Category Archives: Wolf News

Wolf Translocation Bill Clears Washington House Committee

Translocating wolves around Washington hasn’t gotten much traction in the state Legislature — until today.

A bill prompting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to use that tool from the agency’s 2011 wolf management plan moved out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon on a bipartisan 12-3 recommendation.

REPRESENTATIVES BRIAN BLAKE (MIDDLE) AND JOEL KRETZ CHAT BEFORE TODAY’S DO-PASS RECOMMENDATION ON THE LATTER LAWMAKER’S SUBSTITUTE HOUSE BILL 2771, TRANSLOCATION OF WOLVES, AN IDEA WHICH BLAKE WAS IN “VISCERAL OPPOSITION” TO. (TVW)

It’s a victory for Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) who has annually introduced translocation legislation — some bills more serious than others — to capture wolves in Northeast Washington, where they’re relatively plentiful, and ship them to parts of the state where there are few if any packs.

“It’s part of the wolf plan; why aren’t we using it?” Kretz asked during a public hearing yesterday on his HB 2771.

That plan calls for set numbers of successful breeding packs in three regions of Washington, a benchmark that’s only being met east of Highways 97, 17 and 395, with no known pairs in the South Cascades and Olympics Zone as of the count last March.

For its part, WDFW was officially neutral on the bill, not seeing a need with the state’s wolf population growing at 30 percent a year and the drawn-out SEPA process that would come with translocation.

“In Washington, we are seeing wolves disperse naturally — with multiple sightings on the west side of the Cascades. So while we appreciate this tool, we’d prefer to see wolves recolonize the west side of the state naturally,” said Raquel Crosier, the agency’s legislative liaison, via email.

Still, Kretz was looking to instill “a little urgency” with WDFW.

“We have a plethora of wolves in one small geographic area that is highly dependent on the livestock industry,” he told agency wolf manager Donny Martorello who testified. “We can’t wait another three of four years for you guys to decide maybe we should do something.”

REP. JOEL KRETZ’S 7TH LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT, OUTLINED IN RED ON WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF PACK MAP. (WDFW)

Also in support was Tom Davis, representing the state farm bureau and cattlemen’s association.

Conservation Northwest is neutral, according to spokesman Chase Gunnell.

Responding to Wednesday’s comments from WDFW and others, the substitute bill that was passed today clarifies that livestock-depredating and other problem wolves not be part of a translocation program and removes a cap that required it be completed in three years.

The amended legislation also calls on WDFW to make a report to lawmakers by the end of 2020.

That said, the bill is a long way from becoming actual law. It first would need to be passed by the full House, the Senate and then signed by Governor Jay Inslee.

Among those voting against Kretz’s bill was committee Chairman Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen).

Yesterday, he acknowledged the frustrations felt by cattle producers in Northeast Washington but he also told the Capital Press he has “a visceral opposition to translocation.”

Before today’s vote he joked he might be “a lone wolf” with his no vote, but he was joined by his fellow South Coast representative, Jim Walsh, a Republican, and Ed Orcutt, also a Republican who represents much of the rest of Southwest Washington.

Voting yes were Republicans Vincent Buys of Whatcom County, Joel Kretz of Northeast Washington, Tom Dent of Central Washington, Bruce Chandler of the Yakima Valley and Joe Schmick of Southeast Washington, and Democrats Mike Chapman of the Olympic Peninsula, Joe Fitzgibbon of western King County, Kristine Lytton of the San Juan Islands and Bellingham, Eric Pettigrew of Seattle’s Rainier Valley and Renton, June Robinson of Everett and western Snohomish County, Larry Springer of north King County and Derek Stanford of southwest Snohomish County.

Oregon Man Charged With Illegally Killing Wolf, Unlawful Trapping

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE

On December 18, 2017, an Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Trooper was inspecting a trap line near Elgin, OR, when he located a deceased wolf adjacent to one of the foothold traps. Upon inspection, it was determined that the wolf had more than likely been shot after having been caught in the foothold trap.

(ODFW)

The trooper initiated an investigation, including an x-ray examination and necropsy of the deceased wolf, which revealed a small caliber bullet retrieved from the wolf’s spinal column. Throughout the investigation, a suspect was developed and following an interview, the individual admitted to killing the wolf after finding it caught in one of his traps. The investigation also determined that the trapper was utilizing traps, which were not branded or marked with the trapper’s information, as required by law.

Following the investigation, David M SANDERS (JR), age 58, of Elgin, was cited to appear for Unlawful Taking of Wildlife –Unbranded Traps and Unlawful Taking of Wildlife — Special Status Game Animal (both misdemeanors). SANDERS was arraigned in Union County Circuit Court on January 23, 2018, where the case is still pending.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) assisted with the identification of the wolf and also collected DNA samples for further testing. According to ODFW, the wolf killed was a 63.5 pound juvenile female born in April 2017. Based on its location, ODFW believes it was the offspring of a new pair of wolves that bred this year in the Mt. Emily Wildlife Management Unit, but is awaiting DNA results to confirm this. (More information about this new pack will be available in March, when ODFW releases its annual wolf report.)

ODFW reminds all trappers to immediately contact OSP or their nearest ODFW field office if they find a wolf caught in a trap. Four wolves are known to have been inadvertently caught by licensed trappers since wolves began returning to Oregon in the late 2000s, but in all these known cases, the trapper contacted ODFW. Wildlife biologists were able to respond and then collar and safely release the wolf from the trap.

No further information to be released at this time.

Spokane-area Man Fined $8,300 For Poaching 2 Northeast Washington Wolves

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

A man from Liberty Lake, Washington, was fined $8,293 in Pend Oreille County District Court yesterday in a plea bargain agreement for killing two wolves in Pend Oreille County in 2016.

EVIDENCE FROM THE CASE AGAINST TERRY LEROY FOWLER OF LIBERTY LAKE INCLUDED A PAIR OF WOLF SKULLS … (WDFW)

Terry Leroy Fowler, 55, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful taking of endangered wildlife, while a third count was dismissed under the agreement. Fowler will pay $8,000 in restitution to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and $293 in court costs. A 364-day jail sentence was suspended, but Fowler will be required to spend 30 days under home electronic monitoring.

… A TRAP … (WDFW)

WDFW Police Capt. Dan Rahn said the department began investigating the case in late February of 2016, while following up on a wolf mortality near the LeClerc Creek Road in Pend Oreille County. Evidence at the scene led WDFW police to property owned by Fowler.

In March 2016, WDFW served search warrants on Fowler’s cabin in Pend Oreille County, and on his residence in Liberty Lake in Spokane County. Rahn said WDFW police found evidence of wolf trapping, wolf hair, tissue, scat, and two skulls.

In December 2016, the department received the results of a DNA analysis of evidence samples confirming they were from three separate wolves.

… AND WOLF HAIR FROM A TRAP. (WDFW)

WDFW referred charges of three counts of unlawful taking of endangered wildlife to the Pend Oreille County Prosecutor’s Office in early 2017. The plea bargain agreement was finalized Thursday after a number of court hearing continuances.

Wolves are listed as endangered throughout Washington by the state and in the western two-thirds of the state under federal law. Washington had at least 115 wolves in 20 known packs, including at least 10 breeding pairs as of March 2017, when WDFW issued its last population estimate. The wolves in this case were within the Goodman Meadows pack range.

The illegal killing of a wolf or other endangered fish or wildlife species is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Two other wolf poaching cases in northeast Washington remain under investigation. One involves the killing of a radio-collared female wolf, once part of the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County, whose carcass was found Dec. 5, 2017, about 15 miles southwest of Republic. The other case involves a dead female wolf found by hunters on Nov. 12, 2017 within the range of the Dirty Shirt pack, about 10 miles southeast of Colville in Stevens County.

Rahn encouraged anyone who might have relevant information about these cases to contact WDFW at 877-933-9847 or 360-902-2936.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

OREGON WOLF TRACKS IN MUD. (ODFW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(WDFW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another was killed in Central Montana.

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

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

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

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

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

(WDFW)

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

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

(WDFW)

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

Here are a couple of my favorites from this year:

No doubt.

More Details Come Out On 2 Poached NE WA Wolves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The news was first reported by KING 5 Saturday afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NORTHEAST OREGON WOLVES. (ODFW)

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

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