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Wolf pack gains numbers

A pack of gray wolves in the Methow Valley is now reported to have five members.

“I did find tracks up at Lookout Mountain (in December). There were five wolves,” state wildlife officer Cal Treser said.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t know for sure if the Lookout Pack has three adults and two pups, or two adults and three pups, he said.

“They’re trying to actually stay with the wolves or follow the wolves so they know where they’re at,” he said of Fish and Wildlife employees. “They’re just monitoring them, because they’re breeding right now and they should establish a den or go back to their rendezvous area or den.”

Treser said wolf biologist Scott Becker hopes to get collars on some of the wolves this spring – either through a helicopter capture if there’s enough snow, or through trappers if there isn’t.

A pack is defined by having at least one breeding pair. Washington state has 10 confirmed packs as of the last count in late 2012. The state does a count every year.

The other confirmed packs include the Teanaway, Wenatchee, Strawberry, Nc’icn, Huckleberry, Wedge, Smackout, Salmo and Diamond. There are two unconfirmed packs – Ruby Creek and Boulder Creek – and two packs that den just outside of the state’s borders, Walla Walla and Hozomeen.

There can be up to 12 or more members in a pack, but Treser said packs in Washington tend to run smaller than those in Wyoming, where there’s a larger food source.

Treser said the “prey base” isn’t as large here, “so you can’t really expect the wolves to populate as quickly,” he said. “I honestly don’t believe that some of those areas can sustain wolves. Everything’s got to eat. If they don’t have anything to eat, they can’t survive.”

The official count of gray wolves was 51 last winter, but the state estimated that number was likely double.

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