Category Archives: Wolf News

Togo Pack Attacks More Cattle, WDFW Reports

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW STATEMENT

On August 8, 2018, WDFW was contacted by the 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.  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.

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

Due to the remote location and rugged terrain, the cow carcass was left on site.  Meanwhile, the livestock producer and his range rider pushed the cattle to a different area of the allotment.  The cow had been turned out as part of a cow-calf pair, but the producer and range rider were not immediately able to locate the calf.  They are continuing to search.

Throughout the grazing season the producer has used a variety of deterrent measures to protect the livestock. He delayed turnout until late June so the calves would be larger and used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves. Following turnout, he has removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment and deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle. They have moved the cattle when necessary.

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 the same producer. The producer 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. The cow and injured calf were kept at the holding pen for monitoring.

The latest incidents bring the total number of confirmed depredations by the Togo pack to five in less than 10 months, including two in November 2017 and one in May 2018. Those incidents were reported in earlier WDFW wolf updates. In four of the five incidents, producers had used at least two pro-active preventive strategies to deter wolf predation as called for in the WDFW wolf-livestock interaction protocol.

The Department first suspected the presence of the Togo pack in 2016, and the depredations in November 2017 provided further evidence of a pack in the area.  The pack was confirmed during the department’s 2017-18 winter surveys and was named in March 2018.  The pack’s discovery is discussed in the department’s August 2, 2018, update, available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/updates.php.

Based on the winter survey results and recent trapping activities, the department has documented at least two adult wolves in the pack. The pair produced an unknown number of pups this spring.  The Department captured an adult male on June 2, 2018, and fitted it with a GPS collar which provide location data that has been shared with livestock producers and county officials. WDFW has also received reports of a third adult wolf with the pack, but has not confirmed its presence.

Due to uncertainty about the number of adults in the pack, and the importance of receiving ongoing location data from the collared adult male, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind directed the staff to work through the weekend to attempt to confirm the number of adults and learn as much as possible about the pack’s activities before he considers further action.

WDFW will provide another update early next week.

Colville Tribes Report New Pack

Add another pack of wolves to Northeast Washington’s tally.

(COLVILLE TRIBES)

The Colville Tribes are reporting a new one, the Nason Pack, on the sprawling reservation across parts of Okanagan and Ferry counties.

That brings the number of packs there to five and 17 for the federally delisted upper righthand corner of the state.

They say the Nason includes the alpha male which dispersed from the Strawberry Pack, also on the reservation.

Tribal wildlife managers also report they were able to collar a member of the Frosty Pack. This March, it was reported to have six members as of the end of 2017 and that one was harvested last year.

The Colville Reservation and Spokane Reservation are the only two places in Washington where wolves can be hunted.

 

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.

USFWS Reviewing Status Of Still-listed Lower 48 Gray Wolves

It’s not just North Cascades grizzly reintroduction that federal wildlife overseers have begun working on again this year. They’re also putting in time on gray wolf delisting for the western Northwest and elsewhere, it appears.

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)

Half a decade to the month after first proposing to declare wolves recovered across the rest of the contiguous United States, a process subsequently derailed through lawsuits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “has begun reviewing the status of the species.”

That’s according to a brief two-paragraph statement emailed to Northwest Sportsman magazine Thursday afternoon by a spokesperson.

“Working closely with our federal, state, tribal and local partners, we will assess the currently listed gray wolf entities in the Lower 48 states using the best available scientific information,” it continues. “If appropriate, the Service will publish a proposal to revise the wolf’s status in the Federal Register by the end of the calendar year. Any proposal will follow a robust, transparent and open public process that will provide opportunity for public comment.”

ODFW’S LATEST WOLF PACK MAP DOESN’T SHOW THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE FEDERALLY DELISTED AND STILL-LISTED AREAS OF OREGON, BUT IT INCLUDES MUCH OF THE EASTERN THIRD OF THE STATE. THE RED LINE  (ODFW)

That could level the playing field, per se, in Washington and Oregon, where wildlife managers and livestock producers operate by different sets of rules depending on which side of a series of highways they’re on.

In spring 2011, Congress delisted wolves in each state’s eastern third — as well as all of Montana and Idaho and a portion of Utah — leaving management there up to WDFW and ODFW.

Meanwhile, federal protections continued in their western two-thirds, where lethal removal is not in the toolbox to deal with chronic depredations.

“Incompatibility between the Washington state management plan and the federal management plan creates a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves communities in Eastern Washington unable to defend themselves against increasing wolf attacks and livestock depredations,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane) wrote to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a letter earlier this week calling on his agency to look at delisting wolves.

Regardless of the ranch’s or grazing allotment’s location, both states stress preventative measures to head off cattle and sheep conflicts.

WDFW’S LATEST PACK MAP SHOWS THE DEMARCATION BETWEEN WHERE WOLVES ARE MANAGED BY THE STATE AND UNDER FEDERAL PROTECTIONS, THE BLACK LINE RUNNING NORTH-SOUTH THROUGH EASTERN WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

Later in 2011, USFWS declared the species recovered in the western Great Lakes states.

And then in June 2013, with “gray wolves no longer (facing) the threat of extinction or (requiring) the protections of the Endangered Species Act,” according to then-Director Dan Ashe, the feds proposed delisting them throughout the rest of their range.

But progress stalled, and then came a Humane Society of the United States court case addressing Canis lupus in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Unfortunately, the delisting of wolves in the Western Great Lakes region was successfully overturned by the courts, which prevented the Service from moving forward with the full delisting proposal at that time,” the second part of the USFWS statement concludes.

Last summer, a federal appeals court decision yielded mixed results, but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation saw positives, including “(undoing) a number of roadblocks thus providing a path forward.”

Over the years, Washington’s and Oregon’s wolf populations have more than doubled from 2013 levels, largely in the state-managed areas.

And now, USFWS’s big, long delisting pause appears to be over, which will excite some and make others fearful.

McMorris Rodgers Calls On Zinke To Delist Wolves, Addresses Grizzlies

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

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS. (CONGRESS/WIKIMEDIA)

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

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

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

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

Both say they’re reacting to constituents’ concerns.

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

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

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