Meanwhile Conflicts Between Wolves and People, Livestock Have Dropped
OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today that the state’s wolf population has grown to a minimum of 52 wolves, with 13 packs and five breeding pairs. The new estimate is up from 10 packs a year ago and represents a more-than fourfold increase from three packs at the end of 2010.
“I’m thrilled that wolves have continued to recover in Washington, but they still have a long way to go,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These beautiful, ecologically important animals continue to need strong state and federal protections to fully recover in Washington.”
Wolf recovery in Washington has largely been driven by federal Endangered Species Act protections, which led to the reintroduction of wolves in adjacent Idaho and made it a crime to kill wolves. As wolves from Idaho and British Columbia began to disperse into Washington, the wolf population grew from zero wolves in 2007 to the estimated minimum 52 wolves in 13 packs announced by the Department today. The Department specifically noted that even though wolf population and pack numbers have increased, wolves were involved in far fewer conflicts with humans and livestock in 2013 than in the previous year. In the past year the Department has stepped up the number of cooperative agreements with ranchers to use nonlethal conflict-prevention methods; those common-sense solutions are paying off.
Wolves are currently federally protected in the western two-thirds of Washington and protected everywhere in the state under state law. These protections are necessary to prevent poaching and encourage ranchers to take preventive action to protect their livestock. In 2011 poachers killed nearly every member of the Lookout pack, which is only now starting to make a comeback; in 2012 seven Wedge pack wolves were killed by the Department after livestock depredations, even though insufficient action had been taken to protect the livestock. A deer hunter shot and killed a wolf near Pasayten last fall, and in February a wolf was found illegally shot and killed in Stevens County.
“Wolves are a resilient species and they can make it if people are tolerant. But wolf killing is still a big risk and can have a huge impact on a population,” said Weiss. “The figures released today are cause for cautious celebration.”