OUTPACK – Gray wolves appear to be checking out territory west of the Cascades in eastern Skagit County, according to photos, tracks and other signs, federal officials say.
If observations prove to be true, a pack in Western Washington would be a leap toward delisting wolves from state and federal endangered species protections.
Currently, wolves are flourishing in northeastern Washington. But packs must be established in two other zones of the state before delisting can be considered.
Photos of wolves taken by a Skagit County resident near Marblemount were published on Tuesday by KING-5 TV.
“It’s too early to confirm whether a pack is present there, but we have confirmed what we believe to be wolf activity in the area,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Carnivore Lead Gregg Kurz. The federal agency has jurisdiction over gray wolves in the western third of Washington where they continue to be listed as endangered.
Wolves in the eastern two-thirds of the state are delisted from federal protections but will remain protected by state endangered species laws until they meet certain wolf recovery plan criteria.
The nearest documented packs are at least 100 miles away – the Teanaway Wolf Pack near Cle Elum and the Lookout Pack in the Methow Valley. Last year, some of the Teanaway wolves moved north, KING-5 reported. This wolf could be related to them – what wildlife experts call a “dispersing animal.”
A similar looking black colored wolf was killed on I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass two years ago.
In October 2014, an adult breeding female wolf belonging to the Teanaway Pack was illegally shot and killed as it roamed into Western Washington near Salmon la Sac. The unsolved case was considered a setback to wolf expansion and delisting.
Federal and state biologists are monitoring the Skagit County area with staff and remote cameras in an attempt to determine whether the wolves are established in the area or just visiting. If they can capture the wolf, they’ll attach a GPS collar and release it to monitor its movements.
Wolves are being allowed to naturally recolonize Washington as they disperse from resident Washington packs along with moving in from Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia.
Clinics, programs, music presented free by REI
OUTDO – A week full of free outdoors-related classes and presentations is on tap through REI this week, and with all that’s going on even the Camp Cooking Basics for Backpackers class set to start at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday may not be full.
Other programs to check out and sign-up for include:
Women’s Yoga for Outdoor Fitness & Open Climb, Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Spokane REI store.
Bikes & Brews: Spandex Fits All, Tuesday on 7 p.m., a program on road riding at River City Brewing.
Justin Sherfey & Rye River Bluegrass, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., kicks off the summer “Wednesday In the Woods” program series with a free concert and ice cream courtesy of the Riverside State Park Foundation.
Find Your Park: Yellowstone National Park, Thursday at 6 p.m. at REI.
All of the programs are free but require advance signup at rei.com. After the kickoff concert, Wednesdays in the Woods presentations through August will range from hiking with dogs or kids to gourmet camp cooking, women in the wilderness and special sessions on birds and critters.