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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Pro-wolf group puts spin on Washington state wolf status sport

A gray wolf (Associated Press)
A gray wolf (Associated Press)

ENDANGERED SPECIES -- It's instructive to notice the spin the Defenders of Wildlife is putting on the report on gray wolf recovery status in Washington, released today by state wildlife officials.


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just reported that gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in the state over the past year. The headline on the media release said, "State's wolf population kept expanding last year, according to a WDFW survey."

Defenders of Wildlife responded within two hours to its constituents with its own media release, headlined: "Washington's gray wolf population remains stable." 

Who are the experts on this report and who has their hands out for donations?

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife carnivore specialist Donny Martorello said the state confirmed the presence of 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves in 2013. "While we can't count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence of steady growth in Washington's wolf population. More packs mean more breeding females, which produce more pups." 

Defenders said: "This year’s count tallied 52 wolves, an increase of one individual from the 2012 year-end population." 

Clarification:  Last year's report estimated the wolf population in the state as ranging from a minimum of 51 wolves up to about 100 wolves.  So for Defenders to say this year's estimate is "an increase of one individual" is propaganda.

I asked Martorello personally why the agency did not give a population range this year as it has in the past. He repeated that there's no way to accurately estimate the high end of population "so we're not even going to try."  Wildlife managers also emphasize that while 52 is what they can document, there are surely more.  

Good cases can be made for the populations of wolves in Washington at any one time could be more than 100.

And surely the number will be considerably higher after mid-April when this year's crop of pups emerges from their dens.

Wolves are a cash cow for animal rights-type groups as long as the species is threatened or endangered.  

While I take in all sides of the debate on wolf reintroduction, it's important to realize that for some interests there's no money in declaring a species recovered.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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