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Wolves

The grey wolf has made a comeback across the Northern Rockies, thanks to federal protection, and Idaho and Montana now allow wolf hunting and trapping to keep the population in check.

Summary

Few wildlife conservation efforts have been as controversial as that of the grey wolf in the Northern Rockies. Federal efforts to protect the wolf have clashed with state efforts to control wolf populations and protect livestock and game from predation by wolf packs.

Idaho and Montana have been given federal authority to manage wolf numbers using public hunts. Federal officials require Idaho to maintain a population of at least 150 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.

Idaho wildlife officials have boosted bag limits, expanded trapping and extended hunting seasons in some areas to help further reduce wolf populations in all corners of the state. Its 10-month wolf season runs until June.

Idaho’s wolf managers estimated 500 to 600 wolves roamed the state as of spring 2012, down from the more than 1,000 when the 2011 hunting season opened in August.

Hunters and trappers killed 364 wolves since the 2011 season opened, while dozens more wolves have died of natural causes or been killed for preying on livestock or targeted as part of a strategy to lessen impacts on specific elk herds in the state.

A federal appeals court in March rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that wanted to block wolf hunts across the Northern Rockies. The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves in spring 2011.

Lawmakers stepped in after court rulings kept wolves on the endangered list for years after they reached recovery goals. Wildlife advocates claimed in their lawsuit that Congress violated the separation of powers by interfering with the courts. But the court said Congress was within its rights, and that lawmakers had appropriately amended the Endangered Species Act to deal with Northern Rockies wolves.

There are more than 1,700 wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and expanding populations in portions of Eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Wolf hunting could resume in Wyoming this fall.

In parts of Montana, ranchers and local officials frustrated with continuing attacks on livestock have proposed bounties for hunters that kill wolves. Montana wildlife officials said they will consider ways to expand hunting after 166 wolves were killed this season, short of the state’s 220-wolf quota.

Wolves once thrived across North America but were exterminated across most of the continental U.S. by the 1930s, through government sponsored poisoning and bounty programs.

Wolves were put on the endangered list in 1974. Over the last two decades, state and federal agencies have spent more than $100 million on wolf restoration programs across the country. There are more than 4,500 of the animals in the upper Great Lakes and a struggling population of several dozen wolves in the Desert Southwest.

Prior lawsuits resulted first in the animals’ reintroduction to the Northern Rockies and then later kept them on the endangered list for a decade after the species reached recovery goal of 300 wolves in three states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is monitoring the hunts. But agency officials have said they have no plans to intervene because the states have pledged to manage wolves responsibly.

Federal officials have pledged to step in to restore endangered species protections if wolf numbers drop to less than 100 animals in either Montana or Idaho.

Even without hunting, wolves are shot regularly in the region in response to livestock attacks. Since their reintroduction, more than 1,600 wolves have been shot by government wildlife agents or ranchers.

Latest updates in this topic

Pro-wolf groups pressure Gov. Inslee to curb wolf control

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Environmental groups who've been unable to persuade Washington wildlife officials into letting wolves eat as many sheep as they like in southern Stevens County are pressuring Gov. Jay Inslee to clamp down on wolf management when it comes to lethal control efforts.   Here's the story just moved by the Associated Press:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push for the creation of strict rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations.

Their petition sought to limit when the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves. It would also require ranchers to use nonlethal measures to protect their livestock.

Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon.

The groups made the request as the state was in the process this week of trying to kill four wolves in the Huckleberry Pack in an effort to protect a herd of sheep. One wolf has been killed so far.

Wolves were hunted to extinction a century ago in Washington. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by entering Washington from Idaho and British Columbia. The state is estimated to have 52 wolves in 13 packs.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The governor’s office has 45 days to respond to the request. The office has received the petition and will review the request, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

In 2012, the state killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock, the environmental groups said.

They contend the situation is similar with the Huckleberry Pack.

However, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the owner of the sheep herd has taken numerous nonlethal steps to protect his 1,800 animals. But wolves keep killing the sheep.

Conservation groups filed a similar petition in 2013, but they withdrew it based on promises from the Fish and Wildlife to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. No negotiations have taken place, the environmental groups said.

The groups appealing to Inslee also include 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.

Huckleberry Pack attacks more sheep in Stevens County

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Even though two more sheep were found injured from wolf attacks this week, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is planning to suspend trapping and ground helicopter gunners through the Labor Day weekend to avoid conflicts with recreationists and hunters out for the Sept. 1 opening of grouse hunting season.

At least 24 sheep have been killed in eight confirmed wolf attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep grazing private timber company land in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14

One wolf was killed by a helicopter gunner on Aug. 22.  Although officers and ranch crews have been authorized to shoot up to four wolves in the pack of up to 12 members, no others have been killed.

Meanwhile, rancher Dave Dashiell of Hunters apparently is making plans to move some or all of his sheep flock to other pasture he's secured.

Here's the latest update, through today and looking at plans from next week, from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director:

WDFW staff, along with the rancher, a contracted range rider, and four guard dogs continue to provide on-going presence to protect the flock of 1,800 sheep.

Two injured lambs were found by the operator yesterday.  This morning, one lamb died of its injuries, the other was euthanized.  Investigators attributed the injuries to wolves, making this confirmed depredation event #8.  The attack likely occurred a few days ago. 

As of this morning, no wolves were trapped/euthanized.  Trapping will cease after tomorrow morning.  Also, there will not be further aerial operations this weekend (the last flight was Tuesday morning).  We want to avoid conflicts and possible public safety issues with Labor Day weekend recreationists and Monday’s grouse and archery deer hunting opener.  Department staff and the rancher will continue to have authorization to lethally remove up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock, and we will not exceed a total of four wolves removed under the current authorizations for all lethal methods being utilized.

We learned that the rancher will likely be able to move his sheep off of this allotment and to an interim pasture next week.  We appreciate his efforts to expedite the move and will continue to offer and provide assistance where it is needed.

We have discussed compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves with the rancher and will continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once the more immediate issues are resolved.

In addition to continued work with this operator, Department staff will reach out to neighboring livestock owners.  Our focus is to ensure awareness of this wolf pack, and to offer technical and cost-share assistance to in an effort to avoid and minimize potential depredations to these adjacent operations. 

Attached is a chronology of activities associated with the Huckleberry Pack.  We will update it next week, once sheep are removed from the allotment.  It has been a dynamic situation, with information coming from the field, often times as new events are unfolding.  We understand the intense interest in and the desire for us to get information out to all interested parties.  Thus the chronology may have additional technical edits as field staff review and update


Documents:

Ranchers: wolf attacks shouldn’t force sheep off private land

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Northeastern Washington ranchers are standing up for private property rights to counter pro-wolf groups that are pressuring Washington Fish and Wildlife officials to force a sheep rancher off private timber company lands to avoid wolf attacks.

Following is the media release just posted by the Stevens County Cattlemen's Association.

HUNTERS, WA — As the situation with the Huckleberry wolf pack continues to worsen and the pack continues to kill sheep from the Dashiell ranch on private grazing ground near Hunters, some groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to make the rancher leave the area. Stevens County Cattlemen’s President Scott Nielsen said that option is “unacceptable.”

“We know that at as this situation worsens, there are those who believe that forcing the rancher to leave his grazing lands will solve the problem,” said Nielsen. “But preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable. Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

Over 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting the Dashiell’s sheep herd earlier this summer. Non-lethal deterrents including a range rider, the work of up to four WDFW department staff, four guard dogs and herders have provided an on-going presence to try and stop the depredation. A helicopter was authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22, but only one was killed. The helicopter was recalled and padded leg-hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them.

SCCA argues that if the state does not follow through on their commitment to remove the problem wolves and prevents allowing the Dashiells to fulfill their grazing contract with the private landholder, Hancock Timber, a series of negative circumstances can occur.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” Nielsen said. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Nielsen also said while SCCA supports the attempt to lethally remove the wolves, he said that the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the information they needed to keep their herds away from wolf areas.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they had requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den. Excuses that the information could not be obtained from the tribe are not valid, as the department has had over a year to sort that issue out,” Nielsen said. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

Oregon wolf pack one livestock attack away from lethal action

ENDANGERED SPECIES — One of Oregon’s wolf packs is one livestock attack away from becoming the first to be considered for a kill order under the state’s unique rules.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that the Umatilla Pack, which roams mostly private land about 30 miles west of Pendleton, has been confirmed responsible for killing a sheep last week in a private pasture. Two other attacks occurred in June.

Oregon's rules prevent wildlife officers from killing a wolf unless three conditions are met:

  • There’s hard evidence the pack is responsible for four livestock attacks over the past six months,
  • the rancher has taken nonlethal steps to protect his livestock,
  • the department feels wolf attacks are likely to continue even with more nonlethal protections.

“Under these rules, the key consideration for lethal control or any other actions will be to take an action that minimizes the risk of further depredation,” department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said in an email.

Here's more information on the Oregon situation, with background on wolf attacks on livestock, from the Associated Press:

The rules were adopted last year as the result of a lawsuit by conservation groups.

Joseph cattle rancher Todd Nash said he was looking forward to the day when Oregon’s wolves are numerous enough to be taken off the state endangered species list, and the Oregon Wolf Plan would go into Phase Two, when lethal control rules would ease.

That could happen after this winter’s statewide wolf count. The Oregon Wolf Plan sets a goal of four packs successfully producing pups for three consecutive years before delisting can be considered. That has been met the past two years.

Dennehy said delisting is not automatic, and would have to go through a public process. Even under Phase Two, there would be rules for considering lethal control, though they would be less stringent than they are now.

Rob Klavins of the conservation group Oregon Wild said they would prefer a science-based conservation goal for delisting, rather than one set by political negotiation.

“Oregon is doing better than any other state in trying to balance legitimate concerns with science-based conservation and Oregon conservation values,” he said. “It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than any other state.”

Overall, the number of confirmed wolves statewide has grown from 48 in 2012 to 64 last year. The number of packs grew from six to eight, though only four successfully raised pups last year.

So far this year, there have been six confirmed wolf attacks on livestock in Oregon, according to the department website. There were 13 in 2013, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011. Other packs have come within one attack of coming under consideration for lethal control.

Wolf update: Huckleberry Pack avoids helicopter gunners

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Still only one wolf has been killed in a helicopter gunning operation that started Aug. 22 to kill up to four wolves from the Huckleberry Pack that's been attacking sheep in southern Stevens County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued an update on the operation to relieve attacks that have claimed at least 22 sheep from a flock of 1,800 grazing on Hancock timber company land.

Here is the full update from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director. It addresses helicopter flights, continued use of non-lethal measures and moving the sheep away from the wolves to other pasture:

Helicopter flights occurred on Saturday, August 23 through Tuesday morning, August 26.  As we noted in Monday’s news release, one female wolf has been removed.  Helicopter activity provided hazing which may have kept wolves from the flock, and we have had only one sheep injured by a wolf attack, found on Sunday morning (and was later found dead this week, and it is being investigated).  As indicated before, on the Saturday morning flight (and the subsequent ground investigation), five sheep were found dead and three were injured.

We did not fly on Tuesday evening and do not plan to fly today.  We have established a trapline and have provided instructions to euthanize up to three more wolves caught.  We also have ongoing authorization for our staff and the rancher to kill up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock.  We will continue to assess these efforts each day, and the directive is to remove up to four wolves from the Huckleberry pack. 

Nonlethal measures continue to be in place, with the rancher, a range rider, and up to four department staff, and four guard dogs providing an on-going presence.

We continue to work with the producer to try to find an alternative grazing location.  We’re hoping that will occur soon, and the producer understands our desire that for this particular situation, we’re hoping to eliminate the killing of his sheep by wolves by moving the sheep to their winter range.  He received a communication yesterday saying that he should be able to move the sheep soon. 

We’ve received a lot of inquiries about why moving sheep hasn’t happened sooner.  A couple items I hope you’ll keep in mind.  First, with the Carlton Complex Fire in Okanogan County and other fires across the state, there has been a tremendous demand for alternate pasture for displaced livestock operations.  We’re offering whatever assistance we can to help the operator with the various logistics. 

Second, I think it is important to remember that neither the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan nor our preventative measures checklist suggest that moving livestock off of an allotment is a requirement to address wolf-livestock conflicts.  With the operator moving his sheep to winter range anyway, we’re hoping to work with him to expedite that move.  But in the long run, and in other conflict situations that we will face, it is not likely to be feasible for a rancher to move livestock out of the vicinity of problem wolves.  Maintaining working lands and the livestock industry is important both from the perspective of social tolerance of wolf recovery, and the overall maintenance of viable local economies and support for working lands (and the wildlife conservation benefits of those lands continuing in that status). 

Finally, we have approached the rancher about compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves and will likely continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once some of the immediate issues are resolved.

Dogs protecting sheep from predators testy toward hikers

HIKING — The large guard dogs such as great Pyrenees and Akbash that pro-wolf groups recommend for guarding livestock from predators such as cougars, bears and wolves don't necessarily distinguish between 4-legged and 2-legged critters passing through public lands:

Guard dogs for sheep herds continue to be a problem for hikers in Colorado
Hikers are reporting more conflicts with the large, white Akbash dogs that guard sheep herds in San Juan County, and one hiker recently asked the Colorado county's commission to work with the multiple federal and state land agencies and the ranchers with grazing allotments to develop new policies to help keep the hikers and the dogs apart.

Idaho joins hunt for citizen wolf observations

PREDATORS — Idaho is asking the public to help in the task of monitoring the whereabouts of wolves.

“Scouting for upcoming hunting seasons, huckleberry picking, and general late summer recreating are all good reasons for getting away to Idaho’s great outdoors,” says the media release. “If during these forays, you see a wolf, Fish and Game staff would like to hear about it.”

“We’re looking for basic wolf information from folks returning from the field,” Fish and Game wildlife manager Craig White said. “Where the wolf or wolves were seen, their behavior, size, coat color and any other details.”

The easiest way to report sightings is to use the Idaho wolf reporting form on the Fish and Game website. It's easy to use.

  • Washington's wolf reporting form was created for the same purpose of enlisting thousands of eyes in the field to help wildlife managers monitor an elusive species.

 

Correction: Huckleberry Pack can’t be sorted by color

ENDANGERED SPECIES — I have confirmed an error in my Sunday evening report  regarding the helicopter gunning operation to kill some wolves in the Huckleberry Pack that have killed at least 22 sheep and injured at least three more in six separate incidents on a flock of 1,800 sheep in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored and that helicopter gunners would try to use those colors to help them target the younger wolves. The source said that by avoiding shots at the adults the agency would try to protect the breeding pair and the pack's integrity.

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that the animals are mixed colors… in other words, it's not a black and light situation.

  • The collared alpha male is gray, for instance (see photo).
  • The pups are different colors as seen in this video posted on the WDFW website (below).

Today, state Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed that efforts were continuing to find and remove up to four wolves from the pack. A federal wildlife agent contracted by WDFW killed one wolf on Saturday, as I reported Sunday night on information from the  unofficial source.

No information has been released on whether more wolves were killed today, Aug. 25. Wolves are protected by state endangered species laws in Eastern Washington except in cases when they pose a danger to people or domestic animals.

Fish and Wildlife officials in Spokane said they were not aware that Director Phil Anderson had received information that agency staff in the field were in some sort of danger, as reported to me by the unofficial source. So I cannot confirm or correct that statement.

Helicopter gunners kill at least 1 Huckleberry Pack wolf

UPDATED WITH CORRECTION  6:17 p.m. on Aug. 25

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The first wolf was killed in a helicopter gunning operation to stave off attacks on a flock of 1,800 sheep in northeastern Washington Saturday evening. The kill apparently came shortly after Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced they had decided to kill at least four members of the Huckleberry Pack.

An unofficial source says WDFW Director Phil Anderson told staff to avoid talking about the operation through the weekend because he had been contacted by people who said the staffers in the field were in danger.

  • Managing wolves that are naturally repopulating their niches in Washington exposes the wide spread of opinion the species prompts, as can be see in the comments posted to the story linked above.

The decision to kill some of the pack, which numbers up to 12 wolves, came after at least 22 sheep pastured by Dave Dashiell of Hunters on private timber company land had been documented as killed by the wolves since mid-August. The attacks came despite the 24-hour protection of crews and four guard dogs. 

  • 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 in the early attacks around Aug. 14.

Unofficial sources say the agency is trying to target the younger wolves to reduce the pressure on the pack to feed so many mouths, hoping they will turn back to feeding on wild game.

But wildlife officials said the situation will be re-evaluated on a daily basis as to whether more or less than four wolves will be killed.

No word has been released on how many wolves, if any, were killed today, Aug. 24.

Unofficial sources report that Anderson said the goal is to maintain the pack integrity.

Correction: My original report quoted the unofficial source as saying the adults are black and the  juveniles are light-colored. Wildlife officials called and said that is not true and at least one source who has photos of the Huckleberry Pack confirms that is not true. The collared alpha male is gray, for instance.

But apparently wildlife are trying to avoid harming the breeding pair, as originally reported.

Unofficial sources also say the rancher, who has been looking for alternative pasture since the attacks began, may have found an option south of Spokane, well out of the territory of the pack, which ranges mostly on the Spokane Indian Reservation in southern Stevens County.

Background

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.

Donny Martorello, WDFW state carnivore manager, said a wolf in the pack 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. The pack has not been associated with livestock kills until this month 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.

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