This report provides information about wolf conservation and management activities undertaken by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from July 1-31, 2018.
Statewide Wolf Capture, Survey, and Management
Carnivore section staff members attended the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) meeting on July 10-11 in Ellensburg. Information on the WAG agenda and meeting notes can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/advisory/wag/.
The carnivore section also assisted the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), United States Forest Service (USFS), and Okanogan County Sherriff Office in responding to a human wolf encounter in the Loup Loup pack territory. Updates can be found on the Gray wolf updates page.
Wolf biologists spent time trapping in Leadpoint and Beaver Creek pack territories this past month. They spent time scouting in Five Sisters, Huckleberry, and Lookout pack territories and worked with the Stevens County Wildlife Specialist to locate activity in the Wedge pack. Wolf biologists also scouted areas in the North Central part of the state searching for signs of wolves in areas where we do not have confirmed packs. They checked remote cameras and searched for tracks and signs in the area.
Wolf biologists also assisted local district biologists in Skagit County, checking cameras in the area to see if any other wolves accompanied the collared wolf in the area. So far, this wolf still appears to be traveling alone.
Wolf biologists also followed up on some reports in the central portion of the state but were unable to find any definitive tracks or signs in the area they searched. They placed some cameras and will check them for any activity later in the summer.
Any reports of 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 report sightings to https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf/observations
The following information is related to the Togo pack and supplements information provided in the November 2017 and May 24, 2018 updates
In 2016, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists suspected that there may be pack activity in what is now considered the Togo territory in 2016. Initially, collar data from the Profanity Peak pack during that year seemed to indicate that Boulder and Deer creeks formed a distinct boundary along the northern edge of the Profanity territory. Typically, such a clear demarcation of a territory boundary is consistent with a neighboring pack defending its own territory and keeping other wolves out.
In addition to collar data from a neighboring pack, there had been reports circulating in that area that a couple of people had seen wolves north of Boulder Pass, but those could not be verified during the summer or autumn of 2016. During a Ferry County Cattlemen’s meeting in December 2016, while WDFW discussed wolf activity and deterrent strategies with local livestock producers, one producer reported hearing wolves north of Boulder and Deer creeks, and relayed that his livestock had behaved differently during the summer grazing season. The producer also indicated that he had already been discussing nonlethal deterrents with a WDFW contracted range rider, had been checking his cattle regularly, and had been vigilant about removing sick or injured livestock from the range.
After these reports, WDFW spent time in the winter of 2016-2017 in that area looking for signs that might indicate pack activity. However, no pack activity was detected that winter. Although there was no confirmation of pack activity through winter track surveys, WDFW continued to follow up on reports and spend time in the area.
Even with an established pack, it doesn’t necessarily mean the department will be able to document pack activity. The average pack territory size in Washington is about 350 square miles. It can be challenging to document packs even when they are present, especially for smaller sized packs.
During the 2017 grazing season, a WDFW contract range rider worked on and off with the producer to look into reports of wolf activity and agitated cattle behavior. However, WDFW was unable to document any verifiable pack activity. During the fall of 2017, non-governmental organization (NGO) range riders were deployed to the area as well.
On Nov. 2, 2017, WDFW was contacted by a producer about a potential wolf depredation occurring north of Boulder and Deer creeks in the same area where WDFW wolf biologists suspected, but had not yet confirmed, any pack activity. During the investigation (which confirmed the injuries as a wolf depredation), the producer and a WDFW contracted range rider relayed hearing wolf howls and seeing tracks (of what was believed to be multiple wolves) and scat in the pasture where the depredation occurred. Additional assistance to the producers, including daily checks of the cattle, was provided with increased range rider presence until the cattle were moved to winter range. The injured calf was left at a pen away from the large grazing location for monitoring.
On Nov. 8, 2017, WDFW was contacted by a producer about another potential wolf depredation occurring in the same general area as the confirmed wolf depredation that occurred six days prior. During the investigation, WDFW confirmed the depredation as a wolf kill due to the location and severity of the injuries, in addition to wolf tracks (of what was believed to be multiple wolves) and signs of a struggle in the snow at the scene. After this depredation, range riders from both WDFW and a NGO continued in the area daily until cattle were moved. The calf carcass was removed from the grazing location.
After these two confirmed depredations in the autumn of 2017, WDFW wolf biologists spent additional time during the winter of 2017-2018 in this area trying to confirm the presence a wolf pack. In February 2018, WDFW was able to confirm (through tracks and scat) that at least two wolves were traveling together and had been using the area north of Boulder and Deer creeks consistently. The signs encountered while confirming this pack spanned a wide area stretching across the kettle range from just west of Laurier and Orient, Wash., to east of Danville, Wash., and from the Canadian border south to Boulder Pass. During these surveys, there were also fresh and older tracks discovered along the edge of the pasture where the second depredation occurred.
After confirming the presence of two adult wolves traveling together and using an area consistently in winter, WDFW included the Togo pack in the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2017 Annual Report.
On May 20, 2018, WDFW received a call from a producer regarding a potential wolf depredation north of Boulder Creek and within one mile of where WDFW had found the tracks and scat used to confirm the Togo pack. During the investigation, WDFW learned that a witness had seen a black wolf leaving the scene. WDFW confirmed the dead calf as a wolf depredation due to the injuries present and signs at the scene. This producer deployed additional human presence, and range riders were also deployed to the area. Shortly after the confirmed wolf depredation, the producer was able to create a pasture off the allotment to confine the cattle until calves could grow a little more.
On May 24, 2018, a WDFW wolf biologist went to the area and was able to locate a significant amount of wolf signs (typically associated with denning activity during this time of year) roughly halfway between the location of the May 20 depredation and the depredations in November 2017. The following day, the biologist was able to track a single wolf from the vicinity of the depredation (within 0.25 km) to within 0.5 km of the area of high wolf use discovered the preceding day.
On May 29, 2018, the same WDFW wolf biologist began capture efforts in the area, and on June 2, 2018, a black adult male wolf was caught and collared in the same drainage as the depredations occurring in November 2017. The collar data indicated that animal was consistently using the high wolf use area detected through tracking on May 24, and was using the same areas where the WDFW wolf biologist had discovered wolf sign during February 2018.
Proactive deterrence measures
Permit grazing for cattle and sheep is active in the DNR Teanaway Community Forest and the USFS Swauk Permit Range, both of which encompass the Teanaway pack’s known territory.
- Sanitation measures for both cattle and sheep have been undertaken in the pack territory during July and calf weights now average over 200 pounds.
- Range riders, producers, and WDFW are present throughout the pack territory on a daily basis monitoring livestock behavior. No sick, injured, or missing livestock animals were observed or suspected in the pack’s territory.
- Wolf movements this month have been recorded by collar data, remote camera, and several visual and audial contacts. Early in July, the pack was observed in several dispersed locations of one or two adult wolves in the center and western parts of the known pack territory. In late July, several indicators showed the pack traveling together for at least several days, as well as pup movement. All indications appear to suggest the pack has vacated the denning sub-basin and moved to a separate rendezvous site some distance from the denning area.
- Based on new data and supported by new wolf sightings and contacts, cattle have been moved and several salting locations have been removed at least one half mile or more away from the new rendezvous site. The area will be monitored for wolf activity and periodically searched for cattle that re-enter the area. Any cattle that move back into the area will be moved until it is determined that the rendezvous site has been abandoned by the wolves.
- In the Swauk Permit Range, sheep were moved into the northern edge of the known pack territory boundary. A sheepherder, herding dogs, and guard dogs reside with the sheep. No negative wolf and livestock/dog interactions have been observed or reported. Cougar and bear conflicts have occurred in the permit range area within the last month. Active range riding in that area began June 26.
District 3 (Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla counties)
Through the month of July, WDFW wildlife conflict specialists continued to work closely with producers across District 3 to implement preventative measures on private, state, and federal grazing pastures and allotments encompassed by the three known wolf pack territories in District 3. Due to above average spring forage growth, many of the cattle herds grazing on federal allotments were able to be held longer on their initial grazing allotments than expected.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conflict specialists continued working closely with the USFS range manager for the Umatilla National Forest to adjust grazing schedules and monitor cattle movements in an attempt to help reduce possible wolf-livestock conflict. As of mid-July, most of the cattle grazing on USFS allotments have been moved to new pastures within their allotments, and producers have continued to implement preventative measures while working closely with WDFW wildlife conflict specialists. Throughout District 3, producers have range riders deployed to check cattle daily. There are also two WDFW conflict specialists monitoring wolf movements and cattle behavior and movements throughout the pastures and allotments. Also, WDFW wildlife conflict specialists have been working with producers to update Damage Prevention Contracts for Livestock (DPCA_L) to help with the implementation of preventative measures across District 3. No wolf-livestock conflicts have been reported in District 3 at this time.
District wildlife conflict staff members continued to meet and coordinate with livestock producers, USFS, university researchers, and other non-profit organizations in northeastern Washington. This coordination will continue throughout the summer grazing season. Information on changes to the data sharing program, DPCA_Ls, WDFW contracted range rider deployment and training of new contracted range riders, and wolf high use areas were shared.
A variety of nonlethal deterrents continued to be deployed in Carpenter Ridge (e.g., range riding and WDFW presence), Dirty Shirt (e.g., range riding and human presence), Goodman (e.g., WDFW presence), Huckleberry (e.g., range riding and fox lights), Leadpoint (e.g., human presence and fox lights), the old Profanity territory (e.g., range riding and fox lights), Smackout (e.g., fox lights, fladry, air horns, pyrotechnics, range riding, and a RAG box), Stranger (e.g., range riding, continual improvements on calving locations, and fox lights), and Togo (e.g., range riding and securing calving locations).
Range riding activity in most packs was provided by DPCA_Ls, WDFW contract range riders, and two non-government organizations on most large grazing locations. WDFW has also been spending time on allotments assisting range riders in coverage. Along with the specific deterrents listed above, sanitation (removal of dead livestock) has been occurring on an as needed basis. Direct hazing of wolves occurred in both Dirty Shirt and Smackout again this month.
WDFW has also been coordinating with both Ferry and Stevens counties on responses to depredation investigations by a special deputy. A depredation training and weekly check-ins are set up for the coming weeks.
District staff members are also reviewing feedback from stakeholders on the content of the monthly reports to provide pertinent details from those groups.
Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties
July 21 – WDFW investigated a report of calf depredation in Ferry County. The calf was determined have been killed by a cougar.
July 24 – WDFW investigated a report of sheep depredation in Stevens County. After the investigation, it was determined that at least eight sheep were a Confirmed Non-Wolf Depredation involving coyotes.
July 29 – WDFW investigated a report of a cow depredation in Stevens County. After the investigation, it was determined there were no signs of a wildlife depredation and it was classified as an Unconfirmed Cause of Death.
July 29 – WDFW investigated a report of domestic dog depredation in Pend Oreille County. After the investigation, it was determined that a cougar was responsible for the loss of the domestic dog.