The Daily Howler (1-22-13 Edition)
“An advocate of trying to go nonlethal,” which drew applause, as well as CSI-like investigations of depredations to determine true causes of death, nonetheless Carter Niemeyer pointed out that, “once wolves learn to kill livestock, it’s almost impossible to change” their behavior.
Read more of this story on the Northwest Sportsman's website.
Can’t say that The Daily Howler has much new info on wolves in Washington coming out of the last of the three meetings held around the state last week — the Spokane one was particularly well covered — but just for practice, here are a few observations from the Sandpoint shindig on Friday night.
1) Before the meeting, which was moved into an old, cold, high-ceilinged warehouse at the former naval station because of the size of the expected crowd (standing room only; I’d estimate around 150 or so showed), I asked one of the featured speakers, Carter Niemeyer, how many thousands of wolf meetings this particular one made. He had no idea, but with his deep knowledge of the subject via Wildlife Services and retirement from the USFWS as well as experience with the human reactions, he allowed, “Same pattern, different state.”
2) To outline some of that pattern as it’s gone down in the Northern Rockies since the 1980s, WDFW brought in Mike Jimenez, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s gray wolf recovery coordinator and the Fed’s longtime manager in Wyoming.
To make a long story short, wolf populations expand rapidly, they fill up available habitats and push into inappropriate areas, 20 percent of the population is troublesome, and those need to be removed to keep the social tolerances that led to the whole program getting off the ground in the first place, but are sometimes forgotten by those who want wolves all the hell over the place. Mixed in: lots of human angst.
3) As he spoke, Jimenez flashed through a series of slides illustrating how well connected the major population cores of wolves in the Northern Rockies are.
He also showed two images of a large bull elk being taken down by a pack, and noted that “Wolves do impact game herds.”
While some of Jimenez’s slides showed that, overall, wolf, cattle and sheep distribution in the U.S. overlap the least in the Northern Rockies, and he argued that just because they’re on the same ground problems don’t always occur, he noted that USFWS’s “entire wolf program suffers because of conflict animals.”
“Some wolves really cause problems,” he stressed while going through a gory series of images of wolf-torn calves, and then pointed out that in Wyoming, where he’s spent most of his time, depredations on cattle there have actually plateaued while they’ve continued upwards in Montana and Idaho.
“We’ve had the first hiccup in the road,” the state’s carnivore section manager said, then added, “Hiccup’s not the right word — ‘bump in the road.’”
He outlined how wolves first turned up in a ranch’s fladry-equipped calving pen early last spring, the neighboring operation, Diamond M, put out their cow-calf pairs later than usual, the Wedge pack began testing cattle, eventually 10 calves were known to be injured, six to be killed.
Martorello recalled the sick feeling he had early one late-summer morning when he got the latest readings from the alpha male’s GPS collar and it showed the animal had come out of the hills — basically followed the herd which had been moved off public grazing allotments earlier than usual — and was in the Diamond M’s private pasture.
He called the ranch, a rider went to the location and found two fresh depredations.
WDFW’s hammer then came down, and in the end, seven members of the pack were killed by state gunners; an eighth, a pup which had been trapped, ear-tagged and released, was also found dead of unknown causes.
(4.5 — We left a message last week, but no word yet from state Senator Kevin Ranker’s office on whether he’ll be able to hold the threatened hearing on the agency’s actions now that he’s no longer chairman of the Senate’s natural resources committee, fallout from the Republican coup in the upper chamber, but perhaps last week’s three meetings went towards smoothing that out.)
5) “An advocate of trying to go nonlethal,” which drew applause, as well as CSI-like investigations of depredations to determine true causes of death, nonetheless Carter Niemeyer pointed out that, “once wolves learn to kill livestock, it’s almost impossible to change” their behavior.
He introduced the audience to a pair of terms, one which they likely knew far better than the other — “biological carrying capacity and social carrying capacity — a big term for tolerance.”
6) The state’s minimum wolf count coming out of 2012 is 51 while 101 is the upper population estimate based on the number of packs, likely roamers and math formulas, but, Martorello said, “the actual number is somewhere in the middle of that.”
Most Washington wolves are still concentrated in the Northeast corner; a preliminary WDFW estimate is that there are 10 in the Diamond Pack, which has consistently been the state’s largest since it was found in 2009, but at the end of 2012, Smackout actually had more mouths to feed, 12.
(And that’s an interesting deal — see previous discussion of nonlethal work at Smackout Meadows, i.e., range riders, RAG boxes, etc.)
There were a minimum of eight in Huckleberry, partially on the Spokane Indian Reservation, eight in Nc’icn on the Colville Reservation, two in Wedge 2.0 and Strawberry (the latter also on the Colville Reservation), and one in Salmo.
In the Cascades, there was a minimum of six in Teanaway and two in Lookout.