Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

State gunners ordered to kill 4 wolves in Huckleberry pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A death sentence has been issued for a portion of a wolf pack that’s killed at least 22 sheep this month in southern Stevens County

Efforts to haze and deter the Huckleberry Pack from attacking a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing on private timber land have failed and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say they have no other choice but to target the pack.

In an effort to break the predation cycle, agency Director Phil Anderson said he authorized the killing of four wolves from the pack, which is estimated at up to 12 members.

Officials will later evaluate whether that is enough lethal force to end the sheep attacks.

Gunners began flying the area near Hunters in a helicopter today. A wolf was spotted, but at 4 p.m. officials said no wolves had yet been killed.

"As of Friday, we had confirmed that 17 sheep had been killed by wolves in five separate incidents, and we continue to find more dead and wounded sheep from the flock," said Bruce Botka, agency spokesman. 

Today crews found five dead and three injured sheep that were attacked last night, Botka said. Investigators confirmed that wolves were responsible for all of the latest attacks, despite night patrols and use of four guard dogs.

Botka said the situation meets the state's conditions for lethal removal of wolves, which are protected in Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws. The pack is one of about a dozen wolf packs confirmed in Eastern Washington.

"There have been repeated, documented wolf kills; non-lethal methods have not stopped the predation; the attacks are likely to continue, and the livestock owner has not done anything to attract the wolves," he said.

Rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters has worked with WDFW staff to try to prevent wolf attacks on his flock, Botka said.

This week, four department employees, two federal staff and two contracted range riders have been working with the rancher to prevent additional attacks, he said. 

"Despite those efforts, sheep continue to be killed by wolves," Botka said.

Washington law allows ranchers to kill up to one wolf if caught in the act of attacking domestic animals. Earlier this week, Anderson gave Dashiell and the agency staffers guarding the flock greater authority to kill up to two wolves if spotted near the sheep even if they weren’t attacking.

On Friday, night conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, appealed to Anderson to back off the authorization to kill wolves in the vicinity of the sheep.

“We appreciate the agency’s efforts to work with the rancher and use nonlethal means to protect sheep from further losses,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the wolf kill order needs to be rescinded right away. Killing wolves is just not an effective means of protecting livestock.”

The groups were angered by today’s notice that the agency was targeting the wolves.

“Nonlethal measures, such as range riders and moving the sheep, were being put in place and should have been allowed to work before the agency moved to kill wolves,” Weiss said.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

The Huckleberry Pack, named for the nearby Huckleberry Mountains, was documented as a pack in 2012. The pack had not been associated with attacks on livestock until this month, officials said.

New wolf kill authorization broader than state law

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Some readers reacting to my recent report have pointed out that the public already has the right in Eastern  Washington to shoot a wolf that threatens a person or domestic animals even though wolves are protected by state endangered species laws.

So why did we headline the announcement that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has given a rancher the OK to shoot wolves?

I asked department officials to explain and here's a summary of the answer:

Gray wolves are managed under state regulations in the eastern third of the state while federal Endangered Species rules apply to wolves farther west.

Following incidents with wolves preying on sheep and pets in rural areas, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a standing rule that any person in the eastern third of the state who sees a wolf in the act of attacking livestock or domestic animals can shoot and kill up to one wolf to stop the attack.

The new authority given in the case of the recent sheep attacks in southern Stevens County is broader.

Rancher Dave Dashiell as well as WDFW staffers on the scene to help move and protect the sheep were given the authority Wednesday to shoot any wolf they see even near the sheep.  An attack does not need to be underway and they can kill more than one wolf if the opportunity presents itself.

That said, the chances are very low even under the broader guidelines that they will get the chance to shoot a wolf.  When the decision was finally made to destroy the cattle-eating Wedge Pack in 2012, the state got nowhere with killing wolves until they hired a helicopter. The aerial gunner took care of the issue in a couple of days.

"These attacks (on Stevens County sheep) have occurred mostly at night and unnoticed even though people are out there with dogs and lights," said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. "It's a stretch to expect even one wolf to be shot under these rules, but at least they have the authority if the the chance presents itself."

State gives sheep rancher OK to kill attacking wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A northeastern Washington wolf pack that’s acquired a taste for sheep could get a taste of lethal force.

A rancher and state wildlife officials herding 1,800 sheep away from the site of recent wolf attacks in southern Stevens County received the OK Wednesday to shoot wolves that approach the flock.

Gray wolves are protected by state endangered species laws except in cases where they threaten people or livestock.

The Huckleberry Pack has continued to kill sheep this week despite four guard dogs, a range rider, the livestock owner’s crew and state officials working day and night to protect the sheep, said Donny Martorello, Fish and Wildlife Department carnivore manager.

Department Director Phil Anderson authorized livestock owner Dave Dashiell of Hunters and his helpers to use limited lethal measures to avoid additional attacks. They cannot actively hunt or attempt to bait the wolves for shooting, he said.

Wildlife officials have confirmed that wolves killed 16 sheep in four separate incidents on since Aug. 14 on leased Hancock timber company land near Hunters.

A confirmed wolf-killed sheep was found Tuesday followed by another on Tuesday night, Martorello said. “We’re doing everything we can to patrol and run interference,” he said.

  • The range rider was having trouble getting keys to locked gates from the Hancock timber company in order to move camps to more strategic areas where there's water for the horses, Martorello confirmed.

Signals from a radio collar attached to a male wolf in the pack show the animal was at the site, likely with other pack members, when the attacks occurred, said Nate Pamplin, the department’s wildlife program director.

 A total of 14 sheep were killed last week in two incidents. Before that, nine other sheep were found dead in the area but their deaths couldn’t be confirmed as wolf kills.

The rancher is moving the sheep each day and the state is trying to help him find alternative pasture. “We have leads on places but nothing for sure, yet,” Martorello said.

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association has criticized the state for not giving Dashiell radio collar information this spring that would have indicated the operator was planning to pasture sheep near the Huckleberry Pack’s denning area.

Martorello said the wolf had been trapped and collared by the Spokane Indian Tribe under an agreement not to share the location of the wolf. Since the attacks, the tribe is allowing the location of the collared wolf to be shared, he said.

The Huckleberry Pack, one of about a dozen confirmed packs in Washington, has six to 12 members. The pack has not been associated with livestock kills until last week.

The events are reminiscent of the 2012 wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County that didn’t end until the state was forced to use helicopter gunners to kill all seven members of the Wedge Pack.

Fish and Wildlife officials reported spending $76,500 to end the pack’s livestock attacks but not before at least 17 calves had been lost, mostly on private land managed by Diamond M Ranch.

Dashiell has four large guard dogs and camps alongside his flock at night, Pamplin said. “Yet, the attacks have continued, even after the department sent four members of our wildlife-conflict staff and an experienced range-rider to help guard the sheep and begin moving them out of the area.”

  • The dogs are crosses of the standard sheepdog breeds: Marema, Akbash and Pyrenees. The Dashiells report that one of the dogs has two large canine bites in one of his rear legs that may be from fighting off the wolves.

The livestock owner has removed the carcasses of dead animals where possible to do so and kept his flock on the move around the grazing areas, Pamplin said.

Wildlife officials may attempt to trap and collar more wolves to help monitor the pack’s movements, Pamplin said.

“Our preferred option is to help the livestock owner move the sheep to another area, but finding a place to graze 1,800 animals presents a challenge,” Pamplin said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to avoid further conflict.”

Wolves kill 14 sheep in Stevens County

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that one or more wolves from the Huckleberry Pack in southern Stevens County killed 12 sheep Aug. 11 and two more Aug. 12 on private property off the Springdale-Hunters Road.

The attack just north of Blue Mountain and about two miles north of the Spokane Indian Reservation is the first confirmed loss of livestock to wolves this year in Washington.

About 1,800 sheep are being grazed in the area under a lease with the Hancock Timber Company, which owns the land, said WDFW officials who verified the attacks. More here. Rich Landers, SR

Do folks get as worked about about sheep being killed as they do about wolves being hunted?

Wolves kill 14 sheep in Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that one or more wolves from the Huckleberry Pack in southern Stevens County killed 12 sheep Aug. 11 and two more Aug. 12 on private property off the Springdale-Hunters Road.

The attack just north of Blue Mountain and about two miles north of the Spokane Indian Reservation is the first confirmed loss of livestock to gray wolves this year in Washington.

About 1,800 sheep are being grazed in the area under a lease with the Hancock Timber Company, which owns the land, said WDFW officials who verified the attacks.

The state is working with the operator to move the sheep to another grazing allotment and remove the sheep carcasses to avoid wolves returning to the kill site.

WDFW staffers are on site with the sheep and are prepared to haze away any wolves that might return, said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane. A contract range rider will also be on the site for five to seven days while the sheep are moved.

The sheep producer may be eligible for compensation for the sheep lost to the wolves, she said.

The Huckleberry pack was confirmed as Washington’s seventh wolf pack in June 2012 and currently is believed to have at least six members, including a breeding pair and the radio-collared male. This does not include pups produced this year.

Luers said the Huckleberry Pack, named for nearby Huckleberry Mountain, has not been associated with livestock attacks before this incident.
  

Idaho wolf hunting derby seeks 5-year permit

HUNTING — Organizers of a disputed predator derby aimed at killing wolves in central Idaho are asking for a five-year permit to hold the contest.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports the group called Idaho for Wildlife applied with the Bureau of Land Management for a special recreation permit.

The derby went ahead last year after a U.S. District Court ruled against an environmental group that filed a lawsuit to stop the event. Wolf hunting with the required license during the established seasons is Idaho is legal.

  • There was a lot of hysteria promoted by pro-wolf groups who predicted a wolf slaughter even though everyone with a clue knew that derby hunters had little chance of killing more than a few wolves.

Organizers say that last year more than 230 participants killed 21 coyotes but no wolves near Salmon.

Organizers have said they’re seeking to publicize wolves’ impact on local elk herds and potential disease risks.

The BLM is examining the application as part of a process that will include a public comment period.

Wolf derby group seeks 5-year special permit

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — Organizers of a disputed predator derby aimed at killing wolves in central Idaho are asking for a five-year permit to hold the contest. The Idaho Mountain Express reports (http://bit.ly/1nW7xbv) in a story on Thursday that the group called Idaho for Wildlife applied with the Bureau of Land Management for a special recreation permit. The hunt went ahead last year after a U.S. District Court ruled against an environmental group that filed a lawsuit to stop the event. Organizers say that last year more than 230 participants killed 21 coyotes but no wolves near Salmon. Organizers have said they're seeking to publicize wolves' impact on local elk herds and potential disease risks. The BLM is examining the application as part of a process that will include a public comment period.

Lawsuit forces Idaho to suspend plan for hired wolf hunter

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game officials say they’re suspending a plan to use a hired hunter to kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness until at least November of 2015.

Idaho’s Wildlife Bureau Chief Jeff Gould made the declaration in a document filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Fish and Game Department and the U.S. Forest Service are being sued by Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project and other environmental groups over the plan to have a hired hunter kill wolves in the protected wilderness area.

The conservation groups contend that the U.S. Forest Service violated the federal Wilderness Act when it allowed the state’s hunter to use an air strip and a cabin in the wilderness earlier this year.

Oregon Congressman seeks wolf buffer around Yellowstone

WILDLIFE —  An Oregon congressman is asking the Interior Department to work with states to curb gray wolf hunting around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana.

Rep. Peter DeFazio is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Hunters have legally killed Yellowstone wolves that have roamed out of the park after becoming familiar with wolf-watching tourists. Some of these wolves have been radio-collared by wildlife scientists. While killing them is legal under hunting regulations, the loss is significant to research on the species.

DeFazio said in a recent letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that hunters killing wolves just outside Yellowstone’s boundary could hurt the overall health of the park’s ecosystem.

DeFazio asked for a “wolf safety zone” or buffer around the park, which includes parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. He also asked Jewell to establish a task force to devise protections for wolves around other national parks.

State officials have resisted prior calls from wildlife advocates seeking an outright ban on wolf hunting around the park. However, quotas in some areas limit how many can be killed annually.

Otter names wolf control board members

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today announced the five members of the state's new wolf control board, for which the Legislature this year appropriated $400,000 to kill problem wolves. Otter named Richard Savage, a former Idaho Cattle Association president and a rancher from Hamer, as the livestock industry representative; Tony McDermott of Sagle, a former Fish & Game commissioner, to represent sportsmen; and Carl Rey of Meridian to represent the general public. The board is co-chaired by Idaho Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore and Idaho Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould.

“Managing wolves is expensive, and federal funds to sustain the Idaho management plan approved by the Legislature in 2002 are drying up," Otter said in a statement. "This solution was developed collaboratively by wildlife managers, sportsmen and ranchers to provide a reliable funding source from stakeholders for this important work.” In addition to the state funds, lawmakers approved fees of $110,000 from sportsmen and $110,000 from the livestock industry to support the board; click below for Otter's full announcement.

Statistics to help Montana count wolves

PREDATORS — The bottom line is that state's can't afford to continue spending millions of dollars to monitor wolf populations. There has to be an easier more affordable way.

Montana researchers come up with a new way to count wolves
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' requirement to provide minimum wolf counts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expires in two years, and researchers from the state wildlife agency and the University of Montana have developed a new statistical technique to come up with wolf numbers.
—Helena Independent Record

Groups try to restrict lethal action against cow-killing wolves

PREDATORS  — Conservation groups, including The Lands Council based in Spokane, are petitioning the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to limit the killing of wolves in response to livestock deaths.

Even though the state has take significant steps and statewide guidelines for preventing wolves from being attracted to livestock, the groups filed their petition late on Friday, asking the state to require ranchers to exhaust nonlethal options to prevent their livestock from being preyed on by wolves before killing the predators.

The Associated Press reports the groups are still hung up on the rare extreme action the state took in 2012 when Fish and Wildlife aerial gunners killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack. The groups contend the northern Stevens County rancher didn't go far enough in taking nonlethal actions that might have prevented wolves from attacking his cattle. The rancher endured 17 attacks on his cattle on private and public land.

The groups say that ranchers and sports-hunting groups have refused to consider their proposals, and that the state is moving forward with less protective wolf-control rules.

The groups filing the petition include the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did not immediately return a message to the Associated Press. 

Wandering wolf, OR-7, and new mate have pups

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The speculation is over on whether Oregon's famous radio-collared wandering wolf has a mate.

OR-7 and its mate have produced pups, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed. 

OR-7, the name given to the male wolf when it was first captured, radio-collared and released in northeast Oregon, found a mate in the Rogue River area of southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains after capturing worldwide attention as its movements were followed on the web through Oregon and California.

See more details in today's story from the Associated Press.

State’s opinion survey on wolf, bear management online

PREDATORS — The gist of the comments and online chat-room posts I've seen regarding my column about Washington's survey of public opinion on wolf management seem to sum up this way:

  • Wolves: a few people love 'em, a few people hate 'em, and most people are in between, generally supporting wolf recovery but not to the point that wolves are hurting the livestock industry or decimating big-game herds.

Sizing up the comments also confirms that a few people, especially in the anti-hunting camps who grieve over the death of any critter, would prefer to kill the messenger, especially if it's an outdoor writer writing about wolves.

You don't have to settle for my take on this rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department. The agency has posted the entire 190 pages of the survey report as well as the summary.

The full title of the survey is: Washington Residents’ Opinions on Bear and Wolf Management and Their Experiences With Wildlife That Cause Problems.

It offers some interesting insight on several issues, including how Washingtonians view hunting in general: 88 percent of residents support hunting while only 8 percent strongly or moderately disapprove.

But mostly the survey is about wolves, the hottest state-wide fish and wildlife management issue in Washington.

See a longer, more hunter-oriented analysis of the survey by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

 

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.