Category Archives: Wolf News

As OPT Cattle Attacks Continue, WDFW Assessing Situation

Editor’s note: Updated 8 a.m., July 24, 2019 at bottom with news on Grouse Flats Pack depredations

WDFW is confirming four more calves have been or were probably killed or injured by the Old Profanity Territory Pack, mostly since its breeding male was lethally removed, and is continuing to evaluate the situation.

“Director (Kelly) Susewind is now assessing this situation and considering next steps,” an agency weekly update out Tuesday afternoon reads.


Range riding and other nonlethal conflict prevention measures will continue in the immediate short term in the northern Ferry County area where the cattle are on federal grazing allotments.

WDFW killed the OPT’s breeding male July 13 following the death of a cow, at the time the 20th depredation by the pack in less than a year, then paused its operation to evaluate the pack’s response.

Two injured calves were found on July 18, a dead one was reported on July 19 and investigated July 20 , with a fourth, also dead, discovered July 22.

The first three were confirmed wolf depredations, the last one went down as a probable, according to WDFW.

All but one occurred after the removal.

There are believed to be 8 wolves in the pack, half of which are adults, including one younger male that has a radio collar that was tied to the scene of one of the dead calves.

The agency says this about prevention measures being used:

“The owner of the calves is the same livestock producer who experienced wolf depredations by the OPT pack on July 6 and previously in 2018. On July 10, WDFW released an update detailing the proactive nonlethal conflict deterrence measures in place prior to the confirmed wolf depredation on July 6, and the subsequent lethal removal of an OPT wolf on July 13. Following the depredation confirmed on July 6, WDFW-contracted range riders were in the area for two days before pausing activity during lethal removal efforts. The WDFW-contracted range riders did not resume riding because the livestock producer prefers that contracted range riders not work with their cattle at this time.”

“The producer is continuing to remove or secure livestock carcasses (when discovered) to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, and remove sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed. WDFW and county staff are continuing to coordinate patrols of the grazing area to increase human presence and use Fox lights at salting and watering locations to deter wolves. Other livestock producers with cattle on federal grazing allotments in the OPT pack territory have deployed range riders.”

Rancher Len McIrvin of the Diamond M is dismissive of non-lethal efforts in a Capital Press story out today after the fourth calf’s carcass was discovered.

“They learn to fear the helicopter, at best, maybe,” he told the ag outlet.

WDFW says its next update on the pack will come next Tuesday, July 30.

Meanwhile, the Grouse Flats Pack has killed a second calf in two weeks, this time on private land near Anatone, according to an article in the Lewiston Tribune, which broke the news.

It’s also the Asotin County wolves’ third depredation in 10 months, the trigger for consideration of lethal removals under WDFW protocols, and fourth in less than a year.

The others were a dead calf investigated in early September and an injured cow investigated in late October.

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More Cattle Attacks In Ferry Co.; Wielgus Part Of WDFW Pressure Campaign

As wolf advocates launch a pressure campaign against Washington wildlife managers over their handling of the OPT Pack, the Ferry County wolves have reportedly attacked three more calves since the breeding male was taken out nine days ago.


The Capital Press says that one of the calves was found dead while the other two died as a result of the depredations from this past Thursday and Saturday.

The pack has been in an evaluation period after the large wolf was lethally removed July 13 in response to the killing of an adult cow on a federal grazing allotment discovered July 6.

That loss was the 20th attributed to the OPTs since early last September.

“Our team is meeting this morning as we speak,” said Staci Lehman, a WDFW spokesperson based out of Spokane, a short time ago.

The Press reports that the rancher whose cattle were attacked claims the incidents occurred near lights set up to ward off wolves.

“The only thing they can do is total pack removal,” Len McIrvin told the ag outlet.

In a new pressure campaign, McIrvin is termed an “instigator for a long series of ‘wolf depredation’ actions” taken by WDFW and accounts for 85 percent of all lethal removals.

The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action also placed a full-page ad in yesterday’s Seattle Times calling on Director Kelly Susewind not to authorize more removals, and sent out a press release that brings Rob Wielgus, the former Washington State University professor, back into the conflict.

In 2016, Wielgus claimed McIrvin and his Diamond M Ranch had turned out cattle “directly on top” of the original Profanity Peak Pack’s den, but WDFW and WSU officials refuted that, saying the herd had been let out 4 to 5 miles away.

“My research shows that non-lethal controls, such as keeping livestock and salt blocks one kilometer away from wolf denning and rendezvous areas, are very effective in deterring rare wolf attacks on livestock,” Wielgus stated in the AWA press release.

According to WDFW, the rancher delayed turnout two weeks and sent out calves born earlier in the year, both of which “are considered proactive conflict mitigation measures because the calves are larger and more defensible.”

“The producer is continuing to coordinate patrols of the grazing area with WDFW and county staff, removing or securing livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, using Fox lights at salting and watering locations to deter wolves, and removing sick and injured livestock (when discovered) from the grazing area until they are healed,” the agency reported last Tuesday.

At the very least, expect a weekly update on the situation from WDFW tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as outside groups attempt to minimize Washington’s wolf count and make the wild animals seem more vulnerable, the agency is increasing the visibility of how it manages wolves, placing the species as the banner on its website with a link to population information.

“The 2018 annual report reinforces the profile of wolves as a highly resilient, adaptable species whose members are well-suited to Washington’s rugged, expansive landscape,” the statement reads.

Next month expect to begin hearing more about planning for postrecovery wolf management in the state, a scoping process that will include more than a dozen meeting from September through November.

WDFW will essentially be asking the public if there is anything missing in its plans for how to deal with wolves after they reach population goals in the coming years.

For hunters or others unable to attend the meetings, there will be a webinar version.

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WDFW Kills One O.P.T. Wolf, Now Evaluating Pack Behavior

Editor’s note: Updated 11:15 a.m., July 17, 2019, with more info from WDFW near bottom

Washington wolf managers say they have lethally removed a member of the Old Profanity Territory Pack and are now evaluating the livestock-depredating wolves’ behavior.


WDFW reports killing the collared adult male on July 13 and made the announcement yesterday.

The pack is blamed for 20 attacks on cows and calves in northern Ferry County since early last September, with 15 of those falling within a rolling 10-month window that allows for the agency to consider taking wolves out to try and head off more depredations.

Director Kelly Susewind authorized “incremental removals” on July 10 after a dead cow was found July 6 and determined to have been killed by a member or members of the pack, allowing for an eight-hour court window for challenges, but none were filed.

“WDFW’s approach to incremental removal consists of a period of active operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions changed the pack’s behavior. The department has now entered an evaluation period,” the agency states in an online update.

State sharpshooters have now taken out three members of the pack, two last fall, but some are calling for the complete removal of the animals which share countryside with cattle on federal grazing allotments and private pastures, while others say the problem will only continue because of the quality of the landscape for wolves.

It was the scene of livestock attacks and wolf killing in 2016.

WDFW says that it may restart removals of the OPTs if another depredation turns up and is determined to have occurred after Saturday’s wolf was killed.

Wolf policy manager Donny Martorello describes the animal as the pack’s breeding male, which had been part of previous depredations.

Taking out the largest, most able member is meant to reduce the rest of the pack’s ability to attack livestock, he said.

“It’s not only the removal of a key individual but the hazing can have an effect to change wolf behavior,” Martorello added.

There were believed to be five adults and four juveniles in the pack as of a week or so ago. At least two had collars, the alpha male and a yearling male captured in March.

Martorello reported there was nothing new with the Grouse Flats Pack, which killed a calf on WDFW’s 4-O Ranch Unit of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area, but that the agency is gearing up to hold a number of public meetings in the coming months.

Starting in early August, expect to begin hearing more about planning for postrecovery wolf management in Washington, a scoping process that will include more than a dozen meeting across the state from September through November.

WDFW will essentially be asking the public if there is anything missing in its plans for how to deal with wolves after they reach population goals in the coming years.

“It’s about making sure we have the bookends at the right places,” says Martorello.

He says that for hunters or others unable to attend the meetings, there will be a webinar version.

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Wolf Depredation Reported On Asotin Co. Wildlife Area

Washington wildlife managers are confirming another wolf depredation this week, this one in the southeastern Blue Mountains.

They say the Grouse Flats Pack of southern Asotin County killed a 400-plus-pound calf in a fenced 160-acre pasture of the 4-O Ranch Unit of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area.


Its carcass was found Monday by state staffers working on the site. An investigation found classic hallmarks of a wolf kill, and telemetry from a radio-collared member of the pack put it in the area when it’s believed the calf was taken down.

“The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock monitors the herd by range riding at least every other day, maintains regular human presence in the area, removes or secures livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, and avoids known wolf high activity areas,” WDFW reported. “Since the depredation occurred, the producer deployed Fox lights in the grazing area and will increase the frequency of range riding until cattle can be moved to a different pasture.”

The Grouse Flats Pack struck three times in 2018, injuring one calf in August, killing another in early September and injuring a cow in late October.

The three head all belonged to different ranchers grazing cattle on private lands and federal grazing allotments.

Meanwhile, far to the north in Ferry County, WDFW had no update to its announced incremental removal of wolves from the Old Profanity Territory Pack, according to spokeswoman Sam Mongomery.

Director Kelly Susewind greenlighted that operation on July 10.

Outside environmental groups reportedly did not want to challenge it in court during an eight-hour window.

The OPT Pack is blamed for 20 depredations, including 15 in a rolling 10-month window. Under WDFW’s protocols, lethal removals are considered for three depredations in a 30-day window or four in 10 months.

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Study On Wolf Pack Size And Elk Survival Spotlights Strong Cougar Impact

A longterm study of wapiti and wolves in Idaho turned up some pretty interesting results.

Mountain lions appear to kill more cows and calves and could also be having a larger impact on the elk herds, but wildlife managers can also increase the ungulates’ survival during snowy winters by downsizing large wolf packs preying on them.


The study also tied calf survival to predation by either toothsome species by how robust the young elk were going into their first winter, which in turn is linked to the quality of their habitat.

“There’s kind of something for everyone in there, and that’s OK, because it’s reflecting the real complexity of the system” Jon Horne, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game researcher, told David Frey of The Wildlife Society for a story entitled “JWM: Wolves reduce elk survival — but they’re not alone.”

JWM is the organization’s Journal of Wildlife Management, in which Horne and IDFG colleagues Mark Hurley, Jon Rachael and Craig White recently published “Effects of wolf pack size and winter conditions on elk mortality.”

For it, they paid close attention to 1,266 cows and 806 calves (captured at half a year old) in 29 herds from across Idaho between 2004 and 2016 to come up with a model that could predict the risk of death for the elk, according to the paper’s abstract.


They found that outside of hunting harvest, 9 percent of cows and 40 percent of calves died annually.

Mountain lions accounted for 45 percent of calf deaths, 35 percent of cows. They’re an ambush predator, better in rougher, denser terrain.

Wolves were responsible for 32 percent of cow mortalities, 28 percent of calves. They’re a coarser, more effective in open country.

“Wolves preferentially selected smaller calves and older adult females, whereas mountain lions showed little preference for calf size or age class of adult females,” the researchers state.

They were able to best predict whether a calf would die based on its chest girth — a measure of how healthy it was — the average number of wolves running in nearby packs, and how deep winter snows were, in that order.

For cows, it was age, average number of wolves, and snow depth, again in that order.


It all led to some conclusions for hunters, biologists, managers and policy makers to mull:

“Although our study was prompted by management questions related to wolves, mountain lions killed more elk than wolves and differences in selection of individual elk indicate mountain lions may have comparably more of an effect on elk population dynamics,” the researchers’ abstract states.


“Our study indicates managers can increase elk survival by reducing wolf pack sizes on surrounding winter ranges, especially in areas where, or during years when, snow is deep,” they write.


“Additionally, managers interested in improving over?winter calf survival can implement actions to increase the size of calves entering winter by increasing the nutritional quality of summer and early fall forage resources.”

While the results were not uniform, varying by region, that last point has been repeated a billion times, and here I’ll make it a billion and one — habitat is the key.

Elk country really needs to continue to be improved with the ungulates in mind to make them stronger, more fit and able to evade predators.

As for improving survival, in winter 2013-14 a professional hunter sent by IDFG into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to kill wolves to improve elk survival ended up taking out two entire packs before he was yanked out of the woods.

That’s unlikely to happen in Washington, but the state wolf management plan does say that if “at-risk” big game herds are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if the wolf recovery zone that the deer, elk, moose, etc., herd occupies has four or more breeding pairs.

“Under this form of management, wolves would be controlled by moving them to other areas, through lethal control, and/or with other control techniques. While wolves are recovering, non-lethal solutions will be prioritized to be used first,” WDFW’s plan states.

It’s probably not the final word, but the IDFG biologists’ study is sure to kick up more sparks in the blazing fire that is the debate about the impact wolves are having on our region’s elk herds.

But two things are for sure: It appears that a whole ‘nother species — cougars — are playing an even bigger role in things than we’ve suspected, and this latest insight helps flesh out how complicated it all is.

“What we’re realizing now is that to really understand these systems, we have to treat them as multiple-predator, multiple-prey systems,” Horne told The Wildlife Society’s Frey.

In the coming years, details more specific to Washington should begin to come out through WDFW’s big predator-prey study in the Eastside’s northern tier. It’s looking at deer and elk, and wolves, cougars, coyotes and bobcats.

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Susewind OKs Targeting OPT Pack Wolves For Chronic Livestock Attacks

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind this morning authorized incremental lethal removals of a Northeast Washington wolf pack involved in at least 20 cattle depredations since last September, the latest a cow that was killed sometime before this past Saturday.


“This is a very difficult situation for all those involved, especially given the history of wolf-livestock conflict in this area,” Susewind said in an agency statement. “Our goal is to change this pack’s behavior.”

His OK is subject to an eight-hour window for any possible court appeal.

State sharpshooters took out two members of the OPT or Old Profanity Territory Pack last fall following a series of attacks on calves.

The effort was paused twice, and there were three attacks in January on private land attributed to the pack, though those “were not considered in the Director’s decision.”

All totaled, WDFW says that the wolves in the northern Ferry County group have killed at least seven calves and cows and injured 13 since Sept. 5, with 15 of the attacks occurring in the rolling 10-month window where lethal action can be considered.

Yesterday afternoon, the agency began laying out its case for possibly making this decision, detailing nonlethal preventative measures taken by the producer including turning out calves later and older, wolf-livestock conflict avoidance work being done where the cattle are grazing on a Colville National Forest allotment, and outlining the pack’s chronic history of depredations.

Those were reiterated and expanded in this morning’s announcement.

“As called for in the plan and protocol, incremental removal includes periods of active removals or attempts to remove wolves followed by periods of evaluation to determine if pack behavior has changed,” WDFW states.

This mostly public-lands, mountainous and forested/burned forest region interspersed with some meadows and grazing allotments has seen numerous depredations in the past, including last year by the Togo Pack, in 2017 by the Sherman Pack, in 2016 by the Profanity Peak Pack and in 2012 by the Wedge Pack.

It’s believed there are nine members in the OPT Pack, five adults and four pups.

We’ll have more as news comes in.

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OPT Wolves Involved In 20th Livestock Depredation, WDFW Says

Washington wolf managers are reporting a fresh cattle depredation in a troublesome part of the state.


WDFW says that the OPT wolves are responsible for the death of a cow discovered this past Saturday in northern Ferry County, bringing the number of livestock killed or injured by the pack since early September 2018 to 20.

“Director (Kelly) Susewind is now assessing this situation and considering next steps,” the agency stated in an update to its wolf pages.

The livestock producer wasn’t identified, but WDFW said it is the same one who was hit by a string of depredations last summer and fall, meaning the Diamond M Ranch.

They turned out cattle onto Forest Service allotments two weeks later than allowed under their permit, according to the agency, which added that for the past three weeks, there have been “near-daily patrols” of the herds by its staffers, ranchhands, and Jeff Flood, the Ferry-Stevens County wildlife specialist.

WDFW’s report includes more details about proactive, nonlethal measures being taken, along with details on how the cattle have been using the area.

On June 23, fox lights were also deployed to try and keep wolves away from the livestock.

Following last September’s attacks by the OPTs, which occupy the old territory of the Profanity Pack, Susewind authorized  incrementally removing members, taking out two of the four known wolves, paused the operation, restarted it again after late October depredations, then it paused again in November.

In January three more depredations occurred, though those don’t count towards considering lethal removal.

A monthly wolf report WDFW sent out yesterday shows that 13 and now 14 depredations with this latest have occurred within the 10-month rolling window for consideration through Saturday, July 6.

Thirteen of the 20 attacks resulted in injured calves or cows, the other seven deaths.

Diamond M operators suffered depredations from the Profanity Peak Pack in 2016 and Wedge Pack in 2012.

There are at least four and possibly five adults in the OPT Pack, along with four juveniles, the agency reports.

Things are otherwise generally quiet with Washington’s wolves, at least according to WDFW’s June report.

It states that six wolves, including two females in the Beaver Creek Pack, an adult female in the Dirty Shirt Pack, a yearling female in the Huckleberry Pack, an adult male in the Lookout Pack, and an adult male in the OPT Pack were all captured and collared last month.

The agency also stated that a collared Teanaway female that dispersed out of Central Washington was legally killed near Douglas Lake in British Columbia, and that members of its pack were also involved in “an interaction” with cattle.

Away from the woods, get ready for more wolf talk later this summer and fall.

“WDFW will begin a public engagement process in August that will propose the development of a post-recovery wolf conservation and management plan,” state managers posted in their monthly update. “The evaluation of wolf translocation will be incorporated into this process. Wolves are currently listed as a state endangered species in Washington. The post-recovery planning process is being initiated proactively because WDFW anticipates it will likely take two to three years to complete. The post-recovery plan will guide WDFW in long-term wolf conservation and management, and will evaluate various wolf management tools, including translocation. WDFW will announce the public scoping for the post-recovery plan and associated public meetings in August.”

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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.