Biologists: Wash.'s 5th wolf pack confirmed

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state wildlife officials say they've confirmed the state's fifth gray wolf pack, this one in Stevens County in the northeast corner of the state.

Fish and Wildlife biologists ear-tagged and released a 2-month-old pup earlier this month and have been trying to capture a breeding adult to radio-collar it. Ranchers reported seeing three pups and hearing howling in late June.

Officials say the pack is believed to include a breeding-age male and female and at least three pups. It's been named the Smackout Pack, after a nearby mountain pass.

Gray wolves are making a comeback in Washington decades after being trapped and hunted to near-extinction. The first pack was confirmed in 2008 in Okanogan and Chelan counties. Two more packs were documented in Pend Oreille County. A fourth pack was confirmed last month in Kittitas County.

Gray wolves are protected a state endangered species. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are also federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.