Gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in Washington over the past year, according to the annual status report on the state endangered species released last weekend by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Biologists confirmed 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves based on surveys through the end of 2013.
The actual number of wolves is likely higher, said Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore specialist.
Nine of the packs are in northeastern Washington with four along the east slopes of the North Cascades. Also, Oregon reports a new pack along the Washington border, bringing the number of Blue Mountains packs to at least two.
No wolf packs or breeding pairs have been found on the South Cascades/Northwest Coast region. Occassionally, wolf sightings are reported but biologists say these are likely wolf-dog hybreds, which look much like wolves.
The first wolf pack in Washington in at least 70 years was documented in 2008.
The report was presented by state wildlife managers at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Moses Lake.
Wolf recovery has been accomplished and federal endangered species protections have been removed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
However, the gray wolf remains protected under state endangered species laws throughout Washington and the species’ natural repopulation in the state is guided by state and federal recovery plans.
Federal law still protects wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington.
The state spent $531,913 on wolf management in 2013, including $177,898 for wolf conflict control, $140,855 for wolf capture and monitoring, $130,610 for radio collars, flights and contracts and $82,550 for outreach.
In 2012, the agency’s reported spending $750,000 for wolf management, including $76,500 for the extreme action of employing helicopter gunners to eliminate the cattle-killing Wedge Pack in northern Stevens County.