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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

February 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Washington’s wolf population has at least doubled since last year

Despite the shooting of seven members of the Wedge Pack last summer by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife because they were killing cattle, the state’s wolf population is burgeoning, a new survey shows.

Only one pack, the Hozomeen Pack, has been documented on the western side of the state, in the North Cascades near the Canadian border.

Most of the wolves are in the north central and north eastern portions of Washington, but one pack, the Walla Walla, has been found in the far southeast corner of the state.

The densest concentration of wolves in Washington is actually in the sparsely populated northeast corner of the state, home to the Wedge Pack. In its survey the department found two confirmed members that either escaped elimination, or are new migrants from Canada.

wolf (2).jpg

Two members of the Wedge Pack have been confirmed by state wildlife monitors after the shooting of seven members of the back by WDFW last summer. The two wolves documented in the survey may be new recruits, or members of the original pack that escaped the shooting.

Photo courtesy of WDFW

The number of confirmed gray wolves and wolf packs in the state nearly doubled during the past year, according the survey, which based on field reports and aerial monitoring in 2012 found at least 51 wolves in nine packs, with five successful breeding pairs.

The previous year’s survey confirmed 27 wolves, five wolf packs and three breeding pairs.

A pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. Growth of the state’s wolf population is due both to successful reproduction, and in-migration.

It is possible the number of wolves in Washington is even greater than could be confirmed in the survey, with easily more than 100 wolves actually in the state, according to the department.

The gray wolf is listed as a state endangered species throughout Washington, and is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act west of State Route 97.

To report a wolf siting, call the department’s wildlife reporting line at 877 933 9847. For more on the recovery of wolves in Washington, see the department’s website.

Meanwhile on the Colville Indian reservation, chairman John Sirois said contractors working for the tribe had recently net-gunned a more than 130 pound male. The animal was tagged and released with a GPS collar.

For more on the tribe’s tagging and management of wolves on its reservation, have a look at this report.

The tribe opened a hunting season on wolves this winter that concludes at the end of the month. So far, no wolves have been taken. The next season may be in August, said Randy Friedlander, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, and director of the tribe’s department of fish and wildlife.

So far he’s heard of only one hunter even seeing a wolf.

“They are pretty tricky, pretty wise,” Friedlander said. But he must have some kind of special wolf mojo. “I can’t get away from them,” Friedlander said. “Every time I go out in the woods I see tracks or hear them.”

The tribe initiated its hunting season in part to maintain robust elk and deer populations.

“We caught quite a bit of grief this year because we had a season,” Friedlander said. “I don’t know what they would say if they knew we ate a lot deer, and elk, for us it is about trying to strike that balance.”

See an expanded version of this story done for the next day’s newspaper.
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