A ranch hand shot and killed one of three wolves he spotted chasing cattle in northeast Adams County earlier this week, a legal use of “caught in the act” provisions under state rules.
After seeing the livestock running on the evening of Feb. 4 then the wolves, the employee yelled, causing two of them to break off pursuit, but after a brief pause the third continued to chase one cow, WDFW reported this morning.
“The ranch employee shot and killed the wolf from approximately 120 yards away,” the agency stated.
WDFW staffers and game wardens quickly responded to the scene to investigate that evening.
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“Based on the preliminary findings, WDFW law enforcement indicated that the shooting was lawful and consistent with state regulations. In areas of Washington where wolves are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, WAC 220-440-080 states the owner of domestic animals (or an immediate family member, agent, or employee) may kill one gray wolf without a permit issued by the WDFW director if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals,” a WDFW statement out this morning said.
The wolf was determined to be an “unmarked” adult female but its breeding status wasn’t immediately clear. Mating season is now.
It occurred in the Channeled Scablands, at the edge of the open, lightly populated far eastern Columbia Basin and northwestern corner of the Palouse, far from what we’ve come to know as classic wolf country.
Three wolves traveling together constitutes a pack and then some — pups born in previous years? — but none are shown anywhere near here on WDFW’s wolf maps, and there aren’t many public reports from the region either.
Still, there has been at least one depredation in these parts in the past, a pregnant ewe killed in nearby northern Whitman County in December 2014.
State wildlife conflict staffers are working with the rancher to try and prevent more attacks and others are looking for the wolves to potentially add them to the pack map for the annual year-end count for 2018, WDFW reported.
With wolves in this unexpected area of Washington, it’s highly likely that the agency’s minimum count will be well above last year’s 122, with one University of Washington researcher suggesting it’s nearing 200. That was based in part on evidence his wolf-poop-sniffing dogs found in the state’s northeast corner and elsewhere.