Was the apparent wolf roadkilled on I-90 in late April actually headed EAST after visiting the middle Snoqualmie Valley?
We’ll never know for sure, but a trail cam image of a canid wearing a black coat with a time stamp from the morning of April 23 and purportedly taken north of the town of Snoqualmie has turned up.
That’s a straight-line distance of about 10 miles northwest from where the 2-year-old black-coated female was struck by a vehicle about 10 miles west of Snoqualmie Pass and recovered by WDFW for USFWS on April 27.
Samples of the roadkill have been sent to a lab for DNA analysis to determine if it was a wild wolf or a hybrid.
Yesterday, spokesmen for both state and federal agencies were noncommittal about the image.
“We are unable to verify an animal based on a photo or report,” said USFWS’s Brent Lawrence. “Confirmation of a wolf or any species involves documenting field evidence. At this point, we don’t have any verified information on the origin of this photo or its authenticity. We would welcome more information on the location of the trail camera so additional field work can be performed.”
Turns out, it was originally posted May 9 to the Snoqualmie Cattle Company’s Facebook page, which explained:
“This photo was taken less than one mile from the City Limits of Snoqualmie, Wa. The purpose of posting this picture was to make our community aware that a new predator is (officially) here. People with animals should take the appropriate precautions. Prior to the I-90 roadkill of a female wolf [4/27/15] our WDFW had not officially recoginzed the existence of WOLVES in Western Washington!”
It is likely the same animal that was reported on WDFW’s wolf observation map.
Donny Martorello, the state carnivore manager, acknowledged that the animal in the image looks like a wolf to him, but added that it could also be a hybrid.
The only way to know for sure is physical evidence.
That’s a high threshold and one that can frustrate local residents, ranchers, hunters and wolf reporters alike. WDFW’s new director Jim Unsworth, who comes over from Idaho, earlier this year told the Capitol Press, “I learned in Idaho that if someone said they say they saw a wolf, there’s a good chance they saw a wolf.”
That said, the corollary is that wolf reports beget more wolf reports.
Wandering wolves, like OR7 before it settled down, might leave a trail of sightings that leaves managers “chasing a ghost” and wasting money and resources.
But when sightings, tracks, howls, kills, news articles, etc., start to cluster, that tells them something might be up, and so trappers and wolf techs are dispatched to the area. The cattle company’s Facebook post may help focus effort there.
Meanwhile, Conservation Northwest tweeted, “Based on the wolf’s unique coloring and the date and location this photo was taken, it’s highly likely this wolf is the same one that was killed on Interstate 90 near North Bend.”
Whether it is or not, Martorello as well as WDFW’s wolf policy lead Dave Ware have expressed growing certainty that wolves are filtering into Western Washington.
“I’m fairly confident there are dispersers bouncing around,” Martorello said yesterday afternoon.
File your observations here to help the state reach its wolf management plan recovery goals.
IN OTHER WASHINGTON WOLF NEWS, state wolf managers report:
* Probable adult wolf track in the Chiliwist GMU of south-central Okanogan County recorded by state wildlife biologist;
* Citizen reports of two wolves north of Brewster;
* Trail cams deployed in the West Fork Methow River drainage to follow up on several reports, including one last winter;
* Smackout Pack female wolf captured and GPS collared on May 5;
* Various monitoring and rancher outreach work in Northeast and Southeast Washington.
* Undetermined calf death reported in Columbia County.
For more, see WDFW’s April 27 weekly Wildlife Program report.