Wolf population grows in Washington, with at least 122 wolves living in state

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The population of wolves in Washington state continued to grow in 2017.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife's annual survey found at least 122 wolves living in Washington last year. The survey found 22 wolf packs and 14 successful breeding pairs.

The agency said Friday that the 2016 survey documented 115 wolves, 20 packs, and 10 breeding pairs.

Ben Maletzke, WDFW statewide wolf specialist, said Friday that all of those totals were the highest recorded since the department began conducting the surveys in 2008. Last year’s survey documented 115 wolves, 20 packs, and 10 breeding pairs.

Maletzke emphasized the surveys represent “minimum counts” of wolves in Washington state, due to the difficulty of accounting for every animal – especially lone wolves without a pack.

“Here and in other states, wolf demographics are highly dynamic from year to year,” Maletzke said. “The real value of these surveys is the information they provide about long-term trends, which show that our state’s wolf population has grown by an annual average of 31 percent over the past decade.”

Maletzke said the study documented four new packs – the Frosty, Grouse Flats, Leadpoint, and Togo packs – all located east of the Cascade Mountains. Two previously identified packs – the Skookum and Sherman packs – were not included in the pack totals for last year because the first could not be located and the second now appears to have only one member.

Wildlife managers have also been tracking the movements of a wolf in the North Cascades in Skagit County that was captured and fitted with a radio-collar last June, but so far no other wolves have been confirmed in the area, Maletzke said.

Wolves were exterminated in Washington in the last century, but began to move back into the state from neighboring areas in this century.

According the 2017 survey, 15 of the 22 known packs are located in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties in the northeast corner of the state.

Wolves remain a protected species in the state.