OKANOGAN COUNTY, Wash. – The Okanogan County Sheriff is giving new details on the incredible rescue of a research student who found herself surrounded
Okanogan County dispatch received a call around 12:30 p.m. Thursday from the student who was surveying the area when she came across the wolves. Officials said she had climbed 30 feet up a tree and a pack of wolves were surrounding her.
It is unclear what the woman was researching in the area. Officials said she initially encountered one wolf and she use bear spray on it but it was not effective. Then, a second wolf showed up and that is when she started to climb the tree. It is unclear just how many wolves were there. She told authorities she tried to come down at one point and the wolves came back and were circling the tree below. Authorities said she came prepared and had a satellite phone with her and was able to call for help.
Okanogan County deputies were told if they arrived on the scene and the wolves were still surrounding the woman they were to shoot the wolves on sight, authorities said.
The Department of Natural Resources was then notified and they said they would be sending a helicopter to the woman’s location. When the helicopter arrived, the wolves were still there. The helicopter sacred the wolves away, landed and rescue the student.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he does not know if it was a den or a possible kill site but his team is trying to find out if there is a possible threat or danger to those who use the recreational area. He said he is concerned that some may not be prepared for or even know of the possible encounters with wolves, which may result in the danger to human life.
Crews went out into the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Friday afternoon to see if they can find a resident wolf den so they can be better educated to warn people who recreate in the area.
"Our concern is the public safety in this area. They hike, they fish, they camp," said Okanogan Co. Deputy Steve Brown.
Okanogan officials said that people knowing wolves are in the area might deter them from visiting this area.
"We have wolves and they are federally protected, so we don't know anything about them. They tell you these are the numbers but we are blacked out so we don't know where they're at, we don't know how many, we don't know where the packs are," Sheriff Frank Rogers said.
They said they will be out looking for dens, tracks and where the incident happened to try to learn more about the animals. On Friday, state and federal agencies were able to find some tracks and suspected scat.
"They aren't running around hunting down people but they are animals," Rogers said.
Rogers said he said he does not want this to become the new norm. Officials said normal predators in the area are coyotes and cougars.
The sheriff will be working with state and federal agencies on how to best proceed in warning the public about a potential threat or encounter with wolves.