One Decade On Since Washington’s First Wolf Pack Heard

It was 10 years ago today that it became publicly apparent the Northwest’s wildlife world was about to change permanently.

LOOKOUT PACK PUPS PHOTOGRAPHED 10 YEARS AGO TODAY. (CONSERVATION NORTHWEST)

On July 11, 2008, WDFW sent out a press release that three days earlier its biologists had heard howls from adult and juvenile wolves near Twisp, in North-central Washington.

The Lookout Pack would be confirmed in the following days through the capture of two adults and retrieval of trail camera images showing six pups.

I remember feeling gobsmacked.

Wolves were suddenly in the valley I’d hunted muleys for nearly a decade and a half — what was going to happen to the legendary Okanogan deer herd?

AN OKANOGAN COUNTY MULE DEER HUNTER CARTS HIS FOUR-POINT OUT OF THE WOODS DURING 2015’S HUNT. (TOM WALGAMOTT)

In hindsight, of course, the rangy predators’ arrival was inevitable as wolf populations in southern British Columbia, North Idaho and Northwest Montana grew and dispersers from Central Idaho and Yellowstone reintroductions spread out.

A dead one in Northeast Oregon in 2007, and B-300 near the Eagle Caps and a roadkill west of Spokane the following year.

And state managers had begun preparing for that eventuality by beginning to work on a management plan.

IMAGES RECORDED BY SMALL CAMERAS MOUNTED TO THE NECKS OF A COUPLE DOZEN DEER IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON PROVIDED A GLIMPSE INTO THE DAILY LIVES OF THE ANIMALS, AND HOPEFULLY MORE DETAILS ABOUT WOLF-DEER INTERACTIONS. (IMAGES COURTESY JUSTIN DELLINGER)

Yet still.

After decades with only the odd stray turning up here and there, wolves were again in Washington after being killed off some 70 years before.

Times had changed from those days. It felt like a seismic shift.

The initial news on the Lookouts from WDFW would be followed by a July 21 release from ODFW that Oregon too had its first pack, the Wenahas, in northern Union County.

OR 12, A WENAHA PACK MALE. (ODFW)

And then all hell broke loose, and it didn’t.

With yet another monthly set of magazines beckoning to get put on the press, I don’t have near enough time to list all the wolf-related events of the subsequent years as the number of wolves in Washington and Oregon grew from those first eight and four animals to a minimum of 122 and 124 as of the end of 2017.

Needless to say, there have been many depredations, lethal removals and poachings.

There have been management tweaks, federal delisting in portions of the two states, translocation bills and lawsuits.

There have been caught-in-the-act and self-defense shootings, first suggestions Washington big game subherds may be being affected by packs and wolfies chewing on wolfies

And there’s been the Diamond M, OR-7, WDFW’s wolf people tamer and, of course, Rob Wielgus.

EVIDENCE FROM A POACHING CASE AGAINST TERRY FOWLER OF LIBERTY LAKE, WASHINGTON, INCLUDED A PAIR OF WOLF SKULLS. (WDFW)

Right here I should come up with some overarching conclusion about wolves in the Northwest, but the story is nowhere near concluded, I feel.

And so I’ll keep reading, listening and calling, and writing blogs — 522 on this site at last count — and magazine articles, and see where we are in another 10 years.

Hopefully by then the feds will have completely delisted gray wolves and we’ll have reached full state recovery goals and can have limited hunts, like is already occurring on two reservations in Washington’s northeastern corner, where packs are thriving, just as they are in the same pocket of Oregon.

Indeed, after a decade, I’m sure of one thing: the wolves will be fine.

As for the rest of us, our howling over them will continue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *