Monthly Wolf Report -- October 2017

Publish date

This report provides information about wolf conservation and management activities undertaken by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from Sept. 15 to Oct. 13, 2017. It complements weekly reports also posted on this site regarding individual wolf packs.

Sherman Wolf Pack Update

Background

WDFW’s 2017 Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol describes tools and approaches designed to influence pack behavior with the goal of reducing the potential for recurrent livestock depredations while continuing to promote wolf recovery.

On August 25, WDFW notified the public that nonlethal deterrence measures were not achieving that goal in the Sherman pack territory, and that the Director had authorized incremental lethal removal of wolves as another tool to address recurrent depredations.

The approach taken consists of a period of active removal operations followed by an evaluation period to determine if those actions changed the pack’s behavior. Between August 25 and September 1, the department removed one wolf from the Sherman pack. On September 2, WDFW initiated an evaluation period to assess the effect of that action on the pack’s behavior.

Continued Deterrence

Range riding activity continues in the grazing allotments used by the Sherman pack, including those allotments that experienced a wolf depredation. The producer rotates WDFW contract range riders throughout the grazing allotments to maintain human presence around the cattle.

The range riders have patrolled the area since May 9, before the cattle were turned out, to check for carnivore activity, proactively increase, and regular human presense and to report cattle information (locations, injuries, etc.) to the producer. Five people, including the producer, his family, and employees, also work cattle throughout the allotments. The range riders share any noted wolf activity in the area or changes in cattle behavior with WDFW.

Evaluation

The department has not documented any wolf depredations by the Sherman pack since the evaluation period began, with the last known wolf depredation on August 28. The evaluation period is ongoing. Per the protocol, the department may consider initiating another incremental lethal removal period if a wolf depredation is documented and likely occurred during the evaluation period.

Carnivore Section

Wolf biologists attempted to place radio collars on wolves in the Huckleberry and Lookout packs, but were unsuccessful. They also monitored remote cameras and checked into reports of wolf sightings in the Sherman, Wedge, and Salmo pack areas of northeast Washington, as well as in the South Cascades and Blue Mountains

Wolf biologists presented information on wolf recovery and carnivore depredations on livestock to participants of the Pacific Northwest Veterinary Conference in Tacoma, and helped coordinate the delivery of several wolf specimens for educational use to the Burke Museum in Seattle.

Wildlife Conflict Section

The three-member team administering the statewide Wildlife Conflict Management and Prevention section from the WDFW Headquarters in Olympia were busy with wolf management activities. Members of the team:

  • Met with staff from the Washington Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to plan for implementation of 2017 legislation that creates an account, administered by WSDA, to fund nonlethal deterrence activity for wolf-livestock depredations in northeastern Washington.

  • Provided training and assistance to regional wildlife conflict specialists to improve the timeliness of payments to contracted range riders and livestock producers who have cost-share agreements with WDFW for nonlethal wolf deterrence activity and materials.

  • Submitted a grant proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to fund a portion of nonlethal deterrence and outreach activities to support wolf recovery.

  • Developed amendments to the Washington Administrative Code to improve and clarify the process for compensating livestock producers for wolf depredation loss.

  • Worked with a range rider to amend the contract to enable three additional subcontractors to serve as alternates.

Proactive Deterrence Measures

Wolf packs in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties

Most producers using deterrents for grazing operations on large areas of public and private lands have engaged range riders.

WDFW worked with eight contracted range riders deployed on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) allotments and private grazing pastures. During September, up to 25 allotments were monitored by WDFW contracted range riders and producers under the terms of Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreements. Four WDFW staff members also monitored grazing allotments that overlap territories occupied by the Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Huckleberry, Profanity, Sherman, Smackout, Stranger, and Wedge wolf packs.

In other areas of northeastern Washington, WDFW provided various types of assistance to ranchers:

  • Continuing to have producers contact WDFW when livestock carcasses are discovered so they can be investigated (Dirty Shirt disperser, Huckleberry, and Sherman);

  • Removing or treating sick or injured livestock when feasible from pastures in areas where wolves are present;

  • Using range riders to check livestock in and near areas where wolves are present (Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt [and disperser], Huckleberry, Profanity, Sherman, Smackout, Stranger, and Wedge);

  • Increasing the frequency of human presence by checking livestock in areas with wolves or when wolves are in the vicinity of pastures (Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt [and disperser], Huckleberry, Profanity, Sherman, Smackout, Stranger, and Wedge);

  • Using temporary fox lights (Dirty Shirt disperser, Profanity, Sherman, and Smackout);

  • Using electric fencing and other predator-resistant barriers to keep wolves out of pastures/areas (Carpenter Ridge, Huckleberry, and Stranger);

  • Using temporary fladry around livestock pastures (Smackout);

  • Sharing wolf-collar data with producers that have a signed sensitive data sharing agreement with WDFW (Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows, Profanity, Sherman, Smackout, and Stranger);

  • Using trail cameras to track livestock and carnivore movements in grazing allotments (Dirty Shirt disperser, Sherman, and Smackout) and coordinating with producers and a Ferry County Sheriff’s deputy to obtain trail camera photos.

Wolf packs in Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla Counties

Producers throughout the areas of known wolf activity have deployed daily range riders on large tracks of public and private lands across southeast Washington.  Two (2) WDFW staff members monitored grazing allotments throughout October.  Producers and their range riders moved cattle off grazing allotments in the Umatilla National Forest and onto private grazing pastures as scheduled, with the last herd moving out of its allotment on October 15.   These allotments overlap territories occupied by the Tucannon and Touchet packs.

WDFW is also working with producers and their range riders throughout these counties (Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla) to deploy proactive deterrence measures through the month of October in known pack territories and areas of known wolf activity. These measures include:

  • Removing sick or injured livestock (Tucannon and Touchet);

  • Using range riders to monitor livestock in areas of wolf activity and areas adjacent to wolf activity (Tucannon and Touchet);

  • Increasing human presence and checking livestock in areas with wolf activity and areas adjacent to wolf activity (Tucannon and Touchet);

  • Using a herding dog to concentrate livestock in areas where they can be monitored (Tucannon and Touchet);

  • Removing carcasses from grazing allotments and pastures (Tucannon and Touchet);

  • Having producers report injured or deceased livestock to WDFW so they can be investigated (Tucannon and Touchet).

Wolf packs in Okanogan County

Livestock producers have started the process of gathering and transporting livestock off of the federal grazing allotments. Deterrence measures have and will remain in place during this period.

Depredation Investigations

Department staff members investigated several reported wolf depredations:

Region 1 – Eastern Washington

  • September 15: Determined that an injured sheep in Ferry County had been attacked by one or more coyote.

  • September 22: Could not confirm the cause of death for a goat in Stevens County because of significant scavenging of the carcass.

  • September 22: Could not confirm the cause of death for sheep in Stevens County because too much time had elapsed since they died.

  • October 9: WDFW officials confirmed that one or more wolves from the Smackout pack killed a cow on grazing lands within the Colville National Forest in Stevens County. Details of the investigation, including factors and evidence that enabled WDFW investigators to confirm the wolf depredation, will be provided next week. This depredation marks the third wolf depredation by the Smackout pack within the last 10 months and the first within the past 30 days.

Region 2 – North-central Washington

  • September 12: Confirmed that one or more coyotes were involved in the death of a guard dog in Spokane County.

Other Wolf Activity

Skagit area

Region 4 district biologists are working with biologists from North Cascades National Park to monitor cameras and follow up on reports of wolf sightings in eastern Skagit County.

Federal officials confirmed through DNA testing that an animal captured in Skagit County in June is a gray wolf, and GPS collar data shows that the animal has remained in Skagit County. The wolf in Skagit County is ranging about 100 miles from the nearest known pack, and no conflicts with domestic animals have been reported.

Packs
Sherman