NEAR CLE ELUM, Wash. -- Shortly before the lightning and thunder arrived Tuesday night, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Scott Becker let out a howl ... and he got an answer.
Becker is among a group of biologist/trackers hired to get as many radio collars on as many Washington state wolves as possible. When Becker heard a chorus of howls erupt from the Teanaway River Valley, he knew the pack was there. He set his traps, which are similar to the classic spring-loaded bear trap but they are incased in a coat of protective rubber.
When baited, the traps set off an irresistibly rancid odor that few wolves can ignore. Most times, though, the wary wolves sense the danger and move on. Not today.
On Wednesday morning, Becker found the alpha female of the growing Teanaway pack caught in his trap. He drugged her, took samples from her (hair, Blood, etc...), and then toted her off to a cool place to recover from the tranquilizer.
The female wolf is presumably back with her pack Wednesday night, sporting a new collar that will allow biologists to follow her and her pack's movements.
When there are enough healthy packs in the state, the gray wolf will be removed from Washington state's Endangered Species List. Then new rules will be established for how the animals will be controlled.
For now, it's a massive effort just to keep up with the packs as they continue to pop up around the state. This week's capture in Stevens County, which was exclusively documented by King 5, brings the total number of gray wolf packs in Washington to eight, and biologists suspect a few more packs are out there.