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Whites charged with killing up to five wolves

By John Hanron
Methow Valley News

The Methow Valley News breaks the story: A federal grand jury has handed down a 12-count indictment against three Twisp, WA, residents accused of killing at least five endangered gray wolves, including wolves in the Lookout Pack near the North Cascades.

A federal grand jury has handed down a 12-count indictment against three Twisp residents accused of killing at least five endangered gray wolves.

Named in the indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane Tuesday (June 7), were Bill White, his son Tom White and Tom’s wife, Erin White.

The three have been charged with conspiracy to take an endangered species and to smuggle a wolf hide out of the country.

In addition, Bill and Tom White are alleged to have killed a total of five endangered wolves on or near their Twisp property, which is on Lookout Mountain Road, in the area that the Lookout Pack had established residence.

The 10-page indictment alleges that evidence from e-mails and other sources show that on Jan. 24, 2008, Bill White “and others” were hunting wolves; that in April or May of 2008, Bill White was attempting to trap and kill wolves near his residence; on May 13, 2008, Tom White killed a gray wolf near his property; on Dec. 15, 2008, Tom White killed another gray wolf near his property; on Jan. 4, 2009, Bill White “and others shot several wolves, specifically two wolves in one group of nine and one wolf in another group of three.”

It is alleged that the wolf shot on or about Dec. 15, 2008 was then skinned and the hide attempted to be smuggled to Canada for processing. The shipment, however, was intercepted at the FedEx in Omak when the package started leaking blood. Though the sender’s name was allegedly fraudulent on the package, Erin White was identified by surveillance cameras allegedly carrying the package into the shipper’s office.

The interception of the bloody package kicked off the federal investigation into the Whites, whose homes were visited by state and federal agents serving a search warrant on Feb. 25, 2009. Court records state that Tom White admitted to killing a wolf that he claims was caught in a fence on his property.

In this week’s indictment, Bill White has also been charged with importing into the United States a moose and a deer from Canada in 2007, knowing that they had been killed illegally there.

In addition, Bill White has been charged with making fraudulent statements to investigators about what he knew about the taking of wolves or the attempted shipment of the pelt to Canada.

Bill White had been a volunteer hunter safety instructor for the state, though that certification has been suspended pending the results of the criminal case.

The taking of an endangered species is punishable by up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Smuggling carries with it the possibility of up to 10 years in prison and fines.

The Lookout Pack is the first pack of endangered gray wolves confirmed in Washington in more than 70 years. While they numbered as many as nine animals in July 2008, state wildlife officials fear that poachers may have decimated the pack and that as few as two animals may have survived.

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