Washington wildlife managers do not routinely share wolf-collar data with the U.S. Forest Service, but did alert the agency to the location of a den near where a seasonal employee was forced up a tree Thursday in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife,
The employee, whose name has not been released, was from a Utah-based unit and doing a stream survey. She didn’t check in with the ranger district before going to a remote area in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, forest spokeswoman Debbbie Kelly said Tuesday.
Kelly said she didn’t know whether the woman could have learned about the den’s whereabouts if she had checked in. The district would not have had the latest GPS data from collared wolves, she said.
“We didn’t have that information to share, that specificity,” Kelly said. “To the best of my knowledge, no, she did not know” about the den.
The confrontation Thursday between the woman and two collared wolves in the Loup Loup pack took place .6 miles from the pack’s den. State Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists visited the scene Friday and determined the pack was using it as a rendezvous site.
Washington’s wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said the department had told the Forest Service about the den’s location. The department generally withholds collar data between June 1 and July 15 to protect pups in dens.
There are more wolves in the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington than in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Colville spokesman Franklin Pemberton said forest managers sought access to the collar data several years ago, but were denied.
“We don’t have that data,” he said. “We just let it lie.”
Arron Scotten, a rancher and range-rider in Ferry County, said Thursday’s incident illustrates the risks of not knowing the latest information on wolf activities.
“I firmly believe the black-out period didn’t just create a hardship in doing the job (of protecting cattle), it created a safety problem for the range-riders and producers moving their cattle,” he said.
Kelly said the employee has asked to remain unidentified.
The Forest Service is working on a plan to raise awareness about wolves in the forest, Kelly said. “This is highlighting a need to improve that communication and coordination,” she said.
The woman was rescued by a state Department of Natural Resources helicopter crew. Reaching her by ground would have taken more than two hours, officials said.