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Lost opportunity in the North Cascades
In late September, a wolf was killed by a hunter claiming selfdefense in the Pasayten Wilderness in the North Cascades. The loss of a wolf in western Washington was exacerbated by the fact that the wolf was a young, uncollared adult female in good condition, in an area of our state where no wolf activity has been verified. She could have been part of an undiscovered active pack or a solo wanderer. To date there are only two verified breeding pairs of wolves in this recovery region. Despite federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, and state protection under Washington’s Gray wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves in this recovery region have suffered greatly at the hands of humans. The first known pack in Washington, the Lookout Pack, lost at least five members to illegal poaching in 2008, and now a female with the potential to establish abrood is gone. The circumstances of the animal’s death remain under investigation.
Wanted: Thinking Outside the Box
The Washington State Legislature has provided $600,000 for wildlife conflict research in Washington State University’s budget over the next two years to study wolf and cattle behavior in an effort to minimize conflicts. Dr. Rob Wielgus, director of WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory, will be leading the charge to reduce wolflivestock conflicts, and hopefully answer the question, “Why do some wolf packs engage in livestock depredations and others don’t?” About 20 percent of wolf packs engage in some type of livestock depredation in any given year and 80 percent do not. The researchers will examine environmental factors like pack size, pack composition, history in an area, herd composition, timing of depredations and natural prey population to see which factors increase the risk of wolf attacks on livestock. The researchers will track wolves with global positioning satellite collars and put “mortalitysensing” ear tags on 360 calves to notify researchers of a death. Wielgus plans to examine potential indirect effects from wolf presence on livestock, including lower calf weaning weights and pregnancy rates and stress indicators, plus measure the effectiveness of nonlethal deterrents such as fladry, range riders, cowbells and guard dogs. The project team hopes to track 18 wolves in six packs, the largest and most representative sample ever obtained in a wolf-livestock study. We anxiously wait for study results!
Living by the new rules in Oregon: Snake River wolf pack up to 3 strikes
IThe Snake River wolf pack’s third attack on livestock, confirmed late last month by state wildlife managers, has qualified for inclusion in the tally that could lead to lethal control of the pack under new rules adopted by the state this year. Packs in eastern Oregon can be considered for lethal control measures after four qualifying attacks within a six-month period. For an attack to qualify, the affected livestock operation must be using one or more non-lethal deterrents and kept clear of bone piles and other attractants.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) also qualified a much earlier attack by the Imnaha pack in which a calf was killed. In qualifying the kill, ODFW stated that “human presence was the primary non-lethal deterrence” the producer had used during the period in question. The Imnaha pack had three confirmed attacks from January to mid-May, but none of those fall within the current six-month window and they are safe for the time being.