FINAL UPDATE 11:48 A.M., JULY 13, 2018: This link is the latest information on what happened during the incident.
A research student had to be rescued north of Winthrop today after she was surrounded by wolves at their rendezvous site and near their den.
The woman who was surveying in the West Fork Twentymile Creek area of northcentral Okanogan County, near Tiffany Springs and in the range of the Loop Loop Pack, called authorities around 12:30 p.m. that she had clambered 30 feet up a tree after encountering the wolves, it was reported by KREM 2 in Spokane and the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune based on a press release from Sheriff Frank Rogers.
The Seattle Times reported that she had initially encountered one and tried to pepper spray it before another arrived and she retreated up the tree.
Okanogan County deputies were initially given the go-ahead to shoot the animals on sight if they were still there when they arrived, according to the release.
Rogers told the Times that that would have been a two-hour hike for his officers.
DNR volunteered a helicopter that could get to the scene in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in less than a quarter hour and the crew was able to rescue her.
The wolves were still in the area upon the aircraft’s arrival, but scattered when it landed, according to reports.
At the end of 2017, there were at least two wolves in the Loup Loup Pack. If they were able to breed and have a litter this spring, there could be several growing pups.
It is not the first unnerving encounter between humans and wolves in Okanogan County. A lone hunter scouting for deer west of Winthrop was followed by two wolves in September 2011, and in September 2013 a hunter in the Pasayten Wilderness shot and killed a wolf after feeling threatened by it.
As the incident occurred in the still federally listed portion of Washington, USFWS is the lead agency. Late Thursday night, a WDFW official said the Service is developing a statement.
This week marks the 10-year anniversary of when it first became general public knowledge that there was a pack of wolves in Okanogan County, the state’s first since the 1930s. There are now nearly two dozen packs and a minimum of 122 wolves, nearly all east of the Cascade crest.