Category Archives: Wolf News

2 Removals, Nonlethal Deterrents Appear To Yield ‘Intended Effect’ On Smackout Wolves: WDFW

An after-action report from Washington wolf managers says that taking out two wolves this summer along with efforts to prevent their pack from tangling with grazing cattle appears to have worked.

WDFW says that if the Smackout Pack doesn’t cause any more depredations through Sept. 30, their evaluation period will end and the lethal removal protocol will, in essence, reset to two in a rolling 10-month period. Four would be the new trigger.

But if an attack does occur before the end of the month, they may go back in for another round.

WDFW’S 94-PAGE FINAL REPORT ON A STRING OF CALF ATTACKS OVER 10 MONTHS BY THE SMACKOUT PACK OF NORTHEAST WASHINGTON INCLUDES DEPREDATION INVESTIGATION RESULTS. (WDFW)

The agency’s 94-page final report was issued yesterday — 53 days since the second removal and 61 since the last depredation by the Stevens-Pend Oreille County pack — and will add another data point to the ongoing debate over whether killing wolves helps to quell attacks on cattle and other stock.

“The collaboration between WDFW personnel and the livestock producers, the approach highlighted in the protocol of both proactive and responsive nonlethal deterrents, and the incremental removal, appeared to have the intended effect of changing the Smackout Pack behavior to reduce the probability of reoccurring depredations while continuing to promote recovery,” it states near the end.

At the start of this year’s grazing season, it was believed there were 13 to 15 members in the Smackout Pack, three of which had telemetry collars.

The pack has been the subject of heavy deterrence efforts over the years, but it was blamed for killing three calves and injuring two others belonging to three different producers in attacks in late September 2016 and July 2017.

Four of the five depredations were confirmed and one was probable.

WDFW’s report provides the usual graphic details from those investigations, as well as more about the two wolves that were removed after Director Jim Unsworth’s July 20 authorization.

The first was a 30-pound “young of the year” female that was captured and euthanized two days after a calf was injured on Forest Service land.

The second was a 70-pound adult female removed on July 30.

“Both removals occurred within the 14-day window from the time of depredation, thereby having the most impact on changing the behavior of the pack,” the report states, referring to a study coauthored by researchers in the Northern Rockies. “The removals occurred within a short distance (one mile) from the livestock in an effort to provide the greatest influence on pack behavior related to livestock interactions.”

However, subsequent to putting the pup down, WDFW made a decision to only kill adult wolves (the collared breeding female is off limits).

A third wolf was legally killed in late June by a range rider when it was caught in the act of “chasing and posing an imminent threat” to cattle in a fenced pasture, the first time that provision has been employed in the state.

The report notes nonlethal deterrence work was being performed in the neighborhood of the pack not only this year but in recent grazing seasons as well.

“For approximately four years prior to confirmed depredations in the Smackout wolf pack territory, WDFW had been working with producers on both public and private lands to deter potential wolf depredations. These efforts included increased human presence near livestock on large grazing allotments. Other deterrents measures utilized over the past several years included sharing Wolf GPS collar data including information on den and rendezvous locations with applicable producers, sanitation (removal of livestock carcasses), fladry, fox lights, WDFW field personnel working with USFS range personnel, and monitoring by WDFW personnel,” the report states.

In other Washington wolf news:

  • WDFW reports that all’s quiet on the Sherman Pack front following a series of depredations and one removal.
  • There may — or may not — be a new pack in Okanogan County. It’s unclear if two pups and an adult spotted on a trail camera southeast of Oroville are the nearby Beaver Creek Pack or an as-yet-to-be-determined group of wolves.
  • An ethics complaint has been filed by a public employees group against a state representative alleging the lawmaker used his position to withhold funding for a university over a researcher’s wolf work.
  • And an opinion piece out this week in High Country News and headlined “Rural communities can coexist with wolves. Here’s how” focuses on the collaborative approach to dealing with the recovery of wolves in Washington.

20-question Quiz Helps Hunters ID, Learn Differences Between Wolves, Coyotes

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

ODFW has launched a new online Coyote and Gray Wolf ID Quiz to help people differentiate between wolves and coyotes. Find the quiz at http://bit.ly/2x56uoU or at the ODFW Wolves website, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves/.

WOLF OR COYOTE? A NEW ODFW QUIZ SHOWS PHOTOS OF BOTH SPECIES AND IDENTIFIES KEY DIFFERENTIATING FEATURES. (ODFW)

The quiz uses actual photos of various wolves and coyotes of various ages to test user’s knowledge, and gives tips on how to tell wolves from coyotes. For example, coyotes have taller, pointed ears and a pointed face and muzzle while wolves have shorter rounder ears and a blocky face and muzzle.

“We encourage everyone who spends time in the outdoors to take this quiz, but especially hunters that pursue coyotes,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW acting wolf coordinator. “It is the responsibility of every hunter to know their target.” Wolf pups in particular can resemble coyotes in the fall.

Wolves are protected throughout the state of Oregon and there is no hunting season for wolves anywhere in the state. Intentionally hunting or accidentally “taking” a wolf is unlawful and can have serious legal consequences. In 2015, a hunter shot and was prosecuted for killing a collared gray wolf in Grant County that he misidentified as a coyote.

ODFW also relies on hunters, outdoor recreationalists, livestock producers and others to report wolf observations. These public wolf reports help wildlife biologists know where to focus wolf survey efforts. If you think you have seen a wolf, wolf sign or heard wolves howling please report it at www.odfw.com/Wolves/wolf_reporting_form.asp

“This quiz can help anyone better identify wolves in the field,” said Brown. “We really appreciate everyone taking the time to take the quiz.”

WDFW Reports 2 Confirmed Wolf Depredations In Stevens, Asotin Cos.

A Northeast Washington wolf that may be part of a new pack forming in northern Stevens County killed a cow in late August, according to state wildlife managers.

WDFW investigated the remains of the largely consumed carcass on Aug. 31 and says that based on GPS collar data from the Dirty Shirt Pack disperser, signs of a struggle at the site of the depredation, bite marks, wolf poop and reports of wolves in the area it was a confirmed depredation.

AN IMAGE FROM WDFW’S MONTHLY WOLF UPDATE SHOWS APPARENT PUPS IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS. (WDFW)

The livestock producer, who had been advised beforehand by WDFW of the wolf in the area, had their cattle in a fenced pasture near a residence they rented out, and both the rancher and renters were checking on the stock daily while the renters were also periodically using lights at night, according to wolf manager Donny Martorello.

He says that a state-contracted range rider had also began watching cattle in nearby grazing allotments.

Since the attack, a second range rider has begun patrolling the local allotments, while a FOX light has been set up in the producer’s pasture to help deter any more depredations, Martorello says.

He was hesitant to say that the Dirty Shirt wolf is officially part of a new pack — two wolves traveling together in winter — but notes that a trail camera picked up an image of a British Columbia disperser and that time stamp information puts both animals in the same location on the same day. That apparently occurred in late July.

“We’re assuming they’re together, but we don’t know that for certain,” Martorello says, adding that it probably won’t be till winter snows before they can definitively say one way or the other.

If it is a new pack, it would join the Wedge, Smackout, Stranger, Huckleberry, Dirty Shirt and Carpenter Ridge Packs which roam entirely or partially in Stevens County, making it the county with the most wolf packs in the state.

While other depredations this summer have occurred in Northeast Washington, the other eastern corner of the state saw one recently too.

An Asotin County cow and calf were injured by the Tucannon Pack 10 or more days ago. The injured cattle were first spotted by a hunter southeast of Cloverland. The pair was on a Forest Service road.

WDFW investigated Sept. 5 and is treating the incident as a single event instead of two, which it otherwise does with depredations of large livestock such as cattle.

Martorello says that’s per an exception in the agency’s protocols if cattle are known to be together, such as a cow-calf pair.

He said the calf had the more severe injuries but the mother’s ears were torn up most likely from trying to defend her young one.

It’s an important distinction because under the lethal removal guidelines, agency director Jim Unsworth can authorize taking out one or two wolves after three confirmed or probable depredation events in 30 days.

According to WDFW, a range of nonlethal deterrence measures are being used in the range of the Tucannons.

OTHER WOLF NEWS

  • Biologists, fish and wildlife officers and conflict specialists have been pretty busy over the past month, performing 10 other investigations on dead or injured cows, calves, sheep and a dog in Stevens and Ferry Counties. They were found to have been caused by a domestic dog, a coyote or unknown, or weren’t depredations at all.
  • There are no updates at all on the Skagit County wolf. Its DNA is still in the queue at a federal lab, and it doesn’t appear to be doing much on the ground either.
  • All’s quiet — at this writing anyway — on the Sherman and Smackout Pack fronts following a series of depredations followed by lethal removals. WDFW continues to evaluate the wolves’ behavior in response while nonlethal deterrence measures also are ongoing.
  • WDFW C&Red a young member of the Beaver Creek Pack after capturing it in mid-August.
  • For more details, see the agency’s monthly wolf update.

Sherman Pack Kills Another Calf, WDFW Kills A Sherman Wolf

UPDATED 9:00 P.M.

WDFW late this afternoon reported killing a Sherman Pack wolf earlier today in an attempt to try and head off further cattle depredations by the sole known remaining pack member.

The news comes a week after lethal removals were authorized and half a week after the pair of Ferry County wolves killed another calf, their fifth confirmed depredation since mid-June.

MEMBERS OF THE SHERMAN PACK, BLAMED FOR FIVE CATTLE DEPREDATIONS IN THE NORTHERN HALF OF FERRY COUNTY EARLIER THIS SUMMER. (JEFF FLOOD)

The agency reports the latest depredation occurred in the Colville National Forest, near the other attacks on a grazing allotment where the Diamond M runs their cattle in summer.

Unlike with the Smackout Pack, where two wolves were initially removed and then operations paused, WDFW has begun evaluating the last Sherman wolf’s response to today’s actions. But another depredation could trigger another removal and end the pack.

It also means that tribal hunters have one fewer wolf available in their quota for the “north half,” where the Colville Tribes  jointly manage wildlife with the state.

WDFW reports the livestock producer will continue to rotate five contracted range riders through their allotments to maintain human presence near the cattle and that the riders were patrolling in the Kettle Range nearly a month before turnout.

“We’re monitoring the situation and the three additional range riders we funded earlier this month are continuing to support conflict deterrence measures in the area,” ssid Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, a member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group which signed on to the current lethal removal protocols last year.

The agency came under a sustained Twitter barrage this week from wolf fanatics demanding that it not remove depradating wolves.

With 4th Depredation Since June, Incremental Removals OKed For Sherman Pack

WDFW reports the Sherman Pack killed a calf this week, the fourth depredation since June, triggering lethal removals to deter further attacks.

As with the Smackout Pack earlier this summer the goal is to take out one or two over the next two weeks, pause and see if that changes the pack’s behavior for the better.

The calf was killed on a Forest Service grazing allotment and was found by a range rider. The remains of another calf were also found in the area and while WDFW marked it as unknown cause of death, there were signs wolves probably played a roll.

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM W.D.F.W.

State wildlife managers plan to take lethal action against a wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Ferry County during the past two months.

Jim Unsworth, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorized field staff to lethally remove one or more members of the Sherman wolf pack, which was involved in four documented occasions of predations on livestock since mid-June.

At least three calves were killed and one was injured by members of the pack, according to investigations conducted by WDFW field staff. The pack is estimated to have at least two members – including one fitted with a tracking collar – although a survey last winter indicated there were five members in the pack..

Donny Martorello, WDFW’s lead wolf manager, said the department’s response is consistent with Washington’s Wolf Management Plan of 2011, which authorizes WDFW to take action to address repeated attacks on livestock.

Martorello noted that the rancher who lost livestock to predation by the Sherman pack employed a variety of non-lethal deterrents before lethal measure were approved. The rancher engaged multiple range riders to patrol his herd in a leased grazing area on a near-daily basis.

The rancher and the range riders also shared information with WDFW about cattle behavior and wolf activities throughout the area, Martorello said.

“This rancher has made concerted efforts to protect his livestock using non-lethal measures, and has met the department’s prerequisite for lethal action,” he said. “Our goal is to change the pack’s behavior before the situation gets worse.”

Martorello said the situation also meets the department’s condition for lethal action that predation by a wolf pack occur three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period.

That condition is part of a protocol for wolf removal developed by WDFW in conjunction with an 18-member advisory group that represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.

“The purpose of this action is to change the pack’s behavior, while also meeting the state’s wolf-conservation goals,” Martorello said. “That means incrementally removing wolves and assessing the results before further action.”

That is the same approach the department took when it removed two members of the Smackout Pack in Stevens County. Since taking that action in late June, WDFW has not documented any further incidences of wolves from the Smackout pack preying on livestock and continues to monitor the situation.

The Sherman and Smackout packs are two of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. According to state surveys, the state’s wolf population is currently growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.

For more information about wolf management actions, see Update on Washington Wolves at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/.

ODFW To Begin Incremental Removals Of Another Livestock-killing Pack, Meachams

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM ODFW

ODFW has confirmed four livestock depredations by the Meacham Wolf Pack of Umatilla County this month, all to the same livestock producer in the same privately-owned pasture. This is despite dedicated and substantial proactive non-lethal efforts to stop wolf-livestock conflict.

The producer has removed dead livestock carcasses from the property the same day they were discovered; monitored and removed animals that were weak or could be a target of wolves; employed a range rider five days per week to monitor the location of wolves in the pasture and maintain human presence; modified their normal husbandry practices by putting larger, more mature calves in the pasture; and delayed pasture turnout for 30 days so calves were larger and to give wolves more time to move out of the area.

Additionally, the producer has undertaken a speedy and expensive relocation of many of the cattle from the pasture where wolves are depredating. Normally, this private pasture would be used until October, but nearly 90 percent of cattle that typically use the area have been moved. Finally, for the past two years, the producer has chosen not to use their sheep grazing allotment on national forestland adjacent to the pasture to avoid potential wolf depredations.

ODFW received a lethal control request from the producer on Aug. 21, after the fourth confirmed depredation this month. (An additional two depredations occurred in August 2016 and September 2014.) The producer requested that the entire pack be killed but ODFW has decided to take an incremental approach instead and has authorized the killing of two wolves from the pack initially to limit further depredations.

While lethal removal will not target specific wolves in the pack, pups born this year will not be targeted. The Meacham pack is believed to have at least four pups this year, and has been a breeding pair (meaning at least two adults and two pups born in April survived through the end of the year) each year since 2014. At the end of 2016, the pack had seven members. There is no working radio-collar in the pack at this time, after one collar failed in November 2015 and another collared wolf dispersed from the pack in December 2015.  During August and September 2015, 50 percent of the radio-collar locations of the two collared wolves were on the same piece of private land where the depredations are now occurring.

“For years, this producer has proactively implemented non-lethal measures and tolerated the challenges of a wolf pack frequenting their property during the grazing season. Unfortunately, this year their increasing preventative efforts have not been successful in limiting wolf depredation,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We believe lethal control is warranted in this situation but this action will only be in place as long as cattle are still at risk. We will use incremental removal and lethal control activities will be stopped as soon as the cattle are removed from the pasture.”

When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if ODFW confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.

ODFW may kill the two wolves but the department will also provide the producer with a limited duration Wolf Kill Permit. This permit allows the producer to kill the two adult or sub-adult wolves (not pups) on the private land where depredations have occurred and does not require the wolf to be “caught in the act” of biting, wounding, killing or chasing livestock. Among other terms of the permit, non-lethal measures must continue and there can be no attractants (such as bone piles) on the property that might attract wolves.

After the initial lethal take of two wolves, the situation will be monitored to determine if further depredations or testing/chasing of livestock occur and additional lethal control is needed.

ODFW is also currently engaged in a lethal control operation for the Harl Butte Wolf Pack in Wallowa County, also due to chronic livestock depredation. To date the agency has taken three wolves out of that pack.

ODFW has documented four new wolf pairs raising pups in northeast Oregon this summer, including one new pair pioneering an area south of I-84 in the Starkey and Ukiah WMUs. “Oregon’s wolf population continues to expand in both number and range,” said Curt Melcher, ODFW Director. “Unfortunately, we are also seeing an increase in livestock depredation from a few wolf packs, which is not surprising due to the increasing population.”

“While it’s disheartening for some people to see ODFW killing wolves, our agency is called to manage wildlife in a manner consistent with other land uses, and to protect the social and economic interests of all Oregonians while it conserves gray wolves,” Melcher added. “It’s important that we address and limit wolf-livestock problems while also ensuring a healthy wolf population. Lethal control is identified in the Oregon Wolf Plan as a needed tool we use when non-lethal measures alone are unsuccessful in resolving conflict.”

“I am authorizing only incremental take in an effort to take as few wolves as possible while still addressing wolf-livestock conflict,” Melcher added. “Following these actions, the situation will be reassessed to see if the goal of reducing depredations has been achieved.”

ODFW will update this news release and its wolf webpages when the initial lethal action is taken or when there are significant changes in the situation. Any further confirmed or probable depredations for this or other packs will be posted on the Wolf-Livestock webpage. Members of the public interested in these updates should subscribe by email to the Wolf Updates Page and/or the Wolf-Livestock page.

 

With Another Depredation, ODFW To Remove 2 More Harl Butte Wolves

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

Today, ODFW confirmed another depredation by the Harl Butte wolf pack. ODFW intends to remove an additional two uncollared wolves (not pups) from this pack to limit further livestock losses.

AN ODFW MAP SHOWS THE AREA OF NORTHEAST OREGON WHERE THE HARL BUTTE PACK RESIDES. (ODFW)

Note the Harl Butte wolf pack is larger than originally estimated. ODFW has found evidence of at least eight wolves remaining in this pack, not including three pups.

Two weeks have passed since ODFW first announced plans to lethally remove wolves from the Harl Butte wolf pack due to chronic depredation. ODFW removed two non-breeding members of the Harl Butte wolf pack last week.  (One 33-pound wolf pup of the year was unintentionally captured and released.)

During the past two weeks, the radio-collared wolf in the pack, the breeding male, has been monitored closely to determine if he and other members of the pack altered their behavior and location. Removal of the two wolves, increased human presence in this area and continued use of non-lethal deterrents by livestock producers did not result in a significant change in the pack’s behavior.

ODFW will continue to monitor the effectiveness of this next removal and  livestock producers will continue non-lethal deterrents including daily human presence, removal of any potential attractants, and hazing.

Quiet Continues With Smackout Pack; 2016 Profanity Removals Subject Of Story

Things remain quiet with the Smackout Pack — not so with wolves elsewhere in Washington.

In its weekly update, WDFW said there still have been no more reported cattle depredations since the one on July 22 while the operation to remove two wolves to head off more was ongoing.

It ended July 30 and state wolf managers continue to evaluate the pack’s response, as three producers continue their deterrence efforts as well.

DR. ROBERT WIELGUS. (WSU)

Meanwhile, digging through the charred landscape of the mountain range to the west, emails between various officials, old stories and fresh interviews, a major Seattle Times reporting and graphics package out today puts the focus back on last summer’s lethal removals of Profanity Peak Pack wolves.

Lynda V. Mapes’ piece addresses the firestorm surrounding a Washington State University professor’s quoted claim that a local rancher “elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site … I just want people to know,” as well as the bare-knuckle, behind-the-scenes wrangling between university officials and state lawmakers over his research over the years.

It also reveals some new details about what went on last summer.

Basically, after 2015’s Stickpin Fire, the Profanity Peak Pack moved its den unbeknownst to WDFW or the Diamond M, which turned their cattle out to graze about 5 miles away on June 9, 2016.

The den also ended up being roughly a quarter mile from where a salt lick was put annually to help draw the McIrvins’ herd further up the mountain each grazing season.

It wasn’t until late in the month that the state and the McIrvins separately reached the conclusion from radio-collar data and on-the-ground observations that the pack was using the traditional grazing grounds as well.

Under the right conditions, cattle and wolves mixing is not automatically a recipe for depredations, but they began here July 8 and eventually totaled 15 confirmed and probable attacks.

WDFW’s lethal removals began Aug. 3, paused Aug. 18, and began again Aug. 19. Eventually seven were killed.

Professor Robert Wielgus’s inflammatory claim, which came Aug. 25 in the Times, was gas to the fire, and less than a week later, WSU issued a stunning press release addressing it and other matters.

It said in part: “In fact, the rancher identified in the article did not intentionally place livestock at or near the den site of the Profanity Peak wolf pack, and Dr. Wielgus subsequently acknowledged that he had no basis in fact for making such a statement.”

There can be little doubt about the first part of that statement, and a subsequent quote from Wielgus about Bill McIrvin — “go ahead and quote me: ‘Wherever McIrvin grazes … dead wolves follow.’ Quote me. He’ll be proud of it!” — suggests he bears a real grudge against them.

But according to Mapes’ article today, the WSU press release “disavowing his statements was never shown to him, Wielgus said, and misconstrued a short conversation by phone between him and [Ron] Mittelhammer [the dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences].”

Mapes reports that while Wielgus is now tenured, he doesn’t want to continue working at WSU, where he heads up the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab.

He says the university “called me a liar and ruined my career,” according to the reporter.

Another way to look at the Times’ piece is that “It corroborates the version of the Profanity timeline we’ve been working off since the incident began,” says Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest.

“We hope readers accept that no one deliberately dropped livestock near a wolf den,” he said.

The organization and others on the Wolf Advisory Group stood by WDFW last summer despite high — and lingering — heat from wolf fanatics.

Certainly the Times has every right to explore the circumstances of last summer and Wielgus’s story, but others actively involved in Washington’s wolf world have since moved on.

“Instead of continuing to debate the who-knew-what-when of last year’s conflict, stakeholders should be looking ahead to reduce future conflicts, and to advance responsible wolf conservation and management alongside rural communities and healthy populations of other wildlife,” says Gunnell.

WDFW In Evaluation Period With Smackouts After 2 Removals; No New Depredations Reported

A weekly update from Washington wolf managers yesterday afternoon indicates that, for the moment, things have quieted down in the northeastern corner of the state.

WDFW reports it is now in an evaluation period with the Smackout Pack to see if lethally removing two members following a series of calf depredations that stretch back to late last September can head off more livestock attacks.

A MEMBER OF THE SMACKOUT WOLF PACK OF STEVENS AND PEND OREILLE COUNTIES AWAKES AFTER BEING DRUGGED, EAR TAGGED AND WEIGHED IN LATE MAY 2012. (WDFW)

“The duration of this phase is largely dependent on the behavior of the wolves,” the Aug. 3 update states.

It began July 31.

The agency says there have been no new depredations since July 22, but if another occurs, it may go back in and take out more wolves.

WDFW continues to keep details from northern Stevens County quiet, saying only that it killed the two wolves between July 20, when the operation was announced, and July 30.

Under its lethal removal protocols, incremental removals can be authorized after three confirmed depredations (or two confirmed and a probable) in a rolling 30-day period or four confirmed across a year.

WDFW says that all three producers whose calves have been gnawed on continue to try and keep their stock and wolves from tangling, including the use of range riders, taking dead, sick or injured animals away from the main herd, using fladry or strobe lights and checking on their cattle.

Apparently things have also been quiet with the Sherman Pack, which is sitting on three depredations since June 12.

ODFW To Remove 2 Harl Butte Wolves To Head Off Chronic Depredations

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

ODFW wildlife managers intend to remove some of the adult wolves in northeast Oregon’s Harl Butte pack to limit further livestock losses as non-lethal measures and hazing have not been successful in limiting wolf depredations.

On July 28, ODFW received a lethal removal request from several affected livestock producers from a local grazing association after two depredations were confirmed in a five-day period. They asked that the entire Harl Butte pack be removed due to chronic livestock depredation. ODFW has decided to deny the request and will take an incremental approach instead, removing two members of the pack and then evaluating the situation. “In this chronic situation, lethal control measures are warranted,” said Roblyn Brown, ODFW Acting Wolf Coordinator. “We will use incremental removal to give the remaining wolves the opportunity to change their behavior or move out of the area.”

AN ODFW MAP SHOWS THE AREA OF NORTHEAST OREGON WHERE THE HARL BUTTE PACK RESIDES. (ODFW)

In the past 13 months, ODFW has confirmed seven depredations by the Harl Butte Pack in Wallowa County, which killed three and injured four calves. Six of the depredations have occurred in an area that supports dispersed livestock grazing in large forested pastures on private and public lands.  ODFW believes that depredations may continue or escalate despite non-lethal deterrent measures in place due to the history of depredation by this pack.

When non-lethal deterrence measures are not sufficient, the state’s Wolf Management and Conservation Plan allows for lethal control as a tool to address continuing depredation. At the request of a producer or permittee, ODFW can consider lethal control of wolves under these circumstances: if it confirms at least two depredations of livestock; if the requester documents unsuccessful attempts to solve the situation thru non-lethal means; if no identified circumstance exists that attracts wolf-livestock conflict; and if the requester has complied with applicable laws and the conditions of any harassment or take permit.

In this situation, the livestock producers have maintained a significant human presence in the area of the depredations. Human presence is recognized as one of the best non-lethal methods to limit wolf-livestock conflict in dispersed grazing situations because wolves tend to avoid people. The producers coordinate between themselves, their employees, a county-employed range rider and a volunteer to ensure daily human presence coverage of the area. They increase human activity in areas when they see wolf sign, learn (through telemetry of a radio-collared wolf) that wolf activity is in close proximity to livestock, or when livestock show behavior that could indicate wolf presence.

The increased human presence has given the livestock producers and the range rider multiple opportunities to haze wolves that were chasing or in close proximity to livestock.  On seven different occasions in June and July 2017, wolves have been hazed away from cattle by yelling, firing a pistol, shooting at, walking towards, and riding horseback towards the wolves.

Producers or their employees have also been spending nights near their cattle. Several producers are keeping their stock dogs inside horse trailers at night (as wolves are territorial and may attack dogs). Other producers are changing their typical grazing management practices including bunching cow/calf pairs in a herd (which enables cows to better protect themselves) or delaying pasture rotation to avoid putting cattle in an area where wolves have been.

While investigating reported livestock depredations, ODFW looks for attractants to wolves such as a bone pile or carcass that may contribute to the conflict. Livestock producers have also been watching for vulnerable livestock and carcasses in order to keep them from becoming wolf attractants and have been quick to remove them. Three injured or sick livestock were moved to home ranches for treatment and to protect them from predators. One dead domestic bull was removed from an area of concentrated cattle use (a pond). ODFW has not identified any circumstances or attractants that could promote wolf-livestock conflict in this area.

All these methods used by livestock producers have complied with Oregon’s applicable laws.

The Harl Butte Pack’s first depredation of livestock was confirmed in July of last year. ODFW received a request for lethal control in October 2016, after the fourth confirmed depredation. The department denied this request because most cattle were being removed from the large dispersed grazing pastures and out of the depredation area, so future depredation was unlikely.

The situation is different now because cattle will be grazing in the area on public lands until October and private lands into November, so ODFW expects the depredation will continue.

“Based on the level of non-lethal measures already being used and the fact that wolves are likely to be in the presence of cattle in this area for several more months, there is a substantial risk that depredation will continue or escalate,” said Brown.

ODFW intends to remove up to two adult uncollared wolves from the Harl Butte Pack by trapping or shooting from the ground or air. Once two wolves have been removed, the removal operation will stop. If two wolves have not been killed after two weeks, ODFW will assess whether removal efforts will continue another two weeks. If a new depredation occurs after the removal of two wolves, lethal control may resume.

About the Harl Butte Wolf Pack

The Harl Butte wolf pack may have formed and bred as early as 2015 though they were not documented until 2016. ODFW counted 10 wolves at the end of last year and observed seven wolves in the pack in March.  One wolf in the pack, OR50, was collared in February 2017 and is believed to be the breeding male of the pack.

The pack is expected to have bred this year, and their weaned pups would now be about four months old, though the exact number of pups is unknown.