The Spokane Tribe is mum about the killing of a wolf on their Northeast Washington reservation sometime in early fall.
The animal, a young male of the Huckleberry Pack, was one of two trapped and collared around this past Memorial Day by tribal biologists.
Its death was first noted in early October by state Department of Fish & Wildlife wolf managers during a briefing on the agency’s summer management activities (see page 17 of item 7 here). It is one of four that are known to have been killed in the state this year.
WDFW referred questions to the tribe; multiple emails and phone calls last week to wildlife managers in Wellpinit were unreturned.
The Spokane Reservation is in that part of Washington where wolves have been federally delisted, and like the Colville Tribes to the west, the Spokanes are a sovereign nation and have final say on wildlife management on their lands.
With the Columbia’s salmon runs cut off by Grand Coulee Dam, tribes in this corner of the state put a premium on big game. Elk and moose herds in the region have been growing, and the whitetail herd, hit by hard winters in the late 2000s, sprang back last year when the state harvest grew after five straight years of decline.
The Spokanes have been working on a management plan for the species, and it’s possible that the wolf is the first in Washington to have been legally hunted. However, while the Colvilles’ 2013-14 hunting regulations for members specifically contain rules for taking a wolf, the Spokane’s online regs make no mention of a wolf hunt.
A wolf was also killed on the reservation last December “incidentally” by a tribal member trapping for other predators.
Unlike their state or federal counterparts, wildlife managers for tribes across Washington tend to be kept quiet by tribal leaders who fear being voted out of office and/or want to run under the radar with their nation’s management of hot-button species. Even wildlife success stories, like the Yakama’s reintroduction of pronghorn, aren’t told unless council members, if not a nation’s chairman, give tribal biologists permission to speak.
Collars on wolves help determine how much territory a pack covers, track them down during the annual year-end count, and can help managers figure out the proximity of any animals to depredations.
A photo of the dead wolf was posted on Hunting Washington. While someone there suspects it was “one out of many” released by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in all likelihood it’s one of several pups seen on trail camera video taken in June 2012.