Feasibility of wolf reintroduction to Olympic Peninsula, Washington

John T. Ratti, Mike Weinstein, J. Michael Scott, Patryce Avsharlan Wiseman, Anne Marie Gillesberg, Craig A. Miller, Michele M. Szepanski, Leona K. Svancara

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

During 1991, Booth Gardner (Governor of Washington at that time) called upon Washington State residents to pressure relevant agencies to work toward wolf reintroduction to the Olympic Peninsula. Six years later, Representative Norm Dicks, Washington, and Defenders of Wildlife President, Roger Schlickeisen, announced plans for a feasibility study. During February 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) distributed a request for proposals for the study, and a cooperative agreement for the study was established between the USFWS, the Idaho Cooperative Research Unit, and the University of Idaho in April 1998. We identified and examined factors that influence feasibility of reintroducing wolves to the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. From review of the literature and interviews with interested parties we identified the following relevant factors: (1) current and historical status, (2) cultural and spiritual considerations, (3) habitat suitability, (4) demography and distribution of potential prey, (5) adequacy of habitat and prey for supporting a viable population, (6) future projections for an established population of wolves, (7) socio-economic factors, and (8) data limitations and needs as relevant factors. Our analysis was constrained from a lack of relevant data regarding prey populations for much of the region. Almost all lands outside of Olympic National Park had road densities considered too restrictive for long-term occupation by wolves, thus we restricted analyses mostly to Park lands. Based on previously published models, we predicted a wolf population of 56 animals causing little to moderate negative impact on ungulate populations, and minimal livestock depredation. We also predicted little domestic animal interaction, minimal disease concerns, and a negligible risk of direct aggression toward humans. Although we concluded that reintroduction of wolves to the Park is feasible for establishment of a marginally viable population, we cautioned that such action may not be prudent. That is, we predicted substantial negative political, social, and financial consequences. Key concerns included potential loss of some isolated and culturally important elk herds, negative reactions to wolves expressed by local residents and sportspersons, concerns regarding livestock and pet depredation, and long-term funding of an appropriate wolf-management program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-76
Number of pages76
JournalNorthwest Science
Volume78
Issue numberSPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Apr 26 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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