WDFW gives update on latest wolf numbers, including new pack in Western Washington, but not all are thrilled by count


Sat., April 6, 2019, 5 a.m.

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The male member of the new Diobsud Creek pack in Skagit County. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife / Courtesy)

Washington’s wolf population continued to grow in 2018, with a pack documented west of the Cascade crest for the first time.

A minimum of 126 wolves, 27 packs and 15 breeding pairs were counted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife during their annual winter survey.

The population increased 3 percent from last year, a lower growth rate than previous years. But as wolves fill the habitat in northeast Washington, Ben Maletzke, WDFW statewide wolf specialist, said that overall population growth will slow.

“The number of wolves isn’t going to significantly change in that area (northeast) probably for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The next big jump in wolf numbers will come when more packs establish themselves in the western portion of the state.

Agency staff presented the wolf report to the WDFW Commission, a governor-appointed supervisory body, Friday in Olympia.

The big news was the pack west of the Cascades.

A single male, originally captured in Skagit County in 2016, traveled with a female wolf through the winter in the North Cascades meeting the state’s criteria for the formation of a pack. Biologists named the pack the Diobsud Pack.

Biologist also confirmed the presence of wolves in the south Cascades, although no pack activity has been documented yet.

In 2017, there were a minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs documented statewide.

Wolf numbers grew despite the fact that in 2018 six wolves were killed legally by tribal hunters, four were killed by WDFW in response to livestock attacks and two apparent human-caused deaths remain under investigation.

Meanwhile, wolves killed at least 11 cattle and one sheep, and injured an additional 19 cattle and two sheep.

Overall, only five of the 27 known packs were involved in livestock depredations, Maletzke said.

“Eighty-one percent of them are doing good things,” he told the commission.

In an emailed statement, Conservation Northwest called the discovery of a pack west of the Cascades a “milestone” and “indication of the continued recovery of wolves in our state.”

Not everyone was thrilled, though, and some questioned the department’s methodology.

Jake Nelson, a rancher on the Lone Ranch grazing allotment in Ferry County, lost two calves and one cow to wolf attacks last year. He received monetary compensation from the state. He questioned the overall number of wolves and WDFW’s reported number of wolf attacks on livestock.

“I would have to argue with those numbers,” he said.

He knows ranchers who believe they lost 10 or more cattle to wolves in 2018.

Jay Shepherd, a founder of the Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative, agreed that the overall number of wolf depredations seemed low. The WDFW report only lists confirmed depredations, not probable ones.

“It could well be there were 11 confirmed,” he said. “That still seems low. But confirmed and probables combined were through the roof.”

It will only be worse in 2019, Nelson said.

“We have more wolves. We have more confirmed packs now. We have a whole bunch of packs that are habituated cattle killers,” he said. “I look for it to be a lot worse than last year.”

A number of wolf-related bills were brought forward during this year’s legislative session hoping to reduce conflicts in 2019.

A proposal that passed the house and is currently in the Senate would directWDFW to develop different management plans for wolves in different regions of the state, with more support to control wolves in the part of the state where they are rapidly multiplying.

The bill would also direct the state to spend nearly $1 million over the next two years on nonlethal ways to keep wolves from killing livestock in northeast Washington, where the majority of the state’s wolves live.

The numbers reported by WDFW are a minimum count. In 2018, researchers at the University of Washington, using scat-sniffing dogs, said the number of wolves in the state could be closer to 200.

During the commission meeting, staff said the methods used by UW and WDFW are “apples and oranges.”

“There are more wolves out there,” Donny Martorello, the department’s top wolf specialist, told the commission. “We know this is the minimum.”

Wolves are protected by state endangered species rules in the eastern third of the state, while they remain federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state.

According to the state’s wolf recovery plan, wolves can be delisted after 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years, or after officials document 18 breeding pairs in one year.

Under either scenario, the pairs have to be distributed evenly throughout the state’s three wolf management areas.

Meanwhile, two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against WDFW alleging, among other things, that the agency is not using the latest science to make wolf management decisions and is in violation of the state’s environmental policy act.

Chris Bachman, the wildlife program director at the Spokane-based Lands Council, celebrated the news and said it was an indicator that wolf populations were reaching a healthy level. However, he didn’t go as far as saying that northeast Washington had reached capacity.

He said lethal removal of wolves that have attacked cattle remains an issue. He believes how the National Forest and ranchers interact need to change. Right now, he said, cows are being put into a forest with limited forage, which forces them to disperse and makes them an easier target.

“We need to be changing what we’re doing on the ground with livestock in the forest,” Bachman said after attending Friday’s meeting. “We can ride WDFW all we want about having to go in and lethally remove wolves, but Forest Service policy has to be adjusted.”

 WDFW News Release: Washington’s wolf population increases for 10th straight year



Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091 

April 4, 2019

Contact: Donny Martorello, 360-790-5682

Ben Maletzke, 509-933-6086 

Washington’s wolf population increases for 10th straight year

OLYMPIA – The recovery of Washington’s wolf population continued in 2018 as numbers of individual wolves, packs, and successful breeding pairs reached their highest levels since wolves were virtually eliminated from the state in the 1930s.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today published its annual year-end report, which shows the state has a minimum of 126 individual wolves, 27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs – male and female adults who have raised at least two pups that survived through the end of the year. A year ago, those numbers were 122, 22, and 14, respectively.

In 2018, for the first time, WDFW documented the presence of a pack west of the Cascade Crest. A single male wolf in Skagit County, captured in 2016 and fitted with a radio collar, has been traveling with a female wolf through the winter, thereby achieving pack status. Biologists chose the pack’s name – Diobsud Creek.

“We’re pleased to see our state’s wolf population continue to grow and begin to expand to the west side of the Cascades,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “We will continue to work with the public to chart the future management of this important native species.”

Information and survey findings are compiled from state, tribal, and federal wildlife specialists based on aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from radio-collared wolves. As in past years, the annual count provides estimates of the minimum numbers of wolves in the state, because it is not possible to count every wolf.

Virtually eliminated from the state by the 1930s, Washington’s gray wolf population has rebounded since 2008, when WDFW wildlife managers documented a resident pack in Okanogan County. Most packs occupy land in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties in the northeast corner of the state, but the survey revealed increasing numbers in Washington’s southeast corner and the north-central region.

Although the 2018 annual count showed a modest increase in individual wolves, the upturn in new packs and breeding pairs in those areas set the stage for more growth this year, said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead.

“Packs and breeding pairs are the building blocks of population growth,” Martorello said. ‘It’s reassuring to see our wolf population occupying more areas of the landscape.”

State management of wolves is guided by the department’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which establishes standards for wolf-management actions. 

Since 1980, gray wolves have been listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are classified as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

As required for all state-listed species, WDFW is currently conducting a periodic status review of the state’s gray wolf population to evaluate the species’ listing status, Martorello said.

“The state’s wolf management plan lays out a variety of recovery objectives, but the ultimate determination of a species’ listing status is whether it remains at risk of failing or declining,” Martorello said.

The 2018 annual count reflects the net one-year change in Washington’s wolf population after accounting for births, deaths, and wolves that have traveled into or out of Washington to form new packs or join existing ones. In 2018, two wolves dispersed with one forming the Butte Creek pack in southeastern Washington while the other wolf traveled through Oregon down to Idaho.  


WDFW also recorded 12 wolf deaths during 2018. Six (6) were legally killed by tribal hunters; four (4) were killed by WDFW in response to repeated wolf-caused livestock deaths; and two (2) other mortalities apparently were caused by humans and remained under investigation at year’s end.

Ben Maletzke, WDFW statewide wolf specialist, said the 2018 annual report reinforces the profile of wolves as a highly resilient, adaptable species whose members are well-suited to Washington’s rugged, expansive landscape. He said their numbers in Washington have increased by an average of 28 percent per year since 2008.

“Wolves routinely face threats to their survival – from humans, other animals, and nature itself,” he said. “But despite each year’s ups and downs, the population in Washington has grown steadily and probably will keep increasing by expanding their range in the north and south Cascades of Washington.”

Maletzke said the 2018 survey documented six packs formed in 2018 – Butte Creek, Nason, OPT, Sherman, Diobsud Creek and Nanuem – while one pack, Five Sisters, disbanded due to unknown causes.

With funding support from state lawmakers, WDFW has steadily increased its efforts to collaborate with livestock producers, conservation groups, and local residents to minimize conflict between wolves and livestock and other domestic animals, Maletzke said. 

WDFW used several strategies last year to prevent and minimize conflicts, including cost-sharing agreements with 31 ranchers who worked with WDFW to protect their livestock. State financial and technical assistance helped to support the use of conflict prevention measures which included range riders to check on livestock, guard dogs, lighting, flagging for fences, and data sharing on wolf movements.

Maletzke said five of the 27 packs known to exist in Washington last year were involved in at least one livestock mortality. WDFW investigators confirmed wolves killed at least 11 cattle and one sheep and injured another 19 cattle and two sheep. WDFW processed five livestock damage claims totaling $7,536 to compensate producers for direct wolf-caused livestock losses and one indirect claim for $5,950, which compensates the producer for reduced weight gains and other factors associated with wolf-livestock interaction.

Consistent with the Wolf Plan and the department’s Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol, WDFW used lethal measures to remove individual wolves from three packs after non-lethal measures failed to deter them from preying on livestock. WDFW euthanized two members of the OPT pack, and one member apiece from the Togo and Smackout packs.

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

The report will be reviewed with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets April 5-6 in Olympia. That meeting and a discussion about the report will be broadcast live at https://wdfw.wa.gov/. The survey report will be posted on WDFW’s website by April 5 at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf

WDFW photo of the male member of the new Diobsud Creek pack in Skagit County:

Wolf population chart available at:

U.S. plans to lift protections for gray wolves, angering wildlife activists

U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers as its numbers rebound in some regions.

The proposal would give states the authority to hold wolf hunting and trapping seasons. It was announced Wednesday by acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt at a wildlife conference in Denver.

Wolves had previously lost federal protections in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where hunters and trappers now kill hundreds of the animals annually.

Wildlife advocates and some members of Congress reacted with outrage to the latest proposal and promised to challenge any final decision in court.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now with the group Defenders of Wildlife, warned of an “all-out war on wolves” if the plan advances.

“We don’t have any confidence that wolves will be managed like other wildlife,” she said.

But government officials countered that the recovery of wolves from widespread extermination last century has worked and they no longer need the Endangered Species Act to shield them.

“Recovery of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act is one of our nation’s great conservation successes, with the wolf joining other cherished species, such as the bald eagle, that have been brought back from the brink,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said in an emailed statement.

Agriculture groups and lawmakers from Western states are likely to support the administration’s proposal.

Further details were expected during a formal announcement planned in coming days.

Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century.

They received endangered species protections in 1975, when there were about 1,000 left, only in northern Minnesota. Now more than 5,000 of the animals live in the contiguous U.S.

es and Northern Rockies regions.

Protections for the Northern Rockies population were lifted in 2011. State officials and government biologists say the region’s wolves have continued to thrive despite pressure from hunting. The animals are prolific breeders and can adapt to a variety of habitats.

Wildlife advocates want to keep federal protections kept in place until wolves repopulate more of a historical range that stretched across most of North America.

Since being reintroduced in Yellowstone National park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s, the Northern Rockies population has expanded to parts of Oregon, Washington and California.

Those states so far have not allowed hunting, despite growing pressure from ranchers whose livestock herds have been attacked.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has argued for years that gray wolves have recovered in the lower 48 states, despite experts who contend they occupy only about 15 percent of the territory they once roamed. Agency officials insist the recovery of wolves everywhere is not required for the species no longer to be in danger of extinction.

John Vucetich, a wildlife biologist at Michigan Technological University, said most wolf experts probably would agree the species is not at imminent risk. But said he dropping federal protections was a premature move.

Many people “still find it difficult to live with wolves,” primarily because they kill livestock as well as deer and elk that people like to hunt, Vucetich said. If wolves are returned to state management, he said, “I do worry that some of the states could be overly aggressive and that wolves could fare worse than their current condition.”

The government first proposed revoking the wolf’s protected status across the Lower 48 states in 2013. It backed off after federal courts struck down its plan for “delisting” the species in the western Great Lakes region states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Fish and Wildlife Service officials disclosed to the AP last year that another scientific review of the animal’s status had been launched.

Shire declined to disclose the agency’s rationale for determining the species had recovered, but said members of the public would have a chance to comment before a final decision in coming months.

Ryan Yates, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, applauded the federal agency’s plan and said many farmers and ranchers have lost livestock to wolf kills since the species was granted legal protections. The farmers and ranchers will respect state regulations aimed at managing wolf populations, he said.

“Some people like them, some people don’t, but the law’s the law,” Yates said.

Lawmakers in Congress frustrated with court rulings maintaining protections for wolves have backed legislation to forcibly strip protections in the Great Lakes region and beyond. A similar effort by lawmakers ended protections for Northern Rockies wolves.

Flesher reported from Traverse City, Michigan. Associated Press writer Gillian Flaccus contributed from Portland.

Wolf Advisory group meeting Tuesday, Wednesday


Thu., Feb. 7, 2019, 4 p.m.

FILE - This April 18, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife shows a grey wolf. A federal report says gray wolves killed a record number of livestock in Wyoming in 2016, and wildlife managers responded by killing a record number of wolves that were responsible. The report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that wolves killed 243 livestock, including one horse, in 2016 in Wyoming. As a result, wildlife managers last year killed 113 wolves that were confirmed to be attacking livestock. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File) ORG XMIT: LA112 (Gary Kramer / AP)
FILE – This April 18, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife shows a grey wolf. A federal report says gray wolves killed a record number of livestock in Wyoming in 2016, and wildlife managers responded by killing a record number of wolves that were responsible. The report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that wolves killed 243 livestock, including one horse, in 2016 in Wyoming. As a result, wildlife managers last year killed 113 wolves that were confirmed to be attacking livestock. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File) ORG XMIT: LA112 (Gary Kramer / AP)

The Washington Wolf Advisory group will discuss what to do once wolves are delisted in the state during a meeting on Olympia, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The WAG, which is made up representatives from various interest groups across the state, will also discuss communication between the department and stakeholders: including data sharing, how and when the department makes decisions and staff response time to incidents.

The meeting will be held at the Meetinghouse at Priest Point, 3201 Boston Harbor Road NE, Olympia. There will also be an open-house style public comment period on Feb. 12 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. prior to the WAG work session.

For more information visit wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wag/.

Wolf shot, killed near Sprague Lake about 40 miles from Spokane


UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 8, 2019, 10:50 p.m.

This February 2017  photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf of the Wenaha Pack captured on a remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in Oregon's northern Wallowa County. In an area where no documented wolf packs roam, a rancher shot a wolf, Monday. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)
This February 2017 photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf of the Wenaha Pack captured on a remote camera on U.S. Forest Service land in Oregon’s northern Wallowa County. In an area where no documented wolf packs roam, a rancher shot a wolf, Monday. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

A ranch employee shot and killed a wolf chasing cattle near Sprague Lake on Monday, about 40 miles southwest of Spokane where there are no documented packs.

He was checking on cattle in northeastern Adams County near the end of Sprague Lake, when he saw cattle running from three wolves.

When he yelled at the wolves, two stopped and retreated. The third, an adult female, continued the chase, said Donny Martorello, the wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The employee then shot and killed the wolf. One of the owners of the ranch, who wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said the ranch hasn’t had problems with wolves in the past.

“The wolves are going to have to learn to live with us,” the rancher said. “We’re going to do our best to get along with everything, but we run a ranch. We have thousands of heads of cattle.”

The shooting has been deemed lawful by a preliminary investigation, according to Martorello. Although the Washington wolf plan does not allow private citizens to kill wolves, a subsequent WDFW commission rule allows for the killing of wolves caught in the act of attacking cattle, Martorello said.

“In areas of Washington where wolves are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, WAC 220-440-080 states the owner of domestic animals (or an immediate family member, agent, or employee) may kill one gray wolf without a permit issued by the WDFW director if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals,” according to a WDFW news release.

The caught-in-the-act rule has been used twice before, once in summer 2017 on the Smackout Pack and once in November 2017 on the Togo Pack, Martorello said.

The Center for Biological Diversity claims the killing is illegal and unnecessary.

“The shooting of this wolf is outrageous and saddening, and part of a troubling pattern of wolf-killing in Washington,” Amaroq Weiss, the center’s West Coast wolf advocate, said in an emailed statement. “A shot fired over the wolf’s head could have instead scared it away.”

The state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management plan defines attacking “as biting, wounding, or killing; not just chasing or pursuing.”

Martorello said the WAC supersedes the wolf plan. The WAC does not define what attacking means.

“Washington state law allows people to shoot wolves that are caught in the act of attacking livestock or pets,” Chase Gunnell, communications director of Conservation Northwest, said in an email. “As difficult as situations like this are, we support this policy as a reasonable component of responsible wolf conservation and management.”

Martorello said the ranchers check on their cows daily. The cows in question were in an 800-acre pasture and the ranch runs a controlled calving operation.

The state wolf plan guidelines define a wolf pack as two or more animals traveling together in the winter, Martorello said. Agency officials will be following up to see if they can document additional tracks or sightings (either in person or by camera).

“It’s very suggestive of a formation of a pack,” he said.

In 2014, a wolf killed sheep near Lamont, south of Sprague.

Chris Bachman, wildlife program director at the Spokane-based Lands Council, said the Sprague area is not great wolf habitat.

“It would seem that it’s just sort of a fluke pass-through,” he said. “It’s really hard for me to imagine that area would become a territory that a pack would stay in.”

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is close and boasts both great habitat and a great prey source.

However, for the past two years there have been five cameras set up throughout the refuge to document elk, said Mike Rule, Turnbull’s wildlife biologist. No wolves have been spotted.

“You would just think that if there was one or two or three running around on a regular basis, someone would have seen one,” he said. “It could be in the near future we may end up seeing something here. As of now, nothing.”

If a pack is confirmed, Bachman said the Lands Council and others groups would hope to work with ranchers to put in place nonlethal deterrents such as fladry and fox lights.

According to the latest WDFW estimate, there are a minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs statewide. That estimate was reported nearly a year ago.

That number is likely much higher. University of Washington researchers, using scat-sniffing dogs, said the number of wolves in the state could be closer to 200.

That minimum number has been criticized by wolf activists and ranchers alike. In the winter, WDFW staff fly in airplanes counting wolves to come to the minimum count.

“What we do know is tried and trued methodology that we’ve adopted from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and from other Western states,” Martorello said.

But as the number of wolves grows, the agency may consider a different methodology.

“As the numbers increase, it’s more challenging to count every wolf,” he said.

For several years, Hank Seipp has independently tried to confirm the existence of wolves in the West Plains area. In 2016 and 2017, he caught wolves on trail cameras on Mount Spokane. He’s placed numerous trail cameras throughout the Cheney and Sprague areas but hasn’t seen a wolf, although he has found paw prints and scat he believes came from wolves.

He said ranchers in the area need to stop disposing of dead cattle in open pits. That disposal method is common throughout the West Plains. Seipp hopes ranchers in the area can be reimbursed for the cost of preventive practices.

“Do they have the financial ability to do this? No,” he said. “And the community should be stepping up.”

WDFW’s lethal removal policy allows killing wolves if they prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month periodThat policy was developed in 2016 by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, which represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters and livestock ranchers.

The policy also stipulates that cattle producers must have employed at least two proactive deterrence techniques. Lethal control is allowed in the eastern third of the state where wolves are protected by state endangered species rules. Wolves remain federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state.

Washington wolf population likely larger than estimates, researcher says

A University of Washington researcher told a state Senate committee that it’s possible the state’s population of wolves is closer to 200 animals, compared to 122 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated.

The number of wolves in Washington state is likely much higher than previously thought, according to a University of Washington researcher who spent two years studying the animals using scat-sniffing dogs.

Samuel Wasser said his dogs detected 95 wolves in one area of Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, in the rural northeast corner of the state, during the 2016-17 season. That approached the total number of wolves wildlife officials estimated for the entire state.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife a year ago estimated Washington had a minimum of 122 wolves, grouped in at least 22 packs, and 14 successful breeding pairs.

RELATED: Wolves making faster comeback than expected in Washington state

Wasser told a state Senate committee last week that it’s possible the population of wolves is closer to 200 animals.

State wolf managers also addressed the panel, saying Washington’s wolf population has grown on average 30 percent per year.

“We are seeing a wave of recovery,” said Donny Martorello, head of wolf policy for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This is indicative of adequate protections, available habitat and suitable prey base.”

Washington also has fewer conflicts between wolves and cattle than many other states, he told the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

The question of how many wolves roam the state is important because it determines whether wolves are considered a protected species under state and federal law.

Wolves are a state endangered species throughout Washington, where they were all but wiped out early in the last century but started returning from neighboring Idaho and Canada after the turn of the new century. They also remain federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state, where killing wolves is prohibited.

According to Washington’s wolf recovery plan, wolves can be delisted after 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years, or after officials document 18 breeding pairs in one year.

RELATED: Bill would ship problem wolves to Bainbridge Island

Most likely, the state will document 18 breeding pairs in one year before they document 15 successful pairs over the course of three years, Martorello said.

In any event, those who wish for the removal of all wolves will not get their wish, the wildlife department’s director, Kelly Susewind, told the committee.

“Wolves are doing quite well. They’re here. They’re here to stay,” Susewind said.

The return of the wolves is problematic in ranching areas because they sometimes prey on livestock. To the dismay of some conservation groups, that has prompted the state to track and kill several wolf packs in recent years.

While many urban residents support the return of wolves, livestock producers on the front lines — in the lightly populated northeastern part of the state — are wary.

A state lawmaker from that rural area, where Wasser conducted his study, this week introduced a bill in the Legislature to create a wolf sanctuary in the heavily residential Seattle suburb of Bainbridge Island. Republican Rep. Joel Kretz’s bill was in response to the legislator from Bainbridge Island introducing a bill to ban the killing of wolves.

“I’m sure the gray wolves will seek to placidly co-exist with the dogs, cats, horses, sheep, people and other peaceful animals of the island,” said Kretz, of Wauconda.

His bill also said the state can kill wolves only after “four dogs, four cats or two children have been killed.”

Wasser and his team used dogs to sniff out scat of different animals. By analyzing the excrement, biologists can determine whether an animal is malnourished, pregnant or stressed.

Wasser’s team is also looking at how wolves and smaller predators, such as coyotes and bobcats, interact. Preliminary findings indicate wolves are avoiding coyotes.

RELATED: Washington ranchers struggle to keep cattle safe in wolf territory

Preliminary analysis of the scat composition shows wolves have been eating mostly deer, followed by moose and elk. Coyotes and bobcats have been eating mostly snowshoe hares.

Washington is a good place to study wolves because the animals haven’t spread to all areas of the state, Wasser said. Studying areas where wolves are not widely found, such as south of Interstate 90, and observing how the ecosystem responds will shed light on the interaction between wolves and other predators.

The environmental group Conservation Northwest welcomed Wasser’s findings on wolf numbers.

“Wolf recovery is progressing well in Washington,” the group said. “Despite a few high-profile events, the rate of wolf mortality is much lower here than in Rocky Mountain states.”

The group said it hopes to soon see wolves confirmed in Washington’s South Cascades, as well as new areas of the North Cascades.

Tongue-in-cheek bill would ship problem wolves to Bainbridge Island

A Washington state representative from Bainbridge Island wants to stop the state from killing wolves. In response to her legislation, an eastern Washington lawmaker now wants to send the wolves to Bainbridge Island to live.

Conservationists focused on wolf recovery know it can be one of the state’s most controversial topics, and dueling wolf bills now show the divide between politics east and west of the Cascades.

The first bill was proposed by Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Bainbridge Island. It reads, “The department may not authorize the killing of gray wolves”. HB 1045 would make it illegal for the state to kill wolves for attacking livestock and instead force their relocation.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, lives in wolf territory and filed a bill in response. HB 1639 would create a wolf sanctuary on Bainbridge Island so problem wolves can live there instead and locals can benefit from “the largely untapped wolf tourism industry.”

“It’s a response to a really insulting bill,” Kretz said.

Kretz says his constituents are constantly plagued with the challenges of wolf recovery and a bill that would ban killing wolves could ruin their rural economy.

“The big impact is the stress on the cattle. I had a rancher sell 200 of his best cows a summer ago because they had been harassed all summer long. They came in, I have pictures, they were two for 300 pounds on your way. They are skin and bones. They don’t have a calf by their side. And they’re not pregnant. They are crazy for being run all summer long,” he said.

Kretz Introduces Bill to Create Wolf Sanctuary on Bainbridge Island

[Fine by me…]
file photo

Olympia, WA – Seventh District State Representative Joel Kretz of Okanogan County says it’s time to “share the love” of Eastern Washington predatory wolves with the folks in Puget Sound, who want to protect the critters.

A legislator representing Bainbridge Island has introduced legislation that would prohibit the lethal removal of gray wolves. In response, Kretz introduced House Bill 1639, which would create the state’s first gray wolf sanctuary on Bainbridge Island.

“If that’s the kind of legislation that someone from Bainbridge Island is going to be running to impose on us who actually have wolves, maybe it would help broaden her mind a little bit to experience the benefits of wolves. So what better place than Bainbridge Island?

Kretz bill also provides guidance on when the state may use lethal removal of wolves on the island, specifically limiting such removal only after four dogs, four cats or even two children have been killed.

His message is simple: If Westside legislators who live on a protected island hundreds of miles away from wolves want to prohibit Eastern Washington ranchers and farmers from protecting their families and property, maybe it’s time to share those wolves.

“With this bill, we can deliver ‘em right to them. I’ve had lots of offers from the 7th District. If you need my stock trailer, I’ll bring a load of wolves.”

The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Press release provided by the Washington State House Republicans.

Mediator works to find common ground on Washington wolves

By Jason Nark, Special To The Washington Post.

Published: December 7, 2018, 10:28 PM

One summer, over a decade ago, biologists discovered that gray wolves — once driven to near-extinction in the continental United States — were breeding again in Washington. The sound of howling wolf pups was welcome news for conservationists, but not for the state’s $700 million cattle industry.

When some wolves began to prey on livestock, age-old tensions were resurrected. Some members of that first pack were poached, despite federal protections. Ranchers whose forefathers believed a good wolf was a dead one now had to contend with government officials and conservationists who had other opinions.

Fortunately, there was someone to call for help: Francine Madden and her Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, the Center for Conservation Peacebuilding. In a city full of fascinating but oddly narrow areas of intellectual expertise, Madden’s is particularly niche: Her job is to make peace between humans who are fighting over wildlife.

On a warm October morning, I meet Madden at the National Zoo. The 48-year-old — today wearing cowboy boots a shade lighter than her brown hair — grows animated when she talks about her job, slapping my arm often to drive home a point. A curse or two slips out, though not when a pack of fourth-graders bounds down a path toward a hillside enclosure beside us.

“Is that a fox?” one boy asks.

“No, it’s a wolf,” another shouts.

The kids all howl at the wolf, then sprint off. Madden cracks a smile. “Honestly, I’m surprised when someone doesn’t have an opinion on wolves,” she says, hands waving excitedly. “When I see a wolf, my mental image of them is an animal that’s wearing this social, cultural and historical baggage, like a baggage cart at the airport we’ve loaded up. Think about it: ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ the Bible, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The wolf’s had a lot of human emotion poured into it.”

Indeed, wolves have been trapped, shot and poisoned en masse for centuries, “pursued with more passion and determination,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes, “than any other animal in U.S. history.” By the mid-1970s, gray wolves were among the first animals to make the endangered species list.

Then, in the 1990s, the U.S. government embarked on a controversial plan to boost the American wolf population with Canadian wolves. And as the wolf population of Eastern Washington state grew, ranchers and environmentalists began baring fangs. By 2015, things had gotten so bad that Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife hired Madden as a “third-party neutral,” charged with deflating hostilities among factions within the state’s Wolf Advisory Group. “When I took this case, I wanted it,” Madden says, “because wolves are the Middle East of wildlife conflict.”

What qualified Madden for this job? In addition to graduate degrees in science and policy from Indiana University, she had spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda. There, conservation efforts had helped increase the population of mountain gorillas — who occasionally terrorized villagers, who, in turn, resorted to poaching. Madden helped conservationists and villagers agree on a solution: create teams that could respond quickly to gorilla attacks. In the years since, she has gone on to mediate invasive-species conflicts in the Galapagos and around the globe.

In Washington, Madden spent 350 hours interviewing 80 people about wolves before she led advisory group meetings. She found anomalies in the narrative: a hunter who described seeing a wolf as a “religious experience”; environmentalists who supported, or at least were neutral about, the idea of a wolf hunt. Wolves, she found, were a proxy for other fears, such as fading traditions and a loss of control to Seattle progressives. “Sometimes,” she says, “a dispute has surface-level issues, and that can be taxes or climate change or, in this case, wolves. But it’s all about identity.”

Madden asked combatants to steer their hybrids and pickup trucks to local bars. Grab a beer, she asked them, or a veggie burger. And don’t talk about wolves. At least not right away. “The first time I saw her, to be honest with you, I felt like this is a lot of kumbaya, no way a cowboy is going to sit through this,” rancher Molly Linville told me by phone from her 6,000-acre spread in Douglas County. “I still don’t know how it worked. It all still feels like magic to me.”

In the end, Madden spent 200 days in Washington and 7,000 hours on the phone. (For 3 1/2 years of work, the state paid her nonprofit, with a staff of two, more than $1.2 million.) Conservationists eventually agreed that wolves could be culled if they preyed on livestock. For their part, ranchers agreed to try nonlethal methods, too.

Washington Wildlife Agency Issues Kill Orders for Two More Wolf Packs

For Immediate Release, November 7, 2018

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org


OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind today authorized the killing of wolves in the Smackout pack in Stevens County and the remaining wolves of the Togo pack in Ferry County. The Department already has been trying since Oct. 27 to kill the last adult and pup of the Old Profanity Territory pack in Ferry County.

“We’re devastated that Washington officials are killing still more endangered wolves when science shows it won’t reduce livestock loss or improve tolerance for these misunderstood animals,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Three kill operations going at once on an endangered species by a state wildlife agency is very disturbing. They’re wiping out pack after pack, mostly at the behest of one livestock owner.”

Since 2012 the state has killed 21 state-endangered wolves, 17 of whom were killed for the same livestock operator, a longtime, vocal opponent of wolf recovery. The ongoing kill operation to kill the OPT pack’s father wolf and only remaining pup, as well as the kill order issued today for members of the Smackout pack, are on behalf of the same individual.

In September the Department killed the father wolf of the Togo pack, leaving his mate to fend for their two pups on her own. In October the Department killed the breeding female of the Old Profanity Territory pack and a five-month-old pup from the pack, leaving the breeding male on his own to provide for the sole remaining pup.

Both kill actions made it more likely the adults would attack more livestock, since livestock are easier prey than deer or elk for a lone wolf to successfully hunt. In both instances that proved to be the case, and even though it was the Department’s own actions that set these packs up for more conflict, the Department intends to eradicate both wolf families.

“Washingtonians overwhelmingly support wolf recovery,” said Greenwald. “Restoring these beautiful, intelligent animals will result in some loss of livestock, which is why the state compensates ranchers for their losses. But wildlife officials should not continue to kill this still endangered species.”

Smackout pack wolf

Smackout pack wolf photo by Carter Niemeyer. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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