Saturday, August 15, 2015

N.E. Washington wolf pack injures guard dog

Don Jenkins
Capital Press
Courtesy of Stevens County Cattlemen's Association A 92-pound sheep dog was wounded by a wolf pack in northeast Washington. The dog was found injured Aug. 11. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says the dog was attacked by the same wolf pack that killed at least 26 sheep last year.
A sheep dog was seriously injured in a confrontaton involving the Huckleberry pack in northeast Washington.

A 92-pound guard dog, bred to protect sheep, was seriously wounded in a confrontation with the Huckleberry wolf pack in northeast Washington, state Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said today.

The attack, which the dog is expected to survive, was the first reported incident involving the pack since last summer, when WDFW confirmed it killed at least 26 sheep belonging to Stevens County rancher Dave Dashiell.

The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association today identified the dog’s owner as Dashiell.

WDFW approved shooting up to four wolves in the pack last year, and one was killed before the agency suspended lethal removal because the sheep were no longer in the pack’s territory.

The cattlemen’s association president, Justin Hedrick, said the attack on the dog illustrates what happens “when you don’t kill the offending pack that needs to be killed.” Hedrick said the dog, named Johnsey, was in “bad, bad shape.”

Johnsey — a cross between Akbash, Maremma and Great Pyreness breeds — was guarding about 200 Targhee sheep in a pasture near Dashiell’s home near Hunters in southern Stevens County, according to WDFW. The field was enclosed by electric and barbed wire fences, Martorello said.

The dog came to Dashiell’s home Tuesday morning with wounds to its ears, neck and side.

Investigators concluded that the injuries were caused by a wolf, Martorello said.

Last year, Dashiell estimated he lost more than 200 sheep to the Huckleberry pack. According to the cattlemen’s association, Dashiell has been forced off grazing lands in Stevens County by continuing wolf activity. He has been keeping his herd on pastures near the Tri-Cities and spending $10,000 a month on hay, according to the association.

WDFW policy generally calls for at least four depredations before the agency will consider lethal removal of wolves. In this case, the Huckleberry pack isn’t starting with a clean slate.

WDFW will take into the pack’s history, Martorello said. “We could consider (lethal removal) at a lower level, at about two depredations,” he said.

Hedrick said the attack on the dog should be counted as a depredation. The dogs are with the sheep every day, all day, he said. “They’re completely part of the herd. 100 percent,” he said. “A depredation is a depredation.”

Martorello said WDFW was reviewing its policies and checking with legal counsel before deciding whether to consider the attack a depredation.

“That’s one thing we’ll have to go back and research and look at,” he said.

Before the attack, Dashiell had signed an agreement with the WDFW outlining steps he would take to prevent depredations by wolves. The state shares the cost of prevention measures with ranchers who sign agreements.

In this case, the measures included seven flashing lights and an alarm box triggered by wolves that have been captured and fitted with tracking collars. The producer has five guard dogs.

Martorello said Dashiell will be eligible to be compensated for the dog’s veterinary bills. Dashiell may be eligible for other compensation, such as the loss of the dog’s services, though the agency has no firm policy. “This is new territory for us,” Martorello said.

At least three other guard dogs have been injured by wolves since wolves returned to Washington, according to WDFW. A dog was injured in August 2011 by the Teanaway pack in Kittitas County. The Lookout pack in Okanogan County injured dogs in March of 2013 and March of 2014.

At the end of 2014, WDFW documented the pack had three adults and three yearlings. One male in the pack was fitted with a collar.

Elsewhere this summer, three cows and a calf were killed in early July by the Dirty Shirt pack in Stevens County, and one cow was killed in mid-July by the Teanaway pack.