NATIVE TO THE Olympic Mountain range — how else would there be a Grey Wolf River or the Sequim Wolves sports teams — wolves are showing an ability to range further than many previously thought.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has produced new maps that show the state’s grey wolf population has moved further west than officials previously thought — although it appears no wolves have reached the I-5 corridor or made any other moves in the direction of the North Olympic Peninsula.
Data is taken from GPS collars Fish and Wildlife has strapped to various breeding males and females and other pack members around the state since 2008.
More wolves haven’t been collared than have, so it wouldn’t be correct to completely rule out the possibility of wolves venturing deeper into Western Washington.
The maps represent “the most complete dataset currently available of wolf telemetry in Washington State,” according to Fish and Wildlife, although GPS data is unavailable for the Colville and Spokane Indian reservations in the heart of wolf territory in Northeast Washington.
Donny Martorello, Fish and Wildlife’s wolf policy adviser, presented the new information at a meeting of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission earlier this month and that presentation can be accessed at tinyurl.com/PDN-WolfInfo.
They show Loup Loup pack wolves, named for the Eastern Washington mountain pass on state Highway 20, moving further north through state and federal land to the Okanogan and Chewuch valleys.
The map also shows the Marblemount wolf, a wolf captured and collared in Western Washington last spring near North Cascades National Park, seemingly enjoys the scenery and hasn’t made much, if any, of a journey since.
One animal really made a trek, leaving Washington north of Spokane, following I-90 as it moves east into western Montana, then heading southwest over Lolo Pass to the Clearwater River. The wolf continued its travels into southern Idaho, making its way near Boise, before crossing all the way to Yellowstone National Park and heading to the middle of Wyoming.
I hope the animal found whatever it was looking for.
Citizen-submitted wolf sightings, some with commentary on just what was seen, are available at tinyurl.com/PDN-WolfSightings.
North Olympic Peninsula sightings are few and far between — but there have been some.
In October, a report was made of a wolf on the Shi-Shi Beach Trail.
“One lone adolescent grey wolf observed directly on the Shi Shi Beach Trail from approximately 5 to 10 yards. Gray with white outer fur layer. It spooked into the brush, but remained clearly visible up close for several minutes.”
Many of these “sightings” are large paw prints found in sand on area beaches, like one in 2016 at Adelma Beach near Port Townsend, and another series of prints along the Dungeness River near the Olympic Game Farm.
The only area with multiple sightings, two in total, comes along state Highway 104 between Hood Canal Bridge and the Center Road exit. One of the reports in 2012 was based off of a paw print. Another from last August, describes a witnessed animal as “Large. Dark brown-black. White markings.”
Off the Peninsula, many sightings come from the Seattle-Everett-Tacoma metroplex, some found walking through parking lots at apartment complexes, one in the brush behind the Lake Stevens Target store and one that was “cornered in my driveway on my way to work this morning.”
I tend to think these are all signs of coyotes or cougars but after seeing the winding path that lone wolf took through Washington, Idaho, Montana and back through Idaho to Wyoming, I can’t be sure.
Be careful out there, the wolves may be closing in.