The Feds and WDFW have been zipperlipped about last week’s wolf shooting in western Okanogan County, but a report posted today sheds a little bit more light on the incident.
The state agency’s Sept. 16-22 weekly Wildlife Program newsletter confirms that it involved a hunter, in all likelihood one participating in the popular High Buck early rifle/muzzleloader season, held in the Pasayten Wilderness from September 15th through the 25th.
A post on a local hunting forum indicates that two WDFW trucks were parked “all day” Saturday at Harts Pass, which is on the southwestern side of the well-trailed 530,000-acre wilderness hard up against the Canadian border, and the WDFW report confirms the presence of four state employees, including three fish and wildlife officers and a wildlife biologist, and the local Forest Service biologist in the vicinity.
The report also reconfirms what we previously reported from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, that the dead wolf is an uncollared adult female of unknown pack affiliation.
The circumstances seem to point towards the hunter self-reporting the shooting, which would have been the right thing to do.
WDFW’s report leaves unclear whether the hunter was alone, whether the incident was witnessed, if the individual was on foot or horse.
Nor does it characterize the circumstances leading up to the shooting in any way.
That’s because the incident is under active investigation by USFWS, which is involved because it occurred in the part of Washington where wolves are still federally listed as endangered, a status that the Service proposed changing earlier this year. (Comment has been extended through Oct. 28; wolf advocates today called for more public meetings on the West Coast.) Federal agents are likely working to match the hunter’s statements with evidence at the scene.
Here’s what WDFW’s report says in full:
Pasayten Wolf Mortality: Biologist Fitkin and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Biologist Rohrer assisted Officers Christensen, McCormick and Treser with an investigation of a wolf killed by a hunter in the Pasayten Wilderness. The animal appeared to be a young, uncollared adult female in good condition. We have not previously verified wolf activity in this portion of the wilderness area and don’t know if the animal is part of an active pack or a solo wanderer. The circumstances of the animal’s death remain under investigation.
This part of Okanogan County is well to the northwest of where the Lookout Pack roams, near Twisp, and perhaps half to two-thirds of the way to Hozomeen on Ross Lake where wolves are known to be, at least in wintertime.
A previous WDFW weekly report noted the presence of what might have been a wolf in the Robinson Creek drainage, to the east of Harts Pass, earlier this summer. A hiker snapped an image of an animal the agency could only say appeared to be “a wild canid” as it was photographed from a distance and moving through brush.
Elsewhere in the the Sept. 16-22 report is a follow-up on a deer kill near Twisp:
Deer Kill: Biologists Fitkin and Heilhecker assisted Officer Treser with a response to an individual that reported a deer killed in his yard by an unknown predator, possibly a wolf. On-site investigation indicated the deer was likely killed by some kind of canid, rather than by a bear or cougar. We did not have enough evidence to determine what species (dog, coyote, or wolf) was responsible, although a domestic dog of unknown ownership showed up and went directly to the kill site while we were investigating. We moved the carcass away from the house and staked it out with cameras, so hopefully we will get more information.
And these reports from Northeast and Southeast Washington, respectively:
District 1: Specialist Shepherd retrieved remote cameras near the site of an alleged large canine attack on a thoroughbred colt near Sherman Pass that he, Officer Anderson and Sheriff Allen responded to two weeks ago. The determination was injuries occurred from an unknown cause. Only coyotes, deer, and horses were detected.
Specialist Shepherd discussed payments for range riding with Olympia staff. Specialist Shepherd discussed range riding, wolf observations, and carcass removal with Commissioner Kehne. Specialist Shepherd discussed wolf issues with a Wedge rancher and his family for several hours.
Specialist Shepherd and Assistant District Biologist Prince deployed remote cameras on Hope Mountain in the Wedge. Bendixen worked with Shepherd on several Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreement-Livestock (DPCAL) contract renewals.
District 3: Conflict Specialist Rasley talked with some elk hunters that were camped on the Saw tooth trail head. They said the hunting was very good, but during the night they could hear wolves howling in the head of the North Fork of the Wenaha. They also said it sounded like at least four wolves.
The North Fork Wenaha is in the west end of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. Across the border in Oregon are the ranges of two known packs, Walla Walla and Wenaha, but for whatever reason, no packs have taken up a range on the Washington side of the Blues.
“We’ve actually been surprised it hasn’t happened yet,” Mark Vecasy, the WDFW assistant wildlife biologist, told me about a week ago.
He said that his trail cameras hadn’t picked up any pictures of wolves this year.
As we head into the meat of fall’s seasons, hunters, file those wolf observations here.