Exposing the Big Game

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Exposing the Big Game

Wolf numbers continue to grow in Washington state, but still no hunting as in Idaho


By TOM BANSE APR 23, 2021ShareTweetEmail

  • A gray wolf in the Teanaway pack in central Washington.WDFW

The number of wolves in Washington state rose strongly last year, according to an annual report from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife released Friday. The rate of increase was more than double what Oregon reported earlier in the week for its wolf population in 2020.

The gray wolf population in Washington state increased by 22% in the past year, raising the minimum number of wolves documented by state and tribal biologists to 178 in 29 packs — up from 145 wolves and 26 packs at the end of 2019. A combination of in-migration from neighboring states and Canada plus births within existing packs probably accounted for the increase, biologists told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission during a briefing Friday.

“Washington wolf recovery continues to make solid progress,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “For the first time the North Cascades wolf recovery area has met the local recovery objective — four successful breeding pairs — during 2020.”

The majority of the state’s wolves are still concentrated in northeastern Washington. Under state rules set a decade ago, the gray wolf is not considered recovered until the species also recolonizes the South Cascades and Olympic Peninsula region.

Biologists can’t predict when packs might fully disperse throughout their historic range statewide, said WDFW wolf specialist Ben Maletzke.

“As more packs establish in the North Cascades, it’ll be far easier for wolves to make that jump south and get into the South Cascades,” Maletzke said Friday. “I just don’t know the timeframe and how long it will take.”CREDIT WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Given the uncertain timeline to full recovery, it is also unclear when policymakers in Olympia might accede to persistent requests from ranchers and sportsmen to be able to hunt wolves, as is the case in Idaho.

Forty-six of the wolves counted in the latest wolf census were reported by the Colville Confederated Tribes on their north-central Washington reservation. A few years ago, the tribe authorized wolf hunting by its members. Tribal hunters killed eight wolves in 2020, according to the WDFW annual report.

States took over full responsibility for gray wolf management at the beginning of this year when the outgoing Trump administration declared the species recovered from endangered status in the lower 48 states. Several lawsuits have challenged the federal delisting, but in the meantime states and tribes are calling the shots literally and figuratively.

During 2020, seven Washington packs were blamed for attacks on sheep or cattle. WDFW killed three wolves in the Wedge pack last year, the entire known pack, because of repeated livestock depredations by those animals.

Fur trapping, hunting and predator control bounties extirpated wolves from Washington state around the 1930s. Wolves returned on their own from Idaho and British Columbia beginning in 2008.

The Washington population update was released a day after Oregon unveiled its new tally of the wolf population in the state. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it directly counted 173 wolves this past winter, an increase of almost 10% from the year before.

While the population of Oregon wolves increased, they occupied similar ranges to prior years. The number of Oregon counties with wolves stayed the same at 12 and the number of wolf packs also held steady at 22 in 2020.

The wolf population in neighboring Idaho is much higher — around 1,500 according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game estimates. The Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature this week laid the groundwork for an aggressive cull of Idaho’s wolves.

Legislation passed by the Idaho Senate on Wednesday and now moving speedily through the state House would increase funding for private contractors to cut the wolf population from about 1,500 to as few as 150. It also allows the use of night vision equipment to help kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other changes.

Backers said there are too many wolves and they are attacking cattle and sheep, costing ranchers hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also said they are reducing elk and deer populations and taking away opportunities for hunters.

The proposed reduction in wolf numbers is so dramatic — as much as 90% — that it may invite federal intervention. It is already provoking an outcry from environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity and Idaho Conservation League.

On Friday, Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission member Fred Koontz called Idaho’s actions especially “troubling” given how much wolves wander back and forth across state lines.

“While we can celebrate what is going on in Washington, long term population persistence of wolves in Washington is totally linked to what is happening in British Columbia, Idaho, Montana and Oregon,” Koontz said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

After being driven to near extinction, wolves are back in Washington. Can we coexist with them?


May 23, 2021 at 7:00 am Updated May 25, 2021 at 12:34 am  

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke identifies tracks in the territory of the Teanaway pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke pulls brush away from a snowmobile trail after cutting a tree that fell across the path. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke holds the skull of 32M, whom he affectionately calls The Old Guy. A pioneer for his species, 32M was the first wolf to establish a pack in the Central Cascades in 100 years. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke’s transportation in the Cascades in wintertime is by snowmobile, which he rides standing upright with all his gear piled on the back of the machine. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Wolf 32M, patriarch of the Teanaway pack, lived to be about 12 years old — and his worn and broken teeth show the wear and tear of his years.  (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
A hidden remote wildlife camera is for capturing photos of the Teanaway pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke pulls the memory card out of a wildlife tracking camera mounted to photograph the Teanaway pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Ben Maletzke deftly maneuvers his snowmobile in the backcountry of the Teanaway pack’s territory. He is looking for wolf tracks as part of the department’s annual wolf population survey.  (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke identifies plenty of tracks of prey the wolves of the Teanaway pack rely on in winter, including deer and elk. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke displays an older photo from a remote wildlife camera showing patriarch wolf 32M, first documented in 2011. Some of 32M’s pups have dispersed hundreds of miles to British Columbia and some started the Naneum pack, right next door. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington wolves can be any color, including black. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
A black wolf from the Teanaway pack was captured on this wildlife camera while on a walkabout in the Chiwaukum area. (Jim Clark Conservation Northwest)
A wolf stands beside a fladry fence (a rope mounted along the top of a fence, from which are suspended strips of fabric or colored flags that flap in a breeze). Fladry fences are intended to deter wolves from crossing. This wolf later wandered 457 miles, to British Columbia, where he was killed by a rancher. (Jay Shepherd)
A male wolf in the Diamond pack is caught in a trap used to temporarily capture the wolf for fitting with a radio collar. (Jay Shepherd)
A coyote follows a vehicle track through the snow. Coyotes are often confused with wolves. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife remote camera)
A male wolf from the Diamond pack wears an electronic tracking collar to trace his movements. (Jay Shepherd)
Patriarch wolf 32M rests during the day. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife remote camera)
Patriarch wolf 32M is on high alert during an encounter in the woods. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
A wolf pup triggers a night-vision camera that snaps this photo. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife remote camera)
A wolf on the prowl. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife remote camera)
Pups from the Smakout pack peer through barbed wire. (Jay Shepherd)
A male wolf from the Teanaway pack is sedated for a checkup. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Patriarch wolf 32M on the prowl. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife remote camera)

 1 of 23 | Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke identifies tracks in the territory of the Teanaway pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)Skip Adhttps://d248578cd520d7046a872147e8b7a8d8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlBy Lynda V. MapesSeattle Times environment reporter

THEY WALKED IN on their own: the first wolves in more than 100 years known to call Washington state home, after this native species was nearly wiped out by hunting, trapping and government extermination campaigns.

Today, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife kills wolves only when they have repeatedly killed cattle, a relatively rare event, with about 80% of Washington wolf packs typically staying out of trouble with people.

Which brings us to the wolf that Ben Maletzke, statewide wolf specialist in the wildlife program for WDFW, likes to call The Old Guy.


WOLF 32M LIVED some 12 years as the patriarch of the Teanaway pack, kicking off the recovery of wolves in Washington despite living in cattle country, amid ranchettes, in a region that sees heavy recreational use year-round. He lost a mate to poachers, and the pack’s territory was roasted by wildfire in 2014. But still, wolf 32M and his family persisted, bringing the call of the wild back to the Central Cascades for the first time in a century, just two hours from Seattle.

One of the fundamental tasks in recovering an endangered species is to know its population. So, on a recent winter day, Maletzke was out in the Teanaway pack’s territory, looking for wolf tracks and checking wildlife cameras.ADVERTISINGSkip Adhttps://d248578cd520d7046a872147e8b7a8d8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlSkip Adhttps://d248578cd520d7046a872147e8b7a8d8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlSkip Adhttps://d248578cd520d7046a872147e8b7a8d8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/V9q2txY_FNY

Maletzke glided through powder on his snowmobile, a fresh snowfall providing perfect conditions for tracking work. Here, the winter ecology of the pack’s core territory was written in tracks. The soft sweep of grouse wings, the trot of a turkey, the hooves of mule deer and elk: all on the menu for a hungry wolf. But there was no sign of wolves that day. Maletzke was not surprised: “There are a lot of zeros when you are a wildlife biologist,” he said, changing out a data card in a motion-triggered wildlife camera.

Farther on the trail, he unpacked a chain saw to cut a tree fallen across the path, all in a day’s work for a backcountry biologist. “My mother says I got a Ph.D. in recess,” he said, gunning the snowmobile up into the mountains, into the core of the Teanaway pack’s home ground.

These wolves are what he calls steppingstones in recovery, the animals that could help lead the way to new territory, such as the vast sweep of country south of I-90 not yet recolonized by wolves. Recovery is still in early stages in Washington, with fewer than 200 wolves documented, and no statewide presence yet established.

Wolves disperse to new territory to find mates and begin packs of their own. Packs won’t overlap; the map Maletzke shows of known packs, with their movements tracked by radio collar, presents territories so strictly observed you would think they were fenced.

Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke listens for the beeps from radio collars attached to wolves in the Teanaway pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke breaks out his computer atop his snowmobile in 20 degree weather to quickly check a memory card from one of his numerous remote cameras used to capture images of wolves. Scientists use multiple methods to estimate the wolf population every year in Washington, including helicopter surveys, remote cameras, radio collars and observing for tracks.  (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

 1 of 2 | Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Ben Maletzke listens for the beeps from radio collars attached to wolves in the Teanaway pack. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Wolves have few predators, but they can be killed by other wolves defending a territory or a kill. It is this pack dynamic that wildlife biologists are counting on, in time, to urge wolves into areas where they do not presently live. “We just need a couple to pick up and go,” Maletzke says. “It will happen.” For there are few animals more resilient or wily than the wolf.

WOLVES ARE THE most widely distributed of all land mammals, and one of the most adaptable.



Gray wolf population surges in Washington – and there’s a surprise for ranchers


BY BROOKE WOLFORDAPRIL 26, 2021 02:44 PM, UPDATED APRIL 26, 2021 02:55 PM

Washington’s gray wolf population grew substantially in 2020, but surprisingly, the number of livestock killed by wolves decreased, officials said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife counted 132 gray wolves in 24 packs and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation reported 46 wolves in five packs over the course of 2020, according to the department’s report released Friday.

Those numbers are up from 2019, when the department counted 108 wolves in 21 packs and the CTCR reported a minimum count of 37 wolves in five packs, but “because these are minimum counts, the total number of wolves in Washington is likely higher.”TOP ARTICLEShttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.453.0_en.html#goog_1337941304https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.453.0_en.html#goog_337707929https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.453.0_en.html#goog_814005581javascript:falseSKIP ADTri-City Dust Devils kick off 2021 season in new MLB league — and with new rules

The 2020 numbers also mark the 12th consecutive year the state’s gray wolf population has grown.

“Washington wolf recovery continues to make solid progress,” Kelly Susewind, WDFW’s director, said in a news release. “For the first time the North Cascades wolf recovery area has met the local recovery objective — four successful breeding pairs — during 2020.”

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A breeding pair is “defined as at least one adult male and one adult female wolf who raised at least two pups that survived until December 31 and is used to reflect reproductive success and recruitment.” Washington saw 13 successful breeding pairs in 2020, while 2019 had 10.

Wolves in the eastern third of Washington have not been classified under the Endangered Species Act since 2011, but state law does classify them as endangered. In the western two-thirds of the state, gray wolves were federally listed as endangered until Jan. 4, 2021.

Their status has been highly contentious among conservationists and ranchers, whose livestock can be threatened and sometimes killed by wolves in eastern Washington, KREM has reported.

However, while the number of wolves has risen, livestock fatalities have not followed suit.

In 2020, wolves were responsible for nine cattle deaths, 30 cattle injuries and one herding dog injury. In the year prior, gray wolves killed 14 cattle and injured 11, according to the 2019 report.

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Only seven of the 29 known packs in Washington in 2020 — or 24% — were involved in at least one confirmed livestock mortality or injury.

While the WDFW emphasizes using “nonlethal deterrence” in the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, there have been several instances of “lethal deterrence” over the years, according to National Geographic.

The department documented 16 wolf mortalities in 2020, three of which were “lethally removed in response to wolf-caused livestock deaths”

Wildlife officials will consider allowing lethal deterrence to control wolf populations if the following criteria are met:

  • It is documented that livestock have clearly been killed by wolves
  • Nonlethal methods have been tried but failed to resolve the conflict
  • Depredations are likely to continue
  • There is no evidence of intentional feeding or unnatural attraction of wolves by the livestock owner

“WDFW staff, and partnering producers, non-government organizations, and county officials worked hard last grazing season at reducing wolf-livestock conflict,” Donny Martorello, the WDFW wolf policy lead, said in the release. “This coming grazing season we will pilot some newly innovated non-lethal tools and are working with producers, range riders, and landowners on action plans for deploying them.”

The Washington Cattlemen’s Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.Play VideoDuration 1:28See adorable gray wolf pups and hear them howlA female adult gray wolf, yearling and three pups walked through the woods in Lassen County. BY CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Pack to the future: Will more wolves come to King County?

Gray wolves historically roamed across the state but were eradicated in Washington by 1930s. In recent decades wolves have been migrating back to the state from Canada, Idaho and Oregon. John and Karen Hollingsworth/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Gray wolves historically roamed across the state but were eradicated in Washington by 1930s. In recent decades wolves have been migrating back to the state from Canada, Idaho and Oregon. John and Karen Hollingsworth/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Some experts believe we’re on the cusp of discovering packs in King County.

Wolves still have yet to reestablish themselves in the forests of King County, but experts believe it’s likely only a matter of time.

Across Washington, there’s more than 20 known wolf packs, but only one has made the trek across the Cascades, east of Bellingham. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Wolf Specialist Ben Maletzke said as wolf populations recover, they often spread out from places where there’s existing packs.

“We just haven’t seen that happen yet in King County,” he said.

Wolves were eradicated from Washington state in the 1930s, but in 2008, the first pack reemerged populated by wolves who had naturally journeyed down from Canada. So far, they’ve favored remote areas of north central and eastern Washington. Maletzke said it’s unknown why they haven’t moved in to King County yet, with two packs across the mountains in Kittitas County, but there have been wolf sightings. It could be a lack of prey, the sheer number of people recreating in the mountains or the ruggedness of the terrain, or other reasons.ADVERTISEMENThttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.446.1_en.html#goog_851084424Volume 0% 

“We don’t know all the factors obviously of how they pick where they’re going to establish on the landscape, but we just try and find them when they get there,” he said.

Over the winter, when the wolf population is the most stable, the state works to find and count wolves within its borders. That work is ongoing right now, and they’re developing a new model to understand how and where wolves are recovering.

Paula Swedeen, policy director for Conservation NW, said she expects to see more wolves in King County in the coming years.

“It certainly seems like we should have more packs in Western Washington at this point, and it’s a bit of a mystery that we don’t, but I can’t help but think that we’re on the cusp of discovering quite a bit more,” she said.

The ruggedness of the Cascades also provides wolves with more places to hide away from humans. But once a pack establishes itself, it becomes easier to notice and track. And once populations in other parts of the state hit a certain threshold, they’ll likely start migrating out. However, Swedeen said that threshold will likely be different from other states that have seen wolf recovery. She’s said the state model should shed more light on packs in Washington.

“That’s going to be our best, scientifically-based, consolidated projections about when we should see that more rapid increase in growth,” Swedeen said.

As wolves do return to the area, it raises the potential for conflict between humans, livestock and pets. Swedeen said the federal government could provide more funding for proactive deterrents. These could include electric fencing or money for range riders, which travel with and keep an eye on livestock.

Wolves are protected under state law in all parts of Washington, but were federally delisted by the Trump administration nationwide. President Joe Biden ordered the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review this delisting.

However, Swedeen said Washington state’s wolf management plan is solid, and much more nuanced than at the federal level. She still wants to see the federal government to downlist wolves nationwide to threatened, which afford some protections while allowing for management in other states with higher populations.

Washington to manage wolves within borders after federal delisting


By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS (Associated Press)SPOKANE, Wash. Nov. 2, 2020 1:29 p.m.

The state of Washington will take over management of most wolves within its borders early next year after the U.S. government announced Thursday that gray wolves in the Lower 48 states would be delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife and Indian tribes have for years been managing a growing population of wolves in the eastern third of the state. The DFW often finds itself in the middle of conflicts between ranchers and environmental groups when wolves eat livestock.

That is likely to continue after the state and tribes take oversight of all gray wolves in Washington on Jan. 4, 2021.

“The department’s management of wolves in Washington makes it seem as though its mission is to preserve the livestock industry rather than conserving native wildlife,″ said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Related: Environmentalists say Washington’s wolf program is broken

“The state’s relentless killing of wolves in Eastern Washington for conflicts with livestock is a totally ineffective method of conflict prevention, and runs counter to sound science,″ Weiss said. “Now, with the removal of federal protections from the remainder of the state, we fear the department’s misguided approach will simply expand.”

Agriculture interests are pleased.

“This is great news for Washington state where our wolf population has reached recoverable levels,” Mike LaPlant, president of the Washington Farm Bureau, said of the Trump administration decision.

Numerous environmental groups say they plan to sue the government over the delisting.

“We absolutely plan to challenge it,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, chief executive of Defenders of Wildlife. “We believe they’ve declared victory too soon.”THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:Become a Sponsor

Of the 26 known wolf packs in Washington, 21 reside in the eastern third of the state where wolves have not been federally protected since 2013. Thursday’s decision to delist gray wolves applies to the western two-thirds of the state, where far fewer of the animals live.

“The state of Washington has facilitated wolf recovery for more than a decade and is well-prepared to be the management authority for wolves statewide,” the DFW said, adding it would continue to work on “reducing conflict between wolves and livestock.″

Related: Southern Oregon rancher builds fences and bridges to keep wolves at bay

In addition, the federal government will monitor the state’s wolves for five years to ensure the continued success of the species and that it continues to meet the federal recovery objectives.

The DFW noted that gray wolves will remain listed as endangered under state law throughout the state. But that hasn’t stopped the agency from wiping out several wolf packs in the past decade for preying on livestock, drawing heavy criticism from environmental groups.

After some wolves were killed by the state earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in September directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft new rules governing when the DFW can kill wolves involved in conflicts with livestock.

Since 2008, the state’s wolf population has grown by an average of 28% per year. The state counted 108 wolves in 21 packs last year and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation reported an additional 37 wolves in five packs during the same period.

Wolves were wiped out in Washington by the 1930s at the behest of the livestock industry. The animals began migrating back into the state from Idaho and British Columbia early in this century. Wolf recovery is popular with many urban residents of the state, but not as much in rural areas where the wolves live.

The Trump administration’s Thursday decision was hailed by Republican U.S. Rep Dan Newhouse, who represents central Washington in Congress.

“The gray wolf is an Endangered Species Act success story,” Newhouse said in a press release. “The federal government is recognizing the effectiveness of locally-led conservation efforts, basing management decisions on sound science – instead of politics.”

Environmental groups are not so sure.

“This is yet another example of the Trump administration ignoring science,” said Lindsay Larris, of WildEarth Guardians. “From climate change denial, to their gross mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, to rollbacks of environmental safeguards protecting clean air and water, this administration has proven time and time again that they’re only in it for themselves, even if it means ignoring and denying the facts.”

Prior attempts to weaken protections for gray wolves have been overturned by federal judges.

State’s wolf population continues to grow


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.

WA Wolf Count Up, But Species Isn’t Out of Woods Yet

Nine Washington state wolves were removed because of conflicts with livestock in 2019. (WDFW/Flickr)
Nine Washington state wolves were removed because of conflicts with livestock in 2019. (WDFW/Flickr)

April 23, 2020

SEATTLE — Washington state’s wolf population is on the rise, according to a new count, but conservation groups say the species still has a long road to recovery.

Wolf numbers increased to at least 145 in 2019, up from 126 in 2018.

Zoe Hanley, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, says that’s good news but wolves aren’t out of the woods yet.

She says one concerning point in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s report is that nine wolves were removed because of their interactions with livestock or livestock depredation, and most conflicts occurred on public lands.

“It’s disappointing to see lethal removal in the same locations every year,” she states. “Wolves should have the right of way on our public lands.”

Defenders of Wildlife notes that in Oregon, where wolf management is similar, the state did not remove any wolves for interacting with livestock and depredation numbers were down 43% last year.

Hanley says there needs to be more proactive prevention methods in place, such as moving cattle away from high-use wolf areas.

Still, Hanley says it’s encouraging to see wolves recovering in the state.

“Wolves are extremely resilient and they’re so valued for their really positive impacts to the ecological systems and also the way that humans have a great way of relating to them, so we’re really excited that they’re coming back,” she states.

Wolves remain sparse in the western part of Washington, where they still are federally listed as endangered.

WA House Committee Approves Wolf Radio Collar Bill

  FEB 7, 2020


A Washington House committee today [Friday] approved a bill that would lead to more radio collars on wolves.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to use radio collars when possible to monitor wolves. It also requires the agency to collar at least two of the animals in each pack that have been causing trouble for farmers and ranchers.

“The range riders, the ranchers that are dealing with that have expressed a lot of frustration that we’ve embraced non-lethal, preventative techniques,” Kretz said. “It’s hard to do when you have no idea where the wolves are. You can’t get in between the wolves and the livestock. So this will be an important tool in approving our preventative actions on the ground and I urge your support.”

Kretz’s bill was approved unanimously by the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

It also encourages the state to put collars on at least one wolf in every pack the agency has confirmed lives in the state. The bill specifies the agency must use radio collars it already owns.

Inside the Outdoors: The wolves of Washington

An ever more interesting conversation, this discussion of wolves and their status, behavior, and management here in our state. There seems almost no action ranchers in now-wolf-country, and the wildlife managers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), can propose or take to deal with livestock depredation that doesn’t trigger protest and a court battle. The conflict over DFW policy has been bubbling over the past decade and more.

Over the years since the 2009 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), titled “Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington” was released, a number of wolves and entire packs have been killed after persistently preying upon domestic livestock. Nearly all of the lethal removals have been in and around the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington. The removals took place following one or another DFW policy — each of which required that stockmen carry out some extensive level of non-lethal means of separating livestock and wolves over some time period. The latest removal in the Colville area was in August, just before a restraining order was issued in a Seattle courtroom.

As a geographer and lifelong wildlife nut, the management goals for wolves in our state — in the context of other western state wolf recovery goals — seemed to me so unrealistic that conflicts were inevitable. Consider the following bit of western state geography (areas suitable wolf habitat are from the Federal Register (02/08/07, Vol. 72, Num. 26), and the human populations are from the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau.

Thus, in Washington we have a human population of four to thirteen times the other “wolf” states, a population density of five to nineteen times theirs, and “suitable habitat” only eleven to 15 percent of theirs. Yet, in each of the other states, the goal for delisting was 100 wolves (10 breeding pairs), while Washington’s goal was 15 breeding pairs/packs of wolves (about 150 animals) before delisting. The clock has been ticking ever louder over the past decade.

At last 2018 population survey, DFW biologists estimated Washington’s wolf population at a minimum of 126 individuals, 27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs.

The number of wolves across the state has reached a point that many are pushing for delisting of wolves from any statethreatened or endangered list, and turning wolf management over to DFW — similar to management in other western states. To that end, DFW officials have begun a broad public outreach effort.

In late summer wildlife officials scheduled a series of 14 open public meetings across the state to begin assessing possible changes to the state’s wolf-management policy. Within a week or two, officials changed those meetings to online discussions, citing a fear of violence rising from a number of unspecified threats of both violence and disruption.

After the Nov. 15 deadline, your next opportunity will come once the agency drafts an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in late 2020. That draft will evaluate actions, alternatives, and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management.

Want to know about the wolves here in Paradise? This coming Monday evening (Nov. 11) Steve Wetzel (DFW Wildlife Conflict Specialist), with DFW Statewide Wolf Biologist Ben Maletzke will be speaking of the Wolves of Kittitas County. This is the program for the monthly meeting of the 100-year-old Kittitas County Field & Stream Club, at the Hal Holmes Center, 7:00 p.m. You and your friends are welcome for what promises to be a very interesting Veteran’s Day evening.

Jim Huckabay is retired from the Department of Geography at Central

WDFW extends wolf comment period

Mon., Nov. 4, 2019

This Feb., 2017,  photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf in Oregon's northern Wallowa County. (AP)
This Feb., 2017, photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf in Oregon’s northern Wallowa County. (AP)

The chance to comment on how Washington’s gray wolves should be managed once they are no longer a state endangered species has been extended until Nov. 15.

This gives people more time to submit input, especially those in rural areas without internet service, according to a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The postrecovery management plan requires public comment before the state can move forward.

The public can provide input through 5 p.m. on Nov. 15. After that, the next opportunity will be in late 2020 when WDFW evaluates actions, alternatives and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management.

“The current plan the department uses to guide wolf conservation and management was started in 2007 and developed over five years, specifically to inform wolf recovery. Because wolves are moving toward recovery in Washington, it is time to develop a new plan,” WDFW wolf coordinator Julia Smith said in a news release. “This is just the start of the process, so if you don’t get your input to us by Nov. 15, there will be more opportunities in 2020.”

For more information, background, and frequently asked questions on wolf postrecovery visit WDFW’s website wdfw.wa.gov.

An online survey and online commenting are also available online. There is also a comment form that can be printed and mailed to the department or general comments can be mailed to Lisa Wood, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, 98504. Comments submitted via mail must be postmarked by Nov. 15.