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Wyoming least tolerant of wolves among managing states

PREDATORS — Wyoming's bottom line is at the bottom.

Wyoming manages wolves to keep number near allowable level
Of the five states that are managing wolves—Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan and Wisconsin, Wyoming has set its sights on keeping the number of wolves in the state at the bare minimum required to comply with federal rules.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide

OR-7 may have found a wolf mate

ENDANGERED SPECIES — OR-7, a wolf originally from northeast Oregon, may have found a mate in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

In early May, remote cameras on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest captured several images of what appears to be a black female wolf in the same area where OR-7 is currently located.  The images were found by wildlife biologists when they checked cameras on May 7. 

The remote cameras were set up by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of ongoing cooperative wolf monitoring efforts.  New images of OR-7 were also captured on the same cameras and can be accessed and viewed at ODFW’s wolf photo gallery (see first three images).

“This information is not definitive, but it is likely that this new wolf and OR-7 have paired up.  More localized GPS collar data from OR-7 is an indicator that they may have denned,” said John Stephenson, Service wolf biologist. “If that is correct, they would be rearing pups at this time of year.” 

The Service and ODFW probably won’t be able to confirm the presence of pups until June or later, the earliest pup surveys are conducted, so as not to disturb them at such a young age.  Wolf pups are generally born in mid-April, so any pups would be less than a month old at this time.

If confirmed, the pups would mark the first known wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century.

Wolf OR7 is already well-known due to his long trek and his search for a mate—normal behavior for a wolf, which will leave a pack to look for new territory and for a chance to mate.  “This latest development is another twist in OR-7’s interesting story,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator.

The Service and ODFW will continue to monitor the area to gather additional information on the pair and possible pups. That monitoring will include the use of remote cameras, DNA sample collection from scats found, and pup surveys when appropriate.

Wolves throughout Oregon are protected by the state Endangered Species Act.  Wolves west of Oregon Highways 395-78-95, including OR-7 and the female wolf, are also protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, with the Service as the lead management agency.

At the end of last year, there were 64 known wolves in Oregon.  Except for OR-7, most known wolves are in the northeast corner of the state.

About OR-7

OR-7 was born into northeast Oregon’s Imnaha wolf pack in April 2009 and collared by ODFW on Feb. 25, 2011.  He left the pack in September 2011, traveled across Oregon and into California on Dec. 28, 2011, becoming the first known wolf in that state since 1924. 

Other wolves have traveled further, and other uncollared wolves may have made it to California.  But OR-7’s GPS collar, which transmits his location data several times a day, enabled wildlife managers to track him closely.

Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent the majority of his time in the southwest Cascades in an area mapped on ODFW’s website.

Endangered species issues stacking up in West

WILDLIFE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a heaping plate of critter issues to consider across the country, with some very high-profile portions centered in the West:

Western states worry that sage-grouse listing could curb economy
As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mulls protection of sage grouse, western states have put in place their own plans to protect the species as there are concerns that federal measures could halt grazing, mining and energy development on sage-grouse habitat.
—Washington Post

A four-year study done by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of sage grouse in Powder and Carter counties found that the species is doing well in the southeastern counties in areas well-used for grazing.
—Associated Press

USFWS mines public comments on wolf delisting for new data
Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said he believed that if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides not to remove wolves from the endangered species list, Congress will step in and give states more authority to manage wolves, while Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, who said he does not believe the federal agency relied on the best science when proposing to delist the species, said he said if Congress does decide to give states more management authority, it will be a political, not a scientific decision.
—Portland Oregonian

Federal judge in Montana orders USFWS to write Canada lynx plan
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 30 days to submit its proposed recovery plan for the Canada lynx.
 —Missoulian

Mother’s Bad Day: Moose loses fight with wolves for calf

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I hope everyone had a great Sunday honoring the mothers in your family. But in the world of wildlife, it may not have been flowers and breakfast in bed.

Don't watch this video if you don't want to see one of the most sobering lessons in the natural order. 

I'm posting this video because it shows a wild side of motherhood: A cow moose fighting bravely for the life of her calf against impossible odds: a pack of five wolves. A pack's efficiency and teamwork is at once fascinating and terrifying

This is simply educational: not pro-wolf or anti-wolf.

It's just the way nature is in all its rawness.

Wyoming wolf quota increase fires up debate

PREDATORS — Few of the dozens of outfitters and conservationists who showed up for a Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf meeting Wednesday saw eye to eye, or approved of the status of the hunt, according to a report in the Jackson Hole Daily.

Wyoming Game and Fish is proposing to target 46 wolves this fall — 20 more than last year — in the state’s trophy game management area. Managers aim to bring the population of wolves in Wyoming’s jurisdiction down to near 160, wolf program biologist Ken Mills said.

Big-game hunting outfitters want more wolves killed. Wildlife-watching outfitters want more restrictions on hunting wolves that venture out of  Yellowstone Park.

Poachers killing more Idaho game animals than wolves are, officials say

Poachers are likely killing far more game animals than wolves are, state wildlife officials in northern Idaho say. Officials tell the Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1jdj31p) in a story on Friday that last year in northern Idaho they confirmed poaching of 30 elk, four moose, 13 mule deer and 57 whitetail deer, according to an AP report from the Tribune. Officials say a realistic detection rate is 5 percent, meaning poachers are likely killing about 600 elk, 80 moose, 260 mule deer and 1,000 whitetail annually.

“It's real easy for people to blow a gasket about wolf predation,” said Idaho Fish and Game District Conservation Officer George Fischer. “They are very passionate about it, they are very irate about it and they are livid about it. Yet there is a two-legged wolf out there that is probably killing as many or more than wolves. Wolves are causing an impact, there is no doubt about it; I don't want to downplay that at all, but two-legged wolves are probably killing more or stealing more game than wolves. That is the shock-and-awe message.”

Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler says poachers strike throughout Idaho. “Poaching is an issue throughout the state,” he said. Click below for the full AP/Lewiston Trib report.

California to consider listing wolf endangered

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  A state board is considering endangered species status for the gray wolf endangered species status, giving it a chance at returning to California in significant numbers after a decades-long hiatus.

Just one wolf from Oregon has been tracked in recent years crossing into Northern California, renewing interest in returning the species to a thriving population. The California Fish and Game Commission will vote on giving the wolf legal protections at a meeting in Ventura.

Advocates such as Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity are hopeful for the wolf’s return.

“There’s already one wolf here,” Greenwald said Tuesday. “It’s not going to be long until there’s more.”

Ranchers remain opposed to the wolf’s reintroduction.

“Wolves directly kill livestock and in addition to that they can cause disease and other harm from stress,” such as weight loss in animals, said Kirk Wilbur, director of government relations for the California Cattlemen’s Association.

The last gray wolf in California was killed in 1924, clearing mountain ranges for cattle herds and other valuable livestock that fall prey to wolves.

Yet if the gray wolf is listed, ranchers not only couldn’t kill animals on their property, they couldn’t even chase them off, Wilbur said.

“If I see a wolf attacking one of my calves, I can’t do anything about that,” Wilbur said.

Nationally, wolves were near extinction not long ago. They were reintroduced with federal protections in the 1980s and ’90s, Greenwald said.

Wolves now occupy large parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and the Great Lakes.

Federal protections have ended in those two regions, and there is a pending proposal to lift protections across much of the remaining Lower 48 states.

In 2008, a pack started moving into Oregon. That’s when the wolf now drawing interest for hopscotching into California became known as OR-7 — he was the seventh Oregon wolf fitted with a GPS tracking collar. 

Despite elk-loss research, Montana hunters protest increased quota on cougars

HUNTING — Here's an interesting twist to the turmoil about predators and their impact on Montana elk populations.

Even though research has indicated that mountain lions kill way more elk than suspected in the Bitterroot Mountains — way more than wolves — there's opposition to reducing the cougar population, and it's coming from mountain lion hunters.

Borthwestern Montana cougar hunters roundly criticized Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ proposed lion quotas for the next two seasons at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Helena last week, reports Brett French, outdoor writer for the Billings Gazette.

Read on for the details in the rest of French's story.

Counting wolves expensive; there must be a better way

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Under the endangered species regulations governing gray wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, states must monitor wolf numbers and file annual status reports on wolf populations and packs.

  • See stories about the latest wolf status reports for six states, including Idaho, Montana and Washington.

Federal authorities review the reports to ensure wolves are being properly managed above standards that could trigger relisting as an endangered species. 

Monitoring and reporting wolf status an expensive task that's been funded mostly by the federal government.  But as the federal funding dries up, state's are looking at how to bring monitoring into fiscal reality.

Researchers from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the University of Montana on Friday released preliminary results of a new technique for estimating wolf numbers to produce a less expensive and more accurate population assessment.

The typical method used to document the state's wolf population focuses on ground and aerial track counts, visual observations, den and rendezvous confirmation and radio collaring to count individual wolves as required by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Montana's new approach: From 2007 through 2012, a team of 11 researchers to determine the number of gray wolves in Montana by estimating the:

  1. Areas occupied by wolves in packs;
  2. Number of wolf packs by dividing the occupied area by average territory size; and
  3. Numbers of wolves by multiplying the number of estimated packs by average annual pack size.

For instance, population modeling for Montana's wolves in 2012—where actual counts verified a minimum of 625 wolves and 147 packs—predicted that 804 wolves and 165 packs inhabited the state. Similar estimates are not yet available for 2013.

The typical method used by states produces a minimum number of wolves that can be verified, leaving biologists to say they believe there are actually more wolves in the field.  The new Montana method seeks to give a more accurate number.

“This new approach is not only good science, it's a practical way for Montana to obtain a more accurate range of wolf numbers that likely inhabit the state,” said Justin Gude, FWP's, chief of research for the wildlife division in Helena

Montana wolf population estimates were derived for the years 2007 through 2012 via a mix of rigorous statistical evaluations; wolf observations reported by recreational hunters during the annual hunter-harvest surveys; and Montana's annual wolf counts.

Results generally estimate a Montana wolf population 25-35 percent higher than the verified minimum counts submitted over the six-year period.

Rockies wolf packs holding strong despite hunting, trapping

UPDATED: 5:20 p.m.

PREDATORS — Gray wolves are maintaining a strong presence in Idaho despite stepped up hunting and trapping seasons plus other measures to control their numbers, according to the 2013 Idaho wolf status report released today by the state Fish and Game Department.

In addition, Montana reported its 2013 population of at least 627 wolves remained statistically unchanged from the 625 counted in 2012.

Washington as well as Oregon already have reported expansion of their wolf populations.  

A minimum of 1,691 wolves roamed the six-state region at the end of 2013, according to figures compiled and released today by state and federal agencies. That’s little changed from the prior year despite continued political pressure from hunters and ranchers who want the population significantly reduced to lower management goals.
 
Highlights from the Idaho report documenting wolf status as of Dec. 31, 2013, include:\
  • Number of wolves:  At least 659.
  • Documented packs:   At least 107, down from 117 at the end of 2012 but still the second highest number since reintroduction.
  • New packs: At least seven.
  • Border packs: At least 28 documented border packs overlapping with Montana, Wyoming and Washington.
  • Reproducing packs: At least 49. Of those, 20 qualified as breeding pairs at the end of the year.
  • Pack size: 5.4 (mean), down from 8.1 average during the three years prior to the 2009 opening of hunting seasons.
  • Wolves killed: 356 by hunters and trappers and 94 by control efforts in response to wolf-livestock depredation. At least 16 wolves died from other human-related causes and 7 were found dead from unknown reasons.
  • Confirmed wolf depredations: 39 cattle, 404 sheep, four dogs and one horse. Another seven cattle, nine sheep, and one dog were considered probable wolf kills.

Idaho posted its report on the deadline required of Northern Rockies states involved in the federal endangered species recovery programs.

Read on for an Associated Press story, April 4, 2014, on the regional wolf status reports with reaction from various groups and experts.

Is Idaho wolf policy inviting court challenges?

PREDATORS — Last week, on the last day of the 2014 Idaho legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill to create a state Wolf Depredation Board that will work to control the growth of wolf populations in the state.

The bill creates a $400,000 fund and establishes a five-member board that will authorize the killing of wolves that come into conflict with wildlife or livestock. The money comes from the state's general fund, and will be augmented by fees on sportsmen and the livestock industry.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is expected to sign the bill into law. Otter had sought $2 million in the wolf fund.

“We are of one mind, that Idaho wants to manage our wolves and we want to manage them to a reasonable number so that the species don't get endangered again and the feds don't come in and take it over again,” Otter said Friday.

Conservation groups opposed the bill, saying it will lead to the killing of hundreds of wolves.

The board will be appointed by Otter and will include representatives of the agricultural, livestock and hunting communities. The bill does not require any members of the board to represent the wolf conservation community, noted said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker covered the first court-related setbacks to wolf management in Idaho a few years ago, and he's wondering if the state's tough-guy actions regarding wolves might trigger another confrontation with a federal judge that's tough on the law: 

Idaho's recent actions provide basis for groups' request to again protect wolves
Recent actions of the Idaho Legislature and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter appear to put the state on the path to a goal of 10 breeding pairs or 150 wolves, and national groups are gearing up for a court challenge to get wolves put back on the federal protected list. A column —Idaho Statesman

Wolves biting Twisp dog not considered ‘attack’

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  A pet bulldog was injured by two wolves Tuesday morning outside a home at Twisp.

A resident heard her dogs barking, went outside and saw the two wolves on her bulldog. They ran away when she yelled.

State Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Dan Christensen tells The Wenatchee World the dog suffered bite marks to its neck and back.

Christensen says the wolves were forcing the bulldog to submit. If it had been an attack over food or territory, the wolves could have easily killed the dog.

Lawmakers pressure Jewell to keep wolf protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal lawmakers pressed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday to drop the administration’s plan to end federal protections for gray wolves across most of the Lower 48 states.

Seventy-four House members signed onto a Wednesday letter to Jewell that cited a peer-review panel’s recent conclusion the government relied on unsettled science to make its case that the wolves have sufficiently recovered.

Gray wolves were added to the endangered-species list in 1975 after being widely exterminated in the last century. The wolves repopulated the Yellowstone Park region as well as into Idaho, Wyoming and Montana faster and in greater numbers that federal biologists had predicted.

 Protections already have been lifted for rebounding populations of the predators in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have said wolf recovery is complete and turned over management of the wolves to states, such as Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. These states have begun “managing” the wolves by allowing hunting and trapping seasons to reduce wolf numbers and balance them with the amount of available prey.

Read on for a version of the story coming from the Associated Press.

Liberal hunting rules barely boost Montana wolf kill

PREDATORS — Here's a Montana wolf hunting status report:

Montana's changes to wolf hunting season don't raise success rate
Despite higher limits for wolf hunters and an extended hunting season in Montana this winter, hunters and trappers in the Big Sky State took just five more wolves this past season than the year before, with hunters bagging 144 wolves, trappers taking 86, and federal wildlife officials and private landowners killing 70 wolves.
— Billings Gazette 

Idaho approves scaled back wolf-control measure

PREDATORS — Although it's down from the initially proposed $2 million plan to protect livestock and reduce the number of wolves on Idaho's landscape, the state legislature has just voted to earmark $400,000 to the cause.  

See The S-R's Eye on Boise blog by Betsy Russell.

Reward in Stevens County wolf poaching case jumps to $22,500

POACHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking the public's help to identify the person or persons responsible for shooting and killing a gray wolf last month in Stevens County.

A 2-year-old black female wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. The condition of the carcass indicated it had died between Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, and a veterinarian's examination confirmed it had been shot.

Wildlife managers had captured the wolf about a year ago and fitted it with a radio collar so they could track its movements and those of her pack members.

WDFW, with the help of three non-profit organizations, is offering a reward of up to $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, and The Humane Society of the United States, have each pledged $7,500 to create the reward.

Gray wolves are protected throughout the state. WDFW is responsible for management of wolves and enforcement of laws to protect them. The illegal killing of a wolf or other endangered fish or wildlife species is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Sergeant Pam Taylor of the WDFW Northeast Washington Region is leading the investigation. She urged people with knowledge of the crime to report it confidentially by calling WDFW's poaching hotline, 877-933-9847, or by texting a tip to 847411.

Wolves hot topics, targets this week

PREDATORS — Wolves are in the news and on the agenda this week

In Idaho today:

Idaho’s Senate Resources and Environment Committee scheduled a hearing of House Bill 470, legislation authorizing Gov. Otter’s “Wolf Control Board,”  today, March 14, at 1:30 p.m. (MDT).  Today, the committee will vote on whether to send HB 470 to the Senate Floor.  Stream the hearing LIVE Here.

In Montana:

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday adopted regulations to implement a law that allows landowners to shoot threatening wolves on sight, without a hunting license. Senate Bill 200, which passed last year, allowed landowners to kill wolves that threaten their property without having to buy a permit or hunting license. Commissioners determined wolves were a “potential threat” when they were threatening people, pets, or livestock on private property. Landowners have 72 hours to report such kills to the agency. 

In Idaho/Oregon

Collared wolf OR-17 leaves Oregon, where it was protected, crossed into Idaho and was legally shot by a hunter. See story

In Washington

State biologists spays wild wolf after romp with loose dog. See story.

State spays wild wolf after it’s bred by loose dog

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The saga of wolf recovery in Washington has taken a strange tryst.

A large domestic guard dog that took a month-long romp on the wild side in Pend Oreille County forced Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to capture and spay an endangered female gray wolf on Saturday.

“Our goal is restoration of a native wolf population not in producing a generation of hybrids we'd have to take care of in another way later,” said Donny Martorello, the department's carnivore manager in Olympia.

The wolf was one of two females in the new Ruby Creek Pack that biologists have been tracking with GPS collars since July.

The unusual action came after biologists learned that an Akbosh sheep dog climbed a 7-foot-tall fence from its yard near Ione and disappeared with the two female wolves for more than a month during February when wolves go into heat.

“If there had been a male wolf in the group, the dog would have been killed instantly,” Martorello said. But the two females tolerated  him and breeding occurred, he said.

Biologists easily tracked the GPS signal and used a helicopter to shoot tranquilizers and capture the wolves. One female was pregnant; the other was not, he said. Both were released in the Pend Oreille River area.

“Spaying (the pregnant wolf) was a better alternative than trying to go out and kill all the pups after they're born,” he said.

The dog had run off with the wolves for about a week in early January, but biologists were able to monitor the wolves and tell the dog's owner when they were back near the home.  The homeowner was able to call the dog in.

“We were already suspicious,” Martorello said. “Dogs and wolves usually don't mix.”

Wildlife officials advised the dog owner to restrain the dog for the rest of the winter.  While dogs can come into heat throughout the year, wolves generally come into estrus only in January and February, Martorello said.

“But when those females came back in a few days, one must have been in estrus because that big, intact dog climbed a seven-foot orchard fence and took off with them from mid-January through February,” he said.

  • Maybe this is the start of the new, more gentle guard dog: Keep the big bad wolves away from the sheep with a little love.

 

Oregon releases wolf status report: numbers up, packs down

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has documented a minimum of 64 wolves in eight packs, including four breeding pairs for 2013, compared with 46 wolves in six packs with six breeding pairs in 2012.

The survey results are in the just-released final 2013 Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Annual Report , which includes the 2013 update for Oregon’s Wolf Population

Oregon has added a research section to the wolf webpages. Wolf photos from 2013 and 2014 have been added to Oregon's wolf photo gallery.

  • On Saturday, Washington's 2013 wolf status report was released citing a minimum of 52 wolves in 13 wolf packs with five successful breeding pairs. 
  • Idaho has not yet released its annual report.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires the state reports to be filed on the recovery of the endangered species by the first week of April.

 

NYT op-ed writer pleads for balance on assessing impact of wolves

WILDLIFE WATCHING — In the past week, readers have forwarded me several stories and videos, such as the one above, glamorizing the benefits gray wolves have provided in restoring the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park since the species was reintroduced in 1995.

The information has been well reported for years and the video is basically correct, according to scientists. And for the record, I am fascinated by wolves, too.

But when the glorification of the wolf is digested alone without the salad and the side dishes of other research and realities, it can lead to indigestion, regurgitation and a less than healthy oversimplification in the public arena.

So let's thank the New York Times for giving another scientist a chance this week to call time out and feed all of us who are interested in wolves from one angle or another some food for thought

Associated Press gets C-minus grade for wolf status reporting

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Seattle Bureau of the Associated Press copied a line from a Defenders of Wildlife news release into the lead of a Saturday story that robbed the public of balanced reporting on wolf recovery  — a hot topic — in Washington.

Shortly after Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials announced on Saturday that they'd confirmed “four new wolf packs” and “steady growth” of the state's wolf population, the Defenders of Wildlife issued a press release referring to the WDFW announcement. The Defenders twisted the state's survey and called Washington's wolf population “stable.”  

The animal rights group correctly pointed out that the wildlife officials had CONFIRMED 52 individual wolves in the state.

But then the Defenders invented the phrase, “an increase of one individual wolf,” which the WDFW officials did not say, but the Associated Press used in the story lead as though it were a fact from the state.

What wildlife officials DID say is that they cannot count every wolf in the wild so they're no longer going to try, as they did last year when they estimated the population at 50-100 wolves.  

The number 52 is a minimum figure they could confirm at the end of 2013.   But to say 52 is “an increase of one” from last year's estimate is fabricated by the Defenders, an organization that benefits politically and financially from convincing the public that wolf recovery is slow or not happening.

AP Seattle Bureau writer Phuong Le further confuses the issue later in the story by pointing out CORRECTLY that WDFW in 2013 had estimated the wolf population at 50-100 individuals.

So why did she say this year's estimate is an increase of 1?  Because Defenders did.

God only knows why the reporter used the material from a special interest group in her lead rather than the information from the WDFW. There was PLENTY of information the state biologists released regarding the status of wolves in Washington to make an good story — which The Spokesman-Review published, but the AP ignored.

Perhaps the worst part about the story is that it goes on to quote reactions from two out-of-state-based pro-wolf groups — Defenders and the Center for Biological Diversity — without a single mention of in-state livestock or sportsmen's groups that might have balanced the story a bit.

The reason:  The two pro-wolf groups sent press releases (I got them, too).  

In my view, the reporter of a news story on the event at hand either should have sought more than one side of the wolf recovery story, or she should have stuck with the info coming from the scientists and worked to get the broader reaction later.

Groups that weigh in heavily regarding the impacts of wolf management did not send out press releases and thus were left out — as if they're not there.  That's a poor service to the readers of the many news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest that had access to that story on the AP wire.

Read on for the full AP story.

Map shows wide range of wolves radio-collared in Washington

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The map graphic above shows how some Washington wolves range far while others keep fairly small home ranges.

I detailed the the relevance of Ruby Creek Wolf 47, which was captured in Pend Oreille County and fitted with a GPS collar last year by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists to monitor its movements.

The wolf was one of 11 wolves with active transmitters that were followed by state researchers in 2013 and provided the travel information summarized in the map graphic above.

The collared wolves, among other things, helped the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirm four new wolf packs in the state, bringing the total number to at least 13.

Wolves are protected in Washington by state endangered species rules. But several of the wolves that have taken off from Washington to range widely into Canada have been legally shot during hunting seasons authorized in British Columbia.

Recent outdoors stories in the Spokesman-Review

Video: Wolf attacks and packs away pet dog from yard in B.C.

PREDATORS — If you've ever wondered what it looks like when a wolf decides somebody's pet dog is going to be dinner, here you go.

Warning: While its not gory, the video is unsettling.

Question:  Are you comfortable with the modern world of videoing, posting and “sharing” tragedies rather than picking up a rock and trying to help the world's underdogs?

Pro-wolf group puts spin on Washington state wolf status sport

ENDANGERED SPECIES — It's instructive to notice the spin the Defenders of Wildlife is putting on the report on gray wolf recovery status in Washington, released today by state wildlife officials.

Compare:

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just reported that gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in the state over the past year. The headline on the media release said, ”State's wolf population kept expanding last year, according to a WDFW survey.”

Defenders of Wildlife responded within two hours to its constituents with its own media release, headlined: “Washington's gray wolf population remains stable.” 

Who are the experts on this report and who has their hands out for donations?

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife carnivore specialist Donny Martorello said the state confirmed the presence of 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves in 2013. “While we can't count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence of steady growth in Washington's wolf population. More packs mean more breeding females, which produce more pups.” 

Defenders said: “This year’s count tallied 52 wolves, an increase of one individual from the 2012 year-end population.” 

Clarification:  Last year's report estimated the wolf population in the state as ranging from a minimum of 51 wolves up to about 100 wolves.  So for Defenders to say this year's estimate is “an increase of one individual” is propaganda.

I asked Martorello personally why the agency did not give a population range this year as it has in the past. He repeated that there's no way to accurately estimate the high end of population “so we're not even going to try.”  Wildlife managers also emphasize that while 52 is what they can document, there are surely more.  

Good cases can be made for the populations of wolves in Washington at any one time could be more than 100.

And surely the number will be considerably higher after mid-April when this year's crop of pups emerges from their dens.

Wolves are a cash cow for animal rights-type groups as long as the species is threatened or endangered.  

While I take in all sides of the debate on wolf reintroduction, it's important to realize that for some interests there's no money in declaring a species recovered.

Status report: Wolves continue expansion in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in Washington over the past year, state wildlife managers told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at a public meeting in Moses Lake today.

Coming Sunday, March 9, in The Spokesman-Review's Sunday Outdoors section:  A package of stories about Washington wolf status and monitoring.

Click “continue reading” to see the media release the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued today, March 8, 2013, regarding the updated satus of wolves in Washington:

Another predator tangles with Shelby

Last year we brought you the story of Shelby, the dog who showed up at a Senate hearing in support of a bill to make it easier for landowners to fight off wolves attacking their livestock and pets. 

The six-year-old Siberian Husky mix didn't speak, of course, but she did show off the wounds from his encounter with a wolf on her owner's ranch outside of Twisp. Shelby was definitely Spin Control's favorite hearing witness of the entire session, and the bill eventually passed.

Now comes word from the Wenatchee World, via colleague Rich Landers Outdoors blog, that Shelby is back on the mend after another tussle. This time it was a cougar.

She's expected to recover. A depredation permit has been issued for the cougar.

Dog that survived wolf attack mauled by cougar

PREDATORS — You may remember the story about Shelby, the dog that went with its owner to a committee hearing at the Washington Legislature last year (above) all scarred up after being attacked by a wolf as it slept on the porch of its Twisp-area home.

This week, Shelby is back in the news after being attacked again in its yard — this time by a mountain lion.

It's just the latest in this winter's spree of confrontations involving mountain lions in the Methow Valley.

Read on for the Wenatchee World story about Shelby that's been moved by the Associated Press.

Idaho wolf control: 23 wolves for $30K

PREDATORS —  Idaho Fish and Game estimates that last month’s wolf control action in the Lolo elk zone cost approximately $30,000 resulting in the taking of 23 wolves in an effort to bring back the struggling elk herd. 

The entire cost will be paid using license dollars paid by sportsmen and women.  Fish and Game receives no state general tax dollars.

I have a problem with much of the news coverage of this event, including the story moved by the Associated Press out of Boise. A longer version of the story that ran in the S-R ran in the Missoulian. You'll notice that the story goes right from saying 23 wolves were killed to quoting the Defenders of Wildlife saying they are disappointed. OK. But where's the quote from sportsmen and outfitters who are saying thanks for trying to bring some balance?  No such quote. No balance there, either.

Here's the explanation from IFG:

Fish and Game announced late last week that the agency, working in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, had completed another wolf control action in northern Idaho’s Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border to improve poor elk survival in the area.

In February, Wildlife Services agents killed 23 wolves from a helicopter.  The action is consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website

This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years.  25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.

Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines.  Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature.

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals.  The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season – 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping.  The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.

Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones.  Fish and Game’s goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.

The Lolo elk population has declined drastically from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone. Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat.  The short-term goals in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.

Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.

Idaho kills 23 wolves from helicopter this month in Lolo Zone

PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game, in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, killed 23 gray wolves from a helicopter near the Idaho-Montana border during February in an effort to relieve predation on the struggling elk herds in the remote Lolo Zone.

The agency said in a just-issued media release that the wolf-control effort has been completed.

“The action is consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives,” the agency said in the release.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season – 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping, officials said. 

The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.

Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones.  Officials said their goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.

The Lolo elk population has declined from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website.

This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years.  A total of 25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.

Fish and Game officials say they authorize control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines.  Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature, they say.

More from IFG:

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals.  The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.

 Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat.  The short-term goals in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.

Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.