Recreating with your dog in wolf country
What to know about wolves when visiting backcountry areas of the state.
Wolves are gradually returning to Washington’s backcountry. Today, they range across northeast, north, central and far southeast areas of the state. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife gets many questions about them in reference to human safety. There are very few documented wolf attacks on humans outside of Europe in past centuries. Generally wolves want to avoid people. Even those who do wish to see a wolf in the wild rarely do. Your dog, on the other hand, has a better chance of encountering a wolf as they are both curious and confrontational and may challenge a dog over territory.
Wolves view dogs- whether pets, herding dogs, hunting dogs, or other- as competitors and will protect their territory from intruders. In Washington, wolves den from April into July. After denning, they establish rendezvous sites; areas of concentrated activity associated with feeding, resting, and gathering. Wolves may establish rendezvous sites as early as mid-May and as late as the end of September. Weaned pups are moved to these sites until old enough to travel with the pack. Several rendezvous sites may be used in one year and the locations often vary from year to year.
A dog running through a pack’s rendezvous site is perceived as similar to a burglar coming into your home and wolves may chase or fight with them. The best thing to do if a wolf is encountered is to leave the area. It is not unusual for wolves to follow at a distance until reassured the person is leaving.
To reduce the potential for interactions between a wolf and your dog, do the following:
- Keep dogs leashed and under your immediate control.
- Never leave your dog unattended.
- Do not allow dogs to chase wildlife.
- If camping, store all food in wildlife resistant containers and clean up any spilled food.
- Avoid areas with concentrated wolf sign (tracks and scat).
- Do not search for den, rendezvous, or kill sites.
- Never approach a wolf.
- If a wolf barks, you have likely entered an activity center. Leave immediately and walk back in the direction from which you came.
- If you encounter a wolf, do not run. Maintain eye contact and leave the area. The wolf may “escort” (follow) you for a short distance.
More information regarding wolves in Washington can be found at WDFW’s Wolf Conservation and Management website. You can also report wolf sightings there.