Washington Wolf Population Continues Record Growth


Below is a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains that state agencies like WDFW should manage all wolf populations just as they manage elk, bears, deer, mountain lions and other wildlife species.

Washington’s wolf population continued to grow in 2021 for the 13th consecutive year. The 2021 annual wolf report was released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and shows a 16 percent increase in wolf population growth from the previous count in 2020.

“Washington’s wolves continue to progress toward recovery, with four new packs documented in four different counties of the state in 2021,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, WDFW, partner agencies, and tribes counted 206 wolves in 33 packs in Washington. Nineteen of these were successful breeding pairs. This is up from 178 wolves in 29 packs and 16 breeding pairs in the 2020 count.

In 2019 and 2020, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CTCR) provided numbers based on hunter, trapper, and public observation. For 2021, CTCR reverted to counting wolves through activities like track, aerial, and camera surveys- the same methods WDFW uses for the annual wolf count. As a result, numbers from the two counts have been merged together for this most recent count.

Because this is a minimum count, the actual number of wolves in Washington is higher. Since the first WDFW wolf survey in 2008, the state’s wolf population has grown by an average of 25 percent per year.

Four new packs formed in 2021 including the Columbia Pack in Columbia County, the Keller Ridge Pack in Ferry County, the Dominion Pack in Stevens County, and the Shady Pass pack in Chelan County. The Naneum Pack was not located during the survey; the two collared individuals in the pack dispersed from that area in November- one travelling through the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast Recovery area and the other joined the Stranger pack in northeast Washington. As a result, that pack was removed from the tally.

Seventy-six percent of the known wolf packs in Washington were not involved in any known livestock depredation in 2021. Although eight packs were involved in livestock depredation, six of the eight were involved in two or fewer events each.  As a result of depredations, two wolves from the Columbia Pack were lethally removed in 2021; one by the Department and one by a landowner with a permit to lethally remove a wolf.

“Although wolf-livestock interactions have remained consistent, we recorded the lowest number of livestock depredation incidents in the state since 2017 and removed the fewest wolves in response to conflict since 2015,” said WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Julia Smith. “We’re committed to promoting the proactive use of non-lethal deterrents to minimize wolf-livestock conflict, and proud to demonstrate that our approach is working thanks to the dedication of livestock producers, non-governmental organizations assisting directly with livestock monitoring, and WDFW staff.”

Since 1980, gray wolves have been listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington. In January of 2021, wolves were federally delisted from federal Endangered Species Act protection and WDFW resumed statewide management of the species. On February 10, 2022, wolves were federally relisted in the western two-thirds of the state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) once again has the lead role in the recovery of wolves in the North Cascades and the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast recovery regions.

Contributors to WDFW’s annual wolf report include the USFWS, the National Park Service (NPS), the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the CTCR.

(Photo credit:  California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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Elk Chased by Wolf, Slams into SUV


It wasn’t your typical backcountry chase scene. An elk trying to flee from a pursuing wolf ran out of the trees onto Highway 89 in Yellowstone National Park and got hit by an SUV. The collision appears to show it destroyed the driver’s side mirror on impact and sent the elk plunging to the pavement.

“I didn’t look at my dashcam video until I got back to where we were staying at. Originally I thought it happened behind that car. We pulled over for a second and saw the elk on the road and the wolf with it,” Matt Fluke, who recorded the video from his car just ahead of the SUV, told EastIdahoNews.com. “There was a turn out real close and lots of other cars stopping around there. You could see it from where we were at and the car that was behind me pulled over and then pulled out and went down the road. It was wild.”

Fluke says he was only driving about 25 miles an hour when the incident occurred near the Firehole Campground in western portion of the park.

(Video credit:  Matt Fluke)

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Wyoming Gray Wolf Population Meets All Recovery Criteria


Below is a news release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Wyoming’s gray wolf population continues to meet all recovery criteria, according to the 2021 Wyoming Gray Wolf Monitoring and Management annual report by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The newly-published document details the gray wolf populations and conflict trends that indicate stable and predictable management of the species. Wyoming is maintaining wolf numbers at healthy levels. It is the 20th consecutive year wolf numbers in Wyoming have exceeded the delisting criteria, and the fulfillment of the 5-year post-delisting monitoring period required for species recovered and delisted under the Endangered Species Act.

“Wyoming has a proven track record of successfully managing a fully-recovered gray wolf, and we will continue that approach into the future,” said Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik.

Established population objectives for wolves are outlined in the Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan. That plan guides wolf management in Wyoming and is the plan the state will continue to implement following the 5-year post delisting monitoring period. Recovery criteria for Wyoming is at least 100 wolves and at least 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation.

“The Wolf Management Plan has promoted a recovered, stable and appropriate population objective for Wyoming’s wolves,” said Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor for Game and Fish. “This management approach has yielded reduced conflicts with livestock and alleviated potential impacts of wolf predation on big game herds. Our approach in Wyoming has promoted public tolerance and coexistence with wolves and humans across the landscape.”

As of Dec. 31, 2021, at least 161 wolves and 14 breeding pairs reside within the wolf trophy game management area , where Game and Fish focuses management. The wolf population for Yellowstone National Park and Wind River Reservation is at least 97 and at least 17 respectively. An additional 39 wolves were documented in the seasonal WTGMA and predatory animal areas outside Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation, bringing the total minimum population in Wyoming to at least 314 wolves.

“Game and Fish continues robust wolf monitoring efforts using radio collars to ensure rigorous data collection used for evaluating wolf population status and for proposing appropriate wolf management actions,” said Ken Mills, the lead wolf biologist for Game and Fish.

Reaching a steady wolf population is partially attributed to hunting in the northwest corner of the state. Wolf hunting seasons within the WTGMA and seasonal WTGMA require hunters to have a license and adhere to set mortality limits and other regulations.

“Wyoming’s wolf hunting seasons and strategy has been an effective wolf management tool. With hunting, the state has met our population objective for four consecutive years,” Mills said.

Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains — which includes Wyoming — are currently subject to an ongoing status review implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to multiple petitions filed requesting wolves to be relisted under the ESA. The service is currently reviewing all state management programs and wolf population status in each state in the northern Rockies and is expected to release its determination in Sept. 2022.

(Photo credit:  Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

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Three 2022 Hunting-Related Bills Passed in Utah


Below is a news release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

A lot of bills were passed during the 2022 legislative session, and April 1 was the deadline for Gov. Spencer Cox to sign or veto them. Here are three bills that were signed into law this legislative session that impact wildlife and outdoor recreation in Utah that you should know about.

HB142 Donation of Wild Game Meat

Hunter dressed in hunter orange, holding a rifle and a scope, posing over a harvested deer

While hunters could previously donate wild game meat from animals they harvested to individuals in need, this law now allows them to donate the meat to local food banks or other non-profit charitable organizations.

The meat must be harvested legally by a licensed hunter and can only be donated, not sold. The meat must come from animals that are in good health before they are harvested, and the animal must be field-dressed immediately after harvest and processed by a custom meat processor as soon as possible after harvest. Road-kill animals cannot be donated to local organizations.

The new law also sets up an account managed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources where people can donate money to those who are processing the meat, in an effort to help compensate them for their time and service. Interested donors can contact the DWR and specify that the donation should go toward covering the costs of processing donated game meat.

SB205 Air Rifle Hunting Amendments

This law directs the Utah Wildlife Board to determine which wildlife species can be hunted with an air rifle in Utah and also clarifies what type of air rifle can be used. The rifle must be a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle that uses compressed air released from a chamber built into the rifle. It should be pressurized at a minimum of 2,000 pounds per square inch from an external high-compression source, such as a hand pump, compressor or scuba tank.

Under this new law, the DWR was directed to review the funding available for the regulation of hunting with air rifles and to report that information to lawmakers by November 2024.

HB62 Big Game Amendments

This law amends and clarifies the actions that a landowner and the DWR can take when wildlife cause damage to cultivated crops, livestock forage, fences or irrigation equipment. It clarifies under what circumstances a landowner may kill big game animals that are causing the damage and also amends and specifies the compensation available for that damage.

The new law also sets limitations on compensating people, including hunting guides and outfitters, to locate big game animals during hunts in Utah. The law specifies that the licensed hunter cannot use more than one outfitter or hunting guide in connection with harvesting a big game animal and that the outfitter or hunting guide cannot use more than one compensated individual to locate or monitor the location of a big game animal on public land.

“We are confident that these bills, among others, will help us in our mission to effectively manage Utah’s wildlife and will provide Utah hunters with some additional opportunities,” DWR Director J Shirley said.

(Photo credit:  Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

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New RMEF Wildfire Restoration Funding Spread Across Six States


In line with its February 2022 announcement to significantly boost funding for wildfire forest recovery, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation rounded out its $1 million commitment by providing $600,000 for eight projects in six different states. The goal is to restore thousands of acres of public and private forestland, meadows and other landscapes charred by recent wildfires to enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife while also benefitting overall forest health.

The new projects cover a range of habitat stewardship projects including seeding and planting, cheatgrass and other weed treatments, burned fence removal, and the repair of wildlife water resources in Arizona (2), Colorado, Montana, Oregon (2), Utah and Washington. Two of the projects previously received 2021 funding. This group of eight projects is expected to grow and/or receive additional funding support on the state level.

“This commitment only solidifies RMEF’s ongoing strategic efforts dating back decades to enhance habitat for elk and a myriad of other wildlife species for their long-term betterment while also improving overall forest health,” Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO, said at the time of the original $1 million commitment. “We greatly appreciate our partners at the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state agencies, private landowners and other organizations for implementing actions that benefit, wildlife, hunters and others who enjoy the outdoors.”

RMEF previously announced funding for 19 different projects in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, New Mexico, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Go here to see a list of all 25 projects and their locations.

(Photo credit:  U.S. Forest Service)

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South Dakota 2022 Elk Hunt Finalized


Below is a news release from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission finalized the elk and bighorn sheep hunting seasons for 2022.

Black Hills Elk -The Commission voted to adjust the total number of available licenses from 450 “any elk” and 490 “antlerless elk” licenses (total of 940 licenses) to no more than 535 “any elk” and 730 “antlerless elk” licenses (total of 1,265 licenses).

The Commission also modified the boundaries of BHE-H9A and BHE-H9B to correct the unit boundary.

Prairie Elk – The Commission increased the number of licenses available from 78 “any elk” and 178 “antlerless elk” licenses (total of 256 licenses) to 102 “any elk” and 175 “antlerless elk” licenses (total of 277 licenses).

The Commission also modified Unit PRE-9A. This will split the current unit and establish a new unit to include the portion of Meade County. They also corrected season dates for units PRE – 11D, PRE-35A and PRE-35B.

The commission also modified prairie elk units 35A (Harding County west of US Hwy. 85) and 35B (Harding County east of US Hwy. 85) to the following:

  • Units 35A, 35C, and 35D: Harding County west of US Hwy. 85
  • Units 35B, 35E, and 35F: Harding County east of US Hwy. 85, and to establish season dates for prairie elk units 35A, 35B, 35C, and 35D as follows:
  • Units 35A and 35B: September 15-October 31 AND December 1-31 (any elk licenses)
  • Units 35C and 35E: October 1 – November 15 (antlerless elk licenses)
  • Units 35D and 35F: November 16 – December 31 (antlerless elk licenses)

Archery Elk – The Commission increased the number of licenses available from 147 “any elk” and 70 “antlerless elk” licenses (total of 217 licenses) to 182 “any elk” and 90 “antlerless” (total of 272 licenses).

Custer State Park Elk – The Commission increased the total number of available licenses from 9 “any elk” licenses to no more than 12 “any elk” licenses.

Custer State Park Early Archery Elk – The Commission increased the total number of available licenses from 3 “any elk” to 4 “any elk” licenses.

(Photo credit:  South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks)

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RMEF Supports Bill Introduced to Fight Chronic Wasting Disease


Bipartisan legislation introduce in the U.S. Senate would authorize $70 million to support both the research and management of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the CWD Research and Management Act as an important acceleration in our national fight against this deer and elk disease,” said Blake Henning, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation chief conservation officer. “Supporting state and tribal efforts to detect and manage the disease locally, as well as develop new practical solutions through targeted research is an important advancement.”

Introduced by Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the legislation would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to administer the funds through cooperative agreements with state and tribal wildlife agencies and agriculture departments. It also includes an authorization for USDA and state and tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs USDA to review its herd certification program (HCP) within 18 months.

Specifically, the legislation authorizes funds for the following priorities:


  • Methods to effectively detect CWD in live cervids and the environment.
  • Testing methods for non-live cervids.
  • Genetic resistance to CWD.
  • Sustainable cervid harvest management practices to reduce CWD occurrence.
  • Factors contributing to local emergence of CWD.


  • Areas with the highest incidence of CWD.
  • Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying and researching chronic CWD.
  • Efforts to develop comprehensive CWD management policies and programs.
  • Areas showing the greatest risk of an initial occurrence of CWD.
  • Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD.

The CWD Research and Management Act is supported by the following organizations: the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Federation, Boone & Crockett, National Deer Association, North American Deer Farmers Association and the Mule Deer Foundation.

(Photo credit:  Arizona Game and Fish Department)

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RMEF Helps Ensure the Future of “Other Wildlife” Too


The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. It goes without saying that when a habitat enhancement project is completed to maintain or improve habitat for elk that such work also benefits many other species. RMEF also occasionally provides funding to assist sister conservation groups to support wildlife and hunting.

For example, RMEF recently joined more than two dozen other partners and private landowners in support of a National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) initiative to enhance wildlife habitat along rivers and streams, while improving the critical water resources provided by those areas.

“The fast-building momentum of this initiative is a result of our strong conservation partnerships and the all-encompassing work our Waterways for Wildlife seeks to accomplish. It was really easy to bring a diverse group of partners to the table for the common good,” said Jared McJunkin, NWTF director of conservation operations for the central region.

Riparian areas are natural ecosystems located along the banks of rivers, streams, creeks or any other water network. While riparian areas make up less than 1.5% of the entire landscape in the Great Plains, more than 70 percent of all Plains wildlife species depend upon these areas for water, food, cover, roosting, nesting and as travel and migration corridors.

Riparian areas are a natural magnet for wild turkeys and hundreds of other species of wildlife. These areas are also important for fish and other aquatic species, as they help control erosion and filter excess nutrients and chemicals from surface runoff that can adversely affect spawning and rearing areas. Riparian areas also serve to control flooding, improve water quality, provide for community and agricultural water supply demands while also recharging underground aquifers.

(Photo credit:  National Wild Turkey Federation)

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Pennsylvania Allocates Elk Licenses for 2022 Hunting Season


Below is a news release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted to issue 178 elk licenses (60 antlered, 118 antlerless) across three 2022-23 seasons. For the one-week general season to run Oct. 31-Nov. 5, 31 antlered and 70 antlerless tags have been allocated. In the archery season open only in select Elk Hunt Zones, to run from Sept. 10-24, 14 antlered and 15 antlerless licenses are available. And there are 15 antlered and 33 antlerless licenses available for the Dec. 31-Jan. 7 late season.

All elk licenses will be awarded by lottery, and hunters must apply separately for all seasons they wish to be eligible to hunt. Each application costs $11.97, meaning a hunter can enter all three drawings for $35.91. Individuals can be drawn for a maximum of one elk license per license year.

(Photo credit:  Charlie Cropp)

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Effort Thwarted to Ban California Bear Hunting


The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, its members and other sportsmen and conservation groups successfully defeated an effort to stop black bear hunting in California.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), well-known for its anti-hunting agenda, sought to end bear hunting despite abundant scientific data that shows California black bear populations are robust. RMEF submitted a petition with the signatures of 900 of its California members and also provided testimony opposing the HSUS effort.

“The best available data shows that California’s bear populations are at historically high levels,” the RMEF petition stated. “(HSUS) Petition 2021-027 attempts to assert that our black bear populations are at risk of extirpation from climate change, wildfires and drought, and that no additional hunter harvest should be allowed. The petitioners make numerous unsubstantiated claims and misrepresent population data. Their claims are contradicted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in its ‘Black Bear Take Report of 2020.’”

HSUS also claimed black bear hunting as unpopular among California residents based on a poll with carefully engineered questions designed to result in their chosen outcome. A more tangible measure is how the Senate sponsor of SB 252, which would have banned bear hunting statewide, withdrew the legislation due to sweeping public outcry. Participation in all hunting increased across the nation since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonresident bear tag sales in California increased by 36.6 percent from 2019 sales and resident bear tag sales increased by 9.4 percent.

Additionally, bear hunting is now more popular because TV shows such as “MeatEater,” featuring RMEF life member Steven Rinella, offered education about how good bear meat is to eat, offered many delicious recipes for bear meat and touted the benefits of rendering bear fat. An HSUS claim that bear hunting is just for a trophy is also unsubstantiated, as California law requires all hunters to bring out all meat from a harvested bear.

(Photo credit:  California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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