Category Archives: Wolf News

Reaping What You Sow On The Wolf Front

Rich Landers nails it with his blog on the controversy over that picture of the Idaho trapper posing with a trapped, wounded black wolf standing in the background.

While IDFG and USFS investigations found no legal wrongdoing on the part of the man — a local Forest Service employee trapping on his own time on private property — a Department of Fish & Game spokesman told The Missoulian, “we would have preferred that he dispatched the wolf before photographing himself with it. But that is not what he chose to do.”

The wolf had apparently been shot at by passersby before the man arrived to tend his trap; the snow around the animal is flecked with blood. He poses in front of it.

Frankly, it smacks of torture.

Do we take pictures of ourselves with elk or deer or bears struggling with a blown-off leg? Do we take photos of one-winged geese and ducks thrashing in the water in front of our blind? Do we snap images of gut-shot cougars or coyotes?

No. We don’t. We kill them as fast as possible, not letting them suffer.

It’s The Code, and we abide by it, no matter the species, no matter the method of take.

When that’s done, we take our respectful pictures.

An anti-trapping group in Montana lifted the guy’s picture from a trappers’ Web site, got a death threat, someone posted the guy’s address and telephone number, another his bosses’ names and contact info, and local, national and international media have since run wild with the story.

Yesterday, Landers, the longtime outdoors columnist at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, summarized the fall-out for both sides far better than I can.

Pardon, if you will, the long lift, what he posted is thoughtful and ever more relevant as wolf populations and angst builds in Washington and Oregon:

In the world of the Internet, we can close out the rest of the world and forget that half of the people in the country have a different opinion on just about everything.

Also in the world of the Internet, when you do something really stupid and inflammatory, the message can spread like lightning.

Hunters have a right and even a calling to be active in managing wolves.

But it’s a curse on all hunters that some guys live in havens where they can find support for bragging about cruel behavior to wildlife. Any [wildlife]. I know it’s rampant in Idaho, but last time I looked, that’s just one of 50 states.

The tough guy talk is ramping up in Eastern Washington, too. Great. Washington hunters will get what we deserve if that continues, and a black eye isn’t out of the question.

Killing animals is serious business. A hunter or trapper who wasn’t taught as a kid to take an animal’s life as quickly and cleanly as possible needs to go back to Hunting 101 with the grade school kids.

But while I don’t like the wolf-hater hero photos or the wolf-hating stories moving on the Internet, I also don’t like how anti-hunters are rallying this into a campaign to stall wolf management. (Although I can’t blame them for taking a public relations gift on a platter and running with it.)

Idaho likely would [not] have gone to wolf trapping if environmental groups had not gone to court two years ago to stop the second hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho.

That was counterproductive, socially and to the elk herds.

I wrote a story at that time quoting five wolf experts from around the world — all of whom said the social aspects of wolf recovery were as important or more important than the biological aspects.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts were saying wolves were recovered and wolf management could begin three years ago.

But some environmental groups pressed on, using wolves as a fundraiser.

This year, for the first time in many decades, Idaho Panhandle hunters will not have an either-sex elk hunting season in units once flush with elk.

This issue isn’t just about cropping the size of prized game herds. It’s also about messing with the fiber of the culture in those small towns — and I’m talking about places where I’ve been burned in effigy, so don’t think I’m out there looking for the love.

When Ed Bangs, the former federal wolf recovery director, said wolves had recovered faster and more thoroughly [than] biologists could have dreamed, some environmental groups wouldn’t listen.

The result is hunters and trappers thinking they have a retaliatory right to act like bloodthirsty thugs.

I don’t like it or condone it, but I can’t be surprised by it nor can I stop it.

Let’s see where the pendulum swings this time.

You get what you reap, on both sides of the wolf issue.

And how in the end does that serve conservation of healthy wildlife and wildlands — what we all want?

ODFW Collars Another Wolf; OR7 Back In California

For the second time in a week, ODFW has captured a wolf and slapped a GPS collar on the animal, and in other Oregon Canis lupus news OR7 has again slipped over the border into the Golden State.

Yesterday agency officials caught a 96-pound male in the Wenaha Pack, which roams the Oregon side of the Blue Mountains in Umatilla and Wallowa Counties.

It’s one of four or five wolves in the pack and is the only one with a collar; a previously collared wolf was illegally killed in August 2010.

OR 12, A WENAHA PACK MALE, WITH ITS NEW TRACKING DEVICE. (ODFW)

On March 28, ODFW got a new collar around the troublesome Imnaha Pack’s alpha male. It was darted from a helicopter on Zumwalt Prairie, north of Enterprise on the edge of Hells Canyon.

ODFW WOLF COORDINATOR RUSS MORGAN SLIPS A GPS COLLAR AROUND THE IMNAHA ALPHA MALE, A WOLF KNOWN AS OR 4 AND THE FATHER OF FAR-ROAMING OR7. (ODFW)

GPS LOCATIONS FROM THE NEWLY COLLARED WENAHA WOLF SHOULD HELP ODFW, AND PERHAPS WDFW, GET A BETTER GRASP OF THE WENAHA PACK'S (NO. 287 ON THIS MAP) FULL RANGE NEAR THE OREGON-WASHINGTON BORDER. THE IMNAHA PACK IS NO. 281 IN THIS USFWS MAP, NO. 286 THE WALLA WALLA PACK AND 284 THE SNAKE RIVER PACK. NO. 285 ARE A ROUGH LOCATION FOR WOLVES IN THE UMATILLA DRAINAGE. (USFWS)

Meanwhile, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy this morning confirmed that OR7 is back in California after about a month in Southwest Oregon near Ashland.

The nearly two-year-old male is originally from Northeast Oregon but last September dispersed from the Imnaha Pack. It headed diagonally across the state and left Oregon at the end of 2011, wandered around Northern California for two months, returned to Oregon briefly in early March, went back to California for two days then crossed back into Oregon and was haunting the area near Hyatt Lake until its latest move across the state line.

You can track its movements in California here.

 

At Wildlife Commission’s Request, WDFW Looks Into Possibility Of Regionally Delisting Some Wolves In State

Washington has a statewide wolf conservation and management plan — for the most part.

Inside the 300-page document, all sorts of plans and and policies and contingencies for dealing with wolves everywhere from Neah Bay to The Narrows on the Grande Ronde.

The major exception is that the species doesn’t actually have to occur across all of its old range in the Evergreen State to be considered fully recovered.

That was the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s interpretation of the “significant portion of its range” clause in the Washington Administrative Codes’ classification of rare wildlife as either endangered, threatened or sensitive.

A SCREEN GRAB FROM A VIDEO POSTED TO YOUTUBE BY WDFW SHOWS ONE OF THREE WOLVES CAUGHT ON A TRAIL CAM ROAMING THE "WEDGE" OF NORTHERN STEVENS COUNTY, WASH., IN LATE JANUARY. (WDFW)

Under the plan the agency put forth, if 15 breeding pairs in certain numbers and places establish themselves for three straight years from, say, just the crest of the Cascades east to the Idaho line, that will be good enough for delisting from state protections and eventual management of Canis lupus as a big game species.

The Fish & Wildlife Commission signed off on the concept.

It was a middle-ground compromise.

Some wolf advocates had basically wanted to require that Washington have wolves all the way to the Pacific beaches. That would return them to almost all of their pre-European settlement range and re-establish them in Olympic National Park. It would also have likely dragged out the number of years needed to reach recovery goals and raised the specter of translocating animals here from other parts of the state — a double-edged sword for hunters.

Some hunters, ranchers, local governments and legislators have suggested dealing with wolves in the eastern third of the state separately from the rest of Washington. That would put less pressure on the Northeast and Southeast corners’ deer and elk herds as that recovery region waits for the two zones in the Cascades to meet numerical goals before statewide delisting can occur.

Now, nearly four months after it approved the plan, the commission is asking the department to analyze what changes would need to be made to the governing WAC for it to consider the latter idea, the regional listing/delisting of wolves.

THE REQUEST CAME AT THE TAIL END OF the commission’s March 9-10 meeting from vice chairman Gary Douvia who lives in far Eastern Washington, that part of the state where wolves were federally delisted last spring and where there’s also a distinct possibility that, by the end of 2012, there could be as many as seven breeding pairs alone.

True, not every pack breeds every season nor produces at least two pups that survive to the end of the year — standard conventions for defining “successful breeding pairs,” the keystone of recovery formulation — but the state management plan calls for at least four pairs for three consecutive years in Douvia’s third of the state.

(It’s likely that the three required “at large” packs will also be here because of its proximity to Idaho, Oregon, Montana and BC wolves.)

As it stands, at the end of 2011 there were two confirmed breeding pairs in Douvia’s greater neighborhood — Diamond and Smackout — plus another known pack, Salmo.

And with WDFW ramping up its wolf work this winter and spring, there are now strong indications that packs are also living in the upper Touchet drainage of the Blue Mountains, the “Wedge” of northern Stevens County, the Boulder Creek area of Ferry County, and the Ruby Creek area between Colville and Ione.

It’s also possible there is at least one on the Colville Reservation.

WDFW MAP SHOWING CONFIRMED AND SUSPECTED PACKS AS OF MID-MARCH 2012 AS WELL AS THE OUTLINES OF THE STATE'S THREE RECOVERY ZONES. (WDFW)

Douvia rated the importance and urgency of his request as “high.” It was seconded by Larry Carpenter of Mt. Vernon.

After about 10 to 12 minutes of discussion, a voice vote of 8-1 formally put the subject on WDFW Director Phil Anderson’s to-do list.

IN A PHONE CALL EARLIER TODAY Anderson characterized the nine-member citizen panel’s question as “doing their homework” and “a very preliminary step … to see what their options are.”

“I think they’re trying to look around a bit — they’re seeing very dissimilar growth rates — to see if they can do anything about that in terms of the WAC.”

Under the law, WAC 232-12-297, the commission was given the authority to classify how much protection Washington’s species are afforded, but in the case of wolves, at the present time it doesn’t have much say outside of the eastern third of the state.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is still in charge of the western two thirds where the species remains on the federal endangered species list.

Anderson says that he’s working with the state Attorney General’s office to see whether the commission can do anything “within the statute” in the eastern third.

Their findings will be presented at the April 13-14 meeting.

In the meanwhile, he acknowledges that the commission’s request may get some reaction as it is announced in an upcoming press release.

“When people see it on the agenda, particularly as close to the commission’s decision on the management plan as this, there will be attention paid for sure from different perspectives,” Anderson says.

As both the commission and WDFW try to be proactive on wolf management and show stockmen and hunters they are up to the task of handling the species, they must be sure not to make hasty decisions or mistakes that could result in lawsuits.

That has, of course, occurred to the folks in charge.

During a working teleconference on the commission’s Wolf Position Statement two weeks ago, Anderson chimed in to state his “biggest fear: we manage wolves in federal or state court.”

On the flip side, as Douvia later responded, “We don’t have to go too fast, but we can’t go too slow.”

Washington May Have 10 Wolf Packs

A new map from WDFW shows that Washington may have as many as 10 packs of wolves roaming its northern tier, Central Cascades and Southeastern corner.

Only half are actually confirmed, but the map, recently posted to the agency’s Web site, draws circles around five “suspected” packs in the Blue Mountains, North Cascades, “Wedge” of northern Stevens County, central Stevens-Pend Oreille County line and Sherman Pass in Ferry County.

While staffers attempted to trap wolves in the western Blues and Hozomeen area last summer without success, it’s the first time WDFW has publicly put pinpricks on a map for those last three potential packs.

They’re based on “WDFW confirmed wolf activity at a level that is consistent with the existence of a pack.” Packs are defined as two or more wolves traveling together.

Backing up the claim of a pack in the Wedge — that triangular-shaped chunk of forest between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and the Canadian border — the agency posted three short videos to its YouTube site on March 21 showing “three different wolves” passing by the same location in the Colville National Forest on January 29. A description accompanying the videos says that there are believed to be four wolves in the group. A Laurier-area rancher reported seeing three wolves near his operation in early March, and a state biologist and game warden saw tracks there as well.

NEW MAP POSTED TO WDFW'S WEB SITE SHOWS THE LOCATION OF WASHINGTON'S KNOWN WOLF PACKS AS WELL AS FIVE "SUSPECTED" ONES. (WDFW)

Washington’s first pack, Lookout, was confirmed in 2008, Diamond in 2009, Salmo in 2010 and Smackout and Teanaway last year.

THE NEW MAP WAS INCLUDED IN A PACKET of information presented to the Fish & Wildlife Commission at its March 9-10 meeting by wolf policy lead Steve Pozzanghera.

The 11-page document includes another map that pinpoints various wolf sightings, etc., by a Northeast Washington resident named Jeff Flood.

According to spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane, Pozzanghera was using Flood’s more than 70 report locations to illustrate to the commission how WDFW’s recently rolled-out online wolf-reporting tool will work.

She noted that when the agency combined its information with Flood’s, the data meshed in two of the three areas of suspected pack activity in the region.

That’s the kind of report clustering that ever more wolf reports will help to direct the time of state biologists.

“They help us key in on areas to capture a wolf, put a radio collar on it and confirm packs,” Luers says.

With its effort earlier this year to hire and put two trappers and three wolf techs afield, WDFW hopes to capture and collar members of the Wedge pack later this year. Getting collars on wolves in the suspected Boulder Creek pack would also help clarify whether those are the same animals as the Colville Tribes believe are on their reservation or not — if the latter, the total number of confirmed and unconfirmed packs in Washington could actually be 11.

The more packs confirmed, the closer to recovery goals we get.

The packet also included a map that matched WDFW’s known and suspected pack locations with GMU-by-GMU reports from the Web site Hunting-Washington, which has been gathering information since last July.

In some areas there is very strong overlap between where hunters say there are wolves and the locations of confirmed packs such as Diamond, Teanaway and Lookout, but in other regions not so much — for instance, the South Cascades where there have been a handful of reports though biologist Jeff Bernatowicz in Yakima had yet to confirm a single wolf as of the end of late last year.

“‘Three-legged elk,’ spotted calves — when I don’t see any anymore (on the winter range), that’s going to be an indication” some wolves are around, he told me then.

Still, as OR7 has shown, individual wolves can be spotted wandering far and wide in search of mates but not necessarily mean an area has a pack.

(WDFW)

And the commission was also shown a map with hundreds of GPS locations for collared wolves in the Diamond Pack which mostly ranges west of North and South Baldy in central Pend Oreille County, Wash., but also on the east side of that divide in Bonner County, Idaho.

“That was where a wolf was at some point in time. It doesn’t mean you could go out tomorrow and find it,” Luers said.

The data points are somewhat dated as the pack’s last wolf wearing a functioning device was legally trapped and killed in Idaho just before Christmas. GPS collars on two other members quit working in July 2010 and sometime after June 2011.

Still, it helped illustrate to the commission how WDFW comes up with its polygonal maps of wolf territories.

With the statewide management plan passed as of last December, Luers says it’s now all about “counting heads.”

“We know we’re getting more and more wolves. They’re moving in, they’re breeding,” she says.

Under accepted conventions, only successful breeding pairs with dens actually in Washington will count towards delisting goals — at least two of the five suspected packs could just as easily shack up in BC and not count as be in the Evergreen State and count.

As it stands, hunters, livestock operators and others are now watching the agency closely to see how it proceeds on the wolf front.

“Steve’s point to the commission was, ‘Yep, we’re on top of this,'” says Luers.

OSP Investigating Possible Dead Wolf Near Cove

(OREGON STATE POLICE PRESS RELEASE)

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division, with the assistance of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), is investigating the death of what is believed to be a wolf in northeast Oregon’s Union County. The deceased animal’s measurements and physical appearance match that of a wolf, but confirmation of the species is pending through DNA analysis.

On March 16, 2012 at approximately 8:30 a.m. OSP Fish & Wildlife Senior Trooper Kris Davis received a call regarding the discovery of a possible deceased wolf on private property about 6 miles north of Cove, Oregon. Davis and Sergeant Isaac Cyr responded and contacted the property owner and person who reported finding the deceased animal to Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife this morning.

After taking possession of the 97-pound animal, OSP took it to a local veterinarian for x-rays. The initial examination didn’t confirm a cause of death and the investigation will continue to determine if it was the result of a criminal act.

According to ODFW, a wolf in this area would not be part of one of the four known wolf packs in northeast Oregon. ODFW has received a handful of reports of wolf activity in this area over fall-winter 2011-12. The agency documented a single set of wolf tracks in the area twice in early October 2011 and again on January 31, 2012. Since January 31, ODFW has conducted track surveys and installed remote cameras in the area, but no additional sign of wolves has been found.

Wolves are protected by the state Endangered Species Act throughout Oregon. Except in the defense of human life or with a special permit, it is unlawful to kill a wolf. Doing so is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $6,250.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Sergeant Isaac Cyr at (541) 523-5867 ext. 4170.

9th Circuit Court Refuses To Overturn Congressional Wolf Delisting

AP reporting that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that federal lawmakers acted within their purview to strip wolves of protections in the Northern Rockies.

Wolf advocates had hoped the court would overturn last spring’s first of its kind Congressional delisting rider to put a stop to planned hunts in Idaho and Montana this past summer, fall and winter.

That didn’t immediately happen, and so far 353 have been killed in Idaho by hunters and trappers with seasons slated to continue for two more weeks. Another 166 were taken in Montana before season closed there.

Despite the kill, the wolf population grew to 1,774 in those two states, Wyoming the northern part of Utah and eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon at the end of 2011, according to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service annual report out last week. The agency says that most wolf habitats in the Northern Rockies are filled and the species has good connectivity between strongholds on this side of the border and in Canada.

Last year also marked more than a decade since wolves had biologically recovered in the region, according to federal biologists. Years of lawsuits prevented the previous delisting of the species.

Among the litigants, the Center for Biological Diversity was said to be “saddened and disappointed” by today’s ruling and was considering an appeal. Another member of the Arizona-based group recently published a piece suggesting that wolves should be reintroduced on the West Coast — apparently because the reintroduction into the Rockies hasn’t been enough fun for everyone.

But that’s an editorial comment.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation issued a press release applauding the court’s decision. It and other hunting groups had attorneys supporting Congress’s move, part of a larger budget package that was eventually signed by President Obama.

“This is a huge win for real wildlife management in the U.S.,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We’re thrilled with the favorable ruling because it upholds the law as well as science and common sense. This decision helps clear the way for continued work by true conservationists to balance wolf populations with other wildlife and human needs.”

Still, RMEF fears that CBD or others will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s The Missoulian‘s brief article on the ruling; here’s the take of a blogger on The Wildlife News.

The ruling is available as a 12-page PDF on the Ninth Circuit’s published opinion page under Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Salazar.

The court hears appeals for cases across a vast swath of the Western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.

 

 

New Washington Wolf-reporting Page Posted

I mentioned this was in the works late last month, and today WDFW rolled out its new online wolf-reporting page.

The agency sent out a press release this morning directing folks who believe they’ve seen a wolf or wolves, heard their howls, or found tracks or other evidence of Canis lupus in Washington to now file reports here.

The Game Division’s Carnivore Section manager Donny Martorello says the public’s input will help direct WDFW’s monitoring of the state’s growing number of wolves and build a database of their extent.

“Our state’s wolf-management efforts depend on knowing how many wolves are here, where they are, and where they’re going,” he said in the release.

Not all that different from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online reporting tool, the new page features photos of a wolf and coyote and description of their size and markings.

There are questions on the observation, a Google map to pinpoint its location and places to upload photographs.

SCREEN SHOTS FROM WDFW'S NEW WOLF REPORTING PAGE.

Biologists and trappers will use the information this spring and summer to try and find new packs and pups to radio collar and follow their movements.

Martorello says that later this year, the map will display areas where wolf activity has been reported.

Other maps of wolf country are also available on WDFW’s site and in the annual USFWS wolf report, as well as Northwestwolfsightings.org, and reports have been compiled since July 2011 at HuntingWashington.

That last site lists the number of wolves in Washington at 158-plus. WDFW’s official count is just one-sixth of that, 27, but the agency continues to acknowledge that there are likely more packs, including unconfirmed ones in the Blue Mountains and North Cascades as well as near Kettle Falls, plus wanderers like OR7.

Livestock operators are still being asked to call WDFW Enforcement (877-933-9847) to report attacks or other problems with wolves.

Since the Fish & Wildlife Commission passed the management plan last December, the agency has taken several proactive steps towards managing and monitoring the state’s wolves, including:

Hiring two trappers and three techs tasked specifically to the species

Moving day-to-day management and implementation of the plan from the Wildlife Program’s Diversity Section to the Game Division’s Carnivore Section

Posting wolf reports more publicly on its Dangerous Wildlife Complaints page

Working on a bill in Olympia that — though it ultimately failed — attempted to redefine wolves as big game for the day they are delisted from state ESA, give livestock owners more flexibility and identify at least a funding source for depradation payments.

 

Wolf Population Increased In Northern Rockies In 2011

Despite the resumption of hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today announced that the overall wolf population in the Northern Rockies increased last year by roughly 3 percent over 2010, and is also above 2009’s count.

The federal agency says there were 1,774 wolves as well as 109 breeding pairs in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon and a sliver of north-central Utah.

That compares to 1,651 and 111 at the end of 2010 and 1,733 and 115 as of Dec. 31, 2009.

Including wolves in Washington’s Cascades — outside what’s known as the Northern Rockies Distinct Population Segment — the 2011 figure bumps up slightly to 1,783 and 110.

The year-end estimate for Oregon is also higher than ODFW’s previous estimate, made at the end of November. Two more wolves were added to the Walla Walla pack, one to Wenaha and two more are considered dispersers, for a total of 29. That was not unexpected as a spokeswoman thought it was possible.

The Service’s annual survey again noted that the region’s wolves are biologically recovered, and has met minimum population goals for over a decade. Due to litigation, however, it was only last spring that day to day management was finally handed over to the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, though the feds still oversee packs in the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon and whichever state OR7 happens to be in at the moment.

Just under $310,000 was paid out by state and private groups last year for wolf depredations across the region. Six fewer cows were killed in 2011 vs 2010, 193 to 199, while sheep kills also dropped, from 245 to 162.

A total of 166 problem wolves were taken out, including two in Oregon, while Montana hunters took 121 and Idaho hunters killed 200 through the end of 2011.

“Hunters have played a key role for decades in helping to manage and sustain dozens of game populations in North America, and they can do the same for wolves. Combined with efforts to remove wolves found to be predating on livestock, they can help reduce conflicts with humans,” said Steve Guertin, USFWS Regional Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region in a press release. “The reduction of these conflicts is another crucial element in our ability to sustain the wolf’s recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains.”

USFWS spent $3.65 million on wolf management.

Pack figures for Washington and Oregon wolves are:

WASHINGTON
Diamond: 10
Salmo: 3
Smackout: 5
Lookout: 2
Teanaway: 7

OREGON
Imnaha: 5
Snake River: 5
Umatilla River: 2
Walla Walla: 8
Wenaha: 5
Miscellaneous/lone wolves: 4

For maps, numbers, charts, figures, and reports for each state — Washington’s is thin but informative — see the Service’s gray wolf page.

IN ADDITION TO THE WOLF TERRITORIES SHOWN ON THIS MAP, AT LEAST ONE IDAHO PACK ALSO USES WASHINGTON WHILE A HANDFUL OCCUR NOT FAR FROM OREGON ON THE IDAHO SIDE OF HELLS CANYON. (USFWS)

Wolves Feature Prominently In Latest WDFW Wildlife Report

There’s a fair amount of wolf information in the latest weekly Wildlife Program update posted by WDFW.

The 33-page PDF includes photos of at least four and possibly five different wolves in three different areas of the state — two in known pack territories and the third in long-suspected wolf country — as well as reports and tracks from other locations.

Also inside, updates on elk and deer collaring projects around Mt. St. Helens and the Olympia area, lynx and wolverine trapping results, work being done on lands around the state, and more.

According to a spokesman, posting the weekly reports is one way that the agency can easily and cheaply get the word out to the public about what it does. The wolf reports also show that it’s placing more emphasis on the species and being more transparent about it.

Here’s the wolf news:

‘Wolf Position Statement’ In The Works At WA FWC

Three months after they approved the statewide wolf management plan, the Fish & Wildlife Commission is preparing another major document on Canis lupus in Washington, albeit a far shorter and more succinct one.

Early next month the nine-member citizen panel will publicly discuss a draft of their “wolf position statement.”

In its current state, it’s a seven-page distillation of the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s 300-page-long recovery and conservation plan, outline of commissioners’ thoughts on it, pointed reminder to WDFW about who is watching over its shoulder, and message to those who may be affected by wolves the most.

“We hear the concerns. We view them as legitimate. We will prod the agency to place a very high priority on them,” said a resolute-sounding chairwoman Miranda Wecker in a telephone interview last week.

It’s rare for the commission to go to such a length, but as the Naselle resident who’s served on the panel since January 2007 points out, it’s also a pretty unique situation and species.

Wecker describes a feeling that grew amongst members in recent months that it would be good to speak in plain English about their views on wolves and wolf management, so they began to draw up the statement.

It’s not meant to conflict with anything in the plan, she says, or upset the road to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service handing over day-to-day statewide wolf management to WDFW.

Rather, it talks about long-term goals, impacts to livestock and big game, and building and keeping social tolerances for wolves in order.

It places a “very high priority” on maintaining hunter opportunities.

“If we destroy hunting in this state, we’re in a world of hurt — we have no other model to fall back on, no way to raise money to support game management,” Wecker says.

Even as WDFW reassigns staffers who worked on the wolf plan to other species, the commission’s statement directs the agency to start planning now for the day after the recovery goal — delisting from state ESA protections across Washington — is met.

Wecker says she’s already seeing some good signs that WDFW isn’t sitting on its hands on wolves.

Earlier this month the agency advertised five new full-time jobs — two trappers and three technicians — tasked exclusively to wolves. She called that “a big deal in these times of shrinking budgets.”

She also points to new drives to improve reporting and counting utilizing the eyes and ears of hunters in the region. To aid in that, WDFW is testing a beta version of an online reporting page similar to one on Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Web site, she says.

Agency-request legislation, House Bill 2365, is working its way through Olympia. It would classify wolves as big game and give ranchers more tools to deal with wolves attacking livestock. The Senate’s proposed supplementary budget funds wolf work to the tune of $355,000 through fiscal year 2013.

And an uptick in wolf reports posted to WDFW’s  Dangerous & Problem Wildlife page also indicates that it’s no longer business as it has been. The page is now compiling fairly pedestrian incidents — howling and tracks, moose kills, and wolf sightings — along with possible human interactions. One recent report shows that, even when it seems doubtful that wolves are responsible, field staffers are putting more effort into investigating incidents such as with an attack on a woman in eastern Okanogan County one evening earlier this month.

“We’re 99 percent sure (it was a feral dog), but we’re still doing our jobs,” says WDFW Sgt. Jim Brown.

Just in case, trail cams were being set up over bait stations in the area, which has seen feral dog attacks on livestock in the past though there are also wolves on the Colville Reservation 15 to 20 miles to the east, Brown says. And if need be, he has the sweater the woman wore that night if Headquarters decides to run it for DNA.

Wecker says the commission will probably vote on the position statement at its April meeting in Olympia.

Unasked but sensing my question, she says that one of the newest and certainly the most controversial member “supported it enthusiastically.”

That would be Jay Kehne, the Omak resident whose part-time employment with the wolf, wildlife and wildlands advocacy group Conservation Northwest has raised hackles amongst some hunters and Eastern Washington legislators.

“I definitely support it,” Kehne said yesterday. “In my mind, people are going to have to realize that wolves will be wolves and some will have to be managed.”

Managed, of course, is a euphemism for killing those that repeatedly attack livestock, are found to be detrimental to big game herds, as with the aerial shooting of 14 in North Idaho last week, or are threats to humans. It can also mean working with stockmen to prevent attacks in the first place.

“Some wolf enthusiasts want wolves to live out their natural lives,” says Wecker. “That’s not the position of the department. Let me be crystal clear: Wolves will become a game species. They will be managed, and not for maximum population.”

Strong words that buoy this hunter’s hopes that, at the same time a place will be found for the species in Washington, they will not be allowed to run the game as they were in Idaho and Montana because of years of lawsuits.

Now, to see the statement approved and acted upon.