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Washington Wildlife Officials Report 'Unprecedented' Wolf Numbers

Jessica Paterson
Northwest News Network

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - Washington wildlife managers are working to avoid the kind of escalation in wolf conflicts that led the state to kill an entire wolf pack last fall. Officials from the Department of Fish and Wildlife told a crowd in Spokane Valley Wednesday they’re trying to keep livestock losses down, even as Washington’s wolf population grows.

Most of the state's wolves congregate in eastern Washington. Last September a cattle ranch near the Canadian border lost so many animals, the state flew in a sniper to take out the problematic Wedge Pack.

Even so, Washington's carnivore manager Donny Martorello reports that preliminary figures show the state wolf population grew from 27 to 51 just in the last year.

“This is unprecedented population growth," he says. "You don't see this in elk herds, you don't see this in orcas, you don't see this in bald eagles. This kind of growth is phenomenal in the wildlife population.”

That’s not much comfort to ranchers like Alan Allison of Spokane.

“When you consider the population explosion that was on the charts in there, it's going to be incredible. They're going to move all over the state.”

Allison would prefer Washington had no wolves.

This was the first of three public meetings. Wildlife officials next visit Olympia and Seattle.

Wolf supporters also turned out for the meeting in Spokane Valley. Gayne Sears of Newport, Wash., says she's not worried about the wolves that have moved into the surrounding areas.

“I've not even talked to a person who's sighted a wolf, although I have seen tracks," said Sears. "I thought it was pretty exciting.”

On the Web:

Meetings on gray wolf recovery and management in Washington (Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)