Researcher safe after wolf encounter
by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
July 17, 2018
A state fire crew retrieved a U.S. Forest Service salmon researcher in Okanogan
County yesterday after she climbed a tree to avoid a wolf that was displaying
behaviors that she considered threatening.
The incident response involved several state, federal, and local agencies, including
the state departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the
Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. A DNR fire crew extracted the researcher in a
helicopter dispatched through a multi-agency fire center in Colville, while WDFW
enforcement personnel were preparing to hike to the scene.
WDFW Acting Director Joe Stohr said the incident took place in a region of the
state in which wolf recovery and management actions are led by USFWS, because
gray wolves are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. USFWS is
leading a follow-up investigation into the incident and agencies’ response.
Stohr said it appears the researcher was close to a wolf denning site or rendezvous
area, and that it is common for wolves to bark, howl, and approach people or other
animals when protecting their pups. He said some initial reports stated incorrectly
that the researcher was in a developed campground. In fact, the site is several
miles from either a designated campground or maintained road.
"We are relieved that the researcher was brought out of the area safely," Stohr
said. "We’re still working to confirm details of the incident, but the most important
element is that she was unharmed."
Stohr said when WDFW staff in the area learned of the situation, they quickly
assessed various response options and supported the decision by USFWS that the
helicopter operation was appropriate.
WDFW wildlife managers in April identified the area where the encounter took
place as a likely denning site for the Loup Loup pack, which includes at least one
adult female and one adult male. The department notified USFS officials in the
region at that time.
Here is information shared on Friday, July 13, by USFWS:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased at the successful rescue of the
individual, and commends the quick action of our partners in their rescue efforts.
On July 12, 2018, a seasonal U.S. Forest Service employee completing research
surveys in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest encountered two adult gray
wolves from the federally listed endangered Loup Loup pack.
The individual was safely extracted, uninjured, by helicopter from the location the
Prior to the incident, the individual observed wolf tracks and heard yipping and
barking for a period of time before the wolves approached.
After unsuccessful attempts to scare the wolves away (including yelling, waving
and deploying a can of bear spray in the direction of the wolves) the individual
climbed a tree and used a radio to call for assistance.
A Loup Loup pack den site is in the vicinity of the site where the incident occurred,
and GPS collar data from the early morning of July 12 shows at least one adult wolf
from the Loup Loup pack in close proximity to the area where the incident
US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife (WDFW) biologists believe the location is a "rendezvous" site, and the
wolves were likely acting in a defensive manner to protect offspring or food
sources. Rendezvous sites are home or activity sites where weaned pups are
brought from the den until they are old enough to join adult wolves in hunting
USFWS and WDFW biologists will continue to monitor the GPS collar data for the
two adult wolves and will hike into the site on July 13 to further investigate.
Gray wolves are currently listed as endangered under the federal Endangered
Species Act in the western 2/3 of Washington. The USFWS is the primary agency
responsible for managing wolves in the federally listed area, and coordinates
closely with WDFW to implement the state’s Gray Wolf Conservation and
Wolf Watch - by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!