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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Poachers kill wolves from Washington’s first pack

Conservation Northwest calls for immediate arrest and full prosecution

A search warrant obtained from the Okanogan County District Court reveals that two residents of Twisp are suspected of illegally trapping and shooting two endangered gray wolves and attempting to send a wolf pelt to Canada. One of the killed wolves was confirmed to be a member of Washington's newly discovered Lookout Pack, likely one of the pups.

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Twisp, WA Mar 27, 2009

March 27, 2009                                                                                            
For Immediate Release
 
Twisp, WA – A search warrant obtained from the Okanogan County District Court reveals that Bill and Tom White, residents of Twisp, are suspected of illegally trapping and shooting two endangered gray wolves and attempting to send a wolf pelt to Canada.  An employee of a FedEx drop off facility in Omak became suspicious after a woman, believed to be Tom White’s wife, dropped off a package that was leaking blood.  Authorities found inside the bleeding package what appeared to be an unlawful, unprocessed, and untanned pelt of a young gray wolf - a federally and state-listed endangered species.

DNA testing later confirmed that the wolf was a member of Washington’s newly discovered Lookout Pack, likely one of the pups.  A search conducted of the White’s residence also uncovered evidence that they had apparently trapped and killed a wolf using a leg-hold trap over a year ago before the pack was confirmed.  

It is a federal crime to kill an endangered animal, carrying a criminal penalty of up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The Whites are also suspected of illegally hunting bobcat and cougars with hounds and without permits.

“The evidence against the Whites is strong,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “We are calling on the authorities to make an arrest and prosecute this case under the full extent of the law.”

Today’s news comes only six months after the pack was first discovered last summer, when volunteers of the wildlife conservation organization Conservation Northwest captured photographs of the adults along with six small pups.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife later confirmed the animals as pure, wild wolves, tracing their lineage to wolves in coastal British Columbia and central Alberta.

“The return of wolves to Washington has been a very positive and hopeful signal for the future of wildlife in the Cascades,” said Friedman. “The news of this senseless and bloody act of poaching hits us very hard, as I’m sure it has hit the pack itself.”

Studies of wolf behavior have revealed just how much wolf packs can resemble human families. Wolves develop close relationships and strong social bonds within their family groups, and may even sacrifice themselves to protect the family unit. Usually just one pair reproduces, though all members of the family unit help care for offspring.

“Washingtonians overwhelmingly support the return of wolves to the state, even if a few individuals hang on to myths and outdated fears about them,” said Friedman.  “We need to give wolves a chance to return to their native habitat.”

A 2008 poll conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that 75 percent of Washington residents support wolf recovery. A second poll shows that most hunters in the state support managing a self-sustaining population of wolves, citing among other reasons that all wildlife deserve to flourish. 

Wolves can, like other large carnivores such as coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions, add extra challenges for livestock owners, but there are many effective non-lethal ways to greatly reduce the conflicts. 

“The killing of this pup is a tragic and unnecessary loss of a magnificent creature,” said Camden Shaw, a local livestock producer who raises sheep near the wolves’ home range.  “These wolves have been good neighbors, minding their own business in their rightful home.”

Conservation Northwest will be working with livestock owner in the Methow Valley this year to help implement some of the effective deterrents used to reduce conflict with wolves that are widely used elsewhere in wolf country, including:

  • properly disposing of sick, dead and dying animals;
  • livestock guarding dogs; fencing, fladry and night pens;
  • range riders and herders;
  • using scare devices;
  • alternative grazing sites.

The deterrents have been used with success in areas such as Idaho and Montana, with both livestock owners and wildlife managers seeing tangible benefits. 

“Learning to live with wolves is part of learning to live in the West,” said Shaw.  “We have a responsibility for being good stewards and respecting all wildlife.”

This tragic news of the killing demonstrates need for continued protections and public education. 

“Poaching of any wildlife is wrong, and people need to be held responsible for breaking the law,” said Derrick Knowles, who works for Conservation Northwest in Spokane, and is a member of the state’s wolf working group.  “Public education is an important part of wolf management, and it’s clear from this blatant act of disrespect for wildlife that there needs to be more of it.”

Conservation Northwest will be offering free public education opportunities this spring and summer to reduce incidents like this in the future.

Conservation Northwest is a non-profit organization working to connect and protect old-growth and other wild areas from the Washington Coast to the BC Rockies.  They have spent the last two years participating in the state-commissioned Washington Wolf Working Group to develop a state conservation and management plan for wolves.

For more information, please visit:  www.conservationnw.org and www.westernwolves.org

Photos and audio of the Lookout Pack are available for use by the media or for public education, please credit photos and audio to Conservation Northwest:

IMAGES:
http://conservationnw.org/pressroom/images is a landing page with copyright info, contacts, and thumbnails

WAVE FILE:
http://conservationnw.org/audiovideo/Wolfhowls.wav

A copy of the arrest warrant, which includes examples of the evidence, can be found at: http://www.conservationnw.org/files/20090021.pdf/view

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