Category Archives: Wolf News

WDFW Reports Wolf Depredation In Northern Stevens Co.

It’s been a relatively quiet few months, but Washington wolf managers are reporting a confirmed wolf depredation earlier this month.

They say an adult cow was killed on leased private land where the Wedge Pack roams in northern Stevens County.


“Bite wounds were documented on the tail, both rear legs, right elbow, and throat,” WDFW wrote in a report out this afternoon. “Hemorrhaging was noted at all locations accompanied by bite wounds with varying degrees of severity. Based on the combination of bite wounds with associated hemorrhaging and wolf sign in the area, WDFW staff classified this event as a confirmed wolf depredation.”

Agency staffers also investigated what led to the death of another cow a quarter mile away but couldn’t make a final determination on it.

“Despite a thorough investigation, no sign of injury by wildlife was located and the cause of death for this cow was unconfirmed,” WDFW reported.

Both dead cows were investigated June 12 after being found by ranch hands.

“Proactive, non-lethal deterrents (range riding, human presence, monitoring via trail camera, and hazing of wolves when seen) were in place at the time of the depredation,” WDFW reported.

The cattle herd has been moved away from the scene and trail cameras were put up to monitor the area.

The Wedge wolves numbered three when they were counted during last winter’s annual survey. The pack was mostly wiped out in 2012 following a long string of depredations.

The incident is the first confirmed wolf kill since the first days of 2019. It’s the first attributed to the pack in some time.

ODFW’s Commission Adopts Updated Wolf Management Plan


The Commission adopted a Wolf Plan at its meeting in Salem in a 6-1 vote after hearing from 44 people who came to testify and reviewing thousands of public comments.


Allowing controlled take (limited regulated hunting and trapping of wolves) was one of the most controversial topics in the new Wolf Plan. The original Plan adopted in 2005 allowed for controlled take only in Phase 3 (currently eastern Oregon), in instances of recurring depredations or when wolves are a major cause of ungulate populations not meeting established management objectives or herd management goals. While ODFW believed it needed to remain a tool available for wolf management, the department has not proposed any controlled take of wolves and has no plans to at this time.

Commissioners made some changes related to “controlled take” from the proposed Plan.  An addendum was added clearly stating that “Use of controlled take as a management tool requires Commission approval through a separate public rulemaking process” and the definition of controlled take was modified.

Additional minor changes were made to emphasize the importance of non-lethal tools to address wolf-livestock conflict and easy access to this information. Non-lethal measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict continue to be emphasized in all phases of the Plan, and required before any lethal control is considered.

After some discussion, Commissioners revised the definition of chronic depredation (which can lead to lethal control of wolves if non-lethals are in use and not working) in Phase 2 and 3 from two confirmed depredations with no specific time frame to two confirmed depredations in nine months.

The Wolf Plan will be filed with the Secretary of State and posted on the ODFW Wolves webpage ( within the next few business days.

In other business over the two-day meeting June 6-7, the Commission also:

  • Allocated big game auction and raffle tags for 2020.
  • Heard a briefing on the crab fishery and reducing the risk of whale entanglements.
  • Adopted harvest limits for Pacific sardine in state waters for July 2019-June 2020 based on federal regulations.
  • Approved funding for Access and Habitat projects that provide hunting access or improve wildlife habitat on private land.
  • Heard a briefing on proposed changes to 2020 big game hunting regulations as part of efforts to improve and simplify the Big Game Hunting Regulations

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is Aug. 2 in Salem.

WDFW Reports 2 Stevens Co. Wolves Killed, 1 in Self-defense

A Stevens County man shot and killed a wolf in self-defense after it turned towards he and his daughter last weekend while they were on a hike, but the death of a collared wolf elsewhere in the county is under investigation.

WDFW Capt. Dan Rahn says the latter animal, a female, was killed off Highway 20 near the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.


“It was transmitting a mortality signal — that’s how we found it,” he said. “We recovered it on May 27.”

He said that any tips can be phoned in to his agency’s regional office in Spokane at (509) 892-1001.

Conservation Northwest is offering a $7,500 reward for info leading to a conviction.

As for the other incident, state wolf specialist Ben Maletzke said the man and girl left their home late Sunday afternoon to go on a hike on an ATV trail onto public land when they encountered the wolf.

“About 30 yards up the trail a wolf came out of the brush,” he says.

The man, who was carrying a shotgun, “felt threatened and shot the wolf at 25 yards,” Maletzke said.

“It’s just one of those things. They just kinda crossed paths at a bad time,” he said.

Maletzke said the duo left the uncollared female wolf and returned to their home and reported the incident to WDFW.

In 20 minutes an officer arrived and began investigating, determining it had been in self-defense.

“The wolf was running at them and they were concerned for their safety,” said Capt. Rahn. “You have the right to protect yourself.”

Both he and Maletzke agreed that calling in the incident immediately was the right thing for the man to have done.

It’s the latest where state residents have been found to have been justified in shooting a wolf.

Other cases include a Blue Mountains cabin owner afraid for his dogs; a northern Ferry County livestock producer who caught a wolf in the act of attacking his cattle; an Adams County ranchhand who observed a wolf chasing cows; and a northeast Okanogan County rancher who saw a wolf approaching his day-old calves.

This most recent incident occurred in the south end of Stevens County, in the range of the Stranger Pack and most likely was a member of that group of wolves, Maltezke said, though it might also have been a wandering Huckleberry wolf.

Wolves in Northeast Washington were delisted in 2011 and this corner of the state is where most packs and individuals live. They remain state listed.

Maletzke also shared some nonlethal ways to deal with wildlife encountered afield.

“Stand tall, make yourself look big to make it go away,” he said.

Raising your voice can also help, Maletzke added.

Last summer, after wandering too close to a wolf pup rendezvous site and drawing the attention of protective parents, a Forest Service worker climbed a tree, twice.

And before he retired, Rich Landers, longtime outdoor columnist at the Spokesman-Review, posted a great video with advice for recreating with dogs where wolves might be encountered.

Okanogan Highlands Rancher ‘Justified’ In Shooting Wolf Approaching Calves

A northeast Okanogan County rancher has been reported cleared by Washington game wardens after shooting a wolf that approached within roughly half a football field of a fenced calving area with several newborns.

The incident was first reported in WDFW’s monthly wolf report earlier in May and was fleshed out more fully today by the Capital Press after it requested officers’ reports.


It occurred the morning of April 29 east of Highway 97 in the Beaver Creek Pack territory, part of the state where wolves have been federally delisted, and involved a young unmarked male.

“The calving area included cow-calf pairs that were enclosed in a fenced pasture within sight of the house of the livestock producer,” WDFW initially reported.

The Press reported that day-old calves were near a fence as the animal approached. Unsure if it was a coyote or wolf, the rancher shouted at it, but it continued to come closer.

He grabbed a rifle and fired one shot at it, killing it at 280 yards and just 56 yards from the fenceline, the Press reported.

Under state caught-in-the-act provisions, ranchers, farmers and others with animals in the delisted eastern third of the state can shoot a single wolf without a state permit “if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals.”

That allowance was also used this past February in Adams County, where a ranchhand shot and killed a wolf in an unnamed pack after it continued to chase a herd of cattle.

It also requires whomever shoots a wolf to contact WDFW within 24 hours and allow wardens onto the property to investigate.

According to the Press, the rancher was “tense” but officers “assured (him) that we were present to document what had occurred, and we were there to advocate for his personal and property rights as much as the rights of wildlife.”

The story says that the family had known that there had been wolves around the ranch since last fall.

“The producer routinely buries all carcasses and removes afterbirth from the area,” WDFW reported.

Had the wolf gone after the calves, it would have been difficult to make a clean shot, an investigator wrote in their report, the Press stated.

“I informed (the rancher and his wife) that it was a justified act and did not want them to stress about a delayed finding or decision,” another wrote, according to the news source.

Elsewhere in WDFW’s monthly report, state managers say a Spokane Tribe hunter took a member of the Stranger Pack in April, but little other wolf activity amongst the 27 known packs.

Oregon Gov. To ODFW: Support For Wolf Delisting Was ‘Incorrect’

In a staggering turn, Oregon’s governor told federal officials that her fish and wildlife director was “incorrect” in supporting the delisting of wolves in the western two-thirds of their state and elsewhere in the Lower 48.


“The state of Oregon and its agencies do not support the delisting of wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act across their range in the 48 contiguous states,” Gov. Kate Brown also wrote in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That contradicts comments sent just the week before by ODFW’s Curt Melcher that said he agreed with the feds that it was time to remove the species from the ESA list, the state was ready to take on the responsibility across Oregon, and “few changes would occur” as a result.

Asked by a reporter at a news conference late this morning if Melcher should have checked with her office before entering the comments on the Federal Register, Brown said, “That probably would have been a good idea.”

In effectively reversing the state’s position, she said it was “critically important that we maintain rangewide recovery for wolves across the entire Western United States and I think it’s critical they maintain their listing status for that to happen.”

Dominic Aiello of the Oregon Outdoor Council disagreed sharply with the governor’s move.

“The proposed removal of the wolf  — or any species — from the federal Endangered Species Act should be cheered as a conservation success story. Unfortunately, the ESA continues to be used by local and national environmental groups and some politicians as a means to force their political agenda. It is extremely disappointing to see Governor Brown undercut science and the state’s biologists,” he said.

Indeed, wildlife management is based in science — but politics does invade the realm, sometimes more nakedly than others.

Earlier this month, the nomination of a Northeast Oregon hunter, outfitter and conservationist to serve on ODFW’s Fish and Wildlife Commission was scuttled after environmental groups objected, and then changed their tune about why they were objecting.

Objections from environmental groups also led to what’s believed to be a first in Washington, Gov. Jay Insee’s 2015 order to the Fish & Wildlife Commission to reverse a decision involving slightly increased cougar quotas in parts of Eastern Washington.

This is the second time this decade that the USFWS has proposed delisting gray wolves in the western two-thirds of Oregon, Washington and elsewhere outside the Northern Rockies (which include the eastern thirds of both states, where wolves were Congressionally removed in 2011).

The other time, in 2013, it was derailed through the courts.

Meanwhile, the species is clearly recovered and not in any danger of failing in the Northwest, thanks to strong protections put in place by ODFW, WDFW and other state wildlife management agencies.

Comments on this latest proposal were due Tuesday, but USFWS has since extended the deadline until July 15, and Brown’s will now stand as the state’s statement.

“ODFW appreciates and respects the governor’s clarification of the state’s position on federal wolf delisting in the Lower 48,” said agency spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.

WDFW Again Signals Support For Federal Wolf Delisting In Western Two-thirds

It’s unsurprising at this stage, but the top Washington wildlife official once again said his agency is ready to take over wolf management statewide.


“The Department finds the USFWS proposal to remove gray wolves from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and return management authority in the western two-thirds of Washington to the Department appropriate and timely,” writes WDFW Director Kelly Susewind, words not unlike his two predecessors and others there.

His April 18 letter of support comes as the public comment period on the federal proposal to delist the species in the western two-thirds of Washington and elsewhere in the Lower 48 draws to a close in mid-May.

Some 56,000-plus other comments have been submitted as well, including in support from members of Hunting-Washington and the Washington Farm Bureau, among others, but also plenty of opposition.

Susewind’s letter follows on:

* Former Director Jim Unsworth’s 2015 request to US Rep. Dan Newhouse to spur USFWS towards completing its wolf delisting proposal;

* Former Director WDFW Phil Anderson’s 2014 letter to USFWS that the state “no longer needs federal oversight to recover and manage wolves“;

* WDFW wolf policy manager Donny Martorello’s 2013 comment that that year’s delisting proposal was “timely” (it was ultimately waylaid in court).

* The agency’s 2012 opposition to the cockamamie idea that wolves in the western two-thirds of the state were a different stock from those in the eastern two-thirds, which were Congressionally delisted in 2011.

* And a Fish and Wildlife Commission position statement on wolves, during the development of which then Chair Miranda Wecker said, “Some wolf enthusiasts want wolves to live out their natural lives. That’s not the position of the department. Let me be crystal clear: Wolves will become a game species. They will be managed, and not for maximum population.”

Federal delisting would allow WDFW to use the same management tools in the Cascades and Western Washington as it does in the state’s eastern third.

“This is the right direction for wolf conservation and management in our state,” Susewind said, pointing to the agency’s recovery plan, legislative funding, stakeholder work and efforts to manage wolves in perpetuity.

WDFW has also begun a status review of the state’s population, which at last minimum count stood at 126 wolves in 27 packs and has surely grown since then as pups hit the ground this spring.

Based on that review, WDFW will make a recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on whether gray wolves’ continued state ESA listing is warranted or not.

ODFW Posts Revised Draft Wolf Plan For Comment Ahead Of June Commission Vote


ODFW released its draft proposed Wolf Conservation and Management Plan today at

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to vote on the Plan at its June 7 meeting in Salem.

Once adopted, the Plan will be the third edition of the Wolf Plan, which was first adopted in 2005 after an extensive public process and revised in 2010.


The proposed Draft Plan was written by staff but involved extensive meetings with stakeholders and public comment at several prior Commission meetings. In 2018, the Commission also directed ODFW staff to host facilitated meetings with stakeholders to seek consensus on unresolved issues.

The draft Plan incorporates ideas where consensus was reached, but agreement was not possible on all topics. See a report on the facilitated meetings’ outcomes here

“Wolf management is a polarizing topic with strong views on all sides, so it’s tough to find consensus,” says Derek Broman, ODFW carnivore and furbearer program coordinator. “But regardless of people’s views on wolves, the wolf population in Oregon is growing in size, number of packs and packs reproducing, while expanding its range.”

Defining chronic depredation that might lead to lethal control of wolves and hunting of wolves are some of the most contentious issues. Staff previously proposed the definition of chronic depredation be three confirmed depredations in a 12-month period in Phase 2 and 3, a change from the current definition (two confirmed depredations in an unlimited timeframe). Due to feedback from stakeholders at the facilitated meetings, the Draft Plan now proposes two confirmed depredations in nine months in Phases 2 and 3 (so the only change from the current definition is a  9-month time restriction).

Like the original Plan, the Draft Plan would allow controlled take only in Phase 3 (currently eastern Oregon) in instances of recurring depredations or when wolves are a major cause of ungulate populations not meeting established management objectives or herd management goals.

ODFW is not proposing any controlled take of wolves at this time, but believes regulated hunting and trapping needs to remain a tool available for wolf management.  Any proposal for controlled take of wolves would require Commission approval through a separate planning and hunt development process.

Other major topics addressed in Plan include:

  • Wolf-livestock conflict, including an expanded section on the latest non-lethal tools and techniques for reducing conflict.
  • Wolf interactions with native ungulate populations, including annual ungulate population estimates before and after wolf establishment. Elk, wolves’ primary prey, have increased in some units with wolves and decreased in others. However, interpretation of the impact of wolf predation on elk is confounded by management efforts to reduce elk numbers in units where they are over management objective or to minimize conflicts with elk on private land. Mule deer have been below desired levels for more than two decades, before wolves’ returned to Oregon, with changing land management strategies, invasive weeds, and recent severe weather among the main reasons for their decline.
  • Wolf population monitoring and potential conservation threats.
  • Strategies to address wolf-human interactions.

Public testimony on the draft Plan will be taken during the June 7 meeting and can also be sent to Emails sent by May 23 will be included with staff proposal as part of the review materials shared with Commissioners prior to the meeting.

Washington Wolf Numbers Up Again In 2018 Annual Count

Washington wildlife managers say that wolf numbers increased yet again, marking a tenth straight year of growth, with new packs popping up in Skagit, Kittitas and Columbia Counties and on and near the Colville Reservation.


They report that there were a minimum of 126 wolves in 27 packs with 17 successful breeding pairs at the end of 2018, up from 122, 22 and 14.

The rise occurred once again despite tribal hunting and state removals to head off livestock depredations.

State wolf policy manager Donny Martorello did call the 2 percent growth “modest,” but said that the increase in breeding pairs in the North Cascades to three was important.

“We’re pleased we’re taking another step towards the recovery objective. The local recovery objective is four,” he said.

It was expected in some quarters including this one that the 2018 annual count would be significantly higher based on the work of Dr. Samuel Wasser in Northeast Washington and the South Cascades.

His scat-sniffing dogs found evidence of 60 different wolves in Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties during a timeframe that WDFW’s official count listed a minimum of 30.

But Martorello said that Wasser and WDFW were largely working at opposite ends of the wolf population cycle, the University of Washington researcher after litters were on the ground and wolf numbers were highest, and the state agency in the dead of winter, which can see 50 to 60 percent mortality among young-of-the-year animals.

“We’re doing a minimum count when the population is lowest,” he said.

Minimum also means the animals that they can visually count out of aircraft or on trail cams, though they use a 12 percent expansion factor to account for dispersers.

Speaking of, one of the six new packs was formed in the upper Skagit Valley when the male that’s been hanging out near Marblemount since 2018 was joined by a female this winter. The duo are being called the Diobsud Pack, after a local stream.

It’s being termed the first pack west of the Cascade Crest, though several wolves ran in the border-straddling Hozomeen area of the upper upper Skagit a few years ago, though apparently didn’t den in Washington, the official metric for determining residency.

The new Butte Creek Pack runs in the Blue Mountains and includes one that dispersed from elsewhere in the state, and the Naneum Pack is in northeast Kittitas County.

And the Nason, OPT for Old Profanity Territory, and Sherman Packs are on or north of the Colville Reservation.


That upper right quarter of Washington is already positively thick with wolves, though the Five Sisters Pack broke up “due to unknown reasons.”

That didn’t much worry Martorello, who said that with recovery goals long ago surpassed, the year to year fluctuations were a sign of “normal ecological changes.”

Indeed, the report underscores yet again that wolves are doing quite well in Washington and are likely to continue to do so, and it will be taken into account as WDFW reviews the status of the species and its robustness.

That process will begin in May and will use Washington wolf data instead of other states’ to update population models. It will also incorporate mortality and fecundity data.

Based on that review, WDFW will make a recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission next February on whether gray wolves’ continued state ESA listing is warranted or not.

Well down the road, that could potentially lead to hunting opportunities similar to those already enjoyed by members of the Colville and Spokane Tribes.

Earlier this year, federal wildlife overseers announced they would propose delisting packs in the western two-thirds of the Washington as well as Oregon and elsewhere in the Lower 48.

More details on the annual count will come out tomorrow as WDFW managers present it to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, but other details from the agency’s press release today include:

  • Along with the disperser that’s part of the Butte Creek Pack, another Washington wolf left the state and headed through Oregon and into Idaho (this winter, a Montana wolf was also spotted on the Palouse);
  • At least 12 wolves died in 2018, six taken during tribal hunting seasons, four (two OPTs, one Togo, one Smackout) killed by WDFW after repeated livestock depredations in the federally delisted third of the state; and two that are being investigated;
  • Since wolves were first confirmed as returning to Washington in 2008, their numbers have increased 28 percent a year, and that is likely to continue as the population in the Cascades growsk, managers say;
  • WDFW and 31 ranches had cost-sharing agreements to protect livestock herds;
  • Five packs depredated on at least one farm animal in 2018, with 11 confirmed cattle and one sheep deaths and 19 cattle and two sheep injured by wolves;
  • And WDFW reports it processed damage claims totaling $7,536 for wolf-caused losses and $5,950 for an “indirect” claim for reduced weight gain or other wolf-related interactions.

Researchers have been looking into the impact of wolves on important hunting species, with University of Washington scientists earlier this year reporting that muleys are moving higher up in the mountains of North-central Washington to avoid the predators (though also closer to cougars).

WDFW is also in year three of its five-year Predator-Prey Project in the Okanogan and Northeast Washington.

ODFW Reports Group Of Wolves In Indigo WMU

Oregon wildlife managers are reporting a new group of wolves in the upper North Umpqua and Middle Fork Willamette drainages, and say three turned up on a trail camera last month.


ODFW is calling them the Indigo wolves after the name of the wildlife management unit for this part of Lane and Douglas Counties.

The announcement follows public reports of wolf activity in the area in recent years, with biologists finding tracks last fall.


“At this time, wildlife managers have little data regarding the specifics of this new group (i.e., sex, breeding status, and specific use area) and additional surveys are needed to find out more information,” ODFW stated on its gray wolf page.

Wolves in this part of Oregon are still federally listed, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s state office touted it as further proof the species’ recovery is “going strong.”

“This follows robust recovery of gray wolves across the U.S. While the wolf had all but disappeared from the lower 48 by the early 20th century, it now roams free in 9 states and is stable and healthy at over 5000 wolves. This remarkable recovery led the Service to propose removing gray wolves from protection under ESA last week,” the agency posted on Facebook.

Robust, certainly, along with robust conflicts in some cases. Yesterday ODFW said that a wolf or wolves had killed the pup of a livestock producer further south in Oregon’s Cascades.

Its carcass was found 400 yards from his house in the Boundary Butte area, where there have been two wolf attacks on calves so far this year.

“He had last seen the dog alive at midnight that morning when he had gone outside to turn on Air Dancer wolf deterrent devices after being awakened by his dogs barking incessantly,” the state investigation report says.

The Rogue Pack and OR-7 roam in that area. The Capital Press reported that the 16-week-old mastiff was the 11th farm animal to be killed or injured by the wolves since last September.

If the proposed delisting goes through, it would mean state managers would have more flexibility in dealing with chronic wolf depredations.

There’s also another group of wolves, the White Rivers, in Oregon’s northern Cascades.


Lower 48 Gray Wolf Delisting Proposal Going Out For Comment

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to delist gray wolves in the rest of the Lower 48 will go out for comment tomorrow when it is officially posted on the Federal Register.


“While wolves in the gray wolf entity currently occupy only a portion of wolf historical range, the best available information indicates that the gray wolf entity is recovered and is not now, nor likely in the foreseeable future, to be negatively affected by past, current, and potential future threats such that the entity is in danger of extinction,” reads a portion of the 158-page document now available for previewing.

USFWS says that species don’t have to be recovered throughout their former range — essentially impossible with all the development since their large-scale extirpation — to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act, but that it would continue to monitor populations for five years, like it did with the Northern Rockies wolves and which have continued to thrive under state management.

The agency says that delisting will let it focus on species that still need help.

“Every species kept on the Endangered Species List beyond its point of recovery takes valuable resources away from those species still in need of the act’s protections,” USFWS said in a press release officially announcing the proposal.

Word first came out last week from Department of Interior Acting Secretary David Bernhardt that it was pending.

There are now more than 6,000 wolves in the Lower 48, primarily in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes, but those populations are spreading out.

Just last week it became clear that there was likely a wolf or wolves within miles of the Pacific in Southern Oregon after state managers there reported one was probably to blame for a large-scale sheep depredation near Cape Blanco.

Gray wolves were delisted in Idaho, Montana and the eastern thirds of Oregon and Washington in 2011. This new proposal would extend that the western two-thirds of both states and elsewhere, if it is approved. A similar bid in 2013 was challenged in court and the effort was derailed, but quietly began again last June.

“Our deepest gratitude goes to all our conservation partners in this victory, particularly the states and tribes who are committed to wolf conservation and will continue this legacy forward,” said USFWS Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson in the press release.

ODFW and WDFW last week reiterated that they’re ready to take over management of gray wolves across their respective states. It would level the playing field, per se, in dealing with depredations, but would not mean an immediate free-fire zone as the species would remain under state protections for the time being.

Publication on the Federal Register starts a 60-day comment period.