Wolf meeting cancelled

The male member of the new Diobsud Creek pack in Skagit County, Wash., is seen in this trail camera image. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has canceled 14 public meetings on wolf management.

Washington’s confirmed wolf population grew slowly in 2018, but wolves are continuing to recolonize the state by increasingly moving west, a state Fish and Wildlife official says.

Wildlife managers counted 126 wolves late last year, up from 122 the year before. It was the second straight year of single-digit percentage growth after three years of growth that averaged about 30%.

The department, however, documented the first Western Washington pack and three breeding pairs in the North Cascades, two more than last year. The number of wolfpacks statewide grew to 27 from 22.

Eastern Washington is running out of room for new packs, Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said. The department expects population growth to increasingly shift to north-central Washington, he said.

“We are progressing toward recovery,” Martorello said.

As in past years, the count represents the minimum number of wolves in Washington. The department tallies the wolves in packs and adds 12% to account for lone wolves.

Fish and Wildlife counts wolves when they are easiest to track in the snow, but also when the population is at its lowest. The population rises in the spring when pups are born.

“We know that number is low,” Martorello said. “There are more wolves than 126.”

In a landmark, Fish and Wildlife confirmed that a female wolf has joined a male wolf in eastern Skagit County near the North Cascades National Park. The department has named the new pack for Diobsud Creek. The male has been known to be in the area since 2016.

“After years of reports of wolves in Western Washington, we are particularly excited by the confirmation of the first wolfpack west of the Cascade Crest in nearly a century,” Conservation Northwest Executive Director Mitch Friedman said in a written statement.

The three breeding pairs in the North Cascades are significant, too. There was one breeding pair in the region in 2017. The state’s wolf plan calls for at least four breeding pairs in Eastern Washington, the North Cascades and South Cascades.

The other 12 breeding pairs are in Eastern Washington. There are no breeding pairs or known wolfpacks in the South Cascades.

Fish and Wildlife documented 12 wolf deaths. Six were legally killed by tribal hunters, while four were killed by Fish and Wildlife in response to attacks on livestock. The department is investigating two cases of wolves that had been killed, apparently by humans.

Six packs formed in 2018, while one pack, Five Sisters in northeast Washington, disbanded for unknown reasons, according to the department.

Fish and Wildlife confirmed that five of the 27 packs killed livestock. Wolves killed at least 11 cattle and one sheep and injured 19 cattle and two sheep, according to the department. Ranchers say actual losses are higher.

{p class=”p1”}To compensate ranchers for lost livestock, Fish and Wildlife paid $7,536 to settle five claims.

{p class=”p1”}The department also paid $5,950 to settle one claim for losses that affected the value of livestock, such as reduced weight.

{p class=”p1”}Wolves began recolonizing Washington in 2008. Since then, the annual population growth has averaged 28%, according to the department.

{p class=”p1”}”Our trend line is going up,” Martorello said.

{p class=”p1”}

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