In the Pacific Northwest, salmon are the iconic species that draw attention and funding; but carnivores are essential components of our ecosystems too. The states and wildlife conservation groups like Conservation Northwest are working to monitor and protect carnivore populations throughout the region.
Carnivore Conservation in the Pacific Northwest
Wolf Reintroductions & Wolf Management
Wolves were reintroduced by the government in Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming in 1995, and the populations have grown to the point where the federal government has released responsibility for wolf management to the states of Montana and Idaho. Wyoming’s wolf management plan was considered insufficient to protect the reintroduced population so wolves have not been delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act there.
Roaming wolves from those areas and British Columbia have naturally established in Washington and Oregon, which now have official packs (eight confirmed in Washington as of October 2012 and five confirmed in Oregon as of January 2012). Wolves are being tracked using radio telemetry in both states by their respective wildlife departments.
Washington State lists wolves as endangered; wolves west of the Cascades are also protected by the federal endangered species act. In December 2011, Washington State approved a Wolf Management Plan that established a recovery goal for 15 breeding pairs of wolves and defined allowances for lethal control. An entire pack (the Wedge pack) was killed by WDFW in September 2012 due to livestock depredation. Oregon State also lists wolves as endangered and has a wolf management plan updated in October 2010. Wolves in both states have been shot by poachers.
Fisher Reintroductions & Tracking
Fishers were considered extirpated in Washington in 1997, and were added to the State’s endangered species list the following year. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife reintroduced fishers to the Olympic Peninsula from 2008-2010; 90 individuals were released. Many of the released fishers were collared, allowing the State to track them using radio telemetry.
Wolverine Listing under the Endangered Species Act
Wolverines are elusive alpine carnivores that require deep snow for successful breeding, and are threatened by the effects of climate change. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife has agreed to issue a determination about whether wolverines should be protected by the Endangered Species Act by September 2013. Throughout the northwest, biologists are using remote cameras with bait stations to locate wolverines — and in summer 2012, they captured the first verified evidence of a wolverine south of Highway 2 in Washington in twenty years.
Wildlife Tracking & Monitoring
As well as using remote cameras to study wolverines and fishers, biologists like the Cascades Carnivore Project are capturing images and evidence of other carnivores. Each year Conservation Northwest helps install remote cameras along I-90 during the summer, and during the winter tracks wildlife in the snow as part of the Cascades Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project.
Groups like the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group and the I-90 Wildlife Bridge Coalition are working to preserve connectivity for wildlife. The Connectivity Working Group completed a statewide study of wildlife habitat and connectivity for key species using GIS that helps identify the most important connections (and missing connections). Accompanying a widening of I-90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass, a wildlife bridge is proposed and awaiting funding. Check out WSDOT’s neat simulation of the project, including the first half that’s currently under construction and the unfunded second half (including the wildlife bridge). At the beginning you can see the expanded wildlife area along Gold Creek (0:18), and you get a good look at the wildlife bridge in the last twenty seconds (2:08-2:28).
How You Can Support Carnivore Conservation in Washington
- I-90 Wildlife Watch: report wildlife sightings on I-90 between North Bend and Easton in Washington. This group tracks wildlife crossings of I-90 to inform the Department of Transportation’s highway planning in the area to help reduce accidents involving wildlife.
- Cascades Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project: volunteer during the summer or the winter to monitor wildlife in the Central Cascades in Washington. In the summer, wildlife cameras are installed along I-90 and at other promising locations for wildlife throughout the Cascades; in the winter, teams track animals in the snow along I-90. No experience is needed — there’s a training day to give you basic skills, and you’re teamed with more experienced trackers. It’s a win-win — improve your naturalist skills while helping wildlife conservation!
- Voice your support for funding the I-90 Wildlife Bridge by contacting your representatives.
Part 4: Carnivore Conservation in Cascadia (this post)