Category Archives: Wolf News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Northwest Howler, 8-9-12 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the record …

(WDFW)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when trouble began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He would not disclose the dead animal’s weight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A TIMELINE OF EVENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Washington wolves, search this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more, see Rich Landers’ article on the situation

Surveys Of Likely East Cascades Habitats Turning Up No New Wolves

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

The latest weekly Wildlife Program continues that trend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(WDFW)

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.