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  • EarthFix: How many wolves are there in the Wedge Pack?
  • Pamplin: We don’t know the total number. There was, we thought, four adults, the alpha male and female and two non-breeding members and an undetermined number of pups.
  • EarthFix: And these wolves, the Wedge Pack, are not on the endangered species list right? There’s a difference.
  • Pamplin: There’s a couple regulatory jurisdictions. Under the Federal Endangered Species wolves are listed as endangered West of highway 97 so essentially the western two thirds of the state. The eastern third of the state is considered part of the federally delisted portion of the northern rocky mountain distinct population segment of wolves so the state is on point for the management of wolves in the Eastern third. Under state law wolves are listed as endangered. That was the premise behind developing the wolf conservation management plan that essentially our recovery plan where we set recovery objectives across the state where we have 15 successful breeding pairs for three years distributed across three recovery regions.
  • Another way we could delist wolves is if there’s 18 successful breeding pairs with a similar distribution throughout each of the three recovery zones observed even in one year, we could delist.
  • At this stage it’s under state law wolves are listed as endangered and this portion of the state under federal law wolves are delisted.
  • EarthFix: Ok, so how far are we from the 18 breeding pair number?
  • Pamplin: We’re quite a ways away. It’s important to share some perspective. Just last year we had 5 packs within the state and a pack is defined as two or more wolves running together. For recovery objectives the metric that’s used across all the states that are managing wolves is a successful breeding pair, that is an adult pair of wolves that have successfully raised two pups through the end of the calendar year.
  • So last year for instance of the 5 packs we had 3 were considered successful breeding pairs. As part of our recovery objectives I’d mentioned about the need to have a geographic distribution so we have three recovery zones throughout the state – eastern Washington zone, a north cascades zone and a southern cascades that also includes Southwest and up into the Olympic Peninsula. And we need to have at least 4 successful breeding pairs in each of those zones. Currently we don’t have any packs in the south cascades. We have two packs up in the north cascades and the balance of our packs are in the eastern Washington recovery zone so we’re still a ways away from being able to consider a state delisting.
  • EarthFix: So how can you be recovering a population and killing them at the same time?
  • Pamplin: Well I understand that that’s counter intuitive at first glance. Wolves are – they’re habitat generalists, they’re prey generalists and with the reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in the mid-90s wolf populations have been rebounding very well.
  • There are wolves that end up getting into trouble and end up having negative interactions with livestock producers so as part of our goal for longterm persistence of having wolves on the landscape is also having that social tolerance and public acceptance that wolves are there and unfortunately when wolves are no longer responding to non-lethal measures, lethal measures do become necessary.
  • And that was an important part of our decision earlier this week of lethal removing up to two wolves in the Wedge Pack, was looking at the conservation status within that Eastern Washington region. We have 3 packs in the North Cascades but 9 packs within the Eastern Washington recovery zone where the Wedge Pack is located. In addition the Wedge Pack is very close proximity to Idaho where there’s numerous wolves as well as British Columbia and so the balance of that information and the population persistence modeling we had done in the development of the wolf conservation and management plan demonstrated and supported that wolf lethal removal can be accomplished and does not inhibit population recovery.
  • EarthFix: Could you have just moved this female – just put her elsewhere where the recovery’s not going as well?
  • Pamplin: That is something we’ve identified in the plan but in this scenario a couple things are at play. Number one is there are numerous areas within Northeast Washington that have already been occupied by wolf packs and then in addition, moving wolves that are known livestock depredators would be a real challenge. This pack at this point in time would not be considered a candidate for moving within the recovery region.
  • EarthFix: But I mean, aren’t all wolves candidates for livestock depredation?
  • Pamplin: Not necessarily. There are numerous examples of wolves living in the vicinity of livestock that continue to focus on what I’ll call the naturally available prey – deer, elk and moose. In certain instances they focus in on livestock and once that happens it’s very difficult to modify that behavior.
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