Category Archives: Wolf News

WDFW Confirms 1 Kettle Calf Depredation, Says Other Unknown

Washington wolf managers are finally confirming a wolf or wolves from the Sherman Pack killed a calf in northern Ferry County earlier this month, but the remains of another found nearby were too far gone to determine cause of death.

WDFW says it’s the first depredation by the pack, and comes at the beginning of the grazing season and two weeks after new state wolf management protocols went into effect in this country.

MEMBERS OF THE SHERMAN PACK, BLAMED FOR KILLING AT LEAST ONE CALF IN THE NORTHERN HALF OF FERRY COUNTY EARLIER THIS MONTH. (JEFF FLOOD)

Earlier this week local state Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) had told a reporter it was a confirmed depredation, but it wasn’t until very late this afternoon that WDFW publicly stated that.

The dead calves were reported June 12 by a range rider, and a pair of WDFW staffers reported to the BLM grazing ground “shortly after sunrise” the following day, though the agency has been criticized by Kretz for not arriving sooner to view the evidence.

According to WDFW, the Sherman adult male’s collar showed it in the area between June 3 and 11, and the intact calf’s carcass had “injuries [that] consisted of bite lacerations and puncture wounds with hemorrhaging associated with those bite wounds. The injuries to calf were consistent with a wolf depredation.”

The other calf’s remains were 150 yards away but skeletal in nature and scattered over dozens of yards, too little for investigators to make a determination, so it went down as unknown.

WDFW reports the livestock producer turned their cattle out to graze on private land on May 24 and uses five agency-contracted range riders who began patrolling the area May 9.

The Sherman Pack consists of at least a male, whose mate died in March after getting hit by a vehicle traveling along Highway 20, and an adult female.

They’ve apparently been sniffing around Kettle Range country formerly occupied by the Profanity Peak Pack, seven members of which were lethally removed last year following depredations not far away as the crow flies. WDFW says there are no signs of a den or rendezvous point nearby. Telemetry shows the collared Profanity female was “sporadically” in the area of the latest depredation June 5-7, but that all signs pointed to the Shermans, according to state wildlife managers.

The two calves’ carcasses have since been removed, as the area will see high use by cattle during the grazing season. Range riders will continue to patrol here, WDFW says.

Under the agency’s new protocols, just three depredations, including one probable, in a 30-day period, could lead to the beginning of lethal removals. Last year it was four confirmed.

Apparent Wolf Captured, Collared In Eastern Skagit County

What could be the first wolf captured in Western Washington is now being monitored by wildlife managers.

The 100-pound animal was collared Thursday, June 8, in eastern Skagit County near Marblemount and released.

USFWS CONFIRMS A POSSIBLE WOLF WAS CAPTURED AND COLLARED NOT FAR UP THE SKAGIT VALLEY FROM HERE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The news was broken by the Skagit Valley Herald.

“We did capture what appears to be a 2- to 3-year-old male gray wolf,” confirms U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ann Froschauer late this afternoon.

She says blood and saliva were taken from the animal and sent to the agency’s forensic lab for testing, confirmation that it’s a full-blooded wolf and to determine where it might have come from.

WILDLIFE BIOLOGISTS WORK ON THE SEDATED CANID CAPTURED JUNE 8. (USFWS)

While at least four collared wolves have briefly wandered into Western Washington in recent years (one of which didn’t make it back out after being hit on I-90), this would be the first to have been captured, outfitted with telemetry and released west of the Cascades.

Froschauer says its movements are being monitored via GPS collar to “see if it sticks around or wanders off.”

USFWS and WDFW were drawn to the location in mid-May after a resident reported three chickens killed by a wolf and had solid photos to back it up.

Initially there were suggestions that a pack might be in the area, based on howling, but that’s less certain now.

“We did hang some cameras out. We did not see any other animals. As of right now there’s at least one that appears to be a wolf,” Froschauer says.

Grand scheme, a single wolf doesn’t do much for state recovery goals, but it has the potential to bring issues from the 509 much closer to Western Washington.

USFWS has management authority over wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, where the species remains federally listed.

WDFW had no comment.

WDFW also has had no comment about two dead calves found in the Kettle Range two days ago and which were investigated yesterday.

And WDFW probably doesn’t want to comment on the latest from Washington State University, where a professor plans to sue over alleged free speech violations involving wolves.

Oregon Cattlemen Threaten Lawsuit Over Wolf Delisting Review Lag; USFWS Points To Great Lakes Case

It’s been exactly four years to the day since federal managers proposed delisting gray wolves in western and central portions of Washington and Oregon, as well as across most of the country outside of the Northern Rockies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the species had successfully recovered since its Endangered Species Act listing, and wanted to return management to the states and focus its work on Mexican wolves.

THE OREGON CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION SAYS IT INTENDS TO SUE THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO COMPLETE ITS REVIEW PROPOSING THE DELISTING OF WOLVES IN WESTERN AND CENTRAL PORTIONS OF THE BEAVER STATE AS WELL AS ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. (ODFW)

The June 7, 2013 announcement also launched a 90-day public comment period, with a final determination to be “made” the following year.

2014 was three years ago, and with no discernible results, last week the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association announced that it intends to sue USFWS for failing to follow through on the proposal.

According to a story today in the Capital Press, the organization voted to do so at its quarterly meeting.

Reports Katy Nesbit:

Todd Nash, the Cattlemen’s wolf committee chairman, said the absence of a completed analysis three years after U.S. Fish and Wildlife closed its public comment period regarding its environmental policy analysis to delist gray wolves from the endangered species list was one reason for the suit.

“They are legally bound to do that within one year and that’s the preface pressing forward with lawsuit,” Nash said.

The Press‘s story states that while Washington Cattlemen Association members were in also attendance at the quarterly, they were going to take joining the lawsuit back home to their board for more discussion.

So what’s going on with USFWS’s proposal?

It’s a question I’ve asked federal spokesmen on occasion over the years, and today one pointed towards a court case elsewhere in the country as the hold-up.

“Our proposal for delisting the gray wolf in the remainder of its range is predicated on the gray wolf populations in Wyoming and the Western Great Lakes being delisted,” says Sarah Levy. “We are currently waiting for a court decision on delisting wolves in the Western Great Lakes, which puts our larger delisting proposal on hold.”

Last month, under a headline reading “Appeals court holds key to future of wolves,” USA Today reported a ruling from a federal appeals court in Washington DC on the Great Lakes question was “expected soon.”

In March the same court upheld USFWS’s 2012 contention that wolves in Wyoming could be delisted, and that state took over management of the species as of April 26 of this year.

But the newspaper’s story says that the two cases are only similar at a very high level and focus on aspects of state management and federal process.

Time will tell.

USFWS, WDFW Looking For Signs Of Possible Wolf Pack In Skagit Co.

Federal and state biologists are looking into the possibility that there may be wolves in eastern Skagit County.

Spokeswoman Ann Froschauer says it’s too early for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to confirm that reported tracks, howls and photos mean wolves have indeed arrived on the west side of the North Cascades or how many there might be, but in recent weeks her agency and WDFW biologists have been following up on good leads.

FEDERAL AND STATE BIOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING UP ON EASTERN SKAGIT COUNTY RESIDENTS’ REPORTS OF POSSIBLE WOLVES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Froschauer says that in mid-May, a resident reported a suspected depredation of their chickens by a wolf and had pictures to back it up.

The resident told investigators that they had heard howling and seen tracks for a couple months beforehand too, according to Froschauer.

“Follow-up conversations with other area residents included reports of additional sightings, tracks, and howling in the area,” she adds.

Froschauer says the howling is “suggestive of multiple wolves.”

“Biologists attempted to capture one or more animals over the next week and a half without success. We have deployed trail cameras, and will continue to investigate reports of wolf activity in the area,” Froschauer says.

Capturing one would help determine if the animal was a purebred wolf, hybrid or something else.

And if proven to be a wolf, it could mean the first pack in Western Washington outside of the British Columbia-denning pack that haunted the Hozomeen area of Washington’s upper Ross Lake in recent years.

Froschauer says USFWS and WDFW get multiple unconfirmed reports of Westside wolves annually, and says at least four individuals are known to have traveled from their packs west across the Cascade Crest at one point or another.

“Wolves have continued to naturally recolonize the state via dispersal from resident Washington packs and neighboring states and provinces,” she says.

Wolves west of Highways 97, 17 and 395 are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act and managed by USFWS. Those east of that line are managed by WDFW and state listed.

WDFW Issues New Wolf Depredation Prevention, Lethal Removal Protocols

New protocols for removing problem wolves in the federally delisted area of Eastern Washington began yesterday, the traditional start of grazing season in the region’s national forests and mountains.

The biggest change may be the reduction in the number of depredations needed before WDFW wolf managers begin lethal removals, now three including one probable, in a 30-day period.

During last summer’s cattle attacks by the Profanity Peak Pack, that was four, and all had to be confirmed.

THE LETHAL REMOVAL ASPECTS OF THE NEW PROTOCOLS AFFECT PACKS IN THIS MAP’S EASTERN WASHINGTON REGION, THE AREA OF THE STATE WHERE WOLVES HAVE BEEN FEDERALLY DELISTED. (WDFW)

The protocol also addresses ways ranchers and others can reduce the likelihood of depredations in the first place, increasing the number of preventative measures required for consideration of wolf removal.

The overall idea is to act faster to reduce the number of dead or injured livestock as well as limit the number of wolves that may have to be taken out, explained the agency’s Donny Martorello in late March.

The changes are a collaboration between WDFW and its Wolf Advisory Group.

“The protocol draws on a diversity of perspectives expressed by people throughout the state for protecting wildlife populations as a public resource and livestock,” the agency states in the 18-page document posted yesterday afternoon. “These values include achieving a sustained recovered wolf population, supporting rural ways of life, and maintaining livestock production as part of the state’s cultural and economic heritage. This protocol also serves to increase the transparency and accountability of the Department’s activities and management actions related to wolves.”

A WDFW graph shows a 40 percent increase this year in the number of livestock producers who’ve signed onto damage prevention agreements and/or hiring range riders.

“In 2017, we’re seeing a dramatic uptake in ranchers utilizing proactive deterrence measures over the past several years, and this has come through relationship-building and respect for rural communities and producers,” said Conservation Northwest’s Paula Swedeen, whose organization is on the WAG and supports the new protocols. “Use of those proactive methods is vital for coexistence, and the updated protocol better recognizes that.”

WDFW is also pledging to include monthly updates on its wolf work. According to Director Jim Unsworth, that will include:

* Newly documented wolf packs, changes in known wolf occurrence areas, and non-dispersing lone wolves wearing an active radio collar.  This will include updates to the wolf pack maps on the Department website.
* Recent wolf collaring  activities.
* All known wolf mortalities.
* Department activities related to implementation of deterrence measures to reduce wolf-livestock conflict.
* All livestock depredation events that resulted in the classification of a confirmed or probable wolf  depredation.
* Public notice when the criteria for lethal removal has been met and the Director has authorized lethal removal actions.
* Highlights of wolf-related work activities by  Department field staff.
* Wolf outreach and information sharing activities by Department staff.
* Information on wolf ecology and coexistence measures.
* Notice on all Wolf Advisory Group meetings and work items.

Actual Oregon Wolf Disputes Claim State’s Population Has Stagnated

Dear Wolfies,

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

JIMBO THE OREGON WOLF. (ODFW)

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

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

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

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

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

Poof!

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

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

Let’s fast forward a year now.

Poof!

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

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

Oh, never mind, I get it.

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

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

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

All right, back to chasing chickens elk and stuff.

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

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

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

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

(ODFW)

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

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

For more details, see the Annual Report.

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

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

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

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

Other policy issues addressed in the draft Plan include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more details, see the Capital Press story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNW’s Gunnell was more circumspect.

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

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

Washington Wolf Population Into Triple Digits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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