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Court ruling affects wolves in Washington

Aug 26, 2010
Contributors: Mindee Shrull
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A recent federal court ruling reinstates protection for wolves in the northern Rockies under the Endangered Species Act - including the eastern third of Washington. Meanwhile, wolf packs in Washington continue to face a challenging recovery.

Court ruling affects wolves in Washington

Wolf pups in northeast Washington's Diamond Pack are protected under the Endangered Species Act once again

A ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy earlier this month put northern Rockies’ wolves back on the federal Endangered Species list, putting their management back in the hands of the US Fish and Wildlife Service from individual states. Judge Molloy stated that the decision to delist the region’s wolves must be all or nothing. It cannot be on a state by state basis. What many don’t realize is that this decision not only affects wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but it also affects wolves in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, which are included in the approximately 1,700 wolves that make up the northern Rockies population.  

Currently, there are two confirmed wolf packs in the state,  the North Cascades pack and one in the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington (this pack is part of the northern Rockies population), but many more breeding pairs are needed in order to ensure their long-term survival in the state.  

Wolf recovery in Washington has been tenuous with many wolves being either victims of poachers or car collisions.  Last year, the pelt of one of Washington’s endangered wolves was found in a shipping container.  Currently the investigation is still underway and no arrests have been made for this case.  The most recent reports from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife indicate that the North Cascades pack’s breeding female is missing and they fear she may have also been killed.  Radio signal from the wolf’s collar was lost May 12th and has not been received since.  Scott Fitkin, of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, believes there are two possible explanations for the loss or detectable signal.  Either the collar malfunctioned, or the wolf was killed and the collar was destroyed. 

But the recent ruling is good news for Washington’s few wolves because it means that there is a greater chance for recovery in our state (which is dependent on healthy populations in Idaho) and it will ensure that adequate state plans are in place before delisting can occur in the future. 

In 2006, Washington State Fish and Wildlife began to develop a plan for their wolf conservation and management. After many meetings and a long public process, the plan was put under scientific peer review.  Multiple revisions have been made to the draft and a final plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in late 2010.   Conservation Northwest will keep you posted on the latest developments and opportunties to get involved.


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