Two Gray Wolves Killed in Washington State; Probe Underway

(CN) – Two gray wolves were killed in Washington state over Memorial Day weekend, state wildlife officials said Friday. One was shot by a man hiking with his daughter, while the death of a radio-collared female is under investigation.

State biologists tracked down the collared female wolf on May 27, two days after her collar began emitting mortality signals. She was found dead near the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge. An investigation is ongoing and officials said they could reveal very few details.

Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife advised anyone with information about the incident to call the department’s tipline at (509) 892-1001. Environmental nonprofit Conservation Northwest has offered a $7,500 reward for information that leads to a poaching conviction.

Another wolf, likely an uncollared member of the four-wolf Stranger Pack, was shot over the weekend by a man hiking with his daughter, according to Fish and Wildlife wolf specialist Ben Maletzke. The pair were near their home in Stevens County’s Huckleberry range when a wolf stepped out of the woods onto the ATV trail where they were walking. The wolf turned toward them and the man, who was holding a rifle, shot the wolf at 25 yards away, Maletzke said. They called Fish and Wildlife, which arrived within 20 minutes and determined the man had acted in self-defense.

Maletzke said wolves will often run from humans if they realize they are nearby.

“In general, wildlife is pretty timid, whether it’s a bear, a wolf or a moose,” Maletzke said. “You can stand up tall, wave at it, yell at it and back away slowly. They generally just walk away.”

He added: “In this instance, I think it all happened in a split second. The guy saw it, felt threatened and shot it, which is lawful to do. But I think it could have gone a lot of different ways if he had yelled. Generally speaking, events like this are incredibly rare. These animals don’t really want to be around people.”

There are at least 126 wolves in Washington state, according to the agency’s last count in March

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife this month, the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife director Kelly Susewind said his agency supports the Trump administration’s plan to remove gray wolves from the federal Endangered Species List. Wolves have already been delisted in the eastern third of the state, where the weekend’s deaths occurred.  

Amaroq Weiss, senior west coast wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, pointed to growing anti-wolf animus caused by state rules allowing wolves to be killed in the wake of confirmed livestock predation or if the agency determines that area wolves are eating too many deer and elk.

“The tragic deaths of two more imperiled Washington wolves occurred in a hostile atmosphere created by the state’s own misguided wolf policies,” said Weiss. “The science shows that poaching rates increase when state agencies allow wolf killing. As long as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to kill wolves unnecessarily, we’ll likely see some members of the public do the same.” 

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