Latest from The Spokesman-Review
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson and his wife, Lisa, were in the right place at the right time to see a killer wildlife drama play out on below-zero temperatures on Monday. I'll let Jaime explain:
We had a really amazing thing happen today. We were heading up a mountain road to get to a whitetail deer spot that we frequent when we spotted a nice 5x5 whitetail right across the river from us. It has been sub-zero here
for several days and the river has four or five feet of ice on each side frozen. Slush is flowing down the river. River is four or five feet deep. It looks really really cold. I was photographing the buck when all of the sudden, he looked behind him and bolted. In an instant, he was gone. I lowered my camera to see what was up. Then, to our left - a doe whitetail on the opposite side of the river was running full steam towards us (towards the river). Before I could get my camera raised, she jumped with all of her might over the icy edge of the river strait into the swift current. Reminded me of a kid jumping into a deep swimming hole except it was almost zero, I couldn’t believe what I saw – (what was she thinking).
Then, right behind her – a mountain lion appeared. He hit the brakes when he saw us, turned and vanished instantly (no pictures). The doe was swept downstream about a hundred feet or so before she could get started up on the ice. She managed (after several attempts) to get her front legs up on the ice, but couldn’t seem to get her hind legs up. She laid there for a few minutes and then flailed until her hind legs got up. We could tell she was freezing, but could do nothing. She walked about 15 feet and shook as much water off as she could, barely able to walk. She eventually laid down and stayed there for the next six hours. She eventually got up and fed away.
PREDATORS — Notice to the owner of the black cat missing on the South Hill: We may have solved the mystery..
Says Facebook friend Dan Barth, who posted this photo:
If you are missing your black cat… this friendly neighborhood bald eagle has relocated it….
Loose-running cats kill millions of song-birds each year.
Perhaps this is the big bird's symbolic way of trying to even the score.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Residents in the 22000 block of East Morris Road snapped this shot of a cougar in their backyard around 7 this morning and emailed the photo to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
Anyone out there up for a backyard campout sleepover tonight?
PREDATORS — Big game managers from Washington, Idaho and Montana will discuss their experiences managing game animals in areas populated by wolves during a live webcast, 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., on July 18.
Questions can be emailed in advance or during the presentations to email@example.com .
Montana and Idaho have been managing wolves longer than Washington and their experience can provide context to inform the department and citizens on how to confront the challenges that lie ahead for Washington, said Phil Anderson, WDFW director.
"This will give the public an opportunity to hear directly from those who have been involved in wolf management in other areas of the west," he said.
Jon Rachel, Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s state wildlife manager, and Jim Williams, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ northwest wildlife program manager, will discuss the impacts wolves have had on deer, elk and other big game animals in their states.
Successful big game hunting strategies in wolf country also will be presented.
Dave Ware, WDFW statewide game program manager, will describe the status of wolves and big game hunting in Washington.
PREDATORS — The Washington Legislature appropriated $250,000 to a fund for compensating ranchers for livestock injured or killed by wolves.
Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, said the amount "a great first step" for the agency and for the livestock industry, according to the Capital Press.
The direction WDFW is going on preventative measures, he said, will hopefully reduce the impacts of wolves. The budget also provides $750,000 for nonlethal deterrence methods.
Another important change this year is the removal of a $1,500 cap on the value of an animal. Instead, compensation will be based on the market value of the animal. A steer could be worth $600 and a prize bull would be far more, but the owner would need proof of its value, Capital Press reports.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this morning announced its proposal to lift most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states (with the exception of the Mexican wolf areas), a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts.
- The move is criticized by some scientists as premature; they listed concerns in May.
- Sportsmen's groups have been quick to support delisting.
- Washington-based Conservation Northwest also says delisting is premature, citing the reduced penalties for wolf poaching.
- The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership calls wolf delisting a conservation success story.
But in a draft proposal, federal scientists said the wolves in Washington and Oregon "constitute the expanding front of large, robust, and recovered wolf populations to the north and east.
Federal officials said in the draft, “We are confident that wolves will continue to recolonize the Pacific Northwest regardless of federal protection.”
The public has 90 days to comment period on the proposal. A final decision is expected next year.
With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded.
Prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy.
However, you won't find many lawmakers in districts occupied by wolves calling for more wolf protections, and 72 members of Congress representing both parties signed a letter to President Obama in March requesting the gray wolf be delisted from Engangered Species protections.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., issued this statement today, calling the delisting proposal "long overdue."
Read this morning's AP report, which includes the range of opinions.
WILDLIFE — Mountain lions are resourceful in living off the land. As the Missoulian reports, a remote camera tended by a homeowner's association outside of Missoula captured footage of a cougar fishing… and then succeeding — near the Blackfoot River, as you'll see in these two short video sequences:
PREDATORS — Federal wildlife officials are postponing a much-anticipated decision on whether to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states.
In a court filing Monday in Billings, Mont., government attorneys say "a recent unexpected delay" is indefinitely holding up action on the predators. No further explanation was offered.
Gray wolves are under protection as an endangered species and have recovered dramatically from widespread extermination in recent decades.
More than 6,000 of the animals now roam the continental U.S. Most live in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, where protections already have been lifted.
The protections are still in effect for most of Washington.
A draft proposal to lift protections elsewhere drew strong objections when it was revealed last month.
Wildlife advocates and some members of Congress argue that the wolf's recovery is incomplete because the animal occupies just a fraction of its historical range.
State and federal wildlife biologists and groups respresenting agriculture and hunting interests say wolves have recovered dramatically fast and must be managed to control the impact they have on livestock and big game herds in certain areas.
PREDATORS — There's a little less love for wolves in central Idaho this week.
Idaho issues 2 kill permits on wolves near Carey after 31 sheep killed
Between May 10 and May 12, John Peavey, the owner of the Flat Top Ranch near Carey, Idaho, lost 13 ewes and 18 lambs to wolves. Idaho Wildlife Services has issued a kill permit for up to two wolves.
—Idaho Mountain Express (Sun Valley)
WILDLIFE — Elk numbers in Montana's Bitterroot Valley are up this year mostly because of better calf survival, according to reseachers.
This year’s aerial spring count found 7,373 elk in the five hunting districts that encircle the Bitterroot Valley. That's the fourth highest number of elk spotted by biologists in the 48-year history of the annual spring survey.
Range conditions and more emphasis on controlling wolves, cougars and bears played a roll in the increase, biologists say.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some pro-wolf groups say hanging red ribbons on fences around pastures will protect cattle from wolf attacks.
The theory is getting another test this spring in the Wenatchee area, site of the most recently documented new wolf pack in Washington.
Question: Does this mean the end of the open range?
Let's just say there could possibly mean a BIG MARKET for red ribbon in the West.
See the KING 5 TV report and video.
WILDLIFE — An internationally famous Yellowstone National Park bull elk has died, likely killed by the Canyon wolf pack, which was seen Saturday feeding on his carcass, according to today's report by Brett French of the Billings Gazette.
Elk No. 10, the last to wear a yellow ear tag with the number 10 on it, was found dead about a half mile east of the Wraith Falls trailhead in the park on Saturday, according to Al Nash, the park's chief of public affairs. The elk was 16-18 years old.
Elk No. 10 became internationally famous after the British Broadcasting Corp. made a film on elk that featured the Mammoth animals as well as those in Estes Park, Colo. Clips from the films “Street Fighters” and “Showdown in Elk Town” can still be found on YouTube.
The large bull elk attracted attention in Gardiner in 2001 when he got his antlers tangled in a badminton net and poles at the Mammoth school. The only way to remove the net was to tranquilize the elk and saw off its antlers. That's when the elk was given its yellow ear tag to ensure that any hunters who saw it that fall would know the elk's meat was unsafe to eat because of the tranquilizer.
“I remember in 2006 when Elk 10 arrived on the Mammoth scene on Sept. 10,” wrote Jim Halfpenny, a Gardner-based naturalist who gives tours in the park, in an email. “He was now big and took the harem over from another bull. In the coming years, he and Elk 6 did battle on more than one occasion. In more recent years he did not come into Mammoth, but maintained a harem of his own between the YCC camp and Mammoth Terraces. Being slightly old, wiser, and lacking the body weight of his youth, it was now time to retreat to a more private place with a smaller harem. He let the younger bulls compete for the prime grazing habitat of Mammoth and the cows that are attracted there.”
WILDLIFE — A reader submitted this photo snapped Wednesday off I-90 between Wallace and Mullan. She said the eyes appeared blue like those of a husky, but the animal ran away as though it were wild.
What's your guess? Wolf, wolf hybrid or husky?
Click "continue reading" for my opinion and the consensus from several Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife biologists who work with wolves.
Click "continue reading" for my opinion and the consensus from several Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife biologists who work with wolves.
PREDATORS — A wolf witnessed hunting a deer in a Wenatchee residential area Tuesday is a dose of reality a little too close to home for some people.
It's a reminder that urban deer need to be controlled, and that we need to have measures in place so we can control wolves.
We need to be aware of wolves — all of us. The landscape has changed.
Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine offers this reminder of the well reported developments in the past few years:
It’s a reminder that it’s not just ranchers who will need to adapt to living with the species, but mountain bikers, hikers, mushroom pickers and others who frequent the woods. They will also need to adjust their behavior and become more alert in the outdoors and better understand wolves’ proclivities to avoid the rare negative interactions.
PREDATORS — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists weighed in today, confirming that the Northern Rockies gray wolf population has remained sustainable two years after wolves lost their endangered species protections in most of the region.
The latest wolf status updates on 2012 wolf monitoring in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming found that aggressive hunting, and some trapping, in the three states lowered the overall number of wolves for the first time in years.
Overall, biologists tallied a minimum of 1,674 wolves across the five states at the end of 2012, a 6 percent decline.
However, the wolf population that burgeoned under protections for more than a decade are still FIVE TIMES higher than the federal government’s original recovery goal, set in the 1990s, of at least 300 wolves in the region.
That goal was achieved in 2002, but lawsuits stalled wolf management for years and the population soared.
Read on for a summary of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2012 Northern Rockies wolf status report.
WILDLIFE — Northern Rockies gray wolf packs are highly structured socially. Only the alpha male and alpha female breed.
Generally, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists:
- Mating occurs in January.
- Pups are born in dens in April and the pack supports the nursing mother with food.
- The female and pups begin uniting with the pack at a rendezvous site in May.
- Pups are weaned in June.
- By October, the pups are actively hunting with the pack.
- By December, the pups appear full size and some older wolves may have been dispersed from the pack to take care of themselves and find new mates and territories.
- Wolf packs are known to kill other wolves as they expand or defend territories averaging 350 square miles. Dispersing wolves are especially vulnerable.
A pack is defined as a minimum of two wolves hanging out together.
A breeding pack must have a minimum of one male and one female wolf hanging out together during the winter breeding period.
PREDATORS — Idaho's 2012 wolf monitoring report released Tuesday indicates the state is struggling to get 14 years of burgeoning wolf populations into some sort of sustainable balance with prey and social acceptance.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reports 683 wolves at the end of 2012, down from 746 wolves in 2011 — an 11 percent decrease.
But the total number of packs has increased from 104 in 2011 to 117 in 2012. Wolves are moving in and out of the state, and a new crop of wolves is being born in dens across the state this month.
State wildlife officials attribute both the overall population downsizing and the increase in packs to continued pressure through hunting, trapping and agency control methods.
"Despite concerns expressed by some people that hunting and trapping would eliminate wolf packs, we haven’t found that to be the case,” said Jon Rachael, Fish and Game’s state big-game manager in Boise.
While the number of wolf packs increased, the average size of the packs decreased, Rachael said.
“That is exactly what we would expect to see with wolves being harvested by hunters and trappers,” he said. “Average pack size peaked in 2008 prior to our first hunting season, when we estimated an average of slightly more than eight wolves per pack, and has declined since then to about five wolves per pack now.”
Last year, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission increased bag limits, extended hunting seasons in some areas, allowed hunters to use electronic calls and certified more wolf trappers.
Idaho reports 418 wolves were killed by these means and the efforts of Wildlife Services to protect livestock
Yet the overall effort has barely made a dent in a wolf population that federal and state experts agree is too large for its own good.
For now, it’s the official policy of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to continue reducing the number of wolves. Wildlife officials don't state a goal for Idaho's wolf population, noting only that the state legislature in 2002 committed to maintaining at least 150 wolves.
"Simply removing them one time doesn't mean they are gone," Rachael said. "They will backfill suitable habitat fairly quickly. That is why you can have a pretty high harvest rate with wolves and you don't see the population plummeting as some folks were predicting early on."
PREDATORS — Idaho's gray wolf population at the end of 2012 was at least 683, a decrease of 11 percent from 2011, according to the federally required annual state wolf monitoring report (http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/wolves/) posted online today by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.
Humans killed 418 of the 425 wolves known to have died in the state last year by hunting, trapping and state and federal agency control efforts to protect livestock, the report says.
However, the number of documented packs had increased and wolves were occupying territories throughout the state.
Montana also has reported a decrease in wolves in its 2012 annual report, the first decrease since 2004.
In Washington, where wolves are still under Endangered Species protections, the number of wolves increased signficantly from 2011 to 2012, with the number pegged at around 100.
Idaho biologists documented 117 packs in the state at the end of 2012 — an increase of seven from 2011 — plus 23 border packs that overlap in Montana, Wyoming and Washington. But total numbers of wolves have gradually decreased because of hunting and other efforts since the population peaked at a minimum of 856 in 2009.
Of the 66 Idaho packs known to have reproduced, 35 packs qualified as breeding pairs at the end of the year, the report says. Those reproductive packs produced a minimum of 187 pups.
A new crop of pups will be born in dens across the state this month.
Wolves were confirmed to have killed 73 cattle, 312 sheep and two dogs in Idaho last year, the report says.
The Panhandle Zone was occupied by 15 documented resident packs in 2012 — up three from 2011 — plus five known resident border packs, three suspected packs and one other documented group during 2012, the report says. Three new resident packs were documented in 2012.
Wolf recovery and monitoring reports from Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and more recently from Washington and Oregon are posted on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northern Rockies Gray Wolf website.
PREDATORS — With wolves stacking up in northeastern Washington at an alarming rate, perhaps Washington ought to take a cue from Montana, which has announced plans to review the guidelines set in the state's wolf management plan.
Montana is rounding up the state's disbanded 12-member Wolf Management Advisory Council in Helena, April 12, for a meeting to review and discuss the wolf management plan they helped to create.
"A lot has transpired since the council last met in 2007," said Jeff Hagener, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department director. "Governor Steve Bullock and I have invited the members to gather in Helena for a one-day meeting to review the status of the wolf in Montana today and to discuss the effectiveness of the management plan."
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Where's a good tree when you need it?
Two cougar kittens used their climbing skills and a wooden fence to evade five coyotes on the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyo., as shown in a series of photos by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Outdoor Recreation Planner Lori Iverson.
Iverson witnessed a spectacular standoff between two juvenile mountain lions as the coyotes let the cats know they weren’t welcome in the area. The mountain lions sought safety on a buck and rail fence for over an hour while the coyotes lurked in the background.
Here, one of the coyotes has moved in closer. Notice the flattened positions of the mountain lions.
Click here to see the rest of Iverson's photos.
HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission today (March 28) voted to extend the current wolf hunting season in the Middle Fork and part of the Dworshak-Elk City wolf management zones.
The commission extended the wolf hunting season through June 30 in the Middle Fork units 20A, 26 and 27 and in the part of the Dworshak-Elk-City Zone's Unit 16 north of the Selway River.
These seasons were scheduled to end Sunday.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — News that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into the possibility of delisting gray wolves from endangered species protections ought to be good news.
Delisting is the goal of listing.
Delisting was applauded where' it's already happened — much later than federal scientists, elected officials, state wildlife managers, ranchers and hunters would have liked — in Montana and Washington.
But some western environmental groups are opposing the possibililty that's been circulating in the past few weeks.
On the other hand, 72 members of Congress have signed a petition urging delisting.
Click "continue reading" for the latest from the Associated Press.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A new wolf pack has been confirmed in Washington by state wildlife officials, bringing the number of known packs to 10 with AT LEAST four other packs suspected of operating inside or on the state borders.
The photo with this post shows two wolves near an elk carcass in the Pitcher Creek drainage about six miles south of Wenatchee, as reported in the Wenatchee World.
In the story, state wildlife biologist Dave Volson doesn't hesitate to point out that this wolf pack could be "new" only in the sense thats it's just been confirmed.
Wolf reports — many are substantiated but many others are not — are coming in from a wide range of areas on the state's wolf reporting webpage. Even the more open spaces of the Palouse region is home to wolves.
See a good roundup of recent wolf-related activity and news — including how wolf management is factoring into the state Senate confirmation hearings for Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioners and a Washington-collared wolf killed legally in British Columbia — in the latest Wolf Howler report by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.
PREDATORS — Bounties are back!
A decline in mule deer over the past generation prompted the Utah Legislature to create a $50 bounty to encourage hunters to kill coyotes. However, some scientists question whether the coyotes are to blame for the decline in mule deer and if the bounty program is really working. — New York Times
PREDATORS— The potential impact of wolves on northeastern Washington game species such as deer and elk will be discussed in a public meeting set by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Wednesday (March 27) in Colville.
- The meeting is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Colville Ag Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave.
State and local wildlife managers will present information on wolf monitoring in the area along with population trends and harvest data for white-tailed deer, elk and moose.
They’ll also discuss the status of wolves in the region and the impact wolves have had on deer and elk populations in other western states, according to a WDFW media release.
Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said the department has not documented any measureable impacts from wolves on game species in Washington, but recognizes that reports from other states have raised public concerns.
“We want to talk to people in northeast Washington about this issue because that’s the area of the state that has the largest number of wolves,” Ware said. “We’d encourage area residents who have concerns to attend this meeting.”
- Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' complete report is expected to be available online at by April 12.
"We're making some progress," said FWP Director Jeff Hagener. "Confirmed livestock loss has been on a general downward trend since 2009, and we have more tools now for affecting wolf populations. In some areas, where hunting, trapping and livestock-depredation removals have been effective, it looks like the wolf population's growth has been curbed this year. In other areas the population may be leveling off, but we have more work to do. There are still places where we need to manage for a better balance among other Montana wildlife and with Montana's livestock producers and their families."
UPDATED at 3:20 p.m. with clarification on costs provided by WDFW.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The cost of managing protected wolves in Washington is likely to increase by more than 200 percent from the past two years to about $2.3 million in 2013-14, a state wildlife official told legislators in Olympia this morning.
Dave Ware of the Department of Fish and Wildlife gave the figure for the biennium in his testimony during a public hearing on wolf-related legislation before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
In November, Ware had estimated the state had spent $376,000 by that time in 2012 on wolf management, including $76,500 to eliminate the cattle-killing Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.
But this morning, Ware said the full-year total from all wolf efforts for 2012 was $750,000.
With the population of wolves growing rapidly — doubling in a year under endangered species protections — the costs will increase as the state is obliged to work with livestock producers, investigate cases of domestic animals and livestock attacked or killed by wolves and dedicate more staff in the field to trapping, researching and monitoring wolf packs.
- See the report from today's hearing by S-R Olympia Bureau writer Jim Camden, detailing a wolf attack on a dog in a Twisp family's yard.
Lawmakers are considering two bills that would raise funds for wolf programs by creating a wolf-themed vehicle license plate or tapping a surcharge to all personalized license plates.
The agency hopes to avoid robbing money from other wildlife programs to manage the rivival of wolves, Ware said in an interview after his testimony.
“There’s not a lot of support from the hunting community for subsidizing wolf management, at least while wolves are still protected as an endangered species and not open to hunting,” Ware said.
Budgets for big-game programs are larger than the wolf management budget, but the agency is struggling to catch up with big-game monitoring that gives a clear picture of how much the growing wolf populations is impacting their prey base of deer, elk and moose.
The NW Sportsman post notes — as many of us have while we observe and report on the historic re-entry of wolves to the region— that conservation groups continue to oppose the killing of wolves. They continue to ignore wolf experts who say wolves must be killed in some situations to help ease the impact to rural people and the social tension, a necessary step that will work in favor of wolves in the long run.
PREDATORS – Wildlife advocates have asked a federal court to force the government to come up with a recovery plan for Canada lynx 13 years after the snow-loving wild cats were declared a threatened species.
A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges the long delay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violates federal law.
Four environmental groups want the U.S. District Court in Montana to set a date for the agency to adopt a “road map” that would detail what’s needed for lynx to recover.
A Fish and Wildlife spokesman declined comment on the lawsuit.
It’s unknown how many lynx survive in the U.S. They are rarely seen across a 14-state range that includes portions of the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains, the western Great Lakes and the Cascade Range of Washington and Oregon.
PREDATORS — With Montana's wolf season coming to a close this evening, hunters and trappers have reported killing 223 wolves during the state’s third season and the first that allowed trapping.
That's an increase of 53 over last season's total.
The general rifle wolf season began Oct. 20; trapping opened Dec. 15. Both seasons will be closed Friday.
- See a detaled report from the Flathead Beacon.
- Click "continue reading" below for an updated report from the Associated Press.
IDAHO, which allows hunters to shoot up to five wolves and trap up to five wolves, is in the middle of its second annual hunting season. Hunters and trappers have taken a combined 245 wolves so far in the 2012-2013 seasons (169 by hunters, 76 by trappers). The current season closes March 31.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two of several gray wolf-related bills being considered in the 2013 Washington Legislature have passed out of committee and could be considred by the Senate.
Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman has this update on the status of the bills.