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First Resident Wolf Pack Confirmed in Washington
July 25, 2008.
From the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Two adult animals located and radio-collared last Friday (July 18) in western Okanogan County are wild, gray wolves, genetic tests have confirmed.
One of those animals, an adult male, was later photographed by remote camera in a location where six pups also were photographed.
The finding marks the first documented, resident wolf pack in Washington since the 1930s.
“The re-appearance of a resident wolf pack in Washington is evidence of a functioning ecosystem and good news for those working to preserve the state’s biodiversity,” said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, Ph.D.
“At the same time, we recognize some residents have concerns about the re-entry of wolves in Washington. This discovery demonstrates the need to continue our efforts to finalize a state wolf conservation and management plan,” Koenings said.
The two wolves, a male and female, were temporarily captured and radio-collared by wolf experts from Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Nez Perce tribe, assisted by biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and U.S. Forest Service. Tissue and hair samples were collected from the two animals and submitted for DNA testing to confirm that the animals were pure wolves.
Preliminary results from additional genetic testing indicate the two wolves likely originated from British Columbia-Alberta populations. More comprehensive testing is currently being conducted to determine more specific information.
Radio tracking collars placed on the wolves allow biologists to monitor the animals’ location and activity.
In a separate effort by Conservation Northwest, a private, non-governmental organization, the radio-collared male wolf was photographed by a remote camera at a location where six pups also were photographed. Conservation Northwest is conducting an on-going, volunteer effort to place remote cameras in various locations in the north Cascades to record wildlife.
The radio-collaring effort followed a July 8 howling survey that brought multiple responses from both adult and juvenile animals, indicating a pack was present in the area. The howling survey was initiated in response to reports of wolf sightings, reports of howling and remote-camera photos of possible wolves.
The gray wolf is federally protected as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A U.S. District Court judge in Montana last Friday over-turned a recent federal action to remove Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered-species list including in the eastern third of Washington state. The wolves found in the Okanogan are well within the remaining federal protection area, under the previous federal de-listing action. Gray wolves also are protected as a state endangered species throughout Washington.
It is illegal to harm or harass a federally protected endangered species. Killing an animal protected under the ESA is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, one year in jail, or both.
Any wolf activity in Washington will be handled under existing joint federal-state Wolf Response Guidelines. For the response guidelines and more information on gray wolves visit the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/gray_wolf/.
WDFW is working with a citizen group to develop a wolf conservation and management plan in anticipation of wolves re-entering Washington from other states or Canada. The draft plan will be subject to scientific peer review later this year and a 90-day public-review process next year. The final plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration in 2009.
Anyone wishing to report a possible wolf sighting or activity should call the toll-free wolf reporting hotline at 1-888-584-9038. Those with concerns about possible wolf-caused livestock depredation should call the USDA Wildlife Services in Olympia at (360) 753-9884 or the USFWS in Spokane at (509) 891-6839.