By Ann McCreary
Three gray wolves in the Loup Loup pack were captured by state wildlife biologists and fitted with GPS radio collars last week.
The wolves include the breeding female of the pack, a yearling female and an adult male, said Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
After learning of signs of recent wolf activity in the Loup Loup pack territory, WDFW wolf biologist Trent Roussin captured and collared the yearling female on May 17, the breeding female on May 18 and the male on May 19.
“He was able to go up and put a couple of traps out and catch one wolf every day for three days,” Martorello said.
The breeding female was lactating, indicating that she has given birth to pups, said Martorello.
Gray wolves give birth in April or May, and when pups are about eight weeks old the wolves move to a rendezvous site where they spend the rest of the summer, according to information from WDFW.
“Around denning periods and rendezvous periods it increases the odds” of being able to capture wolves in order to collar them, because they are staying close to dens and rendezvous sites, Martorello said.
He said wildlife officials avoid setting traps during certain times of the year because they don’t want to capture pups or trap wolves during the hottest part of summer when it could be dangerous to the wolves.
The presence of the Loup Loup pack — named for Loup Loup Pass that is part of the pack’s territory — was confirmed last November. State biologists estimate there are six wolves in the pack.
The Loup Loup pack is the second pack that has territory within the Methow Valley. The Lookout Pack is believed to have two or three members, but it’s not clear whether the pack has a reproducing female, said Scott Becker, WDFW wolf specialist.
Tracking the packs
State wildlife officials are working to capture and place radio collars on at least one wolf in every pack in order to monitor the pack’s activities and evaluate how well gray wolves are recovering in Washington.
An annual census of wolves completed at the end of 2015 estimated at least 90 wolves in 18 packs, with a total of eight successful breeding pairs.
Martorello said a probable wolf encounter that occurred April 26 in Mazama does not indicate a pack in that area.
WDFW investigated an incident reported by two people on horseback who said they were riding, accompanied by their 25-pound dog, on Jack’s Trail near Early Winters Campground when they saw what “appeared to be a gray wolf paralleling them from about 40 feet away,” according to a report on the WDFW website.
The animal was described as “large with a heavy winter coat, gray and white fur, rounded ears, yellow eyes, and a short, thick snout.”
The dog ran toward the wolf, which turned and started running away at a leisurely pace, according to WDFW. When the dog caught up with the wolf, the wolf tackled and pinned the dog.
The riders yelled and distracted the wolf enough to get the dog back. One of the riders fired a shot from a pistol over the wolf, which scared it away. The dog had a large puncture wound on a rear leg and was given antibiotics by a veterinarian.
WDFW biologists and wildlife officers investigated the scene and found “tracks and scat that could belong to a large canine,” but were unable to confirm it was a wolf, and classified it as a probable wolf incident.