Category Archives: Wolf News

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.

WDFW Investigates Stevens Co. Depredations; Wolves Reported Back In Profanity Peak Area

Things are getting busy again in Northeast Washington, home to the most wolves in the state and increasing efforts to keep them from tangling with livestock.

On the heels of May 20’s confirmed wolf depredation in northern Ferry County, state wildlife managers investigated a dead calf in neighboring Stevens County last Friday.

They found that wolves had scavenged on the carcass, but there were “no indicators” the predators had killed the calf, so the loss went down as an “unconfirmed cause of death.”

WOLVES HAVE TURNED UP AGAIN IN THE PROFANITY PEAK AREA OF NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY, WHERE THIS ONE WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN SEPTEMBER 2014. (WDFW)

WDFW reported that the producer has been using deterrents such as human presence, flagged fencing and trail cameras to keep watch on livestock. They were also provided with fox lights, horns, fireworks and a state-contracted range rider to “help reduce wolf activity.”

The agency also said this month it had investigated at least three other dead or injured Stevens County calves and sheep, classifying them as bear and cougar attacks and a nondepredation event.

Attempts to catch the bruin and lion were unsuccessful, WDFW reported.

Staffers also checked on a report of missing cattle in Stevens County but found none.

Also in the county in May, biologists spent time trying to catch Huckleberry Pack wolves to get telemetry on them, but were unsuccessful.

In June they hope to put collars on members of the Lookout, Grouse Flats, Beaver Creek and Togo Packs. The Togos were involved with the aforementioned confirmed calf depredation in Ferry County a week and a half ago.

State and county wolf works also discovered new wolf activity in the Profanity Peak region, to the south of the Togos’ initial range dot and where seven members of a pack that preyed on more than a dozen cattle were lethally removed in 2016.

They’ll be working with local producers to get ahead of potential conflicts as turnout on federal grazing allotments in the Kettle Range begins, WDFW reports.

And biologists will be following up on recent reports from the Central and South Cascades. The latter area is where dung detection dogs will be used as well to try and find wolves.

Northern Ferry Co. Wolf Pack Kills Calf

A northern Ferry County wolf or wolves killed a young calf early this week as a new pack appears to have resumed its livestock-chasing ways.

Washington wildlife managers believes the Togo Pack is responsible for this depredation as well as two early last November that resulted in an injured and a dead calf.

Another wolf was shot in the area late last October after being caught by a producer in the act of pursuing cattle.

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

The latest incident occurred north of Orient, a small community along the lower Kettle River, and was discovered by a woodcutter who heard a cow bawling and observed a black-coated wolf running from the scene.

The producer was alerted and told WDFW that the calf had been seen alive earlier that day.

It was described as a week-and-a-half old black Angus owned by Ron Eslick and was found dead on federal ground about a third of a mile from the rancher’s brother’s residence, according to a Capital Press story.

The carcass was necropsied by a state official as well as a local county wildlife specialist.

“The investigators found that the calf had bite lacerations and puncture wounds to both rear quarters, upper rear legs, neck and sternum, consistent with predation by a wolf. Hemorrhaging was visible near the bite wounds and was also found in the left front armpit, where no lacerations or punctures were visible. Evidence indicated the calf was alive during the depredation event,” WDFW reported.

“A lot of the quarters were eaten off,” Eslick told the Press. “If we had come two hours later, it would have been eaten and nobody would have known anything about it.”

According to WDFW, the producer had been using at least one proactive deterrence measure, checking on their animals daily.

The agency’s depredation protocols require at least two to be used and to have failed before lethal removal is considered.

Later on Sunday, a range rider was put on the job of keeping the Togos and cattle apart.

Last November’s two qualifying depredations occurred despite multiple deterrents being employed.

WDFW can go after problem wolves if there are four attacks in a rolling 10-month period or three in 30 days, with various criteria.

The Togo Pack is a new one and local reports last year helped WDFW confirm it.

It had two members at the end of 2017 and is named for a nearby mountain in the northern Kettle Range.

Wolf Lawsuit Dismissed By Western Washington Judge

A South Sound judge has dismissed out-of-state wolf groups’ lawsuit against state fish and wildlife managers, saying it’s moot now that the lethal removal order against the now-defunct pack has been lifted.

However, WDFW has agreed to Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese’s request to provide an eight-hour window for the public to challenge in court any pending plans to take out any livestock-depredating wolves.

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)0

The agency essentially already does that as attacks on cows, calves, sheep or lambs are tracked over time, and it puts out a press release announcing that lethal action is about to begin against a number of animals.

The lawsuit wss filed last year during Sherman Pack operations by the Center for Biological Diversity of Arizona and Cascadia Wildlands of Eugene, Oregon.

WDFW says it takes livestock depredations and wolf removals seriously and it will continue working with stakeholders as it implements the wolf management plan and protocols that generally stress non-lethal work and killing problem wolves as a last resort.

Typically, one out of every five packs gets involved in depredations.

WSU Wolf, Cougar Researcher Resigning In Settlement

Washington State University and a wolf and cougar researcher there are parting ways under a $300,000 settlement.

Rob Wielgus will resign as part of the deal in which neither party admits wrongdoing following an academic freedom lawsuit filed by the professor and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility against the school.

WSU’S ROB WIELGUS SPEAKS DURING A WOLF SYMPOSIUM. (YOUTUBE)

A brief statement from WSU said the money would come from the state.

Over the years, Wielgus garnered attention with his counterintuitive carnivore studies, and was a darling of wolf advocates with his research that appeared to show killing livestock-depredating wolves just resulted in more attacks.

But other researchers found lethal removals could yield different results, and Wielgus began to fall out of favor with some former allies following his summer 2016 claim that a Northeast Washington livestock producer had turned out his cattle “directly on top” of a wolf den but in fact were released 5 miles away and which led to a stunning rebuke from the university.

Subsequent articles by The Seattle Times detail tensions over Wielgus between ranching and political interests and university officials and programs.

In a PEER press release, Wielgus said WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, which he headed up, will close.

PEER claimed that without the professor’s work, “Washington lacks a coherent, science-based wolf management policy.”

The lab’s listed assistant director is now WDFW’s statewide wolf specialist.

ODFW Removes Two More Wolves From Depredating Pack

Oregon wolf managers lethally removed two more members of a pack that’s now killed four calves and injured six others in five incidents in the state’s northeastern corner.

(ODFW)

The news comes as local producers continue calling for all members of the new Pine Creek Pack to be taken out. The depredations have impacted two different ranchers.

ODFW had previously authorized killing two wolves for early-April depredations, and one was killed almost immediately by agency personnel.

But following subsequent depredations that occurred around 5 miles away and were confirmed on Sunday and Monday, last night ODFW authorized killing two more.

Those two animals are described as an uncollared yearling female and an adult male that is also uncollared. They were shot on private land from a helicopter.

One more wolf can be killed at the site of the April 6-7 depredations, either by the state agency or a rancher who was issued a permit that’s good till early May.

“Producers in the new area have been implementing non-lethal activities including burying bone piles and removing carcasses,” ODFW reported. “Ranch staff have hazed the wolves away multiple times. Ranch staff have also been patrolling cattle from before daylight until darkness daily and keeping track of the wolves’ location with ODFW assistance.  Finally, ranch staff have delayed turning out cattle on large open range pastures and have moved cattle from pastures where  the most recent depredations occurred.”

The Pine Creek wolves currently number five, the breeding pair and three yearlings.

Actual Oregon Wolf Recalls How Last Year Wolfies Fretted Numbers Had Stagnated – ‘LOL’

Hey, Wolfies, I’m baaaaaaaaaa-ack!

Remember me? It’s Jimbo! You may know me as OR777, or whatever this collar says — I can’t quite see the label on the damn thing and my packies can’t read either.

JIMBO THE OREGON WOLF. (ODFW)

Anyway, about this time last year ya’ll were fretting that Oregon’s wolf population growth had “stalled,” that it was “stagnant.”

Apparently those saps at ODFW could only find 112 of us at the end of 2016, just two more than the previous December.

(Might help their count if we ever saw any of them looking around in the woods — insert hungry wolf emoji here.)

But coming the year after the state biologists delisted us from Special Snowflake Status, it gave ya’ll a pretty good excuse to wring your hands and look all worried that we still needed “protection.”

(With Fenrir as my witness, good grief you embarrass us sometimes — these fangs? these claws? long-distance leg muscles? ability to freak people right the @%$@ out with a good long stare? We did not evolve these traits just to be coddled, OK.)

Sooooo I just got an email update from ODFW and it says here that, at the very least, we’re up to 124 of us Oregon wolves.

I’m not that good at math, as you can imagine, but I guess that’s like better than 10 percent population growth, and I don’t want this to get too X-rated because this is a family blog, you understand, but let’s just say that that randy dog up in Northeast Washington ain’t the only Northwest canine who knows how to woo ’em — we had a third more breeding pairs last year too.

Also, we’ve now taken over nine counties — surrender, La Grande, we gotcha surrounded!

Not too shabby for a population you thought had forgotten how to breed and raise pups, LOL.

That is what you want us to do, right?

I don’t mean to be all gross and vomit your words back in your face — I’ll be doing a lot of upchucking myself this spring with dead deer and elk because my better half is due any day now — but thanks anyway, wolfies, we gonna be all right here.

Oh, by the way, what’s this I hear that you’re trying to run this same exact “stagnation” ploy up in Washington now?

ODFW Says Minimum Of 124 Wolves Roaming Oregon

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

ODFW wildlife biologists counted 124 wolves in Oregon this past winter, an 11 percent increase over the number counted last year.

THE BREEDING FEMALE OF THE WALLA WALLA PACK MOVES PAST A LOGSTACK IN UMATILLA COUNTY THIS PAST JANUARY. (ODFW)

This count is based on verified wolf evidence (like visual observations, tracks, and remote camera photographs) and is considered the minimum known wolf population, not an estimate of how many wolves are in Oregon.

Twelve wolf packs were documented at the end of 2017. Eleven packs were successful breeding pairs, meaning that at least two adults and two pups survived to the end of the year. This marks a 38 percent increase in breeding pairs from 2016.

“The wolf population continues to grow and expand its range in Oregon,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Wolf Coordinator. “This year, we also documented resident wolves in the northern part of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains for the first time.”

More information about the minimum wolf count is available in Oregon’s 2017 Annual Wolf Report. See the full report at ODFW’s web page (in Director’s Report portion of the April Commission meeting agenda).

A PAIR OF MIDDLE FORK PACK WOLVES MOVE THROUGH FOREST SERVICE LAND IN EASTERN WALLOWA COUNTY. (ODFW)

Other highlights from the report:

  • The 12 wolf packs documented had a mean size of 7.3 wolves, ranging from 4-11 wolves. Another nine groups of 2-3 wolves each were also counted.
  • Known resident wolves now occur in Baker, Grant, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wasco counties.
  • 25 radio-collared wolves were monitored, including 19 wolves that were radio-collared during 2017.
  • Four collared wolves dispersed out of state (two to Idaho, one to Montana, one to Washington).
  • 13 wolf mortalities were documented, 12 of those human caused.
  • 54 percent of documented wolf locations were on public lands, 44 percent on private lands, and 2 percent on tribal lands.

Illegal take of wolves

Four wolves were killed illegally in 2017, two in areas of the state where wolves remain on the federal Endangered Species List (west of Hwys 395-78-95). Three of those poaching investigations are ongoing with rewards for providing information ranging from $2,500-$15,000.

The fourth case, involving a wolf trapped and then shot in Union County, was prosecuted. The defendant was penalized with 24 months of bench probation, 100 hours of community service, a hunting/trapping license suspension of 36 months and a $7,500 fine paid in civil restitution to ODFW. He also forfeited the firearm and all trapping related items seized during the investigation and was sentenced to an additional $1,000 court fine.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement and Oregon State Police continue to actively seek information on the remaining open cases.

ODFW’S LATEST STATEWIDE WOLF RANGE MAP SHOWS KNOWN AND ESTIMATED AREAS OF WOLF PACK USE. (ODFW)

Livestock depredation

ODFW investigated 66 reports of livestock depredation by wolves and confirmed 17 of those to be caused by wolves, compared to 24 confirmed depredations in 2016. ODFW confirmed losses of 11 calves, one llama, one alpaca and 23 domestic fowl to wolves in 2017 (compared to 11 calves, 7 sheep, one goat and one llama lost in 2016.) During 2017, 24 percent of known wolf packs depredated livestock, compared to 57 percent in 2016.

Since 2009, 75 percent of confirmed wolf depredations have occurred on private land with most happening during four months (May, August, September, October). While wolf numbers have increased considerably over the last eight years (only 14 were counted in 2009), depredations and livestock losses have not increased at the same rate.

The Wolf Plan stresses non-lethal preventative measures in all phases of wolf management. Reducing attractants by removing carcass and bone piles is thought to be the single best action to keep from attracting wolves to areas of livestock.  ODFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services continue to support livestock producers by providing technical advice and non-lethal supplies including electrified fladry, fencing, solar chargers and radio-activated guard (RAG) boxes.

“We appreciate all the hard work of Oregon’s livestock producers in putting in place preventative measures to decrease the risk of problems with wolves,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW wolf coordinator.

When non-lethal measures are ineffective, the Wolf Plan allows for lethal control against depredating wolves. Five wolves were killed to address chronic livestock depredation in 2017 (four Harl Butte wolves taken by ODFW, one Meacham wolf taken by producer with permit).

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance Grant Program also awarded 10 counties $252,570 in grant funds to compensate livestock producers for losses and fund preventive non-lethal measures.

“It is encouraging to see the continued recovery of Oregon’s wolf population into more of their historic range,” said Governor Brown. “Despite this good news, ongoing issues of poaching and livestock depredation must be carefully considered as we explore more effective management and conservation practices.”

ODFW staff will present an overview of the draft 2017 Annual Wolf Report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their April 20 meeting in Astoria.

Baker Co. Rancher OKed To Kill Up To 2 Wolves After Depredations By New Pack

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

ODFW will provide a kill permit to a rancher in Baker County, after two confirmed depredations by wolves of the Pine Creek Pack in two days on private property he is leasing to graze his cows. The wolves killed three calves and injured four others.

(ODFW)

While the producer requested full pack removal, ODFW is only authorizing the take of two wolves at this time. Under the terms of this permit, the producer can kill up to two wolves on the private property he leases where the depredations occurred, when his livestock is present on the property. The permit expires on May 4. ODFW staff are also authorized to kill the two wolves.

Under the Wolf Plan rules, livestock producers must be using non-lethal methods and document unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation through these non-lethal means before lethal control can be considered. Also, there can be no attractants on the property (such as bone piles or carcasses) that could be attracting wolves.

ODFW determined that there were no attractants on the property when it responded to a depredation report late last week. In terms of non-lethal measures, this producer was penning cattle and pairing calves and cows before turnout (keeping the mother cow with her calf can help deter depredation). This producer had delayed turning out his cattle and before he did, he and range riders watched for wolf activity but saw none. After the first report of wolves in the area chasing his cows, the producer used the range riders to check cattle and harass wolves. After the second depredation, riders hazed (shot firearms without harming wolves) to get the wolves to move. Beginning Sunday and continuing into Monday, ODFW staff have assisted in non-lethal efforts by using aircraft to haze wolves away from the pasture.

The Pine Creek is a new pack previously referred to as the OR29/OR36 pair. It was designated after ODFW’s winter counts showed it met the definition of a pack (minimum of four wolves travelling together in winter, typically a breeding male and female and offspring). It currently numbers eight wolves—a breeding male and female, five yearlings (wolves born a year ago), and one other adult wolf. The breeding female appears to be pregnant and if she is, is expected to den up in the next 1-2 weeks.

The pack’s breeding male, OR50, was formerly of the Harl Butte Pack but left that pack in October 2017 and joined OR36 in Baker County. The previous breeding male OR29 left the pack in the fall and did not return.

Removing wolves is intended to stop further depredations by the Pine Creek Pack on this producer’s cattle. Authorizing incremental take and providing a kill permit is typically the first step ODFW takes when livestock producers using non-lethal measures cannot stop losses and ODFW believes depredations will continue. In this case, collar data shows these wolves have a pattern of routinely using this property at this time of year and many producers are getting ready to place cows on the neighboring pastures soon.