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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

Montana tries profit incentive to boost wolf control

PREDATORS — Montana hunters and trappers aren't killing enough wolves to keep the population down to state management goals. So…

Montana hunters, trappers may now export wolf pelts
In order to keep hunters and trappers interested in wolves, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks successfully requested tags from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, that allow the export of endangered species while adhering to management practices that ensure the continuation of the species.
—Missoula Independent;

Man who shot wolf, didn’t report, opts for jury trial

PREDATORS — A North Idaho man says he will take his chances with a jury rather than pay a $200 fine for shooting a wolf without a hunting tag.

“It’s going to be really hard to find a jury in North Idaho that finds me guilty for shooting a wolf to save my stinking dogs,” Forrest Mize told The Coeur d’Alene Press in a story today.

Mize, 53, faces a misdemeanor charge of possessing a wolf without a tag, not for the shooting of the wolf, which is a game animal in Idaho that can be legally hunted.

The same charges would apply if he'd have shot a mountain lion without a tag and kept it. Shooting an animal in self defense or defense of property is allowed if it can be proved, but state law says the animal must be turned over to authorities.

Here are more details from the Associated Press:

Mize said he was hiking with his pets last month when they came upon the wolf. Mize said he feared the animal was about to attack, so he shot it with the gun he was carrying for protection.

He said he decided he wanted to keep the pelt, and so he bought a hunting tag and took the carcass to a taxidermist.

But wildlife officials say it’s illegal to shoot a wolf without a tag and then buy a tag afterward. Authorities said Mize should have simply reported shooting the wolf and the circumstances involved.

Because Mize didn’t have a valid tag when he killed the wolf, wildlife officials confiscated the pelt, which can be worth hundreds of dollars.

Mize turned down Kootenai County prosecutors’ offer Tuesday of a $200 fine if he pleads guilty.

“I did the right thing, I just did it in the wrong order,” Mize said. “I’m not going to buy a tag (in advance), because I don’t hunt for wolves.”

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh confirmed the offer was made.

Oregon wolf census prompts talk of de-listing from ESA protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Oregon's prolific gray wolves have moved into a new recovery management phase that gives ranchers more flexibility in dealing with threats to their animals, including shooting wolves caught chasing livestock.

In the most recent census, wolves have hit the threshold for consideration as early as June of taking them off the state endangered species list.

 Wildlife biologists documented seven breeding pairs of wolves in Oregon in 2014, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday.  Confirmation of at least four breeding pairs for the third consecutive year in eastern Oregon moves the eastern part of the state to Phase 2 of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

“This is an important step for Oregon," said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. "Wolves have now met one of the initial milestones envisioned by the public and the Commission.

"In the past seven years, Oregon has gone from no known wolves, to resident and reproducing wolves, and now to meeting our conservation objective for the eastern part of the state.”

In addition to breeding pairs, the department documented four new pairs of wolves in 2014, including confirmation of a second wolf in the Keno Unit last week.

Of the state's nine known wolf packs, only the Imnaha Pack is not a breeding pair. The Umatilla River pack still needs to be surveyed. 

A breeding pair is a pair of adult wolves which produce at least two pups that survive to the end of each year. Six of Oregon’s 2014 breeding pairs are in eastern Oregon.

Most known wolf activity, including eight of the nine known wolf packs, is east of Highways 395-78-95. This is the area of the state where wolves are also delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act.

Wolf-livestock conflict in this area is now managed under Phase 2 rules of the Oregon Wolf Plan. Non-lethal measures to prevent wolf-livestock conflict are still emphasized in Phase 2, but livestock producers now have more flexibility to protect their livestock.

Specifically, producers in the easternmost portion of the state are allowed to shoot a wolf caught chasing livestock under certain circumstances.

West of Highways 395-78-95, wolves remain listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates all take and harassment of wolves where wolves are federally listed. The only known wolves in this area are the Rogue Pack (OR7) and two new wolves recently confirmed in the Keno Unit.

ODFW  biologists are working to complete 2014 wolf population counts for the annual state wolf report required from all Northern Rockies wolf recovery states by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The transition to Phase 2 also marks the initiation of the state delisting process in Oregon as outlined in the Wolf Plan. ODFW will begin conducting a full status review and will present the results of that review to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in April. 

Delisting from the Oregon List of Endangered Species is a public process and the Commission could make their decision as early as June 2015.

“The Wolf Plan is working and the wolf population in Oregon expanding as the original crafters of the Plan thought it would,” said Brett Brownscombe, ODFW interim deputy director.  “We should embrace this wildlife success as wolves’ return to the Oregon landscape and ensure management approaches are also in place to address the challenges that come with wolves.”

Video: how to keep your dog out of a trap

TRAPS — A new educational video – Avoiding Wildlife Traps While Walking your Dog is available on Idaho Fish and Game’s website.    

The 9-minute video shows the variety of traps and snares dog owners may encounter while hiking or walking their pets and how to recognize them.

Some traps and trap sets can be visible if you know what to look for. However, many traps will be difficult to spot; it depends on the species targeted.

The video, below, will help dog owners make decisions about whether to keep their dogs on-leash in certain areas.

This video is available on the Idaho Fish and Game Department trapping webpage  along with a companion 8-minute video released earlier, Releasing Your Dog from a Trap that explains how a variety of traps work and how to release your dog from traps.

Although Fish and Game does not know exactly how many dogs are caught in traps each year and not reported, trapper harvest reports indicate an increasing number of incidental dog catches over the last several years.

In the 2012-2013 trapping season, 32 accidental dog captures were documented and 52 dog captures were reported during the 2013-2014 season. Several resulted in dog deaths.

Here's the first Idaho report in 2015 that's come to public attention:

Hunting dog survives being caught in snare

TWIN FALLS, ID (AP) – An eastern Idaho hunting dog survived getting caught in a snare trap meant for coyotes by remaining calm.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Dan Kelsey said the 5-year-old Weimaraner’s leash training likely stopped her from pulling against the snare and choking herself to death.

Leslie Soderquist was running her dog on 35 acres of family land next to a canal.

She heard the dog’s yips and was able to free it.

Kelsey found four more snares, one about 75 yards from Soderquist’s house.

Kelsey said the trapper received permission from another landowner and won’t be cited.

Soderquist said she now carries cable cutters.

 

BC to kill wolves in last-ditch effort to save caribou

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Up to 24 wolves in British Columbia just north of Idaho will be shot by helicopter gunners this winter in an effort to save the 18 remaining southern Selkirk Mountains woodland caribou from extinction.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources formally announced the wolf removal effort on Thursday, but the planning has been underway for more than a year, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.

Both the predators and their prey roam across the U.S.-Canada border into North Idaho and the northeastern corner of Washington. The caribou have been listed as endangered species in the United States since 1984 and they’re also protected in British Columbia.

Idaho and Washington wildlife officials have been consulted as well as First Nations, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canada officials said.

In the South Peace region of the province, officials announced plans to lethally remove 120-160 wolves to save caribou herds threatened by predation. In the four caribou herds that roam that that region, at least 37 percent of all adult mortalities have been documented as wolf predations, Canada officials said.

The South Selkirk herd has declined from 46 caribou in 2009 to 27 in 2012, and to 18 in a survey conducted 10 months ago. Evidence points to wolves being the leading cause of mortality, officials said.

Caribou in the South Selkirk Mountains have been struggling, largely from losses of old-growth habitat and related issues, despite releases of new animals in Canada to bolster the numbers. Snowmobiling has been restricted in most of the core recovery area in Canada and the United States.

“BC considered removing wolves last year,” Wakkinen said. “We authorized them to operate south into Idaho up to 12 miles for any wolf control action to benefit caribou, but they never used it.”

Six of the South Selkirk caribou were captured last winter and radio-collared. While monitoring the animals, Canada researchers learned that two caribou – 11 percent of the remaining herd – were killed by wolves in the past 10 months.

The researchers later captured and fixed radio collars on wolves in two of the three packs in the Selkirk Caribou Recovery Zone to monitor their movements.

“The wolves were collared with the intent of a control action later this winter to eliminate those wolf packs in the caribou recovery area,” Wakkinen said.

Mountain lions also have killed caribou in the wider Purcells-Selkirk region, ministry reports say.

“Two of the wolf packs are north of BC Highway 3 and one is south of the highway and often right on the border in the northern tier of Idaho,” Wakkinen said. Wolves regularly roam the Boundary Lake area of Idaho, he said.

Last week, radio-collared caribou were in Washington “within a sling-shot distance of Canada and Idaho,” Wakkinen said.

Washington has not given Canada officials authority for wolf control, said state Fish and Wildlife wolf policy director Dave Ware.

  • Washington's Wolf Management Plan would prevent state officials from killing wolves even to protect endangered caribou, said Kevin Robinette, department regional wildlife manager in Spokane. "It would be a long process," he said today, noting that Idaho has removed special protections for wolves.

Hunting and trapping of wolves in British Columbia have not effectively reduced populations and may even split up packs and increase predation rates on caribou, officials said.

Habitat recovery continues to be an important part of caribou recovery, but cannot address the critical needs of these herds in the short term, they said.

North Idaho man cited for keeping pelt after shooting wolf

A North Idaho man who said he shot a wolf that appeared to be crouched down as if to attack his three dogs on the southern end of Rathdrum Mountain has been cited for possessing an untagged wolf.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports in a story on Tuesday that officials also seized the wolf pelt from 53-year-old Forrest Mize, of Rathdrum.

Mize said that on Dec. 30 he was hiking with his three female Labradors when he shot the wolf with a .22-caliber weapon he carries for protection.

“I guess I’m not surprised that we are seeing wolves up there,” said Chip Corsi, regional director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, noting the abundance of deer, elk and moose in the area. However, it’s unclear whether the wolf shot by Mize was alone or a member of a pack, he said.

Corsi declined to elaborate on the citation, saying officials are still investigating.

Officials said even if a wolf shooting is ruled to be defensive, the person isn’t allowed to buy a tag afterward to keep the pelt, which is what Mize did.

Possessing a wolf pelt without a tag is a misdemeanor.

Man walking dogs kills wolf on Rathdrum Mountain

See 1-15-15 update about citation for keeping pelt.

PREDATORS — A North Idaho man hiking with his dogs recently on Rathdrum Mountain shot and killed a gray wolf as it crouched at close range.

Today: 20th anniversary of reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone

PREDATORS — Today is the 20th anniversary of the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park — a day celebrated and denounced ever since.

On January 12, 1995, eight wolves from Alberta were relocated to Yellowstone National Park by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service personnel. They were the first gray wolves in Yellowstone since they were extirpated in 1926—an absence of 69 years. Wolves were released in central Idaho two days later. Another six wolves arrived in Yellowstone on Jan. 20, 1995.

The goal was to restore balance to a landscape where wolves had been absent for more than 70 years.

The original 14 Yellowstone wolves – along with naturally returning packs and wolves subsequently released in 1995 as well as in 1996 in Idaho – exceeded biologists' expectations in prospering and recovering their ground  in the Northern Rockies.

Some groups call the reintroduction a huge success while livestock and big-game hunting groups loathe the results.

Twenty years later, wolves have been taken off the endangered species list and are hunted and trapped as a game species in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. 

At the end of 2013, about 1,700 gray wolves roamed the Northern Rocky Mountains, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wolves are expanding their ranges into Washington, Oregon and some wolves have been documented branching out at least for visits into Utah, Arizona and California.

Here are some quotes from an anniversary event held Sunday in Gardner, Mont., featuring some of the original reintroduction team:

Doug Smith, current project leader for the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone National Park:

Wolves are a major part of Yellowstone and they have contributed significantly to the ecological and economic health of the Park. The goal of the Park Service is to restore natural conditions and we could not have done that in Yellowstone without wolf restoration. Another goal of the Park Service is to provide for visitor’s enjoyment and today, Yellowstone is the best place in the world to view wild wolves.

Carter Niemeyer, USA-Canada wolf reintroduction team member; retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho.

Wolf recovery in Yellowstone and the entire Northern Rockies region has been a phenomenal success. Wolves are here to stay and it is my hope and desire that the states that now manage America’s wolves can continue the wonderful conservation legacy we have crafted for future generations.

Meanwhile, wolves have helped crop Yellowstone's elk population by more than 75 percent, and that's not necessarily great for the wolves or wolf watchers.

Spotting a wolf inside the park might take a little more luck than usual these days. In March of 2013, officials estimated that just 71 adult wolves reside within Yellowstone’s boundaries, a 14-year low and less than half of 2007’s total. Mange, a parasitic skin disease, has contributed to the decline, as has the dwindling elk population.

Who’s winning debate on Spokane-area wolf billboards?

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Here's my humble observation regarding the dueling outdoor advertising campaigns of wolf "education" in the Spokane area:

When  taking a stand at the far extreme of an issue for shock value, you leave a lot of room for the other side to court the vast majority in the middle ground.

See more details on the battle of the wolf billboards coming  in a Sunday Outdoors story.

The latest four billboards sponsored by Washington Residents Against Wolves are located on Maple, Trent, Pines and Nevada streets in Spokane.

Locations for Defenders of Wildlife billboards:

  1. NW Blvd. NL @ Elm WF
  2. Nevada EL N/O Lincoln Rd. NF
  3. Trent & Freya SWC NF
  4. Trent NL @ Lily EF 
  5. Sprague NL W/O Farr EF
  6. Sprague & McCabe NWC EF 
  7. Sullivan EL @ Valleyway SF
  8. Nevada EL S/O Lincoln Rd. SF 
  9. Seltice Way SL 600’ e/o Wellesley EF        

Bear shooting cases in court; Whitman wolf case still pending

WILDLIFE — Do prosecutors see endangered species protections for wolves in Washington differently than the laws protecting grizzlies in Montana?  It's too early to say, but…

The Whitman County prosecutor's office reports today that no decision has been made on whether to prosecute the case of a man, described as a local farmer, who chased a wolf in a vehicle on Oct. 12 and shot it to death. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police turned over the evidence in the case to Prosecutor Denis Tracy on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile in Montana, a Bigfork-area resident, faces charges filed on Dec. 23 that he killed three grizzly bears in May allegedly because they were messing with his chickens.

On another level, the alleged ringleader in what’s been called the largest illegal black bear poaching case in Montana history was charged on Nov. 25 with five felonies.  Black bears do not have the specials protections afforded grizzlies, but big-game hunting rules still apply.

James “Jimmy” Harrison, 61, of Darby, and two other Ravalli County men were originally charged with misdemeanors for illegally killing nine black bears with the aid of bait last July.  The county prosecutor upgraded the charges on Harrison after a review of the case.

 

No wolves shot at second derby, either, as earthquake spooks animals

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: SALMON, Idaho (AP) — Hunters participating in a wolf- and coyote-shooting contest in east-central Idaho killed 30 coyotes but no wolves. Idaho for Wildlife's Steve Alder says the Predator Hunting Contest and Fur Rendezvous that ran Friday through Sunday near Salmon drew less than 100 hunters, down slightly from last year. A 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck about 60 miles to the north of Salmon on Saturday and was followed by aftershocks on Sunday. The quakes caused no damage but Alder says experienced hunters reported the temblors spooked animals in the region and made hunting more challenging. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued the group a permit to use BLM lands but revoked it in November following two lawsuits by environmental groups. The derby instead was held on private ranches and Forest Service land.

Clueless Utah hunter mistakes protected wolf for coyote

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A wolf made headlines last month for roaming hundreds of miles from Wyoming to Utah. About the same time, another wolf, from Idaho, became the first in Arizona in seven decades.  But someone wasn't paying attention.

Utah coyote hunter kills wolf near Beaver
 70-pound female came from Cody, Wyoming

By Brett Prettyman/The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah wildlife officials have confirmed a protected 3-year-old female collared gray wolf was mistaken for a coyote and killed by a hunter near Beaver on Sunday. The 70-pound animal had been collared in Cody, Wyoming, in January, 2014.

The hunter shot the wolf about 5 miles east of Beaver in Beaver County on the south end of the Tushar Mountains and called Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) law enforcement officials upon noticing the collar. State conservation officers then contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We are still investigating, but it seems initially that it was a case of mistaken identity,” said DWR director Greg Sheehan.

Sheehan said it is possible the hunter could face citations for killing the animal protected as endangered by the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act in that part of Utah. The federal agency will conduct the investigation.

This is the first documented killing of a gray wolf in Utah since the animals were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in the mid-1990s.

“This is a very sad day for wolf conservation and for Utah. All competent wildlife biologists already know that coyote hunting, including our state bounty program, is ineffective, and therefore a waste of money – and now we see that is is also a threat to other wildlife and to wolf recovery,” said Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, based in Salt Lake City.

A picture of what appears to be a wolf crossing Highway 14 east of Cedar City was taken by a member of the public in early December. Sheehan said there is a chance the wolf killed Sunday could be the same animal.

It is also possible that the canine killed near Beaver could be the female wolf that has been hanging around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this year.

Wildlife officials confirmed a wolf in the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah back in August. That animal, believed to be a large male that had been collared near the border of Idaho and Canada, has not been spotted since September. His radio collar was failing at the time and there have been no new sightings of the animal.

Wolf kills sheep near Whitman-Spokane county line

Updated12:10 p.m. on Dec. 9 with clarification about when sheep are being moved and quotes from sheep farmer involved.

PREDATORS —The first sheep kill attributed to a wolf in Whitman County is being investigated by Washington wildlife officials.

One ewe in a flock of about 1,200 was killed Friday on private land about five miles northeast of Lamont near the Spokane County line, said Joey McCanna, Department of Fish and Wildlife conflict specialist.

“We’ve ruled it a probable wolf kill,” McCanna said, noting that the investigation didn’t come up with all the evidence needed for a confirmation.

Location of the wounds, canine teeth punctures and a broken femur indicated wolf, he said. "But a lot of the rump was eaten, taking away some of the evidence we use, and we could not find viable tracks in the hard ground of the stubble field," he added.

The dead ewe was one of several sheep that had strayed from the flock where there was a break-down in their enclosure of three-strand electric fence, he said.

Wolf sightings had been reported in the past three weeks in the Lamont area, but no one witnessed the attack, he said.

Two wolves were confirmed in the Lacrosse area last winter.

In October, a wolf was shot about 15 miles southwest of Pullman by a man Fish and Wildlife police described as a Whitman County farmer. Gray wolves are protected by state endangered species laws.

Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy is investigating the evidence turned over by Fish and Wildlife police on Nov. 19. Tracy’s staff said Monday that no decision has been made on whether to prosecute the case.

Fish and Wildlife officers will be working with the livestock producers when they move the Lamont sheep back to a fenced area near their homestead later this month, McCanna said.

"We are not forcing anyone to move livestock in this situation," said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. "The sheep are being moved on a normal schedule."

Meantime, the fenced area has been surrounded with blinking lights. In addition, lights and electrified flagging, called turbo fladry, is being added to the fence where the sheep are being moved as a deterrent to wolves, McCanna said.

The department is lending assistance to make sure any compost areas for livestock carcasses are properly covered with soil to avoid attracting wolves and coyotes, he said.

“We’re going door to door in the area to alert other producers,” he said.

"We'll be trying to find more sightings and sign and if we see that a wolf is using an area we may try to trap it," he said.

From the Lewiston Tribune:

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a wolf is probably responsible for killing a sheep near Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack’s ranch last week in Lamont.

Swannack reported the kill shortly after discovering the sheep on Friday.

"My wife saw the wolf," he said. "We have an electric fence around 300 acres of stubble. The fence went down during the ice storm Thursday, and the sheep got into our neighbor’s stubble. We were herding them back when my wife saw the wolf. We found the sheep up a draw after that."

Swannack said he hadn’t seen the wolf again since Friday.

"We’re doing what we can to discourage it from coming back," he said. "We have guard dogs with our sheep. The department is also supplying some stuff."

WSU study: Shooting wolves increases wolf attacks on livestock

PREDATORS — Livestock growers are likely to disagree, to put it politely, with the findings of a wolf study just released by Washington State University. But here's the scoop:

It is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock, according to the analysis of 25 years of data.

Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer, the researchers say in a WSU News online release.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, WSU wildlife biologist Rob Wielgus and data analyst Kaylie Peebles say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly.

The trend continues until 25 percent of the wolves in an area are killed. Ranchers and wildlife managers then see a “standing wave of livestock depredations,” said Wielgus.

That rate of wolf mortality “is unsustainable and cannot be carried out indefinitely if federal relisting of wolves is to be avoided,” they said.

John Pierce, the department’s chief wildlife scientist, said the research isn’t making the agency re-think its actions.

“If his findings are true – and I think of them more as hypotheses – our typical understanding of how animals react to lethal control is not intuitive for wolves,” he said. “By removing the resident animals, you might exacerbate the situation” in the long-term.

But that doesn’t reduce the short-term value of killing wolves to halt ongoing livestock attacks, Pierce said.

Here are more details and background from the WSU media release:

Study analyzes 25 years of data

The gray wolf was federally listed as endangered in 1974. During much of its recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, government predator control efforts have been used to keep wolves from attacking sheep and livestock. With wolves delisted in 2012, sport hunting has also been used. But until now, the effectiveness of lethal control has been what Wielgus and Peebles call a “widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis.”

Their study is the largest of its kind, analyzing 25 years of lethal control data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Interagency Annual Wolf Reports in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The researchers found that killing one wolf increases the odds of depredations 4 percent for sheep and 5 to 6 percent for cattle. If 20 wolves are killed, livestock deaths double.

Work reported in PLOS ONE last year by Peebles, Wielgus and other WSU colleagues found that lethal controls of cougars also backfire, disrupting their populations so much that younger, less disciplined cougars attack more livestock.

Still, Wielgus did not expect to see the same result with wolves.

“I had no idea what the results were going to be, positive or negative,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see what happened.’ I was surprised that there was a big effect.”

Three breeding pairs in state

Wielgus said wolf killings likely disrupt the social cohesion of the pack. While an intact breeding pair will keep young offspring from mating, disruption can set sexually mature wolves free to breed, leading to an increase in breeding pairs. As they have pups, they become bound to one place and can’t hunt deer and elk as freely. Occasionally, they turn to livestock.

Under Washington state’s wolf management plan, wolves will be a protected species until there are 15 breeding pairs for three years. Depredations and lethal controls, legal and otherwise, are one of the biggest hurdles to that happening.

Wolves from the Huckleberry Pack killed more than 30 sheep in Stevens County, Wash., this summer, prompting state wildlife officials to authorize killing up to four wolves. An aerial gunner ended up killing the pack’s alpha female. A second alpha female, from the Teanaway pack near Ellensburg, Wash., was illegally shot and killed in October.

That left three known breeding pairs in the state.

Non-lethal interventions encouraged

As it is, said Wielgus, a small percentage of livestock deaths are from wolves. According to the management plan, they account for between .1 percent and .6 percent of all livestock deaths—a minor threat compared to other predators, disease, accidents and the dangers of calving.

In an ongoing study of non-lethal wolf control, Wielgus’ Large Carnivore Conservation Lab last summer monitored 300 radio-tagged sheep and cattle in eastern Washington wolf country. None were killed by wolves.

Still, there will be some depredations, he said. He encourages more non-lethal interventions like guard dogs, “range riders” on horseback, flags, spotlights and “risk maps” that discourage grazing animals in hard-to-protect, wolf-rich areas.

“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” Wielgus said, “and society has told us that that’s not going to happen.”

Gray wolf news updates 11-26-2014

PREDATORS — It's been a quiet week in the region some people would like to call Wolfbegone.

But here are a few notes about the species as wolves continues to recover their native range in the Northwest.

A Whitman County wolf shooting case is in the hands of county prosecutor Denis Tracy.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife turned its evidence over to the prosecutor on Nov. 19 with the possibility that the man who shot a wolf around Oct. 12 could be charged with a misdemeanor for killing an animal that's protected in far-Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws. The agency turned over the evidence after receiving DNA lab results that confirmed the animal was a wolf and not a wolf hybrid.
 
Tracy's office staff said today that the prosecutor is still investigating the case before making the decision on whether to prosecute the case. The identity of the shooter has not been released although WDFW officers described the man as a county farmer. The original WDFW report said the man chased the wolf in a vehicle and shot it in a Palouse farm field about 15 miles southwest of Pullman.
 
"We're not recommending anything," said Steve Crown, Fish and Wildlife Department chief. "We're simply referring the facts of the case in our report. It's up to the prosecutor to examine the facts and the case law and decide whether to bring charges."
 
Making the decision to prosecute is a big deal.
  • Although exemptions are made for killing a wolf to protect life or livestock, unlawful taking of a state endangered species is punishable by sentences of up to a year in jail and fines up to $5,000.

  • The only wolf-killing case to be prosecuted in Washington resulted in Twisp ranching family members being ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008.

A Kittitas County wolf-killing case remains under investigation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Brent Lawrence said Tuesday no arrests have been made in the October shooting of an adult breeding female belonging to the Teanaway Pack near Salmon la Sac. Conservation groups have offered a $15,000 reward in the case.

The wolf was found by state and federal wildlife officials Oct. 28 in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The female was wearing a telemetry collar and was shot in the hindquarters. Investigators say she likely was killed around Oct. 17.

USFWS is leading the investigation because the shooting occurred in the two-thirds of the state in which wolves are federally protected. Wolves also are protected state endangered species laws.

An unlawful taking of a federal endangered species is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

A hunter was cleared for shooting at stalking wolf on Oct. 30 in Stevens County.The animal ran way, but the hunter reported to officials that he thought it had been hit.

A Smackout Pack wolf was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. Conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. However, the case still has not been solved.

An anti-wolf group called  Washington Residents Against Wolves has initiated an billboard campaign in Spokane.

BLM has denied a permit for a predator derby based out of Salmon, Idaho. Organizers say they'll hold the derby on national forest land.

The first gray wolf in northern Arizona in more than 70 years was confirmed by wildlife officials this week. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Jeff Humphrey said Friday that analysis of the animal’s scat shows it’s from the Northern Rockies population at least 450 miles away. It was first spotted by a tourist in early November.

Idaho predator derby ruling a win, win, win

WILDLIFE — Looks like everyone's a winner in this deal.

  • The Idaho predator derby organizers wanted to make a point that they don't like wolves.  And they're point was made on a huge stage of publicity.
  • No wolves were killed in a previous derby even though licensed wolf hunting is legal in Idaho.
  • Pro-wolf groups wanted to make their case and line their coffers with donations. Opportunity seized; mission accomplished.

BLM rescinds permit for Idaho for Wildlife's predator derby
A week after Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District Manager Joe Kraayenbrink issued a permit to Idaho for Wildlife to expand its predator derby onto BLM lands, Kraayenbrink rescinded that permit, citing modifications made in the derby's regulations. Idaho for Wildlife Executive Director Steve Alder said he believes the two lawsuits filed after the permit was issued and "D.C. bureaucrats" led to the permit being pulled. Alder said the derby would go on as scheduled on U.S. Forest Service and private lands.
—Idaho Mountain Express

BLM confirms it’s rescinded permit for wolf, predator derby

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has confirmed that it's rescinded permits it granted two weeks ago for a wolf derby on 3 million acres of public land in Idaho. Joe Kraayenbrink, Idaho Falls district manager for the BLM, said the derby sponsors contacted the BLM's Salmon field office last Thursday with "material and substantive" modifications to how the predator derby would be run. The BLM had spent five months on review before issuing the Nov. 13 permit; Kraayenbrink said at this point, "Ambiguity about details of the Derby operation make it difficult to conclusively determine whether an SRP (Special Recreation Permit) is appropriate under our regulations, and if so what terms and conditions would allow BLM to effectively manage and protect public lands and resources." 

You can read the BLM's full announcement here. Derby organizers said the event will still take place on private land, as it did last year. No wolves were killed last year, but participants killed 21 coyotes.

Wolf derby permit reportedly rescinded in face of lawsuit

The permit for a controversial wolf derby in eastern Idaho reportedly has been rescinded by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the face of a lawsuit. “We have it in writing from their attorney that they’re withdrawing it, and they said they expected to have it withdrawn today and they expected to have an announcement,” said Laird Lucas, director of litigation for Advocates for the West. He said, “BLM’s first-ever approval of a wolf killing derby on public lands undermines wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies and was not in the public interest. So it’s good BLM lawyers realized they needed to yank the permit after we sued.”

BLM officials in Idaho said they couldn’t confirm or deny the news, but are planning a public announcement within the hour.

The derby, which was planned to operate every year for the next five years and target predators including wolves, coyotes, weasels and more, with prizes for those killing the most or top predators, had been initially approved for 3 million acres of public land in Idaho by the BLM. Advocates for the West and Defenders of Wildlife sued, and said the agency received more than 100,000 comments from people strongly opposed to the derby.

“The public spoke loud and clear against this wildlife killing competition and we are glad to see senior officials at the Department of the Interior ultimately respond to the public’s opposition by directing that the permit be withdrawn,” said Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife senior representative. “By denying the permit, BLM is supporting sound wildlife management practices as opposed to endorsing archaic killing competitions on our public lands that Americans so clearly oppose.”

Anti-wolf group initiates Spokane billboard campaign

PREDATORS — A newly organized anti-wolf group says it's targeting Spokane with a billboard campaign "to inform  residents about the reality of an increasing number of wolves in Washington State," according to a media release posted today.

Four billboards featuring a snarling wolf are being put up, according to Washington Residents Against Wolves, an activist group that says it's promoting "sound management of the predator."

Billboards are up at Lincoln Road and Division Street and Lincoln Road and Market Street.

“The aim of the billboard campaign is to encourage people to ask more questions about what having wolves in Washington really means,” said Luke Hedquist, WARAW member.

“People need to consider the challenges associated with wolves. Wolves can and will attack people, livestock will be killed and maimed, private property will be compromised and local economies will be impacted. We want to make sure people thoroughly understand the issue, so we started by trying to get people’s attention with the billboards.”

The initial billboard message features a photo of a wolf, teeth bared, and the text: “Endangered? No. Deadly? Yes. Good for Washington? Absolutely not.“ A total of eight billboard posters are planned to be up by the end of the month, Hedquist said.

"One of the key items not being discussed is how quickly wolves will deplete wildlife herds in the state," Hedquist says in the media release.

Washington has about 14 identified wolf packs and had a minimum of 52 wolves before this year's breeding season.

“We know by watching wolves in other states that it is common for the population to increase by 38 percent on average each year,” said Hedquist.

This is bad news not only for predators who must compete for available prey in the affected ecosystems, but also for the communities that depending on seasonal hunting revenue, he said.

“As the elk and other ungulates are impacted by wolves, we will see fewer animals for other predators like cougar and bear; a decline in the number of animals available to hunt and significant impacts to local economies as hunters go elsewhere,” Hedquist said.

“It’s also important to remember that at this point, wolves are not moving across Washington and WDFW is making no moves to either reduce the number of wolves or translocate the Eastern Washington excess to other parts of the state. So we should be prepared for Eastern Washington to bear the full brunt of the cost. Frankly, that cost is unacceptable.”

$15,000 reward offered in Washington wolf shooting case

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Conservation groups announced today a $15,000 reward for information that helps convict a poacher who killed a federally protected wolf near Salmon la Sac.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed this week that a female gray wolf from the Teanaway pack in Upper Kittitas County died last month from being shot.
 
The public is being asked to report any information or sightings from Oct. ​17 to Oct. 28 dealing with the case. Information can be reported by phone at (425) 883-8122.  Tips also can be reported on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded poacher hotline, (877) 933-9847.

Groups contributing to the reward include Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Woodland  Park Zoo and the Humane Society of the United States.

  • After a wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County, conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. However, the case still has not been solved.
  • The investigation continues into the October shooting of a wolf in Whitman County.
  • Twisp ranching family members were ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008.

The carcass of the breeding female recovered Oct. 28 in the Teanaway Pack’s habitat area was found on the north side of the Paris Creek drainage in the Salmon la Sac area north of Lake Cle Elum, says Brent Lawrence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland. The area is within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

  • The person who killed the Teanaway wolf could set back state de-listing of wolves from endangered species protections. Washington's wolf management plan sets a goal of having wolf packs in three areas of the state. The Teanaway Pack ranges very close to the last of the three zones — the southern Cascades — which is still unoccupied. Wolves ranging out of that pack could be the ticket to de-listing.

The wolf was fitted with a radio telemetry collar and was recovered by federal wildlife officials and those with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Gray wolves in the western two-thirds of the state (with U.S. Highway 97 the boundary) are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and a similar state law, Lawrence said.

The Teanaway River valley and the area north of Lake Cle Elum is in the part of the state where wolves continue to be under both state and federal protection.

East of the highway, wolves have been taken off the federal endangered list but continue to be protected by state law. The federal agency is the lead investigator of wolf mortalities in the western two-thirds of the state.

Lawrence said the wolf’s telemetry collar signaled that it wasn’t moving, which led to the search and recovery of the carcass. The preliminary necropsy revealed the wolf was shot in the hindquarters. He had no additional information to share about the investigation or a possible suspect.