2012 count The number of confirmed gray wolves and wolf packs in Washington nearly doubled in 2012, according to an annual state survey released Feb. 15.
Based on field reports and aerial monitoring, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife survey confirms the presence of at least 51 wolves in nine wolf packs, including five successful breeding pairs. The 2011 survey documented 27 wolves, five wolf packs and three breeding pairs.
The state defines a wolf pack as two or more wolves traveling together. A successful breeding pair is an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive until the end of the calendar year.
“The survey shows that our state’s wolf population is growing quickly,” Nate Pamplin, wildlife program director, said in a news release. “That growth appears to be the result of both natural reproduction and the continuing in-migration of wolves from Canada and neighboring states.”
Pamplin said the actual number of wolves in the state is likely much higher than the number confirmed by the survey. He said field biologists suspect the existence of two additional packs. Also, lone wolves often go uncounted and those that range into Washington but den in other states are not included in the survey.
Considering those factors, and applying an estimate of the average pack size in other western states, there could easily be as many as 100 wolves in Washington, Pamplin said.
“The survey is the baseline we use to monitor wolves’ progress toward recovery,” he said in the release. “While we’ve stepped up our monitoring efforts significantly over the past year, we recognize that it does not account for every wolf within our state’s borders.”
One of the nine packs represented in the survey is the Wedge pack, which now has two confirmed members in northeastern Washington. Last summer, the department killed 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.
Pamplin said wildlife biologists do not know whether the two wolves living near the Canadian border in Stevens County are members of the original Wedge pack or whether they are new arrivals from inside or outside the state.
“Either way, we were confident that wolves would repopulate that area,” he said in the release. “We really hope to prevent the kind of situation we faced with the Wedge pack last summer by working with ranchers to use nonlethal methods to protect their livestock.”
The gray wolf is currently listed by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state.
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 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.
• More information on the state’s wolf packs and the 2012 survey is available at wdfw.wa.gov/ conservation/ gray_wolf/packs.
• Reports of possible wolf sightings can be made to the department’s wildlife reporting line by calling toll free 877-933-9847.