Washington now home to at least 115 wolves

Washington now home to at least 115 wolves

Conservation Northwest / Mar 17, 2017 / Wolves

State’s wolf population grew by 28 percent in 2016, but no new packs were confirmed in the Cascades.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today that our state’s wolf population grew by 28 percent last year and added at least two new packs.

By the end of 2016, Washington was home to at least 115 wolves, 20 packs, and 10 successful breeding pairs. The number of animals documented represents an increase of at least 25 individual wolves since 2015, despite the confirmed deaths of 14 wolves from various causes. Wolf counts are expressed as “minimum estimates,” due to the difficulty of accounting for every animal, especially lone wolves without a pack.

“We’re glad the wolf population continues to expand, and that participation in conflict avoidance effort is going up as well,” said Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest Executive Director. “Hopefully 2017 will be the year that at least one pack is confirmed in the South Cascades.”

Washington’s confirmed wolf packs at the end of 2016. Map: WDFW

The use of proactive conflict avoidance measures, from range riders to guard dogs and electric flagging, continues to increase in Washington, with more than 180 livestock operators participating in 2016. WDFW data suggests that number is expected to grow to 341 livestock operators in 2017.

The state offers support for range riding and other wolf conflict avoidance measures, as well as compensation for livestock confirmed as killed by wolves. Grant projects, including the newly proposed Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Management Grant, are also being designed to fund locally-run organizations that develop and implement ways to reduce conflicts with wolves. Conservation Northwest also works with Eastern Washington ranchers each year through the Range Rider Pilot Project, demonstrating non-lethal ways to protect both livestock and native carnivores.

Chart showing growth in both Washington’s wolf population (blue) and the use of conflict deterrence methods by livestock operators in northeast Washington, Okanogan County and southeast Washington. Graph: WDFW

All of the wolf packs documented in the report were found east of the Cascade Mountains, and 15 of Washington’s 20 known wolf packs are located in a four-county area in the northeast corner of the state. The Sherman pack, near Sherman Pass in the Kettle River Mountain Range, was one of the two new packs confirmed last year. The other new pack, the Touchet pack, is in southeastern Washington, east of Walla Walla.

The full Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management: 2016 Annual Report is available on WDFW’s website here

Gray wolves are listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington state. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are also listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

State management of wolves is guided by the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of 2011 and a protocol for reducing conflicts between wolves and livestock adopted by WDFW in conjunction with its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, on which Conservation Northwest is represented.