Washington's wolf population grows for 11th consecutive year, depredation down from 2018

Staff Writer

Wolf population counts in Washington State grew for the 11th straight year in 2019, according to recent reports from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Wolf counts reached their highest levels since they were nearly eliminated from the state in the 1930s. The annual year-end wolf report from the WDFW put the total number at 145 wolves in 26 packs. The WDFW counted 108 wolves in 21 packs and the CTCR counted 37 wolves in five packs. The 11% increase from 2018 accounted for 12 more wolves in one less pack. Two new packs were confirmed in 2019, while many others were disbanded.

The two new packs are the Sullivan Creek Pack in Okanogan County and the Kettle Pack in the Kettle Mountains, occupying a region formally controlled by the OPT pack.

"As the wolf population begins to recover, we're going to see population growth slow in parts of the state where the local population is nearing capacity," statewide wolf specialist Ben Maletzke said. "It's a natural occurrence that happens in many wildlife populations and is even more pronounced in a territorial carnivore. Similar to what we would expect, we are seeing the number of packs and the number of individuals level off in northeast Washington while new packs continue to form in the North Cascades recovery area."

Despite the increase, 85% of packs were not involved in a known livestock or animal depredation incident, up from 81% a year ago. WDFW investigators confirmed 14 cattle were killed by wolves in 2019, an increase over 12 in 2018. The reduction in conflicts comes from the 11 injuries suffered by livestock in 2019, down from 20 in 2018.