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Wolves on the rebound

Feb 15, 2013
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In their recently released annual survey, WDFW confirmed the presence of at least 24 new wolves in Washington, bringing the tally of wolves to 51. This estimate could be doubled again if unconfirmed estimates are included.

Wolves on the rebound

Craig Monette of Chelan recently snapped several photos of this wolf near Ardenvoir. It is a Teanaway Pack wolf that was ranging, perhaps in search of territory (via Wenatchee World).

It's been a long road to recovery for wolves in Washington. Just when their future in the state seemed uncertain, a 2012 WDFW survey says these new arrivals are bouncing back, their population nearly doubling since last year. 

In their recently released annual survey, WDFW confirmed the presence of at least 51 wolves in nine wolf packs across the state, with a total of five successful breeding pairs, up from the previous year's count of 27 wolves, five wolf packs, and three breeding pairs.

The actual number of wolves is likely much higher than the number confirmed by the survey, with field biologists suspecting the existence of two additional packs. In addition, lone wolves often go uncounted and those that range into Washington but den in other states are not included in WDFW's survey.

WDFW estimates that the total state population could be as high as 100 wolves. 

Check out the confirmed and potential packs on both sides of the Cascades!

Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director, believes the expanding population is due to successful breeding and wolves traveling into the area looking for new territory.

"The survey shows that our state's wolf population is growing quickly," said Pamplin. "That growth appears to be the result of both natural reproduction and the continuing in-migration of wolves from Canada and neighboring states."

One of the nine packs represented in the survey is the Wedge pack, which now has two confirmed members in northeastern Washington. Last summer, WDFW eliminated seven members of the pack to end a series of attacks on an area rancher's cattle that left six calves dead and 10 other animals injured.

The lethal removal of the Wedge Pack was seen as a major hurdle for reestablishing wolves throughout the state, hindering the delisting of these endangered canines. Pamplin feels that cooperation between livestock owners and the WDFW will keep another Wedge issue from occurring.

"We really hope to prevent the kind of situation we faced with the Wedge pack last summer by working with ranchers to use non-lethal methods to protect their livestock," he said. About sixteen livestock producers have already signed cooperative cost-share agreements with the state to adapt their operations.

Conservation Northwest has had success with similar cost-sharing for a range rider in the territory of the Smackout Pack and looks forward to future success.

Washington's wolves are now that much closer to recovery. Under the state's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state's endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years, spread among three designated wolf-recovery regions. Four pairs are required in Eastern Washington, four pairs in the North Cascades, four pairs in South Cascades/Northwest Coast and three pairs in any recovery region.

For more information on the state's wolf packs and the 2012 survey visit WDFW's website.

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