The Return of Washington’s Wolf Packs?
by: Conservation Northwest Posted on: October 21, 2010
By Mindee Shrull, Conservation Northwest
A ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in early August, 2010 placed northern Rockies’ wolves back on the federal Endangered Species list. This ruling takes the jurisdiction over the wolves from the States and places it in the hands of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Judge Molloy stated that the decision to delist the region’s wolves must be all or nothing. It cannot be on a state-by-state basis. What many don’t realize is that this decision not only affects wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but it also affects wolves in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, which are included in the approximately 1,700 wolves that make up the northern Rockies population.
Due to the fear that the animals’ killing of livestock would hinder the development of the West, once a plentiful species in the state, wolves were brought to near extinction in the early 1900s. High prices were set on wolf skins, which encouraged killings by Indians as well as “wolfers”, who were hired by the fur trading industry. In 2008, wolves returned to Washington on their own for the first time in decades. These wolves migrated down from Canada in order to make their home in Washington’s North Cascades. Currently, there are two confirmed wolf packs in the state, the North Cascades pack and one in the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington (this pack is part of the northern Rockies population). Though this is encouraging news, many more breeding pairs are needed in order to ensure their long-term survival in the state.
The recent ruling is good news for Washington’s few wolves because it means that there is a greater chance for recovery in our state (which is dependent on healthy populations in Idaho) and it will ensure that adequate state plans are in place before delisting can occur in the future. In 2006, Washington State Fish and Wildlife began to develop a plan for their wolf conservation and management. After many meetings and a long public process, the plan was put under scientific peer review. Multiple revisions have been made to the draft and a final plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in late 2010.
Conservation Northwest is a nonprofit organization that has been following this situation and working to connect and protect all species from the Washington coast to the B.C. Rockies for 20 years. If you would like to be kept posted on opportunities to speak up for wolf recovery in Washington State be sure to check out our website at www.conservationnw.org.
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