According to a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Washington State’s wolf population continued to grow in 2017 for the 9th straight year. This determination was made using information obtained from aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from radio-collared wolves. It was also noted that the survey represents minimum counts of wolves, due to the difficulty of accounting for every animal.
The previous year’s (2016) survey documented 115 wolves, 20 packs, and 10 breeding pairs. The information released for 2017 shows 122 wolves, 22 packs, and 14 breeding pairs.
Wildlife managers have been tracking the movements of a wolf in the North Cascades area of Skagit County. The wolf was captured and fitted with a radio-collar last June, but so far no other wolves have been confirmed in Skagit County. The 2017 survey reported that 15 of the 22 known packs are located in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties.
Due to the wolf population continuing to grow, the WDFW has expanded its efforts to collaborate with livestock producers, conservation groups, and local residents to prevent conflict between wolves and domestic animals. The WDFW employed a variety of non-lethal strategies to reduce conflicts, including cost-sharing agreements with 37 ranchers who took proactive steps to protect their livestock. State assistance included range riders to check on livestock, guard dogs, lighting, flagging for fences, and data on certain packs’ movements.
Five of the 22 known packs were involved in at least one livestock mortality in 2017. The wolves killed at least eight cattle and injured five others. The WDFW processed two claims, totaling $3,700, to compensate livestock producers for their losses in 2017.
The 2017 survey also documented 11 wolf mortalities in 2017. 3 deaths were attributed to legal tribal harvest, 2 legal “caught-in-the-act” shootings, 2 vehicle collisions, and 4 other incidents involving humans that are still under investigation.
Contributors to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual survey include: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, the Confederated Colville Trives, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians.
Complete survey results will be posted on the WDFW’s website by March 30, 2018.