Federal wildlife managers confirm today that the canid struck and killed this past spring on I-90 west of Snoqualmie Pass was indeed a wolf — and also said that it had been shot at some point in the recent past.
The adult female was found along the westbound lanes of the interstate in eastern King County on April 27 near the Tinkham Campground exit, between mile posts 41 and 42.
Some folks had reported seeing a wolf in that area before it was roadkilled.
WDFW staffers recovered the carcass and turned it over to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which took it to a government forensics lab in Oregon where it underwent numerous tests to determine cause of death — blunt force trauma — and its true species, which was, indeed, a gray wolf.
Exams also “revealed evidence of a previous gunshot injury in a rear leg.”
A USFWS press release didn’t offer any more thoughts on that angle, but asked whether the evidence was a bullet lodged in the leg or bone or muscle damage, spokeswoman Ann Froschauer said that according to the official report, “there was evidence that the animal had been shot in the weeks prior to being struck by the vehicle, and was healing.”
She said no bullet was recovered.
Last fall the Teanaway breeding female was shot by a poacher. However, that pack wears the classic gray coat.
A black-coated Smackout Pack wolf was illegally killed in northern Stevens County, in February 2014.
Dark-colored wolves exist elsewhere in Eastern Washington, Northeast Oregon, and beyond.
USFWS noted that dispersing wolves often travel long distances, and that can raise the odds of getting hit by vehicles. This particular lupus was the fourth known to have been roadkilled in Washington since 2007.
It may or may not have been the same animal that was sighted in late April as far west as the town of Snoqualmie. If so, it might have actually been headed back east before getting hit.
Nonetheless, it was also hailed as the first on the Westside, though a pack has haunted the Hozomeen area of upper Ross Lake, in the Skagit Basin, for several years.
Wolves are still listed as a federally endangered species in the western two-thirds of Washington, and are state-listed as endangered everywhere.
While the eastern third of the state hosts at least 13 packs at last count — unofficially there’s 14 with the Huckleberries now divided into two groups — there are only three packs in the western two thirds, where a minimum of eight successful breeding pairs are currently needed to reach minimum state recovery goals.
“The number of confirmed wolves in this part of the state remains very low seven years after the first pack was confirmed in the Cascades. There’s a strong argument to be made that illegal wolf killing is at least partly to blame for their slow recovery in the Cascades, delaying progress towards state wolf recovery goals. Goals that wildlife conservationists and the majority of hunters are anxious to meet,” said Chase Gunnell, a spokesman for Conservation Northwest.