Category Archives: Wolf News

Colville Tribe Reports First Harvested Wolf

A wolf has been harvested on the Washington reservation where the first hunt in the state opened four falls ago.

The news was first posted to Rez Bucks, Bulls & Predators on Facebook the morning of Nov. 17, with the kill credited to hunter Duane Hall.

pack_map_06-15-2016

The Tribal Tribune followed up with a report yesterday.

“We try to manage for the total population,” Colville Tribal Fish and Wildlife manager Randy Friedlander told the paper, “and that’s why we allow three per year. That’s based on a percentage of the overall population (of wolves).”

Wolf hunting began on the sprawling reservation around this time in fall 2012 with a quota of 12 per season (three each in four different zones), but the limit has since been reduced to three overall with the addition of trapping to the management tool box earlier this year.

Hunters on the smaller Spokane Reservation to the southeast have fared better since seasons opened there several years ago, with one killed this September and one in July.

Both tribes require hunters to quickly report their wolf kills.

When the Colvilles made it known back in fall 2012 they would hold seasons, federal wildlife officials said they would be one of if not the only tribes in the Northern Rockies hunting wolves.

While the Colvilles have a spiritual connections to the animals — the name of their first pack, the Nc’icns (pronounced nn-seetsin) means wolf in Okanogan — they rate the availability of deer, elk and moose for their members highly as well.

In a lengthy set of comments on the Rez Bucks, Bulls & Predators’ post, page operator Sean Gorr reportedly noted, “Wildlife management is a must Predator control is a must. Regulated hunting seasons is a must. All that needs to happen to sustain enough big game to feed our families for generations.”

There are at least three packs on the reservation and 16 total in the federally delisted part of Eastern Washington.

Shepherd Kills Wolf, First Caught-in-act Case In Oregon

A Northeast Oregon shepherd shot and killed one of four wolves that attacked his flock last May, a first under the state’s caught-in-the-act provisions.

The incident occurred the evening of May 20 in the South Fork Walla Walla River country of northern Umatilla County.

After noting a disturbance amongst his flock, the herder spotted four wolves, including one with a lamb in its jaws.

A WALLA WALLA PACK WOLF STANDS IN THE SNOW OF NORTHEAST OREGON. (ODFW)

A WALLA WALLA PACK WOLF STANDS IN THE SNOW OF NORTHEAST OREGON. (ODFW)

The herder shot a wolf, and the next day the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife came out and corroborated the details of the attack, ruling it a confirmed wolf depredation.

ODFW’s report does not mention that the shepherd also shot one of the wolves, but a news report this morning says it occurred at that time and that the Oregon State Police investigated and “determined it was a lawful take under the ‘caught in the act’ provision” of the state wolf management plan.”

That allows livestock producers and their hands to “take a wolf caught biting, wounding, killing, or chasing livestock or working dogs, without a permit” in ODFW’s East Wolf Management Zone under certain circumstances, which per the agency include:

  • Wolf is in area of Oregon where it is not federally listed (currently, east of Hwys 395-78-95).
  • Wolf is on land owned or lawfully occupied by livestock producer.
  • No bait or other intentional actions to attract wolves are present.
  • Any take of a wolf is reported to ODFW within 24 hours. The scene must be preserved and the carcass not removed or disturbed.

ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy confirmed it was the first such case of a wolf being taken under the provisions.

A Few Details On Cost Of Profanity Peak Removal Operation Surface

Dribs and drabs of information on WDFW’s lethal removal of most of the Profanity Peak Pack are beginning to come out, providing an eyebrow-raising yet incomplete and somewhat factually challenged story on the cost of the operation in northern Ferry County.

Responding to a bevy of public disclosure requests from private individuals and groups, the agency has released several existing documents, one of which tallied the cost of dealing with the livestock-depredating pack as $119,577.92 through late last week.

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

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE PROFANITY PEAK PACK IN 2014. IN 2016, THE PACK OF 12 OR SO WOLVES WAS BLAMED FOR 15 CONFIRMED AND PROBABLE CATTLE DEPREDATIONS ON 15 CALVES AND COWS. (WDFW)

But wolf manager Donny Martorello cautions that that is not a full accounting, as some invoices have to yet to arrive, and that much better details on the August-October undertaking will be available in the coming weeks when a comprehensive review is completed.

“What you’re seeing here is largely the cost of helicopter vendors and our staff time,” said Martorello late this morning.

The largest single item is $73,440 for “Other Contractual Services” followed by $28,277.07 for “State classified.”

WDFW killed seven of the 12 wolves blamed for 15 confirmed and suspected attacks on 15 calves and cows roaming grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest north of Sherman Pass. An eighth wolf is believed to have died of natural causes.

The depredations began in mid-July and following protocols agreed to by the agency, wolf advocates, ranchers, hunters and others, after a fourth confirmed attack, WDFW sharpshooters took to the air and killed two wolves.

Depredations halted for awhile, but began again in mid-August and WDFW Director Jim Unsworth authorized removing up to the entire pack.

Operations continued mid-October and then were suspended pending another attack.

The running cost document was posted last Thursday by a pro-wolf website which claimed the source of the money was “taxpayer dollars,” but that is not accurate, according to Martorello.

He said that funding for lethal removals comes from WDFW’s Wildlife State account, which includes revenue from license sales, but no taxpayer dollars.

“Not from personalized plates, not from Pittman-Robertson, not from the General Fund,” Martorello added.

The group that posted the document used it to call for a termination of federal grazing allotments “not only for the sake of our wildlife, But of our taxpayer Dollars. We will be posting the Entire costs that Ranchers have cost you in Washington State this evening as well. It is going to be truly a Large number that will sicken everyone.”

Martorello says that the final report on the Profanity Peak operation will include a complete breakdown of costs, as well as recommendations from the region to the director, and that that should be available in the next month or so.

“We want to absolutely provide that, but it will take time,” he says.

By comparison, lethal and nonlethal work during the removal of one Huckleberry Pack wolf in 2014 cost $55,000, while the Wedge Pack operation cost at least $76,500.

Hunters Help Pin Calf Depredation On Wolf Pack

Pat Matthews could see that something had struggled for its life in the Northeast Oregon forest cattle grazing area, bleeding in at least seven different places, and that its carcass had been dragged away.

But what that unlucky animal had been and what led to its death weren’t clear — there wasn’t any body for him to identify, much less to perform a postmortem on.

No flanks to check for bite marks and no tooth gaps to measure, nor the “grape-jelly” effect that happens when predators bite living animals in the webbing between upper legs.

ODFW'S OFFICIAL DETERMINATION IN THE SEPT. 4 DEPREDATION IN THE DEVILS RUN CREEK DRAINAGE PUTS THE BLAME SQUARELY ON A WOLF ATTACK, BUT WOULD NOT HAVE HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE FORTUITOUS TIMING AND PICTURES OF A BOWHUNTER WHO STUMBLED UPON THE ATTACK IN PROGRESS. (ODFW)

ODFW’S OFFICIAL DETERMINATION IN THE SEPT. 4 DEPREDATION IN THE DEVILS RUN CREEK DRAINAGE PUTS THE BLAME SQUARELY ON A WOLF ATTACK, BUT WOULD NOT HAVE HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE FORTUITOUS TIMING AND PICTURES OF A BOWHUNTER WHO STUMBLED UPON THE ATTACK IN PROGRESS. (ODFW)

There was a potential victim and suspects, however.

He was at the remote site in Joseph Creek’s headwaters on Sept. 6 to investigate a reported calf depredation two days before.

Wolves had been there.

Along with tracks that Matthews found, telemetry data from three different times two days before put OR42, a member of the Chesnimnus Pack, within 350 and 600 yards of the struggle.

But that wasn’t enough for the Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist to make an official determination.

“From my standpoint, I needed more evidence,” Matthews told the La Grande Observer for a story this week.

The case might have gone unresolved had it not been for the fortuitous timing of an archer.

TOM OLSON AND HIS HUNTING PARTNER were tracking different groups of bull elk early the morning of Sunday, September 4 when they heard bawling nearby.

“I thought it sounded like a dying turkey vulture, but my friend said it sounded like a cow,” Olson told the newspaper.

Together they looked towards the noises and saw what they at first thought were six coyotes jumping in the grass but through binoculars determined were wolves, according to the story.

Olson went back to his rig for his camera phone and drove closer to the scene. On foot from a football field’s length away, he zoomed in as best he could and took images of the wolves, which were now bedded in the grass, the paper reported.

One eventually got up and circled around the herd of cattle, apparently without causing much of a stir, and then it decided to take a closer look at Olson and his partner, the Observer wrote.

A warning shot cleared it and the rest of the pack out.

The two hunters went to where the wolves had been and found a dead month-old calf. Its entrails had been eaten, according to the story.

Olson also took numerous pictures of the calf and scene, several of which would become key to Matthews’ investigation.

Later in the day, Olson and his partner ran into a local hunter who would go on to figure out who owned the cattle, the McClaren Ranch, and alert them to the depredation.

Two days later Matthews arrived, but putting it all together would take another month.

ODFW REPORTS THAT IT RECEIVED Olson’s pics in early October, and that the area matched Matthews’ shots from the scene the month before.

Supporting the seven spots of blood on the ground that Matthews had found, Olson’s images showed “bloodstaining in the jaw and throat area [of the calf] with no apparent open wound or feeding activity, which would indicate a premortem injury.”

In other words, the animal that had been attacked in the grass had been a cow calf that was alive at the time of the attack.

The telemetry data, tracks and Olson’s pics put wolves at the site, and additionally, the Observer reported that one of the hunter’s photos showed a wolf with blood on its face.

In witnessing a rarely seen but increasingly frequent event to the Northwest, Olson and his hunting partner provided key evidence that helped pin the blame on the right party.

“No determination would have been made without the pictures,” Matthews tells Northwest Sportsman, “because there would have been no way to know what was killed or fed on by the wolves — cattle, elk, deer?”

It was a calf in fact, and he was able to circle “confirmed wolf” as the cause of its death.

 

WDFW Again Ends Hunt For Profanity Wolves

WDFW has ended its hunt for the last members of the livestock-killing Profanity Peak Pack for the second time, but warns it will take action again if attacks resume.

Since early August, state sharpshooters have killed seven wolves in the pack which is blamed for 15 confirmed and suspected depredations on 15 calves and cows roaming grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest north of Sherman Pass.

pack_map_06-15-2016

It’s believed that one female and three juvenile wolves remain in the pack. Another member is believed to have died from natural causes.

In August, WDFW also suspended the hunt for awhile, but then took to the air again after further depredations occurred.

“The goal of our action was to stop predations on livestock in the near future,” Director Jim Unsworth said in a press release this afternoon. “With the pack reduced in size from 12 members to four and most livestock off the grazing allotments, the likelihood of depredations in the near future is low.”

That said, in an October 2012 debriefing after the Wedge wolves were taken out, former WDFW Director Phil Anderson noted that the radio-collared alpha male had basically followed cattle out of the hills to the Diamond M Ranch.

The Profanity operation has been marked by a tightly controlled flow of information out of state wolf managers, and a full report is expected later this fall, but today’s announcement of the suspension of the hunt included a timeline from WDFW:

Early June: Ranchers arrived with their livestock on federal grazing allotments. WDFW field staff captured two adult members of the Profanity Peak pack and fitted them with GPS radio-collars, allowing the department to monitor the pack’s movements.

July 8: WDFW confirmed the first calf killed by wolves.

July 12: WDFW documented two probable wolf attacks, one of which was on a second rancher’s allotment.

Aug. 3: WDFW confirmed the fourth and fifth wolf attack on cattle and documented three probable wolf attacks. Per the protocol, the WDFW director authorized staff to remove some members of the pack to deter further depredation.

Aug. 5: WDFW removed two female wolves from the Profanity Peak pack.

Aug.18-19: The director ended his authorization for lethal removal after 14 days without a depredation. The next day, he authorized the removal of up to the full pack after field staff documented four more wolf attacks, two confirmed and two probable.

Aug. 21-Sept. 29: WDFW removed five more wolves from the Profanity Peak pack.

Oct 3: WDFW documented the last depredation on cattle by the Profanity Peak pack.

Oct 18: WDFW suspended lethal removal of wolves in the Profanity Peak pack

State managers say their actions have been consistent with lethal removal protocols in the wolf plan, and that ranchers who suffered cattle losses had been using nonlethal measures to deter attacks.

After initial successes in August, the hunt became tougher and tougher for WDFW as wolves moved into thicker country. In recent weeks, Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber commissioned a local resident to help collect data on the pack.

WDFW says Maycumber said he and his staff will “monitor the movements of the (collared) adult female wolf for signs of conflict with people, pets, or livestock in lowland areas.”

The Profanity Pack operation will be remembered not just for how thin the trickle of news was out of the state, but for over-the-top claims by some in the wolf advocate community, including a Washington State University professor’s allegations that a rancher turned out his cattle “directly on top of” the pack’s den. That earned Rob Wielgus a sharp rebuke in a WSU disavowal which said its Large Carnivore Lab head acknowledged he’d had “no basis in fact” for making the statement.

Even friends of wolves that supported WDFW’s actions came under intense fire from fringe activists, and yesterday, one of those organizations, Conservation Northwest posted a blog “fact-checking” the claims, starting with the Center For Biological Diversity’s ridiculous claim that OMG! sharpshooters were going to take out “12 percent of the state population.”

The first thing every cub reporter on the wolf beat learns is that the population numbers are only minimums, that there are likely more — many more — out there that haven’t been counted because they’re sneaky critters that hang out in rough country where even state sharpshooters in helicopters or packing traps have a tough time getting around.

Soon enough we’ll learn how much it all cost, though we’ll probably never know how well the melodramatic outrage filled coffers.

Wolf Killed Near Summer Lake; $15K Reward Offered

A large reward is being offered for information in the case of a wolf illegally killed in Southcentral Oregon earlier this month.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported OR28 was found dead near Summer Lake October 6th.

The agency today initially offered a reward of $5,000, which grew to at least $15,000 with contributions from private organizations.

Wolves in that portion of Oregon are federally listed still. The carcass was taken to the National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland.

The 3-year-old female wolf was originally from Northeastern Oregon’s Mount Emily Pack and is believed to have had at least one pup this year.

It was radio-collared.

 

WDFW Reports 2 More NE WA Wolf Depredations

A livestock producer who runs cattle northeast of Chewelah is moving the herd after wolves injured one of the operator’s cows.

The confirmed wolf attack occurred on a DNR grazing allotment in the Dirty Shirt Pack’s range, the first this year, though four depredations were recorded there last year.

WDFW investigated the incident Oct. 2 and yesterday evening reported on it.

dirtyshirtpackrangemap

According to state wolf manager Donny Martorello:

“The producer turned livestock out on the allotment on June 5, 2016.  The producer checked on the livestock regularly during the summer, except during haying season. In the last several years, the producer has not had any livestock mortalities and subsequently has not needed to remove or secure any livestock carcasses (i.e., maintain sanitation) on the allotment. The livestock producer did remove the injured cow from the allotment after the depredation investigation. Due to the recent depredation event, the producer is currently removing the livestock from the allotment.”

Haying occurs in summer as timothy and alfalfa ripens and is cut, sometimes multiple times depending on rains or if fields are irrigated or not. Swathing, baling and stacking involves a lot of work over brief periods of time.

Martorello also reported another depredation by the remnants of the Profanity Peak Pack, an injured calf, bringing the count to 15 confirmed and suspected wolf attacks in northern Ferry County this year, nearly half since WDFW began removing the pack.

“Given this pattern, we do not believe recent lethal removals are likely to achieve the goal of stopping depredations in the near future,” he said.

While seven wolves have been taken out so far, Martorello says that removing the last female and three juveniles will be very difficult given the country they’re running in.

He adds that WDFW is continuing to work with Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber, who “commissioned” a local resident to help out hanging trail cams and collecting data on the remaining wolves.

WDFW Reports Smackout Pack Depredation

A Northeast Washington pack of wolves that has been the subject of intensive nonlethal deterrents killed a calf last week.

WDFW investigated the depredation in the Smackout Pack range last Wednesday and announced it was a confirmed wolf kill on Friday evening.

It’s the first by the pack since last October when it injured a calf that subsequently died.

“The livestock producer has maintained sanitation by removing or securing livestock carcasses, and deployed a range rider at the start of the grazing season,” reported state wolf manager Donny Martorello.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK OF WOLVES IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE SMACKOUT PACK OF WOLVES IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

Conservation Northwest said it was “disappointed” to hear the news, as over the past five years it has helped ranchers who run cattle here to use nonlethal tactics to try and prevent conflicts with wolves.

But the organization also acknowledged that that’s just not always going to work.

“With the range rider seeing signs that younger adult wolves from the Smackout Pack had been testing the cows in recent weeks, the ranchers had significantly increased human presence on the grazing allotment prior to the depredation,” Conservation Northwest said in a statement. “In addition to the range rider regularly working 14-hour days, seven days a week, other family members provided more herd supervision across the grazing allotment on foot, horseback and ATV.”

The calf was apparently killed several hours after being seen with its mother before dark.

“After discovering and documenting the depredation, the range rider cleaned up the site and removed the carcass. However, trail cameras deployed over the weekend showed that wolves later returned to the site,” CNW stated.

Martorello said he’d be updating the WDFW’s online event chronology as it pertains to the Smackouts.

He also reported that a Spokane Tribe hunter had killed a wolf on the reservation where hunting is allowed year-round with an annual limit of six. It was reported elsewhere that another wolf was taken there in July. The black-coated Huckleberry wolves roam this country in southern Stevens County.

On the Profanity Peak front, Martorello reports that efforts to remove the rest of the livestock-depredating pack are ongoing. Spokeswoman Madonna Luers also reiterated that Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber is not operating unilaterally, as was alleged by a Facebook page late last week, and that he continues to work with WDFW.

On Friday the state and sheriff jointly investigated an attack on a dog northeast of Republic and Luers says the culprit could not be determined and is considered “unknown.”

Claim NE WA County Sheriff Deputized Wolf Hunters Not Accurate: WDFW

WDFW’s wolf manager is refuting a wolf-advocacy blog’s statement this afternoon that a Northeast Washington county sheriff has deputized a couple local residents to remove the last members of a livestock-depredating pack.

Donny Martorello says that as far as he is aware, Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber has commissioned a single local resident to assist the agency in collecting data on the remaining members of the Profanity Peak Pack.

“Sheriff Maycumber has not indicated to us he intends to take lethal action on the pack,” Martorello said.

ProfanityPeakPackRangeMap

In a midafternoon post, Protect The Wolves claimed that “McCumber (sic) deputized 2 hunters to carry out what WDFW can not seem to finish,,, They sent hunters into the woods evidently today to Slaughter the rest of the Profanity Peak Pack.”

The state agency has lethally removed six members of the pack after a string of cattle depredations in July and August, per an established protocol and after nonlethal actions by the producers, and is still targeting the final two adults and the rest of the year’s litter.

However, Martorello has said that is challenging given the country the wolves run in.

Martorello also took umbrage with how Protect the Wolves characterized a return call he made to a caller from their organization. The group reported he confirmed the sheriff’s move, but statements by Martorello to Northwest Sportsman refute that.

It’s the latest explosion in what has been a trying month. Statements by a Washington State University professor about where a livestock producer turned out his cattle were later acknowledged to have had “no basis in fact.”

Martorello says that with tensions as high as they are, misinformation and misconstrued statements can have different and dangerous outcomes. Death threats followed Professor Wielgus’s claim.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog misspelled Sheriff Raymond P. Maycumber’s last name as McCumber. Our apologies.

The Daily Howler: Latest Removal Efficacy Study Meets Big Shift In Washington’s Wolf World

The Daily Howler has been pretty damned lazy of late, relying on other lupus news outlets to track down and bring red meat back to the den, but I want to spotlight what I consider to be a fairly big and positive shift in Washington’s wolf world.

If you’ll pardon the use of the phrase of these days, last week, “directly on top” of a state operation to remove a livestock-depredating wolf pack in Northeast Washington, came yet another study looking at how effective doing so can be in preventing new attacks.

The University of Wisconsin’s Adrian Treves et al argue in “Predator control should not be a shot in the dark” that “there’s little scientific evidence that killing predators actually accomplishes the goal of protecting livestock,” according to a write-up by the National Geographic last week.

frontiers

It was met, remarkably, with something of a yawn here.

As I understand it, there will be more public discussion of the paper in the weeks ahead, but at one time — say, 2014 — a study like that would have been trumpeted far and wide as The Final Word on why we should never, ever discipline wolves for gnawing on cattle and sheep.

But it’s 2016 and a different landscape has grown in Washington.

THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC‘S STORY on Treves’ analysis was posted far and wide on Facebook, as if doing so would somehow ground WDFW’s chopper.

One place it landed was the Facebook page of Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest.

Asked his initial thoughts, Friedman said that he was “not a big fan of that research.”

David Mech, one of the foremost wolf experts in North America, “isn’t persuaded” by it either, but what’s of note here is that Conservation Northwest is one of the state’s most dedicated defenders of predators.

If it’s got fur and fangs, they’re fans.

Naturally, CNW is also part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group.

After much give and take (and no small amount of what appears at this juncture to have been state money well spent), the ranchers, hunters and wolf advocates on that panel came to an agreement earlier this year on the protocol for lethally removing depredating packs.

What’s more, the four major wolf groups on the WAG stood by it as the Profanity Peak Pack unfortunately reached set benchmarks for partial then full destruction.

(WDFW reports eight confirmed and five probable calf and cow depredations and six wolves killed as of last Friday.)

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

A TRAIL CAM SHOT CAPTURED A MEMBER OF THE PROFANITY PEAK PACK IN 2014. (WDFW)

The Washington Cattlemen’s Association tipped their Stetsons to CNW, Wolf Haven International, the Humane Society of the United States and Defenders of Wildlife for their tough but gutsy stand.

The “(lethal take protocol) helps to maintain a higher level of social tolerance amongst members of rural communities throughout Eastern Washington. Removal of problem wolves benefits the rest of Washington’s wolf population that do not depredate livestock,” the cattlemen noted.

And Northeast Washington Republican state Reps. Shelly Short and Joel Kretz called the four organization’s support for removal “unprecedented” in an Omak Chronicle opinion piece. They say it yielded “a glimmer of hope in the eyes of our neighbors.”

shortkretz

A SCREEN SHOT OF REPS. SHELLY SHORT AND JOEL KRETZ’S OPINION PIECE IN THE OMAK CHRONICLE.

Now, this is not to say that nonlethal methods have been abandoned. Far from it. Nor that we should ignore solid science.

But it’s pointing towards Another Way of doing business, one that may not work for the national groups, but on a local level …

“We know for fact that a number of ranchers who have signed up for conflict avoidance help, like range riders, waited until they felt they could trust us with clear rules (lethal take protocol) and a track record of standing by the rules,” Friedman wrote on Facebook. “When I hear that someone ‘only returned our call because of our action on …’, it tells me that this study missed something important.”

What his organization and the others have realized is that to get what they want requires working constructively with the other side.

As Friedman wrote in a thoughtful blog  after removals of the Profanity Pack began, “Coexistence, social tolerance and healthy wolf populations are all possible in Washington.”

As Kretz and Short wrote, “There is a tenuous path forward to balanced solutions that hinges on respect for the values of others. We believe it’s worth a try.”

Hat’s off to rational fans of wolves and ranching interests.