Rich Landers has a good column today in the Spokane Spokesman-Review describing a standoff between a Forest Service worker, his dog and a pair of wolves southeast of Republic last week.
It’s the latest of a trio of articles over the last year illustrating the changing dynamics in Washington’s woods.
Dogs and wolves do not get along whatsoever, and Colville’s Jim Groth discovered that up close and personal.
He and Ollie, a wolf-sized retriever-Lab, were surveying in the Hall Ponds area between Sherman Pass and the Colville Indian Reservation, when …
“The dog had wandered down below me a ways and I heard some scuffling,” he said. “I saw something black and I figured it was a bear, so I started down through the thick deadfall. It wasn’t a pleasant place.
“Then I thought, ‘I’ve never seen a bear move back and forth that fast.’
“I was yelling, and the dog started coming up toward me. I could see a little blood on his neck. He kept looking back. Then I could see, following very closely, was a big, black wolf.
“The wolf had a little taste of my dog and I think it wanted to finish him off.”
Groth grabbed Ollie by the collar and leashed him as he yelled at the wolf.
“I’m from Minnesota and I’m no stranger to wolves,” he said. “But they’ve always been shy in my experience. This one was not. It just kept coming to within 25 feet of me. Then I noticed another, smaller grayish-colored wolf behind it.”
Groth said he yelled and lunged toward the wolves, trying to look big and tough.
“The big wolf stood his ground woofing for a minute or so before it turned and walked away, but both wolves still hung around as I tried to get out of there,” he said.
Groth says he’ll now be carrying on his person that can of bear spray that otherwise sits in his rig.
His color description of the two wolves fits a bowhunter’s he talked to that day, but is not an exact match with two collared members of Nc’icn Pack to the south which are gray though another appears to be dark. There’s a suspected pack to the north, the Boulder Creeks, but it’s unclear what coat phase those wear. Private trail cameras have been hung in the general area in search of wolves.
Groth’s experience comes almost exactly a year after a Winthrop woman scouting high in the hills between the Twisp River and Lake Chelan came in close contact with the Lookout Pack, probably guarding a recent kill.
Her encounter was written up several places, including here, and afterwards we talked to a retired federal wolf expert about it.
Carter Niemeyer told us it would have been wise of the woman to have fired a shot in their direction.
“No harm in teaching wolves to be wild and preventing any possible habituation behavior from developing,” he said.
Another Washington wolf-hunter encounter, this one in November in the Teanaway area, was written about by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Then there are the incidents earlier this month and last September involving very close encounters between bowhunters out during the elk rut and using calls that pulled in a wolf or wolves.
In all cases the wolves exhibited alarming behavior — advancing on humans.
Some worry that it’s just a matter of time before wolves move from biting dogs to humans. The odds of that are extremely low. Wolves are curious, and those that haven’t figured out to fear humans will stop and observe our behavior.
The most dangerous things out in our woods will always be black bears and cougars.
But the bottom line is, as times change, whether you hate, tolerate or like Canis lupus, Northwest sportsmen will have to be increasingly aware of wolf ranges as we ourselves range afield with our two- and four-legged hunting/fishing/berry- and mushroom-picking partners through the seasons, and be prepared accordingly.