Category Archives: Wolf News

Colvilles Say There Are 3 To 9 Wolves On Reservation

A Wenatchee World article yesterday reveals that there may be three and perhaps as many as nine more wolves in Washington than previously known.

Those figures come from the Colville Reservation, which WDFW did not survey when it did its statewide end-of-2011 count which said there were a minimum of 27 in five packs.

The estimate is based on lone tracks; it’s unclear if there’s any pack on the reservation.

The Colville Tribes, a sovereign nation whose lands fall outside state control and WDFW’s wolf management and recovery plan, also made much more clear their position on wolves.

“We’re going to be managing them. And when I say manage, I mean we’re going to be removing some,” Joe Peone, Fish and Wildlife director, told reporter KC Mahaffey.

Mahaffey also reported: “But just how many wolves tribal members want on the reservation, and how they’ll want them removed when the wolf population exceeds that number, is yet to be determined.”

Randy Friedlander, a wildlife biologist there, says that the wolves there will be studied — the Colvilles hope to get trapping help from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service this spring — tribal members have been surveyed about their opinions on the species, and a management plan will be created, according to the article.

The tribes will also meet with WDFW on wolves in the “North Half,” the public and private land formerly part of the reservation in the Republic area, Mahaffey writes.

Previously we’ve reported on wolves and the Colvilles here, here and here.

Wolf War Update, No. 16,789

Swore off blogging about an hour ago — the February issue, that thing that pays the bills around here and keeps the Internet plugged in, is in the beginning stages of a real mess — but two developments on, yes, the wolf front need blogification.

The first is a link posted on to a story about Idaho’s wolf hunt. With the kill just under 200 and nearly 20 animals higher than in 2009’s season, what does that mean about how many wolves are really in the Gem State?

As with everything wolfish, there is disagreement.

KPLU reporter Jessica Robinson:

No one knows why exactly the numbers are up. Wolf trapping is allowed for the first time in Idaho — but that alone doesn’t explain for the increase, says Jim Hayden. He’s the Fish and Game regional manager for the Idaho panhandle.

“They’re a difficult animal to hunt. People are learning a little bit more about it,” Hayden explains. “We have some minor networks that formed so people start talking to each other -– ‘Oh yeah, I bumped into something up in so-and-so drainage.’ ‘Oh I didn’t know there was anything there, I’ll look there.’ So we have more communication there, a little more experience.”

Though Hayden thinks the biggest reason for hunters’ success is -– more wolves. He says at least half the wolves hunters have brought in came from areas Fish and Game didn’t know had wolf packs.

But some environmentalists think the population is much smaller. According to federal counts, gray wolf numbers dropped between 2009 and 2010 in Idaho.

The italics are mine.

On the Washington side of the line, Okanogan County Republicans and commissioners are trying to get Jay Kehne of Omak booted off the Fish & Wildlife Commission, to which he was appointed last month, for his views on wolves.

“On Tuesday, all three commissioners signed a letter to the governor and state senators seeking his removal,” reports KC Mahaffey of the Wenatchee World.

“Jay’s views are redundant with the people (Gregoire) would pick from Seattle,” state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, told Zachary Van Brunt of the Omak Chronicle. “It really bothers me that her go-to people for advice for Eastern Washington representation is a Western Washington environmentalist group that has done tremendous damage to Eastern Washington.”

Kehne, a hunter who has reported taking five deer and two elk since 2002, as well as retired local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staffer and field rep for Conservation Northwest advocated for Canis lupus around the state in 2011.

CNW put out a press release today defending Kehne as well as its own actions in Eastern Washington:

The Governor appointed Jay to the Commission to represent himself. Commissioners are not appointed to represent any particular interest or part of the state; their job is to serve the resource and the public at large. Furthermore, Jay’s commission service is not part of his employment at Conservation Northwest.

… Lastly, the civil, collaborative approach to issues the Jay brings to the commission is also reflective of his work at Conservation Northwest, and of Conservation Northwest’s work overall. Recently Conservation Northwest has been instrumental in assisting ranchers in Okanogan, Ferry and Stevens counties to obtain fair market value for committing their properties to agriculture and open space, preventing conversion of farms to development. We have also been collaborating with timber interests to execute more that two dozen quality forestry and restoration projects on national forest land in eastern Washington.

OK, back to Feb.

For five minutes.

A Short History Of Washington’s Five Known Wolf Packs

There are some interesting details in WDFW’s newly posted timelines on the state’s five known wolf packs — what they’re chewing on, their official names, how many are collared, who paid the vet bill for the sheep-herding dog bitten by a Teanaway wolf last summer, etc.

For what it’s worth, here is The Official Record As It Stands:

Washington Wolf Packs: Diamond


Citizen reports, howling surveys, and remote cameras confirmed the presence of a breeding pack of wolves, named the Diamond Pack, in Pend Oreille County in 2009.  Wolves had previously been photographed by remote cameras in the county in 2008 and again in May 2009.  The breeding male (WA-398M) was captured and fitted with a GPS radio-collar in July 2009. Two small pups were also captured, ear tagged, and released that year.  In 2009, the breeding pair produced six pups and at least four of those survived to 2010.

DNA analysis of the breeding male links him to the naturally recolonizing southern Alberta-northwestern Montana wolf population.  The Diamond Pack dens in Washington and therefore is counted as a Washington pack. Monitoring of radio-collared animals in the Diamond Pack show that the pack uses a territory of about 350 square miles and that 25% of the territory is in Idaho. The home range area of the pack contains a multi-species prey base (moose, elk, and two species of deer).


The battery expired on WA-398M’s collar in July 2010, but a yearling female (WA-376F) was captured and GPS radio-collared that June.  Three other yearling wolves (WA-378M, WA-380F, WA-382F) were captured and ear-tagged, but were not collared and one small pup was caught and released.  The pack produced six pups in 2010 and numbered 12 wolves at the end of the year.  During late summer/fall 2010, WDFW conducted ground searches of GPS cluster locations obtained from the telemetry data; the primary prey item documented was moose.


In June of 2011, WA-376F (2 years old now) was recaptured and her GPS radio-collar was changed.  Unfortunately, the GPS portion of her new collar failed and no longer transmits remote location updates; however, the regular VHF beacon on the collar continues to function and on a location flight during November 2011, WA-376F was located with a radio-collared yearling male member of the Cutoff Peak Pack from north Idaho in that pack’s territory.  Neither of those two wolves was heard on location flights in December; however efforts to locate them are ongoing.

Although the collar on WA-398M no longer functions, remote camera images from July 2011 indicate that he is still alive and with the pack.


WA-382F (2 year old) was recaptured in June of 2011 and was also fitted with a GPS radio-collar.  Unfortunately, she was legally killed by an Idaho trapper 300 yards from the Washington border in December.  While there are currently no functioning GPS radio-collars in the Diamond Pack, there is one regular tracking collar remaining in the pack on adult female WA-013F, who was also captured in June 2011.  There were three pups confirmed during September surveys and a total of 10 wolves were counted in this pack at the end of 2011.

Washington Wolf Packs: Lookout


Multiple wolf reports from Okanogan County in 2008 led to confirmation of the first fully documented breeding by a wolf pack in Washington since the 1930s.  The wolves became known as the Lookout Pack and consisted of at least four adults/yearlings and six pups in 2008.  The breeding male (WA-144M) and female (WA-142F) were captured and radio-collared in July 2008 and other pack members, including the 6 pups, were caught on remote cameras in the summer of 2008.  Genetic analysis of these wolves indicated they were descended from wolves occurring in (1) coastal British Columbia and possibly (2) northeastern British Columbia, northwestern Alberta, or the reintroduced populations in central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area.  Based on telemetry monitoring between 2008 and 2010, the Lookout Pack used an area of about 350 square miles as their territory, with the primary prey being deer.  Breeding pair status (survival of at least two of the pups) could not be confirmed for 2008.


It appears the pack suffered significant human-caused mortality from illegal killing. The alleged killing in 2008-2009 of up to five wolves believed to be members of the Lookout pack, was included in a federal grand jury indictment in June, 2011. By April of 2009 the pack had been reduced to the breeding pair and one surviving yearling.  Despite the mortality, the pack produced a litter of at least 4 pups in 2009 and all 7 animals survived into the spring of 2010, confirming breeding pair status for 2009.


In May 2010, WA-142F disappeared less than three weeks after the suspected birth of a litter.  She was pregnant in April and was last seen at a den site on May 12th.  Extensive searches for her were conducted and she is presumed dead.  This appeared to cause a breakdown in pack structure, with WA-144M ranging more widely and spending most of the summer alone; his radio collar stopped functioning in November, 2010.  This pack was not considered a breeding pair at the end of 2010.  However,  documentation of multiple wolves (including WA-144M) traveling together in the winter of 2010-2011 indicated there were still at least two wolves inhabiting the Lookout Pack’s territory at that time.



WA-144M was last seen in June 2011; however, recent activity in the Lookout territory indicates there are still at least two wolves in the pack.  In September, 2011 a hunter documented at least two and possibly three animals in the far western portion of the traditional Lookout territory.  Agency follow-up yielded several remote camera photos of at least one and possibly two wolves in the same area, one of which may be a female.  Credible public reports of at least two animals on traditional Lookout Pack winter range have continued through the end of the year, but at no time in 2011 did the agency receive credible reports of pups or verify any breeding activity.

Washington Wolf Packs: Salmo


The Salmo Pack was first documented in August 2010 when a pup of the year (WA-001M) was captured and radio-collared about 2 miles south of the Canadian border in eastern Pend Oreille County.  Because of the size of the pup, he was fitted with a standard VHF tracking collar.  Based on information gathered during continued capture efforts it was determined the pack consisted of two adults and a single pup.  End of the year surveys confirmed this, so because the pack did not produce 2 pups that survived until December 31, it was not counted as a successful breeding pair for 2010.



In spring of 2011 WDFW confirmed that the Salmo Pack denned in Washington; it is therefore considered a Washington pack towards recovery goals.   No reproduction was confirmed during summer surveys and no pups were counted at the end of 2011.  About one third of this pack’s home-range is in British Columbia and the rest is in Washington.

Washington Wolf Packs: Smackout

In June of 2011, a cattle operator west of Ione in Stevens County of northeastern Washington, reported seeing wolf pups and hearing howling while working on his Forest Service grazing allotment.  This pack was confirmed when a young female pup was captured and ear-tagged (WA-014F); she was too small to safely wear a radio-collar.  During continued capture efforts two adults and three pups were confirmed.  Tracks of all five wolves were observed during year end surveys confirming the pack as a successful breeding pair for 2011.  There were public reports of wolves in this area during summer 2010 and WDFW surveys found a wolf track at that time, but no breeding activity was reported or documented.


Genetic analysis on WA-014F has yet to be done, but based on the pack’s  location and physical features, they likely originate from the southern Alberta – northwest Montana population.  Based on remote camera images, at least one of the adults is gray, but WA-014F and the two other pups are black in color.  These are the first black wolves documented in the modern Washington wolf population.

Washington Wolf Packs: Teanaway


In response to remote camera images of a large wolf-like canid collected by citizen science volunteers in 2010, a survey effort that included WDFW, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Conservation Northwest, and the Western Transportation Institute, was conducted in the Teanaway Valley in the North Cascades.  This effort produced multiple remote camera images of at least three large canids.


As a follow-up to the remote camera photos and surveys, WDFW captured a lactating adult female in the pack in June 2011 and fitted her with a GPS/VHF radio-collar.  Genetic analysis confirmed this animal to be 100% wolf and that she was a descendant of the Lookout Pack.  In September 2011, a yearling female was also captured and fitted with a GPS/VHF radio-collar.  The presence of a yearling wolf indicates this pack has been in the area since at least spring of 2010.  At the end of 2011 there were three adults and four pups in this pack, and it was considered a successful breeding pair.


In August 2011, a sheep was killed on a Forest Service allotment within the home-range of the pack.  While several wolves, including one with a radio-collar, were seen near the sheep carcass by the herder, a thorough investigation indicated a cougar had killed the animal and the wolves were scavenging on it.  At the time, there was an altercation between the wolves and a herding dog that was disrupted when the herder fired a gun into the ground.  The dog survived and recovered; WDFW paid the veterinarian bill, using funds from a USFWS grant and matching funds from Defenders of Wildlife designated for proactive non-lethal preventative measures and compensation for livestock documented to be killed or injured by wolves.  Guarding and herding dogs are considered livestock under WDFW’s wolf conservation and management plan.  In response to the event, the UFWS, USFS, and WDFW worked with the herder to secure the sheep with fladry at night and no further problems were reported.



At Least 27 Wolves In Washington, WDFW Says

The numbers don’t match what hunters are tallying online, but for what it’s worth, WDFW estimates that there were at least 27 individual wolves and three breeding pairs in Washington as of Dec. 31, 2011.

That’s eight more wolves and two more successful pairs than at the end of 2010.

The agency released news about its annual count after aerial flights and field monitoring last month.


Overall there are at least five packs in the state, including two new ones confirmed early last summer. WDFW tallied their populations thusly:

Diamond Pack, in Pend Oreille County and Idaho, numbers 10 wolves, including a breeding pair with at least two pups. A 2-year-old, radio-collared, female wolf was legally trapped and killed in Idaho in December before the count was made. Another radio-collared female from the pack was last located in November in Idaho and is currently missing; a third radio-collared female remains with the pack.

Smackout Pack, in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, numbers five wolves, including a successful breeding pair with three pups. None have radio collars.

Salmo Pack, in Pend Oreille County and British Columbia, includes three wolves. One wolf with a VHF radio collar is still being monitored.

Teanaway Pack, in Kittitas County, numbers seven wolves, including a successful breeding pair with at least two pups. The breeding female is equipped with a GPS radio collar and still is being monitored.

Lookout Pack, in Okanogan County includes two wolves with no pups; neither has a functioning radio collar.

The actual number of wolves in the state is higher still as WDFW acknowledges there is evidence of packs in the Blue Mountains and the Hozomeen area of upper Ross Lake as well as “transient” wolves wandering the landscape. Northwest Sportsman learned recently of one hanging out just east of Palmer Lake.

A pack is two or more wolves traveling together while a breeding pair is an adult male and adult female and two pups that survive to year end. Breeding pairs are the standard measure used to determine recovery.

To delist the species from state protections under WDFW’s recently approved management and recovery plan, there must be at least 15 successful breeding pairs documented for three consecutive years among three wolf-recovery regions (four pairs in Eastern Washington, four pairs in North Cascades, four pairs in South Cascades/Northwest Coast, and three pairs in any recovery region), or 18 pairs in any single year.

“The countdown is on,” said agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane early this afternoon. “We’ve got a number to shoot for and we’re counting them.”

Diamond and Smackout are in the Eastern Washington region while Teanaway is in the North Cascades region (see below for a map of the regions).

WDFW’s numbers for the five packs aren’t that much different than those posted on outfitter Dale Denney’s Hunting-Washington — a tally there puts it at 28. But based on hunter reports, the site puts the statewide figure over 100.

Some of those come from the Southern Cascades region, where just this past fall howling was heard at Conrad Meadows and tracks were seen east of Rimrock Lake. WDFW wildlife biologist Jeff Bernatowicz has heard of other reports in his district the past few years — he says 2011’s reports were actually down from previous years — but he has yet to see any wolves in western Yakima County nor spotted any on the winter range chasing crippled game or late-born elk.

“‘Three-legged elk,’ spotted calves — when I don’t see any anymore, that’s going to be an indication” some wolves are around, he said last week.

About the 27, the agency’s wildlife diversity program manager Rocky Beach says, “This is what we can confirm. Are there likely more? The answer is ‘Yes.'”

But he says there’s probably not a lot more. He explains that, based on what’s been seen in other Northwestern states, there’s less “noise” in a relatively small population of wolves.

Still, it is imperative that hunters continue to report sightings, tracks, howls, etc., to WDFW to create those “clusters” of sightings that lead the agency to send out their trapper. To report possible wolves, call (877) 933-9847.

It is also imperative that WDFW secure more funding for wolf work — there’s $305,000 in Governor Gregoire’s proposed supplemental budget for monitoring and livestock work, a figure that was upped from the $150,000 initially asked for by Director Phil Anderson after the department made a “strong argument” in October it would go towards hiring a staffer to work with livestock interests — and pay more attention to game herds in Northeast Washington.

This is at least the third straight year that Washington’s wolf population has grown.

At the end of 2009, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimated there were at least 12 animals.

At the end of 2010, the Feds pegged it at at least 19.

While the Lookout Pack had pups in 2008 and 2009, in 2010 only the Diamond Pack had more than two survive to the end of the year.

With the exit of OR7 for California late last week, Oregon’s statewide population stands at a minimum of two dozen with four packs. Although all four reproduced in 2011, only one, Walla Walla, produced more than one pup and it is considered the state’s only breeding pair at the moment. However, spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy says that the numbers could change.

“There could very well be more, but based on hard evidence, we have 24,” she says.

Download ODFW’s 2011 annual report here.

Over in Idaho, just under 200 have been legally killed and trapped in that state’s seasons.

WDFW has also updated its wolf page to show more information about each pack. Timelines for each as well as some new photos have been added, including several aerial shots of Diamond at rest, and a tunnel in the Lookout Pack’s den near Twisp.



Washington Wolf Killed In Idaho Last Week; Final 2011 Population Estimate Due Out In Early Jan.

When Washington puts out its year-end wolf count early next week, the tally will be one fewer than it might otherwise have been.

A radio-collared member of east-central Pend Oreille County’s Diamond Pack was killed in North Idaho on Dec. 20.

WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers says that the Idaho Department of Fish & Game contacted the agency to report the legal take by a trapper.

She describes the kill site as “300 yards inside the Idaho border.”

“We will get the radio collar back,” she adds.

Until now, there were four collared wolves in Northeast Washington, one in the Salmo Pack of extreme northern Pend Oreille County, three in Diamond.

One collar has apparently malfunctioned, Luers says, while two still work; one is worn by the Salmo wolf, the other by the Diamond’s alpha.

The dead wolf was a female, one of two collared females in the pack. Luers did not have an age on the animal, but one was collared as a yearling in 2010, according to the July 2011 draft of the state’s wolf management plan.

The kill came to light through WDFW’s legislatively mandated Dangerous Wildlife Incidents Report, which began posting wolf encounters earlier this year. It also tracks cougars and grizzly bears, but not black bears.

Now that wolves are delisted in the Northern Rockies, Idaho is holding hunting and trapping seasons through March 31. As of yesterday, 195 have been killed, 173 by firearm hunters, 22 by trappers.

Of those, a total of 31 have been in the Panhandle Zone, which borders Washington as well as Montana and British Columbia.

Most of the Diamond Pack’s range is in Washington, but it roams into the Gem State as well.

“They’re in and out of Idaho all the time,” says Luers.


An Idaho pack known as Cutoff Peak uses a sliver of Washington as its territory.

When WDFW issues its final 2011 wolf population estimate next month — possibly as early as Tuesday, Jan. 3 — in all likelihood the Diamond Pack will be listed as 10 strong, based on an aerial survey and count done in the middle of last week.

At the end of 2010, it had 12 members, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

WDFW will also come out with figures for the new Teanaway Pack of Kittitas County and Smackout Pack of Stevens County, as well as the Lookout Pack of Okanogan County.

And there is strong evidence of wolves on the Washington side of the Blue Mountains, including “multiple wolves running together.”

Since July, hunters have been keeping track of sightings around the state and while that tally runs far higher, the state’s working wolf population estimate has been a minimum of 25 to 30 adults and yearlings, a figure that probably will go up as it does not count pup production.

WDFW will also determine how many breeding pairs were successful this year. A successful breeding pair is defined as an adult male and adult female and two pups living to year’s end. Diamond, Smackout and Teanaway were known to have pups in 2011.

(We’re checking on a rumor that two Teanaway wolves were killed recently; “We’ve heard it and are looking into it,” said WDFW Capt. Richard Mann in Yakima this afternoon; he termed it a fourth-hand rumor.)

There are at least two other radio-collared wolves in the state: the Lookout alpha male and its daughter, the Teanaway alpha female. A third radio-collared wolf, the Lookout alpha female, mysteriously disappeared in spring 2010.

Earlier this month, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission approved a final wolf management and recovery plan.

Next up is a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decision on whether or not wolves in the western two-thirds of the state should be federally delisted like those in the eastern third. That is expected to come out in late February. WDFW officials told the commission that the Feds were more likely to proceed to statewide delisting if WDFW had an approved management plan.

“There is a specific review process for such actions and to predict what might come out of such a proposed action would be pre-decisional and therefore inappropriate for me to speculate upon,” USFWS spokesman Doug Zimmer in Lacey told me afterwards, adding, “But having an adequate state management plan is certainly a helpful step to meeting downlisting or delisting criteria. Much, much, more positive than not having such a plan.”

In other regional wolf news, OR-7, the far-traveling member of the livestock-killing Imnaha Pack, is in California. The latest population estimate for Oregon is 25 wolves.

Pronghorn Release, Wolves Among Top NW Fishing And Hunting Stories Of 2011

Ask Missus Walgamott what 2011’s top hunting and fishing story was and without hesitation she’ll say “wolves.”

I yabbered about Canis lupus so much after work hours — their increasing numbers, the delisting (finally), the eye-roller rumors, the tense encounters, development of Washington’s management plan, the trek of OR-7 (now just 10 miles from in California), new packs in the Blue Mountains, etc., etc., etc — that at one point Amy ruled that I could only tell one wolf story per dinner.


And then she banned all mention.

Can’t blame her, though they certainly helped fill a lot of mag and blog pages this year.

But there were other things going on in Washington and Oregon.

Here’s a look back at the year that was, as it appeared in headlines and text snippets on pages of

ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA, THE YEAR BEGAN WITH A CLOUD hanging over the future of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The WDFW Merger Files: Power Grab, Says TDN (Jan. 4, 2011)

The Daily News of Longview has an editorial today that says Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to merge WDFW and State Parks isn’t just about dealing with the massive budget shortfall, but is an attempt to “enhance and consolidate gubernatorial power.”

The paper says that the realignment would strip the voter-approved Fish & Wildlife Commission of its power to hire and fire WDFW’s director and put it under the governor’s office, a move which would “likely will draw strenuous objections from fishermen and hunters, who tend to want commissioners drawn from their ranks and a commission sympathetic to their agendas.”

It also notes that the merger would save just $2.5 million in 2011-13, “which amounts to only one-twentieth of 1 percent of the state’s $4.6 billion revenue gap.”

WDFW-Parks Merger Bill Introduced (Feb. 4, 2011)

A 376-page bill that would merge WDFW and State Parks has been introduced in Olympia.

SB 5669, sponsored by Senators Ranker, Swecker, Regala, Rockefeller, Nelson, White, and Pflug at the request of Governor Christine Gregoire, would create a Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Gregoire proposed the merger back in mid-December.

A cabinet-level department, DCR’s overall director would be appointed by the governor, and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would be renamed the Fish & Wildlife Advisory Commission, under the bill.

Public Speaks On WDFW-Parks Merger (Feb. 10, 2011)

Norman Reinhardt, president of the Kitsap Poggie Club, said it would turn the clock back, putting politics before science.

“Do not allow this merger take place,” he said.

That was a common sentiment among the anglers who spoke before the Senate Natural Resources and Marine Waters committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Ranker, a North Sound Democrat.

WA FWC On 5669: Opposition, and ‘Deep Concern’ (Feb. 21, 2011)

Just in case you missed it, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission fired off a statement against the part of SB 5669 that would neuter the citizen panel.

In the press release, which came after hours Friday evening, the FWC said the bill would “reverse the will of the majority of the people as reflected in Referendum 45.”

The statement also expresses “deep concern” about the Senate bill’s attempt to merge Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office.

“The cost savings identified in the bill are relatively small in light of the substantial reorganizational effort that a merger would entail,” the FWC says.

WDFW Merger Bill Moves Forward, With Twists (Feb. 23, 2011)

It’s out with the Washington Department of Conservation and Recreation, in with the Washington Department of Fish, Wildlife and (take a breather here) Recreation — and the Fish & Wildlife Commission would retain its policy- and rule-making authority under Senate Substitute Bill 5669.

It was passed out of the Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee by a 4-2 vote on President’s Day and forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee.

Instead of a director, the super-agency — a conglomeration of WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office — would also have a “secretary” as its head.

According to Allen Thomas of The Columbian, “The substitute bill gives the governor authority to appoint a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation secretary from a list of five candidates submitted jointly by the wildlife and parks commissions.”

House Budget Bill Keeps WDFW Its Own Agency (April 11, 2011)

I had to call up WDFW’s legislative analyst to make sure mine own eyes weren’t deceiving me when I downloaded the ins and outs of HB 1087, but the state House budget bill passed last weekend does not call for consolidating the fish and game agency with State Parks.

“It looks like it’s off the table as far as the House budget,” says Ann Larson, WDFW’s legislative liason.

She quickly notes that we’ll see what the state Senate’s appropriations bill proposes when it’s rolled out this week.

The Senate is the chamber where SB 5669 was filed at Governor Gregoire’s request. It merges WDFW, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation Office into a Department of Fish, Wildlife & Recreation. We’ve writtena weebitaboutit.

The House and Senate budgets have to be reconciled before being sent to Gregoire.

WA Senate Budget Wouldn’t Merge WDFW; Does Reduce ‘Back Office’ Funding (April 13, 2011)

The state Senate’s 2011-13 proposed budget would not merge the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife with the State Parks and Recreation Commission and Recreation and Conservation Office, as Governor Gregoire had requested last December, but parts of the plan do look like consolidation.

Details from the operating budget that Senate Ways and Means Committee leaders Sen. Ed Murray and Sen. Joseph Zarelli released this morning reduce expenditures at the headquarters level and encourage WDFW, Parks, DNR, DOE and the Department of Agriculture “to work together to achieve efficiencies in managing the natural resources of the state.”

“There are some aspects of consolidation in administrative functions — what we call back office — so we’re trying to understand that more,” says WDFW deputy director Joe Stohr in Olympia.

“Our staff is still trying to interpret and figure out what it means for State Parks,” adds Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Sandy Maeling.

Previously, Senate Bill 5669 would have merged WDFW, Parks and RCO into a Department of Fish, Wildlife and Recreation.

The House’s budget bill, approved last weekend, left out consolidation.

Eventually, lawmakers sent Gregoire a budget which kept WDFW its own agency, but late in 2011, news came out that it along with the Department of Ecology may open a new office Southwest Washington at a building to be built at the Port of Ridgefield.

Other big news out of Olympia as well as Salem in 2011 included:

Passage of the first Washington fishing and hunting license increase in a decade and the $30 Discover Pass;
Failure to extend the pilot hound hunting for cougars rule in Washington and create a similar hunt in Oregon;
And failure to get a partial gillnet ban for the Lower Columbia out of committee in Oregon and the X-filing of a bill that would have required commercial fishermen in Washington to report lost nets within 48 hours.

LAST JANUARY ALSO SAW THE SURPRISE RELEASE OF A LARGE HERD of Nevada pronghorn onto a sprawling reservation in the lower Yakima Valley

Antelope Arrive In WA Over Weekend (Jan. 17, 2011)

Last week, they were racing across the northeast Nevada sage. Today, they’re learning about their new digs 450 miles to the north-northwest in South-central Washington.

In a lightning-fast move, 100 antelope were captured Saturday by the Nevada Department of Wildlife and dozens of volunteers, and 99 were driven in livestock trailers to the Mabton area of the Yakama Nation’s reservation and released.


“I had the last load, and unloaded them at 12:45 a.m.” Sunday morning, says Glenn Rasmussen of the Central Washington Chapter of Safari Club International.  “Oh, yeah (it’s exciting). This is something we’ve been working on for a long time.

And how’d the Yakama Nation’s herd of 89 does and 10 bucks do in 2011?

“We had antelope scattered over a couple million acres,” tribal wildlife biologist Jim Stephenson told me late last month.

Over the course of the year, animals were spotted as far south as Goldendale, east to Kennewick, west to timberline and possibly on the Yakima Training Center to the north.

It was the first release in Washington since the old state Department of Game’s 1968 attempt to keep its small group alive; those were all gone by the mid-1980s.

But so far so good for the Yakamas.

“From the ones we have observed there appears to be a fairly good fawn crop,” says Stephenson. “Since they are scattered over such a large area it isn’t possible to say how many antelope are in the state at this point but I would think that there are at least 50 more to add to the original transplant. If everything falls in to place we plan on capturing another 100 animals this winter to supplement the existing herd.”


A FRIEND OF MINE WHO KNOWS BETTER DECIDED LAST SUMMER to take up steelheading, again, and unexpectedly found himself doing all right on the banks of the Lower Columbia.

Now, “all right” in this case means a fish took a brief passing interest in his bait, but his fishing partners – and a whole lot of other Rose City, Vancouver, St. Helens and Longview anglers – actually did quite well.

The fishing was so good for steelies – as well as fall Chinook – that most of them are probably still on an Omega-3 buzz.

The big crick gave up more of both species between Astoria and Bonneville Dam than ever recorded before.

According to fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, “decent water conditions – cooler at first but also (staying) higher than normal during the season” helped contribute to the high catches.

There was also a concerted marketing effort by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and other partners including Northwest Sportsman magazine and blog that targeted summer-runs in the lower river.

Group Aims To Grow Columbia Steelhead Fishery (Feb. 16, 2011)

Last week the directors of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Travel Oregon met with the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association to initiate a pilot project designed to grow participation in the Columbia River summer steelhead fishery.  The meeting was held in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show in Portland, the third largest consumer show of its type in America.

NSIA representatives included major retailers such as Fred Meyer and Fishermen’s Marine and Outdoor, tackle manufacturers, outdoor advertising and media, including Northwest Sportsman magazine, and guides.  Facilitated by ODFW, the participants brainstormed ways to leverage their collective communication platforms and resources for better outreach to attract new customers to this thriving but underappreciated fishery.


“Steelhead are one of Oregon’s most prized game fish, known for their fight,” said Todd Davidson, Director of Travel Oregon.  “Great conditions and stable fishing seasons make summer steelhead a solid draw to Oregon for visiting anglers and their families.” Davidson continued, “The statewide potential of this pilot project is tremendous.”

Columbia Steelheading On The Rise (July 22, 2011)

The great roving eye that is Northwest Sportsman magazine’s Weekend Hot Bite Finder has been focused this week on finding the very first pink salmon caught in Puget Sound and the opening of a sockeye fishery on Baker Lake in Washington’s North Cascades tomorrow, but a report of “insanely good” summer steelheading has our all-seeing eye zooming in on the lower Columbia River.

That report came from a local tackle shop, but even in the judgement of a slightly more sober fisheries biologist stationed along its shores, catches in the big creek below Rainier, Ore., and Longview, Wash., have been “good” in recent days.

It’s a wee bit tardy, but the summer run is officially on.


Aug. Columbia Steelhead Catch Already A Record (Aug. 16, 2011)

If you’re a Northwest state fish and wildlife agency that, oh, say, decided to pimp the summer steelhead fishery on the Lower Columbia this year, you hit a home run.

The month is only half over, but there’s already a new record “handle” on the big creek.

So far in August, Oregon and Washington anglers have caught 11,639.

And that comes on the back of a possible record-tying July fishery.

It tops the previous high mark for August set in 2009, The Year Of The Monster Run, by 590 fish.

It’s Official: Record July Steelie Catch (Aug. 19, 2011)

Lower Columbia steelheaders bonked a record number last month, and just missed topping the all-time “handle” mark for July as well.

According to fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, Washington and Oregon anglers kept 8,549 steelies in July 2011 from Bonneville Dam down to the mouth, over 300 more than the previous record set in that monster run year, 2009.

Huge Summer For Columbia Anglers Rolls On (Sept. 13, 2011)

Fresh off his vacation, Joe Hymer’s back at it, sending out all sorts of hard-to-ignore nugz on Lower Columbia sport fishing.

The latest?

“Since at least 1980,” the fisheries biologist stationed in Vancouver, Wash., reported this afternoon, “the estimated angler trips through September 11 are the second highest for the entire fall season.  The highest was 117,975 angler trips in 2009 so we’ve already set a new record.”

Stats he sent along show we’ve made 117,181 trips on the big river below Bonneville for kings, coho and steelies since Aug. 1.

That’ll surely jump with Chinook retention reopening from the mouth of the Lewis down to Buoy 10 starting this Friday, padding an already prodigious king catch for the season.

Another Columbia Fishing Record About To Be Broken? (Sept. 28, 2011)

Lower Columbia anglers are within 519 Chinook of setting another fishing record this summer-fall season.

Through last Sunday, Sept. 25, 25,677 kings have been kept since Aug. 1 between Astoria and Bonneville Dam, a figure that is second only to the 26,195 retained in that 130-mile stretch in 2003.

Fall King Catch On Columbia A New Record (Oct. 18, 2011)

This just in from Vancouver:

“Through September, an estimated 27,490 adult fall Chinook have been caught in the lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to Bonneville Dam.  The old record was 26,195 fish caught in 2003.  The new record will increase after the October catch is added.  The records began in 1969.”

That’s the word from Joe Hymer, a fisheries biologist who tracks such info.

The record catch is matched by a record effort too. Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 25, anglers made 136,502 trips on the big river, topping 2009’s entire fall season by nearly 20,000 (117,975).


CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD OF COURSE RULE ON THE COLUMBIA, but this year saw an intriguing number of pink salmon roll up the big crick.

Minutiae: Deer, Bear And Pinks (Sept. 2, 2011)

… A note to Dennis Dauble, Jeff Holmes, Wayne Heinz and other Tri-Cities anglers who have a hankering for the humpy: One day you may not have to travel over the Cascade Curtain to stoke your smoker.

A surprising number are returning up the Columbia this year.


According to facts this morning from that factoid monger Joe Hymer in Vancouver, a total of 397 pink salmon have gone over Bonneville Dam this year.

“It’s the third highest count since at least 1938,” says the fisheries biologist. “In 2003, a total of 637 pinks were counted at Bonneville Dam; in 1991, there were 550 fish.”

Pink Run Up Columbia Sets New Record (Sept. 7, 2011)

All right, if Joe Hymer ain’t gonna send out an email about this, I’m taking the reins: The previous record return of pinks past Bonneville on the Columbia — a river much better known for king, silver and sockeye salmon — was topped in impressive fashion yesterday.

A total of 129 of the odd-year humpies went over the dam on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

“The fax we got from the Army Corps of Engineers this morning said 40 on the Oregon shore, 89 on the Washington shore,” says Michelle DeHart, manager of the Fish Passage Center in Portland which posts daily fish counts online.

It brought the total for the year to 756 — 119 more fish than the previous high mark set back in 2003, according to FPC data.

Columbia Humpy Watch: Biggest. Day. Yet. (Sept. 21, 2011)

I give up, it’s hopeless, blogging is an addiction and I’m hooked, especially when it comes to Columbia River humpies.

There was a new record daily count at Bonneville yesterday: 224 of the pink salmon, topping the previous high mark of 167, if memory serves.

(The Fish Passage Center only lists daily data for the seven most recent days, but I’ve been obsessively watching and probably would have previously noted a bigger listing.)

It brings the total for the year through Sept. 20 to 2,720.

Record Pink Count At Bonneville Tops 3K (Sept. 23, 2011)

Yesterday, the 3,000th pink of the year crossed Bonneville, as well as the 3,001st, 3,002nd through the 3,057th, padding an already record-whalloping run up the Columbia.

The count is now 480 percent higher than the previous high mark, 2003’s 637.

Columbia Pink Run Poops Out (Oct. 27, 2011)

This year’s unusually large run of pink salmon past Bonneville Dam — 600 percent more than the previous record — appears to have finally pooped out at 3,827, and it appears that even more of the humped ones found lower Columbia River tributaries to spawn in as well.

“Every place we’ve looked for Chinook we’ve found pinks,” supervising fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver told the Columbia Basin Bulletin last week.

Maybe we’re starting to see some strays that are poking into the Columbia, starting to colonize,” research professor Lisa Seeb of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science told CBB.

Either that or previous years’ runs up the Columbia “have blossomed for the same reasons — most likely favorable ocean conditions — that pink and chum salmon populations around the rim are returning at record rates,” CBB reports.

MEANWHILE, MORE THAN 700 MILES UPSTREAM, ANOTHER NEW SPECIES, pike, began to give fishery managers fits.

While the willing-to-bite northerns are providing a new and different fishery for a region with limited options, their willing-to-bite-on-almost-anything nature is complicating years spent trying to recover native and tribally important fish stocks in the Pend Oreille River watershed, and there’s a very real fear the pike could spread towards salmonid-rich reservoirs downstream.

In fact 2011’s huge water year appears to have helped them do just that.

Meetings To Be Held On PO Pike (April 7, 2011)

We’ll have a big article on Pend Oreille River northern pike in our May issue, but if you want to dive into the hot topic now, set aside the evening of April 19 or 20 and head for Newport or Spokane.

Biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ Natural Resources Department will discuss the non-native predator’s expansion into the Northeast Washington river as well as other Eastside waters.

An early March article in the Newport Miner says they’ve turned up in two Spokane County lakes. A WDFW manager in Olympia would not reveal either waters’ name except to say that the fish could not have arrived without a little help.

“It’s a really, really horrific thing to do,” Warmwater Program manager Bruce Bolding told reporter Janelle Atyeo.

Pike Caught In Lake Roosevelt (July 22, 2011)

On Friday, July 22, a fisherman on upper Lake Roosevelt caught a northern pike, a species fishery managers worry will spread further down the Columbia River system.

The fish was landed by walleye angler Davey McKern of Kettle Falls.


Jason Bauer of forwarded the photo to Northwest Sportsman. He reports that he’s heard rumors of the nonnative species being caught of late in the Northport area, just above where the Columbia becomes Lake Roosevelt.

That’s also not far below the mouth of the Pend Oreille River, which has a growing Esox population. Illegally introduced in that river’s Montana namesake, the Clark Fork, years ago, pike have made their way down through Idaho and there are now enough in the Newport to Ione stretch that anglers actively target them — and state and tribal biologists are fretting.

Pend Oreille Pike Briefing Today (Aug. 10, 2011)

Fishery biologists from the Kalispel Tribe of Northeast Washington will today brief members of the Northwest Power & Conservation Council on the “exponential” growth of northern pike in the Pend Oreille River.

They estimate that there are now from 8,000 to 10,000 in Box Canyon Reservoir between Ione and Newport alone, up from 300 or so in 2004.

Citing data that shows the average length of sampled fish has declined from 33 inches in 2006 to 19 inches this year, tribal biologists also say “the ‘glory days’ of trophy pike are behind us.”

Now, the worry is that the voracious and easy to catch predators will “undermine” massive investments in the restoration of native species in the basin, affect the tribe’s largemouth bass program, and move further down the Columbia system.

Pend Oreille Pike Discussed At Meeting (Aug. 26, 2011)

Dire warnings from tribal fishery managers on the perils of northern pike in Washington’s Pend Oreille River.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin today follows up on last week’s presentation to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in which Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Director Deane Osterman warned that their spread into the Columbia River could affect salmonid rearing and recovery in the Okanogan River and John Day Pool, and said the invasive species has already become “a long-term disaster to our native fisheries” in the Pend Oreille.

WDFW Considering Closing PS Sturg Retention, Moving Up Winter Steel Closure Even More, Dedesignating Pike As A Game Fish (Oct. 19, 2011)

Remove northern pike from the state’s list of game fish and open the Pend Oreille River for fishing with two rods to keep their numbers down.

Move the end of winter steelheading in most Puget Sound rivers up to Feb. 1 (up to Feb. 16 in terminal zones) and kibosh the Sauk catch-and-release fishery.

Close all of Puget Sound marine waters and tributaries for sturgeon retention.

Rooted in conservation concerns, those are three of the biggest rule change proposals that the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is looking at for inclusion in the 2012-13 fishing pamphlet.

And finally, late in the year, WDFW sent out a pike press release that was very warlike in tone, but not exactly what I was being told by folks lower down the ladder.

WDFW Declares War On Pend Oreille Pike (Dec. 13, 2011)

In a press release rife with martial language, WDFW announced today that in the coming months it plans “to enlist anglers” “for a spring campaign to halt the advance” of “voracious” northern pike “from invading the Columbia River.”

The agency also launched a new Web page in its Aquatic Invasive Species section that outlines their concerns about the nonnative species which has taken up residence in the Pend Oreille River, the upper Columbia River and Spokane River and been illicitly introduced by bucket biologists into Newman and Liberty Lakes east of Spokane.

IF IT WASN’T WATER WOLVES IT WAS WOLVES in the news — and how in 2011:

‘Some (Wolf) Activity’ In Umatilla Co., ODFW Official Says (Jan. 7, 2011)

Umatilla County stretches well into the Blue Mountains near where Oregon’s Wenaha Pack resides, but members of it or other groups of wolves could be moving out of the timber into more open areas this winter.

Or maybe it’s just coyotes.


A driver photographed three apparent canids off Highway 11 between Pendleton and Milton-Freewater last weekend. A video he took shows dark shapes at some distance moving across a snow-covered field.

A number of wolf reports have come from the area recently.

3 Wolf Bills In WA Legislature (Jan. 18, 2011)

Bills introduced in Olympia last week would insert the state Legislature into wolf management.

They are not unexpected. Last fall, Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, told this magazine that he was working on a draft that sounds like HB 1109. It would require WDFW’s final wolf plan to come to legislators for approval. The plan is otherwise currently slated for Fish & Wildlife Commission sign-off this coming fall.

He was joined by Reps. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley and Jim McCune, R-Graham, in introducing two other Canis lupus-related bills, 1107 and 1108.

Calling BS On A Wolf Story (Jan. 20, 2011)


They’re driving me nuts!!

Actually, it’s not so much the wolves as it is wolf people.

Specifically those who want to have assloads of them to romp in the daisies with and to hell with how the locals feel about it; and those who come up with utter bullshit stories about ravening 250-pound Canadian werebeasts being released willy-nilly around Washington.

As a hunter, I’m more worried about the latter camp, however.

RMEF Again Calls For Wolf Delisting; WDFW Supportive Of Resolution Pressing For Same (Feb. 3, 2011)

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is using recently released herd-count numbers to renew the call for Congress to delist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

A pair of bills introduced in the House and Senate, HR 509 and S 249, hold the “best promise,” the Missoula-based group says.

“Both bills would end the ridiculous lawsuits that are preventing a fully recovered species from being managed by conservation professionals,” said RMEF president David Allen in a press release today.

WDFW was among those agencies voting to approve the resolution, though not until it was amended to support delisting the entire region’s wolf population, not just Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to Bob Everitt, who represented WDFW Director Phil Anderson at the meeting.

He termed a partial delisting “a recipe for big problems in border states,” and indeed, U.S. District Court Judge Molloy’s ruling last August was basically that wolves couldn’t be managed by Montana and Idaho but by USFWS in Wyoming, and which kick-started the latest moves by legislators to circumvent ESA.

“Our management plan fits our position on this resolution,” Everitt says. “What we’d like to see is the far eastern part of the state managed as its own population. That’s something we’ve wanted anyway. It’s not a departure from where we were headed.”

Update on WA Blue Mtns. Wolf (Feb. 23, 2011)

Update on that yearling Oregon wolf sighted in Washington’s Blue Mountains last month and which we reported on earlier this week. It has been heard but not seen by WDFW officials.

“We have heard its collar with our telemetry equipment,” confirms wildlife biologist Paul Wik who is based in Clarkston. “Where we heard it was 80 air miles from where it was collared.”

In its January wolf update PDF, ODFW reported that the Imnaha Pack member, a yearling female known as OR-5, was “discovered” Jan. 20 by WDFW then visually spotted five days later during a flight by Oregon officials.

How WDFW Pays For Wolf Work (March 2, 2011)

Turns out the money I’m forking over to hunt deer in Washington’s Methow Valley is not being used by state biologists to monitor the muley-munching wolves that have taken up residence there.

Rather, the funding for collaring, tracking and otherwise hassling the Lookout Gang, the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County, as well as other wolves on the Oregon, Idaho and BC lines bubbles up from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and comes courtesy of self-obsessed Mercedes drivers.

I got to wondering about how it was all being paid for last December when I received an email with the alarming subject line “Wolves….our tax $’s at work: $200,000 federal grant to ‘monitor’ wolves.”

Further Details On NW WA Skinned Wolf Case (March 9, 2011)

If it weren’t for the nose of Mishka, a specially trained Finnish bear dog, game wardens might never have found the skinned carcass of a wolf in eastern Skagit County in September 2009.

New details about the case emerged today from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officer Capt. Bill Hebner in Mill Creek.

He says “several” anonymous tips led officers to search along a road in the Bacon Creek drainage, off Highway 20 between Marblemount and Newhalem.

“It was next to impossible to find it,” Hebner says. “We could smell something dead, but even so, couldn’t find it. The next day we came back with one of our Karelian bear dogs and he found it within seconds.”

Possible Wolf Poo, Tracks Found On Colville Reservation (March 18, 2011)

Colville biologists are anxiously awaiting word back from a genetics lab on a sample of canine poop they sent in earlier this winter.

Joe Peone, director of the Colville Fish & Wildlfe Department in Nespelem, says some “pretty good-sized” tracks were found with it and now they’re wondering if a couple wolves are wandering their 2,100-square-mile North-central Washington reservation.

Biologists have tried howling surveys, setting up trail cams and deploying scent traps, but have come up empty so far, he says.

The tracks and fecal material came from the Sanpoil River valley, about halfway between the river’s mouth on Lake Roosevelt and the reservation’s northern boundary, Peone says.

USFWS Announces Wolf Settlement; Up To Court To OK; RMEF Reviewing Terms (March 18, 2011)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 of the 14 plaintiffs involved in litigation over Endangered Species Act protections of wolves in the Northern Rockies today announced a settlement that, pending a Federal court’s OK, would move day-to-day management of packs back to Idaho and Montana, where it was in 2009 before a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling last summer relisted the species across the region.

The deal comes as pressure mounts in Congress to legislatively delist wolves. It would not affect Washington and Oregon’s small but growing populations.

Wolf War Front Update (April 12, 2011)

Fast-moving developments on the national wolf front in the past four days, and if you believe the AP story filed today, Congressional delisting is all but a done deal — and it would include parts of eastern Washington and Oregon.

First, over the weekend, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled against last month’s proposed settlement between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and 10 plaintiffs on the status of wolves at the same time as a pair of U.S. Congressmen said Canis lupus would be delisted under a pending budget bill.

The Congressmen, Idaho U.S. House Rep. Mike Simpson (R) and Montana Senator Jon Tester (D), sent out statements today on HR 1473, a continuing resolution, which inserts a clause known as 1713 overturning last August’s federal court ruling in Missoula and directs the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reissue its spring 2009 delisting ruling.

Northern Rockies Wolves To Be Removed From ESA Coverage (April 13, 2011)

Run a Google News search for “Wolves Congress” this morning and you’ll come up with 767 results.

Oh, yeah, wolves in the Northern Rockies and now in the halls of Washington DC are a hot topic.

The gist of many of today’s headlines is that federal protections for Canis lupus were removed through a rider passed in last weekend’s budget battle and which is expected to be approved later this week.

The language prevents judicial review.

Now, management will be handed over to the states of Montana and Idaho, which in all likelihood will hold hunts this year.

It also delists wolves in eastern sections of Washington and Oregon, though those populations remain under state protections — at least that’s how some news accounts have it.

Wolves To Be Delisted Tomorrow (May 4, 2011)

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced it is republishing a 2009 rule on the Federal Register that delists gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species Act effective tomorrow.

It affects wolves in the eastern thirds of Washington and Oregon as well as all of Montana and Idaho and a part of Utah.

USFWS and the five states will continue to monitor wolf populations in the region, gathering population data for at least five years under a post-delisting monitoring plan previously approved by the Feds, the agency said in a press release.

Additionally, a “status review” for wolves in Washington and Oregon will be done this year. USFWS says there is no plan to reintroduce the species in either state as was done in Yellowstone and Central Idaho in the mid-1990s.

Revised Wash. Wolf Plan Out (May 27, 2011)

Ranchers and dog owners whose animals are being attacked by wolves in Washington would be freer to shoot them while Canis lupus population levels needed to reach certain state recovery goals would be more restrictive.

Those are two of the main changes in a new version of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s draft wolf management plan, released today, though far from finalized.

It follows thousands upon thousands of public comments as well as scientific review, much of which seemed to focus — as everywhere else in the Northwestern U.S. — on how many wolves constitute recovery.

When The BBC Came Looking For Wolves (June 3, 2011)

It’s a very long way from Broadcast House in Southwest England to the Methow, but this past February, the BBC showed up in this North-central Washington valley.

Camped out up a cold, snowy gulch, the smoky-smelling camera crew ran around in a rented diesel pickup for a month filming a documentary about the local wolves.


That would be the Lookout Pack – or whatever’s left of it anyway.

Twisp Family Killed 2 Wolves, Tried To Poison More, Feds Say (June 8, 2011)

Two men in an Okanogan County family shot wolves and one spread pesticide to take still more. They and another woman also attempted to ship the pelt of one to Canada, a move that ultimately backfired on the trio.

That according to a 12-count indictment leveled by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington Tuesday against William “Bill” D. White, his son, Tom D. White and Tom’s wife, Erin White, all of Twisp.

The Whites plead not guilty; a trial is slated to begin in late February 2012.

How NRM Wolf Advocates Bit Themselves In The Ass (June 23, 2011)

What might be the best article I’ve read on the lead up to this spring’s delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies and parts of Washington and Oregon has now been posted in its entirety.

Previously, Hal Herring’s 4,500-word opus on wolf advocates’ lawsuits that held up state management for years after wolves were scientifically recovered, arrogance over locals’ concerns, estrangement from government biologists and then panic in the face of Congressional settlement of the issue was protected behind a paywall at High Country News. This week, it was published by the Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise as “Enviros ‘helped’ wolf lose protection.”

Herring is a hook-and-bullet journalist who blogs for Field & Stream. Previously he wrote that the delisting — brought about by a rider inserted into the Federal budget by Montana Senator Jon Tester (D) and Idaho Representative Alan Simpson (R) — “is a solution hated by the most radical environmental groups, and deemed unacceptable by the perpetually furious anti-wolf crowd. So it is probably just about dead-on.”

The nut of his new article:

It was a destructive cycle: The lawsuits inspired increasing anti-wolf fury; environmentalists responded with yet more lawsuits.

That model is no way to manage wildlife — or people.

But the beat just goes on. Groups are attempting to get the delisting thrown out as unconstitutional, and the RMEF and others flocking to defend it.

Wolf Pup Captured West Of Ione (July 11, 2011)

WDFW captured and released a wolf pup in Northeast Washington July 2 and is now looking to radio-collar its parents. It marks the emergence of a second new pack in the state in just the past week.


Last Tuesday, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildife announced that a female wolf most likely with a litter is roaming the Teanaway area of the Cascades between Cle Elum and Blewett Pass. Northwest Sportsman learned of an animal’s capture there in late June, but WDFW held news until DNA testing determined it to be a wild gray wolf.


WA Wolf Plan Out (July 28, 2011)

That thump that just hit the Internet?

The 516 pages of WDFW’s final wolf management plan/environmental impact statement.

It’s available here.

It appears that 15 breeding pairs over three years across various parts of the state remains the threshold for removal from statewide protections. A minimum number, it would equate to an estimated 97 to 361 wolves running around Washington.

The new official population estimate Northwest Sportsman got yesterday was that there are 25-30 adults and yearlings in the state — a figure which does not include pups — and five confirmed packs. The plan says there are also possible packs in the Blue Mountains and upper Skagit River area.

LMT: Molloy Rules Against Wolf Advocates (Aug. 3, 2011)

The Lewiston Morning Tribune is reporting that U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula has ruled against predator advocates’ contention that the Congressional delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies this spring was unconstitutional.

The two-sentence article posted to the paper’s Web site also says that the decision will thus allow Idaho and Montana’s fall hunts to proceed.

Wolf Protesters Arrested Outside ODFW Office (Sept. 27, 2011)

Two wolf advocates were arrested by police late this morning after they allegedly refused to unshackle themselves from the front door at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s office in Salem.

The duo were part of a dozen or so protesters upset with the agency’s management of the species.


In a video posted to the Salem Statesman-Journal’s Web site, a man and others can be heard shouting, “The blood, the blood is on your hands … ODFW, what do you say, how many wolves did you kill today?”

More chants can be heard in videos posted to the Keizer Times site.

ODFW recently announced that two members of the Imnaha Pack would be killed after it found “clear evidence of a wolf attack” on a cow calf in Wallowa County and said that it was likely the entire pack fed on it.

While ODFW has been less likely to confirm wolf kills than the Fed’s USDA Wildlife Services — and under fire from cattlemen for that — it brings the total number of livestock known to have been killed by wolves in the Imnaha Pack’s range to 14 over the past 18 months, according to ODFW.

Cattlemen, Hunter Group File Wolf Delisting Petition (Oct. 5, 2011)

The day before the third of four public comment meetings on Washington’s proposed wolf management plan and just two months before the Fish & Wildlife Commission is slated to vote on the 516-page document, a pair of groups filed a petition asking that packs in the eastern third of the Evergreen State be stripped of state protections.

The Associated Press also says that the Washington Cattlemen’s Association and Hunters Heritage Council want wolves — presumably in the above area — to be given big game status, a prelude to hunting the species.

That’s a big leap from what’s in the current recommended management plan, which delists wolves when they meet statewide benchmarks — 15 breeding pairs occurring in specific numbers across three recovery zones for three consecutive years.

OR, WA Wolves In The News (Oct. 25, 2011)

Hunters helped the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife track down a new wolf pack in Wallowa County’s Snake River Wildlife Management Unit, the state’s fourth.

After receiving reports and trail camera photographs, biologists surveyed the area last week and found tracks from at least five different wolves including one pup, according to the agency.

While many sportsmen are not happy with the expansion of wolves into the Northwest from their Canadian and Rocky Mountain strongholds, ODFW wolf program coordinator Russ Morgan in La Grande pointed out, “These public wolf reports from Oregon’s outdoor enthusiasts really help us target our survey efforts and make the best use of limited resources.”

ODFW also got a radio collar around one of two pups of the Walla Walla Pack in Umatilla County, near the Washington border, last week.

And the agency reports that two wolves from the troublesome Imnaha Pack, also of Wallowa County, have dispersed into Central Oregon

OR-7 Crosses Cascade Crest; First Known Wolf In Western Oregon In 65 Years (Nov. 1, 2011)

We heard a rumor last week that signals from a wolf collar had been picked up around Lemolo Lake in Oregon’s Cascades, and today a story by Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail-Tribune confirms that OR-7 has shown up in the upper Umpqua River basin as of last Thursday.


The outdoor reporter adds that the 2-year-old male is “the first confirmed wolf in Western Oregon in 65 years.”

Colville Tribes Speak Out At Spokane Wolf Meeting (Nov. 4, 2011)

The Fish & Wildlife Commission’s fourth of four meetings on WDFW’s proposed final wolf management plan in Spokane yesterday yielded another glimpse into largely overlooked — or at least under reported — tribal positions on wolf recovery in Washington.

If you’ve watched this blog this past July, you got a taste for Colville Confederated Tribes thinking when biologists there confirmed that canid scat found on their sprawling Northeast Washington reservation last winter was indeed wolf poop.

Though there were no resident packs there at the time and the scat was most likely left by a transient wolf or wolves, Natural Resources Department manager Joe Peone told us, “Our priority for the Colville Tribes is to provide sustenance for our members.”

He reiterated that premise on Thursday in Spokane.

9th Circuit Court Hears Wolf Delisting Arguments (Nov. 8, 2011)

As the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission mulls the state’s final proposed wolf management plan in the lead up to its scheduled December decision, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tracks footloose OR-7 in the southern Cascades by satellite, and hunters in the Northern Rockies pursue wolves, a California courtroom was the scene of oral arguments today over last spring’s delisting of Canis lupus in the region.

An attorney for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others presented a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with arguments that there is precedent for Congress to legislatively strip wolves of Federal protection in eastern swaths of Washington and Oregon, and all of Montana and Idaho, a move which led to the latter two states opening wolf seasons.

Through Nov. 17, 107 wolves have been killed in Idaho, including 20 in the Panhandle zone. Trapping seasons begin Nov. 15.

The court is hearing the case after U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s August ruling basically in favor of state management was appealed.

Newspaper Reports On Unnerving Wolf Encounter In Lake Chelan NRA; Expert Weighs In (Nov. 10, 2011)

Previously Kari Hirschberger talked about and posted pictures of some of her experience in a thread on Hunting-Washington, but she opens up with reporter Ann McCreary in this week’s paper.

The 24-year-old hunter was scouting for deer by herself at the edge of the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area three days prior to the opening of this past September’s High Buck Hunt.

A forester by training, Hirschberger expected to see muleys in the areas she was watching as other spots “with similar aspect and elevation and vegetation (were) crawling with deer,” but she couldn’t find any in this particular area.

Spotting a deer carcass through her optics, she went down to investigate and eventually stumbled across a shallow hole with bits of hair scattered around which to her suggested a den.

Realizing she “should not be there,” she began to move away and that’s when a pair of wolves appeared.

Stressing Flexibility, Addressing Hunter, Livestock Concerns, WA FWC Approves Wolf Plan (Dec. 3, 2011)

For all the controversy over the past five years, the Fish & Wildlife Commission was remarkably united in approving a management and recovery plan for wolves in Washington that also addressed some hunter and livestock owner concerns.

“I think the time has arrived,” said chairwoman Miranda Wecker at about 10:45 this morning, and called for a vote on the 521-page document as her six fellow members had amended it.

There were no nays heard.

She then added, “I think it’s time for a break.”

Over and over throughout the two-hour-and-45-minute discussion leading up to that moment, commissioners used words like “flexibility.” To the final plan that Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife staff sent them in late July, they made a handful of amendments — rejiggering the regional numbers needed to meet statewide recovery goals, jump-starting the downlisting process two ways, further and better clarifying how to address wolf-ungulate conflict, and giving livestock owners more flexibility in dealing with wolves attacking their animals on public ground.

The amendments largely came from a set of revisions the commission was handed after hearing from ranchers and hunters at the first three of the citizen panel’s four public meetings on the wolf plan this past summer and fall. The changes were limited to what was “within” the recommended plan that came out of the Wolf Working Group, state staff work and scientific peer review; larger changes would have opened up the agency to lawsuits.

As of the end of 2011, there are a minimum of 25 wolves and four packs in Oregon, and a minimum of 25 to 30 wolves and five packs in Washington. Of those 50 or so known wolves, a fifth belong to a single pack, Northeast Washington’s Diamond, among the largest in the Northern Rockies.

PIKE AND WOLVES WEREN’T THE ONLY PREDATORS IN THE NEWS in 2011. Grizzlies, cougars and wolverines also made headlines.

There were two developments on the bear front, one negative, one positive:

Blanca Bear Poop, Hair Neg For Griz (Jan. 13, 2011)

Poop and hair gathered in Washington’s North Cascades near where a possible grizzly bear was photographed last summer turned up … regular old Ursus americanus.

That’s the word from expedited DNA tests on eight samples taken from a bait and barbed wire “corral” and the woods around tiny Virgin Lake in eastern Snohomish County.


“All of the bears that were attracted to the site … were kind enough to leave hair, and all poop in the area came from black bears (despite their coat color),” reported Donald Gay, a wildlife biologist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, by email this morning.

North Cascades Bear In Pics ‘Verified’ As Griz (July 1, 2011)

A large bear photographed in North Cascades National Park has been confirmed as a grizzly, according to a regional wildlife advocacy group.


Then there was the trail cam shot that showed an incredible eight mountain lions gathered in a place not known for its cougar population: Douglas County, Washington. I have to admit to having been skeptical of the image, but in this case, the photo was legit and lent new understanding into the region’s wild cats.

Pic Of Eight Cougars In Basin Confirmed (Feb. 17, 2011)

Once upon a time we hunters traded baseball cards — things with verifiable facts — but these days we swap whatever comes through the Internet.

Take the pics of that giant bear shot in the strangely mossy Saddle Hills of northern Alberta last September (actually shot on Afognak Island, Alaska, in 2007 and debunked here).

And then there’s the pic of the glowing-eyeballed cougar sneaking up on the elk hunter (Scott Sandsberry at the Yak Herald-Republic puts the smack down on that tale here).

Nonetheless, I began to look into all those big cats.

In emails late last week, a pair of WDFW biologists couldn’t confirm where the images were taken, the dead cow or the authenticity of the images themselves, but they did have some interesting things to say about the unusual gathering …

As for wolverines, for males of a certain age, it will always be a battle cry, which I couldn’t help but reference when word came out that not just one but two were working the Wallowa Mountains.

Wolverines Spotted In Wallowas, For The First Time (April 22, 2011)

Dudes and dudettes, I’m just going to admit something to ya’ll: I like wolverines.

First, there’s the movie Red Dawn and its famous battle cry that has echoed through the years between my friends and I, and then there are some who have said that my somewhat grouchy personality resembles Gulo gulo in the morning.


Whatever it is, I’m following news out of Oregon that, for the first time in recorded history, the tracks of one have been spotted in the Wallowas.

ON THE HUNTING FRONT, WASHINGTON WHITETAIL CHASERS were presented with a new regulation for two of the state’s most popular units after locals bent the ear of the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

‘Compelling’ Local Arguments Bend FWC Ear On 4-pt Whitetail Restrictions (April 11, 2011)

Will the new four-point-minimum rebuild whitetail numbers in two Northeast Washington hunting units?

Will fewer deer hunters head there this fall?

Will more now-illegal three-point bucks be left to rot in the brush?

Will hunters one day forget that it was the Fish & Wildlife Commission — spurred on by a group of local sportsmen and politicians — that passed the new restrictions and instead blame WDFW biologists who did not support the change?

Well, you can count on that last one, but the rest remain to be seen.

Last Friday, five of the seven members on the citizen panel found local residents’ arguments in favor of the change “compelling” enough to approve the new restrictions for a pair of the state’s “whitetail factories,” the Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North units, starting this fall.

“After reviewing the broad range of public input received over the past nine months, the commission found the input received from area residents and local governments favoring this proposal to be compelling in making this decision,” said chairwoman Miranda Wecker in a press release this afternoon.

An early, early, early snapshot of the new rule’s impact was seen during opening weekend’s deer check station data.

‘Lowest Numbers Ever’ At NE WA Deer Check Station (Oct. 18, 2011)

We’ll see how many hunters turn out for Northeast Washington’s November rut hunt, but WDFW is reporting a “drastic decline” in sportsman numbers at the Deer Park check station over opening weekend of rifle deer season, and it’s attributed to the new four-point minimum in two of the state’s most popular and productive whitetail units.

Kevin Robinette, wildlife program manager at the agency’s Spokane office, reports 117 hunters with five whitetail bucks and one mule deer buck at the annual check station along Highway 395 on the main drag back to Spokane.

“Those are the lowest numbers we’ve ever seen,” he said, looking at at least 10 years of data in front of him and relying on his memory of previous openers’ tallies.

District wildlife biologist Dana Base confirmed it was WDFW’s “lowest count ever for both deer and hunters on the first Sunday after opening day in the October modern firearm season.”

A sixth whitetail, a 3×3, was also brought through, but was confiscated by a fish and wildlife officer because it was too small for the game management unit it was taken in.

THERE WAS ALSO A SERIES OF OPENINGS AROUND THE REGION as well as one closing that were noteworthy.

New Willamette Dock Opens For Fishing (Feb. 15, 2011)

The new fishing dock is now open on the Willamette River. It replaces bank access lost on the other side of the river with the closure of The Wall last year.


The 8-foot-wide by 350-foot-long dock is on the west shore of the river below the falls between the Oregon City Arch Bridge and West Linn Paper Company.

Fisherman’s Announces Opening Of Tigard Store, 3rd For Portland Outdoor Retailer (April 1, 2011)

We’re proud to announce that we’re expanding to the West side of Portland with a new 30,000 square foot store across Hwy 217 from Washington Square Mall. The address is 10329 SW Cascade Blvd (the former Comp USA building between Mor Furniture and Staples).

Getting to the west side has been an ongoing goal and we’re tremendously excited to be renovating the building right now with our Grand Opening scheduled for April (exact date tbd at this point!).

In addition to the fishing and hunting gear that has been the backbone of Fisherman’s, the new store will feature an expanded selection of camping, footwear and apparel.

Kaufmann’s Fly Shops Close (April 28, 2011)

Twenty years ago now a friend and I spent a fair amount of time rifling through the goods at Kaufmann’s Streamborn in Overlake.

We were flyrodders then, and we would putter over there to size up the sticks, ogle the waders and jackets, and dream about the fish we’d catch with their fine flies.

Now it appears as if Kaufmann’s … has shuttered their doors.

The mail’s said to be piling up at their store here in the Emerald City.

It’s being discussed on several fishing boards around the region before and since The Oregonian did a short blurb about it last Friday.

What happened? Good question. Kaufmann’s Web portals don’t yield any clues.

Their home page and Facebook page are disabled, and the latest posts on their Twitter and blog pages is April 8.

It reads “It’s Time to Get out & Go Fishing!”

Springfield Cabela’s Opens Tomorrow, May 5 (May 4, 2011)

Can’t wait to walk through the doors of Oregon’s first Cabela’s when it opens tomorrow?

Go for a stroll with the Eugene Register-Guard.

Here’s a link to their story on the 58,000-square-foot shop.


Buzz Named Among World’s 20 Best Anglers (May 25, 2011)

I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging or anything — well, OK, I do — but twice in the past year I’ve fished with one of the 20 best anglers on the planet.

He’s from around here, has worked for a couple local tackle companies, you may have seen his name in our magazine, and he’s a pretty cool and down-to-earth dude to fish with. Get on his sled and you’ll probably hear about how he used to do burnoffs in his El Camino on the interstate in Portland years ago and last summer got hit twice (twice!) by the same skunk he trapped in his yard.

And who would this be?

Buzz Ramsey, of course.


Then there’s our kayak guys. Nominations for the craziest things they did in 2011?

NWS Kayak Guys Catch Tuna, Shark 50-plus Miles Out (Aug. 9, 2011)

Conditions on the open Pacific were “sporty,” but yesterday three anglers fishing in their kayaks over 50 miles out of Newport, Ore., caught albacore tuna, a successful end to the first time the tactic of “mothershipping” has ever been attempted on this part of the ocean.

“The weather was marginal but we pulled it off,” reports Mark Veary of Hillsboro, Ore., today. “Bryce is the man — first blood and most fish.”



Bryce would be Bryce Molenkamp of Shoreline, Wash. He hauled two tuna aboard his yellow pedal-powered Hobie, the first while actually just letting line out, Veary says.

We can’t say with absolute certainty, but that probably makes Molenkamp the first angler to ever catch an albie from a ‘yak in the North Pacific.

Catch An Octopus From A Kayak, Get A Million-plus Hits On YouTube (Nov. 30, 2011)

Remember that post we did back in mid-May, the one about how our kayak kolumnist Bryce Molenkamp hauled in an octopus while fishing for halibut off Neah Bay …

Had a picture of him and his crew holding the eight-armed, 5-foot-wide denizen of the deep …


Included a link to a video that one of his buddies, Jeff Anderson aka megapickles, posted on YouTube …

Would you believe that that clip has been viewed over 1.6 million times as of noon, Nov. 30 in the year of our lord 2011?

As of 2:27 p.m. PST, Dec. 28, 2011, the YouTube tally stands at a whopping 5,903,663, making it the most-viewed “kayak fishing” video on the site by far and second-most viewed Northwest fishing clip. And globally, it’s among the top 30 most-viewed “fishing” videos.

(Just don’t ask for a raise, boyz.)

TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVEN WAS A HUGE WATER YEAR, and while downstream anglers benefited, two reservoirs on the upper Columbia felt the brunt of all that Cannuckian Rockies runoff: Lake Roosevelt, where who knows how many of its trout were entrained out of the impoundment (some turned up as far downstream as McNary Dam), and Rufus Woods, where things looked grim at first.

Rufus Woods Fishkill Update, And Other News (May 27, 2011)

Rufus Woods’ free-roaming rainbow trout — the ones that anglers drive hundreds of miles to catch — at least had a chance to escape from the spike of dissolved gasses that appear to have killed an estimated 35,000 trout in the commercial netpens at the North-central Washington reservoir this week, and possibly hundreds of thousands more.

“The deeper a fish sounds, it can (better) regulate gas bubbles,” explains Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife biologist Chris Donley in Spokane. “The loss is in the fish that can’t sound, can’t adjust. That’s why they’re seeing losses in the netpens.”

‘Probably Over A Million Fish’ Lost In Rufus Woods Gas Kill (June 2, 2011)

Though it’s late in the season, anglers are catching fish at North-central Washington’s Rufus Woods Lake, site of last week’s massive fishkill.

“Right now they’re doing quite well, actually,” says Sheri Sears, Colville Confederated Tribes’ senior policy analyst for fisheries and former fisheries division manager.

Not doing so well: operators of the commercial netpens there. The Columbia River is still flowing too high for divers to get an accurate count, but as many as half of the 2.7 million trout raised for stores and restaurants there may have died, she says.

“Probably over a million fish” were lost, Sears says.

Rufus Woods Fishing Update (June 6, 2011)

The bad news: Rufus Woods Lake is “up and ugly looking — stuff floating down and lots of color. Looks like you’re fishing downstream from a sewer plant.”

The good news: “The fishing is excellent right now.”

Those were the words from angler Ernie Buchanan of Okanogan and WDFW wildlife officer Jason Day over the weekend.

Apparently there was some sort of “unofficial release/escape” from some of the netpens during late May’s flow spike that also devastated the commercial trout operation.

Rufus Anything But Dead (June 10, 2011)

Dissolved-gas-laden river flows croaked over half of the 2.7 million trout in commercial netpens on Rufus Woods Lake in late May, but it appears that a fairly large number managed to escape when the weight of their dearly departed friends and families against the mesh moved the pens off their moorings.

The Colville Tribes were also able to release their broodstock redband rainbows beforehand.

And now they are all hungry.

Very, very, very hungry.

In fact, it’s rather amazing that Bill Herzog and his son River were able to return from their trip there Wednesday with all their fingers and toes.

Rufus Woods near the Timm Ranch was “boiling” with trout, Herzog reported to Joel Shangle, his cohost on Northwest Wild Country Radio.

“It’s spec-#@$%@$-tacular,” Herzog said in a voice mail left on Shangle’s phone.

The duo were able to hook fish from 6 to 10 pounds “at will.”


THE LONG, COLD, WET SPRING DIDN’T DISCOURAGE MARIJUANA FARMERS from putting in a massive crop in Northeast Oregon.

Bear Hunters Discover ‘Staggering’ Big OR Pot Grow (June 17, 2011)

You read about the problem of pot growers moving into Washington and Oregon hunting grounds in the July 2010 issue of Northwest Sportsman and in our blog, and now today comes word that spring bear hunters discovered what is believed to be the “largest outdoor marijuana grow to date in Oregon.”


It was busted on Wednesday at an undisclosed location in northern Wallowa County; officers arrested six suspects of undetermined nationality.

According to the Oregon State Police, the grow stretched over a mile long in a ravine, comprised 91,000 plants and included “miles” of irrigation. They say it appears to have been in the area for awhile.

POACHERS MADE QUITE A BIT OF NEWS IN 2011, especially in Oregon, where state troopers suspected that two Willamette Valley men killed over 300 deer in a single unit the past five years.

‘Largest Single’ Poaching Case In OSP History (April 28, 2011)

It’s being called the “largest single” poaching case that the Oregon State Police have ever investigated, and the alleged wildlife death toll and court charges against nine Springfield residents back that up.

Some are felonies that, if proven, could lead to sentences of up to 20 years in jail and $375,000 fines apiece.

Even more stunning, the image that OSP Fish & Wildlife Division included in the press release. It shows dozens upon dozens upon dozens of deer racks seized during search warrants served in January.


The allegations, if true, are mind boggling.

Three hundred deer poached over five years — just from one unit.

Sixteen hundred pounds of meat seized.

Identity theft.


A criminal conspiracy.

Even more charges possible.

“This is the largest single case the State Police has investigated regarding poaching,” OSP Sgt. Ron Martin told a local news station.

In the end, who knows how many game animals have allegedly been stolen from hunters and the public by a very greedy few.

The true wolves, exposed.

Just sickening, absolutely sickening.

“Makes me want to cry,” says one Junction City hunter. “Really really does! I have seen so many nice bucks in the McKenzie. I go to bed at night thinking of how big they are and knowing a guy might have a chance at one of them someday.  Then something like this — how disheartening, wrong, unethical. Sickening.”

Springfield Man Loses Hunt Privileges For Life After Plea Deal In Massive Deer Poaching Case (June 20, 2011)

One of nine Springfield residents accused in what police have called the largest deer poaching case in state history will never be able to hunt in Oregon again.

Miguel A. Kennedy, 26, pled guilty to identity theft (four counts); forgery in the second degree (two counts); unlawful loaning or transfer of hunting tag; and racketeering and was sentenced last week to eight months in jail, $800 in fines and three years on probation, according to the Eugene Register-Guard.

Deserving Sentence For OR Deer Poachers (July 13, 2011)

A big tip of the cap to the Lane County court system — as well as the hard work of the Oregon State Police who made the massive case.

In an “unusual” — but well deserved — sentence handed down yesterday, a pair of Springfield deer poachers will be spending the next four deer seasons in jail.

When you’re heading into the Oregon hills come October, Shane Donoho, 37, and his father, Rory Donoho, 60, will be sitting in the county klink for 90 days after pleading guilty to a criminal conspiracy that, state police allege, killed over 300 deer the past half decade — 30 times the bag limit for the area they poached in had they been hunting lawfully.

As it turned out, however, the Donohos didn’t have to do hard time, due to a lack of space in the local jail.

One guy who did serve some time for poaching was James Cody Stearns of Hoquiam, who also served as the “poster boy” for House Bill 1340, a bill eventually signed into law by Governor Gregoire.

 Spree Poacher Bill Sent To Guv (April 8, 2011)

A tip of the cap to the Washington Legislature. Every single state Representative and Senator voted for a bill that stiffens penalties for big-game spree killers.

HB 1340 flew through the lower chamber on a 97-0 vote (with one member excused), and yesterday cleared the upper, 49-0.

“It’s looking good,” said WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci. “It should be off to the governor’s office soon. And I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately.”

Basically, 1340 expands what can be considered unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony. Previously, offenders had to have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge.

But now someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged straight away in the first degree.

Cenci used a KIRO 7 report on convicted poacher James Cody Stearns, “The Headhunter,” to educate lawmakers on the need to pass the bill.

THOSE KILLJOYS, PETA, WERE AT IT in the midst of a pretty nice pink salmon run.

New Low For PETA Antifishing Campaign (Sept. 21, 2011)

PETA has made a miscalculation if they think that a new campaign wrapped around the word  “hooker” will make us Northwest parents less likely to teach our kids to fish.

They are, of course, trying to associate your daughters and my sons with prostitution, but the usage backfires because, well, right now Mama and Daddy are out on the Happy Hooker chasing ‘hos (i.e., coho) while looking for a little ‘Nooky (Chinook) and humpy (pink salmon) on the side, and then emailing around our fish porn.

(The boat, of course, is trailered behind a rig sporting the bumper sticker People Eating Tasty Animals.)

Admittedly, our fathers, grandmothers and Izaak Walton are probably shaking their heads at our generation’s crass terminology — the kids these days.

Just as we’ll shake our heads at the words our children will one day use to describe their angling activities.

But fishing is an old and proud and culturally relevant way of life around here.

A FAR MORE REAL THREAT TO OUR OLD AND PROUD WAY OF LIFE, discovery of a troubling fish virus just north of the international border. Scientists are still trying to figure it out and it will be one to watch in 2012.

More On Deadly Salmon Virus Found In 2 Wild BC Sockeye (Oct. 19, 2011)

Word that a deadly salmon virus that has severely affected aquaculture operations elsewhere in the world was found in two wild young sockeye on the central British Columbia coast hit the news yesterday.

Whether the pair would have suffered the same fate from infectious salmon anemia, described as flu for fish, as millions of farmed Atlantic and coho salmon in Chile and Europe have remains to be seen, apparently, but in the meantime, fishery biologists and researchers have been in the news this week.

IN 2011, THE FOCUS OF DAM REMOVALS SWITCHED from Oregon, where Gold Ray on the Rogue and Powerdale on the Hood came out in 2010, to Washington.

While the biggest project and most attention was paid to the Elwha, where Aldwell and Glines Canyon are in the process of being torn down, the most dramatic was the sundering of Condit Dam on the White Salmon in October.

Kaboom At Condit (Oct. 26, 2011)

Before noon, skeins of water fell off the side of the canyon below the spillway and a light wind intermittently rustled leaves nearby.

Overhead a helicopter whirred then veered off and its noise was replaced by a banking airplane. Then the sounds merged.

That was the scene at Condit Dam right before it was sundered.

Just after noon, a dozen or so longer and longer whistle blasts were followed by two minutes of silence. Then after six dozen whistles less than a second apart, there was an explosion that breached the bottom of the dam followed by a great rumbling as perhaps the biggest flood since the Missoula Floods 10,000 years ago hit the canyon.






Condit Kaboom Take 2: ‘Likely Loss Of A Great Fishing Spot’ (Oct. 28, 2011)

Allen Thomas has a different take on this week’s breaching of Condit Dam on the lower White Salmon River.

“Sportsmen probably are losing one of the best steelhead fishing holes in the state,” writes the outdoor reporter for The Columbian. “Those migrating steelhead may be losing one of their best cold-water refuges.”

Ostensibly, the 125-foot-high dam is being demolished because it’s three times cheaper for PacifiCorp to do so than retrofit it for fish passage as required by Federal recertification of the facility.

Taking it down will also open up potential spawning habitat for salmon and steelhead.

But in Wednesday’s explosion and flood, Thomas saw something different: a muddy slurry of silt and logs draining out of Northwestern Lake and down the canyon to the Bonneville Pool.

He worries that the mouth of the White Salmon will clog up, like other nearby streams, and that may affect the band of boaters who target steelhead drawn in summer to the cool, clean waters there.

Thomas notes that in 2009 the fishery yielded just under 7,000 summer-runs, sixthmost in the state.

“So amid all the giddiness of the dam removal, and the potential for salmon and steelhead to use ‘new’ habitat upstream, take a moment to mourn the likely loss of a great fishing spot,” he writes.

IT’S NOT THE ONLY LOOMING LOSS for sport fishermen in the Columbia Gorge.

New Fishing Platforms Built At Drano’s Best Bank Spot, And Other News (June 16, 2011)

Allen Thomas is a machine.

In one story today The Columbian‘s outdoor reporter has the scoop on new fishing platforms built by the Yakama Nation at the best spot to fish from the bank at Drano Lake, a popular salmon and steelhead fishery.

“We’re concerned if they are taking over the bank fishing,’’ (WDFW salmon manager) Cindy LeFleur said. “We don’t have that much up there.’’

Asked if non-Indians can fish off the platforms, she said: “They were built by Yakama members, I wouldn’t recommend it.’’

(Speros) Doulos, (Columbia Gorge) hatchery complex manager, has asked for a Department of Interior solictor’s office opinion on the platform issue.

“I’m going to assume the tribe has a right to construct a platform in the ceded area of the Yakamas,’’ Doulos said. “Until I get a solictor’s office legal read, I’m taking a hands-off approach.’’

Meanwhile, next year’s king forecasts for the Columbia were announced just a couple weeks ago.

Columbia Springer, Summer, Fall 2012 Chinook Forecasts Look Good (Dec. 12, 2011)

Columbia salmon managers are forecasting a run of 314,200 upriver-bound spring Chinook next year as well as 91,200 summer kings and another “strong” return of falls.

If the springer forsoothing holds, it would be the fourth largest return since 1979 and second largest of the past five years.

Then there’s the forecast for a record 91,200 June hogs, or summer Chinook, headed for North-central Washington and elsewhere. It would be the highest since 1980; the standing high mark is 89,500 in 2002.

The panel also predicts 462,000 sockeye, which, if it comes to pass, would be a record by a wide margin. In 2010, 387,868 were estimated to have entered the Columbia.

MUCH, MUCH MORE HAPPENED IN 2011 of course. Here’s a quick and dirty look at other noteworthy events, by headline and in rough chronological order, from January to December:

More ‘Robust’ Reward Offered For High-Profile WA Poaching Cases

8 More Days For Lower Columbia Kings

Potholes Terns Like Upper Columbia Steelie, Springer Smolts

WA, OR Again Authorized To Take Out Sea Lions

A $1 Million Fish In One Of 9 WA, OR, ID Lakes?

Invasive Snails Found In Lake WA Trib

Be Whale Wise, NMFS Tells Sound Boaters

DNR Investigates Giving Out Of Keys To State Lands

WA FWC To Consider Expanded Boot Hunts For Cougars

Feds Yank OR, WA Sea Lion Killing Permit (Not That There Are Any Now At The Dam)

102-plus Pounds Of Record Fish In Idaho

‘Redden’s River’ Backs Feds’ Salmon Plan Up, Again

NSIA Joins Businesses Asking For ‘Decisive Change’ On Columbia-Snake Salmonid Restoration

Pink-a-geddon About To Hit Seattle

Closely Watched By Waterfowlers, Willapa NWR Releases Final Plan

NOAA-Fisheries Accepts New Application For Sea Lion Removal at Dam

Two Monsters Caught Saturday: King, Muskie

Proposed Cuts Would Hack ‘Meat And Bone’ From WDFW Budget

Whoa Up On North Cascades Park Expansion Proposal

Seals, Sea Lions May Be Doing Most Of Their Springer Munching Well Below Bonneville

Don’t Coug It — No, Wait, Do Coug It: Lions Legal In WA Areas They Weren’t Last Year

33,000 Acres Of Ranchlands Opened For Eastern Oregon Hunters

Governor Unveils Proposed Preliminary Cuts To WDFW, State Budget

‘Possible New Record Brown Bullhead’ A Channel Catfish Instead

State, Federal Grant Moneys Fund 7,700-acre WDFW Land Buy Near Yakima

WDFW Hatchery Manager Jailed, Charged With Voyeurism

The King Dethroned: Cascade Steelie Catch Overtakes Skagit For Good

Photos Of Banks Lake At 31 Feet Below Full Pool

Judge Lays Into 3 Tasman Poachers: ‘Criminal, Egregious, Inexcusable’ Behavior Exhibited In Illegal Idaho Elk Killing Case

More OR Private Land Opened For Public Hunts In Valley, Basin

Whoa Up On Using Sportfish License $ For Commercial Interests: NW Fish Industry Reps to Gregoire

FWC Pulls Trigger On $4m, 2200-acre Deal For Part Of Large Asotin Co. Spread

Larry Carpenter, Sportfishing Advocate, Named To WA FWC

The scary thing is that, all the above links are just to what I posted to our Web site in 2011.

There was so much more Northwest fishing and hunting news out there from guys like Mark Freeman, Rich Landers, Allen Thomas, Scott Sandsberry, Bill Monroe, Henry Miller, Mark Yuasa, Doug Huddle — not to mention the radio and TV guys, the forums, the guides/skippers/outfitters, the agencies themselves — that I absolutely know I’ve missed some key stuff even in the sections I focused on.

(Hey, I am just one dood, I can’t catch it all.)

But overall, those were among the events in our world that made 2011 one for the books.

Happy New Year, and may 2012 be just as interesting … though, for my marriage’s sake, a little less wolfy.


Update On Blue Mountains Wolves

WDFW is making plans to return to the Blue Mountains next summer to try and trap and collar wolves.

A 10-day effort this past September came up empty.

Wolf reports here have been growing since 2006, and these days, Paul Wik, the district wildlife biologist for Southeast Washington, says he gets from two to five a week.

“The number of reports this year has increased quite a bit,” he says.

With reports of “multiple wolves running together,” Wik says it’s probable there is a pack in the Dayton Game Management Unit, on the northwest side of the Blues in the upper Touchet River basin.

He says there have also been concentrations of sightings elsewhere in the range, but whether those are from the Dayton animals, from another group, or from Oregon’s Walla Walla Pack is unclear.

A recently released map from ODFW shows the Walla Walla wolves’ territory covers a sliver of ground about 6 miles south of the border and 12 miles east of Milton Freewater.

“It represents the data we have,” says spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy. “This includes trail cams, tracks, and radio locations.”

The agency collared two pups in late October.

“No data from Washington has been turned up on this pack,” she says.

Last winter biologists knew there were wolves here, but were unsure which state was their primary range.

There are two other Oregon packs near the state border, Wenaha and the livestock-killing Imnaha. The signal from the Imnaha wolf known as OR-5, which wandered into Washington last winter, hasn’t been heard since despite multiple attempts to locate it.

As for the all important question, Wik says there have been sporadic reports of pups, but “nothing consistent.”

“It’s just a matter of time till there’s a breeding pair,” he says.

Washington’s newly approved wolf management and recovery plan calls for a minimum of four pairs here in the eastern third of the state, four in two other regions and three anywhere for three consecutive years — or 18 pairs in any single year — before state delisting.

Officials are now busy working on ways to communicate with the public on wolves and field biologists will make their winter-count flights soon.

WDFW trapper Paul Frame won’t be back to try again in the Blues until next July, says spokeswoman Madonna Luers. She says the area the Dayton wolves have been in is too high and snowy for winter work. Wik adds it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave a wolf in a trap for long.

Meanwhile, the hunts continue over in Idaho and Montana. In the former, 153 have been shot by hunters and one trapped; in the latter, 106 have been taken.

Idaho Fish & Game wants to use a chopper to hunt more in the Lolo Zone, where only six have been killed.

And only halfway to the quota of 220, Montana is extending its season till Feb. 15.

How The Commission Changed The Wolf Plan

On Saturday I outlined how the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission tweaked the wolf management plan from what Department of Fish & Wildlife staff sent them back in late July.

A side-by-side comparison of those revisions to the approved plan/EIS has since been prepared.

(For a look back to the Oct. 2009 draft plan, see the jpegs in the above link.)

To wit:

Key elements of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan


The table below compares major provisions of the plan adopted Dec. 3, 2011 by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission with those recommended by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department (WDFW). Changes adopted by the commission will be incorporated into the draft plan posted on this website by mid-January, 2012.

Plan Element WDFW Recommended

July 26, 2011

Commission Adopted

Dec. 3, 2011

Number of recovery regions Three recovery regions:

  • Eastern Washington
  • Northern Cascades
  • Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast
Downlist to Threatened: 6 successful breeding pairs for 3 years 2 in Eastern Washington2 in Northern Cascades2 in Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast Same
Downlist to Sensitive: 12 successful breeding pairs for 3 years 4 in Eastern Washington3 in Northern Cascades5 in Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast 4 in Eastern Washington4 in Northern Cascades4 in Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast
Breeding pairs required to delist 5 in Eastern Washington4 in North Cascades6 in Southern Cascades/Northwest      Coast
For 3 consecutive years or:

If 18 breeding pairs with required distribution are confirmed in any one year, delisting process could be initiated but actual delisting would not occur until geographic recovery objectives are met for 3 years.

4 in Eastern Washington4 in North Cascades4 in Southern Cascades/ Northwest Coast3 anywhere in state

For 3 consecutive years


If 18 breeding pairs are confirmed in any one year that meet the required distribution, the Department could consider delisting.

Initiating Status Review and Down-Listing or De-Listing Process WDFW can initiate after recovery objectives are met for 3 consecutive years. WDFW can initiate a status review prior to achieving the 3-year requirement for the Recovery Objectives. The Commission would not consider final action until after achieving the Recovery Objective.
Translocation of wolves from one area of Washington to another to establish a new population Available as a tool  Same
Manage for landscape connectivity Expand existing efforts to maintain and restore habitat connectivity for wolves. Same
Use of non-lethal injurious harassment Allowed by livestock owners (including family members and authorized employees) with a permit and training from WDFW during all listed statuses; will be reconsidered during Endangered status if used inappropriately or a mortality occurs under this provision. Same
Lethal control by state/federal agents of wolves involved in repeated livestock depredations Allowed during all listed statuses and after delisting, consistent with federal law. 
During all listed statuses, WDFW may consider issuing a permit to a livestock owner (including family members and authorized employees) to conduct lethal control on private land they own or lease if WDFW does not have the resources to address control.
Allowed during all listed statuses and after delisting, consistent with federal law. 
During all listed statuses, WDFW may consider issuing a permit to a livestock owner (including family members and authorized employees) to conduct lethal control if WDFW does not have the resources to address control.
Lethal control by livestock owners (including family members and authorized employees) of wolves involved in repeated livestock depredations Allowed with an issued permit on private lands and public grazing allotments they own or lease when wolves reach Sensitive status. Same
Lethal take of wolves in the act of attacking (biting, wounding, or killing) livestock Allowed by livestock owners (including family members and authorized employees) on private land they own or lease at all listed statuses, with an issued permit, after documented  depredation (injury or killing) in the area.
Would be reconsidered if used inappropriately or more than 2 wolf mortalities occur under this provision in a year. WDFW would evaluate the circumstances of the mortalities and determine if it would continue issuing permits.
Allowed by livestock owners (including family members and authorized employees) on private land they own or lease and public grazing allotments at all listed statuses, with an issued permit, after documented  depredation (injury or killing) in the area.
Would be reconsidered if used inappropriately or more than 2 wolf mortalities occur under this provision in a year. WDFW would evaluate the circumstances of the mortalities and determine if it would continue issuing permits.
Payment for confirmed livestockdepredation Full current market value for two animals for each confirmed depredation on grazing sites of 100 or more acres, and where the agency determines that it would be difficult to survey the entire acreage. It would not include double payment if all other animals are accounted for.
On sites of less than 100 acres, full current market value for each confirmed depredation.Losses covered on both private and public lands. 
Payment for probable livestock depredation Half the current market value for two animals for each probable depredation on grazing sites of 100 or more acres, and where the agency determines that it would be difficult to survey the entire acreage. It would not include double payment if all other animals are accounted for.
On sites of less than 100 acres, half the current market value for each probable depredation. Losses covered on private and public lands. 
Proactive measures to reduce depredation WDFW will provide technical assistance to livestock operators to implement proactive measures to reduce conflicts.
Assistance with some costs may be paid by non-profit organizations or other entities on a limited basis.
Ungulate management Manage for healthy ungulate populations through habitat improvement, harvest management, and reduction of illegal hunting.  Manage harvest to benefit wolves only in localized areas if research has determined wolves are not meeting recovery objectives and prey availability is a limiting factor. Same
Wolf-ungulate conflict management During any listed status, if the Department determines that wolf predation is a primary limiting factor for at-risk ungulate populations and the wolf population in that recovery region exceeds the delisting objectives for that recovery region, it could consider moving of wolves, lethal control, or other control techniques in localized areas.
The status of wolves statewide as well as within a specific wolf recovery region where ungulate impacts are occurring would be considered in decision-making.  Decisions will be based on scientific principles and evaluated by WDFW.
During any listed status, if the Department determines that wolf predation is a primary limiting factor for at-risk ungulate populations and the wolf population in that recovery region is at least 4 successful breeding pairs, it could consider moving of wolves, lethal control, or other control techniques in localized areas. The status of wolves statewide as well as within a specific wolf recovery region where ungulate impacts are occurring would be considered in decision-making.  Decisions will be based on scientific principles and evaluated by WDFW.
Definition of “at-risk ungulate population” For the purposes of this plan, an at-risk ungulate population is any federal- or state-listed ungulate population (e.g., Selkirk Mountain woodland caribou, Columbian white-tailed deer), or any ungulate population for which it is determined to have declined 25% or more below management objectives for three or more years and population trend analysis predicts a continued decline. 
For ungulate populations without numeric estimates and/or management objectives are not currently available, it will not be possible to use a specific threshold to assess a need for management action. Instead WDFW will use other sources of information related to the population, such as harvest trends, hunter effort trends, sex and age ratios, and others.
For the purposes of this plan, an at-risk ungulate population is any federal or state listed ungulate population (e.g., Selkirk Mountain woodland caribou, Columbian white-tailed deer). An at-risk population would also include any ungulate population which falls 25% below its population objective for two consecutive years and/or if the harvest decreases by 25% below the 10-year average harvest rate for two consecutive years.
In ungulate populations without numeric estimates and/or without management objectives, the department will rely on other sources of information to assess a decline, such as harvest trends, hunter effort trends, and sex and age ratios.
Outreach and education Use WDFW staff to conduct outreach and education programs. Same

WA FWC Chairwoman Talks Wolf Plan; Vote Slated For Saturday

Some days are more surreal than others. Take the recent one where I found myself emailing at the same time with two men on polar opposites of the wolf issue in Washington.

Well, subarctic opposites at the very least — like Patagonia and the Yukon Territory.

One is the head of a regional conservation organization that has been heavily involved in trying to aid Canis lupus recovery in the Evergreen State.

The other is a veteran hook-and-bullet journalist who will remind you that the very term “conservation” — and the wealth of critters we have around today — began with hunters.

I won’t even open the Pandora’s box of their tree-sitting, gun-toting, carbon-sequestering, liberal-bashing politics, but they actually have more in common than either would be comfortable admitting publicly (and probably even off the record).

Both want lots of critters (some much more so than others) and lots of habitat for them, both are leery of a proposal to expand North Cascades National Park, both wear hunter orange come fall, neither filled their elk tag this season, and both were impressed with the story of Kari Hirschberger, the Methow Valley woman who in mid-September was confronted and followed by two adult wolves while scouting for High Buck season — an unnerving encounter that nonetheless ended without any shots fired though they probably should have been for the safety of all parties.

And while the outcome the two men hope for is different, they’ll both be watching the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission very closely later this week as it decides on a final wolf management plan/environmental impact statement.

The seven-member panel will discuss the 521-page document amongst themselves this Saturday morning and then come to a decision.

That’s what it says on their agenda anyway.

The day before I traded emails with the above gents, I was on the phone with Miranda Wecker, chairwoman of the commission. She hesitated to predict what her fellow members would do, and sounded like she still had more questions than answers about the plan herself.

“We understand the significance of the issue,” Wecker said, then added, “There are reasons we should go forward and vote, and there are reasons that give us pause to accept this plan given the degree of concern in the hunter and livestock-producer communities.”

IT’S BEEN A LONG FIVE YEARS, ONE MONTH AND 27 DAYS since Fish & Wildlife put out a call for nominees to join “a citizen working group that will guide the department in developing a conservation and management plan for gray wolves in Washington.”

Seventeen people representing a wide spectrum of interests — ranchers, sportsmen, biologists, wolf advocates, among others — joined up and went to work.

Since then dozens of meetings have been held across the state, 43 peer reviewers have picked through draft plans, scores of he said-she said newspaper articles have appeared, hundreds of passionate speeches have been made by both sides, and tens of thousands of emails and form letters have flooded Olympia.

Also showing up in the state, at least five wolf packs, two in the Cascades, three in Northeast Washington.

Crossing the borders right behind the wild canids, all the angst, extraordinary hate and star-struck sentimentalities that have brewed in the Northern Rockies since wolves began filtering back into Northwest Montana in the 1980s and the Feds brought five and a half dozen from BC and Alberta into Central Idaho and Yellowstone in the mid-1990s.

There are now pro Washington wolf pages and anti Washington wolf sites. A “member” of the Lookout Pack tweets while an “alpha male” prowls a hunters’ forum. Every time WDFW posts something wolfish on its Facebook page, both sides rush in with foaming torrents of words.

    Cuddle and coddle!


    My science!

    My science!

    You suck!

    You blow!

Almost completely drowned out, voices of reason, sanity and moderation.

For her part, Wecker said she didn’t follow development of the draft plan very closely, though some members attended some meetings and reported back.

But last summer, as the group received the final recommendations from WDFW staff, the debate was right in front of them. Four public meetings later, they’re fully engaged.

“It’s by far the most contentious issue since I’ve been on the commission,” said Wecker, who was appointed in May 2005. “People feel passionately on both sides. There are those who believe they were extirpated for a good reason. And there are those who see them as important and part of the wilderness. There’s so much uncertainty, such different viewpoints. It’s the toughest one we’ve ever had to deal with.”

ONE QUESTION WECKER HAS IS, how will wolves do in Washington. It’s the $64,000 question: As much work as has gone into it, there’s no clear answer — computer modeling can only tell us so much at this early stage.

After diving into the issue in summer 2008 (when the first confirmed pack in 70 years took up residence in the Methow Valley, where I deer hunt) and talking with a number of real experts, I had begun to wonder whether wolves would amount to much in Washington. The habitat and prey availability just isn’t what it is in Idaho, western Montana and Northwest Wyoming.

The state represents the verge of woodland caribou and sea-run sockeye salmon country. Critters at the edge of their range don’t do as well as in their core. Washington is also the second most densely populated in the West with a vast megalopolis on one side and an equally vast, treeless, agland plateau on the other, neither of which work well for wolves.

But wolves have a way of surprising you. In the space of one week last summer, two new packs were confirmed in Washington, one just 97.9 road miles east of Fifth & James, and the latest GPS data shows that that footloose member of Northeast Oregon’s Imnaha clan, OR-7, is just a few hard days’ travel from California.

Or Nevada.

Or, heck, Washington.

Also unclear for Wecker: how in these money-tight times Washington will find the resources to manage the species and its baggage. WDFW has largely been paying for its wolf work so far through federal grants and vanity-plate sales, but is now trying to shake more money out of the Legislature.

If the history of wolves and lawsuit-happy organizations in the Northern Rockies is any indication, to scientifically justify controlling their numbers, you must be able to quantify how much game they’re chewing up and that will require funding herd surveys and studies.

And if history is another indication, wolves will eventually gnaw on sheep and cattle, and when they do it often enough, they will have to be shot and killed — 1,517 were taken out in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming between 1986 and the end of 2010 — and checks will have to be written to ranchers for the depredations.

As for a headcount, the latest minimum estimate for Washington is somewhere around 25 to 30 adults and yearlings — pup numbers won’t be out till next year — but some hunters feel there are more, far more, and they’ve been recording their observations.

“If we don’t accurately count them, we’ll be behind the curve,” said Wecker. “That’s what many are pointing at — they don’t trust us to walk the walk, to carry out the management plan.”

She understands that, but said that the commission feels the plan is a very important tool for the agency to have.

“Delisting is in everyone’s interest,” she said.

Hanging out there is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision about whether wolves in the western two thirds of the state are part of the recovered population in the Northern Rockies, which was taken off the Endangered Species Act list last spring, or their own distinct group that requires continued Federal protection.

Originally that call was to be made at the end of 2011, but it has since been pushed back to late winter 2012, according to USFWS spokeswoman Joan Jewett.

Wecker said that WDFW staffers who’ve talked with the Feds have gotten the impression that if their plan is sound, the government is more likely to give the state day-to-day control.

“We want that authority,” she said. “As long as they are listed, we have no authority. We’d like to see the Federal government trust us and hand over management. If there’s no plan, it’s hard to imagine them handing it over to us.”

THE GOAL IS ALSO TO GIVE WDFW what it needs to deal with wolf-ungulate and wolf-livestock conflicts.

“We want the agency to have management flexibility,” Wecker said.

The nut of the final plan is that the benchmark for state delisting — and a gateway to potential future hunts — is at least 15 breeding pairs over three consecutive years in three regions: five in the eastern third of the state, four in the North Cascades, six in the elk-rich Southern Cascades/Southwest Washington/Olympics.

According to the scientists, 15 is the minimum needed to ensure recovery, but actually would mean as many as 23 packs and from 97 to 361 animals total.

No matter how many times the claim is repeated, neither WDFW nor USFWS are planning on reintroducing the native species, though translocation could be used to move them around inside the state to reach recovery goals — an expensive, time-consuming, litigious and divisive step.

But as they listened to public comment during their summer and fall meetings, commissioners began asking about potential revisions, so at their November confab WDFW staff came back with some tweaks that fell “within the bounds” of the recommended plan.

Rocky Beach, WDFW’s Wildlife Diversity Division manager, explained to me why they couldn’t just scrap the plan and take up calls from some hunters, cattle interests and rural counties to halve distribution numbers and lessen protections.

“Going any further than that would require a separate environmental impact statement,” he said, adding that would take months — three alone for public comment.

“Anything more major than that opens them up for lawsuits,” adds spokeswoman Madonna Luers.

As it stands, among the options prepared for the commission, one would change distribution numbers to initiate state delisting from the five-four-six formula to four-four-four-plus three anywhere in the state “and/or 18 breeding pairs (4/4/4/6) in any single year.”

Again, wolves will surprise you, but for hunters that represents an easier benchmark to meet in areas where it’s likely to take longer for the animals to spread — south of I-90 and west of I-82.

Enhanced lethal-take provisions for livestock operators grazing stock on public ground were also drawn up, as were more definitive resolutions to wolf-game conflicts.

WECKER’S HUSBAND HAD JUST KILLED AN ELK in the Willapa Hills when we spoke. She pointed out that all seven commissioners fish and five hunt (there are nine positions on the commission, but two are currently unfilled), and she insisted that WDFW is “still enthusiastic” about us and our tradition.

“We know (wolves) can impact prey species and hunting opportunities … and we care about maintaining hunting opportunities,” she told me.

She termed claims that the agency is turning its back on sportsmen these days “crazy,” and added, “The commission understands the impact of hunter conservation in support of the department. No question about it. It’s at the heart of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”

Still, Wecker said the commission has tried to be open minded and listened to both sides.

“I’ve read the plan, I’ve read the many, many emails we’ve received,” she said. “I think there’s no more information that will be new before the vote. It’s time to distill, mull over, consider the options to come to a personal decision about what is the right thing to do. There will be more conversation between the commissioners. Expect an hour, two-hour conversation amongst ourselves in public to sort through what we think. We’ll be thinking about it right up to the vote. I don’t think things are settled and clear for everyone.”

Hard to say what they will do, but one state staffer involved in the process hazarded a guess that if anything, they’d do minor tweaks that would help expedite delisting and response to livestock depredations.

Near the end of our conversation, Wecker said that the “take-home message” is that while how well wolves will do in Washington is unclear, WDFW has to do a good job managing the social tolerances.

“That’s a practical matter. Talk is cheap. We know we’ve got to perform on the ground where it matters,” she said.

Editor’s note: Previously this article stated that Washington was at the edge of Virginia whitetail deer range. However, a WDFW deer specialist tells me that the state’s whitetails are a “separate subspecies called the Northwest White-tailed deer which range from eastern Oregon north to B.C. southeast into NW Montana and north and north-central Idaho which kind of puts eastern Washington in the center or west center of the NW whitetails’ range.”

9th Circuit Court Hears Wolf Delisting Arguments

As the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission mulls the state’s final proposed wolf management plan in the lead up to its scheduled December decision, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tracks footloose OR-7 in the southern Cascades by satellite, and hunters in the Northern Rockies pursue wolves, a California courtroom was the scene of oral arguments today over last spring’s delisting of Canis lupus in the region.

An attorney for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others presented a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with arguments that there is precedent for Congress to legislatively strip wolves of Federal protection in eastern swaths of Washington and Oregon, and all of Montana and Idaho, a move which led to the latter two states opening wolf seasons.

Through Nov. 17, 107 wolves have been killed in Idaho, including 20 in the Panhandle zone. Trapping seasons begin Nov. 15.

The court is hearing the case after U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s August ruling basically in favor of state management was appealed.

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs, says that Congress “clearly overstepped” its authority and said it was a “terrible precedent that must be overturned.”

RMEF president and CEO David Allen notes that if CBD and others lose, they could take the case to the Supreme Court.

“But I’m hoping that a Congressional act, two courtroom defeats and an American public that is clearly tired of all this legal wrangling will encourage our opponents to give up — and cede responsible wolf management and control to conservation professionals in each state.”

Here’s a link to an AP story on today’s arguments.

The Elk Foundation is also supporting ODFW’s wolf management authority in a separate case in an Oregon court, and recently sent a letter to WDFW on its plan.

In it, RMEF said it “strongly recommends eliminating the three year waiting period after the wolf population has reached the delisting criteria before the wolf management plan can be implemented.”

Under the current plan, to meet state recovery goals, a certain number of breeding pairs must exist for three straight years in three different zones.

For more from RMEF’s letter, go here.