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Canada kills 11 wolves to aid dwindling Selkirk caribou

PREDATORS — Eleven wolves were killed in the Southern Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia during a winter effort to reduce predation on endangered woodland caribou that range in Canada as well as in Idaho and Washington.

Another 73 wolves were killed farther north to boost caribou in the South Peace region, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced last week.

The effort began on Jan. 15 and concluded this month. This is the first year of a five-year project of wolf removal that is being employed in conjunction with ongoing habitat protection efforts, British Columbia officials said.

In the South Selkirks, 11 wolves were removed from packs that range into the USA. Of the wolves targeted, seven to 10 remain and are now being monitored to track their movement. To date these wolves have not ranged into caribou areas, so are not candidates for removal.

In the South Peace, 73 wolves were removed, with the majority being in the vicinity of the Moberly and Quintette caribou herds. In one case, six wolves were removed as they were actively stalking 14 caribou.

Both the South Selkirks and South Peace herds have experienced significant losses to wolf predation.

The South Selkirk herd numbered 46 caribou in 2009, declining to 14 in the most recent survey conducted in March 2015. This is a loss of four caribou since the 2014 census. The cause of these recent losses is not known, but likely occurred prior to wolf removal actions being taken. Predation on caribou is more common in the fall and summer

In the four caribou herds in the South Peace (Quintette, Moberly, Scott and Kennedy-Siding), populations are also decreasing and wolves are a key factor. At least 37% of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predation.

Hunting and trapping of wolves has not effectively reduced populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates on caribou. Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term.

Quick Facts from B.C. government officials:

  • In 2012, the B.C. government endorsed a Peace Northern Caribou implementation plan to increase the population of seven Northern Caribou herds in the south Peace area of B.C.
  • Through a combination of measures the Peace Northern Caribou Plan will ultimately protect over 498,000 ha of high elevation winter range caribou habitat out of a total of 553,477 ha available.
  • In October 2007, the provincial government endorsed the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan
    • Included among the Province's commitments to Mountain Caribou recovery implementation are the protection of 2.2 million hectares of habitat, including 95% of high-suitability Mountain Caribou habitat, from logging and road building and managing recreation to reduce human disturbance.
    • For the South Selkirk herd, a significant portion of core caribou habitat (61,000 ha.) has been closed to snowmobile use and almost all core caribou habitat (108,000 ha.) has been protected from logging and road building.

Enviros haggle over Idaho wolf numbers

PREDATORS — There's no way and no reason to count every single wolf in Idaho.  But some environmental groups that need to stay in the headlines to keep the outrage and money flowing are contesting Idaho's recently released 2014 year-end wolf population estimates.

Despite the criticism and dire predictions from enviros since wolves were removed from the endangered species list, the predators have continued to propagate and maintain strong — some would say excessive — populations.

The Associated Press gives a lot of ink to one group's speculation in this story that moved on the wire Sunday:

By KEITH RIDLER/Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho officials are overestimating the number of wolves in the state for a number reasons including relying on sightings by hunters rather than using only trained professionals, a conservation group said.

“Since 2009 more than 1,300 wolves have been hunted or trapped in Idaho, and another nearly 500 have been lethally removed from Idaho’s landscape,” Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “In the face of these astounding numbers, it’s no wonder that Idaho may have experienced a nearly 50 percent drop in breeding pairs.”

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a 70-page report released April 3 said there were at least 770 wolves in the state, with a minimum of 26 breeding pairs, as of Dec. 31, 2014. The Center notes that’s a steep drop from the 49 breeding pairs in 2009, when wolves in Idaho reached their peak.

The Center also questions the state agency’s estimate of 6.5 wolves per pack, a key number as it’s part of an equation — when multiplied by the number of packs in the state— to tally the overall population.

Jim Hayden, a biologist with Fish and Game, defended the state report’s estimate of the minimum number of wolves in Idaho. Hayden is listed as an editor of the report.

“The 770 is a number we’re very confident with,” he said. “We know the actual truth is higher than that, we just don’t know how far higher.”

He said the agency stopped counting breeding pairs of wolves after surveying 43 packs because it’s expensive and the number had cleared the minimum as required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal agency could retake management control of the Idaho wolf population if numbers fall below certain criteria.

If the state fails to maintain 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves over any three-year period, or if the population falls below 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in any year, the federal agency could take over.

Mike Jimenez, Northern Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, said the federal agency reviewed Idaho’s methodology and is confident in the numbers.

“From our perspective, they are far above recovery goals,” he said. “How to manage wolves and hunt wolves — that’s a state issue.”

The wolf population has grown so much, Jimenez said, that biologists can no longer rely on using radio collars when doing counts.

“We’re way past that,” he said. “We have a very large wolf population in the Northern Rockies. We’re trying to reduce the need for radio collars.”

Fish and Wildlife estimates that a minimum of 1,783 wolves in more than 300 packs roamed the six-state region at the end of last year.

Hayden said that radio collars on 32 packs in Idaho were used by Fish and Game to come up with 6.5 wolves per pack, which is an increase from 5.4 wolves per pack the previous year.

But he said the agency is relying more on remote cameras and, this spring, will be collecting scat at wolf rendezvous sites to get DNA samples. The DNA can help determine pack size and the number of pups. He noted the wolf population is expected to jump 40 percent with the addition of pups this spring.

The DNA can also be used to help determine harvest levels by hunters.

Some groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, would rather there be no harvest.

“We don’t think wolves should be hunted at all,” Santarsiere said. “But with such aggressive killing of a species so recently considered endangered, there at least needs to be careful monitoring.”

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

Tab for Huckleberry wolf pack operation $53K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildlife officials respond to heat over managing Huckleberry wolf pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think twice before taking Stevens County advice on shooting wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some muddy legal waters have been flowing out of Stevens County in recent weeks.

Last week, Stevens County Commissioners passed a resolution condemning the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's management of gray wolves in northeastern Washington.

There's a conflict of interest in the 3-0 vote on the resolution, since commissioner Don Dashiell is the brother of Hunters rancher Dave Dashiell, who owned the 24-plus sheep confirmed to have been killed by the Huckleberry Pack in August and early September before the sheep were relocated. 

Apparently there's also some misinformation coming from official channels that reported the sheep were on leased private land owned by Hancock timber.  That's true to some extent, but Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman blogged that West Side legislators got maps showing that some of the sheep were on leased state land.

That makes little difference except to factions that argue livestock shouldn't be on public land…  a case that's certainly debatable.

But the misinformation from Stevens County groups and the lack of candor from the WDFW is troubling.

Stevens County officials were even more flagrant in August when the commissioners passed a resolution advising county residents of their "constitutional rights" to shoot wolves under some circumstances.

"The citizens of Stevens County may kill a wolf or multiple wolves if reasonably necessary to protect their property," the commissioners said.

My first thought: rely on the courts rather than politicians for judgments on constitutional rights.

  • See the documents attached to this post to read the entire Stevens County resolution — and the response to the resolution from WDFW director Phil Anderson, who spells out the narrow window of legality for someone to kill a wolf, which is listed as as state endangered species.

For another angle to the wolf depredation debates in northeastern Washington, see The S-R story about a national award given to a different Stevens County ranch for “the family’s progressive approach to facing challenges associated with livestock grazing on federal lands.”


Documents:

Should wolves be treated with less respect than other wildlife?

PREDATORS — Whether on purpose or an accident, a self-professed champion for the eradication of wolves comes off looking like an animal.

Read the story below… and decide for yourself.

Montana FWP investigates Missoula man's wolf-killing claims
Missoula resident Toby Bridges' Facebook post telling his story of running down wolves in Interstate 90 and killing them, along with photos of the dead wolves, has drawn the interest of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks investigators. The episode likely will attract attention elsewhere, too.
—Great Falls Tribune

Stevens County Commission condemns state wolf management

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Stevens County Commissioners have unanimously passed a resolution that hammers Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers for failing to protect people, wildlife and livestock from wolves that are naturally recolonizing the region.

The resolution (attached) stems from the Huckleberry Pack attacks on sheep grazing on Hancock timber company land, officially killing at least 24 sheep from mid-August to early September, when the rancher rounded up the flock that started at about 1,800 sheep and moved them to distant pasture.

The resolution says more than 200 of the sheep are still missing and attacks that might be attributed to wolves have been reported by other livestock owners in the area. The commissioners are particularly upset that a livestock grower was forced off private land by wolf attacks.

Meanwhile the Stevens County Commission contends the WDFW "failed to honor its obligation and an imminent threat to life and property still exists."

The resolution says the commission "will consider all available option to protect the residents" and declared that "the wolves of the Huckleberry Pack are subject to whatever Constitutional means necessary to secure our public in their lives, liberty and property."

No specific actions were listed.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 


Documents:

Ketchum wants Idaho to use nonlethal wolf control

PREDATORS  — City leaders in the central Idaho resort town of Ketchum have passed a resolution requesting state officials use nonlethal methods to manage wolf conflicts with livestock in Blaine County.

The city council in the resolution passed Monday said guard dogs, strobe lights and electric fencing are preferable to aerial gunning, hunting and trapping, according to the Associated Press.

Councilors in the resolution say tourism and wildlife are important to local citizens and the economy.

Councilors are also asking state leaders to reconsider what is considered a viable wolf population.

Idaho lawmakers earlier this year approved creating a $400,000 fund and a five-member board to authorize the killing of wolves.

Conservation groups say that will drive down the Idaho wolf population to about 150 animals. There are about 650 wolves in the state now.