Statement on incident involving USFS researcher and wolves

Statement on incident involving USFS researcher and wolves

ConservationNWAdmin / Jul 13, 2018 / Restoring Wildlife, Wolves

In response to a July 12, 2018 incident involving a researcher and several wolves in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Conservation Northwest issued the following statement:

Our hearts go out to the U.S. Forest Service field staffer who had an unnerving experience with wolves yesterday northwest of the town of Conconully near the Pasayten Wilderness Area in the territory of the Loup Loup Wolf Pack. The individual was safely extracted, uninjured, by helicopter from the location the incident occurred. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), she was likely unknowingly working in close proximity to the pack’s rendezvous area, a location where three to four month-old wolf pups are gathered and supervised after they leave the den.

While attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, wolves can be territorial around den and rendezvous sites in the interest of protecting pups. Barking is often a warning to stay away from pups or food sources. Thankfully nobody was harmed.

A wolf from north-central Washington’s Lookout Pack, photographed by David Moskowitz Wildlife Tracking and Photography. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Menacing wolf behavior does not necessarily constitute or lead to an attack, as is demonstrated by the extraordinary rarity of attacks on humans by wild wolves. People who might encounter wolves in the course of their work or recreation are well advised to keep dogs on a leash or under immediate control, not run when confronted by wolves (or bears, cougars, or any predator), and to have on-hand an air horn and/or bear spray. When properly deployed at close range either can often work effectively to disrupt threatening behavior.

Additional valuable information on wildlife deterrence is available in this recent article from The Spokesman Review, as well as in this video by reporter Rich Landers recounting a wolf encounter while hiking with his dog in north Idaho.

Biologists from the USFWS and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will continue to monitor GPS data for the two adult wolves from the Loup Loup Pack who are collared, and will hike into the site on July 13 to further investigate.

Gray wolves are currently listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington. The USFWS is the primary agency responsible for managing wolves in the federally listed area, and coordinates closely with WDFW to implement the state’s Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Yesterday’s event is stimulating further discussion about the sharing of data on wolf den locations, a topic which is already a matter of focus among stakeholders within the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group, of which we are member. We expect to have more information to report on that topic soon.