An adult female wolf, the last known member of the Ruby Creek pack in northeast Washington, continues to acclimate to life the Wolf Haven International sanctuary.
The wolf had become habituated to humans, and state wildlife officials feared it could cause problems if left in the wild. The wolf was captured Feb. 11 and taken to the sanctuary near Tenino.
The female wolf was captured near the town of Ione in Pend Oreille County where it had spent months living near people, domestic dogs and livestock.
As a show of thanks for the patience shown by the residents of Ione, staffers at Wolf Haven are calling the female wolf “Ione.”
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“Thus far, she appears to be adjusting to her new environment, but it is too early to predict her future behavior,” said Kim Young, director of communications at Wolf Haven. “We are cautiously optimistic that she will settle in to life in an enclosure with a male companion wolf, but it is very different from life in the wild.”
The wolf is monitored daily by a remote camera to make sure she is eating, sleeping and appears calm. She has already eaten a deer leg. Ione and her male companion, a wolfdog named Luca, have not interacted much with one another, Young said.
Ione is the only wolf that Wolf Haven has taken from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Wolf Haven did accept a wild wolf from Montana in 1991. She was 10-months old at the time and lived to be 12 years old at Wolf Haven.
The sanctuary is meant for captive-born, displaced wolves that have not experienced life in the wild. Capturing wild wolves and placing them in captivity is not something that the sanctuary recommends or endorses, Young said.
“Because she appeared so habituated to humans and dogs, and we had the space, Wolf Haven was able to make adjustments for this unique situation,” she added.
Dave Ware, wolf policy lead for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the wolf’s behavior prompted concerns she would breed with a domestic dog, produce wolf-dog hybrids in the wild, and become increasingly associated with humans.
“This is a rare situation,” Ware said in a department news release. “We know that placing wolves in captivity is not an option every time there is a problem. In this case, however, we believe permanent placement in a wolf sanctuary is a good match given the animal’s habituation to humans.”
Since last fall, the Pend Oreille County Commission has urged the department to move the wolf out of Ione, Ware said. Yet, the wolf eluded capture and remained in the area despite the department’s efforts to trap her.
After the wolf’s capture, she was spayed and transported for permanent placement at Wolf Haven, a nonprofit wolf sanctuary and wildlife education facility.
The wolf arrived in good health, said Diane Gallegos, director of Wolf Haven International. The sanctuary had been working with the department for several months on this situation.
If the wolf does not adapt well to life in captivity, according to criteria developed by the department and Wolf Haven, she will be euthanized.
Ware said the decision to place the wolf in captivity was made after discussions with the department’s Wolf Advisory Group of citizens, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Pend Oreille County Commission.
“We discussed the pros and cons of possible actions, including translocation, euthanasia or placement in captivity,” Ware said in the release. “We appreciate the generous offer by Wolf Haven staff to take this individual into their care.”
The Ruby Creek pack was confirmed by WDFW in 2013 when two adult female wolves were found traveling together south of Ione. A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves traveling together. Last winter, after the other female mated with a domestic dog, it was captured, spayed and returned to the wild. That wolf was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on a road last spring.