The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife intends to kill wolves in the Smackout Pack in Stevens County beginning this week to protect two ranchers’ cattle grazing on public land.
The department’s intention is to kill members of the pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Stevens County since 2015, said Jim Unsworth, the department’s director, in a news release.
The goal at this time is not to take out the entire pack. The department intends to assess results of incrementally killing the wolves before taking further action.
The decision to start killing pack members is consistent with policy set by the state’s wolf-management plan set in 2011, and in particular, policy that allows killing wolves that prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period.
That policy was developed last year by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, formed to represent the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.
The state’s pack-removal policy has split environmental groups, with some supporting the policy and others dead set against it
Others were outraged.
“The environmental community has been incredibly meek when it comes to this,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group. “This is outrageous. This is a cost of doing business: If you have cattle on public land, you suffer the losses.”
Critics, including Fahy, argue that the rugged, remote wild lands of the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington are perfect habitat for wolves, but not suited to livestock. “It’s high time we address this. It’s going to keep happening over and over. Get the cattle off the lands,” Fahy said. “Otherwise we are just going to be killing more and more wolves. We have to start the discussion.”
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Ranching has been a permitted use on national forest lands, including the Colville National Forest, for more than a century. The state’s wolf policy calls for coexistence of wolves and people, including livestock producers, on the landscape.
The Smackout pack is one of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. At that time, the pack was estimated to consist of eight wolves, but it has since produced an unknown number of pups.
The pack’s latest depredation on livestock was discovered Tuesday, when an employee of the livestock owner found an injured calf with bite marks consistent with a wolf attack in a leased federal grazing area.
During the previous month, the rancher reported to WDFW that his employee had caught two wolves in the act of attacking livestock and the employee killed one of them.
The killing of the wolf — a state protected species — is allowed under state law that empowers livestock owners and their employees to protect their livestock by killing up to one wolf in areas where wolves are no longer listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Smackout pack lives in the northeastern corner of the state, where wolves are not federally protected.
Wolves began their return to Washington in 2008 after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to local extinction. They are a state-protected species all over Washington — with exceptions to protect livestock — and are federally protected only in Western Washington. The state’s wolf population overall is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.
Martorello said both ranchers made efforts to protect their livestock using nonlethal deterrence. “Our goal is to change the pack’s behavior before the situation gets worse.”
Wolf recovery remains a very low risk to cattle ranching. Most packs in Washington do not kill livestock, even when sharing the landscape with cows and sheep, and very few cattle are documented as killed by wolves.
Most cattle are lost to accidents and illness and other causes not related to wildlife.
Mitch Friedman, executive director for Conservation Northwest, predicted more heartache as the state’s wolf population grows.
“We want a healthy wolf population and healthy wolf packs, and we don’t see a way that doesn’t involve occasional trauma like this,” Friedman said. “We have less than a handful of serious conflicts — that is a pretty good batting average. That is success even though every incident will be traumatic, for the rancher, and for the people who love wolves.”
The state will start killing wolves this week to protect ranchers’ cattle
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering several changes to hunting rules, including allowing the use of bait to hunt wolves.
July 17, 2017, at 10:45 a.m.
KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering several changes to hunting rules, including allowing the use of bait to hunt wolves.
The Idaho Mountain Express (http://bit.ly/2vu18Qt ) reported Friday the department is proposing the rule change in response to requests from hunters who want to use bait for hunting wolves outside of the black bear seasons.
Under current rules, wolves can be killed by hunters when they are attracted to bait set out for black bears, where hunting seasons are open for both black bear and wolf, but big game rules do not allow use of bait specific to hunting wolves.
The Department of Fish and Game is seeking public comment on the proposed changes until July 26.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
JULY 7, 2017
The bison are in rut at Alum Creek.
Two or three hundred of the shaggy beasts are crowded in the little valley. The bulls have left their normal bachelor groups and joined the big herds of cows and calves to parry each other for preferred mates. They are antsy, kicking up dust devils that swirl around them like brown mist.
I walk slowly up the creek to a group of five dark bison, three females and two males. One of the bulls looks ancient. His eyes are crusty, one of his black horns broken. He is large, but unsteady on his legs, which look too thin to support his bulk. He sucks breaths deeply and raggedly. His lower lip is extended and quivering as he approaches one of the young cows. He shakes his head, his tongue flicks repeatedly at the air, as if tasting the estrus.
As the old patriarch struggles to mount the cinnamon-colored female, a young bull rushes over, butts him in the side, nearly knocking him down. The young bull kicks at the ground, snorts aggressively. The old bull stands his ground for a moment, drool stringing from his mouth. Then finally he turns away from what will almost certainly be his last summer. He staggers downstream towards me, his head hung low, flies gathering at his eyes.
I am less than a mile from Yellowstone’s main road through the Hayden Valley, an artery thickly clogged with vans, mobile homes and the leather-and-chrome swarms of weekend motorcycle ganglets. There is no one else here in the pathway of the great herds. Even the metallic drone of the machines has faded so that I can hear the heavy breath of the bison in their annual ceremony of sexual potency.
Even bison, the very icon of the park, aren’t safe here in their last sanctuary. The shaggy bovines are victims of rancher panic and a gutless government. Like cattle and elk, bison can carry an infectious bacterium that leads to a disease called brucellosis which can, rarely, cause cows to abort fetuses. There’s no evidence that Yellowstone bison have transmitted the disease to Montana cattle, grazing cheaply on public lands near the park. But as a preventive strike, all bison that wander outside the boundaries of the park in search of forage during the deep snows of winter are confined in bison concentration camps, tested and either killed on site or shipped to slaughter-houses.
Not to worry. Ted Turner is coming to the rescue. I read in the morning paper that Turner is offering to liberate the bison quarantined at Corwin Springs, ship them to his 113,000 acre Flying D Ranch south of Bozeman, fatten them on his vast rangeland grasses and serve them up for $18 a plate at his restaurants.
Suddenly, the old bull turns my direction, angry and frustrated. He snorts, paws at hard dirt and feigns a charge.
I retreat and stumble south across the slope of stubborn sagebrush, over a rounded ridge and down into the Trout Creek valley, leaving the bison to settle their mating preferences in peace.
I’m leaking a little blood. The day before I took a nasty plunge down the mossy face of an andesite cliff at a beautiful waterfall in the Absaroka Mountains, ripping the nail off my big toe.
Each time my foot snags a rock an electric jolt stabs up my left leg. I stop at a at the crest of the ridge, find a spot clear of bison pies, and sit down. I ease off my boot and bloody sock, untwist the cap from a metal flask of icy water and pour it over my swollen toe, already turning an ugly black.
Even in late summer, the valley of Trout Creek is lush and green with tall grasses in striking contrast to the sere landscape of the ridges and the broad plain of the Hayden Valley. The creek itself is an object lesson in meander, circling itself like a loosely coiled rope on its reluctant path to the Yellowstone River. Once acclaimed for its cutthroat trout, the creek has been invaded by brookies, rainbows and brown trout—though these genetic intrusions are viewed with indifference by the great blue heron that is posing statuesquely in the reeds, waiting to strike.
Fifty years ago, Trout Creek was an entirely different kind of place. This valley was a dump, literally, and as such it was then thick with grizzly bears. The bears would assemble in the early evening, after the dump trucks had unloaded the day’s refuse from the migration of tourists to Fishing Bridge and Canyon and Tower Junction. Dozens of grizzlies would paw through the mounds of debris, becoming conditioned to the accidental kindness of an untrustworthy species.
The bears became concentrated at the dump sites and dependent on the food. This all came to a tragic end in 1968 when the Park Service decided to abruptly close the Trout Creek dump, despite warnings from bear biologists, Frank and John Craighead. Denied the easy pickings at the trash head that generations of bears had become habituated to, the Craigheads predicted that the grizzlies would begin wandering into campgrounds and developed sites in search of food. Such entanglements, the Craigheads warned, would prove fatal, mostly to the bears.
And so it came to pass. The dump-closure policy inaugurated a heinous decade of bear slaughter by the very agency charged with protecting the bruins. From 1968 to 1973, 190 grizzly bears in Yellowstone were killed by the Park Service, roughly a third of the known population. That’s the official tally. The real number may have been twice that amount, since the Park Service destroyed most of the bear incident reports from that era. Many bears died from tranquilizer overdoses and dozens of others were air-dropped outside the park boundaries only to be killed by state game officials.
The situation for the great bear has scarcely improved over the last forty years. There are more insidious ways to kill, mostly driven by the government’s continued lack of tolerance for the bear’s expansive nature. New park developments have fragmented its range, while cars, trashy campers, gun-totting tourists and back-country poachers rack up a grim toll. And now the climate itself is conspiring against the grizzly by inexorably burning out one of the bear’s main sources of seasonal protein, the whitebark pine.
Yellowstone is a closed system, a giant island. Genetic diversity is a real concern for Yellowstone’s isolated population of bears. So is the possibility of new diseases in a changing climate. The death rate of Yellowstone grizzlies has been climbing the last few years. The future is bleak. So, naturally, as one of its opening shots, the Trump and his wrecking crew move to delist the Yellowstone population from the Endangered Species Act, stripping the bear of its last legal leverage against the forces of extinction.
During the very week I was hobbling around Yellowstone one of Montana’s most famous grizzlies was found by a rancher, shot and killed on the Rocky Mountain Front near the small town of Augusta. He was a giant, non-confrontational bear who weighed more than 800 pounds and stood more than seven-and-a-half feet tall. He was beloved by grizzly watchers, who called him Maximus. His anonymous killer left his corpse to rot in a field of alfalfa in the August sun. The government exhibited only its routine apathy at this illegal and senseless slaying. Let us pray that the great bear’s DNA is widely disseminated across the Northern Rockies and that his killer meets with an even more painful and pitiless end.
I catch a flash of white circling above me. Osprey? Swainson’s hawk? I dig into my pack and extract my binoculars and am quickly distracted by a weird motion on the ridgeline across the valley. I glass the slope. Four legs are pawing frantically at the sky. It is a wolf, rolling vigorously on its back, coating its pelt in dirt, urine or shit. Something foul to us and irresistible to wild canids.
The wolf rolls over and shakes. Dust flies from his fur. He tilts his head, then rubs his neck and shoulders onto the ground. He shakes again, sits and scans the valley.
His coat is largely gray, but his chest is black streaked by a thin necklace of white fur. He presents the classic lean profile of the timber wolf. Perhaps he is a Yellowstone native. He was certainly born in the park. His neck is shackled by the tell-tale telemetry collar, a reminder that the wolves of Yellowstone are under constant surveillance by the federal wolf cops. He is a kind of cyber-wolf, on permanent parole, deprived of an essential element of wildness. The feds are charting nearly every step he takes. One false move, and he could, in the antiseptic language of the bureaucracy, be “removed,” as in erased, as in terminated.
This wolf is two, maybe three years old. His coat is thick, dark and shiny. There is no sign of the corrosive mange that is ravaging many of the Yellowstone packs, a disease, like distemper and the lethal parvo virus, vectoring into the park from domestic dogs.
It has been more than 20 years since thirty-one gray wolves were reintroduced into the park, under the Clinton administration’s camera-ready program. With great fanfare, Bruce Babbitt hand-delivered the Canadian timber wolves to their holding pens inside the high caldera. Of course, it was an open secret — vigorously denied by the Interior Department — that wolves had already returned to Yellowstone on their own—if, that is, they’d ever really vanished from the park despite the government’s ruthless eradication campaign that persisted for nearly a century.
These new wolves came with a fatal bureaucratic catch. Under Babbitt’s elastic interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, the wolves of Yellowstone were magically decreed to be a “non-essential, experimental population.” This sinister phrase means that the Yellowstone wolves were not to enjoy the full protections afforded to endangered species and could be harassed, drugged, transported or killed at the whim of federal wildlife bureaucrats. Deviously, this sanguinary rule was applied to all wolves in Yellowstone, even the natives.
The Yellowstone packs, both reintroduced and native, are doing well, but not well enough considering the lethal threats arrayed against them, even inside the supposedly sacrosanct perimeter of the park.
This young wolf might well be a member of the Canyon pack, a gregarious gang of four wolves frequently sighted at Mammoth Hot Springs on Yellowstone’s northern fringe, where they dine liberally on the elk that hang around the Inn, cabins and Park Headquarters. This close-up view of predation-in-action agitated the tourists and when the tourists are upset, the Park Service responds with a vengeance. The federal wolf cops were dispatched to deal with the happy marauders. When the wolves began stalking the elk, Park Service biologists lobbed cracker grenade shells at them and shot at the wolves with rubber bullets. Finally, the small pack left Mammoth for less hostile terrain, showing up this summer in the Hayden Valley, throbbing with elk and bison.
But the non-lethal warfare waged on the Canyon pack wolves came with a bloody price. The wolves lost their litter of pups, a troubling trend in Yellowstone these days. Pup mortality in Yellowstone is on the rise. Last year, on the northern range of the Park only eight pups survived. Several packs, including the Canyon and Leopold packs, produced no pups. Over the last few years, the wolf population inside the Park has dropped by 30 per cent. Even so, the Bush administration decided to strip the wolf of its meager protections under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho, opening the door for wolf hunting seasons in both states. Then Judge Donald Molloy, a no-nonsense Vietnam Vet, placed an injunction on the hunts and overturned the Bush administration delisting order.
Revoltingly, the Obama administration redrafted the Bush wolf-killing plan and again stripped the wolf of its protections under the Endangered Species Act. So now both Montana and Idaho are set to kill hundreds of wolves each in state authorized hunts—unless Judge Molloy once again intervenes to halt the killings. Both states have brazenly threatened to defy the court if Judge Molloy rules in favor of the wolf. The putatively progressive governor of Montana at the time, Brian Schweitzer, was especially bellicose on the matter, vowing: “If some old judge says we can’t hunt wolves, we’ll take it back to another judge.”
In Idaho, the state plans to allow 220 wolves to be killed in its annual hunt and more than 6,000 wolf gunners have bought tags for the opportunity to participate in the slaughter. Up near Fairflied, Idaho rancher vigilantes are taking matters into their own hands. Six wolves from the Solider Mountain pack in the wilds of central Idaho were killed, probably from eating a carcass laced with poison. Don’t expect justice for these wolves. Rex Rammell, a Republican from Idaho, has placed wolf eradication at the top of his political agenda. Rammell also made repeated quips about getting a hunting tag for Obama. After catching some heat for this boast, Rammell sent out a clarifying Tweet: “Anyone who understands the law, knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington, D.C.” Welcome to Idaho, where Sarah Palin got educated.
Across the valley, the wolf is standing rigid, his ears pricked by the bickering of a group of ravens below him on the far bank of Trout Creek. He moves slowly down the slope, stepping gingerly through the sagebrush. He stops at one of the looping meanders, wades into the water and swims downstream. He slides into the tall grass and then playfully leaps out, startling the ravens, who have been busy gleaning a bison carcass. Earlier in the morning a mother grizzly and two cubs had feasted here, I later learned from a Park biologist. Perhaps the Canyon wolves had made the kill, only to be driven away by a persuasive bear. Perhaps it was an old bull, killed during the rut.
The wolf raises his leg and pisses on the grass near the kill site. He sniffs the ground and paces around the remains. Then he rolls again, twisting his body violently in mud near the bison hide and bones. The ravens return, pestering and chiding the wolf. He dismisses their antics and grabs a bone in his mouth.
I lurch down the hillside for a better view, bang my aching foot on a shard of basalt and squeal, “Fuck!”
The wolf’s ears stiffen again. He stares at me, bares his teeth, growls and sprints up and over the ridge, his mouth still clamped tightly on the prized bone, and down into the Alum valley, where he disappears into the dancing dust of mating bison.
This essay is excerpted from Heatstroke: Earth On the Brink, forthcoming soon from CounterPunch Books.
The puppies were born in Thurston County Animal Services’ custody after the adult animals were seized following the attack, said Animal Services Director Ric Torgerson.
“Typically, in a lot of these situations, they end up euthanized,” Torgerson said. “It’s hard to find homes for them. They were lucky in this case.”
Torgerson said tests confirm that the female is 100 percent wolf, and the male is a malamute. That makes the puppies a wolf-dog hybrid.
“In this state, wolf hybrids are considered to be dogs, but they behave differently than dogs in many situations,” Torgerson said.
It’s not legal in Washington to privately own or breed wolves.
But the animals’ former owner, Rick Miracle, said the female, named Cheyenne, isn’t a full-blooded wolf. He calls her a “high-content wolf-dog,” and said that her wolf content is so high that the dog portion wouldn’t register on a test. He said that Cheyenne isn’t mean, she’s just extremely food-motivated.
“She’s not aggressive in a mean way,” Miracle said. “She just liked food.”
He believes that the boy was trying to feed Cheyenne a piece of pizza when he was attacked.
The malamute is named Ed, he said.
A Thurston County Sheriff’s Office report says deputies responded to Miracle’s home, located on the 7000 block of Meridian Road Southeast, at about 3:15 p.m. April 3. Multiple people had called 911 and reported that an animal had bitten off part of a child’s arm.
The boy was flown to Harborview Medical Center and survived his injuries. Information about the boy is limited because he is a minor. However, the Sheriff’s Office report requested that Child Protective Services be contacted regarding the incident.
“Entering the property, I could see that there was a large wooden cage with metal wiring just outside of the main entrance of the property, inside the fenced area,” wrote Deputy Evan Cofer in his report. “Inside the cage were two wolf/malamute breed dogs. At the entrance to the cage was a large amount of blood where one of the two animals has bitten (the child’s) lower right arm off. There was a blood trail from the cage leading into the house.”
Miracle told deputies he had been renting a room to the boy and his mother, a 31-year-old Thurston County woman. The woman reported that she was in her bedroom at the time of the attack, and she thought one of the other tenants was watching the child. The other tenant had been in her own bedroom, according to the report.
No adults witnessed the attack.
Miracle told deputies that he warned both the child and his mother to stay away from the cage, according to court documents.
Ed and Cheyenne, who was pregnant at the time of the attack, spent all of their time in a large enclosure on Miracle’s property. Their former owner said it wasn’t because they posed a risk to humans.
“It’s not that I think my dogs are dangerous,” Miracle said. “It’s that they’re animals. An animal is unpredictable no matter what.”
However, Miracle said he has a German shepherd that is allowed to roam his property.
Ed and Cheyenne aren’t the first of Miracle’s animals to end up at a sanctuary. Angel, Zoe and Lakota reside at Wolf Haven International, located near Tenino. State law allows wolves to reside at sanctuaries like Wolf Haven.
Wolf Haven’s website describes Lakota as a “male gray wolf who was privately owned in Washington state. After he escaped from his backyard enclosure and ran through a nearby town, Lakota was nearly euthanized.”
A blog post penned by Wolf Haven’s Communications Director Kim Young and Sanctuary Director Wendy Spencer explained that both Angel and Zoe were rescued from “deplorable conditions” earlier this year.
The post alleges that Angel was purchased by a local wolf-dog breeder, and that he decided to “get rid of her” after she went six years without producing offspring. Zoe was the runt of an unrelated half-wolf litter and was housed with her mother. The two animals fought for dominance, the post says.
Miracle said the animals were his, and he always took good care of them. He said he gave Angel, Zoe and Lakota to Wolf Haven “because they really wanted them.”
But why breed wolf-dogs? Miracle said he had one as a boy, and it was a wonderful animal. When he moved from Georgia to Washington state several years ago, breeding wolf-dogs seemed like the right fit.
“When I think of the Northwest, I think of living free and John Denver,” Miracle said. “My intention was never to be the guy who stuck out like a sore thumb and got all this attention.”
- Rich Landers Spokesman-Review
- Jun 18, 2017
SPOKANE — For the second consecutive year, a Spokane man’s motion-activated trail camera has captured an image of what appears to be a gray wolf in Mount Spokane State Park. Wolves are protected by state rules as endangered species in Washington.
The photo gives more credence to sightings of wolves and wolf tracks that cross-country skiers have been reporting with more frequency for several years.
However, Washington wolf biologists have not confirmed the sightings as anything more than wolves passing through.
The most recent image was captured at 11:58 a.m. on March 30 by a trail cam. Hank Seipp said he just retrieved the images this week because he doesn’t ski and had to wait until mountain snow had melted. The camera was set up just outside of the downhill ski area, he said.
Seipp, who put out a trail cam that photographed a darker wolf last summer near the Nordic skiing trails, also snapped recent photos of tracks in the mud and scats that also appear to be from a wolf.
“We have not been able to confirm any pack activity at Mount Spokane despite the fact that we have been running cameras in that area for a couple of years now,” said Trent Roussin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist.
“We do occasionally get a photo of a disperser traveling through, but have yet to document multiple individuals traveling together or consistent use of the area, both of which are indicators of any potential pack activity.”
“A radio-collared wolf that came through Mount Spokane a few years ago was from the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.
Roussin said the department is interested in any information the public can offer about wolf activity that might lead to confirmation of a new pack.
Gray wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies with releases in Yellowstone and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996. However, wolves already were moving in on their own from Canada, most notably into Glacier National Park.
The wolves recolonizing Washington stem from wolves dispersing for more than a decade from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Canada.
The wolves are thriving, agency officials say, expanding on their population from a few scattered sightings approximately 13 years ago to 19 confirmed packs in Washington at the end of 2016.
Wolves are protected by federal endangered species protections in the western two-thirds of Washington. Wolves in the eastern third of Washington, as well as in Idaho and Montana, have been federally declassified.
However, wolves are protected statewide by Washington’s endangered species rules and managed by a citizen-drafted wolf management plan that establishes guidelines for their recovery and eventual declassification.
Once a threshold of packs is achieved in regions across the state, wolves would be open to more management options, much as they are in Idaho, including the possibility of limited hunting.
The bulk of Washington’s wolf packs currently are in the northeastern corner of the state.
Steve Christensen, Mount Spokane State Park manager, reacted to last year’s wolf photo by looking at the positive side: “Now there’s one more reason for people to keep their dogs on leash while in the park.”
Confirmation of wolves in the Mount Spokane area serves as another warning for people living outside the park to be more proactive and protective of their pets and domestic animals, state wildlife managers say. Information can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
“We have not had any confirmed wolf depredations around Mount Spokane, and really haven’t gotten many, if any, reports of any problems caused by wolves,” Roussin said.
“I think it is safe to say that wolves from both Washington and Idaho could occasionally be roaming in Mount Spokane State Park. We know that dispersers can disperse at any time of the year, and could really be anywhere.”
|Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This image is available for media use.|
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
COURTESY OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission heard from dozens of people with diametrically opposed views when it took its wolf plan review on the road to hearings in Klamath Falls and Portland this spring. When the commission sits down with ODFW staff June 8 in Salem, members will sift those viewpoints with their own to determine how the state will manage a top predator that wasn’t here when the plan was first adopted a dozen years ago. Adoption of a five-year plan is expected late this year.
Potential changes are on the distant horizon. Ultimately, the state will decide whether wolves are hunted like cougars and bears, whether USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Services — loathed by conservation groups — will investigate livestock attacks, whether to give livestock producers more leeway to kill wolves, whether to set population caps, and more.
A glimpse of where Oregon’s wolf management may be headed in years to come might be found in Idaho, which was the source of the first wolves to enter Oregon and has much more experience balancing the presence of an apex predator with the interests and economic well-being of hunters and livestock producers.
Idaho has an estimated 800 wolves — probably more — and has actively managed them since federal officials took wolves off the endangered species list statewide in 2011.
Compared to Oregon, which documented 112 wolves at the end of 2016, Idaho’s numbers are staggering.
In 2015, hunters and trappers legally killed 256 wolves in Idaho, the same number as in 2014. Another 75 wolves were “lethally controlled.” Of those, 54 were killed in response to livestock depredations or by producers protecting herds. Another 21 wolves were taken out to protect deer and elk populations in Northern Idaho.
In all, Idaho documented 358 wolf deaths in 2015; two fewer than in 2014. Figures for 2016 were not available.
According to Idaho Fish and Game, the number of sheep and cattle killed by wolves has been “stable to declining” since the state began allowing hunting in 2009. In 2015, wolves killed 44 cattle, 134 sheep, three dogs and a horse.
Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore has described Idaho’s wolf population as healthy and sustainable.
Department spokesman Mike Keckler said the state has proven it can manage wolves in balance with livestock and prey species.
“There’s no doubt state management of wolves has been a success in Idaho,” Keckler said. “We remove wolves when they cause problems, we’re not afraid to do that. We move quickly when problems occur.”
The thought of Oregon adopting such an attitude doesn’t sit well with conservation groups.
“This is not Idaho,” Cascadia Wildlands legal director Nick Cady said pointedly during ODFW’s May 19 hearing in Portland.
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild warn the state shouldn’t loosen its wolf management rules. Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild’s field coordinator in Northeast Oregon, said Oregon’s adherence to its adopted plan was one of the reasons there wasn’t more of an outcry when the department shot four members of the Imnaha Pack in 2016.
During the Klamath Falls and Portland ODFW hearings, representatives from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Hunters Association and Oregon Farm Bureau urged changes.
Among other things, producers say ODFW staff is spread too thin and sometimes can’t respond quickly to wolf attacks. They favor allowing Wildlife Services to investigate livestock attacks as well, and make the call on whether wolves were responsible. They oppose a draft plan proposal to change the lethal control standard to three confirmed depredations or one confirmed and four “probable” attacks within a 12 month period. The current standard is two confirmed depredations or one confirmed and three attempted attacks, with no time period set.
Todd Nash, a Wallowa County commissioner and the Cattlemen’s Association wolf chair, said a neighbor has eight cows. If wolves kill three in one night, he asked during the Portland hearing, does the producer have to endure two more attacks before lethal control is taken?
The groups also believe ODFW should continue collaring wolves, and should set a population cap for wolves in Oregon.
ODFW Director Curt Melcher said the commission heard good points from all sides.
“Even though folks don’t agree, they all got along just fine,” he said. “It was a respectful process. The other remarkable thing is that nobody is saying there shouldn’t be any wolves in Oregon. That wasn’t the case not too long ago. Everybody recognizes we’re going to have wolves in Oregon and we’re going to have to manage them.”
The draft plan allows killing wolves for chronic depredation of livestock and in localized cases where they’re depleting deer and elk populations. Eventually, Melcher said Oregon might reach a point in the future where hunting becomes a part of wolf population management, as it is with other game animals. He said the original plan drafters also anticipated wolf management, including lethal control, becoming more routine. It is logical for Wildlife Services to help on depredation investigations he said. As wolves increase in number and geographical range, investigations become a workload management issue for ODFW, he said.
“I think we’ve done a good job so far,” he said. “We’ve navigated through potentially difficult waters and in large part have done it efficiently.”
ENTERPRISE, Ore. – The breeding female from an Oregon wolf pack was found dead earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
OR42 from the Chesnimnus Pack was found dead in Wallowa County in early May, ODFW said in a press release Tuesday.
“A preliminary forensic examination did not identify a cause of death and no foul play is suspected at this time,” the agency said in the statement. “However, it is still under investigation and additional laboratory tests are being conducted.”
OR42 had her radio collar replaced in February 2017.
Two other wolves in the pack have collars that allow biologists to track their movements.