(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

http://www.scnews.com/news/article_2facc034-02c6-11e7-af32-3b60d9f3d592.html

  • 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.

How Washington ranchers are learning to cope with wolves, with lessons from Uganda

https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-02-24/how-washington-ranchers-are-learning-cope-wolves-lessons-uganda

Bill &Carol2.jpg

Rancher Bill Johnson and wildlife researcher Carol Bogezi are pictured, here, on Johnson’s ranch in Washington’s Teanaway Valley. Bogezi has been working with Johnson and other ranchers in eastern Washington to try to find a way to help them live more amicably with wolves.

Credit: Eilis O’Neil

Bill Johnson lives with his seven border collies in a log house that he built himself in the Teanaway Valley, just over the Cascade Mountains that divide rural eastern Washington state from the more urban western part.

Johnson’s been a cowboy here for about 16 years. When he started, there were no wolves around, but that changed about five years ago. He vividly remembers his first encounter with the returning predators.

He was driving out of the valley one night when a deer ran across the road.

“And these three large German shepherds ran across after the deer,” he says. “And I’m thinking, ‘Those aren’t German shepherds, those are wolves. … Those are wolves! Can you believe it?’”

A month later, the return of wolves to the area really hit home. Johnson was out with his dogs when one of them — Lance — disappeared.

“Lance went off on his own and by the time I realized he was gone, it was too late,” Johnson says, his voice cracking and his eyes tearing up. It was the first animal he’d lost to a wolf.

That night, Johnson saddled his horse and grabbed his gun.

“I was going to kill every wolf in the Teanaway,” he says.

Bill Johnson raises cattle but the first animal he lost to a wolf after they returned to the region was one of his beloved border collies. When that happen, Johnson says, he wanted "to kill every wolf in the Teanaway."

Bill Johnson raises cattle but the first animal he lost to a wolf after they returned to the region was one of his beloved border collies. When that happened, Johnson says, he wanted “to kill every wolf in the Teanaway.”

Credit: Eilis O’Neil

Johnson says a lot of ranchers in eastern Washington feel the same.

“There are ranchers who operate on the premise that ‘the only good wolf is a dead wolf,’” Johnson says. “When the wolves first came here, their vision was that the wolf pack was going to run rampant through the Teanaway Valley and kill all the elk and all the deer, and then start working on the horses and the llamas and the cattle, and eventually they would start pulling children out of the sleeping bags at night.”

It’s a common fear around here. Wolves have been unknown in Washington since the 1930s when they were largely eradicated.

But, since 2008, Washington’s wolf population has gone from zero to nearly 100, as wolves began moving back to the state from longstanding populations in Canada and reintroduced populations in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Conservationists have championed the return of wolves to some of their original territory. But many ranchers and other rural residents see the animals as a threat to their way of life.

It’s not an abstract fear. Since the first wolves returned, they’ve killed at least 27 cattle.

Wolves were eradicated from Washington state in the early 20th century, but they've begun repopulating the state over the last decade. This photo was shot by the state's wildlife department in 2014.

Wolves were eradicated from Washington state in the early 20th century, but they’ve begun repopulating the state over the last decade. This photo was shot by the state’s wildlife department in 2014.

Credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The state generally protects the animals, but it does have a policy of culling any pack in eastern Washington that kills more than four cattle.

It also offers to compensate ranchers for animals lost to wolves, but it turns out that ranchers don’t much like that idea.

“With compensation, someone comes in and you have to write [everything] down, and it’s like you’re begging for this money,” says Carol Bogezi, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. Bogezi’s been talking about wolves with ranchers and cowboys like Bill Johnson for the past two years, enough time to know how many of them they feel.

And getting to know them well has been key to her work here: trying to find ways to help rural residents become more accepting of wolves.

The effort starts with the choice of attire for her conversations: a checked flannel shirt.

And she says she starts every interview in the same way: “I’m not even from Seattle,” she tells each rancher, “so I won’t be telling you what to do!”

“Not from Seattle.” It’s a big icebreaker in these parts. For many folks in eastern Washington, Seattle represents the urban elite, people who like to pontificate about what others should do but have no idea what life elsewhere is really like.

And Bogezi is, indeed, not from Seattle. She grew up in Uganda on her family’s small farm outside the capital Kampala. But she says she understands the ranchers’ perspective because her family had problems with predators, too — things like civet cats and monkeys that would eat her family’s chickens, sheep and goats.

It was her job to shoo the predators away during the day. At night, the family hired someone to take more lethal action.

Bogezi would sometimes find a dead predator in the morning.

“It was heartbreaking,” she says. “You don’t want them to be eating the lambs or baby goats or chickens, that’s tough, but then also finding a dead civet cat felt sad.”

Carol Bogezi says she learned empathy for ranchers dealing with predators growing up on her family's farm in Uganda. She also says her status as an outsider in Washington's ranching communities made her have to listen more closely to residents' concerns t

Carol Bogezi says she learned empathy for ranchers dealing with predators growing up on her family’s farm in Uganda. She also says her status as an outsider in Washington’s ranching communities made her have to listen more closely to residents’ concerns than someone else might have.

Credit: Eilis O’Neil

Bogezi says her family thought she’d outgrow her love of predators, but she didn’t. After college in Uganda, she worked with crocodiles before getting a scholarship for grad school at the University of Washington.

At UW, she’s studied a range of possible solutions to Washington’s wolf conflict. The one she thinks would work best is a wolf-friendly meat certification program, in which ranchers who do their best to minimize conflict would be able to sell their meat for a premium in — ironically — places like Seattle.

There are a couple of reasons it could work, she believes.

“Once a market incentive takes off,” Bogezi says, “it pretty much is regulated by the laws of economics, which ranchers really mostly like to work with.”

And places like Montana have already tried out similar programs, so “it’s also not a very novel thing in the West,” she says. “You don’t have to start from scratch.”

Bogezi recently won a fellowship from the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation that will help her study the certification idea from the consumer side, to see how much people might be willing to pay for wolf-friendly meat.

After that, she hopes to start a trial run of such a program.

Rancher Johnson was skeptical of the idea at first. But he says his talks with Bogezi helped change his mind about living with wolves.

“Once the anger and the grief was gone, it was a natural process,” Johnson says. “You take somebody swimming in the ocean, there’s a chance they get eaten by a shark. The wolves came back — they’ve basically wandered back into their homeland — and so we’re going to get along. We’re going to make it work.”

If it does work, Bogezi says it may be partly because of her role as an outsider — not just from the other side of the mountains, but from the other side of the world.

“Because what happened here, is, I have to listen more. I have to make sure I understand,” she says. “And I think that’s a great skill to have when you’re going to be working with communities about wildlife or other natural resources which they may not think of as the most valuable thing.”

It’s a skill that Bogezi eventually hopes to bring back to Uganda, as well. When she has finished her work here, she wants to go home to work on preventing conflicts between people and elephants.

Wolf Packs in Washington (as of June 2016)

This shows wolf packs in Washington as of June 2016. The state’s wolf population has grown from zero to around 100 since 2008, after having been eradicated in the 1930s.

Credit: Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

The WDFW & University of Washington are Collaborating on Wolf Study

http://lcvalley.dailyfly.com/Home/ArtMID/1352/ArticleID/45975/The-WDFW-University-of-Washington-are-Collaborating-on-Wolf-Study

pbrinegar / Monday, February 20, 2017

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Washington are collaborating on a study to determine how eight years of growth in the wolf population is affecting other wildlife species in the state. This study is expected to last five years and will assess the health of deer and elk herds in northeast Washington.
From the WDFW:
“The experience in other western states shows that wolves and other predators may affect the size and behavior of deer and elk herds,” said Eric Gardner, head of the WDFW Wildlife Program. “We want to take a closer look at the situation here in Washington state as our own wolf population continues to grow.”
Researchers will also examine the response to wolves by other predators, especially cougars, said Gardner, noting that the study will dovetail with an ongoing research project on moose in northeast Washington.
As of June 2016, WDFW had confirmed the presence of 19 wolf packs and at least 90 wolves in Washington state – up from a single pack with five wolves in 2008. Most of the growth in the state’s wolf population has occurred in northeastern Washington, where the new study is now underway.
In January, WDFW research scientists and field biologists began capturing deer, elk, and cougars and fitting them with radio-collars to monitor their movements. Capture techniques include trapping animals using bait, steering them into nets, and darting them from helicopters with immobilization drugs.
The goal is to keep 65 white-tailed deer, 50 elk, and 10 cougars collared in one study area that includes areas of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, said John Pierce, chief scientist for the WDFW Wildlife Program. In addition, researchers plan to collar 100 mule deer and 10 cougars in a second area in Okanogan County.
Some wolves are already radio-collared in those areas, but researchers want to maintain collars on at least two wolves in each pack within the study areas, Pierce said.
Pierce asks that hunters who take a collared deer or elk contact the department, so researchers can recover the collar.
UW students will join WDFW research scientists and field biologists to monitor radio-collared animals and track their movements, distribution, habitat use, diet, productivity and survival. Cougars will be monitored to learn about changes in social behavior, prey selection and predation rates in areas where wolves also occur.
“This study concentrates on multiple-use lands used by people for activities such as logging, livestock ranching and hunting,” Pierce said. “In that way it differs from most other studies on the impact of wolves, which tend to be conducted in national parks and other protected areas.”
Pierce said the principal investigators from WDFW and UW will periodically develop and publicly share progress reports about the study over the next five years.
Funding for the five-year study includes $400,000 from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, $450,000 in federal Pittman-Robertson funds and $150,000 of WDFW funds. The UW also secured nearly $900,000 in National Science Foundation grant funds for the project.

Bill Introduced by State Lawmaker to Remove NE WA Gray Wolves From Endangered List

Mia Carlson / Monday, February 13, 2017

OLYMPIA, WA – A Washington State lawmaker has introduced legislation that would remove gray wolves from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s endangered species list in four eastern Washington counties. House Bill 1872 would prohibit the agency from designating or maintaining a designation of the gray wolf as an endangered, threatened, or sensitive species in those counties along the Canadian border – areas of the state hit the hardest by predatory actions.

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Joel Kretz, raises horses and cattle on a ranch in the mountains of Okanogan County near Wauconda.  He says he has seen firsthand the devastation of predatory gray wolves.

“We’ve got one rancher with upwards of 70 head losses this year. You can’t sustain that very long. I’m really concerned that we’ve got grazing season this spring and I’m afraid that we’ll have a lot of ranchers will be out of business this year if it goes like it has,” Kretz says.

Kretz says the federal government has already delisted gray wolves. Some 19 packs have recovered with growing populations, and 16 of those packs are in northcentral and northeast Washington counties. The 7th District lawmaker says his bill could allow the state to get a preview in the four counties of proper wolf management before the animal is finally de-listed statewide.

The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Kill Them or Move Them? Wolf Control Options Weigh on Wildlife Panel

http://www.chronline.com/news/kill-them-or-move-them-wolf-control-options-weigh-on/article_824b6554-f3ab-11e6-8060-8b4d17214337.html

Legislature: Wildlife Experts, Members of the Public Say They Prefer Relocation

  • By Matt Spaw / For The Chronicle
  • Feb 15, 2017

OLYMPIA — In a surprising turn, a state panel 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 Friday 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. The studies were all peer-reviewed, but taken together were not conclusive. The primary focus of Friday’s meeting was on using lethal methods to cull wolf populations, although non-lethal means also were discussed and debated.

Most of the studies examined Friday found non-lethal methods to be more effective than lethal methods at preventing livestock death. Four of the five non-lethal tests 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 large number of recent studies used by the panel supported that statement.

Panel members said their own anecdotal evidence and personal experience also provide important information about wolf populations and control.

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.

At the meeting, public comments centered on opposition to lethal methods of wolf removal.

“We spend too much time talking about lethal removal. Could we have a panel on non-lethal control?” asked Melinda Hirsch of Conservation Northwest. “The studies are showing that those are the ones that are effective.”

The meeting will be used by the department’s Wolf Advisory Group to inform future recommendations. The group of landowners, conservationists, hunters and other interests work together to recommend strategies for reducing conflict with wolves.

•••

First ‘official’ wolf kill confirmed on Colville Reservation

First wolf kill on Colville Reservation

First wolf kill on Colville Reservation

November 21, 2016 9:21 am | Updated: 1:15 pm, Mon Nov 21, 2016.

NESPELEM—After three hunting seasons without harvesting a wolf, a Colville Tribal member has taken the first.

Duane Hall, 37 of Omak, brought a gray wolf into the Colville Tribal Fish & Wildlife office for sealing on Friday, CTFW confirmed Monday.

Just three of the estimated 18 to 20 wolves—spread out among at least three packs—are allowed to be taken, per CTFW’s predator hunting regulations.

“I didn’t really have a reaction,” CTFW director Randall Friedlander said.

Hunting group Rez Bucks, Bulls & Predators, operated by tribal member Sean Gorr, published the news on Nov. 17 at 12:45 p.m.

A share to Tribal Tribune’s Facebook was met with mixed reviews.

“Terrible,” tribal member Lorin Hutton said.

“Nice kill,” tribal member Ted Piccolo added.

“Wildlife management is a must,” Gorr stated in the conversation. “Predator control is a must. Regulated hunting seasons is a must. All that needs to happen to sustain enough big game to feed our families for generations.”

Wolf hunting season started Aug. 1 and ends Feb. 28. Three known packs exist on the Colville Reservation: The Strawberry, the Whitestone and the Nc’icn. A collared wolf was accidentally slain on the Colville Reservation during a recapturing effort by CTFW in January 2015.

Friedlander said the amount of wolves harvested—by way of rifle or trap hunting—are determined by the number of wolves.

“We try to manage for the total population,” he said, “and that’s why we allow three per year. That’s based on a percentage of the overall population (of wolves).”

He reiterated the right to hunt is an ancestral right.

“We try to create opportunities for tribal members to practice their traditional, cultural way of life,” Friedlander said. “That includes the harvesting of some predators for some tribal members. Not all tribal members harvest predators, but some do.”

In May, CTFW reduced the number of wolves that could be taken from 12 to three each season, but allowed traps to be used for the first time.

Last month, a Washington wolf from the Huckleberry Pack, which was thought to range from the Spokane Reservation north, was killed after a 700-mile trek from Washington to Idaho, Canada and then central Montana.

The Tribune has reached out to Hall for an interview.

http://www.tribaltribune.com/news/article_fc9452fc-b00e-11e6-9e94-3f2bece5e94b.html

WOLF KILLED IN CENTRAL MONTANA JOURNEYED FROM WASHINGTON

copyrighted wolf in water

Oct 24, 2016 12:45 PM MDTUpdated: Oct 24, 2016 12:49 PM MDT

GREAT FALLS –A wolf shot in September while killing sheep near Judith Gap in central Montana spent the previous three months traveling about 700 miles, starting in western Washington, according to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

When federal Wildlife Services killed the 2-year-old male on September 29, it was wearing a collar that had been affixed in February by Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists north of Spokane.

The wolf left its pack in June, turning east into Idaho, then north in Canada. It re-entered the United States on July 4 near Eureka, Montana, heading southeast.

“By late July, it was on the Rocky Mountain Front and Washington Fish and Wildlife called to let me know,” said Ty Smucker said, a wolf specialist with MT FWP.

Smucker was notified of the animal’s location about once a week.

“The wolf came out on the Rocky Mountain Front just east of Bean Lake on July 22,” Smucker said. “Then it spent over a month and a half moving around the lower Dearborn River Country, before heading toward Square Butte west of Great Falls on September 13.”

From Square Butte, the wolf turned east, keeping to the north side of the Little Belt Mountains, emerging on the foothills of the Little Belt Mountains west of Judith Gap on September 22, Smucker said.

Responding to a report of a wolf killing sheep, federal Wildlife Services killed the collared wolf on September 29 as it was leaving a band of sheep that it had been chasing and feeding on.

“It had to travel at least 700 miles total,” Smucker said.

The young wolf was probably looking for a mate, he added.

“Wolf packs consist of breeding pairs that generally produce 4-6 pups each spring,” he said. “As young wolves mature they typically disperse from their natal pack in search of potential mates and vacant territories in which to start their own packs.”

Sometimes that search can take the animal on a long journey. In 2015, a wolf left its pack’s territory west of Missoula and ended up 600 miles north in British Columbia.

While FWP occasionally receives reports of wolves in the Little Belt Mountains of central Montana, there are currently no known packs of wolves maintaining territories or producing pups in the area.

In addition, FWP does not capture and relocate problem wolves.

Montana’s wolf population has stabilized for the past eight years at a minimum of more than 500.

“Public hunting and trapping of wolves helps manage wolf numbers in Montana,” Smucker said. “Overall, Montana’s wolf population appears to be doing quite well.”

State Stops Wolf Kill For Now as Grazing Season Ends

http://www.chronline.com/state-stops-wolf-kill-for-now-as-grazing-season-ends/article_a992da98-96e5-11e6-ba2e-cbfaf9dbc2be.html

Thursday, October 20, 2016 9:53 am

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has stopped its hunt for the Profanity Peak wolf pack now that the grazing season on public lands in the Colville National Forest is over for the year.

Agency Director Jim Unsworth lifted his previous order to kill off the pack Wednesday. The department, though, will continue to monitor the four remaining wolves in the pack, an adult female and three young, and target them again if they harm livestock this year.

The pack once numbered 12 wolves. Since Aug. 5, state wildlife staff members have shot and killed seven members of the pack. Another wolf, a pup, is presumed to have died of natural causes.

In all, the department documented 15 dead or injured cows. Of those, 10 were confirmed to have been preyed upon by wolves. The other five probably were, according to the department.

The pack is one of 19 documented in the state so far. Most are in the eastern third of the state, where they are not protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

Under state policy, the department can take lethal action against wolves if its field staff confirm four or more attacks on livestock in a calendar year, or six or more in two consecutive calendar years.

According to the department, ranchers in the area used by the Profanity Peak pack moved cattle onto public lands for grazing in early June. The wildlife department captured two adult members of the pack and fitted them with GPS radio collars, allowing the department to monitor the pack’s movements. By July 8, the department confirmed the first calf kill.

It was no surprise to some: Ranchers and local officials in Ferry County predicted problems with the pack, and in 2014 called for the pack’s elimination, according to the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association.

The state is targeting the pack at public expense — as yet uncounted — to protect cattle grazing by ranchers on public lands and has raised a storm of controversy in Washington and beyond that has yet to subside.

The department promises a final report on its actions with regard to the pack next month.

Meanwhile, wolf recovery is expected to build in Washington.

Wolves were trapped, poisoned and hunted out of existence in Washington in the early 1900s, in part by ranchers to keep them away from sheep and cattle. Wolves began recolonizing the state in 2008, when the first packs were confirmed in Washington, from populations in Idaho and British Columbia.

There were about 90 wolves in the state as of early 2016, most of them documented in packs in Northeastern Washington.

wp-1468782690732.jpg

WDFW suspends lethal action against Profanity Peak wolf pack

 

image

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has suspended its pursuit of the remaining members of a wolf pack that preyed on cattle throughout the summer in northeast Washington.

 

WDFW Director Jim Unsworth today lifted his previous order authorizing staff to take lethal action to stop predation by the Profanity Peak wolf pack now that most livestock are being moved off federal grazing allotments in the Colville National Forest.

 

He noted, however, that the department will continue to monitor the four remaining wolves – an adult female and three juveniles – and will renew efforts to remove wolves if they resume preying on livestock this year.

 

“The goal of our action was to stop predations on livestock in the near future,” Unsworth said. “With the pack reduced in size from 12 members to four and most livestock off the grazing allotments, the likelihood of depredations in the near future is low.”

 

Since Aug. 5, state wildlife managers have shot and killed seven members of the pack after non-lethal deterrence measures failed to stop the pack from preying on cattle in the grazing area in Ferry County. Another wolf, a pup, is presumed to have died of natural causes.

 

As of Oct. 3, WDFW had documented 15 dead or injured cattle, including 10 confirmed and five probable wolf depredations.

 

The Profanity Peak pack is one of 19 wolf packs documented in Washington earlier this year. Sixteen of those packs – including four identified since the previous year – are located in the eastern third of the state, where wolves were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2009.

 

Unsworth said the department’s action against the Profanity Peak pack was consistent with both the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and a new protocol for the lethal removal of wolves developed this year by WDFW in conjunction with an 18-member advisory group composed of environmentalists, livestock producers and hunters.

 

Under that protocol, WDFW can take lethal action against wolves only if field staff confirms four or more attacks on livestock within a calendar year, or six or more attacks within two consecutive calendar years. The protocol also requires ranchers to employ specified non-lethal measures designed to deter wolves from preying on their livestock before WDFW will take lethal action against wolves.

 

Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead, said both of the ranchers who lost livestock to the Profanity Peak pack met that requirement by using range riders to help keep watch over their herds, and by removing or securing cattle carcasses to avoid attracting wolves. One rancher, he said, also turned his calves out to pasture at a higher weight to improve their chance of surviving an attack by predators.

 

Once the number of dead and injured cattle reached the threshold for lethal action, WDFW took incremental steps to remove wolves from the pack, as specified in the protocol.

 

Key events in the department’s involvement with the Profanity Peak pack include:

 

  • Early June: Ranchers arrived with their livestock on federal grazing allotments. WDFW field staff captured two adult members of the Profanity Peak pack and fitted them with GPS radio-collars, allowing the department to monitor the pack’s movements.

 

  • July 8: WDFW confirmed the first calf killed by wolves.

 

  • July 12: WDFW documented two probable wolf attacks, one of which was on a second rancher’s allotment.

 

  • Aug. 3: WDFW confirmed the fourth and fifth wolf attack on cattle and documented three probable wolf attacks. Per the protocol, the WDFW director authorized staff to remove some members of the pack to deter further depredation.

 

  • Aug. 5: WDFW removed two female wolves from the Profanity Peak pack.

 

  • Aug.18-19: The director ended his authorization for lethal removal after 14 days without a depredation. The next day, he authorized the removal of up to the full pack after field staff documented four more wolf attacks, two confirmed and two probable.

 

  • Aug. 21-Sept. 29: WDFW removed five more wolves from the Profanity Peak pack.

 

  • Oct 3: WDFW documented the last depredation on cattle by the Profanity Peak pack.

 

  • Oct 18: WDFW suspended lethal removal of wolves in the Profanity Peak pack.

 

Martorello said WDFW will continue to closely monitor the pack and will renew efforts to remove wolves if they return to preying on livestock this year.

 

Ferry County Sheriff Ray Maycumber said his staff will take a defensive position and monitor the movements of the adult female wolf for signs of conflict with people, pets, or livestock in lowland areas.

 

WDFW will issue a complete report of its management actions regarding the Profanity Peak pack next month.

 

The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/mgmt_plan.html.

 

WDFW’s protocol for removing wolves that prey on livestock is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/livestock/LethalRemovalProtocolGrayWolvesWashingtonDuringRecovery_05312016.pdf