Colville biologists are anxiously awaiting word back from a genetics lab on a sample of canine poop they sent in earlier this winter.
Joe Peone, director of the Colville Fish & Wildlfe Department in Nespelem, says some “pretty good-sized” tracks were found with it and now they’re wondering if a couple wolves are wandering their 2,100-square-mile North-central Washington reservation.
Biologists have tried howling surveys, setting up trail cams and deploying scent traps, but have come up empty so far, he says.
The tracks and fecal material came from the Sanpoil River valley, about halfway between the river’s mouth on Lake Roosevelt and the reservation’s northern boundary, Peone says.
Acknowledging that dogs stray around too, he says there have been reports of wolves on the reservation over the past six to eight years, though nothing’s been confirmed.
About 20 miles north of the Colville’s north edge, there have been two separate recent reports of wolf sightings from the Malo area, according to a source at Conservation Northwest.
It’s not surprising given the fact that for decades wolves have been wandering through Washington, as state Department of Fish & Wildlife records show, and the Grand Forks, BC, area, 20 miles north of Malo, is also seeing wolf reports, according to a provincial biologist.
It hasn’t been until the last three years, however, that any have been confirmed to shack up and raise a litter. The most recent data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that at the end of 2010 Washington had a minimum of 16 wolves east of Highway 97 in two packs — including 12 in the Diamond Pack of east-central Pend Oreille County.
That figure doesn’t include wolves on the Oregon border in the Blue Mountains or the two or three left in the Lookout Pack west of the highway in western Okanogan County.
Peone says the tribe “doesn’t want (wolves) here based on feedback from Idaho.”
There, the Lolo elk herd has seen a significant decline in numbers due to wolf predation, and the Idaho Department of Fish & Game is asking USFWS for permission to seriously reduce pack numbers. Experts say that declining habitat quality is also an issue.
“Our first priority is providing sustenance, fishing and hunting opportunities,” says Peone.
His department is now able to offer tribal members 55 moose permits a year, up from just five over a decade ago when the hunt began, he says.
The success rate in 2010 was 90 percent, and it averages 80 percent, he says.
Tribes elsewhere in Washington have similar concerns about wolves (see Letters, Government in comments on WDFW’s draft management plan).
ELSEWHERE ON THE WOLF FRONT, there’s word of a split among the plaintiffs whose case led a federal judge to relist wolves in the Northern Rockies last summer. Ten of the 13 groups involved in the lawsuit want to settle while three others do not. That has forced their collective attorney, Earthjustice, to remove itself from the case.
“The reason for seeking the settlement, according to representatives from some of the organizations, is they fear that legislation introduced in Congress to delist wolves in the northern Rockies would set a precedent for political action on other listed species,” reports the Helena Independent Record.