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.
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.
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.
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.
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.