Category Archives: Wolf News

The Daily Howler, 9-5-2012 Edition

1) Two more dead calves were discovered today in the Wedge of Northeast Washington.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson told the Fish & Wildlife Commission just after the beginning of its 1 p.m. meeting that one had been found “an hour ago” and characterized it as a “fresh kill” while the other appeared three to four days old.

An investigation is now ongoing, but he said “We may well get to 12 (wolf depredations) before the week is out.”

At least nine calves and one cow have been injured or killed by wolves so far in extreme northern Stevens County this summer, according to WDFW. Another calf was killed by a cougar.

Anderson also told the citizen panel that the agency has since resumed its wolf hunt and has moved its marksmen to a private-land pasture where today’s carcasses were found in hopes of taking out up to four of the pack’s members.

He said that they would try to avoid the alpha female, but …

“We need to get that pack cut down” in terms of numbers.

There are an estimated 12 Wedge wolves.

2) The Wedge pup captured and ear-tagged in mid-July was identified as the dead wolf that was found in August, Anderson revealed.

3) He also explained that GPS data from the Wedge alpha male showed that the pack has moved its rendezvous points. Whether that was due to pressure from the state’s hunt or the McIrvins of the Diamond M Ranch moving their cattle was unclear, but WDFW has also been in close contact with the operator — three times just today — sending them locational information on the wolf, Anderson said.

3.5) There’s been little information about the agency’s actual wolf hunt, but the director provided a glimpse or two into it today.

“They got close, saw wolves, but didn’t have clear targets,” he said about the 12-day search for the pack across the back half of last month.

As for trapping efforts, he says the pack appears to have become “trapwise.”

“We’ve even seen where they’ve pawed around the traps,” he said.

4) While he’s also got that Oh-yeah-whole-Oregon-governor-wants-to-move-Columbia-gillnetters-into-Astoria-bays-most-ricki-tick deal on his plate, Anderson said wolves are the “area I’m spending most of my time on.”

5) His presentation included a series of Power Point slides (available here) which he narrated, including information that WDFW has trapped in nine of the 12 areas of confirmed of suspected wolf activity around the state, has collars on seven wolves and on at least one member of five of the eight confirmed packs.

He also said that Colville tribal biologists had captured another wolf on their reservation quite recently. The tribes, which have not been too forthcoming with info on their pack(s), collared at least two other animals this spring.

THIS MAP COMBINING GPS DATA FROM A GPS-COLLARED WOLF AND USFS GRAZING ALLOTMENTS SHOWS THAT AT LEAST ON THE U.S. SIDE, THE WEDGE PACK HAS NEARLY 100 PERCENT OVERLAP WITH PUBLIC LAND CATTLE RANGE. (WDFW)

6) They grudgingly accept that last Thursday’s injuries to two calves were caused by Canis lupus, but a pair of wolf advocacy groups still say members of the Wedge Pack shouldn’t be killed.

In a joint press release before Anderson’s latest depredation news, Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands instead say that nonlethal means and rancher compensation should be used to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts on the Diamond M and Colville National Forest grazing allotments it runs cattle on.

They say that only minimal preventative measures were taken — disputed by WDFW.

POWERPOINT IMAGES FROM TODAY'S PRESENTATION TO THE FISH & WILDLIFE COMMISSION BY DIRECTOR PHIL ANDERSON. (WDFW)

The organizations also cast aspersions on the agency’s wolf work:

“Regardless of whether or not it is ultimately determined that wolves clearly killed livestock in the Wedge area, the experience to date has indicated that the department needs to take some time to get its ducks in row,” Cascadia’s Bob Ferris said in a press release. “Endangered species such as wolves need to be managed with clear rules and solid procedures by people adequately trained in this process, and we hope to see that in the future.”

Wolves in that area are no longer on the Federal endangered species list but remain state listed as such.

While the agency has built a compelling case based on a list of wolf-livestock incidents here since 2007, wolf advocates have leaned on some outside experts’ skeptical opinions on the evidence WDFW has gathered at the scenes of this summer’s series of depredations.

7) Anderson acknowledged to commissioners that there have been differences of opinion on what’s happened to the McIrvin’s calves.

“Frankly, that’s one of the areas we’ve been challenged because some (of the depredations) are not clear cut,” he said.

He outlined the four-stage review the agency goes through to label each incident either confirmed, probable, unknown/other or not predation, from the gathering of evidence by game wardens and state wildlife biologists to internal review to external opinions and then a final determination by field staffers.

He said that review by the three recognized federal wolf experts adds a lot of credibility to WDFW’s work, noting that “we don’t necessarily have to agree with them all the time.”

But he also put a lot of stock in Carter Niemeyer’s statements on photos of one of last Thursday’s injured calves that that was the “smoking gun” image the retired federal wolf manager and depredation-investigation pioneer has been looking for in the case of the Wedge’s attacks.

8] Commissioner Gary Douvia and Anderson both warned that depredation news could get worse before it gets better.

“September, October is when we just begin to find out what’s going on up there,” said Douvia, who lives not too far south down Highway 395 from the Wedge.

Speaking to the fall cattle roundup, Douvia said, “I dread the count. It looks to be significant.”

That remains to be seen, however.

“We won’t really know what level of losses operators have had until they bring their cattle off the allotments,” Anderson said.

Commissioner Chuck Perry asked Anderson if field staffers had been finding any other big game carcasses, indicating the Wedge Pack feeding on natural prey.

The director said if they had, he hadn’t heard about it.

Opinions vary on how relatively game-rich or -poor the mountainous, forested Wedge is.

9) And finally, tip of the cap to blogger/author Beckie Elgin.

While the usual suspects again howl past each other on WDFW’s latest Facebook wolf post, Elgin, of “Wolves and Writing,” had the minerals to call up and talk to the McIrvins about what’s happening to their stock.

She posted her interview and her thoughts.

Asked if he had anything to say to pro wolf folks, Bill McIrvin responded:

“I don’t know if I can convey my feelings very good, but…our cattle are a part of our livelihood, they’re a part of our life. All we’ve ever done is grown up caring for cattle day and night so its really not about money to us, its about our life. So when we see them killed for sport…its pretty tough for us to deal with, its like its happening to a family member. And I guess we kind of feel like we’re in a bit of a war here and we’re the only side that has something at stake–we’re losing our livelihood and the people who are fighting with us are still drawing the same wage.”

10) The end.

10.5) For at least 10 minutes.

Another Two Calves Hit By Wolves In Wedge, WDFW Says

Two more injured calves in the Wedge of northern Stevens County have been tied to wolf attacks.

Both belonged to the Diamond M Ranch, which has now seen at least nine calves and a cow killed or injured by wolves, according to WDFW.

The news comes two days after the agency “temporarily suspended” its hunt for members of the pack.

WDFW describes one of the latest calves’ wounds as severe, the other as less serious.

Both were examined by state and Stevens County Sheriff’s Office officials. Outside experts, some of whom have been at odds with the agency’s previous final conclusions, were likely also consulted.

While the other attacks occurred on the ranch’s allotment in the Colville National Forest, this one happened on private property, according to spokeswoman Madonna Luers.

She called it “part of the same story of repeated depredations.”

It probably won’t result in armed state staffers heading back to the field over the Labor Day Weekend, which also sees bow deer and general bear hunt openers in that area, a concern in the back of WDFW’s mind, she said.

But to a degree the latest incidents are also a setback. If anything, the 12-day search with loaded weapons and doses of poison for up to four wolves should have made the pack more wary because of increased human presence.

Instead, if WDFW’s assessment is correct, they’ve continued to attack cattle.

Elsewhere in the Wedge, a grizzly bear was photographed on the area’s eastern side earlier this month. WDFW calls it the fifth “distinct individual” spotted there this year.

GRIZZLY BEAR PHOTOGRAPHED ALONG THE UPPER COLUMBIA RIVER NEAR NORTHPORT AUG. 11. (VIA WDFW)

Old Stale Wolf News (Late August Edition)

Been gone for nearly a week in wolf country — well, if you believe some of the “experts” who recorded their evening audio impressions in the ledger at Cabin No. 3 at La Pine State Park — and I see that my hopes that Oregon and Washington would get all their wolf news out of their systems while I was out were partially though sadly not fully realized.

Here’s a rundown, as I go through my accumulated emails:

Wolves Are Confirmed To Have Killed 54 Cows, Sheep And Other Stock In Oregon

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/adventure/2012/08/wolves-are-returning-to-oregon-but-not-all-locals-want-them/

WDFW Ends Its Fruitless Hunt For Wedge Wolves, Though At Least Figures Out There Are 11 Up There

http://earthfix.opb.org/flora-and-fauna/article/4-wolves-get-a-reprieve-from-government-kill-order/

WDFW, ODFW Want To Manage All Wolves In Their Respective States On Their Own, AP Reports (About A Couple Weeks After We Did)

http://thedailyworld.com/sections/newswire/northwest/ore-and-wash-want-handle-wolves-their-own.html

There’s Another Pack Of Wolves In The Wallowas, At Least Seven Up The Minam River

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/wolf_program_updates.asp

A Bunch Of Wolf Groups Take Credit For Getting WDFW To Call Off The Wedge Wolf Hunt

http://www.cascwild.org/press-release-washington-wolves-get-temporary-reprieve-from-kill-order/

WDFW Says, Look, We’ve Been Hunting Those Wolves For 12 Days, Time To Give The Boys In The Field A Break, Plus It’s Labor Day Weekend

http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/packs/wedge/

Anderson Will Provide A Wolf Update To Fish & Wildlife Commissioners On Sept. 5

http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2012/09/agenda_sep0612.html

Decomposed Body Of Dead Young Wolf Found In Wedge

http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/packs/wedge/

Map Shows Range Of Wedge Wolves Over 1-month Summer Period

http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors/2012/aug/24/investigators-find-dead-wolf-northern-stevens-county/

Gets The County Wrong In The Headline & Lead, But Captures The Essence Of The Wedge Problem

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018987798_wolves25m.html

WDFW Wolf Manager Says, Look, People Are Going To Disagree About Whether Wolves Killed Something Or Not; At The End Of The Day, Agency Makes The Final Determination

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/aug/25/groups-write-governor-to-protest-killing-wolves/

The Daily Howler: 8-24 Edition

1) Wolf packs could pop up around more Washington cattle ranches in the future — a lot more.

Faux packs, anyway.

A Kittitas County rancher has agreed to participate in a study to figure out if “bio fencing” works to keep the nearby Teanaway Pack out of his herd.

What’s a bio fence?

“The use of wolf scat and urine to establish a phantom pack if you will,” WDFW’s Dave Ware explained to the Fish & Wildlife Commission during an August 17 conference call.

He says it’s shown some promise in Idaho and elsewhere.

A range rider will also be employed there.

2) Ware also briefed the citizen oversight panel on significantly stepped up wolf trapping efforts.

Currently the agency has three teams out, one for the northeast and southeast corners and the Cascades, but now plans to have up to five teams afield as summer fades.

“We’re bringing in some assistance from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to lead a crew as well as a contractor, Carter Niemeyer, whom many people know for his expertise with wolves, to run a crew,” Ware says.

3) Late last week, as the number of injured and dead cattle in the Wedge of northern Stevens County mounted, WDFW considered taking out the GPS-collared male wolf.

Director Phil Anderson told the commission that in some cases killing the alpha of a livestock-depredating pack has resulted in breaking the group up.

He also said that wolf managers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho strongly advised against it.

“‘Whatever you do, keep a collared member of that pack,'” Anderson paraphrased their advice.

Lose it and the agency would lose its “eyes” in the woods, making figuring out the pack’s day-to-day whereabouts more difficult and further reducing the odds of trapping another member.

Wolves here are blamed for killing two calves and injuring five more and a cow of the McIrvin’s Diamond M Ranch, which grazes the animals in Colville National Forest allotments in the mountains between the tiny border-crossing burg of Laurier on the Kettle River and Northport, on the Columbia River.

Another dead calf was discovered in the area this summer, and apparently injured calves are still at loose on the range. A fourth calf’s death was pinned on a cougar.

4) Wolf advocates grumble about the fact that the herd is grazing public land, bristle at some of the rancher’s comments — the only compensation they want is a wolf for a calf — and say not enough preventative measures are being taken.

Anderson told the commission that some of those conflict reduction strategies just aren’t available in this steep, brushy country, tools such as fencing, fladry and rubber bullets, but that Diamond M did turn out its calves later this year when they were a bit bigger and older.

Telemetry data from the wolf collared in mid-July shows that the pack’s territory in Washington has a “100 percent overlap with grazing allotments,” according to Ware, who is the Game Division manager.

Because of stipulations in McIrvin’s Forest Service grazing lease, the rancher has to spread the animals out across the land, and that means “the ability to avoid the area of wolf activity is not high,” he says.

Anderson says he believes McIrvin has done a lot to avoid problems.

“These are very valuable animals. He wants probably more than anyone else to reduce losses. He’s the one who suffers the losses financially,” he says.

5) Commissioner Larry Carpenter asked Anderson if the Wedge wolves had changed their appetite from game to livestock, but it was a question the director couldn’t answer very well because there’s just not much information about them, though he did suggest that “it looks like a pack that’s habituated to that.”

Out of curiosity I went through the last 12 years of deer harvest records for that particular game management unit, Kelly Hill. Those do show that 2011 saw the fewest bucks killed by rifle hunters — 252 — but also the lowest turnout of hunters reporting they ventured that way — 1,091.

I wouldn’t say it was widely known that wolves were in the area until after last deer season when ranchers started reporting higher than usual cattle losses, so in other words, hunters wouldn’t have been scared off by field reports. And in general, 2011 saw nearly across the board declines in hunter numbers and buck harvest.

Last year’s success percentage in the GMU was right at the 12-year average — 25.5 or so — as was the number of days it took to kill one, 18.5.

Since 2000, high marks included a harvest of 369 bucks and 519 total deer in 2006, 2,249 hunters in 2000, a 29.8 percent success rate in 2005, 8,800 hunter days in 2000 and just 15.3 days per kill in 2006.

Low marks included, again, a harvest of 252 bucks last year, 277 total deer in 2010, 1,091 hunters last year, 21 percent success rates in 2000 and 2002 and 21.3 days per kill in 2002.

6) As for the hunt going on in the Wedge for wolves, where WDFW may take up to four out, no luck so far.

7) That didn’t stop seven more pro-wolf groups from today issuing another call to stop the hunt, this one more sober than the one issued by Howling For Justice earlier in the week.

On letterhead from the Western Environmental Law Center, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, Snohomish Group of the Sierra Club Washington State Chapter, WELC and Wolf Haven International take issue with the agency’s depredation conclusions about recent incidents and say it is ignoring its own wolf management plan.

“The unjustified, state-sanctioned killing of an endangered species is completely at odds with that classification and obviously at odds with the goal of recovering the species,” a letter to Director Phil Anderson reads.

Wolves in that part of the state were removed from the Federal endangered species list in May 2011, but remain state listed.

The letter was cc’ed to top lawmakers and the wildlife commission.

8] Meanwhile, over at Smackout Pass, south of the Wedge but also in Stevens County, WDFW is working heavily with another rancher and Conservation Northwest to avoid conflicts between a cattle herd and pack of wolves.

An array of tactics are being used, including texting the overnight and 5 a.m. GPS coordinates of two collared males to range rider Leisa Hill.

“She’s really active on the four-wheeler, the horse and on foot,” said state assistant wildlife biologist Jay Shepherd in a phone call Thursday afternoon.

Hill also has noisemakers, spotlights and telemetry equipment at her disposal, he says, adding that he’s also been spotlighting and recently deployed RAG or radio-activated guard boxes.

“We just spend a lot of time up there,” Shepherd says.

So far it’s working — there haven’t been any depredation reports from here, nor cows bawling for lost calves or any tight-bag mothers, but the final test will be at roundup, he noted.

9) Efforts to find wolves other than the Lookout and Teanaways on the eastern slopes of the Cascades continue to be fruitless, but as hunters head afield this fall, it’s likely reports will come in (file them here, guys).

10) And back at the sight of 2012’s first depredation, a wolf passed by a water trough frequented by cattle in one of the Thurlow’s pastures outside Carlton two weeks ago. A game warden found large canid tracks in the area, some of which were subsequently obscured by watering cows.

The Daily Howler: Aug 23 Edition

Wolfies are now threatening to never, ever travel to the state of Washington again if the Department of Fish & Wildlife doesn’t stop its wolf hunt in the Wedge of northern Stevens County this very instant.

“If this pack is killed it will leave a black eye on Washington’s supposed progressive reputation,” blogs Howling For Justice, whining, “I will personally add Washington to the list of wolf states I won’t visit if they kill this pack.”

The post, which shows three fuzzy wuzzy pups with the cutline “If the pack is killed, pups like these will be orphaned or worse,” directs people to call state tourism counselors.

While on the one hand as laughable as one of my sons’ temper tantrums, it will surely galvanize emotional and passionate calls that catch attention at higher levels in state government and perhaps chambers of commerce.

Indeed, the call volume ramped up after Defenders of Wildlife’s Tuesday blog exhorting its members to phone Governor Gregoire and two ranking WDFW officials and ask that the hunt order be rescinded.

And on another serious note, one also has to wonder how soon it might be till lawsuit time, a la Oregon Wild, that state’s Court of Appeals and ODFW’s suspended chase last fall for two members of the cow-chewing Imnaha Pack.

As of this morning, no Wedge wolves had been killed for a string of depredations this summer nor had any court papers been filed that we know of — though the rumor is that a few folks were looking for angles.

One prominent Washington group closely involved in wolf recovery is actually not looking to go to court — at this time — we have learned.

AS WDFW TARGETS A PACK OF WOLVES FOR REMOVAL IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON, IT'S FINDING ITSELF IN THE BULL'S EYE OF CONTROVERSY AS WOLF ADVOCATES PRESSURE POLITICIANS AND AGENCY OFFICIALS TO END THE HUNT.

Some wolfies just will never accept the killing of a single wolf, but other organizations know that that will just be a fact of recovery as packs mix it up with livestock herds.

Over the years a protocol has emerged for investigating those depredations. It involves skinning dead animals and photographing the wounds on those and injured ones, passing the information around to experts, and settling on one of four possibilities:

Not predation – say, when the animal dies of weather, disease, health issues (those first three claim most cattle), eating poisonous stuff, being struck by a vehicle, lightning or some jackass’s bullet;

Unknown — when the evidence just doesn’t support more certain conclusions;

Probable predation — when it’s likely a predator was involved in the attack (they’re in the area, there’s been a pattern of attacks, GPS collar data puts them nearby) but there’s not enough evidence to determine a specific species;

Confirmed predation — clear evidence that a predator took down its prey, marked by internal hemorrhaging (the grape jelly effect) bite marks, sprays of blood, signs of a struggle, etc.

Before it decided on Friday to take out most if not all members of the Wedge Pack, WDFW investigated an injured calf and a dead calf last week and ended up checking the “confirmed” box in both official reports.

Wolf advocates are taking issue with that because a handful of outside Federal experts who reviewed forwarded material from state biologists during the investigations had varying opinions on the causes — confirmed, perhaps an unconfident wolf, a pack that was run off a kill by human presence, lacking the power of an attack one would expect from Canis lupus.

In all likelihood one of those experts is Carter Niemeyer, the guy who rewrote the book on how to go about determining what took down stock animals.

The groups also have a point that it’s tough to say for sure that any single wolf WDFW takes out is linked by more than familial/pack bond to the actual depredator — our criminal code demands full justice for the perps, not those merely associated with them.

For Conservation Northwest WDFW’s actions on implementing the Wedge so far are earning it a “failing grade.”

To answer some questions about why it’s doing what it’s doing where it’s doing, the agency yesterday put together a timeline showing a growing series of depredations stringing back to 2007 as well as preventative measures that have been taken to get between cattle and wolves.

The easy way out would be for the state’s sharpshooters and trappers to just scare the “bejeebus” out of the Wedge wolves, sending them skedaddling into Canada, for good.

But there aren’t usually easy outs when it comes to wolf management, which in its more muscular moments also requires some black eyes.

It appears that Washington’s joining the bruised club of states in the Northern Rockies, as it also carefully ensures the species will continue to recolonize, doesn’t overly impact livestock and game herds, and maintains the social tolerance for wolves as they spread.

Wolf Advocates Trying To Stop WDFW’s Wedge Hunt, Not Getting Anywhere At The Moment

National and local wolf advocates are calling foul on WDFW’s hunt for wolves in the predator-rich Wedge where a ranch has seen two calves killed and another five calves and a cow injured over the past five weeks.

Defenders of Wildlife is calling the agency’s plans to kill multiple wolves in northern Stevens County an “unjustified sentence” while Conservation Northwest of Bellingham, saying that the agency is bending under pressure from the rancher, will ask its supporters to call Governor Gregoire and the Fish & Wildlife Commission to “take a more responsible approach” to managing the state’s wolves.

But while WDFW has been deluged with calls since a DOW blog yesterday, it is not changing course.

“We are continuing to proceed with removal of up to four wolves from the Wedge Pack,” confirmed Nate Pamplin, the agency’s Wildlife Program manager, this afternoon.

Attributing all eight of the aforementioned cattle attacks to wolves, on Monday WDFW deployed a team to trap and collar a pack member and kill others (one was taken out last week). No wolves have been captured or killed so far this week.

Pamplin points to the pattern of predation on the Diamond M Ranch’s Colville National Forest allotment between mid-July and last week, and this afternoon the agency posted a timeline (also see below) which outlines wolf-livestock conflicts in the area since July 2007.

“This isn’t just a single event that happened last week that’s causing us to remove up to four wolves,” he said.

Still, both DOW and Conservation Northwest dispute the evidence WDFW has collected in recent weeks.

“These reports fail to prove that wolves killed or injured livestock, and the majority of the injuries — most of which are not even close to life threatening — can be easily classified as those commonly sustained by cattle ranging on national forest lands, inflicted by barbed wire, trees or bushes, moving debris during storms, and a host of other possibilities, including animals other than wolves,” blogged DOW’s Suzanne Stone, a name quite familiar in the Northern Rockies’ wolf world and one which will probably become more known in Washington as this state’s population continues to grow.

Conservation Northwest is also asking for clearer evidence that it’s the Wedge wolves that are preying on the cattle, and says that if that’s the case, nonlethal deterrents should be a first priority.

And they worry that other ranchers in the state might follow Diamond M’s stance; one of its owners has rejected compensation (though has taken it in the past) and said the only solution is a wolf for a calf.

“This shows that a rancher can put his effort into ranting to press and politicians and WDFW will dance to his tune by killing wolves,” said the organization’s executive director Mitch Friedman. “The solution is for the effort to be put into quality stewardship practices that have proven to reduce predator conflict. The question is whether WDFW has the backbone to hold out for that.”

Elsewhere in the state, WDFW has been texting GPS coordinates on two wolves to a range rider at Smackout Pass. The agency and CNW are splitting the bill on the rider’s services.

A PAIR OF DEPREDATION REPORTS from last week’s incidents are instructive. They do show that state staffers and outside experts have some differences of opinion on what caused wounds to two calves, one of which died, though in general WDFW game wardens and biologists settle on wolves being confirmed or probably responsible in both cases.

The first investigation focused on a 250-plus-pound calf with bite marks and scratches to its back legs.

The area was shaved for examination and photographing.

(WDFW)

In coming to his conclusion that it was a confirmed wolf depredation, state game warden Dan Anderson noted 2-inch spacing between bite marks, corresponding damage on the inside and outside of legs indicating “teeth grabbing around the limb from the rear side,” and bite marks as high as 28 inches up the back leg.

State assistant wildlife biologist Jay Shepherd was also on scene. In his write-up he notes that he has attended depredation training by Carter Niemeyer, but with “limited” experience in these cases he ran the evidence past four current and former federal wolf experts.

One in Idaho didn’t believe the superficiality of the wounds pointed to an adult or even yearling wolf, and said the only possible predation explanation was that it was a “single, unconfident wolf, but (believed) that to be a stretch.”

Another in that state believed the calf’s injuries were caused by a wolf “of limited experience” and “had no problem with a confirmed designation.”

A former Wyoming expert agreed with the first Idaho person, that the “attack was not of the power and type of a wolf.”

The last consultee, also from the Cowboy State, said the injuries weren’t “characteristic of a wolf pack in the period when pups are growing in that the injuries are light and superficial for a species that would know how to kill even at 1+ years of age and causes severe damage to selected prey targets.”

Shepherd concludes the calf was hit by a predator, based on the ragged tears and multiple punctures. Uncharacteristic, he says, of a cougar or bear attack, too big for a coyote, difficult to pin on barbed wire or downed tree branches, and hard to envision that a domestic dog might be running in the heart of wolf country — the GPS-collared male was just a mile away the day before — he opines that it was “caused by a single, inexperienced wolf.”

As for the Aug. 16 investigation of a dead calf found the day before, game wardens skinned it to get a better understanding of what happened.

Anderson, who’s worked on six depredation investigations, noted severe hemorrhaging and tissue damage to the animal’s front left shoulder area, nose bridge, and right rear flank, but no puncture marks that went through the hide, nor tracks or scat.

But he determined it was a confirmed wolf attack.

In his write-up fellow wildlife officer Don Weatherman says the many bite marks around one shoulder precluded finding a dentition pattern to measure. But considering the injuries, damage to muscle tissue, proximity of the Wedge Pack and the injured calf from earlier in the week, he concludes that the dead animal showed “reasonable physical evidence that it was attacked and died from injuries suffered from a wolf attack.”

(WDFW)

District wildlife biologist Dana Base observed that the calf had not been fed on and also noted the lack of puncture wounds. He saw hemorrhaging and trauma in the muscles on the calf’s right and left hips, left shoulder, neck and nose area, as well as irregular dime-sized bruises that he felt were “consistent with jaw and tooth compression from repeated biting without puncture to the hide.”

DIME-SIZED BITE MARKS. (WDFW)

He also sent off images to current and former federal wolf experts and found varying opinions, which he summarized thusly:

An expert from Idaho stated that this looked like a wolf kill to him. Wolves don’t always eat something from the carcass. The big hemorrhages on the left shoulder and neck with the corresponding bite marks were enough to confirm. That there was hemorrhaging on both back legs made this determination more solid.

Another expert from Idaho stated that the apparent injuries to the calf appeared superficial and that if a wolf killed it, the wolf would have had more gums than teeth. That the calf was discovered laying on its left side where most of the “bruises” were found suggested more blood pooling than significant mechanical injury from wolf bites. Wolves typically inflict multiple bites and repeatedly tear out tissue from their prey to the point where the prey animal is unable to continue fleeing or even stand up any longer until it ultimately succumbs to the injury and trauma. This expert encouraged that the WDFW have a veterinarian do a follow-up necropsy including inside the body cavity of the calf.

The expert from Wyoming stated similar concerns as the previous expert. The attack was not of the power and type of a wolf. The bites were not powerful enough and the attack was inefficient and uncharacteristic of a wolf pack in the period when pups are growing and needing to be fed. All that said, given that the dead calf was so close to a road potentially changes everything in that a wolf pack in the act of killing the calf could have been inadvertently interrupted by humans passing by in motor vehicles.

Base expressed puzzlement about the lack of puncture wounds and why the calf wasn’t fed on, but pointing to the muscle bruises, concludes “a ‘probable’ designation of wolf kill seems reasonable to me, however, not a ‘confirmed’ designation.”

In the end, state wolf managers issued a special statement that labeled both as “confirmed,” and they’re standing firm on that.

“Our staff is very well qualified and very competent in what we do. They’re able to distinguish between types of predation and mortality,” said Pamplin.

Presumably their shooters are just as good, though it may be awhile before they can get a clear shot on the wolves of the Wedge.

Also in the area, cougars, blamed for another dead calf earlier this summer, and black bears, and in spring, four grizzlies were roaming the Wedge.

To counter criticisms that it wasn’t going off half-cocked and that preventative measures had not been taken, WDFW also posted a timeline of wolf problems in the area, and a bit more information about what is, frankly, a not-so-well-known pack.

Wedge Pack Depredation Timeline
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
August 22, 2012

Note:  The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan discusses the management of wolf-livestock conflict on pages 85-89 and compensation issues on pages 90-94.

  1. Sept 4, 2007 – Confirmed wolf depredation on one calf at Diamond M Ranch
    • Ranch owner received compensation.
  2. During 2011 – Several livestock operators report increased calf losses in the vicinity of Wedge Pack in Northeast Washington.
  3. April 1-14, 2012 – Wolves stalked calving operation at a ranch adjacent to Diamond M.
    • Specialized fencing (fladry with electric fencing) was installed around neighboring ranch’s calving operation.
    • Department issued neighboring ranch a permit to kill a wolf “in the act” of attacking livestock if wolves penetrated an electric fence protecting his calving operation.
  4. July 11, 2012 – One or more wolves injured a cow and calf on Diamond M Ranch
    • Diamond M carrying out operational plan to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts, including:
      1. Placing calving areas in Southeast Washington away from wolf-occupied regions.
      2. Releasing cow-calf pairs onto the range later in the spring (June 12) so the calves were older and bigger. This makes them less vulnerable to predation and delays their exposure until natural prey are more available.
      3. Increasing to five the number of cowboys who go out daily to check on cattle.
      4. Removing livestock with significant injuries from the range for treatment and rehabilitation.
  5. July 12, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in killing a calf on Diamond M Ranch.
  6. July 14, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in injuring two calves on Diamond M Ranch.
    • Diamond M ranchers also observed two additional injured calves that they were not able to capture.
    • Management actions:
      1.  Wolves hazed away from Diamond M livestock by WDFW and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services staff in late July. (Efforts continued through early August.)
      2. WDFW stated that if another incident occurred, it would initiate the removal of 1 to 2 wolves.
      3. Department issued Diamond M Ranch owner a permit to kill a wolf “in the act” of attacking livestock.
  7. August 2, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in injuring a calf on Diamond M Ranch.
    • In addition, the remains of another carcass were also discovered, but the cause of death was indeterminate.
    • Management actions:
      1. To reduce wolf-livestock interactions, WDFW lethally removed one non-breeding female from the Wedge pack and shared wolf pack location information with Diamond M Ranch.
      2. WDFW stated if wolf attacks on livestock continue, the Department will employ strategies to break up the pack through additional lethal removal(s) (see pages 85-89).
  8. August 14, 2012 – One or more wolves involved in injuring a calf on Diamond M Ranch.
    • Department initiates strategies to break up the Wedge pack to break the pattern of wolf-livestock interaction.
  9. August 16, 2012 – Wolves involved with killing a calf on the Diamond M Ranch. 
    • Department deploys strategies to break up the Wedge pack to break the pattern of wolf depredations.

Summary
The above actions led to the Department to continue offering compensation to the Diamond M Ranch (declined by the owners); lethally removing one non-breeding wolf, and initiating actions that could lead to removing four additional members of the Wedge pack.  Before making the decision to pursue lethal removal, the Department reviewed the conservation objectives of the Plan to make sure that action was consistent with the conservation goals outlined in the Plan (page 64 of the plan).  Severalfactors influenced the Department’s decision to lethally removal wolves:

  • The Department has documented multiple attack incidents on area livestock on multiple age classes of livestock (one adult cow, five calves).
  • WDFW has documented multiple livestock injured or killed on multiple dates.
  • The attacks persisted well into the time when natural prey is abundant.
  • The Wedge pack is in the eastern third of Washington state, where there are no federal protections under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  • Removing a wolf pack in the Eastern Washington recovery area has a low probability of impacting the Department’s conservation objectives (statewide and regional), because the recovery area includes six confirmed packs and three suspected packs (see appendices G and H of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan).
  • The Department has radio collared the alpha male from the Wedge pack.
  • Relocation is not an option in this recovery area, because there are other packs present and support for moving wolves associated with livestock killing is unlikely from potential recipients.
  • This pack has successfully bred for a minimum of two years, based on photos last winter and the captured pup this summer. The local community believes that pups were produced initially as early as 2009 (four years).

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.