Wolves get comfortable with Mount Spokane


  • 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.”

Washington Wildlife Officials Too Quick to Kill Wolves


OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials late Thursday released a new protocol that would allow wolves to be killed too soon after incidents with livestock and without enough oversight.

The new “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” guides when the agency will move to kill wolves in response to livestock depredations. Conservation groups are concerned that the protocol allows wolves to be killed under dubious circumstances and lacks sufficient requirements for ranchers to exhaust nonlethal measures.

“This protocol fails to protect the state’s small wolf population or prioritize scientifically proven nonlethal measures to safeguard livestock,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife officials should have left much more room for nonlethal measures and allowed for occasional livestock losses. Washington needs to protect its recovering wolf population — not make it easier to kill these amazing animals.”

Under the new protocol, a kill order for wolves is considered after three depredations (deaths or injury to livestock) in 30 days or four depredations in 10 months. Affected livestock owners are required to have tried at least two proactive measures to deter conflicts with wolves at the time the livestock losses took place, but there’s no requirement in terms of how long the measures must have been in place to determine if they have been effective.

This protocol would allow wolves to be killed even for livestock deaths not confirmed as caused by wolves; provides for the same threshold for killing wolves on public lands as on private lands; and does not have stringent requirements for keeping livestock away from known den and rendezvous sites where wolves raise their pups. There is also no requirement, only a recommendation, for human presence near livestock, despite it being one of the most effective means known to deter wolf-livestock conflicts.

The new protocol does increase the number of nonlethal measures required under last year’s protocol by one, and does indicate that if nonlethal measures are not in place long enough in advance of a depredation, the Department will only consider issuing a kill order for wolves at a higher number of events and after nonlethal measures have been tried and failed. The protocol also acknowledges the Department has a responsibility to manage wildlife in trust for the citizens of Washington, and not just on behalf of any one special-interest group. The Department has been increasing its outreach efforts to livestock owners, to seek voluntary implementation of conflict-deterrence measures.

“Sadly, this protocol is setting Washingtonians up to foot the bill for even more ill-advised, scientifically unjustified and extraordinarily costly wolf-killing operations in 2017 at the expense of wolf recovery,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Although certain provisions are an improvement over last year’s protocol, it is worse in others, and does not provide the stringent requirements that a legally binding rule resulting from an official public process provides, nor the accountability and public disclosure that the public deserves.”

Under last year’s protocol, the state killed nearly an entire wolf pack, the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County, despite failure by state Fish and Wildlife staff and a livestock owner to use appropriate nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures to prevent conflicts in the first place or to take adequate responsive measures to halt the conflicts. Four years earlier the state had killed another wolf pack on behalf of the same livestock owner, despite his refusal to use conflict deterrents. The cost to taxpayers was $74,500 to kill the Wedge pack in 2012, and more than $135,000 to kill members of the Profanity Peak wolf family in 2016.

The Profanity Peak pack kill operation lasted nearly 11 weeks and resulted in the deaths of seven of the pack’s 12 members, including the breeding female, a three-and-a-half to four-month-old pup and one female who was mortally wounded but not located and put out of her misery until three days after first having been shot. The public was outraged and called for a massive overhaul of the protocol, no more killing of wolves on public lands, and management actions aimed at conserving wolves instead of capitulating to the livestock industry.

This year’s protocol, and last year’s, were both crafted with input from a state Wolf Advisory Group, a stakeholder group convened by the Department of Fish and Wildlife that includes agency staff and some representatives of the ranching, hunting and conservation communities. However, the advisory group’s composition does not represent the diversity of views of Washington residents. Additionally, its role in helping the state craft wolf-management policies and protocols does not have the same requirements as regulations formally adopted by the state wildlife commission to provide notice to the public, opportunity to review a draft document and then submit written comments or provide testimony on the document, along with a requirement that public comments and testimony be considered before the protocol is finalized. The new protocol released today was not circulated to the public for review before being finalized.

Diamond pack wolf

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.

Portland howls for the future of Oregon wolves (Guest opinion)


A wolf pack is pictured earlier this year on a remote camera in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
A wolf pack is pictured earlier this year on a remote camera in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.(Courtesy of ODFW)

By Quinn Read

Wolves were once abundant throughout Oregon, but by the 1940s they were wiped out by hunters, poisoning campaigns and bounties. Thanks to conservation efforts by a variety of local, state and federal agencies and organizations, wolves are making a comeback in Oregon. Yet a draft plan threatens to turn back the clock on wolf recovery by weakening protections and opening the door to hunting and trapping.

At a public hearing in Portland on May 19, Oregonians can weigh in on the draft Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which will guide how wolves are managed in the state for at least the next five years. Since wolves were removed from Oregon’s endangered species list a year ago, the wolf population appears to have stagnated. This year’s Oregon wolf count shows three fewer breeding pairs and one fewer pack in the state, though severe weather made surveying difficult. These numbers show we cannot take wolf recovery in Oregon for granted.

The draft Wolf Plan is heading in the wrong direction. It ignores the impacts of wolf poaching in the state and includes terms requested by hunting proponents as “a foot in the door” for a future general wolf hunting season. The draft would allow private hunters and trappers to carry out state-sanctioned killings of wolves to address so-called chronic livestock depredations. This means three or more livestock deaths caused by wolves within a year, but the new policy would also include a lower standard for determining whether livestock deaths were caused by wolves. Moreover, the state could issue permits to kill wolves if there are declines in elk and deer populations, even when wolves are not the primary reason for these declines. This is a clear departure from what the majority of Oregonians want for wolves in our state.

The draft Wolf Plan does have some promising components, including expanded descriptions of non-lethal tools such as livestock-guarding dogs and fencing to minimize wolf-livestock conflicts, detailed direction to reinitiate state protections when wolf populations decline, and the formation of a citizen advisory group to foster ongoing communication and collaboration among stakeholders.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission should reject proposals that make it easier for the public to kill wolves, and should instead focus on new data, scientific research and lessons learned in Oregon. Oregon is a national leader in wolf recovery and has documented fewer wolf-livestock conflicts than any other wolf-occupied state in the nation. The updated Wolf Plan should reflect our conservation leadership and strengthen – not weaken – requirements for the use of non-lethal coexistence tools. Oregonians have a unique opportunity to speak out on behalf of wolves. Let’s not slide backwards towards a culture that favors killing wolves over protecting them.

Quinn Read is a northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

WSU wolf researcher appears to be partly cleared of misconduct

Robert Wielgus is director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory at Washington State University.   (Kay Morris)
Robert Wielgus is director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory at Washington State University. (Kay Morris)

WILDLIFE — A professor who filed a complaint alleging his employer, Washington State University, has retaliated against him for making remarks critical of a cattle rancher and the state’s killing of a wolf pack appears to have been cleared of accusations by the university that he misused state resources by using his WSU email for lobbying activities.

Robert Wielgus filed a complaint about his treatment by the university last week.

Other news stories related to the wolf researcher’s work and opinions include:

Here’s the latest from Shanon Quinn of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP:

While professor Wielgus was not mentioned by name, an internal audit report included in today’s WSU Board of Regents meeting packet appears to have cleared Wielgus of the accusation. The report, however, states investigators did discover evidence that his use of email may have been a misuse of state resources in “regard to the content of the messaging and repeated recommendations from management to use private resources related to the activity in questions.”

In his April 27 complaint, Wielgus alleged the university seriously damaged his academic career through the unwarranted use of suppression, condemnation and reprisal after he told the Seattle Times and other media outlets that rancher Len McIrvin intentionally released his livestock directly on top of a wolf den site, leading to cattle loss and the state responding by eliminating the pack. He later repeated the accusations to the Wolf Advisory Group in March.

Wielgus alleged the investigations into lobbying and improper use of state resources were “erroneous and arguably malicious.”

The WSU report findings did not mention Wielgus by name, but his attorney, Adam Carlesco of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the item appeared to be Wielgus’ case.

According to a document from the Washington State Executive Ethics Board, uses of email are restricted for state employees, with misuse defined as conducting an outside business; engaging in political or campaign activities; advertising or selling products; solicitation on behalf of other persons unless approved by the agency head; and illegal or inappropriate activities, including harassment.

Carlesco said he takes issue with the charge of misuse of state resources.

“Dr. Wielgus sent over a single email containing data concerning wolf depredation … to the Washington Wolf Advisory Group, a group that he has been professionally involved with for 4 years, on a subject matter where he was appointed by the WA Legislature as the primary researcher through WSU,” Carlesco wrote in an email to the Daily News.

Carlesco said the email contained a recommendation from a rancher to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on how to avoid conflict between wolves and livestock.

“He included a blatant disclaimer that his comments did not represent WSU and got approval from the Dean of the College of Agriculture and the school’s media affairs office to send out the message,” Carlesco wrote.

He wrote it was not until after the email was sent that Wielgus was instructed by the university to use his personal email address for such matters.

“We have the email chain showing as much,” he said.

Researcher files complaint against WSU

WSU’s leading wolf expert Robert Wielgus filed a complaint today detailing harassment and threats from WSU administrators following his public statements about wolf killings in the fall.

Wielgus is a WSU professor and director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory. Wielgus’ research has been considered in the drafting and implementation of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and he is an adviser to the state’s Wolf Advisory Group, according to the complaint.

The 12-page complaint, sent to the WSU Faculty Status Committee by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) on Friday, urges the Faculty Senate committee to investigate the actions of WSU administrators against the professor’s academic freedom and recommend disciplinary actions for the administrators.

Adam Carlesco, PEER staff counsel and the author of the complaint, said he has not yet received a response from the committee. Robert Rosenman, co-chair of the Faculty Status Committee, said all investigations by the committee are confidential, according to their bylaws.

Faculty Senate Chair A.G. Rud said he plans to talk to the Senate executive committee about this next week.

“I am not holding out a tremendous amount of hope that the Senate will do its job [in evaluating the complaint],” Carlesco said.

Carlesco said that according to the WSU Faculty Manual, there must initially be internal discussions in this process, which Wielgus already had with College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) Dean Ron Mittelhammer.

“[Wielgus’s] protestations fell on deaf ears,” Carlesco said.

WSU News Director Rob Strenge declined to comment and said this is a CAHNRS faculty issue.

Marta Coursey, CAHNRS communication director, said this is a personnel matter and, according to policy, the college doesn’t publicly discuss personnel issues in order to protect WSU faculty and staff confidentiality and privacy.

“CAHNRS administration is currently reviewing Dr. Wielgus’ communications and performance with respect to his roles and responsibilities as a WSU faculty member,” Coursey said.

Carlesco said WSU officials and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) researchers had a verbal agreement to shut down Wielgus’s lab and give the research funding to the University of Washington.

“Litigation is not out of the picture on this matter,” Carlesco said.

The official complaint alleges 10 violations committed by WSU President Kirk Schulz, Mittelhammer and CAHNRS Associate Dean Jim Moyer, mainly following two public statements Wielgus made in the past year about wolf pack killings in Northeast Washington.

The first statement was about the killing of a gray wolf pack by the WDFW at Profanity Peak in August. Wielgus criticized a rancher in the area, whom the professor said released his cattle on top of the Profanity Peak wolf pack’s den. Wilegus argued that the wolf pack’s death could have been avoided, and that the rancher refused to cooperate with his lab or the WDFW in avoiding such confrontations, according to the complaint.

Wielgus said his comments about this created a “firestorm,” according to a Daily Evergreen article. WSU disavowed his comments, stating the rancher did not release his cattle onto the wolf den, but four miles from it, and that the rancher cooperated with WDFW. The university publicly accused Wielgus of “inaccurate and inappropriate” statements in a news release.

Wielgus made the second statement when recommending wolf preservation pratices to the Wolf Advisory Group in March. The university alleged that this qualified as illegal lobbying activity because he sent it from his WSU email address.

One of the 10 violations listed in the complaint states that CAHNRS administrators and Schulz approved funding restrictions denying Wielgus summer funding or grant research money for his lab.

According to the complaint, there is no reasonable way under the Faculty Manual’s academic freedom policy to reconcile the administrators’ actions, which the complaint alleges were motivated by political pressure.

In 2013, Moyer made it clear that Wielgus was considered a political target of state Rep. Joel Kretz (R), the livestock industry, and possibly the WSU College of Agriculture, according to the complaint.

On Aug. 23, 2014, a female member of the Huckleberry wolf pack in Northeast Washington was shot and killed by a WDFW-hired marksman, as the pack had been preying on a flock of 1,800 sheep, according to the WDFW website.

According to the complaint, Gov. Jay Inslee then asked Wielgus for clarification on the inconsistencies in the reports published by the WDFW on the matter and others who were involved. In briefing Inslee’s office on his findings, Wielgus showed the misrepresentations the WDFW made in its reports, causing several of the department’s officials to resign.

After Wielgus presented his research to the legislature in 2015, Kretz told former WSU President Elson S. Floyd that he wanted to shut down Wielgus’ lab and stop its research, according to the complaint. Kretz introduced a provision to a bill that led to less funding for the lab, according to the complaint.

Brendon Wold, Kretz’s public information officer, declined to comment.

Carlesco said there is “ample precedent” for WSU suppressing a professor’s first amendment rights, bringing up a case filed in 2013, according to the case publication.

Wielgus stated in the complaint that he would like the matter settled amicably without resorting to litigation. For now, Wielgus said he is not commenting on the matter himself.



WA lawmakers OK new way to deter wolves


Washington lawmakers thrust Department of Agriculture into new campaign to prevent wolves from killing cattle in Ferry, Stevens, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties.
Don JenkinsCapital Press

Published on April 20, 2017 9:11AM

Washington lawmakers thrust Department of Agriculture into new campaign to prevent wolves from killing cattle in Ferry, Stevens, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties.


Washington lawmakers thrust Department of Agriculture into new campaign to prevent wolves from killing cattle in Ferry, Stevens, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties.

OLYMPIA — A bill creating a new program to prevent wolves from attacking livestock in northeast Washington has been sent by lawmakers to Gov. Jay Inslee.

House Bill 2126 directs the state Department of Agriculture and conservation district board members in Ferry, Okanogan, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to oversee the awarding of money to nonprofit groups to protect herds, including by hiring range riders. The groups would be required to consult with resource agencies such as the Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service.

HB 2126 proponents hope locally organized efforts to prevent depredations will be efficient and gain acceptance among producers.

“It needs to be a community-based approach where ranchers up here are largely steering the boat,” said Jay Shepherd of Conservation Northwest, an environmental group active in wolf recovery.

The program would be in addition to WDFW’s depredation-prevention program. Some ranchers have been reluctant to enter into formal agreements with WDFW.

The bill would assign to the state agriculture department for the first time a role in reducing livestock losses to wolves. WSDA stayed neutral on the bill because it wasn’t in the governor’s budget proposal, but will carry out the legislation if signed by Inslee, a department spokesman said.

The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. It’s unknown how much money would be available to deploy new deterrence measures. The Legislature has not set aside money to fund the program. The bill creates an account in which grants, donations and state appropriations can be deposited.

“This is an important bill that will help us resolve the issue in wolf country,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Aberdeen Democrat Brian Blake, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. “It creates a pot to put contributions into to help fund the efforts to keep wolves and people and livestock separate.”

Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen, who’s also vice president of the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association, said he liked the bill’s intent to involve local residents in making decisions.

But he said that he feared a new program could be used to justify delaying lethal removal of wolves in some cases. Ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves were using non-lethal deterrence measures, he said.

“We already know it has real limited effects,” Nielsen said. “I don’t know that there needs to be more money thrown at it.”

The Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages wolves, supported the bill.

“We think this is a good approach because it is community based and will increase the uptake of these tools and help reduce the loss of livestock and ultimately the loss of wolves,” WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said.

Wolf management idea makes sense

[Consider the source]:


March 23, 2017 9:51AM

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers are offering an idea they believe would help them manage wolves more effectively.


Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers are offering an idea they believe would help them manage wolves more effectively.

If one follows the wolf issue long enough, occasionally a nugget of common sense appears.

Such is the case with a recent suggestion the folks at the Washington State Department of Fish and wildlife offered. Speaking during a conference call with the state Wolf Advisory Group, WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello offered this idea: that dead livestock be considered “qualifying” victims of wolves if the time, circumstance and location of their deaths parallel other confirmed depredations.

In other words, if a carcass is found near those of other wolf victims but scavengers have destroyed the evidence directly linking the attack to wolves, state wildlife managers could label it a “qualifying” attack.

Previously, such cases were considered “probable” attacks and were not counted against a wolfpack. Under the Washington wolf plan, managers can kill only wolves that are responsible for four confirmed depredations within a year.

While this may seem to be a bureaucratic splitting of hairs, it’s critically important for managing wolves. Under the new idea, if wolves are found to be responsible for four depredations, including any that are “qualifying,” managers could take steps to get rid of the wolves.

A study found wolfpacks that are thinned soon after attacking cattle or sheep get the message that attacking livestock is unacceptable. By including qualifying attacks, managers could act quicker to thin the ranks of wolves instead of waiting weeks or months for another confirmed depredation.

If managers thin a wolfpack after a long period of time, the wolves have no idea whether it is linked to a depredation, according to the study.

The idea is to manage wolves in a way that is both effective and assures ranchers and others that each step is effective.

That in itself is good reason for the department to adopt such a common sense rule.

It’s also something wolf managers in other states would do well to consider.

The state Wolf Advisory Group will discuss the idea during a March 29-30 meeting in Olympia. We urge the group to take a close look at it, as common sense can be a rare commodity when dealing with wolves.

Growing wolf packs leads state to consider changes in kill policy

WENATCHEE, Wash. — The number of wolves in Washington grew to at least 115 last year — up by about 25 animals — and the agency that keeps tabs on them will soon consider changes to make it easier to kill wolves that attack livestock.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife released its annual gray wolf status report on Friday, and although the number of conflicts with livestock was not unusual, the agency hopes to find a better way to handle repeated wolf attacks by the same pack. Last summer, the Profanity Peak Pack killed or injured at least 10 cattle, and Fish and Wildlife officials killed seven pack members before the problem was resolved.

This year’s annual report shows that all of the state’s wolves are living on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, and three packs — the Lookout Pack near Twisp, the Teanaway Pack south of Wenatchee, and the Loup Loup Pack west of Okanogan — are in North Central Washington. Fifteen of the state’s 20 packs are in the northeast corner of the state, and half of the packs have a breeding pair, the agency’s report said.

The report also documented that last year wolves killed nine cattle, injured six and were probably responsible for killing six more.

On the flip side, 14 wolves died last year — half of them members of the Profanity Peak Pack, which were killed by state Fish and Wildlife officials after repeated attacks on cattle belonging to two ranchers.

Next week, agency officials will meet with the Wolf Advisory Group and attempt to agree on a new protocol for when the state will kill wolves that attacked livestock.

It’s not that last year’s conflicts were unexpected or higher than anticipated, said Donny Martorello, the agency’s wolf policy lead.

“There are no surprises” in the annual report or in last year’s numbers, he said.

But there may be a better way to handle problem wolves and prevent a repeat of last summer’s conflicts on the Colville National Forest, which, after three months, left 15 dead or injured cattle and led to killing seven of the 11 members of the Profanity Peak Pack.

The 18-member Wolf Advisory Group includes citizen members from several perspectives that includes ranchers and animal conservation organizations. Martorello said even before issues were raised over handling of the Profanity Peak Pack, the group had planned to revisit the agency’s protocols for when to kill wolves and to adapt to changes as they come up.

“All of us are looking for ways to help reduce the amount of conflict so fewer livestock die and fewer wolves die. Those are the common interests,” he said.

Livestock owners are already working to prevent conflicts using fencing, hazing, guard dogs and range riders to reduce the likelihood of a first incident.

Martorello said that although almost all of the state’s wolf territories overlap with livestock range land, 80 percent of them had no conflicts with domestic animals. Judging by wolf-livestock conflicts in other states, it’s not unusual to see 20 percent of the packs involved in attacks on livestock, he added.

Part of the discussion on a possible new wolf protocol will be whether to change the current policy, which now says that the agency will consider killing wolves after there are four confirmed attacks on livestock. Martorello said they will look at adding probable attacks — not just confirmed attacks — that include just one confirmed kill.

The suggestion is based, in part, on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study concluding that killing part of a pack works best to deter continued livestock attacks when it’s done within a week of the conflict. Adding just one week to that time frame makes the partial-pack removal about as effective as doing nothing, the study concluded.

(Press release by WDFW)

Washington State now home to 115 wolves…

Washington state’s wolf population grew by 28 percent last year and added at least two new packs, according to an annual report released today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

By the end of 2016, the state was home to a minimum of 115 wolves, 20 packs, and 10 successful breeding pairs documented by WDFW field staff during surveys conducted late last year. The findings draw on information gathered from aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from radio-collared wolves in 13 packs.

The number of animals documented last December represents an increase of at least 25 individual wolves since 2015, despite the confirmed deaths of 14 wolves from various causes. Wolf counts are expressed as “minimum estimates,” due to the difficulty of accounting for every animal, especially lone wolves without a pack.

The report is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf

All but eliminated from western states in the last century, Washington’s wolf population has grown steadily since 2008, when wildlife managers documented the state’s first resident pack since the 1930s in Okanogan County.

Gray wolves are listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington state. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are also listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

All of the wolf packs documented in the report were found east of the Cascade Mountains, and 15 of Washington’s 20 known wolf packs are located in a four-county area in the northeast corner of the state. The Sherman pack, one of the two new packs confirmed last year, is in that area. The other new pack, the Touchet pack, is in southeastern Washington, east of Walla Walla.

“Washington’s wolf population continues to grow at about 30 percent each year,” said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. “That increase, along with the concentration of wolves in northeast Washington, underscores the importance of collaborating with livestock producers and local residents to prevent conflict between wolves and domestic animals.”

State management of wolves is guided by the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2011 and a protocol for reducing conflicts between wolves and livestock adopted by WDFW in conjunction with its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group.

The report outlines an array of non-lethal strategies WDFW employed last year to reduce conflicts between wolves and domestic animals, including cost-sharing agreements with 55 ranchers who took proactive steps to protect their livestock. State assistance included range riders to check on livestock, guard dogs, fox lights, fladry for fences and reports on the packs’ movements.

No conflicts with livestock were documented for 16 out of the 20 wolf packs identified in the report. Four packs – and one lone wolf – were each involved in at least one event leading to the death of a cow or calf in 2016.

The largest losses were inflicted by the Profanity Peak pack, which killed or injured at least 10 cattle on a grazing allotment in the Colville National Forest. Consistent with the state’s wolf plan and protocol for lethal action, WDFW removed seven members of the pack after non-lethal measures failed to stop wolves from preying on a rancher’s herd.

Seven other wolf mortalities referenced in the report were the result of legal tribal harvest, other human actions, and unknown causes.

“We know that some level of conflict is inevitable between wolves and livestock sharing the landscape,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf manager. “For that reason, we are encouraged by the growing number of livestock producers using proactive, non-lethal measures to protect their herds and flocks over the past two years.”

The report notes that WDFW paid a total of $77,978 in 2016 to compensate ranchers for their losses.

Contributors to WDFW’s annual wolf report include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Wildlife Service, the Confederated Colville Tribes and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

Non-lethal control more effective, not perfect


  • By Matt Spaw WNPA Olympia News Bureau
  • Mar 10, 2017

In a surprising turn, a state panel in Olympia discussing studies of lethal means to control wolves preying on farm animals and invading humans’ territory, found that non-lethal control is a more effective option.

Wildlife experts and members of the public came together at a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Feb. 10 to discuss wolf removal.

According to the panel, most of the state’s wolf packs are in northeastern Washington, with some in the North Cascades region. The panel was made up of Department of Wildlife experts specializing in wolves, wildlife conflict and carnivores.

Wolves present a challenge for livestock owners. Wolves are reestablishing themselves after being nearly eradicated in the early 1900s, but ranchers and others face the problem of protecting their livestock from wolf predation.

“We need to hone in on our objective. Is it tolerance? Is it to stop depredations forever?” said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for the state agency.

The panel went over studies about the culling of wolf populations.

Four of the five non-lethal tests reviewed had preventive effects, while only two of the seven lethal tests had preventive effects. Two of the lethal tests increased predation.

Non-lethal methods include fladry, which involves hanging flags that flap in the breeze and scare wolves, as well as using guard dogs for livestock.

In some areas the desired effect of culling wolf populations occurred.

“Less livestock were killed. In some areas it did not work,” Martorello said. “It drives home the message that there is no perfect solution.”

The department suspended the controversial killing of Profanity Peak wolves in October. That program, aimed at killing a pack of 11 wolves, resulted in the deaths of seven and cost $135,000 before being suspended. The wolves had attacked or killed about 15 cattle.

“Wolves are one of the most studied animals on the planet,” said Scott Becker, state wolf specialist.

The panelists also examined public opinion of wolves and what studies say about perception.

“If one has a positive valuation of wolves, they generally like to focus on the benefits,” Becker said. “If one has a negative value of wolves, they generally focus on those costs.”

Only 61 of 358 Northern Rocky Mountain region wolf packs in the United States — or about 17 percent — were involved in at least one confirmed livestock killing, according to Becker. People are willing to accept some level of conflict with wolves, but 50 to 70 percent of that conflict occurs on private property, which could affect public perceptions.

The department’s Wolf Advisory Group will use the meeting’s findings to inform future recommendations. Advisory group members are landowners, conservationists, hunters and other interests who work together to recommend strategies for reducing conflict with wolves.

This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.