By Ann McCreary
A deer hunter shot and killed an endangered gray wolf north of Harts Pass last month, according to state and federal wildlife officials who are investigating the incident.
The hunter, who lives in the western part of the state, told state wildlife officials that he shot the wolf, an adult female, because he felt threatened.
“He felt he was in danger. He acted in self defense,” said Sgt. Dan Christensen of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The hunter called WDFW on Sept. 20 to report shooting the wolf, which is protected under federal law as an endangered species. Wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington state (west of Highway 97) are listed as a federally endangered, while wolves in the eastern one-third were removed from federal protection in 2011. Wolves throughout Washington are protected under state law as an endangered species.
Because the wolf was killed in an area of the Pasayten Wilderness where wolves are under federal protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials are leading the investigation and collaborating with state officials, said spokesman Doug Zimmer.
Capt. Chris Anderson, of WDFW enforcement, said a group of four state and federal wildlife officials hiked on Sept. 22 to the site where the hunter reported shooting the wolf. He said the animal was a healthy adult female without a radio collar, and had been shot twice.
Christensen, who supervises wildlife enforcement for Okanogan and north Douglas counties, said he spoke with the hunter on the phone. The man said he was participating in the high buck hunt and was about five miles north of Slate Peak, not far from Silver Lake, when the wolf was shot on Sept. 19.
Christensen said the man was hunting with three companions from western Washington, but was alone when he encountered and shot the wolf. He called WDFW to “self-report” the next day, Christensen said.
Wildlife officials examined the dead wolf, took tissue samples and brought the hide back for examination and evidence, Christensen said. “There is no evidence” that the wolf is one of the wolves that has been monitored in the Lookout Pack territory, west of Twisp.
“We are assuming it was a lone female on a road trip,” Christensen said. “We have dispersing females just like we’ve had dispersing males. There were no signs of other members” of a pack, he said.
It will be up to federal investigators to determine if criminal charges related to killing an endangered species are warranted, said Christensen.
State, feds consider changes in management of gray wolves
By Ann McCreary
Changes in the way endangered gray wolves are managed are being considered at both the state and federal levels.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider amending state wildlife interaction rules during a public meeting Friday (Oct. 4) in Olympia.
Those rules include conditions that allow ranchers and farmers to take lethal action to protect livestock from predators, including wolves, as well as for compensation for the loss of livestock killed by predators.
Amendments under consideration would:
• Make permanent an emergency rule that permits ranchers, farmers and other pet and livestock owners in the eastern third of the state to kill a wolf that is attacking their animals;
• Add sheep, goats, swine, donkeys, mules, llamas and alpacas to the list of animals livestock owners could be compensated for if those animals are killed by wolves. The current list only includes cattle, sheep and horses.
• Permit state compensation regardless of whether livestock owners were raising the animals for commercial purposes; and
• Compensate livestock owners for their losses at market value.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, will meet in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
On the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposes removing Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from wolves in most of the nation and has scheduled hearings around the country on the proposal.
The proposal affects wolves in Washington because, if enacted, it would remove federal protections for wolves in the western two-thirds of the state, where they are currently listed under the federal ESA. Wolves are currently protected as endangered under state law throughout Washington.
Several western conservation organizations have called on FWS to schedule more public hearings on the proposal, including hearings on the West Coast. Hearings were scheduled in Sacramento, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M, and Washington, D.C.
The Pacific Wolf Coalition, representing 34 conservation organizations, advocates scheduling additional public meetings in Washington, Oregon and California.