Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Wolf bills still lurking Washington Legislature

WILDLIFE — Several of the wolf-related bills introduced in the 2015 Washington Legislature are still alive. 

S-R Olympia Bureau reporter had this update.

A day later, the Wenatchee World ran this update moved by the Associated Press:

OLYMPIA — State lawmakers in both the house and senate passed bills dealing with wolves that are sponsored by Republicans from northeastern counties, where the rapidly increasing wolf population is taking its toll on domestic sheep and cattle.

If they become law, the bills would direct the state to reconsider parts of the state’s wolf recovery plan, examine the impact of wolves on deer, elk and other game animals, and allow endangered species - including wolves - to be removed from the state’s endangered status on a regional instead of a statewide basis.

Sponsors of the bills include Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short, Sen. Brian Dansel, who represent counties in Northeastern Washington, where 12 of the state’s 16 wolf packs live.

Kretz said the bills unfortunately don’t address the immediate problems of livestock owners who have had the largest burden of helping wolves recover. Two of the bills he and Short sponsored got unanimous votes by the House on Tuesday. Kretz said when he first approached Democrats for support early in the session, "They would not even talk to me. To get a unanimous vote on something, it was a long pull on that," he said.

Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest’s executive director, said his group initially opposed Kretz’s bill that calls for reopening the states’ wolf recovery plan, because they believe that plan is solid. But, he said, the House agreed to some changes in the bill which enabled them to support it. "It’s not perfect. Nobody got everything they wanted, but there’s something in it for everybody," he said.

The Senate version lacks key compromises contained in the House bill, and Conservation Northwest does not support it, he said.

Both bills require the state to take another look at its wolf recovery plan and use the most updated available science to recommend changes.

Those changes could include:

Whether recovery should be based on the number of wolf packs instead of breeding pairs.

More options for removing wolves from endangered status.

Whether the three recovery zones should be changed, reduced or consolidated.

Finding reasonable prevention measures for livestock owners.

Reviewing current conditions that lead to killing wolves that have killed livestock.

Whether the current enforcement and penalties for poaching wolves are sufficient deterrents.

Friedman said the added language about poaching - which is not in the Senate bill - is among the reasons Conservation Northwest now supports it.

Legislative support for these bills comes less than a week after the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced a 30 percent increase in the number of wolves it believes are now living in Washington. Four new packs were also discovered.

The agency says at least 68 gray wolves now roam the state. There are 16 wolf packs and at least five successful breeding pairs.

The number of confirmed wolves in North Central Washington actually dropped slightly, from 13 to 11. The Wenatchee Pack remained stable at two wolves, the Lookout Pack near Twisp dropped from five wolves to four, and the Teanaway Pack south of Wenatchee dropped from six wolves to five.

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett noted those are only the wolves the agency managed to confirm, and tracking was difficult this winter due to low snow levels.

Under the state’s current wolf plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list when 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years, distributed among three wolf-recovery regions.

Despite the increase in the number of wolves, the number of documented breeding pairs has remained at five for the last three years, all in either the North Cascades or Eastern Washington area. No wolf packs or breeding pairs have yet been documented in the South Cascades and Northwest Coast recovery region.

Idaho reauthorizes fund to control wolves

PREDATORS  — Idaho lawmakers have approved spending $400,000 to control wolves where they threaten livestock, pets or public resources.

The Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell reports that the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved the money Tuesday for the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board.

The vote maintains the operating budget at the same level as the previous year for the five-member board created last year and operated under the governor’s office.

Last year the board spent about $140,000 to kill 31 wolves between July 1 and Jan. 1.

Authorities recently announced the killing of another 19 wolves in February in northeastern Idaho in an attempt to revive the decimated Lolo elk herd.

Report: Washington’s wolves increased 30 percent in 2014

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The wolf population in Washington grew by more than 30 percent and formed four new packs last year, according to an annual survey conducted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Field biologists documented at least 68 gray wolves in the state through Dec. 31, up from a minimum of 52 wolves counted in 2013, the agency said in a preliminary report released Friday.

The number of confirmed wolf packs increased to 16 with at least five successful breeding pairs, the report says. At the end of 2013, the agency had confirmed 13 packs and five breeding pairs.

“While we can’t count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence that wolves are recovering in Washington,” said Donny Martorello, department carnivore specialist. “Since 2011, the number of confirmed wolf packs has more than tripled in our state.”

The scarcity of winter snow made tracking wolves more difficult for this survey, he said, adding the survey likely underestimates the number of wolves, packs and breeding pairs.

Gray wolves, extirpated from western states in the early 1900s, have been declared recovered and delisted from federal endangered species protections in Montana and Idaho and are being managed by the states.

Wolves are protected under Washington law throughout the state and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.

The annual survey, required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are conducted using aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks and signals from seven wolves in Washington fitted with radio-collars.

The four new packs – Goodman Meadows, Profanity Peak, Tucannon, and Whitestone – were discovered east of the Cascades, where all of the state’s other wolf packs roam. The state’s wolf management plan defines a pack as two or more wolves traveling together in winter.

Ten Washington wolf deaths were documented in 2014. Three were killed by poachers, three died of natural causes, two died of unknown causes and one was killed in a vehicle collision.

A breeding female was shot last summer as state wildlife officials tried to stop the Huckleberry Pack from preying on a rancher’s sheep in Stevens County.

A record number of wolf-related livestock deaths also was confirmed in Washington’s annual report. The Huckleberry Pack accounted for 33 of the 35 sheep killed or injured by wolves. The report says actual losses were surely higher.

Four cows and a dog were attacked by wolves from other packs last year, the report says.

Wildlife officials say they will continue to emphasize the importance of prevention practices to minimizing wolf attacks on livestock.

Martorello said the number of packs would have been even higher if not for the loss of the Ruby Creek pack last spring. One of its two members was struck and killed by a vehicle. The other was accepted for care by Wolf Haven International in Tenino after it was found living among domestic dogs in a small town in Pend Oreille County.

Stephanie Simek, a department wildlife conflict manager, said the agency is working on:

  • Expanding partnerships with ranchers to avoid conflicts with wolves. The department has stationed wildlife conflict specialists in communities where wolves are recovering to work with individual producers.
  • Expanding its “range rider” program, where ranchers can turn for help if they need assistance guarding their livestock. Range riders have been used by several producers, and the state program will provide an increased human presence in grazing areas.
  • Informing livestock owners of the availability of a new carcass pit in Ferry County where they can dispose of dead livestock and other attractants.
  • Continuing to offer cost-sharing agreements for ranchers who seek help in funding preventive measures to protect their animals.

In a preliminary media release, Martorello notes several times that the official minimum estimates very likely is short of actual wolf numbers and packs. 

“Given the continued growth of the state’s wolf population, there’s a good chance that we have breeding pairs east of the Cascade Range we haven’t found yet,” he said.

No wolf packs or breeding pairs have yet been documented on the South Cascades/Northwest Coast recovery region.

Under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among the three designated wolf-recovery regions.

WDFW’s wolf survey for 2014 will be available on the department’s website at by April 3.

Enviros sue to prevent wolf control in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Turning a cold shoulder to the social and economic issues of wolf recovery, five environmental groups including The Lands Council based in Spokane say they have filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. The groups are challenging the federal agency's authority to kill endangered wolves in Washington.

A similar suit was filed Feb. 11 in Idaho by a different group of five environmental organizations.

  • Despite hunting, trapping and predator control, Idaho has up to 10 times more wolves than the 100 minimum established by the federal government in the 1987 Northern Rockies wolf reintroduction plan.

Wildlife Services assists ranchers, farmers and state wildlife agencies in doing the dirty work of trying to minimize production losses to predators and other wildlife ranging from starlings to bears.

From my perspective in the middle ground on the wolf issue, the media release (see attached) from the Western Environmental Law Center is full of overstated charges that will be counterproductive for wolves politically and on the ground.

“Wildlife Services’ activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful,” said John Mellgren, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center.

Where's the proof? Wolf numbers, range and packs are increasing in Washington, according the state wildlife officials.

Northeastern Washington ranchers also would disagree the the action is unwarranted or "extremely harmful." 

In Washington's worst of two cases, the state Fish and Wildlife director made the difficult call to request Wildlife Services' assistance to eliminate the Wedge Pack in 2012 after the seven wolves zeroed in on cattle in at least 16 confirmed attacks. 

Bottom line: That action ended the immediate nightmare for the ranchers, and within a year the Wedge Pack was reforming and making a living off natural food sources.

The environmental groups' media release continues:

Washington has experienced Wildlife Services’ recklessness firsthand. Last August, Wildlife Services’ snipers mistakenly shot and killed the Huckleberry wolf pack’s alpha female during a helicopter gunning operation. The killing was in direct violation of explicit instructions from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to not kill either of the pack’s alpha members. The death of the Huckleberry pack’s breeding female threatens the future of the entire pack.

There's no proof the future of the pack is threatened by that mistake.  The media release does not mention that the sheep ranchers were using a range rider and guard dogs to protect their flock. It doesn't mention that dozens of sheep were killed and ultimately they had to pull about 1,600 sheep out of the grazing area on private timber company land and move them to another private pasture. That's costly to a producer.

“The science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock conflicts," Mellgren says, "but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic animal and it needs to stop.”

There is no brutal attack on wolves in Washington except from the point of view that no wolf shall be killed. That attitude is not in the best interest of wolf recovery because it won't fly socially in this state or any other Northwestern state.

The "science" Mellgren refers to is a Washington State University study that found killing wolves in some cases increased wolf attacks on livestock in the long run.

While there's merit to looking at the overall impacts of predator control, it's unnecessary and counterproductive to restrict wildlife managers from lethally removing predators, especially in hot-spot situations.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials made that clear when the WSU study was publicized. 

Jay Kehne of Conservation Northwest, who works with ranchers in non-lethal methods of avoiding wolf attacks, has confirmed that wolves will have to be targeted in some cases to make wolf recovery work. Kehne also is a Washington Fish and Wildlife commissioner.

The lawsuit filed today seeks to require USDA to prepare an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement addressing the effects of employing Wildlife Services to kill endangered wolves in Washington. In other words, they want to make it prohibitively expensive to manage wolves.

That's environmental overkill.


Documents:

Montana, Idaho wolf kill below previous levels

PREDATORS — Trappers in Montana have killed 77 gray wolves and hunters have shot 127 so far this winter — a total of 204 animals — as the season for the animals nears its end, the Associated Press reports.

The final tally for this winter’s wolf harvest is expected to fall short of the 230 wolves killed in the 2013-2014 season, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.

The trapping season closed Feb. 28, and Montana’s rifle hunting season for gray wolves ends March 15.  

Six of the predators have been killed by landowners, under a new state law that allows wolves to be killed if they are considered a potential threat to livestock or human safety.  

Idaho hunters have shot 113 of the animals so far this winter and trappers have killed 92.  

The state’s total harvest of 205 wolves is well short of the prior year’s total of 302 animals killed.  

Idaho’s wolf season ends March 31 for most of the state but continues year-round in some areas.

Here's more info from the AP report:

Wyoming did not have a wolf hunting season this winter. After losing their federal protections across the Northern Rockies in 2011 and 2012, wolves were put back on the endangered species list in Wyoming in September under a court order. 

 U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with wildlife advocates who said Wyoming’s declaration of wolves as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most of the state afforded insufficient protection.  
Legislation pending before Congress would nullify the judge’s decision.  

A minimum of 1,691 wolves was tallied in the Northern Rockies at the end of 2013, according to federally required annual reports from the states.

Veterinarians to Idaho: Don’t risk importing parasitic worm with farmed elk

UPDATE:  Click here for news on the committee's Feb. 24 vote.

WILDLIFE — Despite adamant opposition and warnings by the Idaho Fish and Game Department director, the Idaho Legislature is continuing to pursue a controversial proposal that would ease restrictions on importing and transferring farm-raised elk that could expose wild deer, elk and moose to a deadly parasitic worm.

The rule change is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday in the Idaho Legislature's Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee.

This is not just an Idaho issue. Meningeal worms are a problem some scientists have dubbed as "ebola for wildlife."

If the committee approves the rule change, the ramifications will be potentially catastrophic to wild cervids and domestic animals, particularly white-tailed deer as well as mule deer, big horn sheep, exotic deer, elk, moose, caribou, llamas, alpacas, sheep and goats.

If Idaho gets meningeal worm, Washington State will be exposed, too.

Making this change in Idaho is nuts, considering that elk ranchers have safer alternatives.

  • The West just recently has had its eyes reopened to the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease in farmed elk in Utah as well as in Alberta.

This is not a time to roll the dice with a possible travesty that has no known cure for wild big-game populations. 

Don't take my word for it, or just the word of IFG director Virgil Moore. Listen to a pair of Idaho veterinarians who have clearly spelled out their opposition to the rule change in the following letter they've sent to Idaho lawmakers.

A Perfect Storm: Brainworm in Idaho’s Wildlife & Legislature
By Drs. Olin & Karen Balch, Cascade, Idaho

As Valley County veterinarians, we are alarmed about Idaho’s legislative rule proposal to downgrade meningeal worm restrictions for elk importation from east of the 100th meridian, essentially the eastern half of the US.  Current Idaho regulations prohibit elk importation from meningeal worm endemic regions.  The Senate Agricultural Committee chaired by Sen. Jim Rice is scheduled to vote on this issue Tuesday.

Likely, few Idahoans are familiar with meningeal worm disease or Brainworm.   Briefly, adult meningeal worms live in the central nervous system of white-tailed deer (definitive host) without harming that species.  The life cycle involves larva excreted in white-tailed deer feces; the larva then matures to an infective stage in a snail or slug (intermediate host).  Deer or other forage browsers inadvertently ingest snails or slugs carrying the disease while feeding.  Brainworm as a species is so successful that 80% of white-tailed deer in some eastern locations are infected.  Unfortunately, the adult meningeal worm living in the CNS is neither treatable nor identifiable.

Successfulness of numerous elk reintroduction efforts in eastern US have been marred by documented Brainworm mortality from 3% in Michigan, 24% in Kentucky, to 50% in Pennsylvania.  Scientific studies conclusively prove that elk can perpetuate this disease by shedding infective larva but do not necessarily die from Brainworm.  Brainworm in elk and mule deer is devastating; Brainworm in moose is catastrophic.  Minnesota moose population plummeted so drastically that the 2013 and 2014 Minnesota moose hunting seasons were cancelled.

Idaho has arguably the biggest US concentration of cervid wildlife (deer, elk, and moose), all of which can be infected with Brainworm.  We have abundant white-tailed deer, and our species of snail and slugs are suitable intermediate hosts.  We have all the makings of a perfect storm: 

1) the definitive host, white-tailed deer,

2) the intermediate host, slugs and snails, and

3) huge herds of wild cervids as previously-unexposed, vulnerable bystanders.  

The match would be a meningeal-worm infected captive elk introduced into some Idaho elk farm visited by white-tailed deer.  Once Idaho white-tailed deer are infected, Brainworm will be an unquenchable wildfire in Idaho’s wild cervids.

Elk breeders apparently feel that their livelihood is imperiled by their inability to bring in fresh elk genetics from eastern US.  We question why A.I. (artificial insemination) would not be the safe solution for obtaining new elk genetics; although seemingly all eastern US elk are descendants of western Rocky Mountain elk transplants.

We are baffled by elk farmer’s insistence that it is discrimination that elk meningeal–worm import regulations are not as lenient as import requirements of domestic animals (such as llamas, sheep, and horses) which can also be Brainworm infected.  However, these domestic animals have not been shown to pass viable larva capable of perpetuating the disease. 

As veterinarians, we believe animal import requirements should not be a matter of “fairness” but rather a scientific matter of the species’ specific physiology, the specific disease manifestation in that species, and the transmissibility of the disease to other animals or humans.   For example, horses and cattle can become rabid and transmit that almost invariably fatal disease, but are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for import into Idaho.   Is it discrimination that dog owners must rabies vaccinate and show proof of vaccination to enter Idaho when similar requirements do not exist for owners of horses and cattle?

We are also baffled why state legislators are so willing to jettison the official June 23, 2014, written advice of IDFG Director Moore:  “It is imperative that the prohibition be maintained.”

Will Idaho roll dice with wild deer, elk populations?

HUNTING — An obscure rule change sought by domestic elk ranchers could wreak havoc on Idaho’s hunting industry by introducing a deadly parasite into wild game populations – something some Idaho veterinarians are describing as “Ebola for wildlife.”

Elk ranchers say their proposal is safe, but they can't prove that.  Nor can they say for sure that elk won't escape game farms and present a risk to valuable wild herds  that cannot easily be rounded up for any kind of treatment to disease.

  • Remember the brazen case of Rex Rammel, the Idaho veterinarian and anti-government game rancher who said he could control his pen-raised elk, but couldn't. Then he bad-mouthed Idaho Fish and Game and took the agency to court for shooting his escaped elk in order to protect wild herds.

The deadly parasite in farm-raised elk that worries state wildlife officials is a threat worth confronting, scientists say.

Idaho Sportsmen Caucus Advisory Council President Larry Fry is encouraging lawmakers to keep current import restrictions in place.

“If you think wolves are bad for elk, wait until this worm gets in them,” he said.

Ruby Creek wolf caught, taken to Wolf Haven

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A wolf that had become habituated to humans, and could cause problems if left in the wild, was captured Wednesday (Feb. 11) by state wildlife officials in northeast Washington and placed in a Western Washington wolf sanctuary.

The adult female wolf, the last known member of the Ruby Creek pack, was captured near Ione in Pend Oreille County where she had spent months living near people, domestic dogs and livestock.

  • I was with state trappers when they caught and collared the Ruby Creek wolf in 2013 and later wrote this story about her value to research. At that time, she was the only known wolf frequenting the area.

Dave Ware, wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the wolf’s behavior prompted concerns she would breed with a domestic dog, produce wolf-dog hybrids in the wild, and become increasingly associated with humans.

“This is a rare situation,” Ware said. “We know that placing wolves in captivity is not an option every time there is a problem. In this case, however, we believe permanent placement in a wolf sanctuary is a good match given the animal’s habituation to humans.”

Since last fall, the Pend Oreille County Commission has urged WDFW to move the wolf out of Ione, Ware said. Yet, she eluded capture and remained in the area despite the department’s efforts to trap her.

After the wolf’s capture, she was spayed and transported for permanent placement to Wolf Haven International, a non-profit wolf sanctuary and wildlife education facility in Thurston County.

“The female wolf was received last night and she’s in good health,” said Diane Gallegos, director of Wolf Haven International. “We’ve been coordinating with the department for several months now, and we are pleased to be able to accommodate this wolf.”

If the wolf does not adapt well to life in captivity, according to criteria developed by the department and Wolf Haven, she will be euthanized.

Ware said the decision to place the wolf in captivity was made after discussions with WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group of citizens, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Pend Oreille County Commission.

“We discussed the pros and cons of possible actions, including translocation, euthanasia, or placement in captivity,” Ware said. “We appreciate the generous offer by Wolf Haven staff to take this individual into their care.” 

The Ruby Creek pack was confirmed by WDFW in 2013 when two adult female wolves were found traveling together in the area of Ruby Creek south of Ione. A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. Last winter, after the other female mated with a domestic dog, it was captured, spayed and returned to the wild. That wolf was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on a road this spring.

The gray wolf is listed by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as an endangered species in the western two-thirds of the state. WDFW is working to recover the state’s gray wolf population, guided by a citizen-developed plan to address conflicts with livestock and other impacts.

See more info here.

Panel tackles wolf issues Thursday at Gonzaga

ENDANGERED SPECIES —Six panelists with different viewpoints will speak on the revival of wolves in the Northwest during a program tonight, 7 p.m., at Gonzaga University’s Jepson Center, Wolff Auditorium, 502 E. Boone Ave.

Moderated by Rich Landers, Outdoors editor at The Spokesman-Review, the discussion about the merits and woes of wolf reintroduction will range from the perspectives of a hunter, cattleman, wildlife biologist, philosopher, conservationist and ethicist.

The audience will be invited to submit questions.

The program is sponsored by Humanities Washington and organized by the Spokane County Library District.

Wolf Advisory Group expands from 9 to 18 members

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Nine members have been added to the committee that advises the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on wolf recovery and management.

Their appointments, for two-year terms that run through 2016, bring the Wolf Advisory Group’s membership to 18.

Jim Unsworth, who assumed duties as the agency's director this month, said the new members will bring diverse personal and professional backgrounds to the group that makes recommendations to guide the department’s implementation of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

WDFW formed the group in 2013, with nine members representing the interests of wolf advocates, cattle ranchers, and hunters. Unsworth said the new members bring a wider range of perspectives and, for example, include a science teacher and a member of the state’s largest hiking association.

“Wolf recovery has been and will continue to be a very challenging issue, and the advisory group members will provide valuable advice on how to achieve the goals of the wolf plan,” said Unsworth.

Dave Ware, the department’s wolf policy lead, said more than 50 people applied for the new positions following the department’s announcement in October that it was seeking to expand the group. Ware said WDFW placed a priority on selecting people from diverse backgrounds who have the ability to share information about the advisory group’s discussions within their own networks of contacts.

The Defenders of Wildlife, which opened an office in Washington for the first time less than a year ago, has a new representative in the group.

Ware said the nine people who served as original members or alternates will continue to serve through 2016. Their continued presence will lend stability and continuity to the advisory group, he said.

The group’s next meeting is planned for March, with details to be announced on the Wolf Advisory Group website:
 
Washington Wolf Advisory Group members (new members in boldface) and their affiliations are:

  • Bob Aegeter of Bellingham, Sierra Club
  • Shawn Cantrell of Seattle, Defenders of Wildlife
  • Tim Coleman of Republic, Kettle Range Conservation Group
  • Dave Dashiell of Hunters, Cattle Producers of Washington
  • Don Dashiell of Colville, Stevens County Commissioner
  • Tom Davis of Olympia, Washington Farm Bureau
  • Dave Duncan of Ellensburg, Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation
  • Tom Erskine of Camas, Washington Trails Association
  • Jack Field of Ellensburg, Washington State Cattlemen’s Association
  • Diane Gallegos of Tenino, Wolf Haven International
  • Janey Howe of Colville, science teacher and part-time range rider
  • Molly Linville of Palisades, independent cattle rancher
  • Nick Martinez of Moxee, Washington State Sheep Producers
  • Dan McKinley of Spangle, Mule Deer Foundation
  • Dan Paul of Seattle, Humane Society of the United States
  • Mark Pidgeon of Bellevue, Hunters Heritage Council
  • Lisa Stone of Shelton, hunter
  • Paula Swedeen of Olympia, Conservation Northwest

Prosecutor still mum on charges for Whitman County wolf shooting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A Whitman County man who shot a gray wolf last fall told investigators the animal did not pose an imminent threat to humans or livestock.

Officers investigating the October 12 shooting say Jonathan M. Rasmussen and his wife did not indicate the wolf posed a threat at the time of the shooting south of Pullman, according to a report released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife after a public records request by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Fish and Wildlife police say they found evidence of unlawful taking of wildlife and recommended a misdemeanor charge be filed.

State Fish and Wildlife officials turned over the case to Whitman County prosecutor Denis Tracy on Nov. 19. The prosecutor's office confirms that the case is still under consideration and no charges have been filed.

Under Washington state endangered species protections, it is illegal to shoot a wolf unless it is attacking livestock or people.

New Idaho board spending $4,600 per wolf in control effort

PREDATORS — Idaho’s new wolf depredation control board reported to state lawmakers today that since it was launched July 1, it’s spent $140,000 to kill 31 wolves, all of which were attacking livestock, according to a report just posted by S-R Idaho capital reporter Betsy Russell.

Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton, said, “That’s $4,600 per wolf. As the wolf population grows, how are we going to sustain this type of expense?”

Pray tell?

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;

Balancing critters with agriculture expensive

WILDLIFE CONTROL — On a small scale, I spray my fruit tree for aphids, trap mice that get into my garage and bait yellowjackets that buzz onto my deck.

Farmers and ranchers have similar issues on a gigantic scale.

They get some help from hunters as well as state and federal agencies.

Among the most controversial assistance is the annual boost ag operators get from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services.

For perspective, species killed in Idaho by Wildlife Services alone in 2013 include:

  • 196,351 starlings.
  • 2,790 coyotes,
  • 78 wolves,
  • 43 beavers
  • 24 badgers,
  • 7 mountain lions

Idaho Wildlife Services’ fiscal 2014 budget was just under $1.4 million.

Idaho poll finds 90 percent support for grazing public lands

PUBLIC LANDS — A new statewide poll found that 90 percent of Idaho residents approve of livestock grazing as a legitimate use of public lands, the same percentage as guided recreation and mountain biking.

The survey conducted by the University of Idaho Social Science Research Unit for the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission found that:

  • 98 percent of those surveyed by telephone approve of hiking and camping on public lands.
  • 71 percent approved of logging on public lands.
  • 65 percent approve of the use of motorized recreation, such as ATVs and motorbikes, on public lands.

The survey completed in December was based on 585 telephone surveys with Idaho residents, says Gretchen Hyde, executive director of the commission, in a media release.  More than half of the survey participants have lived in Idaho for more than 30 years, and participants represent a diverse cross-section of political ideology, she said.

The IRRC is a state agency that, according to his website, "seeks to increase public understanding about the balanced management of public rangelands."

Using public lands for energy development and transmission lines received the lowest level of support for uses posed in the survey — at 62 percent.

Public approval of livestock grazing on public lands went up 1 percent since 2010, and 10 points since 2001, according to previous polls conducted for IRRC by the University of  Idaho. 

"We're pleased to see public support for livestock grazing on public lands increasing," said Chris Black, IRRC board chairman and a Bruneau Rancher who has received a BLM national stewardship award for exemplary livestock management on public lands. "We think Idahoans are seeing improved range management when they're out recreating on rangelands and forests.

"We feel it's important to show real people doing tangible things to improve public lands, the environment and threatened and endangered species, including candidate species such as sage grouse," Black continued. "That's what is expected in 21st Century public lands management."

IRRC officials said they commissioned the poll to understand the overall perception of Idaho residents about grazing, and how those perceptions might be evolving due to changes in Idaho's population demographics.

In a wildlife-related question, the poll found that 84 percent of the respondents recognize that private ranchlands provide important wildlife habitat. On a scale of 1-7, 68 percent of the  respondents rated the value of private farms and ranches for wildlife as being a 5 or higher.  In addition:

  • 79 percent believe that sheep and cattle ranchers manage rangelands in a responsible manner.
  • 82 percent believe that livestock grazing should continue to be part of public lands management.

In a series of questions rating the credibility or reliability of information provided to the public, ranchers and scientists rated 84 percent and 83 percent reliable, while BLM officials received a reliability rating of 80 percent and environmentalists received a rating of 55 percent. 

UI officials say the poll is statistically valid, sampling a broad cross-section of Idaho's rural and urban residents, an equal number of males and females, and mobile phone users as well as landline users.   

For a copy of UI public opinion survey, email sstuebner@cableone.net.
  

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        

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.”

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.”

Utah’s $50 bounty on coyotes may be boosting mule deer

HUNTING — Although credible evidence has suggested that wholesale killing of coyotes ultimately stimulates coyotes to produce more pups, Utah officials say a $50 bounty on the predators is contributing at least somewhat to the state's recovery of mule deer.

However, wildlife managers say habitat restoration has been the key, noting that the state has spent more than $125 million in the effort over the past eight years.

  • See the latest report from Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah legislature allotted $500,000 to the Targeted Predator Control Program in 2012 as it approved the Mule Deer Preservation Act.

Based on two years of data, the state estimates that 25,054 coyotes have been killed, a 59 percent increase in the previous estimated annual harvest of 7,397 coyotes per year.

Unlike other Western states, Utah is reporting an increase in mule deer numbers in recent years. Most of the credit is being given to expansive habitat-restoration efforts.  Says Prettyman:

Since 2006, the initiative has restored more than 1 million acres and spent more than $125 million. Another 197,100 acres are currently under restoration and 10,600 more acres have been proposed.

Of the total spent, federal partners provided $69.5 million for the restoration projects from a mix of sources, including tag fees. And the state chipped in $42 million. Sportsmen's groups contributed close to $6.8 million. Federal agencies provided $6 million in in-kind contributions and landowners added another $2.6 million.

Utah's $50 coyote bounty is startling to some, a fee much higher than rare bounties in other states for predators or nuisance exotics such as nutria.

But it's not the only predator bounty program in the West.

The Northern Pikeminnow Reward Program pays $4-$8 a fish from the Columbia River to help reduce the native predator's impact on smolts of endangered salmon and steelhead. Since the issue is caused primarily by the Columbia and Snake River dams, which allow the pikeminnows an unfair and unnatural advantage, the Bonneville Power Administration picks up the tab.

  • The program has spent an average of bout $3 million a year for 25 years.
  • Some of the most accomplished angler participants make more than $30,000 each during the six-month reward season,including the top angler who pocketed $76,478 last year.
  • Anglers turned in 162,079 pikeminnows for bounties in 2013.
  • Total payments for the 2013 season of regular vouchers, coupons, and tagged fish totaled $1,138,251.

Modest bounties are paid in several states for rats, nutria, porcupine, house sparrows, starlings, snakes, beaver, coyotes and other critters. Utah's $50 coyote bounty appears to be the highest, but overall it pales in payouts to the Columbia River systems pikeminnow reward program.

Sheep rancher: coyote control counterproductive

PREDATORS - One Idaho livestock grower is joining the growing ranks of going against the grain on traditional predator control:

Federal agency killed 2,773 coyotes in Idaho in 2013
Most of the coyotes killed by Idaho Wildlife Services in Blaine County were killed at the request of livestock producers. But at least one sheep producer said that they do not kill coyotes themselves nor do they request federal agents to do so, as removal of the predators sparks a reproductive response in the species.
—Idaho Mountain Express

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.

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.

 

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.