By Tony Buhr / The Wenatchee World
It’s official: A wolf pack is living in the area between Blewett Pass and Mission Ridge near the Kittitas-Chelan county line.
A state report released Friday says there is one breeding pair of wolves inhabiting Naneum Ridge area.
The wolves are mainly located north of Ellensburg in Kittitas County, but probably hunt sometimes in Chelan County, said Ben Maletzke, Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist, during a February interview.
Statewide, the wolf population numbers were healthy in 2018 with the population increasing to a minimum of 126 wolves, 27 packs and 15 successful breeding pairs, according to a state Department of Fish and Wildlife report released Friday.
It is up from a minimum of 122 individual wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs in 2017.
Fish and Wildlife biologists count wolves using a variety of techniques, including visual observation, aerial tracking and remote cameras. There may be more wolves in the state.
The wolf packs in the North Cascade recovery region, which includes Chelan County, had three successful breeding pairs, according to the report. Washington has three distinct recovery regions for wolves: Eastern Washington, the North Cascades, as well as the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast region.
Each region needs to have four successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years before wolves are delisted from state and federal protections in that area, according to the report. The Eastern Washington region is already delisted. The Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast region has no breeding pairs.
Fish and Wildlife also announced the first wolf pack in Western Washington. The agency was already tracking a male wolf in Skagit County that located there in 2016. In 2018 biologists discovered that the male wolf had a female mate and named them the Diobsud Creek pack.
In 2018 five packs killed livestock. Wolves killed 11 cattle and one sheep. They also injured 19 cattle and two sheep. The state reimbursed farmers $7,536 for the death of five of the livestock and $5,950 for reduced livestock weight due to wolves.
Also 12 wolves died in 2018, six were legally hunted by Native Americans, four were killed in response to livestock deaths and two died from human activity and their deaths are under investigation.
Wolves returned to Washington state in 2008 and came back on their own, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. The species disappeared from the state in the 1930s after wolves were hunted and trapped into extinction.
Wolves are an adaptable species, Maletzke said in February. They can survive in a variety of landscapes and hunt all kinds of animals, including fish, mice, rabbits, elk and moose.