Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Genetic testing has confirmed that a lone animal roaming in eastern Skagit County is Western Washington’s first known gray wolf in decades, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The USFWS laboratory in Ashland, Ore., verified the animal wasn’t a hybrid, but was unable to link the wolf to the DNA taken from other wolves, USFWS spokeswoman Ann Froschauer said Monday.
“We have no specifics on the where the animal came from,” she said.
A wolf west of the Cascades may be a milestone in meeting Washington’s goal of having wolves widely dispersed. Wolves have recolonized northeast Washington, but will remain a state-protected species until they are established in the North and South Cascades, too.
The male wolf was photographed in May by a man who reported the animal was attacking his chickens. Three weeks later, federal and state biologists captured the wolf and fitted him with a GPS collar to transmit his location.
Froschauer said the wolf has remained in Western Washington. The wolf has been roaming north and west of Marblemount, a small community about 50 miles east of Mount Vernon and Interstate 5.
So far, wildlife managers have not seen a mate, or received any new reports from residents, she said.
Wolves are federally protected in Western and Central Washington. They are not a federally protected species in Eastern Washington.
According to a 2011 report by the state wildlife department, the last confirmed report of a wolf in Skagit County was 1927. Wolf tracks were seen in Clallam County in Western Washington in 1946, according to the report.
In 2015, a female wolf was hit and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 90 within 30 miles of Seattle.
Wolves have been moving into Washington over the past decade. Most of the wolves are in northeast Washington near Idaho. Wildlife managers say they expect wolves to continue spreading west.