Thursday, September 4, 2014

Spokane Tribe Hunt Targets Up To 6 Wolves

The bounds of the Spokane Reservation won’t offer safe haven for wolves this fall and winter.
Though members of the Huckleberry Pack reportedly ducked onto the tribe’s grounds during last month’s aerial hunt by a federal sharpshooter contracted by WDFW to help stop a series of nearby sheep depredations, the 159,000-acre reservation is where as many as six wolves could be taken over the next year.

That according to hunting regulations posted by the tribe for the first time.


According to those rules, the hunt is open only to enrolled Spokane Tribe members (guessing that Sherman Alexie may pass on this one), and hunters can only take one wolf per tribal member and household per calendar year.

Hunting with dogs and using snares are also banned.

In December 2012, a wolf was “incidentally” killed by a member targeting other predators. Though tribal officials declined to say how it was taken, online reaction was that it had been snared.

Regulations also state that “individuals outfitted with radio-collars are not to be harvested” (emphasis in the original), a reference perhaps to a collared wolf killed last year around this time during the tribe’s first official wolf hunt.

GPS collars help wildlife managers keep track of their wanderings, and can sometimes help determine whether a wolf or pack is responsible, or not, for depredations.

Telemetry is also being used by Washington State University researchers studying wolf-livestock interactions.

The Spokanes aren’t the only tribe in Washington holding a wolf hunt.

The Colville Tribes’ third season began August 1, though to our knowledge, no animals have been taken in the three zones where up to three wolves apiece can be killed. (A reported harvested wolf last winter turned out to be someone’s dog.) There are at least two packs on their sprawling reservation.

Outside those two reservations, only WDFW-sanctioned shooters and ranchers given permits by the agency, as well as citizens protecting their livestock or pets from an attacking wolf in the federally delisted eastern third of the state, are allowed to shoot them.

During last month’s action in the Huckleberry Pack territory, up to four could have been removed by aerial gunners or trappers, and two by Dave Dashiell or state staffers on the ground, if they approached the rancher’s herd of 1,800 sheep grazing on private timberlands. Only one was removed, the 3-year-old, 66-pound breeding female.

Many wolves in this corner of the state occupy national forestlands, but that isn’t entirely the case. Since some time last year the Ruby Creek female has been hanging out in the Pend Oreille Valley lowlands, this summer with, yes, hounds.  

While she appears not to have learned the lesson her pack mate did earlier this year about shacking up with dogs, she must have heard the news that Washington’s cougars seriously don’t like wolves.

Wolf supporters say that hunts break up pack integrity and lead to more problems than otherwise might occur, but tribal politicians are also under pressure to do something about a predator that competes with their members for the deer and elk that, with the end of salmon runs past Grand Coulee, provide important sustenance.