Four new wolf packs were identified in Washington last year, bringing the state’s total to 18 packs. All but four of the packs are located in northeast Washington.
According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual survey, Washington is now home to at least 90 wolves, including eight breeding pairs.
The survey indicates the minimum number of wolves grew by 32 percent in 2015, despite the deaths of at least seven wolves. Since 2008, when the department documented just one pack and five wolves, the state’s wolf population has grown by an average of 36 percent per year.
The new packs — Beaver Creek, Loup Loup, Skookum, and Stranger — were found in Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties, respectively, said Donny Martorello, the agency’s wolf policy lead.
Martorello said, however, that researchers found no evidence of the Wenatchee Pack, and the Diamond Pack shifted its activity to Idaho and is no longer included in Washington state totals.
14 The number of wolf packs located in northeast Washington, out of the 18 packs statewide
The annual wolf survey was done using aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks and signals from 22 radio-collared wolves from 13 packs.
Here are some other highlights from the report:
▪ The number of breeding pairs in Washington increased from five to eight, the first time there was an increase since 2011, according to the study.
▪ The biggest packs, the Dirty Shirt and Smackout packs in the Colville area, each have at least eight wolves.
▪ Despite an increase in total numbers, there were fewer wolf-livestock conflicts than in 2014. Martorello said wolves from four packs were responsible for killing seven cattle and injuring one guard dog.
▪ Three of the seven wolves that died in 2015 were killed legally by hunters on the reservation of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. The trine allows the harvest of up to six wolves per year by tribal members. The four other deaths included one wolf killed in a collision with a vehicle, one shot in self-defense by a property owner, and one that died during an attempt to capture it. One wolf’s cause of death is unknown.
Gray wolves are protected under Washington law throughout the state and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.
Under the state management plan, wolves can be removed from the state endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among the three designated wolf-recovery regions.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf survey for 2015 will be available by the end of the month at wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf.