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Wolves hot topics, targets this week

PREDATORS — Wolves are in the news and on the agenda this week

In Idaho today:

Idaho’s Senate Resources and Environment Committee scheduled a hearing of House Bill 470, legislation authorizing Gov. Otter’s “Wolf Control Board,”  today, March 14, at 1:30 p.m. (MDT).  Today, the committee will vote on whether to send HB 470 to the Senate Floor.  Stream the hearing LIVE Here.

In Montana:

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday adopted regulations to implement a law that allows landowners to shoot threatening wolves on sight, without a hunting license. Senate Bill 200, which passed last year, allowed landowners to kill wolves that threaten their property without having to buy a permit or hunting license. Commissioners determined wolves were a “potential threat” when they were threatening people, pets, or livestock on private property. Landowners have 72 hours to report such kills to the agency. 

In Idaho/Oregon

Collared wolf OR-17 leaves Oregon, where it was protected, crossed into Idaho and was legally shot by a hunter. See story

In Washington

State biologists spays wild wolf after romp with loose dog. See story.

Photos: River otters thriving in Kettle River

WILDLIFE WATCHING — "I had a rare treat today (March 13)," says J. Foster Fanning of Curlew. "Came across a family of four river otters enjoying the warm, late winter's afternoon and nearly ice-free Kettle River upstream from Curlew, Wash.

"While they were curious about the photographer, they were also shy. Took a bit to get a few good images.”

Click "continue reading" to see his treat multiply. 

Oregon releases wolf status report: numbers up, packs down

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has documented a minimum of 64 wolves in eight packs, including four breeding pairs for 2013, compared with 46 wolves in six packs with six breeding pairs in 2012.

The survey results are in the just-released final 2013 Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Annual Report , which includes the 2013 update for Oregon’s Wolf Population

Oregon has added a research section to the wolf webpages. Wolf photos from 2013 and 2014 have been added to Oregon's wolf photo gallery.

  • On Saturday, Washington's 2013 wolf status report was released citing a minimum of 52 wolves in 13 wolf packs with five successful breeding pairs. 
  • Idaho has not yet released its annual report.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires the state reports to be filed on the recovery of the endangered species by the first week of April.


NYT op-ed writer pleads for balance on assessing impact of wolves

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In the past week, readers have forwarded me several stories and videos, such as the one above, glamorizing the benefits gray wolves have provided in restoring the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park since the species was reintroduced in 1995.

The information has been well reported for years and the video is basically correct, according to scientists. And for the record, I am fascinated by wolves, too.

But when the glorification of the wolf is digested alone without the salad and the side dishes of other research and realities, it can lead to indigestion, regurgitation and a less than healthy oversimplification in the public arena.

So let's thank the New York Times for giving another scientist a chance this week to call time out and feed all of us who are interested in wolves from one angle or another some food for thought

Associated Press gets C-minus grade for wolf status reporting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Seattle Bureau of the Associated Press copied a line from a Defenders of Wildlife news release into the lead of a Saturday story that robbed the public of balanced reporting on wolf recovery  — a hot topic — in Washington.

Shortly after Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials announced on Saturday that they'd confirmed "four new wolf packs" and "steady growth" of the state's wolf population, the Defenders of Wildlife issued a press release referring to the WDFW announcement. The Defenders twisted the state's survey and called Washington's wolf population "stable."  

The animal rights group correctly pointed out that the wildlife officials had CONFIRMED 52 individual wolves in the state.

But then the Defenders invented the phrase, "an increase of one individual wolf," which the WDFW officials did not say, but the Associated Press used in the story lead as though it were a fact from the state.

What wildlife officials DID say is that they cannot count every wolf in the wild so they're no longer going to try, as they did last year when they estimated the population at 50-100 wolves.  

The number 52 is a minimum figure they could confirm at the end of 2013.   But to say 52 is "an increase of one" from last year's estimate is fabricated by the Defenders, an organization that benefits politically and financially from convincing the public that wolf recovery is slow or not happening.

AP Seattle Bureau writer Phuong Le further confuses the issue later in the story by pointing out CORRECTLY that WDFW in 2013 had estimated the wolf population at 50-100 individuals.

So why did she say this year's estimate is an increase of 1?  Because Defenders did.

God only knows why the reporter used the material from a special interest group in her lead rather than the information from the WDFW. There was PLENTY of information the state biologists released regarding the status of wolves in Washington to make an good story — which The Spokesman-Review published, but the AP ignored.

Perhaps the worst part about the story is that it goes on to quote reactions from two out-of-state-based pro-wolf groups — Defenders and the Center for Biological Diversity — without a single mention of in-state livestock or sportsmen's groups that might have balanced the story a bit.

The reason:  The two pro-wolf groups sent press releases (I got them, too).  

In my view, the reporter of a news story on the event at hand either should have sought more than one side of the wolf recovery story, or she should have stuck with the info coming from the scientists and worked to get the broader reaction later.

Groups that weigh in heavily regarding the impacts of wolf management did not send out press releases and thus were left out — as if they're not there.  That's a poor service to the readers of the many news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest that had access to that story on the AP wire.

Read on for the full AP story.

Map shows wide range of wolves radio-collared in Washington

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The map graphic above shows how some Washington wolves range far while others keep fairly small home ranges.

I detailed the the relevance of Ruby Creek Wolf 47, which was captured in Pend Oreille County and fitted with a GPS collar last year by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists to monitor its movements.

The wolf was one of 11 wolves with active transmitters that were followed by state researchers in 2013 and provided the travel information summarized in the map graphic above.

The collared wolves, among other things, helped the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirm four new wolf packs in the state, bringing the total number to at least 13.

Wolves are protected in Washington by state endangered species rules. But several of the wolves that have taken off from Washington to range widely into Canada have been legally shot during hunting seasons authorized in British Columbia.

Recent outdoors stories in the Spokesman-Review

Video: Wolf attacks and packs away pet dog from yard in B.C.

PREDATORS — If you've ever wondered what it looks like when a wolf decides somebody's pet dog is going to be dinner, here you go.

Warning: While its not gory, the video is unsettling.

Question:  Are you comfortable with the modern world of videoing, posting and "sharing" tragedies rather than picking up a rock and trying to help the world's underdogs?

Another sign of spring: Grizzlies emerging

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you need more reassurance that spring has sprung, Yellowstone National Park officials have reported that grizzly bears are beginning to emerge from their dens.

First bears out of the hatch usually are males.  Females with cubs born in the den during winter usually are last out, giving the cubs more chance to develop.

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.

The first confirmed reports of grizzly bear activity in the Park were reported on March 4. Guides and visitors observed and photographed a grizzly bear along the road in the Hayden Valley area. The first black bear of the year was observed on February 11 near the south end of the park.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety Web page.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm is a violation of park regulations. The park’s law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

Video cam captures spectrum of critters in Stevens County

WILDLIFE WATCHING — How many species of critters will pass the lens of a trail camera positioned at one spot in Stevens County, Wash.?

You'll be surprised.

Keep your eye open for the bobcat.

Idaho kills 23 wolves from helicopter this month in Lolo Zone

PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game, in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, killed 23 gray wolves from a helicopter near the Idaho-Montana border during February in an effort to relieve predation on the struggling elk herds in the remote Lolo Zone.

The agency said in a just-issued media release that the wolf-control effort has been completed.

"The action is consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives," the agency said in the release.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season – 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping, officials said. 

The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.

Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones.  Officials said their goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.

The Lolo elk population has declined from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website.

This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years.  A total of 25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.

Fish and Game officials say they authorize control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines.  Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature, they say.

More from IFG:

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals.  The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.

 Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat.  The short-term goals in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.

Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.

Five wolves collared this week in Eastern Washington

WILDLIFE — It's been a good week for Washington Fish and Wildlife researchers working with a helicopter to capture wolves so they can be fitted with tracking collars.

At least five wolves were captured and released from Monday through Thursday. Two were in the Ione area of northeastern Washington and three were captured Thursday on the east slopes of the Cascades.

Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore manager, said the effort to collar more wolves so they can be monitored for wolf research will continue into next week.

Wildlife refuge cameras catch cats in the act of poaching

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Florida research project on endangered species in the hammocks of North Key Largo uncovered an unwanted cast of video stars: Cats perched atop man-made woodrat nests.

"The cats are doing the things that cats do when they hunt," Jeremy Dixon, manager of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge says in a story by KeysInfoNet.

"It's not the fault of the cats," Dixon said. "It's the fault of owners who allow their cats to trespass into the refuge, or people who dump cats on North Key Largo."

My stand on the issue of domestic cats that are let loose to kill birds and other critters:

Loose-running domestic cats kill for fun. These cats are not wildlife. They should be licensed and required to abide by seasons and quotas just as human hunters.


Girl, 11, kills cougar that trailed her brother

UPDATED: 3:15 p.m., Feb. 26 with info about increase in cougar permits.

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — An 11-year-old girl shot a cougar that was following her 14-year-old brother to their home at Twisp, in north central Washington, the state Fish and Wildlife Department said.

You've got to admire Shelby White: Not only did she have a cougar tag, but she put it to good use.

And get this: Her 9-year-old brother shot a cougar threatening their livestock the previous week.

Read the latest story here.

The female cougar killed last week was about 4 years old and weighed about 50 pounds — half of what it should weigh, said Officer Cal Treser.

It's the latest in a rash of cougar incidents in the Methow Valley this season.

Another sickly cougar was killed this month at a residence in Stehekin.

In response to an above-average number of cougar-related complaints in the Methow Valley, three hunters were issued special permits by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last week to hunt cougars with hounds in a designated area.

The cougar removal hunt opened Feb. 15 and will continue through March 31, or until it is closed by state wildlife officials, said Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore section manager.

Looks like one straight-shooting girl did a little of the work for them.

Click "continue reading" for more news about this unusual season of cougar issues and kills in the Methow Valley, including the saga the White family has had.

Weather prime for low-flying wildlife researchers

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The region's wildlife researchers are flying high — and low — with this week's weather.

The big dump of snow followed by clear weather is perfect for using helicopters to locate and capture critters so transmitter collars can be attached for research.  Fleeing animals bog down in the snow giving the pilot and gunner the best conditions for capture.

Methods used include shooting tranquilizer darts directly from the helicopter to the animal in a low-flying chase or shooting a net from the helicopter before landing and administering the drug after subduing the animal.

Washington Fish and Wildlife staffers took advantage of the weather Monday to recapture a female wolf near Ione to replace a faulty collar that had been attached after the wolf was trapped in July. On Tuesday they caught another female wolf in the same area and attached a collar. The staffers are working to put collars on other wolves in these prime conditions.

Idaho is scrambling to get more collars on elk in the Coeur d'Alene River drainage this week for a large-scale study.

Sickly cougar incident at Stehekin prompts social media blitz

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Wenatchee World story about a Stehekin homeowner who ended up having to shoot a sickly cougar acting aggressively on his porch has become the newspaper's most widely circulated story on social media.

A Facebook post that was originally put up by Robert C. Nielsen and reposted with permission by The Wenatchee World has been viewed more than 1.5 million times, with comments, likes and shares coming from around the world, the newspaper reports in a story picked up by the Associated Press.

Here's the rest of the AP version of the World story by Michelle McNiel explaining the incident and some of the reaction.

Nielsen, a resident of the remote community at the head of Lake Chelan, first posted pictures and a write-up about his encounter with the big cat last week. He said he got up to let his dog outside on the night of Feb. 10. Just after bringing his dog, Maya, back inside, he heard a thump at the door and saw a cougar jumping against the glass pane outside.

He wrote that the cougar was "all jumping up and down, snarling and growling and pawing to the very top of the glass . without exposed claws."

He got a gun and a camera, and then went upstairs and dropped a coffee cup on the cat’s head. "It didn’t flinch," he wrote.

He then fired two warning shots next to it. But it stayed. So he "switched weapons up a grade, in case it broke the window and came in," he said.

The cougar then left the door step and headed to Nielsen’s shop. He said he fired four more shots but, "It didn’t even look back."

Nielsen wrote that in his 34 years in Stehekin, he’s seen only four cougars - two sick ones and two healthy ones.

"It doesn’t take a loud noise to start a healthy cougar moving, most of the time," he said. "More like, you’d be lucky to see a healthy cougar, so fast do they disappear if surprised."

He didn’t see the cat anymore that night. But the next morning before heading to work, he went into his shop to get gloves.

"The shop door was left open to air out fumes," he wrote. "I rounded in, noticed briefly a new layer of mess on the floor, and was met by Little Miss Snarly Puss! She was hunkered down part way under a cabinet."

He continued that, "She did her best to eat through a tool bucket, destroying my knee pads, eating the rubber grip off a cordless tool, and generally not getting any satisfaction. Lots of growling and snarling going on in there while I backpedaled and slammed the door shut."

As he continued to work, he met two other Stehekin residents, who offered to kill the cat for him. After the cat was shot, they discovered that it was severely underweight, had many broken and lost teeth, and was covered in open sores on its body.

Nielsen’s story and photos have gone viral in the world of social media. In addition to the 1.5 million-plus visits, the post on The World Facebook page had 76,896 likes and was shared by 13,424 people.

One of the shares was to the social news and entertainment website, Reddit, where it had been viewed several hundred thousand times by Wednesday afternoon.

Comments ranged from astonishment about a cougar being in close proximity to people, to sympathy for the dead animal.

"Where the hell do you people live for cats like this to just show up on your doorstep," one person commented.

"As a New Zealander, this absolutely amazes me," wrote another. "The best I get is the neighbour’s cat looking like it wants a pat, and then freaking out as soon as I open the door."

One commenter wrote, "I live in Egypt. Worst I’ve ever seen is a cat-sized rat in Cairo."

Wolf baiting in Panhandle hunting proposals to be presented Thursday

HUNTING — A proposal to allow hunters to use bait in luring wolves in the Idaho Panhandle is among numerous 2014 big-game season proposals geared to reviving elk populations statewide.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department will hold an open house meeting to explain and take comment on the package of proposals 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, at an open house at the Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn, 506 W. Appleway Ave.

$7,500 offered in Stevens County wolf poaching case

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A reward of up to $7,500 is being offered for help solving the case of a gray wolf found on Feb. 9 shot to death in northern Stevens County.

Wolves are protected in Washington by state endangered species laws.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian confirmed this week that the wolf died from gunshot wounds, Dan Rahn, regional enforcement supervisor said today.

Western Washington-based Conservation Northwest put up the reward for information leading to the conviction of the poacher, he said. The conservation group has helped promote range riders to protect livestock from wolves in northeastern Washington, where most of the state's growing wolf population is found.

The reward is set to be officially announced later this afternoon.

WDFW officials queried could not remember a reward of that size ever being offered for an Eastern Washington wildlife poaching case.

The female wolf had been monitored by state biologists since February 2013, when it was caught and fitted with a GPS collar.

It was a member of the Smackout Pack that ranges in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, but appeared to have been traveling alone since the pack broke up in April, said Donny Martorello, department carnivore manager.

The collar on this female wolf and two male wolves also were designed to trigger the wolf-scaring sounds and lights of Radio-Activated Guard boxes stationed near livestock grazing areas in the program supported by Conservation Northwest, said the group's spokeswoman Jasmine Minbashian. 

Roughly 100 wolves roam portions of Eastern Washington.

Tips on the case can be reported to:

  • The department’s Spokane office, (509) 892-1001.
  • The state’s poaching tip line, (877) 933-9847.
  • The agency website.  

Would you be tough enough to sit on a nest this week?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Today's outdoors column focuses on wildlife that don't let winter weather set back their biological clocks and instincts for procreation.

Have you seen a great horned owl on a nest in February?

Idaho facing up to more pets caught in traps

TRAPPING — I reported in December that pets, especially dogs, are vulnerable to traps set out near recreational trails.

As if to emphasize the point, two dogs have been reported killed recently by traps in North Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is gathering input from lawmakers, recreationists and trappers.

Two pet dogs were recently killed in northern Idaho when they wandered off a hiking trail and into a body-gripping trap set for a wild animal. Currently, trappers are allowed to set traps in many public recreational areas as long as they are at least five feet from the center of any trail. Trappers are not required to post warning signs. 

Wildlife cops investigate dead wolf in Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife police are investigating a wolf found dead in Stevens County on Feb. 9.

They report the circumstances "appear suspicious."  Wolves are a protected species in Washington and the penalties for killing them outside of self defense or defense of pets and livestock can be stiff.

The female wolf was wearing a GPS collar and was being monitored by Fish and Wildlife Department biologists. It was a member of the Smackout Pack that ranges in the far northeastern corner of the state, but she had been traveling alone, said Kevin Robinette, department regional wildlife manager.


Idaho House committee approves $2 million wolf-control bill

PREDATORS — The S-R's reporter in Boise has been following Gov. Otter's request for $2 million to bolster wolf control in Idaho. The plan seeks to reduce Idaho's population of around 600 wolves — down from closer to 1,000 a few years ago — to around 150, the minimum limit the state agreed to when the reintroduction of gray wolves was proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the early 1990s.

Here are reporter Betsy Russell's latest posts on today's activity in the Idaho Legislature:

$2 million wolf control bill clears House committee on 14-4 vote

Full house for $2 million wolf control bill hearing


New version of $2 million wolf-control bill introduced in House committee

Lawmakers back Otter-propossed fund to kill 500 wolves

Wolf-control bill barely introduced, on close 9-8 vote

Sen. Fulcher decries Otter's wolf-control fund

Rancher-senator backs Otter's wolf-control board

Otter plans $2 million in wolf control for Idaho

Trail cam website collects classic wildlife shots

WILDLIFE — The Thrill-On website has collected a fairly good series of wildlife photos — tender to terrifying —  from trail cams.  Check them out.

Roosevelt Lake shore ideal for winter hikes with dogs

HIKING — Hikers looking for a long winter walk where they can let their dog romp a bit might consider the shores of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area that are away from houses and buildings.

Be smart: If there's anyone around — anglers, walkers or anyone else — use a leash.

Snow rarely lingers long on the Roosevelt shoreline after a storm, and the water level is low from winter through early spring leaving a large beach area for roaming.

Local hiker Karen Jurasin snapped the photo above of her dog, Scout, during a romp on the shore line at the Hawk Creek area northwest of Davenport (page 315 in 100 Hikes of the Inland Northwest).

Test your knowledge of porcupines

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The porcupine doesn't get much press. Unless it's eating the bark off one of your trees or adorning your dog's nose with quills, you might never know that one is around.

The latest issue of Wildlife Express, an Idaho Fish and Game Department publication written especially for youth, has a fun story about the porky, providing some of the facts for this little quiz on the least-pettable member of the rodent family.

A. Newborn porcupines are called:

  1. Pups
  2. Kids
  3. Porcupettes

B. Giving birth to a porcupine is possible because:

  1. They're born without quills, which grow out within a week
  2. They're born with soft quills that harden soon after birth
  3. They're born in an egg-like case that dissolves when exposed to air

C. An adult porcupine defends itself by:

  1. Launching sharp quills like little rockets when attackers get close
  2. Climbing a tree and dropping like a bomb to impale the attacker with quills
  3. Sitting still, except for maybe a backward step and the swish of a tail, and letting attackers stick themselves with sharp quills that pull out easily from the porcupine but hook tenaciously to the attacker

D. A porcupine's main predators are:

  1. Fishers
  2. Golden eagles
  3. Bears

E. The Latin name for porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, means:

  1. Bark eater
  2. Quill pig
  3. Tree-climbing pin cushion

F. When a porcupine loses its quills in an attacker it:

  1. Dies, as a bee dies after losing its stinger
  2. Doesn't miss them because it has plenty more
  3. Grows replacement quills

G. A group of porcupines is called a:

  1. flock
  2. herd
  3. A prickle

Answers: A, 1 and 3. B, 2. C, 3. D, 1. E, 2. F, 3. G, c.

Senators skeptical of IDFG wolf count numbers

PREDATORS — State senators questioned the accuracy of Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s report on the number of wolves in Idaho during a hearing today in Boise.

Officials say there were 683 wolves in the state at the end of 2012 and preliminary numbers for 2013 point to populations falling below 600.

Several members of the Resources and Environment Committee contesting Wednesday that wolf numbers are actually much higher, according to the Associated Pres.

Fish and Game agreed the count skewed low, calling the numbers a “minimum,” but said it accurately depicts population trends.

Officials say the numbers will inform control policies. That’s been a contentious issue in Idaho, pitting ranchers and hunters worried about effects on elk and livestock against wildlife activists who argue the species has a right to live and hunt in the woods without being killed. 

Washington also is working on pegging the number of wolves and packs in the state at the end of 2013.  Fish and Wildlife officials say they won't have the surveys and numbers crunched until early March.

Study: Wolves eat into ranch profits by making cattle nervous

PREDATORS — I guess the old line can be revised based on the latest research:  

Montana — where men are men, women are scarce and livestock is nervous, if there's a wolf pack in the neighborhood.

U. of Montana researchers track cost of wolf predation for ranchers
Wolves can impact a rancher's bottom line beyond sheep and cattle the predators actually kill, according to University of Montana researchers. Using livestock sales records from 18 ranches in Western Montana, as well as data on wolf-tracking and climate between 1995 and 2010, the team found that, in herds where wolves had killed livestock, the weight of the calves that year decreased some 22 pounds per calf.  With herds averaging 264 calves sold that year, the cost to the rancher in underweight calves was $6,679.

On the other hand,  the study also found that annual precipitation and temperature played a much larger role than wolves in affecting cattle weight.

But it all adds up.

Trail cam catches battling bald eagles

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Sometimes trail cams are flat out lucky — as effective as a pro photographer at snapping the shutter at precisely the right moment to capture wildlife in action.

Here's a case in point.  The two photos, provided by a reader, show not only the dramatic incoming shot, but also the contact as two bald eagles, their talons entangled, tussle over the carcass of a dead horse near Sandpoint.

It's a tough life even at the top of the food chain. 

One point: Carcasses of any type provide good opportunities to mount trail cams for photos of predators and scavengers.  Wildlife managers might recommend a more controlled livestock carcass disposal method in wolf or grizzly country to prevent habituating the carnivores that could cause problems later on.  But a stock animal that dies a natural death during winter can be difficult to deal with because of snow and frozen ground. Scavengers take advantage.

States react to hunters scouting with drones

HUNTING — My recent post on states reacting to the possibility of hunters using camera-toting drones for scouting caught the attention of Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott, who checked the regulations of regional wildlife agencies.

Both Washington and Idaho have regulations banning the use of aircraft for scouting, but managers indicated to Walgamott they may have to tighten the wording to specifically deal with drones, a relatively new form of putting the eyes of remote cameras on the landscape.

The YouTube video above shows the artistic potential of using drones while it also clearly indicates the likelihood for wildlife harassment.  Every minute a moose has to spend checking out an annoying aircraft during winter is a minute the animal is not nibbling on browse or resting or whatever else its been naturally programmed to do for survival. 

Outdoor writer has wolf wish for 2014

PREDATORS — Roger Phillips, outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman, lists his four top wishes for 2014.

  1. More snow.
  2. More ammo.
  3. Non-government groups take the lead.
  4. No more wolves in the news.

Says the Boise-based writer:

Let’s all take a time out about wolves.

If you’re still howling mad about wolves existing in Idaho, you sound more like a wackjob than a skilled debater.

And if you love to hear the sound of an actual howling wolf, you’re more likely to hear one if you stop shouting.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/01/02/2952836/four-wishes-for-2014-more-snow.html#storylink=cpy