also the sight of the most conflicts with livestock, mostly cattle but some sheep, on federal allotments and private lands.

Even as most Washington wolf packs generally stay out of trouble, there have been chronic depredations in the Kettle Range three of the past four years with the Profanity Peak, Old Profanity Territory, Togo and Sherman Packs coming under WDFW’s gun as livestock pile up and nonlethal tactics fail.

The agency uses a hard-won protocol to detrmine when to remove wolves, with requirements that producers use a set number of conflict prevention measures and that there have been either three confirmed/probable wolf attacks in a month or four confirmed in a year. It was agreed to by WDFW and members of its Wolf Advisory Group, made up of ranchers, hunters, advocates and others from Washington. Ever since it has been in place, out-of-state groups have been trying to blow it up.

Triggered by issues there again this year, wolf advocates, mostly from out of state and now including Wayne Pacelle, formerly of HSUS, have been mounting yet another pressure campaign on the governor.

It also involved a court battle this summer that saw WDFW lethally remove what were believed to be the last four OPT wolves just before a judge ordered them to cease the operation.

“We must find new methods to better support co-existence between Washington’s livestock industry and gray wolves in our state. The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable,” writes Inslee.

Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) is right in the thick of things in Northeast Washington and read the letter for the first time this evening.

He reiterated that he supports non-lethal work that is site-specific as well as more innovative local range riding programs, but also said that problem wolves need to be dealt with quickly, effectively and completely to head off more down the road.

He feels that 2018’s and 2019’s OPT Pack was the same as the Profanities that were in the middle of 2016’s end-of-summer nightmare.

Kretz said he prefers working with those invested in the area and claimed groups like Center for Biological Diversity are driven to create conflict for the revenues it brings in rather than the good of the local community.

“I think it’s people from hundreds of miles away throwing hand grenades,” Kretz said.

Pacelle’s Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy bought a full-page ad in The Seattle Times this summer and reintroduced former WSU professor Rob Wielgus, now in Oregon, back into the fray. A Spokane-based group also put a message on a video billboard along I-5 for a couple week.

WDFW wasn’t expected to have a comment until Tuesday.

The letter to Susewind and cc’ed to Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Larry Carpenter comes not long after the director authorized incremental removals on the Grouse Flats Pack in the Blue Mountains and as there is an ongoing operation on the Togo Pack, and WDFW sent Inslee a request to include $26 million from the state General Fund in its supplemental budget next legislative session.

It arrives as the federal grazing season wraps up.

And it comes as WDFW’s post wolf delisting planning stage kicked off earlier in September.

“I believe the Canadian Gray wolf population within Washington’s borders has reached a population level that warrants delisting by the Fish and Wildlife Commission,” Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), chairman of the House natural resources committee which WDFW legislation goes through, said Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Inslee is asking the agency to fast track an ongoing lethal management guidelines update and work with the Forest Service, which is in charge of grazing on national forest lands.

And he gave them a Dec. 1 deadline for a progress report on his requests.

Blue Mountains Wolf Pack To Be Targeted For Cattle Depredations

State wolf managers are giving eight hours’ court notice before going after a pack in Washington’s southeast corner.

THE GROUSE FLATS PACK ROAMS THE SOUTHEASTERN CORNER OF WASHINGTON’S BLUE MOUNTAINS, A MIX OF FEDERAL AND STATE LANDS AND RANCHES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW says the Grouse Flats wolves have two depredations in the past 30 days, four in 10 months — the threshold for consideration of lethal removal — and seven overall since August 2018.

“Proactive nonlethal deterrents … used by livestock producers in the area have not influenced pack behavior to reduce the potential for continued depredations on livestock,” the agency stated in an update announcing Director Kelly Susewind’s decision.

The operation is described as “incremental,” which means pursuing wolves and possibly taking out one in hopes of changing the pack’s behavior. A period of evaluation follows to see if it worked.

Unless headed off in court today, it will be the first time that WDFW has gone after wolves in the Blue Mountains.

All other lethal operations have occurred in Northeast Washington’s Kettle, Huckleberry and Selkirk Ranges.

The Grouse Flats wolves have killed or injured calves and cows belonging to at least four different producers and which were grazing on a mix of private land and on state wildlife area and Forest Service allotments, according to WDFW chronologies.

It’s one of four known packs that den on the Washington side of the mountain range. Another half dozen or so are on the Oregon side.

“The lethal removal of wolves in the Grouse Flats pack is not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach the statewide recovery objective,” WDFW said in its announcement, posted before 8 a.m. to get the court clock ticking.

Earlier this summer, the agency said it had eliminated the Old Profanity Territory Pack for chronic cattle attacks in northern Ferry County.

It has also been targeting the Togo Pack, in the same region of Northeast Washington for depredations going back to 2017, but none have been removed.

In other Evergreen State wolf news, tomorrow, Sept. 25, is WDFW’s second webinar as it begins planning for how to manage the species after delisting.

Unlike the first, this one will be held during the lunch hour, from 12 to 1 p.m., for those who were unable to participate during dinnertime, when the last one was held last week.

The third is coming up Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6-7:30 p.m.

WDFW’s monthly report for August also describes the wounding of a wolf that approached ranch hands in northeastern Okanogan County.

On Aug. 30, ranch personnel encountered the Beaver Creek wolf pack on private land while searching for a bear seen earlier that morning. A 16-year-old deceased cow was in the area; wolves were not seen feeding on it and the cause of death was unknown. After one of the ranch personnel fired a shot over three adult wolves observed, all of the pack members (four pups in addition to the three adults) retreated, except one adult not previously seen. The wolf that remained approached the ranch personnel. They felt threatened and shot it, and believe they injured the wolf. It retreated and was not located after a search by WDFW staff. Staff believe that the behavior observed indicates the ranch personnel came upon the Beaver Creek rendezvous site.

The update had “no activity to report” for 17 of state’s 27 known packs, couldn’t report on three that occur on the Colville Reservation, where the tribes are the lead managers, listed deterrence measures being taken to prevent conflicts with a pair of Kittitas County packs and grazing sheep and cows, and said trail cams were being put up in the Wedge Pack territory to monitor wolves there.

A Spokane Spokesman-Review article last week details the newest member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, Bill Kemp, a retired cross-country coach who owns 300 acres which is roamed by the Carpenter Ridge Pack.

And also in the SSR in mid-September, Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Dr. Kim Thorburn penned an op-ed that took issue with one from Sophia Ressler of the Center for Biological Diversity that criticized lethal removals as “cruel” and a waste of money spent developing wolf management policies.

“It was also full of accusations against ranchers who are trying to sustain a livelihood in wolf country,” Thorburn wrote. “It seems crueler to level fraught allegations of malfeasance against passionate professionals devoting their lives to the preservation, protection and perpetuation of the state’s wildlife and to force unscientific anthropomorphic values on rural communities living among wolves.”

WDFW Schedules Wolf Webinars To Talk Postrecovery Planning, Management

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled three online, interactive webinars this September and October to discuss planning and management for wolf populations once they are no longer listed as endangered in the state.

“We know that wolves are a huge topic of interest to the public and we want to hear everyone’s input, in a respectful and productive way, on how to manage them,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “These digital open houses will allow anyone who is interested to learn about Washington’s wolves, ask questions, and find out how to provide feedback on the topic.”

While public comment won’t be accepted during the webinars, the goal is to both educate about wolves and share ways that people can voice their thoughts to WDFW concerning wolf management. This input will help to inform the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process that will be used to develop a post-recovery plan for wolves.

The dates for the interactive webinars are:

Everyone is welcome to take part in these webinars. They can be accessed by either clicking the links above or going to the home page of the WDFW website at wdfw.wa.gov and clicking on a link there.

There are other ways to participate in WDFW’s scoping process as well; WDFW is accepting comments via an online survey, online commenting, and in writing by mailing to Lisa Wood, WDFW – Wolf Post-Recovery Plan Scoping, PO Box 43200, Olympia WA 98504-3200.

“This is an important topic that many people are passionate about and we want ideas on how to find a balance where wolves can coexist with people, livestock, and other wildlife,” Susewind added.

The public scoping comment period remains open until Nov. 1. The Department’s work to develop this plan is a multi-year effort and, as wolf management options begin to take shape, there will be further opportunities to engage with agency staff.

More information on wolves in Washington and wolf post-recovery planning can be found at wdfw.wa.gov/wolves-post-recovery.

Editor’s note: Here is what the webpage immediately above states:

Wolf post-recovery planning: Purpose, background, and FAQs

Purpose

The purpose of this Environmental Impact Statement is to develop an updated conservation and management plan for wolves in Washington to ensure a healthy, productive wolf population with long-term stability once wolves are recovered and no longer designated as state or federally endangered. The plan will guide WDFW in long-term wolf conservation and management.

Background

Historically, gray wolves (Canis lupus) were common throughout most of Washington, but they declined rapidly between 1850 and 1900. The primary cause of this decline was the killing of wolves by Euro-American settlers as ranching and farming activities expanded. They were essentially eliminated as a breeding species from the state by the 1930s. Wolves were classified as endangered in Washington at the federal level in 1973 and at the state level in 1980.

Confirmed reports of dispersing wolves in northern Washington from growing populations in Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia, Canada began to increase after 1990, but the first resident pack in the state since the 1930s was not documented until 2008 in Okanogan County in north-central Washington. Since that time, wolves have continued to naturally recolonize the state by dispersing from resident Washington packs and neighboring states and provinces.

In response to the return of wolves to Washington, there was a need for a state recovery plan per WAC 220-610-110, and in anticipation of the eventual return of all wolf management to the state, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) initiated development of a state wolf conservation and management plan under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) in 2007. Assisted by an 18-member working group comprised of stakeholders, the plan was developed during 2007–2011 and was adopted in December 2011 by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission. The 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan provided the outline for state wolf management and was designed to restore and protect a self-sustaining wolf population in Washington. It is the guiding document for wolf management in the state to date.

Since 2008, Washington’s wolf population has grown by an average of 28 percent per year. As of December 31, 2018, wolf numbers in Washington have increased to a minimum of 126 individuals, 27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs, marking a population increase for the 10th consecutive year and the highest counts to date. Not only is Washington’s wolf population growing, but its distribution is also expanding westward in the state. In 2018, WDFW biologists confirmed the state’s first wolf pack west of the Cascade crest in the modern era, while the number of packs in the North Cascades recovery region increased from three to five and the number of successful breeding pairs from one to three. WDFW is confident that Washington’s wolf population is on a path leading to successful recovery.

In addition, on March 15, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposal to federally delist gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Under the proposal, wolves in Washington statewide would be federally delisted and management authority would be returned to the state, except for tribal reservations and national parks.

In anticipation of and given the pace of wolf recovery, and in light of potential listing status changes, WDFW proposes to develop a post-recovery conservation and management plan for wolves to guide long-term wolf conservation and management under state authority once wolves are considered recovered in Washington and are no longer designated as state or federally endangered.

FAQs

What is a post-recovery plan?     

A post-recovery conservation and management plan for wolves will guide long-term wolf conservation and management under state authority once the wolf population in Washington is considered recovered and is no longer designated as state or federally endangered.

Doesn’t the department already have a wolf plan?

Yes, the department currently uses the 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to guide wolf conservation and management in Washington. However, this plan is now eight years old and was developed specifically to inform and guide wolf recovery in the state while wolves are considered endangered. The new wolf plan will focus on how the department will conserve and manage wolves in the long term after wolf recovery objectives are achieved.

Why does the department need to develop a new wolf plan now?

Given the current pace of wolf recovery, the post-recovery planning process is being initiated proactively because WDFW anticipates it will likely take two to three years to complete. Ideally, the pace of our planning process would match the pace of Washington wolf recovery.

How will the department develop a wolf post-recovery plan?

The department will propose development of the plan using the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process. This involves preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be available for public review. This statement will evaluate actions, alternatives, and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management.

The first step of the SEPA process involves scoping, which helps us determine proposed actions, alternatives, and impacts to be discussed in the impact statement. Scoping improves decisions and encourages collaboration, cooperation, and early resolution of potential conflicts. It is intended to narrow the impact statement to the relevant issues.

Scoping is a public process and we encourage everyone to provide input.

How can I provide my input?

Please submit comments in one of the following ways:

Comments can be submitted online (our preferred method for receiving comments).

Mail a written comment to:

Lisa Wood
SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division
P.O. Box 43200
Olympia, WA 98504

We are unable to accept or record verbal comments. The deadline for submitting comments is Nov. 1, 2019 at 5:00 pm.

What is the time frame for this effort?

Right now, we’re in the scoping phase for this project. We plan to review comments, write a draft environmental impact statement, and hold more public open houses once the draft environmental impact statement is released. The final plan is expected to be completed in 2021.

WDFW Calls Off Postrecovery Wolf Meetings Due To Potential Disruptions

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is canceling a series of in-person wolf post-recovery planning open houses and will schedule online, interactive webinars this September and October.

WDFW BRASS SPEAK BEFORE AN AUDIENCE OF AROUND 150 DURING AN OCTOBER 2014 MEETING ON WOLVES HELD IN LYNNWOOD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“We’ve seen incredible intensity around wolf issues this summer, on both sides of the issue. For outreach to be meaningful, our meetings have to be productive. Unfortunately, we’ve received some information that indicates to us that the meetings could be disrupted, possibly creating an unsafe meeting environment for the public participating,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Based on our initial outreach to stakeholders, we think digital open houses and a robust survey will be our most productive means of gathering feedback on this initial scoping effort.”

The open houses were aimed at helping to inform the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process that will be used to develop a post-recovery plan. The first step in the SEPA process involves scoping.

“Scoping helps us determine proposed actions, alternatives, and impacts to be considered in the post-recovery wolf plan,” said Julia Smith, WDFW wolf coordinator. “The scoping process is intended to improve decisions, find early resolutions to potential conflicts, and frame the relevant issues. We want this to be a thoughtful and constructive process for all involved.”

In lieu of the public open houses, the Department will hold three live webinars open to all, where participants can receive information, ask questions, and learn how to provide input. The dates for these digital open houses will be announced soon. The Department’s work to develop this plan is a multi-year effort. As wolf management options begin to take shape, there will be further opportunities to engage with agency staff.

The public scoping comment period will remain open until Nov. 1 and the Department is encouraging interested parties to provide input on the scope of the future wolf plan. The Department is accepting comments via online survey and in writing.

“We will schedule additional in-person engagement opportunities later in the process, once we have a draft plan and are requesting comments.  We will do our best to ensure that those meetings will be productive and safe.” Susewind added.

Washington’s wolf population has been growing since 2008. WDFW proposes to develop a post-recovery conservation and management plan to guide long-term wolf conservation and management under state authority.

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WDFW Releases More Info On Removal Of OPT Pack, Court Case Impact

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW PRESS RELEASE

On the morning of Aug. 16, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lethally removed the four known remaining members of the OPT wolf pack. A series of WDFW investigations had shown the pack responsible for 29 depredation incidents.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind reauthorized the lethal removals on July 31 (wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/updates/wdfw-director-reauthorizes-lethal-opt-7-31-2019), in response to continuing depredations of cattle on federal grazing lands in the Kettle River range of Ferry County.

The removal decision was made with guidance from the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00001)

and the lethal removal provisions of the department’s wolf-livestock interaction protocol (wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-02/final_protocol_for_wolf-livestock_interactions_jun012017.pdf).

The OPT pack has been involved in 14 livestock depredations in the last 10 months, with nine in the last 30 days, and a total of 29 since Sept. 5, 2018. The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock took several proactive, nonlethal, conflict deterrence measures to reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, and WDFW will continue to monitor for wolf activity in the area and work closely with producers.

This was the fourth time Director Susewind has authorized lethal removal in the OPT pack since Sept. 12, 2018 (wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/updates/wdfw-director-authorizes-lethal-action).

Plaintiffs, supported by the Maryland-based Center for a Humane Economy, filed a petition for review of Director Susewind’s July 31 reauthorization, and sought a temporary restraining order in King County Superior Court on Aug. 1. The motion for a restraining order was denied by a court commissioner at the time, allowing the removal effort to continue. The hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction was scheduled for Aug.16, when the court was expecting to, and did, hear an update on the department’s removal activities.

According to Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for WDFW, the department had been working steadily to meet its stated intentions since the courts gave it the clearance to move forward on Aug. 1. To date the department has removed:

· On Aug. 7, one wolf

· On Aug. 8, one wolf

· On Aug.13, one wolf

· On Aug.16, four wolves

WDFW believes it has removed all members of the OPT pack, although another wolf was sighted in the area late this spring. That wolf may have dispersed from a different pack.

“I know this is an extremely difficult time for many of our communities around the state and having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is something we take very seriously,” said Director Susewind. “Hopefully we can pull from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to find better solutions for coexistence.

Counsel for WDFW appeared in court today for the preliminary injunction hearing. The court was informed of the lethal removals that have occurred since the Aug. 1 hearing. At the end of the hearing, King County Superior Court Judge John McHale ruled from the bench and issued a preliminary injunction that would prohibit WDFW from lethally removing any remaining wolves from the OPT pack until the court has a chance to hear the merits of the case.

In April 2019, the department reported 27 wolf packs in Washington. A summary of Washington wolf recovery and activity can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf.

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WDFW Takes Out 4 More OPT Wolves, But Must Stop Removals After Judge’s Decision

Updated 4:30 p.m., Aug. 16, 2019 with news at bottom on the depredations of a nearby pack.

Hardcore wolf advocates won something of a pyrrhic victory in a King County court this morning.

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

A judge granted a temporary restraining order that bars WDFW from taking out any more Old Profanity Territory wolves, but with four killed this morning, there’s only one left out of the chronically depredating northern Ferry County pack.

That means lethal removal operations are now on pause.

The news was first mentioned on Western Wildlife Conservation’s Facebook page.

“We won but we lost!!” the group posted.

Earlier this month “two Washington residents” represented by Seattle attorney Johnathon Bashford and “with the support” of Wayne Pacelle’s Center for a Humane Economy filed a petition in King County Superior Court to halt the removals.

That was initially decided in WDFW’s favor with the parties ordered to return today to court for a status report update.

That appears to have been decided in advocates’ favor.

“We’ll have to go back to court for a trial that we don’t have a date for,” said spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.

She said that two of the four wolves taken out in this morning’s remarkably efficient operations were also collared animals, while two were not.

In an update earlier this week, WDFW said that it had removed an adult and two juveniles since Aug. 6, and before that it had taken out the breeding male in an attempt to change the pack’s behavior.

There were at least nine members when the pack began again attacking livestock grazing on federal allotments on the Colville National Forest near Republic.

The OPTs are now blamed for 29 cow and calf attacks since last September, nine in the past 30 days.

“Having to carry out lethal removals of wolves is a difficult situation and something the Department takes very seriously. WDFW makes every effort to make a responsible decision after considering the available evidence,” the state agency said in a statement. “We appreciate the time the court put into reviewing this material and will work with the court throughout the process ahead.”

Western Wildlife Conservation is stating that with the judge’s order that WDFW can’t remove wolves from other packs such as the Togos, which are under the gun for a series of depredations, but Lehman says that that is not her understanding that the judge’s order pertained strictly to the OPTs.

The area has been the scene of past livestock attacks, most notably in 2016.

Groups outside the mainstream have been trying to impact how wolves are managed in Washington.

Last year it was the Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Oregon with the Togo Pack.

Now it’s Pacelle’s new Maryland-based organization, which put out word yesterday on today’s court hearing.

Earlier this summer they also spread news that a full-page ad had been taken out in The Seattle Times as well as reintroduced Rob Wielgus into the fray, he of the 2016’s incendiary comments about the Diamond M and where they allegedly turned their cows out — and which led to a sharp rebuke from the university where he worked at the time.

CHE did not immediately respond to a request to identify the Washington residents involved in the suit. Instead, they focused on blaming the Diamond M for “baiting wolves.”

Meanwhile, more pragmatic wolf fans are highlighting how they are working with ranchers to reduce livestock conflicts.

And late this afternoon, WDFW reported that the nearby Togo Pack was responsible for injuring two calves and killing another.

They were reported last Sunday, Aug. 11, and investigations determined that the dead calf had been killed just hours before, while the wounds to the others likely occurred three to seven days prior to their discovery.

WDFW says their owner “removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, calves away from areas occupied by wolves, avoids known wolf high activity areas, and monitors the herd with a range rider. A WDFW-contracted range rider has been working with this producer since May.”

It raises the Togo’s depredation tally to six in the past 30 days and 14 in the past 10 months. Thresholds for considering lethal action is three in 30 and four in 10.

On. Aug. 9 WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the removal of the entire pack, but according to the update, none have been but the removal period is ongoing.

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3 More Wolves Removed From OPT Pack; Operation ‘Ongoing’

WDFW reported yesterday afternoon that it had removed three more Old Profanity Territory wolves, making four for the summer and six overall as the agency deals with a pack blamed for 29 livestock depredations since last September.

The latest animals are described as an adult and two juveniles, and WDFW describes the lethal operation as “ongoing” in a weekly updated posted to its website.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE OPT PACK TERRITORY, OUTLINED IN RED, IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

The problems are occurring on Colville National Forest grazing allotments in the Kettle Range of northern Ferry County, scene of past years’ wolf-livestock conflicts as well.

Another nearby pack is also the subject of a Director Kelly Susewind removal order after three depredations in a month and four in ten.

“We did not receive any court challenges on the Togo Pack, so we can move forward,” WDFW spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane reported this morning.

Monday was the agency’s designated eight-hour window for opponents to file a restraining order, though they can also do so at any time.

Diehard wolf advocates had attempted to block the OPT lethal authorization in a King County court early this month but a judge allowed it to move forward pending an August 16 “follow-up status report.”

Meanwhile money is being raised for an I-5 billboard and pressure is being mounted on the governor.

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