TWISP — It may not be long before people near here begin to encounter wolves.
Gray wolves recovered quickly in neighboring Idaho. In 1996, officials released 20 gray wolves in that state. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are at least 850 wolves and about 80 different packs in Idaho.
Scott Fitkin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in the Methow Valley, said he doesn’t think wolves will come back quite as quickly here, because wolves are not being reintroduced. But their numbers may increase annually, and as numbers go up, so will encounters.
“If you’ve got a lot of deer near your place, you certainly could have wolves, too,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t leave my dog out at night.”
He said people who have dogs will be the most likely to encounter a wolf. “Wolves are pretty territorial. They see the dog as an intruder in their territory,” he said.
Here’s what the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department recommends for preventing a wolf encounter, and what to do if you do come in contact with one:
- Do everything possible to prevent wolves from becoming comfortable around you — do not let them come close, and do not feed them.
- Be aware that wolves are especially aggressive toward dogs before and during breeding season, from December through February, and during denning, in April and May.
- If you encounter a wolf with your dog, bring the dog to your side as soon as possible and stand between the dog and the wolf.
- Do not try to break up a physical fight between a wolf and a dog.
- If a wolf approaches you, make yourself look taller, make noise and throw objects at it. Make eye contact with the wolf and slowly back away.
- If the wolf does not run away immediately, do not turn your back or run away, but maintain eye contact and continue to back away.