By Joel Connelly
A female gray wolf was found dead on Monday, apparently struck by a car, between mileposts 41 and 42 of Interstate 90 west of Snoqualmie Pass.
It was the first wolf killed by a car west of the Cascade Crest, and a possible sign that “Canis lupus” is expanding its habitat to the front range of the North and Central Cascades.
A remote corner of Western Washington, the slopes of Hozomeen Mountain at the north end of Ross Lake — just south of the Canadian border — was one of the first places that wolves began to repopulate Washington.
A wolf was photographed sauntering through a children’s playground in British Columbia’s Skagit Provincial Recreation Area, just over the border.
Otherwise, wolf packs have established themselves in the Methow Valley — despite a gruesome poaching incident — and in the Teanaway Valley east of Ellensburg. A breeding female wolf in the Teanaway Pack was shot last year.
The poachers in the Methow were caught — they poached other animals as well — and faced stiff fines. The alleged human being who shot the wolf in the Teanaway has not been apprehended.
Wolves have repopulated the Kettle Range and Southern Selkirks of northeast Washington, and are now seen in the Blue Mountains of Southeast Washington. Wolf scat has recently been found in Mount Spokane State Park.
Canis lupus is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act over roughly the western two-thirds of Washington. U.S. Route 97, the north south route through Eastern Washington, marks a boundary of federal protection. State law protects wolves in Eastern Washington.
The removal of federal protection has led to widespread slaughter of wolves, particularly in Idaho. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has led the call for the killing of canis lupus.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., is cosponsoring a bill that would entirely remove gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
States are “better equipped to meet the needs of local communities, ranchers, livestock and wildlife populations,” Newhouse said in a statement.
In reality, removal of federal protection has meant a license to kill. A total of 550 wolves were killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming after federal protection was removed early in the decade.
During this past winter, hunters shot 127 wolves and trapped 77 in Montana. Several more wolves were killed under a new Montana law that allows wolves to be shot if they are seen as a potential threat to livestock.
The Idaho kill for this past winter was 205, with 113 shot and 92 trapped — down from 302 the year before.
A federal judge recently reinstated Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Wyoming.