Three wolves were shot at in Northeast Washington last month while chasing cattle or interacting with a guard dog, with at least two of the animals killed.
The incidents, detailed in WDFW’s July 2022 monthly wolf update, were determined to be legal under “caught in the act” provisions that allow for ranchers and others in the federally delisted eastern third of the state to shoot a wolf attacking their domestic animals without a permit from the agency’s director.
“Case closed on all three,” stated spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.
In this wolf reporter’s hazy recollection, caught-in-the-act shootings have been rare in Washington since wolves began recolonizing the state, occurring a time or two a year, but these three all happened in a space of just over three weeks but also in that part of Washington where most of the wolves are.
The first occurred July 5 in southern Stevens County while an adult male Huckleberry Pack wolf “was interacting with a livestock guardian dog in a private sheep grazing pasture when it was shot.”
The incident was investigated by agency officers the next day.
The second occurred around 9 p.m. on the evening of July 14 in northern Ferry County, in the territory of the Togo pack, and involved a range rider who shot at a wolf chasing cattle, though at the time it wasn’t clear if the wolf was hit.
State officers were informed the next day and responded to the scene.
“WDFW law enforcement investigated the incident and did not find evidence of a dead wolf, but did find wolf tracks and cow tracks in close proximity,” the agency reported. “WDFW law enforcement determined this incident was a “caught-in-the-act” scenario under WAC 220-440-080.”
The third occurred around 9 p.m. July 27 in central Stevens County, where a female Stranger Pack wolf was killed while “pursuing cows and calves on private land when it was shot.”
Officers were again advised the next day and went to the area.
“WDFW staff investigated an injured calf owned by this livestock producer and the evidence was consistent with a probable wolf depredation,” the agency reported.
It brings the number of known wolf mortalities for the year to six, including two removed by WDFW in June following chronic livestock depredations, one legally harvested by a tribal hunter in May and a really old one that died in March from natural causes.
The agency also continues to investigate four wolves found dead in northern Stevens County in February. During public comment at last Friday’s Fish and Willdife Commission meeting, Hannah Thompson-Garner of the Northwest Animal Rights Network claimed “the department finally admitted poachers killed four members of the Wedge wolf pack,” but while WDFW has been extremely tight-lipped about the investigation, spokeswoman Staci Lehman did refute that statement, saying, “We have not to date said that they were poached.”
With the three July incidents, WDFW’s monthly wolf update includes a preface with information on caught in the act provisions:
WDFW reminds the public that any individual killing a wolf caught in the act of attacking domestic animals must:
report the incident to WDFW within twenty-four hours;
grant or assist WDFW in gaining access to the property where the wolf was killed for the purposes of data collection or incident investigation; and
surrender the wolf carcass to WDFW.
If WDFW finds that a private citizen killed a wolf that was not attacking a domestic animal, or that the killing was not consistent with this rule, then that person may be prosecuted for unlawful taking of endangered wildlife under RCW 77.15.120.
Please note that the “caught in the act” provision (section 1) of WAC 220-440-080 only applies to the area of the state where the gray wolf is not listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (the eastern one-third of Washington), and is not available in the western two-thirds of Washington.
In other July wolf news, WDFW reports capturing and collaring a female Beaver Creek (northeast Okanogan County) wolf, servicing trail cameras in the territory of the Navarre Pack (Chelan-Okanogan County border in the lower Sawtooths) and setting up game cams on either side of I-90 to try and locate new packs or traveling wolves, and continuing to monitor two wolves in Yakima and Klickitat Counties, potentially the first pack in the South Cascades and Northwest Coast Zone.