April 7, 2010

By Joyce Campbell

The forensic examination of computers seized last year in a search of two Twisp residents’ homes during a federal investigation of a bloody wolf pelt has led to state charges of big game violations by a father and son.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife filed charges in Okanogan County District Court on March 12 against Bill White, 60, and his son, Tom White, 36, for various big game violations that allegedly occurred in 2008. The department issued citations to both men for one count of alleged unlawful hunting out of season and use of dogs to hunt black bear. Bill White is also charged with one count of allegedly hunting without a bear tag or license.

Federal and state wildlife enforcement agents served a search warrant on the Whites’ homes in February 2009, during an investigation into a bloody wolf pelt discovered during an attempted shipment from Okanogan to an address in Canada.

“We seized computers from them and did forensic examinations of the computers which takes awhile,” said Capt. Chris Anderson, regional supervisor for the WDFW enforcement division. The state’s charges are based on photos found on the computers’ hard drives. “Based on information recently received, we discovered more violations, most of them state violations.”

During the federal search of his home, Tom White told investigators that he shot a wolf that was caught in barbed wire near his home. The Whites live on the outskirts of Twisp.

In July 2008, wildlife biologists confirmed the presence of the first gray wolf pack in Washington state since the 1930s. They named it the Lookout Pack after the nearby mountain of the same name, and live-trapped, radio-collared and released a male and female believed to be leaders of the pack. The Lookout Pack had six pups that year.

“The case is still under investigation,” said David Patte, spokesperson for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Portland, Ore. “We haven’t filed charges. These things take awhile.”

Anderson said the federal enforcement agency has the lead in the investigation because the wolf is a federally protected species. The alleged big game violations involve species under state protection only.

The state charged Bill White in 2009 with big game violations allegedly occurring in 2007, when it claimed he took, possessed and transported a four-point buck during a closed season and provided false harvest information. State wildlife enforcement also cited White for allegedly having a loaded firearm in his vehicle. White was formerly the local WDFW hunter education instructor.

The Whites are scheduled for a staus hearing on all of the state’s charges on April 26, according to Okanogan County District Court administrator Sandy Ervin.