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Washington residents face federal charges for killing several endangered wolves
Three Twisp area residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury and are charged with killing several endangered Washington wolves. The three, all members of the White family, including Bill White, his son Tom White and Tom’s wife, Erin White, were named in the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Tuesday. The White’s have been charged with conspiracy to take an endangered species and to smuggle a wolf hide out of the country, as well as other wildlife charges.
Three Twisp area residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury and are charged with killing up to five endangered Washington wolves. The three, all members of the White family, including Bill White, his son Tom White and Tom’s wife, Erin White, were named in the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Tuesday. The White’s have been charged with conspiracy to take an endangered species and to smuggle a wolf hide out of the country, as well as other wildlife charges.
“We in Washington do so much to protect our wildlife and wild places that senseless acts of poaching like this are a blow to us all,” said Mitch Friedman with the wildlife group Conservation Northwest. “Poachers like this who deliberately try to wipe out a population of endangered wildlife need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Washington has fewer than 20 wolves in several known packs that have naturally returned to habitat they once roamed in abundance from neighboring wolf populations in Canada and Idaho. Washington’s small but recovering population of wolves is considered highly endangered. The wolves at the center of the poaching case in the Cascade Mountains surrounding the Methow Valley are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Despite some peoples’ belief that wolves will quickly grow in numbers, wolf recovery in Washington has been slow and difficult since they were killed off to extinction over 70 years ago. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently putting the finishing touches on a Conservation and Management Plan for the state’s wolves, which has been drafted with the input of the WA Wolf Working Group, a group of diverse interests including ranchers, hunters, conservationists, biologists, and others including a representative from Conservation Northwest.
Wolves have lived in Washington for the last 10,000 years and played a critical ecological role as top predators until a massive extermination campaign by local settlers severely reduced their numbers in the early part of last century. In recent years, support for wolf recovery in Washington has grown, with more than 70% of Washington residents surveyed in a WDFW poll supporting restoring wolves to the state.
“The vast majority of Washington citizens support wolf recovery. They’re a majestic icon of our cherished wild places from the Cascades to the Selkirks,” said Friedman. “Their return has been widely celebrated here in the Evergreen State, and senseless acts of wildlife killing won’t be tolerated.”
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has spoken out strongly against illegal wolf killing. Many hunting groups have also come out denouncing illegal killing, stating that illegal killing is wrong, self-defeating, and exactly opposite of how sportsmen created conservation and the privilege of ethical hunting in the first place.
“We made mistakes in the past by almost wiping out many kinds of important wildlife in the West, including the wolf, and now we are learning just how important they are to maintaining a healthy, functioning balance of predator and prey in the wild,” added Friedman. “We have the responsibility to restore wolves and find ways to live with them in their native lands here in Washington.”