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Rancher: Being forced off private grazing land by wolves is wrong

UPDATED 1:30 p.m. with response to rancher from Conservation Northwest.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Following in this post is a just-released statement from northeastern Washington rancher Dave Dashiell regarding his experience with the Huckleberry wolf pack on private timber company ground he leased for grazing this summer.

As The Spokesman-Review reported this morning, the  Dashiells moved their flock of about 1,800 sheep off the grazing lease in southern Stevens County over the weekend after wolves had killed at least 24 sheep since mid-August.  Among the sheep they rounded up were several that had wounds, including a buck that may not survive.  “The cost for a replacement buck is $800-$1,000,” says Jamie Henneman of the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association.

  • Moving the sheep is costly and the unplanned move from summer to winter range six weeks early could have consequences down the line, especially in a drought year, the association says.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife worked with the rancher to defend the sheep and launched a helicopter gunning operation to kill up to four wolves in the pack, which includes 6-12 members.  Wolves are otherwise protected by state endangered species laws. The department has been under intense pressure from pro-wolf groups to avoid harming the Huckleberry Pack.

Only one wolf was killed before WDFW pulled gunners and trappers out of the area for the Labor Day Weekend.  No more sheep have been reported killed since last week.

For more background on the situation, here's a sampling of my S-R blogposts in reverse chronological order:

Pro-wolf groups pressure Gov. Inslee to curb wolf control

Huckleberry Pack attacks more sheep in Stevens County

Ranchers: Wolf attacks shouldn't force sheep off private land

Wolf update: Huckleberry Pack avoids helicopter gunners

Helicopter gunners kill at least 1 Huckleberry wolf

State targets wolf pack

Wolves kill 14 sheep in Stevens County

Here's the Dashiell statement posted today:

This summer our ranch experienced a crisis that is becoming all too common in Eastern Washington. Our sheep herd became the target of pack of wolves determined to kill and maim as many animals as possible despite our hardest efforts to prevent it.

Our usual everyday management included what a lot of people call “non-lethal deterrents” including a full time herder, four Marema/Akbash/Pyrenees cross guard dogs that live with the herd full time and rotating the sheep in their grazing area. But these actions did not prevent the wolves from attacking our sheep. Once the Huckleberry wolf pack began feeding on our band of sheep in early August, the killing was relentless with 2-3 animals lost every day. Once the killing started, we called on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to help and they provided the addition of four Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel stay with the sheep to try and increase human presence. We also allowed  the department to provide a range rider to try and haze the wolves and allowed the Department to chronicle the wolf kills as they happened on nearly a daily basis. This experience has taught us two things: once wolves start killing livestock, no amount of effort can discourage them and don’t put too much trust in words.

Weighing how much words are worth is something I have gained more experience in over the last year in my participation in the WDFW Wolf Advisory Group (WAG). For the last year, I have served as a representative for the Cattle Producers of Washington on the WAG, oftentimes traveling to all-day meetings far from the ranch. The purpose of our committee was to help the Department find ways to prevent and address the kinds of wolf conflicts I am currently experiencing and we can see how well that worked. The WAG had  long discussions about non-lethal methods, compensation, protocols for lethal removal, the monitoring and collaring of wolves and many other topics, but in the end all of the talk did very little to help a person in my situation.

In addition to being part of the WAG group, I am also one of a group of producers who have asked WDFW for wolf collar data so we can manage our herds. In our case we received no response and other producers were asked to sign a contract with certain non-lethal management rules first as some kind of test on whether they deserved the information or not. Being denied this basic tool directly caused the wolf conflict situation our ranch experienced, as we were unaware that we were moving our band of sheep near a wolf den site. Had we had access to the information, we would have made alternate grazing plans.

Words have also failed us because they aren’t always backed with action. We were told that four wolves from the Huckleberry pack would be removed, but as of last Friday, Aug. 22, the Department called off the helicopter team after only one wolf was removed and shortly after pulled the trappers as well. Our ranch was left and high and dry to try to try and handle the situation ourselves while at the same time having our hands tied due to the wolf’s state endangered species status.

With no other choice, we moved our sheep to a friend’s pasture on Sunday where they will be held until we can move them to a new grazing location far from our current site. Having to make this kind of change in the middle of the summer has caused considerable stress, expense and hardship to our operation. The grazing lease we had arranged with the private timber company was good until the middle of October and now we have to move our animals and try to find an alternate spot at the last minute. 

Our animals are stressed, many are wounded and over 24 are confirmed as wolf killed. We had hoped to stay on the private leased ground, fulfill our contract, knock down the brush and weeds on the land to help manage it and move in the fall. Instead, we are being forced to leave early because WDFW will not follow through on their commitment to manage wolves and remove chronically depredating wolves. All the commitments from the Department meant nothing and again, words have failed us.

We don’t want to see this situation play out again on a different ranch in the county. The time for words is over, we need to see action. The Huckleberry wolf pack needs to be removed, not our sheep. By making us leave we are only passing the problem along to others in the area when the wolf finds their pets, animals and livestock.

I know from experience that continuing to talk about the wolf issue is futile. Our situation and others clearly shows that while non-lethal  “deterrents” or management methods may work for a short amount of time, but they don’t work forever and once wolves start killing livestock, that behavior cannot be stopped.

Removing problem wolves is part of wolf management and this reality has been accepted by other states. Washington needs to accept this as well.

If we allow people to be forced off the land, our economy and our communities will suffer greatly. We are asking our Stevens County Commissioners Steve Parker, Don Dashiell and Wes McCart, our Sheriff Kendle Allen, our County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen and our legislators Joel Kretz, Shelly Short and Brian Dansel to recognize that the time for words is over, the time for action is now.

Following is a reaction to the Dashiell statement posted on my post on Facebook from Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest:

It's interesting that Dashiel wrote, “Our usual everyday management included what a lot of people call “non-lethal deterrents”… I suppose that's true, in the same way the aspirin is a heart disease deterrent. It's great up until the point that more is needed.

Why would he need collar data to know that the Huckleberry Pack denned a few miles from that pasture? As a member of the WAG, and as somebody who can look at maps on DFW's website, not to mention somebody who can hear a howl or see a scat/track, he should have already known.

He doesn't mention that, as I understand it, before this field season he turned down offers of cooperative agreements and substantial resources (including a rider, collars, etc.) from WSU and also DFW. Nor does he mention that during the two or so weeks in which the pack was developing a refined taste for his mutton, Dashiel and his presumably experienced “herder” thought they were experiencing cougar issues.

But what bothers me most is that he describes this as “a crisis that is becoming all too common in Eastern Washington.” Really? This and the Wedge Pack (2 years ago) make for two such crises, both with stubborn ranchers who resisted the resources to update their methods and prevent the situation. In the nine project seasons that Conservation Northwest has been involved in with more collaborative ranchers since 2012, our total number of depredations is ZERO.

Pro-wolf groups pressure Gov. Inslee to curb wolf control

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Environmental groups who've been unable to persuade Washington wildlife officials into letting wolves eat as many sheep as they like in southern Stevens County are pressuring Gov. Jay Inslee to clamp down on wolf management when it comes to lethal control efforts.   Here's the story just moved by the Associated Press:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push for the creation of strict rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations.

Their petition sought to limit when the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves. It would also require ranchers to use nonlethal measures to protect their livestock.

Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon.

The groups made the request as the state was in the process this week of trying to kill four wolves in the Huckleberry Pack in an effort to protect a herd of sheep. One wolf has been killed so far.

Wolves were hunted to extinction a century ago in Washington. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by entering Washington from Idaho and British Columbia. The state is estimated to have 52 wolves in 13 packs.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The governor’s office has 45 days to respond to the request. The office has received the petition and will review the request, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

In 2012, the state killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock, the environmental groups said.

They contend the situation is similar with the Huckleberry Pack.

However, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the owner of the sheep herd has taken numerous nonlethal steps to protect his 1,800 animals. But wolves keep killing the sheep.

Conservation groups filed a similar petition in 2013, but they withdrew it based on promises from the Fish and Wildlife to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. No negotiations have taken place, the environmental groups said.

The groups appealing to Inslee also include Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Huckleberry Pack attacks more sheep in Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Even though two more sheep were found injured from wolf attacks this week, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is planning to suspend trapping and ground helicopter gunners through the Labor Day weekend to avoid conflicts with recreationists and hunters out for the Sept. 1 opening of grouse hunting season.

At least 24 sheep have been killed in eight confirmed wolf attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing private timber company land in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14

One wolf was killed by a helicopter gunner on Aug. 22.  Although officers and ranch crews have been authorized to shoot up to four wolves in the pack of up to 12 members, no others have been killed.

Meanwhile, rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters apparently is making plans to move some or all of his sheep flock to other pasture he's secured.

Here's the latest update, through today and looking at plans from next week, from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director:

WDFW staff, along with the rancher, a contracted range rider, and four guard dogs continue to provide on-going presence to protect the flock of 1,800 sheep.

Two injured lambs were found by the operator yesterday.  This morning, one lamb died of its injuries, the other was euthanized.  Investigators attributed the injuries to wolves, making this confirmed depredation event #8.  The attack likely occurred a few days ago. 

As of this morning, no wolves were trapped/euthanized.  Trapping will cease after tomorrow morning.  Also, there will not be further aerial operations this weekend (the last flight was Tuesday morning).  We want to avoid conflicts and possible public safety issues with Labor Day weekend recreationists and Monday’s grouse and archery deer hunting opener.  Department staff and the rancher will continue to have authorization to lethally remove up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock, and we will not exceed a total of four wolves removed under the current authorizations for all lethal methods being utilized.

We learned that the rancher will likely be able to move his sheep off of this allotment and to an interim pasture next week.  We appreciate his efforts to expedite the move and will continue to offer and provide assistance where it is needed.

We have discussed compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves with the rancher and will continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once the more immediate issues are resolved.

In addition to continued work with this operator, Department staff will reach out to neighboring livestock owners.  Our focus is to ensure awareness of this wolf pack, and to offer technical and cost-share assistance to in an effort to avoid and minimize potential depredations to these adjacent operations. 

Attached is a chronology of activities associated with the Huckleberry Pack.  We will update it next week, once sheep are removed from the allotment.  It has been a dynamic situation, with information coming from the field, often times as new events are unfolding.  We understand the intense interest in and the desire for us to get information out to all interested parties.  Thus the chronology may have additional technical edits as field staff review and update


Documents:

Ranchers: wolf attacks shouldn’t force sheep off private land

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Northeastern Washington ranchers are standing up for private property rights to counter pro-wolf groups that are pressuring Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to force a sheep rancher off private timber company lands to avoid wolf attacks.

Following is the media release just posted by the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association.

HUNTERS, WA — As the situation with the Huckleberry wolf pack continues to worsen and the pack continues to kill sheep from the Dashiell ranch on private grazing ground near Hunters, some groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the rancher leave the area. Stevens County Cattlemen’s President Scott Nielsen said that option is “unacceptable.”

“We know that at as this situation worsens, there are those who believe that forcing the rancher to leave his grazing lands will solve the problem,” said Nielsen. “But preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable. Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

Over 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting the Dashiell’s sheep herd earlier this summer. Non-lethal deterrents including a range rider, the work of up to four WDFW department staff, four guard dogs and herders have provided an on-going presence to try and stop the depredation. A helicopter was authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22, but only one was killed. The helicopter was recalled and padded leg-hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them.

SCCA argues that if the state does not follow through on their commitment to remove the problem wolves and prevents allowing the Dashiells to fulfill their grazing contract with the private landholder, Hancock Timber, a series of negative circumstances can occur.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” Nielsen said. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Nielsen also said while SCCA supports the attempt to lethally remove the wolves, he said that the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the information they needed to keep their herds away from wolf areas.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they had requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den. Excuses that the information could not be obtained from the tribe are not valid, as the department has had over a year to sort that issue out,” Nielsen said. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

Oregon wolf pack one livestock attack away from lethal action

ENDANGERED SPECIES — One of Oregon’s wolf packs is one livestock attack away from becoming the first to be considered for a kill order under the state’s unique rules.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that the Umatilla Pack, which roams mostly private land about 30 miles west of Pendleton, has been confirmed responsible for killing a sheep last week in a private pasture. Two other attacks occurred in June.

Oregon's rules prevent wildlife officers from killing a wolf unless three conditions are met:

  • There’s hard evidence the pack is responsible for four livestock attacks over the past six months,
  • the rancher has taken nonlethal steps to protect his livestock,
  • the department feels wolf attacks are likely to continue even with more nonlethal protections.

“Under these rules, the key consideration for lethal control or any other actions will be to take an action that minimizes the risk of further depredation,” department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said in an email.

Here's more information on the Oregon situation, with background on wolf attacks on livestock, from the Associated Press:

The rules were adopted last year as the result of a lawsuit by conservation groups.

Joseph cattle rancher Todd Nash said he was looking forward to the day when Oregon’s wolves are numerous enough to be taken off the state endangered species list, and the Oregon Wolf Plan would go into Phase Two, when lethal control rules would ease.

That could happen after this winter’s statewide wolf count. The Oregon Wolf Plan sets a goal of four packs successfully producing pups for three consecutive years before delisting can be considered. That has been met the past two years.

Dennehy said delisting is not automatic, and would have to go through a public process. Even under Phase Two, there would be rules for considering lethal control, though they would be less stringent than they are now.

Rob Klavins of the conservation group Oregon Wild said they would prefer a science-based conservation goal for delisting, rather than one set by political negotiation.

“Oregon is doing better than any other state in trying to balance legitimate concerns with science-based conservation and Oregon conservation values,” he said. “It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than any other state.”

Overall, the number of confirmed wolves statewide has grown from 48 in 2012 to 64 last year. The number of packs grew from six to eight, though only four successfully raised pups last year.

So far this year, there have been six confirmed wolf attacks on livestock in Oregon, according to the department website. There were 13 in 2013, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011. Other packs have come within one attack of coming under consideration for lethal control.

Wolf update: Huckleberry Pack avoids helicopter gunners

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Still only one wolf has been killed in a helicopter gunning operation that started Aug. 22 to kill up to four wolves from the Huckleberry Pack that's been attacking sheep in southern Stevens County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued an update on the operation to relieve attacks that have claimed at least 22 sheep from a flock of 1,800 grazing on Hancock timber company land.

Here is the full update from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director. It addresses helicopter flights, continued use of non-lethal measures and moving the sheep away from the wolves to other pasture:

Helicopter flights occurred on Saturday, August 23 through Tuesday morning, August 26.  As we noted in Monday’s news release, one female wolf has been removed.  Helicopter activity provided hazing which may have kept wolves from the flock, and we have had only one sheep injured by a wolf attack, found on Sunday morning (and was later found dead this week, and it is being investigated).  As indicated before, on the Saturday morning flight (and the subsequent ground investigation), five sheep were found dead and three were injured.

We did not fly on Tuesday evening and do not plan to fly today.  We have established a trapline and have provided instructions to euthanize up to three more wolves caught.  We also have ongoing authorization for our staff and the rancher to kill up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock.  We will continue to assess these efforts each day, and the directive is to remove up to four wolves from the Huckleberry pack. 

Nonlethal measures continue to be in place, with the rancher, a range rider, and up to four department staff, and four guard dogs providing an on-going presence.

We continue to work with the producer to try to find an alternative grazing location.  We’re hoping that will occur soon, and the producer understands our desire that for this particular situation, we’re hoping to eliminate the killing of his sheep by wolves by moving the sheep to their winter range.  He received a communication yesterday saying that he should be able to move the sheep soon. 

We’ve received a lot of inquiries about why moving sheep hasn’t happened sooner.  A couple items I hope you’ll keep in mind.  First, with the Carlton Complex Fire in Okanogan County and other fires across the state, there has been a tremendous demand for alternate pasture for displaced livestock operations.  We’re offering whatever assistance we can to help the operator with the various logistics. 

Second, I think it is important to remember that neither the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan nor our preventative measures checklist suggest that moving livestock off of an allotment is a requirement to address wolf-livestock conflicts.  With the operator moving his sheep to winter range anyway, we’re hoping to work with him to expedite that move.  But in the long run, and in other conflict situations that we will face, it is not likely to be feasible for a rancher to move livestock out of the vicinity of problem wolves.  Maintaining working lands and the livestock industry is important both from the perspective of social tolerance of wolf recovery, and the overall maintenance of viable local economies and support for working lands (and the wildlife conservation benefits of those lands continuing in that status). 

Finally, we have approached the rancher about compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves and will likely continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once some of the immediate issues are resolved.

Dogs protecting sheep from predators testy toward hikers

HIKING — The large guard dogs such as great Pyrenees and Akbash that pro-wolf groups recommend for guarding livestock from predators such as cougars, bears and wolves don't necessarily distinguish between 4-legged and 2-legged critters passing through public lands:

Guard dogs for sheep herds continue to be a problem for hikers in Colorado
Hikers are reporting more conflicts with the large, white Akbash dogs that guard sheep herds in San Juan County, and one hiker recently asked the Colorado county's commission to work with the multiple federal and state land agencies and the ranchers with grazing allotments to develop new policies to help keep the hikers and the dogs apart.

Idaho joins hunt for citizen wolf observations

PREDATORS — Idaho is asking the public to help in the task of monitoring the whereabouts of wolves.

“Scouting for upcoming hunting seasons, huckleberry picking, and general late summer recreating are all good reasons for getting away to Idaho’s great outdoors,” says the media release. “If during these forays, you see a wolf, Fish and Game staff would like to hear about it.”

“We’re looking for basic wolf information from folks returning from the field,” Fish and Game wildlife manager Craig White said. “Where the wolf or wolves were seen, their behavior, size, coat color and any other details.”

The easiest way to report sightings is to use the Idaho wolf reporting form on the Fish and Game website. It's easy to use.

  • Washington's wolf reporting form was created for the same purpose of enlisting thousands of eyes in the field to help wildlife managers monitor an elusive species.

 

Correction: Huckleberry Pack can’t be sorted by color

ENDANGERED SPECIES — I have confirmed an error in my Sunday evening report  regarding the helicopter gunning operation to kill some wolves in the Huckleberry Pack that have killed at least 22 sheep and injured at least three more in six separate incidents on a flock of 1,800 sheep in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored and that helicopter gunners would try to use those colors to help them target the younger wolves. The source said that by avoiding shots at the adults the agency would try to protect the breeding pair and the pack's integrity.

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that the animals are mixed colors… in other words, it's not a black and light situation.

  • The collared alpha male is gray, for instance (see photo).
  • The pups are different colors as seen in this video posted on the WDFW website (below).

Today, state Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed that efforts were continuing to find and remove up to four wolves from the pack. A federal wildlife agent contracted by WDFW killed one wolf on Saturday, as I reported Sunday night on information from the  unofficial source.

No information has been released on whether more wolves were killed today, Aug. 25. Wolves are protected by state endangered species laws in Eastern Washington except in cases when they pose a danger to people or domestic animals.

Fish and Wildlife officials in Spokane said they were not aware that Director Phil Anderson had received information that agency staff in the field were in some sort of danger, as reported to me by the unofficial source. So I cannot confirm or correct that statement.

State gunners ordered to kill 4 wolves in Huckleberry pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A death sentence has been issued for a portion of a wolf pack that’s killed at least 22 sheep this month in southern Stevens County

Efforts to haze and deter the Huckleberry Pack from attacking a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing on private timber land have failed and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say they have no other choice but to target the pack.

In an effort to break the predation cycle, agency Director Phil Anderson said he authorized the killing of four wolves from the pack, which is estimated at up to 12 members.

Officials will later evaluate whether that is enough lethal force to end the sheep attacks.

Gunners began flying the area near Hunters in a helicopter today. A wolf was spotted, but at 4 p.m. officials said no wolves had yet been killed.

“As of Friday, we had confirmed that 17 sheep had been killed by wolves in five separate incidents, and we continue to find more dead and wounded sheep from the flock,” said Bruce Botka, agency spokesman. 

Today crews found five dead and three injured sheep that were attacked last night, Botka said. Investigators confirmed that wolves were responsible for all of the latest attacks, despite night patrols and use of four guard dogs.

Botka said the situation meets the state's conditions for lethal removal of wolves, which are protected in Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws. The pack is one of about a dozen wolf packs confirmed in Eastern Washington.

“There have been repeated, documented wolf kills; non-lethal methods have not stopped the predation; the attacks are likely to continue, and the livestock owner has not done anything to attract the wolves,” he said.

Rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters has worked with WDFW staff to try to prevent wolf attacks on his flock, Botka said.

This week, four department employees, two federal staff and two contracted range riders have been working with the rancher to prevent additional attacks, he said. 

“Despite those efforts, sheep continue to be killed by wolves,” Botka said.

Washington law allows ranchers to kill up to one wolf if caught in the act of attacking domestic animals. Earlier this week, Anderson gave Dashiell and the agency staffers guarding the flock greater authority to kill up to two wolves if spotted near the sheep even if they weren’t attacking.

On Friday, night conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, appealed to Anderson to back off the authorization to kill wolves in the vicinity of the sheep.

“We appreciate the agency’s efforts to work with the rancher and use nonlethal means to protect sheep from further losses,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the wolf kill order needs to be rescinded right away. Killing wolves is just not an effective means of protecting livestock.”

The groups were angered by today’s notice that the agency was targeting the wolves.

“Nonlethal measures, such as range riders and moving the sheep, were being put in place and should have been allowed to work before the agency moved to kill wolves,” Weiss said.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

The Huckleberry Pack, named for the nearby Huckleberry Mountains, was documented as a pack in 2012. The pack had not been associated with attacks on livestock until this month, officials said.

New wolf kill authorization broader than state law

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some readers reacting to my recent report have pointed out that the public already has the right in Eastern  Washington to shoot a wolf that threatens a person or domestic animals even though wolves are protected by state endangered species laws.

So why did we headline the announcement that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has given a rancher the OK to shoot wolves?

I asked department officials to explain and here's a summary of the answer:

Gray wolves are managed under state regulations in the eastern third of the state while federal Endangered Species rules apply to wolves farther west.

Following incidents with wolves preying on sheep and pets in rural areas, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a standing rule that any person in the eastern third of the state who sees a wolf in the act of attacking livestock or domestic animals can shoot and kill up to one wolf to stop the attack.

The new authority given in the case of the recent sheep attacks in southern Stevens County is broader.

Rancher Dave Dashiell as well as WDFW staffers on the scene to help move and protect the sheep were given the authority Wednesday to shoot any wolf they see even near the sheep.  An attack does not need to be underway and they can kill more than one wolf if the opportunity presents itself.

That said, the chances are very low even under the broader guidelines that they will get the chance to shoot a wolf.  When the decision was finally made to destroy the cattle-eating Wedge Pack in 2012, the state got nowhere with killing wolves until they hired a helicopter. The aerial gunner took care of the issue in a couple of days.

“These attacks (on Stevens County sheep) have occurred mostly at night and unnoticed even though people are out there with dogs and lights,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. “It's a stretch to expect even one wolf to be shot under these rules, but at least they have the authority if the the chance presents itself.”

State gives sheep rancher OK to kill attacking wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A northeastern Washington wolf pack that’s acquired a taste for sheep could get a taste of lethal force.

A rancher and state wildlife officials herding 1,800 sheep away from the site of recent wolf attacks in southern Stevens County received the OK Wednesday to shoot wolves that approach the flock.

Gray wolves are protected by state endangered species laws except in cases where they threaten people or livestock.

The Huckleberry Pack has continued to kill sheep this week despite four guard dogs, a range rider, the livestock owner’s crew and state officials working day and night to protect the sheep, said Donny Martorello, Fish and Wildlife Department carnivore manager.

Department Director Phil Anderson authorized livestock owner Dave Dashiell of Hunters and his helpers to use limited lethal measures to avoid additional attacks. They cannot actively hunt or attempt to bait the wolves for shooting, he said.

Wildlife officials have confirmed that wolves killed 16 sheep in four separate incidents on since Aug. 14 on leased Hancock timber company land near Hunters.

A confirmed wolf-killed sheep was found Tuesday followed by another on Tuesday night, Martorello said. “We’re doing everything we can to patrol and run interference,” he said.

  • The range rider was having trouble getting keys to locked gates from the Hancock timber company in order to move camps to more strategic areas where there's water for the horses, Martorello confirmed.

Signals from a radio collar attached to a male wolf in the pack show the animal was at the site, likely with other pack members, when the attacks occurred, said Nate Pamplin, the department’s wildlife program director.

 A total of 14 sheep were killed last week in two incidents. Before that, nine other sheep were found dead in the area but their deaths couldn’t be confirmed as wolf kills.

The rancher is moving the sheep each day and the state is trying to help him find alternative pasture. “We have leads on places but nothing for sure, yet,” Martorello said.

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association has criticized the state for not giving Dashiell radio collar information this spring that would have indicated the operator was planning to pasture sheep near the Huckleberry Pack’s denning area.

Martorello said the wolf had been trapped and collared by the Spokane Indian Tribe under an agreement not to share the location of the wolf. Since the attacks, the tribe is allowing the location of the collared wolf to be shared, he said.

The Huckleberry Pack, one of about a dozen confirmed packs in Washington, has six to 12 members. The pack has not been associated with livestock kills until last week.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

Fish and Wildlife officials reported spending $76,500 to end the pack’s livestock attacks but not before at least 17 calves had been lost, mostly on private land managed by Diamond M Ranch.

Dashiell has four large guard dogs and camps alongside his flock at night, Pamplin said. “Yet, the attacks have continued, even after the department sent four members of our wildlife-conflict staff and an experienced range-rider to help guard the sheep and begin moving them out of the area.”

  • The dogs are crosses of the standard sheepdog breeds: Marema, Akbash and Pyrenees. The Dashiells report that one of the dogs has two large canine bites in one of his rear legs that may be from fighting off the wolves.

The livestock owner has removed the carcasses of dead animals where possible to do so and kept his flock on the move around the grazing areas, Pamplin said.

Wildlife officials may attempt to trap and collar more wolves to help monitor the pack’s movements, Pamplin said.

“Our preferred option is to help the livestock owner move the sheep to another area, but finding a place to graze 1,800 animals presents a challenge,” Pamplin said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to avoid further conflict.”

Wolves kill 14 sheep in Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that one or more wolves from the Huckleberry Pack in southern Stevens County killed 12 sheep Aug. 11 and two more Aug. 12 on private property off the Springdale-Hunters Road.

The attack just north of Blue Mountain and about two miles north of the Spokane Indian Reservation is the first confirmed loss of livestock to gray wolves this year in Washington.

About 1,800 sheep are being grazed in the area under a lease with the Hancock Timber Company, which owns the land, said WDFW officials who verified the attacks.

The state is working with the operator to move the sheep to another grazing allotment and remove the sheep carcasses to avoid wolves returning to the kill site.

WDFW staffers are on site with the sheep and are prepared to haze away any wolves that might return, said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane. A contract range rider will also be on the site for five to seven days while the sheep are moved.

The sheep producer may be eligible for compensation for the sheep lost to the wolves, she said.

The Huckleberry pack was confirmed as Washington’s seventh wolf pack in June 2012 and currently is believed to have at least six members, including a breeding pair and the radio-collared male. This does not include pups produced this year.

Luers said the Huckleberry Pack, named for nearby Huckleberry Mountain, has not been associated with livestock attacks before this incident.
  

Idaho wolf hunting derby seeks 5-year permit

HUNTING — Organizers of a disputed predator derby aimed at killing wolves in central Idaho are asking for a five-year permit to hold the contest.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports the group called Idaho for Wildlife applied with the Bureau of Land Management for a special recreation permit.

The derby went ahead last year after a U.S. District Court ruled against an environmental group that filed a lawsuit to stop the event. Wolf hunting with the required license during the established seasons is Idaho is legal.

  • There was a lot of hysteria promoted by pro-wolf groups who predicted a wolf slaughter even though everyone with a clue knew that derby hunters had little chance of killing more than a few wolves.

Organizers say that last year more than 230 participants killed 21 coyotes but no wolves near Salmon.

Organizers have said they’re seeking to publicize wolves’ impact on local elk herds and potential disease risks.

The BLM is examining the application as part of a process that will include a public comment period.

Conservation groups to sue feds over wolverine decision

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A coalition of 13 conservation groups has filed notice that it will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to withdraw proposed protections for the wolverine.

The federal agency announced Tuesday it was reversing course on climate change’s threat to the survival of the members of the weasel family.

Wolverines need deep, late-season snow to den, and wildlife officials previously proposed increased protections to keep the animals from extinction.

But Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says predictions about the localized effects of climate change are uncertain.

The 13 organizations filed their 60-day notice today.

John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center says in the notice that despite the uncertainties, the best available science shows a warming climate likely will be detrimental to the wolverine.

Idaho scales back sage grouse hunting season

HUNTING — Reacting to concerns about sage grouse being headed toward endangered species status, Idaho has approved a restrictive 2014 hunting season for the once prolific prairie birds.

The season will run from Sept. 20-26, with a daily bag limit of one bird, and a possession limit of two birds. That's similar to seasons sent in recent years.  But the area where the grouse had be hunted in southern Idaho has been reduced.

Sage-grouse are proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act; primarily due to habitat loss from wildfire, human infrastructure and invasive plants like cheat grass. Sage-grouse experts have determined that carefully regulated hunting is not a primary threat to populations. Idaho Fish and Game officials say they monitor sage-grouse annually to ensure hunting will not compromise the population.

The 2014 season will take place in most of the same areas as last year’s hunt with the exception of a new closure in the Greater Curlew Valley, which covers most of Power and Oneida Counties, and a portion of Cassia County.  Males at sage-grouse leks in this area have declined 53 percent since 2011.

The Sage-grouse Seasons and Rules brochures, including a map of areas open to sage-grouse hunting, will be available soon at all license vendors, Fish and Game offices, and on Fish and Game’s website.

Lawsuit forces Idaho to suspend plan for hired wolf hunter

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game officials say they’re suspending a plan to use a hired hunter to kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness until at least November of 2015.

Idaho’s Wildlife Bureau Chief Jeff Gould made the declaration in a document filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Fish and Game Department and the U.S. Forest Service are being sued by Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and other environmental groups over the plan to have a hired hunter kill wolves in the protected wilderness area.

The conservation groups contend that the U.S. Forest Service violated the federal Wilderness Act when it allowed the state’s hunter to use an air strip and a cabin in the wilderness earlier this year.

Feds doubt climate change’s impact on wolverines

 

THREATENED SPECIES — The wolverine, perhaps the coolest critter you've never seen, is threatened, according to considerable research, by global warming that's likely to reduce the snow packs vital to the species' denning needs.

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service isn't going out on the climate change limb to support wolverines.

In case you missed it this month, here's a good summary of the wolverine's status by the Associated Press:

By MATTHEW BROWN/Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — A top federal wildlife official said there’s too much uncertainty about climate change to prove it threatens the snow-loving wolverine — overruling agency scientists who warned of impending habitat loss for the “mountain devil.”

There’s no doubt the high-elevation range of wolverines is getting warmer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Noreen Walsh said. But any assumption about how that will change snowfall patterns is “speculation,” she said.

Walsh told her staff to prepare to withdraw a proposal to protect the animals under the Endangered Species Act.

Wildlife advocates said the move was a bow to pressure from Western states that don’t want wolverines protected. Walsh said her stance “has not been influenced in any way by a state representative.”

More broadly, it points to the potential limitations in the use of long-range climate forecasts to predict what will happen to individual plant and animal species as global temperatures rise.

Walsh’s comments were contained in a May 30 memo obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Chris Tollefson confirmed that Walsh authored the document.

Agency Director Dan Ashe will have the final say, with a decision due Aug. 4.

Wolverines max out at 40 pounds and are tough enough to stand up to grizzly bears. Yet some scientists warn they will be no match for anticipated declines in deep mountain snows, which female wolverines need to establish dens and raise their young.

Federal biologists last year proposed protections for an estimated 300 wolverines in the Lower 48 states. At that time, Walsh said “scientific evidence suggests that a warming climate will greatly reduce the wolverine’s snowpack habitat.”

In the recent memo, she expressed the opposite view: “Due to the uncertainty of climate models, I cannot accept the conclusion about wolverine habitat loss that forms the basis of our recommendation to list the species.”

Walsh, also a biologist, said she reached that conclusion after reviewing the latest science on wolverines and consulting with other agency officials.

Most of that science already was available when protections were first proposed, leading the Center for Biological Diversity to criticize the about-face.

The likelihood of climate change harming wolverines was too great to delay action because of any lingering uncertainties, said the group’s climate science director, Shaye Wolf.

The government already has declared that global warming imperils other species, including polar bears, ringed seals and bearded seals.

“Climate change is driving some iconic species toward extinction, and many species are in trouble,” Wolf said. “It’s a very bad turn of events that the Fish and Wildlife Service has chosen to ignore the expertise of its own scientists” on wolverines.

Agency officials said Monday that Walsh’s memo was just one step in its deliberations on the animal.

Once found throughout the Rocky Mountains and in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, wolverines were wiped out across most of the U.S. by the 1930s due to unregulated trapping and poisoning campaigns. In the decades since, they have largely recovered in the Northern Rockies but not in other parts of their historical range.

In some areas, such as central Idaho, researchers have said suitable habitat could disappear entirely.

Wolverines are found in the North Cascades in Washington and the Northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming. Individual wolverines have also moved into California and Colorado but have not established breeding populations. Larger populations persist in Alaska and Canada.

Officials from states including Montana, Utah and Idaho have objected to more protections, saying the animal’s population has been increasing in some areas.

Two members of an independent peer review panel also raised questions about the science behind last year’s proposal. They suggested that no direct link could be made between warming temperatures and less habitat.

Panelist Audrey Magoun, a researcher based in Alaska, said shifting weather patterns could mean more snowfall, not less, in the mountains where most wolverines den. She said Monday that she was not taking a position on whether protections were needed and that there was enough time to determine that through additional research before any long-range threats come to pass.

Wolverines were twice denied protections under the Bush administration. In 2010, the Obama administration delayed action and said other imperiled animals and plants had priority over wolverines.

Oregon Congressman seeks wolf buffer around Yellowstone

WILDLIFE —  An Oregon congressman is asking the Interior Department to work with states to curb gray wolf hunting around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana.

Rep. Peter DeFazio is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hunters have legally killed Yellowstone wolves that have roamed out of the park after becoming familiar with wolf-watching tourists. Some of these wolves have been radio-collared by wildlife scientists. While killing them is legal under hunting regulations, the loss is significant to research on the species.

DeFazio said in a recent letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that hunters killing wolves just outside Yellowstone’s boundary could hurt the overall health of the park’s ecosystem.

DeFazio asked for a “wolf safety zone” or buffer around the park, which includes parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. He also asked Jewell to establish a task force to devise protections for wolves around other national parks.

State officials have resisted prior calls from wildlife advocates seeking an outright ban on wolf hunting around the park. However, quotas in some areas limit how many can be killed annually.

Idaho considers scaling back sage grouse hunting

HUNTING — Idaho is considering more restrictions on hunting sage grouse, including closures on south-state areas where the number of males at breeding grounds has declined more than 50 percent in three years.

Sage-grouse are proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act; primarily due to habitat loss from such things as wildfire and invasive plants like cheat grass, department officials say. “Sage-grouse experts have determined that carefully regulated hunting is not a primary threat to populations, and Fish and Game closely monitors sage-grouse annually to ensure hunting will not compromise the population,” the agency said in media release.

Idaho Fish and Game is seeking public input on sage-grouse hunting proposals through Aug. 5. Upland bird managers will present sage-grouse hunting season recommendations to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at their Aug. 11 meeting. 

Recommendations are based on the current 3-year running average of male sage-grouse counted at leks (breeding sites) to counts from 1996–2000 when Idaho began intensified surveys statewide. Current sage-grouse lek data indicate that many populations could be hunted at the “restrictive” level. 

Idaho is considering two options for the 2014 season:

  • Option A: no change from the 2013 season.
    • Restrictive: Seven-day, one-bird daily limit statewide within sage-grouse range, except in designated closed areas, Sept. 20-26.
    • Closed: East Idaho Uplands area in southeastern Idaho; Washington and Adams counties; Eastern Owyhee County and western Twin Falls County; and Elmore County.
  • Option B: same as Option A, but would add a new closure in parts of Bannock, Cassia, Oneida, and Power counties.  Males at leks in this area have declined by 53% since 2011.

First Utah condor chick confirmed

ENDANGERED SPECIES — It’s official: a pair of California condors are raising a wild chick in Zion National Park, the first chick to be documented in Utah in the bird's recovery under endangered species protections.

The nest is in a cavity 1,000 feet above a remote canyon floor. This chick is the offspring of first-time nesting parents. The occasion is particularly momentous because the results of first-time nesters often fail.

“This is the first documented occurrence of California condors raising a chick in Utah,” says Eddie Feltes, condor project manager with The Peregrine Fund.

Keith Day, regional wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the chick won’t try to fly until November or December.

“California condors take about six months to fledge,” he says. “Their fledging period is the longest of any bird in North America.”

The parents will spend the next year raising the chick. “California condors typically produce one chick every other year,” he says.

Curious to see what the chick looks like?  The location of the wild chick is being kept secret for its protection, but you can visit the condor camera at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where a condor hatched in the rearing facility within days of this wild-born condor.

Idaho adopts wolverine management plan

THREATENED SPECIES — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week unanimously approved the nation's first state management plan for sustaining the largest member of the weasel family.

The Management Plan for the Conservation of Wolverines in Idaho, developed by Idaho Department of Fish and Game, will guide state efforts to conserve and protect the wolverine over the next five years.  Idaho is one of four western states where wolverines live. The others are Montana, Wyoming and Washington.

Wolverines, which grow to about 40 pounds, occupy cold, snowy mountainous regions of the U.S.  In Idaho, the wolverine is classified as a protected nongame animal and Species of Greatest Conservation Need based on low densities and uncertain numbers.

Wolverines in the lower 48 states are currently proposed for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, in part because of projected loss of snow habitat from climate change.  Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners approved the plan as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials deliberate a final listing decision on wolverines, anticipated in early August.

Fish and Game Commissioner Will Naillon of Challis represents the Salmon Region, a wolverine stronghold in Idaho. He sees the plan benefiting not only wolverines, but a broad spectrum of constituents.

“The development of this plan for wolverines, a protected nongame species, may help to avert a federal listing and subsequent land use restrictions. This plan benefits all land users, including sportsmen and women.” said Naillon.    

Montana closing areas to sage grouse hunting

HUNTING — Having grown up in eastern Montana, where huge coveys of sage grouse were common sights, this is a jaw-dropper:

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a plan Thursday to close all or parts of 32 counties to sage-grouse hunting and to shorten the hunting season from two months to one.

Commissioners voted unanimously for the plan in response to low numbers from this spring’s count of the game birds on their breeding grounds. The count was the lowest since 1980, and the federal government is considering listing the bird as a threatened or endangered species next year across the West.

  • Hunters killed more than 2,800 sage grouse in Montana in 2012, compared with about 45,000 in 1983.

Loss of habitat is the primary reason the prairie grouse species has declined, but state wildlife officials say hunting can accelerate the decline once the population dips to a certain level.

The state’s management plan calls for closures if the number of male sage grouse drops below 45 percent of the long-term average count for three years. Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency officials say two of the state’s management zones are below that threshold this year, and the third is hovering right at it.

The closures include eastern Montana, the area in the northern part of the state above U.S. Highway 2 and isolated populations such as the Shields Valley.

That will leave a swath of 13 counties across the central part of the state and six southwestern Montana counties open to hunting sage grouse this fall. Eleven western and northwestern counties are considered out of the sage grouse’s range and were already closed to hunting.

The commission also approved guidelines to reopening the closed hunting grounds. The public process for reopening an area can begin once the count exceeds the 45 percent long-term average for three years, or is higher than that average count in any given year.

According to the Associated Press:

Agency officials earlier this year proposed canceling the 2014 hunt, but they came up with this new plan after receiving more than 200 comments, mostly negative. Hunting groups reluctantly agreed with the changed proposal.

“Hunting isn’t the reason sage grouse is in decline in Montana or the rest of the West. It’s habitat loss,” said Ben Deeble of the Big Sky Upland Game Bird Association. What’s more, he added, banning hunting hasn’t proven to be an effective way to restore population numbers.

Sage grouse live in sagebrush and grasslands. They are known for gathering in spring in breeding grounds called leks, where the males puff themselves out and dance for females searching for mates.

Lawsuit filed to protect lynx from Idaho traps

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the governor of Idaho and other state officials to halt trapping that can harm or kill Canada lynx, one of the rarest cats in the United States.

The lawsuit charges Gov. Butch Otter, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and members of the state Fish and Game Commission with violations of the Endangered Species Act resulting from state permitting that leads to trapping of lynx, a threatened species numbering as few as 100 animals in Idaho.

The state has not taken action to satisfy the previous complaints, the organizations said in filing the suit. The groups include the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center.

The groups say increases in fur prices, especially for bobcat, have increased interest in trapping and cited at least three confirmed incidents of lynx being unintentionally trapped in the last two years.

The groups say the Idaho Department of Fish and Game should develop a conservation plan with measures to minimize incidental trapping of lynx. Such a plan would include restrictions on body-crushing and steel-jaw traps and snares, reporting requirements, and a daily trap check requirement throughout lynx habitat. They say similar lawsuits in Minnesota and Maine have led to such restrictions.

Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed more than 26 million acres of critical habitat across six states for the Canada lynx, which faces ongoing threats from habitat destruction and reduced snowpack from climate change.

Lynx are medium-sized, long-legged cats, ranging up to 24 pounds. They are generally nocturnal and well adapted to hunting snowshoe hare at high elevations.

The lawsuit, which was filed today in federal district court in Boise, can be read here.

Court asked to speed up Canada lynx recovery work

THREATENED SPECIES —  Wildlife advocates want a federal judge to force the government to move more quickly on a recovery plan for imperiled Canada lynx, according to this story just moved by the Associated Press.

The U.S. government declared the snow-loving big cats a threatened species across the Lower 48 states in 2000. But officials haven’t come up with a mandated recovery plan.

After a federal judge criticized the delay, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed completing the plan by early 2018.

A coalition of wildlife advocacy groups says that’s not soon enough. They’re asking U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to order the work done by late 2016.

Lynx are rarely seen and there’s no reliable estimate of their population. Their 14-state range includes portions of the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the Cascade Range of Washington and Oregon. 

Two grizzly bears relocated to Cabinet Mountains

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two female grizzly bears have been transplanted from the Whitefish Range to the Spar Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains as part of an ongoing effort to boost the struggling Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population.

The 2-year-old siblings were captured in the Deadhorse Creek drainage on the Flathead National Forest and moved Friday to the West Cabinets and a drainage with a hiking trail to Spar Lake near the Montana-Idaho border.

The bears have no history of conflict with people and have never been captured before, wildlife officials told the Daily Interlake.

Those factors plus their young age are part of the criteria for the augmentation program, a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The state agency captures the bears while the federal agency monitors them after their release. The bears are fitted with Global Positioning System tracking collars to allow for their movements to be monitored.

Friday’s release marks the 12th and 13th grizzly bears to released into the Cabinets since 2005.

In the early 1990s, three grizzly bears were moved into the Cabinets. Most of the bears that have been moved have been females.

Last year, a study that made use of genetic analysis of bear hair samples produced a population estimate of 42 bears for the Cabinet-Yaak region.

Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service based in Libby, said that estimate means that there may have been fewer than 15 grizzly bears prior to 1990, and that indicates that the grizzly population might have vanished without the augmentation efforts.

As of last year, it was still unknown if any of the bears that have been moved since 2005 have reproduced. That’s partly because the young bears were moved well before they reached reproductive age of 5 or 6 years old, and they drop their tracking collars within a couple of years.

Statistics to help Montana count wolves

PREDATORS — The bottom line is that state's can't afford to continue spending millions of dollars to monitor wolf populations. There has to be an easier more affordable way.

Montana researchers come up with a new way to count wolves
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' requirement to provide minimum wolf counts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expires in two years, and researchers from the state wildlife agency and the University of Montana have developed a new statistical technique to come up with wolf numbers.
—Helena Independent Record

Groups try to restrict lethal action against cow-killing wolves

PREDATORS  — Conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, are petitioning the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to limit the killing of wolves in response to livestock deaths.

Even though the state has take significant steps and statewide guidelines for preventing wolves from being attracted to livestock, the groups filed their petition late on Friday, asking the state to require ranchers to exhaust nonlethal options to prevent their livestock from being preyed on by wolves before killing the predators.

The Associated Press reports the groups are still hung up on the rare extreme action the state took in 2012 when Fish and Wildlife aerial gunners killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack. The groups contend the northern Stevens County rancher didn't go far enough in taking nonlethal actions that might have prevented wolves from attacking his cattle. The rancher endured 17 attacks on his cattle on private and public land.

The groups say that ranchers and sports-hunting groups have refused to consider their proposals, and that the state is moving forward with less protective wolf-control rules.

The groups filing the petition include the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately return a message to the Associated Press. 

Comment extended on petition to delist Selkirk caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The public is being given an extra 30 days to chime in on a North Idaho-originated petition to remove the rarest and most endangered big-game species in the United States from endangered species protections.

Online comment is extended through Aug. 6 and a meeting is being scheduled in Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry on a petition to delist the Southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

The Service’s finding and proposal were published in the Federal Register (79 FR 26503) on May 8,
2014. In response to the petition, the Service determined that delisting the species is not warranted, and
also proposed to amend the current listing of this population by defining the Southern Mountain Caribou
Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which includes the currently listed southern Selkirk Mountains
population of woodland caribou. The Service proposed to change the status of the Southern Mountain
Caribou DPS to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, it was determined that the
30,010-acre critical habitat designation is applicable to the U.S. portion of the proposed Southern
Mountain Caribou DPS.

The petition and proposed rule to amend the listing [Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0097] is available for public inspection in the Federal Register Reading Room

The notice is scheduled to be published today in the Federal Register.  The final document also will be published Wednesday on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Idaho website.

Public meetings have been scheduled as follows (information sessions will be followed by evening public hearings for comment):

June 25, Sandpoint

Informational meeting: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Public hearing:  6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  -  Speaker Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.

Location: Bonner County Administration Building 1st Floor Meeting Room, 1500 Highway 2, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864

 

June 26, Bonners Ferry

Informational meeting: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Public hearing:  6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  - Speaker Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.

Location: Bonners Ferry High School Auditorium, 6485 Tamarack Lane, Bonners Ferry, Idaho 83805

Wandering wolf, OR-7, and new mate have pups

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The speculation is over on whether Oregon's famous radio-collared wandering wolf has a mate.

OR-7 and its mate have produced pups, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed. 

OR-7, the name given to the male wolf when it was first captured, radio-collared and released in northeast Oregon, found a mate in the Rogue River area of southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains after capturing worldwide attention as its movements were followed on the web through Oregon and California.

See more details in today's story from the Associated Press.