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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Tucannon collared wolf dies; Methow incident reported

Washington wolf packs and their territories, updated in March 2016. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Washington wolf packs and their territories, updated in March 2016. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

ENDANGERED SPECIES -- A breeding female wolf has died five days after being trapped and fitted with a GPS collar so wildlife managers could follow the livestock-attacking Tucannon Pack. The death in southeastern Washington is likely related to the capture and release, and the female likely had pups, state Fish and Wildlife officials say.

In other wolf news, an off-leash dog with a pair of horseback riders in the Methow Valley ran after a wolf the couple encountered last month only to have the wolf counter attack and bite the dog.

Following are details on both incidents from Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf program leader.

Recently I reported that we had captured a female wolf in Tucannon pack.  Unfortunately, the wolf (058f), captured on May 1, was found dead five days later by WDFW personnel.  WSU veterinarians performed a necropsy, but we have not yet received detailed results. Indications are that she died from an infection caused at the time of capture.  
This is an unfortunate incident, but the risks of capture related mortalities are a reality in wildlife management. WDFW personnel used the same protocols designed to ensure the safe capture, handling, and recovery of the animal that we have used in 74 previous, successful captures.  However, we will review those protocols to determine if we can make improvements to minimize the potential for this to happen in the future.
Because this wolf was the pack’s breeding female, we are concerned about the fate of the pack’s pups and are attempting to maximize the likelihood of their survival. 
We considered sending biologists to last year’s den site to investigate the fate of the pups and assess our options.  However, it is unlikely the pack was using last year’s den, because the capture took place about 20 miles away, and the location of this years’ den site is unknown. 
We believe the pups are about 5 to 6 weeks old, the age when pups often are weaned.  Experience from elsewhere indicates that when a reproductive female dies shortly after giving birth, other pack members provide for the pups.  Given these circumstances, we believe minimizing human disturbance near the pack is the best way to increase the likelihood of pup survival, so we are not attempting to locate the den and assess the fate of the pups at this time.   WDFW personnel will continue to monitor the pack and will be able to determine its status through normal monitoring efforts.    
In late April, a couple on horseback near Mazama, accompanied by their off-leash dog, encountered what they and our staff suspects was a wolf. The couple were trail-riding when they spotted an animal in the woods. Their 25-pound mixed breed dog chased the suspected wolf, which turned and bit the dog on the left hindquarters. One of the dog’s owners fired a handgun into the air, which startled the wolf and allowed the dog to run to safety. A local veterinarian later examined the dog and noted bruising and a puncture wound on the left hip. The vet administered antibiotics and other medication, but the dog did not need stitches.
Afterward, a WDFW conflict specialist and enforcement officers, with a deputy from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, investigated the incident. They found no blood or signs of a struggle, but found a possible wolf track about three-tenths of a mile south of the site of the incident. Based on the witness reports and that evidence, we classified this as a probable wolf incident.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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