Gray wolf numbers nearly doubled since last year

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife reported that the number of gray wolves and wolf packs in the state nearly doubled within the past year. According to Fish & Wildlife, the 2012 survey revealed the presence of at least 51 wolves in nine wolf packs, with a total of five successful breeding pairs. The previous year’s survey documented 27 wolves, five wolf packs and three breeding pairs.

A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. A successful breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive until the end of the calendar year.

“The survey shows that our state’s wolf population is growing quickly,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW wildlife program director. “That growth appears to be the result of both natural reproduction and the continuing in-migration of wolves from Canada and neighboring states.”

Pamplin said the actual number of wolves in Washington state is likely much higher because field biologists currently believe there are two more packs. In addition, lone wolves often go uncounted and those that move into Washington but den in other states are not included in the survey, he said.

The gray wolf is currently listed by the state as an endangered species throughout Washington and is federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of the state.

Once common, wolves were essentially eliminated in most western states during the past century because they preyed on livestock.

According to Fish & Wildlife, under the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, wolves can be removed from the state’s endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among three designated wolf-recovery regions. Four pairs are required in Eastern Washington, four pairs in the North Cascades, four pairs in the South Cascades/Northwest Coast and three pairs in any recovery region.