FIsh & Wildlife to host wolf forum online today


Tonight, state residents will have an opportunity to feed their seemingly boundless interest in Washington’s slowly expanding population of wolves.

That night from 6:30 to 9:30, state wildlife officials from Washington will discuss wolf management with their counterparts from Idaho and Montana — two states who had been dealing with wolves for several years before Washington had any to worry about.

What figures to make today’s panel discussion of interest to Washingtonians is that they can listen in and watch live on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s website (wdfw.wa.gov), and even provide questions via email (july18event@dfw.wa.gov).

And, based on recent events, it’s likely some of those pointed questions may come from viewers from Stevens County in the northeast corner of the state.

Between July and September of 2012, wolves in the Wedge Pack were deemed responsible for attacking and injuring at least 17 cows and calves owned by the Diamond M Ranch in northern Stevens County. In late September, WDFW helicopter marksmen killed six of the pack’s wolves in an effort to stop the predation.

Recent incidents in the area have left some members of the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association convinced that either the Wedge Pack is still alive and hungry for beef or the nearby Smackout Pack is expanding its territory.

Two weeks ago, a newborn calf was killed on the Diamond M Ranch and dragged from its calving pen, which is just 250 yards from a ranch house and 100 yards from a workshop. While the department’s report on the incident noted wolf tracks near the consumed carcass, there were also coyote tracks and the state ruled that the kill had been made by an “unknown predator.”

Another yearling was killed last month, presumably by predators, in an area of Stevens County considered to be territory of the Smackout Pack, but the state made no formal determination of cause of death in that case either.

“While there has been a lot of talk about removing problem wolves or paying compensation for wolf kills, the only way that can happen is if WDFW personnel confirm that it was a wolf kill,” Stevens County Cattlemen President Scott Nielsen said in a news release put out by the association.

“It appears WDFW has no plans to call anything, no matter how obvious, a wolf kill.”

Fish & Wildlife director Phil Anderson and statewide game program manager Dave Ware will both be on hand at the webcast to discuss issues related to Washington wolf management, and these latest predation incidents — whether caused by wolves or not — will almost certainly come up.

Also taking part in the discussion, with insights gained from the states’ longer history of managing wolves, will be Jon Rachel and Jim Williams of the Idaho and Montana state wildlife departments, respectively.

Rachel and Williams will discuss the impacts wolves had had on big game species such as deer and elk, as well as going over strategies successful big game hunters have adopted while hunting in those states where wolves have a strong presence.

“This will give the public an opportunity to hear directly from those who have been involved in wolf management in other areas of the west,” Anderson said.

The webcast will remain on the Fish & Wildlife’s website after Thursday.