Conservationists call for action on Northwest wolf poaching

Jun 28, 2022, 9:29 AM | Updated: 12:16 pm

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Wildlife advocates say there has been a distressing uptick in wolf poaching cases in the Northwest in the past year and a half.

Four dead wolves were discovered in the northeastern corner of Washington state in February. That followed the poisoning of eight wolves in eastern Oregon in 2021, along with the poaching of a total of eight wolves in Idaho last year.

While the numbers are small, they are a big jump over previous years. Oregon had a total of 10 confirmed wolf poachings between 2017-2020. Washington had no confirmed wolf poachings from 2017-2021. Data for 2017-2019 was not available for Idaho, but the state had three confirmed wolf poachings in 2020.

Wolf experts say the actual number of poaching incidents is likely much higher. The cases are difficult to solve because they occur in remote, rural areas where a perpetrator can kill a wolf and bury the body.

“The term ‘shoot, shovel and shut up’ is what gets thrown around a lot and from my conversations it seems to be pretty engrained in these communities,” said Sophia Ressler of the Center for Biological Diversity, which compiled the numbers.

“There is actually science that shows for every confirmed poaching there are likely several additional,” Ressler said.

In the Washington case, deputies from the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office discovered four dead wolves on Feb. 18.

The incident report did not find any evidence of bullet holes or physical trauma to the wolves, which suggested their deaths may have been the result of poisoning.

No arrests have been made in the case, despite conservation groups offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.

The dead wolves were all in the territory of the Wedge Pack, which has been exterminated twice for preying on cattle. But new packs keep forming in what is prime wolf habitat.

Wolves were exterminated in Washington early in the last century at the behest of the cattle industry. Since wolves returned to the state in 2008, there have been numerous conflicts with ranchers.

There were a minimum of 206 wolves and 33 packs in Washington state in 2021, according to an annual survey conducted by state and tribal biologists. Idaho has about 1,500 wolves, while Oregon has about 173.

The Washington case is “pretty distressing and alarming,” said Julia Smith, wolf policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. But the number of wolf poaching incidents is still small, she said.

The agency knows that there are a number of undetected wolf poachings, but the numbers must be small because the total number of wolves keep increasing, Smith said.

Conservationists are outraged about the poisoning of wolves.

“Putting poison out on the landscape for any unsuspecting creature to feed on is one of the most loathsome things a person can do,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a national nonprofit advocacy group. “It’s not just about killing wolves. It’s also about wanting them to suffer.”

Steph Taylor, president of Speak for Wolves, said Washington has a poaching problem and wildlife managers “need to step up their game in holding these disturbed poachers accountable. Otherwise, this shoot, shovel, shut up culture will continue to thrive.”

Meanwhile, Oregon wildlife troopers found eight dead wolves between February and July of 2021 in the northeastern part of the state. The animals were poisoned, but the deaths remain unsolved.

Last December, Oregon State Police announced they had exhausted all leads in the case and pleaded with the public for help. A $36,000 reward has been posted for information that leads to an arrest.

The Oregon deaths last year included all five wolves from the Catherine Pack, found southeast of Mount Harris, plus three wolves from other packs.

In late 2020, the Trump administration removed gray wolves from the endangered list and stripped their legal protections, citing “the successful recovery of the gray wolf.” But in February, the Biden administration restored federal protection for gray wolves in most of the lower 48 states. The decision to re-list gray wolves was hailed as a major conservation victory for the species.

Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the poaching cases must be solved.

“If poachers are allowed to get off scot-free, it only encourages them to kill again,” she said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Gabby Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt, wipes a tear from her face during a news conference o...

Associated Press

Mother of man who killed Gabby Petito said in letter she would help son ‘dispose of a body’

The mother of the man who killed Gabby Petito told her son in an undated letter that she would “dispose of a body” if needed because she loved him so much, according to copies of the note shared publicly for the first time this week by attorneys for Petito's parents.

4 days ago

A member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, places flags in front of e...

Associated Press

5 things to know about Memorial Day including its controversies

Memorial Day is supposed to be about mourning the nation’s fallen service members, but it’s come to anchor the unofficial start of summer and a long weekend of discounts on anything from mattresses to lawn mowers.

4 days ago

FILE - This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, left, as he test...

Associated Press

Officers describe chaos, fear on Jan. 6 as judge weighs prison time for Oath Keepers’ Rhodes

Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and public servants who fled the mob's attack told a judge on Wednesday that they are still haunted by what they endured, as the judge prepares to hand down sentences in a landmark Capitol riot case.

5 days ago

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday,...

Associated Press

Target on the defensive after removing LGBTQ+-themed products

Target once distinguished itself as being boldly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.

6 days ago

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Former Arizona television journalist announces bid for Schweikert’s US House seat

A former Phoenix television journalist announced her candidacy Wednesday for the congressional seat currently held by seven-term Republican Rep. David Schweikert.

6 days ago

Tortoise by Henry Davis earned an honorable mention in the "Adventures in Nature” student photo c...

Associated Press

When you adopt a desert tortoise, prepare for a surprisingly social and zippy pet

They’re not fluffy, they don’t play fetch and they certainly don’t roll over. But there is such a thing as a lap tortoise.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

Conservationists call for action on Northwest wolf poaching