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By KIMBERLY CAUVEL
Photo Wolf in east Skagit County. Marvin Kempf, who lives near Marblemount, submitted this May 17 photo to state and federal Fish & Wildlife agencies that later caught and collared an animal they believe is an adult male gray wolf.
The number of gray wolves in the state continues to grow, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife announced Friday.
The state agency is preparing to release its annual wolf count, which for the first time includes Skagit County.
A male gray wolf was documented and collared in Skagit County in June 2017.
It’s the first gray wolf documented west of the North Cascades and remains the only wolf the state agency has confirmed in the area.
Statewide, there are at least 122 wolves and 14 successful breeding pairs in 22 packs, according to Fish & Wildlife.
Fish & Wildlife, tribes and federal agencies survey wolf populations in Washington throughout the year, according to a news release.
The results this year show an increase in the gray wolf population for the ninth year in a row, according to Fish & Wildlife.
Wolf specialist Ben Maletzke said in a news release that the population has increased about 31 percent over the past decade.
Conservation Northwest Executive Director Mitch Freidman said in a news release that the organization looks forward to seeing more wolves in the Cascades.
“The recent confirmation of at least one wolf in Western Washington is exciting news, and unconfirmed reports continue to come in from areas south of Interstate 90. It’s our hope that in 2018 we’ll see further expansion of wolves,” he said.
Wolves were eradicated from the state in the late 1800s. They are now protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of the state and protected by the state in the eastern one-third.
As the state’s wolf population has grown, some of the wolves have preyed on livestock.
“We know that some level of conflict is inevitable between wolves and livestock sharing the landscape,” Maletzke said. “Our goal is to minimize that conflict as the gray wolf population continues to recover.”
In 2017, Fish & Wildlife paid $3,700 to compensate livestock owners for losses related to wolves, and killed three wolves from packs that killed multiple livestock.