Latest from The Spokesman-Review
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Readers of reports on Wednesday's gray wolf management presentation by a panel of experts in Spokane have noticed a discrepancy in the reporting of the number of wolves estimated to be in Washington going into 2013.
The range is 51-101, according to Donny Martorello, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department carnivore manager.
In her report, Jessica Robinson of Northwest Public Radio chose to publish the “minimum” estimate of 51 wolves that Washington Fish and Wildlife Department field staffers have actually counted.
My report on Wednesday's presentations noted the agency estimates there are “up to 100” wolves in the state, zeroing in on the maximum number of 101 wolves in Washington based modeling techniques that compensate for the fact that human eyes never see all the game in the field.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson came across the king of the Big Skies feasting on roadkill this week. He has some keen observations:
Did a really nice hike today. We ran into this guy along the way. This is a Golden Eagle. Goldies are often confused with young Bald Eagles.
When young, Bald eagles are also brownish. Two easy ways to determine a Golden Eagle (other than size – Goldens are larger) is the Donald Trump hairdo (notice on the neck) and the long pants.
Goldies have feathers right down to their toes. Bald Eagles wear Capri pants (shins are showing).
Another fun thing with these guys, when they gorge themselves (like this one did), they actually eat too much and can't fly. When disturbed, they scamper along the ground until they find a log or stump to sit on.
PREDATORS — A 20-year-old Stevensville hunter thought he'd done everything right before he let his three mountain lion dogs go on a set of fresh tracks Sunday afternoon.
He'd been hunting with others in the Ninemile drainage north of Missoula since Sept. 3. In all that time, they had not seen any sign of wolves in the area. He saw no wolf tracks in the snow heading up to his hunting area last weekend.
This day wasn’t any different than the rest of the season — until his GPS unit indicated his dogs had stopped.
PREDATORS — Idaho wildlife officials are considering paying private trappers to kill wolves roaming in specific hunting zones, such as the St. Joe River drainage, where wolves have had a significant impact on elk populations.
“There are certain individuals who have built up some pretty good skills,” Jeff Gould, a Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife bureau manager, said in a report by the Idaho Statesman.
The agency is looking for ways to reduce Idaho’s wolf population, estimated at more than 500 at the end of the season last year. Hunters and trappers have had some success statewide killing wolves, but Gould says the agency wants to minimize wolf impacts in the Lolo, Selway and St. Joe hunting zones.
The agency is also considering partnering with select trappers on an initiative to fit more wolves with radio collars. Working with trappers is likely to be less expensive than collaring trips using helicopters and staff. Gould said the agency recently spent about $40,000 over three days to fit collars on 14 wolves near Lowman in central Idaho.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington wildlife managers are putting together a road show of experts to help the public understand the options for dealing with the expanding number of gray wolves spreading into the state.
The recovery and management of gray wolves in Washington and other western states will be the topic of three public meetings this month hosted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The only Eastern Washington meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Jan. 16 at the Center Place Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.
The agency says a panel of experts will discuss efforts to recover Washington’s gray wolf population, the latest information from population surveys in Washington and gray wolf management strategies used in other states.
“Wolves are a high-profile species that attract considerable public interest from people who often have opposing views,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “This is a great opportunity for people interested in gray wolves to hear from experts about the recovery of the species throughout the West.”
Speakers will include Mike Jimenez, Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Wyoming; Carter Niemeyer, retired wolf specialist with the USFWS and the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services; and Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore section manager.
Lorna Smith, executive director of Western Wildlife Outreach, an independent wild carnivore education organization based in the state of Washington, will moderate the meetings.
Each meeting will include an opportunity for the public to submit questions to the presenters about wolf recovery and management.
Other scheduled public meetings are:
- Jan. 17 – Office Building #2, at 14thAve. and Jefferson St., Olympia, 2:30-5 p.m.
- Jan. 18 – Magnuson Park’s Garden Room, 7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, 6-8 p.m.
Virtually absent from Washington for more than 70 years, gray wolves have dispersed into the eastern portion of the state and the North Cascades from adjacent populations in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and British Columbia.
WDFW has confirmed the presence of eight wolf packs in Washington and there's significant evidence of unconfirmed packs near Kettle Falls in northeastern Washington, in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington and in the North Cascades, as well as transient wolves.
Gray wolves are listed as endangered under state law throughout Washington, and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.
Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan establishes a goal of 15 breeding pairs of wolves distributed among three regions of the state for three years – or 18 pairs in one year – before the state can delist gray wolves as an endangered species.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Predators can be a problem in suburban areas, especially if they are encouraged to be bold by people who leave out pet food or purposely feed them. The consequences of trying to “tame” wildlife can impact everyone in the neighborhood.
For example, check out this KOMO TV report from Western Washington:
A Confederated Salish Kootenai tribal biologist said the report of two wolves in Polson was likely correct after measuring tracks he found around a partially eaten mule deer carcass near the sightings in the Montana community. — Missoulian
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Here's the latest on gray wolf management plans being developed by the Colville and Spokane Tribes in a story by Capital Press.
Quote of the day:
“We would like to caution people about the fact that there are live traps in the area. They legally can be there. People should probably keep their dogs on a leash or leave their dogs at home.”
Bitterroot National Forest recreation technician Erica Strayer, warning that wolf traps are set near some cross-country ski trails around Montana's Lake Como —Ravalli Republic
PREDATORS — While the war on wolves continues, mountain lions haven't been fasting.
At midpoint of a three-year study of elk in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists were surprised to learn the role mountain lions have played in elk deaths, and they have begun a yearlong study of the big cats in the valley to learn more about that population. — Ravalli Republic
PREDATORS — After seven of Yellowstone National Park's roughly 88 wolves had been legally shot in recent weeks while traveling outside the park — including five wolves that had been radio-collared for research — Montana wildlife commissioners voted today to close some areas outside the park to wolf hunting and trapping.
The closures were approved on a 4-to-1 vote by Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, the Associated Press reports.
Also shot in recent weeks were four collared wolves originally from the park but now living outside it. Three more shot in the vicinity of the park had unknown origins, park officials said.
Saturday is the opening day of Montana’s first wolf trapping season since the animals lost federal protections last year.
With at least five collared wolves from the park shot this year, commissioners say they want to guard against too many being killed. However, wildlife officials say the statewide wolf harvest is down 18 percent this year.
Before the meeting, Montana wildlife commissioner Shane Colton told the Ravalli Republic, “We don't want to close any area off if we don't have to. But if we keep losing collared wolves … management becomes difficult. We want to do this first trapping season right.”
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolves continue to consume, among other things, a lot of time, money and attention in Washington.
Read on for an Associated Press report that rounds up what state Fish and Wildlife officials are doing and proposing as we head into winter, a critical time for wildlife as well as for wildlife officials seeking funding from the Legislature.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine monitored the entire presentation and comment period of Friday's Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting devoted to Washington's wolf management activities.
I listened to the webcast from Olympia, too, but reading Walgamott's blow-by-blow blog post on the presentations and the 41 three-minute testimonies from the public — plus the resulting website comment string — is more entertaining and requires less caffeine to endure.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A few callers say they're scratching their heads trying to figure out the point of today's outdoors column regarding wolves.
Here's a hint: Wolves need a lot of fresh meat year round in order to survive.
The Yellowstone model has spawned a myth that elk and moose — the wolf's favorite meal — are overpopulated throughout the West and that wolves will bring the ecosystem into balance.
But in Northeastern Washington, there's no over-population of elk, moose or deer.
Unless wolves are managed, they will continue to multiply and reduce game population to even lower numbers. Then, left to natural processes, the wolf numbers will go bust, but not before they turn to preying on livestock as their last-ditch effort to survive.
Either way, wolf management is the better option if you really care about the future of wolves.
Read a detailed account of Washington wolf management update and resulting public comment during the Oct. 5 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The seven Wedge Pack wolves killed by Washington Fish and Wildlife officers in August and September were healthy, but not necessarily beefy from their diet of livestock.
Read this report by Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott for updates and details on the weights of the carcasses assessed by the WDFW veterinarian.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Former Spokane County Commissioner (and current candiate) John Roskelley of Spokane claims the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was not being genuine with the public in its handling of the summer wolf attacks in northern Stevens County and ultimately the elimination of the Wedge Pack. Here's Roskelley's take, as posted on my Facebook page:
The WDFW rushed this decision to exterminate the Wedge Pack to avoid having to deal with the public or legislators like Sen. Rankin. I stopped at the meeting in Colville Thursday night; the WDFW got their nose bloodied by McIrvin and other Stevens County ranchers; the agency decided on a quick and dirty fix; provided the news media with their excuses for their action; used Conservation Northwest and the Cattlemen's Association as justified supporters; pretended to hunt the wolves by foot; and then proceeded to do what they intended all along - wipe the wolves out quickly via helicopter and sharpshooters before the public woke up and some organization filed an injunction to get it stopped. The WDFW agency people had their mind made up weeks ago, but they knew better than to let the public in on something this controversial before it was a done deal.”
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Three wolves from the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County were killed by a shooter in a helicopter today as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife continued its effort to stop persistent attacks on livestock by eliminating the pack.
Since early July, Wedge Pack wolves are believed to have killed or injured at least 17 cows and calves from the Diamond M Ranch herd ranging on both private and public land between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers southwest of Laurier, Wash.
Department Director Phil Anderson said a WDFW marksman shot the wolves from a helicopter at about 8 a.m. The wolves were shot about seven miles south of the U.S.-Canada border in the same area where two other wolves from the Wedge Pack were killed by aerial gunning yesterday.
Biologists estimate the pack includes 8-11 wolves. Before this week's kills, the state shot a wolf on Aug. 7 when it was still believed the pack could be thinned and dispersed without eliminating the pack.
One wolf, thought to be the pack's alpha male, was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar earlier this summer. WDFW officers have been monitoring that wolf to follow the pack in the rugged, remote forested country.
Anderson said a department wildlife veterinarian would perform necropsies on all five of the wolves killed this week.
For more information on the situation, see the WDFW's Wedge Pack Lethal Removal Actions FAQ
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Pro-wolf groups aren't all standing by as Washington Fish and Wildlife staffers try to eliminate the cattle-preying Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County. Here's a form letter being promoted by the Center for Biological Diversity:
ENDANGERED SPECIES – Shooting from a helicopter, a marksman with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two wolves in Northeast Washington today as part of an effort to eliminate a pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in a remote grazing area near the U.S.-Canada border.
The word comes from Bruce Botka, WDFW public affairs director in Olympia.
Teams of marksmen and wildlife biologists returned to an area of northern Stevens County known as the Wedge late last week, but had not killed any wolves after several days of around-the-clock activity.
Beginning Monday, the department called in a helicopter to aid the effort, and an airborne marksman shot the two wolves early this afternoon, about seven miles south of the Canadian border.
WDFW Director Phil Anderson had directed the pack’s removal last week in response to the wolves’ escalating pattern of predation on the livestock herd of the Diamond M Ranch of Stevens County. Since July, the pack of eight or more wolves is believed to have killed or injured at least 17 of the herd’s calves and cows.
The department says the attacks came despite non-lethal efforts to minimize wolf conflict by the rancher and department staff. Some pro-wolf groups say the efforts to prevent the attacks could have been more effective.
Read on for more details from WDFW.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — More information about the decision to kill the entire Wedge Pack of wolves responsible for killing wolves this summer in northern Stevens County is in my news story in today's paper.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department in conjuction with a livestock group and a wildlife conservation group have just issued statement's on the previously reported state decision to eliminate an entire wolf pack that's been attacking cattle in northern Stevens county.
“In response to ongoing attacks on livestock by a wolf pack in Northeast Washington that appears to be preying exclusively on cattle, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today announced it plans to eliminate the pack and lay a foundation for sustainable, long-term wolf recovery in the region,” according the the WDFW statement just released.
WDFW Director Phil Anderson said the plan has the support of key conservation interests and livestock operators. Two organizations that participated in developing the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan – Conservation Northwest and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association – joined the department in issuing a statement explaining their positions.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — One thing's for sure: Beef is not healthy for wolves.
At a public meeting in Colville Thursday night, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced intentions to eliminate the entire Wedge Pack of wolves that have killed or injured at least 15 cattle in northern Stevens County since mid-July.
This is a milestone in the controversial process of wolf recovery, the first time a wolf pack has been targeted in Washington since gray wolves were extirpated from the West with guns, traps and poison in the early 1900s. Eliminating wolf packs focused on livestock already has been employed in Montana and Idaho where the issues arose.
Statements were issued late Friday afternoon by the WDFW along with the state Cattlemen's Association and Conservation Northwest.
Details of the meeting and the agency's plan to kill the wolves are spelled out in this morning's report by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.
For those watching this issue, the writing was on the wall.
The scenario was pretty well set up, as I illustrated in my Thursday column, when WDFW officials confirmed another wolf attack on Diamond M Ranch cattle on Sunday.
Walgamott also posted a detailed scene-setting report.
The agency posted answers to frequently asked questions on Wednesday night.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — At the request of Stevens County ranchers and commissioners, Washington Department of fish and Wildlife officials will present an update on their efforts to deal with gray wolves that have killed or injured at least 15 cattle since mid-July.
Some of the issues were spelled out in today's Outdoors column.
The cattle belong to the Diamond M Ranch which summers its livestock on a national forest grazing allotment in the “wedge” area near the Canada border between the Columbia and Kettle rivers.
Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW regional manager, will outline the agency's efforts in a public meeting set for 5 p.m. tonight (Sept. 20) in the Colville County Commissioner's meeting room (old Avista Building) 230 E. Birch Street Colville 99114. See map.
WDFW posted these answers to questions about the Wedge Pack issues on its website Wednesday.
Reading between the lines, Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott says the agency appears to be targeting more than just a few of the Wedge Pack wolves — perhaps the entire pack of 8-11 animals.
PREDATORS — WildEarth Guardians will have their day in court in a lawsuit against the National Park Service for not considering reintroduction of wolves into Rocky Mountain National Park as an option for controlling elk numbers.
Park officials have been using sharpshooters to thin the elk herd over the past few years.
WildEarth says wolves should have been introduced to do the culling naturally.
Biologists say the park is to too small to expect the wolves to stay put and not cause issues elswhere.
WildEarth said we'll see you in court.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing a case Thursday on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Even though Washington wolves are still protected by state endangered species rules, Idaho offered a touch of “management” to the Diamond Pack of northeastern Washington over the weekend.
A Washington man with an Idaho wolf hunting license killed a wolf on Saturday just east of the Pend Oreille County/Washington border.
The wolf had the red Washington eartags 379, 378, which means it had been caught, tagged and released by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists studying the Diamond Pack's movements.
According to Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager, the male wolf was killed by the hunter in Kalispell Creek. which drains into Priest Lake near Nordman.
The Diamond Pack had been observed as early as 2007 and was confirmed as the second breeding wolf pack in 2009. The photo above shows Diamond Pack pups photographed in Pend Oreille County in 2009 by a remote camera placed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
Only a few tagged Washington wolves have previously strayed to legal doom in other jurisdictions.
- A Diamond Pack female wolf was killed by a trapper in Idaho last winter just east of the Washington border.
- A Teanaway Pack female wolf was shot last spring in a southeastern British Columbia pig pen.
Read on for details on the Diamond Pack from the WDFW.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department hasn't had much to report regarding its less than fruitful efforts to curb the cattle killing by gray wolves in the Wedge area of northern Stevens County. The toll is about 15 cattle confirmed killed or injured by wolves between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers since mid-July.
But a lot of other people are talking, including the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association.
Several more cattle have been found dead or severly injured since WDFW sent officers into the Wedge area in late August, but the agency has not reported any wolves being killed in the effort.
Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW regional manager, said this afternoon that the number of officers in the area is being increased after another Diamond M Ranch calf was confirmed killed by wolves in an investigation on Sunday.
Possible reasons for the lack of effective agency response are listed in this report by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.
Read on to see a media release from the Cattlemen's association, which is raising concern about the progress of wolf recovery and wolf management.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Colville Tribe confirmed Washington’s ninth wolf pack Sunday as they trapped and released a 104-pound gray wolf.
The new group of gray wolves has been called the Strawberries Pack.
The wolf is the third to be captured, fitted with a GPS collar and released on the reservation in three months.
Eric Krausz and Donovan Antoine of the tribe’s wildlife program caught the 104-pound female wolf on Sunday, the tribe reports.
Wolf trapping expert Carter Niemeyer was hired last spring to teach the Tribes’ wildlife personnel the tricky art trapping gray wolves. While Niemeyer was on the reservation, the trapping team captured a 68-pound female and a 72-pound male as the tribe confirmed the state’s eighth pack, dubbed the Nc’icn Pack.
After scouting to find significant wolf sign, Krausz and Antoine set a trapline two weeks ago that finally caught the third wolf after six days.
The tribe is working on a wolf management plan that’s separate from the Washington wolf plan adopted last year to deal with wolves as the naturally move back into their former range.
HUNTING — Bowhunters have been learning over the years — some of them the hard way — that bears and even cougars will sneak in on them while they are calling elk during the September rut seasons.
Cow and calf talk is especially effective in luring predators, and archers must be ready to deal with being prey for a large carnivorem whether it's with their bow, bear spray or a handgun, where allowed.
This week, a Montana elk hunter with a wolf license shot a wolf on the fourth day of archery season just west of the Whitefish Divide, reaching a quota that prompted Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to close the North Fork Flathead’s wolf management Unit 110. It is the only hunting district in the state that retains a quota for wolves.
Region One Wildlife Manager Jim Williams said the hunter checked in the wolf as required on Wednesday.
“An individual archer took an 83-pound, 4-year-old male wolf just west of the Whitefish Divide,” Williams told the Daily Interlake. “The guy was cow-talking at elk. The wolf came right in.”
Only two wolves can be harvested a year in the district, which covers the North Fork west of Glacier National and extends over the Whitefish Divide into Lincoln County.
One more wolf can be harvested once the rifle season for wolves opens Oct. 15.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — In case you missed it from last week, Oregon has confirmed its fifth breeding wolf pack after documenting pups in a group roaming the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Read on for details from the Associated Press.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Wedge Pack's appetite for livestock may spell doom for four or more of the dozen or so wolves roaming between Canada and northern Stevens County.
Two more Diamond M Ranch cattle were confirmed today.
That could bring the number of wolf depredations on the ranch's herd to 12 the cattle between the Columbia and Kettle rivers since mid July.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officers are in the area trying to trap and collar another wolf in the pack — one is already collared to help them monitor the pack's movements. They're also seeking to kill wolves and disperse the pack.
Department Director Phil Anderson gave an update on the Wedge Pack issue a few hours ago.
Anderson's update is detailed here in a blog post by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
WILDLIFE — Trail cams offer maybe too much reality for some people who think all is peaceful among wildlife in the woods.
This series of trail cam photos documents the short amount of time between cute and dinner.