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Oregon wolf pack one livestock attack away from lethal action

Aug. 28, 2014 10:38 a.m. - Updated: 10:38 a.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — One of Oregon’s wolf packs is one livestock attack away from becoming the first to be considered for a kill order under the state’s unique rules.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday that the Umatilla Pack, which roams mostly private land about 30 miles west of Pendleton, has been confirmed responsible for killing a sheep last week in a private pasture. Two other attacks occurred in June.

Oregon's rules prevent wildlife officers from killing a wolf unless three conditions are met:

  • There’s hard evidence the pack is responsible for four livestock attacks over the past six months,
  • the rancher has taken nonlethal steps to protect his livestock,
  • the department feels wolf attacks are likely to continue even with more nonlethal protections.

“Under these rules, the key consideration for lethal control or any other actions will be to take an action that minimizes the risk of further depredation,” department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said in an email.

Here's more information on the Oregon situation, with background on wolf attacks on livestock, from the Associated Press:

The rules were adopted last year as the result of a lawsuit by conservation groups.

Joseph cattle rancher Todd Nash said he was looking forward to the day when Oregon’s wolves are numerous enough to be taken off the state endangered species list, and the Oregon Wolf Plan would go into Phase Two, when lethal control rules would ease.

That could happen after this winter’s statewide wolf count. The Oregon Wolf Plan sets a goal of four packs successfully producing pups for three consecutive years before delisting can be considered. That has been met the past two years.

Dennehy said delisting is not automatic, and would have to go through a public process. Even under Phase Two, there would be rules for considering lethal control, though they would be less stringent than they are now.

Rob Klavins of the conservation group Oregon Wild said they would prefer a science-based conservation goal for delisting, rather than one set by political negotiation.

“Oregon is doing better than any other state in trying to balance legitimate concerns with science-based conservation and Oregon conservation values,” he said. “It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than any other state.”

Overall, the number of confirmed wolves statewide has grown from 48 in 2012 to 64 last year. The number of packs grew from six to eight, though only four successfully raised pups last year.

So far this year, there have been six confirmed wolf attacks on livestock in Oregon, according to the department website. There were 13 in 2013, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011. Other packs have come within one attack of coming under consideration for lethal control.

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Photo: Northern Lights over Priest Lake

Aug. 28, 2014 9:06 a.m. - Updated: 10:11 a.m.

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — It pays to lose yourself watching the stars on a clear summer night.

In the photo above, Craig Goodwin, pastor of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church, sits by the still-glowing embers of a fire some other Priest Lake visitors to Hill's Resort had enjoyed.  But they left at a reasonable hour early Wednesday morning.

Goodwin, who's become entranced with photographing the Milky Way this summer, stayed around past 2 a.m. …. and the Northern Lights were his payoff.

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Eddie Vedder skateboard auction benefits Ferry County rail trail

Aug. 28, 2014 7:18 a.m.

TRAILS — Eddie Vedder and the rock group Pearl Jam band members are rallying to support the 25-mile Ferry County Rail Trail in northeastern Washington by signing and donating a cool skateboard to an online auction that's underway on eBay.

At last look, the bids were in the $2,000 range.

The auction is set to close Sunday, Aug. 31, at 7:24 p.m. (PDT).

Funds generated will be used to enhance the surface of the abandoned railway that connects four towns, two school complexes and meanders along miles of pristine waterfront, including Curlew Lake and the Kettle River.

“Over the years, the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners have done well competing for state and federal development funds,” said Bob Whittaker, president of the non-profit group, which is seeking more funding.

“We have 25 miles of donated property, much of it waterfront, along the Kettle river,” he said. “We have a 770-foot trestle over Curlew Lake that was decked with $200,000 in bicycle/pedestrian safety funds, but we need surface improvements and we need them yesterday.

“An improved surface means more users, a healthier community, and happy, repeat visitors to the region.”

The “Longboard” style skate was signed by all the members of the band back stage before their sold out concert at the Spokane Arena last November. “It was a fun night- and all for a good cause,” Whittaker said. “Ferry County even got a shout out from Eddie while on stage. How sweet is that!”

Included as part of this auction is an original photo taken by Bob Whittaker and signed by PJ frontman Eddie Vedder. The photo of Vedder on a canoe originally appeared in Vedder’s “Ukulele Songs” songbook. Vedder autographed a uke used in that recording and donated it to the Ferry County group for an auction that raised $17,000 for the trail.

The current auction is listed by Keith Bell, Vice President of Ferry County Rail Trail Partners. 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to this all-volunteer federally recognized non-profit organization.

The auction can be found by visiting FerryCountyRailTrail.com

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Hiking trail record breaker speaks at library tonight

Aug. 27, 2014 4:02 p.m. - Updated: 4:13 p.m.

HIKING — A world-class hiker who's put her pen where her feet were is giving a program about her latest book TONIGHT, 7:30 p.m. at the Moran Prairie Library.

Jennifer Pharr Davis first hiked the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail as a 21-year-old college graduate, all on her own.

Her most recent book, Called Again, tells the story of setting the 46-day record for the trail and growing closer to her husband (her support crew), in the process.

The program she'll be presenting speaks to inspiration, love and endurance in tales from the trail.

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Wolf update: Huckleberry Pack avoids helicopter gunners

Aug. 27, 2014 12:03 p.m. - Updated: 12:18 p.m.

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Still only one wolf has been killed in a helicopter gunning operation that started Aug. 22 to kill up to four wolves from the Huckleberry Pack that's been attacking sheep in southern Stevens County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued an update on the operation to relieve attacks that have claimed at least 22 sheep from a flock of 1,800 grazing on Hancock timber company land.

Here is the full update from Nate Pamplin, WDFW assistant wildlife program director. It addresses helicopter flights, continued use of non-lethal measures and moving the sheep away from the wolves to other pasture:

Helicopter flights occurred on Saturday, August 23 through Tuesday morning, August 26.  As we noted in Monday’s news release, one female wolf has been removed.  Helicopter activity provided hazing which may have kept wolves from the flock, and we have had only one sheep injured by a wolf attack, found on Sunday morning (and was later found dead this week, and it is being investigated).  As indicated before, on the Saturday morning flight (and the subsequent ground investigation), five sheep were found dead and three were injured.

We did not fly on Tuesday evening and do not plan to fly today.  We have established a trapline and have provided instructions to euthanize up to three more wolves caught.  We also have ongoing authorization for our staff and the rancher to kill up to two wolves observed in the vicinity of the flock.  We will continue to assess these efforts each day, and the directive is to remove up to four wolves from the Huckleberry pack. 

Nonlethal measures continue to be in place, with the rancher, a range rider, and up to four department staff, and four guard dogs providing an on-going presence.

We continue to work with the producer to try to find an alternative grazing location.  We’re hoping that will occur soon, and the producer understands our desire that for this particular situation, we’re hoping to eliminate the killing of his sheep by wolves by moving the sheep to their winter range.  He received a communication yesterday saying that he should be able to move the sheep soon. 

We’ve received a lot of inquiries about why moving sheep hasn’t happened sooner.  A couple items I hope you’ll keep in mind.  First, with the Carlton Complex Fire in Okanogan County and other fires across the state, there has been a tremendous demand for alternate pasture for displaced livestock operations.  We’re offering whatever assistance we can to help the operator with the various logistics. 

Second, I think it is important to remember that neither the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan nor our preventative measures checklist suggest that moving livestock off of an allotment is a requirement to address wolf-livestock conflicts.  With the operator moving his sheep to winter range anyway, we’re hoping to work with him to expedite that move.  But in the long run, and in other conflict situations that we will face, it is not likely to be feasible for a rancher to move livestock out of the vicinity of problem wolves.  Maintaining working lands and the livestock industry is important both from the perspective of social tolerance of wolf recovery, and the overall maintenance of viable local economies and support for working lands (and the wildlife conservation benefits of those lands continuing in that status). 

Finally, we have approached the rancher about compensation for sheep injured and killed by wolves and will likely continue that dialogue with him at a later date, once some of the immediate issues are resolved.

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Dogs protecting sheep from predators testy toward hikers

Aug. 27, 2014 7:28 a.m.

HIKING — The large guard dogs such as great Pyrenees and Akbash that pro-wolf groups recommend for guarding livestock from predators such as cougars, bears and wolves don't necessarily distinguish between 4-legged and 2-legged critters passing through public lands:

Guard dogs for sheep herds continue to be a problem for hikers in Colorado
Hikers are reporting more conflicts with the large, white Akbash dogs that guard sheep herds in San Juan County, and one hiker recently asked the Colorado county's commission to work with the multiple federal and state land agencies and the ranchers with grazing allotments to develop new policies to help keep the hikers and the dogs apart.

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Photo: Nighthawk takes a break

Aug. 27, 2014 6:01 a.m. - Updated: 6:54 a.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As many times as I've seen common nighthawks swooping and scooping bugs out of the sky with their distinctive staccato chirps, I've never seen one resting on the ground.

Check this instructive photo from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

“We often times see these birds in flight, but don’t get the chance to see them landed very often!

“They have huge mouths, their small beak makes it look small – but it goes back to their eye!”

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Deer problems expected on charred Methow winter range

Aug. 27, 2014 5:42 a.m.

WILDLIFE — At least one farmer already is experiencing deer damaging an alfalfa field in otherwise charred landscape in the Methow Valley region, according to the latest report from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's wildlife program.

The Carlton Complex fires burned and leaped across more than 256,000 acres in July and August, the largest fire covering recorded in Washington. And to add to the issues, mudslides and flooding has resulted from recent thunderstorms over the denuded landscape.

Department biologist say significant portions of mule deer winter range have been burned. Some has been burned badly, but the burning varied in intensity and some areas are starting to sprout green and recover with the rains. Seed is being ordered for revegetating some areas.

Grazing permits have been effected and department staff is working with some farmers and orchard operators who are scrambling to replace burned fences to keep deer out of their crops.

Hunters will have to appreciate this portion of the report on this week's activities:

Specialist Heilhecker visited with a landowner in Tonasket who is experiencing deer damage to her alfalfa field. This individual called last year at this time with the same concerns of not being able to get a third cutting. Specialist Heilhecker issued a kill permit and a damage permit valid until the start of general season and reminded her that she needs to open her land to some public hunting. Whether public hunting is allowed on the property will more closely monitored.

 

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This sort of paddling is appropriate for kids

Aug. 26, 2014 5:03 p.m. - Updated: 5:03 p.m.

WATERSPORTS — The older Bauer boys know how to make a canoe go fast, and the younger nephews are clearly into the game even at the end of the Spokane River Classic endurance event on Saturday.

Sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, the event was for all abilities of paddlers with canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.

But this boat stood out in the crowd, as you can see by their faces.

Have you ever paddled a canoe this hard — for the fun of it?

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Mosquitoes thick at Lake Roosevelt, officials warn

Aug. 26, 2014 12:07 p.m.

WATERSPORTS — No need to travel to Alaska for a good dose of pesky biting insects.

The National Park Service has issued a media release warning visitors heading to Lake Roosevelt for the holiday weekend to be ready for mosquitoes at the campgrounds, boat launches and day use facilities.

Conditions this summer at the reservoir that stretches up to 150-miles behind Grand Coulee Dam have been optimal for mosquitoes, officials say. 

“Visitors, park staff, our neighbors, and our partners have been dealing with an extraordinarily large mosquito population, especially in the north district near Kettle Falls,” says the release.

The National Park Service encourages visitors to plan to protect themselves from mosquitoes during their stay, especially at dawn and dusk.  Loose fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants that provide ‘depth’ combined with a mosquito repellant will offer good protection.  When using mosquito repellants look for products registered with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, always follow label instructions, and take special care when applying to children.  Also, make sure screens to windows and doors on recreational vehicles and tents are in good working order.

While park staff understands from personal experience the desire to control the mosquito population, National Park Service regulations, policies, and guidance protecting natural resources of this area do not allow for spraying programs unless mosquitoes are found to be carrying diseases, such as West Nile. 

The National Park Service at Lake Roosevelt relies on monitoring information from the surrounding health districts, Washington State Department of Health, and the mosquito control districts of eastern Washington in determining the level of risk to human health from mosquito borne viral diseases.  

To date, the National Park Service is unaware of infected mosquitos found in the immediate vicinity of Lake Roosevelt.

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