Category Archives: Wolf News

Oregon Wolf News Early August Edition

ODFW unleashed a torrent of wolf news today, including confirmation that at at least two more of Oregon’s packs have had pups, better figures on how many wolves are up in the Eagle Caps, news on a possible new group in the Sled Springs area of Wallowa County and DNA work done on scat and wolves in the state’s northeastern corner.

Previously the agency posted monthly wolf update PDFs to its Web site, but then switched to updating a page and sending out an email alert when new info was posted.

Today’s news includes links to video clips and photos.

To wit:

Pups and wolf howling video for Snake River pack

The Snake River pack has at least three pups, a July 25, 2012 survey found. Photos taken by remote camera also show at least three adults in the pack.

During this survey in the Summit Ridge area of the Snake River wildlife management unit in Wallowa County, an ODFW employee also captured video footage of one of the pups howling and other members of the pack returning the howl. See the video here. Wolves are highly social animals and howling is a common behavior that helps packs communicate and stay together. Wolf howls can be heard from several miles away.

SCREEN GRAB FROM OREGONHUNTINGMAP.COM THAT SHOWS THE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT UNITS MENTIONED IN ODFW'S WOLF NEWS RELEASED TODAY.

Umatilla River wolf pair have pups
ODFW surveys also confirmed that the Umatilla River wolf pair have pups. Multiple tracks were found during a summer survey but the exact number of pups is still unknown.

Imnaha pack pup count
The Imnaha Pack has at least six pups this year, a July 8 survey on US Forest Service lands southeast of Joseph found. There may be more pups but this is the most up-to-date number for the pack. (See photo of pups)

Eagle Cap Wilderness wolf
In late June, ODFW surveyed an area east of the Minam River in the Eagle Cap Wilderness after a remote camera took an image of a lactating female on June 4.  At least three adult wolves were confirmed through tracks, scats and howls but no sign of pups was found. A later visit on July 19 found no wolf sign or remote camera photos, so the wolves are believed to have moved out of this immediate area.

Photo captured of wolf in Sled Springs Unit
An image of one wolf was taken by ODFW on July 20, 2012 in the Washboard Ridge area north of Enterprise (Sled Springs Wildlife Management Unit, Wallowa County). Tracks of two wolves were confirmed in this area over the winter and spring, so this may be an area of resident wolf activity.

Summary of genetic results from recently tested wolf samples in NE Oregon.

  • A scat collected in the Chesnimnus unit (Devils Run area) on May 2, 2012 was from a wolf that was born in the Wenaha Pack.  It is unknown if the wolf is resident in the Chesnimnus unit or was simply passing through the area.  It is possible that this is the wolf using the Sled Springs unit (mentioned above).
  • OR12 (Wenaha Pack, captured on April 2, 2012) is progeny of the Imnaha pack (OR2 and OR4). OR12 is believed to be the breeding male for the Wenaha Pack and ODFW is currently testing Wenaha pup scats to confirm.
  • The pups captured and collared last fall in the Walla Walla Pack (OR10 and OR11) are full siblings and are not closely related to any other Oregon wolves sampled to date.

Wolf License Plate On WDFW’s Legislative Wish List

WDFW may ask state lawmakers to create a $40 wolf license plate to try and help keep Canis lupus out of the cattle.

It’s one of several “agency request legislative proposals” that will be presented to the Fish & Wildlife Commission later this week (see item 6 here).

This particular bill, tentatively titled “An Act Relating to large wild carnivore conflict management,” would authorize spending up to $100,000 a year from plate revenues ($40 to buy, $30 to renew) to pay for range riders, fladry, livestock carcass removals and other proactive and preventative measures — basically, get wolf advocates to pay for their management and put their money where their mouth is.

Currently, the state’s endangered species and vanity plates have been tapped to fund an account set up to pay for livestock depredations by wolves.

The proposed bill would also classify wolves as big game for the eventual day they’re delisted and possibly hunted, and make it a $4,000 fine to poach one.

“Having the Legislature make this classification change now will garner support from the hunting and livestock community for this bill, and the additional criminal penalty with bring support from the environmental community,” reads a document prepared for the commission.

Unspent depredation claim money would roll over from one year to the next.

Early on the bill has support from livestock, hunter and wolf advocacy groups, according to WDFW.

As for wolf news in the field over the weekend, all’s quiet in Eastern Washington, reported a spokesman earlier today.

Another bill the agency wants would charge a “nominal fee” for hunters ed courses and require kids who pass it and who are under age 14 to be accompanied by an adult hunter at least 18 years of age or older while afield.

The fee would be $25, ostensibly to discourage dads from signing Junior up to multiple classes and then not showing up and leaving empty seats that could have otherwise been filled. It would also “provide volunteer instructors with money they need to purchase equipment and teaching aids for classes.”

The courses are otherwise free and volunteers’ time unpaid.

“Support is anticipated; their board will review,” reads a WDFW description about how six hunting groups across the state may react.

The bills would first have to be introduced by lawmakers, be approved by both chambers of the state house and signed by the governor before going into law.

WA Wolf News Late July Edition: Pups Again For Diamond Pack; Colockum, Blues Searches Turn Up No Sign Of Wolves

The Diamond Pack of east-central Pend Oreille County has had at least four pups this year, marking the fourth straight season it’s known to have produced a litter, and making it Washington’s fifth with young in 2012.

A trail cam image included in the latest WDFW weekly Wildlife Program report shows the wolves chewing on what might be a decayed hide up the East Fork LeClerc Creek drainage, in the middle of the pack’s range, late last week.

(WDFW)

The PDF, downloadable here, also shows state workers setting a trap nearby to capture and collar animals in the pack, though Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW’s wolf policy lead, says that as of this afternoon, none had been.

Diamond, in the thick of the state’s moose country, had six pups in 2009, including four that survived to year end, six in 2010, and three in 2011. Even if two of this year’s four known pups die between now and Dec. 31, the pack will most likely again qualify as a successful breeding pair, the standard measure of wolf recovery.

Fifteen in certain numbers across the state for three straight years, or 18 in certain numbers across the state in any single year would trigger delisting.

Teanaway, Wedge, Hunkleberry and Smackout also had litters.

Pozzanghera says trappers will next move their operation over to the Huckleberry Pack between Springdale and Hunters, on Lake Roosevelt, and hopefully quickly collar an adult as they know where the pups hang out.

Other state wolf workers have been “descrambling” GPS collar data from Smackout wolves and texting it to a range rider who’s patrolling a Colville National Forest grazing lease around the pack.

Elsewhere in the Wildlife Program’s July 16-22 report are details of a fruitless search in the mountains between Ellensburg and Wenatchee for wolves:

Summary of wolf monitoring work in the Naneum and Colockum – Technician Spence: I have spent 15 days surveying for wolf tracks and sign. I have surveyed most major roads, and the likely ridges and basins looking for tracks and sign. We currently have 9 cameras out in the Colockum and Naneum, and as of 7/16/2012 have 146 camera nights. Cameras will continue to be out for about another week. Results so far are no tracks or sign of wolves, and no detections with trail cameras. The lack of wolf tracks, sign, or photographs coupled with our survey effort indicates that it is very unlikely that there is a resident pack or pair of wolves living in the Naneum/Colockum at this point in time. There have been a few reports of wolf sightings, howling, and tracks in the Naneum/Colockum. However, wolves travel and disperse widely, and the data seems to suggest that these tracks and sightings are probably a case of dispersal or exploratory movements by wolves, not an established pack. Wolves can disperse at any time of the year, but most dispersal happens in fall or late winter. We will continue to monitor the Colockum and the Naneum for wolves as time goes on.

“I think these are transients,” says Pozzanghera, who then adds, “like Touchet.”

Officially, WDFW “suspects” there is a pack up the North Fork Touchet, based on numerous trail cam shots, sightings, howls, etc., but a short ground search earlier this month turned up no evidence of a pack.

Reads the July 9 Wildlife Program report:

District Biologist Paul Wik, Wildlife Officer John, and a student officer spent 2 days backpacking in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness looking for wolf sign. The only wolf sign observed was a single pile of scat that appeared to be fairly old. Due to warmer temperatures, wildlife was only observed during the crepuscular time periods.

If there’s not a pack on the Washington side, it’s possible the animals are strays from Oregon’s Walla Walla or Wenaha Packs, or dispersers from other groups.

Bottom line is, if you have solid, current intel on the location of a wolf here, share it with WDFW. Pozzanghera mentions getting reports from folks unwilling to divulge the location, which does not make the job of finding, collaring, establishing their breeding status, and getting closer to recovery goals any easier or faster.

For the moment, it’s quiet on the Washington wolf watch, says Pozzanghera, but the July 9 report also includes images from the very active days just two weeks ago:

Northeast Washington Wolf Depredation: Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Shepherd was informed at the Director’s meeting at the Spokane Regional Office of a cattle depredation
incident near Laurier, WA. Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Shepherd and Officer Weatherman proceeded to the Diamond M Ranch property and met with the Officers Anderson and Sergeant Charron, and rancher Bill McIrven of the Diamond M. There was a Hereford cow in a corral with a bite mark on its snout and a calf had a large gaping wound on a rear flank or hindquarter, a large bite mark on an outer front shoulder, bite wounds on the neck, and severe groin trauma from bite wounds.

(WDFW)

Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Shepherd accompanied Officer Anderson to another cattle depredation incident near Laurier, WA at the Diamond M Ranch USFS Churchill allotment. Assistant District Wildlife Biologist Shepherd and Officer Anderson subsequently met Biologist Frame, Officer Weatherman and Sergeant Charron, Bill and Len McIrven of the Diamond M, and Stevens County Sheriff Allen and his employees.

There was a Hereford calf carcass which appeared to have been dead for several days, possibly over a week. Biologist Frame had observed scrapes and a confined carcass. Only soft tissue had been consumed and no large bones had been scattered. All observers including Bill and Len McIrven concluded this was cougar kill.

(WDFW)

Another calf carcass was present of a partially consumed calf carcass that was fresher than the cougar killed carcass just observed downhill ¼ mile. The days since death seemed to be consistent with the time since injury of a calf transported to the Diamond M on 7/11/12 3-5 days old). Much hair and large leg bones were strewn about and a black spot where the carcass originally had been was evident. Numerous adult wolf tracks were observed in the area (Photo below). What was left of this carcass and the dispersed hair, including spread about large leg bones, some apparent underarm and groin damage to the remaining hide, and the presence of fresh wolf tracks and wolf scat details a pattern consistent with canine attack, presence of multiple wolves, and a wolf-killed animal.

(WDFW)

USDA Wildlife Services is in the area to help with hazing efforts, but the pack is on a tight leash should another depredation occur, as I reported Tuesday.

Wolf TMI, Waaaaay TMI

It struck even me, an inveterate Washington wolf news hound, as, well, too much information — but now it’s been scrubbed from The Record and inquiring (not to say bored) reporters are wondering why.

OK, so it’s just one reporter.

The first version of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s weekly Wildlife Program report for early July includes the details about how one of the agency’s two wolf techs was apparently by herself in the Wedge of extreme northern Stevens County placing trail cams when her truck broke down and cell phone died.

It’s the same area where just a week or so afterwards, confirmed cattle depredations would occur and a state trapper would capture a 94-pound male wolf and a pup.

The second report for the same time period contains no mention whatsoever of the incident.

I only happened to catch it because I compulsively check the page where WDFW posts the PDFs, immediately downloaded Version 1 last week when it became available, scanned it for wolf news, and, well, kinda chuckled.

The report even included a pic of the truck’s hood popped up and malfunctioning part.

Then the PDF disappeared before reappearing sometime between my phone call to Oly HQ yesterday afternoon and this morning.

I of course stopped everything that I was doing, downloaded the second take and searched the now noticeably shorter document for “wol,” hoping to capture any and all new mentions of wolf and wolves for the blog.

But there’s now a gap where this was originally reported:

While attempting to check and deploy cameras in the Wedge, Wolf Technician Tiffany Baker’s truck broke down. A radiator hose was replaced the next day and the vehicle was retrieved and taken to the repair shop in Colville. ADWB Shepherd and Habitat Biologist Sandy Dotts retrieved Wolf Technician Tiffany Baker from the Wedge after her truck broke down and cell phone went dead. Private Lands Technician Scott Bendixen assisted Wolf Technician Tiffany Baker with repairs the following day and the truck was functional enough to drive to the automotive shop in Colville.

While attempting to check and deploy cameras in the Wedge, Wolf Technician Baker’s truck broke down. Private Lands Technician Scott Bendixen assisted Baker with repairs the following day and the truck was functional enough to drive to the automotive shop in Colville.

So what the hell’s going on? Why aren’t we being given every last detail about wolves and wolf management activities in Washington? Isn’t this part of the outreach component of the plan? What sort of coverup is WDFW running?!?!

I asked the Spokane office, and they said this:

“Kevin (Robinette, regional wildlife manager) says stuff like Tiffany’s truck breakdown are considered ‘administrative details’ that we usually don’t include simply for public interest and space.”

Yeah, probably TMI.

Back to work, Walmagott, bigger fish to fry.

Wedge Wolves On A Tight Leash

State and federal wolf managers have teamed up to haze wolves in northern Stevens County where a newly confirmed pack responsible for recent livestock attacks is on the proverbial tight leash.

“If we have another confirmed kill in the Wedge, we’d move to lethal removal,” says Steve Pozzanghera, the wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in Spokane.

Earlier this month, the Diamond M Ranch lost at least one calf to a wolf or wolves and had another calf and a cow injured by the predators. Two others were also slightly hurt. Another calf was killed by a cougar. In 2007, the ranch also lost a calf to a wolf.

Pozzanghera says that staff from Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are in the area to haze wolves and reduce the chances of another livestock attack.

However, the federal agency would not pull the trigger if another cow goes down.

“They don’t have the proper legal paperwork in place to kill wolves in Washington,” he says.

That means the job could fall to WDFW.

The state offered Diamond M a caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permit, but in a conversation with Northwest Sportsman for our August issue, out later this week, rancher Bill McIrvin said he didn’t want it.

Since then and the subsequent capture of a male wolf and a pup, it’s been quiet in the Wedge.

“Quiet is good,” says Pozzanghera.

The adopted wolf management plan says this about what would trigger a removal:

Lethal control to resolve repeated livestock depredations: Lethal removal may be used to stop repeated depredation if it is documented that livestock have clearly been killed by wolves, non-lethal methods have been tried but failed to resolve the conflict, depredations are likely to continue, and there is no evidence of intentional feeding or unnatural attraction of wolves by the livestock owner. Situations will have to be evaluated on a case-specific basis, with management decisions based on pack history and size, pattern of depredations, number of livestock killed, state listed status of wolves, extent of proactive management measures being used on the property, and other considerations. If it is determined that lethal removal is necessary, it will likely be used incrementally, as has been done in other states, with one or two offending animals removed initially. If depredations continue, additional animals may be removed. Lethal removal methods may include trapping and euthanizing, or shooting.

While moving wolves around inside the state is also part of the plan, Pozzanghera says the Wedge wolves “are not candidates for translocation” because of the attacks.

Events here will be closely watched by all parties involved.

One other note: Conservation Northwest volunteers report hearing howling in the Little Naches, in the Southern Cascades, earlier this summer. The area is part of the home range of the state’s second largest elk herd. There have been a few other wolf reports in the area over the years — our contributor Dave Workman says he saw two in 2004 — but nothing to indicate a pack had set up residence in the heavily hunted drainages here.

Spokane Hunter-writer Calls For Wolf Translocation Studies To Begin

You can read the frustration in Spokane hunter and longtime outdoors columnist Rich Landers’ blog yesterday about Eastern Washington bearing “the weight” so far, of wolf recovery in the Evergreen State.

Six of the eight packs now known to be roaming around are in the woods and mountains just to the north and northwest of him.

Three new packs have been confirmed just this year; at least two of those and another have had pups.

What’s that growing density going to do to Northeast Washington’s elk, moose and deer and endangered caribou herd as we wait for wolves to fan out into the North Cascades and South-central Washington?

Right now, there are just two known packs west of, basically, Highways 97 and 17, and only one breeding pair.

The Whites shooting the Lookouts up hasn’t helped — though the Teanaway alpha female is related to that Methow Valley group — nor will talk of or anyone acting on SSS.

The management plan requires there to be at least seven breeding pairs, for three straight years, here before delisting.

Delisting and possible wolf hunts are tied to statewide recovery goes, not regional ones which clearly are going to be met first in Landers’ country.

It binds the right-hand side of the state.

“The East Side is getting wolves without management authority whether they like them or not. West Side residents get to have a say in whether they want wolves in their woods,” he blogs.

The wolf plan does have a workaround, called translocation — moving Washington wolves around inside the state, not bringing in BC, Idaho or Oregon animals.

“With eight packs confirmed in Eastern Washington and more unconfirmed packs almost surely formed in the area, it seems like NOW is the time to begin the environmental reviews and public outreach required to get the ball rolling toward delisting wolves,” Landers writes.

Translocation has always made me very uneasy. I understand it in principle and I’m on board with getting to recovery as fast as possible.

But it could also potentially turn hunters against each other in the state — those who don’t want wolves in elk-rich South-central or Coastal Washington could argue against it, and in the process leave the Northeast to fend for itself.

Translocation drew support from members of the Wolf Working Group, hunters, livestock interests and wolf advocates who helped craft the management plan.

They’re said to have said something along the lines of it would help “share the joy” of wolves in Washington when the topic was discussed.

The hitch is money and interest from WDFW.

I haven’t sensed a great desire on the agency’s part to try translocation at the moment.

If I was a state wolf manager who recalls the meetings prior to and the outfall from the reintroductions into Yellowstone and Idaho, I don’t think I’d want to dabble in it either.

But that leaves the Northeast and its game and its livestock and its wolves and its hunters and its cattlemen …

Legislator Wants To Shift WA Wolf Payouts To General Fund

Who pays for wolf depredations and how much should be in the pot was an active topic during the last session of the Washington state legislature.

It will be again this coming year.

A Westside lawmaker says she will introduce legislation that would compensate ranchers out of the state General Fund.

“This should absolutely not be coming from sportsmen,” Senator Pam Roach (R-Auburn) told Dave Workman for articles in TheGunMag.com and Seattle Gun Rights Examiner earlier this week. “It should be a cost borne by everyone since it was everyone – the federal government – who imposed this on our livestock owners.”

Currently, there’s $80,000 available to pay out for attacks like those that have occurred over the past two months in Okanogan, Stevens and Spokane Counties.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Defenders of Wildlife each chipped in $15,000, with the other $50,000 in a special WDFW account.

Hunter and angler license dollars, however, are not on the hook for payouts.

At one point during this winter’s legislature, our fees could have been — and to the tune of $200,000 — before a WDFW representative and lobbyists of the Washington Farm Bureau and Washington Cattlemen’s Association argued against it and an amendment by Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) nixed the idea.

Ultimately that bill failed, but lawmakers authorized WDFW to spend up to $50,000, with money coming from the sales of certain license plates which fund the management of nongame and threatened or endangered animals.

So far, and despite several confirmed or probable depredations over just the past two months, the pool of money hasn’t been tapped — yet.

Bill McIrvin of northern Stevens County, who lost one calf to a wolf and had others injured last week, told our Jeff Holmes he wasn’t going to take any money for a variety of good reasons which we spell out in our August issue.

“But we will be putting together a ‘tally sheet’ of what he would be eligible for should he choose to submit a claim,” Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW’s wolf policy lead, said in an email.

He says reimbursement is being finalized for the Thurlows of Okanogan County, who lost a calf in mid-May, while paperwork for the Tessiers of northwest Spokane County, who lost a sheep, is still pending.

Compensation is based on variables such as current market value, size of the spread an animal was killed on and whether it was a confirmed or probable wolf predation. Under the state plan, owners can get up to $1,500 per cow for probable wolf predations, and up to twice that for confirmed kills on ranches bigger than 100 acres, the idea being it would be tough to find additional possible kills across more ground.

“The wolf plan is far more generous than state law,” notes spokeswoman Madonna Luers.

She anticipates some “meshing” of the Washington Administrative Code and the wolf plan in the next legislative session.

In related news, a bill to delist wolves regionally in the state may also be introduced.

Chittim In On Capture Of Another Wolf, 3rd In A Week

UPDATED 7-19-2012 Best wolf trapper in the state right now? A reporter at a Seattle TV station.

Or at least he’s been a good luck charm for WDFW staffers out trying to capture and collar Washington wolves this week anyway.

On Monday Gary Chittim at KING 5 filmed as state trapper Paul Frame hauled a 94-pound wolf out of the brush up in the Wedge of northern Stevens County by the scruff of its neck and back end after it was caught in a foothold trap. It may be the alpha male of the “new” Wedge Pack.

They also caught and ear-tagged a pup that day.

After cattle depredations last week and a history of wolf reports in the area, WDFW had made collaring members of the pack its No. 1 priority.

Chittim had a long-standing request with the agency to participate in such an event.

Then, earlier today, Chittim and a photographer report being in on the recapture of the Teanaway Pack’s alpha female by another trapper, Scott Becker, who covers the Cascades for WDFW.

SCREEN GRAB SHOWING A WOLF CAUGHT EARLIER TODAY IN KITTITAS COUNTY WHILE KING 5 CAMERAS ROLLED.

The same wolf had been caught and collared with a GPS/VHF collar last June, an event that confirmed the north-central Kittitas County pack following hunter and others reports the previous fall and winter. It had at least four pups that survived to the end of the year.

Pups are again on the ground this year, but how many is unknown, Becker reported yesterday.

He said he gave the female a new GPS and VHF collar that will remain switched on around the clock.

Most Canis lupus captures in Washington since 2008 have occurred at this time of year.

Might be time to send Chittim down to the Blue Mountains where there have also long been reports of wolves, but in a recent looksee, state bios couldn’t find fresh hide nor hair.

WDFW Traps 2 Wolves In ‘New’ Wedge Pack, State’s 8th

A state trapper this morning caught two wolves, collaring what may be the alpha male of the “new” Wedge pack of Northeast Washington and put ear tags on a pup.

Meanwhile more cattle of the Diamond M Ranch than originally known may have been attacked by wolves in the area last week.

Footage of the wolf capture is expected to appear on KING 5 TV tonight at 10 and 11 p.m.

SCREEN GRAB SHOWING THE SCENE OF TODAY'S CAPTURE OF A WOLF IN NORTHERN STEVENS COUNTY. (KING 5)

For the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, the presence of the pup confirms that a pack is in the area, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers.

While ranchers have talked of wolves in the area for awhile and a number were caught on video cameras last winter, officially the Wedge wolves are now the state’s eighth confirmed pack, and the sixth in Northeast Washington.

This remote, forested grazing area of northern Stevens County has also been the scene of recent predator depredations on cattle, including the killing of two calves and wounding of a cow and calf last week.

The wounded animals were found July 11, the dead ones July 12, but it’s believed the dead calves were hit first based on maggots.

WDFW says that a wolf or wolves attacked the cow and calf and killed one of the calves; a cougar got the other.

Over the weekend it came to light that two more calves turned up with wounds.

“The rancher found a couple more slightly injured calves that were probably attacked and injured at the same time as the cow and calf,” Luers said.

Last week’s attacks made the Wedge her agency’s No. 1 wolf-trapping priority.

The male, which weighed 94 pounds, was given a GPS and VHF radio collar.

“The GPS is really nice for downloading data from a satellite,” says Luers.

Also over the weekend, director Phil Anderson arrived to get a first-hand look at the situation.

He’s offered Diamond M a caught-in-the-act/shoot-to-kill permit.

It’s unclear how effective that or other hazing devices might be in this case. While a radio-activated guard, or RAG, box might work when calves are in a pen, the rancher is now running cattle over a massive allotment that would also be all but impossible to put fladry up in.

And anyway, the ranchers have no interest in the permit or the compensation they’re eligible for, our Jeff Holmes learned after speaking with Diamond M’s Bill McIrvin this weekend.

He called the permit a “feel-good token,” saying he’s only seen wolves once in the area, at midnight a year ago, and had multiple objections to the money.

From a period of relative quiet, wolf management activities have quickly ramped up in Washington this summer.

“That’s why we have four full-time people whose only job is wolves,” said Luers.

Earlier this year saw confirmations of the Huckleberry and Nc’icn packs of southern Stevens and southern Ferry Counties, and two separate confirmed and probable wolf depredations elsewhere in Washington.

Meanwhile, WDFW’s wolf policy lead spoke in front of Blue Mountain ranchers last Tuesday about cougars and other issues. We’ll have more on that and the Stevens County attack in part I of a two-part report on Washington wolf management in our August issue, due on the press, oh, an hour or so ago.

AN UPDATED MAP OF WASHINGTON'S WOLF PACKS SWITCHES THE WEDGE PACK FROM SUSPECTED TO CONFIRMED WITH THE CAPTURE OF THE MALE AND PUP IN MID-JULY 2012. (WDFW)

WDFW Gives Rancher Caught-in-the-act, Shoot-to-kill Permit After Wolf Attack

Editor’s note: This corrects an earlier version of the story which misreported whose cattle were attacked.

As family members expressed concerns about wolves and cougars to state officials at a meeting this week in Walla Walla, predators may have been attacking the Diamond M Ranch’s cattle herd up in Northeast Washington.

Northwest Sportsman reporter Jeff Holmes says that on Friday afternoon Ted Wishon told him that one calf was confirmed to have been killed by wolves, another by a cougar and two more were “chewed up” by wolves earlier this week.

The attacks were confirmed in a joint press release from WDFW and the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office later that day.

Wishon is a relative of the ranch’s owners, the McIrvins. The press release states that WDFW Director Phil Anderson has issued a caught-in-the-act, shoot-to-kill permit to the operator, authorizing them to shoot a wolf if they see one attacking his livestock again.

It’s the second such permit issued this year; another was given to a different rancher in the same general area in April after wolf tracks turned up inside a calf pen surrounded by fladry. That permit has not been used, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers, and expired after 30 days, we previously reported.

This week’s attacks happened near Laurier, a tiny burg on the west side of the Wedge, that area between the Kettle and Columbia Rivers and Canadian border. It’s a region where at least four wolves and four grizzly bears — even a wolverine — as well as mountain lions and black bears are known to roam or have roamed this year.

It’s unclear when exactly the attacks took place — many wolf depredations occur at night — but on Wednesday, July 11, the ranchers contacted the sheriff’s office to report that an injured calf and cow had been found at the ranch.

That day, deputies joined by WDFW enforcement officers and ultimately wildlife biologists confirmed that injuries to the first two animals were caused by a wolf.

The next day two dead calves were found and reported. Investigators determined one had been hauled down by a cougar, the other a wolf, based on bite marks.

The wolf-hit calves exhibited wounds on their flanks and in the webbing behind their front legs.

A fifth calf remains missing.

The young cattle are described as running 250 to 300 pounds.

Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW’s wolf policy coordinator, says that trapping wolves in the Wedge is now the agency’s top priority. They hope to capture and collar a wolf; GPS collars can help track the animals as well as set off radio-activated guard, or RAG, boxes.

Meanwhile, if wolves turn up while state staffers are there, they will use “rubber bullets, floodlights and other strategies to keep wolves away from the rancher’s livestock.”

The agency is also working to figure out how much compensation Diamond M is eligible for. The state management plan says that livestock owners can be paid up to $1,500 for wolf-killed or -injured cattle.

The ranch was the site of the state’s first modern-day wolf depredation back in 2007. There has been talk of a number of cows that didn’t return at roundup last fall.

Get used to it: By one of several forecasts in the state’s now more and more frequently tested wolf management plan, this area, which has the most wolves in the state, is expected to be a population sink for the species due to conflicts with man.

The incident comes during a rather busy week in the Washington wolf world: On Wednesday, three members of a Twisp family were sentenced in federal court for their role in the killing of at least two ESA-listed wolves and attempted export of one’s hide; on Tuesday we learned the Smackout Pack, about 20-25 air miles to the southeast of the Wedge has had at least two pups; WDFW gave up trying to capture wolves in the Blues; and last weekend, Conservation Northwest reveled in the U.S. release of a 90-minute documentary on the Lookout and Teanaway Packs.

Also this week, on Tuesday, Wishon and others attended the Walla Walla County Predator Information Day, sponsored by the Washington Cattlemen’s Association. WDFW staffers were on hand and were peppered with questions; the meeting will be featured in the August issue of Northwest Sportsman.

According to our Jeff Holmes, ranchers in the area have been offering WDFW evidence of wolves in the area for some time, but the Wedge pack is officially still unconfirmed.

Three separate videos posted to YouTube earlier this year show at least three animals walking past a trail camera, and a note with the posts says that there are believed to be four in the group.

SCREEN GRAB FROM AN 11-SECOND CLIP CAUGHT BY A MOTION-ACTIVATED VIDEO PLACE IN THE WEDGE LAST WINTER. (WDFW)

A couple weeks ago, WDFW confirmed the Huckleberry Pack of southern Stevens County with a video of five pups.

A litter is more likely to indicate wolves tied to a place versus possible dispersers like OR7, another Imnaha wolf which went to Washington two winters ago, and the Teanaway female which traveled to BC and was killed in a pig sty this spring.

This is the third wolf-related predation of the year in Washington after a five-year stretch without a WDFW-confirmed case.

Table 9 in the statewide management plan provides an outline of options that managers and ranchers have when dealing with wolves.

Issuance of a caught-in-the-act permit to a livestock operator indicates that “WDFW does not have resources to address control.”

The state has hired two wolf trappers and three wolf techs.