Category Archives: Wolf News

Update: As Many As 4 Wedge Wolves May Be Killed

In posting the below announcement at the top of its Web site, WDFW now says that it may take out up to four wolves from the livestock-predating Wedge Pack. That’s one more than news outlets in Spokane and Seattle were told last Friday but follows a decision made at the agency’s highest level following discussions with the affected ranchers.

One wolf has already been killed this month for wolves’ repeated depredations on the Diamond M Ranch.

State wildlife managers today confirmed that wolves from the Wedge pack of northeast Washington were involved in the injury of one calf and the death of another this week in the grazing allotment area of the Diamond M ranch near the Canadian border. This brings to eight the total number of injured or dead livestock from the Diamond M ranch since July. Officials also said they were expanding their efforts to address the pack’s persistent attacks on livestock.

Phil Anderson, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the department is sending a team of wildlife specialists to the remote area in an effort to attach a radio transmitter to an additional member of the pack. The pack’s alpha male has already been fitted with a transmitter collar that alerts the department to the pack’s movement.

In conjunction with the collaring effort, the department’s team plans to kill up to four other wolves from the pack in an effort to disrupt its pattern of predation, reduce its food requirements, and potentially break it up permanently.

These efforts follow the department’s action on August 7 to lethally remove a non-breeding female member of the pack.

The department is taking these actions under the terms of the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The department’s primary goal under the plan is to ensure long-term recovery of the gray wolf population. However, the plan specifically authorizes the department to take lethal measures to address repeated attacks on livestock.

July 2012

On July 16, 2012, an adult male wolf (believed to be the pack alpha) was captured  in northwestern Stevens County near the Canada border and equipped with a monitoring collar (Global Positioning System or GPS, and VHF radio) before being released.  A second wolf, a pup of the year, was also captured and ear tagged only.

The pack is named for “The Wedge,” the wedge-shaped part of the county between the Kettle River on the west (also the Ferry County line and Hwy. 395) and the Columbia River (and Hwy. 25) on the east.  The Wedge pack is Washington’s eighth wolf pack, and the sixth in the Eastern Wolf Recovery Region.

A wolf pack had long been suspected in the Wedge, but past trapping efforts had  been unable to confirm the pack’s existence.  When wolf attacks on livestock were reported and investigated in mid-July of 2012, wolf trapping in the wedge became top priority.

News

WDFW May Kill Up To 3 Wedge Wolves With Latest Calf Kill

After WDFW gets a GPS collar on another Wedge wolf, it may kill up to three members of the pack that’s now responsible for killing a second calf in addition to injuring several other cattle since mid-July.

One has already been taken out, a nonbreeding female early last week, but that does not appear to have stopped the attacks, nor has extra help in the hills.

The latest depredation was reported yesterday on the Diamond M Ranch’s grazing allotment in northern Stevens County. An investigation of the carcass determined it had been killed by a wolf or wolves, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers late this afternoon.

It follows another confirmed wolf attack earlier this week that left a Diamond M calf with bite marks to the groin and hindquarters.

That incident left WDFW planning to go into the Wedge and trap wolves.

But with the dead calf, the agency is now being more specific that it’s going to kill a wolf or multiple wolves.

“The idea is to disrupt the pack and reduce impacts on livestock,” Luers says.

In this thick mountainous country between the Canadian border and Kettle and Columbia Rivers, that part of the operation may take awhile even with GPS data streaming from the animals’ collars — the pack’s alpha male is also wearing a device.

Then there’s been the comings and goings of ranchers, sheriff’s deputies and state biologists and game wardens, likely making wolves even warier.

“I wouldn’t be expecting any wolf news right away,” Luers said.

The first calf was killed in mid-July during attacks that also injured other calves and cows Diamond M grazes. Last winter saw wolves in a neighboring ranch’s calving pasture and the area saw a calf depredation in 2007.

Another Confirmed Wolf-Calf Attack In Wedge Has WDFW Planning Bigger Capture Operation, Possibly Killing More Wolves

They’ve been running up and down U.S. 395 pretty steadily for a month now answering depredation calls, and with another calf’s injuries tied today to Canis lupus, WDFW staffers will again head north, in force, to the Wedge of northern Stevens County on Monday to capture wolves and possibly kill one or more.

While agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers said the top priority was to collar wolves, policy lead Steve Pozzanghera later said WDFW’s options were open with a goal of breaking up the pack.

Wolf techs, wildlife biologists and perhaps other state staffers are likely to join WDFW’s wolf trappers as they try to get a handle on exactly how many animals are in the area and how far they range in this remote, thick borderland between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and into southern British Columbia.

Currently only one member of the Wedge Pack has a radio collar, the alpha male, captured in mid-July. The devices, often with GPS equipment, allow managers to track the animals’ movements. In some cases, such as Smackout Pass where two males are collared and in Northeast Oregon, managers can text coordinates to range riders and ranchers to help keep wolves out of stock.

The collared Wedge wolf’s signal also likely led a sharpshooter to the pack last week when a nonbreeding female was killed following a series of depredations.

Wolves here have been tied to one dead calf and now at least six injured cows and calves, all on the Colville National Forest’s Churchill allotment grazed by the Diamond M Ranch. Earlier this year wolves were also in a neighboring operation’s calving pen, and Diamond M experienced a calf depredation in 2007.

The latest attack was reported Tuesday night; a determination it was “definitely wolf-caused” was made this morning.

“The marks on the injured calf were punctures and tears on the hindquarters and groin, consistent with wolf,” said Luers.

Evidence was reviewed inside and outside the agency, she said.

Luers initially disputed an online report by Capital Press that two calves have died this week, but since then the agency has been contacted by the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office that they were en route to the scene of a dead calf with vultures circling nearby possibly indicating another downed animal.

Not all stock deaths and injuries up here this summer have been caused by wolves. A cougar killed one calf in mid-July and an examination of another last week found “no indications of cause of death … and it was determined that the calf had not been killed by a predator,” according to WDFW.

WDFW AND STEVENS COUNTY OFFICIALS AND McIRVIN FAMILY MEMBERS EXAMINE A CALF FOUND DEAD AUG. 8. A CAUSE OF DEATH WAS NOT DETERMINED, EXCEPT THAT IT WAS NOT DUE TO PREDATORS. SKINNING THE CARCASS ALLOWS INVESTIGATORS TO SEARCH FOR BRUISING AND "GRAPE JELLY" LIKE INJURIES TO MUSCLE MASSES THAT CAN SIGNIFY A WOLF ATTACK WHILE THE ANIMAL WAS ALIVE RATHER THAN FEEDING ON IT AFTER IT DIED OF OTHER CAUSES. IT CAN ALSO SHOW THAT AN ANIMAL WAS SUFFERING HEALTH PROBLEMS. (WDFW)

Still, the McIrvins, which run Diamond M, reported 11 calves and five bulls missing last fall, far more than any time in the past. They believe the answer isn’t compensation but killing off the Wedge Pack, however many animals that might be.

WDFW’s wolf plan allows for lethal removal of wolves that repeatedly kill or injure livestock.

“It’s not definite we would shoot another wolf, but it’s possible,” notes Luers about next week’s operation.

She said that any wolf attacks between now and Monday would not change the agency’s game plan.

They’re waiting until after the weekend to get started due to staff availability.

Meanwhile, others at WDFW are sure to find themselves later today or tomorrow at the scene of the latest dead calf or calves.

Oregon Wolf Update (8-15-12)

(ODFW)

Umatilla River wolves  
Pictures taken Aug. 2, 2012 from an ODFW remote camera show that there are at least two wolf pups with the Umatilla River pair. With four individuals in the group, it is now considered a pack.

Wenaha Pack pup count
ODFW surveyed the Wenaha pack on Aug 9, 2012 and was able to document seven pups for the pack.

Second wolf in Sled Springs Unit
A second wolf (black) has been confirmed by ODFW in the Sled Springs unit.  Surveys will continue in this area and hunter reports may help us learn more about local wolf activity as the fall progresses.

WA, OR Wolf Groups Ask USFWS To Keep Westside Wolves On ESA List

UPDATED 9: A.M. 8-15-12 Attempting to draw a distinction between local wolves and those delisted in the Northern Rockies, Washington and Oregon wolf advocates joined national groups in asking the Obama Administration to keep those in the Cascades on the endangered species list.

The request comes a month and half before a possible federal delisting proposal for wolves in the western two-thirds of both states by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, flies in the face of what Washington wolf managers want and possibly marks a new wrinkle in how the issue will play out in the Northwest.

“The gray wolf has only just begun to recover in the Pacific Northwest and needs continued protection under the Endangered Species Act,” reads a letter from, among others, members of Conservation Northwest of Bellingham, Wolf Haven of Tenino and Oregon Wild of Portland.

In May 2011 President Obama signed the legislation that removed the species from federal protections in the eastern thirds of the two states as well as Northern Rocky Mountains. Since then the Service has been conducting status reviews on Canis lupus elsewhere in the region and country. There have been indications that the Feds are ready to turn all wolf management over to Northwestern states, which the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has basically requested.

As it stands, there are two known packs in the Cascades, Washington’s Lookout and Teanaway Packs. The latter pack’s alpha female is a daughter of the former pack and produced its second known litter this spring.

In a press release, Conservation Northwest and 23 other groups attempt to paint those animals as “distinct from other wolves” in the U.S., sharing “unique ecological, morphological, behavioral and genetic characteristics” similar to those in western British Columbia. A BBC/Discovery Channel documentary CNW participated in attempted to backtrack the Lookouts, of the middle Methow Valley, to salmon-eating coastal Canadian wolves.

While WDFW has stated that the Lookout’s original two alphas do have DNA links to those animals, they also are related to wolves in northeastern BC and northwestern Alberta, the source stock for the mid-1990s reintroduction into the Yellowstone and Central Idaho.

The agency says that “wolves from the Canadian and northern U.S. Rockies, interior British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and nearly all of Alaska are closely related and belong to a single subspecies known as Canis lupus occidentalis. This conclusion is based on the examination of historical and recent wolf specimens collected throughout North America.”

Unresolved is the question of whether there is a separate subspecies in southern and coastal BC known as nubulis. Despite the common border, there is not a single mention of it in Washington’s wolf plan.

An agency wildlife manager said the Service will sort that question out.

Meanwhile, wolves are now doing in Washington and Oregon what wolves have done in the Northern Rockies, breeding, spinning off new packs, chewing on things they should and shouldn’t — and dispersing.

Oregon’s Imnaha Pack has seen at least five of its members depart, including to Washington, Idaho, and Central and Northeast Oregon. In all likelihood, those and its world-famous progeny, OR7, which left the Wallowa Mountains last September and traveled through Oregon’s southern Cascades before leaving for California, are related to some of the 66 wolves brought down from BC and Alberta by the Service.

Wolves are notorious for covering huge chunks of ground in their search for mates and territory, as the wanderings of that animal, a Teanaway wolf that went on a walkabout to Canada earlier this year before it was shot dead well north of Kootenay Lake, B.C. and others, such as the one that covered over 3,000 miles and parts of five states between Paradise Valley, Mont., and northwestern Colorado, show.

That makes one wonder exactly how pure any supposed subspecies might be.

Earlier this year, WDFW’s director Phil Anderson sent a letter to Dan Ashe, USFWS chief in DC, stating:

Given the observed rate of wolf colonization and the extensive movements of wolves in Washington, we are confident that wolves from the NRM DPS (and their descendents) will continue to colonize Washington at a significantly higher rate compared to source animals that might come from southern British Columbia. As a result of this biological information, the Department does not support the creation of a new DPS that would include the western two-thirds of Washington. Wolves in any part of our state will not be “discrete” from or represent a “significant” population of wolves that differs from those in the NRM DPS; therefore we do not believe that they would meet the Service’s DPS policy standards.

Then there was the pet Yukon wolf, two generations removed from the wild, that was released in southern BC in the late 1980s which led to a flurry of sightings at Washington’s Ross Lake in subsequent years. Are any of the Lookouts related to it?

Anti-wolfers are often chided for their mistaken claims that the wrong wolves were brought into the U.S., but it seems that wolf advocates can also try and bend the taxonomy to their goals.

Anderson also wrote that continued federal protection in the state’s western two-thirds “counter-intuitively limits” wolf recovery and management:

Broad social tolerance of wolves is absolutely essential to recovery, especially in rural areas. Under an endangered designation in the western two-thirds of Washington, we will not be able to utilize many of our important management tools. For instance, issuing “caught in the act” lethal removal permits to livestock operators is a valuable tool for wolf recovery because the permits empower operators inthe rare event of witnessing wolves depredating livestock. The ability to issue a permit under the right circumstances establishes trust and facilitates dialogue which enables us to work with operators on non-lethal measures and husbandry techniques to avoid conilicts.

It’s a dangerous game of “what ifs,” but should USFWS ultimately decide there is a distinct subspecies in the Cascades, that would make translocation of Northeast Washington wolves, where most of the state’s currently live, trickier and even less likely than it already is.

Other groups signing the letter to Obama include several of those which held up federal delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies through lawsuits — Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Hells Canyon Preservation Council — and one that refused to sign onto a proposed spring 2011 delisting agreement with the Service, HSUS.

Even if the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was to propose calling recovery in the region good enough, wolves would remain protected under Oregon and Washington state law, with monetary penalties for poaching animals. Proposed legislation WDFW may ask legislators to vote for next session would peg the fine for illegally killing a wolf at $4,000.

Bottom line, Northwest wolves are gonna be fine, but human meddling — both poaching and legal — will hinder their speedy recovery.

See this blog by The Oregonian‘s Scott Learn for a link to a PDF of the letter to Obama.

For a point-counterpoint of today’s press release from the wolf groups, see Rich Landers’ blog.

The Daily Northwest Howler, 8-9-12 Edition

Having spent way, waaaaaaaay more time than I ever anticipated I would this week on wolves, I’ve gotta get serious about that little thing we call Northwest Sportsman mag — the one that pays the bills here and has a looming deadline.

But … before I turn to that, there are a couple-few wolfy bits to pass along:

WDFW’s Nate Pamplin went on KUOW for an interview that covers why, if Washington is trying to recover wolves, it had to just shoot a wolf — interesting stuff, though he clarified to Northwest Sportsman that there are still just eight confirmed and four unconfirmed, or suspected, packs in Washington rather than 12 confirmed packs which part of the interview makes it sound like.

Rich Landers at the Spokane Spokesman-Review blogs that Evergreen Staters should “get used to” this more muscular treatment of the state’s growing population of wolves. He points to a Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks weekly wolf update that reveals the Treasure State has shot more depredating wolves this year — 65 — than Washington’s known population.

As I’ve noted, federal and state managers and ranchers have killed nearly 1,700 wolves involved in depredations between 1987 and 2011 and somehow the population ended up more than recovered anyway.

Mea culpa for this 8-10-12 addition to the Howler: The Capital Press, an agland news outlet, writes that the only compensation for wolf kills that Len McIrvin of the Diamond M wants “is a dead wolf for every dead calf.” He points to wolf losses that don’t turn up in a tally of kills or injuries — lighter cows and fewer pregnancies.

A story in yesterday’s La Grande Observer and a PDF of ODFW’s investigation provide a glimpse of how ranchers, county commissioners and state biologists can reach differing conclusions about what kills stock animals, in this case a dead 400-pound calf found Aug. 5 at a water hole where the only tracks were human, cow and coyote, according to the official record though wolves other than the Imnahas have been seen in the area according to the paper.

Last Friday’s Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting, available on TVW, contains two interesting items of note.

At around the 10-minute mark Commissioner Jay Kehne talks about range rider programs on Montana’s Blackfoot Challenge and Washington’s Smackout Pass, where at the latter location the rider has been getting GPS data on the whereabouts of two collared adult male wolves there.

Expect this experiment to be contrasted with goings on in The Wedge.

At around the 47:30-mark, director Phil Anderson begins talking about wolf issues, including how the agency has been in “pretty close communication” with livestock and wolf advocacy groups, including a recent meeting with ranchers in Colville. For the conservation community, he details they’re being briefed on what WDFW is doing, why and the rationale behind the actions they plan and take, outreach that he says may not have been taken in other states. Anderson also talks about development of a depredation/compensation matrix. He said it should help “take some of the ambiguity out of what people can expect of us in terms of wolf interactions with livestock.”

Landers also has a column on an upcoming wolf-hunting show that’s anything but the Bubba/Internet cowboy approach: Two hunters film themselves as they head out on Montana’s public land in search of one of North America’s smartest, most elusive and most resilient predators, learning more about their quarry and themselves over 11 days. Landers reports the two-part series will begin airing next Thursday on the Sportsman Channel.

And finally, WDFW has updated its wolf pack map to put a little blue dot around the rough location of the Nc’icns, the wolves captured on the Colville Reservation this spring.

For the record …

(WDFW)

 

Hunt Wrapped Up For Now With One Dead Wolf, WDFW Says ‘Right Decision’ To Target Calf-Preying Wedge Wolves

WDFW is trying to keep mum today about how exactly it hunted wolves up in the Wedge this week, declining to discuss who or how many sharpshooters it had afield and other operational details that resulted in one of the two targeted predators being killed, but says removing members of the livestock-attacking pack there was the “right decision” as Northeast Washington in particular becomes home to more and more wolves.

“We’ve wrapped it up for now,” said Nate Pamplin, in charge of WDFW’s Wildlife Program, which oversees day to day wolf management in Washington, shortly after noon. “We’ll monitor the situation, regroup and reevaluate our next steps.”

Meanwhile, the rancher whose herd has born the brunt of this summer’s attacks was pleased with yesterday’s killing of a nonbreeding female wolf on his grazing allotment in northern Stevens County, but says that while he followed procedure and reported the calf attack to a game warden four and a half days before the removal, if any more dead or injured cattle show up, he’ll also call in the sheriff.

Bill McIrvin has had one calf killed by wolves, another six calves and cows injured and is missing at least two other animals this summer alone. He’s also operating in an area where “higher-than normal” calf losses were reported coming out of last fall’s roundup, and this winter a nearby ranch had wolves in its calving pen. Coming back into cell phone range last night, he spoke with our Jeff Holmes about what led to Washington’s first legal killing of a wolf under the statewide management plan.

THE LATEST INCIDENT BEGAN WHEN 36 cows and calves were run out of the Colville National Forest last week back down to private property. McIrvin and his hands examined the herd for injuries, didn’t find any, so they loaded the animals back up and returned them to the range.

That’s when trouble began.

A calf turned up this past Thursday with laceration and bite marks that weren’t immediately identified by a fish and wildlife officer during examinations late that night and Friday morning as having come from a wolf or wolves.

McIrvin, however, felt the wounds matched those of prior attacks, reports Holmes.

It was at that point that the option of lethal removal was first considered, according to Pamplin.

But a final determination that the calf was attacked by a wolf didn’t come until sometime Monday afternoon, after further review of the injuries.

ONE OF TWO WOLVES PHOTOGRAPHED THIS SPRING IN THE WEDGE. OTHERS CROSSED IN FRONT OF REMOTE VIDEO CAMS IN LATE JANUARY. (WDFW)

Under the state’s wolf plan, wolves that repeatedly attack livestock can be lethally removed as long as preventative measures have been taken.

In a not unexpected but somewhat dangerous move given its wolf work as well as other projects in the region with ranchers and foresters, Conservation Northwest has challenged assertions that McIrvin tried to prevent conflicts in the area.

Asked about that, Pamplin responded, “We couldn’t have gone to lethal removal without considering the context of this pack within the Eastern Washington recovery region plus steps that have been taken in the Wedge this year.”

Those include capturing and collaring the alpha male with a GPS device, ear-tagging a pup, frequent checkups on the cattle by five ranch hands and a USDA Wildlife Services staffer tasked to the Wedge, that wild, extremely brushy triangular chunk of country between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and Canadian border that has until now otherwise been completely off the radar of Evergreen State residents save for a few hunters and anglers who sneak off to fish Big Sheep Creek.

During a recent ride in those mountains, among the most predator rich in Washington with wolves, cougars, black bears, grizzly bears and wolverines, McIrvin told Holmes he found cracked calf bones and a stink that indicated to him that that particular animal had died this year.

Incensed with the continuing pattern of wolf attacks — the ranch saw the first confirmed wolf attack in modern history, 2007’s killing of two calves — and WDFW’s slow confirmation of a wolf attack in the face of what he felt was sure evidence, Holmes says McIrvin told him that “At this point we don’t have a whole lot of faith in WDFW so we’re going to call in the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office from now on as well.”

A small number of deputies from there attended a WDFW training session where they were taught by wolf expert Carter Niemeyer to recognize signatures of a wolf attack. Among other markers, wolves typically grab the flesh behind the forelegs where other predators have different strategies for bringing down prey.

WDFW makes final determination on wolf attacks, and undoubtedly there will be disagreements as in Wallowa County where the sheriff and ODFW biologists sometimes reach differing shades of conclusions that can also affect whether a rancher is compensated for a lost animal or not.

When Holmes spoke to him last night, McIrvin was unaware about the news that WDFW’s gunner had killed the wolf, but responded with, “Well, that’s good” and that it was a “good sign.”

For those keeping score, it’s now 1,670 to 1,682 — that is, for every cow determined to have been killed by a wolf in the Northern Rockies between 1987 and 2011 (and in Washington this summer), one wolf has been taken out.

BEING A HUNTING BLOG AND MAGAZINE rather than a depredation daily, I wanted to learn more about the actual armed search for Canis lupus, but it’s unclear at this point if it went on on foot, horseback, helicopter, over bait, with calls or at a rendezvous site. Surely the GPS collar on the alpha male provided clues about the pack’s whereabouts — WDFW was targeting animals other than the alphas and pups — and we can assume that that dead wolf will have its DNA sampled.

WDFW’s Nate Pamplin also refused to discuss who the wolf hunter was.

Northwest Sportsman has confirmed a blog post about which subdepartment of the state that that employee belongs to, but to protect he and fellow staffers from so-called “wolf zealots” who might inadvisably harass or even assault them, that information will not be posted here.

Recall the Idaho hunter who shot the very first wolf during that state’s 2009 hunt and the hate he had to endure, much of which he posted on a blog.

As one WDFW spokesman noted, it’s an emotionally charged issue because wolves are still a rare and endangered species in large parts of the state, though the management and recovery plan allows for removals in circumstances like what’s occurred this week, and they’ve become powerful, powerful totems and tools throughout the West since the mid-1990s reintroductions.

In a sense, it’s very apt that this incident occurred in the Wedge as wolves are a hugely divisive issue that’s now fully involved in Washington.

While Pamplin and perhaps nobody else knows exactly how many wolves are in the area, his best guess is at least four adults, based on trail cam footage from last winter, plus at least one pup — and likely more. Breeding pairs typically have four to six pups per litter, about half of which die annually. During the early years of recolonization, those in Northwestern Montana and North Idaho averaged 5.3.

Northeast Washington is now home to at least six packs and 28 wolves, the latter being a figure that represents alphas, known pups and two wolves captured on the Colville Reservation alone and not 2011’s or previous years’ litters. Certainly there are many more when you include those animals, the suspected but unconfirmed Ruby Creek and Boulder Creek packs and loners similar to OR7 and the Teanaway Pack yearling that went to BC this spring.

Asked how the shooter could tell the difference between a breeding and nonbreeding animal, Pamplin pointed to body language, behavior, the trail footage and the collar on the male.

He would not disclose the dead animal’s weight.

He stood firm on WDFW’s “difficult job.”

“Removing an animal in this situation was a difficult decision, but it was the right decision. I’m pleased with how the operation was performed. It was not a decision that was reached lightly,” Pamplin said.

FOR THE MOMENT, THE AGENCY IS TRYING to get past the initial burst of attention its management activities have attracted.

It posted the news to Facebook today, and as ever that immediately sparked a range of comments on many facets of the actual wolf debate, and then some.

The take-home messages for both fringes — I’m increasingly sure the center and some hunters don’t give, as Rich Landers wrote, a damn — are these:

Anti-wolfers: If anything, this incident shows that WDFW is fully engaged in wolf management — and it’s about time. Since passage of the management plan last December, it’s hired trappers and techs to do nothing but work on wolves. That’s resulted in a lot more wolf info out there, making it easier to get newsy bits out of WDFW, as a search of this blog will show. The agency’s wolf managers are also in the field, sometimes on a daily basis, and even the director himself, Phil Anderson, paid a visit to McIrvin’s Diamond M after mid-July’s attacks. Northwest Sportsman has also been briefed on what the agency will do in regards to wolf-ungulate management. If Montana, Idaho and Wyoming as a whole are any indication, there will be plenty.

Pro-wolfies: This week’s wolf killing might have mattered three or four years ago when the state’s population was much smaller, but today it matters little in the grand scheme of recovery. It was bound to happen sooner or later — the state clearly is supporting a growing population, one that will continue to disperse into the Cascades, Okanogan Highlands, Selkirks and elsewhere there are cattle. It appears that WDFW acted according to its management plan, and while it’s unclear whether the dead wolf was actually in on any of the attacks, taking out members of offending packs is just part of the price to be paid for the greater goal of wolves across the state — ranching is as much a part of the fabric of Washington as its native creatures, including, yes, the wolf. If Montana, Idaho and Wyoming as a whole are any indication, there will be plenty.

As this week’s lesson shows, you ain’t gonna have lots of wolves without lots of game.

A TIMELINE OF EVENTS

2007: Calf depredation northernmost Stevens County on the Diamond M Ranch.

Fall 2011: Diamond M reports fewer cattle than expected at roundup.

Winter 2012: Wedge rancher given caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permit after wolf tracks are found in his calving pen; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/06/22/washington-wolf-news-late-june-edition/

March 21, 2012: WDFW posts videos of three adult-sized wolves in the Wedge; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/03/21/washington-may-have-10-wolf-packs/

May 2012: Midmonth trapping efforts here fail; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/05/15/oregon-washington-wolf-update/

Late May 2012: Two wolves are photographed in area; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/06/13/colville-reservation-wolves-are-states-6th-confirmed-pack/

July 12: Managers head for the Wedge to investigate an attack on Diamond M’s grazing allotment; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/07/12/wa-wolf-managers-head-to-the-wedge-to-check-on-livestock-depredation/

July 13: After confirming wolves killed one calf and injured a cow and a calf, WDFW offers McIrvin a caught-in-the-act permit and says the area and its wolves are its number one priority; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/07/13/wolves-cougar-implicated-in-attack-on-stevens-co-calves/

July 16: WDFW trapper Paul Frame captures and collars an adult male believed to be the pack’s alpha, as well as a pup, officially confirming the pack; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/07/16/wdfw-traps-2-wolves-in-new-wedge-pack-states-8th/

July 24: A WDFW manager says if there’s another wolf depredation in the Wedge, the agency will move to lethal removal; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/07/24/wedge-wolves-on-a-tight-leash/

Aug. 6: Word emerges that there’s been another attack; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/08/06/with-another-wolf-attack-in-wedge-now-wdfw-considers-lethal-removal-other-options/

Aug. 7: After confirming a calf was injured by a wolf or wolves, WDFW announces its killed one and is hunting for another; http://nwsportsmanmag.com/2012/08/07/wdfw-kills-wolf-aims-to-kill-another-to-deal-with-cattle-depredation/

Aug. 8: Hunt ends without a second wolf being removed; WDFW reconsidering its options.

WDFW Takes Out One Wedge Wolf, Aims To Kill Another To Deal With Depredations

WDFW reports killing a member of the livestock-predating Wedge wolf pack of northern Stevens County this morning and is still on the hunt for another.

It’s the first time under the state’s wolf management plan that the agency has taken lethal action against wolves, and it follows attacks on cattle in mid-July and attempts to haze the pack.

“Our goal in taking today’s action was to reduce the size of the pack and break the pattern of predation,” said Nate Pamplin, assistant WDFW wildlife director in a press release. “We can’t guarantee that today’s action will prevent future attacks by this pack, but we have clear indications that non-lethal actions alone are unlikely to reduce predation on livestock.”

Since mid-July, the Wedge pack is believed to be responsible for killing one calf and injuring five cows or calves of the Diamond M Ranch. At least two animals are also missing, WDFW says, and another two calves appeared injured, though it’s unclear what attacked them.

The attack which prompted today’s culling involved a calf that was injured late last week.

The wolf that was shot is described as a nonbreeding female. The hunt for it was likely aided by a GPS tracking collar on the pack’s likely alpha male; it was captured in late June.

State agents will remain in the area through tomorrow morning to try and kill another. It’s probable they will target another nonbreeding animal rather than the alphas or pup(s), which would count towards statewide recovery goals should they make it through the end of the year without further problems.

The wolf plan allows managers to “remove,” as the euphemism goes, one or two wolves from packs known to repeatedly attack livestock after preventative measures have been taken.

According to WDFW, nonlethal methods such as electrified fencing and regular check-ups on the 200-plus cow-calf pairs by five cowboys were attempted before today’s action.

A USDA Wildlife Services staffer has been in the area as well to haze wolves.

WDFW director Phil Anderson visited the ranch after mid-July’s attacks, and he noted they’re working in that part of the state with the most wolves — six of the state’s eight known packs are north of the Spokane River and west of Lake Roosevelt and the Kettle River.

He said that the agency’s recovery plan permits WDFW to “minimize wolf-livestock conflict that could undermine public support for the long-term recovery effort.”

The legal killing of the first wolf in the state’s modern history sparked an immediate response from Conservation Northwest. The Bellingham-based group has been heavily involved in Washington wolves and acknowledges that problem wolves must be taken out.

However, they questioned whether Diamond M had taken enough steps to reduce livestock conflicts on their Churchill Allotment in the rugged, thick ground of the Colville National Forest between the Kettle and Columbia Rivers and the Canadian border.

“The killing of problem wolves will be part of life in Washington from here out,” said executive director Mitch Friedman in a press release, “But it’s unclear in this case whether the right livestock stewardship steps have first been tried to reduce conflict potential. If we expect wolves to behave, ranchers need to meet them half way.”

We hope to get a comment from Bill McIrvin of the Diamond M tonight.

The area is where the state’s first modern-day livestock depredation occurred, 2007’s killing of two calves by wolves. Last winter ranchers also reported “higher than normal” calf losses, according to WDFW.

In the Northern Rocky Mountains, between 1987 and the end of last year, a wolf was killed for every cow confirmed to have been killed by wolves.

Wolves in the eastern third of the state have been federally delisted but remain under state protections; wolves in the western third are still on the ESA list.

It’s been a hot spring and summer for wolf news in Washington, with WDFW confirming the Wedge and Huckleberry Packs, trapping and radio collaring members of the Teanaway and Smackout Packs, and reporting that each of those packs as well as Diamond have had pups. Additionally, the Colville Tribes captured two members of the Nc’icn Pack, and there were two other confirmed or probable wolf kills elsewhere in the state.

Conservatively, there are a minimum of 35 wolves in the state’s eight known packs, but likely many more than that what with another four suspected packs and likely roamers, like OR7 and the Teanaway Pack female that went to BC this spring and was killed, on the landscape.

It’s unclear how many wolves make up the Wedge Pack, but there are at least two breeding adults and a pup. Video released last winter indicated there were four members at that time, all of which would have been adult sized, so at least five — minus one now, and maybe two by tomorrow morning.

Washington was not part of the 1990s reintroduction of wolves into the Northern Rockies. While wolves here likely have migrated from there, mostly they come from Canada and North Idaho/Northwest Montana where they recolonized on their own.

Today’s action illustrates that WDFW is no longer sitting on its hands on wolves — it’s clearly ramped up its management efforts since the plan was approved by the Fish & Wildlife Commission last December — and is taking an active role when conditions demand.

The agency says it will reevaluate the situation in the Wedge later this week.

For more on Washington wolves, search this blog.

With Another Wolf Attack In Wedge Now, WDFW Considers Lethal Removal, Other Options

Washington wolf managers may soon go on the state’s first hunt in over 80 years after wolves again attacked livestock in the Wedge of northern Stevens County.

That’s one possible response following the injury of a calf by a wolf or wolves late last week and which followed mid-July depredations by wolves as well as a cougar in this remote part of the state between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and the Canadian border.

Following that case, Steve Pozzanghera, the wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in Spokane, told Northwest Sportsman, “If we have another confirmed (wolf) kill in the Wedge, we’d move to lethal removal.”

WOLF IN THE WEDGE CAPTURED ON A TRAIL CAM THIS PAST JANUARY. IT WAS ONE OF FOUR BELIEVED TO BE IN THE AREA LAST WINTER. (WDFW)

Any hunt would be aided by the GPS collar on what’s believed to be the pack’s alpha male.

It’s the first time under WDFW’s wolf management plan, barely eight months old, that the agency may take this step.

As one of the commissioners who last December unanimously signed off on the final, amended plan later stated, “People are going to have to realize that wolves will be wolves and some will have to be managed.”

Managed is a euphemism for killed or moved, and it’s clear — if the Northern Rockies are a sign — that wolves and cows will tangle: Since 1987, a wolf has been killed for every cow that’s turned up dead in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

And earlier this year two caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permits were offered to ranchers in Stevens County; Bill McIrvin refused his, we’ve reported, while the other expired after 30 days.

However, a final decision on the state shooting a wolf or wolves has not been reached as of late Monday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane.

“Olympia is working through the possible responses,” she said.

Sparking the consideration is a determination earlier today that the calf was attacked by a wolf or wolves, she said.

Luers termed it a “continuation of the pattern of wolf-livestock” problems affecting the Diamond M Ranch.

The plan says that lethal removal may be used to stop repeated livestock attacks after nonlethal methods have failed. A USDA Wildlife Services staffer has been in the area, the ranch’s grazing allotment in the Colville National Forest, to haze wolves over the past 12 days or so.

The plan calls for incremental killing, starting out with one or two wolves and then additional ones if attacks continue. Managers can trap and euthanize, or shoot to kill.

Wolf advocates will watch things closely, if events in Northeast Oregon with the Imnaha Pack are any indication. Some support elements of the plan like lethal removal — as long as they believe preventative measures have been taken.

WDFW also has the option of moving trouble wolves, but Pozzanghera previously told us that the Wedge wolves were “not candidates for translocation” because of the initial attacks.

The pack has been long suspected by locals and even a former state biologist, Luers said this afternoon, but was not confirmed until late June when the male and a pup were captured by a WDFW trapper.

A calf was also killed here in 2007, the first in modern record.

Wolves are protected under state and federal law in Washington; bounties were collected on them into the late 1920s.

In the Northern Rockies, livestock kills and wolf removals were slow to build in the early years of wolf recolonization/reintroduction, but after 2001 federal managers quit moving Canis lupus and began shooting them. Depredations and wolf killing peaked in 2008 and 2009.

For more, see Rich Landers’ article on the situation

Surveys Of Likely East Cascades Habitats Turning Up No New Wolves

After a hot start to summer, there’s been little wolf news to report of late in Washington (not that we haven’t been digging).

The latest weekly Wildlife Program continues that trend.

WDFW reports that the agency’s Cascades wolf tech, Gabe Spence, hasn’t turned up any new wolves in areas of southwest Okanogan, Chelan and northern Kittitas Counties with a “high probability” of activity.

He’s been using a combination of remote camera, road and trail surveys and howling to comb 13 different game management units between Conconully and Cle Elum, some of the state’s better areas for deer and elk hunting and where there are also increasing numbers of moose, at least at the north end.

THIS MAP FROM WDFW SHOWS THE AREA WOLF TECH GABE SPENCE HAS BEEN SURVEYING FOR CANIS LUPUS.

His 12 trail cams are deployed for three weeks or so at a time over “traps” designed to lure curious wolves in and get their mug shot taken.

“Based on monitoring in areas with known pack activity, three weeks of camera monitoring has proven to provide a high probability of detecting wolves at individual camera traps. While a single trap may not record activity, a well placed series of camera traps has proven effective when using the 3-week duration,” WDFW maintains.

The agency adds that outside of Teanaway and Lookout Packs‘ territories, “no presence of wolves has been recovered within the three counties.”

Hunters have reported a number of wolf observations throughout the east slope of the Cascades.

Spence has 12 more trail cams on back order “to increase the amount of area that can be surveyed.”

Elsewhere in the July 23 report, downloadable here, there are dramatic images of damage in North-central Washington from July fire and rain storms, including scorched, grey earth up Foster Creek and mud flows over Highway 97 to the north.

There’s also bits on Mt. Baker mountain goat surveys, efforts to increase hunter access to private lands for waterfowl and big game hunting in Western Washington, and a surprise thank-you visit from a large timberland owner to a WDFW staffer who, along with local volunteers, organized a cleanup and monitoring of their treestands and which have “encouraged them to keep a high level of public access.”

(WDFW)