Endangered gray wolves are back in Western Washington. That’s according to the latest census of the endangered population from state wildlife officials. It’s the first time the count has included a pack living west of the Cascades.
Individual wolves have been sighted on this side of the mountains in recent years. One was captured and outfitted with a radio collar in 2017. Now, that wolf appears to have a mate, giving it official status as a pack.
“With two animals traveling through the winter, it’s a pack,” said Kelly Susewind, Director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Previously we just had the single male.”
Biologists named them the Diobsud Creek pack, after one of the areas where it’s often seen. The creek is near Marblemount, north of Highway 20 in Skagit County.
Susewind says while this pair may not sound like much, it indicates a population that’s likely to grow. And the number of confirmed packs statewide is up to 27 — five more than last year.
“Packs tend to change into breeding pairs, breeding pairs have pups — that’s how we will get the population up,” he said.
Gray wolves were virtually eliminated in Washington by the 1930s, but came back from neighboring states. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife started counting them annually in 2008. The 2018 count shows increases in the numbers of individuals, packs and successfully breeding pairs. It is the 10th straight year that the state has recorded an increase in their numbers.