Category Archives: Wolf News

2 Wolves Roaming White River WA, Mt. Hood NF, First Pack In Oregon’s North Cascades

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

At least two wolves are using an area in southern Wasco County, marking the first time multiple wolves have been confirmed in the northern portion of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains since they began returning to Oregon in the 2000s.

A TRAIL CAMERA CAPTURED THIS IMAGE OF TWO WOLVES IN THE MT. HOOD NATIONAL FOREST JAN. 4, 2018. (ODFW)

The wolves were documented on the White River Wildlife Area and Mt Hood National Forest and have also been observed on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

Several wolves are known to have dispersed through Wasco County in the past few years. A single wolf was documented in the White River Unit in December 2013. In May 2015, a wolf from the Imnaha pack travelled through the area as he dispersed to Klamath County. Later in 2015, a single wolf was documented in Wasco County.

Wolves in Wasco County and anywhere west of Hwys 395-78-95 are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, so U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead management agency.

Additional information about Oregon’s wolf population will be available in March, after ODFW completes its annual winter surveys and minimum population count.

 

Brown Reported ‘Confident’ In Investigation Of Oregon Elk Hunter’s Wolf Shooting

Oregon Governor Kate Brown is reported as “confident” in investigators’ work looking into an elk hunter’s killing of a wolf in Union County.

The late October shooting was determined to be self-defense, according to the Oregon State Police, and the Capital Press says that the governor “will apparently not ask state agencies” to reopen the case after a dozen and a half advocacy groups had petitioned her to.

OREGON WOLF TRACKS IN MUD. (ODFW)

Brown responded in a Dec. 1 letter, which is just coming to light today. The Press reports she consulted with OSP, ODFW and county prosecutors before making her decision.

Wolf advocates had pointed to the trajectory of a bullet through the animal as suggesting it wasn’t self-defense.

The hunter, Brian Scott, 38, said he’d had three wolves in his vicinity that morning in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit.

One “meant to make contact,” he told Oregonian reporter Bill Monroe in an in-person interview. “I was terrified. I screamed and raised my rifle. All I saw (in a scope) was hair so I shot.”

After confirming the animal was a wolf with his hunting partners, Scott immediately contacted OSP and ODFW officials, who responded to the scene with investigative equipment.

The Press reports that advocates “will continue to put pressure on the governor and agencies regarding wolf poaching investigations, and ensure those protections are taken seriously.”

There have been a number of illegal wolf kills in Oregon (as well as Washington), but this doesn’t appear to be one, if Governor Brown’s letter is any indication.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog misstated when the wolf was shot; it was in late October (Oct. 27), not mid-November. Our apologies for the error.

Washington Wolf Maps Reveal Canid’s Spread, Real And Otherwise

Say what you will about wolves, the predators’ peregrinations make for fascinating stuff.

At least to cartography and wandering wildlife geeks such as myself.

A pair of new Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife maps are revealing more about the ranges and ranginess of the state’s wolves over the past decade.

Both are based off data from all the GPS collars WDFW has strapped to various breeding males and females and other pack members since 2008.

(Dozens upon dozens more wolves over the years haven’t been collared.)

One shows nearly 72,000 of their locations — gulp, they’ve got Deer Camp surrounded, boys!

(WDFW)

Well, from the 35,000 foot level they do.

Though the GPS locations of wolves on the Colville and Spokane Reservations aren’t included, it represents “the most complete dataset currently available of wolf telemetry in Washington State,” according to WDFW.

Many of the green dots correspond to known pack areas in Northeast Washington, Kittitas County and the Blue Mountains.

But there’s a relatively surprising amount of wolf activity in state and federal lands between the Chewuch and Okanogan Valleys — the well-tracked Loup Loup Pack appears to roam north of its state-identified territory, or there’s a second pack with a collared animal there.

It also shows where the Marblemount wolf, which was captured and collared last spring, is hanging out.

The other new WDFW map shows the dispersal paths of 14 telemetry-bearing wolves since 2012, several of which are rather remarkable.

I’ve reported on two of these before — the Teanaway female shot in a British Columbia pig sty, the Smackout male that ventured into the province’s Coast Range due north of Neah Bay and set up a territory.

Another was killed in Central Montana.

But I believe this is the first time I’ve seen the winding path one took to the Cowboy State.

The wolf exited Washington north of Spokane, followed I-90 east into western Montana, trotted into the lower Bitterroot Valley before heading back southwest over Lolo Pass and down the Lochsa to the Clearwater, then south past Riggins and Cascade, Idaho, to the Boise area, loped across the north side of the Snake River Plain to Yellowstone National Park, then angled to the southeast towards the heart of Wyoming.

The new maps were part of a presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this month by Donny Martorello, WDFW’s wolf policy advisor.

The next time he talks to the citizen oversight panel, probably in March, he’ll have an updated pack range map, if that first map above is any indication.

Here’s what the one the agency published late last winter looked like:

(WDFW)

Damnit, I gotta get to work now, but I’m going to leave one final WDFW wolf map here, one I closely watch for “clusters” of citizen reports.

They’re an indication of possible wolf activity for biologists to check out —  there may be something going on south of Snoqualmie Pass and in the upper Lewis River watershed — and help keep tabs on known packs, reconfirming activity.

(WDFW)

But while WDFW’s new GPS maps do lend credence to many public observations by showing the locations of actual wolves and the campfire sparklike spread of dispersers, some state residents’ reports are, shall we say, slightly less likely to have been actual wolves, especially those coming from the I-5/405 corridor, where an inordinate number are annually spotted in the shrubberies.

Here are a couple of my favorites from this year:

No doubt.

More Details Come Out On 2 Poached NE WA Wolves

Washington wildlife managers are adding and correcting details from the weekend’s story that two female wolves have been found shot dead in Northeast Washington in recent weeks and are the subject of poaching investigations.

WDFW this afternoon reports that one was retrieved last Tuesday, Dec., 5, 15 miles southwest of the town of Republic in Ferry County.

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

It had been part of the Profanity Peak Pack in the northern portions of the county when it was radio-collared in fall 2016, but wasn’t associated with any group of wolves this fall, according to the agency.

The animal’s collar had quit transmitting early last month.

The other wolf was classified as a breeding female, and it was discovered by hunters 10 miles southeast of Colville in Stevens County on Nov. 12.

WDFW is assuming that since it was within the range of the Dirty Shirt Pack, it was a member.

Earlier press reports listed the wolves as belonging to that pack and the Smackouts, the latter of which drew outrage from Conservation Northwest, which has worked closely to prevent the pack from tangling with a local producer’s livestock over the years.

Still, it along with two other organizations subsequently, are offering up to $20,000 in reward for info on the cases.

Anyone with information is being asked to call (877) 933-9847 or (360)902-2936.

Killing a wolf in the federally delisted part of the state is listed as a gross misdemeanor, with a penalty of as much as a year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000, according to WDFW.

Report: 2 Wolves Killed In Northeast Washington; $20K Reward

UPDATED 11:15 A.M., DEC. 11, 2017 WITH ADDITIONAL REWARD

A pair of female wolves were killed in Northeast Washington last month, at least one of which was reported as shot.

The animals belonged to the Smackout and Dirty Shirt Packs which roam Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

The news was first reported by KING 5 Saturday afternoon.

Both wolves were said to have been collared, and when one device quit working, investigators went to the scene and found a dead wolf.

The Smackout Pack was involved in several depredations this year, and in July, state wolf managers lethally removed two members.

A $10,000 reward for information on the November poaching is being offered by Conservation Northwest.

“We urge anyone with potential information to contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police at 1-877-933-9847 or wdfw.wa.gov/enforcement/reporting_violations.html,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell.

On Monday, Dec. 11, out-of-state wolf advocacy groups Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands kicked in another $10,000 in reward money.

Predators May Be To Blame For Recent Moose Calf Survival Issues In Part of NE WA

Washington wildlife managers looking into how a growing suite of hungry predators are affecting deer, elk and moose populations believe a Shiras subherd in the state’s northeast corner bears watching.

WDFW reports an unusual signal seen in moose calf survival in east-central Stevens and southern Pend Oreille Counties in recent years.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS TWO MOOSE STUDY AREAS, THE NORTHERN ONE OF WHICH SAW LOWER CALF SURVIVAL THAN THE SOUTHERN ONE. (WDFW)

It was lower in back-to-back years than in a study area just to the south and a cause for concern, biologists say.

“Calf-survival in the northern area, particularly during 2014, was low enough to elicit concern for population stability,” note authors Brock Hoenes, Sara Hansen, Richard Harris, and Jerry Nelson in the just-posted Wildlife Program 2015-2017 Ungulate Assessment.

They’re not sure why that is, except to say it’s probable some — maybe all — of the calves in question ended up as dinner and that more study will help flesh that out.

“Calf mortality occurred irregularly, with no discernible seasonal concentration,” they report. “We are unable to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths (the study is not designed to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths). That said, it is likely that at least some of the calf deaths were caused by predators.”

Among the toothsome crew roaming this country are cougars, black bears, perhaps a grizzly or two, and wolves.

According to WDFW’s latest wolf map, the Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows and Skookum Packs occur entirely or partially in the northern moose study area, and  all of which were successful breeding pairs in 2016. And in the past the Diamond wolves were here too.

A CLOSE-UP OF WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF MAP SHOWS PACK LOCATIONS. THE NORTHERN MOOSE STUDY AREA OVERLAPS ALL OR PORTIONS OF THE DIRTY SHIRT, GOODMAN MEADOWS, CARPENTER RIDGE AND SKOOKUM PACKS. (WDFW)

By contrast, in the southern moose study area — Blanchard Hump and Mt. Spokane — there are no known packs, or at least were at the time of the biologists’ review last December.

Their 186-page report was posted late yesterday afternoon, two days before the state Fish and  Wildlife Commission will be briefed on wolves, wolf management and the future thereof by WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello.

It’s important because buried in the aforementioned wolf plan is a section addressing the species’ impacts on ungulates.

If “at-risk” big game herds such as woodland caribou are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or others see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if that particular recovery zone has four or more breeding pairs, regardless of statewide delisting.

As for the assessment of the rest of Washington’s moose, as well as its wapiti, deer and bighorn sheep, the report looks at each species, breaking them down by major herds or zones, details recent hunter harvest, and discusses other sources of mortality and factors that may influence population dynamics, before wrapping up with “Sub-herd Concerns” and “Management Conclusions.”

“Using the data at our disposal, none of the ungulate populations in this assessment appear to show clear signs of being limited by predation,” state Hoenes, Hansen, Harris, and Nelson in the executive summary.

That conclusion may not go over well with some Evergreen State hunters concerned about what their and others’ observations are telling them about how the animals are doing in the woods.

And it’s not to say that bucks and bulls, does and cows, calves and fawns aren’t affected in other ways by mountain lions, bruins, coyotes and wolves. They are, of course.

New research is beginning to show how wolf packs affect mule deer and whitetail behavior in North-central Washington, leading to different use of habitat than before.

The authors also acknowledge that limitations in the data sets “might preclude the ability to detect impacts of predation on a specific ungulate population.”

But the assessment is another way WDFW is attempting to show hunters it is keeping its eye on wolf impacts as numbers of the wild dogs near recovery goals and the conversation begins to turn to post-statewide delisting management.

Biologists will also take to the air and woods again soon for year two of a half-decade-long predator-prey study in the Okanogan, and Huckleberry and Selkirk Ranges.

ODFW Posts Revisions To Draft Wolf Plan Update; Up For Approval In Jan.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

A working copy of the revised Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is now available online at http://bit.ly/2j1w4nt. This working copy shows the edits staff have made to the April 2017 Draft Wolf Plan as a result of comments from stakeholders, the public and commissioners.

NORTHEAST OREGON WOLVES. (ODFW)

ODFW staff will brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission on this Working Copy of the Draft Wolf Plan at their Dec. 8 meeting in Salem. A panel of representatives from stakeholder groups has also been invited to testify at the meeting, but no other public testimony will be taken on Dec. 8.

ODFW staff will complete additional edits after the December meeting in preparation for adoption and rule-making of a final Draft Wolf Plan scheduled for the Jan. 19, 2018 commission meeting in Salem. Public testimony will be taken at that meeting and can also be provided via email at odfw.commission@state.or.us.

Ag-world News Outlet Calls For End Of Western Wolf Protections

Is it time to end protections for Northwest wolves?

The Capital Press thinks so.

So too do a lot of hunters and others, judging from online reaction to each and every little bit of wolf news I post.

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

But if anyone can match the number of wolf stories I’ve done, it is the Press (the Spokesman-Review‘s Rich Landers probably has us both topped), which looks at the issue from a rancher’s standpoint.

In an editorial out Thursday and headlined “No protection needed for wolves,” the Salem-based news organization writes:

“Wolves are thriving in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and other states — even California. The idea that any resources or protections are required to help those populations of apex predators spread borders on laughable (sic).”

The Press isn’t saying anything WDFW, Eastside Congessmen and others haven’t already said, but it calls on Congress to delist the species in the rest of the West outside the Northern Rockies, as lawmakers did in 2011.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed doing just that.

In June 2013.

The four-and-a-half-year hold-up can be traced to a court case involving Wyoming and Great Lakes wolves. The former delisting was upheld by a federal appeals court earlier this year, the latter was not.

Though disappointed, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said the judge’s decision still provided a “path forward.”

Even in the absence of a federal listing, there would be state protections.

Meanwhile, the wolf issue is hotter than I ever recall seeing at this point of the year, fueled by news of depredations, the shooting of a wolf by an elk hunter and commentary on it, lethal removals, litigious groups’ lawsuits, caught-in-the-act incidents, and poachings in Northeast and Southern Oregon.

Things are beginning to feel slightly out of control, and there is grave danger in over-the-top rah-rah for each illegal killing of a wolf.

The Press put it thusly:

“We did not write the law, nor do we agree that wolves should be a protected species. But to blatantly violate the law only bolsters wolf advocates’ arguments for protecting the animals.”

Wolves are going to be around a long, long time.

There is no doubt.

The faster we normalize things, the better off it will be for everyone involved, not to mention the wolves.

OSP Looking For Tips On Shooting Of Wolf In Wallowa Co. This Week

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

The Oregon State Police is asking for the public’s assistance in locating the individual(s) responsible for shooting and killing a wolf in Wallowa County. The wolf was found dead in the Chesnimnus hunt unit in an area known as Cold Springs on Wednesday November 14, 2017. The wolf was a collared wolf known as OR23 and it is believed that it died Sunday or Monday morning (November 12 or 13).

OREGON OFFICIALS ARE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON A WOLF SHOT DEAD IN THE CHESNIMNUS WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT UNIT THIS WEEK, THE SAME AREA THIS WOLF WAS CAPTURED AND COLLARED THIS PAST FEBRUARY. (BAKER AIRCRAFT VIA ODFW)

The Oregon State Police is investigating the incident and has found evidence that the wolf was killed by a gun shot. Due to this being an on-going investigation, no further information will be released at this time.

Poaching (otherwise known as unlawful take) of fish and wildlife, to include wolves, is a problem in Oregon and will be vigorously investigated by the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division, says Captain Jeff Samuels. As the Division only employs 120 officers statewide, the public’s assistance greatly increases the chances of catching persons involved in poaching.

“We are upset and frustrated by the unlawful wolf killings in Oregon,” said Doug Cottam, ODFW Wildlife Division Administrator. “Poaching of any wildlife is wrong and harmful to their conservation. Please, if you know something about any of these cases, step forward and provide information to OSP, which can be done anonymously.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Sergeant Chris Hawkins at the La Grande Patrol Office, 541-963-7175 ex 4670. Callers can also stay anonymous by calling the Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 1-800-452-7888.

Another Ferry Co. Wolf Depredation, Another CBD Lawsuit

Usually Washington’s wolf world cools off as winter approaches. Not this fall.

WDFW this afternoon is reporting a second depredation in northern Ferry County this month just as an out-of-state environmental group has filed a second lawsuit against the agency this autumn.

As the kids like to say these days, let’s unpack these one at a time.

THE LATEST DEPREDATION — a dead calf — was discovered Nov. 8, six days after another calf was reported injured nearby.

Both attacks occurred on a local livestock producer’s fenced private land though in different locations.

NORTHEAST WASHINGTON HAS SEEN MORE DEPREDATIONS THIS FALL THAN PAST AUTUMNS.  (WDFW)

The dead calf was found as a cattle herd was being moved, and was tarped to preserve evidence.

The next day, WDFW determined it to be a confirmed depredation, based on bite marks, signs of struggle, wolf tracks and the injured calf.

The two depredations follow on the heels of another rancher catching a wolf in the act of attacking their stock in late October and killing it, which is legal in this part of Washington.

That wolf was killed less than 3 miles from where the dead calf was found, according to state wolf managers.

Even with two confirmed attacks in less than 30 days, it’s unclear what pack may be to blame should state gunners be authorized for lethal removals. Reporting on the injured calf earlier this month, WDFW said that attack occurred outside known ranges.

“The producer checks on the cattle multiple times every day during feedings,” the agency noted in today’s update. “The producer has also used range riders periodically this year and last year. The producer removes sick or injured cattle from the area. The producer also received locations of nearby collared wolves via WDFW’s Sensitive Wildlife Data Sharing Agreement.”

In October, there was a confirmed depredation in Stevens County by the Smackout Pack. In previous years, livestock attacks have mostly occurred in June, July, August and September.

AS FOR THAT LAWSUIT, it was filed by the Center For Biological Diversity in Thurston County Superior Court against WDFW over public records.

The Arizona-based organization is trying to get ahold of details on the June caught-in-the-act shooting of a wolf by a Stevens County ranchhand, as well as information on the removal of much of the Profanity Peak Pack of northern Ferry County in 2016 for a series of depredations.

“The public has every right to know how and why wolves are being killed in Washington,” CBD’s Amaroq Weiss said in a press release. “Wolves are still in a fragile state in Washington. It’s frustrating that state wildlife officials won’t come clean with the full details on these lethal operations.”

It’s the outfit’s second lawsuit in two months, following on one in late September trying to stop lethal removals, and it “disappointed” instate wolf advocates.

“While this group spends money on lawyers and undermines Washington’s collaborative wolf policy process, Conservation Northwest funds range riders and on-the-ground field staff working to protect both wolves and livestock,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell. “Balanced coexistence, not courtroom wrangling, is the best path for long-term wolf recovery. We firmly believe that sitting down with other wildlife stakeholders to create common-ground policies and win-win solutions is far more effective than divisive lawsuits.”

While both organizations are listed as members of Pacific Wolf Coalition, CNW has a seat on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group while CBD does not. The former is typically more in tune with on-the-ground realities in Washington’s wolf world than the latter, which attempts to paint the population as “fragile,” even as numbers increase year over year as more arrive from Canada, elsewhere in the Lower 48 and instate packs multiply and split.

“WDFW can’t comment at this point, since neither we nor our attorneys have had the opportunity to review the complaint,” said agency spokesman Bruce Botka.