Story provided by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Winthrop, June 8, 2009- Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest managers will permit to cattle to graze in an area southwest of Twist where gray wolves chose to locate a den and raise pups.
The wolves naturally dispersed to the area from Canada and are the first pack to be confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years. Their den is within an area where livestock have grazed since the early 1900s on the Methow Valley Ranger District.
Ranchers with permits to graze cattle on the allotment and others nearby agreed to several conservation measures developed by Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest managers, in coordination with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service. The measures include prohibiting human disturbance at den sites, removing injured livestock, and delaying release of calves until they are larger and natural prey are more plentiful.
The Forest Service is in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which under the 1973 Endangered Species Act must provide oversight for the wolf protection measures. Gray wolves have been a federally-listed endangered species since 1974 and it is unlawful to kill or harass them.
The ranchers also agreed to work with agencies responsible for wolf control actions. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U. S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will use control measures intended to reduce risks to livestock, while not adversely affecting wolves if livestock depredation by a wolf is confirmed.
The conservation group Defenders of Wildlife has also offered to reimburse grazing permittees if it is determined a wolf killed livestock.
In 2008, scientists with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife verified the presence of what they call the “Lookout Pack.” Subsequent DNA analysis indicated the pack is most closely related to British Columbia populations.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists captured and fitted monitoring devices onto pack members last summer, with assistance from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Biologists with various agencies then watched the Lookout Pack’s activities using monitoring devices, remote cameras and field observations.
Their work indicated the pack stayed in lower elevation areas last year until pups became mobile. Then, in mid-summer it moved to higher elevations where mule deer were more available. The wolves coexisted with cattle throughout the summer and there is no record of stock depredation by this pack, according to the biologists.
“We greatly appreciate how grazing permittees, conservation groups and various agencies are working together to protect the Lookout Pack,” said Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Resources/Planning Group Leader Stuart Woolley. “The Forest Service has a responsibility to protect these wolves and enhance their recovery. It also has a multiple-use mission that includes grazing.”
This post was originally published on 6/9/09.