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Pro-wolf groups unite, calling management a ‘killing spree’

PREDATORS — The lone gray wolf roaming California is on good behavior, eating deer, and getting a lot of good press for his species. 

If the wolf were ever to find a mate and produce pups, it would have more mouths to feed, and that would be the start of the issues for management.

But pro-wolf groups in the Pacific Northwest are turning their backs on reasonable needs for managing — that often means killing — wolves.

The San Francisco news story below is one-sided, reporting the numbers of wolves killed in Idaho and Montana without pointing out that despite the management, wolf numbers increased and are still considered far above the levels set for recovery in the plans drawn up for their reintroduction to the Northern Rockies.

Groups in Pacific Northwest press for laws to protect wolves

Concerned about wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, 25 wildlife conservation groups in Washington, Oregon and California have created the Pacific Wolf Coalition to prevent the removal of federal endangered species protection for wolves in those states. — San Francisco Chronicle

Cattlemen say wolf management based on emotion, not science

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.

“Over the last several months, we have submitted a number of formal requests to WDFW regarding specific data related to the wolf,” said SCCA President Scott Nieslen. “The responses we received show that WDFW has no information on the number of prey animals available for the wolves, they have limited information about the wolf population and have no ability to predict how wolves will affect local communities.”
 
Actually, the WDFW hasn't been hiding its lack of information on big-game herds — the prey base for wolves, as you can see in the sidebar to this report I filed in September.
 
Questions the association has asked include:
  • “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?”
WDFW presented some information on cougar populations at a SCCA meeting in December in Colville.
However, questions about the wolf and its impacts on the current predator/prey populations or any data related to ungulate populations in the region could not be answered, the media release said.
 
“The WDFW also affirmed their inability to answer the questions in formal public records requests from SCCA,” the release said.
 
Indeed, the agency has scheduled three public meetings in the state, including a Jan. 16 meeting in Spokane, featuring experts who will help answer questions the public has about Washington's wolf management policies.
 
“We felt it was very important to remove the emotions and politics from the wolf issue and start talking about nuts and bolts,” said Nielsen. 
 
“We know that we already have too many wolves in the area and we need to see proactive management of the animal.”
 
He noted that the Colville Confederated Tribes already have approved an open hunting season to remove 9 wolves on the reservation’s 1.4 million acres.
 
“We don’t have to look any further than our own backyard to see other groups taking proactive actions designed to protect deer and elk populations. We should be doing the same,” said Nielsen.
 
Wolves in northeastern Washington should no longer be treated as though they need special protections, the group says.
 
“The recovery of the wolf on a regional level has already been asserted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that declared the wolf as 'fully recovered' in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region in a status review in 2012.
 
SCCA presented WDFW a formal request on Dec. 9 that the wolf be delisted in the Eastern Washington Region.

Wolf killed on Spokane Indian Reservation

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A gray wolf has been killed on the Spokane Indian Reservation by a tribal member who was trapping other species, according to B.J. Kieffer, the tribe's Natural Resources Department director.

“The incidental take occurred (Dec. 10) within the boundaries of the reservation, and within the jurisdiction of the Spokane Tribe,” he said in a media release.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say the wolf is likely a member of the Huckleberry Pack, noting that its range overlaps a portion of the reservation.

Wolves are protected by state endangered species rules outside of the reservation.

The Spokane Tribe is still in the process of developing a wolf management plan for its 157,376-acre reservation and has no designated trapping or hunting seasons for wolves.

The Colville Confederated Tribes have formally opened a wolf hunting season for tribal members on their 1.4 million-acre reservation with a quota of nine wolves. No wolves have been reported killed in the hunt.

Officials from both tribes say protecting big game is important to their tribal members, who rely on deer, elk and moose for subsistence.

At least 10 wolves have been killed in Washington this year through official or accidentalt actions, notes a report by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine:

This region of Washington is part of the zone in the Northern Rockies where gray wolves were Congressionally delisted in spring 2011. Additionally, the Spokanes and Colvilles are sovereign nations and can manage animals on their reservations as they see fit.

There are at least six other packs in Northeast Washington, including two on the Colville Reservation, two suspected ones and new activity in the area where the Wedge Pack was eliminated for cattle depredations.

The Huckleberry Pack is suspected by state wolf managers of being involved in sheep depredations in northwest Spokane County in early summer.

There have been calls for state delisting and translocation of wolves in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties and elsewhere in Washington east of, roughly, Highways 97 and 17.

At least ten Washington wolves have now been killed this year through management actions, legal hunts or other incidents, including the seven Wedge wolves shot by state gunners, one that went to BC on a walkabout and another member of a cross-border pack that was on the Idaho side earlier this hunting season.

A pup that was eartagged by a state trapper in July was also discovered dead.

That that many wolves have died may be alarming for some, but it also means that their numbers are strong, especially so in Washington’s gamey northeast corner.

Meanwhile, the Washington Department of  Fish and Wildlife has been active with wolf issues on various fronts, including public education presentations.

In addition, officers have:

  • Met with landowners about the range rider program to deter wolves from livestock during spring, summer and fall.
  • Responded to a reported wolf attack in Loon Lake.  The party reported her dog had been injured and its leg had to be amputated.  She said she saw a silver or grey dog, which was bigger than a coyote, near her residence a few weeks back.  Officers advised her to immediately report any more sightings and preserve any evidence found in the future.
  • Used radio telemetry to verify the wolf known as OR-16 (yearling wolf dispersing from Oregon) is in Garfield County. 
  • Worked with cattlemen to develop a Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreement that would set guidelines for livestock operations in wolf country and detail responses to wolf activity available from the state.
  • Toured the area between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers in northern Stevens County where agency gunners wiped out seven wolves in the Wedge Pack after they'd inflicted a out 17 confirmed attacks on cattle.  No tracks were seen in fresh snow on that tour, but locals have reported seeing wolf tracks in new snow since that time.

No sign of wolves in former Wedge Pack area

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer Don Weatherman and biologist Jay Shepherd patrolled the “Wedge” area south of the U.S. - Canada border and between the Kettle and Columbia rivers last week  to look for wolf activity in the fresh snow. 

Report: Nothing detected.

The Wedge Pack was eliminated this fall after the wolves had been attacking cattle. 

WDFW officials expect wolves from Canada to move back into the area eventually.

State spent $76,500 to eliminate Wedge Pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Killing seven members of a wolf pack that repeatedly attacked a Northeast Washington rancher’s cattle cost about $76,500, according to preliminary state figures, according to today's story by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

The amount includes all hunts targeting the Wedge Pack, which is believed responsible for killing or injuring 16 calves last summer belonging to the Diamond M Ranch in Stevens County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates it has spent bout $376,000 this year on wolf management, including the $22,000 spent to hire a helicopter and use aerial gunning to eliminate the Wedge Pack.

Wildlife Commission to get wolf management update

ENDANGERED SPECIES — An update on the status of gray wolves in Washington, including a wrap-up of the state's September effort to eliminate the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County, will be presented Friday to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in Olympia.

Nate Pamplin, Fish and Wildlife Department assistant wildlife program director, and Steve Pozzanghera, the agency's Spokane Region manager, are on the meeting's agenda to brief the commission on issues related to the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan at 1 p.m.  

The meeting location was changed this week to the Columbia Room inside the Capitol Building as officials got the sense they would need a larger room.

The commission will take public comments starting at 3:15 p.m. Representatives of pro-wolf groups, the livestock industry and conservation organizations have indicated they'll be represented at the meeting.

The meeting will be televised via webcast.  

Meantime, in states where wolves have been delisted and wolf management has commenced:

Wolf trapping seasons will begin in both states later in the fall.

Wedge Pack wolves average size, scales show

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.

Roskelley: Wedge pack’s demise was done deal months ago

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.”

Here we go: legislators chime in on eliminating wolf pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — While state and federal officials have killed at least 74 wolves related to livestock attacks in Montana this year, killing wolves is new in Washington.

After six wolves in the cattle-attacking Wedge Pack were eliminated in northern Stevens County last week, Washington legislators are suddenly waking up to the issue that 's been simmering for years.

And, of course, the first comments are shrill.

See the NBC News report.

See the KING 5 TV News report.

Bad week for wolves in Washington and elsewhere

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some people are cheering and others are mourning Washington's mission involving a helicopter and gunman to kill six wolves this week and eliminate the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.

Eliminating a pack is a milestone in Washington wolf recovery and management.  But it's a milestone long past in Idaho and Montana.

FOR PERSPECTIVE:

Government workers and ranchers in Montana have killed at least 74 wolves this year following livestock attacks. 

Officials “pretty sure” they killed entire Wedge Pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — “We don't know that we got them all, but we couldn't find any more,” said Dave Ware, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Game Division manager, explaining the agency's decision today to wrap up its mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack of wolves that have been preying on cattle in northern Stevens County.

The sixth wolf in three days was killed this morning by an agency sharpshooter in a helicopter just south of the U.S.-Canada border in the “wedge” area between the Columbia and Kettle rivers. The wolf killed today was the alpha male, who'd was wearing a GPS collar and was easy to locate. Also killed this week was the breeding female and four other adult wolves

A young female wolf from the pack had been killed by a state marksman on Aug. 7.

The one pup from the pack's 2012 litter that had been trapped and tagged was found dead of undetermined causes last month

The KING 5 TV video above shows the alpha male and the pup during their capture and release earlier this summer.

That totals 8 wolves, but doesn't explain the whereabouts of several other pups thought to have been born this year.

“The pups do a lot of howling when they're weaned, but we didn't near the howling earlier this summer, so we don't know what happened,” Ware said.

“Could there be other wolves out there? Yes. We'll be monitoring. If we found one in the near future, we'd have to think about what to do. The ones we've found in the past few days have all been adults. So we've accomplish the objective and disrupted the pack. If we see something soon, we'll deal with it.

“But if we get tracks or howling a couple of  months from now, it may not be a member of this pack. It could be more wolves dispersing from Canada. We'd approach that case differently. Wolves are going to come back to the wedge sooner or later. It's good habitat.”

The Diamond M Ranch, which had at least 17 cattle attacked or killed this summer on public and private land, is pulling the cattle out of the area, but the ranchers told Ware that some of the livestock can't be rounded up in the rugged forest. All of the cattle don't come in until the snow flies.

Helicopter gunner kills 6th Wedge Pack wolf; effort concludes; alpha male, female dead

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a helicopter gunner killed the alpha male of a cattle-preying wolf pack today, concluding the mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.

The wolf was shot just south of the U.S.-Canada border in the third day of aerial shooting that claimed six wolves, agency director Phil Anderson said in a media release. The alpha male has been wearing a GPS since early summer, when it was caught and released by a state wolf researcher.

The state has been following the GPS signals of the alpha male to locate the pack, which officials have been targeting for elimination since Saturday. 

The pack's alpha female was killed earlier this week, Anderson said. A younger female wolf was shot by an agency staffer on Aug. 7 during the first lethal efforts to curb attacks on cattle that started in early July.

How do you know you have the entire pack, considering WDFW originally estimated the pack included at least eight animals?  WDFW state wildlife manager responds.

A Spokesman-Review photographer has been attempting to get photos of the effort, but was told by agency staff on the scene that they could not include him in the activities or make any official comments.  One staffer did say that none of them enjoyed what they were doing, but that they were doing their job.

“Directing the pack’s removal was a very difficult decision, both personally and professionally, but it was necessary to reset the stage for sustainable wolf recovery in this region,” Anderson said.  “Now we will refocus our attention on working with livestock operators and conservation groups to aggressively promote the use of non-lethal tactics to avoid wolf-livestock conflict.”

With the latest operation concluded, Anderson said the department would continue to monitor wolf activity in the Wedge region as it is doing in other parts of the state. While some WDFW staff were working full time with the Wedge Pack for most of the summer, other staffers have been working to document wolf activity in Okanogan, Chelan and Kittitas Counties, the Blue Mountains and elsewhere in Northeast Washington.

Read on for more background and details.

State kills 3 more Wedge Pack wolves today

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

Pro-wolf groups stir up ranks to protest killing of Wedge Pack

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:

Center for Biological Diversity

 

Dear John,

Only seven wolf packs live in Washington state — but the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has ordered the entire Wedge pack killed in response to cattle depredations. That includes at least eight wolves.

The killing will be carried out on the public's dime using marksmen on the ground. If that doesn't work, these wolves will be shot from helicopters.

Washington's wolf management plan clearly states that, to avoid cattle losses, non-lethal measures must be taken first to protect livestock. In this case only minimal actions were taken to avoid wolf-livestock conflicts. The state should not reward irresponsible ranchers by killing wolves that are only acting as wolves do.

Please call Gov. Christine Gregoire now at (360) 902-4111 and tell her you do not support killing the Wedge pack when ranchers have not done their part to protect cattle.

Then let us know you got through to the governor's office by clicking here. A sample call has been provided below:

“Hello, my name is ________________ and I live in ________________, Washington. I'm calling to ask Governor Gregoire to stop the killing of the Wedge pack by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I'd also like to state my opposition to state-run wolf killing, particularly in cases where ranchers have not done everything they can to avoid losing livestock. Can you please tell me the governor's position on this issue?

[Wait for explanation]

“Thanks, that's good to know. I still don't believe the circumstances justify killing the Wedge pack. These animals are endangered, and killing them should always be viewed as a great loss. The kill order should be permanently revoked.”

[Offer the staffer your address or zip code, and thank them for their time.]

State shoots 2 wolves in Wedge Pack today; 6 or more to go

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.

Washington To Wipe Out Wedge Pack

One thing's for sure: Beef is not healthy for wolves. At a public meeting in Colville Thursday night, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced intentions to eliminate the entire Wedge Pack of wolves that have killed or injured at least 15 cattle in northern Stevens County since mid-July. This is a milestone in the controversial process of wolf recovery, the first time a wolf pack has been targeted in Washington since gray wolves were extirpated from the West with guns, traps and poison in the early 1900s. Eliminating wolf packs focused on livestock already has been employed in Montana and Idaho where the issues arose/Rich Landers, SR Outdoors blog. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Do you agree with the death sentence handed down to the Stevens County, Wash., wolf pack?

Investigators find dead wolf in northern Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — State officers were unsuccessful this week as they attempted to trap and possibly kill up to four wolves in northern Stevens County  — but they found the carcass of a gray wolf that had died of some other means.

The carcass reportedly was decomposed and cause of death could not be determined by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.

The graphic above shows how far the Wedge Pack has ranged in the six weeks since the alpha male was trapped, radio-collared and released. WDFW officials say the pack's full summer-winter range is likely much greater.  They also noted that aerial monitoring coupled with on the ground observation show the collared male can be miles away from other wolves in the pack.

“It's a misconception that a pack always runs together,” said Steve Pozzanghera, WDFW regional manager.

Read on in this post for today's late afternoon WDFW update on the effort to deal with Wedge Pack cattle depredations.

Pro-wolf groups ask Gregoire to stop plan to kill wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Seven conservation organizations sent a letter today calling on Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and state agencies to rescind a state Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to thwart attacks on cattle by killing up to four wolves in the Wedge Pack in northeastern Washington.

WDFW officials announced last week that up to four wolves may be killed in the Stevens County area near the Canada border after the latest in a series of wolf attacks that had injured six cattle and killed two. 

The state killed a wolf in that area on Aug. 7 in response to a series of attacks in July. That was “lethal removal” mission the agency has launched under its 2011 wolf management plan.

The conservation groups contend the WDFW field analysis of the Diamond M Ranch's livestock was flawed and the cattle may not have been killed by wolves.

The letter was directed to WDFW Director Phil Anderson from the Western Environmental Law Center and forwarded to Gov. Gregoire and other state lawmakers.

Contacted today, WDFW regional manager Steve Pozzanghera said the department stands by its detailed field investigations that confirmed the attacks were by wolves. 

He said that while agency staff have been working in the area between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers all week, no wolves have yet been trapped and fitted with radio collars and none has been killed.

Read on for the media release the seven conservation groups issued today announcing their letter to Gregoire and their complaints.

More wolves to be killed to curb Washington cattle attacks

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials say they plan to kill more wolves in northern Stevens County to curb a spree of attacks on cattle.

After confirming that wolves killed one calf this week and injured another, the agency intends to kill up to three members of the Wedge Pack, Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman said Friday.

“Our officers will try to trap and put a radio collar on at least one more wolf in the pack for monitoring,” she said. “Then the intent is to lethally remove up to three more wolves to disrupt the pack and reduce its need to feed so many mouths.”

The Wedge Pack roams the Colville National Forest area the Diamond M Ranch leases for grazing between the Columbia and Kettle rivers. Wolf attacks have been confirmed on at least five of the ranch's animals in the past four weeks, including two calves killed.

A female non-breeding wolf in the pack was killed by department officers on Aug. 7 after wolves had killed a calf and injured two others. The kill was the first by the agency under its wolf management plan adopted in 2011. Although gray wolves in Eastern Washington are protected by state endangered species laws, the plan allows lethal removal in some cases.

Remote camera images indicate the Wedge Pack includes at least a breeding pair, a few sub-adults and a few pups, but the exact number of wolves isn’t known, Luers said.

Wolves attack more Stevens County livestock; Wedge Pack may pay

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.