Correction: One photo that ran in Wednesday's Daily Record and two photos that ran at www.dailyrecordnews.com with a story about the Teanaway wolf pack had incorrect photo credits.
The color photo that ran online and in the print edition should have been attributed to the Western Transportation Institute.
The two black and white photos that ran online only, should have been attributed to Conservation Northwest.
A wolf pack documented in Kittitas County is the fourth in Washington, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The new pack is named the Teanaway Pack and at least four adults have been spotted on motion capture cameras, said Rocky Beach, WDFW wildlife diversity division manager. He also expects there are several pups that have not been caught on camera.
After receiving multiple reports of wolf sightings last fall, the WDFW and other groups placed motion-triggered cameras in the Teanaway area north of Cle Elum. The nonprofit group Conservation Northwest captured images of the wolves. Once the sightings were confirmed, WDFW biologists captured an adult female wolf, fitted her with a radio tracking collar and took several hair and tissue samples.
DNA tests conducted at the University of California-Davis confirmed the animal is a wild gray wolf, and will be used to determine where the pack originated. Conservation Northwest believes that the pack either originated from the Lookout Pack in Washington, the Northern Rockies or from British Columbia.
The radio collar transmits information every two weeks about the pack’s movements, but Beach doesn’t expect to have an accurate reading of the pack’s range for some time. Because the female has pups, she and the rest of the pack will remain close to the den and begin venturing farther out as the pups grow older.
“We’re pleased to have one, but we might go back next spring and capture another one” to monitor the animals, Beach said.
With the new Teanaway Pack, the WDFW estimates that there are between 25 and 30 wolves in Washington. The state’s three other packs include the Lookout Pack in Okanogan County, and the Salmo and Diamond packs in Pend Oreille County.
Gray wolves were eliminated as a breeding species in Washington by the 1930s. Statewide, they are listed as an endangered species under state law, and gray wolves are endangered under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.
The department will notify land and livestock owners in the Teanaway and rural Cle Elum area to inform them of the new pack and to offer suggestions on how to prevent problems. Beach believes there is a possibility that there are more established packs in the state that haven’t been confirmed yet.
The new pack comes as no surprise to Bill Essman, a retired Washington State Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer who lives in the Ellensburg area. He’s been receiving reports of wolf sightings in Kittitas County for years.
Essman is concerned that the new pack will find its way into places it doesn’t belong, including the winter-feeding grounds for elk.
“We don’t have the wilderness area in my opinion to support a pack of wolves,” Essman said. He doesn’t see the pack as an immediate threat but is concerned for the future.
Essman’s concern is echoed by Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association based in Ellensburg. He is part of the statewide citizens group that developed the draft plan. Field is worried that “we are setting ourselves up for a very bloody future” or that the increased pressure on the ecosystem will push the elk herds into neighboring agricultural lands.
He and five other members of the group are a minority in the group who oppose waiting for documentation of 15 breeding pairs before the state considers delisting the wolf from federal endangered species status.
Field believes that 15 breeding pairs of wolves is too many for the prey population to handle, and he is concerned that the wolves could turn to the elk at their feeding grounds or prey on livestock for food. While the management plan calls for compensation for ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves, there hasn’t been money set aside for that purpose, according to Field. He said that purebred livestock animals can cost $2,000 or $3,000 a head.
“It’s always easy for someone who’s not living in the Teanaway to say that it’s not a problem, but if they’re in your backyard they may well be,” Field said.
So far Beach, of the WDFW, doesn’t believe that the wolves will pose a threat to livestock and that the current population has been “very well behaved.” If a landowner has problems with wolves he encourages people to call the WDFW for a consultation. Solutions to the problem could be as simple as using electric fences or hanging fluttering flags to scare off the skittish wolves.
Bob Tuck of Selah, also a member of the statewide wolf planning group and a former member of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, thinks that part of the reason people are so against the wolf population has to do with stereotypes and misinformation.
“We as a society have not totally dealt with our background with wolves,” Tuck said. “Wolves are always the villains. That is deeply embedded in our heritage.”
Tuck hopes that as wolves become more common and the new conservation and management plan comes into effect, people will see that the wolves won’t have a negative impact on the prey population or livestock.
Conservation Northwest said it was pleased to be part of the effort to document the wolf’s return to the Cascades.
“It’s inspirational. It was definitely good news that after the tragedy of poaching of the Lookout Pack that there are still wolves in the Cascades,” said Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest founder and executive director.