Wildlife officials have confirmed a new wolf pack near the towns of Twisp and Omak in North-Central Washington.
They've named the pack Loup Loup, recognizing prominent landmarks within the pack's range in Methow Valley, including Loup Loup Pass.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered the pack after receiving numerous reports of wolf sightings in the area from the public. Through ground surveys, officials found the area is being used by multiple wolves. However, U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Ann Froschauer said they don't know exactly how many wolves are in the new pack or where they came from.
"One of the ways they were able to confirm that there were a number of animals traveling together is they could actually see evidence of that in the snow," she said.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is planning to monitor the wolves over the winter and will try to put a tracking collar on one of them next summer. That could eventually help biologists get a better count of how many wolves are in the pack.
Most of the confirmed wolf packs in Washington are in the northeastern corner of the state. The new pack is within the western two-thirds of the state where wolves are still federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Froschauer said the nearest other known pack is the Lookout Pack.
"We have only a few packs in that part of the state," she said. "It's exciting news. Wolves are in the process of reestablishing themselves in the state, so having a new pack in the federally listed area is just one more signal that wolves are, you know, doing that wolf thing and repopulating the state on their own."
The last wolf survey in 2014 estimated Washington is home to at least 68 wolves in 16 packs. In Oregon, there were an estimated 81 wolves in 16 packs at last count.