OLYMPIA—Biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will check for the presence of a wolf pack in northeast Pend Oreille County after a remote camera captured images of an apparent male and female wolf together, and genetic tests confirmed a male Rocky Mountain gray wolf is in the area.
Images of the two animals were recorded in May on a remote, motion-triggered camera maintained by DNR biologists. One of the photographed animals appeared to be a lactating female wolf, indicating she is nursing pups. Recent genetic tests on a hair sample collected from the camera area showed it to be from a male gray wolf from southern Alberta/northern Montana stock.
If a breeding wolf pack is found, it would be the second confirmed, resident wolf pack in Washington. Last summer a breeding pair of wolves was radio-collared in western Okanogan County in north-central Washington. The Okanogan County wolves were determined through genetic testing to be consistent with coastal British Columbia populations. A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together.
Meanwhile, WDFW biologists also are investigating reports of wolf sightings in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington.
“An individual wolf pack can range over an area of up to 400 square miles, so as wolves disperse from populations in Idaho, Montana and Canada, we anticipate seeing more packs establish here,” said Steve Pozzanghera, deputy assistant director for WDFW’s Wildlife Program.
Over the last several years, there have been reports of wolf sightings and tracks in northeast Washington, and WDFW and DNR have captured images of animals that appear to be wolves on remote cameras in the area, but a breeding pair or pack of wolves has not yet been confirmed in that part of the state. A road-killed wolf from the southern Alberta/northern Montana wolf population was found in Stevens County in 2008, and a radio-collared female wolf from northwestern Montana was in Pend Oreille County for a few days in 2002.
DNR and WDFW plan to do more field investigation to determine wolf numbers and activity in the area. Field work may include efforts to temporarily capture members of the pack to equip them with satellite-telemetry tracking collars.
Gray wolves were removed from Washington by the 1930s as a result of trapping, shooting and poisoning. Gray wolf populations in nearby Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have rebounded in recent years as a result of federal recovery efforts in the northern Rocky Mountains
The gray wolf is a state endangered species throughout Washington. Gray wolves were recently removed from the federal endangered species list in the eastern third of the state, including the Pend Oreille County area, but remain federally listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Washington. The federal delisting decision is being challenged in court.
WDFW is in the process of drafting a gray wolf conservation and management plan, which will be circulated for public comment later this year, and will be considered for adoption by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2010. The draft plan was developed with a 17-member citizen working group composed of wolf conservation representatives, ranchers and hunters.
Anyone wishing to report a possible wolf sighting or activity should call a toll-free wolf reporting hotline at 1-888-584-9038. Those with concerns about possible wolf-caused livestock depredation should contact the USDA Wildlife Services office in Olympia at (360) 753-9884 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Wenatchee at (509) 665-3508.