Washington's fifth gray wolf pack has been confirmed in northeast Stevens County.
That's according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists, who caught, marked with an ear tag and released a 2-month-old wolf pup from the pack.
Biologists have since been trying to capture one of the pack's breeding adult wolves to radio-collar it for monitoring. The effort to document the pack began after local ranchers reported observing three wolf pups and hearing howling in late June.
The pack is believed to include a breeding-age male and female and at least three pups. The group has been named the Smackout Pack, in reference to geographic features in the area.
The Lookout Pack, confirmed in Okanogan and Chelan counties in 2008, was Washington's first documented resident gray wolf pack since a breeding population of wolves was last in the state in the 1930s.
Two more packs have been documented in Pend Oreille County-the Diamond Pack was confirmed in 2009, and the Salmo Pack was confirmed in 2010.
Last month, the state's fourth documented pack-dubbed the Teanaway Pack- was confirmed in Kittitas County. DNA analysis of that pack's adult female wolf indicated she is likely a recent descendant of the Lookout Pack.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is protected throughout Washington as a state endangered species. In the western two-thirds of Washington, the species is also federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to harm or harass a federal- or state-protected endangered species.
Fish and wildlife officials have been working since 2007 to develop a wolf conservation and management plan in anticipation of wolves re-entering Washington from other states or Canada.
A final recommended plan-which was developed with a 17-member citizen group and included extensive public review and scientific peer review-will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in a special public meeting Aug. 4 in Olympia.
Additional public workshops on the proposed plan are scheduled later this summer and in the fall.
"Wolves are re-establishing on their own," said Nate Pamplin, who heads the state's wildlife program. "The confirmation of additional breeding wolf packs moves us closer to achieving a sustainable population, and also highlights the need to finalize a state wolf plan that sets recovery targets and management tools to address livestock and ungulate conflicts."
For more information on the draft plan and all Washington wolf packs, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/.
Wolf sightings or activity should be reported through the joint federal-state toll-free wolf reporting hotline at 1(888) 584-9038.