State’s wolf population continues to grow

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The number of wolves in Washington has reached its highest level since they were essentially eliminated from the state in the 1930s, according to a report from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As of December 2019, there were an estimated 145 wolves across 26 packs living in the state.

Comparatively WDFW reported 133 wolves across 27 packs in 2018.

While this is a win for wolf conservation efforts, it also creates other challenges such as increased livestock attacks. Last year was a particularly rough year for livestock attacks, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a press release.

“We are working with citizens and communities to strike a balance so both livestock producers and wolves can share the landscape and thrive in Washington,” she said.

“As the wolf population begins to recover, we’re going to see population growth slow in parts of the state where the local population is nearing capacity,” wolf specialist Ben Maletzke said.

In 2019, there were 21 documented wolf mortalities, 18 of which were by landowners protecting cattle, legal tribal harvests or by the WDFW in response to livestock attacks.

Fourteen cattle across the state were killed by wolves in 2019 and another 11 were injured. WDFW notes that 85% of the wolf packs have had no involvement in cattle attacks.

“We had more negative impacts to cattle and lethal removals last year than we’d like to see. It’s been a challenging situation, but ranchers are continuing to play an important role in reducing wolf-livestock conflict,” WDFW wolf policy lead Donny Martorello said.

Since 1980, gray wolves have been listed as an endangered species in Washington. In Western Washington they are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, and in Eastern Washington they are managed by rules in the 2011 WDFW Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

2 thoughts on “State’s wolf population continues to grow

  1. As with all carnivore-related stories, WDFW fails to mention that ranching on public lands displaces traditional food sources for bears, cougars, and wolves. WDFW fails to mention that the ranchers on public lands pay $1.35 per month for a cow and her calf, and the calf is expected to gain 100 pounds in that month. WDFW fails to mention that there are more than a million head of cattle in Washington State. It doesn’t occur to WDFW to mention that the entire ranching industry pays less than $200,000 per year in state taxes, not even enough to cover all the costs associated with dealing with ranchers. It is time for the citizens of Washington to reform the agency and its ranching operations.

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