Anderson Outlines WA Wolves At House Hearing

Wolf management in Washington has cost nearly half a million dollars the past three years.

WDFW Director Phil Anderson noted that during a House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee hearing held in Olympia late last week.

He said the money comes from two sources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service “SWIG” grants and required matching funds from the agency’s vanity plate sales. He said no state general or wildlife funds were being used.

Anderson told House reps that wolves cost $125,000 in 2008, $164,000 last year and $197,000 so far in 2010.

Wolves occupied two-thirds of the two-hour-long hearing, which also saw Anderson brief the reps on Washington’s current population.

He said that the Diamond Pack in Pend Oreille County earlier this year consisted of two adults, four yearlings and six pups. Two of its members are radio-collared. The pack preys on moose, elk and deer, he said.

Two animals of the unconfirmed “Salmo” Pack in far northern Pend Oreille County were photographed by remote camera last summer. One pup was radio collared; Anderson says it is using habitat on both sides of the international border.

He says that biologists will return to upper Ross Lake next year to look for more tracks on the drawdown area where tracks and wolf poo were found this past spring.

Anderson showed an image of a “probable” wolf track next to a bootprint from the Blue Mountains. Oregon has a confirmed pack there.

And he said the status of the Lookout Pack, in western Okanogan County, is “uncertain.” He said there’s been no trace of the alpha female or its radio collar since earlier this year.

Anderson said that the agency has hired a wolf specialist, is performing howling surveys, monitoring the state’s existing animals and gathering new reports to check out.

“We received one the other day from Senator Morton actually that we’re following up on,” he said.

He and acting wildlife program assistant director Nate Pamplin also answered lawmaker questions, including some from Rep. Joel Kretz of Wauconda, outlined progress on the state’s wolf management plan, spoke to recent wolf management news around the region and explained what went into the draft plan’s blind peer review.

Chairman Brian Blake thanked Anderson and Pamplin and said the subject may come up again during the upcoming legislative session.

Afterwards, Georg Ziegeltrum of the Washington Forest Products Association spoke to how protections around denning sites may impact logging.

Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association said that based on reports from ranchers gathering cattle, he thinks there are more wolves in the state than WDFW says.

He and several others on WDFW’s Wolf Working Group have signed off on a minority report supporting half the number of breeding pairs that the department currently proposes (15) as a minimum goal for delisting from state protections.

Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest called WDFW’s plan “one of the most forward thinking in the West,” but said there’s room for improvement. However, she asked the committee to respect the process. In our November issue, we report that wolf-related bills may be introduced in the coming legislative session.

George Halekas, a Deer Park biologist, who is also a member of the working group termed 15 breeding pairs the bare minimum needed to ensure recovery.

Two others spoke as well, including a representative of Wolf Haven International who said there’s really only two types of wolves running around, grays and Mexican.

The state Fish & Wildlife Commission isn’t expected to see a final plan until late next year, according to a timeline on WDFW’s wolf page.

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