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:

As Northwest States Kill Wolves, Researchers Cast Doubt On Whether It Works


  NOV 25, 2017
Originally published on November 27, 2017 2:53 pm

The long hunt finally paid off on the night of Aug. 6 for two employees of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They’d spent a combined 85 hours and driven 752 miles in pursuit of the Harl Butte wolf pack in the northeast corner of the state.

They had already come close, spotting wolves twice but never firing a shot.

But finally, on a Saturday evening, they killed a young male. Two days later, an Oregon Fish and Wildlife employee fired a kill shot from a helicopter while patrolling the rolling forests and pastures. This time it was a young female.

The wolf-killing mission was meant to halt a pack that was helping itself to ranchers’ livestock.

It won’t work, thought Todd Nash. He and other local ranchers wanted the whole pack gone.

“If there was a gang in downtown Portland and there was 13 of them and you randomly took two, you didn’t know if they were the ringleaders or what they were … would you expect to have a positive outcome?” Nash said.

It turned out Nash was right; it didn’t work.

Weeks later, some of the Harl Butte pack’s surviving wolves tore into a 450-pound calf. It was found dead in a pasture Nash leases, with bite marks across its legs, flanks and hocks.

So Oregon wildlife officials killed two more wolves. Weeks later, they said the depredations had stopped.

They hadn’t. The Harl Butte pack struck again in late September, killing a 425-pound calf.

As the number of wolves in Oregon and Washington has grown, wildlife managers are increasingly turning toward lethal tactics to keep them away from ranchers’ livestock. State governments in the Northwest now spend tens of thousands of dollars to kill wolves that prey on cattle and sheep.

State wolf managers are walking a tightrope: growing and sustaining a population of wolves while limiting the loss of livestock for the ranchers who make their living where the predators now roam.

Managing wolves in the West is as much about politics, economics and emotion as it is about science.

“Sometimes you view it as being between a rock and a hard place, or being yelled at from both sides,” said Derek Broman, carnivore and furbearer coordinator for Oregon Fish and Wildlife. “I like to say it’s balance.”

To balance the costs of killing wolves, ecological needs and the concerns of ranchers and wolf advocates, it’s the policy of both Oregon and Washington to kill wolves incrementally — starting with one or two at a time. But in making that compromise between preserving wolves and preventing livestock damage, they’ve taken a course of action that scientific evidence suggests could achieve neither.

Policies and practices in both states go against a growing body of research casting doubt on the overall effectiveness of killing predators.

Neither state follows recent recommendations from top researchers that their efforts to control predators be conducted as well-designed scientific studies. And neither follows the primary recommendation from the research most often used as evidence, which found killing most or all of a pack is the most effective form of “lethal control” to reduce ranchers’ damages.

Instead, some scientists and advocates say, Oregon and Washington are risking harm to the Northwest’s wolf population without ever reducing predation on cattle and sheep.

“Oregon and Washington may be playing with fire in their incremental control approach,” said professor Adrian Treves, who founded the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the University of Wisconsin. “Not only is there very little evidence for the effectiveness of lethal methods, but there are more studies that find counterproductive effects of lethal control, namely that you get higher livestock losses afterward.”

Northwest wildlife managers say they use lethal control, in part, to increase people’s willingness to tolerate wolves. Treves said there’s little data to support that it’s actually helping shape public opinion to accept wolf reintroduction. In fact, Treves has published research suggesting otherwise: that government-sanctioned killing of wolves may actually embolden individuals to illegally do the same.

Policies under scrutiny

He and others have called on governments to re-evaluate their predator control policies. Treves was also one of multiple scientists who filed comments with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, saying his research and others’ had been misinterpreted in the state’s revision of its wolf management plan, which Treves and others criticized for being biased in favor of lethal control.

“It’s just like (when) the government is putting a medicine out there; it needs to prove the medicine is effective,” Treves said. “ Because there are costs. And not just financial. Animals are dying.”

Lethal control policies in both Oregon and Washington are getting pushback from wolf advocates.

In Oregon, multiple groups have called on Gov. Kate Brown’s office to intervene. The governor’s office has not publicly responded and did not respond to requests for comment.

In Washington, two environmental groups filed a lawsuit in September claiming the state’s approach to killing wolves is unnecessary and that its protocols do not satisfy Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act.

Donny Martorello, wolf coordinator for Washington Fish and Wildlife, said the state has seen mixed results with lethal control.

“We’ve had situations where we’ve initiated lethal removal and had to stay with it for quite a period of time. Removing more and more wolves because the conflict kept going and going and going,” he said. In other cases, he said, it seemed to reduce the conflict.

Martorello said the decision to kill wolves to is not about decreasing long-term livestock losses. It’s about intervening in an escalating situation, where prevention has failed and a rancher’s cattle or sheep are dying.

“We turn to lethal removal as a last resort,” Martorello said. “When we remove wolves it is trying to change the behavior of wolves in that period of time. We can’t extend that to say that will prevent negative wolf-livestock interactions in the long term. Because it doesn’t.”

In its lethal control protocol, WDFW cites a paper from Michigan saying the “the act of attempting to lethally remove wolves may result in meeting the goal of changing the behavior of the pack.”

However, that study’s authors do not make claims about changing behavior, and attribute any lower recurrence of attacks on livestock to the increase in human activity nearby — not anything specific to lethal control.

That study also  found no correlation between killing a high number of wolves and a reduction in livestock depredation the following year.

Instead, it found the opposite: “Our analyses of localized farm clusters showed that as more wolves were killed one year, the depredations increased the following year.”

Ranchers say lethal is needed

In mid-October, Nash was hauling bags of mineral feed to where his cattle graze in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. He kept stopping along the snowy road.

“That right there is a wolf track,” he said, hopping out for a closer inspection.  He spotted another smaller set next to them. “That looks like a pup.”

They were fresh and led toward cattle.

Nearby, a state biologist and the local range rider were doing the same. From time to time, Nash checked in and shared what he knew.

“There’s tracks going both ways,” he tells them. “These were smokin’ fresh.”

In Oregon, like in Washington, wildlife managers only kill wolves if demonstrated non-lethal efforts to deter wolves have failed. Those preventative measures have been adopted inconsistently, and with mixed reviews. Many say they’ve seen improvements by removing bone piles that attract wolves and by increasing human presence. Here, Nash said he’s had someone in the pasture nearly every day, including his own cowboys, a county range rider and a friend he hired to camp nearby.

Cattle die for many reasons on the open range. Wolves account for only a fraction of ranchers’ losses, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures. In the Northwest, documented kills by wolves amount to a few dozen per year in a region with more than two million cattle.

But for an individual producer, wolf damage can be a devastating blow. Especially when it’s on top of added stress and added costs of preventing wolf attacks.

Turning cattle out to roam after a long winter used to be a time to relax and celebrate, Nash said.

“You’d go, ‘oh, this is so nice,’” he said. “And now, that’s been taken away from us. I’m sad about that.”

This past summer’s wolf killings are in the same area where Oregon officials previously killed four members of the Imnaha pack. Nash said killing wolves from the Imnaha pack bought ranchers temporary relief from the predators. But, eventually, a new pack moved in.

After a few hours on snowy roads in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Nash had no wolves in his sights. He decided to head home.

“I’m a little disappointed,” he said, patting a black bolt-action rifle resting beside the driver’s seat of his pickup. “I’m definitely nervous. You see how close they are to the cattle.”

In most Western states where wolves live,  ranchers can submit claims for financial compensation for cattle killed by wolves. But Nash said that’s a poor substitute for losing one of the cows or calves he takes pride in and cares for.

“We’ll take the no wolves over compensation any day, given the choice,” Nash said. “It’s not in us to allow our cattle to be killed. It’s an act that’s contrary to everything we do.”

Lethal control has broad support from farmers and ranchers. It’s seen as a crucial tool to protect livestock. Government killing of predators is common worldwide — from wolves, cougars and coyotes in the American West to dingos in the Australian Outback. In the United States, the federal government’s Wildlife Services agency has killed more than two million mammals since 2000.

In the dark on what works

“It’s not fair to our farmers,” said Australia-based scientist Lily Van Eden, who published a paper on the subject in 2017.

Examining past studies of the various techniques used to control predators, Van Eden found wide swings in results. That includes two studies of lethal control and one of guardian dogs that all showed increases in livestock losses.

Van Eden’s paper was one of four published in the past two years examining the current landscape of predator control research.

Each team reached the same conclusion: there is not sufficient evidence to say if and when killing large carnivores, such as wolves, actually achieves the desired result of reducing the loss of cattle or sheep. The same can be said for most non-lethal techniques.

Much of the research into the topic of both lethal and non-lethal predator control is flawed in one way or another. Of the research that does exists, more studies showed lethal control efforts to be ineffective or counterproductive at reducing ranchers’ losses.

Without gold-standard research on the subject, existing data can be used to justify opposing positions.

Take, for instance, a study published in 2014 led by Washington State University professor Robert Wielgus. It used data from the wolf population in Rocky Mountain states. The study showed livestock lost to wolves actually increased after some wolves were killed. It was criticized for not adequately accounting for changes over time. A University of Washington team re-analyzed the data and published essentially the opposite finding, only to be criticized for over-correcting and making their own statistical errors.

Exactly how killing wolves could lead to an increase in depredations is not well understood. But there are several possible factors: Removing a pack could allow new wolves to move in, creating disruptions and unusual foraging techniques. Removing part of the pack could displace the remaining wolves to neighboring farms or pastures, who then prey on livestock. Or the pack could be weakened, limiting its ability to successfully hunt its natural prey of elk and deer.

“The information out there is not conclusive,” said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Broman. “It’s still kind of an early discipline. We look at what pieces of that information are most applicable here and what could potentially work.”

Avoiding the all-or-nothing approach

That paper’s findings do not wholly endorse what Oregon and Washington are doing when they kill only one or two wolves at a time.

“There wasn’t very much gained by such a small partial pack removal. You gain about two months,” Bradley said.

The study concluded killing one or two wolves from a pack meant an average of about two months until the next wolf kill. With no action taken, that time between wolf attacks was a little less than a month. That’s a marginal difference compared to eliminating the full wolf pack, which resulted in an average of about two years until the next wolf attack. Ranchers like Todd Nash say this is a good reason to favor full pack removal.

Bradley acknowledged removing a full wolf pack isn’t always an option. But if you’re going to kill only one or two members of the pack, she found, it has to be within a week to be most effective. Bradley said her study wasn’t intended to endorse or condemn killing wolves but rather to offer guidance on how to be most effective.

Exactly why, she doesn’t know. But she suspects it increases the likelihood of shooting the culprit wolf.

Washington officials say they aim to respond within two weeks after a depredation. Oregon’s last two state-sanctioned wolf killings were carried out 10 days and 19 days, respectively, after a depredation.

These wolf attacks on livestock often happen in remote areas and go undiscovered for stretches of time. Responding within a week might not always be an option.

“If you don’t do it within the first week or two weeks, then you probably shouldn’t bother,” Bradley said. “After that, we found there was no difference.”

ODFW’s Broman said Oregon is testing out unproven methods like incremental pack killing because it doesn’t want an all-or-nothing approach.

“We’re seeing if it works. It’s still a test to see what we’re looking for,” Broman said. “If you went exclusively by Bradley, you’d either do nothing or full pack removal. Full pack removal is very difficult.”

The problem with non-lethal, and finding a better way

Wolf advocates have pushed non-lethal alternatives to killing wolves to reduce livestock depredations. They advocate techniques like hazing wolves, fencing off cattle or using guard dogs. But there’s also a lack of evidence on those. And they’re also expensive and time consuming for ranchers.

A recent study done in Idaho by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Defenders of Wildlife yielded promising results for non-lethal techniques. Over seven years, researchers found the rate of sheep losses due to wolves was 3.5 times lower in an area where they used only non-lethal techniques, compared to an area open to lethal control. That was in rugged, remote pastures where non-lethal techniques were used.

That was a designed study with funding from conservation groups, the federal government and private donors. The study included field technicians who could help pen sheep at night and employ other wolf deterrents. The study’s author, Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife, said those non-lethal methods cost less money than Wildlife Services spent on killing wolves in nearby pastures. And those same methods are being used as part of a non-lethal program covering 10,000 sheep grazing across an area of nearly 1,000 square miles.

Most ranchers don’t have the time or manpower to do what that study did, said Julie Young, a researcher for the government’s Wildlife Services.

Young has been working on how to adapt non-lethal practices for widespread adoption.

“Maybe there’s a happy medium,” she said. “We’re going to do these things, but we actually want to measure it as we’re doing it, so we can know if this program we’re investing time or money or resources in is cost-effective or effective at all.”

She said programs like lethal control and compensation for non-lethal measures, including the ones used in Oregon and Washington, are ripe for study.

“We need better data,” Young said. “Otherwise we’re going to also lose trust, if we just start pushing tools on people and they don’t work.”

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WA state to kill more wolves to protect livestock–for the fourth time!


The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife intends to kill wolves in the Smackout Pack in Stevens County beginning this week to protect two ranchers’ cattle grazing on public land.

The department’s intention is to kill members of the pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Stevens County since 2015, said Jim Unsworth, the department’s director, in a news release.

The goal at this time is not to take out the entire pack. The department intends to assess results of incrementally killing the wolves before taking further action.

The decision to start killing pack members is consistent with policy set by the state’s wolf-management plan set in 2011, and in particular, policy that allows killing wolves that prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period.

That policy was developed last year by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, formed to represent the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.

The state’s pack-removal policy has split environmental groups, with some supporting the policy and others dead set against it

 “While heart-rending it is our hope that this action … will cease further livestock depredations and prevent the need for additional lethal actions, protecting the integrity and future of this pack,” the nonprofit Conservation Northwest stated in a news release. “We see this as a test of the theory that early lethal intervention can disrupt depredating behavior.”

Others were outraged.

“The environmental community has been incredibly meek when it comes to this,” said Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group. “This is outrageous. This is a cost of doing business: If you have cattle on public land, you suffer the losses.”

Ranchers in Stevens County have borne the brunt of wolf recovery in Washington. Many ranching families there — with deep ties to the land, their animals and the ranching tradition — operate on slim financial margins, and have had to make unwelcome adjustments in their practices to continue ranching in what has once again become wolf country. Some ranchers have trouble even keeping their animals up in the forest because of wolf harassment, and those are lands their operations depend on.
“We know they’re out there,” said Rhonda DalBalcon, who runs a ranch with her husband Kevin DalBalcon. “You can’t sleep at night when you know there’s wolves,” he said. (Steve Ringman and Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)

Critics, including Fahy, argue that the rugged, remote wild lands of the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington are perfect habitat for wolves, but not suited to livestock. “It’s high time we address this. It’s going to keep happening over and over. Get the cattle off the lands,” Fahy said. “Otherwise we are just going to be killing more and more wolves. We have to start the discussion.”

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Ranching has been a permitted use on national forest lands, including the Colville National Forest, for more than a century. The state’s wolf policy calls for coexistence of wolves and people, including livestock producers, on the landscape.

The Smackout pack is one of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. At that time, the pack was estimated to consist of eight wolves, but it has since produced an unknown number of pups.

With four confirmed attacks on cattle since last September, the pack’s number is up, notes Don Dashiell, a member of the state’s Wolf Advisory Group and a Stevens County commissioner. “Let ’er go,” he said of the state’s removal effort. He said the state should take out half the pack now, and if that doesn’t work, keep going.

The pack’s latest depredation on livestock was discovered Tuesday, when an employee of the livestock owner found an injured calf with bite marks consistent with a wolf attack in a leased federal grazing area.

During the previous month, the rancher reported to WDFW that his employee had caught two wolves in the act of attacking livestock and the employee killed one of them.

The killing of the wolf — a state protected species — is allowed under state law that empowers livestock owners and their employees to protect their livestock by killing up to one wolf in areas where wolves are no longer listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Smackout pack lives in the northeastern corner of the state, where wolves are not federally protected.

Wolves began their return to Washington in 2008 after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to local extinction. They are a state-protected species all over Washington — with exceptions to protect livestock — and are federally protected only in Western Washington. The state’s wolf population overall is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.

Martorello said both ranchers made efforts to protect their livestock using nonlethal deterrence. “Our goal is to change the pack’s behavior before the situation gets worse.”

Wolf recovery remains a very low risk to cattle ranching. Most packs in Washington do not kill livestock, even when sharing the landscape with cows and sheep, and very few cattle are documented as killed by wolves.

Most cattle are lost to accidents and illness and other causes not related to wildlife.

This is the fourth time the state has taken aim at wolves to protect cattle; it has previously targeted the Profanity Peak pack, the Wedge Pack and the Huckleberry pack.

Mitch Friedman, executive director for Conservation Northwest, predicted more heartache as the state’s wolf population grows.

“We want a healthy wolf population and healthy wolf packs, and we don’t see a way that doesn’t involve occasional trauma like this,” Friedman said. “We have less than a handful of serious conflicts — that is a pretty good batting average. That is success even though every incident will be traumatic, for the rancher, and for the people who love wolves.”

Denmark gets its first wild wolf pack in 200 years

Arrival of a female wolf, that trekked 500km from Germany, means the pack could have cubs by spring

Three wolves in snow
Wolves are returning to well-peopled landscapes after centuries of persecution. Photograph: Fred van Wijk/Alamy Stock Photo

A wolf pack is roaming wild in Denmark for the first time in more than 200 years after a young female wolf journeyed 500km from Germany.

Male wolves have been seen in Denmark since 2012 and the new female could produce cubs this spring in farmland in west Jutland after two wolves were filmed together last autumn.

It is further evidence that the wolf is returning to well-peopled landscapes after centuries of persecution, with wolf packs also re-establishing themselves in France and Germany and individuals sighted in Holland and even Luxembourg. Before the new population, Denmark’s last wolf was killed in 1813.

“We expect that they will have cubs this year or the next,” said Peter Sunde, a senior researcher at Aarhus University.

“People were very surprised when wolves first appeared in Denmark but they are highly mobile and are just as adaptable to cultural landscapes as foxes are. The only problem historically is that we killed them.”

DNA from two faeces samples have confirmed that the female wolf came from a pack 25km south of Berlin in Germany before travelling to north-west Denmark, probably leaving her family group last spring to do so.

There is sometimes speculation that wolves are deliberately released into the countryside by unofficial rewilders but according to Guillaume Chapron, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, this female’s trek north was entirely natural. “The wolf went on its four legs, it makes complete biological sense,” he said. Wolves can walk 50km in 24 hours and have been recorded making journeys of more than 1,000km across Europe from Germany, where they re-established themselves in 1998. Germany’s wolf population is currently growing at 25-30% each year, with the young dispersing across central Europe.

Researchers have found wolves in some cases living in suburban areasalongside up to 3,050 people per square kilometre – higher than the population density of Cambridge or Newcastle.

“The wolf is a predator to the roe deer – if you can have roe deer, you can have wolves,” said Chapron. “As long as we don’t disturb them, they will be fine in these human-dominated landscapes. In Denmark there’s no reason wolves can’t thrive. But the question has to be asked, are people going to accept the wolves? The wolf will need to eat something. When they realise that Danish sheep don’t taste too bad that may be a little problematic. It will be interesting to see how far we can coexist with big predators.”

Denmark’s wolves have settled in a well-farmed area of heathland and small pine plantations with plentiful prey in the form of burgeoning populations of red and roe deer.

There have been reports of wolves killing several sheep in the area over winter but the Danish government has already established a wolf management plan with compensation for farmers and funding so livestock farmers can erect wolf-proof fencing. The management plan, drawn up in consultation with game hunters as well as farmers and conservationists, allows for wolves that become “habituated” and live too close to humans to be controlled.

“There is a tradition in Denmark of reaching compromises and reaching solutions,” added Sunde, who said he was optimistic that Danes could coexist peacefully with wolves. “Technically, we can relatively easily manage the wolf population but the challenge is the psychology of humans. There are so many feelings and opinions about wolves in Denmark, as everywhere. The wolf debate is very much value-driven rather than related to concrete problems.”

There are more than 12,000 wolves in continental Europe (excluding Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) and the wolf is a protected species under the EU’s habitats directive. According to Chapron, southern European countries have often been better at accepting new wolf populations than northern Europe. Several countries with relatively small wolf populations including Finland and Norway still pursue controversial annual culls of the animals.

Chapron said he would not like to predict how many wolves could live wild in Denmark. “Let the wolf decide and let people decide as well because we are sharing the landscape. It’s very positive news for nature conservation. It shows that attitudes have changed and when we let nature take care of itself, nature comes back.

“Forget Little Red Riding Hood – it’s not a myth that is back, it’s just a natural part of the European fauna.”

Let rich tourists hunt wolves by helicopter to solve Siberia’s wolf epidemic


By Kate Baklitskaya
08 March 2017

Foreigners should be invited to pay $10,000 per animal in novel way to fund cull needed to save reindeer and horses.

 The cost would be $10,000 for each wolf, plus $5,100 for helicopter transport, accommodation and food. Picture: Denis Adamov

Wealthy Russian and foreign tourists should be offered helicopter hunting trips to shoot wolves in Yakutia, where they are causing a growing threat to livestock.

The region’s 12,000 wolves are costing $2.5 million a year in damage to reindeer and horse herds. Wolves killed more than 9,000 reindeer and 500-plus horses, it is reported. Measures taken by the authorities to cull the rapidly rising wolf population are seen as ineffective.

Now local deputy Viktor Fedorov has suggested the region – also known as Sakha Republic – offering elite hunting opportunities to tourists as a means of rapidly reducing numbers without putting a strain on the budget. The cost would be $10,000 for each wolf, plus $5,100 for helicopter transport, accommodation and food.

‘In this way we could reduce the number of wolves and earn money for it,’ he said. ‘At the same time we could monitor the deer herds from above.’


Local deputy Viktor Fedorov has suggested Sakha Republic offering elite hunting opportunities to tourists. Picture: Il Tumen

He said: ‘We already have the tourists, local and some from abroad, who are willing to pay $10,000 for hunting one wolf. I searched for the prices on trophy hunting in South Africa. Hunting an adult lion costs $30,000, therefore, so $10,000 for a wolf is quite an acceptable price.

‘Chinese tourists fly to Canada and Alaska for hunting, which is more expensive. Harbin (China) is close to us, so I came up with the idea of commercialising the project.’

Fedorov said that it costs the regional government around $3,400 to cull a single wolf, while foreign tourists are ready to pay $10,000, making the scheme profitable to the Yakutians.

‘The cost of accommodation, transportation and food would be another 300,000 rubles ($5,100).

hunter with wolf

hunter with wolves

hunter killed giant wolf

Yakut hunters with their hunting trophies. Pictures: Denis Adamov, Hunting.ru, Ykt.ru

‘We have a limit of 800 wolves to be killed a year. 400 wolves could be (killed by) commercial activity. In that way environmental department would earn 120 million roubles ($2.06 million). And the hunting department would not need to shoot wolves – and will only fight against poaching.’

He spoke out against using poison as an alternative way of killing wolves, arguing it could kill other animals such as foxes, badgers and dogs.

‘So we are left with hunting from the air and the land,’ he said. ‘Hunting from the air is the most effective in my opinion. We used Mi-2 and Mi-8 helicopters.

‘The cost of flying hours of Mi-8 is 200,000 to 300,000 thousand rubles per hour ($3,400-$5,160). And flying a small helicopter Mi-2 is about 70,000 to 80,000 ($1,200 – $1,375).

‘As I understand, the Mi-8 was used this year for only four hours. What can you do in four hours? This is like shooting sparrows from a cannon.’


Helicopter Rotorway A-600. Picture: rotorway.ru

He proposed: ‘You don’t need a big helicopter for hunting. A wolf weighs about 50 kg, you kill him, take him on board and off you go. There is, for example, a helicopter Rotorway A-600 which costs $98,000… It takes two people on board, flies for 300 km, at 160 kph.

‘We can buy three helicopters like that with a 20 million rouble ($345,000) budget and put an end to the wolf problem. The state provides the infrastructure, and we use it for tourism.

‘I’m sure we’ll find enough tourists in Heilongjiang province alone. There are 120 million people in the province, and I’m sure I’ll find 400 hunters. In addition, our local hunters are quite wealthy.’He said the law may need to be changed to allow the scheme to work.

‘The whole world operates like this: you can hunt lions, rhinos. You just come to Africa and hunt the animal. And I’m sitting in Yakutsk and cant get a licence to hunt an elk. Can you imagine this? It’s easier for me to go to Africa and get a license there.’

Wolves preying on reindeer herds threaten seasonal joy in remote Siberian villages 

Wolves preying on reindeer herds threaten seasonal joy in remote Siberian villages 

Wolves preying on reindeer herds threaten seasonal joy in remote Siberian villages 

Measures taken by the authorities to cull the rapidly rising wolf population are seen as ineffective. Pictures: Victor Everstov

He was asked about safeguards so that other animals are not shot by trigger-happy tourists.

‘Firstly, the pilot will be an employee of the nature reserve. Secondly, we will put in cameras, and we’ll watch what animal was shot. If some other animal was shot, we are sorry, but you have to pay a $20,000  fine – and face a ban from returning here to hunt.’

The tourist would be allowed to keep the skin of the wolf. The aim should not be to wipe out the wolf population. ‘If the number of animals falls dramatically, the wolves allowed to be killed should be reduced as well.’

Yakutia has around 12,000 of an estimated 50,000 in Russia.

Support Denali Wolves

During their Region III meetings February 17-25 in Fairbanks, the Alaska Board of Game will take up Proposal 142, authored by Denali Citizens Council and the Alaska Wildlife Alliance. This proposal brings back to the Board the idea of precluding hunting and trapping of wolves on distinct areas of state land adjacent to Denali National Park and Preserve, game management units 20A and 20C.

Proposal 142 is on the agenda at the Region III Alaska Board of Game meeting, scheduled for February 17-25, 2017. This is the first time since 2010 that a proposal supporting closed areas next to the national park will be heard by the Alaska Board of Game.

The Board previously approved no-take areas for wolves in these same locations in 2001 and 2002 when the Park wolf population was much higher than the record-low numbers that have persisted in recent years. While research has shown that hunting and trapping do have a real affect on the park’s wolf population, it is, of course, one of many factors that contribute to changes in population size.

We, the owners of Camp Denali and North Face Lodge, fully support Proposal 142. Whether or not increased protection from human predation will right away result in a higher wolf population in Denali and increased view-ability of park wolves is unknown. We do know, however, that the buffer zone will ease one of the known human-caused factors for wolves’ population decline. And we know that the experience of viewing wolves in the wild is a powerful and meaningful one for park visitors. It is an opportunity that ought to be in the best interest of all Alaskans.

Read Proposal 142 here.

Please consider sending your written comments—brief or lengthy—to the Alaska Board of Game for the Region III meeting before February 3, 2017. Identify your interest in the issue, your familiarity with Denali National Park, and your support for increased protection of wolves through the measures identified in Proposal 142.

Click on the link below to visit the Board of Game Comment Page, where you can submit a short or long comment for the Region III meeting by February 3, 2017. Be sure you choose the Interior/Northeast Region meeting from the dropdown menu.


Below are some additional suggested talking points from Denali Citizens Council:

– Highlight the vulnerability of wolves to hunting and trapping when they cross the park boundary onto state land.

– Identify the international importance of Denali’s wolves to tourism and science.

– Identify the importance of intact, diverse animal populations to the regional and state economy. Of greater benefit to the State of Alaska are the revenues from tourism to Denali National Park than the hunting and trapping licenses sold for the take of wolves on adjacent state lands.

– Remind the Alaska Board of Game that it is their responsibility and authority to conserve the wilderness and wildlife in this region.

– Include any relevant personal expertise or experience you have.

Group protests eradication of Profanity Peak wolf pack


OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Dozens of protesters gathered outside of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to decry the killing of a pack of wolves in northeastern Washington.

The group rallied in opposition of the agency’s decision to eradicate the Profanity Peak pack in order to protect cattle. WDFW has been using hunters flying in helicopters to shoot the animals north of Sherman Pass. Many protesters carried pictures of wolves and signs that read “Protect The Wolves” and “Stop The Slaughter.”

Since mid-July, WDFW has confirmed that wolves from the Profanity Peak pack have killed or injured six cattle and probably five others.

So far, six of the 11 members of the pack have been killed. Remaining are two radio-collared adults, used by the department to track the wolves, and several pups.

Wolf advocates outraged over plan to kill E. Wash. wolf pack

Gray wolf (File photo)


SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Some wolf advocates are outraged that the state is preparing for the second time to exterminate an entire wolf pack for preying on livestock in northeastern Washington state.

This is the second time in four years that a pack of endangered wolves has received the death penalty because of the grazing of privately owned cattle on publicly owned lands, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

Washington is home to about 90 wolves, and killing the 11 members of the Profanity Peak pack would amount to 12 percent of the population.

“By no stretch of the imagination can killing 12 percent of the state’s tiny population of 90 wolves be consistent with recovery,” said Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, on Thursday.

“We can’t keep placing wolves in harm’s way by repeatedly dumping livestock onto public lands with indefensible terrain, then killing the wolves when conflicts arise,” she said.

Last week, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it would exterminate the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County. Since mid-July, the agency has confirmed that wolves have killed or injured six cattle and probably five others, based on staff investigations.

Jim Unsworth, director of the agency, authorized the wolf hunts between the towns of Republic and Kettle Falls.

Wildlife officials shot two pack members Aug. 5, but temporarily ended wolf-removal efforts after two weeks passed without finding any more evidence of wolf predation on cattle.

“At that time, we said we would restart this operation if there was another wolf attack, and now we have three,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”

Since 2008, the state’s wolf population has grown from two wolves in one pack to at least 90 wolves and 19 packs.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington at the beginning of the last century. Since the early 2000s, they’ve moved back into the state from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia.

That has set off alarm bells from people in rural areas, especially in northeastern Washington where the animals are concentrated.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has walked a fine line between environmental groups, who support wolf recovery, and ranchers who want to protect their herds. The issue has become a dividing line between urban and rural residents.

In 2012, hunters hired by the state killed members of the Wedge pack of wolves, in the same general area, for killing livestock.

Conservation groups say the livestock is the problem, not wolves.

“Cows grazing in thick forest and downed trees in the Colville National Forest are in an indefensible situation,” said Tim Coleman, executive director for Kettle Range Conservation Group. “We believe the wildest areas of our national forests should be a place where wolves can roam free.”

Under Washington’s wolf plan, livestock owners are eligible for taxpayer-funded compensation for losses. Taxpayers have also funded the radio collars placed on wolves.

Those collars are now being used to locate and kill the wolves. This practice is referred to as the use of “Judas wolves,” because the collared wolves unknowingly betray the location of their family members, Weiss said.

Some conservation groups do not oppose the hunt. Wolf Haven International, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and Conservation Northwest said they are focused on long-term goals.

“We remain steadfast that our important goals remain the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves in our state alongside thriving rural communities,” the groups said in a press release. “We believe that ultimately we can create conditions where everyone’s values are respected and the needs of wildlife, wildlife advocates, and rural communities are met.”

Howl of the Hunted Part III

Continued from https://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/excerpt-from-the-howl-of-the-hunted/ and https://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/the-howl-of-the-hunted-part-two/

copyrighted wolf in river

“Lone wolves are rare. Normally wolves live in packs ranging in size from three to thirty members, but averaging less than eight. The pack is essential for the species’ survival and its size is determined by the abundance of prey in a given area. A single wolf can rarely bring down an animal as large as a deer or elk, but a pack–working together with each individual taking a role–can usually, procure enough food for all members. Wolves often have great difficulty overcoming a hoofed animal contrary to older beliefs. This well known by the wolf himself and is reflected in the way he chooses his prey. If the prey does not run at first rush but holds his ground, he’s usually left alone. A good example of wolves ‘testing’ prey comes from L. David Mech’s book, The Wolves of Isle Royale, a study of wolf/moose relationships on a large protected island in Lake Michigan:

‘Seven wolves encountered three adult moose standing a few yards inland among sparse conifers and heavy blowdown. The wolves ran fifteen yards to the nearest moose, but the animal stood at bay and threatened the wolves. Immediately they headed for the second moose, which started running. However, they soon abandoned pursuit, for the animal had a head start. Then they turned to the third moose, which had watched them chase the others. This animal ran upon their approach and when during the pursuit it charged the wolves, one got ahead of the moose. The moose charges this wolf and chased it down the trail for fifty yards while the rest of the pack pursued it. Finally the moose stood next to a spruce and defied the wolves. Within half a minute they gave up.’

“On Isle Royale, Mech regularly observed moose from the air. Of the 160 in the range of the hunting wolves, 29 were ignored by wolves, 11 discovered the wolves first and eluded detection, 24 refused to run when confronted and were left alone. Of the 96 that ran, 43 got away immediately, 34 were surrounded but left alone, 12 made successful defensive stands, 7 were attacked, 6 were killed and 1 was wounded but escaped. These cases he observed over several winters in the 1960s.

“Wolves must be very economical in their energy expenditure if they are to survive. A healthy adult moose has a good chance of escaping and the wolves know they can’t afford to chase for long distances without results. Also a wolf knows he can be seriously injured or killed by his hoofed prey, if it is strong and healthy. Weaker individuals, logically, are easier to catch and the wolves–not caring about making trophy kills or obtaining fine hides–go for the easiest prey possible. Wolves often stare down their prey before deciding which one is healthiest and which one is weakest. The weaker usually show some sign of nervousness not exhibited by healthier individuals.

“The personality of wolves was summed up by Adolf Murie, who spent long periods of time with wolves in Mount McKinley National Park. In his 1944 book, The Wolves of Mount McKinley, he writes, ‘The strongest impression remaining with me after watching wolves on numerous occasions, was their friendliness. The adults were friendly towards each other and were amiable toward the pups.’

“His social nature contributes greatly to the wolf’s personality traits. One of the strongest traits is his capacity to make emotional attachments to other individuals. This is very important to the formation of a pack as the unit of a wolf’s society. Another characteristic necessary for wolf pack system cohesion is the aversion to fighting. This non-violent nature is advantageous considering they must spend much of their time together.”


to be continued…