A U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE MAP FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE DIAMOND PACK, NO. 243, ACROSS THE BORDERS OF WASHINGTON AND IDAHO. (USFWS)

Washington Wolf Killed In Idaho Last Week; Final 2011 Population Estimate Due Out In Early Jan.

When Washington puts out its year-end wolf count early next week, the tally will be one fewer than it might otherwise have been.

A radio-collared member of east-central Pend Oreille County’s Diamond Pack was killed in North Idaho on Dec. 20.

WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers says that the Idaho Department of Fish & Game contacted the agency to report the legal take by a trapper.

She describes the kill site as “300 yards inside the Idaho border.”

“We will get the radio collar back,” she adds.

Until now, there were four collared wolves in Northeast Washington, one in the Salmo Pack of extreme northern Pend Oreille County, three in Diamond.

One collar has apparently malfunctioned, Luers says, while two still work; one is worn by the Salmo wolf, the other by the Diamond’s alpha.

The dead wolf was a female, one of two collared females in the pack. Luers did not have an age on the animal, but one was collared as a yearling in 2010, according to the July 2011 draft of the state’s wolf management plan.

The kill came to light through WDFW’s legislatively mandated Dangerous Wildlife Incidents Report, which began posting wolf encounters earlier this year. It also tracks cougars and grizzly bears, but not black bears.

Now that wolves are delisted in the Northern Rockies, Idaho is holding hunting and trapping seasons through March 31. As of yesterday, 195 have been killed, 173 by firearm hunters, 22 by trappers.

Of those, a total of 31 have been in the Panhandle Zone, which borders Washington as well as Montana and British Columbia.

Most of the Diamond Pack’s range is in Washington, but it roams into the Gem State as well.

“They’re in and out of Idaho all the time,” says Luers.

A U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE MAP FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR SHOWS THE RANGE OF THE DIAMOND PACK, NO. 243, ACROSS THE BORDERS OF WASHINGTON AND IDAHO. (USFWS)

An Idaho pack known as Cutoff Peak uses a sliver of Washington as its territory.

When WDFW issues its final 2011 wolf population estimate next month — possibly as early as Tuesday, Jan. 3 — in all likelihood the Diamond Pack will be listed as 10 strong, based on an aerial survey and count done in the middle of last week.

At the end of 2010, it had 12 members, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

WDFW will also come out with figures for the new Teanaway Pack of Kittitas County and Smackout Pack of Stevens County, as well as the Lookout Pack of Okanogan County.

And there is strong evidence of wolves on the Washington side of the Blue Mountains, including “multiple wolves running together.”

Since July, hunters have been keeping track of sightings around the state and while that tally runs far higher, the state’s working wolf population estimate has been a minimum of 25 to 30 adults and yearlings, a figure that probably will go up as it does not count pup production.

WDFW will also determine how many breeding pairs were successful this year. A successful breeding pair is defined as an adult male and adult female and two pups living to year’s end. Diamond, Smackout and Teanaway were known to have pups in 2011.

(We’re checking on a rumor that two Teanaway wolves were killed recently; “We’ve heard it and are looking into it,” said WDFW Capt. Richard Mann in Yakima this afternoon; he termed it a fourth-hand rumor.)

There are at least two other radio-collared wolves in the state: the Lookout alpha male and its daughter, the Teanaway alpha female. A third radio-collared wolf, the Lookout alpha female, mysteriously disappeared in spring 2010.

Earlier this month, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission approved a final wolf management and recovery plan.

Next up is a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decision on whether or not wolves in the western two-thirds of the state should be federally delisted like those in the eastern third. That is expected to come out in late February. WDFW officials told the commission that the Feds were more likely to proceed to statewide delisting if WDFW had an approved management plan.

“There is a specific review process for such actions and to predict what might come out of such a proposed action would be pre-decisional and therefore inappropriate for me to speculate upon,” USFWS spokesman Doug Zimmer in Lacey told me afterwards, adding, “But having an adequate state management plan is certainly a helpful step to meeting downlisting or delisting criteria. Much, much, more positive than not having such a plan.”

In other regional wolf news, OR-7, the far-traveling member of the livestock-killing Imnaha Pack, is in California. The latest population estimate for Oregon is 25 wolves.