WDFW asks public’s help to generate leads

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


March 17, 2014 copyrighted wolf in river

Contact: Sgt. Pam Taylor, 509-892-1001
Wildlife Program, 360-902-2515

WDFW asks public’s help to generate leads
in shooting of radio-collared wolf

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WFDW) 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.

Clan of the Cougar (and Wolf) Slayers

[Surprise, surprise, the White's are at it again...]

A Young Girl’s Family Secret

11-year-old Shelby White grabbed headlines when she reportedly shot a cougar stalking her brother in rural Washington state. But there’s a bit more to the story—the White family actually has a long, bloody history of poaching endangered wolves and other wildlife

AUTHOR:   Mar 10, 2014
Shelby White’s shot was heard round the world. But her family’s cold-blooded past didn’t make it into the newspaper reports.

The 11-year-old girl captured hearts and headlines last week when she reportedly whipped out a rifle and bravely gunned down a cougar sneaking up behind her brother in rural Washington. It wasn’t the first time the White family has drummed up publicity for killing exotic animals.

The pint-size slayer comes from a clan of convicted poachers that slaughtered a pair of endangered gray wolves and tried to smuggle their skins across the U.S. border a few years ago. The revelation, absent in the mainstream media accounts of the Shelby’s cougar killing, recasts the tale of the adorable deadeye and has caused the history of her kin to resurface.

“The Whites are known sons of bitches,” says Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, which has championed wolf recovery in the region. “I don’t think anyone is the least bit surprised that they remain in the news.”

Authorities first caught wind of the White clan’s illegal killings in 2008 when a FedEx employee stumbled across a blood-soaked parcel postmarked for Canada. The sender, eventually identified as Shelby’s mother, Erin White, used a bogus name and phone number and claimed the package contained a rug, according to federal prosecutors.

 Instead of a rug, authorities discovered that the sodden parcel contained a wolf hide belonging to a butchered member of the Lookout Pack, the first gray wolves to repopulate Washington since the 1930s. The pack, protected under state law and the Endangered Species Act, roamed an area near the White’s 700-acre ranch in the Methow Valley, which rests of the eastern slope of the North Cascades.

Tom White, Shelby’s father, copped to killing the wolf. Federal agents later found evidence that he slayed a second member of the Lookout Pack and that Shelby’s grandfather, William White, had concocted a conspiracy to kill wolves and smuggle a wolf hide into Canada. Agents also discovered the elder White had a penchant for poaching animals, including big game he unlawfully shot in Canada and snuck back into the U.S.

Tom White, Shelby's father, poses with an endangered wolf he shot and killed back in 2008. Tom White, Shelby’s father, poses with an endangered wolf he shot and killed back in 2008. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

In 2012, the White family pleaded guilty to a host of federal charges, including conspiracy to kill an endangered species, conspiracy to export an endangered species and unlawful importation of wildlife. William and Tom White also pleaded guilty to state charges of illegally hunting bears with dogs.

The family managed to dodge jail time, but had to fork over more than $70,000 in fines, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. William White was sentenced to six months of home detention, while his son was sentenced to three months.

As a result of their convictions, both White men also lost their hunting licenses. But that hasn’t stopped Tom White’s children from apparently picking off animals left and right, most notably the cougars that have flocked to the Methow Valley.

Shelby White was not the first of her siblings to bag one of the wildcats this winter, her grandfather William White tells Vocativ in a phone interview. Cody, her 9-year-old brother, blasted a 120-pound cougar earlier in February. Shelby’s 14-year-old brother Tanner also killed one on the family’s property that month, White says.

 “Their dad has been showing the kids how to track them every weekend,” White says, adding that all three children had tags to hunt cougars. White says the wildcats have become a scourge in the area since state lawmakers banned cougar hunting with hound dogs in 1996.

Cougar sightings and encounters have been unusually high in the Methow Valley this winter, say wildlife officials, though they’ve been unable to pinpoint a precise reason. At least 10 cougars have been killed in the area alone this winter by hunters or state officials, the Methow Valley News reported.

Four of those killings have occurred on the White ranch, according to the family.

Cougars can pose a threat to livestock and sometimes humans, William White says. The big cat that Shelby White shot on Feb. 20 may have been stalking her older brother Tanner. The boy had just entered the family’s home from outside when Tom White spotted the animal in the driveway, the grandfather says.

“My son yelled, ‘Shelby, grab your gun,” says William White. The girl trained her .270-caliber rifle on the animal and gunned it down from about 10 feet away.

Wildlife officials say the animal was an emaciated female that weighed 50 pounds. It was likely starving to death. Because her father and grandfather are barred from hunting and because her brothers already bagged cougars this year, Shelby was the sole person in the family that could legally kill the wildcat, her grandfather says.

“The reason my granddaughter shot the cougar was because she was only one in our family that had a tag,” William White says. “We’re trying to follow the law as best we can.”

Still, given the White family’s history with hunting, the cougar killings raised eyebrows among Friedman and other members of Washington’s environmental community.

A photo of the wolf pelt that Erin White, Shelby’s mom, allegedly tried to send to friends in Canada. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

“It certainly smells a little funny,” Friedman says…

One More Wolf in Washington

copyrighted wolf in river


Washington state wolf population grows by 1

By PHUONG LE Associated Press Published: Mar 8, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) – Washington’s wildlife agency reported Saturday that its annual survey tallied 52 endangered gray wolves living in the state at the end of 2013, one more than in 2012. The count’s results come as conservation groups urge the state to pull support from a federal effort to roll back protections for the predators.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife also found five successful breeding pairs in 2013, the same number as reported in the 2012 count.

The wolf population has been a controversial topic since the predators returned to the state much faster than expected in the past several years. In 2008, there were only a handful of wolves. In March 2013, there were an estimated 50 to 100 animals in 10 confirmed packs, all in central and eastern Washington.

Farmers and hunters in the West blame the returning gray wolf population for killing livestock and reducing elk herds.

Wolves are listed as endangered throughout Washington under state law and as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state under federal law.

But federal wildlife officials want to remove wolves from the endangered species list across much the Lower 48 states, including the western portion of Washington.

State wildlife managers support federal delisting of the wolves, saying it would give the state more control over managing conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, has said federal restrictions hamper the state’s ability to resolve those conflicts in the western part of the state.

On Thursday, several conservation groups sent a letter asking Anderson to rescind the agency’s support for federal delisting.

“Wolves are just beginning to recover in Washington and face continued persecution. Federal protection is clearly needed to keep recovery on track,” Amaroq Weiss, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said earlier this week.

Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife expressed concern for the safety of the wolf population.

“The stability of Washington’s wolf population is good news, but the population is still incredibly vulnerable during these early stages of recovery in Washington and wolves have a long way still to go,” she said.

Stone expressed hope that Washington wouldn’t let anti-wolf sentiment come over the border from Idaho and affect wolf management practices.

“We hope Washington is observing the tragic example being set in Idaho, where wolves are treated like vermin,” she said.

Dog Left Out in March Must Fend Off More Than the Cold

copyrighted wolf in water


One year after wolf attack, dog fends off cougar at Carlton home

[Automatic response? track down and kill the predators.]

by admin on Mar 6, 2014
By Ann McCreary

It’s been a tough year for Shelby, a wolf-husky hybrid dog owned by John Stevie of Carlton. In March 2013 the dog was attacked by a gray wolf just outside her home, and early Monday morning (March 3) she was attacked again — this time by a cougar.

The unlucky dog has been lucky enough to survive both attacks.

Stevie had let Shelby out at about 4 a.m. Monday and soon heard the dog crying, said Sharon Willoya, Stevie’s girlfriend.

“We both raced to the door and she came running in. She wouldn’t let us touch her at first because she was frightened. We finally got her calm and noticed she was bleeding,” Willoya said Tuesday (March 4).

The 68-pound dog had cuts on her shoulder and chest, and required more than a dozen stitches, Willoya said.

Stevie reported the attack, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers arrived with hounds a few hours after the attack. They tracked the cougar into a boulder field, but because it was a dangerous situation for the dogs, they left, said Capt. Chris Anderson, WDFW regional enforcement supervisor.

Wildlife officials returned Tuesday morning, found new tracks near Stevie’s home, tracked the cougar and treed it. The cougar, a healthy female, was shot and killed.

Willoya said wildlife officials found evidence that the cougar had “bedded down” not far from the house. “They think when Shelby came around the house, the cougar was there,” she said.

Stevie’s dog made news last year when she was attacked by a wolf on the deck of Stevie’s home at the foot of McClure Mountain. The dog received puncture wounds and lacerations to its head and neck in the attack.

Stevie subsequently took Shelby with him to Olympia, where Stevie testified before the Legislature in favor of a bill allowing citizens to shoot wolves that are attacking pets or livestock. Gray wolves are currently protected as an endangered species under federal and state law.

The cougar killed on Tuesday is the sixth cat shot by wildlife enforcement officers in the Methow Valley since December following attacks on domestic animals. At least four other dogs have been attacked, including a dog killed on Christmas day.

Cougars have also attacked cats, goats, sheep, chickens and calves.

Anderson said a hunter killed a cougar last week in the Pearrygin game management unit north of Winthrop. That brings the total number of cougars killed by hunters in the Methow Valley this winter to six.

Because of the high number of cougar incidents this winter, WDFW has issued special permits allowing hunters to use hounds to hunt cougars in the Methow Valley. Three permits have been issued for the Gardner game management unit, and two have been issued for the Pearrygin unit. Each permit allows one cougar to be killed.

So far, none of the special permit holders has taken a cougar, Anderson said.

“There are different theories bouncing around” about why the valley has seen so many cougar incidents, Anderson said.

“The general feeling is it’s probably because of the weird winter we’ve had,” Anderson said. “Normally we have cats that are visible because they follow the deer herds. Without snow the deer were really spread out and so the cats were spread out more, and that’s why people were seeing them in all parts of the valley.”

See more posts related to Cougars in the Methow Valley.

2013 Wolf Issues

December 29, 2013 in Outdoors

2013 outdoors: Wolf issues
Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

The gray wolf, reintroduced to the Rockies in the mid-1990s, continued to leave its mark across the Northwest in 2013 and into the legislatures. Here are some highlights.

• Idaho and Montana report significantly lower numbers of wolves for the first time since reintroduction, owing to hunting, trapping and wildlife control. But wildlife officials say wolf numbers are still too high.

• Washington estimates up to 100 wolves in the state, double the estimate in 2012.

• The cost of managing wolves in Washington, where they are still protected, is likely to increase by more than 200 percent from the past two years to about $2.3 million in 2013-14, wildlife managers say.

• Wolf hunting and trapping become issues of national attention as a wolf hunter shoots and kills a malamute romping with its owner while cross country skiing near Lolo Pass; a Sandpoint woman’s dog is caught in a snare set along a closed forest road, and a central Idaho predator hunting derby becomes the first modern contest to target wolves in the lower 48.

• Hunting authorized outside of Yellowstone Park results in the killing of wolves popular with tourists as well as radio-collared wolves vital to research.

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to drop endangered species protections for the gray wolf in most of the country.

• Pro-wolf groups submit a million comments in December to the FWS favoring continued federal protection.

• Washington legislation makes it legal to kill wolves threatening pets and livestock, provides state wildlife managers more resources to prevent wolf-livestock conflict and expands criteria to compensate livestock owners for wolf-related losses.

• Idaho hires a hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to take the pressure off collapsing elk herds.

• Michigan becomes sixth state with a wolf hunting season.


Understanding the Great Divide


Stephen Capra

Another week has passed and we have lost more wolves. Not really a surprise, but we also lost a beloved malamute while its owner was hiking. Shots were fired, screams persisted and a beautiful dog lay dead with seven bullets penetrating his body. This is becoming the mantra from Montana on a daily basis. When walking a family canine, a dog must always wear blaze orange and the master must say his prayer of protection when on a trail. The killing of wolves has become a sickness for the depraved and wicked.

This past week in Albuquerque we had a hearing on the Mexican wolf, with ideas the Fish and Wildlife Service has about expanding their range, what the count will be when they are deemed no longer endangered and perhaps easing the means of killing for ranchers. Perhaps 300-400 people showed up for the hearing in a large meeting room at the Comfort Inn. Clearly the pro wolf people held the majority, but there remained plenty of ranchers and county commissioners and other wolf haters who spoke out with rage about the wolf.

Several things struck my mind as they talked. First, why do ranchers not understand it’s rude to leave your hat on at such hearings? It is clearly designed to show their personal arrogance and sense of control. Yet, to me it just shows ignorance. Then there is this obsession with the constitution. Since when did the people that robbed, killed and destroyed our public lands have such a deep feeling about the constitution? The answer is only when it seems politically viable to their own good. Not for any other more altruistic goal.

Then it was time for the fear game rhetoric-Our children……Their safety……We are losing our entire herds…..We are being wiped out…….Poor me……….

It was the usual regurgitation of lies and their dream of an antiquarianism way of life, circa 1870.

What makes this issue so frustrating and demoralizing are the people- the killers, who seem to glee in the chance to steal life. This is the group I characterize as the “angry mob.” They are collectively the people that best define Obama haters, anti-tax loathers, people, who feel that issues like Gay marriage, Climate Change, Health Care are things that liberals like the President have brought to their doorstep and they must fight back, with pride and furry. They do this by collecting an arsenal of weapons, ammo, scopes, night vision equipment. They speak in chat rooms and share their rage against this new America.

They seek in their twisted way a chance to have power and control. The victim of this demented mind-set is wolves. Wolves represent freedom and the power of true spirit. Wildness is at their core, but also love and a sense of family. Yet, for those who feel they have lost control, this animal and its demise makes them feel a sense of power, a place of control, the means to settle their rage. To allow themselves a sense of freedom and spirit, they must kill and steal it from the very symbol of that, which they seek. It also allows them to show their disdain for conservation. Ignorance it seems is truly bliss.

However, there is another aspect to this fight which is often overlooked and it stems from the conservation side. First, as we have said many times, groups like Defenders of Wildlife, tried to find common ground with ranchers from the start. In fact, even when it was clear it was not working, they simply kept doubling down on a flawed strategy. But some of their rational for this stems from the reality of dealing with foundations.

Foundations in America today define how we work in Conservation. They are the funding, which is the lifeblood of any campaign and any organization. Foundations like much of America tend to be more conservative in how they give. By this I mean they do not tend to like direct conflict or issues that cannot fit into a nice collective ending. Therein lies the problem with wolves. This is a fight that is not likely to have a happy, feel good ending; one side will lose. Right now unless we as a community say, we refuse to lose and we will not compromise any longer, all will be lost. But the pressure on many conservation groups is to find a road to compromise. That in turn has led to hunting seasons and other such destructive outcomes.

The opposition has rallied under one voice, which is to say no to all wolf recovery; to push as hard as possible to fight expanded ranges, to create longer hunting seasons, and to say repeatedly that our children and the livestock industry are threatened! The conservation community by contrast seems to have twenty positions and no clear unified strategy. Instead, wolf recovery has turned into an endless fund-raising opportunity, with little success to speak of.

Bold Visions Conservation stands by its 10-point wolf recovery proposal. It is designed to rally support from urban areas to dwarf that which comes from the rural hot spots. It means changing our rhetoric and understanding we are truly in a war, not just to save wolves, but a war of culture which will define the future of the West.

During the hearing a rancher from eastern Washington got up to thank Fish and Wildlife for not creating a sub-species category for wolves in eastern Washington, meaning they can be killed. My first thought was why was he here in Albuquerque? The answer, I believe, is that the ranching community is sharing strategy, working in a unified manner to take what has worked in Montana and bring it to New Mexico, Colorado or any place that could harbor wolves. They are funded to fight and fight they will.

There comes a time in conservation, as David Brower clearly understood, when you fight for what you believe, and when you do so, people respect you. In order to protect and expand wolf recovery we cannot be cute, or speak in only scientific jargon, rather we must get in the trenches and fight, this is a battle we can surely win, it’s for the heart and soul  of the America we want to be a part of and the future of our western heritage.

Wolves define the freedom and spirit that is the West of my soul. Join us in the trenches. Victory is ours, when we cross that great divide, united.

“I am he and you are me, and we are all together.”

 -John Lennon and Paul McCartney

A Hastings-led howl against protecting wolves


Friday, November 15, 2013 by: Joel Connelly

Seventy-five members of Congress are demanding that the Obama administration end all protection of the gray wolf as “endangered” or “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act, in an effort organized by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already de-listed wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains — leading to big, officially encouraged wolf kills, particularly in Idaho — and in the Great Lakes States.

Wolves have moved south from protected lands on the U.S.-Canada border to repopulate the Washington Cascades.  e Teanaway wolf pack in the Cascade Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Northwest).

The gray wolf has moved south from protected lands on the U.S.-Canada border to repopulate the Washington Cascades, including the Teanaway Valley. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Northwest).

In Washington, wolves are still under federal protection in the Cascades, but not in the Kettle Range and Selkirk Mountains of Northeast Washington. There, they receive state protection, which is under attack by conservative state legislators.

The lawmakers’ letter uses age-old arguments for removing protection so that wolves can be killed.

“Since wolves were first provided protection under the ESA, uncontrolled and unmanaged growth of wolf populations has resulted in devastating impacts on hunting and ranching and tragic damages to historically strong and healthy herds of moose, elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer,” they wrote in the letter to Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest, a Washington-based group that has championed wolf recovery, scoffed at the letter’s assertions.

“It’s surprising Little Red Riding Hood isn’t mentioned,” said Friedman.

“The letter acknowledges that ‘federal policy must be based on best available science,’ then goes on to make the false and hyperbolic claim about ‘devastating impacts’ on fishing and ranching,” Friedman added. “Throughout wolf territory, game populations are generally at or above levels desired by state managers.

“These Tea Party legislators have so proven Congress that they’ve resorted to attempting policy by press release.  Their letter is off enough on matters of law, science and facts.”

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.: Bipartisan legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and protect the Middle Fork-Snoqualmie River, in eastern King County, can't get the time of day in his committee..

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.: He is lead on a letter, signed by 75 members of Congress, demanding an end to all federal protection of wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

Hastings is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.  Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., who also signed the letter, is a member of the House Republican Leadership.

The gray wolf has returned to Washington’s mountains in recent year.  A killing spree by three Okanogan County residents — who were caught and prosecuted under federal law — nearly destroyed one pack that had established itself in the upper Methow Valley of the North Cascades.

Other packs have located in the upper Teanaway Valley, in the Cascades north of Cle Elum, as well as in northeast Washington.  A majority of the state’s wolf population has the misfortune to live in congressional districts represented by Hastings and McMorris Rodgers.

The letter asking for de-listing of wolves is signed by a who’s-who of Tea Party members in Congress, including such luminaries as Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.

A pair of conservative House Democrats, Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jim Matheson of Utah, signed the letter.

The letter also opposes a proposal to list the rare Mexican wolf, found in the Southwest, as a subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. Such a listing would have a “Severe impact on private landowners, including ranchers” in Arizona and New Mexico, the lawmakers claim.

“We believe that state governments are fully qualified to responsibly manage wolf populations and are better able to meet the needs of local communities and wildlife populations,” said the letter.

Friedman argued the reverse, saying that Hastings and his allies are grandstanding and doing nothing to encourage cooperation between local communities and conservation groups.

“Real ranchers and communities — including in Eastern Washington — are stepping up to work with groups like ours on practices that allow wolves and livestock to share the land,” he said.

“There are ways that Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers could help, but I’m still waiting for their call.”

Cattle Ranchers Given Wolves’ GPS Coordinates

[The fox is guarding the henhouse, so to speak. And I thought those tracking collars were only meant to be used for scientific purposes...]


Cattle ranchers track wolves with GPS, computers

Becky Kramer The Spokesman-Review

COLVILLE – Before the sun breaks over the mountains, Leisa

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Hill is firing up a generator in a remote cow camp in eastern Stevens County.

Soon she’ll be poring over satellite data points on her laptop, tracking the recent wanderings of a GPS-collared wolf.

Hill is a range rider whose family grazes 1,300 head of cattle in the Smackout pack’s territory. Knowing the collared wolf’s whereabouts helps her plan her day.

She’ll spend the next 12 to 16 hours visiting the scattered herd by horseback or ATV. Through the regular patrols, she’s alerting the Smackout pack that cattle aren’t easy prey.

Her work is paying off. Last year, 100 percent of the herd returned from the U.S. Forest Service allotments and private pastures that provide summer and fall forage. This year’s count isn’t final, but the tallies look promising, said Hill’s dad, John Dawson.

“We’ve lost nothing to wolves,” he said.

Hill’s range rider work is part of a pilot that involves two generations of a northeastern Washington ranch family, the state and Conservation Northwest. The aim is to keep Washington’s growing wolf population out of trouble.

Last year, government trappers and sharpshooters killed seven members of the Wedge pack for repeatedly attacking another Stevens County rancher’s cattle.

That short-term fix came at a high political price: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife received 12,000 emails about the decision, mostly in opposition. Two wolves have again been spotted in the Wedge pack’s territory, either remnants of the original pack or new wolves moving in.

It upped the ante for all sides to be proactive.

Ranchers can’t fight public opinion

Many Washington residents want wolves, said Dawson, a 70-year-old rancher whose son, Jeff, also runs a Stevens County cattle operation.

“I can’t fight that,” John Dawson said of public opinion. “You have to meet in the middle; you have no choice.

“We put most of our cattle in wolf territory for the summer,” he said. “I’ve been trying to learn as much as possible about wolves so we can meet them at the door.”

For ranchers, “it’s a new business now, a new world,” said Jay Kehne of Conservation Northwest, a Bellingham-based environmental group that works on issues across Washington and British Columbia.

Conservation Northwest supported last year’s controversial decision to remove the Wedge pack. “We wanted to do what we felt was scientifically right, what was supported by the evidence, what people knowledgeable about cattle and wolf behavior were telling us,” Kehne said.

But the organization obviously prefers preventive, nonlethal measures, he said. Conservation Northwest had talked to Alberta and Montana cattle ranchers who use range riders and was looking for Washington ranchers willing to try it. The Dawsons were interested.

Conservation Northwest helps finance three range riders in Washington – the Dawsons in Stevens County, and others in Cle Elem and Wenatchee.

Hiring a range rider costs $15,000 to $20,000 for the five-month grazing season, Kehne said. The state and individual ranchers, including Dawson, also contribute to the cost.

In addition, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife provides daily satellite downloads on GPS-collared wolves to help range riders manage the cows.

Collared wolves are known as “Judas wolves” for betraying the pack’s location.

The downloads give the wolves’ locations for the past 24 hours, though the system isn’t foolproof, said Jay Shepherd, a state wildlife conflict specialist. Dense stands of trees can block signals, and the timing of satellite orbits affects data collection.

Last winter, the state captured and collared three wolves in the Smackout pack. One of the collars has a radio-based signal that can be detected when the wolf is nearby. The other two wolves received GPS collars. One of the collars has stopped working. The remaining GPS collar is on a young male that doesn’t always stay with the pack.

Ranchers must sign an agreement to access the satellite downloads. “They understand it is sensitive data that’s not to be shared,” said Stephanie Simek, the state’s wildlife conflict section manager.

GPS tracking adds a high-tech element to modern range riding, but much of it is still grunt work. The Smackout pack’s territory covers about 400 square miles. John and Jeff Dawson’s cattle graze 10 to 15 percent of the pack’s territory, but their range encompasses the heart of it.

Leisa Hill’s work starts in early June, when the cows and calves are turned loose on Forest Service allotments and private pastures. The range riding continues through 100-degree August days and wraps up in early November after the first snowfall.

She travels nearly 1,000 miles each month by horse and ATV through thick timber to reach scattered grazing areas. She watches for bunched or nervous cows, as well as sick or injured animals that wolves might consider easy prey.

She’s also alert to patterns in the wolves’ movements. Regular visits to a particular site probably indicate the presence of a carcass.

Hill has fired noise-makers to scare off adult wolves that were in the same pasture as cows. Last year, she spotted four wolf pups on the road.

The 46-year-old prefers to stay in the background, declining to be interviewed for this story. However, “the success of this range rider program is because of Leisa,” her father said. “She knows the range and she understands cow psychology.”

Skinny calves mean a financial loss

On a recent fall morning, John Dawson drove a pickup over Forest Service roads past small clusters of Black Angus, Herefords and cream-colored Charolais cows with their calves.

The cows were just how he likes to see them: relaxed, spread out and eating. Calves should be putting on 2 to 3 pounds a day.

“When they’re not laying around, resting and eating, they’re not gaining,” he said.

Dawson heard his first wolf howl in 2011, the year before the range rider pilot started. He and his son lost seven calves that summer, though they couldn’t find the carcasses to determine cause of death.

The remaining calves were skinnier than usual. They probably spent the summer on the run from wolves, or tightly bunched together and not making good use of the forage, Dawson said. For ranchers, skinny calves can be a bigger financial blow than losing animals.

Say a rancher has 500 calves and they each come in 40 pounds lighter than normal. At a market price of $1.50 per pound, “that’s a bigger loss ($30,000) than losing seven calves, which is about a $5,000 loss,” he said.

Over the past two years, the Dawsons have seen robust weight gain in their calves. They credit the range rider program.

Earlier this year, Jeff Dawson and Shepherd, the state wildlife conflict specialist, talked with Klickitat County cattle ranchers. Wolves have been spotted in south-central Washington, and some of those ranchers are starting to experiment with range riders.

“The success the Dawsons have had has gone a long way to helping promote nonlethal means and proactive measures to reduce conflict,” said Jack Field, the Washington Cattlemen’s Association’s executive vice president.

If ranchers take extra steps to protect their animals, the public is more likely to accept the occasional need to kill wolves that repeatedly attack livestock, said Conservation Northwest’s Kehne.

John Dawson and his wife, Melva, spent decades building their ranch, working other jobs while they grew the herd. To preserve that legacy, the family was willing to try new ways of doing business, he said.

“I think (range riding) would work for a good share of other ranchers,” he said. But “they have to be open-minded enough to want it to work.”

WA Department of Fish & Wildlife supports wolf delisting

[This isn't all that surprising considering the attitude of the Washington Department of Wildlife Assistant Director quoted in an earlier post entitled, What Really Motivates a Hunter.]

by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 Newscopyrighted wolf in river
Posted on October 7, 2013

Four Washington State legislators are crafting a letter questioning the State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to support federal delisting of the gray wolf.

One of the four, Senator Kevin Ranker, said he was shocked a state agency would advocate dropping federal protection of wolves when a recent poll shows the vast majority of Washington State residents support it.

Wolves are currently protected under both the state and federal endangered species acts.

State Fish & Wildlife Director Phil Anderson argued the state protection is more than adequate and the federal listing only gets in the way of Washington State’s approved plan for wolf management. He said he has clearly stated on several occasions that WDFW supports federal delisting but is committed to protecting wolves until they fully recover in the state.

Ranker said he can find no evidence WDFW tried to gather public input before sending a manager to a hearing in Washington D.C. to formally support the delisting.

Anderson said the state has developed a comprehensive protection plan scientifically based on the state’s unique wolf population.

Hunter kills gray wolf in Pasayten Wilderness area


by admin on Oct 2, 2013

Photo courtesy of WDFW

Photo courtesy of WDFW

By Ann McCreary

A deer hunter shot and killed an endangered gray wolf north of Harts Pass last month, according to state and federal wildlife officials who are investigating the incident.

The hunter, who lives in the western part of the state, told state wildlife officials that he shot the wolf, an adult female, because he felt threatened.

“He felt he was in danger. He acted in self defense,” said Sgt. Dan Christensen of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The hunter called WDFW on Sept. 20 to report shooting the wolf, which is protected under federal law as an endangered species. Wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington state (west of Highway 97) are listed as a federally endangered, while wolves in the eastern one-third were removed from federal protection in 2011. Wolves throughout Washington are protected under state law as an endangered species.

Because the wolf was killed in an area of the Pasayten Wilderness where wolves are under federal protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  (FWS) officials are leading the investigation and collaborating with state officials, said spokesman Doug Zimmer.

Capt. Chris Anderson, of WDFW enforcement, said a group of four state and federal wildlife officials hiked on Sept. 22 to the site where the hunter reported shooting the wolf. He said the animal was a healthy adult female without a radio collar, and had been shot twice.

Christensen, who supervises wildlife enforcement for Okanogan and north Douglas counties, said he spoke with the hunter on the phone. The man said he was participating in the high buck hunt and was about five miles north of Slate Peak, not far from Silver Lake, when the wolf was shot on Sept. 19.

Christensen said the man was hunting with three companions from western Washington, but was alone when he encountered and shot the wolf. He called WDFW to “self-report” the next day, Christensen said.

Wildlife officials examined the dead wolf, took tissue samples and brought the hide back for examination and evidence, Christensen said. “There is no evidence” that the wolf is one of the wolves that has been monitored in the Lookout Pack territory, west of Twisp.

“We are assuming it was a lone female on a road trip,” Christensen said. “We have dispersing females just like we’ve had dispersing males. There were no signs of other members” of a pack, he said.

It will be up to federal investigators to determine if criminal charges related to killing an endangered species are warranted, said Christensen.

Also from the same paper:

State, feds consider changes in management of gray wolves

By Ann McCreary

Changes in the way endangered gray wolves are managed are being considered at both the state and federal levels.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider amending state wildlife interaction rules during a public meeting Friday (Oct. 4) in Olympia.

Those rules include conditions that allow ranchers and farmers to take lethal action to protect livestock from predators, including wolves, as well as for compensation for the loss of livestock killed by predators.

Amendments under consideration would:

• Make permanent an emergency rule that permits ranchers, farmers and other pet and livestock owners in the eastern third of the state to kill a wolf that is attacking their animals;

• Add sheep, goats, swine, donkeys, mules, llamas and alpacas to the list of animals livestock owners could be compensated for if those animals are killed by wolves. The current list only includes cattle, sheep and horses.

• Permit state compensation regardless of whether livestock owners were raising the animals for commercial purposes; and

• Compensate livestock owners for their losses at market value.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, will meet in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

On the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposes removing Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from wolves in most of the nation and has scheduled hearings around the country on the proposal.

The proposal affects wolves in Washington because, if enacted, it would remove federal protections for wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, where they are currently listed under the federal ESA. Wolves are currently protected as endangered under state law throughout Washington.

Several western conservation organizations have called on FWS to schedule more public hearings on the proposal, including hearings on the West Coast. Hearings were scheduled in Sacramento, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M, and Washington, D.C.

The Pacific Wolf Coalition, representing 34 conservation organizations, advocates scheduling additional public meetings in Washington, Oregon and California.