Wolves hadn’t roamed the state of Washington since the 1930’s, but that’s changed in the past 5 years. The state is now home to five packs of gray wolves – numbering just shy of 30 animals. They’re still listed as endangered state-wide and the Department of Fish and Wildlife has put together a management plan for wolf recovery that will be presented in Olympia on Thursday.
The Smackout Pack resides in the Northeastern corner of the state. They’re the second gray wolf pack confirmed in Washington this summer.
Rocky Beach has been working on wolf recovery for the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the past 5 years.
“To me it’s a thrill to see them and to hear them is another matter all together. They speak to me of a complete ecosystem but others do not have that same perspective I assure you,” said Beach.
Beach helped develop the wolf management plan. He says it was no easy task. They received 65,000 public comments throughout the process.
“Wolf management is unfortunately a lot about conflict.” said Beach. “How do you deal with stock conflict at a time when wolves are recovering? What about concerns about deer and elk population, education, human safety etc? It is both a recovery plan and a management plan until the time they’re delisted.”
The plan sets the goal of 15 packs in order to declare wolves in Washington recovered. Wolves are being radio collared in order to track movement and give livestock owners a heads up as to their whereabouts. Beach says each pack tends to roam over a 350-mile area, and the plan takes that into account.
“We mapped prey availability, forest cover, human habitance, road densities and came up with a model and we have very adequate levels of habitat for wolves,” said Beach. Livestock owners whose animals are killed by wolves will receive market value compensation. There have been two such incidents in the past 5 years. The management plan has been finalized and workshops will be held around the state before it’s adopted in December.