Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
A ranch employee told a Washington wildlife officer that she was just trying to haze two wolves chasing cattle when she shot one last year in the state’s first official case of a wolf killed in the act of attacking livestock, according to a report released by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The ranch hand said she didn’t think she had hit either wolf, but found the carcass the next day and sent a text message to a department employee.
The investigator concluded the shooting was lawful after interviewing the employee, who was paraphrased in the report as saying, “There was nothing else I could do.”
The report, obtained through a public records request, describes the department’s probe into the June 30 shooting of an adult female in the Smackout pack in Stevens County.
WDFW investigated a second case of a wolf shot while attacking cattle in Oct. 27 in Ferry County. The department concluded that killing was lawful, too. The department is still reviewing a request for records related to that incident.
Washington’s caught-in-the act law applies only to the eastern one-third of the state. In the other two-thirds of the state, wolves are federally protected. If WDFW concludes shooting a wolf isn’t justified, the shooter can be charged with a gross misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
WDFW blacked out the name of the ranch employee as well as her employer. State lawmakers last year passed a law instructing WDFW to withhold the names of ranchers and their employees who report that wolves are attacking livestock.
According to the report, the ranch tried to haze wolves to keep them away from cattle grazing on Forest Service land. No dead cows or calves had been found, but cattle were bunching together and had broken through a wire fence, signs they were being threatened, according to the WDFW investigator.
The ranch employee said that the day before she shot the wolf, she shined a spotlight on a wolf and fired four or five times to scare it away from cattle.
“This particular producer has tried nearly every tool imaginable to prevent wolf-livestock conflict,” WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said Monday. “You can’t lose sight of all that effort and time and energy to address the conflict non-lethally.”
On the morning of the shooting, the ranch employee said she saw two wolves chasing cattle, which were running toward her camping trailer. She fired and the wolves ran away.
“(The employee) explained she was just trying to haze the wolves from the field, adding she didn’t think she hit either of them,” according to the report.
The next day, the ranch employee found the female wolf, which had been shot through the stomach. The wolf had previously been trapped by WDFW and was wearing a radio-transmitting collar, according to the report.
The Smackout pack continued to be a problem for ranchers. WDFW trapped and euthanized two wolves in the pack in July to stop chronic depredations.
The pack has attacked livestock belonging to at least three producers in the past four years, according to WDFW. The most recent confirmed depredation by the pack was in October.