Say what you will about wolves, the predators’ peregrinations make for fascinating stuff.
At least to cartography and wandering wildlife geeks such as myself.
A pair of new Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife maps are revealing more about the ranges and ranginess of the state’s wolves over the past decade.
Both are based off data from all the GPS collars WDFW has strapped to various breeding males and females and other pack members since 2008.
(Dozens upon dozens more wolves over the years haven’t been collared.)
One shows nearly 72,000 of their locations — gulp, they’ve got Deer Camp surrounded, boys!
Well, from the 35,000 foot level they do.
Though the GPS locations of wolves on the Colville and Spokane Reservations aren’t included, it represents “the most complete dataset currently available of wolf telemetry in Washington State,” according to WDFW.
Many of the green dots correspond to known pack areas in Northeast Washington, Kittitas County and the Blue Mountains.
But there’s a relatively surprising amount of wolf activity in state and federal lands between the Chewuch and Okanogan Valleys — the well-tracked Loup Loup Pack appears to roam north of its state-identified territory, or there’s a second pack with a collared animal there.
It also shows where the Marblemount wolf, which was captured and collared last spring, is hanging out.
The other new WDFW map shows the dispersal paths of 14 telemetry-bearing wolves since 2012, several of which are rather remarkable.
I’ve reported on two of these before — the Teanaway female shot in a British Columbia pig sty, the Smackout male that ventured into the province’s Coast Range due north of Neah Bay and set up a territory.
Another was killed in Central Montana.
But I believe this is the first time I’ve seen the winding path one took to the Cowboy State.
The wolf exited Washington north of Spokane, followed I-90 east into western Montana, trotted into the lower Bitterroot Valley before heading back southwest over Lolo Pass and down the Lochsa to the Clearwater, then south past Riggins and Cascade, Idaho, to the Boise area, loped across the north side of the Snake River Plain to Yellowstone National Park, then angled to the southeast towards the heart of Wyoming.
The new maps were part of a presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this month by Donny Martorello, WDFW’s wolf policy advisor.
The next time he talks to the citizen oversight panel, probably in March, he’ll have an updated pack range map, if that first map above is any indication.
Here’s what the one the agency published late last winter looked like:
Damnit, I gotta get to work now, but I’m going to leave one final WDFW wolf map here, one I closely watch for “clusters” of citizen reports.
They’re an indication of possible wolf activity for biologists to check out — there may be something going on south of Snoqualmie Pass and in the upper Lewis River watershed — and help keep tabs on known packs, reconfirming activity.
But while WDFW’s new GPS maps do lend credence to many public observations by showing the locations of actual wolves and the campfire sparklike spread of dispersers, some state residents’ reports are, shall we say, slightly less likely to have been actual wolves, especially those coming from the I-5/405 corridor, where an inordinate number are annually spotted in the shrubberies.
Here are a couple of my favorites from this year: