Wolf in east Skagit County

Marvin Kempf, who lives near Marblemount, submitted this May 17 photo to state and federal Fish & Wildlife agencies that later caught and collared an animal they believe is an adult male gray wolf.

A wolf fitted with a tracking collar near Marblemount in early June has remained in the area.

Wildlife managers say the collar, which is equipped with GPS technology, shows the wolf has stayed in east Skagit County, yet there is no video of the animal on wildlife cameras placed in the area.

State and federal Fish & Wildlife agencies also have received no reports of incidents involving the animal in the months since it was collared.

Because the wolf has not been seen, it remains unknown whether it is alone or is part of a pack, state Department of Fish & Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett said.

The state and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service believe the animal is a gray wolf, but are waiting on DNA results for confirmation.

Gray wolves are federally protected as an endangered species in Western Washington and are protected statewide under state law. It is the only wolf species found in the wild in the state.

The collared wolf is the first live wolf found west of the North Cascades. It was located after chickens were reportedly killed by the animal.

If confirmed to be a gray wolf, Bartlett said it could mark the start of the species’ recovery in western areas of the state.

The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan — developed in 2011 to outline goals for recovery of the species — requires a set number of breeding pairs in various regions of the state in order for the species to be considered recovered.

The management plan calls for at least four breeding pairs in the northwest region of the state, which includes Skagit and eight surrounding counties, and at least four breeding pairs in southwest region of the state.

According to state Fish & Wildlife, there are 20 confirmed wolf packs in the state, but none are known west of the North Cascades.

The nonprofit Conservation Northwest is excited about the prospect of wolves moving into Western Washington.

“We’re excited to learn of a potential wolf pack in Skagit County ... Wolves are inspiring and iconic animals native to the Pacific Northwest. They belong here, and we’re glad to see them back,” Conservation Northwest Communications Director Chase Gunnell said.

The organization is prepared to help balance wolf recovery with the protection of livestock — something it has been involved in for years in Eastern Washington.

“Through our Range Rider Project and other efforts, we’ve been working on the ground in Eastern Washington for nearly a decade helping provide tools for local ranchers, farmers and other residents to adapt to having wolves back on the landscape,” Gunnell said.

Those involved in the project supervise livestock as needed during grazing seasons in an effort to deter predators from attacking, as well as keep an eye out for predators.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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