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Idaho director weary of wolf-facts distortion

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Since Idaho's main wolf biologist, Jim Hayden, made a routine presentation on the status of the state's wolf population to the state Fish and Game Commission two weeks ago, the spin on the numbers has been dizzying — and distorting.

IFG Director Virgil Moore says enough already: It's time for advocacy groups to stop crying wolf.

Here 's an op-ed piece Moore has released to lay out the facts the agency has compiled about Idaho's wolf population.

By Virgil Moore/Director, Idaho Fish and Game

It’s important for state agencies to understand and respect differing points of view.  But when a few advocacy groups try to grab headlines by skewing Idaho Fish and Game scientific wolf monitoring data in ways that simply aren’t true, it’s also important to set the record straight. 

Here are the facts:

  • Idaho has more than 100 documented wolf packs and over 600 wolves.  Idaho’s wolf population far exceeds federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves.
  • After meeting federal recovery levels in 2002, Idaho’s wolf population grew largely unchecked for the remainder of the decade, resulting in increased conflicts with other big game populations and livestock. 
  • After 4 harvest seasons since the 2011 delisting, livestock depredations have declined.  Wolf predation continues to have unacceptable impacts to some elk populations, but there are signs elk populations are responding positively to wolf management.
  • Wolves in Idaho continue to be prolific and resilient.  Idaho will keep managing wolves to have a sustainable, delisted population and to reduce conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

Despite these facts, a few advocacy groups chose to take the breeding pair metric out of context to make claims that Idaho wolves are “teetering on the brink of endangered status once again.”  That’s hogwash.  And it’s the kind of polarizing misinformation that undermines responsible wildlife conservation and management in Idaho.

Confirming a pack meets U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s narrow definition of a “breeding pair” is costly and labor-intensive.  With vast reductions in federal funding to the state and Nez Perce Tribe for wolf monitoring, Fish and Game has focused our effort on demonstrating Idaho has at least 15 “breeding pairs” to comply with federal recovery requirements.  Idaho closely surveyed 30 packs and confirmed that 22 of them met the breeding pair standard at the end of 2014.  Because Idaho has shown it is well above federal recovery levels, we may rely on less intensive monitoring for the other 70 + packs as we complete our final 2014 population estimates.  One can assume these 70+ packs include some additional breeding pairs.  We will publish our annual monitoring report in March.

As trained scientists, Idaho Fish and Game stands by our data and our wildlife management plans.  We manage wolves to ensure we keep state management authority and address conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

I hope people who truly care about wildlife conservation ignore the exaggerations and misinformation and help Fish and Game focus on the real issues affecting Idaho’s wildlife.

It appears as though Moore is referring in part to the Center For Biological Diversity, which is a go-to quote source for Associated Press reporters looking for "balance" in a news report on wolf management.

As Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman points out, "Earlier this month, the Center for Biological Diversity claimed that Idaho’s wolf numbers had “dropped to levels where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it would consider protection under the Endangered Species Act,” and that the USFWS “must step in to save the wolf population before it’s too late.” 

(Subsequently, the Arizona-based group petitioned the service to relist wolves in the Lower 48 as threatened.)

Montana tries profit incentive to boost wolf control

PREDATORS — Montana hunters and trappers aren't killing enough wolves to keep the population down to state management goals. So…

Montana hunters, trappers may now export wolf pelts
In order to keep hunters and trappers interested in wolves, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks successfully requested tags from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, that allow the export of endangered species while adhering to management practices that ensure the continuation of the species.
—Missoula Independent;

BC to kill wolves in last-ditch effort to save caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Up to 24 wolves in British Columbia just north of Idaho will be shot by helicopter gunners this winter in an effort to save the 18 remaining southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou from extinction.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources formally announced the wolf removal effort on Thursday, but the planning has been underway for more than a year, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

Both the predators and their prey roam across the U.S.-Canada border into North Idaho and the northeastern corner of Washington. The caribou have been listed as endangered species in the United States since 1984 and they’re also protected in British Columbia.

Idaho and Washington wildlife officials have been consulted as well as First Nations, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canada officials said.

In the South Peace region of the province, officials announced plans to lethally remove 120-160 wolves to save caribou herds threatened by predation. In the four caribou herds that roam that that region, at least 37 percent of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predations, Canada officials said.

The South Selkirk herd has declined from 46 caribou in 2009 to 27 in 2012, and to 18 in a survey conducted 10 months ago. Evidence points to wolves being the leading cause of mortality, officials said.

Caribou in the South Selkirk Mountains have been struggling, largely from losses of old-growth habitat and related issues, despite releases of new animals in Canada to bolster the numbers. Snowmobiling has been restricted in most of the core recovery area in Canada and the United States.

“BC considered removing wolves last year,” Wakkinen said. “We authorized them to operate south into Idaho up to 12 miles for any wolf control action to benefit caribou, but they never used it.”

Six of the South Selkirk caribou were captured last winter and radio-collared. While monitoring the animals, Canada researchers learned that two caribou – 11 percent of the remaining herd – were killed by wolves in the past 10 months.

The researchers later captured and fixed radio collars on wolves in two of the three packs in the Selkirk Caribou Recovery Zone to monitor their movements.

“The wolves were collared with the intent of a control action later this winter to eliminate those wolf packs in the caribou recovery area,” Wakkinen said.

Mountain lions also have killed caribou in the wider Purcells-Selkirk region, ministry reports say.

“Two of the wolf packs are north of BC Highway 3 and one is south of the highway and often right on the border in the northern tier of Idaho,” Wakkinen said. Wolves regularly roam the Boundary Lake area of Idaho, he said.

Last week, radio-collared caribou were in Washington “within a sling-shot distance of Canada and Idaho,” Wakkinen said.

Washington has not given Canada officials authority for wolf control, said state Fish and Wildlife wolf policy director Dave Ware.

  • Washington's Wolf Management Plan would prevent state officials from killing wolves even to protect endangered caribou, said Kevin Robinette, department regional wildlife manager in Spokane. "It would be a long process," he said today, noting that Idaho has removed special protections for wolves.

Hunting and trapping of wolves in British Columbia have not effectively reduced populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates on caribou, officials said.

Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term, they said.

North Idaho man cited for keeping pelt after shooting wolf

A North Idaho man who said he shot a wolf that appeared to be crouched down as if to attack his three dogs on the southern end of Rathdrum Mountain has been cited for possessing an untagged wolf.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports in a story on Tuesday that officials also seized the wolf pelt from 53-year-old Forrest Mize, of Rathdrum.

Mize said that on Dec. 30 he was hiking with his three female Labradors when he shot the wolf with a .22-caliber weapon he carries for protection.

“I guess I’m not surprised that we are seeing wolves up there,” said Chip Corsi, regional director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, noting the abundance of deer, elk and moose in the area. However, it’s unclear whether the wolf shot by Mize was alone or a member of a pack, he said.

Corsi declined to elaborate on the citation, saying officials are still investigating.

Officials said even if a wolf shooting is ruled to be defensive, the person isn’t allowed to buy a tag afterward to keep the pelt, which is what Mize did.

Possessing a wolf pelt without a tag is a misdemeanor.

Today: 20th anniversary of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone

PREDATORS — Today is the 20th anniversary of the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park — a day celebrated and denounced ever since.

On January 12, 1995, eight wolves from Alberta were relocated to Yellowstone National Park by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service personnel. They were the first gray wolves in Yellowstone since they were extirpated in 1926—an absence of 69 years. Wolves were released in central Idaho two days later. Another six wolves arrived in Yellowstone on Jan. 20, 1995.

The goal was to restore balance to a landscape where wolves had been absent for more than 70 years.

The original 14 Yellowstone wolves – along with naturally returning packs and wolves subsequently released in 1995 as well as in 1996 in Idaho – exceeded biologists' expectations in prospering and recovering their ground  in the Northern Rockies.

Some groups call the reintroduction a huge success while livestock and big-game hunting groups loathe the results.

Twenty years later, wolves have been taken off the endangered species list and are hunted and trapped as a game species in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. 

At the end of 2013, about 1,700 gray wolves roamed the Northern Rocky Mountains, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wolves are expanding their ranges into Washington, Oregon and some wolves have been documented branching out at least for visits into Utah, Arizona and California.

Here are some quotes from an anniversary event held Sunday in Gardner, Mont., featuring some of the original reintroduction team:

Doug Smith, current project leader for the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone National Park:

Wolves are a major part of Yellowstone and they have contributed significantly to the ecological and economic health of the Park. The goal of the Park Service is to restore natural conditions and we could not have done that in Yellowstone without wolf restoration. Another goal of the Park Service is to provide for visitor’s enjoyment and today, Yellowstone is the best place in the world to view wild wolves.

Carter Niemeyer, USA-Canada wolf reintroduction team member; retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho.

Wolf recovery in Yellowstone and the entire Northern Rockies region has been a phenomenal success. Wolves are here to stay and it is my hope and desire that the states that now manage America’s wolves can continue the wonderful conservation legacy we have crafted for future generations.

Meanwhile, wolves have helped crop Yellowstone's elk population by more than 75 percent, and that's not necessarily great for the wolves or wolf watchers.

Spotting a wolf inside the park might take a little more luck than usual these days. In March of 2013, officials estimated that just 71 adult wolves reside within Yellowstone’s boundaries, a 14-year low and less than half of 2007’s total. Mange, a parasitic skin disease, has contributed to the decline, as has the dwindling elk population.

Who’s winning debate on Spokane-area wolf billboards?

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Here's my humble observation regarding the dueling outdoor advertising campaigns of wolf "education" in the Spokane area:

When  taking a stand at the far extreme of an issue for shock value, you leave a lot of room for the other side to court the vast majority in the middle ground.

See more details on the battle of the wolf billboards coming  in a Sunday Outdoors story.

The latest four billboards sponsored by Washington Residents Against Wolves are located on Maple, Trent, Pines and Nevada streets in Spokane.

Locations for Defenders of Wildlife billboards:

  1. NW Blvd. NL @ Elm WF
  2. Nevada EL N/O Lincoln Rd. NF
  3. Trent & Freya SWC NF
  4. Trent NL @ Lily EF 
  5. Sprague NL W/O Farr EF
  6. Sprague & McCabe NWC EF 
  7. Sullivan EL @ Valleyway SF
  8. Nevada EL S/O Lincoln Rd. SF 
  9. Seltice Way SL 600’ e/o Wellesley EF        

Clueless Utah hunter mistakes protected wolf for coyote

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A wolf made headlines last month for roaming hundreds of miles from Wyoming to Utah. About the same time, another wolf, from Idaho, became the first in Arizona in seven decades.  But someone wasn't paying attention.

Utah coyote hunter kills wolf near Beaver
 70-pound female came from Cody, Wyoming

By Brett Prettyman/The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah wildlife officials have confirmed a protected 3-year-old female collared gray wolf was mistaken for a coyote and killed by a hunter near Beaver on Sunday. The 70-pound animal had been collared in Cody, Wyoming, in January, 2014.

The hunter shot the wolf about 5 miles east of Beaver in Beaver County on the south end of the Tushar Mountains and called Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) law enforcement officials upon noticing the collar. State conservation officers then contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We are still investigating, but it seems initially that it was a case of mistaken identity,” said DWR director Greg Sheehan.

Sheehan said it is possible the hunter could face citations for killing the animal protected as endangered by the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act in that part of Utah. The federal agency will conduct the investigation.

This is the first documented killing of a gray wolf in Utah since the animals were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the mid-1990s.

“This is a very sad day for wolf conservation and for Utah. All competent wildlife biologists already know that coyote hunting, including our state bounty program, is ineffective, and therefore a waste of money – and now we see that is is also a threat to other wildlife and to wolf recovery,” said Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, based in Salt Lake City.

A picture of what appears to be a wolf crossing Highway 14 east of Cedar City was taken by a member of the public in early December. Sheehan said there is a chance the wolf killed Sunday could be the same animal.

It is also possible that the canine killed near Beaver could be the female wolf that has been hanging around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this year.

Wildlife officials confirmed a wolf in the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah back in August. That animal, believed to be a large male that had been collared near the border of Idaho and Canada, has not been spotted since September. His radio collar was failing at the time and there have been no new sightings of the animal.

Wolf kills sheep near Whitman-Spokane county line

Updated12:10 p.m. on Dec. 9 with clarification about when sheep are being moved and quotes from sheep farmer involved.

PREDATORS —The first sheep kill attributed to a wolf in Whitman County is being investigated by Washington wildlife officials.

One ewe in a flock of about 1,200 was killed Friday on private land about five miles northeast of Lamont near the Spokane County line, said Joey McCanna, Department of Fish and Wildlife conflict specialist.

“We’ve ruled it a probable wolf kill,” McCanna said, noting that the investigation didn’t come up with all the evidence needed for a confirmation.

Location of the wounds, canine teeth punctures and a broken femur indicated wolf, he said. "But a lot of the rump was eaten, taking away some of the evidence we use, and we could not find viable tracks in the hard ground of the stubble field," he added.

The dead ewe was one of several sheep that had strayed from the flock where there was a break-down in their enclosure of three-strand electric fence, he said.

Wolf sightings had been reported in the past three weeks in the Lamont area, but no one witnessed the attack, he said.

Two wolves were confirmed in the Lacrosse area last winter.

In October, a wolf was shot about 15 miles southwest of Pullman by a man Fish and Wildlife police described as a Whitman County farmer. Gray wolves are protected by state endangered species laws.

Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy is investigating the evidence turned over by Fish and Wildlife police on Nov. 19. Tracy’s staff said Monday that no decision has been made on whether to prosecute the case.

Fish and Wildlife officers will be working with the livestock producers when they move the Lamont sheep back to a fenced area near their homestead later this month, McCanna said.

"We are not forcing anyone to move livestock in this situation," said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. "The sheep are being moved on a normal schedule."

Meantime, the fenced area has been surrounded with blinking lights. In addition, lights and electrified flagging, called turbo fladry, is being added to the fence where the sheep are being moved as a deterrent to wolves, McCanna said.

The department is lending assistance to make sure any compost areas for livestock carcasses are properly covered with soil to avoid attracting wolves and coyotes, he said.

“We’re going door to door in the area to alert other producers,” he said.

"We'll be trying to find more sightings and sign and if we see that a wolf is using an area we may try to trap it," he said.

From the Lewiston Tribune:

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a wolf is probably responsible for killing a sheep near Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack’s ranch last week in Lamont.

Swannack reported the kill shortly after discovering the sheep on Friday.

"My wife saw the wolf," he said. "We have an electric fence around 300 acres of stubble. The fence went down during the ice storm Thursday, and the sheep got into our neighbor’s stubble. We were herding them back when my wife saw the wolf. We found the sheep up a draw after that."

Swannack said he hadn’t seen the wolf again since Friday.

"We’re doing what we can to discourage it from coming back," he said. "We have guard dogs with our sheep. The department is also supplying some stuff."

WSU study: Shooting wolves increases wolf attacks on livestock

PREDATORS — Livestock growers are likely to disagree, to put it politely, with the findings of a wolf study just released by Washington State University. But here's the scoop:

It is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock, according to the analysis of 25 years of data.

Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer, the researchers say in a WSU News online release.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, WSU wildlife biologist Rob Wielgus and data analyst Kaylie Peebles say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly.

The trend continues until 25 percent of the wolves in an area are killed. Ranchers and wildlife managers then see a “standing wave of livestock depredations,” said Wielgus.

That rate of wolf mortality “is unsustainable and cannot be carried out indefinitely if federal relisting of wolves is to be avoided,” they said.

John Pierce, the department’s chief wildlife scientist, said the research isn’t making the agency re-think its actions.

“If his findings are true – and I think of them more as hypotheses – our typical understanding of how animals react to lethal control is not intuitive for wolves,” he said. “By removing the resident animals, you might exacerbate the situation” in the long-term.

But that doesn’t reduce the short-term value of killing wolves to halt ongoing livestock attacks, Pierce said.

Here are more details and background from the WSU media release:

Study analyzes 25 years of data

The gray wolf was federally listed as endangered in 1974. During much of its recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, government predator control efforts have been used to keep wolves from attacking sheep and livestock. With wolves delisted in 2012, sport hunting has also been used. But until now, the effectiveness of lethal control has been what Wielgus and Peebles call a “widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis.”

Their study is the largest of its kind, analyzing 25 years of lethal control data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Interagency Annual Wolf Reports in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The researchers found that killing one wolf increases the odds of depredations 4 percent for sheep and 5 to 6 percent for cattle. If 20 wolves are killed, livestock deaths double.

Work reported in PLOS ONE last year by Peebles, Wielgus and other WSU colleagues found that lethal controls of cougars also backfire, disrupting their populations so much that younger, less disciplined cougars attack more livestock.

Still, Wielgus did not expect to see the same result with wolves.

“I had no idea what the results were going to be, positive or negative,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see what happened.’ I was surprised that there was a big effect.”

Three breeding pairs in state

Wielgus said wolf killings likely disrupt the social cohesion of the pack. While an intact breeding pair will keep young offspring from mating, disruption can set sexually mature wolves free to breed, leading to an increase in breeding pairs. As they have pups, they become bound to one place and can’t hunt deer and elk as freely. Occasionally, they turn to livestock.

Under Washington state’s wolf management plan, wolves will be a protected species until there are 15 breeding pairs for three years. Depredations and lethal controls, legal and otherwise, are one of the biggest hurdles to that happening.

Wolves from the Huckleberry Pack killed more than 30 sheep in Stevens County, Wash., this summer, prompting state wildlife officials to authorize killing up to four wolves. An aerial gunner ended up killing the pack’s alpha female. A second alpha female, from the Teanaway pack near Ellensburg, Wash., was illegally shot and killed in October.

That left three known breeding pairs in the state.

Non-lethal interventions encouraged

As it is, said Wielgus, a small percentage of livestock deaths are from wolves. According to the management plan, they account for between .1 percent and .6 percent of all livestock deaths—a minor threat compared to other predators, disease, accidents and the dangers of calving.

In an ongoing study of non-lethal wolf control, Wielgus’ Large Carnivore Conservation Lab last summer monitored 300 radio-tagged sheep and cattle in eastern Washington wolf country. None were killed by wolves.

Still, there will be some depredations, he said. He encourages more non-lethal interventions like guard dogs, “range riders” on horseback, flags, spotlights and “risk maps” that discourage grazing animals in hard-to-protect, wolf-rich areas.

“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” Wielgus said, “and society has told us that that’s not going to happen.”

Gray wolf news updates 11-26-2014

PREDATORS — It's been a quiet week in the region some people would like to call Wolfbegone.

But here are a few notes about the species as wolves continues to recover their native range in the Northwest.

A Whitman County wolf shooting case is in the hands of county prosecutor Denis Tracy.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife turned its evidence over to the prosecutor on Nov. 19 with the possibility that the man who shot a wolf around Oct. 12 could be charged with a misdemeanor for killing an animal that's protected in far-Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws. The agency turned over the evidence after receiving DNA lab results that confirmed the animal was a wolf and not a wolf hybrid.
 
Tracy's office staff said today that the prosecutor is still investigating the case before making the decision on whether to prosecute the case. The identity of the shooter has not been released although WDFW officers described the man as a county farmer. The original WDFW report said the man chased the wolf in a vehicle and shot it in a Palouse farm field about 15 miles southwest of Pullman.
 
"We're not recommending anything," said Steve Crown, Fish and Wildlife Department chief. "We're simply referring the facts of the case in our report. It's up to the prosecutor to examine the facts and the case law and decide whether to bring charges."
 
Making the decision to prosecute is a big deal.
  • Although exemptions are made for killing a wolf to protect life or livestock, unlawful taking of a state endangered species is punishable by sentences of up to a year in jail and fines up to $5,000.

  • The only wolf-killing case to be prosecuted in Washington resulted in Twisp ranching family members being ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008.

A Kittitas County wolf-killing case remains under investigation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Brent Lawrence said Tuesday no arrests have been made in the October shooting of an adult breeding female belonging to the Teanaway Pack near Salmon la Sac. Conservation groups have offered a $15,000 reward in the case.

The wolf was found by state and federal wildlife officials Oct. 28 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The female was wearing a telemetry collar and was shot in the hindquarters. Investigators say she likely was killed around Oct. 17.

USFWS is leading the investigation because the shooting occurred in the two-thirds of the state in which wolves are federally protected. Wolves also are protected state endangered species laws.

An unlawful taking of a federal endangered species is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

A hunter was cleared for shooting at stalking wolf on Oct. 30 in Stevens County.The animal ran way, but the hunter reported to officials that he thought it had been hit.

A Smackout Pack wolf was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. Conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. However, the case still has not been solved.

An anti-wolf group called  Washington Residents Against Wolves has initiated an billboard campaign in Spokane.

BLM has denied a permit for a predator derby based out of Salmon, Idaho. Organizers say they'll hold the derby on national forest land.

The first gray wolf in northern Arizona in more than 70 years was confirmed by wildlife officials this week. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Jeff Humphrey said Friday that analysis of the animal’s scat shows it’s from the Northern Rockies population at least 450 miles away. It was first spotted by a tourist in early November.

Anti-wolf group initiates Spokane billboard campaign

PREDATORS — A newly organized anti-wolf group says it's targeting Spokane with a billboard campaign "to inform  residents about the reality of an increasing number of wolves in Washington State," according to a media release posted today.

Four billboards featuring a snarling wolf are being put up, according to Washington Residents Against Wolves, an activist group that says it's promoting "sound management of the predator."

Billboards are up at Lincoln Road and Division Street and Lincoln Road and Market Street.

“The aim of the billboard campaign is to encourage people to ask more questions about what having wolves in Washington really means,” said Luke Hedquist, WARAW member.

“People need to consider the challenges associated with wolves. Wolves can and will attack people, livestock will be killed and maimed, private property will be compromised and local economies will be impacted. We want to make sure people thoroughly understand the issue, so we started by trying to get people’s attention with the billboards.”

The initial billboard message features a photo of a wolf, teeth bared, and the text: “Endangered? No. Deadly? Yes. Good for Washington? Absolutely not.“ A total of eight billboard posters are planned to be up by the end of the month, Hedquist said.

"One of the key items not being discussed is how quickly wolves will deplete wildlife herds in the state," Hedquist says in the media release.

Washington has about 14 identified wolf packs and had a minimum of 52 wolves before this year's breeding season.

“We know by watching wolves in other states that it is common for the population to increase by 38 percent on average each year,” said Hedquist.

This is bad news not only for predators who must compete for available prey in the affected ecosystems, but also for the communities that depending on seasonal hunting revenue, he said.

“As the elk and other ungulates are impacted by wolves, we will see fewer animals for other predators like cougar and bear; a decline in the number of animals available to hunt and significant impacts to local economies as hunters go elsewhere,” Hedquist said.

“It’s also important to remember that at this point, wolves are not moving across Washington and WDFW is making no moves to either reduce the number of wolves or translocate the Eastern Washington excess to other parts of the state. So we should be prepared for Eastern Washington to bear the full brunt of the cost. Frankly, that cost is unacceptable.”

$15,000 reward offered in Washington wolf shooting case

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Conservation groups announced today a $15,000 reward for information that helps convict a poacher who killed a federally protected wolf near Salmon la Sac.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed this week that a female gray wolf from the Teanaway pack in Upper Kittitas County died last month from being shot.
 
The public is being asked to report any information or sightings from Oct. ​17 to Oct. 28 dealing with the case. Information can be reported by phone at (425) 883-8122.  Tips also can be reported on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded poacher hotline, (877) 933-9847.

Groups contributing to the reward include Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Woodland  Park Zoo and the Humane Society of the United States.

  • After a wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County, conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. However, the case still has not been solved.
  • The investigation continues into the October shooting of a wolf in Whitman County.
  • Twisp ranching family members were ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008.

The carcass of the breeding female recovered Oct. 28 in the Teanaway Pack’s habitat area was found on the north side of the Paris Creek drainage in the Salmon la Sac area north of Lake Cle Elum, says Brent Lawrence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland. The area is within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

  • The person who killed the Teanaway wolf could set back state de-listing of wolves from endangered species protections. Washington's wolf management plan sets a goal of having wolf packs in three areas of the state. The Teanaway Pack ranges very close to the last of the three zones — the southern Cascades — which is still unoccupied. Wolves ranging out of that pack could be the ticket to de-listing.

The wolf was fitted with a radio telemetry collar and was recovered by federal wildlife officials and those with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Gray wolves in the western two-thirds of the state (with U.S. Highway 97 the boundary) are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and a similar state law, Lawrence said.

The Teanaway River valley and the area north of Lake Cle Elum is in the part of the state where wolves continue to be under both state and federal protection.

East of the highway, wolves have been taken off the federal endangered list but continue to be protected by state law. The federal agency is the lead investigator of wolf mortalities in the western two-thirds of the state.

Lawrence said the wolf’s telemetry collar signaled that it wasn’t moving, which led to the search and recovery of the carcass. The preliminary necropsy revealed the wolf was shot in the hindquarters. He had no additional information to share about the investigation or a possible suspect.

Video: research camera catches cougar killing deer

PREDATORS — A camera fixed on a deer's neck to study what it eats also gave University of Washington researchers a glimpse of how the deer was eaten — by a mountain lion.

The short video below shows the whitetail feeding in the snowy woods as a mountain lion attacks and takes the prey down for the kill. The real-time action is quick. A 1/4-speed slow-mo replay in a YouTube post by American Hunter offers viewers time to clearly see the predator.

Experts say most cougar attacks are ambushes, as this video shows.  But it's also notable that the attack is head-on rather than from the side or rear.

Justin Dellinger, a PhD candidate at the University of Washington, has been conducting the research that seeks to document the impacts Washington's growing wolf population has on deer.

  • Dellinger currently is fundraising on his website to keep the research going through 2017.  His online effort, which already has raised more than $12,000, ends Saturday, Nov. 15.

As gray wolves are naturally recolonizing Washington State, Dellinger's project is taking advantage of the rare opportunity to study ecosystem responses when a top predator returns.

So far, the project has placed neck cams on 48 deer and GPS collars on 43 deer.  Dellinger's goal is to collar another 280 deer for the research.

Although the project has been on the ground for only two years, it's generated considerable interest among scientists and the public.  Public TV already has zeroed in on the study with a documentary, “Wolves and the Ecology of Fear.”
Click here to watch the video

$15,000 reward offered in Washington wolf shooting case

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Conservation groups announced today a $15,000 reward for information that helps convict a poacher who killed a federally protected wolf near Salmon la Sac.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed this week that a female gray wolf from the Teanaway pack in Upper Kittitas County died last month from being shot.
 
The public is being asked to report any information or sightings from Oct. ​17 to Oct. 28 dealing with the case. Information can be reported by phone at (425) 883-8122.  Tips also can be reported on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded poacher hotline, (877) 933-9847.

Groups contributing to the reward include Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Woodland  Park Zoo and the Humane Society of the United States.

  • After a wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County, conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. However, the case still has not been solved.
  • The investigation continues into the October shooting of a wolf in Whitman County.
  • Twisp ranching family members were ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008.

The carcass of the breeding female recovered Oct. 28 in the Teanaway Pack’s habitat area was found on the north side of the Paris Creek drainage in the Salmon la Sac area north of Lake Cle Elum, says Brent Lawrence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland. The area is within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

  • The person who killed the Teanaway wolf could set back state de-listing of wolves from endangered species protections. Washington's wolf management plan sets a goal of having wolf packs in three areas of the state. The Teanaway Pack ranges very close to the last of the three zones — the southern Cascades — which is still unoccupied. Wolves ranging out of that pack could be the ticket to de-listing.

The wolf was fitted with a radio telemetry collar and was recovered by federal wildlife officials and those with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Gray wolves in the western two-thirds of the state (with U.S. Highway 97 the boundary) are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and a similar state law, Lawrence said.

The Teanaway River valley and the area north of Lake Cle Elum is in the part of the state where wolves continue to be under both state and federal protection.

East of the highway, wolves have been taken off the federal endangered list but continue to be protected by state law. The federal agency is the lead investigator of wolf mortalities in the western two-thirds of the state.

Lawrence said the wolf’s telemetry collar signaled that it wasn’t moving, which led to the search and recovery of the carcass. The preliminary necropsy revealed the wolf was shot in the hindquarters. He had no additional information to share about the investigation or a possible suspect.

Hunting stresses wolves, research indicates

PREDATORS — Wolf research in the news includes a report on a study revealing indications that wolves suffer stress when heavily hunted.

OK….

I wonder if moose and elk are stressed when wolves are in the neighborhood?  Some research indicates yes.

My English setter is stressed when I leave home in the morning if I don't invite him along to go pheasant hunting — however, I'm sure some pheasants and quail are stressed when I let my dog loose on Palouse farm ground.

Seriously, I don't discount any research that might have evolutionary implications in wildlife.

On the other hand, maybe we could conclude that a little stress in our increasingly crowded world is unavoidable, and move on from there.

Hunter cleared for shooting at stalking wolf

UPDATED 1 p.m. with quotes from WDFW enforcement chief.

A hunter who took a shot at a gray wolf after being virtually surrounded by a pack in northeastern Washington on Oct. 30 has been cleared of any wrongdoing by Washington Fish and Wildlife police who investigated the incident.

Wolves are protected under state endangered species rules, but exceptions are allowed for force when people or domestic animals are directly threatened.

The incident took place in the territory of the Smackout Pack in Stevens County northeast of Colville off the Aladdin Road, department officials say.

The hunter called officers and reported his chilling story, which is summarized in the agency's Dangerous Wildlife Incident Reports. The story was confirmed by Steve Crown, department enforcement chief. The name of the hunter is being withheld, he said.

The man was hunting with several people when he saw a wolf skirting along the brush headed in the same direction he was going. 

According to the police report, he yelled and shot into the air and the wolf left.

The hunter said he saw three additional wolves about 25 yards ahead of him, and they ran in the same direction as the first wolf. 

The man then heard a noise in the brush, yelled to see if it was his hunting partner and got no response. A black wolf appeared within 15-20 yards of and approached him.  The man shot at the wolf. He told officers he believed he hit it, but the wolf ran off.

Investigating officers said they found hair held by a small patch of hide indicating a flesh would likely be more educational than lethal to the wolf.

Updates on other wolf incidents:

The Teanaway Pack collared female wolf that was found dead last month is under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the wolf was from the western portion of Washington where gray wolves are still protected under federal endangered species rules. KING 5 TV reported Wednesday from unconfirmed sources that the Teanaway wolf was shot.

The case of the wolf shot by a farmer in Whitman County last month is still pending as Washington wildlife officials wait for DNA results to make sure the wolf is not a hybrid before making a decision on whether to turn the case over to the county prosecutor.

Crown acknowledged that as wolves repopulate their former territory people who venture into the northeastern Washington woods have to be more prepared for wildlife encounters than in the past.

But Crown said he’s cautious of promoting hysteria, pointing out that wolfs are naturally inquisitive.

“I think there’s probably more likelihood of being injured by a moose than a pack of wolves,” he said.

However, being armed with bear spray may be a wise precaution when being out in the woods where bears, cougars, wolves and coyotes roam, he said.

“Carrying bear spray is a good precaution,” he said. “If you’re just out checking fences, you can jump back into your pickup if something threatening occurs. But when your venturing out to more remote areas, your options are limited.  You have to be able to take care of yourself.”

  • A more detailed report has been filed by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

First wolf in 80 years apparently roams Grand Canyon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A tourist photograph of a radio-collared canine is thought to be the first gray wolf to grace the North Rim of the Grand Canyon since the 1940s.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was sending a team to try capturing the animal in order to verify its species and origin, although federal biologists are assuming it is a wolf unless otherwise determined, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

The agency later issued a statement saying a collared "wolf-like" animal had repeatedly been observed and photographed on U.S. forest land just north of Grand Canyon National Park, and that wildlife officials were "working to confirm whether the animal is a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid."

Several photos of the animal were taken over the weekend by a Grand Canyon park visitor who shared them with conservation activists and park staff, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which first made the findings public.

A few wolves that have been captured and radio-collared in states such as Washington, Idaho and Oregon have been shown to launch out on their own for hundreds and even thousands of miles.  Sometimes the radio transmitters fail or run out of battery power so no signal can be received to confirm the wolf's identity. 

Any wolf roaming northcentral Arizona would be protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. If confirmed to be a western gray wolf, it would presumably have ventured hundreds of miles south from the Northern Rockies, where the animals were reintroduced in the 1990s and are now estimated to number nearly 1,700.

Ruby Creek wolf continues to elude state trappers

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A gray wolf that was deemed too comfortable with being around rural homes and pet dogs near Ione, Wash., has eluded state trappers intending to put the female wolf into captivity at wildlife facility near Tenio, Wash.

State Fish and Wildlife officials have called off the trapping effort and will wait until snow accumulates to offer a better chance of capture.

The Ruby Creek wolf was trapped and radio-collared in 2013 and had been hazed with rubber bullets to try to keep it away from Pend Oreille County residences. Wolves learn quickly from these encounters and are much harder to capture the second time around. Wildlife managers are concerned for public safety as well as the prospect of the solo wolf being bred by a domestic dog during the winter mating season.

Here's the latest update for on the Ruby Creek wolf as well as ongoing wolf-management issues from Nate Pamplin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife assistant director and head of the state's wildlife program:

Ruby Creek Wolf: 

To date, we have not been able to capture the Ruby Creek female for placement at Wolf Haven International.  So far our efforts have been mostly trapping with leg-hold sets; we’ve had 24 traps in the ground for 18 nights.  We have used traps with scent lure and blind sets (no scent).  We've used scat and hair as bait from the dogs the Ruby female has been mingling with, as well as walking the dog around the area to lay scent.  We've tried free ranging darting twice and pushing the wolf towards the traps. 

At this point and given this level of effort, we have pulled the traps because trapping is probably not going to be successful.  We will continue monitoring the Ruby Creek female and will be prepared to capture her using a dart gun, cougar walk-in trap, or leg-hold trap if the right opportunity occurs.  Once snow arrives, we me need to dart her from the air.   If these efforts are unsuccessful, we will re-evaluate options.

Whitman County Animal Mortality Investigation:

A man described as a farmer is being investigated for shooting a wolf after chasing it in a vehicle southwest of Pullman.

We are still conducting the investigation on the animal shot in Whitman County and sent genetic samples to a lab to determine whether the animal was a wolf or a hybrid.  We expect the investigation to be concluded in the next couple weeks.

Profanity Peak Pack:

Washington's most recently confirmed wolf pack came to light in September after killing cattle in a remote national forest allotment in Ferry County near Profanity Peak. A new depredation was reported this week.

WDFW staff responded to the Diamond M ranch and investigated a cow that had substantial injuries on October 20.   The animal was discovered during the round-up/collection efforts to move animals to the Basin and winter range.  Staff confirmed that the injuries were caused by wolves. The wounds appeared to be about a week old.  This is the third incident involving four livestock: 1) a dead cow and calf, 2) an injured calf (which was with three other calves that were observed injured, but were not able to be caught/inspected) and 3) an injured cow.  Currently, we do not have any wolves collared in this pack.

The livestock operators are cooperating to try to avoid problems with wolves, Pamplin said, noting that staffers are trying to locate the wolves for a possible capture and radio-collaring misison.

The operator is collecting the cows from the main allotment where the depredations have occurred, so human presence is high and the number of cows remaining on the allotment is lowered and getting reduced almost daily.  We know that there are cattle spread over multiple allotments in the immediate vicinity as well as private ranches on the periphery of where this pack likely ranges.  Whether this pack is attacking livestock owned by others is unknown at this time. 

Hunters tell it like it is at Lynnwood wolf management meeting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — As predicted, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife-sponsored public meeting on wolf management held Tuesday in Lynwood had a different tone than the similar meeting held Oct. 7 in Colville.

The public in Lynnwood blasted the state for killing any wolves even to protect livestock. Cattlemen and hunters in Colville were enraged by the state's reluctance to take out entire packs of wolves.

I've seen little TV or mainstream newspaper reports from the Western Washington meeting in which state wildlife managers explained their wolf management actions and took public comment.

In contrast, the Colville meeting was attended by three TV stations, reporters from The Spokesman-Review and other papers and an AP reporter.  Two different stories were on the AP wire the next day documenting how state officials got their butts chewed in northeastern Washington.

It's safe to say there weren't as many vegan-related bumper stickers on cars parked outside the Colville meeting. No vocally angry cattle ranchers ranted at the Lynnwood meeting, although a few hunters showed up to say what was on their minds.

Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine has a thoughtful report on the Lynwood meeting.

Said Walgamott, taking off on one hunter's assurance that wolves eventually would be hunted in Washington despite the arguments that no wolves should be killed:

Really, it’s a success story when you can get to the point that hunts on any species can be held, kind of like the comeback of elk that allowed for seasons in this state by the early 1900s, whitetails in Missouri by 1931 and elsewhere in the East, bandtail pigeons by the early 2000s in the Northwest.

Washington's wolf management plan requires 15 successful breeding pairs in three distinct regions of the state for three straight years, or 18 in any one region before wolves would be hunted in the state.

By contrast, Oregon state rules call for launching a delisting process for wolves when Eastern Oregon has four breeding pairs for three consecutive years.  That delisting from endangered species rules could start next year judging from the progress wolves are making.

Washington has a tough road to travel in the next few years as wolves continue to expand.  Walgamott let Nate Pamplin, WDFW's wildlife program director have the last word in his report on the Lynnwood meeting:

Even as a self-identified counselor gave WDFW’s crew some psychoanalysis about a little chart they put together that showed what the agency hears from both sides, Pamplin noted:

“I don’t have the easy button. We heard a lot of good ideas tonight. We’re going to recover wolves. We’re going to manage wolf-livestock conflicts. We know wolf-ungulate issues are coming. We need to do better outreach.”

 

Wolf shot in Whitman County; charges pending

Updated 8 p.m. with response from state Fish and Wildlife police chief.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A farmer is being investigated in the shooting of a gray wolf in Whitman County on Sunday.

The wolf was shot southwest of Pullman, said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers who responded to the scene Sunday after receiving a call.

“They determined that the wolf had been shot by a farmer who had pursued the animal for several miles in his vehicle after seeing it near his farm,” said Nate Pamplin, the agency’s wildlife program director.

Wolves are protected by state endangered species regulations.

The incident occurred west of U.S. Highway 195 on the opening weekend of the state's general deer hunting season. 

"The shooting does not appear to have been associated with a defense-of-life action," Pamplin said.

The shooting did not appear "to take place under the statutory authority to shoot and kill a wolf that is caught in the act of attacking livestock in the Eastern Washington recovery zone," he added. 

"No citations have been issued as this is an active investigation," said Steve Crown, state Fish and Wildlife police chief in Olympia. "We will not be releasing the suspect’s information until the investigation is complete and the case has been submitted to prosecutor."  

Scattered wolf sightings have been reported in Whitman County for years and wolf tracks were confirmed near Rock Lake in November 2013.

Washington has 14 confirmed wolf packs, none of which is in Whitman County.

Pamplin said he was not aware of any incidents with wolves and livestock or pets in 2014. None was confirmed in previous years.

A Whitman County Sheriff's Department spokesman said the case was being handled by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife police.

"Once the investigation is complete, the case will be sent to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s office for a charging decision," Pamplin said. The man's name was not immediately released.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington by around 1940. The animals have been moving back into the state from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia for more than a decade.

Since 2007, wolves have begun causing conflicts with Washington ranchers because the animals sometimes prey on livestock.

In August and September this year, 33 sheep and three cattle have been confirmed as killed by wolves in Stevens and Ferry counties.

Updated: North Idaho wolf makes 850-mile jaunt to Utah

WILDLIFE — A gray wolf that had been radio collared in North Idaho has hoofed it to a new home 850-miles south as the crow flies into Utah.

The 4-year-old male has been verified on the south slope of the Uinta Mountains in Duchesne County by Brian Maxfield, a biologist with the Utah Division of Natural Resources who was doing telemetry monitoring on other wildlife, according to Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

The wolf is wearing a radio collar, which is losing its battery power, with a frequency indicating it's from the Boundary Pack that roams North Idaho near the U.S.-Canada border.

It was spotted later by people calling in coyotes, and also by elk hunters before it appeared to be heading into Colorado or Wyoming where contact is likely to be lost from the dying transmitter, Prettyman said.

Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists have not responded to my calls for comment on the wandering wolf or why it would want to leave North Idaho, where hunting wolf hunting seasons are open year-round on private lands.

But I don't feel so bad after hearing back from  my query to the Salt Lake reporter.

Said Prettyman:

The Utah game mammals coordinator told me she has left a couple of messages with Idaho over the last three weeks with no response other than the initial call when the only thing the guy said was, "Do you want some more?"

Contacted later, Jim Hayden, Idaho's lead wolf biologist, said the wolf had been trapped  14 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border and fitted with a radio collar as a three-year old on July 28, 2013.

"We lost communication with it three weeks later," he said, indicating that the wolf had quickly roamed out of the territory being monitored by Idaho researchers.

"The collar is designed to go off around Sept. 1, 2016," Hayden said. "I sure with they'd capture it in Utah to get that collar. All of the information on where it's been since 2013 is stored in that unit."

What would you do about wolves if you were director?

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Nothing new came out of last night's dog and pony show of a public meeting in Colville about wolf management in northeastern Washington.  Some people are angry about wolves one way or the other.  We knew that.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson got his butt chewed by an angry public, mostly ranchers and hunters, for wolves moving back into the region — something in which state laws give the director only narrow latitude in controlling.

Surely next week when the agency holds a similar public meeting in Lynnwood, the director with get his fanny bruised again, by pro-wolf groups.

We already know that managing wolves to everybody's liking is expensive.

And we SHOULD realize that it can be dangerous.

How would you manage wolves, within the limits of the law, to suit ALL of the CITIZENS of Washington if you were the director?

If you have a good plan, you might want to apply for the job!

The Associated Press report  (posted below) is perhaps the best of the print and TV coverage at giving the full flavor of the Colville meeting, which is much like other wolf management meetings that have been held over the years in the Stevens County seat.

Ranchers urge relocation of Washington wolf packs

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS/ Associated Press

COLVILLE, Wash. — Ranchers in northeastern Washington offered a simple solution to keep wolves from killing their livestock: Pack up the predators and ship them to western Washington.

The suggestion came Tuesday night at a contentious meeting held by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Stevens County town of Colville, where anti-wolf sentiment runs deep.

“Why not take some to western Washington and build the packs over there?” asked John Moore, echoing a recurring theme during the four-hour meeting attended by about 200 people.

Liberal western Washington, where most of the state’s population lives, is where sentiment has been strongest to restore the wolf population.

“We don’t want them here,” added Ken Barker of Loon Lake. “We want them gone. Take them to Olympia.”

Even elected officials joined the call for relocation, with Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship also suggesting that wolves be sent west.

Relocating wolves would be expensive and require federal and state reviews, said Steve Pozzanghera, the department’s eastern regional director

The overwhelmingly anti-wolf crowd also expressed little sympathy for state efforts to recover wolf populations.

Agency director Phil Anderson made opening comments that proved to be an understatement.

“I know some of the answers we give you won’t be satisfactory to you,” he said.

Many of the comments by agency officials were met with boos and cat calls. They were accused of incompetence and even of deliberately trying to drive ranchers out of business in a government conspiracy to grab the land.

Wolves were killed off in Washington in the early 1900s. But earlier this century, they started to return, migrating from Idaho and British Columbia. Fish and Wildlife estimates that at the end of 2013, there were at least 52 wolves in 13 packs roaming eastern Washington. Since then, two more packs have been identified.

Of the 15 packs, 12 are in the mountainous northeastern portion of the state, where most issues involving livestock have occurred.

Okanogan County Commissioner Jim DeTro said the state has created a sort of “Jurassic Park” by promoting the establishment of wolves in livestock country. “We’ve got wolves in every corner of our county,” DeTro said.

Suggestions that wolves should be shot on sight and secretly buried were met with applause. A handful of people who spoke on behalf of wolves were booed.

Onlookers also rejected the department’s contention that wolves are arriving naturally to the area. They said wolves were deliberately reintroduced into the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem in the 1990s and have migrated from the park.

Officials responded that the majority of state residents, many in the populous Puget Sound region, want wolves in the state. It’s the duty of the agency to manage the animals, Anderson said.

It was a difficult summer for ranchers in wolf country. At least 33 sheep were killed or injured and a cow and calf were killed.

Dave Dashiell had his 1,800 sheep repeatedly attacked by members of the Huckleberry wolf pack in August.

“There isn’t any place in northeast Washington where you can go where there aren’t wolves,” Dashiell said. “It’s pretty tough to outrun a wolf pack with a band of sheep.”

State sets wolf management meeting in Lynnwood

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Looks like Washington wildlife officials are planning to turn the other cheek after tonight's public meeting on wolf management in Colville.

The West Side public will have an opportunity to discuss wolf management with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife leaders during a meeting Tuesday, Oct. 14, in Lynnwood, according to a media release posted late on Monday.

The meeting, which is likely to have a different flavor than that Colville meeting, is set for 6 p.m. in Room 1EF of the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW, Lynnwood.

WDFW officials will provide information on recent wolf attacks on livestock in the state, and on the packs involved in those incidents – the Huckleberry pack in Stevens County and the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County.

WDFW’s actions to protect sheep this summer from the Huckleberry pack are described in a question-and-answer document on the department’s website.

WDFW officials also confirmed recently that wolves were responsible for killing a cow and calf at a cattle grazing site in Ferry County, within the range of the newly discovered Profanity Peak pack. WDFW wildlife conflict specialists continue to monitor that situation.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal list of endangered species in the eastern third of the state, but the species is still protected under Washington state law. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and state laws set the parameters for responding to wolf predation on livestock.

The department has also established a Wolf Advisory Group that provides input to the department on wolf plan implementation.

 

Second thoughts on capturing wolf for captivity

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Pro-wolf groups praised the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's decision to attempt to capture the Ruby Creek wolf and put it in a Western Washington wildlife park to avoid conflicts with humans in rural areas near Ione.

Even though the Ruby Creek wolf had previously been trapped by researchers and is wearing a transmitting collar, capture crews had no luck on Friday and there's still no word today.

Which gives us pause to consider:

  • Once a wolf has been pinched by a trap, it's extremely difficult to catch again.
  • Baiting options for capturing a wolf would have to be monitored constantly to avoid compromising other wildlife.
  • Tranquilizing a wolf by shooting from a helicopter is expensive and dangerous.

Are we going to crash a helicopter and kill a pilot and biologist before we come to grips with how many lives and how much  money we're willing to risk to make people feel good about managing wolves?

Public meeting on wolf management Tuesday in Colville

ENDANGERED SPECIES — State wildlife officials are likely to hear from angry ranchers at a meeting Tuesday in Colville to discuss wolf management.

The department says it will provide information about recent wolf attacks on sheep and cattle in northeast Washington.

The predation and the wolf-killings in response collide with plans to allow wolves to re-establish themselves in the state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal list of endangered species in the eastern third of Washington in 2011. Wolves are still protected under state law, and the state set up a plan to respond to wolf attacks on livestock.

The meeting will be from 6-9 p.m. in the Colville Ag Trade Center at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave.

Pend Oreille County wolf to be captured, put in zoo

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A female wolf that's become too comfortable hanging around homes and domestic dogs near Ione will be captured and put in a Western Washington wildlife park, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say.

The capture, which is planned for this week, would be the first time officials put one of the endangered species into captivity as the wolves are reintroducing themselves into the state.

The wolf had been captured and fitted with a radio collar in July 2013. I happened to be with the wildlife researchers to photograph and report on the capture. The wolf eventually found another female companion to form the Ruby Creek Pack.

Since then, the black Ruby Creek wolf's companion was impregnated by a domestic dog, caught by wildlife biologists and spayed only to be killed later in a vehicle collision. (See story). Meanwhile, the Ruby Creek wolf has generally stayed out of trouble, but has been seen playing with pet dogs.  Wildlife officials fear she will be bred by a dog during the winter breeding season.

  • See map below for GPS monitoring locations of the Ruby Creek wolf this year.

The state Wolf Advisory Group meeting last week found consensus among pro and not-so-pro wolf groups to do something about the wolf, but there was no agreement on what action to take, said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director.

He said the agency had spent about $8,000 in efforts to haze the wolf, including shooting it with rubber bullets when it approached rural residences.

Here's a summary of Pamplin's report on the decision to capture the wolf:

 Background: Last fall, two female wolves comprising the known members of the Ruby Creek pack were getting increasingly habituated to human residences and domestic dogs.  One female was bred by a dog last winter, and was captured, spayed, and returned to the wild.  She was hit and killed by a car this spring.

The remaining female, who is also radio-collared, continued to visit human inhabited areas and increasingly exhibited habituated behaviors, including routinely hanging out with domestic animals, being chased by livestock, and running off a short distance after being shot with rubber ammunition by our staff in an attempt to haze her. 

Wolves generally exhibit avoidance of people even in fragmented habitats where they are likely to have a higher degree of encounters.  Aggressive acts toward humans is rare, however, habituation is a known condition that can lead to aggressive behavior.   

We are not aware of any aggressive acts towards humans or livestock or pet depredations by this female wolf.  However, considering the upcoming wolf breeding season and the potential for her to be bred by domestic dogs, and the increased habituation and associated human and pet safety concerns, we are concerned about this animal and the potential for more serious problems.

At our WAG meeting, the group reached consensus that this was a problem, but did not reach consensus on next steps.  We discussed the various pros and cons of possible options, including translocation, euthanasia, or placement in captivity. We appreciate your candid and constructive input.

We have also briefed the Fish and Wildlife Commission and consulted with Pend Oreille County.

Given the feedback we received and considering the unique situation, we have decided to capture this wolf and place her into captivity.  We have consulted with the staff at Wolf Haven International (in Tenino, Wash.), which has generously offered to accept her into captivity. 

We fully understand that we will not be able to place all problem wolves into captivity, because there are simply not enough facilities. Also, most wild born wolves would not transition well into life in captivity.  However, given the very rare behavior this individual is exhibiting, she is likely a good candidate.

Later this week, field staff will attempt to capture this female wolf.  It will remain property of the state, but permitted to be held by Wolf Haven.  The Department and Wolf Haven will develop a ‘quality of life’ plan.  If it is determined the animal will not be able to acclimate to life in captivity, it will be humanely euthanized.

A public meeting on wolf management in northeastern Washington has been set for Oct. 7 in Colville.

Wolf attacks kill sheep, dogs in NE Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Two recent wolf attacks have killed eight sheep and two livestock-protection dogs in Umatilla County, Oregon officials have confirmed.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife says the attacks took place Sept. 15 and 16 on public grazing land near Ruckle Junction north of La Grande.

The Statesman Journal reports a GPS radio collar documented that Mt. Emily pack wolf OR28 was at the scene of the attacks.

Tab for Huckleberry wolf pack operation $53K

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington wildlife officials estimate they spent about $53,000 this summer to deal with the Huckleberry Pack attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep on a grazing allotment in Stevens County.

The costs were almost equally split between the effort to prevent attacks that killed at lest 24 sheep and the mission with a helicopter shooter to kill some members of the pack.  One wolf was killed.

Most of the costs for managing wolves in Washington are funded by $10 from each sale of a personalized vehicle license plate, a dedicated funding source approved by the Washington Legislature.

In 2013, the state spent $76,500 two remove all eight members of the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County after they had killed more than a dozen cattle.

So far in 2014, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have confirmed that wolves in three of the state's 13-15 confirmed packs have killed 33 sheep, two cattle and one dog.

Although a breeding female in the Huckleberry Pack was killed by a government shooter in August, the pack of at least five animals still roams the region in and north of the Spokane Indian Reservation.

To deal with the pack, agency Wildlife Program Director Nate Pamplin says the state will:

  • Continue outreach to other livestock producers in the area.
  • Try to coordinate radio collar data (a male wolf is collared) from the Spokane Tribe.
  • Monitor pack movements.
  • Attempt to collar more pack members
  • Prepare preventative measures for next grazing season
  • Continue dialogue with producer Dave Dashiell regarding compensation sheep lost this year.

And to spice up the challenge, a new Profanity Pack, has emerged into the spotlight with confirmed attacks on cattle.

A public meeting on wolf management in northeast Washington with state Fish and Wildlife officials is set for 6 p.m. on Oct. 7,  in the Colville Ag Trade Center at the Northeast Washington Fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Ave.

After an update on wolf status and management in the area, meeting participants will be able to comment and ask questions of WDFW Director Phil Anderson, Eastern Regional Director Steve Pozzanghera and other department staff.

WDFW actions this summer to protect sheep from the Huckleberry pack are described in a question-and-answer document on the department’s website.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal list of endangered species in the eastern third of the state, but the species is still protected under Washington state law. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and state laws set the parameters for responding to wolf predation on livestock.

Pamplin told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday that the agency is feeling the squeeze of groups on both sides of the wolf issue. Pro-wolf groups and livestock producers have charged the agency with mismanagement of wolves in the state.

Wolf advocates — who have petitioned Gov. Jay Inslee to clamp down on any WDFW decisions to kill wolves to protect livestock — want the state to use more non-lethal tools to prevent livestock depredations. They want stock moved if they come in conflict with wolves, criticize the agency's lack of transparency on wolf control say they agency's responses have impacted the recovery of wolves in the state.

Livestock interests — and the Stevens County Commission, which has issued two resolutions condemning attacking wolves and state wolf management — point out the WDFW has the legal obligation to kill wolves that threaten livestock and should follow through in the case of the Huckleberry Pack. They are angry that wolves forced a producer to move his sheep off private property.

Wildlife officials respond to heat over managing Huckleberry wolf pack

UPDATED with link to "wolves and ranching can coexist" commentary.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The West Side of Washington appears to be in a tizzy over the state's management of gray wolves in Eastern Washington.

State wildlife officials killed one wolf in August during a month of effort to control the Huckleberry Pack that killed at least 24 sheep grazing on private Hancock timber lands and some state lands in Stevens County.

The pro-wolf groups are focusing on claims that the rancher did not do enough to prevent the wolves from getting a taste of his sheep, especially those that were grazing on public land, and thus prompting the killing of an animal protected by state endangered species laws.

Those laws, by the way, give the state some leeway to manage endangered species to protect the public and private property.

Also, the sheep were mainly on a private land grazing allotment and open range laws apply to the sheep that strayed onto state land, WDFW officials say.

The other pro-wolf talking point — or should I say ranting point, considering a few phone calls I received today — was highlighted in an unsigned opinion piece ran last week in the The Olympian and the Bellingham Herald claiming that lethal removal of the pack's breeding female was “catastrophic” and would cause “chaos” in the pack.

That's not necessarily true and certainly hasn't been proven. (The state didn't target the breeding female, but it weighed less than 70 pounds and could not be distinguished from other members of the pack by the shooter in the helicopter.)

Stevens County officials and livestock producers also are critical of the state's wolf management for the opposite reasons.

The Stevens County Commission passed a resolution saying residents have a constitutional right to kill wolves under some circumstances to protect their property followed by an other resolution that condemned the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for its wolf management.

Today the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association demanded changes to allow Washington wolves to be managed locally rather than by the state.

WDFW director Phil Anderson, who had been responding to criticism this month through written statements stepped up his communication in the past week.

In a Sept. 18 interview filmed on TVW and with FAQs posted online yesterday, WDFW officials challenge contentions that the operation was a “another mistake” and the removal of the breeding female was “catastrophic” and would cause “chaos” in the pack. The charges are overstated, they say, pointing to research done in Alaska.

Washington was never going to be some hippy wolf nirvana nor Wyoming with its predator (free) zone, but despite the years of effort on the part of ranchers, hunters and wolf groups spent coming up with a management plan for recovering the species and dealing with their impacts, things may be unraveling.

“Frankly,” Anderson told Jenkins, “I’m very concerned that our opportunity is beginning to slip away to be successful to have the people on all sides of this issue work together toward a common outcome of making sure we have  recovery of wolves, have a healthy and sustainable population of wolves, but doing so in a way that maintains lifestyles (and) economies in rural areas … The livestock industry is huge to the employment of Ferry County, Stevens County, Okanogan County, Pend Oreille County, those areas up there, and I don’t mean to miss other areas where it is as well.”

My bad: Alpha wolf term outmoded

WILDLIFE — A few weeks ago I posted news that the Huckleberry Pack wolf shot by a federal Wildlife Services agent was the pack's alpha female.

I supplied the term.  In revealing the necropsy results, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reported the wolf as a breeding female.

Most readers understood what I meant, but some observers correctly pointed out out that esteemed wolf researcher David Mech had debunked the notion of an "alpha wolf."

Based on his research, Mech says this on his website:

"The concept of the alpha wolf is well ingrained in the popular wolf literature at least partly because of my book "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species," written in 1968, published in 1970, republished in paperback in 1981, and currently still in print, despite my numerous pleas to the publisher to stop publishing it. Although most of the book's info is still accurate, much is outdated. We have learned more about wolves in the last 40 years then in all of previous history.

One of the outdated pieces of information is the concept of the alpha wolf. "Alpha" implies competing with others and becoming top dog by winning a contest or battle. However, most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack. In other words they are merely breeders, or parents, and that's all we call them today, the "breeding male," "breeding female," or "male parent," "female parent," or the "adult male" or "adult female." In the rare packs that include more than one breeding animal, the "dominant breeder" can be called that, and any breeding daughter can be called a "subordinate breeder."

That said, the Huckleberry Pack breeding female killed by officials could have been the only female breeder in the pack, and she may very well have been dominant to others in the pack.  But I won't use the term alpha.