The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reveals that the wolf population in Washington has increased by 30 percent in 2014.

On Friday, March 6, WDFW revealed the increase in the state's wolf population. The annual survey that was conducted by WDFW suggests that four new wolf packs have been formed in the state and most of the population is concentrated in the northeast of the state.

The survey recorded the presence of at least 68 gray wolves through Dec. 31, 2014 in Washington. As of Dec. 31, 2013, the population was 52. The survey also accounts for five breeding pairs in the region and 16 packs of the animals.

Donny Martorello, a carnivore specialist at WDFW, suggests that the increase in population points at continued growth under Washington's recovery plan for the wolves.

"While we can't count every wolf in the state, the formation of four new packs is clear evidence that wolves are recovering in Washington," says Martorello. "Since 2011, the number of confirmed wolf packs has more than tripled in our state."

Gray wolves were nearly eliminated from many western states in the previous century. However, legal protection has helped the recovery of their population in many states. The latest WDFW survey counted the number of wolves in Washington with the help of aerial surveys, wolf tracks, signals from wolf collars and remote cameras.

WDFW also revealed that the number of gray wolves would have been even more but around nine wolves died in 2014. Poachers killed three wolves, natural causes accounted for three deaths, two wolves died of unknown reasons and one got killed when WDWF was trying to stop a wolf pack from attacking sheep on a ranch.

Jim Unsworth, the new director of WDFW, reveals that cases of wolf predation on livestock has been quite low in comparison to other states with wolves. WDFW records that about 35 sheep were either injured or killed by wolf attacks in 2014. Around four cows and a dog were also attacked in Washington in 2014.

Unsworth suggests that predation attacks by wolves will increase with the spike in their population. However, the agency will work in partnership with the ranchers to avoid major loss of livestock on the hands of wolves and at the same time conserve and increase the wolf population in the state.

Photo: Scott Calleja | Flickr

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