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Rare Gray Wolves: December Snow Best For Biologists' Tracking

Dec 23, 2015 07:30 PM EST
A gray wolf in Minnesota
In Washington state, where gray wolves are still listed as endangered state-wide, biologists find it easier to track and count wolves once the snow falls. That's why the last two weeks of December are especially important.
(Photo : Wikipedia Commons)

When snow falls and lays down a clean blanket of white, it brings Washington state and Western wildlife managers the year's best conditions for keeping track of still-endangered wolves.

Mid- to late-December is a critical time for zeroing in on the number of gray wolves in Washington. "With snow, it's a lot easier to identify tracks than it is on a hard-packed road with 10,000 people that have driven across it," said Scott Becker, one of the state's two statewide wolf biologists, in an article in the Yakima Herald

While the wildlife biologists keep active in summer trapping wolves to look at them and fit them with radio collars, there are limitations to such work: "...because we have to check (the traps) every day. In the wintertime, we can get out and actually try to follow (the wolves)," Becker said in the article.

At the end of each year, the biologists perform a wolf survey to learn the state's number of wolves and wolf packs and how many breeding pairs there are.

Gray wolves remain listed as endangered at the state level, until Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's recovery goals are met-including that 15 thriving breeding pairs are present for three years at the least, with at least four in Eastern Washington, Northern Cascades and Southern Cascades/Northwest Coast.

"And that count is based on what's there at the end of the calendar year," said WDFW spokeswoman Madonna Luers in the article. "A successful breeding pair means a male and female traveling together with two pups, at the end of the year. The pups are born in April, May and June, and you could have eight pups -- but are any left at the end of the year?"

The biologists will find out. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales


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