By Brock Hires
REPUBLIC – A collared breeding female wolf was killed late last month on Highway 20 on Sherman Pass.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife eastern Washington Director Steve Pozzanghera confirmed the canine’s death Monday, April 3.
“The breeding collared female from the Sherman Pack was hit and killed by a vehicle east of Sherman Pass,” Pozzanghera said.
The Sherman Pack was discovered last year and was believed to have five members, according to the department’s annual report issued in December 2016.
State Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said he was aware of the situation and had seen a picture of the incident.
“You’ve got to know, when you’re running over them on the highway, that’s probably enough (wolves),” Kretz said Monday afternoon.
According to the state’s annual wolf report, the state’s wolf population grew by 28 percent in 2016 and added at least two new packs.
By the end of 2016, the state was home to a minimum of 115 wolves, 20 packs and 10 successful breeding pairs, as documented by fish and wildlife field staff during surveys done late in the year, the department said. The findings draw on information gathered from aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks and signals from radio-collared wolves in 13 packs.
The number of animals documented in December represents an increase of at least 25 individual wolves since 2015, despite the confirmed deaths of 14 wolves from various causes. Some of those wolves were killed by the department in eastern Ferry County last year after members of the Profanity Peak Pack killed and maimed cattle.
Of the state’s 20 confirmed wolf packs, most of them are located in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
“If we don’t get them spread out in the right place we could have 50 packs there,” Kretz said.
Earlier this year, Kretz introduced a regional delisting bill to target specific areas that have thriving wolf populations.
“I got chewed out over it,” he said. “The environmentalists and Democrats went berserk.”
Kretz said he applauds Francine Madden of the state Wolf Advisory Group.
“I think she has done a really good job,” he said. “I’m hearing that the WAG actually met last week and came to some better grounds.
“We’re willing to do some of the non-lethal (wolf control) things, but they’re being sold as the solutions; they’re just a tool,” Kretz said. But when a “functional pack is decimating a herd of cattle, you’ve got to get rid of them, and get rid of them fast.
“This summer’s going to be, I think, a mess,” he said, noting the state is “really not equipped” to deal with problem wolf packs.
“One family came in about 75 head short (of cattle) last year,” he said, adding fish and wildlife officials confirmed five cattle death resulting from a wolf encounters. “It’s huge. I really feel like a lot of our operators’ careers are hanging in a balance right now.”
Gray wolves are classified as endangered statewide under state law. They are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act west of Highway 97 and are not listed east of the highway.
They were all but eliminated from western states in the 20th century, but Washington’s wolf population has grown steadily since 2008, when wildlife managers documented the state’s first resident pack since the 1930s in Okanogan County.
The Sherman Pack, one of the two new packs confirmed last year, is in the high-concentration area. The other new pack, the Touchet Pack, is in southeastern Washington east of Walla Walla.