ENDANGERED SPECIES — A gray wolf — this one black with a tiny bit of white on its chest — was captured in Pend Oreille County Monday morning by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department technicians so the animal could be fitted with a GPS collar and released.
Is the 68-pound yearling female still attached to an existing pack or is it a member of a suspected but unconfirmed new group that would be labeled the Ruby Creek pack?
No one knows. Time will tell.
I've been in contact with Wildlife Department personnel since mid May regarding wolf captures and just happened to be along for one of the few successful captures of the year involving trapping.
While there's more to come, Northwest sportsman editor Andy Walgamott has the initial details right about Monday's event in this just-posted blog report:
At least the 11th so far this year that’s been collared and released by state and tribal biologists, the 68-pound yearling female was caught in an area between the known Smackout Pack territory and a suspected pack in the Ruby Creek drainage.
“Only time will tell if it’s a Smackout or lead us to a new pack,” said Madonna Luers, a WDFW spokeswoman in Spokane.
A photo by Rich Landers of The Spokesman-Review, who was in on the capture with Scott Becker and broke the news, shows that it wears a black coat.
That could link it to the Smackouts of western Pend Oreille County and central Stevens County, or it could be a disperser. One of last year’s Huckleberry Pack of southern Stevens County was black.
GPS data should show its wanderings and pack affiliations.
WDFW previously reported 10 other wolves had been caught, collared and released between February and mid-June of this year — two in Diamond, also in Pend Oreille County, three in Smackout, three in Huckleberry, and three in Teanaway of Kittitas County.
One of the Teanaways, a 47-pound female, subsequently died. We’re still awaiting word from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on cause of death; the state preliminarily put it down as a mountain lion kill.