Latest from The Spokesman-Review
HUNTING — A TV documentary will air Thursday featuring two Montana hunters confronting the issues and the difficulty centered around hunting wolves. The two-episode program on the Sportsman Channel will be the first to follow a wolf hunt in the Lower 48 states.
It's already getting praised and bashed, as you might expect. See the video intro above and judge for yourself.
“On Your Own Adventures” tackles the issue of wolf management head-on with an attempt to present equal parts education and adventure.
Big game hunter and conservation historian Randy Newberg, along with hunting partner, Matt Clyde, will try to outsmart an intelligent predator—and explain the reasons why wolf management is necessary—during an 11-day spot-and-stalk wolf hunt.
The series airs Thursday (Aug.) 16 and concludes on Aug. 23.
To find the Sportsman Channel:
Use the zip code locator on the website http://thesportsmanchannel.com if you plug in your zip code, it will show the providers the channel is on.
I used zip code 99201 and it shows the Sportsman Channel on Comcast ch 428, DIRECTV 605, DISH 395 (that's in HD too).
For more details, see my Outdoors column: TV show confronts contentious wolf hunting issues
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The federal government plans to announce an end to Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming later this month.
Rather than ending years of wrangling between state and federal officials, however, the move promises to spark legal challenges from environmental groups outraged that the state plans to classify wolves as predators that can be shot on sight in most areas.
Read on for details in a story from the Associated Press.
PREDATORS — More than 1,200 Montanans have indicated they want to participate in the state's first wolf trapping season, which will open later this year. The trapping season was approved just last month by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission.
The prospective participants have signed the roster for course they'll be required to complete before they can buy a wolf trapping license.
FWP bureau chief Ron Aasheim said the department is working to develop curriculum and schedules to accommodate those interested in taking the class.
Idaho had similar initial interest from the public during its first wolf trapping season, but only a couple hundred people actually participated during the trapping season.
See more in a story by the Ravalli Republic.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Contacts for 24 conservation organizations say they sent a letter to President Barack Obama today asking for continued Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Pacific Northwest.
Although federal protection on gray wolves in most of Eastern Washington was lifted at the same time wolves were delisted in Idaho and Montana, wolves remain protected by state endangered species laws.
Wolves setting up housekeeping from the east flanks of the Cascades and into Western Washington would enjoy federal and state endangered species protection.
But groups, including Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resource Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and others sent the letter, noting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving toward a decision on whether wolves in the Northwest and other areas will retain protection.
- Just for balance, I'm going to throw in a few observations to the points the groups make in a joint media release.
“Wolves are only just beginning to recover in the Pacific Northwest and need the continued protections of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves once roamed across most of the Pacific Northwest, but today they occupy just a fraction of their former range.”
- Wolves have just begun to work on game herds and kill livestock in Oregon and Washington.
About 100 wolves are dispersed among AT LEAST five Oregon packs and eight in Washington. All but two of these packs — the Lookout and Teanaway packs — lost federal protection along with the northern Rocky Mountains population, delisted by an act of Congress. The conservation groups are asking the administration to retain protection for these two packs and to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the Pacific Northwest, including in western Washington and Oregon and parts of California.
“Wolves called the Pacific Northwest home for 10,000 years,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “The fact that they are returning to the Cascades on their own is a good sign, but if we want them to survive and fully recover they will need our help.”
- Efforts should start now to translocate wolves from Eastern Washington to the Mount St. Helens and Olympics areas to let Western Washington share the diversity/benefits/burden of having wolves. This would speed up recovery and expedite delisting of wolves in the region.
The need for continued protection of wolves in the Pacific Northwest was driven home when the Lookout Pack — the first breeding pack to be confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years — was decimated by poaching. The poachers were fortunately caught and prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act.
- In other words, the federal act has bigger penalties to offer as a deterrent to wolf poaching.
Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho research has shown that by forcing elk to move more, wolves have allowed streamside vegetation to recover, benefitting songbirds and beavers. Studies also show that wolves provide benefits to scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears, and help increase numbers of foxes and pronghorns by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors. Thousands of visitors to the park have been thrilled to see wolves in their natural habitat.
- True, but wolves had the room to work freely and naturally in Yellowstone. They don't have that room or prey base in Stevens or Pend Oreille counties, and it's certainly not clear that any sort of public majority wants them on the Olympic Peninsula. Elk herds are not out of balance in Eastern Washington with the single exception of Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, where hunting appears to be a workable solution.
Read on for more from the media release by the 24 conservation groups.
HUNTING — An ambitious elk study in the East Fork of the Bitterroot River has documented an increase in elk calf survival. Wolves have not been a significant factor this year, although mountain lions have taken a toll on the elk.
Craig Jourdonnais of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says he counted 56 elk calves per 100 cows during an aerial flight in July.
He said1976 was the last time elk calf numbers were that high.
The ratio between elk calves and cows at one point in recent years dropped into the teens.
An elk study has found that 17 elk calves have died since June, and of those six were killed by mountain lions and four by black bears. Two deaths were human related and it’s unclear how the other five died.
While biologists are encouraged, they warn there's a reason the study runs for three years.
“It was a screwy winter with not a lot of snow,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks research technician Ben Jimenez said in a story by the Ravalli Republic. “That’s why we do these studies for three years. … Who knows? Maybe this winter we’ll see a huge number of wolf kills.”
PREDATORS — Washington has killed it's first wolf in more than 70 years in response to threats to livestock. Get used to it, as I pointed out in today's Outdoors column.
Wolf watchers in Washington, where the first wolf was been killed under a wolf management plan on Monday, can take a look at Montana and get a glimpse of what's in store.
Click on the attached document to see the latest update to Montana's weekly wolf management report. Bottom line: Montana has had to kill a total of 65 gray wolves this year after they were implicated in livestock depredation. That's in addition to 45 wolves taken in the 2012 portion of the state's wolf hunting season.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The wonderful Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes rail trail between Plummer and Mullan has always been a wild experience, offering visitors the chance to see birds, coyotes, bears, deer, moose and other critters on a fairly regular basis.
But a friend called with a notable sighting at 4 p.m. today.
“Five black wolves,” he said over a mobile phone from his boat about three miles south of Harrison.
“We're right off the east shore and the wolves were right above the trail. They went uphill within a couple hundred yards of a cabin on a hill before they melted away into the vegetation and trees.
“It was unbelievable,” he said.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife officers who killed a wolf implicated in livestock attacks on Tuesday have retreated from the northeastern Washington woods near Laurier today without killing a second wolf as planned.
Bruce Botka, the agency's public relations director, said the Wedge Pack will continue to be monitored, but has dropped plans to kill a second wolf from the pack, at least for now.
Northwest Sportsman blogger Andy Walgamott has a thorough report to date on this incident, which marks the first time Washington has used provisions under its wolf management plan to kill one of the gray wolves that are reintroducing themselves to the state. Wolves otherwise are protected in Eastern Washington by state endangered species rules.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials this morning said an enforcement officer from out of the region continues to hunt for a second wolf to kill from the Wedge Pack after he shot a female wolf Tuesday.
The wolves are thought to be culpable in several attacks on Diamond M Ranch cattle near Laurier, Wash., since mid-July.
Agency officials from Olympia today asked that I remove a photo used with my blog posted Tuesday night because it showed a state biologist carrying a male wolf that had been caught, tranquilized, radio-collared and released. In their request they pointed out:
- The biologist who's been live-trapping wolves for tagging and monitoring is not involved in the current operation to kill livestock-attacking wolves.
- The male wolf that was collared with a GPS tracking device is considered to be the pack's alpha male and is not being targeted for lethal removal.
However, the GPS-collared male likely is giving the officer clues to the whereabouts of the rest of the pack.
Officials said an unidentified officer from out of the region was brought in because they want to avoid possible retribution by wolf zealots who might target — with harassment or violence — the man assigned to do the dirty work of enforcing the state's wolf management plan.
WILDLIFE — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has captured video of a wolf pup howling with other members of its pack in northeastern Oregon.
The department posted the video, which is an excellent example of how wolves communicate.
It shows a pup by itself in a forested area. Its howls are answered by other wolves in the distance.
Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy says the video was captured by a biologist on July 25.
The pup is a member of the Snake River pack, which was first observed in October in the Snake River wildlife management unit, which borders Idaho and includes the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Wilderness.
Dennehy says biologists on Thursday successfully fitted the first member of the pack with a radio-tracking collar.
WILDLIFE — The deaths of four wolves and six eagles in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana are being investigagted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the US Forest Service and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Although officials just announced the investigation, the wolves and eagles were found in the vicinity of the Big Prairie Ranger Station in early May.
Recent lab results have confirmed that the wolves and eagles died as a result of poisoning.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the person(s) responsible for the death of the wolves and eagles.
Contact: Rick Branzell, (406) 329-3000.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A calf injured in a wolf attack in northern Stevens County – the fourth injured or killed in one cattle herd in four weeks – has left the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department contemplating a response, including killing one or more wolves in the Wedge Pack.
“All options are on the table,” Madonna Luers, agency spokeswoman in Spokane, said Monday.
The incident, which apparently occurred on Thursday, is the latest of several confirmed wolf attacks on the Diamond M Ranch herd near Laurier. The ranch has a Colville National Forest grazing lease in the “wedge” of land just south of Canada between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers.
- See my recent column for background on wolf attacks and management in Washington.
- Click on the video above to see and hear a wolf pack howling.
In mid-July, officials confirmed that wolves had injured a cow and calf and killed another calf from the northern Stevens County ranch.
The Diamond M Ranch is owned by the McIrvin family. In 2007, the ranch also suffered Washington’s first documented wolf livestock depredation in roughly 70 years.
Last year, state officials adopted a wolf management plan to deal with expanding wolf packs, which remain protected by state endangered species laws.
“This latest attack is a continuation of a pattern of wolf-livestock problems in the wedge,” Luers said. “The wolf plan allows several possible responses, including lethal removal, in cases of repeated depredation after other methods have been tried.”
The response likely will be decided todayTuesday, she said.
Steve Pozzanghera, director of WDFW's eastern regional office in Spokane, was not available for comment.
Following the last attacks on the Diamond M Ranch cattle, a Fish and Wildlife Department trapper caught an adult male wolf and released it after attaching a collar with a radio transmitter.
A pup also was caught and released, confirming the pack had reproduced this year.
A range rider also was assigned part-time to the leased area to help keep wolves away from the stock, Luers said.
She could not confirm that the radio-collared wolf – thought to be the Wedge Pack’s alpha male – was near the recent attack on a calf. She also did not know whether the range rider had confronted the wolves.
After the July attacks, the Fish and Wildlife Department issued the ranchers a special permit to kill wolves caught threatening their cattle, but it has not been used, Luers said.
WILDLIFE — After a letter to the editor on Sunday made claims about gray wolves that don't seem to be substantiated published wildlife science, I asked for a reaction from several wolf experts. Some of that information appears today in my weekly Outdoors column.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlfie biologist Gary Wiles, principal author of the state's wolf plan, offered this explanation dealing directly with the claim that re-introduced wolves from Canada are “super wolves” compared with the wolves that were in this region before they were extirpated in the 1940s.
“The idea that native wolves were ‘much smaller’ and ‘do not engage in lust killing’ is not substantiated by any scientific proof.
“The name Canis lupus irremotus is dated and no longer considered scientifically valid. It is now considered part of the subspecies Canis lupus nubilus, which includes wolves formerly present in the U.S. Great Plains and most of the western U.S. and currently still present in northeastern Canada. This subspecies is variable in size, but is not substantially smaller than Canis lupus occidentalis of western Canada, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Current subspecies designations are based primarily on genetics and skull morphology.
A complete explanation is in the WDFW's answers to Wolf FAQs (frequently asked questions).
WILDLIFE ISSUES — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has removed all references to its Olaus Murie conservation award after the researcher’s family objected to the group’s policy on wolves.
The Missoulian has the full story.
In a letter to RMEF President David Allen, Olaus Murie’s son, Donald Murie, said the organization’s “all-out war against wolves” is “anathema to the entire Murie family.”
RMEF started giving the Olaus Murie Award in 1999 and has presented it five or six times since then to standouts in the field of wildlife science. The Murie family has no involvement with funding or chosing the award.
Murie, who died in 1963, “was a renowned biologist and one of the country’s great champions of wildlife and wilderness,” according the website of the Wilderness Society, where he served as director.
Murie published pioneering research on the elk herd in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and became “an early, staunch defender of predators and their crucial role in ecosystems,” the site says.
Incidentally: Montana just authorized a 2012-2013 wolf trapping season to help beef up the hunting season that failed to take the quota of wolves sought by wildlife managers last year.
This week, within 24 hours of opening registration for the state's first wolf trapping certification course — a prerequisite to getting a wolf-trapping license — 110 people had signed up.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Today's Outdoors column rounding up the recently elevated profile of gray wolves in Washington ends with a hint to another irony of Washington's East-West dichotomy.
Washington's wolf management plan requires 15 breeding pairs of wolves to be established for three years in all regions of the state before they could be removed from endangered status and their populations could be controlled.
But while wolves are moving in naturally from Idaho and Canada and establishing packs naturally in Eastern Washington, wolves would have to be trapped and relocated into the Western Washington and especially the Olympic Peninsula to complete the delisting requirements within a reasonable time frame.
The catch is that a lengthy environmental and public outreach process would be required before wolves could be translocated — even to the Mount St. Helens area where elk are starving from overpopulation. It's not clear whether Western Washington residents would welcome wolf releases, especially in the Olympics.
The East Side is getting wolves without management authority whether they like them or not. West Side residents get to have a say in whether they want wolves in their woods.
East Side wildlife will take the brunt of wolf recovery until West Siders make their decision.
With eight packs confirmed in Eastern Washington and more unconfirmed packs almost surely formed in the area, it seems like NOW is the time to begin the environmental reviews and public outreach required to get the ball rolling toward delisting wolves.
Why wait until wolves wear out their tentative welcome in Eastern Washington and give more East Siders a reason to hate them?
— See map graphics and details on Washington's eight confirmed wolf packs.
— See KING 5 News video report on Monday's capture and release of a 94 pound adult male and a pup from the Wedge Pack. The trapping effort confirmed the presence of a breeding pack between the Columbia and Kettle rivers near the Canada border.
— See five wolf pups in a short video clip from a remote trail cam that confirmed the presence of the Huckleberry Pack, a breeding pack in northern Spokane and southern Stevens counties.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A red fox photographed by motion-detecting infrared camera in the Mount Hood National Forest may be a Sierra Nevada red fox, which hasn't been found in Oregon in decades.
PREDATORS — Despite a long sport hunting seasons and lethal measures to control wolves bothering livestock, Montana's wolf population continued to grow in the past two years while big-game herds in many areas are taking a beating.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are holding meetings around the state before moving ahead with wolf management. One of the proposals includes trapping, which proved to be effective in Idaho when authorized last year.
Perhaps the most surprising development: The meeting that brought a wide range of public opinion together in Kalispell — was civil.
Read the story and update on the situation from the Flathead Beacon.
WILDLIFE — Results just received from a DNA test confirm a pup picked up outside Ketchum on May 25 is a wild wolf, Idaho Fish and Game officials say.
Out of town campers picked up what they thought was a lost domestic puppy outside Ketchum and took it to a vet clinic in town. Officials thought the male puppy looked like it might be a wolf.
Idaho Fish and Game looked for a wolf pack near where the pup was found, hoping to return the lost pup. But they could find no fresh sign of a pack in the area.
Zoo Boise agreed to take the pup temporarily and to help Fish and Game find it a permanent home. Zoo officials are compiling a list of facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that would be suitable for the pup.
The pup is gaining weight and his health is improving.
NEVERTHELESS, officials say it is best to leave young animals in the wild alone.
In the case of the pup, it is possible that the pack was moving with the pups – perhaps from a den to a rendezvous site – and may have been disturbed by traffic on the road.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Here's a glimpse of what was going last month on in dens scattered around the country in a small portion of the wolf's historic range.
In this case, a newly born Mexican crop of wolf pups is being raised in captivity to help revive the species in the southwest.
In this May 6, 2012 photo provided by the Wolf Conservation Center, a newborn Mexican wolf pup is shown at the Center’s facility in South Salem, N.Y.
The eight pups born at the preserve on May 6 could aid the federal program that has reintroduced the endangered species to the wild.
In 2011 it was believed that there were 50 Mexican wolves living wild in the United Sates.
ENDANGERED SPECIES – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has sped up plans to put radio collars on wolves in the Methow Valley after confirming last month the pack likely killed a calf – the first in the state to qualify for compensation.
Biologist Scott Becker has been stationed in Wenatchee and hired to work with wolves, according to the Wenatchee World. He’s begun efforts to trap the two known members of the Lookout Pack, said Eastern Region Director Steve Pozzanghera.
It’s the state’s first confirmed wolf pack in 70 years, and now deemed the first pack to have probably killed livestock in a May 19 attack on the Thurlow cattle ranch near Carlton.
Becker - formerly a wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - and another biologist stationed in Spokane will try to trap and radio collar animals from all five known packs in the state. That will allow biologists to follow the packs’ movements and track breeding.
The wolves will be released in the same location as captured, Pozzanghera said, adding the agency hopes to work with the Thurlows and other ranchers to prevent further problems.
Read on for more details from the Wenatchee World.
PREDATORS — Why would a mountain lion want to mess with a wolf?
That's what a Montana wildlife researcher is wondering as mountain lions take a toll on the radio-collared wolves she's trying to follow through the Bitterroot Mountains.
The risk of injury doesn't seem worth the benefit for an animal that can simply climb a tree and watch the wolf world pass buy.
Here's the story from the Ravali Republic.
WILDLIFE — Coyotes defending a den of pups are not tolerating dogs coming through their territory between High Drive and Hangman Creek.
After my story about a Thursday attack on a dog was published today, The Spokesman-Review has learned of at least three coyote attacks this week on dogs up to 80 pounds.
Coyotes generally weigh 30-45 pounds.
If you hike in the area above Qualchan Golf Course, keep your dog on a lease for awhile.
Read on for details.
PREDATORS — Wildlife Services agents dispatched a 175-pound mountain lion near Helena, Mont., recently after the cat killed at least six llamas and left them uneaten. Sport-killing behavior is rare for cougars, and officials don't have an easy answer.
Read the Helena Independent Record report.
A coyote looks on from an enclosure as a cow walks past at the Millville Predator Research Facility in Millville, Utah. Hunters killed 297 coyotes in a Coyote Derby in northeast Washington in January and February. (AP Photo/Colin Braley)
Northeast Washington businesses and hunters took aim at coyotes again this winter to spread a little wealth and give calving livestock and beleaguered white-tailed deer a little more breathing room. Participating hunters checked in 297 coyotes during the Coyote Derby in January and February covering Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties. The toll is up from 227 taken during the first derby, held last year during February, said organizer Freddie Giannecchini, in Colville. In comparison, federal Wildlife Services damage control agents killed 191 coyotes at the request of landowners across the state in 2009, the latest year for posted statistics/Rich Landers, SR. More here.
Question: Do you support the Coyote Derby?
WILDLIFE — Although there's been talk of wolves showing up at the edge of Spokane in recent months, coyotes have been cruising the streets and neighborhoods for years.
The scene in the morning was terrible. What was left of the torn, bloodied carcass of my beloved Anacona hen, the crazy, flighty Italian chicken whose antics never failed to amuse me, was tossed like so much trash in front of the henhouse. The two traumatized survivors, battered, bloodied, with beaks broken from frantic attempts to escape, crooning forlornly, huddled in a corner of the backyard under a lilac bush still laden with heavy, fragrant blooms. Feathers were everywhere. We’d been raided by a raccoon. I know it sounds silly to cry over a chicken. Everyone knows a backyard chicken is a target for skunks and raccoons and coyotes. Chickens vanish out of my friends’ coops all the time. It’s a fact of life. But I spent the rest of the day in tears anyway, consumed with guilt, fretting over whether or not I could have prevented the raid/Cheryl-Anne Millsap, Home Planet, SR. More here.
Question: Have you lost a pet to a predator (coyote, raccoon, skunk, etc.)?
WILDLIFE — Dogs are breathing easier in Wenatchee this afternoon.
After police evacuated homeowners from a Wenatchee neighborhood this morning, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials killed a cougar found underneath a house deck.
Rich Beausoleil, the ageny's cougar specialist, said the location of the cougar and the number of people in the area, including children waiting for a school bus, made it too risky to attempt to tranquilize the animal and remove it alive.
Beausoleil estimated the 30-pound female cougar to be six and a half months old and in poor shape, at half normal weight. He speculated that it may have been orphaned.
Click here for more info on cougars in Washington. Read on for details on this case:
HUNTING TV — This week’s episode of the Sportsman Channel’s new predator hunting series called “Dead Dog Walkin”’ will put Washington’s coyotes directly in the crosshairs, according to Scott Sandsbury of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
The show follows show host Chad Belding and his team, brother Clay Belding and colleagues Alex Faust and Alex Langbell, as they go after predator animals that have been preying on domestic animals and livestock.
This week’s episode might be of interest to people in this part of the world for two reasons, Sandsbury says:
1) The show’s focus will be on coyotes in Washington state.
2) Langbell, the newest member of the “Dead Dog Walkin”’ team, hails from the Pasco area.
The Sportsman Channel can be found on DirecTV channel 605, Dish Network channel 285 or 395, depending where you are, and on Channel channel 417.
According to the Sportsman Channel, the episode with Langbell in dead-dogged pursuit of Washington’s coyotes will air (Eastern Standard Time) today at 3:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 a.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 6:30 a.m.
But you have to check it out with your TV providers. Dates, times and channels can vary.
PREDATORS — An Angus bull that died last month from injuries after fighting with another bull near Missoula attracted the who's who of non-hibernating predators into the unblinking lens of a motion-activated camera.
A lone gray wolf spent just 18 minutes feeding on the carcass above Missoula's South Hills, apparently cowed by the fact that a mountain lion had already claimed the prize — and often slept by its feast.
Click here or read on for the Missoulian's detailed story.
HUNTING — When the Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department enforcement officer in Pend Oreille County received a call from a woman distressed about coyotes frequenting her yard, he had a cost-effective solution: A hunter.
Officer Severin Erickson responded to the coyote complaint in Usk last week and learned the woman was afraid to let her animals out of the house because a pack of coyotes was visiting her home almost every morning and evening.
Her husband was out of state working and she was scared to shoot a firearm.
Erickson contacted a certified master hunter who was happy to hunt the coyotes for the lady starting the next day, Erickson reported. The woman was very thankful for the help, WDFW officials said.