The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife publishes reports detailing the wolf conservation and management activities undertaken by the department. Click on the title of an update below to see the complete article.

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Monthly Wolf Report - February 2019

March 6, 2019

This report provides information about wolf conservation and management activities undertaken by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from February 1-28, 2019

Program Updates

The department filed a CR101 (WSR 18-20-084; see online here) on October 1, 2018 to initiate the process for a periodic status review of gray wolves. The department also notified the public in the November 2018 monthly wolf report (here).

The delisting criteria in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 220-610-110 indicates the Fish and Wildlife Commission shall delist a wildlife species from endangered, threatened, or sensitive solely on the basis of the biological status of the species being considered, based on the preponderance of scientific data available.

It also indicates a species may be delisted from endangered, threatened, or sensitive when it meets the recovery plan goals OR (emphasis added) when it is no longer in danger of failing, declining, are no longer vulnerable to factors like limited numbers, disease, predation, exploitation, or habitat loss or change.  Please see WAC 220-610-110 (here) for the exact rule language.

Following the rule, the department will review all relevant data pertaining to the population status and factors affecting existence of wolves in Washington. Based on the information collected and reviewed, the department will make recommendations to maintain the species current listing status as endangered or reclassify species to sensitive or threatened or other status. 

The public comment period will be announced at a later date. WDFW will provide updates here and under the Rules Information Center page of the WFDW website.

 

Communication and Coordination

Department staff members met with Dr. Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology and members of his lab to discuss the differences in wolf population numbers between the WDFW annual count and those estimated from their study. The discussion focused on research and analytical methodology, wolf ecology, and potential opportunities for collaboration. Although both teams agreed that further discussion and work is needed the information exchange was helpful. Additional meetings and supplemental review are anticipated to occur over the next several months.

 

Statewide Wolf Capture, Survey, and Management

Biologists surveyed for tracks and placed or checked remote cameras in the Salmo, Sherman, Smackout, Skagit, Skookum, and Five Sisters pack areas this past month. They are continuing to work on the annual survey effort to assess the minimum number of wolves in Washington. Wolf biologists also surveyed in areas with recent wolf reports outside of known pack territories, including areas in eastern King County and areas northwest of Mt. Rainier in eastern Pierce County.

The statewide wolf specialist met with District 11 biologists, conflict specialists, and enforcement to discuss how to respond to wolf-related issues and ways to assist with annual wolf surveys.    

Any reports of remote camera images, videos, wolf tracks, or sightings from the public are incredibly helpful to assist in locating new wolf activity and potential new packs on the landscape.  Please take photos of wolves or wolf sign with some way to measure the size of the track and upload them to the department’s wolf-reporting page found at the following link: https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/reporting/.

 

Proactive Deterrence Measures

Teanaway pack

This month, the Teanaway pack was located within their known territory. No wolf/livestock conflict incidents involving this pack were reported or documented this month.  Recreational horseback riders reported that two wolves briefly followed the riders and their dogs at a distance while they were riding in the Park Creek area of Kittitas County.

 

Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille County

Range rider planning began for the upcoming grazing season. Topics such as deployment, GPS units, bells, new collars, and producer engagement were covered.


Packs Referenced: Five Sisters, Salmo, Sherman, Skookum, Smackout, Teanaway

Last Updated: Mar. 6, 2019 8:31 AM

Washington Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) Conference Call

February 13, 2019

Washington Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) Conference Call

February 13, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

10:00   Welcome and Check-in

10:15   Updates

  • WAG Current and Future Membership
  • Future WAG Facilitator
  • Commission Wolf Subcommittee and WAG Participation
  • Grazing on WDFW Lands
  • Member Questions from Emailed Updates

11:15   Post De-Listing Plan Timeline (see handout at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wag/)

11:30   Future Meeting Dates and Field Trip

11:45   Check-out

12:00   Adjourn

The conference call is open to the public to listen from a second muted line.

Conference call-in number: 360-407-3780.

Public PIN: 283148#


Last Updated: Feb. 14, 2019 12:48 PM

Feb 12-13 WAG meeting cancelled due to weather

February 11, 2019

The Feb 12-13 Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) meeting has been cancelled due to weather.  The Department is scheduling a WAG conference call for Wednesday, Feb 13, from 10am-noon.  There will be a second, muted line for the public to listen in.  The agenda and call-in instructions will be provided in an update on Tuesday.


Last Updated: Feb. 14, 2019 12:46 PM

Wolf killed in Adams County in “caught-in-the-act” incident

February 7, 2019

On the evening of Feb. 4, WDFW staff were informed that a ranch employee checking on cattle killed a wolf in northeastern Adams County in a “caught-in-the-act” scenario. The ranch employee noticed cattle running, then saw three wolves chasing the cattle. When the employee yelled at the wolves, two retreated. The remaining wolf paused, then continued to pursue a cow. The ranch employee shot and killed the wolf from approximately 120 yards away.

Department staff were on scene within two hours and WDFW law enforcement performed an on-site investigation. Based on the preliminary findings, WDFW law enforcement indicated that the shooting was lawful and consistent with state regulations. 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. The incident occurred outside any known pack territories, and the wolf killed was an unmarked, adult female. The breeding status of the female is unknown.

WDFW conflict staff are working with the livestock producer to mitigate future conflict. Staff are also investigating wolf activity in the vicinity to determine if there is a new wolf pack in the area.


Last Updated: Feb. 7, 2019 3:27 PM

Monthly Wolf Report - January 2019

February 6, 2019

This report provides information about wolf conservation and management activities undertaken by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from Jan.1 to Jan. 31, 2019

Statewide wolf capture, survey, and management

Wolf biologists conducted aerial wolf captures with a helicopter in northeast Washington this past month, where they were able to collar a wolf in the Stranger pack, one in the Carpenter Ridge pack, and one in the Goodman Meadows pack. Biologists also conducted two surveys with a small plane to survey packs and conduct counts in northeast Washington and one flight down to the central Cascades to count in the Loup Loup and Teanaway areas. These flights are utilized to count the number of wolves in the packs where at least one individual in the pack has a radio collar. The flights provide information for WDFW’s minimum wolf count estimates that will be tallied in the annual report due out in early April. A presentation will be given at the April Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting.

Wolf biologists also conducted winter track surveys in the Sherman, Dirty Shirt, Leadpoint, Togo, Salmo, and Lookout packs to get annual minimum counts. They also surveyed areas where recent reports from the public suggest there may be some wolf activity. These areas included the Chiliwist in Okanogan County, the Lake Wenatchee area in Chelan County, and the Tanuem and Stampede Pass areas in Kittitas County. These surveys are generally conducted by snowmobiling the road systems in the area to locate wolf tracks and following the wolf tracks on snowshoes to determine the number of individuals in each of the packs. By monitoring/tracking each area several times over the course of the winter, biologists get an estimate of the minimum number of individuals in the pack.

Any reports of remote camera images or videos, wolf tracks, or sightings from the public are helpful to assist in locating new wolf activity and potential new packs on the landscape. Please share your photos of wolves or wolf sign (use some way to measure the size of the track) by uploading them to the department’s wolf reporting webpage found at the following link: https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/reporting/.

 

Proactive Deterrence Measures

Kittitas County

Permit grazing for cattle and sheep has ended for the season in the Teanaway Pack’s known territory.

  • No wolf/livestock incidents were reported or suspected in January.
  • A RAG (radio-activated guard) box is in place at a location on the eastern edge of the pack’s territory as a precaution to protect cattle on private land.

 

Depredation Investigations

On Jan. 5, 2019, three depredations by the OPT pack were confirmed in Ferry County. For full details, please see the Jan. 11 update.

 

Statewide Preparation for spring/summer 2019

Department staff members reviewed 2018 activities and compiled opportunities for improvements for 2019. A new WDFW Range Rider request for quotation (RFQ) and additional training opportunities for staff were some items identified.

 

Communication, coordination, and stakeholder engagement

During January, department wildlife conflict staff held “Wolf 101” informational presentations for the Washington Association of Conservation Districts, Asotin and Garfield counties, the Columbia County Conservation District Annual Meeting, the Lincoln County Conservation District, and the Palouse Rock Lake Conservation District Annual Meeting. These presentations included information on wolf identification, statewide and local wolf counts, statewide wolf management objectives, nonlethal deterrent measures, and what to do if wolf depredation of livestock is suspected. Each meeting was attended by between 28-130 people.


Packs Referenced: Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows, Leadpoint, Lookout, Loup Loup, Profanity Peak, Salmo, Sherman, Stranger, Teanaway, Togo

Last Updated: Feb. 6, 2019 1:35 PM

Agenda posted for WAG meeting Feb. 12-13, 2019 in Olympia

February 5, 2019

This is a notice to inform you that the next Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) meeting will be held February 12-13, 2019. The meeting will take place at the Meetinghouse at Priest Point, 3201 Boston Harbor Road NE, Olympia, WA, 98506. 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.

A meeting agenda is posted to the Wolf Advisory Group page on the department’s website. The WAG work session will open to the public to observe and will follow the same format used in the past, including public comment opportunities at the end of each day


Last Updated: Feb. 5, 2019 12:15 PM

Three more depredations by OPT pack confirmed in Ferry County

January 11, 2019

(Language in 7th paragraph clarified 1/22/2019)

On Jan. 4, WDFW staff were informed of dead livestock by the Stevens-Ferry County Wildlife Specialist on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in Ferry County. The livestock producer and ranch staff were actively looking for a few cow-calf pairs remaining on the allotment along the Kettle Crest. The carcasses were discovered through investigation of wolf location information provided to the livestock producer by the County Wildlife Specialist. The carcasses were within the OPT pack territory.  The producer who owns the depredated livestock is the same producer that experienced wolf depredations by the OPT pack in 2018. The carcasses were discovered northwest of the allotment where the 2018 depredations occurred. 

On Jan. 3, the producer searched the area of the reported wolf location information and discovered one live cow and two calf carcasses. The live cow was removed from the area by the producer and was reported to have no injuries. Due to the remote location of the carcasses and lack of daylight, WDFW staff could not reach the area to investigate the dead livestock until Jan. 5. During the investigation of the carcasses initially reported, department staff found and conducted an investigation on an additional cow carcass discovered in close proximity to the others. In total, staff investigated and confirmed three wolf depredations. The three carcasses (two calves and one cow) were within 850 meters of one another.

Investigation of the first calf revealed partial consumption of the internal organs and back half of the carcass. External examination of the hide indicated bite lacerations and puncture wounds on the right and left hindquarter. Lacerations and puncture wounds were present on the inner and outer portion of both legs. Skinning the carcass on the left and right hindquarters revealed hemorrhaging of the muscle tissue.

The remains of the second calf included the vertebral column and two front legs attached to a piece of hide. All of the soft tissue except the remaining hide had been consumed or removed, and the ribs and one of the long bones had been chewed and broken. There was evidence on the hide of significant hemorrhaging in the left armpit of the calf.

The investigation of the cow carcass revealed significant wounds and consumption of the soft tissues of the head and puncture wounds above the hock on the left rear leg. Skinning the leg revealed significant hemorrhaging and tissue damage immediately underlying those wounds.

The damage to all three of the carcasses investigated was indicative of wolf depredation and wolf tracks were documented at each site. In addition, GPS data from the radio-collared wolf in the OPT pack showed he was in the immediate vicinity during the time of the incidents. The data were also consistent with the age of tracks found at the site during the investigation. The locations and sign further suggest that the wolves involved in the depredations remained in the immediate vicinity for about a week.

No proactive wolf deterrents were in place because some of the producer’s cattle remained on the allotment outside the grazing season and the department assumed they had been removed. The vast majority of the livestock had been removed almost two months earlier. Deep snow (24-40 inches), avalanche conditions, and the distance from vehicles (more than 10 miles away) prevented WDFW staff or the livestock producer from removing the carcasses or deploying other responsive deterrents. No other livestock were detected in the area.

Previously, the OPT pack was implicated in a total of 16 depredations (13 injured and three killed livestock) in under two months. The additional depredations bring the total to 19 depredations (13 injured and six killed livestock) since Sept. 4, 2018.

On Nov. 13, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind paused action seeking to lethally remove the two remaining wolves from the OPT pack that repeatedly preyed on cattle in Ferry County. WDFW staff previously attempted to remove the remaining two wolves in the pack multiple times over a two-week period, but were unable to locate the uncollared pack member due to the dense forest canopy.

Director Susewind is now reassessing this situation and considering next steps.

For more information, please see previous updates on the OPT pack from the following dates:

2018

  • Sept 7, 11, 12, 14, 18, 25, 28
  • Oct 5, 19, 25, 26
  • Nov 15

Packs Referenced: Profanity Peak

Last Updated: Jan. 22, 2019 1:47 PM

Monthly Wolf Report - December 2018

January 4, 2019

This report provides information about wolf conservation and management activities undertaken by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from December 1-31, 2018

Statewide Wolf Capture, Survey, and Management

Wolf surveys

Wolf biologists surveyed for tracks and placed remote cameras in the Sherman, Skookum, Lookout, Skagit, and Five Sisters pack areas this past month. This is the beginning of the annual survey effort to assess the minimum number of wolves in Washington.

They also surveyed in areas with recent wolf reports outside of known pack territories in the Methow and areas south of I-90 to try and locate recent wolf sign.

Any reports of remote camera images, videos, wolf tracks, or sightings from the public are incredibly helpful to assist in locating new wolf activity and potential new packs on the landscape. Please take photos of wolves or wolf sign with some way to measure the size of the track and upload them to WDFW’s wolf reporting page.

 

Stakeholder engagement

On Dec. 8-9, department staff members met with a diversity of stakeholders in Republic to discuss wolf-livestock conflict, data sharing, wolf collaring and monitoring, outreach, and potential predator impacts to ungulates. Director Susewind and Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello also attended a Q and A session hosted by the Cattle Producers of Washington on the evening of Dec. 9.

On Dec. 16-17, department staff members met with the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) in Spokane. The meeting agenda, flip chart notes, and meeting notes are available on the department’s WAG webpage.

 

Regional Updates

Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties

No new information this month.

 

Okanogan County

On Nov. 27, a livestock owner’s employee rounded up cattle, including a 400-pound calf, from Washington Department of Natural Resources land. The employee moved the livestock to WDFW land, which is customarily used in the fall as a gathering site as cattle transition to private land. When the employee returned to collect cattle midday on Nov. 28, the calf was found dead.

Upon receiving the report that evening, WDFW asked the producer’s employee to return to the site, cover the carcass with a tarp to preserve evidence, and install a trail camera. At approximately 7:00 p.m., the employee and a neighbor returned to the site with a tarp and a trail camera. At that time, they saw an animal running from the carcass, but it was too dark for identification.

On Nov. 29, external examination of the calf indicated bite lacerations on the left hind leg. Skinning the carcass revealed subcutaneous hemorrhaging, damage to the muscle tissue, and bite puncture wounds on the left hind leg, left front shoulder, and left front leg. Wolf tracks were found adjacent to the dead calf. The evidence indicated that one wolf was involved in the incident. No collared wolves were present in the area at the time of the depredation.

Based on the available evidence, WDFW classified the event as a confirmed wolf depredation and later deployed a trail camera in the area to document any wolf activity near the site. There were no confirmed livestock depredations by wolves in this area prior to this incident. In an effort to reduce the likelihood of future conflict, the livestock producer removed the carcass from the area and removed the remaining cattle to private land. The livestock producer and WDFW have an excellent working relationship and will continue to work cooperatively to mitigate conflict as they have done previously.

 

Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties

In December, the majority of the cattle producers in WDFW District 3 moved their cattle to protected pastures and feed lots for winter calving and feeding. There was an increase in reports of wolf sightings and track observations this month. Wildlife conflict specialists monitored these reports and worked with producers to help implement proactive nonlethal deterrents. The conflict specialists also worked closely with producers to get final counts as cattle were moved to lower elevations. There were no reported depredations in the month of December.

 

Kittitas County

Permit grazing for cattle and sheep has ended for the season in the Teanaway pack’s known territory.

  • No wolf-livestock incidents were reported or suspected in December.
  • A RAG (radio-activated guard) box is in place at a location on the eastern edge of the pack’s territory as a precaution to protect cattle on private land.

Packs Referenced: Five Sisters, Lookout, Sherman, Skookum, Teanaway

Last Updated: Jan. 4, 2019 3:42 PM