Latest from The Spokesman-Review
WILDLIFE — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has scheduled three public meetings in northeast Washington this month to discuss wolf-livestock conflict management.
The meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m. as follows:
- Feb. 26 in Cusick at the Cusick Community Center, 107 1st Ave.
- Feb. 27 in Colville at the Colville Ag Trade Center, 317 West Astor Ave.
- Feb. 28 in Okanogan at the Okanogan Public Utilities District office meeting room, 1331 2nd Ave. N.
With calving season underway, the meetings will give livestock owners a chance to talk directly with WDFW wildlife managers about wolves and their impacts on ranching operations, said Stephanie Simek, WDFW wildlife-conflict manager.
“We plan to discuss the various types of landowner assistance that we have available and the specific needs of individual producers,” Simek said. “Producers will have time to ask questions and offer comments.”
The meetings will include a brief presentation on the current status of wolf packs in Washington.
Simek said the department has funding available to support cost-sharing agreements for preventative measures that can help minimize problems with wolves. Those practices include reducing attractants by disposing of livestock carcasses, installing special fencing, using protected areas for calving and lambing, and using range riders to haze wolves away from livestock.
Sixteen livestock producers have signed cooperative cost-share agreements to date, Simek said.
WDFW also provides direct technical assistance to ranchers, pays compensation for confirmed livestock losses – and under certain conditions – issues permits to kill predatory animals.
The gray wolf is listed and protected as state endangered throughout Washington and federally endangered in the western two-thirds of the state.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association says Washington has crafted much of its wolf management policy based on social pressure, not on data.
In a media release, the association said the answers or lack of answers to public records requests indicate the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lacks the information to properly manage the predator.
- “What is the current ungulate prey base in Eastern Washington?”
- “What is the current predator population?”
- “What are the anticipated prey needs for the eight wolf packs in Eastern Washington?”
- “What are the scientific studies on predator and prey relationships?”
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The seven Wedge Pack wolves killed by Washington Fish and Wildlife officers in August and September were healthy, but not necessarily beefy from their diet of livestock.
Read this report by Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott for updates and details on the weights of the carcasses assessed by the WDFW veterinarian.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Former Spokane County Commissioner (and current candiate) John Roskelley of Spokane claims the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was not being genuine with the public in its handling of the summer wolf attacks in northern Stevens County and ultimately the elimination of the Wedge Pack. Here's Roskelley's take, as posted on my Facebook page:
The WDFW rushed this decision to exterminate the Wedge Pack to avoid having to deal with the public or legislators like Sen. Rankin. I stopped at the meeting in Colville Thursday night; the WDFW got their nose bloodied by McIrvin and other Stevens County ranchers; the agency decided on a quick and dirty fix; provided the news media with their excuses for their action; used Conservation Northwest and the Cattlemen's Association as justified supporters; pretended to hunt the wolves by foot; and then proceeded to do what they intended all along - wipe the wolves out quickly via helicopter and sharpshooters before the public woke up and some organization filed an injunction to get it stopped. The WDFW agency people had their mind made up weeks ago, but they knew better than to let the public in on something this controversial before it was a done deal.”
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Three wolves from the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County were killed by a shooter in a helicopter today as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife continued its effort to stop persistent attacks on livestock by eliminating the pack.
Since early July, Wedge Pack wolves are believed to have killed or injured at least 17 cows and calves from the Diamond M Ranch herd ranging on both private and public land between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers southwest of Laurier, Wash.
Department Director Phil Anderson said a WDFW marksman shot the wolves from a helicopter at about 8 a.m. The wolves were shot about seven miles south of the U.S.-Canada border in the same area where two other wolves from the Wedge Pack were killed by aerial gunning yesterday.
Biologists estimate the pack includes 8-11 wolves. Before this week's kills, the state shot a wolf on Aug. 7 when it was still believed the pack could be thinned and dispersed without eliminating the pack.
One wolf, thought to be the pack's alpha male, was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar earlier this summer. WDFW officers have been monitoring that wolf to follow the pack in the rugged, remote forested country.
Anderson said a department wildlife veterinarian would perform necropsies on all five of the wolves killed this week.
For more information on the situation, see the WDFW's Wedge Pack Lethal Removal Actions FAQ
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Pro-wolf groups aren't all standing by as Washington Fish and Wildlife staffers try to eliminate the cattle-preying Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County. Here's a form letter being promoted by the Center for Biological Diversity:
ENDANGERED SPECIES – Shooting from a helicopter, a marksman with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two wolves in Northeast Washington today as part of an effort to eliminate a pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in a remote grazing area near the U.S.-Canada border.
The word comes from Bruce Botka, WDFW public affairs director in Olympia.
Teams of marksmen and wildlife biologists returned to an area of northern Stevens County known as the Wedge late last week, but had not killed any wolves after several days of around-the-clock activity.
Beginning Monday, the department called in a helicopter to aid the effort, and an airborne marksman shot the two wolves early this afternoon, about seven miles south of the Canadian border.
WDFW Director Phil Anderson had directed the pack’s removal last week in response to the wolves’ escalating pattern of predation on the livestock herd of the Diamond M Ranch of Stevens County. Since July, the pack of eight or more wolves is believed to have killed or injured at least 17 of the herd’s calves and cows.
The department says the attacks came despite non-lethal efforts to minimize wolf conflict by the rancher and department staff. Some pro-wolf groups say the efforts to prevent the attacks could have been more effective.
Read on for more details from WDFW.
Police say a man stole a dump truck and took it on a drunken joy ride that destroyed light poles and power lines in the city of Colville.
Robert Gene Bankston Hartman, 28, told officers he didn't mean to knock down the lines when he stole the dump truck from a construction site and drove it through town. He said he'd had about 14 beers when police confronted him about 9:45 p.m. on July 23, but later told police he'd actually been drinking vodka.
Police had heard residents were trapped in their homes at South Wynne Street and West Columbia Avenue because of down power lines. They soon realized Hartman and the stolen dump truck were to blame. Hartman abandoned the truck at 1st Street and Railroad Street and ran, but an officer blocked his path with his police car.
About 1,400 people lost power for about two hours because of the melee. The area extended from Highway 395 at Pingston Creek to just south of Colville, from Valley Westside just east of Colville High School, police said.
One witness told police that Hartman was laughing while he was striking the power lines.
Hartman's blood alcohol level registered at .226 and .220. The legal limit for driving is .08.
Hartman is charged with first-degree malicious mischief, second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and drunken driving.
A Stevens County judge sentenced a convicted gun thief Tuesday to 125 years in prison – a term that’s about 100 years longer than the prison terms given to three others for a murder committed using one of the stolen guns. Superior Court Judge Pat Monasmith sentenced Christopher G. Nichols, 27, to 125 years in prison, despite the fact that he had no role in the 2011 killing of Colville resident Gordon Feist. Nichols wept, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said. Rasmussen defended the sentence, saying the burglary was “the root of this violent and senseless killing of Mr. Feist, who was acting as a good Samaritan when he was killed.” Spurning a deal before trial that would have reduced his sentence by about 100 years, Nichols and his defense attorney, Bevan Maxey, took the case to trial, where a jury found Nichols guilty of 21 charges, including gun theft, trafficking in stolen property and being a felon in possession of firearms/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here.
Question: Was the sentence for the gun thief appropriate?
More than 70 tombstones and statuettes stolen from Eastern Washington cemeteries have been recovered from the home of a self-described Satanist.
Now, with Memorial Day coming up, Stevens County authorities are asking families to consider checking in on loved ones’ graves in cemeteries located in Chewelah and Valley, Wash., to avoid the possibility of discovering empty holes where gravestones once rested.
PREDATORS — Northeast Washington businesses and hunters once again took aim at coyotes this winter to spread a little wealth and help beleaguered white-tailed deer a little more breathing room.
Participating hunters checked in 294 coyotes during the winter Coyote Derby covering Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties. The number is up from 227 taken during the derby last year.
The derby, organized by the Northeast Washington Wildlife Group, is sponsored by Clark's All Sports of Colville, Lake Roosevelt Walleye Club, Stevens and Spokane Counties Cattlemen's Association, Double Eagle Pawn, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, according to a story with more details by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
The latest of two easements assures 2,540 acres will remain a working forest with wildlife habitat on land owned by Beryl Baker.
In 2009, Baker protected 1,363 acres of the timberland that's been in his family for nearly 50 years.
The land includes 68-acre Baker Lake fed by Beaver Creek and other seasonal tributaries in the Little Spokane Watershed.
The land provides wetland habitat and year-round habitat for deer, elk, moose, bear, cougar and other animals. It's the biggest land package to be preserved by the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Land Trust, which is responsible for managing the easement in perpetuity.
Timber will continue to be harvested in a sustainable fashion under the easement, the INLT says.
Baker, who grew up on a Kahlotus-area wheat farm, purchased the property in 1966 after seeing an ad in the Wall Street Journal. “I needed a change from banking in Seattle,” he said.
“I feel fortunate finding a way to protect the property that has been in my family almost 50 years from division and commercial development. The property can only be used for timber production and wildlife habitat. This will provide the animals with a permanent home.”
“Rural areas are some of the last wild places left untamed in Eastern Washington and landowner Beryl Baker will make sure they stay that way forever,” says Chris DeForest, INLT Executive Director.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington’s fifth gray wolf pack has been confirmed in northeastern Stevens County, the state Fish and Wildlife Department just announced.
Earlier this month, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists caught, marked with an ear tag and released a 2-month-old wolf pup from the pack. Biologists have since been trying to capture one of the pack’s breeding adult wolves to radio-collar it for monitoring.
The effort to document the pack began after local ranchers reported observing three wolf pups and hearing howling in late June.
The pack is believed to include a breeding-age male and female and at least three pups. The group has been named the Smackout Pack, in reference to geographic features in the area.
Read on for more information from the WDFW media release.
OFF-ROADING — The controversial issue of making it legal to ride ATVs and other non-highway-suitable vehicles on more public roads is back on the front burner in Stevens County.
Amendments to OHV Ordinance 06-2009 is set for discussion at a special Dec. 20 County Commissioners hearing, 6:30 p.m., at the Loon Lake Old School House.
Insiders say this is Commissioner Merrill Ott’s last effort to pass the ordinance amendments before he is replaced in January.
Maps and the list of roads proposed for opening to OHVs are posted on the Stevens County website.
Some residents contend the ordinance would make it easier for unethical riders to access public and private land where they are not allowed to ride.
Info: Stevens County Commissioner’s office (509) 684-3751.
A Stevens County man faces about 7 years in prison for a neighbor dispute that erupted in gunfire last May.
A jury recently convicted John Lewis Eberly, Jr., of assault and burglary after he fired a shot through his neighbor’s front door, then broke into the house and brawled with the woman. The woman suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
The May 15, 2009, incident stemmed from a dispute over a gate that had been installed on a nearby road.
Eberly confronted the victim outside her home, then fired his handgun through her door after she went inside and locked it. The victim ran to a nearby home to call police. She later discovered her phone line had been cut.
The jury convicted Eberly of second-degree assault and burglary but couldn’t reach a verdict on an attempted murder charge after deliberating for about 18 hours, according to Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen.
Eberly faces 84 to 94 months in prison with credit for about a year served in jail.
Rasmussen wrote about this case in his weekly column. He also mentioned it in a previous column while opining about neighbor disputes.
In one dispute, Rasmussen said, “As I reviewed the numerous reports of officer contacts with the parties, I was amazed at the trouble that can develop between folks who both say that they just want to be left alone.”
Read the columns by clicking the link below.