Friday, June 17, 2011

Gray Wolf Conservation by Angie Avey

Gray Wolf Conservation in Washington State
Angela Avey
PHS 100A
Warner Pacific College
June 16, 2011

Gray Wolf Conservation in Washington State
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has an extensive list of programs which help native wildlife species stay abundant, thrive and maintain long-term productivity. Many programs are focused on the careful observation of these animals in order to monitor their activities and life cycles and to detect any threats which may harm the species survival. While this is definitely in the best interest of the animals, it is controversial in many cases as the laws and policies enacted often have serious consequences to other animals, land spaces and sometimes even human beings.
Under state law, the gray wolf is considered an endangered species in Washington and is also federally recognized as endangered in two thirds of the western portion of the state. The wolves once flourished in the state until mass killings began to decimate their numbers. This was caused by human expansion into areas in which the gray wolf inhabited. Between 1850 and 1900, many farms and livestock areas were being pushed farther and farther into the gray wolves territories and naturally, it took advantage of the livestock as a form of food. Because of human intervention and the killing of the wolves, by the early 1930s they were all but considered an extinct breeding species in the state.
In recent times, as the wolves began to reintroduce themselves back into the state in small numbers (most likely migrating from states to the east and Canada from the north), the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife began to propose policies towards a conservation and management plan intended to bring the level of gray wolves to a sustainable and safe number. Today, there are three documented wolf packs in the state, but only one pack has what is considered a successful breeding pair (male, female and at least two pups). In order for the state to delist the wolves as endangered, the number of successful breeding pairs must reach at least fifteen. This sets a high bar for the wolves in Washington, as the federal number of successful breeding pairs must only reach ten before they will be delisted as a federally endangered species (in the state). This is significant because it shows that the State is intent on assisting the wolves in their efforts at reestablishing their healthy and prosperous existence.
Not everyone is happy for the wolves though. There has been great opposition amongst farmers and ranch hands who are familiar with what a pack of wolves can do to their livestock numbers. Wolves find livestock to be an easy form of prey and will do what they need in order to survive. Hunting wolves is not allowed in Washington, yet there are farmers in the state that have gone on record to say that they will happily shoot any wolf intent on feeding on his livestock.
Regardless of which side one stands regarding the conservation and management plan proposed by Washington, I believe the recognition and acknowledgement given by the state to the gray wolf is a positive step in the way that laws can be used to protect the animals and preserve their right to reestablish their population.

Sandsberry, S. (2011, June 13). Some panelists say population cap is needed for wolves in state. East Oregonian Retrieved from

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