After ten years of conducting wildlife surveys using remote cameras, Conservation Northwest has captured photographs of six wolf pups residing in the North Cascades. In response to consistent wolf sighting reports in recent years, staff at Conservation Northwest coordinated with agency biologists and local volunteers to place four remote cameras in the North Cascades. Yesterday, they hit the jackpot.
Volunteers conducting a routine camera check Sunday evening discovered several images of wolf pups and a recently collared male adult, possibly the sire. They also recorded sounds of wolf pup howls. The wolf pack, dubbed the “Lookout Pack” by agency scientists, is the first documented wolf pack in Washington State since the 1930s. Today, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife received confirmation from DNA lab results that two adult canids collared last Friday in the Methow Valley are pure wolf, likely having moved in from Canada. Individual wolves also have been documented in northeast Washington, though a resident pack has yet to be confirmed in that area.
The news of the wolf pack in Washington comes on the heels of a recent injunction by a federal judge to temporarily reinstate federal protection for wolves in the northern Rockies, an area that includes the eastern third of Washington State. With that injunction, wolves are again protected by federal law in the entire state of Washington, at least until the case is decided later this year.
In the meantime, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has convened a diverse group of stakeholders, including Conservation Northwest, to develop a state conservation and management plan for wolves. “We’re working together to make sure that as wolves return to Washington they are managed in a way that is compatible with the needs of local ranchers and deer and elk hunters, while still allowing them to recover throughout the state,” said Jasmine Minbashian, special projects director for Conservation Northwest.
A new study published earlier this month by researchers at Oregon State University suggests that the temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park is suffering from the elimination of wolves and subsequent domination by herds of browsing elk. Many streambanks in the park have been largely denuded of young trees needed for recruitment future old trees. Streamside ecosystems in the park today bear little resemblance to the narrower and vegetation-lined rivers of the past. As a result, the park is a very different place than it was 70 years ago, the researchers said. Riparian areas in the north-central Cascades with its abundant deer populations could experience similar benefits from the return of wolves.
“Conservation Northwest is honored to be a part of the effort to document the return of the wolf to the Cascade Mountains,” Minbashian said. “Wolves not only bring life back into the wilderness, they can help restore the Cascades ecosystem.”
Listen to audio of wolf pup howls.
The "Cascade Mountains wolf" is a subspecies of the gray wolf that has lived in the forested regions from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Coast. Early settlers described the wolf as "common" and speculate that one or more wolf packs may have occurred in each of all major river drainages. Yet with the arrival of settlers came animosity towards the wolf, government-sponsored bounty payments, and the eventual extirpation of the wolf and nearly all other large predators, like the grizzly bear, from large parts of the Northwest. The gray wolf, along with other top carnivores such as bear and cougar, controls movement of prey populations so that a landscape may support a healthy ecosystem.
The Cascades Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project involves volunteers on the ground to create citizen science to better understand wildlife movement and presence on both sides of the Cascades crest. Citizen's science combines wintertime snow tracking with year-long motion-sensitive remote camera work. The program has captured images of lynx, wolverine and now wolves. To view a slideshow of images from our wildlife monitoring program visit: http://www.conservationnw.org/slideshow/wildlife-monitoring
This story first published by Conservation Northwest on July 23, 2008.