OLYMPIA — Wildlife officials have confirmed the killling of an adult male gray wolf, shot in Eastern Washington more than a year ago and dumped in eastern Skagit County.
Officials are only now releasing some information about the incident, hoping the public can help solve the case.
The animal was shot and skinned, said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of enforcement for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
State and federal authorities are investigating two other wolf poaching cases, one from 2008 in the same part of northern Washington and a September case in northeastern Oregon, according to a Friday report on KPBX-FM, National Public Radio in Spokane.
Cenci said a citizen reported the most recent wolf poaching. “The officers went out, and by one part miracle, one part good noses were able to locate the carcass after some time,” he said.
He said it’s been about a year and a half since the poaching tip was received and investigators located the skinned carcass.
Cenci would not say whether they believe the wolf was from the Lookout Pack, the state’s first confirmed wolf pack in 70 years. The pack makes its home in the Methow Valley and surrounding hills.
But he said investigators believe the wolf was shot somewhere east of Rainy Pass, which is just west of the Methow Valley.
A DNA test confirmed the animal was a gray wolf, but it could have come from one of the state’s confirmed packs, or could have been a lone wolf or from an unconfirmed pack, he said. “We haven’t tied it to any specific pack at this time,” he said.
Gray wolves are endangered in Washington, and it is illegal to kill them.
The poaching is unrelated to a 2008 incident that began with a woman attempting to send a wolf pelt that was leaking blood to Canada. The package led state and federal authorities to serve search warrants on two Twisp homes, where they seized computers and photographs. No charges have been filed, and the case is still open, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice, in Spokane.
Cenci said there is a market for wolf pelts, but he doesn’t believe that money or trophy value led to the most recent poaching incident.
“In my experience, you have three classes of violators,” he said.
Some misread the rules, and their poaching incident is simply a mistake. Others are opportunists, who let the temptation of a wildlife sighting draw them to illegally take an animal, he said.
“Then you have your hardcore poacher. They lay awake at night, and they’re thinking about ways to get around the natural resource laws. Often, they have committed other crimes. They have very little respect for natural resources, and they don’t, in any way, represent the hunting community,” he said.
Cenci said he believes it is the third class of poacher who shot and killed this wolf.
As for motive, he said the poacher may not want to see wolves become established in Washington.
He added, “I think there are a number of people out there that firmly believe that wolves don’t belong in Washington state, but would never pull a trigger on them. They wouldn’t commit the act.”
Cenci encouraged anyone who sees a poaching incident of any kind in progress to call 911 and ask to be connected to a state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer. Those with information about poaching cases that are not in progress can call the agency’s poaching tipline at 877-933-9847.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512