OLYMPIA — Gray wolves, once common throughout Washington but now an endangered species, will be the focus of national Wolf Awareness Week, Oct. 18-24.
The event is intended to highlight efforts around the country to restore wolf populations and protect wolves.
Gray wolves are one of Washington's 34 endangered and threatened species. They also are on the federal endangered species list. Wolves declined and were essentially eliminated by the early 1900s in Washington as a result of trapping for pelts and predator control.
Research studies earlier this decade indicated that wolves had reappeared in the North Cascades. A federal proposal to reintroduce wolves to the Olympic National Park is also being studied.
One way citizens can help wolves is by avoiding acquiring wolf-dog hybrids, says Harriet Allen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) endangered species program manager.
Wolf hybrids pose a risk to real wolves in several ways, Allen said:
"Unlike wolves, which are shy and avoid people, hybrids have lost their fear of people and may be aggressive," Allen said. "Not only does this pose a risk to people and pets, but the hybrids' behavior also creates a negative public image for real wolves."
Captive hybrids frequently become unmanageable, prompting their owners to turn them loose in the wild where they are unable to fend for themselves and frequently starve, Allen pointed out. They also may prey upon domestic animals or carry disease to wild animal populations.