A Blue Mountains prosecutor has decided not to file charges against a local cabin owner who shot a wolf near his dogs in mid-October.
In a statement, Columbia County Prosecutor Rea L. Culwell said that the shooter’s actions in killing the animal “does not suggest any motivation behind the shooting but fear for the safety of his pets and family; whether the fear was reasonable is debatable, but it appears the fear was real to him, and will come across as such before a jury.”
The incident occurred Oct. 11 off Eckler Mountain Road.
That evening the man and his wife had let their boxer and blind blue heeler out of their cabin to go to the bathroom, according to a WDFW report.
The wife was calling and patting her leg to guide the hound back when she spotted the wolf near the property’s treeline and raised the alarm to her husband.
According to the report, the wolf approached the cabin, and that’s when the man fired 10 times.
He promptly reported the shooting to WDFW, which investigated and took the carcass in.
An autopsy revealed the wolf, a GPS-collared Oregon animal known as OR-14, was a very old animal with several wounds and in generally poor body condition, which Culwell cited in her decision.
“Normally, wolves are easily frightened by humans and will avoid even areas that smell of humans; however, an animal’s normal behavior can and will change when effected (sic) by external and internal factors,” she said.
In the far eastern third of the state where wolves have been federally delisted, residents have the right to defend their livestock and pets against an attacking wolf without a state permit.
Culwell said the case provided “far too much fertile ground for reasonable doubt, and it would be highly unlikely that the case would result in a conviction at trial.”
The announcement, which came a day after Oregon county prosecutors charged a Baker City man with shooting a wolf in Grant County while he was out coyote hunting, was greeted cautiously by Conservation Northwest.
“This recent case in the Blue Mountains presented a much different set of facts than the blatant poaching of a wolf in Whitman County in 2014,” organzation spokesman Chase Gunnell said via email. “We agree with the prosecutor’s decision in the Columbia County case, though we are concerned about the number of wolf shootings in Washington in recent years.”
In her decision, Culwell stated she feared that if the case was tried and lost, it “would result in an ‘open season’ on wolves by residents.”