Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Western Washington’s only known wild gray wolf has remained in Eastern Skagit County this summer, but wildlife managers still haven’t learned whether he’s a lone wolf or has a companion, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said Tuesday.
“We don’t think we can make that call until somebody sees another wolf or we get something on film,” the spokeswoman, Ann Froschauer. said. “Right now, it’s just doing its thing.”
The male wolf was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar June 8 by USFW and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The wolf was the first one captured west of the Cascades in Washington in decades.
Wildlife managers said that if the wolf stays in the area, it could suggest he’s found a mate and formed a pack, a milestone in the state’s goal to have wolves recolonize the Cascades.
The collar transmits the wolf’s location once a day. On some days, barriers such as tree canopies or rock overhangs apparently block the signal. “It’s been kind of off and on,” Froschauer said.
The wolf has been roaming in wilderness north and west of Marbelmount, a small community about 50 miles east of Mount Vernon and Interstate 5. “It’s been sticking around in that general area,” Froschauer said.
Wildlife managers, however, don’t have proof the wolf has stayed because he has company. Trail cameras have not photographed the wolf, nor a companion. No one has reported seeing the wolf since it was fitted with a collar, Froschauer said.
The wolf came to the attention of wildlife managers May 17. A resident reported one or more wolves were attacking chickens and took a photo of the wolf. Three weeks later, wildlife managers trapped the animal.
Wolves began pushing from Idaho into Washington about a decade ago. The state has 20 wolfpacks, but none west of the Cascades.
Wildlife managers hope to learn more about the wolf’s origins by analyzing his genetics. The analysis may take another month, Froschauer said.
Wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington are a federally protected species and managed by USFW. Nevertheless, how the state manages wolves in the eastern one-third of Washington depends on wolves returning to the North and South Cascades.
Until that happens, wolves will remain a state-protected species, even though recovery goals have been exceeded in northeast Washington, where wolves have been attacking livestock for several years.
WDFW officials say it’s a matter of time before move wolves advance west into the Cascades. In 2015, a female wolf was hit and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 90 within 30 miles of Seattle.