UPDATE: Huckleberry Pack Alpha Female Shot Aerially by WDFW Contract Sharpshooter

huckleberry pack pups 2012 WDFW

Huckleberry Pack Pups – 2012/WDFW

September 10, 2014

This post was sent to me by “Anonymous For Wolves”

Huckleberry pack alpha female shot aerially by WDFW contract sharpshooter

On September 4th, WDFW posted a News Release under the Latest News link on their website wdfw.wa.gov) with this heading, Sheep moved from scene of wolf attacks. The release reads that rancher Dave Dashiell worked over the Labor Day weekend collecting his flock of 1800 sheep to eventually truck them, somewhat prematurely, to their winter pasture area.

This is good news for Stevens County Huckleberry wolf pack as it acts as a stay of execution after a WDFW contract sharpshooter from USDA Wildlife Services, shot dead the breeding female from a helicopter on August 23. The pack had been preying on Dashiell’s sheep with WDFW determining the need for lethal action. “If non-lethal tools fail, lethal actions can be taken. It is a process,” WDFW’s Wildlife Conflict Manager Stephanie Simek said.

Wolves are on Washington’s landscape and ranchers now need to put in place the new best practices for ranging livestock. These practices include quickly removing injured, sick or dead livestock, all of which help attract wolves and other large carnivores. Consistent human presence in non-fenced range situations to “babysit” herds is imperative. Such models are being taken from Western Idaho and Montana ranchers: range-riders go out on foot, 4-wheeler or horseback, attending to the herds.
“This may not be accomplished 24/7,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW’s Carnivore Manager, “but they go out as much as they can.” Wolves can also be hazed by shooting overhead and with rubber bullets, as well as by being chased off. Spotlights, flashing lights and fladry may also be employed.

Was Stevens County rancher Dashiell timely and diligent in his non-lethal tactics? Reports have been mixed. WDFW had claimed that Dashiell was out every day and night, along with four guard dogs, a range rider, and eventually with the department adding a second rider and a greater human presence during the night. West Coast Wolf Organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, Amaroq Weiss, believes otherwise.

Weiss spoke with David Ware, WDFW’s game division manager who also oversees wolf management for the department. While WDFW had released statements that on August 15 Dashiell’s range rider was on task and the sheep were being moved, “Ware confirmed that these actions were not happening and that (Dashiell’s) range rider had quit a month ago. The following week the sheep still had not been moved and a range rider did not show up until August 20,” said Weiss.

WDFW observed prey switching within the Huckleberry pack: the switch from preying on wild to domestic animals. This switch can be determined by energetics, ease in taking, and by abundance, what is most often being seen.

“Sheep are such easy prey and so abundant, it’s hard to get wolves to stop preying on them,” said Martorello. Dashiell’s range allotment is also rugged, brushy and sprawling; it can be difficult to protect livestock on this type of landscape.

The GPS collar on the Huckleberry pack’s alpha male collects data every 6 hours. It was observed that by the 3rd or 4th depredation, with the wolf traveling back and forth from the rendezvous site to the sheep, the animal had begun solely preying on the domestic sheep. This behavioral pattern can also be passed on to pups.

WDFW’s original goal was to remove four animals from the Huckleberry pack as a means to reduce their numbers on the landscape. This reduction would lower the food requirements and nutritional needs of the pack. In this case, the removal of the breeding female may have broken the Huckleberry pack’s pattern of sheep depredation. Said Martorello, “Removal of a single animal may have been enough to break the pack’s cycle. The animal was removed on August 23rd and the collared male has not been back to the vicinity of the sheep since the 27th. The sheep were not moved until September 1st or 2nd.”

WDFW claims that killing the breeding female was not the department’s intention. Their goal was to not take the breeding pair, but to remove yearlings and two-year olds from the pack. The litter had a mix of colors with the pack’s collared adult male being black. The sharpshooter was to look for color (the breeding or alpha female’s color has yet to be released at the time of this writing), look for smaller–younger– wolves to shoot, and to only shoot when multiple wolves were under the helicopter to use for size comparison.

When the breeding female was shot by Wildlife Services, she was the sole animal under the under helicopter and weighed only 66lbs; small but not uncommon for an adult female wolf. “We were certainly disappointed in this outcome but, there was no way to sort from the air in this circumstance,” said Martorello .

When asked why take the risk of shooting the wrong wolf if there is no means of comparison,  Martorello explained that the department was trying to achieve an objective and the only instructions were that if the opportunity to sort existed, to try and not remove the collared male. “You know going into it you get what you get. We did not have the opportunity to sort in this case,” said Martorello .

The helicopter had been up on multiple occasions and had been unable to spot animals due to weather conditions and visibility limits. And as we learned from the aerial shooting of the Wedge pack in 2012, time in the air translates to tens of thousands of dollars ($76,500 in 2012 to kill the Wedge). Per Martorello, at some point a wolf, or wolves, must simply be killed.

The Huckleberry pack is a relatively young pack, having only been formed in the last 3 years and with a young breeding female. It would not be uncommon then, for another female next in the hierarchy to step in and care for the pups, pups approaching full-grown and traveling with the pack. She may also become the new breeding female. With the Huckleberry pack WDFW finds science, in these early stages, that pack cohesiveness remains and that there may not be a loss in pack structure.

Hope for the Huckleberry pack.


My comments:

Everything kills sheep, wolves are certainly not the main predator of sheep. Bears, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, ravens, eagles, foxes, mountain lions and others all eat sheep, since sheep have literally no natural defenses. But whenever a wolf does anything it’s treated as if it’s headline news. Mostly sheep  die from other causes, like lambing complications, disease and bad weather.  Sheep are also found on their back, they’re stolen and yes, overeat and die. Sheep and lambs are farm animals slaughtered for food.  So the hoopla about  predators attacking sheep, living in rugged country, is not really news. It’s only news when wolves are involved.

Meanwhile we have a dead alpha female, motherless wolf pups, all because of a few sheep! And please don’t think I’m denigrating sheep because I value their lives as well. I hate that the little lambs are slaughtered. Ranching is a cruel, cruel business. It would be a much better world without it!


Photo: Courtesy WDFW

Posted in: Wolf Wars, gray wolf

Tags: Huckleberry Pack, alpha female shot dead, WDFW, sharpshooter, sheep

Published in: on September 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm  Comments (12)  
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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, it would be nice with me if the ranchers didn’t exploit and kill the sheep as well. We DON’T need to eat lamb. I love all animals. First and Foremost, I don’t feel the Rancher’s have the right to use our public lands that manage our Wildlife period!! Why does our Wildlife take a back seat to the Ranchers? It shouldn’t be that way, and making excuses that one species is ok for Ranchers to kill only perpetuates the fact that we are allowing the Rancher’s to be a priority. NO to all “special interest groups” that are using and interfering on lands they don’t belong.


  2. It just so happens that Rancher Dave Dashiell is an alternate member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group. I would think that he would be well aware of the protocol involved in managing his sheep with non lethal controls. There is no excuse for the killing of the Huckleberry Pack’s alpha female.


  3. This is just revenge, pure and simple. If you put nice juicy prey animals out there in the pack’s territory, then starting randomly killing pack members when they take the bait.

    This isn’t a “process”, and isn’t effective. If ranchers aren’t willing to buy, fence and protect their own land, then they need to get out of the business and stop using the government as their paid killers to make them feel better about their own incompetence.


  4. I agree with you totally Dominique Osh, especially that the Ranchers are allowed to our public lands. The trouble is that wolves can’t vote, and they are easy to blame, especially when they are collared.


  5. The killing needs to stop. The people in government need to protect the Wolves as the people of the US do not what dead wolves. They make a big deal about sheep that will only be killed later my us and eaten my us. That is nuts to Kill the Wolves from doing the same thing we do.


  6. Here are the disturbing facts.
    1) They didn’t they move the sheep first before killing the alpha female and waited until after the sheep were moved to admit they shot the her. Lied to us and said it was a pup.
    2) If the helicopter has been up several times, they needed to kill one or more of the wolves to justify the expense.
    3) WDFW is 100% anti-wolf backed by the Steven” County Cattlemen’s Association.
    4) WDFW knew exactly what they were doing by killing the alpha female, and any excuse is a bluntly lie.
    5) If Dave Dashiell is an alternate member of WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group, this is a conflict of interest.
    6) Both WA and Idaho WDFW are determined to drive the wolves to extinction.
    7) The USDA is suppose to have an investigation of WDFW actions, but that’s like asking the department to investigate themselves. They are both on the same page in regards to wolf management.

    Do not trust the actions or words from any member of WA or Idaho’s WDFW! Both need to be shut down because they do not protect wildlife, but cater to special interest groups like the Steven’s County Cattlemen’s Association.


  7. We need to start a national campaign to permanently end welfare ranching on our public lands. Non-native cattle and sheep (and the massive destruction they cause) should never take precedent over native wildlife and wild habitat. Period.


  8. Reblogged this on Mind Chatter and commented:
    An Alpha Female being killed by helicopter is bad…but it is not the problem here. The problem lies in immediately determining wolves were the cause, and proper care of the sheep herd not maintained. Responsibility goes both ways here…not just the wolves need to be culled, but the sheep herder needs to take all proper measures to ensure the herd’s safety.


  9. The sheep as well as other “livestock” are in as bad a situation, if not worse than the wolves. the cruelty of agricultural practices for ALL species of nonhuman animals whether “organic or humane” is astounding. For sheep- shearing, mulesing without anaesthsia, lack of medical care and finally the road to the slaughterhouse or betrayal by a human they trusted.
    As despicable as the wolf massacres are, my heart breaks for all the nonhuman animal slaves who never get a moment of freedom.Their children taken from them, every aspect of their lives planned by humans- all for a piece of their flesh, milk stolen from their neonates or their eggs.
    So if you care about wolves please there is no time to indulge in cognitive moral dissonance as your taste for flesh eggs and animal milk as well as the human penchant for procreating indiscriminately is decimating the planet and killing silvan and sea species including our beloved wolves.


  10. Why don’t they just pay the sheep raiser for his loss…rather than kill thecwolf mom. What did they pay the sharpshooter?


  11. As of the Oct 7, WDFW meeting in Colville, Rancher Dashiell had over 300 sheep still unaccounted for. How do you lose 300 sheep!?! Bringing 4 working guard dogs into an established den area….just asking for trouble. Still, Dashiell seemed to be one of the very few ranchers that was still open to finding a solution to the problem rather than just a blanket killing of all wolves. If he doesn’t bow to the pressure of his bullying contemporaries who view total wolf eradication as the only answer, I am sure he would be able to work with various groups, especially rangers, to eliminate the depredation and secure the future well being of the huckleberry pack. Just sayin…..


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