Category Archives: Wolf News

Togo, Smackout Packs Now In Crosshairs For Continued Cattle Depredations

The clock is ticking on two more wolf packs in Northeast Washington.

WDFW this morning authorized the lethal removal of the last two members of one pack and one or two from another after continued depredations.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS THE LOCATIONS OF THE TOGO AND SMACKOUT PACKS. THE OLD PROFANITY TERRITORY PACK RUNS TO THE SOUTH OF THE TOGOS. (WDFW)

Both operations can begin tomorrow morning at 8 after an eight-hour waiting period due to a previous court order passes.

With a third pack also in the crosshairs for total removal, in a twist, the kill order for the Togo duo was given to a northern Ferry County livestock producer, his family and employees to carry out if they see the wolves in their private pasture.

WDFW says the OK was given because the previous removal of the breeding male in September didn’t change the pack’s depredating behaviors.

The breeding female and/or a juvenile injured a calf in late October. The pack also is blamed for seven other injured or killed calves and a cow since last November.

The state wildlife management agency has shouldered the burden of removals in the past, but with three lethal operations underway at once, Susewind “decided to issue a permit rather than having department staff conduct the removal because of limitations of resources.”

As WDFW attempts to kill the last two Old Profanity Territory wolves further south in Ferry County, it will also be gunning for the Smackouts to the east in northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

Susewind OKed incremental removals after a fifth attack since Aug. 1 by the pack, all on private pastures.

The latest occurred Nov. 1 and followed three in the last three weeks of October.

An agency statement sent out during Election Night outlined the preventative measures two producers have been using to try and head off trouble with the Smackouts.

It said that WDFW has been pooling resources with ranchers and a local group to protect stock and deter wolves.

“The affected producer has met the expectation in the wolf plan and 2017 protocol for implementing at least two proactive non-lethal deterrents and responsive deterrent measures,” a statement said.

Two wolves in the pack were removed in 2017 following four depredations in a 10-month period, one of two triggers for considering a kill order under WDFW’s protocols. The other is three attacks in a month.

The state says taking out as many as two members of the Smackout Pack, which has four or five adults and no juveniles, is not expected to impact wolf recover in Washington at all. It says that average wolf mortality between 2011 and 2018 has been 11 percent, well below the 28 percent modeled in the management plan adopted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Still, signing off on a kill order is no easy decision.

“Authorizing the removal of wolves is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional career,” said Susewind in a press release out later in the day. “Our department is committed to working with a diversity of people and interests to find new ways to reduce the loss of both wolves and livestock in our state.”

For more details, see WDFW’s Gray Wolf Updates page.

WDFW Reports More Cattle Depredations By 2 Northeast Washington Packs

Wolves continue to attack cattle in Northeast Washington, with two depredations by the Togos and Smackouts in recent days leaving WDFW mulling what to do next with both packs.

State wolf managers report that the former pack, in northern Ferry County, injured a calf on Oct. 26, while the latter took down a heifer on Halloween, the third cow killed by the northern Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties wolves in the space of two and a half weeks and fourth overall since midsummer.

(WDFW)

That now could trigger incremental lethal removals under the agency’s protocols.

“Director Susewind is reviewing the details of the four depredations by the pack and is considering next steps,” a WDFW statement out this afternoon reads.

The Smackouts have been the subject of intense range-riding and other nonlethal efforts to keep cattle and the pack from tangling for several years now, but in mid-2017 two of its 13 to 15 members at the time were taken out following four depredations in a 10-month period.

As for the Togos, on Oct. 19 WDFW sent out what was to be the last update for the pack after 42 days passed without any known depredations and the removal of the alpha male in early September to change the wolves behavior.

Despite a subsequent attack, WDFW took no action because the agency’s options were poor — the pack included the alpha female and two juveniles.

But the state also said that lethal removals could resume if there was another attack.

Wolf-cattle conflicts have mostly occurred during the summer grazing season on federal allotments, but have also taken place afterwards, typically on private ground.

Cluster Of Wolf Reports In Central Snohomish County

Does a recent cluster of reports mean there are wolves in central Snohomish County?

A photo posted on a Granite Falls discussion board and hunters and others’ reports suggest that is the case, and it’s not as if wolves haven’t poked out of the Cascades into Western Washington before.

RECENT WOLF REPORTS CENTER AROUND THE MT. PILCHUCK FOOTHILLS TOWN OF GRANITE FALLS, IN CENTRAL SNOHOMISH COUNTY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

DNA confirmed that one captured near Marblemount last year was a wolf, while another hit on I-90 east of North Bend in 2015 had apparently come as far west as Snoqualmie where it was spotted on a backyard trail cam.

About halfway between those two known wolves — likely dispersers from packs in Eastern Washington and beyond — is where the latest reports come from and it involves multiple individuals.

A resident’s photo shows the back end of one canid and front end of another trailing behind as they skirt the edge of a yard near Granite Falls.

The tail of the front animal and head of the other do appear to be wolflike.

A GRANITE FALLS RESIDENT SNAPPED THIS IMAGE AND ANOTHER OF WHAT MIGHT BE A PAIR OF WOLVES IN THEIR BACKYARD. (COURTESY IMAGE)

A second photo shows them as well.

(COURTESY IMAGE)

And in a KIRO interview, Becca Van Tassell, who said she had been hunting since she was 13 and has had up-close encounters with a coyote, says she now believes she saw one in the same area this past weekend.

“There’s no way that’s a coyote — that’s huge,” she said, recalling her sighting with reporter Joanna Small.

Then there are a series of reports this month posted to WDFW’s wolf observation map.

On Oct. 27 a deer hunter reported that after trying for a follow-up shot on a blacktail up on Mt. Pilchuck, they spotted a “large wolf heading after where the deer had gone. He looked about 100 pounds.”

An Oct. 22 report from the Granite Falls area reads, “Just passed through my back yard. My kids saw them the week before, but I did not,” while another Oct. 27 post says one was lying in resident’s backyard and was really big, and an Oct. 14 report from the Darrington area over the mountains to the northeast suggests multiple animals howling around daybreak.

I sent links to state and federal wolf managers for their thoughts — typically they like to confirm the species through scat, fur or biological samples rather than photos — but in the meanwhile Amy Windrope, the regional WDFW chief in Mill Creek, told KIRO’s Small, “It is possible.”

Washington’s Wolves, a Facebook page operated by Conservation Northwest, linked to the TV station’s report and called it “Exciting news for wolf recovery in Western Washington,” an unusually strong statement for them.

More developments as they arrive.

Last 2 O.P.T. Pack Wolves To Be Lethally Removed

Washington wolf managers will take out what they say are the last two Old Profanity Territory Pack wolves after a 16th attack on a producer’s grazing cattle in the Kettle Range of northern Ferry County in less than two months.

The latest depredation, a dead calf, was investigated October 23rd and came after an adult and a juvenile member were lethally removed in September.

The pack was initially believed to include three or four adults and two or three juveniles.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind’s kill reauthorization follows an evaluation period that saw an additional attack by the pack investigated Oct. 7 that could have triggered action but he “sustained the evaluation period to consider the details and complexities of the situation in the field.”

A statement this morning from the agency also reiterated that the allotment is large, wild and completely within the OPT pack’s range, and that following an October 5th depredation “the department took additional steps to document the range-riding operation on the allotment to make sure it is as effective as” can be.

While WDFW doesn’t name the producer, it is known to be the Diamond M Ranch, which has previously suffered depredations by the Wedge and Profanity Peak Packs, triggering other lethal removals.

The state says the rancher is using non-lethal methods to try and stave off wolf attacks including contracting with range riders, removing sick stock off the range and dealing with carcasses.

Hunters Urged To Apply For Washington Wolf Advisory Group Seats

The next few years could be crucial ones in Washington’s wolf world, and with the Department of Fish and Wildlife putting out the call for nominations to its Wolf Advisory Group, one sportsman says they hope that “thoughtful, respectful and vocal hunters apply.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

The individual didn’t wish to be named, but says that having sat in on numerous WAG meetings in recent years, as wolves close in on state recovery goals it’s more important than ever for hunters to participate more.

Among the discussions likely to occur is planning for the postdelisting period, how wolves may be managed in terms of impacts on big game species and possibly even through hunting.

It will mark a sharp shift in the WAG’s workload, which so far has primarily focused on dealing with wolf-livestock conflicts, a multiyear effort that was led by an outside facilitator who has since departed.

The tug-of-war between livestock producers and predator advocates led to a consensus that stressed nonlethal preventative measures and established a clearer structure for WDFW to lethally remove problem animals.

That protocol has survived two years of outsiders’ objections and this summer a judge twice shot down efforts to halt kill authorizations, though it will still have its day in court.

But it’s also meant that the conversation about wolves in Washington has been “stuck on yesterday’s cattle conflicts,” according to the observer, “with far too little attention given to tomorrow’s wolf management, the needs and values of hunters as wildlife stakeholders, and the importance of the game species we pursue.”

HUNTERS DISCUSS THE DAY AROUND A CAMPFIRE IN THE OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No matter your opinion on wolves — good, bad or indifferent — they’re here to stay, so it behooves hunters to be involved in the process.

“We have to be at the table, and we have to speak up once there.”

WAG has 18 positions for those in the hunting, ranching, rural and environmental communities, and members serve staggered terms. Four current members do represent sportsman interests.

The plan is for WDFW Director Kelly Susewind to plug in new advisors as seats become available, starting with the one open now by next February.

“We are looking for candidates who can work cooperatively with others to develop management recommendations that reflect a diversity of perspectives,” Susewind said in a press release.

The group generally holds four two-day meetings each year at different locations across the state.

In their applications, prospective members are asked to address several items, including their knowledge of the state wolf plan and how they’ve worked collaboratively with those of different viewpoints.

Forms can either be emailed to Donny.martorello@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello, WDFW, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

Deadline is 5 p.m., Nov. 30.

Second O.P.T. Wolf Shot, WDFW Now Evaluating If Removals Change Depredating Pack’s Behavior

Washington wolf managers say they shot and killed a second member of the cattle-attacking Old Profanity Territory Pack and will now evaluate whether that changes the behavior of the northern Ferry County wolves.

A PAIR OF WOLVES USE A LOGGING ROAD IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

“If WDFW documents another livestock depredation and confirms that it likely occurred after today’s action, the department may initiate another lethal removal action following the guidelines of the Wolf Plan and 2017 Protocol,” the agency said in a late-afternoon statement.

According to that, the wolf that was killed was an adult and is believed to have been the breeding female.

Helicopter-borne state staffers report seeing one other wolf, an adult male, during air operations, and they believe there is one other juvenile in the area.

The OPT wolves are blamed for 12 cattle depredations on federal grazing land in the Colville National Forest this month.

“The livestock producer who owns the affected livestock continues to use contracted range riders to monitor his herd, is removing or securing livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolves to the rest of the herd, is using foxlights at salting locations in high wolf use areas, and is removing sick and injured livestock from the grazing area until they are healed,” WDFW reported.” The majority of the producer’s livestock will be moved off federal grazing allotments to adjacent private grazing lands by mid-October.”

On Sept. 16, following Director Kelly Susewind’s incremental lethal removal authorization for up to two wolves, one juvenile was killed.

The pack is believed to have initially numbered five or six, with three or four adults and two young-of-the-year animals.

Eastside Reps’ Wolf Bill OKed By US House Committee

A bill federally delisting gray wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon as well as elsewhere in the Lower 48 has been approved by a Congressional committee.

A WOLF NEAR WENATCHEE TAKES A LOOK AT A SHERIFF’S DEPUTY. (CHELAN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

The Manage Our Wolves Act received a 19-15 vote before the House Natural Resources Committee during markup yesterday.

The legislation is cosponsored by two Eastern Washington Republicans, Dan Newhouse of the Yakima Valley and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of the Spokane area, and Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy.

“The best-available science used by the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that the gray wolf has recovered and is no longer endangered,” said Newhouse in a statement.

He’s previously introduced wolf bills as WDFW has been encouraging him to push the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete its delisting of the species.

In a midspring letter to the lawmaker, the state agency’s Acting Director Joe Stohr wrote that “(to) ensure ongoing success in wolf recovery, the federal listing needs to keep pace with the on-the ground (sic) recovery status and allow the state to fully implement its management plan.”

Most Washington wolves are in the state’s northeast corner, but at least three packs run west of the delisting line, Highways 97, 17 and 395.

The bifurcated status of wolves in the state means that “the only means available for the USFWS to address wolf-livestock conflicts in the geographic area under the federal endangered designation is for the USFWS to attempt to relocated livestock-killing wolves,” Stohr wrote.

In midsummer, the Teanaway Pack, which runs in the still federally listed portion of Central Washington, injured a calf and an adult sheep, killed an ewe and was probably responsible for a missing lamb.

Gray wolves were proposed for delisting by the Obama Administration in 2013, but progress stalled, and then came a Humane Society of the United States court case addressing Canis lupus in the western Great Lakes that blocked USFWS from moving ahead on its full proposal.

There was little movement on that front until in June USFWS said it was again assessing wolf populations and, “(if) appropriate, the Service will publish a proposal to revise the wolf’s status in the Federal Register by the end of the calendar year.”

It would then undergo public review.

Newhouse’s and McMorris Rodgers’ bill would preclude a delisting from judicial review. It needs to pass the full House and Senate and be signed into law.

Both representatives are up for reelection this fall, with Newhouse likely to retain his seat but McMorris Rodgers in a tighter race, if Fivethirtyeight’s forecast is any indication.

O.P.T. Pack Injures 5 More Calves, WDFW Says Removal Ops ‘Ongoing’

Washington wolf managers are confirming that the Old Profanity Territory Pack injured five more calves on a northern Ferry County grazing allotment and that their incremental removal operation is still “ongoing.”

So far a sharpshooter has killed one wolf from the pack, a 50-pound juvenile, on Sept. 16 and under WDFW Director Kelly Susewind’s kill authorization another can be taken out.

He gave the order back on Sept. 12 following attacks that injured five other calves and killed a sixth in the space of a week and a half.

The pack is believed to consist of three or four adults and two juvenile wolves.

The latest calf depredations occurred five days to a week before Sept. 21, according to WDFW.

Local state lawmaker Rep. Joel Kretz reported the attacks on his Facebook page on Sept. 20.

The livestock producer, identified as Les McIrvin of the Diamond M Ranch, is using range riders, removing carcasses, bringing sick and injured cattle off the landscape and moving his herd out of the danger area, but he’s not happy about the last one.

“There is all the feed in the world at the high elevations, but the wolves are driving the cattle into a canyon with no food or water,” McIrvin told the Press.

Earlier in the grazing season he waited until July 10 to turn out his animals in the Kettle Range, the idea being to put larger, less vulnerable calves on the landscape.

After being relatively quiet since its second loss in Thurston County Superior Court, the Center For Biological Diversity again began rallying its supporters to contact WDFW against removals.

How Are Wolves Affecting Washington Deer?

If your deer camp is anything like the one I belong to, the subject of wolves has probably come up since 2008.

That’s the year that Washington’s first known modern-day pack set up shop in the valley I’ve hunted since the 1990s and my dad and hunting partners before that. So I’ve been keenly interested in the wolf-deer studies being conducted there and elsewhere by state and university researchers.

RESEARCHERS LOOKING INTO WOLF-DEER INTERACTIONS IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON ARE REPORTING INITIAL DETAILS ABOUT HOW WOLVES ARE AFFECTING ADULT MULE DEER AND WHITETAIL BEHAVIOR AND MORTALITY, BUT DID NOT STUDY FAWNS. EARLIER THIS YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA CAPTURED WHAT’S BELIEVED TO BE A SMACKOUT PACK YEARLING PACKING QUARTERS OF ONE BACK TO THE DEN. (JEFF FLOOD)

When he was a PhD. candidate at the University of Washington, Justin Dellinger placed small collar cameras around the necks of deer to determine their behavior as well as mortality inside and outside of wolf country.

Some initial findings are surprising – and amazing. One camera recorded the final moments of a cougar attack on a whitetail doe.

Dellinger, who has moved on to become California’s statewide large carnivore specialist, is pretty cautious about reading too deeply into them.

“I wouldn’t call anything I’ve done the definitive word,” he says.

But while wolves (and wolf people) drive me crazy, they’re here for the long haul, so being pragmatic I look for insights that deer hunters can use to possibly be more successful where they occur. I’m not going to let Canis lupus have the run of the woods.

DELLINGER’S RESEARCH OCCURRED in eastern Okanogan County and on the Colville Indian Reservation and involved mule deer and whitetails.

Frankly, I assumed that only the former species occupied the same sort of ground as wolves – mountainous national forestlands – but Dellinger’s hypothesis is that the long-legged predators’ territories actually overlap more with valley-loving whitetail.

“Wolves run – that’s how they catch their prey,” he states, and they can do that better in areas of rolling, gentle terrain than the “steep, rocky stuff” that mule deer prefer in this particular country.

But muleys and wolves do also occur on the same landscapes, and there the deer generally try to avoid contact with the wild canids because their defensive strategy – stotting off a short ways when confronted with danger – is easily defeated.

Thick, rough country “where wolves have to run around obstacles” works best for them, Dellinger says.

“They’re shifting to steeper, more rugged terrain,” he says of mule deer, “getting further away from Forest Service roads, which wolves use as travel corridors, and they’re using areas of more increased cover.”

That’s going to make it more difficult for some of us to hunt these deer, and anger and accusations that the herds have been decimated may follow.

A MULE DEER MOVES UP A STEEP OKANOGAN COUNTY SLOPE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

But as more and more wolves and packs occur in the state’s whitetail heartland, that deer species’ reaction is almost the polar opposite.

“They’re selecting for areas with greater visibility, away from cover and out in the open, areas of decreased slopes, closer to roads,” Dellinger says.

Those all help whitetails detect wolves early, allowing them to get a head start and “run like a bat out of hell,” he says.

That tactic didn’t work out for two study does, however, according to a recent Dellinger paper. It builds on previous research by Washington State University that pegged wolves as the “probable” reason why 137 deer died over the course of a two-summer study in much of the same region.

That work was based on collaring wolves and cattle, but Dellinger et al did the opposite, putting telemetry on 120 deer – bucks and does, whitetails and mule deer – in wolf and nonwolf areas.

When the devices gave out mortality signals they followed up and were able to determine the causes of death for 38 deer, with humans accounting for 16, cougars 12, coyotes seven, wolves two and bears one. Three others went down as unknown. Lions preferred does (10) while hunters went for bucks (13).

(DATA COURTESY JUSTIN DELLINGER ET AL)

It’s easy to overread the data as suggesting wolves don’t prey that much on muleys – packs don’t keep settling in the Kettle Range just to eat beef in summer, that’s for sure – but that doesn’t mean they’re not having other impacts on the species.

The big-eared bounders’ shift to more rugged terrain just puts them deeper into cougar country, Dellinger notes.

WHILE THE RESULTS are “really interesting,” Dellinger is quick to add that the data set is short and it’s specific to North-central Washington and the early stages of wolf colonization.

Another important caveat is that the research occurred during relatively easy winters. Dellinger theorizes that in a severe one, mule deer driven down into open lowland winter range by snow could be preyed upon more heavily by wolves.

“Wolf mortality could be additive and really impact deer populations” at that point, he says.

Also of note, no fawns were collared, so the impact wolves may be having on the most vulnerable part of the herd, and subsequent years’ adult buck and doe numbers, is unclear.

A December 2017 report by WDFW assessing Washington ungulate populations found none are being limited by wolves or other members of the state’s predator guild, though moose calf survival in central Stevens County, east of the deer study area, did elicit concern.

Bottom line: Dellinger says that a lot more research needs to be done to get a more complete picture of the interactions of wolves and deer here.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s big five-year Predator-Prey Project in the Okanogan and Northeast Washington should really add to his work. It runs through 2021.

One O.P.T. Wolf Removed; Dead Cow Also Found

WDFW reports lethally removing a juvenile wolf from the Old Profanity Territory Pack this past Sunday.

The agency also says that the northern Ferry County wolves killed a cow in the same area, bringing the number of cattle confirmed to have been attacked and killed or injured this month to seven.

The latest depredation is believed to have occurred before the 50-pound wolf was killed by a helicopter-borne sharpshooter.

“The department is currently working to determine the next option to deter wolf depredation by the OPT pack under the current incremental removal action,” WDFW said in a statement this afternoon.

That was authorized last week by Director Kelly Susewind. It allows up to two wolves to be taken out as part of an incremental removal to change the pack’s behavior after it injured five calves and killed another.

Three other wolves were seen during air operations Sunday. WDFW said it’s difficult to discern between adult and young wolves this time of year.

The OPT Pack was believed to include three or four adults and two pups.

According to the state, the producer, identified in the press as the Diamond M, has used a range of nonlethal measures to try to limit depredations but they haven’t worked.

This is the third summer in a row that the agency has had to resort to killing wolves to try and head off livestock conflicts in this portion of Ferry County. In 2016, the Profanity Peak Pack was targeted, while last year it was the Sherman Pack.