Fifth Washington Wolf Pack Confirmed


Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Press Release:


July 22, 2011
Contact: Harriet Allen, (360) 902-2694

State’s fifth wolf pack confirmed in Stevens County


wolf imageOLYMPIA—Washington’s fifth gray wolf pack has been confirmed in northeast Stevens County.

Earlier this month, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists caught, marked with an ear tag and released a 2-month-old wolf pup from the pack. Biologists have since been trying to capture one of the pack’s breeding adult wolves to radio-collar it for monitoring. The effort to document the pack began after local ranchers reported observing three wolf pups and hearing howling in late June.

The pack is believed to include a breeding-age male and female and at least three pups. The group has been named the Smackout Pack, in reference to geographic features in the area.

The Lookout Pack, confirmed in Okanogan and Chelan counties in 2008, was Washington’s first documented resident gray wolf pack since a breeding population of wolves was extirpated from the state in the 1930s. Two more packs have been documented in Pend Oreille County—the Diamond Pack was confirmed in 2009, and the Salmo Pack was confirmed in 2010.

Last month, the state’s fourth documented pack—dubbed the Teanaway Pack— was confirmed in Kittitas County. DNA analysis of that pack’s adult female wolf indicated she is likely a recent descendant of the Lookout Pack.

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is protected throughout Washington as a state endangered species. In the western two-thirds of Washington, the species is also federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It is illegal to harm or harass a federal- or state-protected endangered species.

WDFW has been working since 2007 to develop a wolf conservation and management plan in anticipation of wolves re-entering Washington from other states or Canada.

A Final EIS/recommended plan—which was developed with a 17-member citizen group and included extensive public review and scientific peer review—will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in a special public meeting Aug. 4 in Olympia. Additional public workshops on the proposed plan are scheduled later this summer and in the fall.

“Wolves are re-establishing here on their own,” said Nate Pamplin, who heads WDFW’s Wildlife Program. “The confirmation of additional breeding wolf packs moves us closer to achieving a sustainable population, and also highlights the need to finalize a state wolf plan that sets recovery targets and management tools to address livestock and ungulate conflicts.”

More information on the draft plan and all Washington wolf packs.

Wolf sightings or activity should be reported through the joint federal-state toll-free wolf reporting hotline at 1(888) 584-9038. Joint federal-state Wolf Response Guidelines, including agency staff contact information, are available at here.

2 thoughts on “Fifth Washington Wolf Pack Confirmed

  1. Why is it that the pack(s?) in North Cascades National Park are never mentioned. They have been confirmed for over 25 years – I know – I submitted the first confirmation, winter on Ross Lake in 1983. And although they are rarely seen, we do see tracks in the snow in the winter in the back country in various places, not just Ross Lake.
    Anyway, thanks for all you do!

    • According to the Endangered Species Section of the Wildlife Program (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), wolves were not confirmed in the North Cascades until the early 1980s, and even those confirmations were not long-lasting and the packs were not considered recovering populations. The WDFW’s Wolf Conservation and Management plan regarding the period of time when packs were spotted with regularity states:

      “Washington experienced a flurry of reported wolf activity during the early 1990s, primarily in the North Cascades, which presumably involved animals originating mostly from southern British Columbia. Adult wolves with pups were detected at two locations in the North Cascades in the summer of 1990. One of these sites was in the Hozomeen area of the Ross Lake National Recreational Area, where animals were present for more than a month (Church 1996, Almack and Fitkin 1998) and were again documented (without breeding evidence) in 1991, 1992, and 1993. It was later learned that a pet wolf released in this area in the early 1990s (Martino 1997) was responsible for some of these sightings (S. Fitkin, pers. comm.). The second location occurred northwest of Winthrop near the Pasayten Wilderness (Anonymous 1990, Gaines et al. 2000). Howling surveys conducted in the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests from 1991 to 1993 resulted in two confirmed wolf responses in backcountry areas, with one involving multiple individuals in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and the other being a lone individual in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Gaines et al. 1995; W. Gaines, pers. comm.). A sighting of a wolf with pups was also reported in the North Cascades in July 1996 (Church 1996). Additionally, one wolf was found dead near Calispell Lake in southern Pend Oreille County in May 1994 (Palmquist 2002; WDFW, unpubl. data). This animal was radio-collared and had immigrated from northwestern Montana.

      “Overall, from 1991 to 1995, Almack and Fitkin (1998) reported 20 confirmed wolf sightings in Washington. Sixteen of these were made in the Cascades and four in Pend Oreille County, although these records were probably biased towards observations in the Cascades. Almack and Fitkin (1998) concluded that small numbers of wolves existed in Washington, mostly as individuals and with one or two possible breeding packs that did not persist. No evidence of large packs or a recovering population was detected. Almack and Fitkin (1998) also confirmed the presence of free-ranging wolf-dog hybrids in the state and believed that a significant number of reported wolf observations probably represented hybrid animals.”

      According to a WDFW representative, “The problem is that none of the packs noted above were ever fully documented through observations, searches for dens and other evidence, genetic confirmation, etc, and none of them seemed to persist for very long. Thus it remains a bit of a mystery as to what exactly was happening with wolves in Washington in the 1990s. Thus…[it] is inaccurate that wolf packs have been confirmed in the North Cascades for more than 25 years.”

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